Thursday, January 30, 2014

THE CURSE OF BULLYING, by Lorilyn Roberts





Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
—Ephesians 4:30


Has someone taunted you or bullied you?

*~*~*~*~*~*

From Seventh Dimension – The Door, a Young Adult Christian Fantasy:
“Why are you praying?” Judd snapped. “We aren’t here to pray.”
“Accidents happen.”
“She should be cursed,” Judd exploded.
“Don’t say that,” Rachel said.
“How do you know it was an accident?” Chumana asked.
I looked away. I couldn’t listen. My whole body quivered—what kind of curse?
—Shale Snyder, chapter one

*~*~*~*~*~*

The best way to overcome the sting of bullying is to remember how much God loves you. He loves you so much he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die on a tree 2,000 years ago. Jesus gave his life so that you could have eternal life in him. There’s nothing that can take God’s gift from you. If you have given your heart to Jesus, God will protect you from the worst spiritual attacks possible. The Holy Spirit seals  you and marks you as a follower—you can never lose your salvation.

Again, once you have accepted Jesus Christ into your heart, you’re saved. God is not whimsical. He doesn’t vacillate like the waves of the sea or give up on you in favor of someone else. Once you accept Jesus Christ into your heart, your ticket to heaven is good. Jesus paid the price.

You can grieve the Holy Spirit by the way you live or by the poor choices you make, but there’s nothing—no curse, no bully, or hateful person—that can separate you from Jesus Christ. Jesus sits at the right hand of God interceding on your behalf.

We live in a fallen world. When someone does something unbecoming or questionable, pray for that person. Pray for God’s love to touch that soul. Hurt people hurt people.

Don’t believe Satan’s lies—you can’t be cursed. The only control others have over you is the power you give them. No one can force you to think or act a certain way. Remember, you have the Holy Spirit within you.

…greater is he that is within you, than he that is in the world.
—I John 4:4
  
We have a taste of heaven here but the best is yet to come. Let God deal with those who bully, but make them accountable for their actions.

Go to a responsible adult. And again, don’t believe for an instant someone can curse you.


Thank you that I am created in God’s image. Thank you for the protection of the Holy Spirit No curse can befall me because your spirit dwells within me. Thank you that you reside in the most important place in my heart.




To read more devotionals like this one, check out "Am I Okay, God? Devotionals from the Seventh Dimension," available on Amazon.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Pretending," Devotional from "Am I Okay, God? Devotionals from the Seventh Dimension"


 

 

 

Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

—I Peter 5:6-7
 

Has someone done something that upset you and you pretended it didn’t happen?

I find it difficult to express my pain when it involves the offense of others. But it is not honest to pretend that I am not bothered by something when I am hurt.

Living in denial about our sin can be just as dangerous. For example, try to convince an alcoholic that he is an alcoholic. Unless he is willing to admit it, he will not be freed from his addiction. If you live in denial, you’re limiting your future. You’re limiting God’s ability to heal you.

How can God help you if you aren’t honest—painful are the wounds of the wicked or the dagger of an enemy. Persecution does not live in a pretend world. Satan is for real.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

From Seventh Dimension – The Door, a Young Adult Christian Fantasy:

“Shale, why are you standing there? Come on or you’ll be late to class.” Rachel was waiting at the hall lockers.

I walked towards her as the bell rang.

“Are you okay?” She furrowed her brow.

“I’m fine.” I smiled, pretending nothing had happened.”

—Shale Snyder and Rachel Franco, chapter one

 

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Jesus is known as the great physician. In the Gospels, Jesus healed many of diseases and afflictions. He not only healed physical ailments but he healed people emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. If someone has done something to you and you can’t talk about it, go to the Bible and read the Gospel of Luke, allowing the words from Jesus to soothe your heart.

Jesus went through the shame and humiliation of the cross so you could be set free. Lay your burden at the base of the cross and rejoice that Jesus can carry this burden for you.

There’s no greater love than the love of the father for his children. His love is greater than any hurt. You may not believe it because you can exert a lot of energy minimizing an offense.

Cast all your anxiety on the Savior and receive his love. Love covers a multitude of sins.

Denying your pain will only bury it deeper. Minimizing it will not make you feel better. Ask God to help you. His love will lead you to healing and his word will bring you comfort.

After you have read the Bible and prayed, share your experience with your parent, friend or counselor, trusting God to bring you deliverance.
 
 
Dear Jesus, thank you for comforting me when I feel down or confused or hurt. Whenever I doubt, I will remember that you love me unconditionally.
Help me to love others the same way you love me.
 
Get your copy of  "Am I Okay, God?" on Amazon Kindle.
 
Get your print copy of "Am I Okay, God?" on Amazon.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Cookbook Helps Homeschooling Moms - Free on Kindle till Sunday Jan 19


11 reviews, 5.0 stars. 72 recipes, homeschooling ideas, and each recipe has an inspirational quote for a busy mom. Last time on KDP Select, so this is the last time it will be free on Amazon. Offer ends Sunday.

Heart-Breaking Picture - Pray for the Children of Syria



Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Book Critique by Lorilyn Roberts of Wuthering Heights, Written by Emily Bronte




This is the first year (10th grade) that my younger daughter has been in public school. We homeschooled most of elementary and middle school with a stint in private school. I had no idea what to expect, except that I sincerely hoped she would get a good education that would prepare her for college. 

I have to admit, I am surprised that Wuthering Heights is one of the books she's had to read for English. I reviewed it a while back and believe it to be one of the most perfect books I've read. I praise the school system of Alachua County, Florida, for exposing my daughter to some of the best classics ever written. 


Wuthering Heights
By Emily Bronte
Critique by Lorilyn Roberts




Wuthering Heights is one of the most perfect novels I have read.  Here are my thoughts on what makes Wuthering Heights an outstanding read and why it’s considered a classic:

Characterization:

There are no extraneous characters introduced into the story. Each person serves a purpose and is often complementary to another character in the book, like a mirrored reflection or a duality, sometimes the same, sometimes opposing; i.e., Catherine and Heathcliff, Edgar and Isabella Linton, Hindley and Heathcliff, the younger Catherine and Hareton,  Mr. Lockwood and Nelly, Nelly and Joseph,  the two families at Wuthering Heights and the Grange, the mother Catherine and the younger Catherine,  and Isabella and Heathcliff. The relationships among the characters are complicated and evolving. If you were to take one of the characters out of this story, the  plot development would be negatively altered. The plot is character-driven and tightly woven throughout the story.
Tone:

The tone of the story is brooding and dark. The sensuous feeling is foreboding, first  exhibited in the setting which Emily Bronte describes in detail. There is an element of overarching suspense and aversion to the characters:  The morose Heathcliff; mother Catherine who dies of a brain disorder; the drink of Hindley; the tragic life of Isabella following her marriage to Heathcliff; the delightful younger Catherine who succumbs to depression after coming under the control of Heathcliff. The depressing scene and dysfunctional characters that greet Lockwood’s arrival prompt him to ask Nelly to explain the history behind Wuthering Heights.


Societal:

I was struck by how Emily Bronte weaves the social status of the characters into the story: Joseph and his barely intelligible English; Nelly, the servant and principal narrator, and her portrayal of others from an inferior social position; the many differences between the upper class Lintons and the middle class Earnshaws; the emphasis on social structure with less opportunity for upward mobility, which impacted the “heart” of the story - mother Catherine sacrifices her desire for Heathcliff  to achieve a higher social status by marrying Edgar. The characters’ traits, flaws, and attributes within the structure of society make for believable people that the reader both loves and hates.


Multi-generational:

The differences between the generations were striking: Heathcliff and mother Catherine seemed unable to change with the passage of time or grow as individuals. They were locked into extremisms that  became dead-end roads. Eventually, their flawed natures doomed them to early deaths, providing an opportunity for the next generation in Catherine and Hareton to overcome the past. In contrast to their parents, they were able to adapt and redeem the past, and through their transformation, the reader is filled with hope for the future. The multigenerational aspect of time adds to the completeness  of the story—this is a family with a history, a past that threatens to destroy the future.


Spiritual/Psychological:

Emily Bronte probes deeply the psychological aspects of people’s behavior and the ramifications of the dark side of human nature. The story touches on the spiritual nature of the individuals, with references to the small church, the recurring battle with death, the repeated references to ghosts, and Joseph’s incessant recitation of Scripture.  

Themes:

The many themes are timeless—love that is forbidden, prejudices that hurt people,  the meaninglessness of life without hope, hate that destroys, the vindictiveness of human nature, and the darkness of the soul without God.

Setting:

Established in the first paragraph, a “perfect misanthropist’s heaven. ” Right away, I am told a lot about this story in a unique way which encourages me to keep reading.

Classic Author Similarities:

I am struck by the fact that many classics, like this one, have been written by individuals who have experienced tremendous  suffering. I wonder if there is a relationship between a giftedness to write great stories and the degree to which one has endured hardship. Perhaps the strong emotions that are pent up in a tortured soul find solace in the pen as a healing balm.

Risky:

Creative, original stories take risks. For instance, there isn’t one protagonist versus one antagonist in Wuthering Heights. Ninety-five percent of the story is dark and unsettling; the story reinforces negative stereotypical issues and characters. The orphan is the troublemaker and destroyer of the family, perpetuating a common “myth” with adoptees. 

Joseph uses the Bible in a beguiling way to demean people, contrary to the Good Book’s ultimate purpose. The submissive role of women and their inability to escape from abusive husbands or families is also perpetuated in Wuthering Heights, reinforcing the long-held notion that women are inferior to men.  Despite these risks, Emile Bronte creates a masterpiece.

Fictional Dream:

Emily Bronte immerses the reader into a world that is vivid and dream-like, with colorful characters and a complex plot. She uses literary techniques that make this is a compelling read, one worth pondering after the last page is finished. It’s a shame she died so young—what other books might she have written?


Friday, January 10, 2014

Tadeo Turtle, by Janis Cox, A Delightful Book for Children That Will Leave You With a Warm, Fuzzy Feeling, Book Review by Lorilyn Roberts


Tadeo Turtle



Written and illustrated by Janis Cox




A Delightful Children’s Picture Book That Will Leave You With a Warm Fuzzy Feeling
Book Review by Lorilyn Roberts





Tadeo Turtle is a one-of-a-kind children’s book with a wonderful message—God has made you perfectly just the way you are. In addition to being entertaining and imparting a strong spiritual message, the illustrations will capture the heart and mind of a young child. 

Colorful drawings of a scary cat, a sweet squirrel, and other animals in their natural surroundings will open the door to discussions about the need to preserve all of God’s creations. Ms. Cox has cleverly provided resources at the end with web links for further study.




The endearing image of Tadeo and his problem will make this a favorite story for young and old alike—a story with which we can all identify.  The craft activities included will broaden inquisitive young minds to explore God’s creation further. Tadeo Turtle is the best book for children I have read in a long time. 

I look forward to taking this delightful book with me to Nepal to help orphan children with their reading.






To purchase on Amazon, click here


*~*~*~*~*


Janis Cox is a faithful follower of Jesus. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, a sister and friend. Married to a wonderful husband they have three grown children who are married; they have six grandchildren and a new one on the way.

She is a writer, watercolour artist and person who always is involved in doing something. She has her fingers in many pies – but all of them are delicious. A friend once told her that she saw a vision of her – with a whole bunch of coloured balloons and she tried to capture each one of them.

As a former public school teacher she loved to write poems for her kids. With this background she has now published her first illustrated children’s book, Tadeo Turtle.

She runs a group blog Under the Cover of Prayer. She is a member of The Word Guild, Inscribe and American Christian Writers. Her website is www.janiscox.com.










Monday, January 6, 2014

The Art of Stuckness in Writing

by Lorilyn Roberts

While I have never experienced stuckness in writing, more appropriately called writer’s block, I have to admit a great portion of my waking hours I am stuck on something; i.e., stuck in traffic, stuck waiting at the red light, stuck standing in line, stuck on hold on the phone, stuck staring at my computer screen, stuck waiting to get paid; or for someone to answer an email, or to get out of the dentist chair, or to get over a cold, or to get the car fixed, or for the stock market to return to transparency; or stuck waiting for free time—to read, write, slow down, relax; or get off the air from captioning. Tonight I didn’t finish till 12:30am. My chair seat and I spend too much time together. I might as well be stuck to it, too.





Recently I took my dog to the vet. She had poop stuck inside her that wouldn’t come out. Talk about being stuck—I’ll spare you the details, but being stuck is part of the fallen world and the human condition from which we can’t get escape. I can’t be spared the stress even in my dreams.


One recurring dream pictures me driving an orange bus. I am sitting in the back seat trying to maneuver it over a road that angles down a mountain at 180 degrees. I always wake up and never reach the bottom. I wonder what the bus represents. Why am I at the very back driving? And why does the road have such a steep incline? Which problem am I stuck on and unable to solve?


The worst part about being stuck is that it robs me of creativity, frustrates me, and puts me out of sorts with the world—and God in particular.

So, to give an example of an ongoing stuckness for this week, enjoy the following. Cry with me or laugh with me—either way, hysterically. Is this really believable?


At the beginning of the year I decided to bundle my cable, phone, and internet accounts with Cox Cable. These services previously had been provided by both Bell South and Cox Cable. According to the Cox Cable representative, this would save me about $30 per month. In these “tough economic times,” I figured even with all the hassle of switching, over the course of time, $30 per month would become significant.

I wanted assurances from the Cox Cable representative of three things: First, how much money it would save me; second, that the switch in phone lines would not affect my internet/email; and third, I would not experience disconnects using their phone service.


Because I use my phone lines to provide live captioning for television, disconnects on live programming causes captions to become disrupted. If a station loses too much airtime, it will be fined by the FCC. Since stations don’t want to be fined, they take it seriously when a captioning provider has too many on-air issues, whether it be poor captions, disconnects, corrupted captions, or no captions at all. Too many issues will likely mean when the contract comes up for renewal, that company won’t be awarded the contract. Contacts with the larger stations like Fox, ESPNews, CBS, and others are multimillion-dollar contracts. If a captioner has too many disconnects, the captioning provider will “dump” the subcontractor, somebody like me, and hire someone else to perform the work.

I was assured by Cox Cable there would be no problem and that the quality of their phone service was as good as what Bell South had been providing me for years.

Fast forward a few days. The technician arrived and spent all afternoon wiring my house. He checked everything before he left, or so we thought, and I believed everything was working properly. Later that evening, I went online to check my email. I discovered while I could receive my email through Microsoft Outlook, I couldn’t send anything out of Microsoft Outlook. I called Cox Cable, and somebody came on the phone right away and fixed it. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then, later that evening, I experienced several disconnects on programming I had never had disconnects with before. I ended up having more disconnects in one week than I had experienced in five years. I contacted Cox Cable two days later—I should have called them immediately—after several disconnects and was alarmed by their lack of responsiveness. In fact, they seemed shocked that such a small inconvenience as getting disconnected could cause me such anxiety. After a while, probably more to shut me up than anything else, the Cox representative assured me they would check it out and fix the problem.







But the disconnection issues continued. Within a week I was on the phone to Bell South to switch my lines back with them. I spent about an hour talking to a very nice representative answering various questions. At the end of the call, she said, “We need the information you have given me verified by a third-party.” I was running out of time and needed to finish up to go on the air. I thought I would answer the final questions and be on my merry way; but the third-party verifier said her information showed I was only transferring one line. I said, “No, I am transferring two lines.”

We argued back and forth, and I realized I couldn’t solve this unexpected issue in one minute. I would have to cancel the entire request for the switch in service and redo the process the next day. I couldn’t risk having only one active phone line. I needed two active lines to caption. I told the representative, “If you can’t transfer both lines over, then cancel the order and I will start it all over tomorrow.”

The next morning, I called Bell South again. The woman on the line said, “Oh, it just shows up as one phone line, but it’s really two. The people that do the verification don’t know that.” And she said, “We can just undo the cancellation.” I said, “Great.” I had better things to do with my time than spending it redoing what I had already done the night before.





Fast forward two weeks. The disconnects continued, and I was forced to fill out far too many discrepancy reports. In the meantime, while I was waiting for the lines to be switched back, I discovered that my iphone would not let me send out emails. I needed it to work because I was going out of town. I called Cox Cable to verify what the strange settings were I needed for my iphone. The representative from Cox Cable convinced me to reset my settings on my Office Outlook back to what they were before I added the phone lines. I was skeptical about changing them, but I sent myself a verification email which came back to me promptly, so I assumed incorrectly she was right and knew more than I did.


I changed the settings on Microsoft Outlook as she instructed. I then called AT&T to put the settings back to what they were before on the iphone. I had changed them trying to get the iphone to work with the new settings for Microsoft Outlook. I spent a couple of hours on the phone with AT&T. Once this was accomplished, I thought everything on my email would be back to the way it was originally.

Later that evening, I went on the computer to check my emails. Once again, I couldn’t send out emails. It was late at night and there was nothing I could do about it except be frustrated.


Over the course of the ensuing weekend, I talked to several representatives at Cox Cable trying to find somebody who could change the settings to allow me to send emails. Most of them told me, “We don’t support Outlook.” By now I was approaching my limit of “niceness.” But I was going out of town, couldn’t take my computer with me, and figured I could send emails off my iphone; not very efficient, but better than nothing. I would live with the inconvenience until the following Tuesday (this was on a Friday), when my phone lines were scheduled to be switched back to Bell South. With the settings I had, my Microsoft Outlook should work by then. I would be patient, even though I was frustrated.


Tuesday came and went, and nothing seemed to happen with the phones—except I continued to have disconnects. ESPNews had called twice about the number of disconnects during my programming. I had filled out about thirty discrepancy reports for lost air time with various companies for which I worked. I was concerned when nothing seemed different and was getting more paranoid. I called Bell South on Wednesday to ask if they had switched the phone lines and was told, “You cancelled it two weeks ago.” When I told the representative that the woman said she would un-cancel it for me and that the lines would be switched in two weeks, she said, “You can’t un-cancel a cancellation.”


Now, I was angry. All this time I thought things were in process for the switch. Two weeks later, I had to start all over again. I spent an hour on the phone, going through the questions and answers the second time. I thought everything was taken care of now. But an hour later, I got a phone call, “The verification wasn’t done right. We need to redo it.” I said, “Okay,” and redid the verification a third time. “This is the final time,” I told myself, again.

A few hours later I returned home to a waiting message on my phone, “We need to verify the switch again. It wasn’t done correctly.” I wondered which verification was done wrong; the second one, the third one, or both? I called Bell South and told them, “I am fixing to go on the air, so I need to do this quickly.” They put me on hold and I assume forgot about me. I hung up and dialed in for my show, angry at the inability to accomplish something so simple yet so important.

The next day I was headed out of town and had no time to call Bell South. I was still unable to send emails out of Office Outlook. This was a big inconvenience because I receive over two hundred emails on a normal day. I continued to have disconnection issues while captioning. But I couldn’t do anything about it until Monday.

First thing Monday morning I made the dreaded call to Bell South. How many verifications did I need to do to get it right? After going through the whole story once again, the representative told me the switch had already been made on one line and the switch on the other line would be made in one week.

I was still experiencing disconnects on the line that supposedly had been switched so I was concerned. The representative from Bell South connected me with the technical department to see what could be causing the issue. I gave that person the number with which I was having issues. To my dismay, she told me, “That number is disconnected.”


Now I wondered who the blankety-blank was providing my crappy service on that line. I yelled at the poor woman and demanded to speak to a supervisor. While I was on hold, I dialed out to make sure the line was still working. I got a dial tone. Soon a woman who was “Ms. Control” came on the phone and was everything but helpful. Because she wouldn’t listen to me, I asked to speak to someone else, and then I was disconnected. I couldn’t imagine why.

I called Bell South back and got disconnected again. I called a third time (what else could I do), and explained all over again what I had been through to another person who knew nothing. She listened, put me on hold, and came back and told me that the line had not been switched yet. She said, “I was told by the technical department it looks like it’s disconnected because it is still in the process of being switched back.” In other words, they hadn’t received the paperwork yet. This was different from what I was told earlier, which probably explained why I was still having issues. The line was on Cox Cable’s equipment.


Tonight, as I sit here, I hope she is right and that my lines will be switched next Monday, as promised, and I will still have a job.


I was too worried to wait a whole week for my Office Outlook to work properly. I called Cox Cable and demanded they find somebody who could fix it to where I could send emails. I heard the usual run-around, “We don’t support Outlook.”

I gave them my angst, “You said switching the lines would not affect my email service, you made it possible for me to receive emails until your representative changed it to where it would no longer work, and I demand you find somebody to fix my Office Outlook NOW.” I was put on hold for too long, and then told a technical person would call me back shortly.

I waited two hours and no one called. So I took Joy to her gymnastics class. While driving, my phone rang. Of course, it was the Cox Cable technical support, now that I couldn’t talk. I asked him to call me back in fifteen minutes; I dropped Joy off and hurried home. A few minutes later, we connected on the phone. In lightning fashion, even faster than I thought possible, he fixed the issue. It’s amazing how quickly something can be done by competent people. As of right now, I am able to send from Outlook, though, of course, I still can’t send from my iphone.


The almost end of the story is the bill I just received--$250 for the two phone lines. My Bell South bill in December was $154. The plan was to switch to Cox Cable and bundle my services so I could save $30 a month. When I asked the Cox representative about the higher-than-expected bill, she said, “Well, this isn’t a bundle.” I asked her why in the world I would switch from Bell South to Cox Cable if it was going to cost me $100 more per month. No, I am not stupid; even my kids give me more credit than that.

Why have I gone into such detail? Because I don’t think my reality is that different from everyone else. I just took the time to write it all down rather than throw the computer out the window, or throw my cell phone across the room (I do have experience with that), or wring somebody’s neck. I really don’t want to be stuck in jail.


But bringing stuckness back to writing, is it possible to have what is more commonly known as writer’s block? I don’t know about others, but for me at least, I have never experienced it. Any blocks toward writing do not stem from the writing act itself, but from the other parts of living that constrain me from creativity—worry, distraction, or near insanity dealing with issues like the above; the parts of living we long to escape from that consume our time, energy, and resources. Given enough futility, I can be left with zilch desire to write.













We don’t live in paradise yet and won’t until the Lord’s return; so the question is, how do I deal with the stuckness that wraps its ugly tentacles around my emotions and invades my life? Does God even care, I wonder, when I am most depressed?

I fail in ways I would rather not mention in this G–rated piece of writing. I have a long ways to go to be like Jesus in dealing with stuckness of most varieties. But I have found the one thing that irks me the most is dealing with incompetence. Even something as simple as trying to unclog the commode or sink can send me into a tailspin of four-letter words a Christian ought not to say.

Caring is not enough. I care whether I can flush my commode, or that my dog needs to poop and can’t. The question, as raised in Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, is the definition of quality. Quality has much less to do with caring than competence. A person might care, but if he doesn’t have the necessary knowledge, all the caring in the world won’t fix that broken bone or save that broken marriage.


I might care a lot about my writing, but if I don’t know how to build a believable plot, all my caring isn’t going to make me a best-seller. (I tried that, it doesn’t work).

In the same way, almost everyone I talked to at Cox Cable and Bell South cared, but incompetency at various levels made their caring insufficient to fix my problem.


Stuckness always comes back to competence. Quality comes out of competence. It rises above mediocrity and exudes perfection.


As a Christian, quality takes on a far more important meaning. Jesus was and is the Quality, and out of the Quality comes goodness. Taken in the context of a fallen world, we must find the goodness in the world or we will become too despondent with sin.






God commands us in the Bible to look for the good in everything. Philippians 4:8 tells us, Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Out of the worst circumstances, good can emerge. In earthquakes, we see goodness; from help that arrives in the form of volunteers, food, water and medicine. There is nothing like putting a face to quality. We shake our heads at what one determined person can endure to survive and become reacquainted once again with love and goodness—the quality that makes life bearable and for whom we are image-bearers. We reassess what’s important remembering once again life is precious, and only through love is there quality and reason for careful living.


If we didn’t have the struggles, we would have no story. If we didn’t have goodness, we would have no quality, no benchmark to measure our efforts, nothing worth striving for in writing. We would not be able to find redemption.

Even in my story here, there will be redemption. Why? Because I didn’t give up. I rarely give up, and perhaps that gets into the gumption aspect which I will save for the next writing piece.

I think what is most important is that we focus on process and not outcome. If we destroy ourselves or others to attain quality, we have short-circuited God’s best. As my mother used to say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I must learn how to handle the frustrations of process—impatience, incompetence, uncertainty, worry, and all the less productive ways that tell me I haven’t arrived; if anything, that will end up leaving me stuck on the road to nowhere.






Who wants to stay stuck? We must do whatever it takes. Perhaps it takes years to get unstuck—from a divorce, from depression, from loss, or a host of other unimaginable circumstances. In order to attain quality, we must keep looking up, cease striving, and know where there is Quality, we can find goodness that is worth living for—and writing about. Sooner or later, if we are honest in our search, we will find more than competence. We will find quality in ourselves and in others, because we are the vessel of the Holy Spirit, and in that hidden place within us, there is Quality.

What is Your Greatest Fear? What is Your Greatest Hope?


Leave a comment. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

How Tolkien Created Larger Than Life Characters, guest post by Janalyn Voigt


 

By Janalyn Voigt

I discovered J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit as an adult, a handicap I soon overcame. By the time the hobbits made a daring escape on the back of giant eagles, my childhood love of flying elephants and Neverland had kicked in. I never looked back, going on to read The Lord of the Rings trilogy to find out what happened next.

I loved the beautiful, dangerous, and mysterious world Tolkien created in Middle Earth, but the most important reason I read to the very last sentence of his epic trilogy is that his characters transcended the page and came alive for me. As a fantasy author myself, you could suppose that snagging my over-active imagination wouldn’t be too difficult. Except that since then I’ve read (or more accurately tried to read) any number of fantasy novels that couldn’t hold a candle to Tolkien’s works.

Tolkien created larger-than-life characters partly by assigning them quirks common to man. Bilbo’s fondness for the comforts of home made his perilous quest particularly difficult. His grumbling seems at first comical, then pathetic, and finally endearing. Later in the story, when he relinquishes his desire for hearth and home in favor of the greater good, his decision is nothing short of heroic.  Frodo, hero of The Lord of the Rings, has to overcome the power of an addictive force. Strider (Aragorn) must summon courage in the face of defeat to heal his kingdom. Even Gollum is a villain to be despised but pities because of his sin of greed. Tolkien designed his characters to speak to our human weaknesses and to make us better for having vicariously experienced their character arcs.

Adventure is the greatest element present in Tokien’s books. Due to the author’s skillful foreshadowing, the sense of doom grows as the series progresses until it reaches fever-pitch during the final excruciating conflict. This is storytelling at its finest. Reading The Lord of The Rings trilogy with an analytical mindset can help a writer understand how to increase tension in a story.

Unlike C.S. Lewis, who gave us a Christ-figure in Aslan, Tolkien doesn’t employ one symbol of Christ but many. Frodo becomes the sin bearer, Aragorn the savior, and Gandalf the mysterious visitor who calls on us to leave the comforts of home and defeat the wiles of a dark enemy.

I count Tolkien among the influences on my Tales of Faeraven trilogy, which is written in the medieval epic fantasy genre he helped establish. The series begins with DawnSinger and now continues with the release of Wayfarer.
 
 

Special Offer for Today Only (January 3rd, 2014):

In celebration of the release of Wayfarer, book two in Janalyn Voigt’s Tales of Faeraven trilogy, her publisher is offering her book at a 50% discount. Click here to take advantage of this offer.
 
 

About Janalyn Voigt

As children, my older brother and I would beg my father for bedtime stories, and he would give them.  His deep voice rumbled against my ear at his chest as he unfolded stories of exotic places like Oz and Neverland. My imagination carried on with the tales even after he closed the book for the night. When eventually he stopped reading stories, I began creating my own.

Within a few years I’d become storyteller of my neighborhood. The other children would gather in a circle on our lawn while I invented stories to entertain them. No one, including myself, thought of this as anything unusual. It wasn’t until my sixth-grade teacher pointed out my ability to spin a tale that I and my parents took note. This is how at the age of twelve I decided to become a novelist. At it turns out, the fulfillment of that dream took a few more years than planned. 
 
 
Find out more about Janalyn, her closet writing office, and her books at the author website for Janalyn Voigt.