Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's a Beautiful World

Black-throated Mango
Anthracothorax nigricollis


I’ve decided to take up bird watching – when I’m not writing, of course. Since moving to Oklahoma, my husband and I have been amazed and delighted by the variety of birds that flock to our feeders.

When we first got here, we were fascinated by the abundance of hummingbirds, and their fearless approach to humans. Our deck almost always boasted at least one hovering at the feeder (left here by the previous owners), and usually several flitting around nearby. (They’re combative little creatures. You rarely see more than one feeding at a feeder at the same time. Usually one male claims the feeder and chases off any others that approach, at least when he’s in the vicinity.)

Now that winter has arrived, we’re seeing vivid red cardinals and gorgeou
s blue jays, along with some adorable, tiny birds with white crests. I don’t know what type of bird they are, but I intend to learn. Barnes and Noble, here I come!

It’s become a highlight of each day to take time to watch the birds in our front yard. Some days are too cold to actually sit on the deck for the best views of them, but we have this handy little cheapie telescope that allows us to see the little creatures at close range even through the glass storm door.

What joy our Father has provided us…what beauty and life surrounds us! Sadly, most of us fail
to appreciate it – indeed, we don’t even see it most of the time. It’s always there, and so we simply take it for granted. I don’t intend to do that in 2009. I want to appreciate every blessing God gives me, even the ones that are a part of nature. Those He created for all of us.

What a wonderful heavenly Daddy He is! He cares and is concerned about not only our everyday needs, but the aesthetic ones. The hunger for beauty. He put that hunger within us, and He satisfies it…if we only take time to see.

Why not make 2009 the year of looking at the world with new eyes and grateful hearts? Eyes wide open to the beauty around us. Hearts full of love and appreciation for the gift. May the year ahead be full of blessings – pressed down, shaken together, and running over – for each one of you!

Notes of Devotion - Christine Miller

This month concludes Christine Miller's "Names of God" series. We have enjoyed each month's subject immensely. Thank you, Chris, for sharing your thoughts with us on The Bookshelf!

EL ELYON—God Most High

by Christine Miller

Isaiah 46:9&10: “I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like Me. My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.”

This is my favorite name of God. It has stayed and strengthened me through every trial and is the name that has brought me comfort and courage, even in the throes of adversity. Why? Because He is on the throne. He is sovereign—because He loves me and I am His. Therefore, I can know and walk in the light of Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” I can know that even if He chooses to direct my life in a way I would not have chosen, I can trust that it will all work out for my good and, more importantly, for His glory.

A perfect example of this is seen in the life of Joseph. His brothers were extremely jealous of him and had plotted his death. He was thrown into a pit and sold to be a slave in Egypt. He had every reason to be bitter, to be angry and to blame God. But he chose to see with the eyes of faith. He found refuge in the strong tower of his El Elyon: “Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come closer to me’. And they came closer. And he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on the earth, and to keep you alive for a great deliverance. Know, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God.’” And later on in Genesis 50:19-20, Joseph says to his brothers: “Do not be afraid for I am in God’s place. As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this recent result, to preserve many people alive.”

God is God; and His purposes will be accomplished. Isaiah 14:24,27 states: “The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, ‘Surely, just as I have intended, so it has happened, and just as I have planned, so it will stand…For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?”

We can know with blessed assurance that everything that crosses our path and comes into our lives has been permitted by the sovereign hand of God. Trust Him; rest in Him; allow Him to work out His good purpose…in YOU!

Father, help us to remember every moment of our lives that You are El Elyon – God Most High! Every event in our lives is orchestrated in some way by Your hand, and we can trust You to work it all out to our good…and Your glory! Amen

Author of Note - Cynthia Hickey

Welcome to The Bookshelf, Cynthia! Before I start asking a lot of off-the-cuff questions, let’s find out who you are. Tell us about Cynthia Hickey, the lady next door.

My husband and I have a yours, mine, and ours family. Two of our seven children still live at home. When they move out, I’m throwing a party! We also have five adorable grandchildren. My day job is Detention Monitor at the local elementary school. Believe or not, this is when I get most of my writing done.

Wow - what an unusual "writing nook"! I just knew you were an interesting lady. Now we can talk about your books. How many do you have published?

Let’s not count my three PODs, okay? Fudge-Laced Felonies is released for retail the end of January 2009. Candy-Coated Secrets, book two in the Summer Meadows series, is shipped to Barbour’s Mystery book club at the same time and retails the end of June 2009. Chocolate-Covered Crime is released to the book club in October 2009.

How exciting for you! Tell us about Fudge-laced Felonies, since it will be the first one available.

Summer Meadows entered church on Sunday, not to find God, but to search for a killer.While transplanting the rosebush her church's handsome Sunday school teacher, Ethan Banning inadvertently killed, Summer and Ethan discover a hidden stash of diamonds, a rusty can full of cash, and a bloody gardening glove. This discovery sets Summer and her candy-making aunt on a search for a killer.

As Summer gets close to the truth, not only of the theft, but of her true feelings for Ethan, the diamond thief hatches a plan to hush the feisty sleuth.

Ethan's love for Summer stays buried beneath his teasing, waiting until God tells him it is time to declare his feelings. Meanwhile, Summer's quirky and daring resolve to solve the case has him acting in a heavy-handed manner in order to protect her, and almost pushes her away.

How long have you been writing? Was there an “aha” moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been making up stories since I was a kid. It wasn’t until I turned 40 that I did something about it.

No way are you 40! How much time do you devote to your craft?

Whenever possible. At least a couple of hours a day. Someday, God willing, I’d like to be able to afford to stay home and write full time.

Careful what you wish for.... Any advice for new and aspiring writers?

Never give up. Pray. Learn the craft. I know this sounds routine, but it works. Be ready for when God opens the door.

Now for that off-the-cuff stuff I mentioned.

If you could ask any person, living or dead, a random question – what question would you ask of whom?

You know, I’ve always wanted to ask Eve why she bit that fruit!

I'm sure every woman has wanted to say something to Eve.... What crayon in the box describes you best on a good day? Bad day?

Good day? Red. Bad day? Black. I’m a woman of extremes.

You’re going on a very long trip. Which of the following will you take with you?
Book: Bible
: Third Day

Person: My husband
: Dark chocolate M&Ms

What would you do today if you knew you had only a week to live?

Spend it with my family. Memories are the best thing I can leave them.

That is so true! What word annoys you more than any other? Why?

What “super power” would you like to borrow for awhile?
Oh, I would love to fly!

Me, too! Am I weird, or has everyone actually dreamed they were flying at some time in their lives?

Back to you.... What’s your favorite chore? Least favorite?

I don’t mind doing dishes. I like the smell of dish soap. Folding laundry is the worst. It’s so boring!

Anything you'd like to do but don't because of some underlying fear?

You may not believe this, but I can’t think of anything. I do have a bucket list. LOL. So far I’ve managed to scratch off write a book, get it published, ride an elephant, see my children grow up, see my grandchildren, go parasailing, see Hawaii.

Hey, you're doing well! Keep it up! Share a grammatical pet peeve…go ahead, sound off.

THAT THAT THAT, JUST JUST JUST. I hate the clutter words.

Share a societal pet peeve…here’s your chance to blast ‘em.

Lying. Can’t stand it. Be who you are. I am. If people don’t like you, they weren’t worth hanging around with in the first place.

Amen and amen! Thank you for hanging out at The Bookshelf for awhile, Cynthia! We can’t wait to read Fudge-Laced Felonies! When and where can we get it?

It’s available for pre-order at Amazon. After the end of January, you can find it at any retail store. Wonderful, huh?

Truly wonderful! Thanks again, Cynthia, and we hope you sell a million!

Cynthia is the mother of seven! Three step-children, one birth child, and three adopted children. She has five grandchildren. She and her husband live in Arizona, surrounded by their children. Story telling is in her blood. She can't imagine doing anything else and has made up stories since she was a child.

Visit Cynthia at her website

Notes on Writing

Shirley in Ireland, earl's bedchamber.

Everything We Write

by Shirley Kiger Connolly

As I plunge ahead to come up with a sensible writing tip for the year 2009, the one thing that comes to my mind is what I might share with other Christian writers that would be significant to the reader. As a woman of faith, I try to coordinate everything I do or say with something God is trying to teach me.

I spend a great deal of my time writing, not only historical fiction, but also devotional books, articles for newsletters, Bible Studies that I use to teach to women, speeches to give at luncheons, and on occasion material needed to direct and share at large church group retreats. I have to keep one important thing in mind for them all, even before I begin placing pen to paper. When I coordinate everything I do with a lesson from God, it brings order to my life.

"Seasoned" Writing

Significant order and purpose is important when dealing with POVs, when concentrating on appropriate dialogue for those intriguing characters, when coming up with descriptive settings or planning plots. Even when writing nonfiction about an issue that would be
understandable, uplifting, and interesting to the reader, yet timely and worth reading. All of us as Christian writers need to remember the worth of considering that key point that makes our writing and witness worth any salt at all. How salty are you?

Is everything you write glorifying God?

Raise your hand if you agree with me the greatest writer in the world was Jesus Christ, bar none. He knew how to wonderfully describe the greatest of settings, pen the most awe-inspiring parables, come up with the finest descriptive dialogue, and teach the greatest living truths.

All apply to our lives today, as much as when He wrote them. What the Lord said pertains to all women of faith, as writers, as speakers, as visionaries. And if we consider His words from the moment we sit down in front of our computers until the end of the day when we shut down our machines, our writing will only improve. His message or tip to us? You are the salt of the earth… the light of the world. Matthew 5:13.

To Christian writers particularly, the Lord is talking about the influence we have on our readers. With every statement, every declared expression, and every utterance our characters express; we become influencers with our writing. What is essential is NOT to lose that saltiness about which the Lord speaks—that potency. It can easily happen if we do not add enough salt to our written words.

Salt has a healing effect but can also rub people the wrong way. For the worldly reader, it should. On the other hand, your salty words and mine should leave the Christian reader with a feeling of comfort and satisfaction. Either way, we have done our job.

Illuminated Writing

The Lord also refers to our being lights by how we express our spiritual exuberance. Do our books, articles, devotions, or speeches sparkle with life? Can we look at our written
drafts and say our words are alive enough to inspire, or will they fall flat—lifeless on the reader?

God’s vivacious light shining through us through our writing also gives direction. It wil
l lead others on the right path, cleverly and subtly. Our written words should reveal that vitality in our own life as we share it with others. Something like a candle that stays well lit. Have you ever considered yourself as a candle?

As lights of the world, you and I should also write with spiritual individuality and uniqueness because of our determination to do so. Have you ever noted how a well-lit candle does not need the approval or recognition of the other candles to keep it burning? It can stand alone with grace. Even after a bad review or rejection by any editor. Even if that writer has never published in the one place she most desires.

No light of the world will allow disappointment to stop her from plugging away at the computer if she believes she is meant to write and works hard at her craft.

Spiritually Significant Writing

The final part of that tip from the Lord speaks to our spiritual significance as writers. A candle of the Lord shines with significance…even if it is broken or malformed.
Even broken candles have wicks, which will keep the candle flame burning, and always upward. It is that outside source within the candle that gives the wick its light in the first place. Broken or malformed, we as Christian writers shine too, regardless of the condition we are in, as long as our wick stays part of our purpose for shining. No writer should ever consider herself a failure, if she is sharing salt and shining as a light by her witness. Lights will only grow dim in the absence of spiritual influence, vivacity, individuality and significance. Or when a Christian writer quits honing her craft and begins to draw more attention to herself over God.

What again is that important tip for us as writers? To stay as the salt of the earth, as lights of world, to write and share only that which in the end will glorify God.

How vivid is your light?

Shirley has published several books and lives on the Southern coast of Oregon with her husband, Tom. A fiction and nonfiction writer, and teacher to women, Shirley also spends time with her animals, incorporating their experiences with how the Lord teaches people about life. She and her husband have served in the ministry since 1980. Shirley’s life passion is working with women and helping them grow in their faith. You can visit Shirley Kiger Connolly anytime at her website at http://apenforyourthoughts.blogspot.com/ or http://shirleykoinonia.tripod.com/.

Note: Shirley's book, I See God in the Simple Things, is scheduled for release in February. Shirley will be back with us next month to talk about that book - and other things. Don't miss it!

Contest Notes

The December winner of The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen is Amy Hopkins. Congratulations, Amy!

The January drawing will be for a copy of Leaving November by Deborah Raney. If you missed my review of this book, you’ll find it on My Book Bag — my “interview and review” blog.

You no longer need to do anything to enter the newsletter drawing each month. If you are subscribed to The Bookshelf, you will be automatically entered.
How to subscribe? Use the icon on my website’s Home page, or the link in the Navbar (top of page) on that site, which will put you on my e-mailing list. If you want Bookshelf articles to come right to your inbox each month instead of receiving just a link, use the FeedBlitz link in the top left corner of this page in addition to the manual icon on my website.)

An Extra Note

I wrote the following article sometime last year. (I think. I really don't even remember what forum or media it was written for.) With the new year off and going, I needed a kick in the pants to get me back in writing mode, and while sifting through past articles, blogs, etc., I found this. It reminded me what that sign above my desk is about, and provided a little gooser - you know, a tickle in your brain that says, "You're supposed to be DOING SOMETHING! Get up and get at it!" Just in case one of you needs a similar kick in the pants, here's my article.

(This piece has a writing angle...but I'm hoping you'll all enjoy it. It can be applied to any aspect of life. Are you an artist? Then create art. If you call yourself a Christian, behave like one. Do you claim to be a singer? Then hone those vocal chords and SING! Whatever you are or want to be, you must travel a certain path to get there. Take that first step...and then another...and another. Now you're on your way to BEING what you say you are.)

by Delia Latham

Writers Write ... right?

I've always loved quotes. You know, those wonderful little words of wisdom from various sources that just make you stop for a moment and think.
My grandmother must have passed that particular interest down to me. Her tattered, well-read Bible was filled with quotes. They were scribbled inside both covers and on the blank pages at front and back. Even the margin of a printed page wasn't exempt if a particular scripture brought to mind some witty little saying she'd heard or read - or even dreamed up herself. (Hey,maybe Granny gave me the writer's itch, too!)

Whatever the reason, catchy little phrases, words of wisdom, proverbs - to me, the really good ones are like gold nuggets: hard to find, but their value far outweighs all the time and effort invested. When one of them really strikes a chord in my mind, it resonates - and I never forget it.

One such little gem is straightforward and succinct: Writers write.

The first time I saw it, I thought, "Well...duh!" (I know, that's really profound.) But come on...does there even exist a more useless waste of two words? Of course writers write - they're writers!

Then I got really serious about my own contributions to the writing community, and I finally saw the light. Because no matter how pristine my intentions, every day is a brand new commitment to my chosen field. Back when I was writing in a notebook or pecking out words on a cantankerous old typewriter with four little ones playing at my feet, it didn't seem so hard to just sit down and do what I needed to do - write. But then there was the advent of the peronal computer - oh, sweet bliss! No more messy eraser ribbons. No more black smudges all over the page. No more retyping an entire page to correct an error I missed in the initial edit. Could life be any sweeter?

Oh, yes, it certainly could.

I was ecstatic when I discovered the World Wide Web. Those pesky trips to the library for research? A thing of the past! Everything I needed was right there at my fingertips - I just had to go online and get it. A multitude of information, readily available. Along with games. And online shopping. And e-mails. And on...and on...and on. That little CPU box holds a veritable plethora of things that have nothing to do with writing. And for a natural procrastinator like me,they spell d-e-a-t-h to a writing career.

Shopping is a real killer. You tell yourself you're doing a good thing - after all, you won't spend as much time away from writing if you just go online and order that blouse you're looking for in a particularly hard-to-find shade of cantaloupe crush. Uh-huh.

Do you know how easy it is to while away an hour or two playing Boggle online? I have done exactly that in what felt like only ten or twenty minutes. And it's so easily justified! Any number of writer's workshops will tell you that in order to write effectively, you must sharpen your mind with a variety of stimuli. The occasional break from stringing words together is good for you. It stimulates! It inspires! It refreshes the thought process for when you return to your manuscript.

And that's the kicker. Returning to your manuscript. I have become the world's best at finding just one more thing to do before writing. And then just one more.
So, along with a couple of other favorites, I always keep those two words in gargantuan, vividly colored letters somewhere on or near my desk:


It's not a definition any longer. It's a reminder. I cannot call myself a writer if I don't write. I'll never see my name on the cover of another book if I'm too busy surfing the web to write one. And though I may eventually find that perfect blouse in exactly my size, color and price range, my chances of wearing it in an author photo are nil - if I haven't done the one thing that qualifies me as an author:

Because that's what writers do.