Saturday, May 2, 2009

Floods and Faith and Foil-Covered Windows

All around us here in east central Oklahoma, the recent rainy weather has created havoc. Flash flooding has destroyed homes and businesses and claimed lives. It leaves behind an ugly waterline, a scar that won’t be easily removed or forgotten.

I spent the biggest part of yesterday in bed, with the lights out and all sources of possible noise turned off, distinctly grateful for the foil my husband put on our windows – much against my will – this past summer. After awakening with a blinding headache, I was simply unable to do anything else. Up toward evening, I finally felt like sitting up for awhile, and that’s when I got a call from California. A family member, inquiring as to whether or not the flooding had touched us. I said no, it hadn’t, and thanked my sister-in-law for calling.

Truth is, I hadn’t even heard about the watery mess in surrounding areas. I’d been secure in my own home, news off, computer unvisited while I nursed a migraine. I had no idea what was happening in the world around me. Concerned now, I tuned in to the news and discovered the chaos my “neighbors” were enduring not 50 miles away. I breathed a prayer of gratitude for His mercies, grateful that when I’m unable to watch out for myself, God’s got my back. And I prayed for all those men and women and children who are homeless right now as a result of nature’s wrath. I know God is with them, too … in spite of the storm.

That’s the clencher of our faith, isn’t it? It’s easy for me, here in my dry home, with the rain and wind shut outside my doors, to bask in God’s goodness – to believe He’s watching out for me. But how do I react when the flood waters push through the doors and windows to destroy my little treasures and cause upheaval in my life? Do I still believe God is good? Am I still certain He’s got my back? Is my confidence shaken when the storms touch me?

When I hear the roar of the lion, do I still believe God will shut the mouth of the wild beast and make it blind to my presence? Can He ... will He allow me to live through a night in the lion's den?

Unfortunately, I fear that most of us – myself included – are not quite so confident in the midst of the storm. When a tornado-like wind picks us up and tosses us around like a leaf in a whirlwind, we question God’s vigilance, His love, even His existence. When we feel the lion's hot breath on our skin, we doubt Him entirely.

But God is God, no matter how vicious the storm or how painful the loss. He’s still God, and He’s still good. Will we always understand His design? No. Not until we get our chance to talk to Him face to face and He provides the answers to all the questions of life.

We will doubt. We will question. We will waver. We will rebel. But God is God, and He forgives us. God is good, and He helps us recover from every blow. He’ll fade the waterline and lighten the scar. He’ll bring back the sun and stop the wind. Because He knows our human frailties, and that we can take only so much buffeting. Because He cares.

God is good … all the time!

Notes of Devotion - Terri Haynes

A Proverbs 19:21 Day

A Proverbs 19:21 Day

Proverbs 19:21(NIV) Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.

I live by a To Do list. It sits right by my computer on my desk where I can see it. Even though I’m a stay-at-home-mom, sometimes my days are as busy as someone with a full-time job. For some reason, I thought my days would be less hectic but that has not been the case. I’ve found that a To Do list is a necessity.

I have so many things to do that I have to plan efficiently. I have my list, my calendar and my PDA to keep me straight. My planning normally begins just before I go to bed. I jot down the things I have to do so I can gauge how early I need to be firmly planted at my desk. I plan my writing, graphic design time, home school time, phone calls and emails. At one point, my days were so full that I started including meals on my list.

When I write my To Do list, I often put items in order by timeliness and importance. The more pressing things go at the top of my list. Other things, that may be important later, go to the bottom of my list. Some days, my list feels infinite. I cross off a task as I complete it, but sadly, that task is quickly replaced by another.

But one day I noticed something about my list: It’s mine. I have my days scheduled in a way that’s comfortable for me and to my liking. It’s all me, and my list has become my warden. If God were to flip the script on me and tell me to do something different, even something little, my list would be useless. I plan and ask the Lord to help me to do everything on my list because it would take divine intervention to get it all done in one day.

Unfortunately, God didn’t intended for our days to be laden with our own busyness. Proverbs 19:21 reads, “Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.” When I look at my list written on my pink flowery paper, it’s clear that I’ve chosen to be busy instead of prevailing with the plans of the Lord. God has planned out my life on an eternal To Do list, and His list is better than mine.

Oh, for the day that my To Do list is full of the Lord’s plans. We need to have more Proverbs 19:21 days. What would that look like? Would it be different than my list? I’m sure it would because sometimes after working, I don’t feel the comfort that comes from doing something eternal. I find myself feeling empty and useless, even when I get most things on my list done. I don’t feel like I’ve prevailed.

I want to see the Lord in all of His glory on my To Do list. So often we ask to see the Lord in our religious activities, but we don’t think it’s odd that we don’t see His glory in our everyday life. What good is the glory if it doesn’t affect the simplest things in life? We all need our plans to look like God’s plans. Or else, we’re just busy.

About Terri: Terri J. Haynes is a writer and freelance graphic artist. She holds a Masters in Theological Studies and is an adjunct professor at National Bible College and Seminary. Terri and her husband are the leaders of Joshua Generation, a ministry for young adults ages 18-35. Her publishing credits include Cup of Comfort for Military Families and a devotional in The Secret Place. She lives in Maryland with her husband. and three children.

Author of Note - Lisa Lickel

I’m happy to welcome Lisa Lickel to The Bookshelf.

Thank you, Delia. I’m delighted to be part of your corner of cyberspace.

We want to talk to you about your books, and I have a few just-for-fun questions, as well. But first, tell us about you. Who is Lisa Lickel, the gal next door?

I’m a history buff who lives in a way cool old house with a biology teacher husband. Our kids are grown up and still love us. I live for reading, writing, and computer stuff. I enjoy serving at church, teaching Sunday School, putting the newsletter together, and sometimes getting the guitar out (but I’m not very good at it). I get a kick out of meeting other writers in all stages of our careers. I have no sense of direction whatsoever. My hair is still really curly, although it’s getting awfully gray.

Hey, you sound a lot like a writer gal I met in my mirror! Your website tells me you write “web content, freelance articles for magazines, devotionals and occasionally the news.” You also have two published books. Tell us a little about them.

The first book, published this year in February, was for Barbour’s mystery book club line, which was announced in 2005 or thereabouts. It was my “foot in the door” book. (Um, I recommend not trying that at home.) The Gold Standard, which my daughter-in-law titled, is a cozy mystery – that means no graphic gore and a certain amount of humor, and in this case, 20-50% romance. It is part of a series (which needs a new publisher now that the mystery bookclub folded), based on characters elementary schoolteacher Judy, her boyfriend/husband farmer Hart, their septuagenarian friends, and a very opinionated crime-solving cat.

Healing Grace, which debuts later this month, is the story of a guilt-ridden woman who tries to run away from God after believing she failed everyone around her. She soon learns that God loves her too much to let her get away. Through that love comes healing, even though it’s painful and costly.

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

My story is a little different than so many real authors. I’m still in the growing up phase of my life, and after years of being an office junkie, decided to take an internet-based writing course. That was about the turn of the century. J Maybe it was a mid-life crisis. But things went pretty well, and I started selling my work before I “graduated” in 2002. I listened to the rule of “don’t quit your day job” until I got my second book contract. Unfortunately, that was a long two years ago. But I still want to be a writer as I grow up.

The excerpts from your books makes me want to dash right out and find them both. Where do you find inspiration for your stories?

I’m tickled, and I hope not to disappoint you. Inspiration often comes from real life events around me, in the news, and so forth. For the mystery, a neighbor wanted to know if anyone could figure out whose initials were carved into the trunk of a tree that were obviously there long before he moved to the house. My family and I visited Alaska, where I heard other stories about gold-hunting adventures. For Grace, it was a “what if” thought: What might the gifts of the Holy Spirit look like today? How would they work? I’m fascinated by our oldish-order Amish neighbors, and other societies like the Amana Colony residents, and the Hutterites. Grace was part of such a community.

How much time do you spend writing?

You mean, typing on the keyboard, putting pen or pencil to paper or thinking in complete sentences and entire scenes? Sensation included? That would be every waking, and best of all, dreaming moment, Delia. My husband knows that “look” in my eye, even if I’m not in the physical act of writing.

Again, sounds so familiar. What’s your best piece of advice for new and aspiring writers?

Ooh – I just did this one! My son is an English teacher who called to ask advice for one of his students. Go get yourself a Writer’s Market Guide and then find a mentor, either on line or through a local writing group.

Both are excellent pieces of advice. Together, it’s a dynamite combo! Give us one writing tip that you personally find invaluable.

Listen to a lot of advice, then do what you think works best for 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 would like to ask my great-grandfather where he came from in Europe and how he got here. We’re really stuck trying to trace one branch of the family.

What books are on your bedside table right now?

Becoming Jane Austen, Handle With Care, The Hole in Our Gospel, City of the Dead, The Shape of Mercy, A Bilingual Collection of Russian Short Stories, to name a few. And not including the two I just brought home from Goodwill this afternoon – like I needed more!

Hey, who said a person has to need books to have them? What word annoys you more than any other?

There are so many obnoxious “fad” words that come and go; one word in my opinion that’s becoming useless is “farther.”

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

Kindness – in all circumstances, inside and out. To me, that’s a super ability which I struggle with. I can be so judgmental.

Can’t we all! Share a grammatical pet peeve … go ahead, sound off.

Oooh – so many! Grammar-wise: the agreement issue of English’s lack of genderless pronouns, as in “someone,” paired without a “him” or “her” later in the sentence. And my all-time favorite punctuation issue: misuse of the apostrophe. Yes, my friends, that was me with the black magic marker in the Walmart in West Bend.

What color crayon best describes you on a good day? Bad day?

That “take me away” piney aroma, cool and shaded forest green on a good day; Puce on a bad day.

I’m not sure which sounds worse – puce or Magic Marker black! Thank you for hanging out at The Bookshelf for awhile, Lisa! Where can my readers find your books?

The Gold Standard is at Amazon, as well as Healing Grace in a few weeks. It'll also be at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Fictionwise, and You can ask your local bookstore to order it through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Brodart, or Emery-Pratt distributors.You can also e-mail me through my website for more details.

Got get ‘em, folks! Thanks again, Lisa, and we hope you sell a million.

Thank you, Delia.

About Lisa J. Lickel: I’m a graduate of the Christian Writer’s Guild’s Apprentice Course, and the author of two novels and counting; also radio theater with FreeQuincy Radio Theater, newspaper and magazine feature articles and interviews, and devotionals.
I relish the company of other writers in writing and reading clubs and am a history groupie. Married to a high school biology teacher, I enjoy travel, my old house in Wisconsin, and quilting.

Review - Age Before Beauty

Age Before Beauty

by Virginia Smith

Allie Harrod is not a particularly happy camper.

She has a great husband and a beautiful newborn daughter. But she also has a closet full of clothes that no longer fit, a mirror that reflects an overweight woman she doesn’t even know, and an employer who eagerly awaits her return to work after maternity leave. Therein lies the problem. Allie doesn’t want to leave little Joanie and return to work. Despite all the best-laid plans she and hubby Eric have made for their lives, she finds herself longing to be a stay-at-home mom for baby Joanie.

So she dives headfirst into direct sales, and soon finds herself in way over her head. As if her life isn’t chaotic enough, Allie’s taciturn mother-in-law shows up on her doorstep and seems determined to make Allie’s house her own; Eric is spending too much time with his attractive co-worker outside of work; and the shiny new credit card Allie obtained “just for business purposes” is showing an unbelievable balance. She’s in trouble, with no idea how to get herself out of it.

When her sister tries to share her newfound salvation with Allie, she stubbornly refuses to hear. She can handle her life all by herself. She’ll find a way to do it on her own – not even Eric needs to help.

Will Allie learn to lean on her heavenly Father in time to save her sanity – and her marriage?

In typical Virginia Smith fashion, Age Before Beauty is a perfect blend of poignancy and humor. Allie’s determination to be strong and independent lands her in hot water over and again. The reader laughs and cries and longs to teach the headstrong young woman a lesson before she learns it the hard way on her own. This second book in the Sister-to-Sister series is a fun peek into the lives of a close-knit family of sisters, and an eye-opening look at what can happen in a life where God is left out of the equation.

Excellent writing!

Reviewed by Delia Latham

Notes on Writing - 12 1/2 Rules

I found the following writing rules on a friend's blog and had to share them as this month's writing tips. I could break it down one rule at a time, but I think it's pretty self-explanatory.

Contest Notes - May

The May drawing will be for a signed copy of Enduring Justice by Amy Wallace (see my review of this book on My Book Bag), and a pink felt Avon tote/gift bag.

The April winner of Age Before Beauty by Virginia Smith is

Chris Roberts

Congratulations, Chris!

Chris also receives a beautiful cubic zirconia cross necklace on a silver-tone chain, in honor of Easter.

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.