Friday, December 28, 2012

The Rest of the Story

Oreo as a 6-month old kitten in 2006

Last week I talked about the return of one of the feral cats after him having been gone for over a year. The reunion turned out to be bittersweet. Oreo had always been skittish and kept his distance. He Was born in the spring of 2006 to one of the feral females and was the very last one we trapped to have neutered and receive a rabies shot.

Since he had "disappeared" in fall of 2011, we assumed he had died. Feral cats don't have a very long life-span. When he showed up, it felt like a hug from God. Not only was he home, but he allowed me to pet him . . . something he had never tolerated before.

However, as I continued to check on him throughout the day, I noticed little puddles of blood on the patio. He didn't appear to have any injuries, but he was walking gingerly on his hind legs. Once I saw him move from a position and saw another puddle of blood. I knew something was terribly wrong. Then as he walked away, he lifted his tail and I saw a HUGE tumor on his right back hindquarter. Poor baby.

I knew I couldn't allow him to suffer any longer. Without much difficulty, I managed to get him into a pet carrier lined with clean towels and carried him to the screened in deck. Then I contacted our vet and explained the situation. We didn't have funds to provide for any extensive testing, but I feared his condition was so bad he would need to be humanely put to sleep.

We had quite a time getting him out of the carrier. He kept straddling the doorway, so she tipped it with the door straight down. Finally he had to let go. She picked him up to weigh him and even though he had a lot of fur and was a pretty big cat, he weighed in at just a little over eight pounds. Malnourished. No wonder I could feel his backbone. My heart was wrenched just thinking what this poor innocent cat might have been going through.

She carried him to the back room to examine him and returned just a couple of minutes later. The tumor was huge and inoperable. Also his bladder was completely firm and he was urinating straight blood. There was nothing they could do for him, so we signed the papers to have him put to sleep. I couldn't bear to stay with him while they did what needed to be done. The memory of holding our beloved cat, Sarah, while she was injected remains forever one of the saddest moments I've ever experienced.

Our vet didn't charge us for an exam, but instead only charged for the euthanasia. We asked that they take care of the remains for us. I came home crying and cried for the past week every time I think of him. I don't know if he actually found a home for a year or if he had been so injured that he couldn't get back home. The vet said the tumor could have been caused from anything. It wasn't completely round. She thought he might have been hit by a car and had scar tissue and calcium buildup, but it was impossible to know for sure.

I had just about gotten over crying for him when I received a sweet card from the vet's office. They had all signed it and written a very nice note and had Oreo's footprint at the bottom. I still cry when I think of him. In fact, tears are rolling down my cheeks now. I know we did the right thing, and he is at peace now.

Sometimes I question why God gave me a heart to care for the helpless animals, but He did it for a reason. Perhaps Oreo knew that and somehow he made his way "home" where he knew someone would take care of him. I find comfort in knowing God trusts me with providing comfort for those less fortunate . . . even those who cannot speak their need.

"In all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God . . . as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things." 2 Corinthians 6:4, 10



Friday, December 21, 2012

A Hug from God

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Those who know me, know that I care for a colony of feral cats. The story of how that came to be is on the bio page of my website.

Yesterday, one of the sweetest cats, Buffy, wasn't around. He always greets me at the front door in the morning and cares more about getting loved than eating. I called, but he never showed up. All day I worried. All day he was absent.

I keep a journal of these feral cats. The date we had them neutered/spayed, whether they are male or female, colors and markings, and dates when they disappear. Feral cats wander off and never return when they are sick. They prefer to die in a hidden place. I wait for weeks before I mark them as "disappeared."

This morning, before I went out to feed the cats, I was at my computer desk and I saw a little face peeking through the window. Buffy! I was so happy to see him. I hurried outdoors to give him his love and then to the back to feed everyone. That's where the real miracle appeared.

I heard a loud cry. That didn't sound like any of the cats who were in the normal colony. To my amazement I saw Oreo a beautiful black and white long-haired cat who "disappeared" over a year ago! I knew it was him because his ear was clipped and I sure remembered that loud meow. Oreo had never let me pet him...until this morning! When I reached out, he didn't run away, he allowed me to pet him...even relished having the love. His backbone was very prominent beneath all that fur, but I knew someone had taken him in and cared for him over the past year.

Yes, I'm a little crazy I guess, because I was crying and repeating "It's a miracle. Thank you, Jesus." My heart goes out to all these poor little guys who have been abandoned and I want to make life a little better for them. Someone else did, too. They took this precious boy into their home and cared for him. I'm not sure why he's back. Maybe he'll "disappear" again, but I know his return this morning was a hug from God.

John 14:21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Christmas Card



A few days ago, I received a beautiful hand-made Christmas Card. The return address on the envelope wasn't one I recognized, nor was the name of the sender.

Inside was a personal inscription wishing me and my family a wonderful Christmas and New Year with a p.s. saying "See ya in January."

I puzzled over who sent this, concentrating on the location and last name of the sender. No luck. So I set it aside.

Later, I lifted it again and looked at the beautiful crochet work. Such a sweet and personal Christmas gift. Suddenly knew who had made it. My daughter's friend, Amanda!

Amanda has been coming to a prayer shawl group once a month at my house. I knew her first name, but I didn't know where she lived or even her last name. I only knew her as a beautiful, funny, sweet, and caring person. The other things didn't matter. I knew her heart.

Until the card arrived, I didn't realize how little I knew about her other than that. This brought to mind, how God knows each of us so well. He knows the number of hairs on our head and He knew us before we were conceived. Where we live, what surnames we have...those aren't really important. What is important is how we live our lives with a loving heart...like Amanda.

Proverbs 27:19 As in water face reflects face, so a man's heart reveals the man.





Friday, December 7, 2012

Facing the Fire of Breast Cancer

During this year, many of my friends have gone through treatment for breast cancer and survived. One of those friends is a male. This disease is not gender-specific, and it kills men and women. Early detection is the key.

Yesterday I received a note from the Women's Health Center to remind me to schedule my annual mammogram. Last year at this time, my mammogram came back suspicious and as a result I went through a stereotactic core biopsy. The hardest part was thinking I might have breast cancer. The easy part was turning it over to God. I knew whatever happened would be according to His will and that I was in His hands.

The original screening happened on December 6. At that time I was told another mammogram would need to be done--one that would give a clearer look at something suspicious. I was lucky and the second one was scheduled for the 8th. The radiologist would look at it afterward and talk to me. During this time, I did a lot of praying, and God lifted the concern from my shoulders. I walked with him closely during the next couple of days. When the radiologist showed me the spots in my breast she explained how the only way to determine if these were malignant was to do the biopsy.

Another time of waiting, but again God sent Jesus to hold me close and let me know He was with me. An opening appeared on the schedule and I was scheduled for a biopsy on the 13th. Do you see how He orchestrated the waiting time to be so minimal?

The morning of the biopsy, I waited prayerfully, not knowing exactly what to expect, although the procedure had been explained. The nurses were so kind and caring and believe me, Jesus was right there in the room with me, too.

The biopsy came back benign. I now have a little metal fleck in my left breast to mark the biopsied spot. Talk about a gift that cannot be bought!

I realize this is not my normal type of devotion, but I wanted to share it with all of you. Breast cancer touches so many people in so many ways. I doubt there is anyone reading this who hasn't had a friend, loved one or even themselves go through something similar. Maybe even taken further into the fire with a diagnosis of malignancy.

May the God of love and mercy grant you the peace of knowing you never walk alone through any fire. Whenever we are faced with a fiery trial there are three different scenarios:

  1. We can be delivered from the fire as I was.
  2. We can be delivered through the fire as are those who go through treatments and become survivors.
  3. We can be delivered by the fire. Then we'll join our Father in heaven in our forever home.
If we are true believers in Jesus Christ, no fiery trial can have a bad ending. Amen!

Daniel 3: 26--27 "Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, 'Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!' So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Layers of Existence


            Movies are fascinating. They have a way of conveying messages without us realizing we are getting the message. I first gained this understanding in college. I took a cinema class because I thought it would be fun and easy. But God had other plans.
            There were 800 students in cinema class. Apparently a lot of other students had the same idea I did.  The only one in the room who didn’t know this was supposed to be an easy class was the teacher. She had this strange idea that we were actually there to learn about movies. Go figure!
            Where we started, I no longer remember, but through the course of the semester we learned every technique directors use to pull us into their work. We went through the meanings of various camera angles, how props are used, how sets are designed, how costumes are chosen, colors, music, layout, dialogue, blocking, movement, and on and on and on.
            We were given the chance (read: assigned) to deconstruct various techniques in the movies we watched.  For example, say you chose to analyze the music, you then took notes on how music was used throughout the movie to evoke the emotion you had decided the director was trying to bring out. Then you wrote what you thought about that in a 500-word paper.
            It was fun.  Slowly but surely the lessons came together so that I could see how a movie director constructs a world in which what you see and hear transfers into making you feel a certain way and understand the characters on a deeper level than maybe even you realize.  Does he want you to feel fear?  Low, menacing music will pull fear right out of you.  Does she want you to sense that a character is out of control?  Cluttering the character’s living space with a myriad of props will (even if you’re not aware of it) add to that perception.  In fact, one thing the teacher said has stayed with me all these years:  “Nothing that appears in a movie—from the angle of the camera, to exactly how a set looks, to the motions a character makes—is random.  They are all thought out, planned, and executed to evoke the emotion the director wants you to feel at a given moment.”
            Many years after that cinema class, I began to use these lessons in constructing my books.  I intuitively understood that you didn’t have to tell the audience a character was a control freak if his suit was impeccable, his desk perfect, his apartment sparse but in fastidious order, his commands to others followed to the letter or else.  All of these add up to a character bent on controlling his existence—even if I never said that outright.
            I could do that without even really trying. It wasn’t until a writing friend pinned me down to explain it to her that I came to the realization of the layers of existence.
            Simply put:  What happens in the physical realm gives us cues and clues as to what is happening on the emotional and mental levels, which then have an underlying lesson in the spiritual realm.  Now, stay with me here. This isn’t hard, and it will make a tremendous difference in how you write once you get it.
            What does this look like in practice?  Here's an example:

“Nice night,” the waitress at the counter said.
Ashton brushed the cold as ice raindrops off his shirt and shivered. “I’d hate to see a bad one.” He stomped his feet on the ground, sending mud and water scattering in little fans on the mat and across the hard tile floor.
She grabbed a menu. “One?”
It took a moment to process the question as he brushed at his cap and neck. “Oh, uh, yeah,” he said, glancing up. “One.”
“Right this way.”
Without question he followed her across the diner to a corner booth. He reached up and repositioned the cap on his head, cupping the bill of it in one hand.
She stopped at the back booth cornered by a wall and a window. “This okay?”
“Fine.” He slid into the seat.
With a smile he barely saw, she laid the menu on the table. “I’ll bring you some water.”
“All right.” When she stepped away, he squeezed his eyes closed to shut out the fatigue flooding over him and shivered again. “Tell you what...”
She stopped short and turned back.
He forced his eyes open as he ran his hands down his now-wet jeans. “Just bring me some coffee.”

Now go through this carefully.  What physical cues do you see?

* brushing cold ice water, shiver, stomping (Ashton's spirit is dead-cold, and he's angry)
* "One?" (he's all alone)
* took a moment to process the question (he's not mentally sharp at the moment)
* corner booth (away from the "action of life" again off by himself)
* repositioned the cap (nervous gesture)
* cornered by a wall and a window--dark night outside though (caught between darkness and something solid)
* a smile he barely saw (he's not interacting with others, very little eye contact)
* squeezed his eyes closed (anguish)
* fatigue flooding over him (spiritually tired)
* shivered (spirit is dead cold)
* forced his eyes open (fighting not to completely give up)
* ran hands down now-wet jeans (life is "tight" "constricting" around him)
* "Just bring me some coffee."  (life has become very simple, doesn't ask for or want lots just one cup of coffee)

Does your writing play on this?  Do your character's actions layer so that you don't have to say they are tired, they are lonely, they are sad because their actions say everything the reader needs to know?

Learn to do this, and your stories will have a depth you might not have realized was even possible.
 
Copyright Staci Stallings, 2012

Staci Stallings, the author of this article, is a #1 Best Selling Contemporary Christian Romance author and the founder of Grace & Faith Author Connection. Staci has a special surprise for you today and tomorrow only...
FREE ON KINDLE TWO DAYS ONLY!
December 4 & 5:
Cowboy
 "One of the most gripping contemporary romances I've read in the past three years."  
--Michelle Sutton, Amazon Top 1,000 Reviewer

Timothy Ashton Raines is at the top of his game and the end of his rope until one night, he walks away from everything...
Available today as a free download from Amazon!
Amazon

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Beggar and Me



 


Matthew 25:37-40 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "

The picture on the left is one of me several years ago when I was "locked up" to raise money for  the Muscular Dystrophy Association.


Last night I had to run an unexpected errand to pick up a plastic tub to hold water for our outdoor feral cats. I was in a hurry and wanted to get home where I could finish editing a Christmas story in progress. After purchasing my item, I headed home. Evening traffic had begun to accumulate causing backups on the main road.

I sat at a stoplight and from the corner of my eye, watched a man holding a sign that said "Hungry. Please help. Anything appreciated. God bless." I tried not to meet his eyes and anxiously waited for the light to turn green so I could move on. I didn't want to give the man money for I knew it would probably go to alcohol or even worse. But when the light turned and I moved on, something happened.

God spoke to me loud and clear. It was one of those moments when I knew I had to be still and know He was God.

I turned my car around, heedless of the long wait in heavy traffic, drove to the closest fast food restaurant and purchased a combo meal. Then I drove back to where that man had been. I saw him walking toward me, his gait slow and heavy. Although it was cold, he wore only a light jacket. A rather large cross on a heavy chain hung upon a t-shirt. His face was beard stubbled (white), and he appeard to be in his late fifties. I stopped the car and rolled down the window.

When I held out the bag of food and the drink, his face broke into a smile. He said, "Oh, how wonderful. Thank you." Then he sat the food on the ground and said, "Wait!"

He fumbled inside his jacket and said, "I write Christian poetry. I want you to have this, but I want you to have the best copies." He pulled out two shabby copies of poems and handed them to me. "God bless you," I said. He responded, "He has." He made the sign of the cross and I moved on.

Whether the food was what he truly needed or not, I don't know. I only know that I was blessed in the giving.

What do you do when you see someone who is begging? Do you meet their eyes? Do you wonder what their story is? Do you look at them the way Jesus would?

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Cure for Insomnia



There are times when all I do is think about "what happens next" in my manuscript. Being a pantser, there is no plotting or outlining before the writing begins. The beginning and ending are clear, but the middle is written "by the seat of my pants."

Scenes will roll by quickly and can suddenly come to a screeching halt. That's the time more "thinking" or "mind plotting" happens. It can consume every waking minute, and even when my eyes are closed in the dark, when sleep should take me away, ideas flow. Tossing and turning, trying to clear my mind...useless.  Talk about a bad case of insomnia!

The only thing that helps, when counting sheep doesn't, is to get out of bed and read the Bible. God's words bring me comfort and rest. Only then, can I crawl between the sheets and find the slumber needed.

Is there anything that keeps you awake at night?

Are there favorite scripture verses that bring you comfort?

Psalm 55:6-7 So I said, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Take Time to Rest

Matthew 14:13 "When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place."

It is okay to withdraw to a quiet place to renew your spirit when life weighs heavily on your shoulders. Jesus did.

Let's face it. We all have bad days. Especially writers. The words aren't flowing, the ideas have dried up, and we begin to worry that we'll never be able to write another book, story, or article.

Exhaustion doesn't have to be just physical. It can also be mental. During these times, we need to withdraw to a solitary place. Take a walk. Take a nap. Watch a movie. Read a book. Sometimes all we need is a break to come back with a fresh outlook.

Matthew 3:18 "As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen."

Jesus walked. I imagine He used this time to talk to His Father. To take deep cleansing breaths of fresh air. To exercise.

A short walk outdoors, or on a treadmill, can do wonders for clearing the cobwebs from our brains.

After Jesus returned from his solitary place on the lake, He returned to business.

Matthew 14:13-14 "When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick."

Friday, November 9, 2012

Climbing Brick Walls

Read Psalm 77

The life of a writer is not for the weak. Since making the decision to share the words which God lays on my heart, I've been tempted so many times to give up. Especially when I run into the proverbial brick wall. Climbing over that wall seems impossible as well as breaking through. I'm not that strong.

I have a dear friend who battled breast cancer and survived only to have it return several years later. She could have given up, but she didn't. Even faced with a brick wall much thicker and taller than any I've run into, she persevered with faith and a positive outlook. She was strong enough to do the battle and break through that wall with Christ by her side.

On days when I feel like giving up, I only need to think of her to realize how petty are my fears. I alone may not be strong enough, but I can do all things through Christ. He gives me the strength to climb brick walls. I only need to seek Him.

Nehemiah 1:11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Tattered Bible

We're all writers, but the greatest Book ever written, the bestseller of all time, is the Bible. I was reminded of that again the other day when I held my grandfather's Bible. The edges of the cover are tattered with age. My grandfather was born April 17, 1890 and died in 1931. He lived 41 years and 5 days according to this Bible. His middle inital was E. I don’t know what it stood for, though I can assume it might have been Eugene since that was the name he gave his son from a previous marriage. Grandfather died when my mother was only six years old and her mother, Mable Eleanor Taylor died at the age of 24 years and 4 months when my mother was only five years old. My heritage for mother’s side of the family is buried in a small graveyard in Illinois. She was adopted and her only contact was with her half-brother who died at an early age as well. My mother is also gone on to her forever home.
But holding this Bible, I feel connected to my past. I wish I had known my grandfather. I don’t even have a picture of him. He held this Bible though, and probably read from it in church. The church might have been one room with wooden pews, much like the one depicted in Little House on the Prairie. So today I wanted to read from this Red Letter, Self-Pronouncing Edition for my daily devotion. The verses are Luke 12:22-32. In my grandfather’s Bible this is from the book of St. Luke. I think the words are beautiful.
And he said unto his disciples, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Dear Heavenly Father, I give thanks today for all your many blessings. Thank you for this tattered Bible. Thank you for the names penned within by my ancestors. And thank you for the sacrifice of Your Beloved Son so that I might one day be abe to see my grandfather in my forever home. Amen.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I Come to the Garden Alone

What a week! Seems as if I have fallen behind in everything, yet I've been so busy I fall into bed at night exhausted. Priorities keep changing and being flexible is critical. Yesterday being the last really nice day we are expected to have before cold weather sets in, there were a lot of items on the "gotta get the yard work done" list.

Changed into old jeans and a t-shirt, shoes which once were white and now have turned green, a sweat band beneath a straw hat...with a pink flower and pink gloves...well, after all I am a female and I like pretty things.

Armed for battle, I headed outside and thanked God for such a beautiful day. During yard work, God and I commune. I'm reminded of the hymn "I Come to the Garden Alone" and the line: "And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own." Without Him, I could not have accomplished that mountain of chores.

Satan doesn't like our relationship. While mowing the front lawn, suddenly I was seized with a terrible cramping in my toes. They turned under completely and the ligament above my heel tightened. Finally, I hobbled inside and my hubby helped rub my foot to ease the pain, while I called out for God to take this affliction from me so I could finish what needed to be done.

And he did.

I spent the rest of the time outdoors giving thanks to Him for his faithfulness.

Psalm 100: Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us and we are his; we are his people the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (NIV)

It's important that we do give thanks to Him for our answered prayers and all of our blessings. Do you remember to thank Him for little things as well as big things? Do you have a special place where you and God commune?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

God Saw This Coming


This month hasn't exactly been awesome in any way, according to my limited way of thinking. Still, after much groaning, cursing (I confess...teehee), muttering, screaming, and finally some quiet moments with God, I have my reminder. 

God saw this coming, and the same God who pays enough attention to number hairs and give us unique fingerprints must have a plan. 

For me, that plan included lying flat on my sister's bed in the dark and allowing water to squeeze past my eyelids. (Quite the aversion to crying here.) It included getting some much-needed rest and going back to the beginning--Him. In all the busyness and insanity of the past two or so weeks, I've barely had my quiet time with God. I'm not one of those people who can function otherwise. I need Jesus time to be patient and not roll my eyes ... I'm just not that nice all by myself.

I don't know what works for you, but maybe we need to step back for a moment and refocus. Maybe we need to deliberately call to mind the mercies and faithfulness of God. Maybe, before we can take the stories we're writing any further, we need to look back on the stories of our lives and see how God has brought us through worse conflicts than we can ever pen. Maybe we just need to remember. To remember God. To remember the arms that hold us in every season. 

"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:24, 25)

Blessings and love, 

Lori

Guest Blogger Bio: 

Lori-Ann Whyte, is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers

The youngest of six girls from a Jamaican home with parents who bought books instead of toys, Lori prefers reading to all other forms of entertainment. 

She has finally worked her way around to calling herself a writer, and has developed a deep passion for the art form. A proud weirdo, with a four-year-old for a best friend, Lori hopes to grow up one day. 

God seems to be leading the conspiracy to accomplish just that.

Friday, October 19, 2012

My Internal Editor Eats My Dirty Socks


Writing 101: Sit rear in chair and write.

I’m a dreamer. I could spend hours sitting and writing scenes in my head. Actions play out like a movie unfolding in beautiful colors on a panoramic screen. Relaxing, lulling me into total relaxation, and soon drowsing off into eyelid theater.

Oh, to be able to envision these scenes and have them become written words! If I were an inventor, that would be what I’d create. Instead I’m a writer and my job is to create stories. Write stories.

Those beautiful scenes become slow, draw-out torture when trying to paint them on a blank white screen. Finding the right word, the right phrase…fighting my internal editor. I’ve tried stuffing a pair of smelly, worn socks in her mouth but I think she eats them. Don’t laugh! It’s true. She keeps right on yacking and I believe she’s just a head—not a full body—so she can’t remove them herself.

When I undertook this journey to be a writer, I didn’t know all the rules. That’s when the words flowed from the pictures in my head into written words with amazing speed. Some people can forget the rules and pound out the book first, then go back and apply those learned rules. I guess their internal editors don’t eat socks.

But whether by one slow word at a time or by speed writing, one must sit themselves in the chair and write. Begin each session by praying for God to bless your efforts and to give you the words and have faith. He will provide what you need.

James 2:17 “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
 
 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Christian Fiction – Oxymoron?

freedigitalphoto.net

We were on our way to a restaurant by a lake in Warsaw, Indiana. Our husbands visited in the front, and we ladies sat together on the bucket seats of our friend’s new Honda mini-van. And that’s another story. . .

But on this day, my friend turned to me and said, “I promised I wouldn’t read anything that wasn’t true for the rest of the year.”

She shook her head and looked down at the boot on her foot. “And then my ankle gave out.” She grinned then. “I could just see God looking down with a chuckle wondering what I was going to do now. But I’ve used this time to really get into the Word.”

And then I shared with her how I’d learned to get more out the Scriptures in my own daily devotions. I was sure the things I had learned were nothing new to her. And I was ashamed that I had to be this old before I learned.

“It’s good to take a break from reading other writing,” I said. “But you’ve made a big commitment to go for half a year.” I half-way admired her for it.

“Oh, I hope by the end of the year I can make it permanent. My mother always told me fiction is just a bunch of lies.” My friend looked at me expectantly. We belong to the same denomination and she knew I was a writer. “Reading got me through the hard times when my children were growing up,” she continued. “But I’ve leaned on fiction too much.”

“I know you need to keep your promise, but what about the stories Jesus taught?”

“And you think those weren’t real stories?”

“I know the parables were based on true principals,” I told her. “That’s what novel writers are taught. Any properly written novel will be based on a true principal.”

We changed the subject after that. But I can’t quit thinking about it.

Is Christian Fiction an Oxymoron?

By definition, Christian Fiction is a story that illustrates a Christian world view in its plot, its characters, or both, or which deals with Christian themes in a positive way.

The novels of Francine Rivers have touched hearts and changed lives. Christian Fiction is not written to replace the Bible, but to turn hurting, seeking people to the Word, to Jesus, and to God.

The combined efforts of many Christian writers have enriched our world. For some of us, it is our mission field. Our way of blooming where we are planted.

The Apostle Paul used the whole chapter of I Corinthians 14 to show me that worship should not just be for my own benefit. That I should desire gifts that benefit the whole church. #1 In ways that they can understand. And #2 in ways that build up the church. Then, the apostle tells us, God will bring the sinners and they will also be convinced.

God may use me to touch just one soul. He may use you to touch another. And he is reaching out to my friend in a different manner.

What are your thoughts?


Friday, October 12, 2012

Relieve Stress...Take a Prayer Break



 
 
It's one of those days. You, know, where everything seems to be going wrong. A long to-do list that makes you tired just writing it. Headache looming...
 
My daughter gave me this little reminder to keep on my desk for days like this.
 
 
 
"Relieve stress...take a prayer break."
Paraphrasing Phillipians 4:6-7: Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything.
 
I needed that this morning! In fact, yesterday I wrote and scheduled a devotional for this morning which overnight disappeared...totally gone...and I hadn't made a copy on my computer.
 
As I was praying for guidance to write a new devotional, the phone rang and a dear friend was on the way to the hospital where her daughter has been rushed for an emergency catherization. She asked for prayers.
 
Down on my knees lifting this woman up to God's throne, I was reminded that everything happens for a reason and at God's timing. 
 
I believe God wanted me to write this particular devotional to remind others to take those prayer breaks, so His hand struck the already written devotional from the scheduled posts.
 
How about you? When you feel overwhelmed do you take a prayer break?

Friday, October 5, 2012

When Pigs Fly

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” ~~Proverbs 23:4-5 (NIV)

I have a cute little piggy bank on my desk. On the back by the money slot it says “Writer’s Retirement Fund” … right between the pig’s wings. Can you relate?

Sure I’d like to make a little money to help with finances, but the reason I write isn’t for building a retirement fund or being able to live on royalties. If I wrote for those reasons, I’d be chasing an idol.

If God has given you the gift to write, He will provide the rewards. You may not see them in the form of huge royalties or advances. You may not see your rewards in this lifetime. But rest assured, dear writer, the reward will come. According to His will.
 
I love the following verses. Perhaps they should be our writer's motto.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” ~~ Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)
 
Dear Father,
Help us, as writers called to share Your love through the written word, to see that our riches do not lie in this world. Keep us from feeling envious of those who chase after false idols. Instill in us the strength to persevere despite setbacks, rejections, and harsh criticism. Grant us hearts to serve You with the gift You have given. Let us be a lamp to light the hearts of our readers and let it all be to Your glory. I ask in the name of Your precious Son, Jesus, Amen.
 
 

Monday, October 1, 2012

52 Writing Tips For New Writers, Part 5

About The Video Presenter 
Alyice Edrich is a freelance writer specializing in helping new writers succeed—on the web. Visit her athttp://thedabblingmum.com for free writing tips on how you can succeed in the publishing world, today. 






Friday, September 28, 2012

A Vintage Gift


Read Matthew 17: 14-20



Matthew 14:20 “…I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Working on the sequel to TRAPPED has been a painstaking experience. I knew something was wrong and began to doubt my ability as a writer and whether my passion to write was truly God’s “call.”

I’ve been down on my knees so much I’ve formed tough calluses. Day after day, word after word, scene after scene, prayer after prayer…doubt after doubt. What was wrong? I prayed for God to give me the strength and the words to finish the book to His glory. Yet the plot kept going nowhere.

After a very tearful talk with God, I walked away from writing for three days.

But I couldn’t stay away. God kept sending little messages of encouragement.  One was a package in my mailbox from one of my writing friends. She had no idea of the struggle I’d been under, but she’d reached out to me with a very big message from God. Inside the package were two vintage 1960’s era mustard seed globe necklaces. She’d purchased them in the 80’s from a consignment shop because she always liked the idea of having a mustard seed of hope and faith. But she hadn’t worn them in over twenty years and wanted me to have them with the hope they would bring me some positive feeling. I was moved beyond words and in awe of God’s majesty.

My tagline is “Happily ever afters with a spark of romance, a shadow of suspense, and a mustard seed of faith.” These necklaces made me think about what the mustard seed of faith meant.  I believe it was God speaking in a loud, clear voice that he’d called me to share messages of hope and faith through the written word.

I went back to my plot and weak obstacles and suddenly saw the problem. I had included a character who made it impossible to form obstacles to my hero reaching his goal. He’s now back story.
I love the story of the mustard seed from the book of Matthew. And it means even more now as the scripture was revealed through God’s directing a gift to me through a friend.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Help us to remain faithful to the work you have called us to do. Instill in us the courage to move mountains with a mustard seed of faith. In Jesus' name, Amen.


Monday, September 24, 2012

52 Writing Tips For New Writers, Part 4

About The Video Presenter 
Alyice Edrich is a freelance writer specializing in helping new writers succeed—on the web. Visit her athttp://thedabblingmum.com for free writing tips on how you can succeed in the publishing world, today. 





Friday, September 21, 2012

Toning Spiritual Muscles

 
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." I Corinthians 6:19-20
 
I remember a time when I was dedicated to exercising after work in the comfort of my family room. My favorite work-out video was "Sweatin' to the Oldies." The music was upbeat, Richard Simmons was fun, and the people exercising with him were normal people of every size and shape.
 
I always rested afterward while reading on the screen how much weight each person on the video had lost. So inspiring! One night my youngest daughter, then a teen-ager, slipped into the room and sat on the sofa beside me. She looked at me and grinned. "Wow, Mom, look at you. Your jeans are falling off and you look great...but these people look the same. They haven't changed at all." Yeah, she was always good for a laugh...still is.
 
But as I think back, I'm reminded how true this is in our spiritual lives as well.
 
There was time when I just went through the motions. I believed in God, talked a good talk, but I didn't walk the walk. I even stopped attending church for a while. Just like I stopped exercising. My to-do lists were long. Life demaded my time. And I became just like the video...suspended in time...unchanging.
 
God is faithful, though. He pursued me until I ran back into His arms. I joined a Church. I volunteered when God called me. Suddenly the verses in the Bible began to speak to me. Prayer became a constant in my life, and God became my very best friend, the One I could talk to all day long. He reaffirms His love constantly and blesses me abundantly.
 
My spiritual muscles are being toned each and every day. I am changing on the inside, in my heart, in my soul.
 
Oh, and that favorite workout video? I pulled it out the other day. I'm exercising again and having fun "Sweatin' to the Oldies." The video hasn't changed, but I have. God is good!
 
Dear Father, Thank you for never giving up on us. Amen.

 
 

Monday, September 17, 2012

52 Writing Tips For New Writers, Part 3


About The Video Presenter:

 Alyice Edrich is a freelance writer 

specializing in helping new writers 

succeed—on the web. Visit her at

http://thedabblingmum.com for free 

writing tips on how you can succeed in the 

publishing world, today. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Crafting with Jesus

Matthew 18:20 (NIV) "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

Angel Wing Prayer Shawl I crocheted.
A year ago our Church formed a Prayer Shawl Ministry Group. We meet once a month on Saturday at the Church where we share a meal together and spend two hours knitting, and crocheting.

During our time together, we sit in a circle around tables and conversation and laughter flows freely.

I'm reminded of the quilting groups my mother took me to when I was a young girl where I learned to hand stitch quilts while listening to the laughter and chatter of my mother's friends and family.



Sweater my daughter knitted for me
My own love for needlework must have been born during those years. I taught my oldest daughter how to knit and crochet when she was a young girl and she has taken that to a much higher level than I could ever have imagined. She's the expert and now teaches me.

Life is a circle. A circle of love. Our group is blessed by the thank you cards from those who receive our shawls. Their testimonies of feeling the comfort of so many prayers is our blessing.

Dear Lord, thank you for the gifts you've given us. Let us use those to bless others so that we may be blessed in return. Thank you for being in our midst when we gather in Your Name.  Amen.

Monday, September 10, 2012

52 Writing Tips For New Writers, Part 2

About The Video Presenter:

Alyice Edrich is a freelance writer

specializing in helping new writers succeed

on the web. Visit her at

http://thedabblingmum.com for free writing

tips on how you can succeed in the 

publishing world, today. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

For Such a Time As This


Esther 4:14 “ . . . And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

Since leaving my full-time day job, I’ve become a full-time caregiver to my hubby who has COPD, Emphysema, and a diseased heart. As such, I do all the driving. Yesterday he wanted to get a haircut and I was frantically trying to meet my  writing goal for the month. Thankfully, my laptop was fully powered, so off we went.

While we were getting hubby’s oxygen tank from the back seat, another vehicle parked beside us. The woman got out of the van and we tried to make room for her to get around us.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “Take your time. I can walk in front of your car.” With a sweet smile she did so.

Hubby headed off to the barber chair and I opened my laptop. I never thought again about the nice lady until . . .

After a productive writing session, hubby returned. I stepped out of the car and immediately noticed a bank card lying on the ground. The owner’s name was Elizabeth.

Whoever Elizabeth was, she would be frantic when she noticed her card missing. Returning it to the bank would get it back to her, but what if it belonged to the nice lady from the van? What were the odds?

I decided to try. My first stop was the optical store next to the barber shop. As I approached, I knew God was in control because the woman I sought was inside helping a customer. She worked there. God’s hand all the way.

I went inside and asked if she was the woman who’d parked her van next to us. She said yes. I asked if her name was Elizabeth. Now she looked a little nervous but said yes.

When I handed her the card, her relief and surprise showed in her expression. After thanking me over and over, she said, “I just did something good for this woman (indicating the woman she’d been helping) and now it has been paid forward!”

I have no doubt this entire trip was orchestrated by God. It had seemed a minor inconvenience in my “planned” day, but it turned out to be a major blessing. God places us in positions to be angels on earth. Just like Esther was destined to become a Queen “for such a time as this.”

PRAYER: “Dear God, thank you for bringing us into places and situations where we can be your hands and feet, for we know that through blessing others we receive our greatest blessings. Amen.”

 Have you had a similar experience?  How have you been “paying it forward?”