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).