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Building an Author’s Career is Like Building a Passage

During worship, our church sang, BE THOU MY VISION by the 8th Century lyricist, Dallan Forgail. The subject of the message was worshipping God in our daily work.

The words hit me like they never had before. Goading me from the perspective of a fairly unknown author and editor in today’s market, struggling to find the needed footholds, the lyrics of this ancient hymn reminded me of my priorities and of the substantial rewards offered by the Lord.

To show you how almost every phrase or thought in the song became animated for my soul, I’ll highlight the phrases for you.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Pow’r of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

So, I’ll ask you, writer, or new author without a “platform,” how do you see your writing?

Is writing your passion, like a spiritual enigma?

Is writing a hobby?

Or, is writing your life’s work, your career?

Frank Viola advises that a writer who is not willing to invest in marketing and publicity to boost their products to the intended audience is only a hobbiest. But, even a hobbiest seeks out models and YouTube how-to videos for patterns and best practices.

People do invest in hobbies. They buy tools, a table, the supplies, and sometimes we invest to see where the market lies for their products. But, a hobbiest doesn’t really expect to see a profit from doing something that passes the time in interesting and enjoyable ways.  A hobbiest, though, can also leave a legacy of the things made for others.

Some people also invest in a career if they are entrepreneurs or just good and loyal servants of a company.  College diplomas are earned so that a person can prepare for the prerequisites of work and learn the elements of a career.

But, sometimes a passion is a thing we give ourselves to without any expectation of reward. We call this attitude altruistic or philanthropic.

Insert Foot In the Comedy Door

I have a friend who needs to pay for her property and way of life, suddenly, after divorce.  She doesn’t have office skills or a college degree.  She has some acting and comedy skills, and she had been writing and practicing her schtick.

She invited me to listen to a staged comedy routine she was required to perform as a final assignment for her comedy class and provide feedback.  She was preceded by six people whose routines were so vulgar that I wondered whether I could continue to watch and wait for her turn. The atmosphere caused me to pray for her strength and buoyancy.

When it was her turn, she spoke from her own life and perspective without bitterness. She displayed a flowy hand movement and there was an elegance about her. She did not cuss or use sex, genitalia, or potty jokes like the others had. She was dignified in her storytelling. Her jokes were original. I called her on her way home to congratulate her and give her my perspective. Her courage. Her persona offered something unique to build on.

She was crying behind the wheel.  “I don’t know why I’m crying,” she said. “I had fun, I felt like I was funny and people laughed, but when it was over, I was alone.  The rest of the performers were eating and drinking together, and I was alone, so I came home.  But, you know what?  I want to be righteous. And, I think the Lord was honored.”

My heart lept for her. I am confident that God will make a way in or outside of this wilderness called comedy clubs.

Drinking from an Empty Well?

I want my writing and my business of publishing to be a big part of my legacy.  Sometimes, I’m willing to sacrifice income by putting my books down to .99 cents while investing in a promotion. But I don’t like to devalue my books by leaving them at that price or by giving them away for free.  Others are willing to hand out their books or booklets for free. They post their writings freely on social media hoping to minister to someone that day.

Sometimes I struggle with the idea of regular writing for business or even part-time income when the present costs and sacrifices are more than I want to give. Oftentimes, the costs are far more than I have to give. If I try to drink from an empty well, the hope is futile. In that case, there is no decision to be made.

Sometimes I struggle with the idea of writing for spirituality because my own spiritual practices are non-quantifiable. They may be very different than others’ ideas and practices.

Then, when my work is ignored or rejected or marginalized, I wonder if I have the spine to withstand these disappointments. They return my goodwill and investment like a bucket of dust from an empty well.

From Whom Do We Seek a Reward?

There are earthly rewards promised in Scripture to those who do certain things.

We can read about the rewards of faithfulness, and the rewards of self-denial, and the rewards of integrity.

Some rewards are miraculous like when God comes through for a King who is faithful and obeys the Lord beyond reason or by denying other’s ungodly counsel.

I read about Ezra’s situation today in the book named for him.  Ezra was leading back the remnant of God’s people to Jerusalem to build the city and the temple. King Darius had ordered that he be given everything he needed to finish the work. In the course of their correspondence, Ezra proclaimed, “The hand of the Lord will protect us.”

George Zeller from www.middletownbiblechurch.org puts the story this way:

The journey for Ezra and his people was monumental. They had to travel about 900 miles, a trip that would last three or four months. The journey was extremely perilous. Travelers in Bible times would often meet with robbers, and Ezra’s group carried with them large amounts of gold, silver, and valuable vessels (Ezra 8:25-30). Ezra realized how helpful it would be to have a royal escort of soldiers and horsemen to protect his vulnerable people on their arduous journey. No doubt, the kind King would have granted such a request, even as Nehemiah later enjoyed the benefits of a royal escort from this very same monarch (Neh. 2:9). And yet, Ezra was too ashamed and embarrassed to make such a request (Ezra 8:22). Why the hesitancy? It was because God’s Name was at stake. Ezra had already told the King that the hand of God was upon them and that God would take care of them (Ezra 8:22). To ask for help at this point might send a message to the King that they did not really believe that God could protect them. So instead of asking the King, Ezra proclaimed a fast and asked the King of kings to protect them (Ezra 8:21,23). God wonderfully answered: “The hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and of such as lay in wait by the way(Ezra 8:31). They safely arrived in Jerusalem (Ezra 8:32).

The Blessing of Keeping a Holy Vision

Christian authors and writers write to present themselves and their material in such a way that the name of the Lord is not dishonored. Sometimes, they are unsure of how to go about this and make mistakes, but as God did for Ezra, who ran to Him with a petition for provision and protection, the Lord will continue to be faithful to His children today.

  • He will provide.
  • He will see us through.
  • Though the journey may be perilous, God’s hand covers us.

Whether we appeal to a king or appeal to an audience, when we appeal to the Lord, He is faithful.

Honoring our Maker and our Redemer is always the priority and over-arching goal. Even when we write about perilous times and situations.

Moses authored Psalm 90.  His prayer is “May Your work be shown to Your servants and Your splendor to their children.” It is when our intentions make it into our handiwork and products produced that things begin to happen. When writers are writing to display God’s handiwork, Moses’ continues:

  • New International Version
    “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.
  • New Living Translation
    “And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!

The Lord does see you thinking, processing, writing, editing, publishing, and He sees you closing that circle by pursuing the need of others to see, read, or hear what you have written. He is actively ordering your steps and delighting in your journey. Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a man are ordered by the LORD Who takes delight in his journey.

May the blessing of Moses give you a great heart for the journey.

May the prayer of Ezra remind you to dedicate your embarrassments to the Lord for His redemption and honor.

May the lyric of Dallan Forgail, create a deep stream from which you will dip your refreshment. No matter what, may the Lord be your inheritance, now and always.  May He be your dignity and your delight. May He be your shelter, your high tower, and your undergirding power. May He be your wisdom and your true word.

BEING CREATIVE (Bartnick) is available on Amazon, The Nook, Faithful Reads, and Capture Books
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Poor, Blind Tobias

Prerelease of The Zealots available through Kindle

Part 1:

It was the Sabbath, and twenty-five-year-old Tobias sat in his usual place outside the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple mount was always busy, and Tobias had long ago become used to the variety of noises that surrounded him. Quick, light footsteps were those of a child or someone running. Heavy, firm footsteps accompanied by philosophical conversations meant that the teachers of the law were passing by.

Occasionally Tobias heard slower footsteps, accompanied by tapping noises. Most likely that meant that an older, or infirm person was walking by on his or her way to the Temple. There were countless other noises of course: the cooing of doves or bray of sheep as they waited to be sold and then sacrificed as offerings to Adonai. The clank of swords on armor as groups of Roman soldiers made their rounds.

Clink. Tobias turned his head at the sound of a coin being tossed into the clay urn he held in his hands.

“Thank you,” he said.

“Adonai be with you,” A man’s voice responded.

Tobias could hear a child speak in a loud whisper. “Abba, why can’t he see? Did he do something bad?”

“Hush.” Tobias heard the man reply and then retreating steps as he and his daughter left.

It wasn’t the first time Tobias overheard such conversations. He himself had the same questions. Why was he blind? His parents told him he’d always been a sweet boy, obedient and intelligent. But for some reason, he was born blind. He could remember asking his parents if he was being punished for something, but they were as baffled as the doctors. He had dwelt in the darkness for the past twenty-five years without answers to his questions.

***

The day passed by as it usually did, and Tobias was grateful for the few coins that lay in his cup. Since he was unable to work, he was forced to rely on the provision of his family, a humiliating fate. Any money he could bring home helped to ease the sense of worthlessness he felt. He guessed it was late afternoon when he heard a group of men approach, speaking to a man they called Rabbi Yeshua.

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” He heard one of the men ask in a low voice.

Tobias guessed the question was posed by a Pharisee’s student. He was not unaccustomed to being used as a teaching subject on the consequences of sin. To his surprise, the answering response from the Rabbi was unlike any he’d heard before.
“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of Adonai might be displayed in him.”

Tobias held his breath.

“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work,” The Rabbi’s voice continued, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Suddenly, Tobias heard the sound of someone spitting on the ground near him. Before he could protest, he felt a warm, wet substance being rubbed over his eyelids.

“Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” Tobias heard the voice of the Rabbi.

Tobias was overwhelmed. Nothing like this had ever happened before. He felt a ripple of fear. Was this man mocking him? He must look a fool, sitting in the dirt with a mixture of spit and mud on his face. Just as quickly as the feeling came it went, however. The man’s voice was so calm, so filled with peace. Perhaps he was a fool, but he would obey him and go to the Pool of Siloam

 

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Tobias stumbled to his feet, forgetting the cup of coins. He had been to the Pool of Siloam many times because it was used for many kinds of cleansings by his people. He moved as quickly as he could through the streets of Jerusalem, one arm outstretched, grazing the wall and buildings to his right. Occasionally he bumped into people, but most avoided the man with mud smeared across his face. Finally, as he reached the steps to the pool, counted by memory, he knelt beside the pool’s edge. His breathing was fast and shaky. He wanted to believe that when he washed he would be healed. But what if he wasn’t? What if the Rabbi lied to him?

He couldn’t push away the feeling that the man had power in his voice when he told him to go to the pool. Tobias descended into the water. 

Holding his breath, he dunked his head under the pool’s surface, using one hand to wash away the mud-caked over his eyelids. Then he raised his head from the water and blinked.

Brilliant light flooded into his vision and he squinted. Several minutes passed and the light slowly became less blinding so that Tobias could see objects moving. They must be people, though he had never seen one before! Hundreds crowded the steps and patio surrounding the pool. Tobias could see dozens of what he guessed were trees surrounding the water, green leaves rustling gently in the breeze. The sky was impossibly blue, scuddled with thick white clouds. It was incredible to see the things that for years had only been descriptions and imaginings in his mind. A deep sob rose in Tobias’s chest and tears rolled down his cheeks. It was beautiful, impossibly beautiful.

He stood to his feet, suddenly aware that he needed to return to the Temple mount. He had to thank the Rabbi. He took a step forward, then stopped. After twenty-five years of relying on sound and touch, being able to see his surroundings disoriented him.

Though he wanted to keep his eyes open, absorbing all the sights around him, was thoroughly confusing. He squeezed his eyelids shut. Familiar darkness. He immediately knew which way to go. He took the stairs toward the Temple, opening his eyes every so often to look at his surroundings. It would take time to come to know his way around the city by sight. He laughed at the thought. But when he reached the place where he sat only minutes before, he realized he had no idea what a rabbi or his followers looked like. He closed his eyes and listened for the voice that told him to go wash. The voices of hundreds surrounded him, but none had the voice of the Rabbi. He opened his eyes.

People around him pointed and spoke to one another.

“Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”

“It is he.” A man nodded in agreement, staring at Tobias.

“No, he only looks like him.” A woman nearby shook her head.

“I am the man!” Tobias spoke excitedly.

“Then how were your eyes opened?” The woman asked skeptically.

“The man called Yeshua made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.”

“Where is he?” The man looked around.

Tobias shook his head, “I do not know.”

People continued to pass by Tobias as he stood, his senses overwhelmed, pointing at him and echoing the words of the man and woman from earlier. Tobias continued to insist that he was the blind man, now healed, but many looked doubtful. It made him wonder why people prayed for miracles if they wouldn’t believe them when they happened.

Shrugging off his frustration Tobias turned toward home. He couldn’t wait to announce the good news to his parents! Surely they would be thrilled for their son.


Part 2:

Tobias threw open the door to his family home. Once again, he had to close his eyes most of the way to find his way. Surprised, his parents looked at the man in the doorframe.

“Tobias?” His abba stepped toward him.

“It’s me Abba!” Tobias took in the face of the man he had imagined but never seen.

“What has happened?” His immah looked into the face of her son.

“I can see you!” Tobias looked back and forth between them.

His abba took Tobias’ face between his hands and looked into his eyes. Tears pooled and spilled down his cheeks.

“How is this possible?” He choked out, pulling his son into a hug.

“The Rabbi Yeshua, he healed me!” Tobias gripped his abba tightly.

Tobias saw his immah’s face fall and his abba released him.

“What’s wrong?” Tobias looked back and forth between them, confused. Fear flickered across his parents’ faces.

“We are so happy you can see, although I don’t understand it,” Tobias’ abba shook his head. “But the Sanhedrin has ruled that if anyone should confess Yeshua to be the Christ, he is to be put out of the synagogue.”

“But surely he is the Christ,” Tobias said without pause. “Who but the son of Adonai could heal me?”

His parents stepped back from him at his words.

“You must not say such a thing son,” his abba spoke sternly.

“Perhaps we should bring him to them,” Tobias’ Immah spoke slowly.

“To the Pharisees?” His abba was incredulous.

She nodded. “Surely they have heard of what happened by now. They will want to speak to him. It would be better if we went to them first.”

Tobias’ abba was silent, then slowly nodded. “Perhaps you are right.” He looked at Tobias. “Be honest with them, but do not praise the Rabbi. If you respect us as your parents you will do this. Neither, we nor you, want to be thrown out of the synagogue.”

Tobias’ heart sank. Why was such a wonderful miracle being treated with such skepticism and fear? He was intensely grateful toward the Rabbi and wished he could thank him and know more of him.

***
Discouraged, Tobias went with his parents to the synagogue, though to his dismay they remained outside. As his parent’s guessed, the Pharisees had indeed heard rumors of what had happened.

“How did you receive your sight?” They questioned him.

“The Rabbi put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see,” Tobias answered as simply as he could.

The teachers of the law conferred with one another.

“This man is not from Adonai, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” One said of the Rabbi.

“How can a man who is a sinner do such signs though?” Another asked. The room erupted with conflicting opinions. Tobias stood, silent. After several minutes one of the Pharisees gestured for the others to quiet. He looked seriously at Tobias.
“What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?”

It was the question his parents feared, and Tobias felt the weight of his response.
“He is a prophet,” Tobias responded softly. It was true, but it wasn’t the entire truth. Tobias knew he believed the Rabbi to be much more than a prophet. He felt a pang of guilt.

The Pharisee looked at Tobias for a long moment then gestured toward the door. “Have his parents brought in.”

Tobias’ abba and immah looked terrified as they stepped into the room. Immediately they searched his face for a clue as to their involvement in this conversation.
“Is this your son, who you say was born blind?” The Pharisee who questioned him earlier gestured toward Tobias. “How then does he now see?”

Tobias could see his immah tremble. His abba cleared his throat and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”

Tobias’ heart sank. He told his parents who healed him and how, yet even they didn’t believe him or refused to stand by him. He didn’t know which was worse.
The Pharisee turned his eyes to Tobias once again.

“Give glory to Adonai. We know that this man, this Jesus, is an unclean sinner.”

Tobias thought of the man’s words on the Temple Mount and the power in his voice. He had told him to wash and now he could see. He believed the Rabbi was the son of Adonai even if no one else did.

“Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

Another teacher of the law stepped forward.

“What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?

Tobias choked back a sigh of frustration, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” He heard his parents gasp.

Anger filled the Pharisee’s eyes. “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that Adonai has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” Tobias could hear the self-righteousness in the man’s words. He had heard many such prideful lectures as he sat on the Temple mount, holding his clay cup between his hands. He glanced around the room of Pharisees and loathed their hypocrisy. They found it so easy to judge others.

“Why, this is an amazing thing!” Tobias felt a strength fill him. “You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that Adonai does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of Adonai and does his will, Adonai listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from Adonai, he could do nothing.”

Tobias could see the shock on his parents’ faces. He knew it was unacceptable to speak back to a teacher of the law and could see the thinly-veiled rage in the eyes of the Pharisees surrounding him.

“You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” The Pharisee questioning him sneered. “Leave, you are no longer welcome.” The men standing nearest Tobias grasped each of his arms and roughly pushed him through the door, slamming it behind him.

Tobias walked shakily from the synagogue until he rounded a street corner and sat heavily. He didn’t regret the words he spoke-he believed them wholeheartedly. Yet he was filled with grief. Surely his parents wanted nothing to do with him now. He could imagine them desperately pleading with the Pharisees that they did not agree with their son and begging not be thrown out of the synagogue as well. Just hours ago he was given his sight, yet he’d had no time to delight in the miracle. There was no one to rejoice with him or to explain the things he could now see. He felt immeasurable joy, yet at the same time, deep grief. He bent his head, choking back tears.

Minutes later he felt a hand on his shoulder and he looked up.

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” An olive-skinned man in his early thirties with rough-looking hands stood beside him. His brown eyes held Tobias’ with compassion and kindness.

“And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Tobias asked.

“You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” The man smiled at Tobias. Tobias suddenly recognized the voice as the voice of the Rabbi who had told him to go wash. He fell to his knees.

“Lord, I believe. Thank you for giving me my sight!”

Yeshua pulled him to his feet. “For judgment, I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” By his words, Tobias wondered if the Rabbi knew he had been questioned by the Pharisees. Just then two teachers of the law drew near.

“Are we also blind?” They asked mockingly.

“If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains,” Yeshua replied. The men’s faces darkened and they left.

Yeshua smiled again at Tobias and he grinned back. Tobias could see the Rabbi’s disciples walking their way, and others began to gather around the Rabbi. But for a moment in time, Tobias knew he had been alone in the presence of the Son of Adonai. No matter what happened, he knew The Truth. The Truth was that Rabbi Yeshua had set him free.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this story by Historic Novelist, GK Johnson inspired by the biblical chapter of John 9. Please take a look at the 2021 debut novel by GK JOHNSON on Amazon entitled, The Zealots. This is a remarkable new retelling of the passion of Christ from the viewpoint of Barabbas and Simon the Zealot.

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A remarkable retelling of the passion of Christ from the eyes and ears of Barabbas and Simon the Zealot

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Acknowledgment, adaption, ah autumn, breath of joy, compassion, darkness inside, election season, grief, Guides, op-ed, Speak Wonder

Words, Like Nets

Thoughts from Ah, Autumn: Breath of Joy by Kathy Joy

Today, writing a blog feels inadequate as I shift under the weight of yet another personal loss. In a short week, I found I had lost a dear family member and a co-worker whom I really liked.

“Words are like nets – we hope they’ll cover what we mean, but we know they can’t possibly hold that much joy, or grief, or wonder.”

Jodi Picoult, Change of Heart

I feel like any combination of words cannot capture the wistfulness of wanting everything to stay the same; for everyone to remain alive; for grief to pack its bags and visit somewhere not so close-to-home.

What a relief to know we don’t have to cast out our nets and fish for words to express how we feel.

There are other ways to reach out for meaning. Or to stay folded-in.

In difficult times, carry something beautiful in your heart.

Blaise Pascal

Beautiful Things You Might Carry in Your Heart…

  • A memory
  • A discovery
  • An anticipated event
  • A person you love
  • A song
  • A landmark place where you discovered God
  • A promise
  • A smile
  • A secret
  • A scripture
  • A rare and splendid moment

Let these treasures sustain you, carry you, ground you and tie all your loose ends to something real. Something of substance.

We know we must carry on even during a time of grief. How is that possible? Here is a quote I often turn to.

Just for Today

Just for today, keep it simple.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Look at your life

for all you have gained

rather than lost.

Look at your path for everything

you’ve gotten through, rather than

where you think you should be.

Celebrate rather than criticize.

Experience rather than expect.

Stand in the sunlight

Rather than the shadows.

Quietly honor your heart

rather than disown pieces of yourself.

Take a break from all that.

See how that goes.

Just for today.

Author, L.C. Lourie

Maybe today you need this. If not, I’ll not be offended.

The power of empathy is often felt deeply in silence.

Thoughts from Ah, Autumn: Breath of Joy by Kathy Joy
Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy seasonal gift books

Book KATHY JOY for a speaker event here.

©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

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Let Songs Be Heard and Not Sighs

Something rather good has erupted like pollen from this past spring and then the addition of summer’s social isolation. My mind has been drifting.

All by itself, it is dredging up memories, mostly good ones. I mean, the really, really good memories are from the innocence and wonder of a typical American childhood, really distant memories – from lifetimes ago – when we were still allowed to spend pennies at the store, and nobody told us the mint was not making coin.

Simply Summer Breath of Joy

A recent National Geographic study polled many people around the world—including more than 600 featured in just one study—who say they are experiencing a new phenomenon: coronavirus pandemic dreams.

Science has long suggested that dream content and emotions are connected to wellbeing while we’re awake. Bizarre dreams laden with symbolism allow some dreamers to overcome intense memories or everyday psychological stressors within the safety of their subconscious.

The virus is invisible, and I think that’s why it’s transformed, the study concludes,

The virus is invisible, and I think that’s why it’s transformed into so many different things.

Deirdre Barrett, Harvard University

This week I woke up in one of those post-dream phases where you’re not asleep but not quite awake, either: the best time to rein in the edges of your dream and frame it before it is erased by cornflakes and coffee and morning light.

I remained as still as possible to capture the details.

We were all back in elementary school. As dreams rarely make sense, my classmates included pint-sized versions of people I have known throughout my lifetime, even my grandmother.

No matter that she was in grade school a full 60+ years before I was; dreams are like that.

Let it be

So anyway. We were out on the playground. It was recess and lunchtime and a cluster of us were sitting cross-legged in a circle near the swing set. I remember there was a teeter-totter there, too.

We were trading lunches.

Two Twinkies for a homemade cookie.
Bologna for a PBJ.
An apple for a Hershey Bar

A kid named Robert was in the circle, and he had a liverwurst sandwich. This detail rang true – there really was a kid named Robert in the first grade whose mom packed a liverwurst sandwich nearly every day; Robert seemed to like it and rarely traded it out. He probably wouldn’t have very many takers, anyway.

I mean, liverwurst.

It was only a dream, but it had real slices of reality sandwiched in.
Maybe you, too, did your share of lunchtime negotiations back in the day.
You got rid of those vegetables and Mom was none the wiser.

Trading lunches was a childhood career for me

Those murky-dream-drenched lunch swaps – snippets of real memories rising to greet me during the Great Sequester of 2020.

A metaphor for what we seem to be doing these days ~

Opening our lunch pail, assessing the situation, and looking up to see what tastes better on that day. Negotiating a trade, pooling our resources, helping each other survive the “liverwurst” of life.

What if?
What if we traded sorrows for singing?
Worry for watchfulness…
Anxiety for trust.
News grazing for window gazing.
Deep breathing for stress eating….
Curiosity for despair.
These are good swaps, life-lifters.
Switching out the bologna for a ribeye; 
trading the mundane for the moment you will savor 
and return to it again and again
for a tasty reminder during a day of scarcity.

There’s a song lyric from a favorite musical that goes like this:

The clouded sun shall brightly rise,
And songs be heard instead of sighs.

Godspell

What a glorious swap.

A chorus of songs rising up to conquer the gloom – a goofy, ravaged, joyful mix of imperfect voices. Gathering momentum, drowning out the cries and the sighs.

We will wake from this dreamlike state one day, looking to each other for guidance into the light of a New Normal.

Pass me the Corn Flakes, I can hardly wait.

Kathy Joy, wordsmith, event speaker
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Magdala By the Sea

By Historic Novelist, GK Johnson

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.

Wedding Scene from The Zealots by G.K. Johnson

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.

Ref: Luke 8:43-48 NLT

G.K. Johnson is the debut author of The Zealots, a story of Barabbas and Simon the Zealot, a story for boys and men. Johnson is a regular contributor to the Books For Bonding Hearts blog.

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The Zealots, coming soon. For men and boys. Illustration and cover design by James Dawson.
About The Zealots by G.K. Johnson
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©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find several children’s books of high literary quality.