Thursday, June 24, 2010

We Shall Be Changed is now in hardcover!

It finally happened! It started in early 2004, when I wondered how I could compile 366 first-person essays on how God transforms lives, and use it with the thousands of constituents of my former employer, Quiet Hour Ministries. And it's resurrected as a hardcover daily devotional book published by Review & Herald Publishing Association in June 2010.

The book's primary purpose is to show how God and his message of intimacy are clear and easy-to-understand without theological jargon. It speaks of how we, the writers, were transformed by the revelation of  God's love for us.

There were countless nights and weekends spent at my home office, using a 10-year-old Macintosh with dial-up internet, devising the writer guidelines, writing my 92 essays, rewriting many of the essays I solicited from others, and editing and formatting all the essays for length, content, redundancy, leaps of logic (or lack of it), correcting misquotes of scripture, paraphrasing quotes from other authors (to avoid misquotes and copyright issues), and many other activities. I emailed Word documents to the office computer, and the articles were reviewed by the ministry officers and proofread. It was wonderful to make new friendships with writers around the world.

The first version of We Shall Be Changed was issued in 2005, in four quarterly soft-cover books that our staff designed and proofread, had printed locally, and mailed to subscribers. Nearly every employee was involved in this book: some of them wrote essays, but the customer service people, those in accounting, the mailroom, marketing, evangelism, information services--we all had a stake. We formatted it in a database to run on our company website. Even the website was revamped partly to accommodate the text of our book. Once it was out in the hands of readers, we received scores of notes of praise for the articles, and the phone calls were universally positive.

Early in 2006, we sent the set of books to each writer, to board members of The Quiet Hour, and a number of influential ministry partners. One of the sets was sent as a thank-you gift to Jeannette Johnson, acquisitions editor at RHPA, who had helped me several times over the years. She phoned me and asked if RHPA could re-publish the set in 2010. My voice was calm and professional while we talked, but when I hung up, my office chair was spinning as I raced down the hall to share the news.

Although I had done more than 90 percent of the writing and editing work at home, I had done it under the authority of The Quiet Hour. And of course they funded the first edition and paid the salaries of the entire staff who participated.

When it was time to submit the updated manuscript early in 2009, I again worked nights and evenings at home, although this time with a laptop and fast Internet! It took about six weeks of evenings, plus a few weekends, to revamp the old manuscript, find 365 scripture verses to fit every essay, replace weaker essays with new ones, format it as required by RHPA, and email it away. About 10 days later, Jeannette notified me that the book had passed muster with the book committee, and that it would be printed in 2010 and marketed for 2011. Click here to see what the publisher and friends said about the book manuscript in 2009.

Just a few days later, I was laid off from my position as communications director, along with a third of other staff members.

In late April of 2010, I began researching a historical novel on Mary Barrett Dyer, my grandmother 12 generations ago. It's not a biography, history, or theological treatise. It's a narrative of a woman who defied convention, and even colonial law, to obey her Holy Spirit-directed conscience. Her execution changed American history. I believe I'm uniquely suited to tell Mary's story because of my faith, knowledge of the Bible, genealogy and history research, and experience working with religious institutions and their policies and leaders. (For lots of info on Mary and William Dyer, join her Facebook page HERE.)

I received my five (only) complimentary copies of We Shall Be Changed on June 23, and they'll be marketed (probably late summer 2010) by RHPA and Adventist Book Centers in catalog mailers and their online bookstores. For sale information, I'll post links in Facebook and on this blog's margin. Some have indicated an interest in having their copy signed by me, and I will do so locally. But for others, I'll design and print a sticky bookplate and mail it to you in your self-addressed stamped envelope.

Meanwhile, life goes on. And I need to get back to my novel!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Midsummer: the veil is open

Having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh. Hebrews 10:19, 20 NKJV

Today is the longest daylight of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. For thousands of years, this date has been observed by devotees of pagan gods, and bonfires were lit and vigils held during the short hours of darkness. The idea was that people were safe from the evil spirits within the circle of the bonfires' light.

Ancient peoples built their pyramids, stone circles, palaces, road alignments, shrines, and temples based on their solar observations on this day in particular.

At solar festivals (solstices, equinoxes, and the six-week intervals between—February 1, May 1, August 1, and November 1), the eve of solar holy days was seen as a time when the veil (something that conceals, separates, or screens like a curtain) between this world and the Otherworld (of spirits, gods, fairies, and the dead) was very weak, and powerful Otherworld figures could cross through.

Just like they built Christian churches over pagan religious shrines, our ancestors replaced these festivals with feasts and holidays. Most pagan holidays had to do with sex and fertility (Easter, May Day), but also with death and rebirth (Halloween/All Saints, Christmas, Lent).

Christians are so blessed to live in peace and freedom from fear. We don’t have to appease vengeful gods by burning sage, pouring out libations, or making blood sacrifices. We need not fear haunting or demon possession because Christ Almighty protects us with His veil.

Hebrews 10:19-24 NKJV says: Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith... Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.

That’s an encouraging, satisfying, peacemaking message from God. He is all-powerful, and we are His children, so let us go forth in His Name, in His strength, and in His heart of grace. And in contrast to what those evil spirits would do if they're loosed, let’s use this Midsummer as an occasion to stir up love and good works.

Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping others in ways they need us, far more than what we'd choose to "do unto others." (A little religious joke there.) Sometimes it's as easy as listening without giving advice, or an extra two seconds of a hug, just because. Other times, it will involve sacrifice on our parts. But God gives us the discernment to know what to say and do--and what not to say and do at the appropriate times. He'll show us who needs the lovins. When the veil is open, not only do we have access to the Father, but His love is freely poured out on us, and through us to others.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Whatever it takes--part 2

The very morning I lost my job was the day I prayed a radical prayer: God, do whatever it takes. “Lord, to accomplish these specific things, to fulfill your promises, and advance your plan for me, do whatever it takes. Whatever it takes. I accept that it could be painful for a time, maybe even excruciating. I’m already at my breaking point. But I also trust that you will heal me again as you have before, and I’ll be blessed more greatly. So just do it. Whatever it takes.”

One year ago today, June 18, 2009, I’d been under some extreme stress. I’d been falsely accused of something, and then the accuser manufactured “evidence” and mailed it to himself to make it look like an anonymous person had complained about me. I was never charged to my face, but the accusations about me, and the demands to investigate me, continued for months. The tension, which I internalized, built to a point where I couldn’t walk without terrible pain and had to be hospitalized for cellulitis, and it was several weeks before I could return to work. The work that had been praised by others (including the acceptance of my book manuscript by a Christian publishing house) was criticized and rejected in-house. The accusations continued behind my back, and my friend defended me, but since my knowledge of the matter could get him fired, I couldn’t say or do anything. Again the tensions built, and finally, in a mass layoff of staff blamed on the recession, my dismissal was included in the layoffs. (And my friend ultimately lost his job anyway.)

The year 2009 was not one of my best. After my layoff in one of the most economically-depressed areas of the country, inland southern California, I couldn’t find a job. For reasons beyond my control, I didn’t qualify for state unemployment compensation, and after five months, it was clear I needed to sell my home before I’d have to miss payments and ruin my credit. The few employers (in Phoenix) that had me interview with them chose other applicants. Someone that I cared deeply for decided the feeling wasn’t mutual, declaring in an email that I needed to fix my own problems (which I hadn’t asked to be fixed—only shared as steam vent). I packed up my home of 13 years, and took care of my own business, said goodbye to my church and friends, and moved back to my hometown of Phoenix.

What I write here isn’t one percent of all that happened. Those of you who follow this blog know it’s not a personal journal, but a themed collection of my articles that celebrate discovering love, particularly the love of God. I’ve written many pieces on relationships with friends and family, as well as learning ways that God shows his love. 

There have been many blessings during the last 12 months. I had countless messages of support and caring, and many friends assured me that they frequently pray for me. Some people made sacrificial financial gifts to me when I was completely out of money. My house sold in only 30 days, and I made a profit on it, which is my only support now. I received a small financial settlement in a legal agreement (which I’m not allowed to speak about). I started writing a historical novel which is much more difficult than I anticipated, but will be fantastic, even if I do say so myself.

I continue to pray for restoration in my broken life: a place to feel at home, peace of mind, complete health, inspiration in my writing, to be a blessing to my friends and to lift them up, to be an honorable and godly woman, for my father to be proud of me. To learn for the first time what it is to have my love returned, to be loved and cherished, held and comforted and whispered to, instead of rejected as not good enough. To find a new church family where I can be nurtured and minister in turn. To find a job where my co-workers and I energize one another with new ideas—and where I can have health insurance and medical care for the first time in a year. These are the desires of my heart, and while I don’t understand why they’re not already answered after so many years of faithful prayer, I continue to hold on, day after day, year after year, whatever it takes.

I’ve given my life and my choices to God because I know his plans for me are much better than my own. I still believe that God spoke to ME. He inspired me and lifted my heart. He placed scripture before me and spoke to my spirit when I was in prayer. I know he loves me and is with me all the time, even when I can’t sense him nearby.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” Jeremiah 29:11-14 NLT.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World's Greatest Father

When I was two, my parents took me to Disneyland. They told me that if I were to become lost in a crowd, to sit tight on a bench and wait, no matter how long, until they came for me. We rode the submarine (I was terrified), took the jungle cruise with its surprise hippo emergences (also scary), and we strolled the streets looking at the vendors. I was fascinated by the glass blowers who made knickknack animals, which is where I lost my parents. When I realized I was lost, I spotted a park bench, and sat as instructed. People asked if they could help, or take my tiny self to Lost & Found. But I didn’t budge, and was rewarded moments later when my father found me. I don’t remember his reaction (because to a two-year-old, it’s all about me!), but even now, I remember the utter relief and the comfort and security of Daddy’s strong arms when he scooped me up and hugged me, and then placed me triumphantly on his shoulders.

Although there is surely a billion-way tie for second-greatest father in the world (including my dad, yours, and some outstanding single mothers), the title of World’s Greatest Father has to go to… Abba, our Father God.
Abba created our parents Adam and Eve, and breathed His own sacred breath (the Holy Spirit) into the physical elements He formed. Before His human children sinned, He had committed Himself to redeeming us—for the sole reason that He loved and chose us before the foundation of the world

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6 NASB, emphasis supplied.

God redeemed us with His own precious life and death. His blood sacrifice also became our adoption. John the Beloved said, To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. John 1:12, 13 NIV, emphasis supplied.

In sin, we were slaves of the evil one; but in Christ, we are doubly His children: through birth, and again through adoption. Jesus Christ taught us to think of the Father not as a frightening, condemnatory judge, but as our Abba. Abba meant more than “Daddy.” Abba meant children had inalienable rights to their fathers’ presence, rights of inheritance and sustenance—no matter what. Abba rights could not be revoked. Servants and slaves could not use the Abba term, though they could call the master the more formal title of father because he had lordship over their lives. Abba was reserved for the legitimately born or legally adopted children, and denoted a personal and loving relationship.

The Old Testament refers to God as Father 15 times, but it’s used 260 times in the New Testament. Jesus used “Abba Father” in His Gethsemane prayer, even as He irrevocably gave Himself into His Father’s will.
During this celebration of Fathers’ Day, you will probably phone or visit your dad, or remember the dad who is resting in Jesus. If you never had a “daddy,” or if you are estranged from your “male parental unit,” Fathers’ Day can also be a reminder that no matter who or what our earthly fathers have been, our Abba Father is waiting for permission to scoop us up in His strong and secure arms of love, and carry us on His shoulders. And you have the right to His presence simply because He loved you before the foundation of the world! He is the World’s Greatest Abba.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mary Dyer executed for religious liberty, freedom of conscience

Today, June 1, 2010, is the 350th anniversary of the death by hanging of my Quaker ancestor, Mary Barrett Dyer. She's my grandmother, 12 generations ago.

My other blog, Rooting for Ancestors, has an article about Antinomianism, Puritanism, and (uh-oh) you might even recognize features of religious institutions of the present! Read about Mary Dyer, a martyr for religious freedom, HERE.


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