Backstory 1/27/2023

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by Staci Stallings

Many, many moons ago on a writing loop I was on at the time, there was a massive discussion about backstory. For those who don’t know, “backstory” refers to a character’s story that happened before the current story starts. Basically, where did this person come from and how did they get here? What are the secrets of their life?

In the discussion, there had been a writing book published that said an author should not give any backstory until at least page 50.  Over the years, I have thought often about this discussion as I’m writing. Not one to ever follow “rules” just because someone said to, I’ve alternately discarded it and noticed it show up in my writing (not strictly page 50, but well into the story).

What I’ve learned is this:  Every character like every person is different. Some characters don’t have a problem sharing who they are and why. Some characters hold all their backstory cards close to the vest and are really unwilling to show them to anyone.

So, I guess, for me, backstory has become kind of a touchstone lesson. If I have a character who is not willing to share their backstory, it tells me something important about that character. Often, their backstory is traumatic and difficult. “Flawed” characters often simply have a difficult backstory. Reticent characters that are “closed” also very often are holding their backstory close to their heart, afraid that anyone will ever find out “what really happened.”

I imagine that’s why I’ve gotten so good at reading real people’s backstories. I was just talking with someone the other day who said I was “safe” because they could tell me what really happened and get it out.  That’s interesting because that’s roughly the same thing I do with my characters.

For More about HOPELESSLY DEVOTED TO YOU, Click the Cover!

For example, right now in the series that I’m working on, there are multiple backstory pieces that although we’ve been with these characters for 7 books now, backstory pieces are starting to come out that explain why the characters have been acting the way they have. And it’s so strange to me because I know even more backstory that hasn’t come out yet. So when my readers get upset or don’t know why a character is how he or she is, I actually do know because I know where the story is going.

I wonder sometimes if this is a little like being God—you know what is happening now, but you also know what happened back then, and you know what will happen in the following “chapters.”

It’s just an interesting perspective to see life from. Kind of like in my newest book, Hopelessly Devoted to You¸ it’s written from the perspective of multiple characters rather than just one or two. I often wonder if that’s the way God see us and why He understands what we don’t. He’s not seeing things linearly nor from only one perspective.  He sees and knows everyone’s story simultaneously—their current story, their backstory, and their future story.

Honestly, sometimes writing is kind of cool in what it can teach you about life!

How about you?  As a reader, would you prefer to know a character’s full story upfront or learn about it as you go?

About the Author:

Staci StallingsA stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, 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. Although she lives in Amarillo, Texas and her main career right now is her family, Staci touches the lives of people across the globe with her various Internet and writing endeavors.

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CrossReads Book Spotlight: The Road to Mercy 1/26/2023

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CrossReads Book Spotlight

CrossReads Book Spotlight

The Road to Mercy

A Journey of Secrets, Survival, and Redemption

by Mary Hutchinson

The Road to Mercy

Award winner in the Religion: Christian Inspirational category of the 2021 Best Book Awards sponsored by American Book Fest; Silver Medal Winner in the 2020 Illumination Book Awards; and 3rd Place Winner in the 2019 Xulon Press Christian Author Awards Contests, Biography/Memoir Category.

The inspirational true story of God sparing a young girl from being murdered and later transforming her life, as seen on The 700 Club.
By age twelve, Mary Therese Hutchinson had survived not one, not two, but four attempts on her life. Even worse, the assailant and man who had sexually abused her for years was no outsider but a trusted family member. Forced to keep much of what she endured a secret, Mary came to believe everything she’d been taught about God was a fairy tale. After all, what loving God would allow such horrible things to happen to a little girl? Or if he was real, then God had forgotten about her.
By adulthood, Mary was outwardly a successful, beautiful young woman. But unresolved trauma and hate for her abuser led to a downward spiral of despair and self-destructive choices. A stranger’s prayers became the catalyst that started Mary on a journey of emotional healing and spiritual transformation. She now knew God was no fairy tale but a loving, merciful heavenly Father who, far from abandoning her, had miraculously intervened to save her young life.
But when her assailant reentered Mary’s life, she faced her greatest challenge yet. Could she extend to her abuser the same mercy God had so abundantly extended to her? The heart-pounding conclusion to this story is one no reader will ever forget. It all began with one woman’s choice to step out of her dark nightmare and onto the road to mercy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Born in Upstate New York, Mary Therese Hutchinson is a graduate of the Katharine Gibbs School and worked for many years as an executive and legal secretary. Now retired, she still enjoys using her organizational and planning skills for community service. Mary’s incredible story of secrets, survival, redemption, and transformation has been featured on The 700 Club. She lives on the East Coast with her husband Wally and their adopted rescue dog.

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CrossReads Short: Takes Stir Yourself Up & Cordelia’s Call 1/25/2023

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CrossReads Short Takes

Stir Yourself Up

Rekindling Your Passion & Fire For The Lord

by Sheldon Newton

Stir Yourself Up

A MOST IMPORTANT BOOK TO READ AS WE PREPARE FOR HIS COMING?

Are you struggling in your walk with the Lord? Perhaps you are a minister who has been preaching and teaching His Word for years, and now you feel weary, depressed, frustrated and burnt-out. Maybe you are one who – at one time – was on fire for the Lord, but now your walk has come to a stand-still. Then again, perhaps you have been going through all sorts of hardships, trials and difficulties which has distracted you from spending time with Jesus like you used to. Issues came up and now your spiritual life is not what it used to be. Church has become boring. Reading your Bible daily has become dull and uninteresting. You don’t pray like you used to, fast like you used to. You have become fearful in sharing your faith and lettings others know that you are a christian. Regardless of the reason you may have lost your hunger and fire for the Lord, it’s time to get your passion and zeal back for the things of God. And this book will stir you up and show you how to fall in love with Jesus all over again. Get your copy now and “GET STIRRED UP!”

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Cordelia’s Call

The Suffrage Spinsters Book 7

by Joi Copeland

Cordelia's Call

Can Cordelia be open to love when she’s determined to make a way for herself without the help of a man?

Cordelia Smith grew up in an orphanage outside of Denver. For most of her life, she heard she was unworthy of love. Mrs. Finch’s constant reminder no one would love an orphan sent Cordelia on a path only taken by men: to write for the local newspaper. At the age of twenty-five, she must find a way to support herself while helping out at the orphanage in order to have a place to lay her head.

When Mrs. Finch catches wind of Cordelia’s job, she kicks her out of the only home she’s ever known to work on a ranch in Silver Springs. Cordelia doesn’t know what the town of Silver Springs is like, let alone how understanding they’d be if they knew she continued to write for the newspaper. Just how progressive toward women’s rights to work outside the home would her new town be, and how would she get to town to send off her articles?

Davey Harden’s intrigued by the new cook at the ranch he’s lived on most of his life. She’s got fire in those crisp blue eyes, and she has spunk. But he also realizes she’s hiding something, and until he knows she isn’t going to do his family harm, he’s determined to keep a close eye on her.

The more time he spends with Cordelia, the more he’s drawn to her. But she keeps him at arm’s length, and he doesn’t know why. Doubting his own self-worth, Davey must decide if love is worth the fight or if he should just give up and let Cordelia go.

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Victory Comes From the Lord 1/24/2023

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by Robin MacKinley

Have had days when it seemed like nothing went your way and everyone was against you? When those days happen, do as David did, trust in the Lord for your victory.

But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. Psalms 3:3 

 David wrote this third Psalm regarding the time he fled from his son, Absalom. Behind David’s back, Absalom decided to overthrow his father’s throne.

As his son began to close in on Jerusalem, David fled from the palace. That day, things were not going well for David at all. 

For that reason, the king began this Psalm by crying out to the Lord. 

O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Psalm 3:1-2 

Then in the midst of one of those days a little voice in your mind whispers (or maybe shouts) something in your ear. Something that adds even more to your stress. 

It suggests the worst possible scenario. You wonder where was God in all this. Then you’re lambasted by the following thoughts;

“God doesn’t care about you.” “You brought this all on yourself.” “It’s all your fault.” At that point, you could definitely relate to what David said.

He, however, never stayed in the “Oh me – Oh my” mode. He knew victory could only come from God. Therefore, he immediately turned to Him.

I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain. Interlude Psalm 3:4 

Selah, Pause, and Calmly Think of That 

Did you notice? David added an interesting word at the end of verses 2 and 4. The word is “Interlude”. Some versions use the word “Selah”. It’s a musical term that scholars believe refers to a pause or silence.

The king said to himself, “David, stop! and take a breath …” Then after getting his composure, he settled down and trusted the Lord for the victory. 

Lord, you are a shield around me; you are my glory, you are the one who holds my head high.” Psalm 3:3 

 David heard from the Lord in verse 4 and then paused again. He put his mind at ease and said;

I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side. Psalm 3:5-6

He was no longer concerned about what “so many” said about him. He no longer discouraged himself. Instead, he understood that his victory came from the Lord.

Our surroundings can sometimes overwhelm us and our adversaries seemingly overtake us. But to say “I’m giving it all to the Lord” is often easier said than done. 

Trust the Lord for the Victory 

Keep in mind that David started this conversation on a negative note. But he didn’t keep it there and neither should we. Twice he said, pause, and calmly think of that.

He reflected on the times the Lord gave him victory after victory. We must apply the same strategy too because the Lord wants you to have the victory also.

David ended this Psalm the same way we must allow every situation in our lives to end. When you read this verse take notice of his last word on this subject.

Victory comes from you, O Lord. May you bless your people. Interlude Psalm 3:6  

 Victory for us also comes from the Lord and we too, like David, can hold our heads up high!

So, before you face another problem or for that matter before you do another thing, look to the Lord. Then pause, and calmly think about this, God will give you the victory today!

About the Author: 

Pastor RobinRobin, with his wife Cindy, became children’s evangelists early in their ministry. They ministered to children full time for 8 years. During that time they developed several children’s stories which were told with visuals and puppets.

Robin recently turned two of those stories into children’s books. One is called “The Contest,” a book about the Fruit of the Spirit, and the other is called “Twas the Night of Christmas”.  He has also authored 5 volumes of devotional books called, 3 Minutes Alone with God. Each entry is a product of his personal biblical Journaling.

These and his other writings are available on his website called Christian Perspectives at www.ramckinley.com. When you visit this site, you can sign-up for newly written devotions as they come out which will be emailed to you.

Presently Robin is the pastor of Calvary Christian Center in Pottstown, PA. He is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God. He and his wife make their home in Birdsboro, Pa. He also serves as the president of the local ministerium. He and Cindy have two married sons and four grandchildren. 

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CrossReads Weekly Devotional: Verse of the Day and Devotional 1/23/2023

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Verse of the Day

January 23rd, 2023

Scripture

Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. – Acts 2:22 NIV

Devotion

Jesus proclaimed to the people of His day that He was “the way and the truth and the life” and that this meant “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus proclaimed, in effect, that He was the Messiah, the “Holy One of God” (John 6:69), that had come to save His people. How did the people of Jesus’ day know that He was telling the truth? How did they know that Jesus was truly the one He said He was? The ones that believed Him knew by faith. By God’s grace they were given the faith to believe what He said (Ephesians 2:8).

The faith of the early believers, however, was grounded in more than just what Jesus said about Himself. It was also grounded in what Jesus did. As our verse for today says, God did miracles, wonders, and signs through Jesus. Jesus was accredited by God. That is, He was officially recognized by God to be the one He said He was by the miracles, wonders, and signs He performed. Even so, the gift of faith was still necessary. Not everyone who saw the miracles He performed believed in Him.

What about now? Jesus lived a long time ago. How do those of us who believe in Him know that He was who He said He was? We know in the same way the early believers knew. We know by faith. God has graciously given us the gift of faith and we have come to believe. We read what the Bible says about Jesus, we listen to sermons about Him, and we believe what we read and hear. Indeed, since none of us saw Jesus’ earthly ministry, we need even more faith. Jesus Himself said, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Like the early believers, however, our faith is grounded in more than just words. Miracles, wonders, and signs done in the name of Jesus, or prayed for in the name of Jesus, still happen among us all the time. We shouldn’t be surprised by this, for Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these” (John 14:12).

Jesus, in other words, is still being accredited by God right before our very eyes.

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The Truth about Lamp Lighting 1/20/2023

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by Staci Stallings

The Bible says that God’s Word is a lamp at my feet. My dad always said that God put the lamp at our feet and not on our head. That means we’re supposed to focus on the next step, not how we’re getting all the way down the tunnel.

I’ve thought about that lamp at my feet a lot in my lifetime because to be honest, I’ve had multiple moments when I honestly did not know how I was going to get through whatever it was that was happening. In the last three months, I’ve had three such major, extended events where the unknown wasn’t just scary, it was terrifying. Cortisol-producing, fight-or-flight-but-neither-will-help terrifying. Events when taking the next step was all you could do but even that was overwhelming.

There’s a weird paradox of life that I’m learning through all of this—we all have these kinds of moments and yet when you’re in one, you feel like no one else has ever been here before. We don’t talk about them, and even when we do, most of the time the event is in the past now and it has somehow been resolved (to our liking or not). But in the midst of the trauma, in the midst of the trouble and turmoil, it’s easier than not to feel completely and utterly alone.

As I’ve gotten a day or two perspective on the last major trauma to hit my life, I’m coming to understand something. Yes, God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet, but it’s those around us who are often the ones who light the lamp in the first place.

In the middle of an insane life situation, it’s possible for you to light your own lamp, but wow, is it helpful when others do too. Like the people who came to the hospital room with God’s Word in hand. They were a God-send—literally. Like the people at church and online who said they were praying, and we could feel it. Like the visitors who came and gave us hugs and a little bit of God-with-skin-on. They were all lamp-lighters, lighting the next step with God’s love and hope.
Then I realized that in the two trauma events prior to that in September and October, I was a lamp-lighter for those in trauma. Oh, it wasn’t easy. It took time, effort, willpower, and a LOT of prayer on my part to be there for them. I, too, needed lamp lighters around during that time. People to pray for me while I worked in the situations.

What I’m seeing is we are all called to be lamp lighters for each other, and this is a sacred calling.

As I’ve reflected over my stories with this new perspective, I’ve realized just how intricately life is woven. My current series is comprised of a thousand threads all woven painstakingly to create an understanding not just of the story but of how God works in the lives of real people.

It’s funny because it seems like every single first review on this series says the same thing:

“lots of repetition seem liked same thing over and over again… it dragged in places…”

Now, I get it. Readers like fast-paced, movement books. They like a story that lifts up like a plane, soars for a while, and then gently lands. The problem is, life isn’t like that, and I write real rather than “storybook.” Oh, I wish I wrote storybook. Unfortunately, I believe to be a lamp-lighter for others through my stories, it’s important to go step-by-step. Sometimes that makes a book seem “draggy” with “a lot of repetition.”

I know for me in my own life I would love it if I “got it” the first time through every lesson, but I don’t. Sometimes it takes more than one go-round. Sometimes it’s a long, slow process rather than light bulb moment after light bulb moment.

Right now, lamp-lighting in my books is slow going for me because of all the lamp-lighting I’m doing outside of writing. It wasn’t my intention to not be finished with Book 8 when Book 7 goes out. I wanted to be able to put Book 8 on preorder like I have all the others.

Alas, as much as I would love to be able to see down the tunnel and know that I could have Book 8 ready to go at the end of the preorder period, right now, the lamp at my feet says I need to hold off on putting Book 8 up. So that’s what I’m doing. Not my preferred step but it’s one I feel most at peace taking. There. How’s that for a winding, meandering confession of an overwhelmed lamp-lighter?

So, I’m curious, dear readers…. Who are some of your lamp-lighters? And who do you light lamps for? What’s your lamp-lighting journey been like? And have you ever had to take a step that you really wished could be different but you knew was the right one at the time? Tell me your lamp-lighting stories!

About the Author:

Staci StallingsA stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, 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. Although she lives in Amarillo, Texas and her main career right now is her family, Staci touches the lives of people across the globe with her various Internet and writing endeavors.

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CrossReads Book Spotlight: Only When I Dream 1/19/2023

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CrossReads Book Spotlight

CrossReads Book Spotlight

Only When I Dream

A Contemporary New Adult Christian Romance Novel

(The Imagination Series Book 12)

by Staci Stallings

Only When I Dream

As the gang gets ready for LJ and Yoli’s wedding, past hurts and new dreams collide. Can the budding relationships hold strong, or will life with all of its challenges prove too much for the friends to overcome? Find out in The Imagination Series Finale you don’t want to miss!

Come along with these friends on this crazy ride called life.

Be inspired. Laugh a few laughs. Cry a few tears.

One thing’s for sure, you will never forget this emotionally-charged roller coaster ride filled with life, hopes, dreams, imagination, and most especially love.

ONLY WHEN I DREAM is Book 12 in The Imagination Series by USAToday Best-Selling Christian author, Staci Stallings. Fraught with the trials and turmoil of young love, The Imagination Series will give Christian romance readers the emotional ride of a lifetime. These young adults trying to figure out life and love will have you cheering, laughing, and crying as they traverse what it means to be friends and maybe even more.

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CrossReads Short Takes: The Prodigal Pastor & The Fighting Son 1/18/2023

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CrossReads Short Takes

The Prodigal Pastor

A Small Town Valentine’s Day Romance

by Janice Cole Hopkins

The Prodigal Pastor

Brooke Bennett had the best news ever. After years of trying, she and David were going to have a baby. She knew her husband would be just as thrilled as she was, and she prepared him a special celebratory supper, dressed up, and waited for him. However, he never came home. Later that night, she clutched a note she found on her pillow into a crumpled mess, not believing what he’d written. David was leaving her and the megachurch where he’d been the senior pastor. They’d hit some snags in their marriage, but something like this had never crossed her mind. David had always been the love of her life. What would she do now? The church wouldn’t allow her to remain in the parsonage for long.

Three months later David looked at the irate woman he’d left Brooke for and couldn’t believe his stupidity, couldn’t believe his sinfulness. He’d deserted his wife, his church, and his God for the selfish music director who had once stroked his ego. Valerie had already spent all his money from the bank accounts he’d cleaned out. Now, what was he going to do?

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The Fighting Son

(Flying People Series Book 3)

by Danny Mac

The Fighting Son

Having retired from the Special Forces to work retail security, Rod is certain of his past and confident in the future. That is, until the day he steps into his familiar cozy kitchen only to realize it’s not so cozy after all. Rod is sent plummeting into another dimension and he’s right back in action. But with the support of his high school sweetheart, surely he can take on anything. Beginning an extraordinary adventure, Rod retrieves the Sword of Justice from the Underworld – a sword that grants the bearer great power and abilities. But with the abilities come a great responsibility – that of protecting Earth and all life upon it. Now, Rod stands between the universe and total destruction. Can he secure his own fate—and that of everyone else while under such immense pressure? Or will he lose himself, his family, and the world in the process?

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Faith’s Checkbook: Rest is a Gift 1/17/2023

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“Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”   (Matthew I 1:28).

We who are saved find rest in Jesus. Those who are not saved will receive rest if they come to Him, for here He promises to “give” it. Nothing can be freer than a gift; let us gladly accept what He gladly gives. You are not to buy it, nor to borrow it, but to receive it as a gift. You labor under the lash of ambition, covetousness, lust, or anxiety: He will set you free from this iron bondage and give you rest. You are “laden,” yes, “heavy laden” with sin, fear, care, remorse, fear of death; but if you come to Him He will unload you. He carried the crushing mass of our sin that we might no longer carry it. He made Himself the great Burden-bearer, that every laden one might cease from bowing down under the enormous pressure.

Jesus gives rest. It is so. Will you believe it? Will you put it to the test? Will you do so at once? Come to Jesus by quitting every other hope, by thinking of Him, believing God’s testimony about Him, and trusting everything with Him. If you thus come to Him the rest which He wilt give you will be deep, safe, holy, and everlasting. He gives a rest which develops into heaven, and He gives it this day to all who come to Him.

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CrossReads Weekly Devotional: Gems From Pastor Jim 1/16/2023

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by Jim Hughes 

CrossPs. 34:17 The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our circumstances of life that God seems so far away. The more suffering we experience, the more doubts we have that God is near or hears us. When nothing seems to change, we begin to lose our grip on faith. We begin to listen to Satan’s suggestions that God has abandoned us or doesn’t care about us as we suffer.

When your faith begins to waver, remember this wonderful and powerful truth: ” The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.” The Lord hears the heart cry of His children. Even when we can’t even put into words what we are feeling, God hears us. He knows all about the thoughts and feelings we go through. He cuts through the pain and agony we may have and listens to our heart’s cries. He hears and rescues us from all our troubles.

Sometimes the answers we need are not evident to us. We don’t always know what needs to take place to free us from our circumstances. We don’t know what is best for us. We don’t know how to handle some of life’s struggles. But, the Lord knows exactly what we need and how to meet it. When we let Him have our difficulties, He makes a way out of them for us.

God never has and never will abandon His children. He is with them each step they take in life’s journey. He is with them during their darkest hours. He has a plan for each one and when we wait upon Him and trust Him, He fulfills His plan in us. His plan is always to bless. His plan is to always lead His children into a deeper relationship with Him. His plan is to use all of our life’s circumstances to make us holy, a people after His own heart.

About the Author:

Jim Hughes

Spending his formative years in Ft. Wayne, IN, Jim followed the love of his life to southeast Iowa where they married and have spent the majority of their lives. Jim has pastored several churches throughout his life and has worked many years in local factories to help support his family. The father of two married adult children and one son still at home, Jim is a first-time author.

C Through Marriage came into being through many years of pastoral and life experiences. The book first took on a life of its own over 20 years ago when I sought to address the much publicized moral failures of prominent leaders in the church. In the chapter on Chasity, I include the guideliness that I developed then to protect one’s self from such failures.

I am a firm believer in order to make sense out of life you have to use much common sense. We need to get back to the basics of what has worked for many, many generations. If is isn’t broke, why try to fix it? I strive to return to the basics of what really works in all my writings.

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