Commentary

HONORING AN AMERICAN HERO

Posted by on Sep 26, 2013 in Blog, Commentary, Journal, Uncategorized | 11 comments

A couple of days ago, an old friend sent me an e-mail with a you Tube attachment about a 40th reunion documentary for the POW’s held captive during the Viet Nam War. It brought to mind an unexpected encounter I had with one of those POW’s shortly after their release, which in a surprising way, was an answer to prayer.

Early in 1973 my father startled me with an idea he, and I suspect my mother, hatched to stretch my social skills. They knew the previous year had been a very difficult and painful time in my life and they were concerned that I had cut myself off from people, content to go to work and avoid all other social contact.

Seabee emblemMy father and maternal grandfather had been career naval officers, both serving in the Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), also known as the Seabees. Each year Seabee Balls were held at various locations around the country. Retired officers as well as those currently on active duty would frequent these festivities with their spouses or dates. It was always a fun time for them to connect with old friends. A queen, often the daughter or wife of one of the engineers, was selected to “reign” over these festivities.

Dad had put forth my name and I was selected as the 1973 Seabee Queen for the Western Division Naval Facilities Engineering Command. I knew my selection had absolutely nothing to do with me, or any of my accomplishments, attributes, or abilities; it was merely a way of honoring my father and grandfather for their sixty years of combined naval service.

When my father told me what he had done I was stunned. Always shy, the quintessential wall flower, I had never even been asked to a prom in high school. How would the Lord help me carry off this royal role and be the center of attention for an entire evening?

The weeks leading up to the Seabee Ball were exciting, but for an entirely different reason. In January 1973, the Vietnam War turned a corner. With the Paris peace accords signed, negotiations progressed to free the remaining 658 POW’s held captive. Like most people, I watched the return of these American heroes on television. It was humbling and so moving to see these men arrive on American soil, some who had been absent from our shores for six and seven years. Vietnam was still a raw and very real memory for me. It had taken a toll on many of us, directly or indirectly. But now, those who had survived captivity were coming home.

March 7th, the day of the Ball arrived and I was the only one there without a date. Somehow I Seabee Queensurvived everything associated with the ceremony, though I felt unbelievably awkward seated at the elevated head table with the Admiral, his wife and several other dignitaries, including my parents. From there I could easily see a room full of people enjoying each other in conversation. As I sat on the dais and watched the smartly dressed assembly, I tried not to let my self-consciousness show.

Then I glanced to the opposite side of the room and noticed a man standing in an open doorway. He was wearing a khaki uniform, definitely not the dress uniform or dark suit the other men were wearing. One of the guests went to the door, spoke with the young man a moment and headed quickly to the Admiral seated beside me. The man standing in the doorway with the “deer in the headlights” look was Gary Thornton, one of the POWs who had just returned from six years of captivity. He was suddenly being ushered into the room, and as news spread throughout the room, a receiving line automatically formed. Everyone wanted to shake Gary’s hand and welcome him home, including me. When everyone finished greeting Gary, shy Janet forgot herself, and asked him to dance. I have never seen such a joy-filled face; here was a person who understood freedom more than anyone else there. I no longer feared being the center of attention because I wasn’t  it wasn’t about me ― it was about him and a well deserved tribute to an American hero. God had the evening well under control and it turned out so much better than I could have ever imagined.

Come back later this week for a shorter postscript to learn how God answered two more of my prayers concerning Gary Thornton.  

Referenced youTube attachment http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=LemllfcAY8A&sns=em                       

See more about Gary Thornton and a photo http://projects.militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=23959

 

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A WRITING CONFERENCE ~ What’s That All About?

Posted by on Sep 20, 2013 in Blog, Commentary, Journal, Uncategorized | 9 comments

A WRITING CONFERENCE

What’s That All About?

 

Earlier this week I returned from the 2013 American Christian Fiction Writer’s (ACFW) Conference in Indianapolis, IN. This was my second ACFW Conference. The first one I attended was in 2011. A friend (not a writer) asked me some pointed questions when I told her of my three day odyssey. “So you like to write, why do you go to a conference for that? Do the attendees get together and sit around and write?” It was evident she thought my trip to Indianapolis was more than a bit odd.

Her questions brought to mind a comment I heard while I was at this year’s conference.  It was announced early on that those of us who wanted to dress in the clothing of our genre* should only do this for the Friday evening dinner because there were also normal people registered at the Indianapolis Hyatt. Hmm, was that a subtle suggestion that writers aren’t normal folks? But hearkening back to the 2011 conference, I do recall seeing tables of inter-galactic creatures obviously representing the speculative fiction genre. Perhaps we are a “little different”.

I tried to explain the reasons why I, and many others, attend writer’s conferences. This is by no means an exhaustive explanation:                        

1. Fiction writing, or any writing, can be a very solitary endeavor. Most of us spend a good portion of our lives in front of a computer, or with a tablet, sharing life with our imaginary characters. Some of us spend just as much time doing research which

Sarah Ladd, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Melanie Dickerson

Sarah Ladd, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Melanie Dickerson

may be an activity we do alone. Being with other people who enjoy the same pursuit is energizing. It’s also a wonderful time to catch up with old friends and make new ones. (Old friends might be other writers we hardly ever meet face to face since our friendships might be initiated or grow over e-mails and the internet.) Attendees at the conferences come from far and wide; this year I know of some who came from Australia and Norway.

2. Writer’s conferences can provide an opportunity to network not only with other writers, but specifically with those people who write in our particular area of interest. Ten different genres were represented there. It is also a place to meet and have appointments with literary agents and publishers who have come from all over the country to meet with writers and listen to our

My agent, Linda Glaz with Hartline Literary Agency & me

My agent, Linda Glaz with Hartline Literary Agency & me

“pitches”, manuscripts we are hoping to publish.

3. Like other conferences, ACFW provides workshops for every learning level. These are taught by experts representing various aspects of the industry, whether it’s learning more about the craft, what is involved with working with literary agents and publishers, and what the present and future book selling market looks like.     

 4. Since ACFW refers to itself as The Voice of Christian Fiction – a professional organization devoted to the craft of Christian Fiction, it is a venue that provides inspiration and encouragement. There are wonderful times of worship, prayer, and fellowship, inspirational talks given by the keynote speakers (This years was Robin Jones Gunn **). 

5. The last night of the conference is the awards gala, a time to recognize some very special people.

  • The Lifetime Achievement Award (awarded this year to Frank Peretti ***)

    Frank Peretti

    Frank Peretti

  • The best Literary Agent of the Year
  • The best Editor  of the Year
  • The Mentor of the Year
  • The winners of the 2013 Genesis contest (pre-published writers) in each genre
  • The winners of the 2013 Carol Awards for the best Christian fiction published in each genre by traditional publishing houses in the previous calendar year.
  • Other awards were given for service to ACFW

So it was an exciting, inspirational, affirming, and challenging three days for a bunch of folks who may not be normal, but we are a lot of fun.

 

*Webster’s defines genre as: a particular type or category of writing literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content.

**Robin Jones Gunn is the best selling Christian author of over 82 books including The Christy Miller Series for teen girls as well as Christian fiction for older women and a few non-fiction books.

***Frank Peretti generated an interest in spiritual warfare with This Present Darkness and Piercing The Darkness, his first two books. He’s gone on to publish many more books with 15 million novels in print.

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Maximizing Your Influence

Posted by on Aug 27, 2013 in Blog, Commentary, Devotions, Journal, Uncategorized | 6 comments

I have to admit it, creating and maintaining my own website was not on my bucket list. My preference would be to spend my “computer time” catching up on news, communicating with friends and family, or working on writing projects. However, successful writers, agents, and publishers stress the importance of having a web presence, a platform, where we can maximize our influence.

So, almost two years ago when I was invited to become a regular contributor to a group blog, Colonial Quills http://colonialquills.blogspot.com/ I was thrilled. Most of the other writers who contribute to this site were multi-published authors and all share a common interest in our colonial past. This would give me a chance to write about topics dear to me, our incredible history and the Christian faith.  Terrific! Now I had a web presence.

In 2012, Michael S. Hyatt, the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, one of the largest trade book publishing companies in the U.S. produced a bestseller on just this topic. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Wanting to be current, I read this excellent book about getting our message out, and getting Platform 1noticed. http://michaelhyatt.com/platform

Perusing the web and checking out many author’s blog and websites was fascinating with so much talent, creativity, and my goodness, so many published books on display. Hmm, I would certainly need to get a website as soon as my manuscript was picked up by a publisher. It didn’t take long to notice that almost all the writers that I knew, published or not, already were on the web. I needed to take the plunge and not put it off any longer

Now, two weeks after launching my website, I’ve learned so much, and like so many other things in my life, I’ve learned some important lessons the hard way. My first lesson was; after you post, ALWAYS review it again to be sure it is ALL there, no missing paragraphs, words, or letters.

In addition to reading Jesus Calling every morning, I also receive a wonderful devotional from Nicky Gumbel, the Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, the largest Anglican Church in Britain. He pioneered the Alpha Course, an evangelism ministry that I was involved with for many years. http://www.alphausa.org/Groups/1000065342/Alt_Home_page.aspx

On August 14th, the very day my website went live Nicky’s devotional was waiting for me in my inbox. Now, why would I be surprised at the timing of his message?

“Maximizing Your Influence”

(used with Nicky’s permission)

1.  Use your influence for the good of everyone   Psalm 96:1-13

2.  Use your influence to spread the good news 1 Corinthians 9:1-18

3.  Use your influence to plant good seeds Ecclesiastes 9:13-12:14

          •        Watch your words

          •        Take risks

          •        Spread your efforts

          •        Take your opportunities

I particularly appreciated his closing prayer.

“Lord, help me and help our community to make the most of every opportunity that you have given us.  Help us to fear you and keep your commandments.  Help us to use our influence for good and not for evil.  Help us to make the most of every opportunity that you have put before us.”

‘Of the making of books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.’ 

Ecclesiastes 12:12  NIV – UK

http://www.htb.org.uk/bioy

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