Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Morning

Dear Friends,

As I write this, it is 2:15 am Christmas Morning.  St. Nicholas has come and gone leaving behind a bulging stocking, an empty glass, and one half-eaten cookie, as though he just didn’t quite have time to finish.

I sit in my living room in the glow of the Christmas lights.  To my right the mantle holds a beautiful Nativity scene lit with shining white.  Mary and Joseph hover near their precious charge.  Shepherds, complete with following sheep, file in from the west.  The Wise Men and their loaded-down camels carry from the east the gifts they bring for the King of Kings.

To my left a lovely tree glows in rainbow colors. It is decorated by loving hands with treasured ornaments.  Below there is simply not room for all the gifts, so they spread out around it. 

 The tableau displayed on my mantle plainly tells the story of that long ago day.  The tree, with its decorations and gifts reflects the same message. And though that message is not always so plain in our modern trappings, it is no less powerful today than it was then.

The ever green of the tree shows the eternal life Jesus brought us, and even its shape points our eyes toward Heaven.  The gifts we give our loved ones represent not only the gifts brought by the Wise Men, but also the greatest gift that God himself gave us on that day.  As the gifts overflow the space under the tree, I am reminded that God sent his Son to bless my life and fill it with His love to overflowing.

As for the decorations…There are lights, to represent the Light of the World.  There are angels, calling to mind the messengers God sent to tell the shepherds of Jesus’s arrival.  And high atop the tree, let us not forget the star.  For it was with one such bright beacon that God drew the Wise Men from their homes, and brought them into the presence of his Son that they might worship Him.

Wishing you all a very blessed Christmas, and praying you are able to see Christ in every piece of your day.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Flash Fiction...Saturday?

Technically, we did the Flash Fiction late Friday night, but I didn't get around to posting it until this morning, so here it is...


He leaned forward in his chair, raised a crooked finger to my face and said, “You’re gonna wanna hear this.” 

His breath smelled vaguely of liquor, and I began to doubt if he would be much of a source.  But he came highly recommended.

“The Congressman and his secretary take a cheap room across the street now and then…”

“Really? That’s your big news?” I interrupted shortly.  “I don’t want to break his carreer, I wanna make mine.  I couldn’t care less where or with whom the Congressman “takes a cheap room.”

“It’s not what it sounds like at first,” he began, rising from the seat. “But if you don’t want the scoop, you’re not the only cub I know. I’ll find me someone else.”

“Oh, alright! I’ll listen, but not for long this better get good fast.”


I haven't decided if the Congressman is doing something scandalous or if he's anonymously involved in some sort of altruistic inner city improvment endeavor.  Somebody run with it...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Everyday Life

I'm afraid I may not meet my twice a week posting goal this week.  I've done the Bible Study, and made notes, but haven't had time to do the post (or, more probably, used my time wisely enough to get it done).

As you know if you've read my profile, I am a pretty lousy housekeeper, and my husband really enjoys a clean house.  This difference is often the source of tension for us, though he is very patient with me, and tries not to complain.  He really is wonderful.

Well, I've agreed to put forth a great deal more effort in the homemaking department.  I am doing a lot more domestic work and a lot less reading, writing, and blogging (that is until today).

I know that writing is an important part of my life, and God wants me to place some of my focus on it.  I also know that I have to give Him the pen and let Him write my list of priorities if I want to be successful as a wife, mother, or writer.  So, I beg your patience and your prayers (especially your prayers) as I work on this. 

I have plans for a "Christmas Memories" blog like some I've been reading.  And I haven't given up on the Christmas Bible Studies.  But, I'm not making any promises on the scheduling of any of these things.

Thanks so much for sticking with me.  You're a great audience.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Review: Yuletide Cowboy by Debra Clopton

From the Cover:
            After three years in Mule Hollow’s women’s shelter, single mother Lynn Perry is finally spending the holidays in her own house.  And then the town’s matchmakers send over a hunky cowboy to hang Christmas lights…Lynn hopes there’s no mistletoe around.  With her painful past, how can she trust another man? Especially former bull rider and current pastor Chance Turner, who isn’t planning on sticking around—or ever preaching again.  Unless Lynn, twin boys and the matchmakers help her yuletide cowboy see he’s the answer to a family’s—and a town’s—Christmas prayers.

            This is the “umpteenth” installment in the Mule Hollow series (Seriously, I would have to count them, there are so many) It’s the third, and final, installment in the “Men of Mule Hollow” miniseries. 
            Let me start by confessing my bias.  You see, I own every Mule Hollow book. The Trouble With Lacy Brown caught my eye, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I love some more than others, but they are all permanently on my keeper shelf.  Also Debra Clopton is on my “must buy” list.
            That said, I feel I can impartially review this book.  So here goes.

  1. Lynn’s independence:  She said, “I won’t be railroaded.” And she isn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the matchmaking Posse, but they’ve been known to get pushy. With the Turner clan adding fuel to the fire, they are a powerful force.  I was glad to see Lynn hold her ground.
  2. Lynn’s wisdom: She wants to be everything for her twin sons, but she knows they need a father figure.  She comes to the realization that her boys would “suffer in the long run because she couldn’t let go of her past” (pg. 121)
  3. Chance’s flexibility: He comes home to “fill his tank,” so to speak. He and God disagree about how to do that. Chance fights it at first, but he finally yields graciously. A pivotal scene is when the church is without a preacher because the fill-in gets sick. Chance, the only preacher for miles around, tries to shrug the duty off on Sheriff Brady. “Lynn’s mouth fell open, ‘Seriously.  You seriously just said that?’” (pg. 159). I love that line! This scene is the beginning of Chance’s return to, shall we say “active duty” in the Lord’s army.  It seems he overcomes his hang-ups just in time to help Lynn overcome hers.
  4. Chance’s patience: When he finally takes the lead in moving their relationship forward, he knows he needs to wait on Lynn to be comfortable. He does that very patiently. He also seems to know just when to push, and he does that too.
  5. Jack and Gavin: With lines like, “Are you gonna fill the puppet?” and “But you’re a girl, Momma,” these two boys had me in stitches again and again.

I hate this part…
  1. Lynn’s stubbornness: This is the other side of that “independence” coin I love so much.  She refuses to accept God’s blessing.  She knows her boys want and need a father figure.  She knows she'd love to have a man she can depend on.  But when God drops one in her lap and says, "Yes, Lynn. This is a man you can trust," she stubbornly insists she must go it alone.
  2. Lynn’s presumptuousness: This is wrapped up in her stubbornness.  She presumes to decide where Chance belongs, as though she has any say in the matter. Then she latches onto the idea like a life preserver, to put distance between them.  Thankfully she comes around just in time to give them all a Merry Christmas!

LOL moments:
  1. Page 15: Gavin asks Chance, “Are you gonna fill the puppet?” Out of the mouths of babes….  Even my husband (who is my pastor) laughed at this one.
  2. Page 149: “Her nerves kicked up in panic and she jabbed herself in the eye with the mascara wand….” What woman hasn’t done this?
There were others, but those were my favorites.

Over all:
            This is a lovely story.  The characters’ motivations are realistic.  Their hang-ups, though sometimes frustrating, are understandable given their experiences. Their Happily Ever After is heartwarming and sweet.

**** 4 stars.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On the Boat Again

Okay, that was a bad Willie Nelson joke.  Moving on, I’ll warn you there’s a lot in these 21 verses (at least it seems so to me)

Now, back to Paul.  After wintering in Malta, he and his associates were indeed aboard ship again.  In a mere five verses they travel from Malta to Rome.  Paul set up housekeeping with one Roman soldier (at least one at a time) as constant companion. After taking a few days to get settled, Paul got down to business.  His regular routine was to preach Jesus in the synagogue, at least until the Jews ran him off.  But he couldn’t do that here, being under house arrest and all. 

If you can’t bring Paul to the synagogue, then bring the synagogue to Paul.  That’s just what he did.  He called all the elders among the Roman Jews to his home.  He told them of the charges brought against him in Jerusalem, and of his appeal to Caesar.  In verse 20, he says, “For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” 

The elders assured Paul that they knew nothing of him or the charges against him. No Jews coming from Judea had mentioned him, and none had sent word ahead of his arrival or his mission.  I find it interesting. Did they fail to warn their Roman brothers because they knew they had no case against Paul? Or was it because they didn’t want to make them curious about Paul’s message?  If the latter was the case, made a serious error, as you’ll soon see. 

The Roman Jews were indeed curious enough to listen, “…we desire to hear from you…for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against” (vs. 22).  So they appointed a time to bring their congregation to Paul, and hear what he had to say.  I find myself admiring their willingness to hear Paul and make informed decisions instead of buying in to the "hype" they had heard.

When the day came, I imagine Paul’s rented quarters simply bursting at the seams with curious listeners.  By the time he finished his testimony, some of his listeners were, no doubt, eager to hear more. Others were disappointed in what they had heard and prepared to disregard it completely.  My guess is that most fell into the latter group.

After scolding them (basically) with scathing words from Isaiah about having dull ears, closed eyes, and hard hearts, Paul makes this pronouncement, “Therefore let it be known to you  that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen” (vs. 28).

This statement is so powerful to me.  His entire ministry Paul began his work among the Jews, and was always pushed from them into the waiting arms of the Gentiles.  When he says these words to the Roman Jewish congregation, he speaks not only what God has told him to speak (though certainly that), but what he has observed time and again during his many years of ministry throughout the Roman world. In spite of his best efforts, the majority of Jews have always refused Christ.  He knows beyond any doubt that Gentiles will accept Christ because he has seen them do so everywhere he has ever gone. 

In my mind’s eye I see Paul closing the door behind the last Jew, heaving an exhausted sigh.  He is now resigned to the fact that his people, Jesus’s own people, have fully rejected the redemption He brought them. I also sense a spiritual door closing.  The invited wedding guests have all made their excuses, and the master of the house has sent the servants to highways and byways to gather in any who will come.  This passage tells me that the Jews, the original invited guests, have lost their "reserved seats." They are still welcome, and God still wants them to attend, but they no longer hold any special claim to His affections.

I imagine Paul must have felt a profound sadness at the people’s rejection, a sadness akin to (though certainly in no way equal to) God’s own sadness.

Paul is an amazing example to me in this way. His sadness was born of great love for his audience.  Do I love the people to whom I witness deeply enough to feel that kind of sadness over their rejection of my Savior? I am afraid, I get angry instead, and this is not good.

Brandon Heath has a song called “Give Me Your Eyes.” It is a prayer for God to help us see other people the way he does.  It is a good thing to pray.

I believe Paul was very sad, but he didn’t let it stop him.  The last verse of the book of Acts tells us that Paul spent the next two years “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (vs. 31).

Again I have an amazing example in Paul.  As a stay at home mom, my daily “mission field” consists of one three-year-old girl. Paul had his guard; I have my daughter.  But Paul didn’t stop there.  He reached out of his four walls, and made continual efforts to further Christ’s kingdom. 

I shouldn't stop there either. I suppose I hope that by telling in this blog what I learn in my personal Bible study, and by writing the stories of God’s love that he has given me, I can reach out in some small way.

For the rest of December and into January, I’ll be studying the Christmas story. It’s pretty scattered out, as you know, and I want to do it in chronological order.  So be prepared for some skipping about.  I’ll start with Gabriel’s visits to Mary (Luke 1:26-39) and Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25) and possibly (if I don’t wax long-winded) Mary’s visit with Elisabeth (the rest of Luke 1).

Thanks for bearing with me. I hope something I have said resonates with some of you.

God Bless

Friday, December 3, 2010

Flash Fiction Friday

This is a new thing I'm trying with a couple of 'net buddies.  We take a writing prompt and follow it wherever it leads. Write for five minutes and post the results on our blogs. Here's mine...

The italicized piece is the prompt.

"Geez, could you warm those hands up a bit first?” Cal exclaimed, doing a funny little dance to get Rose’s hands out of the back of his shirt.
            “That’s what I’m trying to do!” Rose laughed.
            “Woman! I’m gonna buy you a pair of gloves!”
            “All right. I could use a pair, if you can’t tell.” She giggled.
            “I can tell!” he growled.
            Just then Denny came round the back of the house to the chopping block where Cal had been chopping wood when Rose interrupted him. At the  sound of Denny’s greeting, Rose dropped Cal’s hands like they were hot potatoes.
            Denny’s face turned stony. “June says supper’s ready,” he barked, then turned around and stalked back around to the kitchen door.

If you can't tell, Denny is a friend who has always carried a torch for Rose, and he's not dealing well with her new love interest.

This is a scene that may or may not occur in the last half of my current WIP. 

Tell me what you think, but be gentle.

Book Review: The Lawman's Christmas Wish by Linda Goodnight

  I have joined Booksneeze, a wonderful service that allows bloggers to receive free books if they will post a review on their blog and on a bookseller's site.  Since I'm going to have to post reviews for that once in a while, I decided it would be fun to post review's of other books too.  So today, I'm reviewing the book The Lawman's Christmas Wish by Linda Goodnight.

I've never done a book review before, so please tell me what you think.  Do I give too much away, not enough? Let me know.

Here goes...(fingers crossed)

This is the final installment of Love Inspired’s Alaskan Bride Rush continuity.  I place it in a tie for the “Best of Series” with book 5 (which I might review at a later date).

From the Cover:
            Widow Amy James can’t get through grocery shopping in Treasure Creek, Alaska, without a marriage proposal.  And she’s hardly flattered.  Most of her “suitors” are after the treasure her great-grandfather had buried on her property.  But only one man promised her late husband he’d take care of her and the boys: police chief Reed Truscott.  True, Reed is handsome and honest and makes her feel safe. But his honorable marriage proposal is about obligation—not love.  Unless he can convince her that his Christmas wish is to join her family forever.

So many things really…
  1. Amy refuses to accept a marriage proposal borne out of anything less than the true devotion she had with her late husband. Reed’s initial proposal was out of duty to her husband, his best friend
  2. Granny Crisp—Reed’s none-too-subtle matchmaking grandmother.  She’s a no nonsense woman who wants the very best for her grandson, and she knows what that is.  She tells Reed when he’s completely on the wrong track, but she lets him figure out why, and how to get on the right one.
  3. Reed does figure out the right track for himself on page 154 (really want to add a quote from that page, but I’m afraid that’s too much of a spoiler). He does lapse a little later in the story, but I forgave him.
  4. Page 148—Reed accepts Christ.  It was beautiful.  I cried. 
  5. Ms. Goodnight does an excellent job tying up all those series-wide subplots.  And I love the way she handles the treasure in the end.

No real “dislikes” just a couple of things that niggled.
  1. I really thought previous books in the series said that Amy’s sons were twins.  There is a year or two between them in this final book, and that bugged me at the beginning.  I did a little checking, not a lot, and didn’t find any mention of them being twins, so I might have made that assumption.  At any rate, it would affect the story minimally, if at all.  So it really wasn’t bad.
  2. Now I can’t remember the other thing.  It must not have been too bad either. : )

            A great read.  Ms. Goodnight put her characters in circumstances that naturally and gently made them aware of their feelings. Both offered some resistance to their feelings, but their reasons made good sense. Also (I hope this isn’t too much of a spoiler) neither character waited until the last four pages of the book to understand his/her feelings (I really hate it when that happens).

***** (5 stars)

Has anyone else read it?  Do you agree? Why? Why not?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Shipwrecked and Snakebit...How much more can one Apostle take?!

I like to try to cover a chapter in a blog, but chapter 28 is neatly broken into two distinct parts: Paul's winter on Malta and Paul's arrival in Rome and his minstry there.  So I'm going to follow the natural break and split this chapter into two posts.

Also...I haven't decided what I'm going to study next, and this gives me a while to decide.

We last left Paul and his shipmates washing safely ashore, with all their hair intact : ).

In the first verse of Ch. 28, Paul's company learns they've washed up on Malta. The natives they met were very good to them, welcoming them, starting fires to warm them.  Paul, never one to rest when there was work to be done helped by gathering wood.  He placed the wood on the fire, and out jumped a snake and bit him! Or did it...?

The KJV, NIV, and ESV all use the word "fastened." The NLT uses the word "bit." My father-in-law says, "Maybe the snake didn't bite him. Maybe it only wrapped around his arm, so it looked like it bit him." I've never determined if he actually believes this or if he's just making the argument to make me think (he does that somtimes.  It's very helpful, and I appreciate it).  I probably never will figure it out for sure.

I think the snake bit Paul.  A couple of reasons:  First, put yourself in the snake's shoes (no not "snake shoes" though I'd love to have a pair. Focus people!)  He's found a nice cozy niche in a woodpile and decided to winter there, when all of a sudden, his "house" has been thrown in a fire, and his tail is getting singed!  If your house was suddenly tossed into a fire, wouldn't you come out fighting?!  In my admittedly limited experience, a snake that is threatened strikes, and this snake was certainly threatened. 

Second, I feel certain the people observing the incident were smart enough to tell the difference between a snake wrapped around a man's arm and one hanging from a man's arm by its teeth.  They assumed, at first, that some providential power was judging Paul for his sins.  The shipwreck didn't do him in, so "the gods" immediately found another way to handle the problem.  But Paul didn't die.  In fact the only action Luke records for Paul is shaking "the creature into the fire." No exclamation of fear, no expression of pain.  He merely shook it off and went about his business.  When Paul suffered no harm, the people decided, "He must be a god!"  They're a fickle bunch, aren't they?

Also I think claiming the snake didn't bite him, is somehow taking glory away from God. Or at least giving Him less than the maximum possible glory.  I guess if the snake hadn't bitten him, that in itself would have been a miracle, being outside of a snake's instinctive behavior.  It's a greater miracle if the snake bit him with its deadly venom, and he didn't die.  Right?  Well, given the choice between a little miracle or a big one, I'll take the big one every time.  : ) How about you?

I have a simple theory why Paul made no expression of fear at the sight (and bite) of the snake. He wasn't afraid.  God had promised him many weeks, possibly months, before, that he would see Rome.  God had just seen him and 276 other people safely through a huge storm and a great shipwreck.  God didn't do all of that just to allow Paul to die of snakebite on some tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean. Right?

Remember those fickle islanders? They're about to become a lot less so.  The island's chief, a man named Publius, was near at hand and decided to entertain the visitors for a few days. During this time, Paul found out that Publius's father was suffering mightily with fever and dysentery.  Paul visited him, prayed for him, and healed him.  After this, Paul got pretty popular with the sick people! (I imagine that was a pretty normal state of affairs for him).  They came to him for healing, and received it. The ESV says in verse 9, "...the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured." Paul didn't turn any away. I believe when he left that island three months later, there was not a sick person to be found.

A couple of ideas for commenting...

1. Did the snake bite Paul? Or did it "fasten on his hand" in some other way that somehow fooled the natives?

2. Imagine you were the first to see the shipwreck victims washing ashore.  Describe what you see. All you writers, consider this an opportunity to excercise your improvisational muscles.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Acts 27--The Shipwreck

Rejoining Paul, we find he is about to set sail on his great adventure to Rome.  He is accompanied by at least two men, by my reckoning, Luke himself (the narration has turned again to first person, indicating that Luke was along for the ride) and Aristarchus, who joined Paul back in chapter 20 when Paul was in Macedonia.  Verse 2 here calls Aristarchus "a Macedonian of Thessalonica."  I call him a Macedonian Thessalonian.  It trips nicely off the tougue.  Try it.  I think you'll like it : ) 

They sail laboriously along for a while, apparently having problems.  We read phrases like, "the winds were contrary" (v. 4) and "the wind not suffering us" (v. 7). Then as they are about to set out once again, things start to pick up.  Paul tries to warn them that they're gonna face trouble, but they do not listen.  They set out anyway.  With a bit of mild weather, they did okay for a while, but "not long after there arose a tempestuous wind...and the ship was caught" (v. 14, 15). 

Paul remains silent about this for days, watching and, no doubt, working alongside all his shipmates--"undergirding the ship," securing rigging,* and tossing cargo overboard--to keep the vessel afloat.  Finally, he speaks, telling them, "You should have listened to me, but you didn't, and now we're in a pickle.  But don't worry.  I had word from an angel of God last night.  We're all gonna live, but we'll lose all the cargo and the ship." (ASV--Andrea Strong Version)

About the time the begin to drift toward land, Paul has to stop some crooked sailors from sneaking off with the lifeboat.  Then he tells everyone, "Eat something, you've been through a lot, and you haven't eaten a bite in days." (ASV). 

I love the beauty of the words in the KJV and the promise God makes here, "there shall not an hair fall from the head of anyone of you" (v. 34)   I can't manage to get through a shower and shampoo with out losing a handful of hair, let alone a shipwreck.  Usually that phrasing is used as a figure of speech, but here I think it means exactly what it says.  I am in awe of the God who, in the midst of saving the lives of 276 people from a shipwreck, can still count the hairs on their heads and make certain that they all stay put.

Paul blesses the food and starts to eat.  Apparently the people took his words and his promises to heart because, "Then they were all of good chear, and they also took some meat" (v. 36)  Isn't that why we like to talk to our Christian friends when we have problems?  They remind us of God's promises and tell us that everything is going to be all right.

In verses 42 and 43 the soldiers guarding the prisoners wanted to kill them all.  This is probably because they feared the harsh consequences they would likely face if any prisoners escaped.  But Paul's presence saved the lives of all the other prisoners, "But the centurion, willing to save Paul kept them from their purpose" (v. 43).

Those who could, swam.  The rest floated in on pieces of the ship.  "And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land" (v.44) just as God had promised. Amazing!

*This is a phrase I learned as a child watching The Little Mermaid.  I think it makes me sound smart.  What do you think?

I managed to meet the goal this week. Yes!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Don't wear yourselves out too much with shopping and Christmas decorating.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Out of the Great Abyss

Wow!  I've been sucked away from my computer, down into the deep, dark, abyss I call "Everyday Life."

I have not posted here for over 3 weeks.  I have only skimmed over most of the blogs I frequent for the last 2 weeks.  And, worst of all (as all NaNo-ers know) I have not touched my novel for over a week. 

As a new writer and blogger, I'm still learning to struggle against that current that drags me away from my characters and my readers.  My problem is discipline--making a schedule and sticking to it.  This has been my problem forever.  Way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in elementary school, we were graded on "Uses time wisely."  I always got an "N" in this area.  That stands for "Needs Improvement."  Suffice it to say, I still "need improvement" in this area of my life.

Lord willing, I'm back on track now.  One of the blogs I have actually read was by Nathan Bransford, and it was something like "How to build your blog following."  Mr. Bransford's wisdom hit home for me.  He said something like, "Consistency is key." Basically, blog on schedule, so your readers know when you're coming. 

So, in the interest of consistency I've decided I'm going to endeavor to post here no less than twice weekly:  Once with my oh-so-wise commentary on my Bible study, and again with some funny or profound tidbit that I picked up elsewhere. 

I obviously reserve the right to comment more often than that.  But I think if I commit myself to at least twice a week, I'll be forced to do two things: 1) Study at least one chapter of the Bible each week (that never hurt any body, I guarantee it)  2) Turn on my computer at least twice a week, thus bringing my novel so close I can almost touch it, so I will actually do something with it.

Please, as my loyal readers, hold me to this goal.  Without my feet to the fire, so to speak, I fear I shall once again be sucked into the abyss.

Speaking of loyal readers...A big welcome to The Old Geezer.  I'm pleased as punch to have you.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Over the Place This Morning

Did I say something above about meandering?  Well today I am definitely meandering.  Enjoy!

First, I want to say Happy Renaissance (rebirth, born again, you all know that right?) to my husband. 

As you know you've read my previous eight posts, my husband is also my pastor.  During his sermons, he's always talking about October 31, 1995, the night he was saved.  Today is fifteen years since that night.   He had to climb over me and two other people to get to the aisle that night, but he didn't let that stop him! Praise God!  It's been a great fifteen years serving God, and I pray he'll have fifty more just like them.

Another thing...

While I showered this morning, I was pondering the meaning of "abundant life."  What came to me was the chorus to the song "Beauty for Ashes," by Crystal Lewis (I think it's her; I haven't actually heard the song in a while).

He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair

Abundant life doesn't mean that things will always be good in my life.  It means that with Jesus, I am capable of being joyful even when everything around me brings sorrow.  Now I just hope I can remember that in the midst of my next trial.

What does "abundant life" mean to you?


I found this verse while studying my Sunday School lesson this morning.

Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.  ~Psalm 63:3

Don't you just love that? David sure had a way with words didn't he.  Don't we wish we had his talent for turning a phrase?  We'd all be best selling authors by now.

The last thing is a little silly...

Is there something you're afraid of? Something silly that you know you shouldn't fear, but you just can't help it?  Something you might be willing to share?

For me it's wasps, well really any buzzing, stinging bug, but mostly wasps.  I am nearly crippled with it.  I love to use my clothes line on a pretty day, but we have a pear tree near it that always draws wasps, hornets, horseflys, you know stinging, biting, buzzing things.  I am simply petrified of them, and every summer, when the dog days hit and the bugs really get thick, I just give up on the clothes line and let the bugs have it because I can't stand them.  I keep praying that one day I'll get some courage and "show them who's boss." So far that's a fantasy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Am Jazzed!!

It's nearly 2:00 am.  My daughter is sleeping peacefully in her bed.  My husband is snoring in the living room with the TV not quite blaring.  I am sitting in a terribly uncomfortable position in my kitchen--because it seems to be where my mobile broadband device gets the best signal for the moment--and my back is killing me. 

But I am so JAZZED!!

I have actually begun the process of writing my first novel.  I'm currently using the Snowflake process that seems so well-known among authors, and I've completed the first two steps.  I think I've got a pretty good start on step three as well.

I've been talking about my novel to anyone who will listen!  Well, I've been talking about my novel to people I think might actually care.  They've all been very supportive.

I feel a need to tell about my writing here tonight (or this morning if you're a real stickler), so here goes.

Several years ago, I think about 6, I was riding in the car with my husband, and we were listening to Johnny Cash.  The song was "Give My Love to Rose."  As I listened to the song I realized that it would adapt nicely into a romance novel. Since I've read certainly hundreds, possibly thousands of romance novels in the past 20 years, I felt myself a decent authority on the subject. 

I was very excited, and I began making notes in an old three-brad folder I had used in college.  I was working a pretty mindless temp job at the time, and spent quite a bit of my work days scribbling notes in my notebook.  But I wasn't really committed to it, and didn't really think I could do it well, so my fire slowly died to embers--as fires do when not tended with skillful hands.  The embers never fully burned out.  Now and then I would kindle them up with a new tidbit.  I'd dig out my notebook from the dust bunny colony under the bed and scribble a new detail inside every few months, but mostly I ignored the story.

Fast Forward about five years, give or take...

Strangely I cannot remember for certain the date, but I remember that I had been doing some doodling in my novel notbook for a few days, and I remember it was Sunday.  I was sitting in church listening to my husband (and pastor) preach a sermon about all the amazing things God did with Moses--a stubborn and tempermental servant--and a dried up old stick that Moses had found somewhere out on the back side of the desert.  When God called Moses he was not a wealthy, powerful Prince in Egypt with the weight of the throne to back him up.  He was a poor shepherd with a few sheep and a stick.  Actually the sheep belonged to his father-in-law.  So Moses was a poor shepherd with a stick. Impressive, Huh? But look what God did with that stick when Moses dedicated it to serving Him.  God wants us the way we are, and he wants only what we've got on us right now.  What is your stick? What do you have? and Will you give it to God?

As I listened to the sermon, and felt God's conviction, I asked Him, "Lord, what is my stick?"  The answer came in a voice, audible only to me, I'm sure, but audible just the same, "Give My Love to Rose."  As this was the name of the song that inspired my story, and the one I had given to the story itself, I did not have to say, "Lord, what do you mean?"  Instead my mind said, "Really? That's what I have to give? No. Surely there's something else."  God continued to speak, this time in a voice much like my husband's (Don't you hate it when that happens ladies :) ?), and I realized that my husband was still preaching, and I should be listening. (Though I think one is excused from heeding the preacher's words when God is speaking audible words to the ears of one's spirit)  What I heard was again, God wants what you have on you right now.  This seemed confirmation enough, so I stopped arguing. 

Since that day (some 6 mos. to a year ago), my story has taken shape a lot in my notebook, and in my head.  I've even received the seeds for the second and third books of the trilogy. But I've been scared.  I have used a host of arguments to excuse why I've made almost no progress writing this story that God gave me and told me to write.  My favorite excuse was, "I have no idea how to write a novel, and all the information is on the Internet, and I don't have Internet access!"  I learned from a dear friend who also writes, that there are actual books that can teach this skill (imagine that, people knew how to write before the Internet. Amazing!). She recommended two, and actually gave me a third (she's very generous).  I started reading them, and they were helpful. 

But the thing that really convicted me came from my husband--but not in church this time.  I was all excited about the idea I had for the third book, and I was telling him all about it.  He looked at me, scoffed just a little and said, "Don't you think you should finish the first one before you start the third one?"  I turned up my nose, and in my best "that-shows-what-you-know" voice, told him that a writer is always excited about a good story idea, no matter when it comes :P 

But again God was using my husband to get me on the right track.  Then just a few weeks ago, this wonderful man I married decided that we needed to get the Internet.  God was in the back of my mind periodically saying, "Ahem, " then he showed me an article about a group called the Seekers.  I went to their website, and started getting to know them.  They're great ladies (and a few gents stop by too) who advise and encourage and answer questions I didn't know I had. 

In the last few days, I began to wonder if God had a frog in his throat, but then the flood gates opened.  With the help of my dear friend Melissa (who shall become famous someday),  the Seekers (some of them already are famous), and God, of course, I've scaled the giant brick wall that was blocking my path. 

I don't know exactly what will come next.  I'm sure I'll have other down and discouraged days. 

But for now, I am Jazzed!...and tired.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Paul Two Years Later

I didn't intend to cover two chapters in this post, but chapters 25 and 26 are inseparable to me. it is.  Andrea's Take.

Acts 25
After two years of imprisonment, Paul's lot was much the same.  The Jews were still plotting to kill him, and he was still being brought before Roman and Jewish authorities to state his case, and he was still saying the same words, over and over again.  The only difference I find is in his appeal to Caesar.  When offered a chance to answer the charges in Jerusalem again, he refused.  "I stand before the Roman authority, where I should be tried.  I have done no wrong to the Jews.  I do not wish to escape punishment for wrongdoing, but if the charges they bring are false, no one can deliver me to them.  I appeal to Caesar."*  It seems to me that he's saying that the Jews have no authority over him.  Since he was a free-born Roman citizen, this could be true.  His claim seems to be that the only real authority he will accept in this case is that of Caesar himself.

When I read this chapter it seemed to me that God used Rome to protect Paul.  If Paul had not been in a Roman prison these last two years, he would constantly have been running for his life, as he had done in the past.  His imprisonment gave him something he'd never had before: an opportunity to minister to his fellow Christians and serve God without the need to look constantly over his shoulder to avoid the danger the Jews posed to him.

*For this quote, I didn't like the wording in any of my versions, so I paraphrased. The verses are Acts 25:10-11.

Acts 26
In this chapter Paul presented his case before the Jewish civil authority, Agrippa.  It seems Festus wanted to share the curiosity of Paul's case with his fellow ruler.  When speaking of his conversion on the Damascus road, Paul quoted Jesus, "I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness.  You are to tell the world what you have seen and what I will show you in the future." (16)+

I think of Paul blinded on that road.  When he made it to Damascus and found Ananias, he told Ananias all that he had seen, and experienced.  After receiving back his sight, Paul told others of his healing.  From the day of his conversion to this day before Festus and Agrippa, Paul had done two things constantly: watch God work and tell the world about that work.  My husband often preaches that we are to be witnesses.  We are not the judge or jury.  We are witnesses who can tell only what we have seen, heard, and experienced ourselves...Just like Paul.

Following the testimony of his conversion Paul offered his defense of his actions.  Verse 22 is powerful, "To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass:"** (emphasis mine)  This is the first time I recall Paul making the argument in just these words. These are the words the priests and scribes never manage to let him say. 

These words are, even today, one of the most powerful weapons in the fight to see Jewish people saved.  I have read different accounts of Jewish people who say, "I can't love Jesus, I'm Jewish."  They don't know that Jesus came and died for them.  When they read their own Scriptures, and compare the prophesies they find there with the facts about Jesus, they are convinced.

I picture Paul's face alight with passion for his Lord, voice breathless with his enthusiasm.  Could this be what Festus saw when he said, "Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad." (24)And when Agrippa claims to be "almost persuaded" (28),* I love Paul's answer, "I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds." (29)* I can hardly read these words without choking up.

Another thing that I noticed reading this is that the Romans Paul dealt with at this time, saw him and Christianity itself as no real threat to their own livelihood.  To them, the only real threat was the constant disturbance the Jews made regarding the followers of the Way. It seems the Roman practice of imprisoning Christians began as nothing more than an attempt to keep the peace.  Later, it became something much worse, to the detriment of Paul, and most of the other Apostles.

That's what I think.  If anyone has other ideas, I'd love to hear them.

+New Living Translation

Monday, October 25, 2010

Once again with Paul.

Let me open with a welcome to my 2nd follower.  You know who you are, and I'm so excited to have you.

When we last left Paul, he was being held in a Roman garrison in Jerusalem...

In Acts 23:11, Jesus spoke to Paul saying, "Take Courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome."*  Did Paul wonder when? Did he have any idea how quickly God would act?  And God did act quickly.  That very night, Jews were plotting to kill Paul, and the Council was in on it.  No sooner had they hatched their plot than they were found out and thwarted.  Paul's nephew found out about the plot, and went immediately to Paul with his knowledge. 

Paul's interaction with the Romans holding him is very interesting to me.  In 17-19, "Paul called on of the centurions and said, "Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him."  So he [the centurion] took him [the nephew] and brought him to the tribune and said, "Paul, the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you as he has something to say to you."  The tribune took him [the nephew] by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, "What is it that you have to tell me?"*  The Romans heed Paul, both the centurion and the commander.  They take his words and wishes seriously.  This could be because they know Paul to be a free-born Roman citizen, but he is also a prisoner, currently of much lower social standing than say, the High Preist Ananias. But Paul is the man they heed, and he is ushered out of the city that very night.  Before the plotters can even put their plan into action.

The commander orders Paul's exodus amidst what I call "a magnificent display of Roman might." Two hundred seventy men-- soldiers, spearmen, and horsemen--escort this one little prisoner out of Jerusalem. I wonder, did the High Council hear of their departure?  Or did Ananias receive a missive from the commander to report to Caesarea to plead his case before Felix.  I picture Ananias with a piece of parchment crushed in his fist, an angry gleam in his eye.  That he, the High Priest of God's Chosen People should be summoned to the Court of this Gentile who calls himself a leader...  Am I endowing Ananias with a little too much venom?  I don't know.  I tend to think not since he was so willing to participate in a plot of murder, but maybe I am. 

In Chapter 24, The plot to kill Paul has failed.  It seems that the High Council has scrambled to put together a "legal team" to travel to Caesarea.  It would seem this was not the finest hour for either Ananias or Tertullus, the spokesman.  Paul, in his defense, calls them on their failure to produce witnesses to testify to their case, particularly the "Jews from Asia" who caused the original tumult so many days ago in the Temple. 

I love verse 22 "But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way [emphasis added], put them off, saying, "When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case."* It would seem that Felix was at least familiar enough with Christians to understand that they were doing nothing deserving of death.  So he allowed Paul some liberty as what we might call a "minimum security prisoner." Though he was self-serving enough to keep Paul in prison with an eye and ear toward the possiblity of filling his own coffers with bribe money from Paul, and toward pacifying the Jews.

*Today's Scripture from the English Standard Version

This seems a rather long post, but maybe they'll be shorter when I get the hang of this.

Mommy, how do ears make earwax?

OK.  It's harder than I thought to find/make time for my blog.  I get so wrapped up in the ones I want to read, then my housework suffers, and my daughter wonders why Mommy won't play with her.  I'm still working out the schedule, but I AM going to do this.  A brilliant writer whose name I can't remember right now once said that writing is like water, nothing comes out if you don't turn on the faucet. So I'm turning on the faucet, and hopefully said brilliant writer isn't turning in his grave that I can't remember his name (I do remember he is a "he" and he's dead.  That should narrow it down right?)

None of that had anything to do with earwax. Right? I know; I'm getting to that.  Right now. 

My little girl asked me on Saturday, "How do ears make earwax?" I told her I didn't know, but we could look it up on the Internet. (I get so excited to say that because we've been without the Internet for most of her short life).  We both forgot the conversation until, conveniently, just before bedtime.  She looked at me and said in her drama-princess* voice, "Mommy, we forgot to find out about earwax on the Internet!"  I let her get by with this stalling tactic for a few reasons: I had told her we could look it up, I would like to introduce her to the computer as soon as I can, so she won't be behind all the other kids later, and she was just so dog-gone cute about the whole thing.

We found the website about earwax (KidsHealth  something, I'd make a link, but I still don't have that down quite yet), and I helped her work the mouse.  She was clicking and scrolling like a pro before I finally made her go to bed.

Oh the excitment of being a mommy.  Gotta love it!

*Mommy is the only "drama queen" in our house, thank you!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Three-year-olds in church

It might surprise you how much kids actually catch in church.

My husband is pastor of our church, and he has a habit of asking the congregation, "Did God tell you to do that? Or did the devil tell you to do that?"   His point being that if we examine our actions and inclinations, it usually isn't all that hard to tell.  Well, last Sunday he listed off a few of these rhetorical questions, ending with "Did God tell you to punch that fella' in the nose? Or did the devil?"

My three-year-old, who was sitting next to me instead of grandma for a change, looked up at me and said, "I think the devil."  I was so surprised and tickled, all I could say was, "I think you're right." 

Then and there I praised God that she was paying attention in church enough to understand the question, and that she pays enough attention on a daily basis to understand the right answer.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My second Post--Hey, I'm gettin' good at this!

As promised, or warned, whatever you prefer, I'm posting about my Bible Study. Now, don't think I'm posting this stuff because I think anyone needs my input on what the Bible says.  Just the opposite really, I'd love to hear if people think I'm right on or way off base.  If I say something that makes you think--or that makes you think I'm crazy--I'd love to know.  Keep in mind all my commentary is just that--mine--with no benefit of any more educated mind. So here goes...

I'm studying Acts.  Today I read 22:30-23:10.  Paul has been seized by the Romans to protect him from the Jews, and to prevent them from rioting.  The garrison commander has called for him to appear before the High Council, ostensibly to get to the bottom of their crazy situation.  Had he been dealing with reasonable men, that may have been possible.  Alas, he was not.

Paul appeared before the Council, and after having words with Ananias, claims he didn't know Ananias was the High Priest.  This confuses me a little because, given Paul's history, it seems like he would have known that.   But far be it from me to call Paul a liar, so obviously, I'll give him the benefit of my ignorance.

After this little altercation, Paul looked around him, and in what I consider a stroke of genius, appealed to his "brother" Pharisees concerning the resurrection of the dead.  Paul would have known, as a Jew, that mention of this would set the two factions of the Council ablaze. He would also have known, as a Roman, that the authorities would have little patience with such antics and end the hearing immediately.  I almost wonder if he had a bit of fun "stirring the pot," so to speak, though I credit Paul with far more maturity than I possess.  Probably he was as solemn as the occasion required. 

Paul would gladly have faced a fair trial, but he knew he would get no such thing in a room full of Jewish elders, and so took it upon himself to end the farce.  Or so it seems.

On Paul:  I think I would have hated the Jewish leaders for what they did, but I believe Paul did not. I think he was uniquely equipped to love them.  Having been one of them, he knew their thoughts.  He knew what a hard sell they would be because he could remember his own conversion.  It took nothing less than Jesus himself stopping him in his tracks and blinding him to open his own eyes to the truth. 

On the Sadducees:  They did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.  I fail to see the point in trying to follow all of the cumbersome and onerous laws and traditions of the Jews if there was to be no reward at the end of life.  Even as a Christian, knowing I am free from the bonds of sin, there are times that living Christ like would be hard if I didn't know that Heaven awaits me if I continue. 

If I may be a little irreverent and retell a joke by one of my college professors:  "The difference between the Pharissees and the Sadducees was that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and that's why they were sad, you see."  The word "Sadducee" almost seems like proof that God has a sense of humor.  He had to know that joke was coming, and how appropriate it is; yet they managed to take that name for themselves any how. 

Yes, this really is how I think.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My First Post--Yay!

Hello, my name is Andrea Strong, and I am a new blogger.  I know, you all thought there was no such thing as a "new blogger" in 2010, but I am living proof.  I was once quite Internet savvy, but that was years ago.  When I frequented the web, I mostly shopped, read news, checked the weather, and looked at celebrity red-carpet pictures.  There is so much more to it now (as there probably was then, but I'm slow to catch on to things), and I'm ready to wade in one metaphorical foot at a time. 

I'm very excited.  I hope some people will follow me.  I have a few friends (you know who you are) who should be very glad to see me make this baby step into cyber space (and you better follow this blog if you know what's good for you).