Thursday, May 31, 2012
Some believe bad things happen in threes. I believe the opposite, that good things come in threes. We can find sequences of threes in many areas of our life. Christianity speaks of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Movies and books often have three-word titles (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) or three main characters (Three Little Pigs). There are three branches of U.S. government. And mottos abound with threes (Stop, Drop, and Roll; Location, location, location).
Famous orators and leaders also have used the number three to good advantage. Caesar said, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Abe Lincoln referred to our nation as a “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Three is a golden number in writing, too. People seem to remember things better when they are said in sequences of three. The “rule of three” allows a writer of non-fiction to express an idea, emphasize it, and make it a memorable quote. In fiction, putting words and ideas in a group of three (called a “tricolon”) adds rhythm to the language and inspiration to the message.
As writers, we can take the rule of three one step farther. We can use it in our daily schedule. Write 300 words (or three hours) a day, check off three marketing tasks a day, file three items from our stack of papers a day. Each of us can tailor the list to our own needs.
What do you say? I say, Hip-hip-hooray for the golden number of three!
Monday, May 28, 2012
The celebration of Pentecost yesterday is a joyful reminder of God’s love for us in the form of His life-giving Spirit. He knew that after Jesus ascended to heaven, we’d need a Helper—One who helps us grow in the grace and knowledge of God. The same Spirit who filled the apostles fills us today with power and boldness to proclaim His Gospel, and with the same love that Jesus expressed. We can all rejoice in singing, Happy Birthday, Christian Church!
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
I sent a request by mail but the envelope came back to me with the note, “Not Deliverable.” I know I addressed it correctly, so why the return? Had the business folded? Moved with no forwarding address? Had I received wrong information about the address? Should I try again, knowing I might lose the price of another stamp and envelope?
Have you ever sent a prayer to God and it came back unanswered? Such a disappointment can bring puzzlement, doubt, even unbelief and anger. I think of those of us who have lost a loved one—especially a young child—through sudden death. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?
We don’t know God’s reasons for allowing such tragedies. We live in an imperfect world. Perhaps we raise our selfish expectations too high for our own good, or believe that God will fulfill all our desires and answer all our prayers.
Countless stories are told by people who have been maimed, grieved, or imprisoned and thanked God for the experience because it brought them immeasurable blessing. They testify that when they finally handed God their fears, anger, frustrations, and hopelessness, He delivered on His promise of peace and joy and restoration.
Others make known their unforgiveness over a wrong, perhaps perceived, perhaps not. Only when at last they reach the point of releasing their hold of unforgiveness to God do they find emotional and spiritual freedom. God doesn’t answer our prayers when we keep unforgiveness in our hearts. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:15)
Sometimes we offer our worries and concerns to God with an open hand, say Amen, but immediately close our hand in the act of retrieving those worries and concerns. God is faithful. He can be trusted to take those worries and concerns and turn them into blessings. Our part is to trust that He will do as He promises through the power of the Holy Spirit and faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross.
When we mail a letter, we put it out of our minds, trusting that it will be delivered as addressed. When we send a letter-prayer to God, we can release it from our mind, knowing He will answer it. “Ask and it will be given to you ….” (Luke 11:9)
Lord, we thank You for the gift of prayer. As we send our needs and desires to You through prayer, help us remember that we can trust that You will answer our prayers according to Your perfect will. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Monday, May 21, 2012
Make Every Day Count for Christ’s Eternal Purpose
In this world, outward beauty is fleeting. Even the regal trilliums fade and wither and die. Some of the dandelions in my backyard are dying, too. In their last throes of life, they stand tall and erect like soldiers, but with their dead heads threatening to bend their fragile stalks. Once gone, every single seed will live on to replenish the earth.
They remind me of my life—fleeting and fragile, yet with a purpose of furthering the Gospel to future generations. No matter how old, how faded or withered, I must make every day count toward drawing others to Christ—not for a day, a week, or a season, but for eternity. After all, I am a soldier in Christ’s army against sin and death. How about you?
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
A Trillion Trilliums
On the way home from upper Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, we came across miles of trilliums that carpeted the forest in an endless, white blanket. Each bloom held three exact, pure white petals.
The Large-flowered Trillium grows in mixed forests of conifers and deciduous trees and in the moist shade of roadsides, floodplains, and ravines. It is evident along wooded bluffs and rocky slopes. The word trillium originates from the Latin “tres” for three and “lilium” for lily.
Trilliums bloom for two to three weeks in early spring before the forest canopy leafs out, shading the plant. They can live for more than twenty-five years, but are heavily browsed by deer. If browsed repeatedly, trilliums will die out after several years. Because of their fragility in reproduction, they are protected in some states, including Wisconsin.
The beautiful blooms remind me of the Trinity—God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each petal is exactly the same, similar to God being three Persons in one. God is often referred to as white light. When Jesus was transfigured on a mountain, “His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow ….” (Mark 9:3) Jesus came as “a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46) The Bible refers to Him as the Lily of the Valley.
The trillium, like God, is regal in its bearing. Some trilliums bend downward—a perfect picture of God’s humility. Jesus, at His death, bent downward when He carried His cross and when He hung on that cross.
Trilliums show us not only a picture of God but of us, as well. We are created as a “tri” unit that is body, soul, and spirit—unable to live to our fullest potential without all parts working together. We are made pure white when we repent of our sins. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
We are like beautiful lilies when we choose to serve God as He wills. Like the trillium, we can live our whole lives in Christ—if we choose not to allow outside influences and our own fleshly desires to destroy our faith. We can bend, like the trillium, in humble service to God if we choose. We can also stand regally tall in praise to God.
Lord, thank You for the lessons of the trillium which teaches us to be humble and obedient so we can flourish in beauty and purity. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
I spent the weekend with my twin sister and hubby. Their daughter, Ann, accompanied me to their summer home on the Keweenaw Peninsula of upper Michigan. The warmth and wind prompted us to check out the Gratiot River beach, where we took dozens of photos of the waves, woods, and other wanderers like ourselves.
The trip home offered more eye-appealing pleasures in the form of trillions of Large-flowered Trillium. The beautiful flowers, growing along a twenty-mile stretch of forest, carpeted the woods and roadsides like a blanket.
The three-petaled blooms remind me of the Trinity. Regal. Pure white. Each petal equal in size to the other. The word Trillium comes from the Latin “tres” for three and “lilium” for lily. “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” (Song of Solomon 2:1)
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Best Friends Forever
If you’re like I am, you’ve had many friends throughout your life, but only a handful of best friends. You know the kind—a Best Friend Forever (called a BFF in the social media world) with whom you can share your deepest secrets and feelings without fear of betrayal. A best friend is someone who will be there for you when you’re hurting and when you’re rejoicing. A best friend will even put their reputation or life on the line to defend you.
Changes happen, however, that can jeopardize our relationship with a BFF. Let’s face it, we all mess up sometimes. Maintaining any close relationship takes work. The love and care that we give our BFF needs to be supplemented with an attitude of humility. Patience doesn’t hurt, either. Nor sacrifice of our time and even our money, if needed. We don’t always have to agree with one another. Like Mutt and Jeff, we can still listen, advise, and love.
A BFF can be more than a blessing. A BFF can be a life-saver—someone we can count on to help us through our tough times.
Jesus wants to be our Best Friend Forever, too. Before His betrayal by Judas, Jesus spoke to His disciples about friendship. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14-15)
Friendship with God first requires us to be His follower. As such, He wants us to abide, or remain in His love. We must refuse to leave Him even to the point of being willing to lay down our lives for Him—as did His disciples. Paul urges us, in Romans 12, to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Such sacrifice includes obedience to Him.
Unlike BFF relationships on the human level, we can have a spiritual BFF relationship with Christ. We can share our deepest secrets and feelings with Him and we can count on Him to be with us through our tough times. We can be assured that, if we choose to trust and obey Him, nothing will change that special Best Friend Forever relationship with Him.
Lord, thank You for Your enduring, secure love and friendship which gives us joy and peace. Help us, through our willing obedience by Your Spirit’s power, to abide and remain in Your love. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday, May 11, 2012
Do you plan your writing schedule ahead? Or like many writers, do you put pen to paper only when the muse strikes? Can there be a combination of such writing habits?
I say Yes. I try to keep a schedule—that is, write every weekday morning from generally nine till noon. That loosely-planned schedule, however, becomes airborne easily. Too easily.
You know the scenario well, I presume. The phone rings. The call must be important, so early in the morning. You await an e-mail answer with such eagerness, you can’t put off opening your mail. Since you’re online, you might as well keep reading. Read, delete, read, delete … read, answer … read, star for a later time. You need your coffee cup refilled. Time to walk around a bit, or clean out the perennial bed before it rains.
I persevere in trying to keep to my schedule. I hope you do too. Hope reigns eternal, or something to that effect.
The muse, however, is another airborne missile that strikes when least expected. That’s the time to stop whatever—emails, phone calls, coffee, gardening—and dash to the computer for an unplanned, uninterrupted time of pure bliss. The words flow. The mind soars into heavenly realms of description, mood, problems solved.
What’s your writing world like? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s compare … and perhaps learn from one another how to better proceed with our writing hobby or career.
Our heavenly Father is a God of infinite variety. We can trust Him to guide us into the writing plans uniquely and best suited for us.
Monday, May 7, 2012
I attended a writer’s conference this past weekend and, as usual, came home enriched with inspiration, instruction, and the inclination to start a new project. Frustration reared its ugly head, however, over a glitch in the timing of conference agenda items. By nature, I’m impatient and therefore I felt ready to walk out. Christian sense prevailed, however, and I stayed to enjoy the best part of the conference. I must remember that in this world, nothing is perfect.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Blades of Grass
While mowing the lawn for the first time this season, I zipped through some areas of grass as sparse as an old man’s whiskers. Other areas, thick as the hair on a bear’s forelegs, caused me to push for all I was worth with my battery-operated mower that is not self-propelled. The sparse area looked like it hadn’t even been mowed. Conversely, the thick grass looked luxurious and inviting.
Our lives work that way, too. When we work hard at something, it brings us a deep sense of satisfaction for having done a job well. When we fly through a task, the result is often boredom or the sense of being unfulfilled. Think of intelligent school children who are not challenged to learn new and more lessons. Often, boredom brings the desire to start trouble, refuse to follow rules, or skip school. Some even drop out of school. Some take the initiative, however, to strive for excellence and growth by doing extra credit work or seeking new, independent ways of learning.
Of course, many children—and adults—would rather do the minimum amount of work. Like the sparse lawn, they barely get by in most areas of their life.
We can apply this analogy to our spiritual life, too. Many Christians are content to attend church once a week, depending on their spiritual leader to spoon feed them with a short dose of the Word. Some may throw a handful of change in the Christmas kettle, believing they’ve done their Christian duty.
Such a sparse life, like the thin grass, will be prone to dis-ease when drought or flood come. Its shallow roots can easily allow weeds to take over.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15: 5)
God, our spiritual gardener, can cause our immature, thin roots to grow. All we have to do is become willing to follow His instructions. A daily dose of His Word is full of the growth-enhancing minerals we need to become flourishing plants. A constant attitude of praise, thanksgiving, and humility as well as a desire to learn more about His works and wonders will bring richness to our mind and spirit.
Lord, we don’t want to languish like sparse patches of grass, content to take the easy way out. We want to flourish with the fruit of Your Holy Spirit, unafraid of the effort it may involve. Help us to abide in You, to desire nothing so much as to depend on Your grace and love for our growth. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Variety is the spice of a writer’s life. If you’re like I am, too bored and impatient to work on one project at a time, you have several stories going at one time. Of course, much can be said for staying focused on one project until it’s finished.
One way you can manage to do both is to manage your writing time. For instance, plan to write on your current book 30 hours a week, or whatever you choose. Add a few hours for another shorter project or two. Or, schedule your days for different projects: Monday through Wednesday write on your book; Thursday can be for another project; Friday for yet another.
It takes time to perfect a writing plan. It also takes regular upgrading—changing our goals when necessary to gain the most productivity and creativity in writing.
I’m currently working on a four-book series, having just sent the second to the publisher. Book three is rattling around in my head and will be for many weeks before I sit down to map out the plot, characters, and conflicts. Meanwhile, I’m writing a short memoir story, a devotional column, and an article every week.
Rewriting and editing can be squeezed into your days. I have written a few children’s stories almost ready to send out for publication. One is titled “The Alphabackwards Book.” Here is an excerpt. I welcome your comments on its content.
While Zippy the Zebra drank from a stream,
A lion drew close, so big and so mean.
Zippy turned around and bounded away
Down ziggedy path to keep Lion at bay.
Zoro, his uncle, helped him to reach home.
Safe! He lay down. Never more will he roam.
“Thanks, Zoro,” he said. “You heard my loud cry.”
He zipped his eyes shut and zonked out with a sigh.