It has been said that those four words attract the most attention from email subscribers.
You are not alone…
What is it about those words that gets people’s attention? that compels people to open their email and read the enclosed words?
In the busyness of this modern world, you would think that it would be impossible to be lonely. Yet, many people are.
Reasons People Are Lonely
Some are lonely because they have lost their spouse. Some are lonely because they have never married. Some are lonely because they have never found a friend whom they consider trustworthy.
Whatever the reason, people can feel lonely even in the midst of a roomful of people. It isn’t the presence of human bodies that keeps one from feeling lonely. It is the lack of connection.
Lack of Connection
People just aren’t connected as they once were.
In the past, women connected by joining in quilting groups or by get-togethers to cook for mourning or suffering community members.
It wasn’t the quilting or the cooking that connected them. Although that was what brought them together. It was the communication between attendees that joined their hearts together. Women looked forward to such times with great eagerness.
Words of Comfort
You are not alone…
Those words bring comfort to anyone who senses separation.
But how does one keep from feeling alone even if no person is present?
In Christ, we are never alone. He has said in His word that He will never leave us or forsake us. It is our relationship with Christ that keeps us from being alone at any given time.
Having a personal relationship with Christ means that we can communicate with Him at any given moment. We can allow Him to speak to us through His Word (Scripture).
We can trust that He is present in our circumstances whether we feel His presence or not.
How to Never Be Alone
Being “in Christ” will keep us from being alone because “In Christ” you truly are not alone.
“[F]or he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5
“And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest…for I will not leave thee.” Genesis 28:15
“[A]nd, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20
You can be physically alone, and yet, not be lonely.
Join in the conversation:
Have you ever felt ‘alone’ even though you were in a room full of people?
What suggestions do you have to help someone who feels lonely?
Pearls endure as an essential beauty accessory because they integrate well with any fashion or style preference.
From runway models adorned with draped ropes to royalty bedecked with single and multiple strands to fashion gurus flaunting their latest designs, even fashion magazine authors and Hollywood movie stars alike realize that pearls make an impression.
“Pearls are always appropriate,” so said former first lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
Known for the three-strand pearl necklace she so often wore, Mrs. Jackie Onassis’s jewelry wardrobe consisted of a variety of pearl beauties. Her lovely pearl-drop earrings would catch anyone’s attention. She wore single and double-strand pearl necklaces and bracelets as well.
Being the classy lady that she was, her wearing of pearls certainly made an impression. Mrs. Onassis didn’t flaunt her pearls though. Instead, she wore them to enhance herself.
Instead of detracting from her beauty, pearls actually complimented her in a striking way. Just do an online search of her photos and you will see for yourself.
Queen Elizabeth of England frequently wears pearls. They reflect her desire to be modest yet fashionable. They are so important to her that she chose to wear a special two-strand necklace on her wedding day in 1947.
A pearl may also be found in now-deceased Princess Diana’s tiara which has since been presented to Kate Middleton.
Pearls are desired by the lowly, the modest, the well-to-do, and certainly the well-dressed.
It is not surprising that they be found on the latest wish list.
What is it that makes pearls so desirable? Is it their beauty, their costliness, their ability to impress or to enhance?
Pearls can be found naturally or can be cultured, farmed, or synthetic.
Looking through the glass cases at your favorite jewelry store, you may find it hard to discern real pearls from those that are cultured, farmed, or synthetic.
Real or natural pearls are formed by oysters or sea mussels (bi-valves) that are irritated by a foreign object that lodges inside their shells. The bi-valves then secretes a liquid that covers the foreign object in order to reduce the irritation. This process is continued causing a pearl to be formed in each.
For centuries, divers have risked their own lives diving for oysters with hopes of finding a rare pearl.
Pearls can be man-made instead of formed naturally.
Pearl farms have been created to culture pearls. Foreign substances are forcibly introduced into bi-valves. The bi-valves are fed and nurtured in order to harvest the pearls that are formed. The production of pearls in this manner has affected the market price of pearls.
Then there are the synthetic ones made of plastic, glass, or waxed glass. These can be distinguished from real pearls by how they feel when rubbed or bit with the teeth.
Natural pearls remain the most desired.
Natural pearls remain the most desired albeit costly. But due to pearl farming, anyone at any economic level can afford to purchase a set of pearls for their very own. Their value, however, is determined by their size and shape, as well as, several other factors. The price of cultured pearls can range in the hundreds, but natural pearls can range in the tens of thousands.
Pearls are mentioned in the Bible.
Pearls are also mentioned in the Bible. Their value is highlighted in the following verse:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Matthew 13:45-46
Another Scriptural reference is in Matthew 7:6:
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Why would anyone want to cast a precious string of pearls into the hog pen?
Why would anyone want to take what man had risked his life to find just to throw it to swine?
Pearls evolve from a painful insertion of a foreign object. For a bi-valve, this may be a grain of sand or grit that somehow finds its way inside the bi-valve’s shell.
Small bits of matter can create great pain.
We realize that small matters can sometimes create the most pain. That pain causes oysters to create pearls.
It is these painful moments in our own lives that also somehow become pearls. Man-made hurts inflicted upon us cause suffering that we find hard to endure. Self-inflicted wounds are the hardest to bear.
However, when we take those pains to our Lord and Saviour, He covers them with His balm of Gilead. As our Great Physician, he has a way of turning our sorrows into pearls.
This doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process that takes time. God’s grace continues to cover us as we go through the healing process.
In fact, it is actually the struggles of life that form Christ in us.
Pearls are our memorial stones.
As Joshua took up 12 stones out of the midst of Jordan for a memorial, so our pearls are a memorial unto us. They remind us of the victories that came as we allowed Christ to help us face each obstacle, fight each battle, and choose to love in spite of any circumstance.
Then why would anyone take the pearls that have been formed through such pain and cast them before those that do not understand their value?
Why take our pains and sufferings and present them to those who would only turn and use them against us?
Christ’s instructed His hearers not to cast their pearls before swine.
Swine were considered unclean. God’s chosen people were not to partake of these animals. However, Jesus is not talking about animals but uses these words as descriptive of those who ridicule the Word and ridicule those who follow the Word.
The unclean are those who do not understand or appreciate the value of our pearls.
It is those who do not care to learn the lessons we have been taught and who will not grasp the hope that we have found.
We have to be careful with whom we share our “pearls.” There are those who we can enlighten with our pearl formations, but there are those who will only use those formations to turn and destroy us.
Our pearls are precious. They are our gifts of victory from our Saviour.
True pearls glow from within. The more they are worn, the more they glow.
Our pearls glow from within with the glory of God.
They are a reflection of His faithfulness to us.
Cling to your pearls. As Jackie Kennedy Onassis said, “Pearls are always appropriate.”
Wear them proudly, but humbly. May others with impressed with Christ in us. May they be drawn to His beauty.
Copyright 2016 by Peggy Clark
Do you have a favorite strand of pearls or a favorite set of pearl earrings?
Have you ever thought of your troubles and trials as a process to making pearls?
What “pearls” or victories through Christ do you have as a memorial?
May your pearls be used to bring glory to Christ. Remember the pain that the oyster endured to bring forth a pearl. Remember,also, the pain that Christ endured so that we could be victorious over our troubles and trials.
Peggy Clark is the author of So, What's the Latest News? Messages from a Prisoner in Rome. Published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan.
It has taken its toll upon those who see Christmas as only an opportunity for person gain. Greedy for profits some merchants entice with promising advertisements that bring little to no satisfaction. The misled find themselves with lots of purchased merchandise but little joy.
How do shoppers find themselves depressed when they have striven so hard to please?
Was not that the doll that Susie wanted so desperately?
Didn’t Jack say he wanted that new red bicycle more than anything in the world?
Was Billy not pleased with the new shoes?
And why did Tammy just throw her game pieces across the room?
What happened to Christmas?
Did it come to steal and to take away?
Is it an imposter wrapped up in fancy wrapping and frivolous bows?
Why bother to celebrate it anyway?
What is Christmas?
Yes, people may argue about its meaning. Yes, people may refuse to celebrate it. Yes, people may use it for personal gain.
But, what is Christmas?
Christmas is not about getting what we want for Christmas.
It’s not about trying to please everyone with our fancy gifts.
It’s not about decorations, trimmings, light displays, or glitter.
It’s not even about the Christmas play.
Christmas is a memorial.
It is a day we set aside to remember the selfless action bestowed toward mankind by the Creator of the universe.
It is a remembrance of the day that the Almighty Creator God stepped out of Heaven and came to dwell with mankind. Placing Himself in the womb of a virgin woman, He became flesh and dwelt among us.
It is a celebration of the very moment that God manifested Himself in the flesh.
Mary cradled Him. Joseph loved and cared for Him.
The shepherds told everyone about Him. Simeon lifted Him up and prophesied concerning Him.
The angels glorified Him. Anna thanked Him. The wise men provided for Him.
But Herod tried to kill Him.
Emanuel, God with us. That is what Christmas is all about. It is God with us.
Christmas is a remembrance of the day He came, wrapped in swaddling clothes, laid in a manger.
His presence in the flesh lasted such a short time, only 33 ½ years. But God was with us.
He chose to come.
He chose to come even though He knew the cross would be his pathway back to Heaven.
He chose to give Himself.
And that is Christmas.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11
Christmas morning finds children delighted with treasures found under the Christmas tree. Wrappings, bubble wrap, and ribbons sail through the air as package upon package gives way to the attack of fingers tearing at the carefully and thoughtfully placed endowments from family and friends.
Giggles and glees atone for parents’ hard and sometimes frustrating endeavors at making Christmas a time of excitement and adventure.
Spruce, fir, and cedar cuttings arrayed in reds, golds, silvers, and blues drape doorways and mantles. Manger scenes, postcard displays, and Advent calendars compete with snowmen, angels, and poinsettias nestled in every nook, corner, and shelf.
Smells permeate the air alerting all under their spell of the festivities just ahead.
Apples and cinnamon, oranges and tangerines, candy sticks and chocolate drops make one dizzy with desire.
Turkey and dressing, hams and sauces waft their tantalizing bouquets. Aromas of cookies oozing, pies bubbling, and puddings steaming send one rushing through the heavier affairs. Onward to the myriad of cakes decorated with flair.
Christmas Memories Made
With candle lights glowing and fireplaces flickering, filled tummies settle down for a well-deserved and long-awaited nap. Sweet dreams await those reminiscing of Christmases past.
Another Christmas has come and will soon depart. Memories made now become a part of one’s past that will never be forgotten.
May your festivities be celebrations that remain as praise-worthy memorials for you and your loved ones.
From the Clark house to yours,
Have a very Merry Christ-filled Christmas.
Copyright 2016 by Peggy Clark
What are some special memories you have of Christmases past?
Are you trying to incorporate those into your Christmas festivities this year?
What traditions are you trying to keep on a yearly basis?
Do you have a new idea that you are implementing this year?
Who doesn’t love lounging under warm covers with a good book in hand?
Which of you haven’t staved off sleep to finish a page-turner?
What keeps your book in my hands when others are screaming for my attention?
These four tips will drown those other voices and get me to your final page.
Get my attention!
Use the active voice.
Even if you begin your story with the setting (where, when) that so many of us were taught in class, use active voice instead of passive voice.
Consider the following:
The sun was setting behind the hills that were around the little town of NoWhere. John and Jill were living in a house at the end of Sober Street. There was a garden beside the house. They also had a small flock of chickens.
So nowhere…and boring…and sober….and are you asleep yet?
Or would this be your preference:
The sun peered above the hills and threw its rays into the town of NoWhere reaching through the half-closed curtains at the end of Sober Street. Inside, John and Jill absorbed the potential consequences of their pillaged garden.
Activate your story with action.
A dramatic scene is better than an uneventful one; such as, an evening ride that happens to end in a crash. Startle me with the crash and then give me the details.
Consider the following:
John and Jill decided to go for a ride. They were riding down the highway in their red convertible when they happened upon a white truck.
Or would this be your preference:
Brakes screamed as white meshed with red, each vying to occupy the same spot of pavement.
Television dramas reveal the crime first and then continue through a series of events that lead to the capture of the accused. The action creates the desire to know what happened and why.
NCIS is the number one television drama because of the usage of this method. Its viewers keep coming back for more.
Use questions to get attention.
Another method is to use questions to gain attention.
Jesus used this method when relaying His Parable of the Lost Sheep:
“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?” Luke 15:4
If nothing else, make me step into the story long enough to answer the question.
Don’t make me hunt for the topic.
When presented with questions from John the Baptist, Jesus’ response was direct: Go and tell. Notice His response in the following verse:
“Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.” Luke 7:22
John’s disciples were to report to John what they themselves had seen and heard. That is telling the story. Teachers call it “Sticking to the Topic.”
Jesus also used strong nouns and active verbs.
Notice the simple but succinct wording that lets us visualize the action:
The blind see. The lame walk. The lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The deadare raised. The gospel is preached.
Tell me your story with strong nouns and verbs that let me use my imagination to see the action. Don’t drag me down with a series of unnecessary and lengthy descriptives that send me to a screeching halt and a closed book.
Keep me interested.
Give me a scenario that gets my attention and keeps me reading.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he told a parable that caught their attention.
“There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary.” Luke 18:2-3
Use the element of surprise to your advantage.
This parable pitted a ruthless judge against a widow who had no man to intercede for her. Her boldness in coming before the judge intrigued the disciples.
How would this judge respond? Obviously, not as the disciples imagined. The element of surprise caught the disciples off-guard causing them to think carefully about what they had just heard. Please surprise me!
Get my attention and keep me hunting for the next clue.
Unravel the threads of the story ever so slowly but at just the right speed to keep me traveling to the next page.
Don’t lose me in wasted words and unnecessary actions that add no value to the story.
Make me satisfied with the ending (but you can make me beg for more!)
Cinderella and the Prince lived happily ever after. (But, what change came over the kingdom?)
The woodsman killed the wolf. (But, did Goldilocks overcome the trauma of her grandmother’s death?)
“And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.” Luke 22:38
It is enough. Say what you need to say, no more, no less. (But, why two swords? One cut off a soldier’s ear; what did the other do?)
I expect Good to win over Evil. I expect Evil to be reprimanded. I expect Good to be rewarded regardless of the troubles that Good encounters.
Shakespeare’s classics stood the test of time because of these expectations woven throughout his stories.
Use these four tips to make yours a classic, and let me enjoy it for years to come.
Copyright 2016 by Peggy Clark
Do you have a story waiting to be shared?
Have you used strong nouns and active verbs?
Have you replaced unnecessary and lengthy wording with specific and descriptive wording?
Then now is the time to let someone else preview your writing. Use their analysis to improve your story.
November will soon be gone, and December will be upon us before we know it. This month, as we set aside time to give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us, may we not be quick to forget those sacrifices that many have made on our behalf.
Although November 11 is set aside each year to remember our military veterans, it seems these brave men and women who have given their lives are too swiftly forgotten in the bustle of activities that soon follow.
The brave heroes of the past include such great military men as General Douglas MacArthur, General George Patton, and General Dwight Eisenhower. These men led forces against the evil of Hitler, Mussolini, and General Tito’s aggressive and cruel regimes.
Others have also fought for the freedoms of peoples.
General George Washington led a small group of untrained and ill-equipped volunteers against the overwhelming forces of Britain’s highly trained military and their hired elite forces secured from Germany. His bravery and the men and women who fought with him led to the establishment of the United States of America.
Lieutenant Colonel William Travis led a small group of 182 men and women from Texas against the mighty forces of the Mexican General Santa Anna. Although they failed to win this battle, their sacrifices stirred the hearts of the Texan people to prevail in freeing Texas from the Mexican government. Afterward Texas was granted the privilege of becoming part of the United States.
As We Set Our Tables This Year
As we set our tables this year and share our blessings with those we love and care for, may we also be reminded that the ability to share those blessings without fear of bondage and confinement, was paid for with the blood of courageous men and women whose sacrifices we must never forget.
Do you have a member of the military sitting at your table this Thanksgiving?
Do you have a family story to tell of sacrifices made on behalf of your country? community? family?
What plans have you made to give thanks for the blessings bestowed upon you and your family?
Think Like a Detective to Improve Upon Your Writing
Writing a good story is like being a good detective.
Any piece of writing can be appreciated if it is well-crafted. Readers love a good novel and will eagerly anticipate an ongoing series if they fall in love with the characters and plot.
Authors may follow generally accepted writing processes that help them finish their stories with flair.
However, any story can be greatly improved if one takes the mindset of a detective during the editing process.
To be a good detective, one must be a good observer of details including behavior of characters, crime scene evidence, time of day or year, etc.
To be effective, an author must also carefully observe the details of his or her writing with intense scrutiny. It is the little details that can increase readers’ interest, but it is also the little details that can bring confusion and reader dissatisfaction.
To avoid disappointment, therefore, an author must edit his work with great attention to the details concerning all areas of the writing process.
As a detective walks through the scene under investigation, the detective takes an overall view of what has taken place.
Obviously, a crime has happened. But what exactly was the crime? How did it happen? Who did it? What was the motive that would cause such an event to take place?
Pay close attention to the chain of events.
The detective then takes a second look and makes a hypothesis as to what happened. He (or she) may have several hypotheses at this point.
However, the hypotheses must fit his observation.
Did the suspect enter the room through the door or window? If the window was broken then the assumption may be made that the suspect came through the window. If no windows were broken and every window was locked, then any hypotheses that began with an entrance through a window would be discarded until and unless further evidence was uncovered which would lead to a different conclusion.
An author must also step through his or her story reviewing the events that occurred. Are the events in order?
A careful overview may reveal that some parts are out-of-place.
Did a character named John have a conversation with another character, Jill, at the beginning of the story and then suddenly in chapter five be newly introduced (again) to Jill?
Did a character named Joe die in chapter 3 and have a car wreck in chapter 4?
The above examples may seem silly, but they do happen. It is easy to overlook a seemingly insignificant character’s appearance in one’s writing, especially when one is writing a lengthy novel.
Is anything missing?
What is lacking that is necessary to the story?
After the hypotheses have been formulated, the detective carefully looks back over the scene making note of things that are missing.
What should be there but isn’t? What is making the scene being observed incomplete?
Is there a blank space on the wall with evidence that a picture once hung there? Are there speakers but no stereo? Is there an open safe?
An author must also look for any writing that is out of context. Are the characters believable? Is the setting appropriate? Are clues missing that are needed to solve the mystery?
All clues or inciting moments should lead up to the conclusion.
Remove unrelated material.
Finally, the detective must disregard any details that have nothing to do with the crime.
Food in the refrigerator would have nothing to do with a broken window unless food was taken from the refrigerator. An untouched bedroom would be inconsequential to a crime scene located in the living room except to say no one had entered from that location.
An author must also delete those unnecessary details that are not relatedto the story line and only succeed in slowing down readers who are in a quest to reach the next heart-stopping moment in a series of events.
Those types of unnecessary additions are hard for authors to discover. That is when the detective and the author must bring in another set of eyes to view the evidence.
Hire an editor to proof read your work.
Enlist someone else to preview the material before closing the case or might I say, book.
Will the assistant detective come to the same conclusions as the main detective?
Can the author’s assistant visualize the story line just as the author did?
Were the assistants confused at any point as they followed through the chain of events from start to finish?
Did either get bogged down in a specific area of their search?
Even if the assistant detective is surprised at the final outcome of the investigation, does the assistant feel satisfied with the conclusion?
The assistant to the author may also be delightfully surprised as the assistant concludes his or her investigation into the writings of the author, but is the assistant satisfied with the final product?
Yes, writing can be greatly improved when the detective’s cap is put on and errors are discovered and corrected before reaching the hands of readers.
Copyright 2016 by Peggy Clark
Feel free to comment if this post has been beneficial to you. I enjoy hearing your input.
Peggy Clark is the author of So, What's the Latest News? Messages from a Prisoner in Rome, a reader-friendly study of Colossians available from WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan.