Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans day -- God Bless Our Military

Today is Veteran’s Day. News and all social media reminds us to thank our veterans. And most of us do. But most have no idea of the true sacrifice our military makes. I truly don’t understand the sacrifices made. We hear on the news about some soldier losing his/her life in Iraq or Afghanistan, and we are sorrowful, maybe even share on Facebook, “remembering the family in prayer,” but it really hasn’t impacted our daily lives.

My first recollection of a military person was when I, as a young child, heard the whispered conversation of relatives discussing how my Uncle Paul had never been the same since his experiences during World War II. He thought it was the enemy creeping up on his foxhole, so he shot, but it was his best friend.

Uncle Paul seemed quite normal to me, but then, I never knew him before. As an adult, I have thought of him – he’s been in heaven for many years – with sorrow and gratitude for what he went through.

My granddaughter, Cierra’s husband, Zack, suffered PTSD from his time in Iraq. He is a quiet, gentle young man, and unless you knew, you wouldn’t know by his behavior or demeanor. The Army has determined he was traumatized enough to deserve disability.

My oldest grandchild, Ethan, and his wife, Rachel, both currently serve in the Air Force. Ethan has done two tours in Afghanistan and Rachel one. In fact, their tours overlapped once by three months. One was in Bagram and the other in Herat. During that time, their small children – my great-grandchildren – had to live with my daughter and her husband, their grandparents. When the two-year-old was hospitalized with pneumonia, there was a frantic couple of hours while phone connections were made to a worried mother in Afghanistan.

Ethan and Rachel are both in the medical field. When Ethan returned to Afghanistan, he requested to not be sent as an EMT again. It was traumatizing to work on his wounded friends, some who died. But, of course, medical is what they needed him for.

Another of my grandsons, Jacob, is in the Navy. While on a submarine for seven months, his marriage fell apart, and his wife left with, taking their toddler son. “I thought I could do this, but I can’t,” she said. When he returned, it took several months to reconcile, but they did. Thank God.

These are some of the sacrifices. So, with a heart filled with gratitude, I take this time on my blog to say THANK YOU to all military past, present, and future.  It seems an inadequate tribute to those who lay their lives on the line for our freedom. May God bless and keep you. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Thank You Facebook, For Keeping Friendships Connected

I love and hate social media. I love Facebook. I hate Facebook. I love seeing pictures and updates of my military grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live in other states…or occasionally are deployed. I love keeping up with old friends and making new friends. However, I dislike the way some people use it as a platform for drama or to vent their animosity or to attack others.  

I am sixty-seven years old. During my sixty seven years, I have met a lot of people, and many others have crossed my path. One of the greatest joys I have from Facebook is connecting or reconnecting with friends from my childhood.

With a name like Leola, I am fairly easy to find. Really, how many Leolas are there in the world? Well, more than I thought, but still…..My oldest friend found me, who since has dropped off of Facebook -- Joyce…it was Owens when we were kids, but her last name changed a couple of times. I knew her when we were five or six. She was in a family of eight kids: Aubrey, Noel, Elaine, Paulette, Joyce, Iris, Leah, Rita.

Then another childhood friend found me on Facebook, Ginny (Virginia) when we first met in fourth grade. It has been so much fun to follow each other on Facebook, although she now lives in a different state.

The most fun I’ve had with Facebook, though, is staying connected with my friends from my church youth group days. Oh, the fond, fond memories of my youth group days – and the occasional not-so-fond memories. My closest friends then were Sande and Carolyn. But also dear friends from that era who are on Facebook: Josie, Barbara, Brinda. And my brother, Gerald, also on Facebook from my youth group.

If you are a writer and draw a blank – writers’ block – and can’t think of anything to write about, you have undoubtedly hundreds of story plots from your own life and the people you know. Use your imagination and build and fictionalize on events in your life. Sande and I got married in the same year…as young, starry-eyed teenagers. We had five babies each (she later had a sixth), usually in the same years. Carolyn was the pastor’s daughter. Sande married the pastor’s son. Josie married another of the pastor’s sons.

My life entwining with theirs gives numerous fodder for building a story. Thank you Facebook. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Happy "Back to the Future" Day - October 21, 2015

Happy “Back to the Future” day. Today is the day, October 21, 2015, that took place in the future of the movie Back To The Future. The future – now – doesn’t look like it was portrayed in the movie. Hoverboards? Time travel? It didn’t happen that way. And some of the clothing….well, I’m glad it didn’t make a fashion statement for today.

As a child or a teenager, did you have expectations of what the future held? Goals? Dreams? I’m sure most of us did. Even at my age, I still have hopes and dreams for my future. Hoverboards….naw, I don’t think I care, or I’d even be interested in a hoverboard. When I was younger, maybe. Imagine a great-grandmother with a look of sheer terror on her face, riding a hoverboard and praying out loud, interspersed with squeals of fear, while she tries to remain an upright position. Yeah, that would be me.

What makes our dreams and goals a reality? Well, hard work and perseverance, for sure. It would be interesting to see into the future. Or not. It might be frightening.

I don’t know what my future holds – it won’t include hoverboards for me – but I know who holds my future. I don’t just who it is, I know him personally. It has been the single, most defining event in my life, when I, as a fourteen-year-old girl, knelt at an altar and asked Jesus to be Lord of my life. He has never failed me or let me down.

When I was younger and more immature in my relationship with Jesus, I thought he let me down plenty of times. But looking back, Jesus always had what was best for me in mind, although I didn’t always do what was best for me.

Marty McFly and Doc, you can have your hoverboards and DeLoreans. I have Jesus, and he is more than enough. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Agent Meetings at the ACFW Conference 2015

This year was my first ever to attend an ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference. It was in September and held in Dallas, TX. I have attended two other writers conferences held by organizations. The first was ACW (American Christian Writers) held in Mesa, AZ a few years ago, and the other was a FaithWriters held in Portland, OR.

The ACFW Conference was certainly the most phenomenal – phenomenal in that so many of my favorite authors were there: Francine Rivers, Brandilyn Collins, Cara Putnam, Deborah Raney, and others.

I loved that they prayed over everything. I loved that they had a praise and worship band led by Rachel Hauck that truly was praise and worship and not just entertainment. I loved the general sessions, the meals, the workshops, and our opportunity to have a one-on-one with top agents, editors, publishing houses, and mentors. I chose four agents with my understanding that I would get to meet with at least one of my choices, possibly two.

I got to meet with all of my choices except one, Karen Ball, with the Steve Laube Agency, because Karen was unable to attend. If Karen would have been there, I would've met with her, also. I’ll share what I gleaned from these meetings. Three meetings when I was expecting one, maybe two. Yikes!

The first thing I learned is to more thoroughly research who I choose to meet with. Why? Because they all want something different. And some personalities are not a match for me. Once I submitted my four choices weeks before the conference, I soon decided I needed to change two choices. When I contacted the ACFW person in charge of appointments, the if-you-want-to-change process seemed too detailed, plus I was in the middle of three weeks of stressful computer issues. I decided to not change my choices and simply take my chances. In hindsight, I should’ve made the changes – not because the agents I met with weren’t terrific people, but because by the time I got to two meetings, I already knew it wouldn’t be a fit for me.

My first appointment was on Friday with Tamela Hancock Murray with the Steve Laube Agency. (I really like the Steve Laube Agency). I was nervous going into this meeting and it showed. I wasn’t nervous because Tamela isn’t a delightful lady – she is. I was nervous because, #1: What I had to pitch to her had already been submitted to Karen Ball (same agency) in July. It’s kind of a no-no to submit to multiple people in an agency. I had to be honest with Tamela and tell her the minute I sat across from her that Karen Ball had this proposal. #2: From what I gather from Tamela’s website, she mostly represents Harlequin’s Love Inspired authors. At this point in my writing, I am not interested in writing for Love Inspired. My appointment with Tamela was not fruitful, but she is a lovely and gracious lady and I am glad I got to meet her. If I decide to do Love Inspired, I would love her as my agent.

My second appointment, also on Friday, was with Chip MacGregor. When I wanted to change my appointments prior to going to the conference, I wanted to change Chip and Tamela. But, as previously mentioned, I decided to just leave my choices the way they were. Chip MacGregor. What can I say about him? By his own admission (I follow him on Facebook and his blog), he is snarky. Trust me, he is snarky. But he is probably one of the most knowledgeable about the publishing industry, and one of the most successful agents in our nation. I wasn’t nervous meeting him because I decided I didn’t care. I had already sat in on a workshop with a panel of agents, and another workshop panel of indie authors. I am going to be an indie author, I decided, so I didn’t much care what Chip thought of me. But it was a good meeting. He was kind – said my writing was good, but he’s not the least bit interested in the book I was pitching him. No surprises there. I could go into more detail, but won’t, except to say prior to this meeting with Chip, I had had two other encounters with him. He was kind and gracious both times. My opinion is -- and this is strictly my opinion -- he's only snarky if you disagree with his political and religious views. But as agent, he will push and fight for you.

My last appointment was with Steve Laube on Saturday at 4 PM, one of his last appointments, I’m sure. He looked tired, and I was tired. I wasn’t nervous meeting with him, mostly because I had definitely, without a doubt, decided I want to be an indie author. So I was going to feel okay regardless of what Steve had to say. I will say, he is probably one of the kindest people I have met in the writing/publishing industry. )Another kind person is Deb Porter with FaithWriters and Breath of Fresh Air Publishing, but she’s not my topic.) I pitched my book – a different one than I pitched to Tamela, but the same I pitched to Chip. This book contains a controversial topic for the CBA – Christian Book Association – because it has a brief reference to abortion (the heroine has an abortion when she’s a teenager), and the main theme is an evangelist, the hero, has a brief, passionate affair. These topics will not fly in most CBA circles, especially from an unknown author.

Steve was very kind and gracious. I enjoyed my appointment with him the most – not because I landed him as an agent, but because of his personality. A sincerely nice person. 

So what are the main things I learned from my agent appointments? * Research thoroughly. * Next time, pick at least one mentor or critique appointment.  * Relax, they’re just human. * Ultimately the one I most want to please in my writing is God and not people. Still, to be successful, people have to read what I write or what’s the purpose of my message?

Write on, dear writers. Read on, dear readers. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Off To My First Ever ACFW Conference

"We're off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of........"

Naw, I'm not off to see any wizard -- well, unless agents, editors, authors, publishers and the like could be considered wizards. I am sure that they are wizards......of a sort.

In my household, there has been a lot of family drama for weeks now, plus I've had computer problems. Major computer problems. To say that preparing for a major conference is stressful -- at least for me -- and then to have all this added stress with the computer issues and family drama.....let's just say, I could use any and all additional prayers.

As a side note: My husband and I hate drama and friction. We love living a life filled with peace and harmony. But often drama and friction slap us in the face anyway. *heavy heavy sigh* For a large - very large - blended family, we really have been blessed with very little friction and drama.

But back to the conference. I committed my writing to God in the beginning. Having done that, my requirement is to continually learning as much as I can about then craft of writing, strive to do the best I can, work diligently, and endeavor to be positive and bring honor to to God with my writing.

So why am I stressing? Because as humans, it's easy to say we give control of something to God, but it's even easier to take back control. Stress and worrying is exactly that -- us taking control. God is capable of handling our situations, circumstances, and needs. We -- I -- need to just let go and let Him.

Father God, I pray for everyone attending this conference from the leadership on down. You are ultimately in control of the lives of Your children, but only to the extent we allow You control. My destiny, as well as all destinies, of those who commit their lives to You. I thank You in advance for whatever I receive at this conference.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Last Post from Memoirs of Teen Challenge

Teen Challenge, a ministry dear to my heart, ia again featured in this week's blog. I worked in the heart of downtown Phoenix at Phoenix Teen Challenge from 1992 -2011.

There were also three Native American men who frequently dropped into the offices at Teen Challenge – Ralph, Dennis, and Virgil. My friend, Shelley Savage, who also worked there, had warned me, “Don’t give any money to Ralph or Dennis or Virgil no matter what sob story they tell you. They’re nice but they’re alcoholics and use their money for beer.”
            Okay! Well, I haven’t any money to give them anyway.
            I believe one, or perhaps all three, had checked into the program prior to my employment there. I know Virgil had, and Jeff Richards made the mistake of trying to get the street filth showered off of Virgil. Fortunately, Jeff lived to tell about it.
            Sadly, these men’s need for alcohol was stronger than any desire to surrender to Christ. But, for the most part, drunk or sober, they usually stopped by to talk with Jeff Richards, or to ask for food. They could occasionally be belligerent and itching to start trouble, although none of them was ever rude to me. Not even drunk Dennis who wanted to kiss me.
            It took Dennis a few minutes to maneuver himself through my doorway one morning because he was weaving so badly. He almost fell over once he was inside, but managed to grab the small ledge under the sliding window in front of my desk. He steadied himself and grinned. “Good morning,” he mumbled, his alcohol breath sending waves of foul odor over my desk
            “Hey, Dennis! What’s up?”
            “You’re purty.”
            “Uh, okay, thanks!”
            “Give me a kiss!”
            “No, Dennis.”
            “Why? A little kiss won’t hurt. I won’t tell.”
            “No, Dennis.”
            “You’re not married cause you don’t wear a ring, so it’s okay.”
            “I have a fiancĂ©, Dennis, now go away.”
            “Your boyfriend won’t care. Don’t tell him.”  He then puckered his lips and made smacking sounds while he tried to push his upper torso through the window opening.
            “Stop it, Dennis, or I’ll call one of the men to come in here.”
            “Come on, give me some kisses.”
            He was through the window past his shoulders and still wiggling to get in so I pressed the intercom for the living area where the staff member and students were. “Hey, someone, I need help in the front office,” I announced, backing my chair up because Dennis’s hands were reaching for me.
            Ted, one of the male staff, came rushing through the door and into my office. He grabbed Dennis and pulled him out of the window opening. “Leave Leola alone, Dennis. Go on now, get out of here. You’re drunk. You can come back later.”
            Dennis swayed. “I just wanna kiss.”
            Ted grabbed Dennis’s shoulder and pushed him toward the door. Dennis turned and threw a limp punch in Ted’s direction. Faster than I could blink, Ted’s fist shot out and connected with Dennis’s nose.
            Dennis staggered back. He grabbed his nose which was spewing blood. “Ah, Ted, you gave me a bloody nose. What’d ya do that for?”
            Ted’s eyes were wider than mine. “Sorry, man.” He awkwardly patted Dennis’s shoulder. Turning to me, Ted mumbled, “It was a knee-jerk reaction. I should’nt have done that. You got some tissue?”
            I inhaled and handed Ted my box of Kleenex to give Ted. I’m sure somewhere in the Policies and Procedures Manuel for Teen Challenge, what Ted just did was a no-no. Although Dennis continued to stop by, he never tried to kiss me again.
            Happenings like this were the norm, not the exception – not staff members punching people in the nose, but similar things.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

More Teen Challenge Stories

The following is another excerpt from my memoirs of working for 19 years at Phoenix Teen Challenge -- a ministry near and dear to my heart.

           I was looking forward to attending a Friday night church service, though. Every Friday night there was a regular church service followed by a meal served to the homeless. News of ministries and organizations that provided meals always spread rapidly throughout the community. The homeless walked from different locations to attend. We also sent a couple of busses to CASS – Central Arizona Shelter Services – to pick up the homeless every Friday night.
            Various churches and organizations volunteered to bring a prepared meal. They also served the meal and ministered in prayer or a listening ear to those attendees. It will always stand out in my mind as the epitome of a true servant heart to the less fortunate.
            Angel Rosa often had guest speakers for the Friday night, and I decided to go when Iverna Tompkins would be preaching. I had read several of her books, seen her on Christian television, and had heard glowing reports of her preaching and Bible teaching. I was excited, and just a tiny bit giddy with awe about getting to see and hear her. Her book How To Be Happy In No Man’s Land had ministered to me after my twenty-two year marriage ended in divorce. She had had a husband who left and divorced her.
            After leaving work that Friday, I went home to change clothes and grab a quick bite for dinner. Church had started by the time I arrived, so I slipped in and found a seat near the back. Eddie James, the Music Minister for Phoenix Inner City Church, was still leading. I loved his style of black gospel music. He was, and still is, a gifted, talented young man passionate about serving God through music.
            When Iverna stepped behind the pulpit, I leaned forward with expectation. Because I was seated in the back where most of the homeless sat, I soon discovered they could be very distracting. They shuffled, wiggled, talked to each other, and hollered out responses to the preaching. The constant commotion would be unnerving to many preachers, but Iverna never missed a beat. I don’t recall what she preached about, but I do remember being riveted by it – or as riveted as I could be with all the distractions.
            They’re not paying any attention at all. They’re only here to eat a meal afterwards. They don’t care about Jesus.  I felt sad as those thoughts ran through my mind. I could see the Teen Challenge students seated on the front row. They were paying avid attention, and taking notes. Taking notes was something they were required to do. Their notes were turned in to a staff member. Rehabilitation, as Teen Challenge viewed it, isn’t for the non-committed, or just-biding-my-time person.
            Surrounded by the disruptions, the thought came to me that if Jesus walked in at that moment, he would find great delight in sitting among these poor souls. In fact, it would be his preference for where to sit. Jesus would have probably smiled with compassion when one of the men waved his arms and yelled, “Uncle Sam took our jobs,” in response to Iverna saying that God would meet our needs.
            The outburst startled me, and I jerked, but neither Iverna nor anyone else seemed disturbed by it. I guess you just get used to it.
            When Iverna Tompkins asked that we all bow our head for prayer as she gave the altar call, I dutifully bowed my head. As she asked for those to come forward who wanted prayer or wanted to surrender their hearts and lives to the Lord, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the shuffling of bodies and the stampeding of feet.

            They were listening after all! They’re going to the altar. When I opened my eyes, I was disappointed to see only a couple of homeless people at the altar.  Most of those who responded to the altar call were a few church members and several students. The stampede I’d heard was the rush to get in line outside the dining hall for the meal. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Another Day At Teen Challenge

In keeping with this month's blog posts, here's another excerpt from my memoirs of working for 19 years at Phoenix Teen Challenge


            There were several homeless people – some called them street people – who frequented our doors.  It’s easy to label all such persons in this category as a certain stereotype – mental illness, drug and/or alcohol addictions, no desire to get off the streets, deviants – but some sincerely were caught up in situations beyond their control. Most, however, that were frequent visitors at Teen Challenge did fit into one of the mentioned stereotypes.
            There was the lady who came in at least once a week demanding food. The kitchen workers – and by kitchen workers, these were mostly students assigned to kitchen detail –  usually gave her a donut, or a piece of fruit. Our policy was that we didn’t give away food because it wasn’t always easy to provide meals for the students and live-in staff.
            If this lady didn’t like what they gave her, or if they had nothing to give her, she would curse, stomp off, slam doors, and occasionally throw something. I had finally given up on greeting her with a cheerful hello because she just snarled at me. I would simply smile politely if she looked my way.
            Summer heat in Phoenix is brutal, especially for those who worked or stayed outdoors. The homeless are particularly vulnerable. Many organizations such as the Salvation Army set up stations around the downtown area to give out cold bottled water.
            It was on one of those scorching days of temperatures over one hundred ten degrees that I had an encounter with this snarky woman.
            Using the restroom was not a simple task for me. I usually would page into someone else’s office and ask them to answer the phone for a few minutes, or snag an intern as he walked by. This particular day, I couldn’t rouse anyone to help me, and I had to go. Since the restrooms were located in the breezeway in front of my office door, I decided to make a mad dash.
            When I flung open the restroom door, there stood snarky lady. She was nude from the waist up, splashing water over her head and soaking her blouse and bra in the sink. Fire spit from her eyes as she let loose a stream of obscenities and kicked the door shut in my face.

            I stumbled backwards, my mouth agape, and slunk back into my office, only to have her slam my door open in a few minutes, hair and clothes dripping water, and call me a foul name. Although I was compassionate toward her need to cool off, I knew I would not want to run into her in a dark alley. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Day At Teen Challenge

In 2011 I retired after 19 years at Phoenix Teen Challenge. Since then, I fill in for a few weeks every summer while the director and his wife -- who replaced me at my position -- go on vacation. The ministry of Teen Challenge is dear to my heart. I started writing my memoirs of my time there, so for the next few weeks my blog will be excerpts from that memoir.

            I chuckled about Jeff’s remark regarding my boyfriend. Before I could think about it, though, I took several incoming calls. Once there was a lull, my thoughts went back to the elderly gentleman Jeff referred to as my boyfriend. I did have a boyfriend but that man definitely wasn’t him. The old fellow had come into the office several days prior. Being in the heart of downtown Phoenix, and because of the type of ministry we were, the homeless and indigent were frequent visitors. Some wanted help with their drug and alcohol addictions. Some wanted money, food or clothing. Some just wanted to cause trouble.
            This particular guy was older. I guessed he was about sixty, but life on the streets is harsh, so he could’ve been younger. He was obviously homeless. He wasn’t too dirty or smelly, but he was shabby, with unkempt hair and a day or two of growth on his face. He grinned from ear to ear, without a tooth to be seen, and said, “Good morning, sweetheart.”
            I stiffened. He looked harmless – I was sure I could beat him up if he attacked me. But I didn’t appreciate being addressed with a term of endearment, or the familiarity in his voice.
            “Can I help you?” I smiled but kept my voice aloof.
            “Yeah, beautiful lady, I need a pair of shoes. You guys got any shoes?” He then tried to raise his right foot to the window so that I could see his bare feet, but he lost his balance and almost toppled over.
            I tried not to giggle as his arms flailed around until he managed to grab the opening in front of my desk. Once he steadied himself, he looked at me, winked and cackled.
            I pushed the intercom button and summoned a staff member to the front office. Rob, a young intern, responded.
            “Hey, Rob, do we have a pair of shoes in the Blessing Room for this man?” I motioned to the still-grinning man. The Blessing Room was what we called the area where we stored extra clothing, shoes, and linens for the men who came to reside in Teen Challenge. Some men came in with not much more than the clothes on their back. Occasionally, we gave things to the homeless and indigent when we had an abundance.
            Rob left and returned with a pair of white buck shoes reminiscent of Pat Boone’s trademark shoes.
            The old gent tried them on. “Well, by golly, looky here. They fit perfect. Come on, look,” he said, motioning to me. “I look like that singer dude. Know who I mean?”
            “Pat Boone,” I replied, complimenting him on his newly acquired shoes. The younger generation would be unaware about a singer and actor named Pat Boone.
            Rob left, and I hoped the old gent would too, but he continued to talk to me while I ate an apple. “I sure am hungry,” he said, eying me like he thought I’d rush to the kitchen and whip him up a meal.
            “Uh, you want an apple? We can’t really give out food, but someone donated apples.”
            He opened his mouth, showing me his toothless gums. “Can’t eat it, darlin’.”
            So what did I do? I got an apple and peeled and sliced it for him – a Christ-like gesture, I’m sure, only he returned the next day declaring he was in love with me. “I’m gettin’ an inheritance, sweetheart. My dad left me a million bucks. I’m gonna pick you up in a limo and take you to the best restaurant in town and buy you anything you want. Anything!” He flashed his toothless grin and winked. 

            Of course, I didn’t believe he was inheriting a million dollars. Somehow I managed to turn him down without too much fuss from him. I saw him a few times after that when Teen Challenge did our regular Friday night outreach to the homeless. I tried to not make eye contact with him, but he never seemed to notice me. It did make an amusing story to tell.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vanity, Oh Vanity!

Years ago, when I was a young mother, I loved Christian television. I watched it all the time. It fed my weary, stressed out, frustrated, wounded-by-life heart. Looking back, so many "stars" of Christian television were considered celebrities. As often as I could, I would go see these Christian celebrities whenever they were at at venue in town. Most were kind, gracious, talented individuals who truly loved God and people. A few, although definitely talented, their ego got the better of them. One in particular that I remember seeing on television and in person had a bodyguard that walked beside him at all times to keep people away from him.

Looking back, I realize how vain and self-absorbed that was. Seriously, if you are in the people-business, if its because of people that you are popular and successful, then don't come across like you are a cut above everyone. That you are too good to be bothered by those who admire you.

That brings me the purpose of the is post. Last week was my birthday. Like most people today, I have a social media presence. On Facebook, your birthday is posted for all your friends and followers to see -- unless you've set your privacy to not allow it. I got many, many birthday wishes on Facebook.

Doesn't it make us feel good, even blessed, that people take the time to wish us happy birthday. Because I am involved in the writing community, I have numerous writer and author friends on Facebook. Friends is a loose term because I've never met most of them. I was pleasantly surprised when several authors -- successful authors that I've never met -- posted birthday greetings on my Facebook .

God, if you see fit to bless us with success, let us never forget, or take for granted, the everyday people who help put us there. Either by purchasing our books, or whatever our talent is, and following us on the many social media sites.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Sunday's On-My-Way-To-Church Inconvenient Inconvenience

Yesterday – Sunday – I was driving out of my gated community on my way to church. Normally my husband would be driving, but he was on a time constraint to finish a contracted painting job. As I pulled up to the exit gate, I saw a truck, with a young man standing beside it, parked off to the side on the entrance side. He looked distressed and was trying to call or text on his phone. Usually when this happens, someone is trying to get inside the complex but doesn’t have a code to open the gate.

I lowered my window and asked if he needed to get in – not my van, the housing complex. I was going to give him my code. Trust me, there is nothing secure about this complex. The gate codes are to give us residents the allusion of security.

The young man approached my van. He tells me: He ran out of gas, can’t get a hold of his wife, needs a gas can and ride to a gas station. He’s clean-cut, doesn’t look threatening and starts off by extending his hand and saying he’s James. He also offers me money to help him. My response to his obvious distress, “I can’t. I’m on my way to church and I’ll be late.”

What? I’m a woman and I was alone, but the minute the words left my mouth, I thought how ludicrous I sounded. How could a Christian on his/her way to church refuse to help? If I didn’t want to help, I should never have stopped. The truth? I didn’t want to be inconvenienced. My brain quickly ran through possible scenarios to help, because it only took me a few seconds to realize I was going to help.

WWJD. I remember when that was all the rage. Christians wore bracelets, necklaces, t-shirts and plastered it on everything – WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? I told the young man to get in my van. I drove him back to my house, got our gas container filled with gas for the mower, gave it to him and told him it was enough gas to get him to a gas station. (okay, I know I used the word gas a lot in that sentence) He – James – asked me about church, told me about his wife and one-year-old son, and baby girl due in three months.

He repeatedly thanked me, offered me money again. I again refused the money, but told him to return my gas container. Just put it in my driveway, I said. I felt good about helping. I felt remorse that being inconvenienced keeps me from helping more often. Shame on me. Shame on us. I was late for church, but lightning didn't strike me. And my gas can? It was not here when I returned home from church two hours later. It still hasn’t been returned.

*sigh* What Would Jesus Do? Well, Jesus might use it as a parable, so I think I’ll work this into a story. And, yes, my husband told me how dangerous the situation could have been, after he told me it was sweet of me to help.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

If My Characters Were Actresses and Actors

A few years ago my husband asked me if my life were to be made into a movie, what actress would I want to portray me. “I don’t know,” was my brilliant response because, honestly, why would my life be made into a movie. But obviously it was something he had given thought to because right away he responded, “Marg Helgenberger in CSI Vegas who plays Catherine Willows reminds me of you. She should play you.”

Uh, okay. I was flattered because I think Marg Helgenberger is attractive. Jeff, my husband, and I are always making comments – inane, nonsensical comments –  about actors and actresses in movies or on television, sometimes entwining their real life with characters they play.

Last night I thought about my books and what actresses/actors would I want to play my characters. If…if a book of mine ever got made into a movie. Certainly not that I think that would happen, but well, a girl – er, grandmother – can dream, right? So I picked actors and actresses for Like A Cedar In Lebanon.

Lebanon/Lebby would be played by Amanda Seyfried.
Jack would be played by Hugh Jackman
Ethan would be played by Seth Green
Nate would be played by a young Troy Donahue
Amy would be played by Claire Danes
Tina would be played by Liv Tyler

I had fun doing this. I know writers and authors – is there a difference? – who compile a notebook in preparation for starting a novel with actors and actresses pictures that they want their characters to look like. Or they cut pictures from magazines or off the internet. Me? I just get a mental image stuck in my head. It is fun, though. Like giving birth to babies and getting to choose what they will look like as adults. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Introducing Scenery In Your Story

The month of July is my birthday. I will be sixty-seven. Yikes! It seems so old. Who said that age is just a number? Age isn’t just a number. A sixty-seven year old body – and sometimes mind – is not the same as a twenty-seven year old.

My age doesn’t bother me. Being old does bother me – specifically what it does to my body. Getting older has made me more reflective about my life, life in general, and the world. In sixty-seven years, things have changed. I have changed. I grieve for my country, for humanity – those that are lost and deceived and don’t even realize it. I ache for some of my family members who flounder through life.

If I’m not careful, I tend to reflect on negative things in my life and in the world around me. Go away pity-party negativity; you are not my friend. There is so much beauty and blessings surrounding me – so many things I didn’t notice or appreciate when I was young.

Our Earth is quite amazing. When I was young, why didn’t I appreciate the awe of sunsets and sunrises? Were the mountains always so breathtaking? I’ve lived in Arizona all my life and travelling across our state was a cheap adventure for my poor family when I was a child. As a child, I was never amazed like I am now that one can travel a hundred plus miles from the desert area of Phoenix to forests and lakes and streams. The desert is beautiful. At least I think it is.

My husband, uh, not so much. But I also think forests, seashores, mountains, valleys, and all in between are beautiful. As a writer, I need to subtly incorporate scenery and landscape into my story to give the reader a feel or glimpse of the setting. Subtly. Not overburden the reading with pages of describing scenery. As a reader, I skim past pages like that.

Below are two excerpts from books I’m working on that describe location and scenery without blasting the readers by overdoing it.

(Josiah stood and stared out the window at the landscape, noticing but not really seeing, the lizard scurrying across the Tucson, Arizona desert.)

(The sun was barely peeking over the horizon and the air was chilly on this crisp October morning in Flagstaff, Arizona. Cold air filled Lily’s lungs with tiny razors slashing her chest.)

So, my writers friends, be creative in introducing your readers to where the story takes place.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Those Rambling, Incessant Talkers!

This is my last entry on real character analysis. Today I’m doing the incessant talker. Do you know anyone like that? More than one?

I have a family member and a friend at church who are like this. They are both precious ladies, BUT unless you have plenty of time on your hands, do not, I repeat, do NOT engage them in conversation.

I am a talker, also, so I understand incessant talkers. But these two ladies will bend your ear about people and things you have no interest in. As in a recent conversation that including the telling of one lady’s daughter’s co-worker getting written up for something. I don’t know this daughter’s co-worker and the story about her getting written up by a supervisor wasn’t an unusual or interesting story, and it certainly had no point to it. But incessant talkers don’t need a point.

I have concluded that incessant talkers are lonely for conversation because they don’t get enough talking, with someone who will listen, at home or from their spouse.

But imagine the scenario with an incessant talker in a novel. Let’s say for instance, a detective investigating a crime scene. One of the people he interviews is a rambling, non-stop talker. He finally sees a break to walk away, or he creates a break so he can walk away, and chalks up the mountain of information he just heard as unrelated to the case.

But he finds out later that in all that rambling monologue, the talker revealed a key clue to the case. Only he dismissed it along with everything else the talker said.

Use your imagination. There are so many possibilities for characters in our writing in the people we encounter all the time. So observe and write, write, write!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Those Quirky Characters Who Refuse to Grow Up

As writers we are surrounded by people that we can use as characters in our stories. Perhaps not the actual person, but someone with the same quirks, personalities,and appearance. There is no end to this. So following in theme I have for this month, here is another character I know or have in my life – the person who never grows up.

She’s in her early 30’s and I don’t think she has ever had a serious relationship with the opposite sex. I’ve known her since she was eleven or twelve, and she’s never really dated a lot. She’s attractive enough, has a bubbly and outgoing personality.

She doesn’t want to commit to anyone because she doesn’t she doesn’t want to grow up. She LOVES hanging out with the teenagers, but not in a weird way. She’s always served as a youth sponsor/leader in whatever church my daughter and her husband are youth pastors. But she hangs out with teens – mostly girls – during the week and weekends.

I love this young lady. She calls me mom. But she is quirky and sometimes her quirkiness is irritating and frustrating. I think I understand her refusal to commit (she was in a relationship recently with a handsome, sweet Christian guy, but she broke up after two months) because I know some of her background.

But the whole point of this blog is how this person I know would make a good character in my writing. Let’s see…a quirky 30ish woman who doesn’t want to grow up, is afraid to commit in a relationship. Yes, I could tweak that into an interesting character in a short story or minor character in a novel.

Go, my friends, and share your story with your vast array of characters. God bless us all, and bless our words that we pen.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Those Self-Absorbed Selfie Takers

Continuing with my blogs about people-watching and characterizations. This week I want to concentrate on not one person, but numerous who fit this description: the ever-loving, selfie-taking, posting-pictures-of-themselves-on-social-media people.

We all know at least one. Most of us know several people like that. And let’s face it, they are normally good-looking people. Although a few aren’t, yet they must think they are. One I know posts a different picture of herself every day and sometimes more than once a day. Maybe she was pretty in her younger days, but not so much anymore. But don’t tell her that. Someone did ask her one time at a social gathering why she posted so many pictures of herself. The next day she posting all over social media about how her feelings were so hurt.  What did she accomplish by doing that? Just what she wanted to accomplish. People were consoling her, telling her how they loved all her pictures, criticizing whoever could say such a cruel thing.

It is terrible when older, mature people, especially Christians, behave like they’re still in high school. But what great fodder for writing – the self-absorbed-with-their-looks characters. Of course, people can become absorbed or obsessed over many things: their intellectual prowess, their money, their fame, their physical ailments, their romance, their children, their accomplishments, and so on.

What would we see if we could look into the heart and soul of these people? Pride? Arrogance? Insecurities? Selfishness? A cry for love?  Loneliness? A need to be noticed? Constantly needing praise and affirmation?

Please don’t mistake my example for those of you who post a different picture once a week or so. I am not referring to you. But, just think of the twists and turns your story could take with a person continually taking selfies.

And of course, if I was young, gorgeous, and hot maybe I would be posting selfies every day, eh?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Using Real People As Character -types in Writing

For the month of June I am going to blog about character observations of real people.  Good writing includes great characters, both good and bad. Do you enjoy people-watching and forming opinions about people from their actions and mannerisms? I do. But we only see on the surface. We can’t truly know the heart and mind of anyone.

Today I’ll talk about Louise – not her real name.  She’s hard to miss because Louise makes sure she’s not overlooked.

We all know people who are focused on, and love to talk about, their physical ailments. Louise should teach a class on it. She has mastered this. Do not, I repeat, do not sit next to Louise unless you are prepared to hear a litany of her ailments and illnesses – real and imagined, but more imagined, I would surmise.

She is a nice enough person. I don’t believe she has a mean bone in her body. But oh, those bones of her body! In the past few years I’ve known her she has had every illness, disease, and condition. If she truly has had those conditions, which includes cancer in various body parts and several deadly diseases, she should not be alive.

But she is very much alive. How do I know? Whenever I see her, she struggles out of her seat and proceeds to moan and limp around holding her back with a pained expression on her face.

Please don’t think I am heartless and Louise really is suffering. I’ve seen her rush to her truck because her husband wants to leave – this after she has spent the time moaning and limping.

Intermittently Louise will announce that she is healed and pain-free. No limping. No moaning. But this announcement is quickly followed by her announcement that they—whoever they are –  have found cancer, or she’s diabetic, or has lupus, shingles, congestive heart failure, and the list goes on and on. Eventually those ailments fail to materialize or don’t have the desired effect, so she’s back to limping and moaning.

Louise is not old; she’s probably mid 40’s. Her husband always looks embarrassed by her antics. What would your in-depth conclusion be on someone like Louise? On the surface, I would say she’s a drama queen. She craves attention. She’s a hypochondriac extraordinaire.

All those surface conclusions don’t get to the real issue deep within the heart of Louise. I have no idea what has happened in her life to make her this way. I can only guess. Recently she has glommed onto me. I groan and ask God to help me be kind and patient -- help me show her hope and a better way, that she is likable and lovable as she is; she doesn't need an ailment for people to care. 

But, oh how I can use a Louise-type in my fiction writing. That’s the beauty of being a people-watcher if you are a writer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Brain Tumor That Turned Out to Be Shingles

Pain riddled through the right side of my head, and behind and through my right eyeball. Brain tumor? What else could it be? I don’t get headaches. Or I rarely get headaches and usually it’s sinus related when I do. After the pain waking me up for two nights in a row, I decide to drive myself to an ER (hospital emergency room) on a Monday morning.

Why would a sixty-six year old great-grandmother drive herself to ER? Because my mother-in-law had passed away four days before and my husband was in another city with his father, and my daughters were all at their places of work. Besides, there’s a tad bit of independence leftover from my days as a single mom.

Brain tumor was a mantra running through my thoughts as I drove myself to ER. But? What was the blistery things on my right forehead? Maybe I got bit by a scorpion or brown recluse spider? Wouldn’t that cause my head to hurt? But what about my eye pain? Was my head filled with some venomous insect poison?

Dear God, you do remember I am one of the speakers at a Single Moms Conference in a few weeks?  How can I do that when I can’t even think straight around the pain in my head and eye?

“Shingles,” the ER doctor tells me. Well, I suggested it first. “Please tell me this isn’t shingles,” I say. “Yes, I’m afraid it is,” he replies. “Noooooooo,” I respond, followed by, “At least it isn’t a brain tumor.” Doctor, “Or an aneurysm.”

I text my husband and daughters that I am in ER and have shingles. My youngest daughter, Heather, leaves work to join me. Armed with prescriptions, we leave the ER. Thump thump thump goes my van. I pull into a CVS parking lot and my front tire has a huge bubble in it. Seriously? This happened two weeks prior on the other front tire. Pow! Bubble pops and two women entering CVS come running over. “Are you okay? Were you shot at?”

If I was being shot at, why would you come running over? I wanted to ask them that, but I was in pain and extremely frustrated over another bubble-popped tire. Heather showed up to drive me home, then pick up my meds and some lunch for us. Her husband and sons (my son-in-law and grandsons) arrived to get my keys to retrieve my van after they changed the tire.

Heather and family left, granddaughter Hailey staying with me until her mom, my daughter, Denise, shows up to relieve her. By 9:00 PM, the pain in my eye had increased to a steady hot-knife-continually-stabbing-my-eye pain.

Denise drove me back to the ER where my daughter, Stephanie, and husband, Jeff, soon joined us. Unlike earlier that morning, the evening ER was crowded with people. After an hour or two, I was writhing in pain. “What ER lets a sixty-six year old woman in pain wait this long to get seen?” I whine.

Many pain-filled hours later with no relief from the knife stabbing my eye, they knock me out and admit me to the hospital. Tuesday is lost to me. I have vague memories of visitors (I was in isolation. Apparently my shingles was contagious for chicken pox), and numerous doctors and nurses checking in on me – taking my vitals, drawing blood, looking in my eye, adjusting my IV, injecting pain meds in my IV, giving me oral meds. On top of all that, I continued to vomit throughout the day and night.

On the fourth day I am sent home with eye drops, 4 pain meds and antiviral medicine in pill form. I see an eye doctor who prescribes more eye drops, one a steroid to promote healing and the other an antiviral drops. Mr. Eye Doctor came to see me in the hospital. He is not hospital staff. He was rude and rough. I vaguely remember and my family, several were there in my room, tell me how rude he was. I politely tell him how rude he was, and, sigh, he apologizes. At least he didn’t deny he was rude.

For over a week, my right eye oozed yellow gunk that stuck my eye together. But the good news is that the shingles virus that got into my eye did not cause vision loss.

I have not written or read anything for two weeks. My dear husband got me a new laptop for Mother’s Day and I have not felt well enough to play with it. God is good and prayer works. So many people were praying for me. I am blessed by amazing family and friends.

If you have NOT gotten a shingle vaccination, let me encourage you to do so. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

Mothers. Mother’s day. The day we honor mothers everywhere. If you have been blessed with a wonderful mother, then thank God. Not everyone is so fortunate. My dear mother has been gone for a year and a half now. Was she a perfect mother? No, but she was a good mother and loved us.

There is no such thing as a perfect mother. Or a perfect person. We are all flawed and fallible. I was a young mother – very young – three children by the time I was nineteen years old and two more by the time I was twenty-five. I was a grandmother ay thirty two. I have a lot of failures and regrets as a mother and grandmother.

But God is faithful. When I look back at that young, frustrated, high-strung, frightened, overwhelmed young mother I was, I want to hug her for every time she cried herself to sleep in defeat. I want to tell her to do the best she can in the circumstances she is dealing with.

There’s no magic formula for being a good mother. Except prayer. Prayer is a vital key. Don’t overlook it and don’t underestimate it. God, through your prayers, will make up the difference in your lack of parenting skills. It may take years before you're aware of this, but it will happen. 

If you’re children are small, shower them with love and make wonderful memories. If your children are gown and you are now a grandmother and great-grandmother like me, let it go.  My advice is simply this – forgive yourself.

Healing came to me when I allowed God to get it through my heart and spirit that I did the best I could while struggling in an unhappy, dysfunctional marriage. So this Mother’s Day in 2015, celebrate mothers everywhere. Celebrate you! 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Weeping Willow

Topic: Cup and Saucer (08/28/14)

TITLE: The Weeping Willow
By Leola Ogle

I am, and stand on a dairy farm, because of Aaron. Aaron’s grandfather planted me to commemorate his birth. Aaron is gone now but I will always be his tree. I am a weeping willow with deep roots. My trunk is thick and strong. My branches reach upward as if to beseech the Almighty, then droop so my leaves caress the ground in mournful surrender.

Now my branches sway in listless melancholy. Even the melody of birds that make their home in my branches can’t lift my sorrow. I miss the times of a little boy playing beneath my shade and climbing my branches. I was his fortress. He believed my drooping branches hid him from the world. My leaves danced with the sound of his laughter, then sagged with empathy during his tears.

My favorite memories are when his sister, Becky, was born. Aaron was five. Grandfather planted a peach tree near me to commemorate her birth. Although this tree would provide them with delectable fruit, I am the one both chose as their play area. 

Aaron was special, but Becky even more so. She was born with a mind that would always remain a child. Aaron loved her all the more because of it. Many days he laid aside his toy soldiers and cowboys, and cars and trucks to participate in Becky’s tea party. 

“Aaron, have a tea party with me.” He would sit at the wooden picnic table their father had made especially for Becky. Aaron would lift the plastic cup and saucer and pretend to sip. Sometimes Becky really did have tea or lemonade, and cookies on tiny plates. Tea parties with her brother were Becky’s favorite thing. Their giggles caused my leaves to vibrate with joy. Even the birds’ melody was sweeter. 

Aaron’s love for his sister never waned. As he got older and outgrew toys, he never refused to sit under my branches and sip tea with Becky. It’s what little girls do. It was something he understood and accepted. As she grew, her plastic cups and saucers were replaced by porcelain. For her sixteenth birthday, Aaron sent her home a set of Royal Albert fine china he bought in England during his tour of duty with the Army. 

When war broke out, Aaron’s plane was shot down. For months, his family didn’t know if he was dead or alive. Only Becky believed beyond a doubt that he would return. She set her fine china on the table under my branches and spoke to God. “When you bring Aaron home, God, we’ll have tea in my beautiful cups he sent me.” 

One day a fierce storm hit. The violence of the wind broke off some of my branches. I tried my best to shelter Becky. She had sat out her tea set and was having imaginary conversations with Aaron. By the time her family noticed she wasn’t in the house, she was soaked and chilled to the bone. 

She was very ill, and for many weeks she didn't come to sit beneath my branches. So somber was the countenance of everyone in the farmhouse, I feared she’d never return. One day, a man came slowly walking towards me. He had a limp, and was so thin. A young beautiful lady walked beside him.

As they drew closer, I recognized in that drawn face the vestiges of the boy I knew. The lovely lady was his bride, the daughter of the farmer who found Aaron and nursed him back to health after his plane was shot down. 

They chatted amiably as she, Paulette, set out the tea set. She arranged crumpets and scones on a plate and poured tea into cups from a teapot laced with delicate roses. Aaron’s parents helped Becky to the table, bracing her on either side. It was the most marvelous tea party ever. 

They’re all gone now, every one of them. Grandfather and Grandmother were the first to go, then Aaron’s parents. Even as an old woman, Becky had many tea parties with Aaron’s and Paulette’s daughters and granddaughters. When Aaron and Becky departed this earth, his sons sold the farm. No more children came to sit beneath my leaves or climb my branches. 

On nights when the howling wind rustles my leaves with a mournful sound, I can still recall the clink of cups on saucers as Becky’s giggles summon Aaron. I hear the sigh of acquiescence from a boy who understood the importance of tea parties with his sister.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Women Are Wordier! Sometimes!

Words! Words are life to a writer. We cannot communicate without words. Pictures and signs – as in charades – evoke words in our minds. That thought leads to this blog and the difference between how men and women communicate.

My husband teaches a small group Bible study at our church on Wednesday nights. Once a quarter we do a fun night. Usually it’s just a potluck and we sit around tables and talk. And eat. Two weeks ago my husband – who loves games – chose to play a Bible trivia game patterned after the television game show Celebrity Name Game.

He announced it for a couple of weeks. It would be men against women. Yikes. We women were biting out nails. Most of the men in our group are Bible teachers/scholars. We felt doomed to lose.

Not only did we NOT lose; we won by a healthy margin. It was because of the difference between how men and women communicate. First, let me clarify that it wasn’t all profound theological topics. It was any word found in the Bible. The game was played by a team member sitting in a chair with a screen behind him or her. A word was flashed on the screen, and a designated “caller” shouted clues (although the groups, men or women, got excited and helped call out clues. We weren’t too strict on that). The object was to get as many words as possible in 60 seconds. We rotated players continually.

The women won because we gave simplistic clues. The men….not so much. For example, the word donkey. The ladies’ clue: “Not a horse or mule, but like a mule.” The men gave a theological explanation which took longer to say: “Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Good Friday on one. Balaam had a talking one.”

Temple: The women’s clue: Points to temple on forehead, “What do we call this?”  Men: “People worship there and made sacrifices. The priests were there.”

King Jehoshaphat. Women: “We get the term Jumping blank from this king. (Jumping Jehoshaphat)”  Men: “He was a king in Judah. Had a son named Jerhoam who married Ahab’s daughter.”

Usually, by nature, women are wordier than men. We won’t tell you something using 6 words if we can use 60. But in the mentioned game, it was obvious women’s brains were quicker to grasp the clue than men. They tended to get more frustrated when the clue-receiver didn’t get the word immediately.

It was a fun game night for us, and just my observations. Maybe it’s why there are more women writers and readers. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Pronunciation and Articulation is a Must!

Belied! It is a word. I used it in a story that was presented to a critique group several years ago. One of the gals told me it wasn't a word. Even when I insisted it was. Sometimes, though, we are misunderstood with a word that we don't articulate correctly, or it sounds so similar to another, or perhaps the hearer just doesn't know the word.

Have you ever had that happen? I'm sure most, or all, of us have. I have one incident that just came to mind this morning.

Years ago, I was a Women's Ministry Representative in the denomination I belong to. I was in charge of twenty-plus churches in the west central section of Arizona. This just meant I was one of several ladies who helped plan and organize state and sectional events for women.

At the time, I was also single after my twenty-two year marriage had ended. As such, I was the Singles' Director at my church. We had activities almost every week. I loved our singles' group. I met my husband, Jeff, there.

Our singles were having a potluck lunch at my house one Sunday after church, and we had a new gal there. I'll call her Linda since I don't remember her name. I was feeling a little nervous that day because on Tuesday I had an event where as a WM Rep I had to participate in a presentation before a few hundred people that included pastors and state leaders within our denomination. Gulp!

At the potluck I was sitting at the table with several of our single ladies. The men were watching sports on television. I mentioned to the ladies I was nervous. New lady, Linda, who wasn't familiar with me or our denomination, asked me what it was. I explained the best I could to her, but I could tell by the puzzled look on her face that she wasn't grasping it.

"You're nervous?" she asked.

"Well, yes. There will be pastors and leaders watching me."

"What is it again?"

"Sectional Council."

Her puzzled expression intensified.  "They're asking you, a single and divorced woman, to talk to the pastors and leaders about it?"

"Well, not talk exactly. It's a skit."

"That's amazing that they think you're qualified. What an honor."

Now I was puzzled. Qualified? Maybe an honor, after all, it was part of my job as a rep. But qualified?

"I'm not sure what you mean by qualified."

Her look said she thought perhaps she had offended me. "Oh, you know. That they think a single, divorced woman could give sexual counsel to pastors and leaders."

Sectional Council, not sexual council! I almost fell out of my chair laughing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fools' Day

I used to be the queen of April Fools’ Day jokes. Now? Now, I’m too tired to be creative. Huh? What? I cannot be too old and tired to have fun. I have all day to get my brain in gear.Can I come up with something? Oh, yeah, you bet I can. Jeff, beware!

The first memory of an April Fools joke that comes to my mind includes my husband, Jeff. We are a blended family, second marriage for both of us. We’ve been married 20 years. Because I am sixteen years older than him, I had grown – some married – children when we started dating.

We had dated for three months on April Fools’ Day 1990. My children, among other people, were still scratching their heads in disbelief that I, a level-headed, love-Jesus-with-all-my-heart woman was dating this much younger man. I had two teenage daughters at home still, so the joke started with them: “We’re in love and we’re getting married.” My five children’s responses were delightfully comical.

That went over so well, so I called Jeff later and told him I found a house I wanted to buy. The owner wanted to help me get a mortgage, but I couldn’t qualify on my own. “He said I need a co-signer. So I thought maybe you’d be my co-signer. Please, please Jeff! You know how much I want to buy a house. Please.”  Jeff hummed and hawed and tried not to say an outright “no.” He did agree to go look at the house with, but then I had mercy and told him, “April Fools!”

We did get married almost four years later, and of course, we did buy a house together. Laughter makes us feel better, so be creative with your April Fools jokes – as long as it’s not hurtful. Go forth, my fellow jesters, and bring laughter to someone today.

Proverbs 17:22 (NIV) A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Quest

** This was my entry at FaithWriters for the Challenge topic Love.

Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: LOVE (agape and/or phileo) (03/12/15)

TITLE: The Quest
By Leola Ogle
~8th Place


In a land many years ago, when life was simple and almost everyone got along, there lived a man called Teacher. Teacher was known for his wisdom and knowledge. People came from near and far to ask him questions regarding all things concerning humanity. 

Alas, Teacher’s days were numbered. As he grew older and feebler, he sought someone who would be Teacher when his body expired and his spirit departed. He issued a decree requesting a gathering of young men with a thirst for truth. Out of those assembled, he chose three: Anwyl, Briant, and Eoin. 

Teacher’s gnarled finger pointed to the Tree of Light that grew in his garden. In a voice trembling with age, he said, “This tree grows special fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You shall each journey for one year and seek to experience these fruits in ways others may overlook. From your reports, one will be chosen to become Teacher when I am gone.”

Eoin was the youngest, smallest in frame, and least handsome. He thought he was the least likely to be chosen, for Anwyl and Briant were stronger and magnificent to look upon.

The three departed in separate directions. When the year ended, the countryside gathered to hear the mighty reports of the three. Who would become the next Teacher?

Both Anwyl and Briant spoke with eloquence and authority, expounding on profound and powerful experiences with all nine fruits. Their insights were keen and deeply theological. As each finished, the crowd gasped and murmured in awe. 

Anxiety welled within Eoin. His report wasn’t brilliant like theirs. Clearing his throat, he began to speak. 

“My first awareness was of faithfulness. Dog and Horse were my companions on the journey. Dog was a loyal friend, even to defending me against a poisonous snake. Dog brought comfort when I was lonely and discouraged. Horse faithfully carried me through good and bad weather, even though I often lacked enough food and water to sustain the three of us. Each day the sun faithfully rose and set, and the moon and stars appeared each night.”

“Goodness and kindness was shown by the many people who offered food and lodging to me, a weary stranger. They did it with no expectation of being repaid. I could not have made it without their help.”

“Joy surrounded me every day in the beauty of nature, and in the comfort of family and friends. Joy is a choice we make to concentrate on our blessings and not the negative things.”

“Peace comes from having a clear conscience. And when we’ve done wrong, peace comes from the assurance that God forgives if we only ask. Peace is the belief God is in control.”

Eoin looked at Teacher and saw affirmation in his eyes. He continued then with boldness. “I saw patience in a baby learning to walk. The baby tries again and again after each fall. Patience is a mother teaching her daughter the necessities for womanhood. Patience is a father teaching his son the skills he needs to become a man.”

“Gentleness is in the touch of those who care for one another. Gentleness is the breeze that cools us on a summer day. Gentleness is a mother’s kiss on a fevered brow. Gentleness is in the compassionate care of the feeble, infirmed, and elderly.”

“Self-control is the ability to behave wisely when we’re angry or have been wronged. Self-control keeps us from being greedy. Self-control gives us strength to overcome temptation.” 

The flow of Eoin’s words stopped and he surveyed the crowd. He saw the light of understanding reflected in their eyes. Smiles spread across their faces. A few applauded. Then the crowd went wild with their applause. Eoin turned to face Teacher and saw disappointment in his eyes. 

Teacher raised his hand to silence the crowd. Anwyl and Briant smirked at Eoin as Teacher walked to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. A hush fell over the gathering. 

“Eoin, my young seeker. The beauty of your discovery is incomplete. Have you forgotten about love?” 

Ecstasy swelled in Eoin’s chest. “Teacher, the greatest revelation on my journey was love. If our hearts are filled with love, the other eight fruits will freely flow. When motivated by love, the other fruits will be pure and genuine. We must seek love first. It is the noblest truth.”

Tears filled Teacher’s eyes. To the crowd, he said, “Eoin has done well. His name shall be Teacher.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Two Reasons Why I'm Against Abortion

March is a special month for me. In 1981 my fifteen-year-old daughter, Tammy, gave birth to my first grandchild, Ethan. Tammy is my oldest of five children. Ethan made me a grandmother at thirty-two. Although we were Christians and actively involved in our church, some people (not from church) suggested Tammy have an abortion. One lady said to me, "This will ruin her life." Financially and emotionally, it was not an easy time for us. But we never considered an abortion. And having Ethan did not ruin anyone's life. In fact, we all considered Ethan a blessing. 

Ethan turns thirty four in a couple of days. He has a beautiful wife, four children, and baby #5 on its way. See that picture? How could anyone think a blessing like that could ruin lives? Isn't that a handsome family? Ethan and his wife, Rachel, are both in the Air Force. He has been deployed twice to Afghanistan and Rachel once. 

Was it easy for a fifteen-year-old to have a baby? Life and the things that befall us isn't always easy. We make the best of it. Our character is developed and reflected in how we handle the difficulties in life. 

Today, March 25th, is my grandson, Jonathan's birthday. He was born in 1988 to my sixteen-year-old daughter, Denise. *sigh* I know you are probably thinking, "What's wrong with this family?" Nothing is wrong with us. I had a couple of other grandchildren between Ethan and Jonathan not born to unwed teenage daughters. But everyone of them, my grandchildren, was and is, considered a gift from God. 

Jonathan is married to Miranda and they have two beautiful daughters. My great-granddaughters, Emily and Ariana, walk into my house every Sunday for lunch. Before they fix a plate, they find me to hug and kiss me. I treasure those moments. Because of the Air Force, I see them more than I see Ethan and his family. 

Abortion would have robbed us of so many things. This post isn't aimed at anyone who has had an abortion. It isn't meant as a declaration of judgment. Others' choices are between them and God. I simply want to share what abortion would have meant to my family. 

Happy birthday, Ethan and Jonathan! Our lives have been enriched because you were born.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Books That Live On In Our Hearts

Have you ever had a dream where you are encountering something frightening, stressful or sorrowful and somehow, in the midst of the emotional upheaval, you tell yourself, “It’s only a dream. It’s only a dream?”

Most of the time, I don’t recall my dreams. Saturday night I had a dream, and because I woke up to use the restroom, I remembered it. In my dream my husband, Jeff, and I were on a mission trip in a foreign country.  I was in a building or church with other ladies helping to set up to feed people. Jeff comes in and tells me that the hotel we’re staying in is on fire. Suddenly I had an armload of clothes and our wallets with our money, ID’s and passports. I knew it’s what was salvaged from the fire, but I don’t know how it suddenly appeared in my arms. I put them in our rental car, but then everything got stolen from the car. I was panicked because without our passports, we were stuck in this country.  Feeling overwhelmed, crying to Jeff, I suddenly told myself, “It’s not real. It’s only a dream.”

As I relayed the dream to my husband – let’s face it, the dream wasn’t that intense – it reminded me of books I’ve read that captured me. Books that caused me to feel every emotion of the hero or heroine. Books that made me feel personally connected to the characters.  Books that washed over my emotions like a tidal wave. It didn’t help to tell myself it wasn’t real, it was only a book.

The first book I recall reading that affected me that way was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. It drew me in so that I knew Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth. I wanted Laurie (Lawrence, the boy next door) and Jo to end up together. I was crushed when they didn’t. For weeks, I carried this hurt.

As a teenager (a married teenager), I read Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. It had the same effect on me. I lived in that book long after I finished it. I could not reconcile my emotions around the fact that Scarlett and Rhett did not stay together. How could Scarlett love Ashley all those years? I wanted to slap some sense into her.

Now….now I want to write books that move people like that. I want to create characters that live on in the readers mind once the book is finished. I want to reveal the best in humanity and the failures, weaknesses, frailty and imperfections we all encounter within ourselves. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” Psalm 139: 14. I want to show the heart of God for mankind.

That is my prayer.