11 Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2020

2020 LOADING -- Elisa Riva - PX - purple letters

I do not make New Year’s resolutions.  But each year, I do look to the Lord and seek His face and His heart to learn what His plans are for my upcoming year, and what He wants from me during that time.  And, of course, there are things that I want for myself as well. This year, I decided to just make a list of all the things I’m wanting to accomplish in 2020. Some of them are on God’s list as well as mine, and some of them — well — they’re probably on my list only —  but God will tolerate them out of His merciful love for me.  🙂

Here’s my list — so far:

1.  Eating lots of chocolate  No surprise there, right?)

2 . Drinking gallons of great coffee  You didn’t think I’d forget coffee, did you?

3 . Finishing the three novels that got shelved after my best friend/best editor died. I’ve recovered from the grief of losing my best friend, who was also my most trusted and efficient editor — and my reservoir for all kinds of creative ideas. But even though I don’t deal with the intense pain of the loss as much, I’ve still found it impossible to let my creativity flow back into those projects that he was working on with me. I know I’ll be able to do so eventually, and I’m trusting the Lord that this year will see a breakthrough.

4.  Writing scores of Cinquain. I do love Cinquain — as most of my readers know. And I can’t wait to dive into all kinds of subject matter that can be disciplined into this wonderful poetic form this year.

5.  Writing scores of Tso’i.  This new poetic form that I created last year is still a challenge. Of course, it had to be somewhat intricate in order to be a genuinely “new” form. If I had followed the disciplines that are comfortable, I’d have been staying in the same groove of all the forms I’ve written in all my life. So, I accept the challenge to write loads more Tso’i  in 2020.

6.  Writing a new series of Christmas stories  I haven’t written anything holiday-themed in a couple years, and that’s surprising, considering how much I love Christmas. I did put out my Holiday Planning Journal last year, and that was loads of fun. But this year, I want to do some more short stories that relate the special excitement, warmth, and love that belong to the Christmas season.

7.  Painting more than I did last year and arranging for a showing of some of my work.  During this past year, some people have been encouraging me to do a showing of my artwork at a couple local places, but I haven’t had the confidence in my work that they seem to have. However, I think it’s time I considered it seriously.  This venture is more a “maybe” than a sure thing, but I’m definitely going to consider it.

8.  Making connections with more Christian artists. I’ve taken the first steps in getting this goal accomplished by creating a brand new Facebook group called “Art From God’s Word.” It looks like there are quite a few other Christian artists out there who want to participate. Twice a month, I’ll post a scripture prompt on that FB page, and all the members will meditate on that scripture and then create artwork that the verse inspires. They are free to use any medium and form of art that they choose, as long as it relates to the scripture passage. It’s a way to focus on God’s Word and fellowship with others who are like-spirited and want their gifts to glorify the Lord.

9.  Teaching more”Writing Poetry” classes.  It’s been hard to get people to sign up for the “Writing Poetry” classes. They come to other creative writing classes, but the poetry always lags behind in enrollment. It’s such a fun class, and if people realized that, they’d want to come. So, I need to work more diligently this year at making them understand how much fun it really is.

10.  Taping a number of live videos, where I teach in front of the camera.  Except for a very few, my Bible teaching videos are mainly audio teaching — with the help of a few pictures or graphics for people to look at as they listen. I’ve never been photogenic, and have a complex about being on camera — video or stationary cameras either one — so I’ve held off on this venture. But I do believe the Lord says its time — maybe past time — that I got this part of the ministry off the back burner. As long as I don’t go back and look at the old live videos that I do have of myself, I think I’ll be able to accomplish this goal in 2020.

11.  Increasing my focus on the Lord and becoming more conscious of His presence within me.  This desire is last on my list in this post, but it is certainly not least. In fact, it is the most important thing I will do this year. And, in truth,  unless I do manage to accomplish this one, most of the others will probably fall by the wayside unfinished. But I have faith that this year will be a year of new growth — even great growth — for me spiritually. So, with the Lord’s help, I’m expecting to get this last item on the list accomplished, as well as the other nine.

If you’d like to share your goals, desires, or plans for this new year, please do. Use the “Comment” windows below to tell us about them — or put a link there to a post on your own blog where you share in more detail.

HAPPY 2020!!!


Graphics courtesy of Elisa Riva @ pixabay.com (edited for this post)
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‘Stories That Leave You Thinking …’

GIRAFFE COVER W. SHADOW

Well, I’ved dithered, and dallied, and delayed for a year. I had all kinds of excuses and reasons — some good, some not so good. But all that’s behind me now, and I FINALLY have the enlarged second edition of my short short story anthology ready for public consumption. 🙂

Yep, it’s out there: STORIES THAT LEAVE YOU THINKING … (A Collection of Diverse and Slightly Unconventional Short Short Stories)

Some of you helped me choose which stories needed to be included. Many of you have read several of them over the past few years, and your response played a part in decideding which stories to include and which to leave for another project. The book contains 20 stories in all. Three of them are also featured in my Christmas anthology, but the other 17 have not been published previously in book form.

Even though the book is actually a totally new entity and will replace the old, smaller version completely, I still wanted to use the same cover. My great friend, professional photographer Bob Mielke, generously gave me permission to use his amazing work. This cover photo inspired one of the first stories to go into the book, and, as far as I was concerned, it just HAD to be the front cover. Thank again, Bob. You’re one of the “good guys.”

Here’s the blurb to tell you a little more about what you can expect if you pick up a copy of STORIES THAT LEAVE YOU THINKING … .  And I hope you do — one for you and one for a friend. It’s currently available in paperback only.

“Have you ever come to the words “The End” when reading and just couldn’t seem to turn off your own imagination? Did your mind keep working on the plot and planning out possible ways in which the story could continue? Did you enjoy the process? Then you’ve come to the right book. The stories included here, on a wide variety of subjects and themes, offer the reader the opportunity to keep thinking past “The End.” Each story comes to a stop, to be sure, but most of them will tempt the reader to let his own imagination get involved and do some thinking about what would happen next – if the story continued. A refreshing approach to short story telling.”

Purchase your own copy for $6.00  from Amazon.




 

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One Man’s Response to Pearl Harbor

PEARL HARBOR, 1941, FREEDOM IS NOT FREE - black & red

The following is a quote of my dad’s own words as he explained his personal response to the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941:

DADMARINEJPG - ED.“The dramatic part of my life began, as that of so many members of the armed forces did, on one of the most infamous days in U. S. history — at Pearl Harbor. Even though I was only 17, I talked my dad and step-mom into signing their permission for me to enter the Marine Corps and do as much as I could to help win that war and make it as short as possible.

“Actually, I had always wanted to be a Marine. All through high school, it was my dream. At the age of 15, I’d felt the call of God on my heart to become a preacher of the Gospel, but as far as I could tell, that wouldn’t preclude my serving my country as well. And if I were going to serve, I was going to be a Marine!”

My father went forward — as did thousands of other brave and committed men and women — to engage in horrific and often mortal combat with the enemies of freedom and human integrity. He and his Marine unit faced every conceivable type of warfare — including a direct hit by a Japanese Kamikazi plane. which caused their LST to be engulfed in flames.

The Lord protected my dad and all the men in his unit, for which I’m enormously grateful. But the price he paid — and the even higher price so many others paid — is something we must never lose sight of. They did it to keep us free and safe from all those forces that would enslave us to inhumane and deadly control by totalitarinan governments.

May we never forget. And may we never allow our nation to be deceived into giving up all that they sacrificed to give us.



Part of this post is a repeat from a couple years ago. I just felt like giving it another day of recognition.

 

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Thanksgiving Poems — Week 1

Thanksgiving in the U. S.  is exactly three weeks from today, so I think it’s only appropriate that I revisit some of my Thanksgiving poems from over the years — and maybe even write a new one.

This week I’ll begin the series with two: one quite serious and one just for fun. Hope you enjoy them, and if you’re one of my own countrymen, I hope they add to your expectations for a happy Thanksgiving celebration.

 

AH, THANKSGIVING, HOW I LOVE YOU!

RED DRESS

Ah, Thanksgiving, how I love you!
Golden crowning jewel of Fall,
Beacon of warmth and cam’raderie,
Sending glad invitation to all:

“Gather to worship; gather to visit;
Gather to focus on all that’s worthwhile;
Feast from tables resplendent with harvest;
Feast on the love in a touch and a smile.”

All the year’s labors weigh heavy upon us.
All the world’s problems seem bigger by far.
But out from that wearisome struggle you call us,
And laying it down, we run to where you are.

And whether in cottages, mansions, or churches,
Community buildings, or tables in parks,
We gather with gratitude full – overflowing;
To the Giver of blessings lift voices and hearts.

Then we return to life’s pattern awaiting.
Filled up with joy, we set off on our way,
Warmer and richer and kinder in spirit
For pausing to celebrate Thanksgiving Day.


♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


WHAT’S FOR DINNER?

TURKEY WITH SIGN - SAVE TURKEYS

I spot him there, behind the barn,
A full-plumed, regal bird.
He looks up, straight into my eyes.
I speak no single word.

It’s happened thus, in passing years —
At least for two or three:
Each mid-November I’ve set my mind;
He’s been there to greet me.

Now, lifting his head in challenge strong,
He gobbles loud and long.
I lower my gun and heave a sigh:
To kill him would be wrong!

So, wrestling with my double mind,
I trek home to my wife
To explain why, once again this year,
Ham will greet the carving knife.


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


 

Free E-Book — today through September 9

SET FREE - AMAZON FRONT COVER

Do you prefer reading books digitally? Well, then this offer is for you. SET FREE TO LOVE, which is Book # 1 in The Smoky Mountain Series, is available for the next four days absolutely free in digital format.

The book normally sells for $3.99, but since Amazon and I are focusing on The Smoky Mountain Series promotions this month, we’re offering the first book free — for the next 4 days only.

Also, if you don’t own a Kindle device, you can download a free Kindle app for any device that you use. You’ll find the download on the same page where you order the book.

If you enjoy inspirational fiction, I hope you’ll check out Private Detective Maddison Holt’s story in SET FREE TO LOVE. Click on the title to link to the product page for a description and to make your purchase.


 

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Pay Attention to the Public View of Your WP Site

COMPUTER WITH TONGUE OUTFor the past few years, WordPress has put a little box at the very bottom of our posts with the notice “Sometimes, visitors may see an advertisement here.”  That implies — and it used to be the case — that they would place ads at the bottom of our posts. And, of course, they’ve always told us that if we are logged into our account, we won’t see the ads.

However, this year, WP has begun to put large ads all throughout our posts. Even though they still “say” that an add might appear at the very bottom — which implies that the bottom is the only place ads will go — they are popping ads into our posts in as much as 4 or 5 places, interrupting our text, and then throwing in more ads at the bottom of the post.

I don’t argue that they have a right to put in an ad or two if they offer the web space free, but, in my opinion, they have been very deceptive about the whole thing since the changes this year, and — also in my opinion — one or two ads at the bottom of the page should be sufficient. Moreover, some of the ads are offensive and vulgar, and can, at times, seriously conflict with the purpose and tone of the blog itself.

So, folks, don’t stay in the dark about your blog or website. Be sure you log out of WP and then pull up your site while you’re logged out. Do it regularly. You need to be aware of what the general public sees whey they visit your site.

Other WordPress users are not supposed to see your ads either — although several times recently I’ve seen them even when logged in.

But it’s important that you be aware that a whole lot of people visiting your site are being exposed to tons of ads that you may not even agree with at all. At least if you are aware of the specific ads, you can say something to your visitors if necessary — or be prepared if you get any negative feedback or reaction from visitors who may be judging you by the ads they see on your site.

WordPress has really been pushing hard lately to get everyone to purchase a blog rather than use the free service. I understand that they want and need to make money. But these pressure tactics — including deluging our posts with mass advertising — seems a little over the top for good customer relations.

 


 

Excited About My Newest Journal

My newest journal project is complete and available for purchase from Amazon. I’ll have a supply soon as well, if you live in my area and want to get them from me.

WORD-INSPIRED COVER - frontWORD-INSPIRED JOURNAL SAMPLE PG 2MY WORD-INSPIRED JOURNAL offers 108 lined pages for personal journaling, interspersed with 12 great pictures and scripture passages to inspire meditation and devotional thought.  This journal is perfect to use for personal devotion times or as a prayer journal — or to just record whatever is on your heart every day.

I’ve included a picture of the front cover and one sample of the inside pages as well.

$6.00

Find MY WORD-INSPIRED JOURNAL at this LINK:

Gone From This World But Still In My Heart

Two years ago today, I lost my very best friend of many years when attorney and civic leader Kent Bartholomew Mann was killed while riding his bicycle. It’s been a very sad two years for me. Kent was much more than just a friend. He was also my best-ever book editor. Although a lawyer by profession, he had a most amazing and creative gift for writing and editing, and many were the times I sat with him, or called him, and said, “Hey, I’ve got this scene that really needs so-and-so, but I’m stuck.” His creativity would go to work on the problem and almost always come up with an idea that was just right. He helped me so very much in my writing, my business, and my ministry.

Without question, Kent was my toughest critic, and my strongest and most faithful champion. He constantly challenged me to my highest and my best in every area of my life. More than once, when a situation just got too hard to deal with and I was ready to throw in the towel, he absolutely refused to let me quit. [And it’s hard to argue with a guy who stands at 6′ 7″ and weighs over 200 pounds. :)]

I was not the only person he touched with his kindness and encouragement. I have realized over this past two years that there is hardly any sector of my home town to which I can go where I am not reminded of how he did something in that place that helped someone – sometimes an individual, and sometimes an entire group of people. Was he perfect? Certainly not. But he was the truest kind of friend.

We spent hours working on one of my inspirational novels on the afternoon of the day he died. When we stopped for the day, I walked out the door with our plans made to pick up the work again the following morning. Three hours later, he was gone from this life.

I’m sharing all of this information simply to make this point: In the world we’re living in right now, true, trustworthy friendships are rare. If you have been blessed with that kind of friendship, value it as gold. Cherish it, nourish it, and guard it with your whole heart. These words offer the most sincere wish I can make for you in honor of my beloved friend.

Kent Bartholomew Mann is gone from this world, and it’s a darker place as a result. But he is still very much alive in my heart, and his legacy of love and friendship still lightens the shadows.

~~~~~

 


 

It’s Coming! It’s Coming!

What’s coming?????

OWL JOURNAL COVER W. BRANCH - FRONT ONLY

My CHOCOLATE OWL JOURNAL.


I’ve just finished the prototype for my next journal, and I can’t wait to get it out there for writers who are always looking for more pages to fill.

This little gem is called the CHOCOLATE OWL JOURNAL and, instead of photos throughout like the coffee lovers journal, it will offer great little nuggets of chocolate wisdom from CHOCOLATE OWL himself.

Now, authors and book creators don’t generally dedicate something like a journal to people who are special to them, so this journal won’t include a dedication page either. But I just want to say that if I were dedicating it, I’d have to dedicate it to my friend Lee over at Lee’s Birdwatching Adventures Plus. She appreciates owls — and all kinds of God’s precious winged creatures  — more than anyone else I know.

Well, I just wanted to let you see the front cover and whet your appetite for this newest project. It should be available for purchase by the end of the week at the latest. Price should be around $6.00. I’ll post again when it’s ready and give you all the final details.

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Hurry! We’re Almost Gone

SMILEY - YEL,ORANGEJust a reminder to some of my followers here:

Not everyone who follows me on this site follows my ministry site “Hangin’ Out With God.”  But a whole lot of you do. For that reason, I’m posting a reminder here as well as there, so that you won’t forget to switch to our brand new site with us.

“Hangin’ Out With God” has been spreading the love of Jesus for over 8 years, and we have moved that work to our brand new site — “Radical About Jesus Ministries.” This week will be the last week “Hangin” Out” is available for public viewing. Unfortunately, I’m not sure everyone has actually realized that unless they hop over to the new website and hit the “Follow” button, they will lose all connection with that work.

I know it sounds strange to say that the readers don’t understand that point. But you know how it is:  we are creatures of habit, and if we’ve been going to the same site for over 8 years, we just keep doing it and thinking, “Oh, yeah, I need to check out the new site.”  Then the next time we visit the old website, we think that again — and again — and, well, you get the point.

Anyway, since we have hundreds of followers on “Hangin’ Out” and only about 5 of them have moved with us to the new site, I thought a little reminder here for those who follow both sites might be helpful. Of course, if most of those hundreds of people don’t want to follow us any longer, that’s okay, but I don’t really think that’s the case with most of them.

So, please, if you want to stay connected with the “Hangin’ Out With God” ministry, be sure to visit “Radical About Jesus Ministries” and hit “Follow” before next Monday. We really don’t want to lose you!

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