Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Forever Friends

Chin hairs? Upper lip hairs? If you’re a woman and older, you know that these are just one of many banes as we age. I saw a post on Facebook once that said, “A true friend is one who will pluck your chin hairs for you when you’re in the hospital.” Oh, how true!

Years ago, a psychologist told me, “A true friend speaks the truth even when you know it may hurt.”  She was referring to my comment about my friend, Debbie.

Debbie, who went home to Jesus at age fifty, was one of the sweetest people I knew. She passed from this life because of complications due to obesity. We headed up out church singles’ group together.  All she wanted was to get married and have children. Sadly, it never happened for her.

Debbie was beautiful inside and out, but her extreme weight kept men from being interested in her. In her yearning for love, she fell repeatedly for men who did not, and would not, reciprocate. She spun wild tales of someone’s imagined interest in her, and I found it difficult to tell her the truth that, “He’s just being nice. He has no romantic interest in you.” In fact, only once did I try to tell her that, and she sobbed so broken-heartedly, I retracted my words.

“That’s not being a true friend,” the psychologist told me. Gulp! What do you consider to be a true friend?  How do we define friendship? Speaking truth isn’t always wise. Some things are better left unsaid when the overall result is more harm than good. But I should have been truthful with Debbie and perhaps she would have set her sights on someone more attainable. She always went for the drop dead, gorgeous guys. 

I feel privileged to have friends I've known since grade school and my teenage years. I have a special friend I’ve known since my early twenties. She was my pastor’s wife first, but gradually became a dear friend. This friend is eleven years older than me, and in the twilight of her years, is suffering many debilitating health issues. One is Parkinson’s. Her whole body shakes and jerks continually despite medication.

She fell and broke a hip over the weekend. One of my daughters, Denise, and I went to visit her in the hospital. Still slightly groggy, she told the nurse as I entered her room, “This is my forever friend. She will take my teeth out and brush and clean them, won’t you, Leola?”

Gulp! Although I have dentures, I have a slight aversion to such things. Have I said I have a slight aversion to such things? I did this for my elderly mother, changed her Depends, cleaned her vomit, etc. Have I said I have a slight aversion to such things?

So what did I do? I took my friend’s teeth and cleaned them, then helped her put them back in her mouth. Why? Because it’s what friends do. It is a demonstration of love.

As a friend, please love me enough to give me an honest evaluation of my writing. Oh, and pluck my upper lip hairs if I'm in the hospital. I'll try to clean my teeth myself.  Said with a chuckle. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Will My Writing Endure?

Will something you’ve written today be remembered after you’re gone? In the future, will people be reading a book you’ve written and encouraging others to read it? Will others be quoting from a blog you wrote? Will someone remember a devotion of yours as something that touched and changed them?  Is it possible that family and friends will recall something you posted on Facebook or Twitter after you’ve passed from this life?

What does it take to write something that will outlive you? Do you really want to know? I do, but I don’t have the answer. How has the Bible managed to exist all these years and still be a best seller – despite the many who have sought, and still seek, to silence its message?

For believers, we understand that the Bible is God’s inspired, anointed, infallible message to mankind. As a Christian, if my writing is inspired and anointed, it should endure after I’m gone. Perhaps only one person will read your writing when you’ve passed on. But if only that one person has been blessed or challenged or changed, isn’t it worth it? My friend, Jan, writes beautiful devotions. I would wager that most of the people touched by her devotions never tell her. That’s where trusting God comes in.

Every day I pray that God will bless the fruit and labor of my hands and mind. It’s often discouraging to write when you see no beneficial results from it. As we commit what we do to the Lord, then He is responsible for the outcome. Many times I’ve written something that was therapeutic for me – it brought healing in some area of my life. Sometimes that is the only purpose God has for something we’ve written. It is because we needed it!

Keep writing, dear friends, and trust God with the results. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

We Shall Never Forget

The following is a story I wrote in 2010 as a FaithWriters Weekly Challenge entry. It's my story about 9/11.

TITLE: I Was There!
By Leola Ogle


It was a pleasant dream! The irritating, incessant beeping was an unwanted intruder into this pleasantness. I tried to will the noise into nothingness, but it was no use. My eyes fluttered open, drawn to the sunlight peeking around the edges of the window blinds. It was September and Phoenix was still having 100 degrees days.

Groaning, I shut off the alarm, toying with the idea of sleeping another hour. Life would not end if I was late for work. Faithful to my responsibilities, I was determined get up. 

I glanced at the emptiness of the bed, glad that my husband would return in a few days. I never slept well when he was gone. He was in Argentina attending an international revival conference with the leadership of our church. Although grateful for how God was touching their hearts, I would still be relieved to have him home.

Turning the television to the morning news, I reluctantly made my way to stand before the bathroom mirror. I must have left the pretty, young me asleep on the bed because I wasn’t sure who that tired, older woman in the mirror was. Leaning closer, I asked “Who are you?” Strange, her lips moved with mine. Pointing at her, I said “We better get it moving.”

Clutching my hairbrush, my hand stopped in midair. Did someone just say bomb? Explosion? Airplane? The brush clattered into the sink, as I rushed to stand before the television. I saw the billowing smoke; heard the panic, shock, horror in the voice of the reporter. Was it scenes from an upcoming movie? It had to be! It seemed surreal as I watched a plane fly into the side of…what? Where was this? What building was that? 

I flew down the stair and turned on the television. It was the same scenes. Did I think the television upstairs was lying? I began switching channels. It was all the same. Someone mentioned it was an attack. Surely someone didn’t just say war! Oh, dear God, so many people running – running frantically amidst the smoke and flying debris. 

Numb with disbelief, I slowly climbed the stairs, noticing that they needed vacuuming. Vacuuming – I should do that after work. It was reality - mundane normality. This other wasn’t. 

Oh, God! Oh, God! I didn’t realize at first that I was moaning out loud, calling on the only source of help that I knew. I felt stricken, violated, paralyzed! My country, my fellow Americans! I whispered over and over “God help us!”

What was happening to America? My husband was in another country. Did the group from my church know? Of course they would know. We lived in a day of live, instant media coverage.

I drove to work, softly crying and praying, rivulets of mascara marking my anguish. I was hundreds of miles from New York, yet I was there via radio and television. I stared out my van window, unable to comprehend that nothing seemed different. 

Arriving at work, I saw the somber, shocked faces, and knew that they knew. We gathered for prayer. Our nation gathered for prayer! In ensuing days we would watch the many prayer vigils across the nation. God, we need you! We’ve always needed you, but we usually ignore you, or worse, blaspheme you. Shame on us!

My husband called at mid-morning and I burst into tears. Please come home, I begged. He told me that there were no flights out. All flights into the U.S. had been cancelled. He finally arrived home that weekend.

Mesmerized, unable to tear our eyes from the horror, we watched the never-ending news reports. I flew the American flag. I bought t-shirts. I watched the opening game of the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks. I bought the poster of the teams bowing their heads in remembrance. I cheered when the Diamondbacks won the series, but somehow felt that the Yankees should win – our gift to New York. My husband smiled compassionately, said I wasn’t a true fan.

Every year we watch the tributes and memorials. For a few years we wore our t-shirts on 9/11. Our lives returned to normal. But for thousands, life would never be normal again. So many lost their lives - many would never see a loved one again. My remembrance seems an insignificant offering in comparison.

I was home in Phoenix, Arizona on September 11, 2001, yet I was there - in New York City.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Share The Good News...and Your Books

Friends don’t let friends….go without books. I love that I have friends who think and talk books. We even share books, or make suggestions to each other about good books we’ve read.

Last week I received a book in the mail from my friend, Sande, who lives in Oklahoma. She isn’t just a friend, we’ve known each other since our teen years. Although our lives have taken different paths, we still know each other very well. However, I don’t think she knows how much I love true stories – good true stories.

The book she sent, City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell, isn’t just a true story, but it is a story about missionaries to China. Ministry is dear to my heart. I especially love missionary stories – probably because as a young girl, I felt called into ministry to be a missionary. Alas, life happened, I made some bad choices (I married at sixteen to a young man who didn’t serve God), and thought I’d never fulfill the calling on my life.

But God is faithful. His Word says in Romans 11:29 (NIV)  “For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” In 1992 I went to work for Phoenix Teen Challenge. Teen Challenge is a Home Mission Ministry under the umbrella of The Assemblies of God.
I am currently working on my memoirs from my nineteen years at Teen Challenge, so receiving a book like City of Tranquil Light seems especially appropriate right now. Thank you, Sande, and all my other friends who share books with me. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Success as a Writer? Stay Humble!

By nature, I really am shy. I’ve learned to be outgoing.  I was shy in school until I got to know someone. I was never one of the “beautiful” people in elementary school, but I always had lots of friends, got good grades, and teachers liked me.

Then along came high school. It was a huge school with over five hundred in the freshman class alone. I was a tiny fish in a large pond. Although I was a brainy kid, I’d always hung out with the average kids. In high school I was placed in all the accelerated classes for brainy kids. I was separated from my friends. My shyness and insecurities kicked in. There was a definite distinction between the popular, beautiful kids and everyone else.

She was a popular, beautiful freshman. She was running for class secretary. I didn’t know her. I was not part of her inner circle, nor would I ever be. But she started greeting me each time we passed in the halls. She’d gush, “Hi! How are you?” I was flattered.

The first time I greeted her after she won the election, she stared right through me. She never spoke to me again. *sigh* Lesson learned. She'd gotten my vote, so now I didn't exist. Sadly, this is all too common. People achieve some measure of fame, success, a position of authority, or some other notoriety, and pride creeps in.

Writers, beware. Do not let success separate you from the common folk. Be a friend to struggling writers and newbies. I can list many writers/authors I’ve become acquainted with, or crossed paths with, who are warm and kind, and genuinely care about helping others. Sometimes all it takes is a smile or hug and a “don’t give up” from you to make a difference to another writer who hasn’t “arrived” yet.

Stay humble, especially as Christian writers. If you don’t learn the beauty of true humility, God, because he loves us, has a way of helping his children be humble. It's better to work on it ourselves than having God do it for us.