From My Playlist – Redeemed

She held the blade close to her wrist, hovering between a decision to cut deeper or skim the surface. Would it wipe away the hurt if she bled more? Would she ever feel worthy to be loved again after what he did?

Her shaky fingers pressed the tip into her skin and sliced. She sucked in a breath and closed her eyes.

The fight has already been won, child. Shake off those heavy chains and be set free.

Words from the youth pastor filled her mind. Could it be that easy?

All her life everyone told her she would never amount to anything. Images of the one who stole her innocence played in her mind like a never-ending horror movie.

No, it can’t be that easy. She sliced again.

Stop fighting the fight. It’s already been won.

Tears rolled down her cheeks and plopped into the sink, blending with her blood. The red mixture swirled into the drain and disappeared. Could her sin do the same?

She threw the blade and grabbed a cloth, pressing down on her wound. She needed to talk to the youth pastor and find out more.

It was time to break free of her chains.

redeemed 2Have you ever felt weighed down with shackles of hurt that you just couldn’t shake off? Pain so deep you want to crawl in a hole and stay there?

You’re not alone.

We all struggle with feelings of unworthiness. Our self-esteem has plummeted to the depths of despair for many different reasons. Divorce, child abuse, job loss, death, financial burdens, health issues, etc.

We are haunted by ghosts, threatening to steal our happiness. They will hold us back from fulfilling what God has in store. We forget He has paid the price. We don’t have to fight the fight.

He has already won.

A friend sent this song to me. The words grab you instantly. When I asked her what she loved about it, she told me that even though she was rejected by her husband, she knew she “is perfect in God’s eyes and redeemed. We have to get to the point where we live for God and only God—not the acceptance of man.”

Amen!

We need to wipe away the stains, shake off the chains, and stop trying to fight God’s battles. Leave that to Him.

We are redeemed!

Were you released from shackles? Share with us. We’d love to hear your story. It would be an encouragement to others.

Lamentations 3:58 (NIV)

You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life.

Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave (words and music by Benji Cowart and Mike Weaver)

In the video below, Mike Weaver reveals how this song came about. Listen to what he has to say. The song follows. Beautiful!

Rainbow Delight

This past week we had a strange day of storms—ominous clouds, pelting rain, and sunshine. You name it, we had it!

At one point it was raining while the sun was still shining. You know what that means! Jeff and I looked for a rainbow. Sure enough, there it was outside our front door. I snapped a photo of it.rainbow2

Then I began to think about rainbows. What do they mean? What comes to mind? Thoughts of promises? Treasures?

I also thought about the storms in life and how at times they’re unending. At least it has seemed that way lately. Struggles lined with questions of why only brings more stress. How do we deal with them? Do we look for the rainbows or wallow in the pits of despair?

Do we search for hope in the pot at the end of the rainbow? Or are we negative and think we will only find coal?

If you were to wish for one thing in your “pot of gold” what would it be? I’m not referring to a windfall of cash. Think outside the box.

What’s your rainbow delight? Share with us in the comment section.

So You Want to be a Computer Hacker? Guest post by DiAnn Mills

I’m sure most of you guessed by my recent flurry of posts on Facebook that the TV show 24 is my fave. I love the action, intrigue, and of course the computer hacker, Chloe! There’s nothing she can’t do when her fingers fly across her keyboard. Have you ever wanted to be like her? Hacking into systems to help beat the clock and get the bad guys? I confess, I haveFirewall copy.

I know today the term computer hacker has a negative connotation to it. They play havoc and download viruses to steal identities. However, there are those who work for the good guys. DiAnn Mills tells us about the research she did for her newest release, Firewall. Let’s see what she found.

Take it away, DiAnn!

Copy that!

P.S. Read to the very end to find out how you can win an autographed copy of Firewall!

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In Firewall, a computer hacker’s work escalates into a critical issue. Taryn Young, my heroine is a software developer who is determined to stop a hacker from penetrating a software program and prevent the loss of lives and property.

digitalworld

The ability to hack a computer system requires an intelligent and highly motivated individual. Few colleges and universities teach the needed skills, which means the potential hacker seeks to learn through somewhat illegal means by locating hacker communities who are willing to share their expertise. Some love the idea of learning how to make an impact in the world of technology. Others soon realize the harm that can be done.

In my novel, the hacker’s motivation is greed, money, and power.

The research about hackers, the types, characteristics, and levels of expertise, is fascinating.

Hackers are good guys or bad guys. White Hats is the label used for ethical hackers. These pre-authorized individuals break into their own company’s systems to test security and software. They work to see how deeply they can penetrate a computer system’s access and data to expose vulnerabilities so they can be remedied. The International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants is an organization that furthers the development of ethical hacking through classes, certifications, and continuous training. My heroine is at the top of the list as a White Hat.

Bad guy hackers are generally referred to as Black Hats. They have their own agenda, and their methods are illegal. Mildly put, the bad guy/girl hackers are out to breech security systems to demonstrate their ability to capture and/or destroy data.

A Grey Hat hacker uses the skills and expertise of a Black Hat and White Hat. These persons hack into a system, find the vulnerable areas, and report the findings to the administrator. Often, they offer to repair the weakened system for a fee.

My heroine has an elite status. She uses an alias as a Black Hat hacker so she can keep up to date on their methods of disrupting or damaging and protecting computer systems.

blackhat

Other classifications of those involved in securing and protecting information on computer systems can be found here:  http://www.ehow.com/facts_5003123_types-computer-hackers.html

Firewall involves hackers seeking information inside a computer system in which a software program has been protected by a firewall. This is part of a software program or a computer system that serves to prohibit unauthorized access. My heroine has designed a software program with a superior firewall.

A back door is simply a method a code developer might program into an application which permits him/her to gain access into an application or system without using the typical “logon credentials”or normal front door method of gaining access to the application or system. It’s not documented anywhere since it serves as a point of exposure. This approach allows a developer to more easily provide support even if the normal method of gaining access isn’t operational. Someone could use the backdoor in an unethical manner and either destroy or plant a virus. My heroine is aware of a backdoor in her software, but what happens if it’s hacked?

A race for time and the source of the hacker keeps my heroine and the hero on the move. Will they find the bad guy before it’s too late – and survive?

Have you considered being a computer hacker? Leave a comment below and be entered for a personalized copy of Firewall. Contest ends midnight, Saturday, July 12th (EST). 

DiAnn Mills Bio

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than 55 books published.

Picture 085Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2014 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.

She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Visit her website at www.diannmills.com and connect with her on Facebook  (www.facebook.com/diannmills), Twitter (twitter.com/diannmills), Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/DiAnnMills), and Goodreads (www.goodreads.com/DiAnnMills).

Dominion Day!

Tomorrow is a special day here in Canada. On July 1, 1867 it was officially named Dominion Day—a holiday commemorating the formation of Canada. On October 27, 1982 Parliament changed it to Canada Day.

I’m taking a small break this long weekend, but will be back with a special blog by DiAnn Mills next Monday. So watch for your chance to win her newest release, Firewall!

I’ll leave you with special love painted in the sky from Canada’s own Canadian Forces Snowbirds!

Happy Canada Day, everyone! XO

canada day 2014

Strawberries and Sandcastles – guest blog by Stephanie Nickel

Its been another crazy week with no time for writing, so I wanted to share an awesome blog my friend Stephanie Nickel wrote called Strawberries and Sandcastles. This was a great story Ted told on the Friday night of our conference. It has something in it for all of us. I’ve also shared a few more pictures of the conference at the end. Enjoy!

Take it away, Steph! :D

steph and dar

Stephanie and I at Write Canada

New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker is the author of 49 books. The newest, A.D. 30, will be released in October 2014. I look forward to reading it. (In fact, I would like to start with Heaven’s Wager, his first book, and read them in order, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Who knows? It might.)

Ted was one of the keynote speakers at Write Canada 2014. He also led a continuing class. I am so very glad I attended both sessions. Being the live-from-the-heart person I am, I was impressed by his openness and vulnerability. This was no sales pitch or 12 Easy Steps to Achieve Success presentation. This was Ted being Ted. (Actually, it was Ted being Theo [Tay-o], his given name.)

On Friday night he told the story of a woman being pursued by a tiger. She came to a cliff and had no option but to jump and grab hold of a sturdy vine. When she got the courage to look down, she realized another tiger paced below, waiting for her to fall. To make matters worse, two mice – one black and one white – began to chew on the vine.

Hopeless?

It looked like it, but the woman decided to close her eyes, take a deep breath, and refocus. What did she see when she opened her eyes again? Though the tigers and the mice were still there, for the first time, she noticed three beautiful strawberries right in front of her. She reached out and plucked the strawberries. They were sweet and juicy and gave her joy despite her situation.

As you can imagine the tigers are the challenges, hurts, and fears of life. The two mice . . . day and night. But those strawberries – those beautiful, wonderful, sweet strawberries – are the opportunities and joys God brings our way. It is so easy to miss them when we are focused elsewhere.

And sandcastles . . .

I’m glad – very, very glad – I attended Ted’s continuing class on Saturday morning. I’ve mentioned before how much I appreciate honesty, openness, and vulnerability. Well, instead of sharing how-to’s on becoming a bestselling author, he simply shared his personal journey – a journey we can all relate to.

He reminded us how truly fleeting this life is. Everything we do, everything we achieve . . . it’s all temporary – like a sandcastle. The tides will come and wash it away or we will choose to kick it down in order to build another.

Depressing?

Not at all.

It reminded me not to take my life – or achievements – too seriously. To relax and just build the castle I’m currently working on. However, if that doesn’t work out, for whatever reason, I can move on to the next project, the next sandcastle.

Ted’s talk reminded me of artist and author SARK, Susan Arielle Rainbow Kennedy. Though I don’t share much of her worldview, she was the first person in a long time who gave me permission to be truly who I am. Her artwork is remarkable in that it is non-conformist and childlike. It is not “perfect” by some people’s standards and that in itself spoke volumes.

Ted’s vulnerability gave me (us) permission to be vulnerable. (I have found that is true in my own life as well. If I seek to set aside the masks and the costumes, it gives others permission to do the same.)

So, are we willing to pluck those strawberries, those good gifts God has for us, and build those sandcastles, knowing the tides will eventually wash them away or we will choose, at some point, to kick them down ourselves?

May you discover the beauty around you today – even in the midst of life’s challenges and heartbreaks.

Stephanie Nickel, Lisa Hall-Wilson, Ruth Waring, Darlene L. Turner

Stephanie Nickel, Lisa Hall-Wilson, Ruth Waring, Darlene L. Turner – Our 10 Year Anniversary! (original WWC reunion!)

Ruth and I

Ruth and I

"Really Ted, $230 for two of your books is just way too much!" True story! I was charged that by mistake and I told him. Not sure if this was when, but by the looks on our faces, I'm thinking it was! ha!

“Really Ted, $230 for two of your books is just way too much!” True story! I was charged that by mistake and I told him. Not sure if this was when, but by the looks on our faces, I’m thinking it was! ha!

Write Canada

I spent the past few days in Guelph at Write Canada – a writer’s conference put on by The Word Guild. What an amazing time of re-connecting with writer friends, making new ones, and learning from some of the best!

And having supper with New York Times bestselling author, Ted Dekker! What more can I say? :-)dar and ted

Ted was one of the keynote speakers and his words were inspiring. He spoke from his heart and it was awesome. In his continuing class he shared his publishing journey and guess what? He was rejected many times too! Yes, bestselling author of 40 books, Ted Dekker! It was encouraging to hear he started at the bottom–just like us.

I connected with other great authors (Sandra Orchard, so great meeting you!!), editors, agents, and fellow attendees. Amazing time of learning more about various aspects of the writing process. I’m coming home pumped and ready to get back at it. I’m not giving up but pressing on!

Here are a few pictures of our time together at Write Canada!

Enjoy!

 

Ted reading from his upcoming release in October A.D. 30 (can't wait!)

Ted reading from A.D. 30 (coming in October – can’t wait!)

Ted Talk!

Ted Talk!

Dar with Sandra Orchard (author of award-winning book Deadly Devotion - congrats, Sandra!)

Dar with Sandra Orchard (author of award-winning novel Deadly Devotion – congrats, Sandra!)

 

 

From My Playlist – Whom Shall I Fear & Peace in the Shelter

Wow…I hardly know where to begin and struggled with even writing a blog this week. What do you do when you just don’t know what to say?

You speak from the heart.

Last week was a tough one. However, I’m not going to list all of the struggles we’ve been going through because I know there are others who are worse off.

But don’t you feel your troubles seem to happen all at once? Why is that?

To top off my already stressful week, the city I grew up in, and where my family still lives, was under siege. Moncton, NB was taken hostage by a mad man after he killed three RCMP officers and wounded two others. What? Nothing like this happens in our neck of the woods! I could hardly believe my ears.

RCMP

It was true. RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) were on a man hunt to find this guy and asked all residents to stay in their homes, lock their doors, and turn their outside lights on. Schools were closed, businesses shut down, buses were taken off the streets. All in an attempt to find this gunman before he could kill anyone else.

Didn’t I just see this on a movie?

That’s what it felt like.

It’s hard to watch from a distance. Seeing buildings and areas on TV you recognize, knowing your family could be in danger. I immediately prayed. I contacted my sister and brother to make sure they were home safe and sound. They were.

I prayed for God’s army to surround the city to protect them.

After 30 hours of lock down, the RCMP caught and arrested the suspect. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. They could come out of hiding.

But their hurting wouldn’t be over. Three young officers lost their lives in a senseless tragedy. Their families have yet to deal with the grief. The shock hasn’t worn off.

When I look back on my rough week, I shake my head. These young families had a much harder week than I did. I can’t even begin to imagine.

All I can do is pray for them.

This week I leave you with two songs that have entered my mind for different reasons. Each with a unique and powerful message.

Listen to the words.

Remember that no matter what we go through, God’s army will protect us and we’ll find peace in His arms.

There’s no better place to be.

Share your thoughts on these songs. Where do you run when tragedies happen? Let’s remember to honor our law enforcement. They put their lives on the line to protect us! Let’s pray for God’s army to surround them.

Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies) (Chris Tomlin)

Peace in the Shelter (Jim Brady)