Friday, August 30, 2013

Going Deeper: A Becoming Mystery


GOING DEEPER WITH GOD, A BECOMING MYSTERY

PREMISE: GOD made us for RELATIONSHIP.

 SETTING THE STAGE
There is a spiritual need for going deeper with God. A  need for an active seeking, a need for a realizing of a God-placed inner desire deep within which creates a longing for something more.  This something "more" is found in an intimate relationship, living in close fellowship with a Triune God.  A God who genuinely cares for his people, created in his image, redeemed through his Son.  Where, and why have we as a people of faith missed this integral element in Christian life? Some have found it. It is where true living finds its satisfaction and joy.

Spirit growth is commiserate with a person’s closeness to God. Much of that which may seem spiritual because of its theology and study may be an academic exercise which fails, in its practice and even in an inward state of deception, to change the heart. It is not enough to fill a mind with concepts about God, even though study of God's Word and tenants of the faith are extremely important for knowing why and what we believe. These are not an end-all. Neither is prayer. It must go one step further than obedience, knowledge and service. One must also let the things of God penetrate below the surface of the mind, funnel down to the heart, then absorb into its very tissue. This will have everything to do with a God-filled, healthy heart that loves well and loves without expectation or self-protection.

Time to look inside. Be honest with yourself. This might be a good time to ask God for some wisdom and a looking glass that will reveal what is inside your heart.

QUESTION - Does love for God make a difference in your life? 
Be honest, does it  really?  I didn’t say belief about God.  I don't mean to interfere, but sometimes it is important to do a reality check.  Does your love for God transcend your wants and ambitions?  Even knowing the answer to the question may be hard to identify or to put your finger on. Does my love for God make a difference in how I live my life? Is it love or is it belief or is it that they intertwine? True love must have an object.  Let's look at purpose. This may help. Identify the motive that prompts action. Is God the object?  Is it pure in its love? Take a moment take stock, make a spiritual inventory. Ask yourself this question. In what way does my love for God outwork in my life? Notice if it is duty-bound, part of a spiritual prototype, or if it is genuine.

Name biblical characters who display this type of love, a passion for God?

What characteristics in their lives make this evident to us, that their love is real?

A thought to ponder — Do we try to grow our spiritual life, and our church, to become what we want them to be? Or,  do we grow our spiritual life, and our church, to become what GOD wants them to be?

What limits us?

What limits the church?

QUESTIONS - Where is the power in our spiritual walk? Where is its life?   
What is missing?
If we want God to do more, we have to be more, that is, more in Christ.  But do we want more?  Do we really?  As Christians, we may become complacent, comfortable, not in the fray. There are areas in our lives (of which we are aware) that may need some attention. But, basically, we may be inactive in the spirit realm. We may be living with our stuff, and our pain, mostly content with the way things are going. We are doing our best effort, for the most part.  Yet, we may be stuck, not moving forward. If we’re honest with ourselves, sometimes we feel alone, with a sense of  being abandoned by God, disillusioned and even second-rate, especially if God has not acted on our asking, seeming deaf to our persistent petitions.  

What about that empty, going through the motions, feeling of deadness?  What about our  own troubling issues? Something is going on, we know, when there is a complacency or a conflicted separation in our person in regards to spiritual matters. We know there are reasons for this, of course, for that which is part of being human, with its struggles against the world, the flesh and the devil, and its spiritual warfare, in an on-going battle against those things that resist a closeness to God. But, that’s not what is meant in this paragraph. Rather, what is missing in this picture is a lack of engagement with God in the center of self, in what some old writings call The Ministry of the Interior. That deep well within a person that needs to be filled with God. The Spirit is there, but the well in the center of the heart is empty or getting close to dry. It cannot give what it does not have at its disposal. The Spirit Life is being lived without its power, which means, it is being lived in its flesh, out of human effort. This is the nitty-gritty where-it's-at for many-a-Christian, and all of us at times.

What do you think ‘doing’ versus ‘being’ looks like?

What could contribute to this lethargy, this lack of fulfillment?

QUESTION - What is the need?  
To walk closer to God, in step with God, in active realness, in joy, in peace, in communion with God, is to be dissatisfied or unsatisfied with the status quo.  A life that is content with the status quo, is a limited spiritual life.  It is spirit-life in a box.  A box made up of  secure walls, self-made boundaries, insecurities, and human pleasures and wants. We seek those things we can live with, that  make us happy or, at least, okay.  We often fail to see the weakness in this human, limited spirituality with its façade of spiritual activity, which falsifies our true driving passion, the desire for self and self-protection.  It is often us and our view of the Christian life, Christian life as we think it should be, instead of what we could have in a true, God-Christ-Spirit shaped-enabled-driven life.   

There are some problems that get in the way of a Centered-in-Christ spirit life. Here is a partial list of some that come to mind. One problem, is the failure to want more than we already have  in our spiritual life.  If that’s not the problem, another one is quick to appear. If we want more, we aren’t sure of ways to access God, how to find him as this sort of God.  And, then there is this ugly little problem that surfaces, we really aren’t so sure about God, who he is, what his real plan for us will entail. Will we like it?  And, the biggest worry of all, if we really look deep inside ourselves and at God and what he is doing, it is possible that we may be disappointed with what he gives us.

Surrender to God is necessary to change this no-win position. Surrender of a controlled (for lack of a better word) "spiritual" life, the self-contained spiritual life the person has come to expect and live, surrender of it all, form and function, to become real with God, to a new life that is scary, hard, and unpredictable.  Fear may trump faith. Fear or a spiritual routine of going-through-the-motions, a partial fulfillment, is what a person will experience without a riveting closeness to God, without his transforming life in active engagement within the person's soul, a removing of the fears and human stuff of life with its areas of bondage, then replacing it with his person, his love, his power, his grace, and Him.  It is God who removes the fear and doubts that weaken and contribute to spirit-life-lived-in-a-box, a limited spirituality.  But, when the box falls apart, and the person lets go, the relationship is set free.  Praise God for this! It is the first step toward freedom in the spiritual life.

Name some ways Christians experience disappointment with God?

What are some of the frustrations Christians internalize but think would be unchristian to acknowledge?

A few months ago I was talking with a Christian woman who has lived a faithful, faith-filled life for all of her years. Her family has been on-hold in several areas as they wait for God to answer their prayers. They are very dedicated servants in the Church and also with their fellow-man. In the conversation a statement was made that has a hidden meaning. She said to me what many of us feel. I mention it in this writing because it spoke to me of something that holds many from knowing and participating in the fullness of joy in God. "I want to give it all to God, I want to draw closer to him, but I'm not sure what will happen if I do." I could identify.  I still identify. It is human to struggle in this area. The emotion is fear. When you take it further, it is also a distrust in God's goodness or it can be a lack of faith to believe in his goodness. And if you take it further still, it also reveals a less-than-desired-some-what-cautious love for God. Love and trust live together in tight fellowship. Don't misunderstand, it is true that love for God is already in place in the well-lived, obedient, Christian walk. The problem is that it is not enough to carry the person into a deeper level of spiritual life, the acquisition and communion found in an intimate relationship with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  

Once a person steps through the door of no-return and leaves self and its need for security behind, God becomes the sweetest friend a person can have in this mortal (and immortal) life. He will become so dear that the thought of Him brings tears to the eyes. That is when a person falls in love with God and life unfolds in a newness of being. It is when Question 1 can be answered in confidence to the affirmative. It is when a person fully loves God and they will act "in love" for God in regards to the people and opportunities God will put in their path.

Bless you if you seek God in this way. It is well-worth the journey.

This "Going Deeper" series was written by Norma Brumbaugh for an adult Sunday School class.
*to be continued on another blog

Friday, August 23, 2013

About Me: A True Story

Speaking in church in 2013

About "Meridian"

It is my innermost desire to point my readers to God. A life hidden in God takes on meaning, gives beauty and wonderment, redeems and restores.  

~My Reason for Writing~

In my life and writings, I want to show and live out the immediacy of the ways that God is refining my nature. It is an invigorating process. My personal journey reflects the heart of the matter. What God is doing in my life is often humbling yet fulfilling, hard yet freeing, uncertain yet centered. I believe God is changing me into a selfless created-being who shouldn't or doesn’t need praise and recognition from others, whose ultimate fulfillment is the joy and satisfaction of living in close relationship with Him. It's all about relationship.

It didn't happen without pain. I began seeking God for truth. This path of spiritual discovery led me to a huge, revolutionizing fact. It is this. “Being” is first. “Doing” is second.

The more I study the more I find layers of truth. The more I consider God, the more I realize that He wants me in close relationship more than he wants me to be all about service. For when the love of God is formulating in the heart, the more a relationship with God is cultivated, the more it will resurface in something so alive that it has a great need to be shared. That is how God feels about us. He is eager to love on us. From my personal experiences and cursory observations, I've noticed that normal religion and scripted spirituality tends to reverse the two. Taking time to “be at one” with God, to read His Word, pray in openness, seek His heart, and to know Him with a sense of intimacy which comes by way of frequent meditating and considering of Godly truth and thought, are all necessary in this pursuit. I've found that each is expedient if a deeper relationship with God is to be sought, found, and actualized. I experienced this reversal in my life, going from doing to being. It happened as a result of seeking God, long before I read spiritual Greats in the faith who have come to this same realization. When “being” comes first, with "doing" as its outworking of faith, the spirit life is lived out of love for the Creator, in obedience to Him, and because His life of love transfuses a change within the inner person into one of Christ-likeness. 

If someone lives like Christ lived, it is evidence that He is on the throne of their life. No longer is Christianity a form or a charade where spirit life is lived out of duty or because of  performance-based expectations. Christians who minister to the street people often minister with a humble Christ-like presence, something I desire in my life.

~Point of Reference~
“God is enough.” There. I said it. The key concept, the defining point that describes my spiritual beliefs and my life. Everything I believe will dove-tail back to a central belief that God is enough for and in every trial, sad event, hopeless moment, frustration, and personal loss. He is the one who helps, heals, and restores. In this process, He gives us hope, peace and boundless love. All the icky things lose their power over us when we see that God is in it with us and He is painting a landscape, but we only see a minute section of the canvas.

I know for a fact that God will meet us where we’re at. He understands the biggies that trip us up: unhealed hurts, unmet needs, unresolved issues, anger, disappointment, and unbelief. He asks us to trust Him, to surrender our "stuff" to His care.

~Personal Response~
A personal response is required if we want God to meet us where we're at. It doesn’t just happen by osmosis. No. It can’t. Not possible. God waits for the responding, the searching. He keeps drawing the object of His affection to Himself by beginning a work in their hearts, then it's up to the person to turn their heart toward God. At times, it is a restlessness, a hunger for something "more."

When my life as a Christ-follower started to get "real," it was because I changed in my approach to spiritual matters. It was when I let go of my many spiritual routines and practiced traditions, and then I decided to let God take charge and begin a new work in me. I gave Him the reigns of my life. It became His way not my way. This was a decision made in response to pain. Life had dished out a lot of hurt and I didn't want to live that way any longer. In fact, I wrote down my intentions in a journal and then gave the list to God, an honest search began that continues on to this day. In the spiritual journey not much happens until there is a reaching out of a "want-to" in attitude and "wish-for" in desire. Seeking of God is first initiated in a person’s mind and their heart. It takes both. God may put circumstances or pressure points to draw someone toward Himself, even using pain to get their attention, but He will never force anyone to come closer or to follow Him. He is a good Father, the very best. He is patient and long-suffering. The story of the Prodigal Son is a beautiful story depicting the patient love of God for all of His wayward or self-righteous children. We find both in the story. In another way, Christ's death on the cross and God's perfect will in this, demonstrates God's perfect love to the world of children, women, and men.  All of us are loved equally.

We wear masks. In fact, we hide behind them and build a false image, a spiritual facade. The people who know us best can see the mask. We wear them at work, home, and church. I did too. God began revealing my mask through my family members, scripture, and prayer. There is no hiding and no pretending with God. For God to meet a person where they’re at, with their hurts, warts and all, for it to be really-real, will require the individual to become look-in-the-mirror open and honest with God. Trying to manipulate God to play the game the way they like, expecting His approval and acceptance of their want-to's in a self-serving life-style, will never bring a person into an intimacy of relationship with God. My pastor says to get alone with God and don't leave until you are different.

I can say, through my experiences and those I've read who have God as intimate friend, that to be genuine with God will mean that pretense and false beliefs about our real self must first be acknowledged then released and willingly given over to God. Otherwise, the individual's response will fall short. In a matter of time, waywardness, religiosity or spiritual pride will consume their heart instead of a continual work of God transforming the person's life. It is God who will redeem. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, forgiveness and wholeness can and will remove bondage and curses from the deadening impact that has long-crushed a darkening soul, freeing the person's spirit from its pain and sin, restoring them to a right relationship with God. It starts at the point of belief and then it continues on. I cannot explain how wonderful it is to be truly free. Words can't describe the delight.

Finding my Freedom
 
~The Story about Me~

Who I am is still under construction. It’s been forming for quite some time and it has never been boring. This will help you see who I am and where I come from, the background stuff of my life.

There are two key factors in my personality which are a positive for me. I am a thinker who likes to contemplate about almost anything, and I am a safe person who is easy to talk to, who understands the human stuff of life (I listen well). There are two key factors in my personality that are a trial for me. I am shy, and I am given to be fearful of people, new challenges, and trying circumstances (fear can be crippling)

My upbringing is a considerable contributor in the making of who I am. My family is close-knit. Christian faith is and was an integral part of our family dynamics. I was raised with a Christian world view, a perspective that says everything in our choices and lives are for a spiritual purpose and should be lived that way. We didn’t add on our Christianity, we lived it out. We were taught that our choices should be God-based in thinking and purpose.

My father farmed row crops and orchard crops. We five children always worked on the farm. Through years of working, we learned to be careful, responsible, and to think for ourselves. Our family lived simply with not many frills. I never resented this. It was a way of life. It made me value hard-work, and I knew I was well-loved. Both my parents and all my siblings are wonderful people. My father is a supreme example of a man with integrity, an honorable man. Not many come as honest as he. Mother is to be thanked as well, for her encouragement of music, spiritual guidance, and building into our daily lives. Protestant in theology, Baptist in church attendance, strong in Bible teaching and personal accountability, we children developed our Christian walk through home, church, and even in our college choices. I did see some chinks in the armor, though, later I would come to see some of the Christian identity in a different way. God would bring this to pass in His time.

My first venture out of the home was off to a Christian Bible college, Western Baptist Bible College in Salem, Oregon. During my sophomore year this same institution of higher learning became a liberal arts college, changing its name to Western Baptist College. Now it is Corban University. I studied to become an educator. Music and art were side studies. Vocal performance was always a part of my four years. I traveled in music groups on weekends, representing the school by performing in churches. I loved my years at WBC and look back on them with fondness. I dated Christian guys and loved the dynamics of being with like-minded peers, free from cussing and the non-spiritual side of my earlier public school education. All students were required to take 30 units of Bible, everyone graduated with a minor in Bible. I’ve been grateful for these Bible-based classes for they set me up in a solid way by giving me deeper roots in spiritual truth. Some of my shyness lessened during those years of positive social interactions.

After graduating, I returned to my home town of Chico, California. I began teaching in a Christian school. I broke up with my college boyfriend and began to date a local man. He was a new believer in Christ, raised in a much-different background than I. He made me happy and I liked being with him. I ignored rather obvious differences. We married in 1980. He was minus the structures that played so significant in my life. This would not bide well for us.

In 1982, I stopped teaching when we started a family. My husband and I would have five children, our fifth child was born in 1997. I planned to be a stay-at-home mom, not wanting anyone else to raise my children even if it meant there was not much money. Fortuitous. For nine years this was what I did, my favorite occupation ever. Over the years my little family was always active in the local church. I would be involved in a variety of positions in the churches we attended: Sunday School teacher, Christian Education Director, Women’s Ministries Director, Choir leader, Children’s Church leader and teacher, AWANA story time teacher, Christmas Program writer and director, and on occasion in more recent years, speaking for the morning worship service. 

In 1989 I became involved in the public school arena by volunteering in my children’s classrooms and then substitute teaching. We moved down from the mountains to return to my hometown where I became an instructional aide in a school, taught a disabled boy in the afternoons, and went to university classes two nights a week for six hours each. I updated my credential and began teaching part-time. I began taking classes to become a reading specialist. It was my hope that this would help me land a full-time teaching position and find a school home for my professional career. I was in my early forties. In 2004 I was hired full-time. My favorite instructional experiences were with my reading intervention groups, until budget cuts returned me to the regular classroom. By this time I was writing a book which was published in 2012. 

As a side job, since 1996 I have been farm-leasing a walnut orchard from my parents. Farm income has aided me in helping fund some of my kids college tuition and to keep the family afloat. The marriage ended in 2002.  I have been a single parent ever since.

The following  two lists contain a brief description of my life's ups and downs.

~The Hard Stuff~

There were many things that would be difficult in my life, causing me much pain. In some of my writings you observe me sharing the hard things and then how God ministered to me through them. At first, I listed them out, but I have removed the list. Somehow it does not seem appropriate for this blog. I felt the Holy Spirit's prompting, that it was not a good thing. In short I will complete the paragraph with a cursory review, just know that I suffered much pain but never quit believing in God. God always sustained me, and sent people my way to befriend me. There were a few major life earthquakes: Being left and abandoned without warning, a mate who is unfaithful, loss of a sibling to suicide, death of an infant niece to leukemia, pain of job loss, hardship of frequent job changes, being unwanted and unloved, having a breakdown when it all collides, and the emotions of a custody battle. I would lean hard on God's ever sufficient grace. There came a time when I was in so much pain that I had to give it all to God, to let Him take over. It was the best thing I ever did.

  ~The Good Stuff~
It is interesting how God allows pain in our lives almost like an initiation into the deeper way of life. We are given choices, opportunities to chose which way we will turn. Unbelief in God's goodness, anger, and bitterness can take the life out us. It was a challenge for me to not choose my way but to choose God's best. There came a day when I made a list, "The List." This list stated all the things that I wanted God to change in my life. The quagmire was sucking me in and I knew that there had to be a better way. I was serious, and God knew it. Taking me through a process, God began to change me by removing my anger and bitterness, by showing me my hurts and healing them, by speaking to me through His word and whispering voice, and by teaching me to trust Him that He knew what He was doing and it was a good plan. A couple of times God's presence was so real that I felt completely full of light and joy. It was beautiful and meaningful. He also removed the pain out of my heart. I will share one of the scenes with you.

 Healing of a memory

The most defining moment which will start the process of my healing happens during a walk in an orchard behind my house. A few weeks before this I have asked God to heal me even if it requires revisiting the past. It is written in the third person as in a story.

 
While walking one afternoon, a painful memory enters her thoughts. "Father God, is this one of them?" She pauses, giving her full attention to the memory. It is something she's not thought about in a long while. She begins to playback the scene in her mind. She is a new mother, the baby is in the crib asleep, they are living in a little duplex on Olive Street near downtown Chico. It is a Monday morning, Memorial Day. She is getting ready to go to the Fair, dressing up as a clown to help out at a Child Evangelism booth. Her husband has the morning off. He speaks to her. In a conversational voice he informs her, "I'm going to move out." What? "I don't love you. I'm not sure I ever did."

Remembering his words, she feels the pain return, how hearing those words felt so long ago. She remembers the total shock, disbelief, sense of denial, unreality. Not her? Not their marriage? What about our son? Can this really be happening? I thought marriage was for life. She remembers the tears she cried, so many that her eyelids became puffy and she couldn't go out that day, how she begged him not to leave, to give it another chance... During the duration of the memory, she feels the pain as if she is still there, so real that it feels like she can't breathe. She is crying now, so hard that it makes her heart hurt. Yes, it was at that moment, when her world crashed in, when she realized she wasn't loved or wanted,  that she knew life would never be easy or the same again.

A picture of a sword imbedded in a heart enters into her thoughts. She sees where the sword pierces a heart. It has been dripping blood in slow deliberate drops. Her blood. It represents the pain that has sabotaged her life. Understanding comes in. The problem has not been her spirit life. It has not been a lack of faith, it has not been unforgiveness toward her mate. No, it has not been any of those things. It has been something far beyond her ability to control. Her happiness has been hijacked by this sword in her heart all these years. She gives the pain to God and asks Him to take it away.  "Father, it's hurt so much. Can you remove it?" With gentle grace, God removes the sword that has been piercing her heart. The wound closes, a scar remains. But, He is not done. Something else begins to happen. God takes the sword and begins to shape it into a cross, it's the cross of Christ. "By my wounds and by my stripes you are healed." She gasps, relaxes, thinking "For my tears He died." Her thoughts take her to the cross, kneeling before the Lord whom she loves. Her thoughts quicken. In amazement she senses the truth, "At the point of my deepest pain, Christ was feeling my pain. He was hurting right along with me. When I suffered He was suffering too." A warmth begins to cascade through her body. It is then that she realizes, Christ understands my pain. "His arms are open wide to embrace me." In tears, she begins praying in thanks to God, praising His holy name. She also finds herself praying for her ex-husband who wounded her so many years before. There is a peace that settles in her, a completeness. The sky seems brighter. 


A couple of days later she starts noticing something. It is an absence in her. "What is it?" It takes her awhile to place it. "What is it that's absent?" And, then, she knows what it is. Her pain. It's gone. Her pain is gone! The internal pain that caused her to retreat, to sit by a tree where no one could see her cry when life was too much, the thing that has haunted her and dogged her steps with its unspoken, persistent presence, the pain that has walked with her in silence for some twenty years. She knows she is different. She knows she is free.

There are some things hard to talk about because they involve real people and real family members. It can sound like one is bashing, whining, or being petty. When I share my story, which is not too often, it is a risk I take. I want you to know, that I do not wish to do any of those scenarios. I pray for my ex, I want the best for him, and I pray that God will continue to redeem what the locusts have eaten. God can, and I believe He will.

In my strange story, I have learned and grown via a fascinating unconventional journey which has taken me to heights of joy after experiencing the depths of sorrow. God is enough. He really is. It is the heart belief that tells the truth about a soul's true health and its love for God. 
Trust Him.

~A Look into the Future~

I expect I will continue on with my journey by writing and speaking. I have so much to learn about the world of writing and publishing. At times it seems quite absolutely over-whelming. I spent a bundle on self-publishing my first book. I don't want to do that again. My unknown quality in authorship lacks the publicity platform needed to send it forth to a broader audience. It may not be even very good. Yet, I have seen God use it to speak peace to broken and bleeding hearts. It is a comforting book. 

To be taken seriously, I will need to come out of my shell, make a few contacts, put myself forward, all those things which are always hard for me. God will be my sufficiency. I am seeking Him as I always strive to do. I have several books in me, I just don't want to spend money to have them printed, a much-adieu-about-nothing enterprise. Am I jaded?! The following books are waiting for me to put pen to paper or to finish up. They are in varying stages of development. I hope they will come to fruition. Pray that God will provide me with the people and services to get the works completed and published.

-A Quiet Grace - close to completion, a collection of personal stories that show how and why we care.
-Tea Cups & Coffee Mugs - about people who have given goodness and wisdom.
-The List: When it Hurts and God is enough - my story of how God healed me.
-What’s Wrong with Me? - about Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD).
-Christmas Programs – a collection of Christmas Programs I’ve written.
-The Holiday Collection - Story books for school teachers using seeds, plants, and recipes.

I finish with this. 
God has a plan and a future for you, me, and for all of us. 

~Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.~

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"A Horse, A Horse, my Kingdom for a Horse!"

"You'll love it," the man and woman across the table from us exclaimed. "The actor is absolutely amazing. The play begins with him huddled in a heap on the stage floor. He stirs and then begins rising from the floor in a slow, serpent-like movement. He peers out at the audience then begins talking like he's speaking directly to you. His voice is subtle, he acts like he is taking you into his evil confidences so that you will understand and agree with him. He's convincing. You find yourself being drawn in. Very well-done!" The husband and wife and their grade-school daughter smiled at us, savoring the memory. It was their second day of taking it all in, the Shakespearean festival plays. We smiled and grinned at each other. Enjoying getting a preview before the real deal. 

My four friends, two from Oregon and two from California, and I were relishing the pancakes, eggs, fruit cup, and delicious fresh-squeezed orange juice, a Victorian culinary delight presented on creamy white china settings placed on a linen tablecloth. Sprays of flowers in vases made the picture complete. The homemade breakfast at an elegant turn-of-the century bed and breakfast inn in Ashland, Oregon, was wonderful. My friends and I were much anticipating the day ahead. We would be attending the play, Richard III, that same afternoon. After breakfast, in mid-morning we went to see "Romeo and Juliet," held in the outside theatre. Next, we enjoyed some sightseeing and tourist shops, eating at an outdoor eatery, laughing when ran into the same family from breakfast. Finally, it was time.  We lined up for much-anticipated "Richard III." Every seat of the inside theatre was taken. Our seats were in the top-middle, a perfect spot for viewing.

"Richard III" is a historical play of William Shakespeare's, in which he tells the story of the crippled, hunchback Richard of England, who, through his own unsavory devices, manages to become the Richard III, King of England. His successes as king are short-lived, however. In an infamous battle, he is unable to keep his command over those he leads. His followers desert him while the battle is raging. During the climax of the battle, King Richard III is unhorsed, a for-sure death knell. In agony of voice he cries out the now-famous lines, "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!" Unable to defend himself, he is soon killed in a duel with Richmond who later becomes Henry VII. The loss of a horse is the undoing of King Richard III's  kingdom and ultimately, the end of his life.

We sat through the play, enthralled with the acting, choreography and storyline. It delivered everything we had been told it would and then some. A riveting story, really, Richard III's strange end not lost on us. Poetic justice or just deserts? Or are they one and the same?

Irony.

"I'm so thirsty I could die!" my daughter exclaimed. It was a week ago. We had been in the car for twelve hours with two to go.  The drive from Colorado, through Wyoming, into Utah, north to Idaho, had been slow and long. Somehow, the day before the empty water bottles I had intended to refill for the trip had been discarded, my mistake. I thoght we'd be okay because it was cool and storming when we left Colorado. The twelve ounces of water in my canister didn't last long on the journey, that, and one other water bottle. I refilled my canister at a rest area but the water fountains weren't working and I couldn't manage to refill the water bottle-- and I was impatient, anxious to continue on. But, that hadn't lasted long either. The trip is some-what arduous, mainly high desert with towns few and far between. I had expected us to be there sooner, my map information was slightly off. "I'll tell you what, you can buy a water bottle when we get gas."  We were so close but it was getting pretty knarly.  Near Twin Falls, Idaho, we got some gas and an over-priced water bottle. It was a name-brand with a hard plastic exterior. My daughter eagerly started twisting its cap while I got the car rolling down the road again.

"I can't get it open. Can you try?" she asked me. I pulled over. Cap wouldn't budge. For the next thirty minutes my daughter (mainly her since I was the driver) and I wrestled with that cap.  She used her fingernails to break the plastic sides. Wouldn't budge. She got out my nail clippers to cut into the plastic. Wouldn't cut, not even close.  She pierced the top with the nail file point. Wouldn't go through, strong plastic. "I'm so thirsty, MOM!!!!" She wailed, getting desperate. I wasn't as much, deciding to put mind over matter, and tough it out. I thought back to the old days of my childhood (!!!) when we ALWAYS had a gallon thermos jug full of cool water when my family took trips, how my mother still likes to travel that way.  Sounded like a better idea all the time! It was hot, dry, and smoke from a forest fire was in the air. Did I mention that our air conditioning was of the natural sort--windows down and air vents?

 "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!"  The thought entered my mind, another desperate time when someone was bereft of something they needed, really needed. There was a certain uncanny similarity. I voiced the words to my daughter and soon was sharing the story of Richard III with her. The cap never did budge. I decided to let her wrestle with it. I knew if she was determined enough it could be done. But, I kept myself quiet. "Mom! I think it's going to work! I think I've got a hole started." This time she was using her teeth to bite at the plastic. I hadn't wanted her to do it that way because of her braces, but she was going for it. "Bsshp" I heard a popping sound as the air pressure released. "Hear that?" she giggled. A welcome bead of water was forming. "Ahhhhh..."  She licked its cool refreshment. Tiny drops of water were coming out of the bottle in a bead-by-bead drip. I suggested she use the point of the file and twist it side-ways until the hole became larger.  In no time she was successful. Soon, she partially filled my canister and then slowly savored the rest of the water by sipping it out of the bottle's small puncture.

While we were driving and thirsty as all get out, I couldn't help but think about the correlation with life.  If there was no wheat, guess what we would pay tons to get? A shortage of a commodity or natural supply like water can change the whole meaning of money. There are some things we MUST have in order to live. You can't eat gold, or coins, or dollar bills! Desperate people do desperate things.

God tells us to hunger and thirst after righteousness.  Can you imagine that? Real hunger for God that makes it a priority so precious that one would be desperate for it. If He says it, that means it's possible. And, I know it is.

Tags: #horse #Shakespeare #water #kingdom for a horse #Richard III

Monday, August 19, 2013

A memory of Keith Green

THE LEGACY OF KEITH GREEN
Christian Singer-Songwriter-Speaker

I was reminded last night of someone who I admired in my young adulthood.  A man in my church who is my age was leading the singing, just him, a mic, and a guitar. He leads with a humble spirit. Together we sang a worship song that was hauntingly familiar. Someone asked the songwriter's name. His response brought it into focus, a song from the 1970's. It was a song of Keith Green's from back in the day.  It was like remembering an old friend, a familiar warmth of liking and happy memories. I have a recording of that song on one of my albums that reside on a shelf in a closet.

The song and its memory took me back to a concert in the late 1970's when I heard Keith Green in person, sing at CSUC university's auditorium. Keith was wearing an orange T-shirt (which struck me as odd, unconventional, probably why I still remember it) playing the piano and talking to us, frank talk peppered with tangible waves of enthusiasm. We were a college crowd, the auditorium was two-third's full. He called us out, challenging us to live for Christ, to turn our town of Chico up on end, on fire for Jesus Christ. There was no denying his passion. He was dead serious, his words full of life and vigor.

The crowd was pretty "pentecostal" waving their arms in the air and joining in, not like myself, my baptist background kicking in with a withholding, sobering restraint, and suspicion. I remember deciding that I wasn't about to wave my arms in the air! Yes, I was that stubborn (and self-righteous), thinking I was right and the others were being carried-away by their emotions. Oh brother! My Christian walk was way too scripted in those days. A song or two after my mind formed the negative thought, Keith Green began to be direct with the crowd, "Those of you with your hands raised, are they holy hands?" He continued on, speaking the truth to all of us in the audience. We got the message, hands in praise and worship must match with a heart that is obedient in action. Wow.  He had my attention, and I realized, he wasn't just another Christian performer, no, he was real.

Keith Green's comment has stayed with me through the years. I self-judge my actions in church. If I raise my hands in worship, I look inward at my heart and outward to my God, that I may seek to be in right communion with God first and foremost.  At the time, however, I was a bit skeptical of his message, thinking that for all practical purposes, probably Keith Green believed a little too much in the impossible, that he didn't know the people in Chico, my home town. Yet, I was drawn to his message and wanted to believe it.

Keith Green was right, though, with the power of God there is the potential and possibility of great change in and through people, I fully believe in a God of the impossible.  Later on I would purchase his albums, subscribe to his newsletter, and see a true Jesus Freak living the real life by being the hands and feet of Jesus to hurting people. He had lived that life and he understood it. A few years later, it was through my Pastor that I first learned of Keith Green's untimely death and also the death of his two children caused by an unfortunate plane crash. It was one of those unbelievable things that are hard to understand, especially since the accident was due to human error. I didn't understand why God would allow a talented musical evangelist, one who could speak the language of the youth, especially one who had so much to give and say, to leave this world before he had barely begun.

Years, decades later, Keith Green continues to be heard, his message goes forth. It will never be silenced.  Thank you, to Melody Green, who keeps the fire burning and the legacy on-going, and to other musicians and producers who believe his works should be available today and for future generations.

I leave with you my most favorite of his songs. "Oh Lord, You're Beautiful." This song is pure worship and praise to God, a God who loves us all with deep compassion. Keith invites us to join him in celebrating such great Grace.

All I can say is, Praise to a most wonderful God,
Norma

OH LORD, YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL
                    by Keith Green 

Oh Lord, you're beautiful,

Your face is all I seek,
For when your eyes are on this child,

Your grace abounds to me.



I want to take your word and shine it all around.

But first help me to just, live it Lord.

And when I'm doing well, help me to never seek a crown.
For my reward is giving glory to you.

Oh Lord, please light the fire,
That once burned bright and clear.
Replace the lamp of my first love,
That burns with Holy fear.

I want to take your word and shine it all around.
But first help me to just, live it Lord.
And when I'm doing well, help me to never seek a crown.
For my reward is giving glory to you.

Oh Lord, you're beautiful,
Your face is all I seek,
For when your eyes are on this child,
Your grace abounds to me.
Oh Lord, you're beautiful,
Your face is all I seek,
For when your eyes are on this child,
Your grace abounds to me.

I found this nugget on Wikipedia.  I think it shows perspective and purpose.
 http://www.lastdaysministries.org/Articles/1000008565/Last_Days_Ministries/LDM/Discipleship_Teachings/Keith_Green/Keith_Green_The.aspx

And another one
http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/keith-green

Friday, August 16, 2013

A SMOOTH APPROACH to WRITING a BETTER BOOK

A sample of my reference & writing tools
"Tips for Writing a Better Book"  ... continued from a previous blog
 

PART 2  -  A Smooth Approach to Writing a Better Book


So you want to write a book? A few tips are in order. These will help get you started and on your way to writing a better book.  Write well and you will find yourself heading in the right direction.
What was passed on to me I pass on to you. Basic formats with specific language structures give a basis for the craft of writing. The more I write the more I realize that these are common-sense guidelines. 

Once a person becomes aware of them it is easier to spot these writing structures.  Now that I am serious about my writing I have noticed that I make mental evaluations while reading literary text. The author's use of  writing style and language is assessed more acutely than before becoming aware of what good writing looks like. This comes with the territory. I share a few guidelines with you as a first consideration while undertaking a writing project. These have been useful in my writing ventures. Good luck on the writing.

Make the first sentence count
         The most important sentence in a book is its opening sentence.
            -The first sentence must be an attention-grabbing sentence.
            -Gripping enough to capture the interest after the book's pulled off the shelf
            -Interesting enough to keep the person perusing through a few of its pages.
 

Make the message speak
        Every book has a predominate message.
            -A book’s content is related to its central message.
            -Prepare by stating the book’s message in concise language.
            -Then keep to it. 

            -Don't let the inside matter get side-tracked by side-eddies.
  
Make an organizational web
        A “chapter web” will help organize the main points.
            -Arrange ideas in thought-bubbles in a star-burst surrounding the main idea.  
            -Jot key content in bubbles for potential chapter guides.

 
Make it worth-while—
        Each page should be interesting enough to hold the reader’s attention.
            -Tempt the reader to be willing to plunk down $25 to buy your book.
             -Give the book-browser a reason to purchase your book.
             -Whet the appetite. Make each page speak on its own.

 
Make the reader join up
        Show the emotion, details, and physical sensations. 
            -Refrain from telling about the story.
            -Place the reader into the scene by using descriptive words. 
            -Avoid over-explaining the content.
           -Show what the character is expressing, feeling, or experiencing.

 
Make the narrative active not passive
        Write in an active voice.
            -Choose active, present tense verbs when applicable i.e. "is" versus "was."
            -Avoid words that may bog down the narrative and bore the reader.
            -Be careful to not flip tenses or first/third person in the inside matter. 

            -Train yourself to spot these by oral proofreading the text.
 
Make the use of adjectives and adverbs a rare occurrence
        The writing stands alone without the clutter of adjectives and adverbs.
            -Infrequent use adjective and adverbs is preferred. 
            -Write clean. Write sharp, clear sentences.

 
Make  the writing intrigue the reader by being slow to show
        The reader wants to figure it out; skip telling what or how to think.
            -Don’t tell too much too fast or hint at the book's conclusion.
            -Allow the reader to find their own way, to figure it out.

 
Make the book reach its intended point without over-doing it
        The reader will be insulted if you explain the obvious.
            -Don’t tell the reader how to process the clues.
            -Trust the reader to interact with your message.

 
Make the book free of clichés, jargon, and words to impress
        Certain genres are prone to use "in-house" vernacular.
            -Political, spiritual, historical writings etc. may assume background knowledge.
            -Refrain from the use of terms not familiar to a general audience (or explain).
            -Language must be pure, direct, and understood.
            -Complicated words should be toned down if they impede the reader.

.....

So, there you have it. A few tips that should help with writing clean.  Book-style writing is not writing the same way we speak, unlike many of us were taught during our formal education. Book writing has its own format. It requires the developing of a necessary skill, a craft that will be shape and morph until its hidden beauty speaks. The avid mind will soak up print as a tunnel to a world of delight.

 Some books
, both in children's and adult literature, have too many of these avoidable errors. I  find myself mentally correcting incorrect verb tense usage as I am reading a sentence, stopping the flow, before I can carry on. At times, I wonder why the proof-reading editor didn't correct the more obvious of errors. This is frustrating, especially while reading a book to a class of students. I mental-edit so I will read it correctly. One adult writer's first book is filled with such errors, making it a confusing read. Possibly, it is lacking an editor review. No matter.  Somewhere it missed a careful review which detracts from its readability. Later on, I read another one of this same author's books. It was fine, no out-standing errors,  a progression in her skills development.  Effective proof readers look for these errors.  I know I lack skill in writing mechanics. I am forcing myself to improve in this area. However, the attempt is made, to write well and to use grammar and language in a way that leads to a better written book, which, in turn, increases credibility in the community of successful writers and with the audience of readers.

Some of what I have written in this blog comes from information I gleaned during a conversation several years ago.  It is the tip of the iceberg. There is much more information that is available on the web through blogs and people who use Twitter. I have found the internet publication world to be a resource of substantial value.


I recommend the following book for all beginning (budding) authors.


“10 Mistakes Amateur Writers Make ... and How to Avoid Them” by Nora Profit.

It can be purchased here:  The Writing Loft Book Store Link:

Happy writing!  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Writing Know-How

Tips for Writing a Better Book

PART 1  -  Book Writing Know-How

I wrote it wrong before getting it right. As we all know, it is essential to know the requirements, skill, and basics, before initiating action and implementation for any enterprise. Writing for publication is no exception. In my last post I said that I made the mistake of assuming I could write an acceptable book by relying on my ability to write well. In the end this didn't work for me. There was a reason it fell flat. Although I purchased the recommended writer's manuals and publishing books, my basic know-how in book writing was only rudimentary. It wasn't enough to do the job with skill or finesse. I learned from a writing coach that my unfinished manuscript fell short in a number of areas. These errors could easily have been avoided if I had solicited advice during an earlier stage in the writing process or better yet, before ever beginning. Today, with the advent of numerous Internet resources, and with its consequential growth in the self-publishing market, there is less cause for naïveté in the writing field. For the wannabe writers the door is wide open. However, some serious preparation is in order.

Writers have ideas just itching to get out. Communicating through the written word is a stimulating, almost heady experience. It's fun! Writing can get the creative juices flowing. Those who love the craft are able to formulate clever sentences with a certain amount of ease, although the editing process is the  time-consumer often requiring mental searches for the best way to express the thought. Effective book writing takes all this and then some.

My prior experiences in writing were in the genres of essays, poems, and plays.  Despite their successes and a positive response from my audience,  these experiences did not carry over to my first attempt at book writing. The most glaring deficit was that I was writing in a passive rather than active voice. Instead of  showing the reader what I was feeling or felt, I was telling them all about it. There's a major difference between the two. The telling is boring, uninteresting, with all the appeal of a textbook. But showing is intriguing, exciting, pulling the reader into the thought and action. In addition to this error, telling a story rather than showing its unfolding, there are other writing errors common to beginning, unproven authors.  Inappropriate verb tenses, overuse of adjectives, unnecessary adverbs, over-use of introductory clauses and so forth can kill a story line no matter how excellent the plot or over-arching collective content.

Let’s finish the thought . . . go to next blog