Monthly Archives: August 2013

Soul Sisters Round 2: A Review

Last Thursday, August 22nd, I was again invited to go and meet with the Soul Sisters book club at Crista Ministries.  Last time I went and Caity accompanied me; we spent a majority of the time sharing our own stories, our joint testimony.  And it was wonderful because for the first time we both had our sight unveiled and were able to see God’s handiwork through all of the turmoil and layers of crises we have been going through recently.  It was a complete joy to share that time together with her among the Soul Sisters.  And the women we bared our souls to were kind, gracious and filled with compassion.  It was pure glory.

This second visit was different in contrast.  We were unable to secure a sitter for our kids so Caity stayed home with the kids and I ventured out alone.  When I told her about how nervous I was to go by myself, she simply replied (in her wisdom and to her credit), “You’ll be doing this on your own at some point in the near future…it might as well start now.”  We both prayed for divine guidance to give direction in the evening, and boy-howdy did it go.  Some of the ladies who were unable to read OLDE MYSTERIUM at the last visit had finished the book by this second round.  So many questions were asked about the characters and their struggles; it was truly fun to relive and walk through those portions of the story and expand upon the layers of meaning hidden within those moments.  Finding Jesus in the hardships of OLDE MYSTERIUM was utter joy; but most of all, I was able to observe the Soul Sisters diving into their own exegesis and expand upon their own personal findings from the book.  This was most meaningful to me because all I had to do was sit back and watch these dear readers in their exchanges.  It felt like sitting next to Jesus and watching his glory flow outward.  And I realized there was nothing I had done to cause this moment, it was all designed ahead of time…a divine appointment.

I must give a goodly amount of thanks and credit to these gracious ladies who invited me into their group for the evening; they invited me again into a lovely and safe space to be able to talk about ideas, characters, plot lines, personal struggles, and loving others like Saba…the way Jesus loves each and every one of us.

To be loved unconditionally; to love others unconditionally no matter how broken they are in body and soul.  We can do this because Jesus first loved us in our brokenness.  He is in the business of collecting broken people for restoration; it is his divine hobby and I know that Jesus is filled with delight at each point my personal restoration because I too am filled with the same joy.  This is, after all, the heart of OLDE MYSTERIUM.

SED EGO DIGREDIENDUM

Final notes of thanks:

To the Soul Sisters for both invitations to visit, I give you all the greatest of my thanksgiving.  You have blessed my wife and me with your love, support, prayers and ultimate cheerleading for OLDE MYSTERIUM and for us personally.  Your kindness and generosity in a multitude of ways have filled our cups in knowing that Jesus is hard at work, both upfront and behind the scenes.  Should you ever decide to invite us back to continue our discussions about the return of Jesus, we would be happy to join in!

And finally, it was brought to my attention that OLDE MYSTERIUM was initially introduced to the Soul Sisters by Julie Gwinn Holve via an old friend of mine, Tina Bustamante.  Tina, thank you for all of your encouragement through the years of writing, editing, publishing and other things that require blood and tears.  I’m excited for your book AS WATERS GONE BY to come out in November; and as I’ve already had the honor to read and enjoy it, be assured that I am excited to be a cheerleader for it.

 

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Categories: On Faith, On Life, On Speaking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fall Supplication

Open and full, the Fall lies before me,
Hot, spent and tired, the Summer behind;
Gold to fire the leaves will turn, tree to tree,
And drop with the rain, descending design.
Sweet Autumn lift me up as you fall down,
May your tears rinse away my refining;
Each leaf cast is a jewel in your crown,
The blanketing clouds are your defining.
Deciduous destinies shedding all,
Relieving themselves of their canopies,
Until they are fully bare, standing tall,
Arrayed in magnificent panoplies.

Oh looming supplicants with arms stretched wide,
Let me join you in your prayers, at your side.

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It’s Like Pulling Teeth

For those of you who are parents, you will fully understand what I am about to say: My children are the truest reflections of myself and the most blunt of teachers upon issues regarding my character.

So earlier this week, our daughter Sophia was getting ready to lose another tooth.  It was REALLY loose, hanging on by a thread and sticking out like a snaggle-tooth.  She was excited, but every time Caity or I would ask to help get it out–Sophia would turn into a wild animal, batting away our advances with her paws and extended claws.  Caity and I chuckled about it whenever it happened and we were ultimately content to let it be.

Then arrived this last Monday morning.  I was at work when I received a text photo of Sophia grinning with a new gap in her teeth and the attached message from Caity hinted that a struggle occurred to achieve the result.  When I was able to speak with my wife, I got the full story.

Caity had been sitting with Sophia and asking about the loose tooth and Sophia was willing to show it to her with a grin, but every time my wife tried to reach out and touch it, Sophia flipped out!  So Caity decided not to let it go but wanted to press in upon the issue of resistance.  Why was Sophia fighting losing this tooth?  Why was she so adamantly resistant?  This wasn’t her first tooth lost.  It was puzzling.  As it turned out, it was all about Sophia’s fear, mostly the fear about the pain of pulling the tooth.

Once Caity was able to talk her through the issue, she was able to gain trust and then reach out and take out the loose baby tooth.  It didn’t take much, just a tiny tug, and then Sophia had a wad of tissue in her mouth to dab the tiny blood flow…along with a big grin.  Afterward, Caity asked her how she felt and Sophia indicated that she was over-the-moon-happy.  Then when my wife asked her how long the pain lasted, she held up two fingers–the pain lasted all of two seconds.  It was over before it even started.

Later on when Caity and I were able to talk about these momentous events in Sophia’s life, we both immediately recognized the relevance in our life together.  This has indeed been a ridiculously busy summer filled with growing pains and revelations; it’s been a cause for both tears and joy.  Yet ultimately it’s been good to grow and be reminded that almost all good growth comes with some kind of pain.  The pain of loosing a baby tooth is short-lived compared to the joy of knowing and watching a new adult tooth come to replace it.

Personally and spiritually the growth pattern is similar.  We as people can see the light and understand the truth of it, but we don’t actively change until we feel the heat; it creates cause to give up whatever it is that we’ve been holding onto with clenched fists.  It’s only when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change that we will choose change.  However, once the path of change is chosen and actively pursued, the pain becomes a distant memory.  It was over before it even started.

Then the joy of new growth takes over.

SED EGO DIGREDIENDUM

Categories: On Faith, On Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When I Came To The Fork

When I came to the fork,
In the path,
On the trail,
In the forest;
I paused and considered each way.

To the right:
The sun beat its golden beams
Through the netting of green boughs
And sprinkled fairy light upon the ferns,
Swathing the jade way.

I pleased my eyes.

To the left:
My namesake firs,
With finger-wrinkled bark,
Robed in velvet moss,
Swayed and groaned,
Luring me their way.

It pleased my ears.

Behind:
You called my name,
I could not see you
Through the wall of timber.
You pined long for me
Back and faraway.

It pleased my heart.

Lost yet not alone
I return for you;
Together, we choose
A new forward.

Categories: Poetry | Leave a comment

On Writing: Doing Something New

writers-desk-svetlana-sewell

Okay, so I have to admit that I don’t want this blog to be all serious-all spiritual-all the time.  Nor does it seem appropriate to use this space to thrash about every exasperating thought (trust me, there are a lot of them) that runs through my head–that’s what Facebook is for–*sigh*.

However I do see this blog site as a place to be open and honest about ideas and experiences, and so it seemed to me to be a good thing to actually talk about the craft of writing and create a category for On Writing.

As this summer has been a hairy season with too much going on, I haven’t had any adequate time to write.  Truth be told this last spring I started writing another book, but that became sidelined faster than a Mariner’s pitcher in order to learn some lessons that God was working to hammer home–namely, learning how to rest in Him.  It doesn’t mean that I haven’t been writing at all, but rather working on some different kinds of projects and I thought it might be fun to share what, exactly, I am working on–which are short stories.

Short stories have never really been my thing.  I’ve written a few in the past and submitted them to magazines for publication, and received some complimentary rejections in return.  And truth be told I’ve never given the craft of the short story any real consideration…that is until I discovered the work of Angela Carter (The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories); she wrote all of these tales based on popular fairy tales that we all know.  Should you choose to read her work, then reader beware because almost every story is charged with desire (I just don’t want anyone to trust what I read and become offended; I’m omnivorous and I’ll read most anything so long as it is written well).  And with all of that aside, what I discovered was an abundant tide of prose that swept me like nothing I’ve ever read.  I honestly didn’t know that anyone could ever write anything so raw and yet so beautiful at the same time–her descriptions are so flavorful, I could almost taste them on my tongue.

This gave me tremendous encouragement to realize that good writing doesn’t have to be novel-length and I felt that it could be a great exercise to rise to the challenge.  So I decided to write a story based on “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” by Hans Christian Anderson, and it’s been going really well.  Since I know how the story flows, it was just a matter of creating a unique setting and allowing the characters to play within the parameters set for them.  It’s been tremendously freeing to allow my creativity to be as purple with the prose as it wants to be.  And when it’s finished, I’ll throw it up on Amazon as a single or something.  But of course I’ll let you all know about it too.

All of this is to say that writing is never straight forward.  It’s messy.  There are starts and stops.  There’s pushing through.  And sometimes there’s cutting a project loose that simply won’t work.  I know myself well enough that I love being organized when I tackle a project, and it’s given me a tremendous leg up with large writing projects.  Yet there’s also acknowledging that writing can be about creating art, and so there is a part of the process that is about letting go.  Each project is unique and it’s important to let that happen.  It’s doing something new.

I look forward to talking about the process of writing in future posts, including incorporating some of the more concrete tips and exercises that I do to help the juices get flowing.  See you then!

SED EGO DIGREDIENDUM

Categories: On Writing | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Thank you Soul Sisters!

So last night was a first for both Caitlin and me.  It was the first speaking engagement to which we were invited by the Soul Sisters–a raucous and fun-loving group of ladies who fancy themselves as a book club…but they are so much more.  The Soul Sisters meet at Crista Ministries campus twice a month and review all kinds of books from fiction to bible study publications.

Why were we invited to speak?  A couple of weeks ago they ended up choosing to read and discuss OLDE MYSTERIUM, and apparently they loved it!  Caity and I had no idea what we were going to say when we showed up, and we were both a bit nervous, but as it turned out, the Holy Spirit completely took over and we ended up sharing our joint testimony with these very sweet ladies.  Somehow allowing that to connect in conjunction with the message of OLDE MYSTERIUM was more moving than I could have expected.  It was powerful to openly acknowledge that while going through a difficult journey of writing and publishing, all the while experiencing our own joint journey of trials, surrender, redemption and triumphs…that at the heart of it all Jesus is the hero of our story.

This is why God’s timing is amazing and perfect; that in the midst of a very difficult, hot, and transforming summer when it looks like I am surrounded by chaos, God would extend an opportunity for my wife and I to open up and share our stories with complete strangers.  However by the end we were the ones to get the most out of it because the veil was lifted; we could see God’s handiwork along the whole way…and He has never missed a beat or skipped out on us or let us down.  He hasn’t yet and He won’t start now.

The Soul Sisters invited us into a safe space to share.  We told stories.  There was a din of laughter.  And they saw a grown man cry.  Caity and I were refreshed and all the way home we held hands and issued prayers of thanksgiving.  There could not have been a more beautiful time spent together…a true balm to my soul.  Thank you Soul Sisters!

And an extra special thank you to Julie Gwinn Holve, who found my book, read it and suggested it to her book club.  Thank you for being a cheerleader; I am truly humbled by your enthusiasm.

SED EGO DIGREDIENDUM

Categories: On Speaking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Open the Floodgates

It’s been an interesting week, to say the least.  Caity and I have been praying for changes for at least a year now in regards to certain circumstances that have been out of our control.  And as it turns out, work is one of them.  For the last seven years we have been a seven-day work week family and it has not been ideal but completely necessary.  Caity and I have been able to equally split the tasks of childcare and bringing home the bacon; there are several reasons why we did this, but the most important one was that we both needed to be elbows deep in raising our kids–because we have twins–because our son has autism–and because all three of our kids together are roughly the same size and fully ramped in energy and zest for life.  The obvious setbacks with the scenario however, are that our income has been impossibly tight and we have not had any semblance of rest in regards to weekends together for the better part of a decade.

Yet, we’ve been praying for change; praying for God to open the floodgates of heaven.  And indeed that is exactly what’s happening right now, but the news could not have come in a more uncertain or terrifying fashion.  Yesterday when Caity went to work, she was called into a store meeting where she discovered that the company will be closing the grocery store she’s worked at the for the last 8 years.  Everyone’s job is in flux and emotions are running high, but I would have to say that I’m so proud of her.  Caity kept her chin up the whole day and went about her work all the while pouring out encouragement and strength on her coworkers and customers.  We both acknowledged that this event, though it appears to be a crisis, will turn out to be filled with opportunity; we are willing to stand firm together on the solid bedrock of Jesus in our lives and let him guide our destiny.  Things may not appear clear right now but that is why it becomes so important to place our hope in the One that cannot fail.

The other thing that goes with this story so well is the fact that Caitlin and I both love the rain and eschew hot sunshine with the full fibers of our beings.  At least for the last month, it’s felt full of sun and heat…and driving us to scramble for shade where ever it can be found.  So yesterday after she finished her shift, the kids and I had prepared a fun scavenger hunt for her to follow, ending up with meeting me and kids at Target, where we would then go to a restaurant of her choice for a family dinner date.  The kids and I were browsing the toy aisle when I heard it…thunder!  Several claps grew louder and shook the store.  My kids were crying but all I could think of was: God is displaying his power–He is in charge!  After calming the kids we went to the front of the store, where Caity showed up just in time and the rains began to pour out.  Rain!  Opening the floodgates of heaven!  We both held each other and cried, surrounded by our crying children, in the middle of Target.  What a scene we made!  It could have been from a movie.

Was it a coincidence?  There’s no such thing.  Just a final nerdy note from yours truly:

The Hebrew language is different from every other language on earth in that it is the only language where the characters represent  not only numbers (gematria) as well as letters (alphabet), but that the language itself–it’s structure, it’s syntax, and even the words themselves impart a deeper spiritual significance.  There are many examples of this, but the one that is fitting for this post is what is NOT in the Hebrew language.  For instance, there is no word in Hebrew that can accurately convey the idea of “coincidence” simply because the idea is not grounded in reality.  Accepting the idea that things happening can only be “coincidence” actually robs a person of being able to acknowledge the hand of God in their life.

In fact the closest modern Hebrew equivalent to the concept of “coincidence” would be: יד המקרה

These two words placed together are pronounced “Yad Hamiqrah”, where “Yad” is the word for “hand” and “Hamiqrah” means “the event” , “the incident” , or even “fate.”  Essentially “Yad Hamiqrah” acknowledges that when certain events unfold in an impossibly coincidental way, then there is no mistake–a greater guiding hand is at work.

The fact that God personally spoke to Caity and I through the thunder and rain yesterday was certainly His guiding hand at work.  I know it and I have placed it within the treasure chamber of my heart to ponder, later.  Yet I am learning how to trust in God; to place the destiny of my family into His unfailing hands.

SED EGO DIGREDIENDUM

Categories: On Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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