Which Way?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our lives had warning signs like the one in this photograph, letting us know when we’re heading toward danger?

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I spotted this sign while hiking in Israel, and believe me, the abyss was enormous and without guardrails to keep unwary hikers from falling over the edge.  I’ve been thinking about that hike a lot as I stand at an important crossroads in my life. I wish I knew which path was the right one, what dangers and challenges lay along each trail, so I could make the best choice. What if one path takes me in the wrong direction or comes to a dead end? Or an abyss?
In seeking guidance, I recall my hike in Israel. This is a photograph, taken from our hotel, of the terrain we hiked through in the Wilderness of Zin.

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The Israelites traveled through this same wilderness on their way to the Promised Land—and isn’t that where we all want to end up, in the place where God wants us to be? But first we sometimes have to trek through dry, difficult places.

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Only a fool would head out into this trackless waste without a guide. And without water! The path was barely distinguishable from the surrounding landscape, at times, and it would have been very easy to wander off and become lost.

The hike was challenging, the sun merciless overhead, but our guide promised us beauty—and some lessons along the way. And here is our first surprise—an oasis where we least expected it.

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I noticed as we followed our guide that everyone stayed within sight of him. No one lagged behind or wandered away. He had our complete trust. And eventually we reached this beautiful valley, hidden in the middle of the vast wilderness. We also reached a dead end. The narrow path we had been following suddenly ended at this high, rocky cliff.

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By now, we had been hiking for several hours and the prospect of retracing our steps beneath the blazing, afternoon sun had us pretty discouraged. Maybe we had gone the wrong way and our guide didn’t want to tell us.

He let us rest and quench our thirst. And while we did, he talked about trusting God to lead us through our wilderness times the way we had been trusting him in this wilderness. He explained how we need a full supply of water—God’s Word—stored up in our hearts during the good times so it can carry us through the bad ones.

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Yes, we had reached a dead end, he said. And so often when we reach dead ends in life we panic and scramble to save ourselves, looking for a way out instead of quietly waiting and trusting God. These were good lessons to remember. But what were we going to do now at this dead end?

When we were rested, our guide led us closer to the face of the cliff. And guess what—he knew the way out all along. Straight up the side of the cliff!Israel 09 031

It wasn’t an easy path by any means. In fact, it was terrifying in places.
Don’t let my happy smile fool you—I was shaking in my shoes!

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But after an invigorating climb, we all arrived safely on top—and there was our air-conditioned tour bus, waiting to take us back to our hotel.

Today as I stand at my crossroads, I’m trusting God to help me choose the right path. If I let Him be my guide, if I follow where He leads and stay close to His side, even when the terrain is difficult, I might find an oasis or two to refresh me along the way.

I’ve been delving into His Word as I prepare for my journey, making sure I won’t run dry. And while I can expect His path to be challenging, I know there will be no dead ends. I will arrive safely at last—exactly where God wants me to be.
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“He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”  (Psalm 40:2)

****If you enjoyed this Blog, you may be interested in my upcoming nonfiction work, “Pilgrimage, My Journey to a Deeper Faith in the Land Where Jesus Walked” Available this November! To order please Click Here! ***

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“Clubbing” With My Friends

bookclub1No, not  night clubs—BOOK clubs.  The very best kind.

What better way to spend a few hours than to gather with a group of friends who love to read, and talk about books? I belong to a book club that meets at my church, but as an author I often get invited to area book clubs when they read and discuss my novels.  If I have time and it isn’t too far, I love to go.
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I’ve been to neighborhood clubs, clubs that meet in churches, in libraries, in schools, and in seniors’ centers. Big clubs and small clubs and everything in between. In July, I returned to my home town in New York State for a family reunion and visited with the book club that met in the library where my mother used to work. We discussed my book, Candle in the Darkness.

Last Monday evening I “met” with a book club in Wisconsin via telephone as they got together. I wish I could have been there in person but it was an enjoyable evening for me, just the same.

Last Wednesday, I drove to the library in Yorkville, Illinois to meet with “The Lunch Bunch” and members of two other book clubs that meet regularly at the library—along with some of their friends and neighbors who love to read. What a wonderful group of ladies!
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I like to ask each club which books they’ve read this year—which ones they loved and which ones they didn’t. And why. Then I go home and read some of their favorites. I’m keeping track of my own picks on Good Reads. And my publisher, Bethany House, has a wonderful program for book clubs called An Open Book. Stop by their website and sign up for free and you’ll get to hear about some great, new books.

Writing is a solitary job, sitting alone all day with no one to talk to but my fictional friends. When I finally type “the end” and send the manuscript away, I often wish I could visit all the places that the finished book goes, and watch my readers’ reactions when they finish reading. Sometimes I feel like a chef in a bakery, creating and decorating beautiful cakes that will be enjoyed at weddings and birthday parties—but never getting to join in the celebrations.

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Unless I’m invited to a book club. Ah, then we all get to taste the cake—I mean, book—together. I know that not all of my readers feel tAll Things New Cover Piche same way about each of my books, just as some cake enthusiasts like chocolate and others don’t; some like buttercream frosting, others whipped cream. But that seldom matters to me. It’s celebrating together that makes it fun. “The Sister Circle” book club of North Providence, RI, made this delicious-looking cake to celebrate their tenth anniversary–and their novel for that evening was All Things New.

Which reminds me… that’s another thing I love about getting together with area book clubs–the food! I never go away hungry. This is the lunch that the Yorkville book clubs shared with me. I couldn’t resist going back for seconds.

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One creative club I visited tried to match the evening’s snacks to the book they were discussing that night. This group also kept a scrapbook with pictures of all their meetings along with items to remind them of each book—a ration card for a story about WWII, for example.

Later, when I return to my solitary writing life (a few pounds heavier), I often think of the wonderful people I’ve met with and laughed with at book clubs. And it makes it a little easier to sit alone and write, knowing that there are some very delightful ladies out there who love to read and are waiting to see what I write next. I think about their comments—what they like about a good book and what makes them want to toss a book across the room. And I remember some of the stories they’ve  told me about their own lives, which give me ideas to use for my novels. (Warning: don’t ever tell me a story unless you don’t mind it showing up in a book!)

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The Sister Circle Book Club

So enjoy your next book club meeting and think of me. And I promise I’ll keep writing if you’ll keep reading.

If you belong to a book club, what was your group’s favorite book this year?

A Giveaway Giveaway!!

Thank you all for submitting your entries in the Giveaway-Giveaway, it’s been such a blessing to hear all your stories and to witness your generous spirits.

WEEK ONE’S WINNER IS: CINDY from the Bronx as submitted by Ashley Reyes! Congrats! Your book is in the mail!

WEEK TWO’S WINNER IS: Tracy Schaan as submitted by Melanie Horsman!

WEEK THREE’S WINNER IS: Tina Riley as submitted by Peggy Trotter!

I still have TWO MORE BOOKS to give away, so keep your entries coming!

As the Bible says, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). So, in order to launch  my newly renovated website, I’d like to give YOU  the opportunity to give away a copy of my most recent book, “All Things New.”  I would love to send “All Things New” to the person or place that you, my readers, think would enjoy a copy. You can choose a person, a church, a school, a library, or any other organization.

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Here’s how it works:

I will be giving away one SIGNED copy of “All Things New” every week for the next three weeks. All you have to do is visit my new website and go to the “Contact” page. Enter your name and email address in the message and tell me the name and address of the person or organization you’ve chosen.  That’s all. And see? Isn’t it more blessed to give than to receive?

***Please enter only one person or organization. And please, only one entry a week per person. Thanks!***