Tag Archives: Christian

What are the Desires of your Heart? Need a Motive Check?

     Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.        Do you ever catch a glimpse of your faith–that wee mustard seed, dwarfed in the palm of God’s hand? Recently, a peek at my faith meter, raised a question: Do I truly believe God longs to give me the desires of my heart? Continue reading What are the Desires of your Heart? Need a Motive Check?

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

Wait on the Lord…but in the Meantime

Psalm 27:14 Wait on the LordAt times, my husband, Sandy, grows weary of my writing process. Wait on the Lord…but in the MeantimeWait on the Lord

Morning Convo:

ME: “I’m stuck. I don’t know where to go from here. It’s  all gobbledygook!”

SANDY: “God always shows you. Don’t worry about it.”

Afternoon Convo:

ME: You won’t believe what God showed me. Remember that guy, the drunk? I had to pick his false teeth up off the sidewalk? It’s the perfect lead-in for where we need to go. Right? I’m so happy.” Wait on the Lord

SANDY:  “Me too.”

Evening Convo:

SANDY: “What’s wrong? You look upset?” Wait on the Lord

ME: “I don’t know what to do. There’s nowhere to go from here. It’s all garbled.”

SANDY: God always gives you direction. It will be okay.”

He has a point (“sigh”). And, (long “sigh”), he’s right. Our book is built; word by word, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter, page by page, one prayer at a time. I know that. Wait on the Lord

But then…

At 10,000 words, I start to pray for the ending to our story. The big finish. Where do you place a period in God’s story? After all, He’s still writing. My thoughts wander… What if I drop dead, mid-sentence, without ever finishing our story? Wait on the Lord

Wait…

Trust. Wait on the Lord. Remember, if this book is meant to be, I won’t fall face-first onto the keyboard before it’s complete. Keep clicking away at the keys, trusting His signs and landmarks. Listen and follow God’s GPS signals. Wait for Him to whisper: “You have reached your destination.”

But then… Wait on the Lord

At 40,000 words, WORRY creeps back in alongside its buddy DOUBT.  I feel like I’m writing with a big rubber plunger, attempting to unclog the words, retrieving merely a hairball destined for the trash. Striving reaps one reward; pressing me to my knees, head raised in fervent prayer. The result? Words gushing forth, and hubby dear echoing his beloved, “I told you so.” Wait on the Lord

Scrolling the pages, through 80,000 words, I’m grateful for each character, and hope for reaching the “THE END,” is flashing like a beacon from that clichéd tunnel. God has provided; the means; time, content, energy, patience, hope, drive, perseverance, wisdom. Yet the prayer, requesting a stop sign, remains unanswered. I feel the journey’s climax, but I’ve no clue of the destination.

I picture my petition in heaven’s inbox, buried under a mound of others, awaiting attention. Before long, I slip into that lonely seat behind the control panel. I’ll just get things rolling while I wait on God. Help out with the creative process. It seems the book needs a big finish to compete with other popular books. Like surviving a bloody shark attack! And we should save hordes of souls! Proof we deserve all He has done for us. Wait on the Lord

Oh, but wait…

This is non-fiction. And we, nor anyone, deserve the Sacrifice made for us. That’s the whole point of our story! We are the ordinary, the mundane everyday sinners, trudging through the ant farm tunnels. We are the least of the least. Yet He loves us, through it all.

Back to prayer.

 “Lord please show me how best to bring glory to You.”

Meanwhile, back at the pages….

I often write in the car on my laptop while Sandy evaluates the driving skills of all within his range. Clicking away at the keys keeps me occupied and, therefore, both of us happy. On the way to the beach, for a two-day needed get-away, I finish the first draft of the second to the last chapter of our book. It leads the reader straight to the sweet spot begging satisfaction.

“Sandy, we’re at the end. I still don’t know how…”

“(Groan) Wait for it. He’ll give you the end. You know it.”

In prayerful memory, I took time recognizing His faithfulness thus far. Closing the lid on my laptop, I let go. I walked…snuggled… read…prayed… worshiped… listened. The book with no end took a seat in the back of the brain bus.

Wearing headlights atop our hooded sweatshirts, we took a late night walk on the beach, savoring the mist, the waves, and each other. Nearly 25 years ago, we strolled this same beach, as honeymooners.

To our right, we eye a seagull confidently holding its spot on the beach. Nodding agreement, we rush the bird, in honor of our deceased 110-pound lab, Gabe. His mantra? Never let a gull go unchased. Thoughts of Gabe, stir a nest of memories. In the midst of recollecting tears and guffaws, I realize we  are performing the end of our book. God is showing me, providing a detailed script, a live scene, like I’m watching a play.

I wrote the end, in the form of an epilogue on the drive home, like a court reporter transcribing a trial. It’s the easiest writing session I’ve ever experienced. I won’t be a spoiler, telling more of the end. I will say, although the book ends on the beach, there are no sharks in our story. Even so, lives are saved and the Hero wins.

God was not late in giving his answer… he was perfect.

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

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

When God says “No!” Is It a Gift in Disguise?

The word NO in a gift box

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back, I’m dumbfounded. How did I miss the seventy times seven flashing neon “good choice” doors? Choosing instead the door down the long hall with the sign reading: You Know Better. I’m grateful for all the times God waited patiently while I collected consequences from behind the “bad choice” doors. Those lessons, greatly improved my choosing skills.

Contrarily, what about the times when God bolts a door shut? No matter how hard you pull or twist the knob, it won’t open. It’s stuck, bound with spiritual duct tape. We have free will to do what we please, pound our head against the wall as often as we like. I’m talking about the times when HE intervened, protecting me from the scariest monster of all… self. Continue reading When God says “No!” Is It a Gift in Disguise?

Anthem Northwest Youth Conference -A recipe for disaster or an invitation to God?

Youth worshipping freely, hands in air, jumping, celebrating Jesus.
Anthem Northwest 2015 Youth Conference

Ingredients:

200 youth gathered from 15 northwest Vineyard churches

55 willing youth leaders

Bushels of prayer, stirred continuously

Directions:

Pack youth in a 109 year old church located in the most feared section of Yakima

Sprinkle the leaders, evenly amongst the youth

Bake at 100 to 109 degrees, during a record breaking heat wave. Do NOT add air conditioning and use fans in moderation.

Hydrate with 170+ gallons of liquid – water, Gatorade, assorted sodas.

Simmer with constant prayer.

            A recipe for a hot mess… right?

            “Are you having fun?” I ask, a flushed faced Seattle youth, acclimated to dewy, mist inspired weather.

“Oh yes! It’s awesome!” they answer, racing off to join the others downstairs.

As it turns out, “awesome” is the agreed upon adjective for Anthem Northwest.

But why?

It wasn’t the food…   

“It was nasty!”

Food received a unanimous thumbs down for content and quantity.

BUT…

“Snacks saved lives!”

It surely was NOT the 5-star accommodations…

Third floor 8 x 10 rooms, sleeping bags and assorted bedding jigsawed across the floors, youth knitted together, a human Afghan, fans whirring, blowing hot air, swirling the scent of sweat and fruity hair gel products.

So, what then? What kept 200 sweltering teenagers content for three days and nights?

“God was in the house!”

Amazing how God’s presence can turn a potential whine-fest into a powerful encounter. As the heat collected in the stuffy rooms at night, the youth partied downstairs in the basement. Upon entering the dark room, lights flashing, guitars blaring, you see jumping bodies with arms waving… you might think you’ve found a mosh pit. But then, you see, you feel, you know…

Jesus is the life of this party!

Teenage boys having fun in church.
Evan Garfein and Kody Siebol

“As far as the worship and time spent together, it was the most genuine conference yet.”

 

 

 

 

 

Two worship teams rocked, Holy Spirit style, morning and night. Morning worship, led by an impressive 14 year old, may have replaced the flashing lights and volume with an acoustic guitar and Djembe, but it was just as powerful.

Two happy teenage girls seated in church.
Taylor Siebol and Kashara Hyder

“Worship was so loud, people from the neighborhood were texting asking what’s going on at the church.”

 

 

Keeping to the theme of the conference title –  key speakers inspired the youth to know who God created and called them to be.  

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!

And that is what we are! – 1 John 3:1

            Free time, intimate gatherings and workshops followed up with one on one prayer and discussion, preparing many young hearts to receive healing from feelings of rejection, unworthiness, and hopelessness, wiping away the lies of the enemy, granting freedom to answer God’s call.

            Many youth enthusiastically named the outreaches as the most powerful part of the conference. The outreach (service) portion took place on the first day during the suns peak performance, beginning around noon. Three groups CHOSE to do yard work for local homes. Others visited a retirement center, interacting with residents, playing games and visiting.

Teen girl seated in church at Christian youth conference.
Bethany Heine

“I visited with a German immigrant for an hour and a half and played piano… Moonlight Sonata reminded her of songs from her past.”

    

 

Still other groups pounded the sizzling pavement, picking up trash and seeking anyone in need of a kind word or prayer, trekking through sections of town best left uncharted. One group came upon a coffee shack, named Dream Girls Espresso. As they approached, open to serve in whatever way God led them, they noticed the pictures on the building were short a few articles of clothing.

OOPS!

Collectively, these groups picked up litter and prayed for individuals and businesses, leaving Yakima’s streets blessed and enlightened. Imagine yourself having a bad day, when one of these bright, holy spirit filled youths approaches, asking if there’s something they can do for you, or sharing a word from God, or blessing your business. What day wouldn’t be improved by that?

I’m convinced the success of this conference is a miracle. Picture any group of teens you know… now plop them into the setting described above, stifling hot, cramped quarters, small portions of teen dubbed “nasty” food and void of expected creature comforts like beds. Not a pretty picture?

Then why is it that these youth describe this experience with words like energetic, best ever, and awesome?

            “It was great reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.”

“You know those old time tent revivals? It was like that… watching God at work.”

In conclusion, I admit astonishment. First, who does this?

Who says, “Hmmm, let’s host Anthem Northwest, here in Yakima. We’ve never done it before, but if God wants it, it’ll happen.”

Who does that?

Young couple eating ice cream.
Aaron and Melissa Lee decompressing with a treat, celebrating the success of Anthem NW.

Surely not a young couple with two pre-schoolers… currently very (extra very) pregnant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if they wanted to host their first youth conference, wouldn’t they do a small test drive first, or at least choose the winter camp over Anthem, a conference reputed for huge turnouts?

Truth is, I’ve watched this couple pull off “dumb ideas” before. How?  Simply because they’re not stupid, they’re God equipped, with a brilliant faith. Motives pure and sweet, wanting only to bless the Vineyard youth, they trusted God to take care of the impossible ever-mounting details, rolling up sleeves to do the tasks He put before them. They trusted there would be help… and there was. They trusted the youth would be safe… and they were. They knew God would show up… and He did.    

What I want to take away from witnessing this experience is this:

When God is included on the invitation list, you can expect a miraculous party.

 

When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen. When God speaks…

God Speaks to Those who seek His wisdomWho remembers the 1970’s E.F. Hutton commercials? My favorite shows two men on a plane conversing across the aisle while disinterested bystanders sleep, read, gaze out the windows. That is, until the name E.F. Hutton drops, causing a collective hush, among the eager eavesdroppers. The ad ends with the famous, unforgettable tag line: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”

What about when God speaks? Do we lean in, hand cupped over ear, holding our breath in anticipation of His words? Speaking personally, I can say He knows how to get my attention. I’m not talking about an audible voice booming down from heaven saying stuff like “Deb, stop that!… you know better.” No, that’s more likely my own busy-body mind intruding on my peace: named “guilt.” I’m referring to a distinct voice in my head, a message arriving in an envelope of peace, reassurance, and clarity. A voice heard through the ears of my heart… or the lips of a friend… quite possibly a stranger. A voice that’s visible, seen not heard, through the staggering power of the ocean, or the knee buckling tenderness of a child’s love. Scripture, previously known, now alive, renewed. Words on a page, a billboard, a T-shirt… highlighted, back-lit, subliminally underlined.

No matter what the medium, when God speaks, there’s no confusion of authorship. You know, that you know, that you know. You just do. Even so, it’s hard to grasp that God dropped everything to send me a seemingly trivial, but deeply intimate message. However, once we stop denying His signature on the message, the essence of His ever powerful love for us is boldly evident. Yes, our God is mighty, capable of whispering sweet nothings in our ears, all while moving mountains, healing the sick and charging command over legions of heavenly angels. Yes, He is an exquisite multi-tasker.

One clear example, occurred two years ago when my husband, Sandy attended a men’s retreat in Canby, Oregon. He kissed me goodbye, grumbling that he’d rather stay home. He left discouraged, disgruntled, dis-everything (not a word, I know). In his own words, the troublesome “dis” was, “I’m tired of asking God for direction and hearing nothing.”

For months, we, meaning me and our entire church body, had been praying for him to receive words and encouragement. Some of us might admit to growing weary of the redundant prayer. Yet, we all knew Sandy’s deep desire to hear from God, promised an answer.

“I try, but I don’t hear anything. God doesn’t speak to me,” he’d say in response to our “keep seeking nudges.”

Seated among the 300 or so men who’d travelled from Vineyard churches across the northwest, he regretted saying yes to the invitation. If he’d stayed home, he could be working on the never ending projects on his ever growing list of “to-dos.” Staying busy seems to dull the pain.

While tapping his foot, waiting out the remaining 10 minutes before “getting on with it,” two men approached.

“We felt like you might need prayer. What’s going on with you?”

Sandy shared his frustrations, a familiar script, flowing off his tongue like an old song, the melody being “I don’t think God hears me.”

The men listened, praying a facsimile of the prayers sent over the past months of discontent. The prayer ended, just as the worship service started. Through worship, Sandy continued praying, seeking, yet convinced it was a one-way communication.

“Please, Father… I want to know you.”

When the key note speaker began, Sandy chuckled sarcastically at the topic – “Receiving Words from God.” When the audience was asked to participate, he prepared to go through the motions, expecting that others would receive wondrous, life changing, intimate messages from God, as he wallowed, on an island of quiet nothingness.

“There are thousands of words floating around this room right now. Please turn to someone you don’t know and introduce yourself. Then let’s spend some quiet time asking God for a word for each other.”

“My name’s Sandy… nice to meet you.”

Shaking hands, the stranger stated his name, which Sandy instantly forgot.

During the five minutes of quiet, disguised as three days of noisy head clatter, Sandy tried, in vain, to hear from God. When the time was up, he shared what he calls, generic fortune cookie stuff, derived from his own head.

“Something good is going to happen… there’s going to be a change…”

When it was the other man’s turn, he looked blank, then said.

“Philip. Right? Your name is Philip. He knows your name. That’s what I felt God wanted you to know.”

There it was… in perfect timing. Weak kneed, laughing… crying… laughing… no doubt God speaks… no doubt God hears… no doubt God knows him by name. You see, there was no way the stranger could have known that Sandy’s real name is Philip. A name spared only for legal documents. A name God shared through a stranger, knowing Sandy would hear it, An undeniable message of the His love.

That night, a phone call interrupted my sleep.

“He knows me by name!”

“What? Who?”

“God knows my name is Philip! He knows me…”

He shared the story with me, pausing for frequent voice cracking breaks, his demeanor and mannerisms out of character… chatty, fired up, super charged. To this day, he shares this story with anyone who’ll listen, never able to say “He knows me by name,” without tears. He left home with an acute case of “diseverything,” returning a changed man.

I suspect God is speaking all the time, and we are the lackeys with plugged ears. He’s a gentleman, who won’t yell over the top of the other noise in our life, and doesn’t need to. He knows exactly what it will take to get our attention, being our Creator and all.

Before my mom died, in 2002, I sat with her every day in the hospital, reading the Bible aloud, praying her seemingly sleeping mind could hear God’s word. I begged God to give me a sign that she would be in heaven… at peace and free of pain. My expectations were that she would awaken and say something reassuring, like “Jesus told me to tell you, it’s all good, you can pray about other stuff now.” That didn’t happen. Instead, moments before mom died, my sister and I walked into her room, finding her wide awake, smiling, gazing straight ahead. Whatever she was looking at, was beyond our understanding. One thing was clear, Whomever she looked upon blinded her to all else, satisfied her every need and filled her with joy. Then, she left the room, or at least in spirit. The nurses told us we could stay with her as long as we wanted. But why? She left, leaving only the parcel she rented space in, behind.

That day, God spoke, giving me everything I needed to never doubt. Like Thomas, who needed to stick his finger in the hole in Jesus’ side, I needed to see Jesus through my mother’s eyes. Nothing else would have sufficed. He knows us well. Yes, indeed.

Don’t Let This Common Dilemma Sneak Up on You

Man in very tall pants. High waisted pants. Another birthday… yawn. No biggie, collecting biological years is easy. How old you ask? Let’s just say I’m past a “certain age.” The worry is not the non-nonchalant inevitability of aging… no, it’s the preferred option over death. My concern is deeper, one that my husband and I discuss when alone and free of distractions.

I usually start…

“When do you think it happens?” I’ll ask.

“What?”

“You know, the pants thing?”

“Tall pants?”

“Yeah, tall pants.”

You know what we’re talking about. C’mon, we’ve all noticed, but dare not speak about it. It’s merciless, striking ALL the elderly, no exception, whether man or woman, short or tall, ex-pole dancer or plumber, we all end up with trousers hiked up to our armpits. What about the kids wearing triple sized jeans, gregariously sashed at the thigh? The ones walking around looking like toddlers packing a load? Yep… someday they’ll look like the circus tall guy walking around on stilts, belted at the chest.

Is anyone safe? For years we’ve kept hope that our side buckle, hip hugger, generation, would claim victory over this tricky trouser hitch. Sadly, as we’ve crept into the “certain age” arena, we’ve witnessed the rise in waist lines all around us. We don’t exactly know how, why or when it happens. With each birthday the question nags away.

Is it sudden? One day, walking down the street, you catch your reflection in a store window, finding your trousers cinched snugly around your chest.

Or is it more of a paradigm shift in thought, a cartoon light bulb appearing in a bubble over your head? Standing in the mirror you make a sound decision, yanking jeans up over the gut, proudly parading around for all to see… but why?

Is it a dormant virus we carry like chicken pox, lying in wait for its moment of attack? If so, why has no one developed a vaccine?

Could it be a consequence of a seemingly innocent toddler fashion faux pas such as the footed sleeper or too tight Onesie? What about tall diapers?

It might be that we are victims to a secret force of prankster angels, trained in wedgies, who sneak up on those of a “certain age,” tugging toward the heavens.

No one is safe. Last month, my husband called me, visibly shaken after an encounter too close to home.

“My brother… it’s happening. I saw it with my own eyes.”

“What’s happening?, I asked.

“Mark is showing premature signs of… tall pants.”

Scared for his own future, Sandy asked his brother the tough question.

“So, what’s with the tall pants?”

In Mark’s case, his wife tossed his size 34 jeans out, replacing them with size 36, leaving him with pants falling to his ankles unless he succumbed to the under arm belt mode. But not everyone’s wife is the culprit. We all know a bachelorette, of a “certain age,” who tucks her boobs into her belt, and a horde of white haired bachelors whose suspenders end under the shoulders.

Seems I should say something profound here… like it doesn’t matter… worse things could happen… Hmmm… let me think….

No… not happening… it does matter!

You can’t stop it. I think we all know that. But, here’s a few tips to prolong this involuntary event.

Use the buddy system. Don’t go it alone. My husband and I keep check on each other. You’ll need a tape measure and a vengeance for honesty.

Watch for early signs. Premature cases of creeping waist lines appear to be spreading rapidly. Face the mirror, ask the defining question: “Have I gotten taller? No? I thought not.

Women only: If your bra and belt serve a dual purpose? You have been infected!

Men Only: One question… does it hurt? You have been infected!

Be aware. Safeguard against sneak attacks by scheduling periodic pant tugging times throughout your day.

Alternative care. Try sewing drapery weights into the hem of your trousers. We’ve yet to test this, but it should slow the creeping up process.

Denial is not your friend. Don’t stay in the closet. If you’re wearing a huge T-shirt disguising the tall pants underneath, tell someone and get help.

We encourage you to join a support group. As of this date, I only know of one—ours. Send us a photo, will give you a free, zero obligation evaluation of the pants situation.

Remember, admitting the problem is the first step toward recovery.

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/

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/

Prayer – The First and Last Tool You’ll Ever Need

 A red tool box with the letters TOOLS.

A heart of solid stone… that’s what it would take to survive if I did not have PRAYER in my toolbox. For all the times past, present and future when I could not, would not or did not DO anything. When I stepped over the vomit sopped drunk asleep in the alley… kept quiet when gossip sprayed across a room like a sneeze… or daily, doing my thing, ignoring what I read or heard on the news.

One seemingly standard-issue day, a woman stood across the counter at my Antiques store holding a new, cheaply made, necklace spinning a story of ancient history and real gold. I wasn’t listening much to what she was saying, I’d heard the yarn many times. Instead, I looked into her dead eyes desperately seeking a sign of life. There was a hint of youth despite her cadaverous persona.

 When I explained the necklace was neither gold nor old, a new lie snaked out between decayed teeth, something about needing $10 to catch a bus because she was stranded. Again, I knew the story. I wasn’t really listening. My mind spun like a Rolodex searching for solutions. I want to help but know I do not hold that kind of power. Part of me wants her to disappear so I can return to the bliss of denying the world around me. Bad ideas exhausted, I remember where my help comes fromPlease God… help me know what to do.

“I don’t want the necklace. You need help. I can see that. I’ll give you the money. You’ll run to the nearest drug dealer. We both know that. First, would you let me pray with you?”

She agreed.

Ordinarily I pray eyes shut intently listening, this time I kept them open, revealing a momentary glimpse of light, a peek at youth, a trace of a softening heart. The dark hollows holding the dead eyes, damp from tears. My senses heightened, I heard a tear hit the glass on the counter, one of mine. We shared a smile in another world. She looked away, but not before I saw childlike innocence. With amen, the glow on her face drained, leaving a desperate look of “where’s the cash?”

I ignored her demanding stature, going on about my church, suggesting ways she could get help until finally succumbing to her outstretched hand. With the ten dollar bill in hand, she raced for the door, stopped at the stoop, turned my way…

“I’ll be okay. Really. I’ll look for you at your church, Vineyard… right?”

That was several years ago. I think of her often, and pray. I wonder, did God answer our prayer? Is she living a full and vital life today, free from the bondage of drugs? Yet, it’s hard to picture her anything but dead. Maybe it was ME God healed that day, a progressive miracle, kneading my heart.

Helpless? Yes. Without hope? Never. One tool, prayer, keeps me sane. Without it, I’m an idiot. A busy, frantic, destructive action figure believing the delusion that I can fix things like a self-help, handyman, super hero.

I don’t know about you, but some days I am not able to ignore the dead bodies piling up just beyond the sanctity of my white picket fence. My eyes open to see the child hiding behind the gang tattoos, the loneliness around the widow in the supermarket, the daily news of tragedies, near and far, now and soon to come. I try not to dwell there and sometimes prefer a blindfold to a prayer, admittedly because when I feel helpless I forget that prayer is a verb.

Still… how do you stand by and watch a proverbial scene of man repeatedly beating himself with a stick? You ask them to quit? Yes, but they won’t stop. What then? We watched a friend toss 14 years of sobriety as simply as crumpling a sheet of paper, hurled into the waste basket. He lived in a small house directly in front of our kitchen window. A close friend to my husband, a new acquaintance of mine. We stood at our kitchen window, washing dishes, witness to the deterioration of a hearty, vital, vivacious man, morphing into a soulless human shell. All the schemes and well wishes of kings could not have brought him back. We, like many others, prayed… and prayed some more. He clearly wanted nothing more than to get life over with as fast as possible. I remember many prayers that he would experience God’s grace.

After two years of warring with himself, stopping periodically to gain enough strength to return to the battle of self-destruction, he miraculously “got it.” No earthly explanation. Today he lives, that’s a big deal in itself. Cooler yet, he’s living out the miracle as a generous, boisterous, fun-loving character searching for ways to show Grace to others; volunteering time and energy to anyone in need.

I’m grateful for the prayer tool in my otherwise empty toolbox. As an insomniac, I’ve learned to embrace this time as an opportunity to listen through the ears of my heart as God whispers the names of those I should pray for. It’s a special time cuddling with Father God. More often than not, sleep returns before I can finish the prayer list; waking with the remaining names on my heart ready for a fresh pre-dawn prayer session.

Honestly, I prefer the secret intercessory times than face to face prayers. Though that’s not completely true. Better to say I shy away from it, humbled when the Holy Spirit conducts, orchestrates and completes, leaving me aware of my lack of necessity in the scheme. I may be standing there, but the “me” of the moment, is obliterated from the equation.

I try to remember those times when I am tempted to ignore the still small voice prompting me to pray with someone. Shamefully, I remember asking a woman I respected at a retreat “how are you doing?” Expecting to hear “great” or “fine” she responds with “not so good.” I heard my heart say “May I pray with you,” but out of my mouth came, “I’ve a funny story that will cheer you up.” It didn’t. I walked away, head down.

The desire to provide a quick fix like slapping on a band-aid, giving lame advice, side swiping with a compliment (great shoes), or telling a joke must be hereditary. My dear, loving, funny, best-ever Na-na could make me madder than a wet cat (one of her terms). With perfect timing… like right after a skinned knee or whacked elbow, she’d say, “just think how much better it will feel when it quits hurting.”

AAAAAAAAAAGGGH! It still gets me to think about it.

 We all have times in our life when we need more than a funny story or flippant remark. Likewise, there are times when we need to GIVE something more than a slapstick distraction. Many times, most times for me, prayer will be the only tool clanking around in the empty tool box. A funny thing I’ve learned is that when I use this tool to help another, something broken inside myself gets repaired as well.

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/