Friday, December 9, 2016

The Star of Christmas

An Appropriate Quote By Marcia Lee Laycock

I read the email with a bit of anticipation and a bit of dread. It was an invitation to another Christmas party. That meant another pot-luck item to prepare, another Chinese auction gift to bring. And I couldn't stop sneezing and coughing, so who knew if I'd be well enough to attend. It was almost enough to make me want to shout, "Bah Humbug!" But the instructions in this email were intriguing, and piqued my interest. For the gift exchange, we were to bring a favourite quote, done up in some kind of creative way. The favourite quote part would be easy, I thought. I have a huge file of quotes on my computer. With the state of my health, I knew the creative part might be a bit more difficult, but I decided to try and rise to the challenge.

I clicked into my quotes file and began to read, and read, and read. Nothing seemed exactly right. I was thinking Christmas, but couldn't find anything seasonal. I thought inspirational, but nothing seemed to hit the mark. I thought humorous, but couldn't find anything that made me laugh out loud. So I gave up, swallowed some more cough medicine and went to bed. The next day I opened the file again. A quote seemed to beam its way to me immediately. It was short but thought provoking, and when I thought about it, the words, from poet Anne Sexton, were very appropriate for the Christmas season. She said: "Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard."

In the midst of the rush to shop, to bake, to decorate and make it to all those Christmas parties, God is calling us to do just that. He wants us to stop and hear His voice in the tumult. It is a still small voice, but one that echoes with everything we need. It is the voice of a child crying from a manger, the voices of angels singing and shepherds jabbering about a baby born to be King. It is a voice weeping for those in pain and sickness. It is a voice mourning for those who refuse to hear Him. It is a voice shouting victory over the forces of evil and death. And it is a voice calling us to know Him, to know His love for us, love that grants us one more day of life, filled with all its challenges and blessings. Listen for Him. He has promised that anyone Aw "who hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." (Rev.3:20) Not only that, He has promised to stay with you forever, to guide and protect you, and to give you peace.

So, "put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard." You might just hear the true voice of Christmas. 


Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was also short listed for a Word Award. Marcia also has four devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan.
Her most recent release is Christmas, a collection of short stories that proves miracles still happen, even in the most unusual places.

Sign up to receive her devotional column, The Spur

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Wilderness Faith for Baby Christians – by Patricia Beal

It's 4:30 in the morning, and I have two hours to make this post happen. Then I have to get ready for work. The family is sleeping, and it's hard to see my hand-written draft in the dark. The desk, a green folding table I've had for more than 10 years, is crowded with things to do. But none of it will get done today. When will it get done?

Breathe ... At least there is a job, a family, a roof, and a publishing contract.

The past five months have been hard, the last two extremely so, and December didn't start well. Asperger's is hard; PTSD is hard; Forgiveness is hard; Being a working mom is hard. I don't have time to write, dance, parent, or take care of the house--the things I like best, and everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. And there's no end in sight. 

But that's not the worst part.

Here's the worst part. For the first time since being born again four years ago, I started doubting God's promises, started losing heart, and started wondering if this whole Christianity thing had been a tragic mistake. Oh, the heartbreak--for me and for God.

I kept thinking: I have a debut coming out--a redemption story, of all things!--and I'm miserable. How's this going to work out? How am I going to promote the novel and talk about faith? I'm a fraud and a joke, and this is an absolute disaster. 

Then something happened.

After hitting rock bottom during the Thanksgiving break and asking people to pray, a sermon on Numbers 21 (and a Numbers 20 attitude comparison) helped me see straight and started a spiritual upward trend.

Here's what I learned:

1) It's not okay to complain.

2) The devil loves a discouraged Christian.

3) The biggest blessings are often on the other side of wilderness faith.

4) There is a purpose for these seasons of extreme trials (Deuteronomy 8). God sees things that don't belong and will work them out of our systems through trials. He will burn off what's useless to strengthen us. He will humble His people. He will test our faith. He will test our hearts. He looks for obedience and faith in the middle of the storm. The struggle is real and complaining is natural, but be quick to repent. Trust God.

5) Only those who are willing to follow God when things go bad and when it feels like He is nowhere around will get to see His best and enter the promised land of victorious Christian living.

6) Pray: forgive me for complaining and losing heart, increase my faith, give me wisdom to endure and do better, go before me, win my battles.

7) You need to be strong in the Lord ... in the power of His might.

8) Put on your armor daily and for every battle.

9) Stay close to the Word. Read, pray, ponder.

10) Be rooted on God's love and concern for us. Chastening is designed to educate, train, and mature us. That's the Biblical pattern. From liberation in Exodus to Canaan there was wilderness. From baptism to ministry, Jesus was in the wilderness, too. It's God's design. From salvation to victorious Christian living there will be wilderness, too. 

11) Jesus used scriptures to pass the wilderness test. Follow that model and also lean on Him. He gets it.

12) If people are making your life seem unbearable, remember that God is the judge. And remember Joseph. What people did out of an evil heart, God used for good.

13) Wilderness is a season. It isn't life. Rebellion makes it longer. Accept God's training. Expect it. Stay humble, on your knees, prepared.

14) Hold on to God's promises--especially when they don't seem true.

Wow! I should have known all this. I've read the whole book. I feel so babyish. I think I once knew this in theory, but without the practical exercise, it didn't stick. I pray it sticks this time.

Not every moment in this wilderness is bright and shiny, but having perspective and a map--and hope and faith!--changes everything.

The idea of writing a simple book for baby Christians has crossed my mind. The Baby Christian Guide to Doing Life with the Creator of the Universe. Should I pitch it? It's probably been done before. And chances are each walk is so unique that there's no guide beyond one's personal relationship with God.

How are you doing today? What do you do when life (and God!) gives you lemons?

This is my last blog post of the year! I pray you have a beautiful Christmas season, a wonderful break, and a great start of 2017 :)

(6:07--now to find pictures...)

(6:41--done--praise God)

Patricia Beal writes contemporary Christian fiction and is represented by Leslie Stobbe of the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency. Her debut novel, A Season to Dance, comes out on May 9, 2017 (Bling! / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas).

She’s a 2015 Genesis semi-finalist and First Impressions finalist. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati in 1998 with a B.A. in English Literature and then worked as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army for seven years. Now, after a 10-year break in service, she is an Army editor. She and her husband live in El Paso, Texas, with their two children.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


A real life story of two amazing people. As the back cover explains:

A high-flying Wall Street career woman looking for something more in her life quits her job and goes bush - to outback Australia.

One New Year's Eve in Kalgoorlie a chance meeting with a charismatic Aboriginal leader lights a spark that will change the course of her life forever.

After a whirlwind long-distance courtship, they marry in a desert creek bed and she spends her wedding night in an outback cave on a mountain, the first of many changes the New Yorker will have to face. The next is her husband's unique wedding gift, a tour of the country and its people - an unforgettable journey of discovery that marks the beginning of Diana Williams new life.

This is an extraordinary story of a woman who followed her heart and discovered a new country and culture, the realities of a 'mixed marriage', the joy of an unexpected child - and a love that crossed boundaries.

HORIZON is WHERE HEAVEN and EARTH MEET is a powerful, inspiring and timely love story.

I googled this to see whether any copies were available. It's really worth your while.

At present, Rita Galieh is ministering with her husband in Thailand. As an author of historical romance, her Victoriana Trilogy is available at

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Hope in Waiting … some reflections on Advent

Photo courtesy of 9comeback/
There’s something both exciting and tremendously nerve-wracking when we press the send button on the email that whisks the latest manuscript off to a publisher. Exciting? The project we’ve been working on has now reached a point of completion. In my case that project had consumed a lot of my mind space for the past three years.

Nerve-wracking? Will they like it? Enough to publish it? What if they don’t? What will I do then?

It’s a moment that is soon forgotten.

And then we wait.

And wait some more.

A few months later an email arrives outlining your manuscript is still in the game. Being reviewed by some others. They liked it sufficiently to pass onto others. Great.

And then we wait.

And wait some more.

As I shared with a writing friend recently: the Lord's got it in His big capable hands. Waiting helps us lean on Him more. And that's what I've tried to do. Keep writing, keep hoping, keep knowing He's looking after the situation irrespective of whether I receive a positive response or not. 

We are People who Wait

We authors wait a lot. It’s part of the fabric of being an author. I expect it’s one of the reasons self-publishing has become so popular: the author takes greater control over the end product and can manage the timeline.

We know all those feelings that come with waiting. The frustration, angst, discouragement, hopelessness. After waiting we (our work, that is) might be rejected. Again. And again. And again. We know the drill because it’s part of our lives. For some of us we’ve waited a long time and may continue to.

Advent is a time of waiting. The name Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming” or “arrival.” Beginning each year on the fourth Sunday before Christmas (the Sunday before last), Advent commemorates the birth of Jesus and also anticipates His return. As Ann Voskamp says we are “perpetual Advent people” waiting on Christ’s return.

The Branch Gives us Hope

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1-2)

Advent is all about hope. In who is coming.

We can believe in that hope. Because He did come 2,000 years ago on that Christmas morn, born in a feed trough, son to a teenage mom and her husband.

We can believe in that hope. Because He has come to us. He is in us and we are in Him.

We can believe in that hope. Because He has told us He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5). Even when our work gets rejected. Repeatedly.

He understands us. Really, truly! Because He has chosen each one of us.

"He tends His flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young." (Isaiah 40:11 NIV)

Choose to remember Him when the enemy throws the darts of rejection or doubt at you, when he tries to take away your joy in the One we celebrate.

Draw near to Jesus as He is the most compassionate Shepherd, gathering and carrying us, His lambs, in His arms. Such a wonderful image isn't it?

I hope you are able to spend some time in the next few weeks reflecting on the hope of Advent. On Jesus. Allow His Words to “dwell in your richly.”

Wishing all of my ICFW friends a blessed Advent season full of childlike hope and anticipation.

Grace and peace,

Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Angelguard won the 2013 Selah Award for Speculative Fiction. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter