Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sneak Peek!

By now many of you know that I've been writing about a life-changing adventure I've experienced over the past twelve months.

That's a lotta pages.  It's a 3 inch notebook!
I am in the final labor stages of my latest book, Risking it All:  One Woman's Adventure Giving Away Her Income, and I'm getting excited for this latest "birth."  In just a few weeks or months, I'll have it out of my office and into your hands.

Some other book-writing related news:

I've got an agent who wants to represent me.  Yea!

I'm steadily working on my social media platform, as my agent has encouraged me to do.

The daily writing plan
My calendar is scheduled with a detailed writing plan, and I'm doing my best to stick to it.  The hubby is a great support and has been super helpful doing other tasks around the house, so that I can get the writing done.

However, I think I'll explode if I don't share a little overview and a bit of a sneak peek!

The book is a heart-baring journal documenting the difficult and exhilarating lessons I've learned while giving away my entire income over the last year.  Hopefully readers will find my stories uplifting and sometimes comical.  It is my prayer that exposing my thoughts and discoveries throughout the journey will challenge readers' current concepts of how to love others and inspire them to explore their own creative opportunities for giving.

Each month I have focused on one of twelve major social issues of our time.  However, even I was shocked to my socks with the unexpected twist that happened in the last month of the adventure.  (No, seventeen horses won't drag that secret from me.  You'll just have to read the book!)

Let's get to it!  Here is a little sneak peak of the first chapter of the book.  It's a content list of the journal entries for the first month (September 2016) of the journey.

September 1:  It Begins Today

September 8:  Two conversations with the hubby

September 9:  A brief look back to earlier in the summer

September 10:  Starting to explore practical ways of helping

September 11:  Can I take a major trip while on this money adventure?

September 11:  60th birthday thoughts

September 12:  Directions for the rich

September 14:  Excited to give

September 15:  Searching for cheesesteak nirvana

September 16:  Resolution of the cheesesteak saga

September 20:  Charity Watchdogs

September 21:  Some timely wisdom from Paul

September 22:  Mushrooms and a spirit check

September 23:  Prayer

September 24:  2000 verses

September 25:  Learning to pay attention

September 28:  Thinking about world currency

September 29:  Jesus, the perfect model of kindness

September 30:  Doing what no one else does

Hopefully you'll share my excitement about this life-changing adventure I've experienced.  Does this sound like something you'd like to read?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Spelunking in my Colon

I have a feeling that this post will be  TMI for a Monday of a brand new week, but I've got a feeling now that you've read that, you'll find yourself inexplicably curious and compelled to continue reading on for all the glorious and gory details.

There is one majorly awful day that occurs in my life, and in the lives of those of us who are over 50 or so, about every five years.  That is the Prep Day.

They say the Prep Day is worse than the actual procedure itself.  I cannot say that baring my backside for all the world to see is anywhere on my Bucket List either, so I'm not sure which is worse.  Neither part of the event is fun in my book, and I've often wondered what could possibly motivate a doc to choose this line of work -labor that requires spelunking into colons, one after another, every single day of the week.

Oh I've read that the hazards of colon caving are many, and perhaps that is part of its allure.  It takes a distinct set of skills including the negotiation of pitches, squeezes, and unexpected water hazards.

Some consider colon spelunking to be an extreme sport, although those words, "extreme sport" often bring to mind a negative impression of athletes who have no sense of concern for safety.  That is not typically the case in this scenario.

Others categorize the sport as a form of adventure tourism.  One can not argue that there are certainly a multitude of nooks and crevices to explore and new things to discover around every corner.

For a few spelunkers, this genre of caving even transcends the title of being a sport.  These folks take it to the next level as they pursue mapping, photography, and the management and conservation of cave resources.

However one looks at it, it means that today green and orange jello is one of the major food groups represented on my meal plates.  No, it's actually the only food group for the day.

Gator Aid has been stocked for the ingestion of the "cleanser,"  and rolls and rolls of toilet paper have been readied to accommodate the dreaded poop fest.

Now, I'd like to share some of my memories from previous excursions into my colon, in case any of my readers may happen to have the same event scheduled somewhere soon on your calendar.
Beware, reality ahead.  Read at your own risk:

1.  If you have taken your 2 laxative pills and swallowed your first dose of Miralax and Gatorade and you feel fine, do NOT leave the house on any quick errands.  Instead, do a few laps around the house.  Actually, within one foot of the toilet.

2.  Trust those ridiculous noises coming from your gut.  Unsnap your pants and get in position.  Now.

3.  From this point on, and for the next 12+ hours, do not trust a burp, hiccup, cough, sneeze, or giggle.  Every fart is a traitor.

4.  If your prep starts late in the day, do not plan on sleeping much.  Better to stay parked on the throne.  Otherwise, you will surely be changing the sheets or leaving an unpleasant trail from your bed to the toilet.  Even professional cheek clenchers cannot win this battle.

5.  While spending hours on your Throne of Cleanse, use your phone or laptop and Google how to turn your farts into a melody.  You'll be glad you have learned this skill when you are in the recovery room after the procedure and the nurse requires you to let out your air.  Might as well make an impression on the other patients and be able to exit the facility as a legend.

6.  If you have scheduled your procedure at a facility more than 5 minutes from your home, it's too late.  You were an idiot.  Pack an extra set of britches.  You'll be needing them.

7.  Prepare to be unnerved by the copious amount of farting all around you in the recovery room.  This is one place where it is socially acceptable to do so, and trust me, some do so with gusto.  I felt like repeatedly exclaiming "Ole!" after my last time in response to the guy on the other side of the curtain.  I had the sense he was a professional airbag in his pre-colonoscopy life.

8.  Expect to feel like a 3-year-old.  Come on, admit it, farting is always funny.

9.  One good thing is that the anesthesia gives you a mini vacation away.  Think of a sunny, relaxing beach and next thing you know you're on your way.

10. A final blessing is that if someone accuses you of being full of crap, you can honestly tell them you are not.

Let the adventure begin!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Feeling Like Job

All of a sudden, my car needs service.  Two warning lights came on the other day.

Then the day after that, our puppy began acting out of sorts.  Each morning, for three days, we would wake to discover she had left us some unpleasant piles by the door.  She is six years old, and this is not typical behavior.

Then my computer acquired some nasty virus while I was doing research for my latest book.  It required calling in the services of my son to get all back to normal.

Migraine meds give their own side effects
Yesterday and again today I was awakened with a massive migraine.  The kind that is accompanied with vomiting and then a debate with myself as to whether the migraine meds were still in or not.

My job was terminated, and so suddenly I have no income.

I'm starting to feel like Job.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been studying the book of Job.  It's been years since I've spent time reading through this difficult story, and as of now, I'm about one fourth of the way through it.

People's understanding of God in those days was quite limited, and I'm so thankful we have Jesus and the Holy Spirit since then, so that we have a better knowledge of the heart of God.

Job knows he is innocent, yet his entire livelihood has been erased, and his body is covered with horrific sores.  He is suffering greatly.

His "helpful" friends (three so far) insist that if he will just confess his sin, probably a hidden sin of some sort, he will be healed, and all will be restored, and he'll find happiness once again.

Golly, who wants friends like those?

In the customary religious thinking of those times, it was believed that all ailments were dealt out by God as deserved punishment for some sin.

If I were to go along with that line of thinking, I must really be messing up these days, to have all these bothersome and painful ailments.

Romans 3:23-24 tells me, though, that everyone has done bad things.  Mercy and grace are still available.

     "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God [that includes Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and me], and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

Because of Jesus, I don't have to view every struggle or bit of suffering in my life as a little or large zap of punishment from a frightening God.  These trials are just a result of living in a fallen world.

Someday I'll have answers for all of it, and so will Job.

For now, I just wish I could lose this migraine.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Horrible Mercy

"It's not fair!"

Those were the words I yelled as the green snake attacked the woodpecker on the side of the tree.

A video has been circulating on Facebook showing a woodpecker on a tree trunk with his head inside a hole in the tree.  Suddenly a large green snake darts out of the hole and grabs the bird.

The bird thrashes, the snake holds on, and after quite a tussle the bird breaks free.  The snake retreats back into the hole, feathers and a piece of bird belly in his mouth.

Unbelievably, the bird returns and pecks at the snake.  Apparently her eggs or her baby birdies are in the hole, and she bravely risks her life to save them.

Again a strike by the snake.  Another shaking.  Feathers fly.  The bird breaks loose again, stunned.

As the bird comes back yet again, it's obvious the snake has the upper hand, and both the babies and the mother woodpecker will not fare well.

"It's just not fair!" I cry.

These were nearly the same words spoken by the prophet Jonah many centuries ago.

This weekend we traveled to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to see Sight and Sound Theatre's production of "Jonah."  In case you're not familiar with the story, God called Jonah to go to the evil city of Ninevah and tell them that God would destroy them in forty days.

After much avoidance of doing what God wanted, including running the other way to a different city, Tarshish, a major storm at sea, a three day adventure in the belly of a whale, and some other dealings between himself and God, Jonah finally relented and went to Ninevah.

He told the Ninevites the message God had given him to deliver, then went and perched himself at a safe distance to relish the city's destruction - almost like setting himself up in his comfortable lawn chair for a grand display of fireworks.

When the fortieth day came and went, God did not destroy the people of Ninevah, for they had repented and turned back to Him.  Jonah was irritated.  He was disappointed.  Frankly, he thought it was terrible that God had extended mercy to those who didn't deserve it. 

Horrible that those people should receive God's mercy.

I want to laugh at Jonah.

I want to tell him to wake up.

I want to tell him to look at himself.

Yet, I need to look in the mirror.

I need mercy, just as much as Jonah and every one of those Ninevites.

Unwarranted favor, so graciously provided by the One who loves me.  Not one of us deserves His mercy.

The least I can do for this One who has given all for me is face my own "ninevahs," those things in my life that He calls me to stop ignoring, but that I keep avoiding.

Lord, give me the willingness to do so.

Do you have any "ninevahs?"

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Killer Coupon

The entry that follows is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Risking it All:  One Woman's Adventure Giving Away Her Income.  I'm writing the book in journal form, and I expect to complete it early in the Fall of this year.

Journal Entry - Saturday, July 15, 2017

That 30% off coupon almost did me in tonight. 

It’s not often that a department store coupon takes me down.  It didn’t win this time, either.  I’m still standing, but let me tell you – it was quite the battle.

Tomorrow I leave for a writers’ conference.  It will be the first time I attend this conference, and my mind has been full with all the preparations to leave home for a week.  My suitcase is packed, and I have completed all of the pre-assignments.

That coupon sitting there on my desk has really interfered in all of it.  That bugger has really given me a run for my money, an attack on my self-confidence, and a test for me of what’s really important in the end.

After seeing that coupon this afternoon, I was having thoughts I don’t usually have.  I became convinced I wouldn’t be appropriately dressed at the conference.  I started thinking I won’t be dressy enough to meet with those important people – agents, authors, publishers, and the like.  The thought passed through my mind that I shouldn’t even be going to an event like this one.  After all, why would I even think I could call myself a writer?

Sometimes our enemy, Satan, is so subtle.  Other times he’s obvious, and I’m just dense.  This was one of the latter for me.

I seriously considered canceling our other evening plans, dashing out this evening, doing some shopping for “professional wear” clothing, and using that darn coupon.  It was still sitting there taunting me and facilitating those lies from the enemy about how worthless I am and how underdressed I’d be.

But then I had that “Wait a minute…” moment. 

I AM a writer.

My clothing IS appropriate enough.  Maybe not the two-piece polyester pantsuits that I assume I’ll be seeing, but so what.

I DON’T need any more clothing.  My clothing is plenty good enough and certainly appropriate.  People wear pretty much anything nowadays, and what a person wears just isn’t that important.

I would think that after spending the majority of this last year focusing on social issues and writing an entire book about my journey, a battle of this magnitude over a selection of clothing for a conference would NOT be an issue. 

From this little battle, I’ve been reminded again that the enemy is crafty.  His plan is to kill and destroy.  He doesn’t want me to stand strong in the knowledge of my worth as a daughter of the One True King.  And he certainly doesn’t want me to write and point people to Jesus.

But write I will.  Tell people about Jesus, I will.  Worship Jesus, the King, I will.  And I’ll happily wear what I’ve got. 

That silly coupon went into the trash just now.  And it was launched into there with a confident, victorious, Michael Jordan-type hook shot.

God:  2.    Satan:  0

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday Musings

I just returned from my second Writers' Conference of the year, and I had every good intention of getting up early and getting productive.  It's Monday, after all, and the possibilities for this new week are wide open.

It just didn't happen as I planned, though.  I guess I didn't count on the fact that my body is still tired and recovering from the conference week.  Like most conferences I've attended in the past, I didn't get enough sleep.  I was simply more interested in talking to people and doing other non-sleeping things.

I've heard so many people over the years griping at the end of a weekend about the Daily Grind coming back around on Monday morning.  I saw this yesterday on an Instagram post, and I've hung it on my wall to help me keep things in the right perspective:

And so I have gotten myself busy here at my desk this morning.  A little later of a start than I had wanted, but there are still plenty of good hours left in this day.

As you can see, my study into the book of JOB is well under way.

I've got my coffee (nothing happens well in the morning without it for me), and I'm delving quite deeply into the background and the structure of the book of Job for now.

When I study a new book in the Bible, I always start with a little bit of prayer.  I ask for understanding, revelation, and application to my life.  I also remind myself to read slowwwww.  Unless I slow myself down, I'm likely to miss some of the important details.

I typically read a chapter several times, and I write notes of things that come to mind or verses that particularly stick out to me as I read.  I allow myself time to think about what I've read.

After I've done that, then I get out the STUFF.  I open all my map books, commentary books, and other books I have collected over the years that help me better understand the culture and customs of the time period.

Before I close it all up and go on to my other daily chores, I pray and ask for whatever takeaways there are for me.  There is always something new that I need to apply in my life from what I read each day.

If you are a faithful blog follower of mine, you know about the four Bible Study books I have written in the past:  1 Samuel:  It's Always About the Heart, Esther:  For Such a Time as This, The Miracles of Jesus, and Philippians:  Paul's Joyful Letter From a Prison Cell.

For those of you that want an update, I'm currently writing a fifth book about a one year money adventure.  I'm getting toward the end of the project, and I thankfully have an agent that wants to represent me with that book.  More details on that to come - stay tuned!  It has been quite the exciting journey!

Might a study on the book of JOB be my next project?  Hmmmm, please pray along with me on that one.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Making a Way

Today I came upon this verse and it stopped me dead in my tracks:   “…they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it…” Mark 2:4b (NIV)  

I've heard this story many times throughout the years.  55+ years ago in Sunday School classes I remember we created little box houses.  Pipe cleaners attached to small pieces of cloth enabled us to drop a small figurine of a man down through the roof hole to get inside with Jesus. Somehow, though, I always missed the real point of the story.  I was mostly interested in the two Oreo cookies and paper cup of milk I'd receive at snack time later.  

Jesus is preaching in a local Capernaum home, and the house is packed with people listening to the Good News.  They are standing wall to wall, with many overflowing outside into the yard.  The people have heard of this man and the miracles he has been performing, and they just want to get near to him and hear whatever he has to say.

As Jesus speaks, some of those in the room notice a twinkle forming in His eye. He senses there are some men approaching the home.

Next, a grin begins to pull at the corners of His mouth.  He is aware of those men struggling to carry their burden up the outer stairs of the home, yet he continues talking to the crowds.  

As the first few trickles of dust and roofing particles begin raining down onto His head, Jesus’ face finally lights up with a full smile.  He breaks out into joyous, contagious laughter as he looks up and admires the simple excavation process happening up there.  The faith of these men breaking through the roof above Him to bring their paralyzed friend to Him fills Him with delight.

They are doing whatever it takes to make a way to be with Him.  They are unconcerned about the expense or the ramifications of their actions.  They will make it right later.  Determined to get their friend to Jesus, they are doing whatever it takes.  They have made their plan, and they are carrying it out, come what may.

To what extremes will we go to spend time with Jesus, to deepen our relationship with Him?  What expense will we pay?  How willing are we to rearrange our daily schedules?  What are we willing to eliminate to make a way?  

PRAYER:  Lord, increase our desire to deepen our relationships with you.  Help us find new and creative ways to be with you.  Thank you Jesus.  Amen.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Handling Snakes and Moving Mountains

Today I was writing out a donation check.  The problem is that I’m having a hard time believing in the possibility of any good thing happening through my puny gift. 

My paycheck was small this week, almost embarrassingly so.  I work as an assistant to my son Caleb, helping him with his business.  He pays me 10% of what he earns each week.  That is our agreed upon arrangement.

Week to week his paycheck fluctuates.  Since this was a low income week for him, my pay amount was less than usual, too.

Yet, I write this check using my pitifully small amount of faith and address it to some far away organization.  Someone there will then distribute it somehow in an even farther away country.

I’m thinking about belief.  About faith.  Sometimes believing is easy; others it’s darn near impossible.

But faith – that seems to be the stuff that pleases Jesus.  Believing in what we don’t see at the moment.  Believing in His goodness and His ability to pull off miraculous things – things way beyond our ability to imagine.

A few days ago I was mindlessly scrolling down my Facebook feed, reading all sorts of updates and articles from who knows where.  I came across two interesting stories, one right after the other, and they’ve got me pondering on this belief/faith thing.

In the first article, an Australian man reported an incident of concern, including a photo of his experience.  He had gone out walking on his property one morning.  Seeing a stick in the walkway, he instinctively reached down to remove it from the path.  At the last moment he recoiled in horror as he realized the “stick” was a long, venomous snake.   The gentleman was not harmed, just shook up.   Upset enough, in fact, that he had to share his adventure with the entire Facebook world.

Frankly, I don’t even know why this story was Facebook-worthy.  I traveled to Australia in 2004, very aware of some of the alarming nature-oriented statistics before I went there.  As I hiked through some of the forests and other areas where dangerous creatures are known to exist, my senses were on hyper-alert.

Australia is home to 5700 different animal species.  Eighty percent of those are found nowhere else in the world.

Scientists are sure there are 100,000 different insect species in Australia, but think that there may be actually as many as twice that number. 

Odds are good that if you are bitten it will be fatal, because Australia has more creatures that can kill you than anywhere else on the planet. 

Ten of the world’s deadliest snakes live there, and all five of the other most lethal creatures in the world are located in the northeast state of Queensland.  There you may come across the Inland Taipan (the most venomous land snake on the planet), the Belcher’s Sea Snake (100 times more toxic than the Taipan), the Cone Snail, the Box Jellyfish, and the Blue-Ringed Octopus.

Therefore, I had no trouble believing an Australian man would find a snake in his yard.  It’s almost a given.  Watch your step.  Be careful.  They’re there.  Somewhere.  Sometimes. 

My belief came easily.  Faith one might find a snake in an Australian yard?  Yes, I have that. 

Then I read the Facebook article that immediately followed the Australian report.  In this article, a Christian missionary woman was reporting about a recent crusade in some other land.  She recalled that many people heard the preaching and responded by deciding to follow Jesus for the rest of their lives.

Many people at the crusade gathered for healing prayer also, and this missionary prayed for a girl who had been deaf and mute.  The girl was fully healed, and following her obvious return to full health, she pledged her life to Jesus.

My belief came with a little more difficulty.  I do have faith that God heals, but I just don’t usually witness such dramatic, instantaneous healings first-hand.  I usually hear of them or read about them happening elsewhere, in other countries.  It’s a little harder for me to believe this type of healing will occur when I pray, then that a person will gradually be healed (yes, by God) while taking a dose of antibiotics.

I want to believe.  I really do.  I have faith that Jesus can do the same sorts of miracles today that I read about in the Bible.  I do. 


This morning I read this:  “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”  (Luke 17:6)

As I ponder on those words Jesus spoke to his disciples, I try to see into my faith-o-meter.  It’s reading zero on a scale of one to one hundred.  If I’m truly honest, I cannot in any way, shape, or form imagine praying for the movement of a mulberry tree from one place to another, and actually seeing it happen.  Or a mountain, either, as Jesus has said in other references.

Maybe the key here is size.  Jesus talks about the size of a mustard seed, which is nearly invisible (and probably so with my bad eyesight!)  I only need a teeny, tiny amount of faith, and I need to be willing to tiptoe out on that scrawny limb of it even before I’m sure it won’t break.

Maybe the other thing here to remember is that He is the One who does the stuff, not me.  I know I am nothing.   I have no special powers to heal humans, move trees, or rearrange topography.  Heck, I can barely carry a full laundry basket up to the second floor.

Maybe my best plan of action is to imitate the apostles.  Right before Jesus talked about mustard seed sized faith, they exclaimed, “Increase our faith!”  (Luke 17:5)  I can ask for an increase, too.

Maybe what I really just want to do is throw myself into His arms and say, “I don’t understand, my Lord.  I don’t have a great pile of faith.  I don’t know how stuff works and how You do what You do.  I want to see miracles, but I want You more.  I trust You.  I believe You.  You are my Jesus, my Lord, and I will follow You wherever and however, as long as I have life on this earth.  Miracles or not, You are worthy of every breath of the rest of my life.  You are with me and that is all I want and need.”