Tell Me a Story

Good afternoon, Blogosphere and all my bloggy friends. Once more, I am likely to be scarce for a bit while I work on a project which just fell into my lap. It’s a bit exciting and a bit scary because it has the potential to lead into something new for me. So today’s post is a dramatic shift from normal.

I can’t say much more about the project right now, but it will definitely occupy my time. I’ll still post at least once a week, but I may be slow answering comments and will definitely be limited as to how many blogs I can read.

I have a deadline and a substantial amount of research to do before I can start writing. And you can help me with some of it!

So today, I’m asking you to tell me a story.

Specifically, I want to hear about your best ever boss. I’d love to hear as many details as you can. How did he/she do the job differently? What stood out to you? Did they communicate well? Give good feedback? How did they handle difficult situations?

That’s not all… I also want to hear about the worst boss you’ve ever had. Gimme all the dirt you want, but keep it clean dirt – no profanity, no names or identifying features, nothing you wouldn’t want done to you on social media. Just the facts, but as many facts as you’d like to share.

Plenty of information to keep me busy for a while

Thanks a ton! I’ll be seeing you, if somewhat sporadically!

Apt Words Then and Now

In the course of my life-coaching with my blonde daughter, I’ve read some of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. This section stood out to me as incredibly pertinent to the modern day. It also reminded me of some more ancient words penned in a letter to a young preacher named Timothy some hundreds of years ago.

“In the conduct of my newspaper, I carefully excluded all libelling [sic] and personal abuse, which is of late years become so disgraceful to our country. Whenever I was solicited to insert any thing of that kind, and the writers pleaded, as they generally did, the liberty of the press, and that a newspaper was like a stage-coach, in which any one who would pay had a right to a place, my answer was, that I would print the piece separately if desired, and the author might have as many copies as he pleased to distribute himself, but that I would not take upon me to spread his detraction; and that, having contracted with my subscribers to furnish them with what might be either useful or entertaining, I could not fill their papers with private altercation, in which they had no concern, without doing them manifest injustice. Now many of our printers make no scruple of gratifying the malice of individuals by false accusations of the fairest characters among ourselves, augmenting animosity even to the producing of duels; and are, moreover, so indiscreet as to print scurrilous reflections on the government of neighboring states, and even on the conduct of our best national allies, which may be attended with the most pernicious consequences.These things I mention as a caution to young printers, and that they may be encouraged not to pollute their presses and disgrace their profession by such infamous practices…”  –Benjamin Franklin from his autobiography

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene…
(2 Timothy 2:14-17a)

 

 

The Time I Went to a Writers’ Conference and It Wasn’t About My Writing

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

Last night, I returned home after attending the ACFW conference, and I can’t wait to share what God did there. It was A-MA-ZING. Really, truly amazing.

For starters, He provided the opportunity for me to go. People, that’s no small thing for a mom of five who’s writing career reports its profits in cents to make it sound bigger.  But God has always been gracious to provide all we need and more than a few of our wants, so I am grateful.

God also afforded me a chance to stay in the hotel along with the three best roommates a girl could ask for. Seriously! The four of us met for the first time on Thursday and had the equivalent of a slumber party for the next couple of nights, complete with lots of laughs and great conversation.

All three of them are writers, of course. Ann Stewart and Abbey Downey are already published authors. And I’m beyond excited for Rebecca Reed who will probably join the ranks of the published soon. I’ve linked their names with one of their social media outlets. I encourage you to check them out.

As for my own conference experience, it was… different. I confess a bit of discouragement on Friday. Of my three assigned appointments, none was with an agent or editor who worked within the genera of my novel.

At some point, I took a break to walk and talk with the Lord (which at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel is almost like outdoor walking but without the Tennessee humidity). While we communed together, I asked Him, “Lord, what am I even doing here?”

He reminded me of the passage I’d read in Acts 11 that morning, impressing on me the idea, “What do I usually have you do?”

So I asked him to direct me to people who needed prayer during the rest of the conference.

Saturday found me stalking random people for the purpose of praying for them. OK, technically I only stalked one because for some reason, the Lord put this man particularly on my heart. After I prayed for him, he told me the prayer resonated with him because his life verse was Galatians 1:10. I promised to look it up. When I did, I couldn’t suppress a giant grin. In that verse was an echo of what the Lord laid on my heart to pray.

Our God is so, so good.

Another time, I felt the familiar nudge as I was walking with a lady I’d met earlier, so I asked her if I could pray for her. When we finished, she looked at me oddly and then shared some details of her week. Once again, the words God put on my heart were apt for her.

Then there was an elevator encounter with a man who stepped off before I thought of prayer. As the door slid closed behind him, I realized I’d missed it. I asked, “Lord if you want me to pray for him, provide another chance.”

He did. So I did.

There were quite a few more but only two are really worthy of note. One of them is a pretty funny illustration of my own tendency to be oblivious of certain cultural norms. Stick with me and I’ll explain.

It happened as I walked to my next workshop Saturday afternoon. On the way, I spied a delightful speaker I’d heard earlier exiting a conference room. In her session, she’d shared how the Lord gave her joy in cancer, and I felt a desire to pray for her.

With this aim, I walked up to her with a smile. But she was talking with a man (her husband, I think) and their conversation provided no opportunity for me to break in without being rude.

The art of awkward lurking being my particular specialty, I continued to hang around and in hopes of a moment to pray with her. The man once met my eyes, but something about their body language seemed intentionally closed, so I gave it up.

The speaker was a lady named Liz Curtis Higgs who wrote a book I remember my mom and aunt talking about years ago. I guess she’s something of a Christian celebrity, so I suppose that explains the strange body language. Without a doubt, the two probably suspected me of stalking – something I find hilarious in retrospect!

Anyway, I prayed for her, just not with her.

But one of my favorite moments occurred over lunch on Saturday. Throughout the conference, one older man caught my attention, maybe because he reminded me of a friend’s dad. On Saturday, this gentleman gave his ticket to the evening’s gala to one of my roomies so she could give it to me.

After lunch, I ended up talking with him and discovered he has a neuro-degenerative disorder that’s so rare, it doesn’t even have a name. He was absolutely delightful, and I not only enjoyed hearing a bit of his story, I  also relished the privilege of praying for him.

Ironically enough, I ended up leaving before the gala anyway because I didn’t feel well. I have a sneaking suspicion the whole ticket thing occurred for the purpose of prayer.

But the most ironic bit of all is this fact: When I signed up to attend the ACFW conference, I thought I was attending to benefit my career. Instead, my Redeemer awarded me unbelievable joy in praying for others.  My Saturday experience was Psalm 16:18 made manifest as I enjoyed the company of my Father and my many brothers and sisters in Christ!

What about you? Ever had an experience you thought would go one way, but God did something you never would have guessed instead? I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relationships in the Void

By the time this post goes live, I will be figuring out where to go and what to do for the conference I’m attending. The thing is in God’s hands. His will be done, and may He be glorified whether I come away with a contract or not. In keeping with the relationship theme of the week, I leave you today with an old post from my first blog:

We love because he first loved us.
(1 John 4:19)

It is quite impossible to live on this earth without having an impact on anyone else. In order to avoid having any effect on any other person – even a slight effect such as causing them to wonder briefly if you are in a bad mood – one would have to live in a relational void with absolutely no contact with another human being.

To put it very bluntly, this simply means that it is impossible to hurt oneself without hurting others. There are no crimes perpetrated against self only; they all have repercussions to others.

For example, a drunk or a drug user does not merely poison his or her body. Relationships are poisoned as well. If an addict drives under the influence, he or she risks – and sometimes robs – the lives of others.

If such a one is married, puts the bottle comes between spouses. If a father or mother, an element of embarrassment and confusion is added to the children’s view of the parent. That’s the best of situations. In the worst, the user brings fear and suffering into the parent/child relationship. Often, children raised this way are condemned to live and grow within the abuse cycle, either becoming abusers themselves or accepting abuse as normal.

No matter how self-contained this one may seem, if help is not sought and the habit kicked, self-destruction occurs and brings heartache to loved ones. A drunk or drug user does not merely harm him or herself, he or she is an indiscriminate inflictor of harm.

Another common viewpoint is that any sexual act happening between consenting adults is harmless. This is also bunk, unless the consenting adults in question happen to be permanently committed to one another in marriage. Otherwise, the promiscuous couple carry emotional baggage (and sometimes physical consequences) which they impose upon any future sexual partners without regard for the feelings of the other.

In this case, “the more the merrier” falls short of truth. The more baggage, the more emotional debris is strewn across the relational landscape.

If, by some flight of complete idiocy, one or both of the “consenting adults” is already married, they by their self-serving act bring an emotional wrecking ball into the marital relationship. If children are present, they are ruthlessly battered  in the process.

Sex, then, fails to be a personal and private act unless it is kept between permanently between two people. Otherwise, it is somewhat clownishly public.

I will confess the pre-Christ me was party to both of these points of view, and therefore I have no qualms in railing against them. In doing so, I rail against my own past and my own foolishness. I am the clown; I am the idiot of this story. Too many were wounded by the shrapnel of my former self-destruction.

However, I am delighted to say that this human quality of inter-connectedness works in more pleasant ways as well. Love, too, can trickle out from others and bring succor to war-ravaged emotional landscapes. Scars may be left behind, but healing can be complete beneath them.

I found this love in no other but the one the Jews call the Messiah. I was far too damaged at the time I met Him to even see it in others. It was the stunning realization of His love and humility that caused me to see past my own pain to the harm I caused others.

Once enough healing had taken place that I could limp along a bit on my own, He began to show me the messy, imperfect, and glorious love found in the community of true believers.

Now I find it is my duty to love others rather than to loathe myself. It is at this time my fervent prayer that love will be my whole motive, that selflessness will replace selfishness, and that those who were wounded by shrapnel in my battle with myself will find the same healing, the same peace… and the same shock of cold water waking them fully to the Absolute Truth.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
(1 John 4:20-21)

 

Legacy

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
(1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Just over a week ago, a lady I have immense admiration for passed from this world. She was an absolute beauty and the wealth she left behind is a fortune of dizzying proportions.

But neither her wealth nor her beauty were notable by the standards of this age and culture.

In fact, her body showed the wear and tear of her 96 years. Small of stature, I doubt she weighed 90 pounds fully dressed and soaking wet. The last few months saw her in much pain and often in a wheelchair, yet she was cheerful and had a smile and kind words for everyone.

Nonetheless, she was truly lovely. Hers was the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit – a beauty which has followed her and found its fulfillment in her permanent home with the Eternal God.

And her fortune… How can I describe it? It is one of the largest I have ever seen. A spiritual legacy spanning four generations. A wealth of faithful obedience to God and of love and compassion which staggers the mind. It is a fortune of far greater value and permanence than any dollar amount.

Her son and daughter-in-law, their children, and their grandchildren have all been heirs of this vast treasure. I see the same gentle and quiet spirit in them. There is joy and laughter and love all around.

Of course, there is pain and strife, too. But when error or rebellion rise up here or there in the family, mercy and grace abound. Within the family and for those who know them, there is not a soul who has reason to doubt that they are loved and important, not only by the family but also by the Lord.

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
Psalms 103:17-18

One of my close friends, a prayer and accountability partner, comes from this spiritual inheritance and so I, too, benefit from it. So do our daughters who are also close.

Of course there is mourning for the temporary loss of this precious woman of God. Yet I must say they grieve splendidly, for in the family’s grief, there is also a streak of joy – the joy of knowing she has arrived safely Home.

All of us, myself included, look forward to our own Homecoming. Some future day, we will see her again and once more worship the King of Glory together, but better than before. Then, we will no longer encumbered by sin, weariness, or pain.

And in the meantime, all of us have seen in her an example of eager expectation of the day the Lord calls us home and faithful, uncomplaining endurance if He leaves us here – even if leaving us here is the most difficult part.

So today, my prayers go out for these, my friends. But even more so, my prayers reach out for those friends and loved ones who do not have this hope. My prayer is for my Lord to draw all who are consumed by sorrow and despair to Himself that they may share in an inheritance beyond all imagining.

I was once one of these – hurting and hopeless – and I well know the futility of denying God and living for myself. But He called me out from this pit; called me to die to myself and live for Him.

For my recently departed friend,  for her loved ones, and for all of us who are in Christ, physical death is no longer the enemy to be avoided but the friend to be embraced. It will be the final conquering act over our flesh before our true lives begin.

My friends, my dears, if you have not found love in this dark world, know that it is there. He is there – the One who is Love. The Way, the Truth, the Life.

Find Him. Find hope.

And someday, I pray I can introduce you to Nan – one of my personal heroes.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:55

And Now For Something Completely Different

This is not going to be one of my normal posts and I’d like to start it with a confession:

I am not a terribly good patient. In fact, I may even be notoriously careless about such things as pain levels and general health.

To give you a snapshot of precisely how oblivious I can be, let me relate a conversation I had with my chiropractor (who specializes more in sports medicine PT than a traditional chiropractor):

Me, as I’m sitting on the table: “Oh, hey, do you remember when I came in with a swollen foot?” (He nods his assent) “Well, it still swells off and on when I walk.”

Him: “How long ago was that now?”

Me: “I don’t know. Probably two or three weeks or so.”

Him, checking my chart before rolling his eyes and looking over at me: “Or maybe 5 months…”

Me, somewhat sheepishly: “Or maybe 5 months… anyway, it still hurts…”

Of course, I also could have recounted several instances in which my poor, beleaguered husband had to try to guess at how bad I was feeling – like the time I had viral meningitis but didn’t think to go to the doctor until he carted me to the ER somewhere around the 60th hour of me being unable to hold down even a teaspoon of fluid…

Whatever. Suffice to say that I’m not the best at communicating my own pain levels, possibly because physical pain has been a part of my life for so long that I have grown accustomed to thrusting it aside and ignoring it until it becomes so noisy that I cannot.

So it didn’t really come as a surprise when, a little over a week ago, I woke one morning with some pretty intense back and neck pain. I remember telling my husband that I had to lay down again, although I did not manage to articulate why on the spot.

Now back and neck pain are not unusual for me and I had, in fact, had some degree of discomfort for several weeks. However, this pain had a quality that was entirely new. I remained intensely uncomfortable through the rest of the week.

Then one afternoon when I was talking with a friend and mentioned the pain. She pointed to my wrist and suggested I take off  the fitness tracker my husband had given me over a year ago in hopes of finding out if poor sleep contributed to my overall fatigue.

As it turns out, she had experienced similar back pain and had even had tests run but had no resolution of the pain until she removed her own fitness tracking device. Her mom had a comparable experience. Sure enough, within a few hours of removing the device, my pain had begun to subside to a more familiar intensity.

It made me wonder about the days when I was waking up with numb hands and chalked it up to possibly carpal tunnel. And it may well be coincidence; a fact I have not discounted.

Certainly I have had a history of chronic pain and some known medical issues in my thoracic and lumbar spine. However, I cannot help but wonder if there are others who have experienced something like this and if so, what might be the cause?

It still makes no sense to me, but I thought I’d ask. Has anyone else had weird or worsening symptoms appear after wearing a fitness tracking device?

Meanwhile, even the more typical types of pain which I am still dealing with serve only to make me look forward even more to this glorious future day:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4

Even in pain, “normal” or otherwise, I will still praise Him!

 

 

TBT – Midnight Musings

Hi, all! Due to a great deal of change and a busy summer, I’m finding it difficult to carve out time for blogging – either reading or writing. In light of my incredibly messy house and a small renovation project, I thought I’d just snatch enough time to borrow from my old blog today.

Here goes:

It is nearly midnight–a time I have only recently seen when a thunderstorm or nightmare wakes one of the children–and I am wide awake. Many thoughts have been careening through my head in the last few hours, and I am only just beginning to sort through them. Where do I begin? I suppose it would be best to begin with love. It was love that began me, after all.

When I speak so of love, I am not speaking of the rather clunky attempts humanity makes of the thing, nor do I mean to make a crude joke of the eros that was, nonetheless, certainly a fact of my beginning. I am speaking of Love as a Person.

It is written that God is Love, and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. So you see, Love began me long before my earthly parents met or were even born. My Father had already set in motion a staggering number of events that would eventually lead to the birth of the child that was me. Astonishingly, this is no less true for anyone, whether or not they believe.

In this same multitude of events, my Father had also arranged for the death of that child, just as He arranged for the death of His Son. Jesus died selflessly, bearing my sins. I died shamefully only when I began to understand the weight of what He had given for silly, selfish, petty me.

Today (or to be particular, yesterday as of two minutes ago), as I celebrated His resurrection with my blood family and my church family, I thought of Paul as he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

True, my body is not dead, but a person is more than their meat. The part that is me, the eternal part intended for fellowship with God but stuck in rebellion, is crucified–hanged by the sheer perfection of Love and my own unworthiness of it–and it is dying the slow death of crucifixion as each year reveals yet another area of separation from God and yet a deeper wonder of the merciful Savior who stands ready to receive me into life–real Life–once the sanctifying death is complete.

This Savior is the One without Whom I would have no chance whatsoever of seeing my way free of the absolute bondage of sin; without Whom I would not even see the chains.

Oh, and all this is just a mote–just a speck that I am struggling to put into words! This is the second time I have been flooded with a love that was far too exquisite to be human, far too immense to be my own. Along with that pulsing, cascading, aching sharpness is the certainty that it is also but the merest breath of True Love. So much love, so much life, so much mystery rushes through my mind. . .

How I love each of my brothers and sisters in Christ… not only as brothers and sisters, but as members of the same Body. . .

How I love the gifts and strengths of each and long to see them finally unbound from that which is crucified . . .

How I am torn by the weaknesses of each–my own included–and weep at the frailty of flesh removed from glory by sin. . .

How I am at once exhilarated and frightened by the depth of this Love that is both an unquenchable fire and a rushing torrent of water. . .

How I am captivated by the wonder of it all, wanting at once to be consumed by it and yet still clinging to the old self out of simple fear of the unknown. . .

How even now as I sit typing, groping for words, I know that this Story is too expansive to be contained by mere words. I can only communicate in terms of my experience with taste, touch, smell, sight, emotion. . . I am captive of my senses, and yet I have the distinct impression that even sensuality is only “dirty” because of the corruptive twisting of sin.

In contemplation of self or in love of others, it is often impossible to separate the sinner from the sin. My God, blessed be His name! does not share that problem, and in Him all things are plain, pure, undefiled, and Real.

A child understands such simple and complete love without the complications or nuances added by a decaying mind, for we are born into decay, and the corruption grows as our bodies grow, infecting us more and more completely.

It is only by opening ourselves to Love, by allowing the crucifixion of that which is perishable, that we can be raised one day imperishable. It is another seeming paradox. But what is paradox but a thing to show the fragility of human understanding? One breath of truth and it all comes tumbling gloriously down.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.