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We Have a Winner

I found out today that the winner of the gift basket from Cec Murphey's publicist came from my blog.

Cec Murphey's

When God Turns Off the Lights Blog Tour Gift Basket.

On October 22, all bloggers who featured Cec's book on tour this month drew one name from those who commented on their blog posts and entered that name into the grand drawing. And the winner is: Stephanie Shott who commented on one of my blog posts. Yay!

I was so thrilled that it was one of my readers! Enjoy the goodies Stephanie.

You have just 4 days to post a comment on any of my October blog posts to be entered into my monthly book drawing. This month's winner receives a free copy of Letitia Suk's "Rhythms of Renewal". How to comment

I'll announce the winner on the blog so check back to see if your name was drawn.

Everyday Life- Includes H1N1

My goal on Faith Creativity Life is to talk about the things that affect us in all areas of life. One of my "dots" is my bachelor of science in nursing, so sometimes I put on my nurse hat. I care about health issues and how they affect the people around me. Since this is one of those everyday life dots that affects so many of us right now, I wanted to pass along to you a note that I wrote this week for my facebook friends. It deviates from my usual posts, but right now, this message matters more than anything as H1N1 numbers rise every day in our own communities.

One Side of the Debate: Please Consider Vaccination

I've heard many warnings about the H1N1 Influenza vaccine lately and the R.N. in me needed to know if the facts I'm getting in my inbox are all true. I'm getting message that concern me. Folks, you have to do the research on this. The data is out there. To save you some time, I'll give you a few links if you're uncertain about what your family should do, but then you need to research it for yourself and be informed. If you're anti-vaccine, please hear me out and do the research to be sure you understand it all.

I'm getting e-mails that say the campaign to get people to take the vaccine for H1N1 is based on hype and scare tactics. Please, think about statistics before believing that. I'm getting more fear messages from those who don't believe in vaccines than I am from the CDC. The CDC isn't getting a thrill from scaring people. They want to save lives. Doctors and nurses want to save lives! Really, they do.

Why is this flu different from others? It's affecting a different demographic--the young and healthy. In the normal flu season, we're more concerned about the elderly and the immune compromised. This flu is taking the lives of healthy children too. A doctor friend commented on my post today and her comments confirmed what I saw on the news tonight. Some healthy kids have needed ventilators during their recovery from H1N1.

So, if you'll bear with me for a few minutes, let's answer some questions about the vaccine.

1. Is it safe?

I've scoured the web and cannot find evidence that the vaccine is deadly. Here's a report that quotes the CDC. In this report, as of last week, only one person has had a severe reaction that led to death. This reaction was later determined to be related to prior health concerns.

On the other hand, as of this week, the CDC reports that 5000 people have died of the virus or complications from it and over 400,000 have become ill. Those are just the cases that are reported to the WHO. Here is this week's World Health Organization report on the virus.

When we weigh out the minimal numbers of people who have had any sort of severity in a reaction to the vaccine to the number who are seriously ill or who have died, how can the risk of getting vaccinated outweigh the risk of getting sick?

2. What about the supposed mercury in the vaccine?

These concerns come from the ingredient Thimerosol which is in the injection form but not in the nasal form of the vaccine. Thimerosol contains trace amounts of mercury. So trace in fact that it can be declared mercury free. Here is a detailed report about Thimerosol.

I researched the amounts in the vaccine and there is more mercury in one serving of "safe" tuna fish. In fact, there is twice as much mercury in regular tuna than in the vaccine. See this fish report.

Some of the single doses that they are administering have NO Thimerosol in them and thus no trace mercury. Reports of dangerous levels of mercury in the vaccine are meant to inflame panic and are distorted to promote fear.

3. How does this vaccine differ from regular flu vaccine? And why can't it be given in one shot?

It could be given in one vaccine, except that the flu vaccines were already being made when the H1N1 problem came up. So a second vaccine had to be made. The vaccine is manufactured the same way as regular flu vaccine and is just as safe. The only difference is that in contains the H1N1 strain of the virus. The CDC has extensive information on this.

Also note, the nasal vaccine has a weakened live virus and the shot has an inactive form of the virus.

4. I've heard of people getting sick after the vaccine. Why should I get it then?

If you get full blown influenza right after the vaccine, it is likely you were already exposed to it before you received your shot. It takes 2 weeks before you are protected after receiving the shot. If you get sick in the meantime, you'll need to see your doctor for ways to lessen the effects of the virus just as if you weren't immunized.

If you get some mild flu-like symptoms, this is a rare, but normal side effect. Remember it's way better than getting the real thing. I've had influenza twice and as a healthy person, I was miserable! It's not an easy illness.

5. Should I get immunized?

That's up to you to decided for yourself and your children. Study the CDC website and look for answers to your questions. Talk with your physician, especially if someone in your family is high risk due to chronic problems. I'm choosing to have my kids vaccinated when they administer it at school. My husband and I fall in the lowest risk category, so we'll pass on getting the vaccine until those who are at high risk have all had a chance to receive their vaccine.

Weigh it out. Think it out. Consider what I've said and study it for validity. Study the other things you've heard. Then make your choice based on being fully informed of all sides of the issue.

Thanks for listening. And be healthy.

Michelle Rayburn, R.N.


Making Time to Remember

Making Time to Remember

I remember fondly the days when my grandmother would let us set up elaborate tent kingdoms in her living room using card tables, chairs, and every quilt we could find. Then she’d get down on her hands and knees and play in our blanket houses with us. Sometimes, she’d take us camping for real in a little pop-up tent trailer and she’d sleep on a miserable lawn recliner in the middle of the camper while the cousins and I shared the beds. I have pictures of my grandmother riding my bike and sitting on my brother’s motorcycle. But now, she’d say those are the things she “usta-could” do. As she approaches ninety, life is different.

Last month, after 65 years of sharing the same roof with Grandpa, they slept on opposite sides of town. It wasn’t by choice. Grandma needs more skilled care than the family can offer right now, so she’s had to move to the Christian Care Center across town. My husband’s grandparents moved into an assisted living center just weeks ago too. And my other grandparents are nearing this season of life as well.

It would be easy to be drawn into my own hurricane of busyness without thinking about my aging loved ones. But as I watched the autumn leaves swirl in my front yard this week, nostalgia brought me back thirty years to another autumn when we moved away from my grandparents’ hometown. Grandma started a little game with my siblings and me. When a visit ended and we climbed in the Volkswagen for the trip back up North, we’d try to touch her last before she could touch us last. If we could yell “touched you last” and slam the car door fast enough after touching her, we’d win. The giggles erased the sadness of saying goodbye and made it something fun instead. As she aged, Grandma couldn’t chase as fast, and sometimes she’d try to get us with her cane instead of her hand. We usually won. Now, I often let her win, but we still play the game.

I may touch her last with my hand, but she has touched me last with her life. So, as the leaves swirled and the memories floated around me, I picked up a pen and rummaged for stationery. In these days when most of my communication takes place with a mouse and a keyboard, I wrote a real letter to my grandpa and grandma and wondered why I so seldom write to them. After I signed the letter, I inked my finger and placed a print on the paper. Next to it, I wrote, “Touched you last.”

David, the Psalmist wrote, “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come” (Psalm 71:17-18). Grandparents have so much to teach us, so many stories about God’s faithfulness, but so often they’re forgotten amid our busyness. I realize that many of my readers don’t have grandparents anymore, but when we look around us, there is no shortage of wise elderly people.

Notice how David asks God not to forsake him. There is a loneliness that accompanies growing old, a sense that the world has moved on, that it has abandoned those who no longer actively participate in the community. David reminds us of the need to be remembered in our old age, as well as the need to tell about God’s power and might. It’s a two-way street. The elderly need to be remembered and honored, and the young need to hear what their predecessors have learned along the way so that they can carry on in faith.

This month, I urge you to remember those who are in their autumn of life. Make time for a phone call, a letter, a visit to someone who would be honored by your attention. And now, I have another letter to write, to my other grandpa and grandma.

Article reprinted from my "Habits for Quality Living" column in the October 2009 issue of Wisconsin Christian News


Book Review - The Y Factor

Liam Roberts - New Author With Promise

A few weeks ago, I received an offer to review a debut novel from an unknown author. This was the teaser I received:
Medical AND political thriller? You bet! Liam Roberts is a debut novelist with characters who are bent on unraveling the genetic code...and applying it to the simmering situation between Christians and Muslims.

When your sons are engaged in the very real war in the Middle East and they tell you to keep a low profile, slapping your true name on the cover of a novel about Middle Eastern tensions
isn't the smartest course to take. But what is a writer to do when he has a story that must be told? An idea that refuses to die, that will engage readers and do what great stories do...make them re-visit their opinions?

You invent a pen
name. Something like, oh, Liam Roberts.

Roberts knows the technology and unrest of which he writes. A computer whiz by day, he has close family members fighting in the very region in which his story is set. His love of technology led to the question: what if technology allowed us to know something that would significantly impact the situation in the Middle East?
I was intrigued, so I requested the free review copy of The Y Factor. I admit however, that I was skeptical. I figured Roberts would have a difficult time equaling well-known authors of thrillers. He's an unknown, writing under a pseudonym, published by a publisher I'd never heard of. But, within the first couple of chapters, I was hooked.

My Review

What if you got an e-mail from a friend that sends a chill of fear up your spine? What if you thought that friend was in grave danger, the kind only terrorists can create? What if you hadn't heard from that friend in weeks? Rumor has it, he's vanished. In The Y Factor, computer scientist Eric Colburn receives just that sort of message. Fearing what may have happened to his friend Hamdi, who has been working on an international genetics project in Cairo, Colburn and his girlfriend Alana, another mutual friend of Hamdi, decide to put their skills to work the genetics research company.

What follows is a mind-blowing series of events that kept me turning pages late into the night. From the moment the drama unfolds, Colburn, Alana, and another co-worker named Joey demonstrate the reality of living in mortal fear. The book gives the reader a glimpse into the world of al Qaeda and the violence that is a way of life in some countries. I'm not sure what the actions of al Qaeda are really like, because I have no connections to the middle east. However, 9/11 stands as evidence of the brutality that simmers in the hearts of some men. Liam Roberts has captured this well in The Y Factor. I left me feeling like I ought to be watching over my shoulder.

This book is well written. Roberts' style reminded me a lot of Ted Dekker especially in Dekker's Blessed Child. I seriously wondered part of the way through if Dekker was writing under a pseudonym. The medical aspects of the story reminded me of Randy Ingermanson's Oxygen.

The violence in the book is handled tastefully, a
nd there are so many examples of good Christian conduct in the business world in the book. So at first, I was thinking it would be a great read for teens and adults alike. But there is just one part I wish could have been avoided. Like a fabulous movie with one objectionable scene that could have been left out, there was one scene in the book when Alana is held in captivity that pushed the book off my list of recommendations for teens. Assault is reality, I know and it wasn't a rape. But either way I suggest parents use their judgment. The scene disappoints me only because the rest of the book is such an example of morality and good conduct despite the violent reality. Eric and his girlfriend agree not to be intimate until marriage and that's a great message for young people. Plus, the gospel is woven throughout the entire story line without it being preachy. That's an accomplishment for a writer.

I highly recommend this book to readers, both male and female, and I'm looking forward to other books by Roberts. Y factor should stand for yes factor in my opinion.

You'll find Liam Roberts on the web at his blog


What are your dots?

I've thought a lot this week about connecting dots. I love helping people see how their creative side, their plain old everyday life stuff, and their faith are all a part of one big picture, instead of a bunch of separate little pictures. I also enjoy how these things intersect in my own life. When I speak for women, I draw from my crafting and decorating hobbies for illustrations of God's love and provision for us. Often, when I teach on decorating with recycled objects and flea market finds, I also teach people how God can take our trash, our stress and painful experiences, and turn them into something worth treasuring. A few weeks ago, as I was prepping for one of these seminars, I decided to start a new blog for trash to treasure decorating. I had thought it would be a perfect extension of my speaking and I have had fun going around my house taking pictures of my decorations to upload to the site.

This week, after getting just a few hits per day since it started, my blog activity suddenly increased when another blog found the site and linked to one of my posts. I found links on Twitter that day to that post too. Ironically, it happened on the same day that I saw the movie "Julie and Julia." Why is it ironic? In the movie,which is based on a true story, Julie Powell starts a blog and when her readership, which is usually her mother and her best friend, expands and someone she has never met comments on her blog, she high-fives her co-worker and does a happy dance. Eventually, a lot more people discover her blog and soon she has interviewers calling as well as book editors with offers.

I'm not saying that's what is going to happen with my website (not that I would object either), but the movie lit a spark of hope in me as I considered the idea that God might have more in mind for my dots than I could ever imagine. Sometimes I push my hobbies and interests, my faith and my church activity, my housework and my writing all back into their little corners, ignoring the way God has woven them all together. And sometimes I cram everything into confining parameters, ignoring the reality that God has no limits.

I'm not sure what will happen with the site, but it was fun seeing the spike in interest. Maybe it's just a fun little side trip. Maybe it's a link to an even bigger plan. In the meantime, I'm delighting in the joy I've found in this reminder that God has a picture for my dots.

What are your dots? What hobbies do you have? What are your dreams? Share your comments on how you have seen God make connections between your faith, creativity, and everyday life.


This post is linked to The Inspired Room for the Friday Link Party.  


A Slow Burn - Book Review and Author Interview

Meet Mary DeMuth

I met Mary DeMuth at a writers conference this year when she was the keynote speaker and seminar leader. Mary is an influencer in the writing community and she's earned that status with her own fiction and nonfiction writing, her speaking, her generous mentoring of new writers, and her writing resources. I received an advanced reading copy of "A Slow Burn" from Mary's publisher and it was the first of Mary's novels that I've read.

Who i
s Mary DeMuth? An accomplished writer, Mary’s parenting books include Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture, Building the Christian Family You Never Had, and Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God. Her real-to-life novels inspire people to turn trials into triumphs: Watching the Tree Limbs (2007 Christy Award finalist, ACFW Book of the Year 2nd Place) and Wishing on Dandelions (2007 Retailer’s Choice Award finalist). Find out more at

Interview with Mary

Where did you get the idea for the book?
I wrote the series of stories based on hearing friends of mine talk about their Christian homes that appeared great on the outside, only to hide abuse on the inside. This really bothered me. Daisy became the inciting incident to explore three people’s stories relating to authenticity and hiding. In book one, Daisy Chain, I explore a teenage boy’s perspective to a family in crisis. In book two, A Slow Burn, I examine what would it be like to have deep, deep mommy regrets enough to want to be free from them. In book three, Life in Defiance, I tell the conclusion of the story through a battered wife’s perspective.

I am not a teenage boy. Nor am I a neglectful mother. And I’m not a battered wife. But I’ve interacted with folks who are. It’s for them that I wrote these stories.

What are the major themes of the book?
You’re never too far from God’s grace and love and forgiveness. That God is a pursuing, redemptive, relentless God. He loves His children, even when they run far, far away. That Jesus comes to us in surprising packages, and sometimes we’re so bothered by appearances that we miss Him.

What kind of research did you have to do for the book?
I had to figure out how a drug addict acted and thought. I had to research what drugs do to a person, particularly the lure and the trips they take folks on. I had to get into the mind of a drug addict, which wasn’t easy for me, someone who is terrified of drugs. I created Defiance from my head and my two-year stint in East Texas.

With which character do you, personally, identify most and why?
That’s really hard. I see myself in all of them. When I feel guilty about my parenting, I relate to Emory. When I feel like an outcast, trying to do the right thing, I understand Hixon and Muriel better.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
That God is bigger than our sin, our regret, our hopelessness. He takes delight in intersecting the darkest of circumstances. He is there, available.

Book Review of A Slow Burn

Review by Michelle Rayburn

This is the first book by Mary DeMuth that I’ve read and I’m sorry I haven’t read one sooner. Her style is different from some of the syrupy sweet stories that I’ve grown tired of. She has a way of crafting words into pictures that resonate in my mind and draw me deeper into the story. She comes up with unique ways to express things like, “The porch had an incline a marble would love.”

DeMuth doesn’t wrap things up in shiny little packages that look nothing like reality. Instead, she presents a realistic story with plot lines that look more like the way things happen in our own lives and in the lives of our neighbors, grit and all. Her writing reveals a deep understanding of the shame of a secret.

A Slow Burn is the story of a woman who needs grace but can’t seem to accept it when it’s offered. Emory Chance lives in a swarm of regret that has consumed her. Her daughter has been murdered and a she has left are questions. In Emory’s story, DeMuth gives a voice to the power of forgiveness, and she doesn’t paste Jesus on at the end or stick him in a token chapter. Instead, she weaves the love of Christ throughout the book in the form of a man named Hixon.

Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down, but at first I was a little bit disappointed with the ending. Without spoiling the story for the reader, I’ll go as far as saying that I longed for more closure. It’s the 2nd in a 3-part series, so I’m sure there’s more to come. There were other elements that I didn’t like about the end. Mostly because I’m too used to “they lived happily ever after” endings. But the more I think about it, the more beauty I see in this ending, the beauty of deliverance.

A Slow Burn is also on tour at these blogs. See other reviews by readers.

Where Can I Get a Copy? Find it on Amazon


How Has Cecil Murphey's Writing Touched Your Life?

Some writers touch more people than they'll ever know...

I've been so encouraged by Cec's teaching and speaking on more than one occasion. He has a dear heart for God, and a passion for writers. So I thought it would be fun to take the time to encourage Cec!

If you're a reader and you've read a book by Cecil Murphey, comment below and tell us which book you read and what stands out for you from that book. Or if you're a writer and you've heard Cec speak at a writers conference, read his advice on a blog, or been encouraged by him in any other way, tell us about that experience.

I'll forward a link to Cec so he can read our comments as well.

Comments on this and the other blog entries about Cec are eligibe for the drawing to have one blogger's name entered into a drawing sponsored by Cec's publicist for a gift pack including "When God Turned Off the Lights."

Guest Blog by Cec Murphey

What to Do When the Lights Go Out

by Cec Murphey

If you sincerely desire to follow Jesus Christ, life won't always be easy. Many times the Bible promises victory, and you may need to remind yourself that there can be no victory without struggling and overcoming obstacles.

In my book, I used the image of God turning out the lights because that was how I perceived the situation. I felt as if I walked in darkness for 18 months. We all interact differently with God, and my experience won't be the same as yours. Even so, most serious Christians have times when God seems to turn away or stops listening. And we feel alone.

Perhaps it's like the time the Israelites cried out to God for many years because of the Egyptian oppression. "God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise...and knew it was time to act" (Exodus 2:24 NLT). God hadn't forgotten, of course, but from their perspective, that's how it must have seemed. It may seem like that to you if you're going through your own form of darkness.

Here are a few suggestions to help you:

1. Ask God this simple question: "Have I knocked out the lights by my failures? Have I sinned against you? After you ask the question, listen. Give God the opportunity to speak to you.

2. Don't see this as divine punishment (unless God shows you it is), but consider the silence an act of divine love to move you forward. This is God's method to teach you and stretch you.

3. Avoid asking why. You don't need reasons and explanations--and you probably won't get them anyway. Instead, remind yourself that this temporary darkness is to prepare you for greater light.

4. Say as little as possible to your friends. Most friends will want to "fix" you or heal you and they can't. They may offer advice (often not helpful) or make you feel worse ("Are you sure everything is right between you and God?").

5. Stay with the "means of grace." That is, don't neglect worship with other believers even if you feel empty. Read your Bible even if you can't find anything meaningful.

I chose to read Lamentations and Psalms (several times, especially Lamentations) because they expressed some of the pain and despair I felt.

6. If you don't have a daily prayer time, start one. Perhaps something as short as three minutes--and do it daily. Talk honestly to God. It's all right to get angry. (Read the Psalms if you're hesitant.)

7. Remind yourself, "I am in God's hands. This is where I belong and I'll stay in the blackout until I'm ready to move forward."

8. Pray these words daily: "But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults" (Psalm 19:12 TNIV). Some versions say "secret sins." These are failures and sins of which you may not yet be aware. One of the purposes of your darkness may be to bring those hidden problems to light.

9. Ask God, "What do you want me to learn from this experience?" You may not get an answer, but it's still a good question. Continue to ask--even after the lights go back on again. If you're open, you will learn more about yourself and also about God.

10. As you receive "light" about yourself while walking in darkness, remind yourself, God has always known and still loves me.


Comment on this thread and you could qualify for the drawing for a gift basket from Cec's publicist. One blog reader/commenter will be randomly chosen and entered into the drawing on October 22.

Cec Murphey's

When God Turns Off the Lights Blog Tour Gift Basket.

Gift Basket Includes:

When God Turned Off the Lights

1 Book Light

1 LED Nightlight

1 LED Flashlight

Select Dark Chocolate

New Book from Cec Murphey

Today, I'm featuring a new book by Cecil Murphy. I just received my copy in the mail and I can't wait to read it! I'll be giving a copy away in November when I post the review, but in the meantime, you have another opportunity to be entered win a copy and a gift package by commenting on one of the my blog entries from now until October 22. On that day, I'll send the name of one blog reader to Cec's publicist and your name will be entered into the drawing.


When God Turned Off the Lights

Author Cec Murphey

About the Author: Award-winning writer Cecil Murphey is the author or co-author of more than 100 books, including the "New York Times" bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (with Dr. Ben Carson). He's also the author of When Someone You Love Has Cancer and Christmas Miracles, both 2009 releases. Murphey's books have sold millions and have brought hope and encouragement to countless people around the world.

Is it possible that God would use a time of spiritual loneliness and isolation in our life as an answer to our prayer for "something more?" That's what happened with best-selling author Cecil Murphey. In When God Turned Off the Lights (Regal, September 2009), he openly shares from his journey that seemed to be stalled in darkness.

Murphey decided to write about his months of seeking God in the darkness because he suspected his situation wasn't unique. "If this happened to me, a rather ordinary believer, surely there are others out there who have wept in the isolated blackness of night and wondered if they would ever see God's smile again."

Murphey could have handled this topic as a theologian and given pages of heavy, hard-to-read advice, but he chose to write from his heart and expose it for the readers to see. He talks honestly and shares his skepticism and frustration. He asks hard questions. And he lays out the steps of healing that brought him back to the light.

When God Turned Off the Lights is a book for those of us who ask, "What's wrong with me? Why are others living in the sunlight while nothing but dark clouds and darkness envelop me?" Readers will learn:
  • Why God turns off the lights
  • Why we have to have dark nights
  • Why asking "why" isn't the right question
  • What's worse than going through the darkness
  • How to feel worthwhile and accepted by God

Each chapter of When God Turned Off the Lights ends with an inspirational personal quote from Cec. Here's a sampling:

  • Although it may seem as if God is asleep when we go through deep darkness, could it be that God is most watchful in the moments of our despair?
  • Could it be that moving from why to what might take us one more step closer to the light?
  • Our task is to hang on. We wait until God takes us off hold and deals directly with us again.
  • God's provision is based on unconditional love - not on my faithfulness.


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