Are You Putting God in a Cage?

“Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you.” (James 4:8 NLT)

 By:  Lillian Duncan

Friends told me this story of a rescued dog.  The dog’s owners decided to use crate training to housebreak their young puppy.  Crate training encourages the puppy to wait to potty until they’re taken outside. Puppies won’t potty where they sleep, so crate training teaches them to wait.

Unfortunately, the owners missed the point.  They brought their puppy home and, as expected, the puppy soon had an accident.  His owners punished him by putting him in the kennel.  With each accident, they punished him by keeping him the cage for longer periods.  Naturally, the dog would have another accident and the cycle continued.

Eventually, the dog was kenneled for several days at a time without food or water.  The owners didn’t understand why the dog had turned angry and mean.

Dogs are great pets when they are loved and nurtured. The more time we spend with them the stronger the bond becomes.  As with pets, the key to any relationship is the time, attention and effort given.

What about your relationship with God? Do you treat Him in a way that you wouldn’t treat a dog?  Is He taken from the cage on Sundays for a few hours only to be kenneled again until the next Sunday?  We may even have good intentions but…

I know that happens to me more often than I care to admit. I have good intentions to spend time with God but life happens.  Before I know it, I begin to lose my patience, joy, and peace.  That’s when I know it’s time to draw near to God and He’s always there waiting.

Don’t cheat yourself out of a loving relationship with God because you think you don’t have time. Include God in your thoughts while you do your chores, listen to praise music, pray. Start a list of things you’re grateful for, rent a Biblical movie.

Memorize scripture, sing a hymn, reflect on God’s goodness and His handiwork and as you fall asleep, end your day with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

Be creative and enjoy your time with God.  The more time you spend with Him, the more peace and joy you will experience.  As you reap the benefits of spending time with God, you’ll soon find yourself craving time with Him. He’s there –waiting for you.

Lillian Duncan lives in Ohio Amish country with her husband, four parrots, one Jack Russell, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She believes books can be entertaining without being trashy. She writes the types of books she loves to read, suspense with a touch of romance.  Stories of faith… mingled with murder and mayhem at



Express Yourself… On Twitter!

By: Wendy Young

So you’re on Twitter.

If you’re like me, you barely get a greeting out in 140 characters, much less a coherent thought. The limits can be daunting, and that’s not all – how do you get yourself heard (and repeated) in all that noise?

Let’s look at a few simple steps that help take a conversation and turn it into a Tweet.

You start with an idea:

My editor friend, Suzi Quinnones, wrote a great review of my novel, The Great Debut, and she posted it on her blog at

Right off, you think ‘whoa, that’s too long’ but let’s focus on a few other things first and you will see length take care of itself.

The first problem is that this is in the first person voice. The point of Twitter is to share and be shared and if I see this tweet I’m not likely to Re-Tweet it. Suzy is not my friend, after all.

Let’s generalize the thought:

Editor Suzi Quinnones wrote a great review of The Great Debut and she posted it on her blog at

That’s better, but we’re not done yet. The address takes up a TON of space. Twitter will shorten it a little and a program like Tweetdeck or SocialOomph or Hootsuite will do it fully but for the purposes instruction, we’ll use the url shortening website

Editor Suzi Quinnones wrote a great review of The Great Debut and she posted it on her blog at

We’ve got this nice and short, only 115 characters, but we’re not done yet. Short is a requirement of Twitter, but just sticking to that limit doesn’t help you use Twitter properly. Remember that we want people to read and share the tweet so you need to get it noticed too.

One way to do this is by using the @ symbol to get someone’s attention or to draw attention to yourself.

Editor Suzi Quinnones wrote a great review of The Great Debut and she posted it on her blog at via @jclarkewrites

If you’re sharing with a private group and asking people to Tweet about you, you’ve included yourself and when anyone reads it they will have a link to your profile. Additionally, you can use the @ to get the notice of someone you really want to have read this tweet but be careful with that. If you do it too often you’re spamming and you’ll either be tuned out, unfollowed, or even blocked.

Hash Tags are another great way to punch up a tweet.

Editor Suzi Quinnones wrote a great review of The Great Debut and she posted it on her blog at via @jclarkewrites #review #amreading #christian #romance

People can click those extra, like #amreading, and see who else is using the same Hash Tag. That gives you another way to get noticed, even by people who are not following you. There are MANY Hash Tags in use and you can even make up your own.

You’ve got a basic post thee but it’s bland (and now I’ve made it over 30 characters too long). Take your statements to the next level and make them engaging and eye-catching to the reader.

An editor just gave THE GREAT DEBUT 5 stars! #review #amreading #christian #romance via @jclarkewrites

Now we’ve covered the bases – it’s only 123 characters, it’s written so anyone can ‘say it’ and not feel out of place, the url is short, your twitter name is linked, it’s hash-tagged, and you’ve ‘buzzed’ it up. You’re ready to get noticed!

I hope this introductory course to writing great Tweets has been helpful. Twitter is an amazing tool for connecting with both readers and writers, building your platform, and building your fan base. It pays to be tweet-savvy and make it work for you!

Wendy L. Young has been writing for more than twenty years – everything from poetry to scripts and non-fiction. She now focuses on writing mystery/suspense stories with a heart-pounding dose of thrills. Her first mystery novel, Come the Shadows, is out now and the sequel, Red Sky Warning, will be published November 29th, 2011.

Connect with her online on Twitter, her blog, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Happy Thanksgiving!

We wish you all a blessed and peaceful Thanksgiving.

May we all give thanks this weekend to our God Who has given us so many blessings.  May we recognize those things and allow them to overflow from our lives onto the lives of others in our country and our world.

Happy Thanksgiving from Grace & Faith 4U!

Important Messages

The sheep hear his voice. I am the good shepherd. –John:10:3,11

By:  Ada Brownell

My husband, Les, stood beside the railroad tracks holding a long “Y” stick high while a speeding train thundered toward him, quaking the ground and flapping his clothes. The engineer stretched his arm out the engine window and stuck it through the Y. His arm hooked the twine Les had inserted in the upper arms of the stick with a message attached.

The message told the railroad crew to go into a siding to allow an oncoming train to pass or to beware of a hazard ahead such as a rockslide or a train going the same direction.

Dispatchers and telegraph operators like Les used Morse code to help direct train movements before Centralized Traffic Control was invented and installed. Today CTC allows a dispatcher to govern a whole state’s train movements electronically.

Like the railroad traffic lights of today or the train messages Les tied in twine, I’ve found God sends important messages through the Holy Spirit’s whispers, through pastors, teachers, the Word, or circumstances.  Some messages are wonderful news. But there also are warnings.

It’s up to me to grab them and apply them to my life.

I am a writer and often the Lord talks to me when I’ve having my devotions. I used to feel guilty when I jumped up from my knees to scribble an idea. Yet, when I take time to develop these ideas, see them published and people are encouraged, I understand I  listened to His voice.

Sometimes, however, the Lord reminds me to pray for and contact someone who is going through a difficult time. That’s His Spirit speaking, too.

His Word frequently talks to me about my spiritual growth and one verse that frequently runs through my mind is, “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath” (James 1:19) and Jesus’s command to love God, then my neighbor as myself.

PRAYER FOCUS: Those who need God’s encouraging words.

PRAYER: God, help us to listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and to remember you always work for our good.


God watches over me. How amazing!

Read 1 John 2:3-6

Ada Nicholson Brownell is a retired newspaper reporter who has had articles and stories published in more than 40 Christian magazines. Her latest book is Swallowed by LIFE: Mysteries of Death, Resurrection and the Eternal, available now at Check out her blog:


Blog Party TODAY ONLY!

Don’t miss the first-ever GraceAndFaith4U Blog Party! “Faith, Fun, & Food” today only…

As the Turkey is Basting…

Since this time of the year is more about family and fun, here is something to give you writers a few giggles!

Submitted By:  Peggy Blann Phifer

Was’s and commas and adverbs . . . Oh, my!

Doing my final edits on my debut novel, I’ve become quite conscious of grammar usage, the overuse of adverbs, the all-too-frequent use of “was” and a dozen other things most of us do that we really know NOT to do. I even had some POV (point of view) problems. Oh, and the proper insertion of commas (some included where they didn’t belong, and others omitted.)

Now that the manuscript is in the hands of the publisher, I thought I’d share a little something that ties right in with this subject. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did when I found it.

Here we go: Rules for Editing

1.  Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.

2.  Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3.  And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.

4.  It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

5.  Avoid clichés like the plague.  (They’re old hat)

6.  Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.

7.  Be more or less specific.

8.  Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

9.  Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

10.  No sentence fragments.

11.  Contractions aren’t necessary and shouldn’t be used.

12.  Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

13.  Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.

14.  One should NEVER generalize.

15.  Comparisons are as bad as clichés.

16.  Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

17.  One-word sentences?  Eliminate.

18.  Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

19.  The passive voice is to be ignored.

20.  Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary.  Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.

21.  Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.

22.  Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.

23.  Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas.

24.  Eliminate quotations.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”

25.  If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.

26.  Puns are for children, not groan readers.

27.  Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

28.  Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

29.  Who needs rhetorical questions?

30.  Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

And the last one…

31. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

Peggy Blann Phifer is the editor of Whispers in Purple and features authors books on her Friday feature, Book Bites.  Peggy’s first book will come out in 2012.

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Meet Our Grace & Faith Author: Dana Pratola

Today I want to welcome Grace & Faith Author, Dana Pratola who says in her bio:  The Lord is my Savior, writing is my passion and publishing inspirational books that show the grace of God is my ministry.

I love that!  Welcome, Dana, please tell us a little about yourself beyond the writer.

I love old movies, the ORIGINAL Star Trek and anything with John Cusak.  I hate to cook but I do it anyway, 5 nights a week. We have a dog named Lola, who dreams one day of being mistress of the manor, and I prefer the mountains over the beach.

I’m with you on John Cusak and cooking! So with all that going on, how did you come to be a Christian writer?

Once I realized that God put the desire in me to write in the first place, I figured He must mean for me to write for Him. That doesn’t mean I only write for Christians, just that somewhere in the story there will be a direction sign pointing straight up.

Wow.  You’re good.  I love that too!  Now, if you weren’t writing, what would you be doing and why?

That’s hard to say. I did have a brief spell where I wanted to be an oceanographer, but since I couldn’t swim I thought it a pointless pursuit. Writing is all I ever want to do.

An oceanographer who can’t swim… that sounds like a great hook for a book. 🙂  Tell us about your current writing endeavors.

I was surprised that after reading The Covering the first question most people have is “when is your next book coming out?” I don’t have the next one finished yet, but I’m working on it, including 5 or 6 more. As for blogging, I try to avoid that, LOL. I stress too much about having it done on time, what to say, etc. Non-fiction isn’t my forte’.

Well, we all have to learn to play to our strengths.  Speaking of which, who are some people you think of as strong influences on you or your writing?

Writing, probably Nora Roberts. Real life, one of my biggest influences was my spiritual mother, Nancy Wells. She was one of the church mothers in my first home church. I learned so much from her about everything from cooking to Alabama red clay. She’s with The Lord now and I can’t wait to see her again 🙂

If you could give one piece of advice (not writing related), what would it be and why?

Always smell the milk, LOL. Actually, a piece of advice given to me by Mother Wells: “See and don’t see, hear and don’t hear.” Her meaning was, don’t be ignorant of what’s going on around you, but not so much that it distracts you from Jesus. Keep your focus.

Yes, keeping our focus on Him can be a challenge with everything going on around us.  I’m curious where your writing life is focused now.

I’m about ¾ through (not including editing) a story about a woman who is suddenly gifted with an amazing singing voice. It’s about her choices and the consequences they bring. Of course there’s a love interest 🙂

Of course!  So, where can our Grace & Faith 4 U readers find you on the ‘net?  (profile)

Thanks so much for stopping over, Dana.  We wish you well in all of your future endeavors!

Grace & Faith Author, Dana Pratola is a 47 yr. old mother of 3, married 25 yrs. The Lord is my Savior, writing is my passion and publishing inspirational books that show the grace of God is my ministry.

Lessons from a Sage Grouse

By:  Penny Zeller

On my way home not long ago, I noticed several sage grouse in a neighbor’s yard. I pulled over to the curb so I could take in the amazing site. I never miss an opportunity to watch one of my favorite of all God’s animals – birds.

Most of the sage grouse appeared perfectly content while sitting calmly in the blanket of snow. The chilly 30 degree weather meant nothing to them. Others rested peacefully on bare tree branches with nary a problem in the world.  But there was one sage grouse, who, while he looked just like the rest, had one major difference. He wasn’t relaxing in the snow, nor lounging on a tree branch. Instead he plodded through the snow on skinny legs. Every step he took seemed painstakingly difficult, although he didn’t appear to be injured.

I know that birds don’t have facial expressions, but this sage grouse just seemed to have a scowl on his face that told me it wasn’t his day. Perhaps he woke up on the wrong side of the nest that morning.

No, birds don’t have shoulders, but this bird appeared to carry the weight of the world on his feathers. He trudged through his day, exaggerating each step he took.

We’ve all had days like the sage grouse above. Days when things go awry and we feel frustrated and discouraged. Days when nothing goes right and we feel we have to bear all the burdens of the world on our shoulders.

As I watched the grouse, Isaiah 41:10 came to mind: do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Thank you, Lord, that when we have difficult days You never stop loving us and You never stop being there for us. Thank You that You are but a prayer away, offering comfort and strength to burdened hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Penny Zeller, Christian Author
Impacting Lives for Christ Through the Written Word

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By:  Staci Stallings

Have you ever tried to move a wagon with two people pushing in opposite directions, or pulling in opposite directions?  What happens?  It doesn’t move, right.  Or maybe worse, it tips over.

In marketing the same is true.  If all you’re doing is pushing or all you’re doing is pulling, either your sales will not move or you will tip the strategy over completely.

When you think of marketing and promotions, you have to think in dual terms:  pulling AND pushing.  That’s how you create a strategy that works.


Most people, when they begin to market, miss this step completely.  All they do is push, push, push.  Ever heard of a “pushy” salesman?  Why do we call him that?  Because all he does is PUSH his product on us, and if you’re like me, you will be figuring out a way to LEAVE as quickly as possible–or to get him out of your living room if that’s the case.  The same is true of pushy online people.

Further, pushing alone doesn’t work because you can’t sell to people who aren’t there, and you don’t want to be the one everyone runs from when they see coming.

That’s where the concept of “pulling” comes in.  Pulling put simply is anything you do to reel readers in to you.  Then give them a reason to read more by putting out something they enjoy reading as a sample.  Now you can do this many ways.

You can give away Free Previews of your book, or you can write a blog that has great content.  On Twitter, you can use quotes, sayings, Bible quotes, etc. to accomplish this. On your blog, you can host guest bloggers who will hopefully send their audience to you to read the post.  You can also host interviews and do reviews on that same premise.

Think of things that PULL you in.  What gets you to RT something from someone you don’t know? Why do you want to send it on?  The plain truth is we very rarely RT anything from people we don’t know if it PUSHES anything.  So tailor some of your tweets and Facebook posts to simply giving great information–books you’ve read that you loved, articles that you read, sayings that touched you.  All of these have the potential of reeling new readers to you.


Once you have potential readers coming to you, now you can do some pushing.  Notice I said SOME.  If all you do is push, they will leave.  So remember to keep up pulling even after you’ve gotten readers. The real secret to pushing is actually pulling. Pulling attracts people like a magnet.

Have you ever been on Twitter and figured out that someone only posts Push-type tweets? After awhile, do you even read those anymore, or do you just skim right by them even if you don’t delete them as a follow?  Me too.  There are several that try to work their title into every post and it gets annoying!  After awhile, I just skim right past them.

The other thing to remember in marketing is to not talk about yourself even in your push marketing.  Talk about what the reader will get out of it.  Talk about how your writing will help them.  Talk about what they will learn or why this story is so fascinating they can’t possibly pass it up. This is sometimes easier said than done, but it works.  Which would you be more apt to click on:


Check out my new book, FIELD OF DAISIES.


What secrets does the past hold?  FIELD OF DAISIES.  When you go in, can you ever get back out?


So remember, in all marketing:  Pull constantly and consistently, and pull even when you push!

Staci Stallings is the founder of Grace & Faith Author Connection.  To join the group, send your Name, Email Address, Twitter handle (if you have one), and/or Facebook page to staci_stallings at hotmail dot com (altogether!) with the subject:   G&F New Member, and Staci will let you know what your next step is.  I hope you will join us for this new and exciting marketing adventure!

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