Looking Back and Moving Forward After 9/11 by Julie Arduini

Sometimes the tragedy of 9/11 seems like yesterday.

Then I remember when I first heard of the attacks, I was a work-from-home mom of a three year old who that morning slept in later than usual.

That preschooler is now fifteen.

With 12 years behind us, I watched a series of documentaries on the events, and they weren’t easy to watch. After this much time, it’s easy and tempting to gloss over. But I felt I owed the thousands that lost their lives my time and perspective, and I’m not the same person I was back then. Our country isn’t the same.

Looking back, I thought about what life was like for me at the time, and on that day.

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  • Although I now live in Ohio and am the same distance to NYC that I was when I lived in Upstate NY, there is a fraternity of sorts, a bond, for anyone who lived in New York in 2001. Upstaters are famous for distinguishing how we are not from nor live close to The Big Apple. On and the days and weeks after 9/11, we were all New Yorker’s. When the second plane hit, we didn’t know how close planes might be to us. Would they attack other portions of the state? I lived in a city known for being the world headquarters for a corporation. Would we be a target? We New Yorkers grieved and shared questions that people in other states probably didn’t experience to such a degree. In an odd twist of fate, living in Upstate NY I saw nothing of the attacks on a personal level. A friend of ours in NE Ohio recalls seeing what he now knows as United Flight 93 flying dangerously low. It crashed minutes later in Shanksville, PA.
  • The financial impact of the attacks hit us personally. It took about a year and a half, but the impact was devastating on the entire state. By 2003 the corporate city that was my hometown lost 20% of its workforce. The cost of a slice of pizza at the local pizzeria was more than worth of stock for Corning Inc. It was awful. My husband’s job changed so drastically that he had to look for other work, and that’s what brought us to Ohio. My position lost funding, and we decided to have me stay home and raise our preschooler and baby.
  • I was working from home that day and missed the initial coverage. I had no comprehension of how horrific everything was. Perhaps God protected my mind from going there. I was in my own tailspin from a miscarriage earlier in the year, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around how people were trying to survive. How long after the attacks the heroes battling blazes or helping with clean up were fighting respiratory issues, or more.
  • To this day I grieve how fast we returned to normal. My mom even warned me while we watched the news reports and speeches. The unity won’t last, she told me. I couldn’t believe her. Yet, in weeks. Weeks! I felt everything go back. People seemed complacent. Eternity and compassion fell to the wayside. And I don’t think we’ve rediscovered those things in measure to how much we need them in our lives.
  • Like the attack on Pearl Harbor, we went as a nation from relative peace to all out war in no time at all. It was nothing for us to trust everyone over everything. People my age remember you could idle at the front of the airport and no one noticed. Try that now and watch what happens. I can remember the silence in the skies when the flights were grounded. When I see an odd license plate somewhere with someone looking suspicious, I take notice. Don’t you?
  • One of the documentaries explained that prior to 9/11, many organizations were not connected and communication between them wasn’t just limited, it was non existent. Today the FAA and the military are on the same page. News can be viral in minutes from many sources. God forbid we ever experience anything like this again, but I’ll never forget the haunted look on loved ones looking for lost family and friends. They were using posters. Phone calls. There wasn’t Facebook, Twitter, none of that. Times have definitely changed.

With an older perspective I think it’s important to look back. To honor those who aren’t here and died for our country. To learn. To appreciate. To pray. I feel our country is more fragmented than ever. I refuse to live in fear, though. For everything about 9/11, I lift up truth.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16b, NIV

 

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Writing Lessons Learned from Football by Julie Arduini

One thing I learned rather quickly when I moved to Ohio was come fall, it’s about football. More than once I’d have a Friday evening meeting to learn it was cancelled because there was a high school game nearby. When I braved Saturday grocery runs, everyone wore the same color, and sometimes even the same type of shirt. Ohio State red.

Football around here is more than a hobby, it’s a passion.
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Observing high school sports, I realized my writing life is a bit like the football player. The teams around here want more than a few wins. Their goal is the championship.

  • Like football, I need to set the bar high.

If it had been up to me, I’d still be crafting a newsletter for my local Mothers of Preschoolers group, and nothing more. God stirred my heart to dream bigger and write for a wider audience.

While I’m lounging in our pool on a hot July day, our school football team is working it. Many weight lift year round. They start practice long before the first game.

My writing isn’t an overnight success. My recently completed contemporary romance has seen draft after draft and even as I blog this, I’m praying about a major change to the story even as I create the next in the series.

  • Writing takes practice. Learning. Going over the words until you dream about the story. Attending seminars, classes and conferences.

I’ve watched my friend’s son move through the ranks. Now that he’s an upperclassman, the coach has plans for him. There’s anticipation because they’ve seen good things from him on the field. There’s a chance scouts are paying attention. And if they like what they see, they could court him for bigger things after graduation.

  • Quality authors don’t automatically get the call to publishing. They earned their dues and place in the market. I have peers who were so anxious to see their name on a cover and they rushed it, putting to print a work that wasn’t ready.

When I think about where my work is at and the next steps, I’m suited up. I’m watching great friends get the call and run to the field. I have the playbook, I’ve practiced, and my time is coming. I’m setting lofty goals and more than ever, I’m tuned into my coach, waiting for His leading.

And believing one day soon the masses will enjoy my work as much as the people in Ohio love their football.

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But I Hate Marketing by Julie Arduini

When I talk with friends who don’t write for a living, their vision is that authors sit in cushy offices, munch on gourmet chocolates, write one draft of what will become a bestseller, and the book sells just like that.

Oh, how we wish that were true.

Especially in this economy, authors are expected to be marketers. Half the battle is to write the book. The rest is letting everyone know it exists and persuading them there is a benefit for them to purchase it.

I’m not quite there, but I know how important marketing is. And like most writers, I’m introverted in nature. I don’t want to stand in a crowd let alone stand out in one. To have a voice in this loud voice that has to capture consistent attention that results in positive action from consumers? If I could pass on that, I would.

Yet as I’ve worked on crafting my first contemporary romance, I’ve also spent time building a base. Online I’ve worked hard to have a community throughout social media that I’ve engaged with so when that time comes, I can tell them I have a book out, and they will not only want to buy it, they will partner with me to tell others. That’s my hope, and right now I have a practice run in the works.

My first contemporary romance and now my second are based on the real village of Speculator, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains. This is my favorite place in the world, and where I honeymooned. The actual store in town, Charlie Johns, is what I used to base the store in my story, JB’s.

Charlie Johns had a photo contest where they were looking for the best summer Adirondack picture. I submitted a few, not knowing the process. I learned I finaled with a 12 year old picture of my then toddler playing at the beach in Speculator. The winner is determined purely by Facebook votes. The other pictures are stunning nature pictures that showcase the Adirondacks in grand style. And then there is my little dated picture of a little boy.

Spec1_editedThe winner receives a two night stay in Speculator, as well as a gift certificate to Charlie Johns or Speculator Department Store, another business I used in my story. To win, I’d be able to visit a favorite place as well as have writing inspiration. My husband admitted he’d love to return to where we honeymooned.

Right now I’m in second place. I’ve had to promote and talk about this contest, and I dread it. I feel like I’m bothering people, but I know enough to know marketing is part of the process. Although this is a photo contest, it’s also part of building my base. The more people who like the Charlie Johns page and see the pictures, the more fall in love with the area. The more people who fall in love with the area will want to know more. And my goal is to want those contest voters to become potential readers. Because I have stories to tell about their new favorite place, the Adirondacks.

So with that confession, how about I show you where to vote?

Like the page, and vote for Speculator Beach Time.

Thank you!

 

Word Pictures by Julie Arduini

I’m a visual person.

Not in the spatial relations way where you show me an unfolded box on a test and ask me to put the box together in my head and mark off the steps.

No. I’m horrible at that.

But I learn so much about life and my faith in Christ through object lessons and word pictures.

Years ago my fear of opening a tube of biscuits reminded me of Jesus’ return.

Crazy, I know.

But not knowing when that pop was coming made me aware and on guard. It’s a lesson I haven’t forgotten.

Watching my then pre school daughter open up her Dora the Explorer backback with a map inside was a lesson on God’s word. If Dora always had a map to consult to get her through life, shouldn’t I  consult my Bible?

Often when I pray I will have a visual moment that helps me draw closer to my Heavenly Father. Years ago when I struggled understanding His loving nature I saw me in a twirly gown waltzing with Jesus. He was kind, fun , and it was an intimate snapshot that really helped me.

Somethings the pictures are convicting. Not condemning, but a challenge I process long after the moment.

Take this week. The sermon was on surrender. I’m also facilitating a Bible study on Lysa TerKeurst’s Unglued. Many principles of that book crossed into the sermon. Although my life is based on surrender, there’s always something I’m holding back on.

I’m afraid.

Scared of rejection.

Not sure what’s around the corner.

And in the prayer time I saw me in one of those trust-fall exercises. The one where you have a partner who promises to catch you, but you have to take the risk to fall. As a child I absolutely refused to play that game. I didn’t trust anyone and the fear of more rejection was so strong I wouldn’t even try.

It’s still an issue for me, although not as severe.

In the picture, Jesus is my partner. He’s standing right where He needs to be to catch me.

And I move before falling, so that by my own choice, I fall flat.

Ouch.

I appreciate those visuals because I can chew on it for days and weeks, going to God with it. And this week my hands are up in surrender. I don’t want to be afraid or choose a fall, especially when Jesus is there and will catch me. I’ve been through enough to know He’s got me. Always. But just like the real lie Eve bought from the defeated one, I sometimes believe He won’t be enough. Won’t get the job done.

And I move away and fall flat on my back.

Can you relate to trust issues? 

Are you someone that responds to object lessons, word pictures or visuals?

 

Living Free by Julie Arduini

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder if Facebook is a barometer when it comes to our feelings about our country. Many of my updates from all walks of life (writers, Upstate NY friends, Ohio friends, family) are angry at the direction our government is taking, often naming specific politicians they are unhappy with. The criticisms come from both sides of the political fence.

Yet, when a part of our country is in trouble, whether a weather related event or man-created tragedy, my FB feed displays images showing our unity. We announce our prayers for Arizona in their unimaginable loss of 19 firefighters. That we won’t forget our neighbor to the north, Canada, with their flooding.

This week the US celebrates Independence Day on Thursday and I’m starting to see a new theme pop up in my feed updates, a sadness regarding our country where they don’t even want to acknowledge the true meaning of the holiday. To them, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of independence anymore, so why enjoy the day is their thinking. I understand their frustration, but I’m not ready to turn my back on my country or celebrating her independence.

Here are my ways, despite frustrations, to embrace everything about July 4th.

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1. Consider our forefathers. 

They probably didn’t want to leave their families to fight for freedom, but they did. They were pioneers in unchartered waters, and that always comes at a high price. When I think about pioneers, John the Baptist comes to mind. He forged new territory in sharing a message and he ended up beheaded. Freedom has a price, and I hate to think we’re surrendering the fight. Our forefathers fought for what we have, and it’s up to us to embrace those freedoms and protect them.

2. Consider our grandchildren.

Perhaps I’m too intense for you, but I think a lot about my actions and how they impact future generations. I want to lay down a foundation they can reap a harvest from. I want my kids to know what July 4th is about and why it is important so they can pass that appreciation down to their children and grandchildren. If I ignore the holiday because I’m not happy with current events, so many people lose out.

3. Consider our declarations.

When I’ve prayed everything I can think of over a situation and feel a freedom coming, I change course and start declarations. I think of these prayers as the ones that pull heaven down and bring agreement between the two places. No matter what vote in my country comes down, I start proclaiming the things I’ve prayed for our country. In Jesus’ name I celebrate the greatest awakening in Jesus people have ever known. One that is International and will set people free. I don’t look around for these declarations or I’d probably be too paralyzed by fear. I look up and believe in heaven they are already accomplished, and it’s time to believe it’s time to see that come to pass on Earth. Please know this isn’t me dictating God’s agenda. I’m agreeing with it, and that includes His ways and timing. But when the prayers have been said, time to start proclaiming. And for me, nothing feels freer.

How about you? Do you think your Facebook feed is a barometer for how people feel about your country? Have you heard any grumblings about people ready to ignore July 4th out of grief and frustration? What suggestions do you have to live free in your country even if you don’t feel it’s a guarantee as in years past?

Have a safe and blessed Independence Day. May you live free, and the freest life available is the one living for Jesus!

 

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Those Super Feelings by Julie Arduini

I have a confession. I am a Superman superfan. Not quite in the Nicholas Cage department where I named my son Kal-El, but I remember watching the Christopher Reeve version as a child and becoming swept up in the story, romance, patriotism, and family themes before I really even fully understood them.

Through the years I re-watched that version, along with Dean Cain’s version on TV with Lois and Clark. Although I didn’t quite fit their demographic, I watched every single episode of Smallville, right down to the finale when Clark finally donned the cape and flew off to save the world. Cry? No. Bawled was more like it.

man of steel photo: teaser man_of_steel_xxlg_zps2640a759.jpgI’ve tried to figure out what it is that gets me so involved and emotional when it comes to this nerdy journalist who flies around in tights to keep Metropolis safe. Although I’ve yet to watch Man of Steel, I believe former Governor Mike Huckabee has the answer.

Here is what he shared on his Facebook page:

The new Superman movie, “Man Of Steel,” reportedly shattered June box office records by raking in $125 million over the four-day Fathers Day weekend. That despite some worries in Hollywood after critics pointed out the film has Christian undertones. They noted that it’s the story of how a father in the heavens sends his only son to Earth to save humanity and stand as an example of goodness for all mankind. Some people in Hollywood apparently thought that might keep audiences away. How out of touch with reality ARE they?

I’ve learned over the years that I’m pretty sensitive spiritually. I believe even before I knew Christ in a personal way, He was wooing me in with messages that for most of the world, were clearly meant to entertain. Apparently Man of Steel has been overt in placing these themes for the masses to contemplate.

Even as a kid I knew Superman wasn’t God or a true, real Savior. But here’s what I continue to feel and get all weepy about when I watch any version:

-A baby arrives in this world, but not of it.

-A toddler adopted who has a strong connection to his biological Father, but very much loved by his adopted.

-His biological Father is the source of all wisdom.

-Clark’s true purpose is to come to Earth to save it.

-He steals away to the Fortress of Solitude for time alone with His Father, to re-charge and re-group.

-He’s going to choose good when tempted (I’ll conveniently ignore his private times with Lois, just go with me here) and have a showdown with evil.

-He will always win in the end.

I think even as a child those themes resonated with me and continue to draw me in not so much as a fan of a comic book hero, but out of thankfulness for the real Savior. I’m a true justice girl where I long for good to prevail, and Jesus is the ultimate good and victory. When I truly think about those things, I’m overcome.

And when I see it play out in fiction, I think my heart returns to those same themes, and gratitude.

How about you? Is there a fiction story, show, or film that always brings out your emotions that you believe has deeper meaning? I’d love to hear what you think. Also, if you saw Man of Steel, did the Christian overtones appear to you?

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Three Suggestions for Graduates

In NE Ohio, many high school graduations already took place, or will this weekend. There are days my own commencement seems like yesterday, and then the calendar reminds me the day I threw my cap so high I never found it again was in 1988.

I thought I’d share the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Whether you’re graduating or not, I hope these tips encourage you.

1. Be Intentional. I remember after college graduation the job market was much like it is now. Jobs were scarce and going to people with more experience. I had to be intentional and not only be persistent in sending resumes, but follow-up with each company. I sent thank you notes to every person I met during an interview (don’t forget the administrative assistant, they are key.) Even after I landed the job, I had to be intentional in communication both with my work and my home life. When I moved from Upstate NY to Ohio there was a Mothers of Preschoolers group that visited every day our first week with meal delivery. When I asked why did they go out of their way for a virtual stranger, the response was, “We promised as a steering team to be intentional.” I’ve adopted the same attitude.
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2. Be Forgiving. No matter what path you take, people are going to wound you, even unintentionally. I took so many things personally after graduation. Whether it was adjusting to living with others in college or coming to terms with a job or relationship rejection, my attitude got in the way. Even as a married adult when I had a miscarriage, my own lack of forgiveness held me back for an entire year. The best definition I ever heard was that forgiveness is “letting go of the fact the other person didn’t meet your expectation.” Want a key to moving ahead faster than most? Forgive.

3. Be like Jesus. Sounds easy and even cliche, but I didn’t choose a relationship with Christ until after college, and even then, I was too new and unmentored to know any better. Being Christ-like means you will serve others and throw self-entitled thinking out the window. People will define you as a great listener, team player, fair worker, and a person that stands out for all the right reasons. I interact with a lot of Christians who aren’t sharing their faith as much as living it, and their peers know there is something about them. The world wants you to be about yourself, to cut corners, and receive more than give. Be salt and light.

What advice do you have for graduates?

If you are a graduate, what plans do you have?

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Reflecting on Reputation by Julie Arduini

As I type this, updates continue to come in from Moore, Oklahoma.  My Facebook list isn’t huge by any means and I’m seeing several friends checking in and reporting on the devastation. Chances are there is someone here at Christians Read affected. My prayers are with you.

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Speaking of Facebook, a funny thing has been happening on my personal page lately. I’ve been tagged by friends who saw a chocolate image or quote and thought of me. Not only do I find it humorous, I think it’s confirmation I’m on the right track. Not so much building a reputation (although as a chocoholic I’m guilty as charged) but growing a brand. As a writer and speaker I want them to see my name and think surrender and chocolate.

Something else happened recently that made me think of how people view me. Last week I left a room and a woman ran out after me. She explained she had a prayer request and asked that I pray. The she said, “I had to tell you because you’re a prayer warrior.” That’s certainly not something I put on business cards or where on my clothes. Through my actions she felt that was an accurate depiction. That’s character.

One of my favorite quotes is by Charles Spurgeon, “May your character be inscribed on a rock and not written in the sand.” After the exchange with the woman I reflected on what she said.

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In the different places I go, am I the same person? You know the type, the one that quotes Scriptures with you in church but curses a blue streak in the bowling alley? That’s not how I want to be. The more I thought of it, my answer went back to Facebook.

A few years ago I was one of thousands hacked in a concentrated attack by a radical religious group. It made the news, and it was reported that Christians were targeted. When I was hacked, I knew right away. How? Because people were reading my lewd and belligerent status updates and responses to friend’s walls and realized they couldn’t be from me. It was the total opposite of what they were used to reading. Whoever had my account even argued with one of my pastors regarding Deuteronomy and I joked he had to know immediately it wasn’t me, when would I ever know enough about Deuteronomy to argue a pastor?

Friends called and texted me, readers went to my page to defend me and call the hacker out. When I re gained control I decided to use my reputation to fight back. I wrote a new status update claiming for those who truly understand me, I’d never be at the store the hacker claimed, any money I had would be spent on chocolate. Then I wrote a blog post letter to the hackers letting them know by targeting Christians and making my account one of the compromised, that was a blessing. It meant the true defeated one must be desperate, and I must be making an impact for the Kingdom of Christ. It only fueled me to keep writing for Him.

How about you? Have you ever thought what reputation you have, and does it line up with what you want it to be? I don’t mean you’ve lost a good name over a bad day, but if you think people are defining you in a way you’re not comfortable with, there’s time to change it. Not sure what your reputation is? Ask people in various parts of your life. A spouse, child, co worker, the check-out person at your favorite store–you’re sure to learn what about you is inscribed on rock, and what about you needs to get thrown in the sand.

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Short and Sweet by Julie Arduini

Ask any writer and crafting the manuscript isn’t the hard part. It’s the shorter works in the process–the pitch and synopsis that send chills down an author’s spine. Every word counts. No space for passive verbs. Advice like “write tight” and “When in doubt, cut it out” echo through our tired minds.

Today I’m scheduled to pitch to Love Inspired. I’ve edited, revised, honed, tweaked, and prayed over 100 words. If it garners interest, I move on. If it doesn’t, guess what? I still move on.

Yet as I’ve worked on this, I’ve thought about short notes. Everyone writes them. Whether we’re quick on time or space, we think of the best words to convey our feelings.
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Think about it. A text. Post it notes. Reminders. Quick letters to a spouse left on a coffee table. A love note scribbled from steam on a bathroom mirror. An emergency message. A wanted ad. Some of my favorite sitcom episodes are made from the miscommunications those fast writings. The most haunting short story I remember is Hemingway’s six word flash fiction: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

It might be my imagination, but last month I saw a necklace with a small, glass bottle attached. You could detach the bottle and include a message. Of course, that got me thinking. If it were an eco-friendly thing to do, what would I write? What would you say?

Of all the short and sweet notes out there, I realized encouragement is my theme. Most of my texts are encouraging others. It’s what I jot on mirrors. I’d let a random bottle reader know they are so important to God that He wanted them to find the bottle.

Perhaps I think too much, but I really have been paying extra attention to these things. Do you work any harder on short notes to make sure you got it just right?

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Three Take-Aways Regarding Surrender by Julie Arduini

Last week I had the pleasure of sharing my surrender journey with Dawn Mac and her Life Beats radio audience. Despite the technology glitches threatening our chat, there were a few themes that I think apply to anyone, whether they write or not.

1. It’s a process. I knew I wanted to write since the 6th grade. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive a great education when it came to grammar. Teachers told me to make writing a hobby, not a life. It took a personal relationship with Christ that started after college, growing in that relationship, and time to surrender the fears and write. When I finally yielded to the call on my life and promised to write for Him, I was thirty-six years old.

I mentor women in both group and one-on-one settings and it’s a regular reminder that surrender is a process. I think we put way more pressure on ourselves than Christ does.

2. You feel alone, but you aren’t. I believe my spiritual life comes in seasons much like natural ones. When it’s a personal winter, that’s when I surrender the most, and feel desolate. Sometimes the things God asks me to let go of aren’t bad things, it’s just time. Releasing things or people is painful and raw, but I’ve come to learn God’s purposes are to grow me. Winter is a preparation time. I trust Him. When I feel the most alone, I remember Hosea 2:14, NIV.

Therefore I am now going to allure her;
    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her.

He indeed speaks to me in the harsh winds and difficult times. I’m better because of them. Because of Him.

3. Freedom is worth the pain. Surrender is hard. I’ve surrendered fears, the past, bad habits, and even people. It’s never easy. One of the questions Dawn asked was what does freedom through surrender look like? It’s hard to put into words, but I assure you, it’s worth the journey.

The story I shared was how obsessed I was with being accepted and feeling like I was enough. I worried so much what people thought

From A Taste of Home, where I got the idea to dazzle my in-laws with this years ago.

From A Taste of Home, where I got the idea to dazzle my in-laws with this years ago.

of me I would lose sleep imagining what others must be saying about me. As a newlywed and a very craft-challenged person, I felt I couldn’t show up to Christmas dinner without bringing a centerpiece. A handcrafted one. An eggplant carved into a penguin that I stayed up until 2am to finish. Guess what? No one noticed the thing. Their focus was on family, and I was part of theirs. Once I surrendered that fear, I lived far from them and wasn’t able to bring things to dinner like before. It didn’t matter. I walked through the doors knowing I belonged, and just coming was enough. It was the most freeing feeling in the world.

Although having surrender as a theme is a daunting task because I realize I have to live it before I share it, I had the opportunity to tell the Life Beats audience that I’m blessed to do this. I’m a speaker, mentor, non fiction writer, and now as a fiction writer hoping to publish a fun, quirky romance filled with the Adirondack Mountains and chocolate. Even in a romance genre there is a surrender thread where characters have to literally let go and let God.

Something I think we can all relate to.

If you’d like to listen to the broadcast, click here.

Math and Christianity by Julie Arduini

I apologize for posting late, one of those days. I started with a school trip to attend a rally in Columbus, OH and just sat down after a day of pouring rain, warm sun, a side trip to the zoo,  and great kids.

Anyway, I’ve been talking about math with fellow Christians. There has been so much Christian-on-Christian infighting lately, and it not only breaks my heart, it makes me mad. Every time we fall for such behavior we’re doing exactly what the true defeated one planned for all along.

Division.

My passion is to encourage others to find freedom in Christ. When audiences of all sizes embrace that, whether through mentoring, my speaking or writing, even their face transforms. It’s a spark that I believe can spread like wildfire, affecting others for positive change.

I tell others that freedom is all about multiplication.

A few days ago Beth Moore showed me how addition fits in.

check_it_outShe wrote a blog post so dead on about Christian bullies and the infighting that I have nothing to add. She nailed my heart and emotions. Because time is short, I thought I’d invite you to read her post, written in part after she witnessed the pleasure some Christians were taking at the expense of Pastor Rick and Kay Warren regarding the tragic loss of their son. It’s a post I’d classify as a must-read.

Beth Moore’s Sadness and Madness

Passion Play’s Supporting Characters by Julie Arduini

Each year our church shares the greatest story ever told with a Passion Play. It’s a Broadway-like production with as many as 100 in the cast that also features an ensemble and live animals. The actors are lay people with a desire to gift the Lord and the community with five presentations between Palm and Easter Sundays.

We’ve been part of that church for eight years and my husband and children have been involved for most of those years. That means I not only see the presentations each year, I’m often there for rehearsals. I’m quite familiar with the story and what to expect in each scene. Thing is, each rehearsal and performance moves me. I’ve yet to watch even one healing scene and remain unfazed. When Jesus lifts the dead girl and she returns to life, I sob to the point of fearing emitting noises that would distract from the show. We nearly lost our daughter at three months old, and I envision Jesus lifting her for healing that day, something I will never take for granted. It truly is the greatest story ever told.

Our son, circa 2007.

Our son, circa 2007.

Between the play and the History channel’s The Bible, I’ve been  thinking about what writers would call the supporting characters. They are part of the story, well-developed if done right, but don’t overshadow the protagonist. When I think of Jesus and His journey to the cross, there are so many who have a story of their own.

Peter–The disciple who spoke first and thought later. He loved Jesus with fierce passion, only to deny Him when it mattered most.

Now a teen, he plays Philip, a disciple, this year.

Now a teen, he plays Philip, a disciple, this year.

Barabbas–A criminal set free. In our play, we reflect on the possibility that the one who first realized and perhaps appreciated Christ’s sacrifice would be Barabbas.

The thieves on the cross–One mocked Jesus. The other understood  they deserved their punishment, but Jesus did not. He asked Jesus to remember him, and Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43, NIV

Mary–I didn’t fully appreciate her place in the story until I saw Passion of the Christ. She sacrificed twice. First, choosing to be the vessel to her and our savior. Second,  watching His death. Not understanding how this violent murder equals redemption and life. A mama’s heart shattered.

John–He not only witnesses the crucifixion of his beloved friend, he promises Jesus to care for Mary.

Judas–Deceived by money and false promises, his kiss is remembered today. He died a tormented soul.

When I think I found the secondary story to focus on, another aspect of Christ’s love pops up and I’m enchanted by Jesus all over again.

Our daughter in her first year as a town's girl, 2011.

Our daughter in her first year as a town’s girl, 2011.

 

 

 

 

This holiest of weeks, what supporting character captivates you? Any of the above? Herod? Pontius Pilate? Someone else? I’d love to read your thoughts.

Have a blessed Easter!

Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Character by Julie Arduini

I admit it, I watch Dallas. I know it’s a soap opera and is a stark contrast to my Bible Series post last week.

I watch because right or wrong, the show brings back happy family memories. We had our share of adversity in our personal lives back in the day, but come Friday night at 9, the TV was on and we were taking guesses at what “good ole’ JR” had up his sleeve that week. My dad has been gone nearly 9 years and I can still hear his giggle when JR had a smart comeback. It’s nostalgia, but watching the reboot version blending the characters I grew up with and the new, it’s as comfortable as a pair of fuzzy slippers on a winter’s night.

The actor who played JR Ewing, Larry Hagman, passed away last November. Last night his character was laid to rest in a tribute episode. The hour long show impacted me on a few levels, way deeper than I expected a serial drama to.

image: dallastnt.com

image: dallastnt.com

-The nostalgia. Characters from the original show returned, honest about their run-ins with the legend. In a humorous scene, all his ex-wives gathered around the fireplace and remembered their marriages to the same man. Again, some of my happiest memories were watching this show as a family. To see the characters again  brought back my own memories, as well as show reflections.

-Family is family. You don’t have to watch the show to know the Ewings have a lot of enemies, and their own infighting. Last night JR’s nemesis, Cliff Barnes, burst on the scene to “pay his disrespects.” As soon as he opened his mouth, all infighting ceased and the Ewings bonded together. When JR’s only son with his beloved Sue Ellen, John Ross, started to raise a first to defend his deceased daddy, his cousin stepped in and offered to throw the punch for him. This reminds me of my husband’s recollections growing up. He comes from a bigger Italian family and confessed he fought often with his brothers. But if someone went against one of the Arduini brothers, the boys had each other’s backs. Even in the sudsiest of shows, Dallas proves family is family.

-Grief brings a paradigm shift. When my dad passed away, the patriarch was gone. My mom was a widow, and my sister and I were without a dad. Everything changed. Although we returned in time to a normal, it was a new one. Watching Bobby Ewing return from identifying his big brother’s body, you saw the shift take place. He immediately excused himself and went to work behind den doors. He is now the patriarch and all plans to honor his brother were on him. He’s also traditionally known as the “good” brother, and now he’s conflicted. It’s the Ewing way to avenge an Ewing death, and the burden is his to make it happen. Will he remain good, or will his remaining days on South Fork be a blend or total character change? With death, nothing remains the same.

-The Daddy Complex. What made the first Dallas so engaging boiled down was a quest of an older son wanting the love of a harsh, hard pleasing father. That became an obsession for JR’s character because after the first season, Jim Davis, the man who portrayed patriarch Jock  Ewing, passed away and Jock’s character was also gone. JR never got to hear his daddy’s approval, and his mom’s love focused on younger brother Bobby. The rest of the show was JR chasing a dad’s approval he would never get, and keeping a feud alive with a family that started with Jock’s friend turned enemy.  The fight continued between Jock Ewing/Digger Barnes sons, and the Ewing/Barnes feud continues today.

In the reboot, John Ross was constantly motivated by wanting JR’s approval, yet conflicted because his mom suffered so because of his father’s misdeeds. Before JR was killed, he let his son know he not only loved him, but approved of him, calling him a Ewing from “tip to tail.” My writing side was fascinated with the tribute episode because the quest ended, but now the story lines multiply. Why? Because the son, the brother, and those that truly loved JR will avenge his death. And in writing, of course with every action comes a reaction.

Can you think of a character on TV or a book that impacted you when they died? Did any death scene or tribute trigger something about your life?

image: TNT

The Christian Reaction to The Bible Series by Julie Arduini

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Whether you have an actual water cooler at work or where ever you spend your Monday morning, chances are the topic of conversation was the History Channel’s 10 part series on the Bible. The ratings are in  and over 14 million people watched the first offering, produced by husband and wife team Mark Burnett (producer of Survivor, The Apprentice, and The Voice) and Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel.)

You know what, I’m disappointed. Not in the episode, but in the negativity by Christians who made up part of the viewership.

Here is some of the feedback I read on my Facebook feed:

-Too Hollywood

-Biblically Inaccurate

-How could Focus on the Family promote such heresy?

-Is Roma Downey even saved? Should she even be representing this Holy Book?

-Way too much was missed/ignored

My takeaway, perhaps because I have a writing background, is this is  a production full of  people doing their best to represent God’s Word. They are mere humans, and even with the best of intent, they are not perfect. Because it is a production, there are going to be points we can quibble about. I’m sad that debate outweighs the heart to tell the greatest story of all time.

I read someone was mad because Sarah headed for Moriah during Abraham’s sacrifice.  Since we don’t read about her in Genesis 22 as far as the sacrifice scene, some people felt her presence on screen was too much liberty with His Word. But I think to focus on that is missing the big picture.

People I never expected to talk about God’s Word are conversing and asking good questions. I heard morning show anchors speaking in depth about it. I sat with my teenaged son where he paused for two hours from his friends and hobbies to watch this, talk with me, and look things up in his Bible. That will always impress me.

I wonder if the criticism would be there if Ted Turner were behind this, or Spike Lee? What exactly are Christians looking for? I mean, we all do understand Charlton Heston was not really Moses in his offering of The Ten Commandments, right?

Anyway, I was moved by the first installment. As a wife and mom that had a dying child we had to trust God for, I was more than inspired and moved by Abraham and Issac. What left me unimpressed were the harsh criticisms and arguing amongst Christians. I turned off the TV believing this was an offering to the world showing how personal God is, and wants to be with us. It wasn’t about religion, but relationship. God is real and longs for us to know Him. To see the Red Sea part reminded me how much He is for us.

Here is what I shared on my Facebook page:

We can’t re create what God created and expect perfection, but I applaud everyone behind the project for having the passion to try. It has started conversations between all ages and walks of faith. My teen son and I watched together, talked through the whole thing, and he went to his Bible more than once to check things. That will always impress me. If you walked away unimpressed because of religious matters, I’m sorry, but I think you missed the point. I saw/read their interviews and they were prayerful and wanted to be reverent. Their passion is to show the world the relationship Christianity brings. And if you believe and couldn’t find that aspect, to me, that’s the saddest thing of all.

If interested, I tried to embed a video interview from Roma Downey and Mark Burnett sharing their hearts about this series. The site also has a lot of faith based resources I believe are worth looking at.

I’d love to read what you think. Am I too harsh on the viewers and their criticisms? Did you watch? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

image from bibleseriesresources.com

Disclaimer: These are my thoughts, and don’t represent the other bloggers represented here. They are allowed to disagree with me. :)

Reviews You Can Use by Julie Arduini

Aside from buying books,the best thing readers can do for an author is take the time to write a positive review after finishing. It’s an important part of the industry, but hard for authors to market as it sounds self-serving.

I’ll admit, I don’t know if it’s true for product reviews, but I sense it would be the same. Afterall, a great buzz generates more interest. I remember a couple decades or so ago I remember my mom coming home with a Thighmaster simply because she heard all the comments and was curious enough to purchase it. Word-of-mouth works, and in our cyber society, reviews are an important tool.

Did you know reviews could brighten your day as a reader? I didn’t. I was having trouble settling my mind one night and decided to stroll read  stalk through Facebook. One of my friends offered a link and encouraged everyone to read, saying the reviews were funny, hysterical, and a mood lifter.

What was it for?
The Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer.

I’m not kidding.

There are over 3,000 reviews for this banana slicer, giving smiles to readers.

There are over 3,000 reviews for this banana slicer, giving smiles to readers.

As I type, there are over 3,000 reviews. Yep, for a banana slicer.

I’m not going to spoil the fun. You have to go there yourself.

Do you need a banana slicer? Maybe. Maybe not.

But on this winter’s day, I think we all could use a smile.

When finished, do something uplifting for an author and write a positive review for a book you enjoyed.

Let’s making smiling contagious!

Amazon image

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