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“Easy On Yourself Today”

Laura Bartnick

Washing my hair this morning, enjoying the soft, hot water rushing over my body, a message came into my thoughts, “Be easy on yourself today.”

Okay, I thought. I’ll go easy on myself and enjoy each moment. I’ll not let the tyranny of lists defeat me.  I’ll make the easier decisions today and take all-the-things-I-desperately-need-to-find-out a tad more casually.

Stepping out of the shower, then, I realized that I didn’t know what this “easy on yourself” message meant. What was I to do – not do?  Was it an ominous warning to prepare for something unkind seeping through the cracks of my family or work?

Was it a message to not blame myself if someone were to fall ill or die? I felt a rising doubt, anxiety.

Double Checking

I decided to think it over by doing a rote task. Towels from their hooks were lifted and pitched. I took the laundry basket downstairs, though carefully. Doing something that I would regret, like tripping over a trailing shirt sleeve, say, and falling down the stairs this morning, could be the reason for such a message. It could be a warning. I pulled out the shirts and pants. Spraying on stain remover, counting to sixty as it soaked in, I then began to push dirty clothes into the dryer.

This is not the washing machine, dear. The little message was showing its potential to make me neurotic! I tugged out the towels and clothing and tossed them together into the washing cylinder. Then, I switched the program to one notch lower in heat than usual.

Next, I opened and tied back the curtains on either side of our front door.  That sweet light coming through those sheer panels, the green grass, longish and wet with last night’s rain, and the boughs of blue spruce edging around the corners of the sky brought a sigh. My shoulders rolled back for the gift of a new day.

Going into the kitchen, I decided to make a banana smoothy. Just a half cup, with one small ripening banana and vanilla and nutmeg. I also started the coffee. The feelings of curiosity and wonder continued to follow me. Then, I began to feel sadness at the thought that I’ve started days like this before, only to end up “doing something real quick that needed some desperate attention” and falling into extreme anxiety for all that I was unable to accomplish at the end of the day.

Looking into my dining room, I spied my Bible and decided to read the next chapter in 2 Chronicles. It was about a very bad king of Judah, who had enjoyed a murderous reign until, as prophesied, his intestines spilled out and he died, unmourned. His wicked son, Ahaziah, molded by his embittered mother, Athaliah, only reigned one year. This was because he was slain by someone named Jehu who was anointed by God to execute judgment on that evil household. No-one mourned this king’s passing either, except his mother who went into a murderous frenzy.  I prayed, “What am I supposed to learn from this?”

Silence.

Bill called.  I told him about the message-in-the-shower to give myself a break today, so I’m trying to do that. He laughed, put in a dinner request for crockpot roast, then went back to work.

Distractions

I turned my eyes to the following chapter, how Athaliah, the enraged widow of King Jehoram, mother of the assassinated Ahaziah, set about killing the entire royal family of Judah upon learning of her son’s demise.  But, the lesser daughter of the murderous father, King Jehoram, also being the half-sister of the bad king, Ahaziah, set her stealthy wit to act against her bitter sister-in-law, Athaliah. Raised and surrounded by a conniving, murderous family, Jehosheba had married a temple priest, who became a man of God.

Yes, somehow, she escaped the family character. Yet, she had access to the palace.

When she saw that her sister-in-law was going to kill all of the royal princes, she stole away the youngest prince and hid him in a room with his nurse and then brought him to her husband, the priest.

They raised the boy for six years while the evil sister-in-law reigned her terrors.

Then the text says, “In the seventh year Jehoiada showed his strength.” Wow. I liked that phrase. It goes on to describe how the man of God had been thinking about all of King David’s swords from his mighty men stored for posterity in the temple.  He’d been thinking about God’s covenant with David’s household. Wound up, he sprang into action.

He called up all of the Levites and heads of Israelite families from all the towns. The priestly musicians came with their musical instruments used for worship and praise and other fanfare. He led all of these priests and heads of households into making a covenant together to put the rightful young prince onto David’s throne and to swear allegiance to him.

Jehoiada, the priest, warned those who were not consecrated priests and therefore prohibited from entering the temple of the Lord, not to enter because they would be put to death.  Their objective was to guard the rightful king and stay close to him or sing and play a fanfare. He told them to hold up the ancient swords, focus on their jobs, and not get too curious about what was going on in the temple. He separated the whole assembly into thirds.

One third of the assembly was to guard the doors of the temple, one-third was to guard the royal palace and one-third was to guard the Foundation Gate. All other family members were to hang out in the courtyards of the temple and shout “Long Live the King!” when the young Joash was crowned.

This is what they did.  When the wicked Athaliah heard the trumpets blowing, the people rejoicing, the musicians leading praises from all these areas, she tore her robes and shouted, “Treason! Treason!”

But Johoiada the priest instructed the commanders of the troops to bring out the woman, Athaliah, and kill her and all who followed her to the gate before she could get near the temple.  No talking, no reasoning, no arguing. After that, the people went down to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They smashed the altars and idols and killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of his altars.

Johoiada appointed the priests to their assignments as King David had outlined and ordered, and all of the people rejoiced because Athaliah had been slain with the sword.

What a classic drama, epic proportions!

What a fun read!

The laundry calls ding-ding-ding-ding-ding, finished!  Oh, dear. I’ve been distracted.

So, the basket is filled with cleaned fabrics, and I carry it upstairs.

I see the stack of mailing boxes I’ll be needing to pick through today in order to post a set of books to a retail chain store buyer.  I compare them all and pull out the largest one from my stash in the closet.  Then, I find a pretty mailing label, but the labels are outdated.  I’ll have to edit or recreate them and get more printed. Where did I hide those suckers? If I can find where I’ve hidden the file on my computer or perhaps a thumb drive, I need to do that soon. Sigh.

Dismissing the incident, I go easy on myself.

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

I open up my laptop, and instead of getting right to work.  I jump up. Maybe I should take a walk first? Opening the door, I feel the chill, check the thermostat, and appraise the watery street. It’s too cold and wet to walk. I shut the door and go easy on myself.

Two projects for my books eat through an hour of time, so I hire someone to help me finish each of them. I go easy on myself.

I rip out two pages from a book I wrote that has now been edited to pieces. If I give this book out as a freebie, I don’t want those pages in there.  After the pages go into the kindling pile beside the fireplace, I begin to regret the mess that I’ve made of this book. Then, I stop.

I go easy on myself.

Shaky with hunger, I pour half a bag of cheese onto an almond flour fake tortilla shell, cap it with another fake tortilla shell, and shove the plate into the microwave. When it’s melted, I slice up the quesadilla, add salsa and sour cream and down the whole thing in a moment.

What have I done? Is that the kind of eating tradition that will kill me?

Going easy on myself, I turn back to work.

I begin to collect all of the tip sheets for books on a thumb drive.  The documents will be printed out today.

When I get into the car, and round the corner, it dawns on me that I have no idea where I put the thumb drive with the cover letter to the retailer and tip sheets inside.  I say a few words about myself and round the block winding up in my driveway again. As I get out of the car, I put my hand in my pocket and realize the thumb drive’s there. Oh well, there’s a thermos of water I need from the kitchen anyway. I go easy on myself and bring the water back to the car.

At the printers, waiting for the letter and tip sheets to print, I copy the address onto the mailing label with a Sharpie, then, I tape the whole mailer together, all ten books, tip sheets, note cards, and cover letter with a packing list.

Off to the bank, then to the post office to stand in line with my retail box proposal.

Driving home, a driver of the car behind me becomes irritated.  I’m probably driving too slowly. He honks, swerves around me. and when he fires by my car, he slows way down. I laugh.

I go easy on myself and on him.

My husband finds me sitting in the parked car in the garage listening to a human interest story.

He taps on the roof of the vehicle, then he flips the lights off and on and closes the garage door.

“I just wanted a minute, please!” I shout.

Fine. Shrugged off, I finish listening to the story then steal another moment to read a Facebook post.

It tells what it means for the shepherd to anoint the head of His sheep with oil.

Apparently, the oil protects the sheep from being tormented by flies that like to lay their eggs in the sheep’s wool around their nose. The hovering flies can cause sheep to panic and run wildly. This sort of activity can ruin their meat and milk and may result in injury or death.

According to the reporter, Nicky Ellis, if the fly is successful, in a few days, larvae will hatch and burrow into the soft flesh of the sheep’s nasal passages. Wounds cause irritation, inflammation, and infection. The pain will cause the sheep to rub its head on the ground, thrash through the underbrush, and bang its head on tree trunks attempting to get rid of the intruders.

In severe cases, a sheep may kill itself trying to get away from the pain. If the sheep manages to survive, the infection caused by the larvae can cause it to go blind.

A good shepherd will mix cooking oil with four parts of each of these essential oils:

  • Lemongrass
  • Citronella
  • Tea Tree
  • Cedar

Astounded, and resonating with the baaing sheep, I collect my thermos, the receipts, my phone, and purse, and go inside.  “Sorry, hon.”  He shrugs and begins telling me about his hours at work. I listen to his stories half-heartedly, and we give each other a break.

With the story of the anointing of sheep running along in the back of my mind, I tell him that my mom called earlier to ask for a ride to her hairstylist, but that I had my afternoon squashed with this package proposal thingy I had to mail out, so I actually told my mom I couldn’t do it today.  She accepted this, and I gave myself a break from the guilt trip.

He smiles and calls me beautiful. He can be very kind.

Since I started the roast at three, it should have been ready by six.

He helps clean off the papers and notepads lying on the table in the way of our plates and water glasses. “You’re a mess,” he says.  I smile.

We eat instead in front of the T.V. and watch a recorded show together. This kind of dinner and show event is something I’m unused to doing, but it feels good.  We chat about the contents of the mailbox and make plans for next month.

A less-than-average meal, my husband is happy to be fed meat with green chili and hominy. “Did you notice this meat was a teriyaki marinade?” He pops a bite of it covered with green chili into his mouth. “I bought this.”

“Ugh! No, I didn’t notice! No wonder the dish turned out somewhat less than intended.” We gag at each other and laugh.

I go easy on myself.

He gets my inhaler when I start coughing, probably from the strange combination of spices. Recovered, we watch the mystery together enjoying a cheap date.

Like anointing oil pouring over my head, I soak up the good fortune of this man, this husband, my great gift in life.

Then, taking a gander at the published blog post I’d prepped for one of my authors, I realize I hadn’t fully edited it and it is in the public eye! I’ve misrepresented her style and quality of work. Anxiety begins to rise as I immediately begin to doctor and update the blog. There is no taking back what is published, even if it is retracted and edited, and updated. Some people have read the original.

The inner critic cries out my shortcomings, flogs my awful failures. I wonder if our relationship will survive. Then, it occurs to me that giving myself a break simply means that I forgive myself. Hopefully, she will, too.

Forgiving myself is simply agreeing with God.

Forgiving myself is simply agreeing that I mess up pretty regularly, that I don’t have enough time in the day, that my hands are too full of responsibilities, that I don’t care enough for those I should care for. And, yet, He forgave me, puts protective oils on my head, and the sovereign Lord forgives me daily!

“Going easy on myself” means allowing myself to experience that moment-by-moment feeling of not being rushed to fix one thing and then another.  After all, I can’t save the world, so my urgent efforts to do so robs me of resting in my own forgiveness.

I’m always struggling to improve myself or improve others. It’s a gift and a curse. Two sides of a coin.

“Going easy on myself” means living slowly and enjoyably in certain forgiveness and grace.  I allow myself to agree with God that I’m actually forgiven for all of my failures and shortcomings, and I will rest in a grace I’m giving myself because He’s given it to me already. That’s all.

How about it?

Go easy on yourself.

If you are an author looking for solid ideas to promote your new book, I’m going to make it a little easier on you today, too, by giving you this list of help.

Enjoy a unique day!

Laura Bartnick
Laura Bartnick is the author of BEING CREATIVE a creative and inspirational guide to entering into the Creator’s purposes.

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Breaking Bud – A Roguish Spring

KATHY JOY, AUTHOR, EDITOR, MESSIAH COLLEGE ALUMNI

You’re likely familiar with “Breaking Bad”, the TV series about a chemistry teacher desperate to secure his family’s financial future, after his devastating cancer diagnosis. Facing the reality of death does funny things to people.

Find a Singing Spring Gift Book here. A Breath of Joy

Even if you’ve never watched Breaking Bad, apparently most of America has. The series quickly became a national sensation and rendered a new buzzword, “breaking bad” for when someone good suddenly changed character.

If “breaking bad” is slang for “defying expectations” then “breaking bud” is a crisp turnofphrase for “just kidding, the weather has a mind of its own”. Out of the brown and crinkled tan shades of left-over winter, buds are due. The milk of flowers is already rising through pale green rose stems.

Fine, with this springtime tease, we’ll don a warm jacket today, a light sweater tomorrow, carry a pair of boots in the car for just–in–case.

Spring waltzes in sideways, full of bluster and drizzle, followed by little sunny intervals of calm. Throw in a late snow squall for good measure, and you have springtime in Northwest Pennsylvania: Unpredictable, moody, playful, and perplexing. But we always tolerate the irregularities of spring because it holds promises: Birds returning, leaves unfurling, windows are thrown open to let in the breeze.

We’re starting to hear the spring peepers, those tiny chorus frogs that give us loud concerts every night for a fortnight. The early flowers are already pushing through soil, declaring forgiveness for winter’s icy grip. Something shifts in the air. There’s a mix of earthy smells, a giddy kick of anticipation.In spite of all the challenges we’ve endured, there is this one thing: Spring is “breaking bud”.

I had the honor of proofreading the book, BEING CREATIVE, by Laura Bartnick this spring. Her thoughts on creativity simply jibe with my feelings about springtime’s empowerment. I’m declaring new explorations this year. Did you know. . .

God calls all of His creation His servants, because He has a purpose for our existence. He is the Re-namer, and Redeemer, and Re-purposer. When we walk with the LORD, the possibilities are endless. We can search for Him—though He is not far from any of us. Coming closer to our Creator, we can accept His call to be cunning and skillful. We can even become His friend.

“Anything can become the next exploration. Even those creatives who want nothing to do with being a child of God often find their best material in Scripture and in the church. God can use the imagination of anyone to teach us.

“Your own skill is a learned thing. Wisdom takes time. You may not yet understand this when you begin to write about a tragedy causing a family to become displaced, all their treasures to be lost. What you are really going to discover and write about is the greater gift of creativity from loss, the value of new relationships, and community—finding other treasures in hidden places. This story may require much prayer, wrestling with God for the blessing, and many edits to test and strengthen the wings.”

Spring is going forward and gathering steam, hurtling headlong into backyard picnics, flip-flops, beach time and road trips.

There are ten little rules of creativity listed at the end of each chapter in BEING CREATIVE. There is also the suggestion to keep a journal nearby.  I have practiced this invitation of capturing the wonder of my days, of God’s creative invitations to life in my own way. This is where the gift book series, BREATH OF JOY, was budded and flounced. SINGING SPRING announces this season of life burgeoning from death. It celebrates wonder with yellow daffodils, with purple lilacs, and with perfuming pink hyacinths.

Crops are going in this spring, and before we know it there will be rows and rows of sweet corn. That’s what I love about seasons. They simply show up. Regular as a heartbeat, as welcome as the friend you haven’t seen in quite a long time. Springtime is roguish, breaking bud and being mischievous in all the best ways.

I found one of my favorite quotes in chapter four of BEING CREATIVE:

Experience allows us to follow the dots into the unknown. We learn from intersecting paths along the way. We learn to improvise.”

I just love this! I want to lift it out, highlight it, then repeat it for emphasis!

Unconcerned about vaccines, politics or March Madness, the season is a joyful riot of mud puddles and sudden bursts of color, chasing away the landscape’s last edges of grays and browns.

Happy Spring, ya’ll !

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Sharing Creativity is to Grow in His Gifts

By Jenny Fulton, author of Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye

Has God ever asked you to make a personal gifting or a private hobby public?

In many ways, this is a terrifying transition for a creative person. Before, creating something provided an inner joy; the only critic was yourself or the Gift Giver.

Princess Lillian’s Book Launch Activities! Find them here: https://www.facebook.com/events/274521184047823/?active_tab=discussion

I have numerous journals, each of which are personal and private. How could I bridge the gap between my writing for private process and writing for what others wanted?

To share a talent with others is to expose yourself – to open your vulnerability to another’s criticism, to discover how much you still need to learn and grow in your abilities.

It’s far easier to hoard such giftings in isolation. Yet, more often than not, God won’t allow us to keep them shut away indefinitely.

I was teaching in China when God asked, urged, and encouraged me to start writing for more than myself. His first prodding came through a friend.

She speaks softly and listens loudly

Lara was another American teacher at the school. She possesses a quiet and gentle spirit, a trustworthy one, a daydreaming one.  We formed an instant connection; I somehow knew she was a creative before she verified it with words. Our time together included playing our guitars, engaging in deep conversations, and talking about writing.

She was one of the first people with whom I shared the fulness of my passion for this art.

One day, we were sitting in her apartment, talking about our secret hobbies. “You know,” she said, “I was just reading this book, The Soul Tells a Story, by Vinita Hampton Wright. She talks about writing and creativity going hand-in-hand with spirituality and encourages people to say, ‘yes’ to their God-given gifts. You can read it when I’m finished.”

I did. As I read, a long-held dream crept from its world of silence and impossibility into the realm of light and reality.

What if my desire to write wasn’t temporary?

What if it wasn’t meant to remain a side-hobby or a means by which to communicate newsletters, but was given to me by God to be used for Him to His glory?

What if my dreams to write and be published didn’t just belong to me, but were a reflection of His dreams for me?

It’s been quite a winding journey from that time to the present where my book, Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye is now offered in audiobook for your listening pleasure.

Faith writing

Soon after this conversation, Lara introduced me to Faithwriters.com, an online writing site for Christians. For the first time, I put my heart and stories on display to be read and critiqued by strangers who had no knowledge or context for the person behind the words. I didn’t know where it would lead or how God would use it; I only knew I must obey – I could no longer ignore the desperate call within me.

In 2008, I submitted my first fictional story, Chang Chang’s Hope, to the lowest level of the Faithwriters weekly writing challenge. Then I waited in terrified expectation for people to post their comments.

People really liked it! The judges liked it and gave it a 2nd place ranking in its level.

My next entry, More Than a Yearly Journey, was an autobiographical one. It caught the attention of the site managers who featured it on the Front-Page Showcase.

While I certainly seemed to be off to a good start, I knew my skills needed to develop. But maybe, with time, instruction, and practice, I could really do this writing thing.

These initial successes persuaded me to be more intentional about learning the craft. To this end, I read the highest-ranked stories and tried to pinpoint what made them so good. I studied writing lessons on the site and tried to incorporate those skills into my entries.

Sometimes my pieces connected well with the readers. Other times they didn’t

Regardless of whether my writing connected well with others, I was learning, improving, and gaining insight into where my strengths and weaknesses lay.

After several months of sharing online, I gathered my courage and tentatively offered to write the devotionals for an upcoming youth retreat. Offering, writing, and sharing God’s gifting to me in this form was far scarier than posting online. Exposing my heart to strangers was one thing; revealing it to those I knew was another.

Although the devotionals were presented as anonymous, I was able to gain some encouraging feedback.

These occasions to share made a few things very clear.

  1. My desire to write wasn’t temporary.
  2. The enjoyment and ability to write had been given to me by God to be used for Him to His glory.
  3. My dreams to write and be published were a reflection of God’s dreams for me.

“Lord,” I prayed. “I entrust this writing, this interest and ability, to You as something You want me to continue to develop and use for Your glory. I’m not sure to what extent, but I do know that I will follow Your lead in this and seek any opportunities You may have for me. For whatever reason, and to whatever extent, You have, among other things, made me a writer. To You belong the details.”

Life Happens in The Details

I continued posting short stories online for the next five years. Life changed drastically in that time, but the commitment to write held steady. In 2010, I moved back to the U. S. Two years later, I was married, and a year after that, I gave birth to my first daughter.

In 2014, when my daughter was a year old, I left teaching to become a stay-at-home mom.

The dream and dedication to writing continued. With my husband’s encouragement, I pursued a few freelance writing jobs. One of them landed me a contact as a ghostwriter for a young adult fantasy novel. That book was published in 2016.

This past year, in July 2020, I came across Laura Bartnick with Capture Books. After a few months of communicating back and forth about a couple of writing projects, she offered me a contract to publish my first picture book. Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye was released on March 10, 2021, with paperback and hardback versions as well as ebook versions.

Timing for this release thrills me because the book is now available for comfort and hope around the Easter holiday because the theme of Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye is eternal life after death.

Encouragement from the Word

In 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks much about the giftings of the Holy Spirit. Although writing or other artistic endeavors aren’t specifically mentioned, the manifestation of the Spirit is. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.[1]” The expression of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is meant for the common good.

Many times, God’s gifts aren’t given for the benefit of the receiver alone and aren’t meant solely for personal use and gratification. Instead, He often grants us skills and abilities so that we may use them to help others.

Matthew 5:16 (NASB) says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” God’s light is expressed through how we live our lives, in our physical work, in what we say and do. This includes artistic endeavors.

May the dreams, skill, and abilities God has given us shine before others in such a way that they might glorify our Father who is in heaven.

Although it’s scary to publicly share our gifts, I’ve discovered the value of opening my heart in creative writing. It’s definitely worth it.

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 12:7.

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Above the Stars of God – One

By Laura Bartnick

For one complaint?

He felt himself falling, the golden ground beneath his feet becoming as quicksand, swallowing him.

Vitality draining, he imagined fainting would do such a thing. Darkness enveloping, his form growing long and thin and weightless. He gulped.

The strain of taking a single breath, to breathe, crushed his chest, his magnificent breastbone.

His screech, like spewed salt, swept from him involuntarily and swathed the prisms of light with sputum. To some watching, the scream appeared as a passing fog of crystals, a sound taking shape as glints of broken glass propelled, lifting, and disbursed to the outer atmosphere.

Robes flew above him; they were gone with the star in his crown wrapped in their glorious folds. He lashed wildly, out to the darkness for help. He grabbed at the star, brushing at the tail of the robe, to no avail and kept falling.

One boast, voiced?

He felt the arms slip around his body, breaking his fall. Flashes of glittering diamonds, swirling beryl, erupted from the onyx atmosphere to applaud this feat. Fires from the hearth of his heavenly station comforted the writhing spirit in arms, but fire is not a living being in that way. The hearth of belonging could not know.

“How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn!”

One voice murmured the epitaph, yet voices, angelic in their choral waves echoed a harmonic reprise, “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn!” Wings swept over him. Softly, they touched him, brushed over him, and whooshed away without so much as a bow or an embrace. “Hurled! – Hurled!” They chanted. “Fallen – Fallen!”

His heart pounded. “I’m not dead! – Not extinguished!”

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Jasper wings stretched across the expanse glowed like a sunset, the great sea of lapis lazuli and turquoise waves swirled and fluttered. Emerald and gold always blooming about him took flight as twines unraveled the bound gift, the seal of his prominence. He was dropping through these lights, these winged friends and servants. He had no thrust to keep up with the races of color evacuating his presence. Had he broken the seal? Was it possible?

A safe weight of powerful command, a throne of turquoise, a scepter of lapis gave him up as the ignoble traitor is dethroned, and toppled him over as he imagined a demolition of empires might feel. His royal placement, denoted by emerald and gold sparkles of his hands and feet, strident ribbons circling his steps and footprints, dissipated as the arms held him in projection, on course.

“Where are we going?” he murmured as the swirling rainbows lifted from around his presence like a ring lifts from a finger. “Am I still falling?”

“You are. This is the third heaven we are leaving now.” The arm held him close to a thunder of pulse.

A droplet, then another droplet, and more wet his face. He was too angry to weep, rage was all he felt, but the tears kept covering his face as he cried out his angst in rage.

What he had said in his heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High,” was not voiced! It was a mere passing thought! His lips had never formed the words! Yes, but their memory was seared now, a branded thought, even a dark scar as old as a healed wound, the memory of which lifted itself as a new seal, a new reward. And, the words gutted him instantly for his feet had no springboard to ascend above the clouds at all. How far-flung was his own energy with the dissipation of color and ribbons of light?

In a seize of panic, a thought crossed his consciousness, has my authority fled me? And, how can I escape these arms?

Into a velvet robe of sea, the duo fell through darkness, wailing wings screamed eerily and choirs filled their senses with tragedy. “You had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were the anointed cherub who covered us in delight and warmth, and I placed you there.” The accusation cracked and broke like a hurricane’s wave against a rocky cliff.

They emerged the black sea into prickles of light, each constellation a field, a layer of lights swimming by in silence and strange introduction to yet a new unknown heaven.

But didn’t I know these names in a previous life? The angel quizzed himself. A vague memory occurred to him. Didn’t I oversee the making of records and maps for these constellations and the paths of these planets? An speck, a growing orb of blue and white appeared in the sea of lights. Earth. They were approaching earth.

“You coveted authority and freedom, more than you were designed for. You were not pleased with your appointed rule over our home and our servants. ‘I will make myself like the Most High,’ you said.” The fallen angel felt his face splashing with tears again and turned his head to view the approaching planet. “So, we have decided.  You shall practice all that is in your glorious heart in one place of your own. Let’s see what you can do here, Lucifer.” Hints of wrath mixed all through the tearing lament like a soliloquy of fact and judgment, but was it so bad?

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After all, they had given him the beautiful one. The arms carried him through the atmosphere of fissured clouds in the dawn, like a fissured tongue, the new atmosphere lapped at his body, tasting him. Where would they rest?

They were no longer falling but searching.

A sun rose over flat landscapes of sandy pink where a small finger lake with glints of turquoise and swaths of lapis came into view.

Swooping over red outcroppings, the arms carried him quickly between canyon walls. Turning into a narrow arm of a cavern, the arms gently deposited him onto a small soft beach of yellow earth and peach streaks. Hovering over the nearby waterway, the spirit rested and glowered over his sore gift to the earth, watching for signs of the angel’s survival. Never before had an angel fallen so quickly or such a distance.

A rising sun was not yet visible overhead, but a certain light from it blued the sky and emanated into space.

A deep joy welled up in the soul of Lucifer. His own jurisdiction to rule? Earth, of all places?

He closed his eyes with relief and happiness. When he opened them, a study of his surroundings filled his heart with the long-forgotten awe and gratitude he’d felt in his youth. At first glance into the calm liquid, his vision cast through the elements so clear that he could see the bottom of the deep ravine at the other side.

The spirit touched the liquid and poured a palmful of it over Lucifer’s bare body, letting the experience of earth’s liquid seep into his skin. A fine, feint lap-lapping sound spirit fingers flipped and flickered through the liquid. Over the palm of his hand, the spirit  felt the temperate chill, and he squeezed its deliciousness into his fist, and splashed again in the liquid for another fistful, spraying it on the face of the naked angel lying nearby.

Up, his eyelids fluttered, the angel’s gaze searched the cavern walls. A precipice on either side leaning this way and opening gracefully that way, coming together at the back end of the cavern, like a cradle, like a nesting place for angels and birds. Then down to the water’s edge, the angel looked. His guts clutched breathless inside him with the wonder of the mirrored image. A gasp of earth’s air filled his lungs, and he began singing an intelligible sound at the ephemeral mirror.

Leaning face forward, he searched. Where did the orange and purple shadows in these depths meet the true walls rising above the watery horizon? Was he seeing the image correctly? Was it possible, being able to view through the clarity of hydrogen atoms and oxygen to the acres of feet below, cavern baileys covered by the incredibly sweet liquid? But he must be inside the castle.

He moved to kneel, intending to rise and walk, explore all that was in his heart. Momentarily, and more, called his superior imagination, but his thighs would not obey the instructions being sent below by his mind.

He tried again, then again, contracting ligaments, tendons, muscles. He noticed a ripple under his skin, yet not enough to move his numb leg. A heavy arm and bicep attempted to move towards his leg to wake it from its slumber, to move his ankle, massage out the numbness. These efforts caused him to sweat with heat of his heavenly made now forced energy on earth. Though, the morning cavern remained crisp, chilled.

“What have you done to me?!” Lucifer roared, heaving and grunting to move any limb toward the water. He turned his attention to the spirit being whose presence was slipping away even as Lucifer’s rage attempted a grasping reach onto the ghostly arms.

“You have what you wanted in your heart of hearts,” said the ghost. “You have a complete rule over of yourself on earth.  We have given you a whole world to rule. Ruling your own body will come first, of course. You will need to learn how an angel’s body works here to manage it, to control it, to master it, and to allow it to take you wherever you want to go. But, yes, there are miles of continents to explore here, seas, rivers. And, did I mention time? Lucifer, our gifted, most beautiful angel, you will have so much time on your hands to do whatever you long for.”

“What is time?”

The voice of the spirit, at first enunciating, began to dim in expression and volume. “You will discover time shortly.  It will be a blessing and a curse. Things will become sequential, so that what you do at first will influence all that comes after. Be careful, then to choose, wisely, Lucifer.”  The spirit looked with such lament into the heart of his old chief, that it should have shaken the angel to the core.

“What did you say?” Lucifer’s heart began to pound. Blood began to pump from his core into his limbs, and the pain he felt there astounded him so that he toppled onto his side shuddering.

“There will come an end to time, by the way,” announced the spirit as he was drifting far above the cavern. “At the end, when your test is finished, by then, we will all know the length, depth, the breath of your spirit’s yearnings. At the end of this test, your reward will come, Lucifer, so be brave and be smart about everything that has been given you before time and also in this new realm which we have lent to you.”

Lucifer, feeling a point like a spear jutting into his spine, rolled forward away from the pain, and managed to roll over his face and onto his other side where he could clearly view the rounded sandstone that had brought the discomfort.

Then, a pain as he had never experienced painted his being in tongues of fire. He was a cord of electric current leaping in dagger stabs.  If only he could get to the water’s edge, he thought as he passed out.

Lucifer awakened in the lapping chill of the beach. The destitution of his situation kept him in agony.  He hadn’t realized that the loss of the spirit’s presence would matter much. Hadn’t he hoped to reach over the spirit, to push him away – far beneath himself? It had only been a moment, but yes, this desire is exactly what he had imaged the gulf between himself and the Most High might become.

Here was the irony of his punishment.

Now that the arms had released him, the presence of the Most High evaporated from the canyon, from the clouds, from the earth, and all that mattered was from Lucifer himself, with a pain of a thousand pins stabbing his skin, pricking his worldly body.

He looked down at his form and noticed that it was his own scaly skin that had developed sharp nodes of protection from the frigged water pooling over his body, a waterway still and long forgotten inside the brilliantly colored sandstone close, yet he must consider the sharp rays of sun settling against the crevice between the crested heights of canyon walls which threatened to fry him in the same hour.

How could he do anything with the sharp nodes piercing his body?  He must learn to flatten out his shields of protection into a manageable skin, one that would not poke him conversely on the inside. Lucifer screamed and rolled in the berth of the soft beach until all of the pricking nodes of angel heat lay down flat as glass against his body. A defense, yes, but the last thing needed in this lonesome age was his own skin piercing him forever. Now, that new glass scales were formed, he began to feel a hope of protection against the loss of the presence.  The presence of the spirit had always protected him, as though he needed protection in the sixth heaven, but he hadn’t experience the definition of protection until he found himself alive in an unknown bay of shadows and liquid.

Comfort, all comfort lost, and only beauty remaining, Lucifer finally allowed himself to cry.  Tears dropped, a shaking began, and then a wail. “Where are you? Where, where have you gone? Why? Why did you leave me?  Wh-wh-why am I here?”

Lucifer shuddered uncontrollably with the pain of his reward.

With each wail, each demand, the profane screeches of his voice echoed back over his head into Lucifer’s ears. A pair of owls, wingspan of six feet each, hooed in a crevice above for their confusion and his. The violence of his situation rolled over an acid spirit, acid from the alienation, burning with humiliating isolation from the one spirit who had carefully created and shaped him, given him his starry life and bestowed over him all that he had found relationally merry and good, he wailed. Angelic tears flowed into the cold bay of Lucifer’s strange new home.

Exhausted, Lucifer noticed a silver crown only a short reach away. “How kind of the Most High.” After he said this, his lower lip jutted out, his thoughts moved quickly thinking it over. Why leave it?

A scaly claw reached out and clutched a stone to pull himself out of the cold bay toward the shapely symbol of his old appointment and new. The crown was his. When he reached it, he turned it over and around. The star had fallen out. It would take some trained strength to place it back upon his head, star or no star, but it was an aim so tangible, so earned, that the prince hardened his heart to the discipline of capturing his headpiece again, no matter what the price.

__________________

Look for chapter two. Coming Soon.

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Laura Bartnick
Laura Bartnick is the author of Welcome to the Shivoo! a creative and inspirational guide to entering into the Creator’s great party.

Laura Bartnick, is the content editor and managing partner of Capture Books publishing company. Follow her on Facebook, or find Capture Books and Books for Bonding Hearts authors everywhere that books can be sold.

a side of sweet potatoes, ah autumn, better together, featured, Kathy Joy, Laura Bartnick, op-ed, Thanksgiving hostess gifts, Winding thoughts of a Widow

Stepping on Nano-seconds as Stepping Stones

My house is getting colder by the moment. I think I’ll go down and turn up the heat. Just a moment. I’ll be right back.

Okay. You know how that is, adjusting the thermostat by the ups and downs in fall as winter approaches, and the warming up days of spring only to be downcast by a late winter storm? I’m sure that’s why God made us pets to hold and help us through these uncertain times.

I used to take these walks with my dog, but I myself am in a time between times now, and I have to walk by myself. So, I step onto the nano-seconds with the fallen leaves and bright sunrises and sunsets, electric rains, and bristling winds.

In these private times, I give thanks for many things past, present, and future.

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Here’s a pop quiz on a Tuesday:

  1. What is free, but priceless?
  2.  What can you never own, but always use?
  3.  What can you never keep, but always spend?
  4.  Once you’ve lost this, you can never get it back; what is it?

Answers:

  1. TIME
  2. TIME
  3. TIME
  4. TIME

The Time Between Times

Have you noticed how Thanksgiving tends to get lost in the time between times?

Decorations and celebration planning hops right over Thanksgiving like we are guided to hop from the treats of Halloween right into the serious celebrations of Christmas and the duties of gift-giving.

When do we get to spontaneously pause and reflect, it’s because we’ve stolen time away from these carefully sculpted hours for a private moment.

Celebrating Thanksgiving
Ah Autumn – Breath of Joy

I’ve written a series of seasonal books for winter, spring, summer, and fall (autumn) celebrating Thanksgiving and hospitality. My books use the nano-seconds as stepping stones, pauses to reflect, similar to you’d use a labyrinth.

Sometimes, when these seconds slow down, I discover treasures and turns of phrases. I find myself reaching in, reaching out, praying.

A Nano-Second of Impulse

I’m not an independently wealthy author. I work a day job at the front desk behind glass. Today at my place of work, we got an email about burnout, which many of us are experiencing.

One of the perks of working in a glass bowl is that you get to see what’s happening outside. I’ve witnessed some interesting moments, plus a few things I’d rather un-see if that were even possible.  Outside the door to my place of work, humanity passes by on skateboards, pushing strollers, in sneakered youth and well-shod business attire. I’ve seen army recruiters, pre-med students, construction workers, and grub hub drivers; bicyclists, policemen, delivery trucks, and dog walkers.

I’ve laughed to see people leaning close to the glass to examine their teeth, fix their hair, or admire their physique; the glass is a great mirror for them and a handy camouflage for me.

Back in the before-days, it was a common delight to see small tots on a daycare outing, holding hands, or maybe grabbing onto a long cord and marching in a wiggly line.

These days, everybody is hyper-alert.

This over-stretched year of Covid is marked by caution, measured in tiny increments of care, and burdened by restraints that brush by us and tip over our natural human boundaries. Humanity is unable to cope with robotic demands for long.

Asian woman elderly soup
Ah Autumn – Breath of Joy

I want to shout, are we tripping over our own watchfulness, calculating every move; hesitating over every decision?

Whatever happened to healthy distractions, good old spontaneity?

A friend I’ve been missing tells me, “There’s simply no room for the unknown; the unplanned.

It’s been raining lately, that off and on drizzle that makes you want to stay in bed. The persistent showers are cloaking the sky in a steely gray curtain. Occasionally we get a glimpse of soft pearly clouds, like the inside of an oyster shell. It’s the kind of weather for becoming a mirror of my ceilings, becoming a well-polished pearl.

If you have to go out, the umbrella is up and the head is down. Jackets are pulled snug. That’s why, while stealing a look at the world passing by, something caught my eye.

Spontaneity kicked to the curb, my ache for one rare and splendid moment is rewarded through the mist of incessant drizzle.

Some guy stood in a puddle.

He was standing in – not avoiding – a puddle.

He stomped one foot, then the other, and watched the spray fly upward.

A smile emerged from his face, then I was smiling, too.

He leaned down for a look at his soaked shoes. Wildly, he swept the puddle with one foot, then the other. Then he jumped.

The light changed, cars passed, and still, he stood there, sloshing in the cold rainwater.

I’d have expected this from a youngster, but this – this was a grownup; a man, roughly in his 40’s. It’s hard to tell.

Impossible to know whether he was a traveler, a vagrant, an executive who’d just lost his job, or perhaps a professor. It doesn’t matter. All speculations are off when you are splashing in puddles.

 

The world stopped for a moment.

He did not notice me watching from the office window. He did not care about ruined shoes or wet trousers. He wasn’t concerned with anything, except the lure of impulse.

The phone rang. I got back to business.

What is Your Next Must-Read?

When I turned around for another look, of course, he was gone.

While the world was joining Zoom, masking up and maintaining an abundance of caution, this guy had an appointment with a mud puddle. A meeting, he honored. With reckless abandon. At the southwest corner of 9th and Sass, with St. Pete’s Cathedral towering over it all, a basic human emotion was felt: spontaneity.

And I got to see it, to feel the joy of it.

Our hearts need mending, our souls need healing, and our bodies need rest…one splendid moment at a time.

Author Kathy Joy writes The Weekly Jab to connect/encourage/remember. She also writes Coffee with Kathy and is a regular contributor to the Books For Bonding Hearts blog.

Co-contributor, Laura Bartnick manages Capture Books, a boutique publishing group.

__________________________________________

“Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah 32:17 ESV

©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.

 

What is Your Next Must-Read?