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Today is the last day you can receive this beautiful print if you pre-order Blue Birds. Details below.
My husband’s first pastorate out of seminary was in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington DC. He was a youth pastor and I was a teacher, and we were still pretty new to town. One Sunday a young couple visited our church. I casually chatted with them — a British fellow with the name Steve Martin (isn’t that fun?) and his lovely American wife, Jamie. And in those few moments I had one of those weird experiences I’d only had once before: I knew immediately that Jamie and I would become very good friends.
It was a strange feeling with no real basis, other than an underlining conviction we had clicked in a meaningful way. Almost fifteen years have passed since that Sunday. We’ve lived apart for eleven of them. But the fledgling friendship that started that day has been one of my life’s dearest gifts.
One spring Jamie came to visit us in Michigan. As the two of us wandered through an antique shop, she handed me a worn school primer she’d found on a shelf. Maybe it will be helpful for that new book idea you have, she said. It ended up being key. On the day May B. came into the world, Jamie wrote something that to this day makes me cry.
As I struggled with writing Blue Birds,Jamie was the one to tell me good work is often hard work. Each time I’d email about how difficult it all was, she’d remind me the writing was hard because it was important.
This time last year I was deep in the midst of second-round edits and desperate to connect with Alis and Kimi in a meaningful way. So I started wearing a strand of pearls. Everyday. With sweats and dressy clothes and everything in between. Unless I was sleeping or exercising, the pearls were there. My Blue Birds girls share a pearl necklace (you can see Alis wearing it on the cover). Wearing pearls was a constant reminder of their friendship, a way to meet them beyond my writing sessions, to carry them with me to the grocery store, while walking the dog, into life’s small, quiet moments.
It was during this time I found this treasure in my mailbox. A gift from Jamie (who knew nothing about the pearls). And that’s when I knew with certainty exactly who this book was for.
If we’re lucky, we find friends in this world who love us as we are and bring out our best selves. I hope that’s what I’ve captured in Alis and Kimi’s relationship. It’s what Jamie Martin has given me.
This post is part of a week-long celebration in honor of Blue Birds. I’m giving away a downloadable PDF of this beautiful Blue Birds quote (created by Annie Barnett of Be Small Studios) for anyone who pre-orders the book from January 12-19. Simply click through to order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, IndieBound, or Powell’s, then email a copy of your receipt to email@example.com by Monday, January 19.
Today, 18 January 2015 marks World Religion Day across the globe. The day was created by the Baha’i faith in 1950 to foster dialogue and to and improve understanding of religions worldwide and it is now in its 64th year.
The aim of World Religion Day is to unite everyone, whatever their faith, by showing us all that there are common foundations to all religions and that together we can help humanity and live in harmony. The day often includes activities and events calling the attention of the followers of world faiths. In honour of this special day and to increase awareness of religions from around the world, we asked a few of our authors to dispel some of the popular myths from their chosen religions.
* * * * *
Myth: Quakers are mostly silent worshippers
“If you are from Britain, or certain parts of the United States, you may think of Quakers as a quiet group that meets in silence on Sunday mornings, with only occasional, brief vocal messages to break the silence. Actually, between eighty and ninety per cent of Quakers are “pastoral” or “programmed” Friends, with the majority of these living in Africa (more in Kenya than any other country) and other parts of the global South. The services are conducted by pastors, and include prayers, sermons, much music, and even occasionally (in Burundi, for instance) dancing! Pastoral Quaker services sometimes include a brief period of “unprogrammed” worship, and sometimes not. Quaker worship can be very lively!”
“Zen is known as the Buddhist school emphasizing intensive practice of meditation, the name’s literal meaning that represents the Japanese pronunciation of an Indian term (dhyana). But hours of daily meditative practice are limited to a small group of monks, who participate in monastic austerities at a handful of training temples. The vast majority of members of Zen only rarely or perhaps never take part in this exercise. Instead, their religious affiliation with temple life primarily involves burials and memorials for deceased ancestors, or devotional rites to Buddhist icons and local spirits. Recent campaigns, however, have initiated weekly one-hour sessions introducing meditation for lay followers.”
“This was a common cry in the nineteenth century – the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli made it – and it continues in the twenty-first century. Atheists respond in two ways. First, if you need a god for morality, then what is to stop that god from being entirely arbitrary? It could make the highest moral demand to kill everyone not fluent in English – or Hebrew or whatever. But if this god does not do things in an arbitrary fashion, you have the atheist’s second response. There must be an independent set of values to which even the god is subject, and so why should the non-believer not be subject to and obey them, just like everyone else?”
— Michael Ruse is Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science, at Florida State University and an editor of The Oxford Handbook of Atheism
* * * * *
Myth: Islam is a coercive communitarian religion
“Claims of an Islamic state to enforce Sharia as the law of the state are alien to historical Islamic traditions and rejected by the actual current political choices of the vast majority of Muslims globally. Belief in Islam must always be a free choice and compliance with Sharia cannot have any religious value unless done voluntarily with the required personal intent of each individual Muslim to comply (nya). Theologically Islam is radically democratic because individual personal responsibility can never be abdicated or delegated to any other human being (see e.g. chapters and verses 6:164; 17:15; 35:18; 39:7; 52:21; 74:38 of the Quran).”
“One myth about Hinduism is that it is an ethnic religion. The assumption is that Hinduism is tied to a particular South Asian ethnicity. This is misleading for at least three reasons. First, South Asia is ethnically diverse. Therefore, it is not logical to speak of a single, unified ethnicity. Second, Hinduism has long been established in Southeast Asia, where practitioners consider themselves Hindu but not South Asian. Third, although the appearance of ‘White Hindus’ is a phenomenon rather recent and somewhat controversial, the global outreach of Hindu missionary groups has prompted scores of modern converts to Hinduism throughout Europe and the Americas. In other words, not all Hindus are South Asian.”
Hi folks, I love November. The air is getting a little crisp, and I might have to put away my sandals soon. This month I'm calling the series Uplift. The idea of uplift is to improve socially, culturally, morally, spiritually, etc. We are all hungry, our hearts beating, struggling for contentment and a sweet spot to thrive. This week I'm going to respond to a quote by Stephen King article in Rolling Stonebecause it got me thinking. This statement was the one that caught me though the whole article is good. I've thought about it a lot this week: "maybe all intelligent races hit this level of violence and technological advances that they can't get past. And then they just puff out. You hit the wall and that's it." Something deep with in me just goes all "Gene Roddenberry" at this statement, you know, that whole positive view of the future of the ending of wars, moving on from money, and focusing on exploring the galaxy. Maybe we rise up. Maybe be we do better. Maybe the whole universe is alive, and we just haven't found that way to perceive it. We started out with smoke signals back in the day and now we have interwebs. Who knows what is next? I don't watch the news much because they are not in the business of sharing what is good and right about our lives. The bright light of gratitude and goodness doesn't seem to draw in the throngs like doom and despair. It's a little weird to me too, because everyone knows focusing on the positive is a sure way to success. You have to deliberately cultivate a life that sees good. I know I'm a broken pot like so many of us, but I have seen glory in a rock on the side of the road. I've seen it in my cat rolling on the sidewalk. I've seen it in the tree growing next to my driveway. Why can't the Voice in Suburbia says something useful and uplifting? I find it helpful to put away the troubling thoughts in life, and do the Scarlet O'Hara thing, "I'll think about that tomorrow" and turn my thoughts toward lofty ideas. This desire has helped me respond positively to the suffering and degradation of life and find new directions. I think of this response like flinging open my arms and embracing the moment. I leap in faith. My deep-seated belief is good triumphs, death is not the end, and love never fails. I leap with these thoughts. So what is the end game of this little rambling? There's an updraft, dear, perhaps you should jump in it and see where it takes you. Sounds good. I will be back next week with more on Uplift. One more chicken doodle: "Chicken Angels."
And a quote for your pocket.
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. Abraham Lincoln
Bestselling author Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest". A homeschool graduate from a family of 12 children, Amber found her calling early in life. First published at age 21, she has continued to hone her craft. Between ministry, family and working in their family businesses, Amber loves to connect with readers. Find her on the Stitches Thru Time blog, or on any of the major social media sites.
Amber, can you tell us about your new release, The Messiah's Sign?
Sure! Thanks so much for having me on the blog today. This book released just yesterday, so I'm so EXCITED to share it with readers.
The Messiah's Sign is the second book in the Days of Messiah series. It follows the storyline of Book One, but from the husband's point of view. Here's what it's about:
Dreams…they shouldn’t bother him, but when Tyrus’ worst nightmare is vindicated, he has no choice but to face reality. His wife has been unfaithful, and God has punished her with the most feared disease in the land: leprosy. Banishing her to the leper colony, Tyrus struggles to raise their son alone and protect him from a merciless outlaw. But when Malon begins following the teacher from Nazareth, what remains of their business and reputation is at stake. Can Tyrus save his son from the beguiling lies of a false Messiah before he loses the only thing he has left?
Book one started as a short story, but a lot of people told me I should expand it. I picked up the story and began thinking about what the entire story would be like, and that's when the Lord drew back the curtain to show me not only Aaliyah's story at the leper colony, but also the story of her husband and son. Tyrus—as the heartless husband that banishes Aaliyah to the leper colony—is the villain of book one, so I wanted to show readers his side of the story.
What do you want readers to take away from The Messiah's Sign?
As hard as you try, you will never be sufficient on your own. It takes Christ working in you. For those that have read volume one, I want them to realize that you cannot hate someone until you de-humanize them. The villain of book one becomes the hero of book two, and we see the motivations behind his 'heartless' acts. In truth, Tyrus was doing the best he could. If we can empathize with people in our lives, it will go a LONG way in keeping the roots of bitterness at bay.
What are you working on next?
I am finishing up a really fun series with three other historical authors on the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
I'm also setting to work on a Christmas story set during the Civil War entitled The Christmas Pardon.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, a young lawyer battles with the U.S. Supreme court. In what seemed to be a Christmas miracle, he had secured a pardon for his friend from Lincoln himself. The army executed the boy anyway. On the fifteenth anniversary of his death, will the lawyer finally clear his friends name and bring justice to his memory?
Thank you for hosting me! It's been a pleasure. I'd like to invite each of you to join me in celebrating my new release on my Facebook Launch party tonight! We'll have trivia, giveaways, behind the scenes tidbits and TONS of fun. Join us tonight at 6pm mountain time! https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAmberSchamel
Imagine viewing the beauty of 14,000 acres of protected forestland, at 30-35 miles per hour, while clutching two, small handlebars.
It’s not bike riding.
It’s zip lining—the fastest and steepest zip line in America—and it is a phenomenal adventure for the family.
The Gorge Zip Line Canopy Tourlocated in Saluda, North Carolina provides 1,100 vertical feet of zip line, 3 tree-mendous (easy and smooth) rappels, and one fun, swinging sky bridge.
My husband, known for his fear of heights, zipped the Gorge several months earlier with his co-workers. He loved it so much he wanted to treat our son, two daughters, and son-in-law to a day of zip lining. He also thought it would be good for me.
Due to a recent health issue, I spent the summer learning physical therapy exercises for my feet and how to pace myself. I’m thankful for the progressive healing, but zip lining still sounded like a stretch for me. My walking compares to that of a chicken’s with a little less swag.
Nonetheless, my husband had faith I could do it. Our girls were excited and eager for a fun challenge. However, our ten-year old redhead and our sweet son-in-law were quiet, deep thinkers en route to the zip line.
I don’t know if it was the unusually cool weather or our nerves that made our knees joggle as our guides cinched up our harnesses.
The heights didn’t concern me. It’s knowing there will be no opportunity to go to the bathroom for four hours. No medical condition exists, it’s just knowing there will not be a bathroom that makes me think I have to go. After three trips, ensuring there is nothing left in the bladder, I am ready to zip.
Harnessed in and triple-tethered with carabiners to a steel cable, one has to feel safe, because “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Right?
Right. The guides said we could trust the zip line. Although the weight limit to zip was 250 pounds, the cords construction could hold thousands of pounds.
My Family's Phenomenal Zip Line Adventure
Our kind and patient tour guides give instructions. I understand them now, but I wonder if I’ll remember them when I'm speeding across treetops faster than a hummingbird.
The excitement escalates as we line up at the first platform, which the guides call “The Fluffy Bunny.” Awww…who can be afraid of a fluffy bunny?
Amazingly, the somewhat timid 10 yr. old is instructed to go first. He climbs on top of a tree stump. His knees bend, straighten, and bend again. He leans forward and back again. Still not off the stump, the family begins to cheer him on.
“You got this. You can do it.”
A second hesitation and suddenly he steps off the platform.
A high pitched, whizzzzzzzzzzz….zip.
There are no screaming or crashing sounds. The guide at the end radios the line is clear for the next person. Oh, good, he made it. What? It’s my turn? If the timid one can do it, surely this will be a breeze for me.
You know that stump can be very deceiving. It appears to be 12-15 inches high but when you step up on it, it feels more like 20-25 inches.
I’m clear to go. I bend my knees but my feet don’t move. Bend, straighten, bend, straighten. Oh, good grief. Why couldn’t they choose another adult to go first? I’m delaying everyone’s fun. Then, I hear the cheers.
“You got this, Mom. You can do it.”
Swaying for a moment, I finally just lean forward and step off. I am like that pig in the commercial who hangs his head out the window yelling, “Whee! Whee! Whee!” I love it!
By the time the whole family reunites on the second platform our knees are still shaking but our eyes are brighter and our smiles bigger. That is until the guides tell us the next zip is named “The Hawk that Ate the Fluffy Bunny.”
Zip Lining is exhilarating!
We continue to root for each other and hug every tree together. With each zip, our apprehensions evaporate in the cool, fall air. Zip lining is exhilarating!
Before we know it, three and half hours fly by. After eleven, fabulous zips, we arrive at the end of the tour.
I hope our family is able to do this again. Zip lining is fun! It's also empowering. We squashed doubts and fears. Together, we learned how to soar.
The hardest part? Leaning out and taking that first step of faith.
The coolest part? Even though it may be eighty feet off the ground, I trust the strong, narrow cable. And, even though I can’t see the next destination, I know it’s straight ahead. All I have to do is hold on, lean forward, and trust.
Another amazing addition is the precious people I have encouraging me—those behind me, and those before me in my journey.
Now, because of my experience, I can encourage you. Be strong and courageous. Gather your family and inspire them to stretch beyond their comfort zones. Don't just tell, show them with God nothing is impossible.
Rappelling & Rejoicing
Post Note: I highly recommend The Gorge Zip Line in Saluda. The staff is very friendly and well trained. The zipping did not aggravate my health issues. You’ll need to determine what works for you. I didn't think it was a jarring experience due to the self-braking system. Nor are you on your feet for long periods. The only parts that were sore after the trip were my arms and hands from hanging on so tightly!
Be sure to "like" the page while you are there and share it with your friends. Now for some details:
*This contest is open to everyone 18 years and older, or 12 to 17 years with signed consent of a parent or guardian.
*The writer must NEVER have been published, either traditionally or self.
*The story must be an original work and not infringe on anyone else's copyrights.
*The story will be published by Helping Hands Press in the 2015 edition of ONE. As such, Helping Hands Press will retain all print and digital rights of the story for five (5) years from the date of publication. Selected authors will also have the opportunity to contract with Helping Hands Press for future works, but are under no obligation.
*Submissions should be in a Word-compatible document. A minimum of 1,000 words, but no more than 10,000 words. Stories must be inspirational or faith-based, preferably Non-Fiction (sorry, no poetry). Stories containing profanity, sex, or violence will be automatically disqualified.
*Winning selections will be personally edited by Mark Miller. Any and all submissions, in whole or part, may be displayed on the ONE Facebook page for promotional purposes.
*Contestants agree to donate all proceeds from the sale of ONE 2015 to a charity selected by Mark Miller, MillerWords.com or Mark Miller's ONE.
Please feel free to share this event and invite any aspiring author you know. Please post any questions to this event page.Add a Comment
Title: Rumble Written by: Ellen Hopkins Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books, Sept. 2014 Ages: 14+ Novel in verse Themes: bullying, gay teens, faith, religion, forgiveness, hypocrisy, ptsd, suicide, gun management Reviewed from an ARC. All opinions are my own. Opening … Continue reading →
A weary heart i carried
A battered heart i owned
A stonic look i gave
A broken spirit i carried
All, until your miracle smiled at me
And even when i heard the village women yell ”the storm is over. come out” i still did not believe it, for fear had created a comfortable home in my heart.
But you, you never gave up on me
But you ,you never stopped loving me
And now,even now i stand in awe…speechless,useless unable to think out
For what uttered thank-you(s) can demonstrate how grateful i am .
Now, if you are still reading and haven't clicked off to Amazon to get an incredible story for a great price (each volume is only $0.99), I have a serious question.
How far would you go to keep your faith?
This is the tagline for the series, but it is also a serious question. I have four children and it is sometimes a question on my mind. The answer seems obvious. What would you do to protect your children? Isn't that a lot about faith? You have faith that your actions will benefit your children. You also try to teach them your own spiritual faith for them to pass on to others.
In my story, the Umble family is faced with the possibility of losing their faith entirely. They are cast into the unknown and everything is a challenge. In Volume Four, it is revealed that things are likely becoming worse. Can they keep their faith when it seems their faith has left them?
I would appreciate a few comments below about your faith - when you were challenged and how you came through it. Sometimes, I feel like my faith is tested on a daily basis. With four kids, I know my patience is!
The ONE series is about raising awareness and raising funds for charity. Along the way, we get a little emotional, but sometimes have some fun. The latest story has a little of both.
2013 Story Eight
The Trucker Angel
by Janet Beasley
This is where knowing the author in person becomes such a treat. Everything that Janet wrote in this story is as honest and sincere as she is in real life. Normally, the author's stories are flights of fancy and epic adventures. I jokingly say this is mature writing for her.
All kidding aside, this story is packed with emotion and faith. She speaks briefly about her mother's condition, but one can read its effect throughout the entire piece. This story is sentimental without being sobby and mystifying without being cheesy.
The big question for me is "Did she see what she says she saw?" The answer may simply be that we all see what we need to see at certain moments in our life. An element of confidence and security comes from our faith. We feel good knowing that a higher power is watching out for us. Ultimately, I feel that is the author's message and one worth sharing.
About the book: 100% of the author’s proceeds will be donated to Bridge to Ability Specialized Learning Center, a not-for-profit organization serving the educational and therapeutic needs of fragile children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities. www.BridgeToAbility.org. The authors, creator and publisher are in no other way affiliated with this organization.
Mark Miller’s One 2013 is a spiritual anthology examining True-Life experiences of Authors and their Faith. As the series evolves expect to discover what it means to have faith, no matter what that faith is and no matter where they live. Remember that we are all part of this One World.
In Story Eight, Janet Beasley tells of a supernatural experience that reaffirmed her faith. Before she was a best-selling author, she was a daughter. One of her simple pleasures has always been lunch with her mother. During one of these outings, Janet and her mother witnessed the unexplainable and believe it saved their lives.
About the author: Janet Beasley, best selling author of The Hidden Earth Series (a six novel series), is successfully carving her niche` in the inspirational epic fantasy genre for middle grades and YAs. Even the young at heart are enjoying the escape her writing style presents.
Her debut novel, Maycly the Trilogy, raised to the top 3 on the Amazon Religious Fantasy charts, and landed ahead of the Hunger Games on yet another. By appearing at local and out-of-state events, book signings, and speaking engagements, audiences are now perking up when they hear this author’s name…and it’s not just for her fantasy novels. Janet works with her sister and full time illustrator, Dar Bagby, to create more than just stories. Volume 1 Maycly the Trilogy expands by leaps and bounds with two companion books (a full color illustration book and a cook book), as well as an online memorabilia shop, and amazingly enough – gourmet dog treats.
Janet is multi-talented when it comes to her creativity. She excels in multi-media presentations, event planning, has developed a training center and its curriculum for AV technicians, and produced – directed – and served as a theater technician. She has written fiction - non-fiction – stage plays - and an autobiography. She has crafted award winning poetry, been published in anthologies, and trade specific magazines.
Janet enjoys the outdoors by kayaking and hiking with her husband, and photographing nature. She also loves animals (dogs are her favorite), spending time with her family, and baking cupcakes.
Luke Umble and his Amish family are going to find out the hard way. Things continue to go from bad to worse with each new revelation. The bad news is that the Adam Corp deep space ship, the Corinthian, has not even made it out of our solar system yet.
Could something worse be waiting for them?
Promise of Tomorrow is an ongoing short story series that asks the question, "How far would you go to save your faith?"
Luke Umble believed he was a man of God. One fateful decision could test all of his beliefs. With the support of his wife Annie, they uproot their family in an attempt to save the ones they love. Luke is challenged on all sides by his cantankerous father, his oldest son’s rebellion and even his youngest daughter’s Muscular Dystrophy.
In Volume 5: Downfall, Luke Umble has to face the truth. First he faces it in the rude, condescending behavior of the Englische Captain. Then Luke learns more harsh truth from the young, but sincere, Lieutenant that has also expressed an interest in his daughter. The promise once offered by their ship, the Corinthian, seems to be falling from their grasp. Things are made worse when eight-year-old Henry decides to skip school and explore the ship. Everything collides and causes Luke to doubt his faith.
The one question he asks himself is “How far would you go to keep your faith?”
The only answer Luke can find lies in God’s Promise of Tomorrow.
Thanks for taking the time to read my post. Comments are always appreciated.
I’ve done a few readings at a local independent bookstore and I always enjoy the reactions I get to see from children as I read my stories. As an author I know there are many children whose reactions I never get to see. Today I received an email from this bookstore detailing a visit from a faith-based school that blew me away. Lots of first and second graders gathered in the store while one of my books, Suzy Snowflake, was read. Suzy is a snowflake fairy who prays to God when she feels different than her friends and teaches her good friend, Frost, how to pray. The children talked about how they can be a witness to their friends who may be in need of God’s grace.
Our books can have an impact on others that we never get to see. I’m so thankful that the bookstore knew enough to capture this moment for me and tell me about it. This reading….that I didn’t even attend, has reminded me that we touch other people every day. I’m so thankful my stories are having a positive impact on children.
I would like to think that I could come up with some Geo-Terra-forming-hyper-thoughts but can only come up with the belief that I am correct to feel immortal and know that even after I go to the next eternity, that itself will end, and “I” become some horrific to these “Now ” eyes, some specimen of thing unknowable to this consciousness, yet another “thing” that feels correct to it’s nature and has no thought of being not correct, that after an eternity of these formations and resurrections and deaths I will sink into the opposite sludge of nonexistence but after a time, that is not time, will again float to the surface *POP* out and start all over again.
Luke 9 is about bringing the disciples to the mountain top, literally and figuratively, and then sending them into the world while letting them know what the cost of discipleship is all about. In the process, a growth of intuitive insight occurs among the disciples to the point where they can see the full revealing of Jesus as He is, beyond the carpenter from Nazareth. They can see his essential energy field in all its glory and wonder, as well as those of Moses and Elijah who set in motion the forces of spiritual tradition that led to Jesus.
A Call to Let Go
After having chosen his disciples, Jesus sends them out with little in the way of backup support to proclaim the Good News and to heal. In a sense, it is the pulling away of the usual supports we are accustomed to for a greater good. The call to grow one’s intuition often involves a call to let go of the things we previously relied on for support.
A Discovery of Miraculous Abundance
Early on in the call to open the third eye of understanding, the seeker becomes aware that highly developed spiritual persons can summon and bring abundance of resources and good health, defying our common perspective that the pie is only so large. The disciples witness this so many times they begin to believe it themselves. They begin to see that life can be lived on different terms. There will always be enough with the grace of God.
The Recognition of God’s Presence among Us
Jesus constantly asks His disciples who they think He is, testing their depth of spiritual awareness. When Peter answers that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus knows Peter’s eyes have been opened. In a sense, all of us are constantly being asked the same thing. Can we see the presence of God in our lives? If Jesus is the God for us, can we recognize Him here among us now? As with Peter, when we can see God even in the lowliest person, we have reached a significant point of spiritual development.
Before the disciples recognized Jesus’ true nature, the demons inside possessed people were the only ones who recognized Him. It is much the same within ourselves, our demons torment us, and make us aware until we can recognize the divine and be healed. Their coming to the fore is almost necessary to precede the healing call of the divine.
The Mountain Top Experience
Like Peter and the apostles, we are usually relaxed, half asleep or in a state of meditation when suddenly there is a shift of consciousness and we can see auras and energy fields. In this state the disciples witness Jesus in splendor, along with the great spiritual leaders who preceded him. Like us, the disciples want to capture this precious moment and make order out of it by constructing something to make it permanent. They want to build booths to contain the wonder they have just seen just as we want to write about, paint, sing, memorialize or “churchify” our spiritual experiences.
The Need to Go Out Into the World
Jesus knows it is not only about the mountain top experience. It is also about acting as His disciples at a time when he won’t be around, spreading the news of what they have just witnessed and doing the miraculous things He has done. He explains what this entails: the profound insight demands an equally profound and unconditional call to action. It is the basis for the call to action.
On a beautiful Saturday recently, my daughter and I broke a rule or statute, I’m not sure which. I don’t think it was the law we broke, and I doubt there would have been a stiff penalty had we been caught. True confessions time – we took our dog, Winston to the dog park. Why is that a problem? Because Winston was banned from the local dog park a few years ago.
He’s a very friendly, yet stupid dog who has no spatial awareness and is completely unconcerned with the personal bubble of others – dog or human. The last time we took him there, a Weimaraner pup intrigued him. They chased each other around for a while until suddenly, the dog was gone. To the shock of the other owner, Winston had decided to use him as a chaise lounge. We ran toward him, screaming for him to get off. But he just cocked his head contentedly, unconcerned with us while seated on his comfy new chair.
The other owner just happened to be in charge of the dog park. Her dog was fine after we got our oaf off of him. But Winston’s picture went up on the dog equivalent of the post office wall as a canine non grata.
But on this day, with no other dog in the over 35 lb yard, we decided to let him in. He sniffed around, ran some, and paraded along the fence separating him from the little dogs. I guess he decided it wasn’t worth being where he wasn’t welcome because he peed on the bench then sat by the gate, ready to leave.
There are places I’ve let my feet wander in the past that I shouldn’t go back to. We are all tempted by something. Whether you are a believer or not, there are actions that are wrong and would cause injury to your health, family, or freedom if you undertook them. I know what tempts me. Fortunately, I have a little more self-control than I did as a young man.
I heard a pastor once say that our greatest weakness can be our curiosity. We know the line we won’t cross, and have a resolute desire to stay away. Yet too often, we draw the line and inch our toes as close as they can possibly be to it, lean in to see what is going on over there, and then act surprised when we fall into the same old sin and self-destructive behavior.
What tempts you? What lines have you drawn and where are your feet? These are not questions to answer in the comments section, just something for you and I to think about as we navigate life’s dog park.
Good for Winston, he just peed on it and walked away. I pray I can treat my temptations with the same indifference.
I like to think I was a good sitter for the kids when they were little. I mean, I’m dad, so I should be able to provide for their basic needs on occasion. I remember a particular Saturday when our first was a toddler. Instead of playing the usual dolls and house (which I was excellent at, by the way), I decided that her tummy, back, and arms made the perfect canvas for a jungle mural. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We drew and drew until elephants, lions, and zebras were marching all over her flesh. Great, giggly, tickly fun.
Great fun until Mom came home and the little fink sold me out. My lovely wife hadn’t gotten two steps into the kitchen before the scamp had pulled her shirt up to reveal the masterpiece. I don’t recall if it was the classic grocery bags hitting the floor or not, but her fury stretched across the room and melted part of my ear. Something about her perfect, beautiful baby looking like a tattooed Harley rider.
That was the day I received a fairly detailed list of appropriate activities for times when mommy was away. I also learned the difference between permanent and washable markers.
That was a “first child” thing. She’s mellowed about keeping them in pristine condition and maybe I’ve matured a little. Either way, I pale in comparison to the worst babysitter ever. Some of you look for deep meaning in Bible stories and I applaud you. My infantile mind reads some of the odd ones and starts playing Paul Harvey – looking for The Rest of the Story.
When I read Genesis 22, I am awed by Abraham’s obedience. To listen and follow God at the expense of the one thing he had waited a hundred years for, his baby boy, is incredible. For so long he had begged and schemed for a son, but couldn’t have one with Sarah until he completely gave up his own plans and got to a place where he put his utter reliance on God and not himself. Only God.
We know how the story goes. Just before he offers Isaac as the sacrifice, God shows him a ram to use as a substitute, sparing his son’s life. Can you imagine the sheer joy? Can you picture the relief of his heart? Do you think Isaac flinched when the knife went up? Do you wonder at what Sarah said when they got home?
Seriously, how do you relay that to your wife?
“Hi Honey, we’re home.”
“Oh, I missed you two so much. How was the camping trip?”
“It was fantastic. You’re never gonna believe what God did. First, he told me to sacrifice Isaac. So I built this altar and put him on it. Just as the knife was about to come down…”
“YOU DID WHAT???”
The Bible omits that part of the story. But I wonder sometimes.
I wonder what things I hold too dear to put on the altar. I certainly wouldn’t put my kids on there. (Heck, I won’t even draw on them anymore.) But there are other things too precious to me that I hold back. I know it – and so does God. Lord help me to have more faith and obedience like Old Abraham. I just pray I’m a better babysitter.
Artwork Credit: Ferdinand von Olivier [Public domain]
Divine guidance and blessings come to each of us through little signs as we carry on through our busy lives. What is one to do when the hectic pace that threatens to exhaust us puts us in a tailspin of despair and unable to recognize God’s blessings? Please know you are not alone as you continue your journey. Nancy I. Sanders’ book, Depression What’s a Christian to Do? provides the reader with spiritual guidance and points of reference to guide you through a difficult period in your life. Sanders’ book is the perfect resource to align you to contentment and understanding in your life. A must read and ongoing reference for the roller coaster of life!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Best wishes, Donna M. McDine Award-winning Children's Author Connect with Donna McDine on Google+ A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist
As a child of the 70’s, I can remember trips from Louisville to Denver every summer with nothing but Auto Bingo to keep us happy. Those were long trips. I’m sure Kansas is a fine place, but the interstate roadsides were vast wastelands to a hot, bored kid. My lovely wife drives a Honda Odyssey and we recently took it on vacation. The van has a DVD player in it for rear entertainment, which totally blows my mind. What I wouldn’t have given to have that in 1974!
The kids decided to watch only Disney classic movies on the trip and chose Dumbo first. I love that movie and actually enjoyed listening to it from the driver’s seat. Most of the others lost too much of the story when I was blind to the action. I could follow Dumbo quite well while the miles rolled by.
The crows are my favorite part of the movie. While I understand the regrettable stereotype that some associate with them, I see them as deep and compelling characters. When I See an Elephant Fly might be my favorite Disney song. Although unintended by writers, their scene with Dumbo shows me two important lessons.
1. I believe people (and possibly crows) can change. When we first meet them, the crows are sarcastic and mock our hero’s dilemma until Timothy dresses them down for their behavior. Their response is one of true contrition and remorse as evidenced by the fact that they soon teach Dumbo to fly. The dialogue is priceless:
Crow: [as Timothy and Dumbo walk away sadly] Hey brother, now wa-wa-wait a minute. You don’t hafta leave feelin’ like that. We done seen the light. You boys is okay.
Crow: But we’s all fixin’ to ‘hep ya. Ain’t that the truth, boys?
Great line: “We done seen the light.” I once lived in darkness, but praise God, I saw the light. Light is available to anyone. It takes only a sliver of light to start a radical change.
2. I believe faith is more important than ability. No one really had any idea if Dumbo could fly. There was quite a risk in pushing him off a ledge with only a feather and his ears. But Dumbo believed that if he had the feather, he could fly.
Likewise, there is a point at the end of my ability where I need to trust in God’s plan for my life and His reckless love for me. Letting go of the ledge is incredibly hard, but success happens, not holding onto the ground for dear life, but out in the air with the feather. When He has promised to join me in flight, why would I stay on the ground?
Hebrew’s 13:5 says, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
As I write this, I confess there are ledges that fear has me clinging to. I’m prayerfully inching closer to the edge.
Thank God for hard stones; thank God for hard facts; thank God for thorns and rocks and deserts and long years. At least I know now that I am not the best or strongest thing in the world. At least I know now that I have not dreamed everything.
– G. K. Chesterton
I am not a scaredy cat. I love to hike and wade in mountain streams. I love to go to places I’ve never been and see things I’ve never seen. I like to watch documentaries on foods from other countries and want to visit those countries one day. I like to make new recipes! I’ll…
We all know that asking questions is important. Asking the right questions is at the heart of most intellectual activity. Questions must be encouraged. We all know this.
But are there any questions which may not be asked? Questions which should not be asked? Although many a young undergraduate might initially say “No! Never! All questions must be encouraged!”
I think most thoughtful people will realise there is a little more to it than that. There are, for example, statements which present themselves in all the innocent garb of questions, but which smuggle in nasty and false assertions, such as the phrase “why are blond people intellectually inferior to dark people?” There are questions which mould the questioner, such as “will I feel better if I arrange for this other person to be silenced?”
Questions can serve horrible purposes: they can focus the mind down a channel of horror, such as, “what is the quickest way to bulldoze this village?” Even more extreme examples could be given; they make it clear that not all statements that appear to be questions are primarily questions at all, and not all questions are innocent.
Once you start to think it through, it becomes clear that every question you can ask, just like every other type of utterance you can make, is not a simple self-contained thing, but a connector to all sorts of related assumptions and projects, some of them far from morally neutral. This makes it not just possible, but sometimes important and a matter of honour and duty, not just to refuse to answer, but to raise an objection to the question itself. More precisely, one objects to the assumptions that lie behind the question, and which have rendered the question objectionable.
“Have you stopped beating your children?”
“Tell me, my daughters … which of you shall we say doth love us most?”
“How do you reconcile your rationality with your religious faith?”
In all three cases the question renders any honest person speechless.
But in the first case, if the question is pressed, and I am hauled up before the judge in a court of law, then I will protest, at length and forcefully, that I never did beat my children in the first place. And in the second case, if the question is pressed, then a loving daughter may choose to handle what comes of her silence, and show her love by her behaviour. And if the third question is pressed, then I might explain, as patiently as I could, that the attitude of the questioner is as deeply distorted here as it is in the other two cases, and I will add that my faith was never divorced from my rationality in the first place, and that being required to explain this is like being required to explain that you are honest.
Now we have arrived at the point of this blog, which is not, I will come clean, the general issue of questioning the question, but the specific issue of public discourse in the area of religion. But the two are closely related, because I am interested in focussing attention on where the issue of questioning the question really lies.
The issue is not, “are there questions which are objectionable?” (I think we already settled that), nor is it, “let’s have some intellectual amusement unpicking what is objectionable about this or that ill-posed question which we find it easy to tell is ill-posed.” No, the heart of this issue is, what about the fact that there may be questions which are in fact ignorant and domineering in themselves as questions — like “have you stopped beating your children?” — but which we don’t recognise as such, because of the unquestioned assumptions of our culture and the intellectual habits it promotes.
The third example above is the one which invites the reader to explore this. Is that question objectionable or not?
I will give two reactions: first a subjective one, then the beginnings of an objective one. Subjectively, the question, and others like it such as, “how do you reconcile science and religion?” make me feel every bit as queasy as the “beating your children” one. The hollow feeling of having been pigeonholed before you can open your mouth, of being in the presence of someone whose mental landscape does not even allow the garden where you live, the feeling of being treated like dirt, it is all there.
Now, objectively, are these feelings of mine a sign of trouble in me, or a sign of trouble in our wider culture? I invite reflections. Here I will offer three.
First, my reaction is strong because rationality is a deeply ingrained part of my very identity; it is every bit as important to me as it is to anyone else, so that to face a presumption of guilt in this area is to face a great injustice. Secondly, though, religion is a broad phenomenon, having bad (terrible, horrendous) parts and good (wonderful, beautiful) parts, so the question might be a muddled attempt to ask, “what type of religion is going on in you?” It still remains a suspicious question, like “are you honest?” but in view of the nastiness of bad religion, perhaps we have to live with it, and allow that people will need to ask, to get some reassurance.
Having said that, (and thirdly) we can only make a reply if there is enough oxygen in the room–that is, if the questioner does not come over like an inquisitor who has already made up his mind. The question needs to be, in effect, “I realise that we are both rational; would you unpack for me the way that rationality pans out for you?” We need the questioner at least to be open to the idea that willingness to recognize God in personal terms can be a thoroughly rational thing to do, in a similar sense that recognizing other humans as consciously willing agents is a thoroughly rational thing to do. In both cases, it requires a willingness that is in tune with reason, not unreason, but which is larger than reason, as a chord is larger than a single note.
Headline image: King Lear: Cordelia’s Farewell by Edwin Austin Abbey, 1898. Public domain via WikiArt
This post seems apropos today. I have the highest respect for our nation's military. The men and women who have served and are serving our country deserve more than they will ever give and have my greatest thanks.
But...seems like there's always a but. Not everyone who lost their lives in defense of this land swore an oath to the US Government. Murray Pura's entry to the One series opens our eyes to a different perspective. To put it simply, no matter what the lines on the map say, we are all God's Children. Of course, Murray puts it much more eloquently and shares a tale of enthusiastic youth and idealism.
Mark Miller's One
White Man's God
by Murray Pura
100% of the author’s proceeds will be donated to Bridge to Ability Specialized Learning Center, a not-for-profit organization serving the educational and therapeutic needs of fragile children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities. www.BridgeToAbility.org. The authors, creator and publisher are in no other way affiliated with this organization.
Mark Miller’s One 2013 is a spiritual anthology examining True-Life experiences of Authors and their Faith. As the series evolves expect to discover what it means to have faith, no matter what that faith is and no matter where they live. Remember that we are all part of this One World.
In Story Five, best-selling author Murray Pura takes us to a fantastical world known as the 1970’s. As a college student in Canada, the author and some friends embark on a journey of body, mind and spirit. A road trip that begins with curiosity and idealism ends in death and self-discovery at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Sometimes, it takes great things for us to realize the simple things in our faith. For a bright-eyed, long-haired college kid, he had to re-evaluate his own beliefs when he saw the world through the eyes of Native Americans making a last stand for their beliefs. They showed him a different way to look at the White Man’s God.
About Murray Pura: Murray Pura is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books, including the novels The Rose of Lancaster County, The Wings of Morning, The Face of Heaven and the devotionals Rooted and Streams. He is published by Zondervan, Barbour, Baker, Helping Hands, Harvest House and Harper One San Francisco. Six new titles are expected in 2013.