Monday, March 9, 2009

Memories & Stuff

I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff the past few days. Things. Possessions. The tangible items we surround ourselves with and that make up our physical environments.

My mother-in-law passed away in February, and of course all four of her surviving sons (one son predeceased her), along with their wives, children, and grandchildren, were there to wish her farewell. After the wrenching deathbed scene and the beautiful services held in her memory, however, we were faced with what to do with her stuff.

Never in my entire life have I been so aware of the paltry value of material belongings. The truth of the old saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” was brought vividly to life – but in reverse: One man’s treasure is another man’s trash.

My heart ached as we sorted through drawers and closets packed full of this once vibrant woman’s life. Photographs. Old letters from down through the years – kept for what we could only assume were sentimental reasons, only to be tossed into the trash by her successors. We loved her, but had none of the same emotional attachments to the missives she had treasured for reasons unknown to us. Dishes, sorted through and picked over – a pretty bowl going home with one family, a platter with another, a set of tumblers with someone else. Clothes. Linens. The stuff a household is made up of.

Those items retrieved and saved from the Goodwill boxes by different loved ones were mostly chosen as “memory pieces,” rather than for any real monetary value. I remembered her head bent over the blocks of a lovely quilt as she made the tiny, painstaking stitches that held it so beautifully together; a granddaughter recalled Grandma often using a pretty but inexpensive serving dish; someone else knew she loved reading a certain author’s work and claimed a set of well-read books. And so it went. One…two…three items at a time, the stuff that made up her life was claimed or cast away until her home held nothing but scattered remnants worth nothing to anyone except the woman to whom we had so recently said good-bye.

I found myself wondering why we are so caught up in obtaining more and more stuff stuff we can’t take with us when we go. And don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying there’s anything sinful about having pretty things around us. It’s not immoral to buy an item just because it goes well with a collection, or to treasure an object for it’s beauty alone.

It’s just so crucial to remember that they’re only things. Nothing – no stuff – is more important than leaving behind a legacy that matters: kind words, loving smiles, warm hugs, contagious laughter, unfeigned compassion, an unforgettable sense of humor…and so many other real pieces of ourselves. These are the things that will live on in the hearts and minds of our children – and theirs – so much longer and more memorably than any piece of lace or crystal or china, no matter how delicate or how expensive or whose label it bears.

Am I pleased to own the quilt Trudie made? Absolutely. I will treat it with great regard, protect it, and most likely leave it to be picked up and treasured by one of my own children … someday, when my own household stuff is being picked through and disposed of by mourning family members.

But what Trudie left that I treasure the most are memories. Like the time, very early in my relationship with her, when she took me shopping for shoes because I had none fit to wear to church – and she enjoyed the purchase as much or more than I did, though we both knew she couldn’t really afford to be buying those shoes. I remember her delighted smile when she held up my newborn baby girl – her first granddaughter – for everyone to see. As a nurse’s aide working in the maternity ward of our local hospital, Trudie had been there to clean the baby up and wrap her in a receiving blanket. I recall how she saved the life of my second daughter, who was born at home, by finding and tying off the persistent bleeder in her little umbilical cord – even though she herself had just been released from the hospital, and she tied that cord with hands that trembled violently. There were times when she showed up, unannounced, to take care of me after surgeries or illnesses. She possessed a wonderful, quirky sense of humor, and the ability to find something laughable in almost every situation.

I could go on, but I think the picture is clear, isn’t it?

When we depart this earthly life, we will leave something behind. Will it be lots of tangible stuff … which may or may not be considered worthy of keeping by those we leave behind?

Or will it be a real treasure: the unforgettable, undiscardable, untarnishable stuff that memories are made of?

Notes of Devotion - Cathy Bryant

Victorious Living

by Cathy Bryant

I prayed as he walked into the batter's box. "Please, Lord, just this once, let him at least hit the ball." All season long, he'd been in a slump, not able to make contact.

Whack! The sound of the bat as it connected with the ball let me know it was a solid hit. He ran the bases with all the energy and speed he could muster - first base, second base; he rounded third base on his way home, the cheers from the bleachers blending with my own cries of jubilation.

I ran to the dugout, and he met me there, his face aglow with a smile that could light the entire East Coast.

So what if it was only T-ball? It was a victorious moment, and one I'll never forget.

Did you know that's how God wants us to live? Not just some of the time, but all the time? As Christians, the victory has already been won for us.

As pilgrims in a world that is not our home, it's so easy to be defeated and walk around with burdens and downcast faces. We're all prone to it. When we allow that to happen, we give the world a negative impression of what it means to be a Christian.

"With God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies." (Psalm 60:12, NIV)

If we give in to defeat, then Satan wins. In order to keep that from happening, we need to first of all remember who the enemy is. His name is Satan, and he's a liar and thief (John 8:44; 10:10). We may want to label our circumstances or other people as the enemy, but you can be sure that Satan is at the bottom of it.

Next we need to realize that God has already won the victory (I Corinthians 15:57). Christ has completed the work that leads to victory.

Last of all, we should remember that as believers we belong to God. He's already accomplished what we couldn't do by reconciling us to Himself through the blood of Jesus, making us co-heirs with Christ.

I don't know where you are in your spiritual journey. You may just be stepping up to the plate. You may have already made contact. You may be rounding the bases even now. No matter where you are, remember the victory that is ours in Christ. Every step we take leads us closer to home!

Dear Lord and Savior, Thank You for being the Author and Finisher of our faith. Thanks for being our Champion, our Victor, for securing for us the kind of life we could never secure on our own. Make us aware of Satan’s schemes. Thank You for the promise in Your Word that says if we resist him, he will flee. We’re grateful that we belong to You. That thought brings such peace and joy. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Cathy Bryant © 2009

Cathy Bryant lives in a 100-year-old farmhouse (complete with a front porch and white picket fence) with one amazing husband, two temperamental cats, and a garden full of flowers, hummingbirds and butterflies (not to mention the giant mosquitoes!). She is the proud mother of two wonderful sons, and the daughter of her prayers. A teacher by profession, Cathy currently teaches private voice and piano, and serves as a church organist. She is also following a lifelong dream of being a writer, and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

Author of Note - Max Anderson

Welcome to The Bookshelf, Max! Thank you for taking time to talk with us. But before I start asking a lot of off-the-cuff questions, let’s find out who you are as a person. Please, take a moment to tell us about Max Anderson, the man next door.

I’ve been involved in the production of films, video programs, and television commercials for most of my life. I own my own production company. As a child, I was “killed” while riding my bike, by a hit-and-run driver. But…since the film I was in was being shot in black and white, the blood from my wounds came out of a chocolate syrup bottle. My work has given me the privilege of traveling all over the world.

My wife and I have been married for 40 years and have an adult son and daughter. Our son is an attorney in Chicago and our daughter teaches 2nd grade in the Orlando area.

I’ve followed NASCAR since Jeff Gordon entered the sport. My son and I fly down to the Daytona 500 every year.

I prefer seeing or experiencing things rather than reading about them.

Thanks for sharing - and we're all very glad you survived the chocolate blood! Now that we know you better, let's talk about your books. I know you write action-adventure and mystery, mostly for reluctant reader “tween” boys. What drew you to this particular age group?

Even though my father was the author of over 70 books, I grew up hating to read. Because of this, I was drawn to write material especially for reluctant reader boys.

In my film experience, I knew that girls would watch a boy’s story, but boys were not at all interested in a story with a girl as a main character. I’ve used that same template in my writing and find that my books are enjoyed by girls, reluctant and avid boy readers, and even adults.

It was easier for me to approach a tween audience because life just gets so much more complicated in the teen years. I intend to reach younger children with some of life’s critical principles, before they reach that next level. I also knew that many boys were growing up without a positive male role model, and hope I can have some influence there too.

How many books do you have published, and which is your favorite?

Seven of my action-adventures & mysteries are published, along with a short story in a sports anthology, Lay Ups and Long Shots. I get the, “Which is your favorite?” question from a lot of people. I’ve completed 35 manuscripts at this point. The truth is, some are hard to remember, until I review the manuscript and refresh my memory. But the way I like to respond to this question is to say that my wife and I have two children. I love them each for the unique person that they are. It’s a lot like that with my books. I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite.

If I’m not mistaken, Legend of the White Wolf is your latest release. Tell us about it.

Yes, you’re right.

Writing this book was a unique experience for me. I don’t write from an outline, so I’m finding out about the story as I go. I got so into this story that I finished the first draft in only three days.

About this book I’ve written, “They didn’t call him a liar; they just couldn’t believe his story. Brian Fisher was determined to prove it was true even though it involved the risk to his own safety. His rescue of a wolf pup from a steel trap results in a mysterious relationship with surprising results. The story is set in the lower elevations near Yellowstone.”

It’s kind of a boy-and-his-dog story with a few twists.

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

I began shortly after the attacks of 9/11. That’s because many of my video clients pulled back at that time. My business never fully recovered from that, and now it’s happening again, due to the economic tsunami we’re all facing.

I was definitely prompted to write. But rather than an “aha,” I fought against the idea as hard as I could. After all, my father was a reasonably famous author, but out of a family of seven children, I was the only reluctant reader. At first, I felt I had no business writing. I came to see later, after I was obedient to the prompting, that I was perfectly prepared to understand other reluctant readers, and to craft the kinds of stories I would have loved as a child. I hoped that they might love them too.

How much time do you devote to your craft?

I wrote pretty much nonstop for the better part of three years. That’s how I wound up with 35 completed manuscripts. I spend most of my time now in building my platform. I have an agent, Terry Burns at Hartline, and I write short stories and articles.

One of those found its way into Lay Ups and Long Shots, published by Darby Creek. That book is a Junior Library Guild selection and is going into its second printing. It has a nice author bio before my story, and I’ve gotten emails, calls, and letters from that.

Another short story is being held by the editor of Boys’ Life. If it gets published, the magazine represents a circulation of 1,300,000; another excellent opportunity for name recognition with the age group I’m trying to reach. And I’ve had a true story published in Guideposts.

My blog, Books for Boys ranks # 4 on Google. So people are finding me all the time through that source. I try to keep it updated regularly.

But I’d love to be writing more book-length manuscripts. I have a dozen or more I could start. It just doesn’t make much sense to do that before finding homes for the others.

Any advice for new and aspiring writers?

Be realistic about your writing and your objectives. If you’re simply writing like another author, then why would your work be of interest to a publisher? What makes one story stand out over another is your own unique voice. When you read the work of others, try to understand why you are attracted to one book, but not another. That will be because of voice and writing style. Study the work of others, yes, but develop your own style.

Over 200,000 new books are released each year. Ask yourself why yours is going to make it in that environment. And understand that, should you find a publisher, much of the promotion of your book will have to come from you. This is a good thing since no one will ever care about your book as much as you do.

Look for any opportunity to get into print. This may include articles in magazines and on web sites. Some of what you write will earn nothing, or very little, but it will help you to get noticed, and you’ll be writing more material.

Above all, don’t get discouraged. It may take much longer than you expected, but you have to keep at it. Just remember that this is a business you are trying to enter. It’s a field that is highly competitive. It will take every bit of commitment and creativity that you can find within yourself.

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?

I’d like to walk up, tap Johannes Gutenberg on the shoulder, turn him around, and point to all the books, magazines, and newspapers that have been published since 1439. After he finished rubbing his eyes, I’d ask, “In your wildest dreams?”

What crayon in the box describes you best on a good day? Bad day?

Light blue for the good day, black for the bad.

You’re going on a very long trip. Which of the following will you take with you?

Book: My Bible

Music: Classical

Person: My wife

Food: Shrimp

What word annoys you more than any other?

In the current political climate, I’m beginning to hate the word “transparency.”

What “super power” would you like to borrow for awhile?

I’ve always wished I could fly.

Share a grammatical pet peeve…go ahead, sound off.

Figuring out things like effect and affect, and the fact that some English words, that sound the same, can have several different spellings.

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

It’s sad to watch as our culture becomes less civil. The language that kids use is worse than what I encountered in my two years in the army. Children have less fear of authority, and they don’t mind using four letter words to let you know it.

Thank you for hanging out at The Bookshelf for awhile! We can’t wait to read Legend of White Wolf! When and where can we get it?

Probably the easiest place is on Amazon. But if anyone is interested in signed copies for boys in their family or circle of friends, they can email me at

Where can we find you on the web?

My author web site is at

My Books for Boys blog is at

50 pages of reviews can be found at

I hope my readers run right out and find Legend of the White Wolf, Max – as well as all of your previous releases! I can’t wait to introduce them to my own grandson. Thanks again for being with us on The Bookshelf.

Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity.

About Max Anderson:

Max Elliot Anderson grew up as a reluctant reader. After surveying the market, he sense the need for action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 – 13, especially boys.

Using his extensive experience in the production of motion pictures, videos, and television commercials, Mr. Anderson brings the same visual excitement and heart-pounding action to his stories. Each book has completely different characters, setting, and plot.

Seven books are published, with an additional twenty-eight manuscripts completed. Young readers have reported that reading one of his books is like being in an exciting or scary movie.

Notes in Review

A Lever Long Enough

by Amy Deardon

Benjamin Feinan leads an Israeli military team back in time. The goal: Film the “theft” of Jesus’ body from the tomb, thus disproving the age-old story of resurrection, salvation, and belief in Jesus as Messiah. They have seventy-two hours to collect video evidence and plant it in the Dead Sea to be found two thousand years later, in their own time. The mission’s failure could have dire consequences, including war and the devastation of the nation of Israel.

While the team struggles through a series of obstacles in the first century, a present-day traitor tries desperately to sabotage the mission for his own purposes.

In the meantime, Benjamin is shocked to discover one vital member of his team has serious doubts about their very purpose, and is leaning toward the deadly belief that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

The author does a fantastic job of bringing vividly to life another time and place. Absolutely stunning imagery. I felt as though I were right there in ancient Jerusalem… inside the empty tomb of Jesus Christ…seeing the Roman soldiers, the Temple Mount, the lifestyles and customs of that day and time. A Lever Long Enough is packed with riveting suspense and heart-pounding intrigue. The pages turn all by themselves as the reader rushes through Jerusalem along with Benjamin and his team. It’s fast-paced, dynamic, and totally unpredictable. I didn’t want the story to end.

Amy Deardon is an amazing painter of words. I will definitely be watching for more from this gifted writer.

Notes on Writing - Jacqueline McGuyer

Patience is Better than Pride

Dearest Writers,

I usually write in a style less personal. Today the Holy Spirit leads me to write as if you are sitting across the desk from me – as if you and I are speaking face-to-face. I want to talk to you about a part of writing our readers will never know about. The challenging work, which separates the professional from the armature most of us will face at least once in our careers.

Let me set the scene:

A few days ago, I proudly sent a manuscript I've been working on (a manuscript very dear to my heart) to my trusted critique partner. Imagine how I felt when, within a very short time, she sent it back with this message. "I can't even finish reading this. This isn't even your voice. What happened to you? I suggest you reread and rewrite."

I live in Texas. My critique partner lives in Louisiana. I've never met her face-to-face, but we've worked together for years. We talk on the phone and pass pictures of our families to each other by e-mail. I love her like a sister. I wouldn't even send out a query letter unless she's seen it first. I trust her.

How could she call my Baby Ugly?

I took a walk. I prayed. I thought about the manuscript. Somewhere deep down, I knew my critique partner was telling the truth, but I couldn't come up with enough adjectives to cover the reasons I didn't want to believe her…or rewrite. Tiring, demanding, arduous, grueling, complicated, tricky? Writing has always been a joy to me. This was going to be just plain hard work.

I decided my crit partner had a right to her opinion, but others might think differently. I set my Baby aside and began to work on other projects, like promoting my new release. (Talk about challenging.) However, a little voice inside my head (guess who?) just wouldn't leave me alone. I couldn't stop thinking about all the research I'd done on the Civil War – on Richmond, Virginia. My novel, A Letter Home, is going to be a Civil War drama. All of a sudden, the Holy Spirit nudged me. "What you have now is a Civil War history book, and a great big hunk of Pride."

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. (ECC 7:8 NIV)

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18 NIV)

A Few Nouns Describing Pride:











Do you see a picture developing here? I saw one, and I didn't like it. Self – Self – Self. I could see a big picture of Jacqueline McGuyer hung on the wall over my computer. I believe I prayed for some of those things on the list above, maybe not in actual words, but remember the Lord knows your heart.

After some sincere truthful prayer, I decided my crit partner had hit the nail on the head. The manuscript … My Baby … was double ugly, but salvageable. Instead of a rewrite, I believe this will be more of a reconstruction. Rather than tiring, demanding, arduous, grueling, complicated and tricky, I'm looking forward to a challenge. Better than anything, I have a wonderful learning experience ahead of me.

The most important lesson I've learned – the one I'd like to impart to you, my dearest Christian writer, is this. Are we trying to impress an editor or an agent? Yes, of course. Are we trying to touch our readers with more than just a good story – are we trying to build faith and change lives?

Are we always trying to please the Lord?

We need the Lord's input on all those levels … we can't do it without Him. We must have the Holy Spirit control our hand or we can't reach those who need our words. How can He reach us if we can only think about ourselves and get all bound up in that big hunk of PRIDE? Pride is the Devil's toy.

Show – Don't Tell

Pray before you write.

Close your eyes and picture the Lord's hand on yours.

Feel His breath in your ear as He whispers what to write.

Picture that acceptance letter as you pull it from the envelope.

Picture that person pulling your book from the shelf, and the life you may change with your words.

God has given you the gift of writing, but you can't please Him without His grace, you can't move without the power of his Holy Spirit. If humbly you focus on Him, he will mold the talent He gave you like a piece of clay.

God's Blessings and Faithful Writing,

Jacki McGuyer

About Jacqueline:

With every book she writes, it is Jacqueline's ambition to grow and be faithful to her readers. She aspires to give them an entertaining story to dazzle and provide honest and thoughtful information to keep them coming back for more. Above all, she is a Christian and her faith guides her pen.

Article Source: WRITERS

Contest Notes - March

The March drawing will be for a signed copy of A Lever Long Enough by Amy Deardon (Amazon value $10.85). See my review of Amy’s book in this month’s Bookshelf. In addition, the March winner will receive a small Avon felt gift/tote bag (value $8.50) and an Avon Footworks 3-head foot file (value 4.00)

The February winner of Gone with the Groom by Janice A. Thompson is

Beth Reimer.

Congratulations, Beth!

As a Valentine’s Day extra, Beth will also receive an 8.4 oz. bottle of Avon Naturals Body Spray in the refreshing Mandarin & Jasmine fragrance AND an Avon Footworks 3-head foot file.

You don’t need to “do” anything to enter the newsletter drawing each month. If you are subscribed to The Bookshelf, you will be automatically entered. Here’s 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.)

Note: The books given away in these contests are in excellent condition, but have been read once for review purposes. They are handled carefully and you will receive them in great condition.