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January 31, 2012

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Staci’s novel:

Coming Undone

“If you’ve ever searched for love, been afraid to love, or lost someone you love, you will love Coming Undone.”

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Bad Things Happen

January 30, 2012

By:  Staci Stallings

Last week I got two of “those” phone calls.  You know, the ones with not just bad news but REALLY BAD NEWS.  Both pieces of really bad news had happened to the loved ones of relatives, not to my immediate family, but both were so severe, I would think about the BAD NEWS every few minutes.

I remember when I was much younger, there was a book that came out called, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”  I never read the book, but I remember the title.  Because I never read it, I can’t tell you what conclusion the author came to.  But over the course of the last five years, here’s what I’ve learned… bad things happen to good people because bad things happen.

Bad things don’t single anyone out.  You could be the Pope and bad things would happen.

It has nothing to do with your goodness or your badness.  This life is simply not designed to be good to you and certainly not good all the time.  We get ill.  We have a minor fender-bender.  We have a bad hair day.  These are the little bad things that happen to all of us.

But the real truth is that the big bad things happen to all of us too.  And if they haven’t happened to you yet, say a prayer of thanks and then one of protection because they are surely coming.

Think about it.  If you know 100 people, what are the chances that when you die all of those 100 are still living?  What if you know 1,000 people?  10,000?

You might think 10,000 is out of the range of possibility, but they have calculated that the average person in the United States will know around 10,000 people in their lifetime.  That’s a lot of chances for something bad to happen!

I remember after my brother-in-law died, my nephew who had been through the death of two uncles said, “Why do these bad things only happen to us?”

They don’t.  Sadly, they don’t.

Bad things and sometimes really bad things happen in this life.  A major car wreck.  A sudden illness that sweeps in and takes a life.  A long illness that is battled sometimes for years before death arrives.  Fires.  Floods.  Hurricanes.  Tornadoes.

And none of us are immune from them.  I don’t care if you go to church every Sunday, sing in the choir, and bring casseroles to the sick.  Bad things are going to happen along the way.  Our good deeds do not give us a pass from bad things happening–anymore than they will get us into Heaven.

So, what then?  What’s the point of doing good, of staying with God, of being a good person?

It’s not to get you into some cosmic “good club” that keeps you from bad things happening.  The point is two-fold.  #1 We learn to cling evermore to God in times of tragedy and strife on this earth.  #2 We learn to bring His light into the darkness that is this world.

Think about it… if there was no darkness, what need would God have had to say, “Let there be light”?   Bad things are the darkness, and it’s still here.  And it still requires God to send the light–His light into it.  Thus, He sent us into the darkness to be His light.  That means we are going to encounter the darkness.

People who don’t understand God.  People who need God.  People who do not necessarily want the light anywhere around, and yes, times of great tragedy and sorrow.

Bad things happen.  When they do, God says once again through us, “Let there be Light.”


Coming Undone

Ben Warren has life all figured out. At 35, he’s successful in his work and free as a bird everywhere else. He has no desire to be tied down like some of his friends, and he sees no reason to change that. Then the unthinkable happens and causes him to rethink everything about everything.

Kathryn Walker can’t figure out what she’s doing wrong in the dating department. The rest of her life makes sense. She’s compassionate, strong, honest, hard-working and still alone. She wonders if she is doomed to spend forever single. Little does she know that fate is taking a major turn in her life. In fact, she doesn’t even see it happening until it has. Can she ever get past the fact that Mr. Right didn’t show up in the way she thought he would?

Click here to see Coming Undone on Kindle!

Testing Your Faith

January 26, 2012

By:  Staci Stallings

A long time ago I believed that God sent “tests” to “test our faith.”  As in, if you pass, you get in.  If you don’t, hello darkness and gnashing of teeth!

Then God showed me graciously that I was a bit off on that concept.  His greatest goal is for ALL of us to be with Him, and He’s not standing there with a stick ready to bop us on the head when we get it wrong.  Nor is He looking for a reason to keep us away from Him.  In fact, He knows we are going to mess up.  He knows we are weak and that we are prone to make mistakes.  So He gave us the Ten Commandments and said, “These are the guardrails.  If you go through the guardrails, you will get hurt, and I don’t want that.”

Last time we talked about having “Now faith”–the kind that you don’t hope to have someday, but that you have right NOW!

Well, here’s an interesting concept to attach to that–God does “test” our faith, but it’s not a pass/fail to see if we get in or not kind of test like I used to think.  That kind of test we are BOUND to fail.

In fact, I think it’s the concept of “failure” where we get hung up.

See, I always thought of failure as bad, negative, a huge black stain on my record.  It was something to be avoided at all costs!  And if it did happen, something to be covered up and buried lest anyone else ever see it.

But oh, my Father is so wise.  He doesn’t see failure like that at all.

Take, for example, a bridge-builder.  Now they actually have competitions like this for budding engineers.  In fact, my niece is going to take “Material Engineering” in college this semester.  I asked, “What is material engineering?”  She didn’t know exactly as it hasn’t started yet, so we asked her cousin.  “It’s learning what types of material to use in what you build.”

Okay. That makes sense even though I’ve never really thought about learning something like that.

So, what do you do in this class?  You use different types of material and strengths of material to build a bridge with your group.  It has to withstand a certain amount of weight.  So it’s a lot like those match-stick competitions where you see how much weight your bridge will hold.

You with me?  You know where this is headed?

Well, when you build these bridges for the class or the competition, you do a lot of testing prior to the competition.  After all, you don’t want your prototype bridge to fail with the weight of a marshmallow, right?  You want it to withstand a bucket of wet cement!

But how do you know if it will or not?  Simple.

You test it!

This type of test is different than the type you had in school (though it should actually be similar; however, in too many classrooms the “test” doesn’t determine where you still need work; it determines if you pass or fail the course!).  The idea of “testing” your bridge is that when you test it, you can see where the structure or material is weak and fix it or strengthen it.

Until the competition, you will run hundreds of tests–with different weights at different angles.  Every test gives you information.  Every piece of information tells you if your bridge is strong or weak and how to improve it.

When you first start, you get a lot of failures.  You find a lot of things that don’t work.  But then, as you learn, your bridge holds up more and more weight–it gets stronger and stronger.  Though even now, it will break at times.

In the Book of Job, God allows Job’s faith to be tested.  He allows Satan to do some pretty mean things to Job.  Why?  Because we don’t know how strong or weak our faith is until it’s tested!

This is not a bad or mean thing like I used to think.  It is actually very loving.  Just like a baby walking, we have to learn how to stand, how to take a step, how to balance–and yes, falling (failing) is a part of that process.

So when your faith is being “tested,” just know that God is giving you a chance to see your weak spots and with His help improve upon them so your faith is like a bridge that can span a waterway and stand–no matter what!


“A match made in Heaven!”


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Now Faith

January 23, 2012

By:  Staci Stallings

One of the cool things about being with the Lord and having friends there too is that you don’t have to ferret every lesson out on your own.  And some of the most profound lessons sometimes come during a simple conversation when friends just toss off something they have learned about God.

Now Faith is one of those lessons.

My daughter was on team for a recent retreat, and the Scripture verse was Hebrews 11:1.  It is interesting to me how, when a certain Scripture becomes important to you, you see it everywhere.  And she did.  It got to be hilarious all the way to their song playing on the radio as we drove home after it was over.

If you’re like I used to be, you may now know exactly what Hebrews 11:1 is, so I’ll help you out.

Now faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things not seen.

Get that?

FAITH is believing even when you don’t see it happening.  It is the EVIDENCE even before something has come to pass.

And that’s the way it’s written most of the time “Faith is…”

But wait.  That’s not what it says.  Go back for a moment:

Now faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things not seen.

Did you catch that?  It doesn’t say “faith.”  It says, “Now faith.”

As an English teacher I will tell you that something very important is missing if you are trying to express the word “Now” as a reference to a previous comment as in “Therefore”.  A comma is missing.  “Now, faith…”  as in “Now, having said what I just said, I’m going to tell you the next thing.”  I have looked in several translations and there is no comma there.  So that makes “Now” not an adverb but an adjective!

So what, you say.  Staci, that’s all just mumbo jumbo English stuff that no one cares about.  But is it?

“Now faith” as it is written is an expression of Now modifying or changing the word faith.  It’s not “Past faith…”  or “Future faith…”  It is “Now faith…”  In this present moment, right here, right NOW!

“Now faith” means you don’t have to wait for the faith to show up.  It’s here!  Now faith moves you to action because it is your evidence, it shows you that things are coming that you cannot see, but you believe and act as if they are here!

Do you have “Now faith”?  Do you have faith that expresses itself in moving forward even when you don’t see how it will work?  Do you have “Now faith” that give you hope and a future but expresses itself not “then” or “someday” but right NOW?

I challenge you to start using some “Now faith…” today.  This minute.  I truly can change everything about everything!


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The first Bible Study by Staci Stallings

Explore the first Beatitude and learn how life can go from miserable to magnificent!

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Getting Burned

January 20, 2012

By Guest Blogger, Lynette Sowell

Few things are worse than being betrayed or let down by someone we love. When they hold our hearts, we’re vulnerable. When they turn and walk away, the pain is almost physical. There aren’t many of us who’ve escaped this type of heart pain. We’ve been burned and might have a few scars to prove it.

The Bible talks about forgiveness. Even when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, forgiveness was one of the essentials that Jesus included. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” You can also substitute the word “debts” for trespasses. Either one works just fine. I think it’s ironic that although Jesus is fully aware of the pain we feel when we’ve been trespassed against, He tells us to pray and ask forgiveness in the same measure that we forgive. Ouch. Really? Quite often it’s easy for us to pray for mercy for ourselves while we ask judgment for someone else who’s hurt us. Maybe that’s why He emphasized our need to ask forgiveness first.

I know that I’ve prayed for certain people who’ve hurt me and crushed my heart in the past. It’s easy to speak the words because I “know” that forgiveness is a gift I must give them. I’ve heard the sayings, that unforgiveness hurts me than it hurts the offender, etc. However, the feelings are still there. How to deal with those, especially when being confronted with that person once again?

I’ve learned that forgiveness is a process that goes beyond my feelings. Once trust is broken, giving someone our trust again comes more slowly. Self-preservation is a very powerful force. “Burn me once, then stay away” is the easiest sentiment to hold. However, how do we know when it’s all right to trust again?

There’s an old song that has the phrase “use your head to guide your heart.” I think that’s a wise saying. I believe if we ask God for discernment that someone who once wronged us is trustworthy, He’ll give it to us. But we must be wise, and be cautious, and give it time.


Lynette Sowell is the award-winning author of five novels and six novellas for Barbour Publishing. When Lynette’s not writing, she divides her time between editing medical reports and chasing down news stories for the local newspaper. Lynette was born in Massachusetts, raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, but makes her home on the doorstep of the Texas hill country with her husband and a herd of cats who have them well-trained. She loves reading, cooking, watching movies, and is always up for a Texas road trip.

Waves of Life

January 19, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

I’ve been doing a lot of marketing and thinking about marketing recently, and I stumbled upon a concept that I think translates well in the spiritual and practical life as well.  The concept came from watching “Soul Surfer.”  If you’re not familiar with that movie, it’s the story of the surfer girl who got her arm bitten off in a shark attack.  The story and how she handles the tragedy in her life are inspirational.  But what I was really fascinated by was the surfing.

I can’t imagine doing that.  First off, I would surely drown, but more than that having the balance and strength to ride the waves is unfathomable to me.  In fact, there’s a very short scene in which she is learning to stand on her board after the attack.  She does a sit up and comes all the way to standing.  As someone who could hardly get her shoulders off the ground, that was insane!

As I thought about the movie, I realized a great truth of life.  You cannot ride the waves if you aren’t willing to do some paddling first.  I noticed that a “ride” came in four parts:  paddling, waiting, riding, ending.

First comes the paddling.  You cannot ride the waves if you’re on the shore.  In fact, you can’t even ride the waves if you’re very close to the shore.  In order to catch the waves, you have to be willing to paddle and sometimes paddle a lot.  In life this is called “work.”  The more willing to do the work you are, the more waves you will be able to catch.  In school, this would be called studying.  In life it would be called work.  In money it would be earning and saving and investing.

You don’t become a millionaire by sitting at home.  You don’t get on the A-Honor Roll by taking easy classes and turning in halfway done work late.  It doesn’t work like that.

You have to be willing to do some paddling.

Once you’ve paddled, however, there comes a time when you get to wait.  This is hard because it seems like once you’ve paddled, what you’re working for should happen overnight.  When it doesn’t, I think we get discouraged.  In fact, this is part of where I came up with this lesson.  I had ridden a wave and it was great fun.  But afterward, I realized to catch another wave I would have to paddle again.  And that was a real let-down.  Then I did paddle only to find myself waiting for the next wave.  If you’re not careful, this part of the phase can take you out altogether. Why?

Because waiting is hard.

I’ve been waiting for God to do something awesome with my writing for 16 years.  Every so often it looked like the wave was here, and I would ride it.  But most of them were small waves at most.  Then I’d start all back over, and it was frustrating.

Now, however, I am beginning to see why God had me wait and how the wave He had in mind for me was perfect.

Once that wave shows up in your life, you have to get on it and ride it to the best of your ability.  After watching Soul Surfer, I went on the ‘net and watched other surfers.  They are AMAZING!  Riding waves that are 90-feet?!  Awesome!

Riding the waves requires balance, strength, and a lot of practice.  I wouldn’t recommend trying a 90’ wave on your first time out.  And the same is true in the spiritual world.  Ride the small waves first.  Practice and get good at those.  The bigger waves will come, and if you’ve been practicing, you’ll be ready.

Finally, and this phase is just as frustrating as the waiting phase, the wave dumps you off back at the shore.  Sure it was fun, but now you have to paddle again and wait again.  And if you’re not careful, it’s easy to quit right here.  But don’t quit.  The waves are worth it.

So get your paddle on and go find another wave… life is out there waiting!


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Watching God Work

January 16, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

Sometimes a little distance from an event can give you great clarity on just how God works in this world.  I’ve found that when He’s working in my life and His work is really visible, it’s hard to pull apart all He’s doing because I’m in the middle of it.  It’s kind of like how on, you can pull way out and see most of the world.  Then you keep hitting + and you get closer and closer in to the map until you can see all the street names.  The problem is sometimes the actual area doesn’t really look like it does on the map.

Okay, so there’s a curve there, but you weren’t expecting trees or that hill that obscure your view, nor were you picturing that there would be no sign to the turn you’re supposed to take.

It’s the same way when you’re in the middle of a situation.  You are bombarded with things so close and coming at you so quickly that really, you’re just living, not analyzing.  When, however, you have a bit of distance from a situation, you can often marvel at how God works.

For example, I’ve recently connected with a writer’s group that is going gang-busters.  We help each other out in the rough and tumble world of social networking.  The neatest thing is getting to watch God work–through them, with them, in them, and with each other.  Three times now we have had a book/author who for one reason or another starts climbing the charts.  That’s the cue to go from passive help to active help–getting the word out to as many people as we can as quickly as possible.

But the thing I’ve marveled at the most is simply watching God at work.

I have so enjoyed seeing Him work in how the other authors rally together, in how creative they can be in coming up with ways to help, and in the encouragement they give to one another.  I have also enjoyed watching the astonishment of the authors that others rally around.  They are often quite literally floored that others would be so generous with their time, talents, and resources to help them out even though they will not see a nickel for their efforts.

In fact, it’s almost a glimpse, I think of what Heaven will be like.  Doing things out of love only, not for the gain that will come to us if we do.  Helping out of our fullness not out of our need. That’s so cool.

I love watching God in each of them too.  They are helpful, yes.  But they are fun and joyful.  They know how to lift each other up–through prayer, yes–but also through just being wonderful to each other.  I love watching that example played out over and over again.

The other night, one member posted something about NOT checking sales numbers on Sunday.  (You can get obsessed with checking. 😉  Well, another member happened to see that post and hadn’t checked in awhile so she went and checked.  Come to find out her book was rapidly climbing the charts that minute!  (And she never would have thought to check without the first post!)

She came on and was all excited about her book selling so well.  Instantly about six of us jumped on the band wagon and started tweeting and Facebooking about her book, and sure enough it climbed nearly 4,000 more spots!  Now on her own, even if she saw the climb, she couldn’t have done much.  A few tweets, a Facebook Message.  But with all of us right there, ready to help, many more people now have a great book about God’s love for them.

This is not a perfect system, nor is it science.  We do what we can, following and doing what God leads us to do when He tells us to.  But it is one of the honors of my life just to get to watch Him work through this group.  He really is an AWESOME God!


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