The Summer Files: Day 75

This week I got to be a full fledged grown up.

I went on a business trip.

Of course, it was one of those fun ones. I made the trip across the country to Philly, meeting a few friends at the airport where we stepped outside and slowly trudged through blankets of humidity (I think my mascara is still running).

phillyrain

Before we got down to business, we immersed ourselves in the middle of the city–Hillary and Bernie people swarmed the streets, dark alleys beckoned us into their creepy yet crowd-free walls, and we discovered that Philly bus drivers will go to any length to be kings of the road.

We visited a haunted prison.easternpen

At Villanova University, we attended classes and met many incredible people. Have you ever been in a room full of specular fiction writers? It’s not boring, not for a half-second.

There are changes going on in the publishing world…exciting, risky. Christian specular fiction writers have a very unique place in the world right now–we are forging our place onto bookshelves that don’t know where to categorize us, walking through darker alley’s than many of our writing peers, getting shunned by others, but that’s okay. We’re not ones to follow a crowd.

20160727_133838

God is a lion. He lives inside the hearts of His family, roaring when needed. Here you see His might in my friend, Louise (Furiosa, on the right).

costumenight

She came to this conference, lacking hair, full of cancer. For costume night, she showed her inner strength by donning the garb of Furioso. This is a true warrior, full of fight,  Lion roaring.

She goes back home to agonizing treatment, but full of hope. Look into her eyes, her heart. This is the Lion showing the world that we can walk through those dark alleys and survive. We can forge our way into uncomfortable places to where God calls us whether we feel at the top of our game or not.

So keep your head up and tell Monday to beware The Lion.

Monday with Chris Martin

Good morning, friends. One of my favorite things to discover is other authors who not only love to write, but use their talents to show others the depth of God’s love–especially in out-of-the-box ways. Chris Martin is an author, blogger and family man. Please read his story–follow his journey in using his gifts to bring God’s story to prisoners. There’s even an opportunity for you to help.

 

I remember the exact moment my passion for writing ignited.

The year was 1990. I was one of three seniors who attended a small, Christian school nestled deep within the mountains of Western North Carolina. A week of testing was coming to a close, and I had finished the particular subject earlier than everyone else. I pulled out a blank sheet of notebook paper and began to write what was on my heart.

It turned out to be a poem about the crucifixion. I still have the original piece of paper from that day. I recall reading those words over and over, amazed that I could rhyme so well. Thrilled that I could write something so poignant and real. It contained emotion, substance and hooked me right in, even though I had penned the words myself. I will never forget that day.

I can’t remember when, but at some point after that, I felt the urge to start writing fictional stories. While I absolutely enjoy writing fiction, it always leaves me feeling a little empty inside. I question whether or not my writing is truly having an impact on the lives of others, or if it’s just giving them a few hours of entertainment.

A couple years ago, everything changed. I was listening to music one day when the Casting Crowns song, Glorious Day, came on. I’ve listened to that song a million times. It’s one of my favorites. The second verse always speaks to me in such a way that pulls the strings of my heart taut, and my eyes well up with tears. It talks about Jesus being led up Calvary’s mountain and being nailed to the Cross. His hands, the very same ones that healed nations, were stretched out on a tree. And then, manifesting pure love, He took the nails for me.

I began to think about everything Jesus did for me that dark day, when He endured the most horrific beating and crucifixion ever recorded. These thoughts inspired me to write a stranger’s view of Calvary entitled, I Was There. It was the beginning of what would evolve into several stories written in a first-person perspective.

Recently, a friend of mine took two copies of I Was There into the prison where she works and gave them to some inmates. The response was humbling. They struggle to read the Bible and understand it. They were amazed at how my first-person perspectives gave them a brand new outlook on God’s love for us. They were encouraged. They were renewed with hope.

I finally found the purpose for my writing.ChrisMartin_Kindle-1

I decided to combine both of my first-person, Bible story collections into one entitled, I Am Free. I have two versions available. One is for Kindle at $1.99. The other is in paperback form, and I will be sending copies to inmates free of charge. I am starting to get in touch with chaplains at various prisons to see if I can ship I Am Free to them for distribution. A woman from England contacted me and said her husband speaks at prisons once a month. He will check with the chaplains over there and see if they will hand out copies.

I’m already amazed at what God has done in just a little over a week. If this takes off and becomes larger than I can even imagine, I hope to one day meet inmates who have read the book, hear their stories and eventually turn those into a book that will encourage others.

I set up a GoFundMe page in case anyone wants to donate funds to help me with shipping out copies of my book. Even if I don’t raise much money, I am still going to send these out to as many people and places as I can. There are so many incarcerated throughout the world. I believe they all have a common need. Encouragement and hope. If my words can help lift them up in even a small way, I will stop at nothing to get I Am Free into their hands.

Here are my social media links, email and link to my GoFundMe page.

Email – qualityupgrades@gmail.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692428536
Twitter – https://twitter.com/WriterChrisM
Blog – http://chrismartinwrites.com
Contact page on my blog – http://chrismartinwrites.com/contact/
GoFundMe page – https://www.gofundme.com/myp8m2pz

CMartinChris currently lives in the mountains of North Carolina with his wife, Jennifer, their two daughters, and a two year old Beagle named Rocky. He is passionate about the written word, and believes it has the power to encourage, uplift and spread hope.

Hats And The People Who Wear Them

My little guy wears many hats. His crocheted Yoda hat works well for cool weather, the blue and white striped fedora works well for going out, and his pumpkin stem hat goes on for sleep. He has a shelf full of them, one to identify every kind of event.

I have many hats too. I love them despite the guaranteed hat head—after years of sun damage, a hat is much more valuable to me than stylish hair. Vanity got me nothing but skin cancer.

But the hats I wear most come with valuable names: Mommy, Wife, Friend, Writer, Artist, Employee of that other job, and the not-so-valuable names: scrubber of floors and bathrooms, scooper of the litter box, cleaner of hairballs, puke, random pee puddles, and anything gross and sticky.100_2432

What usually happens is the need to pile on multiple hats at once. This is where blessed, too busy, and exhausted morph into one hat. I call it: Huh? It’s kind of like a fedora and pillbox hat in one—half stylish and the other half—not so much.

This hat is heavy, but it’s the hat-in-fashion because we’re supposed to wear it with pride, right?

Wrong.

I have another hat—one that our culture laughs at. It does give me hat head—that pressed down circle around my head. I think many of you wear this hat too (it’s called The Crown)—but like me, you probably keep putting on Huh? because we think it works better to take everything on ourselves. And despite the pillbox influence, people think Huh? looks more stylish.

When The Miracle of Rain came out, someone in the publishing industry sent me an article on how authors are supposed to manage their time. “I have a newborn baby”, I said. “I’ll do my best, but…”
“Read the article,” he said.

So I did. I read how this woman became a bestselling author because she marketed her book full-time, wrote full time, was a full time mom, held down a full time job, went back to college and managed to stay in shape. I’m serious, this woman claimed to have done it all—full time, wearing her extra-strength Huh? hat.

Me thinks her hat was fiction.

The person who sent me that article? I don’t work with him anymore, and I will never put on that hat again because what it does is squeeze your brains until they fall out. And then you have another sticky mess to clean.

But The Crown is light. And it works for you when you need to rest.

Wait—what’s that word?

Rest.

So disregard those brain squishing Huh?’s and the people who pawn them. They’re nothing but bling for the pillbox. The Crown? Well, the Maker of your crown said that people will indeed mock you, but that’s okay, it’s only because they’re tired and unable to see what they’re really wearing.  It’s been said that when the whole kingdom wears their crowns, they light up the world. I think our world could use a little more of that.

How to be an Impressionist painting

In my teen years, I handled life with my hands dipped in paint. I found joy in the blues and reds, found peace in knowing I was good at something, and for my own entertainment, it confused those who kept trying to put me in the preppy box. Yes, I behaved myself. Yes, I was quiet and most everyone assumed I was an A student and read a lot (I did read a lot). But the messy paint and my “unique” way of fashion had more than one person scratch their heads. “How do I complete this picture?”

My art teacher encouraged me to paint big. He recognized that I was more of a free spirit and didn’t accept bashful art. I didn’t either, and I flourished with giant flowers and portraits of whoever was brave enough to model for a bunch of teenagers.

No erupting pimple could dampen the thrill of art class.100_2417

On one occasion he made what I thought a strange observation. “Your watercolor…it looks great from far away, but it loses something up close.”

There it is again. Up close I’m not quite. Not quite what?

I worked on my art, studying the masters, taking the passion to college—polishing up a bit and producing better work—but there was always that messy quality.

Of course, it worked for Claude Monet—if you look at his paintings up close, they’re a little messy. A little unorganized, but step back a bit and…hang that on my wall, please, and on every wall in my house. His work is an overall collection of wow.

Do we all really need to be normal? As one of my reviewers said about Faith Seekers: “… is occasionally like free-form jazz” (which, after mulling over, left me in chuckles). What do I do with this free-form part of me?

Twenty years later, Jeff Goins answered that question.

“Maybe the best moments in our lives aren’t meant to be so cut and dried. Maybe the mess is beautiful.”

Is this how God sees us? He knows we can be messy, and up close we’re far from perfect. But we’re His art. Why do we fight so hard to be accepted as normal? God made us unique from the beginning, and He calls it wonderful.

The Outsiders

There is a field of beautiful weeds next to my daughter’s school. I pull in line alongside it every day with the other parents, creeping along for my turn to pick up my child. The weeds are quite tall now, catching every breeze and butterfly that comes its way. There is the occasional set of tire tracks mushed into the field from a driver who couldn’t wait for the line to move. The school has tried to purchase it in hopes to expand, but that rectangle of dirt and brush is far too pricey.

The land is surrounded on one side by old trees, firmly rooted into the ground in the yards of neighbors. They tower above the weeds, holding court in their superior standing of shade-givers.

But when the light hits the weeds just right, you can see gold. While the sun outlines the trees like halos of honey, the weeds are given the full force of the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAlight, casting a breathtaking beauty upon them. They are not weeds in this moment, but the light so many artists try to capture in their paintings. When I finally understood the value of a weed, it changed my thinking forever.

Although not everyone waits around to witness their transformation.

As I approach my 20th year high school reunion, I think about the weeds and wonder how many of us will walk in feeling like we’re pulling a cart-ful of them, and how many will feel like the trees that look down on them. Are my adornments as beautiful—do my shoulders reach as high as the others?

Does the weight of my cart outweigh those of the others?

Despite the joy of seeing old friends, successes will be measured on this day. Classmates will walk in with lists: the accomplishments, and the list that we probably won’t talk about –the failed relationships, losses of all kinds, mistakes.

But the light shines just as bright on our carts of weeds. They are what make us work harder, gain wisdom, and grow beautifully. God didn’t come for the best of the best after all.

I‘m here inviting outsiders, not insiders – an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.” Luke 5:32 The Message

Those of us in the weed fields become part of God’s masterpiece—too unworthy in the eyes of those who miss the light—too valuable for the wallets of the insiders.

A girl’s tale–guest post by Chloe Rossman, age 6

It’s hard to get the feet moving on Mondays, so I thought I’d bring a little joy for your day. There’s nothing like the perspective of a child, after all, God  gave them this command:

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
I Timothy 4:12

Chloe’s thoughts on finding joy in the little things.100_3262

My mouth makes me smile
My hands make me wave
My feet make me dance
My arms make my hands reach books
My legs make my feet walk
My tummy likes to get full and not full
My chin makes my mouth talk.
My ears wiggle.
My eyes make me see animal’s tails move up and down.
Hats are fun to wear. Clothes are really pretty.
My hair blows in the wind.
Reading books, chapter books, and princess books are really fun.
Raccoons play together.

To Slay a Nightmare

Morning peers in the curtain and falls upon Noah’s cheeks. They are still baby-squish full despite his announcement that he is a big boy now. He smiles, then makes faces at me and his Sissy. The sun finds Chloe as she grins wide to show us the hole in her mouth. “It’s a straw-holder, Mommy,” she says as she slurps milk through the space that used to be her front tooth. The light is honey-lovely and dapples on chairs and bed head, highlighting the best parts of the morning.

I say the blessing and think: You are my Sunshine…

As the sun chases the shadows across the day, I peek at one. It covers the kids in the corner of the yard where they yell at each other, and then they hit. This pulls a shout from me and I feel needles erupt from my skin as if I’m a porcupine warning the darkness that crept into them. The shadow moves, ever so slow, but it moves on and my two are laughing again.

…still my sunshine…

Noah comes and gets me when he can’t sleep. I snuggle next to him in his big boy bed and he whispers, “I saw a shadow moving, Mommy.” I hug him close and remind him that Jesus sends his army of angels to watch over us at night. “The shadows are nothing compared to them.”BloodMoonColor

“Oh, yeah,” he says and slides into a good sleep.

That is Sonshine

I remember my own nightmare a while back where I was stuck at camp with all my fears. It was overwhelming terror, each cabin harboring a threat. The fear manifested itself into a figure dark as night. And then He walks in, my Sonshine. He walks to my right side and stands, the Lion of Judah in glowing warrior stance (The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand…Psalm 121:5). I wake up, delivered.

The shade is not to be confused with shadow. Whether your shadows are tests,  monsters, or just a dark season, nothing can extinguish the light of God.

Beautiful Dignity

Modesty will always be beautiful. That’s why a thousand page novel that takes us through every detail of every day will attract more dust than readers. When everything is laid bare, when the author drags us through five chapters of the first hour of Jane’s day….yeah, not going to finish. But if the writer can highlight the good stuff without patronizing me with every detail – I’m in.

This ran through my mind while watching Dancing with the stars the other night. One of the female dancers was draped in a few yards of red lace – and that was it. She put all her effort in creating sex appeal, revealing every detail she could get away with. There was no inner grace, nothing that said this dancer has a life beyond showing us her skin, nothing but “cast your vote for me because I’m giving you what I think you value most.” She showed more than I wanted to see, and it was demeaning. I bored quickly of her.

In comes Candace Cameron Bure. She dances and dresses more modestly than the others. She shows us the story in the 100_2418dance. The judges don’t like her conservative stance and it often reflects in her scores, but she made it clear from the beginning that she would give respect to her husband and God. That gets my attention. She has a story to tell and it doesn’t involve stripping away her dignity.

She was recently named one of People Magazines 50 most beautiful people.

The stereotype for conservative women is full of dirty words like uptight, prudish, and fearful. Those are words from the voices that keep women objectified. Words from those who demand women “loosen up” and strip away their dignity…until these mockers get bored and decide that beauty is not in following the crowd, but in the woman who dances to the words of God:

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. Proverbs 31: 25-31

Let Them Dance

Praise the Lord!

Sing to the Lord a new song,

his praise in the assembly of the godly!

2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker;

let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!

100_3262

3 Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!

4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.
Psalm 149: 1-4