INTERRUPTIONS 3.0

Well, friends, it’s been a few months since “Interruptions of Life 2.0”—so naturally, I hoped I might escape the winter doldrums unscathed. Alas, it was not to be. Lest I lead you too far with that creative imagination you may possess, familiar but slightly different challenges emerged during this latest interruption. In fact, six weeks of misery hurled me towards the pantry, fridge, take-out, eat out, car hop and IHOP to find ten pounds of fat which had taken me three solid months to lose last summer. With zero energy, I proceeded to binge-watch several HULU TV-series episodes with at least one season or more, and eat like there was no tomorrow … anything to find solace from the unrelenting coughing, nose-blowing, mouth-breathing general malaise associated with URI’s (Upper Respiratory Infections).

In addition, at the end of the six-week hiatus from the gym, I go for my annual checkup and the doc sits me down for the “your blood sugars are too high” talk. She then proceeds with a lesson in self-mutilation as I’m shown how to stick my finger and test my blood—which has to be done three times a day. Ouch! I won’t even tell you how stressed I got, and how for the next week my blood test numbers were so elevated, it was obvious I was headed for a stroke. Thankfully, I’ve calmed down and so have my numbers.

If you read my “Christmas Confusion—Chasing the Grinch,” you might conclude that the last few months have not been my best. You would be right (and there is more serious and consequential sharing I could do, but that’s for another time). These things, however, are little more than annoyances in the big scheme of things, and far from the worst life has to offer. If I ever sound like I’ve got it all together and nothing ever gets me down, don’t believe it.

So, in addition to illness, etc., there is one other interruption which reared its ugly head. My goal of publishing a new blog once a week became a distant dream. I just checked the date of my last post—January 14th —in other words, two months!  How did it happen? After the debacle mentioned in the “Christmas Confusion” article having to do with spam, more and more auto-spam flooded my blog site; so much so, that by the end of February, I had over 24,000 comments to read and approve, just from February!

I will admit that I became more than a little angry at all of the selfish individuals and companies out there in cyber space who latched on to SusanButlerLive like parasitic interlopers. Some people say I have a “Pollyanna” naïveté, and that’s fine—I’d rather see the glass half full than half empty. However, after hours on the phone with my Godaddy techs, it became obvious I was going to have to delete all those 24k+ comments, both spam and legitimate (no small task), and change the settings to disallow future comments.

My techies tried different spam blocker plug-ins, but nothing worked to prevent spam without preventing all comments. You cannot imagine the disappointment and deflation I felt when I realized that all you good folks out there reading the blogs would no longer be able to communicate with me and others on the blog site.

But because I know God has a purpose for these blogs, I want to experiment with something else. You may have a Facebook account, and if so, this will be an easy alternative. Just go to SusanButlerLive on Facebook, where I post every blog from my web site. You do not even have to find the particular blog you are commenting on. Just state the blog title in your comment and shoot me your post. I would love to hear from you, and especially if you have a question or specific need.

Now, to settle us both down, I learned something yesterday that may help you, too. I went to church for Sunday morning worship, and Pastor Jack’s sermon was on Psalm 84. It speaks of the blessings of strength and grace in dwelling with The Lord (being in His Presence, no matter where you are). It also speaks of “passing through the Valley of Baca.” Baca is from the root word meaning “to weep.” The passage goes on to explain that our tears of adversity can form a spring of encouragement, from which we can find strength for ourselves and encourage others as we learn the hard Baca lessons.

Are you in a season of Baca right now? Is there something happening in your life for which you have no answers, no control? Believe me, I share in your dismay. None of us likes this form of learning, and yet I believe that God knows exactly what form of challenge to give each one of us to learn each particular lesson. If you look back on other hard times you’ve experienced, can you pin point something of importance you learned from it? Sometimes, it’s the only way we sober up from the distractions of the world to see what God wants us to see.

You know, the tendency for most of us is to retreat when life is frustrating and hard. We don’t want to hear how swell things are with the rest of the world, when our own world is crumbling around us. Disappointments can bring about disillusionment which can elicit the desire to shrink back and just give up!

BUT WE MUST NOT GIVE IN TO THAT URGE! Commit this to memory:

“But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back. But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”  Hebrews 10:38-39

Doing life without Christ is folly. If you have any questions about your salvation and your relationship with Jesus Christ, write me—or find someone who can guide you to the hope and saving knowledge found in Jesus Christ.

God’s Best,

Susan

susan@susanbutlerlive.com

Facebook – SusanButlerLive

Twitter – SusanButlerLive

STEWARDSHIP – Why Do You Give?

We have each been entrusted with time, talents, and resources which we are to carefully and responsibly manage. I believe the Bible has much to say on this subject, because our motivation for giving is as important as the act itself. The precept of Stewardship is the basis for my devotional book, First Fruits—giving God our first and best.

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all you that you need, you will abound in every good work.”                             2 Corinthians 9:7–8 (NIV)

After C.J. and I married, we gave our offering on Sundays and felt pretty good about it, both having grown up in Christian homes where giving was taught. We understood the concept of giving to help the church continue its ministry to “the least and the lost.” We were living on the meager salaries of a high school teacher/coach and a secretary, so it wasn’t a huge amount, but it was our effort to reach the goal of tithing 10%.

One Sunday morning, a very successful member of our church gave a testimony on tithing. I was surprised to learn that he did not invest on Wall Street, but what he said next struck a chord within me. He had found that investing in the Lord’s work was the only investment he and his wife would ever need. He reminded us the stock market could be volatile, but the consistency of giving to God paid immeasurable, incomparable and irrefutable dividends. Luke 6:38 was his reference:

“Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

As my husband and I began faithfully tithing ten percent of our income to the Lord, we soon found that we truly could not out-give God. Our blessings came to us in ways we did not expect and at times we could not have appointed. It has been a source of encouragement to us that even though we may not have the gift of teaching or preaching, we can share in God’s work to reach those in need of a Savior, as well as giving for their physical and emotional needs of clothing and counseling – both in our community and around the world.

Of course, giving our money is only part of the equation. If we truly want to please God, we have to think about the other practical needs believers and non-believers share. Remember the parable Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 25:31–43 (NLT), paraphrased:

After the Second Coming of Christ, Jesus returns with all His angels and sits on His throne, all the nations gather and He separates them, putting the sheep on the right and goats on the left. He tells the sheep on His right to take their inheritance because “I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” Then his sheep, the righteous, ask him when they had done these things. His reply: “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

God expects us to use our hands to share the gifts He has given us, whether it is giving financially, encouraging, cooking, listening, sewing, repairing, delivering, singing, writing,  teaching,  inspiring—whatever we can give to others to make their life better will be remembered and rewarded when Jesus returns. What a glorious inheritance awaits those whose minds are set on Him.

2017 – WRITING – Where I Begin

 

   Hmmm, what should I write about?????

Today, I was asked a frequent question: how do I center myself to write. This particular question begs for more than a simple statement, so just as I did for those asking questions about how to begin blogging (A Blog on Blogging), I want to give those interested in writing preparation full disclosure on my method. It is true there are many solutions to this common problem of how to begin a new article – but as for me, I pray.

My whole purpose for the SusanButlerLive website and blog site is to introduce seekers to the Savior, Jesus Christ. And to encourage them to build a relationship with Him through reading and thinking about what He says regarding living life here and now, and expectations for eternal life when this body wears out. Having a conversation with Him where I both talk and listen (prayer) is the most obvious way for me to know He is guiding me in what and how I present His message.

It is important to know that my relationship with Jesus began when I let Him know that I wanted Him to live in my heart, and that I accepted Him as my personal Lord and Savior. He knows all of us because He created us; but though He created us, we are not His Children until we make this soul commitment to Him.

We have to believe that He was born by immaculate conception, a virgin birth, that He lived a sinless life, and that He died a painful death on a cross to redeem us from our sins – something we cannot do for ourselves. We have to believe that he was buried, and that three days later He rose from that grave and that at least 40 people saw Him and His nail-scarred hands before He ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of God, preparing a place for us when we die.

He was the reason for the title of my book FIRST FRUITS – Jesus was the First Fruit and those that believe in Him will rise to be with Him at the moment of their death, to live with Him in a place He is preparing for us called Heaven. Therefore, we are part of the First Fruits of Christ. I don’t know my number (i.e. millionth, billionth, etc. _____-FRUITS), but the important truth is that He knows! The  Bible talks about God’s Book of Life and my name is written in that Book!!

Being a Christ-follower gives me hope on hopeless days, frustrating days, and on just plain old BAD days! (I just spent more time than I’d like to think about with the Geek Squad to fix my Wifi internet issue – believe me, up until a few minutes ago, I was having a REALLY BAD DAY!) To understand how being in relationship with Christ can turn bad thoughts into good thoughts and bad days into good days, you must get to know Him by reading His Word. My devotional book FIRST FRUITS is packed with His Word (scripture) and my blogs have content either from FIRST FRUITS or new thoughts that always point us back to Him. He loves everyone of you, but we each have to make the decision to accept His free Gift of Salvation.

I realize this was more than the questioner asked for, but I can’t avoid speaking about Him. He changed me and He can change you! Why not trust Him right now?*

God’s best to you,
Susan Butler

* See my website www.susanbutlerlive.com/contact-us.html for more information on inviting Christ into your heart. Specific scriptures are listed to help give you a better understanding.

Christmas Confusion – Chasing the Grinch

Pondering the mysteries of Christmas, I find it almost too overwhelming to tackle. “Then why try,” I ask myself—just so I can write a Christmas blog and go to sleep tonight, temporarily free of the relentless nagging that echoes from my to-do list? Does the pressure of Christmas ever supersede your ability to stop and take in the sounds, smells, scenes and significance of the Season? (Is it a Grinch attack?)

I confess. Though I have already had moments which illuminated giving at its finest, festive evenings with friends, singing carols of Christmas, cherished time with family, feasting on holiday fare, and most importantly, worshiping Christ our Savior … I have allowed my lists of calls, errands, events, shopping and such to cloud my view.

Mostly though, it was a “circumstance” beyond my control that left me in a fit of anxiety this year, wondering what bit of wisdom I might learn, and more to the point, how soon might I learn it! Am I the only one who wants to bask slowly in the warmth of recognizable, already-gained and demonstrated wisdom, yet race through the fiery trials of adversity? Adversity, aka The Grinch (aka Satan), can take us where we don’t want to go and cost us more than we ever want to pay.

One such circumstance came my way a few months ago and culminated last week. Most of you know my devotional book called First Fruits, Giving God Your Best 365 Days of the Year, was published in January 2016, and I have been using excerpts from it for my SusanButlerLive blog. I receive about 100 blog comments per day now, and it is up to me to approve or reject them. One such comment led me down a rabbit hole, which eventually cost me not only a significant amount of time and money, but peace of mind and focus.

The point of this story is not to gain sympathy or get into the details; rather, to warn you of the schemes  of the devil and his proclivity to find unique points of weakness, even in the seemingly innocent endeavors of our lives. You see, the Bible tells us to “beware of the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 NASB. Now, obviously, the internet is not evil—it holds a vast amount of information which allows us to learn and communicate in ways we never imagined possible just a couple of decades ago. However, there are human beings using the internet who are more interested in deceitful money-making scams than spreading peace and good will. They are led by the great deceiver, Satan.

Yes, Satan distracted me one day from my purpose of helping others build a relationship with Jesus Christ. He was prowling around for me that day, choosing just the perfect temptation of making some extra money (to pay for all those copies of First Fruits!), and I never saw it coming. It’s complicated, but suffice it to say, I finally went to the FBI, who gave me the incontrovertible news that I had been scammed (the non-refundable, no recourse kind of scam). I got duped by the devil and he took me off my game. You see, there’s nothing he wants more than to impede the progress of a believer who is forging a path to introduce seekers to the Savior. He thrives on discouraging the strong and the weak.

The Grinch tried to steal my Christmas Joy by taking my focus off of Christ during this last week of crisis—and eventually forcing me to look down the double barrel of fear and failure.  “BUT (Hebrews 10:38-39) my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back. But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” That’s right, Grinch, you come to steal, but we who are righteous in Christ are saved from anything you can throw at us! Remember this when The Grinch tries to steal your joy—you are loved by your Creator who sent The One and Only Christ Child to be your Redeemer, Lord and Savior.

                         It’s Christmas!    Luke 2:1-20                                                    

  1. “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.
  2. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
  3. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.
  4. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,
  5. In order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
  6. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.
  7. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
  8. In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.
  9. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
  10. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;
  11. For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
  12. This will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
  13. And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
  14. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
  15. When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”
  16. So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.
  17. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.
  18. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.
  19. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.
  20. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.”

Herein lies a beautiful irony: Christ lived to die—and died so we might live.

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the First Fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” 1 Cor. 15:23

Let us take time to retreat from the busyness of the Season, and think about the Joy of Christmas. The Grinch may try to steal from you, but can’t steal your Joy if you are in Christ!

TEACHING OUR CHILDREN: One Man’s Journey

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In this Season of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for Facebook … and Jason Taylor, my nephew, is one of the main reasons. Maintaining out-of-town family relationships is difficult in our busy world, and yet I am blessed to get glimpses of the Taylor family almost daily because of social media.

Jason is a Christ-follower and is leading his whole family in that pursuit. He grew up in a Christian home, but rebelled like so many do as he came to the Age of I Am Great – you know, that age when he realized how smart he was and how dumb his parents were. After a decade or more, he had his Moment with God and has never been the same. Check him out on Facebook, and you will know from his posts, as well as from those who comment, that Jason’s #1 goal is to please The Lord and share His Word.

Though I don’t share the writing of others often, this is an exception I gladly make on your behalf. Yes, this is for you. If you are a father, I believe this letter he wrote will impact you and motivate you to lead your family and your friends to a Higher Calling. As one of the volunteer coaches, he wrote to the parents of Ben’s football teammates (a  letter I probably would not have seen had Jason not posted it on Facebook):

“Hello Everyone! As we near the end of another successful Warrior football season, I just wanted to express my appreciation to all of you parents, coaches and kiddos who come together to make our teams what they are! I also want to share some things that we have tried to instill in these boys throughout the season.

As was stated at the first of the year, our program really is about so much more than just winning football games. Almost every week we discuss different principals that will help these boys succeed on and off of the football field. The following are some of the lessons we have talked about as a team.

Our team creed has centered around Believing God, Believing in Each Other and Believing in Ourselves. We want them to grow in faith in these areas. We have chosen to Honor God as a team and have clearly seen Him keep His promise in honoring and blessing us in so many ways on and off the field.

We teach each player to give 100% every play so that they can be confident the man next to them will do their job, therefore finding the courage and freedom to
give their all themselves!

And we want them to be confident in their own abilities by believing they “… can do all things through Christ who strengthens them!”

We tell them to “Hit First and Hit Hard!”
This is a great slogan for football but it applies to life as well. Take the initiative and give it all you’ve got!

We teach them to “…not grow tired of doing what is right for at the proper time they will be rewarded if they do not give up!” Galatians 6:9

We want them to maintain a good, positive attitude if and when we lose (we say Learn) and be humble at all times, especially when we win.
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

We ask them to say only things that are uplifting and build each other up.
T.H.I.N.K. Before you speak.
True-Helpful-Inspiring-Necessary- Kind

We teach them team concepts and guard against putting the emphasis on any one player. We do our best to build up each kid  and show him how important his position is to the entire team. We play for each other, not just ourselves.”

“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12

14938049_10206098883510060_1223303939_n      VICTORY!

This is Jason and son Ben celebrating a team victory as well as an individual victory. Christ was honored on and off the field. The x’s and o’s will fade in time, trophies will move from center stage shelves to cardboard boxes, but the Character being taught in this home will live for generations.

A TIME FOR THANKS

Shiny golden pumpking for happy thanksgiving day celebration.

As we celebrate this cherished tradition of drawing close to feast not just on turkey and trimmings, but on the ideal of blessings, I am taking some time away from distractions to think of my own blessings. How long is my list of blessings? How long should it be? Is there a set number we should strive for, or else be banned to the Land of the Un-Thankful?

Let’s see … Family, Friends, Faith, Freedom … oops, I’ve already messed up – of course, Faith should come first! (Well, at least it was in the top tier). Though I could go on and on with my list, and I will proclaim them to the Blessing Giver, my purpose here (if it is not yet obvious) is to challenge us all to stop and think. Yes, we should think about every person in our lives who enriches us, every thing in our lives which makes the journey better, every ideal we hold up to strive for, and every experience that has brought us to this Thanksgiving season. Let us remember that every detail of our lives was known to our Creator before He wove us in our mother’s womb – read Psalm 139 to understand God’s great love for you. Dare I type out one of the most beautiful passages in all the Bible? Why not …

A Psalm of David

O LORD, Thou hast searched me and known me.
Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up;
Thou dost understand my thought from afar.
Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And art intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, Thou dost know it all.
Thou hast enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Thy hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go from Thy Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Thy presence?
If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there;
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Thy hand will lead me,
And Thy right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to Thee,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to Thee.

For Thou didst form my inward parts;
Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from Thee,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.
Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Thy book they were all written,
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

This God who David describes so majestically has loved us beyond our ability to comprehend! So, while you enjoy your family, remember loved ones, eat, play, love, watch football, talk and laugh – do it all with a new and thankful heart. As His profound love washes over you, shower that Love on someone else.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Susan Butler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Offer Just For You!

For all of you gift-givers and faithful readers of

SusanButlerLive,

I have very special pricing for FIRST FRUITS,

my 365-day devotional book ($24.99 retail) . . .

$15 now through the end of 2016!

ff-holiday-offering-2016

Go to susanbutlerlive.com/store

Click on the First Fruits book, enter quantity, shipping information, etc., and books will head your way!

Merry Christmas!

Susan Butler

SUFFERING: Interruptions of Life, 2.0

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Before you read the latest excerpt from FIRST FRUITS, I feel you deserve a short explanation on why I haven’t posted a new blog in three weeks – hence, the subtitle, “Interruptions of Life, 2.0.” My first “interruption” was pneumonia almost a year ago. This time, my husband had a scheduled back surgery which was a bit rougher than the one three years ago. Exactly one week later, my grown daughter had a shoulder replacement on her dominant arm. Yikes.

Needless to say, my meager nursing skills were put to the test! But that was just the entree … my only granddaughter got a lead role in the musical “Hairspray,” and I became a stage mom – shopping for wigs, etc., sewing costumes and working on set designs. (My vehicle can almost drive the path from my daughter’s house to the school and back without me in the car). The production is this Friday and Saturday, thank you, Jesus!

But, like the conductor who puts the final crescendo on the Hallelujah Chorus, I got a little ahead of myself (or should I say behind) and fell backwards onto my daughter’s open dishwasher. Talk about crescendo – I screamed, china shards flew everywhere – but by God’s grace, there were no forks (loaded tines up) to announce “you’re done” as they pierced my back. I’m headed to the Dr. today for a rib X-ray, knowing there’s nothing they can do even if it’s cracked … but hey, there’s solace in knowing, right? Unlike my body, however, the broken dishwasher is a fact; so besides rib pain, there’s also pain in my pocketbook.

So, now, the excerpt below is another day in the life …

It has been 100 days since I last wrote. One hundred days since an ambulance carried me to the hospital to repair my shattered elbow after a fall; one hundred days of suffering, slow recovery, and Physical Therapy (aka Pain & Torture)! Traumatic injuries may be common, but they are not at all like planned surgeries, of which I have had a few. Unlike a scheduled surgery, there is no time before an accidental trauma to prepare your mind, body and soul. But one thing’s for sure … there is plenty of time afterwards for reflection.

So I had many conversations with the Lord about what happened, the timing of it and the pearls of wisdom I might find in that oyster of suffering. I am quite sure Satan was having a hootenanny by tripping me up that day, but just like Joseph when his brothers betrayed him in Genesis 50:20 (NASB), “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” Satan doesn’t want me, or any of you, to complete God’s purpose in our lives, but God will use even our suffering for His good!

Suffering can be physical, mental or emotional. What kind of suffering have you experienced? Reflect on it, and ask yourself whether you used the power of God in your suffering to elevate the focus from your suffering to the Savior. Did you claim Him and thank Him for the ways in which He protected you during the trial? Your reaction to suffering has much to do with how you move through it. The apostle Paul had some advice for us in 1 Thessalonians 5:4–8 from The Message:

“But friends, you’re not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart. People sleep at night and get drunk at night. But not us! Since we’re creatures of Day, let’s act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.”

The accident changed my writing timeline in a flash, but what of God’s? The path I was on, working furiously (indeed) on First Fruits, was a path where finishing had become the goal. I was so close! He showed me once again that He is interested in every detail of First Fruits (down to the last stroke on the computer), that learning is in the journey, and that His timing will be perfect. He brought me through a long surgery, muffled-but-never-silenced pain, dependence on others, and finally, a heart transformed to appreciate the details of His moment-by-moment provision, protection, and direction.

My desire is to come to the close of First Fruits, not in a rush, but savoring the final pages of God-inspired writing to reflect Him. That’s the bottom line. May He transform our faith from passive to passionate and our love from self-centered to God-centered as we live our lives of hope in the mighty name of Jesus!

Friends, many of you are suffering in ways I cannot even imagine. I do not take your suffering lightly, nor do I think our suffering should be compared. As a wise woman once told me, “no one can know your pain.” That’s right, each ones’ pain is different because each ones’ experience (before and after) is different. We can all take comfort in the fact that our God knows each of us intimately, and that He wants to comfort us in our times of need. Remember this next time your life is interrupted: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”

A BLOG on BLOGGING

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THE LIVE TRIBE

I’m going to share a secret with you … ten months ago I didn’t know the first thing about blogging. That’s right, until my publisher (ahem) “strongly suggested” I start a blog, I was clueless ­­… because I had never even read one! Talk about an eye-opener, I was in for another learning curve.

So, after receiving more than two thousand comments on my blog site, as well as a surprising number of questions asking for my advice, I began to realize how many folks are not only interested in learning tips on the process, whether technical or creative, but on understanding how to make their blogs valuable. Let’s pursue the answers using my blog as an example.

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PURPOSE: Generally, your purpose for having a blog should permeate every piece you write. The SusanButlerLive.com website contains a sub-heading to clarify my purpose: “Building a Relationship with Jesus Christ.” In addition to the four rolling statement screens, i.e. “Living in God’s Amazing Grace,” The Mission button on my home page contains a more complete mission statement. No matter whether your purpose is to sell an idea, a product or an expression of your ideals (or a combination), you need to be consistent. Lastly – BE PASSIONATE ABOUT YOUR TOPIC!

  • TECHNICAL: Okay, this is where I can guarantee you there are better peeps out there to assist you than me. However, I continue to be asked about my web design and my blog platform, so here you go …
  1. Godaddy hosts my site, and I used their Web Builder program to design the site. I had 24/7 access to their technical support, and believe me, I got my money’s worth! I highly recommend them.
  2. WordPress is my blog platform, and I’m using the 2016 design for my blogs because I like the clean lines and color which complement my website. It was very easy to learn the basics (and I’m still learning).
  3. Spam can be eliminated on WordPress with the Akismet plugin. I activate it for a couple of days, then deactivate it and allow comments to flow again. It usually cures the problem for a week or so. Remember, all you have to do is hit the spam option underneath the comment if you don’t like what you see.
  4. Hacking and plagiarism are definitely serious issues and you may want to check with Legal within your current blog platform . Having your dedicated writing used without permission is something we must all guard against. (Do make sure you construct your writing in Word or other word processing software, and then paste it into your blog so you will retain a copy even if it is lost or stolen.)

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  1. Search Engines: And how many besides me didn’t even understand how readers find each blog site? Maybe I’m alone in this, since you all found my site without any effort on my part! Just to be safe, my techie bud at Godaddy explained yesterday the reason a few of you (10 out of 2000) have experienced Internet Explorer (IE) running off the page. It appears Microsoft 2010 does not support IE and now runs on Microsoft Edge. So, you can either use Edge, Safari, Google Chrome, etc., but IE has been laid to rest (at least by Microsoft), God bless its useful yet antiquated service.
  2. RSS (Rich Site Summary) allows feed readers to access your site. It is a way for them to sign up or subscribe to your blog, so that all new blogs come directly to them without repeated searches. However, there is a better way, I believe, to connect …
  3. Social Media:  Yes, folks, join me by using Facebook and Twitter – so easy, and I bet most of you already use these community connection tools.

WRITING SKILLS: Great blogs have some basic things in common:

  1. Spelling is without a doubt the most important element; “if in doubt, look it up.”
  2. Punctuation is vital in your sentence structure to give guidance to the reader. A comma left out or an exclamation point injected at the right moment can give a completely different meaning to the sentence.
  3. Paragraphs help the writer give flow to his/her thoughts. They also help the reader know when the subject is shifting, either slightly or altogether.
  4. Brevity is important. When you write, use the least amount of words possible to do justice to the meaning of each sentence.
  5. Proofing is tantamount to writing a good article. As you re-read it, you will no doubt find something to tweak; something to cut and paste within a different paragraph; something to enrich the overall message. Like carpenters (measure twice, cut once), use the rule and proof twice, publish once.

CREATIVITY

Emotion is an important part of the creative writing style. Think of all the emotions possible, and make sure you touch the reader with at least one emotion; which, of course, can be different for each article.

Color & Design touch another sense, that which we see. If it is pleasant to the eye, it welcomes the reader; conversely, if it is chaotic and has no sense of flow and balance, it may drive the reader away from your site.

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Imagery is an essential to good writing. You must choose words to paint a verbal picture that is so vivid the reader cannot turn away.

Photos & Videos are also essential to grab the reader’s attention. As long as it relates to your topic, it will help initiate the reader’s interest in your article.

VALUE

I realize the word value is a relative term – some consider it only in monetary terms, while others consider it in more technical, philosophical, moral, or spiritual terms. Whatever your purpose for publishing your blog, I hope the above material helps you in reaching your goals!

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Please join me today by following me on Facebook and Twitter at SusanButlerLive. Or, you can find the “Entries RSS” under the heading META on the bottom right hand side of each blog page.

I would love to have you as a regular visitor to this site, and am officially naming all of you who subscribe to SusanButlerLive – “THE LIVE TRIBE” – Let’s encourage the world together!

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JOIN “THE LIVE TRIBE” NOW!

OBEDIENCE

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Don’t you wish it was as easy as pressing this Obedient key?

When the word obedience is mentioned, my natural inclination is to link it with disobedience and the resultant punishment. A child learns obedience either through reward or punishment. At the age of four, when I painted the neighbor’s brand new washing machine bright red, a reward was the last thing on my mom’s mind. Though it was my first burst of creativity, the neighbor didn’t quite see it that way. Alas, punishment was the tool to help me understand that there are consequences for disobedience.

You may remember in the movie Forrest Gump, there were several instances where Forrest took seriously the words of his mom or Lieutenant Dan … or his girlfriend, Jenny, when she yelled, “Run, Forrest, Run!” He was a simple-minded character who found it easy to comply. Obedience was in his nature.

But what about those of us with a complex nature, living in a complex world? We seem to resist obedience if it doesn’t suit our immediate agenda. Though most of us attempt to be good citizens by voting, driving safely, keeping our yards and houses well groomed, paying our taxes, recycling, etc., we each have our areas of weakness which cause us to resist conformity. It may be inconsequential, but if our resistance breaks a law, there is a price to pay.

Unlike obeying the laws of man, obedience towards God is not mandatory. We have a choice. In the Bible, God has given us a full historical account of His people, the Israelites, who wandered away and then returned to His Way—over and over. Moses was given the Ten Commandments, The Law, to instruct them in how to live. There were so many rules attached to these initial Ten, it was impossible to remember them all, much less keep them!

When Jesus Christ was born, lived a sinless life and then died for our sins, the Law of the Old Testament was replaced by the new Covenant of Grace. We live under grace because Christ took on our sin, innocent though He was, and rose victoriously from an agonizing death on a shameful and cruel cross, so that we could share eternity with Him.

God’s Word is a complete reference book on how to live victoriously through faith and trust in Jesus Christ. We are given instructions for obedience and we are given warnings concerning disobedience. As you live life and grow in your faith, you begin to realize that His commandments are not for your punishment, but to prevent you from making decisions that will harm you.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear the Lord, and depart from evil.” (KJV) Proverbs 3:5–7