Have you ever wondered what’s happened to all the working lighthouses? How could they be defunct? What takes the place of helping a vessel to anchor or to its pier in safe harbor?
Harbor Pilots are, by sheer tenacity, a remarkable crew. The job requires round-the-clock availability, a complete understanding of the local waters, hazards and weather conditions, and the agility to climb a 30-foot rope ladder up the side of a large vessel.
Our harbor has them. Any port of call has them; these sailors are navigational experts regarding local waters.
When a ship comes into unknown waters, the harbor pilot maneuvers a small craft right up to the big rig, climbing up that ladder and getting behind the wheel to steer the vessel into safe mooring.
And so it is with the staff I work with.
There are a few who understand the aim in a specialized way. They can plot the course for shoreline and safe harbor in waters that most of us have never seen prior to this. While most of us are sequestered with our laptops and zoom sessions focused in on the target for the day, someone with years in the industry will come alongside and prove their maturity and faithfulness by soldiering our vision through our company’s performance of the necessary tasks.
Tasks, such as security, handling delays, sorting through the troubled complaints and defunct systems, and steering the crew into the final destination with wisdom and other hands-on assignments.
These are our harbor pilots – these comrades who are sailing in to assist our somewhat lurching, unsteady building to navigate in unknown waters.
In rough waters, how does a ship or smaller boat find it’s way around sandy banks, jutting rocks, and unusual winds to safe harbor? Guided by the strength and knowledge of someone who has a firm grasp of the way around the banks that would beach us, that’s how.
We all experience waves of gratitude and relief as we are coming to the shoreline.
We are all in this together – but today, let’s take a moment to applaud our unsung heroes, our unseen administrators, first responders, our essential leaders.
A collective “thank you” from all our various ports of call; our kitchen table offices, our cell phones, laptops and heart connections everywhere are warranted. You are worthy deckhands, but it would mean there’s nowhere to land without the harbor pilot.
Can you list one or two harbor pilots in your most choppy, unpredictable waves of life?
Later — when we are all back together — tossed, tested and polished bits of beach glass will emerge gleaming in our midst.
What treasures we will discover.
Kathy Joy, writes the Breath of Joy coffee table series. Simply Summer, Ah, Autumn, Winter Whispers, and Singing Spring. These books make for exceptional “thank-you” gifts and acknowledgments of special someones in your life.
As hard as it is to wave goodbye to summer, I find myself once again greeting fall with a hearty hello.
There’s something about that time between air conditioning and heat; the lower electric bill coupled with crisp nights brings on some good sleeping. The darker mornings and earlier sunsets force us to be the light as we get out of bed to savor the three month transition to winter.
For some, fall’s glory is celebrated in corn mazes and caterpillars, raking more and mowing less; for others, it’s the ginger beer and sweatshirts, football games and pumpkin spice lattes. Still others embrace the fall by stirring hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick, while riding atop a wagon of hay.
When I welcome fall, I reminisce the harvest, especially the autumn harvest of 2012.
For years, the entire back yard was converted to several large summer gardens and, come autumn, a few fall gardens as well. The entire process from turning over the land in the spring to yielding the harvest throughout the fall and into the winter brought hours of joy and pounds of produce to record in my garden ledger.
The first year I planted sweet potatoes, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I opted to start small until I knew they would be a success, so I planted just a few slips. From what I had read, I expected about six to eight sweet potatoes from each plant. Of course I had no idea what if anything was going on underground all spring and summer. Neither did I know when the potatoes were ready for digging.
In October of 2012, my friend Kathy Joy was visiting for the weekend. We had a full schedule between a trip to our favorite Delaware beach, a guest pass for a Combat class at the gym, an event at the homestead where I volunteered as a docent, and a dinner and music night with my parents who were coming in from out of town. Knowing that Kathy’s late husband Roger was a farmer after retiring from the police force, and a farmer before they married, I felt that I needed Kathy by my side as I dug through the earth.
We had to fit this into our schedule somehow. Besides, how long could it take to dig up a few potatoes? We’d dig and then cook dinner.
If there were no sweet potatoes, Kathy would be there to console me. If there were six to eight per plant, we could celebrate together, eating sweet potatoes for supper and sending some home. I read that a pitch fork—rather than a shovel—is needed to avoid breaking or bruising the tubes. That was one garden tool lacking in my shed.
Breaking the earth gently with a shovel, I then dug nervously with gloved hands, not wanting to hurt what little produce might be underground. Every other scoop I turned to Kathy for the go-ahead to dig deeper. And then there was a tint of orange!
One potato, two potato, three potato, more! With each potato, came a squeal, and the count continued. Kathy! There are more over here. And over here! And over here! Even when we thought we were done, we found more, far from where the few slips were planted.
As the sun began to set and the cool of a fall breeze blew our hair, a train of sweet potatoes tracked the benches of a 22 foot square deck. From big-as-our-faces-enormous, to medium, to small-as-a-fist, we were overwhelmed with potatoes. A few were bruised by the excitement of the digging and the harvest, but not enough to have to toss them. Even after we finished digging, I wondered if there were more out there that we missed.
With several large buckets full of sweet potatoes, and a search for more containers, we had enough root vegetables to last a number of households the winter. We laughed and counted, counted and laughed, well past the dinner hour. We’d have potatoes for a bedtime snack.
Spring and summer, hidden from view, potatoes were growing like crazy. From a little, came a lot. The element of surprise, the beauty of the root vegetables, and sharing the moment with a friend who celebrated with me made the harvest of 2012 the sweetest ever.
I didn’t grow sweet potatoes again after that, wanting this memory to be the one I cherished and celebrated when waving goodbye to summers and greeting falls with a hearty hello.
Proverbs 15:31 is aimed like an arrow right to my heart. Receiving good advice is an important aspect of spiritual maturity.
King David was an amazing man – not perfect, but a man after the essence of God. He desired to serve the Lord and His people wisely and justly. According to Psalms, he recognized the need to be both skillful and heartfelt.
In 2 Samuel, David decides to take a census that angers the Lord. Theologians have long debated why the census was wrong:
David was numbering the men under the age of 20 for military service.
The census had no direct order from God.
David was going to use the census to tax the people.
David was not trusting God’s promise to Abraham to make the people innumerable.
Pride and power were possible motivations.
There is also the possibility that once the census was taken that King David neglected the portion of God’s command that required a ransom be given. This ransom was the requirement given by Israel’s meek leader, Moses.
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD when you number them so that there will be no plague among them when you number them.”
Before David took the census, he neglected to listen to the good advice he received from his trusted friend and mighty man Joab (2 Samuel 24:3).
Had the king listened to great trouble and dire consequences could have been avoided. The Lord’s punishment was severe. A plague fell over the land for three days. David suffered and those he served experienced devasting circumstances.
In this season of limited restaurant outings, my family and friends are happily opting into beach picnics on the peninsula.
The lake beckons and our sunset suppers are a highlight of summer 2020.
These water encounters are full of life and laughter; no matter how old or young we are, the urge to squeal with delight is irresistible.
The other night I met up with my daughter, who has an unmistakable kinship with All Things Water. She snaps pictures of sunsets, scours the beach for bits of smoothed glass, and runs to the waves for all the splashes, all the water therapy she can absorb.
Her red hair in the glow of a Lake Erie sunset is a work of art, and can never really be captured in a photo.
After a beach picnic of turkey sandwiches and fresh fruit, we kicked off our flip flops and headed for the surf – which that night was full of kick and sass. The waves were rolling in high and splashy.
The break-walls in the distance were pushing back towers of froth and spray.
I carry this memory like a tall glass of pure hydration: every sip replenishes and renews. Water is a living, dynamic being – just like us.
A scientist-writer wrote a book, “Secret of Water – A Language of Life”. In the book, the late Masaru Emoto claims water has memory. He says water can be influenced by positive words and form beautiful crystals.
This one has allegedly responded to the words “love” and “gratitude”. The researcher says water also responds to music in the form of these exquisite hexagonal shapes.
On the flip side, less vibrant, or “dead” water, does not form hexagonal shapes; rather, its image appears flat and unremarkable.
Some might call these ideas bogus, an extreme hoax; even pseudo-science. No matter where faith and science might overlap, water is pretty amazing. Water is pretty amazing.
We can all agree it’s important for life.
We, like the surface of the earth, are least 70 percent water. An adult should drink at least 2.5 liters of water every day to sustain normal life functions. Another 1.5 liters is absorbed through the skin during bathing or showering. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle
It is also absorbed from standing in the rain!
Pretty much every living thing depends on the abundance of water.
Can water drops retain memory?
I don’t know.
Personally, I defer to the Creator for the mysteries of water.
To me it’s no secret water is life-giving, that it cleanses bodies, refreshes the earth and draws us to the shore for our own rejuvenation.
Test the waters, and see for yourself.
Kathy Joy writes for The Daily Jab, for Books for Bonding Hearts, and for her own blog, Coffee with Kathy. You can transition directly from ordinary to extraordinary with her Breath of Joy seasonal coffee table books. Find out more! Sign uphere for inspiring posts from this author! She is available for speaking engagements geared to your needs.
COVID-19 may have washed the summer beach date off the calendar, but we have a backup plan: the beach webcam.
Through the eyes of the webcam, we watch the sun sparkle on the tips of the waves, the tides ebb and flow, and the seagulls swoop too close to the lens.
We have witnessed weddings on our beach webcam, volleyball games, summer lifeguard Olympics, foot races, and fights; we are drawn in by the boats and planes carrying written messages, and the people dropping their ice cream on the boardwalk and spewing verbal messages we can only imagine.
Last night when in need for a beach fix, the beach-cam was down. Don’t they realize? We watch the cam all seasons, and we especially need it now.
Quickly my party came up with another backup plan: beach memories.
I recited, “Every summer during the growing up years, my family spent two or three weeks at Point O’ Woods beach in South Lyme, CT. A small private beach with no motels, stores, restaurants, or amusement parks, Point O’ Woods is a beach, not a city. We pulled the car in on a Saturday and did not get into that car again until the day we left. Days were spent on the beach, and evenings were spent taking walks, playing whiffle ball, and dealing cards. Even when the sun didn’t shine, we enjoyed the fog horns, the rocks around the sound, and the lively waves fighting back at the rain.”
I’m talking, a few winters we visited the old aunts at Haven of Rest Trailer park in Hobe Sound, FL. The sun on the beach seemed stronger there, and the waves rougher, but this quiet beach was home for a week.
Our only worry there was the Portuguese Man o War, as even the dead ones can sting, and one put an aunt in the hospital for several weeks.
As an adult, Rehoboth Beach, DE is my beach. Although it isn’t as built up as Ocean City, MD, it is lined with motels, shops, arcades, and eateries. We face the ocean with that “city” view behind us. The only time we leave the beach is to feed the parking meter or empty the bladder.
I love the beach, in and out of season.
Trudging through the snow on the beach in Asbury Park, NJ made it too tempting not to take off the boots and test the water. Visiting Rehoboth in the fall surprised us with kites flying and a superpod of dolphins in synchronized swimming.
The salt air, the therapeutic lull of the waves, and the refreshing water, along with the sun and kick-up-the-feet and lose-the-cares beach spirit does not mean every experience is joyful, but all are memorable.
My memories are stealing the conversation, but I don’t care much now.
I’ll never forget seeing Grandma sobbing in the dining room chair of the cottage the day her dog Ladybug was killed on the trip to visit us at the beach. I can still feel that sinking in my stomach that kept me from a second bite of a muffin the day we sat at the picnic table and the police officer came around the back of the cottage to tell us our childhood friend Freddy had died. Nor will I forget the fear, as a child, seeing someone steal a carton of cigarettes and worrying that he knew I saw him do it.
But with those memories come the 20 lb. bluefish my brother caught, the many friends who came to visit, the five-cent Good Humor ice creams, swimming out to the raft for the first time, and many hours of pure delight.
The beach has played a significant role in my life and in the friendship with a dear friend of 42 years. We have shared trips to Rehoboth, and we have had fun with the webcam—one at home viewing, the other waving to the camera. In the 1980’s we saw the movie Beaches and claimed it as ours. Over the past four decades, our life stories and our friendship—in their own way–have paralleled that of CC and Hillary. As we kept in touch through letters, email, and now text, we closed our message with “Beaches.” At times the entire message was “Beaches.”
This summer’s beach plans are shot, and from time to time the webcam is down, but if I have learned anything from the beach and my longtime beach friend Kathy, it is that we can make the best of it and still find something to celebrate. Kathy celebrates all four seasons, beach or no beach, and between her wit and her wordsmith talents, she brings that celebration into the life of all who meet her.
I can’t visit my memories of the beach without celebrating my friend, “Beaches.”
I’m Charmayne Hafen, a Colorado-based author of several elementary, middle-school, and young adult fiction novels.
Sometimes I think I’d like to live out life with the mindset of young wanderer but, I turned 50 this year, yes 50, and time seems to be crunching along faster and faster, as though I’m seated and antsy to be traveling the Cog Railway in haste to the cloud-shrouded top of Pike’s Peak.
It sometimes frightens me.
I glimpse strange and glorious scenery passing by outside my window, and small animals I have never been introduced to before. I have no vocabulary for what is going so quickly by me.
I want to slow down the days and appreciate what is.
This pre-election season in our global climate accompanied by a pandemic and never before experienced rioting in America has brought such suffering and yet, for me, so many God-given gifts. One of these is the gift of meaningful time.
Here, I am spending more time with my husband than I ever have in our 20 years of marriage. I’m discovering things about him I didn’t know. I have come to realize that his sometimes stern tone of voice is just a focused response, unintended to be harsh or even mean. He loves me so much more than I ever knew. He told me the other day that he would always rather be with me than alone.
Time spent is an investment in the future of a loving relationship. Time is our most precious commodity. If we spend our time with people that don’t support us or even tear us down, we are investing into a bottomless “whatever will be”, to our own detriment.
We tend to think animals live in the present, that they don’t have a future and don’t have a past. But we know that’s not true. They can use tools to fix something for the future. In a Swiss zoo, orangutans had a skylight in their cage and dismantled the whole thing. That way they could spend summer nights on the roof of their building. Then in the morning before the caretakers came back, they would go back in the cage and put the skylight precisely back together. So no one ever noticed. On a nice summer night, it was better to be on the roof than inside the cage.
To enjoy my calling to write, I must prioritize it and take the time to write.
In my middle-grade Trilogy, The Land of Twilight offers readers a time and space altered dimension. Sam and Lorna occasionally get lost between what matters and what is and what they wish could be. But, they are growing up and their inquisitive minds begin to discover answers to replace their usual acceptance of “whatever”.
In the most recent third book of my Land Of Twilight trilogy, Trouble In Twilight, my seventh-grade characters, Lorna and Sam, travel through time to learn how to save the dying Land Of Twilight. As they pay a visit to ancient Greece and the city of Nazareth, the friends grapple with what it means to have faith as well as faith in whom or in what you put your faith.
It takes the passing of time to reach different conclusions about faith. God is gracious and gives us this time.
I’ve heard, and I believe that God lives outside of time. He already sees our sanctified, perfected selves. We are the blind ones. We’re stuck in a timeline where living only for today or living in the past or even the future can be dangerous if we don’t have the cogs on the wheels to grip the cogs of the railroad machinery.
Ignoring the importance of time well-placed, this gift we’ve been offered to spend on our most important relationships can take our focus off of the One who calls us “holy” or set apart for a special relationship with our Creator.
If we focused more on who He says we are, that He made us for the purposes designed within our make up, and for Him, we might be free to live at last.
I pray I’ll maintain this investment of time with my husband even after things “go back to normal”, whatever that is compared to now. I also pray I will continue to slow down and take time with those I love and that God places in front of me.
Time is a precious gift to be given with full focus and care.
Charmayne Hafen co-owns and manages a petroleum testing company with her husband. Besides this dimension, she sets the pace for each day with her morning rituals of listening to music, painting and art, prayer, and writing.
Two days ago, I discovered a shoe box on a shelf in my closet.
For six and a half years, I’d been caring for a parent, hence most of my stuff had been closeted away all of that time.
I brought down the shoe box intending to toss it borne on a tad of disgust for the things one keeps. To my great delight, I rediscovered all of my favorite jewelry and hair clips inside! Even my wedding ring was there, and I might have tossed it away!
As I sorted through it, I remembered, however vaguely, that I’d put it all in there and hidden it under the bed when we were selling our old house so that strangers walking through the house wouldn’t find it. Then, when we moved to my parent’s house, I’d just stuffed everything I had into closets, including this box. I never imagined that it would be almost seven years before I’d find it again.
An elastic bracelet was one of the first things I touched. I slipped it on remembering the women’s retreat in which I’d made it. The letters read, C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-T. It was from the retreat in which a speaker helped us examine our names and the way we felt about ourselves. She had challenged us to lay our insecurities, failures, and sins at Jesus’ feet, and allow Him to do what He’d promised, to give us a new name. Then, the speaker asked us to make a piece of jewelry with the new name on it so that we would have our own landmark of His promise over us. It was a way to help us live in the new name.
I’m so glad I found that little elastic bracelet. It brings me to my knees in Christ, and it raises me up in the same instant to live fully in Him.
Some people have said they stand in awe of the things I’ve tackled and accomplished in life, but that just isn’t the way I feel. Naturally, I am never very confident when my eyes are on myself, my failures, my longings, and my attempts to figure things out. I do tackle things that others don’t try out, but then, I pay the price for trying because there usually isn’t a “how-to” list or a mentor to help me get ‘er done. So, like Peter who got out of the boat and began walking toward Jesus then began to sink when he looked at the waves, I also tend to sink in despair and self-loathing.
I knew a girl in college who couldn’t find her voice. She whispered whenever she spoke. Several years later, I ran into this sweet girl who was transformed and now vivacious! I saw that she had become a leader in her church and she’d somehow found the umph of her vocal cords. She was happily married, and people had only good things to say about her. She told me she’d found her voice when she read all about the Lord and His goodness toward her particularly, and His plan for her.
Some people struggle because of the things they’ve been told by a parent or someone in authority over them, things that are lies. Some people struggle because they do not feel beautiful or mentally or physically or socially well-equipped. How did the Psalmist get to that place where He could praise God for his mind and body?
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
My emotional life has honestly been a roller-coaster for good reason. However, when I take my eyes off of myself and put them firmly on the Lord, I can find the courage and confidence to keep on keeping on.
Jesus said very little about being confident. He only said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father, but by me.” John 14:6 We often skip over the first bit and go directly to the piece of evangelism, but does this verse say Jesus is the life? Does that mean He wants me to live fully and pursue the dreams in my heart and to increase my skill and to be a good steward of my relationships and things? Why YES!
The Bible is clear that He also “was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of humanity.” John 1:1-4 — Okay, that’s a WoW!
To clarify, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:26-27 This says to me, that you and I have been given relationship, assertiveness, creativity, ideas, and the abilities to articulate and to make things happen in teamwork as He did.
I can be confident to initiate and also to ask for help. The Triune God acts as one mind and spirit. Wouldn’t it be great to act in unity with each other, helping one another succeed? Confidence is about a solo act, but it does begin with an understanding of who I am in God, and beyond that, who I am hidden in Christ in God.
Those who trust in their riches will fall, but
the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. Proverbs 11:28
This is the confidence we have when approaching God:
that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 1 John 5:14
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
In Him, and through faith in Him, we may approach God with
freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. Jeremiah 17:7
“[. . .] With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said. 2nd Chronicles 32:8
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
God bless you and all you accomplish as you put your faith in Him! Here is a benediction to lift up your life forever. This is what God says:
I will change your name ... You shall no longer be called Wounded, Outcast, Lonely or Afraid. I will change your name ... Your new name will be Confidence, Joyfulness, Overcoming One, Faithfulness, Friend of God, One Who Seeks My Face. - Isaiah 62-4
It’s important, though, to remember the former elements of “normal” are still with us, if we will only take a minute to notice.
Take fireflies for instance. What a wonder a single firefly still is to me!
There’s a quote that’s traveled with me for a long time. It’ on my fridge:
Normal Day, Do not let me pass you by in search of some Rare and Perfect Tomorrow.
Mary Jean Iron
This power-packed memento has been a mainstay through all of life’s seasons. With every move, every new fridge, this little saying has traveled with me as a reminder of the splendor in little moments.
The little ordinary moments are ever-present while we sigh and long for: Brighter tomorrows, better sleep, happier children, perfectly manicured lawns, stronger connections, brighter lighting, exotic destinations, more flawless skin, shinier memories…
Here’s the thing. When we are off chasing after a happier reality, the one we’re IN is quietly passing us by.
I’m not asking you to embrace The Summer of Covid, but I am suggesting you uncover the good stuff inside this interval.
Your “normal” will look different than mine.
Here’s mine. The texture of my kiddo’s voice on the phone; it doesn’t matter what we’re talking about – the sound of her voice is life-affirming.
The smell of towels that have been line-dried in fresh air and sunshine.
Summer kids riding by my window on their bikes and skateboards.
Dandelions gone to seed.
Waking to sunlight,
That first sip of coffee,
the hypnotic hum of a lawnmower,
Old Glory rippling in the breeze.
a real letter in the mail,
my music jam,
fireflies in the whisper of dusk.
Not everything is a joy-bringer; some things are a slog through scary passages. But still – not everything is skewed into some narrow margin of “the New Normal”. We can still count on the ordinary, normal things. And those will sustain us.
Kathy Joy writes for The Daily Jab, for Books for Bonding Hearts, and for her own blog, Coffee with Kathy. You can transition directly from ordinary to extraordinary with her Breath of Joy seasonal coffee table books. Find out more! Sign uphere for inspiring posts from this author!
“Weeding a bed of iris rhizomes in late summer taught me something about the Creator’s winnowing tactics.
“I had left the irises all spring and summer. Their roots became infiltrated with grass roots. It seemed daunting trying to pull out the grass that year. Every time I yanked at a few long pieces in irritation, the bed hollered, “I need your focused attention, please!”
So, in the fall, I decided to pull out all those evil pencil grasses choking my bed of prized spring flowers.
“It was difficult work digging up the entire bed and chopping apart or wrestling out the clumps of rhizomes.
“Hidden within each clump were grass roots that clung to the rhizomes as if they were the same thing, mimicking the iris rhizomes. The grass roots, though they looked succulent and almost identical to the hairs of the root, were not part of the root at all. They didn’t belong, they were fakers. They would never produce blossoms for me.
Even healthy, good grass is just “weedy” when woven into beds of blooming irises.
“When I tugged at each hair of the rhizome, they clung to the root because they belonged. When I tugged at a grass root, it would slide out of the other hairs, because it was not connected by anything other than dirt. This hard work made me think about the work the Lord does in pulling out the wild grasses in my life. He has to do this work even in the lives of very mature and colorful groups of people.
“Learning to thank the Gardener of our souls early on for the means in which He manhandles our lives helps us to recognize what keeps us healthy and blooming. Hardship means to bring us maturity and glory.
“Living a creative life is the closest sort of metaphor to living a life of faith that I can think of. Music infuses grace as a spirit-transforming wonder like a blessing. There are so many risks taken being creative and also living by faith. Yet there is hope! Inspiration. And, many self-adjustments. So many prayers. So much involvement and intervention of God. So much personal growth.
“Being creative in a godly sense means turning out something of positive purpose from very little.”
Pages 54-55, Chapter 3, Welcome to the Shivoo! (Bartnick)
Q: What is creativity in writing?
A: You give someone a disaster, and they find a human spirit pulling a wagon with a child in it.
Q: What is creativity in writing?
A: You give someone a maniac, and they put a history onto her like a sack of stones so that you find the salt of sympathetic tears, empathy weeping, dashed upon her oily hair. You learn God’s mercy, and maybe redemption. Learning to experience mercy can be an artistic leap for anybody. Page 56, Welcome to the Shivoo! (Bartnick)
How are you working to winnow out a good result from a bad situation? Below the ground, we all find good roots and tangly, weedy roots. Telling the full story in a memoir is surprisingly more compelling than just telling the flowery stuff.
Most often when the day draws to a close and bedtime is near, my thoughts turn toward the story I am currently reading, and my heart swells with anticipation for when I climb between the sheets, gather two pillows on which to rest my head, switch on the lamp next to my side of the bed, and open a book to the dog eared page where I left off the night before.
I read myself to sleep most nights. Sometimes the book is so engaging that I read myself awake until the wee hours of the morning.
As a small girl, I fell deeply in love with books, and my admiration has not waned.
Along with my love of reading as a child, I dreamed of being a writer. I thought all writers were famous and lived loftily in houses in lovely places. They were also people of means who traveled the world looking for the next setting for their grand-scale story.
I have written three books (two novels and a leadership tool for women in ministry) and have a third novel in mind. BUT, somehow, the exotic places in my dreams and the resources to explore and experience adventures around the world based on book sales have not happened.
Writing and publishing are time-consuming and costly. In fact, it took me several years in the business to begin seeing a small profit. For the first two years, virtually nothing much sold. Sometimes, that can be the entire life of a book. But something hit a nerve somewhere in the third year of marketing of my first West Virginia book, and it made such a turn around that I wrote my sequel.
Writing and publishing a novel is a long, complicated, collaborative affair…
This morning, I opened my email to find a nice review from Midwest Book Review, the official book reviewing agency of Amazon. This is what it said,
“An exceptionally well written and entertaining work of historical romance for young adult readers that is unreservedly recommended for both high school and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that ‘The Melody of the Mulberries’ is also readily available in a paperback edition.”
A young writer recently asked me about the probability of her making a living writing. My initial thoughts were about the costs involved and the time spent in meetings and working on marketing, but instead, I told her to read every book placed in her hands, to write long into the night, and to wake-up dreaming about traveling the world either in her thoughts or in heels walking on faraway soil.
I don’t drink alcoholic beverages but have been known to toast with a ice-filled glass of water, a swirl of diet soda, or even cranberry juice – so here’s to the writers young and old, those starting out in publishing or the seasoned author – read, write, and dream!
Tonya Jewel Blessing is a founding author and partner of the Capture Books boutique publishing group. Her vision and contributions to the group have been a cornerstone to the ministry and success of several authors and readers to date.
“I am thoroughly impressed! I specifically enjoyed your characters. When I finish a book and continue thinking of the characters as people I care about and want to hear more about, I gage that a success!!! They are flawed individuals who are trying to live out a genuine Christian life, and that is refreshing!
“I also enjoyed the real tragedy these characters experienced…So often Christian fiction is hesitant to portray realistic tragedy. Thank you for facing some of the ‘ugliness’ of life and showing how Christ can carry us through it!
Some of my editing clients seem to think that it’s easy to edit a manuscript with lots of Bible verses in it because the editor doesn’t have to do any real “editing.”
I can’t begin to say how incorrect that thought is. There are many technicalities for correctly citing and formatting Scripture, and I certainly won’t cover them all in this post. But I want to go over just a few guidelines here. These are taken from “The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, the Fourth Edition,” which should be used when writing a Christian book. This style guide is a complement to “The Chicago Manual of Style.”
The following list is by no means exhaustive.
Put Bible verses in roman (plain) font. Do not italicize or bold them.
Some versions have italicized words in the text if you cut and paste the verses from an online source. Change these to the roman font.
Use italics to add emphasis only. Example: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16, emphasis added).
In the above, move the period to the end of the sentence, after the parentheses.
Verses should usually run in the body of the manuscript. There are two exceptions: the Psalms and poetic citations, which should keep the identical formatting of the Bible version; and block quotes, which are longer than 100 words and indented from the left margin. (Indenting from the right margin is optional. I usually don’t do this.)
Blockquotes do not need quotation marks at the beginning or end of the quote.
Do not bold or italicize the references. Leave them in roman font.
Per the publisher’s request, you cannot make global changes to the entire verse. In other words, you should not put the entire verse in bold or italics. If you want to do this, you need to ask permission from the publisher. The only exception would be for a version that is in the public domain.
Use en dashes — not hyphens or commas — to show a range of numbers in verses. Example: Romans 8:28–29. Not Romans 8:28, 29. Not Romans 8:28-29.
This post is by no exhaustive. Please reach out to me if you have further questions about this or any other editing topic.
Lisa has been writing since she could hold a pencil. She has a degree in elementary education and a minor in English. After working in retail, law enforcement, and education for years, she transitioned to writing and editing full-time in 2009. In her spare time, she likes to hang out with her sons and eat chips and salsa. When she can do both at the same time, she’s especially happy.
A quote is hanging in the office of a colleague at my place of work: a building that, due to circumstances, is currently inhabited by a small percentage of our workforce.
This common quote is something a wise driving coach or a life coach might say.
“Even though there are days I wish I could change some things that happened in the past, there’s a reason the rear view mirror is so small and the windshield is so big. Where you’re headed is much more important than what you’ve left behind.”
The majority of my workmates are putting in their time remotely, sometimes passing through the building briefly to touch base, retrieve something, or peer curiously back into a world we evacuated in 2020. The rearview mirror seems so small, but the effects of yesterday have changed our courses.
How prophetic, then, as we drive forward into an uncertain future, to think of the windshield as our point of reference: Where we are headed is far more important than what we’ve left behind. Even this gradual return to “normal” will not look like the “old normal” we once knew.
That rearview mirror? It’s a handy reference tool, and we can check to see who’s following us into the unknown.
Good company or bad, we can keep an eye on them.
Look through that big windshield for the great things that await.
We’re getting some new dreams and goals to replace the old.
Let’s hang on and enjoy the ride.
Finally, whatever regrets or chaos you’ve found in the rearview mirror holding your attention, or slowing you down … let that stuff go. Keep driving forward into the next Great Adventure.
Kathy Joy writes daily for her local county government, is an experienced and popular radio DJ, and is also a guest blogger for Books For Bonding Hearts See more on her personal blog, Coffee with Kathy. She is available for speaking engagements and holiday events. Book Kathy Joy!
A hiking trip through Israel was one of the inspirations for my debut novel, The Zealots, appearing on shelves in January of 2021.
I first saw this incredible painting when my husband and I visited the ancient town of Magdala located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The painting, named ‘The Encounter’, by Daniel Cariola, takes up an entire wall in the Duc in Altum spiritual center.
As I sat on the rough-hewn stone bench across from the larger-than-life depiction of a woman’s hand snaked through a maze of dusty, sandaled feet, (view link to The Encounter) I was transported to a time over two thousand years ago.
When the bleeding first began she didn’t worry. Like all women, her menses arrived regularly. As required by law she gathered up her mat, some clothes, water, and food and bade farewell to her husband and children.
She walked outside the gates of Capernaum and joined the other women gathered in tents on the outskirts of the city. They shared this in common: they were all considered unclean so long as their menses continued. Once the bleeding stopped they would complete the ritual purification rites and rejoin their families in town. The women were far from bemoaning their temporary exile, however. In fact, they thanked Adonai for the respite from their daily responsibilities, enjoying the time of community, and the rest with the other women.
She anticipated returning to town after seven days, the normal duration of her cycle, the required time by law. When the bleeding did not cease after seven days she refused to worry. A woman’s body was an unpredictable thing. She would enjoy the extra day of rest and return home soon. After ten days she began to worry. Her young daughter brought more food and asked when she would return home. She tried to reassure her, “soon.” Surely the bleeding would stop tomorrow.
Another week passed and then another.
It became a singular torture to see the other women come and go back to their husbands, their children, their bodies dependable and self-healing. Her body, broken.
She cried out to Adonai to stop the flow of blood. Her husband and sons sent messages to her. They often stood at a distance from the tents, their conversation disjointed and awkward. She tried not to cry when her daughter visited. Was this curse to pass down to the little one? Each time her daughter visited, she seemed a little older for carrying the duties belonging to her mother at home, a little more resigned to the fact that her mother now lived outside the gates. Magdala not only experienced the physical cramping, but also the cramp of guilt, resignation, loss, humiliation.
Many nights the woman cried herself to sleep, craving her husband’s arms around her, longing to touch her sons’ faces.
Months passed, then years.
The woman’s daughter soon joined the women who came to the tent every few weeks, but empty years had untangled their ties as mother and daughter. The girl seemed guarded and withdrawn. Other women treated her like a leper. They worried the issue was a contagion. Shamed and confused, Magdala grieved her years. The bleeding was a thief! Every morning and evening she removed and replaced the bloody cloths that evidenced her required isolation.
Watching her numbness to the physical pain and a growing bitterness to the emotional pain that tore at his wife’s heart, her husband had commissioned many doctors to try to find a cure over the years. None had been successful.
Where was Adonai?
What had she done that she was being punished–as people insinuated?
One day a friend arrived in the tent bearing news of a traveling rabbi. The man spoke like no other teacher and healed the sick and lame. The woman begged those who came to the tent for news of the great rabbi. She sat enraptured, listening to the accounts. At night she dreamed that the rabbi came to the tent and healed her, but when she awoke she knew it was impossible. Those in the tent were unclean. No man would ever enter the tent.
It had been twelve years since the bleeding began.
Magdala had missed the marriages of her children.
She hadn’t been home to share in daily intimate conversations with her husband, or touch the softened wrinkles that time had worn in his face. She was in the tent when her daughter gave birth to her first child, and had listened, tears streaming down her face, as her daughters-in-law described her grandchildren. She had missed so much.
In that moment she wished the bleeding would consume her.
When she heard that the rabbi was in Capernaum that day, the woman made a decision.
It was unlawful for her, an unclean woman, to leave the tent. If she were discovered she would be publicly humiliated, punished, forced outside the city, and her actions would bring dishonor on her family. But she was desperate. Hadn’t all of these things already happened to her and to them? From what she had been told, large crowds followed the rabbi everywhere he went. If she could simply touch the hem of his garment, perhaps then her prayers would be noticed as the physical reality they were.
She crept from the tent and covered her head with her cloak. She kept her face to the ground and joined those entering the city, glancing up furtively every so often. Maybe she would be seen as a foreigner. No-one had seen her up close in years. She hurried to the hope of a savior.
It wasn’t difficult to find the rabbi as the streams of people surrounding her carried her to where he stood, surrounded by his disciples. She listened. He spoke with authority just as they said. But how was she to get close enough to touch him?
Years of pain and desperation had worn away her pride. She began pressing through the crowd, one hand grasping her shawl over her face, so that only her eyes were visible. If anyone discovered who she was she would be removed from the crowd, this she knew.
Perfumed people stood with sweaty. Thickly, their robes overwhelmed her. They complained and elbowed her as she pressed past them, hunched over against the pain. Soon she stood just the space of another person from the rabbi, but here the people jostled one another, each wanting to be as close to the man as possible.
She sank to her knees and crawled around the leather-thonged feet. A curse rang out above her. She was kicked and stepped on, but still, she reached forward, her eyes fixed on the white linen tunic only a couple of steps from her. Finally, she was close enough. She stretched desperately to touch the hem of his tunic.
A jolt of pain wrenched through her then left entirely.
She sank back on her heels and was knocked over by someone. She didn’t care about that. Delighted in the complete absence of cramps, she also realized that the helpless river was stopped. She was healed. She could feel it.
Tentatively she stood to her feet. Drops of sweat and dust rolled down her forehead and neck.
Her back hunched, a body instinctively trained from years of pain. Yet now she felt nothing, no spasms or pangs. She drew her shoulders back, forcing herself to stand tall. Still no pain. A sigh of relief slipped from behind lips still covered by her cloak. She had forgotten how it felt to be well.
As the wonder enveloped the town of Magdala, the Rabbi in the white tunic turned and looked straight at her.
“Who touched me?” He questioned, looking into her eyes.
One of his disciples gestured to the masses surrounding them, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”
“Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out of me.” The Rabbi replied. His eyes continued to hold hers, and the woman began to tremble. She fell to her knees. Those surrounding her drew back, hundreds of eyes now looking at her and the Rabbi. Voices quieted.
“I…I’m sorry, Rabbi.” The woman pulled back the shawl covering her head and face and heard some around her voice their recognition.
“I have been bleeding…for years now. None were able to heal me. I have been separated from my family…” Salty tears ran down her cheeks; she could taste them. She glanced up and saw her husband’s astounded face in the crowd.
“I heard about you…about the miracles you do. I had to see if you could heal me. I touched your garment and immediately I felt the bleeding stop.”
Tears flowed down her husband’s face. The woman wanted to stand and throw herself into his arms, but she restrained herself. What was the Rabbi going to do now that he had singled her out of the healthy crowd?
She hadn’t sent him messages about healing her before touching his robe. She, an unclean woman, had touched a holy man against the law, and had she made him unclean? Would he withdraw the healing and demand punishment? Would he make her pay for her disobedience to the law?
Trembling, she waited. She looked up into the Rabbi’s face.
Rather than condemnation, she saw his kindness.
“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
The crowds around her surged back to life, surrounding her. She shakily made her stance and wiped the hair from her eyes. Though people studied her, curiously, no one laid hands on her. She was free to go.
She flinched when a hand landed firmly on her shoulder and turned. Her husband stood before her. Without waiting a moment longer she fell into his arms. The tears they shared were tears of wonder, victory in love, and peace.
The town recognized that this rabbi had singled her out and pronounced her healed. Yet surely he was more than an ordinary rabbi making pronouncements.
“Where is he? Please thank him!” She turned to locate the Rabbi again among the people, but he was already blocked from her view. Still no pain.
Everyone had a wonderful time, except for my great-nephew, a four-year-old. The six-hour adventure was too much for him. My peaceful day of sunshine, cool water, and a slight breeze also included Joey’s repeated interruptions and adamant cries, “Get me out of here!” The cutie even told me a few days later, “Aunt T, I hate tubing!”
At once point along the rolling river, I got stuck by the shallow bank among logs, rocks, and overhanging trees.
A helpful friend told me to lift my bottom and kick my legs.
It was good advice, and I was soon on my way.
In my Appalachian historical novel, The Melody of the Mulberries, the Spanish Flu makes an ugly appearance. The flu pandemic originally occurred between 1918 and 1920 and affected the lives of over 500 million people. My story is set during the late 1920s when there was a small resurgence of influenza. In this excerpt, the granny witch is dying. She has been a nemesis in teacher Ernest’s side, but he comes along to help her.
A mystery apprentice acts as a witness.
He patted her hand and tried to soothe her, “Granny, I’m knowing you think that I don’t like you, but, in truth, I admire you,” Ernest began. The weary woman opened her glassy eyes and immediately closed them again. The weight of her chin rested on her upper chest.“You’ve been strong in tough times. You’ve lived in the wilds and did your best to be helping others. Now, I am wanting to help you. I know you believe in God, but it’s important to believe that God sent His Son Jesus to save us. Your time on earth might be coming to an end. I’m gonna pray, and I’m wanting you to pray with me.” Ernest motioned for Minerva to join them. They made a hand circle. He closed his eyes and prayed a simple prayer. When he opened his eyes and looked at Granny, she had released Minerva’s hand. The wrinkled worn weathered hand was raised in the air like Granny was reaching for someone.
The Melody of the Mulberries
We are living in unusual times.
If we are not careful, we can easily become entangled along the bank, get stuck, and become immobile. Granny lifted her hand reaching for God. We can also lift our hands reaching out for hope and the love of a Savior.
Rain when it’s being held in the air – that pungent whiff of earth and sky mingled.
Rain after it has drenched the ground and started laughing rivulets in drain pipes, streams and driveways.
Rain as it pulls itself upward, trailing the skies to the next cloudburst party.
Rain in all its delirious, delightful forms: sprinkles, dribbles, droplets, exclamation points, sloppy blobs of hydration on our faces, our skin, our grateful noggins.
After a pretty nice stretch of sunny days, we got some rain this week.
I did a Google search on the smell of rain, and it turns out the scent that fills the air before a rainfall is called “petrichor”.
This distinct smell, petrichor, is described as earthy, musky and fresh, and tends to be stronger after a lengthy period of no rainfall.
The storm’s downdrafts carry the smell from high altitudes to nose level.
Isn’t that great?!
Rain-washed air is delivered from the heights,
down down down
to your nose – a fresh and fragrant party for your olfactory nerves.
“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”
This blog supports www.booksforbondinghearts.com/shop/gifts, timely gifts for all seasons. Please visit the link to see my seasonal books, the “Breath of Joy! series. Breath of Joy! Simply Summer is a favorite lounge & browse this time of year.
Book her! KATHY JOY’s topics and presentation style invoke deeply human responses and life-changing behaviors.
Voices push through paper or cloth and emerge muffled. Smiles are imagined, not seen.
Playgrounds are eerily quiet. There should be dust and laughter; airborne shrieks and the proper “thunk” of a glove-caught baseball.
In our town, the 4th of July was an oddly packaged holiday of caution – an empty parade with echoes of marching bands past. The hollow day was punctuated later with endless fireworks, a continuous loop of virtually EVERY summer night in our town. So, with Labor Day? Who can tell?
Malls have fiber-boards for windows, and parking lots are nearly empty.
Stores that are open are not letting us zig-zag willy-nilly through the aisles; we have to watch for arrows and other masked shoppers, stepping up to the cashier only when we are told.
Shopping is exhausting. Many are opting for curbside pickup or Instacart.
Everything is muted.
While walking and longing for something cheerful to cut through life’s masks, I heard the sound of a baby’s laughter.
What is it about a child’s laugher? It’s a wonderful mystery, that unhindered joy that jiggles up from the belly and fills the air with ripples of watery music.
That baby in her new swing.
The baby stretched her bare feet into the sky and giggled clear up to the full moon.
Her experience of flying for the very first time sent trills of laughter into the evening air.
I looked around at the grownups and I swear we all looked a good deal younger. A trick of twilight softened our features and made us all wood nymphs for one moment.
Pine trees hovered over us, benevolent silhouettes bending into our joy. Fireflies came out to light up the party.
This, I thought… this moment, this child, these loved ones gathered – will cut through our masked passages and give us wings for the journey ahead.
Kathy Joy writes for her company’s Lunchtime Jabs, and for Coffee With Kathy, her personal blog, and for Books for Bonding Hearts. She is the author of the greeting card coffee table series, Breath of Joy: Simply Summer, Ah, Autumn, Winter Whispers and Singing Spring (All available on Amazon).\
Maybe I’m exposing a dirty little secret known only to musicians, writers, and artists, and those who use them, but here it is. The artistic segment of the population has historically struggled with penury, personal poverty which subsequently makes them financially unstable enough to support a spouse, let alone a family. Out of this turbulence, a variety of perversions and imbalances in lives may occur.
There was a time when the law forbade marriage, even for a well-respected musician, when a musician could not account for the funds he would need to keep a wife and a family. In 1814, Schubert, an Austrian composer, met a young soprano named Therese Grob, daughter of a local silk manufacturer, and wrote several of his liturgical works (including a “Salve Regina” and a “Tantum Ergo”) for her; she was also a soloist in the premiere of his Mass No. 1 (D. 105) in September 1814. Schubert wanted to marry her but was hindered by the harsh marriage-consent law of 1815 requiring an aspiring bridegroom to show he had the means to support a family. Although this year for Schubert was most prolific in his compositions, it proved disastrous to his health because he began to womanize with a variety of women. In November 1816, after failing to gain a musical post in Laibach (now Ljubljana, Slovenia), Schubert sent Grob’s brother Heinrich a collection of songs retained by the family into the twentieth century.
You can also learn about the inability of Haydn, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, and even Wagner to be allowed to marry.
A contemporary list of articles on the subject of the risks of marrying a musician appears in Google. Perhaps, this is why, in 1998, Rita Steblin published her research promoting the general underwriting of arts scholarships, “In Defense of Scholarship and Archival Research: Why Schubert’s Brothers Were Allowed to Marry”. Current Musicology. 62: 7–17.
Maybe it was derived from one or more of the ten commandments, i.e., the seventh commandment, “You shall not steal”, or the 5/6th commandment, “Don’t commit murder (Exodus 20:13), the Psalmist, King David believed, “Don’t make your living by oppression, extortion, or put your hope in stealing,” (Psalm 62:10a). In fact, both King David and King Solomon instituted and adhered to a sacred law whereby the priests, musicians, and gatekeepers were to be paid “in produce, firstfruits, contributions, and tithes” in Israel and Judah. This fact is encoded by connotation or application of the culture and kingdom’s commands according to the records of Nehemiah 12:44-47.
For the musicians, the reason for coding their support into law was because, “there had been directors for the musicians and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.”
Following, David, and honoring his father’s intentions and walk with the Lord, King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived also provided God’s people professional musicians. “According to music historian Abraham Schwadron, ‘probably the most important musical contribution of the ancient Hebrews was the elevation of the status of liturgical music in union with ritual ceremonies.’ He notes the “high degree of musico-liturgical organization” from the descriptive accounts of King Solomon’s Temple, such as the 24 choral groups consisting of 288 musicians which took part in 21 weekly services.
There is a rich Biblical history of musicians and creatives in service to God’s people. Even musical instruments were carved and professionally designed.
Do you have a director of music in you place of worship who leads a choir or a band? Do you believe that great music takes skill, training, and practice to achieve a high result of quality praise music and songs of thanksgiving? Let’s talk about this, then.
Statistically, artists and musicians, the creatives in your church left to their creative means, are probably among the poorest of the poor, and yet it is they who provide you the highest experience of your faith connection with God? Most likely, the pastors and maintenance keepers of your church facility are paid a living.
When inventoried, it becomes clear, many musicians are asked to offer their music as a gift to the church, rather than offering them a living for the work they do for the benefit of the church’s spiritual well-being.
Often, this arrangement seems to work because:
a) the church may be a startup, and no-one is fully paid;
b) musicians feel it is an honor and are happy to use their free time to practice worship songs, after all, practicing benefits their own spiritual depth and musical skill. Practicing music can also be a bit like practicing romance. It just feels rewarding;
c) music with which to familiarize an audience is readily available on national Christian broadcasting and radio to copy making it easy to copy by ear.
Let’s Break this Down.
a) When the pastor begins to be paid in a startup, is there a leadership view to budget also for a music director, and then for the select musicians themselves? Why or why not? b) is it an inequality or abuse of the person filling a needed job in a church body to require a highly talented and skilled musician to volunteer for ministry while the pastor and the maintenance keepers are paid? c) because popular Christian musicians must tour to earn a living, when they can no longer tour or they lose a contract due to a crises or lack of new stylistic music, the best musicians often experience financial crises themselves. They must be sidelined in favor of the next upcoming styles, and the old is passed over.
Equipping These Saints
I’d like to delve a bit deeper into the extensive problems of passing over spiritually skilled and gifted musicians according to fads rather than choosing to equip these saints:
1) if the national church is sidelining nationally touring ministers of the gospel without providing for a retirement as anyone else is provided for in any other occupation in society. How are they supposed to survive? Do they get bitter at the church? Are they able to teach or train others after their popularity has waned? Are they able to play their songs in smaller venues or in missions or camps? Do they get jobs in circuses and entertainment establishments or bars? (You would be surprised at which of your heroic troubadours have ended their ministry careers this way).
2) if local churches have local cultures and local musical styles and local spiritual needs, these may be wasted or obviated in favor of nationally acclaimed styles and songs. But, nationally acclaimed stylistic musicians do not always meet these needs. Local churches may want to keep hymns, or psalm singing, eventide and morning song, and chants as part of their worship services. Others prefer city jazz, hard rock, early singspiration songs, cowboy songs, soul or rap singing in their worship experience. Some churches seek out lyrics for lament and others for complementing the sermons which the pastor or elder team deem particularly in need for their congregation’s benefit. There are those who also pick music based on what will build an audience most efficiently.
3) if there is a talented and skilled local musician who loves the Lord who writes lyrics like a nationally acclaimed musician, does he or she have to go to Nashville or California to become famous before a church will take them seriously? Maybe there is a musician locally who can notate cantata arrangements, even a new wave of Haydn, Scarlotti, Rossi oratorios, or new classics such as the roles Handel played as the director of music to the Duke of Chandosor, or Bach played in their local societies. Please pardon my escape into actual local phenomenons in musical history below for examples.
Bach “wrote many church cantatas and some of his best compositions for the organ while working for the Duke Johann Ernst III in Weimar. During his time at Weimar, Bach wrote ‘Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,’ one of his most popular pieces for the organ. He also composed the cantata “Herz und Mund und Tat,” or Heart and Mouth and Deed.”
I am reminded of the 2nd Chapter of Acts sibling trio, Annie Herring, Nelly Greisen, and Matthew Ward, in this statement about Johann Sabastian Bach. After being orphaned at age 10, Bach lived for five years with his eldest brother Johann Christoph.
“Bach was appointed court musician in the chapel of Duke Johann Ernst III in Weimar. His role there is unclear, but it probably also included menial, non-musical duties. During his seven-month tenure at Weimar, his reputation as a keyboardist spread so much that he was invited to inspect the new organ and give the inaugural recital at the New Church (now Bach Church) in Arnstadt, located about 30 kilometres (19 mi) southwest of Weimar. In August 1703, he became the organist at the New Church, with light duties, a relatively generous salary, and a new organ tuned in a temperament that allowed music written in a wider range of keys to be played.” From 1723 Bach was employed as Thomaskantor (cantor at St. Thomas) in Leipzig. He composed music for the principal Lutheran churches of the city, and for its university’s student ensemble Collegium Musicum. From 1726 he published some of his keyboard and organ music. In Leipzig, as had happened during some of his earlier positions, he had difficult relations with his employer, a situation that was little remedied when he was granted the title of court composer by his sovereign, Augustus, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, in 1736.
4) Teamwork, as the members of the 2nd Chapter of Acts in the Jesus Music era also discovered, is worth the value in developing for ongoing ministerial success. Wikipedia records that Handel’s Messiah was a phenomenon rooted in teamwork, that,
In 1735 Handel received the text for a new oratorio named Saul from its (vocal musician and lyricist) librettist Charles Jennens, a wealthy landowner with musical and literary interests.” The text also came in part from the English Book of Common Prayer taken from the Psalms. “Because Handel’s main creative concern was still with opera, he did not write the music for Saul until 1738, in preparation for his 1738–39 theatrical season. […] “Handel’s reputation in England, where he had lived since 1712, had been established through his compositions of Italian opera. He turned to English oratorio in the 1730s in response to changes in public taste; Messiah was his sixth work in this genre. Although its structure resembles that of opera, it is not in dramatic (theatrical) form; there are no impersonations of characters and no direct speech. Instead, Jennens’s text is an extended reflection on Jesus as the Messiah called Christ. The text begins in Part I with prophecies by Isaiah and others, and moves to the annunciation to the shepherds, the only “scene” taken from the Gospels. In Part II, Handel concentrates on the Passion and ends with the “Hallelujah” chorus. In Part III he covers the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s glorification in heaven. […] In July 1741 Jennens sent him a new libretto for an oratorio; in a letter dated 10 July to his friend Edward Holdsworth, Jennens wrote: “I hope [Handel] will lay out his whole Genius & Skill upon it, that the Composition may excell all his former Compositions, as the Subject excells every other subject. The Subject is Messiah“.”
Did you know, “the music for Messiah was completed in 24 days of swift composition?
Having received Jennens’s text some time after 10 July 1741, Handel began work on it on 22 August. His records show that he had completed Part I in outline by 28 August, Part II by 6 September and Part III by 12 September, followed by two days of “filling up” to produce the finished work on 14 September. This rapid pace was seen by Jennens not as a sign of ecstatic energy but rather as “careless neglicence”, and the relations between the two men would remain strained, since Jennens “urged Handel to make improvements” while the composer stubbornly refused. The autograph score’s 259 pages show some signs of haste such as blots, scratchings-out, unfilled bars and other uncorrected errors, but according to the music scholar Richard Luckett the number of errors is remarkably small in a document of this length. The original manuscript for Messiah is now held in the British Library’s music collection. It is scored for 2 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola, and basso continuo.
At the end of his manuscript Handel wrote the letters “SDG”—Soli Deo Gloria, “To God alone the glory”. This inscription, taken with the speed of composition, has encouraged belief in the apocryphal story that Handel wrote the music in a fervour of divine inspiration in which, as he wrote the “Hallelujah” chorus, “he saw all heaven before him”.
While in Lüneburg, Bach had access to St. John’s Church and possibly used the church’s famous organ from 1553, since it was played by his organ teacher Georg Böhm. Because of his musical talent, Bach had significant contact with Böhm while a student in Lüneburg, and he also took trips to nearby Hamburg where he observed “the great North German organist Johann Adam Reincken”. Stauffer reports the discovery in 2005 of the organ tablatures that Bach wrote, while still in his teens, of works by Reincken and Dieterich Buxtehude, showing “a disciplined, methodical, well-trained teenager deeply committed to learning his craft”.
Does knowing this change your perspective on how your own church musicians or nationally acclaimed musicians should be provided for? What particularly became real for you reading this article? Will you share it or assert an opinion on this where it might matter?
Continue reading more about this subject in the book, Welcome to the Shivoo: Creatives Mimicking the Creator by Laura Bartnick (Amazon Prime).
“Improvisation. That’s why we call creativity art, isn’t it?
I’m an author and also an author coach. Part of what I do is help an author grow personally in order to deepen the author’s storyline or character drawn inside the pages of their manuscript.
We writers embrace imperfections in our written characters’ thought patterns or behaviors so that the story can twist and turn just as much as real life does.
Like jazz, the development of a good story means the endings are kept strategically hidden in misunderstandings, physical barriers, or something in the past. I’ve discovered a group, Teaching Tolerance, which has developed a test for discovering anyone’s own historical or cultural bias, implicit bias. You can see here how you might use a character’s natural bias to direct his or her communications or meditation or self-talk.
Proverbs 20:5 alludes that the purposes of a heart run like deep waters, but someone with insight can draw them out. What is your character’s point of view?
Can a writer love the antagonist?A writer should learn to love the enemy of the protagonist. Did Jesus love Judas Iscariot? How could He?
Learning about your antagonist’s unique place of belonging or setting helps you shape his or her believable thoughts, recognizable appearances or dialogue with the accompanying accents and activities that would be true to the character.
From an unlikely source or through an accident that turns out well, insight emerges. Imperfections make your characters relatable. They string you along. When you love them through their story, you emulate God’s love for our imperfect selves born into an imperfect world.
Even settings can wrestle for hope.
Developing a setting can help hide or reveal your plot or your characters. The light we cast onto the flaws of our story characters is an act of kindness, though sometimes it is severe mercy.
Did Hagar run to the desert to escape, only to be visited by the God of her hated mistress, Sarah? “I see you,” God said. “Eat. Drink,” and, “Go back to your hated mistress. I have a plan for you. Your own son will make a great nation because I have ordained it.” “Me?” Hagar said. “Yes, Hagar, I see your need and your mistreatment. Yes, you,” God said. So, Hagar dragged herself back to Abraham and Sarah. In faith. And, God blessed her walk of faith.
When you draw on your own experience with fear or temptations, or from experiences of those close to you, you will understand that it is not impossible for the antagonist to be redeemed. If you determine to defeat the antagonist when thwarting the antagonist’s purposes, you must feel that grief. It was written that Jesus loved the rich, young ruler who turned away.
Imagine a master chef who creates a gourmet menu for a special entourage. She selects the best cuts of meat, the freshest organic grains to grind, the salad and herbs from her garden, and the cream from her cow. Someone sells her a tropical fruit, unknown to her, promising it will provide the hit. She shreds the fruit and tops the salad with it, only to discover that the fruit is poison.
“But everything I used was of the finest quality,” she argues to the police.
“Everything except that shred of poison you added.”
Use a shock point to hook the reader into how or why the poison was added, and by whom.
Empathetically draw the audience into the truth but do not dilute consequences. Make them meaningful.
A writer can find the image of God originally shaped in the arch-type enemy. This, a starting point for where a character departs, helps the writer make choices for the character. A writer can have the character diverge from her image of origin and from her calling by refusing to be rescued. When you know your bad character’s history and psyche, you will draw her story accurately.”
There’s nothing like a good mystery to give some excitement to your day, make you forget your troubles, and stimulate your brain cells.
I like a mystery that will keep you reading into the night.
When I write a mystery, I want to be sure that it’s entertaining, that it doesn’t waste the reader’s time, and that it doesn’t cheat the reader. I want the people who read my books to go away feeling satisfied, the way you feel when you’ve placed that last piece into a jigsaw puzzle or filled in the last clue in a crossword. Learning that I’d disappointed a reader would be the worst feeling I could experience as a writer.
When I write a mystery, I first visualize a plotline that I think will hold high interest to a great many mystery fans. I want the story to take place in a world that most people can identify with, or that they have a curiosity about:
• A young woman moves into her murdered aunt’s house and begins to suspect her neighbors
• Ungrateful children learn their mother is donating her wealth to charity • A teenage girl is found dead at an exclusive country club • A tourist is killed after a famous author’s book signing • A new bride must live with an intimidating mother-in-law
I’m sure every mystery author approaches writing differently, but I know from the start who the victim is, who the killer is, and the all-important “why.” I don’t outline as many writers do. I just start writing and let the characters develop their own personalities, and then guide the plot through twists and turns as the storyline evolves. Along the way, I like to have six or seven suspects, each with a plausible motive for why they might want the victim dead. I try to hide the real motive of the actual killer but drop a few subtle clues along the way that a close reader might pick up on.
Having read and watched so many mysteries during my life—my favorite way to relax—I’ve determined there are about a half-dozen reasons someone might decide to commit murder. Greed. Jealousy. Anger. Revenge. Hatred. Or, often, to keep an indiscretion or criminal act from coming to light. Accidental death is also a possibility. I’ve used most of these as a motive in my mysteries and others as red herrings for potential motivations of other suspects.
The first key to writing a good mystery is to have a good beginning, to grab the reader’s attention immediately and then hold on to it. How many books are put down because the first page isn’t interesting? Being a former journalist, I’ve always gone by the mantra that the lead is everything. If not the first sentence, then at least the first page. My favorite beginning to one of my mysteries is from Murder in Vail: “It was Christmas, so Sally had to see her children. And worse, their dreadful spouses.”
Personally, I like to build up to the murder, to really get into the relationships and motivations of the characters before the actual death occurs. I think it makes the reader care more about the victim, as well as the potential suspects. Nowadays, though, some readers can be so antsy. They want that murder right away. So, sometimes, at or near the beginning, mystery writers will make some kind of allusion to or foreshadowing of the havoc to come to keep impatient readers reading as the story is developed.
It’s best to stay focused on the mystery plotline to keep that attention you grabbed hold of on your first page. Not everyone agrees, but I like to end each chapter with a question or a little mystery of its own to keep the reader from putting the book down. It’s tempting to veer off at times into too much description of settings or landscapes, but today’s reader doesn’t have a whole lot of patience for long-winded descriptions that bog down the plot. Another maxim I learned in journalism school that I follow, though some don’t agree, is “Write for the reader, not for yourself.” To me, that means not trying to impress readers with the depth of your vocabulary or the lilt of your phrasing. Big words and too many adjectives have lost many a reader.
Most of my books are set in Florida, where I’ve always lived.
Sometimes, I just can’t resist writing about the beauty of the ocean, the texture of the sand, or the loggerhead turtles, manatees, egrets, and other wildlife in the state. While creating a world for the reader to picture is essential, it can be done as part of the plotline, while moving characters from place to place, rather than paragraph after paragraph of description.
Each character should have definite personality characteristics that aren’t stereotyped. They each should be realistic individuals with some positive and some negative traits. You don’t want characters who are all good or all bad—even the killer might have a good trait or two. Quirky characters are always fun, and I try to include at least one in every book I write. They can be a good source of humor to balance darker content.
When characters speak, it’s essential that what they say reflect their individual personalities. What they say has to be completely natural. I put myself in the character’s head and ask, “What would this person really say?” Quotes shouldn’t be used only to advance the plot, though, of course, some quotes do. There’s nothing worse than long paragraphs of quoted material that could be spoken by anyone and are obviously just pushing along the plot. Another journalistic truism, “Only use quotes if you can’t say it better yourself.” Quotes should be succinct and interesting. What each person says should bounce off what another character says. Conversations need to snap. Boring conversation is a major yawn and will quickly sink a book.
In a mystery, the key to moving the plot forward is to maneuver the reader away from the actual villain by placing suspicion on other characters and throwing in a red herring or two. This is the most challenging part of writing a mystery, and it has to be handled delicately. You don’t want someone who’s not guilty to look too guilty early on, or a seasoned mystery fan will immediately throw that suspect out of contention. You also don’t want to cheat the reader. The murder and the murderer have to make sense when all is said and done. The killer can’t just be pulled out of thin air.
To keep interest high as the sleuth or the police work to solve the crime, it’s not a bad idea to have another murder or attempted murder. Near the end, another possibility is to start heaping suspicion on one likely suspect and then to pull the rug out from under the reader to reveal the real killer.
I like to have a big climactic scene in my mysteries with the killer chasing or attacking the protagonist. I like my stories to end with a bang, not a fizzle, so my readers won’t feel let down. The killer doesn’t always have to be caught, and the leading characters don’t always have to survive. I have to admit, though, in one of my books I really wanted the evil-doer to get away with it and the innocent protagonist to go to jail. But I changed the ending when a picture entered my mind of an angry reader throwing the book against the wall. I think there would have been a lot of book throwing had I gone with that ending.
And, although many writers wouldn’t agree, I like to end my stories with a nice bow on top, wrapping up each of the characters’ storylines. Some of that wrapping might be black and funereal, but I like to answer all the unanswered questions a reader might have about the future of the characters.
I really do want the people who read my books to be happy and satisfied. But first and foremost, I want them to be challenged—and hopefully fooled.
Has the opinion of someone else unbalanced your properly scaled life? Have you read something untrue or viewed an article or post on the internet that unbalanced your scale?
In my early thirties, I had a part-time clerical job at a science lab in Lakewood, Colorado. During an extremely busy time at the lab, my job position was reassigned to include weighing extremely thin, white, circular filters on a scale.
The filters were about an inch in diameter. They were to be weighed by me, distributed to a specific client, used in some type of filtration system, and then re-weighed to determine pollutants.
After every tenth calculation, the scale was recalibrated to insure accuracy continued. Accuracy was extremely important. The samples and recorded weights were also spot-checked by another employee.
Scales have been used in market trade for ages.
Although scales were documented as useful as early as 500 B.C. in Rome, unjust weight was considered a means of cheating a customer in all countries, and it still is. But an unjust weight can work in the reverse to harm the seller as well if the weight slides out of balance in the other direction. There are numerous references to these types of scales in the biblical book of Proverbs.
Traditionally scales (specifically a two-pan, beam balance) are a symbol of justice. The equipment presents a metaphor about the issues of life being “held in balance.”
IMBALANCED OPINIONS AND FALSE INFORMATION
In an election year, my thoughts and personal opinions, if not submitted to fact checks and used for appropriate purposes, can be an issue as much as any other’s false news. I don’t want to skew the truth. Allowing an imbalance of any kind can have far-reaching effects.
During my devotions recently, I was thinking about how scales become unbalanced. Only God is truly just, and only He can keep our lives in balance. My life scale becomes inaccurate when I allow the opinions of others to overshadow the truth of God. It also loses accuracy when other outside influences are valued by me more than they should be permitted.
It is important to God that scales are balanced. When things are weighed, the standards and scales must be accurate for all.
BALANCING PERSONAL TIME
Personal time is an area of struggle for me. How do I balance time spent in different ways in my life?
How do you spend your time? Have you ever written down the things you do during the day, like a timekeeper must do to invoice clients for personal time clocked on their behalf? Listing your day’s activities for a time is a good way to inventory how you are really spending your minutes and hours. Here is an online timer you can easily use.
Are you being pressured by others, or feel that your life is becoming unfamiliar? Or is it in balance with what the Lord has asked of you personally?
How about your own thoughts? Is there anything that you have embraced or welcomed into your life that has diminished the truth of God? Maybe someone or something is pushing extra weight onto your scale to produce a false reading.
The LORD hates false scales, but he delights in accurate weights.
Proverbs 11:1 ISV
Tonya Jewel Blessing writes about redeeming injustice not only in her Appalachian historical series, Big Creek, but she also writes devotional pieces for groups of leaders who mentor others. Her book, Soothing Rain, is a 52-week devotional resource for women, especially, seeking to offer food for thought and conversation starters for groups. Book Tonya now for your next speaker event.
According to CNN, “A theme park in Fujiyoshida, Japan, is banning screaming on its roller coasters to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and instead is urging customers to “scream in their hearts.”
The reasoning behind this is because research indicates droplets are released during screaming.
They have also launched a social media campaign called “Keep a Serious Face” to try to get people to play along. So I guess a lot of this is tongue-in-cheek humor — literally.
Not sure how you would handle this new rule, but I’m 100% sure I could not ride a roller coaster and not scream. Imagine reading a sign like this at Waldameer:
WHILE RIDING THE RAVINE FLYER II, IT IS REQUIRED THAT YOU NOT SCREAM OUT LOUD. INSTEAD WE ASK THAT YOU SCREAM ONLY IN YOUR HEART. VIOLATORS WILL BE REMOVED FROM THE PARK IN THE INTEREST OF KEEPING OUR PATRONS SAFE FROM POTENTIALLY HAZARDOUS WATER DROPLETS.
Thank you, Japan, for the warnings.
Screaming is the human go-to in times of pure terror. I’m pretty sure that’s why God installed the screaming mechanism in the Body Human. I found through the Washington Post, the dynamics of being flung into hysteria by a roller coaster.
Why We Scream
The G-force pulls your cheeks toward your ears and pushes you back in your seat; your face feels like it is sliding backward.
Being upside down at a ridiculous acceleration…is scream-worthy.
Your spleen is in your throat: As you crest a hill and the car starts to plummet, you feel as if your stomach and spleen might fly out of your seat.
Coaster designers love to upend your innards.
Fear + Adrenaline = SCREAMING OUT LOUD. (see more)
I was newly a widow when a close-knit cluster of friends insisted I go with them for a day of adventure.
Of course, I didn’t want to go. They had to drag me – and my attitude – to a scenic park where much-needed therapy awaited.
Among the many things that the group did for me that day, I think my favorite was the moment the car stopped at the edge of a thickly wooded area.
We got out of the car and the pack leader announced, “We are all going to scream. Scream as loud as you can! This is Primal Scream Therapy!”
I let out a primal scream; it erupted, lava and fury, from the depths of my stomach. It wasn’t weird.
Surrounded by caring souls, I released my raggedy-edged grief into the generous arms of hemlocks and sugar maples, pines and oaks. The old-growth forest, called “Heart’s Content”, absorbed our combined screams and told no one. In that moment, it was the safest place on earth.
Screams are for: Death and delight Anger and amazement Warnings and homecomings Plummeting down and rising back up, victorious and brave.
Aren’t you glad that here in the good old USA, you are not required to “scream in your heart” at amusement parks? Muffled, maybe by masks, but otherwise, we’re living!
We truly hope America keeps screaming on the way down. After all, it’s therapeutic.
There’s a tree outside my office window that is currently blooming, tufts of life springing from the branches, evidence of spring approaching. Last summer a friend of ours, a landscaper, was at our house and pointed to this same tree. “That tree’s dying,” he said matter-of-factly.
I was so bummed out! I love trees, especially living in the climate in which we do, where their shade shields us from the hot summer sun. Looking at the tree right now it seems healthy, but on a deeper level, it’s dying from the inside out. It took a warning from our friend, a professional, to know what’s coming.
It is recorded in Matthew 23, that Jesus talks about behavior that looks great from the outside but is filthy inside.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look immaculate on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything decaying and unclean. In the same way, on the outside, you appear to people as good and helpful but on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Pretty strong language! The Pharisees were well-respected by the Jewish people and were considered to be examples of righteousness. Jesus himself was a Pharisee, but he was far different from them. While most Pharisees enforced and created additional laws for the people to follow, Jesus demonstrated grace toward the people and removed the crushing burden of the law from their backs. The people loved him for this, while the other Pharisees hated him for shining a light on their hypocrisy. So it’s easy to see why the verses above would anger them even more.
If you’re like me, you may wonder at the significance of whitewashed tombs.
We’ve recently experienced mandatory times of quarantine because of a deadly virus, so we understand what it would mean for one person to have to sequester himself or herself away from the normal goings-on around town and home. No fun! What a shame to miss out, right? And, what a bigger shame to know that because you were involved with friends and family after being contaminated, you may be the cause of their illness or death, right?
Because it is natural that people do not want to be left out of parties and normal gatherings, the law is required to step in and make demands on individual behaviors.
According to Jewish law, any person who came in contact with a dead body, whether it be actually touching the deceased person or simply the grave with a dead body sealed inside, this brush with death and contagion made the person involved “unclean” for a time and required him or her to undergo a period of separation and cleansing for seven days. This was the law commanded by God thousands of years prior for the Hebrew’s protection from disease.
In order to mitigate this risk, the Pharisees had come up with a plan.
Prior to Jewish festivals that drew thousands of Jews to Jerusalem, the Pharisees commissioned the whitewashing of all tombs. This way no one would accidentally touch a tomb and miss out on the festival due to the cleansing period of seven days. Jesus was saying that the Pharisees looked great on the outside, but inside they were unclean and those who followed them were touching death without even knowing it.
Jesus’ intense words challenge me to look at the condition of my heart. Jesus has the power of life over death. He arose from His own tomb and offers this same life-transforming power to our own grave actions and attitudes. No-one else has that power, not even doctors, researchers, or nurses. Their skills too, rely on the Creator-Savior for a cure.
How do my outer actions compare to my inner motives?
I am helpless without the mercy and power of Jesus to forgive me for the times I focus my attention on looking good on the outside, rather than bringing my broken and sinful heart into His presence in honesty so that He can heal me.
GK Johnson’s debut historic novel featuring the lives of Barabbas and Simon the Zealot is scheduled to appear on or about January 1, 2021. Watch for it.
“Thank you for being a friend” plays out as the hit TV show Golden Girls rolls the cast in the opening scenes of every episode. As we know, a friendship of the sticking kind, the deep-understanding-about-life-events kind, is not always an easy achievement. These four ladies give us hope that even in old age, we can have a best friend.
TOUGHEST FEAT OF CHILDHOOD
Finding and making friends as a child has always been one of the toughest feats that we face in our lifetime. We try at an early age to find someone who we can connect to and spend time with as we go through a time when we are only concerned with what fun can we have today.
Becoming young adults together is to create a trail of breadcrumbs: into the house of post-graduation, careers, and new ties we go, building new tribes.
It is the trail in which we individually answer life’s choices and dilemmas, those choices will form our futures and often depreciate our past relationships, innocence, and values. So, it’s only natural that our friends change; yet there are instances when some of us maintain that first friendship from kindergarten all the way through high school graduation and beyond. Such as that of Monica and Rachel who end up living life together and being there for each other through thick and thin.
Do you have one friend whom you’ve held onto for years?
Although they were fictional characters, Lucy and Ethel always showed us how friendships should navigate life. Always getting each other into a compromising position, these two remained friends regardless of what they went through. I remember a time when a good friend had encouraged me to go with her to a gathering at a mutual friend’s house. As neither of us wanted to drive, we grabbed a ride with our friend and set out to have a great evening. However, that is not how the night turned out. Our mutual friend received a call and left, stating he would be back in about 20 minutes. Well, 2 hours later, we were walking home as I was trying to contact someone to come and get us. Thankfully, one of my other close friends was available and came to get us so we didn’t have to walk 12 miles. I learned then that friends sometimes do not have the best advice.
A DEEPER PURPOSE FOR FRIENDSHIP
Friendship and loyalty aren’t always about the fun; most of the time, the courage gained from our friends’ opinions or stature is what helps us face the hard times. When a person feels as though they have no one else to help them navigate hurt and pain, a friend is the one person they count on.
There can come a time when we lose the closeness of our friend. Because as humans, we change. When our lives change, so do the people we see daily. Things that were once important to us as friends are no longer the things that connect us as best buddies. So, there we are, doing life without the one person we thought would never leave our side.
On a good note, there will be a day we meet a new person, and soon find that person is our person. The only who truly gets us and what we have been through. We identify with our new friend because both of us have experienced many of the same things in life or because we have developed a relationship due to work. Much like Meredith Gray and Cristina Yang. They have portrayed the classic adult scenario of best friends, there for each other regardless of what they are dealing with individually. These two women taught us what it meant to be someone’s person.
What if the reason we truly understand the way our new friend feels is because the loss or pain we each feel individually is related? What if the very thing that caused one of us pain is also the reason the other one has pain.
This is exactly what happens in the latest book that I have read and highly recommend for summer reading. Indebted. This great read is a tale of a young girl seeking to find her mother. Wanting answers to questions no one will ask. Longing to know why she is blamed for something that she doesn’t even understand. Wren, the fierce young girl who leads the story, becomes entangled in deceit in hopes of finding the answers to questions she has held in her heart for so many years. Not only does her life take twists and turns, but the decisions she makes also leads her through pain and love. This is a classic story of life, friends, and love. This is a definite add to any young girl’s summer reading list as it will take them to a different place and time to find that friends are sometimes the only people, we have to push us to be better.
FIGHTING LIFE’S BEASTS
While reading the book Indebted, I realized that we all have our “beasts” we must defeat during our lifespan.
Each of us have a different “beast” that keeps us in turmoil. It isn’t always something we can easily confront. The thought of facing it alone is overwhelming, yet we do not want to place our people in harm’s way. There are times it is hidden within the depths of our soul and the only way we can overcome the hurt is to lay it at the feet of Jesus. We have to find our strength in the Word and pierce the heart of the beast with our “sword” in order to be free of the grasp of the “beast”. Once we have faced our beast and we are worn from battle, we realize, our person never left us to face it alone.
Friendships change and grow as we mature and develop different priorities. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t have anyone to do battle with you when you need them most. It simply means that each battle may have different friends standing with you to achieve victory.
I don’t know why I get this in my inbox, the “wacky, bizarre and unique holidays” calendar. I don’t know from whence it come, touting some mundane calendrical events, most days, comical.
For instance, in June there is a – “Repeat Day”. Repeat Day? The idea of it reminds me of the movie, Groundhog Day. Have you seen it?
I wonder if the calendrical messages are phishing, selling, or spying on my latest horse racing bets, but I enjoy these prompts for writing, and so I don’t complain. I’m somewhat of a human calendarist myself. I’ve been given the task of writing calendaric inspirations for my associates at work now sequestered at home.
A financial coach, Lauren Rilling, enjoys a synesthetic experience with calendars. Synesthesia is where your brain mixes two senses together. You’re seeing music and hearing something visual. There are lots of types of synesthesia. She says, “For me, I see time in my mind’s eye–almost like having a calendar in my head of how the days of the week, months of the year, even years and decades are arranged.” I’m sure that helps her tremendously with her client coaching goals.
For the rest of us, any day, including the June Repeat Day, is a good day to remember the importance of repeating life-giving phrases to each other, and to ourselves too.
Like washing your hands and face, brightening your mind to the unique purpose of why you have landed on this day in this place will start out a seemingly repetitive day better.
WHAT YOU TELL YOURSELF
Repeating your purpose for being where you are can make all the difference in the color, texture, and music of your day. See your hands? They are working through the everyday stitches of life as though they are stitching a warm sweater, a scarf, or a wall tapestry. See your feet repeating the same steps in similar spirals around work? As you look down at your feet, what you tell yourself can be more important than the feedback you receive from others.
If you believe you add value to your world, you will be happier – and it’s more likely that after all, you will do amazing things.
However, if you spend most of your time being an Eeyore, you won’t feel fulfilled. It’s as simple as that, and the repetition will become less synthesized with purpose and more and more of a puzzle of missing pieces to you and to everyone around you.
REMIND YOURSELF ALOUD
“Wash your hands” is society’s repetitive mantra these days. Who knew that would become a thing? Yes, go to the bathroom sink, wash your hands, but, also look in the mirror. I think we might take this idea of repetitive cleansing to a new level.
Today may not be one of those days in which you feel either necessary or essential. Want to wash those feelings away? In the routine, you may feel silly — depending on who is in the room – but saying these personal phrases aloud really helps to center yourself in how and why you are needed:
in what you do,
how you think,
how you relate,
why you were hired
how your priorities are needed,
the things you offer to others in your way
Making the effort to say these things aloud can lather up and rinse away the doubt. It’s almost like you need to hear these reminders, but you are no longer a child. No-one wants to wash your hands for you. You can’t rely on anyone else to say these things consistently to you.
This is true whether you live alone, work alone, live with a crowd, and work in a factory.
REMEMBER THE WONDER OF THOSE WHO LOVE YOU
It can help to remind yourself–out loud–that you have people who care about you. Pick a person each day to say a mental thank you to for being “your person” when you needed one.
It also helps to think back to a time when you really leaned on friends and family or felt strongly connected to a community. Isn’t it happening again, sometimes under-the radar during our New Normal? Certain relationships are being given priority to lift each other up as “necessary”, “essential”.
Yes, in the repeat of the ordinary and mundane, it’s up to you to synthesize your life.
Be your own best repetition coach. Try repeating these statements out loud each day; tape them to your bathroom mirror, if necessary.
1. “My time is important.”
Let’s be real: managing our time off-site is challenging and comes with unique situations depending on the day. Your contribution to the agency is unique and important. Honor your own needs to match the day by planning your list and prioritizing it. Reward yourself along the way. Small rewards can boost your energy for all the challenges you face today; things like taking a walk, calling a friend, honoring your breaks and lunch, and keeping a stash of really good chocolate nearby.
2. “I’m uniquely gifted for this set of tasks.”
You are valued and you were hired because of your skillset. You have your own brand of approaching the tasks at hand. No one else has quite your blend of personality, education, training, problem-solving or perseverance. Avoid the trap of thinking you duplicate what someone else is doing. Remind yourself on a daily basis how your influence matters because it can only come from you.
3. “I’m not alone.”
You have a team around you, even now – when your team may not be gathered in one physical space. It’s easy to feel like the walls of isolation are closing in. They’re not.
Remember: Repetition and structures have purposes in your life and are for your good. Lather, Rinse, REPEAT. Observing the habits of cleaning your hands, face, and mind for each calendar day will launch you upward and onward in your own special way!
Kathy Joy Hoffner writes these Lunch Jabs for her co-workers at the bequest of her superiors. She is an author at Capture Books and is considered a wordsmith for life.
“Sometimes I feel like a monkey behind a cage, everyone looking inside wanting to look at it and ask questions about why it’s doing what it’s doing. But I remind myself, everyone is just curious about the American culture and people, and they want to hear it straight from the source.”
Some of the common questions Lady Lola receives as are follows: Did you vote for President Trump? Is there really so much gun violence in America? Is racism still a problem? Do you really drive everywhere? Why are Americans so loud? Have you actually met a famous person? Why do Americans smile all the time? And, Why do Americans put bacon on everything?
Questions often present an opportunity for growth
Recently, I feel plagued by questions where the answers are not readily available. In some cases, I have kept concerns to myself. I am worried about being judged for my personal beliefs or even misunderstood in what I am saying or refrain from saying. Questions often present an opportunity for growth.
There is an interesting question-filled story in the Bible in the Book of Judges chapter 13. There, a woman, who is unable to have children, experiences an angelic visitation. The messenger tells her that she is going to have a son and gives instructions about how to parent this unusual boy. The woman then tells her husband, Manoah. The Bible says in verse 8 that Manoah prays to the Lord asking for answers to specific questions. God is not offended by Manoah’s inquiry and, in fact, responds with the needed information.
Have you been asking heartfelt questions lately? Maybe you have voiced some of those questions, or maybe you have felt intimidated to make inquiries. Rest assured that God wants to hear your concerns. He wants to help you and to bring clarification to your queries.
Tonya Jewel Blessing and her husband, Chris, manage their ministry in South Africa, Strong Cross Ministries. They have been hunkered down with a variety of hospitable family members through the Covid-19 world-wide crises, and separated from those they long to be helping. Tonya, having grown up partially in West Virginia, the Appalachian hills and hollers, is the author of unique fables: The Whispering of the Willows, and sequel, The Melody of the Mulberries. Those who have read the first two installments are hounding Tonya for her third book in the series.
I am a leader. As a woman in leadership, some days I feel great about leadership and other days. . . not so much.
Leadership is the ability to influence others into following your lead. It comes in a variety of forms and is defined in numerous ways. Making presentations, forming a company, bookmaking, posting articles, publishing blog posts, teaching and coaching, and other expressions are readily available to peruse principles for leading others.
I train leaders. I am a partner in ministry. I teach, inspire, and preach in a variety of settings. I also write books. For me, one of the key ways I measure leadership is through effective communication. Am I communicating biblical principles in what I do and what I say?
In a time when there is great fear… LEADERS are more necessary than at any other time. (anonymous)
In order to communicate biblical principles, I need to experience daily intimacy with God. I want to use tactical, God-inspired, insights in my communication.
Another way is to gauge whether others are able to hear my words. Lately, I’ve been testing whether I communicate in ways others can hear, not merely the way I voice my vowels and consonants but also hear me in a way that they are able to live out those words in their own world. It isn’t just once that my husband has told me I have talked around issues of importance so that when I am done speaking, I may have left people wondering about the heart of what I have said.
I’m working on direct and healthy communication by a method of asking some questions. Have I presented my point? Have I given applicable examples? Have I given too little information, or have I rambled and overwhelmed the audience with too much?
It is likewise vital to me that others can emulate my leadership. I want my strides along the paths we walk as leaders to be in a clear direction not just speak about guiding lights as principles. Combining my words and actions, is my model of leadership effective? Can others put Jesus-living into practice?
As women in leadership, my prayer is that each of us becomes great communicators through words and deeds. I hope that those who view our lives and listen to our words are personally moved forward and are able to move those around them in a good and wise direction.
Every summer, the woods and fields of Pennsylvania light up in a symphony of fireflies. From the summer solstice into the second week of July, the twinkly wonders commandeer the forest for mating.
Our very own Allegheny National Forest is one of only a few places in the US where you can view the Synchronous Firefly; the other regions are the forests of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and Congaree National Park in South Carolina. “Synchronous” refers to a rare phenomenon: the tiny bugs flash patterns in sync with each other. It’s like a string of Christmas lights hanging in the forest.
During normal summers, you grab a lawn chair and a cooler and head to the Tionesta Creek for Nature’s Light Display. You’ll need a jacket for the cool of the evening, and some marshmallows for toasting. But not this year …
This year, because of COVID-19, the activities are restricted. You can watch the 8th Annual PA Firefly Festival on a virtual stay-at-home online link here:
Despite regulations, the lightning bugs will show up in wild, spectacular abandon. Their light show is a whimsical mystery — and we can all use a little whimsy sometimes.
Recently I wrote a piece remembering a stand-up guy who died suddenly, 2 years ago. I hesitated to publish it, protesting to another that I only knew Ron for a short time. “But you’ve known Grief for a long time,” came the reply. With that authority, I wrote the piece.
The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once described friendship as “a sheltering tree.” What a fitting description of camaraderie at work: the shelter of a tree suggests the ease and familiarity of being around a person who provides leafy green wonderment. Ron Klonicki was just such an individual in our midst.
Today marks the second year since he was so suddenly and unexpectedly silenced by a faltering heart. We lost him on June 2, 2018. Ron died on a Saturday. That following Monday, we came into work and felt a jolt of shock and unbelief. It was hard to fathom, as Ron was something of a fixture on the 4th Floor, his office a friendly landmark as you passed through on the way to the conference room. Many in the MH/ID Department carry fond memories of Ron, a good-hearted, dependable, solid person. You could count on Ron to lend his expertise, tell a story, share his culinary skills and readily identify all kinds of flowers.
Ron was a Program Director for 30 years in MH/ID. His unflagging advocacy for persons with special needs, is still sending ripples into the community. Without fanfare, Ron showed us all how it’s done – he was fully immersed in meaningful work, while at the same time remaining engaging, relatable and terribly funny.
Ron’s legacy is his laughter – he was particularly good at recalling whimsical stories of his many travelling adventures with Carol, his wife. One of my favorite memories of Ron is the day he showed me how to download and use the phone app, “My Talking Pet”. When he showed me videos of his dog, “Jasmine,” talking in Ron’s own sped-up voice, it was hilarious.
For a quick minute I almost forgot he was a high-ranking administrator; we were just two people laughing at a video of a talking Chihuahua. Whimsically, Ron was never much for hierarchy or status. He made you feel welcomed in and valued your input. Just like a tree in the robust month of June has deep roots, wide branches, and full leaves, Ron provided lots and lots of shade for anyone in his realm of influence.
In the sparks of light emanating from Ron’s openness and curiosity, one can’t help but wonder what he’d think of the strange world we find ourselves in these days: re-emerging from “The Covid Spring” and stepping backward into an echo of civil unrest. Knowing Ron, he’d probably just roll up his sleeves and see to the next individual in need of housing or mental health services. He’d bring flowers to the office, and vegetables from the garden. In the shade of his big-hearted friendship, we’d share a moment of light and peace.
Fireflies are everywhere in June, in certain regions of the country. Not everyone gets this blessing, I am reminded by my jealous editor. Not everyone knew Ron either. Maybe this is why June’s unexpected symphonies of light are synchronous with heartfelt memories of special times and special people. I’m enjoying the unexpected and so grateful for a whimsical favor of these things offered to me right now.
Kathy Joy is making her co-workers happy with daily lunch jabs. She is also a favored speaker, editor and author with Capture Books. Find her seasonal Breath of Joy coffee table books on Amazon. But, don’t buy a knock off, cheaper version. Get the quality original.
A bridge is a meeting place, a possibility, a metaphor
Last Sunday, Chris and I, along with my sister and brother-in-law, toured the covered bridges in Ashtabula County in northeast Ohio. The region borders Pennsylvania. We viewed approximately ten bridges located almost exclusively on hard-to-find backcountry roads. The weather was delightful, and the homemade fried pies we found at a roadside stand delicious.
The quote by Jeannette Winterson is a new favorite of mine. As an author, I am also looking for a meeting place with other authors and readers; a possibility of sharing my books on numerous platforms; and direction, even in the form of a metaphor, about how to engage people with my writing.
Most of the bridges we viewed were old and worn, yet sturdy in form and function. Since my novels are set in the late 1920s, I understand the old and worn. I enjoy writing about legends, history, folklore, and people of the past. As an author, with the help of wonderful editors, I stick with writing form and function as much as possible. I do, however, lack form and function when it comes to marketing. I am constantly and consistently looking for new platforms to promote my books. Capture Books, a publishing house, has been extremely instrumental in helping me and has thankfully spurred me onward. Laura Bartnick is my representative. Her innovative ideas keep me on my toes.
This month, I am pleased to say that some new bridges have been crossed. An organization that promotes books that feature minority characters, Diversity Between the Pages, wrote an amazing blog about my latest novel. I have a podcast interview set up for next week. I am in the processing of writing an article for a Christian magazine, and I am excited about an virtual book tour with Prism Book Tours, on June 22-26.
Whether you are a writer, singer, teacher, leader, or dreamer remember to engage in bridge meetings, entertain possibilities, and examine metaphors.
As a teenager, I remember rambling with my mom through her favorite shopping mall and getting the treat of the best chicken sandwich with pickles and mayonnaise whenever we arrived at Chick-fil-A’s wait line. It was perhaps the first “addictive” food experience I ever encountered. I asked, “Why wouldn’t they want to have a free-standing piece of real estate near our neighborhood like the burger joints had?” — And soon the pizza parlors?
My mom didn’t know the answer, but it was the first realization I had that Chick-fil-A® chose to do its own thing while the world was doing something else.
Atlanta Georgians wondered the same thing. And, somehow, they were first in line when free-standing Chick-fil-As were built.
Shortly after opening the first free-standing Chick-fil-A in 1986, founder Truett Cathy created a new restaurant that replicated his first restaurant, the Dwarf Grill. Beginning in the late 1980s and through the early 1990s, Cathy oversaw the construction of multiple Dwarf House restaurants located around the metro Atlanta area. Designed to honor the history of the Chick-fil-A franchise, these restaurants offer sit down, counter and drive-thru service.
Truett’s Grill was originally opened in 1996 to commemorate Truett Cathy’s 50th anniversary as a restauranteur. There are now three locations in Georgia, and the restaurant has the look and feel of a 1950s diner. Truett’s Grill offers sit down, counter and drive-thru service, and features the full Chick-fil-A menu alongside Southern dishes including Fried Okra and Collard Greens.
Many people consider Chick-fil-a a household name, as restaurants and fast food joint go. But not many people know the name of the man S. Truett Cathy, who founded the chain, or what his aim was. We may assume that to make bushels of money, a CEO must take the tact, the sky is the limit, right? Isn’t making more and more money every business owner’s aim?
Not necessarily. Not at the expense of 1) quality and 2) rest for a dab of weekly humility. So thought a wealthy man named S. Truett Cathy.
“S.Truett Cathy was a devout Southern Baptist; his religious beliefs had a major impact on the company. The company’s official statement of corporate purpose says that the business exists “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.”
“Founder Truett Cathy wanted the company’s name to reflect the top-quality customers should expect each time they visited a restaurant. That’s why he chose Chick-fil-A: “Chick” to represent our signature menu item, and “fil-A” as a play on the word “filet,” with a small twist. He replaced “et” with “A” to represent the “Grade-A” quality of our chicken.
“And while some aspects of our restaurants have changed over the years, that commitment to “Grade-A” top quality has never wavered. From the big things, like rigorous safety standards, to all the little things, like the “my pleasures,” we want customers to know – no matter which restaurant they visit – they will receive the high-quality food, service and hospitality that they’ve come to expect from Chick-fil-A.” Snagged from the landing page, “Where Does the “A” In Chick-Fil-A Come From?”
Safety and cleanliness is as popular inside Chick-fil-A, as the “my pleasure” responses of the kids and crew catering to my meal.
The Human Need for Rest
I’ve been following Chick-fil-A for almost a lifetime now. Through it all, I admit I’ve yearned for a bite of chicken sandwich after church at times, but I’ve never found a Chick-fil-A to be open on a Sunday.
In the past few years, it has caused me to pause and reconsider Moses’ commandment to honor the Sabbath, but I’ve wrestled with that language since Sabbaths just do not make sense in a nation where commerce remains open seven days a week and sometimes all through the night as well. And, is Sunday the new Sabbath?, I’ve wondered.
My socio-religious existence is bathed in guilt whether it be for lack of rest on a Saturday or lack of rest on a Sunday because I have found it unpleasant and difficult to buck the cultural swing and groove which makes our own work ethics and playtimes. In my culture, after an hour or two of Sunday teaching and worship, we all go out to eat and “fellowship” causing staff to wait and work for us and money to change hands. Beyond that, there are the gardens to tend and home afterward and projects to build every weekend.
God can’t still be serious about this day-of-rest thing, can He?
Why Then, Closed Sundays?
“It’s no secret that the founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, was a devout Christian, and the ‘corporate purpose’ on the company’s website even reads, ‘To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.’ It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, then, that Cathy’s ‘closed on Sunday’ policy originally stemmed from his religious beliefs.
According to a Chick-fil-A press release from 2009, “Cathy’s practice of closing his restaurants on Sunday is unique to the restaurant business and a testament to his faith in God. Within the first week of business at his Dwarf Grill restaurant in Hapeville, Ga. more than 60 years ago, Cathy knew that he would not deal with money on the ‘Lord’s Day.’ … Cathy believes that being closed on Sunday says two important things to people: One, that there must be something special about the way Chick-fil-A people view their spiritual life; and, two, that there must be something special about how Chick-fil-A feels about its people. Cathy believes that by giving employees Sunday off as a day for family, worship, fellowship or rest, the company attracts quality people…”
A committment to rest on one full day of each week has not stopped Cathy’s son, Dan Cathy, from being innovative and successful. He has taken an unconventional, yet personal and professionally rewarding approach to Chick-fil-A leadership.
“Dan Cathy literally grew up in his father’s restaurant – he jokingly says he’s been in the restaurant business since “roughly nine months before I was born.” When he and his siblings (younger brother, Donald “Bubba” Cathy, and sister, Trudy Cathy White) were very young, their father would take them to his Dwarf Grill restaurant where they would entertain guests and perform odd jobs. Dan remembers, “Dad would give us each a butter knife so we could scrape the chewing gum (and other things) from the bottoms of each table. We would do that almost every day. It was all very glamorous,” he smiles.” – from the Chick-fil-A website’s board of director’s landing page for Dan.
The leadership at Chick-fil-A keeps a good sense of humor and human warmth, as most experience in their encounters with the organization.
Yet the Chick-fil-A description continues, “under Dan’s leadership, Chick-fil-A has experienced tremendous growth — not just in numbers of restaurants and sales, but also geographically. With recent restaurants going up in cities like Los Angeles and downtown Chicago, Chick-fil-A opened its first restaurant in the Big Apple in 2015, where the Manhattan location enjoys nearly constant out-the-door lines.
In addition to his focus on physical growth, Cathy is also a key figure in championing digital expansion through development of the Chick-fil-A One app, which held a notable reign as the most downloaded app on iTunes with more than 4 million downloads in its first three days.”
“Over the years, Cathy has become known as a respected leader, speaker, and influencer in the business community. He regularly shares his life lessons, business practices, trade secrets, and unrelenting spirit of generosity as it relates to leading others well. “Selfless, servant leadership is about action,” he says, “and the bottom line is that what we say and what we believe will only be as effective as what we are also willing to do.”
“To Cathy, service is not just something he does; it’s something he lives. Service is helping. Service is smiling. Service is a handshake. It’s the Golden Rule. From helping mothers with children to their tables, to refreshing a guest’s beverage, to a very simple, but meaningful “my pleasure,” Dan believes that every moment of every day is another opportunity to encourage and bring happiness to others by serving them well.”
A Renaissance Man
“At home, Cathy is first and foremost a family man. He and his wife Rhonda live on a farm south of Atlanta, where they regularly host gatherings with their two sons, Andrew and Ross and enjoy time with their three grandchildren. There Cathy spreads his time developing a myriad of interests. “Believe it or not, Chick-fil-A does not define me,” he says. “It’s a huge part of my life, but there are a lot of other meaningful things that make up who I am.”
“A musician known to pull out his trumpet inside and out of the office, Cathy also enjoys the quieter hobby of gardening and landscaping. He’s a former competitive wrestler and lifelong athlete who’s completed multiple marathons. A member of the “Moo Cow Bikers,” he hits the open roads on his motorcycle with friends, and he is also known to take to the skies piloting small jets. On Sundays he teaches Bible study to high schoolers.”
A Community Influencer
“Cathy’s passion for his community can be felt through his involvement in numerous organizations, including the Eagle Ranch, the Carter Center, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and the Georgia Aquarium. He is also a member of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, and in 2015 was awarded the Four Pillar Tribute by the Atlanta Council for Quality Growth.
He serves on multiple boards and remains actively involved in various ministries, philanthropies, and nonprofits, including: City of Refuge, Passion City Church, The Rock Ranch, and outreach ministries that make up the WinShape Foundation, an organization created by his parents in 1984.”
A Lot of Lost Revenue
A September 27, 2016 article in Mashed by Karen Miner claims, “But Chick-fil-A doesn’t care about your desire for instant gratification — at least not on Sundays. The chicken sandwich purveyors are famously closed on the seventh day of the week, and not even a big-time food delivery service can hack that schedule.
“When a restaurant is as popular as CFA, why in the world would they close 52 days a year? It turns out the answer is a little more complicated that you probably thought.
“…The Los Angeles Times reported in 2012 that the amount of lost revenue due to the company’s Sunday closures hovered around $47.5 million. Given how much CFA has grown in the years since then, we can only assume that number has gotten bigger and bigger. Any way you slice it, whether it’s $50 million or $100 million, it’s a whole lot of money to leave on the table.
In 2019, Super Bowl LIII was played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where CFA happens to have a location. But fans hoping to grab one of their iconic sandwiches were in for a whole lot of disappointment when instead of a delicious deep-fried chicken patty, all they could score were some french fries. That’s because Chick-fil-A didn’t budge on their policy, and Fries Up took over their space for the day, selling only french fries with toppings aplenty, which might normally be fine if you weren’t craving “mor chikin.”
“Restaurant Business says Chick-fil-A’s once-a-week closure helps in giving a “perception of limited supply,” but there are other important ways that the policy works to the company’s advantage. For one, it’s “respectable.” RB explains that it shows that the company is willing to miss out on some revenue to give franchisees and employees a guaranteed day off each week, and in turn allows the franchisees to use it as a perk in recruiting. Happier employees mean better business, right? All in all, it’s a win for the company, even if their bottom line suffers a bit.
In a brilliant move, franchise owner Carmenza Moreno decided that rather than barricade her restaurant’s parking lot every Sunday, she’d open it up to allow fans to park (and pay). “Barricading the parking lot seemed a little unfriendly and anti-community in spirit,” she explained to The Chicken Wire. But the money doesn’t pad Moreno’s pocketbook — it all goes to the groups who man the lot each Sunday. In four years, the parking lot fundraiser has generated more than $62,000 to local organizations, and if Chick-fil-A was open seven days a week, there’s no way that would be possible.”
The Atlantic covered the 2014 Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby v. Obamacare case related to the company’s religious prerogative in national forced insurance contraception here, citing also Chick-fil-A’s lawsuit regarding the company’s Amendment One prerogative regarding gay marriage.
“Chick-fil-A ‘forgoes significant profit by closing every Sunday for religious reasons, for example,’ said Chairman Amy Ridenour. ‘If it were not possible for a corporation to exercise religious beliefs, Chik-Fil-A would be open on Sundays.’
“Chick-fil-A’s principal founder is a devout Southern Baptist, and the restaurant became the darling of the conservative movement — and drew ire from the Left — after its CEO spoke out against legalized gay marriage.
“The restaurant reference came among a chorus of conservative reactions to the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, which exempts certain closely held companies from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky: Today’s Supreme Court decision makes clear that the Obama administration cannot trample on the religious freedoms that Americans hold dear. Obamacare is the single worst piece of legislation to pass in the last 50 years, and I was glad to see the Supreme Court agree that this particular Obamacare mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).”- Matt VasilogambrosNational Journal June 30, 2014.
Then, with the Pandemic of Covid-19. Restaurants, bars, and grills closed temporarily, and then permanently. Not Chick-fil-A.
Every day, the lines at Chick-fil-A remain a consecutive, then multiple line for mor chikin. Except Sunday.
Seeing this on a regular basis, and experiencing the efficiency of these lines myself, praise bubbles up thanking God for His blessing over this faithful group. At the same time, I wonder how my own blessings would change should I copy this model of one full day of rest from work, with more trust in God for enough.
Today, passing by the early brunch line of cars driving through our local Chick-fil-A, I experienced another breath of joy and prayed my usual prayer of blessing over the company and employees.
Admitedly, it’s a wondering praise of a prayer for God’s faithfulness to those who consistently practice His day of rest from work, the standard of trusting a magnificent God Who’s miracles defy natural disasters, and Who obviates nationally enacted laws to bless His own.
What we’ve experienced carries into the present on the backs of who we have become.
Have you reached into the past to pick out and relish a time that brought a smile so big your face hurt? I have. Once upon a time when things seemed easier… I can recall how much life has changed. Do we drift back in time because we are unhappy and long to smile? Or do we simply drift back because something sparks a thought of moments long ago?
I’m just as sure that you, like me, remember the pain that we’ve faced only to realize the strength and insight that we now possess because of the experience.
As I write this blog, Barbara Streisand’s famous Memories song reminds me of my sister, even though she never talked about romance, she was definitely a fan of Streisand’s. The song’s invitation to memories that two people once shared during a brief romance, asks us to remember similar feelings. Even if we haven’t experienced them yet, the song causes us to believe we did.
Memories. What causes us to take a detour from current events?
Drifting Into Yesteryear
We were young, never thinking we would have overnight shopping available or carry phones in our hands at all hours of the day and into the night. We find a different kind of peace to soothe our aches. For me, during the time when “All in The Family” was the most offensive show on television, life didn’t seem to move so fast. Shopping shut down by 6 p.m., or 8 or at the latest during the holidays, 10 p.m. Television went static at midnight, and kids came in when the streetlamps began to light the neighborhoods in glowing orbs, halos and electric rays. At least that is how it was for me in rural America in the late 60’s and early 70’s. We could count on the Saturday Evening Post to chronicle this American life. With its meticulously drawn photos of kids, parents, and everything idyllic to an modern family, the Post brought to life the legacy of our great nation and the best part of life we had enjoyed within the states that define America.
Many of our elders know that life was not so ideal. After all, World War I occurred, named the great war for a reason, then the Cold War came directly after World War II. Race oppression and uprisings and the Korean War, Vietnam, etcetera, transformed perspectives and friendships and changed society so fast. The stress of cosmopolitan politics, women’s liberation, and homemade fears created amazingly complex memories full of contextual stories that are better than any Snapchat or TikTok.
Our great-grandparents’ memories tell us of the poverty and mothers’ abuse or father’s abandonment, the stock market crash and the Great Depression and how their momma made a meal for a family of six with wild dandelions, herbs, and vegetables from the previous year’s garden. It was a time of experimental vaccines for the years of polio epidemics, Franklin D. Roosevelt as president, and the dust bowl.
Our great-grandparents’ memories tell us of the poverty and mothers’ abuse or father’s abandonment, the stock market crash and the Great Depression and how their momma made a meal for a family of 6 with wild dandelions, herbs and vegetables from the previous year’s garden. It was a time of experimental vaccines for the years of polio epidemics, Franklin D. Roosevelt as president, and the dust bowl.
Sometimes, we are able to get these stories into a book so that many may be able to dive back into the days of our elders. One such book is Mister B: Living With a 98-year-old Rocket Scientist. This book is a memoir written by Mr. B’s daughter-in-law. In this lively memoir, we read story after story about the life that Joe Byk has lived throughout the realities of his century. We are taken back and forth from the current neighborhood where the street is lined with perfectly mowed yards to his seemingly ordinary tales with a twist, and some of them are simple antidotes. He is not one to beat around the bush when he makes his mind up. He gives us a glimpse of aerospace and the Cold War. We can learn some lessons from this quaint book about the memories of an immigrant turned Rocket Scientist.
• Keep track of what is going on in the world in order to understand the bigger picture. • Getting out of the house is good for the soul. • There is a chance that being a pioneer will not get you fame. • We live in a world where computer training is must
There are many more lessons the characters observe and learn from each other’s perspective, but these really paint a picture of how life does certainly change.
Three Little Things
If you are on a mission to delve into more memories from yesteryear is a book by Patti Stockdale, Three Little Things. In this enticing book, the author uses love letters from her grandparents as inspiration for Hattie and Arno. The book takes us through the memories of being in love during wartime, but more intriguingly, we are guided through a relationship that grows from Hattie and Arno sharing three little things with each other. It all starts before wartime when Hattie had a crush on the neighbor boy, Arno.
As they grow, she finds herself trying to let go of that “love” because she feels that it can only be one way. Not until seeing the letters during wartime, does she realize that he had loved her all those years.
The couple’s coping memories for wary yearnings take you right into the very place they are standing. Whether it be in the parlor or the barracks, you are right there as they find the love that they have known all this time.
As we grow older, our stories are the most important thing we can pass down to our children and grandchildren. Of course, not all of us will have the rocket science stories, but we each have a particular legacy to share. The stories of our youth aren’t just stories. They represent who we are based on where we were.
How to Preserve a Legacy with Memories
There are two great ways to preserve our legacy and memories for our future generations. One is to write them in a 365-DayJournal. If you do not like to write, then have a family member help you with this. You can pick up a journal at any Walmart or Costco; even dollar stores have them. They do not have to be expensive. Some choose to use regular spiral notebooks or the composition style notebooks. Another way is to create a photo album, just like the days of your grandma.
If possible, photograph the magnificent moments in life. Not just the grandiose places but capture the moments that make your heart sing. Moments like your grandbabies swinging in the backyard. Those moments that you and your husband are making dinner and mistake sugar for salt.
Most of us have a cell phone nearby nowadays, so a quick snap and boom, there it is! — No more expensive copies of your photographs needed. Then you can pick a day once a month to go to the nearest photo printing shop and have your favorite captured memories printed directly from your phone. I am sure Mr. B would be one to pass on this, but it could be a way to share your story with the future generations of your family.
Memories are what connects us to the past as well as the future. Make sure your generations are able to know the stories and lessons of the “good ol days” by passing them down.
We’re experiencing some threshold moments: the silent in-between spaces where we have left something behind but have not yet entered the next portal. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart expressed it this way,
“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence in between.”
That interval between moments? That’s the space where we can be awake and ready for the next wonder.
You know what’s really beautiful in this moment? The lilacs.
Nature considers them “essential” as they hang in abundant clusters from their branches. They have shown up to spread the fragrance of the familiar into our world of ambiguity. With little regard for restrictions, the lilacs and magnolias, dogwoods and redbuds, are shaking off the grip of winter and spreading their glory onto a grateful canvas.
They are doing the essential work of being beautiful and sending healing.
Silent caregivers, these delicate buds nurture us back to curiosity; we are re-honing our ability to be astonished.
“Honor the space between no longer and not yet.”
Nancy Levin, Network for Gratefulness
If we are stuck living inside the uncertainty, it’s at least really nice to look around at what’s real; what returns and wildly splashes color onto the landscape — year after year.
Be watchful. It only happens in the silence in-between. Let’s try to hold these moments with greater openness, in that uneasy experience of curiosity and trust.
Kathy Joy is the author of the gift book series, Breath of Joy. She is available for a variety of retreats, speaker events, and conferences. Book her now through her agent. https://booksforbondinghearts.com/contact/
Due to social distancing and quarantine requirements, I have noticed that many of us are finding ways to escape the torturous abundance of downtime. Gloom seems to be lurking in the shadows of the unknown. So, let’s talk about some of these escape methods, shall we?
Not homebodies or entertainers, some escape artists feel that “staying put” in a family group has become very trying on their patience.
Now I am not saying this in a bad way, just the opposite, I am just saying some people would rather be outside enjoying our world rather than caught up in the latest Netflix series. Needing the fresh air, these people are the ones you’ll find outdoors building raised flower beds and Koi ponds pretty much all by themselves. Solitude is a valid and beautiful way to get lost. Creating a secret garden is the design and physical digging of dirt and life, a tiny version of the world at home by good and proportional use of God’s creations. It’s a place to bring serenity in the midst of the anxiety created by the unknown.
We move on to those who need to escape to the country. They cannot stay put at home but don’t mind a bit of company in their explorations.
They are not thrilled with flower beds and fishponds. It’s an accomplishment if they get the yard mowed once a week. They need to go. They need to explore. They feel the need to get away from home. So where do we find these gypsy spirited people?
My first guess would be at the nearest lake or river. They could be sitting on the dock fishing and just enjoying the tranquility of wondering whether the fish will actually stay on the hook. Maybe they own a boat and they want to spend time trolling around the lake soaking up the sunshine (if there is any). Though they are not sequestered at home, they are still for the most part social distanced and quarantined.
Another means of escape this way is going on a day trip of exploration.I have a good friend who is one of those non-sit-stillers. She loves to go dancing or alternatively, be outdoors. With dancing clubs shut down, she discovered the option of taking day trips. She recently took a road trip to Arkansas and our newsfeed was full of photos of trains from this trip. Some of us in this narrowing, nervous world want to get out and enjoy the living and free world in which we still live. So, pack a lunch, grab a camera, and load up for a day trip of riding through the country.
Others enjoy staying home to learn a new hobby and escape into some future potential.
These are the introverted, creative ones. Those who do not want to be near anyone in case they don’t know how to behave socially in public, especially since the 6 ft. spacing rule was instituted. They are too busy playing, learning, and experimenting with something imaginative to worry about going out and about. They have learned to build a greenhouse or to crochet, knit, and maybe even sew since there is now a demand for face-masks. Some of them have taken to creating wonderful crafts that would likely be bought up in a heartbeat if all of the summer festivals had not been canceled. These crafters will be thrilled that Hobby Lobby has once again opened their doors. But they’ll need someone else to run and get them the craft supplies.
One of the best ways to evade today’s chaos is to get lost in the pages of a different time and place.
I remember my dad, born in 1918, telling me as though a badge of courage demanded the telling, that he only made to the 6th grade and had to start working to help support the family. I thought about this when I found my own quiet, sunny nook and read a book, actually a series of 2 books, set in the 1920’s.
The 1920s was a time of arranged marriages and families consisting of more than 2.2 children. It was a time when life was hard and if a child graduated 8th grade, then they were considered old enough to be married. The books were written by Tonya Jewel Blessing. The first one was The Whispering of the Willows and the second book was Melody of the Mulberries. Both of these were set in the Appalachian Mountains and revolved around the Ashby family, namely Emie Ashby. Opening the pages of book and partaking in a life that is not our own gets us away from the gloom and doom speculation and allows us to relax. I enjoyed being taken back in time to a place I have never been just so that I could get away from the everyday duties of being home and taking care of the house. I find it humorous that in today’s situation, West Virginia has become the great escape destination. So much so, that Governor Jim Justice has issued new state orders concerning non-residents fleeing to Appalachia to avoid COVID-19.
Overall, the world in which we live is far different than it was just 3 months ago.
As we look back, we already see how much has changed. Gone are the days of hanging out all night at the clubs or coffee shops. We don’t know who has been where or with whom, so we decide that we just can’t risk the health and wellbeing of our families. Even our esteemed Hollywood actors, such as Tom Hanks and his wife, have felt the grips of Covid-19. Into focus has come the question of legalities and civil rights in a whole-county lockdown. As we look back in time, we see how the American way of life has been forever impacted by so many different situations. Whether it be war, terrorism, racial tensions, or viruses, America is not what it once was in the years past.
It is a hard time in this new America of 2020, but nonetheless it is up to us to find the good and know that while we have faith, hope, and love, God has more.
Take this time to cherish the quiet moments of memories that you would have missed had you been rushing through your nightly routine in order to be able to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.
Whether you are finding escape into the earth, into new explorations, into the creative future, or into history, your personal preference will help you reinvent yourself and will offer a peaceful portion to a world engulfed in uncertainty.
Find out more about Cyndi Kay and her writing on her website.
By Kathy Joy, author of the Breath of Joy Seasonal Coffee Table Books
“Good Shoes Take You To Good Places” Seo Min Hyun
One thing we’re not using much of these days is shoes. I don’t know about you, but I’m mostly going barefoot around the house.
Shoe wear is optional while we remain sequestered at home.
A comfy pair of sneakers park themselves at my door for the occasional walk to the mailbox, or happily, a walk around the block; other than that, my work shoes lie dormant in the hall closet, grumpy about neglect and murmuring obscenities in the dark, behind the closet door.
There’s an artist in Fort Myers, Florida, who is busy painting sandals with messages of love and hope, decorating them with jewelry and then stringing them onto a line. Her name is Annette Brown, and her message is simple: “I think everybody needs to reach inside themselves and create something because we are all artists in whatever form.”
Annette’s neighbors are stepping up, decorating sneakers and pumps and sandals, creating visual reminders of creativity and survival.
It has become an outdoor gallery of curated shoe art. People are out walking, and they are looking up.
Life-giving messages are written, painted and glued onto the shoes to spread cheer for all passers-by.
Shoes are a pretty accurate reflection of our personalities – much like each our own handwritten signature, they are seals of style, a unique identifier for “you”, “me”, fashionable “us”.
On a walk recently I came across an old, worn-out pair of men’s work boots on a neighbor’s front porch. The leather was cracked, their soles were split and their laces tattered. Even so, they looked amazing.
Because inside of them, some creative person had planted a bright bunch of impatiens. The flowers nodded in the breeze as if to say, “Look! We can bloom here and re-purpose even this ratty pair of boots!”
New life inside of worn-out containers.
No longer serviceable for feet, yet perfectly whimsical to hold a cluster of perennials. We’re kind of like that: our bodies feel worn out at times, like a pair of old shoes. Tired, achy, holding the shape of a hug from six feet away. But, infuse laughter, spring flowers, a hug of safety, some repurposing, and our souls fill up these bodies with sudden vitality.
If we think of our weary souls as conduits for beauty, then maybe we can feel a new infusion of love, peace, kindness and growth. With good soil, water, sunshine and God’s provision, a worn-out soul can be rejuvenated.
We, like that shabby pair of work shoes, are quietly being re-purposed for the future. Strange soil is spilling into the holes. Unnecessary things are being shed. New and hybrid Seeds are being planted inside our worn leather, things that will sprout in due time and declare our resilience in new fruit and sweet blossoms. These things will delight our private days as well as our days when we are all back together.
Wiggle your toes and step into that.
“How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who brings good news!” Romans 10:15
I went to Beach 1 over the weekend for a mental excursion. Keeping a healthy distance from other humans, I watched from my perch on a picnic table. Above the thundering of the waves beating the shoreline, I heard a sound I hadn’t heard in some time: laughter.
A woman, bent down to scour the sand for beach glass, was suddenly drenched in cold lake water; she’d gotten a little too close to the waves. Her response was a wail of surprised laughter. Through the wind, over the water, like a rescue rope to all our drifting souls, her laughter caught us and pulled us to safety.
I laughed along with her and noticed others looking up from their nature walks, their feet, their buried thoughts and dreams. They joined in the sudden ripple of laughter.
It was music.
It was a sacred pause on a windswept beach, lasting only a moment.
I pocketed that moment like rare blue beach glass, and carried it home with me to be sustained and reminded: shared laughter was our Sunday communion; our imperfect song; our rescue.
May you be surprised and soul-fed by a swell of pure joy today. I hope it bumps into you from unexpected places and knocks you down and jiggles out a sound you need to hear: the release of your own shut-in laughter, finally finding a way out.
Kathy Joy is the author of Singing Spring, and pursuant to the request of her employer, writes Lunchtime Jabs for her co-workers in Erie, Pennsylvania while they are working from home during the quarantine. Her Breath of Joy books are a series of seasonal pick-me-up styled coffee table books featuring glorious images of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. On these images, her wordsmithing talents soar and dive and dig into the human experience.
Have you been thoroughly confused by tuning in and hearing paradoxes like this in the news?
“Rest and be good to yourself.”
“Keep busy. Excercise. Be productive.”
“Post cartoons on social media for the depressed. Laughter helps people cope.”
“We’ll go down in history as the nation who died laughing, singing, and eating-with rolls of toilet paper stored in our shower stalls.”
“Together, we will get through this.”
“The only way to get through this is to shut our borders and take care of ourselves.”
“The President let the wrong people go. Losing these valuable assets put us in jeopardy of personnel, policies, and programs”
“No-one could possibly be prepared for a once in a generation pandemic of unknown origins.”
If you are like me (and I know I am) these soundbites provide me an inspiration to humble myself, to pray, and to research. When I find a line on an answer, I like to enter the fray with the new understanding. There are others who have history, many facts, and a great understanding who prefer to keep their own counsel.
Yet, a Great Leveling Factor is Occurring
A leveling factor is occurring in our midst and among the nations of the world. Can we consider a few of these?
The smart ones are deprived of answers bringing them low.
The defenseless and poor are watching their organic gardens and farms and ranches provide feasts to eat in safety.
The military cannot see the enemy.
The wealth of the rich does not help them survive.
The real question is, while world administrators gain access to humanity by following and listening in, and as they start to implement long-lasting laws and social regulations, will believers offer the hand of their Creator-Sustainer to others who need to know or will they capitulate to empty soundbites and dead-end platitudes?
Science has now shown that Covid-19 is a protein, rather than a virus. Thus, vinegar does not kill it. Hand-washing and other cleaners are still the best defense. Also, do not shake out plastic bags, paper bags, or clothing because the proteins can enter and live in the air for up to three hours.
We can only Give what we Know.
Here’s the funnel. People can only give what we possess and know to be true. We can only know what we have submitted to learn. We can only learn what we’ve been taught. We can only be taught if we have teachers.
But, even scientists disagree.
“The mystery protein properties of the virus DNA is bad news.”
“There’s a patent on the virus. Only man-made things can be patented.”
“There could be a resurgence.”
“Don’t take the anti-virus vaccine.”
“We’ve got to follow the science.”
“Alcohol is the best sanitizer.”
“Peroxide is the best sanitizer.”
“Bleach is the best sanitizer.”
“Bleach was invented to kill American troops in WWII.”
“Vinegar and lavender are the best sanitizers.”
“The virus is the Evangelical’s fault because they don’t believe in science.”
“It’s China’s fault.”
Sometimes in our home, we pray for those we love. Sometimes we pray for just ourselves. Sometimes we pray for the world. Today, we prayed that the research would increase and scientific answers would be found. We also prayed for faith to increase. And, yet we continue to hear about wild ends of the spectrum.
“They should open every political meeting with prayer.”
“A third of the world could perish.”
“My loved one went to heaven this morning.”
“Those who praise the Lord will be spared.”
“Christians have a greater rate of illness because they run to help and they aren’t afraid of death.”
“Isolate and protect your elderly.”
“Anyone over 80 will not get standard medical care.”
So, we know that life will change soon. It has already changed. Look around. Make a list. It is changing moment by moment like it did on 9/11. Like it did with the Spanish Flu (sic) and the Black Plague and is doing in Africa with the plague of locusts. How could a global pandemic not change the world as we know it?
We are being humbled. But, as we are being humbled, why do only a few look up from our shoes and stand in confidence?
An expert criticized the current administration in America today: We are not looking into the distance. We are only looking at the two feet in front of us in the headlights.
Maybe we are only looking at our own wallets and our own stockpiles.
But, how about this form of modern Palm Sunday church service announced on the news?
“A church provided their community paper bags of stuffed Easter eggs for the children with no human interaction.” Some say, “Resurrection Day is not Easter. Easter is a celebration of the goddess of fertility.” Others ask, “What harm is there in sugary treats and celebrating Easter egg hunts?” It is easy to throw up your hands!
There is no-one good like God. We can only hope to be faithful in a time of trouble because of the faithfulness shown to us by someone gone before. Has someone offered compassion and wisdom to you? Practice it. Offer these gifts to someone else who needs them.
Have you only known bad examples and poor models of nurture in your life? Do the opposite. Do what your heart is wooing you to do. Maybe it isn’t even about serving others first.
The Biggest Answer to this Life has Been-Always Will Be-Walking with God.
There is a fountain of living water from which you can drink. The water originates from the Source of Life!
When we accept the age-old story that there is a Power in the highest heaven, seated on His throne Who searched throughout the world for righteousness, and seeing none, He sent kindness and healing for us by His Son’s death to take upon Himself our lawful punishment of death. After the crucifixion, Christ descended into hell and freed the captives there, and then He ascended into heaven to mediate for us and offer continuing salvation and eternal life for anyone who believes in this substitution for the forgiveness of their sins.
When the Judge Himself provides a Substitute for a Convicted Man’s Sentence
Yes, we should sit up and listen, but we should also be humbled when the judge allows for an innocent substitute to receive the forty lashes we deserve. Why would we care? Because the substitute-volunteer of the judge’s own son. I personally, cannot imagine any judge or father allowing such a thing unless the judge had made the law, underscored the punishment, and had the power over life and death in order to raise up his son from the grave.
Psalm 4 Try singing to the tune: DAY BY DAY and with Each Passing Moment
Unclean. The opposite of being clean. In our current times, people are doing everything they can to avoid this descriptor. We wash our hands. When we leave our homes, we wear gloves and masks and try to keep at least six feet between ourselves and others.
There are those for whom the word is an unavoidable description of their current condition. They are sequestered in their homes or other isolated places to wait out the virus, their bodies fighting their invisible attackers as best they can. The sickness has spread through their body, out of their control…they are unclean.
Mankind is no stranger to disease and sickness.
Thousands of years ago those with life-altering illnesses and disease had even less hope for healing. Medical knowledge was extremely limited in comparison to what it is now. Those who found themselves with incurable diseases were often sequestered in isolated places with others suffering the same fate. One of these terrible diseases was leprosy. Not only were there terrible physical ramifications from the disease, but it was also believed that those infected with leprosy earned the condition through their sin.
Imagine the heaviness of this diagnosis: the shame, fear, and loneliness that the inflicted person would feel.
“Don’t infect us, scum!”
Shim’on pushed into the crowd trying to see the subject of the disruption.
People backed up and parted to reveal a man swathed head to toe in dirty white linens. The only uncovered parts of his body were his fingertips and a gap in the head covering where his eyes peered out.
Looking at his hands, Shim’on flinched. Instead of healthy pink skin, he saw white deformed stubs. The man had leprosy. Instinctively, Shim’on, Andreas, and the other two disciples stepped back.
Instead of moving away from the leper, however, Shim’on watched the rabbi walk toward him! What was the man doing? Leprosy was extremely contagious. Lepers were not permitted in populated towns; but only in leper colonies outside the village.
The disease attacked the nerve functioning of those it infected and caused sores to develop all over the body. If ever a leper were to come in proximity to a ‘clean’ person, one not tainted by the disease, he was required to shout “unclean!” to warn others of his condition. The life of a leper was lonely and filled with shame.
This rabbi was taking a gamble by approaching the leper, and Shim’on couldn’t decide if he were completely crazy or extremely brave.
Jesus continued walking toward the man until he stood directly in front of him, only a foot or so away. The crowd, which had grown increasingly large, quieted, holding their breath to see what the rabbi was going to do.
Suddenly Jesus reached out his hand and set it on the man’s shoulder. Gasps and whispers crossed over the crowd.
“Be healed,” Jesus spoke quietly, looking into the man’s eyes.
The man began to cry, tears wetting the dirty cloths wrapped around his face. He reached up a hand, and it was then that Shim’on saw that what had been decaying tissue was now healthy skin. The man continued staring at his fingers and then began unwrapping the cloth, revealing a hand, then an arm. The flesh was perfectly healthy; the leprosy completely gone!
Murmurs spread, growing in volume, through the crowd. Everyone was amazed.
“Who is this man?”
“He healed the leper with a word!”
Jesus spoke to the man quietly.
Tears poured down the man’s face and he knelt before Jesus. “Thank you, Rabbi!”
He stood in amazement and Jesus clapped him on the shoulder, grinning. The man laughed in gulps of wonder and then, he departed.*
The Zealots, author G.K. Johnson. publishing September 2020, by Capture Books.
Our Lord touches even those whom the authorities in this world say are untouchable, unclean.
Our God enters into the dirtiest, most shame-filled places of our lives and speaks life!
And it brings Him joy to do it.
The book of Mark, chapter 2, records a dinner where Jesus attends to a tax collector’s needs at the tax collector’s home. The Hebrews despised tax collectors.
These tax collectors were Hebrews who had turned on their people and accepted Roman jobs because of the financial benefits. They extorted their own people and helped to support the Roman occupation at the same time. So when Jesus invites a tax collector to follow him, imagine the outrage many of the Hebrews would feel. Can’t Jesus identify the scum in our community? Is Jesus intentionally circumventing our social bias and the rules we use to keep this kind of traitor down? The disciple, Mark, reflects that some religious Pharisees grumbled to the disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”
Jesus replies, “Healthy people don’t need a
doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are
righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Isn’t this beautiful? It’s the very core of the gospel. I am unclean. You are unclean. We are all physically, socially, and spiritually sick with sin. And it’s only when we can acknowledge that truth to Jesus, the Great Physician, in a seed of faith for His help, that He can administer His miracles of life and spiritual birth. Sometimes it’s physical. Other times it’s a healing of our hearts.
Let’s be careful and wash our hands and follow other medical wisdom to not spread sickness. Yes, let’s also be mindful of the unclean around us…the obviously sick and those who may not show physical symptoms.
But, let’s also ask, How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus? Perhaps it’s letting His word soak into our own hearts while resting so that we have some good news to spread in a fresh way. Perhaps, it is sending a card or letter, singing hope to our neighbors from our backyard, offering to help with shopping or giving out medical gloves for commercial transactions, or maybe simply making a phone call.
Most of all, remember, dear unclean one…Jesus came to help you.
References: Matthew 8 (New Living Translation of the Bible)
To pre-order your copy of The Zealots, contact us today.
A Conversation with Tonya Jewel Blessing and Laura Bartnick
Tonya Jewel Blessing: I recently learned in two quick minutes how a blurb on the back of a book cover can sell books or dissuade potential readers from choosing a book.
We all know how important spelling and punctuation are in a book. But, I don’t think I realized that English basics are just the beginning of what matters in a book blurb until two media professionals picked up my novels. Each of my books have a professionally written, third-person description on the back cover. I realize this is paramount to converting book browsers to buyers.
At a recent media convention, a man connected with a film production company selected my first historic Appalachian novel, The Whispering of the Willows based on the book blurb on the back cover. The verbiage ‘similar to modern sex trafficking issues’ also sparked a conversation about the plot of the book. He promised to buy it for consideration.
Another reader-influencer looking for compelling stories at this media convention passed over my second novel The Melody of the Mulberries based on its book blurb. The reactions of both people, who visited the author booth, initially surprised me. Then, as I perused the other author stations, I found myself doing the same – picking up a book, reading the back cover, and making a purchase decision based on a couple of paragraphs about the story.
Laura Bartnick: Capture Books began to market The Whispering of the Willows in earnest to the Amish/Mennonite sector and to the West Virginia readership when the publisher could show that:
a) women’s issues were creatively handled, and
b) significant community involvement absolutely changes the course of a girl’s life after she is a victim of rape.
c) timing matters. Reverberating southerners became passionate readers of The Whispering of the Willows after National Public Radio broke the news about the West Virginia opioid crises. After the report featuring the opioid documentary by filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon, produced in part by the Center for Investigative Reporting, where a female judge, a church social worker, and a policewoman joined forces to creatively alleviate the crisis in the hardest-hit county, Capture Books decided to offer BLESSING’s novel to this community.
d) the women in the novel did not wear pants.
While BLESSING’s exquisitely clever sequel, released in the fall of 2019, is marketable to a lover of Americana and to a Christian romance-loving readership, the acquisitions gentleman seeking a modern hook with a correlation to a “cause” failed to find that kind of subject matter on the sequel’s cover.
The lesson learned is that listing a cause as a keyword or subject-matter can reach potential cross-over markets.
Book blurbs are also written for librarians, advertisements, flyers, and online bookstore platforms. Each of these has a variety of required words, suggested keywords and phrases, and are written specifically to hook certain types of readers.
I spoke with a very frustrated author last week who reported that she wasn’t earning royalties from her publisher on her book and wanted my opinion. I looked up her title and discovered there was not a single word of book description, and her book was only listed in one category. It simply wasn’t selling because there were no keywords alerting people to the existence of her book. Even if potential readers looked up the exact title, there was no book description to explain what it was about.
Tonya Jewel Blessing: My first novel was picked up by Tantor Audio Books because of its record sales in late 2018 after we marketed directly to the opioid epidemic on Amazon. Subsequently, my sequel has been steadily picking up new readers and finding its own voice with historical romance and Americana lovers. Since I didn’t know I could write a sequel in the beginning, my publisher did not market to sequel readers. Consequently, many who read the first book think it is a stand-alone novel.
I agree with E.A. Bucchianerif in that, “There is much to discover that’s not on the back cover!” YET, if the book cover doesn’t spark interest, the book won’t be read. Listed below are some tips for writing a book blurb.
Laura Bartnick: Yes, and here are some more clues to what works and what doesn’t on the back cover:
“I wrote this because…” or “My character is based on…” is better placed inside the book as a prologue or author’s note.
Larger fonts with less copy will catch a reader’s attention.
Aim for a description of keywords written to the interests of a reading group.
Getting an editorial endorsement printed on the cover will garner immediate interest and give the author borrowed authority.
You may also want to put the name of the publisher, the logo, the subject matter or genre, and the price of the book onto the back cover.
By Kathy Joy, Author, Breath of Joy: Singing Spring
The first mild morning–that particular morning when you trade in the heavy coat for a mere sweater–is cause for celebration.
Most years in wintery climes, spring’s official arrival gets top coverage in media outlets everywhere. The first glimpse of a crocus is a metaphor for hope.
But this year it’s different. This year, we are self-isolating; hunkering down, finding new ways to fix canned beans.
While coronavirus dominates the news, spring tiptoes in: Hesitantly, on cat-like feet, it slinks in sideways, taking a seat in the shadows.
Nobody notices a shift in the breeze, a heady buoyant quality that tousles pigtails and tugs playfully on sequestered souls.
Robins, oblivious to the crisis, are leaning in for earthworms, pausing only to trill their signature birdsong.
Living things are stretching their roots beneath our feet, wriggling
and rejoicing at the approach of the resurrection.
It’s all happening, all around us, despite the looming dread of
Tight-fisted rhododendrons are ready to unfurl in bursts of pink, purple, red and white; forsythia hedges will soon be trumpeting their yellow splendor; daffodils not far behind in their marching brigades of buttery magnificence.
If we could just part the curtains on spring’s arrival and take a peek, we might be astonished. We might be gladdened; we might be reminded who’s got this whole weary world in His hands.
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows cheap, sold two for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:28-20, Study Bible).
Yesterday my husband and I made a concerted effort to not go anywhere.
We have enough food, enough toilet paper, enough entertainment. By the end of the day though, we were tired of lounging in our jammies saying to each other, “Isn’t this great?” The roast and potatoes and carrots tasted like Sunday dinner without the guests. Hmm. Maybe a shower and getting dressed would have helped the humor after twelve hours of forced leisure. Even our dog seemed lowly, dumped out on the carpet. I looked at his water bowl and realized that in the change of routine, we’d neglected him.
Still, I predict great things to come of this social quarantine,
Boredom births games, boredom births conversations, and silliness, and sex.
I’d already seen several programs on the T.V. and just wanted to click off the power button. It felt like the reruns after 9/11. I decided to clean a room, and I found some forgotten treasures! In that little corner of heaven and for a couple of hours, I saw why cleanliness might prove to be next to godliness.
Explorations in the bookshelf, the stored software-to-learn list, webinars held on the back burner, homeschooling and getting to know one’s kids will all take shape.
All that attention kids need and crave from their parents
will feel a little awkward at first. Arguments and fights will break out. They’ll
look each other in the eye after a few hours and think, is this really
happening? Do I even know this person in
my house?! Then, the serious
discussions will start to take place. Values,
politics, meaning, personal strengths and weaknesses, the I-never and what-if
Things you never wanted to do, you’ll do, and discover you’re pretty good at it given some time.
After we slap our foreheads, remembering to feed our pets out of routine, we’ll tire of the couch and go out to weed the garden. Who weeds the garden anymore? Lawn services are the closest thing to beautifying the landscape we see around our neighborhood.
So, we’ll go outside there, and find some twigs to tie into wreaths and furniture.
We’ll decide to whittle a piece of wood into shape. We’ll find some glue or caulk or paint and start playing around. Our faces will relax. Smiles will be found.
Families will tell stories about grandparents and ancestry and wonder whether they should plan to visit their past in another state, another country entirely. Budgets for historical discovery will be made.
Designers will remember that they enjoyed drawing at one time, and they will begin to design upgrades to their houses. Negotiators, desperate for an income, will negotiate prices for work. The economy will plunge and adjust and perhaps prices will take a turn for the more reasonable.
Inventors will grow industrious. I remember we had installed a gas fireplace with a self-lighting pilot light in our old home because, at the time, rolling electrical black-outs were an issue in winter. In this particular crisis, I’m not sure how helpful the self-lighting pilot would be to eradicate COVID-19, but I am sure that industrious minds will begin to invent heath systems, tools, and hacks for hospitals, homestays, working from home, and bartering.
Would-be authors who have always wanted to write their masterpiece will begin an outline, a first page, a rewrite.
People who fear big brother’s orchestration of society and privacy will invent new protections and products and ideas.
Lawsuits will be settled outside of courtrooms. Fences mended.
We will face our inconsistencies as human beings and personal failures won’t spiral into martyrdom into, “Yes, I’m the trash heap of humanity.” We’ll have the time to talk through specifics, and analyze behaviors, and practice improvement.
Stress factors will release their vice-grip on life, and when we take a long look at what our parent or child is capable of, we will want to form a production line in the family to make the best ideas flourish.
The wiggle worms will get in their cars and drive around to discover what is going on around them, what spring looks like, what birds congregating in gangly trees sound like in chorus.
Adult kids will remember their neighborly shut-ins, their elderly parents and grandparents, and try to do whatever they can to assist them out of loneliness and fear. Concerted efforts to meet these needs will be met with surprising rewards.
Those who enjoy singing will sing again, privately or from their balconies, together in their families, in devotion to their God and to each other. Songs will be written. Pictures painted.
Family meals prepared and eaten around a dining room table. And, someone will say, “Thank you!” “Um, this is good. Is there more?” And, someone else will decide to eat together on the sunny patio and say, “What did you learn today from this strange isolation? Did you invent something wonderful?”
And, a kid will say, “I found the sewing machine and decided to hem my pants, but then I tried to make something else, and guess what? I can sew!”
All of these things will happen because we are not toting each other to hockey, basketball, concerts, the gym, school, our places of worship, and work. Deadlines will not rise up and press against our very bodies for closet space. Instead, Leisure will introduce herself as the new skeleton in our closets.
Book reviews are an author’s lifeline. To sell books, positive reviews are required.The reviews also need to appear in a variety of venues and sales platforms such as Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.
become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even
thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside
out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.
Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of
immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in
you.” Romans 12:2 (The Message)
“Oh, I need that!”
Advertising is ubiquitous! Indeed, it’s everywhere! The average American sees 3000-5000 ads per day. Think about it! That doesn’t mean just TV commercials… it counts every form, including signs as you are driving down the street, pop-up ads on the computer, brand names on clothing, notices on buses, upcoming event reminders in bathroom stalls, etc. Every day we’re bombarded with messages that intend to direct our buying, thinking, and actions.
And so are our children and
Our culture today is overrun with ever more invasive means of getting messages to us. In September of 2015, BBC reporter, Ben Frampton introduced the Changing Face of Journalism as clickbait from the outset of any news article. Technology is being utilized in new ways that impact our daily lives and attract our eyeballs to messages. Perhaps you have been a “victim” of clickbait.
“Clickbait consists of attention-grabbing
headlines used for Web content to lure readers into clicking on normally
uninteresting content. Many websites use clickbait as a mechanism to gain
popularity via higher click-through rates. Clickbait is characterized by a
highly enticing headline with a hyperlink that, when clicked, reveals a website
that has content that is not nearly as interesting as the headline. Clickbait
is therefore considered to be a strategy to increase the number of views to a
particular Web page.” (Techopedia.com)
read clickbait headlines such as,
20 pounds in 20 days! New miracle pill!”
Hollywood couple is giving away millions?”
“Seniors: stop paying property tax! Learn this easy strategy now!”
Sometimes these headlines immediately redirect a reader to a different domain. They are simply fishing hooks.
Buzzfeed alone regularly attracts more than 10 million
unique users in a single day.
Buzzfeed can bring strong returns for careful users, but it has also created expensive traps for the unsuspecting.
Bloggers often use clickbait to earn their influencer income through affiliate marketing. However, promoting affiliate products can easily distract not only a blogger’s readership, but also the hopeful content blogger from the central purpose of his or her blog.
Products are not the only thing being sold through clickbait.
Personal information is transferred through every click made to the collectors and analyzers of these products and services. This fact can be used positively when you are able to grow a base of contacts to use for legitimate business and kingdom purposes.
A darker morass of reasons others may use clickbait.
When a woman clicks on a piece of clothing or sleepwear, she may find herself next inundated with new ads for women of her age and size in sultry and lewd poses. When a boy or girl clicks on an ad, it is not unusual to discover advertisements for games, adventures, political ads, pornography, phishing sites to military operations, sign up sheets, edgy books and other age-monetized bait popping up on tomorrow’s online screens.
Because religious advertisements are considered a hate-speech liability to fan bases, it is not a Christian ad we can count on seeing unless the advertiser has taken pains to identify only easily recognized Christian buyers acceptable to the marketing host.
Our children need to be introduced to this marketing strategy so they are aware of the intentionality and purpose of these alluring headlines.
And then there’s location-based marketing.
Have you received a text message from a store just as you were driving near it?
marketing (LBM) typically takes advantage of the geolocation of a customer
(usually via a GPS-enabled device) and uses these techniques… to send
personalized and relevant messages at the right place, at the right time to the
Does this CEO’s statement bother you? “Augmenting location with data about user behavior patterns enables a brand to create more timely, customized user engagement.” (Laetitia Gazel Anthoine, CEO, Connecthings)
More technology, more knowledge about each person’s consumer habits
and personal preferences, more desire to sway your thinking, buying, and
actions, and lo and behold! GPS-based marketing!
We all need to raise our awareness of “Peeping Tom” marketers and
interfering corporations. If you recently looked at e-bikes on Amazon
for a possible purchase, and then you were suddenly accosted by pop-up
ads for e-bikes on Facebook, websites, and online games… it wasn’t a
Advertising has come a long way, baby! No doubt there are more
intrusive techniques being created right now, with the ultimate goal of
saturating your life with appealing hard-to-ignore ads.
God has told us to be ever vigilant. We need to be dealing with life with “eyes wide open”.
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
Discussion is crucial. Talk with them about why advertising is part of our daily lives. Ask, “Where do you see ads?”
Discuss both the benefits and the downside of advertising. Ask, “Why do you think advertising works?”
Ask, “Is the accumulation of possessions enough as the purpose of a life?”
Ask, “What resources are available to create useful click ads for kingdom purposes? Do you have a service or a product for which you would like to design a click ad to help others?”
A Short Story by Tonya Jewel Blessing Author of the Big Creek Appalachian Series
He was desperate. Clem knew he wouldn’t last the winter without a woman.
Oh, he was interested in loving alright, if his health permitted, but, more importantly, he was interested in good food, lively conversation, and someone to help with the chores. If the gal played checkers and smoked a pipe, it was all the better. It’d been awhile since clean overalls hung on his tall, lean frame. His shirts and socks also needed mending.
In his younger days, some had called him handsome.
Now, old age had set in. He bones were brittle from lack of nutrition and hard work; his feet misshapen from wearing boots too small; and most of his teeth were missing. The last tooth he’d pulled himself with some worn, rusted pliers borrowed from a friend. He had washed the pliers in moonshine, and, after the painful extraction, had rinsed his mouth repeatedly with the brew. He knew the art of gnawing food but was praying for a new pair in case his new wife was good at making vitals.
He had just the gal in mind. Ruby Mae lived across the creek. Her husband had passed in the spring. It was rumored that Ruby’s mama had done him in with hemlock. He thought it might be so. Any woman, old or young, who wore a pan on her head must be crazy.
It had been awhile since he went calling on a girl but had worked out his mind just what was needed. He had shot and killed three squirrels. The varmints were cleaned and hanging on stick. He kept the pelts just in case the lady was of a mind to make him slippers. He also picked fall witch hazel flowers and tied them with twine. He knew that the flower helped with skin ailments of all types. When used topically it was fine but if ingested it could cause a person’s body to back up for several of days. He wanted the pan hatted lady to be aware of his knowledge about poison plants – just in case, she had any mischief in mind.
The creek water was running low. The fall rain showers had been brief and far between. Thunder and lightning aside, he enjoyed a good rain. His tin bathtub had a small hole, so he had taken to dancing in the rain with a small piece of soap made from lard.
The worn looking cabin was straight ahead. He could see the ladies sitting on the front porch hulling beans of some sort. He hoped it was black eye peas. They tasted mighty fine when seasoned with hog jowls.
“Gals, it’s Clem from across the creek,” he called out a greeting. It wouldn’t do any good to frighten a lady, especially since he was calling with wife finding in mind.
The younger woman, Ruby Mae, stood to greet him. Martha, the older woman stayed seated in her rocker and scowled at him.
“Clem, it’s nice to be seein’ you.”
“Ruby Mae,” he nodded and awkwardly handed her the squirrel meat.
“Well, I’m thankful. Why don’t you join me and Mama for dinner? I’ll make us a fine supper.”
True to her word, the meal was delicious. The witch hazel flowers placed in a mason jar were centered on the table. Two candles made from bee comb sat on either side of the centerpiece.
“Ruby Mae, the meal was mighty fine.” Clem hemmed and hawed. “I’m needin’ me a woman, and I’m thinkin’ you’re the gal.”
Sweet Ruby Mae blushed, and Martha made a sound similar to a growl.
“Clem, I’m honored. My Homer done passed, and I’m gettin’ scared about the snow. I’m worried that Mama and me can’t manage the farm,” she looked down at the worn floorboards. “Is you thinkin’ of movin’ here or is me and Mama coming to your place.”
It hadn’t occurred to Clem to relocate across the creek, but the idea sat well with him. Ruby Mae’s home was pleasant, clean, and well kept. He spied jars of canned fruit, vegetables, and meat in the small room off the kitchen.
“It’ll be fine to be moving here,” Clem answered. “But we’re needed to talk about Mama. I done heard that she killed Homer. If it’s true, I best be knowing before the preacher man is called.”
Ruby Mae looked toward her mother. “Mama…”
The older woman smiled a toothless grin. “I ain’t kilt nobody. There was a time or two that I was wantin’ to send Homer to his Maker, but I done feared for my eternal wellbein’. I won’t kill ya. I’m promisin’. I’ll be helping Martha to tend you. I’m knowing how to make food that you can gnaw and feed you gullet. I’ll even warsh your clothes.”
“That’s mighty fine.” Clem replied.
The wedding took place the following week. Ruby Mae looked lovely in pale blue dress with a small pocket placed over her heart. The pocket was trimmed in lace. Her message was subtle, but Clem knew that his bride’s heart now belonged to him, and his heart belonged to her. Martha stood next to her daughter wearing the old pot for a hat.
When the preacher told the newlyweds to kiss, Clem leaned in for a smooch. Before his lips touched Ruby Mae’s, he noticed a sprig of dried hemlock peeking from the lacy pocket. Ruby Mae winked and whispered in his ear, “And you thought it was Mama…”
Some Dove chocolates have been lurking in my desk drawer at the office; I’ve been able, somehow, to resist them. But today is different. Today, as the calendar marches inevitably toward Valentine’s Day, my resolve is weak.
So today I’ve opened the little foil packaging and
here’s what the inside message says:
in those you love.”
And just like that – a flood of memories leaked from my
heart. Memories of my own sweetheart, Roger Hoffner, who died way too soon.
I believed in him.
And because I carry his memory like a treasure, I
still believe in him – in the present
Roger grew up in a time when boys admired men who wore leather gloves to work and tucked knives into their pockets to use when needed. He wanted to emulate them.
He was raised in a country swath of America that
believed in ruggedness and self-sufficiency. He learned, by example, that you
don’t toss something in the trash just because it quits working – you figure
out how to fix it and you take the time to do it right.
Living as a kid in the green rolling hills of Northwest Pennsylvania, Roger worked odd jobs for uncles in exchange for a hot meal and maybe a game of poker. He learned to drive tractor and toss hay bales into the mow, long before he was driving a car.
One of Roger’s most prized possessions was his
pocket knife. I’ve kept it in my jewelry box.
That little 3-blade wonder came out when the girls
got Barbie Dolls at Christmas time, the toys impossibly ensconced in those hard
The small but capable knife was used on our farm to:
a wooden latch,
the ice on the horse’s buckets,
a piece of tack when saddling up and once,
remove gum from our oldest daughter’s hair.
I saw him:
slice a watermelon,
sharpen a pencil,
open a can, and
cut bait from the fishing line.
I often saw him cleaning his fingernails with the
Eventually, as his own nephews grew responsible
enough, Roger started gifting little pocket knives to them so they’d be ready
for any eventuality.
Each of our daughters also received a pocket knife
when the time was right.
I fondly remember their papa cutting reeds by our pond with his knife, to fashion them into organic musical instruments for the girls. They held the long green leaves “just so” and blew through their thumbs and fingers to render nature’s finest music.
The sound came out something like chirping crickets
mixed with bird warbling – it was simply beautiful.
The pocket knife, over the years, came to mean much
more than simply a handy little tool. It represented a hearty resourcefulness. A
hard-scrabble work ethic, a readiness for just about any situation.
I spoke with another guy who carries one, and
he told me he’d attended a concert once and was horrified when the
security guard confiscated the tool and tossed it carelessly into a
My friend fished his pocket knife out of the bin and left the venue; he was not going to lose a lifelong companion over a one-time event, so he went outside and people-watched while his wife enjoyed the music inside the arena.
That’s how strongly men of a former generation feel about
their pocket knives, and that’s how strongly Roger felt about his, too.
I miss him.
I carry Roger’s memory in my heart. I will forward his legacy to my son-in-law. On his birthday coming up, I believe I will gift him Roger’s trusty pocket knife.
I wouldn’t want Nick to find himself in a situation and not be prepared. Especially when the day comes that he takes his own kids fishing and needs to cut some bait.
When the bottom line doesn’t add up to figures in black – without red dashes before them – what does a writer hope to gain by publishing a book?
Recently a new author sent me a list of questions to answer regarding her first month of publishing, which occurred at the end of last year. I’ve now been in the publishing business for five full years, which is practically nothing in the grand scheme of things.
I had to disclose the fact that the outlay of this author’sinvestment so far has been well beyond the income from book sales. Beyond that, what’s even more difficult to grasp is that the outlay of investment would continue as a calculated risk if she continued to buy advertising and publish other books. So, why does anyone choose to publish their own work? Historically, what did people hope to gain? Was there ever any financial guarantee?
Here are 10 gains to consider when you are deciding whether an author’s journey is worth taking.
1. A watershed of education in literacy, in marketing, and in publicity occurs in the life of every rookie author (one to five years expected). People often see hybrid publishing as a way to work themselves into being offered a deal by a traditional publishing house.
2. The opportunity to persevere stakes out its garden-lit walkway.
Time to Let Down Your Hair for Recreation
3. Attending, or presenting to, a variety of writers conferences set in exquisite places will be a surprising boon and a blast of wind through the back door.
Find Like-Minded People
4. Bonding with other creatives whose values are similar to your own, or who answer your questions and needs, or those who need your knowledge enlarges your territory, i.e., editors, artists, philanthropist partners, agents, publicists, clubs, associations, and publishers whose goals intersect with yours and who bolster the vision and energy that you value so highly.
Expand Your Worldview
5. Finding a wonderland of science, legal research, human heart and worldviews in what you might now see as only a world of chill factors. Break the ice by learning to investigate and write the details well. Life begets life. Each new person or event you experience can be processed in your own life and writing style.
Become a Curious Child Again
6. Adult constraints are broken In physiological moments of creativity when an adult writer experiences the ripples of new connections among the four hemispheres of one’s brain. Inert reserve becomes child-like exploration of detail and there is energy to push through a writer’s problem. Both the process and the result will make your mouth water, your tears may fall, and your lungs will fill with a gasp of a-ha! Find these new avenues of ingenuity become your landmarks of personal life exploration.
Recognize Your God-given Voice by Using It
7. Telling your story your own way. By the grace of God you will use your voice and your God-given experience to reveal something meaningful to new audiences. This is the most personal journey of faith you embark on, to process your own life under the microscope and use parts of it to throw out like bread crumbs for others.
Jump Deep and Springboard off Editors and Critics
8. Use criticism as a springboard to improve your author’s voice, tone, technique, creativity, and insight. You’ll grow into your true value. legacy, and posterity.
Discover the Benefits of Silence and Solitude
9. Loving silence and solitude when a writer puts up four walls of personal boundaries to everything else in the world. No matter who or what is calling your name, you can discover benefits of prioritizing your own work and applying yourself in silence. Solitude will make you more at home with yourself than ever before as you explore your own answers.
Be About the Business with a Publisher’s Support
10. Learning to budget your author-preneurial business will grant you control and creative ideas to succeed (accounting aids, profit & loss statements, sales taxes, laws related to book events, copyright, and royalties).
ONE TO GROW ON…
Alternate Universe Hopping
11. Enjoying Cafés… and coffee… and internet classrooms.
If any of these pro’s outweigh the con’s, I recommend that you set up a savings account in order to publish and start marketing not only your first book but also, your second. Budget to eat less, and forego shopping sprees or vacations, in order to finish your series.
You might be familiar with the wisdom that advises entrepreneurs to count the cost before building a house. But, for me, counting the costs of building a publishing house was not an option. That is, there was no trail of breadcrumbs through the forest leading toward the publishing house budget choices that would be most valuable. Instead, wild experimental line items which should not, could not, but did pop up anyway, added to my initial budget in uncategorized line items until I began to gain understanding. The entire world of hybrid group publishing was new. Somewhere after the second year, I threw a tantrum. Then, I learned that just because things were not as I expected, didn’t mean that I didn’t have the beginning of a platform and some new tools to use. From there, the thing began to move like gold nuggets from the mines in carts. I started to feed these nuggets to authors I’m coaching in a Facebook group called Golden Writers Conferences.
6 PRACTICAL THINGS TO EMPLOY FOR AUTHOR EARNINGS
I learned many things in a backward manner and spent time and money that I now see to be the price of personal education. Now, things are clearer. I know that authors, similar to athletes, actors, and politicians, make money by a variety of means building up to the publishing of their first book and, of course, after it is launched!
Learn to blog for content marketing. Authors can gather their readers like chicks when they learn to blog. Maybe the experience of blogging becomes the subject for a new book, but maybe the experience of writing the book creates a new expression and following in blogging. Either way, the practice of blogging is the practice of being honest and relevant. It is the guts of content marketing for an author. You can start by posting and commenting about topics of interest to you on Facebook. Then, expand the topic as you learn more about it, and create an essay or an article. Sign up for a blog and after editing your first foray into blog-land, ask people to take a look and give you comments.
Getting speaking gigs at festivals, local libraries, holiday events, places of worship, study groups, schools, and book clubs–really anywhere people gather–will not only sell your stash of books, but will help you become a better communicator.
Get your name, email, and phone number out there on business cards or flyers and take them to the venues you are most interested in. Get their card and give them yours. Add them to your email and shipping or mailing lists and just ask around.
Hire a college kid to get your name, email, and phone number out there and just ask around. Have them teach you Instagram or Pinterest tricks.
Form a private group of authors or a street team to help you cross-promote. Generate that matrix of alliances and interests to naturally ignite interest between groups of followers and fans. Stop panicking and start sharing resources and interests.
Different things make different people tick. Consider the money that people spend on shopping, fashion, child care, workout equipment and reps, television, stage performance, animals, industry or career. All of these are things that consume one’s budget, time, and effort. They bring their own social circles into your life. Maybe it is worth writing your manuscript and getting your book into print simply to engage in the life you’ve always wanted to live.
If publishing your work is the thing that makes your clock tick, either use the other areas of your life as props, ideas, and research for your book or else begin to reclaim the amount of your own space in those areas of life, prioritizing inside them and siphoning off information from inside that priority towards your writing goals.
“I think that passion is a huge piece of writing. I have a passion (a strong and barely controllable feeling) about writing. I like creating a story. I like how writing brings things out in me that I didn’t even know existed. And, I am happy with the responses from readers I’ve had in this past year.”
Now, after trying many different author hacks, Tonya became Capture Books’ best selling author in her fourth year and decided to publish a sequel with them. Why not use the “author life” as a worthy and reasonable goal for your life?
Do the psychological shuffling, get a coach, even if no-one else understands you.
Talk about the joys and frustrations you have with reading, writing, and arithmetic to your friends and associates. Out with it!
When all of this begins happening, and your initial choices begin to snowball into life priorities, you may find yourself in a sardonic mood from time to time. Will you wrestle with the necessary line items in your household budget to create new income streams with your writing or just give up? Not everyone has a difficult budget, but many creatives and writers do. Especially in the first five years.
If you are willing to endure set-backs and face your fears with coaching and education, you can have a fulfilling author-preneurial second career.
It may be an option to get financial counseling specifically related to your personal author’s line-item budget. Imagine creating the career you want step by step, with small strategic investments, and add coursework to learn the new business. Make lists. Move through them. revisit them for practice.
There are secrets to be learned. These are treasures to be employed and practiced in order to build a platform where you can champion your style, your cause, and stretch your wings. When a breeze comes your way, you’ll be ready.
If a writer continues to kick back on personal or professional development, I soon learn that that author really just wants to fall back to being just a writer. And, that’s okay. But, an author must realize that this path is a full-time hobby at the very least, and is a significant investment into the future, and a learning curve into self-discovery and articulation.
GROW A DYNAMIC AUTHOR’S TOOLKIT AND KEEP EXPANDING YOUR REACH
Let your creative juices flow into marketing, learning, sharing resources, and practicing new things as similar juices flow in drafting a manuscript. “Star” or “bookmark” this post so that you can go back and follow EACH of the links and explore them or share them. in this way, you’ll expand DYNAMICALLY.
It’s tempting to capitulate into the pool of guilt and feelings of helplessness when budgeting funds towards the costs of launching an author-preneurial business. Don’t do this. You will need to trust the Lord, while investing and creating new boundaries for yourself in order to succeed. This is how anyone in business approaches future success.
Take Away: Use your ingenuity. You are a creative. You are an author. So, when an advertising budget goes awry or the book expo leaves you saddled with debt, then pull out your list of why’s and add to this the list of “how’s this going to improve next time?”.
Managing Partner at Capture Books, (author of Welcome to the Shivoo! Creatives Mimicking the Creator). She is available to give this presentation in writer’s groups and to field questions in person or over the airwaves, or online. Contact her: email@example.com
During the holidays, I had the opportunity to host the inventor of a well-received artists’ pastel, the Terry Ludwig Pastels and his lovely wife in my home. I learned how his creative need for widening a small array of pastel colors to vastly more colors begat an ingenuity to create them himself.
For Terry, learning how to mix and shape these new pastels for personal use led to bulk mixes of the pastel shaped chalks and also to the business of selling them to other artists. Soon, the success he received outgrew his ability to paint and to run the pastel business. Fortunately, in retirement, Terry’s son, Geoff, continues to run the family business.
INGENUITY COLORS THIS WALL
Soon after, another company came to my attention, an innovative and ingenious company that actually grew in lean times when other companies gave way to the competition.
Braun Brush Company is one of America’s oldest family-owned industrial brush manufacturers. From the start, Emanuel Braun, a German immigrant, implemented handmade, quality manufacturing techniques to produce brushes as effective household tools. They became popular. Who doesn’t need a variety of brushes, right?
However, at the turn of the century when the industrial revolution started, the factory, like most small manufacturing businesses, fell on hard times. Mass production by machine, whether inferior in quality or not, overwhelmed them. Authors and publishers might relate to the phenomenon as they experienced the mass marketing of self-published books took over the marketplace.
Again in the 50s, when China began mass production of common household items to America, Braun, could have given up production of his homemade brushes.
Instead, Braun began identifying a person at a time needing one unique brush. He could still fill that market of one each time he designed a unique brush making his mark up, because the machines were making multiples for the masses, not unique needs. Finding one-of-a-kind niches, inventing brushes for commercial institutions such as NASA and nuclear plants for cleaning silos, sustained Braun’s brush business.
REINVENTING THE WHEEL – A GOOD INVESTMENT?
Artisans and business people are often warned not to waste time or resources in trying to reinvent the wheel. In this instance, I’ve learned the opposite is true. It helps to be willing to reinvent the wheel for different purposes and vehicles. Thinking about this, it may be common sense that the same wheel would not suit all purposes, nor does the same brush.
I have discovered, time and time again, that one person may be a visionary while others must get on board with the business sense, varieties of production needs, or sales in order to make the business succeed. Each person must use ingenuity to succeed in creating a full picture from the puzzle pieces.
NOT EVERY CREATED THING IS PRODUCED FOR ALL
Some people mass-produce their art for those who decorate personal spaces with reproduced poster art printed on less quality paper, sold, and appreciated en mass, ie. think the paperback novel or Kindle readers.
Some people want to see their own work up on the wall, ie. think the vantage press hardcovers or those who use their books for establishing a legacy.
Some only want to produce enough work to give gifts to friends, club members, and business associates. Others need to make a living and are able to gain the aid of professionals to either become a classic household name in a genre or form.
In readers as in the art world, there are those who collect, those who invest in local artists and masters. You understand, if you have an original signed and dated piece from a local artist, author, or a master in any era, it is safe to say that only those who come into your space will likely see it.
Like showing off a beloved library, an original art piece may be the dictating factor for how the rest of the space is decorated and furnished.
KEEP UP WITH HUMAN APPETITES
Finding and selling to the markets basically means that the creator has discovered a way to feed someone’s appetite. It comes down to that.
It’s great to create new stories and new things, but there are some things that are universal patterns and needs requiring some pattern of format or reformatting. This is true in writing a widely read book.
A novice author dreams of seeing his or her book mass-produced. For me, when the self-publishing phenomenon happened, when all manner of marketing and social networking advice overwhelmed me, I floundered and moved into low gear. The transformation of the bookselling industry was about to spit out the hobbyists from the author-entrepreneurs. And, I wasn’t ready to give up. In digging in my heels, I had a lot to learn.
One of the things I learned related to finding a niche of readers, and describing my book as the answer to their appetite for discovering the source of creativity and learning to follow a true pattern of success.
In 2020, when I approved the final revision of my book, Welcome to the Shivoo!, I smiled thinking, “That’s a book I want to buy and read myself!”
Authors and publishers aim for more readers and merrier times. Whether this dream becomes fact, real art always comes from the heart. When an artisan believes in his or her process and skill, adapting ideas to reproduce stories in a bigger way and by a preferable means becomes real-world work.
What a delicious assurance.
Occasionally, authors believe they have written their only masterpiece. With the work and expense required to establish themselves, it feels unlikely that another manuscript so heartfelt and well-researched will ever pour from their fingertips again. They want their books to be mass-produced, and when at first this fails to happen, spirits fall in chorus like a requiem.
It’s simply the excitement and pathos of a first book singing out a delicious moment. But, there is a whole new career awaiting.
Getting a book published produces a bell-curve of an overwhelming high and extreme low of emotion before the reality of the artisan’s business work ethic sets in. However, it is unfounded to think that new inspiration can never spurt to the surface again considering the wellspring of ingenuity contained in the life events of any artisan.
When a writer has found one passion, another passion will likely emerge parallel to the appetites sparking at the time. An opportunity to produce a sequel or a similar brand of book will begin to tug at a sleeve. The question is, will the creator accept being the vessel in the future? Will the creator continue to find the hope and motivation as Braun found to prepare for a future society, to accept this new manuscript in the new language of a new people?
I like to keep a notebook, camera, and recorder nearby to document the interesting things that pass through my life so that I may one day adapt them into new art, or writing, or sales systems.
Every day, you and I are just like Emanuel Braun who was beckoned and wooed by life’s need to survive in New York’s transitioning society and the crux of needed creativity. You cannot blame your competitors who found a rung on the ladder before you did. Learn from them. You cannot hold customers captive without new products. Keep inventing.
You and I are the ones who must continue to get gritty, work late nights and early mornings, research, edit, barter, and train.
Mister B had been vying for the certificate of blindness since he’d turned 96, seven years prior. His January hobby was to study and search the IRS Publication 17 each year, and he’d done his own taxes until age 100.
When Joe saw that his taxes were getting adjusted by the taxing authorities two years in a row, he decided this meant that he was no longer capable of understanding how to report them.
Last month, at 103-years of age, my father-in-law finally received a certificate of blindness from his eye doctor. It was in answer to another of his badgering requests so that he could file it with his 2020 taxes.
I fished out this portion of our joint memoir for whomever reads this blog. You can tell that he is not only going blind at this juncture, but deaf as well.
We’ve had a fun spin this morning getting all the things done on Mister B’s list. He turns suddenly to applaud our execution of a morning to-do list, “Wow! You solved all my problems in an hour and we still have time for books!” I turn the wheels towards the library looking at the wide empty soccer park of stark, winter grass and note, “Where are the geese, Mr. B?”
“No, the GEESE.”
“Where’s the beef? Oh, you’re trying to be funny.”
“No, the GEESE! In the park!” I flutter my arms and point.
“A treat? You don’t have to overreact like that.”
In the library, he forgets that he’s already picked up the federal tax forms, so he makes his way over to pick up a couple more.
On the way home, he taps his tax documents and spouts, “Hey, I think we should get a deduction for my blindness. Can you look into that for me?”
“You aren’t exactly blind, Mr. B. You’ve been reading for the last hour.”
“Well, I know,” he admits, “but there has to be some sort of stepped up percentage, some standard you can find out about, and you know I am blind in the one eye and I have this mascular deterioration too.”
I about lose it with the “mascular deterioration” and am pursing my lips, trying to hide my amusement, when he says, “You know, if I could get another $1,200 off my taxes, you and me could go out to Ted’s Montana Grill!” He wraps his hand in the crook of my elbow and snuggles up.
“Now you’re thinking, Mr. B., but really, you’ve already made my day.”
This week’s events prove there’s nothing more sure than death and taxes as the wheels of life moved ’round us.
My dear man breathed his final breath–to our complete shock. We were not ready to let go. Undulating lost feelings, an empty house, and reflections that he won’t be needing the bananas, oxygen, and pills this week were felt among currents moving side-by-side in streams of wonder recognizing the Lord’s compassion for him and for us as things occurred, and arching overall was a desperate hope of glory.
Mister B, Joe, had managed to pick out every corner of every walnut shell in his New England basket. He’d managed to rock a rut in the new carpet. He’d managed to entertain his hospice caregivers for nine months with stories. He’d outlived all of his siblings and far-flung relatives. We’d managed to capture his DNA and confirm all the suspicions about his Baltic sea coastal father’s origin and the soul of his Polish mama with a Norwegian slice of pie.
Then, he simply disappeared. We saw no vapor, no shudder, heard no heave. He was breathing deeply in sleep, he took six shallow breaths, and suddenly he breathed no more.
The day after, wandering through the hall, I peered into his empty bedroom. “Where are you, Mister B?”
A while later, as my husband and I clomped up the stairs bringing tax boxes from the basement–for our ongoing life, I saw Mister B’s script from his doctor lying on top. Damn. He’ll not get this last pleasure! The irony of it, although his tax deduction came through, finally. I muse, my chest tightens, and I stomp on the top step because Joe can’t enjoy this poetry having simultaneously shaken hands with death.
In fact, the only time I ever knew Joe to stomp his own foot was the night before he died. The pain in his chest was “biting” he said. “Biting” just like his mother’s description of her lung cancer to him the last time he saw her. Throwing out his groans through the house, his howls, his stomps, and finally, his whimpers broke our hearts. We called the hospice repeatedly and received directions for morphine. And, finally, he slept snoring roundly.
The thing is, so many beautiful things occur between birth, taxes, and death.
Joe’s fortitude happened.
“Old age isn’t for the faint of heart,” he’d say. Indefatigable, Mister B found patience for the long hours of silence which deafness handed to him, meekness at his failing strength to stand and walk. Interest in the many varieties of soup he downed when his esophagus stopped working. “Why is this happening? Why can’t the doctor fix it? What kind of credentials makes her a doctor?” Then, acceptance.
His humor shined with polish.
When he needed a handy cherry-red walker near the end, he often grinned grasping the handles toot-tooting like a childish train engineer. He mostly kept his own counsel and his own secrets. Only what benefited his audience escaped his lips. He’d launch into some political opinion, then, “Why do I care? It won’t matter to me. The world is your oyster now.” And, “thank you”, “I’m so lucky”, and “I appreciate ya” up to his last night. Sometimes he’d list the accolades of his doting valet of a son to me. “I couldn’t have done any better,” he’d say. Other times he’d wonder if my husband cared that he was dating me or that I had two husbands.
He was still curious about things he thought he saw or heard, and those conversations could become sheer fantasy of reason or extreme frustrations trying to explain to him that his experience was not logical.
He started uumming over his food and singing.
Patience and humility happened.
His itching and face cancers reminded me of the misery of Job covered in boils. We’d slather Mister B’s head and torso with medicated cream.
Sacred respect happened.
He stopped mocking our dinner prayers and bowed his head every evening, closing his eyes, respectfully. I ached to know it was more than that, but I never will this side of the resurrection. Many times he thought he had to get up to go to work. It was only right that he should work and share the household burden. Maybe he could get some kind of job…
If you’re one who’s feeling the pinch of a parent’s age and what that might mean, if you’re curious about how a family could learn to love again, and if you’d at least like to consider the value of caring for your elderly parent, I hope you’ll pick up our memoir, MISTER B: LIVING WITH A 98-YEAR-OLD ROCKET SCIENTIST. I was a most resistant upwardly mobile child, and I was wooed.
It does take two. Both sides had to budge. Both sides had to be open to learn respect. He led the way by deferring to us, “You kids take this over. Why do I need it? I’ve lived my life.” Or, “You decide. I trust you.”
My husband says his father had become someone he’d never known prior to these final years. Tears have rolled wetting his face many times this week. “Thank you, Dad, for loving me, for teaching me how to live this life.” These were his last intimate words to his father.
But if it’s true that the amount of tears shed relates to the amount of love you hold in your heart for one who’s passed, it’s also true that living in the wonder of Mister B’s company, I became a vastly different person during these past six and a half years.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
All of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8)
Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not extinguish the Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5: 17-19)
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)
Math, accuracy, and facts are intrinsic to a good long life. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 25:15)
If I were stranded on a remote island in the middle of the deep blue sea and given only two choices on which to survive – words or numbers – I’d choose words.
Words can paint poetry.
Words sail over an aching heart, whispering strength.
Words bolster up the discouraged; they call armies into battle.
Words inside of prayers have the power to storm the very gates of heaven.
Words form apologies, mend fences, bring loved ones back into the fold.
Words, words, words.
I’ll call my little dot in the sea The Island of Poems.
Yeah, not so much.
Unless, of course, you are a numbers person. If you’re a numbers person, then you would be in your zen, surrounded by facts and figures, numbers and percentages.
That island is called The Island of Numbers.
I think you Island of Numbers dwellers are amazing and a little bit mysterious. Because, why you’d want to crunch numbers all day – particularly, somebody else’s numbers – is beyond my scope of imagination.
But I’m so glad you belong on that island, because we, the taxpayers, need you.
We need you to rescue us from our fear of numbers.
And our fear of the Unknown.
This past year, a new thing was launched–a thing called the Internet Sales Tax, and honestly, it’s got me a little wigged out. Consumers don’t think they need poetry and books the way they need technology, clothing and appliances. When authors and poets make so little on a book as it is, I find it intimidating to navigate the calculations and reports that might be required to justify what I already know to be a valid, consumable necessity.
It feels counter-intuitive, like showing up for battle unarmed.
We authors may as well call it the Poetry Tax.
There was a time, way back, when I warmed up to numbers as potential allies; friends, even.
It was in college, during a class in Math 101. The professor said it this way: “A math equation is beautiful, in the same way, a poem is beautiful.”
He had me at poetry. I leaned forward. I started taking notes.
All because of his many references to words, I passed that course and lived to tell about it. I remember in my notebook, I started lining up numbers in stanzas, or sometimes in free verse. The affinity to words actually helped me form an alliance with a required math course.
Numbers aren’t so scary when they flow like a well-metered poem.