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MP900441048[1]All my complaining about the chilly, rainy weather has paid off. In abundance. The weather forecast is now predicting temperatures that were in the low 70’s earlier this week to be over 100 in the next few days.

Amazing how differently people react to such news. Me, I am excited. I can’t wait to strip off my sweater and enjoy some warm days. Of course, after a few miles on the bike in that kind of heat I will be cooked and panting. But I’m not thinking about that now.

My daughter, who does not do heat well, is having anxiety attacks. It hasn’t happened yet and she’s praying for a freak snowstorm.

My grandgirls have visions of hours in the other grandma’s swimming pool. My husband is rescheduling the automatic sprinklers to compensate. Stores are stocking up on ice and selling out on sunscreen. Barbecue grills are firing up. Air conditioners will soon be working overtime.

In a world that tries to control everything, all we can do is cope when it comes to weather. You can’t wish it away or plan it according to your schedule. It’s one of the few things that still remind us God is in charge.

It brings to mind Psalm 148.  Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens! Praise him from the skies! 2 Praise him, all his angels! Praise him, all the armies of heaven! 3 Praise him, sun and moon! Praise him, all you twinkling stars! 4 Praise him, skies above! Praise him, vapors high above the clouds! 5 Let every created thing give praise to the LORD, for he issued his command, and they came into being. 6 He established them forever and forever. His orders will never be revoked. 7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you creatures of the ocean depths, 8 fire and hail, snow and storm, wind and weather that obey him, 9 mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, 10 wild animals and all livestock, reptiles and birds, 11 kings of the earth and all people, rulers and judges of the earth, 12 young men and maidens, old men and children. 13 Let them all praise the name of the LORD. For his name is very great; his glory towers over the earth and heaven! 14 He has made his people strong, honoring his godly ones — the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!

Have you ever considered that when the sun blazes extra hot it is actually praising God at the top of its voice? When the moon is full, is it bursting with the need to proclaim His holy name? When the sky is cloudless and blindingly blue, is it expressing unblemished adoration for the Creator?  Is the soaring of a bird in the air its resounding worship song and the flash of a fish leaping from the water its attempt to get closer to God? Does the snow fall in soft, silent whispers and the wind whip in roaring triumph just to call out the name of the Lord to all who will listen.

Praising God is what we are called to do – even when our natural instinct is to complain. Nature is God’s way of assuring us that “kings of the earth and all people, rulers and judges” are absolutely equal in their stand before the Almighty, whose “glory towers over the earth and the heavens”.  When it comes to the cry in the depth of our soul, the need in the farthest corners of our heart, the aching desire of our very being – every created thing can only find fulfillment in the same response – praising God.   

As the temperature rises in the next few days, I’m challenging you to turn up your worship and adoration meter by the same degree. Don’t let the sun or the moon, the rocks or the hills, the creatures of the earth or sea outdo you.

Tape the words of this Psalm on the door to your ice maker, on the dial of your air conditioner, on the jar of barbecue sauce you’ll be using, on the bottle of sunscreen, on the drawer with your shorts and tank tops, and wherever else you can think of to remind you that no weather condition or any other condition should keep you from throwing out your arms, lifting your face to heaven and proclaiming the greatness of God.

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MP900049751[1]Ahhh – sunshine.  A commodity my home town is famous for but which has been in short supply these past few weeks. Instead, we’ve had rain.  Lots of rain.

But this morning I’m looking out the large window of my office at clear blue skies and sun so bright it is glistening off the still wet grass and kissing the trees until their leaves wiggle in delight.

I am looking forward to our Saturday ride – finally. So far this year it’s been cold, windy, overcast or rainy. Not every ride has been completely miserable but close. So I have a habit of praying at the start of each ride, “God, if I have to be cold or wet at least let me see something amazing along the way.” And He is always faithful to answer.

A couple of weeks ago as I was hunkered down shivering I spotted two large bald eagles, a male and a female, perched high in a tall pine tree. They just sat there like they owned the world, guarding their nest and watching us with haughty eyes as if laughing at our silly venture.

Last week as I was dodging raindrops I spotted a beautiful buck deer still in the velvet but already showing about 4 points on each side standing knee deep in a field. As if the sight of him wasn’t a breathtaking enough, next to him was a sleek and graceful doe and her young fawn. The whole family just standing there watching us roar by, reminding us there’s more to life than racing down a highway.

This weekend the weather is forecast to be in the mid eighties with clear skies and sunshine. I’m finally looking forward to the ride because I know the hills will dressed in green and flowers will be popping their colorful heads to bask in the beautiful day.

Pondering on this fact I realized the reason the scenery will be so beautiful on Saturday is because of the amount of rain we’ve had this spring.

And that led me to understand just how God answered my prayer these past weeks. I thought the amazing things he wanted me to see were the eagles and the family of deer grazing.  Actually, He was letting me see how He never focuses on a single moment in answering my prayers. He looks at the entire picture of my life and provides in such a way that I experience Him over and over and over.

I heard a comment in a training session I attended a few days ago and it has stayed with me. The comment came from a farmer’s prospective.  “Drip irrigation beats a flash flood any day.”

God is definitely a drip irrigation kind of guy, providing a steady stream of what we need rather than giving us everything in a flash flood. The rain drops I dodged two weeks ago will result in miles and miles of enjoyment in days to come.

I am reminded not to take everything I see at face value. When God answers prayer He doesn’t do it to gratify a momentary need. He does in such a way as to provide a better path moving forward and a greater impact on my future.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater  Isaiah 55:10

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MB900422771[1]With this being the 40th anniversary of Roe versus wade, the news has been filled with commentary from both sides. You can read the pro life side and you can read the pro choice side and both have parts and pieces of logic.

I firmly believe the reason we can’t come to an agreement on the issue is because we have never had the right to even have a choice in the matter. Only God has the knowledge and foresight and vision to know whether a life is valid. And since He is the one who creates that life in the first place, He is wise enough not to create something of no value.

All of the arguments aside, I got a practical lesson on the whole issue this week. It was a beautiful illustration of life value and I wish I could pass it on to every pro-choicer out there.

The real story began over 60 years ago when a baby boy was born to the parents of one of my best friends. He was severely handicapped from the start, his body twisted and useless. And though normal communication was not possible, it soon became apparent that his mind was sharp and comprehension of the world around him keen. His fierce determination to fight for life earned him the nickname of Tuffy.

For 60 years his family has faithfully loved and cared for him. They were his advocates when the long term care facility was giving less than adequate care. They went out of their way to make sure he spent holidays with the family. They visited regularly – almost every day – for 60 years to make sure he knew he was loved. They managed to understand his method of communication and did everything they could to address his needs.

I have seen them kiss him and hug him, shave him and joke with him. I have watched them turn his chair for the best view out the window, readjust his pillows to assure comfort, get in the faces of medical staff to get them to listen, and nurse him through fevers and infections.

My precious friend has her own serious health problems, has a very challenging marriage, lost a daughter in her twenties to cancer and fights every day to keep her head above water. Never once have I heard anger, bitterness, regret or impatience over the demands of keeping Tuffy safe and secure. While from the outside this did not look like a regular, gather around the dinner table every night kind of family, it was no less a family because of Tuffy. In fact, the extra effort needed to hold them together probably made it more of a well bonded family than most.

Several times, especially in the last few years, Tuffy became critically ill. Never did my friend wish for it to be over. Her prayers were always for comfort and healing. She never asked that her life be easier, only Tuffy’s. 

Tuffy passed away this past week and my friend along with her family have deeply grieved.

To my friend he was never a burden, he was a brother. His life served a purpose regardless of his ability to walk and talk in a “normal” manner. I believe Tuffy’s life made her kinder, more thoughtful, more compassionate, more tolerant and more thankful than life without him would have.

Was their life easy with a child like Tuffy? Not in the furthest sense of the word. Was their life better because of Tuffy? You bet it was. He brought a light and a love, a focus and family closeness, and  lessons beyond measure.

Tuffy was different but no less dear to his family than any other son or sibling. I rejoice that he is free of his twisted body and running around heaven shouting and singing today. And I thank God for my friend and the life lesson she passed on by embracing what others might have called a life of little value.

If we could all let God handle life and death and just tend to the things He gives us control over, events like Roe versus Wade would not exist. Instead, love and compassion would take their place.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16 

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It's a ... novel!

It’s a … novel!

As I put the finishing touches on a manuscript I will enter in the Genesis contest with American Christian Fiction Writers I am deluged with advice from the blogs of other writers, critique comments, bullet points from books on the craft of writing and of course, my own gut feelings.

When you have a baby, you want the best for it.  You want to be the best parent, give great counsel, love unconditionally, and have moments when you can sit back and beam proudly at your accomplishment. It’s no different with the birth of a manuscript.

The problem with parenting is that often love is blind and you find yourself overlooking things that should be corrected, behaviors that should be stopped, disciplinary action that should be taken and a few other mistakes. The problem with writing – ditto.

My first big struggle came when input from a contest judge stated my story was good and publishable but she questioned whether first person was the right point of view for the story.  Two other judges in the contest gave feedback that my voice was light and funny and really lent enjoyment to the story.

So what to do?  I decided to take chapter one and try a different point of view.  I worked diligently, but in the end I couldn’t do it.  It just didn’t feel right. The story didn’t flow and it didn’t make me smile when I read it back.  I made an executive decision to leave the point of view alone.

My second struggle came with the advice every writer gets from every critique, every article and every bit of advice from seasoned authors – too much back story.  My first reaction,  “But you have to get to know my MC before you will really understand the story.  She is her history. You want me to cut all that good stuff out?  I’m going to need a lot of anesthesia for that kind of surgery.  And a supply of pain killers afterward.” 

I began cutting, bleeding and moaning at each step.  What I discovered in the long run was all that history is what led me to know my character intimately. And because I knew her so well, I could tell her story in the present letting her personality and her actions suggest the history that made her the way she is.  Brilliant!

The third big struggle was with the story being “overwritten”.  I had to study that comment because I wasn’t sure what it meant.  Reading back through the manuscript I found  it was all action.  Action is good.  Action is key. Action is what moves the story forward. However, as I observed from some of my favorite reads, now and then the reader needs a chance to catch a breath, experience a golden moment, bask in a lazy description of the scene, the prophetic moment, the romance, the MC’s dreams, even a crazy conversation between two characters that seems to have no relevance to the main theme.

When I went back and broke up the action a little with some of this frosting on the cake stuff, I loved it.  It began to read like a novel you can’t put down.

I’m excited about one or two more edits before submitting it for the contest.  And I’m excited that once again I learned a couple of valuable lessons in the process.

  • You can love your work too much and it will cause you to ignore valuable guidance. Just like parenting, once in a while you have to look past the “my perfect child” part and address the little flaws that if not corrected can result in a big problem.
  • You can love your work too little and let the miles and miles of advice take you away from your core idea. Editing and correcting, cutting and revising are good until you find you’ve lost the “you” in your writing. Each writer is unique in some way. Don’t lose sight of your special something that exists in everything you  compose.
  • You can never know too much about your character, but you can certainly reveal too much about your character. Back story is like Elmer’s glue – a little goes a long way. Don’t put so much in that your reader gets stuck . But include just enough to get the reader attached.
  • As in all things, seek guidance, pray, trust your instincts and be willing to take a risk. Every parent knows there is a lot of “seat of your pants” parenting that goes into a well raised child.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”   Kurt Vonnegut

Psalms 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

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It happens every January 1, a new year like a blank page begging for a story.  It stretches out before you, not yet sullied, not yet marked by disappointment, not yet peppered with regret.  You look back and analyze the past year and there are always parts you’d like to erase.  You look forward and begin to make resolutions that will guarantee improvement.

There is excitement and enthusiasm for a while.  If you are like me, you get into a cleaning frenzy.  You reorganize.  You dust corners you’ve forgotten about for the past several months.  I would love to start every year by throwing out the old wardrobe and starting over with everything brand new, never worn. 

The first day of a new year is perfection – for about five minutes.  Hard as you try you can’t keep it that way. Before the day ends you’ve probably said something you wish you hadn’t, neglected something you should have taken care of, and shoved an item into a place it didn’t go. All those wonderful resolutions already starting to crumble and you have another 364 days to go.

Still, I am a hopeless resolution maker. I am a dreamer of better decisions, kinder thoughts, more generous actions and a deeper walk. I am a seeker of more meaning and richer relationships.  I am a planner of more organized days and fewer busy nights.

For several years now I have been reading through the Bible, beginning January 1st and finishing triumphantly December 31st. I have not failed to live up to this commitment yet.

And God has not failed to reveal new ideas and thoughts to me through His amazing words.  Here is the perfect example.

It’s January 3, 2013 and I have just read through the story of creation again.  I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve studied this particular section of scripture. However, this is the first time I was struck with how it parallels the start of a brand new year. Picture God looking out on nothing and deciding to create something, so He starts with light.

Now here is the clue God gave me for how to improve my life in 2013. God didn’t create light and jump to the next step. “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good,…” Genesis 1:3-4a

God took time to look His first step over and make sure it was good before moving on. What a thought!  Take time to make sure where you are is right and good before you move forward.

To me that means when the realization comes that I’ve stumbled in thought, word or deed, I need to stop and make amends. When I’m short with my husband, who is one of the few people who can push me from my normally tolerant and gentle self to irritation, I can’t just walk on.  I have to stop and ask forgiveness because I desire to please God in all things.  I want Him to look at me and say “that was good, move on.”

When I neglect my devotions or don’t take time with someone who needs time, or spread gossip, or fail to put all of my effort or talent in what God has called me to do, I need to go back and make it right.

God stopped several times in the creation process and assessed His work. Did the world He created stay beautiful and unsullied? Nope.  Man messed it up within a very short time, and continues to distort it every day. But that doesn’t change what God did.

Take some time this first week of 2013 to look for the original good in God’s actions that first week of the very first year ever.  Here’s what you will find:

  • There is still heart wrenching, soul moving beauty in a sunrise. 
  • There is still tranquility in the still waters and breathtaking power in a waterfall.
  • There is still majesty beyond description in the mighty mountains and cool, soothing peace in the lush valleys.
  • There is still hope in the shimmer of moonlight, laughter in the antics of animals, wonder in the effortless soaring of a bird, faith in the ebb and flow of the ocean.
  • And never doubt, there is still goodness in man. The news may try to hide it, evil will try to cast a shadow on it. But it’s there, every day, in the heart and spirit of the ones who choose to walk with God and live out love, forgiveness and grace.

Look for it and you will find it. When you do, remind yourself “it is good”.

 “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good….” Genesis 1:31a

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