Posted by: Jackie | July 17, 2008

A Collective Sigh

 

Cicadas chatter in the tree boughs. The hum of a weed eater, the smoky smell of meat on the barbecue wafts through the warm air. I love taking walks in the late afternoon. That block of time, just before the sun beds for the night in a wonderful display of orange, pink and lavender. The sun, always brilliant and dazzling, must go out with flair.

            Morning walks are great as well. Along with the cooler temperatures, the earth awakens with a joyful sound. Those who have to drag themselves from bed and rush off to work often fail to notice this celebration.

            Yet, there’s a calm peacefulness about the evening that I enjoy. Kind of like God and his earth heave a collective sigh at another day well done. 

            I feel him most on the soft evening breeze. It cools my sweat-drenched neck and forehead like soft kisses. I can almost hear his whisper asking was this a good day? Tell me about it.

            Good or troubled, I’m free to pour out the events of my day. His holy presence wraps tender arms around my spirit as he rejoices over the good, laughs at the silliness and comforts my disappointments. He promises that tomorrow is a new day and we’ll try to make it better.

            We all need these “sitting at Jesus’ feet” times. We need them to keep our spirits from drying up and sapping the tenderness from our hearts. We need these times to help put our lives in perspective.

            Call me a fanatic, or a Jesus freak, or what have you. But I’ve lived on the other side. I’ve rushed through each day only to collapse at the end and wonder where the time went. I’ve faced working out my problems alone. I’ve felt that emptiness when I’m alone and friends are busy or it’s too late in the night to call anyone.

            I’ve been there and never want to go back. I’m too happy knowing that wherever I go, the Holy One is there, too. (Psalm 139). I like knowing that when problems arise, he’ll come when I call on him. (Psalm 91:15) I love knowing that he’ll never leave me, (Matthew 28:20) and that his love for me can never be measured. (Ephesians 3:18).

            The God of the universe is big and small enough, that he can meet me on a park bench and talk over my day as we watch the sunset. It’s truly astounding to me. I can’t help but heave a sigh of relief knowing that, no matter what, I am not alone.

Advertisements
Posted by: Jackie | July 12, 2008

A Walk in the Park: Grace in Action

 I left the house, furious, knowing if I didn’t make a hasty retreat there’d be casualties from the battle about to ensue. Over time, I’ve learned it’s better to walk away than to take hostages with my short fuse and sharp tongue.

 

Much better, I’ve found, is to consume that fuming energy by taking a brisk walk and hashing it out with God. He’s a big guy and doesn’t seem to take my ranting personally like family and friends often do.

 

As I stormed along, it went something like this:

“I’m at my limit, Lord. I’ve had enough!”

 

Turn right at the corner.

 

“Maybe I can’t do anything right now about it, but I’m going to get to where I can take care of myself. No more depending on others! This is it.”

 

Antagonistic bee buzzing around my head. Better cross the street.

 

“I know you’ve asked me to do this other thing. But it’s simply not working out. I know you’ve asked me to hang in there and you’ll take care of things, but this is too much. I’m done! Done I tell you.”

 

Slosh through mud puddle. Why do people have to over water their yards?

 

“I’m just going to have to set everything aside and focus on taking care of myself.”

 

To which, as I stopped long enough to take a breath, the Holy Spirit calmly replied, If that’s what YOU feel YOU need to do.

 

Think that stopped me? I’m much too thick headed for that. No, my tirade continued all the way to the park, with intermitted replies of, If that’s what YOU think. Yes, YOU can do that very thing….

 

“Nothing ever changes, Lord.” I plopped down on a shady bench at the duck pond. This is my favorite spot for two reasons. (1) Because when you’re mad, you need the shade to protect you from heat of the Texas sun burning you up more. (2) Because when ducks walk, their butts waddle and that just cracks me up.

 

After sitting there for a while, the Holy Spirit must have felt I’d griped myself out enough to be more pliable. He reminded me of how much had changed in my life, my family and my marriage. Then he brought back memories of all the times He’s been there for me and helped me though difficult times. With each memory, I sank lower on the bench. Finally he asked, Are you ready to discuss what I want now?

 

A group of ducks swim past, quacking in a way that sounds a lot like laughter. My eyes narrow on them and I resist the urge to tell them to hush, just incase anyone was near enough to hear me.

 

My trip back home was more subdued. Like the company of a long-time friend, I felt the Holy Spirit walking beside me, discussing how He sees my situation and how I’ve overlooked certain aspects that need consideration. He doesn’t condemn. Doesn’t should me to death. In his sweet, loving way, he calms my troubled heart and reminds me that he will never leave me to face trials alone.

 

The simple fact is I have no control over what others do. I only have control over my own actions and reactions. Even that control, I end up handing over to him on our trek home. His sweet fragrance of forgiveness and peace fills my spirit and by time I enter the house again, I’m ready to face the issue, knowing I’m not facing it alone.

Posted by: Jackie | July 8, 2008

The Color Of Pain

Today while driving along between Waco and Dallas, we passed several cornfields full of vibrant colors. It amazed me at how many shades of green and yellow God could spread across one plot of land. Interspersed with this, was the rusty red of the corn tops.

 

 I couldn’t help but feel the complete wrongness of putting limits on God. Our boxed in thinking that says circumstances or our lot in life sets boundaries we can’t circumvent.

 

  On the American Christian Fiction Writer’s (ACFW) loop, the question of the week is about how pain has hindered or helped your writing. Pain, struggle, strife are all a part of life everyone must endure. It’s that common thread, as God’s created ones, that we share. 

 

My own story has its moments. I’ve grown up without a father because he tried to hurt me in a drunken rage when I was a baby. So his absence left me in a single parent home. I was molested as a child. When I was 16, my mother informed me that she was a lesbian and probably always had been. So I ended up leaving home before I graduated high school. For the next several years I struggled with not only with how to deal with the strained relationship with my only parent, but with my relationship with God as I learned to become my own person. I’ve experimented with drugs, married an unbeliever who couldn’t quit the drug habit as easily as I did, and have had to raise our children in a divided home for many years before my husband finally gave his life over to the Lord.

 

King David of the Bible knew about pain and suffering. Like most of us, a lot of it was brought on by his very own rebellious actions and choices. But despite his pain, he penned the most beautiful words that still encourage people thousands of years later. In Psalm 121, he said, “I look up to the mountains…but my help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

 

Another friend and writing mentor, said during one of her critique groups that we are all bound together by the Holy Spirit. And that He uses our experiences to help connect us all. We need to show kindness to each other in the words of our stories. Uplifting, instead of bringing down. 

 

I can let my life’s circumstances break me, or make me stronger. As I stared out over the beautiful cornfields, I felt God’s grace so deeply in my spirit. And the God who painted the deep blue sky, dotting it with white and gray clouds, who picked that particular color of red to top the corn with, can take the ugliness of my life, and help me to turn it into something beautiful that will bless others and bind me with my brothers and sisters. This binding makes us stronger. It builds us up. Gives us strength to walk out our lives here on earth.

 

I pray God will make beauty out of your junk.

Jc

 

 

 

I read on the Novel Journey; blog about how Thomas Nelson Publishing is cutting down on the amount of books they put out each year, focusing instead on putting out a better quality of stories.

 

This has some authors worried that the market will be harder to break into. As an unpublished writer, I can sympathize.

 

Mike Durant who wrote this piece (click on the link to see the full article), said, “the appeal for quality above quantity should resonate with readers. Who doesn’t want to see better books?” I couldn’t agree more. In the past year, I’ve struggled to find a really good book that grabs me from the beginning and holds on until I reach the last page. I can count on one hand the books that have done that in the past three years.

 

But not only is Thomas Nelson playing by these rules, so is Disney which, according to Durant only released 8 pictures in 2007. Other animation companies are releasing 20+ on average.

 

I just came home from seeing Wall-E and I can tell you, the difference in quality is evident. When Walt was alive, he set high standards and today, Disney seems to be still striving to put out high quality movies.

 

Wall-E was not only beautifully done, but touching as well. I’ve hardly ever left a theatre after seeing a Disney movie without having some deep thoughts to chew on during the drive home and sometimes into the night.

 

Durant said, “It’s not a coincidence, I think, that both executives have come to eschew the mass production mentality that drives so many in their respective fields. Hyatt calls it a “conveyor belt,” Cook a “meat grinder.” And that’s from the guys in charge! Either way, breaking this “addiction” (Hyatt’s term) is not without consequences. The downside of publishing better books, in part, means taking more time with less titles. Therein lies the rub.”

 

Well, if there in lies the rub, then perhaps it’s time to put more of an effort in what we do. Our culture indeed has the “conveyor belt” mentality, and maybe it’s time to turn off a few switches and look around at what we’re missing. And this doesn’t pertain to just writing books or putting out movies.

 

This goes for whatever you put your talents toward. Colossians 3:23 encourages us to put our best effort in our work. “And whatsoever ye do, do [it] heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”

 

How about you, is it quantity or quality you feel is most important?

Posted by: Jackie | June 24, 2008

CSFF Blog Tour – Kathryn Mackel

 Kathryn Mackel’s newest release: Vanished

Product Information:

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Creation House (August 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599792117
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599792118
  • Kathryn’s website and Blog: http://www.kathrynmackel.com/  http://godanddogwalking.blogspot.com/

    This month the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring author Kathryn Mackel. This author writes for all ages, from children’s picture books up to Adult Thrillers.

    My favorites are her YA speculative fiction novels: The Birthright Project series.

    Mackel is also into screen writing and has participated in such project such as The Left Behind movies and Hangman’s Curse, it leaves me wondering if there’s nothing this amazing woman can’t do.

    You can check out her many projects by visiting her website (see above links) or her blog which is about her wanderings with God and her dog. Or you can check out her books by clicking the amazon link below.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1599792117 .
    Here’s a blurb about the book from her website: 

    Vanished

    After a  bomb explodes in a working-class neighborhood of Barcester, Massachusetts, Police sergeant Jason Logan fights to keep order and assist the injured while desperately waiting for aid to arrive. Is the mist from the bomb preventing ambulances and fire trucks from coming in? Or has something far more dire occurred?
    As the hours tick by, Logan tracks the terrorist mastermind—whom he learns is not done wreaking havoc. Cut off from modern medical resources, nurse-practitioner Kaya de los Santos treats the injured and soothes the fearful, unaware that her teenaged son Ben is on the run from both the cops and the terrorist.
    The vanished begin a battle for survival against enemies they’ve always known—and forces they’ve never even imagined.

    Kathryn Mackel is one of the best things to happen to suspense fiction in a long time—and Vanished is her most intense book yet. This book kicks off a series that’s guaranteed to give you hours of white-knuckle reading.  —Jim Denney, author of the Timebenders series and Answers to Satisfy the Soul

     Enjoy!

    Jc

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Posted by: Jackie | June 9, 2008

    Trail Buddies

    I’m a firm believer that life is a journey we take. Even the Bible says God will guide our paths, so it must be true. And just as our roads take us into high and low places, I believe sometimes we travel alone, and other times we are gifted with companions.

    Sometimes, you have companions that you wish would stay on their side of the track. They’re annoying, rude and often even smell. Hate to say it, but it’s true.

    Other times, your companion is so right, their steps are in sync with yours, they laugh at all your stupid jokes and cry over your sad stories. And you do the same for them. These companions make the hard walk completely worth every shoe wearing step.

    More often than not, these companions are the ones who only walk with you for short spurts, then they must head along another road. The cool thing is that, sometimes, they come back.

    Have you ever had such friends? Those ones that come and go in your life?

    I’ve had a few. And not all were the in-sync types, either. Yet, when you least expect it, there they are. An anonymous phone call at some strange hour. Or perhaps passing by in the last place you’d expect to see them.

    Just a couple of years ago, I re-met a friend who used to work in a daycare with me when my daughter was merely a toddler. She had no kids at the time. When we ran into each other in the hall of a school I was working at, I found out she had two kids attending there. The following year, I ended up with her special needs son in my class where I worked as an aide. I took a liking to this kid, who’s simply a delightful character. But I feel that because of our history, I have a tendency to have a little more patience with him, a little more desire to help him understand difficult lessons.

    Suppose God had planned that all along?

    Just yesterday, I got a call from another friend that, in all honesty, I thought was dead. She’s had a difficult life, and when she lost contact a few years ago, I thought life had finally gotten the better of her. So imagine my surprise when I listened to her message on my phone. I only heard half of it, because I was shouting to everyone who’d listen that she was still alive. I was so happy to know that.

    Anyone who knows me, also knows I’m a big Lord of the Rings fan. I love fantasy because of the eternal truths these stories tell. (But that’s another article).

    Anyway, LOTR, Samwise is a Frodo’s best friend. Gandalf tells Sam not to leave Frodo, no matter what. And Sam stays good on his vow all through the books. Frodo tries to leave him. But Sam won’t have it. I love the climatic scene in the last movie where Frodo has gone as far as he possibly can. Golum is still trying to get that ring. Sam finally looks at his beaten friend who’s not always been such a great companion, and tells him, “Maybe I can’t carry your burden for you. But I can carry you.” And he does, throwing him over his shoulder and going the rest of the way for them both.

    I want to be that kind of friend.

    And hey, despite all Sam went though, Frodo still didn’t throw the ring into the lava. That’s the way it is, people. Sometimes, God just wants us to take them as far as possible, then He’ll do the rest, one way or another.

    We need to ask for the wisdom to know when it’s time to carry, and time to let go.

    God will let us know. I believe that.

    JrC

    Posted by: Jackie | May 20, 2008

    Embracing An Intriguing Book

    This week, the
    Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
    is introducing
    Embrace Me
    (Thomas Nelson March 4, 2008)
    by
    Lisa Samson

    ABOUT THE BOOK

    Biting and gentle, hard-edged and hopeful…a beautiful fable of love and power, hiding and seeking, woundedness and redemption.

    From the book cover: When a “lizard woman,” a self-mutilating preacher, a tattooed monk, and a sleazy lobbyist find themselves in the same North Carolina town one winter, their lives are edging precariously close to disaster…and improbably close to grace.

    This is definitely a story of redemption.

    Liked: I found the first person accounts interesting and very well handled. Writer’s will do well to study how Samson handles not only the passage of time, but telling a first person story though multiple view points.

    I found many intriguing plot twist and turns that eventually sucked me into the story and made the book hard to put down.

    Dislikes:The story dragged at first. I had a difficult time getting into the character’s and figuring out their motives and why I should like them. Valentine seemed a little to hard and cynical, except in her care of Lella who I found endearing. Drew was everything I despise in TV preachers. Augustine seemed too perfect.

    At first.

    But as the story really began to unfold, they came alive to me. Then the plot began to take some interesting dips and turns. That’s when the story redeemed itself and made the beginning struggle worthwhile. 

    If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE  I suggest you get the book and read the whole thing.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

    Lisa Samson is a Christy Award-winning author of 19 books, including the Women of the Faith Novel of the Year, Quaker Summer. Lisa has been hailed by Publishers Weekly as “a talented novelist who isn’t afraid to take risks.”

    In Embrace Me, the latest novel by acclaimed author Lisa Samson, readers are privy to the realization that regardless of outward appearances…hideous, attractive, or even ordinary…persons are all looking for the same things: love, forgiveness, and redemption.

    This story explores a world that is neither comfortable nor safe, a world that people like Valentine know all too well. Masterfully crafted by Samson and populated by her most compelling cast of characters yet. It is a tale of forgiveness that extends into all spheres of life: forgiving others, forgiving oneself, forgiving the past.

    She lives in Lexinton, Kentucky, with her husband and three kids.

    Posted by: Jackie | May 2, 2008

    The Big Picture is HUGE!

    This week, the
    Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
    is introducing
    The Big Picture
    (NavPress Publishing Group April 15, 2008)
    by
    Jenny B. Jones

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
    Jenny B. Jones is the author of A Katie Parker Production series. The other books in the series are In Between and On The Loose. Though now an adult, she still relates to the trauma and drama of teen life. She is thrilled to see her writing dreams come true, as her previous claim to fame was singing the Star Spangled Banner at a mule-jumping championship. (The mules were greatly inspired.)

    Jenny resides in Arkansas, where, as a teacher, she hangs out with teens on a regular basis.

     

    ABOUT THE BOOK
    Sometimes there’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy—and Katie Parker is walking it.

    School is winding down for the summer but Katie Parker is having a bad day. After leaving the drive-in, where her imploding love life was the main attraction, Katie arrives home to a big surprise on the Scott’s front porch.

    Her mother, Bobbie Ann Parker, a former convict and recovering addict, wants to take Katie away from her family, friends, and church. Now Katie’s life will be changed by a series of dramatic choices as she struggles to understand what family and home really means.

    Katie is forced to walk away from In Between, leaving behind a family who loves her, a town drive-in to save, and a boyfriend who suddenly can’t take his eyes off his ex. When the life her mother promised begins to sink faster than one of Maxine’s stuffed bras, Katie knows she needs to rely on God to keep it together.

    But where is he in all this? Can Katie survive a chaotic life with her mother—and one without the Scotts? And if God is there, will he come through before it’s too late?

    A Katie Parker Production series offers teen girls real-world fiction balanced by hope and humor. The The Big Picture helps us realize that the difficult chapters in our journey are only part of God’s big story for our lives.

    You can read the first chapter HERE

    “A heroine to love. Jones just gets better with every book, and The Big Picture is her best one yet.”
    ~BARBARA WARREN, author of The Gathering Storm

    “Such inspiration in a package of fun and faith!”
    ~EVA MARIE EVERSON, author of the Potluck Club series

    Ok, I have to put my two cents in here about this series.

    I. Love. Them.

    When I got the first book, I gave it to my 15 year old daughter who was searching for something to read. I said, “Try this out and let me know if it’s any good.”

    The next day, (no kidding) she comes into my office, holding the book close to her chest as she says in her best “Drama Queen” impersonation: “I loved this book. This is what I want. Why can’t there be more books like this out there?”

    Hey, no kidding. She went on so much about it that I snatched it from her hands and said, “Let me have a look at that.” Then I read it and haven’t laughed so hard over a book in a long time. And yes, even shed a few tears which just doesn’t happen. It doesn’t. Not to me.

    So now, we are both big fans of this series and fight over who will read the next one first. Of course, she got her hands on it before I did this time. And now all I hear is “Where are you? Oh man, that was so funny. Just wait until you get… uh, never mind. I don’t want to spoil it for you. But tell me when you get there.”

    Yeah, that’s how it is around here.

    This is a series you’ll want to get into if you have any teens around. As a parent, I find them refreshing and simply a fun read.

    Jackie

    Posted by: Jackie | April 29, 2008

    Hello world!

    Well, I want to condense my other two blogs and I think this one will work for me. I do book introductions/ reviews for both Adult and children’s books. Both Christian and Secular. I like to keep up on news on children/ YA movies and books, which is my area of writing. But I also enjoy touting my Sci-fi/ Fantasy friends as well as other books that I’ve read or know have just come out.

    I also like to offer tips for artist. Things I pick up along the way, or perhaps links to more knowing writers than myself.

    So, despite my busy schedule, I’m going to attempt one more time to do the blog thing and develop a presense on the web. Just what this world needs, right? Another blogsite?

    Jackie

    « Newer Posts

    Categories