How can God use a mouse that hates being a mouse? What could keep this mouse from ever eating cheese? When Eek's family is reduced to just him and his mom, he rants at God for making him a mouse. When his mom learns he has a special whisker that warns of impending danger, they set out on a journey from the hollow log he was born in to the house she was born in. Along the way they learn of Eek's rare gift of being able to understand what people say. Will the hard lessons Eek learns be enough to keep him and his new friend, Aagh, alive in the people house? Aagh's propensity to not do what she says she'll do does come with a few challenges for them. Can they live long enough to discover why the people still celebrate the birth of a certain baby born a long, long time ago? Will they ever understand why people refuse God's gift to them? Interior illustrations by Dyann Joyce
This is the final chapter of Eek's Gifts. It's the time when the mice return from the church after learning who Jesus really is. Aagh didn't go into the church so Eek has to explain to her who Jesus's Father is. I did my best to describe the salvation message so a ten year old could understand it without an adult there to explain it to them. I'll never forget trying to write one of the last sentences here. It's where Eek wishes he could have been in the stable that night. I had to get up and deal with the tears running down my face before I could finish writing it. I think it's because I wish I could have been there, too. Merry Christmas
By the time Eek and Aagh discover the nativity on top of the bookcase they've been through some dangerous misadventures. They're good friends by now but they're still learning things about each other. I love the humor that presented itself automatically as I wrote this scene. Part of it comes from seeing things from a mouse's perspective. Some of it is just two friends poking fun at each other. I was surprised how long it took the story to get to this scene when the original concept revolved around getting to the true meaning of Christmas before I ever started writing it. Fortunately I let the story tell itself so the telling of the Christmas story comes across as natural to the whole book.
I'll always remember getting the opening lines to this book while driving a semi between Abilene and Wichita Falls, Texas. After that the rest of the book pretty much fell into place. Actually the last half of the book had already been written. I wrote the first half after an agent told me the story needed to be longer to fit into publishers' guidelines. A writer has to learn to be flexible. It was a challenge writing a death scene to begin the book, but was necessary to establish the reason the main character is mad at God for making him a mouse. Since this is geared for a middle-grade reader I think this age group will relate to a critter feeling like he got a raw deal from God. What pre-teen doesn't have something they hate about themself?
What was it about Joseph and Mary that set them apart from everybody else? Why were the shepherds in that particular field picked to hear the angels glorifying God? Why did God choose Zacharias and Elizabeth to be the parents of the forerunner of the Messiah? What made them so special? Nothing, they were the most ordinary people God had to choose from to unfold His redemption plan to the world. You see, that's the way God works. He uses normal folks to do His incredible assignments. The little towns of Nazareth and Bethlehem hold surprises as well as well as a shock that displays why Jesus came to earth for us. Join me in sharing their stories as we walk alongside them and learn lessons that will benefit us today. Don't be surprised if you see yourself in this story at some point. God's redemption plan is still unfolding. Your view of the Christmas story will be forever changed as you realize God could call upon you to fulfill a special role in His redemption plan today.
This is one of those chapters that isn't directly in the Bible, but it is because we know it had to happen. We just weren't given the details of the day Mary told her family and Joseph she was pregnant. I'm pretty sure Mary didn't tell anyone in Nazareth before she left to see Elizabeth. That's why I began this chapter with Mary leaving Elizabeth's home. We know Joseph didn't initially believe her because he decided to divorce her before the angel spoke to him in a dream. These are the types of details I had to think through when I wrote this book. It gave me a greater appreciation for the suffering Mary went through to become the mother of the Messiah, especially on the day she broke the news.
I loved the way Mary's chapter fell together. It's hard for most people to imagine Mary not knowing she would be the mother of the Messiah. That's what I had to imagine when I wrote this chapter. I started the scene with her father teaching her brother his daily lesson. Since girls weren't taught such things she had to listen in. She always had some input or question for her abba after her little brother left. The question this time was extremely insightful as you'll see. Placing Mary in seclusion was the next challenge since Gabriel wouldn't appear to a group, only her. Having her clean a blanket maker's home for the day not only met that challenge but the wool blanket she was paid shows up throughout the narrative.
I believe angels are real. That's why I decided to start out with Gabriel and his assignments in the first chapter of this book. I took a bit of a chance with this chapter when I used quite a lot of humor to portray Gabriel's trying to make sense of what God is up to here. One publisher was so taken aback by the way I have Gabriel questioning things that I don't think she ever read any other chapter I sent in. I don't want to make light of angels or their respect for God. I just want to show the absurdity of how God's dealings appear to those of us looking at things from a different perspective. When you take the time to try to read the Christmas story as if for the first time you gain a new appreciation for how awkward things occurred.
What is prayer? Prayer is a conversation with God. What does God expect in your prayers? God wants you to pour out your heart to Him. If your prayer life needs a boost 100 Prayers of a Writer will give you the lift you're looking for. This is two years' worth of weekly prayers to an online writers' group. They're rewritten so you'll be praying directly to God when you read them. Experience a depth and honesty that only comes from a lifetime walk with God through Jesus Christ. People who are curious about how Christians approach God will have their eyes opened to what makes us tick. Enter the throneroom of God as Jesus tells us to--as little children. Leave the same throneroom with renewed hope and encouragement. Christianity wasn't meant to be a rote religion, but a living relationship. Your Father longs for your attention.
When I thought of how hope is tied into love the thought of complete surrender to my own efforts came to mind. I remember a phrase that became popular in the 70's: "When you come to the end of your rope tie a knot and hang on." God's love isn't dependent on my efforts but His unconditional affection for me. Therefore He wants me to completely trust Him for the strength to hang on. I love the word picture of dropping from the world's rope I've been clinging to and falling into His hand. The hope I find there is so incredible. His security is like nothing I can find on earth. When I lean on His power I find the hope I need to hold on to fight another day.
The final Commandment comes with a heavy dose of self-assessment. Is what someone else has really what I want? Why can't I be content with all that I already have? It all boils down to contentment. I don't need the responsibility that comes from what someone else possesses. God has given me all I need to accomplish what He has called me to do. That's what I need to keep in mind at all times. There is probably some else looking at what I have and desiring it. This game only takes our eyes off God and the relationship we need to focus on there. Stuff is just stuff. Prioritize the people in your life over your stuff and over other people's people.
When I thought about the Old Testament for a list to pray through the 10 Commandments obviously came to mind. God's standards for His people to live by several centuries ago are still practical today. Praying through the idea of having other gods before God took some soul searching. I asked myself some penetrating questions like: What have I put ahead of God in my life? How does God put Himself back as number one in someone's life? The Christian life is no walk in the park when you take it seriously. Distractions are all around us. Even family and friends can pull us away from God. Church activity and ministry can also lead us away from our relationship with God. Is God still number one in your life?
This prayer finishes the Fruit of the Spirit chapter with an all-encompassing look at all of the ingredients of God's fruit we receive when we come into His family. I didn't know how this would come together when I began writing it, but was extremely pleased with the way it worked out. I know Jesus came to earth to give us an example to live by. So, I knew He must have exhibited each of these attributes. This prayer focuses our attention on each ingredient and asks God to help us live it out in our own life following Jesus's example. This is my ultimate prayer to live by.
This chapter on the Fruit of the Spirit took an interesting turn. I had occasionally used the image of a child coming to the throne of God. Here I began to use it in each prayer. The way we enter God's presence depended on the topic being prayed. Whether we skip to the throne or hold our head in shame God graciously accepts us as his loved child. That's why He went through the extreme effort of adopting us in the first place. Remember that these pieces of the Fruit of the Spirit come as a package together. Each ingredient isn't separate. We pray for each ingredient but we eat the entire fruit with each bite. It's not a pick and choose proposition.
This is the promise used to end the list of love traits we need to develop. After we put all of the love ingredients into practice it's good to know love never fails. Remember this when you pray for that lost person you're bringing before God's throne. Your love is what's prompting those intercessions. God knows your heart and wants what's best for you. His Spirit can break through the strongest barriers and the most stubborn heart. Don't give up. Keep at it. You may not live to see the change in the life you're praying for, but God will answer your prayer to build His kingdom with your love.
1 Corinthians 13 holds God's definition of love. I chose this list of qualities to highlight how we're called to live in this world that seems so prone to evil. Why do so many people love evil so much? Patience is a quality most of us strive to have, but find so elusive. This prayer beautifully brings out traits of patience we need to develop in our personal lives. This even means letting go of certain people in our lives. I pray you will develop patience in your walk with God by learning His lessons in your trials. Your hardships are there for a purpose. Don't try to rush through them and miss God's lessons in the process.
I stretched the Beatitudes to include this verse because I felt it fit into the theme. By the time Jesus ended the list of characteristics essential for entrance into heaven people listening would be inspired to do something for God. Shining their light was a genius way to display this desire. That desire to display my love for God is brilliantly shown as a light driving out darkness. This is so crucial for writers to remember as we write for God. Our message must show God in a way that draws people to Him as it drives dark shadows away. Everybody has a desire to tell people about God after they find His gift of salvation for them. We find this call to shine a pleasing metaphor to live out.
After I finished working through the pieces of Spiritual armor list I turned to the gospels for my next list: the Beatitudes. This introductory section of the Sermon on the Mount is still timeless and transforming. Jesus turned everything on its head when he blessed people in conditions most folks considered signs of being un-blessed by God. People living in poverty must be cursed to have to live without certain amenities most consider essentials. Jesus uses the metaphor to show us how we must see our spiritual condition before we're able to accept the Father's gift of salvation. The self-righteous were the ones who felt they could get to heaven on their own merit. Thank you very much.
For the final prayer covering the chapter on spiritual armor I summarized all of the pieces and their importance. I felt this was needed to bring the whole uniform in place before we left this section. I was glad I began with this chapter even before I knew this was going to become a book. We're in a spiritual war on this planet whether we realize it or not. Putting on the proper battle gear is vital for our survival.
This is the first prayer in the Spiritual Armor section of this book. It made sense to me that the Apostle Paul would begin his treatise of the armor we're to wear with truth as the first implement. Without truth everything falls apart. Just look at society to see that for yourself. The belt holds weapons as well as the pants up. It's centered on the body and is easily reached. What better place to begin this visual appeal for preparation of a war we can't see with our natural eyes. Not sure what real truth is anymore? Read the Bible. It's still full of God's truths. He hasn't changed and neither has His truth.
This is the prayer I prayed publicly for the adult fellowship I attend. A lot of people said it blessed them. Sue Sullins suggested I write prayers. I balked at the thought of writing prayers then. A few months later the opportunity opened for me to write weekly prayers for an online Christian writing group. I took the challenge with the stipulation that if they became weakly prayers somebody would tell so I'd stop. Not only did the cease and desist order not come, but several of those folks emailed me to tell me how much that week's prayer spoke to them. Two years later this book come into being and Sue received the dedication.
This is one of the first prayers in the book to use the analogy of coming to God as a child coming to the Heavenly Father in the throneroom. The next chapter, and most of the later ones, uses this method more consistently. The writers' group I originally wrote these prayers to was the American Christian Fiction Writers' children's fiction email loop. The use of this approach not only made sense to this group, but it's the way Jesus told His followers they need to come to God in Matthew 18:1-4. I used lists found in the Bible for topics to pray about each week. This chapter works through the 1 Corinthians 13 love ingredients. This prayer is on the subject of rudeness.
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