Final Apology

So many time, in so many ways, I’ve apologized for having so many long gaps of time between writings. Each time I’ve tried to change, it has ended in failure. Of course, there’s always the possibility that I will change. I’m working on it again.

I’m working on changing many things in my life right now. And I’m actually being fairly aggressive about it. I’ve been writing on the regular for a couple months now. I mean writing things other than journal. Like actual, “real” writing. “They” say it takes twenty-one days to form a habit, and ninety days to turn it into a lifestyle. I’m about two thirds of the way to a lifestyle as a writer, and I’m enjoying it.

In the past I’ve allowed things to get in my way. This time I’m not. I’m seriously striving to create a lifestyle as a writer.

I had two stories published in an Anthology last year. The stories, Talitha, (my favorite), and Paulie, (good, but not as good as Talitha as far as I’m concerned), are in “Reasons For Hope: Speculative Fiction and Poetry” by The Writing Journey and edited by Tim Yao. It’s available on Amazon if you want to buy it. (Shameless plug!!) There are many good stories by many good writers. But when I saw my name in print, I knew I wanted more. Yet still I just dabbled.

In June of this year, in the midst of the hubbub of the busiest month at my j.o.b. I saw a facebook meme. I wish I could remember exactly what it said, because it’s changing my life. It had to do with focus, something I’ve struggled with for my entire life. It stressed that you have one thing that you are meant for, and you need to focus on that one thing. I believe, however, that there can be subsets, so to speak. Or, to put it another way, I hedged. I have more than one thing.

There will always be Jesus. He is my One and Only. And in spite of another near miss of a mission trip to Kenya, I still believe that I shall be a missionary in my future. But I also know that I AM a writer! Not, want to be, or will be in the future, but I AM a writer.

So, I have renewed my focus. I have a flash fiction piece and a novelette submitted to publishing houses for inclusion in anthologies. I’m hoping to hear something soon. I’ve also been involved in research to FINALLY continue my Ephesians study. And I’m looking forward to November and NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. I intend to finish my novel by the end of November, if not sooner.

Most of my off time, now, is spent writing or researching. I’ve looked up more stuff on Google in the last month than in the last two years combined. I’ve wondered what people would think if they looked a the history of Google searches by a writer, especially a mystery or horror writer’s history. 🙂

All this is to say that I will not be apologizing again. I’ll either stay focused, and write, or I won’t. You will either get new content, or you won’t. Also, soon, you will be able to read more from me on Distractifying.com. (As soon as I figure out how to get it up and running.) I’ll post something here when it launches. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I get distracted easily. Distractifying will be a way to use those distractions to continue writing. I look forward to turning it all into production.

Thank you for supporting me and not giving up as I’ve gone through so many changes, yet stayed the same. Here’s to enjoying the next months and years of shared words!

What If…?

What’d y’all think of my story? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my previous post Catch the Chariot. So – not bad for a second effort, right? I enjoyed writing it, so I hope you enjoyed reading it. Be looking for more in the months ahead.

As I looked at the story, though, I thought about how typical it is of missional journeys, having to run to catch up with a lost world moving too fast into oblivion. Philip was able to get there, catch up, make the connection, but he had to expend a LOT of energy to do so. Yes, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Yes, he probably had supernatural help getting there, just as he did when it was time to leave the Ethiopian. (Read it for yourself at Acts 8:39-40. I didn’t write about that part of the story). But what if…?

What if Philip had a horse of his own? What if Peter, Paul, Silas, Barnabus, Timothy, and all the other missionaries  of the 1st century had vehicles, or modes of transportation appropriate to their terrain, to help them travel along the way? To help them Speed the Light? Imagine how many more people could have been reached if days, weeks or even months had not been needed to travel from place to place. Imagine how far and wide the Word could have spread with appropriate transportation.

And that is the whole point behind the Speed the Light program. It’s a program that teaches and encourages students, 6th through 12th grade, to be missions minded. The money raised by students and donated to Speed the Light pays for vehicles for missionaries in the U.S. and around the world.

Above I used the words, “appropriate transportation.” That’s because not everyone needs a car. When I was in Tanzania we visited many fishing villages along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. We never would have gotten there if Joy in the Harvest, the mission we worked with, had not had a boat. These villages could only be reached by boat. There were no roads. And so, there are some places that can only be reached by plane, and others by dirt bike, or even bicycle. There are places where the “road” is not more than a path through terrain that we who live in the concrete jungle would never understand.

So if you see a student fundraising, and they say it’s for Speed the Light, think about Philip trying to Catch the Chariot, think of the villages of Tanzania that were visited by the boat from Joy in the Harvest, think of all the missional possibilities and help out.

Catch the Chariot

Ok, here it is, finally, my second story submitted to the Faith Writers weekly contest. This one scored a “Highly Commended.” It’s been strange, working at my writing. I don’t think I’ve ever made so many changes to anything I’ve written. I am beginning to look at it as a craft. I look forward to crafting more for you all in the future. Enjoy!

The room was full, the buzz, incredible, the excitement, palpable. Peter and John moved from one to another, quickly praying, laying on hands, then rejoicing as another believer poured forth his love for the Son with expressions understood only by God. It was as it had been for them on the day of Pentecost when Holy Spirit first came, praise, worship, pure love spilling from their mouths in a Heavenly language.

Philip watched from the wall. He arrived at this place from Jerusalem in fear, fear for his life, for being a follower of the Way, fear of the people here because of the stories he’d heard. These were the dreaded Samaritans, those who had allowed themselves to be corrupted, those whose worship was no longer True. But arriving here, running for his life from the persecution, he found them to be kind, loving, and real, different from those who followed the Sanhedrin, the ones who killed Jesus, Stephen, and so many others. Solace was found with the ones he had been taught to fear, and fear came from those who were meant to give solace.

He watched with joy as more Samaritans were filled with Holy Spirit, pouring out adoration to God in their new language of love. Suddenly a voice said, “Leave this place and go to a land that I will show you.” He shook his head, digging a finger in his ear, thinking there must have been a fly buzzing. Again the voice said, “Leave this place. Go to a land that I will show you.” There must be a mistake. Those were words spoken to Abraham, father of a great nation. But the voice came again, softer, gentler, yet compelling, “Just start walking, My friend. I will show you the way to go.”

Philip picked up his pack, walked to Peter in the middle of the room, saying, “Hey, Pete, I gotta go. I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve got something I have to do.”

Peter, still in the throes of excitement for the Samaritans receiving Holy Spirit, gave a wave of dismissal, “Yeah, sure. See ya later.”

Philip walked out the door into brilliant sunlight, the voice saying, “Go south to the road, the desert road, that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” And so he did. He walked the dry, dusty path that served as a road, twisting and turning through the desert, sun beating down, the breeze gently wafting all traces of moisture from his skin. In the distance, dust arose from the wheels of a chariot, also headed south. The voice buzzed in Philip’s ear, “Go over and join this chariot.”

“You want me to WHAT? How am I supposed to catch up with a chariot that far ahead of me? Do you have any idea how fast a horse runs?”

“Just do it. Trust.”

So he ran. In spite of the heat, in spite of the condition of the rutted path, in spite of everything, he ran. A trail shot off to his right. His ear buzzed, “This is the way. Run in it.” Veering off the path, the trail dipped into a long-dried river bed, and rose again, depositing Philip just yards behind the chariot.

Philip could see the occupant, seated, reading from a scroll. As he approached, he heard the words, “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”

“Hey,” called Philip, “I said HEY. Slow up a bit, would ya? Do you have any idea what you’re reading?”

The large, dark skinned man in the chariot signaled to his driver to stop. Philip, panting, hands on knees, catching his breath, twisted his head up, looking at the man, obviously Ethiopian. The man scanned Philip for a moment, taking in the dust covered tunic, the dirt streaked face, and the feet, the beautiful feet of this man who seemed to appear out of nowhere, running and actually catching his horse drawn chariot. “How can I understand if no one explains it?” was his reply, “Come, join me on the journey. We will talk.”

And so it was that Philip led the Ethiopian to Jesus and the salvation He provides. What came after that is a tale for another day, but suffice it to say, the continent of Africa would never be the same again. The director of accounting for the great Queen Candace of Ethiopia saw to that.

Tanzania to Texas – Part 2

So now we’ve fast forwarded 5 years, and I’m getting ready to head to Tanzania for my own trip. Steve, the leader of the trip is the same guy who lead the team when Scott went. And Steve is just full of stories about his past trips to Tanzania, especially the trip with Scott.

If you’ve never been out of the country, it can be quite an experience. We, here in the U. S. really have NO idea how good we really have it. We can say we get it, but until we actually see how most of the rest of the world lives, we really don’t get it. In fact, here’s a rabbit trail for you to follow. There’s a website called globalrichlist.com Check them out. You enter your annual income and they tell you what percentile you are in the richest people in the WORLD! Pastor Scott, (yes, they same Pastor Scott who was talking right to me that first Saturday night service), used this website in one of his sermons. It’s really quite an eye opener. I’ve popped in to the site off and on over the last several years, seeing how I’ve progressed up the ladder of economic success. I haven’t done it for a couple of years, now, and this trip was humbling to say the least. I and my co-workers will quite often complain about our salary at the job we do, and for the job we do, in the environment we do it, in this country, compared to comparable jobs in other locations, in this country, we really are underpaid, BUT… When I plugged in my salary from last year, (though I did work some substantial overtime hours), I came out being in the top 1/2 percent of the richest people in the world! There are LESS THAN 30,000,000 people richer than me, IN THE WHOLE WORLD! I have NO right to complain about ANYTHING!

Okay, back to the experience of being out of the country. When you go on a trip to a place where most of the people make only about a dollar a day, (YES, I typed that correctly – just one dollar per day!), it can be a bit overwhelming. Everything you see and do is a new experience. And according to Steve, with every new experience, Scott would rub his hand over his crew cut hair and exclaim, “I can’t believe I’m in Africa, man!” Everywhere they went, everything they did, every new thing they saw, “I can’t believe I’m in Africa, man!”

Well! With the relationship I’d had with Scott for several years, now, and Steve being an excellent videographer, we really couldn’t help ourselves. Since I usually wear my hair fairly short anyway, I had gotten it cut extra short for the trip to make care easier while we were there. I was a natural! We filmed clips of me imitating Scott in all sorts of different situations! It was quite a lot of fun, and even more fun when we got home and played the clip for him. (I’m sorry, even though I’m richer than 99.5 % of the world, I’m not rich enough to pay for video privileges on my blog!) 6248_1169738771136_5375091_n But here is a still photo of me doing one of the clips, sans head rub. You can probably tell that the kids of Kiziba village have NO CLUE what I’m saying or why I’m saying it, but they are very curious about this muzungu (white – I think I have the spelling right) woman and what she’s doing.

And all this story, now, earlier than planned because Scott came to my work last week and dropped a bomb on me. It’s nothing truly devastating. In the overall scheme of things it’s really no big deal. But it broke my heart. He and his wife are moving away. Yes, to Texas, how’d you guess!? It’s not like we have really stayed all that close. We don’t hang out anymore, since I quit going to the bar. (Yes, yet another story for yet another day!) I’ve moved on to a different church. But we are still family in the eyes of God. Scott and Marilyn are my brother and sister in Christ. They were there for me during a really tough period in my life, and got me through A LOT! It just hurts to know that they won’t be just up the road anymore.

Scott, Marilyn, you have been great friends. I know you will continue to be, though from a distance. I will miss your presence very much. Love ya!

Tanzania to Texas – Part 1

Sorry it’s been longer than I’d planned between writings. I was studying for my final. But I’m back now. And I had said in an earlier post that I’d tell you the “I’m in Africa, man,” story later. I had thought it would be later than this, but something’s come up and I think now would be an appropriate time.

It all started in the Spring of 2004. (WOW! just realized it’s been 10 years! What a long, strange trip it’s been!) I was sitting at the bar when a friend, Scott, came in and started talking about going on a trip to Africa. He was in a quandary because they told him he needed to fund raise 1/3 of the cost of the trip. He said he could afford the whole amount on his own and felt bad asking people for money to pay for his “vacation.” “How do I do it, anyway?” he asked me.

I had just completed a fund raising effort for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, so I told him, “Make yourself up a letter and talk to EVERYONE you meet about what you’re doing. You never know when someone may slide a five down the bar and say, here, take this with you.” As I said it, I actually did slide a five down the bar to him. He laughed and said, “Yeah, I get it,” as he slid the five back to me. “But Scott, you never know when someone may slide a five down the bar to you and say ‘Here, take this with you.'” Again, he said, “Yeah, I get it,” as he slid it back to me. “NO, SCOTT, you never know when someone will slide a five down the bar and say “HERE TAKE THIS WITH YOU!”” He finally got the message and took my $5.

When he got home, I was the only one at the bar who wanted to know about what he really did while he was in Tanzania. Each time he tried to tell me, we’d get interrupted by someone asking if he saw elephants or monkeys. This went on for a few weeks and was getting quite annoying. (I did, however, get the story of how my $5 paid for a “female operation” for one of the women in the area. Yes, that’s right, just $5 paid for the entire procedure!) Finally, one day, Scott came in and as we were having the conversation, or the attempt at conversation, he told me that his church was having a free spaghetti dinner that Saturday and he was going to talk about his trip. I refused because I didn’t do church. There was no way he was getting me in those doors. We’d get around, eventually, to getting the story out at the bar. We tried again, and just as he was getting into it, someone ELSE came and asked about elephants and monkeys. I gave in. After all, it was just dinner and his story, uninterrupted, right!?!

So, Saturday I went to his house and got in the car with him and his wife, and off we went. It felt REALLY strange walking in to this place. But, there was no major earthquake and fire didn’t burst forth from the bowels of the earth as I entered. It was just like walking into any other building. But! Once we were there, once I was trapped with no way to escape, he dropped the other shoe – right on my head! “Oh, by the way, we have a Saturday night service and Pastor Scott is going to speak first.” Many unkind words, sprinkled liberally with expletives swirled in my head, but I was inside a church (semi-voluntarily for the first time in 40 years) so I couldn’t say any of them. I’m sure the look I gave Scott told him what I was thinking!

There I was, in the sanctuary of a church, sitting through a church service that I had no desire to sit through. And then it happened, just as Scott said it would, even though more expletives swirled through my head when he said it. “Don’t worry, Pastor Scott is really cool and you’re going to think he’s talking right to you.” And so he was. He was talking to me and he was making direct eye contact and his words were shooting into me and straight into my heart. And the tears started flowing, and my heart was breaking. To this day I could not tell you what he was actually talking about, but I know it was meant just for me. And afterward, we ate and Scott talked about Tanzania, and people and names and faces spun around me and it was all a big whirlwind.

All I really knew after that was that I had to go back there again. And I really didn’t know how I was going to do it, because there was NO WAY I wanted my family knowing that I was going to church! But there was no way I could stop myself from going. It would be over 5 years before I missed a Sunday from that first time. You might even say that I went religiously! (Sorry, it was there, I had to use it.) And I learned and I grew in my relationship with the LORD.