Shadowed Strength

patio 007 The nasturtiums finished their season this past week. They might have lasted longer, but the incessant heat against the pavement surrounding their planter fried their blossoms. They crumpled like balloons in a volley of darts—leaves, petals, and stems sagging into a lifeless lump on the ground. As I gathered their remains and stuffed the foliage into a garbage can, I noticed little pods falling into the dirt, seeds seeking refuge in an ongoing cycle of regeneration, a tiny being determined to live again.

I’d seen this phenomenon in other things. The fuchsia I wintered over from last summer sported a big clump of minion bells in its basket this year. No doubt the two hanging pots were close enough last season to share seed which germinated when warm weather called the fuchsia from its dormancy. It’s as if the minion bells knew the fuchsia would be granted favor over an annual and sought to sustain their life in the shadow of the fuchsia’s dominance.

Lending support in a time of vulnerability is the task of the Christian. Caught in the hardships of life, many seek courage from a person who adheres to a higher power. Christians have found answers to their dilemmas and purpose through their faith in Jesus, the Son of God. They provide a source of light to those mired in this world’s darkness, confused by troubling times, or afraid for their lives and the futures of their children.

Matthew 5:14-15 says: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all in the house.”

Like the minion bells seeking refuge in the fuchsia basket, or the nasturtiums hiding in the soil ready to grow, so the weary among us need a helping hand from those who find their strength in a living God. Who is waiting to find protection in your shadow, to know what you know? Who needs to be given the hope God’s word offers to those willing to listen? God’s love poured out through the blood of Jesus is for everyone.

In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal, slaughter, and destroy. I’ve come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Let your light shine bright.

Writer’s Conference Weary

ocw 2016 001This past week I spent almost four full days attending workshops as well as coaching classes at the Oregon Christian Writers summer conference in Portland, Oregon. Evening seminars after dinner  were taught by the unparalleled wisdom of  James Scott Bell, a prolific, award-winning author from southern California.JamesScottBell-150x150

My coaching class was taught by Lynn Austin, a historical writer who has more than nineteen novels to her name as well as having garnered the coveted Christy award eight times. Lynn’s teaching covered the basics of polished writing and she flavored her instruction with personal insights of things she’d learned during her writing journey. Time well spent.austin

A conference of this size inspires you to return home ready to write again. Those who came discouraged leave with a better mindset. Spending time with an author you admire, or meeting an editor with whom you hope to have a working relationship one day, can energize the weariest of word processors among us. Getting praise for your efforts is icing on the cake.

Those who need a reality check get a close up evaluation of their work and how it measures up to others of like persuasion. Having a professional assessment of your work-in-progress can be costly if done for hire, but at a conference, appraisals by other writers are part of the package. Most writers who have been awarded that job are published authors with years of training in their resume. Seeing your words through another’s eyes can be both humbling and rejuvenating.

One must be mindful of the verse in Isaiah 40:31: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”  Writing is not an effortless occupation, nor is it one that rewards without restraint

The biggest complaint is of the conference not being long enough, even though you come home tired and drained. Your learning capacity cup runs over from having been filled with enough information to boost you into the next year.

II Timothy 2:15 speaks of learning God’s word: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of Truth.”

So it is for writers—learning how to process text one word at a time.



Conferences and Colleagues Spell Opportunity

OCW_SC2016_CVentTopBanner_4This week I’m packing my bags for the Oregon Christian Writers summer conference in  Portland, Oregon. The conference has grown in recent years to include editors, writers, and agents from across the United States. It’s a great opportunity to connect with others in the publishing world, hone my skills, and renew old friendships. I have my own agenda as well—spend time with editors, find critique partners, and ask questions.

JamesScottBell-150x150This year’s keynote speaker will be James Scott Bell, a former attorney and fiction author from southern California, whose best-selling titles include many legal thrillers. He has written instructional books on writing that have topped the lists of most authors who want to improve their craft. He is also a columnist for Writer’s Digest magazine.  I first met Jim at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and have taken several different classes and workshops from him. He presents his material in a straight-forward, but entertaining manner. Not to mention he’s an all-around nice guy.

Angela Hunt, the second guest speaker, is a multi-published author of both non-fiction and fiction novels whose titles have earned the coveted Christy award, several Angel Awards for Excellence in Media, and the Gold and Silver Medallions from Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year. Her novel, The Note, was featured as a Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel in 2007. I’ve also taken classes from Angela, learning how to frame story structure on a skeleton. Yes! It’s true.Angela-Hunt-150x150

My roommate and I have planned this getaway like a vacation—making time for relaxing on the shores of the Columbia river, down time on the hotel patio, as well as attending classes and workshops throughout the four-day conference. I’ll be back with stories to tell. Who knows, maybe I can fix some of my writing flaws. You’re never too experienced to learn.

A Humble Man Goes Home

Hal's coupeA summer day’s plans changed with the reading of a newspaper obituary.  Our family reunion would have to wait. My husband needed to pay his respects to a former supervisor, someone he’d admired and long held in esteem.

The church auditorium had nearly filled to capacity when we arrived. The lobby teemed with more who had come to honor  this individual’s memory. Gentle, but strong, here was a person who led by example, not by sheer authority.

He and my husband shared a love for vintage cars, and his restored 1930 Model A coupe, complete with a rumble seat, waited at attention outside, a car without its owner. The parking lot sported ten more antique automobiles, all lined up as if ready for a parade.

In Matthew 23:11-15 (KJV) Jesus says, “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”

As guests were invited to share their memories, the stories repeatedly described the kindnesses this gentle giant bestowed on those he knew. The simplest of things—like taking a neighbor girl down the driveway in his old car. Offering a listening ear to a young teen whose father never did. Working alongside his employees so that the job was finished on time, not hounding them because he could. Using his authority to build up—not tear down.

This father of five had climbed his way to an administrative role, one step at a time. With a driver’s permit and a lack of others to help, he’d volunteered to drive the country school bus at age fifteen. He’d taught himself how to work out problems, and those who knew him said he could fix anything. He’d owned a gas station and managed a small farm.

In Matthew 20:26-28 Jesus re-emphasizes his point. “. . .whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

In Proverbs 15:33 we are told, “Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor.”

Humility was a lesson this unassuming servant had learned well and lived as an example to all. He will be missed.