Thursday, September 11, 2014

We Shall Never Forget

The following is a story I wrote in 2010 as a FaithWriters Weekly Challenge entry. It's my story about 9/11.

TITLE: I Was There!
By Leola Ogle
11/14/10


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It was a pleasant dream! The irritating, incessant beeping was an unwanted intruder into this pleasantness. I tried to will the noise into nothingness, but it was no use. My eyes fluttered open, drawn to the sunlight peeking around the edges of the window blinds. It was September and Phoenix was still having 100 degrees days.

Groaning, I shut off the alarm, toying with the idea of sleeping another hour. Life would not end if I was late for work. Faithful to my responsibilities, I was determined get up. 

I glanced at the emptiness of the bed, glad that my husband would return in a few days. I never slept well when he was gone. He was in Argentina attending an international revival conference with the leadership of our church. Although grateful for how God was touching their hearts, I would still be relieved to have him home.

Turning the television to the morning news, I reluctantly made my way to stand before the bathroom mirror. I must have left the pretty, young me asleep on the bed because I wasn’t sure who that tired, older woman in the mirror was. Leaning closer, I asked “Who are you?” Strange, her lips moved with mine. Pointing at her, I said “We better get it moving.”

Clutching my hairbrush, my hand stopped in midair. Did someone just say bomb? Explosion? Airplane? The brush clattered into the sink, as I rushed to stand before the television. I saw the billowing smoke; heard the panic, shock, horror in the voice of the reporter. Was it scenes from an upcoming movie? It had to be! It seemed surreal as I watched a plane fly into the side of…what? Where was this? What building was that? 

I flew down the stair and turned on the television. It was the same scenes. Did I think the television upstairs was lying? I began switching channels. It was all the same. Someone mentioned it was an attack. Surely someone didn’t just say war! Oh, dear God, so many people running – running frantically amidst the smoke and flying debris. 

Numb with disbelief, I slowly climbed the stairs, noticing that they needed vacuuming. Vacuuming – I should do that after work. It was reality - mundane normality. This other wasn’t. 

Oh, God! Oh, God! I didn’t realize at first that I was moaning out loud, calling on the only source of help that I knew. I felt stricken, violated, paralyzed! My country, my fellow Americans! I whispered over and over “God help us!”

What was happening to America? My husband was in another country. Did the group from my church know? Of course they would know. We lived in a day of live, instant media coverage.

I drove to work, softly crying and praying, rivulets of mascara marking my anguish. I was hundreds of miles from New York, yet I was there via radio and television. I stared out my van window, unable to comprehend that nothing seemed different. 

Arriving at work, I saw the somber, shocked faces, and knew that they knew. We gathered for prayer. Our nation gathered for prayer! In ensuing days we would watch the many prayer vigils across the nation. God, we need you! We’ve always needed you, but we usually ignore you, or worse, blaspheme you. Shame on us!

My husband called at mid-morning and I burst into tears. Please come home, I begged. He told me that there were no flights out. All flights into the U.S. had been cancelled. He finally arrived home that weekend.

Mesmerized, unable to tear our eyes from the horror, we watched the never-ending news reports. I flew the American flag. I bought t-shirts. I watched the opening game of the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks. I bought the poster of the teams bowing their heads in remembrance. I cheered when the Diamondbacks won the series, but somehow felt that the Yankees should win – our gift to New York. My husband smiled compassionately, said I wasn’t a true fan.

Every year we watch the tributes and memorials. For a few years we wore our t-shirts on 9/11. Our lives returned to normal. But for thousands, life would never be normal again. So many lost their lives - many would never see a loved one again. My remembrance seems an insignificant offering in comparison.

I was home in Phoenix, Arizona on September 11, 2001, yet I was there - in New York City.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Share The Good News...and Your Books

Friends don’t let friends….go without books. I love that I have friends who think and talk books. We even share books, or make suggestions to each other about good books we’ve read.

Last week I received a book in the mail from my friend, Sande, who lives in Oklahoma. She isn’t just a friend, we’ve known each other since our teen years. Although our lives have taken different paths, we still know each other very well. However, I don’t think she knows how much I love true stories – good true stories.

The book she sent, City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell, isn’t just a true story, but it is a story about missionaries to China. Ministry is dear to my heart. I especially love missionary stories – probably because as a young girl, I felt called into ministry to be a missionary. Alas, life happened, I made some bad choices (I married at sixteen to a young man who didn’t serve God), and thought I’d never fulfill the calling on my life.

But God is faithful. His Word says in Romans 11:29 (NIV)  “For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” In 1992 I went to work for Phoenix Teen Challenge. Teen Challenge is a Home Mission Ministry under the umbrella of The Assemblies of God.
 
I am currently working on my memoirs from my nineteen years at Teen Challenge, so receiving a book like City of Tranquil Light seems especially appropriate right now. Thank you, Sande, and all my other friends who share books with me. 



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Success as a Writer? Stay Humble!

By nature, I really am shy. I’ve learned to be outgoing.  I was shy in school until I got to know someone. I was never one of the “beautiful” people in elementary school, but I always had lots of friends, got good grades, and teachers liked me.

Then along came high school. It was a huge school with over five hundred in the freshman class alone. I was a tiny fish in a large pond. Although I was a brainy kid, I’d always hung out with the average kids. In high school I was placed in all the accelerated classes for brainy kids. I was separated from my friends. My shyness and insecurities kicked in. There was a definite distinction between the popular, beautiful kids and everyone else.

She was a popular, beautiful freshman. She was running for class secretary. I didn’t know her. I was not part of her inner circle, nor would I ever be. But she started greeting me each time we passed in the halls. She’d gush, “Hi! How are you?” I was flattered.

The first time I greeted her after she won the election, she stared right through me. She never spoke to me again. *sigh* Lesson learned. She'd gotten my vote, so now I didn't exist. Sadly, this is all too common. People achieve some measure of fame, success, a position of authority, or some other notoriety, and pride creeps in.

Writers, beware. Do not let success separate you from the common folk. Be a friend to struggling writers and newbies. I can list many writers/authors I’ve become acquainted with, or crossed paths with, who are warm and kind, and genuinely care about helping others. Sometimes all it takes is a smile or hug and a “don’t give up” from you to make a difference to another writer who hasn’t “arrived” yet.

Stay humble, especially as Christian writers. If you don’t learn the beauty of true humility, God, because he loves us, has a way of helping his children be humble. It's better to work on it ourselves than having God do it for us.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Resurrecting My Creativity

Slump! In fact, a bumpy slump. I’ve been in a writing slump. Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s nothing new for most writers or artistic people in general. I’ve given myself pep talks, tried to pray my way out of it, but…..

So last week my husband, Jeff, and I were spending six glorious days in the beautiful mountains and woods outside of Prescott, Arizona. Our friends own a deluxe, luxury cabin and once a year we spend a week there so Jeff can paint – or rather, put a stain – on the exterior. And I, while he is painting, am free to do whatever I want. Well, besides making sure Jeff has meals.

This time I was psyched to do nothing but write. Ten thousand words of writing was my goal. It’s very doable since I do that amount whenever I participate in NaNoWriMo. I was going to spread the ten thousand words over several novels I’m working on and some short stories.

Did I accomplish my goal? I’m glad you asked. No! NO! Said with anguished tears and gnashing of teeth. In fact, I wrote not one single word.

For one thing, there were numerous storms that hit Prescott last week which messed up the WiFi connection, and interfered with Jeff’s ability to paint. Having no connection to the internet certainly would not prevent me from writing IF my computer would turn on.

After I got over my disappointment about not having WiFi, then an electrical storm sent my laptop into a tailspin. Yes, I had it plugged into an outlet without a surge protector. I was so distraught over the condition of my laptop, that I couldn’t enjoy the quiet peacefulness nor the beauty of my surroundings. For a couple of days, anyway.

If I trust that God is in control, then I need to let go of my expectations, which brings me to the place of still being on a quest to resurrect my writing mojo. It’ll come.


My laptop? This non-techie granny somehow managed to revive the thing. It went from repeated blue screens, dump crashes, shutting off almost as soon as I turned it on, and only opening in safe mode, to returning to its former state. I’m sure I need a new laptop, though. Hint, hint, Jeff! We have a twentieth anniversary coming up. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hope

How many times have you read a book or watched a movie where the villain is described by co-workers or neighbors as, “Quiet, but so likeable, a nice person” – everyone was surprised that hidden inside the person lurked someone completely different.

It hit home this week with the suicide of actor/comedian Robin Williams. I’m not going to discuss the moral issues surrounding what he did. Only God can judge. Often those who laugh the most do so to hide or help cope with the pain within. No one truly knows what goes on inside someone except that person and God.

I love television crime series that deal with profiling people. The upbringing, culture, environment, and care a person receives throughout their lifetime certainly determine much of their behavior.

We all have secrets. We hide wounds. We put on a fa├žade. In my book Like A Cedar In Lebanon the reader starts out disliking, maybe even hating, Jack. He definitely isn’t a likeable person. The second half of the book takes you inside the heart and mind of Jack. The readers finds they now care about him.

What wound are you covering up? Does your spouse do things that hurt you, yet you keep silent about it? Communication is key to success in any relationship.

I suffered for years with deep depression brought on by my circumstances. I was plagued with thoughts of “ending it all.” I just wanted free from the torment. I overcame by my faith in God and surrounded myself with loving, caring people.


Writers, portray the story behind your characters’ behavior. Then, as a Christian writer, point your readers to the hope that is found in Jesus. With all honesty, I wouldn’t be here today if not for Him. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It's All About People

Last week I shared in my blog about writing my memoir about the 19 years I spent working at Teen Challenge. Here's an excerpt from my WIP title Teen Challenge - Repairer of Broken Walls

Isaiah 58: 12 NIV
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.


When my ninety day probationary time was completed, I met with Jeff Richards and Angel Rosa for an evaluation. It was easy to see the love and camaraderie between these two men. They spent the few minutes I was with them in lighthearted banter with each other, and bragging on me.

I was flattered, but answering telephones and manning the front office didn’t take a P.H.D. When I said that, Angel responded, “Well, it’s not the typical type of front office visitors and phone calls. It takes a certain personality to deal with it, and a heart full of Jesus.” He grinned and chuckled.

I chuckled too.  “This is definitely more exciting than I ever imagined it would be. I love it, and wouldn’t change a thing about what I do.”

That it was exciting was an understatement. Every day something out of the ordinary happened. If something exciting wasn’t happening, then working with some of the zaniest, quirkiest, and all-around awesome staff made it exciting. Going to work every day was like reading a good novel or watching a great movie.

There were several homeless people – some called them street people – who frequented our doors.  It’s easy to label all such persons in this category as a certain stereotype – mental illness, drug and/or alcohol addictions, no desire to get off the streets, deviants – but some sincerely were caught up in situations beyond their control. Most, however, that were frequent visitors at Teen Challenge did fit into one of the mentioned stereotypes.

There was the lady who came in at least once a week demanding food. The kitchen workers – and by kitchen workers, these were mostly students assigned to kitchen detail –  usually gave her a donut, or a piece of fruit. Our policy was that we didn’t give away food because it wasn’t always easy to provide meals for the students and live-in staff.

If this lady didn’t like what they gave her, or if they had nothing to give her, she would curse, stomp off, slam doors, and occasionally throw something. I had finally given up on greeting her with a cheerful hello because she just snarled at me. But I would smile politely if she looked my way.

Summer heat in Phoenix is brutal, especially to those who worked or stayed outdoors. The homeless are particularly vulnerable. Many organizations such as the Salvation Army set up stations around the downtown area to give out cold bottled water.

It was on one of those scorching days of temperatures over one hundred ten degrees that I had an encounter with this snarky woman.

Using the restroom was not a simple task for me. I usually would page into someone else’s office and ask them to answer the phone for a few minutes, or snag an intern as he walked by. This particular day, I couldn’t rouse anyone to help me, and I had to go. Since the restrooms were located in the breezeway in front of my office door, I decided to make a mad dash.

When I flung open the restroom door, there stood snarky lady. She was nude from the waist up, splashing water over her head and soaking her blouse and bra in the sink. Fire spit from her eyes as she let loose a stream of obscenities and kicked the door shut in my face.


I stumbled backwards, my mouth agape, and slunk back into my office, only to have her slam my door open in a few minutes, hair and clothes dripping water, and call me a foul name. Although I was compassionate toward her need to cool off, I knew I would not want to run into her in a dark alley. 

(this excerpt is taken from page 4)