Saturday, November 28, 2009
My new website is now available and offers the latest in my fiction, book contests, appearances, and everything you'd like to know about my books and where I'll be speaking next. My blog has also moved to my website, so I invite you to bookmark the new cyber-address since I will not be back to blog here any more.
See you there!
Your Friendly Neighborhood Author,
Monday, June 15, 2009
Thank you for your diligence to visit Words to Go. I'm integrating my website and blog into one easy-to-manage site and invite you to bookmark the new location.
Here it is:
You may also catch up with me through FaceBook and Twitter.
I'm reducing the amount of technology I manage, hopefully creating a more focused target for staying in touch with readers and friends. Thanks for helping me with the move. See you in the new place!
Monday, May 18, 2009
Food for the writing soul:
#1 The Temptation to be Inauthentic: In order to please readers, I might be tempted to invent a protagonist and world who does and says all of the correct platitudes within the safe setting of a world where a deux ex machina wraps up the heroine’s chaos in a tidy package while at home my own world continues to come unraveled never again to be wound back tidily onto the original spool. Do write authentically. The readers need to know they are not alone and that will please them to no end.
#2 The Temptation to Live For Recognition: After my novel lands on the shelves, there is that temptation to hold my breath, waiting to see if the readers approve, tell all of their friends, and then spread the word like mad that a literary phenomenon has entered the world. Writing for the audience of one means progressing to release your story to the community for which it was written and then focusing on the next story.
#3 The Temptation to Live in Fear: What if I fail? What if I never sell another book? What if I die and my books are tossed into the grave after me? What if I write too honestly and the readers turn their backs on me? Our identity is what it is and its value measured by the honesty that compels us to be ourselves.
#4 The Temptation to Compare: Think about it: There are only a few famous novelists. But readers tend to flock where other readers flock rather than around writers. If we attend the national book conventions, there’s that dread of the long line at the bestselling author’s booth and the comparisons we’re tempted to make. The temptation to check the bestseller list as soon as it’s posted is another way we compare. Our culture of celebrity nags us into comparisons. Remember why you started writing and compare your current story to the last one you wrote.
#5 The Temptation to Exaggerate: I once sat on a platform with T.D Jakes at a book convention—we shared the same publisher that year. One novelist sitting next to me said, “You know we can claim now that we shared the platform with T.D. Jakes.” I’m glad she was kidding, but I’ve seen that type of exaggeration when it comes to publicity and how we try and create a measuring stick for readers that makes us appear successful in hopes of creating our own bandwagon. Walt Wangerin once said, “But isn’t propaganda, after all, a lie?” Explain the unique qualities of your stories honestly and allow the readers to find you—they will!
#6 The Temptation to Feel Chronically Inadequate: I think that if you add together, 1,2,3, 4, and 5, you get #6. The erosion of the soul, IMHO, is taken into avalanche mode when I deceive myself into believing that by attacking my own worth I’m self-abasing. I’m a lot more effective when I’m focused on the task at hand rather than self-absorbed nit-picking. Surrender mode is a perpetual struggle for me even when I know that it will ultimately give me peace and contentedness. And to what should we surrender--that our beautiful imperfections are what make our stories so gallant and readership-worthy.
#7 The Temptation of Pride: It can crop up when we get reader mail or, if unpubbed, when we get the first kudo from an editor or an author reader at a workshop. Pride slides in the door with good reviews, top sales figures, fan mail, a book contract, or awards. The old cliché is “New Level, new devil.” So we have to avoid success? No, just fixing our eyes on it. Think of success as the Medusa of writers. Avert eyes, keep eyes on the work in front of you. A post-it note for the heart: “Don’t believe your own fictions.”
#8The Temptation to Manipulate: For “the market” or for financial reasons, I am tempted to write about overtly sympathetic or holly-go-lightly worlds that might manipulate the reader’s emotions. While true that our job is to help the reader suspend disbelief, gratuitous writing clumps up a lot of unearned emotion and summarized exposition robbing the reader of depth and believability. Part of our purpose as writers is not to overlook the genres that readers love; but every genre should have its gems that provide an artful story that might open an otherwised closed heart.
#9 The Temptation of Envy: It creeps in when a close writer friend gets a highly starred review or an award. I have to train myself to remember #4. It’s hard.
And finally #10 The Temptation to Be Angry: Writers might be tempted to get mad at readers who fail to follow and promote their writing ministry; or who email complaining because they've taken a slightly different road than they took writing their last book/story/article. Every writer desires to grow and success's double-edged sword is that it can pigeon-hole a writer. There are writers who complain if we don’t write fast enough to suit them yet want their books highly and skillfully wrought. A writer might get angry when caught between the cultural gap of readers who want books that portray a sanitized ideal and those who want their fiction kept real—its hard to please both types of readers. We have to choose and live with our choice--and our integrity. The writer might get angry when he or she quits a job to stay home and write and then runs out of advance money before the book is finished.
Henri Nouwen said, “This is not an open, blatant, roaring anger, but an anger hidden behind the smooth word, the smiling face, and the polite handshake. It is a frozen anger, an anger which settles into a biting resentment and slowly paralyzes a generous heart.”
Allow the generosity of sharing your stories with the world to multiply into a mountain of rich ore. Keep your thoughts elevated and your feet on the high road. Your words will show it.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
In her book For Writers Only Sophy Burnham asks the question “When did you first know you were a writer? Did you always know?” Oftentimes, the writer is the last one to know.
I once edited a student writer’s essay; I’ll call him Larry. Larry was assigned a report, a factually
When I selected a few “shine” papers to read aloud to the class, Larry’s mouth fell open as I read his name in front of his classmates. He was mystified. I was delighted. I had found a gem among the requisite essays and was the first person to tell Larry, “Yes, you are a writer and probably a novelist.” Hang the assignment! Larry was a storyteller and up until that moment, did not know.
For years as I struggled in misery in real estate, I recalled the day that Professor Francis Gwaltney, III pulled my freshman essay out of the stack and asked my permission to read it aloud. He asked me, “What is your major?”
My father had insisted that I major in elementary education. I told my professor and he said, “You’re no grade school teacher. You are a novelist.” Like Larry, I was mystified. His words nagged at me, nipping at my Nikes until the day I gave my words story form. Years later when I got my first little book deal I remembered Francis Gwaltney and was still mystified. How had he known that I was not simply a writer in the raw, but a novelist? As I read Larry’s essay to the class, I finally realized why. Author Francis Gwaltney, also Norman Mailer’s best friend, was at that time writing his thirteenth novel. He knew like I knew that Larry was a storyteller. Nothing profound, but it takes one to know one.
It could be that each of us write because we have been prodded into the writing arena by a writer who first saw within us a seed of potential. During the long nights as we bend over our keyboards writing for the audience of one, pondering words and their meaning, behind us is a voice of encouragement that won’t stop nagging at us to keep trying until we get it right. The words have formed like a thunder cloud overhead—you are not a baker, a butcher, or candlestick maker; you are a novelist and won’t be satisfied until your life takes the form for which you were made.
When did you know?
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
This morning some of my writer friends are posting a link on FB to literary agent Chip McGregor’s blog. Chip’s post got my internal cogs turning again, thinking about the journey toward publishing. It reminded me of the writers who approach me because they think that I’ve got a magic wand to wave over their manuscript. I only wish.
For every manuscript pushed in my direction, I have another sad story of an emerging writer looking for a shortcut. The most painful ones are those who did somehow realize that they needed to first finish one. They worked feverishly, often at night or whatever hours they squeezed in after work, to complete a novel. They’ve somehow swallowed the myth that by finishing their novel, they will next meet an agent or an editor (or even more erroneously, a novelist) and sell their story.
There are many myths that writers swallow that set them up for failure. It’s because they attend a writers’ workshop, meet an editor, and then they’re told, “We would never look at a manuscript from an unpublished novelist unless it was finished.” Then that writer connects the wrong dots. What that editor should also say is that most writers must finish many, many stories before they sell their first one.
I was recently flooded with calls from writers who read an interview and then, finding my number is, yes, published, called me. First of all, let me say that I took the calls because so many hurting souls were touched by a personal story I’m sharing publically. I might steer them toward good counsel. But, over the phone or even in an email, I can’t do much good for a new writer. They sound so eager and breathless and unfortunately desperate to talk to an insider. I can scarcely get the words out before they’re cutting me off as if I haven’t heard repeatedly, to the tenth degree, their story. It's taken a lot of courage for them to call, I realize, but often they've not prepared their heart for the realities they're about to hear. They come after "answers" rather than knowledge. They've pulled out a spade and started digging in the wrong places. “
But I’ve finished this book. Don’t you understand?”
“Yes, I understand, but—“
“My pastor read this. He says it’s good.”
“Sell it to him.”
“My grandmother loves it too.”
“If I could meet with you, say, once a week, you could help me shape this up.”
“I can’t. I have to keep writing myself.”
“What’s your editor’s telephone number?”
“She won’t even call me back,” I say, laughing, checking my watch. My page in front of me is not getting any more filled up with words as I listen very sympathetically to this person digging metaphorical holes to find a back way into publishing—through my fence.
“What’s her name then?”
“You should find an agent. They list their numbers publically.”
“What’s your agent’s name?”
“She isn’t taking on new writers.”
“But this is frustrating!”
Now you might begin to realize why authors stop answering their phones. We hate making perfect strangers mad at us. We need readers not enemies.
But to any new writer I offer this sound, dual advice: While you are attending writing workshops on crafting, also attend the workshops on publishing. A big part of the journey is learning to ask the right questions of the right people—and then stopping there and genuinely thanking them for sharing. You have to grow, not just your story, but your business savvy too. The writer’s way is a journey. Enjoy it for the imperfections of the terrain, the straining at the bit to learn one tiny bit of wisdom that cost you $450. plus travel expenses. If you really want it, as John Ortberg says, you’ll have to enter into a life of training. Go down the path of legitimacy and you will go far.
Monday, April 20, 2009
This is the list of readers who posted Sunday, April 19 in response to the article you read in the Charlotte Observer. At my request, the Observer posted an invitation to visit my blog Words to Go and ask their readers to leave feedback. The first 25 posting (and leaving your name) were selected to receive a free autographed copy of Painted Dresses.
Thank you for your warm response. If you posted anonymously and left no name, it was assumed that you were not entering the contest. Here is the list:
This contest is reliant on the reciprocal response of winners, especially if you left no full name or email addy. If you left an email addy, you’ll be contacted through email. Otherwise, please respond directly to me at pattyhickman at bellsouth dot net. (spelled rather than linked to avoid web crawlers.)
Thanks for visiting me at Words to Go!
Sunday, April 19, 2009
If you are responding to the Observer article, you've come to the right place. Please feel free to leave your comments here about the article or you may ask questions, but do leave feedback.
Once you've read Painted Dresses, please visit booksellers websites such as Amazon or CBD and please leave feedback for me. Thanks!
Wow! I came home from church to a full blogger box. I will post the contest winners Monday morning along with instructions on how the winners will receive their books. I need your first and last name--but don't leave other info for the sake of your privacy. . .
This is amazing. I'm thrilled that such an energy draining journey has resulted in a life-giving story. Thank you!
Saturday, April 18, 2009
We've had a great week at Words to go visiting with authors Randy Alcorn, Cara Putnam and Susan Page Davis. The material has already given my hubby and I great topics of discussion. All of our authors are offering book gives. Here is the list of winners:
Carly Kendall wins Maine Brides by Susan Page Davis
Connie Sue Larson wins Deadly Exposure by Cara Putnam
Wanda Chamberlain wins Canteen Dreams by Cara Putnam
Karen Harrington wins 50 Days of Heaven by Randy Alcorn (your choice, book or audio of author reading)
I hope your skies are as blue as ours down here in the Carolinas. It's a great day to open the windows and listen to the music of birds and kids' laughing. Have a great weekend, friends!
Join Patty this week chatting with best-selling authors including Lisa Samson!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
This week we’re discussing The Simple Life with novelists, a group of folks who often have to live on much less and under simple circumstances in order to preserve the life they’ve worked so hard to obtain. Today author Susan Page Davis and I are chatting about the things Susan and her husband have done to simplify. Susan, welcome to Words to Go.
SUSAN: Thanks, Patty!
PATTY: Your simplification process comes more naturally to you since you were brought up with this mindset, right?
SUSAN: Yes, as a girl, I lived in an old house with no running water. In the pantry was a cast iron sink. At the end of the sink stood a small pitcher pump, and when we wanted water, we pumped away.
PATTY: Even though the town had grown up around my grandmother’s house, her sink was exactly like this. I loved drinking from the ladle that hung on her kitchen wall, pumping that water into the ladle.
SUSAN: This small pump was connected by pipes to the hand-dug well out in the woodshed. Over the 16-feet-deep well was another larger pump, and you could get water there too. When we wanted to wash dishes, we pumped water and put it in a pan on the stove to heat. When we wanted a bath, we heated more water and dumped it in the bathtub. Then we added cold water until we had enough lukewarm water to bathe in. When we wanted to wash clothes, we heated even more water.
PATTY: It’s unusual to hear these stories told by someone your age today. Primitive, for certain, but probably not so simple.
SUSAN: I am glad my life is not quite that “simple” anymore. I do love the convenience of running hot water, flushable toilets, and Internet service.
PATTY: When our churches take missions trips, it builds character for us to live at that level. But truly, the problems faced by these emerging countries seem to be complicated by this lack of infrastructure. But some of it is good, don’t you think?
SUSAN: But my husband and I have chosen to retain some of the simpler ways. We heat only with wood in a land of hostile winters. We pay cash for (used) vehicles and just about everything else.
PATTY: Yes, we pay cash for vehicles. But it’s not easy.
SUSAN: In these tough financial times, it’s a true blessing to be without the encumbrance of the monthly bills many are struggling with. Doing without some modern conveniences helps free us from the worries of paying for them and maintaining them.
PATTY: But in spite of all you have to do to preserve this lifestyle, you still write.
SUSAN: The Lord has blessed me in allowing me to write novels. Some of them are historical settings, set back in the simpler days. As I transport myself and my readers back in time, however, I find that even in the old days, life was complicated.
PATTY: But again, it seemed to build so much more character. My sons think I’ve been harder on them than other parents because I wouldn’t buy their cars, pay for cell phones, and I made them earn a college scholarship. But overall now I’m glad because they’ve both turned out well—I don’t lay awake worrying about them. But as a mom, there were times I know they thought I was e-v-i-l. Our forefathers taught us a lot about building character because they earned it the hard way. But, still, they had our same human flaws, didn’t they?
SUSAN: My heroes of the 1800s and colonial days might not have had oil bills to worry about, but they had the same basic problems we have today. Strained relationships, financial hardship, sickness, injustice, sin.
PATTY: True. They still struggled with the same flawed human condition.
SUSAN: I spend a fraction of the time my mother spent on laundry, cooking, and housework. She might have possessed the talent to be a writer, but I doubt she would have had time. She had five children, a big house to maintain, a large garden to tend, and many other chores, besides sometimes working outside the home to supplement the family income.
PATTY: I grew a vegetable garden a few years and canned. It takes three people to bring in the garden and prepare it. You would have thought I was asking my kids to cut off a limb. But they did it and now it’s a great memory. But if I’m going to write, something has to go. I gave up canning and vegetable gardening.
SUSAN: Because I have the time, I’m able to produce books. I thank God that my life is somewhat simple, even though I live in modern times. We no longer have to pump and carry every drop of water we use. Instead, I get to craft stories. I like that trade. But I’d still rather drive an old car than scramble to earn enough to buy a new one.
PATTY: Thank you, Susan, for sharing your thoughts on what you’ve done to have the life you always wanted.
SUSAN: I’m giving away one of my historical books today—
Come visit me at my Website: www.susanpagedavis.com.
Thanks for having me here, Patty!
Thanks, Susan! This has been a treat getting to know you.
Please leave feedback and your name is entered in the Big Straw Hat for Saturday’s book give. And stay with us this week as we have more great author chats on this week’s topic “The Simple Life.”
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Today on Words to Go kicks off a week of asking authors what they’ve done to simplify life. I created a poll to the right of these chats. Might I add that although I’ve written on the disciplines (accomplished only when life is simplified) that as soon as I get untangled from the weights and obligations, the temptation to complicate life returns with a vengeance. Novelist Cara Putnam knows this very well. Cara could you share what led you to embrace a simpler life?
CARA: Patty, this is a great question and one I wrestle with. Anyone who knows me would tell you I have a hard time saying no. Over-commitment has been the challenge of my adult life.
PATTY: I wrestle too. And it seems that when I divested of all that did not tie in directly to my writing, here came the deluge and sometimes in a very demanding voice.
CARA: Last year the issue came to a point I couldn't ignore it. I had a baby and two books release as well as started teaching an MBA class -- all in a two-week period. Then I had three books due in three months along with two more classes -- and an infant who still hadn't figured out how to sleep through the night.
PATTY: Teaching college was the final brick in my load too.
CARA: Not to mention a daughter on a gymnastics team, homeschooling, church responsibilities, home life, being a wife. My plate teetered on breaking into pieces.Talk about overload.
PATTY: They do grow up. College is the best sitter I’ve ever had.
CARA: So I'm on a journey to learn how to rest.
PATTY: What calms your spirit, Cara?
CARA: A verse that God's pulled to the forefront as I'm on this journey is Isaiah 30:15: This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.”
PATTY: Yet, it seems we have to grant permission to the self to do this. What is the challenge of this verse?
CARA: In quietness and trust is your strength. That's such a challenging concept. How do we live in a way that no matter how Type A our personality, we always trust God for our strength. That we learn to be quiet even if He's given us a Martha personality.
PATTY: Hand going up.
CARA: What I'm learning is that while God definitely gave me this personality...and a large component of that is being a doer, someone who sees a need and steps in, that doesn't mean He wants me to do everything. Instead, He wants me to focus on the tasks He has for me. And His tasks are not necessarily every task that someone thinks I should do.
PATTY: The ones to watch out for are the individuals—God love them—who neglect to plan in advance. And then there are those who are probably being nudged by God into an arena, but they’re the Jonahs who decided to not only obey and do it, but lay the task in another’s lap. My new banner is not to enable either of these types of folks. And it’s been a battled. My focus is on writing, but because I work at home, folks tend to think that I’m available for everything.
CARA: I'm also focusing on the activities our kids are in. Abigail, my 8 year old, had to make a tough decision in the fall between ballet and gymnastics. Part of me really wanted to make it possible for her to continue to do both, but she'd been invited to higher levels with both activities that required a much bigger time commitment. She made the choice, and our life as a family was less complicated. Now that challenge is multiplying as her 5 year old brother starts t-ball. Thank goodness our almost one year old isn't old enough for activities yet!
PATTY: We cut back on the athletics when it seemed evident our kids were more talented in the arts. It was a wise decision as both sons have scholarships in the arts now.
CARA: I've also consciously worked on how to say no. That two-letter word is extremely hard for me to say, but as I practice, it's slowly becoming an option.
PATTY: It gets easier with practice.
CARA: I've also become more intentional about involving others in leadership to help remove some of the lie that I'm the only one who can do certain things like teach classes at church. There are so many people that God has gifted, but they don't see it. So I love to help pull those gifting out of them.
PATTY: Yes, I’m happier now too as an “adviser.”
CARA: And then there's that wonderful invention called the crockpot. My friend Heather Corbin has a ministry for moms www.simplefamilysuppers.com that has been a lifesaver for this person who hates grocery shopping and figuring out what's for supper at 5 p.m. She sends out monthly menus with shopping lists and recipes and it's been a lifesaver by removing one stressor from my days -- when I remember to use it LOL
PATTY: Thank you so much for sharing that link.
CARA: I've also started being much more intentional about having the older two help with chores. They are old enough and it's a help. It also means that I've relaxed my standards a tad -- perfection isn't as important as the peace of a clean house without the stress of trying to do it all to an impossible standard. As the sign says, if you want to see my house, make an appointment. If you want to see me, come on over.
PATTY: It’s actually part of character training to have children participate in the household chores. And, especially sons, need to realize that what they live in is as much their responsibility as females. How is your life different now and what about simplifying has enriched your life?
CARA: There is a certain level of pandemonium that young families have, but as I seek to simplify life, my stress level has lowered -- most of the time. There are still points particularly when a deadline looms and I'm working late into the night that I have to watch myself. But as I try to adopt simplicity, the tenor of our home has improved.
PATTY: Learning that every surface doesn’t have to be spit-shined is a weight off. Cara and I give everyone reading this the imperfection of a slightly cleaned home.
I was killing myself on Saturdays trying to clean every baseboard and the tops of doorposts. Now I focus on one area on Saturday morning and will get to the rest in the following Saturdays. And for big chores, like cleaning out closets, I drop the regimen until the big chores are finished.
CARA: I love knowing that I don't have to be perfect. Instead, I just need to keep seeking to obey God and ask for His wisdom on what our family should do at this season.
PATTY: Great wisdom from a mother of young children. Thank you, Cara!
CARA: Thank you, Patty. And I’m giving away two books today.
PATTY: We love you anyway, but thank you for your generosity.
CARA: I’m giving away Deadly Exposure for lovers of romantic suspense. And I’ll give away Canteen Dreams for historical romance.
PATTY: We entertain lovers of all genres here at Words to Go. Thank you so much, Cara.
Tomorrow novelist Susan Davis will be sharing her thoughts and wisdom as we continue in our very practical discussion, “The Simple Life.”
Monday, April 13, 2009
“I mean to lead a simple life, to choose a simple shell I can carry easily—like a hermit crab. But I do not. I find that my frame of life does not foster simplicity.”
--Anne Morrow Lindbergh
There are many types of sabbaticals, some planned and some forced. I’ve found that when I don’t plan for them that soon I’m forced into one. For many years, I was the “good” employee who didn’t take my vacation time. As an author, there is no allotted vacation time. When I stop my work, there is guilt over not writing. My friends are like me. We writers continue in the same frenetic pace from which we had hoped to escape when we quit our day jobs to write. It is not the life imagined. We simply traded the color of our shackles.
This week at Words to Go we will chat with three authors about The Simple Life. There are authors who have stopped their lives in order to renew and replenish; and there are a few authors who have pared down life in order to preserve it.
Preservation is an important reason to simplify. We rid ourselves of the debts that have shackled us so that we are no longer a bondservant to life’s overlords. If we spend our minutes paying off debtors rather than accomplishing Christ-honoring works, then we are slaves to our debtors rather than freemen to our dreams.
Free people own their hours, especially their down time.
As an exercise, if you’d like, you may keep a list of how you spend your free time this week and this weekend. Then categorize your list into two sections. Make one list the things that you imagined you’d do in your dream life. For the other, make a list of the things you do because you are shackled to it. Then when your list is about a week old, ask what you could do to leave behind the shackles and embrace the dream. And it’s a good time to assess the dream too. Is my dream achievable? What measures must I take to achieve it—such as sacrificing some of the excesses of life to achieve it. Also, does the dream include serving others; and at the opposite end of that deficiency, do you do nothing but serve others—an equally exhausting debt. People who tend to “only serve” might have fallen into the pit of “existential debt” or subconsciously trying to rectify a wrong from an old childhood wound.
Ask yourself, “What do I carry out of necessity and what can I lay down?”
Join Patty this week on Words to Go chatting with authors Randy Alcorn, author of The Treasure Principle and many best selling novels, and authors Cara Putnam author of Deadly Exposure and Susan Davis author of
Fun Fact: Patricia Hickman co-wrote Secrets From the Treadmill--Discover God's Rest in the Busyness of Life with Pastor Pete Briscoe, son of celebrated pastor-authors Stuart and Jill Briscoe.
Friday, April 10, 2009
“What is this thing He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’, and ‘because I go to the Father?” So they were saying, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is talking about.”
When Jesus gathered his twelve faithful followers into the Upper Room, he gave them one last final talk. Some might call it a General’s final instructions. He is speaking more plainly than he’s ever spoken. No metaphors to color his words: “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think he is offering service to God. But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.”
Christ’s tone is one of urgency. It is a bunker speech before the bombs start dropping, but the disciples don’t hear the enemy approaching. Then he shares one last metaphor about a woman in labor and the grief she must bear to bring the child into the world. He knows grief. It is his constant companion because it is full of men's shackles, the cries of the wounded, the tears of slaves.
The Upper Room speech was mingled with the disciples murmuring that he was making no sense; they did not know what he was talking about. As in other instances where they thought their Lord was losing touch with reality, the disciples muttered audibly their confusion.
Then Jesus told them some good news: “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved me and believed that I came forth from the Father. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father. His disciples said, “Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech. Now we know all things, and have not need for anyone to question you; by this we believe that you came from God.” Still, Jesus answered, “Do you now believe? Behold an hour is coming when you all will be scattered, each to his own home, to leave me alone.” He urges them to remember that as they hide out, He is not alone. He has never been alone because the Father is with Him. But to the disciples, surely this is a day far off.
He continues to underscore all the He has taught them, especially to define what a believer must do and what a Christ-follower looks like so they may recognize one another. He prays over them and leads them out of hiding into an open garden where he may easily be found.
This morning as I read Christ’s final talk to the disciples, I said, “This was your thesis, Lord,” to which he responded to my heart, “No, you are my final thesis.”
Today we commemorate the day that creation seized God by the arms and legs while heaven fell silent, while the sky darkened and the earth quaked in horror and the rocks cried out, “It can’t be so.” It is on this day we who, like the disciples, declare, “Yes, you are God. You are who You say you are.” And even though I spend much of my time hearing but not understanding, seeing yet not discerning all that God is doing and intends to do through us and on behalf of us, he is gracious enough to write his thesis on my heart so that I can return to His words when the clouds overshadow life and the days grow dark.
I can rejoice because he said these words to me and all of us and made us a part of his story. “Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep, and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned to joy. . . I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”
“Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; and they began to come up to Him and say, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!” and to give him slaps in the face. . . There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between . . . Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
Meditation: Think about the things in your life that God has buried with Christ. Name them out loud and then rejoice in the resurrection of new life inside you. Pray this scripture with a heart of gratitude: "Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we my offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire." Heb. 12: 28-29.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
“And they left and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover feast.”
There must have been some kind of spiritual blindfold on the disciples. Christ had been a miracle worker. But now the strangest things were going on. He told his disciples to go and find a colt, that the animal would be waiting for them. It was just like he’d said. Then he told Peter and John to go and prepare the Passover feast. They'd need a room. So he tells them, “When you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters.” Peter and John find it all to be true down to the smallest detail of the room being upstairs.
Jesus leads them to the upstairs staging area. He is in a reclining posture at the table. This will be his final moment of rest before the planet’s greatest battle of good and evil commences. He says, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the
When I saw The Greatest Story Ever Told as a kid, it was at this point that I said, “Run, people!” Even in my simplistic view of the story, it was obvious that Jesus was predicting his last meal on earth before he died. From the moment Mary poured oil on his feet to the last meal with his disciples, Jesus was preparing for his own death, predicting it to the most finite detail and yet no one caught on or tried to stop it.
Jesus isn’t just telling them he’s about to die—he knows who is going to hand him over to be executed; yet again, the disciples keep eating, thinking this is all about the food. And, in a greater way, it is. He uses the food as a metaphor for his body that is about to be mutilated. They have no idea that they are swallowing the first taste of redemption.
They continue to eat as Jesus continues to predict what will happen first and then next. They will eat again with him just like this, he tells them, but in a different and distant kingdom. Peter will betray him—his Rock. He quotes scriptures that have been a mystery until now and then finishes the equation in a strange interplay of shadowy metaphors.
Jesus had been escaping at the end of each day, withdrawing from the crowds and even the fellowship of his loyal circle of men to the
Up until now, the Bible stories from Adam and Eve to the New Adam—Jesus the Son of God—we have all been distant observers. But it is at this point in the story that we enter in as participants because the story is becoming ours too.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
“Look, the world has gone after Him.”
The offenses against Jesus were mounting. He had raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. Then he had the audacity to climb on a colt and ride it through
A group of Greeks had come into town for the feast and had heard of Jesus. They found one of his disciples named Philip and asked if they could see Jesus. So Philip told Andrew and the two of them went and delivered the message to Jesus. But the traveling show was coming to an end and Jesus did not respond to the request. Instead he said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. Now my soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, Father, save Me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father glorify Your name.”
Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
Some of the people in the crowd thought they’d heard thunder while others had thought an angel had spoken to Jesus.
Jesus told them, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from this earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But he was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.
There is a tendency in a mob to feel as if the spectacle belongs to them. They have gathered for the show. So dim the lights, pull back the curtain and entertain us. Once a teenager walked up to my husband following a service and said, "Where is the show? I don't get it." Centuries later people still gather and expect to be entertained.
The crowd had shown their affection for Christ so it was reasonable to them that they could summon him and ask him for Act Two. But he was not an entertainment act or even a rabble rouser as some had hoped. It was in this dialogue that Jesus once again was predicting his own death. But in this statement is more than a martyr’s final speech. He is using lofty language—the power to draw all people to himself is not the act of an earthly prophet; or the power to cast out “the ruler of this world—Satan”. Nor is the power to summon God the Father and then get a response from above the act of a mortal who is good with magic tricks. Jesus was not only identifying himself as the Messiah, but he was being identified by God—out loud.
It was right after this that Jesus went away and hid himself from them. In spite of his teaching authority and miracle working power, they still did not believe that he was God come to earth. But even in that disappointment he was fulfilling prophecy. He could not help himself.
A Meditation: Think about what Christ has done for you recently. Take a prayer walk and pray in a spirit of gratitude for the simplicity of the miracles in your life alone. Then open your eyes and "see" where God has placed you. Why did he do that?
Monday, April 6, 2009
Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a mountain. These were the same three he had taken out in a boat and showed them the miracle of the great catch of fish. Miracles were not new to Peter, James, and John. Jesus stood in front of these three guys and his clothes radiated light, turning so white “as no launderer on earth can whiten them.” Elijah appeared, a famous but very dead Jewish prophet, and then Moses. Both of these dead guys talked to Jesus.
Peter was so overwhelmed with the spectacle that he suggested they build three tabernacles right there on the spot where Jesus spoke to Elijah and Moses. He was shaken to his core, and said the only earthly response that came to mind—let’s build something here. Then a cloud overshadowed them and a voice thundered out of the cloud, “This is my Beloved Son, listen to Him!”
Then the lights and thunder show was over and it was just Jesus again in front of them. On the climb down, Jesus told them to tell no one what they had seen, “until the Son of Man rose from the dead.” The men talked among themselves wondering what it meant to rise from the dead. Then they asked their Lord questions about Elijah and how he figured into the equation. They did not realize His time was short on the earth and that rising from the dead meant that first he had to die.
When they got to the bottom of the mountain a crowd had formed. Jesus performed another miracle and cast an evil spirit out of a boy, a task that the disciples had not been able to perform. Then he began to teach his disciples again saying, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, he will rise three days later.” But they did not understand his statement and were afraid to ask him.
Their response? The disciples got into a debate about who was the greatest among them. They had witnessed God in the body of a man (incarnate), and then the prediction of his own death. But they chose to focus on very small matters—who among us is great. They stood in the shadow of greatness but could not comprehend it. They stood in the valley of the shadow of death but did not recognize the signs.
It makes us wonder what we are seeing right now and not comprehending. What clouds overshadow us and cause us to concentrate on the cloud rather than the One who is standing beside us, teaching us His way; but we become sidetracked on the small things that cause us to lose focus. We can’t comprehend that we are in the shadow of greatness when shadows come. We want to know when we’ll be elevated, when we’ll rise from the shadows and have our moment in the sun. We seek elevation. But we can too quickly forget that God has walked us down to the low places to remind us that elevation belongs to him.
Holy Week Exercise: Find a place to get alone and ponder what cloud overshadows your life. Write down whatever comes to mind and then write down what God is saying to you from the cloud. Then vocalize your gratitude for your personal encounter with God.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
The gentle tone of this week's postings has lightened my load for certain. Joseph Bentz's ceramic chicken story will be in my thoughts for a long time as I continue to learn the practice of waiting on God. Marlo Schalesky's tradition that she practices with her kids reminds us that the journey to the cross was a sacrifice for Christ but a process for us. Gail Martin reminds us of the joy of sharing our faith practices and the lessons we learn in corporate worship. And then we revisited my years as I shared my story as a recovering cantata addict. While there is no condemnation in the lessons we learn, there is joy and freedom as we reap the benefits of a life lived in surrender.
Here are the names pulled from this week's blog feedback:
When God Takes Too Long by Joseph Bentz--winner is Karen Harrington
A Son Comes Home by Joseph Bentz-- winner is Jennifer Eckert
Any Patricia Hickman novel in stock--winner is Connie Sue Larson
Thank you so much, my friends for visiting Words to Go. Next week is a week that Christ-followers set aside to commemorate one perfect life and our gratitude for His sacrifice. Join us next week for the Crosswalk--In the Shadow of Redemption.
Friday, April 3, 2009
The days leading up to Christ's laying down his body on a splintery cross was full of foreshadowing. He is saying a lot and his words are very telling, but no one is listening.
Have you ever had a check inside you, like a warning? But you discounted it because you did not want to believe it, or else thought your mind was misfiring?
I'm sure that is how the disciples felt when they saw their leader strung up like a sacrificial lamb and their group scattered into hiding. Suddenly the last words that were said from their Lord must have gone off like a giant church bell in their souls.
In the coming days, Words to Go will open up Christ's final days and hours for discussion. While Joseph Bentz's books and a book of the reader's choice will be given away for Saturday's give, next week will will be very spare, a week set aside for the practice of introspection and meditation, things that lead to a renewed heart that is full of gratitude.
If you have a favorite "last hour" story, please put it up as I'm making a list and don't want to leave out something.
"He said to them, 'My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.'" Matt. 20:23
Coming after Easter Week, "The Simple Life" with some of today's best selling authors.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
My journey of faith includes some memorable and then forgettable experiences regarding Easter or the holy season as I now like to refer to this commemorative season for believers. I’d like to forget that I participated in them; but that’s not to disparage their importance to some, only that having seen certain practices from the tender under belly of life as a pastor’s wife, I’d like to confess that for many years the Easter season was a drudgery.
I’ve led holiday events, for lack of a better word; I was in charge of pageants and oversaw the productions, especially for children. And I’ve got a bit of acting talent, so as soon as I had finished the Christmas production season, I was being roped into the perennial Easter cantata.
The rehearsals for a big church production began six months prior to the event. I’m not talking about those sweet little plays we put our children into with dishrags for a costume. I’ve directed musical productions with some high price tags including special effects that rivaled some of the community theaters going on at the same time. But there is a tension and pressure within the core of that type of event that began to dissatisfy me.
Personally, I was full of pride and arrogance over what we had done and then, worse, was left with all energy expended, useless to God and the work to which I was truly called. So Easter would pass and it would have been nothing for me but an exhaustive production that brought no fruit to the kingdom. I remember the tension of the altar call. The pastor would come forward and invite guests who had otherwise not shadowed the church doors all year long to come forward and accept Christ. We all sat in breathless expectation. Then Joe the Church Character would get up and break the spell and come and accept Christ—again.
But then we would quickly put aside the fact that our four and five months of work and financial output had not brought exactly what we had hoped it might. We would go down to the fellowship hall for the cast party where we swapped kudos and hugs. There is a certain amount of self worth that can be gained for a laity that is made star for a day. And we did bond and I loved that part of the experience. Unfortunately the stage, for some, is a heady experience. It’s like writers who get good reviews and then begin to believe our own fictions.
When Jessica died, I was emptied of baggage because I just couldn’t carry it all any more. I had to choose carefully what I carried. And I needed the power of resurrection in my hollowed out shell. I retreated and sought answers in solitude. There was not any person who claimed to have “power” who could lay hands on me and fix my paralysis. Only Christ has the power to heal and bring a soul back from the brink. In all of the histrionics that we had made of Easter, our dramas about miracles and children being raised from the dead, I will confess, that while some of what we did elevated interest in the Easter story, our high priced pageants still could not match the power that Resurrection Sunday represents.
So I now seek resurrection power at the power source found only in the person of Christ. I will admit that he is still a great mystery. But that is why I have his Word to shine light on my dark soul and illuminate the story that makes every day Easter in my heart.
I thank you for allowing me this moment of musing. Bloggers leaving feedback each day will have your name entered in The Big Straw Hat for book gives this Saturday. For today's blog post, I will give away a book too, this week, a reader’s pick from whatever I have in my stock. Thanks for stopping by Words to Go.