I’ve recently started reading children’s literature for something new and refreshing and watching old and modern classic children’s movies. It has been an absolute delight. Today I read The Pen and the Inkstand, a tale by Hans Christian Andersen, who was a legend in his own time and for many years to come. I like him because his stories aren’t full of scary stuff like Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Each little story has a lesson to be learned and the writing is so brilliant that it captivates the reader. Our children and grandchildren have lost out to tales like Andersen’s. Good literature is still available to kids today, but the classics have so much to offer I feel sad they are largely ignored.
I think all artists would do well to read this short little tale. Here is a summary:
There is a brilliant poet who is greatly admired. Someone who saw his study noticed the inkstand on the desk and remarked, “It’s strange what can come out of that inkstand! I wonder what the next thing will be. Yes, it’s strange!” This goes to the inkstand’s head and he marvels at how amazing he is. He bragged to the pen, “It’s really amazing what comes out of me! Almost incredible. I actually don’t know myself what will come next when the person starts to dip into me…I am something quite remarkable. All the works of the poet come from me. These living characters…These deep emotions, that gay humor, the charming descriptions of nature…” The inkstand went on to say he doesn’t know where his talent comes from because he knows nothing of nature or anything else written about.
The pen had a clever comeback to put the inkstand in its place: “You have very few ideas, and don’t bother about thinking much at all. If you did take the trouble to think, you would understand that nothing comes out of you but liquid. ” He pointed out that he, the pen, is the one who does the actual writing. He takes all the credit. There is a rebuttal from the inkstand with insults to the pen and more bragging.
The writer of the beautiful poems using the inkstand and the pen, arrives home that night having seen a concert. He marveled and carried on about the violin and all it did. He described how it sounded like birds, rippling water, and a tempest. He attributed the parts of the violin and the bow as well. It seemed to him the music flowed effortlessly from the instrument. And then he remembered the master, that he was the maker of the music, that it was his skill that created the music and made the instrument should like birds, water, and a tempest.
The poet said, “How foolish it would be for the violin and the bow to boast of their achievements! And yet we human beings often do so. Poets, artists, scientists, generals – we are all proud of ourselves, and yet we’re only instruments in the hands of tour Lord! To Him alone be the glory! We have nothing to be arrogant about.” He wrote this in an essay. Later, the pen began to brag to the inkstand how marvelously he wrote the words the poet read aloud. The inkstand returned that the pen was full of conceit and didn’t realize he was being made fun of.
The last paragraph of the story tells how the poet couldn’t sleep that night and pondered the master being the author and conductor of it all. The end was, “He understood the sentiments of his own heart; he caught a ray of the light from the everlasting Master. To Him alone be the glory!”
This was a very personal tale for Andersen. He recognized after becoming well known and famous – which he sought all his life – that God was the one who bestowed this gift on him. . It is human nature to want recognition and accolades for the fine work we do. We can get a pretty swelled head and like the inkstand and the pen, think we are more special and take all the credit for their gifts. Andersen saw the light, that God deserved the glory. That took humility. God is the ultimate Creator, the Author, the Artist; He is Lord and Master of all. This is a truth to ponder to keep us from pride, arrogance, , and taking credit for what the Creator has given us. If we produce a work of art, we should give glory to God, not ourselves, or our tools.
Remember that old Wendy’s commercial where the old lady says “Where’s the beef?” Well, I found my beef and it’s with Hubpages. Some time ago they came under new ownership or management (not sure which) and they have made some changes that make me and all the other writers annoyed and disappointed. First, they set a time limit and how long comments are open. Then they put up a gigantic annoying video on every article written at the top: NOW PLAYING: WELCOME to HUBPAGES. It’s a 1:28 minute advertisement trying woo people to write for them. Then they added pop-ups. And now, they have turned off comments. No one can comment on anything. I have no idea what their reasoning is but it’s hurting a lot of writers.
I’ve been with the content site Hubpages for eleven years now and I don’t recognize it anymore. Although I love writing and making a little money from it, what excited me most was the community. I have friends all over the world from Hubpages. For years we followed one another and commented on each other’s work and received encouragement. I couldn’t wait to read Dora Weither’ inspiring articles and talk with her and the others who commented about what she wrote. I miss commenting on Bill Holland’s weekly column, The Writer’s Mailbag. I miss being able to comment on William Kovacic’s wonderful fiction series, and I miss hearing from everyone about my work. I miss asking Linda Lum about her amazing cooking articles. I miss discussing Pamela Ogelby’s health articles. But that’s not all comments are about. We also talk about our lives, where we live, what’s going on in our lives, and more than anything, I miss the camaradery.
I love reading books my Hub Homies write. Don’t know how I’ll find out about them unless they put it in an article. I miss getting their advice on my work and giving mine when asked for. I miss the exchange of knowledge on writing and publishing. I miss hearing how their families are doing, how their health problems are going, what kind of weather they are having in other parts of the country and around the world. I miss hearing about the culture some of the people live in. I used to converse with people in Australia, India, the Caribbean, Shri Lanka, and many more. Now I can’t. At least we can still email, but I don’t think it will happen often enough. I must be more intentional about it myself.
Through the years there a few people I keep in touch with via email anyway. But I want my community back.
Years ago I wrote for a content site called Examiner.com. Writers had specific topics they wrote about, and their titles went along with their field of interest. I was Lori Colbo, Mental Health Examiner. It was not that fun because I never heard from anyone because they didn’t have a comments section. I couldn’t converse with outsiders or other writers. There were few options to talk to the powers that be, whomever they were. I had no idea if anyone ever read my articles because you can’t track them. At least at Hubpages, we can. Writer’s write because they have something to say and want it to be of benefit to others. Examiner said writers get paid, but I never earned a dime. Never knew other writers. It was like writing into empty air.
Suddenly they began to fill all their articles with multiple pop-ups to make money. It became mass confusion just to read one article. It reminded me of that carnival game where the balls come up out of holes and you bop them down. People don’t like pop-ups. It spoils their reading experience and they get frustrated and leave before reading. This put them out of business very quickly.
My very first online writing venue was back in the early 2000s. It was called Suite 101. I loved writing there. It was exciting to be writing for the first time publicly. It was a training ground for me. I had nothing to compare it to, but I remember I could talk to the editors personally. They were so encouraging, guided me, and fielded my questions. I don’t recall comments or being involved with the community, but it was so long ago. Unfortunately, they went out of business also. I don’t know why. I also wrote for some fly-by-night called E-Zine. I didn’t like it for all the reasons I didn’t like Examiner, but I wrote there to gain experience. They went out of business also. None of those held a candle to Hubpages. It’s been around for fifteen years. That my friends is remarkable.
With all my complaining, I still have to say it’s the best outlet I am aware of. Here is a bullet list I still appreciate:
There are lots of support and help forums. Sometimes you get an email getting questions answered. It has
Your Profile page shows all of your articles and you can spotlight six articles.
If your article is of high quality, it will be bumped up to a niche site where it will be seen more.
You can make money. They have a couple of different ad program options. I personally don’t make much because I don’t write on topics like cooking, travel, medicne, household or auto repair type of topics. They also have Amazon earnings and a monthly report.
There is an Article Statistics page. You can track all your articles for daily, weekly, and monthly, and all time views. We used to be able to track comments. We can track several aspects of our earnings. And we can track our traffic sources.
The settings can be set for notifications.
There is a Legend that gives you all kinds of information and notifications. It shows red and blue arrows to show if your traffic is increasing or decreasing on individual articles. It also has icons to reveal broken links, copyright (someone may have copied your article), if you have violations, disabled ads, and feature status.
We can follow people or topics or both. Unfortunately, we can’t communicate except through email now. Not everyone is open to that for security reasons so it’s nice we can chose in our settings.
You can write about whatever you want. They of course do not allow content on sleazy topics regarding sexual matters, drugs (except medicianal), and too much profanity.
Hubpages is not woke, partisan, conservative or liberal. They don’t cancel, fact-check, or care what side of all things COVID you write about. They welcome all views on major political and cultrual issues of the day. They do encourage writers to write factually, cite their sources for photos, and sometimes of professional content. They have a disclaimer feature also.
Their rules are fair.
I started out complaining about Hubpages, and I missed a few minor things. Then I proceeded to list all its good features. I guess I’m trying to hold onto the good things. But just to say, at least HP is far better than any other site I’ve written for and has outlasted them. My fear is that their current drastic changes will either put them (and us) out of business and /or continue to make writers more frustrated. Nothing is perfect. But I miss my HP community.
I have to rewrite this post because I am not allowed to name the creepo thief who stole my article word for word, photo for photo, callout to callout. This has happened before but they are usually people from other countries who use broken English, poor grammar, and get word order wrong. Most of the time I can get them to take my article down. But this guy lives in Pennsylvania and had the audacity to copy and paste it on his blog under his name. His blog has ads which means he gets paid, just like I do on Hubpages. If they don’t get paid I don’t get too crazy, but if money is coming in for them, that’s another sotry. I left a comment telling him he’s a sleaze ball and stole my article. He took my comment down immediately.
His phone number and email are posted so he will be hearing from me until he takes it down. I suspect his photo is phony also. He wrote a book or two. I hope he didn’t steal them. Now that I think about it, I think I remember seeing his photo before. These kinds of people find a photo of someone, often times in another country and use it as theirs. I will look into it further. Guys like him are lazy fraud cowards. That’s all I have to say.
I had a devastating, traumatic evening yesterday, and it has left me reeling and a bit discouraged and cynical. As some may know, I love to perform stand up comedy. I’ve been doing it for seven years but I’ve only performed maybe ten or eleven times. I love doing it. My venues have always been corporate events, fund raisers, a couple of church gigs, and things of that nature. I met a woman recently who does comedy. We met for coffee and she told me about her experiences at open mics at the Tacoma Comedy Club. I’ve always avoided clubs because I know there aren’t many clean comedians there, and as a Christian woman I did not want to be connected to that. But it’s been so long since I performed and I’ve been chomping at the bit to do it again and I decided to try it just once, a decision I deeply regret. The woman told me one of her jokes and I winced. It was awkward. It was about her private parts. I just said I work clean and she said she does too. Hmm, I think not.
I was number 15 on the roster out of 18, so I had to listen to over an hour of the most vile material I have ever heard. A thousand F-bombs were bad enough, almost every act mentioned body parts in every imaginable situation, and countless kinky sex comments (I can’t call them jokes). It was far worse than I could ever have imagined. The most perverted acts of the evening were so horrifying I wanted to flee but I had six friends who came out to support me and I decided to stay (another bad decision). The first one talked about grandma doing unspeakable sex acts with grandchildren. People laughed like crazy. I don’t get it. I’m a mother and grandmother and it grieved my spirit and made me very angry. The other one was a man who said he likes target shooting with his guns but hasn’t had the opportunity since COVID because all the schools were closed. There was a collective gasp in the crowd, and loud groans, and sadly, some laughter. It was a terrible shock wave. The young male ( I refuse to use the term “Man”) was so pleased with himself for having shocked the crowd, a pathological smile spread across his face. His eyes showed a sick thrilled expression. He needs to be in therapy or even jail.
It was made clear by a few people that old people don’t deserve to live on the planet. Everyone was young. I will be 65 in another week or so and I was the oldest person in the lineup by a couple of decades except for one man I will mention shortly. I knew I didn’t fit in and my material wouldn’t meet their lack of standards. The whole experience was like stumbling into a porn theater by mistake, or falling into a cesspool or septic tank. The images are hard to shed.
Several people before me announced they were gay and it started to feel like I was in a gay bar and very out of place, but then again, I was out of place in every way. So when it was my turn I tossed my planned opening line and spontaneously quipped, “I’m old, straight, and treat my grandchildren with respect, so I guess I’m in the wrong comedy club.” It got a big laugh. My message was I don’t fit in. Because I was so shaken by the vile smut and realizing my material and age wouldn’t go off well I went blank a few times and bumbled my way through my routine. Yes, I got some laughs, but not many. They didn’t laugh at some of the places other audiences have laughed at in the past. It was such a strange night. All professional comedians will tell you that bombing is part of the package. I felt a little embarrassed because friends had come to see me. But I was more shook up by the depravity in the material. There was one man who calls himself Skippy Sprinkles who was the only other clean comedian. He was precious. He was a big guy, probably close to my age, and had a traumatic brain injury. He was dressed in loud colors. His speech was a bit difficult and he had to read his jokes, but my goodness, he had everyone rolling in the aisles. Not one dirty, or even suggestive joke. He was a big hit. After the show I asked it we could get a picture together and told him I loved his set. He was so kind to me and said he loved mine too.
It clearly was very poor judgment to perform in a club with no standards whatsoever. I will not do another club again unless it’s a clean one. As a Christian, God-fearing women, I sensed the grief of the Holy Spirit and knew in my spirit He was saying “You have no business being here.” I agree and I felt so filthy when I got home, I had to spend time in prayer, asking God to forgive me. I think God gave me the gift of being funny, but I should not say things or work somewhere that would displease Him.
Today I have been so sad that people today find the vilest perversion to be good comedy. Why is killing school children and perverted grandmas appreciated as good comedy, and graphic comments about private parts considered funny? These people have no clue that everyday life is full of material that doesn’t require you to douse and spew your mouth with filth. I love Ellen Degeneres’s stand up. It is clean and hysterical. She can slay us with a routine about going to the movies and ordering food at the concessions stand, or little mundane silly things we do. Bill Cosby was family friendly and one of the greats (I realize his character and jail time is a sad end, but it doesn’t take away from his brilliant comedy). I could take my grandkids to one of their shows. But so many of the comics today I’m told are filthy. Smut is cheap, lazy, and sick. I told my sister and best friend that if I knew anything about business, I would start a clean comedy club. There is one on the internet called Dry Bar and it’s all clean material. I watch it often. I will put links at the end. Why did I write about comedy on a blog about writing? Because jokes are written, creative work. That’s it.
That’s my time, as they say in comedy. Your comments are most welcome.
When I was a kid I read all kinds of different books. I read the traditional young children’s books, Dr. Seuss, Charlotte’s Web, Peter Rabbit, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, all the traditionals, and in middle to upper elementary grades I read The Box Car Children,Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, many of the classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, Little Women, etc. But I loved biographies about baseball players, presidents, men and women who made a difference in the world throughout history. I loved reading about Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, particularly their lives growing up. During high school I read many other classic books and got turned onto Shakespeare and poetry. That was also the time when I became obsessed with Erma Bombeck. I read every book she ever wrote and many of her columns, as well as her TV appearances. I remember laughing so hard one time I was pouring copious tears and holding my aching stomach. She was brilliant. My sister Jamey said I have a wit like her when I write. That is not intentional, but certainly her brand of humor was a big influence on how I see the world. When I hit adulthood I read mostly chick novels. Many were romance stories (a genre I hate now) and historical novels. I remember a book called Sacajewea (a novel) by Anna Lee Waldo. Utterly fascinating. One scene that stuck with me is how she washed her hair at the river by wetting it and rubbing sand in it, then rinsing it out. That was the native American way, at least the tribe she came from. I learned so much about the Lewis and Clark expedition, and it was a novel.
I got really caught up in Danielle Steele, a romance writer. Barf. In my 30s I got into Christian novels that read like Hallmark movies. Barf. I can’t stand those kind of books anymore. I discovered Francine Rivers, and amazing Christian novelist I still respect. Her famous book, Redeeming Love was a parallel story of the book of Hosea in the Bible where God told the prophet to marry a prostitute. It took place in the 1800s. It was a thick book but a riveting story. Then I took a turn and read the Little House on the Prairie and Anne Green Gables series’. I can read those over and over. I will never tire of them. I also discovered Jane Austen. I remember once trying to read Anna Karenina. As riveting an epic as it was, I just can’t read a book that fat – 864 pages, come on.
About 11 or 12 years ago I was introduced to Brock and Bodie Thoene (pronounced Tay-nee), who write award winning historical novels. Brock, the husband, is a messianic Jew and does the extensive research and contributes to the story line. Bodie, his wife, is a Christian woman who once wrote scripts for Hollywood. She writes the stories and I have learned a lot about writing through reading her books. They are known for writing book series and what is remarkable is that most of the series are connected, usually through the prologue. It is really amazing. The Zion Chronicles novel series covers the events surrounding Israel’s statehood in 1948, something I knew nothing about. By reading their Zion Covenant series I learned Hitler’s strategy and tactics to enter and take over Europe. I learned the big players his regime and their roles. All of this done through well rounded characters and edge of your seat plot.
They wrote the A.D. series about the time of Jesus. The author’s bring all the people in the gospels into the series and make them come alive. Every series, every book is a sweeping saga, brilliantly written. After reading almost every series they’ve ever written (I am re-reading the Zion Covenant series now) my taste in novel genres has changed drastically. I want to read books of substance and depth, not flowery love stories or books that are interesting but not riveting.
Several years ago I discovered the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. I’ve read them two or three times. Other books of Lewis I love are The Screwtape Letters about an Uncle demon named Screwtape who writes to his nephew Wormwood to teach him how to be a good demon and bring Christians down. Anything by Lewis, non fiction or fiction is genius.
Recently some ladies in our church started a book club. I joined but have been disappointed sometimes. They started with a Hallmarky type book by a very popular Christian author so I declined to read that one. I used to devour that woman’s books. Then we read a Brock and Bodie Thoene story, then a great novel called Of Windmills and War by Diane Moody. Another riveting historical novel about Holland in WWII. It’s also a coming of age story, a small town boy grows up when he goes to war. Now we are reading another Hallmark book by another author I ready voraciously 30 years ago. I have been scratching my head because of the way she writes. Another romance book but I find her wording strange. Parts of it our interesting but I’m rather bored. I will continue reading because I paid for it. I hope we will be reading in many genres. Did I mention I don’t like Hallmark type movies, TV series, or books? When I tell women that they say how much they adore them. The men always roll their eyes and yawn. Why don’t I like them? They are so predictable it’s ridiculous, it’s always a love story, and it always has a happily ever after ending. Oh, and their Christmas movies, endless. I looked through a menu of their Christmas movies and was amazed how many titles they came up with using “Holiday” or “Christmas.” People that like these movies like them because of their happy predictable endings. That’s okay. It’s not bad or wrong to love Hallmark. It’s just not my thing. Life is not full of tidy bows (I almost wrote tidy bowls, lol). It will be interesting to see the next change in genres I will get into. But for now, my favorite type of fiction is historical, or dramatic books that keeps me on the edge of my sea or reaches the depths of my soul. I am not for horror stuff, but I love a good mystery. My favorite non-fiction is biographies and books on issues that are important to me. For a while I was reading a series of comic proportions called Miss Julia books. They were fluff but I needed the laughter and oh my did I laugh. A cranky woman of a certain age and all her antics and drama. Sometimes you just need something light.
All this reminds me of the evolution of magazines. When I was very small it was Humpty Dumpty, followed by Highlights, the Weekly Reader (I’m dating myself aren’t I. I know your heart’s beating with sentimentality), then Tiger Beat and all the other teen magazines, then Redbook, then Better Homes and Garden, and Parents. Then I got hooked on People, then Readers Digest. And now? I get a thrill when I see a copy of AARP. All the iconic idols of my growing up years, like Bruce Springsteen, are on the cover with deeply etched crows feet. I will be 65 in a few months. My son called me elderly last summer. I nearly slapped him, but I know he was just grasping for a word and that popped out. He felt bad. But I told him in 4 years he’ll start being offered senior discounts. Lol.
At my age, and with a case of Macular Degeneration waiting to come into bloom, I am just grateful to be able to read at all, and I’m thankful for audio books which I will need one day. Let me end by saying I would rather spend three hours in a book store or library than going to the beach or a Macy’s sale. I would rather inhale the scent of books than a salty breeze. Am I weird? I don’t care.
If you are interested in the Thoene books here is their website:
Back in the early 2000s I was in the beginning stages of PTSD. I was tormented night after night after night with traumatic nightmares, and flashbacks accosted me frequently out of nowhere. The nightmares clung to my psyche and created great emotional turmoil during the day. My then pastor and his wife were walking very closely with me through this nightmarish journey. In an act of compassion, they gave me a CD with a single song, Jesus King of Angels by Fernando Ortega to bring me comfort. I remember my CD player then could be set to play a CD over and over again. At night as I lie down, I would turn it on and it helped immensley. Fernando Ortega is a poet. His songs are melodic and reflective. I cannot hear the song today without tears. It was almost as if he wrote them specifically for my situation.
Jesus King of Angels is a prayer by a person needing comfort and freedom from the dark oppression of Satan’s ploys. Ortega recognizes and proclaims the power and sovereignty of God; Our God who loves us enough to fight for us; how much the writer loves and trusts his Savior and rejoices in Him.
Jesus, King of angels, Heaven’s light Shine Your face upon this house tonight Let no evil come into my dreams Light of Heaven keep me in Your peace
Remind me how You made dark spirits flee And spoke Your power to the raging sea And spoke Your mercy to a sinful man Remind me Jesus, this is what I am
The universe is vast beyond the stars But You are mindful when the sparrow falls And mindful of the anxious thoughts That find me, surround me and bind me
With all my heart I love You, Sovereign Lord Tomorrow let me love You even more And rise to speak the goodness of Your name Until I close my eyes and sleep again
The universe is vast beyond the stars But You are mindful when the sparrow falls And mindful of the anxious thoughts That find me, surround me and bind me
Jesus, King of angels, Heaven’s light Hold my hand and keep me through this night
And now my prayer for those who are suffering and oppressed.
Father, how we rejoice in the midst of our suffering that you are with us as our Protector, Healer, Warrior, and Savior. Thank you for Your power and glory, Your faithfulness, Your everlasting love, that You will never leave us nor forsakes us as the Bible tells us. Help us Lord to trust You with all our hearts.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct Your path (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Gracious Heavenly Father, we commend our broken selves to Your care with hearts oftrust and faith. In Christ name, Amen!
Yes, I am sick in bed. I suspect I have COVID. My test results won’t be in for 3 to 5 days. If it is COVID, I have a pretty light case of it. Today is day 5, I think. No fever is a blessing. Having a fever is what makes a person feel so miserable. I have a few other symptoms but it could well be I just have a bug that’s going around. Though I feel crappy during the day, as soon as the sun goes down I feel much worse. Have you ever noticed illness, injury, post surgery, mental and emotional problems, worry, are always worse at night? Some would say that is because things are quieter at night with fewer distractions. I’ve always been intrigued by this. I figured your body chemicals change at night, and since I have all the time in the world, I looked it up today. Here is what I found, in case you’re interested:
Research shows that our bodies are on a 24-hour clock called a circadian rhythm. Hormone levels fluctuate, increasing and decreasing within this daily cycle. Cortisol, a hormone made by the adrenal glands, helps regulate blood sugar levels, metabolism, and blood pressure. It also helps the body manage stress.
In addition, cortisol helps your immune system function properly and reduce inflammation. In other words, it helps you fight off infection and sickness.
More cortisol circulates in your blood during the day, which suppresses your immune system. This means that your white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections, are less active during the day.
At night, there is less cortisol in your blood. As a result, your white blood cells readily detect and fight infections in your body at this time, provoking the symptoms of the infection to surface, such as fever, congestion, chills, or sweating. Therefore, you feel sicker during the night.
The doctor goes go on to say that less distractions at night also contribute, and the position of your body. Lying down often makes your pain or sickness feel worse. So there you have it.
It is now 5:17 P.M. and it’s dusk. The wind is blowing and the rain is pouring. Apparently it has for the past few days. I’m glad I’m sitting up and writing this post, because very shortly I will be miserable until daylight tomorrow. I know, what does this have to do with writing? Absolutely nothing. But now I will talk about writing.
Yesterday I was able to write a whole chapter, a great accomplishment when you’re sick. I wrote a few paragraphs a while ago for the next chapter. Today I felt worse than yesterday but writing from a sickbed is a new experience for me. I don’t believe I’ve ever done it before. For the past month or so some new ideas for the next novel have been rolling around in my head. I have the time to think about it and figure out some of the particulars. I usually write by the seat of my pants. I have a simple idea and run with it as I go along with only one character in mind, and it’s all pretty shallow. Then I get out my keyboard and let the story unfold. I feel for this next project I need to write down and plot a few things first. Nothing extensive, just enough to know the main characters and their circumstances, and one aspect of the conflict they will face. By now I’ve learned that is very helpful. So what do I have right now? Not enough but its a good start.
It will be a period piece, 1800s or maybe during WWII or the great depression. How’s that for clarity? I’m leaning heavily toward the 1800s. The protagonist is a child, Gideon Orr, who comes from a troubled home. He’s overwhelmed by things at home but has a wild imagination, infinite curiosity, and hearty lust for life. He forges a relationship with an older man, Herkimer Yates. Yes, Herkimer is a name. My dad had some distant uncle named Herkimer and I found the name intriguing. Herkimer will be short and walk with a limp, but have a strong and powerful upper body as a result of his labor job. I’m trying to decide what his labor will be. A farm hand? A blacksmith? I don’t know. I like the blacksmith idea. It’s been on my mind since I looked into the song lyrics in my last post. I am fascinated with the art. Herk will be reserved, hard to befriend at first. He’s not real crazy about kids and he’s a loner. He has a past of pain. But Gideon will get through to him. That’s all I have. It think it’s almost enough. All I want to know is a basic idea of what’s going on inside the home. BTW, I was thinking of titling it Fire and Fury, but I found out there is a book out by that title and it’s about Trump. That won’t work.
Now I’m exhausted. If you have any feedback or ideas about my Gideon/Herkimer story let me know. Blessings to you. Don’t get sick.
P.S. My wonderful friend Dorene brought over homemade chicken soup yesterday. Today I told her I was craving a blueberry muffin, so she came by with a fresh batch. The moral of the story is, if you don’t have a spouse to make you these things, find a good friend who loves to cook. Thank you, Dorene.
P.S.S. COVID test results just came in. Drum roll please…
My friend Bill Holland just posted a wonderful blog post on lyrics. It brought to mind a conversation I had with a friend a week or so ago.
I was talking about adversity and how it shapes God’s people. I used the analogy of a blacksmith who heats up the steel, pounds and twists it on the anvil to form something useful. I likened adversity to the fire and blows of the hammer, we are the raw metal, and God is like the blacksmith. It brought to mind a song by Bebo Norman. A poet through and through. He is not a main stream Christian artist any longer. In fact, he got out of performing several years ago to be with his family. No idea what he’s doing, but I’m sure he’s still writing. Anyway, he wrote a song called The Hammer Holds and I shared the lyrics with my friend as an example of what I was talking about and she found it very profound. Read the lyrics below but be sure to follow through the entire post:
A shapeless piece of steel That’s all I claim to be This hammer pounds to give me form This flame, it melts my dreams It glows with fire and fury As I’m twisted like a vine My final shape, my final form I’m sure I’m bound to find
So dream a little dream for me In hopes that I’ll remain And cry a little cry for me So I can bear the flames And hurt a little hurt for me My future is untold But my dreams are not the issue here For they, the hammer holds
And the water, it cools me gray And the hurt’s subdued somehow I have my shape, this sharpened point What is my purpose now? And the question still remains What am I to be? Perhaps some perfect piece of art Displayed for all to see
So dream a little dream for me In hopes that I’ll remain And cry a little cry for me So I can bear the flames And hurt a little hurt for me My future is untold But my dreams are not the issue here for they, the hammer holds
The hammer pounds again But flames I do not feel This force that drives me, helplessly Through flesh and wood reveal A burn that burns much deeper It’s more than I can stand The reason for my life was to take The life of a guiltless man
So dream a little dream for me In hopes that I’ll remain And cry a little cry for me So I can bear the pain And hurt a little hurt for me My future is so bold But my dreams are not the issue here for they, the hammer holds
This task before me may seem unclear But it, my maker holds
“The Hammer Holds” Words and music by Bebo Norman.
After I shared my thoughts and these lyrics with my friend I decided to look for the “Story behind the song,” something I love to do. (BTW, there is website called Song Facts where you can look up the stories behind songs. Fascinating stuff.)
As it turns out, Norman was writing in the voice of a nail that would crucify Christ. WOW! That makes it more powerful than anything I thought it could be. Go back and read the lyrics now and see the difference.
Everyone loves a good villain. I believe the term “The person everyone loves to hate.” Personally, I don’t hate people, but you get the drift. If your readers hate the villain then you’re doing well, but there’s more to it. I think it’s apropos to call the villain an antagonist. He opposes the central character (protagonist) and other characters, to the point that you want to scream. A villain scrapes the bottom of the barrel for redeeming qualities. This post is not about how to write a villain; that’s for another post. But I had a unique (to me) experience the other day while working on my novel that took me by surprise and I think it was a remarkable growth spurt as a writer and human being.
I have come to realize that I tend to create men in my stories as either pure white in virtue, or totally evil and beyond the reach of redemption. I figure it’s some deep seated psychological issue in the bowels of my psyche. Regardless, I don’t think that’s the way to go. The other day I was writing about my antagonist, a megalomaniac, arrogant, condescending, cruel, pathological bully. It suddenly hit me that it’s important to give some background on this guy, to give readers some context to the mans’ deviant behavior. I wrote a scene from his past where his cruel father demeans him and emasculates him in front of others. I came away from writing this scene filled with compassion and empathy, and I realized I loved and cared about him. It was a profound moment and nearly brought me to tears. I doubt readers will feel that way, but it helped me a great deal. I think it’s imperative we have an intimate understanding of all of our characters. To have intimate connection with them. I have had scads of those kinds of connections with my two protagonists. Now that I have connected with this awful man, I think the story will be better. We should give the good guys flaws, and the bad guys a few positive traits, or at very least, a context which explains why he is the way he is. With these new revelations, I need to put more thought into a few of my male characters.
I love profound discoveries in writing. One of the most surprising discoveries in writing fiction, is how my heart can be deeply moved by the people and the story. I have wept and laughed and been terrified writing this story. I guess it exemplifies the notion of blood sweat and tears. Whether this will end up being a good book or not, is strictly up to the readers to decide, but I am blessed to come away a more empathetic person, and expanding my heart to understand broken people, including myself.
I love the raw first Christmas story. The message and what happened reminds us of the hope we have in Christ. He came as our Deliverer, Savior, and God. Praise be to God for His unspeakable gift. Several years ago I wrote a story on Hubpages called Redemption of a Hireling: A Christmas Short Story. Although the story is partly fiction, I wanted to give a tangible message of redemption. The Christmas story doesn’t need any addition but I still took the liberty of a scenario displaying the newborn King setting free a sinful man. I am resharing it here.
Yakov hugged his ragged cloak tighter on this unseasonably cool night. He took in a deep breath of the brisk air, energizing his weary body. His stomach growled. Dinner had been sparse – the last crust of bread and a dried fig he had leftover in his pouch. It had been a long couple of weeks. The sheep had been restless ever since a wolf had killed two of his finest lambs. Abel, his hireling, had been careless and lazy. Dozing seemed to be more important to him than tending the flock. The end result was the loss of income. The lambs were ready to sell for temple sacrifice at Passover.
Yakov found his way to where Aaron and Levi were warming themselves by a fire.
“You should have seen how I clubbed that wolf today after he went after my Star,” Aaron was saying.” He was known for his brute strength, audaciousness, and the occasional embellishment of his heroics. “Thank Jehovah I was able to save her.”
“You did well, Aaron,” affirmed Levi, who had witnessed it with his own eyes. “I know Star is always lagging behind or wandering off,” He poked the fire with a stick. “Yakov, how are the sheep faring on your side of the field?”
“They were restless awhile ago, but I talked to them and they are calm for the moment,” he answered.
“Isn’t it strange how the simple sound of the shepherd’s voice settles the sheep?” Levi mused. “They are so trusting. I wish we could settle the wolves with a few words.”
“Say, Yakov,” Aaron said, handing a hunk of cheese to him, “where is that scoundrel Abel who napped during that wolf attack the other day?”
Yakov chewed hard on the cheese. The memory of his showdown with Abel rushed back to him. Abel had been unconcerned and dismissive when he confronted him about the incident.
“The wolf was too far away and too swift for me to get there in time,” Abel had said. “Better the lambs than me, anyway.”
Yakov had given him a thrashing. When Abel got up off the ground he wiped the blood from his mouth, spat at the flock and stalked away. No one had seen him since.
Turning back to his friends from his reverie, Yakov answered them. “Yes, they were two of my best lambs. I beat the coward to a pulp. He’s the poorest excuse for a man as there ever was.”
The men grew quiet, listening and watching for any stir. But Yakov couldn’t stay quiet for long. “That rogue is a sluggard, a thief, and a liar. Remember how he was caught stealing produce from a nearby farm last month? And it was you, Levi, who caught him in the act of trying to sell some of the increase of the flock.” He stroked his beard, simmering with indignation. “What was I thinking giving him another chance? As soon as I can, I’m going to hire someone else.” He hated Abel and wished him dead.
Levi had just tossed some thorny scrub into the fire when straightaway an angel of the Lord appeared before them, radiant with the glory of God. Their legs quivered and they recoiled in fear. Levi lost his strength and fell to his knees.
“Do not be afraid.” the angel said. “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy for all the people.”
Riveted to their celestial messenger the three men remained motionless.
“For to you is born this day,” continued the angel, “in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Christ the Lord? This news hit them with great force. How could this be?
“And this will be a sign for you, you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
Before a single thought could flit through their heads the entire sky became ablaze with angelic beings; their praise to God filled the universe.
“GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH PEACE, GOODWILL TOWARD MEN.”
As quickly as they had appeared the angels retreated back up into heaven, and the night returned stark with silence. The shepherds remained motionless, their heads lifted heavenward in astonishment trying to comprehend what they had just seen and heard.
“I…I can hardly breathe,” said Aaron. Having just witnessed the angelic host, his brawn, grit, and bravado had melted away.
“Did you hear what the angel said? Christ the Lord!” said Levi.
“Right here in Bethlehem,” said Yakov, still trembling a bit.
“A baby in swaddling clothes,” Levi added. “Just like we swaddle the lambs.”
“Imagine, Christ the Lord lying in an animal trough?” said Abel.
Abel? Where had he come from?
“Abel, how did you get here?” Yakov asked. He did not ask in anger, but out of surprise.
“I was hiding and sleeping over there.” He pointed to some scrub in the near distance. “I saw and heard it all.”
The truth was Abel’s heart was deeply stirred. Dare he hope in this Savior, Christ the Lord? Surely not. He was a bitter, selfish young man, uncaring for anyone but himself. But he recognized it now and wanted to be anyone else other than who he was.
Strangely, no one seemed to care that the lazy, no account Abel was there with them. Not even Yakov. He was just one of them. This glorious thing that they had all just witnessed seemed to dissipate anything dark, evil, or contentious.
Yakov cried over the din, “Brothers, let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass which the Lord has made known to us.”
They set out with haste and calm assurance that the sheep would be safe. The thrill of hope surpassed anything and everything.
The usually quaint and quiet Bethlehem was swollen with humanity and beasts. The census ordered by Caesar Augustus had brought pilgrims from near and far to register in their ancestral home. The voices of campers gathered under the stars echoed in the night and their firelight dotted the hillsides. Many slept with no shelter at all. The heavens were their abode.
The shepherds swiftly traversed the hillsides bent on their mission. They passed an encampment where an intoxicated traveler was relieving himself in the open. Raucous laughter and shouts of mockery came from his likewise drunken comrades.
“Hey, you shepherds,” cried one. “Where’s our leg of lamb?” They slapped their legs and roared with merriment.
It did not deter them. They made their way into the town where homes and inns were fairly brimming with families and patrons. The cry of a baby rang out and the shepherds halted for a moment, wondering if it was the baby they searched for. They followed the sound and found the One whom they sought in a stable at the inn. A woman sat cradling her newborn baby, cooing to quiet him. The baby drifted off and she lay him in the trough, wrapped in swaddling clothes just as the angel had said. The heavy aroma of dung permeated the stable. The woman’s husband plumped up their nest with fresh straw to keep them warm and clean.
Levi, heart thumping wildly, entered first. As he watched the baby he forgot to breathe. He felt warm breath on his shoulder from Yakov who was leaning in from behind him. Aaron came around to Levi’s left and knelt. All three were in awe. The husband spoke to them.
“Welcome. My name is Yoseph and this is my wife Mary and our new son, Yeshua.”
“The Lord is salvation,” whispered Levi in awe.
“Yes, the angel told us He was Savior, Christ the Lord,” said Aaron.
“Angel, you say?” Yoseph inquired.
Yakov gave them the story.
“Yes, you see we were watching our flocks this night, nothing out of the ordinary. We were talking by the fire and all of a sudden a great angel appeared before us. He shone brightly as if it was the glory of the Lord that illuminated him. I don’t mind telling you we were trembling in fear.”
“Yes,” added Aaron. “Levi here was so scared he slumped to the ground.”
“He’s right,” said Levi. “And I’m not too ashamed to say so. If you had ever seen such a grand angel you would be afraid too.”
Yoseph and Mary exchanged a knowing look and smiled. “Go on,” said Yoseph.”
Yakov continued. “The angel gave us a message. He said ‘Do not be afraid. Behold, I bring you good news of great joy…”
“For all the people,” Aaron interjected. “All, I say.”
“Then he said ‘For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior…”
“Who is Christ the Lord,” Levi finished.
“Yes,” said Yakov. “As I was saying, he then told us a sign to find Him.”
“A sign, you say?” Yoseph said.
“Yes, he said we would find a baby, lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes, just as your dear babe is now.”
Mary took in a sharp breath.
Levi exploded in animated wonder as he described the next thing that happened. “You wouldn’t believe it but all of a sudden the entire universe was filled with angelic beings saying “GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH PEACE, GOODWILL TOWARD MEN!”
Yeshua startled and let out a lusty squawk. Mary calmed him with whispers and a warm hand on his head.
Yakov scolded him. “Levi,” he hissed, “you startled the poor lad. Keep your voice down.”
“Oh, so sorry,” Levi whispered to Mary. “But you just can’t imagine how…how…well, there are simply no words to describe it.”
“I saw and heard it, too.” Everyone turned to see Abel stepping forward out of the shadows. He looked askance to Yoseph. “May I?”
Yoseph nodded. Abel knelt at the manger overwhelmed by his unworthiness. Tears spilled down his face. Yeshua squirmed in His sleep, let out a sigh, and curled up into the fetal position he’d been accustomed to in the past nine months. Abel had never seen a newborn child up close that he could ever remember, nor had he ever had interest in babies and children. They soiled their diapers and made a lot of noise. But now, he was gripped in wonderment at the delicateness of Yeshua’s skin and the thick black downy hair that covered his sweet head. He looked up into Mary’s eyes.
“He’s beautiful. So beautiful.” He wiped his runny nose on his cloak.
“Abel, move away or you’ll drown the baby or make him sick,” scolded Levi. Abel pulled back and looked apologetically to Mary. She gave him a reassuring smile.
“Finish your story,” Yoseph said.
“No more to the story, sir,” said Yakov, “except we left our flocks immediately and made our way quickly to find the baby the angel and told us about. We thank you for letting us see Him.”
The others nodded in agreement and stood to go. Abel couldn’t break away and remained kneeling near the manger. “You are a little lamb, the Lamb of God,” he whispered to the baby. “A Savior. Is there hope for me?”
The baby made no sound or movement but Mary reached out and put her hand on his. “There is,” she said. He sighed with relief and stood to join the others. “Thank you,” he said, wiping his eyes.
After the men left Yoseph reclined in a corner and prepared to bed down for the night. He encouraged Mary to get some sleep as well. Just then Yeshua mewed and she took him up in her arms and put him to her breast to nurse. Yoseph wrapped a blanket around her and went to sleep, his heart full.
Mary beamed as her son’s tiny hand gripped her finger. “A strong grip you have, son. You will make a good carpenter like your father.” As Yeshua drew in His nourishment she wondered, ‘If He is Savior, will He work as a laborer? What will His life be?’
The exuberant band of shepherds left the baby and stopped everyone they could to tell them the events of their evening. The people marveled at the news and it spread everywhere. They finally arrived back to the fields a few hours before dawn, sleepy but still full of excitement. The sheep were safe and sound and happy to see their shepherds once again. Abel separated himself from them and wandered through the flock pondering the last several hours.
At the edge of the field, he fell to his knees, his cheeks damp once again.
“God of my fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, in some ways this all seems so surreal, but it was so incredibly real and wonderful. Why would you include a wretched dog such as myself to meet this sweet Lamb of God? Lord, I am sorry for my evil ways. Forgive me. This Savior, Christ the Lord, that the angel proclaimed, has changed me and I will never be the same. Thank you that you have blessed me with the hope of salvation. Amen.”
After his prayer Abel lie down for a quick nap then he would return to Yakov and ask for forgiveness and mercy and pledge to work off what he owed. Even if Yakov did not take him back, he would find work elsewhere and pay his debt.
When dawn was but a line of amber light on the horizon, Yakov sought out Abel and found him a half mile away talking to a lamb with the tenderness and love of a father. He was rubbing olive oil into a deep scratch on one of her back legs, the result of a run-in with a thorn patch.
“There now little one, let this be a lesson. You are no longer unblemished. You can’t be sold for sacrifice. So you shall be my pet. Stay close to me and I will protect you. If you wander away, I will pursue you to the ends of the earth. And if you get caught in the brambles and thorns, I will always tend your wounds. And if a bear or wolf should come near, I will take this rod and beat him to death. No one hurts any lamb in the flock of Abel. No, love, not one.”
Yakov swallowed hard. He couldn’t help eavesdropping on Abel’s intimate conversation with the lamb. His heart was touched at the change in Abel. A hard, selfish heart had become as soft as the skin of Yeshua. At that moment he recognized the change in his own heart as well. His hatred for Abel was completely gone. He now saw everyone and everything differently. He finally spoke.
“Abel, my friend, I’m glad I found you.”
Abel looked up at Yakov. He stood and cleared his throat. “Yakov, I…I’ve done wrong by you and by this flock. I will work to pay you back what I owe you, if you’ll have me, that is. I am a changed man and I will care for these sheep as if they were my own children.”
“You don’t need to say anything else, Abel. All of us who witnessed the angels and the baby has been changed in our hearts. My heart needed changing as much as, if not more, than yours. Forgive this angry shepherd for being so harsh.”
Abel tried to speak, but nothing came out. Yakov put his hands on his shoulders, looked into his eyes and said, “That angel said the good news of the Savior is for all people. Abel, you and I are included in ‘all people.’ He has brought peace between us, in us, and to all men who will trust in this Savior.”
Abel nodded with a grateful heart. Yakov placed his arm across Abel’s back and they began to walk. “To me, Abel, you are no longer a hireling, but a shepherd, and my friend. We are now brothers and true sons of Israel.”
The sun rose crimson, gold, bronze, and purple, over the eastern hillsides. The colors reflected the hope and joy of the Lord and His everlasting peace. And it was Abel and Yakov’s to share.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
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