I Need Jesus — Step 7

April 30, 2012

First, I apologize for my absence.  When “Deep in the Heart” went #1 on the Top 100 Paid list at Amazon, it took me completely by surprise.  I have been devoting time to sales and follow-ups.  Thank you to everyone who downloaded “Deep in the Heart.”  I sincerely hope you enjoy it!

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming. :)

I Need Jesus — Step 7

Reviewing what we’ve done so far so everyone remembers:

Reviewing and for those just joining us….

  • Step 1We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable
  • Step 2Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
  • Step 3Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
  • Step 4Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
  • Step 5Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
  • Step 6We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

Now we move to Step 7:

Step 7 – Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings

In my walk with God, I have come to realize that very often God has less interest in removing my shortcomings as He does in showing His power and love through my shortcomings.

I think that one of the ways we get tripped up in this life is that we start thinking in an all-or-nothing pattern.  In other words, “It’s either all-right, or it’s worthless.”  So I’m either perfect, or worthless, and there’s nothing in between.

In fact, some people will go so far as to quote the Bible to you trying to get you to fall into the perfection trap.  When God talks about “perfecting” what He has made–i.e. you, we in our worldly, small perspective think that means that God is eventually going to make us perfect.  In other words, He’s going to make US perfect, and by perfect, most of us think of a perfect “performance.”

So we look to God and ask Him to remove our shortcomings–those places that we are less than perfect.  Now in a way, I kind of understand this, but if you’re thinking that going through it, God is somehow going to magically make it so you don’t mess up anymore, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

For example, this morning my family was asked to take up gifts at church.  Now I have seen this done and even done it countless times.  It’s not too hard.  You get the gifts from the back, walk down the center aisle, give the gifts to the priest, bow, and walk back up the center aisle, and go to your place.

Simple. Right?

Yes.  Unless you’re Staci and you get so caught up in how nervous your child is that you don’t think the whole thing through.

So here’s what happened:  Son leads, then me, then my daughters, then my husband.  All is going according to plan.  We get to the front, give the gifts, bow, and then…

I don’t know why.  I really, honestly don’t.

Instead of turning around and going back up the aisle, I turned to the side and headed back to our seats!

I was literally halfway around the front before I thought about it.  I know everyone in church was going, “What are they doing?”

After getting back to our bench, I was like, “Why did I do that?  I know the right way is to go to the back.”  I just hadn’t thought the whole process through, and in my imperfection, I didn’t do it according to protocol.

What I’m saying is, you’re going to mess up.  I’m going to mess up.  I do mess up… REGULARLY!  Some times I spend whole days thinking all I did all day was mess up!

So I know that God is not in the business of removing my shortcomings.  BUT what Hehas taught me is being gracious and gentle with myself just as He is gentle and gracious with me.

In fact, right after church I went to teach Sunday School.  At the very end I always choose one student to lead us in the Our Father.  One student eagerly raised her hand, “I’ll do it!”  “Okay.”

And she proceeded very reverently as if all of Creation were smiling on her because she was leading the prayer.  “In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts…”

The first thing I noticed was that no one joined in with her.  Then I realized why.  That’s the Meal Blessing prayer!

Of course that probably means she and her family pray that one frequently, which is a good thing.  ;)  About that moment, she realized her mistake, stopped, and said, “Oh, no!  I mean, ‘Our Father…'”  This time everyone kind of laughed and joined in.  She put her face in her hands, embarrassed that everyone had seen her make such a public mistake.

When the prayer was over, I gave her a big hug and said, “I was wondering why I messed up so badly today in church.”  I told them all what had happened and laughed about it.  Then I told her, “Isn’t it great that God doesn’t require us to be perfect for Him to love us?”

It really is.

So maybe rather than asking for Him to “remove” our shortcomings, maybe we should pray for His grace and mercy to help us see that our shortcomings are really not the end of the world.  We all have them, and in accepting the love He gives us in spite of our mistakes, maybe we learn to be a bit more compassionate with others as well.

And that’s not such a bad step to take.

*~*

“A feel good read from start to finish!”

Cowboy

Amazon Top-Rated Christian Romance!

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#1 Amazon!

April 19, 2012

by: Staci Stallings

Well, the impossible has happened. “Deep in the Heart” has taken the #1 spot on Amazon’s Free Kindle page!

It is free again today, so please tell your friends and share with everyone you know…

FREE ON KINDLE TODAY ONLY!

April 19, Staci’s novel:

Deep in the Heart

Just out of college and completely alone in the world, Maggie Montgomery has one shot left to save her life from an abyss of poverty and hopelessness. Clinging to the last shred of fuel and hope, she arrives at the mansion of Texas billionaire Conrad Ayers. Although Maggie is clearly not what Mr. Ayers and his wife have in mind for a nanny, they agree to hire her temporarily until they can find someone more appropriate to fill the position. However, Maggie’s whole world is about to be up-ended by two way-over-scheduled children and one incredibly handsome hired hand. As she struggles to fit into a world she was never made to fit in, Maggie wonders if she can ever learn to become a perfect version of herself so she can keep the job, or is she doomed to always be searching for a life she can never quite grasp?

Keith Ayers despises his life. As the son of Texas billionaire Conrad Ayers and the fiance to a Senator from Texas’ daughter, it looks great on the outside, but inside, he is dying. He would vastly prefer to manage and train his father’s racehorses. However, everyone else thinks that is beneath him. He needs to get into industry and build on his father’s success. Suffocating under the constrictions of his life, he meets Maggie who begins to teach him that wealth and power is not everything in this life. But can Keith defy the most powerful men in Texas to follow his heart?

“This is more than a romance. The author cuts straight to the heart of God–love. God is love. Even through unexpected tragedies. And we can overcome evil with good–by His love.”

–Betty Anne Bantz

Click this link to get the FREE Kindle ebook:

http://www.amazon.com/Deep-in-the-Heart-ebook/dp/B005LVVIIG/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1334082457&sr=8-4


Special Announcement

April 17, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

I wanted to let everyone know that “Deep in the Heart” will be FREE for Kindle on April 18 & 19th!  Here’s more information about the book.  Please forward to all of your friends who might be interested!

Mark Your Calendars!

FREE ON KINDLE TWO DAYS ONLY!

April 18 & 19, Staci’s novel:

Deep in the Heart

Just out of college and completely alone in the world, Maggie Montgomery has one shot left to save her life from an abyss of poverty and hopelessness. Clinging to the last shred of fuel and hope, she arrives at the mansion of Texas billionaire Conrad Ayers. Although Maggie is clearly not what Mr. Ayers and his wife have in mind for a nanny, they agree to hire her temporarily until they can find someone more appropriate to fill the position. However, Maggie’s whole world is about to be up-ended by two way-over-scheduled children and one incredibly handsome hired hand. As she struggles to fit into a world she was never made to fit in, Maggie wonders if she can ever learn to become a perfect version of herself so she can keep the job, or is she doomed to always be searching for a life she can never quite grasp?

Keith Ayers despises his life. As the son of Texas billionaire Conrad Ayers and the fiance to a Senator from Texas’ daughter, it looks great on the outside, but inside, he is dying. He would vastly prefer to manage and train his father’s racehorses. However, everyone else thinks that is beneath him. He needs to get into industry and build on his father’s success. Suffocating under the constrictions of his life, he meets Maggie who begins to teach him that wealth and power is not everything in this life. But can Keith defy the most powerful men in Texas to follow his heart?

“This is more than a romance.  The author cuts straight to the heart of God–love.  God is love. Even through unexpected tragedies.  And we can overcome evil with good–by His love.”

–Betty Anne Bantz

Click this link to get the FREE Kindle ebook:

http://www.amazon.com/Deep-in-the-Heart-ebook/dp/B005LVVIIG/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1334082457&sr=8-4


I Need Jesus: Step 6

April 16, 2012

By:  Staci Stallings

Reviewing and for those just joining us….

  • Step 1We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable
  • Step 2Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
  • Step 3Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
  • Step 4Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
  • Step 5Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

Today we take the next step, Number 6:

  • Step 6We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

The other way to say this is “Complete surrender.”

We’ve realized we can’t do it, we need God’s help.  We’ve decided we believe in God and that only He can restore us.  We’ve decided to put God in control, searched our minds and hearts for where we’ve gone wrong and then admitted those wrongs.

However, until now all we’ve been doing is labeling what’s wrong, admitting that it’s wrong, yes, but mostly labeling.

Today it’s time to put the whole mess in God’s hands and surrender it.

The trouble with this one is we often believe that God expects righteousness prior to His willingness to step in and work.  He doesn’t.  In fact, only HE can make us righteous.  But we think that’s the way it should work, so we hold back, thinking we will work on ourselves until we at least clean up some of the mess.

It’s like me when I was early-on married.  I was not and am not a great housekeeper.  To me, other things are far more important… until that fateful day that my sister who at the time lived only 5 miles from me called.  She wanted to let me know that THREE of my great aunts were on their way to my house for a visit andthey just left!  I’m not even sure I hung up the phone.  The next 4 minutes and 52 seconds were a whirlwind of throwing things into the back closet and behind the couch (yes, I’m serious).  Who knows what I did with the dishes!

But I could not let them see the mess that was my house!

So many of us are like that with our spiritual houses.  We want to tidy up at least a bit before we invite God in.

It’s like Marianne Williamson says, (paraphrase), “I thought God would show up and redecorate a little.  Instead, He started knocking down whole walls!”

Let me assure you, God will not do a surface makeover and put new paint over dirty walls.  His goal is to build a mansion in you for HIM to live in–no minor redecorating will do!

I remember when I read “The Shack,” there was one part in it in which the Holy Spirit was going to help the guy replant his garden (in his mind and heart).  The first thing the Holy Spirit did was start pulling up the weeds and the briars and the brambles from the garden.  He even pulled up stuff that looked all right.  In short, He completely CLEARED the garden before He started replanting it.

So surrender is sometimes more arduous than it sounds.  God may require a complete gutting of the structure that was there.  He may decide to start over because you’ve been building your life with shoddy material and inferior supplies.

Also, this is a PROCESS.  No overnight and it’s done on this one.  In fact, I think for me I’ve found that this process is on-going.  About the time I learn to fully trust God and surrender to Him in this situation, another pops up that requires even deeper trust.  He asks me to give over to Him deeper parts of myself, deeper fears, guilts I thought no one knew about, prisons that I have tried to bury and forget about even for myself.

So as you do this step, please remember and hold onto that God knows what He’s doing, and He doesn’t ask for things to be removed that are not necessary to be removed.  He will prune from your life not just the dead branches or the sickly branches, but sometimes He will prune even the good branches, so that the GREAT branches will have the best chances to survive and thrive.  Trust Him.  He knows what He’s doing.

*~*~*

He’s just a simple maintenance guy.  What could he ever do for her?

A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

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Read the first chapter!


I Need Jesus: Step Five

April 12, 2012

By:  Staci Stallings

Here are the first 4 steps we’ve talked about so far:

  • Step 1We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable
  • Step 2Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
  • Step 3Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
  • Step 4Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

So we’ve acknowledged that we can’t do it, made peace with the fact that God is real and is the only One Who can restore our sanity, decided to give our life to God, begun the scary process of being completely honest with ourselves. … Now what?

Well, if you thought Step 4 was tough, let me introduce you to Step 5:

  • Step 5Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

In Step 5, we go beyond simply admitting our faults to ourselves and begin to be honest with God and others about what we’ve done.

I have now walked this path with several of my friends.  I have sat in a van in the middle of the night as a friend poured out what had happened in the past.  I have listened on the phone as another friend has wept over mistakes and events that scarred her to the core.

The thing about Step 5 is that this takes TWO people.  Up to now, you could do this program on your own, in your own heart between you and God.  So there was wiggle room.  Now, if you really take this step, the wiggle room is gone.  The other person can ask questions and afterward, someone else will know your deepest secrets.

So do choose the other person very wisely.  I’m convinced that this step is why there are so many counselors in society today.  We NEED someone to open up to.  In the past, that role has been filled by friends and family, but as families fracture and friends become temporary, we’ve lost being able to be honest with others.

I think that’s where a group like AA or its counterparts is also very valuable.  It gives you a place to be open in a (hopefully) non-judgmental forum. You might also choose a clergy-person to talk with.  I know at our church they have the Stephen Ministry which is a group of laypeople who agree to minister with the gift of simply listening to their care-receiver.  They have been trained so that the other person has someone they can unburden their spirit to.  This is quite like the camel through the eye of the needle–the needle being the entryway into the city.  To get a camel through the needle, one had to first unburden the camel of everything it was carrying.  Then the camel had to get on its knees to go through.

Unburdening oneself in a safe, supportive atmosphere is critical to healing.

If you are not part of AA (or other groups like it), seek out friends through Bible Studies or places of worship.  Chosen wisely, this kind of friend can make a huge difference in living versus existing.

*~*~*

He thought he had life all figured out,

then she showed up…

A Little Piece of Heaven

Buy on Amazon Kindle

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OR

Read the first chapter!


I Need Jesus: Step Four

April 9, 2012

By:  Staci Stallings

Quick recap.  We’ve now looked at the first three steps in the 12-Step Program which we are using to show how to move from self-dependence to God-dependence, which will lead to the “peace that passes all understanding.”  Here are the first three:

  • Step 1We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable (I can’t do this anymore)
  • Step 2Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity (God is real and He’s on my side)
  • Step 3 Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God (I surrender to God’s Will and I know that God only wants the best for me)

Today we move to Step 4:

  • Step 4Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

Here’s a simpler way to say this:  I finally decide to get honest.

Oh, this step is hard!  Hard. Hard. Hard.

Why?  Because it’s so much easier to bounce along through life lying to ourselves.  We don’t want to hurt, and so we think if we just don’t “go there,” we won’t.

Think about it.  In your life, is there something that is so painful, it’s just easier not to think about it?  How about in your spirit?  Are there places and things you have locked inside of yourself that you seriously hope no one ever finds out about?

Trust me, I know because I’ve been there, and on occasion, I go back for visits.

These are the prison cells of feeling insecure or inferior, feeling weak and scared, feeling tired and not good enough.  And we all have them.  We just choose to cover them with different things.  Some choose drugs or alcohol or sex or violence.  Others choose things that look really good on the outside like accomplishments and power and people pleasing and service.

The problem is if these good things are not an overflow of what God’s doing in your life, if rather, they are a desperate attempt to get others’ approval so you can feel better about yourself, you’re in serious trouble.

Being honest is not easy.  It will probably require some tears over what has happened in the past–things you’ve done and things that have been done to you.  It may require tears about the present–how things have not worked out the way you had hoped, wished, or expected.

And I guarantee there are going to be places in your heart and your spirit that you’re just not going to want to go.  But to really heal, you have to be willing to expose the whole wound. You can’t give the doctor the scratch on the surface and expect Him to heal the festering cancer underneath.

So today, breathe and decide that you will “go there,” whatever it takes.  Get out a pen and paper and write.  Sit still for awhile and let your heart open up and be honest about everything.

It’s tough.  I know, but it really is a giant step toward healing.

*~*~*

Jonathon Danforth has checked out of life. Stinging from an unimaginable loss, he has withdrawn from life, wanting only to live out his existence with as little interference as possible. However, when his sister talks him into auditing an English Literature class at the local community college, he reluctantly accepts the invitation to abandon his lonely apartment. Intent upon making an appearance for his sister’s sake and then disappearing for his own, Jonathon sulks into class. But when he meets Elizabeth Forester, the professor, Jonathon learns there is more to life and to love than he ever could have imagined.

Buy on Amazon Kindle

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OR

Read the first chapter!


Happy Easter!

April 8, 2012

In honor of Easter, here’s a little information about Hope coming to a town near you…  I HOPE everyone has a wonderful, Spirit-filled Easter!

What’s all the buzz about Hope Tour 2012?

The buzz is growing, isn’t it? I just read a Facebook status about us that said, “This small press is taking the world by storm. Check them out.” I love that!

As a child, teen, and then young adult, people would tell me I was a dreamer and some relatives would say in disgust, “you’re just like your daddy.” For many years, that hurt – I thought dreaming was a bad, bad thing, mostly because of those reactions. After my dad’s death, I gave up dreaming for awhile.

But my spiritual Daddy – Father God – had other plans, and lit a fire within me a few years ago that just keeps growing.

In December 2011, I encountered dozens of people whose eyes revealed a sad, surprising hopelessness. These folks were not the ones we would normally expect to be hopeless – they had good jobs, lived in nice homes, drove expensive cars, bought grocery carts full-to-overflowing with food. Yet, their eyes could not lie because deep within each of them, there was no joy, no hope.

It broke my heart.

I sought God, wanting to do something about it. Several projects arose, and that was a start, but then, suddenly, a dream sparked inside me. An idea for a something fun, something new, something unusual began to grow and the dream exploded into a huge project! Hope Tour 2012 was born. If we’re gonna dream, we might as well dream BIG, right?

Hope Tour 2012 is a book tour unlike any other. During the summer of 2012, we will go on a 15-state, 30-city, 7000-mile book tour over the course of approximately 80 days. We’ll promote our authors, but we’ll also promote other Christian and inspirational authors along our route, hosting fun events that will bring reader and writer together in unique and memorable ways that will hopefully put smiles on faces and hope in hearts.

To fund the tour, we set up a Kickstarter project and we’re giving away fun rewards and experiences in exchange for contributions. Check out all the fun stuff and learn more details about the entire project on our Kickstarter page.

Another element of the tour is the creation of a book called Best Bites on Tour. As we travel, we’ll visit diners, cafes, and restaurants recommended to us by our readers, in hopes that we’ll find plenty of “best bites” to share in the book! Visit our daily posts on the Write Integrity Press blog.

During the 30 days of the Kickstarter campaign, we’re asking readers and visitors to our sites to share their favorite authors, favorite restaurants, and favorite tour spots so that when we come to town, we’ll be ready to experience the best each place has to offer.

We can’t do this without your help though.

Come, dream with me, join all the fun, and help us spread a little hope!

Tracy Ruckman is owner and publisher of two independent publishing companies, Write Integrity Press and Pix-N-Pens Publishing. She lives in metro Atlanta, and in 2010, returned to school as a full-time college student. She’s already looking forward to graduation in 2014, when she will finally be able to breathe again.


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