Friday, January 31, 2014

Book Writing & a Message for Life's Pathway

A GREAT COMPELLING 
The Beauty of Writing: God Gives the Message to the Messenger.
Coming soon ...
Sometimes we look back to see where we've come from. Other times we look forward to see where we're headed. And then there's reality, where we're at this point in time. For some of us, we never quite arrive at that place where we want to be. If we let this stop us then it will impede our progress. Looking forward is critical to our success. A plan is needful, too.

Introspection is helpful but it also can be crippling. All depends. It can keep us stationery and immobile--if we're stuck looking backwards or inward. Action is necessary to start a movement forward, the snowball effect. It helps to have a purposed approach. It has been this way for me in my various writings. I have a target audience. The Christian community is where I focus my creative energies. There is something I have found in my walk with God that has made a change-around in my life. So much so, that I want to give my readers a taste of what I have learned and received so they will want it for themselves. My desire to share these thoughts come in the form of something I term, "A Great Compelling." It would be wrong of me to keep quiet. So, I speak and write.

~I want my readers to know the Lord Jesus Christ for in him truth is found.
     ~I want my readers to grow closer to their heavenly Father in the richness of relationship.
         ~ I want my readers to let go of their anger, pain, bondage, sin, problems, and insecurities.
                ~ I want my readers to find and experience greater joy, contentment, peace, hope and love.
                         ~I desire for my readers renewal, revival, rejuvenation, restoration, revitalizing.
                 ~I wish for my readers a hunger for spiritual life that is never satiated or boring.
          ~I wish for my readers an intimate walk with God that is rich and satisfying, delightful.
     ~I wish for my readers a hope that never dies, a belief that keeps on believing, and life that is real.
~I wish for my readers a deeper faith that is not uprooted by the trials of living but is steadfast. 

In some small way, I am invested in the lives of my readership. My writing reflects the call I have on my life. A call I feel called to enact and complete for the remaining years of my life be they many or few. I love God and I love his Word, it spills out of me and cannot be contained. He has done so much for me that words fail to express how dear he has become to me. Life is joy when one lives close to God. He has a way of changing even the smallest of encounters into causes for celebration. A smile, a handshake, a lovely flower, a blade of grass, a soft baby blanket, the aroma of baking bread, the embrace of a friend--a healed heart and a forgiven soul. Everything is important when God is in control. He is a kind friend. Father God makes beauty from ashes and joy which comes in the morning.


#book #BlogRadio #Spirituality #Intimacy with God

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is God into Book Marketing?

I am a person of many theories. I notice a trend and then I try to make sense of it, what it could mean. I guess it is the part of me that is part philosopher. Blend that with my desire for spiritual truth, an awareness of God at work, and you get an interesting dynamic. The Christian  and religious book genre is something I have been tracking over the years. Some books rise to the top and get lots of attention. Is it just beginner's luck, good timing, or something else?

A few years ago I was teaching an adult Sunday school class about ways to go deeper with God. I made a statement then that got a little traction in the group. I mentioned that I have noticed certain books in the "Christian/Religious" genre that have literally flown off the bookstore shelf and into peoples homes around the globe. Some of these have been a phenomenal success (and unexpected) from the marketing analysis point of view. Their amazing success has seemed almost uncanny.

I don't think the book selling success is strictly of the author's doing or writing skill. No, I think not. There is another dynamic at play, at least I think there is. I think it has a lot to do with God. How so? My theory is this: I believe that God uses certain author's books to spread his message around the world. He multiplies the effort. I find it interesting what people are chosen for this way of being used. Their backgrounds vary and their books are widely divergent. But, the message inside their books, have a similarity. Redemption finds its way into their books' pages. Life, truth, and forgiveness are part of the message as well as overcoming and healing. Purpose is given to life, and a pursuit of greater understanding bleeds through the pages. I do not minimize the talents of the writers nor their effort in getting their books to press. Without their commitment to the process, we would be the losers.

~ 3 BOOKS ~
I will name three books that I believe that are this way.  Books written and delivered through the tools of believers in Christ in this present day. The books they have written have impacted lives around the globe. Even some of the people I know.

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young
 
Amazon link--The Shack 
The Shack  is a fiction book by Paul Young, through the yskills found in a natural born storyteller. The reader is placed in the mind of a man hurt by life and then haunted by the memory of the death of his young daughter. He cannot escape the punishment that comes with the joining of his father's tyrannical behavior with the losing of his innocent sweet child. God is presented in the form of three persons using surprising imagery. The book is both feared and embraced by the faith community. I find it delightful. It is obvious that this book is written to show the way God loves, heals, and revives people in the church whom have been injured in their emotions. The truths have a way of touching the inner person.


                                             Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson

Amazon Link - Prayer of Jabez 
I heard about Prayer of Jabez soon after it was released. Members in my church were talking about it. They were asking each other what to make of it. Did it work? How to apply it to their lives. This book takes a passage in the Bible, nestled in a book in the Old Testament, and explains its application to today. It explains that God wants to bless us and to expand our influence within the sphere of our influence. I remember the day I bought my first copy. I was in Walmart. A young woman took it off the shelf and told her male friend, "If you do what this books says you're supposed to get what you want." Of course, that was an abuse of the concept in the book. One has to be tied closely to the Source, God himself, and yielded to his way of living life. Many pray the prayer Jabez prayed as part of their devotional life.
The Purpose Drive Life by Rick Warren
 
Amazon link - The Purpose Driven Life 
Rick Warren lays out a forty week process in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, for helping people find out their purpose in life. Then he gives tools for living it out. It is an easy book to read for it is written for the layman who just wants to live a life that has substantive purpose. A plan for sharing this book and its content with others is encouraged through video sessions and lessons that are implemented within homes and churches, with neighbors and friends. My sister's family participated in a neighborhood study. It was a blessing in many ways and brought people together in a non-threatening way to discuss spiritual truths. A friendship developed between the people and a sharing of areas of faith with acceptance a part of this dynamic.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Prayer that speaks, a consolation text.



Meditation at a Monastery: Contemplative prayer. Prayerful thoughts that speak.
CONSOLATION

Why am I here, dear God? Why a monastery? Why do I have this desire to be here? I do not drink and I am not catholic. It does not make sense.

My dear child, it is not for you as much as it is for others, my people. Some have closed minds. They think I only work one way. But that is a falsity. I work in people’s lives, to change them, to bring them closer to myself. Some resist this thinking. They have to have neat little boxes with human parameters. 
Why is it that way? Why do people become rigid?

They don’t understand.

What don’t they understand?

My ways are complex yet simple. So simple that they stumble upon them. My grace is for all people, to all people, loving and kind, a sweet, sweet savor.

What is complex about it?

I am complex, as you well know. You can never know all there is to know about me. My ways are infinite. My truths, unsearchable, unknowable, in their fullness. Some day you will know more of my ways, my truths. That is what Heaven is for. We become family in the here-after, a beautiful loving family. There will be no denominations in heaven, no separation or boundaries of thought. We will be of one mind and one spirit, the Spirit of the living God.

Praises? I can’t wait for that beautiful day.
#prayer #monastery #God

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Praying that Makes the Grade, Why or Why Not?


SPEAKING OF PRAYER                            Meridian Minute no. 20



Two men went...to pray. ... The Pharisee stood and was praying this... ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust adulterers or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week...’ but the tax collector standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me, the sinner!’” Luke 18:11, 12 NIV


Prayer. What is prayer? For the people of faith, prayer is the game changer, the life-blood, the MO, the power. The way we get God’s attention to gain audience with him. God tells us to pray and that our prayers are of value to him. We would not get far without prayer, nor would we want to. Do you believe in miracles? Prayer is asking for miracles in the everyday and the wished-for.  It is activated through faith that views prayer as a gateway to heaven, God, by means of supplication.


There are prayers and then there is praying. Scripted prayers are formal in nature. Simple ordinary prayers are spoken in random phrases. Not all prayers are alike. What does God look at when we pray? How are our prayers received? We get a glimpse into the heart of the matter in the passage of the pharisee and publican (tax collector). The pharisee prayed a prayer filled with pious words and self-congratulation on his whiteness and purity of behavior. The penitent tax collector, on the other hand, spoke from a humbled attitude, aware of his unworthy state. Both spoke from their hearts. Their words fully exposed the truth found within their souls.


The pharisee spoke with an attitude of pride or arrogance. Self-righteous glorying is a falsity, a show of religion and, in reality, empty words and vain glory. The tax collector’s heart reveals a different sort of attitude. He is truthful, honest about his failures. Admitting his shame, taking ownership of the true state of affairs within himself, speaking out of his brokenness. He is in need of mercy from God. One person’s was for show, prideful, and the other person’s was sincere, repentant. Each one's motivation is obvious.


In Christendom, we find traces of both types of prayers and many in between. Some prayers are requests. Others are desires. Most have an expectant action. When God pulls off a  miracle, another type of prayer comes as a result. Praises in worship are prayers that honor God from a heart of thankfulness. There is another kind of prayer that originates from deep inside, voiced more as a plea for help than as a worshipful interlude. During suffering and sorrow, desperate and despairing people pray with great passion. Pretense is left behind. God becomes especially real during the difficulty. All the external conditions of life mean little as we pour our heart and soul out to God. Seeking him to meet us during the crisis of faith.


I have experienced God’s tender graces during heart-wrenching times. It is when I pray my most unaffected prayers as I seek God for hope, help, and answers. “God be merciful to me, the sinner,” is asking God to extend grace even though it is undeserved. That is honest talk. Prayer, when it is that way, is stripped away of all fluff and pontificating. It is raw, open, contrite, pleasing to the heart of God. The Scripture passage says that the tax collector went away justified. God listened to his prayer and acted in response to this plea. It was a miracle of grace. Prayers of a humble person seek audience with God, and, in so doing, touch the heart of God.
* * * * *
#God, #prayer #spiritual

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Monastic Life & The Monks of Vina


Book in Process: Monastic Interlude
Away from it all for a Moment in Time
 From my book: Excerpt from Visit 3 

 The Monks of Vina
The Monks of Vina, a movie documentary, takes us inside--really inside the walls, past the formal structures of the monastery. It delves into the thinking of some of the monks--several times over. Their personalities emerge, the joyful, the quiet, the contemplative, the artist, the potter, the unsure novice--monk in training, and so forth. It is enjoyable to watch the story of young men and older men who wrestle with the Calling to monastic life, to become a monastic. It is to give up everything material in order to gain everything in God. For three years those on the journey serve as novices until the time of their vows. It is a time of searching and learning. It is a cultural shock for them as they leave the outside world for the simple life. One of much prayer and quietness. 

An older monk, shared the difficulty he had coming to a place of peace right before he took his vows. Once it came, he was settled and at peace. That sense of peace lasted around ten years before another period of unsettled feelings surfaced and were addressed. He had played semi-pro baseball in his younger years. There was a picture of him pitching a ball at eighty-one years of age. It looked like he still could smack it right-nicely into the catcher’s glove. Amazing.There is very little talking in a trappist monastery. They work and eat mostly in silence. Upon entering the monastic society, the monks give up their worldly possessions. There is a place where a few of their former possessions are stored away. It reminds me of what we do with our garage items. It was emphasized that one cannot join a monastic community to run away from yourself or your problems. Self will need to be addressed.

 For me, the culmination of the evening was a spiritual thought. It came when the abbot answered a question during the Q & A session which followed the showing of the movie. The question was asked, "Why do you bless the grapes? What do you expect it to do?" 

The answer was beautiful. It went something like this, “As monks in a monastery, you would expect us to believe in the spiritual. We believe our lives are influenced by God and we want to be all God would want us to be. Not only as people are we blessed by God, but the things in the world are a part of the blessing of God. God's blessings do not stay only with the people. We bless the grapes that they might bring blessings to the people who enjoy them, as they drink the fruit of the vine. And, if they drink enough of it, they’ll be happy, too!” Everyone laughed at his ending statement. I had to agree. He was right. All we have comes from God and is a part of the grand scheme of things. 
A blessing is a prayer of grace toward others.

# spiritual #Trappist #God #wine
#The Monks of Vina #monastery #movie #contemplative 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book Marketing, Online Learning, D'vorah Lansky & You

"THE BOOK" AND WHAT TO DO NEXT!!!

 

~You are going to write "The Book."
            ~You are writing "The Book" ... 
                     ~You have written "The Book" ... 

Now What?

That is what this blog is about. What to do next. There are online services available to help you get your book 'out there' so it can find its readers and grow its following. It never hurts to have a plan. In fact, ... it is essential to have a plan ... that is, if you want to sell more than a few books. "Okay," you say, "tell me some more." I'm so glad you asked. Hungry for answers?

I had a book waiting to sell, but no one was buying. I spent a chunk of money to promote my self-published book -- but that only left me a bit poorer and bunches wiser ... I didn't sell many books that way. Tho' not really surprising -- that people weren't lining up to buy my book. My book was invisible. My author name, just another unknown ... or un-found. My understanding of the book marketing process? Nada. Right.

Ignorance is bliss? Not in this case. I didn't know something critical to my book's success. It was this, the author is responsible for selling the book. ... Light bulb was off!

I believed in my book. Of course I did. But that was not enough.
Say what?  It's about marketing?
A year later I decided it was time to figure it out,  my part in the process of getting the word out about my book. I started looking around on the web for publishing and marketing information. Cold turkey so-to-speak, since I virtually had no contacts in the writing or publishing field. Through Twitter, blogs, and after many industrious searches on the web, I found two blog writers who offer well-crafted blogs and are extra 'smart' and knowledgeable, experienced and savvy about the self-publishing industry. Their blogs provide rich content, easily accessible chunks of info right out-there waiting for unproven and wannabe authors to take a bite. That was me! I read their 'stuff' daily. The book marketing venue was scary and intimidating for a newbie, but I was hooked. I kept on reading marketing and publishing blogs for a few months. My status of having 'no connections' was a problem ... and a slow way to learn to-boot. I pushed myself to take some baby steps forward in this area. Next, I started comparing prices for book marketing training, thinking , I really should start somewhere instead of nowhere. One of the leaders in the field that I had come to respect, had posted a link to an online book marketing course. Because she was the one who posted it, I believed it would be a worth-while course. Reputation means a lot in this field. The price was right, so I jumped in.

It was one of the first things I did 'right' other than write my book! The course was excellent. The presentation hit all the major areas a beginner author needs to know.


I have learned what it takes to effectively market a book in a crowded market-place. Light bulb is on!

It is a good thing, too. I have two more books that will soon need wings to fly. This time I will be ready. Gonna market those babies through 'do'-diligence, planning, sharing, interacting, and the whole nine yards---using marketing know-how. I know I have something to say, and there is an audience out there waiting to receive what I have to give, that is why a writer writes. I am confident that this time my message will find its readers. And, in the process of doing the book marketing thing, I will meet a lot of nice people. Looking forward to it!  Am excited.... 

So, I am going to give you a nudge, if you are so inclined, thinking about that book that is in you or sitting in boxes in the closet.  I want to share with you what has helped me come up to speed, and is still helping me come up to speed. I am a work in process, still getting my ducks in a row, but now I will know in what direction to swim or to fly.  
 ~.~.~.~.~.~.~.
Here is a link to the marketing course that helped me. It is an excellent value and provides invaluable tools for understanding the various steps necessary to enter the publishing and marketing world.

I highly recommend this online marketing course for any person who wants to write a book or is seeking to increase sales for their current book. Known as, The Marketing Wizard, D'vorah Lansky, is a leader in the field. She specializes in making the online world of marketing an insightful enterprise. She unpacks this 'know-how' in five manageable and informative lessons. These lessons incorporate action steps which help solidify learning and also increase exposure to the critical aspects necessary for marketing a book in today's world.

The marketing boot camp is available as a self-paced program. 
Check it out. . .
http://becomeacelebrityauthor.com/access/aff/go?r=105&i-7

~D'vorah Lansky, M.Ed. Marketing Wizard and bestselling author.
Founder of Become a Celebrity Author.


Happy writing and book selling!
~N. L. Brumbaugh 

#Writing #Author #Marketing #Book Marketing #Publishing #D'Vorah Lansky

Monday, January 13, 2014

Escape from Lies, Begin the Journey

Every single day we find ourselves making choices that define our journey's destiny.
Take that first step.
We can be pretty hard on ourselves. True. We can. Sometimes we down-right lie to ourselves. It happened to me. I believed a lie that defined me from childhood up. It was not a lie that anyone spoke to me, it was just something I believed about myself, kinda like a nail in the coffin....not bringing any life to me. It was a deadening projection which colored my thinking. I never expected to succeed in college because of this internalized message which I had believed because I compared myself  to others. I did not believe I was "good enough" but mostly I did not believe I was "smart enough." I remember being asked, if there was one thing you could change about yourself, what would you change? My mind replied, I would want to be smarter.

Years later I realized that it wasn't true. It was a lie I had believed. I am smart enough. There are many types of intelligences. In education we call these, multiple intelligences. What an eye-opener when I realized the truth. My gifting is not in academic acquisition or test-taking excellence, not something that shows in any remarkable way on IQ measurements, but my brand of "smarts" have intrinsic value nevertheless. I have something unique to say that is all my own. My feelings and beliefs about myself in those days (and even now once in awhile) made me feel the invariable "less than" other people, especially in comparison to the achievers I always wished I could be, like those who could ace a test without even studying while I studied all night to pull a "B." I felt I didn't measure up. One gets in the habit of noticing others' successes and minimizing your own successes.

Lies enter easily and leave slowly. We must be able to ferret them out, to recognize them for what they are. I read a book a few years back about lies women believe about themselves. Many lies we believe come as the result of another person's negative comments. The perceived message becomes internalized. Eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia often have a hurtful "dig" that changed the person's self-perception into one of self-hate, the humiliation of it all, the assumption that they are unworthy or unequal unless they can change that "thing" that makes them unattractive. As a teacher, I have seen it many times, a child who is crushed by unkind statements or "mean girl" peer manipulation. For some children, school becomes a dreaded place, the bullying and insults are a daily occurrence. Some of us have experienced this. There are times as a teacher, I have addressed this issue with students, to call a spade a spade. It is important to become skilled at deterring negative exchanges that affect the social climate in classrooms, schools, churches, relationships and homes.

I can think of many lies that have tripped people up or perceptions that have contributed to low self-worth or personal stagnation. "If only ...."   "I wish........  "I can't ...." I'm not...." "Nothing ever turns out right for me."  "No one could ever want/like/love/care-for me."   Other contributors caused by ways people have treated us communicate the following three biggies: unmet needs, unhealed hurts, and unresolved issues. They damage our psyche and emotions. Even neglect. In my marriage I was rarely complimented. Years later, when I reentered the dating field, I found myself weeping the first time I was told the words, "You're beautiful." The neglect had communicated a lie. I no longer felt desirable. Emotional wounding can ravage the mind with hurtful messages that thought-by-thought destroy our sensitivities and lie to us. Internalized messages can be deeply held and believed, especially when positive messages are woefully inadequate or absent. It may take a life time of God's intervening to turn the ship around, to make us well and emotionally healthy. Spiritual health is tied to emotional health. The two cannot be separated. We owe it to ourselves to pick up the pieces of our lives and seek a way to our healing.

God is in the business of helping broken people. He wants to free us from the lies we have believed. Drawing close to God and seeking his healing deliverance is a first step in your life's journey of many hundreds and thousands of such steps. God uses Scripture, trusted friends, spiritual books, godly ministers, times of meditation, wise counselors, and other means to accomplish this. What do we have to do? We need to show up! We must want our own healing. We must confront the lies believed. 

A little secret I have found which really delivers the goods is this:  Put a new thought--a word of truth--in place of the lie you have believed. When negative thoughts have played for years they create well-worn paths, like a ruts in a dirt road. It helps to get off that track to form a new track. This will develop a positive pattern of right thinking, which, hopefully, guides our thinking in the way God would want us to think.

"I'm not smart enough" is replaced with "I am smart enough." 
  "I am the person God made me to be, and God doesn't make junk!" 
    "I am special. It doesn't matter what people think. It matters what God thinks."
      "I can do this because God will help me do it. We're in this together!" 
        "It's not the end of the world if it doesn't turn out right!"
             "It's okay, God must not have been in it. I'll do something else that God wants me to do."

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.*
 Transform your mind.
   Send the lies packing.
     Bring the truth statements home. 
       Ask Father God to help you do this one step at a time.
         Exchange lies for a truth.   
            When it happens, and it will happen....
                To God be the Glory!

Begin today. You won't be sorry you did.

*Loa-tzu

Written in connection with "When A Women Finds Her Voice," by JoAnn Fore.
Amazon Book Link is HERE














#When a Woman Finds Her Voice
N. L. Brumbaugh ... All rights Reserved

Saturday, January 11, 2014

When God Speaks: Repentance and Faith

Moments with God are never lost. They are stored up in heaven.



A time of quietness with God this morning. 
I was reflecting and meditating on verses of scripture. Then these thoughts:
 
CONSOLATION

Would you speak to me today?

I am answering your prayers—faithfully.

You are always faithful to me.

What does repentance require?

Truth, an honest heart, humbleness before your God, heed to my words, contrition for sins you have committed. Desire for me. Openness and sorrow for wrong-doing.

What impedes repentance?

Blindness, spiritual blindness. Callousness toward the things of God and righteous living. Self-grandizing, self satisfied actions. Lies and bitter roots of envy. Sin, foolishness, fornication, acts of evil, unrighteousness, pride, self-will, bitterness, unbelief, sorrow.

How can sorrow impede repentance?

Sorrow hides the truth, the selfishness . Sorrow takes over. Turn your heart to Jesus. He will reveal the true nature of what resides in it. People don’t do this. They hide behind respectable masks afraid of looking inside. They fail on many accounts to be truthful with themselves. They pretend all is okay when it is not okay. It is hard work. Don’t pass judgment on others. Only look at yourself. That is where your attention should be.

That’s right. It is so easy to look at others, and so hard to look at our-self.

You are so beautiful Lord. I praise you. I adore you. I love you. Great and precious are your promises. Lovely is your name. Happy is your presence. Holy is your name. Amen

Sing for me.

What would I sing?

Sing praises, rich and deep with much feeling.

Tell me about faith.

Faith bends toward God. Faith believes all things possible. Faith looks beyond itself to the greater work of God. Faith chooses to live again. Faith chooses the harder thing—to God’s glory. Faith forgives an offense, it pardons. Faith in God changes the world.

Listen to me my child.

I’m listening, seeking you.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Problem: Alone and Defeated: Answer: Ask God


We were new facebook buddies exchanging an occasional private message. Then one evening her words spoke of despair. They concerned and saddened me. I tried to think of what I could say to her but so little did I have to offer, feeling like I was out of my element. I did some introspection, thinking of what I do when despair surrounds me and gloom overtakes me. I began to share my thoughts. 


*  *  *
Her cry in the dark ... I'm losing hope---
"I've been walking this path alone all of my life. It is just me and God wrestling this one out. I'm just tired. Defeated. Losing hope."
 
My response ... You are not alone---
"I have an assignment for you. (!) Ask God to give you a verse or a song that will help you today. He knows your heart and He will give you something you can anchor yourself with today. When life is too much and I'm in the middle of something and I don't know what to do, I will send up a prayer like this. Dear God, send me a verse or a song today that will help me. I need peace today. God usually will give me a thought later in the day. Then I meditate on it all day, or many days, dissecting each word and what it means. My friend, God is enough even when the world crashes in around you. He will get you through this, someway somehow. I will pray hope for you today. When hope is dim, life becomes hard. I've experienced loss of hope and its painful reality. Please know this, I care. I will follow through in praying strength and endurance for you. Joy comes in the morning. Just you and God. Maybe this is a healing time. Hold onto Him for dear life. There is nothing wrong in that. 

May God bless you and keep you. May His face shine upon you." N.L.B.

* * *
Maybe this is you. Is your heart sad? Do you feel despair eating you from the inside out? I want you to know that with this blog post I am saying a prayer for you. That God will meet you with his love and care, and that you will know that hope remains. There is always hope. Do not despair. Things will get better. God listens to the brokenhearted and he meets us where we're at. 

God bless you, my friend.
Norma 

~A True Life Happening                       All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Homeless Problem & a Right Attitude



THE HOMELESS ISSUE
...even to the least of these...


The homeless population in my town is getting a lot of press as of late. The debate is gathering momentum with various concerns being raised almost daily; drugs, drinking, mental illness, hardship stories, infringement on businesses, community reactions, City Council decisions, panhandling, sleeping in the town square, on the sidewalks, bathing in the fountain, urine in the store doorways. It is becoming a troubling issue for our community. But there is something greater at stake than just a problem that needs fixing. It’s the human side of things, the practical business of keeping citizens safe, the town welcoming, and helping those in need.

Have you ever been homeless? Let that sink in for a moment. How would you want to be treated if you were? Hmmm. Well? Ouch! With kindness? What would Jesus do? That’s an easy one. We know what he would do. He would care. Jesus cared for the hungry, poor, fishermen, lepers, unclean, cheats, adulterers, beggars, infirm, sinners. He seemed to choose some of the most unlovely people to care about—and he didn’t seem to like the religious all that much.

I decided to ask a pastor, a man in his mid-seventies, his opinion about the homeless problem and the press its receiving. He smiled, a sad sort of smile, his eyes reflecting a deeper emotion, his tone soft. “The people of Chico should not be so arrogant. If you’ve ever been homeless you wouldn’t be. I can’t speak to this without my bias showing.” It was then that I remembered his story; a sixteen year old runaway from Wisconsin thumbing his way to California's cattle country, working as a cow hand, picking up jobs where ever, asking to sleep in the jail so he could get warm on a cold night. One morning with only a few coins to buy a cup of joe, his insides screaming with hunger pangs, he stepped inside a restaurant. A kind waitress took pity on him, serving him a full breakfast paid on her tab, his eyes teared up when he had shared the story with the congregation. Later, God used a caring man, one who commanded his respect, to demonstrate a path to God’s love. Someone who saw his potential and was not afraid to “show up” and help a teenager who was a mess.

But it’s not that simple is it? A few months ago I was with a group of women on a business lunch at a local establishment when the conversation turned to the increasing numbers of homeless and displaced persons in Chico. The comments flew. Chico shouldn’t put up with it. Homeless people are coming to Chico in droves because they’ve heard Chico welcomes them. It’s turning off newcomers to the Chico area. It’s hard on businesses, ruining downtown. I found myself mentally evaluating their comments, checking off most of the concerns as ‘true’ and agreeing that the City should address this in a proactive, precise way. Yet. I was disappointed; the conversation was incomplete. Even though I could agree with what they were saying, my feelings did not match up with theirs. It seemed as if the homeless were being grouped as “less than,” dismissed with some sort of callousness of attitude with no human face on it. I didn’t feel as they did. No, not anymore. Something had revealed my superiority-complex a few years back. In the process, I had awakened. No longer could I  easily write off  the homeless “lifers” or  “down-on-their-luck” or substance “users.”
* * *
It had been a busy day that day when God woke me up. I was rushing to get home, my turn to host the Ladies Book Dinner. I pulled up to the gas station. A strange man was standing by the pumping island at the only open spot, he made me feel uneasy. Oh well, no choice. I removed the nozzle as I furtively glanced at him. He was wearing a black trench coat and a fedora, his longish hair resting on his coat collar. His dark beard was trimmed and neat. He was clean, the coat was clean. A black mutt sat by his side. He moved toward me, his head bent down. “Could you spare a couple of bucks?” he whispered. I shook my head, muttering, “No, sorry.” His eyes paused a second, looking at my eyes. Then he stepped back but didn’t leave. It was making me nervous. I got back in my car. My daughter asked me what he had said to me. She thought I should give him some money. I didn’t think so, and I wasn’t going to either. I wasn’t going to contribute to his addictions! The arguments were all there, the way I had always viewed those begging by the side of the road or in store parking lots. People need to be responsible for themselves. Then, another thought entered into my thinking. It began hammering away at me, causing disquiet. If you have done it for even one of the least of these, my brothers, you have done it unto me. I ignored the voice as it continued on in a repetitive cycle, If you have done it  for even one of the least of these. .... These were Christ’s words. I was determined to not listen to that little voice, you have done it unto me. The pump shut off. Time to go, finally! In my flustered state, I didn’t put the nozzle back. I started my car and began to pull forward. “Thunk!” What was that? I looked back. The nozzle had popped out of my car and lay on the cement. The man was coming over to pick it up, his glance met mine. How foolish I felt, my face flushed. I drove around to the backside of the station to get on the street toward my home. As I left, I saw the man and his dog in the crosswalk heading in the opposite direction. I felt sickened inside. My thoughts scrambling with embarrassment and guilt. Was that a test? Was he an angel? Was that the Holy Spirit’s whisper?  If so, I had failed the test miserably. I had ignored the inner prompting because it didn’t fit with my rigid notion that was dictating my behavior, the belief that if you help someone like that it means you are enabling them. It was then that I knew I was wrong in my thinking. If God is prompting you to do it, do it! The encounter cured me. I have changed my ways and am more sensitive to God’s leading. I often pray for the homeless or panhandlers that I meet after helping them out. I will ask their first name and tell them that I'm going to pray for them. And, I do. Sometimes I say "God bless you," hoping they will sense his care through my care.

I cannot fix the homeless problem but I can care. I can support the various organizations that offer a meal, shelter, treatment, counseling, spiritual guidance, or a fresh start. I can treat the homeless with compassion for when we treat the least of these with human dignity we have done it for Jesus. Jesus cared, shouldn't I?

Friday, January 3, 2014

A New Start, A New Book, A Monastic Interlude

Stone Chapel at Abbey of Newclairvaux

MOMENTS WITH GOD IN MONASTIC SOLITUDE

Today I started the first entry to a new book I will be writing throughout the year of 2014, Lord willing. For one year I have wished to start this book but life happened instead. Now it is time. The setting will be a place where monastics live in an abbey in northern California near the Vina Plains and in the small township of Vina. Twice or thrice weekly for twenty-two years I have driven north to Vina, some twenty miles, to attend another church--the one where I worship. For years I have wondered what lay down the drive to the monastery past its white cross at its entrance. Never, until this  day, have I ventured there.

Committing to this writing project is one that will come easily. I long for quiet times with God, to seek his still small voice in a setting away from the busyness that makes life frantic at times. After arriving, I walked around just a small area of the grounds. The Abbey of Newclairvaux is a working farm and winery. I know some about it for its activities are mentioned in the local newspaper and other publications. It is also the subject of a new book written by someone who is not of the faith. I have read and wondered. Today was a fulfillment of the thoughts. I found myself entering a strange excitement in the inner person the moment I turned into the winding driveway. The sense of peace was immediate.

I parked the car then walked to the Chapel Stones area. I sat and wrote. I walked to the Church area. I sat on wooden pews and wrote while contemplating in complete solitude, undisturbed, not even a visitor entered--and there were many visitors on the grounds. I retraced my steps to the white metal chair and began to write again. I took a few phone pics and then continued writing. I glanced up. A light beam shone through the chapel window toward me as if to touch me. A few minutes later it was at my feet. It almost seemed like a providential sign, I am with you in the writing of this book.
My notepad on my lap with the light shining at my feet.
An Excerpt
Entry One: January 3, 2014, 3:30 - 4:30 p.m.
The sun is stroking deep inside, warmth is penetrating. A day, like a spring sun-filled day, it is. My first visit here at the monastery. The chapel, with its ancient stones, gives me the shivers. Its unfinished state is the blend of the old with the new.
It is a new year and I have an awareness that this new year, 2014, will bring many gifts and many sorrows. They both make up our days, weeks, months, and years. I am in a peaceful state.

I hear many birds chirping, a tractor or fork-lift being driven. The sun is descending in the western sky. Its rays touch my face and warms my body. I hear visitors talking, their  sandles slap against the asphalt sidewalk. Voices carry through the air. It is a working farm yet peaceful. A group of students in a circle sit in the open entry of the west-side arches to the Chapel, their bodies facing the warmth of the sun. They talk quietly as I enter the room.

I find myself relaxing. The praying and praises to God were flowing from my mind the moment I stepped out of my car and still are flowing every second. So beautiful are you, Lord God. You speak in the quietness. I do love you, Lord.