To The Wild Rose Press!! That’s right, the publisher of What the River Knows has elected to take on further editing, cover and marketing of More Than a Point of Honor. So for a while, if you look for it on Amazon, you won’t find it. Hopefully, the process will move quickly, and you can get the “new and improved” version soon. In publishing terms, though, that probably means a year or so. They did such a fantastic job with River, though, that the wait will be worth it! I’ll be working with my wonderful previous editor, and with luck, might get my same cover artist. At any rate, The Wild Rose Press is fantastic to work with, personal and business-like at the same time.
The recent headlines about the tensions in North Korea reminded me that similar headlines appeared when I was writing The Judas Seat. For a while, I wondered if life imitated art instead of the other way around. Still, the situation regarding North Korea is delicate. A comment taken wrong, misreading a tweet, misinterpreting an action: these could lead to Armageddon. Or we could stay in the uneasy balance we have lived with for many years. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to tell the ones you care about that you love them. Just in case.
The Best Gift of All
Think about the most stupendous Christmas gift you have received in the past. Was it those adjustable roller skates that clamped to your shoes? Shiny new bicycle? Hair accessories and crimper from the 80’s? Brand new, curved, 3-D, 70” TV? Maybe something more substantial, like an engagement ring or a cruise?
Great as these gifts are, none of them will last. The skates will rust, the bicycle will lose its shine. Let’s not talk about the fashion choices of the 80’s. The TV will become obsolete, probably in less than a year. The cruise will turn to only memories. Even the engagement ring will go through hard times when it doesn’t feel so sparkly. The only gift that will truly last is the very first Christmas gift.
Jesus Christ really was a gift. Sent by His Father to be a sacrifice for the sins already committed by the world and those sins yet to come, Christ came not by command, but of His own free will, by request. What parent could offer his or her child for betrayal and torture by people who didn’t care? Yet God loved us enough to allow His Child to volunteer (not my will, but thine) for this, to create a way for us to be reconciled to God. And because Christ lived as a human, He intercedes for us with God, fully understanding how fragile and foolish we can be.
This gift never rusts, never becomes obsolete, never goes out of fashion, never loses its sparkle. He will never leave us, never betray us, always love us. Accepting that personal relationship, that friendship, with Jesus gives us life eternal, in a place with no more tears, no suffering, no pain. What greater gift could there be?
I thought I had uploaded all my old blog posts to my website, but apparently I got (squirrel! No, wait, it’s a cat. Oh, look, a butterfly.) distracted. Here is one of my favorites, posting tonight for a friend. I hope it helps.
“Jesus wept.” The shortest sentence in the Bible is perhaps the most telling. Before the tomb of Lazarus, His beloved friend, whose fellowship He missed, in the face of the grief of Lazarus’ sisters and other friends, looking into the hopeful eyes of the sisters whose faith also reproached Him (“Lord,” Martha said, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:21, NIV), Jesus faced a choice, a turning point in His ministry. He knew, from having lived there from the beginning, what joy Lazarus now felt in heaven, at the right hand of God. He also knew, being fully human, the depth of the pain His friends who remained on earth felt at their loss. He knew, then, how deeply those He left behind on the cross would mourn Him.
Yet, it was ordained also from the beginning that through Jesus, God would show that He had the ultimate power over life and death, that both were parts of the realm He created. In summoning Lazarus forth from the tomb, Jesus foretold that death was no longer the end, that those who believe would have life everlasting.
This came home to me with aching clarity today, as I continued to mourn the loss of my fiancé, my lover, my partner, my mentor, my playmate, my pastor, my traveling companion, my sounding board, my best friend—in short, the mirror that reflected everything that represented the best part of me. I don’t begrudge him the place he is now. The events of the past month—earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, genocide, abuse, murder—all would have grieved him to the depths of his soul. He said he was weary of the sorrows of this world, so was ready to go on. He was facing pain, suffering, the diminution of all that he was as a vital human being. Now he can chat with Einstein about the properties of time that so absorbed him, have tea with Lewis and Tolkien, listen to Rumi compose new poems, hear Sinatra live. He walks now with Jesus; who could want to take him away from that?
Still, I am faced with continuing, with picking up what’s left of me (our hearts had become so entangled that part of me went with him and part of him remained with me), traveling onward to find meaning in the metamorphosis I underwent during the long journey we shared in such a short span of time. In his own words, that now apply equally to me, “You have changed me. I’m headed to a different place. I will be something other than what I was going to be.” I feel that somehow he passed a charge on to me, changing me forever, and now I have to understand what to do with it. I can’t be the minister/philosopher that he was, because we come from different experiences, yet I can’t remain the person I was before him. So I read the words he wrote and the books he read, listen to stories about him, and reflect on my memories of him. In this way, he continues to teach me, if I am open to learn.
The other night, an unusually bright moon cast its reflected light over the earth. I noticed it as I took items for the next day out to my van. Because he had slowed me down and taught me to experience the NOW, I stopped to absorb the experience. I walked from under the obscuring trees to the end of the street. Clouds tried to blockade that brilliant orb from view, but they couldn’t form a cohesive enough mass to stop the glow. Instead the clouds formed a gauzy curtain that added to the scene with their inky centers and silvered edges. “Oh, honey,” I whispered, remembering his fascination with the phases of the moon, with the primordial rhythms of the earth. “Can you see this?” As I stood there, with the stop sign blocking the streetlight’s glare, the thought suddenly hit me. “What does this look like from your side?”
I have faith, albeit the size of a mustard seed, and I have prayed that God would strengthen it. So I asked God one night, “Lord, you have the power over life and death. You brought Lazarus back. How about now? Could I get a do-over, could we back up to where the doctor came out of ER and have him say ‘We relieved the pressure on his brain and he should recover fully,’ or ‘We’ve moved him to ICU, he’s conscious and you can see him now,’ anything except ‘he went into cardiac arrest and efforts to resuscitate were unsuccessful.’ Could you bring him back to me?” And yet, because of my faith, I acknowledged submission to His will. What I got was that Lazarus was a one-time deal, proof to those of us with imperfect faith that what He did for Jesus, He will do for us, too. And on that day, I’ll see my beloved again, and we’ll have eternity to explore the cosmos holding hands and taking joy in the being together. Until then, I have work yet to do. Lord, give me the wisdom to find it and the strength to complete it.
Guest blogging today on Wichita Area Romance Authors site. http://warawriters.weebly.com/blog
I’m guest blogging November 11 on my editor’s website: http://aliciadean.com/alicias-blog/ Every Tuesday, she posts a Two-Minute Writing Tip. With several books to her credit and a job as an editor for The Wild Rose Press, she gives some good advice. The interview will let you learn more about me, What the River Knows, and my writing process.
All systems are go for launch of What the River Knows on October 14. Validation of a dream I’ve cherished since I was 14 years old. For more information beyond what I have on this site, go to http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/ for the e-book or What the River Knows-paperback for the paperback. The e-book will download on October 14 and the print book will ship soon after. Here’s also a QR code for those of you who know how to use such things. You can also find it on Amazon and other sites
If you read the book and like it, please do me and the publisher a huge favor and leave a review. A lot of folks buy books based on what total strangers think of it. I know I buy them based on recommendations from friends or “buzz” I’ve hear.
Thanks to all of you who have supported and encouraged me on this journey. The next books starring Detective Scott Aylward is in planning stages right now. The working title is A Little Shame, such as when your mother used to admonish you when you had done something that probably embarrassed her (I’m using imagination here; I never did anything like that!) “A little shame is a good thing.”
Being a writer is a great job. Even when we are not BICHOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard), we are writing. No experience is ever wasted on a writer. Bussing tables, driving cattle, building skyscrapers, working in an office, driving a truck: writers can draw on any of these experiences to write to the heart of the matter.
When people call, writers have an automatic “get out of jail free” card. “I can’t go to the tea with Great Aunt Grenadine. I’m writing.” Writing also serves as an automatic door opener. “Of course, I need to talk to the President. I’m a writer.” The problem with this world-changing power is that it is so invisible and subtle that almost no one recognizes it.
Friends call up. “Whatchadoin’?”
“No, you’re not. You’re mowing your lawn.”
“I’m working out plot twists while calming my mind with physical activity.”
“Oh. You wanna work out more plot twists and mow my lawn?”
Or a neighbor walks by as you are sitting on your porch steps watching birds and trees.
“Hey, neighbor. Whatchadoin’?”
Why is that always just one word? “I’m writing.”
“No, you’re not. You’re goofing off sitting on your porch.”
“No, really, I’m observing birds in flight. It’s research for my current work in progress.”
“Oh, what’s it about?”
Think fast. “Kinda like Jonathan Livingston Seagull meets Dirty Harry.”
“Hmph.” He starts to wander off. “Sounds . . . interesting.”
“Yeah.” Guess I won’t count on him as a beta reader.
Or the boss calls. “What are you doing?” Why are they never casual?
“No, you’re not. You’re on the beach in Fort Lauderdale with your family.”
“On the beach?”
“Yeah. Observing the interactions of various species of shorebirds.”
“Yeah, gulls and terns. And how the white gulls sneak into the back of a flock of dark gulls.”
“Yeah. And I just spent twenty minutes observing the rhythm of the waves.”
“Yeah. They try to suck you out into the ocean. Very hypnotic.” Truly inspired, I share some of the fruit of my inspiration. “When the waves break over the shallow part of the beach, they make me think of a herd of school kids all trying to get through the door to the playground at the same time, each one of them wanting to be the first to get there.” Lost in my art, I don’t notice the long silence on the other end.
“I think you need another week. Don’t rush back to work.”
See? Being a writer is a great job.
The Wimpy Dog takes me places I would not go otherwise. On my own, I would not visit the Boston terrier across the open field. Nor would I venture around the lilac thicket that once surrounded a home in our city park. Now it is home to who knows what creatures that have made obvious paths and bedding places within it. I would not have discovered that the clumps of cedar in our park would be secure places to shelter in snow and wind. Of course, his travels to these places often make me nervous we’ll encounter wild kitties somewhat different from the ones we feed on the porch—those black and white striped ones! But so far, Bart’s all-seeking nose has not brought us into danger.
Further, after a recent walk outside our usual routes, downtown to pay bills, I suspect Wimpy Dog might not be so wimpy if danger did confront us. Though he crosses streets as if all cars want to be his best friend, when we came to an alley, he paused, sniffed and glanced around the corner of the building before crossing. Then his nose led him to a door at the bank. He went right up to the door, as if waiting for it to open. How did he know that my daughter-in-law went to work through that door two days before? Further down the street, he followed the same trail I had when I visited her that day. Yet he didn’t go up to any other doors as we traveled on down the street. The only door he showed interest in was a garage door that workers had apparently used that day. He ignored the restaurants and shops that had to be full of delightful scents.
It occurred to me that, as much as I make fun of how he wants to be babied, maybe he is not as wimpy as I think. Whether he would protect me from intruders I don’t know, but I do know that his deep loud bark and his huge size could make someone believe he would defend me. And that’s enough to earn his dog biscuits. Enjoy your snooze, buddy.
Easter morning the alarm yanked me from a comfortable sleep far too early. Deep darkness still pressed against all my windows. “Sunrise does not appear imminent,” I thought, as I stumbled across the room to shut off the insistent alarm. Sunrise had to be further away than an hour. The odd thought repeated itself in my head, like a chorus — Sunrise does not appear imminent. Why didn’t my mind simply say, “It’s still dark?”
I yawned and swayed between staying up and resetting the alarm. Trust in wisdom beyond mine (the wisdom of the pastors who had set the time for the sunrise service after consulting solar-lunar tables) held me up, and I set about waking my daughter and her friend, who had agreed to attend with me. We made coffee, and even stopped for cappuccino on the way to the island in the center of our county lake. Still, even though pale light now surrounded us, the thought came back — Sunrise does not appear imminent.
The service had already begun as we walked along the low causeway that allowed access to the island. Other people followed us. We joined the crowd, huddled close for both fellowship and warmth. I glanced at the treeline as the congregation, combined Methodists and Friends, sang and worshiped. A great blue heron rose majestically from the lake, while a trio of ducks dipped and rolled in an acrobatic show above us. A chorus of wildlife joined our hymn. Sunrise does not appear imminent.
As my pastor stepped to the podium to begin his sermon, rays of light broke through the low cloud bank that hovered just above the treeline. Like a fanfare of trumpets, these rays heralded the coming of the true dawn. Within seconds, as Don spoke of the risen Lord, a radiant sun, too bright to behold directly, rose to shine its light upon us.
Sonrise does not appear imminent! Suddenly, the message was as clear to me as the brilliant day. Sonrise does not appear imminent. As we go about our daily lives, absorbed in the many details of modern life, how many of us notice the heralds of the dawn? I know that most mornings I arise in the dark, then realize that while I went about my business, daylight has come without my taking note of it.
Will we treat the Christ the same way? Sonrise does not appear imminent. Do we listen for the trumpets? Do we watch for the heralds? Do we heed the wisdom of those who read the signs? Or do we arise in the dark, thinking, Sonrise does not appear imminent? Will we be suddenly faced with the presence of the radiant majesty of God, too bright to behold directly, and realize that a new day has come?
Sonrise does not appear imminent, but it may be closer than we think. Will we be ready?