Archive for the ‘#bloghop’ Tag

Deck the Halls!   4 comments

Ah, Christmas! The Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve season is bright shiny lights, twinkling tinsel, parties and feasts and gift buying galore.

When our children were little we had Thanksgiving, followed by an anniversary, St. Lucia’s Day, two birthdays, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. One year, I counted 27 different celebratory get-togethers that one or more of the family attended.

Nuts, right?

Image result for image of autumn inspired christmas decorationsSo  how did we de-lunacize our holiday experience?

November 13, 2017 – As the holidays begin rolling in, what do you do to prepare your house, yourself and your family for the hectic days ahead?

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Something had to give and it started giving that year.

I now buy Christmas gifts in September or even earlier. I avoid Black Friday altogether and, right there, take a lot of stress out of my life.

My favorite season is autumn, so I decorate my house for the season with autumnal colors – leaf swags, floral arrangements, a basket of fake gourds, the emergency lanterns that have a practical artistry. From Labor Day through Thanksgiving, our house is a veritable fall scene — and it will be again after New Years.

I make a huge meal for Thanksgiving and on the Friday, we swap out the autumn decorations for Christmas decor while eating leftovers. We put up and decorate the natural-look fake tree (don’t laugh, they don’t burn your house down so easily). We swap the swags, wreaths and floral arrangements and I pose my St. Nicholas figurine collection on the radiator shelf under the front window. A former supervisor used to give me one of these every Christmas and so I have a historical retrospective of St. Nicholas’ evolution from Turkish monk struggling through snows with a backpack to  a jolly Santa delivering a sleigh full of toys. We also put out a Nativity scene. Our 18-year-old son is going on 15 years of picking where the Wise Men start their journey (they weren’t at the stable there when Jesus was born). They’ll move closer as Christmas approaches and reach their final destination on Boxing Day (December 26 for Americans). We’ll take the decorations down New Years Day.

We really don’t do much with the outside of the house because Fairbanks has true winter and it’s usually been deep winter for a month by Thanksgiving. Before our crab apple tree got so large, Brad would throw a light-net over it, but about three years ago, the tree suddenly got too tall to do that without a huge ladder, so we agreed to stop. We’ve talked about doing a plywood cutout Nativity scene, but we haven’t planned it yet.

Saturday after Thanksgiving, I’ll pull everything out of the fridge so I can clean the thing top to bottom. Brad will scrub the counter and clean up the broiler pans and other serving items to be ready for Christmas. And, then … nowadays, we sort of relax.  We still have the anniversary and two birthdays but the kids do their own planning now and we don’t sweat it. Maybe we’ll go to a Christmas party or the local production of the Nutcracker. We might participate in our church’s pageant. They’re always looking for narrators and last year, I helped with writing the narrative.

My brother will probably come over for Christmas Eve. Our mother was born on Christmas Day, so we have traditionally celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve since as far back as I can remember. If he comes to our house, we’ll eat leftovers for Christmas Day. If we go to his house, I’ll make Christmas dinner. But, as with Thanksgiving, I don’t really sweat the meal. Turkeys are easy and I was raised in a restaurant. My parents taught me all sorts of cool tricks for making a big meal come out all at the same time without stressing myself out. Christmas Day is a time of relaxation and introspection for us … a spiritually focused day.

Mainly, how we prepare ourselves for the season is by reminding ourselves that we don’t have to get sucked into all the insanity of high expectations and frenetic activity. We concentrate on home and hearth and we have pared down activities to only those needed for the family or church.

 

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Posted November 13, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Cai Delaney Speaks   Leave a comment

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November 6, 2017 Open Book Blog Hop

Pick a character from one of your books and interview him or her.

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Welcome to the blog. My guest character today is Malacai Delaney from Transformation Project. Thank you for stepping out of the pages of my books and into our world for a brief moment. Tell us something about yourself.

Life As We Knew It (Transformation Project Book 1) by [Markham, Lela]Hi, Most people call me Cai. I don’t know that I’m all that interesting, but I’m willing to talk to you because you are my creator and I’m curious.

I wrote your character to be an intensely spiritual person who is curious about God. As authors are, more or less, the gods of their fictional universes, it makes sense that you would be curious about me. But this interview is about you. Where are you from?

Emmaus, Kansas, which is a community of about 5,000 people in northwest Kansas, just off I70. You know, mainstream, middle America. The most exciting thing we usually have is driving to the State Fair in Hutchinson and maybe drinking a beer in a corn field, round a bonfire after the harvest.

Life as We Knew It available on Amazon

How long have you lived there?

Pretty much my entire life. My father was born and raised there. The family goes back more than 100 years and lived at the old townsite of Jericho Springs before it was relocated to Emmaus for the railroad. Dad was in the military, so I was born in Seattle where my mom is from, but he retired when I was two and went to work for my grandfather at his feed store. I lived in Lawrence for several years through college and grad school.

Was it your intention to live in Emmaus after you got your law degree?

No. Actually, I sort of wanted to move to Kansas City, Wichita, Denver, but my wife – my girlfriend at the time — was offered a job at Emmaus Clinic, working with her mentor Dr. Vashon, so I changed my plans. It’s worked out. The City attorney of Emmaus retired and the City Council accepted my application. I’ve picked up some extra work with Mara Wells — a nearby town that is important to the Transformation Project — and Beulah County. Plus we’re living with my parents, who have a huge house, and that’s allowing us to pay down our student loans.

Do you wonder what happens to your debts in the current situation?

I think I still owe them. I spent the money, after all. Working three jobs — four with Marnie’s job — and living at my parents’ house makes more sense to me than my brother’s way of dealing with student debt. I still don’t know how I feel about what Shane’s been doing the last few years.

Conflicted?

Definitely. My feelings about Shane would be conflicted anyway, I guess, but … I just can’t imagine him as a mercenary, even though I’ve seen him in action.

I tried to interview him, but he’s pretty taciturn.

He’s always been a private person. These days, he’s very closed-up. Something’s going on behind that facade, but he isn’t letting any of us in.

So why’d you go to Wichita and leave him as your dad’s only deputy? Sounds like a cooler head might be needed.

Image result for image of objects in view markhamHe’s not the only deputy. Dad’s got Grandpa Jacob and Joe Kelly really ought to be in charge. He was a deputy before. He’s got training and a more even personality than Shane. But, fact was, I thought I’d be more use going with Ren Sullivan to advocate for the town. I’m a lawyer, not a cop. I didn’t expect things to slide sideways on me.

Do you kind of wish that Shane had come with you now?

That feeling comes and goes. I’m a 30-year-old man. I’ve spent more than half a decade living as an adult in Lawrence. I shouldn’t need Shane or anyone else to hold my hand, but his skills would be nice right about now.

Objects in View available on Amazon

What’s going on right about now?

That’s a long story. The night of the bombs, I’d just left Denver and I got stuck in a traffic jam near Kanorado. Shane knew the military was planning to kill all the people in the containment zone because of the radiation risk, so he came to get me. That was … wow! For as much as we fought when we were kids and even as adults … that he would do what he did to save me … I really need to rethink our relationship. (shrugs and sighs).

I guess the military was still looking for us. When I was in Wichita, the military tried to detain me, but I ran. I dove into a river to get away from the drones and soldiers chasing me. I climbed into a culvert and now I’m waiting to see what happens. So far, no humans have followed up searching for me. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow when the third book in the series comes out whether I’m still alive. Since you started Objects in View by killing over a hundred Emmaus residents, some of them named characters, I’m not real hopeful.

You’re talking to me so as not to piss off the person with control over your fate?

(Laughs nervously) Something like that.

I only kill characters if they stop talking to me, so that’s a good strategy. So, you think maybe someone with Shane’s skills could rescue you?

The guy I met at the Kanorado line sure could, yes.

Are you scared of what happens if they find you?

Image result for image of a threatening fragility markhamVery much so. Shane shot two National Guardsmen. He deliberately shot their body armor, but that’s still attempted murder and this is the military — so I think it’s probably treason. But they had summarily decided my fate without a trial, so I’m … there’s that word again – conflicted. I’m not sure what the charge is if you’re the one who was being rescued.

You’re a lawyer and you don’t know?

Not my field of expertise. Of course, neither is municipal law and I’ve been teaching myself that for the last year.

A Threatening Fragility available on Amazon

Do you have any hope?

Of course, I do. My faith gives me hope in all things. I just don’t know where rescue is coming from. I’m cold, damp, dirty and scared and I want to go home to my wife, take a shower and sleep for a week. (Pauses) Now that look on your face is making me nervous. You don’t have home and showers planned for my future, do you?

It makes a much better story if you have adventures. A Threatening Fragility comes out tomorrow and readers can find out what I’ve got planned. I’ll let you go, Cai. I hope you can get some sleep in this culvert. We’ll see you in the morning … if you survive.

LOOK FOR “A THREATENING FRAGILITY” ON AMAZON AND CREATESPACE TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2017

LELA MARKHAM

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Whence Did My Muse Wander?   4 comments

Inspiration. Where do you get your inspiration for writing? When you’re running low on ideas or creative flow, how do you get your inspiration back?

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My inspiration comes from life and the news and, sometimes other authors. It depends on the genre and my mood at the time.

Image result for image of literary inspirationFor example, Transformation Project is largely inspired by the news. It’s sort of bleak out there in divided American these days, which just begs for someone to write an apocalyptic about people overcoming the mess created by the demon spawn of division and tyranny. Rather than fuss overmuch about the Resistance, the Revolutionary Communist Party of America and Black Lives Matters planning a series of “color revolution-like” demonstrations around the US during the month of November, I choose to write about Kansas farmers hiding corn from off-the-lease USDA agents who mean to take what these farmers grew and give it to people in the cities. Which is worst – reality or fiction? The reader gets to decide, I guess.

My fantasy series is inspired, really, by my admiration for a whole lot of other fantasy writers and a love of medieval and Celtic history and culture.  Maybe there’s a desire to get away from our overly-technological society, to slow things down to the pace of a horse. You can dead with issues in a fantasy setting that would just plain sound strange in a contemporary setting. Jazz in Transformation Project can certainly be equal to a man when she has a gun, but Ryanna in Daermad Cycle, as a female half-elf is nearly as strong as a human man. She can sword-fight a male and, with superior skill, best him. So questions about strength and equality can be tweaked because of that differing dynamic.

Other stories are inspired by life events. Yet-to-be published “What If Wasn’t” is largely drawn from the experiences of a friend of ours who spent time in prison and then tried to make a normal life for himself when he got out. My book is not his story — that would be an invasion of his privacy — but his stories are threaded throughout the novel.  A YA I’m working on started from a story someone else told me that I changed and developed into something that is quite different from the original true story. I’m also working on another story that is based on a shooting here in Alaska, but my story is not about that particular shooting. I’ve fictionalized it.

Related imageSo, what do I do when “my muse” stops talking to me? That rarely happens because I shift around from project to project to keep myself from getting bored. BUT … when I find myself staring at a blank screen with nothing coming to mind and that lasts more than a day, I usually take a small break. I go hiking in the woods … design and construct a quilt … read a bunch of books. I once binge-watched three seasons of Vampire Dairies … and, no, I’m not a fan and I don’t write supernatural fiction, but apparently that month of wasted time was what was needed to get my inspiration back.

My goal is to distract myself, but only temporarily. While I’m distracting myself, some world leader says or does something that gets my interest. A friend forwards me an article on economics, history or political anarchy. I read a book on medieval marriage laws. Maybe I hike by a wonderful lake that just insists upon being described. I overhear a conversation in the coffee shoppe that just begs to be recorded. I hear a song or read a poem that just speaks to something deep in my soul.

Some time in that process of letting my mind rest for a few days or weeks, the voices return and offer to tell me more of their stories. Inspiration returns. They weren’t gone. They were just taking a siesta and are now ready to give me something to write once more.

 

Cold Weather Prepping   4 comments

October 23, 2017 – How to post. Pick something and explain how to do it. It can be writing related, craft related, garden related – just share how you do it.

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I thought long and hard about this post and finally decided not to share a craft or something writing related and my garden has been frozen for a few weeks at least. Which is kind of my point. So I decided to post on preparing for winter.

Alaska has really COLD weather, so we actually have a season for prepping for it. Pretty much everything stops right after moose season while we turn toward getting our houses and cars ready for winter. Our cars especially need some TLC to be ready for the icebox.

Image result for image of head bolt heater cordOur garage was built by people who apparently owned toy cars. We can pull in, but we can’t open the doors of either car … and heating our garage would be prohibitively expensive because it was incorrectly insulated, so … well, it’s an unheated attached tool shed that we can, if needed, pull a car into if we are prepared to climb out of the trunk to exit the car.

First order of business? Change the oil. You can, of course, do this at Jiffy Lube, but I like knowing it’s done right, so we usually do it ourselves. We have a special tub for catching the oil (and our local solid waste collection site accepts fluids like oil.) We buy a new filter, five quarts of 5W30-50 (depends on the car; we use 10W whatever in the summer) and a replacement fuel filter. While we’re changing the oil, we check to make sure all the lights are working and that the battery is doing well. Being an electrician, Brad has meters for that. We also check the coolant in the radiator, which also requires a meter. While most people can get away with premixed coolant, here in Alaska we have to make sure the antifreeze can go down to at least 40 below, so we usually mix it ourselves. We check our tire treads in the spring to give us time to buy new tires if needed, but we check them again now just to be compulsive. This year we have a tire that needs repair as it has a slow leak. That could easily become a big leak as the cold hardens the rubber in the tires.

Then we check the engine heating devices. Because it gets so cold here, whenever your car is parked, you have to plug it into a headbolt heater. Mechanics insert a heating element into the engine through the headbolt. We also warm our oil pans with a glue-on heating pad. While not absolutely necessary, it can be helpful to also put the battery on a battery-warming plate. (I am personally not a fan of battery blankets, probably because my stepfather the mechanic had no use for them).

These devices usually run to a central cord that hangs out of the grill of the car. You plug it into an extension cord that runs to an outside outlet that, ideally, is connected to a timer so that it only comes on for a couple of hours before you leave. Ours comes on at 5 am. We also have an override so we can give the cars some heat before going to pick up kids in the evening. Of course, we have two of these timed plugins because we have two cars. At one time, we had three cars, so one person had to plug in inside the garage – by running a cord under the door and actually get up two hours before departure to manually plug her car into that outlet. She was young and overslept a lot, so her mom often did it for her.

To check the headbolt apparatus, I plug in the car when it’s still warm outside and check to see if the engine compartment gets warm within a half-hour. If it does, we’re probably good to go. Brad checks the industrial Arctic-grade extension cords for cracks annually and replaces the ends about once every two years. We check the timers to make sure they’re working, still keeping time, etc. We run the 20-foot extension cords behind the garbage cans because, should we forget to unplug the car, the cans will fall over as the extension cords uncoil. This acts as a warning that prevents us from dragging the cords down the street — which often results in destroying the cords, or in getting them wrapped around an axle, which can seriously damage the car.

A final step in prepping the engine involves wiring a piece of cardboard to the backside of the grill, blocking about three-quarters of the airflow. This keeps the engine from being too cold, allowing the interior heater to actually warm us up. Brad’s Jeep has a bra, but my car needs the cardboard.

We squirt graphite-based deicer in the locks, clean the windows, smear this anti-fog stuff on the inside to try to prevent frosting (it’s debatable if that actually works), cover the backseat with a blanket so the dog can enjoy car rides without getting frost-bitten, fill an auxiliary gas can with gas and put it in the trunk along with some survival gear (most especially jumper cables) and a couple of bottles of oil. We move the ice scraper with attached brush from the trunk to the back seat (we’re going to need it).

Starting right about now (mid-October), we’ll warm the car for about a half-hour before starting the engine and then we’ll let it run for a couple of minutes before backing out of the driveway. When true winter (defined as colder than 0 F) arrives (around Thanksgiving, but sometimes as early as Halloween), we’ll warm it for an hour and run it for five minutes before departure. When it drops to 20 below, we go to an hour-and-half or two hours of warming. I only usually let the car warm up for five or 10 minutes, although there are people who let their cars run until they’re warm inside. That wastes a lot of fuel, I am not convinced it is easier on the engine, and it sure adds a lot of pollutants to our atmosphere. I also wear clothes that suit the weather.

When I get to work, there is another extension cord waiting for me to plug into because that’s what’s needed to keep the car going around here. Brad carries one with him in his vehicle so that he can use clients’ plugins so his vehicle doesn’t freeze when he’s inside. It’s not uncommon when you visit friends for them to tell you where the extra plugin is, but if they don’t have one, you have to go outside about every two hours to run the car for a few minutes (10, 15) to keep the oil loose. There is a big move here to encourage employers and businesses to provide outlets. That would be nice for those times when you go to the movies or out to eat and you know you have to take care of the car every two hours or pay the consequences.

So, there you go. One piece of a larger puzzle for winter time prep here in Alaska.

Quality Improvements   3 comments

October 16, 2017 – Things you want to see change in your industry.

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This is a hard post for me because I don’t consider myself to be much of a prophet and I subscribe to the “be careful what you wish for” philosophy of life. “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched” and “I really didn’t mean THAT” are cautionary for a reason.

So what changes would I “want” to see in my industry?

Oh, boy!

Related imageHigher quality books by independent authors would make my #1 spot on the list. Conversely, I’d like to see all the “quality doesn’t matter” crowd take an extended vacation. Go edit your books and learn how to format and come back in a year. That should leave the minority slice of the indie field free to really surprise people with the quality of our books. I don’t fear competition from high quality books. I fear being lost in a sea of poor quality, so that it is hard to break the surface and shine forth as a truly worthwhile author.

More collaborative marketing efforts. I don’t know how that would work itself out and there are certainly authors doing that now with bundles, freebies, samplers and collaborative ads. I’m always willing to cross-promote on my blog. I think there is power in numbers, especially for people who have limited advertising budgets. I am not a great idea person in the marketing arena, but I would certainly join with authors who wanted to do something. I just wish it were easier to connect and the quality was high enough that you could be assured of a good showing.

A reduction in social media. I’ve never been a social media warrior. I feel the huge time suck. Unfortunately, because everybody else is doing it, I sort of have to … but I think that social media mania may be waning. I hear of some authors reducing their social accounts. I see that as a good sign. Right now, we’re all shouting into the echo chamber and canceling each other out. Surely there is a better way to do this. What? I don’t know. Someone make a suggestion.

Getting away from paid review services. As a reader, I’ve never trusted them. An author/publisher paid for those glowing kudos. I’ve never bought a book on the recommendation of Publishers Weekly and I never will. I do, however, check out what readers have to say about the book.

Authors getting real about time lines. There are tons of books being published daily, so nobody should expect to be on the Times Best Sellers list two days later. Our books may sell well, eventually, but it’s going to be a more long haul affairs with a lot of work before it happens. Spend your budget dollars wisely. Don’t blow it all in the first week. Plan for the long haul. The converse of this is that advertising venues might want to come down on their prices a bit because it will now take two, three or four ads to get the same sales as one used to garner.

I’d love to see online editing tools for published ebooks, so typos can be fixed without having to re-upload files.

How about a place for matching writers with cover artists, editors, beta readers, and formatters?

The book discovery process could be refined. Amazon recommends titles once you have a buying history with them, but I remember the old days of accidentally discovering a great book while browsing the stacks of the local bookstore. Surely, something could be created to mimic that in the digital universe.

I want to see new genres. I’m not saying let’s get rid of the old genres, but that more choice is a good thing. I’m old enough to remember when fantasy was grouped with science fiction and marketed as science fiction because the Big 5 thought they had to trick people into reading fantasy. Now, it’s a standalone genre that has several subcategories.

I think that’s about it. No, I’m not offering any solutions to how we achieve these improvements. I think Amazon probably has some IT guys who can work on some of it.

Posted October 16, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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What Tools Do I Use?   4 comments

October 9, 2017 – My favorite business resources.

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“Real” businesses have resources and business plans. For my husband’s maintenance company, the resources are, largely, his skills and licensing, his truck, and a Google ad. He asks me to do flyers for him occasionally and he has his business card pinned in places where people might be looking for companies that do maintenance. Above all, he tries to treat his existing customers well so they will keep calling him and let their friends know that he does good work.

Image result for image of writers resourcesA lot of people feel authors are not “real” businesses. I struggle with this concept too, because although my books (mostly) pay for themselves, I’m investing my own money in getting them going. Still, I am a business … or my books are. What resources do I have and use and which are my favorites?

First, there are the resources I really can’t stand. Twitter. Ugh! But it does sell books, so …. I am marginally less turned off by Facebook, but …. It’s not that I hate the people I interact with on social media. I actually enjoy interacting with fans and friends when there is interaction. It’s that I hate the time sucks both represent. But they are necessary for marketing books in this day and age, so ….

Amazon is probably my most useful resource. KDP allows some promotion and, hey, self-publishing is the greatest resource an independent author has. I try to ignore the exclusivity required of KDP. I would like to be all over the self-publishing spectrum, but I’ve discovered it is harder to sell books that way than it is to be exclusive to KDP. If I ever have a book that doesn’t sell through Amazon though ….

Anthologies are a great resource. Rather than look at them as time sucks and distractions, I see them as marketing tools. Write a short story, get it accepted into an anthology and sometimes other authors’ fans will discover you next to their favorite author and now you’ve made a few new fans who might come buy your full length books.

Thunderclap.it – I don’t have a big advertising budget. I have to do it myself with limited funds. I’ve built my social media network up to 18,000 now, but with Thunderclap.it, I can borrow the social media networks of hundreds of other authors and market my books to many, many more potential readers than I can alone. All it requires is that — ugh — time-sucking interaction. But it’s worth it.

My local writer’s guild. I get great ideas from them because some of the writers there have been self-publishing for decades and know a thing or two about how to market in ways I have never even thought of. And, we hold our monthly meetings in a local art gallery, so it’s a visual feast as well.

That’s probably about it. I could list a bunch of little stuff, but those are the big resources that I use.

Faith, Hope, Charity   5 comments

Talk about your favorite charity and why it’s your favorite?

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Christians are called the church ministry, giving of our time and resources to the work of the gospel. Sometimes that means helping those in need of physical assistance, but God calls us to spread His good news of salvation more than He calls us to provide food and shelter to the needy. It’s not that those things aren’t important, but that they aren’t as important as salvation, so unless a “charity” has the gospel component in it as a primary focus, I don’t contribute to it.

Image result for image of university baptist church fairbanks alaskaYes, the Red Cross, United Way, and other charities do good work at what they do, but they aren’t doing what God has commanded Christians to do, so I put my resources where God says they will do the most good. There are plenty of other people to provide “rice” to those in need while ignoring the more important issue of salvation and evangelism.

The primary recipient of my limited charitable-giving funds is University Baptist Church in Fairbanks, Alaska. It’s a Great Commission Baptist church, part of the Southern Baptist Convention. Being in Alaska, it’s been “fun” (not) all these decades to try to explain the geography of being a member of an Southern Baptist church. We’re Southern Baptist, but only a handful of the members have ever lived in the South. Our pastor is from Oklahoma. One of our deacons was born in Mississippi. That’s as close to “southern” that we get. So saying we’re a Great Commission Baptist church just geographically makes more sense. Besides “Great Commission Baptist” puts the emphasis where it ought to be — on the mission Jesus gave His disciples … to spread the gospel.

Image result for image of university baptist church fairbanks alaska*Although this article includes photographs of UBC church members, in keeping with my promise not to invade my family’s privacy, they were taken from the church website and none of them include me or mine.

Brad and I combine our 10% of our net income with the 200+ members of UBC. Some of that money stays in the congregation. Our building is paid for and we are a debt-free congregation, but of course, light bills must be paid and you have to heat buildings in Alaska. Our building is also home to a Chinese congregation. There’s Sunday school materials and children and youth ministries and we have a thriving College and Careers group. Some of our young people are returning to the small-group concept of mid-weekly Bible study and prayer, probably in people’s homes. We’re on the list, though we study with another Sunday morning class. I’ve recently stepped out to teach the teenagers during a mid-weekly time. We’ll be starting that soon. But, of course, there are “rice” ministries that exist and our church gives standing contributions to the local Food Bank and also the Rescue Mission. We also host one of the distribution points for the Food Bank.

Image result for image of university baptist church fairbanks alaskaThe Southern Baptist Convention has a great system for charitable giving. It’s called the Cooperative Program. Churches required to give at least 1% of their offerings to CP in order to send delegates to the Convention. Our church gives more than that, but churches across the nation give a percentage of their offerings to CP and it is distributed to ministry needs across the world – some local, some statewide, some national and some international. I know local SB/GC churches that receive pastoral assistance and ministry stipends through CP. The Alaska Baptist Convention is supported by CP. A lot of urban church starts are funding through CP funds. Churches teach English and citizenship to the foreign-born, provide assistance to the homeless, help pregant teens, and many other ministries, depending on what God has laid on the hearts of that congregation. Southern Baptist relief workers are on the ground doing a lot of heavy lifting in Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico right now. I know several agricultural and medical missions internationally that are funded through CP. My friend Sylvia’s parents were part of a mission to Aborigines in Australia, a ministry that continues today under Aborigine leadership. The CP funds also support state, local, national and international offices that help to assist these multiple ministry avenues and coordinate resources going to them.

Additionally, we have four special offerings during the year. Because of the steady flow of CP funds, special offering monies are used in direct ministry rather than administrative costs. So 98% of any offering will go directly to ministry rather than salaries or overhead.

Image result for image of university baptist church fairbanks alaskaThis time of year, we do the Valeria Sherard State Missions offering, which goes in support of ministries within Alaska. The $80,000 they hope to raise ends up in some mighty diverse places. Almost as soon as the Valeria Sherard offering closes, we’ll start focusing on the Lottie Moon Christmas offering which goes to International missions. And then there’s the Annie Armstrong Easter offering in the spring, which is used within the United States and Canada with some overlap into Mexico. Finally, the Tanana Valley Association has the summer Harley and Martha Shields offering which goes to support local ministries. For the record, I knew Valeria (pronounced Valera) Sherard and Harley and Martha Shield. Martha led my daughter to the Lord in Vacation Bible School.

Additionally, the North American Mission Board (NAMB is one of the SBC’s arms) made it easy to give to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief to support the cleanup of Harvey, Irma and Marie. Brad spent two weeks after Sandy reconnecting houses to the utilities. I reroofed houses in Appalachia after a big storm there several years ago. (Yeah, you never know what sort of skills this Alaska chick might possess).

Image result for image of university baptist church fairbanks alaskaOccasionally, if we can afford some extra, Brad and I will give donations to Samaritan’s Purse  — we do a Christmas shoebox most years, but we also give cash donations when we can afford it — and my personal happy donation is Heifer International, which provides (mostly) goats to third-world families so they can increase the protein through milk in their diets and, for some, sell milk and cheese to improve their economic conditions. Founded in 1944, Heifer International provides livestock, seeds, trees and extensive training to those in need around the world. The idea is to provide aid that will replicate itself.

All of these charities have three things in common. First, foremost and beyond anything else – the focus in on the gospel. The “rice”nature of the ministry is in support of evangelism, not the other way around. Second, they also all score comparatively well on the administrative versus ministry balance scale. When I see an organization spending tons of money on director salaries and nice office space, I don’t consider them to be a charity. They are a jobs program for people who like to look like they care. So, I give my money carefully to organizations that meet high standards. Yeah, you have to make a living while doing ministry. I don’t have a problem with paying people. But the standard should be modest salaries compared to donations, a lot of volunteers and bivocational workers, and modest office spaces. Administration should always be a minority slice of expenditures, so that food, materials and ministry flow to those who need it rather than to professional “ministers”. Third, their aim is to provide material assistance that moves people out of needing material assistance in the future. That’s why Heifer International is my favorite occasional charity because by providing goats, seeds, chickens, trees, and training, they give people the tools they need to become self-sustaining.

Give a hungry man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he eats for a lifetime.  Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie

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