"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (NIV).
These days of Covid-19 Pandemic most everyone is wearing a mask. When I do I almost feel like I have lost my identity, and that others have too. It feels as if I am in a state of hiding—like people I see in public may not know who I am, even though they may have been my friend for years. Although I know that I am still the same person, somehow the feeling I get under the mask is different than what I am accustomed to—like being concealed.
We know that through Jesus our identity is never lost; He knows us intimately. The Bible says in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart.”
Thank You, Lord, that even under our masks You know all of us intimately.
by Julia Linkenhoker
In the midst of chaos God gives me calm
In the midst of bedlam He’s a healing balm
When I am scared God is my solace
When I want to relent His help is relentless
When the days are uncertain His promise is unchanging
When I am anxious His peace is abiding
When filled with sadness His comfort is soothing
When I am meek I see His power moving
When I feel alarmed I’m secured by His anchor
When I seek answers He is my advisor
When I am discouraged His Word makes me dauntless
When my heart feels faint His strength makes me fearless
What can I say about the wonder of this?
If God is for me who can be against?
Neither fears of today nor worries for tomorrow
Neither life nor death or the dread of sorrow
Not demons below or angels above
Can separate me from God’s great love
Neither Covid-19 nor any other virus
Can falter my faith or make me cowardice
I’m secure in the hands of the God that I know
Whatever befalls--tender mercies He’ll bestow!
March 29, 2020
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
Romans 8:35, 37-38
If I write it down on paper, life’s loose ends become more orderly. I’m a
seventy year old wife, mother, and grammy. For as long as I can remember,
I’ve been making elaborate and colorful lists to help me and my family stay
organized. A red heart by an item means top priority. A yellow star is less
important but still needs done today. When something is underlined in blue, it
can wait until tomorrow. How else could we remember our appointments and
accomplish our many activities? Maybe you can relate.
I often described our young family as a three-ring circus. Although Amy,
Sara, and Matthew were born within thirty-seven months, they rarely did the
same thing at the same time. My husband and I were co-ringmasters,
introducing our dynamic children to the world and keeping the show running
smoothly. Yes, we were always busy … and yes, there were always
simultaneous performances. Our daily to-do list could include anything from
4-H horse grooming and coaxed piano practicing to lively ball games and a
pinewood derby, not to mention three completely different sets of homework.
It was an exciting, often chaotic time. But the common denominator was
The items on my daily list have changed over the years. Now in retirement,
I fill my days with volunteering and other pleasant activities. A typical list
might involve purchasing construction paper and glitter to teach an art class,
biking on my favorite country road, meeting Mother for Bible study followed by
putting just one more piece in her jigsaw puzzle, hiking with my husband,
working on my newest book, or cutting out puppets for Children’s Chapel. It’s
strange, but I still feel like there’s never enough time in a day.
Recently, it seems everyone’s personal list has become shorter. One by
one meetings and fun activities are being crossed off. These cancellations
are an attempt to limit the spread of a dangerous coronavirus. People are
getting sick. I agree social distancing is a good thing, but more and more my
spirits are sinking as less connection is becoming the new normal. I’m not
only missing whatever thing was cancelled but also the delightful
relationships that are such an important part of the activity. To be honest, I’m
mad at this COVID-19 and resent its power to have this huge impact on our
health and lives.
But then I had a beautiful epiphany. The coronavirus has no power over
God! It can’t cancel our meeting with God, our connection with God, our
relationship with God. That’s right. COVID-19 has absolutely no effect on me
being with my God. God is all powerful and can’t be crossed off a list. As a
matter of fact, there’s no need to even put morning devotions, Bible reading,
and prayer throughout the day on a to-do list. Activities with God come about
as naturally as holding your child’s hand when crossing the street. No
So although our cancelled activities have worth and merit, it turns out
what’s NOT on your list is of the highest value. And this is God! The Bible
assures us “God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of
trouble (Psalm 46:1, GNB). Yes, our mighty God is available 24-7 and will
see us through this coronavirus thing.
Let’s be sure our children and grandchildren know our God is all powerful
and can be trusted to take care of us all the days of our lives. “I will proclaim
your greatness, my God and King; I will thank you forever and ever. What
you have done will be praised from one generation to the next; they will
proclaim your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:1, 4, GNB).
THANKS be to God!
Encourage your child’s connection with God.
“Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their life.”
(Proverbs 22:6, GNB).
Work God moments into your child’s routine.
1. Model praying at meals, and take turns leading the prayer.
2. In dinnertime conversation, talk about how you’ve seen God at work in
the world. Examples might be a new flower blooming or someone
3. When you’re playing games, include ideas found in Christian activity
4. Rotate reading favorite bedtime stories with Bible stories.
5. After a nighttime prayer, turn out the lights and sing “Jesus Love Me” or
“Angels Watching Over Me.”
Cathy D. Dudley, member of St. Philip Lutheran Church in Roanoke, VA., is
an author of Christian books for children and their families. She has written
Toddler Theology ~ Childlike Faith for Everyone and Faith, Family, & Fun ~
Monthly Lessons to Color and Connect with God’s Love.
Cathy thanks God for giving her the words to write and invites you to visit
From Barbara Baranowski, director
Life is very different now, with difficulty and uncertainty every day. We should continue in prayer for one another, for families who have experienced loss, and those on the "front lines" of this COVID-19 Virus, In addition, to encourage ourselves and others, let’s write through this! Here are some writing ideas that I hope you will consider:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)
Have you ever thought about the importance of knowing when to write? I dream of writing without ceasing. Sometimes, though, God has a different plan for me.
We had rented a beach house for a family vacation. Eagerly, I packed my writing equipment, fantasizing about watching the infinite billows while dashing off inspirational pieces. My week would be a wonderful writer’s retreat.
After the first day, however, reality crashed through my sandcastle dreams. Although I savored the time spent with each family member, the quiet morning was too short for my big dreams, and after the days activities I was too tired to write. I prayed, “Lord, haven’t You called me to write? Didn’t You provide this lovely spot?”
I could almost hear God laughing as He spoke to my heart, “Child, sometimes I provide writing time for you, and sometimes I place you in the middle of things to write about. With spiritual eyes, watch the blessings unfold—teaching your grandchildren about Me in the beauty of a shell, and watching your adult children depend on My Grace to supply. See your 90-year-old father gain strength from viewing the power of My ocean, and your husband gain nourishment through My spirit.
I was reminded that this was not the time to write about adventures with God; it was the time to live them. I would write about them later. God had reminded me about the importance of discerning the times.
Try this Exercise
Think about times you have experienced with your family or others. Are there writing opportunities hidden within those adventures? As you reflect, envision not only the delightful events, but also the difficult situations. Pray for God to open your storehouse of memories and show you ones that need to be shared so others may learn about Him. Take out photos to help you reminisce. As you relive special times, choose one photo and in sixty seconds write down everything you see in it. Then, as you are drawn into the scene, ask God to direct your writing in such a way that others will see Him more clearly.
I left the American Christian Writers’ Conference ready to conquer some of the “giants” of writerdom, including lack of time and fear of rejection. The instructors, as always, delighted me with their wealth of information and inspirational words. And, as always, I felt armed to do battle. My excitement was at a peak, and I was ready to write.
But, I also knew another giant was awaiting me on the drive home and would follow me into the house. That was the hardest one for me to escape. I call him Big Blue.
Recognizing the Giant
After a writers’ conference, Big Blue walks into the house with me. As I place the wonderful materials I brought home near my computer, he whispers to me that I won’t see those inspiring attendees for another year. I can hear him laughing at the thought that I would open my newest notes or leisurely peruse new materials. He reminds me of the time and energy it takes to develop writing skills, and the blank screen that awaits me.
I brush him off, but he sits near me and notes how solitary I seem. Some may call him post-conference blues or depression. I’m not sure if this is a classified condition, but it happens when I leave a conference feeling inspired, yet empty of those relationships and people I’ve been with—people a little “strange” about the lure of writing, like I am.
Lately, however, I recognize his voice immediately and have developed some ways to banish him. I waste no time allowing him to linger. If you are acquainted with Big Blue, I recommend these giant-slaying tips.
Share Your Experience
Share what you did at the conference with someone, even if you have to speak to yourself. Don’t keep the excitement and positive experiences bottled up. Call or e-mail a fellow writer. You may inspire others; but, more importantly, you will reconnect to your own excitement. Are you part of a writers’ critique group? Attend the next meeting and take the opportunity to engage others in your enthusiasm for learning. Discuss a technique that you learned, and help your fellow writers to apply it.
Often a speaker addresses more than writing techniques. Did one encourage you to a deeper prayer life? Share the inspiration you received. Did an article or book writer relate a testimony or answer to prayer? Pass along those words to comfort and hearten others. Network your experience, but also network your feelings.
Seek Immediate Writing Opportunities
Look for writing opportunities immediately following the conference. Check your church newsletter and bulletin. Are articles needed? Send off that article you have been clutching with insecurity. Pray for new opportunities to come. If you are a nonfiction writer, try fiction (or vice-versa). You may find possibilities that you hadn’t thought about.
Open your market guide, and go on a writer’s “shopping spree” in search of the publication with needs that match your work. Take on the challenge of defeating the giant by hurling the stone of enthusiasm.
Written by Michelle Gill
So you have been told that you need a website. In the writer's world today it is a necessity. Publishers require it and generally leave it up to the author themselves. I am a website designer who has self-published authors and traditional published authors as clients and both type of publishers require the author to have a website with a blog to attract followers. I personally know of occasions in which a traditional publisher has watched an unpublished author increase their following on-line and then offered them a book deal.
Your website is your hub for all information about you. It is your home base on the internet. All your social media should point the follower back to your website. It is a place where someone can get to know you, buy your book, read your blog, and sign up to get updates on your latest projects. It is also a place to gain information about your followers.
The first step is to choose your niche. Be focused. What are you about? What is your writing focus? What is your mission or purpose? Who is your audience? Once you have your focus then choose the title. If you plan to branch out and write in various genres or on multiple subjects, your title may just be your name. If you are trying to create name recognition as an author, your name is the way to the public. If there is a specific audience and one main subject matter, then you need a catchy title or hook. This will also become your domain or website address.
The second step is to choose and purchase your domain. Research to make sure that there is not another person with your name and decide how you will stand out if there is. Research who else is going after that niche. While you are researching check out someone who does what you want to do well and take notes. Once you choose your domain, purchase it. I use GoDaddy for all my domains. The reason I buy my domain from GoDaddy, a company separate from my platform, is that I want to be able to easily move my domain should I choose to change platforms.
The third step is to choose your website platform. It is best to choose from a company that provides both hosting and the "drag and drop" platform design. Most popular companies now provide both.
"How do I choose?"
Wordpress is very popular but you must update plugins and security manually on a regular basis. It takes quite a bit of time to learn how to use it. I personally do not recommend it because of the updating issues.
Wix is my favorite because it is more for the artist in website creation. I can do much more with Wix. But since part of my business is to teach my client how to blog inside the platform and make updates on their own, I tend to go with an easier platform. Weebly is a very easy to use "drag and drop" system. Both produce a current and attractive website. With Weebly you do not have to make adjustments to the mobile version like you do with Wix.
A couple other platforms that are quite nice are Duda and Squarespace. There are more and more coming out every week.
Once you choose your platform and create an account you need to upgrade and pay for whatever their starter program is. Generally the lowest level is sufficient for an author site. This averages around $100 per year. You will then connect your domain to your platform.
All website platforms provide tutorials and videos that will answer any questions tyou have. I encourage you to watch some videos and read a few of the articles that they provide before you get started. Study the experts. Take time to learn. Be focused, creative, generous, and have fun!
In future articles for the Roanoke Valley Christian Writers I will be providing information on subscribers/followers, social media, and blogging. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.
Michelle Gill is a website designer, barista, trail walker sometimes runner, disc golfer's wife, Jesus lover, book collector, mama, writer, and old house explorer. For more information go to her website at www.michelleranaigill.com
by Gail Tansill Lambert
The sky was dark as charcoal and the air was still. Disregarding the signs of a downpour, I strode down the hill daring the elements to rain on me, foolishly enjoying a slight breeze that suddenly kicked up. Nobody was outside. I left my cell phone at home and had not thought to leave a note for my napping husband. If it thunders and rains and I slip on the wet, it will be my fault when he doesn’t know where to look for me. My peace of mind vanished. I concentrated on not falling over a stick or slipping on a patch of mud on the sidewalk. I hunched over looking for dangers in my path.
I saw a man down the street with a leashed dog coming toward me, then he left the sidewalk to let me pass. Oh, it was Mack, a boy who had grown up in the neighborhood and knew my two younger sons. As we got closer, he recognized me and stopped.
“Hello, Mack,” I said.
He frowned. “I’m Kevin Martin.” He wore all black and on his cap stood out a pirate’s skull and crossbones. No accounting for taste these days.
“I knew that. I don’t know why I called you Mack. I’m sorry, Kevin.” His pit bull looked up at me.
As if to identify himself further, he asked about my boys by name, and I started to relax. The anniversary being on my mind, I told him about my youngest boy’s wife, who died a year ago. It had been a hard year, a terrible year.
Kevin stared at me—speechless for the moment. “What happened? What …” He was still young enough to think that death was for his parents’ generation; not yet his. My Robert, a year younger, would tell him otherwise. As Kevin edged closer with questions, his dog began to chew the grass. “Hey, don’t do that.” He smiled indulgently, telling me that every time he stopped on a walk, the dog would chew on grass like a grazing cow.
I laughed, but still believed that dogs ate grass when they were sick, and I told him so. I could tell he disagreed, but he changed the subject. “You wear the same shoes I do. I wear mine all the time.” He wiggled his foot to display his Croc. They were sort of like mine, but sported a dark camouflage print as opposed to my bright flowers.
”They’re easy to clean – just turn on the faucet or get out the garden hose,” I offered.
“Watch that they don’t get wet inside, though. They get slippery and all you can do is take them off.” He looked up. “It’s raining. I’d better get this dog home.”
“Oh dear – it’s really coming down.” I started to walk fast, then thought the better of it. For heaven’s sake, my shoes already feel wet and slippery inside. Don’t twist an ankle and fall. I tried to go faster without hurrying, mimicking my Latin bumper sticker that cautions drivers behind me with the dictum Festina Lente. ( Make haste in a rather slow way)
Finally up the hill and back on my street, the rain slowed down and so did a car, which came to a stop in the street beside me. A woman rolled down her window and called out to me.
“Ma’am, could I give you a ride to the end of the block?”
“No, but thank you anyway.” I could hardly see through rain-streaked eyeglasses. She drove away slowly. I wanted to shout to her, “The rain’s about to quit and I didn’t want to drip all over your seat cushions!”
A shirtless teen pedaled by me on his bike. Ah, rain on bare skin. He must feel as free as an eagle in the wind, like Nikki Giovanni, poet and University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, who spoke at a celebration I attended for the resurrection of the literary journal Artemis. She appeared to be in love with life, free and unencumbered by possessions and the expectations of others. She had chanted “God is good” and other lines I didn’t remember. Yes, He is. The year of my daughter-in-law’s death had passed and the family was still being blessed with the love of seemingly everyone in their small town.
I finally made it to the house, spreading muddy water and wet leaves from my shoes in the front hall. I took off my drenched blouse and hung it in the basement. Upstairs I toweled off my hair. Ah, sweet rainwater in my hair straight from heaven.
That evening my dried hair was as soft and silky as a baby’s. Hair like new – a gift from heaven. “God is good ALL the Time.” That’s the part I had forgotten. Yes, Nikki, God is good All the time, not just when the sun is shining.
by Gail Tansill Lambert
While driving down Franklin Road across the bridge, I saw pampas grass glowing in the sunshine and swaying in the breeze over the Roanoke River. I couldn’t stop, but promised myself I would return with a camera and keep the scene forever. Several more times I passed same spot and yet again and again I was without my camera. Frustration grew. Surely I would miss the fleeting glory of those plants.
Finally, on a Sunday outing, I had my camera and we stopped quickly, my husband leaving the road and cautiously driving onto sandy ground. I took my pictures and they are perfect – close-ups, distance, groups, and single shots of the feathery plumes.
I like certain plants, but usually because they are associated with people or places I love; for example, the snowball bushes in my grandmother’s turn-of-the-20th-century house in Massachusetts, the fragrance of her tidy petunia patch, and the climbable mimosa trees at home. Only pampas grass seemed to appeal to my sense of beauty alone.
Really? Because on one of our last vacations before the children became far-flung, was at the Outer Banks where the pampas grass, as numerous as the seagulls overhead, waved in the ocean breeze on that Labor Day weekend. Was that the connection? No, because my fascination with pampas grass had already been established.
After much thought, my mind took me back to the summer I was twelve, and my family had moved into a house in a new neighborhood with great, tall pine trees in front, and a wilderness in the back to be tamed with a clothesline, trails, and a scythe. I noticed everything that summer and fall – the sky-blue heavens of a Deep South September and the muddy, mighty Chattahoochee River.
I explored my new land, riding my bike up the lengthy hills and scaring myself pedaling downhill so fast I left behind the humid heat by the speed of the wind. Seldom did a car pass by. The roads were mine for miles and miles, but I was alone, and in my other neighborhood there were always friends to share such adventures. I could have pedaled to the old street and I did, but not that summer.
Other than bike riding, I met a girl my age who lived in the large white house on the corner. The green grass sloped from the house beneath the lordly loblolly pines, but best of all, was the “plume plant” on the lower lawn looking like a circular water fountain in a public park. Mary Anne and I had something in common other than our age and living nearby. We both loved kickball. I worried about the ball falling into the “fountain plant” and getting cut by the “spray.” That happened, but a bleeding leg or arm was a small price to pay for such grandeur. That summer fun ended when a laundry delivery van ran over our white kickball right before school started.
That was the summer everything changed, as if scales from my eyes had been removed. Without anyone to share my discoveries, I began to set up a “studio” in the woods and attempted to copy tall, thin pines, the play of light, and shades of color with a paintbrush and palette. I wrote poems about the Chattahoochee and put them a wooden box with a lock. I came up with new names for paints: pine bark brown and its lighter cousin, pine straw brown. Remembering the effort was more rewarding than the painting or the poem.
Is this change why Jesus spoke in the temple at age twelve? Why confirmation traditionally takes place at age twelve? I wonder, because something happens to us around that age; when we begin to see the world and all that’s therein and not just ourselves. When we see something wonderful, like pampas grass, and never forget that sight, as if it’s a divine connection to something beyond that is unseen.
Pay attention to the twelve-year olds in your life. Pay attention to the twelve year old still in yourself.
by Donna Willard
Have you ever been given something you don’t deserve, something free and unmerited? A perfect example of this is God’s amazing grace. His grace is a free gift to anyone willing to unwrap the package. Many times, in the Bible, people were extended grace. Grace is compassion and mercy. Jonah, Peter, and Paul come to my mind when I think of grace.
Jonah ran from God and nearly lost his life in the belly of a whale. His life was spared. Peter, who became the rock of the church, denied Christ three times. Paul, a persecutor and murderer of Christians, became the author of many letters to the church.
These are just a few examples of God’s gift of grace. However, the best gift of grace was given to all of us. God gave His only son to die on a cross for all our sins—past, present, and future. I would have been lost without His grace.
Many years ago, I struggled with severe depression. I, like Elijah, wished for death and almost died after overdosing on pills. I thought I was a Christian. It was in name only. I knew the stories, the laws, and the right way to live. However, I did not know Jesus.
One night, I lie in bed with tears flowing down my cheeks. I asked God to reveal Himself to me in His word. I opened the Bible and came to Philippians 3:12-14. I saw in Scripture that my past could be forgiven, and I had hope for tomorrow. This was God’s message not only to Paul. It is for you and me, too. Friends, Jesus died for you and me. I just celebrated another Easter of Christ’s resurrection and new life for me.
Today, ask yourself about the many times God’s grace has been given to you. I thank God every day for His grace. My prayer is that His grace would be the example I follow and extend to others in my life and my ministry.
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see” (John Newton, 1779).
© Donna Willard 2018