Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sunday Sharing: Laughter and Tears -- Jeff Allen

: An alcoholic atheist from the South side of Chicago who toured the country's casinos and nightclubs as a stand-up comedian for 18 years decides to give his life to Jesus. WHY? Why the switch from X-rated jokes to "Christian" humor? In two short videos Jeff Allen gets us laughing, and then brings us to the edge of tears...

A quote from Allen's Website outlines his accomplishments ...

"Jeff Allen has been doing comedy for four decades and his work has been seen on every cable comedy show in the U.S. including Comedy Central’s Premium Blend and VH1’s Standup Spotlight. His one-hour special, Happy Wife, Happy Life aired on the Odyssey Channel, Family Net and the Worship Network. He was a featured comedian at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen and the Montreal Just for Laughs International Comedy Festival, the most prestigious comedy Festivals in the world. He also headlined his own national comedy tour, Jeff Allen & Friends: Funny People of Faith and is now on the Apostles of Comedy Tour."

This first ten minute clip gets us laughing, guaranteed. But at the time of its filming, his wife was battling cancer, and it looked like she'd soon be losing that battle (although later she did recover). And he has much on his mind. After the first six minutes of humor, he suddenly switches to a story about his 10 year old son asking about life and death issues ... and (not in the script) breaks down crying, bringing his audience near tears also, talking about faith in the Lord in the midst of such tough times.

In the second video below, he tells us how much he originally despised Christianity, convinced that atheism was the only explanation to life's apparent contradictions. He'd never read the Bible, and never planned to. Cocaine and alcohol made more sense to him as a gritty nightclub comedian still living on Chicago's South side, with 18 years experience performing in some of the toughest, rowdiest places in America.

This man has much to say, and tells it like it is. If Bear closes her eyes while listening to the second video, she can almost imagine herself in one of those hard-core bars from his old days... yet his words, as he tells about what led him to decide to give his life to the Lord, weave an incredible tapestry, hard to describe. Bear's rarely at a loss for words, but is right now. She'll try to sum it up with the word "Riveting" and leave it at that...

(NOTE: If you don't see the two videos, you aren't on the Den's Homepage and need to click on Bear's Writing Den and look there for them.)

This is the Den's first week in the "Spiritual Sundays" sharing loop... To see more, drop by Spiritual Sundays as well, where you'll find links to the whole selection of this week's entries by Christian writers, and where you could even add a link of your own to join in the sharing. We all welcome comments and discussion! (NOTE: A small percentage of Spiritual Sundays' entries are by writers of other religions or of the New Age. Discernment is advised.)
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Fiction: Invitation to the Mountain

: People often wonder how so many young college students and kids in that general age group (even many of them from strong Christian homes and backgrounds) end up getting involved in cults. Bear wrote this fiction piece some years ago, after studying cults, and learning some of their recruitment techniques. Although this is a fictional piece, many of the elements common to some of the cults recruiting on college campuses (and in malls and coffee shops and elsewhere) are portrayed here. (Bear used the characters from her novel here, and edited it as a stand alone piece for today's Friday Fiction.)

Invitation to the Mountain

It was advertised as a student-led "revival service," to be held Saturday afternoon at the college by a visiting ministry group. Wanda and Debbie were bored because Castle High's Volleyball game had been canceled. (The damage from the tree crashing into the gym's roof during the last storm still hadn't been completely repaired.) So at noon they'd driven over to the college to check out the revival.

It was now midnight and Debbie was worried. They'd been in the overheated cafeteria for twelve hours straight, and Wanda, her eyes bright with excitement, kept ignoring Debbie's suggestions to call it a night.

Debbie leaned across the table and tapped Wanda's wrist. "C'mon. Let's go!" She had to almost shout to be heard over the music of the six member praise band performing in the cleared area at the front of the cafeteria. Dozens of students were still singing along, many with hands lifted in worship. "My Mom's gonna freak if she happens to wake up and finds out I'm not home."

The young woman they'd come to know as Joyce cut in quickly. "Nonsense! Weren't you even listening during the sermons? Don't you get it? Think! Who's most important in your life -- Christ or your parents?"

Joyce wore a light blue cotton tunic over faded blue jeans, her blond hair pulled back into a short pony tail like all the other women in the group. Debbie yawned, wondering why only a few people wore blue tops. The rest of the group's tops were white.

"Haven't you read Matthew 10:35?" Joyce continued, pointing at Debbie. "'For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother...' And what about 10:37?" She smacked her palm on the tabletop. "'Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me... "

"... and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me,' " finished Sunny, another of the three who had been with them all evening. Then, ignoring Debbie, she leaned forward and stared into Wanda's eyes, the flowing white cuffs of her sleeves brushing the edge of the table as she reached for her hand. "Who is your real Lord, Wanda?"

"I don't think staying out after midnight without even calling home is what the Lord was talking about," Debbie said, feeling her face heating. She hated the way she blushed so easily. "Obeying your parents is one of the ten commandments, you know."

But Sunny kept Wanda's eyes, clasping her hand. "Wanda, we're talking a real commitment to the Lord here, not just the panty-waist blah blah Christian stuff you get in your traditional churches. When're you truly gonna forsake the world and really follow Jesus? Haven't you felt the Holy Spirit working in your heart tonight? Are you really satisfied walking out of here, going back to your old way of life?"

Esther, the third of the group at their table, shoved a plate of chocolate chip cookies towards Debbie, and waved at one of the guys roaming the floor, signaling him to bring another coke. "You just need a bit of sugar to liven you up, Debbie girl. How could you even think of leaving in the middle of worship? Tell the truth. When's the last time you've really had such an intense experience with the Lord, huh? Can't you feel Him here tonight?"

Debbie closed her eyes, trying to block the mesmerizing effect of the constantly flickering strobe lights. But even through her eyelids, the patterns continued. She was so tired that her mind was starting to blur. It was hard to think anymore. And she knew she'd eaten way too much sugar for her diet. Even Wanda had taken in more than Debbie had ever seen her eat. There was always someone nearby pushing it on you... She did want to give more of her life to Jesus though. She never felt she really was yielding to Him enough, and her heart always longed for a deeper commitment...

But something seemed off here, somehow -- nagged at her. If she could only think... Her brain felt full of cotton, even though she was used to being up late. Weird... "


Her eyes flew open, startled, as Esther continued snapping her fingers right in front of her face. "Wake up, love! Wake up! The night's young, yet."

Debbie glared at her, then looked over at Wanda. She was still in deep conversation with Sunny, and seemed dazed too, her chin propped on her hand, elbow braced against the table for support. But she was smiling as she listened, eyes still aglow, even so.

The praise and worship session earlier in the afternoon had been more like a rock concert than what Debbie was used to at her church. Drums, electric guitars, and sweet smelling smoke billowing around the musicians while they played... People's emotions running wild. Students suddenly racing to the altar in tears. Dancing. Leaping up and down.

Every couple hours the preacher would cut the music, and talk for an hour or more, even yelling off and on. He paced back and forth across the width of the cafeteria as he spoke, often waving his arms and gesturing wildly. Sometimes he stopped abruptly and pointed at someone in the audience, prophesying over them.

When he'd pointed at Debbie, shouting that the Lord had brought her there to "give you one last chance to repent of your sinful, lukewarm, hypocritical lifestyle before He spews you out of His mouth," Debbie had wanted to dive under the folding chair out of embarrassment. But she knew he was probably right. And ended up at the altar when the next call came.

She and Wanda had finally relaxed more and joined fully into the worship too. But it had gone on and on and on...

By now, after twelve long hours of it all, it was beginning to feel almost like it was happening to someone else... Debbie felt like she was watching from a distance somehow. She chanted to herself silently, Think! I have to try and THINK... Then she grabbed her purse and leaped to her feet.

Esther put a hand on her arm, looking concerned. "Where you goin', Deb?"

"Got to go to the bathroom. Be right back."

"I'll go with you!" Esther stood, almost toppling the coke she'd been drinking, in her haste.

"To the bathroom?" asked Debbie, incredulous. "I really think I'm able to do that by myself, thank you very much."

"Hey!" Esther took on a pouting expression. "It'll give us a chance to, like, chat some more. I really love you, Deb. I want to get to know you more. Who knows when we'll next get a chance to see each other?"

Debbie rolled her eyes, but couldn't figure a way out. If it weren't for Wanda, she'd have left hours ago. But she didn't feel right, leaving Wanda there alone. "Whatever!" She nodded her head, but stopped the gesture quickly, feeling dizzy.

Esther joyfully slapped her on the shoulder, chattering non-stop, as they wove their way through all the students still singing with the band, and then headed out into the hallway.

Meanwhile, Sunny was saying to Wanda, "We can tell you have a real commitment and love for the Lord, Wanda. Much deeper than most in the so called church nowadays... so much more than your young friend's there, for example. They're the blind leading the blind -- following the traditions of men." She sighed dramatically as she watched Debbie disappearing around the corner with Esther. "The Lord gives them fair warning, you know... 'I will say on that Day, 'Depart from me... I never knew you.'"

"I never knew you." Joyce echoed significantly.

Sunny continued, "Now's your chance to fully give your life to the Lord. Twenty four seven. You could join our group. Never have to go back to the world again. You could be surrounded by people who've truly laid down their lives for Christ and have the strength and commitment to live separate from this evil and corrupt generation. Be part of our ministry, Wanda! Serve Him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Think of the opportunity for Spiritual growth! Think of the fellowship and love, walking together with your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Think of it, Wanda! We study the Word half the day. Memorize the Scriptures. Learn to live and breathe and walk truly in Him. Worship services every evening. Ministry opportunities every afternoon. Great teaching and guidance from the prophet. Always knowing the Lord's Will. It's incredible--"

Joyce cut in, saying, "I tell you, I'm so thankful I took the step last year and joined up. Never once looked back. Don't hesitate, girl! It's your chance at life! We only come to the campus once a year. Then it's back to the mountain for us. Don't you remember where Jesus says in Luke chapter 9 'No one who puts His hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'? You've put your hand to the plow tonight, Wanda, by joining in with us and listening to the truth we're talking about. You're listening. The Holy Spirit has given you 'ears to hear'. Not like your young friend. Don't blow it! Don't look back to the world you left behind when you walked in these doors. God brought you to us for a Divine Appointment. Remember Lot's wife? Why was she turned into a pillar of salt? Because she looked back. She wanted the things of Sodom more than the things of the Lord."

Sunny picked it up. "We love you, Wanda. We don't want to see what happens to you if you ignore the Lord's calling on your heart tonight and go back into the world, in disobedience. We want you with us. The ranch is such a beautiful place, Wanda. You'll love it."

"But I'd have to talk it over with my Mom and Dad...I couldn't just zoom off--"

Joyce threw up her hands "She's just not getting it! This is too sad!"

Sunny gripped Wanda's hand more tightly, shaking it slightly, getting eye contact again. "Wanda, you're an adult now. You're responsible to the Lord. What're you gonna tell Him on judgment day? 'Oh, sorry, Lord! I know you were calling me that night, but I decided not to go 'cause I wanted to check with Mummy and Dada.' "

Wanda blushed. "Well..."

Joyce got up, walked around the table, and kneeled next to Wanda, placing a hand on her other wrist. "Don't worry, Wanda. They'll be thrilled, once you explain it to 'em. You can call from the ranch tomorrow morning. The vans leave in half an hour, and we'll be there by five a.m. So you can call them right when they're waking up. They won't even miss you before then. And they'll be so pleased at your step of faith."

Wanda smiled widely. "Yeah! That does sound so good! And I know it's the Lord's Will, all right! Totally sold out to Him... It's what I've always wanted..."

By the time Debbie and Esther got back, Wanda's tiredness had apparently vanished. She turned to Debbie. "Come with us, Deb! You could come too!"

Debbie sat down slowly. "What? It's almost one in the morning. Where do you want to go now?"

As Wanda filled her in, her mouth dropped open in amazement. "You've gotta be kidding! You can't do that! Without even telling your Dad? Where's this ranch, anyway?"

"More cookies, Debbie?" Joyce shoved a new paper plate towards her, this one stacked high with saucer sized oatmeal cookies.

Debbie stared, dazed. Then stood, suddenly furious. "NO MORE COOKIES! I don't know who you are, but this has gone far enough! Wanda, you are NOT going anywhere tonight. We're getting out of here, NOW!"

Sunny slapped her forehead and groaned. "I knew it!" She leaned over and whispered to Wanda's ear, "It's the enemy. The Devil's gotten control of your friend, Wanda. Don't listen. Remember, 'Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.' Your friend's tired, and the enemy got the advantage over her and got in. It's not her fault. She'll be so embarrassed later. Just ignore her."

Wanda looked shocked. "Debbie's not the enemy," she hissed into Sunny's ear. "She loves the Lord too, only--"

Sunny cut her off, grabbing the back of her neck, pulling her closer. "Remember, Peter was one of the Lord's closest disciples. But there came a season when Satan got control of Peter for a time. And the Lord had to say to Peter, 'Get thee behind me, Satan.'"

Debbie put her hands on her hips. "What're you two whispering about?"

Sunny nudged Wanda, who looked guilty, but repeated weakly, "Get thee behind me, Satan."

Debbie's mouth dropped open. "WHAT?" She grabbed her purse, unzipping it, reaching for her cell phone. "That's it! I'm gonna call your parents right now. If you won't take me home in the car, I can get a ride with them. What time does this bus leave, anyway?"

Joyce caught the eye of one of the young men circulating through the crowd. His brown hair was in a crew cut, and his shoulders bulged underneath his tunic, stretching it tight. His dark eyebrows raised questioningly. She tilted her head towards Debbie.

He responded by whistling softly to several others.

Almost instantly, there were four of the men with Debbie, surrounding her. The one Joyce had signaled bowed before her and Sunny. "May we be of service, sisters?"

Debbie paled, dropping her purse, unnoticed, on the table. Even Wanda tensed. Sunny said in a soft voice, "Our friend Debbie here has some questions we think you could help her with, and needs to just chill for a while. Why don't you take her to the conference room and ease her mind? She's getting all upset and dramified over nothing."

Debbie crossed her arms, trembling but determined. "You're not taking me nowhere. I'll call the police if I have to. I've got a cell phone, you know."

Sunny grabbed Wanda's arm. "Come on, Wanda. Bad scene. They'll help her understand. We don't have time to stay and talk. We've gotta get you ready for the trip. You're gonna need some clothes and gear. It's colder in the mountains where the ranch is, and street clothes aren't allowed. We'll have you try on some clothes and coats we always bring along for people. They're in the vans. You'll need some warm boots too. And we need to fill you in more on the ranch, so you know what to expect. Remember, don't look back! It's time to leave the world behind... "

Debbie stared in shock after Wanda and Sunny, as they walked slowly away into the crowd. Joyce followed a few steps behind, happily singing, "I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. The world behind me, the cross before me. No turning back. No turning back!"

Wanda sent a quick look to Debbie over her shoulder, shouting, "Don't worry, Deb! It's cool! I'll call you in the morning!"

Debbie stared after her numbly, not noticing Esther slowly sliding her purse across the table. Neither did she see the purse being handed off to still another young man passing by. Nor the wink he gave Esther.

But she felt the men's hands, suddenly strong as steel, on her shoulders and arms, as they slowly led her across the cafeteria in the other direction. She tried to resist, but found herself weak, her muscles limp and unresponsive. It was then she realized there had been something more than sugar in the cookies... then that she closed her eyes and began desperately to pray.

Joanne over at An Open Book is hosting Fiction Friday this week. So be sure and drop over there as well, to find links to the whole selection of entries by Christian writers, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion!
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Word Filled Wed.: The Flower and the Storm

Genesis 1:11-12 (KJV) "And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.  And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good."

Bear braced herself for the worst as she opened the shade of the Den's front window one morning after a major storm. She expected the beautiful purple flower, which had lately so cheered her heart, to be bent and broken by the high winds and pelting rain of the evening before, its petals in shreds.

And it had been such a nice flower too.

She was not one for gardening, and so plants grew wild around the Den, living and dying on their own. Bear never planted flowers. Yet this one had insisted on growing right in front of her window, all alone, within direct sight when she was working at the computer. And she had quickly grown quite fond of it.

Although the storm had mostly subsided now, the wind was still blowing rather persistently this morning.

Bear peeked around the shade.

The little iris stood strong, waving and dancing in the wind.

She stared. Then put on her glasses to double check.

The purple flower smiled back at her, assuring her that all was well with the world.

Still not believing her eyes, she headed out the front door of the Den to get a closer look. Gently, she lifted the flower's petals with a paw, in wonder. They were not even torn! Yet so fragile. How could they have possibly survived the storm? How was the plant still standing now? Small branches had broken off the trees.

It was always so easy to overlook the incredible miracles of God's creation and handiwork, while rushing about in the day to day routines and activities of the Den. Easy to feel overwhelmed by life's problems and worries and storms. Easy for Bear herself to feel fragile, convinced that the next blast of a storm would surely take her down. Yet here stood proof that God was quite able to make the most delicate of His creations stand, no matter what the weather brought.

How much more would He do for Bear and His other beloved children, walking through the valleys and storms of this life?

After examining the plant for long minutes, Bear still felt awed. She grabbed her camera and tried to get a picture of her flower friend's smiling face. But it was a tricky shot, and kept coming out blurry. Because the subject wouldn't hold still for its photo.

It was too busy, joyously dancing in the wind.

Susan over at Forever His is hosting Word Filled Wednesday this week. So be sure and drop over there as well, to find links to the whole selection of entries by Christian writers, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion! (Also see Bear's post from yesterday for more of an explanation of Word Filled Wednesday, if you're unfamiliar with it).
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Back from Vacation + Some Changes

: Well, Bear had a good vacation/prayer break. She sends Big Bear Thanks to everyone who prayed for her during her week of seeking the Lord's direction on many major life issues. The Lord was most gracious to the Bear, and she feels much more settled and at peace. Goals and direction have been reevaluatated and clarified, and some tough decisions made.

A few of those decisions will minorly affect the Writing Den.

Bear has many goals in her writing, in general. The main priority always, is best summed up in a phrase that has almost become a slogan in some chruches -- "To know Jesus, and to make Jesus known." That's highest priority when Bear writes -- that it draws her closer to the Lord, and hopefully also witnesses to others in various ways concerning Him.

A second goal in writing is to develop writing skills and learn to write better... to continue to grow as a writer. A third goal is to use writing as a vehicle for fellowship with people. And a fourth goal is to eventually start bringing in some money through the sale of some of Bear's writing pieces.

Balancing all those goals can be somewhat tricky. And the goal to earn money has been the least of the concerns so far. Money making has usually been a goal on the distant horizon, to pursue more after the other three goals were well along their way, type of vision... something to prioritize
after writing skills improve more, for example. However, Bear has some financial needs which are not so subtly reminding her to pay somewhat more attention to the money making angle.

Also, a fifth goal has snuck into the picture, more and more lately...

Bear is realizing that she's spending much too much time on the computer again. Computers are most wonderful bear-tools, and are especially useful for writing bears. But Bear has always had a tendancy to go overboard concerning their use. Indeed, she has recognized this tendancy in the past, and even worked with it and stomped it down somewhat, at various times. But in all the fun and joy of finding FaithWriters a few months ago, and in starting up the Writing Den, and in just plain old having a good time online, writing... Bear was recently brought up hard against the realization that the computer was becoming more and more her whole life. Plus, health problems related to overuse of the computer were steadily rearing their ugly heads again.

In fact, Bears are particularly sensitive to computer-triggered health problems. Moreso, even than the general population. So, when Bear gets too computer crazed, it's even more serious than it would be for others.

So recent computer craziness was one of the things that Bear was praying on also, and trying to balance.

She does not want to compromise the other goals by making writing-for-money a higher priority than it has been. But, she wants to keep the money issue much more in mind, and work to weave that in with the other goals in a stronger way.

For example, originally when Bear started contributing to the Friday Fiction loop and posting that here at the Den, she was editing an old novel for teenagers that she had written some years back, and was planning on posting regular installments of that as she edited them, and to get feedback that way, and eventually produce a finished book. It's a book she has long had on her heart, and which she has much enjoyed working on.

However, the cold realities of a writer's life have had to be taken into consideration. Reality is, it's very, very hard for a new writer to sell a book, when she has not yet sold enough shorter pieces to demonstrate proof of professional ability. Everyone wants to write a book. And book writing is probably the most competitive field of all, when it comes to making a sale. It's much easier to make a book sale after having already sold a bunch of shorter pieces to magazines and small publications. Because publishers and agents of books usually want some proof that the writer can actually produce saleable copy before they're going to mess with looking over a book-length manuscript. There are some exceptions to that. And there are always the wonderful stories of authors who miraculously got published with their first novel and no writing experience at all; and made a million dollars at it. But needless to say, that's pretty rare, and Bear's not banking on that to happen with her.

So, although novel writing can be more fun in some ways than shorter pieces are, it seems a much saner approach (with the money issue in view) to set the book aside for now. Bear needs to concentrate on short stories and shorter pieces that are more likely to have a chance of selling for a writer at her stage -- with only some sales under her belt at this point already. Likely the novels will have their day and season -- but that season is not now. So Bear's going to devote the Friday Fiction to short pieces, and drop the novel serial for now.

Tackle it Tuesday has also been fun, and is a good exercise in writing extremely short greeting card type material in response to a given prompt. However, Bear's decided to stop spending her time at that, even though fun, and start to concentrate on writing actual Christian Greeting Cards for submission to editors (which she'll not be posting at the Den). So, instead of continuning with Tackle it Tuesday, she's now going to shift over to what is known as Word Filled Wednesday.

Word Filled Wednesday is similar to Friday Fiction in one way. It's a loop/meme that people on various websites and blogs post for each week. Basically, each person chooses a Scripture quote that the Lord has laid on her heart for the week -- usually just one verse -- and selects a photo or piece of artwork of some sort to post with it, that she feels represents something the Lord is speaking to her heart about. She can leave it at just that, or go ahead and add any of her own writing: whether it be a poem, or devotional, or just a general observation. Then she posts the link to her website at a central website where all the links are posted. Anyone that goes to that central website can then browse all the entries for the week, same as for Friday Fiction. And people comment on one another's contributions, to some extent. So it's a good vehicle for taking in the Word in fellowship with the body of Christ, as well as sharing and building up in writing. It fits in well with all of Bear's writing goals. Plus, she can use it as a place to learn to write devotionals that can later be submitted to magazines and Sunday School papers that sell that type of thing.

Bear is still praying concerning Sunday Happenings, and what to do about that. So far, she's always used a video, or a recording, or a playlist of videos as the central element in it. She's culled the best of the Web basically, in ministry to herself, as well as in sharing here at the Den. And that's been extremely valuable for Bear. However, it has taken a lot of hours of browsing YouTube videos and MP3 recordings, and, in order to cut back on the time spent on computer, Bear is thinking it likely that she needs to cut back on that element of it quite a bit. So it may be that videos and recordings will appear in that slot less often, although likely they'll still appear there some. It may become more straight writing. There may even be some Sundays when nothing appears at all there. Again, Bear's still praying on that.

The Writing Challenge over at FaithWriters is excellent fellowship, an excellent source of feedback, and an excellent tool for developing writing skills. However, although Bear is still keeping her goal to do 40 Writing Challenges (currently with 8 finished), she's going to cut back to participating every other week instead of weekly. She wants to free up some time to work more on short stories for some Christian Children's Magazines.

So the Writing Den will basically continue on as always, and continue to build up in various ways as time goes on. It's just a minor shifting and adjusting in order to balance priorities a little bit better. Bear will actually be spending more hours writing rather than less. And she has cleared the way to do that by some strategic juggling of life tasks this past week. She also hopes to gain some more time for writing, by doing a bit less general frolicking, surfing, and browsing on the computer in undirected ways.

Plus, she'll be working to shift more and more of her writing time to composing and editing away from the computer. She also wants to do more of her research, reading, emails, and critiques on other people's writing pieces (which is part of Writing Challenge, Friday Fiction, and Word Filled Wednesday participation), away from the computer.

Bear has tussled with this issue many times in the past, and so has already developed some alternative systems to computer. She has experimented with writing by using digital voice recorders, by dictating into the recorder. She's also experimented with writing on various other gadgets (PDA's, electronic keyboards, etc) that have the capability to upload material to the computer once the writing piece is finished. In fact, many of the gadgets that Bear has experimented with in the past (but not really continued with consistently) are still here, lying around the Den, (in some of the rooms not visible to public view). And Bear is going to pull those old tools out, dust them off, and give using them another whirl. Plus, she's going to add in some new tools that she feels the Lord is leading her about, that should be of help.

The reason she has never really consistently used those tools before is that it's very hard to change habits from writing in one way (using one tool), over to writing using another tool. For example, there are still people who love to write using a pen and spiral notebook, who produce their best writing that way. They just copy it over to the computer when finished in order to print it or submit it. It just works for them better than any other way. And they're more creative that way because it's what they're comfortable with and is what they're used to. Bear is most comfortable with, most creative with, and most used to the computer keyboard. And it is tough to shift over and learn new habits. However, Bear is determined this time, to try and push through, and actually accomplish that changeover if at all possible because of the health benefits to be gained. Plus, Bear's hope is that, not only will she gain good health benefits, but she'll also increase writing productivity in general, and gain much freedom in her writing worklife.

For example, Robert Heinlein, a very prolific Science Fiction author back in the '50's and '60's wrote incredibly productively and well by dictating into a tape recorder and having his secretary transcribe it when he was done. Unfortunately, Bear does not have a secretary, which Bear thinks is kind of a sad thing, as having one would be pretty convenient. Bears hardly ever have secretaries though, and it seems to her unlikely she'll get one any time soon. However, Bear does have digital recorders on hand, and has some practice at using them to produce basic emails, and other simple writing copy. So she's going to take another try at learning to write regular pieces of writing via dictation.

In fact, she's writing this very Post via dictation even now. And she plans to type it into her PDA when she's finished, using the PDA's attachable keyboard, and then sync it to the computer, uploading it for posting at the Den. It takes more time to do it that way right now, because Bear is slow and awkward at it. But, in the longrun, if a writer can get the hang of it, and get into the habit of it, it can turn out to be an incredibly productive way of writing. And an incredibly flexible way of writing. (And although Bear may never get a secretary to do her transcribing for her, she might someday be able to afford a fast enough computer to use a dictation program with, which can turn recorded words to written ones almost as well as some of the old fashioned secretaries could.)

It's a method of writing that goes anywhere. Digital recorders are small enough to fit easily in a pocket, freeing a writer to write at their local park, or (when three in the morning inspiration hits) in total darkness, or wherever one might want to write. The writer doesn't have to be hunched over a glowing computer screen for hours on end to get the same results.

Bear's computer syncs with her PDA and downloads all her emails to the PDA with just the press of a button. She can read emails on the PDA and type responses using the PDA, then upload them back to the email program on the next sync to be automatically mailed out.

Bear actually even found a program last week that enables her PDA to read text files out loud to her with a computerized voice. It's a text-to-speech reader that actually works on the PDA. Bear has used these before on the computer and found them incredibly helpful, but had no idea that there was one that would work on her tiny PDA. She bought it in an instant, for $40, and has it up and working. So now she can copy anything she wants to read, using cut and paste on the computer, put it in a text file, and send that file to her PDA, and then listen to it being read out loud to her, anywhere she wants to. For example, when reading the Friday Fiction pieces other writers post each week, to comment on... Instead of reading them each week at the computer, all she needs to do is copy them into a text file and sync the PDA. Then she can listen to them read aloud to her from the PDA in her pocket, while doing dishes or other housework. She can make her comment on each piece into a digital recorder harbored in her other pocket. And then just post the comments back on the various websites next time she's on the computer to give the authors feedback. That's not only going to save her quite a bit of time reading and commenting, but will cut back on the use of the computer for that particular task, majorly.

Those are just a few examples of all sorts of tricks and alternatives that can be used to get away from the actual computer while still making use of many of its benefits and good points.

However, there's a lot of work involved in the change-over and some frustrations in establishing new habits and new ways of working. But Bear thinks it will be well worth it in the longrun. So she's going to give it another try, and see if she can succeed better at it than she has in the past.

Bear won't yet be back at FaithWriters much at all this week, and will not do the Writing Challenge this particular week. She still has much work to do setting things up more for that kind of a changeover, and in working at a few of the other changes that she feels laid upon her heart to pursue after this last week of prayer. However, she's hoping to have things up and rolling along more normally after Memorial day weekend. And she will be around the Den regularly this week also. She already has a photo and idea for Word Filled Wednesday, and is hoping to get that first entry in tomorrow. Although she doesn't expect to produce anything new for this week's Friday Fiction, she's planning on pulling out an old piece from years gone by and editing that. So will be participating in that as well. And already has an idea for Sunday Happenings for this week.

Again, Bear thanks everyone who has prayed for her during the week prayer break she took, and is thanking the Lord above all. His Mercies truly are new every morning. And Bear feels refreshed and ready to roll.
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den