Monday, December 31, 2012

Work In Progress

I have been asked to be a part of a blog chain called "The Next Big Thing." For this blog chain, we talk about our latest Works In Progress. Besides my blog, I am also working on a book. Here's some information about it and links to the person who invited me to this chain and also to five other people whom I'm inviting to be a part of the blog chain. Thanks for checking this out!
Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:
What is your working title of your book? Behind the Stage

Where did the idea come from for the book? From some things my pastor said about life as a pastor

What genre does your book fall under? Christian contemporary fiction

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Patrick Dempsey as the main character Josh Allen and Elizabeth Banks as his wife Leah.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Behind the Stage delves into the psyche of a popular minister as he combats attacks on his simple life of helping others.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Self-published

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? A year and a half

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I don’t know of any.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? I was inspired by my pastor and by the hope that it might help people with the issues it explores.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? This is a look at what happens behind the scenes in a popular minister’s life as he helps people deal with sex addiction, age discrimination and mental illness.
Thank you, Angela Yuriko Smith, for inviting me to be a part of this blog chain. You must check out her blog Dandilyon Fluff!
I'm inviting the following wonderful ladies to join the chain:
Aimee Jones of The Plain Wife Blog
Suzanne Stock of Spoonfuls of Grace
Connie Mann of Busy Women, Big Dreams
Gail Gaymer Martin has two blogs, one on writing and one on cooking
Julie Cosgrove of Where did you find God today?
God Bless, everyone!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Soul Searching

My mother in law made a comment a few weeks ago that struck me. She knows I volunteer for the American Cancer Society. Many times she has said she hears about so many more people who have cancer now than when she was growing up. She said that back then everyone talked about the March of Dimes.

Now I know the name the March of Dimes and I know it has to do with children. But what I didn’t know was that the March of Dimes has been around for 75 years, was started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to fight polio and has had famous supporters like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

Cancer may be the disease many people are concerned with today, but healthy babies are always a concern and that’s why the March of Dimes changed its focus to preventing birth defects and infant mortality after the polio vaccine was developed.

I have to be honest, the March of Dimes is not the best organization for keeping administrative and fundraising costs down. According to Charity Navigator (CN), a quarter of every dollar it spends goes to fundraising and another eleven percent goes to administrative expenses. CN gives the organization two out of four stars.

So, should you give your money to the March of Dimes? It’s a personal decision. Right now it’s getting donations matched so every dollar you contribute is doubled. It’s also going to get $10,000 extra dollars from Famous Footwear if it breaks the record for most e-cards made.

The March of Dimes has done a lot of good in the last 75 years, but this brings up the issue of what you look for in a charity. Do you think it’s OK for a charity to spend more than a third of its money of things other than its mission? Or is that sometimes necessary, especially in today’s economy?

If you believe in the mission, it may be worth it to you to give, despite these facts. Today, I’d like you to think about that. What issues are you most in tune with? What strikes you as something you want to support?

Disaster relief? Feeding hungry people? Educating the poor? Women’s rights? Environmental issues? Animal care? A particular disease like Alzheimer’s, cancer or muscular dystrophy?

Next week I’ll be giving you a list of ways you can impact the world but the question usually ends with what charity you want to benefit. That’s up to you. In the new year, if you want to make a difference, you can. Some people say it’s better to support just one or two causes so that what you do really adds up, rather than scattering support among many causes.

I’ve never really held that belief before. I believe that every little bit you give or do counts. But you do have to choose where your dollar or your time goes. I feel the tug of wanting to help so many organizations but I can’t help them all. Now, at the end of the year, maybe you should do a little soul searching and decide where you want to help. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

What Does Giving Biblically Look Like?

Five more kids will have presents from their fathers in prison this year because of the Angel Tree program and the ladies of my bible study. I called some local churches and one of them said they’d look into doing Angel Tree next year, too.  I know it’s not much but it’s something those five kids will not soon forget.

Today I’m going over to my local food bank to drop off food from my hurricane closet. Hurricane season ends when November does so I cleaned out my closet and had a bunch of canned soup, ravioli and veggies to donate. I put a note on my Facebook page so my friends can give me items to donate, too.

Last year we had a food drive at my birthday party in lieu of gifts so we were able to bring a nice box of items. When I called the food bank, they were eager to get the food with so many people stopping by right now needing it. We already sent a bag of Christmas food and money for a turkey through our church.

I can’t help it. I keep hearing on the radio about the one in four children who go to bed hungry and start crying. Of course, it doesn’t help that so many children died at Sandy Hook Elementary. I feel on the edge of tears because of that happening as well.

We sent a $100 to our child in Niger so his family can get something they really need. Later a boy came to our door asking for money to send magazine subscriptions to kids in hospitals. It also helps him earn money for college. We gave him $75, too.

It’s only four more days until Christmas and I’m wondering what giving means to you. Compassion has asked what giving biblically looks like in today’s culture. I’ve given some examples of how we’re giving and want to know how you are.

Christmas is a great season to spend time with family and friends. It’s nice to get little presents and reminders of love from each other. We also know it is a celebration of the greatest gift—Jesus.

So what does giving look like to you? I usually give some gifts from charitable organizations as Christmas presents. I did a list of last minute gifts from them last week. Our child Abdou in Niger should be getting one this year from us.

Compassion offers a great Christmas Gift Catalog where you can help people not just for a day but for weeks to come. You can give gifts like water, medical care, disaster relief, or education. Consider if God is asking you to help others this year in a way that may be new to you through Compassion. Here is the link

Thank you, God, for giving us so many gifts this year! Merry Christmas, everyone.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Top 11 Last Minute Gifts

Top 11 Last Minute Charitable Christmas Gifts

Christmas is getting closer but it's not too late to do something to make a difference this holiday. The unique items below can be given with the best intentions—to help others. There’s still time to get a notification card sent to the recipient but even if you wait, you can send the notice of the present by email or in many cases, you can print out your own card to hand to your friend or family member. 

1.       Alternative Gifts International - $11 pays for a share of a yak for orphaned and destitute children in the Tibetan regions of remote western China.

2.      Spend $25 or more to free forced labor slaves with International Justice Mission.

3.      A llama from Heifer International - A share is $20 while a whole llama is $150. Heifer provides all kinds of animals from chicks to water buffalo to families that can use them to generate income and useful resources for the family.

4.      A chicken from Mercy Corps International - for $35, it provides eggs and future hatchlings as well.

5.      School supplies from Oxfam American Unwrapped - for $25 you can provide School supplies like rulers, notebooks, erasers, pencils, and pens that mean that a child will have the necessary tools for class.

6.      Mosquito Nets for a family from Plan International - for $50 you can save a family of seven from mosquito-transmitted malaria, the number one killer of children under five all over Africa.

7.      Shelter in refugee camps from International Rescue Committee - $54 provide sets of rope and durable plastic sheeting to help four families construct temporary shelters in refugee camps, keeping them safe from the elements.

8.     Books for children from Trees for Life International - from $5 to $100 you can provide 1 to 20 books for children in their native language.

9.      Small business loan from World Vision International - for $100 you can help an impoverished woman start or expand her business so she can feed, clothe and educate her children. The loans are repaid and then used to provide new loans to others.

10.  Give food for a year to a child so he or she can stay in school for $50 through World Food Programme.

11.   Good Card (any amount) - If you can't decide what to get, then let the recipient decide. You pay for the value on the card and the recipient chooses a charity to which it will be donated.

Happy last minute shopping!


Friday, December 7, 2012

Angels In Our Midst

Have you ever thought of yourself as an angel? Angels are messengers from God who sometimes intercede for Him.

One Christmas I was such a messenger. It began one night after work when we got a list of children. We drove to where each one lived and delivered something very special.
You see it was Christmastime and these children were without their parents. Either one or more of their parents was in prison.

We had bought presents for one little girl ourselves and got to deliver them, too.  We drove to a dilapidated, dirty, old apartment complex where our brightly wrapped presents seemed out of place. We knocked at the dark brown door and an older woman opened it. She asked us to come in and inside was a girl about six years old sitting on the floor in her pajamas.
Her eyes lit up when she saw what we had for her. Her grandmother, for that was who answered the door, told us to come in. So, we chatted for a little bit about the weather and Christmas while the girl’s eyes were only on the presents. Soon we had to go, for we had run out of things to say after they had thanked us for the gifts.

I call myself an angel for doing these things not because I am a real angel, but because the program we were working for is called Angel Tree.
It’s an important program because one third of all prisoners is a parent while 75 percent of women in prison are mothers. That means more than 1.7 million children will spend Christmas separated from their mom or dad.

Right now, Angel Tree has a matching grant so that every dollar you donate is matched so that two children benefit instead of just one. This is Angel Tree’s thirtieth year helping spread joy and the gospel of Christ.
There are still lots of children who are unsponsored and the need for churches to be a part of Angel Tree is great. I was saddened to see that the county with the third most children still unassigned is Escambia County, Florida, where I grew up. You can check if other counties with unassigned children are near you at this website. The top two counties are in Texas.

I called Angel Tree to find out what is the best way to help at this late date but I wasn’t able to get through. I hope there is something I can do. It just breaks my heart to hear that 729 kids are not sponsored in the county where I grew up. Those of you from Pensacola who feel the tug of God on their hearts, send me an email and we’ll see what we can do!