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“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:17-19

Friday, July 22, 2011


"These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom . . . but are of no value--" Colossians 2:23

I was perusing in Internet looking for a good rate on an airline ticket. Over on the left side of the screen, I noticed a box that proclaimed the airlines had just lowered their prices to the very city to which I wanted to go. Yippee, I thought I’d found myself a bargain!

Clicking on the unknown on the Internet is never a good idea. Within two minutes, my computer was slammed with a nasty Trojan horse virus that, among other things, disabled my real antivirus software. Then this insidious malware proceeded to take on the appearance of something else, using well-known logos and acting as though it was warning me of the attack. All I had to do, it said, was click on this security tab and register for their protection and they would insure my computer would be safe. In fact, clicking on their registry would have given them access to all my personal information, bank accounts, credit cards, bill pay information, account numbers . . .

It looked like something it was not. It stole the logos and language of a company I trusted, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and snuck into my computer under the guise of false promises. It was an imposter.

When my computer-guru husband got home, it took him almost five hours to outsmart this thing and eradicate it from my machine. I was so thankful that my husband had the knowledge and computer skills that I lack, and was able to do what I couldn’t.

In the book of Colossians, the apostle Paul addressed the people who were confused about the rules and legalities. They were trying to follow all the man-made decrees and commands, thinking their conformity would be looked upon by God as something good. These mandates were disguised as sanctification, but it was a lie. Paul pointed out that all their good appearances were worthless because Christ was the One who forgave their sin, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)
Christ disarmed those principalities and powers, and triumphed over them. He did what we could not do for ourselves.

Becoming so immersed in legalities instead the substance of true holiness robs us of the peace and joy of trusting wholly in Christ and His shed blood. When we try to add to what Christ has already done, it’s like telling Him His death on the cross wasn’t enough.

So many things in this world have the appearance of being good, or noble, or praiseworthy. Many pursuits appear innocent, but anything that suctions life from us is not of God.

That computer virus tried to make me believe it was safe by using the disguise of something I trusted. But someone smarter than me had the power to disarm and disable it.

Sometimes good works are disguised as a pathway to holiness. Good works are fine as long as they aren’t used as a substitute for what only Christ can do. Works don’t make us holy or ensure us a place in heaven. If that were true, then Christ died in vain. God help us to learn to be discerning—knowing the difference between true salvation and the imposters.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Place Where Magic Happens

Anticipation of the annual American Christian Fiction Writers conference begins for me around January. I could name a host of reasons why I go to the ACFW conference, but many have already been mentioned by other bloggers. Here are just a few of mine:

* It’s encouraging to be surrounded by people who don’t look at me oddly when I talk about my characters like they are real live people.
* When I volunteer to help out, it gives me an opportunity to give back to the organization that has done so much for me.
* The classes and workshops are occasions to celebrate what we do as authors and fill our energy tanks.

But one of my favorite parts of the ACFW conferences has always been the awarding of the first-time contract by Barbour Publishing. The expression of utter joy on the author’s face and squeals from the critique partners make me want to do the happy Snoopy dance right along with them. I think as members of ACFW, whether published or not, we can relate to that exquisite kind of thrill after years of working and waiting. The anticipation of the dream coming true is what drives us to persevere.

Four months before the Denver conference in 2009, my finger hovered over the mouse and I clicked “Send”, winging my proposal off to my agent who in turn would send it to JoAnne Simmons at Heartsong Presents. Six weeks later, I received a phone call from my agent, Tamela Murray. We chatted briefly and then she said, “Someone was asking me if you were planning on going to the ACFW conference this year.” I told her I was and we talked for a few more minutes. After we hung up, I thought, Who would be asking Tamela if I was going to the conference? The question drove me nuts for about three days, and then I just forgot about it.

At the opening session of the 2009 conference, I sat with my critique partners as Brandilyn’s traditional “Helloooo ACFW!!” rang out over the auditorium to kick off the proceedings. Just before the session closed, Becky Germany and JoAnne Simmons of Barbour Publishing took the stage. I twisted in my chair and said to my crit partners, “I just love it when they do this.” Becky announced the name of the first time contract for a novella, and we all cheered for Rachael Phillips. JoAnne took the microphone and made a couple of comments about the manuscript she was about to contract. I couldn’t wait to see that joy on the face of the recipient.
Then JoAnne announced the title of the book she was contracting: LEAVE ME NEVER. My first reaction was, “Oh man! Now I’m going to have to think of a new title!” --because someone else was obviously using my title. I didn’t hear JoAnne announce my name because my crit partners were all screaming. So my second thought was, “Why are they screaming?” It was like a delayed reaction in comedic slow motion. I sat there dumbfounded with my mouth hanging open. Kim Sawyer pushed me from my chair and said, “Connie, it’s YOU.”

Some unseen force carried me to the stage where JoAnne placed an envelope in my trembling hands. I think I said something stupid like, “I need to go call my husband!” But whatever I said, it must have been at least halfway appropriate because JoAnne and Becky were both smiling.

At the time it didn’t occur to me to thank Barbour, or ACFW, or my agent, or my crit partners, although I do remember “Thank You, Jesus” running through my head as I found my way back to my seat amid more hugs and tears, more squeals and congratulations. I did call my husband and woke him up, but with everyone’s excited screams, he couldn’t understand what I was saying, so I held the phone out to my crit partners and they all chorused, “Connie got a contract!!” Poor guy still didn’t know what was going on.

Later that evening and in the days to follow, reality began to seep in. Understanding of how vital ACFW’s influence was in my writing journey began to flood my awareness. Gratitude filled me as I thought of the way my agent and crit partners (whom I met through ACFW) pushed me to improve my writing and refused to let me give up. God used the Barbour editors to make my dream come true.

The morning of the third day of the conference, we were singing “While I’m Waiting” in the praise and worship session. It occurred to me that somewhere in that room of 500+ people there was a person who felt the same way I had the year before. “Is this truly God’s will? Am I supposed to be pursuing publication, or am I just following my own agenda? Will my time ever come?” That person’s “time” was next year, but he/she didn’t know it yet, so I started praying for that unknown person.

My prayer continued the next day, and the day after that, and after I went home. I discovered praying for this person whose name I did not know was a sweet privilege. For an entire year, I prayed for the recipients of “next year’s contracts” without knowing their identity. At the opening session of the 2010 conference, I cried when one of those contracts went to my dear friend, Rose McCauley. When I told her I’d been praying for her for an entire year without knowing it was her, she pounced on the idea. Rose has been praying for the recipients of the 2011 contracts since last year’s conference.

Whether our prayer is one of anticipation or gratitude, or even a petition for an unknown person, communication with our heavenly Father is the GPS that guides us on this crazy journey we refer to as publishing. Right now, there is an ACFW member who has clicked “Send” and is wondering, “When will happen for me?” Maybe this year is their time.

I’m counting the days till the 2011 conference. I’m asking God to let me learn and grow as a writer, and to give me the opportunity to serve in some way. I pray He places someone in my path to whom I can be an encouragement. What a privilege it is to play a small part in this organization that has been so instrumental in my writing journey.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Oh, how He loves . . .

"In this the love of God was manifested toward us..." 1st John 4:9

I was feeling a bit down yesterday. Everyone has moments in which they wish circumstances were different. I knew this event was coming up, and like every year for the past twenty or so, I was NOT looking forward to it, I didn’t want to acknowledge it, nor did I want anyone else to even know about it.

Yesterday, I turned sixty-one. I think I must have misplaced a decade somewhere because I’m not supposed to be this old. Every year I threaten my husband not to make a big deal about my birthday. He always asks me what I want for my birthday and I tell him I don’t want a fuss made. I don’t want to go out to dinner. I don’t want a bunch of people announcing “Happy Birthday” with silly grins. This year, because my birthday fell on a Sunday and our church was having a fellowship dinner after the service, I held my breath, hoping no one would know. (My husband knew better than to tell a soul!!) What I wanted was for the day to pass unnoticed.

The night before, I lay awake grumbling in my spirit about not wanting to celebrate another birthday. Despite my complaining, God whispered to my heart that He created me, He loved me, and whether I liked it or not, HE was going to celebrate my birth. I mumbled, “Okay, God, You can celebrate. But don’t tell anybody.” Can you imagine what God thought about that?

Switching gears for a minute:

I enjoy bird watching. There are several species that I delight in, but my all-time favorite has to be the goldfinch.
Such a bright, sunny little bird with a perky attitude. Unfortunately, the only time I see goldfinches in Georgia is very late autumn, winter, and early spring. In the winter, their plumage changes to a dull yellowish green. In the spring, their yellow feathers re-emerge and I love watching them flit around the backyard for a week or so. Then they all migrate north and my heart grieves a little, knowing they won’t come around again for seven or eight months and I’ll miss my sunny little friends.

Switching gears back to the birthday thing again:

Yesterday morning, I was sitting in the sunroom, sipping my coffee, when a flash of yellow happened to zip past the window. I leaned forward to catch a better look, and there, perched on a tall stem of my cosmos flowers, was a bright yellow goldfinch. I caught my breath. Surely I was seeing things. A goldfinch in Georgia in July? But there he was, pecking away at the cosmos blossoms. He was joined a moment later by his mate. As I stood at the window staring, open-mouthed at this unexpected sight, it hit me. God was celebrating my birthday by giving me a gift He knew would be a sweet blessing, but nobody else would know. Unless I chose to tell them.

And how could I not share such a precious mercydrop from God? My friend calls things like this a God-kiss. I think she might be right. God gave me a goldfinch for my birthday.

Many of us can list a thousand ways God demonstrates His love for us—the greatest of all being sending His Son to die for us. But how many little, seemingly insignificant ways, does God show us how much He loves us? Do we take the time to notice? Do we even acknowledge that such little things are intimate blessings from God’s heart to ours? Like a goldfinch . . . in Georgia in July . . . in my backyard.

Thank You, God. I love You, too.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.