Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


3 Comments

21 Ministries Rated Four Stars & Up by MinistryWatch.Com

MinistryWatch.comEver wonder if the ministries you give to are good stewards of the monies they receive?

Check out MinistryWatch.com which rates ministries based on the following seven areas: (1) Transparency, (2) Truth Claims, (3) Values, (4) Sectors/Functions, (5) Resourcefulness, (6) Red Flag Issues, and (7) Consultation.

Besides the ones I have listed here, there are many reputable ministries out there. Go to MinistryWatch.com to find out more.  As of February 15, 2013,  here is a list of their top 21.

  1. Advancing Native Missions, Inc./ANM, Charlottesville, VA
  2. AnGeL Ministries/Anne Graham Lotz, Raleigh, NC
  3. Ankerberg Theological Research Institute, Chattanooga, TN
  4. Bible Study Fellowship/BSF, San Antonio, TX
  5. Blessings International, Broken Arrow, OK
  6. Bright Hope International, Hoffman Estates, IL
  7. Cadence International, Englewood, CO
  8. Children’s Hunger Fund/CHF, Sylmar, CA
  9. Children’s Medical Ministries (CMM), Crofton, MD
  10. Christian Blind Mission/CBM, Greenville, SC
  11. Christian Freedom International (CFI), Sault Sainte Marie, MI
  12. Family Guidance, Inc., Sewickley, PA
  13. Gideons International, Nashville, TN
  14. JAARS, Inc., Waxhaw, NC
  15. Kingsway Charities, Bristol, VA
  16. Medical Teams International (MTI), Portland, OR
  17. Operation Blessing International/OBI/ Pat Robertson, Virginia Beach, VA
  18. The Rutherford Institute/John Whitehead, Charlottesville, VA
  19. Village Missions, Dallas, OR
  20. World Help, Forest, VA
  21. Young Life, Colorado Springs, CO

 


2 Comments

Homework vs. Heartwork

heartworkI had procrastinated that week. Now I was fretting and fussing over the Bible study I needed to complete—mainly because I was three lessons behind and it was due that night.

So, when the phone rang, I didn’t answer it because I had homework to do. When an email popped up, I didn’t respond because I had homework to do. When my husband tried to converse with me over a lunch of leftovers, I ran off and left him with the dishes because I had homework to do.

The Miss Goody-Two-Shoes student I am would never consider showing up with blank pages; it wasn’t an option I could live with. My pride would not be denied!

Finally, I made it down to my prayer closet-slash-office. Once I was settled in my reading chair, I snatched my workbook and Bible and said a quick prayer, “Lord, please no more interruptions. I’ve got homework to do.”

Don’t think of it as homework, Clarice. Think of it as heartwork.

What? Who said that? Was that you, Lord?

Don’t think of it as homework, Clarice. Think of it as heartwork.

Yes, you said that, Lord. What exactly does that mean?

Don’t think of it as homework, Clarice. Think of it as heartwork.

Okay, Lord, I get it; I need to listen to hear you.

I took a few deep breaths, leaned my head back on my chair, and tried to be still. Harder than you think since I’m a doer not a be-stiller. It’s like my mind is always perched on the edge of a seat, half involved with the thing at hand and half involved in the thing just out of reach.

It took some time, but I refused to move until I felt God tell me to.

When that moment came, I opened my workbook slowly and looked at the lesson. It was not a fill-in-the-blanks sort of thing. It was more a multiple choice: 1) I could hurry to finish; 2) I could play hooky; or 3) I could slow down long enough to absorb the teaching.

The lesson was on gentleness, one quality of the fruit of the Spirit. It didn’t mean what I thought it meant: an amiable, kind, sweet, expression of feeling. The Greek word for gentleness is praotes. In the Greek, we find a vastly different meaning. Praotes denotes meekness, submission, humility, and teachability—a peaceful surrender to God’s will and his way.

When I surrendered and let Jesus do his heartwork, the homework came easy.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness [submission, humility, meekness, teachability, your peaceful surrender to God] be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ~ Php 4:4-6  (NIV)


5 Comments

Are You Using Your Unique Gifts & Talents?

Our Unique Gifts & TalentsMy husband had been sick on and off for years before he passed away, so my involvement in church ministries had been intermittent and limited. Near the end of his life, my ministry was caring for him.

After he died, I spent several months floundering around in grief before I decided to resume the church newsletter ministry I had begun years back. It helped to write. The problem was it also kept me isolated in my office.

I spoke with a friend one day and told her that I wanted to get involved in a ministry that gave me more interaction with people, but that I wasn’t sure where I belonged.

She said, “How about working in the nursery? The babies are so cute.”

“Yes, they are, arent’ they? But the whole crying/diaper-changing thing is way more than it’s cracked up to be.”

“Then how about Children’s Church? They’re always looking for workers.”

“Yeah, there’s a reason for that.  They wear volunteers out faster than we wear out deacons.”

“Pre-teens?”

“Unh-uh. They scare me.”

“Youth group?”

“No, they need someone cool. I’m not cool.”

She folded her arms across her chest and sighed. “Well, then, all that’s left is young adults.”

As soon as she said it I knew. I don’t know why, but I always enjoyed young people, especially those in their college years. They are so optimistic and full of ideas. I got excited thinking of ways I might minister to them.

In the end, I came up with a simple concept: I would feed them. (I knew if I wanted guys to show up, it had to involve food.) So each Tuesday night I cooked and invited them for supper. The program included a meal and conversation. I usually had between ten and twelve show up, sometimes more.

The fact that I was a mother like any other mother didn’t seem to concern them. Since my children were years older and virtually out of the picture, there was no chance of interpersonal drama. (Actually, sometimes I wondered if the young adults even knew I was there.)

At first I tried to steer the conversation by asking faith-based questions; but I soon  realized that these young people just wanted a place to gather and be themselves. I let them. It helped that I promised to keep their conversations confidential.

The result? Friendships were made and strengthened. One couple eventually married and now has three children.  Two people accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. And I was used by God.

What is the Lord leading you to do? Care to share it?


4 Comments

While Looking for Annoying People in My Novels I Found Me

Annoying FloIn a recent blog by Marty Coleman called “Have You Annoyed Anyone Lately,” I found a lot to consider. His point was that your characters cannot all be perfect, because if they were it would be quite annoying—the wrong kind of annoying.

He points out that as writers we need to create conflict to keep our stories and our characters real and interesting. Conflict doesn’t happen when everyone is nice to each other all the time. Boredom happens. Conflict creates drama and tension. Boredom creates naps. And Flo from the insurance commercials.

When I began to look more closely at my stories, I saw that many of my main characters were nice, maybe a little too nice. Perhaps, because I find a lot of annoying people in my real life, I subconsciously didn’t want them to show up in my books. Powerless to change them in real life, maybe “editing” their personalities made me feel powerful in real fiction.

Upon further study of my work, I realized I did indeed have one very annoying person in both novels. It is the protagonist. This discovery excited me. I felt vindicated.

However, I noticed something else. Since my novels are written from a first person point-of-view, often my protagonists are a lot, well, like me.

Ergo, I am annoying. Often, I want to slap my protagonist (ergo, me) for being so stubborn, so angry, so impatient,  so prideful, so petty, so slow to get it (ergo, me).

Like right now. How annoying is it to use the word “ergo” three times in one paragraph?  Sheesh.

I’m asking my readers, “What do you find annoying in an author or a story?” Let me know . . . please . . . so I won’t do it.