Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Building A Culture of Prayer Part 1

In the summer of 2002, several youth pastors in our county gathered to begin what we hoped would be a House of Prayer in our central Florida region.

For six and a half years, we labored in worship and prayer two hours, one night a week. Fire Dweller, as we called our group, grew in numbers. We shrunk in numbers. We changed venues. And eventually, we laid the ministry down.

Not prayer. But the venue of prayer.

It's hard to get people to pray. We have such an individualistic attitude toward prayer. We've taken the "spiritual gifts" test and scored low on intercession and decided "prayer is not my gift."

So we offer shout-outs to God as we drive to work or taking the kids to sports and lessons, as we fall asleep at night. When there's a church wide prayer meeting, we don't go. Too tired. Not my "thing." Leave the prayer to the intercessors.

No wonder the Church is weak and straying from the truth.

Prayer is the cornerstone to every believer, to the life of a church and a church community. Prayer is the force that will save a nation. The prayers of the Elect effect more than the actions of the elected.

Does a quiet bride say, "Talking is not my thing. I'll let the other women talk to my husband?" Ha! Never. Why then are we not talking to our Beloved?

We must engage God in prayer. Jesus said in Matthew 21:13 "My house, will be called a house of prayer." We've become a house of shows and events, a social gospel without power.

Paul writes in Romans 12:12 that we are to be "devoted to prayer." In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are admonished to "pray without ceasing."

Prayer is not a specialty on a personality test. It is not option. It's not something others do while you serve in hospitality or pass out bulletins. Prayer is not a "quiet time" with an Oswald Chambers book for fifteen minutes in the morning. Certainly those things are good, but prayer is heart-to-heart, engaging and encountering God for His Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.

Prayer is work. And we are all called to labor in prayer -- individually and corporately.

After laying down Fire Dweller, my husband and I began to talk to a local pastor about what we could do to build a culture of prayer in our city. How can we encourage all Believers to pray? Revelations 5 and 8 is clear that the bowls in heaven are filled with the prayers of the Saints. And to those prayers, God adds incense from His own altar and hurls it back to earth.

God's purposes are fueled by our prayer. You want change in your life, your family, community and nation, you must pray. There is no way around it.

Think of how much more powerful evangelism, hospitality, serving, loving the poor is if it's bathed in prayer. Our "spiritual gifts" are emboldened by prayer not to be used in place of prayer. How often do we start church programs out of a desire for growth, or out of a need, but without real, face toward heaven prayer?

We need prayer. As we meet with Pastor Tim Franklin and his wife, Kelly, and our senior Pastor Gary Stebbins and his wife, Bonnie, we developed MyHop, a house of prayer in our county that is built on a "culture of prayer."

What is a culture of prayer? Churches and believers praying for the Body of Christ, for our region and country, asking for God's heart and revival.

Our vision is: We desire Brevard County to be a House of Prayer consisting of networked churches and believers committed to night and day corporate prayer.

We network with any church or home meeting with a regularly scheduled prayer meeting. We are have a corporate gathering with all networked churches and prayer meetings the first Friday of every month.

We want praying believers. We want to see the church empowered from on High.

Next: Two keys to fueling prayer. Bridal love and the End Times

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My house overflows with good books!

My house is overflowing with good books. I've had an influx lately. Not only am I finishing my own great book (a-hem) Dining With Joy, but I've been blessed with recent releases from my author friends.

Susan May Warren's new Summerside release, Sons of Thunder, is a fantastic book. The story, the writing is beautiful, and worth any readers time.

Colleen Coble's Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter. Given to my by the lovely and gracious Colleen last weekend, I started the book on my flight home from the ACFW spring board meeting and was completely captured. Colleen simply tells a great story with a heart that draws in the reader.

Siri Mitchell has been a favorite of mine for a long time. She's also a lovely person. Her latest, She Walks in Beauty, is a coming-of-age story that takes place at the turn of the 20th Century. I've just read a few opening pages, but it has already delighted me. I can't wait to read it entirely.

Denise Hildreth's latest release Hurricane in Paradise looks hilarious. Having lived through three hurricanes, I'm sure I'll be able to relate. I haven't started it yet, but I know Denise will deliver.

Crossing Oceans by debut author Gina Holmes, founder of Novel Journey, has written a lovely story about a single mom going home to deal with a life changing tragedy. The writing is solid, crisp and leads to a heart touching ending. (I peeked ahead.)

I also have Liz Curtis Higgs Here Burns My Candle and Lisa Harris's debut, Blood Ransom.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Health Care Reform Bill is not really reform

The Health Care Bill now lumbering across capital hill is not reform. Please know this.

One, the taxes and fees go into effect immediately BUT you and I will not see services for 2 plus years. I can't remember if it's 2 or 3, maybe more, but we will be paying into it! What? Would you sign up and pay for any service that you couldn't access immediately. What if you bought cable but the provider didn't turn it on for two years? Only the U.S. Government could think of such a thing and only those who have agendas would vote for it.

Two, this bill now includes government take over of all student loans? How is that Health Care?

Three, the government programs already in place are already going bankrupt. The first thing the government will do with Health Care gets in trouble, and it will, is look for ways to save money. That won't mean cutting spending in other government arenas, but taking from you and me. More taxes, less services. More intrusive laws to keep us "healthy."

They'll tell us what to eat, when and where. How to exercise. How many children we can't have. Does this sound like the land of the FREE and home of the BRAVE? Be free! WE must take care of our own family. We must be brave and pay our own bills. Sell our cares if we have to, cut cable, get rid of the smart phone. Stop eating out so much. Be BRAVE and manage our own lives and stop expecting others to do it for us.

In Florida, a state legislator introduced a bill whereas teens under eighteen need parental consent to visit a tanning bed. The parent must show up to sign the form. Teens under fourteen wouldn't be allow to go at all. Why? Because these beds cause higher risk of melanoma in teens. YET, if fourteen year old girl wants to have an abortion, parents are not allowed to know. Want an abortion? No questions asked.

Can you imagine? This tanning bed law is just a hint of what is to come. We won't be able to use hair color or certain detergents because some lame brain study will show it could cause cancer. And don't we know how those studies "change" over the years?

When I was growing up the '70s the fear was Global Cooling. Now it's Global Warming. In the '90s, caffeine was the ill of society until Starbucks became the rage. I've heard so many ill-fated diet and health scares -- it's multi-billion dollar industry -- I laugh when I see new studies. Some of them are just ludicrous. I'm amazed at what thinking, intelligent people buy into.

1 Corinthians 1:20 "Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?"

The key to our success, even for minorities and the poor is to let each man see to his own house. Hand outs have not produced less poor. We've experimented with the Great Society for seventy years. It has only increased the welfare rolls.

If I eat too much fast food, never exercise and smoke like a chimney, that is not your responsibility. If you sleep around and get infected with any number of the hundreds of non curable diseases, that is NOT my responsibility. Even in the New Testament church, where they had all things in common, benefactors had to fit a certain criteria to receive aid.

Men had to work to provide for themselves or families. Paul encouraged the younger widows to marry. Only the truly poor and widows were served.

But do not be deceived, this bill is not about Health Care, it's about take over. It's about Marx and Mao, not Madison and Jefferson. The fundamental heart beat and structure of America is under assault.

I love my country. I love our freedoms. We are the greatest nation on earth. I don't want to go into my old age telling my nieces and nephews how it used to be, how it could've been.

It's been said by the core White House leaders and staff they want to fundamentally change America. Whether you voted for this president or not, I'm sure most of you do not want to fundamentally change America.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Once In A Blue Moon by Leanna Ellis

I met Leanna about four years ago, online, somehow, but we've become good friends. She's the kind who made me feel "at home" the first time we chatted in person. I'm so happy to have her on the site to showcase her new book! She's a great writer.

Once in a Blue Moon from B&H Publishing!

About the book:

Faith is the first step to soaring.
The day Armstrong stepped on the moon has special memories for most Americans, but not for Bryn Seymour. It’s the day her mother died. Despite death defying feats, guilt has always pulled Bryn down time and again. But a perfect love shows her taking a leap of faith is the first step to soaring. But it only happens … once in a blue moon.

Read an excerpt

About the author:

"Leanna Ellis takes a back seat to no one," says Debbie Macomber. But Leanna hopes she allows God in the driver’s seat as she taxies her two children to and from all their activities, lets her menagerie of pets in and out … in and out ..., figures out what to cook for dinner (or where to order takeout), and at the same time keeps those quirky characters in her head from bothering others.

Winner of the National Readers Choice Award, Leanna writes quirky women's fiction with a splash of romance. From a long line of southerners and patriots, she lives with her family in


FACELIFT September 2010

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Six Writing Myths YOU Should Know

Over on noveldoctor, Stephen Parolini blogged about Seven Writing Myth He Made Up So He Could Debunk Them.

This got me thinking about the writing myths I'm aware of so why not toss them out there. Thanks noveldoctor for the idea.

The Myth - Writer's make a lot of money.
The Truth - Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Oh, man, shew, good one.

The Myth - If I make the story weird, they'll buy it.
The Truth - Hahahahahahahahaha. . . okay, I guess I can't do that too many times. If you make your story or proposal weird in an effort to get attention, editors and agent will only think you're weird and you'll wind up on some, "you'll never believe what someone sent to me," list. I've shared good laughs with editors and agents over this one. In fact, it's writer conference chatter, "So, what's the weirdest proposal you've ever received?"

The Myth - Leading with "God told me to write this," will get me a contract.
The Truth - No. Neither will, "This is the best thing you'll ever read." Playing the God card or the Aren't-I-Bold card does not ingratiate any author with an editor or agent. God speaks to all of us and if God really told you to write a book and take it to Mr. Certain Agent, He's going to tell the agent you're coming. Most Christian authors seek God about their work, about their agent and publisher. So don't think you're the first and only.

Being overly bold sometimes works in the corporate world, but back fires in the publishing arena. Authors, especially new ones, MUST be humble and teachable. No one writes a perfect book no matter how engaging the story. There are a few exceptions for first time novelists hitting the market with a bang -- J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Myers -- but don't count on being in that class. Yippee if it happens to you, but don't expect it. If it does, sleep with your lights on. The rest of us will haunt you.

The Myth - My publisher will promote the heck out of my book.
The Truth - Not possible. Most publishers have a small team to promote their books and there is simply more work than people. Most publishers do a minimum for each book, but seasoned and long time authors get the bulk of attention and money. Rightfully so. Or a new "lead" author gets attention. And of course, anyone who writes Amish. ;)

Be prepared to toot your own horn. Get on Facebook and Twitter. Build a nice web site with a blog. Join writers groups for help and support. Tout other authors who might in turn tout you. But be sincere! Hire someone like LitFuse to put together a blog tour for you.

The Myth - Once you're published, you're in, on the road, fame is the only sun on your horizon.
The Truth - Being published is certainly a help in gaining more contracts, but once you are published many other factors come into play. Some you can help, some you cannot. At the end of the day, even if you have written great stories, you also have to sell decently. Getting your book in the hands of readers is not as easy as you'd think. A book buyer for Barnes and Noble might determine all the purchases for an entire region. If a previous book didn't sell well, they are less likely to take a chance on the author's second or third book. A new author has a better chance of getting picked up.

The Myth - There's a reason writers struggle with their weight.
The Truth - Yes! It's called my desk is thirty feet from my refrigerator and my in-house office is one mile from Publix, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Soprano's Pizza, Beef O'Brady's and 7-11.

The gym is fives miles away. Do the math. ;)

Monday, March 01, 2010

Building your author brand online

Over on Michael Hyatt's blog, he talks about building your author brand online. Mike offers great advice -- from a CEO's chair.

With his genius in mind, I thought I'd write about building an author's brand online and managing social media from an author's point of view.

Just before my first Thomas Nelson book released, Lost In Nashvegas, I joined MySpace to keep up with kids in the youth church. Then I had a brain blip, "What if I use it to announce my books?"

And social media, which wasn't called social media in '05, came alive to me.

I hopped on Facebook the first moment it was opened to non college students. I have a Xanga and MyCCM account. I'm on Shoutlife, Goodreads, and BeenUp2. I have a Tumbr site.

I love Twitter. I blog here and on Faithchick.com.

I created all these accounts, signed up for blog rolls, to keep up with the public, generate buzz or interest in my books -- if possible -- but my real goal in life is to write great stories.

It is impossible to keep up with everything. I decided I had to pick the most traveled and popular cyber venues to concentrate my efforts. I casually keep up with the rest.

Concentration of efforts: Facebook and Twitter are my most active cyber spots. When I'm on deadline, it's easy to to tweet four or five times a day, link it to Facebook, than to keep up with blogging. Blogging becomes hard on deadline because I can't spare my creative brain power to write a comprehensive or slightly intelligent blog.

It's easy to respond to Facebook comments, Twitter replies and blog comments. And part of building an online presence is keeping up with dialog.

The giveaway concept: I'm just going to be honest here. This idea wears me out. One, I barely make enough money to help my household and keep up with business expenses, let alone give away books or gift baskets to keep readers interested and build an online presence. Giveaways has created a community of people who expect freebies. I've had folks sign up for my newsletter to get a chance to win. When they didn't, they removed their name.

I love giving away my author copies -- that's what they are for -- but so many authors are giving away big gifts like GPSs, iPods, gift baskets, and more. I'm not saying I won't ever do this again, but I've not found it to be productive. It's more discouraging than encouraging.

What do you think?

Building a street team or a tribe: This takes time. Little by little readers and fans begin to gather around and tell people about your work. This is the absolute best marketing. But writing books that make readers want to tell others about also takes time and energy. For me, this is my biggest focus and concern. I want to write great books. I believe the majority of my time and effort should be focused on my stories.

That is my continual gift to you. A great book.

For the release of The Sweet By and By, a street team member, April, created a Twitter account for the book. She gives away copies, tweets lines from the book, lets followers know what's up with Sara Evans or me. What a blessing she's been. She's part of our tribe.

You can't make a reader or fan create a Twitter for you, but sooner or later your fans will speak out!

Dialog with street team members is key, BTW.

But I'm not published yet: I recently spent a weekend with a bunch of writers. Between working on their craft, we talked about other things they can be doing to build their name and brand. Susie Warren and I encouraged them all to Twitter and blog.

Blogging is great for several reasons, but the key being to force you to write three, four, five times a week. Editing your blog posts trains you to write well. Blogging forces you to look at life and see beneath the surface. A good part of writing is about observing life and molding it into a story. If you can't observe enough to write a blog, you might not have enough texture and depth to write a compelling novel. Look for life's symbols and metaphors, blog about them. Figure out how to fold them into your characters.

Above all, be kind: If you're trying to build an online presence, and hope to one day see your work in print with your name on the cover, be kind to other authors! Don't blast their books. Don't snark at them in public, or private. Follow industry leaders like Michael Hyatt, Chip MacGregor, Rachelle Gardner, Steve Laube and others. Chime into conversations. If you disagree, do so intelligently. If you can't say anything nice... walk away from your computer. :)

Write reviews that edify. Write blogs that bring insight. I often blog about politics, but I try to do so in a constructive way because many of my fellow authors and readers might disagree with me.

Same with spiritual topics. My main goal is to edify Jesus. Not preach theology.

My sister blogs about her family and it's so funny. But she never puts any of them down in her posts.

What are your thoughts on building an online presence? Any additional advice? Any suggestions or thoughts?