Tips and Resources to Refresh Yourself in 2018

“If you want something you’ve never had before, you have to do something you’ve never done before.”

Maybe that sounds obvious, but this challenging quote from Dr. Jim Tillotson at a Montana pastor’s conference last September grabbed my attention. I do want different results than I’m getting now in some areas. That means I need to change. I believe even small changes can bring good results.

The beginning of a new year is a great time to refresh ourselves, analyse some things, and figure out a new approach. God has brought some helpful resources into my path recently that can help me make changes. Maybe some of them would help you too.

Refresh Your Health

The top two New Year’s resolutions people make today are (1) to stay fit and healthy and (2) to lose weight. Maybe, like me, you’ve decided that if you lost X number of pounds (kilos) and kept them off, you might have better health and mobility for the next 20 or 30 years. Maybe you’ve even decided on a diet and exercise plan. Now you just have to stick to it.

“I Deserve a Donut” includes an app, blog, and Bible study that shares these helps for dieters: Lies that make you eat, emotions that make you eat, questions to ask yourself when you’re tempted to break your diet plan, and Bible verses to encourage you to think Biblically when temptation arises. This is new to me but I can see how it could be a great help to the dieting Christian.

You can find help here:

Android App

iTunes/Apple App

30-Day Bible Study

Refresh Your Spirit

Godly music can soothe the spirit while you sit and meditate or even while you go about your daily tasks. Just recently I’ve found some music that settles my soul. While I don’t know a lot about Ben Everson (Everson begins with an e as in “eat” not “etch”), I know he went to Northland Baptist Bible College at the same time as my son-in-law. I consider his music to be fresh and conservative at the same time. He specializes in his acappella style which he calls a “one-man vocal orchestra.”

I especially like the song, “You Are My Refuge.”  We bought two cd’s for Christmas: “I Am Free” and “Acappella Refuge.”

Listen to You Are My Refuge with Ben Everson and Megan Hamilton.

Order Ben’s music.

Refresh your Body

We all need time off to refresh our bodies. Last year, during our furlough, we took time off to visit the Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky. This life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark is fascinating! Hours in the ark will help you imagine how Noah’s family lived during their year in the ark. You’ll walk away with renewed confidence in God’s Word, clearly seeing that this story, which many skeptics doubt, makes perfect sense. I highly recommend this attraction.

Visit the Ark Encounter.

Refresh Your Ministry

This past furlough we’ve heard very positive things about Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa. Many pastors have also told us that the highlight of their year is the Refresh Conference for pastors and wives at Faith. This year’s conference is scheduled for January 30-February 2. The theme is: “Down but Not Out: Ministering With Disappointment.” Since we’re back in New Zealand now we won’t be able to go, but we strongly recommend it for ministry couples who can.

Find conference details.

Refresh Your Relationship with God

As important as it is to refresh and renew ourselves in all these areas, our relationship with God is more important than all the others. Loving God is the first and most important commandment. Constant renewal in our relationship with him is vital to a growing Christian life. A daily quiet time with God is a discipline well-worth exercising, but even that doesn’t guarantee a close relationship with him.

I’ve been a Christian now for 58 years. My husband and I have been in fulltime ministry for nearly 40. I’ve heard Bible stories all my life and taught them over and over. I probably know hundreds of hymns very well. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the Bible through.

I treasure the wealth these experiences bring, but they also present a danger. Familiarity in these pursuits can hinder the freshness of my relationship with God. It’s so easy for my eyes to skim over familiar scriptures. Playing the piano doesn’t allow me to focus on the meaning of the words of hymns. During the sermon I can be distracted by whether or not the nursery (crèche) worker took the kids out, or what family came in late, or who I need to talk to most after the service.

I need to refocus on the amazing aspects of the familiar, renew my mind, and refresh my relationship with God during my quiet time each day. Here are some practical ways that I have used and plan to use again. I hope some of these tips may help you as well.

  • Write in a journal. I haven’t done this in the past, but I’m beginning to do it now. Each day I write at least one thing that I’ve learned from the Bible reading that day that I can apply to my life. Writing out the words forces me to put the thoughts into words and focus on the message.
  • Refresh my prayer list. I use blank greeting cards to gather similar prayer requests into groups. I write specific prayer requests under each listing. I’ve just updated things I’ve been praying for. After visiting someone I haven’t seen for a while, I try to end the conversation with this question, “How can I pray for you?” Then I add that request to my list.
  • Meditate on hymns. If your church has some old hymnals they’re no longer using, ask if you can borrow one for a while. Choose certain days to find a meaningful hymn which is theologically rich and study it.
  • Memorize and/or meditate on one of the great passages about Christ in the Bible. Memorization makes the passage available to you to think about wherever you go. Or consider reading one passage every day for a week or a month and study the various truths in it. “One chapter studied is worth more than a hundred chapters read.” (A.W. Pink) What can you learn about Christ in these passages? John 1:1-14; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-22, 2:9-10, 2:13-15; Hebrews 1 and 2.
  • Read a challenging book along with your devotions. Right now I’m reading “God is More Than Enough” by Jim Berg. It is an excellent guide on how to quiet your soul in the midst of uncertainty, discouragement, frustration, and other threats to daily peace. I strongly recommend it.
  • Give back to God. “During your devotions give something to God even if you don’t get something from him.” (Joan Tillotson)

You may have other ways of refreshing yourself and renewing your relationship with God. That’s good. But remember, our relationship with God should be the most important thing in our lives. Don’t neglect it. Find ways to keep it alive and growing.

What do you do to refresh yourself?

How to Review a Book on Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you read a book recently that you really loved and wish you could thank the author? Here’s an easy, free way to help an author and make him or her really happy: Write a review of his or her book on Amazon. Good Amazon reviews are gold to authors, especially if they don’t have many or all of their reviews have been written a long time ago.

  1. Open an Amazon account if you don’t have one.

You don’t have to buy your book from Amazon to review it on Amazon, but you do have to have an Amazon account. Amazon is the biggest bookseller in America and it often has the cheapest price for the books you want to buy, so why wouldn’t you want to have an account with them. If you don’t know how to open an account, this link will tell you:

  1. Sign into your account.

  2. Find the place to write the review.

Type the title or author of the book you want to review into the search box. When the book comes up, scroll down until you find the box “Write a Review” and click on that. Choose how many stars you want to give the book.

  1. Write your review.

Even a short review is helpful, but here are some tips to make your review especially helpful.

  • Include why you liked the book. You don’t have to spend time summarizing the book, as the book summary will already be included above the reviews. Don’t tell so much about the book that you spoil the ending. But be specific about the reasons you liked the book. This will help customers decide if they want to buy the book. You can even compare the book to similar books by the same author or others.
  • Don’t make your review too long or too short. Written reviews must be at least 20 words long and can’t be more than 5000. A good length is 75 to 100 words.
  • Be honest. Don’t give a book a 5 star rating if you don’t feel it deserves it. If your comments are too sentimental and your praise is overdone, the customer will probably think you are a friend of the author’s and disregard everything you say. Amazon may even pull your review if they think you are a friend or have a personal relationship with the author. To ensure your review is honest you may want to balance your praise. You could say something like this, “While the book includes numerous religious references I think someone who isn’t a Christian would still enjoy it.” Or “This novel doesn’t have as much action as some suspense novels, but the characterization more than makes up for it.”
  • Very negative reviews may help a customer decide whether or not to buy the book, but unless you feel very strongly about the negative points, you may not feel that you want to post a review that will actually hurt sales for the author. After all, authors are people too.
  • If you received the book free in exchange for your review, it is good to mention this.
  • Don’t obsess, just do it. You don’t have to be a professional book reviewer or write a long review to be helpful. Just think about what you would want to know if you were considering buying the book and write your true feelings.

Remember, even a very short review is helpful to an author unless it is very negative. It may seem like a lot of hassle to write a review, but authors work very hard today to sell their books and Amazon reviews are one of the best ways to help them.

May you and yours have a blessed Christmas!

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.