Monthly Archives: December 2015

Christmas Cheer ~ it’s spreadable

Xmas Angel

 

Christmas cheer means different things to different people, but usually has a “spreading it” connotation. Wanting to spread happiness and joy, for so many, goes hand in hand with the Christmas season. It’s about making family, friends, associates, and even those we don’t know happy, doing nice things for others, having an overall joyous attitude and demeanor during this season.

Jesus exhorts His disciples to “be of good cheer” several times in the Bible. Using modern vernacular, we could say Jesus was spreading the message about the spiritual power that’s in being of good cheer.

I think all Christians have felt at one time or another they were sinking, that they could not rise above the waves or get through the storms of life. The Bible tells us Jesus walked on the water, which basically freaked the disciples out. Their imaginations ran wild thinking a ghost was about to set upon them in the midst of the storm. Matthew 14:26-27 [KJV] ~ 26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. 27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. How on earth could they be of good cheer? They’re boat was about sink in the storm? Yet, Jesus didn’t say to them, “Row harder,” or “Turn the boat eastward.” He said “be of good cheer” and “be not afraid.” Deciding to be of good cheer no matter what the circumstances is the spiritual act of making a firm internal commitment to God and to ourselves. I suspect that once we get into the good cheer mode, it’s a lot easier to ‘be not afraid’. It’s fear that often paralyzes us.

Have you noticed how angry people are today? I sometimes wonder why so many people have anger as their default. Don’t they want to be happy? Why wouldn’t they want to be happy? It’s a mystery to me, but I suspect they have a wrong assumption about life. We’re all going to have troubles in life and some people feel they’re so special that they shouldn’t have those troubles. It’s kind an overall, pervasive societal notion that things should be made easier, noncompetitive, less harsh. The reality is life is tough and harsh many times. They can protest and erect a physical a safe zone on campus, but they can’t create a safe zone in life. Ain’t gonna happen.

For Christians there is a safe zone. We are a peculiar people, set apart. We live in a kind of “Jesus bubble” and in that bubble (call it the Blessing, the favor of God, or the grace of God, if you will) we are sheltered from life’s storms. However, we do have spiritual guidelines so that we don’t walk out of this spiritual safe zone. We are called to love God, self, and others. We’re called to be of good cheer and to have joy, among other things. These are not mere emotions, they are dynamic spiritual forces that dispel fear.We’re called to spread this fear-breaking joy and cheer around…not to hide our light under a bushel. red bowSomething of historical interest from the American White House at Christmas, which traditionally has been used by First Families to spread cheer, joy, and even courage in the nation, especially in times of trouble.

White House Front Gate

White House Front Gate

In 1958 Mamie Eisenhower had 27 decorated Christmas trees in the White House. In 1961, First Lady Jackie Kennedy began the tradition of selecting a theme for the main White House Christmas Tree. Since the early 1970s the White House has included an enormous gingerbread house as part of it’s Christmas decor. In 1971, under Pat Nixon’s direction the confection was an A-Frame. Under Betty Ford’s direction in 1975, to honor America’s upcoming bicentennial celebration, the National Christmas Tree was decorated with 4,600 red, white, and blue ornaments. On the top of the 45-foot blue spruce sat a 4-foot gold and green replica of the Liberty Bell, donated by General Electric. The hostage crisis in Iran dominated the holiday celebrations of 1979 and 1980. In 1979 Rosalyn Carter’s National Christmas Tree and 50 surrounding trees each showed but a single light, one for each of the hostages. The other lights on the trees would be turned on when the hostages were released. But the following year the hostages were still in Iran. The Carters turned on the Christmas tree lights that year for 141 seconds. One second for each day the hostages had been held. For seven of the eight Christmases Nancy Reagan was in  the White House she arranged for residents of the drug treatment program in Virginian and Maryland Second Genesis to decorate the White House trees. In 1985, Second Gensis made 1,500 ornaments from holiday cards sent to President and Mrs. Reagan in 1984. In 1989, out of Barbara Bush’s concern for national literacy, the theme for Christmas presened a “Storybook Christmas”. The White House staff created figures of famous storybook characters such as Peter Pan, Curious George, and Alice in Wonderland, and underneath the trees were books tied up with red bows. In 1993 renown American quilting artisans contributed squares at Mrs. Clinton’s request to make a green velvet skirt for the White House tree.  In 2001, Laura Bush oversaw decorating the White House after the national tragedy of 9/11. The theme that year was ‘Home For The Holidays’. One highlight were scale models of all of the American presidents’ homes. The 18-foot White House Christmas Tree, which was grown in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania, was decorated with hundreds of original ornaments depicting historic homes and places of worship throughout the United States. Michelle Obama’s 2015 theme is ‘A Timeless Tradition’. The decorations throughout the White House inspire visitors to celebrate long-held traditions while also creating new memories.red bow

Wishing you a blessed and merry pre-Christmas holiday season filled with joy, from the Crime Fictionista, who is on the road to greater greater cheer, gladness, laughter, and who hopes to spread this good cheer all year long.

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DESERT DUET by Debra E. Marvin ~ a Christmas novella

Desert DuetHaving Christmas stories out in print is such a cheerful feeling during the holiday season. So, I’m thrilled to be interviewing Debra E. Marvin about her newly released historical Christmas novella, DESERT DUET.

Nike:  You once told me DESERT DUET was “mystery lite”. What do you mean by that?

Debra:  I enjoy romantic tension in a story and a happy ending, but I love mysteries first and foremost. Because Desert Duet is part of a collection by Forget-Me-Not Publishers, I knew readers would expect romance. Myself? I wanted to play with a light mystery plot. There’s a suspicious death, a crime or two, and good reasons for the hero and heroine to figure it all out, but mystery is certainly not the dominant plotline. That’s for another day!

NIke:   Give us an insight into your main character(s). What does he/she do that is so special?

Debra:  DESERT DUET has my version of a classic, old-Hollywood movie couple. Eugene is a nice guy who’s taken a chance on pursuing a dream career rather than sticking with something solid. He’d like to be sure he’s done the right thing—but that remains to be seen. Thea is confident with good reason, and modern for 1933, not because she’s ahead of her time, but because she’s already learned some lessons the hard way by her early 20s. Like Cary Grant and Claudine Colbert, or Tracy and Hepburn, Eugene and Thea had an instant meshing…a need to tease each other. I just had to keep up!

Nike:  Any amusing story to tell about the writing of this novella?

Debra:  I’d done quite a bit of online research. (1933, Humbug, AZ, an abandoned mining camp up in the Bradshaw Mts.) I discovered the Castle Hot Springs Hotel, a getaway resort and spa for the wealthy, starting before 1900. One of my best friends lives in Arizona, so we planned a road trip ‘for research’. Off we went on unpaved roads, miles up into the mountains. “Off the grid” territory. Just as I warned her we should be “getting close” to what’s left of the resort, we came around a curve and saw the transplanted palm trees in the distance. It was a magical moment to share. My characters go to a Christmas dance at the hotel. There’s nothing better for an author than to experience what you imagined your characters experiencing. Please check out my Pinterest page and see what I mean.

Nike:  If you could have lunch with your favorite author (living or dead) who would it be, and why?

Debra:  Right now, it would have to be Louise Penny, author of the Inspector Gamache/Three Pines mystery series. I’m completely hooked. I read a few out of order (I borrow audiobooks from the library) before deciding I needed to start over with book one, Still Life. She’s just delightful, and her writing is amazing. Audiobooks have one drawback though—you get to work in the morning and you don’t want to turn off the vehicle and get out! It seems I’m always at a ‘good part’ when my journeys end! She writes weaving, multi-threaded mysteries with a cast of characters that keep me entirely enthralled. Lunch with her at the Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City would be my choice! Can you set that up?red bowLet’s get a sneak peak of DESERT DUET, or as Debra puts it: a Merry Christmas from Humbug. Wish You Were Here!

It’s 1933 in the good old US of A. In the midst of drought, the Depression, and gangsters on the lam, America finds solace in Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Ex-pilot Eugene Tanner, determined to pen the lyrics for the movie industry’s first “Best Song” award, books a rushed December stay at the remote Humbug Creek Guest Ranch (A Gold Mine of a Getaway!) Where better to find inspiration for an epic Western, than amid all that trail dust and burnt coffee?

Thea Knight gives up her short holiday break from the studio’s costume department to play cowgirl hostess at her family’s struggling guest ranch. But instead of helping their witty and handsome guest, she becomes his biggest distraction. Old flames and past regrets take a backseat when the pair become embroiled in a ghost town mystery marring Humbug, Arizona’s rustic Christmas. Thankfully, the cowgirl is as fast with her Winchester as she is with her comebacks.

Amazon

Debra E MarvinDebra E. Marvin tries not to run too far from real life but the imagination born out of being an only child has a powerful draw. Besides, the voices in her head tend to agree with all the sensible things she says. She’d like to live a wee bit closer to her grandchildren, but is thankful that God is in control, that He chooses to bless us despite ourselves and that He has a sense of humor.

Other than writing light-hearted romances and gritty gothics, she has rather normal obsessions such as fabric, peanut butter, vacations, British dramas, and whatever mystery series she’s currently stuck on.

Website, Debra blogs at Inkwell Inspirations, Pinterest, Facebook


Joy To The World ~ The Lord Is Come!

gilr in light

Joy isn’t a mere feeling or a fleeting emotion. It’s a spiritual force. I didn’t always know that and that’s why my joy was constantly being robbed. Crabby, angry people robbed my joy. Difficult situations robbed it, hurtful or shameful memories from the past of failure and painful trials robbed it. I’ll be honest. these past 18 months have been some of the most difficult I’ve ever encountered. And at times I’ve been a whiney, blithering nincompoop. But, by clinging to the Lord moment-by-moment (quite literally) I have come through the worst of it, and I still have my joy.

Galatians 5:22 [King James Version] ~ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.The Living Bible translates it ~ But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.

While some of these might have an emotional component, they are so much more. Love is not an ooey-gooey romantic feeling. God is love. Faith can move mountains. Peace isn’t a slogan to be used in political protests. We have watered these words down over the years. Peace translates from the Hebrew as shalom and means “whole, nothing missing, nothing broken.” These are fruit of the Holy Spirit. I had always looked at these words as something I should strive for…and there’s nothing wrong with the desire to have these traits. Actually, in the fullness of their meaning they emanate from the most powerful Being operating in the earth, the Holy Spirit. I’m beginning to see them as spiritual gifts offered to me, but I have to receive them. I have to chose them.

Xmas horse in hatThe Amplified Bible, in Galatians 5:22, further defines joy as “gladness”. And Psalm 118:24 [KJV] ~ This is the day the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. It says “we will rejoice”. Not maybe, or if everything goes right. So, because it’s put that way, this is something believers can do. Something I can do. We can laugh more and cry less if we put our minds to it. The battlefield where we engage the enemy is between the ears. I’ve learned I should never let the enemy see me down in the tooth. I’m getting better at chosing to be in a state of joy. I’ve discovered the good feelings, the laughter comes after making the choice.red bowIt might interest you to know the lyrics to that favorite Christmas carol, “Joy To The World,” was written by Isaac Watts in 1719. The music was written by George Frederick Handel. Handel also wrote the “Messiah,” the marvelous English language oratorio.red bow

Wishing you a blessed and merry pre-Christmas holiday season filled with joy, from a recovering whiney, blithering nincompoop who is on the road to greater joy, gladness, laughter


Frugal at Christmas ~ doesn’t mean you’re a Scrooge

Christmas candes

I’m a believer in God’s blessing. I believe He delights in blessing those who love and follow Him. That said, I also believe in good stewardship. And I don’t believe ‘frugal’ and ‘blessing’ are opposed to each other.

I’m also a list maker and one who always has Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C.

If statistics are correct, a great number of people, when the January bills came in last year, nearly had a stroke? Their Christmas spending literally wiped out their savings? It would be a good idea not to do that again this year. Proverbs 21:20 [The Living Bible] ~ The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.

Tips For A Wonderful Christmas Than Won’t Break The Bank:

Tip #1: Decide what you can afford to spend…and then pay with cash. People who use cash spend less than those who pull out the plastic. Paying cash insures you won’t go into debt.

Tip #2: Make a list (not a naughty or nice one). Simply divide your budget by the number of people on it. You might have to make two lists, one for the people you’ll be giving more expensive gifts (loved ones), and one for associates you’d like to bless but you intend to spend less. With either list, if the ideal gift for one is less than you’re spending for others (but is still in the ball park and doesn’t look cheap), don’t try to compensate by throwing in a bunch of pointless do-dads that eat up money. If it looks cheap, then perhaps you should question if it’s ideal. Remember frugal doesn’t equal cheap.

Tip #3: Have your list in your hand when you shop for gifts (or for food, for that matter). Stores will have incredible Christmas sales and you’ll be tempted to overbuy. This is also where shopping with cash will help you. You can’t buy it if you can’t pay for it. Leave your credit cards home.

Tip #4: If you have an aging parent, get all the “kids” together to purchase one big, more expensive item mom or pop might be yearning for but can’t afford, rather than a bunch of smaller gifts.

Tip #5: Create a Christmas menu for your holiday dinner(s) and/or buffet(s). Make a list . Don’t wander around the super market picking up whatever catches your eye. If you do that, you’ll wind up with items you won’t use and have to come back for what you should’ve purchased the first time — a costly mistake.

Tip #6: If you shop with coupons (and that’s a real good idea) throw away those for items you don’t usually use. Don’t wait until you get into the store because you might succumb to the temptation to purchase those items because they’re a bargain…and honestly, you’ll be staring at them on your shelf for a long time until you finally throw them out.

Don’t forget to include in your budget a gift to whatever mission or charity your church is sponsoring this Christmas. Send a check to a TV or radio ministry you’ve watched for years but have never financially supported. Give to your local food bank. Whenever you see a Salvation Army worker ringing a bell, throw a dollar or two into the pot. A wonderful idea is to fill a shoebox and send it to Samaritan’s Purse/Operation Christmas Child. Or you can fill a box online, or simply make a small contribution. While we’re cautious about spending, we can budget in ways that honor the Kingdom of God.

Nativity figures

 


NO HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Lillian Duncan ~ a Christmas suspense novella

No Home For The Holidays

Christmas mysteries are always a treat to read around the holidays, and Lillian Duncan is a master at writing a good mystery story. So, I’m delighted to be interviewing her about this suspenseful and delightful novel.

NO HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Unlike the Prodigal Son, Chloe Sullivan knows she can’t go home for the Christmas holidays or ever—not if she wants to stay alive.

She’s resigned to the fact she must stay in hiding to keep herself and her family safe. Lonely and desperate for God’s presence, she’s drawn to a nearby church.
Ex-FBI agent turned preacher, Colton Douglas, mistakenly identifies Chloe as the person breaking into local churches. A midnight chase ensues that ends with him snapping her photo. When the photo goes public he learns more about the mystery woman than he bargained for. . .And that changes everything!red bowNike:  What is your favorite genre to read? To write?

Lillian:  The answer to both is Christian mystery and suspense with a little horror thrown in from time to time. I guess writing is sort of like eating. You are what you read, and for me that means I’m a suspense/mystery writer.

Nike:  Tell us about NO HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS.

Lillian:  NO HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS is a Christmas-themed story. It’s part of my publisher’s annual Christmas Extravaganza. Each year, they release twenty-five novelettes (meaning short novels) that all have a Christmas theme in all different sorts of genres. So there’s something for everyone, no matter what you enjoy reading. I love finding a way to mix suspense into a Christmas story. There’s always so many possibilities for what the characters can learn as they journey through the story. And, of course, I love all the Christmas symbolism available during my favorite time of the year. In NO HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS,  Chloe Sullivan needs a miracle but has given up on getting it. As sad as it is, she’s resigned to the fact that she has to stay in hiding if she wants to remain alive as well as keep her family safe. Ex-FBI turned preacher, Colton Douglas believes in helping others. When Chloe enters his life, he’s sure God has put her in his path for a reason—to help her. And that’s just what he plans to do, whether she likes it or not. Both Colton and Chloe learn a great deal about themselves and about life as they face death.

Nike:  How long did it take you to write this book?

Lillian:  NO HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS is a novella so it didn’t take anywhere near as long as a full-length novel. I would say I finished the first draft within a month. Then another month to revise and polish before I submitted it to my publisher.

Nike:  Tell us a bit about your main characters. Who did you have the most fun creating? Why?

Lillian:  Chloe Sullivan is a good girl gone bad who wants to be good again. So she was a lot of fun to get to know more about as I wrote the story. Colton on the other hand is your classic hero, wants to help anyone and everyone, except himself.

Nike:  What’s the setting for No Home? The story starts in the city of Wooster, Ohio. Coincidently, it’s a city I’ve lived near most of my life.

Lillian:  But, of course, the story is fictional and not based on reality! But that’s just the beginning, they travel to Akron and then on to the state of California.

Nike:  Is NO HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS the first book you published?

Lillian:  I’ve been blessed to have several books published in the past several years. My last release was DEADLY INENT, part of the Deadly Communications series that features a crime-fighting speech pathologist. . NO HOME is actually my second Christmas story with the first being THE CHRISTMAS STALKING. It features a country singer with a stalker, of course!

Nike:  What do you want readers to take away from NO HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS?

Lillian:  I want everyone to know that they always have a home with God. He never turns anyone away if they’re sincere. Just like the prodigal son, he’ll always welcome you home.

Nike:  Do you know who the bad guy is when you begin your story?

Lillian:  Not usually. Most of the time I have several characters who it might be and as the story comes to a conclusion, I’m surprised right along with my readers. Sometimes, I think I know who the killer is through most of the book, but then throw in a shocker at the end.

Nike:  Most people don’t think of murder mysteries and suspense novels as Christian Fiction. What do you say to them?

Lillian:  I can certainly understand their point of view. And for some readers my stories might be a bit too graphic or edgy and that’s okay, I would say my readers are those who like traditional suspense and mystery novels but are tired of all the explicit language and sex scenes that aren’t necessary to a good story. I don’t promote or glorify violence in my stories and show characters experiencing the natural consequences of their bad choices and bad actions. My characters are usually on a spiritual journey as well—but some are further along than others.

red bowNO HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS on Amazon

Lillian’s website

Lillian’s blog, TIARAS & TENNIS SHOES

Lillian’s devotional blog

Lillian Duncan

Lillian Duncan: stories of faith mingled with murder & mayhem!

Lillian is a multi-published writer with several Amazon bestsellers, including The Christmas Stalking and Betrayed. Lillian writes the types of books she loves to read—fast-paced suspense with a touch or two of romance that demonstrates God’s love for all of us. Whether as an educator, a writer, or a speech pathologist, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.


Riveting Detective Story ~ Perfect Christmas/New Year read

DD Xmas Meme 4

 

 

DEADLY DESIGNS $3.99/Kindle ~ or ~ Free/#Kindle Unlimited.

Fast paced, taught suspense, wry humor.  Dawson Hughes brings his Texas charm to the Tri-State area to work with sassy female PI,  Ronnie Ingels, on an abduction case. This sometimes gritty, suspense-filled story keeps the reader on edge of their seat all the way up until the heart pounding and satisfying end. Evokes a bit of a “007” feeling at times. Prepare to stay up all night reading.

Christmas is just another excuse to read a thrilling crime fiction novel, but who needs an excuse?

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0166HQUAE
#detectivestory #suspense #mystery


Spending Christmas with Cranky Uncle Fred ~ a lesson in patience and poise

Horse Drawn Sleigh

 

You know how it goes in families at Christmas. Last year everyone came to your house….all the aunts and uncles with their kids, and someone brought grandma. Well, this year it’s going to be at Cranky Uncle Fred’s house.

You can just hear your kids singing in the back seat as you drive through poorly plowed snow covered streets and across ribbons of icy roads: “Over the river and through the woods to Cranky Uncle Fred’s house we go. The horse know the way…”

The thought of how it will go once you get there is driving  you nuts. Sending up a prayer helps, but then your mind runs right over a cliff again. It’s not only Cranky Uncle Frank who has you worried. He’s actually the least of it. Your sister’s new husband drinks too much and you really don’t want your kids to see him drunk on Jesus’ birthday. And cousin Marcy has a real bad habit of talking in detail about her love life, which as far as you can tell has very little to do with love. Another thing you’re not thrilled about exposing your kids to. This brigs your unbridled mind to another musical reference, almost against your will…the infamous country western Christmas song by Robert Earl Keene, “Merry Christmas from the Family.”

After giving yourself yet another good talking to, you admit the only one you should have high expectations of is yourself. And it goes without saying, you should be all prayed up. If your family isn’t a Norman Rockwell portrait, don’t have your Christmas happiness depend upon them acting as if they are. Accept them with all their faults, and some of your kin might have many.

Focus on the people there you love to be with, and don’t put yourself down if you don’t love to be with all of them. Make sure you get lots of time with the people there who thrill you. If you know Aunt Edna’s  social, political, and theological views are going to drive you insane, try to direct conversation to something neutral. Have a mental list of topics all prepared. Praising how good the food is will make everyone who prepared a dish feel all warm and fuzzy inside and good feelings often can spread to others. Above all, avoid strife. Pull out the old stand-by, “Let’s agree to disagree.”

If someone at the table is trying to stick to their diet, encourage them to do so and praise them for their effort. Don’t pass the coconut cake, followed by the pecan pie past Cousin Latrice, who is diabetic.

Okay, so let’s talk about alcohol. Someone who drinks too much can not only wreck the entire family Christmas celebration, but can kill themselves and others if they drive. It does absolutely no good too confront the individual, calling him/her an alcoholic. This is Christmas with the family, not a therapeutic intervention. Even if it seems impolite or not your place, it is perfectly acceptable to remove the alcohol, even pour it down the drain if necessary. Do it as inconspicuously as possible, but it’s far better to get rid of the booze than to face a tragedy later. If this is a serous recurring problem with one family member, the other members of the family might decide to have an alcohol-free Christmas. It might be the best Christmas you’ve had in years.

Try to do your part in the family celebration. If tradition is important in your family, go with the flow. Relax, then relax some more. Look for the joy in the celebration. Find something to smile about, laugh about. Delight in the Children. Christmas is magical to them. Catch the feeling from them. And above all, remember the reason for the season, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Luke 2:9-11 King James Version (KJV)

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Nativity


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