Presence Blessing #BibleJournaling

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Some of the things I’m putting in my journal Bible are pieces I’ve written in the past about Bible characters and events. One such is a poem I wrote in 2003—“Presence Blessing” sparked by 1 Chronicles 13:14.

The backstory: David wanted to move the Ark of the Covenant from someone’s house to Jerusalem, the centre of worship. Instead of moving it in the prescribed way (carried on poles by the priests) he had it placed on an ox-pulled cart. In transit, when it shifted and threatened to fall, a man reached out to steady it. When he touched it, he fell dead. God’s power, that was on the Ark, was not to be tampered with.

David was shocked and grieved. He stopped the Ark right there and left it in the house of Obed-Edom.

It was in Obed-Edom’s house for a mere three months. Yet during that time, it was obvious to everyone that God’s blessing was on him and his family (1 Chronicles 13:14). How might that have looked and felt, I asked myself. “Presence Blessing” was the result of my musing on those questions.

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Rubber stamps

Method and Materials: To do my Bible journal entry I decided to use some decorative rubber stamps of fruits and vegetables I had from years ago (typifying the bounty I imagined Obed-Edom experienced as God’s blessing). The glaze that came with them is long dried, but I found that loading them with brush marker ink worked fine.

I tried it out on scrap paper and saw that the ink bled through even copy paper, so I knew it would wreck the thin, unprotected pages of my Bible. Thus I prepped my page with transparent gesso before doing any stamping.

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Page, stamped & outlined with pen.

The plan was to decorate the right margin of the Bible page and attach the poem, hand-printed on tracing paper, as a tip in. I stamped the page fine, but then the washi tape wouldn’t adhere to the gesso-treated page. Need a Plan B.

I decided to attach the poem to the facing page instead. Once attached, it felt like it needed a little decoration behind, but nothing with words as the tracing paper is pretty thin and words under would make the poem hard to read.

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Pencil-crayoned rainbow.

I came up with idea of a rainbow, which I coloured with pencil crayons.

After it was all done, I was happy with the look of it. And on second thought,  I realized the rainbow is a wonderful symbol of God’s presence.

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The thin tracing paper allows the rainbow to shine through.

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The two-page spread.

Some rainbows in the Bible:

  • Gods first rainbow was a covenant with the people of Earth – Genesis 9:12-17.
  • Rainbow light surrounded God’s throne in both Ezekiel’s and John’s visions – Ezekiel 1:28; Revelation 4:2-3.
  • A little article I found on rainbows in the Bible concludes with this thought about them:

    “All mention of rainbows in Scripture have a direct connection to the power and glory of God.

    “The sign of the rainbow was meant to be ‘for all future generations’ (Genesis 9:12). When we see a rainbow now, we can let it be a reminder of our covenant-keeping God and His indescribable beauty.”

    And so with that little experience, I’m finding that Bible journaling is not only fun and creatively challenging but it’s taking me, sometimes consciously, sometimes intuitively, in good, even prophetic directions!

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My favorite genre

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fictional landscape

Though I enjoy being swept away in a good biography and love the way poetry transports to realms of emotion, sometimes evokes a belly-laugh, and even the urge to toe-tap along,  my biggest pleasure as a reader is to get lost in great adult fiction.

Adult fiction is also my biggest challenge as a writer. In a way that makes it my most unfavourite writing genre. I find it hard. But when I have, at various times, decided to stop trying to write it, I’ve felt like a quitter. I’m sure that’s because since I relish living in the alternate universes others have created, hope springs eternal that maybe, if I work at it enough, I’ll be able to create a believable story world populated by fascinating characters of my own.

Writing Destiny’s Hands was what helped me realize this was important to me. The story lived inside me for a long time but I never thought I’d be able to get it out in a way that I, let alone others, would want to read. So when I wrote it, re-read what I’d written, and got caught up in the story—captured by my own words like the writing of other authors had captured me—I was shocked. You mean I might be able do this?

I know Destiny’s Hands is, by many standards, a novice effort. Can I do better? I’m trying. Come back on March 24th when I’ll talk about my current work in progress.

Blog hop for writers - logoWhat’s your favorite genre as a reader? As a writer? Tell us about it in the comments.

See what other Blog Hoppers like to write HERE.

My (penciled) writing goals for 2014

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Goals - Plans - Aspirations - Dreams Can you believe we’re almost halfway through January! By now those wonderful New Year’s Resolutions have been tested, perhaps broken (if you made any). And what about writing goals?

I always start the year full of bubbly optimism. The year is new. It’s a clean page. I can begin again. The possibilities are endless. Writing down goals is one way to attach a string to my helium-filled balloon. Having this topic as the first one in our BLOG HOP  gets me tying on that string in real time!

Goals are as useful or unrealistic as we make them. They  are most helpful when they come with details like what, how much, by when. Some folks split goals into two parts: Goals and Objectives. That’s what I’m going to do here.

I’m defining goals as  overarching ends I’d like to achieve.   Objectives are  the specific measurable steps that I need to take to achieve those goals. This article about writing goals and objectives  (PDF file) uses a helpful mnemonic for objectives:

SMART mnemonic

S – Specific
M – Measureable
A – Attainable
R – Relevant
T – Time-bound

Here are some of my 2014 goals and objectives:

Goal 1:
Contribute to the conversation about God, spiritual things, and what it means to live as a Christian.

Objectives:

  • Continue to post daily devotions at my devotional blog Other Food Devos. (Some of these are reposts.)
  • These will be written between 5:30 and 8:00 a.m. daily and scheduled ahead.

Goal 2:
Do my part on special projects and assignments (two poetry books and my FellowScript columns) to which I’ve committed myself.

Objectives:

  • Work with my colleagues on these projects by meeting the deadlines we set up. (Vague but some of  these projects are not in my control.)

Goal 3:
Make a little money with my writing.

Objectives:

  • Send out one article/poem/devotion/kids’ activity etc.  to a paying market the weeks I’m working (not during holidays and times of family obligation).

Goal 4:
Improve as a poet.

Objectives:

  • Write at least one new poem per week, with the exception of April (National Poetry Month) and perhaps November, when I usually join in on challenges to write one poem a day.
  • Enter at least six poetry contests this year.
  • Research and submit to poetry publications (try for one submission per month).
  • Read and review at least one book of poetry monthly on my poetry blog (Violet Nesdoly / poems).
  • Continue to be part of the Kidlit Poetry Friday community by posting weekly poems and hosting when it’s my turn.

Goal: 5
– Write another novel.

Objectives:

  • Work a minimum of 60 minutes per day on this (whatever stage I’m at: research, plotting, character development, writing, editing etc.) five days a week.

Goal 6:
Broaden my author platform.

Objectives:

  • Post a monthly Freelance Writers Almanac article on this blog.
  • Read and comment on colleagues’ blogs (Regularly; I’m not putting a number on this because I don’t want to track it).
  • Remain active in the writing and friend communities to which I belong by posting to Twitter and/or Facebook/Facebook author page.
  • Continue to read publisher- and author-offered books and review them on my blog, Goodreads & Amazon within the time frame that the publishers request.
  • Research publishing a newsletter.

Goal 7:
Work towards self-publishing some of my previously published blog posts, stories, poems etc. (This goal is at the back of the queue; I’ll be considering it later in the year).

Objectives:

  • Learn to make book covers using Photoshop Elements by ordering a Dummies book to help me understand the software and spending at least an hour each week working in Photoshop so I get some hands-on experience with the program.
  • Work on getting my U.S. ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) in order to circumvent the IRS withholding royalties should I choose to publish with a US publisher like Create Space.
  • Continue mulling over the idea of publishing an author newsletter.

Yikes, I feel like I’ve bitten off some rather big chunks here. I’ll definitely need the word I’ve chosen as my inspiration this year:  FOCUS. It’s what I’ll have to do in order to make progress on any one of the above, let alone achieve them all!

I remind myself, too, of something a speaker at one of our women’s events said:

“Remember, you write your plans in pencil. Only God writes in pen.”

Freelance Writer’s Almanac – January 2014

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Freelance Writer's Almanac icon - violetnesdoly.com
Happy New Year!

Welcome to the first post in the Freelance Writer’s Almanac series.

Today we start a new year. It’s interesting to look back and see what happened 100, 75, 50 and 25 years ago with a view to remembering, reflecting on, and perhaps writing about these things.

Of course if you choose to write about any of these subjects, you’ll need to give it your own angle.  I have linked a few resources, but to do a proper job, you’ll need to sleuth out more info. Also double-check all dates, because even as I put this together, I found date discrepancies in my sources.

2014 is the anniversary of the following big events:

100-year anniversary (1914)

  • The beginning of World War I
  • Woodrow Wilson signed a Mother’s Day proclamation.
  • The Panama Canal was opened.

75-year anniversary (1939)

  • The beginning of World War II
  • John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath was published.

50-year anniversary (1964)

  • This was the year of Beatlemania. The Beatles began their U.S. tour by appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show in February.
  • A powerful 9.2 earthquake hit Anchorage Alaska.

25-year anniversary (1989)

  • The Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling millions of gallons of crude oil.
  • Chinese students protested and were massacred in Tianamen Square.
  • The Berlin Wall was opened to the West after 28 years.

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Carnation - flower of JanuaryThe flowers of January are the Carnation and the Snowdrop

Garnet - the birthstone of JanuaryThe birthstone of  January is Garnet. It means Constancy.

Here are some things that happened in January throughout history. I chose events  and facts that interest me in the areas of history, the arts, faith, science, food, Canadiana and other cool things. But of course these just skim the surface. There are more links to check out at the bottom of the post.

January

1

  • New Moon

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  • On this day in 1745 at the age of 27, David Brainerd committed himself to reach the Indian tribes of Colonial America with the gospel of Christ. He died two years later but lives on in The Diary of David Brainerd pdf file (published by Jonathan Edwards) TCA p. 17.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien Day. Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892.

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  • World Braille Day – 205 years ago today Louis Braille was born in Coupvray France (1809). He himself was blind from age three.

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  • National Weigh-In Day (always the first Monday after New Years)

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  • Earth’s Rotation Day. “On 8 January 1851, using a device known as Foucault’s pendulum, Frenchman Léon Foucault demonstrated that the Earth rotates on its axis.”  Read entire article

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  • On this day in 1922, 14-year-old Leonard Thompson received the first insulin injection to help regulate his diabetes. Canadian scientists Banting and Best had isolated the hormone the year before – TCA, p. 33.

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  • Today is the birthday of Jack London (born John Griffith Chaney in 1876). He wrote books about adventure and courage like White Fang and Call of the Wild (two books I loved as a kid). He said: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

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  • Stephen Foster Day. Stephen Foster, musician and song-writer (“O Susanna,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” “Old Folks at Home” and many others) is sometimes called the Father of American Music.  This year is the 150-year anniversary of his death (January 13, 1864).

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  • How cold is it? On this day in 1733 Yeneseisk, Siberia recorded a temperature of −120 F. The air was so frigid that birds dropped frozen to the ground and smoke couldn’t rise – TCA, p. 39.

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  • The first Super Bowl game was played on this day in 1967.

16

  • Full Moon
  • Religious Freedom Day. The Ordinance of Religious Freedom passed the Virginia Legislature on this day in 1786 (TCA p. 42).

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  • U.S., British, and Saudi air raids on Iraq started the Gulf War in 1991.

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  • Winnie the Pooh Day – A. A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh and other children’s books was born on this day in 1882. He said: “Almost anyone can be an author; the difficult business is to actually collect money from this state of being” – TCA p. 47.
  • Thesaurus Day – Peter Mark Roget was born on this day in 1779. His claim to fame was the 1852  publication of the Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (Roget’s Thesaurus).

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  • French painter Paul Cezanne was born on this day (in Aix-en-Provence, 175 years ago, in 1839).

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  • 81-year-old Myles Coverdale died on this day in 1569. In 1535 he printed the first complete  English Bible, called the Coverdale Bible.

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  • The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) broadcast its first programming from London to the world on this day in 1929 – TCA p. 53.

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  • The U.S. Supreme Court decision on Roe vs. Wade, legalizing abortion from the moment of conception until just before the moment of birth, was rendered on this day in 1973 – TCA, p. 54.

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  • The Russian city St. Petersburg was renamed Leningrad on this day in 1924. After the fall of communism, it was renamed St. Petersburg.
  • Sir Winston Churchill died on this day in 1965 at the age of 90.

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  • Robbie Burns Day – Robert Burns, the Scottish National Poet, was born on this day in 1759.
  • On this day in 1915 Alexander Graham Bell inaugurated transcontinental telephone service.
  • This day is the 90th Anniversary of the beginning of the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France, 1924.

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  • The Soviet Red Army liberated the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz on this day in 1945.

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  • I make a birthday cake for someone special at my house on this day!

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  • New Moon
  • On this day in 1939 Adolf Hitler called for the extermination of European Jews.

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Sources and links to check out for more days:

November prompt – remember

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Langley, BC, Cenotaph after the Remembrance Day ceremony, 2007

Langley, BC, Cenotaph after the Remembrance Day ceremony, 2007 (Photo © 2013 by V. Nesdoly)

We’ve entered November–the month in which we set aside a special day to remember our country’s soldiers. In Canada we call it Remembrance Day.

We commemorate by wearing flocked red poppies in the weeks leading up to November 11th and on the day, gathering at cenotaphs throughout the country to lay wreaths, pray prayers, and honor our veterans with songs, readings, flypasts, bugle calls, bagpipes, and salutes.

But this is only one way people throughout generations remember.

In Bible times people’s memories were jogged by feasts (Leviticus 23). During the Feast of Passover, for example, the Israelites remembered their dramatic release from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12:14). During the Feast of Tabernacles (also called Booths or Shelters) they remembered their wilderness wanderings when for forty years they lived in tents and God provided for their needs (Leviticus 23:42,43).

In the New Testament Jesus began a new memory tradition with the Last Supper. On that night His sharing of the bread and wine became the memorial feast for His death and resurrection that we call Communion. (Mark 14:22-25; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

Remembering is complex. Memories are triggered by many things: photographs, the reminiscences of others, looking through the attic, smells, songs, celebrations, food …

Memories come colored by a range of emotions from pleasure to anguish, joy to embarrassment. They may leave us with a spectrum of feelings from laughter to tears, thanksgiving to guilt.

This month I invite you to write about something you remember.

  • Possibly a memory related to the special day we celebrate on November 11th will inspire a short story or essay.
  • Maybe the season, with its colors, tastes and smells will trigger memories perfect for a poem.
  • Perhaps you’ll write about an object or celebration that helps you remember.

Whatever you write about and in whatever form, make sure your piece is full of detail and specifics. What senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, sound) were part of your trigger experience? Do your best to transport your reader to the time and place of your memory.

Happy writing as you remember this November!

August prompt: rain

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Rain on roses in June

Raindrops on roses – in June

Here in the Lower Mainland of B.C. we haven’t had a drop of rain for all of July. This is a record for the first calendar month ever without any rain recorded at the Vancouver weather station!

By now lawns that aren’t watered are looking brown and thirsty. Forest fires are a very real threat due to the tinder-dry conditions. Still most local weather forecasters echo the bias of sun-lovers saying, when predicting showers, “Our luck has run out,” or “Not a great forecast,” even after such a long dry spell! That’s testimony, I guess, to how rain is no novelty   around here.

The Bible’s first mention of rain is not a happy one. The forty-day rain that  flooded the earth resulted in mass destruction of land and people. Only Noah and his family survived that flood – Genesis 7 & 8.

Noah's Ark - artist unknown

Noah’s Ark – Artist unknown

Most of the time, though, Bible writers view rain as a blessing. No doubt their views were influenced by rain’s scarcity in the Middle East. And so its coming is usually reason for celebration.

God is generally credited with sending rain (Job 5:10; Psalm 65:10; Amos 5:8). And He sends it indiscriminately on good and bad alike (Matthew 5:45).

Moses, when talking about Canaan describes it as “…a land … which drinks water from the rain of heaven” (Deuteronomy 11:11) and calls rain one of God’s “good treasures” (Deuteronomy 28:12).

Rain is also used as a symbol in the Bible.

  • Isaiah describes the way the rain and snow fall from heaven and water the earth as a picture of the way God’s word goes across the world accomplishing spiritual purposes (Isaiah 55:10,11).
House of Sand - Gutenberg project

House Built On Sand – Gutenberg project

  • The prophet Joel equates the predictability of the rainy season with how faithful God will be to restore His people from waywardness and spiritual drought when they repent and return to Him (Joel 2:23).
  • In one of Jesus’ stories rain serves as a test to show the foundational integrity of two houses—one built on sand, the other on rock. It’s a parable that pictures how important it is to build our lives on truth (Matthew 7:24-28).

What does the mention of rain conjure in your mind? Perhaps you experienced the spring floods in western Canada this year and rain has become a symbol of terror and destruction. Or maybe your experience is of a dry climate where rain is welcomed with dancing and celebration.

This month, I invite you to write about rain.

You might want to create a fictional piece where where rain plays a haunting part in the setting (like W. Somerset Maugham did in the short story “Rain”).

Maybe you’ll write about your feelings for or against rain, or what rain symbolizes to you physically, emotionally, or spiritually in a poem.

Or you might want to write about a true life experience when rain saved—or wrecked—the day.

pit, pit, pit, pat, pat, pit, pat…

No, that’s not rain. It’s the sound of my fingers on the keyboard, dancing up some literary rain!

A Garden to Keep (review)

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A Garden to KeepA Garden to Keep by Jamie Langston Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elizabeth Landis makes the decision to become a Christian on a Sunday just hours before she discovers her husband is having an affair. Jamie Langston Turner’s novel A Garden to Keep is the story of the next four months.

It is a literary tome that delves into Elizabeth’s past and present. She probes her marriage, her mothering, her friendships, and her relationship with her parents and in-laws. In this she is often comforted by her ‘friends,’ the poems that are her companions, teachers, seers and the lenses through which she views life. As she becomes familiar with her new-found faith, Bible passages join their ranks.

The story is told in first person with our narrator anticipating the objections we’ll have to the way she’s telling the story. She says in the first paragraph:

“Let me warn you from the start that this story might make you angry.”

In another place after playing fast-and-loose with verb tenses she informs:

“In case anybody is wondering, I know my verb tenses are wildly erratic. I know all about verbs …. But verb tense is one of the most irrelevant parts of reviewing your life” Kindle Location 329.

And several times she asks for our patience as she spins out this lengthy tale:

“I’ve got something to say to anybody who’s grumbling about the slow pace of the story. And to anyone who wants to lay it aside because it’s disjointed. Don’t. A story goes forth in its own way. It takes its own sweet time to do whatever it’s going to do …” KL 4645.

I enjoyed the writing, though. Turner writes with lots of wisdom and perception:

“Every minute of every day is dragged down and held back by the heavy anchor of my broken marriage” KL 4657.

I also loved all the many references to poets and specific poems. I have highlighted a host of poem titles that I intend to check out. There are also some good insights about poetry:

“That’s what poetry does. You read it once and feel the quake, and then, as time goes on, you feel the aftershock” KL 7369.

But the slow, rambling, tangential storytelling style did tax my patience, despite the narrator’s pleas. And the longer I read, the less I liked Elizabeth herself. For someone who prided herself on how “Aware” she was (she haughtily classified people as “Aware” and “Unaware”), she was pathetically unaware and lacking in social graces (though she remarked early on about what a burden her ever-present politeness was in that it had her doing things that she would rather not just to be nice). Her possessive ways with her son while she ignored her husband and her rudeness to her mother-in-law (for which she justified herself at every turn) had me wanting to shake some common sense into her little poetic head.

Maybe I’ve prejudiced you against reading. I hope not. Because Christian literary novels are rare, this one was a prize-winner (2002 Christy Award for Contemporary Novel), and it does contain a lot of wisdom about relationships and how life with Christ makes forgiveness and extending grace (to oneself and others) possible. Of course for poetry lovers a work of fiction that incorporates poetry into its very essence is a rare find indeed and worth reading for that content alone.

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