Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Where My Treasure Is

My pastor likes to remind us that the Devil’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. 

He steals our peace.
He kills our hope.
He destroys our faith.

When we are aware of Satan’s activities we are more equipped to fight against him. If I’m worrying about a difficult circumstance and can’t find peace, when negative thoughts chase themselves around in my brain all night, it might help to know that Satan is at work encouraging me to worry more. 

The answer, of course, is to pray. If I turn my concerns over to God, He will give me peace.

But perhaps there’s a more fundamental solution to the problem. Maybe there’s a lifestyle change I can make that will keep me from worrying in the future.

My devotions recently have taken me to the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells us how to trust God. The key lies in where our treasure is. If my treasures are stored in heaven, they won’t rust and can’t be stolen. If my treasures are stored on earth, they’re vulnerable to rust and theft.

My treasures, of course, are the things I value most. The things I love. There are lots of things I love on earth.

My home
Serving others
Family and friends
Being creative by writing and sewing
Activities like reading, swimming, gardening

While all these things are good, they can be destroyed. They can rust or be taken from me. Satan can use them to destroy my peace and trust in God.

On the other hand, the thing I love in heaven is God. So if I obey another verse from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:33) and put God first – treasure Him above everything else – I will not only have a treasure that can’t be stolen, but He’ll also give me everything else I need.

Protecting myself from Satan is simple. Just put God first.

It’s also the hardest thing to do.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chicken House Fire

Today I'm happy to host Jennifer Hallmark, one of my fellow writers of the book A Dozen Apologies.

“You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah” Psalm 32:7 NKJV

The year was 2009. The week had been busy and I was amazed by how much plain hard work was involved in a writing career. Websites, blogs, articles, and research vied for my time, not to mention my regular life. Add in the fact that I had begun to search for a literary agent to promote my novel, Journey of Grace and had been asked to become a contributing writer for women’s magazine. Can you imagine the week of work, decisions mingled with a bit of fear and exhilaration?

Has anyone out there noticed that in the life of a Christian if good things are happening, our adversary, the devil, isn’t happy about it? On Thursday, problems surfaced, beginning with my son’s car not running right. Now it was under warranty so we made plans to take it to the shop on Friday morning to drop it off and get a free rental for our trouble.

I decided my son and I could do our work in the chicken houses when we returned from the Ford place. At that time, we owned a farm with two 500-foot broiler chicken houses which hold 30,000 chickens apiece. The chickens were brought to us at one day old and we sold them to a processing plant when they reached six weeks of age, each chicken weighing a little more than four pounds. The work could wait until we returned so I stopped by to adjust the fans and check things over.

I adjusted the fan time in the second house control room, noticing an odd reading on the computer board. Upon walking in the door at the middle of the chicken house, I could see something orange near the back wall where the fans are placed. It looked like a small patch of flames surrounding the fans.

“Jonathan!” I hollered at my son who was waiting outside in his car. “Come quick!”

He entered the chicken house and ran toward the back to see how bad it was while I went back to check the computer panel again. In a moment, he returned.

“It’s a fire on the back wall!”

He called 911 while I drove back to our home to wake my husband who had worked off night shift.

I shook him. “Danny, get up. The chicken house is on fire!” He jumped up and dressed and we took off to help Jonathan.

Meanwhile my son had grabbed the small fire extinguisher and had exhausted it on the flames but it wasn’t enough. Danny grabbed a garden hose near the computer control room and while I waited for the fire truck, they were able to put out the fire.

Soon our farm was crawling with the local volunteer fire department, curious neighbors, family and folks in the area that heard the news on their scanners. The fire fighters checked the ceiling and walls in the surrounding area making sure there were no hidden hot spots.

In the end, the fire burned a twenty-five foot section of wall and ceiling and 20 chickens died, not from fire or smoke but probably shock. Some neighbors and a carpenter came and walled in the area so it would be weather tight. We would rewire and replace the burnt area after we sold the chickens in a few days. A faulty plug had shorted out, sending sparks that caught the chipboard wall on fire.

The natural gas workers, and people with Pilgrim’s Pride agreed it was a miracle the house had not burned to the ground. Most chicken houses are made of wood, heated with natural gas, with pine shavings on the floor and plenty of fans to drive a flame. Most houses that catch on fire burn down in less than twenty minutes. This fire only smoldered and though it had been burning for a while when we found it, the fans had no effect on the intensity of the fire.

As things were winding down that day, I continually thanked God for his protective hand over our farm. One look at the pictures our daughter snapped that day of the damage is enough to remind me of how blessed we’d been and how God truly watches over us.
 God is a proven rear guard and I’m forever thankful.


Jennifer Hallmark: writer by nature, artist at heart, and daughter of God by His grace. She loves to read detective fiction from the Golden Age, watch movies like LOTR, and play with her two precious granddaughters. At times, she writes.

Her website is Alabama-Inspired Fiction and she shares a writer’s reference blog, Writing Prompts & Thoughts & Ideas…Oh My! with friends, Christina, John, Ginger, Dicky, and Betty. She and Christina Rich share an encouraging blog for readers called The Most Important Thing.
Jennifer and her husband, Danny, have spent their married life in Alabama and have a basset hound, Max.
Links to Jennifer:

Join Jennifer and me in the adventures of Mara Adkins in A Dozen Apologies.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


I'm not planning to turn my blog into a showcase for my short stories, but, today I'm sharing another one. In A Dozen Apologies, Mara is hoping that she'll be forgiven, but isn't sure she will be. My character in this story experiences some of the sorrow and grief that Mara feels.


Jenny felt her face heat up until it was as red as her son’s toy fire engine. She wanted to smack her hand over her mouth, but the ugly words were out and she couldn’t take them back. Instead, she bent over her Bible and waited for the silence to end.

“Why don’t we move on to the next question,” the leader suggested.

Finally. Papers shuffled, pages turned and someone said something. Jenny couldn’t concentrate. She couldn’t believe she had said something so nasty about a friend. At least this was a small group and they had all agreed that anything said here was confidential. Right after the final prayer, she gathered her things and rushed out of the room. The sound of low voices followed her down the hall and she glanced over her shoulder at the open door.

They’re probably talking about me. “I hate gossip,” she muttered.

“Thumper says, ‘If you can’t say nuttin nice, don’t say nuttin at all.’”

Jenny jumped and looked down. Little Xander was standing in the door of the children’s room, holding a toy rabbit. Jenny put on a smile.

“That’s right, honey. Always say nice things.”

In the car, she pushed away her guilt and made a mental list of what she had to do before meeting the school bus at 3:00. The next morning, after hurrying the kids out to the bus stop, she took her time walking back to the house. She had a million things to do, but it was a beautiful day for a walk. When she got to her driveway, she kept going, breathing in the fresh air while she admired her neighbors’ landscaping. When her phone vibrated, she tugged it out of her pocket.

“Whatcha doing today?” Caitlin asked.

“You know. Clean the house, maybe make cookies. The usual stuff.” Caitlin didn’t really want to hear about her plans to organize closets. While she chattered about her own plans, Jenny waited for the question she knew had been burning in her mind since the Bible study yesterday.

“You know, Jenny, Beth was really hurt by what you said.”

“Beth knows? Who told her? Bible study is supposed to be confidential.” Jenny walked faster as her volume went up. “I hate gossip.”

“I don’t know who told her. I guess someone thought she ought to know.”

Jenny turned and headed back to her house. “Well, I guess that group’s not confidential after all. I won’t be saying anything important anymore. Listen, I’ve got a bunch of things to do today. I’ll talk to you later.”

She hung up and stuffed her phone into her pocket as she opened the front door. She stomped toward the kitchen, but saw her Bible on the table where she had left it yesterday. She paused and stared at it, still fuming about the supposedly confidential group. Suddenly she remembered a little voice saying “If you can’t say nuttin nice, don’t say nuttin at all.”
She picked up the Bible and sank into a chair. They had studied James last year and she knew exactly where to find the passage she needed. As she read chapter three, she prayed about her tongue. She acknowledged that it was out of control and asked God to forgive her. Then she put down the Bible and pulled out her phone.

Beth didn’t answer, so Jenny left a message. “Beth, I’m so sorry that I hurt you by what I said. Sometimes I just don’t think before I open my big mouth. Please forgive me.”

There. She had done what she could. She headed into the kitchen to clean up before the breakfast leftovers turned to stone. But she kept glancing at the phone on the counter, hoping Beth would call back. Nothing. Not in the afternoon, not by supper, nothing. After the kids were in bed, Jenny went on Facebook and sent Beth a personal message. An hour later she checked to see if it had been read. It had, but still no response.

By morning, she was pretty sure Beth wasn’t going to forgive her. Why had she been such an insensitive idiot? She thought about calling again, but she didn’t want to look like she was stalking her. She sat down in her favorite chair and prayed.

“Dear Lord, please, please, forgive me for the awful things I said. And please heal the hurt I caused Beth. Even if she doesn’t ever speak to me again, please help her forgive me. Don’t let her stay mad for her sake. Don’t let me be the reason for her to carry a grudge.”

Sunday morning, Jenny hurried the kids so she could get to church early enough to catch Beth before the service. Jesus had said to leave your gift at the altar if your brother had anything against you. Jenny wasn’t sure if she could worship with this rock in the pit of her stomach. She stood watching by the door until the kids finally dragged her to their Sunday School class. After handing them their Bibles and offerings, she walked toward the worship center with her head down, feeling the rock get bigger.

The sound of footsteps made her look up and there was Beth with a big smile. She threw her arms around Jenny and held on for a long time. Stepping back, she said, “Of course I forgive you. I know you didn’t mean it.”

Tears filled Jenny’s eyes as Beth tucked her arm into Jenny’s and walked into the worship center with her.


Today Mara gives her last apology. I don't think it's gotten easier and she's still not sure if she'll be forgiven. Read about it here.

If you've been reading the book, you'll want to vote for your favorite hero. Which one will capture Mara's heart in the last chapter?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Prayer Meeting

In today's chapter of A Dozen Apologies, the hero Mara apologies to is a pastor. My family is filled with ordained ministers and pastors, including my grandfather, father, two uncles and two brothers-in-law. I've also had the privilege of being shepherded by some faithful and godly men in the churches I've attended. So I'm posting something a little different today. This is a story I wrote recently when I was praying for my pastor.


Tyler leaned against the wall beside the pastor’s door, still as a statue. His hands were deep in his pockets and his head was down, his eyes closed. When he heard the knob turn, he straightened up and walked away toward the foyer. He could hear the pastor walking behind him, but he didn’t turn. The ushers were starting to close the doors when he entered the sanctuary and found his usual seat with the other teens in the front row. Jeff raised an eyebrow at him, as the lights dimmed and they stood for the first song.

“What were you doing?”

The drum cadence made it impossible to talk, so Tyler shrugged. Later, when Pastor invited the congregation to greet each other, Jeff turned to Tyler.

“Seriously, dude. What were you doing?”

“Praying.” Tyler shrugged again and turned to Mrs. Mable who was waiting to give him a hug. He liked her, but she did complain a lot.

After the service, Tyler followed Jeff and some of the others out through the foyer toward the front doors of the church. His mother broke away from a group gathered around the posters of the new building and grabbed his arm.

“Could you pick up your sister from Sunday School and take her home? I think I’ll be here a while.” She looked back over at the group, whose voices were starting to rise.

“Sure.” He grimaced at Jeff, who had waited for him by the door. “See ya, man.” Then he turned toward the Sunday School wing, trying not to hear the same arguments that had been going on since the architect designs had been put up.

“Why can’t they add another bathroom? Pastor just doesn’t understand how important that is.”

“Come on. There are five stalls. That’s plenty, even when we get bigger. But I heard they’re going to put in purple carpet and chairs. Purple! Do they really think men like my father would come to a purple church?”

Later that afternoon, Tyler picked up Jeff in his Jeep and headed for McDonalds where some of the gang met before youth group.

“What were you praying about outside the pastor’s office this morning?” Jeff asked. “I thought you were in trouble.”

Tyler grinned. “I haven’t been sent to the principal’s office since I was ten. No, seriously, I just think Pastor needs some support. Everyone’s complaining all the time.”

“I wish we weren’t building a new church. It’s all my parents can talk about. It’s a bad design. Not enough Sunday School rooms. Not enough parking. We shouldn’t have a mortgage. Who gets to pick the colors? Blah, blah, blah.” Kendra punched the air with a french fry with each point.

Brittany leaned over from the next table. “I heard that the Taylors are going to another church.”

“Yeah. Madison said her mom doesn’t feel welcome anymore. It’s all just stupid. Who cares about colors and stuff?”

Tyler reached for one of Kendra’s fries. “That’s why I’m praying,”

Next Sunday, Tyler saw Jeff leaning against the wall by the pastor’s office when he turned into the hallway from the foyer. Jeff nodded, but didn’t say anything and Tyler stood on the other side of the door and bowed his head. He heard some rustling while he prayed, but he didn’t look up until the door opened. Some of the girls were standing along the wall opposite him and Pastor was standing in the doorway staring at them. To Tyler’s disgust, the girls giggled.

“Hi, Pastor. Bye Pastor.” They hurried down the hall, leaving Tyler and Jeff to explain.

But Pastor just smiled at them. “Morning boys.” He followed the girls without another look. Tyler walked after him with Jeff.

“If they’re going to do this, they have to be serious,” he whispered.

He wondered if Jeff had talked to them, because next Sunday there were more kids, and they all stood silently with their heads bowed, lining both walls of the hallway. They had left a spot for Tyler next to the pastor’s door. No one moved when pastor came out and he didn’t say anything. When he headed for the sanctuary, they followed him in silence.

That night he came to youth group. When they had settled into their seats for the large group meeting, Pastor Tom frowned at them from the stage.

“I don’t know what you’ve all been up to, but Pastor has asked to speak to you tonight. I better not hear that you’ve been flocking his house again.” He laughed and handed the microphone to Pastor.

“No worries, Tom. We’ve got a godly group of young people in this church. They wouldn’t dream of damaging my property unless it were for a good cause.” They laughed with him because they had raised a lot of money for the building fund when they put thirty two flamingoes on his lawn last summer. He stopped laughing and stood looking at them for a long time. Tyler squirmed a little. If the pastor thought they were doing something bad, it was his fault.

“I’ve noticed some of you have been standing outside my office before service. I asked Tom and your parents about it and no one seems to know what you’re doing there. So I asked the Lord about it and He laughed at me.” One of the girls gasped, and another one giggled. “’Isn’t it obvious?’ He said to me. ‘They’re praying for you.’”

He lowered the microphone, walked over to the wall and leaned against it. He bowed his head and looked at his feet, unmoving for a few seconds. Then he lifted the microphone and walked back to the front of the stage.

“I came to thank you. Sometimes we adults get so caught up with what we want, we forget what’s really important. Sometimes we forget we are God’s people and this is His house. Next week we’re going to have another meeting about the building. But before we talk about it, we’re going to talk about what God wants. I know we all love Him, but I think we may have forgotten we want to please Him. So thank you for remembering. Thank you for praying for me. And don’t stop.”

He handed the microphone to Pastor Tom and stepped down from the platform, walking down the aisle toward the foyer doors. Even the girls didn’t make a sound. Suddenly, Tyler jumped up and started clapping. Jeff and the other kids around him did too and pretty soon the clapping filled the room. Pastor Tom signaled the worship band to start playing. Pastor kept walking, but Tyler saw him pause at the door when Tom spoke into the microphone.

“Let’s pray.”


Read about Mara's encounter with Pastor Brent here.