a collection of steps

Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Dull Hearts

In books, change, choices, Christ, God, healing, Jesus, prayer on July 31, 2009 at 10:19 am

Last night I was talking with a friend on the phone apologizing for not being available to her these past two months. “It’s like I’ve been in a coma,” I explained.

j0438521

I realize my choice of words was exaggerated, as I’ve never been in a coma, but she got the point.  She knew that in June my husband and I uprooted our lives and moved north to live closer to our kids and new grandson.  Thank God for good friends with lots of patience!

But, this morning as I was musing on that conversation, I admitted to myself that I’ve been in a ‘coma’ longer than these past two months.  I didn’t realize my condition until I arrived at Chapter 13 in the book I’m reading:  Matthew 13:13-17 in my Bible.  Jesus was teaching his disciples and those who had come out to hear him speak using parables, short stories packed with dynamite.

After a few stories, the disciples pulled him aside and asked, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  Jesus pulled a quote from the ancient prophet Isaiah to answer their question.  It was here that I realized the state of my own heart:

“…the hearts of this people have grown dull.  Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so I should heal them.”

Ouch.  You mean I can close my eyes and ears to God’s Word?  And, if I do, my heart will grow dull?  It is this word ‘dull’ that caught my attention.  I’ve been so focused on my earthly state of affairs that I allowed my heart to grow dull.

If a dull heart comes from ears and eyes that are closed, then it only stands to reason that my own will closed them.  My will.  What was that one part of the Lord’s Prayer? 

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Yes, that’s it.  That’s the prayer I repeat when I hear it in church.  Good Christians know that by heart.  The question is, do they mean it by heart?

Lord, I choose to open my eyes and ears so that when I read or repeat Your Word, when I raise my hands in worship or take notes on a sermon at church, my heart will be sharp and not dull.  I want to understand with my heart and turn so that You will heal me.  Thank you for your patience with me and for friends and family who love me in spite of my dull heart.

The Next Chapter

In books, career, God, Jesus, plots, publishing, Uncategorized, Writing on June 23, 2009 at 7:46 pm

If you study the anatomy of a book, you’ll find its chapters consists largely of suspense, as in, what’s going to happen next? Writers craft words in such a way as to keep that book in your hand so you cannot put it down until the very last word.

Open Book

I have always viewed my life as a book with each season being a chapter. However, I’ve spent most of my adult life bemoaning the fact that the past chapters of my life contained mainly horror, fear, and tragedy. It never occurred to me that such negatives build hope in the reader. After all, which of us does not have a built-in cheerleader that starts cheering whenever they encounter an underdog?

It’s true. We all rally around those who have suffered injustice. We have a natural desire to right the wrong, to reverse the outcome or aid the victim. Many who have been ‘reading’ my life ‘chapters’ have rallied around me – even those of you who regularly read my newspaper column. I have been so blessed by many of you as I’ve written my stories on this page, month after month, year after year – can you believe I’ve been writing for the Community Word since 1998?

Here I am at the fourth paragraph and am still toying with my point. You must know by now that I plan to build suspense and then hit you with it all at the end! Ok, where was I?  Oh yes, chapters. If you’ve followed this column, you know that I acquired it on the heels of a court battle. I was a victim of domestic violence one cold February night when my teenage son rescued me and drove me away from a near strangulation – an act that closed the door on my radio career.

But God opened a window.

An essay contest sponsored by Children & Family Services offered me an opportunity to nominate a local family who was instrumental in my rescue from that night of horror, and I won! A wonderful woman, Suzette Boulais, was captured by my essay and referred me to her friend Bob Renner, then owner of CW. Bob offered me this column and a new chapter in my media career was born.

Many chapters have come and gone since. I had always liked writing, but it was more of a hobby. I certainly did not qualify for a career in television, having only a ‘face for radio’ (the camera and I are not speaking), so my print media career was born. I embraced it here in this column and have since become a co-author and soon-to-be author. I now ghostwrite books for a living and I could not be happier.

But, last month a page turned and I found myself at a much unexpected new chapter. Are you ready for the BIG NEWS? I’m leaving Peoria.

After 11 years in Central Illinois, I’m moving back to live near my family by my home town. Now, when I bought this house – my House of Grace – I thought I was home. I thought this is where I will live out the rest of my days.

But God had another chapter to write in my life.

It seems Peoria was a healing ground, a place of preparation. I thought it was the last chapter, when actually it was a pivot point in the plot of my life.

I leave here as a full-time freelance writer, healed, cleansed, stable and content with whatever God has planned for the climax of the book he is writing titled, Cheryl Courtney Semick. Who knows what glorious things he has planned for me! I used to fret about my future. I used to wallow in pity over my past chapters. Now I anxiously await the turning of each page, anticipating the Author’s point and purpose for creating a story with me as its protagonist.

I’ve learned much here in my Peoria home, the most clear lesson being that life boils down to two choices: live by fear or live by faith. Everything we encounter, every path we follow, every place we end up is based in either faith or fear. I chose faith when I stepped into print media and stayed in the town where my life nearly ended. I couldn’t run any more.

I faced my greatest fears in Peoria. I realized that fear isn’t a place or a person – it’s a choice. Jesus faced the ugliest of all fear when, at a wicked cross he put his faith in God, his father, trusting that his story would not end in a cruel death – that there was a happy ending.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)

I am eagerly anticipating the events that are written in the end of God’s book, the Holy Bible. If you’ve not read it, you’re in for a big blessing! I don’t want to ‘ruin it for you’ but let’s just say that the ‘underdog’ becomes the Prince and justice is served!

Having Kids

In books, Children, kids, Moms, plots, publishing, Writing on May 1, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Having children doesn’t always involve diapers and new mommies don’t always have kids.  Sounds like I’m heading into a metaphor, doesn’t it?  You got me.

To an empty-nester like me, motherhood is all about birthing books.

iStock_000001233743XSmall

Of course conception is the most fun.  A thought, an idea or a dream plays around in your mind pretending to be plots and titles, scenes and scenarios. But until one germinates it is just fantasy.

Writers, who entertain such titillation without a commitment to capture those thoughts on paper, or to develop them into publishable means, exist with the frustration and disappointment of a dreamer.

For years, my writing life was just that – until I got tired of staring at books and imagining my name on their spines.

I had become disgusted with my non-committal attitude toward my craft and exhausted by day dreams. Since my teen years, when a word winked at me or a phrase whispered in my ear, I, the willing prisoner, would stick my hands in the air and cry, Ok!  I give up! I had no clue how to arrest the wild onslaught of creative energy.

Instead, I’d be carried away captive and existed in a cell of false belief that someday I would just morph into an author.  I still have stacks of nothing books stuffed with unfertilized seeds – tales that will never be told.

When I finally got busy learning my craft and taking it seriously, I still had to fight off the temptation to sit and dream. I’d often get lost in thoughts of standing in a bookstore, reaching for my offspring, bound and stamped with my name, flipping through the leaves of the work of my days.  I’d imagine the feel of its cover in my fingertips, squeezing it and stroking its letters in unbelief, thinking, did I give birth to this beautiful child?

The other fight I encountered by choosing self-discipline was the work itself. Give me the baby all bathed and wrapped in soft a cuddly blanket, resting contentedly in my arms and everyone around me saying, “What a beautiful baby!”  Yes!  That’s what I want!  To drive to the bookstore, walk to the shelf and just pull my book off and see it complete, bound forever in its own identity.  Forget the labor!

Then a fear emerged. What will I do when my child is grown and gone?  How do I send my book off into the world wrapped in a box only to arrive at some publishing house where it may be shelved or thrown away, unread, unopened?  How do I cope with the thrill and pain of watching it be read, then hearing all about its flaws and reasons why it’s not good enough to print – to be cut down, edited, critiqued and rejected by strangers?  My precious child, of whom I labored day and night to create, I’d rather not give birth to you than to send you into a world so cruel and watch your life be so treated!

mystery murder suspense

The 'Novel Vigilante'

Enough drama; authors become authors because they birth books. Authors become Moms when they raise books.  And so I must engage in the shameless self-promotion of my first child.  My novel, The ‘Novel Vigilante’ will be published later this month!  Come see all my ‘kids’ at www.ccsemick.com.