How would our families, our congregation, and our community benefit if we made a choice today to begin a lifetime of Thankfulness? To go beyond this day— Does that seem nonsense? It seems to me that we have a mandate to give praise to God by deliberately telling what he’s done for us. We can use the gospels, including Christ’s parables, but let’s not forget the impact of our personal stories.

What do you alone know that you are thankful about? A small blessing you’ve noticed and think is semi-obvious, may be just the word that frees someone else from feeling as though they receive sighing instead of food, or as though their groans of disappointment are going to flow on like so much poured water.

In these days when it is so simple to say, “What I feared has come upon me, what I dreaded has happened to me,” and “I have no peace, no quietness, I have no rest, but only turmoil,” it would be a powerful thing if we shift our focus, find a different vantage point. It’s all right to start with small, mundane things. Running water in our plumbing, the casserole in the oven, and sunshine are all examples of God’s provision for us.

We still have the option to come here, to encourage one another. No one arrests us for singing hymns, or reciting the creeds.

What does giving thanks do for me? I am more aware of the vividness God put in this world he provided. My eyes are reopened. Giving thanks, speaking the words aloud, short-circuits moments of self-pity and dissatisfaction. I’m still working on my strong tendency to criticize, but I’m hoping others see some progress on that front. It may be that my life is bearing fruit. The orchardist of my soul knows.

Resuming and continuing to give thanks has also worked a change in me that echoes the lyrics in “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”: My heart is once again attuned to sing. When I focused on criticism and the things I thought were hard, I could not sing.

Giving thanks and rejoicing in all things are what make us unusual in this world. These chosen attitudes are not unrealistic—not when we know in our hearts and souls that thanks and rejoicing are not based on our circumstances. God Reigns. He is our source of peace.

“I will listen to what God the Lord will say: he promises peace to his people, his saints—but let them not return to folly. Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.” Psalm 85:8-9.

“Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” Isaiah 26:12.

“But I, with song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.” Jonah 2:9.


Bless These Lips!
Oops. A mouth mishap. The words just slipped out, and there is no taking them back.

Words are powerful. They can build up or tear down. They can affirm and teach or criticize and condemn.

By God’s grace, a mouth makeover can improve our relationships and affect our attitude toward life. Our words can enrich our connection to God as we spend more time in prayer and praise. Most important, God desires that we use the gift of speech to give Him praise, encourage others, and verbalize our faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.

Bless These Lips: 40 Days of Spiritual Renewal examines things we say that get in the way of our relationships with God and with others. Each chapter draws on lip product analogies and uses humor, anecdotes, and observations to introduce Scripture passages that address common behaviors and attitudes.
The prize package includes:
a signed copy of Bless These Lips
a pretty cosmetic bag with lip balm, lip liner, and lipstick
a handmade bookmark
a $15 Amazon gift card
a framed print of a quote from the book “God has given you a unique mission to speak His words of love and grace to a lost and discouraged world.”
To win a great prize package leave a comment here, or at

Author Interview
Why did God prompt you to write this book?
I began writing Bless These Lips because I was the one who needed a Mouth Makeover! I always seemed to be putting my foot in my mouth and I was tired of the steady diet of sock lint and shoe leather. I wanted my words to be the kind that built other people up, but instead I often used ones that tore them down.

So I studied what the Bible had to say about our words and read other books about interpersonal communication. I learned so much and decided to share how each of us can make a difference in our worlds through what we say.

In your own words, what is a “mouth makeover?”

A mouth makeover could be a visit to the cosmetics counter where you walk away with multiple layers of lip liner, lipstick, and lip gloss. You’ll look fabulous for awhile, but that mouth makeover only lasts until your next cup of coffee.

A true mouth makeover is a transformation of your speech. This Mouth Makeover begins with God’s grace and forgiveness as He scrubs off the guilt of our harmful words. The makeover continues with the use of the Lip Balm of Encouragement, the Lip Liner of Truth, and the Lip Gloss of Thankfulness. This type of mouth makeover can last eternally as God enables us to use our words to share His grace.
I think everyone can relate to struggling with what come out of their mouths. How could doing this study help?

How true! As women we love to talk—and so our mouths often get us into trouble! Ann Landers has a great quote, “The trouble with talking too fast is that you may something you haven’t thought of yet.”

Recognizing our love of words, this study approaches the topic with a sense of humor and combines it with fun lip product analogies. First you’ll assess whether you’ve been wearing the shades of Motormouth Mocha or Foot-in-Mouth Fuchsia too often. As you go through the study you’ll learn to wear the Shade of Grace and the Lip Sealer of Discretion more consistently.

Who will take the most away from this book?

I think anyone who wants to have more control over her words and anyone who wants to make a difference in her world would benefit from this book.

Often we think we need to do something monumental to change our world. But while I was pursuing my own Mouth Makeover, God showed me that I can make a difference by simply noticing hurting people in my life and offering words of kindness and encouragement. We can all change the lives we touch every day by simply providing a caring word or a listening ear.

What one thing should potential readers know about this book?
The most important message I would like readers to take away from this book is: God has given each of us a unique mission to speak His words of love and grace to a lost and discouraged world.
We may sometimes question the purpose of our lives, but God has placed each one of us in a strategic place in time and space to be able to use our words to bring others closer to Him. When I keep that in mind, it changes my heart and what comes out of my mouth.

Tell everyone a little more about yourself.
I’m a Christian speaker and author who loves to communicate the truth of God’s transforming grace. My first book Divine Design leads women to a spiritual makeover.

I live in the Chicago suburbs with my amazing, amusing husband. Together we shared the adventure of homeschooling for 15 years with our two children. They are all grown up now and live an average of 3500 miles away. Our son lives nearby, but our daughter and her husband live in China (and they had the audacity to take our grandchildren with them!)
In my other life I am a church musician and piano teacher. I love traveling (especially to China!), going out to lunch with friends, and reading. If I’m not sitting at the piano or my computer you might find me at the thrift store stalking fabulous fashion finds.

Anything else you’d like to share about this book?
This book shares stories of my own struggles with my mouth, but it is also an in-depth Bible study. When I began my quest for a Mouth Makeover I was amazed at how much God had to say on the subject. In the book of Proverbs alone there are 108 verses on our lips, mouths, and tongues! God thinks our words are important.

You can connect with Sharla at:

This Thursday’s Child—Migration Time

As I was waiting to have the zipper on my leather jacket repaired, I happened to glance out the shop window. Soaring and swirling over the nearby intersection was the largest kettle of turkey vultures I’d ever seen.

Most people shudder at the thought of them, yet their grace in the air is beautiful. Ordinarily, I only see one, or a pair, and they’re usually flying in the opposite direction than I’m riding, while I’m without my camera in my hand. Someday, I hope to get a close-up shot that includes most of their wingspan. If, after I saw and captured this, they headed south, their timing was ideal, since temperatures are some twenty degrees lower this week.

The first time I caught one in the camera was completely by accident. I sighted a jet high over my neighborhood, even though there wasn’t a contrail. I got it in the shot, and was thrilled, because my point-and-shoot doesn’t have the greatest power of zoom.

Only after I’d uploaded that afternoon’s shots to the computer did I see that below the jet, heading in the opposite direction, was a single vulture. If their timing next year is close to what it was this year, and if their borrowed silo and nesting site shed aren’t demolished in the meantime, a pair will be back in my area during the second full week of March.

This shot has 26 of the birds sharing the freedom of flight.

This Thursday’s Child—What Troubles?

Joe here bets that you’ve had a time or two when you felt squeezed into a situation you couldn’t escape. Of course you have, I have too.

Back in those days, I could have used this shot as an antidote, if I’d had it. What does it teach me now?

Well, for starters, look out, away from what surrounds you. Keep your eyes wide open, while you wait for friends to arrive. If there are wrinkles in your forehead, let them be from raising your eyebrows in surprise: “Wow, you got here! I’m so glad to see you.” When you do see a familiar face, smile. If it doesn’t immediately solve the problem, at least there might be comedy in it.

No friends? Sorry, that’s a lie. The same God who created animals to make you laugh, also watches over you. Sometimes he sends spiritual angels, some times he sends helpful people, and sometimes, he sends Joe.

This Thursday’s Child—Nests and Roses

Sharing the same parking lot traffic island as the killdeer, this savvy mallard took a different tactic to defend her nest, by backing under a rose bush as far as a duck could go.

Maybe she’d lost an earlier nest to a marauding raccoon. The thorns on these multiflora roses didn’t seem to have much impact on her feathers.

Seeing her reminded me of a story in a book my grandmother gave me. I don’t remember the precise title, and my nieces and nephews now have the book, but it told unusual stories about how a famous zoo gathered some of the animals in its collection. There were tales of a llama who subsisted on brooms during its voyage from South America, an elephant who traded pennies for gumdrops, and a baby African bush porcupine that made its journey to the zoo in the hat of the collector who had avoided hitting the animal with his Jeep.

Now the duck in my storybook had similar wisdom in nest protection. This duck in the parking lot contended with cars and trucks. The storied duck had enemies even more fearsome, the zoo’s lions. She constructed her nest under a thorny bush on an outcropping of the lions’ enclosure. The lions could see her, smell her, and threaten her, but they couldn’t reach her. When the time came, her hatchlings dropped into the moat, and she led them away.

This duck’s family had a slightly longer walk across the parking lot to the drainage ditch. Maybe another duck will try this again.

This Thursday’s Child—Iridescent Glory

In my earlier post, Breakthrough, I mentioned iridescence. Here it is. The cloud between the lens and the sun doesn’t have to be large, but it must be there.

Today I needed to make a sympathy card for a Toastmaster friend. I used a couple of different shots for that, but again, clouds were necessary, as a symbol of sorrow.

My writing may someday have the literary equivalent of iridescence, but not quite yet. I’ve only tried the scansion and notation method on a page and a half of the manuscript. I’m also wishing I could get my hands on a copy of Virginia Tufte’s Grammar As Style. It’s been out of print since 1971. The copies on Amazon are way beyond my current budget. Next month, I might try to spring for Tufte’s Syntax as Style.

Somehow, I need to break free of the “write tight” and “keep it simple, sister” dictums, to cease to see sentences of more than ten words as verbose. If those old seventh-grade essays weren’t gone, (and musty with mold as I remember last finding them, elsewhere than here), they might help too; though I’m fairly sure that in those days I thought nothing of packaging three or four fat adjectives together in one phrase of description.

While that works to lengthen sentences, editors these days view such writing as padded, and the mark of a beginner. I’d like to keep telling myself that I’m beyond that beginning stage, but perhaps it isn’t so. One thing is certain. I write better dialog than I did back in seventh grade. I’ll call that progress.

This Thursday’s Child—When It Works, It Works

Sometimes what looks on the first glance to be a litter of objects needing clean-up proves on the second to be very special indeed.

A few weeks ago, I posted about a moth whose camouflage was not doing the job. This turned out much more positively.

No, not the maple seeds, though those do take root with some abandon. Look again. Did you spot them yet?

This Thursday’s Child—There’s Something about a Path

There’s something about a path that triggers my curiosity. Where does it go? What if I followed it for a while?

This one looks like a good number of people already know about it. The grass has been worn down to bare soil. Canopied by the trees’ generous branches and spotlit by sun-dapples, a stroll here could provide a number of story triggers, and photo opportunities all in one exploration. How often do we glance at a possibility and pass it by?

I’ve done that, more often than might have been good for me. Sometimes other commitments make it unwise to turn aside, at other times what deters me is lack of courage or laziness.

However, occasionally the opportunity can be redeemed. The path is still there, and perhaps the next time I’m at it’s head, I won’t have the same circumstance that once gave me pause. In the meantime, I have the memory, this photograph, and imagination. Something may come of it yet.

This Thursday’s Child—Playing Waves of Shadow.

This Thursday’s Child—Playing Waves of Shadow

The conference center echoed to the chatter of gathered women. Feeling somewhat on the outside, as I frequently do, I turned to my most frequent coping tactic, observation.

The afternoon light had its own pace, and approached the commonly recognized ideal for photography. Just beginning to move diagonally, the rays left a wave-like pattern along the windowsill and scored a stave of shadow along the hearth bench.
I found the corner peaceful, despite the bustle and noise going on behind me. The sleek gleam on the birch wood made a glowing contrast to the coarse textures picked out on the field stones of the fireplace.

It occurs to me that to be at its best, my story must contain some of each of these elements. The stretches of plot that are smooth need scoring by some shadows to avoid the glare of contrived perfection. Rough rock conflict also helps add realism. The theme readers discover allows truth to filter through, whether it’s expressed in light or darkness in my protagonists or their antagonists.

I want to believe that I am deft enough in most of these areas to create an effective tale, but I’m also aware that editing occurs nearly to the moment a book reaches the store shelves or the screens on or Barnes and

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