Friday, June 29, 2012

Next Week's Features

I'm doing something a little different next week. I'm on vacation, so I'm running some specials posts.

On Mission Monday I'm posting about the reason this blog is called, "Spoiled For The Ordinary."

Writing Wednesday features a short story I wrote for fun. If I post about writing, I wanted to show that I actually do some! Enjoy "Batgirl."

Finally I will replay my greatest hit on Free Friday. I'm running my most visited post - "Why We Need Heroes."

I hope y'all enjoy if you've missed these before. I know I'll enjoy myself!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Opposite Sex

I'm a guy.

I hope this has been properly established. Just in case it hasn't, I'm married to a wonderful woman, I like explosions, football, and bacon. If I can have an exploding football while eating bacon, life is good.

Why then, as a beginning author trying to write a novel, do I have a female main character?

Perhaps it is because I am crazy?

It is actually what the story demanded. That's what popped into my head, and I ran with it.

Still, it is hard enough to come up with a story arc that can hold interest yet believability for 80,000 words. Why complicate things by trying to envision it as the opposite sex?

I know I've messed up in the process. I've had friends critique things as I go along, and I've especially tried to get female perspective on things. My frequent question is "would a woman think/do this?"

Probably the hardest thing I had to deal with is being told my main character, Jenna Dawson, "wasn't likeable." I meant her to be a type A, driven personality who is a bit impulsive and impatient (another challenge, because I'm not a type A person). She's pushing to be an emergency physician, so she has to be strong. The problem became that she was too harsh according to some friends I respect. I've had to work on revising old stuff and watch that in my latest writing.

I would say that's the biggest thing I've had to do - get feedback and be open to the criticism. In a recent writing contest, I submitted my first 15 pages. Thankfully, I received good comments on Jenna as an engaging main character. Hopefully I'm learning!

The interesting thing is, according to the Gender Genie, I'm more of a feminine writer. Mike Duran posted about the difference between male and female writers, and used this fun little web site in his discussion. I don't think the site is very scientific, but it still was interesting to try it out.

Words: 1195
(NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)

Female Score: 1478
Male Score: 1407

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: female!

Should writers be afraid of writing the opposite sex? Well, unless a man is writing about monks or a woman's book is in a nunnery, you're going to have to anyway. We're going to use our imagination anyway, so we need to do our research and be willing to change if our females are too manly, or a male lead is too girly.

In closing, here is some classic teaching on the difference between men's brains and women's brains. Enjoy!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Applied Learning

Another Mission Monday. Another series in our Outreach Saga.

The link there will catch you up if you're so inclined. The basics so far - I'm in a home group/church that has decided to meet out in a local park for the summer. We're meeting next to a set of low-income apartments on Sundays, inviting the people to a "BBQ for Jesus" and hanging out with them.

My last two Monday posts have talked about our first two experiences relating to what we have done with the people there. Yesterday was another good day where we were able to bless people relationally, financially, and spiritually. I had a great conversation with some guys discussing our souls, forgiveness, and cremation(!).

The outside manifestation of what Jesus is leading us to do is cool enough. However, I am seeing an equally important side-effect.

I am being transformed.

I have been a faithful church attender since high school. I went to church when my mom had given up on it long ago. I've been through church splits, highs, lows, and anywhere in between. The Lord has been walking with me all along, through the trials and blessings. However, over the last several years I have struggled at church. I knew that I was not going to get milk. I wasn't a new Christian, and I felt that I needed to reach out and be a blessing to others. I taught Bible studies and Sunday school classes. I filled in for the pastor if he was gone. Why, I even acted as a "lay pastor" when we were 5 months in between ministers.

Still, it was more of a duty going on Sunday mornings. I felt it was my fault. I needed to pray more prior to church. I had to get my "heart" right. It was on me.

Now that we aren't doing church as usual, I think I'm seeing something.

Since we don't have a strict format, since we're going week by week trying to listen to God and do whatever is set before us, there is a difference in my heart.

There's an excitement. There's a renewal of a passion that had cooled.

There's a new dependence on Jesus.

We don't know what is going to happen each time! We have done a variety of things so far. I can't plan - I can't use my prior knowledge of the Bible or church to guide me. (Certainly I'm leaning on the Word, but it isn't where I plan a three-point sermon or lesson).

It is staying sensitive to the Spirit each time we're out there. It is crying out to Jesus through the week, recognizing that I am in over my head! I need Him to walk with me through this.

I am being changed again.

I have had the privilege of many different experiences that have strengthened my relationship with Jesus. A mission trip, nine months of Bible school, and my long history in church walking with some dear people.

It reminds me of my physician assistant program. The first year was almost all classroom. We took in so much information it was like drinking from a fire hose. The second year was our clinical year. We worked with doctors, PA's, or nurse practitioners to take care of patients. I was part of a team that helped people, and it made the classroom learning real, because it was applied learning.

I feel like our little group is in clinicals right now. We've had many years of going to church, learning and building up our knowledge base and our spiritual lives. Now we are in the practical stage. It is time to go out and do.

It is a challenge. It is frightening at times. It is also exhilirating. I know Jesus is helping us as we try to obey as best we can. I'm learning more and more the truth behind this verse:

“With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Continuing Saga

Two down. Not sure how many more to go.

So far this is a three week series. In the first post I explained how a group of friends in Christ decided to do church a little differently. Last Monday I told the story how we didn't even get the right date on our invitations, but God showed up anyway. Also some people.

We decided last week to meet again at this local park. It is in the midst of a low-income housing area, with over one hundred apartment complexes. In our city it is known as a rougher area of town. The thing we found last week is that people were receptive to us coming and spending time with them.

After some preparation and more invitations (with the right date, thank you very much) we showed up again on Sunday morning. The first gentleman I talked to asked what denomination we were with.

"Well, we're just a home church trying to do something a little different."

We had another good day. People came back from last week. New people showed up. We prayed for people, made arrangements to help one person move, and ran out of hamburgers.

The takeaway point for me was one woman saying, "Our complex needs this. Thank you for making a little community time together."

There are many people out there who are proponents of home church who say it is the only way to do things. I'm not in that camp, but I think our modern American lifestyle does not allow for true coming together as neighbors. We don't sit on the front porch anymore - we huddle in our backyards behind privacy fencing. We don't go to the local church - we drive 30 miles to the one that "makes us feel good" and "meets our needs."

I know we've only done this twice, and I can't make too many generalizations from just a couple of events. However, it seems that people are hungry to find some grace out there, and I would suggest that the followers of Jesus are the ones to bring it.

A minister friend of mine, Tom Brock, says something to this effect: "Belong, Believe, Behave." We need to make people feel that they belong, that they are welcome and that they are worthy. If we help them belong, then they will come to believe. Out of that, they will learn to behave. So many of these folks have gone to church, sought after God, and have been rejected.

It grieves my heart.

We're on a little adventure right now. I know we're going to that park again on Sunday, and after that we don't know. I'm not sharing this because I have some secret or that we're doing things "the right way."

We're doing things one way, and God is showing up. It is refreshing. It brings life. I hope to share a little of what we're learning here is all.

And if you're bored on Sunday, drop me a line. I know a cool place to hang out.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

It's The Little Things

Patient in photo may differ in real life
As a PA, I examine people all day long. I do a lot of physicals, and it can get routine. I have a little trick that helps me through the day.

When examining my patient, my back is to the garbage can. You know the little black tips on the ear light (otoscope for those medically inclined)? I like to toss them over my shoulder in a no-look shot. I miss more than my fair share, but the patient isn't expecting it, and it usually makes them perk up a little, enhancing our interaction together.

 Laughter is the best medicine, right?
Today I thought about some of the little touches I'm putting into my WIP. They're the things that may not matter to others, but it keeps my interest in this project I've worked on for so long. They also may lead to story threads.

I'm a soccer fan, and I'm listening to the Euro2012 tournament in between patients. I had my heroine be a star player for her high school team (much better than I ever was). At first it was just a character detail from my background work.

Then it became a plot hinge.

It helped me introduce another character and the connection shared between her and my protagonist. I had no idea that it would turn out that way, but it fit perfectly.

Another tech for the dust bin of history...
Another time I saw a magazine ad with the image of a man and woman resting on the beach, his arm around her from behind (the "spooning" position). I liked the picture, so I cut it out and kept it in my writing notebook for kicks and giggles. I didn't know how I could work it into my story, but I didn't forget it.

I recently hit a point where it made sense to put this set-up in, sans the beach. It isn't important in the scheme of things, but it suggests I should listen to my gut whenever I notice details or come up with some character quirk. You never know when these ideas will play out.

Too bad I lost the memory in my old Palm Pilot (remember those?) where I had so many ideas stashed.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Journey's First Step

Putting the wrong date on an invitation is usually a bad thing.

Last week I told how our home group was planning to meet in a local park, next to a low-income apartment complex. We decided to have a free BBQ, but we didn't want to do a "bait-and-switch," so on the flyers we delivered to every apartment we told them we're inviting them to hang out with us and talk about Jesus. They knew up front what we were doing. We planned it for Sunday morning from 11-1.

The flyers went out on Thursday, June 7. We talked, planned, and most of all prayed. We got burgers, watermelon, chips, and cookies together and got together early to prepare and wait for people to come.

We waited.

Finally we talked to one guy. We told him we put out flyers. "Oh, the ones that say 'June 6' with no day of the week on them?"

Yes, that would be us.

I'm certain the computer automatically put the date of when it was done. So we now had 50+ apartments, 100 burgers, and 0 people.

We decided we'd better go knocking.

We went around to each complex again, inviting people to come. My wife and I knocked on the door of one woman who was fairly sick and couldn't come out into the windy cold weather. We said we'd bring her a plate of food. My wife nominated me since I'm medical and the woman was visibly ill. I brought her a plate and got visiting with her. It turns out I had something left over from my mom that was used twice and would be a good help to this new friend. She was very excited to get something that would help her in her illness, and I was excited to give her this device after holding onto it for several years.

I came back to the park and we had several people come and go. I think we ended up with around 20 adults stopping by, with many kids as well. The cool thing about this is it was a good number for us to start with. Between our group of 9 adults, we got to talk to everyone who came for at least a few minutes. I got to meet a couple of guys who were happy to hang out. They liked that people gathered at this park to spend time with them. I talked with them, learned about some of their troubles and their lives. I never had to force it, but I was able to share about Jesus with them.

Everyone in our group had similar stories. It was an amazing time. We wrapped up and I think we all were thinking, "Why hadn't we done this before?" It was so simple. We served people. We treated them with respect and listened to them. One of our group had prepared a talk, but it didn't work out.

We hadn't even decided what we were going to do next week, but we had such a good time we realized we should go back again and build some relationship. We might move to other parks during the summer, but for this week we'll take the next step. Even though the wrong date could have torpedoed our plans and our resolve, God was good to give us what we could handle.

If you have questions about what we are doing or how things went, I'd be happy to discuss it. We'll see what the future holds.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Continuing Saga in Christian Fiction

I haven't read it, but My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade is causing a stir in Christian fiction circles. The reason? It mentions poker, has words like "crap" and "boob", and other such nefarious deeds.

It points out the side of CBA fiction that can be considered puritanical or judgmental. I don't have a lot of input on this debate today. I've been working lately on missional stuff, so I haven't gotten fully into the writing world again.

I have internet buddies who have discussed this in thoughtful ways. Mike Duran tackles it today in his usual way - challenging the status quo.

Also, my friend Nicole Petrino-Salter reviewed it. She predicted negative reviews at Amazon, and discusses the self-appointed judges of Christian fiction and the idea of *gasp* having fun.

I hope the reading linked here is stimulating. If you know of other posts regarding this issue, please share in the comments below.

Monday, June 04, 2012

A Different Season

Life is interesting, and you never know when you're going to hit a curve in the road.

Through a series of strange and unusual events, my family and some dear friends have found ourselves not associated with any organized church. My wife and I had been in a situation where we were between churches before, but we left a church that was getting off in theology and practice and it took us a while to find our last church home. This circumstance is different though.

The cool thing is God is using this circumstance to allow us to experiment and try doing church or the Christian life a new way. The friends that are with us are all mature believers, who have walked with us for a while. We know each other well and have been through the normal ups and downs of church life together. We've had a heart to reach out to our community for a while, and have done some things to reach out in the past.

Now that we're not tied to an organized church and don't have to hold to a certain set of expectations, we've been praying and decided to use this season, however long it may be, to try something different. Perhaps it is radical. Maybe it is more of what we should be doing all along.

Our little group is going to spend Sunday mornings trying to reach out to people who aren't in church. We're going to meet in a neighborhood park, invite the people around, and have a time of sharing Jesus with whomever comes. We're trying to make it relatable with stories and testimonies and just spending time with them. If it is relationship building we want to do that, but if it is straight evangelism we'll do that. Ultimately, we're going to try to do whatever the Lord speaks to us about doing.

We have friends watching out for us, so we're not being lone rangers. We are taking time together to study the Word, pray, and worship as we're lead. We may not have much worldly success, but we realize you don't change the world, or change your city, without taking risks.

We're not mad at church and we bless all our friends who serve faithfully there. It seems at this time that the Lord has something else for us.

If you are so inclined, I would certainly appreciate your prayers. Our group (working on a name!) wants to see Jesus lifted up in our community, and we're trying to be willing to whatever comes up in front of us. If you have questions, let me know and I'd be glad to answer them the best I can. As this seems to fit the theme of "Mission Monday" rather well, I'll post about our adventures from time to time.

For now, it is a new day!