"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

9/29/08

Not Just A Fish Story - Hope in the Depths

I mess up.

A lot.

I lie. I covet. I scream at my kids. I avoid the tough stuff for the easy way out. I cut corners. I grumble. I steal (whether it's joy, time, or material things). I shy away from sharing my faith. I ignore my husband's leading.

I'm not much of a shining example of holiness, am I? I ought to be ashamed of myself. And, do you know what? I am.

When I do something wrong, I am naturally reluctant to tell others about it--other than, occasionally (like right now!) in a very general sense. I guess I have this fear of rejection from those I love--this irrational fear of people being mad at me.

It took my husband a good three days to learn I'd been in a fender bender last year. And no, I didn't finally fess up--he spotted the dent and asked about it. This was not a shining example of marital harmony on my part, was it?

And do you know what? Sometimes I do the same thing with God. I'm reluctant to confess my sins because of how stupid they are, or how ashamed I am of what I have done. Maybe, I think, God is tired of listening to me confess my willful disobedience to Him. Maybe, the evil one whispers in my ear, God won't listen to my prayers anymore. Maybe He won't forgive me, won't restore me. After all, he knows (better than I do!) that I'm just gonna mess up again.

Yet these are not God's ways. It is time for me to learn a lesson of faith and trust in the Lord. And you will never guess where I learned it from last week.

From Jonah, the son of Amittai. Yes, that Jonah. The Jonah who directly disobeyed God's call. The Jonah who was swallowed by a big fish, then puked out three days later. The Jonah who, even after that experience, would have preferred a plant live than the entire population of Ninevah.

I never would have thought, going into this study, that I would have learned a lesson in being a positive child of God from Jonah - unless it were by doing the OPPOSITE of this prophet. Yet, listen to this.
Jonah 2:4 I said, 'I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.'
And how about this?
Jonah 2:7 "When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, LORD,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
Despite messing up and receiving God's punishment (and despite the fact that, before this "assignment" was over, he would disappoint the Lord once again), Jonah had faith that God loved him, that he would again see the holy temple, and that He would hear the prophet's prayers. Now that's assurance. And, of course, he was right. Otherwise, the book of Jonah would have only been a couple chapters long.

Now this is a faith I can use--and one I need to grab onto, no matter how much I screw up. Confessing my sins is not going to make the Lord mad at me, nor will it decrease (or increase, for that matter) His love for me. All I need to do is remember the Lord, and my prayers will rise to Him.

So, no matter how much, or how badly, I mess up, God is there and ready to listen and pull me out of the muck and mire of my sin. And I didn't have to spend three days in a fish's belly to accept it.

Heavenly Father, thank You for teaching me an important lesson through a sinful child of Yours. Thank You for showing me that reaching You in prayer isn't only for the perfect, but for sinners, and repeat sinners, just like Jonah - and me. Help me to turn to you immediately when I sin, without worrying that you will not listen, or get mad at me. And Father, help me to do the same with the people you have put in my path. I love You so, Lord. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

(Oh, and "stay tuned" for my next Jonah lesson - and no, I have NO idea what it will be, but am sure there will be one! - coming soon to a blog near you:D)

9/27/08

Not What I Expected

This absolutely poured out of my heart, through my pen, and onto paper this afternoon. I originally thought I was writing fiction, but God showed me otherwise. I pray that it blesses and touches someone else. I know it has me.
“Hi, Mommmeeeeeeee!”

My son’s voice, almost a scream, decreases in volume as he speeds away on his too-small bicycle. I look up from my clipboard and smile at the streak zooming away in the distance. “Hi, Andrew."

Probably too late to buy him a bike that fits for this year. October is only a few days away, and the rain—and eventually the snow—will prevent him from riding much if at all before the spring thaw, and who knows how much bigger he’ll be by then? He’s not complaining, anyway

Fall has been so slow in coming this year. Here it is, September 27, and I’m in shorts and a t-shirt. It’s probably in the upper 70’s, if not 80. I’m usually drinking hot apple cider by now, but currently a glass of ice cold lemonade sounds much more appealing.

Yet, the autumn signs are upon us. The kids are back in school. They have been for nearly a month. The local grocery store has had Halloween costumes and bags of miniature candy bars at the front of the store for weeks. And the oak tree in front of our house is beginning to put on its fall colors and drop its “clothing” onto the grass below

As I survey the school playground from my vantage point under a small shade tree, I notice that my oak isn’t the only foliage beginning to display its seasonal beauty. The branches above my head, last month covered with a lovely green, are beginning to include tinges of yellow. The grass I sit upon has been sprinkled with those same yellow leaves, along with some brown crinkled ones. No matter the temperature, fall is here, meaning winter is closer than I’d like to think.

I look up to find Andrew has left his bike by me (where his helmet is nobody knows) and is now playing in the sand with his younger sister Annika and two other kids who, from here, appear to be about Annika’s age.

It makes me think of my own childhood. When I was in elementary school, I would always feel more comfortable with younger children. Sure, I had a few friends the same age as I was, but if given the choice, I would opt to play with kids a couple of years younger. I liked their games better—the simplicity of them, I suppose. My step-mother would discourage it, but it certainly didn’t change my preferences. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-teens that the majority of my friends were of my own age group.

I wonder what kinds of struggles Andrew will have as he grows up in a world where he doesn’t quite fit. What do his “second grade friends” think when they see him acting immaturely? Do they whisper about the fact that he’d rather watch “Dora the Explorer” than “Spiderman?” Do they shy away when he’s too demonstrative? Does he understand—will he ever understand— that his awkward movements, his inability at times to control his energy and emotions, are likely to make him a “less than ideal” social companion to some? Does he realize that some people are laughing at—not with—him?

Will he ever be able to think abstractly—beyond the rote memorization where he so excels? Can he truly understand the salvation message? Will his sister, nearly three years younger, soon advance emotionally, intellectually, and socially beyond him? Will that bother him? Her? Me?

As I sit beneath an autumnal tree on this summerish afternoon, I am reminded that life doesn’t always happen the way you suspect it will. Sometimes there are snowflakes in May. Sometimes it’s 80 degrees in autumn. And sometimes your child isn’t exactly what you were dreaming of when the doctor first told you that you were pregnant.

But just because life isn’t predictable doesn’t mean there is no reason to rejoice and thank the One who put the world, and every “off kilter” part of it, in motion. It is all from Him: the summer snow, the autumn heat, and my mildly autistic son. And though life may be hard and, yes, unpredictable, I know Andrew and I will both be richer for it, and that my son will (and has!) bless me and others in ways that he never could if he were “normal.” And because Andrew is undoubtedly my gift from God, I know that he is right where he is supposed to be.

I love you, Andrew, just the way you are.

Andrew 7bday


Heavenly Father, thank You for meeting me under the tree in the Kettle Lake playground this afternoon, through my own pen. I praise You for working in me to think and pray through this issue I didn’t even know I had. Help me, Lord, to trust You, and to turn my wonderful, special son—and my concerns about him—over to you as many times as I must until I really mean it. Thank You, Lord for knowing all and for being in control. And I thank you especially today, dear Lord, for my precious son. In Your Son’s name I pray. Amen.

9/26/08

Friday Fiction: "The Unbroken Line"

I am absolutely HONORED and HUMBLED to have the blessing of hosting Friday Fiction at Patterings this week. Be sure to post your own fiction on your blog and put yourself in the Mr. Linky gadget at the bottom of my post. OR - just read the wonderful offerings available here!


This writing challenge entry was my very first try at Biblical fiction - a genre that I have truly grown to love. I wrote this almost two years ago for the "Unsung Hero" topic. I hope you enjoy it, and that it encourages you to look up this somewhat obscure (or at least not-much-studied) passage of scripture.

The Unbroken Line

Jehosheba stared out over the pasture before her. It truly was a land flowing with milk and honey. The pasturelands were peaceful and tranquil, with sheep and their shepherd resting by the still waters nearby. She couldn’t ask for a better view from her home. She closed her eyes in prayer.

Thank you, Lord, for my many blessings. You have given me a wonderful husband in Jehoida the priest – such a man of God! And, most importantly, you are allowing him, and me, to serve You in the temple. I am afraid of what is happening with my family, but I know, Lord, that you are in control of all of it.

Opening and lifting her eyes toward the horizon, she saw a figure in the distance, riding toward her.

Must be a messenger from the front lines.

Jehosheba sighed. Messengers almost always brought bad news. It was only a year ago that one had come to tell her that her father, King Jehoram, had died. It was then that her half brother Ahaziah had taken the throne.

Oh, how she wished that her family would love the Lord like she did. She prayed for them all daily: even her stepmother. Athaliah, daughter of Israel's King Ahab, was as bad as her infamous father. Unfortunately, Ahaziah was growing up more and more like his mother. The last Jehosheba had heard, Ahaziah had joined with Joram, king of Israel and Athaliah’s brother, in a war against the Arameans. She was sure no good could come from that.

The messenger was getting closer – he would likely be to her door within a minute or two. She threw a quick prayer up to her Lord and began walking toward the messenger, who she now recognized as her cousin Keldar, a general in her brother’s army.

Catching his breath, Keldar dismounted, sat on the ground and looked into Jehosheba’s eyes with desperation.

“Your brother, King Ahaziah of Judah, has been killed in battle, along with Joram king of Israel.”

‘Oh, Keldar! May God use this for His good. Can I get you a drink? A bite to eat?”

“Thank you, dear Jehosheba, but I am too grieved to eat, and I have my flask of water here.”

She nodded and invited him in for a rest.

“Unfortunately, that is not all the distressing news I have for you. Rumor has it that the queen mother Athaliah is looking to take over. They are saying she is planning to get rid of the entire royal family so she can take the throne for herself.”

Jehosheba’s eyes, big as saucers, narrowed and gleamed with resolve. “I must get to the palace. I can’t let that woman destroy the Davidic line.”

**

The commotion was deafening – fighting, screaming, crashing of furniture. It was a wonder Jehosheba’s baby nephew Joash wasn’t screaming along with them. Thank the Lord, he was playing quietly on the floor with his nurse Sarai, the nursery door shut tight. Zibiah, the baby’s mother, was cowering in the corner, terrified of the massacre of the princes just outside the door.

“We have to keep Joash away from her, Zibiah! It’s too late for the others, but him we must save.”

Zibiah nodded, choking back tears.

“I can sneak out the window with the baby and Sarai and hide him from Athaliah. You just pray that the Lord will erase Joash from her mind.”

“Of course,” Zibiah muttered. “But where will you take him? Where can he possibly be kept that she won’t find him?”

Smirking, she replied, “I think I have an idea.”

**

Entering the temple through the rear door with her two guests, Jehosheba found just what she was looking for – a small bedroom without an occupant. Leaving Sarai and baby Joash there, she went to find her husband.

Athaliah wouldn’t come near the temple if her life depended on it. It stands for everything she is against. And what better place to raise a future Godly king than in His temple?

**
Six years later

Standing a few hundred feet from the temple entrance, Jehosheba could see a large group of men gathering. Though she wasn’t close enough to discern exactly what was going on, she knew. Her step-mother Athaliah would be forced from the throne, and her nephew Joash, who she and her husband Jehoida had raised like he was their own, would rule Judah. King David’s line would continue.

**
Based on 2 Kings 11, 2 Chronicles 22-23



9/23/08

Not Just A Fish Story--Peace Problems

A dear friend and I are currently doing a four-week Bible study of the Old Testament book of Jonah. This is something I've wanted to do for almost a year now. There is much more to this book than the "fish story" we heard as a child, and much to learn from it. I don't plan to make this an exhaustive study of the four-chapter book, but will share the sparks of Spirit that the Lord shares with me. I pray that my thoughts will encourage you to reflect on the wisdom of this little book, and maybe even to study it yourself. But my biggest prayer is that you put its life-changing principles into practice.

When I am looking for direction from God, I will often take circumstances, or occasionally my sense of peace, as an indication of whether I am heading in the right direction. I know I'm not alone in this.

I'll say to myself "I'm not sure where in the Bible I should read, so I'll just close my eyes and open it, and start from there." Or, I might be considering whether I should email or call a friend. If I should notice that my husband is currently on the phone, I might decide that is a "sign" I should email.

In another instance, I'd be trying to figure out how to respond to a not-so-friendly comment from someone. I'd be more likely to say what makes me feel at peace. If I start saying something and a knot develops in my throat, I might just hold my tongue.

In my study of the book of Jonah, however, I have discovered that this is not necessarily a foolproof method. It also could mean that I am so spiritually numb that I am not hearing the Lord's nudging.
1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me."3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. 4 Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. Jonah 1:1-5 NIV
You can tell as early as verse two that Jonah is absolutely, positively outside of God's will for him. Yet, he was able to find a ship from Joppa to Tarshish. According to Bible study teacher Bill Crowder, a ship would only travel from Joppa to Tarshish two or three times a year. Perhaps Jonah figured that God wasn't serious up in verse one. I mean, what are the chances this ship, bound for the exact place Jonah was considering, would be sitting in the port waiting for him? Must be God's will - right?

And how about verse five? The weather is pounding on the ship, seasoned sailors are panicking. And where is Jonah? Below deck, sleeping like a baby.

Now, I have to admit that I RARELY sleep like a baby--especially when I am rebelling against the Lord. Yet here is Jonah, snoring his way through a violent storm, as if he hasn't a care in the world. It is obvious he has so dulled himself to the Lord's desires that it doesn't even bother him anymore

I can't help but draw a parallel between another Bible figure who was in a similar situation.
23Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" 26He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Matthew 8:23-26a NIV
Here is the Son of God, in the midst of a violent storm, also sleeping. Yet what different motives! Jesus is sleeping because He trusts His Father, while Jonah is doing so because of his rejection of Him.

So, don't always assume because things feel good, or because they work out "just right," that you're walking along the path the Lord wants you to walk. You could end up so engrossed in your own plan that you miss His. And we all know where Jonah ended up!


Heavenly Father, help me to never get so disobedient, or set in my own ways, that I miss Your plan for my life. Release me from the stubbornness and self-centeredness that threatens to turn me toward my own way instead of Yours. Guide me on Your path, and help me throw aside my own for Your glory. In Jesus' Name. Amen

9/20/08

A touch of Zephaniah (part 2 - Hussshhh)


The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

I have found that when I am under stress, one of the first thing that increases is my voice--both in volume and frequency of use. I know some people just shut down when they're under pressure. I, on the other hand, don't shut up.

And do you know what else? As loud and talkative as I may be during these times, hearing others making similar sounds do not bring me pleasure. When stressed, I am so much more easily distracted by the smallest things--TV background noise, a tapping finger, the washing machine running--than when I'm calm. And don't even ask about the frenzy I often work myself into.

With all the noise, and sensitivity to it, around me, is it any surprise that my productivity suffers when I'm anxious? I simply cannot work as well in these circumstances. So, I complain, which does nothing but add to an already tense situation.

If I were smart, I would just go somewhere quiet and chill out, so to speak - take my stresses to the Lord. But in the middle of stress, I am rarely very intelligent. But that's JUST what God promises me. What I need is confidence that God is in control, and, to be blunt, to quit complaining.
Have you ever been spilling out your troubles and woes to the Lord and suddenly felt that the Lord was trying to get you to stop kvetching and start resting?
I feel that quite often --and I'm ashamed to say I don't always listen. Even when other noises are distracting me, as is often the case when I'm under stress, I cannot convince myself to stop striving and rest in Him.

The psalmist tells us to "be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10) And good old Zephaniah reminds us that the Lord will " quiet you with His love." When I'm stressed, I NEED that Godly love to quiet me. I need to stop complaining, stop stressing, stop yelling, and simply hush and rest in the Lord's embrace. Sit down and read His Word. Force yourself to quiet your spirit, and His love will overcome, encourage, and encourage you in your struggles. Rest in Him and trust Him to be there to help you through.

Heavenly Father, I confess to being too eager to talk, act, and do my way through my problems, without seeking the quietness of Your love and trusting You to meet my every need and relieve my every stress. Help me, Lord, to allow You to quiet me in my stress, and to rest in Your perfect will for me. In Jesus' precious name I pray. Amen.

9/19/08

Fiction Fridays: "The Good Witches"

Welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction, hosted this week by Patty at Patterings. I wrote this entry for the "historical genre" topic for the Faithwriters Writing Challenge. I must say the research was absolutely captivating, and I was quite taken by this story. It is certainly a part of American history that should never be forgotten. Hope you learn from, and enjoy, this piece. Don't forget to stop by Patterings for more great fiction!

THE GOOD WITCHES

"I don't like it one bit! My mama ain't a witch." Dorothy Good put her hands on her hips and gritted her teeth.

Her father, William Good, rapped her on the head and put his finger over his lips. "You watch your tongue in public, girl. And you get started on dinner. You got to be the woman of the family for a while now."

"Yes, papa."

Dorothy bowed her head and walked away from the Salem town square toward a small campfire in the abutting woods. There she started a couple onions and a potato boiling in a stew pot over the fire. Despite being only four years old, her mother had already taught her how to prepare a hearty meal out of anything she could get her hands on. The onions were growing alongside the edge of the woods, and she'd snagged the potato off the ground in front of Samuel's Grocer, where a customer had likely dropped it.

"Just because mama gets mad sometimes and talks to herself don't mean the devil's got her," Dorothy mumbled, stirring the meager provisions with a stick she'd picked up. "Do I ever miss her."

Her father approached the fire and sat beside it.

"Papa?"

"What, child?"

Dorothy stopped stirring the vegetables and looked straight into her father's eyes. "Are they ever gonna let mama outta that jail?"

He sighed. "I dunno. If she's guilty of witchcraft they sure won't."

Dorothy's eyes were afire. "But she isn't, papa. She isn't!"

Her father shrugged.

**

Dorothy, accustomed to joining her mother begging for food and shelter from the locals, had given up on seeking assistance from the townsfolk more than a week previous. Whenever she approached anyone, it seemed they gave her disapproving looks or called her a witch. Papa had warned her to stay away from the locals, lest she be arrested as well.

Instead, she spent much of her time in the woods, venturing into the town square only to get food or some other necessity.

"Look! It's the devil's spawn!" A girl in her early teens walked toward Samuel's Grocer, where Dorothy was scanning the walk in front of the shop for dropped goods.

"Am not, Miss Ann Putnam. And my mama is NOT a witch." Dorothy kicked dirt at her accuser.

Gasping, Ann wagged her finger at the girl. "How dare you. I'll make sure you're sorry you even spoke to me, you little witch."

**

"An apple!" Dorothy picked the shiny piece of fruit off the ground and brushed it off with the edge of her ragged skirt. "Papa will be pleased."

Inspecting the apple closely as she ambled down the street, the girl bumped her shoulder against a man about as tall as her father.

"'Scuse me," she mumbled under her breath, trying to hurry back into the woods.

"Come here, little lady." The gentleman put out his hand.

Dorothy paused and glanced about, debating whether to approach the man or run away. His smile convinced her to do the former.

"Yes sir?" she asked in her most polite voice.

The man's smile quickly turned to a smirk as he grabbed the girl and began carrying her toward the Salem courthouse.

"Dorothy Good, you are under arrest for afflicting another with witchcraft."

Dorothy kicked and screamed, but was unable to wiggle out of the man's grasp.

"Just like her mother," the officer growled as he placed her in a holding cell. "Just like her mother."

Author's note: Dorothy Good was arrested and interrogated in late March of 1692 and held in a Boston prison for 9 months in chains. She was the youngest person arrested for witchcraft during the Salem Witch trials, and, according to her father William, was permanently damaged from her ordeal. Her mother, Sarah Good, was one of the first women arrested for witchcraft in Salem in early March of 1692, and was executed by hanging in mid-July of the same year.

9/14/08

A touch of Zephaniah (part 1 - His Song)

Welcome to my newest "occasional series" - another one I'm not sure how many parts there will be (probably somewhere between two and four), or how long it will take me to complete. I have a lot on my plate, and my blog by necessity needs to be taken a notch or two down on my priority list. I'm NOT giving it up--just committing to putting a couple of things before it. Hoping for a couple posts a week (including Friday Fiction), but we'll see how my book and other things are coming along.
The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

Just a few hours ago, I was in my wonderful church, among other things, singing praises to God. I love our church's music pastor, and the songs he chooses are always a blessing. He does a nice combination of the hymns (we opened today with "I'll Fly Away") and some of the more modern melodies (We also sang "In Christ Alone"-- a favorite of mine). It is such a wonderful thing to be with a body of believers, rejoicing over our wonderful Lord. I often imagine what our singing will sound like in Heaven. I can't even fathom singing these songs of praise in His presence.

But, do you know what is even more incredible to me? The thought that the perfect, holy God of the universe rejoices over the imperfect, fault-ridden humans of this earth. And not only that. He does so with singing. And he isn't singing the blues, either. He is singing songs of rejoicing, according to good 'ol Zephaniah the prophet.

It makes me wonder what I could possibly do to make the Lord sing. What might please God so much that it would cause Him to break out in a serenade about me? Perhaps my acts of mercy might bring a tune to His Heavenly mind. Exercising my spiritual gifts might put a song in His heart. Maybe when I sing songs of praise to Him, he joins in with His own words.

Isn't that an amazing thought?

I would love to know what I can do to make my Lord sing praises about me. And though I may not know for sure, I'm certain that following His ways and pleasing Him is a good start. Maybe, when I get to heaven, the Lord and I can sing a duet--me praising Him, and He rejoicing over me.

Now if that isn't a mind-blowing idea, I don't know what is.

Heavenly Father, thank You for opening my eyes to this single verse in Zephaniah, that is so full of blessings. Help me, Lord, to bring blessings to You, and to cause You to rejoice over Me with singing. Bringing pleasure to You is such an incredible privilege, Lord. Thank you for assuring me that I can do this for You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

9/13/08

She LOVES me! :)


..or my blog, at least. :D

I've been trying to get around to doing this, and finally I have. My dear dear friend Jan Ross at The Plumb Line was sweet and gracious enough to give me a blog award last Friday. I am completely humbled and honored to receive this. Don't forget to stop by her blog - I guarantee you will be blessed by her insights!

The "rules" of this award require me to pass it on to other deserving blogs. I haven't been blogging for long, but there are quite a few blogs that have absolutely blessed me. Narrowing this down has been hard (and NOT being named here doesn't meant I don't enjoy your blog), but there are a handful of blogs that truly are "must reads" for me.

So, I gladly take the opportunity to pass on this "I Love Your Blog Award" to:

Patty at Patterings - besides the fact that she hosts Friday Fiction, which is one of my absolute FAVORITE thing about blogging, my dear Patty has an amazing way of sharing God's insights through complete everyday things. I am often blessed, and convicted, by what she has to say.

Elaine at Peace For The Journey - Elaine is an amazing woman of God who has incredible insights. I never step away from one of her posts unchanged. I REALLY need to get over there and read SOON (been busy!). I know I will be blessed.

Kristen at Exemplify - Kristen's deep desire to truly know and live for her Lord is all that shines through in her posts, and moves me to strive ever more to draw closer to Him myself. Her writing is always based in His Word--and her Monday Manna meme is another incredible blessing for me.

LauraLee at LauraLee's Lifesongs - Nobody can bring holiness to the everyday like Laura. Her openness to all of us (warts and all) is incredibly inspiring to me, and her fantastic way of relating everything to scripture is a gift I hope she NEVER takes for granted (or stops sharing with her eager readers).

For those of you who are recipients of the award, you are encouraged to paste the award on your blog. You'll have to save it to your hard drive (just right click-save) then use it as a picture on your blog. Then, be sure to pass it along to your favorite bloggers! (Yeah - if I'm not the only person whose passed this on to ya, remember it means your EXTRA loved)

Thanks again, Jan, for the lovely award. Off to read a blog or two!

9/12/08

Friday Fiction: "100% Angel"

Welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction at Patterings, this week being hosted by Julie at The Surrendered Scribe. Someone commented on this story out of the blue the other day at Faithwriters (it was a previous Writing Challenge entry), and I reread it and had a hard time believing I had written it (in a good way LOL). It touched me on my readthrough, and I thought maybe it would do the same for you folks. I'll give you a KLEENEX ALERT, as most of my comments indicated the story needed one. Oh, and don't forget to stop by Julie's blog for more great fiction!

100% Angel

"Are you looking for anything in particular, sir?”

A tall lanky blonde with horn-rimmed glasses and a bright pink nametag with “Angela” emblazoned on it approached the man--he couldn’t have been older than 21, really--as he stared blankly at the baby clothes hanging on a circular rack in front of him.

“Oh, um, yeah, I am. I was just thinking and got a bit distracted. My wife is in the hospital with the baby, and I need to find an outfit for him to go home in.”

“So, your wife didn’t take care of that before? Most moms pick out that outfit when they’re still in their first trimester.” Angela bubbled.

“Marilyn was on bed rest most of the pregnancy.” The man’s voice was soft and strained.

Angela nodded. “So, can I help you pick something out, Mr….?”

“Just call me John.”

“OK, John. What exactly are you looking for?”

“I think I’ll know it when I see it. All I know is it has to be preemie sized, and definitely for a boy.”

Angela smiled and pointed toward a rack to their left. “The preemie clothes are over there. Do you want me to help you pick something out?”

John shook his head. “I think I can handle it. Thanks, though.”

Angela walked toward the cash register, keeping John in her sights out of the corner of her eye.

The woman at the register smiled as Angela approached. “Hey, what’s up, Angie?”

“Not sure, Darlene.” Angela leaned her arm on the register. “That guy over there is picking out an outfit for his newborn son, but he sure doesn’t seem very excited about it.”

Darlene shrugged. “Maybe it was an unwanted pregnancy. At least he’s buying the kid something.”

“True, I guess.” Glancing into the sales area, Angela noticed John walking toward the register. “Better scoot.”

John approached the register, placed a small blue outfit on Darlene’s counter, and then reached into his back pocket.

Darlene smiled. “Did you find everything you needed, sir?”

John nodded. “How much do I owe you?”

“Your total comes to $15.27.”

John pulled a $20 bill out of his wallet and handed it to Darlene. John took the change she offered and shoved it into his wallet. He grabbed the outfit, which Darlene had placed in a bag, and walked out.

**

The beeps and buzzers in the NICU were quite active. John walked over to a blonde who was leaning over an incubator in the middle of the room. He rested his hand on her shoulder and squeezed.

“Anything new, sweetheart?” John’s voice was barely above a whisper.

She sighed. “The same. He doesn’t have much time now. Doc said he won’t make it through the night.”

John wrapped his arms around his wife’s delicate frame. “I got it, Marilyn. I hope it’s what you want.”

“Oh, John, I’m sure it’s fine.”

Marilyn turned and faced her husband, looking into his eyes. “You really don’t think it’s silly, going and spending money on an outfit for him?”

John caressed the side of her face. “Of course not, Mari. Our little Benny needs a home from the hospital outfit, even if it isn’t our home he’s going to.”

The two embraced for a good two minutes.

John broke the silence. “So, do you want to see what I picked?” he whispered in her ear.

She let go of him, and nodded. John pulled a blue bunting out of the bag. The front of the outfit was adorned with the words “100% angel.”

“Oh, John, it’s perfect!” She kissed him gently on the cheek, then bowed her head.

“Heavenly Father, thank you so much for my wonderful husband, and for giving us Benjamin, even if it was only for a short time. Comfort us in this time, and help us to know that our little angel is going Home – to a better home than we could ever provide.”

9/10/08

Blessed Ministry of Suffering

I have a couple blogs on the back burner, so to speak (got them started, but haven't had a chance to finish them), but this one has been haunting me all morning (and moving me!) that I feel it is only gracious to share it with you right now.

As many of you know, I've been using L.B. Cowman's Streams In The Desert for my daily devotional this year. It is an amazingly powerful devotional, and if you have not used it before (and even if you have), I strongly suggest you give it a try. You will find many, many blessings there.

The reading for today, September 10, was on suffering. I'm fairly certain I cannot summarize it with any justice, so I will post the most incredibly moving parts verbatim, then give my thoughts following.
When a person who suffers reaches a point where he can be calm and carefree, inwardly smiling at his own suffering, and no longer asking God to be delivered from it, then the suffering has accomplished its blessed ministry. perseverance has "finish[ed] its work" (James 1:4), and the pain of the Crucifixion has begun to weave itself into a crown.
I have not arrived at this point, nor had I ever considered asking God to help me get there (before today, anyhow). But, as of this morning, I have started petitioning Him to help me get there. I want my and my husband's suffering to accomplish its blessed ministry. I want to get to the point where I can smile inwardly through my trials, where I can stop asking to be removed from my difficulties. I want that crown. I want to get to the point where I would rather be where I am than in a stress-free life.
It is in this experience of complete suffering that the Holy Spirit works many miraculous things deep within our soul. In this condition, our entire being lies perfectly still under the hand of God; every power and ability of the mind, will, and heart are at last submissive; a quietness of eternity settles into the entire soul; and finally, the mouth becomes quiet, having only a few words to say, and stops crying out the words Christ quoted on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1) (emphasis mine)
This, especially the boldface portion, is amazingly encouraging to me. It shows me that this acceptance is a process. The fact that I'm "not there" yet doesn't mean I can't get there, nor does it mean I am sinning. The perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ, had to go through the process of letting go of his suffering and resting in His Father. If Christ had to go through it, then perhaps desiring it is at least a step in the right direction.
At this point the person stops imagining castles in the sky, and pursuing foolish ideas, and his reasoning becomes calm and relaxed, with all choices removed, because the only choice has now become the purpose of God.
Oh, how I long for this! How many times have I struggled with decisions, wondering what was His will? I so wish I could look ahead and only see God's purpose for me. Wow.

(There's more to this devotional today - I can't more highly recommend getting a hold of it and reading the September 10 devotional!)

Heavenly Father, thank You so much for putting this devotional, this wisdom for You, before me today. Help me to get to the point where I can rest in my struggles and rejoice in my submissiveness to Your will. Lord, I so want to get to the point where my only choice is the purpose of God. Guide me in that direction. In Jesus' name. Amen.

9/8/08

Monday Manna - Abundantly

Welcome to my contribution to Monday Manna at Exemplify. It is my pleasure to give my thoughts on this wonderful verse. Be sure to stop by Kristen's blog to see what others have to say.

The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 1:14

Have you ever thought about what our lives would be like if our Lord was stingy with his giving?

What if he only loved us enough to get us by? Or what if he only delivered his grace to us in teaspoons? What if our faith was doled out in ounces?

But thankfully, that is not God's way. The Lord's grace comes by the bucketful, not the dropperful. He pours out his love to overflowing, and his faith is ever-plentiful. What an amazing, amazing God we have.

But (and you knew this was coming, didn't you?), are we not told to be like our Lord? Aren't we supposed to be just as generous with our grace, love, and faith? When was the last time you poured your own love out into someone until it overflowed? It's so much easier to think that our love of others (especially the "others" we want to avoid - the poor, perhaps? or maybe those pierced, low-pantsed teenagers? or those WeiRDoS from the wrong denomination?) should be tempered, or that, perhaps we only have so much to go around.

But we have the love, grace, and faith of Christ within us. We are overflowing with it. He gave it to us by the gallon, not the teaspoon.

And shouldn't we do the same to others?

Heavenly Father, thank You abundantly for giving me your grace, faith, and love to overflowing. Help me to take those precious gifts and give them to those around me who need them most. Help me to not be stingy, as you never are. My my abundant gifts from you overflow into, and from, those I meet. In Jesus' name.
Amen

9/7/08

Tagged! 8 Random Facts about ME

My dear friend Dee at My Heart's Dee-Light figured I had nothing better to do (hehe), so she tagged me to play along with this fun little game. So, here I go!

First, the rules:

1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
4. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

Anyhow - here are my eight random facts:

1. My great uncle (my maternal grandmother's brother) Aaron Stell was an Emmy and American Cinema Editors Award-nominated film editor. He was one of the film editors for the original "To Kill a Mockingbird," (with Gregory Peck) as well as numerous movies and TV shows from the 1940's through his death in the mid 90's. He was also quite an artist, and an all-around fun guy. :)

2. When my grandparents took me to Europe the summer I turned 14, we saw three art museums and Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam - all in ONE DAY. Needless to say, we didn't take our time ;)

3. I can still recite (really fast!) the 23 verbs of being that I learned when I was in seventh grade.

4. When I was about 5, I broke my right pinkie when I was doing a cartwheel and hit it on the corner of a coffee table. My right pinkie is still slightly "malformed"(but I never had, nor considered, plastic surgery to fix it.::winka::)

5. When I was a child, I used to play school with my little brother. I was ALWAYS the teacher - and I gave homework!

6. I took piano lessons for three years - but never made it out of book 1.

7. I went to Acapulco, Mexico and stayed with my great aunt and a distant cousin for a week or so as a high school graduation present. As I walked down the street to the market with my cousin Marina, a man (maybe in his 30's or 40's) approached and kissed me on the lips, then continued walking. I did not chase after him. ;)

8. Whenever it is my birthday, and I have to sign a check or write the date for any other reason, I almost always write the year I was born instead of the year it is (Do it for hubby's birthday, and sometimes the kids', too!).

And now I'm supposed to tag eight people. Not sure I know eight who haven't been tagged already, but I suppose I can do my best!

1. Josh at Just Joshing
2. Amy at Sparrow's Flight
3. Karen at Along the Way
4. Kristen at Exemplify
8. Tracy at Seed Thoughts
(so I can't count. I'm a writer, not a numbers person! hehe)

Have fun!

9/6/08

His Requirements

Generally, I'm not too fond of requirements, especially if I don't meet them. I can't tell you how many times in the past I considered applying for a job, but then looked at the requirements and realized I was underqualified. I had a similar problem with my desktop computer. In fact, one of the reasons I got my laptop is because none of the free spyware or anti-virus software would run on my old operating system. I didn't meet the system requirements, so I got a newer computer so mine could be safer. I have to admit that my not meeting the requirements this time was a positive (though somewhat expensive) situation for me.

Yet, these requirements are for our own good and benefit. If I had gotten hired at one of those jobs, I would have likely never gotten my work done well, and if I'd installed those "high-tech" programs on my "low tech" computer, they probably would not have worked, or might have totally messed up my computer. So, as much as I may not like requirements, I have to admit life would certainly be more difficult and confusing without them. Life is easier and more orderly and less haphazard because of these types of requirements--at least, when we follow them.

Did you know that the Lord has requirements for His children? And they probably aren't what you're thinking. Some are found, not in the gospels--or even in the New Testament--but in the short prophetic book of Micah.
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:7-8 NIV (emphasis mine)
First of all, I need to preface this by mentioning these are not requirements for salvation. Doing these things will not give you a "free pass" to heaven. Paul said in Romans 10:9 that "if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Nothing else you can do will give you eternal life.

No, these requirements are what the Lord expects from His children. These are what we can do to please our Heavenly Father. And there are three of them:
Act justly: do what is righteous and fair to all
Love mercy: act with and value lovingkindness and compassion
Walk humbly with your God: follow the Lord, putting His needs first and giving Him credit for all He does through you.
Now these are requirements that I think I like--and there they are, in an Old Testament book that many barely give a glance. And I'm not sure I can think of anything that isn't covered there. Some requirements, it seems, are blessings.

Can you picture what our world would be like if every person (or even "just" every Christian) followed these three simple principles? There would be no theft, no attack ads, no price gouging at the gas pump. God doesn't give us requirements like this for nothing. God has shown us "what is good." All we have to do is follow it. It may not be easy, but it is certainly what He wants. And isn't seeking and doing His will our goal?

Heavenly Father, help me to please You by acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with You. Help me to do what is good in your sight. Thank you for showing me your righteous requirements, and guide me in following them always. In the name of Your Precious Son I pray. Amen

9/5/08

Fiction Fridays: "Frank's Epistle To The Legend"

Hi folks, and welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction at Patterings. I wrote this piece for the FW Writing Challenge -- the topic was sports or fitness. I started out with a fairly basic idea, but after doing research, it got more fun and complicated. This one has been in my head a lot this week, so I figured that was the Lord telling me it should be my FF piece LOL. I hope you enjoy it. OH - and be sure to read the author's note when you're done.

Also, don't forget to stop by Patterings for some more wonderful fiction to read--and feel free to post your own!

Frank's Epistle To The Legend

4341 State Street
Detroit, Michigan, 48226
Friday, October 8, 1965

Mr. Sandy Koufax
Dodger Stadium
1000 Elysian Park Avenue
Los Angeles, California, 90012


Dear Mr. Koufax,

My name is Frank, and I am 12 years old and in the eighth grade. My English teacher said I need to write a letter to someone I admire, but I probably would have written to you eventually anyway.

I’ve been playing baseball (little league and stuff) since I was in first grade, and I love it. You are one of my favorite baseball players of all time. I try to pitch just like you do, and I even have your rookie card. I was listening on the radio when you pitched that perfect game against the Cubs last month. It was amazing. I would love to see you pitch in person some day, but since I live in Detroit and the Tigers don’t play the Dodgers, I doubt it will happen. I sure hope so, though.

One of these days, I’m going to be a major league pitcher, just like you. I practice my pitching, fielding and batting all the time, and I’m playing every chance I get. I’m not as good as you are, but I may be some day! Do you have any advice for me? I’d love to be able to pitch a curveball like you can.

My dad told me how you were supposed to start the first game of the World Series against the Twins Wednesday, and you didn’t because it was a big Jewish holiday. Drysdale really did a lousy job for you, and I hate to say you didn’t do much better in game two yesterday. I hope you aren’t taking offense – I know we all have bad days. I just wonder if you wish you hadn’t celebrated that holiday. I think my dad told me you weren’t supposed to eat at all on that holiday. Maybe that’s why you weren’t pitching so well for game two.

I don’t think I’d ever let a holiday – even a big one – stop me from playing in the World Series. Of course, I’m not really religious. I guess I’m a Christian. I believe in God and all, and we go to church sometimes. I’m also gonna be going to Detroit Catholic Central High School next year. They have a great baseball program.

I wanted to say that it surprised me when I heard you weren’t going to play because of that holiday. I’m not sure I care about anything as much as I care about baseball. I guess it’s neat that being Jewish is so important to you. Believing in God sure isn’t for me.

Anyhow, I guess you guys are on your way to Dodger Stadium for game three right now, as I’m writing this! I sure hope the Dodgers win the World Series. Like I said, I’m a huge fan, and the Dodgers are my favorite national league team. I’ll be watching on TV, especially since game three is on Saturday and I won’t have to worry about school or anything.

I hope you don’t get too much grief for missing that game.

Sincerely,
Frank Tanana, age 12

**
Author’s note: The interaction between these two men is fictional (and as far as I know, they never communicated), but the men, and many of the details, are real.

Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers ended up winning the 1965 World Series. Koufax won two of the three games he pitched in the seven game series and was named MVP. He is still applauded by the Jewish community to this day for not playing in that World Series game, which fell on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

Frank Tanana was drafted by the California Angels in 1971 and pitched in the majors for 20 years (1973-1993), mostly for the Angels and the Detroit Tigers. His “claims to fame” were striking out 17 batters in one game in 1975 and becoming a Christian halfway through his major league career and ministering to the players. He and his wife live in the Detroit area and are involved in several Christian ministries to professional athletes.

9/1/08

Copied from Kristen at Exemplify - "I, Joanne"

If you wanna see her version, go here.



I AM ...very eager for the kids to go back to school tomorrow.

I WANT... a self-cleaning house.

I HAVE ... two fun kids and an amazingly wonderful husband.

I WISH I COULD ... give my husband his eyesight back.

I HATE ... Dr. Pepper.

I FEAR ... messing up.

I HEAR ... the dryer running, and "Dragon Tales." (but not when my fingers are in my ears!)

I SEARCH ... for more of Him.

I DON'T THINK ... I am as organized or disciplined as others say I am.

I REGRET ... straying.

I LOVE ... God's grace.

I ACHE FOR ... quiet.

I ALWAYS CRY ... when I read Isaiah 53.

I AM NOT ... as self-assured (or God-assured, for that matter) as I wish I were.

I DANCE ... with my kids, and they love it (and it'll have to do. Marc doesn't think much of dancing.)

I SING ... a lot -- at least daily.

I NEVER ... had even the smallest desire to smoke (nor did I try it even once).

I RARELY ... am doing just one thing at a time

I CRIED WHEN I WATCHED ... my husband lie in his hospital bed five years ago after his first brain surgery.

I AM NOT ALWAYS ... good at remembering to eat.

I HATE THAT ... there is so much evil in the world.

I'M CONFUSED ABOUT ... how Jews can read Isaiah 53 and NOT get it.

I NEED ... to get my kids' backpacks ready for tomorrow.

I SHOULD ... go fold the load of laundry that just finished in the dryer.

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