Archives For June 2013

Jordan’s eyes lit up. Twenty-two notifications. Three friend requests. Even one personal message! The hum of conversation and clicking of keyboards in the internet cafe fainted around him as he gazed at his computer screen. With these new friends, his total edged over nine hundred.file0002083989021

Only two of the notifications were actual responses to Jordan’s status. The rest were invites and requests to like fan pages. Changing over to Twitter, his eleven hundred followers were going to love his next tweet. He’d been thinking of it all day and had it down perfect. He typed with confidence and a slight smirk on his face. If this didn’t get favorited, nothing would.

Two hours slipped by as he streamed through hundreds of tweets and status updates, looked through pictures of family on vacation, and attempted to find more people to friend. Finally, when his attention left the screen and swept the room around him, he observed a dozen other people doing the same thing. Noses inches from their computer. Nobody noticed him sitting alone in the corner.

He closed the laptop, packed it up, and started on the short trek home. A heaviness had weighed in on him. Never had he felt so lonely. Jordan passed by a large group of teens laughing. Across the street, two women sped down the sidewalk talking as fast as they were walking.

He fumbled for the light switch in his apartment and then sunk into his brown leather sofa. He scrolled through his phone contacts looking for anybody to talk to. Everybody he called didn’t answer. His head fell back against the cushion, and he sobbed.

A man of too many friends comes to ruin,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24 NASB

Take time to stop and consider how many TRUE friends you have. Those that you can count on no matter what. Those that truly care and love you for who you are. You probably don’t have too many. But even just one can make the difference. If you need a good friend, you must be one first. Are you?

Do You Want to Write a Story?

I came to writing about a dozen years ago now and took the scenic route to publication. I felt no pressure to arrive anywhere, but poked around historic sites (old stories) long after the material had gathered a layer or two of dust. I tried a few different genres and toyed with a variety of plotting styles before one day I realized I might get old and die before I’d set my mark on the map if I kept on at this rate.

Was my journey wasted? I’d like to think not, if for no other reason than that I’ve also found I love to teach writing. Because of my array of experience, I understand that there is no “one true way” to completing a salable story. Every writer’s mind works differently, and it can take some time to learn how yours does.

One example: I got it stuck in my head early on that writers were either plotters, who created a complete outline ahead of time and stuck to it while writing, or pantsers (seat-of-the-pantsers) who sat down with a bright idea and no planning whatsoever and just wrote down whatever came to mind. It didn’t take very many novels (of the 11 I’ve written) to figure out I was neither. What has taken me a long time is figuring out what I can pull from each camp in a method that works for me. This concept of finding your plotting style is something I spend a lot of time on in the course I devised.

Opportunities to teach in person are not plentiful where I live in rural Western Canada. A few months ago I decided to start a new teaching blog. Sure, there are many places online where folks can learn the ins and outs of writing fiction, but I didn’t see anything quite like I had in mind (though it may well exist). I set up and fashioned a 2-prong approach to teaching a basic, methodical overview of the fiction writing process.

1. I created a FREE writing course to be delivered by email. When you sign up, you’ll receive the first lesson (the “idea” portion of planning a story) in minutes. A new lesson will arrive every week for the better part of a year as we work through the entire process, from planning, to plotting, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing fiction.

2. I post an article every Thursday on the blog. This also fits into one of the six sections as noted above. Sometimes I accept guest posts but most are written by me about lessons learned along the way.

I don’t think of writing well as “Christian” or “nonChristian.” Like many other talents and skills, it can be used for good or evil. My goal with To Write a Story is to teach the basics in a way that is suitable for anyone, teens and older, regardless of genre and religious affiliation.

To get more information and to sign up for the writing course, visit http://towriteastory.com/. If you’d like to subscribe to the blog entries, there’s a sign-up for that on the sidebar as well. You can also follow me on Twitter at @towritestory. I tweet at least a dozen writing quotes daily as well as links to my blog articles.how to write

If you’ve always wanted to write a story, I hope you’ll join me!

comer

Valerie Comer
http://valeriecomer.com

Author & blogger where Faith & Food Meet Fiction; ACFW & FM member; farmer, gardener & local foods activist & follower of God.

“Raspberries and Vinegar: A Farm Fresh Romance” releases August 1, 2013

gavel

The man impatiently stood by as the judge hovered over the certificate. He had anticipated this day for years. Freedom finally! This was the day he’d finally be divorced. Like a child on the last day of school antsy for summer break, he eagerly waited for the judge to sign his name to the document.

This relationship sucked the life out of him. In fact, he had no life. This would be the day he’d always remember. The day he began living.

“It is finished,” the judge decreed. He hugged the man and handed him the writ of divorce.

The man read it over and over. His full name written across the top. The judge’s signature at the bottom. Written in blood.

He was no longer a slave. No longer in bondage. He was now, and forever more, divorced from his sins.

——————————————————————————————————————-

Studying for a Bible study recently, I came across this verse. “Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.'” I’d heard that statement many times: Your sins are forgiven.

But in that moment I wondered what forgiven meant. My sins didn’t need forgiveness, I did. I studied the Greek word and realized the definition of forgiven is “to send away.”

The same Greek word was used in 1 Corinthians 7:11, “And a husband must not divorce his wife.” A husband must not send away his wife.

Then I understood. Forgiveness means more than pardoned. It means more than God overlooking our wretched condition. It means God took our sins and sent them away. Never again will we be associated with them. God’s perfection now defines us. We are free!

“As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

There is no feeling like being trapped at 30,000 feet and having nowhere to run. I had that kind of experience several years ago.

In 2005, I flew to Maine to visit Danielle, who later became my wife. I was really excited about this trip as I’d never been to the Northeast before. It took three flights to cross the nation, and I chose to fly at night to save costs.

I was seated across the aisle from the only bathroom on the first flight. Now I can’t say it dogmatically because I don’t know for sure, but I’m thinking somebody forgot to clean it. A stench smacked me across the face every time the door was opened. And on that short flight, an overactive bladder became an epidemic among the passengers. No doubt this was going to be the worst leg of the entire trip.

Boy, was I wrong.

The longest trek was the middle flight. I sat at the airport and conversed with a couple of people as we waited to board. I’ve been trying to figure out how to say this without sounding like a jerk. But the lady was very large. And as I sat there I hoped upon hope that she didn’t have the seat next to me. I couldn’t see it, but I’m wondering if God was grinning down on me because of my selfish thoughts.

airplane

I had an aisle seat in a row of three. The kitchen for the flight attendants was directly across from my chair. I cordially greeted the man by the window and settled in for the flight with every intent to sleep the entire time. This was the last time I saw him.

I saw her enter the plane and make her way towards me. My eyes desperately scanned the rows behind and in front for any other empty seat. The place was packed. She looked at her ticket and the numbers above my head. Then smiled.

“Looks like we get to sit together!”

I forced a smile in return and stood. She raised my right armrest and plopped down into her chair…and half of mine.

You’ve got be kidding me! I again searched for any open seat on the aircraft but none was to be found. Only sympathetic eyes aimed my direction. I settled in. Prayers shotgunned upwards for patience and understanding.

She tried to make conversation. She’d visited friends in Alaska and now was coming home.

“This is the last time I’m ever going to fly. It’s just been way too difficult.”

I couldn’t have agreed more.

And yet, I knew she felt bad. There was no doubt she was more uncomfortable than I was. She had to ask the flight attendant for a seat belt extender so she could buckle up. My discomfort would only last for a few hours. She had to live with it. So I made up my mind to make the best of it.

My plan was still to sleep. There was no way I was leaning into her so awkwardly I hung my head the other direction in any way possible to find comfort. But every time I was at that point of falling into a deep sleep, I was butted in the head by an attendant backing out of the kitchen. The impatience began to creep in again.The place was dark. Most people enjoying the precious state of slumber. But not me.

Then I thought I was saved. The televisions lowered from the ceiling signalling the start of the in-flight movie. That would be two hours of this trip. I dug out my headphones until the realization hit me. My stomach sank, and I had to take a deep breath. You have to plug your headphones into the armrest. Mine was tucked securely behind the woman’s back. I’ve still only watched “Fly Away Home” without the sound.

I don’t know how long I’d been in the air. It felt like an eternity. I was continually fighting the tingling sensation in my backside from sitting on the edge of my chair. Finally in utter frustration, I dropped my head into my lap. Surprisingly, it was quite comfortable. But that lasted only for a few minutes.

Because that’s when she began rubbing my back.

My entire body tensed. My mind was racing. Do I ignore it or sit up and confront her? I was so tired so I just waited it out. She eventually stopped and I lay there for as long as I could. But like every position I’d tried, the comfort was replaced by cramps and soreness. So, against my will, I had to sit up.

Then she whispered to me. These are the exact words from our short conversation.

“Did you feel that?”

“Yeah.”

“That was me.”

“Yeah. I figured.”

The ride felt twice as long as it should have on my half of a seat. But to my elation, the wheels finally touched down on the tarmac. As soon as the seat belt light turned off, I jumped into the kitchen until it was my turn to leave. I figured the most loving thing I could say to her was nothing at all.

This wasn’t my finest moment. I don’t write this for you to learn by my example. Maybe God was testing me, and I’m not even sure if I passed. Maybe it just happened because life is like that.

I wrote it simply because it now makes me laugh.

Italy

The four-part harmony flowing down the streets raised curious eyebrows. Not just the singing, but the Charles Dickens’ era clothing we wore. My top hat and bulky overcoat stood out among the sophisticated style of the Italian people.

We had a purpose, but I admit I had doubts. How could a naive group of American Bible school students make a difference in a foreign country? We didn’t speak the language. We didn’t know our way around. We relied heavily upon the missionaries to schedule performances, and then they had to speak to those we serenaded.

Italy was beautiful. I was continually awestruck by its grandeur- the rich history, fascinating architecture, and savory foods. But this wasn’t a tour. We’d been trained to spread the gospel to the far reaches of the Earth. And now, on the mission field, I stood bewildered. How could singing Christmas carols to shoppers in the marketplace do anything for God’s kingdom? As simple entertainment, how could this affect eternity?

Then one evening, at the most unexpected time, God showed me. A young man in the local church was part of a group of dancers. Break dancers. All the guys in our group lit up at the opportunity to watch them practice. I’d never seen anything like it. Unbeknownst to me, God had a plan. A man in his early twenties approached us and asked the missionary who we were. I didn’t understand a word of her explanation but watched as the man sat on the floor at her feet and talked with her for an hour. She explained later that she’d told him we were Christians and here to proclaim the love of Jesus. He had many questions about God, and as the practice continued behind him, she answered each one.

I sat in silence after she told me, fighting back the tears. If all the money I’d raised, time spent memorizing music, and effort to travel that far was all so one man could hear about Jesus, it was worth it. I’d been so arrogant to think that God had to speak through me to be included in his plan. But a young Italian was told the gospel simply because I was there.

And God wasn’t done.

I watched through new eyes now as I sang. Waiting. Waiting to see God touch somebody else. As I hugged the elderly in a nursing home, most cried because they appreciated somebody caring about them. The gospel simply shared through acts of love.

As we sang in the marketplace, the missionary passed out literature to those watching. I smiled as I saw a passerby thumb through the Gospel of John.

I’d learned in school that God raises some to plant seeds and others to harvest. I realized we were the seed planters. God had planned for me to be in Italy that Christmas, and though I lacked the faith, God accomplished what he’d set out to do.

Two years later, I returned. Same mission, same location. But this time, I anticipated what God would do. We had a purpose. And I had no doubts. God was there. God was active. He would use us in unexpected and glorious ways.

My wife and I sorted through many boxes of keepsakes one afternoon when I stumbled upon something very special. It had no real value. In fact, most would have thrown it away. But I thank my mom for saving it.

It’s a hand-written letter from my grandpa. It didn’t say much. He was on a trip and told me what he was doing. I must have written him a letter since he started by thanking me for mine. Again, nothing special.

Except I loved this man dearly. When I was young, I was known as Grandpa’s Shadow. He taught me to ride a bike, shoot a gun, and ride a horse. I witnessed the value of hard work through him. Also his heart for family and friends.

He died in 2010. I received some of his things as keepsakes, and I treasure them. But there’s something about seeing his handwriting that brought tears to my eyes.

And that’s the moment I realized the power of the hand-written letter. We are in an age of emails, texts, and Facebook messages. They’re quick, cheap, and the recipient receives it the same day. Often times the same minute. But I can bet each of us love when we go to the mailbox and discover an envelope addressed to us. To see a loved one’s name in the upper left corner. Ripping open the envelope and reading the words somebody penned with their own hand. To not only read their words but touch what they touched. Knowing they spent time in preparing this for you.

And yet, we’ve lost this. Somewhere in our advanced world of technology, the intimacy of a letter was forgotten. I challenge each one to write somebody a letter. Grab a pencil or pen and show them that you truly care. You never know how it may impact them.

Grandpaletter

Maybe, just maybe, they will find it 25 years later. No longer is it just a letter. But a gift. A treasure. A blessed memory.