Friday, March 25, 2016

Blessed Easter Friends!



Easter is my favorite holiday.

The first Easter was a game-changer between the world as it was and the world ever since - this Jesus-dying-and rising-from-the-dead-event that makes our good living and happy dying possible.

I admit the cross and its meaning are complex. How to understand this mysterious exchange of penalty? I certainly know I deserve to be accountable for my less than desirable behaviors. Socrates spoke of an innate longing for virtue within each of us - an awareness of falling short. I know I do, did and continue to be less virtuous than I’d like to be. I don’t want to carry this guilt I richly deserve. Jesus paying it off is a huge blessing to me.

Jesus counted the personal cost, accepted the anguish and took the punishment for us all. Amazingly now we can ask for and confidently receive forgiveness for sin and shortcomings. The world without Easter could easily be dark and full of despair.

No wonder we dance and celebrate.  Death has no power – we’re life-dwellers forever. 


Jesus literally rose from death. We can know we won’t stay dead either. We have reason to jump and leap - maybe that’s where the image of Easter bunnies comes from.

We’re filled with inner richness – maybe that’s why eggs are significant. We’ll be coloring ours Saturday night.

We can live delicious lives loving God and loving our neighbor  - ah, there’s the reason for chocolate.

How fitting we celebrate Easter in spring, because it’s truly new life day.

May your Easter be spectacular in every way!

Happy, blessed, joyous Easter.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”


 John 3:16

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Living Out God’s Call

Our friends have not seen their adult daughter, their only child, their only son-in-law and four grandchildren for 540 days and recently spent ten days together in Mali, Africa. The pain of separation at times has been intense but they have an assurance that their daughter and son-in-law have been called to serve God in a foreign country teaching Muslims about Jesus. These friends, too, were called many years ago to be missionaries in Haiti.

I can easily imagine the quiet hum of their hearts when they breathed the same air again and celebrated being united. I often experience this deep joy when I’m with family members I love.

God’s call upon each of our lives is fascinating. I feel God has called me to write. We leave our family for several months during the winter and I focus intently on my writing. I miss them very much, but I believe I am honoring God’s intention for me. (Yes I also enjoy being in a warmer climate.)

My husband Wayne feels called to pray for the needs of others and to bring smiles and happiness to strangers. He spends a significant amount of his day doing this.

Some of our friends are called to serve in church or be active in politics or in the community socializing with people who benefit from their friendship.

I’ve learned that God’s call is not about accomplishment or visible impact from our efforts but about being faithful to God’s leading. Living out God’s call (direction) for our lives ALWAYS brings inner joy and peace – yet it can be QUITE challenging.

It’s usually during private, still time with God that we discern God’s call. His direction for us can change at any time. Mine has changed often. How about yours?

Romans 11:29 For God's gifts and His call are irrevocable.


Writing Update:
I'm celebrating completing the final edits with editor Paula Mowery this week for Never Tomorrow, my next mystery novel due out in May.  Each book is a team project. Wayne came up with this title! My publisher Prism Books will now begin the designing the cover. Can't wait to see it!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Merry Christmas

Pondering Christmas 2015

The mystery of Christmas is upon us again. How shall we believe? And why? It’s so preposterous. One man, one life, one supernatural wonder-worker who passes on His power to certain unlikely, unworthy individuals like each of us?

In every state and every country people speak about first-hand experience of the ManGod who changed their lives. We meet people often who say they’re no longer the same after being in His presence and surrendering to His lordship.

The transformation of every human nature begins with this birth we celebrate. Without Christ’s entrance into human reality, paradise was indeed forever lost. It’s now as close as our skin.

The first Christmas was truly the world’s game-changer. We know this, not in the head but deep in our heart-checker of truth. Without holiness and goodness we’re nothing. Who but Christ can make us what we need to be and deeply unconsciously long to be?

This Bethlehem babe who became an adult victim, a cross-hanger who shed royal red blood for the likes of us. Can it be true that His blood purifies our own? Symbolically yes, and really truly? Yes.

Who needs a Savior, a Changer, a Better-maker? We do. Don't we all want to see with God’s eyes the beauty He formed in each soul and help the radiance burst forth that’s locked inside. We sense its presence.

Isn’t that why God came? So we can love out the beauty in one another. And smother the sinfulness of pride and self-absorption that crawls all over us.

How can we be worthy gift-givers without recognizing the Giver of every gift we’ve ever received? And how shall we know Him? And why doesn’t everyone?

This weird thing about Jesus’ birth, dying and rising is that it empowers the world and gives deep meaning to gift-giving and loving without limits.

This Christmas may we meditate a bit on the mystery and wonder of the Christ-change in us. We who call ourselves Christ-ians have experienced newness in our lives. And the peace that passes understanding – what level of peace can that be? One that doesn’t rest on circumstances like even world peace. The kind that will flood your heart with contentment no matter what if you’re a follower of this baby-become man-become King of glory.

Christmas represents the beginning of this greatest mystery and change event in humankind - weird but oh so wonderful.

As we shop and bake and wrap and shine and polish and hang the holly may we, may I remember it’s not just a home we decorate but our lives. It’s not just gifts we give, but love that comes from the originator of the idea, Jesus. May you have a Jesus-filled Christmas!

News On the Homefront

We're well, praise God and enjoying every precious day together after 53 years. We treasure most of all our family times when we can be with our adult children and the grown-up grandchildren. Our favorite activities are golfing, reading, writing and traveling N & S, FL, NC and states between. 

Judy continues writing and speaking about biblical principles for raising families and God’s miracles in our lives. Her new book is due soon from Prism Book Group - Never Tomorrow, a Christian mystery novel about a serial killer. It’s her favorite project thus far. Love Notes To God is due out later next year – 365 Day Devotional. And Love Always, Mom is being reprinted due to frequent demand. And her monthly blog continues. Wayne ministers at church, in Bible studies and with his joy ministry.


We love every memory of you, our family, friends and acquaintances, and if this Christmas message has reached someone we haven’t yet met, may it happen. Blessings & love!

Joyful Christmas Reflections is available free as an ebook Dec. 17-19 through amazon on Kindle. We hope these thoughts on the participants in the first Christmas will bless you.





Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving Thoughts on Cyber Monday



 What is real thanksgiving?

I guess it’s simply giving gratitude for gifts given. The natural, spontaneous process after receiving a gift is to take the time to send a note, a call of thanks, express heartfelt appreciation. 
One thing for sure, I feel fiilled with it.

Whom do you thank for a gift? The store where it was purchased? The credit card company that processed the transaction? The person who delivered it? How silly. The purchaser, the giver who selected it and finally at its source, yes, of course – God.

God is ultimately the giver of every good thing. All giving starts with His love and kindness. This is the impetus behind all gift-giving and receiving. My giving back reflects His giving to me. My giving to others blesses me as I display His qualities of love and kindness. Thankfully in His image we have all been made.

These days of Black Friday bargains and Cyber Monday, it’s good to remember we’ve already been given the greatest bargain the world has ever known – personal acquisition of divine love at no cost to us whatever to enjoy and appreciate. Thank you Lord!

James 1:17 New International Version (NIV)
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
 
***
We're thankful for you, fellow earth-walkers enriching our lives by Your presence with us on the journey. 

And we’re thankful for all the moments of life we’ve experienced and for our awareness that the best is always yet to come.
 
Prayer Poem: A Moment

Dear Lord,

Is anything more special than a moment? A dot of time filled with possibilities. Love to be spent, actions to be performed, skirmishes to be won and ideas to be explored.

Forever is but a collection of moments strung together as precious pearls. The essence of God’s Kingdom begins on the filament of now.

Lord, You make my life a marvelous mosaic of moments. I‘m grateful mosaics can also be made of broken pieces like shortcomings and grieving shaped into a new and vibrant whole. Your new creations become more vibrant and glow more richly than I could ever imagine. You’re the artist of my experiences.

Without you all the fragments would crumble. With You my broken pieces become a moment-by-moment work of God-art.
[A Moment is from 365 Love Notes To God, my daily devotional due to be released in spring.]
 

Writing Update:
 
Never Tomorrow is in final editing stage. Received this feedback yesterday from a test reader: “I had a hard time putting it down.” This is what every writer longs to hear. I’d be grateful if you’d keep this Christian mystery novel about a serial killer in your prayers. (No, that’s not an oxymoron.)
 
On another front Bullet in the Night is currently being made into an audio book. I’ve just been sent the first chapters to review. I’ll let you know when it’s released.
 
Thanks again to those of you on my prayer team!


Gratitude Lists:

Yesterday my husband Wayne started keeping a written list of God’s blessings throughout the day.  Before noon he noted seventeen.

Last month 1760 ebooks of Directive 99 were ordered in two days during a special promotion. May every one of them bless readers. The heroine of this suspense novel learns how much she has to be thankful for when her world falls apart. Her husband is kidnapped and her career is in jeopardy.

SPEAKING EVENT:
"Gifts From the Heart to the Page"
I'm grateful to be the featured speaker at the Christian Women's Connection Brunch 9:30 a.m. WED. Dec. 9th at Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan. Call Terry for more info or to register: 262-325-9246


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Autumn and Families

 Don’t you love autumn with its crisp, cool days and sunlit leaves adorning yards? I’ve been helping out a few hours every Saturday afternoon at my friends’ apple orchard, Royal Oak, telling people about their new Apple Maze and directing them to the U-Pick apples area. I go home energized by all the hoopla. Such a happy place for families to connect. I can’t think of any greater joy than being with family and friends.


October is my birthday month which makes me nostalgic.  What makes life so special is stopping to ponder what was and looking with hope to the future. The more seasons my body has seen, the more I have to reflect upon. At the moment I’m treasuring the summer that’s been and anticipating the holidays to come. Time truly flies but I've learned we can slow it down and savor special moments.

For forty-some years now I’ve attempted to live in response to the Holy Spirit’s nudges as a wife, mom, grandmom, and Christian counselor and author commissioned to love and serve God’s people. What a fascinating journey this has been.

Next week I’m presenting a parenting seminar to 40 parents on Raising Successful Students and Happy Kids.  I’ll be telling them Happy Kids are holy kids who know they've been created for a purpose by Almighty God. Soon I’ll spend a week in the Blue Ridge Mountains with Wayne hiking and attending a novelist’s retreat. Then a visit to see loved ones in Florida. Yes, life is awesome!


 In between my editing continues for Never Tomorrow mystery to be released in January…


Wishing you happy autumn days filled with family fun, plump pumpkins, warm apple cider and time to reflect.

This is a picture of the October family wedding of our son Dan and Stephanie 14 years ago. Can it be?

I found this Bible verse with the word autumn in it - I like it. What do you think? "Rejoice, O people of Jerusalem, rejoice in the Lord your God! For the rains he sends are tokens of forgiveness. Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as those of spring." Joel 2:23




Thursday, September 17, 2015

Zoe To You

Today I learned an interesting Greek word for life: Zoe (pronounced zo-ay). Perhaps we shouldn’t say fetus or unborn child is in a pregnant woman’s womb, but rather Zoe – life.

“I’m carrying zoe”- the state of being possessed of vitality. What a privilege! Four times I was a life carrier.

As such I became part of the chain of humanity, a maker of a generation. My thoughts jumble when I search for words to say what this means to me even as I sadly recognize that many women desired but have not been given this joy. (Although I believe God often blesses them in other ways as life-givers.) Tragically some women choose to destroy the new life within them.

I understand the abortion dilemma very well.  I nearly had one.

Perhaps I should speak of it again.  In 1971, I was pregnant with our fourth child. After having been advised by my doctor another child would likely be mentally handicapped due to my RH blood problem and also I might die during childbirth from hemorrhaging as I nearly did during my third child’s birth. Two huge problems! Logically, medically abortion seemed wise.

I later wrote a magazine article about this event. The quotes that follow are from the article that appeared in 1991. I describe the depression that engulfed me as I faced the possibility of two horrible outcomes. “The most significant argument of all against this pregnancy was our three children; I knew that I didn’t want to leave them motherless.”

“One question kept disturbing me. Was this pregnancy an accident, or was it the hand of God directing my life?” A friend came over and helped me wrestle through my decision. “Finally with quietness and confidence I chose to place my trust in God. If it were time for me to die, I would; if I would have to rear a brain-damaged child, I could. I would not destroy this new life within me! As for my “career” it wasn’t worth the life of our child.”

 “On March 27, 1972 Daniel Thomas was born. He was named Daniel after that great man of God whose trust in God never failed and Thomas for his mother who’d had to overcome doubt before she could fully trust. …Far from being brain-damaged Daniel was a bright student and an excellent athlete. Looking back, the interruption in my career was brief and barely noticeable from the perspective of a lifetime. How can I compare that to the life of my son?”

Every day since my voice feels compelled to speak out against the slaughter of beautiful human children.

I’ve counseled women who have had abortions and God’s amazing forgiveness is always available for them. This isn’t about that. It’s about my friends who think abortion is a good thing, a woman’s “right.”

The truth is we women cannot do what we please with our bodies. We cannot drive through stop signs or dance naked in the park. Life is full of consequences that we must accept when we select our behaviors. We cannot kill the innocent and call a child’s life an inconvenience.

The real war on women is that approximately half of 56 million total abortions or about 28 million women have never been given a chance to live their lives.

I find it of interest that Planned Parenthood, a non-profit, gets massive taxpayer money to run yet it brings in over a billion dollars annually. This past year President Cecile Richards’ salary jumped from $523,616 to nearly $591,000, a $67,000 raise.  More profit from babies’ body part fees for “transportation and storage?”

Also Planned Parenthood as a non-profit ended their fiscal year with $582 million in excess revenue and $1.3 billion in net assets Aren’t non-profits supposed to use their funds for those they serve? Is Planned Parenthood a non-profit that meets the criteria for wise use of assets and reasonable salaries or a big business with big profits for those at the helm?

I hope and pray all funding for Planned Parenthood will end. We have other wonderful women’s health services in place that don’t involve aborting babies and selling human bodies.

With tears I implore moms-to-be who are considering abortion to stop and think, pray and wait. Other women’s hearts yearn for your baby, your Zoe, if you can’t handle being a mom right now. Don’t, please don’t, kill your baby.

Watching our son Dan mature has been all the more treasured because of my decision over forty years ago that meant his life or death. I’m so thankful I bravely chose life and didn’t listen to the world’s logic. I no longer question the loving intervention of God in my life. His plan is always good.

The pictures below are of:   Dan and his lovely wife Stephanie, Dan assisting me at the Lake Geneva Authorfest in July, 2015, and the original article about Dan nearly being aborted.

Isaiah 30:18: “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!






Writing News:
For the first time ever the publisher of my mystery novel Bullet in the Night is giving Bullet away as a free ebook Sept. 24-26th. If you haven’t read it yet take advantage of this opportunity. Feel free to share the news with friends.

I'll be the Guest Speaker at Aram Library, Delavan WI Sept. 22nd at 6 p.m. to discuss  the writing of Bullet in the Night and my next novel due out in Jan. - Never Tomorrow. Come say hi if you live close by.

My dear friend and fellow author Thomas Cavenagh wrote a page-turner pro-life novel called Matter of Inches. You can find it on amazon.com.