Friday, August 28, 2009

My Latest Creation: Historical Romance Pendant Watch

I decided to make something to donate to ACFW's (American Christian Fiction Writers') silent auction to be held at their conference next month. Since there will be so many romance readers and writers there, I settled on making this Historical Romance Pendant Watch.
It's got everything--cameos of Jane Austen-like ladies, reading and books, and of course, hearts and flowers.

Funny. I'm not able to go to the conference this year, but my jewelry will be there...

Anyway, if you're planning to be there, look out for the pendant watch and maybe another goodie or two at the silent auction.

If, like me, you aren't going, I'll probably be doing a jewelry give-away for the rest of us during the conference in late September, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, you can always check out my shop on Etsy. I'll be adding items soon, including a pendant watch for sale.
And don't forget to enter the drawing for a signed copy of Nancy Grace's new, best-selling novel, The Eleventh Victim!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Win a Signed Copy of The Eleventh Victim by Nancy Grace!

The Eleventh Victim: by Nancy Grace

As a young psychology student, Hailey Dean's world explodes when Will, her fiancé, is murdered just weeks before their wedding. Reeling, she fights back the only way she knows how: In court, prosecuting violent crime...putting away the bad guys one rapist, doper, and killer at a time. But dedicating her life to justice takes a toll after years of courtroom battles and the endless tide of victims calling out from crime scene photos and autopsy tables. Just as she grows truly weary, a serial killer unlike any other she's encountered begins to stalk the city of Atlanta, targeting young prostitutes, each horrific murder bearing his own unique mark. This courtroom battle will be her last.

Hailey heads for Manhattan to pick up the pieces of the life she had before Will's murder, training as a therapist. In a vibrant new world, she finally leaves her ghosts behind. But then her own clients are brutally murdered one by one by a copycat using the same M.O. as the Atlanta killer she hunted down years before. As the body count rises across Manhattan, Hailey is forced to match wits not only against a killer, but the famed NYPD.
Unless she returns to her former life and solves the case, still more innocent people will die at the hands of a killer who plans to get her, before she can get him!

Last Saturday, Nancy Grace was back in our home town to do a signing for her new novel, The Eleventh Victim. Nancy and I have known each other since the first grade. I would tell you how long ago that was, but Nancy would probably kill me. Suffice it to say, we've known each other a long time!

My friend Robin P., sister Frankie, me, and Nancy

Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading her novel--which is a first for her. She's done almost everything else in the world--prosecuting attorney, has her own show on CNN, mother of twins, writer of a non-fiction book. But this is her first novel.

I still remember a story that Nancy wrote (and read aloud) for a creative writing assignment in high school. I remember waiting for my turn to read my story to the class and thinking, I wish I had written that! Even then, I couldn't seem to come up with an idea that could be contained in a short story--or that had anything to do with real life. Mine had all these fantastical or historical elements and twisted Dickensian plots. Nancy's story was something simple about two best friends who were growing up and growing apart. Simple and powerful.

She has said she's been distracted by all the other life events from creative writing and that she's glad to get back to it--and that it took her a long time to write this book. That's encouraging. Maybe I'll get somewhere with one of mine eventually, too.

Anyway, I got an extra copy of it signed for one lucky reader out there. The Eleventh Victim is hot off the presses and on the New York Times bestseller list, so I think this would be a great prize!

Just leave a comment here before September 15 (NOTE: DEADLINE EXTENDED TO SEPT. 17) telling me you'd like to be entered in the drawing. Two rules: I have to know how to contact you if you win, and you have to respond within a week when I contact you or the prize goes to someone else.

Simple enough! Good luck!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Old Movies or New?

Now I know there are winners and losers in both categories, and the new stands on the shoulders of the old. But really, the worlds are so far apart in so many ways. This is a topic which could be an ongoing thing.

This weekend I saw Notorious at a screening with a group called "Art on Life" I've attended a couple of times this summer. This is a Hitchcock film, and I believe it was made in 1946. Hitchcock could also be his own blog category, but right now I would just love to hear your opinions about old films verses new films. Which are better and why?

Craft comes to mind when I think about older films. The old studio system was flawed in many ways, but they knew how to crank out a movie with factory-like precision, and when the studios recognized the great directors and let them have more say over the films they were creating, a truly artistically-crafted product was the end result.

Anyone seen Notorious? Ingrid Bergman, Carey Grant and Claude Raines are more subtle than many actors of the day. Looking at a film like this is always bizarre for me, because like someone at our meeting said, it's like watching Shakespeare. It takes a while before I can find the rhythm, but once I was there, I was hooked.

Hitchcock crafted his story, his dialogue, his shots, his MacGuffin, all with the skill of a master. At one point, at a scene change, a champagne bottle fades into a lamp shade, and the little decoration at the top of the lamp is in the shape of a key, something which plays a major part in the story.

Though movies like GI Joe and Transformerz certainly require a visual craft, is it the same? The recent remounting of Star Trek was an example, I believe, of a well-crafted movie all around, visually appealing, with a well-developed story which also managed to stay true to the original canon.

Just some thoughts- I hope to get into other comparisons and contrasts in follow-up posts. I would love to hear some opinions!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lost Literature Display

Sometimes I really love my job.

Where else would I get to indulge my love of a TV show, have fun with books, and help build a tent out of bamboo poles and twisties?

I've blogged before about the TV show Lost, and we recently put together a huge exhibit at my library called "Lost Literature." I wrote an article about it for the college's website and publications. I'm going to reproduce it here because I thought you'd enjoy it--and because I'm too lazy to write another version. Enjoy!

A few months ago, Macon State College’s Assistant Librarian Felicia Haywood had a fairly simple idea for a library display that would highlight a number of books in the collection. That simple idea grew into the library’s largest display to date—an exhibit that snakes around the entire second floor and includes a full-sized boat, a tent constructed of bamboo poles, and a smoke monster.

And books, of course. Books as diverse as The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Wizard of Oz, and Bad Twin. “All these titles are from the library’s collection,” says Haywood, “but they have something else in common. They also play a part in the popular ABC-TV Show Lost—along with many other titles covering a spectrum of time periods and genres.”

Lost follows the plight of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, which crashes onto a mysterious island and leaves them stranded—but not alone.

The island is just packed with mysteries, including a colony of people they call “The Others,” a monster that appears to be made of smoke, and a man in a hatch who swears he’s fending off an apocalypse by punching numbers into a computer.

If you’ve watched Lost (or heard your friends talk about it), you’ll know the show is a mind-bending puzzle. Through events on the island and flashbacks to the characters’ earlier lives, we discover that the Flight 815 survivors have intriguing connections to one another. Were they brought to the island for a reason?

As Haywood says, “Tiny bits of information turn out to provide important clues later on, so when a character is shown reading a particular book at a particular time, it’s probably important.”

And the literary clues abound! The survivors of Flight 815 read books to pass the time. The Others have a book club. The Hatch where Desmond holds the apocalypse at bay has a library.

Characters quote from books. Writers reference them in episode titles and character names. Sometimes story lines seem to follow famous plots.

In a strange twist of life imitating art, there’s even one Flight 815 passenger who wrote a novel called Bad Twin—which was later published in the real world, and added to the library's collection. The popular character Sawyer was seen reading the manuscript for Bad Twin in an early episode. If you’re interested in it, you can find it in the exhibit at Sawyer’s tent, along with his reading chair, Oceanic Airlines water bottles and blankets.

You can also see a replica of his bizarre reading glasses, patched together from two pairs salvaged from the wreckage.

“My original idea,” says Haywood, “was to draw attention to some classic library books. And also to the second floor of the Library. Even a couple of years after the library’s renovation, some folks don’t seem to be aware that the library now occupies two floors. Since a couple of us at the Library are Lost fans, the idea sort of snowballed. But what better way to get patrons to check out the upstairs than to provide them a recreation of the Survivors’ beach camp, Dharma stations, and even a model of the infamous Smoke Monster!”

“We’ve left clues everywhere to celebrate Lost’s homage to literature. If you’re a newbie to the show, you may just find yourself getting drawn into its world. If you’re a fan, see if you can make the connections.”

There are also plans for events, contests, and give-aways in connection with the exhibit, so watch out for more details.

“And if you find a book that you like,” says Haywood, “feel free to bring it to the desk and check it out—even if it’s the Stephen King book under the polar bear’s paw.”

You can see lots more photos at our Flickr site.

The Flickr photos and all the good pics above were taken by Felicia. The ones that have poor lighting or are blurry were taken by yours truly!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Magicians by Lev Grossman: A Review

About a week ago, I first heard about The Magicians by Lev Grossman, and then it seemed to be everywhere. It arrived in our current fiction section at the library, and another librarian brought it to me so I would have the first turn with it. She thought it sounded like my kind of book, but I'm so bogged down in my reading that I waved it away.

Then I read an enthusiastic review of it in a blog that I follow. Then on another blog. Suddenly, I just had to read it. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it--although, of course, it had been checked out by then. So I downloaded the audio version.

I couldn't wait to start listening. I zipped through the first sections and was hooked. I couldn't wait to get further into it.

Somewhere along the line, things changed. I realized I couldn't wait to be done with it and try to forget it. Hopefully I wouldn't need therapy.

So what's the story about that made me so anxious to read it?

Here's what I heard. It's about a young man named Quentin Coldwater who's about to graduate high school and go to college--probably Harvard or somewhere Ivey League, because he's brilliant and competitive. He's also very unhappy and can't seem to find much meaning in life. One of his main joys since childhood has been reading fantasy books, particularly a series about a land called Fillory--which is more or less exactly the same as Narnia. As they say, only the names have been changed, probably to protect the author from a copyright suit. Quentin knows he should be growing up and letting go of such dreams and longings for Fillory and magic, but he can't seem to do it.

Then suddenly, something bizarre happens. Quentin receives an invitation to an exclusive, secret college of magic. Yes, if you're thinking Harry Potter right about now, the author probably expects you to. There are lots of similarities between Brakebills College and Hogwarts--except that Hogwarts is a magical, delightful place that children of all ages dream of going to, and Brakebills is a depressing, difficult, and frankly perverted place that this child, at least, wouldn't be caught dead in.

So. Quentin discovers that magic doesn't make him happy any more than his previous life did. Then he graduates from Brakebills and because of his magic, can pretty much do anything with his life that he wants to. He chooses to drink, carouse, and cheat on his girlfriend. He's not happy, you see.

The book was frankly making me unhappy, too, at this point. Remember Kristi's post about Revolutionary Road? It felt like that, only with magic. But I stuck with it, because I'd heard what was coming in Part 3 of the book, and I thought the payoff would come. I knew that Quentin would discover that the land of Fillory was real, and that through his magic, he could actually get there. There was even mention of the fact that one of the Chatwin children in the Fillory series (like the Pevensies in Narnia) had disappeared at the end of the last book. Because the author died before writing the next book, no one knew what had happened to him. So the logical assumption is that Quentin will go on a quest to find the missing Martin Chatwin.

Finally it happens. Quentin and his friends are off to Fillory. And they do find Martin Chatwin, only they weren't particularly looking for him. As usual with Quentin and his bunch, they don't really have a purpose in going there any more than they have a purpose in the rest of their lives. As the Fillory ram Ember (a disappointing stand-in for the great lion Aslan in Narnia) tells them, Fillory is not a theme park for them to come play dress-up in--because that's the flip way they are treating its struggles and wars, and the possibility of becoming kings and queens there.

The whole Fillory expedition is a disaster. And--I'm sure you'll find this shocking--Quentin is unhappy there.

That could pretty much sum up this whole book: "Quentin is unhappy." He never really gets happier--but my mood had certainly plummeted by the end of this book.

I'm trying to figure out why people I respect are writing that this is such an important book. Maybe it's one of those literary things I don't understand. John Granger, whom I respect and who wrote Looking for God in Harry Potter, goes on about the importance of The Magicians because of its attempt to merge the post-modern novel (like Catcher in the Rye) with fantasy. But then, a lot of what Granger and other literary critics say is over my head.

I understand that Grossman is trying to say that our fantasies, even if they come true to the letter, won't make us happy. That kind of joy has to come from somewhere else, somewhere inside us. I agree on those points. In fact, one of my works that has been in progress for decades has that same general theme.

The trouble is, Grossman points out that fulfillment of our fantasies won't make us happy or give us purpose, but then he doesn't seem to have a clue what will. Quentin is worse off at the end than when he started, because he's tried everything, and everything has failed him. True, at the very end, Quentin is finally ready to use magic again and to go on another magical adventure, but frankly that came out of the blue and seemed tacked on. I couldn't find any evidence of a change of attitude or any particular self-discovery. And if you're looking for anything spiritual, well...forget about it.

We've mentioned on this blog before that C.S. Lewis has identified our yearnings that come from fantasy as a longing for the eternal. Since Grossman doesn't seem to believe that, we're left with a yearning after nothing, as meaningless as Quentin's life. But then, Grossman may not think much of C.S. Lewis and his ideas, anyway. He certainly didn't make the Lewis stand-in character (the writer of the Fillory books) very admirable. The old man stole the Chatwin children's stories for his personal gain and was "diddling" one of them. Apparently, trying to hide from the man's perverted advances was what led to the child's hiding in a cabinet and discovering the passage to Fillory to begin with. Ick!

So what am I missing? Why do people who enjoy fantasy still seem to like this book, when it came perilously close to ruining Harry Potter for me--and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to look at Narnia the same way again.

I was listening to The Magicians audiobook on my iPod, and when it came to the end I couldn't move for a minute. I was stunned. That was a good thing, because the iPod promptly started playing the next audiobook in line. It was a book called Peter and the Starcatchers that I downloaded weeks ago because it was on sale and because it was narrated by Jim Dale, the fabulously talented narrator of the Harry Potter audiobooks. Suddenly, there was Jim Dale's cozy voice starting a story about Peter (destined to become Peter Pan) boarding a ship called the Neverland to start his fantastic adventures. I felt myself starting to smile.

Thank goodness for Jim Dale!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Do You Have It Together?

I don't. I have been trying to get it together for a long time, but I don't think I ever will. I don't know how people manage to have children they have to care for, plus jobs and other full schedules, on top of running their own lives. I can barely manage my own simple tasks.

I am a perfectionist. In my head. I have been somehow trying to translate it to reality for years, but it doesn't work. I plan to be thin- it doesn't happen. I make budgets- and never look at them again. I spend hours working on planning my schedule- and then I decide the next day that I don't want to do what I planned and chuck the whole thing to do whatever happens to be in my head at the time.

Part of the problem with this lately is that I am not getting my writing done. I have so many ideas and things I want to be working on, but I don't have the time, and when I do, I end up either wasting it or spending it "organizing."

I mean, how many things can I possibly do in one day? I have to work most days. Then there are personal things which I desperately need to do every day, such as spending time with God, exercising, returning messages, prepping for work the next day, and numerous little things that add up to time- lots of time every day. When does it leave time to write and practice guitar, which I have become more serious about lately? It makes for a frustrating life as an artist when you don't get to do your art.

And what about a social life? I want one. I really do. I would love to get married again one day- as long as it's the right one. But right now I feel guilty when I spend time with people in a social situation because it's taking away from my "artistic" time. Seriously, I just don't understand how people live the lives they do.

Maybe someday things will change, and I try to stay positive most of the time. I thank God for the job I have and where I get to live and the apartment I have. I just needed to vent. Thanks for letting me!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Writer's Hokey Pokey

To be sung to the tune of Hokey Pokey:

You put the prologue in,
You take the prologue out,
You put the prologue in
And you fill yourself with doubt.
Do the writer's Hokey Pokey
As you drag the words around.
That's what writing's all about.

So...can you tell I'm having prologue issues this week?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Varying Your Pace

I've been hearing the phrase "interval training" for awhile now, but didn't know anything about it. I've been faithful for years to go for a nice brisk walk at least three times a week, and that was enough to keep me in shape. Plus I enjoy it, so why tamper with a good thing?

Then the Big 5-0 rolled around, and my body started to change in mysterious ways. I decided if I didn't take action, I'd be rolling around instead of walking, myself.

So, for the first time in years, I've started an official diet. I'm trying out the South Beach Diet online, and one of their newsletters mentioned the benefits of combining interval training with walking. They suggested twenty minutes every other day, in which you walk at a nice, comfortable pace for four minutes, then go really high-intensity for one minute. You repeat that cycle four times.

I love it! I feel that I'm getting so much out of that twenty minutes, and the time just zips by because the exercise is broken into manageable pieces. During that one minute, I can hardly breathe but that's okay, because I know it will be over soon. Then I slow down and enjoy. The next four minutes fly by, and before you know it, I'm back home and feeling great.

There's got to be a life metaphor in there, right? This is probably one of those things you could twist around to mean whatever you like. I choose to look at it in a positive light. Yes, there are times when I don't seem to get much writing or "art" done, but I'm still moving. Then there's the intense time, when I seem to be flying along, heart pumping, excited--full of ideas, turning out those pages.

But I can't maintain that. I have to slow down. That word count that was going to be constant and every day falls by the wayside. But I'm still moving. And there's another intense time coming.

And maybe that's okay, after all.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Benjamin Button Review, Part II

So, where did it go wrong? If you missed the first part of this review, you should know that I loved the first part of this movie- probably about a third of it, as it is a long film. But then The Curious Case of Benjamin Button took a turn, and I have been trying to put my finger on exactly why the last part did not work. The answer, I believe, is that there are several reasons!

First, the writing...Maybe the writer thought the concept itself was interesting enough to carry this short-story-turned-loooonnnngggg-screenplay, but it wasn't. Like anything, without a strong story, it suffers. Things do happen in Benjamin's life along the way, things which should and could be interesting, but for some reason they aren't. He had a lifelong deep love with a woman, played by Cate Blanchett, and I didn't care. He went to war and worked on a boat, and I didn't care. He had a child, and I didn't care.

One of my problems with the story is that the viewer is robbed of the pleasure of discovery. Why write a story about someone so extraordinary if no one, beyond his father and foster mother initially, ever seems to find it strange that he gets younger instead of older. I love discovery scenes. I was left sorely wanting.

A friend of mine said it was a regurgitated version of Forrest Gump, and I have to agree that there are similarities, mainly in tone. The two movies feel the same. Also, they are both about extraordinary boys who live interesting lives in spite of what others see as their handicaps. But BB's is not nearly as interesting, in my opinion, as Forrest's. This leads me to character development, which also goes to poor writing.

Story is important, but when we don't care about characters, who cares what happens to them? I think this was a major part of the problem. Looking at FG again in comparison, we can see strong character development in Forrest and Ginny from an early age. They BOTH face great obstacles. In fact, I would venture that Ginny faces more trouble than Forrest, many either of her own making or as a result of her abuse growing up. We care about both of these characters, and we feel what happens to them, both the good and the bad.

In BB, Cate B's character, Daisy, is one-dimensional. She is a beautiful dancer. She shows up every few years and eventually she and Benjamin do get together and then split up, and that's about it. We have no idea of who she is outside of the knowledge of her as a dancer and someone who likes Benjamin. Usually, I LOVE Cate Blanchett. She is one of my favorite actresses, but somehow, she could not make this one work.

Thus, we have our second problem...the acting. I mentioned in Part I of this review my opinion that Brad Pitt does excellently as his first incarnation of BB, when he is a really old, small man, with a little boy's mind. He is subdued, but you can see the twinkle of youth in his eye. It really was great. But I have a MAJOR CORRECTION to make here to the first blog- even though he looks a lot like Brad in the face, IT IS NOT HIM IN THE FIRST PART OF THE MOVIE. You may be thinking this should have been obvious since he was so small during this segment, but they made the hobbits in Lord of the Rings look much shorter than they were! The actor with the convincing twinkle was actually, according to, Peter Donald Badalamenti II. Sorry for not doing this research sooner! I knew something wasn't right there!

When Brad took over the role, I believe he tried to show us his version of growing up, which was just to grow dull. He lost the twinkle of youth created by his predecessor, and with it went his personality. He shows very little emotion during his adulthood.

There was also no chemistry between Pitt and Blanchett. I have a suspicion that Angelina Jolie was hanging out on the set scaring the blazes out of them. This is something the director (third problem) should have caught in casting, but he also should have pulled better acting out of these guys. I mean, the last part of this movie was a perfect storm of bad choices, but better acting and chemistry between the principals could have saved it partly.

Good things? Make-up, atmosphere, the old people in the home (one of whom is always telling about his seven instances of being struck by lightning), and nice performances from Taraji P. Henson, who played Benjamin's adoptive mother, Jared Harris as Captain Mike, and Badalamenti.

Melanie, one of our faithful readers, commented on the last review, asking how could a story with this premise end well? My answer is that it can end as well as any story about a person's life from beginning to end, but it should have given us a reason to care about the stuff in between. I like to joke that the movie ends when he becomes an atom and then splits and explodes, but that footage ended up being cut. Actually, it ends by randomly tying in Hurricane Katrina. We see the flood waters rising at the train station, and we are shown the basement, where the old clock still resides. Not, I imagine, the original intent of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What's This Business with Benjamin Button?

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I finally got to see this movie a couple nights ago, and I felt it deserved some reflection and commentary. As most of you probably know by now, the story is about a baby born as a tiny old man, and as he grows, he gets younger. It is based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The story starts with a lot of promise. In fact, I loved the first third of the movie. It was long, a little over 2 1/2 hours, I believe. There is this fascinating opening sequence about a clockmaker during WWI who loses his son in the war. He is supposed to make a clock for the new trainstation in the town, and even Teddy Roosevelt comes to see the unveiling. When the clock is revealed, it is shown that it runs backward. He says this is because he wishes that all of the boys who died in the war could be safe again. And then he rows out to sea and is never seen again.

The clockmaker is never mentioned again, but I believe we are supposed to think the clock has something to do with the birth of Benjamin. It is a really sweet story at the beginning. Benjamin's mother dies in childbirth and his father is so horrified by him that he takes him away, planning to throw him in the lake (Lake Ponchetrain, I guess- it's set in New Orleans). He finally leaves him on the steps of an old age home, and a black woman who works there takes him in and raises him as her own child.

The first third of the movie works on every level for me. The story is great and the acting is on point. It is a beautiful thing to see the acceptance of Benjamin into this world of people who are in their last stages of life. They all think Benjamin is going to die soon, but instead he keeps getting stronger. Also, the acceptance of him by his adopted mother is lovely. She believes he should have life because he is one of God's children. Even Brad Pitt's acting, which I have never thought was particularly strong, especially in dramas, is really good during this part of the movie. Here, BB has the mind of a child in an old man's body, and Brad Pitt really seems to capture the childlike innocence and mischief of a ten year old boy.

After that, though, the movie takes a turn for the worse. Stay tuned for the rest of this review...

Monday, August 3, 2009

To Wait or To Act

If you used to read my other blog, you know I've thought and read a lot about waiting. Waiting for something you want. Waiting to fulfill your dreams. Waiting upon the Lord. Especially in today's fast-paced world, it's a hard thing to do. Even figuring out how to do it can be difficult, which seems a bit odd. After all, waiting means doing nothing, right? Just...waiting.

Well, sometimes. Sometimes not.

Yesterday's sermon at my church really hit home on this topic. Our assistant pastor, Eric, preached from I Samuel 13 and 14. Saul, the king of Israel, is leading a battle against the Philistines and has been told to wait for the prophet Samuel to come and offer a sacrifice before taking any action. So in this case, waiting means just that--do nothing.

But Samuel doesn't show up. Saul fidgets, he worries. They're squeezed on either side and outnumbered by the enemy, and his troops are deserting. He wonders what he should do. Finally, he decides that he has to do something. He's the king of Israel. He can't just sit there. So he offers the sacrifice, himself.

It's a big mistake. Samuel does show up, and tells him that because of his disobedience, God will not establish his dynasty, but will allow Saul's throne to pass to someone else.

In the meantime, Saul's son, Jonathan, has also been chafing at doing nothing, but his attitude is different. “'Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,' Jonathan said to his armor bearer. 'Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!'”

Jonathan doesn't so much want to take control. He wants to see what the Lord wants to do. He's willing to take a few steps and see if the Lord tells him to stop or go further. Once they're close to the Philistines, he tells the men who have gone with him that he's going to call out to the enemy soldiers. If the soldiers goad them to come up and fight, he will know that God wants them to proceed and will give them the victory. If not, he'll know he's acting in his own power and should stop.

The Philistines challenge him to come up, they proceed, and God gives them a victory in an amazing way--something they could not have done themselves.

I needed to hear this message right about now. I know I'm feeling weak and discouraged because I'm trying to take control. The voices all around me tell me to act, plan, work, accomplish. I'm floundering around in my own strength, and I've got the stress and jangled nerves to show for it, but not much else.

As Pastor Eric said, sometimes God wants us to just rest. Sometimes he wants us to put ourselves in position, so he can use us if he wants to.

My thought is that he wants us to take just a few steps, rest, and ask again.