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Monthly Archives: January 2014

What’s In a Name?

I love choosing names for my characters. It’s my favorite part of writing. Remember these brilliant names? Huckleberry Finn, Rumpelstiltskin, Scarlett O’Hara, Ichabod Crane… They’re unforgettable. They’re also fictional.

Jericha Kingston is a fictional name, too. My real surname has four syllables and is a phonetic nightmare. Strangers struggle to pronounce it. That’s why my pseudonym was conceived with care. I labored over it for days, but finally, Jericha Kingston was born.

There is One Who is intimately concerned with names–His own and His people’s. Here are some Biblical names God changed: Sarai became Sarah, Jacob became Israel, Simon became Peter, and Saul became Paul. Can you think of others?

God gives His children new names, and I praise Him for it. “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Your Name give glory, because of Your loving-kindness, because of Your truth.” Ps. 115:1

~ Jericha Kingston

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Posted by on January 31, 2014 in devotion, Jericha Kingston

 

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Contrasts

NFbookSipping an espresso on New York’s Upper East Side at an elegant sidewalk restaurant, I felt worlds away from the trash-strewn streets of the garment district through which I’d passed that morning. I had the same experience when I visited cities in Jordan years ago, and then later in Lebanon. I remember rolling rice into a ball as I ate from a plate of mansuf at the home of middle-class Jordanians. We were mere kilometers from the King’s palace, where riches slipped through jeweled fingers instead of outward to alleviate that nation’s poverty and the squalor of the refugee camps.

The rich of New York or Amman inhabit the same city as the poor, and the poor like it not. “The poor you will always have with you,” Jesus said. Which I suppose means that we’ll always have the rich with us as well.

The assumption seems to be that the rich fare better than their poorer brethren. But I’m not all that convinced that the rich neighbors in New York or Amman bask in the sublime either. There’s never quite enough, is there? Never quite enough money or things or good times or love. For either group. So, who lives in the greatest poverty?

Contrast this with the attitude of a number of the folk I met in Mexico. Yes, there are rich and poor, but more of the latter. Certainly more of those with modest means in the areas we visited on board Sea Venture.

News stories of murder, mayhem, and drugs abound. There’s misery wherever man submits to the demonic. And I’m sure there are subsets within each group who hate other subsets, and large numbers here who also envy and covet.

We were warned that Mexico abounds in crime. It probably does. So did the CA Delta where another boater stole things from our boat…after all, we had and he didn’t. We heard of thievery in San Carlos, but when they caught a thief with his hands in the cookie jar, it was a gringo who’d hefted a fellow boater’s outboard off the stern. Obviously, he believed in the they-had-and-he-didn’t school of thought. He wanted, so he took—or tried to. It was another gringo who claimed someone stole his outboard from the boatyard and demanded they replace it—so he could sell his old one on the black market. Too bad they caught him.

When we first sailed into Ensenada, we heard rumors of unrest and violence, and, yet, during our six months in the marina there, smiles greeted us daily as we wandered past the gringo enclave of yatistas. Children grinned from behind parents’ legs. Mothers smiled at our “Hola!” Tour guides offered us free carriage rides once they’d dropped off their paying clients. Hawkers for one store showed us where we might find the best tacos and then escorted us so we wouldn’t get lost. Taxi drivers stopped to usher us through a stop sign when we drove anywhere and smiled as they did so. Cars halted if we stepped into the road. Their drivers grinned and waved us on.

And then we drove north for supplies. En route, Mexicans in toll booths laughed at Michael’s jokes. Soldiers smiled and told us to pass, please. But once we got to the border, no one smiled and no one laughed and horns blared and people cursed.

Why? What was the difference? North of the border lies the land of opportunity, doesn’t it? There are riches to be had if you work hard enough, aren’t there? Perhaps.

Only, joy seems sadly missing on the highways, in the toll booths, in the supermarkets or restaurants. And in the doctors’ offices.

The doctors in the US fear malpractice suits. They hurry us through and then bill exorbitantly. They charge for Kleenex and gloves and Q-tips. They recommend test after test after test. Just in case. And then warn us about Mexican doctors.

Malpractice is a non-issue in Mexico. One assumes the doctor cares and does his best. So, he cares and does his best. He puts the patient first, not the insurance company. He treats what needs treating and then does a little more if you’re worried—or if you must satisfy that doctor back home.

Who is happier? The doctor with his Mercedes or the one who lives like the rest of us? The patient who pays hundreds, even thousands, for insurance, who lives at a disconnect from the doctor via a receptionist and then a nurse? Or the patient who pays a pittance in cash to a doctor, with instructions to call his cell phone if any problems or questions arise?

In lower Baja California, the desert heat scorches, but a shy smile radiates from the old man passing on the sidewalk. He doesn’t look as if he owns much, but, oh, he is rich. What’s the difference?

Ah! I smile. Could it be that he lives in a culture that values the family and hard work tempered with patience and a siesta? Could it have to do with villagers, some with few ties to the outside world, who act communally to help each other? Yes, there’s poverty. Yes, there’s dirt. Yes, Mexico is inhabited by imperfect people living in an imperfect society. And, yes, some of them have been seduced by the idea of more. But for every one of those, there are hundreds who have learned how to say gracias for the life they have.

There will always be those who have and those who have not, those who smile and those who grumble, those who give and those who take. We align ourselves by choice. Where do you stand? Wanting more or grinning happily because you have so much—whatever so much means to you?

About guest blogger, Normandie Fischer

Normandie had the best of several worlds: a Southern heritage, access to schooling in the DC area (which meant lots of cultural adventures), and several years of sculpture studies in Italy. It might have been better for her if she’d used all these opportunities more wisely, but it’s possible that the imperfect and the unwise also add fodder for the artist and the writer.

Her life changed radically when she married the love of her life at an age when some would have said she was over the hill and way past her prime. (Cliches often speak the truth, don’t they?) A lifelong sailor, she was delighted to find that Michael also longed to cruise lovely waters, which is what they did from Northern CA to Mexico, spending too-few years in the incomparable Sea of Cortez. Sea Venture, their 50′ ketch, is back home in North Carolina now because Normandie’s mama needed care. Still, it’s gorgeous there, too, and she can write from home as easily as she could on the boat.

Her two grown children, son-in-law, and two step-sons are handsome (or gorgeous, as the case may be), talented, and a delight. She just wishes they lived a lot closer to home. Look for Sea Venture’s clipper bow and beautiful lines as she lips into a harbor near you.

Visit Normandie at NormandieFischer.com.

Sailing out of Darkness on Amazon. 

Becalmed on Amazon.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2014 in Guest Blogger

 

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My Squirrely Family Tree

Pegg14I think I was born a history geek. I’ve always been fascinated by those who lived before me. I was thrilled to learn that several relatives had researched our family tree. Then – wonder of wonders – it was discovered that one branch of that tree led back to a royal line in Wales.

Woo-hoo! The mother lode. When you tap into a royal line, you can trace your family back past the darks ages. Names from history jump out at me from my royal pedigree.  Famous people pepper my lineage.

Way back is Charlemagne. Remember him? He was a zealot Christian Emperor. He demanded that the pagan worshipping Saxons must convert to Christianity or be killed. Okay, maybe he was just a little nuts.

Did you know that Lady Godiva was a real person? That’s right; she’s on my pedigree as well. And she was . . . let’s just say I inherited my love of horseback riding from her and leave it at that.

William the Conqueror was crowned King of England even though he was an illegitimate, illiterate Frenchman who didn’t speak English.  He slaughtered his way to the top of the hierarchy and onto the throne. Other than that, I’m sure he was a great guy.

But then there was Olaf the Woodcutter. I’m fairly certain he was a normal fellow.

Granddad always said if you shook our family tree, all the squirrels and nuts would fall out.  Guess maybe Granddad knew what he was talking about.

~ Pegg Thomas

image from morguefile.com

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in Humor, Pegg Thomas

 

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Toxic Water

He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said , out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. – John 7:38 KJV

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Are you handing out toxic water? If you feel like God has left you to travel alone in the wilderness and you fret, and murmur to anyone who’ll listen, the water you’re sharing with others is not the flowing rivers of living water that Christ talks about in the Scriptures above, but instead resembles the more toxic and bitter water of Marah.

“Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.” – Exodus 15:23

Through desolate land Moses led thirsty Isrealites to water only to discover that it was undrinkable. Undrinkable water is not fit for sharing.

Not only can water from that type of well be bitter and hard to swallow, it can also be toxic. Poisonous to those unlucky enough to drink from it.

James 3:11 reminds us that fresh water and bitter cannot come from the same opening. But here’s the good news! We serve an awesome God who is big enough to handle your distrust, disappointments and broken dreams. As a matter of fact, He welcomes them. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden … and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” – Matthew 11:28 & 29 KJV.

God is waiting for you. Pour out your heart before Him. If you’re tired, feel alone or find that you’re sharing water from a tainted well, reach out to Him.  Not only is He the true source of all soul-quenching Water, He’s also the Great Physician; so whether you’ve found yourself encamped by the bitter waters of Marah or suffering from the effects of drinking someone else’s toxic water, you’re in Good Hands. Because only God alone can turn the most bitter water sweet and make the most toxic soul clean. Cry out to Him. He’s waiting.

~ Kara Hunt

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Posted by on January 24, 2014 in Kara Hunt

 

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Dare I Say It?

Marge14Okay, I admit it. I talk to people who exist only in my mind. I even argue with them. They wake me up at night and propel me toward my computer, insisting some thought or portion of dialogue be recorded.

Yes, I’m talking about my characters. Once they were content to roam within the confines of my imagination, but now they’re demanding to be heard. And they’re a chatty bunch. You know this to be a fact when you look over one of your chapters and discover 15 pages of straight dialogue.

I struggle at times with exactly what my characters should say. Sometimes the things I come up with don’t seem in keeping with their personality. Sometimes a great line comes to mind that I really want to use, but it doesn’t fit the situation. A writing instructor once gave me a fabulous tip. “Don’t stuff words into your characters’ mouths,” she said. “Listen to what they’re saying.”

So now I’m listening. Even contemplating, at great length, what my characters are telling me. Have I gone off the deep end? Maybe you should ask them.

~ Marge Wiebe

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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Humor, Marge Wiebe

 

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Indecision

Do you find it difficult to make decisions? I do. I consider my options, weigh the pros and cons, and still I don’t decide unless I’m confident I’ve made the right choice. I don’t like living with regret.

We make choices every day: Coffee or tea? Call or text? Dessert or not? Well…that last one is a no-brainer, but the point is, indecision leads to stress and worry. While some problems are more complex than deciding what we’ll wear today, none of our problems surprise God. I ask you, is there anything too hard for Him?

If you’ve prayed about a decision, leave it with Him. He’s able to shield you from mistakes. Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” That certainly comforts me when I don’t know what to do.

Jericha Kingston

(image from Morguefile.com)

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in devotion, Jericha Kingston

 

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One Word for the New Year

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Ecclesiastes 9:10a: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might . . .”

I gave up on New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago. Watching those resolutions fall like crispy leaves off a dead tree every January made the month—already a let-down after the holidays—downright depressing. Like so many people, for years between Christmas and New Year, I’d dutifully list all I was going to do differently come January first. Unfortunately, that list didn’t come with the how’s or even the why’s, just the what’s. And that list of all that was wrong with me in the previous year wasn’t really the encouragement I needed to become a better person.

Big shock, I know.

So a couple of years ago, I started a new tradition. Instead of a New Year’s Resolution, I simply choose one word to focus on for the year. Two years ago, that word was boldness. When I worried about speaking to an agent at a conference, I thought about boldness and did it anyway. When I trembled at the thought of sending a manuscript to an editor, I chose boldness and hit the send button. I did things that year I’d never have done if not for the decision I’d made to focus on boldness.

Last year, the word was faith. When I chose that word, I had no idea what was in store for me, but believe me, I’ve never had a year where my faith was tested more than it was in 2013.

This year, the word I chose was diligence. With my new freelance editing business, writing new books, editing my previous books, and marketing my published book, I’m busier than I’ve been in years. So two weeks ago today, I devoted myself to diligence, and I’m happy to say, I’m off to a good start. I’m staying diligent to my editing, writing, and promoting. I trust that if I apply diligence to my tasks, I can accomplish all God’s given me to do this year.

Two weeks into 2014, I’d like to hear from you. Did you make resolutions? Choose a word for the year? If so, how are you doing so far?

~Robin Patchen

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in devotion, Robin Patchen

 

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