Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


Without Small Beginnings, There Would Be No Big Ends

Like most writers, whether pre-published, newly published, or multi-published, we often wish we were further along our career path —no matter how far down that path we are. “After all, growth is natural,” we say.

Let’s admit it. We don’t really want growth to be natural; we wanted it to be rapid and explosive.

We begin a story and can’t wait to type “The End.” When the end arrives, we agonize over our book proposal and one-sheet. (Whether anyone actually reads them, we don’t know.)

We can’t be happy until we find an agent. When we do, we can’t be happy until we find a publisher. Then, “Hooray! We have a publisher!” We sign a two-book contract then spend weeks, sometimes months, editing our manuscript according to our publisher’s preferences, all the while scrambling for a new storyline for the second book.

When our debut novel arrives, we enter contests, hoping to add “award-winning” and “best selling” in front of our names. Then we’re off to book signings, conferences, and speaking events to sell, sell, sell! And I haven’t even touched on social media. [Sigh.]

While I’m not saying any of this is bad, I am wondering if the “one day at a time” axiom has morphed into “I can’t wait until tomorrow?” In our mad race to cross an imaginary finish line, do we appreciate the strides we’ve made to date? Have we forgotten to enjoy the present? Do we have any guarantees the future will be better?

In Zechariah 4:10, we are encouraged: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line [pen?] in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (NLT)

Without small beginnings, there would be no big ends. Small beginnings are more personal; they usually involve working closely with others. During these formative years, we hone our craft and develop good habits. We also have more time to read, learning much from those who’ve gone on before us.

I remember when angst grabbed hold of me as soon as I decided I wanted to write for publication. I fretted over query letters, elevator statements, and pitches to agents and editors—as if I were in charge of the outcome.

I thought back on the small beginnings I had so enjoyed: 1) Creating and presenting humorous “roasts” for my friends and family. 2) Writing and editing a monthly church newsletter. 3) Creating website copy for my employers. In all these cases, the feedback was immediate and more intimate, and the experiences encouraged me to keep writing.

What are your small beginnings? Are you rejoicing with the Lord over them?

Do you finally have the time to write after raising your children? Has an article you wrote been accepted for publication? Does someone other than your mother love your writing? Have you employed the plot twist that came to you in the middle of a sleepless night? Have you created an outline for your non-fiction book? Have you figured out how to apply the three-act structure to the first draft of your novel? (If so, write to me privately and tell me how.)

God’s word says, “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I [Jesus] say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42 NASB). So, whenever I find myself absorbed in self and steeped in my projects alone, I break the pattern by focusing on someone else. Encouraging other writers excites me, humbles me, and brings me joy.

Getting rid of negative internal dialogue helps, too:  I wish I was as prolific as he is … If only I had a different agent … What if my publishing house closes? … I wish I had her sales … If only I had his platform …What if I get a bad review?

Listen up, Clarice! Whining is selfish, comparison is ungrateful, and fear is doubt.  

Eventually, I learned to listen more closely for God when I wrote, mainly because I had no idea what to write. When my novel Double Header debuted in 2015, a reader told me, “I feel like you wrote that story just to help me and my family.” When Party of One came out last year, others wrote basically the same thing. Just this past week, someone said, “I love your blogs. They’re so funny and uplifting.” I knew God was using me. Whether my books minister to one or thousands is in his hands. He is the ultimate marketing genius.

Zechariah 4:6 (NASB) declares, “Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit.” God has a personal and perfect plan for each of us. If you’re using your writing gift to the best of your ability for God’s glory, he’ll get you where you’re supposed to be on time. You can’t rush the Holy Spirit.

Let’s all enjoy the moment we have right now. It’s all good ’cause it’s all God.


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Bungee Jumping to Conclusions

bungee jumber

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.” ~ Php 4:6 (TLB)


I leap before I look, speak before I think, and bungee jump to conclusions. If you don’t believe me, then you probably don’t know me.  Anyway, here’s what I’m talking about.

Overreaction One:

One day, a year or so into our marriage, my husband David and I stopped at Home Depot. David needed some fasteners for one of his projects. I decided to wait in the car.

Now, at this point in our relationship, I already knew David wasn’t fast. (My nickname for him is Pokey-man.) But, I reasoned, the parking lot’s half-empty, the store aisles are clearly marked, and he knows exactly what he needs. He’ll be out in a flash, albeit a slow flash.

After ten minutes, I looked at my watch. What could be taking him so long?

Another five minutes passed. Maybe they’re short-handed at the registers?

Three more minutes went by. What’s the hold-up?

My brain froze. Hold-up? Like a robbery? What if …?

 A few more cars pulled in; people hopped out. Should I warn them to stay back or to get down?

Before I could shout out to them, I heard a siren. Yes! Someone called 9-1-1 about the 211 in progress. Home Depot Police

I whipped my head left and right and twisted back and forth in my seat, waiting for the law to arrive.

When an ambulance pulled into the parking lot, I was semi-relieved. Phew, it’s not a robbery. Maybe someone in the store had a heart attack? … David? … No, it couldn’t be him. His cholesterol is 40 points lower than mine.

More time ticked by. Maybe I’m the one having a heart attack? I began to hyperventilate. 

Before I could say “baby aspirin,” David sauntered out of the store, holding a bag the size of his shirt pocket.

“What on earth took you so long? You scared me half to death!”

He stared at me with a blank look. (He does that a lot.) “Um, I had a hard time finding the right screw length.”

From that day forward he’s made those harrowing trips to Home Depot alone.

Overreaction Two:

A friend invited me to a choral performance at her church. We arrived early enough to get good seats—third row, center aisle. Since it was one of their most popular events of the year, the room filled up fast.

Although the audience remained seated for the first few numbers, the conductor invited us to participate. Depending on the song, we were alternately asked to stand or sit.

As the show progressed, I noticed something odd: The gentleman seated to my right seemed to be getting closer to me. I checked to be sure I was  lined up with the chair in front of me. Then, more than once, I repositioned myself in my chair, claiming non-verbally, “This is my seat, buster!”

After another song and another few inches of him getting closer, I turned to my friend on the left. “I’m think I’m sitting next to a pervert.”

She leaned over to me, “What did you say?”

Before I could repeat myself, the conductor asked us to stand for the finale. When it was over, I turned to sit, sneaking a peek at the weirdo to my right.

chairs off set

As I did so, I noticed my chair was not lined up with the row behind mine. I scanned the auditorium. The placement of the chairs in each row was OFF-SET.

My Epiphany: I had one cheek on my chair and the other cheek on his the whole time.


Overreaction Three:

After a long year of treatment and hospitalization for Acute Myleloid Leukemia, my husband’s visits with his oncologist were always a bit unnerving. The clinical trial he’d been enrolled in was just that, a trial. So we never knew exactly what to expect.

After months of weekly, then bi-weekly, follow-up appointments, the doctor announced at the end of one visit, “We’re going to send you away for three months.”

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.I sat there stunned and confused. In the half minute before the doctor could say another word, my mind took off in all different directions.

Where are they sending him? Is it close? Will I be able to find my way? Is this like some lab rat experiment? Can he have visitors? Conjugal or otherwise? I don’t remember reading about this in the clinical trial manual. Shoot. If only I’d read the clinical trial manual.

The doctor continued, “By that I mean, go home. Relax. I don’t need to see you back here for three months.”

Well, why didn’t he just say that in the first place?

“Now, friends, read these next words carefully. Slow down and don’t go jumping to conclusions regarding the day when our Master, Jesus Christ, will come back and we assemble to welcome him. Don’t let anyone shake you up or get you excited over some breathless report or rumored letter from me that the day of the Master’s arrival has come and gone. Don’t fall for any line like that.” ~ 2Thess 2:1-3 (MSG)

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Twelve Words for a Word Searcher’s Vocabulary #9

Frivolous talk provokes a derisive smile; wise speech evokes nothing but respect.~ Proverbs 14:3 (MSG)
When I can’t sleep at night, I get up and read a couple of chapters of whatever book I’m enjoying. After that, I try to bore myself to sleep by doing a few word search puzzles. This usually does the trick–until I come across words I don’t know. Here’s a list of them. Do you know their meaning? 
  1. ARAGO – a) an inner ear condition; b) a colorless odorless inert gaseous element; c) a conflict, especially between literary characters; d) a lunar impact crater on the moon
  2. BOMBAX – a) a throat condition; b) a large genus of trees, having digitate leaves and showy white or scarlet flowers; c) a public disturbance; d) a solvent used to remove rust
  3. JITNEY – a) attestation of a fact; b) thick sauce of Indian origin used as a condiment; c) a small hut built in the jungle; d) an unlicensed taxicab
  4. MASQUE – a) a building used for worship by Muslims; b) a substance with a penetrating persistent odor obtained from a sac beneath the abdominal skin of the male musk deer; c) a short, allegorical drama; d) when the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon in the evening
  5. MYSID – a) resembling a crustacean; b) showing a disdainful attitude; c) a large European thrush; d) unobservant
  6. NAPHTHA – a) a type of sleep apnea; b) a volatile, liquid hydrocarbon mixture; c) the lay of a fabric; d) the crest of a hill
  7. SHALLOON – a) a fool; b) a Welsh castle; c) a type of wool; d) a large brawl
  8. SILLY MID-ON – a) a position in the game of cricket; b) part of a Shakespearean costume; c) British slang for a mid-life crisis; d) a type of sailboat
  9. TIGERELLA – a) a female tiger cub; b) a bi-colored tomato; c) an African children’s game; d) a  style of weaving
  10. OBTRUSE – a) lacking sharpness or quickness in intellect; b) obsolete; c) blunt ended; d) type of engineer’s ruler
  11. TASSE – a) an implied answer; b) a dangling ornamentc) an overlapping plate in a knight’s suit of armor; d) to disturb or annoy
  12. VASSAL – a) a vase made from Venetian glass; b) a person under the protection of a feudal lord; c) go back and forth between two opinions; d) a concave article


Have you chosen the correct definition? Can you use the words in a sentence? Scroll down to see how you did.

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. ~ Galatians 5:25-26 (MSG)


Here are the correct answers.

  1. d) Arago: d) a lunar impact crater on the moon
  2. b) Bombax: b) a large genus of trees, having digitate leaves and showy white or scarlet flowers
  3. d) Jitney: d) an unlicensed taxicab
  4. c) Masque: c) a short, allegorical drama
  5. a) Mysid: a) resembling a crustacean
  6. b) Naphtha: b) a volatile, liquid hydrocarbon mixture
  7. c) Shalloon: c) a type of wool
  8. a) Silly mid-on: a) a position in the game of cricket
  9. b) Tigerella: b) a bi-colored tomato
  10. b) Obtruse: b) obsolete
  11. c) Tasse: c) an overlapping plate in a suit of armor
  12. b) Vassal: b) a person under the protection of the feudal lord

Jumping for joy over your score?

10-12 May I call you in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep?

07-09 When you speak, do people roll their eyes?

04-06 So you, too, were a lazy student.

00-03  Did I wake you?


My Sources of Good Material

Not resting–people watching.

Collecting good material is all part of the writing process. Here are a few of the ways I gather mine.

First, I’m always on the lookout for new words (new to me, that is) to use in my writing someday. Yesterday I added “flumped” and “clots” to my list just because they made me smile.

I also collect phrases–mostly from listening to my quick-witted husband. I keep a small spiral pad with me at all times. When he speaks, I take notes. (It’s not really stealing if it’s common property; we are ONE after all.)

Unfortunately, he does not provide this service on demand. He  says, “I have no idea when something useful will float to the surface of the muck and mire. You have to take what you get.”  Watching his mind work is pure genius . . .  and a little bit scary.

I also eavesdrop on conversations–in restaurants, at church, while shopping, at meetings. Some might accuse me of being nosy; without hesitation, I admit I’m guilty.

People-watching is kin to eavesdropping, but you can do that from afar.  My husband calls it “rubbernecking;” I call it research. Many of my characters have been dressed in the get-ups I’ve seen while walking through a public place.

Then there are my co-workers, friends and family. In my latest book, Party of One,  some of my friends and family may recognize a few of their own quirks and characteristics. (I do hope they will forgive me.)

And I’m certain they will recognize mine.


Meet Jennifer Slattery: Speaker, Editor, and Author

Healing Love is a work of women’s fiction with a strong romantic thread

A news anchor intern has it all planned out, and love isn’t on the agenda.

Brooke Endress is on the cusp of her lifelong dream when her younger sister persuades her to chaperone a mission trip to El Salvador. Packing enough hand sanitizer and bug spray to single-handedly wipe out malaria, she embarks on what she hopes will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But Brooke is blindsided by the desperation for hope and love she sees in the orphans’ eyes. And no less by the connection she feels with her handsome translator. As newfound passion blooms, Brooke wrestles with its implications for her career dreams.

Ubaldo Chavez, teacher and translator, knows the struggle that comes with generational poverty. But he found the way out – education – and is determined to help his students rise above. When he agrees to translate for a mission team from the United States he expects to encounter a bunch of “missional tourists” full of empty promises. Yet an American news anchor defies his expectations, and he finds himself falling in love. But what does he have to offer someone with everything?

I should know by now not to attach the word glamorous to anything publishing related. But my inner muse is anything if expectant, and she has a tendency to be more than a little fanciful. She’s learned to release any hopes of working with a showered, well-attired and made-up author. She’s probably also come to terms with the fact that she and her author will spend most of their time in a small, quiet, isolated office.

While watching her friends and neighbors enjoy the feeling of a fresh breeze stirring and the gentle rays of the summer morning sun. Something she and her author frequently write about but never experience. She’s also given up any ideas of hot, fresh cooked meals, learning to enjoy handfuls of nuts or scoops of peanut butter, or whatever other uberly convenient food happens to be on hand.

But research trips, and traipsing across the country from one adventure to another, are dreams neither she nor I have been able to relinquish. Perhaps its our dual, interlocking imaginations, but when we planned our visit to Austin last summer, we fully expected a glamorous, glorious time, the stuff books are made of. Most specifically, ours.

I packed my cutest clothes, my computer, my hand held voice recorder—virtually everything I’d need to imitate Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer, or any other gorgeous, successful investigator. I arrived with a full tank of gas and a full agenda. I’d visit museums, eclectic and obscure restaurants … a murder mystery dinner theater.

I had it all planned out. What could possibly go wrong?

How many blunders did we experience; let me count the ways.

Actually, let me not. That’d take entirely too long. I’ll share “a day in the life” story instead.

It was midway through our trip, and I’d donned on my favorite outfit and sandals—the white wedges I’d paid entirely too much for.  This was the day we’d visit one of Austin’s finer restaurants, the location I considered having my heroine work at.

As we were walking toward it, my dad, who accompanied me on this trip, gave me a sideways shove. I frowned at him, certain he was making fun of my attempt to walk in my higher-than-normal shoes.

Nope. I realized, a moment too late, he was trying to help me avoid stepping in … something. Rather unpleasant, that I’ll graciously choose not to mention here. Gunk that remained on my shoes despite my numerous attempts to scrape it off as we went—now that led to some glamorous walking. (Insert sarcasm)

But I refused to allow this rather smelly mishap put a damper on our evening, so we continued on. Hungry, we stopped at a street corner in the shade of a tree to decide where to go for dinner.

When suddenly, something cool and wet splattered my leg. Sometimes it take a bit for my brain to catch up, and by the time it had, I was splattered a second time. I glanced first at the ground then at the tree above us and quickly zeroed in on the culprit. A lovely little bird had made his presence known.

My dad and I immediately dashed into the closest restaurant and headed straight for the bathroom where I practically dove into the sink. An hour or so later, with bellies full and still determined to finish our night strong, we rented a pair of bikes and decided to explore the area flanking the river.

I’m pretty sure dad had a great time. Laughing at me as I pedaled like a mad-woman while getting close to nowhere (my gears were broke) and fought against my perpetually spinning seat (apparently the screws were lose. In the seat, not my head. Though a convincing argument could be made for the latter).

That night, tired, amused, and just a wee bit flustered, I walked into our hotel carrying my stinky, gross sandals in a plastic bag, ready to crash before continuing our adventure the next day.

And that, my friends, is a day in the not-so-glamorous life of a writer.


BIO: Author, speaker, and ministry leader Jennifer Slattery writes for and is the managing and acquiring editor for Guiding Light Women’s Fiction, an imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She believes fiction has the power to transform lives and change the culture. Healing Love is her sixth novel, and it was birthed during a trip she and her family took to El Salvador that opened her eyes to the reality of generational poverty and sparked a love for orphans and all who’ve experienced loss.

Her deepest passion is to help women experience God’s love and discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she travels with her team to various churches to speak to women and help them experience the love and freedom only Christ can offer. When not writing, editing, or speaking, you’ll likely find her chatting with her friends or husband in a quiet, cozy coffeehouse. Visit her online at and connect with her and her Wholly Loved team at


Janet Grunst! Winner of the 2017 Selah Award for Historical Romance

I’m honored to call this Selah Award Winner my friend. 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

Janet is a great encourager! We met at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference in Dallas in 2012–before we were both published–and we’ve kept in touch ever since. What a blessing to share and celebrate our publishing journeys together!

I hope you enjoy our mutual interviews both here and on Janet’s website.  And, if you comment on this post, you’ll have a chance to win either a print or Kindle copy of Janet’s award-winning novel, A Heart Set Free.

CGJ:  When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

JSG:  I was in my mid thirties and a stay-at-home mom.

CGJ:  Who first supported you in this dream?

JSG:  My former husband, Bob, who never read anything in this genre. He would read each chapter as I finished it and ask for the next one.

CGJ:  Who is your biggest cheerleader now?

JSG:  My husband, Ken, who encouraged me to get back into writing after I’d put it aside for decades. He encouraged me to try again to get this first story published. I provide him with red pens, and he loves to comment and edit.

CGJ:  What did you do before you became a writer?

JSG:  I was in the banking and mortgage lending industry before I had children. When I returned to work in the 90’s I worked for Community Bible Study (CBS), an international and interdenominational Bible study program with many classes throughout the United States and world. I have continued to serve in CBS Leadership before, during, and since retiring from employment in the ministry.

CGJ:  What genre do you prefer to write?

JSG:  Historical Romance and Historical

CGJ:  Which authors have influenced your writing and how?

JSG:  Secular authors: Jane Austen for most of her work; Margaret Mitchell for Gone With The Wind; Nevil Shute for A Town Like Alice; Charlotte Brontë for Jane Eyre; and Elizabeth Gaskell for North and South and Cranford. Inspirational authors: Too many to list but my all time favorite is General Lew Wallace for Ben Hur. All of these stories are ones that stay in your mind.

CGJ:  What do you want readers to experience while reading your books?

JSG:  While the stories may be in an historical setting, they communicate feelings and experiences that are timeless and the truths of the Christian faith, as well as entertain and bring inspiration, healing, and hope to the reader.

CGJ:  Tell us a little bit about your book, the title and one or two sentences.

JSG:  A Heart Set Free  tells the story of a woman who flees Scotland in 1770 as an indentured servant to escape disgrace. In Virginia she finds forgiveness, faith, and a future she could never have anticipated.

CGJ:  How have your readers responded?

JSG:  I was so pleased with these reviews:

“I loved this tender and wonderful story. Amidst all the hurt and misunderstanding, we find forgiveness and grace. And along the way, we see love, slowly evolving, making its way into hearts that have been closed off due to hurt and loss. I found myself slowing down my reading as I approached the end because I just didn’t want the story to end.”

“This is a wonderful story! It has just the right amount of intrigue, romance, and adventure to keep the reader turning the pages – one of those books I didn’t want to finish too quickly, but didn’t want to stop reading. Please, where can I find the sequel?”

CGJ:  What lessons have you learned from this [publishing] journey?

JSG:  To always hold my writing with an open hand. I’m to do my part, and if it is God’s will, He’ll see it through to publication.

CGJ:  What writing projects are you currently working on? Is this book part of a series?

JSG:  A Heart Set Free  is the first story in a trilogy. Its theme is forgiveness. The second story is complete and in search of a publisher. Its theme is faithfulness. The final story is underway. Its theme is forbearance. They are each stand alone stories.

AUTHOR BIO: Janet is a wife, mother of two sons, and grandmother of eight. She lives in the historic triangle of Virginia (Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown) with her husband and West Highland White Terrier. A lifelong student of history, her love of writing fiction grew out of a desire to share stories that can communicate the truths of the Christian faith, as well as entertain, and bring inspiration, healing, and hope to the reader. Janet is represented By Linda S. Glaz, Hartline Literary Agency

Janet’s Website

Colonial Quill’s Blog 

Janet’s Facebook

A Heart Set Free ~ Winner of the 2017 Selah Award for Historical Romance.


Wisdom Comes With Age: Myth Busted!

Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman

After all my years as a functioning adult, how can I still be so gullible? Isn’t wisdom supposed to come with age? If only Jamie and Adam of MythBusters had tested that theory, I’d have been better prepared.

Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil. ~ Thessalonians 5:19-22 (MSG)

Anyway, here’s the scoop. Recently, I wanted to buy some moisturizer, but didn’t know which one to get. In my defense, I dislike shopping and making decisions, so when an opportunity came along to skip all that, I thought it was a tiny miracle wrapped in God’s grace.

“How did the opportunity come along?” you ask.

I saw an ad online somewhere. (And, no, I don’t remember where. My husband, David, has lectured me on that already.) The ad caught my attention, first because it said “FREE trial!” Need I go on?

Did you catch the small print? “Simulated imagery. Results not typical.”

The second hook was “anti-aging.” I’m probably 30 40 years too late for that, but I couldn’t find one that claimed “reverse-aging.”  I reasoned that the “anti-redness” and “pore-refining” agents couldn’t hurt.

The third reason clinched the deal! All the gazillionaire members of the Shark Tank reality show had invested in this amazing product. How could I go wrong with the sharpest business minds in the country backing it?

Can you say “too good to be true”?

“How did you find that out?” you ask.

When David opened the credit card bill three weeks later. “Sweetie, did you order an ounce of anti-aging cream for $92.00?”

Indignant, I answered, “I most certainly did not. I ordered an ounce of anti-aging cream for FREE.”

FRONT: Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, and Lori Greiner. BACK: Daymond John, Clarice G. James (newest investor) and Robert Herjavec

“Okaay …. how about an under eye cream for another $92.00?”

“Hey! They said they’d throw that in for nothing.”

In less than 60 seconds online, David found a number of consumer warnings about this scam. Apparently, I’d missed the fine print in the ad, which said I could try it FREE for 15 days. If I was unhappy, I had to send the free samples back, or I’d be charged.

Instantly my head began to ache, like common sense was hitting it with a hammer, yelling, “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!” What was I thinking?

David spent the next few weeks on the phone with the scammers, the credit card company, and the Better Business Bureau until the matter was settled. End result: All charges were deleted from our credit card. Most importantly, my husband held no charges against me. Now that’s what a tiny miracle wrapped in God’s grace looks like.

“Did you learn your lesson?” you ask.

I sure did. But one good thing came out of this whole mess. An FBI agent contacted me to work undercover for them in their White Collar Division. They’re doing a background check on me now. All I had to do was give their agent–real nice guy, he was–my mother’s maiden name, my date of birth, and my social security number. I get paid $92.00 for every tip I send them.

Click here for more Beauty Tips and Lessons on Being Gullible.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. ~ Ephesians 2:7 (MSG)