Monthly Archives: February 2018

Put on Your Armor – by: Jenifer Jennings

My guest blogger this week is Jenifer Jennings, a multi-published author of Biblical Fiction. Jenifer is a great critique partner and helped me with my second flash fiction piece. She loves Bible stories and helps them come alive with her creative and beautiful gift of storytelling. I hope you enjoy her post on Barak and Deborah. It gives us all the chance to remember that God always supplies what we need for success–whether that’s a person or armor.

“And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:” -Hebrews 11:32 (KJV)

My favorite book of the Bible is Hebrews. This wonderful book reveals Jesus is some many interesting aspects from Priest to King to Prophet while peeling back the layers of foreshadows and pictures found throughout the Old Testament.

One of my favorite chapters of this book is Chapter Eleven, or what is commonly known as the Hall of Faith.

I enjoy writing about people of faith. When we hear of other’s faith, I believe it can strengthen our own. One such character brought me a tremendously amount of encouragement lately.

His name was Barak.

He was a courageous warrior, but he had put down his sword for twenty years. The book of Judges tells us that after a time of peace, the people of Israel did evil in the sight of God. (Judges 4:1) So, God sends a foreign king to rule over them. Being a defeated warrior, Barak hangs up his battle gear and lives a simple, but oppressed, life under the new king.

I can relate. Can you? There have been many defeats in my life. There have been numerous times I’ve wanted to hang up my battle gear and call it quits.

God sends Deborah, a judge at the time, to give Barak a message. “Warrior, it’s time to get back into the battle.” Barak is filled with uncertainty and requests that Deborah accompany him into battle. She agrees, but warns him that he will not have the victory over the enemy. God would send a woman to be the one who claims the victory for Israel. Barak goes into battle with faith that God would bring it to a swift end.

Barak stages a battle with the fierce enemy who conquers in massive chariots. He and his ten thousand men are outnumbered and the obvious underdogs. Just as the battle gets underway, a storm floods the nearby river causing the battlefield to become a gigantic mud pit. Not so good for chariot wheels. In the heat of battle, the captain of the enemy’s army actually retreats to save his own skin. Barak pursues him.

Searching for a place to hide, the captain comes upon a woman whose husband is loyal to his side. She invites him to hide in her tent and says she would protect him by standing watch and not revealing his hidden location. In a divine turn of ends, while the captain sleeps, this woman takes a tent stake and drives it through the captain’s head, instantly killing him. We aren’t told exactly what prompted her to do this, but God had already given the message that it would be a woman’s through which the victory would come.

With Deborah as the encourager support, Jael as a female double agent for God, and Barak as the willing warrior Israel gains the victory over the enemy and peace is restored in the land for forty years.

Writing about Barak was an eye-opener for me. His story was not on my original list of ones to include for my collection of Biblical short stories entitled “Sacrifice,” but I fell in love with his story and had to put him in. Until I began writing it, I never realized how much I was like Barak in life and like Deborah in my writing career. There have been places I’ve taken off my armor and it’s time to get back in the battle. My goal in writing is to be that Deborah encouraging voice in my reader’s lives saying, “God is bigger than anything you’re facing right now. Put your armor back on, warrior, and let’s get back to work for Him.”

If you’d like to read Barak’s story and others found in “Sacrifice” you can find all links here: jeniferjennings.com/sacrifice.

Jenifer is a wife and mother first, though writing is her soul’s desire. She takes Biblical accounts, weaves in historical resources, and adds a dash of fiction to create stories that encourage readers to take their next step of faith.
She married the man of her dreams who reminds her everyday what real love feels like. Together, they are raising two amazing children who keep them laughing.
With a degree in Church Ministry from Trinity Baptist College and an active member of Word Weavers International, Jenifer is always learning.

Her deepest longing is to show Jesus’ love by encouraging others through her writing. Jenifer is a wife and mother first, though writing is her soul’s desire. She takes Biblical accounts, weaves in historical resources, and adds a dash of fiction to create stories that encourage readers to take their next step of faith.

Practice in the Waiting

With the Winter Olympics wrapping up, I need to confess that I have failed to watch more than a couple of videos on Facebook of some of the highlights. However, watching even a few minutes of Shaun White tumbling through the air high above the ground reminds me of the commitment to practice and determination that is required to compete on this level. We don’t get see the bruises and tears—the sheer exhaustion that must come at the end of a week of training. Most of us can’t imagine the kind of dedication it takes to become an Olympic athlete. Most of them won’t stand on the podium, and yet they keep practicing, striving for that goal. Some will fail but return more mature, stronger, more agile. Maybe it will be their time, and they will win but what if they don’t?

More to the point, what are us average humans striving for? Some days, I’m patting myself on the back because I figured out a way to make supper without returning to the grocery store. I mean, sometimes that takes real ingenuity.

  A year ago I attended the Florida Christian Writers Conference. I had just completed my third book and spent significant time honing my skills. I cringe to think I actually let people read my first book, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say, after reading several craft books and listening to experts, my writing had improved. Most of you know that I found a great deal of success at the conference, so I won’t bore you with those details. (Click here to read that post. ) I really thought I was ready for publication. I had an agent and two books—wasn’t it my time? Apparently not, but I say that with thanksgiving. Since that time, I have learned so much more about writing and the publishing world. When I spoke to my writing coach and mentor yesterday, she even mentioned how much stronger my writing is now than it was then. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the picture of patience. I detour into doubt. But there’s something about training to be better, trying new things, and exploring alternative approaches that keep me going. Looking back even six months, I know I wasn’t ready. In the process and the practice, I know God is preparing me for just the right time.

“He has planned something better for us so that only together with us would we be made perfect.” (Heb. 11:40).

Few of us will win the big prizes, so where does that leave us? I’m so excited to let you know: it leaves us with Jesus. In this reality, we are just like the athlete wearing a gold medal. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Co. 9:24-25). I’m thinking that crown might just rival a gold medal.

Granted some days, it feels like we’re swimming against the tide, but God is always working. He has marked out a race for us. Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and run with perseverance with our eyes fixed on Jesus. (Heb. 12:1-2). When our patience is growing thin and our faith is shallow, we must remember that God works in his time and that what we are learning while we wait may be just the thing we need when it is time. I love that I can look back and see how my writing has improved with practice (Well, maybe love is a little strong, but I’m certainly encouraged that the time has been well spent.) What’s even more important is that I can see how I’ve grown in my faith, and hopefully, when God asks me to do something for him, I will be ready. I know I will be ready to give him the glory because he has molded me into the right person for the right race.

When the drills seem too difficult or the rejection too hard remember this: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Phil. 1:6

What are you practicing for today? What is hindering you from following God’s calling?

Complaining about Blessings

Recently, I’ve become sensitive to people complaining about what I would consider blessings, and I’m almost certain they would as well. With our abundance of things and activities, we become burdened by the very blessings we sought. But for me, the real zinger is when we complain to a person about a problem that she would be happy to have because that means she would also have the blessing. Have you ever realized you were doing this? I didn’t until I was on the other side. When the person is complaining about the very thing, the very activity that I’ve been praying and working to obtain, I think how happy I’d be to have that problem. I just know I’d never complain about it; at least that’s what I like to tell myself.

In Philippians, Paul writes, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” (Phil. 4:11-14)

Honestly, when I read those words, and I think about the living conditions of people around the world, I’m embarrassed that I complain about anything. However, I am comforted that Paul continues to be thankful for someone to share his troubles. What is it to understand our blessings, to be content?

This year for Lent, my family is giving up complaining. I know it sounds crazy, and we will likely fail miserably, but we think it’s an experiment worth trying. But there’s more to this plan. For every complaint, the person must put a quarter in a jar and write on a chart the complaint and the blessing. (My daughter said to take her to the bank to trade out a twenty for a couple of rolls of quarters.) At the end of Lent, we will donate the money to the City Rescue Mission. These people have real needs—real problems. Hopefully, we will learn how blessed we truly are and maybe it will be something that we consider before we open our mouths in the future. If nothing else, a good charity will benefit a lot. One trip to Libby’s school during rush hour should result in several dollars.

What are you doing for Lent this year? Are you giving something up or adding something beneficial? As we draw closer to the cross, I pray that this year we can all gain a greater perspective of God’s amazing blessing of grace.

Croquet Kiss

It’s the first week of the month, and I’m excited to share my first published flash fiction piece. Croquet Kiss was first published in the August edition of Spark magazine. It is set on Jekyll Island during the time when millionaires holidayed on the Island. They often visited during the month of February, fleeing the cold winters of the Northeast. I hope you enjoy.

Croquet Kiss by Leslie DeVooght

Tap.

Clarice’s yellow ball rolled to a stop beside John’s black one. With her precise putt, she’d created an irresistible target.

John pulled back his wooden mallet and swung with gusto. His competitive spirit vanquished his manners.

Thwack.

John’s ball smashed against her ball, sending it sailing over the manicured lawn. It rested in the rough under a sweeping oak. His shot went beyond defense and social graces, but her ball couldn’t have landed in a more perfect location.

Rowdy cheers rose from the gentlemen, entertaining her friends on the veranda of the Jekyll Island Club House.

Jekyll Island Club

Clarice glanced to the spectators.

The ladies paused—their glasses of lemonade suspended. They breathed a collective sigh, while their wide brim hats swayed like sailing yachts on an undulating sea.

With a smug grin, John tipped his hat to his friends. His chest swelled, confident of his skill. Surely this surge of masculinity would encourage him to act on the sparks that flew between them.

Clarice bit down on her lip, a smile pushing at the corners. Before John caught a glimpse of her expression, she tossed her white, lace sunhat and marched across the croquet court. She swung her mallet like a drum major’s baton, feigning irritation.

Last night, she’d tarried with John in the beam of the moon on the stoop of her uncle’s vacation cottage. And when John leaned into her, she tilted her chin, lips puckered—ready. But instead of warm lips on hers, he’d lifted her hand and politely pecked the back of her fingers—merely childhood friends.

Ire rose in her, warming her cheeks—time to take matters into her own hands.

“Tsk, tsk, Clarice.” John fell in line behind her. “What will you do now?”

“Hmmph.” She pulled her shoulders back and dabbed a renegade bead of perspiration daring to escape her hairline.

“Come on, please don’t be mad. I was simply following our President’s advice—‘speak softly and carry a big stick.’”

Undoubtedly, Teddy Roosevelt wouldn’t approve of his words being used to describe a lawn sport. And of course, John focused on the stick and not the speaking softly. Besides why were they discussing politics at all—certainly, a twist she hadn’t anticipated. What else could she do to show her willingness and still be called a lady?

She spun and faced him. “I—”

John nearly collided with her, as he waved to his cohorts. He snatched his hand down, and his fingers tangled with hers, then their eyes entwined.

Maybe he’d stop dawdling and draw her to him. Shivers dashed up her arms.

“Sorry.” He broke the trance, pulling his hand from hers.

Her cheeks burned—maybe not.

Click here to read the rest of the story.