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National Poetry Writing Month #6

So, what is truth?

In this age, where all we know
changes–Pluto is no planet,
and even snowflakes have doubles–
what makes truth wavers,
turning grey what once seemed
as solid as the rich soil
where all cornerstones were founded.

Born to a world that is new every morning,
we humans lack patience, search for sameness
in the dark corners of each day
where the silence of what is to come
makes our skin crawl.

This chaos makes us humble,
keeps our chests from exploding
from our height on the food chain.
On our knees, in the safest moments
of our reality, we will know truth,

remembering the words of the One,
the Master Designer, He whose comfort
knows no limits, who lights all dark places,
in whose arms Truth finds home.

Ramona Levacy
April 6, 2013

Posted in Uncategorized

For National Poetry Writing Month #5

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Eyes Full of Wonder

At Disney’s California Adventure “World of Color” Show

What makes us so quick to point out
flaws in each other, our words like bullets
ripping through yielding flesh?

What if we looked for the wonder
in others, like the eager way we’ll stand
for hours waiting to glimpse

the blast of colored water, shot
like cannons into the air above us
at a theme-park show, thirty minutes of awe

that we sacrificed hours and hard-earned
dollars to gawk and laud? Do we mock
the water for its splashing, or whine

about the night’s chill? No, our eyes
grow round with need, willing to believe
anything, our sighs for our ears only.

If only we could see beyond ourselves
with the same kind of love we look upon
the lights and fire of the planned pageantry,

if only the moats our eyes bear willingly
would not blind us to the glassy, glowing spectacle
that is this crazy, beloved world.

Ramona Levacy
April 5, 2013

Posted in Uncategorized

For National Poetry Writing Month #4

THE COWBOY: A TRUE STORY

The leather where he sits
creaks in time to rhythms
his mount alone has mastered.

He is no hero, no rugged mass
of chiseled steel with dimples that charm,
but young and alone, the only

age too wet behind the ears
to know better than these endless nights
riding fences. The distant streaks

of lightening promise drenched misery or death,
his lone friend a dumb beast
prone to flight and always itchy

to be fed. No mother dreams this
for her baby, but he has long since
forgotten the feel of her soft lips

against his forehead, except perhaps
in lullabies he sings nights,
his cattle bumping bodies round and dusty,

his tuneless voice the difference
between a deadly stampede or a sunrise
filled with stiff coffee and his cloudy breath.

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing

One Small Step. . . .

Potential cover for "The Texas Stray"  Writing even a decent story takes time, especially when writing is the thing you do because you love it, the thing you do when you have finished doing all the tasks required of you for the job that pays the bills.  Even when you put the final period to a manuscript over which you may have slaved for definitely months and, more often, years, your work is far from done.  I would argue it is at that moment that the really hard work for your writing actually begins.

It is difficult to be one’s own editor, but the best of writers do just that.  Being a good editor means first giving yourself time between finished first draft and beginning revisions.  You need to be able to hold your finished work at arm’s length to view it, not still be in the stage where you are cuddling your words to your breast like a new-born child.

Once you have given your work a good three- or four-time-critical eye, it’s a good idea to have some test readers before you unleash your latest jewel on the unsuspecting public.  These test readers are ideally not your grandmother, who loves everything you do, or even your best friend.  The best test readers are people just like the ones you wrote your book for in the first place.  If you can manage it, a quick critique form to go along with your test book might offer you some very valuable information about just what your book needs to take it to that next level.

But still, your job is just beginning.  While others are perusing your work, you should be writing up the cover material for your work, the synopsis that will give the readers an idea of what your book is going to be about and that will make them want to read it.  What is the gist of your story?  What is the main thing readers will get out of reading your book?  Does your main benefit actually appeal to your target audience?

Next, you get to become a marketing expert as well as a writer.  You need to design cover art that will appeal to people flipping through ebook lists or scanning shelves at a physical bookstore.  Are the images you are using legal for you to use?  Again, does the art work convey a message that meshes with what happens between the covers?  Will it appeal to your audience?  How many possible great reads have you passed up because the cover did nothing to compel you to read more about it?

Besides the visual appeal of the cover, the actual title of your novel needs to be catching.  It is your hello to potential readers.  A dull title gets you ignored every time.  Titles are a bit easier to test than other aspects of your book.  People in your church, a survey of your friends on Facebook, even a few phone calls, can give you a pretty good idea if your title makes people interested, confused, or bored.

Of course, all this action has to proceed as you also strive to live your life.  You still have to earn a paycheck, wash the clothes, feed your family, clean your house, work on your blog and other outreach vehicles, keep up on paying your bills.  And, probably, you’re also already beginning the next, great project–for who among us doesn’t always have at least two or three ideas rumbling around in our heads that we want to finish some day?

As you might have guessed, I am finally reaching the point where I am closer to publishing my second novel, The Texas Stray.  The picture above is my second cover.  I’m not sure it will be the cover.  I still need to write up a decent sales pitch, and I am just beginning my third serious edit.  So, now is the time for me to practice patience.  I want to offer fiction that is worth reading and that gives a positive message about living a Christian life, even as it looks at the challenges every Christian faces.  Just because it is easy to self-publish these days does not mean that I should jump so quickly into publishing that I actually offer an inferior product.

So, here’s to all of us trying to grow an audience of readers who enjoy what we do, wearing all the hats in the publishing spectrum while we do so.  Thanks to all of you who support this blog by reading it each week.  I hope that your experiences are enhanced by what you find here.  I know my writing and life journey have been greatly blessed through the gift of having the opportunity to do this–on my own terms and in my own time.

God bless.

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How Clear Is Your Reflection?

  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

When was the last time you took a good, long look at yourself?  Better yet, when was the last time you walked by a reflection and had to do a double-take to realize that you were the person in the mirror?

Isn’t it funny how easily we can see our outward imperfections when we do take time to look in the mirror?  The lines around our eyes and mouth make us look older than we feel inside.  In our own minds, we still look like the young child who loved to skip and jump.  In our finest moments, we see ourselves as we look best.  At other times, we do a grand job of berating ourselves for every perceived flaw we can see.

But, how often when we look in the mirror do we actually concentrate on what is reflected from the inside, from our souls?  How difficult is it to see ourselves truthfully, through God’s eyes?  As Paul writes, our mirror image is only a reflection.  When we see with God’s eyes, we will see face to face.  And Paul’s writings make it clear that this kind of seeing is a life-long process of practicing faith, hope and love that will only be fully realized when we are in God’s presence.

Besides trying to see our true selves on a regular basis, especially as we come before God in prayer or request, shouldn’t we also be working on how well we reflect God to the world?  After all, aren’t we the only picture of Christ much of the world sees?  Even this reflection is not as clear as the face-to-face picture.  Being only a reflection, how much more should we strive to show God’s love at all times?

Living life face-to-face is a challenge in a race worth winning, as Paul would say.  He should know.  Do you realize, he took three years from the time of his conversion to even begin any kind of missionary work?  And that more than a decade passed with God working on Paul’s growth before He got Paul’s ministry well under way?  God can do great things, in His time.  We just have to be patient.

And keep reflecting!

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Historically Speaking

Have you ever read the New Testament in the order in which the scholars believe it was actually written?  If you have, then you started with the letter of James, which was probably written somewhere between the year 45 to 50, no more than two decades after Christ’s death and resurrection.  It is believed that the James who wrote the letter is most likely the half-brother of Christ.

James is most likely writing to a group of Jewish Christians.  The Council of Jerusalem, in which Paul and Peter came to an understanding that Gentile Christians did not have to be circumcised in order to follow the path of Christ, did not take place until the year 50.  The worst of Christian persecution had not yet begun.  Here was a religion based on the sayings held dear by its followers, with no cannon of books to follow and only a handful of rugged disciples determined to keep the name of Jesus alive.

As you approach James, knowing that the letter addresses the earliest Christian audience we have access to, you feel like you have been given a rare privilege.  You soon discover that the early Christians, being human like the rest of us, had many of the same concerns we have today.

Concerns of the Christians in James:

  • Trials being an opportunity to increase endurance.  Recognize how endurance, like that which was called upon for the prophets, is in itself a blessing.
  • The importance of watching what we say; how an unbridled tongue is a sign of a false religion.
  • The great leveler that is sin: we are all the same; even one slip-up in the law is the same as defiling the whole of the law; failing to do what is right is just as bad as doing what is wrong.
  • An active faith is a faith that has works.  Without works, a person’s faith is a dead faith.  Those works include taking care of orphans and widows.
  • The progression of all that we do wrong begins with lust, which leads us to put pleasure before God, which leads to sin, which ultimately leads to death.
  • The importance of prayer to maintain one’s faith.

If you are interested in reading the New Testament in the order in which it was likely written, according to my Ryrie Study Bible, you’ll read in this order:

James (A.D. 45-49)

Galatians (49)

1 and 2 Thessalonians (51)

Mark (50s or 60s)

Matthew (50s or 60s)

1 Corinthians (55)

2 Corinthians (56)

Romans (57-58)

Luke (60)

Acts (61)

Colossians, Ephesians (61)

Philippians, Philemon (63)

1 Peter (63-64)

1 Timothy (63-66)

Titus (63-66)

Hebrews (64-68)

2 Peter (66)

2 Timothy (67)

Jude (70-80)

John (85-90)

1, 2, 3 John (90)

Revelation (90s)

Posted in Christian Living, Living, Love, Uncategorized

Can You Be A Christian If You Aren’t A Conservationist?

Sundance at SunsetPeople like to point to the Bible a lot to claim dominion over just about anything–other peoples, their own actions, other countries–but one of the favorite things people like to claim dominion over is the planet itself: the grass that grows, the animals that graze, the seas that churn.

True, in Genesis, God puts the things He created into the care of the “ultimate” thing that He created, the thing closest to Himself because it was in His image, that is man. But when God placed something He took the time and care and JOY to create in our hands, do you really think He intended for us to look after it as if it were something we were to dominate instead of treat lovingly and tenderly?

How, after all, does God treat His ultimate creation? Does He do what He can to make our lives miserable, see that we’re unhealthy, put us last on His to-do list? The answer to these questions is a resounding NO. The evil that happens to man in this world is a result of evil having entered into it when we partook of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden. God is with us when bad things happen to help us, but He doesn’t bring them down upon our heads. Isn’t it in Timothy that we are told that, in fact, God is incapable of doing evil?

More importantly, if you doubt how God really treats what He has created, take a few moments to consider how much He loved us. He sent Christ, His only son, to live among us, experience our pain in person, and die a miserable, horrible death for us, because we are evil, not because of anything that Jesus Himself had done.

In Psalm 6:4, the psalmist cries out, “Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.” Notice, the psalmist doesn’t claim any reason or value in and of him/herself to be due salvation, rather the psalmist knows that only because God loves him/her enough will the psalmist have a chance of being saved.

So, when God opened his arms and gave us the fruits of His labors, does anyone really think He wanted us to then abuse what He created? Or did He want us to treat what He put under our care the same way He has treated us, taken care of us? Shouldn’t true Christians strive to be good to everything God created and gave us “dominion” over because of the unfailing love we have learned from Christ, just as our only hope of salvation comes from Christ’s unfailing love for us?

Sometimes, when we are caught up in trying to help the poor and hurting among us, we forget about the living things around us that have no voice at all unless we give it to them. The Earth is the greatest gift we’ve been given next to our own salvation. If we each just do our part every day, those small gifts back will add up to a big difference.

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