Freedom

I really never felt captive during the virus outbreak. My plans were abruptly changed. Suddenly I found myself sequestered in place at my son’s house in Kentucky. Except for the occasional trip to the grocery store or pharmacy and a few outdoor day trips to experience the surrounding sights, my days were spent going through social  media (too much) and writing (too little). Nights included watching a movie or two although, quite frankly, after you’ve seen one Bruce Willis movie you’ve seen them all. Most of the new blockbusters were more like lacklusters.

My work-at-home son has been doing most of the cooking and we’ve had our share of sandwiches, pizza, and even a little fast food. The hardest food decision has been what to eat. Yet, we survived.

Kentucky has been very cautious with its coronavirus response. While never issuing a strict, enforced stay at home order, the governor did limit travel — especially from out of state. Rolling roadblocks from the north to south (Louisville area and especially Tennessee with its close proximity to Nashville — both hot spots) were implemented. Motorists were ordered to quarantine for 14 days.

Giving in to national re-open plans, the governor reluctantly gave the go ahead for restaurants to open for dine in service with strict rules — limited service, masks, social distancing, outside whenever possible. Last Friday was Day 1.

It took us two days to take advantage of that newfound freedom. We went to Texas Roadhouse Sunday.

It felt good breathing fresh air. It felt good sitting down to a prepared meal. I chose the Parmesan crusted chicken while Joe opted for a sirloin. Ironically, we chose the restaurant because we were hankering for ribs. Go figure.

It was a different experience. Every other booth was cordoned off. The tables in the aisle were well spaced throughout the L-shaped dining room. The bar was closed. There was a sign in the lobby asking people not to congregate, but rather wait outside. The hostess greeted guests through a mask, asked for their name, party size, and cell number, then called when the table was ready. The table was sanitized just before we sat down. And yet, even though restricted to 33 percent capacity, the place was full. There appeared not to be an overrun for inside  dining, but a steady flow of customers out to enjoy a mid-Memorial Day Weekend afternoon out. There were couples, friends, families, young, and old. Everyone seemed to have a smile between bites.

And now, with the quarantine restrictions lifted, I’ve chosen to visit my youngest son and family in South Carolina for a long weekend. I’m on my way there now, breaking up the 10-plus hour trip with an overnight stop i Asheville, NC. I’ll head back to Kentucky — with an overnight stay in Asheville again — early next week. The pup has a date with the groomer.

The freedom feels good. I’m not one to be hemmed in. I am happiest when I travel and, Lord knows, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling over the past eight months. It’s time to explore again.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: A man identifying himself as a Christian wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper and complained it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. “I’ve gone for 30 years now,” he wrote, “and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me I can’t remember a single one of them. So I think I’m wasting my time … and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all.” This started a real controversy in the Letters to the Editor section, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher: “I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But for the life of me, I cannot recall what the menu was for a single one of those meals. I do know this: they all nourished me and gave me strength. If my wife had not given me those meals, I would be dead today.” That pretty much ended the discussion.

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Almost Normal Midweek Mirth

One of the misconceptions about being a Christian is non-Christians think we don’t know how to have fun or have a sense of humor. Trust me, if the Big Guy can have a sense of humor when it comes to dealing with us mere mortals, so can we.

The difference for Christians is we don’t have to debase ourselves or others to generate a smile. Laughter at life or ourselves is a gift from God.

We’ll start this week’s edition of Midweek Mirth by remembering a time not so very long ago in what seems like a different galaxy when teachers (real teachers) ruled the classroom. Here it is … so let’s smile a little!

Our Country
The teacher was explaining to her second grade class the significance of Memorial Day, and they were preparing some songs and stories to put on a little show for their parents. At one point the teacher pointed to the American flag and asked, “Does anyone know what flag this is?”

A little girl called out, “That’s the flag of our country!”

“Very good!” the teacher said. “And what is the name of our country?”

Confidently, the girl said, “Tis of thee.”

And now for the churchy-virus bonus …

Church Signs

Services canceled. God is making house calls.

Shout Hosanna! But first, step back six feet

Cleanse your hands” (James 4:8).

Wash yourselves and be clean! (Isaiah 1:16).

The Church isn’t closed, it’s deployed!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine. — Lord Byron

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When Words Get in the Way

I had planned to post a review today. I can’t. After plugging through the book, there just wasn’t much positive I could say. I realize how important reviews are, and I didn’t want to saddle the book with a low star rating.

I know that’s harsh. I know the author will bleed real tears.

I still believe every one of us has a story to tell, either fact or fiction. And so I applaud the author for taking the risk and baring her soul. However, it needs so much work to make it not only plausible, but readable as well. So, instead of a review, I thought I would review some of the basic writing tools we have been talking about.

As a disclaimer, this book is a fantasy, replete with dragons, courts, and feudal land. It’s not my genre of choice.

The plot was reasonable. Our protagonist, a pacifist prince, goes with his father, the king, on a dragon hunt ten days to the north of the kingdom. The prince and his love interest go back after  the kill and discover the dragon’s egg. They decide to wrap it in his pack and return home. From there, the prince takes the egg to a sandy cave near the beach where he and the princess tend to it as it hatches fro a tiny dragon and doubling size almost daily in the cave before they set it free. Meanwhile, back at the castle, an evil lord and antagonist plots to frame the prince for the murder of the king. When the prince runs away and his younger, more easily influenced brother assumes the crown, the plot thickens leading to a five year quest of self-awareness that introduces integral characters and adventures, culminating in a battle scene that rightfully returns the crown to the proper son. Of course, our dragon plays a key role. Love triumphs.

It sounds like a good premise but sometimes, even with a good premise, the words just get in the way.

The first thing that struck me was sentence structure. It sounded more like a writer who wrote with English as their second language. The sentences were convoluted, sometimes more literal than they needed to be, sometimes with interjections that were not needed, sometimes with gaps missing key information.

Next was the editing. There were serious lapses — spelling, punctuation, flow, continuity. The author maintained it was edited by a screenplay writer (perhaps part of the problem) and another author friend. I cannot emphasize this enough. No manuscript should ever be published without the assistance of a qualified editor or, at the very least, an extensive, more than one person beta read — family and friends excluded.

The dialogue often seemed contrived. I wasn’t sure if the characters were speaking as royalty or ruffians. Sometimes the conversations volleyed between the two, especially when the “my lords” were mixed with “holy crap” or “skedaddle” or “asshole” just seemingly out of the blue. As we’ve discussed before, dialogue is essential in moving a story forward. It can provide information, be a tool to set context, or bring characters alive. Unfortunately, I didn’t see much of that in this novel. That’s not to say there weren’t flashes of good conversation … just not enough overall.

Finally, let’s talk about sex. There was a moment when the prince and neighboring princess shared the night together. But it was filled with allusions, unlike a scene when our prince walked in on his younger brother’s latest tryst. While not graphic, you knew exactly what was going on. If you’re going to write about sex — or any other topic — write about it. The words don’t have to be erotic or graphic, but they do have to be spelled out. You want the reader to feel the emotion, not guess.

I do hope the author reads this constructively. I’m not trying to douse the fire in a writer’s soul; I’m trying to ignite it. Look at the story through new eyes. Rewrite it if necessary. Republish it if necessary.

This was a classic example of everything wrong with independent publishing. And that’s too bad. Words sometimes can get in the way.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Why creep when you can walk? Why walk when you can run? Why trot on the ground like a hen when you can soar in the sky like an eagle? Why be missing in the crowd when you can stand out and be counted? Why let your voice be swallowed by other voices when you can shout above those voices and be heard? Why sink in water when you can swim to safety?

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Courage Is …

Walk the Talk is a book by Eric Harvey and Steve Ventura, edited by Michelle Sedas. Walking the talk — and translating beliefs into behaviors — is the very essence of character and integrity for both individuals and organizations. I thought I would share some example of what courage is as this installment of the Words. for the Week.

Courage Is …

… Following your conscience instead of “following the crowd.”

… Refusing to take part in hurtful or disrespectful behaviors.

… Sacrificing personal gain for the benefit of others.

… Speaking your mind even though others don’t agree.

… Taking complete responsibility for your actions — and your mistakes.

… Following the rules — and insisting that others do the same.

… Challenging the status quo in search of better ways.

… Doing what you know is right — regardless of the risks and potential consequences.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Do you see possibilities or do you see impossibilities as you move around during the day? Surely, you will see possibilities. You will also see impossibilities. But do not focus on the impossibilities! Focus on the possibilities.

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A Temporary Residence

But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:7 NIV)

As a newlywed, life held great promise. I was young, hopeful, and eager to begin a new adventure with my handsome new husband. I had left behind my home, my family, and even my birth country to follow after the man I loved. I expected a fairly easy transition to life in my new home; after all, English was the dominant language, the cuisine was familiar, and the culture seemed similar to that of the United States.

However, after a while I noticed some unsettling differences. I was forced to follow the metric system, which I studied in school but always struggled to understand. Some of the rules of etiquette were different from what I learned as a child. I thought I spoke the same language as my neighbors but had no idea what a “chesterfield,” “serviette,” or “double-double” was. I quickly began to feel like the foreigner that I was.

Psalm 39 conveys a greater sense of alienation with the world at large than I felt living in a specific foreign country. This psalm not only expresses frustration with the world’s sin but also emphasizes an important truth: That those who belong to this world will never truly “fit in” with heaven. The opposite is also true: Genuine citizens of heaven will never feel entirely at home in this world, although they must live in it for a time.

When the world discourages you, remember: This is not your home.

Hurd is an ordained minister, pastor’s wife, and mother of four. She has a deep love for rural America and is passionate about its potential for spiritual growth. Wesleyan Publishing House is a leader in communicating the message of holiness around the world. It’s resources are relevant for communicating God’s unchanging message in today’s world — inspired by offering genuine truths that are reliable and Bible-based; practical by providing real answers to real-life needs; and life-changing by challenging individuals to be transformed through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Whether you’re a pastor, a teacher, a congregational leader, or an individual — Wesleyan Publishing House is committed to providing you with excellent service and resources to meet your unique needs. Some of its resources will help address a specific challenge, others may inspire you to try something new, but most of all — it can help you find a resource that will speak to you and increase your passion for living as a fully-devoted follower of Jesus!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Opportunities are not stagnant. Opportunities are on the move. If you do not seize them, they will fly off. If you do not open your eyes, you will not see them. If you are not smart, they will slip through your fingers. Seize them then before they disappear!

 

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Thoughts and Prayers …

As we build this community prayer platform, we ask the Lord to listen to our petitions with full confidence they not only are heard but acted upon by God according to His holy will. These requests are on my prayer list and I hope you consider putting them on yours as you place your petitions before the Lord Sunday.

Our world is currently being battered and torn with the coronavirus pandemic. But we know Christ defeats all evil – illness, death, and even Satan himself.

Approach the throne room and respond with faith and not fear, knowing the promises of God and His mighty hand will hold us through any situation! Sometimes, all it takes is just one prayer to change everything. Something extraordinary happens when two or more agree together in prayer.

What is one of the most important things we should do as Christians? Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18).

And, so, Lord, we come to You with our petitions, knowing and expecting Your will to be done.

Thoughts and prayers to all worldwide suffering from the consequences of coronavirus flu – and all other strains. Many – many – of the prayer requests are covid-19 related … people diagnosed … people sick … people dying … relatives worried and isolated. We are in this together – in prayer!

Please keep the victims of household abuse in your prayers. Whether it be physical, emotional, sexual or neglect, this time in particular is very horrifying for them to be trapped in a house with their abuser(s) and not being able to escape.

Floyd is getting ready for open heart surgery. Prayers requested.

Michelle is in the middle of a critical surgical procedure and needs to be lifted up.

Alden was diagnosed with liver cancer. Pray for him.

Shawnda, 13, was hit by a truck while riding her bicycle and has yet to wake up. Prayers needed.

Cindy has a blood clot in her lung and pneumonia. Prayers requested.

Josette was hit by a car. She has no broken bones but is left swollen. Thank you for your prayers in Jesus’ name.

Sherrylyne’s husband left her after 38 years of marriage for another woman. They have six adult children and two grandchildren. Please keep the family in your prayers.

Anna will be taking her real estate license for the second time next week. She asks we pray for the Lord’s favor in helping her pass.

Della has infections in both of her legs. Please pray.

Catrice  is having a biopsy on her thyroid. Please pray.

Allen was involved in a motorcycle accident this afternoon. Please send prayers for a quick recovery.

Don suffered a stroke and has a brain bleed. Prayers needed.

Audrey has been diagnosed with scoliosis and PTSD. She needs prayer.

Scott has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Lift him up.

Lee was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. Prayers requested.

Erica suffered a lot of abuse in her life which produced trauma and PTSD. She is at a point where I no longer believe God cares. Please pray for her.

Misty has lupus , sjogrens syndrome, endometriosis adenomyosis, sciatica, scoliosis, diverticulitis, GERD, pleurisy, severe TMJ, nerve damage, headaches, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and insomnia. She has been  sick for two months straight with rashes on her face. Please Lord, help her.

Jodi lost her home this past week and asks for prayers to find a new home and start a new chapter in their lives.

Four year old Rocco has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. He’s an only child . Pray for him and his parents.

Catharina  has a pain on the left side of her neck that hurts every time she moves it or swallows. Please pray for her.

Andrew continues to struggle. He had a few very bad, dark nights this week, but continues to battle through prayer – and a sense of humor.

There were a host of unspoken prayer requests and we heard of a number of deaths this week. Prayers for their families as they go through this earthly trial. We grieve … heaven rejoices.

We come to You, Lord, because prayer is the least yet the greatest thing we can do for each other. When two or more are gathered in Your name, we confidently know You are with us. What better company can we have? You reign and we trust You! We may be broken and battered but know You heal and quiet the soul. You are the source for all that happens in our lives. We thank You for the progress being made. We thank You for the many blessings we have received this week. Some we unfortunately didn’t notice. Nonetheless, those blessings are ever-present in our lives. We thank You for healing. We thank You for slowing us down. We thank You for providing us our daily needs — no more and no less. We thank You for being with us, listening to us, walking with us on this journey. We thank You for the support of our family and friends … for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary — sunrises, sunsets, flowers, kids laughing, adventures, good news amid the bad news. We know we can come to You with our concerns and they will be heard. Through Christ all things are possible. We lift up those family members and friends who are battling various physical, emotional, financial, career or spiritual issues and ask not for Your guidance and healing (although that would be welcomed) but to keep reminding us we are not alone in our battles. Specifically we lift up Floyd, Michelle, Alden, Shawnda, Cindy, Josette, Sherrylyne, Anna, Della, Catrice, Allen, Don, Audry, Scott, Lee, Erica, Misty, Jodi, Rocco, Catharina, Andrew, and all those needing Your healing and guiding touch. We pray for the families of all those You have called home. We grieve … You celebrate. We pray for obedience to Your Will so Your “Son” Light shines through us through the power of the Spirit. And we come to You through the confidence of the words taught by Your Son Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Keep your joys and concerns coming. They have been and will be included during my prayer time and I trust they will be on your lips as well as you approach the altar. All it takes is a couple of keystrokes under the “Contact Me” button on the top bar {or to the right if you’re not a follower yet}. I hope it becomes your best friend as you navigate around the site so we can all be viable prayer warriors. You can also comment or reach me at wisdomfromafather@gmail.com.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Pray as you can, not as you can’t. – Dom Chapman

 

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Five Minute Friday — Forward

Open mouth, insert prompt.

Prior to Thursday night’s Twitter Party, Kate asked for some prompt suggestions. She received a lot of quality thoughts — Reunited, Remember, Transition, Perseverance, Resilience, Privilege, Paradox, Persistent, Perception, Obfuscate, Cry, Lament, Unity, Awaken, Brilliance, Drive-by, Rewards, even Ascend since Thursday was Ascension Day. I suggested FORWARD. Silly girl chose mine for this week’s prompt.

So, upfront to my fellow FMF writing friends, sorry. I know you will work wonders with the word and can’t wait to read them. And don’t be surprised if some of the other suggestions make the list in weeks to come.

You know the drill. It’s Friday {or sometimes Saturday or later}, we receive a prompt, we write, we post, we share. And it all comes down on the Community Page at Five Minute Friday’s place on Facebook at  fiveminutefriday.com. I’ve told you before … you should check it out. Better yet, you should join in.

I  also try to share the value of the exercise from other writers. Miranda gave this view in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat, compiled by Susan Shipe. “The five minute Friday community has been a HUGE blessing to me. As a new blogger who is going through a very difficult time in her life, it is nice to have a group of bloggers who stand and encourage me through this blogging journey. We all have each other’s back and [are] each other’s biggest cheerleaders.”

There you have it. Listen to Miranda.

I guess it’s time to get started. The timer has been set so we’ll put the pedal to the metal as we move FORWARD

When I was learning to drive — no, it wasn’t in the Flintstones car — my Dad taught me a life lesson. I didn’t understand it as a teachable moment at the time, but 20/55 year hindsight is a valuable teacher. He simply said, it you want to go forward, put the car in first gear. If you want to go back, put it in reverse. If you just want to roll with the road, leave it in neutral.

Now I was too busy at the time trying to sync the gas and clutch on the ’53 Plymouth, worrying about the gears on the tree, and keeping the ton and a half tank in a straight line to let that sink in. But, after all these years, it has become a guiding principle in my life.

I mastered the techniques quickly and, fortunately, took my road test in Mom’s automatic ’62 Chevy. Much easier to maneuver with power steering and automatic transmission despite being about 500 pounds heavier.

The depth of Dad’s words started to settle in as I matured (?). You have to look forward if you want to move. You have to get your foot off the brake, shift gears and roll forward. You will never get to your destination any other way.

You can’t look back. That’s where you were. In fact, back then … STOP

Dad told me the only time to look back was when I found a parking space. I added another one over the years. Check the rear view mirror periodically to make sure there aren’t any red lights following you … but continue driving forward.

The neutral reference didn’t immediately resonate, but you know, he was spot on. The imperfections in the roadway and your vehicle will sway you if you’re just rolling along — downhill, to the right or left, an abrupt stop if you hit the curb.

That was a life lesson in addition to a driving lesson. You have to know where you’re going and drive forward toward the goal. You’ll never get there looking back. You’ll never be in control rolling in neutral.

That’s a faith lesson as well. You have to move forward toward the ultimate destination — heaven — unencumbered by where and who you’ve been; and definitely not coasting by in neutral.

Drive forward.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Change your attitude and change your life.

 

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