Thursday, July 31, 2014

Abandoned?

In my devotional, "A Mended Heart - Rosary Meditations on Forgiveness", I address an issue we all face from time to time ... absence of compassion and/or understanding from family or friends. It appears we are doing all the giving and when we are struggling, no one is around.  It's a difficult situation; however, it's imperative we don't let their shortcomings become our own.



Excerpt from "A Mended Heart"

Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” 
(Matthew 26:45-46)


Christ was alone in that garden. He had asked if at least one of his disciples would sit with Him, but His pleas were not heard. We too are at times left alone, estranged and forgotten. Our cries for help go unnoticed. When we are sad, mourning or frightened, all we need is a sympathetic ear, someone to tell us they understand or just give us a warm, loving embrace. To suffer alone and in silence is excruciating and worsens the grief and fear.

Jesus, I know the pain of suffering alone and in silence. I longed for words of understanding and comforting arms around me; for someone to share my tears.  Help me hear the cries of help from my friends. May I show them compassion, understanding and warmth in their time of need. May I shed tears with them and lovingly support them as a true friend should.

My Lord, please be merciful to my offenders, to me if I have offended, and open my heart to forgiveness.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Have a Seat: Marsha Hubler!


Marsha Hubler, author of the best-selling Keystone Stables Series from Zonderkidz, lives in central PA with her husband and two dogs. She has a master’s degree in education, over 40 years experience with children of all ages, and presently works with homeschoolers in her home office. Her latest published works, THE LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY SERIES and THE SNYDER COUNTY QUILTING BEE SERIES 2 SHORT STORIES, Amish/Mennonite fiction romance by Helping Hands Press, was created out of Marsha’s friendship with many Plain Folk who live in Snyder County. On the side, Marsha serves as acquisitions editor for Helping Hands Press. She’s always looking for excellent writing in fiction for tweens and older, horse stories, Christmas and Easter stories, and curriculum on all grade levels for the Helping Hands Supplemental Educational Division.

    What inspired you to become a writer?
I had always loved writing poetry and short stories from a child up. I had three teachers, one in 3rd grade, one in 7th, and a college prof, who encouraged me with my writing.

    Which one of your books do you consider your “pride and joy?”
I suppose of the 17 books I have in print, A HORSE TO LOVE, volume one in THE KEYSTONE STABLES SERIES (published by Zonderkidz), would be my choice. Why? It not only is the first book in an 8-book best-selling series with over 100,000 in print, but the book brings back fond memories of pitching my story to the Zonderkidz editor, Barbara Scott, at the Montrose Christian Writers’ Conference in 2001, which started the whole process of seeing the dream of my girl/horse series come true.

    Do you have any preparation rituals before you begin to write?
I sit before my computer and sweat a lot. (Ha ha)

    If you had to come up with a book title to describe your life,
    what would it be?
By the Grace of God, I Am What I Am (Part of the Bible verse 1 Corinthians 15:10)

    If you had a chance to have dinner with any author who would it be?
God, the Author of the Bible

    We all have family, work and other obligations...how do you maintain balance while in the middle of a writing project?
Writing and editing has become a top priority in my daily schedule. If I have four solid hours of writing on any given day, that’s a good day. If my schedule sabotages my writing on one day, I try to make up for it on another.

    What is the one piece of advice you received about writing that helped you the most?
Being a member of a local or online critique group is ESSENTIAL to improve one’s writing and to become a published author. Those other pairs of eyes will find the flaws in what you think is a “perfect” manuscript. I wouldn’t be where I am today with my writing without our two local critique groups.

Where can we purchase your books and how can we keep up with you?
Most bookstores carry my books, and I’m on Amazon:


I have three active blogs, and I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest:

MY WRITERS’ TIPS & AUTHORS’ BLOG: http://marshahubler.wordpress.com/
MY LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY FAN PAGE ON MY BLOG: http://marshahubler.wordpress.com/the-loves-of-snyder-county/

    Last, but not least.....What and when is your next release?
I’m writing a series of 12 short stories in the collection, THE SNYDER COUNTY QUILTING BEE SERIES 2, which updates readers on the lives of the characters introduced in my LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY Amish/Mennonite fiction series released over a year ago. I just had volume 4 released, NO FURLOUGH FOR MANDIE, which is available as an e- book. (URL listed with the answer to question 8)
Synopsis: Mandie and Tobias Schmidt, missionaries to Jakarta, Indonesia, have waited two years to come home to Snyder County for a six-month furlough. With their nine-month-old baby, Lydia, the couple plans to spend quality time with their families and travel to numerous states, presenting their ministry to Mennonite churches, whose congregations pray for the couple and sometimes offer financial support. But Mandie and Tobias’s furlough is cancelled after only a few weeks because of a crisis back in Indonesia. What happens that forces the couple to consider returning to Indonesia immediately? 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Life, As I Knew It



During my late-night Pinterest browsing, I came across the above quote by Jamie Lee Curtis and I thought it was definitely blog-worthy.

There was a time in early sobriety when I believed life was over.  I was no longer the self-assured, fun-loving person I thought I was. How could I possibly succeed, let alone have a good time without drinking?  Heck, I had never missed a liquid lunch at work or gone out dancing, to a movie, concert, or even bowled, for that matter, without being smashed.

And you know what?  I was right, THAT life was over.  In time, sobriety blessed me with clarity of self and a positive outlook on life. I learned happiness comes from within not from the bottle and not only that, bowling sober is more fun ... are there really only ten pins?????

HAVE A BLESSED DAY!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

HAVE A SEAT SHARON CLARK CHANG!

After eighteen years of domestic and foreign assignments with the Central Intelligence Agency’s Clandestine Service, Sharon Clark Chang returned to the U.S. to assume a different professional role. As an advocate for Americans of Asian descent, she worked with the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) National Office in Washington, DC. Perhaps her most gratifying endeavor with OCA was researching and writing Congressional testimony leading to the passage of America’s initial legislation (the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990) dealing with crimes of hate-motivated violence. Currently she assists ethnic minority-owned small businesses serving a mainstream market. She lives in Virginia with a brace of terrierists.

What inspired you to become a writer?

A conspiracy of circumstances is what inspired me (in fact, “predestined” might be a better choice of words) to be a writer. First, swimming around in my gene pool is the DNA of two conquered peoples: the indigenous Catholic people of Ireland and the people of the American South. Both groups relied heavily on a tradition of storytelling. The Irish did so because, during centuries of British occupation, they weren't allowed to have a formal education, and so had to be instructed clandestinely by word of mouth. The American Southerners loved the oral storytelling tradition, too, especially as a way of passing the time on long, hot summer nights before there were many forms of artificial entertainment to divert them. Second, I was the firstborn of my parents' children. Parents and often-present grandparents had the time to read to me – and having a story read to me while I was cuddled up on a lap was something I recognized very early as representing one of the forms of love. Third, my very first-grade report card reflected a grade of A in what I misread as “vocalabury.” However limited my “vocalabury” may have been at the moment, it was clear that a strong appreciation for words and their uses had become established in me very early.

Which of your books do you consider your “pride and joy”. Why?

Since my current book is also my first book-length written work, I’d have to say Escaped Alone: A Memoir of an Incomplete Southerner. What began as something of a family history for my siblings and our descendents, undertaken piecemeal after the death of our last parent, morphed into something of book length for which the family story was the ground note and my personal story was the glue. On one level, it delighted and, in spots, moved to tears those family members and friends who recognized in it for the first time that the lives of people they had known and loved could become the stuff of which literature is made. One a higher level, it became a story that no one, to my knowledge, had ever told before: the story of how a new kind of social conscience developed in the post-WWII generation in America. My personal history becomes much more when readers recognize through it what we all already know when we stop to think: that as children many members of my generation were perceiving similar patterns of injustice in our society, were understanding none of the reasons underlying such injustice, and were determined to grow up and do something about it.

Do you have any preparation rituals before you begin to write?

Not really. I do a lot of writing in my head, with the result that by the time I sit down to put words on paper, much of the work is already complete to such a degree that it needs little more than transcription.

If you had to come up with a book title to describe your life, what would it be?

Embracing Creation. I’ve been one who is greedy for life and thankful for all of God’s gifts.

If you had a chance to have dinner with any author who would it be?

So many admired writers to choose from! If forced to choose just one, I’d opt for Frank McCourt, another memoirist. Not because I resemble him in writing style any more than I parallel him in personal experience, but because his various memoirs (in particular Angela’s Ashes) were also one-of-a-kind achievements, because I greatly admire him as a writer, and because I’m sad to have missed my chance to know him in this life..

We all have family, work and other obligations...how do you maintain balance
while in the middle of a writing project?

With continuing difficulty, but with a strong sense of honor regarding publishers’ deadlines.

What is the one piece of advice you received about writing that helped you the most?

“Vary the beginnings and the lengths of your sentences.” By paying scrupulous attention to this advice, gleaned from I’ve-Forgotten-Where, I can make my words and my narratives flow beautifully, carrying the reader along with it.

Where can we purchase your books and how can we keep up with you?

Signed and inscribed copies can be purchased directly from me, by mail. A message sent to my public Facebook author page will start the ball rolling. That same Facebook page can be LIKEd and provides a window on my doings. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sharon-Clark-Chang/200982489964046.Through my web page, readers can buy my book from its publisher by clicking on the “Buy the Book” link: http://escapedalone.tateauthor.com/
Amazon and Barnes and Noble sell it online; it can also be ordered through any brick-and-mortar bookstore.

Last, but not least.....What and when is your next release? Provide a brief synopsis....

Several ideas for my next book are fermenting away in my head. The problem is that, as yet, none of them has left my head and commenced its existence on paper. Once I've settled down and chosen among them, I’ll be better able to speak to a new release.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Alzheimer's/Dementia: Journey to the Past



I was recently on Blogtalk Radio (see left side bar) with a talented group of authors, one of which was Sheila Seiler LaGrand.  Sheila is writing a wonderful series about a woman with Alzheimer's, "Remembering for Ruth." On the show, she made a comment that hit so close to home.  It's not all sadness and despair when a loved one has Alzheimers/Dementia. Sheila reminded me, and all of us, when our loved one's minds travel to the past, we can go right along with them.

 I remember visiting my grandmother and she would be sitting up, moving her hands as if she was sewing.  "What are you doing, Nannie?" I would ask.  "Making Helen a dress," she would reply, then go on to describe the dress in every detail.  She would also knit pot holders.  That was a happy place for her.  Her eyes shined and she smiled. Although her hands were empty, I could almost see the fabric or yarn.

My mother did the same thing, not with the sewing, but reliving events of her younger years.  I took a journey back in time, well before I was born, and experienced them with her.  I learned about things she had never spoken of before, precious memories.

The disease is heartwrenching, but we don't have to see it that way. We need to set aside the sadness and share their journey. Through their happiness -- comes strength and comfort.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Meet Gloria Donovan ... The San Francisco Wedding Planner's Cougar!


Six volumes of The San Francisco Wedding Planner series have been released and are available in ebook format for only 99 cents each. Don't miss out on the fun!  Next week round two, the backstories of all the characters, will be released, and Ruth L. Snyder suggested the authors go on a “Blog Hop” to give the readers a sneak peek. Other authors from Helping Hands Press will also participate to introduce readers to their characters and stories as well.

When The San Francisco Wedding Planner series was in the planning process, each of us was asked to select the character we would most like to focus on for round two. Surprise, surprise!  I chose Heather's mother, Gloria Rasmussen Donovan. We are alike in a few ways.  I have a thirty-four year son who cringes when the phone rings, waiting to hear my honest opinion of his life and how to raise my granddaughters ... And let's not forget my academy award worthy guilt-trip provocations.  




Gloria meddles in every aspect of her daughter's life (isn't that a mom's job?).  Being widowed, she is trying to find herself ... Unfortunately, it's in the teen and make-up section of Nordstrom's. "Dress Young, Feel Young" is one of her mantras, the other being, "Date Young, Feel Young."  Both a source of embarrassment for Heather and entertainment for her staff.

Close your eyes -- picture a 50+ woman in a hot pink tank top, skin-tight leopard print capris, spiked heels, and pouty, over-painted lips....and listen to this song:



That's Gloria!

And don’t forget to stop by all the other blogs on this tour. Some of the authors are even hosting giveaways, so you won’t want to miss those!

Helping Hands Press Summer Reading Blog Tour








Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Have a Seat: Ruth L. Snyder!

Ruth L. Snyder was privileged to spend the first 10 years of her life in southern Africa where her parents served as missionaries. From there her family moved to Canada, settling in Three Hills, Alberta. Ruth enjoyed her years as a "staff kid" at Prairie and is grateful for the biblical grounding she received there. She now resides close to Glendon (the pyrogy capital of Alberta, Canada) with her husband and five young children. Ruth enjoys writing articles, devotionals, short stories, and Christian fiction. She is a member of The Word Guild and The Christian PEN. Ruth currently serves as the President of InScribe Christian Writers' Fellowship.

    What inspired you to become a writer?
I still remember the day I realized those squiggles on the page had meaning and I learned to read. Stories fascinated me and I loved to communicate through writing. My parents were missionaries in southern Africa, so I first "met" all my relatives through letters and pictures. My mother encouraged me to describe events and scenery for my grandparents when we wrote our weekly letters. This love of reading and writing continued to grow. However, I did not consider myself a writer until after I won The Word Guild's contest for novice writers (a few years ago) and claimed my prize, which was free registration for the Write! Canada conference.

Which one of your books do you consider your "pride and joy".  Why?
Currently I only have one novella that has been published. Cecile's Christmas Miracle enabled me to write an engaging story as well as share facts about the country of Botswana, which is one of the places my parents worked. People have told me they enjoy reading about the unique setting of the Kalahari Desert and they want me to complete the story about Cecile and Colin.

Do you have any preparation rituals before you begin to write?
                   
I often plan my stories in my head and think about them for a while before I write anything down on paper. I like a general overview of the plot before I start writing details: an engaging start to hook readers, the main problems/fears my character(s) are facing, some obstacles they will face, and how the story ends. Once those details are clear, I start writing, filling in the other details as I go. Every week day morning I get up at 5:30 (before my husband and five kids wake up) spend a few minutes catching up on e-mail and Facebook, read my Bible and pray, and then write for 30 minutes before I make breakfast. This makes it possible for me to write every day. I also spend time writing while my children are at school.

If you had to come up with a book title that described your life,
what would it be?

Lessons in Grace - I'm very thankful for the godly heritage I have. As I look back over my life, I see God and His grace at work.

If you had a chance to have dinner with any author, who would it be?

Ted Dekker - He grew up as a "missionary kid" too and I really enjoy his writing. It would be fun to be able to talk to him about his writing and how he makes it work for him.

We all have family, work and other obligations...how do you maintain
balance while in the middle of a writing project?

I'm still working on this! I try to do my writing while my children are sleeping or at school. When they're at home I aim to spend time with them. I've experimented a bit this year with my schedule and figured out I only want to teach music a couple days a week so that I have quality time to spend on writing. During my writing breaks, I often throw a load of laundry in or wash the dishes. Sometimes to meet a deadline I have scheduled a day at our local library while our oldest daughter looks after the rest of the children for me.

What is the one piece of advice you received about writing that helped
you the most?

Write, write, and write some more, every day.

Where can we purchase your books and how can we keep up with you?  

Cecile's Christmas Miracle is available on Amazon.ca http://amzn.to/1fANOek, Amazon.com http://amzn.to/1fAO4tP, Barnes & Noble http://bit.ly/NgOezx, and Kobo http://bit.ly/Mr1oZr 


Last, but not least...What and when is your next release?  Provide a brief synopsis.

My next two releases will both be part of The San Francisco Wedding Planner series, a light romance published by Helping Hands Press. There are six of us participating in this project. Volume one introduced the series with each of the participating authors writing one of the chapters in the volume:

Heather Donovan has no time for her own romance—she’s busy making wedding dreams come true for other people and trying to reel her lonely and lovesick widowed mom Gloria back from beyond the brink of good taste. Her receptionist, Raul, is as interested in his hair style as he is in the clients. Indigo, the wedding photographer, never goes anywhere without his beret—or his attitude. Toss in Skye, the mommy-track best friend who wants to breathe organic air, Mario, the talented, hotheaded caterer with an eye for the ladies, and a tall, dark, and handsome stranger visiting the office on the eve of the busiest weekend ever, and you have a recipe for disaster. Or love. Or maybe both?

I will be writing volume 7 to finish off the first series. I'm also writing Heather's backstory for the second series. Volume 7 of the first series will be released on June 19, 2014.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I'm Fine

Friend:  "How are you?"
You:  "Fine"

How many times does this happen in a day?  Now, how many times do you say "fine" when you're struggling with something? Yep! Thought so.  

I'm guilty of it, as with many others (glad I'm in good company). For some reason, we are afraid to voice our true feelings. Either we don't want to bother anyone with our fears or problems, we don't think they'll understand, or we don't want to appear weak.  Whatever the reason, unless you have a therapist at your beck and call, you need to talk to somebody.  Sure, if your boss or an acquaintance walks up to you and asks that dreaded question, it might not be appropriate to engage in a lengthy dialog, or if someone asks you on social media - not a good idea.  I'm referring to our trusted family members and friends.    

Pretending everything is okay works for awhile, but eventually whatever is causing anxiety will simmer, bubble then boil over ... making it worse.  If we reach out when the issue first surfaces, more times than not, it will be resolved.  If not, then at least we have someone there to offer advice on where to turn.  No one should struggle alone.  

I'm a firm believer in the power of prayer and try diligently to "turn it over", but I'm also a firm believer in the power of family and friends. God uses them to speak through all the time ... based on personal experience a hundred times over.  

Just my thought for today.  Oh, wait a minute ... do you know what "FINE" stands for?

                                             Freaked Out
                                  Insecure
                                  Nervous
                                  Emotional


HAVE A BLESSED DAY!








Tuesday, July 8, 2014

LISTEN AND SPEAK

When contemplating my next blog post topic, I was compelled (more like guided) to expand on a prior post, “Listen”. It is imperative in our faith journey to open our souls to hear His word. What is just as important is to open our mouths and have Him hear ours.  Below is an excerpt from my devotional, “Embrace the Morning”, which is also included in the collection, “Moments with God”.   


Life is teeming with obligations and activities. At times we become overwhelmed; we lose track of priorities.

The foremost priority, our relationship with God, unfortunately gets lost in the chaos. We put off praying for a quieter time, we miss church in order to relax and that cycle continues.

Curiously, what we don't realize is that if we maintain our daily relationship with God, all things will fall into place. Psalms 107:29-30 makes it perfectly clear, “He hushed the storm to silence,the waves of the sea were stilled. They rejoiced that the sea grew calm, that God brought them to the harbor they longed for.”

Regardless of how busy we are, if we start the day conversing with God, He will still the storm before it begins or give us the strength to withstand it. If we end the day thanking God, we will retire serenely, becoming refreshed to Embrace the Morning.

In "The Presentation" portion, I address, once again, how our lives can be fulfilled and enriched: 


Luke 2:22: When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

We too need to present ourselves to the Lord through prayer and meditation. He knows we are here, but wants us to talk to Him and focus on His word. Through our quiet time with Him we are renewed in spirit and ready to face our daily challenges head-on.

My prayer:

Father, forgive me for the times I have failed to present myself. May I become rededicated to set aside quiet time with you in prayer and meditation.  My Precious Savior, guide me to follow your word in my thoughts, words and deeds. At day's end may I count my blessings with love and gratitude.  Amen

HAVE A BLESSED DAY!

Monday, July 7, 2014

HAVE A SEAT: SHEILA SEILER LAGRAND!

    Sheila Seiler Lagrand lives with her husband Rich and their two dogs, J.D. and Doc, in beautiful Trabuco Canyon, California. She enjoys serving at her church, Trabuco Canyon Community Church, gardening, cooking, and most of all, spending time with their children and nine (so far) grandchildren. She has lived her entire life in southern California, except for a year spent in French Polynesia as she conducted research for her dissertation. She doesn't understand boredom and is passionate about words, their power, their beauty, and their care and feeding. She earned her doctorate in anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. As an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego, she studied anthropology and literature with an emphasis in writing. Sheila is a member of The High Calling. As a young woman she published poems in dozens of literary magazines. She has also contributed to anthropology journals and contributed a chapter to the book Fieldwork and Families: Constructing New Models for Ethnographic Research.  More recently, her work has appeared in Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts, Paul's Letter to the Philippians (BibleDude Community Commentary Series), and a few volumes of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She has work forthcoming in Soul Bare. Her Christmas tale, Yankee Doodle Christmas, is available as part of Kathi Macias' the Twelve Days of Christmas series. The characters from Yankee Doodle Christmas live on in Remembering for Ruth, a serialized novel. The first two installments, Paul Loves Snickerdoodles and Matthew Meets Mitchell, are now available; the next installment, The Bark of Zorro, is forthcoming. She is also participating in a collaborative novel, The San Francisco Wedding Planner.

    What inspired you to become a writer?
    Nothing, I think. It may sound silly, but I'm inspired to write in the same sense I'm inspired to breathe. It's like an autonomous function. But my dad, through every phase of my life, has asked me: "And what about your writing?"

    Which one of your books do you consider your “pride and joy”? Why?

    Well. I'm fairly new to publishing (outside of academia, which was a lifetime ago, and the poetry microjournal scene, which was a lifetime and a half ago) but I'm pleased with my current project, Remembering for Ruth. It fictionalizes a situation that is so common today: caring for a parent with Alzheimer's Disease or some other form of dementia. I'm hoping the stories (it's being released in serial form) will comfort and encourage families living with dementia.

    Do you have any preparation rituals before you begin to write?

    Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
    If you had to come up with a book title to describe your life, what would it be?

    Maybe "Looking at the Stars," as Oscar Wilde wrote (and the Pretenders sang, a few generations later): "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

    If you had a chance to have dinner with any author who would it be?

    The Apostle John (because I'd really like the inside scoop on Revelation) and if he couldn't make it, then I would like a ladies' luncheon with Willa Cather, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O'Connor.
We all have family, work and other obligations...how do you maintain balance while in the middle of a writing project?
    I don't. I have a challenging, rewarding career, nine grandbabies, and fibromyalgia. If it weren't for my husband, Rich, who is fully committed to my writing, I would never get a word jotted down.

    What is the one piece of advice you received about writing that helped you the most?

    Kathi Macias told me, at my first writers' conference (Okay, she told the entire room, but it felt that she was speaking to me): "You’re a successful writer if you’re called to write and you obediently respond to that call today.”
    Where can we purchase your books and how can we keep up with you?

    I have an author page at Amazon.com:
    When I'm feeling succinct, I tweet at https://twitter.com/SLagrand.
    When I see something pretty, I pin it here: http://www.pinterest.com/sheilalagrand/

    Last, but not least.....What and when is your next release?

    The third volume of Remembering for Ruth, which is called The Bark of Zorro, should release in April. So should my next "turn" on the collaborative novel, The San Francisco Wedding Planner. Still on the drawing board, but close to my heart, is a nonfiction book, How to Rock the Grandma Gig.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Listen

I started to write a new blog post before mass and stopped as I was running late (which happens all the time), deciding to finish it after I returned home.  Once again, the message was right in line with my blog post.  The red print is what was written before mass.

As usual my mind is in overdrive ... perhaps too much caffeine?   I was thinking about how God sends subtle messages ... through thoughts, dreams, other people and even our bodies, and how back in my "dark days," I refused to listen (and still occasionally do).

The minute that whirling carousel (I call my brain) grabbed on to that thought, three distinct events jumped off and glared at me.  Granted, decisions made back then were usually inspired by alcohol (or Satan ... which, in my case, worked hand in hand), but God was warning me ... through my body ... as an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

In Romans 8: 9,11,13 (NABRE), Saint Paul writes to the Romans,  "The spirit of God dwells within us."  He continues to say (in Father Fernando's words) the Spirit guides us in our choices but sometimes we don't listen and face certain consequences.

Imagine what choice looks like:  A head tilting from one side to the other, weighing options. I see the Spirit on the right shoulder and Satan on the left.  The head goes back and forth until it comes to a stop.  In my case, the head rested on the left more times than not, even though I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach -- which I know, deep down in my heart, was the Spirit saying, "Patti, you're not listening."  But did that stop me?  You got it....no way!  The three events I spoke of earlier are perfect examples of turning a deaf ear.  I won't go into detail, but I will tell you I threw away fifteen years of federal service, entered into two failed marriages, and had two abortions.  The uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach was there each time, but I refused to listen and suffered a great deal of remorse, pain and shame.

Through God's patience and mercy, things changed. My shoulders still carry the same residents but I have learned to listen; however I'm not perfect (what?) ... At least I no longer need to buy cases of Pepto-Bismol!  



HAVE A BLESSED DAY!









Saturday, July 5, 2014

Think About It

I was introduced to this commentary from Max Lucado a few years ago and it really touched my heart.  Although a long read, it's worth it.....






The Tale of the Crucified Crook

"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” Luke 23:43

The only thing more outlandish than the request was that it was granted. Just trying to picture the scene is enough to short-circuit the most fanciful of imaginations; a flat nosed ex-con asking God's son for eternal life? But trying to imagine the appeal being honored, well, that steps beyond the realm of reality and enters absurdity.

But as absurd as it may appear, that's exactly what happened. He who deserved hell got heaven, and we are left with a puzzling riddle. What, for goodness' sake, was Jesus trying to teach us? What was he trying to prove by pardoning this strong-arm, who in all probability had never said grace, much less done anything to deserve it.

Well, I've got a theory. But to explain it, I've got to tell you a tale that you may not believe.
It seems a couple of prowlers broke into a department store in a large city. They successfully entered the store, stayed long enough to do what they came to do, and escaped unnoticed. What is unusual about the story is what these fellows did. They took nothing. Absolutely nothing. No merchandise was stolen. No items were removed. But what they did do was ridiculous.

Instead of stealing anything, they changed the cost of everything. Price tags were swapped. Values were exchanged. These clever pranksters took the tag off a $395.00 camera and stuck it on a $5.00 box of stationery. The $5.95 sticker on a paperback book was removed and placed on an outboard motor. They re-priced everything in the store!

Crazy? You bet. But the craziest part of this story took place the next morning. (You are not going to believe this.) The store opened as usual. Employees went to work. Customers began to shop. The place functioned as normal for four hours before anyone noticed what had happened.
Four hours! Some people got some great bargains. Others got fleeced. For four solid hours no one noticed that all the values had been swapped.

Hard to believe? It shouldn't be - we see the same thing happening every day. We are deluged by a distorted value system. We see the most valuable things in our lives peddled for pennies and we see the cheapest smut go for millions.

The examples are abundant and besetting. Here are a few that I've encountered in the last week.
  • The salesman who defended his illegal practices by saying, "Let's not confuse business with ethics."
  • The military men who sold top-secret information (as well as their integrity) for $6000.
  • The cabinet member of a large nation who was caught illegally dealing in semi­precious stones. His cabinet position? Minister of Justice.
  • The father who confessed to the murder of his twelve-year-old daughter. The reason he killed her? She refused to go to bed with him.
Why do we do what we do? Why do we take blatantly black-and-white and paint it gray? Why are priceless mores trashed while senseless standards are obeyed? What causes us to elevate the body and degrade the soul? What causes us to pamper the skin while we pollute the heart?

Our values are messed up. Someone broke into the store and exchanged all the price tags. Thrills are going for top dollar and the value of human beings is at an all-time low. One doesn't have to be a philosopher to determine what caused such a sag in the market. It all began when someone convinced us that the human race is headed nowhere. That man has no destiny. That we are in a cycle. That there is no reason or rhyme to this absurd existence. Somewhere we got the idea that we are meaninglessly trapped on a puny mud heap that has no destination. The earth is just a spinning mausoleum and the universe is purposeless. The creation was incidental and humanity has no direction. Pretty gloomy, huh?

The second verse is even worse. If man has no destiny, then he has no duty. No obligation, no responsibility. If man has no destiny, then he has no guidelines or goals. If man has no destiny, then who is to say what is right or wrong? Who is to say that a husband can't leave his wife and family? Who is to say you can't abort a fetus? What is wrong with shacking up? Who says I can't step on someone's neck to get to the top? It's your value system against mine. No absolutes. No principles. No ethics. No standards. Life is reduced to weekends, paychecks, and quick thrills. The bottom line is disaster.

"The existentialist," writes Jean-Paul Sartre, "finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven .... Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend on within or without himself”

If man has no duty or destiny, the next logical step is that man has no value. If man has no future, he isn't worth much. He is worth, in fact, about as much as a tree or a rock. No difference. There is no reason to be here, therefore, there is no value.

And you've seen the results of this. Our system goes haywire. We feel useless and worthless. We freak out. We play games. We create false value systems. We say that you are valuable if you are pretty. We say that you are valuable if you can produce. We say that you are valuable if you can slam-dunk a basketball or snag a pop fly. You are valuable if your name has a "Dr." in front of it or "Ph.D. on the end of it. You are valuable if you have a six-figure salary and drive a foreign car.

Pretty tough system, isn't it? Where does that leave the retarded? Or the ugly or uneducated? Where does that place the aged or the handicapped? What hope does that offer the unborn child? Not much. Not much at all. We become nameless numbers on mislaid lists.

Now please understand, this is man's value system. It is not God's. His plan is much brighter. God, with eyes twinkling, steps up to the philosopher's blackboard, erases the never-ending, ever-repeating circle of history and replaces it with a line, a hope filled, and promising, slender line. And, looking over his shoulder to see if the class is watching He draws an arrow on the end.

In God's book man is heading somewhere. He has an amazing destiny. We are being prepared to walk down the church aisle and become the bride of Jesus. We are going to live with Him. Share the throne with Him. Reign with Him. We count. We are valuable. And what's more, our worth is built in! Our value is inborn.

You see, if there was anything that Jesus wanted everyone to understand it was this: A person is worth something simply because he is a person. That is why He treated people like He did. Think about it. The girl caught making undercover thunder with someone she shouldn't - He forgave her. The untouchable leper who asked for cleansing - He touched him. And the blind welfare case that cluttered the roadside - He honored him. And the worn-out old windbag addicted to self-pity near the pool of Siloam - He healed him!

And don't forget the classic case study on the value of a person by Luke. It is called "The Tale of the Crucified Crook." If anyone was ever worthless, this one was. If any man ever deserved dying, this man probably did. If any fellow was ever a loser, this fellow was at the top of the list. Perhaps that is why Jesus chose him to show us what He thinks of the human race.

Maybe this criminal had heard the Messiah speak. Maybe he had seen Him love the lowly. Maybe he had watched Him dine with the punks, pickpockets, and pot mouths on the streets. Or maybe not. Maybe the only thing he knew about this Messiah was what he now saw: a beaten, slashed, nail-suspended preacher. His face crimson with blood, His bones peeking through torn flesh, His body heaving for air.

Something, though, told him that he had never been in better company. And somehow he realized that even though all he had was a prayer, he had finally met the One to whom he should pray. "Any chance that you could put in a good word for me?" (Loose translation.) "Consider it done."
Now why did Jesus do that? What in the world did He have to gain by promising this desperado a place of honor at the banquet table? What in the world could this chiseling quisling ever offer in return? I mean, the Samaritan woman I can understand. She could go back and tell the tale. And Zacheus, he had some money that he could give. But this guy? What is he going to do? Nothing!
That's the point. Listen closely. Jesus' love does not depend upon what we do for Him. Not at all. In the eyes of the King, you have value simply because you are. You don't have to look nice or perform well. Your value is inborn. Period.

Think about that for just a minute. You are valuable just because you exist. Not because of what you do or what you have done, but simply because you are. Remember that. Remember that the next time you are left bobbing in the wake of someone's steamboat ambition. Remember that the next time some trickster tries to hang a bargain basement price tag on your self-worth. The next time someone tries to pass you off as a cheap buy, just think about the way Jesus honors you...and smile.

I do. I smile because I know I don't deserve love like that. None of us do. When you get right down to it, any contribution that any of us make is pretty puny. All of us ­even the purest of us - deserve heaven about as much as that crook did. All of us are signing on Jesus' credit card, not ours.

And it also makes me smile to think that there is a grinning ex-con walking the golden streets who knows more about grace than a thousand theologians. No one else would have given him a prayer. But in the end that is all that he had. And in the end, that is all it took.

No wonder they call Him the Savior.





No Wonder They Call Him Savior, Max Lucado, Copyright 1986, Word Publishing, Nashville, Tennessee.