A Conference to Remember Part 2

Here’s the followup to last week’s conference message.

The Keynote Address for the FCW Conference was given by Brian Bird, a 30-year veteran of the Hollywood film and televison business. Brian’s writing and producing work comprises nearly 250 episodes of network television, including Touched by an Angel, and his own original series currently airing on the Hallmark Channel, When Calls the Heart. Through him, the Lord challenged me to keep writing to keep his truth alive and to inspire others to write to praise him.

Torry Martin, an award-winning actor, screenwriter, and comedian, has written feature length scripts. He taught a continuing class, “Writing Screenplays for Everything, but the Big Screen.” He is an enthusiastic, humorous, very creative catalyst. We had great fellowship and in our conversations, I was humbled when he asked me to collaborate with him on a coming project.

Three publishers expressed an interest in my Biblical studies on Prayers of the Bible and my devotionals.

The conference climaxed with the Awards Banquet Dinner and I was humbled again when I received second-place winner in non-fiction for my Memoir, Naked With Clothes On, and completely overwhelmed with first-place winner in poetry for my Haiku Cluster.

I came away from the conference inspired, encouraged, challenged, and full of new ideas and directions. I am thankful for God’s confirmation that he wants me to continue writing my devotional blog Guarded Hearts and devotional articles for Christian Broadcasting Network.

There are other conferences that we as Christians have attended and been blessed and encouraged by. How about sharing your challenging and encouraging ones with me?

Remember, the new name for my blog is GUARDED HEARTS.

A Conference to Remember

Last week my wife and I had the privilege of attending the Florida Christian Writers Conference at Lake Yale in central Florida. What an exciting adventure from the moment we registered on Wednesday afternoon and picked up our room key until we left on Sunday afternoon after lunch.

The time was filled with speakers, appointments with publishers and critique personnel, continuing classes and workshops. I learned so much from them as I had opportunities to talk about my writing – haiku, memoir, devotionals, and Bible studies for small groups. Outstanding!

But the most rewarding experience was spending time with Christian people who have the same love for our Lord and want to share it through their love of writing.

Marti Pieper, chaplain for the conference, critiqued my memoir, Naked with Clothes On. Diane Matthews critiqued my devotionals and also taught 3 days of 2-hour classes honing our skills in devotional writing.

More about it next week. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you if you have ever attended a Christian Writers Conference, or any other Christian Conference. It’s a time of getting to know fellow believers who are also on life’s spiritual journey. What a time we are having on this earth, and we only see through a glass darkly until we are eternally with the Lord.

I am asking the Lord to help me improve my writing skills so that they can “Spur one another to love and good works” (Heb 10:24).

NOTE THE NAME CHANGE: The blog name has been changed from Umbilical to Guardedhearts.

Ridiculed

I remember Patty, in my seventh grade, who wore braces on both legs. Always pleasant and never grumbled or complained about her handicap, she struggled from class to class and her laborious effort to maneuver her crutches echoed on the oak floors. When I heard her, I held the heavy oak door open for her.

Generally, Patty was ignored but sometimes she was ridiculed. One time the boys hid her crutches. When the dismissal bell rang, she reached under her chair, feeling around for her crutches, and almost fell. The hot water radiators had ledges above them and someone had laid the crutches there. I got them for her.

As I stepped into the hall, a student grabbed my arm and laughed in my ear,“Maybe she’d go to the basketball game tonight with ya. You wouldn’t have to hold her hand.”

As he took off, I grabbed him by the shoulder, and asked, “Suppose she was your sister? Would you want her treated that way?

He walked away, but I stood there, as she labored to leave the building, my mind asking, God, why are we humans so cruel to one another? Then I burst through the heavy oak doors myself, pleased that I had confronted him. I passed her scooting down the three concrete steps, dragging her crutches. I ran to the bus and didn’t look back, wiping my eyes on my shirt sleeve.

An Old Testament prophet Jeremiah was derided all the time for preaching the unpopular Word from God and so he complained, “God, I am ridiculed all day long, everyone insults me all day” Jeremiah 20:7b. “I became the laughingstock of all people; they mock me in song all day long” Lamentations 3:14.

Why do we ridicule the handicapped, oppressed, and less fortunate? Psychologists tell us that it is to get pleasure from the misfortune of others, to fit in with the group so we’re not different, and to make ourselves important by putting others down. Human nature wants others to conform and to think and act as they do, an admirable trait if the conformity is positive and Godly.

Here are a few Scriptural burs under our saddles to help us find out where we are in our attitudes toward those who are belitted.“He who despises his neighbor sins” Proverbs 14:21a. Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her” Genesis 16: 6b. “They oppress the poor, the needy, and mistreat the aliens” Ezekiel 22:29. “Remember those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” Hebrews 13:3. This remembrance ought to motivate us to remove a few of the burs.

“Eternal compassionate Lord, give me eyes to see and feel as the less fortunate. Forgive my insensitivity when I ignore helping others and tenderize me with your compassionate heart so I feel like Jesus who healed the crippled, made blind eyes to see, cast out tormenting demons, fed multitudes, calmed storms, and raised the dead. Show me that same Power as I interact with those different from me, particularly the mistreated. Please keep the truth of Hebrews 13:3 alive in me, deep down in my heart and mind. Then and only then will I learn to reach out to those who are ridiculed and mistreated. Amen.”
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Excerpted from my memoir Naked With Clothes On soon to be published

Post-Christmas Reflections

 

 

 

Now that credit cards are maxed out, gifts exchanged and/or returned, resolutions vowed to spend less next Christmas on gifts, rethinking the real purpose for exchanging gifts, and shredding Santa’s wish lists, can I take the liberty to share a gift idea?

When faced with a gift for my wife, I asked what can I give she can’t wear, she can’t eat, and she can’t set around the house as a trinket? I awoke one night with The Twelve Days of Christmas on my mind, a song my wife really likes.

Bingo! Why not a play on those words with The Twelve PRAYERS of Christmas?

So I started writing down some of her needs and wants and eventually had a list of twenty. I prayed for wisdom as I reduced them to twelve prayers. I hope you enjoy reading three of them as much as I enjoyed composing them.

On the First Day of Christmas my true love prayed for “more meaningful occasions to fulfil my music needs.” On the Sixth Day of Christmas my true love prayed for “me to find more opportunities to socialize and fellowship with my sisters in the Lord,” and On the Ninth Day of Christmas my true love prayed for “me to strengthen my holy habit of daily, personal Bible study.”

I have written this devotional to “stir up in my brothers and sisters in the Lord to love and good works.” It’s something I wanted to share. Maybe it challenges you to come up with a special idea for your loving spouse. Anyway, just enjoy something different from me.

God’s Indebtedness

I had never thought of God as being indebted to anyone. Well, recently He changed my mind.

“Kindness to the needy is a loan from God and God pays back those loans in full” Proverb 19:17. and “God will not forget the love you have shown Him as you have helped his people” Hebrews 6:10. God recognizes an obligation on His part to reward his saved ones for their service to him.

What a concept! We lend to the Lord–the wealthiest Banker in the universe, who owns the Angelic Bank of Heaven and we borrow from him periodically. Then exactly how do we lend to the Lord?

In my hometown in Florida, an exciting lender to the Lord is Rock the Silence, a ministry of hope and help in music, interpretive dance, signing, and drama to the hearing challenged. It’s the only religious entertainers our community mall invites back to perform at Christmas. I’ve witnessed their performance. They are collecting massive loans from their Lord.

Another lender is my cousin, a young gifted violinist, who donates her time, playing at assisted living and nursing homes. She said to me, “I can’t wait to play for these dear, often lonely elderly and to see how music brings big smiles.”

An elderly Christian woman ministers to thousands of children yearly through the Agape Puppets. Often in other countries by herself, she packs and unpacks the crates of the puppet items. She also distributes food to hungry orphans. “My desire,” she says, “is to reach as many children as I can in my lifetime for Jesus.” When Linda shows up to receive her payback on her loans, Jesus will probably run out of crowns.

A biblical lender Job, having a heart to help the less fortunate, personifies lending to the Lord when he says ,“If I have not shared bread with the fatherless and warm clothing to the naked, pull my arm out of its socket” 31:17. A hyperbole that drives home the point–Lend to your God!

Have we considered what loans we’ve acquired in our lifetime as we have loaned willingly and generously of our time, abilities, and resources to the homeless, hungry, and abandoned to meet their needs? The irony of all of this is that the “good” we do for others we give out of God’s resources he’s already given us.

If you don’t see yourself as a lender to your generous heavenly Father, then mediate on Proverb 19:17 until you can pray, “Dear Lord, accept my feeble efforts to help others, knowing full well you keep accurate accounts Malachi 3:16, and you can’t wait to pay back your loans to your servants.”

And these loans will all be paid in full at the bema seat of Christ at his return for the church 1 Corinthians 4:5.

What a payday that will be!

When Jesus Was Called a Coward

Sometimes we will do anything to avoid confrontations and keep peace at any cost. We’ll run, hide, or take any abuse just to avoid trouble.

I was that way growing up.

I recall an incident when I was about eleven years old. Outside a country store there was an old fashioned coke machine with a bottle opener on the side. One day we were hanging around after school before we all walked home. Well, a couple of the boys scooped up handfuls of caps and started flipping them at me one at a time. I just dodged them, backing away. They started calling me names, like sissy, and coward, and scaredy-cat. I didn’t do anything to change their opinions. I simply walked away and headed home as the caps bounced off my back with the guys’ laughter and giggles whizzing around my ears. Martin Luther King would have been proud of me.

When the Pharisees threw their “coke bottle caps” at Jesus, he rarely answered their accusations. He just “slipped through their midst” in some miraculous way. At times, they’d get so furious with him that their anger blinded them, and he’d slip away from them unnoticed. The incident in John 8:59, “At this they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds” clarifies that he sometimes played hide and seek with his accusers. Possibly they even called him a coward, for a coward is one who’s afraid to fight and runs from trouble. But his accusers didn’t have a clue about his power or his motivation. He hid because it was not “yet his time” to die.

I’ve learned that when bullied for sharing my faith, I meekly slip away with a heart cry that those offended by the truth: “No one comes to the Father but by me” will also someday “slip away” with Jesus.

 

Check out John 8:48-59 to see if you think Jesus was a coward.

The Virgin Says Yes

Perplexing questions from Scriptur4412161_se often challenge me to look for the answers. Since we are celebrating the birth of God, let’s start there. What prepared the teenage virgin Mary to submit so willingly to Gabriel’s annunciation? She accepts the messenger from God, according to Luke 1:34: “How can this be, Mary asked the angel, since I am a virgin?” Why such an innocent response? She was not frightened, only startled. She accepts the message from God, according to Luke 1:31, 35: “You will be with child and give birth to a son . . . And the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Why such a willing spirit? She doesn’t say, “Give me time to discuss this with my mother.” She accepts the mission from God, according to Luke 1:38: “Let it be to me according to your word.” Why such submissiveness? She said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord.” She said Yes. When we examine Mary’s hymn of praise, we discover she has the answer for us. “My soul magnifies the Lord.” “And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” “He has regarded the lowly estate of his servant.” “The Mighty One has done great things for me.” Mary’s praise in Luke 1:46-55 consists of more than fourteen Old Testament references from the Law, the Psalms, and the prophets. So how did Mary prepare herself for the annunciation? She filled her heart and mind with the Scriptures. Remember, she had no scrolls to read or memorize. Only her time spent standing in the Court of the Women, straining to listen to the Pharisees and teachers. Since she knew those holy words, Mary was ready to be the Mother of God. We can learn a powerful truth from this young mother. “Get into the Word and the Word will get into you.”