My good friend, Jeanette Levellie and I are having an interesting discussion on an important topic: Can we have a “personal relationship” with Jesus? You can read this post simultaneously on her site and mine. And then please jump into the discussion.

He said . . .

In my junior year of high school, at a Youth For Christ rally, I totally and completely dedicated my life to Jesus Christ. As our director, Dick Wynn, encouraged, I gave everything I knew about my life to everything I knew about God.

Unfortunately, I have struggled to have what most evangelical churches preach as the absolute essential to knowing God: a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

I’ve read my Bible—voraciously. I’ve prayed—fervently. I used my talents of writing and speaking full-time for the kingdom. But I have never sensed that I have a “personal” relationship with Jesus. Shocking!

In my thinking, a personal relationship involved having a best friend with whom I could hang out, discuss writing and have an emotional attachment. I’ve never sensed that in my relationship with Jesus. What is wrong with me?!

Here’s how I’m tried to reconcile—or rationalize—this conflict:

The phrase “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” is not found in the Bible!

The phrase is believed to have originated in the mid 1800s as a part of the American revivals. Charles Fuller made the phrase popular on the “Old Fashioned Revival Hour” from 1937-1968 reaching 650 radio stations around the world.

Jesus and the original apostles never used the phrase. (Neither did they ask seekers to “invite Jesus into their hearts.”) Instead they taught would-be followers:

      [A]ll must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do (Acts 26:20).

It seems to me that . . .

Our relationship is based on obedience rather than emotions

Jesus is clear that the result of believing in him should be obedience to his teachings:

      “If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15).

      “If you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:16-17).

      “I tell you the truth, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!” (John 8:51).

I’m not suggesting a “salvation by works” theology, but Jesus is very clear that if we are a true follower of him, our faith will result in good works. (Click for an entire post on this.)

Our relationship is corporate, not “personal”

Jesus teaches that our relationship with others is an important part of our relationship with him.

      “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).

      “[Father,] I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me” (John 17:23).

The apostle Paul also teaches:

      The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12).

      If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

      All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:26-27).

So, instead of talking about a personal relationship with Christ, the New Testament teaches that as followers of Jesus, we are a family (Galatians 6:10), a body (1 Corinthians 12:27), a chosen people (Colossians 3:12), a household (Ephesians 2:19), a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9) and as the church (Colossians 1:18). Those descriptions seem to conflict with a “just Jesus and me” individuality. (Click here for my post on why belonging to a local body of believers is so important—even if it’s terribly imperfect.)

Yes, we must individually yield our lives to Christ:

      “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

      If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved (Romans 10:9-10).

So for years, I have beat myself up for not having a “personal relationship” with Christ. That has never happened. I have personally accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and I have—to the best of my imperfect abilities—lived to model his character and teachings.

No, it’s not an emotional, my best-buddy relationship—at least for me—with Christ

Realizing that the words “having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” are not found in scripture has freed me from a life-time of guilt and disappointment in my “relationship” with Christ. I do love—the Greek word is agape which is a willful-deliberate, not-dependent-on-feelings love—God with my whole being, and I do have deep, meaningful relationships in the Body of Christ. I just don’t have what the church has taught as the holy grail of spirituality.

Copyright © 2016 James N. Watkins

She said . . .

I understand your point, Jim, and agree that it will help personalities who operate more from logic than emotion not to feel that their relationship with Jesus isn’t valid. But referring to your argument that this concept is not a biblical one, don’t we in the Body of Christ commonly use terms such as “Communion,” “Trinity,” and “lifting up someone in prayer,” that aren’t taken verbatim from the Scriptures, but still contain the spirit of biblical teaching? So, even though that phrase “personal relationship with Christ” is not a quote from Scripture, could it still be a valid truth based on what we know of Jesus from biblical accounts?

Jesus told his disciples, “I no longer call you servants, but friends” (John 15:15). This sounds like a personal relationship to me. And when Peter had denied Jesus, after his resurrection Jesus went out of his way to reinstate Peter into his inner circle of followers. I imagine Peter felt very close to Jesus as a result of that conversation. Do not the images of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, a servant washing the feet of his disciples, a healer of lepers and bleeding women, a man who wept with two women whose brother had just died, even though he knew he was going to raise him from the dead in a few minutes—elicit feelings of trust and devotion in us? Do we not long to follow someone who laid down his very life so that we could be free of sin and know God as our Father, not our judge? These feelings and longings are indeed personal, even if in some personalities they aren’t as pronounced as in others.

I would feel cheated if someone told me I could not have a personal relationship with Jesus as I now experience it—he talks to me (if I dare to listen) by his Holy Spirit in my heart; he guides me by gentle nudges and impressions; he sends people my way to encourage me and help me not give up the fight. Although I don’t always feel his presence as deeply as I’d like to, the idea of a personal relationship with him—he’s my big brother, shepherd, healer, redeemer, and master—comforts me no end.

I wonder if Mr. Fuller was not reacting to a common teaching of the day that implied or even stated that we cannot choose to follow Jesus, that God hand-picks ones he wants to be his own. Perhaps his phraseology of a “personal relationship with Jesus” was a reaction to the unbiblical notion that none of us have a choice where we’ll end up, that our destinies are pre-ordained. Could Mr. Fuller be trying to help those who thought they weren’t some of the “chosen” few, to realize that Jesus offers salvation to “whoever will call on the name of the Lord” (Romans 10:11)?

Is it possible you and other brilliant, but brain-driven believers, are confusing “personal” with “emotional?” I think those of us who live from emotion—and that includes most women—place a high importance on “feeling” close to Jesus, just like we want to “feel” that our spouse, child, or cat loves us. Those who operate from their minds—this would be most men—probably rarely feel any emotion toward Jesus, or coming from him. Yet, they are just as much saved as we who dance around, shake our tambourines, shout “hallelujah” at every passerby, and ask Jesus what we should fix for dinner.

Because Jesus wants to get personal with everyone—feelers and thinkers alike.

Copyright © 2016 Jeanette Levellie

You said . . .

Please share your thoughts in the comment box at the end of this issue. Thanks!

Related posts
Looking for love in all the right places (Jim)
When we spell “love” wrong (Jeanette)

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Welcome to “Throwback Thursday” at Hope & Humor! First, with the box-office smash of Deadpool, a look back at super heroes. Second, during Black History Month, a salute to my soul brother and ex-slave James Robert Watkins. And third, three secrets to publication, plus some quips and quotations. I hope you enjoy the encouragement and entertainment!
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Deadpool

Who is the supreme super hero?

Deadpool, the supervillain turned antihero super hero, is breaking box office records and smashing the sterotype of super heroes! So, here’s a previous post that asks Who is the supreme super hero?.


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James Robert Watkins: my soul brother

At least eight other authors share the name James Watkins; two even my same middle initial. (So, if I’ve ever written something you didn’t like, it wasn’t me!) But my favorite author sharing my name is James Robert Watkins: the former slave and the author of two books. Apparently book titles were much longer in 1852 when he wrote: Narrative of the Life of James Watkins, Formerly a “Chattel” in Maryland, U. S.; Containing an Account of His Escape from Slavery, Together with an Appeal on Behalf of Three Millions of Such “Pieces of Property,” Still Held Under the Standard of the Eagle (Bolton, England: Kenyon and Abbatt Printers, 1852) [Continue reading]


Three secrets to getting published

I tell writers, the three secrets to getting published are 1. network, 2. network, and 3. network. There’s a word for writers who don’t attend writers’ conferences: unpublished. So, here are a few where I’ve spoken and can highly recommend for networking with agents, editors and professional authors:


Quips and quotations

No fears of the future, no regrets of the past, are worth giving permission to steal the gift of the present! Ann Voskamp

[For writers and other artists] You can’t give the client what he wants. You have to give the client work that you want your name on. Work that’s part of the arc. Work that reflects your vision, your contribution and your hand. Seth Godin

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. Marianne Williamson

Read more quotations of hope and humor at Why? Over 1,000 Quotations on Life’s Most Difficult Questions.

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Welcome to “Cartoon Tuesday” at Hope & Humor. Here are my favorite cartoons which appeared on Facebook in the past seven days. (I had to delete a couple cartoons last week and send “Evil Jim” to his room! Sorry.) Enjoy!
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jimshortsintegrity
Dark chocolate is good for you!
Monday, February 22, 2016

jimshortsobscenity
Here are some thoughts on truly “dirty” words: Queen Mother of dirty words.
Friday, February 19, 2016

jimshortsdepression3
If you’re struggling with depression, please visit You may be depressed if . . ..
Thursday, February 18, 2016

jimshortspreztrump16
Here’s a brand new plank for my platform: The pope, the Donald, and wall.
Thursday, February 18, 2016

jimshortsprezendorsements
I would appreciate your endorsement by posting my official website link on your social networks—unless, of course, you’re a mass murderer! Watkins 20016 for The Tupperware Party: “Putting a Lid on Government.”
Thursday, February 18, 2016

jimshortsgift
Wednesday, February 17, 2016

jimshorts64
Read my posts on aging at Remembering God’s miracles and wonders
Tuesday, February 16, 2016

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This concept is the basis for my book, Squeezing Good Out of Bad.
Monday, February 15, 2016

If you enjoyed these cartoons, please share them individually by right clicking, “Save As,” and then post on your social networks, or just click the icon(s) below to post the entire page. Thanks! (Please do not make any changes to cartoons.)

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I’m giving up fear for Lent

February 21st, 2016 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


I have in my right hand, direct from my home office in Corn Borer, Indiana, today’s category: Top ten things I’m giving up for Lent

Seriously, though, I did try to give up dark chocolate for the 40-plus days leading up to Easter. It was an agonizing 40 minutes! This year, I’m attempting to give up something even more near and dear to me: fear.

As a self-employed freelance writer, speaker, editor and college instructor, fear has been a constant companion. In Freelance Land, it’s always “feast or famine”! So, while fear is an occupational hazard, Jesus claims it’s a spiritual hazard. Twenty-one times, the Gospels record Jesus telling His followers to “not be afraid” or “not fear” or “have courage” or “take heart” or “be of good cheer.” Twenty-one times! The “Greatest Commandment” to love God and our neighbors only gets eight mentions. So, by numbers alone, “fear not” is also a pretty great commandment.

Fear indicates I’m not trusting God

Jesus teaches:

      “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (Matthew 5:28-32).

Fear requires as much effort as trust

Fear is an emotional black hole that attempts to not only swallow up peace and joy, but energy and creativity. So, I’m trying to expend my energy on trust rather than fear, since both require the same effort.

Fear borrows trouble from tomorrow

      “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 5:34).

Tomorrow, it looks like I don’t have any paying work. Today, however, I have meaningful work. Today I have money in the bank and bills are paid. Today I’m healthy.

One of the best pieces of advice for the best-selling book Jesus Calling is to keep the door to tomorrow shut tight.

So, for Lent, I’m giving up fear. It’s going to be harder than giving up dark chocolate, but I’m praying for God’s strength and grace to give it up for forty-plus days. And, hopefully, make it a life-long lifestyle.

Copyright © 2010 James N. Watkins. All rights reserved

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The pope, the Donald, and walls

February 19th, 2016 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

VaticanWalls2

February 2016

The pope and presidential candidate, Donald Trump, are making headlines for their very different views on walls:

      (CNN) “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel,” the Pope told journalists who asked his opinion on Trump’s proposals to halt illegal immigration.

Curiously, the Vatican is surrounded by huge walls with entry points monitored by guards and metal detectors!

The whole Bible book of Nehemiah is about building walls. Jesus’ parable about the sheep has a wall and a gate. And heaven has “broad and high” walls (perhaps 200 feet high) with 12 gates guarded by 12 angels. The word “bridge,” however, does not appear in Scripture!

If we look at the gospel honestly, it is about walls—separating wheat from chaff, sheep from goats, those inside and those outside the kingdom, believers and unbelievers . . . However, all are welcome at this time through the “gate” Jesus Christ (John 10:9).

So it is Christian to talk about walls with strict requirements for entry.

      “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

      Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures” (John 10:1-9).

Copyright © 2016 James N. Watkins

What are your thoughts on walls? Please comment below.

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Welcome to a new week of Hope & Humor! I’m trying something a bit different. Each Monday, I’ll have a brand new post, two of the favorite posts for writers and normal people, plus cartoons from the previous week, as well as my favorite quips and quotations. I hope you enjoy the encouragement and entertainment!
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SevenMonthsOld

Remembering God’s wonders, miracles . . .

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments, he pronounced..
1 Chronicles 16:12

Tomorrow’s my birthday. And, as sort of a tradition, I like to reflect on what God’s been up to from one candle on the cake until tomorrow’s six-alarm fire. (That’s me with Mom and Dad, just short of birthday number one. Even then, I had something to say!)

You may want to reflect as well on God’s . . .

Wonders

That God’s Spirit would draw a cynical and distrustful child to believe in him. That he could become a “new creation” in Christ! That he would call a “dangerously creative” teen into the ministry. And most amazing, that he would assign someone, who as a junior-high perv wanted to write porn, to write books on sexual purity.

That Lois Farra would want to marry him. That two tiny cells with twenty-three chromosomes each could grow into two wonderful children, Faith and Paul, and then further develop into five adorable grandchildren. (I am so grateful for recessive genes!)

That a clinically depressed, formerly suicidal, certified introvert with a touch of autism would spend his time bringing hope and humor to readers and audiences around the world.

Mirable dictu!

Miracles

The time in college when we drove 300 miles back home from a youth convention on New Year’s Day—when no gas stations were open—with the gas tank reading “empty.” When Lois walked out of the intensive care unit after a “fatal” lung infection. How a duct-taped recliner saved our lives. The year of financial miracles when Lois was in seminary, the kids in a a private school and I tried to write for a living. Restoration of broken relationships. The amazing miracles surrounding my overcoming cancer and the publication of The Imitation of Christ. The transformation of “hopeless” people—me being Exhibit A.

Judgments

I’ll spare you the gory details, but God does have a way of correcting, disciplining, and humbling us in memorable ways! (You can read about it in my book, Squeezing Good Out of Bad.)

It really has been A Wonderful Life!

Spend a few moments yourself to “remember [all] God has done.” And then “give thanks to the Lord . . . sing praise to him, tell of all his wonderful acts”!

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

Related posts
Becoming like children (at 63)
Cartoons on aging
I’m 8 pills old
Introducing James Watkins 60.0 (at 60)
Over the Hill Onto the Mountain Top
Top ten signs Batman is turning 75
Top ten signs Han Solo has turned 70
Top ten wishes for my 50th birthday (at 50)
Your best year yet (at 62)


40 Days of Imitating Christ continues

My new Lenten series with excerpts from The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today’s Language continues on Facebook. This modernization of Thomas à Kempis’ devotional book would make a great morning and evening read during Lent.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016


RED PHONE

Does God make prank phone calls?

I believe God makes “prank” calls. Well, at least calls that seem laughable. To serve as his spokesperson, God calls Moses, who claims he’s no public speaker. To deliver the Israelites from attack by a powerful army, God calls Gideon, the least person from the least tribe—to fight with clay pots, torches and trumpets! And to lead the nation of Israel, God calls David, a shepherd boy. The examples continue through the Old and New Testaments and right into our own lives (see above). [Continue reading]


Seven questions to ask a prospective agent

Finding a literary agent is difficult. Finding a good agent is even harder. In the general market, legitimate agents are members of the Association of Authors’ Representatives. However, in the Christian market, there is no such accrediting agency. Unfortunately, this has led to several cases of unethical and incompetent behavior in Christian agenting. So, it’s important to get the answers to these questions—in writing—before signing with an agent: [Read the post]


Cartoons and commentary

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From The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today’s Language
Friday, February 12, 2016

jimshortslent
I’m giving up news for Lent (well, actually, limiting myself to just 30 minutes in the evening. No “Good Morning, America,” no Drudge Report or CNN five times a day, no local noon and late-night news.) Pray for me!
Wednesday, February 10, 2016

jimshortsFatTuesday3
If you, like me, are fighting the battle of the bulge, here’s some humor on Weighty Matters.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016

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Monday, February 8, 2016

jimshortsprezterrorists
You cannot fight an ideology by military force alone. St. Paul said we “overcome evil with good.” If elected, I would created a new department of Spiritual Warfare! [Read my complete platform for The Tupperware Party: Putting a Lid on Government.]
Saturday, February 6, 2016


Quips and quotations

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its who life believing that it is stupid. Albert Einstein

Not a whisper of true prayer is ever lost. The longer it waits, the larger it becomes. A. B. Simpson

Your relationship with Jesus is personal but it is not private. Ben Witherington

God calls us to be eagles in a mockingbird world. Jerry Brecheisen

Read more quotations of hope and humor at Why? Over 1,000 Quotations on Life’s Most Difficult Questions.


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Just 46 days until Easter!

February 10th, 2016 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

EasterEggs

Today is the first day of Lent: the 40 days plus Sundays until Easter—and hopefully, warm weather!

Here is an Easter basket full of entertainment and encouragement:

Easter cartoons

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Forty days of Imitating Christ
A new series on Facebook with excerpts from The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today’s Language. My latest book would be a great morning and evening read during Lent.

Hope and humor for Easter
A whole basket of Easter encouragement and entertainment

Top ten things I (Jim) am giving up for Lent
This year I’m actually giving up news. (“Hi, I’m Jim. I’m a news junkie.”) This could be harder than the year I gave up chocolate!

Have a meaningful Lenten season!
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Love, marriage and sex . . .

February 8th, 2016 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

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Welcome to my annual salute to love, marriage and sex. If you’re single, dating, engaged, married, divorced, widowed or “it’s complicated,” there’s something for you! Enjoy.


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Love
Falling in love—and getting back up
Looking for love in all the right places
Men and women are different!
No hablo, estrogen! Becoming bilingual in relationships
Breaking up without breaking down


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Marriage
Children who marry their parents: the psychology of courtship
Top ten reasons I’m not divorcing my wife
Top ten secrets to staying married


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Sex
A case for polygamy?!
“Coming Out” My sexual identity crisis
Cure for common cold: sex
Fifty Shades of Beige “Reel” sex is never as good as real sex
Guy’s guide to cars . . . and sex
The hidden habit: masturbation
Three secrets to XXX-ceptional sex
Top ten turn-ons for women
Why are guys such boobs about breasts?

jimshortsdeathandtaxes

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Welcome to a roundup of this week’s comments and cartoons. Each Saturday, I’ll bring you the best (?) from HopeAndHumor.org as well as my daily posts on Facebook. Meanwhile, have a wonderful weekend!


Brand new hope and humor:

New conference stresses professional writing (Monday, February 1, 2016)
Mark August 5-6, 2016, on your calendar for a writers’ conference geared toward writing in the commercial market! Taylor’s Professional Writing Conference is sponsored by Taylor University’s respected writing program in Upland, Indiana. [Read post]

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jimshortsDIY
(Tuesday, February 2, 2016)

“The Happiest Conference on Earth” (Wednesday, February 3, 2016)
I’m thrilled to once again be directing the St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference June 22-26, 2016 (What is the association’s board thinking?!) Join agents, editors, marketing experts, plus fellow writers for a week of instruction and inspiration on the campus of Grove City College on the Ohio/Pennsylvania line. [Read more]

jimshortsannoying
(Wednesday, February 3, 2016)

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That God has taken someone who struggled with suicidal thoughts earlier in life and currently deals with clinical depression and other mental health issues to write and speak “humor and humor” is truly amazing . . . and ironic! I love it!
(Thursday, February 4, 2016)

jimshortsprezterrorists
You cannot fight an ideology by military force alone. St. Paul said we “overcome evil with good.” If elected, I would created a new department of Spiritual Warfare! [Read my complete platform for The Tupperware Party: Putting a Lid on Government.]


Gently used hope and humor:

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(Wednesday, January 27)


Thanks for stopping by!

I’ll have a brand new post bright and early Monday morning, plus you can follow me throughout the week on Facebook.

All content copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

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I’m thrilled to once again be directing the St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference June 22-26, 2016 (What is the association’s board thinking?!)

Join agents, editors, marketing experts, plus fellow writers for a week of instruction and inspiration on the campus of Grove City College on the Ohio/Pennsylvania line.

Agents
Ann Byle: Credo Communications
Dave Fessenden: WordWise Media Services
Linda Glaz: Hartline Literary Agency

Editors
Dawn Anderson: Kregel Publishers
Rebecca Irwin-Diehl: Judson Press
Reg Forder: ACW Press, The Christian Communicator
Bonnie Rose Hudson: School House Teachers
Susan King: The Upper Room
Katie Long: Wesleyan Publishing House, Light from the Word
Jeff McDonald: Salvation Army National Publications

Movie producer
Zena Dell Lowe: award-winning screenwriter, actress, producer with Mission Ranch Films

Professional writers
Janyce Brawn: illustrator, author
Donald Hasselman: author, speaker
Eva Marie Everson: author, founder of Word Weavers
Bob Hostetler: best-selling author, speaker
Carol Hamilton: speaker trainer
Susan Lower: author, blogging expert
Amy Mable: president of St. Davids Writers’ Association, news anchor
Anne Waterman Murphy: poet
Gayle Roper: author
James Watkins: award-winning author and speaker
Lora Zill: poet

It is indeed”The Happiest Conference on Earth!”

Registration is now open. I hope to see you there!

Related posts
Hope and humor for writers

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