Category: Spiritual health

REFLECTIONS Series: Have You Read Book One?

I’m thrilled to announce that the first book of the REFLECTIONS series is live on Amazon. In fact, it’s available in three formats and at discounted rates if you buy the print version and add on either digital or audio (or both).

Better yet, it’s so pretty.

I know the woman on the cover isn’t authentic to first century dress. Scroll down to see the covers of the other three books in the series. I did much better using authentic models on those covers.

But, I’m SO overjoyed to have my first self-published title recovered and rebranded under my InkSpired imprint.

Also, I’m doing some live author events in November. I hope you’ll be excited enough to get an autographed copy that you’ll plan to attend.

REFLECTIONS: Where it Started

This started years ago as a seed planted from a Facebook quiz.

I know. That’s crazy. But if you’ve followed this blog for long, you know that I get story ideas from many strange places.

“I don’t think I’m anything like Mary the mother of Jesus. I mean, God chose her to be the mother of His Son. She must have been perfect.”

A comment from a friend on Facebook that went something like that planted the seed for this story in my heart and mind.
Because I had felt similarly. In fact, I’d retaken the silly Facebook quiz because I’d gotten Mary the mother of Jesus as my first answer, and I thought, “NOT!”

But why? Aside from the Catholic compulsion to saint Mary and pray to her for absolution of sin (which doesn’t have a basis in scripture), why would any human who lived be “perfect” or “above me”?

Because I don’t have the right perspective. I think that the fact Peter, Paul and Mary are written about in scripture means they are superior human examples. (Bonus points if you thought “The sixties folk singing trio?” when you read those names.)
They are human. God used them as examples.

None of them are perfect. The only perfect person to live? Jesus Christ.

And suddenly, I felt an urge to tell Mary’s story so people would see her as a woman who God chose to mother His Son. What would she feel? What would she think?

Well, scripture is clear she pondered many things in her heart.

And there you have the title.

The first version of this book was self-published on CreateSpace in 2015.

This updated version includes two additional scenes and a section of lesson plans so the book can be used in Sunday school classes or youth groups to help teenagers grasp the humanity of Mary of Nazareth

REFLECTIONS: A PONDERING HEART

This is the new cover and blurb, as well as some reviews of the first edition.

From Handmaid to Madonna: a journey fraught with agony

Blurb

My father asked me to keep the strangest parts of this story to myself, but I’ve always worked my thoughts out best when I put them on parchment. So, this journey begins the day an angel informed me I would have a baby—before I was even married.

On that day, the girl who loved her goats and spent time making cheese to sell disappeared.

Once Joseph realized I hadn’t betrayed him, life settled into a new pattern. In the next few years, I traveled further than I had in the fourteen years before them. But my spiritual pilgrimage had barely begun.

“You’ll call him Jesus,” Yahweh’s messenger told me. The old man in the temple prophesied that my soul would be pierced with many sorrows. From Judea to Egypt and back to Nazareth, swords of sorrow struck my heart and mind.

Jesus was only the first of five sons I would mother, but his life changed us all. For the better, yes, praise Yahweh. But not without conflict.

God’s promises always come to pass. Could I learn to embrace the painful with the same sincerity as the joyful?

As old Simeon told her in the temple, a sword pierced her soul – again and again. And the killing blow was yet to come…
What readers of the earlier editions are saying:

“This is an excellent fictional account of what it might have been like to walk in Mary’s shoes. The author did not take any verses out of context, but simply allowed the reader to see the human side of Mary.” Barbara, winner of Goodreads copy

I started reading this at 9:00PM on Dec. 23. I thought I could start and then finish it on the 24th. Well, let me tell you – I was up in the wee hours of Dec. 24th, not being able to stop reading once I had started. Sharon Hughson has done a beautiful job of putting words to paper on this narrative of Mary’s thoughts from the time she was approached by an angel about a virgin birth. There are no words to sufficiently describe this BEAUTIFUL story. As a mother and a lover of my Lord – this book moved and touched me deeply.
Vicki from Wyoming.

This was a great story and I can’t stress that enough. It was an in depth look at how things may have been for Mary after she found out she would give birth to Jesus up to his ascension. I learned so much about their customs and saw things from a different perspective. I highly highly recommend this book!! – Mary, 5-Star Amazon Review

This isn’t the typical book I’d pick up and read, but found I was hooked from the first page. I’ve often thought about Mary, not only as the Blessed Mother, but as a woman. Mary is perfect, and as a Christian woman that’s an intimidating standard to live up to. This book takes a brave look at Mary’s life and shows the human side to her, bringing the reader into her world and her mind. I wish this was required reading for CCD classes! Not only was I drawn into Mary’s story, her fears, her hopes, her dreams, I was amazed at the historical detail and the biblical accuracy as well. Highly recommended! – Jessica, 5-Star Amazon Review

Sharon Hughson took the little bit of information contained in the Bible, with (probably) a great deal of research, and a bit of literary license – managed to write a very realistic rendition of what Mary’s story quite possibly looked like. I was utterly impressed with what I read. I am without a doubt looking forward to reading the rest of the series!!! – E. Eblin, 5-Star Amazon Review

This book will give you a new perspective on the life of Jesus. – Shonda, 5-Star Amazon Review

REFLECTIONS: Where it’s Headed

So far, I’ve written two additional stories for this series. The second book, A LABORING HAND, is Martha of Bethany’s story. It didn’t receive the same stutters of awe and amazement from my beta readers as Mary of Nazareth’s story did, but it is the story I was most compelled to write during November 2018.

The third book is Mary of Bethany’s story. It’s truly a young adult book, so it also includes a section of lesson outlines. It’s also the most worrisome of the three stories. At the moment, I’m revising and polishing it so I can get it to my editor by October 11th. I’m sure she’ll need to work more magic on it than either of the other stories needed.


The fourth book in the series is roughly outlined. It’s Salome’s story, and I’m struggling with where it needs to start and end. What is the point of this story?

For me, I’m writing it to understand Salome’s audacious request that her sons sit at Jesus’ right and left hand in His kingdom. I’ve always been stunned by this short scene in scripture.

But other than a few passing mentions, scripture tells us much less about Salome than any of the women I’ve written about. That means there’s more room for my imagination.

And more chance I’ll blunder the story completely and turn off all my readers.

I’d appreciate your prayers as I tackle this story in November. I want to explore my thoughts, of course, but I really want to tell the story God wants told.

My Author Schedule

Now that I’ve rambled on about this series. Let’s get specific about the release of A PONDERING HEART. The best way to stay informed about my author events, is to follow me on one of these platforms:
Facebook
Instagram

If you want the full rundown and opportunities to give me input about what I’m writing next, you should join this Facebook Group.

I’m hosting two book release events:
The “in-person” event will be held at Cathedral Coffee in Scappoose on Friday, November 8, 2019 from 6:30 to 8:00 PM.

The Facebook Event, which will include a couple of live videos, a giveaway for an autographed copy and several FREE copies of both digital and audio copies of A PONDERING HEART will be held on Saturday, November 9.

Here’s a link to the event. Plan to attend for your chance to win series bookmarks, an autographed copy of the first book OR the entire REFLECTIONS series on eBook.

Of course, if you’re willing to pay $10 and shipping, I’m happy to send an autographed copy of the paperback anywhere and include a FREE audiobook code with it.

Just complete this form:

The Wide Angle Lens on Helping

It didn’t surprise God that Adam needed a companion. The Creator of time glimpses each moment of it in the same instant. The thought boggles our minds, I know. So let’s move on to something we can comprehend.

Now the Lord God said, It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone: I will make him a helper meet (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him – Genesis 2:183

If God recognized this problem, we shouldn’t doubt it.

A Lesson from the Garden

Read Genesis 2:18-25.
Have you ever wondered why God didn’t make the woman right away? Verse 19 tells us God made the animals and birds. Look at verse 20. What was the true purpose behind God’s parade of livestock?

You’ve heard the saying: “dog is man’s best friend,” but that’s not a truth from scripture. After God made all the animals and Adam named them, there still wasn’t a suitable helper for him.

List the ways a wife helps her husband in our world.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
I don’t know how things work in your household, but my husband and I share all the domestic chores. If I cook dinner (which is usually a minimum of five nights per week), he does the dishes and cleans up the kitchen. When our kids lived with us, they shared this responsibility. On weekends, he cooks breakfast and sometimes I clean the kitchen up afterward. What can I say? Dishes aren’t my thing.

I keep the house clean. We both do the laundry. He takes care of mowing the lawn and weeding the flowerbeds. (Praise the Lord! I detest yard work. And remember my black thumb?)

We help each other take care of our home. It’s a team effort.
That’s exactly what God created in the garden.

Read Genesis 1:28-30. What responsibility to God give to Adam and Eve?

How does that look in the 21st Century?

Obviously, the Earth is “replenished.” However, reproduction guarantees that humans will continue to be able to share the Gospel and shine the light of Christ in our dark world.

Lessons from Godly Women

You can’t read a woman’s study book without turning to Proverbs 31, right? King Lemuel’s mother described the perfect wife. This Virtuous Woman shows us more than we want to see. (It does me, anyway. Does this woman ever sit down and take a break?)

Read Proverbs 31:20-25. How does this woman help others? Who does she help?
v. 20
v. 21-22
v. 23
v. 24
What is the result of her helpfulness (v. 25)?

Copy Proverbs 31:31.

How does that verse motivate you to be more helpful?

Read Acts 9:36-39.
Who is the godly woman named in this passage?

How is she described (v. 36)?

What did she do to help others?

What did Peter do (v. 40-41)?

Why do you think he did this? Is this what the two men who brought him to Joppa expected?

I believe Tabitha’s death left a hole in the church and community of Joppa. Her helping heart ministered to many people and displayed the love of God for all to see. Even though I can’t sew a lick (and don’t want to learn), I admire this saint. Will I ever be described as “full of good works” like she was? I don’t know, but I believe helping others should be every Christian’s priority.

Lessons from Jesus

Consider the life of Christ. He was always helping others, putting their needs before his own.
List some ways Jesus helped people during his earthly ministry?
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Read Matthew 25:31-46.
When will this separation of sheep and goats take place?

It’s important to note that the sheep didn’t inherit the kingdom because of the works listed in verses 35 and 36. Just as James 2:17, 18 & 26 confirm, authentic faith in Christ produces works.
The children of the kingdom, sheep, were characterized by many good works. What sort of actions does Jesus say they do?

What is the key to this kindness in Christ’s eyes (v. 40)?

Jesus came to minister to others and give his life. We should pattern ourselves after Him, which means helping others on a daily basis.

This Bible lesson was first published in FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD in 2016, copyright belongs to Sharon Hughson

FINDING FOCUS: Helping

“I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18) is the Bible’s first description of Eve. In fact, when God created the woman (Adam’s name for her since he named all he saw), His purpose was to give the man a helper.

After all, there was too much important work to do–naming everything, dressing the trees in the garden, having dominion over all of creation–for one guy (even a perfect man, which Adam was at that point) to do it all. Eve was created to help him.
Is it any wonder so many women feel inclined to help?

You arrive for dinner at a friend’s house. The first thing you say after thanking her for the invitation: “Can I help you do anything?”

Dinner is over. You stack your silverware in the middle of your plate and reach for the plate next to you and the next one. The thought of setting them on the counter makes you cringe, so you rinse each one and tuck them into the dishwasher (unless it’s full of clean dishes).

Although our world is sliding into a state of selfishness, most women still possess that urge to help others. They notice a need, and they step to fill it. (This is one reason we can fall so easily into the auto focus trap mentioned in chapter two.)
Let’s take a moment to focus on the first woman’s pure, innocent desire to fulfill her role as her husband’s helper.

* * * * * * * *

Eve followed Adam through the garden, listening as he recited the names of each tree they passed. A small critter with a bushy tail scampered down the branch of the oak tree.

“Squirrel,” her husband said. “They like the nuts. Once I tried to count how many he stuck in those fat cheeks, but he hurried away and buried them.”

Eve reached toward the gray and brown fur. The squirrel wiggled his nose at her, ducked his head up and down. The hair on his face tickled the pads of her fingers. When he dashed back up the tree, the fluffy tail brushed against her wrist.

“He’s soft.”

Adam’s handsome face creased with a smile. He extended his hand toward her. “Let me show you how to harvest the vegetables.”

Eve held the broad fingers which dwarfed her own. Together, she and her husband stepped from the shade of the massive tree into a wide clearing.

Rows of green, leafy plants stretched in every direction. Corn stalks towered over her, the browning silk on their ears indicating ripeness. Bushes burst and bowed beneath the weight of green and purple gourds that Adam called squash. Her husband dropped her hand to demonstrate how to tell which ones were ripe and twisted off a smaller green one.

“We can roast the zucchini whole when they’re this size.”

Her lips formed the strange name. Zucchini. He handed her the squash. Its stem felt bumpy and the hide smooth.

The garden seemed endless. Beyond the vegetables, there were rows of berry bushes. The raspberry left a pink stain on her fingers. Tart exploded along with sweetness on her tongue. Carrying these by the handful didn’t seem practical. It would take too much time and too many trips to collect enough to satisfy her craving for another taste.

A pair of deer nibbled on the leaves of smaller bushes. They raised their heads when Adam approached, their ears flicking toward him.

With dewy brown eyes and smooth tawny pelts, the animals were beautiful. Adam spoke softly to the deer, rubbing the one with antlers behind its large ear.

Eve’s mind whirled with all the information. Her stomach gurgled and her tongue longed to taste everything.

Her gaze rested on Adam’s muscular frame. “Are you hungry now?”

She extended the handful of berries toward Adam. He turned from the animals which side-stepped away from the sound of her voice. His dark eyes grazed her face before he grabbed the raspberries and tossed the whole bunch into his mouth. A few of the seedy fruit missed the mark, dribbling onto his bare chest.

Eve flicked the stray bits away, frowning at the pink dot left behind. Adam pressed his hand over hers. Warmth seeped into her palm from his smooth skin. Tingles skittered up her arm, much like the squirrel had scampered up the tree.

Their eyes met.

“If you’re hungry, you can show me how to cook the squash.”

A longing welled inside her chest. She ached to help him take care of the garden. Her heart leapt at the thought of preparing food for them, seeing his eyes flicker with satisfaction as they did when he swallowed the raspberries.

“There are fragrant herbs to make things more savory.”

His hand dropped away, and he walked ahead. He would teach her what he knew, then she would find the best way to please him.

Warmth pooled in her stomach and radiated into her chest. Helping him be content would give more pleasure than eating her fill of sweet fruit.

Which must be why their Father God said everything was very good.

This Bible lesson was first published in FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD in 2016, copyright belongs to Sharon Hughson

A Wide Angle Lens Look at Mentoring

This post is in preparation for the discussion on “Mentoring” in my Facebook Group which begins on September 7, 2019. If you’re not a member, click through to this link and ask to join. (I let everyone in!)

If you haven’t read the fictionalization written from Priscilla’s point of view, do that now. Then you’ll be ready to complete this study.

If you’re like the author, you’ll probably want to grab a pencil along with your Bible. Go ahead and print out this post so you can complete the study.
Or maybe you have a notebook and you’ll just write your answers there.


Whatever works for you.

Read the account of this encounter between learned Christians and one who needed teaching in Acts 18:24-28.

How is Apollos described in verse 18?

Where does the story take place?

It’s important to add context to this setting. Ephesus was a huge center of idolatry, especially concerning the worship of the false goddess Diana. It wouldn’t have been easy for anyone to stand for Christ in this place.

What do we know about Apollos’ knowledge and personality from verse 19?

What do you think it means that he knew “only the baptism of John”?
Who were the mentors in this story?

It’s fascinating to me that only fifteen words are used to describe the important ministry of mentoring in this passage. But we know from other scripture that Apollos became a great orator and led many people to Christ. What might have happened if Aquila and Priscilla hadn’t mentored him?

Where are the Women?

Elizabeth George wrote: “I receive a lot of mail! And I have to say that the Number One question I’m asked is this: Where are the older women who are mentioned in Titus 2? Women around the world are wondering, Where are the women who are supposed to mentor and guide me?”

It saddens me to think of young women seeking a spiritual guide while no one steps up to fill that role.

Who is to mentor whom according to Titus 2:3-4?

Did an “aged woman” mentor you?

Who are you mentoring? (Sorry, all of us are older than someone, meaning we can all play the part of the “aged woman” and take a younger Christian under our wing.)

What sort of behavior do the Titus 2 mentors model? (There are FOUR listed)

Notice that Paul didn’t hand down a long list of doctrines. He didn’t preach at women to drill Bible truths into each other. Instead, he talked about the way Christian women should act. This is the most important part of being a mentor: to walk the way Christ would. Younger women need a pattern to follow.

A Woman’s Mentoring Guide

Read Titus 2:4-5. What things are the older women to teach to the younger women?
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
A few years ago, I wrote a series of lessons on these things and still barely scratched the surface. Rather than delving into Paul’s list of “learning outcomes” let’s talk about the why of the curriculum.
According to verse 5, what was the reason for teaching the young women all these things?

Define blasphemy.

Whoa! That’s some serious stuff. If the older women don’t mentor the younger women the RIGHT way, God’s Word will be blasphemed.
In what way might this happen?
How does this make you feel about the idea of mentoring another woman or being mentored yourself?

Every season of life is the right time for mentoring. As a young mother, I needed more experienced mothers to mentor me. My favorite group to mentor has always been teenagers (and yes, some call me crazy because of that passion). Sometimes we might need to be mentored before we can reach out to mentor someone else.

Wherever you are in your life at the moment, you can be assured God has someone there who can help you. Or a woman waiting for you to assist her on the path to Christian maturity.

**This Bible lesson was first published in FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD in 2016, copyright belongs to Sharon Hughson

FINDING FOCUS: Mentoring

Mentoring is God’s plan for passing along Christianity and the example of Jesus Christ himself.

This month, the blog will take a closer look at this important calling. As in the study book (no longer available for purchase), the study starts with a Portrait.

Mentoring is becoming a lost art. As you’ll see in the Bible study segment, we should be more serious about this focal point of Christianity.

What follows is my attempt to paint a portrait of one of the best examples of mentoring given in scripture. Because the details of the arrangement aren’t spelled out in scripture, plenty of license was taken in the fictionalizing of the account.

Air stagnates in the women’s section at the rear of the Ephesian synagogue. I open my mouth to join the recitation and nearly gag when the body odor of an elderly woman in front of me wafts my way. Lord, help me!
Yes, that is a prayer. I find myself uttering three- and four-word petitions all day long. And the gracious Lord I serve hears and answers.
In this moment, I don’t heave the contents of my stomach onto the women around me. Nor does a retching sound emerge in place of the scripture. God has answered again.
My tongue forms the ancient words from Deuteronomy. Feminine voices embrace me on every side, joining and blending with the deeper tones from our fathers, husbands, brothers and sons.
I tilt my head to the side, searching for my husband Aquila. My father is dead, my brother remains in Rome, uninterested in the Way, and the Lord has never blessed me with sons, only two daughters, both married.
Aquila is more than enough. We serve Jesus Christ together, just as we make tents together.
A male voice begins the first song of degrees. Other voices join in. I twitter out the high part my mother taught me so many decades past. The soprano notes complement the lower voices of both women and men.
A woman behind me joins on the high harmony. My heart leaps as I’m transported back to childhood, learning the part with my younger sister.
I turn my thoughts toward the Lord, voicing each word from my lips to his ears.
“The Lord is thy keeper,” we sing (Ps. 121:5). Praise Him for keeping us safe when Caesar evicted us from Rome.
“The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil” (Ps. 121:7). Yes, Lord, you have preserved Aquila and me too many times to recount.
“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord” (Ps. 122:1).
Tears clog my throat. King David, author of this psalm, wrote of the tabernacle, but I have never seen the temple in Jerusalem. I squeeze my eyes closed to ease the burning.
When the singing ends, several men pray aloud. Their voices make a tuneful backdrop to my own thanksgiving and supplication.
The rabbi reads from Isaiah. It is one of the three books outside of the Torah that this synagogue has available, along with sacred scrolls.
A stranger, dark skin naming his origin from parts to the south, perhaps even Egypt, stands and speaks. The tone of his voice is cultured, smooth like cream. His words are fine. He expounds on the passage from Isaiah’s prophecy before speaking of other prophecies.
I nearly topple over when the man mentions the teaching of John the Baptist. I straighten against the hard seat, nothing more than a plank of wood set atop cinder blocks.
He speaks of the Messiah. My heart thrums in my throat until his honeyed words are nearly drowned by the pounding. Does this man know of the Way?
Many members of the synagogue are believers, but others claim Jesus of Nazareth was not their Messiah. The topic is dangerous to discuss in this Jewish place of worship.
I couldn’t discern whether the young man knows the Way. His focus seems to be validating John as the forerunner, the prophet to make straight the path before Messiah.
A chorus of murmurs from the men interrupts his fine speech, keeps me from hearing what more he says.
Several other men stand to read or recite scripture. No one else expounds on the passages. After another hymn and prayer, the rabbi dismisses the gathering with the traditional Shalom blessing.
Outside the domed building, I breathe deeply, watching the men file out. Aquila comes, head bent close to Benjamin, one of the members of our house church. Aquila’s leanness makes him appear taller than the stout cobbler. They exchange nods before Aquila extends his hand to me.
I take it, amazed that it can be cool and warm all at once. I press my back against the wall of the synagogue, raise on my toes to speak directly into my husband’s ear.
The crowd leaving the worship service is quiet, but the street around us teems with commerce. It is Ephesus. The trading never ceases.
“Who was that man? The one who spoke of John?”
“Apollos, an Alexandrite Jew.”
“Does he follow the Way?”
Aquila shakes his head, a slight move. I stare into his rich, brown eyes and see the motion wasn’t a denial. He thinks the younger man might be a believer, but it is dangerous to assume this. Apollos hadn’t spoken openly of Jesus, like Paul the Apostle had done when he visited here a few months past.
“We should invite him to break bread with us.”
Aquila nods. He scans the trickle of worshipers still emerging from the synagogue. A royal blue cloak swirls at the doorway, and the dark-skinned man emerges. Behind him, the rabbi shakes his head vociferously. My stomach clenches at the sight of the synagogue leader’s stern visage.
My husband shuffles toward the two men, waiting a respectful distance apart. The rabbi looks at him expectantly, but Aquila nods toward the stranger. Apollos stands half a head taller than my husband. Their lips move, but the bustle of the city and my distance from them makes hearing the conversation impossible.
Soon, Aquila is nodding. Both of them step toward where I’m waiting, hands folded over my queasy stomach. Lord, don’t let this be a mistake.
Trivial conversation follows us through the crowded market and into the quieter trade district. I fall behind the men, trying to listen to snatches of their conversations.
Lord, protect us if this man is not sent from you. Grant us wisdom to teach him Your Perfect Way. Move in his heart. Touch our tongues and lips. You promised your Spirit’s aide.
I could not hear much from the men, but I know the Lord hears every syllable of my fervent prayers.
A faint odor of tanning hides greets us when Aquila swings open the door to our home. It is nearly impossible to keep the stench away when our trade requires us to handle cured hides and skins every day.
The men sit on the couches in the center court of our small shop. My feet glide soundlessly across the mosaic and into the storage room. I fetch a skin of new wine and three cups. I place some bread and olive spread onto a large platter beside the cups, and carry all of it to the men.
I pour wine for both men, meeting Aquila’s eyes when I hand him his drink, ducking my head when I pass a cup to our guest.
Aquila swallows before asking, “What do you know of John’s baptism?”
Apollos sips his beverage, reclines on the pillow-covered arm of his couch. “His immersion of believers in water prepared men and women to become part of something greater.”
They discuss this subject. I swallow a mouthful of drink, but the knot in my stomach won’t allow more than that. I continue to pray until I feel a nudge from the Spirit.
“What of Christ?” I say.
Both men turn to stare at me. My husband’s eyes widen. Apollos holds my gaze, sipping from his cup before setting it on his thigh.
“Has Messiah come?” The dark man’s eyebrows press together, creasing his wide forehead.
I keep my eyes pinned on our guest, but I still see the slight shake of Aquila’s head. The witness of Christ within me prods me to ignore the wordless warning from my spouse.
“Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ. He called an assembly from the body of those baptized by John. We were baptized by Paul the Apostle in Corinth a few years past.”
“I heard rumors about this Jesus. Why do you say he was the Christ?”
Aquila and I take turns quoting prophecies of old which Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled. Prophecies everyone agrees spoke of the coming Messiah.
Aquila asks questions and nods at our explanations. His attendance on my words sends a flush to my cheeks. This man is a powerful orator. If he follows the Way, many people will turn from the path leading to eternal destruction.
Light fades. I bring a lamp from an inner room and light the wicks floating in pots encircling the terrace. A sense of peace envelopes me, a blanket of assurance as real as the curtain of darkness falling around us.
Today I have discovered another way Aquila and I can serve the Lord together. A young man will be saved from destruction. In turn, his persuasive speaking will convert many more to the Way.
Thank you, Lord.

You can still join the LIVE study in my Facebook Group by clicking here. That’s where you can download a FREE copy of the book and interact with others who are interesting in finding their God-given focus for life.

***This excerpt was first published in 2016 in the first edition of FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD, copyright belongs to Sharon Hughson

Join the Discussion

Discussion holds the power to enlighten and inform. Of course, it needs to be a two-way conversation where listening happens as often as talking…and from both sides.

In our crazy “You Can Do it All” world, it can be difficult to maintain the focus needed to accomplish any task well. That’s one of the things I mention in my study guide Finding Focus through the Lens of God’s Word.

Eight Bible lessons to help you discover your focus

For the rest of this year, I’ll be offering the content of that book FREE to members of my Friends of Author Facebook group.

This is the table of contents from the book.

Session One:  Your Life in Pictures

Session Two: Where’s the Auto Focus?

Session Three: Choosing what to Focus on

Session Four: Focus-Helping

Session Five: Focus-Mentoring

Session Six: Focus-Teaching

Session Seven: Focus-Mothering

Session Eight: When Life’s out of Focus

To kick things off, we’ll start at the beginning, but I won’t go through every chapter. If you’re interested in joining with this study and discussion, go here to join the group. Then follow this link to fill out the poll where you select the top three topics from the book that you’re interested in reading and discussing. The four topics that receive the most votes will be discussed beginning in September.

Why Am I Doing This?

First of all, I’m trying to see if there is a market for this information.

Secondly, I need to build a platform of active followers if I want to convince an agent to take on the proposal I’ve been working on. More about that later once I decide if I can make a “course” out of the information that people might be interested in paying to obtain.

And finally, I don’t get a lot of traction here on my blog. A few people comment. If Google Analytics are painting the best picture, a few more are reading the blog without leaving any feedback.

But mostly, my writing here goes into the Virtual Ether and that’s the end of it. So why do I keep posting here?

A New Focus

Speaking of focus, I promised earlier this year that the blog articles would take on a new focus. But I haven’t really delivered on that.

Now is the time for that delivery.

Next year, all the content on this blog will be either research related to the REFLECTIONS series, book reviews or opinions that relate to either the genre of Biblical fiction or Christian living. At least once each month, I’ll share an article that relates directly to the topic  of grief and grief recovery.

If you’re a regular reader, I’d love to hear your input on these changes.

As always, thanks for reading.

Three Reasons to Work Out

Spring hauls me out of the winter pit of gray to gray. With Seasonal Affective Disorder, winter looms large in October and casts a gigantic shadow over many months. And it’s more important than ever that I’m working out every day.

Working out? Why would you do that?

Believe me, there are a host of reasons, but in the winter I need only ONE reason to get out of bed. Thank goodness I have cats who won’t let me stay there no matter what.

It’s Good For You

Okay, we’ve all heard some rumor that you should go for a walk or get your heart rate of it’s resting rate for thirty minutes five times per week. Or is it three to five times? I can never remember because the recommendations differ depending on who you listen to.

Exercise gets your sluggish blood pumping. It requires you to breathe deeply so more air fills your lungs.
Did you know that this is essential to BEING ALIVE?
Every cell in your body needs oxygen to perform it’s cellular tasks. The only way these microcosms get this Big O is if your red blood cells deliver it to them. And you guessed it! The blood must pump through your veins (actually, I think the oxygen-rich blood is in your arteries, but I’m not a medical professional) to reach your cells.

In essence, exercise keeps you living for another day.

While that statement might be stretching the truth, there is scientific data that proves people who perform physical activities at a rate that gets them out of breath are more healthy than those who don’t. Overall.

Obviously, a cancer-free couch-potato might be healthier than an athlete with cancer, but it’s not because of their love of inactivity.

Get up and work out. It’s good for you.

It Wakes You Up

Morning person here. Maybe you’re NOT. That’s okay.

But if you rely on caffeine to wake you up in the morning, you’re missing an opportunity to wake up in a way that gives you day-long and even life-long benefits.

Nope. Caffeine can’t do that. (And y’all know I love my coffee.)

It really doesn’t take much to roll out of the bed, pull on some sweats, tie on sneakers and go for a two-mile walk. It doesn’t.

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, it might be a wet prospect nine months out of the year. And this winter has been especially brutal for snowfall in many areas of the United States. I don’t recommend walking in sub-zero temperatures or blizzards. That might put you into a permanent sleep.

I have tons of workout videos. This over-abundance can cause me to stall in working out. That’s why I’ve been doing Beachbody On Demand programs this winter. That way, I just open my browser on my tablet and select the next workout.

Thirty minutes later, I’m a sweaty, smiling mess.

It’s A Happy Drug

No, that wasn’t a misprint. Exercise is a happy drug. Vigorous exercise causes your brain to release endorphins. In fact, being outside in nature stimulates a similar response. That’s why I like to walk, run or bike outside during the three sunny months.

Double-dose of happy pills!

Who needs a doctor’s prescription when the sun is shining and fresh air woos me?

I am addicted to exercise. That’s the number one reason I work out.

Yes, I said it. I’m addicted to exercise. And I won’t apologize or join a 12-step program for my addiction.

This addiction can be beneficial, as long as I exercise in moderation. If I start working out three hours every day, someone call the exercise police and sit me down for an intervention.

But I don’t. If I go on a three-hour bike ride or hike (and I do sometimes), I probably won’t exercise at all the next day. And I’ll be sure to imbibe plenty of water (and chocolate) to replenish all the essential minerals extended exercise can deplete.

Are you a workout junkie like me? Or do you ascribe to the no-thanks exercise camp?

5 Battle Tools To Help In Hard Moments

For several years, I’ve been applying as an advanced reviewer for both fiction and nonfiction books. Most of the time, I’m excited to read these books, and even more thrilled to share my thoughts about them.
I started following Kelly Balarie’s blogs a year or so ago when she released a book called Fighting Fear. After all, that was during my “No Fear this Year” phase. It seemed like she had something to offer me in my battle against fear.
Even though I didn’t read that book (although I have ordered it and will read it now), her weekly blog posts encouraged me. When she asked for volunteers to help her launch her next book, I applied.
Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Battle Ready? Well, sure. The Apostle Paul warned that we were in a spiritual battle, but how does that look in my life?
If you’re wondering the same thing, read this book. Kelly’s transparency touched my heart. And she quoted TONS of scripture, so I knew I was hearing heavenly wisdom, not just her thoughts on these subjects.
This is a book to be savored. There are journaling activities, do them. Take each chapter in and don’t move to the next until you’re sure God has given you a glimpse of the mindset discussed: from Identity to Objectivity to Positivity.
Still not sure it’s for you?
Here’s a post from Kelly to give you a tiny sample of what’s inside this book.

5 Battle Tools To Help In Hard Moments

By: Kelly Balarie

She didn’t so much as say hi to me. In fact, even worse, she walked right past me, looking the other direction. She pretended I wasn’t there. Hmph!! After all I’ve done for her. After all I’ve given her. After how I’ve gone out of my way to love her.

Now I’m the one left looking like a crazed waving-at-the-air fool. Like -an idiot.

I humphat her husband along the way to my church seat. Silently, I critique her in my mind, She’s rude. Before not too long, I get side-tracked by own thoughts: Everyone always hurts me. Like that boy, I asked to dance in 4th grade. Like those girls who circled up to whisper about me in that damp locker room. Like the group of women who act like they’re far better than me.

I’m supposed to be listening in church, but who can listen, thinking about all this, all them!?

Here, I find myself, in the heat of a horrible battle. You can always tell if you’re in the heat-of-a-battle. Almost instantly, your soul-crushing problem magnifies 100x larger than your promise-keeping God. Suddenly, you’re standing weaponless, in all-out combat within your own mind. Hardly able to win.

Ever been there?

I’ve struggled through a lot–through massive health-scares, depression, an eating disorder, financial debt and relationship-severing dramas. Battles. Huge, hard-fought battles, loaded with momentary decisions of pain, struggle and uncertainty.

I remember the time:

  1. The doctor returned to the room with the clipboard saying, “You really might have Mulitple Sclerosis.”
    I thought: How do I keep my thoughts close to God with this kind of news?

2. My colicky newborn made me pace my hallways 24-7. Sleepless, hardly-thinking and powerless to change my health-situation, I didn’t know what to do.
I thought: How do I still love people when my whole life is unraveling?

3. A family member called me to say I really should get on setting up long-term care for myself.
I thought: How do I deal with the fact all my dreams will now look different than I thought?

Through all this, I realized, real wisdom is having a battle-plan.

Let’s talk about Christ-centered battle-plan preparedness. Begin by asking yourself: What am I currently facing?

Identifying your main struggles (resentment, regret, trauma, unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, fear) is to allow God to help you win your battle. For example, for me, underneath that issue with the girl, was an old war full of rejection, humiliation, and abandonment from years past. Underneath, were old battles I’d lost–because they were left unaddressed. Therefore, they left me with resentment towards God.

Seeing our battles for what they are, gives us a clear-cut strategy to fight – and win. It also removes all the pent-up offenses that, like plaque, cover our heart.

What about you? Do you emotionally respond to happenings set before you or do you wisely act based on God’s Word and promises?

Today, you can fight your battle a new way. Consider:

  1. Asking God what feelings of fear, worry, anger, resentment, neglect and hurt He desires you give to him.

2. Giving those hurts to Jesus, by saying, “Jesus, I am not meant to carry these. Forgive me. They’ve hurt me for far too long. I know and believe you have peace, joy, life and freedom for me as I give you these things.”

3. Blessing any women who have hurt you.

4. Reframing your moments of hurt. (Example: when she passed by me quickly, she was probably was in a rush, she might have had something to do or she lost in thought)

5. Returning to a heart of love. (Example: Thank you Go d that you love me and I can love others. In fact, I can love the very person who hurt me by ___.)

This is the start of being Battle Ready. There truly are practical insights, wise biblical instructions and truths that can help you rise above the mayhem of trials and hardships. You can find the light of Christ and step into all God has for you.

The victory belongs to the Lord. Isn’t it time you began to make room for it?

About Battle Ready: Train Your Mind to Conquer Challenges, Defeat Doubt & Live Victoriously

“The best time to be strengthened against the Enemy’s tactics of doubt,disappointment, and devastation is before he makes his first move toward us. We all desperately need the biblical guidance and preparation found in Battle Ready!” – Lysa TerKeurst, New York Times bestselling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries

Battle Ready is a hands-on scriptural plan that teaches you twelve easy-to-implement, confidence-building mind-sets designed to transform your thoughts and, therefore, your life. You’ll gain practical wisdom, like how to· make new habits stick in just five steps· disarm the seven most common attacks that plague women· exchange self-limiting thoughts for purpose-driven, love-releasing thoughts· implement thirty-second mind-lifters that deliver peace· create boundaries so you live life full of what matters

Buy Battle Ready here: https://amzn.to/2l5qQrw

To get Battle Ready freebies – printables, devotional reminders, a customizable daily Battle Plan and the“Find Your Battle Style” quiz, visit: www.iambattleready.com

To order the companion Battle Ready Daily Prayer Journal that will help you practically change your thoughts, then your life, click here.

Making a Habit of Happiness

Recently, I was stuck on my latest fiction-in-progress so I was surfing the Internet and Facebook. I found this meme created by Do the Right Thing that extolled thirty habits for happiness.


I read through the list and some of the comments on the post. One person said it was too long to read through, and I thought that was a shame.
Then I decided to make my own, much shorter list.

But how do I know what should go on the list?

And who am I to say I know anything about happiness?

What is Happiness Anyway

Oh, happiness how fleeting! Here for one heart’s beating!

According to my wise friends at Dictionary.com, happiness is the quality or state of being delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing.
In short: happiness is a moment in time where something goes right and you feel a surge of success.
It’s a moment in time. It’s not meant to be a continual state of being. However, if you’re going to choose an emotion to characterize your life, wouldn’t happiness be preferable to sadness or anger?

But when the property tax bill comes and it’s a couple hundred dollars more than the previous year, no one is very pleased. (Well, Mr. Tax Man probably is.)

However, practice #2 from my top ten list below and you’ll start thinking, “Plenty of people didn’t get a tax bill because they don’t own a home. I’m blessed to have such a nice house. I’ve worked in the schools and I know education is important. I’m glad that if there’s a fire, the fire department will come and take care of it. If not for my taxes, those things wouldn’t be possible.”

I might not be happy about the bill even after all that, but now I’m feeling less disgruntled.

So while I doubt anyone will be happy all the time, having a positive outlook and practicing gratitude can alter your “state of being” from irritated and grumbling to accepting and smiling.

Narrowing Down the Choices

To narrow down this list of thirty, I did what most people in this social media dominated culture of ours do: I asked my Facebook community.

How did we cull answers from a larger population before there was Facebook and Instagram and all the others?
Most kids can’t imagine not being able to search the Internet for answers to any question. Somehow, those of us born before 1980 managed it. Go figure.

Within the first twelve hours of posting my Facebook poll, I had two clear leaders among the thirty options. And a five-way tie for third place. No surprise.

This list contains thirty good habits to form for better mental health. Because in reality, that’s what happiness brings. It can also lower blood pressure and drop adrenal levels associated with stress.

Of course, no research is “one and done.” I ended up with a four-way tie for third place. So I made this meme and let my friends help me narrow the choices down a second time.


I have an amazing tribe. Although this second request didn’t gender the same flurry of interest, enough people responded that I could determine a clear third, fourth and fifth place.
In the end, my peeps helped me build this “Top 5” list (for those of you who like it short and sweet):


My Top 10 Habits for Happiness

Of course, my personal list doesn’t coincide with the masses of public opinion. It rarely does. I’m unique that way.

Here’s how I would prioritize the habits for happiness. The first two directly coincide with recent annual themes for me. I focused attention on the area of showing gratitude (remember #365DaysofGratitude) and thinking positively.

1. Show gratitude
2. Accentuate the positive
3. Smile. Smile. Smile
4. Choose faith over fear (As one person pointed out, meditating on scripture and prayer should be on the list. I think they’re incorporated here. How can I have faith without them?)
5. Let go of the baggage (Don’t hold grudges. Don’t rehearse wrongs. Don’t look for fault everywhere. Sing with Elsa, “Let it Go.”)
6. Live truthfully and honestly (yes, I combined two because they are twins)
7. Dream big and work hard for the dream (dreaming big alone is the path to disappointment and discouragement, but if you dream it and planto achieve it and then work your plan…good times!)
8. Build a healthy body (yes, I’m a cheater because eating well, exercising, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep go here)
9. Listen to understand
10. No excuses or self-justification. Own it.

I’m a writer, so a few things about the original list bugged me. Some of the points meant the same thing. Or close enough. Others were tied together–inseparable to my way of thinking.

What is your top habit for happiness? If you do this ONE THING, you will have a better day.

A Word to the Wise–or the Wanna-Be Wise

Years ago, a pastor suggested reading through the Book of Proverbs every month. One chapter per day, 31 chapters in the book, seemed like a reasonable idea. Especially if you’re looking to be wise.

Wisdom isn’t a highly sought after commodity in many circles. People are content to “know enough” to do their jobs, take care of their family and have a good time.

We know I’m a recovering Type A perfectionist, so the thought of NOT being wise rubs me the wrong way. I mean, if it’s as simple as reading a chapter from the Bible every day, why not?

Nothing is ever that simple.

This month, I’m encouraging myself to reinstate this practice that has fallen into a slump lately. After all, there are YouVersion reading plans, so why do the same old, same old? (This month, why not do both? That’s my plan.)

Because God’s Word is a living book. Every month a different verse will stand out or stomp my toes.

I haven’t attained wisdom status yet. (I know that shocks all of you.)

So, I’m sharing the first week of daily reading memes here. Maybe you’re looking for some wisdom in a world gone crazy with blame and accusation. Why not give A Proverb a Day a test drive?

I know I’m a day behind for the week, but bear with me.

Monday: Read Proverbs chapter 2

Tuesday: Read Proverbs chapter 3

Wednesday: Read Proverbs chapter 4

Thursday: Read Proverbs chapter 5

Friday: Read Proverbs chapter 6

Saturday: Read Proverbs chapter 7

Look at that! One week of considering words of wisdom is in the bank. Don’t you feel wiser already?

What is your definition of wisdom? How do you cultivate it in your life?

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