From My Playlist – Basics of Life

Picture this…you’re sitting at a restaurant table. You have your iPhone out. It chimes, announcing the arrival of a text. You pick it up and respond.

Your husband is checking Facebook on his tablet in between bites of his meal.

Your youngest is playing a game on his Nintendo.

None of you are talking—only with your fingers.

Sound familiar?

technology

Have you ever wondered if technology is taking over our world too quickly? Think back to ten years ago and how far we’ve come in only that short of a time period. Think ahead ten years. Can you imagine the possibilities?

I’m not sure I want to.

Doesn’t it scare you? It does me.

If we can use technology and be connected the way we can today, what will we do with the knowledge we’ll gain tomorrow?

Recently, I saw the movie Lucy. I’m still debating on whether or not I liked it, but it got me thinking. After a fluke situation, Lucy gains 100% capacity of her brain cells and makes an interesting statement. She says, “It’s like all things that make us human are fading away.”

Hummmm…

I believe there’s more fact than fiction to that statement. With each passing year and increasing gigabytes, technology is taking over our thinking. We’re not required to use our brains. The computer will do it for us.

Don’t you think we need to somehow get back to the basics of life?

Don’t get me wrong…I love my technology! It’s just that we can’t let it take over and do our thinking for us. What ever happened to families sitting down and talking instead of texting over the dinner table?

Has it really come to that?

When I started thinking about this concept, I immediately thought of the song by 4Him called Basics of Life. Yes, it’s an oldie but a goodie.

It talks about the same thing. A new day has dawned and we’ve rearranged the way we think. We’ve strayed from what the Bible teaches. Some believe that if we think and try hard enough, we can become gods. The lines have blurred and we’ve crossed them, stepping into dangerous territory.

basics of lifeMy favorite line in this song is, “But I still believe in the old rugged cross.” It gives me chill bumps and I pump my fist in the air!

No matter what changes come our way, what technology brings us, or what our minds can comprehend, one thing is certain…

The Rock of Ages will stand.

He never changes.

How about we get back to the basics of life?

It’s where Jesus is.

What are your thoughts on how fast technology is growing? Is it good or bad? Share in the comments section.

Basics of Life – written by Mark Harris and Donald Koch

Forever Summer

Hi everyone! Can you believe summer is half over? It’s already August. Wow. It’s been a busy one for me, so right now I’m taking a much-needed vacation. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks. For now, enjoy this new single by Paul Brandt, Forever Summer! Love this catchy tune!

What is your favorite summer time memory? Share with us!

Jamie’s Paintbrush

One of my favorite things to do other than writing is tole painting. There’s nothing like taking a blank surface and creating a masterpiece. Getting lost in a world of snowmen, gingerbread people, and many other fun characters is such fun! A few years ago I discovered some pieces I fell in love with. The designer? Jamie Mills-Price. Absolutely love her designs. She’s creative, fun, and never runs out of great ideas!

Recently, I was able to interview Jamie and she has an interesting story. I know you’ll enjoy getting to know her.

Tell us about yourself: Your background. Likes, dislikes or pet peeves.  Family.

I grew up in a very loving family, in a small town in southern Oregon. I spent a lot of my childhood outdoors, exploring the mountains and streams around us. We were not well off, but I did not realize that. We always had a huge garden in the summer; we had chickens, horses, dogs, and cats…everything a country girl needs!

Jamie Mills-Price

Jamie Mills-Price

I was married at age 18 to my sweetheart (Christopher). A couple of years later we had our first son (Ryan) and about 6 years later I got pregnant with our second son (Tyler).  We were excited about our little growing family, but the day after our 8th wedding anniversary, my husband was killed in a logging accident, and it really rocked my (our) world.

I had always looked at the world through rose-colored glasses. I was a happy, positive person and content with my life. Now here I was, 6 ½ months pregnant with my youngest son, and a widowed mother of two boys. I really did not want to go through my life without my sweetheart and I couldn’t bear the thought of the boys not having their super creative, enthusiastic, life-loving father to raise them. I sank into a depression and made daily trips to the cemetery with the boys as I just could not get over my grief.

This is where my art helped to save me….
My dear, family friend Flo, saw the path I was headed on and she talked me into taking a “tole” painting class with her. “Tole” painting – I had no idea what that was, but she talked me into taking it! To make a long story short – I fell in love with this style of painting and took right to it! I began to escape my reality a bit and began painting my blues away…

I would lose myself in another world when I picked up the paint brush. I was entranced with the creativity of this style of painting! How fun was it to take your painting (off a boring canvas) and put it on anything that would stand still long enough! <wink> I painted the furniture in my house, the walls, the doors, home décor items, you name it…I enjoyed it all! Slowly, I found my happiness returning and I have not looked back.

Between the Vines

Between the Vines

Now, I am engaged to a dear man, Don (from Valhalla) and we enjoy working together to create designs for the decorative arts industry. My boys have grown into wonderful young men, I am so proud of both of them, they live about 3 hours north of me, so I don’t get to see them as often as this Mother would like. :-) 

Pet Peeves? I don’t like drama or negativity, so I try to avoid the situations, or people that continuously create it. Life is too short to have that in your life!

Likes, Dislikes? I love to laugh and I try to find the humor in most situations. Whether it is when I am designing, or teaching a class, I try to have a good time. In class, I strive to have the students relax and enjoy the process…not be stressed and tearing their hair out!

How long have you been drawing? Did you doodle as a child?

I doodled as a child, yes (and I still do!). I have been consciously sketching, (to my recollection), since about high school. I remember sketching faces and I also remember “designing” (sketching) clothing. I had dreams of being a clothing designer!

Did you ever dream that your love of painting would be so successful?

Not in my wildest dreams. I did not really start down this path until I was about 27-28. I never thought it would be much more than a hobby.

How did “Between the Vines” come about?

I was teaching “tole” painting classes and my students would ask me to adjust other designer’s patterns to “fit” their found surfaces and they often asked me to add other details, so I would draw those.

bear hugs1Pretty soon, my students encouraged me to do my own book – so I compiled a “book” full of my original designs and sent them to a publisher (not really expecting an answer back).

It was discouraging to me when I sent my portfolio to a publisher who “sat” on it for a year. In my mind, I thought I was not good enough to do tole books, so with acceptance of that fact, I continued to teach my classes and dream about the What If’s. Well, my students would not accept this and they encouraged me to send it to another publisher.

So, then I sent my portfolio to Sue Scheewe Publishing and she got back with me within about one week—she was excited to publish my book! I was on cloud 9! I could not believe it and I really credit her for getting my name and work under the eyes of so many painters. She gave me the wings to fly. I received many little words of wisdom and I was ready to do whatever she needed from me.  I am a hard worker and was ready to apply it toward my dream of being an artist/designer.

Where do you come up with your designs?

Well, first off, I have a vivid imagination! :) I can easily visualize (and then sketch out) my thoughts into my designs. Any little thing can trigger an idea in my mind (colors, textures, etc.), but I can also easily visualize concepts and implementation, so I can plan out a whole new line of books in one setting. Ha!

The tricky part is that I don’t have enough time in my day to do everything my brain comes up with! I love whimsy and so I think that plays a large part into my designs. I can do realism, but I prefer to step into my imagination and create what my mind is seeing.

snowman

What’s your favorite character to paint (i.e. snowmen, ginger bread, penguins, etc)?

Well, I have to say snowmen are my favorite. I can almost paint them in my sleep by now!

Do you paint every day? How many workshops do you do in a year?

I don’t paint every day because I have so many things that I do with my designs on the computer after I am finished with the actual painting.

I do all the graphic work for Between the Vines, so a lot of my day might be spent editing photos, laying out designs, typing instructions, inking the line drawings, creating/publishing the club (clubs!) packets, start to finish. I work up all of my designs for the laser in the software needed to cut them. So my day is completely full, I work from the time my feet hit the floor, ‘til I fall into bed at night! I know I can’t keep up that pace forever, but there are so many things that I want to do, there are not enough hours in my day. :-)

HauntedMansion

The workshops (seminars, conventions) that I do varies each year. I oftentimes fly out twice a month to various locations to teach, but at least once a month. It has been wonderful to travel the world teaching my techniques. I love to experience other cultures and lifestyles. It is amazing to me that no matter where I go, whatever language is being spoken, that we all share the same love of wanting to paint something pretty for ourselves, or for family and friends; to decorate our homes, or to sell at craft fairs and boutiques. We all just love to paint some color into our world!

With everything that I already do, I stay super busy, so I will be cutting back on my travel teaching in the upcoming years, to devote more time to my designing. It is challenging to balance it all!

What would you say to someone who has a dream of one day teaching and designing? How would you encourage them?    

Well, I would first say to follow your dreams and to imagine (visualize) yourself being successful at it! I guess it would also depend on how determined you are to make it work because to be successful and build a following, you have to put the time in. But we all start somewhere and things may fall into place easily for you, or it might take a while.

I also think it is important to be unique and not copy a style that is already out there. Even though that person had success with it, oftentimes you may look like you are copying them. I understand being inspired by someone, that happens often, but to really make it, try hard to be unique and not step on any toes!  Be honest, have integrity and be respectful of other designers work, and you will always “paint with a happy heart”!  :-)

Thanks Jamie! It was fun getting to know you. My favorite character is also the snowman! :-)

 

Visit Jamie at her site Between the Vines.

To all you painters out there. What is your favorite character to paint and why? 

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