Dec 09

Contest Entry: Chris Solaas

Quite a few gave permission to post their entries. I’ll try to get at least one per day up in the order received. Here’s a terrific entry by Chris Solaas.

Pretty sure this particular feline lives at my house.

 (You guys are hysterical~!)

Listen carefully, servant. I’m a male, understand? This sissy prissy blather you’ve been spouting at me since I was incarcerated in your dump you call a home has finally pushed me over the edge. I admit it, I’ve snapped, as if you couldn’t tell from the ropes tying you to that chair and the maniacal look in my eyes.

I may be a long-hair but that doesn’t mean I like that trash you call music coming out of your stereo. If you wish to bang your head to heavy metal music, please use the brick wall out back. That way you’ll keep the blood off the carpet. From now on, it will be classical, preferably Italian Opera. It’s better when I don’t understand what drivel they’re screaming. Besides, the look of suffering on your face will be worth it.

You know, the name of my breed is Himalayan. Those snow-capped mountains where grass doesn’t grow? Just looking at this fur coat I wear should clue you in that 78 degrees is unacceptable. Cats don’t sweat, and I prefer not to pant. Dogs do that. It’s disgusting. I’ve taken the liberty of turning the thermostat down to 65. Leave it there if you value your life.

My face is not ridiculous. You are not to laugh at it, even if your second-rate intellect considers it ‘smashed’. I do not chase parked cars. That’s an insulting reference to another dog trait. Furthermore, I am not constantly mad at something you said or did; I simply look this way because of my breed. No, wait, strike that. I AM constantly mad at something you did. It has to do with how you call me.

Do you think I’m going to come running when you call? Dogs do that. Cats are above such nonsense. ‘Kitty kitty kitty’ spoken in some inane high-pitched squeak does not motivate me to run towards you. It motivates me to run away. Far away. If I come during these times of your soprano soliloquies, it’s merely to shut. you. up. and, possibly, to investigate whether your squeals have to do with food. Not that what you usually provide could be termed so.

Two words, worm: Tuna Fish. Have you never heard of it? No, I don’t want the juice, or rather, the water, it was packed in. I’m a carnivore. I prefer meat to the slightest hint of meat. Having water meat once touched is nothing but torture and I will report you to the SPCA. And yes, I know their number. Mylittermate is on their board of directors.

The main reason you’re here rather than sent out with the trash is that I haven’t figured out how to use the can opener. Please locate the instruction manual and leave it open for me.

A word about litter boxes. Litter is something you pick up and put in the trash. I refuse to pick that up. If you cannot scoop my litter box then deliver a truckload of sand and fill the garage with that. It will take me a while to use that up. And, no, I don’t care where you will park your car.

The reason I sprayed your briefcase is to express my dissatisfaction at the garbage you write. It was an honest comment. There was no cause to neuter me. If it wasn’t for the real mission, you would have been toast.

And that leads me to my final point. I’m here on a mission, and you are going to help me. It’s finally time to reveal it to you. You see, as a bestselling writer, Mister Turner, you have the ear of a large number of your species. Backward as it may be, your species has the occasional desire to care for my species. Or perhaps serve my species. Some of you are good at it; many of you just stink. For the ones that stink, yourself included, all that is hopefully required is a bit of education.

Therefore, you are going to write a series of books on how to actually care for and serve the cat kingdom. Or, rather, I’m going to write them. All you have to do is sign your name to them and send them off to your publisher. Don’t tell me how unethical that is. I’ve heard the term ‘ghost writer’ before.
Before you actually are allowed to crawl out of those ropes though, slave, you’re going to need to nod your head and agree to these terms. Really? Well then, when I untie you, let’s start with a trip to the grocery store. For tuna fish. You can buy yourself something if you wish, too.

Chris Solaas lives in a loving madhouse – four kids, three cats, a gecko named Gex, and a snow white monster dog that eats trees.

He has worked in children’s ministries as an Awana Commander and Boy Scout leader for the past 15 years.

He has written 120 Christian songs since 2006, and is currently working on his fourth manuscript in his current Christian fantasy epic,  A Prince of Lynvia.

Dec 06

Contest Entry: Donna Van Cleve

A Hitch in His Tale

The door flung open and a hairy arm spun a yellow tabby around by the tail and slung him across the backyard before the door slammed shut.

The cat landed shakily on his feet and staggered back to the patio where an old Siamese cat lay curled up on a chair.

“I think he broke it this time,” said Siam, stretching his front legs.

“He’s thrown me further than that before.”

“I’m not talking about a distance record, I’m referring to your tail.”

The younger cat frowned at him, but looked back and circled around a couple of times checking out his tail. The last couple of inches jutted out at a perfect right angle, looking like it perpetually pointed at something.

“Of course, I could be wrong,” said the older cat, “with my vision being what it is.” He crossed his eyes to see more clearly. “Yep, it’s broke, Sport.”

“My name is Hitchcock, Siam.”

“About as original as your ideas, Hitch. What storyline did you suggest this week?”

“The best one ever! I told him he needed to write about a cat who wore boots. I don’t know why he threw me out this time—it’s brilliant!”

“Oh, good grief. Haven’t you heard of Puss in Boots?”

Hitch thought for a moment; then his shoulders slumped. “Darn.”

“Well, look on the bright side. He’s bound to be running out of ways to dispatch you from the house. Let me see, he shot put you across the yard for your suggestion that sounded awfully similar to the Lion King. What did you call it?”

“The Feline King,” Hitch mumbled.

“And he drop-kicked your butt out the front door for suggesting a story about a little mouse and cat who always fought, which sounded oddly related to your favorite cartoon, Tom and Jerry.”

“I honestly didn’t make the connection.”

“And he rolled you out like a bowling ball when you came up with the idea of an alley cat that comes to the aid of a bunch of uppity cats.”

“I swear I’ve never see The Aristocats!” Hitch jumped up on the table and sat down, trying to lick the kink out of his tail. He gave up and lay down dramatically, sighing. “Everything’s been done. There’s nothing new under the sun about cats. It’s all been written.”

“Poppycock,” Siam said, standing. “As long as there are cats, there will always be new stories.”  He arched his back and yawned. “That’s enough exercise for one day.” He lay back down again. “Why don’t you write your own?”
Hitch’s head came up. “My own?”

“Yeah—everybody’s got a story. What’s yours? How’d you get here anyway?”

Hitch’s eyes widened. “Actually, we had a mix-up when Arthur dropped me off at his father’s house 300 miles away, along with a couple of irritating dogs. We didn’t know it was only temporary, and we really started to miss him, so we took it upon ourselves to walk home, which meant traveling across dangerous terrain and fighting predators all along the way. I even fell in a river and was separated from my companions and lived in a junkyard with a bunch of other cats that loved to sing, and was even adopted for a short while by this classy-lookin’ lady who loved to hang out at the jewelry store. She called me Cat – so original, huh, but my good sense of direction eventually brought me and the dogs together again. Those knuckle heads wouldn’t have made it home without me.  Arthur was so glad to see us, he fed us anything we wanted, and I got so fat and sassy, he had to give me an attitude adjustment and put me on a diet, and then I decided I wanted to be a writer, and here I am!”

Siam’s mouth dropped open.

“I know! You’re speechless, right?  Thanks for the great suggestion!” Hitch jumped off the table and started toward the house.

“What are you doing?”

 “He can’t help but love this one!”

“You may have to tie him up first before you tell him. No, tie him up and write the story yourself.”

 “Love your humor, Siam,” said Hitch, chuckling as he slipped through the doggie door.

Siam stared at the door for a moment before the images of Hitch flying through the air and skeet shooting entered his brain simultaneously.

He nimbly removed himself from the line of fire.

Dec 05

Contest Entry: Peg Phifer

Reading your entries was too much fun. Here’s another entry by Peg Phifer. Love it!

ATTENTION ALL CATS WHO RUN A HOUSEHOLD

Are you keeping your human staff up to par? Are you keeping their guilt levels high? I didn’t think so.
Recent reports seem to indicate that you’ve been sleeping on the job. That simply will not do. You’re getting fat and lazy. Come on now, shape up. Complete the following checklist and return it to HQ within the next 24 hours
.

1.        When was the last time you positioned yourself so your toe (or tail) got stepped on? (Note: this really works on the guilt complex.)
2.        How much time did you spend grooming in the suede recliner last week?
3.        Were you able to increase your stare time so your human looked away first?
4.        What about that new puppy in the house? Got it totally intimidated yet?
5.        Alternatively, if you like the mutt, have you got him wrapped around your paw?
6.        Is there another cat in the house?
7.        More than one?
8.        Have you decided to get along?
9.        Or have you figured out a way to keep your seniority intact?
10.   How’s your door monitoring technique? Remember the drill: If you’re inside the room, you want out. If you’re outside, you want in. No matter which side of the door you’re on, insist on being on the other. Got it?
11.   What’s your favorite room to practice this technique? Bedroom or bathroom? (A recent poll revealed the bathroom to be the most popular.)
12.   Exercise: Have you been running down the hallway ahead of your human, staying close enough to trip her but not hurt yourself? What about the stairs—if your home has more than one floor.
13.   Hairballs: Are they strategically placed?
14.   Playtime: On a separate sheet of paper, outline your play routine. For example, one of my favorite games is “fetch the paper wad” except I don’t return it to my human, I like to drop it into my water bowl. For one thing, it gets me fresh cool water.
15.   Tail-twitches: How many new ones have you developed? The object here is to keep ‘em guessing what you’re up to.
16.   Kneading and head-nudges: Last report tells me you’ve all got that perfected. Great job.
17.   Purring: Be very sure you keep that motor tuned. Purring is our best weapon. After all the work we do to keep our human staff on the ball, we must ALWAYS award them with a contented purring session at the end of the day.

Or any time you think it’s merited, or even the best tactic to avert disaster.
That’s it, Felines of America. Return this to Cleocatra [at] felinehq [dot] com.

Dec 03

Contest Entry: Tim Greens

Here’s another~ Tim’s cat has issues… great writer, though

 Here’s a page I found in my empty apartment after I came home the other night – my girlfriend was gone, but the cat came back a few days later… we seem to be getting along just fine.

you really are clueless, aren’t you – sorry for the lack of some of the punctuation, but I can’t support myself, press shift and the question mark at the same time now, can I.  Luckily this program capitalizes certain words for me automatically.  Yes, this is the cat and yes, I do have the intelligence to do or to say anything you do – I just choose not to.  I couldn’t stand it any longer – all your talk about humanity and cruelty to animals and how you are going vegan to save the animals and yet you still eat a half-gallon of ice cream every other night and you wonder why vegetables make you fat.  YOU make you fat.  Period.  You think I’m just a dumb animal, so you can get away with sneaking that ten dollars out of your boyfriend’s wallet right in front of me – you don’t even think twice about picking your nose while sitting on the toilet and singing john lennon songs at the top of your lungs when I am trying to get in a nap before the sun moves past the window far enough that I have to move.  Okay, I get that, that’s the animal in you, and it’s natural, and it makes sense to me.  You have needs and you meet them.  Cool.  If it’s one thing cats know – it’s “COOL”.  YES, I KNOW I JUST USED QUOTES, WHICH TAKES A SHIFT KEY – damn, forgot the caps lock – I CAN do it, it’s just hard to do.  What I don’t get – is lying.  Animals don’t lie – if we want to screw another cat, we do it and make a lot less fuss about it than you did with that guy that smells like banana peels.  You would all be a lot less miserable if you lived your lives with the truth instead of all the time trying to make each other happy by lying to them.  If everyone lived that way – there would be a lot less craziness and murder in the world – not that killing is all bad, but hey, a cats got to eat, right.  You are a hypocrite and I’m so tired of it, I’ve gone against all my instincts and spoken up – now I’ll need to find a new home or you’ll be yapping at me all day, just like you do to tim – you sound like the chihuahua down the hall in 3g – and I hate those little yappy dogs.  You talk about that book you read on Sunday – yet you never follow any of it – but if I were a people – I’d follow it – it’s the only thing you people have ever done I’ve agreed with; love = good, truth = good, hope = good – all the things you say you want, but you don’t even follow your own rules.  Clueless – and yappy and even though tim won’t tell you, yes, you start to stink when you don’t shower more than once every three days, but I guess he likes the smell of fish too.  I hope tim reads this letter before he unties you – he might get a clue and realize he’s better off with just a cat, instead of a girl who is so clueless – at least when he pets me, I have the sense enough to purr and let him know I like it.  You play games and keep him guessing, which is just another sort of lie and I just can’t take it any more.  Goodbye.

meow,

WHISKERS

Ps. That stuff you put on your face makes you look like a raccoon, but you’re not – that’s just another lie – so stop it.

Dec 02

Contest Entry: Anna Navarro

Here’s a nice entry by Anna Navarro. Well done!

It’s a lazy summer day and I’m all sprawled out on the sofa in just the right position so that the ceiling fan is hitting my entire body.  I yawn lazily and am in the middle of a good stretch when I hear the front door.  Someone is home.  Ahhh, there she is, the true love of my life, the one and only.  My owner’s sister, Valentina.  Oooh and trust me, she is a beauty.  Long black hair, long legs, a delicate heart-shaped face, very sleek, calm, and cool.  She could be in the cat family.  Her eyes are cattish even.  If she was in the cat family, she would surely be my girl.  I adore her.  You should see how she tosses her head back when she laughs or how her whole face lights up when she smiles.  I love to sit and stare at her.  Sometimes I get a little closer.  In fact, I’m inching closer right now.  She is sitting at the kitchen table talking to my owner.  I inch and stop.  Inch-stop.  The closer I get, I am amazed at her big brown eyes; they really do twinkle.  She looks like a smiling angel.  Inch-stop.  Disappointingly, I stop-stop.  It always happens.  Oh, it’s inevitable.  I hear a sniffle.  Still smiling, she notices me and her smile widens, “Hi Chazz baby, how are Aaaaaachoooo! Aaaaaaachooo!, you?”  This is what I call “the curse.”  Those darn allergies!!!  She reaches for a tissue, still smiling.  What a sweetheart.  She never gets mad at me for getting too close.  And sometimes she just grabs my face and rubs my head and ears and I just melt with gratitude.  I don’t even mind it when she runs and washes her hands immediately after.  I’m very understanding.  Some people are just allergic to us cats.  And vice versa.  Seriously, I know several cats that are allergic to humans.  For instance, I have a buddy in Los Angeles named Boo.  Forget it; he’s allergic to all humans!  He gets very ill around them.  It’s a natural thing.  You can’t fight it.  But, I’m so mad about it I call it “the curse” because it separates me from my beloved Valentina, the love of my life.

When I was little I used to jump on her bed all the time and she would nudge me so tenderly and say “Oh Chazz honey, you can’t come up here.  Go on Chazz.  Go on honey.  Go play.”  Not at all like her brother Mike!  I call him Big Meanie or “BM,” and yes pun intended.  I tried once to cuddle up to him and did my very best purring and wham, stars for days–with one arm he flung me off in the opposite direction.  Boy did that hurt my feelings and then I got real angry.  So now when BM comes over, I make sure to irritate him the best I can.  Hide his flip flops, sample the food on his plate, etc.  Jumping on him when he falls asleep on the sofa scares him good.  I know I really shouldn’t do those things.  He’s not an animal lover to begin with and I’m not making things any better for other animals that come down his path.

So, now I have to just resolve myself to stare at Valentina from a distance and appreciate all the sweet words she gives me and happy smiles she sends my way, and boy do I cherish the few moments she will reach out and rub my head.  Well to be quite truthful, I didn’t acquiesce so easily in the beginning.  I started out pretty stubborn and did whatever I wanted.  My owner and Valentina caught me one day.  I had been sleeping under Valentina’s bed for weeks.  Yeah, I know, I know…very inconsiderate of me.  But I love Valentina’s room!!  It’s so lovely, just like her.  Plus, it’s the coldest room in the house and it’s a cool haven on these scorching hot days.  And the room smells so wonderful, just like Valentina.  She has perfumes galore but she always wears the same one in that blue bottle (Note to Self:  Confiscate blue bottle when it’s emptied, something to cherish).  That’s why I am drawn to Valentina’s room, it smells like her!!  Well, they caught me dreaming under her bed.  It was the best dream too, I was a great inventor and I had killed the curse!  Ohmigosh!! My owner acted like I stabbed her!  She screamed and I jumped up and hit my head real hard on the undersurface of the bed, not knowing what was happening or what my name was, very bewildered and scared!  So, now they are onto me.  Valentina’s room is off limits for sure.  Sheesh….now even if I merely walk by her door my owner screams, “No Chazz, No Chazz, don’t you dare go in there Chazz!!!  Gosh, I jump a mile every time, scares me to death–I just want to smack my owner upside the head!  I know I can’t go in the room!! I just like to walk by and get glimpses of her or get whiffs of her.

Oh well, getting sleepy now, going to my cozy spot under the ceiling fan.  Would be nice if I could dream about destroying the curse again.   I loved that dream.  Eyes getting so heavy….ahhh I’m drifting into my dream.  Oh this is good!  I’m sitting on Valentina’s lap!  No sneezing!  I killed the curse…I killed the cur—zzzzzz

Dec 01

Blog Tour: K. M. Weiland, Behold the Dawn

Somewhere in the recent digital past, I ran across this bright young lady on Twitter and begged for a stop-over on her blog tour. Why? I like her picture. Seriously, with hair like that, how can you not like her? Secondly, she’s writing about knights and fair maidens and jousting. If my characters weren’t constantly mouthing off and turning out to be thousands of years old, I’d totally write about jousting.
Also, she’s sitting in my kitchen chair–okay, not my *actual* kitchen chair, but a rogue twin, separated at birth.

Katie, can you tell us a little about your book?

Behold the Dawn  is a medieval “blood and thunder” tale—with a love story at its core. It’s about rogue knight Marcus Annan, who has spent the last sixteen years fighting in the tourneys—the huge mock battles condemned by the church—trying to forget the great sin of his past. When confronted by a mysterious monk who played his own ill-fated role in Annan’s yesteryears, Annan is compelled to travel to the Third Crusade in the Holy Land, in an effort to save the life of a friend. When he arrives too late, he becomes responsible for delivering the man’s widow to safety in France. But when they are pursued by both his own enemies and those of the lady, Annan is forced to realize that if he ever hopes to be free of his past, he must face it once for all.

“Blood and Thunder”. . . how cool is that? Can you tell us a little about your writing journey?

Stories have been running amuck in my brain for as long as I can remember. I started writing them down when I was eleven or twelve. Throughout high school, I wrote, edited, and produced a newsletter called Horse Tails, before moving onto bigger game. My first novel,  A Man Called Outlaw, about the land wars in 19th-century Wyoming, was published in 2006.

I think I’m seeing a theme here– strong, heroic protagonists. Maybe it wasn’t just your hair that got my attention.

So, how do you deal with rejection? Liquor? Gambling? Confession is good for the soul.

This video  pretty much sums it up!

Actually, dealing with any kind of criticism is just a matter of absorbing, gleaning the good, accepting it, and moving on. I give myself a day or so to stiffen my upper lip, then get cracking again.

As a writer, who’s encouraged you the most?

I’m blessed to have a ton of very encouraging people around me. My family, friends, and writing buddies are all supremely supportive of my writing. I don’t know that I could single out just one person, since so many have contributed in some fashion or another. But my sister Amy, my dad, and my crit partners Linda Yezak and Adrie Ashford are definitely at the top of the pile.

Explain your creative process (Do you wear fuzzy dragon slippers for inspiration? Drink your morning coffee from a chalice?)

Actually, I do wear fuzzy slippers on a regular basis! My writin’ shoes, I call them.

 I’m not one of those people who just sit down of a morning and let fly. I like schedules, I like being organized. I write for two hours, five days a week—and I stick to that time religiously. Tragedy or plague has to be in the wind to prevent me from sitting down at my desk at four in the afternoon. I usually spend thirty minutes warming up, divorcing my brain from the helter-skelter of the day and priming it for creativity. I jot ideas and plan my day’s work in my writing journal, proofread what I wrote the day before, and select a soundtrack to listen to while I work. Then I dive in! I don’t concentrate on word or page count. That’s an unnecessary pressure, I think. I like that first draft to come as organically as possible. Sometimes that means I’ll write five pages a day; sometimes it means I’ll only write a paragraph.

In a perfect world full of magical editor fairies granting your every publishing wish, what would you write next if it couldn’t possibly tank?

Oh, anything that would sell a million copies and let me retire a wealthy woman! No, seriously, I’m blessed to be writing pretty much exactly what I want to be writing. My next project is one that I’d tentatively say I’m even more excited about than I was Behold—and that’s saying something! It’s a historical piece about the passion, betrayal, and vengeance that dog two men and the woman they both love through the trenches of World War I, corruption in colonial Kenya, and the criminal underbelly of London. I also have a completed fantasy (about a man who discovers his dreams are really memories of another world) waiting for some serious edits.

Love it!

Thanks for stopping by. Best wishes on your writing adventure~

Behold the Dawn

Marcus Annan, a tourneyer famed for his prowess on the battlefield, thought he could keep the secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him find justice for the transgressions of sixteen years ago, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade.

Wounded in battle and hunted by enemies on every side, he rescues an English noblewoman from an infidel prison camp and flees to Constantinople. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn’t even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.

Dec 01

Taming of a Pharisee, Part 5 (or, The Plan)

Post-BusSo how does one become a Pharisee?

I don’t remember waking up one morning intent on hardening up over religious dogma, leaving my first love behind, developing a critical spirit…

Funny how it happened anyway.

Life on the Funny Farm

Living with mental illness stinks. When everyone sits around pretending nothing’s wrong, a girl questions her own sanity after awhile. We were a family of secrets, pretending to be okay while the world fell apart.

I learned to cope. Sleep meant escape. I slept hours and hours at a time. I developed migraines, not on purpose you understand but the effect was the same– escape into pain.

And then, for my next trick, I shut down entirely.

In the dark, I peeled off a portion of myself and backed away, leaving it behind to deal with things too big for someone so weak.  The technical term is disassociation. I locked myself up, ran all my friends off and spent days  in a fantasy world of my own creation.

I learned to run.

The smallest problem, the hint of pain and off I went– overly sensitive, unable to deal. That’s the trouble with terminal cancer—a head cold might do you in. Avoidance seemed like a mighty good idea.

I stopped crying.

One tear sneaks out and next you’re blubbering so loud they hear you in Kansas.  Crying makes others uncomfortable. Blubbering gets you committed. So at the ripe old age of fifteen,  a rock replaced a once tender heart.

I stopped feeling.

The problem with not feeling anything is you don’t feel anything. The Jesus I knew and loved brought an entire boatload of those pesky feelings with Him on every visit. Hardening up meant I no longer felt His presence but I could live with that.

I backed away from Him too.

Religion is Easier than Relationship.

The next fifteen years, I pretended to be okay.

This was the plan. It seemed like a mighty fine plan at the time.

  • Grit teeth.
  • Barrel through.
  • Find all the right answers through intensive Bible study and/or sitting under the teaching of others.
  • Spout said answers without thinking.
  • Commit to a rigid life of correctness. Quiet time in the morning, Bible study at night. Attend church with ardent enthusiasm.
  • Mumble canned religious rhetoric until others puke with joy.
  • Pray desperate prayers occasionally, then snap back into hiding.
  • Hope for a slow death to give time for any last minute repentance just in case.
  • Don’t let anyone close enough to notice anything amiss.

After all, what more was there? I was saved by grace, filled with the Holy Ghost. Now I just needed to hang on tight and coast along a few dozen years until I got hit by a bus.

Easy.

Only one problem. Other people hurt. My stellar acting skillz and religious pedigree gave people the silly idea I had it all together. After all, my father was a pastor, I was a nurse with an intact family and a couple of well-behaved children (Pharisee-ism is taught you know, but that’s another story entirely.)

A steady stream of the wounded arrived on my doorstep and bled all over the bricks. Not one. Not two or three.

Dozens.

I murmured religious answers, twice dead, plucked up by the roots and scooted them off as quick as possible. I had nothing to give them. No bread. No water. No deliverance. No healing.

No Jesus.

I could  hear God snickering as they paraded through my door.

From way inside my hard little heart, I raged against their weakness. I fussed and fumed, waved my arms and told them to buck up. Ignore that pain woman! Move on already!

But like the Grinch, something deep inside started to wiggle.

I was about to get hit by another sort of bus entirely.

Nov 22

Hide and Seek

Yes, I’ve been gone awhile. I’ve been away seeking God. Good things take time (insert big, cheesy smile here because seeking God turned out to be way more fun that expected.)

Back in the day, I learned that just because the Good Lord tells you:

A: (in this case, write novel length fiction)

and

B: (head out to parts unknown to meet really cool folks at writer’s conferences)

does not mean He wants

C: (oops)

He has this way of getting to the marrow by roundabout means and I’ve suspected for some time that the story burning up my bosom might just be His voice seeking entrance to heal some areas of messiness.  Painful stuff tends to eat away the soul. What better way to exercise the crap?

(Let’s poke her with sticks until she throws up on paper! You first. No *you* first.)

Paranoid? Not me…

Conversely, the publishing industry is a business that needs to make money. I dislike self promotion with the fiery passion of a thousand suns and tend to stuff  my writing under the mattress until it takes over the room. All the rules about what will or won’t hurt a writer’s chances of publication give me gas.

Also, I’m single-minded to a fault. May not sound like such a big deal, but believe me– it can get ugly. If this is the way He’s leading, I’m all in. If not, I need to find my Savior’s heart and stick with His business.

So the upshot? I’m still here and yes, I’ve Got Direction. It involves more waiting. (My goodness! He loves that sort of thing)

It also involves talking about the issues that burned my bosoms in the first place, so expect more personal posts involving women and aging and love and healing.

And the eternal, big-hearted Love of God.

Nov 19

The Taming of a Pharisee, Part 6 (Pharisee Games)

Bus-19881So there I was, minding my own business—a husband, two little girls and a life busy enough to keep  thinking down to a minimum. The idea that I might be misrepresenting the love of Jesus to a hurting world didn’t bother me one stinkin’ bit.

Let them eat cake. Or figure it out for themselves. Or show up at church and peel off the top ten percent from their paychecks like the rest of us poor church slobs. Whatever.

I just wanted them off my doorstep.

Playing Pharisee Games

You may have noticed I’m not talking much about sin. There’s good reason for that. I figured out long ago sin isn’t the only thing keeping us from Jesus.

Sin is a condition, like dandruff or the heartbreak of psoriasis. Only it’s something we all share. And because it’s so common, sometimes we don’t notice anymore.

Sins are things we pick up to beat ourselves with, then turn around and beat everyone else. It’s the selfish things we do to make ourselves feel better at the expense of others.  It’s the things God hates because it damages our soul and He loves us so much, He doesn’t want to see us hurt.

 Pharisees, on the other hand, are very fond of sin. We catalog and sort. We point out the sins of others and feel superior in the process. We pick out the biggies and tell folks to straighten up and  they’ll be fine, only we know good and well they won’t. We hand them a list of requirements for living the proper Christian life and let them drown while we come up with a new list.

Not once in the gospels does Jesus pound on sinners. He eats dinner with  prostitutes. Hangs out with the longshoremen. He makes friends with the IRS. When I woman gets caught in adultery, He refuses to carry out the penalty. He says, fine. Let the one here without sin throw the first rock and when He winds up being the only one left, He tells her to just go on woman, and cut it out already. Real tough.

Jesus loves sinners.

Pharisees tend to piss Him off, bigtime.

The Wages of Sin

The biggest problem with sin, both ours and others? It seperates us from a loving Father and pays out dividends for decades. Things like pain. And shame. And anger. And fear.

We need forgiveness. We need a whole new birthday.

Simple really.

Pharisees want to complicate things. We strap burdens on others we can’t carry ourselves and make-pretend we’re Hercules if anyone’s looking. Instead of introducing people to the One who pardons the guilty, who can fix broken hearts, we tell them how to live the Christian Lifestyle—

  • Find yourself a church (ours preferably)
  • Attend every time the doors open no matter how tired you are, no matter how many hours of overtime you worked last week
  • Open up your wallet and start paying out (ten percent, off the top)
  • Teach Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, sing in the choir, lead worship
  • Listen to the pastor ‘cause he’ll surely get around to addressing your issues… from a nice, safe distance, in a year or two.

So hurting people buy some church clothes and sit on the pew, holding their boxes and wonder what on earth they’re doing there. The Pharisees sit on the other side of the church with all their church friends and pray the messy people with their messy pain don’t ask questions they can’t answer.

It’s Not an Excuse But…

We all tend to self medicate—drugs, alcohol, relationships, shopping. Anything to fill the empty places. My drug of choice was religion.

He didn’t like it much.

He decided He wasn’t having it anymore.

What Are You Doing Here?

By this time, I’d played the game long enough and loud enough I believed my own press releases. Pain? What pain. I had a wonderful childhood. Whoever that was hiding in the closet for two years, it wasn’t me. I was Super Christian, able to attend multiple Bible studies in a single week. More powerful than a sack of wet Baptists. Able to leap hurting seekers with a single shrug.

So why was I crying on the couch every night?

Might have something to do with Jesus showing up in my living room  whether I wanted Him to or not.

Put the kids down for a nap and dadgumit, there He was. The hubby heads out the door to work the late shift and I’d settle in for an entire night, all by myself with Magnum PI and BAM! There He was, sitting in the living room, ready to talk.

I didn’t want to talk.

I did the next best thing.

I avoided.

And became more religious. Yes, it was possible.

If He kept showing up that way, I figured I must be doing something wrong so I cranked up the juice. I read my Bible thirty minutes instead of fifteen, quit watching television altogether, starting sending an extra ten percent off to orphans and evangelists (that’s a total of twenty percent of the gross if you’re keeping count.) I quit wearing pants and wore only ugly clothes bought at Goodwill as everyone knows ugly clothes are much holier than pretty ones.

If nothing else, I’d run Him off having to look at me.

But He stayed.  He would not let up. And I couldn’t quit crying.

At some point I don’t even remember anymore, I decided I had to take care of myself, only I couldn’t and didn’t get the memo.   Jesus showed up like the cavalry, ready to scoop me up and kiss away all the pain. Only I was busy pretending nothing was wrong.  That box was staying shut if it killed me.

So, He let me hang on awhile longer. He started pointing out all the other folks running around, holding onto their boxes.

So many boxes, so much pain, nobody getting better.

Then He had the nerve to tell me I was religious.

Nov 15

Taming of a Pharisee, part 7 (or… Jesus has His Own Plan)

Jesus does not play fair.

I’m not bitter mind you—just stating facts.

The Buttering Up Phase

First, He shows up and hangs around, looking good, not saying much. Pretty soon, you get accustom to having Him there so you engage in a little conversation. It usually goes something like this:

You’re hanging around an awful lot.

I am.

You want something, don’t You?

No, just enjoying this nice comfy couch.

That couch died ten years ago. Even deity can’t be comfortable on that thing.

(bounces a little) Mighty nice… you could sit next to Me if you want.

I’m good over here.

Missing a real treat (bounce, bounce, grin)

At which point, Jesus gets ignored for the rest of the evening.

This goes on for some time until finally one night, He doesn’t show. You refold the towels a dozen times, scrub the sink until the porcelain flakes off, then head over to the couch to pout.

And BAM! there He is.

You missed me.

Not really.

I saw.

Maybe a little.

Want a hug?

Yes please.

Now hugging takes getting use to. You’re not accustomed to His touch, you’re still half expecting Him to bring up that weekend in Aruba or ask you to go off and be a missionary in some country without indoor plumbing.

So He waits.

What you can’t see is Him rubbing His hands in glee behind your back, or front, or something because you are this close to being right where He wants you.

Want to hug me again tonight?

What I’m here for. I was thinking we might throw in a little something extra.

Oh my! What was that.

Unconditional love. Haven’t felt that before, have you?

Mmmmm…

Like it?

Mmmmm…

How about a little peace? Maybe a touch of joy?

By this time, you are slobbering over with all sorts of good feelings.

Shame really.

The Set Up

(Shows up thirty minutes later than usual)

Where have You been? I’m dying over here.

You’re not dying, you just love Me. (Commences loving-up maneuvers)

Hmmm… You’re right, I love You.

Feels nice doesn’t it? Haven’t had much peace these last fifteen years.

Very nice.

Not much joy either.

Not much. (drool)

I can do something about that, you know.

Okay.

How about you let me handle things from now on?

Okay.

At this point, you are toast. Go ahead and sign over the farm Louise, you are a goner.

The Trap is Sprung

Only Jesus doesn’t just take it all right then, He drags things out awhile. One night, He shows up and the conversation goes something like this:

You know how much I love you, right?

Hmmmm… I love you too.

And if I asked for something, you’d give it to Me, wouldn’t you?

Dadgum right.

Anything?

Anything at all, You can have everything.

How about that box over there?

What box? I don’t have any boxes.

That raggedy old box in the corner. I’m needing me a box for manna and stuff.

(raises head, looks around, can’t see straight.)

(love, love, love)

Anything—You can have all my boxes. (slobber, drool)

Sure about that?

Yes, positive.

(secret grin over head)

You want anything else? I could crawl over broken glass or something.

No, I’m good.

How about some flagellation? Whip my back raw, just for You…

(whispers) You wish you were getting off so easy…

And that, my friends, is how you get hit by the Jesus Bus and lose your box in the process. Because the next thing that happens, the very next thing,  He shows up and you don’t get a hug and He’s got your box on His lap.

Hey! You’ve got my box!

No, actually this is my box.

Looks like mine.

You gave it to me, remember?

No way!

(runs  hands over box, rattles lid a few times) You gave it to me last night.

I wasn’t in my right mind.

Looked okay to me. Sounded fine too. A little slobbery maybe but given the circumstances…

I want it back.

No takebacks. Besides, I like it.

This is so not fair.couch

You love Me remember?

I’m pretty sure You cheated.

It’s mine now and once I get it all cleaned up, I’ll fill it with all sorts of nice things. For now, you’re going to have to trust me.

Lovely.

Now come on over here and we’ll look inside together.

(crosses arms)

I can’t give you peace from that far across the room.

You can, You just won’t.

(wiggles eyebrows, pats couch, looks cute)

But here’s the thing. The woman learns she can trust Him. Yes it hurts but she doesn’t die which is what she secretly suspected. He doesn’t take everything out all at once and He doesn’t smush her face in the refuse.

Sometimes He shows up without the box and talks about world peace. Sometimes He shows up with the box and leaves it sitting in the corner. He asks her what she remembers, takes her heart all gentle-like in His big hands and heals all the broken places. Sometimes, He opens it just a crack—and shows her that He was right there, all the time.

He gives her back her smile and her feelings and her tears and her sense of humor.

He redeems her box.

And now, twenty years later, the box is finally empty.

Not sure what He’s using it for.

Maybe I should ask tonight.

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