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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thankful Thursday 7/30

Thankful Thursday at Truth 4 the Journey

1. I am so thankful for my family, friends, local writer's group (Living Writer's Collective), CWG mentor, CWG friends, facebook friends, blog readers, and everyone else who supports and encourages me in this crazy habit I have of writing. You all ROCK!

2. I am thankful that I'm just barely getting my "Thankful Thursday" post in before the deadline... sort of.

3. I am thankful for all of the ideas God feeds me each and every day. I could spend all day writing for Him and still need more time. Thank you, God, for keeping my mind full.

4. I am thankful for the happy crickets chirping in the wet, green grass (odd to have wet, green grass in July in Tennessee) outside my window. Their lullaby will lull me to sleep tonight.

5. I am thankful each and every day that I know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6). I pray for those who do not yet understand that.

I Was a Fifth Grade Plagiarist...

...or so it was alleged. Here's the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth -- so help me God:

When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher gave my class a poetry writing assignment. When she passed out the graded assignments, my poem was not graded. Written at the top of my paper, in big red letters, were the words "SEE ME".

When I went to see her she said, "Where did you copy this from?"

I had done nothing wrong, but her accusation scared me a little. I cowered and squeaked a reply. "From my head."

"Well," she said, waving me off, "when I find this poem, you're getting an F."

That poem had indeed come from my head, but it never occured to me, until adulthood, to be flattered by the fact that she thought my poem was that good. At some point during that school year, my paper was uncerimoniously returned to me with an "A" written at the top.

A good teacher might have apologized and said, "your writing is good - maybe we should try to develop it further" or "keep writing, I think you could do something with this." Even a simple "good job" would have been nice. But my paper just appeared among a stack of papers, and no words were ever spoken about it.

It was, however, the conception of something deep inside of me that wouldn't start to spread it's wings until almost thirty years later.

(pause) - *I can't believe I'm embarrasing myself like this, but see the bottom of this post to read my 5th grade poem.*

Even though I have never loved my writing, I have always loved to write... for myself. I have always had notebooks filled with poems, short stories, and journaling shoved into the nooks and crannies around my house. What had been conceived in childhood had been growing for thirty years, but I had no intention of ever letting it leave the nest. It was for my eyes only.

But then, God got in the middle of things.

I was saved in my late twenties, and it took a few years after that, but my writing began to shift. God was filling me with stories and ideas, and I soon realized that what I was writing was no longer for my eyes only. Then fear set in. I had no idea how to write for other people.

My vocabulary was weak, my language skills clumsy. Why would God call me to do this?

But I am obedient, so I did what anyone in my position might do. I began writing a novel. Yeah, I just jumped right in the deep end, knowing I couldn't swim. If nothing else, it would prove to God that I couldn't do what He was calling me to do.

My novel was, and still is, halfway through and yes, it was REALLY bad. But it showed me something I didn't expect. There was potential there. If I could just develop this and brush up on that and fine tune a few things here and there... but how?

I had decided on a writing program, but for two years God kept closing the doors to the one I had planned to take. I used that time to study grammar and strengthen my vocabulary. At the end of that second year, God closed that same door one more time, and I began to get frustrated -- maybe God didn't really want me to write.

One night, after meeting with my writer's group at Books-A-Million, I decided to pick up a writing magazine. I grabbed a Writer's Digest and sat down right there in the store and started reading it. I came to an ad for the Christian Writer's Guild. I had never heard of it before, but I had an attack of Holy Ghost bumps that instant and knew God was telling me something.

I spent a week learning everything I could about the CWG, and in that time God opened the doors wide for me to start the writing program. Then I knew, all at once, why He had been shutting doors for two years. The secular program I had planned to attend wasn't where He wanted me. He wanted me intensly focused on Christian writing - something I would have missed in the secular program.

We've all heard the saying, "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called." Well, that is definitely me. I am so completely a work in progress, but He is doing something amazing in me. I know because I have never been so at peace with any other task He has ever given me.

As soon as I started the Apprentice program at the CWG, I studied the scripture below during my quiet time. Anytime I become unsure of my abilities, I jump full force into this verse and I know God's got me covered:

To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

For humor purposes, here is my 5th grade poem that caused all the trouble. It's been in my head for years, and reading it written, I'm thinking my 5th grade teacher may not have been the sharpest tool in the shed.


Way up high, high in the sky
There flies a lovely butterfly

Yellow, orange, black, and red
Once a caterpillar, now has fled.

The prettiest one that you should see
Should be the one you choose for me.

But if it should fly a long, long way
We could just go outside and play

Until it returns, soon again, someday.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Writing From an Honest Place

I once took a poem I wrote and converted it to a short story. The story ended up being stunning and rhythmic. And because my poems tend to be more personal and written in darker moments of my life than my stories, it was the most honest and uncompromising story I have ever written. I loved the result.

I wrote this to a friend on the Christian Writer's Guild forum tonight and realized I gave myself some insight in the process. Lately, I've been burdened in my writing. I feel like I'm trying to squeeze myself into a style of Christian writing that isn't quite fitting. It's not from external pressure but from my own internal uncertainties.

What I'm finding when I write is that I am somewhat removed from my stories. There is a density there that I can't seem to poke holes in. I am making my own personal compromise in an effort to appeal to a Christian audience.

And yet, I am a Christian writer. I wouldn't even be in this writing place if God hadn't led me here and told me to write for Him.

Maybe my ideas of what a Christian audience wants are inaccurate. There are times when I write that I come to a split in the road. One way leads me on the straight and narrow, and the other explores something a bit more crooked and broad - maybe even dark at times. I almost always choose the straight and narrow because that's what Christians want to read... right? When I do this -- choose the path I'm less inclined to choose -- I sacrifice the passion, the honesty, the connection of my story.

The funny thing is, every time I take that straight and narrow path, something tells me I'm on the wrong road, but I persist because it's safe.

I have considered that maybe God didn't send me to this place to write to a Christian audience. I can be a Christian writer and appeal to a secular audience. What an incredible honor it would be to be sent to the writing field to speak to God's lost children. How does a Christian writer balance such a call? In this day, how do you meet unbelievers where they are and not compromise your Christian values and commandments?

Is it possible to appeal to both? Is a story that is not blatantly Christian throughout, but that you know is nothing but Christian in the end, going to hold the attention of a Christian reader until they realize its message? Is a story that isn't filled with graphic sex, morbid violence, or a multitude of obscenities going to hold the attention of an unbeliever long enough for them to be gripped by the possibility of Christianity?

I love thinking things out in a blog because as I read through what I've just written, something occurred to me. It doesn't matter which path I follow as long as it's the path that God is on. If I look ahead and He's not in front of me, I have to change paths. If I stay on the wrong path, then it's not actually His message I'm delivering.

Father, may I always write from a truthful, passionate, and connected place, and above all else, may I carry only Your message as I go. - Amen

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Wow! I'm a Good Writer... or Am I?"

I've always been an "I'll believe my writing is good if..." person.

Before I was brave enough to show my writing to my family and close friends I said, "I'll believe my writing is good if someone else likes it."

When my friends and family loved my writing I figured it was just because they are close to me, so I said, "I'll believe my writing is good if someone else who writes likes it."

When I joined a writer's group, and they were moved by my writing, I decided they were just being nice, so I said, "I'll believe my writing is good if someone who is a published author likes it."

When I began my Apprentice program at the Christian Writer's Guild, my mentor was a multi-published author. She has given me helpful criticism but also incredibly positive feedback on my writing ability. I assumed she was just going easy on me since I was new, and I said, "I'll believe my writing is good if someone actually publishes something I write."

When I received my first publishing acceptance with an online magazine, I thought they must be desperate for writers (even though I had to wait 3 months to see it published), and I said, "I'll believe my writing is good if I actually see it in a print publication."

A couple of months ago, I sold a fiction short story to The Storyteller -- it will be printed this winter. This publication is a well-respected, high-quality magazine, and it is an honor to be printed there. I will receive a one-digit figure for it (chew on that for a sec - here's a hint: I spent more on the subscription so I could see it in print than I will make). Then I said, "I'll believe my writing is good if I ever make a two-, three-, four-digit figure for it."

Then there's writer's schizophrenia. Why is it that I can read a story I've written one day and think, hey, that's pretty good. Then two days later I can pick up the exact same story and think, what was I thinking - this is the crappiest story I've ever written. And I guarantee you, if I let the same story rest another couple of days, I'll like it again.

Okay, so we've established my insanity (which is supposed to be a requirement for a writer so I think I'm already ahead of the game).

My fellow writers, I just have to ask - if there are any of you out there whose minds work like mine and you are willing to admit it, does this cycle ever stop?

When do you finally look at your work and say, "Wow! I'm a good writer?"

Thankful Thursday 7/23

Thankful Thursday at Truth 4 the Journey

1. Thank you, Father, for Your abundance at our Backpack Mission table at my church's preschool VBS this week. I prayed asking You to fill up at least one kiddie pool with food, and with two nights and one day left to go in VBS, my table looked like this:

2. Thank you, God, for all of the blessings you are currently pouring over our other Backpack Mission ministry, Lydia's House. Thanks to the love, support, and time of so many of Your children, this maternity home in Kentucky is being created according to Your plan.

3. Thank you, God, for giving my boys the opportunity to grow even closer to You during their time in VBS this week.

4. Thank you, God, for the spring-like weather You gave us this week during a time when we are typically scorching hot in Southern Tennessee.

5. Thank you, God, for making my shorter writing times, due to the boys being out of school for the summer, seem doubled.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Alone" in My Car

God and I have the best conversations when I am alone in my car, driving on the interstate. It has to be the interstate because it is constant and unrestrictive, and as the car penetrates the air before it, a gentle hum fills the car's interior creating the perfect meditative environment. I was blessed today to have some alone time on the interstate. And, of course, God was there.

I was driving the stretch of I65 North from Spring Hill toward Nashville. My destination was the Applebees on Thompson Lane (just south of downtown Nashville for my non-Nashville readers) where I was meeting my dear friend Diane for lunch. I was absorbed in some awesome worship tunes -- Travis Cottrell's newest CD, Jesus Saves Live. Visit Travis's blog to hear one of my favorites off of the CD and see some great pics from the most recent live event.

So, I was singing along (at the top of my lungs because that's what you do when you're alone in the car - even if you can't sing, which I can't):

"Hear the heart of Heaven beating
Jesus saves, Jesus saves
And the hush of mercy breathing
Jesus saves, Jesus saves..."

Then suddenly an interruption in my worship time:

"Diane needs this CD!" God said. Diane, remember, was the friend I was meeting for lunch.

Yeah, I thought to myself, she would enjoy it.

Back to my singing:

"...And the sounding joy repeating, Jesus saves
See the humblest hearts adore him
Jesus saves, Jesus saves
And the wisest bow before him
Jesus saves, Jesus saves..."

Another interruption:

"Diane NEEDS this CD!" He said again.

"I know, God, this is a GREAT CD!" I said out loud.

On with my song:

"...melting darkness in it's blaze
There is light forevermore, Jesus saves"

"KAREN," God said, a bit perturbed," Diane NEEDS this CD!"

"Diane needs THIS CD? But this is my Travis CD, I love this CD." I said.

God said, "Not YOUR CD, goofy girl" (yeah, God sometimes calls me "goofy girl") "but this CD. Lifeway is at the next exit. It won't take you five minutes to run in and grab it."

Oh, I understand, Diane needs this CD. Yes, I can do that.

After picking up the CD, I was a few minutes late meeting Diane for lunch, but I happen to know that God likes to ride in Diane's car too, and apparently He really wants to hear Jesus Saves Live when He's in there. So she understood.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lydia's House

As the opening prayer began, my calm began to dissipate. My mind was telling me, "Focus on the prayer, and don't worry. You're going to do just fine." My heart, however wished to be speeding down its own private autobahn and was not happy being restricted to the confines of my pericardium.

Ten seconds into the public prayer I faded into my own prayer. "Be still my heart, Lord. Be still my heart, Lord. Be still my heart, Lord." I must have said it twenty or thirty times before I heard the speaker introduce me. "Please welcome Karen Aldridge who is going to come up and talk about our summer mission focus."

Okay, let me back up just a smidgen. I have talked in front of groups before. Talking in front of groups is not a problem for me. This was a much larger group than I have ever talked to, but that in and of itself really wasn't an issue. Although, I did experience a first with this group: I have never used a microphone... ever. I can't sing, so I've never even attempted karoake. I've never been in a play. Unless you count those little colorful, plastic, preschool, echo microphones, which I don't, I've never used one.

I'm not sure what I expected. I guess I thought I'd stand on the stage and holler at the top of my lungs -- I don't know. I just never considered the microphone. So when the speaker handed me the microphone, I panicked just a little. Many questions zoomed through my head in the three seconds or so it took me to climb the steps and approach the podium. Do I hold it up to my mouth? Do I hold it down low? Do I hold it straight out? Should I hold it with one hand? Should I hold it with two? Do I talk loud? Do I talk soft? WHY, OH WHY, HAD I NOT PAID CLOSER ATTENTION TO PEOPLE HOLDING MICROPHONES ALL MY LIFE? The only microphone vision I could conjure up was Steven Tyler and all his scarves, but I had no microphone stand, and I hadn't worn a scarf.

So, I decided the best possible solution was to just admit my microphone ignorance to the group. It was the best thing that could have happened because right away the crowd laughed which calmed me and slowed my heart back to country road speed. I hadn't even intended it as my opener, but there it was, and it was a success. It's amazing -- God can even work through the clumsy mechanics of a microphone to answer a prayer.

But none of this was the reason my heart began to race in the first place. This time and this group was different. I wasn't talking for me or for the crowd or for a company I worked for. I was carrying God's message, and having Him entrust me to deliver it with the power that only a message from God deserves was a bit scary. I couldn't mess this up -- it was for God -- it was for the ministry -- it was for Diane, my sweet sister in Christ and spiritual mentor -- and it was for the unborn babies.

The ministry is Lydia's House. Lydia's House (pictured below), when it opens, will be a maternity home deep in the Appalachian Mountains of Southeast Kentucky in a little town called Benham. Lydia's House is part of Backpack Mission Ministries Inc. which feeds hungry children in this extreme poverty-stricken region. Through God's prompting, Diane Durham created Backpack Missions and through her work with the children she found out about another desperate need in the area.

There are unborn babies who could be saved if only their young mothers had some place to go. In many cases, the families of these young, pregnant women cannot afford to feed the family they have much less another mouth. And the fathers of these unborn babies don't want to have anything to do with the woman or baby once they find out the woman is pregnant. Abortion, to these women, is an easy solution -- and in their minds, it's the only solution.

Lydia's House provides another solution. Pregnant women who choose Lydia's House will find:

  • a respite from the harsh environments in which they live (rumbling creek running through Lydia's back yard pictured right).

  • a soothing haven in which to grow and nurture their unborn babies.

  • Christian people who will feed their souls with the good news of Jesus Christ.
  • the time to focus on their situation and make the best choice for their unborn babies -- not abortion, but whether to raise the baby or place baby for Christion adoption.

  • if they choose to keep baby, skills lessons and all the support they will need to help them prepare for a return to the real world with their sweet babies.

We are finishing up remodeling and reconstruction projects at Lydia's House, but God has already done some great things there. Some big and some small, but all are a part of His plan.

There are four bedrooms, each holding two women. A few months ago, Diane and three others were there painting and someone said, "What are you going to name the girls' rooms?"

Diane said, "I haven't thought about naming the rooms, but I would definitely call one of them Hannah's room."

One by one, they each gave a name they liked. Elizabeth, Sarah, and Mary were the three additional choices. Just like that the girls' rooms were named and they painted scripture to associate the biblical woman with the room on the focal wall of each room.

A little later someone said, "do you realize that all of those names we came up with are the names of women who had miraculous births?" God is so sweet! At Lydia's House every baby saved from abortion will be a miraculous birth.

By the way, God kept my presentation focused and powerful (just what I had been praying for in the days leading up to the event), and the night was a success. I made some great contacts -- people who may like to share their talents or time at Lydia's House, and we received over $300 in donations.

If you want to learn more about Lydia's House or Backpack Mission Ministries, click here.

Scripture inspiration for the naming of Lydia's House -- "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." - quote from Lydia in Acts 16:15

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Result of Passionate Faith

The result of the drought was parched, sooty earth making planting conditions impossible. The South African farmers were losing profits and their land. Financial ruin was inevitable for those left, especially if crops were planted in another El Nino season. The farmers were paralyzed.

Angus Buchan was an angry farmer experiencing the devastation. He was a Scotsman who had recently come to Christianity, and his fiery nature began to feed his faith. Angus gave his anxieties to God, and God turned Angus’s passion into a love for South Africa, its people, and his fellow farmers. He began spreading a message of faith among the farmers.

“To heck with El Nino,” he said, “put your trust in God… Don’t be gripped by what El Nino can do to you, but be gripped by what God did for you through Jesus on the cross. God answers the prayers of His people, and that’s why we’re going to plant potatoes”

“Potatoes. In the middle of a drought. It’s impossible,” some said.

“Potatoes need too much water,” others said.

Though most thought he was crazy, Angus never wavered in his faith. He listened to God and planted his potatoes. The entire village came to the harvest. With a pitchfork, Angus loosened a potato mound. As the people watched, he plunged his arm into the dust. He pulled his arm out and looked down at the plump, flawless potato in his hand. Excitement washed over him, and the community celebrated with him, their faith likely strengthened by what they had witnessed.

What do we do when we are confronted with an issue that requires great faith? Do we dwell on the obstacles, or do we respond with the passion of Angus?

The Israelites were confronted with this issue in Joshua 6. God said to Joshua, “I have given Jericho into your hand.” The city was surrounded by towering walls and sealed to keep the Israelites out. A person with small faith might have fallen under the weight of this obstacle and turned away. Joshua demonstrated great faith and listened to God.

Joshua instructed the people to march once around the city in silence, following the armed men and the priests blowing trumpets and carrying the ark of the covenant. For six days, Joshua gave the same instruction. Do you think any of the Israelites thought Joshua was crazy? In their camps, were they discussing ways to get out of these daily marches? Were they saying, “This is never going to work?” Given their history of complaining, it is likely.

Finally, on the seventh day, Joshua’s instruction changed. They marched around the city, not once, but seven times. Then, at the blowing of the trumpets, the people shouted, and the wall fell. They had just witnessed the result of Joshua’s unrelenting faith. With the power of that realization sinking into them, they fought valiantly and overtook the city.

Unrealized faith makes us question, search, and wonder. Faith in action has the power to grow in the most infertile places and knock down walls that an earthquake couldn’t budge. It inspires others and pleases God, and faith like that – like Angus and Joshua – is rewarded.

Friday, July 03, 2009

"Death of a Whippoorwill" and "Anticipation"

Here is an excerpt (1st paragraph) from my newest story, Death of a Whippoorwill. Enjoy -

----- In the distance I see the low-lying creek bridge and our cabin just beyond. I listen to the river grumbling along just outside my passenger window, oblivious to the fact that I have come here to die. If the river only knew that the reason I chose this place is because of the peace that river offers, it might respond more respectfully – stilling itself in honor as I pass by. The fish, if they knew, might gather along the banks in a show of appreciation that I always threw them back. The dozens of turtles I’ve moved off of this tiny river road over the years might stretch their necks out of their shells and, with tears in their eyes, mouth a little prayer to thank me. But no, this river does not love me like I love it. And yet, it does. I will listen to this river’s voice in my last days, and that voice will deliver me home.


Okay, I'm on a kick. Here's a poem I recently wrote as well. I'm still working on the accents (poetry is not my strong point), but this is the general framework of it. Enjoy -

(title may change - it hasn't grown on me)

I wait,
anxious for His
rapture while I wander
this virtue-stripped earth distended
with goods.

beckons my dry
soul sending quenching drops
of anticipation as I

“When,” I
plead, “will You come
and rescue me from this
slow death of flesh upon Satan’s

“When,” I
beg, “will You shout
my name and bestow grand
ascension in a flickering

enduring peace
to my restless spirit
and revealing a salvation

Let me know what you think. Don't forget, when you click on comments you can respond anonymously - you know... just in case you don't want to tell me openly how much you hate it. :)