Deb’s Books Blast/Deb’s Ministry Blog

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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.

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A Thankful Heart

Do you ever experience days so dark that you can’t see God’s hand in your life? Mary Weaver tried to save the life of a baby in her care, but when the baby died, she was accused of first degree murder. This Christian lady and her lawyer friend fought hard to prove her innocence. At times it seemed that life had spiraled out of God’s control, but time showed, during the darkest days, God was quietly working for her good.

Mary chose to be thankful, even during her darkest days in prison. Today I’m sharing an excerpt from Mary’s story as a challenge to all of us to keep a thankful heart. At the end I’ll tell you where you can get the entire ebook with Mary’s amazing story for free during this month of December 2019.

Excerpt from Chapter 25 of Edges of Truth by Deb Brammer

Mary Weaver sat on her prison bunk and slipped a family photo from the pages of her Bible. It pictured her with her husband and two children, before she was sentenced to life in prison without parole. She caressed her red-headed son, John and his blonde sister, Catherine in the picture. For sixteen months she had only seen them once a week when her husband brought them to the prison visiting room.

It all started January 22, 1993 when Mary was providing childcare for 11-month-old Melissa. When the baby quit breathing Mary fought for her life, but the baby died later that day. Mary had never done anything to hurt Melissa, but experts were divided on their opinions about her guilt. A life sentence was currently stealing time with her precious children. Mary’s lawyers were seeking to appeal her case, but over a year had passed and they still hadn’t been able to get a new trial. Meanwhile Mary was separated from her husband and kids who were now five and six years old.

Mary felt sure God would eventually free her and clear her name. She was a Christian and she knew God would get her through prison one day at a time. But she grieved for her children and unsaved husband. Months had passed into a year and more and her children were growing up without her. She would never get those years back.

As Mary sat in her cell worrying about her family, a guard appeared at the door. “Mrs. Weaver? You got a visitor.”

Mary set her Bible aside and preceded the guard down the prison corridor. Who could this be? As she stepped into the visitor’s room Catherine skipped up to her in a pink tutu and leotard.

“Mommy, Mommy, I’m going to my dance recital! Aunt Lisa brought me so you could fix my hair.” Catherine jumped around until Mary could hardly get a hug from her.

Mary smiled her thanks at her friend, Lisa Murphy, who had figured out this creative way to include Mary in her daughter’s special occasion.

Mary drew her daughter close. “I’d love to fix your hair. Shall we do French braids?”

“Yes, yes, yes, with pink ribbons!” Catherine bounced with every word.

Mary removed ribbons and elastic bands from Catherine’s ponytail and pulled long blonde strands into sections with her fingers.

“Hold still,” she reminded her daughter as she started one braid. Mary breathed in the fruity fragrance of the superfine hair as she began to weave the strands into identical braids on either side of her daughter’s head, then tied perfect pink bows at each end.

Catherine shook her head to feel her new hairdo. “Thank you, Mommy! I can’t wait to see myself in the mirror.”

Mary surreptitiously wiped tears with one sleeve. “You look beautiful. Can you show me your dance?”

Catherine performed several ballet steps, ending with a lopsided pirouette. Mary clapped loudly. “Good job! Just remember, when you’re in that recital today, I’m going to be thinking about you.”

Catherine gazed at her mom with pleading eyes. “I wish you could come to my recital.”

Mary blinked some tears from her eyes. “Me too, sweetheart, but Aunt Lisa will take pictures and I’ll study them carefully. Just remember that your mommy is very proud of you!”

Mary gave her daughter a quick, prison-acceptable hug and watched the two walk away. Satan whispered, “You are missing her recital and all the other important moments in her life.”

Mary lifted her chin. But God allowed me to fix her hair. God gave me that precious moment. God is good.

She thought of other ways God had allowed her to mother her children as well. God had given Mary a prison job, and her wages had been raised from thirty-eight to forty-one cents an hour. So what if it was only ten percent of minimum wage? The job made her time pass more quickly, and she could use the money in the commissary or craft store. Supporters could also add twenty dollars a week to her prison account. The activities directors had been especially kind to use this money to purchase fabric and patterns for her. Mary had been able to sew outfits for the kids, paint T-shirts, and buy presents for them.

Mary returned to her cell, sat on her bunk, opened her Bible, and prayed. Lord, help me to be thankful for what I have, not to complain about what I don’t have.

A prison sentence made it easy to slide into self-pity. Unfairness could defeat her but only if she let it. Instead she thought about The Hiding Place, a prison library book she had recently read. Corrie ten Boom had hidden Jews in Holland during World War II. The Nazis had caught her and thrown her into a bitter cold prison for four months, then a women’s extermination camp in Germany. Except for her sister, who was imprisoned with her for a time, Corrie had almost no contact with her family. She and her sister existed in overcrowded, filthy cells with little regard for sanitation and little to eat. They were allowed no exercise or fresh air.

Like Mary, Corrie was unfairly imprisoned, yet Corrie’s sister challenged her to focus on what she had. Corrie accepted the challenge. In solitary confinement she hungered for human contact, but she thanked God for an ant that crawled into her cell and provided a bit of company. In one of her prison cells, for one hour a day, she could stretch herself out tall and feel the sun shine on her head and chest. She thanked God for the sunshine. Later, at the extermination camp, she slept piled on a straw-covered platform with many other prisoners, sandwiched between other crowded platforms. Fleas infested the stinking straw, but Corrie even learned to thank God for the fleas. The tiny insects kept the guards away from the overcrowded bunk, where she hid her precious Bible.

Mary closed her eyes to shut out the conversation of the other inmates lounging right outside her cell. Her prison cell was the Ritz Carlton compared to the ones in the book. “Thank you, Lord, that my family is safe and that I can see them every week. Thank you that I have other gals to talk to. You’ve even given me a roommate who seems to be a true Christian. Thank you that I can feel safe in prison, that other inmates haven’t given me trouble, that the guards treat me with respect. Thank you that I have a Bible and I can read it openly, whenever I want. Thank you that I’ve grown closer to you in prison.”

The State had stolen her family. The first year they seized all her possessions, even her clothes. Only now they allowed her to keep a few things of her own. The State could separate her from her home and family, but they couldn’t take God away from her and they couldn’t take her away from God. She would focus on him and the things she was allowed to enjoy. Today that meant fixing her daughter’s hair for a special occasion.

***

God showers us with so many blessings every day that we sometimes get used to them and claim them as rights. When we have them we don’t appreciate them, and when we don’t, we complain.

This Christmas time is a great time to focus on what we have. What has God given you today?  

Mary’s story challenged me constantly during the two years it took to write it. You can get Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story, the whole ebook, for free, along with Christian books by 19 other authors, here.  Current subscribers to Deb’s Book Blast have already received a link to download Edges of Truth for free.

You can find the companion Bible study book here for 99 cents. I Survived! uses illustrations from Mary’s story in this study of 5 Bible characters who survived disaster.

Have a Christ-filled Christmas and take some time quiet time for reading quality Christian books during these last days of 2019.

Changes in Christian Publication in the Last Forty Years

I’ve been neglecting the writers who follow me for a while, so this one is for my writer friends. This year I’ve been writing for publication for forty years. Things have changed dramatically during that time. One advantage to getting older is understanding the history behind things. Today I want to talk about the changes I’ve witnessed in publication over the last 40 years.

I tend to think of the changes in decades. In the 1980’s I started writing articles for publication on my typewriter. Much of the time I aimed at one article a month. I found a publisher that liked my articles and quickly built a foundation of published articles and stories.

Christian fiction was very limited before 1980, but Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly changed everything. It astonished Christian editors with its unexpected overnight success. Suddenly Christian publishers were hungry for fiction, especially prairie romance. Some were putting out new titles every month. In the rush to publish, quality fiction was mixed with inferior fiction. Readers slowed their buying and some authors got stuck with manuscripts they’d been asked to write, but couldn’t sell. Great opportunities to publish opened up in the early 80’s, but dried up quickly halfway through the decade. Publishers turned to other genres like mysteries and fantasy and writers tried to follow the trends. Manuscripts started flooding the desks of editors.

Moving into the 90’s, most Christian publishers were refusing to consider manuscripts that didn’t come from agents. Now writers were not only concerned about good writing, but marketing their books to agents, who would then try to market them to editors.

I had written a book in the 80’s that I’d had professionally critiqued with favorable comments. I kept revising and submitting the book, without success. Those were the days of printed manuscripts and envelopes and stamps. With each submission I had the long waiting period of sending manuscripts one by one and waiting for replies. In the meantime, I wrote Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World. This kids’ book was easy to write because I was basically living the book on an adult level. Bob Jones University Press bought it and published it in 1994. I only had to worry about the writing of that book. Publishing and marketing were completely out of my hands. The book sold well, better than any of my other books have. It has now had been printed seven times.

By 2000 we had the internet and writing for publication was changing quickly. The tragedy on 9-11-2001, for reasons I don’t understand, really hit Christian publishers hard. Readers quit buying as much Christian fiction and publishers couldn’t take the risks they had taken before. It became harder even to find an agent who would consider your book. At the same time, it became far easier to self-publish. The stigma of self-publication began to fade as some well-known authors turned to self-publication in order to gain higher royalties. Soon writers’ success of a writer started depending less about their writing ability and more about how well they do social media and marketing. Kindle brought ebooks into the equation which dramatically changed the way books where published and marketed.

BJUP published Two Sides of Everything in 2004, and two of my other books in that decade, but I could see they were slowing down, too, in what they would accept, even of my books after they had already published four of them.

Today anyone can publish his own book. Many new authors publish, not because they are ready, but because they can. Vast numbers of writers write one book. Some of these are poorly written, but a few of their friends buy their book and they can say they’re  published authors.

Self-publication can work well, however, because it pays much higher royalties than traditional publishers and gives control over the book’s content completely to the author. With this method, authors don’t have to spend years trying to find agents for their books who then have to market it to publishers. They can publish their books whenever they’re ready. On the other hand, the author may lose the safety net of an editor who helps him hone his work until it becomes good enough to sell. Today’s writers aren’t finished with their job when they finish writing their books. Now they have to market their books. They need their own websites and blogs and need to keep up on several forms of social media so readers can find them.

In December of 2010 I first heard Mary Weaver’s story. (Now published as Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story.) I felt it was a story that needed to be told. I returned to the States in 2011, wrote a book proposal, and attended a writer’s conference to try to find an interested editor or agent. When I told Mary’s story to people in general I sensed huge interest, but every editor and agent refused to even consider it. They all agreed on two things. The story happened too long ago and Mary wasn’t a celebrity. Sensing God leading us forward, I knew it was time to consider self-publication. Now I’ve self-published Mary’s story, a companion Bible study book, and the Art Spotlight Mysteries, a series of cozy mysteries that are light-hearted, but deal with some deeper issues.

Today authors like me are more likely to refer to themselves as “indie authors” instead of self-published ones. Indie authors are independent authors who may hire help for proofreading, editing, and design but keep complete control of their book. I’ve joined the ranks of writers who need to continually grow in social media and marketing skills. Thankfully, with the huge increase in Christian indie authors, the help available has also increased. Many professionals who used to work for publishers now hire their services out to indie authors. These authors also band together in Facebook groups to learn from each other in the ever-changing world of indie publication. I belong to a group called “Christian Indie Authors” that has been a huge help to me.

Right now I’m working on a series of contemporary novels that deal with missionary ministry in New Zealand. As I edge close to retirement, I’m trying to establish a foundation for selling adult novels so that I can continue to write well into retirement.

Going Against the Flow: Straight Talk about Purity for Girls

In America 40% of all babies are born outside wedlock. In New Zealand it’s nearly 50%. Today childbearing women of all ages tend to have fluid relationships, sometimes moving in and out of relationships and dragging their kids with them. So for teenage girls in our churches, purity goes against the flow. Friends, teachers, and media all around them tell them virgins are losers and no one waits for marriage anymore.

In recent years I felt a definite nudge from the Lord to address the issue in our mission church. Maybe you’re thinking about holding some classes in your youth group or having a purity weekend. Today I’m going to share the main ideas I covered with my girls in four weekly sessions.

Knowing my Heart: Who am I in Christ?

Some of the first girls to lose their virginity are girls with very low self-esteem. Also, Christian girls who have already lost their virginity may feel that they have ruined God’s plan for their life. They may feel like trash. So I felt this was a good place to start talking about purity.

A close look at 2 Timothy 2:20-22 tells us that a wealthy house has all kinds of containers. Some, like a tin can, hold trash. Others, like a crystal goblet, are used for honored guests. All are useful, but some hold a position of honor. If we keep ourselves pure we can be one of God’s treasured vessels. The way we dress, the movies we watch, the things we thinks about, our relationship with guys, can determine what kind of vessel we are for God.

God made me special and has a special plan for my life (Psalm 139:13-16). God loves me so much he sent Jesus to die for my sins (Romans 5:8). He wants me to live a pure life. I need to build my relationship with Christ day by day. This will help me keep my purity and keep me from desperately grasping for any guy who will be my boyfriend.

Sharing my Heart: Different Ways to Date

When I was a teenager, Christian leaders basically said, “You should date a lot so you can figure out what kind of person you want to marry.” I was not really in a position to date because there weren’t many Christian guys in my circles. Even in Bible college a lot of the guys all decided to date a few popular girls. If you never dated you felt like a real loser.

Today Christian young people and singles have more choices. We talked about marriages in the Bible (Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, common biblical marriage patterns). Then we talked about contemporary dating: common dating, Christian dating, arranged marriages, courtship, and making up your dating model.

Then we talked about some good principles with whatever model you choose.

  • Build your relationship with Christ first.
  • Bring wise counsellors into your relationship.
  • Don’t start too young or get too serious or too physical too fast.
  • Start by becoming good friends. Don’t confuse love with hormones.

Guarding My Heart: Tips to Protecting Your Purity

Sometimes Christian teens want to remain pure, but it seems nearly impossible. We began with some of the lies Satan tells:

  • God is keeping something good from you. (Really he’s protecting us from hurting our relationship with him, getting STD’s, having our hearts broken from someone who isn’t committed to us, from pregnancy and abortion.)
  • Virgins are losers who can’t get a guy to like them.
  • As long as you don’t “go all the way” you can do whatever you want before marriage.
  • Saving yourself for marriage worked long ago, but no one does it today.
  • Today it’s impossible to save yourself for marriage.

While it can be hard to keep yourself pure, these tips make it much easier.

  • Make a promise to God to keep yourself pure and live for him.
  • Replace wrong thinking with right thinking. Keep your mind pure.
  • Dress modestly.
  • In a relationship with a guy, stay public, stay vertical, decide how far you will go in advance. (This comes from And the Bride Wore White by Dannah Gresh.)
  • Build your relationship with Christ.
  • Make yourself accountable to someone you trust.

Giving My Heart Away: Looking Ahead

Love is blind. When we’re in love, we feel like we are thinking clearly. The media says: Follow your heart. Sounds good, but what this usually means is: Follow your hormones. Rely on your emotions. Gary Chapman calls this period the “in-love obsession” and says it lasts about two years.

Young girls need to look ahead and think about what they really want in the one they want to marry. Some things, like being athletic or good looking, may be whims or preferences. But they need to think about the things that are most important to them. They should avoid dating anyone who doesn’t have these things. Once they start dating and that guy makes them feel special, it will be hard to think objectively about him. We’ll talk about the qualities of a guy who will be a loving spiritual leader.

I found my girls eager to talk about these things and agreeable to what I said. But I sense they need to talk about these things, with a Christian teacher as well as Christian peers. I believe it helps them to voice the desire and necessity for purity with others who will support them in that decision. It’s not easy to go against the flow every day. We need to challenge unbelievers and support Christian teens. Do the guys need this too? Certainly, but this time I’m working with girls.

Resources:

Dannah Gresh’s book

Free printable Vows of Purity for guys and girls

Purity jewelry

My Art Spotlight Mysteries shows a fictional example of a couple dating carefully, with an eye on purity. There are some careful kisses before marriage and a mention of “thinking like a married man” that points to the marriage being consummated. Purity, different methods of dating, and relationships are clearly mentioned in the second and third book. In book one they just get to know each other.

 

 

 

Instant winner!

Being a subscriber to Deb’s Book Blast automatically qualifies you to be in the draw to win the Kindle version of one of these books with a cross cultural theme.

Know You More is a multi-racial Christian romance by Jan Thompson.

3D Gospel is non-fiction and discusses various cultures and their emphasis on guilt, shame, or fear by Jayson Georges.

End of the Spear is the true story of a Steve Saint whose father was martyred by Auca Indians. Many years later Steve and his family go back to live with the tribe after many have been converted.

I’ll announce the winner of the draw at the end of this Book Blast.

Take a quick glance at my books and you’ll notice a strong cross cultural theme.

  • Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World, my first published book, is a pre-teen book about Amy, an American girl who goes to live in Taiwan with her missionary parents.
  • Two Sides to Everything is a pre-teen book about Josh, an American city boy who goes to live with his relatives in rural New Zealand.
  • Broken Windows, a cozy mystery about Jordan, shows his adjustment to adult life in the US after growing up as a missionary’s kid in Taiwan. (See great deals below for more than 50% off on the box set.)
  • Déjà Who? continues Jordan’s story as he and his girlfriend work with international students in the US. (See great deals below.)
  • I Scream shines the spotlight on child prodigy Destiny, who has an American dad and a Chinese mom. Jordan communicates with her mom in Chinese. (See great deals below.)

Why do I make cross cultural issues such a strong theme in my writing?

Cross cultural ministry is who I am and what I know.

I grew up in the home of Ray Allen, a pastor of small churches in Colorado. I married a guy who was headed for Taiwan as a missionary. Art and I and our two daughters spent 16 years living and ministering in central Taiwan. The Lord then led us to New Zealand where Art has been the missionary pastor of a small church for 21 years.

New Zealand has a Western culture that is similar in many ways to culture in the US. After getting to know the New Zealand culture pretty well, God began to bring people from around the world to us. For years we had two South African families, one black and one white. At the same time many Asians came to our city and church. Filipinos came to work on dairy farms. Southern Institute of Technology drew many Indonesians. Koreans came for work and education.

Since we had lived in the US, Taiwan, and New Zealand for many years, we helped some of these Asians bridge the gap between an Asian and a Western culture. We’ve needed to affirm different ways of doing dishes in the church kitchen. We had to address muddy footprints on the seat of the ladies’ toilets. We’ve explained the differences in values between Asian cultures which prize education very highly and the New Zealand culture which values a do-it-yourself, sports and physical labor mentality. All cultural issues.

Building cross cultural relationships is an important part to reaching the world with the gospel and including different cultures in ministry.

On this earth we will never completely shed our prejudices and biases toward other cultures, but we must continue to work toward understanding if we are going to minister effectively. And ministry … isn’t that what the Christian life is all about? Serving Christ as we serve others should be our highest goal. So it seems to me that ministry ought to be a common theme in Christian fiction. You will find a ministry thread through every book I write.

Great Deals on Box Sets of Christian Fiction

Now that I’ve got your mouth watering for Christian fiction, here’s a great buy on 30 different Christian fiction box sets for $4.99 or less. You’ll find my Art Spotlight Mysteries among them. This promotion only lasts from November 3-9 so don’t miss out. These are great deals and a great way to find a new author to love. In my case, my Kindle box set is over 50% off the cost of buying the ebooks separately.

Now for the free drawing.

I have randomly picked a winner from my subscribers list to receive the Kindle version of a book with a cross cultural theme.

And the winner is … R. Y. She is an English teacher in the Middle East. She found my website while searching for ESL Bible lessons. I wrote these lessons long ago during our ministry in Taiwan. Now these lessons, written for people who use English as a second language, are used to share the gospel in many countries around the world.

She has chosen 3D Gospel.

 

 

Making a Positive Impact on Others


Did you ever leave church or a social gathering more discouraged than when you came? Maybe the majority of your conversations were largely negative. Sometimes our conversations just get in a negative rut and it’s hard to reverse and go in a better direction.

What can you do? Everyone has problems and needs a listening ear. You want to show concern, even when you can’t solve their problems. There’s a time to weep with those who weep. But we also want to make most of our conversations uplifting.

Today’s world is a desert thirsty for encouragement. If you are in ministry you have a constant need to connect with people, sometimes the same one over and over. We often talk about the weather, which may not be pleasant at the time, or ask how the person is, which may not be pleasant either. Then how can we steer the conversation in a positive direction?

Negative Subjects

The biggest enemy of positive conversation is negative subjects. Yes, we need to take a stand against the evils of the world, but sometimes these negative subjects dominate our conversations. It’s hard to have uplifting conversation about abortion, gun control, political leaders we don’t like, immorality in the world today, unemployment, or high prices. We may need to talk about these things sometimes, but we need to balance them with the positive aspects of life if we want to encourage ourselves and others.

Preparing Yourself for Positive Impact

Matthew 15:18 says, “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart.” (NKJV) So if I have a positive heart, I will say positive words that will encourage everyone around me. What positive things can I think and talk about to balance out all the negatives of life? Here are some ideas:

1. What new thing can I thank God for today?

2. What small success can I celebrate in my life or the lives of others?

3. What everyday thing have I been overlooking that could bring me joy?

4. Have I found something in a book or blog recently that has encouraged me?

5. What nice things have other people done for me recently?

6. What advantages do I have that make my life easier than life 30 years ago?

7. Who could I call that I haven’t talked to for a while?

8. Was I expecting some bad thing to happen that turned out better than I thought?

9. What’s one nice memory I haven’t thought about for a while?

10. What ordinary people do I have in my life who bring me joy every day?

As we think about answers to these questions this week, we can become positive people who are ready to make a positive impact on a negative world.