Tag Archives: christian writer

Power in the Hands of Church Dudes – Godly Men Rock!

Godly men rock

Their locker room prattle may not hold you spellbound, but it will not insult. Godly men. The ones that do the next right thing. Fathers, husbands, grampas, brothers, sons, grandsons, friends, even strangers. Powerful men who unknowingly serve as an antidote for a menagerie of hurts. Godly Men Rock

I love the men of my church. The church dudes. Through them I have witnessed healing, straight from God’s heart. Strong men who use their strengths for good. Heroes to those who witness their kindness, like… Godly Men Rock

The brow beaten widow, who lives with hurtful words. A lurking, haunting inheritance.

The invisible, fatherless son shadowed in a hoody, desperate for attention, acceptance…words imagined from a caring dad.

The guy, in the back pew, face cradled in palms who believes he’s less than. Godly Men Rock

The twenty-something beauty with a history of predator beaus.

The mother whose grown son, no longer calls.

The recovering alcoholic who’s burned all bridges leading anywhere else, but here.

And so on. People hurt by men from the past, present and the potential future. Godly Men Rock

Before I go on, here’s my disclaimer: Godly Men Rock

You might find a lone turkey in the woods, but the gang is hanging at the turkey farm.  Likewise, it’s more likely to find a healthy flock of good men at church. Just saying. You’re welcome to put on your Elmer Fudd hat and hunt elsewhere. Also, I’m aware of men in churches who do more harm than good. Sadly, they have power as well. But they are not whom I choose to celebrate.

As I was saying… Godly Men Rockromans 5:4 character

Kind men… good men… hold mighty tools in their righteous hands. When they give time to a lonely child, speak softly to a down- trodden woman, or place a gentle arm around their wife’s shoulders. When they fix the widow’s fence, stand up for a bullied boy, or encourage the shy to shine. When they lift hands to praise and bend knees to pray. Even when they tell a goofy joke, laugh like goons, and repeat. 1 Corinthians 16:13 Be courageous

I’m watching. You’re watching. And if we’ve been hurt by past ill-examples of good character, we experience healing.  I know I do. They’re not the men we avoid on the corner, or the internet, or the big mouths spouting demeaning tales. They are different, set apart, special. Not just on Sundays, but 24/7.

A few months back I wrote “The Ladies who Church,” determining, church is a verb. I realize now, men “church” as well. They are action figures with Bibles instead of capes. In closing I ask that you tell a good man in your circle how  much you appreciate their character. These men deserve our praise.

Church Ladies… Hot Flashes and Faith

Hey You… Mountain….Move! I’m Armed with a Mustard Seed

moutain lake mustard seed  Remember those carefree childhood days? No worry. No fear. Just un-obliterated delight and adventure? mustard seed

I don’t.

As long as I can remember, my closet had a boogie man and something lay waiting, with raspy breath, under my bed. mustard seed

Its name is Anxiety. Continue reading Hey You… Mountain….Move! I’m Armed with a Mustard Seed

How to Live with a Writer – 5 Tips Guaranteed to Make Life Easier

How to Live with a Writer

First I apologize for stalling on the blog. I miss my readers. I hope you’ve missed the stories as well. When the end of our book waved encouragement, it was like sending a marble down the track, racing through the obstacles to the finish. Trust me, had I stopped to write a blog, it would have been a wordy resentment as to how I had to take time away from finishing the book. In the meantime, my dearest husband suggested (after much whining) that he write a blog for me. With that said:  I introduce a very special guest blogger – husband, Sandy Palmer. Obviously, I did not choose the topic. How to Live with a Writer

As long as I can remember, I have loved reading. Still do, whether magazines, (read cover to cover), a daily newspaper, or at least one book. But writing? I suck at it!  Any class I’ve taken involving writing, was painful, and book reports, unless given orally, received unremarkable grades. I’ve never been partial to one type of book; i.e. novel, sci-fi, thriller, mystery, etc. Likewise, I’ve never had a favorite author, at least not until twenty-five years ago, when I met Deb, my wife to be.  She was finishing her college degree in Print Journalism.  From the start, I enjoyed anything she wrote, as she had a way with words, capturing what was important, pertinent, what needed said. How to Live with a Writer

When we first met she was writing for the college newspaper; human interest feature articles. Post college, while working for a non-profit organization, she launched a newsletter, convincing the agency they needed a public relations officer. Soon after, we hung a shingle on our house, “Palmer Business Communications,” where she freelanced for other agencies, wrote a column for a local newspaper and cranked out resumes that pretty much guaranteed you an interview.  After several years of writing for other people, she burned out, gave up the writing and spent the next twenty years in the antique business. How to Live with a Writer

Her passion for writing, starting when she was a little girl, didn’t go away, it just took a break. Like a serial killer, destined to strike again, Deb’s desire to write returned with a vengeance. Writing consumed much of her time.  Not just the physical part of writing, but thinking about writing, planning about writing, editing writing, proof-reading writing, rewriting writing, publishing planning, marketing planning, and so forth and on and on. How to Live with a Writer

Did I mention that I am not a writer?  From early on, I have been involved with Deb’s writing.  Having done many things in my work career, I was useful in terminology and knowledge of skills needed, in numerous fields, when it came to resume’ writing.  Once, shortly after she had quit smoking, and was dangerous to be around when she was stressed, I finished the last paragraph of a newspaper column, when my physical well-being was at stake. How to Live with a Writer

In the past several years, since Deb came back to her writing, she has written two books and maintains a blog.  Both of the books are great, and I look forward to them being published.  The first one, a collection of short stories, based on the beatitudes, is very entertaining, laced with much humor and a big yellow dog.  By the time it was finished, Deb hated it, and it was put on the back burner.  One of the stories has been published in a Christian Anthology, called, “The Birds of Passage.”  The second book was recently finished in rough draft form, and Deb is again disliking it, saying that no one will want to read it. She’s nuts!  Three chapters from this book have been posted on her blog, with rave reviews.  I know that something big will come of Deb’s writing. How to Live with a Writer

Did I mention that I am not a writer?  Deb thinks I am.  I am not an editor. Deb thinks I am. I am not a proof reader. Deb thinks I am.  I know that her writing is exceptional, and will be read and enjoyed by many. If she can be convinced of this,our lives will, possibly, become calm. I doubt it! On to the next writing project!!!!   I am not a writer, but I will continue to be whatever Deb needs me to be, and mainly her #1 supporter.

If you, like me, live with a writer; my heartfelt condolences. I will offer some advice how to survive. Here are the 5 tips that I’ve learned the hard way. How to Live with a Writer

 

Tip One: Be Willing to Listen… NOW!

If said OCD writer approaches with a chapter, a paragraph, a sentence, a word or even an idea related to writing, respond as if they are holding a ticking bomb. Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING is more important. It doesn’t matter if you’ve drank three cups of coffee and are sprinting to the bathroom finish line…. Stop! Listen! Wet clothing can be changed; words may expire or combust.

 

Tip Two: No Faking

Let’s say the writer is reading a section to you that you really don’t understand, or even like.. Whatever you do, don’t plaster a grin on and say “I like it,” or it’s nice. I’ve come to believe writers have a special type of Extra Sensory Perception when it comes to this. Be sincere, but tread lightly. Honesty is your only way out, but stand back a ways.

 

Tip Three: React to the Writing…

I know this sounds silly, but it is for the best. Trust me. Practice your facial responses in the mirror. You will most likely need to times your normal reaction by three. If your normal response is “uh huh,” or “yeah, I like it,” times it by ten. Listen for humor and laugh as if you’re a drunk needing to be heard over the entire bar. Besides humor, expand your responses to cover content, story line, word choice, etc.

 

 

Tip Four: Repeat Yourself and Repeat Yourself

OCD writers are either hard of hearing or attention deficit when it comes to their work.  Here is a typical conversation.

                Me: That is really powerful. It’s great.

OCD Writer: You like it?

Me: Yes

OCD Writer: Why do you like it?

Me: Because I think it is powerful?

And don’t be surprised or lose patience if later they ask:

                Did you really like it?

And

Do you think anyone else will like it?

 

Tip Five: Take away the Club

OCD writers beat themselves up. If you don’t stop them, they often believe they cannot continue. Exchange the self-abating Billy club with the real source of power – God. When all else fails, I ask one question:

Have you asked God’s help?

With a divine light bulb above her head, she calms, thanking me for tipping her face toward heaven.

Check out a sample chapter of our latest book:

New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

Granny Tennis Shoes… Sword Tongue… Praying Hands… What’s Your Legacy?

High top all star converse tennis shoes Praying Hands Legacy

Everyone knew her. That woman, older than dirt, bent like the crook of a cane to half her height. Back then, in the 60s, an old lady in trousers is today’s equivalent to a tube top and Daisy Dukes. Thus, all elderly women wore floral jersey dresses. But this lady, had it going on, donning the expected uniform dress, and thick, sagging, support stockings with her signature Converse All Stars high top tennis shoes. Praying Hands Legacy

The fashion statement earned the nickname, Granny Tennis Shoes, and a story, told as a warning, locally and beyond. The tale not only explains the physical ailment but also solves the fashion mystery.

It went something like this…Praying Hands Legacy

            One day a poor penniless widow found a pair of Converse All Stars in a dumpster. While lacing them up, the plan emerged, catapulting the old woman from rocking chair to entrepreneur, soon branded as Granny Tennis Shoes. During peak traffic times, taking a two-point stance at the street corner, she’d wait for the light to flash green, pouncing onto the crosswalk, (hence the tennis shoes) in front of a car, (hence the crippled body). Afterward, Granny drug her tired, tread riddled bones to court, suing the traumatized driver, for all they had.

And the saddest part of the story?

We all believed it.

It was not until I told the story as an adult that I realized how unlikely it would be that she would survive more than one attempt. Poor old Granny Tennis Shoes, clueless as to why… fingers pointed… cars swerved at the sight of her… wide-eyed children gawked or ran away. Praying Hands Legacy

Have you ever wondered what stories are told about you? I cringe at the thought. Labeled a feisty redhead with a nasty temper, my brother nicknamed me Sword Tongue saying,“Watch out, if you make her mad, she’ll slice you to pieces!” Praying Hands Legacy

That’s not a good legacy. I pray today my words be sweet, that the blade of my tongue is guarded, never wagging amok, or used as a weapon. I confess and repent of times my nearest and dearest have witnessed my tongue unsheathed. It’s true, I ’m not the person I could be, but it’s also true, I’m not the person I once was. The one who took pride in verbal slaughters. Glory to God for the changes and praise for His continued work. Praying Hands Legacy

I remember the first time I knew there’d been a paradigm shift in the way people define me. It was my birthday, the one when my now 18-year-old grandson was just four years old. With no help or suggestions from others, he selected my present. By the look of anticipation on his beaming face, I knew whatever it was, he believed it to be a grand and perfect gift. I expected a mug, or socks, maybe even a “NaNa is the best” placard. I did not, nor could not, have imagined the treasure concealed inside the box, wrapped slipshod in the funny papers. After peeling the last layer of comic, I opened the lid, lifting the mysterious cube from the box. Dazed, I stared at the gift, mirroring what my grandson sees when he looks at me. A battery operated crystal cube that lights up, revealing a silhouette of praying hands. The loveliest gift ever. Praying Hands Legacy

A drop to my knees, state of mind, moment. Hyper aware of the miraculous transformation, present in me, a task only God could pull off. How flattering… what an honor… to know my grandson pictures me as a woman of prayer who loves God. I’ve never felt more gratitude for God pulling me up out of the muck and mire, hosing me off, presenting me as lovely, in my grandson’s eyes. Praying Hands Legacy

Had I kept going the way of my past, my grandchildren might see me as someone chasing the wind, or worse, they might not know me at all. Because of our powerful awesome God, my five grandsons know what’s important to me. God, their Grandpa, and family.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

That birthday was a defining moment for me. A day when I received a priceless jewel. Proof that God is working miracles every day, in every way, even if you are just a “me,” like me. Undeniable evidence that I am not the godless woman I once was. For me, the wondrous change is no less a marvel than if I’d sawn off my leg and God grew it back.

Grateful! Grateful! Grateful!

Thank You God that who I see reflected in the eyes of my loved ones, is good.

Hmm… maybe Granny Tennis Shoes’ grandchildren and those who actually knew her, saw her as a loving grandma, who happened to wear cool high top tennis shoes. I hope so.

 

See below to read a sample chapter of our book in progress.

New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

Last Peek- New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

new author chapter preview

new author chapter preview

I’m the person that finds the perfect Christmas present in April, buys it, sticks it in the closet, waits several hours, then calls you to come open it now. new author chapter preview

That’s how I feel about our book, “In Spite of Us, Stalked by a Loving God.” How can I possibly wait until it’s finished, before I share it? Besides, your enthusiasm and encouragement for the other two sample chapters, helped spur me on.

So, here we go again. Since, I’m currently writing the final chapters, (Yay! Finally getting to spew God’s glory!), this will be the last peek of our book.

The book is written, in dueling perspectives, mine and husband Sandy. Chapter 39, (my voice) is about three quarters into the book. I’m sober, but just as crazy as not. When plans to score prescription drugs fail, I walk through the proverbial, “last door,” A.A. More interesting than following my zig-zagging path of desperation, is the look into what God is, was and continues to do.

Chapter 39

 

You keep saying that. Are you sure? New Author Chapter preview

When I said the words, I hoped for relief, a sense of closure to my insanity. Instead the words floated around the room with nowhere to rest.New Author Chapter preview

“My name’s Deb. I’m an alcoholic.”

As I tell my story, the voice in my head screams, “shut up!” I want to keep it simple, like Veni Vidi Vici, only instead of I came, I saw, I conquered… I drank, I quit, I’m fine now. The faces at the table look like our cat Slim, when I treat her like a dog. I confess to being sober, or dry, for the past eight years. All eyes glaze over under one giant group frown. Even my quest to score meds turned into a bizarre circus. Why did I get the self-absorbed, confused psychiatrist, instead of the normal, stable, old man, glasses on nose, saying stuff like, “It’s okay dear, everything will be fine.”  And why did my magic bean leave me the color of cherry Kool Aid, super charged like a Chatty Cathy doll on speed?  Once again, I’m left behind, waving bon voyage to all America as they pop a pill, floating off to chill island. New Author Chapter preview

So here I sit, in an A.A. meeting, attempting to explain the sober alcoholic clause. Do I care if I meet the base requirements to join their little club? Not really. I loathe the clichés, the constant self ass-patting for not doing something stupid yet today, and the guy whining about his ex-wife. Yet, I want what they have, well what a few seem to have found… a God they believe in… serenity… hope. There must be a way to get what they have, without hanging out with them. All I know is, I don’t know diddly, and I have nowhere else to go. New Author Chapter preview

I got a sponsor, nicknamed Little Sue, a friend from Alanon. She’s a cocktail like me, two fingers A.A. with an Alanon mixer, a splash of ACOA, and a little crazy, on a toothpick. If you’re not familiar with those terms I’ll simplify it for you, it’s the trifecta of the disease of alcoholism… A. A deals with the alcoholic… Alanon deals with all the others harmed by the alcoholic…. ACOA… is specifically for those who’ve lived under the chaos of alcoholic parents. Crazy is… a bonus, for winning the trifecta. New Author Chapter preview

The first time I meet with Little Sue, I’m certain she tries to scare me off. I don’t blame her, who wants to take on the difficult cases. I hope Difficult Deb is not my destined nickname. New Author Chapter preview

“We’re jumping ahead to Step 11 for a moment,” she says, sliding the Big Book my way, while reciting the step. “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

She seems to be waiting for me to respond. I don’t hear a question in there, so I keep quiet.

“If I’m to be your sponsor, you’ll be looking into the Bible. If that’s not okay with you, we won’t be a good fit.”

I laugh. Lately I’ve felt like a cartoon character stalked by Bible thumpers, jumping out from every corner. Since we’ve opened our antiques store in Ellensburg, I’m at the mercy of my customers seven days a week. I’m trapped behind the counter, forced to listen to tales of their ceramic pig collection, annoying neighbors, upcoming gall bladder surgery, and God.

One day, a blonde trio approaches the counter; a young mom holding the hand of a toddler, dragging an antique doll across the floor. The porcelain doll appears to be the one from the glass case, with the $300 price tag, and sign reading: Please do not touch.

“I’m a Christian…” says the mom. “Would you take $25 for this doll. My little girl really wants it. We’re Christians and can’t afford to pay more than that.”

I did not say the words begging to spill out. I didn’t even say the G Rated version – “Listen, you presumptuous idiot. I don’t hold Christians in high regard or think by any means that you are better than anyone else.”

I really tried.

“I see she likes the doll, but there’s no way I can sell a $300 doll for $25.”

Pointing at her child, she continues.

“But, we can only pay $25. Wouldn’t you consider it, because we are Christians?”

I remind myself to be kind.

“I’m sorry…” I begin, but hearing the lie, unleashes my indignation.

“You know what, dear heart? If I could adjust my prices that easily I’d charge Christians double. Why? Because they think they’re entitled and better than everybody else. So, have a wonderful day, and God bless you!”

I fight the urge to chase her down the sidewalk with, “further mores.” Instead, red faced, I pick the doll up off the floor, finger comb the mussed hair, and return it to the shelf, next to the “Please do not touch,” sign.

Back at the counter, another woman approaches me. Her hands are empty, so I assume she’s overheard the drama, and wants to take a shot at me. I feel like I’ve just slapped the face of Tiny Tim (“God bless us, every one”). Only in my version, I snag a doll from the weak hands of a deprived little girl, a Christian child.

“I’m a Christian too…” she starts.

I’m wondering what’s going on. The Christians are circling, like the lions in that bible story. I’m bleeding, and they’re moving in for the kill. Before I spring with a defense, she finishes her sentence.

“… and I want you to know that we are not all like that woman. I’m so sorry she did that. It was very un-Christian like.”

I like this woman, with the kind face. Since that drama, she, Patryk, stops by daily. It seems our store is on her walk route. She listens, even when I spit vile opinions of Christians. Best of all, she’s not perfect. Sure, imperfection is common, but she’s actually aware of the ailment. I’ve never met a Christian like her. I worked with a Christian guy at People for People, who had puffy, sprayed-stiff, Televangelist hair. He had plenty of time to dampen spirits with news of the fast approaching end times, but if you were choking on a chicken bone, drowning, or in need of a kind word, he’d hurry on by.

“Christians are either crazy or jerks… you know I’m right, Patryk.”

“Well, Deb, I’m a Christian… “

“You keep saying that. Are you sure?”

Around the same time, yet another oddball Christian surfaces at the store, named Monte. We became fast friends, our bond, being a distinct distaste for Christians. He has more rotten things to say about them than me. Yet, he speaks of Jesus like someone I might actually like. I got to know Monte when one of my customers, (probably a Christian), told me I should keep an eye on him, because he looked like the type that would steal. Although we’d never spoken more than a few sentences of polite customer/clerk exchange, I knew this humble, quiet man, was no thief or threat. She, like many others, judged his blonde hair, traipsing down his back, open shirt, and bull ring in one ear. One conversation with him would reveal the gentlest soul on earth. So I lied to the presumptuous, finger pointing woman, in a voice loud enough for Monte to hear.

“Excuse me? That man is my dearest friend. And the most honest person I know!”

She slithered out the door, justifying her accusations with, “I didn’t know… I was just trying to help…”

Monte, approached the counter.

“I apologize for her.”

“It’s okay, I’m used to it. It happens all the time.”

Thus, our friendship began. We hang out, sipping tea, between customers, bashing Christians and discussing Jesus. Soon after Monte became a store fixture, my next door business neighbor, Anne, pays me a visit. The sign above her store reads: Ed’s Refrigeration Service, but it is loosely dubbed an antiques store, known for dust covered clutter.

“He’s evil,” she says, racing into my store, just as Monte left out back. “That man, with that hair… and no shirt. I know things about him.”

I try to shine light on her darkness, but she isn’t having any of that. I never told Monte about her visit, but we shared many laughs at her expense. Besides dust, she is known around town for her, “end of times” sales techniques. Her favorite: Placing fake $20 bills on the floor, lurking behind a pile of junk until a customer picks it up, then jumping out yelling “Aha!” After giving a lecture on the evils of money, she smiles, handing them a dooms day preparation brochure. Truth is, she’s great for our business, sending shaken victims through our door, seeking protection and an explanation.

Looking back, I should not have been surprised that my A.A. sponsor was in on the helter skelter Christian encounters. I thought I’d be fed the same lingo I’d heard around the tables. No one there speaks of Bibles or Jesus. So, my coffee date with Little Sue, caught me off guard and even more alarming was my response to her order to read the Bible

“Okay, I can do that. Makes sense.”

Funny thing, I have two new Bibles, one from Patryk and another from Monte. Sadly, it’s like reading a foreign language, yada, beget, yada, yada, beget, yada, thou shall yada yada. I found one part, I understood, but I couldn’t believe what was happening. It was that creep Lot, who wants to protect his sons, so he says “Hey take my daughters and do whatever you want with them.”

What? I hate that guy. I am so upset; I call Little Sue moments after reading it. She listens to my paraphrase of the story, cutting me off mid-rant.

“Okay… I don’t think you’re ready to read the Old Testament alone. You’re not really comprehending the context. Please stay in the New Testament for now”

“Is that Lot guy in the New Testament?”

“No.  How are you doing with the Big Book? Are you journaling on your fourth step? “That’s the one that says ‘Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.; Right? Well, I’ve been thinking on it. I haven’t written anything down yet.”

“Next week I want you ready to share your inventory with me. Okay?”

“Okay.”

 

If you haven’t read the other sample chapters, you can find them here: new author chapter preview

Sample Chapter 14

Sample Chapter 19

Dance Before the Lord with All Your Might

Worship Hands Raised Stained Glass Window Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

It was the early seventies. I was 20 years old. In simple math, a long time ago. I’d been invited to a dance. A first date. I bought a new tangerine silk wrap dress, for the occasion. I wore a pair of strappy heels, that hurt terribly, proving I’d achieved sexy. Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

My date arrived in his 1971 Volkswagen bus, dressed in Levis, a Led Zeppelin T-shirt, completing the iconic image, with messy hair and mutton chop sideburns. We conversed in “first-date-ESE,” each asking the other prepared clever questions. You know, like, “What’s your sign?” Or “What band do you groove on?” Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

When we arrived at the Broadway Grange Hall, he excused himself, pointed to the punch bowl, and joined his buddies across the room. It was one of those moments when mundane tasks feel awkward, like standing, selecting a facial expression, or breathing in and out. Looking around the room, I noticed the crowd was, different. Then I remembered… my date works at Yakima Specialties, with disabled adults. He failed to mention this is a dance for his clients. Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

Just then, a young man in plaid pants and platform shoes approaches, asking if I’d like to dance. The dance floor is empty. The song is Jim Croce’s, Bad, Bad, LeRoy Brown. I want to say no thank you, but instead say,

“Sure.” Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

As I practice the dance of inconspicuousness, my partner multi-jives, using arms, legs, feet, hands, head, utilizing every inch of the 20 by 40 foot dance floor. Looking back, I realize now, his dance was brilliant, ahead of its time and exactly what people strive for today. But, being the age of “everyone is looking at me,” I was embarrassed, wanting to disappear. Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

Contrary to the insistence of my inner narcissist, no one was looking at me. My date was engrossed with his buds, talking shop, or sports, or who cares what. Before I can slip away, the next song begins, enticing a fellow in a ruffled tuxedo shirt, to join us on the floor. Moments later, a girl with a rhinestone tiara, pushing a walker, and a few others boogied onto the scene. By the fifth number of the night, Elton John’s, Crocodile Rock, the dance floor is packed with non-couples, dancing free style, not only to the beat played by the band, but many others, as well. Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

It took longer than it should, but I came around. Who could resist? They were free, real, alive. They trusted the music, the moment, the calling. They exchanged uptight for “out of sight.” That night, they set me free as well. My self-absorbed fears melted away, leaving me worthy of my partners. We tapped, river danced, dosey dohed, and did the alligator on our stomachs. I witnessed a pirouette, and an impressive leap across the floor. It was exhilarating.

          Unadulterated joy!

Fast forward, 30 years and much life, good, bad, and ugly, to the year 2001. I walk through the doors of the Vineyard Christian Church, the same as I attend today. I’m late, uncertain I want to be there. The service has begun. I choose a balcony seat, in the corner by an exit, where I can keep watch over the entire church.

The music is unlike any I’ve ever heard before. I’m fascinated with the interaction between it and the people in the pews. Many are standing, hands raised, swaying, eyes closed. Others remain seated, eyes open, one or both hands outstretched. Some weep. All, appear at ease, or at least content. Mid-investigation, to my surprise, I feel tears streaming down my cheeks. Good tears, comforting, like warm water when you’re chilled. The kind that shows up at reunions, weddings, and births.

I didn’t know what to think.

Back then, I thought people sang in church for the same reason they joined a Barbershop Quartet or rang doorbells with Christmas carols. I must have heard it referred to as worship, but did not make the connection. After witnessing worship, and having been introduced to the Holy Spirit, I hung around. Like a starving cat given a bowl of milk, I wanted more, and knew where to find it.

The mysterious tears continued to show up in the balcony, dripping down my face. Eventually my fascination with the worshiping lessened, and my own desire to praise grew. My familiar enemy, I call, oppression, kept my arms dangling awkwardly at my side. One day, I ignored the nagging oppressor, shooting my arms straight up. I laughed out loud, because for a moment, I thought I might fly up through the air with my limbs. Such bliss, beatitude, joy!

Freedom to praise, love, honor, adore, worship my Lord, in MY way. I’m not saying, animated worship is for everyone. For some, sitting still, basking in His presence is THEIR worship mode. I practice this style as well. But, one of God’s coolest traits is knowing each of our hearts, style, idiosyncrasies… our nature. I was trapped in a safe mode of worship, by fear, not choice. It suits me, to raise my arms, sway and sometimes dance. It’s fair to say I’m a David, when it comes to worship.

“And David danced before the LORD with all his might.”

When worship sunk in as a verb, I was set free to show my heart to the Lord. I pray all will find the place of worship that unlocks the boundless praise, longing to escape.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.

Psalm 150:6 | NIV

In Spite of Us - Chapter PreviewCheck out our book in progress. Read a sample chapter here. Sneak Peek Chapter 14

Forgiving the Naked Lady Tattoo and the False Teeth Abandoned in a Tuna Sandwich

forgiveness quotation quoteMy childhood nemesis: Roberta Sherard.

She flaunted perfection, from the house next door to mine, twirling polished pirouettes, a blonde ponytail floating in slow motion behind her. I tried to keep up, spinning and stumbling, bedecked with scabbed knobby knees, red hair doomed to frizz, by a Tony home permanent gone awry. Roberta spoke softly, poise oozing out her pores, a finishing school graduate. I reeked of awkward, spewed hillbilly slang like Warshington, gonna, and I-dunno, and I carried the mantra, “Debbie, settle down.”

Roberta’s father wore a suit and tie, called her princess, bored my family with tales of her delight fulness. My dad yelled, wore Big Mac striped overalls, told me to pipe down.

“No man is gonna marry a girl with big feet,” he’d say, pointing a greasy truck driver finger at my bare feet.

I coveted Roberta’s family, but I loved mine.

The McFarland’s were not without charm. Summers we’d put on neighborhood shows, an amazing feat, performed completely without the benefit of talent. No musicians, singers, dancers or actors, just raw desire to be the center of attention, and the guts to charge for it… a silver quarter per show.

Saturday’s we ’d canvas the block passing out hand written invitations, for Sunday afternoon’s back yard performance. A typical show, featured my lip sync to Ricky Nelson’s Traveling Man, sister Nancy’s loud version of Peter, Paul and Mary’s Kumbaya, accompanied by imaginary guitar strumming, and our star, little Danny, singing most all the words of Sukiyaki, a Japanese pop song from the 1960s. We served popcorn and lemonade for a nickel, and gave away taffy, because we didn’t like it very much.

By midsummer our crowds always dwindled, leaving sticky face Johnny and his whining sister, Margaret, alone on the grandstand of grass. Unwillingly to fold up the makeshift floral sheet curtain, we spawned an idea for an act, no child of the 1960s could resist.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the dancing naked lady…”

naked lady tattoo US Navy
My dad’s genuine United States Navy tattoo.

Our risqué, bare bottomed star, a genuine United States Navy tattoo located on Dad’s forearm… and she could dance. Quarters jingled, filling the jar. We had it made. That is, until a power wielding censorship group of one, cancelled the dance, insisting Dad roll his sleeve back down. Mom never did have a sense for business.

One day, Roberta’s family packed their perfect possessions, and moved to a wonderland of princess worthy neighbors. Around this time, Dad’s toothless gums and the tattoo, turned from an attraction to an embarrassment. I grew to hate his stories, and loathe my one time heroine, the dancing naked lady. To my friends, NOT asking, he’d share the demise of his toothless grin.

“I left my teeth at a café’ on highway 99, stuck in a tuna sandwich.”

Thanks for sharing Dad.

Resentment seeded, bitterness took root. Like many families walking the tightrope between alcoholism and recreational use abuse… stuff happened… words carelessly tossed, lies slung, shame spilled, fists bristled.

When I looked at my dad, I saw nothing… except who he was not. The dad I loved for his loud voice, silly jokes and Popeye grin, disappeared. I forgot the man who provided for his family, fudged paperwork miles, enabling longer shifts. The good forgotten, leaving only the bad to define; a man who hurt the ones he loved with neglect and fists.

Over time, the naked lady tattoo shriveled and sagged. Her one time peppy, flirty dance, was at best, a sluggish, sway. Our relationship deteriorated, along with the tattoo. Bitter years of forgiveness proved too much to carry, spilling over, slopping onto my other relationships; husband, children, friends, co-workers, even strangers.

Alas, God moves ever forward, albeit seemingly behind the scenes, but oh so powerful! In His perfect timing, knowing the moment my heart reached ideal compliance, help came knocking in the form of a class called Surrendered Hearts. There I struggled, alongside three other women, clinging to ancient justifications for stacks of resentments. I listened… they listened… to tales of rage… to pent up screams. We cried.

For me, graduation meant forgiving my dad. I said the words, sincerely wanting to mean them. I forgive you Dad. I forgive what you did and what you did not. I mourned the dad I thought I wanted. I thanked Jesus for forgiving my judgments and bitter vows.

Shortly after the class completion, my mother died. That meant spending time with Dad. I wanted to be a good daughter, a comfort for my dad. My willingness to forgive, bought some patience, but not enough. Daily, I spent hours on the phone, listening to him complain. Nightly, I begged God to help me forgive him. Each day a clean slate, ending, soiled with new found rage for his latest rant attempting to justify wrongs done to my mom and siblings. If he’d just keep his mouth shut, maybe I could actually forgive him.

I don’t know how or when God removed the stain from my heart. I didn’t notice it getting lighter or less. One day, on the phone with him, I realized I cared. I felt love for the man he was, right then and there. The dad, the man with skin. While he talked on about what a good guy he was, God flipped the forgiveness switch in my heart. At least, that’s the best explanation I have.

More years passed, at least once a year he nearly died, springing back each time leaving the doctors shaking their heads in wonder. Driving his scooter, oxygen tank at his side, dad pressed on, losing the family home to gambling, nearly blowing his face off smoking Chesterfield’s while hooked to the oxygen tank, and getting slugged by a miscellaneous woman he somehow offended. Same old dad, but something was different.

That would be me.

Forgiveness benefited me. I was free to love and care for Dad, AS IS. Did I condone his actions? No. Did he sometimes make me crazy? You bet. But I loved… I love… I love my dad.

At some point, he quit justifying wrongs and attempted to right what he could. He died, with the faithful naked lady tattoo, loved. He left this world broken, forgiving and forgiven. He left, a dad, I’m proud to say is mine.

 

Coming in 2016 – In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

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Sample Chapter of our book

 

Billie Jean – A Testimony of Joy, Perseverance, Faith and Dance

A Christian woman worshipping the Lord, hands in air, in front of a stained glass window.

Meet my friend Billie Jean Newhall. She’s a walking, talking, dancing testimony to God’s amazing love. I double dog dare you to read her story and not fall in love with her.

Born a happy baby, with a perpetual smile, Billie Jean’s testimony begins as a memory given by her mother, Star.

“We lived next to a tiny country church. I was about two or three years old. I’d walk behind the preacher imitating him… back and forth. I loved it there. It was the place I felt love.”

Born in 1957, to her 15 year old mother, the first born of five children. Recently Billie Jean received a surprise phone call from her brother Teddie, (second born) who was adopted out at birth.

Smiling woman sitting in church. “He used the computer… found me and my brother Michael. My other brothers are gone. Johnny died as a baby, probably SIDS, but mom thought she was being punished for adopting out her first son. Kelly, jumped off a bridge in 2001.”

No matter what changes or hard times came her way, one constant remained… Billie Jean never stopped seeking God’s love. As a young girl she hung out in a friend’s book store, reading scripture. During this time, she surprised everyone, revealing one of the many gifts bestowed on her by God.

“When my friend at the bookstore asked me to write the scriptures down, she couldn’t believe that I remembered each one, word for word.”Woman with hope.

Still today people, like me, turn to Billie Jean if we’re stumbling to recite a verse correctly. Remembering scripture verbatim is an amazing skill, but when I asked her to name her best trait she said, “I love people.”

She’s right… as usual.

If you’re thinking she’s some “zippity-do-dah” phoney baloney, fake kind of lovey dovey person… you couldn’t be more wrong. She loves deeply, gives it away freely, whether family, friend or stranger.

I asked if she had a favorite scripture to which she belts out…

“ Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9… God gave me that scripture when I needed it.”

The time of need she’s referring to was one of sexual assault and abuse. A scared teenager who needed the strength to speak out and stand up to a violent predator. Joshua 1:9 got her through that ordeal and has continued to serve as her personal encouragement from God.

Last August, Billie Jean faced the death of her dearly loved mother. Despite a flat tire in “the middle of nowhere,” her Uncle was able to drive 250 miles and back, uniting mother and daughter for a last visit.

Only God knew how much she needed this moment with her mom. Her last visit still hurt. Under the effects of morphine, Star had lashed out at Billie Jean, angry that she could not stay with her; an irrational, out of character attack leaving her confused and hurt.

“I was there with her when she died… the only one she’d let touch her. I rubbed her, patted her hand and asked. ‘Do you ‘ikes’ me mama?’ That’s what I used to say as a baby. She was thirsty… I’m the only one who could give her a drink.”Happy woman.

Later, feeling helpless, sitting in silence by the door, Billie Jean heard her mother’s voice.

“I know you’re there.”

It was a blip of a moment, but exactly what she needed to hear. As the closest family member, the life support decision fell on Billie Jean. After prayerful thought, she pressed close to her mom, whispering.

“I give you permission to go.”

With those words, came peace and her mother’s parting breaths.

Two months later, grief still raw, Billie Jean finds a lump on her right breast. The diagnosis is cancer, showing in her lymph nodes and bones as well. When asked what she’s learned through this, she assumes a natural pose, arms stretched out, palms up, stating.

“To rely completely on God.”

She admits to times when grief smothers her prayer voice, yet faith never wavering, she adamantly states, “God is with me through the hard times.” In a sweet session of worship, soaking in His presence, Billie Jean received an encouraging word from her Father.

“In the shelter of His wings.”

The exact words needed to carry on as she always has, relying on God. After a mastectomy and radiation therapy, she put her foot down, ordering her friends to…

“Stop talking about cancer!”Woman posing with attitude.

We were cramping her style. Getting in the way of the job God has called her to do… to be… the job of spreading joy. A job she aces. When we stopped bugging her about cancer, she became herself again. The dynamic woman ever ready with a dose of joy, a huge helping of love, a barrel of fun and more dance moves than Michael Jackson. Dancing to her name sake song, she pauses momentarily to say.

“I don’t’ dance exactly like Jackson…”

Maybe not, but this gals got rhythm. As one of her many friends, I can say to know her is to be blessed. God uses her to touch many lives. The employees at our local North Star Cancer center looked forward to her radiation treatments, and have since told her to come back anytime to visit.

“They loved my hugs,” she says, with a satisfied grin.Sweet faced woman.

God is with her, always, she knows that. Last week she ended up in the hospital suffering from dehydration, unable to focus.

“I wasn’t myself. I kept crying. I couldn’t pray, but I know God was listening to me anyway.”

Through this experience in the hospital, she received the gift of understanding… for a nagging hurt about her mother’s death. While sick, dehydrated, emotional, and disoriented, Billie Jean understood why her mom had lashed out at her.

“She wasn’t herself… it was the morphine… she was disoriented like me. Now I understand.”

She needed the experience to heal the hurt, lingering behind. No one knows what lies ahead, for Billie Jean, nor any of us. In the meantime, she’ll continue doing her favorite things; worshiping the Lord, dancing, preferably with flags and giving away hugs, smiles and encouragement to friends and strangers alike.

Again, her favorite scripture comes to mind. Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I hope you enjoyed hearing a small piece of Billie Jean’s story. We all have a story of God’s love for us. A story of yesterday, today and tomorrow. A work in progress that needs to be shared.

 

 

BETA Readers – The Heart Behind Our Book

target reader3Every morning I sip hot black coffee, telling stories to an invisible friend. We share a few tears, a giggle or two and a wink when we know a surprise is coming in the next chapter. My friend is quiet, interrupting only to ask an apropos question like “what did that feel like?” I know this friend like my own heart and blood, yet I could not pick them out of a crowd or recognize their face in a photograph.

I’m talking about my target reader. The person I imagine curling up with my book upon its completion. The person God places in my heart and mind, all day, all night. The person this story will speak to, minister and bring healing to. Who are you? Did I stand next to you selecting eggs at Safeway today? Pass you on the street? Are you the telemarketer, I hung up on?

Last week my husband and I met with our BETA Readers to share a meal, express gratitude and listen.  I felt awkwardly delighted that the book was the center of attention. I’d planned on discussing other topics during dinner, the polite thing to do. In my defense for  breaking Emily Post’s etiquette basics, this group has little common ground to share. After all, they were selected to test the reading waters based on gender, age and interest variables, not similarities. Besides, detouring the subject from the book would have been like asking a heroin addict to focus on world events while holding a loaded syringe.

Earlier that morning, I read the words I believe all writers long to hear, “I couldn’t stop reading it… I have to know what happens next.” Yes! Yes! Yes!. The best words ever, written by a newbie BETA Reader enlisted to fill an untested demographic slot. I didn’t think it could get better than that, but it did. After dinner the discussion turned to target readers, I lapped up their thoughts like a starving cat.

 I listened to my BETA Readers talk amongst themselves, and like a negative clearing in the chemical wash, the face, heart, mind and soul of my reader appeared. Seeing my invisible friend who sits by my side every morning come to life through my BETA readers refueled my inspiration tank. I highly recommend using a test group such as mine. If you’ve researched this system, you already know I ignored a rather important rule – wait until the book is complete before letting them read it… oops. I knew that,  but chose to ignore it, desperate for encouragement as the book progresses. They’ve been pushing me forward all along and I’m grateful for their willingness to stay the course.

The insights they shared are invaluable. I learned the book’s target is genderless and could appeal to young adults through seniordom. It’s a story the reader will want to share with others. It’s for those who like humor, romance and intrigue. For those who love God and those who don’t know him yet. For readers who are an alcoholic, love an alcoholic or want to learn more about the struggles of addiction. The story has something for singles and married folks as well.

Those are the bones of many potential readers. When the subject switched to whom this story will minister to, I could see the person sitting next to me every morning. Please understand, I am thrilled anyone will enjoy reading the book, but the ache in my heart, placed by God, is for someone specific… some genderless person intimately pursued… invited to experience the Grace our Father awaits to shower upon them.

This person, is hurting, desperate, searching for help in all the wrong places. They have banged on doors of self-help, destruction, human failure and quick fixes, none of which helped, and they are facing the last house on the block. They secretly want God in their life, but believe He wants nothing to do with them until they change. It’s not that they are not willing to change, they believe they are not capable, and they are right. What they don’t know is that Grace is waiting… beckoning… wanting only a willingness to accept it.

That’s who I share my story for. My story of a clueless couple whom God loved back to life. I want this for my reader, the person God has placed on my heart to care for, to love, to disciple through the story of my journey.  I want this reader to know if God could love me as I was, and as I am today, both options a messy person, then He certainly loves them!

I’m grateful for the love God gifted to my heart for my most special reader.

Psst… curious about our book? Click the link below to read a sample chapter. In Spite of Us - Chapter Previewhttps://debpalmerauthor.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/christian-author-preview-chapter-in-spite-of-us-stalked-by-a-loving-god/

Auld Lang Syne – “I’ll Be Seeing You… “ Hold Your Loved Ones Close This Year

2015

I don’t yearn for the past, nor desire to have it back. Not a bit. You see, God’s already done a great work in me and continues on with needed changes, of which I anticipate the polished results. I do pay an occasional visit to the days of yore, to honor and cherish the people I’ve known and loved. Listening to the old song “I’ll Be Seeing You… In all the old familiar places,” always reminds me of the impressions people leave behind, some subtle, some bold.

I believe we are the sum of the characters in our life. They mold our capabilities, our service, our fears. So on the eve of yet another New Year, I’ll raise a glass of virgin cheer in honor and remembrance of those I love and look forward to seeing one day again.

As a small child I raised a glass of juice, happy to be awake at midnight, confused why the others were crying.

As a teen, I raised a glass of the alluring forbidden champagne, thinking only of whom I’d like to kiss me and who had better not try.

As a young wife and mother, I raised a glass of bubbly, tears streaming in love for the crazy but loving family around me.

As a mature woman I raised several glasses in regret, remorse and hope for a better year.

As a sober woman, I was back to juice, knowing well, the reason for the tears.

This coming year I hope to hold my loved ones close, well aware how fragile life can be. A quick look back… a glance forward… a long savoring linger in today.

To Nana: (Elsie)

Wise beyond her exit age of 95. She knew the power behind small gestures given consistently. Like licorice ropes, deck of cards and stickers received in the mail. I’m eternally grateful for her secret prayers for my salvation. Guess what Nana… it worked! I miss your exuberant welcomes, the phrase “Bless your heart,” the smell of juicy fruit gum laced with blue carnation toilet water. Mostly, I miss knowing you really liked hanging out with me.

To Mom: (Dema)

Remembered first always for physical beauty… auburn hair, long, graceful limbs, soft brown eyes… old movie star glamor. Her breathtaking outer loveliness, birthed from deep within by a heart of service for others… her children, husband, neighbors, friends and strangers. She modeled a grand spirit of forgiveness. Some days I ache for her smile.

To My Brother: (Danny)

Gone too soon at age 52. Known for extreme character. The joker, prankster, life of the party. To those in close proximity, known also for a big heart. A heart surrounded by a pack of underdogs, accepting his perpetual helping hand. I miss telling you to leave me alone a zillion times, your zeal for life, and that stupid voice with the bad Asian accent. I’m forever grateful for the intense time we had before you parted sharing scriptures and God stuff, side by side, like we used to play Canasta and Monopoly. I expect when we meet again, you’ll jump out from behind the pearly gates, startling me with that familiar “bahahaha!”

To Dad: (Mac)

Big voice, personality and nose… all perfect and belonging together. Would travel cross country to tell a joke if he thought you might laugh. Loved my mother, our country, fried chicken, labor unions. I miss the man you revealed in your last days, the softer, deeper man of thought. I’m grateful for the strong work ethic you instilled and for your drive to support your family, no matter what the cost.

Celebrate the characters in your life, today. Tomorrow they might not show up for the party.