With all I am
In Your grace I stand
The greatest of all romance
Love of God My Savior
—Grace on the Line by Hillsong Worship
🎉 HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!
Hard to believe that not only has a new year begun, but a new decade as well, and I don’t know about you, but I want this one to be chock full of as much romance as I can get.
But not just any romance, mind you, but the greatest of ALL romance! And, no I’m not talking about Rhett & Scarlett from Gone With the Wind or even Julie & Keith from Lake of the Ozarks. Nope, I’m talking about a love affair with the greatest Romantic of them all — GOD ALMIGHTY!
Yesterday, Keith and I began Day One of our annual 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting sponsored by my daughter’s AMAZING church, Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama. Begun by Pastor Chris Hodges in 2001, The Church of the Highlands has an incredible beginning that I just have to share because it shows the power of the Highland’s commitment to its annual 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting.
Nineteen years ago, Pastor Chris Hodges was a youth pastor with absolutely NO desire to be a main pastor. Fortunately, God didn’t feel the same way because Chris had a dream that shook him so much, he spoke to his pastor about it. The dream went something like this: First Chris was standing on a stage staring at a sea of people and then he was driving down a highway past a huge church that seemed to go on forever. The pastor told Chris something he really didn’t want to hear — that God was calling him to start a church.
Now, not having a clue how to go about that, Chris followed his pastor’s advice and took time off to visit every city in Alabama that God laid on his heart. “You’ll know it when you reach the city God has chosen, and Chris did, because when he arrived in Birmingham, it was like the city was embedded in his heart.
The next thing he knew, Chris and his wife and five kids move to Birmingham in December of 2001 along with a small contingent of 34 people. Now, everyone expected him to begin services on the first Sunday in January, but Chris decided he wasn’t about to start anything without God’s direction. As a result, The Church of the Highlands’ first service took place on the first Sunday in February of that year — not with 34 people and his family — but approximately 500 people in attendance! Today, The Highlands is the 2nd largest church in the United States with 22 campuses and a weekly attendance of 53,000.
Now trust me, people, when my daughter said to me a few years back, “Hey, Mom, our church is kicking off its 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting this Sunday, and I think you would really like it,” I pretty much froze on the spot.
Why? Well, because I knew the fasting part would be hard and there were certain things I did NOT want to give up for 21 days. “Sure, babe, I’ll check the Sunday kick-off service out online,” I said, fully intending to watch for a few minutes so I could tell her I did, but then letting her know it wasn’t for me because what can I say — I was skeptical.
The pastor reeled me in like a bass on a hula grub in the first five minutes, so I finished watching the service, then hung my head as I approached Keith. “I have to give up sweets, wine, and Amazon for 21 days,” I muttered, not a bit happy about it.
“What?” Keith stared at me wide-eyed, as if I’d just told him I was giving up writing and reading romance to embark on a career picking up trash on a highway. “Why on earth are you doing that?” he said, jaw dangling considerably. “Because God told me to,” I responded in a mournful tone, never, EVER imagining just how much my life was about to change!
That was the year following my sabbatical to focus more on God, family, and writing for the sheer joy of writing, when I told my editor I wouldn’t be pitching any books or series for a while. Since then, my love affair with God has grown by leaps and bounds, deepening more and more each year after I embark on 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting with Church of the Highlands. As a romance writer, I can now say that the greatest romance of all is the one I have found with my Father in Heaven and my Savior, bringing more joy, peace, strength, and hope than I have ever experienced in over 69 years.
Why am I telling you this? Well, again, because I feel like there may be one or two of you out there that God wants to join me in this endeavor. I meant to tell you about it sooner (duh … before the 21 Days began yesterday), but I didn’t, so I apologize. But, it’s not too late because you can start anytime by checking out Pastor Hodge’s kick-off Sunday service to prayerfully decide if the 21 Days is something you want to do. Pastor Chris will explain how there are all kinds of ways to fast other than food, so don’t be intimidated.
For instance, food isn’t a big deal to me, but my nightly glass of wine with dinner and not checking Amazon for reviews and stats definitely are, so that’s what I fast along with a few meals here and there and sweets. See? Not too hard, and you know what? Keith and I actually look forward to it every single year like little kids at Christmas because it’s THAT good for our souls and our lives. I know it would be for you too, so pray about it, okay? And if you’re interested, here’s the link to the Church of the Highlands kick-off service for 21 DAYS OF PRAYER & FASTING that will tell you all about it.
📕 Love’s Silver Bullet on Pre-Order!
WHOO-HOO!! Book 2 in my Silver Lining Ranch series, LOVE’S SILVER BULLET, is now available for pre-order on Amazon with a projected release date of May 1st, so here’s the new cover. I hope you like it, and I hope you pre-order, because if you do, you’ll save a dollar!
I’ll be running a pre-order contest soon, so keep your eyes peeled for my next Journal Jot, which hopefully will have an update for you on when Gabe’s story, A Wing & a Prayer will be released as well. Till then, here’s the blurb for Sheridan & Jake’s story:
She’s targeting his love.
He’s aiming to steer clear.
Till true love picks them off in a bull’s-eye of the heart
Eighteen-year-old Sheridan Donovan has been in love with Jake Sullivan since the age of four, when she used to tag after him and her big brothers on the Silver Lining Ranch. From little on, Jake has been her hero, convincing her brothers to play school and wedding with her whenever she’d begged and cried. From horsey rides and tickle fests to his sweet willingness to be her pretend groom, Jake’s gentleness and affection had nurtured two dreams in Sheridan’s heart—becoming both a teacher and Mrs. Jake Sullivan. Preferably not in that order.
At the age of thirty, Jake figures he pretty much has everything he needs at the moment. A good job as the Assistant Foreman for Silver Lining Ranch, great friends in Blaze and Dash Donovan, and a true mentor in their uncle and owner of the ranch, Finn McShane, the man who’d given him a family to replace the one he lost. But when Finn’s niece, Sheridan—Blaze’s and Dash’s little sister to whom Jake became a big brother as well—turns eighteen, Jake discovers there’s one more thing he needs: distance and lots of it. From pinafores and bows at age six to overalls and dirt till age fifteen, the grown-up Sheridan looks nothing like the little girl who’d once been his constant shadow, now transformed into a young woman who races his heart. Painfully aware that Sheridan is determined to win his love, Jake is equally determined to keep a promise to her uncle, a promise that not only shoots a hole in his well-ordered life, but in his heart as well.
HUGS & HAPPY 2020!!