Practice of the Presence of GodBesides conversations recorded by others, Brother Lawrence also connected with friends via letter. Some of these have been included in the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Below is the essence of his sixth letter, and responses that come to my mind.






* Topic: encouragement to persevere

* “It is better late than never” to pursue our connection with God. We cannot live satisfied lives “without the practice of the presence of God.”

* We must keep our souls centered on God, never turning away

* The process of concentrating our souls on God will require self-sacrifice and the laying aside of certain pleasures that, while good in themselves, interfere with our devotion to God.

* As often as our minds wander from God, we should recall ourselves to His presence

* Sometimes it is advisable to withdraw from some of our “means” of spiritual exercise in order to concentrate on the “end,” which is God Himself

* Persevere in practicing the presence of God by any means you can invent (praise, adoration, desire, resignation, thanksgiving)

* As difficult as the process may be, persevere “to death,” no matter the difficulties


Our Responses:

* Heretofore, Brother Lawrence’s pleas for us to center ourselves on God have been gentle. This sixth letter employs strong encouragement to make the sacrifices necessary to practice the presence of God

* Today is the day to take up our sincere pursuit of God’s presence, no matter our situation or our age

* How often is my devotional time a race to read a certain number of chapters and pray for the people on my list so I can go on to other things? How often do I miss any true devotion to God during my quiet time?

* If we are to persevere “to death,” there is nothing that is more important than practicing the presence of God

* I find it amazing that God wants so much to be in relationship with us. To walk and talk with us. To bless and guide us. Why do we—more specifically, why do I—so often put Him off?


Favorite Quotes from the Sixth Letter:

“We must serve God in a holy freedom…recalling our mind to God mildly and with tranquility, as often as we find it wandering from Him.”

“…we may continue with Him our commerce of love, persevering in His holy presence…”


Today I’m thankful for fall. That’s an interesting statement considering the fact that I don’t especially like winter, and fall is the signal that the cold months are coming. But I’ve decided not to allow the threat of winter to rob me of the joy of autumn.

It’s been a fine, albeit busy, summer with lots of heat, a fair amount of rain, and happy flowers, trees, crops and grass. We’re still mowing our lawn in the latter half of September, which is very unusual. Everything is still green except the elms, which are staring to turn, and the green ash trees, which are a gorgeous, deep yellow. Since we haven’t experienced a killing frost yet, most of the leaves are still clinging to their branches.

photoMy dear mother, who is an alert 92 ½ years of age (how very thankful I am for her), encourages me to embrace every phase of life, and I think that should be true for the seasons as well. I will let the delicious autumn colors, clean air, lack of bugs and mellow weather surround and bless me. Then I will welcome winter as a break from yard work, from the busyness of the summer, and embrace it’s cold from the confines of my warm home. A time of relative peace and rest.view to east

Which leads me to the fact that I am extremely thankful for my home,



for the warmth I experience there, both physically and emotionally,

for the security we are blessed with in our country (Let’s pray for our leaders, especially as we head toward the election.),

for family and friends that make my life so rich,

for my church family and pastors that continually bless, support and teach me the truth of the Word of God (Did I mention our small group? What a joy to be part of that collection of friends),

for work and inspiration and connections and situations that take me outside my comfortable existence from time to time.

But most of all, I’m thankful to God that He’s given me the opportunity to live and love through Him because of what Jesus Christ has done for me by willingly taking the burden of sin and replacing it with forgiveness and unimaginable freedom and peace.

A friend on Facebook recently quoted: “If you have a pulse, you have a purpose.” I’m thankful to say that the One who keeps my heart beating also oversees and guides my purpose in this life.

Happy Fall! Be thankful every day, not just on that long weekend in October.


Note: I’m also thankful for the terrific photo site called www.morguefile.com, where I find so many of these pictures. “You are allowed to copy, distribute, transmit the work and to adapt the work. Attribution is not required. You are prohibited from using this work in a stand alone manner.”

Blue Hole Back Home5142qInRURL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

Joy Jordan-Lake

Blue Hole Back Home is one of the best novels I’ve read in a long while. It gripped me from the beginning and wouldn’t let me go, even after the last page.

The author keeps ratcheting up the tension as the story progresses. She begins with “backstitching time…two dreams crisscrossing paths, one snagging the other in passing.” A face in the present brings memories of events that occurred twenty-five years past. What follows is a leap back in time to tell the story, leaving the reader anxious to know how it will all turn out.

Shelby, also known as Turtle, hangs out with her older brother and his friends, a good guy gang that not only works together at their landscaping/yard care business, but also plays together, mostly at the Blue Hole, swimming and sunning and drinking Coke and Dr. Pepper.

Setting is vividly portrayed in waves of heat and bare feet; cool drinks and the swimming hole; the Bee Gees, the Eagles and Peter Frampton. Turtle and the gang believe they live in the best place and time in the world, enjoying life in spite of a few irritating peers. Then Farsanna and her family move into town from Sri Lanka, the only non-whites in Turtle’s southern town, and the real soul of the neighborhood begins to emerge.

Even in the sweltering North Carolina summer of 1979, we sense that trouble is brewing in the lazy little town. The first hints are minor, but incidents become more frequent and more serious until we are afraid of what’s ahead. But this is 1979, long after the civil rights movement is part of history. Or is it?

Author Joy Jordan-Lake pens her first novel with color and vibrancy. The characters are fully formed, each one indelible in the memory of the reader, the setting of Pisgah Ridge vivid enough to be its own character. Some word pictures will live forever in my mind: peanuts in Coke; the location of Sri Lanka: “She held up her right hand flat against the air, as if it were a map. ‘If this would be India, then this,’ she placed her left fist by the lower thumb knuckle of her right hand, ‘is Sri Lanka;’ ” hot lazy days at the Blue Hole, snarled threats, white bedsheets with eye holes cut into them…

The plot is not predictable, but develops in a realistic and unique trajectory. The ending is not what I expected either, and for that I’m thankful, although I wanted to cry like a baby when it was done. I will never forget this story or its impact on me.

I hope there are many more novels coming from this author. Blue Hole Back Home is well worth the read and I recommend it to anyone looking for a strong and memorable story.

Evaluation. Assessment, appraisal, judgment. In literary work it is known as critique. “A systematic determination of a subject’s merit, worth and significance, using criteria governed by a set of standards.” (Wikipedia)

During my nine years as an active member of Toastmasters, I had many opportunities to evaluate presentations given by my fellow Toastmasters, since evaluation is a regular part of the meeting agenda. I also attended workshops specifically designed to teach effective evaluation.

The method we used boiled down to noting both positives and negatives. The positives affirm the speaker. The negatives, limited to one or two, and not overpowering the positives, are communicated in the form of practical suggestions for improvement.

In my writing career, I have learned to appreciate constructive criticism. In fact, I have come to welcome it. Without feedback, I have no idea which direction to move. With thoughtful evaluation, every affirmation builds my confidence, and every suggestion motivates me to improve.file0001564894818

What standards do we use to critique someone’s writing? I would suggest that these standards develop and evolve as we learn more about writing, but I have a couple of simple suggestions for learning this highly effective tool.

Step One: Read. A lot. Then practice evaluating what you read. Since we’re talking fiction here, ask yourself why you liked or did not like the story. Trace your instinctive feelings, rather than shrugging and saying, “I liked it. I can’t really tell you why.”

Questions to ask yourself as you read:

* Do the characters come across as real people?

* Does the dialogue sound realistic; does it affect the characters or the storyline?

* Do the characters behave consistently?

* Has the author created a professional piece of writing? (grammar, punctuation, polish)

* Do you forget you are reading and get lost in the story?

* Does the plot offer enough tension to keep you turning pages?

* Can you “see” the world of the story?

* Does the story evoke strong emotions as you read?

Step Two: Ask yourself these same questions as you write and review your own writing.

When we evaluate someone else’s writing and give them an overview of our impressions, it reminds us to follow the same guidelines in our own writing.

Not only do we help others when we learn to effectively critique their work, we also pick up tips on what to emulate and what to avoid in our own work.

Evaluation, or the art of critique, is an invaluable tool for writers because it teaches us to look at our own work in new ways. It’s a win-win situation.

P.S. Someone asked me if mentally evaluating everything I read robs me of the joy of reading. Not at all. It takes time to form the habit of evaluation, but it also teaches me discernment, and saves me from wasting my time on unworthy books (and there are many out there in this age where anyone can publish a book). I’ve become more aware of what makes a story work or not work, so when I find a book that’s well-written, I thoroughly enjoy it. And there are also many of these great stories out there.


Why do you write what you write? Read what you read? How do you sort your ideas and decide what your focus will be?

Each of us has a set of filters through which we see the world. It depends where we come from, what our childhood was like, pleasant or traumatic experiences we may have lived through and what we have learned of life. This is called our worldview.


Our worldview also affects our voice, our style of writing, even the mood of our story. Our personality shows through our characters, through their responses to obstacles and challenges in their fictitious lives. Life-experiences color our composition.

Wikipedia says “A comprehensive worldview is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society’s knowledge and point of view.”

When we identify what we believe and why, our writing will reflect this understanding of the world around us. Who am I? What do I believe? What difference has my set of beliefs made in my life?


As writers, we put ourselves out there for the world to see, in fact, we want as many people as possible to read our work. If we look at writers who have had a major impact on society, they are people who have /had strong beliefs (not necessarily positive or uplifting but personally affirmed).

For example, study this quote by Ernest Hemingway [1929 – A Farewell to Arms. New York: Scribner’s]: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” Hemingway’s words give us a good idea of what he believed based on his experiences as a war correspondent.

Mark Twain wrote humorous stories colored increasingly by sarcasm and satire. One of his famous quotes is: “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”


Besides having your own worldview set in your mind, you must also make sure your characters know what they stand for. This will strongly affect their development. I recently forced myself to read more than half a light romance before giving it up for lost. The problem: the characters’ actions and responses were inconsistent. Why? Because, in my opinion, the author didn’t know them well enough to guide them in consistent behavior in the world she had created for them.

Whatever your experiences in life, make sure you contemplate how they affect your worldview and that of your characters. It may make the difference between being read or being set aside.









Practice of the Presence of GodBesides conversations recorded by others, Brother Lawrence also connected with friends via letters. Some of these have been included in the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Below is the essence of his fifth letter, and responses that come to my mind.







* Firmly resolve to be wholly devoted to God.

* If you continually practice the presence of God, you will soon become spiritual.

* The first step to practicing the presence of God is to empty your heart of all else. This is what God requires in order to work in your life.

* Practice of the presence of God involves a continual conversation with Him.

* This continual conversation with God is sweet and delightful, but we do not seek devotion to God for the pleasure it will give us. We do it because of love.

* The delight in God’s presence can’t be adequately explained to those who haven’t experienced it.

* We often have no idea how much we need God’s grace and assistance in our lives.

* Commit yourself now, never lose sight of Him, “spend the rest of your days in His sacred presence,” even if this commitment requires great sacrifice.


Our Responses:

* We have to want to commit to spending my time in the presence of the Lord. We may see the need, the necessity, the comfort and delight, but still avoid the commitment. Why?

—perhaps I see the effort as too great

—perhaps I don’t think I can manage it

—perhaps I think it will interfere with my life

—perhaps I think I’ll miss something if I empty my heart of all else

—perhaps I feel I’m doing fine as I am

Note the “I” in each of these hesitations. Brother Lawrence has continually encouraged us to think on Christ, not on ourselves. Our society influences us strongly in favor of self. It’s a hard habit to break, but that’s the only way we’ll ever make the commitment to practice the presence of God.

* We may have a misconception of the purpose of life. As a very old song states: “It’s a battlefield, brother, not a recreation room.” Yes, God blesses us and wants us to enjoy His blessings, but those are bonuses. This life is short and I need to continually focus on what’s important.

* Those brief soul-bursting insights into close companionship with God—I call them glimpses of Glory—should overwhelm us and inspire us to practice His presence daily, hourly. Yet we give up so many opportunities of walking closely with Him.

* We may forget how very much our Father loves us, and how much He wants us to return that love. But there’s always a new starting point. That would be now.

* We often forge ahead on our own instead of seeking and accepting help from Almighty God. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8), but He always has our best interests in mind.

Writes Brother Lawrence: “Set heartily about this work, and if you do it as you ought, be assured that you will soon find the effects of it.”


41m1l-bX5hL._AA324_PIkin4,BottomRight,-57,22_AA346_SH20_OU15_Tess works part time as a receptionist for Dani at the Crystal Mountain Spa near Buckneck, West Virginia (pop. 1000). When Dani decides to build an outdoor pool, excavation unearths female human skeletons, some old, some recent. Detective Tucker, an old acquaintance of Tess’s mother-in-law, arrives to solve the crime and Tess helps by keeping track of who and what goes on inside the Spa. She soon realizes she is in danger herself as more women are murdered.

We gather from snippets of backstory that Tess has recently been involved in helping to solve a previous murder case. Now she has a husband and toddler and is happier than she’s ever been. Will she risk her new life to help Detective Tucker or stay safe as Thomas prefers?

Apparently, Tess has dealt with her unhappy childhood (her mother is in prison on drug-related charges) with the help of her relatively newfound faith in God, and the solid support of the Spencer family.

Tess regularly visits her old friend, Miranda, in the nursing home, and keeps up with her best friend, Charlotte, Miranda’s daughter. But there is an undercurrent of danger at the nursing home too.

The story is written in the present tense, which makes it up-close and personal. It begins in medias res. The reader must pay attention to put all the initial pieces together, and it’s an interesting game. Trial by Twelve can be a stand alone novel, but it’s even more fascinating when you have read the first Murder in the Mountains book, Miranda Warning.

What caught my attention right off is the book’s format. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from a letter written by an unnamed man to his child, who is apparently in foster care. He speaks of his love, and promises to collect his child when he/she turns sixteen. Then they can hunt together. The bits of letter reveal an increasingly unhinged and dangerous man who eventually admits that he’s not made to be a father.

The author, Heather Day Gilbert, manages to throw suspicion on many of the characters in the book, leaving Tess more vulnerable than ever, and the reader wildly turning pages / tapping the screen. Great cliff-hanger chapter endings.

I read the ending of this novel last night before I went to sleep. It was tension-filled, answered the necessary questions, but kept me awake long after I had turned off the Kindle. I think that’s cause for another star in the ratings.


Besides the Murder in the Mountains books, Gilbert has written a historical fiction called God’s Daughter (A Vikings of the New World Saga Book 1), and Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher. CLICK HERE.



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