Sunday, May 24, 2015

Jesus loves me, this I know ...

But do I really know, in my heart of hearts? And what does it mean to love?

We're told He laid down His life for us, became sin for us, paid the price for our redemption while we were still enemies of God. For far too long, however, I’ve regarded that as something rather disconnected from human emotion.

After all, we are reminded over and over, love is an action, a choice—not a feeling.

I comfort myself with this as I work day in and day out to serve my family, to feed and clothe them and keep our home liveable. I wash the skinned knees and wipe the tears, scold those who pester their siblings, remind them to do schoolwork. I grit my teeth and pray just to get through the day. Oh, the guilt, because shouldn’t I be feeling some sort of satisfaction here? But wait, love is an act of the will, and every day I choose to keep going, to keep serving.

But it’s exhausting.

All the time I wonder, is this how it is for God, overseeing all us? Does He shake His head at us and wonder why we can’t just “get it”? I know He’s limitless, but really—isn’t He ever weary of us?

He loves us, I remember. But again, what does it mean?
Love. Such a slippery word.

The term came up recently in Bible study. In Deuteronomy, of all places, where Moses tells the Israelites that the Lord didn’t choose them as a people because they were greater than anyone else. No, He loved them and chose them to show that He and He alone is God.

I nodded. Pretty familiar territory, here.

The teacher went on to point out that in three successive verses, there are three different words used pertaining to love. Three!

Now, I knew about the differences in Greek words for love. I wasn’t familiar, however, with the Hebrew terms. And as the teacher expounded upon them, I was completely blown away with the intensity of feeling conveyed in them.

One carries a sense of strong desire and longing. The second is a word that covers anything from a need or craving, like for food or sleep, to the human bonds of affection between family or friends, and sexual desire. The third speaks of deep devotion, with the connotation of mercy and faithfulness.

I sat there, stunned that God would choose such words to describe His own love for us. The mercy and faithfulness I understood, but—desire, longing, a deep affection or even craving—for His people? For us?

And I was amazed afresh at this truth, that the God who invented all the shades of human emotion chooses not to be unemotional.

This begged the question, then, where did I get such a utilitarian view of love and the human experience? Do I really think that Jesus died for us out of an obligation or sense of duty?

Yet, I somehow thought it was okay that I care for my family out of obligation and a sense of duty.

For a long time I’ve felt God challenging me to live more fully this love and grace I claim to believe in. And here is the point from which it all starts.

We love Him because He first loved us.
 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments...” (Deuteronomy 7, NKJV)
(This post first appeared March 3, 2013)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Readers of this blog who are seeking representation by an agent or are struggling to impress an acquisition editor often feel as though they’re in a valley, with a mountain before them that looks like Everest. Small victories may make them think they’ve moved to a camp halfway to the summit. And Sir Edmund Hillary never experienced more joy at planting his flag atop Everest than is felt by the writer who has that longed-for contract safe in his/her hands.

 For most of us, it’s a long climb and there’s a lot of waiting involved. I’ve faced these challenges, and thought I’d share some lessons I learned during my own climb.

Abingdon, May 2015
Don’t be a one-trick pony. Agents and publishers don’t envision you as the author of just one book
. They’re interested in your career as a writer. It takes time to get a contract offer, and by the time my first one came along, I had already written a draft of my second book. By having it ready, with the skeleton of a third sketched out, I landed an additional two-book contract before my first book ever saw the light of day. Even while you’re editing that first book, work on the second. Try to stay one book ahead. Editors will love you for it.

Build a platform before you need it. We may not like the word—I prefer “name recognition”—but whatever you call it, writers need a platform. If you wait until you have a contract to build one, you’re already behind the curve. Blogs were important when I started, but now it appears that Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads are taking their place. Establish yourself in each of these places. Get your name before agents, editors, and potential readers now, not later.

Start marketing yourself. You may say, “I’m a writer.” You don’t know anything about marketing. Besides, doesn’t the publisher handle that? Perhaps that was once true, but in the modern era of publishing the author has to take an active role in marketing their books. How do you do this when you don’t have a book published? You begin by marketing yourself, not just to potential readers but to agents and editors as well.

In addition to your own blog and a presence on Twitter and Facebook, visit other blogs. Leave comments, but avoid making them self-serving and promotional. If an agent or editor sees your proposal and already has a mental image of you as someone who follows the blogs they do and makes intelligent comments, what can it hurt?

Cultivate the guardians of the books. Make the acquaintance of librarians and bookstore managers. Let them know who you are. Leave a card. Offer to do a signing after your book is published. Do this so that when that big day finally comes, they’ll know who the person behind the cover picture is.

When your book is published, give a signed copy to your local librarian. They are asked for recommendations all the time. Do the same for the bookstore managers you’ve already called on. Buy and offer stickers that say, “Local author.” Many bookstores and libraries love that designation.

Spread your net. At my first writer’s conference, I was in awe of the published writers on the faculty. But as I got to know them, I discovered they were neat people, and I formed a number of lasting friendships. Later, many of those authors provided blurbs and endorsements for my books. I didn’t set out with that goal and neither should you, but it turned out to be a wonderful benefit of networking with other writers.

Get to know agents and editors. I don’t mean you should stalk them, far from it, but take advantage of opportunities to interact with them. One of the editors I met at my first conference rejected my manuscript, but we seemed to hit it off. Now she’s my agent. In this business, you never know.

Keep going. And most important, keep writing! Sir Edmund Hillary didn’t turn back, didn’t give up, and he ended up at the top. I wish you the same kind of success in your climb.

Dr. Richard L. Mabry
Dr. Mabry is a retired physician whose writing career began with his non-fiction book, The Tender Scar. He now writes “medical suspense with heart.” Fatal Trauma is his eighth published novel of medical suspense. A past Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, he is also a member of the International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. His medical thrillers have won the Selah Award of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, and been finalists in competitions including ACFW’s Carol Award, Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. His work has received glowing endorsements from numerous authors and rave reviews from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. In addition to writing novels, Dr. Mabry’s articles and meditations have appeared in The Christian Communicator, In Touch Magazine, and The Upper Room. Dr. Mabry has taught extensively, including the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, and numerous groups and venues throughout the Southwest.

Order Fatal Trauma today:

Connect with Richard Mabry:
Website: http://www.rmabry.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rmabrybooks
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RichardMabry

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It’s okay to be afraid. Some fears are healthy. For instance, I fear Black Bears and Grizzlies, and if I’m ever near one of them I plan to seek safe shelter ASAP. That’s a healthy fear. Then again, other fears aren’t rational—like those to which writers are subject. 

Along my road to writing, with eight published novels and a non-fiction book under my belt and more under contract, I have learned not to be afraid of some things. I’d like to share three of them with you, and hope that the writers in the audience will see my logic and join me in discarding these three fears out of the many that plague us. 

Abingdon, May 2015
The blank screen: People frequently ask me, “Where do you get your ideas for your books?” Ideas are all around if we start with the two magic words author Alton Gansky taught me years ago: “What if?” For example, while reading Robert Frost’s words about home being the place where they have to take you in, I thought, “What if a doctor fled to her hometown, only to find that someone there wanted to kill her?” This gave rise to my first novel, Code Blue. Other questions led me to write Medical Error (my step-son’s paranoia about identity theft), Diagnosis Death (charges of mercy killing brought against a colleague), and most recently Lethal Remedy (a retraction in a medical journal of fabricated drug research). So ideas are all around us. Writers need not fear the blank screen—only our unwillingness to fill it. 


Agents and editors: The current climate of publishing requires that a writer either self-publish (which is the subject for a different blog post) or acquire an agent to act as advocate with editors and publishers. The latter is tough, because we tend to hold agents and editors in high regard. We go out of our way in our dealings with them to put our best foot forward. But once I had an agent and a contract, I noticed these were real people, not demi-gods to be placed on a pedestal. And if I said something wrong, I wouldn’t be cast into utter darkness. I can truthfully say that my agent and my editors have become my friends. My advice to as-yet-unpublished writers: be respectful of these people, don’t be fearful. 

Reviews: After the publication of my first novel, I checked my Amazon rankings almost every hour. I set Google alerts (it’s free, folks) to notify me every time the book was mentioned on the Internet. I exulted in good reviews, descended into the depths of depression with the bad ones. I even pestered my publisher for sales figures, only to be told that the information wasn’t currently available. But eventually I got tired of it all, so I stopped worrying. A good friend once loaned me a tape about success, and one line stuck with me: “I cannot expect to be universally loved and respected.” So when I run across a bad review, whether on a bookseller’s site, a blog, or in social media, I shrug it off. And I try not to make too much of the good reviews as well. I write because I believe God has some messages He would like me to share. Beyond that, it’s out of my control. 

So there you have them, three things I’ve learned not to fear on my writing journey. How about you? Are there still things in your closet and under your bed that make you nervous? Don’t let them make you afraid. Meet them head-on. Or, better yet, incorporate them in your next story. That’s another way to deal with a blank screen. 

Dr. Richard Mabry
Dr. Mabry is a retired physician whose writing career began with his non-fiction book, The Tender Scar. He now writes “medical suspense with heart.” Fatal Trauma is his eighth published novel of medical suspense. A past Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, he is also a member of the International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. His medical thrillers have won the Selah Award of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, and been finalists in competitions including ACFW’s Carol Award, Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. His work has received glowing endorsements from numerous authors and rave reviews from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. In addition to writing novels, Dr. Mabry’s articles and meditations have appeared in The Christian Communicator, In Touch Magazine, and The Upper Room. Dr. Mabry has taught extensively, including the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, and numerous groups and venues throughout the Southwest. 

Order Fatal Trauma today: 

Connect with Richard Mabry:
Website: http://www.rmabry.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rmabrybooks?fref=ts
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RichardMabry

Sunday, May 17, 2015

14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. (Philippians 2, NKJV)

The passage reminds me of a children’s animated series several years ago, titled 3-2-1 Penguins. This particular episode, The Amazing Carnival of Complaining, featured a nefarious carnival owner who attracted children to his establishment, set them up for disappointment, and encouraged them to whine and gripe. This turned the children literally into little seeds of discontent, which he then used to pollute an entire planet. The main character of the series realized after a while that the remedy was found in Philippians 2:14, a verse his grandmother had conveniently quoted to him earlier. He encouraged the complaining children to find something to be thankful for. Duly exhorted, the “seeds” turned back into real children and the planet was saved.

Sometimes, of course, life dishes out far more than mere disappointment over a two-bit carnival. Maybe it’s having to stand by and watch someone else receive recognition while your work is passed over. Maybe it’s outright loss. Maybe it’s having to keep plodding on and serving others from your own place of hurt and need.

I think it’s no accident that this section falls next in line the week I’m taking over care of my medically fragile mother, because that last is what hits me square in the heart.

Caring for others is physically as well as emotionally taxing. I’m not as young as I used to be, nor as fit. I’m on my own for a week, assisting my stepdad and learning Mom’s medical needs and routines, while my family is home. I miss my husband and kids. I miss my bed, my coffee, my own car. But you know—I’ve longed for years to be more involved in my mother’s care, as her health has failed. To be closer and spent more time with her. To have the chance to minister personally, before God decides to take her home.

Well, He’s giving me the opportunity now.

Yes, this is hard. I was scared spitless going into it, and already I’ve felt overwhelmed at times. But God’s grace and strength have been absolutely present in the moment I actually needed them.

What I hadn’t expected was the joy ... the sheer blessing (yes, the word is overused but there’s no other word for it) of being here for my mother, to serve her and care for her in ways I never really have before ... in ways maybe others can’t.

Because ... it is a blessing. And I’m so grateful for it.

17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2, NKJV)

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Heritage Publishing, 2015

BB: Hello, Sylvia! Welcome to The Borrowed Book. Do you ever read your dialogue aloud to see how it sounds? And have you ever performed an action you want one of your characters to carry out in order to help you visualize or describe it?

Bambola: I actually read the entire manuscript out loud. It’s amazing how those awkward words or phrases will jump off the page! And yes, especially the dialogue. Hearing it lets me know, in short order, if it’s stilted, awkward, fake, or doesn’t resonate with my particular character. I rarely perform the actions of my characters. But what I do is visualize each scene as though I’m watching a movie. I literally see it in my mind’s eye, how my characters move, their facial expressions, their emotions. If it all seems realistic and possible, then I go ahead and put this vision to paper. If not, I rework the scene in my mind.

BB: What aspect of being a writer is the most challenging for you? What steps have you taken to overcome this hurdle?

Bambola: Hands down, the most difficult aspect of being a writer is the marketing—a problem since marketing is a big part of a writer’s life. It’s absolutely necessary if we want to sell books. And traditional publishers expect this from their authors. Only problem, most writers want to write not participate in the business end of things. So what to do?  For me, overcoming this problem meant I had to get over myself and realize that both writing and marketing are “all as unto the Lord.”

BB: If you felt the Holy Spirit urging you to quit writing, would you do it?

Bambola: Without a doubt, “yes.” For me, writing is a ministry and would have very little meaning if God were not in it.

BB: If you’re a plotter, have you ever tried pantsing it? If you’re a pantser, have you ever given plotting a try?

Bambola: I’m definitely a pantser but I have tried plotting as well and found it too restricting. I want to be surprised by the story line and by my characters, and for me pantsing works best. That’s not to say I don’t have some idea where the story is going, because I do, especially when writing historical fiction since research of the times and events will dictate where you go. My recent novel, The Salt Covenants, takes place in 1493 Spain when the Inquisition is in full swing. What would happen if a young Jewess, who had converted to Christianity, suddenly came under the scrutiny of an inquisitor? Would she flee? Would she go to a new land with someone like Christopher Columbus, and could she reasonably go by herself or would she have to be accompanied by a man? And if yes, would that man be a husband? A brother? A father? The answer to these questions, and others, restricted where I could go in my novel. But even when writing historicals I’m a paster and generally am surprised by some of my plot twists. And I hope my readers are too. 

BB: Does your best writing flow? Or are you most satisfied with the work that you’ve labored over, sweating and groaning?

Bambola: I’d love to say that inspiration carries the day, when words flow so beautifully and freely that my fingers can’t type them fast enough, but for me this doesn’t happen often. In reality, my writing feels more like pushing wet concrete hill, very labor intensive and often frustrating. So I’d have to say usually my best work comes only after hours of much labor and groaning and sometimes even sweating.

BB: Do you prefer writing the initial draft, or do you enjoy the revision process more? Do you revise as you write, or do you first produce a big mess that you later have to fix? If your first draft is rough, do you have to cut out a lot of dead wood, or add flesh to the bare bones?

Bambola: I don’t think there’s anything more intimidating to a writer than that dreaded blank page. The purpose of my first draft is to fill pages, get my characters from point A to point B, and make sure that where they are going and where the plot is going are rational and believable. Is it a big mess? Actually, it’s more like some nasty thing you’d scrape off your shoe. Usually I have very little dead wood to cut, just a lot of flesh to add. But that’s the process I really LOVE. For me it’s a joy to see my characters come alive, to begin breathing on their own and to see the plot actually develop in a way that carries the story smoothly from scene to scene. 

Author Bio:

Sylvia Bambola
Sylvia Bambola is the award winning authored of seven novels, has two grown children, teaches women’s Bible studies, and is learning the guitar. Born in Romania, Bambola lived her early years in Germany. At seven she relocated with her adopted family and saw the Statue of Liberty and America for the first time. But the memory of those years in post World War Germany inspired her to write Refiner’s Fire, which won a Silver Angel Award, and was a Christy Finalist. Publishers Weekly, in their starred review, called Bambola’s latest novel, The Salt Covenants, “transcendent” and “beautifully written” while Library Journal says it “adeptly depicts a time and place not often explored in Christian historical fiction.”



To Buy:
Barnes and Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/1120995842?ean=9780989970778

Links:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015



My grace is sufficient for you.”
Heritage Publishing, 2015

When that scripture raced through my mind I knew it was from the Lord. I had not been thinking about God’s word or even about God, for that matter, as I stood in the hospital confronting the reality that my beloved husband of nearly forty-four years was losing his battle with lung cancer.

My grace is sufficient for you.”

Again that thought filled my mind. But doubt filled it, too. Was God’s grace really going to be sufficient in the coming days, months and years as I struggled to carve out a life without my beloved Vincent? My husband and best friend? You can’t live with someone for over forty years without becoming “one.” Time has a way of balancing out the differences. The best of our individual personalities complimented the other, the worst became grounds out of which patience, understanding, and kindness were forged. But two becoming one meant a tearing apart when only one was left. And tearing hurts.

When the inevitable happened, there was a flurry of activity: funeral arrangements, memorials to put together, people coming and going, out of town visitors. The activity blunted the pain. But when it was all over the real business of healing and moving on, began.

My grace is sufficient for you.”

Family and friends can’t hold your hand forever. In the midnight hour, when alone, lonely, and floundering, I discovered there is God. And every time I reached out for Him, He never failed me. He’d pull me from the brink of that pit of self-pity, and kept me from sliding down a slippery slope from which it’s so difficult to escape. But here’s the deal: I had to make that decision each and every time; the decision whether to call upon God, whether to remind myself that His grace is indeed sufficient, or whether I would indulge my feelings. And when I chose “grace” it was miraculous. I’d find myself praising God, find myself really believing that my life wasn’t over, that He still had a plan and purpose for me. And doing this wasn’t a denial of my feelings, rather it was an admission that God did all things well, that His ways were higher than mine, and that I could trust Him.

I’d like to say this was easy. That reminding myself of the scripture God gave me made all the hurt and difficulties go away. It did not. Often this was a moment by moment decision. But as time when on, it became less so. My husband has been with the Lord for nearly four and half years now and still I’m finding God’s grace sufficient. It’s there for me whenever I enter an arena with all couples and I’m conspicuously a solo, when family birthdays come up, during our wedding anniversary date, etc., and throughout it all God continues to pull me into a joyful present and a promising future.

But aside from understanding that God’s grace is sufficient, I’ve learned that every loss can be a testimony to God’s grace in our life. And since we all have or will experience some kind of loss during our earthly journey, we can rejoice in this truth. God is wonderful and cares so deeply for each of us. So when hurtful difficulties arise, and they will, remember God’s promise:

“My grace is sufficient for you.”


Author Bio:

Sylvia Bambola
Born in Romania, Sylvia Bambola lived her early years in Germany. At seven she relocated with her adopted family and saw the Statue of Liberty and America for the first time. But the memory of those years in post World War Germany inspired her to write Refiner’s Fire, which won a Silver Angel Award, and was a Christy Finalist. Publishers Weekly, in their starred review, called Bambola’s latest novel, The Salt Covenants, “transcendent” and “beautifully written” while Library Journal says it “adeptly depicts a time and place not often explored in Christian historical fiction.”

To Buy:

Sunday, May 10, 2015

How much of what we do is us? How much us God working in us?

I would submit, it’s both.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2, NKJV)

Work out our own salvation ... because it is God who works in us.

How on earth can that be?

In all the debates between faith vs. works, this is the concept that seems hardest to wrap our brains around.

We give ourselves ... we surrender, we pour our hearts into what God has for us ... and the beautiful mystery is that in the giving, in the surrendering, God is the one preparing us, softening our hearts, pouring His Spirit over and through all we do. We cannot even desire to do the right thing without the Holy Spirit’s influence.

That means I can’t even want to do good without Him.

So, what is my own willingness? What is God working in me?

Both. All of it. And until we reach eternity, I’m not sure we really can properly comprehend it.

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