Free Spiritual Circle Journal Companion Devotional – For Kids and Teens

I’m excited about partnering with Liz Lassa, creator of the Spiritual Circle Journal, to write this Spiritual Circle Journal Companion Devotional for kids and teens. It’s a 14-Day devotional designed to jump start your quiet time with God! While it doesn’t have to be used with the Spiritual Circle Journals, it makes a great companion to these wonderful quiet time tools! I love Lassa’s Spiritual Circle Journal. They’re great for adults and teens! We’ve given them to our junior high and high school youth group to help springboard their time with God.

“I have loved reading Carol’s Christian fiction books “Greater Love” and “Until Proven Innocent.” They were so filled with suspense it was hard to put them down! Carol included two FREE chapters of her 3rd book “Under the Shadow of the Steeple” with this kids devotional. Her books can be found on Amazon and she has Creative Writing homeschool curriculum that can go with a few of them. How nice to have a good book you can enjoy and discuss with your kids!”

– Liz Lassa

To order your own FREE copy of the Spiritual Circle Journal Companion Devotional for ages kids and teens, visit Liz’s website! http://www.spiritualcirclejournal.com/free-kids-devo You can also order a Spiritual Circle Journal of your own!

If You Give a Christian a Muffin…

It’s so easy to get distracted. Most of us have heard the story, If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Joffe Numeroff. The very distractible Moose will ask for a muffin and then want jam on it, which will make him want more and more muffins until you run out of muffins. Then you’ll have to go to the store, which will remind him that he needs to borrow a sweater, the sweater needs repaired so he asks for thread, the thread makes him think about the puppets his grandmother used to make, so he’ll ask for socks to make puppets… the story goes on and on, the moose getting further and further from his mission until it ends up full circle. It’s a cute little story with a true message. It’s easy to get distracted.

Christians are a lot like that moose. We start out our Christian walk with one mission. We’ve found forgiveness of sins through Jesus, we’ve begun a relationship with Him, and from there our goal is to grow in Christ. Ask any new believer what they want to do now that they’re saved and they’ll tell you in one way or another that they want to get to know God better. It’s an awesome mission! It’s God’s desire for us to know Him more!

But like that silly moose… we get distracted. We take our eyes off the goal. We get busy going from one thing to the next and before we realize it we’re off making sock puppets and painting scenery for the puppet show. Each day something new pops up that reminds us of something else we want to do or need to see or accomplish… not that these things are bad in and of themselves. But sometimes those things take our eyes off the goal.

Philippians 3:14 says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (NASB) We have an awesome call as believers. We have an opportunity to live our lives with a mission. That mission is to know God and to share that knowledge with others. But when we get our eyes off that goal we fall prey to distractions that can take us way off course.

The thing is, these distractions don’t just happen at once. Christians who have their eyes on Jesus don’t typically just turn around and start having affairs, getting involved in witchcraft, viewing pornography, cheating on their taxes, etc. Those distractions start with the small things. Small compromises that we allow into our lives can take us further and further from our goal the more distracted we become. Sometimes, we aren’t even aware that the thing that we are allowing into our lives is a compromise. It’s a slow fade. Distractions.

Years ago I read a short story about how television viewing adopted this form of compromise. First the television shows portrayed good, wholesome families who went to church and prayed together. The average American viewer was okay with this. Then they dropped church and prayer and just stayed good and wholesome. American viewers chose to let the absence of God and prayer in the show pass because it still depicted Biblical morality. Then television began to drop the good and wholesome by introducing sinful practices and making them look humorous. Americans figured it was okay to laugh at these sinful choices because the humor showed how foolish these sinful practices were. Eventually, those sinful practices were made to look fun. American viewers didn’t see the transition… it was slow. Now, it is not uncommon for a television show to depict a man and women meeting at a bar, going home together to have sex, and shrugging it off as if it is normal. Bit by bit the American viewer has compromised. If the first show on television had been one of the shows we have today, filled with sex, witchcraft, and swearing, American viewers would have been appalled.

We go to church on Sunday expecting good and wholesome from the pulpit. What if our pastor chose to take clips from the sexual encounters, sexual innuendos, witchcraft, sorcery, magic, or swearing, many Christians view on television or read in books, and show that on a Sunday morning? Most Christians would be appalled. “What kind of church is this? What in the world is the pastor showing us?” But how many Christians are watching those very things all through the week? How is it any different?

Christians have begun to compartmentalize their morality. It’s okay to read stories that glorify witchcraft, spells, sexual encounters and swear words if it’s a secular book. But at church, it has to be good and pure. Shouldn’t we hunger for good and pure every day? How is Sunday any different? Would you sit and watch a movie where the couple engages in pre-marital sex with Jesus sitting right beside you in physical form? If the hero of our favorite novel is a self-proclaimed sorcerer practicing witchcraft, it’s time to consider whether our interest in literature may have become a distraction from the goal. What we watch and read does affect our thoughts and our values.

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (ESV)

We’ve gotten distracted and sin has entangled us. We can’t run the Christian life when we’re entangling ourselves in immorality. Jesus is our goal. We’ve gone full circle. It’s time to get back to the goal and escape the distractions.

Creative Writing Through Literature

Creative Writing Through Literature is a comprehensive high school and junior high homeschool curriculum. This course is intended to develop your student’s love for writing and reading by introducing good literature and challenging, but fun writing projects. Students will develop skills in grammar, punctuation, creative writing, essay writing, spelling, vocabulary, and journalism.

Available on Amazon in April

Creative Writing Through Literature homeschool curriculum

Creative Writing Through Literature homeschool curriculum

“I have been a fan of Carol Kinsey’s writing for quite some time. God has certainly given her a gift that she uses to inspire and encourage through her stories. We are excited about this new curriculum project. I am sure that you will find this curriculum helpful as a tool to help develop not only writing skills but a love for reading.”

– Buddy Davis Speaker, Singer, Songwriter, Adventurer, Paleo-Artist for Answers in Genesis

Greater Love now available

FullSizeRender(1)Greater Love is Now Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Greater Love: Trey Netherland is undercover. Rainey Meadows has been deceived. She wants answers. He wants the bad guy. Together, Rainey and Trey find themselves in the heart of Columbia both searching for different things. As Rainey struggles to learn who she is, Trey is torn between the lies he’s told and the Truth that is fighting to reach his heart. Tangled in a dangerous plot, can Rainey trust the man whose lies put her heart in turmoil? Will Trey finally cry out to the only One who can truly set him free? There is only one Truth and it’s in Him they find Greater Love.

I love writing fiction that not only captivates my readers, but also draws them into a deeper love for Jesus Christ. An author friend of mine once told me my writing was “unapologetically Christian.” That was the greatest compliment I’ve ever been given in my writing. I want to tackle real issues with real answers—and not neglect my Real Savior.

With the debut of Greater Love, I’m praying God will use it to touch lives and bless my readers. Greater Love is now available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Please check out my reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

Water Walking in a World Full of Distractions

IMG_1395Do you ever feel distracted? Like there are so many things going on around you that you lose your real focus? Work. Worry. Busyness. It’s not hard to do in a world with so many distractions.

In Matthew 14:22-33 we read about Jesus walking on the water. In verse 28, Peter says to Him…  “Lord, if it’s you – tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus replies to Peter saying, “Come.”  “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

I can relate to Peter. He wanted to get out there and walk on the water with Jesus… do something great! Walk boldly with Jesus! But he got distracted.            Colossians 3:2 tells us to, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Romans 8:5 says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”

In a world full of busyness and distractions, how do we make sure our minds are on the things of the Spirit? How do we maintain our focus? How do we make sure our eyes are on Jesus and we don’t sink?

I’m reminded of the old hymn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus… look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

When our eyes are on Him we maintain our focus! That’s what Peter did when he first got out there on the water and started to walk! Can you imagine how exciting that would have been?

But what about all those distractions? Even Peter got distracted.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

It’s not always easy in a world of negative people, bad language, and worldliness – but when we let our minds dwell on those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellence, and praiseworthy, instead of being distracted by things of the world, we get our focus back.

Remember, even Peter lost his focus for a time. Thankfully, when Peter realized he was sinking, he had enough sense to cry out to Jesus. That’s what we need to do. Cry out to Him. Talk to Him. Spend time with Him. Every day.

His Word shall not fail you, He promised;
Believe Him and all will be well;
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

 

 

The Value of Family Mealtime

IMG_7052We all live busy lives. Most American families are on the go so much that it’s difficult to get everyone around the dinner table once a day to share a family meal. But family meals are important. Family meals are a powerful tradition that influences the whole family. Family meals give us an opportunity to connect, communicate, and come before God.

Think about all the memories you have built around meals. Most of us can recall the relationship building that has gone on over meals at Christmas, Thanksgiving and other holidays. When I look back at my childhood, I have a vivid image of the big round table in my parent’s kitchen and the bright orange swivel chairs where we sat. The valuable relationship building that went on there is forever burned into my mind. Sharing a family meal touches our sense of sight, touch, taste, smell and provides us with opportunities for laughter and conversation.

Family meals provide us with an opportunity to create a shared experience with our children, which provides them with a sense of belonging. It brings us together and unites us. Sharing a regular family meal give us an opportunity to pass on our values, offers us an opportunity for conversation, and an opportunity to slow down and spend quality time together.

Family meals allow parents an opportunity to learn about their child. Parents can monitor children’s moods, behavior and learn about their friends. Taking that time to share a meal also gives structure to a child’s day. Structure provides a sense of security and well-being. Not surprising, sharing a family meal can also make a positive impact on your child’s communication skills.

Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of the family meal, which is at the heart of all the other benefits, is that it gives us an opportunity to talk with our children about the Lord. As we sit down and ask the Lord’s blessing on our meal, we are welcoming Him to be a part of our table conversation. In Deuteronomy 11:18-19, God commands us to pass His Word on to our children. “You shall therefore lay up these words of Mine into your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Family mealtime provides us with a perfect setting to teach our children about Jesus. Either before or after the meal, while you are still gathered together, is an awesome opportunity to pull out your Bible and share a family devotion.

As busy as we can be, it is important that we not let that time of sharing a family meal slip from our schedule.

 

 

Pray for One Another

IMG_2197Over the weekend, I had a wonderful time of fellowship with a good friend who lives a few hours away from me. We explored a few shops in Waynsville, Ohio, an adorable little town with unique, crafty stores. While shopping, I stumbled upon these two little mugs. With the miles between us, I thought it would be fun to buy us each a mug as a way to stay connected. My friend said, “Every time I drink from it, I’ll remember to pray for you.” Such a sweet reminder.

The Lord tells us in James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed…”  We know from John 17:20-21 that Jesus Himself prayed for us. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in you, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.

It feels good to be prayed for – and what a joy to approach the throne of God with our prayers. It’s an honor to know that Jesus prayed for me.

This morning, I woke up and make a cup of tea in my new mug. It worked. I remembered to pray for my dear friend. Such a simple reminder can encourage us to take our friends to the throne and enjoy a cup of tea with our Creator.

A 1700’s Message for Today’s Christian Educators

desktop watts

  I recently stumbled upon a very old copy of Divine and Moral Songs written by Isaac Watts in the early 1700’s. My copy must have been printed some time in the 1800’s because it was a gift to someone in 1884 from a boy and girl’s religious society. When I opened the delicate book, I was struck immediately by the beautiful old artwork, attention to detail, and the old print type used during the time of its publication. But it was the preface that truly gripped my attention.

            Isaac Watts wrote the preface sometime in the early 1700’s. In his message, he addressed “all that are concerned in the education of children.”

Being a homeschool mom, a Sunday school teacher, and a volunteer youth leader, I recognized that this was addressed to me. In only a few pages, of very readable language, Isaac Watts gave a challenge that is very applicable to our society today. As I read, I was gripped by the fact that these words were penned to an early 1700’s society, when it could have been written to our society three hundred years later.

In the intro, Isaac reminds his readers of the important charge given to those concerned in the education of children. “The wisdom and welfare of the succeeding generations are entrusted with you beforehand, and depend much on your conduct.” Is that not true today? The wisdom and welfare of future generations are greatly influenced by our conduct. “The seeds of misery or happiness in this world and that to come, are oftentimes sown very early; and therefore, whatever may conduce to give the minds of children a relish for virtue and religion, ought, in the first place, be proposed to you.”

Watts reminded those in his generation that the seeds of faith are sewn early and that it is vital to train up our children with a passion for Christ at an early age.

Watts explained that “verse was at first designed for the service of God, though it hath been wretchedly abused since.” Of course, I absolutely love his use of strong adverbs and verbs like “Wretchedly” and “abused,” his point is very clear. He explained that parents of old taught their children “the precepts of morality and worship in verse.” They’ve been using songs and rhymes to help children learn truths for thousands of years. Not only that, but we as believers are encouraged to “teach and admonish one another by hymns and songs, (Col.iii.16)” …I just had to write it the way Watts did.

Watts told us there are four advantages to using verse to teach children:

  1. “There is a great delight in the very learning of truths and duties this way. There is something so amusing and entertaining in rhymes and metre, that       will incline children to make this part of their business a diversion.”

Watts encouraged readers to even use the lovely little book itself as a reward for learning the verses. I found it very cool that even in the 1700’s they were using the reward method of motivation.

  1. “What is learned in verse is longer retained in memory, and sooner recollected.”   Watts said that the learning of scripture and moral songs   learned in one’s youth will help guide their moral decision making.
  1. “This will be a constant furniture for the minds of children, that they may have something to think upon when alone, and sing over to themselves.”

Watts points out that learning in this way will “raise a young meditation.” He said, “Thus they will not be forced to seek relief for an emptiness of mind, out of the loose and dangerous sonnets of the age.”

When I read that last sentence I stopped and reread it again. This was written in the 1700’s… and Watts was concerned about the dangerous music of his time? What would Watts have to say about some of the songs popular in our country today? I found it interesting that Watts explained the seeking of such sonnets is to “seek relief for an emptiness of mind.” How often do we see kids sit filling their minds with music containing disturbing lyrics, allowing those words fill their minds like dirty water soaked into an empty sponge? Watts called it dangerous.

  1. “These Divine Songs may be a pleasant and proper matter for their daily or weekly worship, to sing on in the family, at such time as the parents or  governors shall appoint…”

Watts encouraged the use of these songs during daily or weekly worship, and while I’m sure not many of our children have governors, I loved his encouragement to sing together as a family. What a wonderful time to train up your child and worship together.

The preface was wrapped up with a few more encouraging words in the training up of a child in Christ, and ended with a prayer.

    “May the Almighty God make you faithful in this important work of education; may He succeed your cares with His abundant grace; that the rising generation of Great Britain may be a glory among the nations, a pattern to the Christian world, and a blessing to the earth.”

I am sure you caught the Great Britain part. I found it interesting that, just like me and my concern for my country, Isaac Watts wanted his country to be a “glory among the nations, a pattern to the Christian world, and a blessing to the earth.” I would like the same thing for the United States. The point is, we as Christians have an important job. We are called by God to “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6).

I felt it was fitting to chose a song from the book and write the lyrics below. Of course, it is far more lovely and artful in the original little book with beautiful drawings above each verse. When I showed it to my daughter, I said, “Look, these are the inspirational Instagram messages of the 1700’s.”

 

Song II.

Praise for Creation and Providence.

 

I sing the almighty power of God,
That made the mountains rise;
That spread the flowing seas abroad,
And built the lofty skies.
 
I sing the wisdom that ordained
The sun to rule the day;
The noon shines full at His command,
And all the stars obey.

Watts desktop 2

 I sing the goodness of the Lord,
That filled the earth with food;
He formed the creatures with His word,
And then pronounced them good.
 
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed
Where’er I turn mine eye!
If I survey the ground I tread,
Or gaze upon the sky.

 

There’s not a plant or flower below

But makes Thy glories known;

And clouds arise, and tempests blow,

By order from Thy throne.

 

Creatures, as numerous as they be,

Are subject to Thy care;

There’s not a

place where we can flee
But God is present there.

The Fun Behind Until Proven Innocent

Until Proven Innocent book cover amazon The fun behind Until Proven Innocent

I love to write. It gives my mind opportunity to slip away in to other times, other places, and see into the lives of other people. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, writing helps me formulate my thoughts.

One of the beauties of writing is that it lets me be creative. As with any art form, writing lets me use words to paint a picture that can send a message and evoke emotion in the hearts of my readers.

Until Proven Innocent was a fun book to write because, while the story is historical fiction, it takes place in Northern California, where my husband and I once lived.

Northern California is a place rich with history and natural beauty. Known for its many wineries, vineyards, beautiful coastline, redwood and sequoia trees, and picturesque cities, Northern California is a beautiful backdrop for a love story. While living in California, my husband and I took many trips along the Lost Coast, camping, exploring, and hiking along remote trails and rocky hillsides.

The love story behind Until Proven Innocent was fun to paint. Within any love relationship there needs to be trust and mutual respect. The relationship between Bethany and Tanner stems from a selfless desire to lay aside personal needs and bless someone else. Both characters threw aside their own safety, needs, and comforts, in order to help the other. Against the odds, they learn to trust one another and find unconditional love.

As with any love story I write, Christ is a central figure in the plot. Just as He is a central figure in my life, His presence is crucial in the lives of my characters. His hand in their lives is the driving force behind their love and guides their steps in ways only our heavenly Father could.

Another fun part of creating Until Proven Innocent was the book cover design. It was exciting to watch the cover models as they stepped into the persona of their characters and wrapped themselves in the image we wanted to create. Bethany (the name of the model as well as the main character) and Sam are both college students who have amazing acting talent. I think they had just as much fun with the photo shoot as we did. It was difficult to choose the photo for Until Proven Innocent because there were so many nice ones.

While it would have been wonderful to photograph the cover photo in Northern California, we settled on a small historical site in central Ohio. Historic Roscoe Village is an 1800’s canal town in Coshocton, Ohio and a great place to step back in time. Since Until Proven Innocent is a historic fiction novel, Roscoe Village seemed like just the right backdrop for the cover art.

There are beautiful places everywhere and beautiful love stories still to be written. But the most beautiful love story in the world is the true story of our Creator and His love for us. No writer in the world can create a story so rich and perfect in love, as the One Who has given us everything and desires for us to love Him and follow Him. I pray that the message of His love will be reflected in everything I write.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”   John 3:16

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.”  – A.W.Tozer The Pursuit of God

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I love the sassy little grin Bethany has on her face in this picture. Sam is taking himself very serious.

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Bethany and Sam had an amazing way of capturing the emotion we expect to see in Bethany and Tanner.

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The charm of Historic Roscoe Village and the sweetness of this couple make this picture one of my favorites.

 

 

 

 

Doers Not Viewers

I once had a friend tell me, “I’d rather play football than watch football.” His reasoning was key, “Why would I want to watch someone else get into shape when I could be doing it?” He wanted to be a doer, not a viewer.

I was thinking about this idea recently as we continue construction on our house. In home construction, there are those who sprint, those who run a marathon, and those who take a long adventurous trail hike. We are the latter. We have been building on our house for several years. There are periods in our building process when we pause to spend time looking at Fine Home Building magazines, read design books, go to Lowes, or watch HGTV to get ideas of how we want to do something. During that time we become what I think of as information gatherers. In that case, I would say that the viewing is actually doing something. It’s training our minds, giving us data we can use, teaching us how and sometimes motivating us toward that goal to which we are striving.

An individual ceases being an information gatherer and moves to viewer when they stop doing.

I can apply this to my life as a Christian too. Jesus calls us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). I have been given an awesome opportunity as a believer to do something. I have been called to go out and make disciples! That’s pretty exciting. And God calls me to “do” other things too. He tells me to forgive, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, be holy because He is holy, honor my father and mother, and so much more. All of those things are “doing.”

In the process of the doing, I am also called to assemble together with other believers. God gives me opportunities to fellowship, to be encouraged, to learn so that I might better do. I like to look at that fellowship time as my information gathering time. I have the opportunity to listen to others teach me, hear how they are doing in their journey and gain motivation for the journey. Reading God’s Word is also a great time to gather information. It also brings me to the throne of God where I might allow Him to speak directly to me and build me up in Christ.

Then I can do. Then I can go therefore and make disciples… I can forgive, love others, build others up in Christ, honor my parents, seek His kingdom… and I am never alone in the doing. I am on God’s team. He is with me the whole way!

To my friend who could not see the value in watching a football game I would challenge him to consider how watching the game helps him learn the moves, see others succeed and even stumble. By viewing, a person becomes aware of the game. Sometimes it is all right to stop building the house and read a few books, magazines, explore the lighting department at Lowes, and watch HGTV, as long as we don’t stop there. We need to do. We need to put into practice the information we’ve been gathering.

Christians, we benefit greatly from our fellowship time! We learn how others succeed and even stumble. We see areas of our lives where we need to grow. We become refreshed for the doing. We desperately need our time alone with God, allowing Him to teach us from His Word and refresh us by His Spirit. Then we can be better prepared to do.