I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

God, Help Me! You're the Only One Who Can

NOTE: This is not a typical Ponderer post. As I was praying about this month's blog entry, I really felt the Lord speak to me about my testimony. This is my story of gratefulness for the Thanksgiving Holiday. I hope you are both blessed and encouraged to seek the heart of God for your own life.
Ginger Takamiya

The strange object appeared on the screen for the second time in my life. An eerie gray and white ring. Not quite a black hole, but it might as well have been. My womb was as good as empty anyway.
“The doctor will be in touch when he reads the results.” The sonographer was nothing more than a voice and a pair of detached hands that wiped the warm gel from my belly. “He ordered blood tests as well, if you go out the door to your right, the nurse is waiting.”
God not again. Please.
I can’t remember anything about those two days accept the phone call, when I heard the low voice of my physician on the line. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Takamiya, There is simply nothing we can do.”
Of course I wanted to be brave. Wasn’t I brave the first time? Didn’t I keep a positive attitude through the whole thing, knowing God would never let anything bad happen to me? But it had happened and no amount of bravery would keep the tears from my words this time. “Why does this keep happening to me? “
“We don’t know why your pregnancies refuse to progress beyond a gestation sac. It is simply Mother Nature’s way of selecting the strongest.” A long pause. “I can order the D & C this week.”
D & C a procedure that cleans the womb of all unwanted matter. How was I going to tell my husband, Pat. He was out on a six month deployment with the USS Stoddert and as far as I knew, there were no phones in the Persian Gulf.
 Maybe the doctor’s right. Just get it over with like last time and move on.
But Pat was not here. He would have no say this time.
I just couldn’t.
Somehow, I had to get a hold of God. “Doctor, can I please have another ultrasound. Just to make sure?”
His compassionate voice did not hesitate. “Of course, Mrs. Takamiya. If that will set your mind at ease than I’ll set it up for one week, say Wednesday morning?”
“Yes. Yes that will be fine.” I had bought myself 7 days. Seven days before I had to face the inevitable. But blood tests didn’t lie and neither did ultrasounds.
Sunday morning came and I couldn’t wait to go to church. I just knew that tiny building would be filled with people willing to pray with me and believe for healing. But as I recited my story I was met with, “Oh, I’m so sorry,” while they politely walked away.
One lady that I had grown to admire, who had been my Sunday school teacher as a child, came up to me. “Well, Ginger, how you feeling. Any morning sickness yet?”
I knew if anyone could pray with me to be healed it was her. So I mustered the bit of faith I had and with a clear, hopeful voice answered her. “The doctor said there isn’t a baby forming. But I believe God can heal me.”
A strange look came over her face that I had never seen before. It unsettled me. I watched her nose make a brief snarl as she patted my hand. “Well, honey, you just pray for God’s will.”
Words are powerful things. They can bring joy, hope, laughter, anger, pain, and produce a world of amazing results. But these words hung between us, empty and vast as space itself.
The hands of my heart had reached out only to meet the vacant air of useless utterance carelessly given.
I excused myself and went to my seat. I muddled thru the sermon, the music, the occasional greeting until I could harbor myself back home in my bedroom. No one bothered me there. I took a nap, hoping I might feel better and maybe have a clearer head when I woke up. I wanted to go talk to my daddy. Have him make everything better, but he was fighting his own battle. Last year, he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. The doctors said they got it all when they took out most of his stomach. Yet, I could hear him retching again and groaning in pain in the other room.
The cancer wasn’t supposed to come back.
How could I go to my daddy when he needed all the strength he had to fight his own battle?
My brother called from the other room. “It’s about time to go to evening service, Ging.”
Evening service? How could I even think about going back after this morning? Didn’t he understand what was going on in my life? My father was dying, my husband was in the Persian Gulf, my baby was as good as dead and he was calling me to go to church with a bunch of people who didn’t even believe in miracles anymore. After everything I’ve been through, I deserve to stay home.
So, you’re just going to give up? Roll over and die, as it were?
To tell you the truth, I don’t know where those words came from, but I have to believe they were from the Lord because something rose up inside of me that refused to give up. So I got dressed and out the door, determined that I would go to the altar, alone if necessary, and get something from God.
The sermon went in a blur and the altar call was given for anyone who needed to pray. I don’t remember the music playing, only that I stood next to the piano, very much alone. “Jesus, you died for me, you’re the only one who can help me. Please, please save my baby. Let me have this child. Heal me. No one else can.”
I waited for something, anything to happen.
Nothing.
How long were you suppose to wait for a miracle? No one had gotten one in some time so I wasn’t sure.
I didn’t have anything better to do so I sang with everyone else. Yeah, that feels nice. And maybe I’ll just clap my hands a little bit, while I wait.
Moments later a sense of all-or-nothing hit me and so for the first time in my life, I lifted my hands to worship the Lord. I didn’t really know how, but I was given it all I had.
Suddenly I felt a definite presence hovering above me. I had never felt anything like that and was not sure what to do so I just waited. And the Spirit of God waited. And I waited.
Then I remembered something my Sunday School teacher said years before. “The Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He will never go where He is not invited.”
That’s it. I had to invite Him. “Holy Spirit, come in.”
I do not know why things happened the way they did and I can’t describe very well what happened next, but a feeling of something like wind rushed inside of me and I knew God heard me and most importantly, loved me. I could do nothing but cry for several minutes over the absolute wonder of being so loved.
In that moment I understood what it must have been like for Peter in Acts chapter 2 when he went from being so afraid of people to being filled with the Spirit of God and standing in great boldness to preach the gospel to thousands that day.
I turned around to address the congregation, not knowing really what I was doing. “The doctor said I am not going to have this baby, but I tell you, I am going to have this baby, because Jesus has healed me.”
I won’t lie to you. The whole time I stood there speaking I could hear another voice shouting inside me as well.
YOU ARE MAKING A FOOL OUT OF YOURSELF. WHEN YOU LOSE THIS BABY EVERYONE WILL KNOW WHAT AN IDIOT THEY ALWAYS THOUGHT YOU WERE.
I knew that if I heeded that voice for one moment and allowed fear and unbelief to come in, I would lose my baby. So I swatted the voice away like a mosquito and for the next three days, told anyone who would stand still for five seconds what the Lord had done for me. It wasn’t easy, but my child’s life depended on my trust and faith in Christ.
Wednesday morning I stood in a hospital gown, pacing and waiting for my turn. “Lord I believe, but as my brother in the Bible said, ‘Help my unbelief’.”
When I lay on that table, bladder full and aching, warm gel smearing over my abdomen, I knew I had done everything that was in my power to do. The rest was up to God. My mother had given me a card the day before addressed from my child to me that said,  “Don’t give up on me, Mommy.” How could I?
Moments passed as the sonographer clicked the keyboard and swiped the gadget over and back again. I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to know. “Well!”
“Oh, I’m sorry, dear. I was just taking measurements. Here.” The screen turned and there lie my tiny son. His heart beating away as if to say, “I’m here, Mommy.”
That was over twenty-five years ago and our miracle son Patrick-Cain Hideo Takamiya just bought his first house last week. My husband and I have been blessed with five wonderful children and we consider all of them a miracle.
I do not claim to have the formula for healing. My father lost his battle with cancer and died two months after my son was born. I don’t understand all the ways of God, but I do know He loves us and His plans for us are good. I also know, that I would much rather have spent my time trusting God and believing Him to heal me than wasting my time worrying about how foolish I would look if He didn’t.
So. What do you have to lose?

Mini Bio:
Ginger Takamiya was raised in Indiana where she met her husband Pat. They celebrated twenty-five years of marriage last year and have five children, four boys and a girl and live in the woods of Missouri. Ginger is a Christian romance writer and won the My Book Therapy Frasier award in 2012 for her first novel. When she is not writing, she is active in her home church and enjoys gourmet cooking for their events as well as writers’ retreats. She is also available for speaking engagements.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Publishing, Facebook, and Social Media

By Jennie Atkins

As someone who is experiencing repeated rejection letters based on the number of Facebook friends I have (or should I say, the number of Facebook friends I DON’T have), I will admit it is frustrating to me as well as my literary agency.

I hear statements from published authors like “Just write the book in your head/heart.” Or “Write a book that will catch the attention of the editors/agents.” I’ve paid for expensive conferences to learn ways to improve my writing, but it seems more and more publishing houses want authors to have a social presence.  The consensus is we need to twitter more, create fan pages on Facebook, create a blog, do a guest post on other people’s blogs, etc., etc., etc. When are we supposed to write the next great novel?

The nice thing is the agency with which I am associated with – WordServe Literary--has started a fantastic marketing vehicle called www.faithhappenings.com to help authors reach out to the masses. It is a local and national Christian website where writers can advertise their books, and Christians have faith-based resources at their fingertips.

FaithHappenings showcases events specific to a region, from concerts to fundraisers.  It’s for authors, speakers and musicians to advertise their work. Anyone can find a wide assortment of faith-filled books, music, audiobooks and videos. By selection, one can receive daily emails with devotionals suited to their life’s needs—male or female, college student or parent.  The opportunities are endless and the journey has only begun.

So if you’re just starting your writing journey—or deep into the adventure of a multi-book contract—check out what the folks at FaithHappenings have put together. It is your Complete, Tailored, Faith Resource.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Great Gains? Expect payback or retaliation before you surge forward.

Delores E. Topliff


Remember Newton’s 3rd law of thermodynamics? To each action there’s an equal and opposite reaction? That’s true, though the gravity's weight eventually slows pendulums, and they swing slower in summer but faster in winter, which is too much for my brain.

In life and story, when we surge ahead, there’s often payback to discourage further gains. That was true after Elijah’s victory at Mt. Carmel when he fled in terror but found God’s still small voice could keep him anywhere. In my world, I uprooted sunflower stalks to feed cows, but one came so easily, I fell back onto only the small sharp wooden stake remaining in the garden, and bled for hours.

In Israel, I love bread-crumb connectionsthis person pointing us to that gathering or event. Someone from Estonia visiting the same home in Galilee told of us an important meeting in Jerusalem and later showed up there, getting us six visitor passes instead of paying $35 each. The speaker? Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad. I’d heard his name in the news but hadn’t paid enough attention.

First he was an anesthesiologist, “good at putting people to sleep.” Later he prepared for ministry in the Church of England. After ordination, he came to Israel to learn Aramaic and Jewish-Christian roots. A learned rabbi said White wouldn’t be satisfied until he completed Yeshiva, rabbinical training school, so he did.

In spite of developing multiple sclerosis, he eventually served St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, throughout history the largest congregation in the Middle East with 4,000 members. He loves and shepherds those people like no one I’ve seen in recent yearshe is one of them.

ISIS wants his head. Thirty-five soldiers accompany him in Iraq. Except now the Archbishop of Canterbury has forbidden him to return, saying he’s of greater value outside making his peoples’ cause known, than being martyred. But with his people suffering, phone calls and Skype aren’t enough. White wants to join them to comfort them.

As I listened, time telescoped. I felt like Mary breaking alabaster to pour perfume on the feet of this wise, humble, suffering fairly young man who won’t avoid life-threatening obstacles.

Great stories are made of such tensions. Great lives are lived through them. White’s mission intensifies mine--and my prayers.

In writing we call such payback black moments, something resembling earlier greatest fears that revisit to block our hero or heroine now. Except they can’t. Growth triumphs. Eventually the threat appears small, laughable, because the protagonist has changed to move beyond it.

What payback has threatened to block your forward growth? What proved its diminished proportions as you saw it couldn’t touch the real you now?

Here's the best link currently to read more about this amazing man The Vicar of Baghdad: Canon Andrew White on his return to Iraq

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Writing in Deep Point of View

The mother of a talented teenage writer recently asked me to review a portion of her daughter’s novel. It thrills me to see talented young writers pursuing their dreams. While I found much to praise in her work, I suggested she study “deep point of view”.

Writers speak of it often, but I wanted to direct this teenager to an article explaining the concept. That proved difficult to find. We’ve mentioned it here, but I wanted something in detail.

Deep Point of View isn’t “active voice” or even “showing rather than telling,” although those concepts improve any writing, from essays to novels.

 Writing in “deep point of view” means rather than peeking over the shoulder of someone, you’re inside the character’s skin. You see what they see, hear what they hear, touch what they touch, etc. You think their thoughts.

Instead of writing, she saw a feather flutter to the ground; you write, a feather fluttered to the ground.

More examples: She felt the icy rain run down her back. (Not deep POV.) Icy rain drizzled inside her collar.  (Deep POV.)

If you want to write in deep point of view, beware of phrases such as, she saw, she felt, she wondered, etc. Just state the action.

Another point vital to this concept: don’t label emotions. Take a look at the following examples.

Sarah felt happy at the beach.

Sarah squished her feet in the hot sand then sprinted full speed into the waves.

You can include some physiological responses. Depending upon your scene, you might have goose bumps, dizziness, nausea, sweating, etc. Again, use strong verbs for these. The sweat trickled down her neck. Remember, she cannot see her own face blush. But you can write: A rush of heat stung her face.

Words such as felt, watched, thought, wondered, considered, and so on, yank the reader out of this deep point of view.

One last observation. Since you’re right in the character’s skin while writing this way, it’s essential to make your main character likeable. No one wants to be inside the head of Miss Smarty Pants or Mr. Joe Too Cool.


Any questions? Or do you have more suggestions for writing in Deep POV?

Photo by freedigitalphotos

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Juxtapositions

Delores E. Topliff
In life and writing, too much unremitting sameness, even of very good things, decreases our interest. Instead the juxtaposition of unlikely items together for comparison or contrast generates new deeper responses like adding the right spice to transform bland cooking. The best hero needs a human flaw, and the worst villain some endearing or redeeming quality. My recent trip to Israel provided many vignettes inviting fresh comparisons.

For example, Orthodox Jewish rabbis there wear long black coats and flat black hats. Married men of Russian background wear large expensive round fur hats made from 14 sable fur tails. All Hasidic men and boys, no matter which hat they wear, grow long curled earlocks that bounce with every step. I watched one soberly-clad rabbi grasp a young daughter by each hand as all three happily skipped down the road together unashamed. Such scenes carve a special place in memory. In the Old City, a fast walking boy maybe age 10 wearing a junior-size long black coat and flat black hat hurried through Old Jerusalem’s narrow twisting streets toward the larger modern city beyond carrying a skateboard over each shoulder. I wanted to follow him to watch.

We faced travel challenges. After our rental car's battery died and cost us four hours, our gracious bed and breakfast hostess in Arad SE of the Dead Sea tried to tell us a shortcut, but the soldier at that road checkpoint turned us back because there had been trouble. That broadly smiling khaki-clad Uzi-carrying young IDF soldier said he’s been to the U.S. three times, loves it and us, and gave us a giant chocolate bar plus four silver and red foil-wrapped chocolate hearts while thanking us for coming.

Traffic in Jerusalem, especially during high feast days, defies description. We saw twentieth century cars get stuck going opposite directions through narrow Herod’s Gate in the Old City, built in 1538. One car was driven by a woman, the other by a rabbi, necessitating a gesturing policeman, the rabbi’s young son, and many passersby on bikes, foot, some pushing baby buggies, to all give advice while measuring how near each vehicle came to scraping rock walls. The woman finally backed up.


The juxtapositions of tough tender soldiers, young Orthodox boys with a few modern trappings, and ancient gates that once knew horses, camels and donkeys now accepting sleek high-octane horsepower, are wonderful vignettes cementing people, conversations, and scenes into unforgettable places in my or readers’ hearts.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why I pay the price to go to conferences

By Jennie Atkins

            I love writer’s conferences, especially ACFW. It is a time of recharging, despite the long hours, starting before breakfast and often going long into the night. It is a time of encouragement and learning. It is a time of catching up with other writers  that I usually only connect with through Facebook and the random email.  Shown here with me are Jeanne Takenaka and Ginger Takamiya both winners of the MBT Frasier contest, 2014 and 2012 respectively.

This year was no different. But then again, it was.
The publishing industry is changing. I believe I noticed the change more this time because it had been two years since my last ACFW conference. Publishers are plunging into different formats, such as e-books. Big house publishers accept the fact that authors are now pursuing avenues to publish independently. Editors are being more and more cautious in the works they take, or markets they intend to pursue. Like most businesses, the goal is more about the possible profits than new development. I don’t blame them, having worked in high-profile corporations for more decades than I care to admit,  I understand completely. But the sad news seems to be, the day of wandering through massive book stores, taking in the scent of fresh ink, and perusing a long bookshelf containing one genre are gone.
The truth is Amazon.com has changed the face of publishing.
By no means does this mean as writers we should ditch our pens, paper, and computers and search for a different creative outlet.
It means we need to be focus on our craft and never, never settle for the status quo. Writers need to read more, study more, and learn more. They need to connect with other writers, critique groups, and seminars that teach writing skills. Yes, I've read some poorly written books, some by New York Times best-selling authors that sell. But now is the time for a new breed of writers to penetrate the market. Ones who want to put out a quality story that keeps their readers glued to the page and wanting for more from that author.
Your turn:  What was your take away from the ACFW conference or any other conference you've attended recently?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

2014 ACFW from my Perspective...

Patricia Bradley

For those of you who tuned in to see what Delores was posting about today, she's not here. She's in ISRAEL!! Go Dee! She will blog about her trip in my spot on the 14th, so don't miss it!

But I'm here, ready to tell you about the 2014 ACFW Conference in St. Louis...

First of all, I attended Thursday's Early Bird session with Christopher Vogler, learning about the Hero's Journey. Such an encouraging man! Bought the only book he brought--he didn't know it, but I was going home with that book. 

Another a-ma-zing thing about the conference was the daily Praise and Worship sessions led by the a-ma-zing Rachel Hauck. It was a perfect way to start each morning off.


This is a morning session with hands raised, praising God.















Then, I went to Michelle Lim's  class on brainstorming and boy, did she help me get past the hump where I was stuck in my WIP. Congratulations Michelle for winning the Genesis in Romantic Suspense! And to all the winners and finalists. 


Somehow I didn't get pictures of Jennifer Dornbush's class on getting your forensics right or the class on Scrivener, but they were great! The last class I took was Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck's class on Staying Published. That class sent me home fired up and ready to start writing! 


Before I was published I went to conference mainly to get requests for a proposal on my manuscripts from editors and agents. I was usually too nervous to focus on classes. Now I go to conferences to actually attend workshops, network and see old friends!  Can you tell I didn't know what to do with my left arm?

Me with Beth White and Pam Hillman


But it wasn't all work as you can see in the next photos. In the first one, I'm holding up the Arch. Aren't you glad? The other one was taken late at night from near the hotel. 



If you get a chance to go to a writer's conference, go, especially ACFW. So, what do you like best about conferences? Leave a comment and let me know!

Patricia Bradley
www.patriciabradleyauthor.com
http://mbtponderers.blogspot.com/
Follow me on Twitter: @PTBradley1
Follow me on FaceBook: www.facebook.com/patriciabradleyauthor

Shadows of the Past - Revell February 2014 
A Promise To Protect - Revell October 2014
Matthew's Choice - Heartwarming September 2014
Shop Amazon for my books under Patricia Bradley

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

#ACFW 2014... And No, I Wasn't There

I don’t know about you, but this past weekend separates writers into two categories.

Category One: Those soaring from the incredible experience that is the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Annual Conference.
Category Two: Me. (The full time working mom who is blessed – yes,  blessed! –to have stayed at home with my family again this year.)

For those in category one, the weekend included in-person hugs from friends and colleagues spread across the country, workshops, worship, parties, and galas. For those in category two, the weekend included watching Frozen (for the seven hundredth time), setting up a big-girl bed and dealing with the joy that is potty training a toddler.

I’ve only been to one ACFW conference, and to be honest, I was a little naïve. (Like, I actually said I was going to be the next Karen Kingsbury to a living, breathing agent, naïve). Let’s just hope when I do find myself in category one again said agent doesn’t remember me. Or maybe she will, and we’ll have a good laugh...

Either way, I’d love for those of you who were blessed to be at ACFW, or blessed to remain at home, to share some of your ACFW 2014 highlights – good, funny, frustrating, heartbreaking. Let’s rejoice with each other, laugh with each other, lift each other up, and pray for one another until 2015!
 
For my “ACFW 2014” highlight…the big girl bed was a smashing success!

Blessings,

Amy

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Good Writing Examples from the World’s All-Time Bestseller

No, it’s not the Harry Potter series. Those books would come in at a distant second.

The world’s all-time bestseller never needed promotion or a marketing campaign. In fact, many folks, even today, have suffered for the privilege to own it. One researcher estimates there are over 6 billion copies in print.

The name of this bestseller?

The Bible.

I understand that the Bible is much more than literature. It’s the living and powerful Word of God. But still, it makes sense to me that the “God-breathed” book would also contain great writing.

I’ve often taught my students that the quickest way to improve their writing is to use vivid verbs and specific nouns. So let’s take a look at the verbs and nouns in a single chapter of the world's best selling book. Here’s a quick list from Job 39.

Verbs: scorns, explores, searches, bind, harrow, flap, abandons, forgets, tramples, lifts, laughs clothe, leaps, rattles, races, scents, soars, mounts up, lodges, spies out, suck up

Nouns: mountain goats, wild donkey, wild ox, threshing floor, ostriches, plumage, snorting, quiver, spear, javelin, thunder, hawk, cliff, crag

If you’d like a quick-fix to your writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, check your verbs and nouns. Make the verbs dynamic and the nouns specific.

What others methods would you suggest for a quick remedy?

Have your ever looked at the Bible as, not only God's Word, but as great literature?