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Monday, July 30, 2012


Although this post was originally an article written to encourage children's writers, there's something for everyone at the end. Stay tuned...

Lin Oliver’s keynote speech at the SCBWI Spring writing conference was filled with gems. Her writing tip from Sid Fleishmann was one of those: In writing, nothing is wasted but the paper.

It’s painful to delete words, scenes, characters, stories. How can we? They’re perfect; brilliant; loved.

So maybe they’re not perfect or brilliant. But still we love them and when we hit the delete key it feels like murder.

Every word; even every project, though, may not be the right word or project.

The wonderful thing about writing is that we have an endless supply of words and ideas. Sometimes we have to write the lack-luster words and ideas to release them from our heads. To make room for the brilliant words and ideas.

We must also acknowledge our learning curve. Sometimes the stories we write are brilliant for our skill at the time we write them. They still may be unmarketable, but they are brilliant because of what we learn by writing them. And, if we save those less-than-brilliant stories until our writing is brilliant, maybe we can polish them up until they, too, shine.

Even the stories that will never shine can be kept tucked away in a cozy computer file. We can take them out and whisper softly. "I love you because of what I learned from writing you and because you show me how much I’ve grown as a writer."

Then—when you’re giving your Newberry Award acceptance speech—you can drag those stories out as examples of the biggest mistakes you’ve made in writing.

Personally, I have plenty of examples.

Now for everyone: Isn't it true that everything we try; everything we do that doesn't turn out right; every mistake we make--has something learned that we can take away from the experience? Isn't there often a better idea; a better way? Even sometimes a lesson in forgiveness and compassion?

In writing as in life...waste not.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for making us teachable. Please guide our lives but when we make mistakes, please provide us with a lesson learned. Please humble us to see that lesson and to learn it well. Amen.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Any lessons (in life or writing) you'd like to share?

Friday, July 27, 2012


So far this month, I’ve angled the Christian Writers’ theme "celebrate" to cover America’s birthday (Hooray for the Red White and Blue), RSVP (repent, be saved, voice praise and pray to save your spot in the heavenly shindig), and Celebrate Your Weirdness.

What unique angle to this theme could possibly be left in a month filled with so many awesome posts by my talented and wonderful Christian Writer colleagues? Please read their posts by clicking on the links on the right-hand column.
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All month long, one song has been running through my head—"Celebrate Good Times" by Kool and the Gang. Fortunately, that song reminds me of Jesus.

In Christianity, one of our most sacred and precious practices—taught us by Jesus himself in Luke 22—is the sacrament of Holy Communion. Even the word "communion" implies that we should do it with other Christians; just as we participate also with the Holy Spirit. This sacrament is variously referred to in Christian doctrine as the "Celebration of the Eucharist," the "Celebration of the Lord’s Supper;" and the "Celebration of Holy Communion."

It is a celebration. Jesus’ sacrifice was horrible. But that sacrifice was a wonderful thing for us and for our eternal souls. It is the perfect reason to celebrate—to show our gratitude—to sing praises to our amazing God.

Don’t be surprised if you’re in church one day and, as the communion tray passes, you hear humming…or even soft singing. You might even start it.

There's a party goin' on right here
(wherever two or more Christians are gathered in His name)
A celebration to last throughout the years
(throughout eternity)
So bring your good times, and your laughter too
(our joy is an offering to Him)
We’re gonna celebrate your party with you.
(It’s Jesus’ party and we’re all invited.)


Everyone around the world come on!

If you want to follow along with Kool and the Gang, here they are. Kool & The Gang Sing loud! It’s even OK to dance! 


PRAYER: Heavenly Father, you give us daily reasons to celebrate. But we thank you most of all, Jesus, for your sacrifice—the best reason to celebrate our future with you. Please remind us during those silent, somber moments at your Table, that we are there in gratitude to celebrate your gift. Amen.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? During communion, do you focus on gratitude, joy, or the solemnity of the reminder of what Jesus did for us? Or all of the above?


Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I’m switching my regularly scheduled Wednesday post on the CW theme "celebrate" to Friday so I can honor my friend Lisa today.

Lisa has struggled with cancer for several years. Yesterday she learned that it has spread to her abdomen. She had been fighting this cancer for so long and had been filled with such strength of spirit because of her faith in Christ. She has been not just a light, but a high-voltage, super-charged high beam for Jesus.

All of us have friends or family who have been stricken with this disease. It is horrible. And it is horrible for loved ones to watch and feel helpless.

We can bring food to the family. We can call and visit. We can send cards and emails and leave little gifts at the door. But through it all we usually feel helpless because sometimes "all" we can do is pray.

Why do we use that expression? "All we can do is pray."

That is the very most important thing we can do—lift our loved one up in prayer to the God of the universe. We can ask for healing, for emotional and physical strength for the person and her family. We can ask for wisdom and guidance for doctors and health care providers. We can ask for encouragement. We can ask to be shown how to be helpful.

And always, always we can pray with gratitude for God’s plan, knowing that it is good because He is good. Even if we don’t understand it at the time.

  • We can pray in gratitude for the health care we have today; for medications and technologies that heal and that ease pain and provide comfort.
  • We can pray in gratitude for health care professionals who have knowledge and the ability to care for our loved ones in ways we are not able.
  • We can pray in gratitude for communication and transportation that bring families and friends together.
  • We can pray in gratitude for communities of believers who come together in prayer.
  • We can pray in gratitude for the life of our loved one and the many ways she has touched our lives and the lives of others.
  • We can pray in gratitude for the world made more beautiful because of our loved one.
  • We can pray in gratitude for the mercy and grace given us so freely through Christ.
  • We can pray in gratitude for prayer itself—God’s provision for communication with the most loving and powerful being in the universe.


There is a whole lot to pray for. It is not an "all" or an "only" thing to do.

Prayer should be the first thing we do. It should also be the last thing we do. And the thing we keep doing in the middle of every crisis.

Prayer is always the most important thing we can do.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for prayer. Thank you that you hear our prayers and care about our needs and the people we love. We pray for healing for our loved ones and for strength to fight when they need it. We thank you for being at work in our lives and ask that you fill us with your peace that your will is perfect and good in all things. Amen.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Who do you need to pray for right now?

Monday, July 23, 2012


Every month I create prayers based on the names of people we love. This ongoing list of names and prayers can be found at the top of this blog, on the tab titled, "PRAYING NAMES."

If you would like me to create a prayer based on a specific name, please leave a comment below. I’ll research the name and include it in a future month.

Edna: delight; place of pleasure

Heavenly Father, I pray that Edna will live the meaning of her name. I pray that people she meets will find her to be a delight. I pray that others will find her presence to be a place of pleasure and rest. I pray also that she will live her life always in a way that delights your heart. Amen.

Lucille, Lucy: light

Heavenly Father, I pray that Lucille will live the meaning of her name. I pray that she will have deep faith in you and that she will live her life in a way that shines your light into dark places in the world. I pray that others will see you through her life and love for you. Amen.

Timothy, Tim: to Honor God

Heavenly Father, I pray that Timothy will live the meaning of his name. I pray that he will have deep faith in you and that he will live his life in a way that honors you in all things. Amen.

George: Farmer; earth worker

Heavenly Father, I pray that George will live the meaning of his name. I pray that he will be a worker in your field, sowing seeds of faith and helping with the gathering of souls for your eternal harvest. Amen.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Whenever an artist friend shares her journal with me, I am awed at the slips and slices of creativity captured inside. As a writer, I routinely force my fictional characters to keep journals so I can spy on them and share their secrets with my readers. 

But do I personally keep a bound journal?  Nope. 

Yet this was one of Lin Oliver’s pieces of advice for writers in her keynote speech at the SCBWI Spring conference this April. 

For many writers, blogging has become a way to journal our lives as creative people; to engage with the world; to enjoy the process and share that joy with others. The word blog is a shortened version of the original phrase: web log. A blog is a log—or journal—you keep on the web. And share with the world. 

In the movie Contagion, Jude Law asserts that he is a writer. Elliott Gould’s character responds, “Blogging is just graffiti with punctuation.” 

Ouch. Unfortunately it’s sometimes true. Even for moi.  

Then again, not everything you write in a bound journal will be the stuff of great literature either. It’s not meant to be. We journal partly for our own purposes of finding ourselves and partly to explore ways to share our findings with the world. 

Do you keep a journal? Do you blog? How do you journal your creative life and share your joy with others?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for this life and for the creativity you gifted us with. Help us find ways to explore the gifts you’ve honored us with. Show us ways to share your love and glory with others today. Amen.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Do you keep a journal?

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This article recently ran in an issue of our Northern California regional newsletter for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI).

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


The theme for the blog chain this month is “celebrate.” Please click on the links in the right hand column to see what my friends have to say about our theme.


Lin Oliver’s keynote speech at the Spring SCBWI conference was filled with gems. Many were things we’ve heard before. But some took me from “duh” to “aha!”

Her writing tip from Bruce Coville was one of those: Follow your weirdness.

For me, weirdness speaks to the use of humor. I never advanced past 4th grade humor. Weird. I love most to write for middle grade readers and throw as much weird humor their way as I can.  

But weirdness is not limited to humor. An unknown world filled with dragons, house elves and pus-filled tubor plants? Weird.  

Vampires that drink animal blood instead of human blood? Weird. 

A talking donkey who can’t keep his tail pinned to his bum? Weird. 

But wonderful. And delightful to children. 

Lin’s point spoke to me about fear. We are creative. We do come up with unconventional ideas. But some of us corral our muse and tie her to the railroad tracks. As a result, instead of peanut-popping puffer fish, our stories end up with pink-eyed bunnies who only get mad enough to occasionally raise the dust when they stamp their dainty foot.  

Now if those bunnies’ eyes turned green and the dust was actually smoke because of the flames shooting out of their fluffy white tails, and spoke only in haiku, we’d have a weird, but creative and unconventional character. 

What’s the worst that could happen if you embraced your weirdness and wrote a story that was weirder than weird? You’d have a whole bunch of words you might not use.  

Or you might have a story that would delight children.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for making us just the way we are. Thank you for the creativity you have gifted us with. Please show us ways today to celebrate and use our creativity to glorify you. Amen.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? How do you celebrate your weirdness?

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This article recently ran in the Northern California regional newsletter for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Monday, July 16, 2012


Today, Chris Vonada is sharing building block #2 with us in his great series on The 10 + 1 Building Blocks of Relationships. Please visit Chris's blog regularly. Welcome Chris!

Affection. The sensual expression of some sort of love...and one of the 10 + 1 building blocks of relationships. This is a personal favorite of mine... so get ready here comes the warm and fuzzy post...

Certainly affection is a fundamental need for all of us... however, that need may be fulfilled in different ways, for different people.
This expression of fondness that we use to feed another person's needs takes a little bit of research to know exactly how to provide the right form of tenderness... the one that will speak to their heart.

The very best description or analysis of this that I've found is given by Gary Chapman in his 5 love languages. If you really want to know how to provide for someone else's needs for affection I would suggest finding out their love language... there's a pretty simple test that one can take through this link. This is a must read for anyone who cares about giving their very best to their mate or the other important people who they keep in their circles.
Chapman says there are 5 of these languages and that our needs for love (and, particularly affection) are nurtured when other people provide them this core building block. The 5 languages:
  • Words of Affirmation - Nothing says I love you to these people quite like "I love you." It's the spoken word that they yearn for... terms of endearment... saying just the right words to them could send them off to attempt a 4-second handstand!

  • Acts of Service - An act of service could be doing the laundry, cooking dinner or washing the dishes. I know, for me, this doesn't sound super exciting or sexy BUT there are people out there who dig it! 

  • Gifts - This doesn't have to come in a Tiffany's box to be meaningful... but knowing the other person's preferences and style would be helpful when picking out a thoughtful gift, for sure. 

  • Quality Time - Think undivided attention here... this person needs what can be one of the hardest things to set aside... time... without any distractions! 

  • Physical Touch - These folks need touchy feely BUT it's not all about the bedroom. Hugs, holding hands and a tender caress of the arm or shoulder would work here... and physical presence and accessibility are also key!
If you can get this love language thing down you are well on your way to providing affection to the important people in your life.

Last but not least, there is a very important Bible verse that goes eloquently with affection...

"Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.
Put away perversity from your mouth;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead,
fix your gaze directly before you.
Make level paths for your feet,
and take only ways that are firm.
Do not swerve to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil." Proverbs 4: 23-27

These verses, to me in this context, say we will generally do what we enjoy... so if you truly love and care about these people that are around you, if they are really that important to you, I would encourage you to concentrate on fulfilling their needs for affection... and they'll fill yours too! Also key: keep your eyes focused straight ahead... and remember... nothing worthwhile comes easy... a worthy pursuit, for the right reasons, is more precious than gold! Affection... a sensual expression of some sort of love... just do it!

What's in your "Tiffany's box?" Do you know the love language of the important people in your life?

Friday, July 13, 2012


You've heard that things come naturally in 3's—3 little pigs, 3 musketeers, 3 blind mice...all are stories using the magical formula of 3's. Two isn't enough; four is too many.

Like the Trinity. Perfect.

Well, today is the THIRD Friday the thirteenth this year! 

It’s unusual to have three Friday the thirteenths in a single year. Ordinarily, Friday the thirteenth happens only twice a year. But three times makes it extra lucky.  

Even better, this year, all three of our Friday the thirteenths are exactly 13 weeks apart—January 13, April 13 and today.  

The calendar has three this year because 2012 is a leap year. That extra day in February throws everything out of its orderly sequence.  

But rest easy. There won’t be another three Friday the thirteenths in a leap year until the year 2040. 

So enjoy this special, extra lucky day while you can! 

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for creating time to enable us to keep track of the wonderful days you have made. Let us rejoice and be glad in every one of them, praising and worshipping you. Amen. 

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Do you feel extra lucky today?  

For the superstition behind Friday the thirteenth and why it it’s a lucky day, please read my post FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH: THIS IS YOUR LUCKY DAY.

Stay friend Chris Vonada will reveal the next building block of relationships on Monday.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


When I sat down to write an article on this month's Christian Writer's theme "celebrate," procrastination took over. So I did some laundry, had lunch and flipped through the latest catalogue from Oriental Trading Company. There you can find everything you ever need (and more) to make your party the perfect celebration.

I mean, really, what's not to love about plastic coconut bras to wear at your luau and a blow-up giraffe print cooler for your safari sodas?

I'm serious. What's not to love?

If I'm having a party, I need a theme; a focus; something to hang my menu and decorations on. As my book club ladies know, that's the first thing we settle on after we select a book. What sort of foods and decorations go with the book selection?

'cuz it's just more fun that way.

When it comes to eternal festivities, God is the super party planner. His theme in a word? Opulence. Look how He handled the heavenly d├ęcor—golden streets, pearl gates, white robes all around. Man, that'll be something to behold!

And that’s just the decorations. There’ll be piles of food—fruit from the tree of life, unlimited bread and fish and of course, barrels of water-turned-to wine. Or maybe—since it’s heaven—it’ll be champagne.

There’ll be live music (castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals), dancing (David will lead) and golden bowls filled with incense.

Just about everyone will be there. Will you?

RSVP as early as possible.

R repent
be saved
voice your praise

Then…party on!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you that we have so much reason to celebrate. Thank you for the true reason to celebrate—your gift of grace and mercy through Jesus. Thank you for the invitation to the greatest celebration in eternal history. We send our RSVP “yes!” today. Amen.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? How do you plan your earthly celebrations?

Please click on the links in the right hand column to see what my friends have to say about our theme, “celebrate.”

Monday, July 9, 2012


As a young adult I didn’t need to attend church—thank you very much. I was raised in a church family. Knew it all and didn’t need it. 

Fast forward. Mistakes made. Errors in judgment survived. Then one day, God loved me back to church. Part of that was finding a church that loved me back; that made me feel like I belonged; that made me want to be a part of a body of people who loved Jesus. 

It took a few times attending different places. Then one day, I sat down and didn’t want to leave. It clicked. Christ’s church is not a building, a doctrine or a set of rituals. It’s a group of people who love him and want to learn to love him more. Church was filled with people who felt the same way I did and were seeking him in a like manner. 

A church provides that sense of “home.” Or home base. A place of renewal, where we feel safe and loved and are encouraged to stretch outward while also looking inward and upward. Where people know we’re scarred and hurt and needy—just like them. And love us, like Jesus does.

Moving from milk

Church is also a place of teaching. A school of divine mystery. I study the Bible every day, read devotionals, write devotionals. I spend hours immersed in scripture. But I don’t understand it all. 

I need help with the learning. With the background. The context. The definitions and translations. The theology. How one scripture relates back, explains and enhances another. I need the “head knowledge” that spurs me toward the “heart understanding” that Jesus loves. 

I need to spend six years in seminary.  

Fortunately, pastors have already done that. And a pastor grounded in biblical teaching; who knows and understands God’s Word and is faithful in his interpretation is one of the most important reasons to attend church.  

Hebrews 5:12-14 says:

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. 

Church is where we can move from milk to solid food. Where we can go from being baby Christians to maturity in Christ. As much as you enjoy a cold glass of milk, solid food is just more satisfying. So is maturity in our understanding of God’s plan.

Praising God 

I also need help with the worshipping. I like to sing at home while I’m cooking, cleaning or whatever-ing. Worship songs usually. Singing, dancing, clapping and praising God.  

But sometimes it’s extra great to worship God in community.  

Me + 100 other worshippers = infinite, divine, eternal awesomeness.  

It’s God’s mysterious, divine mathematics. Me + others = great worship! 


I might want to serve others, but on my own I don’t have a clue. Who to ask. What to do. Where to go. 

Churches reach outward to the world and inward to other believers, to the structure and organization itself—with opportunities to be God’s hands and feet in ways that encourage  our faith. 

Churches provide opportunities to give back to God a portion; a tithe; an offering of what is already His. Church gives us ways to honor Him with our finances, our worship, our service and our relationship building with him and others. Not to win God’s brownie points or people’s approval; but as a way to show our love for Him and for others who also love him. 

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There are a whole lot of reasons to attend church. As Christians, we are Jesus’ church. Since we’re already a church, we might as well attend one. See you there.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for your church and for providing places where your family can gather together to worship and learn about you. Amen.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? What's the best thing about the church you attend?

This article originally ran in the newsletter.  

Friday, July 6, 2012


Remember ‘way back in January when you set those goals? It’s time for our second quarterly review. How are we we’re doing? Where do we still need to go? 

Take your SMARTER GOALS one at a time. Did you set out a time frame to achieve each one? Did you make forward progress? If not, why not? What do you need to do differently in order to pursue this goal during the next three months?  

Is each goal still important? If not, why not? If yes, how do you need to commit in order to get back on track? Do you need to revise the scope of any goal? How will you do so? What specific steps do you now need to take? And when?

What unexpected experiences have you had during the process of pursuing your goals?

Back in January I set three types of goals: spiritual, writing and personal. 

The spiritual goals were daily goals. I have generally been on track. That’s good news! Nothing to change or adjust or revise. Just keep hanging out each day with Jesus. But try to focus more on the experience with Him even on days when I want to rush. 

I reviewed each of my writing goals and my personal goals in the same way. A few goals have changed; some I’ve completed; a couple I’m behind on and need to revise for Q3.


Hubby and I spent several hours this past quarter on a road trip reevaluating my writing priorities. I was surprised to discover that my true heart for writing has returned full swing to writing for children. As a result of that insight, quite a few of my writing goals for 2012 were revised significantly. Along with new step-by-step goals and schedules to help me work toward them.  

Meanwhile, I’m praising God for the encouragement He gives to grow in faith and in the gifts He has entrusted to my care.


PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for making us teachable. Help us see the ways you would have us grow and change. Help us, Holy Spirit, follow your leading to do so. Amen.


WHAT ABOUT YOU? How did you do in Q2? Are you ready to embark on tackling them in Q3?


Wednesday, July 4, 2012


This post is part of Christian Writers blog chain. Our theme for July is “celebrate.” Please click on the links at the right to see what my friends have to say this month.


America is in financial, political, spiritual turmoil. Many people are hurting. Still, this is a wonderful country—filled with freedoms not enjoyed everywhere on God’s earth. And it is a country filled with great joy and beauty. 

Today as we celebrate the birthday of our country, I ask God to take hold of our nation, our leaders and every citizen here—to be at work in us, to pursue our hearts, to guide our minds and decisions and—yes—to continue to bless America. And the world. 

PRAYER: Thank you, Jesus for true independence in you! Please guide and protect our nation and each person in it. Let America shine for your glory. Amen.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Are you celebrating today?

Monday, July 2, 2012


Every month has a birthstone. The birthstone for July is the ruby. And it reminds me of Jesus. 

The Blood of Christ 

In gemstone symbolism, the ruby’s dark red color represents Jesus’ blood sacrifice for us. That sacrifice is everlasting—one sacrifice for all people for all time.  

The ruby is a variety of the gem family corundum; a lasting gemstone, durable enough to wear every day. 

Just like the ruby, Jesus’ salvation is durable enough for us to “put on” and wear every day—as the helmet of salvation in the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) .

The Person of God 

John’s vision of Heaven reveals the appearance of God:    

And the one who sat there [on the throne] had the appearance of jasper and ruby. (Revelation 4:3) 

Interestingly, both the jasper and ruby are typically red in color. Also interestingly, jasper is partially stone and partly organic—just like God in the person of Jesus, is both wholly God and wholly organic man. But that tidbit is for another discussion… 

Of relevance here is that God describes His own appearance as similar to July’s birthstone. 


Scripture compares wisdom to rubies.  

…for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. (Proverbs 8:11)

…the price of wisdom is beyond rubies. (Job 28:18) 

God wants us to be wise. And He recognizes that wisdom is precious. So then, we too, should strive to achieve wisdom in all things. The best wisdom comes from God—as we seek His desires through scripture, meditation and prayer. 

In fact, that helmet of salvation protects our thinking and thus grants wisdom. I wouldn’t be surprised if our heavenly helmets are studded with rubies…

For Women 

For the gals in the crowd, Proverbs 31:10 is a great reminder:  

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. 

Coincidently, this verse follows Proverbs 19:13, 21:9, 21:19, 25:24, 27:7 and 27:15, likening a quarrelsome wife to a leaky roof, living in the desert and dripping water.  


Speaking from the female perspective, a husband of noble character is worth far more than rubies, too.  

In fact, shouldn’t we all strive to live like rubies for Jesus? 

Happy birthday to everyone born in the month of July.

PRAYER: Jesus, so many things in this world remind us of you. This month, every time we think “July,” remind us of the ruby and how it symbolizes you. In all ways, help us to live like rubies for you. Amen. 

WHAT ABOUT YOU? In what way do you seek to be a ruby for Jesus?

It's my pleasure to cross-post on my friend Chris Vonada's blogsite: Join him there often!