Friday, September 22, 2017

Letting Loose


When I first began writing, I dreamed of writing for children. I wrote short stories and poems about little ones who were always getting into trouble. It helped that my protagonist lived right under my roof, my little brother. He was forever up to no good to the point I thought my poor mother would go bald from running her hands through her hair.

But writing about little brothers gets tiring. I wanted to let loose and do something no one else had ever done. My initiation into letting loose began on my 16th birthday. At that point in my life, my favorite author was Victoria Holt. Since there were no knights in shining armor or damsels in distress in my neighborhood, I decided to write about the characters around me. 
A character study is similar to stalking. At sixteen, stalking is not easy. The whole time I tried to be covert, I was stumbling over my own two feet or giving myself away by blushing. Instead of being reckless and daring, I was careless and timid. But I was determined.
At the top of our street there was a General Store. It was the perfect place to stalk. Customers strolled inside and took their time. Men chatted in groups of 2 and 3. Women lingered longest at the meat and cheese counter. I found the perfect corner to lean into and just watch. When Ms. Patty, the owner, glared at me I’d pick up a package and pretend to be reading the contents. After 30 minutes, I realized the task at hand was a lot more difficult than I had imagined. It was hard to hear what my subjects were saying and most of the time they kept turning their backs to me. 
Sighing, I decided to leave and think up another strategy to get writing material. As I turned to leave, a man three times my age with half my teeth grabbed me, pulled me through the throng of customers and pushed me past the screen door. He didn’t let loose of me until we were several feet from the building. I was terrified. He was huge!  
“You best go home now, you hear?” he yelled at me, still clutching my arm. “I ain’t lettin’ you go until you promise to quit trying to steal my aunt’s merchandise.”
I stopped flat-faced-still, looking up at him in total disbelief. “Steal? I’m not trying to steal anything.” Incredulous thoughts whirled around my brain until I realized how guilty I must have looked. “Oh, you’ve got this all wrong. I’m a writer. I’m trying to do a character study.”
“Character study?” he repeated, spitting out a wad of tobacco, “You’d best be trying to study school and not be dumb like me. Now git before I call the cops!”
I ran all the way home. It took me two days to write the whole event down . . . embellishing and letting loose on the best character study ever. Now when I even hint at having “writers block”, I remember being sixteen and pushing the limits. That’s the key to being a good writer. Letting loose.

God bless you! 
Angela


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Discovering Josue: A Servant's Heart


Colossians 3:23-24 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

God asks us to serve one another (Galatians 5:13). When we serve others, we are the hands and feet of Jesus. It's humbling to think that when we help others we are doing what Christ does for us every day. Whether we realize it or not Jesus is growing and stretching us for His kingdom by the service opportunities He presents us and the life situations He maneuvers us through. Every lesson we learn are tools to help others. We serve God with the fullness of everything He has given us, the joy, and the hardships.

I just finished reading Discovering Josue. If you ever wondered what a servant's heart looks like please read this book. Having a Jesus-style servant's heart is hard. There's a cost. That's the reason most of us pull back or rethink whether we want to jump in and help others. We have to set aside time. The situation might be messy or hurtful. Finances may come into play, also emotions. This is the sticky part . . . we might have to deal with listening and refrain from disagreeing. We might have to build a relationship to get people to listen to us. More time.

God was preparing Gloria Giovanna way before Josue entered her life. On a whim to learn something new, Gloria decides to learn Spanish. She was a hairstylist and often had customers who were Spanish-speaking. It just seemed a natural progression to learn their language. Then she got into Latino dancing and the exotic flavors of Mexican food. What seemed like a huge challenge ended up fun and exciting, a reprieve from being a single mom struggling to rear three children.

God also brought a client to Gloria that needed help with a patient, an eighteen-year-old Mexican boy who was dying of bone cancer. The client was an oncologist. His heart was breaking for this young man who could not speak English and didn't seem to have any family in the States.

It's wonderful when someone tells their story and doesn't leave out the angst or questions. Gloria struggles with the oncologist's request. How in the world could she add one more thing to her overfull life? She was struggling to buy food and pay the bills. Her time was spent working in her beauty shop and taking care of three kids. She had no time or money to run around helping anyone. But God had a different plan.

Reading Discovering Josue is discovering ourselves. Do we have a servant's heart? Are we willing to pay the cost?

For Gloria the cost was getting to love someone she would have never met without God's intervention. Once Josue entered her life, there was no backing out. Next thing she knew, she was rounding up everyone she knew to enter into the glorious opportunity of discovering Josue.

"I went to visit him every spare moment and called to check on him two or three times a day."

The urgency to tell Josue's story never left her.

"I needed to get the story out of my system. I told her that I had no formal writing experience and no degree . . . but I need to talk about this. I can't just let it go. So now seven and a half years later, this story is still clinging to me every day of my life, and so here I am."

With God's help, Gloria finally published Josue's story. But it's more than his story, it's God's story pressed into Gloria's, too. The book is infectious. You will love all the characters Gloria marshals to help her with Josue. Once infused with God's desire for her to serve Josue, Gloria worked incessantly.

I hope you will read Discovering Josue. God will show you what it means to serve others.

God bless you,
Angela

Amazon link to Discovering Josue by Gloria Giovanna
http://amzn.to/2viJM9O

If you haven't picked up the September 12, 2017 issue of the magazine, First, for women, you might want to. There's an article on page 48, "Unexpected Grace: A lovely language", which compliments the work God did in Gloria Giovanna's life.

God is alive and well and working hard in the lives of His children.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Cost of Choice


Someone asked me why I loved to write. So many words ran through my mind, but one stood out. CHOICE.

I feel a need to write about the cost of choice, to show readers strategies that lead to success or failure. 

Life choices are complicated and serious. I’m not talking about picking your favorite flavor of ice cream. I’m talking about decisions that change, transform, and destroy. 

As a writer, I paint word pictures conjuring up good and bad characters and then throw them into a myriad of life scenarios. I allow their lives to touch one another in positive and negative ways. Once their lives are entwined, what erupts is not always pretty. Evil challenges good. One person makes an irreversible decision that often whiplashes onto other characters. Sometimes the weak become strong and the strong become weak. Other times the weak sink in despair and the strong get fiercer and more determined.  

As an author, this is where my role is pivotal.

The characters begin to ponder their choices. They look at how to maneuver through and around them. Once a choice is made it is hard to withdraw it without cost or stabilize it without regret and remorse. Choice shapes the course of one’s history, setting up internal conflict, igniting dry brush into forest fires or bursting a dry meadow into lush green.

I want readers to visualize the importance and cost of their choices. 

Why am I so passionate about this? Because I’ve made some poor choices. I see others do the same thing without stopping to think about the repercussions.

“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.” ~Natalie Goldberg

So, I write and speak about what disturbs me.

Having worked as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused, abandoned, and neglected children and later working with their abused mothers, I am passionate about the topic of choice. So passionate I write about real-life characters (names changed to protect the innocent) whose lives are messed up because of poor choices, and the people that come alongside them to encourage better life choices and options for difficult situations.

God has had me on a journey, facing my own demons and ministering to those whose demons have cut deep into their joy. Cries of Innocence, Cries of Grace, and Cries of Mercy (2018) demonstrate how people can rise above abuse, disappointment, and brokenness.

 I have an awesome, but sometimes daunting responsibility as an author. When I write I am given the opportunity to touch the mind, heart, and soul of the reader. 

“The printed word only has the potential for meaning, implication, response, and result. The reader is the one who must activate that potential and breathe life into words. How else could the quiet printed text become an active interplay of ideas and feelings. Reading makes things happen as we imagine what the characters are doing, and how they are going to navigate through situations and critical choices.
Reading prepares us for the unexpected. It helps us share in a common humanity, encourages us to see other’s views, and depicts a myriad of life’s experiences for us to contemplate. Reading can make us see a new world or the same world in a new way.” ~Angela Beach Silverthorne, SUNY Graduate paper The Power of Reading

Choice waits in the palm of a hand, never suspecting the muscle tension as one finger after another closes over it, obscuring the promise of security or calamity. That’s why good choices are so critical.

All it takes is one word, one action, one deed to change everything.

In the process of writing and reading, we learn strategies for making wise choices. Never underestimate the power of the written word. 

Here are three strategies I use when faced with a choice:

1.     Stop. Don’t make a hasty decision. The world will not fall apart if you wait. Psalm 27:14
 “Be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.”

2. Pray. Don’t feel pressure to make a rash decision. Psalm 62: 5 “My soul, wait in silence for God only.”

3. Write out the options. Choose wisely. Pray over your decision. Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace that Christ gives control your thinking . . . to have peace.”

Never underestimate the cost of choice. Make wise choices. Pray. Seek God’s will.

God bless you,
Angela




Monday, August 7, 2017

Responsibility In Making Choices


Billy Graham speaks to my heart. In his devotional, Day By Day, Graham wrote about the power of choice. It seems the norm in our culture is to constantly point fingers and blame others for all their problems and everyone else’s. Sometimes I want to go into a rage over this, but that would only add to the problem. So here’s Billy Graham’s call to begin understanding that we are all part of the problem in what we do, don’t do, or say. I do believe God wants us to proclaim the liberty of owning up to your actions and stop putting blame on others. The end product of taking ownership would be liberty . . . the freeing of captives bound by the name-and-blame-it game.

Hope you enjoy Mr. Graham’s devotional.

Blessings,
Angela
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Viktor Frankl in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, describes the reactions of two brothers with the same heredity, the same environment, in the same concentration camp under the Nazis. One became a saint and the other a swine. Frankl tells us the reason why. He said, “Each man has within him the power to choose how he will react to any given situation.” God has given us the power of choice. Some people today do not wish to accept the responsibility for their actions. They blame society. They blame the environment. They blame the schools. They blame the circumstances. We can’t blame it all on somebody else. We must accept the blame ourselves for our part. Society is made up of individuals. If we have social injustice, we’re the ones who are wrong; we’re part of it. Let’s accept our responsibility to do something about it.

Prayer For The Day: With you help, living Lord, I want to make the right decisions so that I may touch society with Your healing love.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Here I Raise My Ebenezer



Over the past year, I have been going through every closet, drawer, and room to unclutter in preparation for a move. Naturally I had to touch and read everything. It was like a walk down memory lane. Everything held meaning, and I wanted to share it with my family and friends. The process became a journey of remembrance.

When I got to my volumes of journals, there was no way I could pass them by. So, I sat down and went through every one of them. The journals became my ebenezer. Ebenezer means “stone of help.” In the Old Testament stones were piled one on top of the other as a reminder to the Israelites of God’s unfailing love and mercy.

1Samuel 7:12 states, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called it Ebenezer saying, ‘Hitherto hath the Lord helped us’.”

Opening up my journals reinforced how good God has been to me, family and friends. How His blessings have poured over us. How in the darkest hours of life God was right there ministering to us. Most of those times I did not even realize God’s intervention, often feeling alone and helpless. Looking back and remembering how I felt then and how I see the situation now establishes God’s work in my life and shapes who I am today. It readies me for the next valley, disappointment, or loss with the knowledge of a Savior that is living and active in my life. I have no fear because He has prepared me to handle life through Him.

When we moved to VA Beach in January 2017, the Praise Team at the church we are attending kept singing a song they wrote entitled, “Ebenezer”. Every time I heard it I could see that stack of journals, all those memories of God’s love.

My intrigue in the song caused me to do a little investigation. The chorus to the contemporary song, “Ebenezer”, was based off an old hymn “Come, Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” written by Robert Robinson in 1757. Even though Robinson’s life drove him from his faith many times, he managed to help others come to Christ through the words in his song. 

Remembrance is very important; it’s a fundamental principle in the gospel. Humans unfortunately have an easier time remembering all the bad things that happen verses the good. That’s why God put things on stone, i.e., the ten commandments. Another perfect example of stones of remembrance is found in Joshua 4.

“Take yourselves twelve stones from here . . . that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ Then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordon on dry land . . . that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever’.”

God wants us to remember Him in awe and reverence. In the song, “Ebenezer” and “Come, Thou Fount Of Every Blessing”, we are asked to remember God’s hand in our life.

Come, Thou Fount Of Every Blessing (chorus, Robert Robinson, 1757)
Here I raise my ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home:
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wand’ring from the fold of God:
He, to save my soul from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.


Ebenezer (chorus, contemporary version)
Here I raise my ebenezer,
Hither by Thine help I come,
May it remind me of every victory
That You brought me safe thus far.
All my hope, all my hope is in Your promises.
And all my joy, all my joy is in You, Jesus.

How precious is remembering God’s promises, blessings, mercy, grace, and love in our lives.

Lord Jesus, help me to remember the power of Your holy name that I can call on at any time. In Christ’s name I pray,
Angela


Sharing from my journal. This entry was after a long year: mother dying, my husband having seizures, the loss of our 17 year old dog, and my health issues.

Dear Heavenly Father,
It is good to praise You! You are my Refuge and my Rock. You keep me safe and dry in the storm. You present Yourself in the morning sunrise, and kiss the day to rest in a sunset splendor. All my concerns have been deposited in You. God, You provide the Words to keep me in tune with Your desires for me. Oh, how I love the precious name of Jesus. Oh how I rely on the still small voice of Your Spirit, Lord. Continue to keep us under Your wing. There are times when I think we are fumbling, stumbling, and staggering under the pressure we are under. It’s like a dark cloud has sat on us. Then I see the tiniest bit of light and I know that means You are coming; so, I’m waiting. You’ll be here soon. I feel it. Until then, I will continue to glorify Your holy name. Your child, Angela





Monday, July 24, 2017

Prayer Circles


"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.” Philippians 4:6

One of the best ways I know to remember how to commit things to God in prayer is by remembering three circles. One is the worry circle, in which I keep nothing. Second is the prayer circle, in which I keep everything. Third is the gratitude circle, in which I keep anything. So when I pray, I am anxious for nothing, prayerful for everything, and thankful for anything.

We feel foolish asking God to help us with some of the things in our lives. But remember: “In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God” (Philippians 4:6). 

You just need to write out every one of your concerns before they turn into worries and commit them to God. He does care about each of them. If you take them back, just give them back to Him in prayer again. Day by day, as you get more and more practiced committing the affairs of your life to Him, you will begin to leave them with Him. Your trust in God will grow, and you will stop grabbing back what you have given Him.

(Dr. David Jeremiah, July 13 post from his devotional, Sanctuary 2002)

Hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did. God bless you always,
Angela



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Summer Blessings


Summer. Beach. Pool. Children and grandchildren. Well, I’m living in the fullness of who I am, a Nana! What a joy to have all nine grandchildren and three daughters filling the house with laughter, sharing, and reminiscing. The fellowship was like a sweet aroma. Our summer reunion  is a sweet remembrance of the love we share for one another and others. Our children are indeed a heritage from the Lord.

The Bible teaches that family is very important. We see very early in the Bible that family members are to care for and look after one another. In today’s society where families are more transient and independent, we’ve had to get more creative to remain close and create the large family unit most of us crave.  

Living long distances from one another, our family has had to lean into our spiritual family, the Church, to minister to us. We’ve also realized that family comes in many different forms, neighbors, friends, and cohorts. Our family may not get to see one other as much as we’d like, but we have still managed to have many family members surrounding us with support and love.

I am very honored that my family loves God. It’s like power unleashed. When we gather together, I sit amazed listening to the ways our family is reaching out to others. More importantly, I hear how others are reciprocating in kind to them, offering love and encouragement when they are discouraged or need a listening ear. These are precious words to a mom who can’t always be there. I know the family they are building love them, too. 

Jesus said, “A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)  

Thank You, God, for family. Thank You for every blessing and every trial. Thank You for the strength and courage to face every day in prayer and the conviction to live each day in service and love to You. Thank You, Father, for each family member who make my life more meaningful, and reach out beyond their core unit to love others. In all things, in prayer and supplication, I praise Your holy name for the family You have so graciously given to me.

As you think about your summer and family, find ways to celebrate each other and the people that God has brought into our lives.

God bless you,
Angela 

P.S. Missing all the husbands who are not in this picture.