Time to take a vacay!
I know what you’re thinking. No one is going anywhere these days! That, my friends, is the beauty of books. Not just reading them, mind you, but researching. I am embarking on a six book series set in one of the most incredible places I’ve ever visited…Death Valley California.
I was fortunate to visit this incredible place in November, and I took my Facebook family along on the journey with me. Boy did we have a blast! I wanted to share a few of my observations with you about my writing research trip.
Observation #1…Death Valley is dark! I live in a bustling suburb of 80,000 people in Northern, California. There is a good deal of light pollution in our state. As a matter of fact, viewing the stars requires a trip to the foothills. Not so in Death Valley which is an International Dark Sky Park. When we visited, we drove to the ruins of the Harmony Borax Works and watched the grand sweep of constellations over the top of the old mining facility. Picture a perfectly flat valley with the mountains rising sharply in the background. An endless unobstructed sky like a broad sweep of velvet stretches above you, lit with millions of stars. It was a magical moment of quiet and a brilliant display that only God could have prepared for us.
Observation #2…Death Valley is quiet. I’ve been to Yosemite, a jewel of a National Park, to be sure. It is crammed with visitors, hiking Half Dome, biking to the waterfalls and traveling the busy bus routes up and down the valley. Campgrounds are always full. Now that I think of it, California in general is pretty populated and we pride ourselves on being busy, especially here in the Bay Area. Our visit to Death Valley, even in the peak fall season, was calm and quiet. We went for miles without coming across other tourists. When we did, they were quietly going about their endeavors, taking pictures, walking, admiring the views. No tour buses or taxis. There just wasn’t the hustle bustle I am accustomed to. Instead there is a special hush over the place that I won’t soon forget.
Observation #3…Death Valley is dangerous! In the summer, temperatures can soar to 134 degrees! It is America’s driest and hottest spot. People don’t visit in the summer. If you do, you are putting your life at risk. There is a phenomenon called, “death by GPS.” It happens when visitors set off to explore without proper safety precautions, trusting that their GPS will get them back to civilization. Vehicles overheat, and there are hundreds of remote spots in this three million acre national park where people can easily succumb to injury or heat related death and the GPS will not be able to pick up a satellite signal. Even in the winter, storms can dump water in the mountains that can flood down in the valleys without warning. The area was also mined for gold, silver, zinc, borax and many other minerals and there are numerous unsecured mining shafts. It can indeed be a very hazardous place.
So you see why I think this will be the perfect place to set a romantic suspense series? I hope you will come along with me on the journey. I can’t wait to get started!
Julie B. Cosgrove
Don’t Hang Up
Prayer is a two-way communication, but many of us grew up kneeling at our beds, or folding our hands at the dinner table as we gave God our requests and thanks. That is as far as we took the action. We said, “Amen”, and hung up the phone, so to speak. End of conversation.
More likely, we became discouraged because our wishes were not granted when we wanted or how we wanted. Mom didn’t get well. The pony never appeared in our backyard, and the bully at school kept on being mean to us day in and day out. After a while we wondered if God listened at all. Why did He not respond?
Maybe He did or tried to. Did we stop at the end of our prayers to hear what He had to say in return? Or did we continue about our business, assuming a lightning bolt, booming voice, or blatant miracle would happen? Did we trust enough to believe He would answer, even if it was in a way we had not expected? Flip through the Psalms or Romans to see if something popped off the page and then set the Bible down when nothing did?
True listening takes effort. We must set aside what we want to say and be willing to concentrate on what the other person wishes to say. We should push aside self-expectations or our attempts to steer the conversation. It doesn’t come naturally. It takes practice, in conversing with people and with God.
God speaks to us in many ways. Mainly through His Word and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The renown evangelist, the late Dr. Bill Bright, stated,
“We can no more live a joyful, abundant, fruitful, victorious, supernatural life apart from the Word of God than we can do so apart from the Spirit of God. They are like the two wings of an airplane; a plane cannot fly with only one wing. Neither can we live balanced, victorious lives if we do not invest time in reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on God’s Word, while at the same time depending on the Holy Spirit, who inspired its writing centuries ago, to illuminate its truth to our minds and hearts.” Courtesy of Thoughts About God, May 20,2020
What if we instead of beginning with our wants, we started our prayer time praising God, thanking Him for the blessings He has already bestowed, and then asking him to forgive us our trespasses through our Savior Jesus Christ so that no sin stands between us? Then yield our agenda to listen what He has to say in response. That is the anachronism for P.R.A.Y.
Recount His blessings
Atone for our sins
Yield to His will.
Then, we can include our desires by adding the I-N-G.
Intercede for others
Name our needs and requests
Glorify His name.*
By praying for others first, we open our hearts further. Our Lord taught us to have a servant’s heart by His example. He bent to wash His disciples’ dusty feet. When He was tired, He still taught to thousands on a hill and then made sure they were fed. At a well, Jesus quenched a woman’s thirst for acceptance before drinking water for Himself in the midday heat. He hung on a cross for us.
Only after that do we name our needs. Perhaps by now we have a deeper understanding of what they are, and a renewed trust in the Father who loves us and cares enough to say no or not yet.
Finally, we give God the glory. We lay it all in His nail-scarred hands, trusting in His power and might. Again, we listen as we go about our day, reading in the Word, our faith-ears tuned into the Holy Spirit, our spiritual eyes scanning for the unique, creative, and unexpected serendipities that catch our breath and let us know…
Yes, God hears, God cares, and God responds.
And so, we practice p-r-a-y-i-n-g once again.
The conversation continues, the phone never hangs up.
*Taken from P.R.A.Y.I.N.G – bringing purpose and power to your prayers by Julie B Cosgrove www.juliebcosgrove.com
What a drag!
Yep, that’s what I’ve felt like recently. What I would normally call challenges have become impossible walls. Things I would usually view through my rose-colored glasses with a focus on the blessings involved, I’m only seeing through dark shades right now. That happens when things just heap up. The piles of obstacles grow, and I’m just not strong enough or brave enough or . . . enough-enough . . . to keep climbing.
I’m a fixer. When one of my family members comes to me with an issue or a problem, my first reaction is to talk it out (Nowadays, with adult kids, I can’t just put a bandage on it) and find ways to correct the issue. Resolve the problem. Fix the circumstances.
More and more, though, they just need a wall to cry out to. They need to get the mud and grunge, the frustrations and crushes and pains out. The trouble is, I let all of the pain and worry and angst stick to me. It thickens and weights me down. Add to it negative stories from world, national, and even local news and struggles of living in our new normal along with my own concerns about having the ability to see my loved ones again, and I’m as flattened as a snowman in a sauna.
Beaten down. Spent. Helpless to even look up.
Do you ever feel this way? Maybe you even feel this way right now. So let me tell you the rest of the story.
First: I went outside. Such a simple thing, but when I’m working and helping my family and doing the house and meal things that I do, I don’t always go outside. It’s amazing what the clear sky, the light breeze, and the Lord’s sunshine can do.
Second: I realized that I wasn’t laying my cares and concerns at the feet of Jesus. Most of them weren’t even mine to begin with, but there I was, trying to strategize ways to fix the insurmountable problems.
When I was walking outside, the Sprit put a mantra into my head. “Cease Striving. Be Still. Stop Trying.” With every step, I was hearing the words roll through my mind like a song, but I didn’t clue in until I was halfway through my walk.
I was fussing at the Lord. “God, I’m trying so hard.”
“But I need to make this work.”
“I have to . . .”
Now I’m not encouraging a couch-potato mentality. I could certainly fall into that pit when I’ve been feeling down. We are to do the best we can for the situations in which the Lord has given us. But then we’re supposed to give Him the rest of it and trust that He will do as He wishes.
That’s what I was missing. He, with His great love for me, was already at work in and through the many cares that had attached themselves to my heart and attitude. He had His plans already in place and working. And He didn’t and doesn’t need my worries or even my work to help Him accomplish what He wills.
I hope that the next time this Pollyanna starts getting down, that I will remember God’s truth a little quicker.