"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

2/27/09

Friday Fiction: "Hurricane Elliot"

Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Friday, hosted this week by Beth at Laughing at the Days. Be sure to stop by her blog for links to some wonderful fiction. And don't be afraid to post your own - just link up in the gadget at the bottom of her post!
Today, my wonderful, energetic firstborn, Andrew, turns eight years old. (Happy Birthday, buddy!) In honor of this momentous occasion, I have selected the story below. Though it is not a true story, the main character is definitely based on my son. This was only my second entry in the Faithwriters' Writing Challenge, and came in second in the beginners' level for the topic, which was "walk." I hope you enjoy it!


HURRICANE ELLIOT

"Inside voice, please!" Melody Winford looked disapprovingly at her 5-year-old son Elliot. "You'll wake daddy."

"OK," Elliot whispered as he sprinted across the living room, jumped over the fire truck he'd left on the floor, and bounded up the stairs to his room two steps at a time.

"And walk, Elliot, walk!"

Melody sighed and slumped down in her easy chair. What a workout that kid gave her. They say children his age, especially boys, are full of energy, but Elliot's pep dribbled out his pores. If she had a brick for every time someone said "I wish I had his energy," she could build the Tower of Babel in her back yard. She always told the "Elliot energy seekers" they were welcome to his energy --as long as they didn't give it back to him.

Now there was humor with a slice of truth in it. Melody loved her son more than she could ever express, but why did he have to be so high-strung, so loud, so hyper? If only he didn't fiddle nonstop, wasn't in perpetual motion 24/7, wasn't...

CRASH

"Melody!" her husband Greg said groggily from the bedroom. "Is everything all right?"

"Checking," she answered, whispering a short prayer under her breath, as she sprinted up the stairs toward Elliot's room.

She looked into Elliot's bedroom to find at least five dozen books sprawled about the floor, his bookcase flat on the ground. Elliot - either oblivious to what had happened, or having dismissed it seconds ago - was sitting on his beanbag chair in the corner, flipping through, of all things, Go, Dog, Go.

Spouting out a quick "thank you, Lord," Melody walked through the book minefield and put the bookcase back in place, making a mental note to have Greg come up and anchor it to the wall later that day.

"Everything's fine, Greg," she shouted down the stairs, "Go back to sleep, dear."

As she started putting the books back, Elliot looked up from his reading.

"Sorry, mommy."

"It's OK, honey. You just need to be careful."

"I know," he said as he began picking up the books and helping put them back on the shelves.

*******

"Elliot! Greg! Dinner!"

Elliot bounced (literally) out of his room and down the hallway to the top of the stairs.

"Elliot the kangaroo is ready for dinner," the boy giggled. "Boing, boing, b-"

A series of bumps, thumps and screams came from Elliot's direction. The older Winfords ran for the stairs, where they found Elliot sprawled across the landing, his arms and legs every which way.

"I'll call 911," Greg said breathlessly as he sprinted for the phone.

"Elliot, are you OK, honey?" She cradled her son's head in her lap.

"I didn't walk, mommy."

********

"Wow, TWO casts!" Elliot looked down with pride at his wrapped up left lower leg and right lower arm. "Too cool!"

As Greg wheeled him down the hospital corridor in his wheelchair, Elliot asked everyone who passed by to sign his casts. Though stopping every three feet was getting old, Greg and Melody were glad the fall hadn't broken their son's spirit, and resigned to humoring him.

"My! What happened to you, young man?" a woman with salt and pepper hair and a matronly look asked.

"I didn't listen to mommy when she told me to walk," he said sheepishly. "Wanna sign my cast?"

She tittered, "Certainly. What is your name, young man?"

"Elliot. E-L-L-I-O-T. What's your name?

"Mrs. Grayson," the woman said.

"Do you listen to your mommy, Mrs. Grayson? You should, you know."

"Yes, Elliot, in fact, I do. Even when I don't want to, I try to do just what my mother told me," Mrs. Grayson replied.

"Now Elliot, it was delightful talking with you, and I hope you feel better soon, but I have an appointment to get to, and I need to run."

"Thank you! But--Mrs. Grayson?"

"Yes, Elliot?"

"Walk, Mrs. Grayson - walk!"

**

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

2/26/09

Monday Manna for March 2 (and consecration)

I'm over at Exemplify today for my Ponderings on the Pentateuch series. I'd love to have you stop by and read about Consecrated Body Parts. And check out the other bloggers while you're there, eh?

And now on to the other stuff...

Monday Manna

The purpose of Monday Manna is to get together and get to know Christ more through His Word.

For those of you unfamiliar, on the first and third Mondays of each month, anyone who wants to participate can post their thoughts on a specific verse. The verse is posted here at my blog on the Thursday before, to allow you to chew on it over the weekend. 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.

This week, I'm doing something a little different. I have actually chosen two verses. They are both favorites of mine, and are similar in topic, if you will. You are free to do your Monday Manna post on the first, the second, or both. I am VERY much looking forward to the insights I receive myself, and from the rest of you.

So, without further ado, here's some scripture to chew on over the weekend!
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 NIV
And some more ;)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 NIV
Looking forward to seeing what you all come up with. Don't forget to post, then come back and link up at my blog on Monday!

2/25/09

Word-Filled Wednesday: His Word

Welcome to my contribution to Amy Deanne's Word-Filled Wednesday meme.

One of my very favorite Psalms is the 119th. The psalmist spends 176 verses, in 22 stanzas, praising, pondering, and seeking the Word of God. In fact, in only a very small handful of verses is a term for God's Word NOT mentioned.

If any one thing comes across in this beautiful piece, it is that the writer of this masterful piece of poetry loved God's Word. Perhaps that is why I love the psalm so much. For I feel the very same way. As much as I see the world ignoring--or worse, cursing--it, God's Word is so precious.


It is time for you to act, O Lord; your law is being broken. because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold,...I hate every wrong path. Psalm 119:126-7, NIV

For more visual inspiration from scripture, check out Amy Deanne's blog. There is sure to be much to bless you.




2/23/09

Introducing....yours truly!

A week or so ago, my dear amazing bloggy friend Kristen participated in an "interview meme" and invited friends to participate. So...here I am. Kristen has interviewed me, and I'm posting her questions, and my answers, below. Read below this exclusive interview if you'd like to play along too!

Tell us, what do you want to be when you grow up? Funny you should ask this question, Mrs. Schiffman. I was just thinking about this the other day. More than anything, my greatest desire is to be well-rested when I grow up. I've been working at this for years, and somehow, I don't seem to be getting any better at it. Hoping it's one of those talents that is caught, rather than taught. I'll be sure to let you know.

Oh - and besides that, I would love to be a published Christian non-fiction book and novel author who is impacting the world powerfully for Christ. (but if I had to choose between one or other, I suppose I'd settle for the author thing. Rest is overrated - or so I've heard!)

If you could choose one fictional character to best portray you, who would you choose and why? Kristen, where DO you come up with these questions? I had to think on this one long and hard, and I'm still not very satisfied with my answer. But, I asked my loving husband, and after much thought, he came up with the Star Trek: Voyager character Neelix, and the more I think about it, the more I can agree. He has a very optimistic personality for the most part, and loved to try to make others happy and encourage them. He was friendly and protective of those he cared about. And though I do not look like him (LOL at least I hope not!), I think our interactions with others have some similarities.

Why did you start blogging?
It was completely, totally, and entirely peer pressure. Back in June, my dear dear dear DEAR friend Patty Wysong (AKA peejiepoopers!) had just started Friday Fiction on her blog, and was trying to convince some friends to participated in it. Well, more readers for my fiction ALWAYS sounds good. At the same time I was contemplating a place to write about my progress on my nonfiction book - somewhere to keep myself accountable. So, (almost) kicking and screaming, I started my blog with this "oh-so-optimistic" post.What do you think about it now that you are officially a blogger? I love the blog world, and being a part of it. I've made lots of amazing friends (including and especially YOU, Mrs. Schiffman!), and learned incredible truths from the incredible bloggers out there. I've also found a home for my ponderings, accountability for my book-writing progress, and yet another place where I can encourage folks.

If you could share one piece of advice with us, what would it be? My advice is not my advice at all, but something I've picked up from my Heavenly Father. For the past five years or so, it has been my life verse from His Word. In the words of the Apostle Paul, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7) And, in the words of Joanne Sher: don't worry - just pray. :)

AND if I could offer one MORE piece of advice, I would encourage you to "plod on." If you can't accomplish big things in your timing, take it slow. As is evidenced by my "325-word-a-day" book writing, slow and steady truly DO win the race. (FYI, 325 words a day is almost 120,000 words a year!!) Press on!

Share your favorite song and the lyric line from it you love the most. I LOVE hymns especially. I don't listen much to current music - I've either got kids' music, my hubby's 80's stuff (I like it too!), or silence (when I have the chance - on occasion!) on in the car, and I don't really listen much any other time besides at church (when I also sing along!). So, I'd say my favorite at the moment is "It Is Well With My Soul" by Horatio Spafford. This song almost always makes me cry. My very favorite verse (and the one that is most likely to get the waterworks going) is
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
(and since you asked, here is an awesome video that gives the history of the song, with the beautiful music in the background. Don't miss it!)




Now...I would love to interview you and you and you. So here is what you do:

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

So come on--let's get to know each other better. And do not fear potential questions--I promise to play very nice.

2/21/09

And the winner is....

I don't think I have EVER gotten more comments on a post than I did for this here contest celebrating my 10 years of salvation! (maybe I'm just not popular unless I'm giving something away LOL - and I just checked. This was my SECOND highest post count. The top post-getter, with 35, was ALSO a giveaway LOL) Regardless, I'm awful impressed with thirty responses - I hope my testimony was encouraging to you. Your comments certainly encouraged me.

I chose to use www.random.com to determine my winner (and no, Beth, you did NOT get two chances! hehe). So, the winner of Women of Passions: Ordinary Women Serving an Extraordinary God is:

Marita Thelander

Congratulations, Mari! I'll get it out to you as soon as I get your address (either from you or Laury)!

Thanks, all for participating in my giveaway - and even if you didn't win, you can always pick the book up :D (yeah, I'm a BIT of a publicist LOL). Just click on the graphic below.

Thanks again, folks!


2/20/09

Friday Fiction: "Grasping Hand"

Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Friday, hosted this week by Yvonne at My Back Door. Be sure to stop by her blog for links to some wonderful fiction. And don't be afraid to post your own - just link up in the gadget at the bottom of her post!


(but first, I've got a giveaway going on in connection with my 10th "rebirthday," and the deadline to enter is tomorrow morning! Click on the graphic below to read my testimony and enter. I promise you, the book I'm giving away will bless you!)

Anyhow - back to my contribution.

I have participated in Friday Fiction three dozen times (and that is NOT an exaggeration), and this is the very first one where I have written something completely original. I started writing Wednesday night as I was waiting for prayer meeting to start, and finished up Thursday evening - I didn't know what I was writing about until about a hour before I finished. God musta written it :) I pray it blesses you!

GRASPING HAND

My eyes were barely open, but still I could see him. I wanted to stay awake-would have given nearly anything-but I couldn't. I knew as surely as I was breathing that I couldn't keep my eyes open another minute. And I also knew that when I did awaken, he would be gone.

His visit had been short: too short. Three days wasn't nearly enough time. Yet, it had to be. That was all the time we had. We both knew it.

I reached out my hand with my last bit of strength, and he put his in mine and squeezed. His sweet voice spoke my name, but the words that followed faded as I drifted unwillingly into slumber.

My dreams were restless and disturbing. Being chased. Falling. Being lost in a darkened maze. Yet I could still feel the tender touch of his hand around mine, even in my sleep. I knew, somehow, that as long as my fingers were encased in his, I was safe.

And gradually my unconscious mind rested and the dreams mellowed, then disappeared altogether. As I felt myself slowly returning to the waking world, I perked my ears, eyes still shut, and listened to the noises around me. The whirring of a fan. A methodic beeping. And I knew it was time to rise.

But still I fought opening my eyes. I didn't want to see the room without him there. Even over the few precious days we had spent together, he had made his indelible imprint on everything in the room. It would seem empty--lacking--without his presence.

I tried to move my hand: the hand that had been gripped in his during my last moments of consciousness. It had fallen asleep overnight. I thought about trying to bring the feeling back to it: shaking it, touching it with the other hand. Yet, I wasn't sure I wanted to have any feeling other than his palm within it.


Father, I know You are good. I know You love me. But how can good come out of this? The aching in my heart is even worse now than before I found him. How could You give me this desire of my heart, then snatch it away after only a few days?

I'd seen him once before this weekend. And that was when the desire to find him first surfaced. There I lay on my bed with blood-stained sheets, too tired to move. I watched my mother take the screaming baby boy out of the room. I hoped--prayed--that she wouldn't make good on her threat.

"You don't deserve this child. You'll just mess 'm up like you messed up your own life. I won't let you raise him."

And I never saw him again: never even knew where he was, until last month. After 18 years of searching, I found my son. He was three days from deployment to Afghanistan when we were finally able to connect.

And he came to visit me. We spent the next 72 hours sharing our lives, praying together, and talking as I imagine a normal mother and her teenage son talk. For the first time, I felt like a real mother.

But all the talking, sharing, and fear of missing even a moment with him wore me out. Right before I dozed off, I glanced at the clock on the stark white wall. He had to be at the airport in two hours. And then he'd be gone. Again.

I finally opened my eyes a slit as I heard the beeping increase in volume. He wasn't there, but the doctor and nurses were standing over my bed, looks of intensity on their faces.

And there was one more presence. And He was smiling.

You're coming with me now, my child. And your son will be with you too, very soon. You met him here on earth, and soon you will know him in heaven.

My empty hand is suddenly filled with the touch of my Savior. As I hear the beeping beginning to flat-line, I smile, fading into eternity, grasping the only hand I ever really needed.

**

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

2/19/09

Blog Love (and a couple reminders)

Stop by The Exemplify Blog, if you would. Not only am I continuing my Ponderings on The Pentateuch series with a post called Three Kings: One Purpose, but there are some other EXTREMELY awesome posts there by some extremely prolific and Godly women. Don't miss it!

Also, I've got a giveaway going on, celebrating my first decade as a child of God! Click on the picture below to go to my testimony and the giveaway. Deadline is this Saturday morning!


And now to the FUN part!

My dear, dear friend and sister in Christ Patty Wysong from Patterings gave me this blog award the other day. Her blog is incredible in so many ways: Patty has an incredible talent for using ordinary, everyday occurrences and turning them into profound lessons. Plus, she's in charge of Fiction Fridays, which has to be one of my VERY favorite memes in blogdom! I am always blessed when I stop by.

The rules of this award are:
Confess 5 things I'm addicted to.
Pass this award onto 5 other sisters.
SO, the five things I'm addicted to:
1. The Amazing Jesus, my Messiah. Gotta gotta GOTTA read His Word, talk to Him, and be in His Presence daily.
2. My amazing husband - he was custom-made for me. I'd be a mess (LOL more than I already am!) without him.
3. The Internet - blogdom, Faithwriters, email. And besides, some of my very closest friends live there!
4. My sweet children (even when they're not being so sweet!). Love 'em to pieces - PIECES, I say!
5. Spring chocolates (what are Spring chocolates, you say? - the kinds you can ONLY get around that time. I'm talkin' Cadbury Creme Eggs and Girl Scouts Thin Mints--other chocolate is good too, but :D)

OK - now it says I'm supposed to pass it on to five sisters. And I KNOW that's a picture of a lady, and someone of the male persuasion may not want to put such a "cute" picture on his blog. But I GOTTA do what I feel I'm being led to do.
1. Peter Stone: I really, really DO know you're not a sister. Really. But your blog, When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong, IS fabulous. Peter hasn't been blogging for very long, but his incredible insights, lived out, into depression are an absolute must-read for everyone: whether you have experienced depression, are experiencing it, know someone who experience or experienced it, or just to help you through the blues. I cannot recommend this blog any more highly. READ IT.
2. Teresa Lee Rainey: Another relatively new blogger (less than a month!) who has created a blog that I can't wait to stop by. Her Whitewashed Heart is a place to be encouraged, taught, and blessed. Teresa has a wonderful heart for women.
3. Sharlyn Guthrie: Dancin' on Rainbows isn't just the blog home of a dear friend and masterful writer. It is, in fact, a place for inspiration, honesty, comfort, and healing. Another "don't miss" blog!
4. Sara Harricharan: Sara is no newbie to blogdom (I know of at least THREE blogs that she has), but I'm especially drawn to, and blessed by, her newest blog venture In Shades of Scarlet. Sara is an incredible young woman, full of energy, writing talent (more in her pinky than I have in my whole body!) and a love of her Lord. Her heart, I believe, is in this new blog. Stop by and fall in love with it, as I have.
5. Elaine Olsen: If you've never been to Peace for the Journey, go there now. (I mean it! I'll still be here when you get back. I'm very patient) Her depth of love for her Lord, and insights into Him, are astoundingly wonderful and such a blessing. I am ALWAYS convicted and ALWAYS blessed when I stop by. She is an incredibly anointed teacher who I would LOVE to be taught by face to face some day.

Congratulations, my dear friends. Be sure to check out these fabulous blogs! And thanks for reading!

2/18/09

Word-Filled Wednesday: Comfort

First, be sure to enter my giveaway, celebrating my first decade as a child of God! Click on the picture below to go to my testimony and the giveaway. Deadline is Saturday morning!


Welcome to my contribution to Word-Filled Wednesdays, hosted by Amy Deanne at her wonderful blog the 160 acre woods.

I actually found this picture last week for another purpose, but realized just a bit ago that it would be PERFECT for one of my favorite verses of Scripture. I pray that my "scripture" art inspires, and comforts, you! This is definitely an aspect of our Heavenly Father that I am so very thankful for, and have "used" quite a bit.

Photobucket
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3 NIV)

Be sure to stop by the 160 acre woods for more visual inspiration from scripture.

2/17/09

A Decade With Christ (giveaway included!)

Ten years ago today, I truly understood for the first time that I was a sinner and that Jesus Christ had paid the price for my sin. I asked for forgiveness, and promised that I would invite him to be my Lord and Savior.

That, my friends, is the very, very condensed version of my conversion testimony. If you'd like to read a somewhat less condensed (but still not full!) version, you can read my Faithwriters challenge entry In Old Testament Black and White - just click on the title and you'll be there.

It's amazing to think how different I was on February 16, 1999 than that next day. I went from a heathen to a believer. From condemned to forgiven. From a child of Satan to a child of God.

And, though my life has changed, and I have grown enormously between this February 17 and the one a decade ago, none of the changes have been as dramatic as the instantaneous ones that occurred when I got saved. And that will still be the case until the day I leave this earth.

However, I still think it is important to rehearse God's work in me over the past ten years. So, here I go. This, of course, is not an exhaustive list, but just a few of the ways that God has worked in my life.
  • My husband, Marc, and I had been trying to have a child, off and on, for four years when we got saved. Two years and ten days after I got saved, we had our first child, the wonderful Andrew, who turns 8 on the 27th of this month.
  • Three months after I came to Christ, my husband became a believer.
  • One month after my husband and I started trying for our second child, I was pregnant with my beautiful daughter Annika, who turned 5 on Thanksgiving day.
  • My marriage to my husband has grown enormously and powerfully, in ways it never would have had not Christ led us in that growth.
  • God provided us an absolutely incredible church family (that means YOU, Ann!) that supported us as none possibly could while our family dealt with Marc's brain tumor and assorted complications.
  • God provided discovery of Marc's brain tumor in His perfect timing. Three months later, and Marc likely would have been unemployed and maybe even without health insurance and disability insurance. A few years earlier, and we wouldn't have been believers.
  • God plopped me in the middle of the incredibly supportive group of Christian writers at Faithwriters just when I needed it.
  • God used some of those very Faithwriters' brothers and sisters in Christ to help me discover one of my spiritual gifts (thanks, George, especially!), and provided an outlet for me to exercise my gift of encouragement.
  • When we found it necessary to change churches, God again led us to a wonderful place with incredibly supportive and Godly people.
  • God, through Faithwriters and my ministry of encouragement there, placed in my path some amazingly incredible, dear friends from across the country who love me, admonish me, pray with me, laugh (a LOT) with me and cry with me.
  • God led me to an online writing ministry, as well as a bit of an editing ministry that helps a bit financially.
  • God has been progressively making me more and more like Him. Just thinking about my views of sin, suffering, God, peace, joy, and every other aspect of life and death ten years ago, it is hard to believe I was the same person then.
Obviously, this list is anything but complete. The past ten years have been a journey: sometimes tough, sometimes easy, but always safe--as I was safe in the hands of my Father.

So, today I celebrate ten years in the arms of my Father. And of course, the years that follow promise to be even better. Thank you, dear readers, for being part of that journey of mine.

Oh - I mentioned a giveaway in my title, didn't I? Well, a much longer (but still not complete, of course) version of my conversion story was published not too long ago in a wonderful anthology called Women of Passions: Ordinary People Serving and Extraordinary God. Put out by Heart of God International, it is full of personal testimonies of God's work in many women's lives, including mine (and some other bloggy friends you may know: including LauraLee Shaw of LauraLee's Lifesong, Julie Arduini of Surrendered Scribe, Jan Ross of The Plumb Line, Mid Stutsman of Mid's Point, and Yvonne Blake of My Back Door).


This wonderful book, which came in third place in the devotional category for the Christian Choice Book Awards, can be YOURS.... All you have to do is post a comment on this blog post. Only one entry per person, and you have until...hmmm...how about....Saturday morning at 7ET. At that time, I'll either put all the names in a hat and have one of my kids pick one out, or use the randomizer tool, and the winner will get a copy of this book (autographed by me if you want!). Just a fun way to celebrate my re-birthday!

Thanks for stopping by and reading, and for your support of my ministry of "blogginess." I look forward to many more years of sharing my God with you.

2/16/09

Monday Manna - Peace from Punishment

Welcome to Monday Manna. The purpose of this meme is to get together and get to know Christ more through His Word. The first and third Monday of each month, anyone who wishes can post their thoughts on a verse I introduced at my blog the Thursday before. 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.

Anyone is welcome to participate. Just post to your blog and link up at the bottom of this post in the Mr. Linky gadget.

This Monday's verse is one very dear to my heart, as I "got saved" in it--ten years ago tomorrow, in fact. (Be sure to stop by again tomorrow for some further reflections on my conversion and my decade as His child)
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
Feel free to share your own thoughts on this verse and link up at the bottom. I look forward to hearing what you have to share about this verse.

Below are my reflections:

**

When I was young, I was not a model child (I know - some of you are probably shocked by this fact). I would disobey my parents, sometimes purposefully, and hope I could escape punishment. It's pretty amazing what I thought I could get away with (and even, in a few rare cases, what I DID get away with).
Yet, though I may have figured I'd gotten away with some dastardly deed, I had no peace.
Every time I saw my mom and dad, I wondered if they'd figured out what I'd done. If one of them called me over, I stifled a shiver for the punishment I'd likely get if they had figured it out. I was, in a word, afraid of being found out.

Sometimes, it was actually a relief to be "found out" (though I don't believe I ever felt bad enough at the time to actually confess before they got to me). The constant looking over my shoulder was more distressing than the discipline I received (and deserved!). And with the punishment, the peace returned.

Christ did the very same thing for me when He died on the cross--but with a twist. Instead of meting out the punishment that I deserved, he took it for me. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him. When we sin, we have no peace. When we reap the consequences of that sin, we no longer need to feel guilt, because we have received our "just desserts."

But because of God's amazing grace and love, we don't have to reap the consequences--Christ has taken upon Himself the punishment that we deserve ourselves. And, because of that, we can have peace.

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.
**
Be sure to check out the other Monday Manna contributors below - and link up yourself!


2/13/09

Friday Fiction: "Beyond the Closet Door"

Welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction, hosted this week by Julie at The Surrendered Scribe. Be sure to stop by her blog for more wonderful fiction. And feel free to post your own and link up at the Mr. Linky gadget at the bottom of her post.
I wrote this story early in my Faithwriters writing challenge "career" - more than two years ago. It was a bit tough to write, but I'm fairly pleased with how it turned out.


BEYOND THE CLOSET DOOR

“But I’m afraid, Mama.”

“Don’t be, little one. Mama’s here, and I will protect you.”

Phoebe curled up in a ball and snuggled into her mama’s chest. Marlene, her body against the closet door, was thankful the door opened inward. She also praised God that her friend Danielle had called and warned her of Frank’s news, and his impending arrival.

“The boss called him into his office, and Frank came out steaming,” Danielle had said in a whisper. “He’s cleaning out his desk right now, and I just saw him put a bottle of bourbon in his briefcase.”

”Thanks, Dani. Just pray, would you?”

“You know I will! And remember; you have my number.”

How long ago had that conversation been? Marlene looked at her watch, placing her arm by the flashlight she’d brought into the closet. Twenty minutes ago – felt like longer. For all she knew, Frank was pulling into the driveway this very moment and would barge into the house before she could finish her thought.

Running her hands through Phoebe’s blonde locks, Marlene sighed. There was one thing she did know, as surely as she was breathing. When he did walk in that door, that bottle of bourbon would be empty.

Lord, protect my baby. Tell me what to do next. No three-year-old should have to go through this.

It had been one thing when Frank took out his frustrations on his wife. She could handle it. But two days ago, Phoebe had been the target. Her baby girl had welts on her legs to prove it.

Frank had stormed out, furious at Phoebe’s crying, and drove away to who knows where. Since Frank had crashed the other car a week ago, Marlene and Phoebe were stranded.

He hadn’t been home since. According to Dani, he’d reported to work the next morning an hour late. He hadn’t made it home last night either. Here it was, the next morning, and it appeared he had been fired, and he had a bottle of liquor. She knew her husband; he’d head right home now, and have one of his fits. The worst thing would be for her and Phoebe to be out and available to be his punching bags.

“If we can just wait him out.”

“Wait for what, mama?”

Marlene kissed Phoebe on the top of her head and held her close.

“Wait quietly until mama says it’s okay. All right, sunshine?”

Phoebe nodded and kissed her mother gently on the cheek.

The slamming of a door and heavy footsteps broke the silence. Marlene leaned harder against the closet door, turned off the flashlight and whispered to Phoebe, “very quiet, sunshine: very quiet.”

Marlene tried to tune out the noises from the other side of the closet door – the sounds of swearing, yelling, broken glass – but she could not. She rocked back and forth, cradling Phoebe in her arms.


Thank you, Lord. That could have been one of us.

Phoebe touched her mother’s cheek.

“Can I whisper sing, mama?”

Marlene nodded. “As long as it’s quiet, sweetie.”

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so….”

Marlena focused on the words of that precious song, coming from the mouth of her precious angel. She was finally able to block out everything else but the singing and Jesus’ love and protection for her.

Oh, God. Thank you for reminding me.

By the time Phoebe had finished singing, the house was silent.

“Just a few more minutes, my little one.”

She opened the closet door a crack and recognized snoring. Signaling for Phoebe to stay put, Marlene ventured out.

Walking as quietly as she could, she found the house a shambles: chairs were thrown askew, there was a new hole in the entryway wall, and the curio cabinet glass had shattered all over the living room floor. She found Frank asleep on the couch, his car keys on the floor where he’d obviously dropped them.

Thank you, Lord.

Marlene quickly grabbed the car keys and slunk back to her daughter.

“Come on, sunshine. We can go now.”

Phoebe picked up her backpack from the closet floor, and Marlene grabbed her suitcase. They tiptoed out toward the car, closing the front door quietly behind them.

As she buckled Phoebe into her carseat, Marlene let out a sigh of relief.

“Where are we going, mama?”

“Far away, sunshine. Just remember that wherever we go, Jesus will be close beside you – and so will I.”

**
“Jesus Loves Me”
Words By: Anna B. Warner
Music By: Wm. B. Bradbury

Thanks for reading. Don't forget to stop by Julie's blog for more great fiction!

2/12/09

Monday Manna for February 16 (plus some pentateuch stuff!)

First of all, don't forget to stop by The Exemplify Blog for the second post in my "Ponderings on the Pentateuch" series. Come learn what Joseph has to teach us about accepting forgiveness. And while you're there - read some of the other bloggers. They're ALL wonderful, and you will NOT be disappointed. I promise :D


Monday Manna

The purpose of Monday Manna, created by dear Kristen of Exemplify Online and {dancing} in the margins and passed on to me, is to get together and get to know Christ more through His Word.

For those of you unfamiliar, on the first and third Mondays of each month, anyone who wants to participate can post their thoughts on a specific verse. The verse is posted here at my blog on the Thursday before, to allow you to chew on it over the weekend. 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.

The verse this time is from one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, especially as I think about my ten-year salvation anniversary coming up next Tuesday (yeah - I got saved in this very chapter!). I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Monday!
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole. Isaiah 53:5, Amplified
Had never actually read this verse in the Amplified before this moment--so much MORE to ponder! See you back here on Monday. Looking forward to your thoughts!

2/11/09

WFW: Praise from the Sea

The ocean is amazing to me. Have you ever thought about how recently humans have explored its depths? For thousands of years, the beautiful sea creatures, especially those along the oceans floors, were seen by NO ONE - except God. And even they sing His praises.

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all the ocean depths (Psalm 148:7).

If God calls on animals we may never see to praise Him, how can we not do so?

For more visual inspiration with scripture, stop by AmyDeanne's blog for more Photobucket

2/9/09

In Eight Days...

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a "new Christian." In a lot of ways, I still feel like one. What right does Joanne, who's only been saved one-quarter of her life, have to teach others about God, about forgiveness--about anything of eternal importance? Why, I still have a lot of learning to do! Maybe I should be soaking in instead of spreading out.

Yet, I also know I have been called to write--to write this blog, fiction articles, a non-fiction book. And when I write, I teach what God has taught me.

Maybe I need to stop looking at myself as a "new Christian." Maybe I should purposefully seek others to help, rather than always looking for others to do the same for me. Maybe I'm not a baby Christian anymore.

On Tuesday, February 17, 20009 I will celebrate my tenth "re-birthday." I still remember sitting on the living room couch (not 20 feet from where I am sitting right now) reading Isaiah 53 and having it all click: understanding, truly, that Jesus is the Messiah, and that by His wounds I could be healed. And then I was.

Double digits. I remember how impressive that sounded when I was a kid of seven or eight, and how excited I was for my tenth birthday. I was "double digits."

And here it comes again. Maybe I have to admit to being a mature (or at least maturer) Christian: knowing I still have much to learn, but accepting that others can possibly gain from my experience under the Father as well.

At least I've got eight days to admit it. Right?

Heavenly Father, thank You for saving my soul just shy of ten years ago, and for all the ways I have grown in Christ since that day. Help me to continue to seek You, to strive to be more like You, every day. But also, Lord, help me to share what You have already taught me with others, including those who have yet to know You. Be with me, as you have been since February 17, 1999. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen

2/6/09

Fiction Friday: Crossroads


Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Friday, hosted this week by Sherry at A Candid Thought. Be sure to stop by her blog for more great fiction. If you want to participate, just link up at the Mr. Linky gadget at the bottom of her post. All are welcome!
I wrote this piece for the Faithwriters writing challenge, during the homespun wisdom quarter at the beginning of 2008. I actually gave MYSELF a challenge that quarter - to write a Biblical fiction piece for every topic that quarter. This is one of them. The topic was "Every Dark Cloud Has A Silver Lining"

CROSSROADS

"Oh, how I love you, dear Mahlon." She caught the lump in her throat with a gulp, as tears misted from her brown eyes. "Whatever shall I do?"

The stiff body before her did not answer. She continued staring as it was lowered into the ground.

The delicate hand of Orpah touched her shoulder. She reached up and gave it a squeeze.

"Now I understand, Orpah," Ruth whispered. "Now I understand."

The two widows held each other tightly, until matronly arms engulfed them both.

"Mother," the ladies said in unison.

"Ruth. Orpah." Naomi sighed. "What a month this has been."

Friends and family bowed their heads as the women left the burial site together.

**

"Nothing. Nothing left in this land." Naomi kicked the dirt beneath her feet. "Barely enough grain for a loaf of bread."

Ruth, grinding the wheat, shielded it from the dust particles. "We will make do, Mother. Your God will provide."

Naomi sighed. "Perhaps. He has provided dear daughters-in-law to this old woman."

"And to us, a wonderful mother," Orpah said, entering the home from the outside.

The three grinned.

**

"She has been so good to us. She has lost a husband and both sons. How can we deprive her of daughters as well?" Ruth sat in the corner beside Orpah, her voice barely above a whisper.

"We are a burden on her, Ruth," Orpah retorted. "Two more mouths to feed and no man to help her with it. If we go back to our homes, we will be provided for. We may even get new husbands. We are still young, you know."

Ruth held back her tears. "But what about Naomi?"

Orpah smiled. "She is returning to her people. Perhaps they will take care of her, as our people take care of us."

"Perhaps." Ruth shuddered. "Or perhaps not. Who knows what will meet her in Bethlehem? The least we can do is help her-go with her and aid her in her new start. Would she do less for us? Think of how supportive, how loving, she has been toward us--enemies of her people--for all these years. What an amazing God she must have to treat us that way. Do you really want to go back to our old way of life, our old gods?"

Orpah rested her chin on her hand and sighed. "I suppose you're right. She would certainly appreciate the help."

Ruth rose from the ground and grabbed a bulging satchel leaning against the wall. "Then we need to make haste, so we can catch up with her before it is too late."

**

Once the girls caught up with Naomi, the three strolled together in silence. After a few minutes, they reached a divide in the road. Naomi stopped and looked both Ruth and Orpah in the eye.

"Go back, each of you, to your mother's home. May the Lord show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.*" Naomi embraced and kissed both of them, and they wept together.

Ruth looked up at her mother-in-law. "We will go back with you to your people.*"

Naomi dismissed the idea as nonsense.

Orpah leaned into Ruth and whispered, "She has a good point, and we would be a burden." Backing away, Orpah kissed Naomi on the cheek. Wiping away tears, she left Ruth and Naomi, trudging back toward Moab.

Ruth, however, clung to Naomi, swearing to follow her wherever she would go, and claiming Naomi's God as her own. I will help her through this struggle. And, God willing, she will help me through mine.

**

Naomi put out her arms eagerly, receiving the wiggly, giggly bundle and pulling him close to her heart. "Little Obed," Naomi cooed, "What a wonderful family you have been born into."

Ruth and Boaz looked down at their child with glowing, love-filled eyes. "Thank you, Mother, for loving me, for supporting me, and for encouraging me in my grief to reach out to this wonderful man." Ruth's eyes left her child's and rested on her husband, then her mother-in-law. "You have helped me discover the beauty from my sorrow."

Naomi handed Obed back to Ruth. "It is you I should thank, sweet Ruth. You have given me help and hope. And, perhaps best of all," Naomi ran her hand through Obed's hair, "you have given me a son."

**
This story's empty spaces can be filled in by reading the Old Testament book of Ruth, Chapters 2-4.

References (from NIV):
Ruth 1:8-9, 10

*

Thanks for reading! Don't forget to stop by Sherri's blog for more great fiction!

2/5/09

Ponderings....

Did you know that, starting today, I'm the "Thursday" weekly blogger at Exemplify Online's Blog? Would love it if you stopped by: it's a wonderful place, and every one of the bloggers there - not to mention the site itself - is full of blessing. For a teaser of what I'll have for you there each week, read below!

Most of you know (or will soon find out!) that I was raised in a Jewish home. For the first 20 plus years of my life, my main knowledge of God's Word was from what Christians call the Old Testament--but, more specifically, from the Torah: also known as the books of Moses, or the Pentateuch. The majority of Jews, at least in America, know very little of the OT besides those first five books of the Bible. They are the focus of almost all we learn about His Word.

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It is for this reason that I have decided to devote my Thursday blogs at Exemplify to what I'm calling: "Ponderings From the Pentateuch: Lessons from the Books of Moses." There is so much richness in those books, and so many lessons to learn through and from them.

I don't find very many devotionals from Moses' books, and perhaps it's because I'm not looking in the right places. But as a converted Jew, I know that God speaks to his people through these books as well. So, I hope to bring some fresh insights on God to you from a part of God's word that you probably know, but may not have studied very carefully. I look forward to learning along with you.

Don't forget to stop by Exemplify Online today (and every day - trust me, I'm not the only blogger there!) and see what I have for you: this week from the book of Genesis.

2/4/09

Word-Filled Wednesday: Fire

Welcome to my contribution to AmyDeanne's Word-Filled Wednesday. The purpose of this wonderful meme is to share God's Word through a photo and a Bible verse.

I've been thinking a lot about the power of God's Word in our lives, and I came across a verse in Jeremiah I had never noticed before. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be my addition to Word-Filled Wednesday.

Photobucket
"Is not my word like fire," declares the Lord, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?" Jeremiah 23:29 NIV
God's Word as a fire, burning away the dross of our sin and leaving only the purified image of its Creator. God's Word as a hammer, pounding at the hardness of our hearts and sin.

Great images to contemplate, aren't they?

Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to stop by the 160 Acre Woods for more Word-Filled Wednesday.

2/2/09

Monday Manna - Weeping

Welcome to Monday Manna. The purpose of this meme is to get together and get to know Christ more through His Word. The first and third Monday of each month, anyone who wishes can post their thoughts on a verse I introduced at my blog the Thursday before. 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.

Anyone is welcome to participate. Just post to your blog and link up at the bottom of this post in the Mr. Linky gadget.

Today's verse is John 11:35 - Jesus wept. I'm VERY excited to see what you all have come up with! My thoughts (as jumbled as they may be today!) are below.

***
I am, like many women, an emotional creature. I can shed a tear at the silliest things. A TV commercial. Losing my favorite sweater. A perceived slight (that probably wasn't even a slight at all). Then, of course, there are the times when it's actually warranted.

If someone were to write a book about my life, I would guess the phrase "Joanne cried" or something similar would appear dozens of times.

Yet, in all of the New Testament, Jesus is only mentioned as crying twice. Once was at Lazarus' grave right before he brought his friend back to life (see Monday Manna verse and context), and once was as he looked on Jerusalem. (See Luke 19:41-44)

To be honest, I'm not sure how important this is. I don't think anyone could sustain an argument that Jesus was lacking in emotion. He was, by any definition, quite passionate. Yet there are only two written accounts of him crying.

But what about post-resurrection? Of course, we don't have much written record of those times. Yet I wonder how I would react if I were looking down on this world from His perspective.
  • Christ humbled himself.
  • Was born in a barn, put to bed in a feeding trough.
  • Lived as an "equal" among the people He had created.
  • Had a sinless life.
  • Willingly allowed himself to be tortured, beaten beyond recognition, and hung on a cross to die for acts he had not committed.
  • Separated Himself from His Father in heaven (which we, as believers, never have to do, by the way).
  • Stayed dead for three days.
  • Rose again and returned to heaven in order to redeem us and intercede for us before the Father.
After all that, he looks down at those He loves--those He died for--and sees them turning their backs on Him. He watches us, temples of His Holy Spirit, walking around desecrating these houses of worship. He sees those who believe in Him following the wrong path, or ignoring His calling to them. He sees scores of people He died for using His name as a curse word. He sees those who love Him crumble under the first sign of stress, because they don't trust Him.

I'm not there, of course, but I can't help but imagine that, like He did at Lazarus' funeral, Jesus weeps.

I sometimes weep when my children follow the wrong path, or when someone I love rejects what I know is best for him, and he reaps the consequences. Does Jesus? Considering how vast and high and wide and deep His love is for us, I have to believe that He is, at the least, saddened by the times we do not get His best because of our own actions, thoughts, and feelings.

I wonder if I have made Jesus weep today. Did my snapping at my son make him frown? Did he cry when I whined (silently) about having to sit in church alone? How was His countenance when I got distracted by the singers and didn't pay attention to the worship song?

Yet, the most amazing thing is that, whether I caused Him to cry or not, He still loves me endlessly, and intercedes for me to my Father in heaven. No matter how many times I might disappoint Him - or even make Him weep - he still views me as sanctified, forgiven, and loving. That's enough to bring me to tears--and to strive to keep my Savior from weeping over me.

Heavenly Father, I am so sorry for the times my actions, thoughts, and emotions cause you sadness or pain. Thank You, dear Jesus, for loving me, interceding for me, and never giving up on me. Help me to stay within your will and to not make you weep.



Don't forget to link up in Mr. Linky below, and read others' contributions!

2/1/09

Tada!! A quick book-writing update

Well, here it is, February 1. And those of you who've been here a bit know what that means! Time for a progress report, and new goal setting on Ailing Body, Nourished Soul.

For the month of January, I set the goal of rereading my manuscript thusfar, doing some very preliminary edits if I saw them, and writing 8000 words. I am please to say that I met BOTH of my goals. I'm especially proud of not getting caught up in "fixing" my older chapters. There is a LOT of work to do--but I just wanted a reminder of where I'd been. I added (and subtracted) some words as I went through, but the main focus was remembering what I'd written.

As far as my word count..., well..., here's my ticker as of last night.



8763 / 8000 words. 110% done!

Slow and steady is DEFINITELY working for me!
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Now that I'm done, it's time to set my goal for FEBRUARY. And it's a simple one.
By the end of February 2009, I, Joanne Sher, will strive to add 9000 words to Ailing Body, Nourished Soul.
I'm currently at around 34,000 words (you can always check my book progress tab for updated information on that - I up the word count each time I finish a chapter, and I'm in the middle of one there). I'm thinking that, if I keep going at this rate, I MAY be done with the first draft by the end of March (!!!!). We'll see, though.

I'll put up my new goals (and new ticker) on my sidebar this evening, after I get some words written in this new month. Thanks to all of you for your support!

Write on!


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