"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

10/31/08

Friday Fiction: "If Corn Had Ears"


Welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction, hosted this week by my dear friend Lynda at On the Write Track. This was one of my early Faithwriters' Writing Challenge pieces, (more than two years ago) and my first to make the editor's choice. I hope you enjoy it. I can still remember how fun it was to write. Don't forget to stop by On The Write Track for more great fiction!

IF CORN HAD EARS

Two eight-year-old girls, dimpled with pigtails, glanced out the kitchen window. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the flowers and plants were blooming gloriously. What a perfect time for a picnic dinner!

Mary raced outdoors, dragging a red and white checkered blanket behind her. She spread it out hastily a few feet from the flower and vegetable garden she and her mother had planted earlier in the year. She headed back in, only to nearly run into her friend Sarah, who was carrying a large picnic basket.

"I'll get the lemonade and you set up the rest of the stuff. OK?"

Sarah nodded and started putting out the flowered paper plates, napkins and cups, and the pink plastic forks, knives and spoons. Mary returned and poured out the lemonade. The girls then began unpacking the food - fried chicken, potato chips, string cheese and chocolate chip cookies, just out of the oven.

"You wanna pick some strawberries? We can wash them off with the hose. I planted them all by myself!"

**

"Ow! Be gentle, kid!!"

"Listen to you! You're always complaining, straw! Yanno they can't hear you, so why bother?"

"I've heard about enough of you," an ear of corn added. "You think being picked hurts - try getting shucked!"

"That's nothing - bet none of you has ever had your head cut off!" the lettuce grumbled.

The potatoes rolled their eyes. "Such complainers!"

"When I was young," an iris added, "we had to get our own water - none of this sprinkler and watering can convenience. We sent our roots deep into the ground - uphill, both ways, in scorching heat! You youngsters have it easy!"

"You may be a bearded iris," the bluebells chimed in, "but you're no older than the rest of us, so get off your high horse!"

A serene, calm voice spoke, quieting all the grumbling.

"Now, dear friends, we must appreciate all that the good Lord has given us," the Jack-in-the-pulpit exhorted. "Look at this fine soil, with all the nutrients we could need to grow. And those lovely people who come and water us and give us fertilizer. God has also given us such wonderful diversity and beauty. And, for those of you complaining, remember that our purpose in life, at least in part, is to give pleasure to God's chosen - his humans! Remember that when you are cut or picked or eaten or shucked, God's purpose is being fulfilled!"

Hearty "Amens" came from all corners of the garden.

"And also remember, we could be indoor plants, and we would miss the wonderful show our Lord provides for us each day," Jack continued. "So be grateful and praise Him for exactly where we are!"

"Hey," a violet shouted toward the herbs, "Speaking of the show - does anyone have the thyme?"

The corn sighed and covered its ears. "That joke wasn't funny the first time you said it. Cut it out, bud!"

"Don't you even joke about cutting with a flower!"

"Watch it, mister! How do you think Susan got that black eye?"

"Hush, children," Jack whispered. "The show is about to begin."

**

Mary's mother stuck her head out the back door.

"Girls - keep your eyes open - looks like the sun is about to set!"

Mary and Sarah, finished with their meals, lay down on the blanket facing west.

As the brilliant reds, oranges, purples and yellows of God's daily performance came into view, two little girls - and several other parts of God's creation - thanked Him for the beauty of His artistry, and His many good gifts.


You mountains and all hills,
Fruit trees and all cedars,
Wild animals and all cattle.
Small creatures and flying birds,
Kings of the earth and all nations,
You princes and all rulers on earth,
Young men and maidens,
Old men and children.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Psalm 148:9-12, 150:6 NIV


Thanks for reading! Be sure to stop by Lynda's blog for more great fiction!

10/28/08

First Impressions: A Decade Later

This past Sunday was a milestone of sorts for me. The past several months seem to have been full of them, as you may know if you've been following my blog for a bit. You see, it was ten years ago--the last Sunday in October of 1998--when I first attended a church.

Actually, that's not completely true. I had been in churches before--for a wedding, a couple of times with an old boyfriend, and once with my step-mother's family. A total of five times previously, I had "gone to a church." But at that time, I had no interest in what was going on "religiously." It was just a place to go. I guess a better thing to say is that a decade ago I first entered a church as a seeker.

I'd become interested in Christianity a bit more than a month earlier, and had recently read through the entire Bible (Old and New Testaments) in three weeks. I had many questions about what I had learned. Now, I had decided, it was time to go to a church and see what it was all about. It would be more than three months later before I came to Christ.

A lot of things about that first church service still stand out in my mind, even after all the time that has passed. I thought I would share them with you.
  • I was quite impressed with the friendliness of the people there. Several (some of whom became very dear friends) came up and greeted me personally. It was a very nice welcome to a place where I truly feared I would be extremely uncomfortable.
  • There was no "prayer book." In every Jewish Sabbath service I had ever been to, there was a prayer book that had several different 'Sabbath services' in it. We would go through one of them, verbatim, each Sabbath. Other than the specific passage read from the Torah and the sermon, there was no deviation. I liked, very much, the fact that this service seemed more flexible, and less ritualistic and "orderly" - probably not the right word, but I think you know what I mean!
  • There also was no Bible. I'd never had to bring my own copy of the Torah or my own prayer book to a service before - they were just sitting there in the pew in front of me. I didn't have my Bible with me so just winged it (of course, I later realized I could have gotten one, as spares were stored there--but I didn't know at the time).
  • I had no idea what to do with the offering plate (besides pass it down). It came as a surprise. Again, something that was outside my usual experience. On a fun side-note, I was given a "new member packet," and asked to put my little card in the offering plate. Since I didn't know what one was, I couldn't oblige. More about this later.
  • The one thing that made the biggest impression on me was the sermon. It was actually relevant to real life. Most sermons I'd heard in synagogue were big on doctrine and very small (if not nonexistent) on practical application. Pastor Sluys (still a VERY dear friend!) preached, among other things, on physician-assisted suicide. There was a ballot issue on this very topic on Michigan's ballot just a week and a half later. How's that for news I could use?
  • It seemed my "story" was pretty interesting. When I had no idea who to hand my new member card to (see above), I had to walk up to the only person I was SURE ran the place--the pastor. I handed it to him and introduced myself, telling him I was raised Jewish and was looking into Christianity--that I'd read the Bible in three weeks, and was now investigating churches. I think he said "Oh, my" at least three times. He also seemed (and WAS) genuinely interested in what I was going through, but was not pushy (which was definitely a fear of mine).
Of course, this was only the beginning of my church experience. I bring my own Bible to church now (and I even know what the offering plate is for LOL), and I continue to find that a message without practical application is the odd exception, not the rule. Just about everything I observed on that first day has grown to be a wonderful part of my church, and Christian, experience. I love the music, how the pastor and worship leader are free to allow the Spirit to lead/alter the service, and the wonderful fellowship I experience with the family of God.

I have definitely had ten years of blessing attending church. I look forward to many more decades, God willing, of attending services, where I can worship, learn about Him, and fellowship with fellow believers.

Heavenly Father, thank You for reminding me of this anniversary of sorts, and for keeping that very first service so fresh in my memory. Thank You for leading me to just the right church, in just the right place, at just the right time. Thank You even more, Lord, for using all those circumstances, and more, to bringing me to a saving knowledge of you. In the precious name of your Son, who died for ME, I pray.
AND, on an unrelated note, I have a true story printed in a new anthology of "God-incidences," called It Happened By Design, by my dear friend, author and Virtual Assistant Coach and Trainer Kathie Thomas. It just came out, and can be ordered by clicking on the button on my sidebar. It just became available today, and will be listed on Amazon.com in the very near future. I'm very excited about it!

10/26/08

Those Inopportune Times

A steering wheel is certainly not my favorite writing desk, but lately, it seems to be my most common one.

Don’t worry—you won’t find me writing the great American novel as I drive along the interstate at 60 plus miles per hour. I don’t even jot down notes as I motor along a heavily trafficked street at a snail’s pace. I am a bad enough driver without distractions like that. No need to endanger the population any more than it already is.

While I will admit to jotting down a few things at the occasional stoplight or stop sign, the majority of my “auto writing” is done with the car off—or at least in park.
You see, I’m a busy mom, and one aspect of being a busy mom that seems unavoidable (and that, by the way, I was not expecting) is “wait time.”
For me, much, though certainly not all, of this time is spent within my vehicle.

Each school day at around 11, for instance, you will find me sitting in my car in a line in the parking lot of my children’s elementary school, waiting to pick up my daughter from her half-day program. The line of cars isn’t generally very long—though the closer to dismissal time you arrive there, the more likely you’ll actually be on the main street. And, of course, the more cars there are ahead of you, the longer you will be starting and stopping as those in ahead of you receive their precious children. So, I arrive a bit early, allowing me to spend my time in solitude, in my “parked” car, often with a pen and paper in hand. There’s ten to fifteen minutes of good writing time for you!

I have the same routine mid-afternoon on the days I’m driving carpool for my son and another child. I’d much rather spend my ten minutes writing with the car off than in “stop and go” traffic in a lengthy line. Also not great on the gas mileage, you know?

I’ve also been known to spit out a sentence or two at a railroad crossing, while waiting for the drive-up ATM to be available, or even while waiting for my value meal. In fact, the majority of this piece itself was written while sitting in the driver’s seat of my minivan.

Is this the ideal method and/or timing for using this literary gift the Lord has given me: composing my thoughts in ten-minute (or less) increments? Probably not. And I must admit that I do, on occasion, get an opportunity to devote some more substantial blocks of time, in a more “writerly” setting, to my craft—though it is not often.
Yet, just because my circumstances are not ideal doesn’t mean I should wait until they are to act.
I shudder to think how much less writing I would have accomplished if I had waited until I had a “good chunk of time” before I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). And if I had waited for complete silence before I started writing (which, by the way, is definitely my preference), my personal canon would be basically nonexistent. So, I do what I feel led to do, whether I feel like the circumstances are just right or not.
Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16, Amplified Bible
It is like that with most things—including exercising our gifts from the Lord and doing His will. It’s easy to put off sharing Christ, for instance, because you have an appointment to keep, or to decide you weren’t really supposed to make that meal for your ill neighbor because you’d have to make that extra trip to the store you weren’t planning on. I’m sure you can come up with your own examples.

We need to remember to grab every moment of our days for His glory. We don’t need to wait until “the time is right” to exercise our gifts, or until the circumstances are in our favor. God doesn’t need perfect circumstances—or perfect people—to work through us.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for guiding me to work for You whenever I can, not just when the time seems right. Help me, Lord, to make the use of each moment of time You give me to do things for Your glory, even if it is inconvenient. Help me to use my “wait time,” and the rest of my time, wisely and to not worry about whether the circumstances are ideal. You, Lord, can make any time ideal. In the name of Jesus, your precious Son, I pray. Amen

10/24/08

Friday Fiction: "Alvin Josiah MacRaney III"

Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Friday at Patterings, hosted this week by Patty Wysong herself at her blog. Be sure to stop by there for more great fiction, (and a special post by Shirley Jump!) or to contribute your own fiction!



I know when we generally think of fiction, we think of stories--but this piece has been in my head all week (and it is definitely not true--so that makes it fiction, right?). I wrote this for the Faithwriters Writing challenge (and it did quite well). Hope you enjoy it!

Alvin Josiah MacRaney III

Alvin Josiah MacRaney III
was in ministry up to his eyes.
He gave to the needy, encouraged the weak,
and responded to many souls' cries.

MacRaney was part of a family of preachers;
the pulpit was part of their lore.
He learned the importance of loving the brethren
from his father and grandpa before.

Dear Alvin was praised by his plentiful flock
for the blessings he oft gave away.
They often sat speechless, in bounteous thanks
for the many he'd lift when he'd pray.

But MacRaney's great passion - and his congregants', too
was his preaching of God's holy Word.
His pastoral fervor and "gift of the gab"
were obvious to all those who heard.

"Repent! The Lord loves you," was his pulpit refrain.
"Each person's a great big fat sinner.
If you do your part and let Christ in your heart,
then God will see you as a winner."

He'd flip through his Bible, taking copious notes
(that no one but Alvin could read),
extracting the wisdom he'd share with the folks
whose souls he was aiming to feed.

He shared the Word boldly with those of his flock
and closed with a rousing "Amen."
He then put his congregants back in the toy box
and napped until "church time" again.


Thanks for reading! Don't forget to stop by Patterings for more great fiction!

10/22/08

Looking No Longer



My people have been looking for Him for thousands of years. Every Jewish mother, since the beginning of my race until this day, has hoped that perhaps her son would be the One. The Anointed. The Messiah. The Righteous Branch.

As I sat in my easy chair on that cool February morning a decade ago, I realized that, for the past two thousand years, these Jewish mothers had hoped in vain. You see, the Anointed One had already come. The waiting was over, but they were still looking.

You hear sometimes about soldiers, decades after “their war” was fought and forgotten, hiding away on the old battlefield without communication, thinking they still had that enemy to defeat. That’s how it is with many of my people. They are anxiously sitting by the front door, waiting for their precious child to come in from his date—when he’s actually asleep upstairs.

I however, have found Him. I am looking no longer. And in the moment it took me to connect my Jewish beliefs to His Truth, I was transformed. I went from a searcher of the scriptures to a lover of their Writer.

It began as a curiosity five months earlier. Through a Christian conference I was covering for the newspaper, I developed an intense interest in Christianity and the Word of God. I fed on Christian teaching. I enjoyed the fellowship of a local church. I read—no, devoured—His Bible: Old and New Testaments. I pondered what I had read. I examined it logically.

But on that late winter day, there was no logic. No mere emotion. On that day, Jesus Christ, my Messiah, swept me off my feet and into His loving arms of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. For it was on that day, while reading His prophet, that my spirit was, after more than three decades on this earth, awakened to His “Messiahship.”

I had read about it several times in the past five months: in the Gospels, in Paul’s letters. But those were “Christian” books. I was a Jew. The Lord needed to show me in His chosen people’s writings. He had to show this modern-day Pharisee that my lineage, my good deeds, my upbringing was not what I needed. What I needed was Him—the Messiah I had hoped would come for 32 years. The same Messiah I’d learned about in Hebrew School and synagogue. He had already come—and Isaiah had told us about it hundreds of years previous.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 NIV
My Messiah loved me so much, that He was voluntarily pierced and crushed for my sins. I could not be pleasing in God’s sight on my own. He willingly took on excruciating punishment so I could have peace. His wounds on the cross healed me.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6 NIV
Joanne Sher, observant Jew, one of “God’s chosen,” was a lost sheep—a dirty, unholy, messed up sinner. But the Lord laid my iniquity on Christ. It is no longer mine. He died for me, so my Father will see me as sinless and holy.

How can I not love Him? How can I ever doubt again? And why would I, or anyone else, want to? There is nothing left to wait for. The Messiah—my Messiah—has come.

Heavenly Father, I cannot thank You enough for saving my soul, for initiating this intimate love relationship I have had with you for almost ten years now. Thank You, Lord, for helping me to get beyond the doubts and the “mechanics” of my faith and into the amazing love of You. Help me, Lord, to never forget the wonder and excitement of that first love. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen

10/20/08

Monday Manna - Philippians 3:10-11

Welcome to Monday Manna. Twice a month (once here and once at Exemplified) participants read a chosen scripture and expand upon it (or anything creative) and share it on their blogs. Please visit those who link up at Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post!

This week's scripture: I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)
Here is my contribution.


"I know what you're going through. I've been there."

There's something comforting about those words. You make a very special connection--a unique bond, if you will--with someone who has truly been through the very same difficulty you have. A bond of common experience and suffering. A fellowship, if you will.

I, for instance, have a very soft spot in my heart for the wives of ill/disabled husbands, because I am one. It's not just that I can "give them advice" because of my own experience. And it's not just that they can do the same for me. It's a special kind of comfort and understanding that comes from empathy--being able to be in someone else's proverbial shoes. It's the "fellowship of sharing in his [or her] sufferings." It's being able, in a sense, to make suffering lighter by sharing it. It's knowing that person just a bit better because of your commonality.

Knowing what Jesus went through in his earthly life is one thing. I can read the Bible for that. Yet, with the right attitude, experiencing it myself can give me a new, more intimate fellowship with Him: the fellowship of shared experiences. So, perhaps, because I have been rejected by others, chastised by Jews, and misunderstood by my closest relatives, I can empathize with My Savior, and draw a bit closer to him.

It's easy to take experiences like these and whine about them, or even to withdraw from the Lord, feeling forsaken. Yet, why not see them as an opportunity to empathize with our Savior, and to develop that fellowship of sharing suffering?

Heavenly Father, I know that your empathy for me is complete, as you have gone through everything I have. Help me, Lord, to feel some of that same empathy with You, and to draw closer to You in the process. I know I cannot empathize with you completely, as I am but a human, while You are divine. Still, draw me closer to you through the fellowship of our shared suffering, and help me to look at my own suffering in this same light. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.

Don't forget to check out the folks below who have linked up--and feel free to participate yourself!

10/17/08

Fiction Fridays: "Just Call Me Kathy"




Welcome to my contribution to Patterings' Friday Fiction, hosted this week at My Heart's Dee-Light. Don't forget to stop by Dee's blog for more great fiction, and to contribute your own if you feel so moved!

The piece I'm sharing this week is one of my favorites as far as atmosphere. It placed in the Editors Choice in the Faithwriters' Writing Challenge just over a year ago. I hope it blesses you.

Just Call Me Kathy

Simon shuffled toward the meetinghouse, pebbles on the sidewalk pressing into his bare feet. Despite the pain, he scarcely lifted his legs as he walked, preferring the discomfort to the effort required to relieve it.

He hoped they would let him in. Street urchins, with their grime and crime, were excluded from such gatherings. Yet, this was one of their own. Weeks before, Cameron shared a ratty blanket with Simon. Then, good fortune suddenly seemed to shine on Cameron.

The boys had been begging together along the street a month previous. A lady--clearly from high society--dropped her handkerchief right by them.

Cameron retrieved it. Simon planned to ask for it later, in exchange for a bowler hat. Before he could, however, Cameron did something shocking.

"Excuse me, mum," Cameron said, tapping the lady on the back. "You dropped this."

Simon's mouth dropped. Urchins were to never speak to, much less touch, anyone outside their kind. Friends had been beaten for less.

Simon retreated and turned his head, watching the two discreetly. He didn't want to be seen as Cameron's cohort.

"Why, thank you." She took her handkerchief from Cameron. "What is your name, young man?"

Cameron lowered his eyes. "Cameron, mum."

"Just call me Kathy." She smiled. "Cameron, where is your mother?"

"Dead, Miss. Pa, too."

Kathy held Cameron's dirt-caked hands. "You poor boy."

She looked into Cameron's eyes and smiled. "I'd like to help you, Cameron. Will you come home with me?"

"Mum?" Cameron's jaw dropped.

Simon discarded his plan for discretion. He stepped closer and gawked.

Kathy smiled gently. "I'd love to take you in, Cameron, if you'd like."

"Oh, yes, mum. Thank you, mum." Cameron danced down the sidewalk, grabbing the woman's outstretched hand. The two walked off.

Cameron hadn't turned to wave goodbye, and Simon wasn't surprised. He was getting a new life: why look back?

Over the next couple weeks, Simon heard gossip from local vagabonds. Cameron had his own room in a mansion. He ate four full meals a day. Kathy would adopt him.

Then, suddenly, the scuttlebutt turned grim. Cameron had fallen down a flight of stairs. He was in the hospital. The doctors couldn't help him.

Finally, just the day before, Simon learned Cameron was dead and his funeral was noon today, in the meetinghouse.

Fellow urchins had discouraged him from going, saying he'd never get into such a fine gathering. Simon was undeterred.

"Gotta go, fellas. If they don't let me in, they don't. I hafta try."

From the location of the sun, Simon could tell noon was fast approaching. He quickened his pace slightly, reaching the meetinghouse as several finely-dressed people entered.

He recognized Kathy right away. She stood at the meetinghouse door, greeting guests as they entered. Once the crowd cleared, she grinned and beckoned Simon, who stood beside a lamppost just outside the doorway. He approached cautiously.

"You must be Simon." The boy looked up and was immediately drawn into her warm eyes and gentle smile. "Cameron told me so much about you."

"Mum?"

"He surely missed his friend Simon. In fact, we were planning to come calling on you when..." She lowered her eyes briefly and sighed. "I do miss him, but it's a blessing to know he's in a better place, isn't it?"

How could she say that? Cameron was dead; how was that better than being rich in a fine house with a kind woman? And why was she smiling? Was she happy Cameron was gone? Simon bawled.

"Oh, Simon, don't cry." Kathy cupped his dirty face in her hands. "Cameron is in heaven."

Simon choked back further tears.

"Of course I'm sad that Cameron is dead, Simon. But he believed in Jesus before he passed on. Now he is in the most wonderful place, waiting for me - and for you, too.

"If you believe, Simon, you will see him again. And while we wait, we can know this: our friend Cameron is full of joy - more than we can imagine. For that we can be happy, yes?"

"Mum, I have to believe? How?" Simon pleaded. "I want to see Cameron again, and go to heaven. It sounds so much nicer than this place."

Kathy took Simon's hand. "The funeral is beginning, Simon. Come in with me and help us remember your friend. I'll tell you about it once you come back home with me afterward - if you'd like to, of course."

Simon nodded, full of hope, and entered the meetinghouse with her.

** thanks for reading! Stop by Dee's blog for more great fiction!

10/16/08

Monday Manna for Oct. 20--To Know Christ

At least some of you are familiar with my dear, amazing blogging sister in Christ Kristen at Exemplified. (and if you're not, you should be. Go ahead--click on the link. I'll wait. You won't be sorry!)

Anyhow, a bit ago, she started a meme called "Monday Manna." On the first Monday of each month, she posts her thoughts on scripture she introduced to her blogger friends the previous Thursday. All who are interested post their own thoughts on their blogs and add their name and link to the "Mr. Linky" gadget. People are welcome to post as little or as much as they wish - it doesn't have to be a long post-- just a few thoughts, a picture you feel helps express it, a poem, a short story, a devotional.

So, to come to the point, I was SO blessed by Monday Manna this past Monday, that I asked Kristen if I could host Monday Manna myself on the third Monday of the month, so we would all be fed twice a month instead of just once. Well, she was agreeable, so here I am!

So, continuing Kristen's tradition, I am presenting the Monday Manna verse for October 20.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11
There is a lot in these two verses--from knowing Christ, to His resurrection power, to His sufferings, to becoming like him in death, and more. I know of many who claim this verse as an absolute favorite.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. See you back here on Monday!

10/14/08

Doubly Blessed (by ONE person!)

I am extremely humbled to have been chosen by Tracy at Seed Thoughts as a recipient of not just one, but of TWO blog awards. But first, a bit about Tracy. She is a wonderful writer and devoted sister in Christ whose blog posts ALWAYS move and encourage me. If you haven't visited her blog, I can't recommend it any more highly.

And now to the awards, which I am blessed to have the privilege of passing along.

One is the Faithful Servant award, created by Jill at Forever 'n Ever 'n Always. Jill created the Faithful Servant Award because she was grateful for the many friends she’s met along her blogging journey. In her words: “Many of you have touched my heart and life in ways that have changed me eternally! I thank you for being a faithful servant and being obedient to the upward calling every time you share a piece of His heart living out in you! I pray that you will share this award with others who have touched your heart by sowing seeds of love into your life! They will know we are His by how we love one another! Let us sow seeds of love throughout the blogging world and touch the hearts of those who come to read what we all share! To HIM be all the glory forever and ever! AMEN!”



The second award is the Beautiful Butterfly award, for the coolest blog (and I don't come anywhere NEAR the coolest blog, but thank you SO much, darlin!)

And now for the fun--but difficult--job of passing these lovely awards on. As Tracey did, I will refrain from giving these awards to people I know have just received them.

I pass on the "Faithful Servant" award to:
Elaine at Peace for the Journey
Patty at Patterings
Kristen at Exemplify
Alicia Brit Chole at Truthportraits

And the "Beautiful Butterfly Award" goes to:
Laury at In My Daddy's Arms
Marita at Oh Oh! Pick Me!
Yvonne at My Back Door

I hope you stop by these blogs--they are well worth the time. God is working through each and every one of these wonderful women!

10/13/08

Not Just A Fish Story - Worth Mourning Over

Have you noticed that almost every time you look at a person from the Bible and think "what an idiot he/she is," God reminds you that you aren't so different? Well, it may not happen to you, but it sure does to me--more often than I'd like to admit. And it happened as I was reading the fourth chapter of the book of Jonah.
Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live."But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" "I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die." Jonah 4:5-9 NIV
Here's Jonah the prophet, man of God, living proof of the Lord's mercy, ready to die because his "shade plant" is no longer shading him from the sun. He's angry--really angry--over a vine that wasn't there 25 hours ago and isn't again now.

Now, maybe you've never gotten this angry about a plant, but I have certainly blown my top over things just as important. The frustration I've expressed when, say, I get a run in my stocking, when my internet is down, or I'm behind a slow vehicle, can irritate me much more than it should--almost as much, I'm ashamed to say, as Jonah. The things that make me upset are often ridiculous.

Yet there are other things--much more important ones--that cause me little to no grief. Both of my parents, all four of my brothers, and all of their spouses and children are unsaved, as is most of my not-as-immediate family. Many on my husband's side of the family do not know Jesus either. And of course, there are millions of citizens of this world who are heading for eternal damnation.

Sure--I'll get anxious or upset about it sometimes. I'll yearn to do something about it. But not always. Sometimes, if you judge my reactions, I mourn more over a lost set of keys than my lost parents. And, on those days, I'm just like Jonah.
But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" Jonah 4:10-11 NIV
Of course He should. And so should I. What's your "vine?" And what is your "Ninevah?"

Heavenly Father, please help me to get my priorities straight. Guide me, Lord, to put Your interests ahead of my own selfish ones. Help me, Lord, to truly mourn over the lost, and to let go of the things of this world that I desire only to bring me pleasure, or to make my life easier. Help me to care less and less about my vine, and more and more about my Ninevah. Help me to see how ridiculous I look--how like Jonah I look--when I am distressed and angry about the things in this life while ignoring the people You so long for me to bring to You. Thank You, Lord, for dying for me, and all the people You long for me to help You reach. In the precious name of your Son I pray. Amen

10/11/08

My Writing Habits - a Meme

Here’s something I found on Dee's wonderful blog My Heart's DeeLight--she found it at Dara's Blog and she found it on Pterodaustro Dreams' blog! As she wrote in her introduction, feel free to copy and use this on your own blog.

Do you write fiction or non-fiction? Or both?
I actually write both, though my best work (in my opinion, anyway) is fiction. Despite that, the major project I am working on right now is non-fiction. But that's the Lord, isn't it? Making up for YOUR weaknesses with HIS strength!

Do you keep a journal or a writing notebook?
Nope - though I usually keep a notebook with me to jot down ideas I may come up with

If you write fiction, do you know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing?
I know some of it when I start--usually. My characters will sometimes surprise me, though.

Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work?
Definitely NOT a procrastinator, though I am often stopped from writing when I want to because of my "life." And, unfortunately, because of that, I have lost some ideas. :(

Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time?
I've never really had much opportunity to sit down for a very long time, but lately it's been even "worse." I am doing almost all of my writing in 10-minute or less increments. I think I COULD write for longer periods (I think I've written for a solid hour before, but it's been a while)--just need to find a way of working it into my schedule (discipline and priorities!)

Are you a morning or afternoon writer?
I can, and do, write whenever I get a chance, but if it were entirely up to me, I think my best writing would be done in the morning. Hope to get back to you on confirming that! ;) I am definitely a "morning person."

Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate?
If I couldn't, I would never get any writing done. I must say, though, that I write BETTER, and with better focus, when there is less background noise rather than more (I'm not sure I remember what complete silence sounds like LOL)

Computer or longhand? (or typewriter?)
I can do either (LOL not typewriter!)--not sure I really have a preference. Whatever is convenient and available.

Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One? Or do you let the story evolve as you write? Never written anything more than one chapter (other than the Non-fiction I'm working on - and I obviously know how that ended). As far as my fiction, I would say that half the time I know how my short stories will end, and half the time the story will evolve (and occasionally, I'll "know" how my story is going to end, and then have my characters disagree and win the argument).

Does what’s selling in the market influence how and what you write?
Nope. Maybe I should, but I just write whatever I feel called/motivated to write.

Editing/Revision - love it or hate it?
I LOVE editing other people's stuff, and I LOVE a GOOD edit from someone who knows what they're talking about. I do get a bit defensive sometimes, but I can usually get over it. Doing the actual revisions can be tough, though.

I hope you will participate in this meme - if you do, lemme know, eh? Fun, huh?

10/10/08

Friday Fiction: "Under Cover"

Welcome to my contribution to Patterings' Friday Fiction. This meme is being hosted this week by Yvonne at "My Back Door." Be sure to stop by there and read more great fiction, or contribute your own. Just post some fiction, and add your blog to the Mr. Linky gadget at the bottom of her post.




I wrote this during the "homespun wisdom" quarter at the Faithwriters Writing Challenge. I challenged myself that quarter to do write Biblical fiction for each topic. This is one - and perhaps one of my favorites. Definitely based on an absolute favorite book of the Bible!


Under Cover

The covering thrown over my face is stifling. I gulp in the air around me--some of the last breaths I ever will take--and listen as my method of execution is declared.

The irony is not lost on me as I wait in the darkness created by this veil.

I had just wanted that man dead: him and his self-righteous people. They had been sworn enemies of my ancestors for nearly a thousand years, and that animosity certainly didn't lessen when he defied my kingdom.

So, it isn't my kingdom, exactly. Almost, but not quite. I am, after all, the head of the king's princes and servants. Nearly everyone in Persia is under me. Obedience to my command and honor to me are practically law.

Or were, anyway.

When I discovered he refused to bow down to me, despite the king's orders, I was irritated. When I learned of his nationality, I was livid. There he stood, at the king's gate, day after day, thumbing his nose at my authority. Nothing but that dirty Jew's death, and the death of his people, would appease me.

If only I'd settled for vengeance on one man.

In my defense, I wasn't the only one eager to get rid of the Jews, and I'm still not. I am certain, no matter what happens with the edict, those people will be eliminated somehow, some day. My people have been working at it for centuries, and they will succeed, with or without me. I'd bet my life on it.

I guess that's not much of a guarantee, considering my current situation, is it?

Anyhow, the edict. We Agagites gathered to consult the gods about the ideal time to get rid of the Jews. The chosen day was appointed --albeit eleven months off--and I drafted a decree to present to the king. Considering my pull with His Highness, I was certain that my wish would be his command, so to speak.

And I was right. I told the king about the Jews' refusal to obey his law--not mentioning the Jews by name, of course-and he gladly signed the edict and allowed me to seal it with his signet ring. I figured that the date being nearly a year away just gave my kinsmen plenty of time to prepare for the annihilation.

If only the lot had pointed us to a more immediate date.

I was sure things were wonderful when the queen invited me to her banquet yesterday. The food was exquisite, and I was her only guest aside from the king himself. Then, when she asked me back for the following day, I was tickled beyond belief...until I stepped out and saw that Jew, Mordecai, at the gate, refusing to show me the honor I deserved. I wanted to kill him on the spot.

It's a shame I restrained myself.

I went home, figuring a chat with my wife and comrades would lighten my mood. I was right, of course. They not only relished in the glory and honor I received from the king and queen, but they came up with what I thought was the perfect solution to my problem.

"Have a gallows fifty cubits high made and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it; then go joyfully with the king to the banquet,*" they suggested.

So that's how I spent last night: constructing the mode of my worst enemy's demise. I must say it was a most joyous undertaking, and my spirits were quite high as I entered the court to ask His Highness' permission to exact my revenge.

That was the very last time I rejoiced.

I won't go into all the details, but suffice it to say that I was humiliated, shamed, cursed, and sentenced to death. And now, it appears that my method of vengeance on Mordecai will be meted out on me.

The brightness of the day is almost blinding me. After leading me through I don't know where, they have removed the veil from my face. As my eyes adjust to the light, I see one of the king's servants approach. In his hand is a noose - a noose I am all too familiar with. I look up, fifty cubits into the sky of Susa, and see the destiny I have built for myself.

So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai.*

*Scripture quotations, in order, from NASB
Esther 5:14, Esther 7:10

Don't forget to stop by My Back Door for more great fiction!

10/8/08

Not Just Another Fish Story - Sorry

My daughter is crying.My son is laughing--and he has a Scooby Doo punching bag/bop in his hand. But not for long.

"Do you like it when your sister cries?" I wriggle the bop bag out of his hand, rubbing my daughter's back in the process.

"No." He reaches toward me. "Give it back."

I shake my head. "Then why did you hit her with this?"

Silence.

"What do you say?"

"I'm sorry," he half-whines flippantly.

My daughter sniffles and looks up at her big brother. "It's okay."

And the two head off to play.

**

Now, on the surface, it may look like this little scene was a masterful technique for teaching my son. (Or maybe you are wiser than I was and have already figured out where I'm going with this.)

But you'd never guess what I saw in front of me not ten minutes later.
Andrew standing over Annika with that silly bop bag inches from her head--again.
No matter what Andrew said ten minutes previous, you can't convince me that he actually meant it, because his actions didn't back it up. He may have said he was sorry, but he wasn't--though he may have been sorry for getting caught.

My son's words were just that--words. If he had truly been sorry, his actions (or in this case, lack of actions) would have been evident. His heart would have changed, and Annika's head would have been safe from the crushing blow of Scooby Doo.

Like my son, the Ninevites of Jonah's time were disobedient to man and to the Lord. Like my son, they were told (by a clearly imperfect messenger) that they needed to stop.

But this is where the parallel ends. Unlike Andrew, the Ninevites took action.
The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. Jonah 3:5 NIV
They showed their regret for their actions through the standard mourning signs of their times. These people, who were not God's people (did you happen to catch that?), are showing a lot more regret for their deeds than Andrew did (or Jonah, for that matter--but I'm getting ahead of myself). This repentance even went as high as the monarchy.
"By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." Jonah 3:7b-9 NIV
Think about what the leader of this grand empire demanded of his subjects. This is serious business--the serious business of true repentance. Fasting is one thing, but having your livestock fast as well can have serious consequences after the humans start eating again. Having your food supply stop taking in nourishment is quite a sacrifice. The people also, we should note, stopped their sinning and mourned over it. That doesn't sound like a superficial "I'm sorry."

And it wasn't. How do we know, you ask? Well, for one, their actions show it. Remember, James tells us in the second chapter of his letter that faith without works is dead. Most importantly, however, the Lord, who knew the heart of every one of them, accepted it as true repentance.
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. Jonah 3:10 NIV
This is not to say, of course, that the Ninevites never disappointed the Lord again. In fact, they were later the subject of total destruction as prophesied by the later OT prophet Nahum. But, at this time, they honored God, and turned from their own ways to His. I can guarantee that the king of Ninevah wasn't hitting his younger sibling upside the head ten minutes after declaring this proclamation.

Saying "sorry" isn't enough. That is clear, not only from the book of Jonah, but from my own living room as well. We need the actions, and the heart, behind the words.

Heavenly Father, help me to raise my children to seek true repentance, and to have their hearts changed away from their own way and to Yours. Help me too, Lord, to desire to follow God's path in all things, and to quickly repent--to turn Your way--when I disobey and put my own selfish desires before Yours. Help me to not only show the signs of true repentance, but to have a heart change, and be willing to make whatever sacrifice you wish of me to display my sorrow at my deeds. In the name of Your precious Son Jesus I pray. Amen


10/6/08

Monday Manna : Since Time Began

Welcome to my contribution to Kristen's Monday Manna at Exemplified. For this time, we were asked to read the amazingly incredible Psalm 139 and write about a verse that stands out to our heart.

Choosing just one was quite a challenge, as this happens to be one of my absolute favorite psalms in the Bible with so many incredible verses with so many great truths. But, with the Lord's leading and guidance, I was able to pick one, and I hope my thoughts bless you.

Don't forget to stop by Exemplified and see what the other contributors have to say--and feel free to contribute yourself. Just write up your blog, then add your blog to the Mr. Linky gadget at Kristen's blog.




Since Time Began

...All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16 NIV

As some of you may know, I am currently working on a book about God's workings in our family during my husband's health troubles. It's been over five years since the issues started, and some of the little details seem to have escaped my memory, which is making this project a bit tougher than I would have expected.

Yet, the Lord could have written this book before either my husband or I were born. God knew, in eternity past, the precise second that we would be told there was a mass on Marc's brain that shouldn't be there. He knew exactly who and when that "mystery giver" would put a $100 bill in an envelope and stuck it in our mailbox when we needed it most.

But, do you know what? He also knew far before I was born that I was going to snap at my daughter for no reason yesterday. That I was going to make something of a habit of stealing candy from the grocery store when I was a 'tween. That I was going to rebel against my parents all through my teen years. That I was going to do a lousy job of taking care of "His temple" in my 20's. And that, even after I was saved, I would continue to disappoint him over and over.
Yet, he still chose me to be one of his beloved children, a member of His family.
Does that blow you away as much as it does me? If I had been God, and had His foresight into what kind of person I was, I never would have picked me to be a chosen one. Just goes to show that I'm fortunate that God isn't like me. And you should be glad too. I mean, think about it. Would you choose yourself to be a child of the perfect God? Aren't you glad God's choosing of us has nothing to do with our works, or worthiness?
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

What a gift from God--who knew how I was going to blow it, yet still chose me.

This verse, by the way, reassures me in yet another way. Let's look at it one more time.
...All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16 NIV
If God loves me (which he does - pick a verse to prove it) and works out all for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), then I can know that everything that has happened in my past, as well as whatever the future may hold, has been filtered through God's hand and can help me to please Him, and make me more like Him. It is all part of "my book"--the book that has already been written. My days have been ordained for me, and no matter what happens, no matter how unexpected things may appear to me, God knew about every one. He's been "planning it" since before time began.

If that isn't reassuring, I don't know what is.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your amazing Word, that reveals more and more to me each time I take the effort to read and meditate on it. I praise You for Your amazingly comforting foreknowledge of all, and for your watchcare of us, despite how often we fail you. Thank You, Lord, for choosing me despite myself, and for giving me the incredible privilege of being saved by grace. Help me, Lord, to live worthy of my precious calling. In the precious name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

10/3/08

Fiction Fridays: "A Little Chutzpah"

Welcome to my contribution to Patterings' Friday Fiction, which is being hosted this week by Betsy at Just Another Clay Pot. I wrote this for the embarrassed topic a bit over a year ago at the FW Writing Challenge, and it is fairly strongly based on true events in my own life fairly soon after I got saved. I hope you enjoy it. (and if, like many other readers when I first posted it, you are interested in "what happened next," there is a link at the bottom of the story that will direct you to a bit more of the story. Be sure to stop by Just Another Clay Pot for more great fiction!



A Little Chutzpah

"I love you, Daddy. Take care."

"Right. Bye, girl."

Marcia placed the telephone back in the cradle and sighed. Conversations with Dad had definitely become more strained, at least on her end, since she became a Christian.

After months of bible reading, searching, church attendance, and prayer, she'd accepted Christ as her Messiah a few weeks before. And she had yet to tell her parents - or anyone else in her family, besides her husband.

It helped that Dad lived halfway across the country, and that it was the middle of tax season. She likely wouldn't have many occasions to speak with her CPA father for a while. Maybe then she'd get up the nerve, the chutzpah, to tell him what she'd done.

Marcia snickered at the thought. Chutzpah was just the right word to describe what the daughter of a religious Jew needed to tell her father that she had become a Christian. Her father, who was on the board at one of the largest synagogues in the country. Dad, whose favorite expletive was "Jesus Christ."

What if he yells? What if he never wants to talk to me again? What if he says I'm a fool?

Marcia lowered herself slowly into the recliner and stared up at the ceiling.

What if he asks me a question I can't answer?

"Maybe that's the real fear," Marcia pondered aloud. "What if he attacks my beliefs and I have no answer? What if I make a fool of myself trying to explain my new thinking and he laughs at me, calling me simple-minded? What if I stumble over my words and make no sense?"

Marcia shuddered. The idea of being a laughingstock to anyone, but especially her father, made her feel more than uneasy. It was enough to make her ready to go hide in a corner.

Marcia had never been one for confrontation. She had avoided them at all cost since childhood. Yet, she knew she couldn't keep this from Dad forever.

Her brother was flying in to visit in a couple months. That was as good a deadline as any.

"By the time Davey comes in May, I've gotta tell Dad."

**

Stretching the fitted sheet across the edge of the sofa bed, Marcia smiled at Stephen, who tucked it under the mattress on the other side.

"What time does his flight get in?"

Marcia glanced at her watch. "We should leave here in 15 minutes or so. We about ready?"

Stephen nodded. "So, have you thought about how you're going to tell Davey?"

"Some." Marcia drummed her fingers on her pant leg. "It'll be a good trial run for Dad, anyway. Davey probably won't be fazed. He doesn't seem to care much about religion, one way or the other. And maybe he can give me some ideas about how to tell Dad."

Stephen smiled, throwing his arm around Marcia. "Hey, are you okay?"

Nodding, Marcia half-grinned. "Just nervous, I guess. I'm gonna have to tell Dad some time in the next few days. Just don't want to make a mess of it."

"You know what, Hon?" Stephen gazed into her eyes. "You've been worrying about this too much. What you have to say is nothing to be ashamed of. Sure, your dad might take it hard, but what's the worst thing that can happen?"

Marcia shrugged. "I could make a fool out of myself."

"And how bad is that?" Stephen's eyes sparkled. "He already thinks you're a fool for following me out here to 'Pennsyltucky.'"

Laughing, Marcia jabbed Stephen in the ribs.

"Seriously, though, any embarrassment will only be temporary." He kissed his wife on the cheek. "This is eating you up. Whatever your father's reaction, it will be easier on you than what you've been putting yourself through for the past three months."

Marcia smiled and nodded. "You're right, as usual. So, I'll tell Davey tonight at dinner, then call Dad tomorrow."

"Sounds like a plan." Stephen put Marcia's hand in his. "Shall we go fetch the first victim?"

Marcia giggled. "Got my chutzpah ready, anyway."

**
Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you. 1 Peter 3:15 NKJV

Chutzpah is a Yiddish word meaning audacity or nerve.

(Want more of the story? Check out A Little More Chutzpah).

10/1/08

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Well, my goals were lofty, especially not knowing what the first month of school would be like. Three chapters in a month! (even if I wasn't expected to have them all perfect) That's a LOT to expect.

Well, I didn't QUITE make it. In fact, I'm not sure I could say I even got close. Here were my three goals for September.
1. I will compose to the second draft a chapter about God's preparation of our family through my husband's planning for a career change a year before he got sick.
2. I will compose to the second draft a chapter about God's perfect timing and the incredible circumstances around the birth of my daughter during our health trial.
3. I will convert some of the information in my Challenge entry "In Old Testament Black and White" into a book chapter.

Well, I didn't even TOUCH #1. Not even a THOUGHT (I'd even forgotten I made that as a goal! LOL). For #2, I finished the first, very rough, draft. And #3 I'm about halfway through the rough draft.

So, some might say I failed. But do you know what? I don't. Sure, I didn't reach my goal, but I DID end the month with more written than I started it with. I also got some other things done - including some blogs, a bit of editing, and submitting an article or two for paid publication. I've also gotten better about keeping my house neater (not neat, but neater!), and I've been spending some quality time with friends and family. And I felt (for the most part) like I was in God's will.

So, perhaps I set my sights to high. Perhaps my goals were set (or sought for!) without seeking the Lord. Perhaps they were a way to "brag" to myself about how much I figured I could do. Regardless, I am not allowing myself to be discouraged. I am simply pressing on with new goals (and yeah, I'm seeking God about them a bit more fervently than last month!), confident that, if I keep the Lord at the center, I will accomplish exactly as much as He wants me to.

Thanks to all of you who have been following my progress - check my sidebar for my new goals in just a couple minutes!

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