Enter the Darkness Again

(re-posted from March 29, 2013)

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed.

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

cross

Yes, hope and joy come on Sunday, but for today, enter into the darkness and just settle there …

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Things Christians (Including Me) Really Need to Stop Saying (Part Two)

As promised, today I am addressing the second thing that, based on comments I read on blogs that reviewed the Noah movie, as well as a lifetime spent in the church, which I love with all my heart, Christians really need to stop saying. And that is:

 Say whatever you want. On the day of judgement, when you face your God and Creator, we’ll see which one of us is right, won’t we? 

(The “na na na na na na” that always follows the expressing of this sentiment is generally silent, but deafening).

Fellow believers, are we actually so desperate to make (or score) a point that we can make light of the fate of another human being’s immortal soul? Do you honestly believe you will be able to enjoy a second of smugness when that person is condemned to an eternity (an eternity! That’s forever, and ever, and ever, without end) separated from everything that is holy and good and light and hope and peace and joy?

cosmosI’ll help you out here. When we are all standing in the presence of Almighty God (the one who spoke creation into being and who rules all things, the one who is so magnificent in his full radiant glory that no human being can look upon his face and live) the last, the very, very last thing any of us, on either side, will be is smug.

Jesus Christ came to seek and save those who are lost. If you claim to be a believer, you are a follower of Jesus Christ and your mandate must line up with his. And that mandate is not to beat unbelievers down in an argument, or to taunt them with threats of eternal damnation (although the threat is real and cannot be shied away from), or to rub your hands together in glee at the thought that one day they will see the light and it will be too late for them to do anything about it. Your mandate is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, in words and in actions, and then to fall down on your knees and plead for the salvation of that other person.

Even if they did offer you a snarky comment on someone’s blog that one time.

There is no room in the heart of a person who professes to be a believer for pride or arrogance, for mockery, for sarcasm, for gleefulness, for coldness, for hardness, for smugness or for reveling in the fate of those who continue to reject Jesus Christ.
The only godly response is for our hearts to break—even to shatter—at the thought that any should be condemned to an eternity apart from Him.

I need to work on this. There is, in all of us, an innate desire for justice and the urge to demand that we see that justice done here and now. There have been moments I have felt something almost like consolation at the idea that a person who has hurt me deeply, or who has been so hand-wringingly, teeth-grindingly, beyond-all-belief arrogant and mocking online will one day “get theirs”.  (Incidentally, most people are too cowardly to be that way in person, but a pen name or, worse, the word Anonymous, serves as a kind of “virtual white hood,” removing normal societal restraints of courtesy, decency, and empathy.)

It’s a natural response. It’s a human response. Which is precisely the problem. We, and all mankind, would be far better served if we took on the attitude of Christ. The one who prayed for forgiveness for those who crucified him even as he hung on the cross dying.

cross-in-a-cemetery (pd)I can’t say anyone has ever offended me more deeply than that.

So can my response be any less?

 

Press on, my friends. Press on,

Sara

 

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Things Christians (Including Me) Really Have to Stop Saying

I admit it. This week I got sucked into spending the better part of two days roving around looking at various reviews of the movie Noah. Then, abandoning good sense and judgment, I kept scrolling down into some of the comment sections. This is dark territory, my friends, on almost any blog, certainly on any that give off the slightest hint of controversy.

If you do choose to venture into the quagmire that is most comment sections (oh the disastrously devastating combination of platform and anonymity!) the only advice I can give you is to proceed with extreme caution. And, in most cases, keep your mouth shut.

My fellow Christians, this advice is mainly for you. Yes, we are called to be ready to give a defense of our faith (note the word defense, not offense), but given what I saw this week on several blogs, I have to say it appears the better part of wisdom, 99% of the time, to simply not respond at all.

mouth shutI read hundreds of comments, pretty much evenly divided among believers and non-believers. To be honest, most of the time I had difficulty differentiating between the two. I can tell you this, exchanges between two people—usually a self-proclaimed Christian and a non-Christian, although Christian versus Christian was heart-breakingly common—that went on and on, always degenerated, never elevated.

I can’t tell you how many “Christians” spewed animosity and contempt, called people names, ridiculed, mocked, used sarcasm (hint: starting any comment with the words, “Let me guess…” or “So then I suppose you would say that…” should make every Christian pause and pray hard before continuing – a good practice before making any comment anyway), and generally attacked on every level their sparring partner, all while claiming to be filled with the love and compassion of Jesus. They could prove this, many claimed, not by what they said or how they said it, but solely based on the fact that “God knows my heart.” Which, by the way, should be far less a source of consolation for each of us than it appears to be, and far more a source of abject terror.

If you do ignore the advice to refrain from foolish and unprofitable arguments (from Solomon, not from me) please, I beg you brothers and sisters, do refrain from pulling out the sentiments expressed by Christians over and over (and over, and over, and over). They’re not new; I’ve heard them from countless believers in countless situations for at least the last twenty years. But they are getting extremely old.

The first one, in no particular order, is:

 If we were Muslim (or the faith of your choice), they would never (fill in the blank: take our prayers out of school, twist the stories in our Holy Book around to suit their evil purposes, be so mean to us etc., etc.).

And that assertion is inevitably followed by: Intolerance is not permitted in our country, except when it comes to us. Apparently society respects every other faith; it’s only acceptable to persecute Christians. (It loses something—namely the laid-on-thick sarcasm and the long-suffering look—in print, but you won’t have to work hard to imagine either, I’m sure.)

And we say it like that’s a bad thing.

(*As a side note, be very, very careful what you label as “persecution.” There are people in the world today suffering from real persecution; in North America it’s rarely us. And just so you know, having the server set your dishes on the table even when you are clearly still in the middle of praying for your meal does not qualify as persecution. Neither does not being able to sing carols in our public schools, or having someone refuse to return your “Merry Christmas” greeting which, incidentally, I have never, not once, had happen to me, a lesson not to believe everything I hear on CNN about public—i.e. silent majority—opinion.)

I have been guilty of the above response myself, but I believe we really need to stop saying it, for two reasons. The first is that there is no way to say it without sounding like you are whining. And those of you who are parents know that whining does not invoke sympathy; it invokes a headache. It does not win the other person over to your side; it fills them with contempt.

And secondly, if we are treated differently than everyone else, our response should be a simple yet heartfelt – yay! The fact that we often are, shows that the world looks at us differently than they do everyone else. According to Jesus, that’s a good thing. To be fair, this response comes a lot more from the fact that there is incomprehensible power in the Word of God,

Bibleand that the historical figure of Jesus Christ continues to be largely revered, than that we have done a whole lot to earn respect (or even hostility). That takes having the courage to stand up and speak truth in love and then back that truth up with a lifestyle that actually draws people to God instead of driving them away. But still, it’s a start.

The day we get lumped in with everyone else and start being treated exactly the same—which it sounds like we are demanding when we claim otherwise—will be a sad day indeed for the Church of Jesus Christ. So embrace the fact that we are given special treatment. Celebrate it. Just make sure it’s because we are accurately, authentically, honourably and with great courage and humility representing the cause of Christ, not because we’re annoying.

And by the way, in case you’re still clinging to the hope that it will, our treatment at the hands of society isn’t going to get any better. It gets steadily worse from here on out, until the point we likely will experience true persecution. Which, while it isn’t something to be sought out, isn’t a bad thing either. Just read James. Or I Peter. Or II Timothy. Or Hebrews. Or… well, pretty much the entire New Testament. Suffering produces perseverance.

The church in North America has grown awfully soft (hence the whining). A little (or a lot) of suffering (again, be careful how you toss around that term) can only result in the strengthening and empowering of believers to untether themselves from society, choose once and for all one side or the other (and to Christians and non-Christians alike, in case you are confused about this, not choosing is choosing) and persevere until the end.
If I sound like I’m preaching, know that I am preaching at myself every bit as much as at any of you. For the proof of that, I can only say that God knows my heart. heartAnd I tremble at the thought.

Press on, my friends. Press on.

Sara

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Why do I Care if Anyone Reads What I Write? by Bobbie Cole

This week I again welcome Bobbie Cole for part two of the series answering the question: Why do I care if anyone reads what I write? Thank you Bobbie, for sharing your thoughts with us! It’s been a pleasure to have you on the blog.

Bobbie_ColeAs a journalist, I used to write to enlighten.
I was a little surprised by the realization that my latest, as yet unpublished, work of fiction is also intended partly to enlighten. My topics for ‘Being Lena Levi’ are twofold — the Kindertransport and Israel, immediately after its formation as a state.
The Kindertransport was a UK government initiative in 1938/39, when German anti-Semitism was escalating. At that time, just ahead of World War 2, the UK welcomed 10,000 Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia to its shores.
This was intended to be a temporary fostering. However, when the War was over, tragically only a very few of the children could be reunited with their parents, most of whom had perished in the concentration camps.
Such is the real-life background for my fictional character, Lena Levi’s, ignorance of another mother than the British one she thinks is her Mum.
In 1948, the Arab nations surrounding Israel, and many Palestinians within it, went to War with the newly-formed Jewish State. By 1950, there was an uneasy peace. Life on Israel’s communistic kibbutzes, however, continued to be tough and dangerous.
This is the context in which Lena gets to know her German Jewish mother.
In order to be a work of fiction worthy of the name, a strong emotional struggle was imperative. This is grounded in my heroine’s need to choose between her birth mother and her adoptive mother.
My story pitches nature against nurture.
I have loved both the background research this book required and the bringing to life of the scents, smells and landscape of Israel, where I recently lived for 2 years.
Having created something that can move others as well as enlightening them, I don’t want to keep that to myself, any more than I did for the wonderful story God had me live through, which I tell in ‘She Does Not Fear the Snow’.

Bobbie Cole's book
So much of my past work has been put away, half-finished, not good enough for publication. With ‘She Does Not Fear the Snow’, it was a different story. I had no choice. I had to share, step by step, how Jesus claimed and blessed me.
He told me to.
Its readership is in His hands. If only one person had got something out of it, it would have been worthwhile. But maybe He choose me for this because I’m an avid marketer.
It has reached a far wider audience than one.
‘She Does Not Fear the Snow’ is intended to enlighten, hearten and inspire.
I’m a little surprised to find just how delighted I am to receive positive feedback. People are calling it a page turner. They’re writing reviews. They love what God did to turn my broken life around.
I never thought about this happening.
It’s lovely.
A year ago, I heard in prayer that ‘Being Lena Levi’ was what I needed to write next. I now know and love my heroine and envisage several sequels for her, which I will also love to write.
In the first of these, she’ll be off to Bremen, in Germany, where her birth mother came from. I lived there, too, about a hundred years ago. I’ll enjoy revisiting it in my imagination and — who knows? — perhaps in reality, too.
That would be enlightening, for sure.

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Staying Focused: My Current Works in Progress

Well, here we are: the sixth and final post on Ruth Snyder’s blog hop, and it’s been quite a ride. This week Ruth asked us to share about our current work in progress or, in my case and the case of many others I know, works in progress. Click on the icon below to read what other writers have to say on the subject. Below are my thoughts.

blog-hop-for-writers2

Unlike many writers I know, including a few on this blog hop, my preference has always been to have only one work in progress at any given time. It’s always been my contention that when my focus is pulled in several different directions simultaneously, it’s like trying to enlarge a picture with too few megapixels; my thoughts start to grow fuzzy and more than a bit distorted.

kids1Nevertheless, different directions are exactly where I’m being pulled at the moment. In addition to a bit of revising and polishing of my two-book romantic suspense series, I have also taken on a non-fiction ghost-writing project, something entirely new for me, and have been hired to do a substantive edit (although it’s closer to a complete re-write) of a novel. And I am preparing a proposal for my agent to use in shopping around the first book of a trilogy I am currently working on.

 contemplating writingThe trilogy that was a big surprise to me. I love to read and write contemporary fiction, but never thought I would write one set in the future (forty years), especially one with an end times feel to it. But that’s exactly what this is. After a series of terrorist attacks in Canada, martial law is declared. The End Begins is a suspense-filled love story about a believer and one of the soldiers sent to her city to enforce a ban on hate crimes. And according to an amendment to the Anti-terrorism Act, the definition of hate crimes has just been broadened to include pretty much anything done in the name of Jesus Christ. This book is different than my earlier ones, but it was incredibly exciting to write, and I’m looking forward to carving out time in the near future to complete books two and three. After all:

writing3Certainly, I am involved in more projects at the moment than I ever have been at one time before (and that doesn’t include the posts for this blog and a couple of others I contribute to, a monthly newsletter I put together for a friend’s business, smaller substantive and copy-editing projects, marketing of my published novel, and other platform building, internet-presence-enhancing projects.)

Definitely getting fuzzy.

Except that, much to my surprise, I’m also having a lot of fun. Each of the large projects is different and challenging. I’m adding to my skills and breaking new ground. Feedback has been positive and encouraging. I may drop into bed exhausted every night, but it’s an exhilarated exhaustion, since I know I have been productive and creative all day.

I absolutely cannot complain about all the work I have to do. Mainly because I have work, which not all writers are fortunate enough to have, and not only that, but it’s work I love, in my field, that challenges and excites me.

And it’s work that I can do from home (or wherever I am) so I am able to be present and available for my three favourite works in progress, my kids, whose writing always makes make me smile:

kids2And who are, incidentally, wildly creative in their own right:

kids3                                kids4kids5

And remembering all of that inspires me and restores sharpness and clarity to my focus every time.

Press on, my friends. Press on,

Sara

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Why (On Earth) Do I Write? by Bobbie Cole

Today I welcome guest Bobbie Ann Cole to my blog to continue the series: Why (on Earth) Do I Write? Her (on-going) story is yet another testament to the power of words to bless, to inspire, and to heal. Welcome, Bobbie.

Bobbie_Cole Mine wasn’t a huge talent. While genius does what it must, talent does what it can.

My father was a wordsmith and passed on his talent to me.

At 6, I was writing my version of ‘Hansel & Gretel’ on the back of my first school report: ‘But it did not go cwit the way they had inspecte. The birds et all the crums up.’

The talent I had took me in the direction of journalism, newsletter and brochure writing. What I thought of as ‘real writing’ — fiction, non-fiction and drama — became my hobby.

I knew inside I was an author but I had practicalities to think of — kids to raise and a business to run.

Whenever I put my heart and soul into any writing piece, my honed and ready work would be criticized, not to say lambasted, in the writers’ groups and courses of the moment.

This would bring me down.

I’d start over, several times, and eventually put the piece away.

Obviously, I just didn’t have it. 

I lacked the vision to view what I was doing as baby steps along a continuing path, with milestones along the way.

Now I am content that there is no ultimate goal, only the joy of putting down what is in my head and the hope of moving people through what I produce.  

This mind shift was triggered by cancer.

Facing death, I discovered that it didn’t bother me at all to die with only a smattering of short stories and locally-performed plays to my name. Relationships were what counted.

I went through five years of sickness, including a broken hip, (ejected by a bronco horse!), and clots on the lung, brought on by the medication I was prescribed to ward off the return of cancer.

My marriage failed. My business also. My kids were grown up. I found myself alone.

It was in this broken state that, in 2007, I decided to visit Israel. I was looking for some spirituality, meaning and purpose for my life.

I was Jewish.

Ahead of the trip, home in London, I kept telling God, ‘hineini’, which is Hebrew for ‘here I am.’

I never expected to find what I was seeking in a church.

However, I was travelling with a Canadian Christian friend. She had graciously come to synagogue with me to welcome in the Sabbath. How could I say ‘no’ to coming to church with her on Sunday?

A powerful experience there left me wanting more. And a sequence of miracles kicked in there, too. They led me to meet and marry a Canadian, my Boaz, for my story echoes that of biblical Ruth.

Like her, I was claimed in the Land of Israel and blessed with a new husband of faith in a foreign land.

In my first published book, ‘She Does Not Fear the Snow’, I tell the wonderful story Jesus had me live through.

It’s all about how He turned my life around.

I knew I was to hearten others through this story. This time, there could be no putting away the manuscript.

It wasn’t a perfect download, not at all. I had an editor critique it. (Note the word ‘critique’, rather than ‘criticize’. This reflects my new-found ‘journey’ mentality.) 

I learned a lot from the edit about what my writing needed, specifically.

Now I’m on a roll. I’ve just completed a young adult novel, ‘Being Lena Levi’: it’s England, 1950. Marlene, 14½, comes home to find a mother she never knew she had. She thought Mum was Mum and she was ‘properly English’.

But Mutti, her real mother, is a Holocaust survivor living on a kibbutz in Israel.

As an unsuspected past unravels, Marlene must, like King Solomon, choose between two mothers. The process leads her to question everything, above all whether she can step into the shoes of a little girl who is hardly more than a ghost to her.

I’m also teaching people how to write their own testimonies through my Encounters with Jesus Testimony Course. I have just started Training the Testimony Teachers, a bid to take the course out to a wider audience.

My talent does what it can. I work hard and I love what I do. I love being a part of the Kingdom and working towards its increase.

Bobbie Cole's book ‘She Does Not Fear the Snow’ is the unfolding of two love stories, one human, one divine. Claimed in the Land of Israel and blessed with love, Bobbie Ann Cole’s story parallels that of biblical Ruth.

34 Reviews over the Amazons, average 4.6 stars.

No.15 Kindle and No 31 in Books on Messianic Judaism, (Jewish believers).

http://www.amazon.com/She-Does-Not-Fear-Snow-book/dp/B00BFWIENW/

http://www.amazon.ca/She-Does-Not-Fear-Snow-book/dp/B00BFWIENW/  

http://www.amazon.co.uk/She-Does-Not-Fear-Snow-book/dp/B00BFWIENW/

Promo video: http://youtu.be/I6vmfswK-Ko   

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I Want you to be Honest. Honest.

Part two of my series on making your writing better is up on the Word Alive Press blog. Today’s post is about how to receive (and give) constructive feedback on your work. Check it out at: http://www.wordalivepress.ca/blogs.

Press on, my friends. Press on,

Sara

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