Deb’s Books Blast/Deb’s Ministry Blog

Deb’s Book Blast gives you a front row seat to what’s happening with Deb’s books. If you sign up on this email list you’ll get:

  • News about the release of Deb’s upcoming books
  • Insider information about her books
  • Notice of free and discount Kindle promotions of her books
  • Chances to earn free books in exchange for Amazon reviews
  • Deb’s perspective on distinctively Christian fiction
  • Articles directly related to issues in her books

You’ll receive occasional emails. You may unsubscribe at any time. Your privacy will be respected. Your name and address will not be given to anyone else for any other purpose.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 3.30.04 PM

Deb’s Ministry Blog shares articles of interest to people in a small church, missions, or writing ministry. These are practical and encouraging articles that may be shared freely.

Again, you’ll receive occasional emails. You may unsubscribe at any time. Your privacy will be respected. Your name and address will not be given to anyone else for any other purpose.

Away from Home for Christmas

 

My least favorite Christmas carol? “I’ll be home for Christmas. You can count on me. . . . I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my heart.” If you really are away from home at Christmas, the song makes you want to cry—which is no help at all.

As a missionary I’ve been away from my parents and extended family for all but about 8 years since 1980. We’ve been totally away from our family, even our own children for about 12 years. Separation from family is part of being a missionary. How can Christmas be special when you are separated from those you love the most?

When we had daughters at home, we followed many simple traditions that made the season special. I asked my daughters for help in writing this blog, and I realize that, for us, crafts was the biggest part of the fun. We cut out snowflakes, decorated cut-out cookies, decorated the house and the tree. Special ornaments and music added to the fun.

As a missionary, you might be prepared to leave your parents and live in some far-off country. It may be harder to actually have your own children leave you. So how can you keep the joy in your Christmas when you are away from home and family?

My daughter Lisa nailed the answer to the wall.

“I think a big part of what made it (separation from family) okay for us,” she writes, “was that you chose to be happy at Christmas time (and serve others) whether or not we were able to visit family that year or not. I think Lori and I have both inherited that attitude. Also, Christmas is a family holiday because we’ve made it that way. But it is certainly in keeping with the real meaning of the holiday to be apart because of where you serve Him (or to use being apart as a chance to reach to others.)”

Choose to be happy at Christmastime.

Wow! That made me think. She was right. We chose to make Christmas fun as well as meaningful, but there were years when being happy at Christmas was a definite choice.

Lisa spent her first Christmas in the Intensive Care Nursery as a ten-week-premature baby. I spent that Christmas in the adult Intensive Care Unit. That Christmas Day was scary and horrible, but I choose to remember the fun Christmas activities that came earlier in the month. God brought us through that time to full health and strength.

Our most difficult Christmas was probably the year we closed our ministry in Taiwan. We came back to the States the week of Christmas. Broken-hearted for our ministry, we bought a few last minute presents and built graham cracker houses at Grandma’s. That Christmas we definitely had to choose to make the Christmas as happy as we could.

Lisa came to our home in New Zealand her freshman year of college in 1997. She also shared Christmas with us three other times. She spent many Christmases apart from family. How did she cope as a young adult?

“Other favorite things include going caroling, singing in choirs, sending and receiving cards,” she writes. “I look forward to hearing recordings of Handel’s Messiah each Christmas. I try to reflect on the Christmas story and perhaps write a little reflection for myself. I send cards to people who have blessed me that year. I get involved at my church. When I do all that stuff, it’s hard to find time to be lonely at Christmas. (This was true even in my single days.) I like to think back to the various places I have spent Christmas and who I’ve spent them with. I appreciated the hospitality of others, several of whom were also MK’s before me. I like the years I’ve been hosted by other family members or friends, but I think I enjoy even more thinking about years I’ve been the hostess.”

Lisa finished college single and remained single for a number of years. During these years she reached out to international students or lonely people with simple holiday dinners or invitations. She continues to do this as a married woman.

Jesus was away from home on His first Christmas too.

Jesus left His home in heaven where he was worshiped and adored to begin the live of a servant on earth. He gave up so much to provide salvation for us. If serving him takes us far from home, is that too much for Him to ask? I would never want my desire to be close to family to keep me from serving Him. His birth is certainly the main reason for Christmas. But I think he is also pleased when we use the occasion to build family memories and enjoy the many good gifts He gives us.

Maybe you are far from your family for Christmas. Maybe the season brings back bad memories. Maybe some other reason makes the season difficult. You can still choose to make it a happy time. And making good choices is an important key to living the Christian life.

 

Perfect Gift for the Price of a Card: How to Gift an Ebook

With Christmas just weeks away, consider the advantages of giving the reader on your list an ebook.

  • Most ebooks cost no more than a greeting card.
  • You can gift it to people who live far away without paying postage.
  • It makes a great stocking stuffer or smaller gift.
  • You don’t have to leave your house to shop for it.
  • You can order it now and have it delivered on Christmas Day.
  • A quality book gives a reader hours of pleasure and relaxation.
  • A great Christian book can inspire and encourage.

Cheap.  Easy. Postage free.  Meaningful.  How could you miss?

Don’t know how to gift an ebook? Here’s some links to explain how to gift a Kindle, iBook, Nook, or Kobo.

Gift an Ebook:

Kindle: 

iBook

Nook

Kobo

Not sure what to order? My newest book, I Scream, has just come out, not only as a paperback, but also on all these sales channels. This is the last book in the Art Spotlight Mysteries (previously listed as the Keyhole Mysteries.) You can find it, and the other two in the series, here.

Buy I Scream:

Kindle:

 iBooks:

Nook: 

Kobo:

Waiting for Publication

As someone who has published four books with a traditional publisher, and self-published five, I can list many advantages to self-publication:

  • I can publish any book I can write.
  • I’m not dependent on agents and editors.
  • I can bring a book to print faster than with traditional publishers.
  • I can keep a much higher percentage of the sales price of each book.

Of course, there are advantages of going with traditional publishers, too. For one thing, they set a publication date much farther in the future, but they can be assured of publishing on that date. Meanwhile, I had hoped to publish my new book, I Scream, on Thanksgiving weekend. I can see that’s not going to happen. I’m currently waiting on CreateSpace to finalize publication of the paperback version. Then I have to wait for the Kindle conversion.

I Scream Social

(Secret #1: I don’t have a print copy of the book yet. The picture has a cover printed on paper, taped to another author’s book.)

Right now I’m planning an I Scream Social on Sunday afternoon, December 3, our last Sunday in Montana. This will allow some of my readers in area churches one last chance to buy a paperback directly from me at a discount price.  And eat ice cream. If the books haven’t arrived by then, they’ll receive the books soon thereafter.

The good news is the complete Art Spotlight Mystery set should definitely be available for sale by Christmas. Paperbacks will be available at Amazon. Ebooks will be available on Kindle, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo. (Actually they are already available on iBooks, Nook, and Kobo, but let’s keep that as our little secret #2.)

In the meantime we are finishing our time in Montana with Thanksgiving, a harvest dinner, being guests and inviting guests. In 10 days we’re guests for 4 meals and we’re hosts for 3. That involves huckleberry cheesecake. If you’re looking for a good, gluten-free, berry cheesecake recipe for the holidays, here’s mine.

Feeling Unappreciated?

Water drops folling from a bamboo leafDo you ever feel you are pouring out your life in ministry and no one cares? Like your drop of ministry isn’t making a very big ripple? Sure God knows your heart. He sees the hours of work, the spent emotions, the faithfulness in service with little visible results.

But you care about these people.

You watch them come to Christ in salvation and take their first baby steps as a Christian.

You listen to their heartaches. You pray with them, weep with them. You point them to Scripture.

You hear their concerns and make changes in your ministry to meet their needs.

You see them going in a dangerous direction and you want to shake some sense into them. Instead you pray and look for opportunities to encourage them to draw closer to God.

You’ve given your life to serve these people. You exhaust yourself in ministry for them. Don’t they care?

Dr. Raymond Buck, now with the Lord, served many years as a missionary to Africa. Many times this veteran missionary heard new missionaries voice their frustrations. He would say, “We didn’t come to be appreciated.”

In Second Corinthians the Apostle Paul opens his heart with great transparency. He had poured out his life for the Corinthian church but a small but vocal group were challenging his authority. They questioned his credentials as an apostle. They accused him of being insincere, spiritually weak, and an ineffective speaker.

As Paul ends his epistle he says, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. . . . But we do all things, beloved, for your edification.” (2 Cor. 12:15,19, NKJV)

Paul poured out his life in ministry in a way few others have. Though he was forced to defend his credentials so his message would be accepted, he didn’t do that to be appreciated. He cared only that his children would be built up in Christ.

Are you feeling unappreciated today? Are you faithful to the Lord and your work, yet seeing few visible results? Satan can use your discouragement to cripple your ministry while you sink into self-pity. So often God is working in hearts in a way you can’t see.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58, NKJV

Living as a Conservative Christian

Family 4I am a conservative Christian. You may think you know me, but you might be surprised.

Being a conservative Christian doesn’t make me think that I am better than you.

I’m not a Christian because I am so good. I’m a Christian because I know I can never meet God’s standard on my own. I think and feel and do wrong things. But God has granted me salvation on the basis of Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus was completely holy and didn’t deserve to die, yet he took my punishment. I’m sinful and don’t deserve God’s mercy, yet I have believed in Jesus as my Savior, so he has given me his righteousness.

Beyond that, being a conservative Christian doesn’t make me better than a more liberal one.  You may be less conservative than me, and yet please God in areas in which I fall short. I may please God in areas you in which you struggle. I don’t look down on you because you are different, but I may disagree with you on some things. We each have to answer to God for what we do. I’m simply trying to do the right thing.

Being conservative doesn’t make me a legalist.

What is a legalist? Many people define a legalist as anyone who is more conservative than they are. At the same time, anyone who is less conservative than they are, is a liberal.

The book of Galatians talks about true legalists. A legalist tries to keep a list of rules in order to gain merit with God. Sometimes legalists try to earn or keep their salvation by keeping this list of rules. Other legalists obey rules to exalt themselves rather than glorify God. Their emphasis is on keeping a list of rules in their own strength, rather than living to please God by the strength of the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Myron Houghton says:
A distinction should be made between lists and legalism. It is certainly true that believers differ on their lists, and we must evaluate each item on a list in light of relevant Scriptural teaching. But disagreeing with fellow believers over whether or not Scripture supports their lists has nothing to do with legalism! Legalism is related to why one should obey a list rather than to the rightness or wrongness of the list. If people think they gain merit with God by keeping a list [any list!!], they are legalistic!

True freedom is living obediently to Scriptural guidelines in the knowledge that all of our sins have been forgiven because Jesus Christ died and now lives for us. (Romans 5:10) . . . And true liberty does not use itself as an excuse for sinful living (see Galatians 5:13), but rather, recognizes that the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world (Titus 2:11–15).

We need to be careful who we call “legalists.” Just because someone is more conservative than I am doesn’t make him a legalist. He may have good reasons for his standards. I have no right to call him a legalist just because his rules are stricter than I think they need to be. I can’t see his heart. I don’t know his motives, unless he reveals them to me.

Being conservative doesn’t mean I’m too stubborn to change.

I know Christians who have less strict standards than I have, and some who are more strict. If you are a Christian, I’m glad you are. I don’t hate you because you have come to different conclusions than I have. I may not be able to work with you in certain ways if we can’t agree on some issues that are important to me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about you.

The world changes quickly and so does the church. Sometimes I see people change in ways that I don’t feel would be right for me. I’m trying to please God and live the way he wants me to. You may see an issue as a matter of preference, where I may see it as a conviction. Thus you feel free to do something that I do not. That doesn’t make me mean. I’m simply trying to please the Lord in the best way I know how.

Remember, if I feel something is not pleasing to God, yet do it anyway, that is sin. (Romans 14:23) So please don’t push me to do something against my convictions. I’m not just trying to be stubborn.

Being conservative doesn’t mean I’m a scrapper.

Yes, I know the world, and much of the church, is changing faster than I am. I expect to be different from the world. The Bible tells us to expect that. (1 John 2:15) But sometimes I even struggle to find a place in the church. Much of genuine Christianity would find me hopelessly conservative and I actually grow weary of wearing a legalist label simply because I’m trying to do the right thing. Very small differences sometimes divide the more conservative segment and I feel ostracized from Christians who I would like to consider as friends. Living today as a conservative Christian is not easy. Sometimes I struggle to know how God wants me to do certain things, but I am trying to figure out God’s pattern for me and then live that way.

So you may not agree with me. I may seem hopelessly conservative to you. But please don’t assume that I’m a fighting legalist who thinks I have all the answers, refuses to change, and wants to force you to be like me. I’m actually just an ordinary Christian who is trying to please God in a sinful world.

(See this link for Dr. Houghton’s entire article on legalism: http://www.faith.edu/resources/publications/faith-pulpit/message/what-is-legalism/read )