Why Should Christians Take Care of Their Temple?

We’re all looking forward to Thanksgiving this week. More than ever, this year has taught us to value time with the people we love, and I cannot wait to catch up with some family I haven’t seen since before pandemic craziness started. Plus, I’m excited for an excuse to make James’ mom’s sweet potato casserole again!

Speaking of sweet potato casserole, this week is also famous (or infamous) for people overeating. There can be too much of a good thing if it disables us from being ready for God’s use.

I’m so thankful for my friend Susan Neal who agreed to share her wisdom on this topic. Susan is an author, speaker, and certified health and wellness coach whose background in nursing and health services led her to seek new ways to educate and coach people to overcome health challenges. Be encouraged and challenged by her guest post today!

Guest post by Susan Neal

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NLT)

Being physically available for God to use us by taking care of our temple is vital to our Christian walk. When you are healthy, you are more equipped to do what God calls you to do in this lifetime. Unfortunately, 50 percent of Americans suffer from a chronic illness and 40 percent experience obesity. These statistics break my heart, and I believe they break God’s heart too.

The standard American diet contributed to these staggering statistics. Unfortunately, it is easy to fall into the food addiction trap, and when we do, we are not taking care of our bodies. Every day we face food temptations. Our culture is full of enticing delicacies that are unhealthy but taste so good. Many times, we consume more than we planned to eat. We can become addicted to foods containing wheat, sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup. These are the types of foods we need to avoid, as well as processed foods.

Deceptive food tempts us everywhere we turn, and we do not have the willpower to stop eating, so we binge. Paul struggled too: “The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” Romans 7:14–15 (NLT). Therefore, we cannot fight this battle alone. We need God and his Word.

Ask God for Help with Our Diets

When we ask God for help with improving our diet, we gain access to his power. Through our weakness and reliance on him, we become stronger. The hardest step to improve your health and weight is deciding. Once you’ve made the decision, you are well on your way to attaining positive results.

A couple of spiritual tactics to use during your lifestyle change are:

  • Ask God to help you, and make a commitment to him.
  • Eat God’s food, not the food manufacturers.
  • Choose a Bible verse to fight food temptation.
  • Obtain an accountability/prayer partner.

When you start the journey to improve your eating habits, ask God to help you. Surrender and place your success in his loving hands. Rely on him during the journey.

Understand God’s Food Groups

God knew exactly what our bodies needed to be healthy so he created specific food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, meats, nuts, and seeds. He did not give us food in boxes and bags that have been stripped of their nutrients to extend their shelf life. He gave humans a vast selection of fresh food since their bodies need a broad range of nutrients to function correctly.

  • God created over one hundred vegetables and intended for us to consume a colorful assortment of them that are in season.
  • Fruits could be considered God’s candy. Unfortunately, refined sugar tainted our pallet so we desire high-sugar foods instead. But we can wean ourselves off those man-made goodies and eat what God intended for us to enjoy.
  • Nuts provide protein and omega 3 oils, which are essential for brain function.
  • Meats also give us protein. But we do not want to consume meats with hormones and antibiotics. So be sure to purchase organic meats.
  • Seeds contain trace minerals that your body needs in small amounts.
  • Grains are another one of God’s food groups. Today’s modern wheat has been hybridized so it is prolific and drought resistant. Unfortunately, most people cannot digest the larger gluten molecule contained in it. So don’t eat wheat. Instead, eat other grains such as quinoa, organic oats, and brown rice.

Fight Food Temptation

To help you fight food temptation, select a Bible verse, and write it on an index card. You can memorize it or post it on your refrigerator or pantry. When tempted, recite the verse out loud and feel God’s power work within. Finally, ask a friend to become an accountability/prayer partner. Call on this person when tempted and when you need prayer. 

“When we take care of our bodies, we honor the Lord.” ~ Susan Neal on @khogrefeparnell

When we take care of our bodies, we honor the Lord. You only have one body, and it needs to last a lifetime. If you are healthy, you can fulfill the unique purpose God planned for you. You will also be a godly influence in the lives of those you love for a more extended period of time to help them grow into who God created them to be. You want to be here to mentor and nourish the next generation. You are God’s hands and feet to minister to the world. Keep your body healthy so you can do more for the kingdom of God.

To help you begin this journey, you can sign up to receive the ten appendices in the number one Amazon best seller, 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates, at https://susanuneal.com/appendix. The appendices include fifty recipes, healthy eating guidelines, scripture verses, and a seven-day eating plan. Start taking care of your temple today!

Tempted to overindulge this Thanksgiving? Learn how to fight food temptation in this guest post by Susan Neal on @khogrefeparnell

About the Author

Susan Neal RN, MBA, MHS, lives her life with a passion to help others improve their health so they can serve God better. She is a Certified Health and Wellness Coach with the American Association of Christian Counselors. Her mission is to improve the health of the body of Christ. She is the author of seven healthy living books. Her award winning number one Amazon best seller is 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates. The sequel Christian Study Guide for 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates won the 2019 Directors Choice award. The third book in the series, Healthy Living Journal, won the Golden Scrolls award “2019 Best Inspirational Gift Book.” You can find Susan on SusanUNeal.com.

About 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates

Over half of Americans live with a chronic illness and forty percent suffer from obesity, primarily due to the overconsumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Seven Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates provides a day-by-day plan to wean your body off these addictive products and regain your health. These changes in your eating habits will start your lifestyle journey to the abundant life Jesus wants you to experience, not a life filled with disease and poor health. You will learn how to:

  • eliminate brain fog, cure diseases, and lose weight
  • choose foods that benefit versus foods that damage—the ones God gave us to eat, not the food industry
  • find healthy food alternatives and plan your menu
  • recognize the emotional reasons we overeat and the science behind food addiction and a candida infection (overgrowth of yeast in the gut)
  • identify food triggers and use God’s Word to fight impulsive eating
  • locate resources—educational videos and books, meal planning, support organizations, and recipes.

Author Chat with Sarah Rexford on her Publishing Journey and Passion for Helping Other Writers

One of the greatest privileges of being an author is connecting with other likeminded writers and learning from their journeys. Today, please join me in welcoming Sarah Rexford to the blog! Her agent is currently pitching her projects to publishers, and in the meantime, she’s investing in others who likewise feel called to write.

Q: What do you hope readers will one day take away from your books?

A lot of people want to feel heard because then they feel seen. I try to write characters that have their specific purpose in the story and move the plot forward, but also face personal questions that show their humanity. At some point we all probably wonder if we’re enough, if we’re too much, or if we’d be brave enough to make the hard choice when it matters. And we’ve all messed up in different ways. Many of my characters are more of the anti-hero type, walking away when it matters. Putting themselves first when they need to help someone else. Letting fear control their choices. But that’s where character arc comes in. You can’t have character arc if your protagonist starts out a hero. I hope when readers see their character growth, they realize the smallest change sometimes makes the biggest impact not just in fiction, but in life.  

Q: When did your writing journey begin, and how have you seen God use it in unexpected ways?

In third grade I received a homework assignment to write a story. I spent so much time on it, creating a title, folding my wide-ruled notebook paper to look like a book, using black string for binding. You would think I would have realized there might be some correlation between that love and my future, but I didn’t write my first full-length book until my sophomore year in high school. Even then, I didn’t take my writing seriously until my junior year of college when I had the opportunity to sit down with a best-selling author. After that conversation I realized I should get some training. When author Jerry Jenkins launched his writers guild, I joined as a founding member, and in 2017, when he launched Your Novel Blueprint, I beta tested it. To test the course, I had to write a complete manuscript in nine months, and that’s what really pushed me to see if I could write on deadline. During this time I attended a writing conference and an acquisitions editor expressed interest in my book. This encouraged me that maybe I had something worth pursuing, and it’s been a lot of fun and hard work since!

Q: You are a finalist for the “Writer of the Year” award through Serious Writer. That’s a huge accomplishment! How has this experience been affirming for you?

Entering contests feels like trying to win the lottery in some ways, because writing is so subjective. To make finalist is so humbling and such an honor. It’s definitely affirming. Writing is an art form with a lot of rules, and I didn’t realize that until I started writing in college. At first, following the rules can feel daunting, but then you realize following the rules highlights plot and character. Making finalist is super affirming that the hours of work I’ve put into learning the craft are starting to pay off. However, the more I learn the more I realize how far I have to go!

Q: Your website provides resources to help and inspire other writers in their journeys. Please share about your Writer’s Toolkit and how readers can get their copy.  

Having a website is critical for writers today, as publishers want to see your visibility before they consider offering you a contract. Diving into the publishing world can feel like diving into the ocean when you should have floaties in the kiddie pool. There’s so much to learn. When I started my blog, I decided since I was also starting the writing journey, it would probably be most helpful to share my ups and downs so other writers could learn from it too. It’s a very vulnerable blog because if you look through my years of posts you’ll see when a publisher requested my manuscript based on the elevator pitch, but then rejected it after I spent the months writing so I could submit to them. But you’ll also see that almost two years ago an agent offered me a contract. It’s definitely highs and lows! My blog basically gives you the how-to behind everything I’ve been through so far, and the Writer’s Toolkit is a free, condensed version of my process. Just go to itssarahrexford.com, sign up for blog updates, and you’ll get your free copy.

Q. In light of the challenges 2020 has presented, what is a message of encouragement you can offer writers?

What a year to be a writer! It’s easy to feel like writing stories is so trivial compared to everything going on in the world. I’ve thought about what author C.S. Lewis had to stay about studying in wartime: “He must ask how it is right…to spend any fraction of the little time allowed them in this world on such comparative trivialities as literature or art… To admit that we can retain our interest in learning under the shadow of these eternal issues, but not under the shadow of a European war, would be to admit that our ears are closed to the voice of reason and very wide open to the voice of our nerves and our mass emotions.” C.S. Lewis, Learning in Wartime (1939).

To choose to focus on something that impacts others, despite so much is pulling at our attention, is a deliberate sacrifice. I could watch the news all day but taking in information doesn’t create change. Doing something about that information is what’s so important. For writers, telling stories of humanity that inspire hope is not a waste of time. There’s an intimacy to writing. It inspires quiet change as readers turn the pages in their living room or finish chapter four on their lunch break or at the beach. It’s an honor to think that a phrase of dialogue or a character’s arc could inspire someone to approach 2020 in a way that focuses not so much on fear or anxiety but on hope and bravery.

For writers, telling stories of humanity that inspire hope is not a waste of time. ~ Sarah Rexford on @khogrefeparnell

Q: What has been the most challenging and/or most rewarding part of being a writer?

Integrity is huge, especially when it comes to writing. My writing mentor always says to treat the writing deadline as sacred, and so this is something I’ve tried to do since day one. Writing has taught me how to balance life and live in the moment. When I’m writing, I need to focus on writing. When I’m not writing, I need to focus on my family or friends or whatever else I’m called to do in that moment. It can be challenging, but I want to control my writing, not let it control me. It’s so rewarding to meet a deadline and show that integrity to myself, my agent, the publisher, readers, whoever it is. It’s really inspiring and humbling to see how my writing impacts others and reminds me the power stories have, written or lived, in our lives. No matter how many or few read my work, it’s a really unique experience to know I’m made in the image of Creator God, and I get to create as well. It helps me understand Him better, and that’s rewarding to say the least!

Q: How can readers follow your publishing journey and receive updates?

Meet Sarah Rexford who talks about her publishing journey and her passion for helping other writers. Interview by @khogrefeparnell

About the Author

Sarah Rexford is a Content Specialist, currently working for best-selling author Jerry Jenkins. With a BA in Strategic Communications, Sarah equips writers to communicate their message and build their platform through branding and copywriting. She writes fiction and nonfiction and offers behind-the-scenes tips on the publishing industry through her blog itssarahrexford.com. She is represented by C.Y.L.E Young Literary Elite and actively growing her speaking and writing career. 

Stay Connected

Subscribe to Kristen’s newsletter for monthly book buzz about Christian fiction and non-fiction for teens and adults, plus be the first to learn about giveaways and personal takeaways for your everyday adventures. 

When you join, you’ll receive a free copy of Kristen’s novella, A Cord of Three Strands, the prequel to her award-winning novel, The Revisionary. 

Worry Checkup: How the Right Focus Can Beat Your Fears

I was eleven-years-old when I came home with my first pair of glasses. For months, I refused to wear them. I hated that clunky nineties-styled frame! I remember praying that God would give me perfect vision like my brother. Clearly, that didn’t happen. And grown-up me is okay with that, because I know that my disabilities don’t limit God. However, even as an adult, I sometimes focus too hard on my situation that I lose sight of the unshakable God I serve.

The blind hymn writer Fanny Crosby penned the words to “Blessed Assurance” back in 1873 , and through them, she reveals a clearer vision than we often have. She didn’t find her confidence in her situation but in the unchangeable truth that “Jesus is mine.” Her assurance was in the presence of God, despite any problems she faced.

How can we choose worship over worry and consistently find assurance in God’s presence? The disciple Peter’s experience in a storm reveals much about the “worry” cycle and how to overcome it.

Our storms never take God by surprise.

Before we get into this story from Matthew 14, let’s not miss its context. Jesus had just fed the five thousand. Since that number represented only the men present, we can safely assume He actually fed thousands more (Matthew 14:21).

Immediately afterward, Jesus sent the disciples ahead of Him on the sea of Galilee and found a quiet place to pray. (Side note: If Jesus sought out time in God’s presence to pray, how much more should we!) But all was not quiet on the Sea of Galilee. The disciples were stuck in the middle of a vicious storm.

This storm wasn’t news to Jesus, though. As the Son of God, He has complete foreknowledge and is all-knowing (omniscient). That said, He knew he was sending His disciples into a storm, perhaps so He could reveal more of His power (omnipotence) to them.

Into the “fourth watch of the night,” Jesus came to them, walking on the water (NKJV Matthew 14:25). Bible teacher James Vernon McGee explains that the fourth watch took place from three in the morning until daylight.1 The disciples must have been exhausted and about to give up hope. And that’s when Jesus showed up.

We never need an invitation to be in God’s presence.

The disciples first response seems laughable: They thought Jesus was a ghost! Before we shake our heads at their lack of faith, let’s be honest: If we saw someone walking on the water, we might be spooked too.

Ever gracious and patient, Jesus offered them the assurance of His presence. He said, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (NKJV Matthew 14:27b).

And ever his impetuous self, Peter spoke up before anyone else could and demanded proof. “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water” (NKJV Matthew 14:28b).

Ever patient with Peter, Jesus replied, “Come” (NKJV Matthew 14:29a).

I’m not faulting Peter. In fact, I probably would have been tongue-tied like the other disciples. But here’s the thing: Peter didn’t need to wait for Jesus to invite him to come. He had already seen Jesus perform miracles. He’d even heard Jesus personally invite any and all to “Come unto me” (NKJV Matthew 11:28). The only possible explanation for this ghost-like phenomenon was that Jesus had come to calm their fears with His presence.

But in the storms, we’re sometimes so blinded by our worries that we ask if God is there and if He can perform miracles for us. Like Peter, we doubt and want “signs” or evidence. Sometimes, God graciously gives us affirmations, and other times, He seems silent. Regardless, He is ever present (omnipresent) with the open invitation to come to Him.

We may lose sight of God, but He never loses sight of us.

Recently, I went to the eye doctor to get an updated contact prescription. I’m just as near-sighted as ever! Sometimes, I’m also spiritually near-sighted and can’t see past the tip of my nose.

After Jesus invited Peter to “come,” Peter literally stepped out of the boat and walked on water. Walked. On. Water.

But no sooner had he taken a few steps toward Jesus than the wind howled even louder than before, and he suddenly realized, “Oh man! I’m not in the boat anymore!” (That’s my paraphrase.) Guess what? He started to sink, and as he was going down, he cried, “Lord, save me!” (NKJV Matthew 14:29b).

Peter couldn’t see past the rain pelting his nose. He went near-sighted and took his eyes off Jesus. The second he did, he started to sink.

However, just because Peter lost sight of Jesus didn’t mean Jesus left him. He was still right there, inviting Peter to come to Him. Likewise, just because we take our eyes off Jesus doesn’t mean He loses sight of us.

We may lose sight of God, but He never loses sight of us. @khogrefeparnell

Our response to God’s presence should always be worship.

This incident ended happily for the disciples. Jesus rebuked the storm (and their lack of faith), and the raging wind ceased. Only then did the disciples respond rightly by worshiping Jesus.

My challenge is not to wait until the end but to worship Jesus in the storm. Worshiping in the howling wind of disappointment or gusting gale of hurt does not come naturally. My gut reaction is to question and to cry out in fear.

If only I could remember that the focal point of worship is not my predicament but God’s presence. It’s not about if God responds the way I want Him to but that He is God.

Like Peter, I need a vision check-up: Because if my attention is on something other than God Himself, it’s out of focus. However, when I find my security in His presence and worship His unchangeable nature, I can’t be fearful.

How can you practice worship right where you are? Which attribute of God’s nature is most encouraging to you today?

~ Kristen

I’m grateful this post first appeared on my friend Jerusha Agen’s beautiful blog. For more encouragement and advice for fighting fear, visit the Fear Warrior Blog.

1. McGee, J. Vernon (1982). Matthew Chapter 14. In Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee (Vol. III, p. 529). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.

Worry Checkup: How the Right Focus Can Beat Your Fears. @khogrefeparnell

Book Buzz on The Revisionary

Even though The Revisionary released in 2017, it remains increasingly relevant to our times. After all, living in 2020 has somewhat felt like living in a dystopian novel (where anything that can go wrong probably will go wrong).

That said, my desire in writing The Revisionary and the other two books in the trilogy was to show hope through dark circumstances. Specifically, my characters find that hope by rediscovering America’s heritage. I want my readers to walk away feeling inspired to press on and do what’s right even if they’re swimming against the popular current.

I’m honored to share an excerpt from this latest book review. For more details and to learn more about this reviewer’s blog, keep reading.


“I’ve seen one dystopian movie and have never been particularly interested in the genre, but after looking at the reviews for The Revisionary, I decided to give this book a try. The Revisionary is the first dystopian book I’ve read, and wow, does it set the bar high for other books in the genre. Five stars is not a high enough rating. The plot is incredible, the characters relatable, and the settings chilling …

The Revisionary is a powerful, thrilling read. Whatever your opinion of the dystopian genre, this is a book you have to add to your TBR list.”

Special thanks to Madi for sharing her in-depth review of The Revisionary on her blog! To read the full review or share it with a friend, click here.

To grab your own copy of The Revisionary, visit the Amazon page where you can choose either paperback or Kindle formats.

~ Kristen

The Revisionary is a powerful, thrilling read. Whatever your opinion of the dystopian genre, this is a book you have to add to your TBR list.” ~ Madi’s Musings on @khogrefeparnell

Author Chat with Tessa Emily Hall on Her New Book for Teens

Tessa Emily Hall is one of my go-to authors for young adult inspirational fiction, and when I heard she was releasing a non-fiction devotional for teens, I wanted to know more. Today, she shares about Love Your Selfie, her new devotional designed to help teen girls gain a biblical perspective of their worth in Christ.

Q: What need do you see present in the lives of teenagers today that you hope Love Your Selfie will help meet?

The issues of self-shame, insecurity, and comparison is nothing new amongst teens; however, I believe the measure in which teens have dealt with these issues have increased. It’s been less than ten years since I, myself, was a teen, but I feel like the pressure to be perfect has since reached new heights.

These days, teens desire to attain the polished perfection that they are exposed with on social media through the aid of filters. Their measure of worth fluctuates day-to-day as it’s often attached to the number of likes on their posts and followers on social media. And, of course, there seems to be no escaping from the cyber bullying that runs rampant on Instagram and YouTube. Because of this, I don’t believe there has ever been more of an identity crisis amongst youth than there is today.

I hope that, by drawing from my personal experiences with self-shame and insecurity, I can help these girls seek God and His Word along their quest for identity and confidence. Through the use of Scriptures that proclaim the truth about who we are in Christ, girls will be challenged to view themselves through the eyes of the Word rather than the eyes of the world. Then, as they rise up in confidence, they will be better equipped to utilize their God-given gifts to reach out and extend God’s Kingdom.

“Girls will be challenged to view themselves through the eyes of the Word rather than the eyes of the world.” ~ Tessa Emily Hall on @khogrefeparnell

Q: What experiences from your own life impacted the writing of Love Your Selfie?

This devotional comes from a vulnerable place, only because self-shame was an issue that I personally wrestled with as a tween/teen as well. I often felt like people were secretly judging me for my “flaws”; because of that, I would often keep myself hidden. But as I drew closer to Christ and rooted my identity in Him, His love enabled me to rise back up with boldness. He helped me learn how to embrace my uniqueness rather than condemning myself for being “different.”

Throughout this journey, I discovered why the enemy wants to keep us paralyzed with insecurity: because he doesn’t want us to reach out. He wants us to remain hidden rather than being like a “city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14). Because if the enemy can cripple us with self-shame and insecurity, then we will never gain the confidence we need to step up, to speak out, or to extend a helping hand. We will never come to realize the full potential God has placed within us—gifts we should use to build the Body of Christ.

Q: Selfies, selfie-sticks, photo filters, and more—All these tools have become commonplace today. How can teens find a balance between sharing about themselves and not becoming overly self-focused?

Great question. The message of self-acceptance can often cause Christians to cringe—and, really, I get it. We don’t want to preach the wrong message of pride; after all, pride is the root of all evil. We have been called to die to our flesh, to bear our cross, to focus more on others rather than ourselves, to live as Jesus lived. And, yes, there is potential danger for the message of self-acceptance/love to be taken too far.

But from my perspective, self-acceptance is different from self-pride. Self-acceptance involves being confident (not proud) in your own skin. In the way that God has designed you. When we grow in confidence and understand our worth in Christ, we will then be motivated to treat ourselves with care (which is scriptural). It’s hard to care for something or someone when we don’t see the value of it. Then, as we step into our identity in Christ, we will become unashamed to embrace the unique ways in which we have been called to share the gospel.

Isn’t this partly why Christ paid such a high price for us? So that we could grasp just how much we are worth in His eyes? So that we could live in freedom from condemnation, including the kind that comes from self-shame?

The Bible makes it clear that there is only hate and love; light and darkness; hot and cold. No in between. This makes me wonder—if we aren’t loving ourselves, then are we hating ourselves? And if so, is that really the behavior in which we should treat a creation of our Creator?

I believe it comes down to the state of our hearts. The journey of self-acceptance should never be taken apart from God’s Word; if it is, then, yes, we’d certainly become at risk of idolizing ourselves. We’d become at risk of living for ourselves rather than for God and His children. But if this journey is taken as a result of our time spent with God and in His Word, then our hearts will remain in the right place. Our hearts will then remain focused on what matters to Jesus: loving God, loving others, and living in total surrender to Him.

Freedom is simply a byproduct of drawing closer to Christ.

Q: With social media, we often see only people’s “best faces.” How can this reality lead to an unhealthy comparison, and what should young people remember when viewing content online?

Exactly! Social media is yet another means by which we mask our insecurities, considering it presents us with the temptation to create a persona. We can hide our true selves behind the disguise of photo filters. We can post pictures that reflect our best adventures in life and toss out photos that reflect our everyday difficulties.

Yet even though we remember this when it comes to hiding our insecurities, we tend to forget this as it applies to other people. In other words, we tend to compare our “flaws” with the filtered versions of others on Instagram. This is what has created an unhealthy trap of comparison amongst teen girls—resulting in even more of a self-hatred issue.

This is why it’s important for girls to remember that reality is only found in real life. Not on social media.

When we draw closer to Christ, we build spiritual muscles and are less likely to give in to the temptations of the flesh. I believe this applies with the temptation to compare as well. Because, yes, I do believe that comparison is a sin, considering it comes from a place of both pride and jealousy. Yet this relationship with Christ enables us to focus less on ourselves and embrace our God-given identity; therefore, that trap of comparison will eventually becomes less appealing as we scroll through Instagram. 

Q: What is one takeaway you hope teenagers will hold onto after reading this book?

I hope teen readers will discover that God has designed them in a unique way for a reason, as a way to help them fulfill the specific calling He has placed on their lives. A calling that is centered on furthering God’s Kingdom. 

Meet award-winning author Tessa Emily Hall, who challenges teens to embrace their God-given identity in her new release, Love Your Selfie.

About the Author

Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who writes inspirational yet authentic books for teens to remind them they’re not alone. She writes both fiction and devotionals for teens, including her upcoming release, LOVE YOUR SELFIE (October 2020, Ellie Claire). Tessa’s passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as a Literary Agent at Cyle Young Literary Elite, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PursueMagazine.net.

About Love Your Selfie

The truth is: the Creator of the Universe stamped His approval on you far before anyone ever had the chance to disapprove. In this 52-week devotional, you will be guided through a journey of embracing the unique way you were created. Author Tessa Emily Hall shares her personal struggles of dealing with insecurity and self-shame as a teen, then she invites you to reflect on the weekly message through journal prompts and social media challenges. You will be taken on a journey to understand what Scripture says about your identity, discover how you can tap into your God-given potential, and learn to love who you are inside.

Stay Connected

Subscribe to Kristen’s newsletter for monthly book buzz about Christian fiction and non-fiction for teens and adults, plus be the first to learn about giveaways and personal takeaways for your everyday adventures. 

When you join, you’ll receive a free copy of Kristen’s novella, A Cord of Three Strands, the prequel to her award-winning novel, The Revisionary. 

Author Chat with Kristen Young on Her New YA Dystopian Release

I first met Kristen in a Facebook readers group and discovered we share two things in common. First, we spell our names the same way. If you’ve ever had someone misspell your name, you know how exciting it is to meet someone else who has the same spelling as you.

Also, we both write young adult dystopian fiction from a Christian worldview. I’m thrilled to share an interview with Kristen today where she talks about her new release, Apprentice, now available on Amazon.

Q: You’ve written several nonfiction books for teens. What prompted you to also branch into young adult fiction and the dystopian genre, in particular?

As a kid I was always reading, so fiction has been a life-long love for me. I have a bit of a soft spot for books like Brave New World, the Hunger Games and so on. I love a good story — one that keeps you on the edge of your seat reading to the end. It was fun to try and write one of those stories for myself.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from this dystopian adventure?

First and foremost, I hope they’ll be entertained by the story. But I guess I hope people will also enjoy the themes it raises as it investigates the question of love: what is love, really? What does the word mean? How do we know love when we see it? The dystopian aspect of the story looks at the question of how love and power intersect. What happens when a political power takes a word we all care about and uses it for their own ends?

Q: You’ve lived in the UK, Sydney, and currently live in New South Wales. (That’s in Australia, for my American friends). Have any of the places you’ve lived or visited impacted the setting of this book?

Not for this one. There is another series I’m working on that was inspired by my local region. But this one was more inspired by sterile environments I’ve seen in images than by anywhere I’ve lived.

Q: When did you first start writing for teens, and why do you think reaching this age group through both fiction and nonfiction is important?

I started writing for teens when I was one (quite a long time ago!). For teens, I think they’re living through an age where life can be super threatening – where they are processing issues of identity and purpose and a general sense of “where do I fit in the world?” Fiction gives teens a safe space to explore those questions in a way that non-fiction doesn’t always manage as well. Fiction helps us to process issues that are often too threatening to deal with in real life. In fiction we get to see characters triumph over adversity. We watch the characters experiment with different actions and consequences, and make choices that we might not be brave enough to make. So through fiction, we learn to orient ourselves in the world even while we’re being entertained.

“Through fiction, we learn to orient ourselves in the world even while we’re being entertained.” ~ Kristen Young on @khogrefeparnell

Q: As writers, we often don’t get to see how our writing influences others. However, sometimes readers do reach out and share with us. What has been the most encouraging feedback you’ve received?

I received feedback on one of my books from a non English-speaking reader a few years ago – they tracked me down through Facebook to say that they’d managed to get a copy in their country. It was a little mind-blowing to find that my work had travelled so far around the world. That was super encouraging!

Q: What has been the most challenging and/or most rewarding part of being a writer?

The most challenging part is the waiting. The concept of ‘overnight success’ is a complete furphy (as we say in Australia). That is, it’s non-existent. It took me several practice novels and a lot of writing before Apprentice was born. In between, there were long, painful periods of waiting to hear from publishers and other professionals.

Q: Can you hint when readers might expect to see the sequel to Apprentice?

2021 is going to be a good year. Is that enough of a hint? 🙂

Meet Author Kristen Young whose new Christian dystopian novel for young adults is the latest extension of her heart for teens.

About the Author

Kristen Young was born (and spent a memorable first few months of her life) in the UK, grew up in Sydney, but now lives in the Central West of NSW with her husband, three children, and slightly neurotic dog. She has been involved in church-based ministry for over 20 years, and loves helping people of any age to see how awesome Jesus is. Kristen has had a number of books published, beginning with The Survival Guide series of devotions for teens. What if? Dealing with Doubt is a book for anyone from high school age onward, and aims to help anyone struggling with doubts about God, Jesus, or faith. In more recent years she has been writing fiction, and Apprentice, the first book in the Collective Underground trilogy is being released through Enclave Escape in October, 2020.

About Apprentice

The Love Collective is everywhere. It sees everything. Be not afraid.

Apprentice Flick remembers everything, except the first five years of her life. And for as long as she can remember, Flick has wanted to enter the Elite Academy – home to the best, brightest, and most loyal members of the Love Collective government.

Flick’s uncanny memory might get her there, too … even if it is the very thing that marks her as a freak. But frightening hallucinations start intruding into her days and threaten to bring down all she has worked so hard to accomplish. Why is she being hijacked by a stranger’s nightmare over and over again?

Moving to the Elite Academy could give Flick the future she’s always wanted. But her search for truth may lead to a danger she cannot escape.

Bring on the Fall Multi-Author Giveaway

I can always count on Celebrate Lit to offer faith-based, clean books in their giveaways. I’m honored to be part of this group of talented authors who are giving away 40 books to one winner and a $350 Amazon gift card to another!

For this giveaway, I’m including my novel, The Revolutionary. I picked this book to offer because the brown and red cover just reminds me of fall. (This second book in the Rogues trilogy is also my husband James’ favorite, so there’s that too!)

The giveaway runs through October 18. To enter, click here.

Happy reading!

~ Kristen

Enter to win 40 books, including my dystopian novel The Revolutionary, or a $350 Amazon gift card. Details at: https://bit.ly/36UlecB

Fall in Love with YA Fiction

Happy first day of October! I’m pinching myself over here, because Florida actually feels like fall right now. This morning was in the 60s! Northern friends, just humor me here. That’s a big deal for Florida.

What better time of year to “fall” in love with fiction? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun!) I’m excited to share that my young adult dystopian trilogy, The Rogues, is on sale from October 1 through 5 for only $.99 on Kindle!

The Rogues trilogy blends suspense, science fiction, and American history into a saga that offers hope through a rediscovery of heritage. One reader said:

“I’ve read my fair share of dystopian fiction, Christian and secular alike, and this is hands down my favorite to date. It’s unique, clever, inspiring, and challenging, and prompts me as a reader to revisit history not only to learn from, but engage with it.”

Get your copy or gift one for a friend on Amazon.

Happy reading and happy sweater weather (well, almost)! What’s your favorite part about fall?

~ Kristen

Fall in love with YA fiction! The Rogues dystopian trilogy is on sale for $.99 on Kindle through Oct. 5! @khogrefeparnell

Don’t miss this giveaway, extended now through October 7!

You can enter the giveaway by clicking here

How to Invite Contentment in Unfinished Conditions

Since buying our home in March, we’ve been renovating the place, and I’ve shared parts of our kitchen remodel story with you here on the blog. Through this process, I’ve discovered that unfinished things awaken my old enemy of perfectionism, disguised as “the next-thing” syndrome. It tries to steal the beauty of progress by running a to-do-list of unfinished tasks through my mind.

Wanting to get ahead and take ownership are positive traits, but there is a gray area where this “next-thing” mentality becomes a problem. It can encourage a subtle spirit of discontent and restlessness that distracts from “the main thing” that matters more.

Let’s go to God’s Word to find guiding practices for fighting “the next-thing” mentality.

Fight the “next-thing” mentality by remembering “the main thing.” @khogrefeparnell

Say No to Hurry

How do you respond to urgent matters? If you’re like me, I tend to drop everything and try to put out that fire and then have to figure out where I left off.

Don’t be like me. Be like Jesus instead. When He received an urgent message that His friend Lazarus was dying, He actually chose to delay his arrival, because He wanted to increase the faith of those with Him by performing a miracle (John 11:4).

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again” (John 11:5-7 NKJV).

Did you catch that? The wording here reveals that because Jesus loved this family, He waited to respond.

The truth is that we can better love people when we don’t hurry. Hurry breeds anxiety, forgetfulness, and a rushed spirit. Hurried actions suggest we need more and we need it now to be content. The focus is on ourselves, not others. On the flip side, intentional actions leave room for prayer and thoughtful preparation.

Granted, none of us is God. We don’t have the foresight to know that the situation will turn out all right as Jesus did. However, His example is still relevant for us. Instead of reacting like a reflex, we can pause and be intentional with our next steps. Doing so reveals consideration for others over ourselves.

Learn to be Present

Although Jesus performed wonderful miracles during His earthly ministry, He knew what His primary purpose was: “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 NKJV). In Luke 18, He confides in His disciples that they must journey to Jerusalem so that He can fulfill “all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man” (Luke 18:31 NKJV).

Have you ever had a mission or task to fulfill? I’m not talking about dying to save the world like Jesus, but maybe you’ve had a deadline to meet, a ministry to manage, or a project to complete (*cough* like a kitchen renovation). In those times, I tend to get tunnel vision: focusing on the goal so much that I lose sight of my surroundings.

Even though Jesus had the literal weight of the world on His shoulders, He remained present. As He approached Jericho on the way to Jerusalem, He met a blind man who begged for mercy and for his sight to be restored.

Jesus didn’t tell Him, “Can’t you see I’m busy? I’m about my Father’s business and have to get to Jerusalem. You can’t even imagine the anguish I’m going to suffer. I’m going to die to save you. Isn’t that enough?”

No, Jesus didn’t say any of those things. Instead, He offered the gift of His presence to this needy man and met him right where he was.

Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well” (Luke 18:42 NKVJ).

So too, we can offer the gift of being present to our families, friends, and even complete strangers in the middle of unfinished work. Instead of being task-focused, we can be present to love the people in our path.

Focus on What Matters More

We’ve already met Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, but I want to include another part of their story because it touches at the heart of “the next-thing” syndrome. At a different time, they were hosting Jesus in their home, but while Martha was slaving in the kitchen, Mary was no where to be found! Martha finally spotted her, sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach.

Frustrated that all the work fell to her, Martha ratted out her sister to Jesus: “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me” (Luke 10:40b NKJV).

Martha was so focused on the next thing that she was missing out on the main thing: Jesus was in her home, sharing His presence and wisdom with her family and their guests.

What if she had seen Mary, and instead of getting upset, realized that she herself was the one missing out? Maybe Martha would have pulled out the paper plates instead of the fine china so she could listen in too.

Remember the Reason

I really hope that one day, I’ll wake up a Mary, but I suspect I’ll be a Martha to the end. Hopefully, a reformed Martha. Let’s not be so consumed with the task that we forget the reason for it.

For me, that looks like welcoming people into my unfinished home and prioritizing community over perfection. For you, it might look like something completely different.

The bottom line is that we’re all works-in-progress in this journey to grow more like Jesus. And maybe, just maybe, God places these unfinished tasks and projects in our path, not to make us discontent, but to remind us that we are to be about our Father’s business, not our own accomplishments.

God places unfinished tasks and projects in our path, not to make us discontent, but to remind us that we are to be about our Father’s business, not our own accomplishments.

Can you relate to the “next-thing” mentality? Which practice can help you fight it effectively today?

~ Kristen

I’m grateful this post first appeared on DailyPS.com.

Ruth Offers Wisdom in Handling Unknowns

The year of unknowns would be an accurate tagline for 2020. Which of us hasn’t experienced something completely unexpected this year? Today’s guest post by writer and teacher Marlene Houk offers biblical wisdom for handling the unknowns in our lives. I trust this post will be an encouragement to you!

Post by Marlene Houk

Lysa TerKeurst relates to unknowns in her book1, “When we need to know something, as a Christian, it makes us turn to God. We are willing to follow God even though we don’t know what we’re doing” (Terkeurst, 2018).

Does the unknown affect us? Building that first house? Learning the intricacies of a new job? Caring for our first baby: that tiny human, helpless and dependent upon our knowledge and wisdom?

My husband and I experienced significant confusion when we brought our daughter home. She seemed quite delicate and dainty, but what was coming out of her wasn’t! After seven times, while my husband paced frantically, he suggested we take her back to the hospital! Even after years of helping my mother keep babies in our home, I was confused myself. After we calmed down and realized a baby’s diet may cause her to assimilate differently and newborns needed to get their systems working, we heaved sighs of relief. But those emotions ran high because we didn’t know what to do.

Harnessing our emotions

After reading the book of Ruth, I realized that unknowns fill her story. Not knowing creates within us emotions ranging from eagerness to fear and from rapid heartbeat to goosebumps. Unawareness creates devastating results as in the sinking of the Titanic.

But, as Christians, when we realize that God knows our unknowns, we don’t need to fret about them. We do need to research, collect information, and make decisions. But, many times unknowns still exist. If we train ourselves, they can encourage us to trust the God who knows. We can then make our decisions—but leave the outcome to Him. Knowing that God is already in the future, waiting for us, clears the fog of panic and empowers us to focus.

As Christians, when we realize that God knows our unknowns, we don’t need to fret about them. ~ Marlene Houk on @khogrefeparnell

The best emotion to come from unknowns could be amazement and wonder when God shows us spiritual truth. Imagine what Ruth felt as she realized that God had indeed taken care of her and Naomi by preparing Boaz for them. Experiencing the truth of God’s care birthed wonder in her heart at the generosity of her newly found Redeemer.

Coping with uncertainty

Ruth’s unknowns show us how to cope with our uncertainties. Looking at Ruth’s story in a generic way reveals that her unknowns are very similar to ours today. The following list contains a few of the unknowns in her narrative.

1. She didn’t know about her direction in life.

2. She didn’t know how to walk with a friend through grief.

3. She didn’t know how to find a husband.

4. She didn’t know who to trust. She possibly knew her future husband for less than three months.

How do we handle the feelings that arise from unknowns in our lives? Does your heart sink at the array of many choices? Sometime being healthy eludes us and causes frustration and fear. Conversely, you may be eager to attack your lack of knowledge. Many might shout, Google! I agree because I research as quickly as an eyelash can blink. Or, perhaps, an unknown requires us to consult an expert such as a specialist, repairman, or doctor. Our struggles may demand articulating them to a professional such as a counselor or psychiatrist to help us separate our emotions from our identity. 

As Christians, our confusion pushes us to follow the Truth, nudges us to go and work in God’s fields, and causes us to look to Jesus who pierces our concerns with clarity.

Dealing with unknowns

How is Ruth showing us methods for dealing with our unknowns?

1. Follow the truth that you do know: For example, Boaz followed the Mosaic law that he knew (Ruth 3:11-12). We know that Christ fulfilled the law and that John 14:6 says that He is the truth. So, when we follow Him, we follow truth.

2. Go do the next right thing (Ruth 2:2). Ruth asked Naomi if she could go, and Naomi said go. Ruth went, even though she didn’t know where to connect with her kinsman redeemer. Her story overflows with Ruth going to the fields to provide for her mother-in-law.

3. THINK about the way God works in your life (Ruth 2:12). Realize truths from what God has already done. Ruth, at some point, learned that Boaz’s mother was a prostitute, rescued by Hebrew spies. They saved Rahab and her family, and she became Boaz’s mother (Matthew 1:5). Ruth could reason from this that God was an inclusive God, and he would find a way for her to fit in too.

Now, a few decades later, we demonstrate more relaxation in our role as mom and dad. We followed parenting truths gleaned from years of advice. My husband and I activated this wisdom in the daily care of our children. And we acquired priceless truths from this journey. We learned, like Ruth, that our unknowns lead us to God and His ways for dealing with them. Ruth’s plan for managing unknowns (follow, go, think) are ready for you to glean from the Master’s hands. 

~ Marlene

Ruth offers wisdom in handling unknowns by Marlene Houk on @khogrefeparnell

1Reference: TerKeurst, Lysa. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way. Thomas Nelson, 2018.

About the Author

Marlene Houk opens doors of truth through her passion to bring alive the stories of women in the Bible. She reveals patterns in their stories that lead to biblical thinking, empowering emotional healing. Determined to find and apply truth, she connects the Bible’s wisdom to everyday living through thought-provoking questions that help others to embrace wholeness and freedom. Leading women’s Bible studies for ten years has increased her passion to share profound and life-changing truths with others. She and Sid, her husband of 38 years, have two adult children and two grandchildren. After work, you might catch a glimpse of her at the lake, watching the sun on the water.

About Hidden in a List

Do you have a plan when life kicks you to the curb in its daily grind and when disaster strikes? Imagine relying on simple, doable, Scripture-based steps to realign your emotions with God’s Word. In this short read, called Hidden In a List: secrets from Bible women, you can:

  • Unlock proven secrets to control reactions and instead act from a God-given perspective.
  • Triumph in the knowledge of Jesus Christ as he overcomes fears and failures.
  • Delight for a lifetime in using these secrets and sharing them with others.
  • Conquer insecurities by following the women of the Bible.
  • Boldly increase your faith and hope as a daily part of life.

Available on Amazon.