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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.

___________________

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.

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Rooted in the True Story

Excerpt from the book, Welcome to the Shivoo!

“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. 

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“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.

Find out more!
Book One, Reviewed by
Christian News Journal, June 10, 2020 here.

Book Two is reviewed by Midwest Reviews as “Exceptionally well written” on August 20, 2020, in the General Fiction section here and “is unreservedly recommended for both highschool and community library collections.”
https://www.amazon.com/Simply-Summer-Breath-Joy-Kathy/dp/0997897686/
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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 novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

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How I Edit Manuscripts with Bible Verses

Lisa Thompson, editor

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 Thompson, editor

 

Happy writing!

Lisa Thompson
http://www.writebylisa.com

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.

 

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Primal Scream Therapy

By Breath of Joy author, Kathy Joy

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

  1. The G-force pulls your cheeks toward your ears and pushes you back in your seat; your face feels like it is sliding backward.
  2. Being upside down at a ridiculous acceleration…is scream-worthy.
  3. 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.
  4. Coaster designers love to upend your innards.
  5. 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.

a page from Breath of Joy: Simply Summer

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.

Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy calendarial gift books


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