More thoughts on Church and Stuff…

So, the other day I went to dinner with some church friends at their house and found out that one of my newer friends at my current church had strong ties to the church I grew up at!

I was so happy, I could hardly contain myself. It was a day I was particularly lonely for my church “family”–the one I had grown up with. I left that dinner feeling warm and fuzzy and loved and light-hearted. It’s funny what connecting with family will do to a person.

That said, the friends who hosted dinner have been my church family for years, and the church I go to now I have been a part of for about 15 years–so really, really close to the same amount of time I spent at the church I grew up in. (Started when I was five, transitioned to the new church when I was about 21 and newly engaged.)

Shoot. That’s really close to the same, isn’t it?

But…the place that raised you, raised you. Adult life goes much faster than childhood, so those first 15 years may well have been an eternity. Those first 15 years formed my theology. I was taught in Sunday School, youth group, retreats, and camps to interpret certain scriptures in a certain way. A life time of studying the Bible, and my own time in Bible school has confirmed to me, that that way of interpreting was not wrong. That said…nothing that is denomination specific to what I think the Bible is saying is necessary for salvation. You can get these points wrong and still go to heaven. So, they are more of a comfort to me than anything else…the idea of worshipping with a group that for the most part agrees on things is a nice idea.

Being non-denominational now means that we don’t expect the person sitting next to us to agree on the finer points of theology, that we don’t really talk about those finer points of theology, and that we don’t have a formal standard to hold our pastors up to as they teach.

Did you catch that one? It grates on me. Right now we have good pastors who teach truth. But what if one of them were to go off to some conference or training and be led astray like the pastor who brought the cult to my old church? The old church had a denomination with a codified system of beliefs so that when the cult came to town there was something specific to hold the pastor’s teachings to, and the formal ability to fire him for false teachings.

Our church has a statement of faith and a constitution, but our elders and pastor have the role of maintaining that. If a wrong teaching were to slip into the church slyly and slowly, turning the elders and pastors minds to it one at a time, there would be no stopping it.

I hate that insecure feeling. Why? Because I know this can happen. And also because our church has changed a lot in the last five years.

So, we built a new building, see? And it attracted a lot of new members. More than twice the original number. And almost all of them are coming from different church traditions, for lots of reasons, including, but not limited to, their old church getting on their nerves.

The folks that have come since we built the new building have slipped into leadership roles. A high percentage of elders are new-since-the building, and so are the small group leaders.

And so are lots of my friends! So don’t think I am saying that new people are wrong, or that switching churches is wrong. I’m just saying that we have gained a lot of people with a lot of strong opinions in a time line that feels very “all of a sudden.”

And what if, just what if, some of those families believed something that would be bad for the church and wanted to help the church embrace those ideas that aren’t healthy?

It could happen. It has happened before. And being non-denominational, really, the most persuasive voice wins…

And now, this page is long, so I have to pause, and start another.

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Oh, just some thoughts on church and stuff.

It’s best not to talk about denominational differences on the internet, in the same way that it’s best not to talk about politics, race, parenting, language, education, economics, investing, exercise, diet, or each other.

Which leaves the weather.

Sunny and 75. How about you? (Makes me think of my uncle, who we lost last year. He lived in Chula Vista for years, where the weather was eternally sunny and 75.)

If you’re in Chula Vista, and on the internet, there must be nothing to talk about at all! (Kidding! To make a point! If all you can talk about is the weather, and the weather never changes, what can you talk about?)

So, denominational differences. So long as the church follows the Bible, and the Bible alone, as their Holy Scripture, I don’t know of a single denominational difference that will keep a person from getting saved. The trouble comes when extra scriptures are added to things  or when tradition trumps scripture. Then you scootch into the dangerous territory of cult.

I dropped my kids off at AWANA last Wednesday, and ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We laughed it up about this and that, one of the “thats” being how we were forced to go to the our husband’s churches when we got married. We both liked the churches, and the people and stuff, but we came out of churches with strong traditions and the transition hasn’t necessarily always been easy.

She ended up in my old denomination, and I ended up non-denominational, though I kind of want to invent a denomination called “Multnomah” because all of our Pastor’s went to the same college and you can be certain everything they teach is going to line up with the statement of faith of said college.

I digress.

It can be hard to switch churches, even if you went willingly with your husband because you love him and his church was kinda more fun. (Sorry old church friends! I was woo’d by “new” and “different!”)

That said, my old church had a million Multnomah interns teaching us all through youth group, so it’s not that different…

I’m digressing a lot, which is annoying, because I have several points to make, and this is getting long.

I guess the first point is that for several years I have missed “home.” I miss the building, though I know it has been a bit remodeled. I miss the culture…the events and activities we usually held. I miss the choir and the stained glass window, and knowing people who watched me grow up. I miss doing things with the other churches in the denomination. And this is a thing that young people never expect to hear themselves say, but…I miss the music!

The church I grew up at went through a rough patch after I got married. A new pastor came and brought a cult with him that I do not hesitate to call evil. At first I thought my parents were overreacting, that it was simply an unfamiliar bit of Pentecostalism. But it wasn’t. It really was evil. And so my parents don’t go there anymore. And I think that is the main reason I miss home so much these days. My parents left that church for another neighborhood church about ten years ago, and I haven’t been back to the place I learned to love God since.

My old church isn’t tied up with the cult anymore, praise God. So I could go back without fear. But it’s in another town, and there’s no real reason to go visit. Besides, we usually serve in ministry at our church, which makes visiting other churches difficult.

Maybe, since it’s the internet, I shouldn’t have mentioned that the old church had a leader that brought something evil in, but it’s an important part of the story of the church, you know? If you always hide the dark stuff, or sugar coat it you mislead people and make it much harder for them to come to Christ.

Okay. This one page is too long. I’ll have to stop and make more points in another post.

 

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Speaking of the ACFW…

food network star 300x150 Speaking of the ACFW...I got to blog over at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s blog this week.

It’s about Brand, and what I have learned about Branding from Food Network Star.

The mentors on Food Network Star are keen to find the right personality: the one who can carry a whole show and make the station money. They are working hard to both discover someone with something special to share with the world, and to help them develop their distinct brand.

Check out the blog: Top 3 Things I’ve learned about Brand from Food Network Star.

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Top Five Things I’m Freaking Out about regarding Going to Conference

I’m going to conference! I’m going to conference! (Exclamation points courtesy of Going Away to Do Grown Up Things for the first Time in Ten Years.) But, I am freaking out, on the inside. On the outside, I’m just trying to get my book written. But on the inside…man!

Thing 1: Leaving the kids for five days. I have mentioned this before, but I am a mess thinking about leaving the girls for that long. I am going to miss them so much! They are hilarious, adorable, and my besties.

Thing 2: Leaving Daniel for five days. You all might remember I went glamping on a girls weekend a year ago in spring. That was the longest time I had been away from him, and I missed him then, too. Not in the weird way that Aviva Drescher misses her husband on RHoNY, but still. It’s going to be kinda lonely without the guy!

Thing 3: There are some unscheduled meals where we are expected to be grown ups and feed ourselves. This is not my strong point. On the one hand there is every likelihood that I will just forget to eat and be a real crank for the rest of the day. But If I don’t forget, I have this terrible fear that I am going to get swept up with whoever I happen to be standing nearest to at the time and we will end up at Ruth’s Chris Steak house where I will be forced to eat a $75 baked potato and talk about Amish Romance. (A genre I just don’t know a lot about…though I did see some Amish people on my vacation two weeks ago! See, that’s the kind of thing I will end up saying to strangers who will realize that I have the sensibility of a ten year old. Which is why I will miss Norah and Lucy so much. I do well with the ten year old set.)

Thing 4: Getting to the hotel. Silly, right? I made it to Sweden all by myself at 18, surely I can get to the Hyatt from the airport. But…yeah. I’m nervous. It’s this one great freaky unknown. I am scads of familiar with the Denver airport, the Dallas Airport, the Salt Lake City airport, the Wichita Airport, the Oklahoma City Airport (the Will Rogers,) I met the San Francisco Airport just a week ago, and I even vaguely recall the Minneapolis Airport. But I’ve never been to this one. And I’m going to have to get off the plane, find my stuff, find the shuttle, and get on it, and go to the hotel. I mean, writing it makes it sound like no big deal at all. But Freaking Out isn’t usually a logical response to things.

Thing 5: I am super lucky and already have a roommate lined up. She seams nice, but I don’t know her. I have buckets of online writing friends, but my roommate is someone I don’t even know online. I am convinced she is fantastic, wise, clever, and will totally disapprove of me. I don’t plan on doing the kinds of things that make people disapprove, but when I am nervous I talk too much and too loud, which I expect this really nice woman who graciously offered to share a room with me will take one listen to my crazy jabber and realize she would have been better off sleeping in the lobby.

There are other great things to freak out about too, like spilling water on a publisher which is a distinct likelihood I have also mentioned in the past. Ask my dad. Only that was soda. Poor dad! Also, freaking out a little about seeing my friends in the distance but not being able to get to them because of the vast crowds of people between us/or them noticing me and fleeing. This, I have been assured, will not happen, and yet, and yet…once they get a taste of that nervous talking,  I would not blame them for running and hiding!

I have been to conferences before. That is to say, I have gone to one day of the Ooligon Press Writers Conference in at my alma mater, and to one day of the SCBWI conference that was also in Portland. Plus, I am by no means an introvert. So I  know for a fact I won’t be lonely or ask too many embarrassing questions. But still…the closer Conference gets the more I wonder what on Earth I was thinking!

Next time: Why does an indie need to go to conference anyway? (The answer will surprise you! Or not, depending on how up on the publishing world you are.)

 

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New Book Jitters

IMGP0075 300x224 New Book JittersWhen you were a kid did you ever get to go to Disneyland? Or another amazing place that promised to be a kids absolute dream come true?

I got to go, and the night before, I couldn’t sleep. It was like Christmas eve on speed. (Gift giving is my Dad’s love language. Christmas gifts were…kind of a big deal.)

Or were you ever in a school play? Right before you go on stage, you are in the wings, behind the curtain, listening for your cue. Your knees are water, your heart is probably going to fly away since it has turned into a butterfly all of a sudden. You will forget. You won’t forget. You will forget. You won’t forget. You will be a star, for your two lines, and it will be awesome.

I hear that the ready-set-go of a race (husband=track guy) is the same kind of thing.

Absolute joy married to adrenaline fueled fear. But mostly joy, because you OWN this and you are ready for it.

That’s what it is like when I am two thirds done with a book.

Which I am now.

The pieces are falling into place. My attention deficit characters are going haywire. The setting, characters, and previous scenes are feeding off of each other so it’s more like watching the best movie ever than writing. It’s just happening, all over the page, and I’m there to be the first person to ever see it.

But, it’s so exciting that I can’t hardly sit still to do it! All I want to do is bounce around talking about it and how excited I am to be at this place. It’s…the best.

Anyway, if I can pull off five seriously productive days this book will be done on Friday. I said something similar last week, but I also went on vacation last week, and the siren song of family, friends, and the beautiful farm called me away from my screen. Now I’m back home. I have Just Dance Disney to babysit my kids while I write, and I’m on the homeward stretch.

I cannot wait to write THE END!

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Goals…Dreams…Hopes…Wishes…World Domination…

dream house 300x300 Goals...Dreams...Hopes...Wishes...World Domination...I am one of those folks who is always looking for the “next” thing. On the one hand, I have a great plan for paving my side yard and putting up a hot tub, on the other hand, I found the house we should move to. You know what I mean, I hope. There’s always something that we should be doing “next.” (My poor husband!)

Which isn’t exactly the same thing as a goal. I have goals too. One of them is to launch the first three books in the Tillgiven series this year, but…we’ll see! Another goal is to have a successful first AFCW Conference…success meaning I don’t spill my water glass at dinner, I do learn some amazing new writing skills, I don’t get lost going from the airport to the hotel, I do get to meet some great new friends. Those kinds of things.

And I have hopes for my writing career as well. Some of them are bigger…more like dreams or wishes…as far fetched as world domination. I hope that I can keep working at this until the day I die. I meant it. I hope I can manage to have a writing career for my whole life. I dream that I can make so much money we can move to a lovely “dream” home and that my husband can retire from the daily grind to do whatever he wants instead. (He says he wouldn’t. He would keep working because that is what he likes doing.)

Another dream is that I would become the “master” of something. Georgette Heyer was the master of the Regency. So much so that other writers merely mimicked her work instead of doing their own research. When she discovered that people where basically stealing from her, she decided to catch them in the best way ever. She started playing around with her slang. She would use words in the opposite way they were supposed to be used, and even make up her own, that way, when her invented words showed up in other writer’s work they would be caught, basically red-handed…Heyer owned Regency. Still does, really.

I’m not saying I want to be world renowned and have flocks of other writers mimicking my work, because that’s just weird. I do, world domination 300x300 Goals...Dreams...Hopes...Wishes...World Domination...reghowever, want to work hard and become an expert in what I do. I hope that doesn’t sound horrifically vain. It’s just that I want to learn everything I can and improve every page I write. I don’t want books I’ve already written to set a standard. I want every new book to improve until someday what I write is the best example of it’s kind of work.

 

At the moment, I would say my hope is to be known as an expert at farce and dialogue, and for farce to have a huge revival in popularity.

That’s my dream. My measurable goal is to finish the works I am writing, and to keep writing. To see each book I put out there find it’s audience and make enough money that I can justify writing the next one. Pretty simple really. But my dream? Dominate the world of the fast paced, dialogue-driven adventure comedy.

What about you? What’s your dream? I would love to hear about it, and about what your goals are that might help you get there!

 

 

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Homeschooling… who?

SANY0089 300x225 Homeschooling... who?Me. And Lucy, my 8 year old. But not full on hard core homeschooling because that is Big Time.

In our school district if you are what is known as Talent and Gifted then you can take a “Challenge” test and if you pass you can quit your school and go to a new school that offers a “Challenge” program.

Apparently this is not up to the national requirement that all students have their educational needs met at their home campus so it is going to change soon, but right now it is how it is.

I have two talented and gifted kids. One has had a slew of great teachers, one after the other, and so has had what I consider a successful time in her public Spanish Immersion School.

The other student…I don’t know if she is more talented and gifted, or if her teachers  just didn’t have the skill sets they needed, because she is bored to death by school. I have truly enjoyed her three teachers so far (she just finished 2nd grade) but none of them have been able to offer her anything resembling a real challenge in school.

So I’ve slipped into that gap between the rock and the hard place. Lucy went into Kindergarten already reading in English and Spanish. She taught herself division at the beginning of second grade, and by the end of second grade she had completely stopped caring about her classwork. She did it as fast as she could so she could get back to using her “how to draw Disney Princesses” book. She spent maybe three minutes of every lesson time actually doing the lessons and the rest of the day entertaining herself. We did talk about it with the teacher, but with a big class of diverse learners and teaching in two languages, and with Lucy being the kind of girl who may talk a lot, but who doesn’t really create a disruption, she just didn’t have time to prepare enrichment stuff for her.

So. What do I do? Test her into a school that won’t teach her Spanish but will give her extra worksheets? Leave her where she is and hope that the fourth teacher she has can do more for her? Or take advantage of another program in our District that works with parents who homeschool?

We’re choosing the last option. The good news is Lucy is thrilled!

She will go to a public school two or three days a week (three if we get into the elective classes) with a class of around 19 third graders and a full time teacher. It starts later in the morning than her sister’s school starts and ends earlier so getting her there should be easy peasy. In fact, we can walk!

The school provides all the curriculum and holds my hand to make sure we get it all done on the days we aren’t in their building. The benefit of that is that when she is done with the thirty minute assignment in only five minutes, we can go do something awesome together instead!

Not that I know what that will be yet, but one step at a time.

I got my application to the school in first on open enrollment day, so I am working in faith that she has a spot, but I haven’t heard for sure yet. I’m nervous and excited. It’s a big step for us. One I think I’ve mentioned on the blog before, but I may need to turn to you all to talk through it, vent, and cry as the year goes on, so I thought it was worth bringing up again.

In light of this big change, while at Target yesterday I grabbed a Brain Quest grade 3 workbook. Now even if I absolutely flake on my responsibilities as a homeschool mom I can at least do as good as the district Challenge program and give her extra worksheets!

(Challenge may actually be a lot more interesting than worksheets, so pardon me if I have painted them wrong! The biggest problem for me would be getting my two kids to and from two different non-bussed boundary exception schools every day.)

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Filed under Christian Living, family life, Homeschooling, The Real Housewives of Clark County

Wonderful Acts of Kindness

car 168x300 Wonderful Acts of KindnessThe other day I happened to get to witness a Wonderful Act of Kindness. A huge  SUV with a couple of women stalled in the middle of a very busy intersection. The driver hopped out right away to push it through, but it was a huge car, and she was one person, and the intersection was very big and there was a lot of traffic staring at her.

From out of nowhere, several men appeared–I was keeping an eye out for anyone trying to help, as I had my kids in the car and didn’t feel safe leaving them so I could help push. When I say from nowhere, that’s how it really felt. They just…appeared. I take that to mean they had noticed from far away and taken more than the usual effort to get to the car and push it. It was just…wonderful.

I shared the moment on my Facebook author page (not the FB account that I quit!) and asked everyone to share their stories with me…their “WAK-y” stories, if you will. (Get it? Wonderful Acts of Kindness? I’m thinking that could be a thing.)

My mom’s dear friend Dorothy shared her story right away, and it really touched me, so I want to share it here, with you all! She lives in a small town in Eastern Oregon where kindness holds the day.

I saw one today as a matter of fact. We have a very busy 4 lane expressway as you go into town. At the 4 way stop light an elderly man was in his scooter and it must have run out of battery power because he was trying his best to push it across the highway himself and having some difficulty doing so. It was also 101 degrees outside today. Well, a man a couple of cars ahead of me at the stop light got out of his rig (he was in the right hand lane) and helped to push the scooter all the way across the 4 lanes. Another man coming in the other direction stopped to help as well. People were very polite and did not go when the light turned green for them. They all remained still and honked approval when the younger man completed his deed and ran back across the highway to his vehicle. The second man that helped pulled over and must have offered to take the older man home because he and his passenger put his scooter in the back of their pickup and off they went. And yes, it did make me smile.

blue mountains 300x211 Wonderful Acts of Kindness

The incredible area Dorothy lives in. Suddenly, I kinda want to move…

We talked about her story a little bit and she concluded, “I live in an incredible area. We really do care about each other.

I couldn’t agree more!

I have another Wonderful Act of Kindness to share from that conversation as well…

A mother named Sarah shared, “My tire blew out as I was driving home, and a man stopped and without hesitation changed tires for me. So thankful for him. I didn’t get his name, but now I need to pay if forward. So thankful God sent him to me. I was able to get home safely with my 2 boys.

That really touched me, because I have been there! I had my two babies–aged two and not quite one–in the car with me when the tire blew on the I205 bridge. Sure, I know how to change a tire, just not when I’m panicked. I didn’t have a cell phone back then either, so I pulled over as soon as it was safe, praying that I hadn’t ruined the wheel, and then stood at the side of the highway, waving. A super nice man who didn’t speak very much English and was driving his work truck pulled over right away and changed it for me. I didn’t have words to thank him enough, or money to tip him with, and he disappeared into the afternoon, never to be seen again. I don’t know what I would have done if I had been stranded there for very long.

I know, I wouldn’t have been stranded long, though. Because the world is quite full of people ready to perform Wonderful Acts of Kindness.

What about you all? Do you have any stories to share? Have you witnessed a Wonderful Act of Kindness recently? Post them in the comments if you do!

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Filed under Christian Living, family life, not writing, The Real Housewives of Clark County

Vacation Bible School and other Cool Stuff

In addition to cutting Facebook so that I can actually start to live up to this “good church girl” reputation people have given me (would that I had earned it by actually being selfless!) I have been teaching VBS this week.

Today’s a big day–the salvation message. Yup. Today I get to teach the kids that even though we are all incapable of not sinning, God loves us, and has a plan to redeem us from the consequences of that sin. So, if you happen to be reading this, please pray!

Tomorrow is a great story as well…the characters in our story have rededicated themselves to God, but guess what? They are still selfish sinners, and Nehemiah gets to sort them out, yet again! Maybe that doesn’t seem like the most encouraging story in the Bible…that even after salvation we people, by nature, are basically jerks. But I think it’s one of the most important for the kids, because if they accept Christ today, then tomorrow, when they sass their parents and get in trouble for it, they may be really confused.

If you want to know more about our Lego Nehemiah VBS (which I got to write!) Check out my blog post Vacation Bible School of Hard Knocks at Cozy Mystery Magazine!

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I kind of quit FB (TMI warning!)

After speaking in a lighthearted way about Facebook addiction for the last couple of years, I finally got serious and quit the personal account.

Two years ago I ditched almost all of Facebook and just kept a couple of writers groups thinking I’d be on the site less. If “on less” means pretty much the whole day, I was right. If it doesn’t, I was wrong.

(Obviously, I was wrong.)

But I was also wrong about staying  on Facebook because of the “venting” and “relaxing” I did in my writers groups,  which were the way I white-washed gossip and … naughty talk, for lack of better word. For the most part it was just an off color punch line, here and there, when other writers left themselves open to it. I don’t have the most control over my tongue (in this case, fingertips.)

I’ve read James more than say, 100 times, so I know that’s a real problem, but…online? Out of the public eye? Where it didn’t disappoint readers or embarrass church friends? It couldn’t be wrong to let myself go a little online, in a secret group, could it?

Er. Yes. It could. Because when things went too far (for me) I didn’t have the moral high ground (for lack of better word) to ask for a cleaner environment, when I tried. My friends called foul.

That alone wasn’t all that bad, but it was online, and people can’t see or hear you really, so, while I was just sort of, asking…you know? Not panicked, not mad, just conversationally asking, people got really upset. First they were upset at someone wanting to censor them, but others were upset thinking they had hurt me deeply in some way, which they hadn’t wanted to do.

It’s so hard to have a nuanced conversation online where parts of what you say are lighthearted and parts are more serious (case in point, the conversation I had about cemeteries with a friend who had just gotten a cancer diagnosis. Not my shiniest moment of clear communication, I can tell you.)

But because it was online, I really couldn’t “see” that. I couldn’t see that everyone else felt much more deeply about the whole thing than I did. Even when they told me they had stayed up late upset about the situation, it didn’t come across as real. Not that I thought they were lying, it just felt…unreal. Like they didn’t mean it, were exaggerating for the emotional impact that is missing from written communication. And so I came across as an unfeeling, selfish, self centered hypocrite. I know I did, because I was told so, point blank.

Well, in a way it was true. You can’t go around telling people to clean up your act while you also salt your conversation with jokes 13 year old boys would be proud of, can you now? And you can’t dismiss other people’s declarations of their emotional state just because you find it absurd. Okay, literally you CAN do that, but you can’t do it and expect them to call it just another day.

So, that all to say, on Facebook, I was the worst possible Traci instead of the best possible Jesus. Facebook, therefore, had to go. I can’t grow into the best possible Jesus by letting myself spend all day as the worst possible Traci.

I liken it to a drunk. I was a Facebook drunk. But not the happy kind who sings karaoke and dances too much, the mean kind who starts yelling and picking fights before they throw up in your soup.

So, anyway. You can still find me on Facebook, because I have a professional account, where I post links and share writing updates. But that account can’t join groups or see walls, or respond to anyone else’s posts. So…for me (and for you!) that is a good thing. No, I couldn’t just moderate it, set a timer and get off, or anything else like that. Because I was a drunk, and one drink is too many if you are addicted.

So thank you for not begging me to come back–I need all the support I can get!

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