Archives for August 2008

Cec Murphey, Author and Mentor

Last Saturday I was in writer heaven. A first for me, I got to meet and sit under the teaching of a NY Times bestselling author. Cec Murphey, author of 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper), has written, co-written, or ghostwritten 110 books and is one of the most sought after writing instructors in the nation. You heard me right. And I got to hear him speak while he was in Tulsa last week.

Cec taught two writing workshops while I jotted down as many notes as possible in an attempt to capture his wisdom. His topics were geared towards fiction writers, and since I haven’t yet tried my hand at fiction, I gained lots of valuable new insight. Even now, I can see how I could implement the techniques he spoke about to improve my non-fiction writing.

Another reason I was especially excited to meet Cec is that he is one of the expert panelists on The Christian Writers View 2, an online writers group I joined a year and a half ago. Cec graciously mentors and encourages new writers through this group as well as through a variety of other means. Not only does he mentor through the advice he gives to the group, but he also takes the time to email personal congratulations when a member has work published. What a blessing and encouragement his notes have been to me. It’s also just downright fun to actually meet fellow writers I’ve gotten acquainted with online.

I’m so grateful for the chance to learn from Cec and others like him, those who have lived the writer’s life far longer than me and have learned the ropes of the publishing industry. I’ll be going to my first writers conference in September (North Texas Christian Writers Conference) and am sure I’ll experience writer heaven again :)

One more thing to note — Cec teaches more than writing skills. He models giving back and being a mentor. Each of us can do that in our own way. Each of us can teach what we have learned. Paul, Timothy’s mentor, told him, “And the things you have heard me say…entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2 NIV).

How about you? Have you had a mentor who has been a big help to you? Or maybe you’re passing your knowledge and skills on to someone else? I’d love to hear your stories. C’mon and share!

Creation Speaks

Don heads back to school this week along with many other teachers and students across the nation. Summer is slipping away all too quickly, isn’t it? Before it’s completely gone, I’d like to share a piece I wrote several years ago that has appeared in a couple of different publications. I’ve updated and tweaked it in places, and I hope it inspires you to savor the remaining days of summer.

Creation Speaks

Have you ever noticed how creative works help us understand their creators? Consider God. His creations allow us to see Him more clearly if we turn our thoughts to Him as we enjoy the beauty and wonder of the world around us.

My family and I have often gone to the mountains for vacation. While there, it is impossible for me to not think of God. Their grandeur and beauty are so magnificent that only He could have created them. Their very peaks seem to point to Him.

One summer while hiking with my family, two very different characteristics of the mountains impressed me as never before. The gentle, soothing beauty of the alpine meadow found above tree line amazed me. Brilliant, delicate wildflowers unique to this particular environment decorated the meadow, while remaining snow fields and a serene mountain lake completed the peaceful scene. As we looked behind us from an elevation of 14,000 feet, the view was breathtaking. The mountains in all their majesty refreshed my spirit, and I rejoiced in God my Creator.

The very same day we enjoyed these tranquil surroundings, we also experienced the strength and sometimes dangerous power the mountains hold. We viewed mighty, rushing streams, dangerous drop-offs, and densely forested areas that one could easily get lost in if he ventured off the steep and rocky trail. The climb at this altitude soon took its toll on our bodies.

As we reached the peak, we noticed dark storm clouds moving in rapidly, and the wind suddenly picked up in intensity. The peaceful feelings we enjoyed earlier turned into an adrenaline rush that sent us racing down the trail. Fear of getting caught in rain, lightning, hail, or fog kept us watching the skies and moving as quickly as we could. The mighty mountains had our respect.

After reaching safety, I later reflected back on our experience. I realized how much God is like the mountains. He is a gentle Heavenly Father who provides His children with peace, beauty, and refreshment, but He is also an awesome, powerful God who is to be worshipped and respected. It’s easy at times to lose sight of all that God is, but He refreshed my understanding on that summer day when peace met power on a mountain top.

Do you need a fresh touch from God? The next time you’re out enjoying our beautiful world, turn your thoughts to Him and let creation speak to you.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19:1-3

*Flickr photo by Rutger Tuller, Creative Commons License

Food, Glorious Food…Someday

After surviving a meager liquid diet and the unpleasant prep day for a screening colonoscopy, what’s a gal’s natural choice for a first meal on soft diet? For this gal, it was a chocolate shake.

Sure tasted good after Monday’s fare of 7UP, jello, and chicken broth. Sorry to say, though, my smile didn’t last long. The whole colonoscopy process did quite a number on my system, and I’m still having trouble eating today. I’m probably one of the few who has problems after this procedure, but if there’s a “rare” category, count on me to fall into it :)

I had planned on writing about “Food, Glorious Food” today — you know, because I would be starving and everything would taste so good, but my experience just hasn’t panned out that way. Food hasn’t gotten glorious for me yet this week, but I know it’s coming. Soon (I hope) my system will get back to normal, and I’ll want to eat everything in sight.

Thankfully, I’ll have that opportunity. Food is plentiful in the good ole USA, and Don and I are fortunate enough to be able to buy all the groceries we want. I can’t help but think of those who are hungry on a daily basis — not just because of a medical procedure that puts the brakes on the food train for awhile, but because of famine or lack of money to buy available food.

I haven’t enjoyed getting a headache from hunger or growing weak because of lack of nourishment, but I know it’s a temporary problem. What about those who see no end in sight, who never get enough to satisfy their empty stomachs? I’ve got to be honest. I can’t fathom what that must be like. I’ve never come close to experiencing ongoing hunger.

When we think of the hungry, we usually think of those in faraway places like Africa, but poor and hungry people can be found right here in our nation as well. Maybe neighbors in our own community. What are we to do? How are we to respond? Scripture tells us to “Rescue the weak and needy” (Psalm 82:4a NIV) and to “…continue to remember the poor…” (Galations 2:10 NIV).

How can we as individuals alleviate a need that is so vast? It can be something as simple as giving food to a local food pantry or as far-reaching as sponsoring a needy child through an organization like Compassion International. Maybe a contribution to a food crisis fund would help you feel like your gift was going where it was most needed. Compassion, in fact, has such a fund featured right now on its home page.

Compassion is just one organization that reaches out to the poor and hungry. What other avenues for helping them do you have personal knowledge about? Let’s share our ideas. Maybe someone will be helped. Maybe my cry of “Food, glorious food!” will ring out someday soon from someone who is truly hungry.

Still a Kid at Heart

There she is — our classical pianist daughter, now in her late twenties, not embarrassed to hula hoop in public. (Shawn, I’ll be awaiting your profuse thanks for not posting the picture of your hula hoop antics!) One of our stops on our summer getaway was Silver Dollar City, an 1880s craft village and theme park smack-dab in the hills of Missouri (gotta talk like a hillbilly when mentioning SDC!), and this is where Kristin got her groove on and proved that she’s still got the moves. Waist, knees, ankles, arms — I think she hula-hooped every part of her body except her neck :)

I’m happy to say that our grown-up Kristin is still a kid at heart. She’s not afraid to let loose and have some fun when the opportunity presents itself. Whether attempting to be the family winner on the shoot-out ride at Silver Dollar City, getting in on some sparkler action on the 4th of July, or battling with her sister when they’re home for Christmas over who will move the mouse on our count-down calendar, Kristin still loves to indulge in some of the simple pleasures of being a kid.

We could all take a lesson from Kristin, in fact, and just have fun being kids every once in awhile. I have to admit I didn’t even think of trying to hula hoop the other day or wave a sparkler on the 4th. I guess I just had fun watching my twenty-something kids be kids again. I do rise to the occasion every now and then, though. On the 4th, I joined in and played catch in the yard and even showed off a batting prowess that surprised my whole family :) Come to think of it, during our family reunion in May, the girls and I rode the teacups in the kids’ area at Silver Dollar City for old times’ sake. And you know what? It was fun being a kid again. Makes me wonder why I don’t do it more often…

In our spiritual lives, I bet God would love to see us be like kids with Him more often, too. Coming to Him for everything, being at rest in Him, trusting Him completely, enjoying being with Him — just like little ones have always done with their parents. Scripture tells us that Jesus welcomed children. He said, “‘Let the little children come to me…’ And he took the children in his arms…and blessed them.” (Mark 10:14, 16 NIV). What better place to be than in the arms of God?

Are you still a kid at heart? When was the last time you ate the center first out of an oreo cookie — or crawled up into the lap of your Heavenly Father and let Him soothe your fears? Let’s let loose and give it a try. Let’s be kids again.

**Thought I would run this FYI again to make sure everyone has a chance to see it. I have changed the comment options for the blog. You don’t have to be “registered” with a password now (unless you want to) in order to leave a comment. Under the “choose an identity” section, you can simply click “Name/Url” and just leave your name. This should make it easier for those of you who don’t want to set up an account. Give it a try. I’d love to know who’s out there!