Thursday, May 31, 2012

Valuing and Seeing

I recently hired a college-age neighbor to clear brush at my mom’s house.  I told him he could earn some extra cash to buy tunes for his Ipod.  “I don’t buy tunes, I download them,” he said.  I walked away sadly.  I know his mother and she pays for what she uses.

What we value, we pay for.

When he finishes the job and comes to my door, maybe I won’t pay him.  I’ll tell him that if he doesn’t value the work of the musicians he listens to, I won’t value his work either. 

But I’m not that kind of person. 

Does he value only the people he can actually see.  Does he value me?  If I did work for him, would he pay me?  (I did work for him once and his parents offered to pay me.)

If his favorite band came to town, would he pay for tickets?  Would he purchase their CD? 

Perhaps to value he must see.  Do we value only what we can see?  What does it mean to see?  Do we see, truly see, the cashier at the checkout, the waiter in the restaurant, the gas station attendant?  Even if they are not tipped, do we value them enough to converse?  To see them as people like us?

What do you value?  Who do you devalue?  Maybe it's time to take a second look.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Inheritance—What Do You Do With It?


My mother’s house was just transferred to me from her 100 sharon hillFG000342probate estate.  When the house sells, I will have more money than I have ever had in one lump sum.  It’s not an expensive house, but our greatest source of income comes in bi-weekly payments of less than 2% of the house’s expected sale price. 

All of a sudden I find myself wanting to purchase things in expectation of this future windfall.  Some things I know have to be delayed, but that book or Kindle I want doesn’t cost that much, and I’ll soon be rich, so why not buy it now?  As a Christian, I wonder if I should think the same way about my inheritance in Christ.

The Bible talks about two types of inheritance.  First, the people of God are His inheritance.  This is an interesting concept to consider, but I’ll leave it for another time.  Second, the people of God have an inheritance guaranteed by Jesus, in and for eternity.  What is this inheritance?  As we are identified with Christ, we share His inheritance, an eternal existence with His people. 

What does that inheritance look like and how do I treat it now?  If it’s not like spending money on a book in anticipation of a future windfall, what is it like? 

Picture a snowstorm and a hungry run-away foster child shivering outside a well-lit house.  Through the window he can see a large wooden dining table piled high with all sorts of delicacies.  But that’s not what captures his attention for long.  Around the table he can see children and adults laughing and talking, patting each other on the arm or back, and reveling in relationship.  That’s what he wants most of all: a loving family.  Without a thought, he knows that love will make everything else alright.

And that’s the inheritance of a Christian.  When we trust God, through Christ, we are invited inside and made part of God’s family.  And once we are in that family, “. . . neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation . . .” will matter to us, because we will have everything that does matter.  So pain, sorrow, grief, poverty, and all other ills, will in this time, in this life, cease to matter so much.  Yes, we will still experience them, but the bite will be gone. 

No, don’t ask me to explain further; this is almost more than I can grasp myself.  All I know for sure is that our inheritance today means that we can live life freely.  And there I’ll end it.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Racism—follow up


Here is a comment I received about my post on racism (you can read the original post here).

Although there are many who say that racism is no longer an issue in this country, I can personally attest to the incorrectness of this assumption. I am Caucasian, my husband is African-American, and our children are biracial. My husband and I are high school sweethearts, and have loved each other for twenty-two years. During that time, we have endured some things that would shock some of you. The simple things that many of you take for granted become a serious issue in our family. For example, when you plan a vacation, what do you take into consideration? The cost, location, the family-friendly atmosphere? We, on the other hand, have to ask ourselves something different. Will this place be safe for us as an interracial couple, is there the possibility of a KKK presence in the area, is it safe (racially) for our children? Although things are much better than in decades past, please do not be deluded into thinking that racial issues have been eradicated. When we as human beings no longer feel the need to use race as an adjective, then we will be on the correct path. Until then, stop shutting out entire races based on unfounded assumptions. You may very well be shutting out someone who would have been the most amazing addition to your life.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Charles Martin’s Prayer (and mine)

This is the prayer that Charles Martin, one of my favorite contemporary novelists, prayed on the National Day of Prayer.


“Jesus, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb upon the throne, the name above all names and at whose name every knee will bow and every tongue confess that you are Lord and God and King over all.  Father, we—your people boldly approach your throne of Grace asking to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
We bring to you the print media.  Journalists.  Feature writers.  Bloggers.  Non-fiction and fiction writers.  Lord, we bring to you the story-tellers of this age.

Father, where we have blatantly lied, where we haven’t told the truth in all its forms, where we’ve slanted or skewed the story to fit our agenda, to benefit us, where we’ve told stories that praise us and not you, where we’ve stolen glory due you, placed ourselves on the throne which is yours and yours alone, we humble ourselves, we seek your face, we repent outright and completely, we lay our crowns at your feet.  Please forgive us.  Lord please forgive us.  Give us undivided hearts that we might fear your name.  And cause us, like King David, to hide your word in our hearts that we might not sin against you.

Father, we are in desperate need of a spirit of truth.  Rain it down.  Soak us in it.  Let Truth abound and explode among us who write and then when we’ve written it, take it beyond our wildest imaginations.  Where the father of lies has hi-jacked your written word, deceived your people, and absolutely rejected your revealed truth, we ask that you muzzle him and then raise up truth-tellers to take it back.  Shine a light in the darkness.  Be salt.  Pour water for the thirsty.  No matter the cost.

Where there is an agenda that conflicts with your will, that seeks to deceive, to confuse, Lord please bring it to destruction, frustration and absolutely nothing.  Our enemy the devil wants to kill, steal and destroy.  He prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour and he’s using the words you gave us to do just that.  Lord, your word is not chained.  Make our words mighty in you, able to pull down strongholds, and cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against you.  Our land is populated with giants, but we are well-able to overcome them.

Breathe new life into our imaginations and infuse the words we use with new meaning.  Then loose those words to pour life and hope into your people—to rescue the wounded.  Lord, for Zion's’ sake we will not keep quiet.  For Jerusalem’s sake we will not hold our peace.

I pray protection over each of us—the truth tellers.  Bolster our walls. Strengthen us to write without fear. Protect our families our homes, our lives, and our hearts and minds.  Give your angels charge over us.  Let your faithfulness go before us.  And let your glory be our rear guard.

Lord, you wrote the all time bestseller of all bestsellers.  Ever.  I’m pretty sure you have a tender spot for writers.  Let what we write bring you all honor and glory and praise.  Let it reflect your character.  Tell of your great glory.  Your immeasurable, boundless love for us.  Your singular redeeming sacrifice.  Use our words to make more of you and less of us.  And when you have, let the sum of them m be found worthy to fill the walls of your personal library...and when printed and bound on the shelves here, let them stand as road signs to Jerusalem.

We pray this in the matchless and magnificent name of Jesus.”

Racism-The One or the Many


Sometimes television raises good questions.  Anti-Semitic 800 Little_Rock_integration_protestrhetoric runs rampant through Mad Men and has recently brought to my mind a question about racial issues.

I religiously watch three AMC original shows:  The Killing, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men.  For those you who have never seen Mad Men, it is the story of a Madison Avenue advertising firm in the late 1950’s.  Think of The Office with less comedy, better writing and acting, more sex.  You might even call Mad Men a dark comedy.

Genre splitting is not my forte.  What lodged in my mind while I watched a first-season rerun episode of Mad Men—an episode filled with anti-Semitic remarks—was what the Jewish owner of a prominent New York department store said to the creative director of the advertising agency as she (the department store owner) met with him.  He was trying to find a way to create a creative campaign to market Israel, but no one in the agency had anything positive to say about Israel and  Jewish slurs colored the dialogue.  I don’t remember exactly what she said to him, but it was something like this: he might like one Jewish person but that didn’t mean he liked the group. 

Isn’t it that way with any racism?  We may like the one Jewish, African-American, Asian-American, Caucasian, or Latino person in our workplace, school, or church, but that doesn’t mean we like the group.  Our minds (whether we admit it or not) separate that one and place that one in our own group while retaining the negative perceptions of the race.  It might not be so obvious.  Our stereotypes seem to  lie dormant until aroused by an incident that feeds them.  

A recognized African-American man is no threat, even if he has a companion.  But, if you are Caucasian or any other race than African-American, how do you feel when you encounter two unknown men on the street at night?  Tell the truth.  Do you pray for safety, cross to the other side, tightly clutch your valuables, avoid looking at them, determine to sign up for marksmanship classes? 

At a recent writing festival, one author, a Latino, spoke of his fear when he was travelling a deserted road in Texas near the Mexican border.  As he and his wife travelled east, an old, rusty car full of Mexicans raced toward them.  He observed them from the corner of his eye and gave a sigh of relief when they passed and continued on.  Relief turned to dread when he saw the car, through his side mirror, make a U-turn and begin following him.  He didn’t know what to do.  The car came closer and closer until it was a mere car-length behind him.  He kept his eyes glued to the road ahead.

Finally, the car swerved around him and raced down the road in the same direction he was travelling.  After a few miles, he passed a gas station and noticed the car stopped at a pump.  What had seemed a threat was someone who realized that the next gas station was too far away.  The group suddenly became an individual. 

What can we do to turn groups into individuals?  It starts with confronting our stereotypes head-on.  It begins with cultivating friendships with people who are not like us.  We need to stop and listen to the stories told by people who are not like us.  Once we step into their stories, maybe we can see them more as many individuals, than as one group.

What are your thoughts?

Writing Deadlines

As a writer who currently has no publisher, no contract, and no deadlines, how can I write about deadlines?

A deadline is part of  goal completion.  I have always set goals for myself and writing is no different.  My goal is to write something every day.  That’s a daily deadline.  I have another goal to write one or two blog posts each week.  That’s another deadline, but may also be part of the first deadline. 

Deadlines are part of life from school to work; you can’t avoid them, so you might as well embrace them.

I embrace them by meeting each one head on with planning and preparation.  I schedule deadlines on my calendar, although some are part of my daily routine.  Writing is a daily routine for me.

When do I write?  I devote at least one hour each morning to writing, sometimes two.  If I have a break in the afternoon or evening, I write then also.  But morning between 7:00 and 8:00 is my primary writing time.  I am fed and caffeinated and at the top of my game.  It’s all downhill from there!

To get back to deadlines, the word deadline first appeared in737px-stockade--Andersonville_Prison stockade written form during the Civil War and denoted the boundary—marked either by wooden or virtual stakes--of a military prison within a stockade.  Any prisoner who crossed the line would be shot and killed. 

Fortunately, the meaning has changed; no publishers would dare impose that type of penalty!  However, in 1997 Harper Collins cancelled 70  books because the authors missed deadlines.  Read more here:

How would it feel to have a book—a book that took you years to write, then another year or two to find a publisher and maybe another year or two to bring it into production--cancelled because you missed a deadline?  Your baby is now dead in the bathwater because you forgot the soap and left the room to find it. 

A deadline is no excuse for shoddy work.  Online journal submissions have deadlines. Sometimes those deadlines result in less than pristine work.  I reviewed two of my recent rejections, and realized that I should never have sent them.  I was so intent on meeting the deadline that I submitted, what I now know to be, incomplete work.    

If I had known then what I know now, how truly incomplete my essays were, I would not have submitted them.  But the deadline meant more to me than the work and the stress of my mother dying made me less attentive.  My attention was focused on that date, that deadline on my calendar.  Now, I have the opportunity to work the essays into something that I will be proud to submit, but I wasted both my time submitting them and the time of the editor who rejected them.  A double fault.

How do you meet a deadline?  Set goals.  Make time to complete those goals.  Finish early and have a trusted reader review your work to ensure that it is ready for submission. 
And whatever you do, don’t kill your baby through neglect.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Mother’s Life

Dolly Denman was born to a Nebraska farm family in May, 1924 shortly before the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression hit the Great Plains. Her legal name was Dolphine (doll feen), named for Adolph, a family friend, a name she hated and changed as soon as she was able. (I won’t mention her middle name). She had a younger brother, Robert Dean Wilmer Herman, who she called Bobby. He died in a car accident during World War 2. Her younger sister, Sandy is here today. 

Her parents and grandparents were farmers; she plucked corn and herded cows during her youth. Her parents taught her to love music and ballroom dancing, activities that remained her passion during her life. In grade school, she was active in singing groups and participated in spelling contests at the local, county, and state level. She lived with her grandparents during her freshman year of high school. She returned to the farm for 10th grade, but left for good, working as a baby-sitter to pay for her room and board, during her junior and senior years at Fremont High School. Once away from Nebraska, she never again wore jeans because they reminded her of the farm.

Dolly worked as a secretary during her early years of employment, first for an engineering firm in Fremont, where she earned enough money to escape Nebraska. The United States had entered World War 2, creating many more jobs for women; Dolly took the bus to Portland, Oregon where she found a job with a ship builder. A few months later, she travelled by train to San Diego, California where she worked first for an aircraft manufacturer, and then as the secretary to the Assistant Director of the US Department of the Navy Electronics Lab.
After the war, Dolly moved to Columbus where her sister Sandy lived. She became secretary to the first director of the Columbus Zoo, and enjoyed city life in Columbus as a single woman, bowling and dancing. At a birthday party in Chillicothe, she met Chuck Denman. They were married in 1954, and purchased their first home on the west side of Columbus. Two years later, Dolly she gave birth to her only child, Diana. They remained in Columbus for 7 years. During that time, they started the Astronaut’s Club, a church club for teenagers and young adults, and sang in the church choir.
They next moved to Cleveland for 4 years and were active in church and para-church organizations. A 1-year stint in Zanesville, gave Dolly the opportunity to take classes at Ohio University.
After that year in Zanesville, they moved to back to Columbus, now on the north side, where Dolly finished her degree in Education at The Ohio State University and was hired as a reading specialist at Eastmoor and Walnut Ridge High Schools. While there, she took night and summer classes, receiving a Master’s degree in Special Ed. She was the reading specialist at Rosemont School for Girls, and then finished her teaching career at Dominion Middle School.
Dolly was active in several churches and para-church organizations including Cursillo, Marriage Encounter, Evangelism Explosion, Cum Christo, Healing Crusades, Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship, Women’s Aglow, and others. She travelled to Europe and Hawaii and returned several times to San Diego to visit her friends.  During her later years, she sang with the Gillie Center G-Clef Chorus, the Whetstone Chorus, and her church choir.
Growing up during the depression made her frugal. She never bought clothing or furniture at full price, always watching for sales. She also had an eye for home d├ęcor and decorated her home like a skilled designer, but on a tight budget. She had her own victory gardens, digging a pond at every home, and designing and planting flowers, fruiting and blooming trees, and shrubs.
Dolly’s early tenacity, perhaps fueled by her desire to leave the farm, was strengthened as she navigated life with an alcoholic husband who later developed dementia. She cared for him faithfully to the end. Her strength was also evident as she read and adopted faith tenets and decided on a course of life that included strict diet and exercise, leaving room, of course, for chocolate. She often bicycled to the church for exercise classes and Bible studies.
One of Dolly’s greatest attributes was her sense of humor. When her 8-year old daughter was sick with chicken pox, the 3rd grade teacher sent home cards made by the students. One showed a well-drawn crayon picture of a tree, a flower, and a boy. It read “Get Well Soon.” As she opened the card, the scene changed. The tree, the flower, and the boy lay on the ground and the caption read “Everything’s Dying.” Dolly burst into laughter that bubbled up and filled the sickroom. She would laugh at herself and at objects and situations in a way that made everyone laugh with her. Her laughter dissolved tension and brought joy.