Monday, August 26, 2013

World Views

I've always wondered what God meant by 'You are not of this world'. 

A few weeks ago I went to a Christian writers conference and had a total blast. I could talk about God and life as a Christian because everyone else there was a Christian. I could hug a woman and not be thought of as gay, talk to those around me when something I'd heard touched me spiritually, and vent at why none of us had a million dollar best-selling book. Yet.

It. Was. Awesome.

I came home to the normal chaos, and felt at peace with God and family. I looked for local meet-ups for writers and got very excited when I saw one very close to my house. Off I went with great hopes of making new writing friends, Christian or not.

Things went downhill the moment I walked into the room. 

There were no introductions. The hostess of the meet-up turned this social event into a creative writing class. There was no mention of a class beforehand- it was supposed to be us writers getting to know each other- even if there were only five us.

When I mentioned I was a Christian, the room was silent. Painfully silent- like I'd said I had the plague. I assured everyone I wouldn't go swatting them with my Bible (especially since I didn't have one with me). No one would speak to me after that, and I wound up leaving 'class' because it was going to be three hours long with just creative writing- meaning she gave us an idea, and we wrote a story. Ugh.

I came away from the experience not even knowing a single person's name.

I'm beginning to understand what God meant by "You are not of this world.' We aren't. We are God's children, and people notice that. Sometimes that works in our favor, and often times it doesn't. We have a different view of the world because we know this isn't the end-all-be-all of life. There's something more after we leave here, and there's a great comfort in that.

People are so afraid to talk to us for fear of conversion (brainwashing), reprimand (We are clean while you are a dirty sinner), or life might change (because sin is fun and you like it that way).

And that is a world view. And yes, there are those few Christians that do act like that. But for the most part, all we want to do is let others know the love of God, and that we are with Him not because we are so sparkling clean, but we are covered in grime just like the rest of the world- we just know where the clean water is so we can get a decent bath!

As for sin? We all do it, that's why we're no longer in Eden. We were born into it, and sometimes revel in it, but we all want to be free of it. Maybe that's what makes us so different- we know there's freedom from it with God. Maybe not in this lifetime, but definitely when He calls us home. 

And that is the best view of the world you could ever have.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Wht Th Hck R U Syng?

Last week's post was about the evolution of communication. And now the pitfalls of that higher evolution- shorthand texts.

Yes I text, but I use actual words in full, unless it's a shorter version that even youth impaired individuals like me could understand, like info., ex., or even short text like LOL or OMG- where the 'G' stands for Goodness.

But not those weird misspelled words and short text that requires a linguist to decipher. Many misconceptions are posted online when the shorthand lines cross between the young and the young at heart. The internet is loaded with texts gone wrong- especially when they use spellchecker.

And even the spellchecker uses words I've never heard before!

The older generation tries to fit in with the cool, younger crowd by using shorthand text, and the results often reveal their folly...

WTH- What's That, Honey?
LOL- Lots of Love (not good when texting about the death of a pet or loved one)
BTW- BeTWeen
LMAO- Love My Aunt and Oncle (oh do please spellcheck this one!)
SITD- Isn't this a Venereal Disease?!? or SIT Down
SH- Be quiet
WEG- I have a WEdGie

You can see how this would cause complete communication chaos!

To the younger generations, please spell out the words for us older people so we understand you! In the meantime, send me LOL because IMHO and WEG! (darn underwear!)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Text Me Maybe?

It's official. I'm old.

The other day I needed to get in touch with some of the youth in our church ('youth' meaning the late teens, early twenties people), and said 'I'll shoot you an email'.

The response was less than enthusiastic. I got furtive looks from the guys, and wrinkled noses from the girls. 'Can't you just send me a text? I don't respond to emails anymore.'


It was then I realized we are all in a shiny new communications era. Emails were no longer responded to. Emails were too slow and boring. 


Let's go back in history, shall we? Back in the olden days (yes, even before I was born and electricity was discovered), people actually spoke to each other to communicate. You wanted to talk to your auntie Grunt, you hauled your hind end over to her cave and met her face to face- even if it was hundreds of miles away. Let's just say those important talks (like her special recipe for stewed mammoth), were usually reserved for the annual get-togethers in winter.

Then someone invented paper and we began writing to each other. This was much better, because you didn't have to meet face to face all the time, and it was faster- all you had to do was find someone going the same direction as the recipient's residence to pass along the message. Easy peasy.  Letters were like a mini book delving into the lives of family and friends. When a letter was received, you got excited like it was Christmas- the family would gather around as you read it by the fire, kiddies listening to the new stories of real life happenings with great interest.

Once the postal system came along, it was the end-all be-all of communication for a really long time. People could actually hear from each other in weeks (and eventually days as the system went from horses and cars to trains and planes), and a letter was still a very cherished thing- thought not as cherished as before.

Then came the telephone.

People could talk instantly- and the letter became the communications dinosaur and a lost art. No longer would we have to wait to speak to someone, we would just have to walk to the nearest town and let the operator know who we wanted to talk to- until we had a phone in our own home, saving ourselves a hike. Eventually we didn't even need an operator, and could call a friend if we had their secret code- via a phone number.

Though the phone is still the main way we communicate, the computer era has taken it to a new level. If someone was unavailable and their answering machine was full, you could always email- you knew when it was sent (just in case the person was lying that they never got it), and if it was someone whose calls you were ignoring, you could respond after you edited what you really wanted to say. You could even lie your face off in an email, and no none would be the wiser because they couldn't read your face!

But it also put what you said in retrievable writing, so you still had to be careful.

Then came the text. No longer do we need to read slow, boring emails when you can have a conversation by typing everything and sending it instantly. I can see if the other person was unable to talk, but why text back and forth when talking is so much more efficient? You know the other person is there because they are texting back, so why not just talk and save yourself from carpal tunnel?

The era of personal communications is lost. I see it every day. friends walking together down the street, both of them texting other friends or even each other. Moms texting their kids instead of calling, because calls get ignored. Texting is more private than conversation, so instead of overhearing interesting things on the bus, all we hear are little beeps and boops. Even I have gotten caught up in texting on occasion, though I try to resist it!

I'm sure the next new thing will be the video phone, like in the Jetsons- and our answering machines will have a cardboard cutout of ourselves with a pre-recorded message...'Hi! This is Beth. sorry I'm not at my desk right now, but if you leave your name and number and a brief video, I will tweet you as soon as possible.' Beep. 

After that? Maybe we'll be able to communicate telepathically, though I certainly hope not! I can imagine the tweets (which would then be only three words long) spewing forth faster the light itself between friends and family and even dear Auntie Gruntella, who would be most insulted if she learned her revised elephant stew was the worst thing you ever put in your mouth.

In some cases, it's really good not to be able to communicate face to face!

And if our young adults are any indication of how the trends will go, email will go the way of the dinosaurs- and really old, out of date people like me. Lost in cyberspace, like socks in a dryer.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mischief Managed- Lessons Learned

Don't judge a book by it's cover- especially at a writer's conference.

And I'm not talking about the books.

My first misconception was an agent I was hoping to snag for my first big book deal. I checked her site beforehand, read some of her history and just knew she was going to be the one to launch my blockbuster children's book. 

I. Just. Knew.

I sat across from her eagerly awaiting praise for my work, as well as a big book contract. Before she even had glanced at the book title, she asked me the word count. I told her, and she placed my blockbuster aside. 
"This will not fit within our word counts. Sorry."

She didn't even look at it. I was shocked- she looked so nice and reasonable in her profile picture! Desperate, I asked what the word counts for her agency were. Three hundred to five hundred for a picture book, three thousand to five thousand for a chapter book. My book was within the one thousand word range- the Children's Book Black Hole of Death. If it was anything in between five hundred and three thousand words, she was not interested.
"Why don't you try children's magazines?" 
That was like saying "Let's be friends- but the kind of friends who never contact each other...ever."

I was crushed.

My hopes (and attitude) plummeted from there.

It was then I saw this woman walk by. I had seen her around the conference earlier, but now I was fully into my snarkitude so I took note of everything she had that I had envied in life.

She was thin. She was pretty. She had an air of confidence swirling about her stylish summer dress. I could even see this aura of spiritually around her that radiated like a small sun, and she had blond hair and big blue eyes.

Dear Lord, I thought to myself, It's Christian Barbie.

I really wanted to hate her. She smiled at everyone, and in turn made everyone smile. Who could hate that? But the real test came at lunch the next day. I was sitting at a table by myself, when she walked by.

Our eyes met for .32 seconds.
Despite my knack for hospitality and the willingness to invite anyone to my table, I quickly dropped my eyes.
She gave me a beaming smile and sat down next to me.
Her tray was adorned with salad, soup and all that healthy thin-people stuff. My plate was filled with the four basic food groups- fat, starch, carbs, and fried. Kill me now, Lord, please kill me now.
But noooo, God had other plans.

More people joined us, and eventually everyone began sharing their life stories. I was so ready to hate her when she told hers. Missionary family as a child. (okay, so she said one mission trip- it still counts because I haven't even gotten past the East Coast, so there.) Wanted that for life, but got stuck in the American Dream (like it was a bad thing, I muttered to myself). She had a big house, a great husband, and two cars- count 'em two. My husband got a ride to work so I could use the car to commute to and from the conference, and it's on it's last legs. Even her voice was sweet and pleasant to hear.

Lemons left to rot in vinegar could not have been more sour than my attitude towards her- though part of me really began liking this woman, this threat to my selfish being.

People started leaving after they ate, but she stayed to talk to me. I kept looking up at the ceiling, wondering when God was going to just let me die in peace- my writing career was going down the toilet after all, so why did He have to have this lady (who was even named after the angels) torment me?

But my stubborn ears refused to listen to my inner rantings, and started listening to her. Traitors.

She had words of encouragement for me. She had a kindness about her that I both envied and welcomed. And the bitterness of the agent's rejection began to fade away, and so had my bad attitude.

This woman didn't know me from Eve, but helped me in ways I could not express. She had actually listened to my bitter life stories (along with the funny ones), and gleaned enough to say just the right thing. Even Christians need to have their hearts re-broken on occasion, and God used Christian Barbie as the chisel.

He is such a Know-It-All.

She prayed with me. She advised me on my heart. And then she hugged me. I hugged back.

On the drive home I prayed and forgave and cried. I did it again, on the way back the next day. And somewhere in between, a sense of peace overcame me. Even my family noticed a difference when I came home. I have to thank her for that, too.

The next two days were vastly different. My appointments went well and I had a request for my materials. It was no book deal, but it was a really good, solid start. She read my examples and said she would save my packet for the plane ride home- reading it when she was tired of reading everyone else's stuff- just so she could laugh and relax. She even tucked it into her personal bag, not where she stashed the other writers' manuscripts.
I could hear the negative part of me whispering 'oh great- she'll read your stuff when she bored with the real writers!' but my spirit said 'Did you hear that? She's going to read your book excerpts when she wants to relax and enjoy herself! That means she would rather read your stuff just like anyone else would- as if you were a real author!'

Oh yeah- bonus points!

On the last day of the conference me and Christan Barbie sat next to each other- and I welcomed her eagerly. I told her the good news, and she cheered along with me. And during the morning presentation (which was awesome by the way), she placed her hand on my knee to get my attention. "You are going to be a great writer and make lots of money with your books." And when I looked at her with a funny retort on my lips, my voice froze. 

It was her speaking, but there was a power behind it that wasn't her own. It was awesome. I almost cried- again.

God broke my heart several times this week. I never did get a book deal (yet), but I came out of it with so much more than I expected. I even made several new friends. One especially.

Mischief managed, and lessons learned. I came home with a better sense of purpose, and that God really does have an active hand in my life- it was only my perspective and attitude that kept His hands at bay!