Thursday, April 19, 2018

Meet Evie Parker from Till the Storm Passes By

Allow me to introduce to you the heroine of Till the Storm Passes By, the first book in my Alaskan Waters trilogy.

Hello! My name is Evie Parker. I teach fourth grade in Jamestown on Conanicut Island in Rhode Island, where I grew up. Since I'm not married, I still live with my parents, Louise and Jack Parker. My father owns a hotel on the waterfront overlooking Narragansett Bay toward Newport. He's rarely home except to sleep.

Beavertail State Park, RI Courtesy Google.com
My favorite place to get away to ponder my life is Beavertail Lighthouse (for more about Beavertail, click here) just a few miles from our house. The ocean surrounds it on three sides. Sitting on the rocks and watching the waves break soothes my mind and soul. I'd love to take you there.

Waves Breaking at Beavertail Courtesy Google.com
By way of introduction, allow me to show you the prologue to the book I'm writing to my darling baby girl, Kristina Louise.

"As I hold you in my arms and breathe in your sweetness, I feel great joy and pride. Whenever I tuck you into your crib, I pray we will enjoy a long and wonderful life together. No mother or daughter is ever prepared for anything else, but because of what has happened to me, I know the worst can happen.

"That's why I am writing this story. I want you to know me and the story of my life even if I were to be suddenly taken from you, as my mother was. How I have wished she had done the same for me! It would have spared me much anguish.

"My growing up years seemed mundane and uneventful except for a recurring nightmare that traumatized my childhood, so I will begin my tale with the first sign of the gathering storm that would alter my life forever."

"Mommy! Mommy! Wake up!" a little girl screams. But the woman on the beach lies cold and wet and still.

I awake with a start. A profound sense of loss sucks the breath from my lungs. My heart throbs and my head pounds. My throat is parched, yet I shiver in my sweat-damp nightgown. I press my hands to my cheeks and find them wet with tears.

"Why now?" I moan. I haven't had this nightmare in years. I thought I'd outgrown it along with my fear of the dark and the bogeyman.

What does my dream mean? Who is the woman I call "Mommy"? She doesn't look at all like my mother. Maybe I had the dream again because I'm worried about her. She's not been well, but she refuses to see the doctor.

Trying not to disturb her, I slip out of the house and walk to Carr Elementary School where I teach fourth grade. My best friend, Jean, who also teaches at my school, tries to help me figure out what the nightmare means, but that evening at choir practice where I play the piano for church, my boyfriend, Carl, reminds me of my father when he just laughs it off.

My father is distant, harsh, and uncaring. I don't want to marry a man like him. Everyone says Carl is a dream catch--ambitious, good-looking, and popular. For the first time, I begin to wonder if I really want to marry Carl.

An early spring blizzard and a deathbed confession settle the matter. Although it scares me to death to travel so far in 1953, I decide to fly all the way to Juneau in the Territory of Alaska to unravel a past shrouded in mystery.

A plane Evie flew on in 1953 Courtesy Google.com
I invite you to come along with me as I search for answers, but let me warn you, we will face many storms along the way. I often wonder if I will be ever able to forgive and find true love.

Read Evie's story in Till the Storm Passes By,  Book One in my Alaskan Waters Trilogy, available in paperback and e-book, all readers--Kindle, Nook, iTunes, etc. For more information about my books, see my website: www.annaleeconti.com.



Thursday, April 12, 2018

Meet Violet Channing from Beside Still Waters

Allow me to introduce you to Violet Channing, heroine of my latest book, Beside Still Waters.

Hello! My name is Violet Channing. Orphaned at a young age, I find myself tossed about by life’s turbulent waters when my Aunt Mabel who raised me dies.

I always wanted to be a teacher, but my education was cut short by the untimely death of my Uncle Chester. He made poor business decisions, and as a result, my aunt lost their large Victorian house in a wealthy neighborhood to the creditors at his death.

In order to support us, I had to quit normal school at the age of 18 and take the only job I could find for an unskilled woman in 1915 Boston as a seamstress in a ramshackle wooden garment factory. With its accumulated dust and lint, it was a tinderbox. Fire is my greatest fear.

My wages only afforded Aunt Mabel and me a cold-water flat in a dirty tenement with stark chimneys that belched soot-ladened air. When Aunt Mabel got sick, we couldn’t afford a doctor.

“It’s just a cold,” she said. But when she began to cough up blood, I quit taking a lunch to work so we could pay his fee.

“Consumption,” he told Aunt Mabel. “Keep warm and rest.” Then, he called me aside. “There’s nothing I can do for her. Her lungs are too far gone. She probably only has a few weeks.”

Heartsick, I quit my job to take care of her.


Now, she’s gone, and I have to figure out what to do with my future. I can’t bear to go back to that firetrap of a factory.

At the corner grocery, I buy a few necessities and a copy of the Boston Globe with the last of my money. In the corner of the Classifieds, an ad catches my eye: “WANTED: a young lady to be a companion and tutor to a sick child.”

I read the fine print. No teaching credentials required. Room and board provided. Can this be the answer? Before I grow fainthearted, I pen an application and mail if off to the address.

A week later, I receive a cream-colored envelope addressed to me in a feminine hand. Excitement pulses through me as I withdraw the note, which requests that I come for an interview on Saturday at one o’clock in the afternoon.

Laying aside my mourning clothes, I dress carefully in my best, though slightly out of fashion, outfit. At the address, a three-story brick house in Cambridge, a gracious lady invites me in. Over tea and snickerdoodles, a treat I hadn’t enjoyed since my uncle died, Mrs. Henderson describes the job.

Her granddaughter, Jenny, is recovering from rheumatic fever. Her mother has died, and the girl’s father needs a nanny and tutor for her as he has to be away frequently on his job as a railroad engineer.

The job offer sounds too good to be true until she tells me where they live—in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory!

Uncle Chester had regaled Aunt Mabel and me with his reading of Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” All I know about the Yukon is that it is wild and frigid. Do I have the courage to go there?

Will I be jumping from a city firetrap 
into frozen wilderness icebox?

I think of my shabby apartment. I have nothing to keep me here, but will I be jumping from a city firetrap into frozen wilderness icebox? I decide to take the leap.

Vanderbilt Reef in Lynn Canal in Southeast Alaska
Sailing up the Inside Passage of Alaska on my way to Whitehorse, I fall in love with a dashing Yukon riverboat captain. But do we live happily ever after? That’s a secret revealed only in Beside Still Waters.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Violet. Visit my website at www.annaleeconti.com to learn more about Beside Still Waters, Book 3, as well as the other historical Christian novels in my Alaska Waters Trilogy.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Never Give Up!

 Although there are several versions, I love this poem by an unknown author:

Two frogs fell into a can of cream--or so I've heard it told;
The sides of the can were shiny and steep. The cream was deep and cold.
"Oh, what's the use?" said No. 1, "'tis fate--no help's around--
"Goodbye, my friend! Goodbye, sad world!" And weeping still, he drowned.

But No. 2 of sterner stuff, dog-paddled in surprise,
The while he wiped his creamy face and dried his creamy eyes.
"I'll swim awhile, at least," he said--or so it has been said--
"It wouldn't really help the world if one more frog was dead."
An hour or two he kicked and swam--not once he stopped to mutter,
But kicked and swam, and swam and kicked, then hopped out, via butter.

How many times are we tempted to give up when troubles come our way. But let's follow the advice of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 6:9:


Many discouraged Christians have given up not knowing that success was just around the corner. So like Frog No. 2, even though the situation looks hopeless, don't give up.

I read recently of a person who was fired from her job. Instead of getting depressed, she used the job loss to spur her on to a complete change of vocation, and she became quite successful.

I too have had that experience. While my husband was in seminary, I lost a job which we needed to cover our living expenses. But the Lord provided another employment opportunity that led me into writing, which has become my life-long vocation.

My Grandma Personeus, pioneer missionary to Alaska for 65 years, taught me to spell "disappointments" as "His appointments." Experience has proven her right.

Are you facing a disappointment? Are you discouraged? Don't give up. Continue to do what is right and good. God has promised you "will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time."


I experienced many disappointments along the way to getting my first book, Frontiers of Faith, published. With perseverance, I finally succeeded. Visit my website to see more about my books.



Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Christian's D-Day

As Good Friday and Easter approach, my thoughts turn to an event in history that illustrates of the significance of Calvary:

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces under the command of General Eisenhower surprised Hitler's armies by invading the Continent across the English Channel. That day changed the course of history.


By nightfall, 156,000 Allied soldiers were on the ground in Normandy and had established the beachhead. The way was opened that day for another million troops to enter Europe by July 1. Although Germany did not surrender until nearly a year later on May 7, 1945, and there were many more casualties during that time than for any other period of the war, the outcome of World War II was determined on D-Day. It was only a matter of time until the war was over.


The death of our Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem on the cross at Calvary is the Christian's D-Day. By His death, He invaded the territory Satan usurped in the Garden of Eden, and the outcome of the battle against sin and Satan was decided that day when Jesus cried, "It is finished!"

Until Christ returns to earth, we are still in the battle, but the outcome is certain. We win!

A number of years after the surrender of the Japanese that ended World War II, a handful of Japanese soldiers were discovered on a remote island in the Pacific. They had not heard that the war was over. They thought they were still fighting.

One of my favorite songs written by Bill and Gloria Gaither is "It Is Finished!" It compares the battles raging in many hearts to being prisoners of war:

But in my heart the battle was still raging;
Not all prisoners of war had come home.
They were battlefields of my own making.
I didn't know that the war had been won.

Are you still struggling in "battlefields of your own making"? Has Satan made you his "prisoner of war"?

To you, I declare the good news: I've read the end of the Book. Because of Christ's sacrifice, good wins over evil. "It is finished!"

Christ has already won the battle against the devil, sin, death, sickness, and evil when He invaded this earth with the power of His divine love and was "pierced for our transgressions" and "was crushed for our iniquities." He took the "punishment for our peace" when He died on the Cross for our sins, and "by His wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). 


He arose victorious over the grave. He has completed the work of salvation. The victory is ours for the claiming. We can do nothing to earn it. It is a free gift paid in full on Calvary. By faith, we accept His gift and serve Him in glad response.

It is only a matter of time until "every knee will bow...and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2:10-11). The only thing left for us to decide is which side we are on.

Are we living today like we know the battle is finished and the victory is ours?

(Photos courtesy Google.com)





Thursday, March 22, 2018

Encourage Each Other

Flying into Pelican Courtesy Google.com
When I was a child, my maternal grandparents, the C. C. Personeuses, built and pastored the only church in the tiny fishing village of Pelican on Chichagof Island in Southeastern Alaska. The only way in and out of that town was by boat or by small amphibious airplane.

Born in 1888, my grandmother had learned to travel by automobile, train, and boats large and small in her lifetime, but flying over the mountains and the sea in a tiny airplane that took off and landed on the water tested her faith.

Alaska Coastal Airlines in Juneau c. 1953, where my dad was boss of cargo 1948-1958
Courtesy Google.com
When I was about 4 years old, my family flew in from Juneau for a visit. When they returned home, I stayed on for a longer visit. When it was time for me to fly home, my father, who worked for Alaska Coastal Airlines, the seaplanes that serviced Pelican, sent word that he had arranged for me to sit in the copilot's seat for the return trip so I wouldn't be alone.

Flying over the mountains into Pelican (lower left corner)
Courtesy Google.com
As my grandmother watched me board that Grumman Goose, the Lord spoke to her heart. "If that child can trust her father enough to get on that plane, then why can't you trust Me, your Heavenly Father, enough to see that you fly safely too?"

From that day forward, my grandmother flew back and forth  from Pelican to Juneau and across the United States many times in planes both large and small without fear.

In Romans 1:12, the Apostle Paul describes how the faith of the Christians in Rome encouraged his faith:

That you and I may be mutually encouraged 
by each other's faith.

In the same way, my grandmother's faith encouraged me many times throughout my life to trust the Lord just as she did. In this instance, my own childlike faith helped her conquer her reluctance to fly.

God's plan for each of His children is that we encourage each other in this walk of faith. Our walk with the Lord can be twice as strong when join with others of like precious faith. 

Who encourages you in your walk with the Lord? Who do you encourage?  


For more encouraging stories of living by faith, see my book, Frontiers of Faith, the Story of Charles C. and Florence Personeus, Pioneer Missionaries to Alaska, "The Last Frontier," 1917-1982, available on my website, www.annaleeconti.com.


You may also enjoy reading my Alaskan Waters trilogy set in Alaska where I grew up in the fifties and sixties. Available in e-book for all e-readers and in trade paperback also on my website.




Thursday, March 15, 2018

Watch Out for Little Foxes!


Little foxes are so cute you wonder how they can do any damage, yet Solomon warns us that it is the little foxes that spoil the vines:


Catch for us the foxes, 
the little foxes that
ruin the vineyards.
Song of Solomon 2:15, NIV




Some years ago, Robert A. Cook, then president of the National Religious Broadcasters, wrote something that recently caught my attention: "We tend to think of our lives as being shaped by great decisions such as, for example, where shall I study, whom shall I marry, what job shall I have, what house or business property shall I buy, shall I divorce or tough it through an unpleasant marriage, shall I throw my child out because he is on drugs and steals from me, or shall I keep him at home and hope?"

Of course, all of those decisions are very important and will certainly affect the outcome of our lives. But we make hundreds of other decisions in life that turn out to be more important in terms of our life-long direction. Our real character and our final destiny are determined by the routine decisions we make every day of our lives.

Like the "little foxes that ruin the tender grapes," our seemingly insignificant daily decisions can derail even our best intentions. Some things we do without making a conscious choice. For example, we intend to check our email and get hooked playing a game. Precious time is wasted on something of no real lasting value.

We become what we repeatedly do.
--Sean Covey

I remember watching a demonstration of how habits are formed. The presenter wrapped one thread around the clasped hands of another. He easily broke the ties. Then the present wrapped many threads around the clasped hands until the person was no longer able to break the strands. A habit had been formed. Habits may be either good or bad, but they all begin with doing it the first time. Good habits require us to be intentional, whereas we can easily fall into bad habits, which, apart from the grace of God, can be difficult to break.

Here is a checklist to help us evaluate our day-to-day choices:
  • Do I observe small courtesies, such as please, thank you, and what is your opinion? 
  • Do I tell the truth (all of it) in love?
  • Do I take the time to really listen to the other person, whether it be spouse, child, employer, employee, client, neighbor, or friend?
  • Do I let Christ monitor my thoughts and daydreams, or do I allow my mind to become the garbage dump of suppressed emotions, lust, rage, malice, and covetousness?
  • Do I pray every day about everything?
  • Do I really put Christ first in my daily life, or is my dedication a facade which is shown periodically in church?
  • Do I ask for and receive God's help when I am on the verge of losing my temper, or do I go ahead and blow my top regardless of who gets hurt?
  • Do I, in the final analysis, have God and His will on my mind during my workday, or do I take a merely secular approach to living?
  • Do I treat family and coworkers in a manner that demonstrates to them that Christ is real to me in my life?
  • Do I use my money and my job as a ministry and exercise stewardship, or am I only interested in getting and keeping all I can? What do my daily calendar and checkbook say about my actual choices in these matters?

When I was growing up in Sunday school, we used to sing a little chorus that sums it up well:

Dig them out; get them gone; 
all the little bunnies in the field of corn:
jealousy, envy, malice, and pride, 
all the other sins that in the heart abide.

What seems small and unimportant here counts really big for eternity. Are we living with eternity's values in view? What do our daily decisions say about whom we are really serving? Let's get rid of those "little foxes" that spoil the vines.






Thursday, March 8, 2018

Flattery or Frankness?

When I hear flattery, I recall a favorite childhood memory of my father entertaining us by dramatically reciting Aesop's fable, "The Fox and the Crow," in French. Even though we didn't speak or understand French, his expressions and hand gestures made us understand every word

Courtesy Google.com
A crow who had stolen a piece of cheese was flying toward the top of a tree, where she hoped to enjoy it, when a fox spotted her. The wily fox came up with a plan to get that piece of cheese for his own supper.

The fox sat under the tree and in his most polite tones said, "Good day, Mistress Crow! How well you look today! Your wings are so glossy, and your breast is the breast of an eagle. And your claws--I beg your pardon--your talons are as strong as steel. I have not heard your voice, but I'm certain it must surpass that of any other bird just as your beauty does."

The vain crow believed every word the fox had spoken. She waggled her tail and flapped her wings in pleasure. She especially liked what the fox said about her voice because sometimes she had been told that her caw sounded a bit rusty.

Intending to surprise the fox with her beautiful song, she opened her beak wide. Down dropped the cheese into the clutches of the wily fox. As he walked away, licking his chops, he said to the silly crow, "The next time someone praises your beauty, be sure to hold your tongue."

The moral of this story, of course, is that flatterers are not to be trusted. And that is why, in the long run, frankness is appreciated more than flattery.

The Book of Proverbs has a lot to say about flattery:


"In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery" (Proverbs 28:13, NLT).

"A lying tongue hates its victims, and flattery causes ruin" (Proverbs 26:28, NLT).

"Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy" (Proverbs 27:6, NLT).

Nobody really likes criticism. It can "wound" us and make us angry. We may feel that we are being attacked personally and are being rejected, instead of just our ideas or actions.

Billy Graham was once asked how he handled criticism. He responded to the effect that he handled it the same way he reacted to praise. He evaluated it to extract the truth and ignored the rest.

Initially, flattery makes us feel good, but it can also be our downfall, just as the vain crow discovered.
This humorous fable can help us appreciate constructive criticism and grow by it but become immune to the vanity that flattery can cause.

We must learn to react graciously to criticism and take flattery with a grain of salt. In addition, we need to make sure that our words are always constructive and trustworthy, not full of flattery and deceit. As  Christians, we must learn to "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Soaring with Eagles

As a teenager growing up in Seward, Alaska, I lived at the foot of 3,000-foot Mt. Marathon. Every Fourth of July the town hosted a race from the center of town up that mountain and back. People came from all over the world to compete.

Seward, Alaska, at the foot of Mt. Marathon
Several times I too climbed to the top of that mountain. Not in the race, though! My legs ached, and my lungs screamed for air, but what a vista awaited at the top!

Have you ever noticed that towns are not usually built at the top of mountains? I couldn't stay up there and be of any use to anyone else. I had to go back down to my town.

That mountaintop experience, however, gave me a grand perspective of the setting in which I lived. From sea level, I couldn't see all the mountains that unfolded behind Mt. Marathon and all the ice fields and waterways beyond. My town was only a small part of my very big state.

Ephesians 2:6 tells us that God has saved us by His grace and raised us up with Christ to sit with Him in heavenly places. Why? To give us a bird's eye view of His glorious eternal plans for us and all humankind.

But He doesn't want us to stay on the mountaintop yet. He has work for us to do here. He sends us back down from the mountaintop experience to walk among people to show them the great mercy and grace of God.

Many Christians are like chickens, pecking around in the dirt and never using their wings to rise above the storms of life to gain perspective and renewal of strength. God wants His children to soar like eagles.


Soaring is not hard work. Eagles simply set their wings and allow the very winds that bring the storms to carry them along above the fray.

God wants us to soar with Him and see life from His perspective. Only after we have been refreshed by His Holy Spirit can we come down and run life's race without growing weary and walk among people and not faint.

Are you more like a chicken or an eagle? How can you soar with God and be refreshed spiritually today?


To order the following faith-building stories, see www.annaleeconti.com

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Amazing Power of Love


All the discussion this past week about the solution to school shooting reminded me of a story I read years ago in a little magazine entitled, Bits & Pieces. At the time (in the mid-seventies), I worked in the Church School Literature Department at Gospel Publishing House in Springfield, Missouri

According to the piece, a professor at Johns Hopkins University once gave a group of graduate students an assignment to go to the slums and find 200 boys between the ages of 12 and 16, investigate their background and environment, and then predict their chances for the future.

After consulting social statistics, talking to the boys, and compiling much data, the students concluded that 90 percent of those boys would spend some time in jail.

Twenty-five years later, another group of graduate students was given the job of testing the prediction. They went back to the slums and found that some of the boys, now men, were still there, a few had died, and some had moved away, but the students were able to contact 180 of the original 200 boys.

They were amazed to discover that only four of the entire group had ever been sent to jail.

Why was it that these men, who had lived in a breeding place for crime, had such a surprisingly good record? The researchers were continually told, "Well, there was a teacher...."

The researchers pressed further and found that in 75 percent of the cases it was the same woman. The researchers located this teacher, now living in a home for retired teachers.

"How did you exert such a remarkable influence over a group of slum children?" they asked her. "Can you give us any reason why these boys should have remembered you?"

"No, I really can't," she said. Then, thinking back over the years, she mused, more to herself than to her questioners. "I loved those boys...."

O, the amazing power of love!

Those boys had been successful against all odds because of the love of one teacher.

And in life we all can be "more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Roman 8:37).

No matter what our circumstances, we can succeed because of the love of Christ. We can conquer sin and death and temptation and whatever challenges we face. We can conquer through Him who loves us!

Yesterday, with the home going of Billy Graham, the news and social media has come alive with tributes to his life and ministry. The love of Christ for each of us, no matter what we've done, no matter our station in life, was the lifelong message of "America's Pastor."


I don't think it is coincidence that Billy Graham was welcomed home to heaven at this time when America so needs to hear his message again. Even in his death he still speaks.

Here is a poem I wrote in 2009. It holds truth for today too:

WITHOUT AMERICA

On river banks no "alabaster cities gleam"
Because on barren shores no Pilgrim Fathers' dream
Resulted in great sweat and toil
To coax food and shelter from the soil
To establish a fledgling colony,
An experiment in democracy.

No Declaration of Independence
That certain rights are granted us by Providence;
No freedom of worship, speech, or press
In our Constitution were addressed;
No struggle for equality;
No wars to tear down tyranny.

No "shining city upon a hill,"
No vision to the world to spill
That man his own dreams can fulfill
For better or worse, for good or ill;
The world without America's ideal
Would certainly have a much darker feel.

Without a Statue of Liberty
To welcome those in poverty,
Without our inventions in technology
And medical aid to the world's society,
The earth without America's grace
Would be a less hospitable place.

Yet we've somehow lost our way,
And now the news reports each day
The rampant greed and shocking strife
And a less gentle way of life,
Of which I want to have no part,
And that surely saddens my heart.

The only solution I know that is real
Is to return to God with a great zeal.
To repent of all our self-centered ways,
And seek His guidance all of our days.
For then He will hear in heaven, and
He'll forgive and heal our beloved land.

© AnnaLee Conti, 2009


Those of us who call ourselves Christians--may we recommit ourselves to sharing the love of Jesus just as Billy Graham did. Christ is the only answer to our problems. Only He can heal our sin-sick souls and restore us spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Only He can heal our land.

Let us turn from our wicked ways and humble ourselves and pray.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Is It of God?

When I was a freshman in college, I heard a missionary speak. He challenged us to considered ourselves called to fulltime ministry unless God specifically told us otherwise. Growing up in a missionary family, I had always considered the possibility of becoming a missionary, but that night, I prayed, "Lord, I'm willing. Use the circumstances of my life to lead me into Your will for my life."

A few months later, my hometown of Seward, Alaska, was nearly destroyed in the Great Alaska Earthquake on Good Friday 1964 that registered 9.2, the strongest earthquake to ever hit North America in recorded history.

Destruction after 1964 earthquake in Seward, Alaska
Courtesy NOAA


My summer job was gone. I had no money to return to college. But God used that circumstance to lead me to a new college, where I received a scholarship and met my husband. We eventually entered fulltime ministry. We have pastored churches in New York State for 40 years now, including planting a new church. (To read the full story of God's direction in my life through that earthquake, see In a Matter of Minutes Parts 1-5.)
Many times over the years in our pastorates, people would say to us, "God told me____." Sometimes, the "messages" made us scratch our heads and wonder if God was confused. Of course, it wasn't God who was mixed up!

As Christians, we want to do God's will. But how can we recognize His voice? How does God guide us along the best pathway for our lives?

Many Christians determine God's will by inner feelings or impressions--fleeting or subtle emotions that lead us to accept a job, move, or get married. But are such impressions valid expressions of God's will?

John Wesley (1703-1791), the English revivalist and founder of Methodism, wrote: Do not hastily ascribe things to God. Do not easily suppose dreams, voices, impressions, visions, or revelations to be from God. They may be from Him. They may be from nature. They may be from the Devil. Therefore, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be from God.

 Feelings and impressions come from three main sources:
  1. God through the Holy Spirit
  2. Satan, the devil, who is the "father of all lies"
  3. Our own human spirit, but our perceptions can be influenced by our health or fatigue, our level of confidence, our humanness. We can easily talk ourselves into what we want.
That is why 1 John 4:1 tells us

In fact, in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, the Apostle Paul admonishes us to test everything. So many voices speak to us claiming to be God or the way to truth. Many charismatic "false prophets" have led their flocks astray because the people did not "test the spirits." It is our responsibility to test everything, including our feelings and impressions, and even what our pastors and religious leaders preach, as the Bereans did when Paul preached the gospel to them (see Acts 17:10-12).

How can we distinguish between God's voice and the devil's lies? Here are four tests:
  1. Is it in harmony with Scriptures? Since God never changes, guidance from God will never contradict His Word. And it will never come from messengers forbidden in His Word, such as fortunetellers or astrologists. We must study the entire counsel of God, not just "proof texts."
  2. Is it right? Impressions from God will always conform to universal principles of morality and decency. They will not depreciate human life and dignity, family integrity, or traditional Christian values.
  3. Is it providential? God will open and close doors through circumstances and events, as He did in my life, and sometimes even through divine intervention.
  4. Is it reasonable? Is it consistent with my abilities, gifts, character, and situation in life? Will it contribute to the Kingdom of God?
Next time you hear a sermon or someone says, "God told me___," apply these tests honestly and prayerfully, and you will not be led astray.

Share an experience you've had in which God has opened or closed doors in your life.


My books tell stories of God's guidance. Check them out at www.annaleeconti.com.








Thursday, February 8, 2018

Parable of the Aspens

This winter, terrible blizzards in our northern states have frequently been in the news. One especially caught my attention: in early December 2017, a snowfall of 10 inches per hour (among the most rapid rates of snowfall ever recorded anywhere) in Thompson Pass on the Richardson Highway to Valdez, Alaska (where Bob and I got married). Buried in 20 feet of snow, the road to Valdez was closed for nearly a week.

Clearing 20 feet of snow from Thompson Pass
Courtesy of www.adn.com/alaska-news/weather/2017/12/08/
My Grandpa Personeus shoveling snow in Valdez
Valdez, a town of about 4,000, is no stranger to big snow dumps. Sitting in a cove on Prince William Sound, it is considered the snowiest town in the United States, averaging 300 inches per year. Thompson Pass, at 2,678 feet above sea level, is the snowiest reporting station in the nation, getting between 600 to 900 inches per year.

Due to lake-effect snow, blizzards are common occurrences in New York State (where I  now live) too. But the Blizzard of 1996 lives in my memory. It began to snow in the Mid-Hudson Valley on the first Sunday of January as Bob and I candidated to be called as pastors of Phillipstown Assembly of God.near Cold Spring, NY. We were elected in a business meeting after the morning service.

As soon as the vote was announced, we all dashed to our cars and plowed through rapidly deepening snow to get home, where we were snowed in for several days. After the snowfall of about two feet, the weather suddenly warmed up. It rained--hard, accompanied by strong winds, melting much of the snow very quickly.

Outside our apartment's balcony, several tall aspens lay uprooted, one narrowly missing our apartment in its fall. Driving down the road from our apartment, we were surprised to see that an entire forest of tall aspens on one hillside had been laid out flat all in the same direction, as though a huge hand had swept over them and pushed them down.

Aspens on a hillside in fall
Courtesy US Forest Service
Why were the aspens uprooted, while many other tall trees still stood?

While aspens grow tall quickly, they have a shallow though interconnected root system. The snow and rain loosened the soil, and the strong wind easily toppled them because their roots did not grown down deep enough to hold them upright.

The aspens teach us a spiritual lesson. In addition to providing nourishment, roots provide trees with stability. When roots rot or are too shallow, a tree becomes prey to disease and weather. The aspens appeared to be tall and sturdy, but their heart-shaped leaves waving cheerily in the breeze were deceptive. When the rains and winds came, they fell.

Paul wrote to the Colossians admonishing them to
Courtesy Google.com
In corporate worship, Bible study, and prayer, we grow spiritually. Christ's teachings nourish our souls and strengthen us so we can stand firm and tall in the storms and adversities of life.

Jesus told a parable about a man who built his house on the rock, and another one who built his on the sand. When the storms came and beat upon the houses, the one built on the rock stood firm, but the one on the sand had a great fall. 

Growing up in coastal Alaska, I often observed trees growing out of great cliffs. Though buffeted by even hurricane-force winds, they stood tall and strong. When a tree's roots grow into a rock, the tree is more stable. Jesus is the Rock on which we need to build our lives.

What do you need to do today to let the roots of your life "grow down into Him"?



Thursday, February 1, 2018

Guest Blog:Truths I Learned from Fiction


An Author Spotlight and my guest blog, "Truths I learned from Fiction," just went live today.


The interview includes how I began writing and where I got my inspiration for my books. 

To read the blog, click here:

https://allbettsareoff.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/annalee-conti-author-spotlight/.

Read and leave a comment on the "allbetsareoff" site to be entered in a drawing for one Kindle e-book from my Alaskan Waters Trilogy (your choice of Book 1, 2, or 3).



Thursday, January 25, 2018

Guilty!

“You’re guilty!”

“You’re a failure!”

“You’ve done it again!”

“These accusations were not audible charges leveled by a stern judge, a thundering preacher, or an angry parent. They are the self-criticisms and condemnations deep in the soul of every man...”

Those words on the back of a small paperback book, Guilt and Freedom, leaped out at me. That’s how I believed God viewed me.

When I was 5 years old, I’d invited Jesus into my life to be my personal Savior. I knew God loved me, but I didn’t understand then just how much He enjoys His relationship with us as His children.

During my early years, my parents operated a children’s home. As their eldest child, I can’t count
how many times I heard my mother say, “AnnaLee, you’ve got to set a good example for the other children.” That was a heavy load for a young girl to carry. Later, as a P.K. (pastor’s kid), it was, “Set a good example for the church kids.”

My mother was a wonderful, loving mother, but she was a multi-talented perfectionist. Everything I did, she would tell me how to do it better. I began to feel that I could never please her. Soon, I began to expect perfection of myself too, but I couldn’t please myself either.

In my childish understanding, I believed that God expected me to be perfect too—to act like a mature Christian even though I was still a child. I believed I must never feel anger and jealousy because they were sins. It wasn’t until years later that I understood that they are God-given emotions to be harnessed for our well-being. “Be angry and sin not,” Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:26.

No matter how hard I tried to be perfectly good, I made mistakes. I was cranky. I fought with my sister. I got jealous. I complained about chores. I would ask God to forgive me, but I imagined Him checking His records and scolding, “You’ve done it again? I’ll forgive you this time. Just don’t ever do it again.” Then I’d fail again.

Well into adulthood, I carried a lot of guilt on my shoulders.

When I became a mother, I really enjoyed watching my son grow and learn to sit up, to walk, to talk, to feed himself. Oh, he fell down many times as he learned to walk. He’d cry. Did I scold him when he fell down? Of course not! I picked him up, hugged him, kissed his boo-boos, and encourage him to try again. When he learned something new, I was very proud of his progress. Even though he wasn’t doing anything perfectly, I enjoyed my son.

Around that time, I discovered that little book entitled Guilt and Freedom, by Dr. Bruce Narramore and Bill Counts. As I read it, I came to understand God in a whole new way that set me free. God knows we are human. As our Heavenly Father, He not only loves His children, He enjoys us just as  we enjoy ours. God is even more patient with us as we learn and grow. When we are trying to obey Him but make mistakes, He is quick to forgive us when we repent (turn our backs on sin), confess it, and ask His forgiveness.

When we humans forgive, we still remember the injury. But God is not like us in that respect. When we confess our sins, God not only forgives us, but our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus and  erased from God’s sight, never to be remembered against us again (Isaiah 43:25). Our sins are expunged from the record. The slate is wiped clean. We enjoy freedom from guilt and have fellowship with God.

God enjoys our journey with Him.

Like the song says, “I am a friend of God; He calls me “Friend.” That thought overwhelms me. My Creator thinks of me as His friend!

For more than 65 years I’ve been walking with Him, and He’s never disappointed me.

At times my walk was like a child taking his first steps, but God has never kicked me when I was down. He always reaches out His hand and lifts me up.
  • He’s been with me through times of confusion, trouble, sorrow. 
  • He gives me peace and joy that nothing can take away.
  • As I read and study His love letters to me in the Bible, He gives me direction for my life and guidance for every problem.
  • When I have failed Him, He’s been faithful to forgive the moment I repent and call out to Him for forgiveness and help.
As a young girl, I learned a chorus that went, “Take the whole world, but give me Jesus.” I still say that because as long as I cling to Jesus as my Friend, I have everything I need:
  • Jesus assures me of salvation from sin. 
  • Jesus makes beauty out of our brokenness.
  • Jesus provides me with love and a sense of belonging—I’m a child of God and a member of His Family.
  • The God who sees even the tiny sparrow fall and knows the very number of hairs on my head is able to supply all my needs according to His inexhaustible supply.
  • God enables me to live a life that pleases Him.
  • As I walk with Him, He changes my “want to” and satisfies the longings and desires of my changed heart.
My life hasn’t been perfect. No one’s is. I’ve had my share of sorrows, difficulties, and failures, as well as successes and joys. But God has been with me through it all. He’s brought good out of the bad:

God carried me when as a college freshman in 1964 I heard that my hometown of Seward, Alaska, was on fire and the whole town had been wiped off the face of the map in a 9.2 earthquake, the strongest ever to hit North America. For a week I didn't know if I still had a family. 


As a result of that earthquake, 95 percent of the industrial area had been obliterated. I had no way to earn money that summer to go back to college. At the last minute, God provided a scholarship that covered my entire college education. I couldn’t go back to the college of my choice, but at my new school I met my husband.

God protected us when my husband and I, married less than 2 months, were flooded out of our home in the record-breaking flood of the Chena River in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1967.

When my husband shipped out for a year’s tour in the Vietnam War the day before our second wedding anniversary, God comforted us in the lonely hours and preserved our lives. My husband came home safe, the only officer in his advisory unit to come back alive. And I wasn't killed in a serious car accident while he was at war.

When we wanted to start a family and I couldn’t get pregnant, we prayed desperately for a child. In His perfect time, God gave us a son—our only child.

When my beloved foster sister died of cancer, leaving two young children behind, I didn’t get the answer to my prayers that I wanted, but God walked through that valley of the shadow of death with us. Even though I don’t understand all of God’s ways, I still believe God is good.

Through times of financial crisis, God supplied our needs, not necessarily our wants, but we never went hungry or homeless. God’s been with me through three serious car accidents, numerous injuries, surgeries, and health problems. Through sorrow and emotional hurts, God was there to comfort me. He’s taught me that my disappointments are really His appointments.

In spite of my mistakes, God has never walked away from me. When I failed, He always reached out His loving hand and lifted me up. Having a Friend who will “never leave me nor forsake me” has kept me from giving up on myself. 

Today, I can tell you that for 65 years I’ve walked with God, and I’ve found His promises are true. He is a faithful Friend. That’s the wonder of it all—that God, my Creator, walks with me through all my messes, restores me, guides me, and even calls me His friend!

Annie Johnson Flint, twice orphaned and afflicted with crippling arthritis in early adulthood penned this poem with crooked fingers and swollen joints. It been a favorite of mine since my teen years: 

What God Has Promised

God has not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God has not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God has not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, troubles and woe;
He has not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

But God has promised strength for the day
Rest for the laborer, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing kindness, undying love.

Such a Friend! I recommend this Friend to you.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Unsung Hero of Durer's "Praying Hands"

On my wall hangs a carved wooden plaque of Durer's famed "Praying Hands." The ink and pencil sketch on which it is modeled was originally drawn by Albrecht Durer, the greatest German artist of his day. During his life, from 1471 to 1528, he brought a new realism to painting and engraving.

Durer's self-portrait and his "Praying Hands"
Courtesy Google.com
A little known story (whether fable or true is debated) behind Durer's "Praying Hands" tells of the sacrifice of another young man. About 1490, Durer was a struggling painter, working hard to attend classes, but his artistic progress was impeded by having to earn a living for himself.

The other man, an aspiring engraver, came up with a plan. They would toss a coin. The loser would go to work to support both of them so the other could concentrate on his studies. When the winner became successful, he would support the other in his artistic studies. Albrecht won the coin toss.

Albrecht Durer studied under the major artists in the great cities of Europe. His talent soon became apparent in his depictions of the religious scenes he painted. Soon his work was in great demand by churches and monarchs across Europe.

When after four years Albrecht returned to Germany to afford the other man the same opportunity, he discovered that his benefactor had paid dearly for his support. Having worked at hard labor in the mines, his hands were no longer able to hold the delicate instruments for engraving and woodcuts.

Later, while working on the figure of a disciple in prayer for a larger project, Durer used the other man's hands as his model. Of the hundreds of Durer's beautiful masterpieces, this simple image of praying hands is the best known.

Without the love, labor, and sacrifice of the other young man, Durer could not have succeeded.

Likewise, it takes all of us doing our part in the Kingdom of God for God's work to succeed. Some of us are called to do the creative parts; others are called to labor to be able to give to support it. Some preach the gospel. Others work to support their efforts financially and prayerfully. Both are essential. Together, we can do more for Christ than any of us can do alone.

"The Songs of the Reaper," words and lyrics by William A. Spencer (1886), a hymn I learned years ago, depicts Paul's writings in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9:

The seeds I have scattered in springtime with weeping,
And watered with tears and with dews from on high;
Another may shout when the harvester's reaping
Shall gathered my grain in the "sweet by  and by."

Refrain:
Over and over, yes, deeper and deeper
My heart is pierced through with life's sorrowing cry,
But the tears of the sower and songs of the reaper 
Shall mingle together in joy by and by.

Another may reap what in springtime I've planted,
Another rejoice in the fruit of my pain,
Not knowing my tears when in summer I fainted
While toiling sad-hearted in the sunshine and rain.

The thorns will have choked and the summers' suns blasted
The most of the seed which in springtime I've sown;
But the Lord who has watched while my weary toil lasted
Will give me a harvest for what I have done.

Many a pastor and missionary could sing this song. I could not write books were it not for the support and sacrifice of my husband.

Who has worked or sacrificed so you could succeed? What can you do to enable another to succeed?


Thursday, January 11, 2018

To Judge or Not to Judge

Some years ago, a young boy walked into a drug store and asked to use the telephone. He asked the operator to give him a certain number.

"Hello, Dr. Anderson?" the boy said. "Do you want to hire a boy to shovel snow, cut the grass, and run errands for you?...

"Oh, you already have a boy? Are you completely satisfied with the boy you have?...

"Okay, then, goodbye, doctor."

As the boy thanked the druggist for the use of the phone, the druggist said, "Just a minute, son. If you are looking for work, I could use a boy like you."

"Thank you, sir, but I have a job," the boy replied.

"But didn't I just hear you trying to get a job from Dr. Anderson?"

"No, sir. You see, I'm the boy who is working for Dr. Anderson. I was just checking up on myself."

Courtesy Google.com
When Jesus told us not to judge, He meant we are not to judge others. But He also told us that we would be known by our fruit, saying, "A tree is known by its fruit" (Matthew 12:33b). That means that we are to be fruit inspectors. We need to judge ourselves just as conscientiously as this young boy did.

I've always loved the poem by Robert Burns, "To a Louse," which contains a very important truth.

Courtesy Google.com
In the poem, Burns is sitting in church behind a woman wearing a very large, fancy hat. She is posturing proudly, not knowing that a louse is crawling all over her bonnet. Burns concludes with these words:

O would some Power the gift be given us
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us...
(the translation is mine)

How true!

The only way we can check up on our spiritual image is to look into the mirror of God's Word and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal our strengths and weaknesses to us, as this quote points out:

Courtesy Google.com
Did you take some time to examine yourself today?