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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gifts

..that  I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11

On occasion, people have told me God has given me the "gift" of writing. While I agree God has given me great and wondrous gifts, I don't think God gave me the gift of writing. Instead, these are the gifts I believe I've been given.

1. God gave me the gift of the love for reading. Most of us love "stories," and I am no exception to that.

2. God gave me the opportunity to develop my reading ability. When we moved into a house in Toul, France, isolated from other Americans and with a basement full of books, I spent over a year immersed in (almost) nonstop reading.

3. God gave me the gift of parents who instilled a work ethic in me. Both were raised on farms and knew the value of hard work.

4. God gave me the gift of people who have encouraged and helped me on my journey.

5. God gave me the gift of curiosity, a desire to learn. Sometimes my progress could have been measured in inches and, yet, I have progressed.

If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place. ~Nora Roberts

Going forward is the only way to succeed. By using God's gifts, surrendering to his will, he transforms us into what he wants us to be. I pray he continues to form me as I rely on his power and strength.
I want to know Christ
I want to know Christ and the power of His rising
Share in His suffering, conform to His death
When I pour out my life to be filled with His spirit,
Joy follows suffering and life follows death.

 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Change of Focus

As many know, I am working on the second book of In the Shadow of the Cedar series. There will be a third. When I finished this series, I planned to move to adult fiction with a thriller/suspense novel. I’ve been rethinking that. I’ve decided to stay Young Adult with the Moonbow series. The need for uplifting, yet realistic, young adult fiction (which I hope I can provide) led to this decision. I’ve recently read two dismal novels for older teens. By dismal, I mean that there is an air of hopelessness permeating the books.

I am especially excited about turning the Moonbow series into young adult. The first book will be geared to the older end of young adult. I’m slightly apprehensive about the second book of the series because I change protagonists. I’m not sure how readers will respond to that. We’ll see.

sturdyshoesBut back to In the Shadow of the Cedar. The second book is entitled Clothed in Thunder. Sarah Jane deals with what the majority of children deal with at some point in their lives—bullying. She is a country girl going into a city school. After wearing shoes with worn-out soles, she’s happy to have sturdy, laced-up boots. The problem is that the city girls sneer at her new shoes.

How does Sarah Jane cope? Much better than I did! This scene is based on one of my real-life experiences. After we lived in France for three years, we returned to Ft. Hood, Texas. After attending schools on base for seven years, I entered the city school system of Killeen, Texas.

For three years, I had been relatively isolated. I did not know all the latest trends and fashions. Guess who got laughed at and teased? One of the other girls “accidentally” tripped me in P.E. I became so distraught, I literally became sick to my stomach. Having to face the laughter was too much. I stayed home (not faking illness because I was actually sick!).

Eventually, the principal insisted I come back to school. I did and I survived. I learned that bullies are after one thing—attention. Well, maybe two things. They are also trying to build their low self esteem.

So, what would I tell my younger self if I had the chance? What people think of you is not any of your business. Live for God. Focus on others. Forget self. Still things I have to remind myself from time to time.

J.K. Rowling said something interesting: Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than I was and began diverting all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.

Essentially when we are teased and bullied, we feel like failures. When we focus on things that matter—God, our families, our education—and quit worrying whether we are succeeding at getting others to like us (and I know of no one who is universally liked), we can travel the true road to success!

*And I know that often bullying escalates into physical abuse. This should never be tolerated. Adults need to stay informed!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Reunions

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. ~1 Thessalonians  4:17-18

We had a busy weekend with the Hudson Reunion on Saturday. It brought to mind this song we sometimes sing:

Blest Be the Tie by  John Fawcett

Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love; The fellowship of kindred minds 
Is like to that above.
Before our Father's throne We pour our ardent prayers; Our fears, our hopes, our aims, are one, Our comforts and our cares.
We share each other's woes, Our mutual burdens bear; And often for each other flows 
The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part, It gives us inward pain; But we shall still be joined in heart, 
And hope to meet again.
This glorious hope revives Our courage by the way; While each in expectation lives, 
And longs to see the day.
From sorrow, toil and pain, And sin, we shall be free, And perfect love and friendship reign Through all eternity.

And Sunday was the day our new minister, Trey Poole, began his full-time work at our congregation. He used the scripture above and I thought of our reunion. I received so many encouraging words about my writing that I left with a smile on my face. Yet, such earthly reunions pale in comparison to the reunion that awaits in Heaven with our Christian brothers and sisters. 

On that day From sorrow, toil and pain, And sin, we shall be free, And perfect love and friendship reign Through all eternity. Amen!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Living Our Stories

Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. ~Matthew 23:24

When we study the Bible, what do we find?  We find stories, heroic stories of both men and women. In the Old Testament we find people,, flawed people,  like Abraham, Sarah, David, Rahab, and Ruth who show us what it looks like to live in accordance with God's will.

And then Jesus comes along. Does he give us a more detailed Ten Commandments? No, he, too, gives us stories--story after story showing us how he expects us to live.

The Bible shows us, again and again, that humans are flawed, incapable of keeping law perfectly, no matter how diligently we try. And what of those who did try, to the exclusion of all else? Jesus said Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Matthew 23:22-24, KJV)

Notice that we do not "leave the other undone." Yet, our focus should be "judgment, mercy, and faith," using the heroic people of the Bible as our examples.

As Douglas Horton said: "Be your own hero, it’s cheaper than a movie ticket.” 
Living for Jesus, a life that is true,
Striving to please Him in all that I do;
Yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free,
This is the pathway of blessing for me.
~Living for Jesus by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1917