Wednesday, June 27, 2012


by Molly Noble Bull  


I had a childhood playmate named Grace, but as a Christian, it was many years later that I learned the meaning of Grace. I can’t help but wonder if there are others like me—Christians who attend church or Bible study services regularly but never really understood the significance of Salvation by Grace alone vs. works. I don’t claim to know everything about this important topic, but I can share what I know.    
We are told in church and on television that Jesus paid for our sins by his birth, death on the cross and resurrection. However, for some of us, that is a hard concept to comprehend—thus Grace vs. Works 101.  
Many if not all of us have probably tried to achieve salvation by good works. I go to church every Sunday that I can. I teach Sunday school. I never killed anybody, etc. I try to be a good person. I—I—I.
I think of Salvation by works this way.
A man started a swimming club. He bought a building, had a pool installed and paid for all other expenses. The only requirement to swim in the club pool was to join the club, and the membership was free. One day the man decided to hold a swimming match at the club pool, and all the members entered.
Another swimmer who never got around to joining the club decided to enter the contest as well. On the day of the contest, the non-member jumped in the pool and swam faster than any of the others. He expected to win. But the man who swam the fastest didn’t win the trophy because he was not a member of the swimming club.
Salvation by Grace is like that. To become a Christian is like joining the swimming club. Good works have no affect unless we make the free will decision to become a child of God.
God doesn’t grade on the curve.
The Lord is perfect. He expects those who follow Him to be perfect, too. To commit one sin, whether we knew we were sinning or not, would make us ineligible to enter the Kingdom of God. In fact, nobody ever lived a perfect life except the Lord, Jesus Christ. Therefore, we need a champion, if we hope to receive eternal life—a savior to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Perfection is the requirement to receive eternal life, and we don’t meet that requirement. But Jesus does. Like the man who started the swimming club and paid all the fees for joining the club, Jesus paid for our eternal life and entry into heaven with his blood on the cross, and Grace is what we call that free gift of eternal life. 
I have a straight F spiritual report card. If I tried to enter the pearly gates with my straight F card, I would be pointed to the nearest down elevator. But because of what Jesus did for me on the cross, I won’t be using my straight F spiritual report card at the pearly gates. Jesus allows me to use his straight A + spiritual report card at the pearly gates, and I will go to heaven on his grade point average—not mine. We call this free gift Grace, and it is amazing.
My sins are paid for in full, and I have been declared righteous—but not because of anything I did. I will spend eternity in heaven because of what Jesus did for me by shedding his precious blood on the cross to pay for my sins.
I hope Grace, my childhood friend, became a part of God’s family, but I don’t know for sure. I never saw her again after my high school days. I can only pray that she did.
But this I do know.
Jesus is the only begotten son of God the Father, and on the day Jesus comes again, it won’t matter how many good works I have done during my lifetime. It will only matter that I believed—that I repented for all my sins, was baptized and made Jesus my Lord, Savior and King and that I continued to follow the Lord step-by-step and study his Word for the rest of my life.
Jesus is alive today and soon coming to planet earth again to judge it. In the Book of John, chapter 14 and verse 6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jesus Wept

by Connie Almony

Many years ago, I attended the viewing of my distant cousin. And though I clip_image001didn’t know him very well, I knew his wife. My sisters and I used to call the couple Barbie and Ken because they seemed perfect in every way, having a relationship that read like a romance novel. So it was hard to believe the news, given two years before, that my cousin was slowly dying of cancer.

After we’d heard of his death, it seemed impossible to imagine his wife without him. I wondered what I’d find when I entered the funeral parlor. As I stepped in the door, I saw a take-charge woman, giving direction to family members, so the gathering would run smoothly. She stood confident and erect, and definitely in control.

I couldn’t understand how a woman who’d just lost the love of her life could be so strong, when her world had just shifted dramatically. In fact, I was battling more tears than she appeared to be.

In minutes, members of the immediate family lined the hall into the viewing room to greet those who came to wish their condolences. What was I going to say to her? Having never experienced a loss this personal and all-consuming, I could find no words.

My Grandmother inched along behind me, offering prayers and hugs to various people in the line. I later learned Grandma had been a mother figure to my cousin’s wife. Someone who’d been there for her throughout her married life.

I continued to inch along the line, plotting out insignificant words to ease the afflicted. Then, as I was about to grasp the widow’s hand, she caught sight of Grandma behind me, silently mouthed her name, and appeared to melt before my eyes. Grandma—who looked like a cross between the Pillsbury Dough-Boy and Shirley Temple—thrust me aside and threaded her arms around my cousin’s wife as if she were her only means of physical support. Finally, knowing someone would hold her up, my cousin’s wife sobbed uncontrollably, like a wet sack on grandma’s shoulder.

Now I know my grandmother is not God, but sometimes God clip_image002shows pieces of Himself through His creation. And that day I spied a glimpse of Him through a plump, pink-cheeked, cherub of a woman with bottle-colored, golden curls, who held up a grieving woman as if she were a mighty oak in a tempest.

You see, we always think that because we have God in our lives, we should be strong ourselves and never cry. After all, He gives us the strength we need to endure all things. We know that in seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, we’ll have everything we need. We also know he’s with us in the Valley of Shadow and Death. But does that mean no tear should escape our eyes? Does it mean we can’t ever be weak?

I’d answer a big, resounding NO to both of these questions. Remember the clip_image003shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus Wept. So why do we think we should somehow be better or stronger than our Savior? He needed His father in the Garden of Gethsemane, as we need Him during the trials in our own lives. His power is made perfect in our weaknesses.
My cousin’s wife knew she needed to be strong for her family. Her children had just lost their father and she was forced to host a gathering where others could mourn her very personal loss. I’m sure she felt a great responsibility to “be there” for others. I saw that in the way she comforted them.

It wasn’t until she saw the one who could hold her up through trying times, that she allowed herself to be weak. So she fell into my grandmother’s arms and finally released the hurt buried deep inside.

That’s what God can do for you. He’s not just the one who gives you what you need to brave any storm. He’s also that soft touch with strong shoulders. He will hold you up when you just can’t do it yourself.

So when life has beaten you down and you don’t know where else to turn, fall into the brawny arms of your loving Father in heaven. Cry on his broad shoulders. Look into His face and let Him wipe away your tears. If you do this, I believe you’ll feel His gentle kiss on your forehead and you’ll know you are truly loved.

Leave a comment and tell us how He’s been there for you.

Serious ConnieConnie is a 2012 Genesis semi-finalist for Women’s Fiction. She was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest for her entry, Why Not to Kiss on a Park Bench (aka. Harold and Violet). She also writes the What’s Your Story column, interviewing debut fiction authors for the My Book Therapy Ezine. Come visit her on one of her other blogs:
Living the Body of Christ

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Tragedy & Triumph @ the Library

Posted by Teresa Slack—


I fell in love with my local library in elementary school. In those days there were no summer reading programs or high speed internet connections. Sports teams, authors, entertainers, and representatives from the local zoo didn’t visit. That didn’t stop my sisters and me from trekking across town nearly every day in the summer. The library was an oasis, a sanctuary. Our town library was tiny, but to me it was a paradise of fantasy worlds, mysteries, romance, and untold riches. Back then you were given a green library card on which the librarian wrote the index numbers of the books you checked out. I lost track of the number of new library cards I was issued after filling up my old one.
If there's anything more symbolic of the love of knowledge and freedom of information than the public library, I can't think of it.  A place where you can walk in, pick any book or movie and walk out without paying a cent! It’s a wonderful location and one that is never used enough.
If you’re a follower of Writers Rest, you are probably a lover of books and your local library as I am. I think we authors love it even more than the average bear.  
What is your fondest memory from the visits to the library? 
I’ll never forget the day I got locked in the restroom in my library.  Of course that wasn’t my favorite memory. My favorite is leaving school every day at lunch in junior high and running across the street to get a book to read that day in study hall, which was conveniently right after lunch.
Maybe I should’ve used that study hall for studying. At any rate, what’s your fondest memory of your library? How has your library and its amazing staff served you through the years?
P.S. I am currently on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean so I’ll check your comments next week. But as you can imagine my beach bag is bursting with reading material, thanks to my local library.  

P.S. 2 (From Molly)  
Speaking of books. Here are some of Teresa's. To find all her books, write Teresa Slack in the search slot at walk-in and online bookstores.   

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Day God Walked Me Home From School


A true story by Molly Noble Bull  

            I was standing at the curb in front of my elementary school. I don’t know the day, the month, the year or whether I was in the second or third grade. But I remember the gray sedan parked across the street. I’d never seen a car parked there before, and a sense of danger swept through me. Maybe I should go home a different way except I didn’t know another way. When the light changed, I crossed like I always did.  
It’s amazing what details a child can recall at times like this. I have no idea what had gone on at school that day, but I remember that the sidewalk was about two feet from the street. Green grass, recently mowed, connected the sidewalk to the curb. The man had parked his car as close to the curb as he could get it, and I saw him looking at me in his rearview mirror as soon as I stepped onto the sidewalk.  
He had black hair, and looking at the back of his head, I noticed that his cheeks were puffed out at the sides like he was grinning or maybe laughing at me. As I moved closer, I saw a tan blazer draped over the back of the seat on the passenger side. The window closest to me was rolled down. 
“Would you like a ride, little girl?” 
My heart pulled into a hard knot. He had a pleasant sounding voice. But somehow, I knew I needed to run.  
“No!”  I started running. 
My mother had told me never to ride with strangers or even talk to them. As I raced down the sidewalk in the direction of our garage apartment, I tried to understand what was happening. 
Mama never told me what to do after I refused the offer of a ride. I had assumed the stranger would say something like, “you don’t want a ride? Well, okay. Goodbye.” Then he would drive off. 
But he wheeled as close to that curb as he could, braking his gray sedan to a crawl. He kept pace with me as I sprinted down the sidewalk. My heart pounded.
I didn’t stop at the first intersection. I ran across the street without looking for oncoming cars. As I approached the second intersection, I considered turning right after I crossed the street instead of continuing down the sidewalk. I could walk between houses until I reached the ally and then run down the ally until I got home. 
A voice in my head said, “No, Molly. Just keep running down the sidewalk.” 
I did exactly as the voice said and kept going. However, I soon realized that I needed to slow-down or I’d dash right by our apartment. I reduced my speed, hurrying across the three driveways in front of our house. The man must have noticed that I was walking fast instead of running. He stopped his car about forty feet ahead of me next to the tall grass. 
There was a vacant lot next to our garage apartment, and the grass on the lot and the grass between the sidewalk and the street hadn’t been cut in a long time. My head and shoulders barely showed above the weeds when I walked down that sidewalk.    
A stairway to the side of the garage apartment had a landing about three or four steps up. I climbed the stairs two at a time without looking back. At the landing, the stairs went up the back of the building to a porch where the doors were located. I grabbed the handle on the screen door and pulled as hard as I could, but the door wouldn’t open. How could I have forgotten? Mama always kept the door locked  
“Mama,” I shouted. “Let me in! A man is after me.” 
In the time it took for her to open the door, I looked down. The man stood on the landing, peering up at me. Fear devoured me. 
He wore a short-sleeved white shirt and dark trousers, and he had dark eyes and a black mustache. I couldn’t define that look he sent me then. Now I know it was pure lust. 
My mother opened the door, and I raced inside. 
Mama went out on the porch—perhaps to find out what was going on. 
“I just wanted to tell you, lady, what a cute little girl you have.” 
“Thank you,” she said. “We think so, too.” 
Then the man turned, got in his car and roared off.   
At the time, Mama didn’t know what happened earlier. Therefore, she didn’t even try to get his license plate number. However, she walked me to and from school after that. 
                                             # # #
I’ve heard it said that events like this hardly bother children at all. Not true. I had disturbing dreams for years and years, and the affects of this encounter didn’t end there.
My best friend in high school liked guys who were tall, dark and handsome. But boys I admired had to have either blue or green eyes and brown or blond hair, like my dad. My favorite movie actors were Paul Newman and later Mel Gibson instead of a dark Cary Grant type, and I thought this was a personal choice like liking chocolate ice cream and hating red beets. I just wasn’t attracted to boys with dark eyes and black hair, and if a young man with a mustache looked in my direction, forget it. 
What happened that day changed my life. Yet I can’t stop wondering what my life would have been like if the man with the black mustache had been successful. I am married, and we have three grown sons and six grandchildren. Would I ever have married if things had turned out differently? Would I be writing this very true story? Or would I be in a mental institution or a cemetery somewhere?  
Evil men capture some children while others manage to escape. I have no idea the why this is so. I only know that God spoke to me that day so long ago and told me what to do as He walked me home from school. He protected me from all harm, and I praise Him for it. I am glad I obeyed my mother that day and didn’t ride with a stranger, and I am thankful that I listened to what I believe was the voice of the Lord. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Roll Play

I just discovered a game that's designed to get you talking. Not a general problem for me, but we're talking about conversations, not just yammering on and on about something that interests only half of those involved. The game is called ROLL PLAY created by Glen Alan Penrod in 1998, at least according to the site where I learned of the game. ROLL PLAY is billed as the game that gets you talking, or in my case, gets you writing. The gist of the game is to roll the dice and select from 800 different topics depending on the number rolled. There are hypothetical topics with questions like: What would you do if your best friend stole something from you. Description topics that ask such questions as: Describe someone your respect greatly. Opinion topics that ask: What is your opinion about fortune telling? Or what is your opinion on violence on TV? The game sounds intriguing especially if your goal is to encourage conversation among young people. A non-threatening way for a young person to express and develop his/her opinion without censure or giving a wrong answer. My first thought when learning about this game was how it could get me conversing with my teenage grandchildren who spend more times updating their FaceBook statuses on their phones than talking to me. In addition to talking with my grandkids, I immediately realized ROLL PLAY could be transferred to writing prompts. What if I don't know my heroine enough? I could ask her to describe her elementary school or tell me how she met her first crush. Or what if I can't come up with something for her and the dashing hero to talk about on their first date. Pick a card. Any card from the ROLL PLAY deck and maybe something will inspire me. What if he taught her the best way to fold a paper airplane? Or she taught him the fool proof way to throw pizza crust. The possibilities for the use of ROLL PLAY are endless. You could even create your own set of topics. How could you use something like ROLL PLAY in your writing or in your daily interactions? What would be your favorite topic? I like the hypothetical and opinion topics. It's a good way to get to know people, though maybe just as good as making enemies if you have strong opinions about a topic.