Friday, February 27, 2009

He's Not a Fairy Godmother

"So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore"--an unexpected journey, by Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman. This is the title of the book I'm reading now, but the title doesn't really tell what the book is about. The authors aren't writing about not wanting to go inside a building and sit in a service. The journey spoken of challenges the reader to wonder if he is just "going through the motions of Christianity" when what he really wants to do is "mine the depths of what it really means to live deeply in Christ."

We hear this story from Jake's point of view. He meets a man named John who has so much wisdom that he wonders if this could be the apostle of Jesus. At one point in the book Jake is having many problems and questions God's care for him. After all, hasn't he done a lot for God?

John says, "You think suffering is a sign of God's displeasure with you. Didn't Job make that mistake? Suffering often indicates that (in the suffering-my addition) God is setting us free from something so that we can follow and embrace him more deeply. Walking in his life will always mean you are living against the grain. Don't expect your circumstances to conform easily to this journey. They will resist it at every turn. God wants to teach you how to walk with him through these things so that you can know a joy and peace that transcends circumstance."

This part struck me because I sometimes want to fall back into that way of thinking. If I do good, then God will certainly have to reward me for my efforts. Haven't we been taught that in church--in school--in society? In school, effort equals grades, awards, acceptance, popularity. In society, it is special tributes, mention in the newspaper, television interviews, and money. In church--stars or gifts for memorizing our Bible verses, coming to church and working our you-know-what off in various ministries.

When my girls were young, if they attended Sunday School for one full year without missing, they received a gold lapel pin. We were out of town one week end and overslept, missing SS. I hurried around and sat them down with a Bible story. Then I called (believe it or not!) the SS person in charge of keeping the records and asked if that could be counted as SS so my girls could still get their pin. Of course, I got his permission and my girls got their pin. Which, by the way, I bet they have no idea where those pins are now. I don't think the perfect attendance made one whit of difference to them, but it did to me.

John goes on to tell Jake that "the hardest thing you'll learn in this journey is to give up the illusion of controlling your own life or that you can manipulate God to bless you."...... "God is not a fairy godmother who waves the magic wand to make everything the way we want it. You won't get far if you question his love for you whenever he doesn't meet your expectations."

Here's the kicker that Jake has to tell John. "He's your father.---He loves you." He has to tell Jake that through it all, "he will never forsake you." How is it, with Jake being an assistant pastor, he never learned that?

I know for a fact that in my own life God never left me. He's brought me through some pretty rough times--times that should have destroyed me. When it was all over and I looked back, I could hear him say, "See. I never left you. I walked through it with you. I didn't forsake you then, and I won't do it now."

That's real peace. That's real Christianity.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Who's Busy?

I thought I was busy.

I read a blog called My World by She works and has two kids and a husband. Her last blog was patterned after the reality show "Amazing Race." She wrote her blog using the Race's terms: pit stop, roadblock, challenges and legs. Besides being clever, it was exhausting and extremely entertaining. I've read her son's blog, too. She calls him Little Man. He's as talented and entertaining a writer as she is.

I left you last time with my dilemma, which wasn't really that hard to figure out. I talked to my husband and he insisted I go to the class. I did. I have four more of them to attend and hope they will lead me to getting "Copper Penny" published.

Even though I'm not as busy as onecrazeemommy, I still have a lot to do over the next week. If I had to choose between doing all we do or not having anything going on, I'd choose being busy. I've been alone with nothing to do, and I don't like it. I love having quiet time. I love watching the TV programs we like and going to some movies and eating out with friends and reading. But I need a balance. Right now the scales are tipping toward busy. With the spring-like weather, sunshine and husband back home, we'll happily get it all done.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Dilemma

Here's my dilemma.

My husband's been gone for 5 days and will be home tomorrow evening. Although I've been independent for most of my adult life, since being married to him for the last 5 1/2 years, I've come to depend on having him around. In fact I've missed him more than I thought I would. True, I've gotten lots of writing and researching and planning done on the "Plugged Nickel" novel. I've even had time to go back to "Copper Penny" and begin editing. Those things are important but I've discovered I really don't like living alone any more!

Here's the dilemma. He comes home tomorrow at 6:30. At 6:30 tomorrow Southwest Writers is offering a two hour class for five-weeks on "How to Get Published in Fiction in 5 Easy Steps." The class covers writing a query (a dreaded query), creating a synopsis (shudder!), the submission process, editor/agent relationships, and conventions (?). I want to see my husband, and I want to take the class and I can't be in two places at the same time.

Knowing Reid, he'd tell me to go to the class. If the tables were turned, he'd stay home to be with me. That's what I really want to do. I could call SWW tomorrow and ask if I can come to the class on the next Monday and make up what I miss. If I do that, will I really get all I need out of the class missing the introductory two hours? Or I could skip the class and work out the process without any help? I do want to get serious about trying to get this book published so I can get the one I'm working on published, too.

Don't you just love dilemmas and hard choices? Stay tuned and I'll let you know what happens.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What Fun!

Twenty-one years ago I was teaching at Central Middle School in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. My favorite student aide of all time was a sweetheart named Olivia. I had taught her geography in the seventh grade.

She went to a Christian high school when she left CMS. I watched a few of her basketball games over the next few years. After she graduated, I'm not sure where she went or how she met her husband, David. But we kept in touch with Christmas cards when she moved to Tennessee and had children. I have her email address but hadn't heard from her in some time.

This week I sent her an email and found out she's on Facebook. I have a Facebook page, too, so she added me as a friend. I went in and saw new pictures of her and read about her life. She's grown into a beautiful lady, although she was a pretty girl when I knew her before.

I love the Internet. Although I don't know much about Facebook, I have a few friends that I haven't seen or heard from in ages and enjoy seeing what's happening in their lives.

When I still lived in Oklahoma, periodically I'd see a student I had. That was fun, and this is fun, too. It's still hard to imagine Olivia as a mom, but I bet she's a good one. She sure knew how to run my classroom when she was in the eighth grade!
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Writing Novels

I had a day alone yesterday and spent it writing. I got to a place in the plot that stopped me. What is happening in the middle that leads to the ending? The beginning and the ending of a novel is easier than all that big middle part that has to keep the reader reading so she/he will get to the end.

At five o'clock I climbed into the shower and as those things happen, it all began coming to me. I wanted to hold it in my mind long enough to get my hair dried, clothes on and get back to the computer and write down what is to come. I did and am anxious to get to it.

When I started writing "Plugged Nickel", I wasn't really in the emotional state to do it. I plodded along and was getting close to the end when I checked to see how many words I'd written. Only 21,000! Way too short for a novel.

My first novel, "The Demise of Bobby Mac" had 102,000 words which translated to 348 published pages. My second, "Copper Penny" (the first in the Joe Denali series) has 75,615 right now. I do plan to go back into it and do some rewriting. Hopefully it will go up to about 80,000 by the time I'm finished.

A novelette has less than 70,000 words usually. A full-fledged novel needs between 70,000 and 100,000--preferably about 85,000.

When I saw that I was only at 21,000, I had to think of a way to expand the story. Since it was pretty bland and only had Joe's point of view, I decided to add his partner, Sandy's, point of view and give her a story that had as much suspense as Joe's had. I ramped up Joe's story--gave it more suspense and him more crisis, got the FBI involved by bringing in a character from "Copper Penny" and I think I can get about 75,000 words when all is said and done.

In Bobby Mac, even when I thought I had finished, I had a couple of other characters who wanted to be heard again. In that book I had four different points of view working. Two of them raised up when I declared the book finished and said to me, "Wait, I have something else to say." And they did.

I love writing and really love it when my muse/my intuition/the Holy Spirit--call it what you will--get involved.

Today will be a little busier and I may not get to write much, but at least I now have an idea where I'm going. Come to think of it, isn't that what makes our lives worthwhile? Knowing we have somewhere to go and going there?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No Do-Overs

The last blog I wrote was about kids and parents. I heard from a harried mom who has forgotten that she's the adult in charge. What an easy thing to do today with all the babble telling us how we will hurt our children if we don't_____and that we must do_____or our children will become____
You can fill in the blanks.

I want to quote some of our latest Esther lesson. "Our human nature not only sets us up for selfishness but to feel uncomfortable and incompetent----If people around us helped us avoid every possible unpleasantness, fixed every hangnail, and anesthetized every headache for us, we'd quit learning how to deal with difficulty. We'd forget how to cope and we'd crush under the least inconvenience.----Strength comes from muscle, and muscle develops with a workout."

Wow! What wisdom. We want to avoid difficulty for ourselves and the ones we love, but if we do things that avoid it, those muscles won't develop, and we'll crack like a young sapling in a high wind.

That's what this economic mess is about today. American people don't want to have to do without or wait for fulfillment. That's like spoiled children who always get what they want by whining and crying. Their parents come to their "rescue." The government is doing the same thing today--coming to the rescue of those people who've made their own messes. As with both scenarios, it's the others around them who have to suffer the consequences.

A young man killed a deputy one night here in our town. He was already a wanted man for something else he'd done. A few years earlier he was charged with being an accessory to murder but was let go for some reason. This time they caught him and charged him. We found out he has two older brothers who are in prison for murder. The mother of these three men got on television and praised her sons; said they had been mistreated by the law and "they're good boys." Wonder how many times as they grew up she allowed them to face consequences and deal with difficulties?

I made many mistakes when my girls were growing up, but one thing I don't think I did was to shield them from life and its problems. They seem to be strong and know how to withstand adversity. Of course, if I could have a "do over" I'd try to do it better next time. But life doesn't give us do overs. We need to figure out how to do it right the first time.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ignore Your Children

When I was a child, I was ignored. Not neglected. Ignored.

Lest you think "Poor thing" let me assure you, it was the best thing my parents could have done for me. By ignoring me, I was free to do my own thing without adults hovering neurotically over me, making sure everything in my life was perfect and meaningful moment to moment.

One of the problems in a majority of American children today is that they have never experienced the benefits and blessings of being ignored: therefore, they don't know that being ignored is preferable to being the center of attention.

When children are constantly the center of attention in their families from day one, they learn that being in that center is essential to their well-being. They can't tolerate being ignored. Therefore, they clamor for attention by being boisterous, interrupting conversations, pouting, screaming, kicking and the like. Then the adult hovers over them asking, "Is everything all right?"

When I was growing up, and when I raised my girls, children weren't given a lot of attention, and they weren't expected to attract attention to themselves. That's liberating to a child, no matter what many of today's parents might think. Parents that don't allow their children the benefits of being ignored have allowed themselves to be victimized by psychobabble that tells them they must do all they can for their children so the kids don't suffer psychological distress.

The real harm comes when the child gets too much attention. The distress comes when the kids suddenly discover they aren't the center of attention in the real world. The harm comes to the parent who never has time for herself/himself. No reading a book. No sitting quietly enjoying a cup of tea or coffee. No puttering alone in the garden contemplating God and nature. No taking a short power nap on the sofa. The distress comes when the parent realizes they've created a monster out of that precious baby and the kid grows up to be an incorrigible demanding teenager.

I thank my parents for letting me have the freedom to be alone, to know I don't need someone hovering over me fulfilling my every need every moment I'm awake, for letting me learn what it means to fail and still be able to function--and for all those years I pretended with my dolls. I don't know what my mother was doing when I was lost in my world of make-believe, but I know this. We were both better off.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Looking for a Prophet

Last night Reid and I taught Jonah at one of the Life groups we attend. We enjoyed working up the lesson and giving it. The people were interested and involved in the discussion. There's a lot of mystery around who wrote the book and when and what happened to Jonah after his discussion with God outside of Nineveh. The last words of the book are from God, "Should I not be concerned about that great city?" We don't know what Jonah's response was, but ours is, "Of course."

Jonah is a book about God's mercy. If we read the prophets, and only see God as angry and threatening, then we've missed their purpose. God is merciful. The whole Bible is about God's mercy--how he tried and tried to let people obey on their own, and when he saw they couldn't, He made another way that was even better.

In Turkmenistan, the Greater Grace Protestant Church tried to be legal. But officials raided a Bible class and told the pastor his church couldn't teach its own members without government permission.

North Korean police worm their way into churches and set up phony Bible studies in order to catch North Koreans attending worship. Having a Bible in North Korea is grounds for execution. Stories like this abound around the world. Why doesn't God send a prophet like Jonah or Jeremiah to those places today? Why doesn't God send a prophet to the United States? We could use one here, too.

What if on Sunday morning some man or woman walked into our church or down our street proclaiming, "Repent or God will destroy this church/great city/people." Would we or they put on sackcloth and fast and repent? Would the police allow the man or woman to continue or would they put the person in handcuffs and transport him/her to the nearest psych unit?

Maybe He doesn't send prophets like He used to. Maybe he sends television preachers or media beings or everyday people like you and me to tell people about Him.

The answer to why God doesn't send a prophet to the United States? Maybe He has and no one's listening.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Help Us Hear Your Truth

Monday morning and I have so much to do -- write, write, write, dust, check the casita for our guests who will be here Thursday, finish my weekly lessons on Esther, laundry, read the paper from this morning and Sunday (!), general straightening up, and work on Jonah lesson for Wednesday night. Reid and I are teaching it so that can't be put off, but I need him here when we work on it. I've already ridden the elliptical today.

The writing will take longer because I've made some major changes to the plot. I've changed a few names and changed the kind of poison being used on my victims. That means I have to go back and change their symptoms (some of them--the vomit can stay), some dialog and the autopsy report. That will have to wait until I have uninterrupted time available.

With all that, here I sit at the computer. I answered a new friend on Facebook and read a couple of emails then decided to make a few comments in my blog on a conversation I had last night.

In the church we attend, many of the people have been raised believing some things that I don't believe. i.e. Women aren't to take part in the worship service, musical instruments aren't to be used in the service, water baptism saves us, there are no more apostles--only those who were commissioned by Jesus, and the age of miracles is over. This person believes (was taught) the miracles in the Bible were only done to help get the Bible in print (or something like that.) This person is one of those who believes the Bible is the only way we can hear from God. No matter that few of the early Christians had a Bible (contrary to popular belief, King James isn't the same guy as Jesus' brother) and many of them couldn't read. I'm not sure how people get to this way of believing--that there are no more miracles. We don't need them any more now that we have the Bible? Makes no sense to me.

When I hear things like this and I say I have not only experienced a miracle but have seen the results of some, the person I'm speaking to can't change his mind. It's like they don't hear what I'm saying because of the locked, iron door that keeps what they've been taught safely enclosed behind it. Those beliefs are chained up in the dark recesses of their mind and unless God Himself unlocks them, that's where they'll stay.

So, do I have some beliefs locked up in some place in my mind? Have I heard something that would refute those erroneous beliefs and can't accept them? Probably. But I hope, if I do, that my ears will open enough to let more Light in.

God, help us to hear Your Truth!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Lesson in Mercy

I received two emails telling about the words Kathy Griffin said when she accepted her Emmy recently. I don't know much about her, but I've never liked her. She's supposed to be a comedian and has a cable show about her being on the D-List in Hollywood. She may be joking about being on that list, but hearing her latest jab at Christians--Jesus in particular--I'd put her farther down than that.

The politically correct thing we are supposed to say is that she has the right to her beliefs and freedom of speech. But I'm not going to be PC because I have my rights, too.

This woman is crude and she's attacked Someone in my family--my brother. He gave His life for me, (and for her) and it pains me to hear someone attack Him like she did.

All right, so her Emmy is now her god. Let's see how far it gets her when she's really in trouble, when she needs help and not one human being can save her, and when she faces that dark night when her life is ending. Will she cry out to her Emmy to come to her aid? Or will she look up and see that Jesus is really the one she should have been thanking all those years?

Too many Christians want to see the "sinners" get what's coming to them. Jesus told a parable about men who worked all day long. At the end of a day a man came, and he got the same reward as the others. Those who had worked all day were mad. They felt they should have gotten more or that the last-minute guy shouldn't have gotten anything. Jesus asked them, Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?"

Peter said in the second epistle that bears his name: "The Lord . . . is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

If I want to be like Jesus, then I want to see this woman, who has blasphemed my God, come to repentance and get the same gift of salvation I've had all my life.

I don't want to be like Kathy, but neither do I want to be like the workers in the vineyard who toiled all day; nor Jonah who was mad at God for saving Nineveh. I want to be like God who wanted to see all the workers rewarded, like God who saved the Ninevites, and like God who loves Kathy and wants to see her spend eternity with Him--and us.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Some Thoughts about Family and Mean Women

We've had a busy week--granddaughter and daughter-in-law in town all week, lessons to do for two classes, writing, exercising, having meals with friends.

My cousin and I send emails daily telling of our day's activities and making comments on anything we think of. She lives alone and enjoys her life: Reading, cleaning house, needlework, emailing friends and daily naps. She rarely watches TV and almost never goes out with friends. I would be bored silly with this life, but she'd be bored with mine. She'd hate all the meetings we have to attend, church activities--and says, "To each his own."

So true. She left this morning for a three week tour of New Zealand. She travels about four times every year. Now that's what I'd call boring! It would be nice to see all those places but I want to come home at night. She usually goes alone. I'd find that hard to do.

We tend to do what makes us the most comfortable, don't we? I've lived alone and remember many weekends and holidays when it was just me. I can do it, but I'd rather not. When I married Reid almost six years ago, I inherited four sons with their wives and 10 grandchildren. Our holidays and many birthdays are filled with people. My oldest grandson has a daughter so now we are greats.

I believe God intersects our lives with other people (as our preacher said last Sunday.) Some of my best friends are no longer in my life. Some have come and gone and come back again. I think about those that I haven't seen in years and wonder where they are today and why we lost contact. Since moving here new friends have come into my life. Although I can be alone if I have to, and enjoy it once in a while, I couldn't do without friendships. I believe God made us like this because friends help show us who He is and who we are.

Last night at the Esther class, Beth Moore talked about mean women. I wonder how many other women who heard her questioned themselves, saw traits they want to get rid of and had their lives changed by her words?

I did. And I hope I never tire of hearing truth and wanting it in my life.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Life is Like a Novel

My brother thinks I can write a blog a day because I have so much going on in my mind. I do have a lot going on in my mind, but I can't put all of it down in writing. Nobody wants to hear all that noise!

I read another blog this morning written by a critique partner who is on her second novel, just as I am. She talked about how the "ghost" novel is forming in her head. She keeps going forward although she knows she will have to go back and re-write the beginning chapters to match the ones she's on now.

Novel #1 in my Detective Joe Denali series has been written for some time. However, as I write #2 in the series, I see where I will have to go back and re-write some scenes in #1 to give them more punch. For instance, the female protagonist in #1 will no longer be blonde but will have red hair. By making that change I can have a much shorter title for the book.

Life is like our novels. We keep going forward and wishing we could go back and re-write/edit what has come before. We can't make those changes, but what we can do is make the changes today so we don't repeat the mistakes we made in the past.

I'm taking a Beth Moore Bible class at the church. It's on the book of Esther. Beth's subtitle is "It's Tough Being a Woman." I've only had two lessons and already I'm seeing some character traits I don't like in myself. I can't change what those traits meant to my past but, God help me, it isn't too late to change them now!

When I say "God help me!", that's exactly what I mean. Without some BIG outside help, those characteristics will continue to plague me just as they have all these years.

Brother Jim, don't ask me what they are because I won't tell you. I won't tell anyone else either.