Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Beginnings of a Romance

I grew up in Weed. No, not on weed, but in it--Weed, California to be exact.

I graduated from Weed High. And I was a cheerleader for three years. Can you imagine chanting, “Weed High is the best high, is the best high you can get!”?

When I speak to groups, sometimes I tell people that growing up chanting about “Weed High” is the reason for my wayward teen years. It gets a good laugh, but that’s not the truth. It was my own sinful heart. Weed wasn’t the problem--neither the city nor the drug (which I never actually tried). Actually, I was looking for love in all the wrong places. I was looking for boys to fill the God-shaped hole in my heart. As if a fifteen-year-old football jock could ever do that!

My heart was broken more than once during those years, and I remember times when I questioned if life was even worth living at all. Wasn’t there someone, somewhere, who would love me completely?

Then, I found him . . . when I wasn’t even looking. In fact, I had given up on true love. I was 17 and pregnant, and I was sure I’d never find Prince Charming. Who would be interested in a teenager with a baby?

Then God showed up on the picture. I don’t know when He started pestering me. Looking back, I guess He’d always been there, loving me. And as I considered my future--my baby’s future--I realized He was what I’d been missing all these years.

So I opened my heart to God. I had no choice, because it was during those depressing days that I realized His love was the only thing that could satisfy. And you know what? It’s been an ongoing romance ever since. God has shown me His love in numerous ways, and I grow crazier in love with Him day-by-day. In fact, my heart warms just thinking about Him.

And you know what? God is hopelessly in love with you too. Wait, that’s not right. God is hopefully in love with you. Hopeful that you too can have an on-going romance. How do I know? Because it says so in my favorite Scripture verse:

Zeph. 3:17: “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (NIV).

Can you imagine that, God singing over YOU?

That’s right. No matter who you are, how you’ve screwed up, or where you’re from, God is mighty to save you. Even if you’re from someplace called Weed.

No wait, especially if you’re from someplace called Weed.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Joining the Fun

Hello fellow readers!

This is my first time participating in this blog--and I'm honored to be a part! To dive into things, I thought I'd introduce myself. My name is Christopher Maselli and I've been a writer for a little more than 10 years. While I love to write about anything that comes my way, my favorite writing is for middle-grade and YA novels. You can see some of my books on my website, Most of them are humorous action/adventures.

Currently, I'm also getting my Masters in Fine Arts in Writing for Children. This is mainly because I'm insane. It's quite a rigourous program and I'm sure many of my posts will be concerned with my struggles and insights related to it.

In my spare time, I've taken up learning to play the electric guitar. I've only been at it a few months now, but I'm having a blast and it's certanily nice to have another art you can jump into when you need inspiration or just need to "get away from it all." If you're really bored, you can follow my progress at

It's only apropos that I start blogging today since it's my birthday! I'm 34 today which is quite jolting because now I'm officially older than Jesus. We're going out for fajitas (I live in Texas and they're quite a delicacy here). :) I think my wife and 11-month-old daughter have some other fun things planned, too.

Anyway, I'm pleased to be a part of the gang and look forward to comments from readers and friends.


Christopher Maselli

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Least Likely

Janet's mouth fell open as she collapsed into her chair.

Her high school buddy smiled at her reaction. "Yep, you heard right," she said. "I've become a follower of Jesus."

"But ... but we used to argue for hours about Christianity," Janet stammered. "I figured you'd be the last person on earth to place your faith in Jesus. If I remember right, you almost had me convinced I was wrong by the end of every conversation."

"No, I didn't. You never let go of the truth, Janet. You were steadfast. And you prayed for me, admit it."

Didja guess the identity of Janet's buddy? Yessir, she was talking to MOI, her agnostic classmate who pursued philosophy and intellectual debate full throttle in high school (see photo of me at fourteen above). You can read about how I discovered that Jesus wasn't just for white people while I was in college. Before you head away from here, though, think of the least likely future-follower-of-Christ in your life. Take a moment to pray for her (or him). And don't worry about sounding stupid when you talk about Jesus. God can use sacrifices, even ones that seem feeble and blundering to us, to bring about miracles. Especially when it comes to someone unlikely, like me.

MAZURI (peace in Swahili) from Mitali, who's heading to Africa for three weeks, so I'll catch you guys later ...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

When were you called?

Today, among a heat wave and raging thunderstorms, I await the birth of my brother's first child. As we exchange anxious phone calls between my sister-in-laws contractions, I wonder who this child will be? What will he be like? What will he look like? What will his character be? How will he come to know Jesus? Then I realize, God already knows.

Daniel, Joseph, Samuel. These are just some of the people in the bible who were spoken to (called) at a very young age. David speaks about how the Lord knew him in his Mother's womb and Isaac was the long awaited answer to prayer. Many scholars put Mary in her early teens when she had Jesus. Moses was sent into Egypt's royal courts as an infant. Funny, then why do so many people feel that the Lord only speaks to those of a certain age?

Poltergist had nothing on our home growing up. With Dad's Buddha in the living room and Mom doing astrological charts and regressing people to their former lives, we had a very full house. I don't mean of people, I mean of darkness. Of low whispers when you are alone in a room, of objects moving when no one is there, footsteps chasing you up and down stairs and a hand, or something like it, reaching for you when you are fast asleep.

But something else was in the house too. Something clean and pure and searching, waiting for me to reach out to it. I didn't know what it was, but I wanted to run toward it and hold it to me. One morning when I couldn't breathe because of an invisible weight on my chest, and my furniture began to bang and move on its own, I whispered help to this power and it heard me. It came running, and my life has never been the same.

I take comfort in remembering this, in knowing my nephew is already in the palm of God's hand. I believe God calls everyone of his children back to him. No matter how they came into this world, what evil or good surrounds them or how long they refuse to speak his name. He knows just where each soul is and meets them there. Waiting, loving, calling. And sometimes it's a child who answers back "Yes Lord, here I am."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Faith in the Foxhole

I just returned from a week spent at Ft. Collins, Colorado, attending a conference for the Military Ministry (part of Campus Crusade.) I’ve been involved in the military ministry in San Antonio ever since my middle daughter was deployed to Iraq. Being the mom of a military girl has shown me a whole new meaning of courage. (She’s home now, thank God, at least for the time being.) I guess it’s a mom thing, but I am in awe over and over that our country’s freedom is willingly defended by teens and young adults.

I teach Sunday school to basic trainees in boot camp (mostly eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds), am on the ministry prayer team, and do a monthly newsletter for our teaching team. We’re dedicated to helping those deployed, as well as their families left behind. The families need prayer and support too. Currently a shocking 78% of our deployed officers are going through a divorce. Our young men and women are paying a heavy price. The military ministry is also helping there with marriage workshops on defending the military marriage and defending the military family (ISBN 1-57229-723-9).

Admittedly, I got involved in this ministry because my daughter was deployed and I felt the need to do something concrete to help other parents’ kids. Even now, when I look at the up to 100 young faces in my Sunday classes, I often see my daughter’s face instead. When I read the prayer requests at the end of class, my heart aches for the loneliness and fear and worry over loved ones back home expressed by these teens. Most of the trainees are dealing with more than succeeding at boot camp. Sure, prayer requests include expected things like “Pray that I’ll get my shirts folded right for inspection” and “pray that I learn to march right.” More often, though, it’s “Pray for my buddy on medical hold after attempting suicide,” “Pray that my mom can take care of my sisters without me,” and “pray that I won’t have to kill anyone.” During the week, boot camp prepares their bodies to respond correctly. On Sundays we study God’s Word—and how to apply it—to help prepare them spiritually.

Our young military believers—soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guard—not only serve their country, but they are missionaries on the world’s battlefields. They deploy and start Bible studies, make-shift churches, and praise and worship teams. The photos and reports they send back are a real encouragement. They epitomize our motto: “Faith in the foxhole, hope on the home front, to the ends of the earth.”

The conference made me particularly aware of the personal warfare we should all be engaging in. Satan has artillery (weapons of mass destruction) and leaves wounded on the field. Who will help them heal and get back in formation so they can fight? We don’t all wear uniforms, but we’re all at war. A spiritual war rages around us at all times. We must fight our own spiritual war on terror. As they say in the military, “Readiness never takes a day off.” We mustn’t either.

God bless our military kids and their families. Please keep them in your prayers.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Needing His voice

As I held the phone to my ear listening to my mother describe the fact that my father had cancer, and what kind it was and what the doctors had told her, I sat in front of the computer typing in the words to Google even as she spoke. Long after we hung up I poured over every page I found reading every word I could find. Then I would call her back and ask more questions.

I had to know what I was dealing with. What we were facing.

Facts became my coping mechanism.

When I grew frustrated with my mom not knowing the answers I drove up to talk to the doctor myself. The weekend he was dying I was calling the Hospice nurse asking her for what to expect, what would I see, what was going to happen. I had to know. It felt like if I had all of the information, knew what was coming, I could be ready.

It's a lie, really - beacause there are some things we just are never ready for. And therein lies my struggle for faith. Oh, I don't struggle with having faith that God exists, that He's come and will come again - those are givens. But it's the other stuff in my life. When I'm faced with what seems like a mountain before me - one that I can never tackle, never conquer - and the Word says something like...

"If you had faith like a mustard seed you could say to that mountain 'move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Mt 17:20)

Sounds pretty simple. But what do I do instead? I want to analyze the mountain to death. I pull out my measuring tape and take a thousand measurements. I stand back and rub my chin and calculate the distance. I take stock of my supplies and travelling companions. I look at all the facts to decide whether I can deal with the mountain before me. You can guess how I measure up to all of that.

So I'm in that place now in my life. Where God has spoken a word to my heart and has asked me to believe Him, trust Him - and not be consumed and focused on what I see in front of me. I know that if He resides in me, that He also has given me all that I need to do that. But actually letting go, can be harder than all the rock-climbing in the world.

So here's to ignoring the facts - and walking in faith. Here's to searching for His voice, instead of anyone else's.

So what mountain are you facing? Maybe it's time to step back and stop staring at the mountain, and start staring at Him. He's all we need. It's so easy to get side-tracked with the facts and lose faith but it's also easy to get refocused and find it again. Take a deep breath and just listen...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Wheat and Lilies

Dorney Park, Pennsylvania. It's 98 degrees and everybody's in the wave pool or standing in line for the water slides. I'm on a beach chair, guarding the wallets.

Gorgeous, shapely girls walk by in tiny bikinis, diamonds glittering in their belly buttons. "Ouch," I think. My tummy is sensitive; I don't like needles. I have to admit that the jewelry accentuates a beautiful part of a woman's body — as Song of Songs puts it, the feminine stomach is "a mound of wheat encircled by lilies." But such an eye-catching strategy designed to show off naked skin in public makes me uncomfortable.

If you looked that good, you might flaunt it, too, a sinister voice whispers inside my head. But thanks be to God, a chorus of sisterly compassion silences any short-lived shallow hiss of envy.

Why supply yourself so readily to unknown eyes? I want to ask these girls. If it's that easy to display your sexual allure for crowds of strangers, how much natural girl-reserve is left in your psyche? You're given that modesty to fend off unwanted hands and eyes. It's your birthright as a woman.

I'm not saying you should wear a baggy t-shirt over your bathing suit at a water slide park. I'm not trying to lay down the law about bikinis (yellow-polka-dotted or otherwise) versus one-pieces versus the head-to-toe black purdah worn by the few Muslim women in the park. I'm talking about a heart-attitude of modesty that regulates your relationship with your own skin. Tend your wheat and lilies, girls, I want to say. And don't fret. God can repair the walls that protect your scented gardens.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

I am being technilogically challenged today


Donita K. Paul blogging. Somehow that sounds like slogging.
slog (slog)v. slogged, slog-ging, slogs.v. intr. 1. To walk or progress with a slow, heavy pace; plod: slog across the swamp; slogged through both volumes. 2. To work diligently for long hours: slogged away at Latin.v. tr. 1. To make (one's way) with a slow, heavy pace against resistance. 2. To strike with heavy blows.n. 1. A long, exhausting progress, march, or hike: a student's weary slog through Cicero; a slog through miles of jungle. 2. Long, hard work: an 18-hour slog in the hay fields.

Excerpted from American Heritage Talking Dictionary
Copyright © 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

For me, anything having to do with computers and messaging and my cell phone takes about ten times the effort that is does for my son or daughter. I slog through the blog process.

I started this blog (I think another blog will show up with the title and nothing else) on the subject of an old song that a bunch of my author friends are debating today in a totally frivolous vein.
I wrote the title for this blog, then tabbed (I thought) to the message part. Instead, I got the pop up window that thanked me for entering my blog of the day.

So here I am slogging through a blog, trying to remember what I was thinking only a few minutes ago about the yellow polka dot bikini.

The question raised among my author friends was: Are the polka dots yellow, or is the bikini yellow and the dots another color or colors? (Yes, this is a group of adult, seriously Christian, dedicated authors. We all crack at some time.)

My contention is that the polka dots are yellow. A comma between yellow and polka dot would indicate that yellow modifies bikini, not polka dots.
Another worthy author says that the bikini is yellow. For the dots to be yellow, it would have to be yellow polka dotted bikini.

Then the conversation turned to why she was afraid to get out of the water when she had not been timid about getting in the water. Don't they know that a wet bathing suit is much more revealing than a dry one? Honestly!

That's when I came over here to 4:12 Live in search of some intelligent, meaningful interchange of erudite information. But I brought the yellow polka dot bikini with me and my own inept abilities at manuevering through a web site.

My writing friends were having a good time cheerfully debating the semantics of an old song. There is nothing wrong with that. I had fun poking fun at them, good-naturedly. Nothing wrong with that.

But the word slog has stuck in my mind. So often I hear people slogging through interpretations, hidden meanings, technicalities of the most mundane things. Energy spent debating something that is like a speck of dust in the cosmic scheme is a distraction. God tells us to in Micah 6:8
8 "He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."
I can recall in the New Testament, two admonishments against "slogging" through these type of arguments.
2 Timothy 2:23
23"Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels."
Titus 3:9
9"But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless."

Foolishness such as the debate over the color of the polka dots is in the vein of a merry heart. The light-heartedness helps us remember that we are silly creatures (humble)
But endless debates in earnest about certain things is harmful. These sloggish debates distract us from what God truely wants us to be doing and in the long run, solve no problems.

Next time I hear someone going overboard in proving their point about whether a fashion trend, a popular book, or a TV reality show is leading our generation to perdition, I'm going to start humming the yellow polka dot bikini song and start looking for a widow or orphan to help.

Friday, July 22, 2005

are you a writer?

(PIC: Suzie with two friends at camp after sliding down Mud Mountain)

Are you a writer?

I can spot them a mile away--or at least a few yards away. They carry a notebook with stickers on the outside. A pen is tucked nearby.

I see them alone in a corner. They are isolated not because they don't like hanging out with people, but because they are in the intriguing world of writing, jotting down their ideas and thoughts in earnest ink.

I see them in the pew ahead of me, listening to the sermon. The notes they are splashing on paper have little to do what the preacher is saying, but rather the words that are spinning in the mind because of it.

words to songs

poetry -- freestyle, rhyme, realism

stories that mimic their life

I recognize them because I once did the same.

How did you become a writer? I am often asked this question, and the answer is that I was always a writer. I think what they are really asking is when did I get published, but the teen who wrote in her journal (and the woman still loves to write in her xanga and 4:12 blog) was a writer way before the title of author came after my name.

I took a detour in my writing life after I became a momma. I was too busy, too immersed in life to even write a paragraph, so I became an avid reader, delighting in the words of others even when I couldn't pen them myself.

When my children went to school I entered the workworld--as a writer, but this time I was writing about things I had no interest in. I wrote proposals and presentations and specs for the corporate world.


But it paid the bills and it sharpened my writing skills.

Then a major detour in my life threw me back on track -- cancer. I was only 31 and had three little kids and a husband I loved a whole lot. The words, "you have a 40% chance of surving five years" was like Mt. Rushmore standing in my path.

Five years came. I skipped out the door of the corporate world and into the private world of freelance, vowing never to write another word about anything for which I did not have passion.

So I started a journey of penning words about things that I loved. Just like the teen girl who carried her notebook with stickers on the outside, I found a quiet place and started writing about things that I loved.

I began the business of studying the business of writing--thinks like writing queries and proposals and studying the markets where my work might be a good fit. Suddenly I understood that my years in the corporate world were not a waste--that I could combine my passions in writing with a solid plan to springboard my words out of the drawer and into the pages of magazines or books.

This September 18 I will celebrate my 14th year of surving cancer. Whoo Hoo!

In the past 9 years I've seen God open doors in my writing and I'm grateful. I didn't know that I would get to publish 450 articles on subjects like love, life, faith, dating, God, self-injury, family and more. I didn't know when I started that I would get to write books or interview on the radio or TV with cool people and talk about the things I love.

I didn't know it would be so challenging and wonderful at the same time.

Are you a teen who pens her words in a notebook and wonders if anyone will ever read your words? Are you a teen who writes lyrics and wonders if anyone will sing your songs? Do you have a book started? An op-ed you are contemplating because you think your view needs to be considered?

Then most likely you are a writer too. How cool is that?

T. Suzanne Eller (Suzie)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Family Matters

We're leaving this morning for a family reunion. We'll depart from our home in East Texas and drive until we feel like stopping. Then we'll get up Friday morning and drive some more. Our goal is to end up in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Or "Little Bavaria" as the travel brochures bill it. Of course, it wouldn't really matter where we ended up. It's not about the place. It's about the people.

This particular reunion is a gathering of the Macedonian side of my husband's family. If you saw the movie, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," you have a pretty good idea of what it's like to gather with these folks. They're a colorful bunch. We eat lots of food. We dance traditional circle dances. People share old pictures and reminisce about days gone by. This year we plan to have a jam session one evening, so everyone is bringing musical instruments.

Sound fun? It really is. My husband's father is a 1st generation American. His parents immigrated from Bitola in Macedonia. They came through Ellis Island. When the officials there asked the husband his name, he answered in his language. What he said sounded like "Tony Damoff" to English speaking ears, so a new last name was born. It all seems so happenstance at first, until you stop and think about all the people through all the generations that culminated in the moment Tony Damoff received his new name. A name he would pass on to his future American children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren . . .

Why am I telling you this? Because family matters. The people you came from--your recent and distant ancestors--are part of the fabric of who you are. They've influenced your appearance and abilities. Their choices have possibly affected where you live, the kind of food you eat, the professional careers of your relatives.

It's easy to get caught up in the now, forgetting the generations gone before. It's also easy to slip into an attitude of annoyance with family--to prefer friends over those whose blood runs in our veins. It's easy, and even natural, as we grow up to gravitate toward independence and individuality. And that's okay. But I want to encourage you today to take a good look at your roots. Do you have aging grandparents or aunts and uncles? Have you ever asked them about their lives? Or asked what they know about their parents and grandparents. The stories they'd tell might surprise and enthrall you.

I'm leaving for a family reunion this morning--a gathering of folks related to me by marriage only. But their family tree provides half the ancestral history for my kids. I want to know and understand them. I want to hear their stories and imagine what it would have been like to live their lives. Some of them can still remember their parents' village life in Macedonia--a world I'll never experience, unless I take this opportunity to live it through their tales.

Sure, family gatherings can be stressful. Not everyone gets along with everyone else. Histories are sometimes not so pleasant to recall. Grudges are not always forgiven and forgotten. No family is perfect. They all have their black sheep. But every family has its heroes, too. Do you know about yours? If not, today would be a good day to start a discovery that could tell you more about yourself than you ever imagined.

Family matters. I hope to know and love mine well. And I hope the same for you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Choices, Choices

July 20, 2005

Last week I helped a family member purchase a money order to mail to her daughter who lives out-of-state. It seems her boyfriend kicked her out, and she’d been staying in a hotel. Unfortunately, she ran out of money, and her boss from the local diner had already fronted all he could. This person needed money quick, and she didn’t know where else to turn.

Around the same time a friend of mine related the story of being startled awake by her son. It was 3:30 a.m. when the phone rang. Her son had been partying and needed a ride home. Though my friend had to work the next morning, she jumped out of bed and hurried to her son’s aid.

Does this sound unusual? Maybe not. People find themselves in binds like this all the time.

Well, what if I told you that these people in trouble were 50 and 55-years-old? That’s right. They experienced adolescence in the 1960s, yet here they were not straying far from their old ways.

Many times teens get a bad rap for being irresponsible. Teens drive too fast. Party too hard. And don’t make wise choices about their future.

Well, as far as I’m concerned, wise-decision making has more to do with a right heart-attitude than with age. I’ve seen teens make very wise choices . . . ones that their older acquaintances should try to copy!

Proverbs 1:15 and 18 says, “Don’t go along with [sinners], my child! Stay far away from their paths . . . they set an ambush for themselves; they booby-trap their own lives! Such is the fate of all who are greedy for gain. It ends up robbing them of life” (NLT emphasis mine).

For the past few weeks, I’ve been wearing a white wristband similar to Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong. It says these words: “Choose Life.” On the surface the meaning is pro-life, of course. But to me this bracelet also reminds me to choose life in all the decisions I make.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him” (NIV).

Choosing life means choosing God’s way. It’s choosing to seek Him instead of the world’s answers. It’s choosing hope, peace, abundance, and faith. It means serving God and loving people, instead of attempting to find happiness through live-in boyfriends and all-night-parties. It means not booby-trapping your own life by making bad choices over and over again.

Each of us messes up. I have too many times to count! But being “grown-up” means realizing those mistakes and deciding to take a better way. As Psalms 119:30 says, “I have chosen the way of truth” (NIV). Truth as Jesus gives it--not as Hollywood tries to display.

So the next time someone tries to give teens a bad rap, be sure to tell them differently. Let them know you’re choosing life. You’re choosing not to bobby-trap your future. Choosing blessings instead of cursings.

After all, your choices are good choices when you choose God’s choices for your days!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Bad Rap Guys Get

Every day, we're bombarded with a lot of junk in the media. Most of the time, I pay little attention to it.

Today though, I heard one of those comments that just threw my whole day off. The morning radio deejay on a secular station was taking pot-shots at Christian-themes in entertainment, and her favorite target was the young man, Landon Carter, played by actor Shane West, in the movie A Walk to Remember.

Now, I've seen this movie a number of times. There's a group of teens from the church where I used to serve as youth minister who would come to my house weekly, and we always passed the tissues amongst ourselves as we huddled on the sofa reciting lines from that movie. We love that movie. I don't think its one of the classics of our time, but I do value the messages that it portrays.

So, this deejay, she was cracking on Landon, calling him the most unrealistic character ever in a movie. She went on and on through two commercial breaks and some songs ranting about the fact that he was so fake because no teenaged guy would give up his senior year in such an unselfish way and that no grown MAN for that matter has the capability to give of himself that way. Males only think in one way, she went on to say, and that's all about themselves. A Walk to Remember was a ridiculous movie, she went on to conclude, because this young man wasn't capable of being in love and being unselfish-- completely because he was a guy. Boys are yucky, she proclaimed, so just kick them all.

For awhile I was angry. I'm the mother of boys! I don't want my sons to be stereotyped as uncaring, selfish doofs incapable of showing emotion. My husband and I work hard to train them up to be like Jesus, and, even at their young ages, they are two very kind little boys. My husband has his moments-- but that's because he's human, not just because he's a guy! (I, of course, never act selfishly.... right...)

As the day went on, I couldn't shake this woman's comments from my head. Anger turned to concern and finally a bit of sorrow for her. Was she simply propogating a stereotype for laughs, or did she really believe the words she was saying? Had she never really known a man of integrity, a man who tried to mirror His Savior?

Sometimes I forget how many people there are out there who've been hurt and don't see Christ in the lives of others around them. Instead of getting mad at her for what she said, I could have done something to mirror some of that love myself-- told her about some of the unselfish things I have seen my husband or my father do throughout my life. I did pray that men of integrity be present in her life.

And I pray for the real-life Landons and the little boys out there being raised in Christ-- that they do not get jaded by the jokes and the stereotypes about what a real man is. I also pray that we ladies remember that sayings like "boys are yucky. Kick them all" are being played up as "girl empowerment" fun, but in reality there's nothing funny about being mean to someone else.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Casting A Spell

Sometimes writers wonder if their work ever has any meaning. I mean, does it count if someone else doesn't read it? Was it worth it if it isn't widely accepted? Is it worth it if I only write for kids, adults, women, etc?

This weekend has changed my writing life. I was watching various reports on the newest Harry Potter Book. Several guest were debating whether the novels were fantasy or based on the occult. Other guests were debating whether it even mattered if the books were a form of occultic teachings as long as the children liked to read. Some guests admitted that they purchased the books for themselves and loved them.

Then I turned to CNN where a guest related that, according to several occult organizations, interest in the occult was up at least 12%. These organizations were regularly receiving calls from children asking "How can I become a witch?"

My jaw dropped and I thought that couldn't possibly be true when I answered a call from my aunt. We were trying to get together that day and she explained to me how the whole family was tired. Why? Because they had stayed up all night to get my nephew the new Harry Potter book and he was already almost done with it. He is eight years old. They made it a wonderful family outing and stood patiently for hours to get the book.

My blood ran cold.

I haven't shared with them about Jesus. When I have tried I have been patiently redirected, told that this is fine for "me" or met with a "uh huh, that's nice". These are people I love and who love me, but I have not fought for them. I have not sought a way into their hearts, their lives, their homes. While I have taken my time, been patient and tried not to offend......a deadly enemy has been brought in, made an honored guest and now has a foothold over this child's mind.

Overreacting am I? Children are calling up occult organizations and asking how to become witches! When is the last time a church, let alone several Christian organizations, reported that children were so moved by a book that they were receiving calls about how to become a Christian? How about reports on CNN that Christian organizations were reporting an INCREASE in these calls? How about children and their families standing patiently in line to receive the Lord?

Perhaps as writers, like I as a Christian, we have hesitated. We have chosen to be invited in, waited patiently or wanted not to offend. Meanwhile, the enemy hasn't even had to storm our gates, we opened them and let the children run out. Some of us lead the way (many Christians buy the books)! Now, there is no doubt that it is NOT Christ who has the hearts and minds of a whole generation. But hey, if it gets the kids reading, right?

Maybe now, more than ever, we should just write. Come hell or highwater we write from our hearts, lead by the Lord. Whether we reach one reader or millions, we just trust the Lord to get it to who needs it. And controversy? Bring it on!

And just maybe we should jump into the fray of today's world. Not embrace the violence, sex and rampant occultisim, but certainly not ignore it. Have we whitewashed the heart, the redemption, the danger and the humanity from our work? Have we whitewashed the Lord? The worst offense of all, have we made Him boring and out of touch? Have we done the devil's work for him?

The Bible is certainly one of the most moving and life changing books of all time, it is also (in my experience) one of the least read. Sure, people can quote and paraphrase all day. But does anyone really sit down and read it for fun? Maybe somebody does, but in the numbers that read this Harry Potter?

Why is this? The Bible is full of sex and violence, fascinating stories and incredible feats. But how many people know this? The writers of the Bible didn't flinch when reporting the facts. They didn't care about being politically correct or offending someone. They didn't whitewash the battles, the sin and the faults of themselves or others. They didn't leave out passion, sex and lust. They didn't turn away from abuse, incest and murder. Yet, this book has lead untold numbers to the Lord, and is in fact called the word of God. So why are Christian writers doing this?

What if, as writers, we are called to write for such as time as this. What if we aren't just to say "hey, read the bible", but are called to write the way to it? Called to draw a treasure map to it. To lead people down the road to it, to rush towards it and draw people to follow us. To point the way with certainty to a lost and dying world?

And what if, just what if, someone else is doing that exact same thing for the Devil and we have simply stood aside and watched curiously while the spell has been cast?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

A Sabbath Rest

What do you think of when you think of Sundays?

Some of you, I gather, get dressed and go to church. Some of you don't. Some of you may have jobs that you have to go to. Some may relish the chance to sleep in and not have to get up to an alarm clock. Some of my writer friends don't do any work at all on Sundays - it's completely a family day.

You can tell where I'm at right now. Yes, I'm on the computer - working a little. I won't stay here all day, but my kids are napping, my hubby's reading the paper and I had some housekeeping stuff that I thought I'd try to get finished. But even as I try to justify in my thoughts why I should capture these few minutes I know that's not what God had in mind when God called us to rest from our work.

I can find a hundred things to occupy my hands...and thoughts. And for me, that's the labor I really need to find rest from. To find those quiet moments to allow God to speak to me. I certainly won't be able to hear Him if I'm running around too busy to stay still and stay quiet.

Thou shalt not murder. Check. Thou shalt not steal. Check. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Check. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Ouch.

It's one of those commandments we could skip right over. For example, I had no intention of writing about the Sabbath when I began, but suddenly, as I sit here and type, I know that I shouldn't spend my afternoon sorting e-mail. That can be left for another day. Today is supposed to belong to Him.

And somehow, I know He knows best.

Friday, July 15, 2005

"Hands Up!"

(posting early for Saturday...)

“Hands Up!”

Are there things in your life that haven’t worked out, no matter how hard you’ve tried? I mean, you’ve really knocked yourself out to make something go right, but it just doesn’t. If so, it’s probably time to surrender some person or circumstance to the Lord. Does surrendering mean giving up? Sometimes, but not always. True surrendering simply means doing things God’s way—and then trusting Him to work those situations out.

Remember the old-time westerns? The sheriff caught the bank robbers and yelled, “Hands up! You’re under arrest!” Most of us have as much trouble surrendering to the Lord as those thieves did to the sheriff. It looks dangerous—putting yourself under someone else’s power to control you. Even though the Lord loves us dearly, we often think of surrender like that. We’re afraid of what will happen. Even with the Lord, we fear what He might ask us to do if we truly give up our independence.

Luke 9:23 says “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Denying self means to surrender. But how does that look, in practical terms? Is it throwing up our hands in resignation? No, it means surrendering to doing things God’s way.

**In personal relationships, it might mean giving up that hot flirty guy and letting God bring His special someone into your life in His own timing. That can mean choosing to be without a date on Saturday night instead of being with the wrong guy.

**With your money, it might mean giving at church or to some hurting individual when you really “need” to buy that new sweater or bracelet for yourself.

**In making a career choice, it might mean having faith to be an artist or musician instead of something “safe” you could accomplish, using your own strength and willpower.

**With your clothing choices, it might mean wearing different clothes than your friends, things that are fashionable, yet modest and godly.

Luke 9:24 says “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” Surrendering to the Lord’s desires for your life might feel at first as if you’re losing out, but you won’t be. There are huge rewards for surrendering to God’s plan for every area of your life. Stop worrying and fretting, trying to figure out everything on your own. “Humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.” (I Peter 5:6-7 NLT)

If you’re not experiencing the life you’ve always dreamed of—if things just never seem to work out—check to see if you’ve truly surrendered yourself to the Lord. A life entirely ruled by God is a life that He can powerfully use.

What Lies Around the Corner

A couple of weeks ago I posted part of my testimony, and I promised to share with you a "picture" Jesus gave me. I'm making good on that promise now.

I'm a very visual person, so God often uses images to teach me. Scenes play out in my head, and through them I come to understand a bit more about my adorable Lord or His kingdom. One of these mini-motivational-mind-movies came to me when I was in college. This is what I saw in my head:

I was walking down a sidewalk, and Jesus was walking beside me, holding my hand. It reminded me of the secure feeling I had as a little girl when a "big person" would take my tiny hand in his strong one and escort me down the street. Safe. Protected. I knew He would take care of me.

Then I looked ahead and noticed we were approaching a corner. I couldn't see anything around it, and for some reason I became afraid. Not knowing what the future held was a scary feeling. Just as I considered turning back, I looked up into His face. He was smiling down at me, and a look of assurance mingled with delight played in His eyes. I smiled back. It didn't matter that I had no clue what lay around the corner. He knew! And that was enough.

This picture has been a comfort to me through many storms in my life. I remembered it again last week. On July 7, my 20-year-old son, Luke, was in London when the subway and bus bombs exploded. Even before I heard definite news about him, I sensed God's peace and comfort. Jesus holds his hand, too. Later I learned his group had tried to board a subway train only two stops away from one of the attacks just as officials shut it down "for emergency reasons." The bus bombing occurred a few blocks from his hotel. He never saw or heard anything.

Life can be scary. It's frightening to launch out into the unknown or let go of people we love. But we can carry a picture in our minds. Jesus walks along the sidewalk of life with us. He holds our hand. We can look into His face and see calm assurance and a twinkle of delight. He knows what lies ahead, so we don't have to. All we have to do is hold on to that strong hand and keep walking.

I hope this "picture" encourages you as much as it does me. If you're walking on a particularly rough part of the path right now, please know you can ask any of us to pray with you. We'd be honored.

Enjoy the journey!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Weep For Gandalf The Second

Last week, we fought to save the life of our bearded dragon who was slowly, painfully dying of yellow fungus. Our boys held the shriveling lizard. Gave him fresh air. Water. Heat. Crickets. Company. They even prayed every night for Gandalf’s healing, but, unlike the famous Lord of the Rings character, this Gandalf didn't have the power to overcome death. It was terrible to watch a creature in their care suffer, struggle for life, and finally die, and they were crushed.

But Gandalf the Second served a purpose. He (she? it was hard to tell) showed us how our Master feels when a creature in His stewardship suffers. And G2 provided the opportunity to practice healthy grief. Even when you're a teenager, even if the creature who dies is a a small, scaly, non-cuddly reptile, you can still crawl back into bed and let the tears flow. In fact, you should. When you're ready, you can sing a hymn, make a grave, inscribe a stone, and remember your beloved in grateful silence. Finally, G2 gave our spiritual muscles of surrender some exercise. When prayers aren't answered our way, it’s a chance to take the prescribed faith-strengthening medicine offered by Jesus: declaring and accepting, "Thy will be done."

We have many awesome vocations on this side of heaven — including the three-fold call to pray, grieve well, surrender. Obeying this is terrifying, but we're a little less scared of it now. If you're in the praying stage, enduring a time of grieving, or trying desperately to surrender, may you know the company of a Master who suffers with you. Like our boys did for Gandalf the Second.



P.S. The dragon in the pic is not Gandalf. S/he's a random google dragon I found to show you what they look like. And don't worry, we still have Strider, our lab, and Arwen and Legolas, our ferrets, to keep us company.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005



Donita K. Paul checking in from the real world and looking for my fantasy world to dive into.

I missed my regular day to post because I was in Denver at the ICRS. (For those of you who read my last blog, the S stands for Show. How mundane is that? Symposium would have been nice.)
I had my laptop with me, but I needed a techo-savvy teen with me as well. I could not figure out how to get on-line from the hotel room. Now, I bet 90% of the teens I know could have had me connected in less than 60 seconds. But where were the teens when I needed them? I was disappointed that I couldn't blog with you.

I attended a three day writers' retreat and for the first day I just kept gasping at the names on the name tags: Brandilyn Collins, Carol Umberger, Kathleen Morgan, Lori Copeland, Tom Morrisey, James Scott Bell, Neta and Dave Jackson, Hannah Alexander, Karen Kinsbury, Karen Ball, Lissa Hall Johnson, Angela Hunt, Gail Martin, Peggy Darty, Yvonne Lehman, and many more. It was like walking down the fiction aisle at the local Christian Book Store and having the authors standing there with their books. We did workshop type things, fellowship, and worship. No disappointments there.

Saturday night was the Christy Award Banquet. I got to wear a beautiful red dress and fancy jewelry. It was funny getting ready with my two author roommates at the hotel. Reminded me of getting ready for a prom.
Dragonspell was a finalist for the Visionary category. We didn't get the grand prize, but we did get a medal for being a finalist. Yes, I was disappointed, but I like the writing of Karen Hancock, and she won for The Shadow Within, so I wasn't devastated. Still it would have been nice to get top honors. Funny thing- I felt God's reassurance as the time grew closer for the announcement. I "knew" Dragonspell hadn't gotten the award, and I knew it was all right. I still felt disappointed, but I felt God's love, too.

Last disappointment: I had to come home from the convention early because my stupid leg decided to be stupid. No that's wrong. Actually, my stupid leg (the one that is lame and causes me problems) was behaving. The other leg - the smart one- came undone. I twisted that knee in a grand way. Ended up going to the convention floor in a wheelchair to do my signing. And then went home. I have been waiting to go to this ICRS convention for years. There were concerts and speakers I wanted to hear. The glimpse I got of the display booths only whetted my appetite, and then the doctor orders me off the leg and to bed. Aaargh!

It's at times like this that you have to deliberately choose not to be defeated. It's not a word game we Christians play. It's not positive thinking. It's reality from a heavenly perspective. The things I didn't get to do are not as important as the things I did get to do. And who decided which things were important. You got it! God is in control.

Oh really? With me? WOW!

Hey all! I'm fresh in from beautiful Denver. Some part of me comes alive when I'm there. Last night I couldn't sleep because dreams of what I can and want to do for God rolled through my mind and heart.

Do you dream? I think one of the saddest events in anyone's life is when the stop dreaming. When they forget to wait on God (or they forget that God is still there). It happens, you know. What are your dreams? What has God placed on your heart? What he is awakening inside of you?

I'm going to be very real here and say that I dream small. I don't mean to, but God always surprises me. Perhaps it is because I look at my dreams through my eyes or my abilities. And then when the proverbial door opens or the idea ignites or the dream takes shape, I look up at my heavenly father and say, "oh really? with me? wow!". And then like a child with a Christmas gift I watch as the layers fall away to reveal the surprise inside.

I've learned over the past 10 years that God can fulfill his dreams and hopes through any person who will take the gifts he has given us and run with them. Am I afraid? Absolutely! Every single time I stand in a front of a crowd of women or teens or parents, I go back to that same feeling of smallness until I feel the nudge of bigness that resides inside of me.

Then I do it afraid. I trust that God knows better than me the dreams of my soul and what he has for me.

I'm dreaming again today and I'm dreaming bigger than I have in a long time and it's a bit scarey. But once again I'm unwrapping that gift and I can't wait . . .
to see what is on the inside. Where I'll probably say, "Oh really, God? With me? Wow!"

T. Suzanne Eller (Suzie)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Where Two Worlds Collide

It’s Tricia again, jumping in until our friends get back from ICRS. Like Barb, I was unable to attend this year. I instead chose to stay home and work on my next novel set in World War II. Picture this . . . an gutsy female war correspondent, a B-17 navigator, and a young woman impregnated by her Nazi lover and sent away to a home for other young women in her condition. Eventually their stories will intersect. In fact, that’s the part I’m currently working on!

The odd thing about writing fiction (which I’m sure the other writers will agree) is the challenge of living in two worlds at once. Part of the day I’m here, in Montana. It’s summer and my three kids are enjoying the break from school. I cook dinner, take my dog on walks, cuddle with my husband on the front porch swing, and chat with friends on the phone while drinking my favorite double-shot, sugar-free mocha.

My other world is one I created in my mind. In that world, I’m currently in England. I’m in the air with bomber crews as they attempt to damage the Nazi oil refineries in hopes of crippling the German war machine. Bullets are flying. Enemy planes are swooping out of the air. Men are crying out for God’s mercy. Whew.

So, I’m sure you can imagine what a challenge it is. “Yes, Nathan, I’ll make you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but can you wait until my bomber safely lands on friendly soil?”

Then again, there is also a place where both of these worlds meet . . . and that is in my heart.

When one of my good friends, Kathy, read my first novel From Dust and Ashes she wrote me and said, “That book was so much of your story. I felt it was you within those pages.”

Huh? In that book, I was writing about a pregnant Nazi wife, abandoned by her husband, and feeling guilty for what she’d witnessed inside the concentration camps. Yet her life is transformed by an American solider who liberates the prisoners and gives her love and hope.

Feeling guilty.
Rescued by a liberator.

Yeah, I guess it was my story after all!

You see, I can write about concentration camps and about those chained in darkness, because I’ve been rescued in the same way. Not physically, but spiritually.

Psalms 102:19-20 says, “Tell them the Lord looked down from his heavenly sanctuary. He looked to the earth from heaven to hear the groans of the prisoners, to release those condemned to die.”

When I was pregnant, abandoned, guilty (you get the picture) . . . well, those were the darkest days of my life. Yet, I praise Jesus my liberator. Like the American soldiers who opened the gates to the concentration camps—Jesus heard my groans and saw that I was condemned to die. Jesus rescued me from the darkness, swinging wide the gates, and releasing me from my death sentence.

So, I guess for me writing is not just escaping into a world that happened 60 years ago—one that I recreate in my mind. It’s creating a story where I can share His story. Not with preaching or a three-point sermon, but by showing how lives are changed by liberation and love.

So today, try to consider how His story has affected the story of your life.

And I’ll think of you as my characters overcome obstacles and save the day!

Monday, July 11, 2005

We're still here!

Hey, this is Barb just popping in out of turn to say that this week is the week of the International Christian Retailers Show put on by the Christian Booksellers Association, and some of my fellower 4:12ers are hob-nobbing in Denver. (I am not... tear...) We should be back to our regular schedule in no time.

In the meantime, let's get some chatter on some reads going. What's been your favorite read of the summer so far? Mine has been this chic lit title by Elise Juska called Getting Over Jack Wagner. Not a Christian title, but a fun read.

What are you reading?

Friday, July 08, 2005

My Confession

I'm going to use my first posting on this blog to make a confession. For years, I had a memory problem. As a young mom my problem was self-induced.

You see, I was doing well in life. I was married to a great guy, was involved in a good church, had surrounded myself with faithful friends, and was even fulfilling my dream of seeing my words in print. It seemed only natural to want to forget my teen years. To pretend they never happened. To blank out that time period when . . . (I was trying to forget, remember?)

Though I didn’t speak of those days past, I really didn’t forget. How could I when I had a son as a reminder of my teenage pregnancy? He was something beautiful that came out of pretty tough times.

But there was Someone else who didn’t forget. God was there during the dark times. He was there when I dropped out of regular high school so I didn’t have to see my old boyfriend with his new girlfriend. He was there when I felt my life was over. When I just wanted to stay in bed and sleep all day. He was also there when, at six-month’s pregnant, I wrapped my arms around my expanding stomach and asked Jesus to “please fix my screwed-up life.”

Of course, there were others who found out about my pregnancy despite my silence. Like my pastor, for example. As my birthday neared one year, I could see his mind calculating . . . If Tricia’s turning 25 and Cory is 8. Well, that would make her 17 when she had him?!

Once my pastor knew, I felt he and God were in the business of encouraging me to stop faking my memory problem. The two teamed up, you see—Pastor Dan and God—and both prodded me to help other young women facing a crisis pregnancy. The result was Hope Pregnancy Center. I was one of the three founders of this amazing ministry. After that I started working with teen moms through a program called Teen MOPS. But God wasn’t finished with me yet, and He gave me the idea for a parenting book for young moms facing the same struggles I once went through. And Life Interrupted: The Scoop on Being a Young Moms was born.

You can find more info about the book on my website. Or you can read the first chapter here. The goal of the book is to provide encouragement to young moms and remind them, “You can do it. You matter!” While you’re on my website, also be sure to check out the photos of my husband and kids. Pretty amazing, aren’t they?

Finally, I’d like to leave you with one last thought. It’s something I read from my daily Bible Reading this morning. Psalms 78:4 says, “We will not hide these truths . . . but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD. We will tell of his power and the mighty miracles he did.”

You see, when it comes to our changed hearts, God is more into remembering than forgetting. He wants us to remember how He helped us. He wants us to tell of the power and the miracles He did in our lives. And guess what? You’re part of that next generation I’m shouting it out to! God transformed my life from a beaten-down, teary-eyed teen to someone who can write cool books for Him. That’s something worth remembering!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Survival? Or surrender?

Hello, everyone! Glad to join you to talk about writing and life and the Lord. Lately I’ve been more Nana than writer, as my baby grandson (Caleb) was born two weeks ago. Talk about joy! He joins his parents and his three-year-old sister, Abby—who live just a couple miles away. I’m blessed! I’ll try not to write tons about the baby or post a zillion photos, but I make no promises. New babies are such a reminder of God’s love. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

I’m Kristi Holl, and I’ve been writing since 1980 and just finished my 30th book. Most of my novels have been for upper middle grade or middle school girls. One book for writers called WRITER’S FIRST AID was published in 2003. My latest books are four devotionals for girls: NO BOYS ALLOWED and GIRLZ ROCK are shown on my website, and CHICK CHAT and GOD TALK will be published in 2006.

I wrote my first dozen novels for girls who never go to church, don’t hear about God or faith at home, and never think of setting foot inside a Christian book store. I grew up like that, believing churches were only for holding funerals. I remember how scary life was, facing problems and pain and the future alone! I tried to infuse those family/relationship novels with hope because those were the kinds of books that spoke to me as a child.

With the devotionals, I changed focus a bit. I noticed friends my age and friends of my daughters were suffering a lot as a result of making some poor decisions. (Yes, me too.) I embarked on a personal quest to discover why I wasn’t enjoying the Christian life. I was going to heaven—I knew Jesus as my Savior—but the trip was miserable! Where was all that joy and peace and rest Jesus talked about? Sure wasn’t real in my own life—or in the lives of so many girls and women I knew. My devotionals for girls deal with their real life issues: being left out, peer pressure, gossip, divorced parents, being overweight, snarly friendships, the parent police—you name it. Life does have some major challenges, but victory and the abundant life can be ours if we’re willing to do things God’s way. We can do more than survive. We can thrive!

That willingness to do things God’s way is the kicker—for all of us, no matter what our age. That stubbornness (or fear) that makes us do things OUR way will keep us in survival mode—surviving one emotional upset and calamity after another. We can’t move forward into God’s purpose for our lives unless we’re really willing to surrender everything to God. Surrendering . . . but that’s a topic for another time!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Hello? Hello?

Are you there? What's your name? What do you love to read? What's going on in your life?

No, I'm not nosey. I'm simply hungering for feedback. Isn't it funny how we need it? Even as an author, even as an adult, I love to see the response in the eyes of those I'm with. I love the one-on-one that comes with friendships. I love to speak and join in with the laughter, the intake of breath, when we talk about life and God.

Then why did I choose to be an author? Working away in my small home office, writing books and listening for the voice of God as I write about issues of faith in a real world? Just me, my cat, and KLOVE playing in the background.

Authors often don't receive feedback. You hope that God is using the books to encourage teens. We watch sales figures, but those don't say a word about the girl (or guy) sitting alone in her/his room reading the book, waiting for God to speak into their heart.

Then occasionally I receive an email like this one:

Suzanne, I was struggling with depression and had began to think that suicide might be an option. Then I read Darrin's story in your book and God showed me that my life wasn't over and that he would help me through this hard time. I just want you to know that I went outside and looked at the stars tonight and for the very first time I realized that God was real and that he loved me. Alicia, Age 14

It's emails like that that keep me writing when I'm all alone. It keeps me writing when I wonder if a "real job" might pay better. But even if there isn't feedback, this is what God has called me to do -- to write about him, to be real about my faith, to tell teens that God loves them passionately and that Christianity is way more than just another religion. It's amazing and life changing.

But that doesn't mean we don't like to hear from you.

So, are you there? Are you reading this blog? : ) We'd love to know your name. We'd love to hear what's happening in your world. We'd love to know what books you love to read (even if they aren't ours). We'd love to say hello.

Suzie Eller (T. Suzanne), author of Real Teens, Real Stories, Real Life

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Missed my day!

4:12LIVEDonita K. Paul checking in a day late.
What was I thinking? (slap to the head) I was thinking about freedom and diets. Hurray and yuck. Our neighbors invited us over for backyard barbecue, and it was tasty, tasty, tasty.
Today I did better with low fat, low cal, low carb, but yesterday was divine!!
I am packing to go to Denver, CO for the ICRS which used to be CBA. I know what CBA stands for, Christian Books Association. I know what ICR stands for, International Christian Retailers. I haven't a clue what the S stands for. I'll try to remember to tell you when I get back, that is, assuming I find out.
Knowing most of what I need to know is typical of my life. Three-fourths of the time, I am standing on pretty firm ground, but there is always that S in my life that is nebulous and uncertain. I'm not worried about falling into a big black hole though. International Christian Retailers Sinkhole? NAH! I don't think so. God will take care of me as long as I have most of my facts straight and aim to please Him.
Saturday night is the Christy Awards, and my book DragonSpell is a finalist in the visionary catagory. I have a beautiful new dress. Red, very red, red all over. And some snazzy new jewelry. But no shoes. I may have to go barefoot, but I doubt it. I don't think the good fairygodmother will supply me with ruby slippers, but Walmart may have some black pumps. Maybe not as much pizazz as the dress and the jewelry, but God isn't going to look down on me for cheap shoes, and I'm determined not to get hung up on them either.

Until next week,
Be good, Be God's

Donita K. Paul

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Let Freedom Ring

I have only a prayer today, on the Sunday before Independence Day, and a wish for you all.

I pray that the Lord will protect, heal and guide this country and that he will lead us into the future, that he will not forsake it looks like we sometimes forsake him.

And I wish that everyone will take the time tomorrow to remember what Freedom is, what it cost. That freedom was a gift from the Lord that we gave away, that was purchased back from the devil with blood and an innocent life. That to not walk in that Freedom is to deny that the sacrifice was great, great enough. The Freedom we have as Americans was also bought at a bloody price. It is a gift we have today, and are able to extend to others, only because many gave all.

Let's let Freedom ring!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Peeling Pink Wallpaper...

Ever have one of those moments where you feel like you're a little kid again? A scent, a sight, a sound-- something that takes you back to those days gone by?

I was there all last week.

We went on vacation, but it was more than vacation to me. It was a walk into the past of a very insecure little girl, and the memory of that little girl was nowhere near as timid as she was. The memory of that little girl tried to override me again and again, and it was a struggle at times to remember that she was no more.

Now, don't read too far into this-- I had a rather Pollyanna-ic childhood. No serious trauma. No broken home or great tragedies. I had a wonderful upbringing, and I thank my parents for that.

Sleeping under that peeling pink wallpaper in my grandmom's home just brought me back to the time when I questioned everything. You think too hard about everything, my mom used to say to me. I was so shy-- I was so timid that I felt a closer connection to Laura Ingalls and Huck Finn than the girl at the desk next to me. I was afraid of everything.

Most of all, I was afraid of God. The word fear always seemed to be used when God was mentioned in my childhood. The preacher never failed to remind us that God smited man for his disobedience. My grandmom never failed to remind us that God punished the wicked-- her absolute favorite word. My mom was even quick to call on the tales of God's wrath to keep her children in line. In our little country church, come to think of it, everyone was quick to jump on the God-can-take-you-down-in-a-second bandwagon.

I saw you in a pair of shorts at the park last week, Bobbi Jo. How do you think God liked that?

Your hair is your crown of glory from God, Bobbi Jo. It is never to be cut or else the fear of God is to be in you.

Your parents are sending you straight to hell, Bobbi Jo, having that television in your home. You better pray and ask that he spare you from the wrath they will face.

Your brother is sick, Bobbi Jo, to punish your parents for their wickedness. Your father needs to have you in church every Sunday-- not just the ones he doesn't work on.

Here I was-- thirty-two years old-- a woman who grew from that to know and love my Jesus, and as the train whistled outside the walls of my grandmom's home, the doubt and the fear started to creep back in. If I did die before I wake, would my soul really be His, or did I not live up to His expectations? Did I somehow, once again, screw it all up? I'm such a mess-- how am I ever going to possibly live up to what I'm supposed to be?

Of course, I screwed it up. I do every day. The good thing is, when I came to really know Christ a few years ago, that was all wiped clean. That little girl-- she's no longer me. And God doesn't want me to be like her. To doubt if I'm good enough. To ask why I should even try-- I'm not going to get it right anyway. To FEAR Him in any other way but reverence.

As I snuggled under the blankets of the same bed I spent many summers in as a child, I talked to my God and saw that without that little girl I wouldn't be the person I am today. It's not about the length of my hair or the fact that I now have a ring in my nose and never, ever wear a skirt. It's not about the fact that I'm in church every Sunday or that I like the occasional WB show and let my son watch Teen Titans. It's not about me at all. It's all about Him. It's all about what He did for me when He went to that cross and took my discretions with Him. I laid in that bed, and I praised Him for reminding me of that with some peeling pink wallpaper and a train whistle.