Monday, September 29, 2008

The Jar of Oil and the Bottle of Medicine

Do you remember the story in I Kings, about the widow who took in the prophet Elijah and gave him food and shelter--even though she didn't have enough food for herself and her son at the time? She only had a small amount of flour and some oil in a jar, barely enough for one meal. But after agreeing to share with Elijah, something amazing happened. The flour and the oil never ran out as long as he was there with her.

I know some folks are tempted to discount stories like this as mere fairy-tales. But I've heard several accounts of similar events from contemporary times. The one that comes to mind is from Corrie ten Boom's book, The Hiding Place. When she and her sister were in a Nazi concentration camp, someone managed to sneak in a small bottle of medicine. The bottle was made of dark glass and they couldn't see into it, but they figured there were only a few doses inside. But the medicine lasted and kept pouring out as long as they needed it, dosing prisoner after prisoner.

Some years ago, I made a tiny movement of faith, scaling back from a full-time to a part-time job so I would have more time to write. I was okay financially partly because my car was paid for. But it was getting old, and if I had to replace it or make major repairs, things were going to get complicated. I used to drive around in that car praying, "Lord, please make this car hold out just like the jar of oil and the bottle of medicine." And he did just that.

I'm a little scared about the economy and finances right now. Who isn't? We're facing major budget cuts where I work. Once again, I'm doing okay for now, if my car (which has over 130,000 miles on it) holds out. So a couple of nights ago, when driving home from work, I pulled out my old prayer--that God would make my car hold out like the bottle of oil and the medicine bottle.

You know God has a sense of humor, right? When I got home and opened my chronological Bible for that night's reading, guess what was there in front of me? The story of the widow, and Elijah, and the jar of oil and the handful of flour! I could just feel God smiling down at me.

I noticed something else when reading the account this time. When Elijah approaches the widow and asks for her help, she tells him that she only has enough food for one last meal for herself and her son, and she doesn't know what she will do after that. Elijah tells her not to be afraid (I wonder if she laughed at that one!) and then says something really nervy. He asks her to bake him a loaf of bread first, before she makes a meal for herself and her son.

What an incredible step of faith it must have been for this widow to do as Elijah asked--to follow God's prompting and provide for his prophet before herself or her son. And of course, it all worked out. The oil kept flowing. By letting go of that death grip she had on her meager possessions, she gained security and plenty for her family.

I just pray for that ability to follow God's leading instead of my fears. To believe in his provision for food, for cars--and for my dreams.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Great Prize Giveaway and an Exciting New Press

I'm very excited about a new publishing company that's going to have its launch on October 1. I've been hearing about Marcher Lord Press for about a year now, and I can't believe they're almost ready to start selling their first books. They're also going to have a huge prize giveaway as part of that launch.

I'm really pulling for Marcher Lord Press because they're aiming to publish good Christian fiction, but fiction that may be outside the boundaries of other traditional houses. In an online chat last year, founder Jeff Gerke said something to the effect of, if it's "weird and Christian," they're interested in it. Having just returned from the ACFW conference, where one agent's eyes sort of glazed over at my book pitch and he said, "Now that's just weird," I was naturally excited to hear this.

Whether you're interested in this kind of fiction or not, head on over to the Marcher Lord Press site and enter the contest. And if you feel so inclined, you can even say that I referred you so I'll get extra entries. (robing8300 at gmail dot com) I won't mind at all!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Endings and Beginnings

A few days ago, I mentioned that my feisty little cat Cera had gotten a bad diagnosis from the vet. Last Sunday, she passed away. Since she would have had her twentieth birthday in October, I suppose I couldn't have hoped for much more time with her. Plus, she wasn't herself at the end, and I know she didn't feel good, so I'm glad she didn't linger.

Still, when you lose a little animal friend that you've had that long, it's sort of like losing a part of your life. When I got her as a kitten, I was in my twenties. Now I'm...well, you can do the math. It's sort of like the thread linking me to those younger days just snapped.
I also just lost another animal in my life, a cat named Myman that I rescued a few years ago and asked my mother to keep at her house. He was an old kitty, too.
It's interesting, though, that some animal babies have come into my life just as I'm losing my old friends. Remember I told you about going to fetch the kittens that were dumped at my hairdresser's house? They're thriving and they're such a joy.

And then, there's a new panda cub that was born at ZooAtlanta on August 30. I'm so excited that our pandas, Lun Lun and Yang Yang, have had not one but two babies during their stay in Atlanta. The zoo has a live Panda Cam where you can watch mother and baby. I always find it soothing to take a few minutes and watch that big furry mother cuddling that tiny, wiggly baby. Check it out if you have a moment.

Last, I still have Wendy, who seems to be going out of her way to comfort me. Or keep me occupied, anyway--for example, with games of Hide and Seek. I heard some muffled yowls a couple of days ago and spend awhile looking for her. Here's where I found her.

Never a dull moment!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Left Behind and Enjoying It

Okay, the title is not referring to being left behind after the Rapture. That would not be enjoyable at all.

I’m referring to the fact that lots of my writer and blogger friends are heading out for the annual American Christian Fiction Writers Conference and I’m staying home. I attended the last three years, but I just couldn’t afford it this time.

I realized a few days ago that instead of being jealous and disappointed, I’m actually a little relieved. The ACFW conference is a wonderful thing, but it’s also quite stressful—for me, anyway. I know other folks say it energizes them, and that rubbing shoulders with all those other writers fires their imaginations.

This wasn’t happening with me lately. I was putting far too much pressure on myself to pitch and to sell. I scarcely had a discussion with anyone about our stories or characters or the actual love of writing.

I’m pleased to report, however, that I found a substitute conference to recharge my creative batteries. That’s my story, anyway. I may just be entering my second childhood, or having a mid-life crisis. A couple of weeks ago, I did something that I haven’t done since I was in my twenties. I attended a science fiction and fantasy convention.

This one (Dragon Con) was huge—thousands of attendees and events covering four major hotels in downtown Atlanta. There were speakers and panels with writers, actors, directors, artists, costumers, you name it. Half the attendees seemed to be walking around in elaborate costumes, which was silly fun.

I have to confess that I myself wore two different costumes in one evening—one a Pirates of the Caribbean costume that I sewed myself.

I enjoyed hearing Sean Astin speak about playing Sam in the Lord of the Rings movies, and attending a panel with four actors from the Firefly TV series and Serenity movie. I rubbed elbows with tons of folks who may or may not have been writers, but who were passionate about stories and loved characters as if they were real.

What more could a writer on a budget ask for to fire her imagination?

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Sad Excuse

Wow. It's been a LONG time since I posted anything. I was going to sit down and do another one of those cutesie "Top Ten Excuses" lists for why I haven't blogged. And I do have several reasons, including extra evening shifts at work, the guest blogger who stood me up for the second time (yet swears she needs influencers!), an icky virus, etc., etc.

But I don't feel like making a cute list now. While I was laid up with the icky virus, I didn't give my cats as much attention as usual. Even so, it started to penetrate through my antihistamine-drugged consciousness that Cera wasn't her usual self. For one thing, she hadn't suggested tuna fish even once, and normally she demands tuna at least once a day. In fact, she hadn't poked her nose out of the guest room where she likes to snooze.

Then I started noticing other things. How painfully skinny she's gotten. How wobbly she is when she walks. In other words, she was displaying all the symptoms her sister did when she was 20--right before she died of kidney failure.

So, even though I was home on a sick day for myself, we went to the animal doctor for Cera. And he confirmed that her kidneys are shutting down and there's not much we can do. Fortunately, he didn't suggest I put her to sleep. At least not yet. He said to take her home and let her enjoy her life as long as she can, which could be a day or a couple of months.

So anyway, as Lemony Snicket would say, it's been a series of unfortunate events, and that last one has sort of blown me away.

When you're saying your prayers tonight, put in a word for Cera, if you will. Aside from that stubborn streak about groomers and medicine, she's been a wonderful little friend. On second thought, I probably need you to put in a good word for me even more!