"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

7/29/13

Worshipping Your Own Creation

All who make idols are nothing,and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. Isaiah 44:9

There is much richness in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. More verses from Isaiah are referenced in the New Testament than almost any other OT book (Psalms is actually first, if you're curious). I was saved in it 53rd chapter, and I am blessed anew each time I read through it.

And every time I read through the 44th chapter, I laugh, shake my head - and then bow my head with conviction.

Photo credit
Much of Isaiah 44 is about the foolishness of idols and those who worship them. Isaiah tells of a man who takes a piece of wood and uses half of it to make a fire to warm him and cook his meal. With the other half,
he carves an idol and bows down and worships it.

Ridiculous, isn't it?
No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” Isaiah 44:19
How can anyone with sense worship, and ask for divine help from, something they made themselves? (Isaiah 44:17)

And that's when the conviction shows up. Because I do exactly that. Dictionary.com defines worship as, among other things, adoring reverence or regard. And, by that definition, I certainly spend at least some time worshipping my technology gadgets. My schedule (OH yeah). My work. My family. My ministry.

Am I any less foolish than they are? Maybe not.


Nothing deserves our worship except God. Salvation comes from nobody, and nothing, else. Don't worship your own (or man's) creation. Worship your own Creator instead. He is worthy.

**
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

7/26/13

What Do You Write?

This post is part of Patty Wysong's
 A to Z meme. This week's letter is "A."

A to Z blog hop at Patterings.


What do you write? I get this question a lot. I tell people I'm a writer, and it's generally the first inquiry I get (except, occasionally, when someone asks me what books I have published. I like the first question better. :::roll::: ). And, in general, it's a complicated answer for me.

If they asked me what I had published, that would perhaps be easier - though not nearly as exciting as I would like. I've had hundreds of newspaper articles published (worked for a couple different papers over a few years), as well as some flash fiction (and flash nonfiction - if that's even a genre LOL) in a magazine or two, a few anthologies, and a Sunday School paper.
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Another possible question that could be answered more easily is what have I written. Hundreds of blog posts. Some poetry. Flash fiction in just about every genre but horror and erotica. A nonfiction book. The start of a biblical fiction book. A couple picture books, and a devotional book geared toward tweens. And likely several other things I'm not remembering off the top of my head

But these answers aren't very helpful - especially if I'm trying to get someone to read (or publish) something I've penned (or keyboarded). So I think I have come up with a better way to search for my answer to this question.

Because I think that when someone asks me what I write, they really want to know what, once I become a published author, I wish to be known for. And even if I'm wrong, that's what I'm going with :)

So, as an author (I'm not terribly comfortable calling myself one since I kinda see authors as published in book-length form, and I'm not), Joanne Sher writes books for kids focused on biblical truths.
graphic courtesy of christiansunite

Guess I'd better practice that for the next time someone asks...

When someone asks what you do (or write), what is YOUR response? Do you need to rethink it?

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

Check out some of the other "a" posts below, and/or link up with your own!


 

Weeping


I'm over at The Internet Cafe today, talking about what a softie I am about things that don't matter - and who I HOPE I'm not making cry. Stop by and see who might be weeping.
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

7/22/13

Laying it All Out

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 2 Kings 19:14 

There are certain Old Testament stories that I look forward to, not just because they are good stories, but because they bolster my faith, remind me of God's promises, and/or refresh my memory about how much the Lord loves me. I'm sure you have stories like that too. Even though I've read through the Bible at least a dozen times, I am blessed by several narratives in His Word every time I read them.

Over the past couple days, I've been reading one of them - the story of King Hezekiah of Judah and Sennacherib, king of Assyria. Sennacherib's strategy - and Hezekiah's reaction - captivate and nudge me every time.

The Assyrian king was highly motivated to take over Judah, just as he had taken over the lands around them - including those of Judah's brethren, the northern kingdom. So he used those facts to his advantage and attempted to demoralize Hezekiah's people. Sennacherib reminded the Hebrews of the many conquests of the Assyrians, their own lack of power, and the Assyrians' ability to destroy them. And he wrote a letter to Israel's king in an attempt to scare Hezekiah himself.

“Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria.’ Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my predecessors deliver them—the gods of Gozan, Harran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar? Where is the king of Hamath or the king of Arpad? Where are the kings of Lair, Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah?” 2 Kings 19:10-13
Frightening, don't you think? I'm sure Hezekiah did, too. But this good king knew just what to do. He turned to the Lord. He knew he couldn't overpower this mighty Assyrian king, who had conquered country after country, people after people. But he knew Someone who could.

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So he laid it all - all the difficulties, all his doubts, every concern - before the Lord. He didn't hide a thing - he took that frightening letter into God's house and literally "spread it out" before Him. (2 Kings 19:14) And Hezekiah asked for deliverance from the Assyrians - not for his own comfort, but so that his God would be glorified. (2 Kings 19:19)

And, long story short, God delivered Hezekiah and his people, putting 185,000 of Sennacherib's soldiers to death and sending the rest of the Assyrians running.

Would God have done the same if Hezekiah had been more evasive with the Lord, or brooded instead of turning to God? I don't know, but somehow I doubt it. He tells us to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7-8)- and that's exactly what Hezekiah did - and the Lord answered in a mighty way.

Do you pray like Hezekiah? Do you lay it all out before Him, trusting in His promises and asking for His name to be glorified? It could make a huge difference.

**
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

Fishing and Anxiety

I'm at Jewels of Encouragement today, talking about giving our anxieties to the Lord - and fishing. And how they once seemed related to me -but not anymore. Hope you'll come by and learn about Casting the Right Way.

 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

7/15/13

From Mourning to Gladness

Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. Jeremiah 31:13 NIV

For the past several months, I've been sharing a bit of my Jewish heritage with you here on my blog. This post, along with being a devotional, is going to do just that. Another Jewish holiday is nearly upon us - though, I have to say it isn't exactly one to celebrate, per se.

Graphic via Christiansunite
At sunset tonight (see this post I wrote on the Hebrew calendar - it's quite different from ours) Jews will commemorate what some call the saddest day in Jewish history. Tisha b'Av is a fast day remembering, among other things, the destruction of both the First Temple (by the Babylonians in 586 BC as reported in 2 Kings 24-25) and the second Temple (by the Romans in 70 AD) - both of which happened on the same Hebrew calendar date - though, obviously, hundreds of years apart.

Just FYI - Tisha b'Av translates to "the ninth of Av"- which is one of the Hebrew months. There are a few Jewish holidays like that, including Tu B'Shevat, which I discussed in February.

On Tisha b'Av, which generally falls in July or August, observant Jews fast (food and drink - including water) from sunset to the following nightfall. Other restrictions on this day include washing, bathing, wearing leather shoes, marital relations, and work. The book of Lamentations is traditionally read on this day in the synagogue, and the ark (where the Torah is kept) is draped in black.


It is, in a word, a day of mourning. A day to lament the destruction of two building built especially for the God of the universe. The place where God's glory dwelt during Old Testament times. The location where Jesus Christ Himself went to worship, to study, to offer sacrifices.

But after Jesus died, was buried, and rose again, there was no more need for the Temple. His Glory no longer lived in the Holy of Holies - His children became the temple of His Spirit.

I sometimes wonder if God allowed that second temple's destruction so soon after Christ's ascension (less than the length of my lifetime thusfar!) to hammer that point home. He's already torn the curtain in two (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45) - but still the priests performed the sacrifices. Still they looked for their Messiah.

But He had already come. And instead of mourning, they should dance (Jeremiah 31:13). They should be glad. Because though the Temple is gone, the Spirit is here - and once you've got Him, He'll never leave you. He trades your ashes for beauty, your mourning for joy, your despair for praise (Isaiah 61:3).

How has God turned your mourning to gladness?

If you're interested in more information about Tisha b'Av, click on the links within this post.
**
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

7/12/13

Motivation and Inspiration

Both of the above, it seems, have been lacking in me over the past little bit writing-wise (at least as they relate to the projects I really need to be working on). It is, in a word, frustrating.

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I'm guessing I'm not the only one out there who is unmotivated - whether it's about writing or something else. So, to that end, I'm planning to share some encouragement right here in this post, in the hopes that it will bring motivation AND inspiration to anyone who needs it - myself included. And if YOU have anything to add, please share it in the comments!

Let's start with a bit of Scripture - shall we?

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10


And how about a quote or two?

When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt


Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible. ~George Claude Lorimer

If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison

I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.' - Muhammad Ali

"A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway." Junot Diaz
 
What is your favorite motivational quote or scripture? Please share in the comments!

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

7/9/13

My Favorite Local Festival

In all honesty, our family is not big into going to festivals and such. We probably should be, but we aren't. But there's one we never miss.

The Barn Door
Stop by the Midwest blog The Barn Door and learn (and see) a bit about this festival we've attended the past three years in a row (and that my daughter might be participating in next year!).

And the pictures, if I do say so myself, are AMAZING.
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

7/8/13

Our Refuge

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91: NIV

 When the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land, certain cities were set up as safe havens - places a person could go if they killed someone accidentally and be safe. These six towns, scattered throughout the land of Israel, were called cities of refuge.(Numbers 35:6-29) A person who killed someone by accident could stay there and be protected from the avenger of blood. They were required to stay in that city of refuge until the High Priest died - otherwise, the angry relative had free reign to seek vengeance.

This chapter has the first appearance of the word refuge in God's Word, but it isn't the last. Those cities of refuge are mentioned at least a couple dozen times in His Word. And I'm sure their protection saved many from unwarranted destruction. These cities, ordered by the Lord, mentioned by Moses, and named by Joshua, were a crucial part of the judicial structure of ancient Israel.

But the vast majority of the almost 100 instances of the word refuge in the Old Testament refer not to a city, but to the Lord. While a city of refuge is a fine thing to have, there is no safer place to be, no better location for protection, than in God Himself.

The Father was a refuge for Ruth (Ruth 2:12), David (too many places to mention - check out his psalms to start), the sons of Korah (Psalm 46:1), Solomon (Proverbs 10:29, 14:32), Isaiah (Isaiah
57:13), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 16:19, 17:17), Joel (Joel 3:16), and Nahum (Nahum 3:11). And they didn't have to flee to a Levitical city to be under His protection.

And, my friend, neither do you. There is no safer place, no better refuge, than in the arms of the Lord; no protection or shelter more sure than the center of His will. He is all you need.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2
Thank You, Lord, that You are my refuge - that I can find my shelter in You. Thank you for ninety-eight mentions of this wonderful word in the Bible, and for the reassurance they give when it seems like everything is falling in on us. Help me to lean on You - to seek Your shelter and protection, because I know You will give it. In Your Son's precious name I pray. Amen 

**
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?


Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
Images courtesy of Christians Unite 

7/6/13

Polliwog Pages Kids Write: STARZAN - my daughter's story!

I'm not the only writer in my family! My daughter, Annika, going into fourth grade, wrote this story and submitted it to the Polliwog Pages Summer Writing Contest - and she got it published on their blog!

Hope you enjoy it. I sure did! Click on the link below to check it out (and leave a comment if you feel so led. I know she'd love it!)


Polliwog Pages Kids Write: STARZAN: Polliwog Summer Writing Contest (SPARKLE) STARZAN by Annika Sher (age 9) Starzan w as a constellation. He spar...

7/4/13

Patriotism

On this day celebrating the country I call home, I thought I would share some songs that express my appreciation for my freedom - both the kind we celebrate today, and the other kind, which I learned of almost 15 years ago. I hope you enjoy these.



My Statue of Liberty (and, just FYI - I've seen the first one in person- and it is impressive. But nothing like the second :) )


Battle Hymn of the Republic


God Bless the USA

I know my country is not perfect - far from it. But I am still proud to be an American. And I am blessed to be a child of God and a follower of Jesus.

Happy Independence Day, all my American friends!
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

7/1/13

Life as an Object Lesson

When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” Hosea 1:2 

The prophets of the Bible used several different methods of sharing God's message with His people. Some wrote it down (Jeremiah, for instance). Others spoke to God directly (Habakkuk comes to mind). Quite a few shared God's message verbally, whether with kings, God's people, or even the Israelites' enemies.

But perhaps the most memorable ones were those who, instead of just talking, lived out the prophecy
God gave them to share. Ezekiel ate a scroll, lay on one side for 390 days, and shaved his head and weighed the hairs (Ezekiel 3, 4, 5). Jeremiah made a yoke and wore it every day (Jeremiah 27).

But perhaps the most memorable prophecy object lesson is that of the prophet Hosea. He not only spoke to Jeroboam II, King of Israel about their future capture by Assyria, his life was an example of God's treatment of His wayward people.

God told him to marry an unfaithful woman, to show God's relationship with the unfaithful children of Israel. The Lord commanded Hosea to name his and Gomer's children after the state of God's people (Hosea 1:6-9). Later, after Gomer left him for another man and was adulterous, God told Hosea to buy her back and love her again, to show the Israelites that the Lord would do the same for them in the last days. (Hosea 3:1-3)

Watching Hosea's life was as much a testimony of God's plans and message as listening to his words. I imagine there many who would ignore his verbal prophecies. But they couldn't ignore the object lesson that was his life.

People are watching us, just like they watched Hosea. And our lives, more than our words, are the testimony to those around us who want to know about the hope that is within us. Our lives should be an object lesson of God's nature to all around us - and especially to unbelievers.

But what if Hosea had refused to preach to the Israelites? Or to follow God's instruction regarding Gomer? What kind of a witness, or object lesson, would he have been?

What kind of testimony are WE when we don't follow his commands?
**
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
Graphics Courtesy of Christians Unite 

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