Monday, April 30, 2012
Out of my memory writing workshop grew two new writing groups, “Tapping Our Roots” and “Memory Caretakers.” We’re learning, laughing, crying, and finding emotional liberation. We’re viewing our past from the perspective of a new time. Try it! Grab a notebook or journal and start recording snippets of your life. Show through your words how your mom’s special casserole tasted, how your brother’s teasing brought angry heat to your face, how the horsehair car seat felt on your bare legs in the hot summer. Memories are meant to be preserved, even as they were throughout the Bible.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Mrs. Wily Coyote can’t resist the scraps in my compost pile. She comes often, sneaking behind one tree or shrub after another to avoid detection and harm.
Sometimes we act like Mrs. Wily, trying to hide from situations and people we’d like to avoid. Besides the fear of harm or change, there are many other ways we hide ourselves from detection.
The abused or mistreated person might escape through alcohol, drugs, perverse habits, or fantasy. A father may hide behind his pride in the belief that he can pull himself up by his bootstraps and everyone else should, too. A child handicapped in some way may hide behind his fear and loneliness by bullying others.
The deceptive hide behind their lies. “I didn’t do it,” they say. “It’s not my fault.” Many take little or no responsibility for their actions and constantly complain.
Many people try to hide from God, too. The Bible is filled with examples. Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden after they disobeyed Him. Jonah tried to hide on a ship sailing to Tarshish because of his fear of the evil people in Ninevah, where God sent him. David hid from his sin of adultery by committing murder.
Some people hide behind false teachings and others hide behind their fear of God. They choose to believe only the biblical passages that appeal to them. Still others hide behind time and their good health, believing that will keep them alive until they feel ready to deal with the issue of their inevitable demise.
“There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” (Matthew 10:26) God knows all and sees all. Just as I saw the coyote coming even though she tried to hide, in the same way we can’t hide from God.
The hiding issue has another side, however. God provides Himself as our hiding place when we are in trouble. We don’t have to fear anyone or anything. Psalm 139 is a hymn of great promise. It tells us that God is with us always. “You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.” (verses 5-6)
Lord, we want to be open and transparent with You so we will have no reason to try to hide from Your presence. Thank You for promising to be our hiding place when we face troubles so we can have Your perfect peace. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Longsuffering means patience. Of the list Paul gives in his words, I find patience hardest to achieve. I can’t wait for things to happen. I don’t like to stand in line. I want to finish things in a hurry. I make quick decisions so rashly they plunge me into troubled waters. I keep asking God to give me patience, “But hurry,” I tell Him.
I’m in the midst of deciding what picture to use for my second book, Trouble at Fish Camp. I’ve been perusing photos all week, testing them with fellow writers and friends, agonizing over which ones would best represent the story.
Trouble is, I’m impatient to make a decision. I want the book to be out soon. Every day spent trying to decide is a day longer before its publication. Yet I know choosing the right picture is important enough to warrant the time in deciding. So I’m praying for patience again. I know the Lord will answer my prayer.
Monday, April 23, 2012
How is your spiritual garden growing? Bad habits and sin can destroy the beauty and value of God’s work within us as easily as dandelions and other invasive plants can take over a beautiful lawn or garden. It requires diligence to grow into the bloom of God’s desire—diligence in Bible reading and meditating, prayer, and obedience. He is our perfect gardener.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
My pretty yard has its first dandelion in bloom. Because last year’s crop far exceeded my efforts to eradicate them, I’m resigned to letting them spread their prolific seeds to their hearts’ content. I don’t like to use chemicals, and there are far too many dandelions to dig out individually. I’ll simply enjoy my yard while it sparkles in golden beauty for a time and then watch the slow demise of the grass as the plants smother it.
I look at that dandelion and think about the sin in my life. No, I’m not a thief or murderer or an adulterer. But sometimes I harbor critical thoughts about someone whose life isn’t as spiritually “pretty” as mine. I find myself gossiping about someone who disagrees with my values. I pride myself for doing a good job when I should be thanking God for giving me the strength and know-how to do it.
These sins of mine can easily spread like the dandelions in my pretty yard, if I let them. I must try not to think that I’m “just that way,” or it’s too hard a job, or I’m no worse than anyone else.
Your sins may be entirely different from mine. You may not be guilty of criticism, gossiping, or pride. Perhaps your sin is greater, at least considered greater in the eyes of society. The name of the sin doesn’t matter, however, in God’s eyes. His promise of restoration applies to any one of us—regardless. As long as we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us.
Our best efforts won’t get rid of our sin. We must allow God to do it, through Christ. Only God can dig out the tough-rooted, easily-spread sins we harbor—if we are willing to die to our self-will and, believing wholly in His powerful love and grace, allow Him to live in us. Through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus, He will cover our sins. Through His Word and Spirit, we will receive strength to remove ourselves from those sins.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Lord, thank You for Your incomparable gifts of salvation and restoration. Forgive us for our wrongdoing and give us the grace to remain pure and holy in Your sight. We don’t want to allow sin to grow unchecked like the dandelions in my yard. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
I’m finished! My second book in the Winds of the Williwaw series, “Trouble at Fish Camp,” is finally in the publisher’s hands.
“Trouble …” gave me trouble from the start, almost as much trouble as the Main Character, a major bully, did for the others in the story. After writing an entire first draft, I decided to change the Point of View to another character. I chucked version 1 and started version 2.
I plodded my way through a new beginning and became sick of it fast. Hence my procrastination. My labor of love had become a labor of lackadaisical, lukewarm effort. But there’s lots to be said for determination so I kept going.
As I made new changes, the farther into the book I got, the more my joy of writing it returned. Eventually my excitement in rewriting it returned. I ventured more slowly this time around, punctuating my efforts with a few other writing projects. That helped me gain renewed energy every time I returned to “Trouble ….”
Now I can celebrate a job—albeit long—well done. I thank the Lord for His constant nagging to finish. He knew the story had to be told.
Monday, April 16, 2012
We received an unexpected snowfall today after record-breaking temps soared two days ago. Sunbathing one day, shoveling 48 hours later. Ah, capricious spring! The robins are huddling, hunkered down until the sun beats down on their brows once more. I thank God for the much-needed moisture.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
The Value of Song
I grew up in a Minneapolis home where little music was heard. We had a radio that my dad used for listening to the news and weather report. I took lessons on our old, upright piano for a short time but practiced little. Most of the music I did hear came from Saturday matinee movies at the local theater.
When my sixth-grade class attended a symphony youth concert, I heard classical music for the first time. Enamored with its beauty, I began listening to it every weekend on a public radio station. Although it’s still my favorite type of music, I began to enjoy popular songs, some country music, and hymns. Music helped me relax. Classical and Christian music soothed my soul when I felt troubled and anxious.
Nowadays, I live with little stress and prefer the quiet of nature’s music. My frequent driving time, however, prompts me to listen to the soothing sounds of music through radio waves. And I thoroughly enjoy worshiping God in church through songs that bring Him honor and glory.
Who can say when music began? God declared that His people, the Israelites, include music in their worship. After He led them out of Egyptian bondage and across the Red Sea, Moses and the people spontaneously sang a song of victory.
David played the harp so well that King Saul, whose soul was troubled, called for him to perform. The soothing music brought calm to the king. David wrote often about music. “I will sing of mercy and justice; to You, O Lord, I will sing praises.” (Psalm 101:1) Time after time, David told the readers of his psalms to sing praises to God. The word psalm itself means song.
The apostle Paul and his missionary partner, Silas, sang hymns to God from a prison cell. Their songs of praise brought a miracle of deliverance.
The Lord told Job that even “the morning stars sang together,” (Job 38:7) resulting in angels shouting for joy. Heaven resounds with the songs of angels constantly. Revelation tells us that angels “sing,‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!’”
Although our taste in music may differ, we know that it causes our thoughts to be positive and joyful—like the hymns and classical pieces I’ve enjoyed from childhood.
Lord, thank You for giving all of nature and mankind the ability to make music. Help us choose our songs wisely—songs that will soothe our soul and the hearts and souls of others. We glorify and honor You through our music.
Sally Bair may be reached at www.sallybair.com.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
The old, white birch in my Backyard Bowl received some new holes today. A pileated woodpecker drilled through its rotting bark, up and down and around and around, for beetles and bugs. I enjoyed watching him peck away with efficiency and precision.
I’ve been pecking away at my second book, “Trouble at Fish Camp,” for almost two years, to get the bugs out. Unlike the woodpecker, I’ve started and stopped, unsure of my words and phrases. After writing the entire book, for instance, I decided to change the point of view. That meant rewriting the entire manuscript. How daunting a task! But it’s finally finished—almost. Three more days of polishing and I’ll send it off.
I may not have rewritten the book with efficiency and precision, but I did stick to it. There’s something to be said for persistence and perseverance. It pays off in the end.
Already my head is filled with scenes for the third book in my Ways of the Williwaw series. I’ll peck away one scene at a time and be watchful for those pesky bugs that I can drill out, hopefully with more efficiency and precision this time around.
How are you pecking away at your writing project—by fits and starts, or with efficiency and precision?
Monday, April 9, 2012
If we look hard enough, we can find facts and lessons about God in just about anything. Take a puppy, for instance. Its faithfulness and loyalty give us a glimpse into God’s character. Watch a doe as it hovers over its fawn while it eats, protecting it from danger. More insights about God’s love and mercy. Be sure to look for your lesson about God today.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Lessons from the Titanic
April 15 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.
Heroes and cowards alike walked across the stage of that great tragedy. For the safety of fellow passengers, many on board willingly gave their lives. But some pushed others out of the way to save themselves. More than fifteen-hundred people perished in the iceberg-laden waters of the north Atlantic that night.
The Titanic was believed to be an unsinkable ship—safe and trustworthy. But she met her match against the icebergs. People today believe in their own Titanics, such as scientific and technological answers, to carry them safely to the other side of the ocean, so to speak. How many of us, when we learn of an iceberg ahead, disregard the warnings, telling ourselves everything will be okay? How many of us float along without a lifeboat, depending on something or someone else to save us? How many mistakenly believe that nothing will happen because we’re healthy … young … financially comfortable … educated?
When we place our faith in man-made things and beliefs, we will founder. None of us can be assured of living comfortably within our invested means … or living to be a healthy hundred-year-old … or …. There are no guarantees in this life.
“Let your collection of idols deliver you. But the wind will carry them all away, a breath will take them. But he who puts his trust in Me shall possess the land, and shall inherit My holy mountain.” (Isaiah 57:13)
Faith in God will help us through our difficulties. God doesn’t promise us a problem-free life, but He does promise to go through them with us as long as we place our trust in Him above all else.
Does that mean we should not buy insurance? Keep a spare tire in our car trunk? Save for emergencies? The book of Proverbs offers practical tips on being prepared for unforeseen problems. The book stresses, however, the need to look first to God for help.
We don’t know what will happen in the future—what icebergs might sink our ship—because some things are out of our control. But we can trust God to be our strength, our peace, and our joy as He walks with us through our difficulties.
Lord, You are “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” (Psalm 46:1) Amen.
Friday, April 6, 2012
The grass in my Backyard Bowl is growing faster than Jack’s beanstalk. Soon it will be time for me to mow—and here I sit with a wadzillion writing and marketing projects facing me. But I can’t have the woods encroaching clear to my doorstep. If I neglect the mowing, soon mosquitoes and other little critters will take over. I’ll just have to resign myself to do the mowing, come hail or high water. But from experience I know the sacrifice will be worth volumes. I’ll find joy in the exercise and fresh air, I’ll gain time away from my office to spend with Jesus in prayer, and I’ll learn something new and inspiring that I can share through my writing. Can you find joy in some sacrifice today?
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
When my grandmother was eight years old, her mom died. Her oldest sister broke the engagement with her fiancé to help their dad raise Grandma and her five other siblings. Grandma’s sister never married. I think often of the grand sacrifice she made for the sake of her family.
Many parents sacrifice their time, talents, and careers in order to nurture their children. Couples also are willing to make compromises in order to strengthen their marriages. Such sacrifices may be expected, and can certainly bring joy, especially when the benefits become apparent.
We think about the sacrifices our servicemen and women give, too—in their time away from home, job, and family, and in their willingness to die for our country. We read stories about other people who have given their lives to save others: fire fighters, parents, everyday citizens, even children.
During this Easter week we reflect on God’s ultimate sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. It’s difficult to imagine that the Creator of the universe, the all-powerful God, would bend so low as to offer His only Son for our sake. His reason, pure and simple, is His unbounded love for us. The apostle Paul prayed that we “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height …” of Christ’s love, “which passes knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:18-19)
Most of us probably know the most recognizable verse in the Bible, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:17 reads: “for God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
Throughout history, people everywhere—including God’s chosen Israelites—witnessed miracle after miracle and yet chose to turn away from Him. God did not give up on mankind, however. He sent Jesus to dwell among men in the most humble manner possible that we might live. Jesus our great Shepherd, became our sacrificial lamb. He who knew no sin willingly, joyfully took on our sin that we can be restored as His children. There is no father on earth like our heavenly Father.
And through the miraculous miracle of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, we who truly believe in Him no longer need to fear death.
Lord, we thank You and rejoice in Your unsurpassed love that promises us life after death. As You sacrificed Your Son, Jesus, for our sake, help us to sacrifice ourselves for Your sake by loving others joyfully.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
During sixth grade, my dad and his pals teased their young, female teacher by throwing spitballs during class. One day, Dad used his slingshot and let one go. Unfortunately, the spitball hit his teacher’s ear.
Slingshots and rubber bands, when stretched, can create stress. So can wind. A gale recently stressed my Backyard Bowl birch tree so much that it broke off, catapulting three inches deep into the lawn.
Perhaps we can compare these examples of stress to the human condition. Our thoughts, words, and actions cause either positive or negative stress on our bodies, minds, and spirits.
In fiction writing, the main character (MC) must always have a goal. Reaching that goal involves facing a mental or physical stressful situation. The MC’s reaction to the stress will result in a resolution. Here are a few examples:
1. Goal and conflict: A first-grader’s goal is to reach school safely while walking past the neighbor’s snarling dog. Possible resolutions: beg until his mom will drive him; run fast and hope the dog won’t bite; face his fear by trying to make friends with the dog.
2. Goal and conflict: A housewife wants to save her marriage after she learns about her husband’s unfaithfulness. Possible resolutions: become bitterly resentful; hide the truth internally and live with unhappiness; insist on counseling; blame him; accept blame and learn how to be a better wife.
3. Conflict: A teenager faces a bully. Possible resolutions: cower and run, thereby facing the reputation of being a sissy; fight back; turn the other cheek with a smile, thereby gaining the bully’s respect and friendship.
The final outcome of the MC’s dilemma may be something other than what is hoped for or expected. The housewife’s husband, for instance, may leave her. The bullied teenager might decide to quit school.
As in real life, the MC must face several problems in his quest to reach his goal. How he does that is what makes a story successful.
After this lengthy intro, let me offer this short excerpt of Trouble at Fish Camp, my second book in the Ways of the Williwaw series. Can you find the MC’s (Freddy) main goal? Can you feel the tension between him and the other characters?
Freddy’s guts churned. If only he felt as peaceful as the soft waves coming into shore. The fish camp on Kodiak Island where he and his friend, Jake Bergren, sat mending nets was usually the most serene place in the world. But this summer, Freddy’s cousin, Pete, was at the neighboring camp. That meant trouble. Not only was Pete a bully, he held a secret about Freddy that must not be told.
Freddy jerked his head around at the sound of a grunt. Jake lay spilled on the gritty beach clutching his belly. Pete stood over him, a menacing smile on his face.
“Lay off!” Freddy yelled. “Jake didn’t do nothin’ to you.”
Pete turned away from Jake and glared. He balled up his fist and stepped to within a hair of Freddy’s face. “He stole my job on the Danny Boy, that’s what he did!” Pete shoved Freddy hard.
Freddy clenched his teeth. He felt his lip scar tighten. Growling like a wounded bear, he charged into Pete, grabbing his shirt. Buttons popped. Pete jerked back. They fell hard, sand spraying like birdshot. Pete grunted, squeezing Freddy’s neck. Fear shot through Freddy’s gut like a poisoned arrow. He yanked Pete’s hands away with a strength he didn’t know he possessed. “Run, Jake!” he croaked. “An’ watch yer back!”