Each morning I read online posts from Oswald Chambers, C.S. Lewis, Streams in the Desert. A.W. Tozer and others. (Any hacker trying to dig up dirt on my Internet browser history is going to be sadly disappointed!)

Today’s devo from Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest was so profound I just had to share it with you—even if it isn’t Monday, Wednesday or Friday.

      We take our own spiritual consecration and try to make it into a call of God, but when we get right with Him He brushes all this aside. Then He gives us a tremendous, riveting pain to fasten our attention on something that we never even dreamed could be His call for us. And for one radiant, flashing moment we see His purpose, and we say, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

      This call has nothing to do with personal sanctification, but with being made broken bread and poured-out wine. Yet God can never make us into wine if we object to the fingers He chooses to use to crush us. We say, “If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way, then I wouldn’t object!” But when He uses someone we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, to crush us, then we object. Yet we must never try to choose the place of our own martyrdom. If we are ever going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed—you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.

      I wonder what finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you? Have you been as hard as a marble and escaped? If you are not ripe yet, and if God had squeezed you anyway, the wine produced would have been remarkably bitter. To be a holy person means that the elements of our natural life experience the very presence of God as they are providentially broken in His service. We have to be placed into God and brought into agreement with Him before we can be broken bread in His hands. Stay right with God and let Him do as He likes, and you will find that He is producing the kind of bread and wine that will benefit His other children.

Related posts
Finely aged believers
Holy hardships
Squeezing Good Out of Bad

Photo from www.morguefile.com

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JimLoisFaith1979

My heart still pounds when I think that Lois, our one-year-old daughter and I could have been murdered.

At Saturday’s St. Davids board meeting, Crystal Hayduk mentioned her family is from New Castle, Pennsylvania. I told her, what I thought was a funny story. I was serving as interim pastor at New Castle Wesleyan. Since we were only there for six months, the church had furnished the vacant parsonage with second-hand furniture complete with a recliner repaired with duct tape and a black and white TV with “rabbit ears” (antenna).

We came downstairs one morning to find the back door kicked in, laying on the kitchen floor. I joked, “The burglars must have looked around and thought, Man, there’s nothing in here worth five to ten years for breaking and entering, because not one thing was missing.

Instead of laughing, Crystal eyes widened. “What year were you there?” 1979. Now she looked concerned. “When in 1979?” I think the break-in was January or February. She looked straight into my eyes. “My uncle was shot and killed by burglars in New Castle in the winter of 1979.”

My heart started pounding as I realized—thirty-five years later—the burglars who kicked in our door may have been the very same ones who killed Crystal’s uncle. I’ll never tell that story the same way again. It’s now a shocking reminder that you and I will never know how many times and in how many ways our lives have been spared from accidents, violence and death.

St. Paul writes, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28).*

God may have “worked” a recliner repaired with duct tape and a black and white TV with “rabbit ears” to our ultimate “good.”

Copyright © 2014 James N. Watkins

* This certainly is not to imply that God protects every Christian from every evil, but he does redeem every situation for the ultimate good. With that in mind, here are Some thoughts on life’s tough questions.

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True colors shining through

September 24th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Fall is my favorite season with cooler temperatures, fresh cider and spectacular colors!

As the chlorophyll—the green pigment in leaves—drains from trees, we see the true colors of the red and yellow maples, yellows of birch and reddish-purple of dogwoods. Their true colors come shining through in fall.

For that reason, this season always challenges to me to show brighter and bolder colors as I age. I want my “autumn years” to be spectacular! So, here’s what I’m aiming for as God displays His amazing artwork . . .

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Poem and photos copyright © 2001 James N. Watkins

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planeintree2016
A show of hands, please? How many of you have ever claimed this “promise” verse?

      Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
      and your plans will succeed (Proverbs 16:3)

It’s a promise that if we’re “totally committed” to God, our plans will succeed, right?! Well, not if you look at the Hebrew word translated by the New International Version as “succeed.” Kuwn can be translated “to be firm, be stable, be established; be enduring; to be directed aright, be fixed aright, be steadfast (moral sense); to prepare, be ready.”

Success—particularly in the worldly sense of fame and fortune—is not implied. You can be firm, stable, morally steadfast and still not “succeed.” Last year was disastrous for me as far as worldly success: three books going out of print, cancer, losing a big contract because of “radiation retardation,” huge medical bills and all five lottery tickets I received as a Christmas gag gift being losers. Sigh.

But I think my “purpose” (to communicate the gospel of Christ in as effective and creative manner as possible with as many as possible) remained “firm, stable and morally steadfast.”

So, if you’re not having a “successful” week, you’re in good company. Stay firm, stable, established and most of all—endure!

Copyright © 2009 James N. Watkins

Related post
When dreams die . . .

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A Texas man was able to get inside the north door of the White House Friday night after jumping a fence and sprinting nearly 200 yards across the North Lawn. This of course sparked security concerns—and material for a top ten list!

So, I have in my right hand, direct from my home office in Corn Borer, Indiana, today’s category: Top ten reasons White House door left unlocked. (Thanks to Facebook friends for helping with the list. See winner below.)

10. The First Lady had called out for a tofu and kale pizza.

9. The President ordered a veggie-free pizza (Mark Howe).

8. To relate to U.S. border policy (Michael Wilson).

7. They’ve been away from the Chicago area too long (Lloyd Woodard).

6. Jimmy Johns’ freaky fast delivery (Jerry E. Withers).

5. Someone sneaked out to play golf, go on vacation or have a smoke break? (Mary Scott)

4. The girls were throwing a Frisbee on the lawn earlier and didn’t lock it when they came back in—just like anybody else’s kids (Annie Travis).

3. “Who Let the Dogs Out?!” (Marlene Holdren)

2. The Vice President lost his keys (Lloyd Woodard).

1. “Exit strategy.”

Thanks everyone! And the winner, for providing a truly funny response without offending Democrats, Republicans or Independents: Annie Travis. An e-book of Squeezing Good Out of Bad is on its way, Annie.

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With fewer and fewer publishers, producing fewer and fewer books, by fewer and fewer authors, books are extremely hard to break into. But here’s my list I’m sharing at the Maranatha Christian Writers Conference of 25 markets you may not have considered. These allow you to get your message out—without the pain and suffering of writing book proposals and receiving rejection slips:

Letters
1. Family and friends
2. Those away from home
3. Political leaders
4. Church leaders, pastors
5. Members of church
6. God

Local church
7. Sermons, talks
8. Direct mail
9. Grants
10. Bulletin material
11. Job descriptions, policies
12. History of church
13. Plays, seasonal programs
14. Curriculum
15. Annual reports

Local papers
16. Letters to the editor
17. Church news

Denominational publications
18. Letters to the editor
19. News releases

Your own publishing company
20. Email newsletters
21. Facebook ‘notes’
22. Website, blog
23. YouTube
24. E-books
25. Print books

Related sites
Hope and humor for writers: a ream of resources on agents, conferences, editorial services, publishing houses, independent publishing and the writer’s life.
So, you want to write a book

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God as ‘comedy’ writer

September 17th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

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I’m teaching a humor-writing class based on Writing with Banana Peels at the Maranatha Christian Writers Conference. God is the ultimate “comedy” writer as you’ll see in this post from a few years ago:

“So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai” (Esther 7:10a NIV).

Ancient theater was divided into two categories: Comedies and tragedies. In “comic” plays the “good guys” won and lived happily ever after. The “bad guys” got what was coming to them. In “tragic” plays, however, the heroes usually ended up dead—or at least defeated.
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We see this in more modern tragedies: Romeo and Juliet didn’t live happily ever after, the faithful dog “Ole Yeller” was shot by the very boy he rescued, and “Doomsday” sent Superman to the super-hero here-after.

The story of Esther, however, is a classic comedy. The evil Haman, a government papyrus pusher, plots to have all the Hebrews killed because Mordecai, a Jew, wouldn’t bow down to him. Haman even builds a gallows for Mordecai. But Queen Esther, unknown to King Xerxes, is a Jew—and the cousin of Mordecai. To make a long story short, the queen reveals her nationality, the Hebrews are saved and Haman is forced to honor Mordecai for an old political favor and eventually swings from his own gallows. It’s a great ancient comedy!

The Christian life is also a comedy. Even though tragic events come upon believers and unbelievers alike—cancer, auto accidents, natural disasters, rape, murder, etc. etc.—Christians know that in the end they will “live happily ever after.” And evil will be dealt with in the final act.

So, while the Christian life may not be one laugh after another, we can be assured that “eternal life” is the final punch line!

“Humor is the not opposite of seriousness. Humor is the opposite of despair.” Conrad Hyers

Copyright © James N. Watkins

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LakeMichigan

I’m loving being at the Maranatha Christian Writers Conference. (Can’t wait to spend some time on the Lake Michigan beach!)

So, I have in my right hand, direct from my home office in Corn Borer, Indiana, today’s category: Top ten great things about being an author.

10. No heavy lifting. Since no physical skill or strength is required to be a word jock, your career isn’t over by age 30 like most major league athletes.

9. It’s cheaper than collecting antique cars. For the price of a ream of paper ($3.95 at Office Depot) you can write an epic novel or two nonfiction books. (Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was written on the back of an old envelope.)

8. It’s one of the few occupations you can perform in your underwear without the vice squad breaking down your door.

7. You can get your picture in the paper without the vice squad breaking down your door.

6. A chance to speak your mind long after you’re dead. All those authors from American and English Literature class had met their final deadlines long before you read them (or scanned the Cliff’s Notes).

5. It’s a great soapbox. Instead of annoying just your family and friends with your rants and raves, you can annoy thousands of people with your rants and raves.

4. On election day, you can vote more than once—legally. An editorial, a letter to the editor, even an email note, can sway readers’ votes, so get out and vote—repeatedly.

3. You can receive notes like this email from last week: “I am a 38 year old mother of four: two teenagers and two under the age of nine. I am writing to let you know how much your writing has lifted my spirits.”

2. It’s the closest thing to God’s “creatio ex nihilo—creating something out of nothing; using words to bring order out of chaos.

1. Writers have their very own holidays. Yep, we actually have three major holidays in the fall!

National Day on Writing October 20

National Authors Day November 1

National Novel Writing Month November 1-30

You can find a ream of resources right here at Hope and Humor for Writers. You’ll find articles and links about agents, conferences, editorial services, publishing houses, independent publishing and the writer’s life.

Copyright © 2002, 2014 James N. Watkins

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Remembering 9/11

September 11th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

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Two small numbers—9/11—have become shorthand for an infinite number of emotions: the shock and disbelief of watching the terrorist attack on live TV, the horror of watching the twin towers collapse upon themselves, the national grief as the number of confirmed casualties grew to over 2,800, the growing realization that we are no longer beyond the reach of terrorist attacks, and perhaps most of all, the fact that those who remember where they were on that date, will never, ever be the same.

Here are some of my thoughts posted within hours of the original attack and throughout the subsequent years. I trust they’re helpful in dealing with the shock, anger and grief of that day and continuing attacks.

Reacting
Dealing with death and grief
“bin Laden, kiss my pass!” (September 10, 2003)
Talking to your children about terrorism

Reasoning
Hope amid horror (September 11, 2006)
What motivates terrorists?
Taking the terror out of terrorism

Responding
Can war on terrorism be won? (September 11, 2005)
How can we overcome evil with good?
We are strong! We will survive! (September 17, 2001)
What we haven’t learned from 9/11 (September 9, 2002)
Candle-lighting ceremony following terrorist attacks (September 11, 2001)

Copyright © James N. Watkins

What are your thoughts on the anniversary of 9/11? Please leave a comment below.

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JimLoisGrad74

“The first girl you meet when you return to Marion College will become your wife.”

No, this wasn’t the prediction of a fortune teller or a 900-number “psychic friend.” My pastor’s wife was trying to console me after a break-up of an engagement and the feeling that I’d never, ever find true love.

“I just feel that’s what the Lord is telling me.” I was skeptical, but I did go back to school with fear that the “Bride of Frankenstein” would be waiting for me.

To quickly make my point, the first girl I met that year at college was Lois Farra—definitely no Bride of Frankenstein. (That’s her and me in the pic above.) Two and a half years later she changed her last name to “Watkins.” A coincidence, perhaps. I would rather think of it as one of my friends calls them: God-incidences.

Throughout life, God is orchestrating His will for our lives with “as it turned out” and “just so happened” incidences. Lois just “happened to be” the first female I met on campus. When our car broke down several miles from home, a neighbor “just happened” to have had to work late and “just happened” to notice us beside the road. When Lois and a friend from out of town missed an appointment with each other at the hospital where both needed to call on parishioners, Lois decided to pick up some supplies at a Christian bookstore several miles from the hospital. “As it turned out” her friend “just happened” to be at the very same store!

Throughout my life, the Lord has used God-incidences to have me meet the right people for marriage, employment, writing assignments and other ministry opportunities.

      We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps (Proverb 16:9).

      The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives (Psalm 37:23).

      And we know that God causes everything to work together[a] for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28).

Yep, I believe in God-incidences!

Copyright © James N. Watkins

What God-incidences have you experienced? Please share below.

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