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Faith and Writers Conference – Day 1

ifwc-tnThe weather was cool but not cold.  That means a constant battle with putting a jacket on, and taking it off.  Isn’t it funny how  little things like that annoy you when you’re nervous.

I continue to enjoy walking around the campus, passing clusters of students here and there.  Thank goodness other conference attendees have arrived.  Now I don’t feel like the old man in the sea (of young people).

Gloria Gather opened the conference.  How cool is that!  My parents sang their music for years in the gospel quartet they toured with.  My siblings and I were taught to sing, “What a day that will be” as youngsters.  Mom and Dad thought it was a good idea to drag us up in front of the church and sing it with them.  We were told to smile when we sang (that should give you some indication of how excited we were to do it).

York Performance Hall

York Performance Hall

Gloria challenged us to: (1) Write the story; do it by observing what’s happening around you. Keep a journal.  At one point Gloria said, “we (writers) are trying to say in words what cannot be said…”  (2) Read. Read. Read.  Know the world around you.  She also said, “you don’t need big words, just the right words.”  Of course I liked that quote.

We could attend two workshops in the afternoon.  I chose building a web platform (part 1 and part 2).  Angela Herrington was did  good job of taking some of the “scare” out of what is happening on the web these days.  I have to say whoever comes up with the names of these sites (hootsuite, aweber, unsplash, picMonkey, canva) really should put more thought into what they name them.

Yes I did take a bite out of the sloppy joe!

Yes I did take a bite out of the sloppy joe!

Then, we were off to supper.  Nice food.  The food tasted even better because the conference paid for it.  I signed up for the open mic reading, which was supposed to happen during the supper hour.  So I sat around waiting for someone to whip out a microphone and start the show.  No one did.  It was then that I realized I was eating in the wrong dining room.  Fortunately, the event was being held in an adjoining room.  I barely had a chance to sit and catch my breath before I heard my name called.  Come to think of it I never really did catch my breath because while I was reading I had to keep stopping to breathe.  Has that ever happened to you?

We had one more keynote speaker in the evening, Scott Russell Sanders.  Scott has a passion for trying to understand our human existence on the planet.  He has an extremely imaginative mind (something I relate well to).  He read excerpts of his yet to be published book, Ordinary Wealth.  The book features a collection of unusual photographs taken by a photographer friend of Scott’s.  Mr Sanders then wrote unique and imaginative stories for each picture.  From listening to his stories you can tell he champions preserving the earth, protecting its wildlife and resources.

Wow, that was a long day, but a fun day.

Faith and Writers Conference – Preamble

Why attend a writers conference?ifwc-tn

I am a self-taught writer.  Any one who has tried to write knows it is an experience of the solitary sort.  I seem to be doing pretty well but I’ve always wondered what it would be like rubbing elbows with a room full of others engaged in the same endeavor.  Also, who wouldn’t want to learn a thing or two to improve their “game” from professionals who’ve been around the block a few times.

I love a good writing contest, too.  I sent my “Fish” story on ahead of me to be judged by the conference speakers.  I wonder how it will stack up against other writers in the non-fiction category?

And then there’s the open mic night.  Will I be brave enough to read a 5 minute segment of my work in front of a room full of strangers and see how they react?

My main reason for going, however, is to get an opinion from writing professionals about my work.  I opted for two consultations of fifteen minutes each.  I want to get their opinion and ask for their advice.  It is a given that I will keep writing but at what capacity will I write going forward?

Thursday I hit the road with my Kindle.  I found away to use the “text-to-speech” function on Kindle and pipe it through my car stereo using an ear phone cord with a plug on each end.  It was the strangest thing having my book Junior’s Hope read to me while I drove.  I have to say, hearing it read aloud inspired and encouraged me as I drove.  I arrived safely, thank you for your prayers.

Anderson University is a beautiful place.

Common area between the buildings known as the valley

Common area between the buildings known as the valley

Did you get the memo?

Please note: I will be attending a writers conference this weekend.  This means I will be taking a brief hiatus from my usual posts (the next two Saturdays).  If time permits I will post some entries about the goings on of a Christian writers conference for those who might be interested.  ifwc-tn

The Lord’s Prayer

copy-of-lords-prayer

I recently finished up a chapter in the book I’m writing and used this illustration in my reflections at the end of the chapter.  

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-13) NIV

On any given Sunday thousands of Christians around the globe will say the Lord’s Prayer. Perhaps you can recite it from memory. But has your experience with the Lord’s Prayer been only to recite it or have you personalized it as though talking directly to God?  Here’s a look deeper into the prayer as I meditated on it.

Our Father…It is easy for me to make the association between my earthly father and my heavenly Father. I loved my father above all men.  The same may not hold true for children with an unloving or absentee father, however.  God is the ultimate father. He is not flawed like our earthly fathers. God loves us unconditionally and provides for our needs. We can gain a better understanding of our heavenly Father by examining the life of Jesus. He told his followers, if you have seen me, you have seen God (John 14:9).

(Who is) in heavenHeaven is a real place and not an idea dreamed up to help us cope with tragedy.  I am guessing that most people believe that heaven exists and they will be among its residents after they die based on the premise that he or she was a comparatively good person. Heaven’s draw is the human ideal: immortality, vitality, a life free from limitations,defects and disease.  It is also a place of peace, prosperity and rest. Yet, if people don’t know God personally, how much confidence can they have in their belief that they are heaven bound?

My human curiosity wants to define heaven with clear tight boundaries, but God’s heaven is not confined to the atmosphere or the vast reaches of outer space, it’s interdimensional and therefore exists in and around me. From his throne in heaven, God rules over the entire universe. Nothing has dominion over him. When we invite God into our hearts, our relationship with Him gets personal. Those who have a personal relationship with God will certainly join Him in heaven one day (John 14:1-3).

Hallowed be your nametranslation: God, I hold your name above all names and with reverence I will honor it. When I hallow God’s name I recognize His power and authority and affirm He is the absolute standard of truth. I also acknowledge that I am not God and that He, not I, occupies the throne in my heart (Isaiah 6:1-5).

Your kingdom comeThe Christian is taught this world is not our home, we are but pilgrims. Some Christians, however, are doing so well at managing their finances and careers that they’ve lost focus. They are attempting to build their own kingdoms. The imminent return of Christ to establish his Father’s kingdom here on earth is not something they are looking forward to.

When a believer prays, “your kingdom come” he or she is in effect asking God for two things: in this present age, it’s an invitation for God to occupy the throne of their heart. Secondly, the believer is asking God to establish His kingdom on earth in the age to come for all eternity (Revelation 21:1-4).

Your will be donefor a good part of my life whenever I came to this phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, I winced (lied) when I recited it. To ask God for his will to be done means surrendering the fortress of my strong self-will totally to him. I worried He might ask me to do something I didn’t want to do or couldn’t do for whatever reason? For the longest time there were areas of my life I would not let go of. Eventually I came to understand that refusing to surrender my will to God constituted disobedience, which is a sin in the eyes of God. As a Christian it is my responsibility to see that my will remains in harmony with God’s will. If I deny God my will, I limit his ability to work in my life, and rob myself of untold blessings (Psalm 40:8).

On earth as it is in heavenGod’s will is certainly accomplished in heaven. I believe that in heaven there is no chaos or dissent. In this interdimensional place there is harmony, peace and joy. The folks who make it their home serve God willingly as evidenced by their never-ending joyful adoration and praise.

It is quite a different picture in our physical reality on earth. Here God’s name is profaned with unsettling regularity. Some profess to hate God while others refuse to believe He exists. We watch helplessly as our world embraces hate and violence.  Accomplishing God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven” appears to be a losing proposition and beyond the scope of the men and women who love God and serve Him. By praying for God’s will to be accomplished on earth, we are inviting God to work in our hearts and use us to accomplish His will no matter how insignificant the task might seem to us. We are also inviting God to inhabit our broken planet and establish His kingdom here, soon. Will you be a citizen in God’s kingdom (Mark 3:31-35)?

Give us today day our daily breadUp until this point the Lord’s Prayer has been focused on matters of the soul and spirit. But God knows all our needs, including our physical need for food. The inclusion of food in the prayer links our physical needs to our spiritual needs (John 6:25-35). Not only does God know our needs, He is able to meet them. By praying for bread daily we affirm God’s ability to care for and maintain the world he created. He is not an absentee landlord. Do I trust God to provide for my physical needs?

Forgive us our debtsThe NIV translation uses the word “debts.”  Other translations use trespasses, shortcomings, sins, wrongs we have done, etc. No matter what the variation of the word used, the fact remains we need to ask forgiveness for our trespasses because sin separates us from God. Humbly confessing sin before God leads to forgiveness (1 John 1:9). As Christians we need to search our hearts continually for the presence of sin. The Bible reminds us,“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). I have reached a point in my walk of faith that I don’t want anything to encumber my relationship with God. I recognize I will always be a sinner in need of forgiveness.

As we have also forgiven our debtorsHave I forgiven those who have wronged me? Am I harboring resentment, jealousy, or bitterness? When I harbor such things within me, it infects my heart like poison. I also need to consider the issue of my pride, is that preventing me from forgiving others?

I may not be able to change the person who is transgressing me but I can change. Is choosing not to forgive someone worth limiting who I am as a person and robbing me of the ability to love others (Ephesians 4:32)? God forgave me while I was still sinning against Him (Romans 5:6-10). He invited me, a sinner, to spend eternity with him (John 3:16). If God forgave me, why can’t I forgive others?

And lead us not into temptationTemptation itself is not sin but it can lead us into sin if we permit it. By design temptation is personal and specific and designed to entice a given individual’s passions and desires. Unfortunately, the guardian of our passion and desire is our selfish and often rebellious will. Temptations do not come from God but He allows them to happen (James 1:13-15). “Lead us not into temptation” is a plea, an admission that I am weak and vulnerable when it comes to warding off temptation.

But deliver us from the evil oneIt is important to understand that Satin is the most brilliant, beautiful and powerful creature ever created. He was given the greatest authority and prominence in all of heaven, yet pride corrupted him when he sought to be like God (Isaiah 14:12-16). If Satin, made perfect in almost every way by our standards, could fall into sin what makes us think we can fare better apart from God. Satan’s future destiny is certain; an eternal darkness awaits him.

We, on the other hand, are headed for a glorious destiny if we remain committed to God. His Spirit will guide us and help us avoid falling victim to temptation if we will but listen to Him (1 Timothy 6:11). It is by faith that we believe in God and trust Him to deliver us from evil. It is by faith that we 519zF+9dHVL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_believe in God and have a relationship with Him.

 

For more on the subject of the Lord’s Prayer check out W. Phillip Keller’s book, A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer.

 

 

Train

IMG_0447My thoughts recently have centered on the word “train.”  This usually happens when fall transitions from picturesque to grotesque and I have to retreat indoors. Each year about mid November a desire resurfaces to head for the basement to resume work on my model train layout.

Since I’m so preoccupied with the word, I decided to look up how a locomotive with its consist of rail cars became associated with the word “train.” According to www.Dictionary.com the Middle English word traine (noun) consisted of a series of people, animals, or things. The late Middle English verb traynyn, means to pull or drag in the rear. Interesting…

Where did my desire come from? It started when my father bought me a model train for Christmas. Obviously, he too was interested in trains because a two year old should not be playing with electricity and heavy metal objects. He mounted the track to a piece of plywood and I watched the train run around the circle of track that came with the train set. By the time I was six or seven I could operate the train by myself. At that age I could also break some of the rail cars, bend up the track and disable the steam locomotive. As a teenager, I became enamored with the idea of building a layout. My trains needed a purpose other than endlessly circling around a loop of track. College and marriage seemed like more important endeavors than trains so I forgot about them for a while. My desire resurfaced when my wife and I settled into our second apartment, which contained a spare bedroom. Trains have been part of my life ever since.Teachers-Day-Board-Decoration-4

Dad passed his love for trains on to me. Was he doing as the verse in Proverbs suggested?
“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Regardless of how Proverbs 22:6 is viewed or translated, Dad trained me up to love trains and I have not departed from it.

I questioned whether or not Dad had abandoned his interest in trains when his boys grew into men. But then again, he did seem to enjoy my various attempts as an adult to construct a train layout. It wasn’t until after he died and I found a small collection of model trains among his personal effects that I realized his love affair with trains never ended. My adult sons need only to venture down into the basement of my home to assess my love for locomotives and railroad cars.

IMG_0446In the coming months don’t be too surprised if trains find their way into my blog. Construction is set to resume on my O-27, high rail dream train layout.