Personal Parables

Remember the Suspenders Revisited

Last night, I was reading my blog posts from 2016 and came across Remember the Suspenders. This morning, my Bible reading came from the entire Book of Jonah.

I noted the ending verses of chapters 1-3 especially. In each case, God determines the action that would take place.

Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.

Jonah 1:17 NLT

Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.

Jonah 2:10 NLT

When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.

Jonah 3:10 NLT

(emphasis mine)

That last one rankles Jonah.

So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.

Jonah 4:2 NLT

Hear Jonah’s disgust at God’s decision-making? Yet, not long before, Jonah experiences that same mercy.

He said,

“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
    and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,
    and Lord, you heard me!

Jonah 2:2 NLT

What is God’s response to Jonah this time?

The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”

Jonah 4:4 NLT

Apparently, Jonah doesn’t know what to say because he goes away from the town, builds a shelter, and waits to see what will happen to it.

I find that to be an odd response. Didn’t God say He would spare Ninevah? So, what is Jonah waiting to see?

Maybe he is waiting for Ninevah to screw up again. Then, God will show them!

Maybe he isn’t waiting at all. He could be pouting because things didn’t go the way he thinks they should have gone for Ninevah.

Maybe he is waiting for God to show him what, if anything, this has to do with him. Why did he have to go to Ninevah? He knew they would repent, and God would be merciful. Same old story! So, what’s in it for Jonah?

And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.

Jonah 4:6 NLT

The story could end right there. God provides a happy ending for Jonah. He saves the people of Ninevah, and He comforts Jonah.

But, that isn’t the end of the story.

But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away.

Jonah 4:7 NLT

What is Jonah’s response to the sun beating down on his head?

Anger.

Again.

What is God’s response?

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”

Jonah 4:9a

Jonah doesn’t hesitate.

“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”

Jonah 4:9b

Let Jonah’s reaction sink in and take root.

He has suicidal anger over the death of a plant.

“Kill me now,” is his answer.

“If Ninevah survives and this plant that comforted me dies, then my life might as well be over.”

What a drama king!

And yet, I can’t help but wonder, because of God’s question,

“Is it right for you to be angry about this?”

Jonah 4:4 NLT

…what anger have I allowed to take root in my life?

At first, seemingly justifiable anger appears to be a leafy plant providing comfort when something doesn’t go as I have planned. But, then, the hidden worm inches its way inside and eats away at all that might nourish me toward healing. I become nothing but a bitter, withered weed.

So, maybe Jonah has a point. It would be better to die than to live like that.

Yet, here is God’s point.

Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

Jonah 4:10-11 NLT

I need to let my anger die as quickly as that plant did. Because it only provides a momentary–even a false–comfort. My response should be like God’s. Because He has more than once extended that same mercy to me when I did not deserve it.

I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.

Jonah 4:2b NLT

And so the story ends. As far as we the readers know. But, I’d like to think Jonah uprooted his anger that day. I’d like to think his eyes dripped with compassionate tears as he made his way back to the people of Ninevah. I’d like to think he stopped waiting and learned to live.

Going into this new year, what angers you? Do you have a right to be angry about it? Are you trying to control what God has already put into place? Maybe it’s time to uproot that wormy plant taking your focus away from those who need your mercy. Let that anger die and shed some compassionate tears. Stop waiting and learn to live!

Personal Parables, Uncategorized

While Waiting for Words

Now that The Forget-Me-Nots is published, I find myself in a situation I haven’t been in for quite some time. I’m between projects. So, what should I do next?

  • Start a list of book ideas. An idea is percolating. That’s a good thing for it to do. Jumping right in to the next project isn’t always the best idea. Sometimes the better one is to brainstorm another adventure for these characters or contemplate an entirely new cast and setting. Besides it’s Christmas. Why not write several prompts about what these characters do to celebrate? It could be a pivotal scene in the next novel!
  • Set goals. I have already started a few goals as described in my recent blog entries. Maybe asking for a planner is a good plan. I did! But, not just any planner. A novel planner!
  • Study craft books. Another way to generate ideas is to read about what others have done. Craft books are an excellent source of inspiration. At present, I am reading Jeff Gerke’s The First 50 Pages.
  • Scribble. Sometimes simply putting pencil or pen to paper generates ideas. Grab the nearest scrap of paper–even if it is a napkin at the coffee shop–and write down the first word that comes to mind. Get inspired with a word-prompting adult coloring book. Splurge on a journal and fancy pen. Go back to the spiral notebooks and dime-a-dozen pens from school days. Practice that signature for the future best-seller that will begin with the word just written on a gum wrapper.
  • Survey my surroundings. Speaking of the coffee shop, sharpen those sensory hacking skills and troll the patrons for character traits and dialogue. Describe this typical cafe with its whirring cappuccino machine and place it on the outskirts of a nebula named after a best friend or first enemy. Or have your own characters walk through the door and set the scene.
  • Seek out solitude. Speaking of coffee shops again. Find an escape. Maybe it is five minutes in the car after everyone else has gone inside. This is a good time to put those scraps of paper to use. Or it could be a pretend conversation on the phone. Be sure to write down what was not said on the other end.
  • Search for new books. Surf Amazon for bestsellers, new authors, and free offers. Fill that wish list and pass it on.

Whatever you do while waiting for words, don’t forget to add The Forget-Me-Nots on that must-read list!

Personal Parables, Poetry, Uncategorized

The Family Poet

The day after The Forget-Me-Nots was released, I received an email from my sister with the subject line “Not the Family Poet.” Attached to the email was a beautiful tribute poem she had written about her husband’s grandparents.

The day after that I received an early birthday present from my oldest son. He sent me a Willow Tree figurine holding forget-me-nots. Perhaps more meaningful was the card–an original haiku including the book title.

A few weeks ago one of my dear poet-reader friends sent one of her poems to me for critique. Her poem “The Forget-Me-Knots” is a well-written persona poem I had the privilege to read.

As an author, I love to encourage the inspiration of others. I feel it is one of my responsibilities as much as it is a natural response. After all, I learned this skill from my grandmother, the person I consider our family poet.

I am missing her a little more these days. I wish she was here to  celebrate the release of the novel her life influenced and inspired.

Perhaps that is the role all family poets play–to influence and inspire others to write their own poetry. In that way, we are each responsible for sharing our natural response with others. It is our tribute, our persona poem, our original haiku.

 

Personal Parables, Uncategorized

What I Never Forget to Always Say

On a September Evening in my Backyard

I remember this moment. I practically said these words out loud. Maybe I did. His words were just as clear right back at me. I hear the crunch of them as if I am still striding through the leaves, kicking them around.

An excerpt from this next conversation happened not long afterwards.

The Window Had Other Views

My discerning husband is excellent at going for my jugular issues without killing our relationship or moments like this one. While he grew up living within the same ten-mile radius, I moved at critical transition points. The longest I had lived in a house was six years, and, at the time of this poem, we were approaching our seventh year in the home we had built together.

As it happened–rather as God had planned it–this house is located within a ten-mile radius of my favorite house, the one featured on the cover of Where Dreams Abide. We are still living there and approaching our sixteenth anniversary. I have now far-surpassed my husband in living my life within the same ten-mile radius.

Yet, we have had to learn to stay and go in other ways. A tree may be rooted, but every year brings necessary change.

Leaving

Our seventeenth year in our home will be the similar in those differences.We may see it coming as in a noticeable change of season. We may be blindsided by a shattering pane. But, here is what I never forget to always say. I learned to say it when I was twelve just before my family moved from our second home within my ten-mile radius to St. Louis, Missouri.

Proverbs 356

When I was fourteen, I wrote my first poem titled “Homeward Bound.” The theme was my return to the same neighborhood my family had lived in before St. Louis. We did return to Minnesota, although to a completely different neighbor. I met my husband within his ten-mile radius. In our seventh year of marriage, we moved to mine.

That’s why, within this ever-changing life, I must remember that one thing I can never forget to always say.