Thoughts on the New Release

By Staci Stallings

Eternity cover“Eternity” might be more accurately called “The one I’m going to get killed for,” and believe me, I fully know this going in.  Why?  Because I already know some of my Christian readers (especially the newer ones) will question the portrayal of Christians in this story.  They will say things like, “I would hardly call them Christian.  They went to church, but it didn’t seem to make any difference at all.”

That’s probably one reason I’ve called “Eternity” an inspirational (rather than Christian) romance in the past because I recognized this void almost from the start.  However, to be completely honest, that’s not totally accurate either.  I think “Eternity” is really about Christians who don’t know and live the meaning of the word.  They go to church, but church and God really don’t affect their lives in a practical way.

In fact, they are a lot like I was when I was younger–back when I thought the 10 Commandments were about God taking your fun away, making life harder with all of His rules, and waiting to bop you on the head if you broke one.  Since realizing God is about relationship more than religion, I now see my Father’s intense and immediate love in giving me these rules because in them, He is saying, “To be able to really LIVE, here are the ways to avoid life’s messiest, rottenest decisions that will really land you in a pit of yuck.”

So, I think ultimately “Eternity” is not just about the decisions and situations, it is also about how lost, confused, and deluded by the world even Christians can get when they see God as the rule-maker and punisher rather than as the all-wise, loving Father He is.

Therefore, if there’s not enough Christianity in this one for you, know that I knew that upfront and that I am simply giving you the story the way God gave it to me–with lost and hurting Christians who don’t realize they’ve had the Answer the whole time.  Call it a practical lesson in what happens when Christian is your label, not your life.

Staci Stallings

Staci Stallings

A stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, #1 Best Selling Christian author, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from.  Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again.  Every title is a new adventure!  That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading. Staci touches the lives of people across the globe every week with her various Internet endeavors including:

Staci’s Internet “Home”:

http://www.stacistallings.net

Staci’s Ebook Romance Stories:

http://ebookromancestories.com

Facebook Author Page at:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Spirit-Light-Author-Staci-Stallings/266593276699576

What’s Your Donkey?

The other night we went to Mass in a different town.  The readings were about Jesus entering Jerusalem for the last time, riding on a donkey. I have to admit, I’ve heard that story many times but never had much cause to think about the donkey.

Now we have donkeys not far from us, and I can tell you those things can be loud and annoying if they want to be.  That’s really my only experience with donkeys, so I didn’t give the one Jesus rode much thought.  So this sermon was an eye-opener.

You see, donkeys were a lot like cars, pickups, and tractors all rolled into one back then.  A good donkey was a treasure that not many people owned.  If you had one, you could ride it, you could use it to haul things, and you could use it to plow up the land for planting.  In short, donkeys were very valuable.

In fact, the priest said they could be the equivalent of $50,000 in our society today.

So think about this for a second.  You have this nice, brand new car that you recently purchased for $50,000.  It is sitting in your driveway, and these two guys show up out of the blue and say, “We need your car.”

“Need my car?” you ask as if you know you haven’t heard them correctly.  “Why?”

“Because the Master needs it.”

HAHAHA!

You tell me, would you give them the keys and let them know there’s a full tank of gas in it?

See, the donkey in this story is not an insignificant detail like I’ve always thought.  That donkey represents our most prized possessions on this earth!

Are we willing to surrender our hard-earned possessions for God’s glory?  Are we willing to give the things we have worked so hard to obtain to Him when He asks, just because He asked?

And notice, Jesus didn’t Himself go to get the donkey, He sent His disciples.  So it might not be Jesus that shows up on your doorstep. It might be that deacon from down the street wondering if you could help them move some things on Saturday.  It could be that lady from the church asking if they can use your Crockpot for the benefit.

The question is:  are you allowing God to use your possessions for His glory?  Or do you hoard what you have, making sure you are the only one to gain benefit from it?  Do you willingly give up your greatest, most costly and prized treasures on this earth so that God’s glory can be revealed?

What’s your donkey?  And what are you doing with it?

Copyright Staci Stallings, 2012
Staci Stallings, the author of this article, is a #1 Best Selling author and the co-founder CrossReads.com a new website that gives Christian readers and authors a place to meet and fellowship. With a newsletter, a blog, a forum, and other exciting, inspiring areas to visit, CrossReads visitors can find fabulous Christian books they never knew existed.

Come over on Feb. 12-14, and enter to win one of 169 virtual baskets of ebooks, gift cards, and other prizes!

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GNFA: A Year in Review

By Naty Matos

Well, if you are reading this it means you survived the 1,000th time since the existence of humanity where the end of the world has beenend announced. I tell you something. In preparation for the world not to end the authors of GNFA have been popping out books like rabbits.

Yes, this group has had a lot of accomplishments during the last 12 months. But let me start by telling you more about GNFA. It stands for Grace and Faith Authors. This is an organization that houses the best Christian Indie Authors in the market.

We pride ourselves with bringing the message of the cross and providing clean reads for Christians and non-Christians. Let me highlight some of the things that we can count as blessings more than accomplishments in 2012.

  • There were 95 books published amongst all the members of the group.
  • Two of those books have been nominated for Book of the Year by The Book Club Network
  • 2 other books achieved the #1 download in Amazon on their free day and another one reached #2
  • We opened a Facebook group for our readers to connect with our authors and now we have 101 members of the GNF Readers Connection!
  • There were 3 television appearances, 3 radio interviews, 1 magazine article and 1 newspaper article by some of our authors.
  • Two books from some of our authors were released on Audiobooks.
  • Our group count has grown to over 200 Christian Authors

I can tell you that our authors are already going full steam ahead in preparation for 2013. They will teach you, advise you, entertain you, comfort you and motivate you in the best way we know how, by writing good books.

But we couldn’t do any of this without you. So on this last day of 2012 I want to thank you for your support and following.

Happy New Year and have a blessed 2013!!!

Staci Stallings, Naty Matos & GNFA

2013

Are You a Star?

By Staci Stallings

Our world today is obsessed with stars–celebrities who make a lot of money, gain a lot of fame, or otherwise dominate the chitter-chatter of masses.  Many of us wish, even if fleetingly, that we could be a star, but most will never attain that “level” of “success.”

I found, however, a different and probably more important way to be a star this weekend.  So if you’re interested or have ever thought it would be nice to be a star, here’s your chance!

Not sure where this thought came from other than “up there,” but I was thinking about how a year or so ago, my sister compared me to the Magi.  I believe I wrote about that at the time–how she said I was a Magi because I was always looking for signs that would point me to God.  I thought that was really cool at the time.  This weekend, I had cause while thinking about that, to look just a little higher into the story.

I happened to be at my hometown church, which is always good for a few hundred incredible insights into life, and at my hometown, they have this HUGE creche inside the church.  The trees are as tall as live trees, decked out in white lights with this star above it.  Of course, Mary and Joseph have the Baby Jesus lying in a manger underneath.  This year I had cause to think about that star.  The one so long ago.  The one that was there, shining in the night, guiding the Wisemen to the place where Jesus was.

You may have heard the saying, “Wisemen still search for Him.”  Wise men still look for stars, just as I was those years ago when my sister dubbed me a Magi.  But what about that star?  Maybe it had a story too.

Now, I know, stars don’t have feelings and thoughts.  They are put in the sky for a time by God, and for their time, they shine, then they burn out and disappear.  (A bit like us, don’t you think?) But consider what if… what if… that little star so long ago DID have feelings and thoughts.  What would they have been, since that little star was SO far away from the action and burned for much longer than most of us celebrate Christmas (at least a year by most accounts)?

It might have gone something like this, “This is pointless.  I mean, when I first got here, it was fun, dancing around and everything.  But now, all I do is shine and shine and shine in the middle of all of this darkness, and what has it gotten me?  Burned fingertips that’s all.  I’m not even making a difference.  Look at all this darkness.  It’s still here.  I look out there, and there are other stars.  Sure most aren’t as bright as me, but they aren’t doing much good either.  I mean, look at ALL of this darkness.  We can never hope to overcome it.  What’s the point?  Maybe I should just tell God I’m a failure and go home.  I mean, how long can He expect me to keep this shining thing up?  I’ve been out here night after night after night, and nothing.  Sure, I heard the choirs of angels singing a couple times at first, but they haven’t done that in months.  Now I’m just out here, all alone, shining for no one to even see.  In fact, I bet those people down there on the earth don’t even know I’m here anymore…”

That’s the way we get, isn’t it?

Discouraged.  Tired.  Thinking whatever we’re doing is so meaningless as to be pointless.

We don’t often see and understand the real difference we are making… or could be making in the lives of others.

We don’t see those three Kings looking at our light and following our light to the Presence of Jesus in the world.  So sometimes we’re tempted to give up, to go home, to tell God it’s too hard.  But maybe we should take a few lessons from that little star about how to be a real star in this world.

First, the star recognized the Presence of Jesus, and the Presence of Jesus lit up the star’s life.  Do we recognize the Presence of Jesus in our lives, or do we slog through the day with our head down and our bodies on auto-pilot, trying to just get to the end of the day or the end of the week?  There is a better way.  FIND the Presence of Jesus all around you and inside of you.  Be a Magi.  Look for it.  The star found it and wanted to tell the world.

Second, let His light shine through you.  That little star had the first burst of excitement, but after that, it needed God’s power to stay lit.  Let God’s power light your life as well.

Next, remember that you never know who your light is leading.  I guarantee you, no matter who you are or where you are, someone is paying attention to your light and your life.  They are watching how you live and taking their cue from that.  It may be someone you don’t even know.  When people walk into your office, do you smile and greet them happily?  Or do you grumble and wish they would go away and let you get some work done?  There are wisemen and women out there, looking for someone to point them the right direction.  Is that person you?

Are you a star?

You can be, but you have to recognize the possibility and then act on it.  And when you get discouraged, always remember, just like that little star, God put you here for a reason.  You may not know what that reason is, but I challenge you to shine as best you can and let God work out the details you can’t even see.  The star did, and because of that, we still sing about that little star today.  To me, that’s worth remembering!

Copyright Staci Stallings, 2009

A stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to

Staci Stallings

Staci Stallings

choose from.  Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again.  Every title is a new adventure!  That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading.

Staci Stallings, the author of this article, is a #1 Best Selling Contemporary Christian Romance author and the founder of Grace & Faith Author Connection. Staci has a special surprise for you today and tomorrow only…

Cowboy coverFREE ON KINDLE THREE DAYS ONLY!

December 26th – 28th:

Cowboy

 “One of the most gripping contemporary romances I’ve read in the past three years.”  

–Michelle Sutton, Amazon Top 1,000 Reviewer

 

Timothy Ashton Raines is at the top of his game and the end of his rope.  Then one night, he walks away from everything…

Available today as a free download from Amazon!

The Red Ribbon

Everyone wants a blue ribbon.  Blue.  First place.  The best.  Even kindergartners want that blue ribbon.  In sports, I was never a blue-ribbon person.  In a race I was always last.  In baseball I was as likely to get hit on the head as to drop the ball.  In basketball I was fine as long as there weren’t nine other players on the court with me.  Where I got my horrible sports ability, I don’t know, but I got it.  And I got it early.

During the spring of my kindergarten year, our class had a fieldtrip to a park in a town about 20 miles away.  Making that drive now is no big deal, but when you’re six and you’ve lived in a town of 300 all your life, going to a town of a couple thousand is a very big deal.  Nonetheless, looking back now, I don’t remember much of that day.  I’m sure we ate our little sack lunches, played on the swings, slid down the slide—typical six-year-old stuff.  Then it was time for the races.

However, these were no ordinary races.  Some parent had come up with the idea to have the picnic kind of races, like pass the potato under your neck and hold an egg on a spoon while you run to the other side. I don’t remember too much about these, but there was one race that will forever be lodged in my memory—the three-legged race.

The parents decided not to use potato sacks for this particular race. Instead, they tied our feet together.  One lucky little boy got me for a partner.  Now what you have to know about this little boy is that he was the second most athletic boy in our class.  I’m sure he knew he was in trouble the second they laced his foot to mine.  As for me, I was mortified.  This guy was a winner.  He almost always won, and I knew that, with me, he didn’t have a chance.

However, apparently he didn’t realize that as deeply as I did at the time.  He laced his arm with mine, the gun sounded, and we were off to the other side.  Couples were falling and stumbling all around us, but we stayed on our feet and made it to the other side.  Unbelievably when we turned around and headed back for home, we were in the lead!  Only one other couple even had a chance, and they were a good several yards behind us.

Then only feet from the finish line, disaster struck.  I tripped and fell.  We were close enough that my partner could have easily dragged me across the finish line and won.  He could have, but he didn’t.  Instead, he stopped, reached down, and helped me up—just as the other couple crossed the finish line.

I still remember that moment, and I still have that little red ribbon.  When we graduated 13 years later, I stood on that stage and gave the Valedictory address to that same group of students, none of whom even remembered that moment anymore.  So, I told them about that little boy who had made a split-second decision that helping a friend up was more important than winning a blue ribbon.  In my speech I told them that I wouldn’t tell which of the guys sitting there on that stage was the little boy although he was up there with me.  I wouldn’t tell because in truth at one time or another all of them had been that little boy—helping me up when I fell, taking time out from their pursuit of their own goals to help a fellow person in need.

And I told them why I’ve kept that ribbon.  You see to me, that ribbon is a reminder that you don’t have to be a winner in the eyes of the world to be a winner to those closest to you.  The world may judge you a failure or a success, but those closest to you will know the truth.  That’s important to remember as we travel through this life.

You may not have a red ribbon to prove it, but I sincerely hope you have at least a few friends who remember you for taking time out from your pursuit of that blue ribbon to help them.  I’m thinking those will be the ones that really count—I know it’s the one that counted the most to me.

Copyright Staci Stallings 2003

Staci Stallings

Staci Stallings, the author of this article, is a #1 Best Selling Contemporary Christian Romance author and the founder of Grace & Faith Author Connection. Staci has a special surprise for you today and tomorrow only…

FREE ON KINDLE TWO DAYS ONLY!

December 4 & 5:

Cowboy

 “One of the most gripping contemporary romances I’ve read in the past three years.”  

–Michelle Sutton, Amazon Top 1,000 Reviewer

 

Timothy Ashton Raines is at the top of his game and the end of his rope until one night, he walks away from everything…

Available today as a free download from Amazon!

http://www.amazon.com/Cowboy-The-Harmony-Series-ebook/dp/B0049B2E82/ref=cm_cr_pr_sims_t

The Pattern

What Good Friday & Easter Sunday Teach Us about

Christian Romance Novels

You probably have never thought about this.  In fact, I only realized it a couple weeks ago and I’ve been reading and writing and viewing people’s stories for 42 years.  But I think it’s interesting so I’m going to share with you what I am learning about writing, reading, and life.

For a long time I’ve known that I don’t like unhappily ever after books.   I hate books that end in the death of the hero or heroine.  I hate books that string you along only to have a depressing ending. That drives me nuts.

Now I think I’m beginning to understand why.

The other day I heard this quote:  “Death does not win.”

When I read it, I was reeling from the death of someone who had died far too young, with so much left to give to the world.  It sure looked like death had won, but then as I thought about it and read through some comments of others reacting to the statement, I came to understand the paradox that we all live in.  To us, in this world, it looks like death wins.

I’m not just talking about physical death either.  I’m talking about the death of our dreams, the death of our hope, the death of everything we thought would bring us joy and happiness.  Look around you, you will see what I mean.  There’s the young bride who loses her husband in a freak car accident.  The young soldier who comes home crippled.  The child stricken with cancer.  The church that burns. The man who loses his family in his desperate attempts to provide for them.

Over and over you see this pattern played out.  People pushed to and past their limits.  People grieving for a past they can’t go back and fix.  People who are in a living death because moving on is either too difficult or too painful.  It is the story of life itself.

If the story ends there, we begin to believe that death does win, that the bad things are just too much for the good things to ever have a chance.  And if you stay there, in that belief, you’re in serious trouble. I’ve seen what hopelessness will do in a life, and it’s not pretty.

But here’s the thing:  I am beginning to understand that all of this death stuff is simply Good Friday.  Think about it, on Good Friday, it looked like death had won.  Jesus, the Son of God, was hung on a cross and killed.  I’m sure his followers and loved ones knew what hopelessness felt like at that moment when Jesus said, “Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.”  Don’t you? I’m sure “despair” would only have been the starting place for what they felt.

Now if that was the end of the story, death would have won.  Game, set , match done and over forever.

However, we as Christians know that wasn’t the end!  Think about the great gift we have been given of knowing that as horrifically bad as Good Friday was, that wasn’t the end of the story!  Because no matter how bad Good Friday is in a life, Easter Sunday is still coming!  No matter how bad things get, death doesn’t win. Life wins.  God wins.  And if we believe and follow Him, we win too!

So what does all of this have to do with writing Christian romance novels?

Ah, that’s the cool part!

You see, I don’t just see this pattern in lives around me. I see it in my stories.  The guy who was on drugs but who is trying for a new life and the Good Fridays he goes through of letting himself, his will, his plans go in favor of what God wants for him–commending his spirit into the Father’s hands.

Or maybe it’s the guy who has everything but is holding secrets he’s never told anyone.  Why?  Because giving them up would be dying to the self of perfection.  However, as we read through his story, death of self gives rise to… hope and more joy than he could ever have known holding onto all the stuff God was trying to get him to let go of.

And then there’s the young girl stuck behind her books who thinks life is so much safer when no one knows she’s on the planet.  As you read her story, you come to the understanding that it was only in dying to who she thought she had to be that she comes into who she was always meant to be.  The caterpillar’s metamorphosis into the butterfly.  Good Friday giving way to Easter Sunday.

These and so many, many more!

Think about this pattern in your own life.  What have you had to die to, lay down, surrender in order to get to Easter Sunday (or what might you need to give up, lay down, and surrender)?  For me, it was perfectionism and working to get everyone to approve of me.  It’s different for everyone, but I’m convinced now that no matter who you are, the pattern holds.  The choice is clear:  Stay stuck in Good Friday or give your spirit to God and move to Easter Sunday.

If you care to share a little about your pattern, I’d love to hear it.

I look forward to hearing what you think about this concept and your journey as well!

Copyright Staci Stallings, 2012

Staci Stallings

 

Staci Stallings, the author of this article, is a #1 Best Selling Contemporary Christian author and the founder of

Grace & Faith Author Connection. You can check out Staci’s newest release…

For Real

Book 3, ~ THE COURAGE SERIES ~

“It will pull you in and touch your heart.”

Blaine Donovan has a secret, but so far his plan to keep the rest of the world in the dark about who he really is and what’s really going on in his life has worked. If he can just finish school before the demons catch up with him, he knows he can make life make sense once again. However, when he runs into Melody Todd, a semi-friend he had thought was long-gone, life takes a turn Blaine wasn’t at all expecting.

Still hurting from watching her best friend marry someone else, Melody Todd has given up on dating, guys, and on herself. In fact, when Blaine shows back up in her life, she does what she always does with the eligible guys who look her way—she sets him up with someone else. But Blaine soon proves to be much different than he at first seems. Too many things are not adding up the way they are supposed to, and the more Melody digs, the more she sees that the Blaine she knows is not the real Blaine at all…

“For Real will show you how you can lay those things that are preventing you from loving Jesus at the foot of the Cross. It will inspire you and give you hope.

 

Working for Your Worth

By Staci Stallings

Worth.  What is it?

We ask, “Is it worth it?” and “What’s it worth to you?”

All of the definitions of worth speak of value–monetary or life value.

But where do we get our worth?  I think that is a central way Satan uses to get us off-track.  I also think if we were to really look at the question and not just live it blindly, it could help us find some peace rather than a mountain of stress.

Let’s look first at how the world says we get our worth.  There are many ways the world says you can be “worth it.”  You can have a well-paying job or a good family; a fine home or fancy cars.  You can be a leader in your community or you can contribute to society in some meaningful way.

All of those are fine in their place, but here’s the problem.

When you get your worth from your job, what happens when you lose the job or even could potentially lose it?  At that point the job becomes your worth.  No wonder losing a job can be so devastating.  Yes, you have the financial strain, but worse the job loss signals to you that your worth is suddenly zero.

How about if your worth is tied up in being married or in a relationship.  “I am worth it because I have someone who loves me.”  Okay.  What happens when they leave or die?

Many Christians try to derive their worth from their work in the church or in ministry.  Don’t get me wrong–ministry is important, but it does not and should not define if you are worth it or not.  When people begin to look to their ministry and church work to give them self-worth, oh, do they get into trouble quickly.

And I believe right there is where Satan snags the most well-intentioned Christians. In their heads and their hearts he twines the belief that “since I’m working in the church, I’m worth something.”

However, when you are working for your worth in any context, even the in the church, you’re in trouble.  Why?  Because seeking worth through your own work can become an addiction.  At first, it feels like it takes very little ministry to experience a worth-increase.  Then, as you go, it takes more and more to experience that same sense of “I’m worth it.”

Now, I love the church, but it is one place that will absolutely ask you to give more than any human ever can.  There are always positions to fill, jobs to do, needs to be met.  You can join the choir and the ladies organization; you can pray for missions and help at the bake sale; you can volunteer to help with the youth, teach Sunday School and run VBS; you can help plant the trees and do the fundraiser for the new foyer rug.  You can read in services, usher, and be in hospitality. You can be on the finance council and on the board.

There is literally no end to the ministries you can choose to be in, and therein lies the trap.  When you are working for your worth, and to get the “high” you initially experience from gaining your self-worth through you work, you have to do more and more and more; and there are so many good things in the church that you could be doing…. Oh, it’s easy to hit burn-out while simultaneously feeling like you are not doing enough.

It’s a paradox that snags too many Christians.

So what is the answer?

Stop working for your worth!

The truth is… the Good News is… your worth is not defined by anything on this earth.  Nothing you do or don’t do can add or subtract from your inherent worth.  Why?  Because your worth doesn’t come from you or anything outside you. It comes only from God, and the worth God imbues you with is perfect and whole just as it is.  And once you accept that, no additions or subtractions are necessary.

Does that mean we don’t work?  No.  It means we work from a spirit of who we are in God, not from a spirit of trying to become something if we do enough.

Stop working for your worth.  Understand that right now, just as you are–you are worth it because God says you are.

Once you accept that, your work will no longer feel like work. You can say yes when you want to say yes and no when you don’t, and not feel the crushing guilt of letting everyone else down and knowing that now they will think you are not worth it.

The truth is:  You are priceless, just as you are, because God made you and you are a Child of the King.

Period.  End of sentence… and beginning of a brand new life.

 

Staci Stallings, the author of this article, invites you to take a very personal journey out into the territory with her. Reflections on Life III: Posts from the Territory is a collection of short stories that show the trials and tribulations life can throw at someone as well as the hope that abides no matter how challenging life becomes.  “Your words touched my heart and gave me cause to believe that what I’m going through right now has a purpose.” –Greg Parker, online reader

Pick up your ebook copy today on : Amazon  or BN Nook 
Reflections on Life III
~ Posts from the Territory~

Life. It sounds so easy.

But then you hit “the territory.”

Out in the territory–some call it the wilderness–you’re not on sure footing, you’re uncertain how to proceed and sometimes how to even survive. Maybe it’s a bout of unemployment or a divorce. Maybe it’s a loved one’s death or an illness.

The territory can be a frightening, overwhelming place.

In this candid, very personal collection of stories, Staci Stallings shares with her readers her own walks through in the territory. From the death of her brother through her son’s battle with dyslexia, Staci knows what it’s like to be in the disorienting sandstorms of life. Fortunately, she also knows that holding onto God and faith can see one through the “territories” of life that crop up no matter who you are or how much faith you have.

Find hope and healing, faith and peace in these pages. Let Staci share with you the lessons she has learned so you will come to realize that not only is there hope–even in what may appear to be hopeless situations, but that you are not alone in having “territory moments.” Most of all through these stories it will become clear that God truly is right there with you–even in the territory–every step of the way.

“Your words touched my heart and gave me cause to believe that what I’m going through right now has a purpose.”
Greg Parker, online reader

Pick up your ebook copy today on : Amazon  or BN Nook

 

 

 

Of Waterpots and New Wine

By Staci Stallings

And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and Jesus was also invited, and His disciples, to the wedding.  And when the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."  And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what do I have to do with you? My hour has not yet come."  His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."  Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification...  John 2: 1-6

There is more of course, but for our purposes we will stop right there. You’ve probably heard this story more times than you can count. It is of course the story of Jesus’ first miracle when He changed water into wine.  And not just any wine, no, the best wine. That lesson is for another article, for now I want to focus on the final eleven words of this passage.

Specifically I want to ask you to reread the passage and look closely at what kind of pots they used.  In my previous reading of this passage, I had always pictured... well, pitchers.  Large earthenware vessels that look like modern day vases. You know the kind you would normally put wine into. But that's NOT what it says!  NO.  They put it in "stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification."  In the Message Bible it says it this way... "six stone pots, used by the Jews for ritual washings..."  Do you know what that means?

Very simply, those pots were used to enforce and carry out the rules, the law, the prescribed way of purifying yourself so you were clean enough to be presentable to society.  Ritual washings were one of the biggest outward signs that someone was steeped in the rules of the Jews.  There was a prescribed amount of time you had to wash, a prescribed amount of times you had to wash... And Jesus used those pots to do something totally new!

On top of that, the ritual washings were meant to show one's attempt to wash away their sin and thus be pure. (If I wash myself enough, if I follow all of the rules, I shall be clean in the eyes of God). But the reality was, people were still dirty.  Their bodies were dirty. Their hands were dirty. Their lives were dirty with sins they could not get rid of no matter how many times they washed themselves. And even when they washed, they got dirty again and thus had to wash again.

And Jesus (isn’t He awesome?) used the pots that had been used to wash people, pots that symbolize us and our lives (dirty and nasty) to put drinking wine in.  That is not just a little inconsequential detail!  That's huge!

In fact, upon closer reading, it does not even say that Jesus first said, “Take those waterpots and wash them out, clean them out, and then fill them.”  No. He said, “Go and fill them.”  In all the times you have read and heard this passage, have you ever for a second pictured those servants as taking the time to go and wash out the pots on their own? 

I haven’t because prior to really reading this, I hadn’t seen the need for them to. However, at the risk of your lunch, consider what they did.  Guests had washed themselves with water from these pots. Surely some of the grime went back in them as they finished.  We don’t know how many guests there were, but I have always pictured a rather large contingent of guests.  At very least we know of fourteen, Jesus, the disciples, and Mary. At minimum, that’s 28 hands, four for each pot, that have recently been washed in them. Now, Jesus says, “Go and fill those with water,” and presumably without the benefit of Dawn Dishwashing Liquid, these pots were filled with water.

Then Jesus said, “Draw some out now, and take it to the headwaiter.”

Something tells me, if I was one of those servants, I wouldn’t have had the guts to tell the headwaiter what kind of receptacles that wine came from. Of course, we all know that the headwaiter proclaimed that this wine was the finest of wines.

So, consider that in one moment, Christ took us, these waterpots, empty yes, but permanently stained with the dirt of many hands. We had been steeped in the myth that our own actions could somehow wash us clean enough to gain entrance into Heaven. He took these empty, dirty, disgusting waterpots, and He poured Himself (His blood--water made wine) into us, and then he did something new!  Not just new wine. The BEST wine!  Not the rules.  Not our sins.  Him.  And He is enough to make us THE BEST!

Believe me, I will never mistake those waterpots for pitchers again, nor will I so easily take for granted the mercy and grace He poured into me, dirty from within with no hope to ever get myself clean enough to earn anything. He did not require me to clean up before He washed me with Himself. He didn’t look at me and say, “Ew, disgusting. Let’s use something else.”

Instead, He looked at me and saw not what I had done and what I was but at what He could do inside of me. That’s the new wine—what He can do in a life, and trust me, it’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted, poor dirty waterpot that you were before He showed up.

Copyright Staci Stallings, 2006

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When control freak Lisa Matheson falls for handsome but shy firefighter, Jeff Taylor, it’s possible that life might just be going her way for a change. The only problem is she can’t control Jeff or the death wish he seems to have…

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Review of “Deep in the Heart”

Deep in the Heart

Review by:  H. L. Wegley

Romance, faith, forgiveness, reconciliation, Deep in the Heart has them all. Like each of her books I’ve read, Staci Stallings’ new romance quickly draws you in. Deep in her readers’ hearts is where she plants her two main characters, down-to-her-last-dollar Maggie Montgomery and handsome Keith Ayer, son of wealthy, blue-blooded Conrad Ayer.

Both Maggie and Keith have deep wounds from painful childhood experiences. Maggie’s wounds are healed…almost, but Keith’s are still festering.

Coming from socially opposite ends of the universe and scarred by their past, can these two ever find enough common ground to share what each has that the other desperately needs?

Rather than spoil the story and its many surprises, I’ll let Staci’s skillful writing spoil you with her rich character development and captivating story line, combined with a strong cast of supporting characters.

Set deep in the heart of Texas, this is a story all romance readers are sure to enjoy, especially those who like a solid faith component to their romance.

Deep in the Heart will be free for all Amazon Kindle readers on April 18 & 19!

Click here to read the first chapter or here to see it on Kindle!

Author:  Staci Stallings is a Contemporary Christian author and the founder of Grace & Faith Author Connection.  The full line of Staci’s books, which include Contemporary Romance, Bible Studies, and short story collections can be found at:  http://stacistallings.wordpress.com

Her romance novel collection can be found at:  http://ebookromancestories.com

Her Christian Living blog is at: http://spiritlightbooks.wordpress.com

Reviewer: 
H. L. Wegley served in the USAF as an Intelligence Analyst and a Weather Officer. He has a BS in Meteorology and worked as a Research Scientist in Atmospheric Physics at Pacific Northwest Laboratories, where he published scientific articles, reports and books. After earning an MS in Computer Science, he worked more than two decades as a Systems Programmer at Boeing before retiring in the Seattle area to pursue his love of writing by learning the craft of fiction.

A Better Place

by:  Staci Stallings (August 2007)

Our church burned down.  It’s now going on five months since we’ve been having services in our parish gym.  The fire took out the main worship space, and the water to put out the fire damaged the gathering area.  Thankfully the fire department battled valiantly, and their efforts saved the classroom area, kitchen, and gym.

Since then, we’ve been having Sunday services in the gym.  Now in the five months that we’ve been in the gym, there have had to be some dramatic changes.  The wood floor is gone—another victim of water damage.  Large red runners line the aisles on the concrete floor, chairs stand in for pews, and a donated piano and organ have replaced the million dollar pipe organ in the old church.

But there are other things that aren’t quite so church-y about the space.  For example, there are basketball goals on either side, hanging down just over the congregation’s heads.  Because there are only chairs, there are no kneelers.  And the swatch of seating in the very back is simply the old bleachers.  Noisy things that were meant for a gym—not a worship space.

They’ve brought in candles, lecterns, a baptismal font, an altar, and even the tabernacle.  It’s really quite remarkable that a gym can look so worshipful.  However, as I looked out across it tonight, I couldn’t help but think not only of the old church now being torn down but of the new worship space that will be built in the coming months.

I thought about the sound system which will be more reliable because it will be designed for the space rather than rigged to make it work during a frantic, tear-filled week.  I thought about the pews with actual kneelers so even the non-diehard church-goers can once again kneel during the consecration.  As I stood there in the bleachers and looked out across the heads of the congregation, it struck me that yes, we are here in this strange dichotomy of spaces, worshipping, praising, and making the best of a bad situation.

The Bible verse, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world”  (John 15:19) came to me.  I saw that spread before me was a metaphor of exactly what Christ was talking about.  We are in the world but not of the world—just like we’re in the gym for now, but it’s not where we’re destined to be.  This is temporary.  There will be a day in the future that we will trade in those basketball goals and bleachers for real pews and carpet and maybe even a new pipe organ.

In the same way one day we will trade in this life full of trials and suffering for a new life in God’s Heaven where every tear will be wiped away, where He will trade liberty for the bonds of captives, beauty for ashes, heartache for eternal glory. Yes, it’s not just our church.  We’re all going to a better place… just you wait and see!

*~*~*

Check out one of Staci’s novels, a #1 Amazon Best Seller in Religious Romance…

  See more at Amazon here.

Or read the first chapters here!

 

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