Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas Eve

The Birth of Jesus
2 1-5 About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.
6-7 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
An Event for Everyone
8-12 There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
13-14 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
15-18 As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

19-20 Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!
Luke 2 The Message (MSG)

Christmas Eve:
It’s Christmas Eve; we all travel to Bethlehem. On Christmas Eve, we join Mary and Joseph as they study the face of their new son.  As the final candle on our Advent Wreath--the Christ candle--is lit, we relive this story together.
It is a story you know it by heart—how the whole town was clogged with travelers, none of whom was there by choice.  The emperor wanted them all counted and taxed and he could have cared less where they slept.  That was their problem, not his.
Joseph and Mary got a stall instead of a room, which was not as bad as we sometimes make it out to be, but still, not an ideal situation.  With luck, they also got a pitchfork and a wheelbarrow.  We know they got a feed trough, because that was where they laid their treasure, and that is when the picture was taken—right then, while the star was still overhead and the angels were still singing in the rafters.
But twenty minutes later, what?  The hole in the heavens had closed up and the only music came from the bar at the inn.  One of the cows stepped on a chicken and the resulting racket made the baby cry.  As she leaned over to pick him up, Mary started crying too. When Joseph tried to comfort her she told him she wanted her mother.
They both hurt all over and there was nothing to eat and it was cold as the dickens, but you know what?  God was still there, right in the middle of the picture.  Peace was there, and joy, and love—not only in the best of times but also and especially in the worst of times—because during those times there could be no mistake about who was responsible.
It was God-With-Us.  Not the God-Up-There somewhere who answers our prayers by lifting us out of our lives, but the God who comes to us in the midst of themhowever far from home we are, however, less than ideal our circumstances, however much or little our lives reflect the Christmas cards we send.  That is where God is born, just there, in any cradle we will offer him, on any pile of straw we will pat together with our hands.
Any of us who have prayed to be transported into God’s presence this Christmas will get our wish—only not, perhaps, in the way we had thought. None of heaven’s escalators are going up tonight.  Everybody up there is coming down tonight, right hereright into our own Bethlehembringing us the God who has decided to make his home in our arms.

You are cordially invited to a special Christmas Day blog post tomorrow!

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

What to get an author for Christmas

You might know an author well enough to consider exchanging gifts.

If that's the case, you might be wondering what to give that she/he would appreciate. I've given this some thought, just in case I might be "your author."

Below is a list of items I'm sure any author would appreciate, and most won't bust your budget. The list is a countdown, so #1 is the most valuable in my mind.

5. A Book.
     Preferably not one of her/his books. I should be a book you enjoyed. Give it with or without a note inside.
     Many read because they like to read. Find out their favorite author and get a title by that author that she/he doesn't have. Alternately, you could give a book you enjoyed from "your author's' genre, because...
   Most authors read as sources of inspiration, ideas, types of characters, etc. Giving a book you enjoyed is a good way to kickstart the creative process.

4. Gift Card
     Authors have consumable items they use every day. Printer ink and paper are two I have to keep an eye on. 
     If your author likes to edit printed copies of her/his manuscripts, colored pens or pencils are valuable items.
     Does your author subscribe to a website or service that charges a monthly or an annual fee? Gift cards for those costs are greatly appreciated. 
     If your author likes to map out her/his plots, character sketches, or timelines, graph paper or calendar blanks are an option.

3. Buy One of Your Author's Books
    Unless your author has a contract with a major publisher, most of her/his revenue comes from book sales. If you live close enough, ask for an autograph to personalize your copy.
     A friend of mine bought three of my books to give as gifts to family members. I had a sticker printed for people who buy eBooks or live out of the area.

     This provides a place for the owner's name, and space for me to personalize that volume making it a signed copy! If you live far away, and your author does not have such a sticker, you can send blank stickers to your author with a request for her/him to autograph and personalize the book like my sticker allows. Be sure to include a stamped return envelop for the signed stickers.

2. Buy More than One of Your Author's Books
     See number 2, but multiply the effect by the number of copies of your author's book(s) you buy.

1. Post a review (of one or more) of Your
   Author's Book(s)
    This is a NO COST gift that keeps on giving. 
    Book rankings and subsequent author rankings on Amazon are based largely on the number of reviews received by the book/author. If you own a book by your author or any author for that matter, and you have not posted a review of that book, posting a review is the best thing you can do for any author.
    While 5-star reviews are nice, no book should receive only 5-star reviews. The odds of EVERYONE that read the book thinking it was one of the best books they ever read is astronomically low. Amazon reduces the ranking if the percentage of 5-star reviews is "too high" by their definition.
     What authors want/need are honest reviews.
     Reviews don't have to be lengthy. While one sentence with a ranking is okay, two to four sentences is a better review because people looking for a book they appreciate more than 

"I liked this book because it held my attention."

A better review is something like
"This plot of this book had enough twists that it kept me thinking. By the time I finished, I felt like I'd lived the story along with the main characters."

"This characters in this book are easy to relate to. I found myself thinking of actors who might play the roles in the movie version. Because I felt like I knew the characters, I wanted to know what was going to happen. This made the book an easy read for me."

Here's how a not quite so stellar review might read

Two Stars. Really stretched the plot. Took too long to read without a satisfactory result.

Or, this review of the same book

Four Stars. Unlike with many books nowadays, [this book] has been well edited, and I detected less than a handful of errors (a missing word here a misspelled word there). This did not affect the reading experience in itself, which I found delightful. Conclusion: Written with humor and no little wit, this story will not rock your world nor change your life, but to fans of quirky science fiction it will turn a Saturday afternoon into pure gold. 
    I've published a dozen books. The total number of reviews 
of all those books is around 100. I know that more than 100 
copies were purchased from Amazon or me. I've given dozens
as gifts.  
      I hope you choose to gift your author with some token of
your appreciation for her/his work. 
     My personal choice is posting as a Christmas gift for an 
author is review on Amazon, Good Reads or any site that 
sells the book you bought or received. 

        Good, indifferent, or critical, a review helps 
             new readers decide what to read and 
               the author to improve her/his writing.

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