Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Don't wait too long...

The other day I wrote an article on Waiting on the Lord, but as it was pointed out to me today, there are two sides to every coin. It’s very important to wait for God’s timing before we move. It could be the difference between failure and success or life and death. But what happens when we wait too long? What happens when God says to go and we hold back?

There are several reasons why we may not move when God says to. One of them is fear. God may be moving us in a direction that we are afraid of. He may be calling us to a particular ministry that we feel ill-equipped for, so we say “Lord, I’ll do it later.”

Or we may have our own agendas, so we say, “God, as soon as I send all my children off to university, I’ll become a missionary for you.”

Or the devil may be planting seeds of doubt in our mind, “Is it really God talking? Maybe you should wait, if that house is yours, it will come back to you.”

I remember as a teen, I came across a poster and it has stuck with me since and I think it will stick with me for the rest of my life. It was the image of a woman’s skeleton sitting on a park bench. She was dressed in a bridal gown and veil and she appeared to be waiting for something. The caption above her head said “Waiting for the PERFECT man.” She’d waited so long that she missed her opportunity. She was dead, and she could no longer marry. (Imagine my surprise when I googled "woman waiting" and found the image above, all she's missing is the wedding dress!!)

Some of us wait so long to move forward that we lose our opportunity for great things. We procrastinate and complain at everything God places before us. If we don’t think it’s good enough, or we don’t feel ready but whatever it is, we don’t move when God says we should. So we abort our destiny.

It’s so sad to see lives wasted because of procrastination. To see time, treasure and talent unused must certainly hurt God. My encouragement today is to move in the timing of God. Don’t run ahead of him, however don’t waste time either. By the time you are ready to move, you may just miss your destiny.

Joana James - Author of Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Wait, Wait, Wait....

Wait on the Lord....you hear it every day. Wait for a husband, wait for a new car, wait for a new house, wait, wait, wait. If you're anything like me then you probably have barely any patience and you find waiting a bit over rated. Too bad, because people like me always end up having to go back to the start and do stuff over the way God wanted us to in the first place.

I've learnt the hard way that God tells us to wait for a reason. Several broken hearts later, I understand why He said to WAIT for a husband. In our own human judgement we believe that something is good for us, when in fact it may be the worst thing that could ever happen to us. I could have saved myself a lot of grief by waiting.

Now for that house, or maybe even my own apartment, It's a good thing right? I'm an adult, I need my own space, yet God says to wait. As a matter of fact, several things have been blocking my progress in that regard and for a long time I was angry because I felt trapped. Now, looking over my finances a bit more carefully, I realise that had I moved from my parents house when I wanted to, my dream of owning my own home would take far longer to happen. Why? Because, the money I am saving now, is money that I would have to pay out in rent. hmmm....

So maybe God does have a plan. So why doesn't he just tell us the whole plan in the beginning, that way, we wouldn't go about doing silly things to screw it up? Well, maybe because we can't handle the plan. If God tells us about every step we must take in order to get to our destination, we'd freak out and run. I know I would. If I knew all the stuff I would have had to endure in order to grow as a Christian, I would have checked out of Christianity as early as I got in.

We're told that a diamond is created under tremendous pressure and extremely high temperatures at great depths in the earth's mantle over an extremely long period of time. Yet, it emerges as the most precious gemstone and one of the hardest substances known to man. Without taking the pressure or the heat, the diamond would be another worthless rock. Any less time, and it would still be another worthless rock.
Amazing huh?

The next time you feel inclined to complain about the wait, or the pressure or the heat or your life, remember the diamond's process. Do you want to come out as a precious gem or a worthless rock? I don't know about you, but I'll choose to be a diamond....so I have to learnt to have some patience.

For evildoers shall be cut off: 
but those that wait upon the LORD, 
they shall inherit the earth. 
Psalm 37:9 (KJV)

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; 
they shall mount up with wings as eagles; 
they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. 
Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

See similar post Don't wait too long

Joana James - Author of Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret

Friday, February 24, 2012

What is Sin?

I'm not much of a fan of Rap yet every once in a while I come across a track or two that blows my mind. What made this one catch my attention was the intro which really is spoken word. The speaker is John Piper, the Album,  Atrributes of God by Shai Linne. This is why it caught my attention:

What is Sin?
The Glory of God not Honoured
The Holiness of God not Reverenced
The Greatness of God not Admired
The Power of God not Praised
The Truth of God not Sought
The Wisdom of God not Esteemed
The Beauty of God not Treasured
The Goodness of God not Savoured
The Faithfulness of God not Trusted
The Commandments of God not Obeyed
The Justice of God not Respected
The Wrath of God not Feared
The Grace of God not Cherished 
The Presence of God not Prized
The Person of God not Loved
THAT is Sin.
(Track No. 8 Attributes of God, Shai Linne)

Powerful stuff right? Need I say more. Each of those lines can be a sermon all by itself. But really, THAT is sin. We don't trust God's provision, we don't reverence his holiness, we don't recognise his greatness, we attribute his glorious work to "the universe", we don't respect his wisdom, we don't remember that he is faithful, we disrespect his justice and when we feel his wrath, we curse him. That ladies and gentlemen is sin. It goes beyond stealing something that isn't ours or murdering another human being. It is disrespecting a God who is powerful enough to crush us at any moment yet, he chooses to show us grace over and over again.

I long for the day when we all can recognise the error of our ways...sadly, not every one will.

Joana James - Author of Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Getting Personal

Getting Personal
By Karen Baney

“Don’t take it so personal.”

Have you ever had those words said about you?  I have.

For the most part, I do a pretty good job of not letting things bother me.  But, there are certain situations where I know I’m prone to taking things personally.

After spending the better part of nine months working on a big project at my day job, everything came crashing down.  We were days away from launching a new website that I built.  There was a problem found during testing that had the potential of shutting everything down.

I was crushed because I had worked so hard at making sure I did the best I could to build a quality product.  The worst part was that now every aspect of the work I had done was evaluated and criticized.

Can you see the problem already?  I built.  I did.  I worked hard.  Yeah, I have a tendency to take great ownership (or pride) in the work I do.  I want it to be perfect every time.

Well, as we rolled into the second week of intense scrutiny, I thought I was going to lose my mind.  I couldn’t find anything else wrong.  I tried everything.  Nothing fixed the problem.  Talk of pulling the plug on the project surfaced.

I cried out to God to give me wisdom—then give the team wisdom.  I asked Him to help us find the problem.  I asked him to help me not take it so personally.  I know this is one of my greatest weaknesses.  In my head, I know that I shouldn’t take it personally.  I’ve spent 15 years trying to learn how to not do this, but never succeeding.

Then, in my morning devotion, this is what I read:
My salvation and honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.  Psalm 62:7
The word “honor” jumped out at me.  It finally clicked.  Taking things personally (pride) had more to do with me worrying about what others would think of me.  “Look at Karen.  She failed.”  I thought my honor and reputation at work was destroyed.

Then I began to see the lesson God had for me.  My salvation and honor depend on Him—not my boss, not my boss’s boss, not my customer, not my co-workers, not even the success of the project.  No.  My honor depends solely and squarely on God.

Many days followed before our team figured out where the problem was.  But, it didn’t matter because I finally understood that in order for me to not take things so personally, I had to remember that my salvation and honor depend on God.

What about you?  Is this an area where you struggle?  Do friends and family tell you not to take it so personally?  If so, perhaps this prayer is for you:
Lord Jesus, please help me learn in my heart that my salvation and honor depend fully on you and you alone.  Help me to stop worrying about what others think and to only care what you think.  Amen.

For a limited time only, pick up a free copy of A Heart Renewed (Prescott Pioneers #2) by Karen Baney.
Karen Baney writes Christian historical and contemporary romance novels.  When she’s not busy writing, she enjoys traveling the state of Arizona with her husband, exploring museums and the picturesque landscapes the state has to offer.  Her faith plays an important role both in her life and in her writing.  Karen and her husband make their home in Gilbert, Arizona, with their two dogs.
Visit Karen at her website:  http://www.karenbaney.com or on Facebook or Twitter.  Visit her special blog for authors at http://www.everythingauthor.com

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Test of Faith

Yesterday was an incredibly difficult day for me, for reasons that I cannot yet disclose. However, my faith is being testing...and I was scared to death that I may fail this one. Until, I sat back and reminisced and realised that God was showing me, through a series of little things that he's still there and he still cares.

It is easy to tell others to have faith in difficult circumstances. It is easy to have faith yourself, in your own small circumstances. But it is when the major things happen, the things that seem to make no sense, you realise that having faith is an expression of faith itself.

Several times people ask, "If there is a God, then why are children suffering all over the world?" Or we may take it home, we may lose a loved one and be angry at God. We may say "God, my mother was faithful to you her whole life, why did she have to suffer like that in the end?" I've known several people who've lost faith that way, and before it happens to you, you simply think...."How sad."

But today, I understand how easy it is to lose faith....and I'm determined not to lose mine. Two of my favourite verses of Scriptures of all time come from the book of Jeremiah:

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. 
“They are plans for good and not for disaster, 
to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:1(NLT)

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. 
Before you were born I set you apart and 
appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT)

These are very significant verses for me, because for a long time, I questioned my worth and I felt like there was no path laid out for me. I didn't think I was any good at any thing. But years later, I've found my worth and these verses take on new meaning for me. Now I know, that in spite of my circumstances, God is in control. His plans are plans for good and not for disaster. Even though my current situation may feel disastrous, I know that my God has plans to give me a future and a hope. And when my God sets out our future....it's always awesome.

So, as I walk through this turbulent time....I'm going to take my own advice and keep on trusting God.  I take comfort in Romans 8:28 (NLT)

And we know that God causes everything to 
work together for the good of those who 
love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Maybe a tad cliché...but incredibly true!

Joana James - Author of Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I'm pretty young, yet I've been through so much it might be unbelievable to some. All my stories could fill a book, and maybe one day, I'll be healed enough to write that book, but for now, I'll stick to fiction.

Every time I went through something especially tough, I thought "There's no way I'll be free from all this pain!" Several nights I cried myself to sleep thinking, "God it hurts so bad, will it ever stop?" Several times I thought I would literally lose my mind. Other times, I thought I'd never be able to walk with my head up again. I felt crushed and even sank into depression. My friends never knew what was going on in my head. I held my pain deep within and told no one. I'd plaster a smile on my face and say that I was fine. I went about life, singing and dancing in church, serving on committees and offering a shoulder to lean on for other young ladies who faced situations similar to mine. But for all these years I was broken. It seemed that the minute I was healed from one thing, something else would surface. Over and over, the cycle continued. At one point I just wanted to die, but, I'd never take my own life, so instead, in desperation I asked God to free me or kill me.

I look back at all these situations years later and I realise that my prayers were answered. God had greater plans for me than I could see, so he didn't kill me. Instead, he freed me. And, as an added bonus, he made me stronger. All those situations in my life were my testing ground and I came through alive. I have the battle scars from my wounds, but I'm no worse for the wear. Last year, I went through something that would have broken me had I gone through it five years ago. It would probably have taken me years to get over it, but here I am, one year later and it's just a fading memory. My trials made me stronger and I'm free.

True freedom does not mean that you will never face another challenge, it means that the next time you do face a challenge, you will be able to handle it. It means that instead of piling up hurt and pain, you'll be able to overcome and move on. It means that the next time somebody hurts you, you'll truly be able to forgive. It means that even though you are in pain, you will see sun behind the clouds and still be able to move on. It means that you can lift your hands and worship without the past staring you in the face.

And how do you attain true freedom? The bible says in 2 Corinthians 3:17 "Now the Lord is that Spirit; and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." Plain and simple, that's my answer. True freedom came when I allowed the Spirit of God to work in my life. Jesus said in Luke 4:18:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
 because he hath anointed me 
to preach the gospel to the poor; 
he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, 
to preach deliverance to the captives
 and recovering of sight to the blind,
 to set at liberty them that are bruised,"

I can't put it any plainer than that. A relationship with Christ brings freedom. It is what he came to earth to deliver to us. I can guarantee you that I'd never have made it through those difficult years without a relationship with God. My friends paid no attention to me, even when they knew I went through difficult stuff. That is part of the reason I hid my hurt. I figured "they don't care anyway, so what's the point?" But, I went daily to God, begging for relief and resting in his arms until I got it. Today, I can say I'm free from the hurt that crippled my mind for many years. Free from the pain and free to worship my God!

Joana James - Author of Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Legacy of Love

A Legacy of Love
Psalm 119:28 (NIV)
My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.

I haven't seen either of them for a very long time; however, I often see their hands in my memory. Sometimes I remember the way my little-girl  hand disappeared into his large hand as we walked to the lady down the street who still had a working well in her yard. And hers – so little and yet they could reach across an octave when she played the piano with a passion that bordered on gusto.

The memory of their hands that means so much was never captured in a photo, although it remains vivid in my mind. Each of them had black leather-bound Bibles they read daily, and on some times they'd read for hours. He held the page he would be turning in his right hand. Over time, his fingertips wore pieces of the pages off. She would wet the tips of her pointer and middle finger to turn the onion-skin thin pages to find the passage she was looking for – usually with tenderness, but sometimes like an eager child opening a present from someone special.

My grandparents, Ed and Joy Johnson, loved their Bibles and even as a child with no spiritual understanding, I knew those big black books were their most valuable possessions.

I was walking into church one Sunday a few months ago. I'd been having an especially difficult time, and hadn't noticed I was literally clutching my Bible to my chest as I entered the building. The greeter said, "You love that Bible don't you?"

I looked at the large black book in my hands and said, "Yes. I do." As I waited for the service to begin, I turned to Psalm 27, her favorite passage, and smoothed the page out with my right hand – my own Bible reading ritual – knowing I was holding God's Word in my hands, loving the feel of the pages under my skin, and missing the two people who taught me its value – without ever saying a word.

Then, in the depths of my spirit, a smile formed and my lips gave it expression. My journey hadn't changed, but confidence in God and His Word grew. I released a silent prayer of thanksgiving for my grandparents left me this legacy of love for His Word.
Psalm 27:13 & 14
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

Written by Joy DeKok, author of Your life a Legacy

Joy started writing as a little girl. She carries a large purse so she can take her journal and an assortment of pens with her.

Joy lives on thirty-five acres of woods and field in Minnesota between Rochester and Pine Island. She’s been married to Jon for thirty-five years and they enjoy their many nieces and nephews. Their dogs, Sophie and Tucker, keep them company when they explore the land riding their John Deere Gator or while watching the many birds that visit their feeders.

She has seven books in print and is working on a novel series featuring main character, Olivia Morgan. Joy is also developing a writing group called, Write Yourself Strong, for hurting women.

Faith is a vital part of Joy’s life. When she was sixteen, Joy asked God to find her and He did.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Go forth with Faith

As a writer, there are plenty of times when I feel like I just need to give up. Sometimes it's a bad review, sometimes, it's the fact that there are no sales. Other times, the very thought of putting myself out there for the whole world to see is so scary that I just want to run back into my house and hide. And writing is not the only thing that I want to give up on sometimes. I had such a stress filled day at work yesterday that it took every ounce of energy in me not to burst into tears. As it stands, I still need a miracle before 9:00am Monday. But, my hope and faith is not in myself.

Whenever I'm giving a difficult task, my boss says, Joana, "I have faith in you". Luckily for me, I take that statement with a grain of salt...I don't trust myself with any task. I give it to God. My faith is in him. I have no doubt that he's placed a tremendous amount of talent in me, but without his input, everything I put out there would be pure rubbish. I bring the effort and God brings the genius. That is why I will not give up on writing or on any of the other things I tend to want to give up on.

 Last night, I was reminded of why I write YA, and why I won't give up. I spent the evening with my church youth group, which I helped lead for a few years. Last night, I was not a leader, but an observer and a helper. I saw people I helped lead to Christ now leading others. I saw young ladies I counselled and mentored, now counselling others. It was an awesome feeling and it reminded me that God has given me something to say to young people through my stories.

So, to you I say, Don't give up. There will be naysayers and the like giving you bad advice. Trust God and have faith in his abilities, not yours. Know where he's taking you and why he's taking you there. Use that knowledge as your reason to go on. It takes faith to move forward when you're not seeing results. But faith is the biggest ingredient in the recipe of Christianity. "Without faith, it is impossible to please God."

Go forth with Faith! 

Joana James - Author of Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret

Friday, February 3, 2012

Trusting God

Trust is a small word with five little letters; yet a mountain to climb. Trust involves giving away control of some degree or aspect of your belongings, your emotions or your life.

It’s relatively easy to trust someone with your belongings. We lend our friends our books, our cars or even our houses. Trusting others with our emotions might be a little bit more difficult however, we eventually get to the point where we give in. With our lives – that’s whole other ball game. To give over control of the direction your life takes to somebody else is sometimes unfathomable.

But, that is what God requires of us. Proverbs 3:5-6 says to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Can we really wait for God to tell us which path to take? If you’re impatient like me, you probably don’t like that scripture verse very much. Sometimes I feel like God is taking too long to make stuff happen and I want to do it myself. I’ve found that I always make a bigger mess of things. Exercising a little bit more patience and trust in the one who engineered me always brings the right result at the right time. So why do I/we always try to go back and take control of stuff again, even after we’ve seen God work on our behalf? It’s because, even with evidence of the contrary, letting go of your own destiny and allowing someone else to fulfill it feels like suicide.
So, like hamsters on a wheel, we take control, we mess things up, we give it to God and when he fixes it, we try to take it all back. Over and over and over, we do the same things until something drastic happens to us and God gets our attention.

At the end of the day, if we look back, we’ll see that it would have been so much easier just to trust God in the first place. He’s our creator and he has our best interest at heart.  He also knows the best way to fix any situation in our lives. We trust mechanics with our cars because they know more than we do about how a car functions. God knows much more about us and about how our lives should function than we could ever imagine. Trust Him and watch him come through for you. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Nightmare at Emerald High - The Journey

Before I wrote Nightmare at Emerald High, I thought I’d never be able to write a full length novel. I always loved to write and I’ve written many a short story, but I never broke the novella barrier. Nightmare at Emerald High started off as a project to prove to myself that I could go further and do better. I wrote every waking moment, plotted and worked on my characters whilst on my day job and even stopped to jot down notes during sermons (yes, I made notes for my book during church ). I was determined to make this one happen.

One of the things that helped me most was the fact that I loved my story. Malcolm (my protagonist) was a lonely, geeky teenager who loved computers. In other words, he was the male version of me as a teenager. I put Malcolm through the ringer and had him jumping over boxes and running through never ending hallways and I loved it. That, for me, was the key to breaking the novella barrier. I loved the story. It was something I would pick up from a shelf and buy because it sounded like a fun book. It took me about six weeks to bang out the first draft and I was so proud of myself. Part of me wanted to just print the darn book and place a copy in a frame somewhere!

But of course the hard work had only just begun. After several edits, it was finally ready for the public. My first full length novel and I felt like I’d won a Nobel prize!

So here it is – Nightmare at Emerald High – the synopsis.
Malcolm Drake is one year away from the end of high school when a tantalizing scholarship offer comes his way. Malcolm and several other classmates eagerly join a program called Alternative Science that promises to open their minds to new ways of thinking and of course, help them win that scholarship. Little did they know that this program would change their lives forever. The class is riddled with eerie séances, encounters with spirit guides and a slow desensitization of the teens towards everything evil until they become completely entangled in the world of the occult.

With the program being run by the town's most influential people, the kids have a hard time getting out. Teachers that they trust hold them against their will and try underhanded tactics to convince them to remain in the program. Will good prevail over evil? Will the kids escape with their innocence?