Where I play with words. I can't promise it'll make sense.
|The headache started early yesterday afternoon. No big deal. I get them occasionally due to hormonal imbalances. Usually it’s a dull throb behind my eyes that doesn’t require medication.
Sometimes it worsens as the day goes on, and this was one of those days. Still not enough to make me get out of my chair to take some Excedrin, though. Then I watched our governor give a press conference closing all K-12 schools state-wide (public and private) for a week.
My son being twelve and my hubby self-employed, I don’t have to take time off from work to take care of him, or scramble to find either daycare or a babysitter. My heart does go out to those who do, though.
Still, my headache figuratively exploded and traveled up my skull and all the way down my neck. Even after taking two Excedrin, it refused to let go. My hormone-induced headache morphed into a tension headache. Oh, yippee.
I slept little, worrying over not so much what would happen to me or my family--or even my state as a whole other than more runs on grocery stores. I had hoped that this weekend would give people two days to calm down, reflect, and act a bit more rationally. Instead, I think people will continue to panic even more by stockpiling, cleaning out bank accounts, and pulling more money out of the stock market.
I may be wrong, and I sincerely hope I am, but never underestimate the irresistibly of survival instinct. The larger community matters little to the scared individual during those moments.
Which is why this morning I stood outside my house in one inch of snow and below-freezing temperatures to watch the sunrise (one of the benefits to hot flashes; I didn’t even shiver). Thick clouds covered the sky, but not enough to prevent all of the sun’s light from breaking through. Small birds chirped to announce the dawn, and while initially calm, a cold breeze soon wafted through, making the as yet bare trees wave at me. That I didn’t see the sun’s orange glow or the blue sky, the filtered gray light was still a reminder that regardless of what other people do, we can still count on the earth’s rotation, and the sun’s light and heat (yes, even in the winter however scant it may be) among many other constants we take for granted. For instance, we’re still in control of how to act or react to any given situation, no matter how trying.
Today (and possibly for the rest of the week), I resolve to not watch or listen to a single bit of news. I will avoid the incessant pessimism of both the news and social media in that we’re all doomed. Because we’re not. Historically we’ve weathered by far worse. We’ll get through this one, too, and hopefully we’ll march through to the other side a little bit wiser.
Some have said that it’s better to overreact to a situation than under-react. In the simplest terms, sure. The logic is still flawed, however, because those aren’t the only two options available. Maybe instead of knee-jerk overreacting, or pretending there’s no problem at all, we should stop and take time to study the facts through legitimate, scientific, and non-biased sources (which eliminates almost all news media). From there, we can rationally figure out the best course of action that doesn’t harm ourselves, others, and both the short and long term future.
While none of us can predict the future with certainty, we all have a hand in how it unfolds. As we pause, we must consider the consequences of our actions and how they will affect ourselves, our family, community, and our nation. Once we’ve formulated and pursue a logical plan of action, maybe then we can breathe a little easier. No more anxiety or fear, but with confidence and hope.
“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?... So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:27 & 34 (NLT)
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 1 Timothy 1:7 (NLT, emphasis mine)
|Either I’m not getting enough Sun, my hormones are completely whacked out, or it’s a combination of both, but I’m suffering from a severe case of apathy.
I’m not sad or depressed, but I can’t seem to find a reason to care about much of anything more than what I’m required to do for work and family. I’m either in automatic or neutral, and don’t care enough to change gears even when I know I should.
I keep thinking I should be concerned, but I’m not. Mostly. Actually, I am concerned, but not enough to do anything about it.
Part of why I’m writing it down is so that maybe, just maybe doing so will push me out of this odd mood I’m in. Sometimes seeing what I’m thinking and feeling on the screen helps me to find a solution to whatever is bugging me.
Change o’ subject (sort of):
I’m thinking of changing the name of my blog again. This time to “Dear God. I Have Questions.”
Two reasons for this.
Once again, I volunteered to write several devotions for my church’s yearly Lenten devotional. Eight, actually, which is the most I’ve volunteered to write so far. In one of them I admitted I don’t love or trust God as much as I know I should. I take much of my faith for granted, and worse, when it starts to matter, I hide it away, afraid.
Many non-religious accuse religious people, Christians especially, as following blindly, never asking challenging questions. For some, that’s probably true. I’ve heard enough stories where church leaders have punished people in a variety of ways for daring to challenge their beliefs or orthodoxy.
Yet that’s far from biblical. In both the Old and New Testaments, God and Jesus encouraged questions and seemed to enjoy being challenged (as long as the questioner was genuine in wanting to learn). For example, in the Old Testament, Jacob literally wrestled with God–and would have won if God hadn’t cheated. In the New Testament, never once did Jesus condemn anyone for asking questions. Sure, he was tough on the Pharisees, but he also knew their motives; their questions were meant to trap him, not to learn.
I want to focus my blog on studying God’s word to strengthen my relationship with him, and hopefully show others that to be a Christian actually means to ask a lot of questions, to challenge our current religious thinking, and yes question what the Bible says about certain subjects we find objectionable or problematic (while at the same time knowing that my understanding of said scripture is what’s flawed, not the scripture itself).
I also hope that by increasing my time of study, it’ll kick me out of this apathetic funk.
|As a writer, I often wonder, am I telling my story (fiction or real) in a way that people will both understand and embrace? Especially as a Christian who wants to relay certain truths (without the sermon), storytelling is my avenue by which I feel called to do it.
Sharing stories isn’t new. It seems to be ingrained in every human, perhaps even in our DNA. Storytelling goes back to cave-dwellers before written language. Scribes wrote down a leader’s accomplishments many times in the form of a story, sometimes true, often embellished to make said leader appear larger-than-life, and thereby worthy of being followed.
The Bible itself is full of stories. Whether you believe they literally happened the way they’re written or not is--as far as stories with a point go--irrelevant. Because the truth (or message) of that story is what matters. Many of Jesus’ words also took the form of stories, because he knew his audiences. To simply say, “don’t steal,” wasn’t enough to drive the point home. By creating characters who stole, and showing how those characters had to face sometimes devastating consequences, the listener (or reader), can better relate to the story, remember it, and hopefully apply the lesson to his/her own life.
I’m reading “Engaging Unbelief: A Captivating Strategy from Augustine to Aquinas,” by Curtis Chang. The author also talks about telling stories, but on a macro, societal level. On page 29 he says, “The one who can tell the best story, in a very real sense, wins the epoch [or era]. History is replete with examples of epoch-defining power gained by superior storytelling.” He then goes on to use examples of the Nazis (negative), and the American civil rights movement, namely Dr Martin Luther King, Jr and his “I have a dream” speech (positive).
To use a cliche “the pen is mightier than the sword,” in many cases this is true. Hitler wielded words that turned Germany from the biggest loser in WWI to a world power in only a few decades. Dr. King wielded words that gave minorities a bigger and more influential voice in American society and politics. Their speeches often included narrative that, as Chang put it, “[took] every thought captive.”
As a storyteller, I and others like me sometimes forget the impact our words can have on others. Too often we think our words will never matter. While we may never spur a new epoch in our history, what about that those who take our words to heart, and in turn influence others who do change the course of history?
If you’re not a writer, and have no desire to be one, nevertheless, tell your stories. Show others the lessons life (or God) has taught you, so they may avoid the mistakes you’ve made, and instead enjoy more success.
Be a superior storyteller; take people’s every thought captive so that those who might otherwise lead them astray can’t.
|So much is going on the next few weeks, once it’s all over, I may need to sleep for a week to recover.
For instance, I have to edit seven stories by 7/12, and tell everyone a short story of mine will be released and can be read for free on Tuesday 7/9. On that same day, I’m hosting a blog tour for an anthology for which I contributed a story, and will be officially released on 7/13 (It’s available for pre-order on Kindle here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07TVYXN49/ref=cm_sw_r_fm_apa_i_aRPiDb7MYT5W6 Yay!)
On 7/17, Tom and I are leaving for St Louis for a writers conference which will last until 7/22. I’m meeting with several literary agents along with all the classes and volunteering to man a sales booth and secure last-minute appointments with agents/editors. I even secured a mentor appointment with Terry Brooks (who wrote the Sword of Shannara books). I still have no idea what to ask!
I also volunteered to read and judge some stories for a contest, which I need to have done in three weeks.
This also means I can no longer procrastinate in getting ready for the conference, the blog tour, and reading all those stories! No more Netflix binging for me, dang it!
|I haven’t written much lately. I could claim being too busy, but if I added up all the hours I waste on the computer or binge-watching Psych, you’d be shocked.
I also felt out of ideas, and with editing stories for Havok magazine (gohavok.com), I didn’t want to edit any of my own stories.
That’s not to say I’ve been completely unproductive. I did manage to write another short story for gohavok, but only because some days were short on submissions. There’s no guarantee it’ll be published, but if not, that’s okay. At least I wrote something.
I’ve also been bouncing a germ of a story around in my head for the last few months, and I finally started writing it today. It’s about a woman who’s imprisoned for murdering her family, and her struggle with how to prove her innocence from a prison cell, accepting that she may never get out short of death, and holding on to her sanity through it all.
Being a “pantser” writer (one who writes with no outline or character sketches, and simply wings it from start to finish), I have no idea how long this story will be. No matter. It’s the journey that excites me, not the destination.
|Here I sit in the middle of the night with a slight headache (muscle ache to be precise. I think I’m spending too much time holding my head in one position such as sitting in front of a computer, and my neck isn’t liking it), and waiting for the Excedrin to kick in so I can sleep. Bummer, too, because I need to be up before 6am (5:45 is what I’m going for), so I can go to the gym and work off some more fat (and give my heart a workout).
I’m liking parentheses for some reason.
Based on the two paragraphs above, I will now apologize in advance if the rest of this jumps around too much, or doesn’t make any sense.
Tomorrow will be my husband and my twenty-seventh wedding anniversary. It’ll also be the twelfth anniversary of finding out we were pregnant. I can’t believe our son will be entering sixth grade this August!
Another milestone: I will turn fifty this year. A half-century. Although my mind doesn’t feel it, my bones sure do!
On the writing front, a story I sent for an anthology didn’t make the cut, but I’m no surprised. The competition was pretty fierce. I still have another story for a different anthology that I had mentioned before (speculative stories on the Beatitudes) that seems likely to be included. The publisher is also in the military, and he’s been out of the country since March, so any suggested edits haven’t reached my email, yet.
I also signed up for Realm Makers (https://realmmakers.net) writers conference in July in St Louis, Missouri. I went last year which was a lot of fun. I also took Tom, and even though he spent a lot of it in the hotel room, he also had a great time. So much so, he’s coming with me again this year. The last day we’ll be taking a ride up the Gateway Arch (formally known as the St. Louis Arch), as well as a river cruise afterward.
On a whim, I submitted the first fifteen pages of my fantasy to American Christian Fiction Writers (https://acfw.com) annual Genesis contest (a contest for unpublished authors). I had submitted the same one last year, but it didn’t even make the semi-finals. I’ve since rewrote the prologue entirely, and the first chapter I changed to a different POV. I think it turned out much better. The judges seemed to agree, because this time it did make the semi-finals. I’ll find out June 15 if it made the finals or not. If it does, I won’t know if I won or not until the end of September during the ACFW annual conference. I considered going, but since I’m already attending Realm Makers, spending another $1000 minimum (by the time I add the flight, hotel and conference fee) to go to another two months later may not be economically feasible, let alone wise.
I’m a little anxious about Realm Makers this year, because I secured a fifteen minute mentor appointment with fantasy author Terry Brooks (he wrote the Sword of Shannara series). The last thing I want to to is act like a giddy fan girl for fifteen minutes, but as of now, I’m not quite sure what I’m going to ask him. I also have two agent pitch appointments which I’m less nervous about.
Well the Excedrin kicked in, and this entry is getting a bit lengthy, so I will close for now. Hopefully I won’t wait another three months before writing a new one.
Enjoy the rest of your week!
|Once again my church offered an opportunity to write several devotionals for Lent. This time focuses on the book of Mark. Because I have so much reading and editing to do, I chose to write only four (I usually pick five or six).
I’m not one to set aside time for devotions, whether it’s reading the Bible, other devotionals, or scriptural studies. My faith suffers a little for it, but it’s never been enough to change my ways.
The main reason I like to volunteer to write devotions is it forces me to read and study. Even more than that, it forces me to discover how it applies to me, so the reader can apply it to his/her life also. Writing devotions requires study, but also introspection and humility.
Laying one’s heart and shortfalls on a page for hundreds of people to read is never easy. It’s a 300-word journey from ignorance to wisdom. Even more importantly, it should end with a focus on God, not the writer. A difficult task for someone as prideful as me. So much so, this time I’m tempted to tell the editor to add Anonymous to my devotions instead of my name. I want God to shine through the words, not me.
My short story called “The Eye,” will be published February 28, 2019! It’ll be free to read on that day only on https://gohavok.com.
Last night I submitted another short story to a speculative anthology about the Beatitudes and Woes in the New Testament. I chose “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I expected the story (titled “House Rules”) to end up at maybe 3000-4000 words. It ended up just over 8300.
There’s no guarantee it’ll be published, but I’m confident. Either way, I enjoyed writing it. Mostly because I hadn’t thought of that particular verse and what it really means. Considering how prideful I can be, I don’t see myself as “poor in spirit.” I researched the verse, and it felt almost like a treasure hunt and I found a lot of gold.
Anyway, I will keep you apprised, and I will also remind you when my Havok story is released!
|“I learned a long time ago that anything worth doing is worth defending.” ~ Mike Rowe
Does God call us to follow him blindly and without question?
Some like to accuse Christians of being blind sheep, ready to dive off a cliff simply because God said so. I’ve heard some Christians accuse others that to doubt and question is a lack of trust and faith in God -- and could even be considered blasphemous (I was told this once as a teenager when I revealed that God makes me angry sometimes).
In a previous entry, I talked about how God appreciates when we doubt. A friend commented on my other blog (https://almarquardt.blog/2018/12/24/carbon-copy-christians/#comments) thusly (in part), “Though a Christian may from time struggle with the no fear part of our faith, I believe when we still follow God’s word despite that fear, that God rejoices in our faith, love for him. So submit to His Word!”
To which I respond:
I’m not suggesting God doesn’t rejoice in our faith. Of course he does! Nor does doubt mean we love God less. All I’m saying is God understands and even expects us to doubt. Having doubts is part of who we are in this world. Nor do I recall him ever saying we should never ask him questions, or to never get angry at or frustrated with him (acting out in that anger is a bit different. When God told Moses he couldn’t enter the promised land because he acted out in anger, and as such didn’t give God credit a good example [See Numbers 20]). As if we could hide our doubts from him anyway.
Doubt isn’t always a bad thing, as long as we come to him with those doubts.
Moses argued with God, as did Abraham (which saved Lot and his family). David and Job had doubts. Lots of doubts! Jonah tried to run away, and got angry with God when Nineveh repented. Naomi believed God had abandoned her (as did Mother Theresa for most of her life). Peter argued with Jesus, Thomas doubted him. Paul worked against him, and Ananias felt a little betrayed when he was asked to heal and forgive Paul who had persecuted so many of them.
So what does all that have to do with defending oneself as the title suggests?
Because when we struggle and doubt (and as long as we turn to God with those struggles and doubts) he teaches us where we have fallen short or are mistaken in our assumptions. When we learn through those doubts and struggles, we grow stronger in our faith, and as such can better defend that faith.
God often compares us to sheep, because sheep are stupid creatures. They will literally jump off a cliff following other sheep, never realizing the danger until it’s too late. That does not mean, however, God wants us to remain like sheep. He wants us to be able to defend our faith to those who also question and struggle (including ourselves).
Proverbs 2:1-5 says, “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Emphasis mine).
Other such examples of the importance of seeking God and his wisdom, and for defending our faith:
Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
1 Peter 3:15: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (Emphasis mine)
2 Corinthians 10:5: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”
Titus 1:9: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
In short, yes, we need to submit to God and his word, but by submitting without question or not attempting to overcome our doubts, we can neither grow, understand, or defend our faith.