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 25, 2014

My 2014 Thanksgiving List

Faith—I must place my Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, at the top of this list. He loved me enough to die for me and lavishes His grace upon me every day.

Family—The Lord blessed me with amazing parents, a missionary husband, three kids that I love to the moon and back, a wonderful daughter-in-law, and the three most sensational brothers in the world. And don’t get me started on my cousins and nieces and nephews! They are incredible.

Friends—I’ve made some new friends. I met them in my Bible Study Class. We’ve already found that we can study, pray, and laugh together.  But I also have some friends I've known for a long time like the ones I write with on this blog. We also pray together and share our love of writing. The Ponderers amaze me both with their books and friendship.

But I have one friend I’ve known for…well, really, I never remember not knowing her. Becky Dickens. When we were girls, we played for hours and hours with the old Betsy McCall paper dolls. (Anyone remember those?) Incredible imaginations transformed our bikes into “horses”. Thankfully, we now live within walking distance and take many hikes around the neighborhood sharing all these things.

Fiction—I was reading a story one day when I was a young girl--one of the old Danny Orlis books--and a temptation came my way. Some could argue that those books were not terribly faith building or not well written enough to matter. But I found enough Christianity in the book that it fortified my young conviction enough to say “no” to the temptation. Since then I’ve been inspired and convicted by many of my favorite authors with lessons from stories that stay with me long after I close the book.

Yes, I have many reasons to give thanks unto the Lord! What are you especially thankful for this year?

(Image from debspoons at FreeDigitalPhotos)

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.
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.
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