Perseverance and Adventure: An Interview with Kate Lloyd

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Today we have the pleasure of interviewing author Kate Lloyd, a native of Baltimore, Maryland. She spends time with family and friends in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the inspiration for her bestselling novels Leaving Lancaster and Pennsylvania Patchwork. Forever Amish is the third novel in the Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy.

You can get her first novel, A Portrait of Marguerite, for just 99 cents through September 26. 

Tell us about your background and how you started writing.  

When I was in college, an English professor told me I wrote well, but I paid little attention. In my twenties, I typed most of a romance novel on a lark, but never pushed it to completion because I got busy with life. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling. When our sons were young I made up tales and songs to entertain them.

How did A Portrait of Marguerite come about? Was there anything that particularly inspired this ebook?  

A Portrait of Marguerite began itself one morning while I was journaling. As I wrote, the characters sprang to life and the plot unraveled itself. I returned each morning to continue the fun. And I rewrote it ten times. Okay, it wasn’t all fun, but like Marguerite and all my favorite characters, I persevered.

Tell us about the heroine—what is your favorite quality about Marguerite?

I can relate to and admire Marguerite Carr’s determination to overcome her obstacles in spite of inner doubts. We all have them, those negative voices in our ears that are not from God.

You switched to writing Amish fiction. How does A Portrait of Marguerite differ from your later novels?

My passion is writing about challenging and entertaining relationships, plus a splash of romance. At first glance the Amish may seem to dwell at the opposite end of the spectrum from Marguerite, but they don’t. The Amish struggle with many of the same issues and in a manner I find fascinating.

Is there a particular message you want readers to gain when reading A Portrait of Marguerite

I know many who have allowed their childhood dreams to evaporate, be it an artistic endeavor or a relationship with God. It is never too late!

Tell us more about the Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy.

The Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy is composed of three novels: Leaving Lancaster, Pennsylvania Patchwork, and Forever Amish. I prayed and contemplated about writing an Amish novel. I wanted to honor the Amish, but stay true to my Christian beliefs. I think I accomplished my mission. Little did I know how much research would be required—not an easy task with people who aren’t allowed phones in the home or use the Internet, and are admonished to stay apart from the world. I traveled to Lancaster County, met Amish (we also have Mennonite relatives in the area), and continued to deepen and expand friendships. My journey has been exciting and rewarding.

What inspired you to write the trilogy?

I am fascinated with relationships and people in general. The story and characters for Leaving Lancaster leapt into action and off we went on an adventure. Often my characters lead and surprise me with their choices. One unexpected twist still catches me off-guard. Sometimes I’ll ponder an idea or word for days; occasionally the solution pops into my mind in the middle of the night or while walking. My brain is always at work.

Do you base any of your characters or storylines on people, places, or events from your own life? 

My first reaction is ‘no’, but I’m sure my own life experiences come into play. For instance, when writing about grief or exaltation, I reach into my memory to recall sad or euphoric times and use the emotions as a springboard. I became a Christian in my early thirties, an experience I incorporate in my novels. But the majority of my actual life is not similar to my characters’.

Do you have any new ebooks on the horizon?

I’m working on a new manuscript . . . always writing in my head and accumulating characters and their names. I’ll never grow weary of writing. I hope you enjoy stepping into my world of fiction!

***

Through September 26, you can get Kate Lloyd’s A Portrait of Marguerite for just 99 cents as a part of our 99-cent fiction sale. Check out all of her ebooks on Vyrso, and explore the world of fiction she creates!

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Breaking Down Walls: An Interview with Joy Jordan-Lake

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The following interview is with Joy Jordan-Lake, author of Blue Hole Back Home, who has had an admittedly odd professional life including time working as a college professor, author, waitress, journalist, university chaplain, director of a homeless program, and head sailing instructor. 

Tell us about your background and how you started writing.

I was born in the inner city of Washington, D.C., but grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee. I was a pretty shy kid, and was sick a good bit in elementary school, so I read voraciously. Becoming a writer was absolutely the only thing I really wanted to do—though goodness knows, I’ve built in enough emergency back up jobs for the dry seasons (thus the Ph.D. in English Lit.) I feel fortunate that I do enjoy teaching a great deal, since it’s often helpful to bring in additional income.  Books meant so much to me, and so significantly shaped how I saw the world, the idea of trying to write books that created a world and characters and ideas for other people just seemed like a worthy thing to do with a life.

How did Blue Hole Back Home come about? Was there anything that particularly inspired this ebook? 

For Blue Hole Back Home, in paper and ebook form, the ideas came from my own hometown in the mountains of East Tennessee, and some events of racial violence that took place there. For the purposes of the novel, I conflated several events that actually happened about a year apart—including a riot in reaction to a racist court verdict, a cross-burning and a Ku Klux Klan road block—and put them in the same summer. Some of the characters were inspired by people from my hometown, but some were simply amalgamations of character traits I’ve found appealing or despicable or charming in the people around me. By taking actual events, I had a basic skeleton of an idea, and then felt free to fictionalize the narrative.

Tell us about the heroine. What is your favorite quality about Shelby?

Shelby Lenoir Maynard, known as Turtle to her friends, isn’t remarkably courageous or gorgeous or noble or possessing any of the traits of your typical heroine. But she has a basic stubbornness that she refuses to give in to the elements in her town who want to keep the world divided into “us” and “them.” As a pretty stubborn person myself, I guess I love the fact that sometimes this annoying and potentially ugly character trait can have its admirable side when its channeled into not giving up on situations or people.

Why did you decide to base the book in the summer of 1979?

This was around the time that several of the actual events, on which the book is drew its inspiration from, took place. Also it’s startling to a younger generation of readers, I’ve found, because it’s well past what we think of as the Civil Rights Era—it’s a time when things are supposed to be all peace and harmony on race relations, and the situation in the small-town South is far, far from that.

Do you base any of your characters or storylines on people, places, or events from your own life? If so, tell us more about the connections.

As I alluded to above, Blue Hole Back Home is, yes, inspired by some actual events in my own hometown. Interestingly, I don’t remember much talk about some of these events, including rioting over a terribly unfair, racially-biased court verdict, at that time—maybe because as teenagers, my friends and I were more focused on the next football game than the state of race relations and justice in the world. But since the book was published, I regularly hear from people who also recall various events around the KKK’s treatment of the Sri Lankan family who moved to our little town. It’s been fascinating to hear lots of different stories from folks who recall what they witnessed (such as a terrifying Klan rally back in the woods), or remember feeling like they didn’t know who to talk to about a frightening conversation they overheard. I think I’ve been haunted since age 16 by some of those events, and by my own inability to make sense of them for my Sri Lankan friend or for myself. I suppose when you’re haunted by something, that probably means it’s time to start writing about it.

What would you hope readers takeaway from Blue Hole Back Home?

Hmm, wonderful question. I hope the character Jimbo stays with them for a long time afterward, and what his ferocious hold on hope looks like. My faith tells me that hanging onto hope will look pretty foolish sometimes. Cynicism and skepticism look a lot more sophisticated, you know? I hope the book sort of turns the idea of foolishness on its head. I hope the story reminds us of the simple ways we let walls exist between groups of people, and the sometimes small, or sometimes enormously self-sacrificial acts that rock those walls and send them tumbling down.

***

You can get Joy Jordan-Lake’s novel, Blue Hole Back Home on Vyrso for just 99 cents through Friday! Be sure to check-out all of our great fiction deals available for a limited time.

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Just Added to the 99-Cent Sale: Dekker, Peretti, and More!

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I love the pace of a good thriller, the suspense that an author builds, and how most of the ebooks end in a nice little bow at the end. But maybe the suspense/thriller category isn’t your cup of tea, and you’d rather enjoy the beautiful character development that is woven into a heart-warming romance novel. Whatever type of fiction you enjoy, I recommend perusing our wide selection of titles included in our 99-cent sale. You won’t want to miss out on these limited-time savings!

As we approach the end of the 99-cent fiction sale (September 26) I wanted to highlight a couple additional titles that we added late last week, including titles by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti.

Here are 5 new additions:

Showdown: A Paradise Novel by Ted Dekker
Welcome to Paradise, a sleepy town that quickly becomes energized with the talk of a black-cloaked man who promises to grant any unfulfilled dream—he is irresistible. Seems like bliss, but is it? Is hell about to break loose in Paradise?

Heaven’s Wager by Ted Dekker
Kent Anthony is a brilliant software engineer who is living the ideal life, with thoughts far away from theft and murder. He’s left his past far behind, or so he thinks.

Brink of Death by Brandilyn Collins
Annie Kingston moved to Grove Landing for safety and quiet, but she quickly comes face to face with evil when her neighbor Lisa Willet is killed. Asked to question the daughter of the deceased, Erin Willet, Annie finds herself begging God, whom she doesn’t believe in, for help. Join Annie and Erin as they travel to the brink of death trying to find the real killer.

Thunder in the Morning Calm by Don Brown
Former Navy JAG officer and action officer in the Pentagon, Don Brown pens an action-packed thriller that is full of credible and compelling details. Join Lieutenant Commander ‘Gunner’ McCormick as he assembles a three-man commando squad on a suicide mission into North Korea to search for his long lost grandfather rumored to be held in a secret prison camp.

Hangman’s Curse by Frank Peretti
Frank Peretti introduces Nate Springfield, his wife Sarah, and their two children Elijah and Elisha as a part of the Veritas Project team. The family travels the country aiding the FBI in busting drug rings and solving mysteries. In Hangman’s Curse, the family goes undercover in a small town high school—where a mysterious curse has turned several football players into lunatics.

***

If you haven’t been keeping up with our posts about the sale, I recommend reading our post outlining 5 ebooks to read this fall, Creston Mapes’ post on The Power of Story, and Michelle Griep’s post on Addiction.  There are only a few days left to take advantage of these huge savings so make sure to get them today before time runs out!

What is your favorite type of fiction to read?

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What If God Doesn’t Want You to Be Responsible?

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Today’s guest post is written by Allison Vesterfelt, a writer, speaker, and the author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage.

I used to think the most important thing I could do to please God would be to live a safe, responsible life; where “responsible” meant I went to college, got good grades, secured a well-paying job, put plenty of money in my 401(k) and in savings.

I stayed in my hometown, close to my family. I went to church nearby, every Sunday. I had a predictable schedule and a predictable income so there would be no major surprises.

The problem was, at the end of this all, I was really unhappy.

During this season, while I was working a job that didn’t use my skills and wondering how on earth I had gotten there, I re-read the story of the Rich Young Ruler. I grew up in the church, so I’ve read this story at least a hundred times in my 31 years, but for some reason, this time, I read it very differently.

If you’re not familiar with the story, it basically goes like this: A young man comes to Jesus and says (I’m paraphrasing here), “Okay, I’ve done all the stuff I’m supposed to do to get to heaven. I’ve followed all of the rules. I’ve been really responsible. But what am I missing?” Jesus tells the young man:

“Sell all of your things and give them to the poor. Then come follow me.”

When I had read this story before, I had always thought about it as a story for rich people and since I didn’t see myself as a “rich person,” I figured it wasn’t a story for me. “Good thing I’m not so attached to money,” I had told myself.

But this time, when I read the story, it fell on different ears.

This time I identified with the rich young man. I felt like I was coming to Jesus saying,

“Okay, Jesus. I’ve done all the things I’m supposed to do to get to heaven. I’ve gotten good grades and have a good credit score and I pay all my bills. But I still feel like something is missing. I’m not experiencing the abundant life you promised.”

“Everything just feels empty…”

And as far as I could tell, Jesus was telling me the same thing he told the rich young man. He was saying, “the way to heaven is this: let go of everything. Give it all away. I am the answer.”

So is Jesus telling us to be irresponsible?

Was God telling me to quit the job I was working? Was He telling me to sell all of my stuff and give it to the poor? Was he telling me I should go spend all the money I had hoarded away in my savings account?

Not necessarily.

But it’s easy for us to say this passage is just a metaphor—that God would never ask us to sell everything we own to get to heaven. But here’s the thing: Jesus did ask this rich young man to sell everything. He didn’t just ask him to let go of something. He asked him to let go of everything important to him.

What would it look like for you to let go of what is most important?

For me, this meant letting go of my idea of responsibility.

For so long, I thought responsibility would “save” me. I figured it would protect me from anything bad and keep me comfortable. But in that season, God confronted me with the notion that my idea of “responsibility” was also keeping me from heaven. Not “heaven” as in the place you go when you die, but “heaven” as in the Kingdom of Heaven, already coming to being, here on earth.

I think God wants us to be good stewards of what we’ve been given. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a good job or 401(k) or a good credit score.

But at the same time, I wonder: what would it look like for us to be good stewards of our souls? Does “responsibility” have to be about money and status, or can it be about rest, relationship and creative talents? Do we have to work better, faster, harder and longer to build a “responsible” life, or can less actually be more?

For me, the answer has been an unequivocal yes.

And answering that question for myself has helped me find freedom the Rich Young Ruler didn’t find that day when he met Jesus. I hope he found it later, but that day, he walked away, sad, because he was so attached to his earthly treasures, he wasn’t willing to give them up for heavenly realities.

For me, this has meant quitting jobs, even when it didn’t necessarily make financial sense to do so. It has also meant, at times, working jobs I didn’t love, for a season, because I felt God leading me to do it. It has meant letting go of friendships, letting go of expectations, letting go of physical stuff.

It has meant resting more and worrying less.

And while it hasn’t been perfect, I’m learning “responsibility” (or at least my idea of it) isn’t everything. I’m learning to trust. I’m uncovering heaven.

 ***

Allison Vesterfelt is a writer, speaker, and the author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage. You can find her online at AllisonVesterfelt.com.

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5 Ebooks to Read This Fall

5 Ebooks to Read This Fall

Now is a great time to refresh your poolside reading list with new titles to enjoy this fall. Vyrso’s 99-cent fiction sale features over 100 ebooks from various genres and bestselling authors such as Kay Arthur, Melody Carlson, Jared C. Wilson, and more.

Here are a few top-rated selections from the 99-cent fiction sale to add to your fall reading list:

Short stories: The Most Important Thing Happening

A boardwalk peddler selling one ounce of God. A gentle mute who unwittingly triggers a tragic chain of events. Two businessmen declaring war over the Very Last Sandwich in the Entire World. The characters in the eleven short stories of The Most Important Thing Happening move through the whimsical, the mysterious, and the introspective toward timeless truths.

Gripping fiction: Blue Hole Back Home

Shelby (nicknamed Turtle) never had any female friends. But when a mysterious girl from Sri Lanka moves to town in the summer of 1979, Turtle invites her to a secret haven: the Blue Hole. Turtle has no idea now much that simple gesture will affect the rest of her life, or the lives of those she loves.

Action and adventure: Unlimited

Simon Orwell is a brilliant student whose life has taken a series of wrong turns. At the point of giving up on his dreams, he gets a call from an old professor who has discovered a breakthrough in a device that would create unlimited energy, and he needs Simon’s help. But once he embarks to help the professor, nothing goes as the young man planned.

Romance: Screen Play

At thirty, Harper fears her chances for a thriving career and true love are both fading fast. But when she is offered an unexpected role in a Broadway play—as understudy to New York’s biggest diva—she wonders if everything is about to change. Hoping to find love in NYC, Harper reluctantly signs up for an online dating site, but the only match she is even remotely interested in lives thousands of miles away. Harper longs for God to show her He’s still listening.

Sci-fi thriller: Otherworld

Something strange is happening in Houston and its rural suburb, Trumbull. It starts with the bizarre mutilation of a farmer’s cow, sparking rumors of UFO sightings and alien visitations. It’s all an annoyance for the police, who would prefer to focus on the recent murders in the area. Mike Walsh is a journalist with a nagging editor and a troubled marriage who finds himself inexorably drawn into the deeper story creeping up on all who dare get close enough: a grizzled small town police captain, a depressed journalist, a disillusioned pastor, and a little old man. They are unlikely allies against the otherworld.

 ***

Don’t miss these five fiction titles on sale now for 99 cents through September 26!

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The Power of Story

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The following guest post is by Creston Mapes, author of the inspirational thrillers Sky Zone, Poison Town, and Fear Has a Name. He has written for some of the world’s most recognized corporations, colleges and ministries, and has ghost-written seven non-fiction titles. His early years as a reporter inspire many of his novels.

The following excerpts are reprinted with his permission from the novel Fear Has a Name.

***

The husky man lurking outside the front door of Pamela Crittendon’s house carried a black leather satchel, like a doctor’s bag.

His face was hardened and pasty, with tiny eyes and a thatch of curly red hair. He wore all black, from his T-shirt and leather vest to his jeans and cowboy boots. And he stood uncomfortably close to the door.

The doorbell rang a third time.

Pamela’s head buzzed.

He clamped the doorknob. “Open!”

The hardware made a sickening racket.

“Get out of here!” Her stomach turned. “I’m calling the police!”

She rushed for the phone in the kitchen.

Boom!

Pamela halted, turned toward the noise at the door, and gawked in horror as the stranger bent over and drove his shoulder—the size of a medicine ball—into the door, splintering the wood frame.

BOOM!

• • •

After the home invasion, from which Pamela and her children escaped, the following conversation ensued between Pamela and her husband, reporter Jack Crittendon.

“I want us to get a gun,” Pamela said.

Jack’s face fell.

“How else will we defend ourselves if he comes back?”

Jack’s mouth sealed and his eyes narrowed.

“We can’t count on a patrol car coming by here once every few days,” she said.

He still didn’t speak.

“Your dad had a gun,” Pamela said. “Mine has one.”

“Does that make it safe?”

“Safe? Let’s talk about safe! There’ll be nothing left to keep safe if he comes back!”

Pamela waited, resolute.

“Look,” he finally said, “his coming back today raises the stakes, I admit it. I just think that before we buy a gun and learn to use it—which we can certainly do—we need to ask ourselves if that’s the best choice, the wisest choice. Is it what God wants? If it is, great; we’ll do it.”

Pamela’s head dropped into her hands. She didn’t want to talk about what God wanted. Not now. She knew what she needed and that was all there was to it. Her mind and body and spirit felt utterly spent, and the day was only half over.

“I understand you felt helpless,” Jack said. “We just need to make sure we both agree completely before we decide to keep a weapon in this house that can take someone’s life . . .”

• • •

In my book, Fear Has a Name, there’s been a home invasion. Time reveals that the young wife and mother in the book, Pamela Crittendon, is being stalked by a former classmate. She wants a gun in the house to defend herself and her children in case the fiend returns. Her husband feels they need to discuss some important issues — would it be safe to have a gun with two girls in the house; would you be willing to use the gun and shoot to kill; is this something God wants for us?

Gripping fiction can cause readers to think about things from a perspective they never had before, and perhaps even explore the issues in greater depth once they’ve put the book down.

One of my intentions when writing fiction is to cause readers to stop and think, and to contemplate controversial issues they may have never come to terms with before. All six of my books have reflected what God was doing in my life at the time of writing.

One of the biggest questions I was wrestling with when I wrote Fear Has a Name was, why do terrible things happen to good people, especially Christians? Why does God allow such trials for His children? This was burdening me. Here is a quote I found that we inserted at the beginning of Fear Has a Name, reflecting on those same weighty questions:

 “It’s a very long story, but the short version is this:

I realized that I could no longer reconcile the claims of faith

with the facts of life . . . I could no longer explain how there can be a good and

all-powerful God actively involved with this world, given the state of things.

For many people who inhabit this planet, life is a cesspool of misery

and suffering. I came to a point where I simply could not believe that there is a

good and kindly disposed Ruler who is in charge of it.

Bart D. Ehrman

Indeed, are we Christians supposed to skim over unfairness and atrocities — purposefully squelching any thought of them? How do we reconcile events like 9-11, the Holocaust, the ISIS beheadings, and things like home invasions, kidnappings, and random rampages?

I still don’t have a concrete answer. These things grieve me. My heart mourns for the people impacted. But, somewhere deep down in my soul, I know my Maker reigns. And that became the overarching theme of Fear Has a Name: “No matter what — even the unthinkable — God is in control. He is bigger. Mightier. On His throne. And I can trust Him; I must trust Him. Who else can I turn to in my distress, but the Maker of heaven and earth?”

We ended the book with several thought-provoking statements that I found in my research:

“Evil is a departure from the way things ought to be.

But it could not be a departure from the way things ought to be unless

there is a way things ought to be. If there is a way things ought to be,

then there is a design plan for how things ought to be.

And if there is such a design plan, then there is a designer.”

R. Douglas Geivett

 

“Thus it is not like a child that I believe in Christ and confess him.

My hosanna has come forth from the crucible of doubt.”

Anne Fremantle

I wonder if a fictional story has ever had a profound or life-changing impact on you? If so, we would love to hear from you — on that, or any other thoughts or opinions this blog may have brought to mind.

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How to Experience God’s Presence through Prayer

Linda Evans Shepherd

Today’s guest post is by Linda Evans Shepherd a nationally known Christian speaker and a best-selling author. She’s the president of Right to the Heart Ministries, and the founder of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Her online and speaking ministries have seen well over 300 thousand people come to Christ and is viewed by over 45,000 people daily. She’s been married to her husband, Paul, for 35 years and has two young adult children; Jim a software engineer and Laura, a survivor of a year-long coma following a car accident when she was an infant.

Theologian and author Stanley G. Grenz once wrote in his book, Prayer, the Cry for the Kingdom, “The greatest challenge that we face today is the challenge to pray. Meeting this challenge requires that we merely cease talking about prayer and begin to pray.”

I agree with Grenz. Knowing how to pray will make an incredible difference in our relationship with God and also in our lives.

Look at it this way. Imagine you’re a young, single man and you’ve just asked the girl in your accounting class for a date because you’re genuinely interested in getting to know her. The two of you agree to meet at your favorite coffee shop to chat. When you’re finally sitting across from her, sipping a mug of steaming mocha latte, you ask, “How do you think you did on the test this morning?”

She shrugs. “Fine.”

“So, tell me about your family?”

“Not much to say, really.”

More silence.

“How are your classes going?”

“They’re going.”

It’s so quiet you can hear the crickets chirping.

Can you imagine how you would feel if the conversation stayed on this level, especially when you knew this interesting young woman was holding back? You would have to wonder if she was bored, really didn’t want to hang out with you, or perhaps was just nervous.

Regardless of the reason, if the conversations between the two of you stayed forever stalled, it would be difficult to grow a deeper friendship.

Imagine your prayer life following this example. Maybe that’s not so difficult to imagine because all you ever pray is an old line like, “God, bless me and mine. Amen.”

If this is you, know you’re not alone in your struggle to communicate with God. But regardless, it’s hard to build a deeper relationship with God when your prayer life is stuck in neutral. Sure, God still loves you, but think of all you’ll miss by not becoming more invested in your relationship with him.

But what if the problem is that you really don’t feel comfortable talking to God and you worry you might say the wrong thing to him.

I can understand this concern. I mean, God is the most awesome and powerful being in the universe. But treating God like a stranger you just met on the subway is not the answer. Perhaps what you really need is a few basic conversation starters, such as these prayer ABCs:

  1. Acknowledge him. Let him know you’re thinking about him. “Hi, Lord. I love you. Would you go into my day with me?”
  2. Bring it. Tell him about your concerns or needs. “Lord, I’m worried about making rent this month. Would you show me what to do? Would you provide for my need?”
  3. Chat. Tell God whatever is on your mind. For example, you could tell him about your day, problems, job, family, bank account, or mother-in-law, just as if you were talking to a good friend. “Lord, did you see the family at dinner tonight? I’m worried about little Bobby. He seemed so quiet, and I’m wondering if something’s wrong. Would you comfort him and give me wisdom to know how to talk to him about what’s going on?”

Sure, God already knows everything about whatever topic you might bring up, but that’s not the point. The point is, just like in any relationship, you need to communicate because communication builds intimacy. Don’t be afraid of saying the wrong thing because God already knows your heart. God is big enough to take your joy, your tears, your fear, your frustrations, your anger, and even your tantrums. But what he doesn’t want from you is a cold shoulder. Whatever you bring to God, he’ll help you through. Then when you look back, you’ll see his fingerprints on the things you brought to him in prayer.

You can get Linda Evans Shepherd’s ebook Experiencing God’s Presence, Learning to Listen While and her other ebooks on Vyrso today.

Have you found new avenues of growth in your prayer life? What are some recommendations you would have for our readers trying to cultivate a prayer life?

 

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Yes or No?

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Today’s guest post is by Jeff Shinabarger, a social entrepreneur and the author of  Yes or No and More or Less. Jeff and his wife, Andre, live in Atlanta where he is personally engaged in over 100 start-ups focused on solving problems through the non-profit, Plywood People. 

Have you ever considered that two small words have the ability to change everything? Yes or no.

Most decisions ultimately come down to the moment when you choose to say yes or choose to say no. I believe that the words yes and no are the most powerful words in the dictionary. They define what we love, what we will be known for, and what we will do with our lives. Yes and no begin new stories and end old plot lines. They are definitive words: words that significantly change the trajectory of life.

When you say yes or no, you give new direction to where you are going and what is still to come. Yes or no determines the hours you will spend in a job. Yes or no makes a commitment to a lifelong relationship. Yes or no shapes your character in times of stress. Yes or no brings you breathlessly to the doctor’s office to hear the heartbeat of a child. Yes or no commits you to buy and pay for a car and even a house. Yes or no is what leaves you anxiously waiting to hear if an investor chooses to give your idea funding or supports your social cause to help people in need. Most decisions come down to two small words that define everything. Those two small words are yes and no.

Choices happen every minute of every day, but some choices have more weight than others. As much as we fret about what to wear in the morning or where to go on the next big date, those moments don’t compare with life choices that define where we live, what we do, and who we spend our life with. If you think about the last year, there is a good chance you can remember a minimum of three choices that defined your year. If you consider your entire life, you will recall probably 10-15 decisions that defined what you are doing today and the story you are living. They were defining moments in which you said either yes or no, turning points that forged a path in a different direction toward where you are today. Depending on which little word you use in each situation, it moves you either to a new place or away from that very same place.

Decisions are moments of choice. It’s this or that or the other option, and there are often more options than we realize. Decisions start and end with you. I can’t make a decision for you; it’s on your shoulders. Sometimes that weight on our shoulders is heavy. Oddly enough, the heavier the decisions, the higher our shoulders rise. The tension tightens the neck as the stress seems to yank shoulder muscles up toward our ears.

Day after day, you choose your future. Sometimes other people make decisions that affect you, but you still choose your response as a part of the equation of what happens next. Many decisions are easy, but some weigh more than others. I am thankful that we were created in a way to make decisions; we were given the choice of how to live and what to believe. I do believe that in the end God will have ultimate determination of the world, but we have been granted the freedom to live and make choices in this beautiful and broken world. Even in environments controlled by others, we always have the option to follow that law or direction, or not.

The questions keep coming in every stage of life. Whether it’s far in the future or right in front of you, it’s always a good time to consider your process for making a crucial decision. Sadly, I can’t tell you what to decide. (Imagine how successful I would be if I could!) I do, however, believe I can assist you in becoming a decision maker.

The key question I ask throughout my book is simply: What do you do when you don’t know what to do? My hope is to offer you some practical ways to navigate when the path to yes or no is difficult to discern. I want to give you action points to assist you in thinking through how you make choices not just on your own but alongside the people you love and trust.

You might wonder why I care so much about helping people, like you, make decisions. I believe many of us see things in the world that are broken and feel a deep desire to fix them. We want to be problem solvers. But we will never solve a problem unless we are willing to make decisions that others have not been able to make. I believe that you and your friends have the ability to solve problems that impact people and I want to help in that process.

If you want to become a better decision maker, I invite you to check out Yes or No. We created a simple website, www.YesOrNoBook.com, where you can take a free assessment to determine your decision making style as a starting point for your journey of becoming a decision maker.

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Get Jeff’s newest ebook, Yes or No today on Vyrso! Learn how to make better decisions and become a problem solver that impacts people.

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Exclusive Q&A With Francis Chan

Francis Chan

If we don’t stare at God, we’ll spend our time staring at lesser things. Namely, ourselves.” —You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity

If you haven’t read Francis and Lisa Chan’s new ebook, You and Me Forever, you probably should.

This isn’t your average book on how to have a happy marriage. Co-authors and husband and wife duo Francis and Lisa Chan unpack an external focus for marriage, steering away from advice on how spouses can be happy with one another, and aiming to look at marriage as a mission with God at the center.

We had the chance to ask Francis Chan a few questions about the new ebook:

Tell us about how You and Me Forever developed. What was the inspiration for this book?

I’ve been convicted about this topic for the last five years. Lisa and I don’t fight and we don’t spend a lot of time reading marriage books,  yet we still have a great marriage and I’d been thinking —why has it been so easy? We realized it’s because we’ve been focused on the kingdom. We agree on eternity and focusing on that trumps everything else. It seems like a lot of couples are stuck. Maybe it’s that eternal focus that couples are missing—we want them to have that so they can enjoy marriage as God intended.

What’s one of your favorite Scriptures on marriage and why it is important to you?

Ephesians 5:28-30—The thought that Christ would consider me a member of his body is fascinating.  He has such an attachment to me. For example, if my finger is broken, of course I’m going to take care of it. And Christ thinks of me in that same way—of course, I’ll take care of Francis if he’s broken. And this is how I should view my wife, Lisa.

For your 20th wedding anniversary, you and Lisa decided to travel to Ethiopia. Tell us more about this trip—did it change your perspective on marriage and life together?

It didn’t really change our perspective on marriage that much. However, it increased our sense of urgency and helped to see our position of privilege, and how we can use that privilege to help others who don’t have it. We don’t want to be casual about it.

Learn more about how the Chans are helping support ministry projects through You and Me Forever.

If you could leave our readers with one piece of advice for their relationships what would it be?

Clear your mind as much as you can of all your preconceived understandings of marriage. Whether it’s from examples, advice, sermons, or personal preferences and desires. Take a fresh look at Scripture again to see what God prioritizes and what he says about the place of marriage in light of eternity. Then pray for the courage to make God-fearing changes even if no one else is doing those things.

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Get Francis and Lisa Chan’s new ebook, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, for just $1.99 through September 19!

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Addiction: A Contemporary Problem with Historical Roots

michelle-griep-headshot

Today’s guest post is by Michelle Griep, an accomplished novelist and author of A Heart Deceived, which you can get for just 99 cents through September 26. 

What comes to mind when I say Jane Austen? Hold on. Let me guess:

  •  Swirling ballroom scenes
  •  Dinner parties galore
  •  The dashing Mr. Darcy

Any of these answers would be right, of course, but you’d also be correct if you’d shouted out opium usage. Austen’s mother used opium to help her sleep, and her father was an agent in the trade. Elizabeth Barrett Browning took opiates every day from the age of fourteen, Sir Walter Scott consumed six grams a day, and Samuel Coleridge was a regular user.

Yes, indeed. I hate to burst your bubble of the romantic days of yore, but opium addiction was an issue to be reckoned with.

The first written account of the non-medicinal virtues of this drug is in De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater, published in 1821. He advocates opium usage not as a pharmaceutical pain reliever, but as a trip into “an inner world of secret self-consciousness.” Sounds positively hippyish, eh?

Had Mr. Darcy been hanging out in a nearby opium den, these are the symptoms Elizabeth Bennett should’ve looked for:

  • Red or glazed eyes
  • Confusion
  • Slurred or rapid speech
  • Loss of appetite
  • Apathy or depression
  • Frequent headaches
  • Insomnia

While Jane Austen preferred to write of dances and dinners, I dove into the seamier side of things and made the hero in A Heart Deceived a recovering opium addict. Why?

Because addiction is a contemporary problem with historical roots.

It’s just as hard for my fictional character in this story, Ethan Goodwin, to turn down a bottle of laudanum as it is for a real person today to pass on a hit of meth. With God’s help, it can be done—which is exactly what Ethan discovers.

Ethan has been on the run all of his life—from family, from the law, from God. After a heart-changing encounter with the gritty Reverend John Newton, Ethan would like nothing more than to become a man of integrity—an impossible feat for an opium addict charged with murder.

My other character in A Heart Deceived, Miri Brayden, teeters on a razor’s edge between placating and enraging her brother, whom she depends upon for support. Yet if his anger is unleashed, so is his madness. Miri must keep his descent into lunacy a secret, or he’ll be committed to an asylum—and she’ll be sent to the poorhouse.

When Ethan shows up on Miri’s doorstep, her balancing act falls to pieces. Both Ethan and Miri are caught in a web of lies and deceit—fallacies that land Ethan in prison and Miri in the asylum with her brother. Only the truth will set them free.

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Get Michelle Griep’s ebook, A Heart Deceived, for 99 cents through September 26. Be sure to check out the 100+ fiction titles we have on sale for 99 cents!

 

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