Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sunshine and Rain

Sunshine and rain.  It takes both to produce a rainbow like this.  We were cruising south from Kirkenis, Norway, far above the Arctic Circle.  The ship sailed between rocky islands and the spectacular mountains of the coast, entering the occasional narrow fjord.  Mostly we saw the heavy clouds typical of this time of year.  My husband would have been disappointed if we hadn’t had one day when we crashed through the waves and spray rose higher than the decks.  Dinner was sparsely attended that night.  Even some of the wait staff were missing.  I made it through the soup course before retreating to my bunk (losing my soup on the way.) 

On our one sunny day, somewhere below the Arctic Circle my fellow photographers and I congregated on the back upper deck to take pictures of a hole high up in a mountain, hollowed out long ages ago when the level of the sea was much different.  A mist began to fall.  Suddenly the lofty hole was no more than a centerpiece to the 360-degree rainbow that circled the mountain.  Sorry I couldn’t back far enough away to give you the full perspective. 

These days I am praying for several friends and relatives with cancer or brain tumors.  My cousin, who was given 6 months when diagnosed, is now making medical history after three years.  He has had to quit work as a color chemist because of vision problems, but he continues to volunteer weekly in a local hospital.  He pushes patients’ wheelchairs, and I don’t doubt that he is an inspiration to all.  He and his wife trust God day by day and give thanks for the blessings of life that the rest of us take for granted.  Maybe only in heaven will we understand.

Sunshine and rain.  It takes both to make a rainbow.  Sometimes it’s hard to back away enough to get the full perspective.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Guest blogger: Kay Strom

Today is my birthday.  I am reminded by our guest blogger to fall on my knees once again and thank God for the precious family he gave me.  I hope you will join the Salvation Army in their

4th Annual International Weekend of

Prayer and Fasting

Stolen Identity by Kay Marshall Strom

Enormous eyes in a bony-thin face, and a baggy green dress that dragged the ground.  Because of all the cast-off children at the village school in India, the raggedy girl stood closest to our translator, he gently asked her, "What is your name?"

The girl stared. 

"Your name.  What is it?" the translator asked again.

The girl whispered her answer:  "I have no name."

A child with no name.  A little girl abandoned so young she could not even remember what her parents had called her.  She grew up begging at the train platform, snatching up the scraps harried passengers dropped, watching other children picked off by traffickers.  Now that she was seven or eight--perhaps even a scrawny nine--the traffickers had come for her.  But the girl screamed and kicked and clawed so ferociously that someone called the police.  Someone with clout, evidently, because the police came and pulled her away from the traffickers. Somebody in the crowd suggested that instead of putting the child in jail, the police might take her to the village school, which they did. They dropped her at the door and left.

Human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, is rampant around the world.  We think of it as an eastern European problem, or Indian or Nepalese or Thai.  It is.  But it's also a Western problem. The U.S. State Department estimates between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the Untied States each year, but concede that the real number is far higher. According to the U.S. Justice Department's head of the new human trafficking unit, there is now at least one case of trafficking in every state.

The little girl with no name was fortunate that someone responded to her screaming pleas.  What would you do if you heard a child shriek for help?  Of course, if she were a trafficking victim in this country, she wouldn't likely scream or kick.  She would probably shrink away in terror, or act submissively.  You might see wounds--cuts, bruises, burns.  Perhaps what would catch your attention would be the constant work: babysitting, cooking, washing dishes, scrubbing floors--never just being a child.  Or maybe you couldn't say exactly what was wrong--only that something about the child's situation made you profoundly uneasy.

Please, please, if you suspect a person is being trafficked, call 911 and report it.  Yes, it is okay.  Yes, even it you are mistaken.  In fact, eighteen states require citizens to report possible child abuse or neglect of any kind.
In the 1700s, Quakers led the fight against the African slave trade.  In 1885, the Salvation Army took up the abolition banner, and since then it has led the fight against a different kind of slavery. More and more, 21st century abolitionists are followers of Christ determined to see slavery of all kinds ended in our day.

Oh yes...  Before I left the school in India, I asked if we might give the little girl a name.  She is now Grace.

About the Author:
Author Kay Marshall Strom has two great loves: writing and helping others achieve their own writing potential. Kay has written thirty-six published books including Daughters of Hope: Stories of Witness and Courage in the Face of Persecution and In the Presence of the Poor. She's also authored numerous magazine articles, and two screenplays. While mostly a nonfiction writer, the first book of her historical novel trilogyGrace in Africa has met with acclaim. Kay speaks at seminars, retreats, writers' conferences, and special events throughout the country and around the world. She is in wide demand as an instructor and keynote speaker at major writing conferences. She also enjoys speaking aboard cruise ships in exchange for exotic cruise destinations.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Discerning Teens

My friend, Kim, and I have been sharing and praying for each other’s families for almost ten years now.  She recently wrote to share her concern about a current film.  I haven’t seen this film myself, but I value Kim’s discernment.

She writes:

I am writing to you today about something very important that God has put in my heart and the Holy Spirit has urged me to share with as many people as possible. My husband and I just went and saw the movie "Gamers." We like sci-fi, adventure shows, and the previews for this one looked great (future where death-row inmates have the option of becoming a "Gamer," virtually wired and "played" by someone else, and if they survive, they're free.) What the commercials didn't show is what happened before that, how this technology became available and "society" was formed (kind of like facebook), so people chose to let themselves be controlled by "players", people who sat in their house all day, making them do anything and everything, choosing their outfits (most half-naked), so as you walk down the street all you see are these people being controlled, having sex on the sidewalks, girls with girls, guys with guys, violence so disturbing I actually had to cover my eyes more than o nce. As we walked out of the theater, 5 barely 17-year-olds were behind us. I was so disturbed I felt overwhelmed that I had to do something, write a letter to the producer, email all my prayer teams. And I said afterwards to my husband, we are in the midst of a spiritual battle so strong, we have to teach our kids to be discerning, look at the big picture and think about such things. The movie previews were so deceiving, they looked very cool, especially for video gamers and techno teens. Paul (13) knew all about the movie and had watched the trailer online more than once. I left more determined than ever to warn kids to be discerning in how technology is subtly infiltrating their lives. I've had talks about this with my own kids when we gave up cable, but still we've got people having sex in commercials.

I truly believe our children and teenagers are much stronger, smarter and deeper than people give them credit for. We're in a war, and we need to teach our children discernment and equip them to go out there and be warriors for Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Challenge of Self-publishing

So I took the plunge. After long resistance, I signed on with Booksurge to self-publish a novel.  That means Crossovers should be available by Christmas after languishing for years in the proverbial drawer, rejected by publishers who don’t think they can sell a book about a boy who figure skates.

Why did I resist?

Self-publishing means the author takes on not only the financial responsibility of printing the book, but also the roles of editor, book designer, and distributor.

It can be a shortcut to avoid polishing a manuscript to the level a commercial publisher requires.  But I already have five commercially published titles and have actually been paid for editing other people’s work.  The Crossovers manuscript has been read by several critics—writers, figure skaters and even a former hockey commissioner.  My daughter who used to keep the typists of an insurance company in proper grammatical form is currently going over it.  Her father has instructed her to be brutal.  (I think that is revenge for my editing of his self-published book, Excellence in Theological Education.)

The book design problem will be handled by Booksurge’s templates.  I need only slot my information into their templates, and out pops a book cover.  Of course, that means choices are very limited.  The Booksurge people assured me that there are literally millions of stock photos available on the Internet.  Unfortunately I haven’t found anything appropriate for a juvenile novel about a hockey player who wants to learn to figure skate.  An enthusiastic adult skater has lined me up with a photographer.  We have an appointment to meet at the rink with a pile of skates right after they finish giving the ice its highest shine.  We shall see how realistic my cover dreams are.

The biggest problem in self-publishing is usually distribution.  Bookstores avoid self-published books like a first-time goalie scared of the puck.  A public speaker has a built-in audience that heads straight for the book table after the meeting.  Fiction is more problematic.  Too often the author ends up with a garage full of unsold books.  In this day of print-on-demand I don’t risk a garage full of books—just a lot of money spent and nothing to show for it.

The way I figure it, Crossovers will appeal to the niche market of figure skaters and hockey players.  They all hang out at the same place—the ice rink.  And they shop at the same places—the skate shops.  My marketing plan is to drive from ice rink to skate shop with a trunk full of books.  Whitepages.com lists 27 within ten miles of my daughter’s house.  I can do this.  It’s an Olympic year with an American men’s World Champion.  What better time to try?