AUTHENTICITY – Part 1

Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth-So…Help Me GOD!

CENTRAL PARK

CENTRAL PARK

You’ve heard it. You know it from courts of law, swearing on the Holy Bible in a country where Christianity and beliefs get blurred and kicked out of any public or political place.
What do you believe?
WARNING: This blog post contains some harsh truths
JOHN 8:32—“Then you will know the Truth, and the truth will set you free.”
My friend and neighbor, Heidi Rosner, (and the artist behind the cover of my first novel “grace,”) sent the above picture from her most recent visit to Central Park. Her text said: “Looks a lot like your cover?!”
I was stunned. It really did look a lot like my cover. As writers, we are continually on the quest for authenticity. The cover that I created in my mind’s eye—morphing the Applegate River with the events in my book; calling the river in the book The Rogue River, adding a bench and a bridge…totally unique. I was searching for an authentic cover (which is why I had it created instead of using one of the publisher provided images).
What Heidi created with her translation of my descriptions and desires for the painting truly blew my mind. She has authentic talent: morphing water, brushes, color and a two dimensional surface into depth, beauty and captivating emotion that brushes the soul with magic.
Then it hit me—Like the ugly truth—words from Dr. Jared Aragona the instructor from my most recent writing course at SCC, “There are no new ideas. There are archetypes that are generally appealing and re-used in new ways. You will not come up with something that has never been thought of or already created.”
This mirrored a truth I have found in movie productions. There are usually two movies released close together; two competing studios trying to capture your attention and your dollars. Think about it–Remember “Stir of Echoes” and “The Sixth Sense?”—Two very similar movies released within weeks of each other and both embodying quite similar stories. Or, how about “The Prestige” and “The Illusionist?” and “Wyatt Earp” vs. “Tombstone.” More recently, although I didn’t see either of these (nor do I think I need to) “Friends with Benefits” and “No Strings Attached.” These are just a smattering of genres and types but the list goes on and on, seemingly proving Dr. Aragona right—no new ideas.
Gloria Steinem—“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
It was like the first time I heard the awful truth of Santa Claus. My older sister and I huddled in the living room after asking the hard question—our parents huddled in the kitchen, awaiting our answer.
My sister in a hushed whisper, “We need to know! All those nights we spent waiting for him? They said they would tell us the truth.”
I was too young to really get what my sister and parents were talking about, but I felt the foreboding in my gut. Truly, though young, I already knew the universal truth that, indeed—Ignorance is bliss. I didn’t want to know, but I wanted to be brave like my big sister.
We squared our tiny shoulders and approached the kitchen. I love how my parents handled it—my sister, driven for the truth gave them our answer—we deserved the truth. She folded her arms across her night gowned chest and lips quivered slightly with the words, “We want the truth.”
“First understand that, no matter what we tell you, there is still magic in Christmas — if you believe. It is more about belief than the truth…The truth is — there is not a Santa Claus. Also, the truth is—if you don’t believe—there just might not be the magic…or the presents.”
I saw my out, “I will believe! I believe!”
Fast forward–back to truths and authenticity—is this a myth? An unachievable platform that people somehow grasp at but it slips by them as they await up late at night, trying to stave off the sleep-laden eyelids long enough to get that glimpse of it? Does what one believe even matter?
I believe there are fakes and forgers; you can’t work in my profession at the police department and not see this truth. But there is also the scientific truth that no two fingerprints are the same—Each of your ten fingers’ prints are unique and different, and these are different that anyone else’s ten fingers, and those are different that anyone else’s created, EVER.
“We are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)
As I studied the photo of Central Park and thought about the creation of “The River” by Heidi, I was struck with another truth—Beauty is beauty. Beauty is true and we are simply God’s unique creations trying to interpret, translate and relay His beauty. Truth is, even these ideas I was “stumbling across” were not new. As I studied this phenomenon in these two pictures, pondered the duplication of movies, and thought on my beliefs, I also came upon these words—

“The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.” Piet Mondrian
“The music of this opera was dictated to me by God; I was merely instrumental in putting it on paper and communicating it to the public.” (About Madame Butterfly) –Giacomo Puccini
“It is the creative potential itself in human beings that is the image of God.” Mary Daly
So, God helped me. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but…
And, indeed, it is free.

Recession Brings “grace”

IMG_20130514_183310_506Five years ago, as I was working at Scottsdale PD’s Crime lab as a fingerprint technician, I went part-time to help care for my terminally ill father in Colorado. I figured I could return to full-time within a year or two.–The “recession” changed all that. After my father passed away, I found myself with some extra time on my hands and a desire to pursue some old dreams. I enrolled at Scottsdale Community College and began honing my (at that point) “latent” writing skills. These new skills and the inflamed desire to write are what brought about my first fiction novel “grace.”
“grace” is a novel set in southern Oregon that follows four friends’ lives and is threaded with the overarching theme of undeserved forgiveness. It contains tragedy and murder, life and death, good and evil, as well as triumph, love and second chances.

PLEASE COME AND JOIN IN THE CELEBRATION OF GRACE AT A FREE COMMUNITY EVENT!
JUNE 1ST AT ASU’S SKYSONG CONVERGENCE ROOM (SE corner of McDowell Rd and Scottsdale Rd)
Enjoy a free continental breakfast and hear a reading from “grace”
A book signing and Raffle will follow.
Event is FROM 10 AM TO NOON
(for more info check details at AZCentral.com, Phoenix New Times.com and on the events page at K-LOVE.com)
“grace” will be available at the event ($15.20 for SC, $33.75 HC and $5.00 for the e-book) and also at Amazon.com and other online retailers.

DIVINE IN THE DESERT

THE DIVINE IN THE DESERT

I have a friend who hates the desert—it’s extreme temperatures, the unfriendly cactus, trees with hidden thorns and landscape filled with animals and bugs that makes you go–”Hmmm?—What was God thinking when He created the hairy, snouted, smelly javelina (a.k.a. the skunk pig)? Or those seemingly death-defying, flying, hissing cockroaches?”

I have heard several unhappy desert dwellers say, “There are two colors in the desert—brown and blue.”

And when my flip-flops nearly melted as I walked across the parking lot the summer when temperatures approached 120 degrees—I get it.

Being from Colorado, I am used to beauty. The Rocky Mountains, soaring bald eagles, the four seasons that create and renew the landscape every year—I respond to Dumb and Dumber –“John Denver isn’t full of sh@*?”

However, after nearly 30 years there, with its eight months of winter, my new reply is, “You can’t shovel sunshine!”

“He holds in his hands the depth of the earth and the mightiest mountains. The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.” (Psalm 95:4)

The desert is different. I am in awe of the extreme beauty in the desert; rugged and rough. Take, for example, the jumping cholla that shoots out spiny chunks of itself to ward off predators when triggered by vibrations. A plant with a self-defense plan against a smelly javelina or a burrowing bird?! Wow.

Right now in the desert, the “winter rains” have filled the desert landscape with a rainbow of colors. When I go out running, I witness blooms covering and spilling off of those thorny trees, callous cactus and barbed bushes bright with blossoms in every shade of the rainbow.

When I studied nutrition and holistic health, I learned that a plethora of these desert plants are components of many natural remedies. It would turn out that, living in these rugged extremes actually creates healing properties in the organism. Western medicine and science often attempt to chemically reproduce the healing capacities of these plants. 

Remedies are often found in the most unlikely…

When I moved to Arizona from Colorado, I remember driving down HWY 87.  Alongside the road, lined up in formation, stood a multitude of the cactus most associated with the Sonoran Desert–the saguaro. I later found out these massive structures are protected by law. Crews working to expand and repair the highway couldn’t just remove these prickly plants but had to ensure their survival.  If a person is found cutting one down or harming it, it is a felony offense.

According to Wikipedia, this special species of cactus are only found a few places in the nation and the Sonoran Desert boasts the most and the largest saguaro in the nation measuring at an impressive 45 ft high and with 10 feet across.

To survive the extreme desert conditions, this plant has adapted a system of survival. When it rains, it absorbs and sucks up into its body and woody internal system as much moisture as possible.  The saguaro swells and expands and stores away its life blood. It had learned from the desert droughts. As it swells and stores, it also blooms with its reproductive flowers and will often house the desert dwelling springtime birds.

The saguaro seems to understand life’s extremes; the droughts and the downpours. Because it takes nearly 100 years for a saguaro to grow an arm, when you see the portraits of the standard saguaro, with its two arms reaching out and up, stretching toward the sky, these giants have stood the test of time. With or without their legal protection, they not only survive, but these kings of the desert thrive in the parched, rugged environment.

And when the landscape around these dwellers is changed over time, sometimes (like the photo) they get by with a little help.

I think we have much to learn from this God-given example whose life-span nearly mimics ours. As we experience the extremes of life, suck up the goodness, it will be your lifeblood when the droughts come. As the landscape of our lives change, we will be protected. Our God is ever-present and He might just send help, cleverly disguised in the form of a friend, to support us when we have been shaken through to our very core. But the best example is, through the storms and the extremes, as we thrive and adapt and grow, let our own arms reach out and up and praise the very One that provides us with everything we need.

 

“Let every created thing give praise to the Lord, for he issued his command, and they came into being.” (Psalm 148:5)

TRUTH or FICTION?

TRUTH OR FICTION?Image

Having dinner with friends last week, the launch party for my first book “grace” was brought up.

“Okay,” my friend’s husband leans back from the table. He straightens out his spectacles and says, “About your book…I don’t want to sound stupid, but which one’s real? Fiction or non-fiction?”

His wife nods her head, “I always get those confused!”

“That’s not uncommon,” I reply. “Non-fiction is the real stuff, like auto biographies.” I nod at them and try to help them with the trick I used to learn this. “Fiction is false. EF-Fake.”

“Okay, I think I got it. So your book ‘grace’ is…?” Both of them look at me.

The restaurant is a flurry of activity; families enjoying dinner, couples conversing, mugs of margaritas and the sizzles of fajitas swarming all around us.

“Grace is fiction, but many parts of the book are taken from real life–from my life or lives of those around me. So some of it, you could say, is non-fiction.”

I say, “Take for example, the four main characters. They are totally made up people. False. Fiction. But the part in there with the hunting dog, that story is true. My uncle’s hunting dog Corky really did that.”

My two confused friends lean in closer and look at me with eyebrows raised. “Okay, so why did you choose to write ‘grace’ as fiction?”

I look at them. I think they are tracking with me now just as the waitress arrives with our steaming plates of cheesy, beany deliciousness.

As we settle in with our food, my friend’s husband resumes, “I have only gotten to the acknowledgements section, so don’t say too much! Okay, so let me get this straight. Your book is non-fiction?”

His wife chuckles, “No, its fiction!” Then she looks at me, “Right?”

We’re all laughing.

The conversation above really happened. Non-fiction. True.

The book I wrote is a fiction novel with characters I made up.  The location in southern Oregon exists and has been molded by me (fiction) to fit the made- up (fictional) action of the story, which in turn is loosely based on some life events I’ve witnessed and sprinkled with pieces and parts of reality and truth (non-fiction).

Crystal clear as mud?

As many people I know read it, I am certain they will see parts of themselves and events that we’ve shared in life, but the reality is – fiction provides a beautiful freedom to express a reality or truth that is shared.

This happens all the time in literature. Even in The Bible, Jesus often taught his disciples with “parables” or stories in order to point out a truth.

Sooo–

SPOILER ALERT!!! I thought it would be helpful to share some tid-bits from my “fiction” book that are the non-fiction (TRUE) parts. (If you haven’t yet read “grace” beware of the following information):

Robbery at grandparent’s house right after Easter by escaped, convicted child molesters – True

My parents’ bright orange Vega was stolen in the robbery – True

My “grampy” was a championship trap shooter who battled with lung cancer – True

My uncle’s hunting dog Corky and the event in the book – True

My friend floated down a different river much to her hatred and fear of snakes – True

Ashland creek flooded in 1997 – True

I know someone who basically subsisted on Skittles – True

The story about “The River” on the cover of the book of by Heidi Rosner (see prior blog “Behind the Cover” on juleseddy1.wordpress.com) – True

“Grace” is currently available from WestBowPress.com, Amazon.com & Barnesandnoble.com – True

Friends have sprinkled seeds of the truth of Jesus Christ in my life, forever changing me – True

The undying, relentless, unfathomable, all consuming love of a Savior who never gives up on us, even to the death – TRUE!

(This list is not exhaustive—you’ll have to ask me about the rest! 8)

If you are in the Valley of the Sun, save the morning of Saturday, JUNE 1st for a FREE Launch Party/book signing/raffle at ASU’s Sky Song’s Convergence room from 10am – 12pm.  “Grace” is available at the party!

I hope to see you there! True!

FREE WATER-SKIING!

free waterskiing
My college roommate left the university paper on the counter for me to read. Was she trying to get rid of me for the summer? I read on:

“Water ski instructors needed for Camp Vega, an all-girls summer camp in Maine.”

Hmmm. I grab up the paper. My attention is now focused. Both my parents were competition water-skiers. My family grew up waterskiing throughout the summer in Colorado. Now, with the both my sister and I away at college, the competition ski boat was sold and we only sporadically, recreationally skied behind the old blue outboard boat we cleverly named “Bluie.”

“Four Competition Ski Nautiques. Ski all summer and be a part of molding young ladies lives. Must be able to instruct all levels of skiers and to safely pull skiers through the slalom course.”

No problem.

So I made the call. Throughout the phone interview and job details I heard, “Free waterskiing. Free waterskiing. Blah-de-blah-de-blah-blah.” Something about being a camp counselor, getting free meals and something about $800 for the summer plus $2oo for travel, and then I heard it again, “Free waterskiing all summer.”

I was in. I sold my sister on it too. Both of us were hired to be Water-ski Instructors and looked forward to a wonderful summer of free waterskiing in Maine!!
I should have paid closer attention in my geography class– Maine is that state all the way up there by Canada; with all the cold temperatures and a plethora of chilly lakes.

I should have paid closer attention in math class– $1,000 for the whole summer: June, July and August. Adding in the camp counselor part of the job, this was a 24/7 position. Break that down hourly and we’re talking about $0.37/hour. In 1991, you couldn’t even buy a Snickers bar for that.

Did I also mention it was run by a retired cop? He ran the place with an iron fist, keeping all in fear and ensuring the campers were safe and had the time of their lives. (As if being sued by the campers’ wealthy parents wasn’t enough fear!)

It was beyond exhausting. Days being tossed on the lake all day long with young girls whose ages ranged from six years old through to fifteen years old and at every level of aptitude. Some girls had never been in a lake while others were already competition slalom skiers. After a marathon day filled with that, I was assigned to “Saco;” a bunk filled with fifteen angst driven twelve and thirteen year olds mostly at this camp so their affluent parents could travel all summer.

Originally my bunk had four counselors assigned. Two quit before all the attention-starved campers arrived. Lucky them. Their positions were never filled.

Did I mention all that free waterskiing I did? No? I think I skied twice. I chose days where the water was warm enough so that I wouldn’t have to report to the nurse’s station for hypothermia and then I was already so exhausted from all the other duties, I could only summon two or three passes through the course.

Yet, I still have so many fond memories of that time. The trip across country with my sister will forever be re-told as the adventures grow through each telling; how we almost died when we ended up in the wrong part of Chicago, how we got stuck spending the night in a cockroach infested single-wide hotel in Pennsylvania, and the story of the lake spider (the size of Connecticut!) crawling up my sister during a ski staff meeting.

Heidi, my remaining co-counselor, became instant friends by sharing a bond forged in the “trenches of Saco.”

I (reluctantly) fell in love with all the girls by summer’s end. Tears stung my eyes watching Sarah who belted out the leading role in Sound of Music. I was hoarse from screaming encouragement at Ashley who scored the winning goal against the rival soccer team. And Jill, my very favorite camper, successfully skied the whole slalom course in the final water ski competition. On, and on and on the achievements and growth that happened over one summer. Until just a few years ago, I still maintained contact with some of those campers. Saying good-bye was one of the most emotional days of my life …

It was the toughest job of my life on many levels: physically, emotionally, financially…

Until now.

This writing thing is brutal.

I just received my first review on Amazon.com. It wasn’t very uplifting. It is from a family member.<br />
Don’t get me wrong, I am so very grateful for all who have spent the money and took the time to read my first novel “grace.” So grateful. And I am grateful for those who will take the time to write a review and to be very honest about it. So grateful.

Author Kristen Lamb summed it up for me in one of her blogs titled “HOW BOXING CAN MAKE US BETTER WRITERS—LESSON ONE.” She writes, “Think of this job like boxing. We’re in the ring. Outside (and even internal) critics are going to seek to gut-punch and knock the wind out of us. Their objective is to drop us to our knees and make us give up.”

The world out there is rough. Family has always been my “soft place to land.” I didn’t see this one coming.

Just like the end of that summer watching my favorite camper Jill’s face, eyes puffed and red from all our crying and hugging good-bye, as the yellow school bus shuttled her out of my reach and back to her parents on August 30, 1991.

Gut-punch.

On my knees, trying to catch my breath.

I think about the time it took for me to finish “grace.” The hours I spent writing, re-writing, editing, then re-writing, then re-rewriting, and revising and re-revising. Then more edits and more re-writes. The writing courses, the writing critique sessions, the weekends spent at my computer from sun-up to sun-down. Add it all up and I am not even close to a Snickers bar.

I’ll never forget the wise words of one of my upper division Creative Writing Professors. He said, “If you’re doing this writing thing to make the ‘big bucks’ you should get out now. It’s the rare occasion when a writer makes lots of money, but that is never why you become a writer. You do it because you love writing.” He went on to cite all these (now dead and now famous) authors who were penniless.

I didn’t write “grace” or any of the stuff I write to “make the big bucks.” I don’t write to become even remotely “famous.” I write because I have to. I write to honor the dream that God placed in my heart many years ago to be a writer. I wrote “grace” because I truly felt God nudging me, time after time, to put it out there.

Did my abilities get in the way of His message? Possibly.

I put a little bit of everything in “grace:” love, betrayal, murder, a football story, a boy with his dog, death and new life, and all in a beautiful location. A little bit of everything and hoping to appeal to everyone with the underlying message that true grace is available to everyone. My mistake is thinking that everyone will accept grace.

Determined to not give up, I arise from my knees.

That review aside, God’s message is still golden. His message is grace. Not my character in the book. The term grace has been described as “undeserved forgiveness.” Lots of people have problems with the idea of something they don’t have to work for–something free–something given to them when they don’t feel they deserve it.

I don’t blame them. I will be the first to yell, “THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FREE WATERSKIING!”

And what Jesus did for us—the underserved forgiveness that He accomplished for us by doing what He did on the cross—it doesn’t cost us a thing. But don’t, for one second, think that it didn’t come at a price. It cost Him dearly.

As discouragement pricks at my eyes and my exhaustion from working long hours at these other “real jobs” so that I can have these other “free hours” to spend on writing and trying to honor what sparks God has put in my life to write about, I grit my teeth and remember another lesson I learned along the way–

It was another “not-so-kind” review from a former class-mate that I took too personally. I recall sharing my feelings with a third party who was also taking the course. His words got me through, “You didn’t write this for her anyhow.”

You got that right.

When I set out to complete “grace,” I decided that if it made an impact on just ONE person, then all the hours, all the late nights and early mornings, all the money I threw at it and the heart I put into it would be worth it.

As I tuck in my chin and raise my gloves, I prepare my armor for another day. I take heart in all the positive words of encouragement, the prayers, and the kindness of those who have supported me along the way and who continue to remind me of the Truth –I don’t write for reviews. I write to point the world to something greater than me and I do it to try to honor the “free” gift I have been given.

So grateful.

FEAR

FEAR

I sleep on my left side. When I was a kid, I heard that vampires only bite on the left side of your neck. So when I lay down at night, I trained myself in this habit of curling upon that side, sometimes stuffing covers and pillow around me for even more “protection.” I never took it so far as to hang the garlic wreath or anything with holy water or a crucifix, but you can bet that is where I started the nighttime habit of praying the “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake…” Sound familiar?
One of my favorite books of all time is called, “The Monster at the end of this Book.” It is a real page turner (all twelve pages!) The original horror book – probably what started me liking Stephen King. When I was a kid, my mom would read it to me and I would keep requesting it. Night after night. My mom is the most patient woman I know. Night after night, after night, she would tell the tale. She laughs as she recounts those readings; even though she’d done it over a hundred times, I still acted like I didn’t know who the monster was at the end of the book (and she never gave it away.) I would start listening in bed, tucked in and curled up on my left side and about half-way through, I would be at the edge of my bed, hanging on every word, willing her to NOT turn that page for it would bring that monster one page closer!
SPOILER ALERT!!! The monster at the end, the very one he was fearing, turns out to be lovable, furry, little, blue Grover himself!
Besides loving a good story, what was it that kept me requesting that one?
The old saying “hindsight is 20/20” comes into play here. Wouldn’t it be great if we all knew how things turn out? Would it make the ups and downs of life more fun knowing it all turns out okay in the end? Or is it just in the things we fear that makes us want to know the ending?

Figures from 2007 state that Americans spend more than $300 million a year on psychic hotlines alone. There are people who don’t do anything without consulting a psychic. The image I have of someone calling a hotline before they get out of bed, plan their day, order off the menu, apply for that job, go on that interview, accept that date or marry that spouse, isn’t an image of someone enjoying the crazy ride of life. Rather, it evokes an image of someone living in constant fear.

GAD – or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, panic disorder, PTSD, phobias, fears that I cannot even pronounce, and with new terms popping up every day for all the new disorders and all the new medications for those disorders – it would seem this is a society-wide phenomenon.

When I was studying Natural Medicine, I remember reading about breathing. How deep breathing can calm the nervous system. How people under extreme duress and stress forget to breathe deep and that the lungs, the lower part that expands in deep breathing, actually atrophies and dies in those who don’t breathe deep.

I am not immune to fears, nor do I think I have it all figured out. Yet, as I have grown and learned from my hindsight, I find rest in a new place. As I face fears, whether they be real fears– seeing the solemn face of your doctor as he or she tells of the latest test results, or false fears – lying sleepless in bed on your left side, tucking in the covers a little tighter to ward off vampires – I trust that no matter what I face, I have a God who understands; a God who is with me – The 23rd Psalm reminds us that “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.”

I love how Joel Osteen’s “The Hope Bible” states Romans 8:38, “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

No doctors with their test results, no vampires with their fangs. Nothing can separate us from this love. NOTHING.

1 John 4:17-18 tells us “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.”

All fear is gone; nothing separating you from a God who loves you.

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”

No psychic needed. The end is known. Embrace God’s love – taking in a full deep breath – facing what it is you fear and enjoying the crazy ride that this world and life bring you!

HE STILL SPEAKS

HE STILL SPEAKS

I have a friend who believes that God speaks to her through license plates- those personalized plates. It may sound silly, but I totally get it. – She has shared so many stories of the evidence of this that it is hard to dispute!
For me, besides the Bible, church and prayer, I believe God speaks through nature. There are so many times when something in nature simply blows my mind – a spectacularly painted sunset, a tiny flower intricately designed with such beauty and care, the fragrance of purple roses…I wonder how people can experience the grandeur of nature and not understand that there is a loving God that designed all of it and can speak to us through it all. Yet, I also am grateful for all those scientists, archeologists and non-believers who set out to prove their lack of belief and end up finding evidence or artifacts in the natural world that end up proving supernatural like found in The Bible. (Check out Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ.”)
The other day I saw a covey of quail. Living in Colorado most of my life, I didn’t know about this bird.
When I moved to Arizona and saw my first, I thought, “God sure has a sense of humor!” This silly plume placed atop its head; how they just hang out in the desert all day in their gang of goofy followers; how they have the ability to fly, but yet I mostly see them crossing streets and braving traffic on foot!
God equipped this bird with everything it needs to survive, yet it’s like they forget, “Oh yeah…I can fly!”
If one of them cuts it a bit close or they get frightened, they sometimes take flight together – but mostly they travel on foot –And this can be a costly mistake for them.
I have heard and read that there are certain traits and characteristics that, if left unused for long enough, will deteriorate and no longer be useful. Just take the Mexican blind cave fish. Evolutionary biologists still study this. In 1872 Charles Darwin wrote, “As it is difficult to imagine that eyes, though useless, could in any way be injurious to animals living in darkness, I attribute their loss solely to disuse.”
They still had their eyes, but have lost the ability to see after living in darkness so long.
I don’t doubt that things in nature are intended to show us something about God.
In Matthew 6:26 Jesus tells us, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
This weekend, my pastor, Jason Daye, reminded me of how Jesus sees each of us.
The Bible is filled with stories describing Jesus seeing value in people when others didn’t. The Samaritan woman at the well, the prostitute about to be stoned, the Roman soldier begging for the life of his son, the thief on the cross, the lepers, the children, the hungry and those that thirst, the lost, the broken, the meek, the merciful, the peace makers and the persecuted, those living in darkness, you and me – all valuable in the eyes of Jesus.
My hope and prayer is that – the next time you see a quail, crowned in glory with that royal red plume or you witness the majesty of an eagle taking flight and spreading its wings – you will remember that God values you even more than the birds of the air.
Isaiah 40:31 – “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles”

And don’t make the tragic mistake of the quail and forget that you were meant for flight.

Behind the cover of “grace”

The RiverOne of my favorite stories about my first fiction novel “grace” is about the cover. I had completed the manuscript and was struggling through the cover images for it.  A few years prior, I moved to the Scottsdale condo community where I currently reside. All my neighbors and community pointed out that I was closest neighbor to Heidi Rosner, the artist.  I knew nothing about her except that she was very well liked in the community and was an artist.

For the record, I don’t believe in coincidences and I am a somewhat private person. Yet, God kept nagging at me to talk with her about the cover.  Up to this point, we had only brief conversations and interaction as she spends much of her time at her other home in California and I was working three jobs at the time. Nonetheless, opportunities kept presenting this one particular day when I should have asked her, but I chickened out.

I was returning from getting my mail and Heidi approached me!  We began a light conversation: “What have you been up to?” “Not too much.  You?”  blah-de-blah–I mentioned to her I was self-publishing a book in the near future and sure enough, the chance came up for me to ask her what medium of art she worked with. When she told me she was a painter mostly focusing on landscapes and florals, I was urged to question her if she would be interested about doing a book cover.

“Well, tell me about your book.” Heidi asked.

I stammered on about the southern Oregon setting, the four friends that it centers around and their struggles with life, death, forgiveness, faith, etc.

“So what’s it called?” She asks.

“Grace,” and when I answered with this, I was not expecting her response.  Her lips quivered, jaw clenched and tears filled her eyes. “Are you okay?” I was stupified. What had I said???

“Julie, I have been feeling my mom’s presence with me today.  Really.  All day just feeling her talking with me.  She passed away just a few weeks ago. I recently returned from her funeral. Her name was Grace.” (this is a paraphrase but pretty darn accurate!)

Now it was my turn to have the lips quiver, eyes fill with tears, etc.

And that was how “the Heidi Rosner” agreed to do the cover of “grace” with her amazing painting of THE RIVER.

PLEASE COME AND JOIN IN THE “CELEBRATION OF GRACE” AT A FREE COMMUNITY EVENT!
JUNE 1ST AT ASU’S SKYSONG CONVERGENCE ROOM (SE corner of McDowell Rd and Scottsdale Rd)
Enjoy a free continental breakfast and hear a reading from “grace”
A book signing and Raffle will follow.
Event is FROM 10 AM TO NOON
(for more info check details at AZCentral.com, Phoenix New Times.com and on the events page at K-LOVE.com)
“grace” will be available at the event ($15.20 for SC, $33.75 HC and $5.00 for the e-book) and also at Amazon.com and other online retailers.