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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Faith Test for Christian Writers, Part 5

Let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. ~James 3:13-18

Today we will look at being false to the truth. Some may say, “I write fiction. It’s not truth anyway.”

Au contraire!

Consider this quote from E.M. Forster in Aspects of the Novel.: “We cannot understand each other, except in a rough and ready way. But in a novel we can know people perfectly. . . . In this direction fiction is truer than history, because it goes beyond the evidence, and each of us knows from his experience that there is something beyond the evidence.” (Emphasis mine.)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. John 14:6

When we pattern our lives on his, we will be living the truth. When we live the truth, we can write the truth.

Larry Bird once said, “I don't know if I practiced more than anybody, but I sure practiced enough. I still wonder if somebody - somewhere - was practicing more than me.” And just as basketball players are first taught the basics and then practices, sometimes daily, for years and years until dribbling and shooting become second nature, so must we practice our Christian living.

We learn what to do by studying the Bible, and then we live it out in our everyday lives.

And then we, as Christian writers, write it.

It simply becomes second nature.

I’ve mentioned before that books and movies achieve greatness when they have underlying moral premises. When the movie or book, the story, rings false to the audience, to those underlying moral premises that we all understand, the movie or book will flop, no matter the technical skills employed.

And those are the moral premises we find in the Bible. The moral premises that Jesus displayed.

Jesus—the one who displayed the truth.

Let us, as Christian writers, never be false to the truth.

Our test for today:

1226faithtest

Next week, we’ll finish up this series. Are you ready for the final?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Random Thoughts

I’m a little bleary eyed this morning. I haven’t been getting enough sleep. I’ve been putting in long hours for the past few days.

Someone mentioned doing a devotional. I thought—hey, I’ve got enough blog posts to do a 365 day devotional.

So, that’s what I’ve been working on. I need to finish it up in the next couple of days.

I feel like Ender in Ender’s Game who is beyond exhaustion and still rises each day to play the game. Or, like Frodo and Sam intent on destroying the ring.

They pushed on to their goal. And were successful.

Here’s a picture of the cover:

Setting a goal of December 27 to have it available in e-book format.bookcover1222

I’m falling asleep at the keyboard.

Hope you’ll be able to check it out when it becomes available!

(By the way, that’s a picture my son took at Cypress Springs.)

I almost forgot . . .

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Faith Test for Christian Writers, Part 4

Let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. ~James 3:13-18

We are continuing our study of this passage from James. Today we are specifically examining “do not boast.” The following story shows the dangers of boasting:

A lion and a tiger were drinking beside a river when the lion let out a huge roar. The tiger said, "Why do you roar like a fool?" 

"That's not foolish," said the lion, with a twinkle in his eyes. "They call me king of all the beasts because I advertise."

A rabbit heard them talking and ran home. He thought he'd try the lion's plan, but his roar was just a squeak. A fox came to investigate and ate the rabbit for lunch.  The moral of the story: When you advertise, be sure you've got the goods and can deliver them.

There is nothing wrong in recognizing our abilities, as the lion does in this story. We do need to realize where our abilities come from.

All our ability comes directly or indirectly from God. We make the choices of how to use the ability he gives us, but God gives us the raw talent or the opportunities to develop talent.

Proverbs 9:23 tells us: A man's pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.

So, what does it mean to be humble?

According to Charles Spurgeon, Humility is to make a right estimate of one’s self.

And William Temple tells us: Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts.  It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all. 

All that matters is that we strive to please God. We humble ourselves so God can and will lift us up.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. ~Proverbs 11:2

One of my former preachers, Raymond Elliott said this: We can have respect for self without conceit; concern for self without selfishness; love of self without vanity.

After all, the Bible does say to love others as we love ourselves. It’s okay to know our abilities and even to advertise when necessary—in a humble manner.

Our job is to become the best us we can be.

When we become right for God, we can write for God in the manner he wants us to. Without boasting.

Right for God; write for God.

No boasting necessary!

1219faithtest

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Things I’ve Learned (CreateSpace)

I have been trying to come up with a list of steps for CreateSpace. This may not suit everyone, but it has been helpful to me. These are just suggestions. Everyone needs to read the submission guidelines before uploading their manuscripts. With that said, here are my hints for preparing my manuscript for CreateSpace. (If you find any errors, please let me know! Thanks!)

Hints for CreateSpace document (to make a 6 X 9 book): 

In Microsoft Word 2007:

1. Choose Page Layout --> Little Arrow on Page Setup--> Paper --> Width: 6"; Length: 9"

2. Page Setup --> Paper --> Paper Source: Default Tray

3. Page Setup --> Paper --> Apply to: Whole Document

4. Page Setup --> Margins --> Orientation --> Portrait

5. Page Setup --> Margins --> Custom Margins --> Margins --> Top 0.8, Bottom 1.0, Left & Right 0.8

6. Page Setup --> Margins --> Gutter 0, Gutter Position left

7. Page Setup --> Margins --> Apply to: Whole Document

8. Page Setup --> Layout --> Header & Footer 0.5

9. Page Setup --> Layout --> Vertical Alignment: Top

10. Page Setup --> Layout --> Apply to: Whole Document

11. Home --> Paragraph --> Little arrow --> General --> Alignment --> Justified

12. Home --> Paragraph --> Little arrow --> Indentation --> Special --> First line --> 0.3 ***Make sure the tab key was not used to indent paragraphs!!

13. Home --> Paragraph --> Little arrow --> Spacing --> 1.15

14. Make sure the # 11, 12, & 13 are applied to the whole ms.

15. Begin each chapter 14 spaces down.

16. Insert --> Page Number --> Bottom of page, centered

17. Insert --> Header --> (Type in text you would like)

18. Insert --> Page Break at the end of each chapter (also at end of title page, table of contents, etc.

19. Turn document into PDF file.

I’m sure I’ve probably left out some formatting!

However, when the manuscript is suitable according to CreateSpace guidelines, it’s time to upload. And that’s what I’m off to do!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Faith Test for Christian Writers, Part 3

The Scripture:

Let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. ~James 3:13-18

We have been taking a closer look at these passages from James. James is speaking to Christians when he says “Let him show his works.” As Christian writers, our works include our writings.

In my first post of this series, I looked at “meekness of wisdom;” in the second post, “bitter jealousy.” This is the third question we’ll be exploring: Are we guilty of selfish ambition?

Eriteia: The Greek Word for Selfish Ambition

From Strong’s Concordance we learn “selfish ambition” is translated from “eritheia” that means “rivalry, hence ambition.”

Strong’s further gives the following definitions:

Short Definition: ambition, rivalry
Definition: (the seeking of followers and adherents by means of gifts, the seeking of followers, hence) ambition, rivalry, self-seeking; a feud, faction.

HELPS Word-studies also has light to shed on the word. We find this information from them:

Eritheía (from eritheuō, "work for hire") – properly, work done merely for hire (as a mercenary), referring therefore to carnal ambition (selfish rivalry).

Ancient Greek uses eritheía ("mercenary self-seeking") of acting for one's own gain, regardless of the discord (strife) it causes. Eritheía ("selfish ambition") places self-interest ahead of what the Lord declares right, or what is good for others.

This word was used to refer to men seeking political gain by unfair means. That gives a good picture of what James means here, doesn’t it?

Should Christians be Ambitious?

The question I would like to pose: Is it wrong to be ambitious? For example, should we be ambitious in promoting our work?

One of the definitions Webster’s gives for “ambitious” is  having a desire to achieve a particular goal.

Goals are a good thing. If we desire to publish a book in order to spread God’s word, or to strengthen our fellow Christians, or to make the world a better place, or fill in the blank with a good motive here, that’s a good thing, a very good thing.

And, if we wish to reach hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people, that’s not a bad goal to have. Are we not to go into all the world to tell others of Christ?

Problems arise when we place self-interest ahead of what the Lord declares right, or what is good for others. (See HELPS Word Studies above)

When Does Ambition Become Selfish?

When we think only of ourselves and crush others in our quest for our goals, that’s when ambition crosses the line.

There’s something I have had to work through in my own writing life. When does my writing become “selfish”?

If we choose writing over things like cleaning house, cooking, or partaking in church activities (besides worship services), that does not necessarily make us selfish. All of those things are good. But are all those things the best way we can use our time? Often, it’s not a matter of choosing good over bad, but choosing the best over the good.

We must not neglect the people in our lives when pursue a writing career. And, we certainly do not need to neglect God.

However, we must carve out time for God, family, friends, and our writing. Perhaps an analogy will help illustrate what I mean.

Is it selfish for a person to devote years of study to become, say, a doctor? Would we say, “Frank is so selfish for going to medical school”?

Of course not. We would probably commend Frank for devoting his time to that endeavor.

Does that mean Frank should ignore his family and quit attending worship services? No. But Frank will make sacrifices to become a doctor.

In the same way, as writers, we make sacrifices to read, study, and write. We make those sacrifices to become the best writers we can be—even though it may appear that we are selfish to family and friends.

Sometimes family and friends may need gentle reminders that our work has importance and ultimately will glorify God.

Testing, Testing

God wants us to use all of the abilities he has given us.

Working hard in order to achieve goals is not selfish ambition.

Our ambition becomes selfish when we engage in rivalries and develop cliques in order to achieve our goals.

Our ambition becomes selfish when we change the things we say or do in order to become popular with men, instead of seeking God’s glory.

And that brings us to today’s test:

1211faithtest

 

Next Monday, December 19, we’ll be looking at question #4 in the series—Are you guilty of boasting?

Meanwhile, join me Wednesday for things I’ve learned and Friday for Random Thoughts.

Thanks for dropping by!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Self Publishing

The folks over at ciaindie, a website for Christian self publishers, have been so helpful!

They demonstrate the principles we are taught by the Bible. Those principles of being encouragers and serving others.

Right now, I feel like a taker. And, I am! I’m taking advice and words of encouragement.

I’m working through some formatting issues with their help. And some issues with the writing itself.

I likened it to walking around with toilet paper stuck on your shoe all day, and no one tells you.

So, right now I have some toilet paper issues. One of the members told me to take the toilet paper and make confetti. And, on the day of publication, rain down the confetti.

And that I plan to do. Soon. Very soon.

By the way, I finalized the cover—I think! This is it:

backcoverfinal2-horz

Coming very soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

There Is No Tab Key!

One thing I’ve learned this week is to never use the Tab key. Never, ever tab over. CreateSpace does not like the tabbing.

Take a screwdriver and remove your Tab Key. ***** WARNING! Joking, people! Don’t do that! *******

Okay, wish I had known not to use the tab key before I started writing this book.

I had to do a search through my manuscript and find every time I tabbed.

In case you’re like me and wondering how to do it without losing your mind, this might help.  Choose “Search and Replace.” In the “Search” field, type ^t. Leave the “Replace” field blank. And then choose Replace All.

That removes all your tabs. Supposedly.

I should mention I use Microsoft Word 2007.

My next step was to remove all paragraph formatting so that I could start with a clean slate.

I went to Page Layout –> Paragraph and clicked the tiny arrow in the lower right corner. The one that blends in so well that it took me a while to find. I rolled everything back to zero. In the “Special” menu, I chose “First Line” and rolled it to zero also.

I made sure these settings were applied to my entire manuscript. I then saved, closed, and reopened my manuscript to be sure all the spacing for the first lines of paragraphs had been removed.

Next, I went back to Page Layout –> Paragraph –> Tiny Little Arrow Microsoft Doesn’t Want You to Find. This time, by “Alignment” I chose “Justified.” Then I clicked on the drop-down menu for “Special” and chose “First Line.”

For my manuscript, I went with Indent 0.3. You may choose whatever you see fit. For professional purposes, there is some type of system. As you undoubtedly know, Googling  “paragraph indentation for published books” will bring up articles to read.

Great fun! 

Where did I put the copy of my Serenity Prayer?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Faith Test for Christian Writers, Part 2

Let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. ~James 3:13-18

A couple of weeks ago, I began a study on Faith Tests for Christian Writers by studying this passage from James.

As Christian writers, our writings are our works. This passage teaches us the correct way to view our works, our writings, from a Biblical perspective.

In Part 1, we asked: Do we, as Christian writers, have meekness of wisdom? (Faith Test for Writers, Part 1)

Today, let’s look at a second question derived from this passage. Do we, as Christian writers, suffer from bitter jealousy?

Jealousy touches everyone at some point. Jealousy drives a lot of unchristian behavior. Jealousy makes us do and say things that normally we would not say or do.

One time, a group I participated in was given an assignment to write a short essay. I cannot remember the topic; however, I do remember one person doing an exceptional job.

I also remember my reaction. As we left the room, I made a catty remark. I remember it well, because my conscience pricked me. The exceptional writer was a close, Christian friend, a friend I should have congratulated on a job well done. Instead, to make myself feel better about my own feeble attempt, I put her down.

God calls us to use the special talents he has endowed us with, even if they are not on par with others.

I worked hard, but I did not succeed as well as my friend. So what? I am stilled called on by God to do my best.

One of Tim Tebow’s favorite quotes is this: Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. ~Tim Notke

Our talents may not equal those of someone else, but we can work just as hard as they do. Will we garner the same amount of success if we put in the hours? Probably not. But we will be using the opportunities God has given us instead of burying them in the ground.

My preacher, Mark Littleton, taught this passage not long ago. He used this illustration: “What is the most difficult instrument to play?” a reporter once asked a famous conductor. The conductor answered, “Second fiddle. No one wants to put in the hard work required to become second fiddle. If they can’t be first string, they simply quit.”

As Christians, we are not given that option. We are to do our best whether we are first, second, third, or even last.

When we work solely to please God and not man, and that “man” includes self, we will be able to put aside jealousy. God loves each of us equally. There’s simply no need for jealousy.

Furthermore, if we work to please God, we will be able to truly rejoice with those who succeed. We will know they are expanding the borders of God’s Kingdom.

And, for that, we should be truly grateful. A grateful heart has no room for jealousy.

Here’s our test with question #2:

paper

 

Join me next Monday to look at the next question in this series:

Do I have selfish ambition in my heart?

(Special thanks to Mark Littleton for his lessons on James.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Don’t Hate Christmas!

 

Part of the CW Blogchain. Check out the sidebar for other great posts from the wonderful writers in our chain.

Gifts from the heart come from a loving spirit. But how do we maintain a loving spirit during the stressful holiday seasons?

MM900288888[1]Many people hate this time of year, some because memories of departed loved ones are especially poignant, some because of the commercialization of the season, and some because of the extra workload Christmas brings with it. While some of us may not hate Christmas, and some actually love this time of year, it is true many of us are more stressed. Let’s examine six things we can do to help us, even those who love Christmas, enjoy it more.

  1. Sad memories make this time of year difficult for many. The first thing many of us need to do is to accept death, not bury our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. Everyone is dying—we just do not know the hour or day. I know it is difficult to accept death, and I’m certainly not trying to minimize the pain we feel when loved ones die. However, as Christians we have hope. In possibly the most beautiful words in the English language, Paul tells us:

    Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? I Corinthians 15:54-55

    This time of year is a perfect time to reminisce, to remember Christmases past, to honor the memories of those who have gone on to meet their reward. Will tears be shed? Perhaps, but tears are a gift from God. And everything God gives is good.

  2. Furthermore, this may be the perfect time to drag out those old pictures and share memories with the new and old members of our families. We may just find laughter intermingling with the tears. And taking time to just be with our families can give us a respite from all the hustle and bustle and renew our energy.
  3. Other people hate this time of the year because of the commercialization. For years I complained bitterly when I saw ads or commercials for Christmas gifts before Thanksgiving. Well, now we’re seeing them before Halloween. Christmas is like the Blob (if you’re as old as I am and remember the movie), sprawling to possibly encompass the entire year. We already have Christmas in July in many stores. Unless we are the business owners or unless a law is passed to prohibit anything Christmas except in the month of December (a great idea, don’t you think?), we must accept things as they are and as they may be in the future. The Serenity Prayer has helped me with this.

    God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.

    Living one day at a time;
    Enjoying one moment at a time;
    Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
    Taking, as He did, this sinful world
    as it is, not as I would have it;
    Trusting that He will make all things right
    if I surrender to His Will;
    That I may be reasonably happy in this life
    and supremely happy with Him
    Forever in the next.
    Amen. ~
    Reinhold Niebuhr

  4. Of course, we know we can change our own focus. Instead of the take attitude, have a give attitude. Reach out to those in need at this time of year. Open our hearts and pocketbooks to the poor of this world—whether poor in money, or poor in family or friends. We may not be able to change the world, but we are capable of changing self.
  5. Also, we need to let go of unrealistic expectations. In some distant galaxy far, far away, there may be the “perfect” Christmas, with smiling children eagerly sharing, with a perfectly cooked Christmas dinner, with gifts elegantly wrapped, and each gift just what the other person wanted. I haven’t seen it here on earth. Here we are imperfect people going through trials and tribulations, learning to be more Christlike, yet failing more often than succeeding. We need to change our perspective and see each challenge as a way God is molding us into who he wants us to be. We need to change our perspective and see others as God sees them and not place unrealistic expectations on them.
  6. And when we fail those challenges, forgive ourselves and others, just as thoroughly as he forgives us. Enjoying the good, forgetting the bad.

Learning to accept death, not being afraid to reminisce about those who have gone on before, to accept the commercialization of Christmas we have no control over, to change ourselves by focusing on those in need, to let go of unrealistic expectations, and to forgive ourselves and others when we fail our goal of a perfect Christmas are six ways to create gifts from the heart and a more peaceful and joyous Christmas.  

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Random Thoughts: Fearing Success

 

CW Blog Chain Participants: Woops! I forgot today was my day. I’ll post tomorrow. Thanks for understanding!

I’ve been working on getting Thundersnow ready for publication. Trepidation is dogging my footsteps.

I’ve beaten my fears back to a certain extent by focusing on God (and with a little help from my friends). It has nothing to do with me. Success or failure. It is all about pleasing God.

I fear success almost as much as failure. Why, you may ask? Several reasons.

One is because if I’m successful with the first book, people will expect me to duplicate that success. I may have only one book in me. On that point, we’ll just have to wait and see.

The second reason is because success may jar me out of the world I live in at this moment. Things may change. A disruption in the status quo. Do I want that?

The odds for success are against me. I don’t remember the average number of books sold per author, but I remember it’s not high. And, the definition of success varies. What if I sold 1000 books? Would I consider that successful? Yes. That would be awesome.

If I sold 10,000? That would be scary.

It reminds me of this quote by Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Wait. Did she say shine? And the name of this blog is Rise, Write, Shine? Hmmm . . .

I am a child of God. On this earth to serve God. Not to worry about success or failure. It’s not about me. It’s about God and laying down my life for him.

Even if it kicks me out of my comfort zone. Or especially if it kicks me out of my comfort zone.

Whew. Okay . . . Talked myself out of the fear of success, even if I feel it is a bit farfetched. Now, how about failure . . .

 

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Things I Have Learned from NaNoing

 

This is National Novel Writing Month, for those of you who may not know. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. And the prize is . . . well, knowing you have written 50,000 words.

I decided to take the challenge this year and, back in October, thought about what to write. Some people do not like to plan ahead at all but simply write whatever comes to them. They call it writing by the seat of their pants. I call it channeling spirits. (Just joking!)

I don’t believe I have ever been able to sit down and write “cold.” I have to daydream a little before I can write. So . . . all those long bubble baths, the dozing in the hammock, the taking of naps is really me working hard.

At least, that’s what I tell my husband.

However, even though I have to think before I write doesn’t mean I don’t follow my fingers where they lead. Sometimes it’s one of those aha moments. Such as the naming of the dog back in book one (years ago), and the significance that name develops in book 2. Unplanned. One of those God moments to me. (Maybe just something corny to my would-be readers.)

And that was only the beginning. My fingers led me places I had not thought of before that moment and to subplots that became a strong thread of the main plot.

I have learned to trust my fingers, wherever they lead. If it’s just a bunch of gibberish, that’s what the delete button is for—after NaNo, of course.

Something else I have learned—keep my nose to the grindstone and persevere, even when my nose gets ground away.

You see, my computer crashed. Three times. Everything wiped clean.

Thank goodness for online backup and flash drives. I did lose words, around 3000 all together, and hours while I worked on my computer (I have two and both crashed.). I finally broke down and bought a new computer and reinstalled my software. I still haven’t installed everything, but I’m working on it.

And, I’ve said, since I first heard of NaNo years ago, why was this month chosen—the month of Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping? Obviously, some man chose it. Or someone who didn’t cook.

But through it all, I have typed away, cheered on by friends and family. Persevering even amidst the trials. A lot like life, isn’t it?

And this is my award:

NaNo

That and 50,114 words.

Something well worth the effort.

Congrats to all my fellow NaNo winners!

And thanks to my family who put up with me during NaNo.

 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Giving Thanks for Autism

Note: Since this is still November, a month in which we emphasize thanksgiving, I thought I would recycle this blog post from a few months ago. Next Monday will be A Faith Test for Writers, Part 2. Thanks for the read!

Some may think this a strange title for a post.

When parents watch their child from birth and notice difficulties with speech, or perhaps no speech at all, and they struggle with their child’s temper tantrums when routines are disrupted, and then finally learn their child is autistic, they usually do not rejoice.

Yet doesn’t the Bible teach us to give thanks always, to rejoice always?

And, may I submit, parents may actually have reasons for rejoicing and giving thanks. Many people with autism are remarkable people with remarkable strengths. Their brains function differently than the so-called normal brains, but that may actually be a good thing. A very good thing.

For example, one twelve-year-old, Jacob Barnett, diagnosed with autism, is challenging Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Jacob has an IQ of 170 and left high school at the age of eight. Eight.Here’s Jacob Barnett in 2009 discussing dark matter.

 

Albert Einstein himself was believed to be autistic. Other famous people who may have been autistic were Mozart, Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll, Isaac Newton, and Thomas Jefferson, to name but a few.

Autistic people “have unique strengths such as memory, attention to detail and the ability to keep track of seemingly unrelated facts. These strengths are very useful in computer and engineering fields. . . Autistic people can easily identify shapes embedded in designs or individual notes embedded in musical chords – shapes and patterns that normal people often do not see. This ability to think and see in patterns means the autistic brain has the potential for unusual excellence in math, chess, computer programming, music, engineering and physics.” (Read more at Suite101: New Research on Autism Reveals Benefits http://www.suite101.com/content/new-research-on-autism-reveals-benefits-a237273#ixzz1JqMBfmEr)

On American Idol this season is an autistic named James Durbin. He has been diagnosed with Asperger’s (a form of autism) as well as Tourette’s Syndrome. Despite, or perhaps because of his Asperger’s, he is one of the frontrunners. Time will tell if he is able to excel in a musical career.

This is Durbin, before becoming a contestant, singing “The Star Spangled Banner”:

For the Mozarts, the Dickinsons, the Barnetts and the Durbins, for all the autistics who enrich our lives and leave us in awe, I give thanks and rejoice that God has seen fit to bless us with them.

 

 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why Are the Twilight Books So Successful?

One of the quotes I have seen on Facebook lately is this:

“Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.” ~ Stephen King

And I got a kick out of the quote. A laugh-out-loud moment. However, I don’t entirely agree.

I haven’t seen the last Twilight movie and I have read only one of the books. It’s not really my type of story. However, I’m always interested in why some books or movies transcend into pop culture phenomena. Many people are stunned by the success of the Twilight series. And while I don’t have all the answers, I do have a theory about their success.

Most if not all popular books and movies have underlying themes we first encounter in the Bible. Those themes are, as King points out, overcoming our fears, standing up for what is right, and laying down our lives for others.

And, yes, Twilight has those themes interwoven throughout.

And something that undergirds these. Something that is also Biblical.

The greatest theme. The theme of love.

Edward loves Bella with a sacrificial agape love. And Stephanie Myer made this a perfect agape love. The type of love we all long to experience. Untitled

So . . . while I’m not a Twilight fan, I understand the appeal.

However, we live in an imperfect world and cannot find such love among fallen people.

People (and vampires) can only imitate God’s love.

Christians are called to strive for such love. However, we will never be able to obtain God’s perfection, his perfect love.

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~  Romans 8:37-39

Too bad more young people are not seeking this love through the truth of God’s word.

Only God can offer such love to us.

The rest is but a imitation, only a shadow in the Twilight.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Blogging Schedule

My blogging schedule is changing. Look for posts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

I’ve been thinking about the focus of my blog and have decided to keep it on Christian writing.

On Mondays, I will do a devotional-type post that I’m calling “Inspirations.” Often this will pertain specifically to writers of Christian fiction. However, often the observations I make or scriptures I share will be applicable to all Christians.

On Wednesdays, I’ll be sharing some type of “Information.” At this moment, these posts will mainly deal with my self-publishing journey and the things I learn along the way.

On Fridays, my posts will be called “Interjections.” These are random thoughts I interject into my blog, things that interest me such as TV shows, books, or news articles.

My goal is to maintain this schedule for at least one year.

Rise, Write, Shine! is all that is necessary to accomplish this. Hope to see you along the way!

 

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Faith Test for Christian Writers, Part 1

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. ~James 3:13-18
We’re studying the book of James on Wednesday nights, and these verses we studied last week resonated with me.
As a Christian, when I write, I strive to realize my responsibility to adhere to God’s word. I often wonder how a person believes the words they write come from God while others believe they are from the devil. These are Christians viewing the same words very differently.
I’ve had people attack things I have written, and it makes me stop and think. How do we know the words we write are the words God wishes us to write?
We may not always know. However, I believe the Holy Spirit does guide us. When a person lines up his/her spirit with the word of God, the words will be the right words.
Although that brings up another question. How do we know we are lining up our spirits with the word of God? Isn’t it great that we can find the answer right here in God’s word? Let’s take a Faith Test. blog1121
In verse 13, James uses the term “meekness of wisdom.”
At Dictionary Reference meek is defined as:
1. humbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others.
2. overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame.
3. Obsolete . gentle; kind.
~ http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/meekness
In today’s world, we want to appear anything but meek. However, we, as Christians, are called apart from the world. Jesus was meek, and we are to follow in his footsteps. And that means “patient,” even when others provoke us, as we see in the first meaning. Or even consider the third meaning: “gentle, kind.” We, as Christians, should not write with an attitude of impatience or unkindness.
Not that we can always be as patient, gentle and kind in our words as we should be. James says in this same chapter “if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well (verses 2-3).”
We may not have reached perfection, of never stumbling in what we say, but it’s something we are to strive for.
Does this mean we cannot have conflict in books? Of course not. However, if we are not writing with the ultimate goal of helping others to be Christ-like, to develop kindness and patience, we’re missing the mark.
Books teach. Even if we say we are writing only for entertainment, our books still teach. We, as writers, are teachers. And as teachers we are held to a greater accountability. (Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. ~ James 3:1)
So, let’s take the test. Are we showing our works (our writings) in “the meekness of wisdom”?
And that’s just question number one. We’ll continue the test next time. Hope you join me!
(Special thanks to Mark Littleton for his lessons on James.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

I Can't Believe . . .


I'm giving myself a few minutes this morning to write my blog post although I am so far behind on NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) right now. My laptop crashed. I had written around 800 words on the morning of the crash. I really didn't lose much--it could have been much worse. And then I was without a computer for a day or so.

I can't believe that not only did my laptop crash, but the desktop did also. What are the odds of our two computers crashing on the same day? I restored the laptop, but the desktop seems to be beyond repair. I bought a new one, and my husband and I are trying to install needed software.

I can't believe installing software can be so difficult.

I can't believe customer support is so unhelpful (I don't know why I find that one hard to believe).

I can't believe I am three or four days behind on NaNo after finally catching up.

Five More Things I Can't Believe:

I can't believe Leroy Bell (on The X-Factor) is sixty years old. That guy's found the fountain of youth!

I can't believe Ozzie (on Survivor) is still going strong.

On a related note, I can't believe "Coach" is behaving like a relatively normal person.

I can't believe Terra Nova, with dinosaurs running around, is so boring.

I can't believe the Duggars are expecting another child.

I can believe I will catch up today. I believe, I believe, I believe . . .



Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11 Random Thoughts

Today is 11-11-11. How cool is that?

Numbers have significance in the Bible. For example, there were twelve tribes of Israel and twelve apostles. The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years. Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days before his temptation by Satan.

I wondered if the number eleven had any significance. This is what I found:

ELEVEN: disorder: 10 + 1 or 12 – 1; also disorganization, unfulfillment, imperfection.

  • At Kadesh-Barnea the Children of Israel traveled 11 days from Mt. Sinai.  In one more day they could have been in the Holy Land but their faith failed them.
  • The last two Kings of Judah each reigned 11 years before the Babylonian conquest of Judah.

This has turned into a different blog post than I originally started to write. I’m off and running down a rabbit trail.

Instead, I was going to talk about the time-gulping, mind-numbing, headache-inducing everyday things we have to deal with. Specifically, I was going to talk about computer problems. Just one example—I keep getting a message: Catalyst Control Center is not working. I tried different things, and it still shouts in my face every time I start the computer. *Sigh.*

Not long ago I wrote a post dealing with always being professional and positive. No complaining—even about computers. Today, I’m being unprofessional and negative.

A little bit of explanation. I have just spent two hours deleting and uninstalling and reinstalling. Catalyst Control Center is still mocking me.

These things are meant to teach us patience.

This morning I set a goal of 10000 words today. Others can do it, why can’t I? Because I get distracted seeing the Catalyst Control Center box.

Focus, Sheila, focus.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nine Book Covers

Part of the: Check out other participants in the side bar!
         

          I have been working on book covers. When I counted the number I had saved, it came out to nine. So . . . I decided to share my nine book covers. If you find these mind-numbing boring, please feel free to skip. 

          Still here? Here's the story. A few weeks ago, I decided I would self publish my young adult novel. Many writers who self publish hire someone to do their book covers. However, I like to try new things. I decided I would do it myself. Following is part of my process.






1.

My first attempt was not an attempt at an actual book cover. I wanted something to use in the book trailer I made. I thought I would adapt this later on for my book. I rejected it for several reasons. The main reason was because I didn't like the font. I moved on to this:

2.

I started rethinking my choice of this blue cedar tree. I thought it was cool to begin with. I learned a process to make a picture look like snow was on the ground. The problem, I found this too "cool." The colors, the blue and white, convey a coolness, plus I don't think the cedar tree gives a sense of the story. On to my third try.

3

I like this one! But again cool blue colors. I searched for a picture of a teenage girl. Almost all of them wore heavy makeup. My heroine, living during the Great Depression, definitely did not wear makeup. I found one picture but had to cut off the side of her head since she wore several pairs of earrings. As someone said, she looks like an Eskimo. On to my next try.

4.

Again, I'm using the same picture of the girl. This book cover came from a template on CreateSpace. Several told me the title and my name were too small and would be unreadable in the thumbnail. On to another try.

5.

I liked this one, at first. The girl was supposed to be looking out a window. Most people said she was in a "box" and complained because the bluebird was lost in the clouds. Okay, I agree. And the winner is:



6.

Since I could not find a picture I liked, I decided to take my own. I made a visit to my cousin's house. She has an old barn, and I had my granddaughter pose inside the barn. I still had my bluebird picture and I wanted it added to the picture I had taken. My son did some photo-editing of the two pictures, and I love it! This one I decided was a keeper. I love looking at it (maybe because it's my granddaughter?). There's more variety of color. The title and my name are fairly large. But now I had to do the backcover.




7.

I liked the picture but felt it was too dark. The blurb needed more work.

8.


This is better, I think, although I'm not sure if anyone would know that's a cedar tree. And I didn't like the way it looked with the front cover. One more try.
9.

Back to my original cedar tree. I'm not sure, again, if anyone can tell that this is a cedar tree. And I'm still not sure about the blurb. Okay, may be a few more tries before I make a definite decision. *Sigh.*


Bonus video:  video


I redid my book trailer, using the book cover I have finally chosen. Hope you enjoy it!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Harvest and Mr. Holland’s Opus

                    

(This post is part of the CW Blog-chain.  Check out the other great posts on the topic of “harvest” by clicking on names in the side bar.)

SANY1771

I am in the autumn of my life, in a period of harvest.

When I apply the theme of harvest to myself, I think of Mr. Holland’s Opus. My life parallels Mr. Holland’s in many ways. I retired after teaching nineteen years; Mr. Holland, thirty years.

Mr. Holland wanted to be a composer; me, an author. Mr. Holland and I first viewed teaching as a backup plan. We both thought we could teach and pursue our artistic endeavors.

We were both wrong.

The joys of imparting information and transforming young lives became more important than our artistic pursuits. One quote from the movie is this: A teacher has two jobs; fill young minds with knowledge, yes, but more important, give those minds a compass so that knowledge doesn’t go to waste.

And Mr. Holland gave his students that—not just a knowledge of music but the “compass.” He passed to them his love for music. Mr. Holland created an opus, a work of art, yet not what he envisioned. Instead it consisted of the students he inspired over the years. They were his opus.

As I taught science, I, too, endeavored to give a “compass.” I brought God into the equation as I taught about his wonderful creation. Perhaps I also served as a Christian example to my students and planted seeds that are even now being harvested. That is my prayer.

Of course, I made mistakes. As did Mr. Holland. Mr. Holland’s biggest mistake was not being supportive of his deaf son. Eventually he seeks to make amends and repair their broken relationship. My favorite part of the movie is when he sings the John Lennon song to his Beautiful Boy.

 

Mr. Holland had one son; I have two. And they were and are beautiful boys, inwardly and outwardly. After watching the movie the first time, I sang the song to them, in my broken voice, broken more with emotion welling up inside me. For I, too, have made many mistakes. Yet God still chose to bless my family and me.

Families are the largest part of our opus, the harvest we reap. The harvest that belongs to God.

In this autumn of my life, I hope to continue harvesting seeds I have sown. No, more than just harvest. With God’s help, I want to take the wheat to the mill, and grind it fine, and make the bread. MM900285247 With the crystal spring running through my life, perhaps I will succeed.

It is not too late to produce my opus, my written body of work. Now is the time for me to take my life experiences, the knowledge I have gathered, and produce books before the winter is upon me when no man shall reap.

If I am able to bake the bread, i.e., produce the books, it will be because God gave the rain and the soil and the sun. He gave me the means to grind the wheat and will give me the skill to turn the flour into bread. bread

The harvest truly is great, but I must choose to do the work.

Back of the loaf is the snowy flour
And back of the flour is the mill;
And back of the mill is the wheat
And the shower and the sun
And the Father's will.

(~Maltbie D. Babcock)

Amen.

 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Random Thoughts

No, today is not Friday. My post for Friday will be on the CW Bog-chain, so I decided I’d write a few words for today, especially since I skipped Monday’s post. Here are some of my random thoughts for today.

I am changing. I’m feeling kind of like a caterpillar when it begins to excrete juices to destroy its bloated body. Not pleasant.

I’m destroying some things.

Perhaps that’s too strong a word. Not destroying—just changing. I have put blocks on almost all the websites I visit. One reason is that I simply visit them out of habit. I’ve become bored with most and mindlessly click with no real interest in the content. Kind of like mindlessly flipping through TV channels.

That’s changed too. I’m bored with TV shows, even those I once loved. Hmm . . . little internet time, little TV time. So, now what?

MM900041016Discipline has eluded me for many years. I am going to try, again, to get more of the things done that I yearn to do. What are those things?

I consider myself a scholar. There aren’t too many of us around in actuality—at least, to my knowledge. In my real life, I know three, and one of them is me.

What do I mean by scholar? I define it as a person who loves to learn; a perpetual student. I have said, for the past forty years, that if someone would pay me to be a full-time student, I would jump at the job. Sadly, no one has offered. Sad smile No matter. I can study without being paid. If I develop the self discipline.

As I have grown older, my areas of study have changed. A couple of things, however, have remained constant. My main interest, as it has been for years and as it should be, is the Bible. The Bible is an endlessly fascinating book. I long to delve deeply into its pages and even beyond—back to the archeological finds and the undergirding--the history.

The greatest commandment is to love God, and I can do that by studying his word. The other great commandment is to love the people he created. People, their motives and actions, are also a fascinating study. Motives and actions depend, to a large extent, on personality types. And, of course, that’s something all fiction writers need to study.

Beyond that, I would also like to write a book dealing with raising children by their personality types. The hardest job in the world is raising children. I know more now (of course) than when I was raising my own children. Wouldn’t it be great to learn even more, to share that knowledge, to help parents make fewer mistakes? I longed for a book like that as I stumbled through parenthood.

And, lastly, my third area of interest, surprise, surprise to those who know me well, is travel. Yes, I want to travel more. This ties in with the books I am writing. I don’t think a writer has to be 100% accurate as far as setting is concerned. After all, that’s what imagination is for, right? But I do believe a writer should be fairly accurate when dealing with a specific location.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

And, that says it all!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Change

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So, Blogger has come up with something new—Dynamic Views. I’m one of those resistant to change—but aren’t most of us? Facebook has recently made changes that have many up in arms.

MM900283817People are usually slow to warm up to innovations. Sometimes people are unwilling to accept change at all. Remember the New Coke? It was introduced in 1985 (That long ago? Perhaps you don’t remember.), but the Coca-Cola firm returned to Classic Coke when an outcry arose.

Most changes, however, are good in the long run. Thank God for those innovators, those who thrive on change, constantly pushing to make things better, faster, or just . . . sleeker. I suppose Steve Jobs was one of those people. Otherwise we wouldn’t have the products from Apple that we have. He wasn’t content to maintain the status quo.

Perhaps you’ve read this quote by Jobs:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. ~ 'You've Got to Find What You Love,' Jobs Says

As far as I know, Jobs was not a Christian. Yet what he says resonates with me. One thing I would add is “to follow your heart and intuition” as God leads you. Study his word to find his will for your life.

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:52

Change is coming to all.

For Christians, the change will be glorious!

 

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