Aussie Culture

Growing up, though we who lived on the Door County peninsula shared the same Lake Michigan shoreline, another “culture” meant the “townies” versus those of us from the country. (Not sure what they called us.)

Not having many travel opportunities as a child (a big deal to cross the bridge) I longed for travel and appreciated exposure to different cultures.

As an adult, I’ve been blessed to have traveled quite a bit domestically and internationally and the sound of different languages and accents spoken at airports has always been music to my ears.

One place I’ve always wanted to visit, but haven’t yet is Australia.

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Only 2% of Australians live in the yellow area

When my youngest son, Nick, left for college, we were pleased to discover that his  roommate was from Australia. Danny had wanted to come to the US and play football for a small southern town where American football was a big deal. He found that at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, where he and Nick were not only roommate but teammates-Nick, a tight end for the Ragin’ Cajuns and Danny, a punter.

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Danny-left, Nick-right

Nick enjoyed experiencing another culture through his roommate and shared a few interesting observations from time spent with Danny.

  • When Danny would say, “open the boot,” Nick learned it meant to open the trunk.
  • When the weather turned cold, Danny asked Nick if it was cold enough to “rug up.” Nick came to understand that this meant to wear a sweatshirt.
  • I think it rains more in Louisiana than it did in Australia and Nick had a good laugh when he saw Danny barefooted and bare-chested, sprinting across campus carrying his shirt and shoes. Apparently that’s what they do in Australia when it rains.
  • Nick also had to laugh when Danny learned the phrase riding “shotgun” but would call out “shotgun” then go to the wrong side of the car.

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    Danny experiencing an American Fourth of July with Jake (Nick’s big brother) and Nick

Danny returned back to Australia after four years with the Ragin’ Cajuns and Nick hopes to visit him sometime. I just might have to travel with him.

Here are some other fun facts about Australia:

  • Captain James Cook first landed on Australia’s east coast in 1770. In 1788, the British returned with eleven ships to establish a penal colony. Within days of The First Fleet’s arrival and the raising of the British flag, two French ships arrived, just too late to claim Australia for France.
  • Some shopping centres and restaurants play classical music in their car park to deter teenagers from loitering at night.
  • In 1975, Australia had a government shutdown, which ended with the Queen firing everyone and the government starting again.
  • No native Australian animals have hooves.
  • In Australia, it is illegal to walk on the right-hand side of a footpath.
  • Australia has 3.3x more sheep than people
  • If you visited one new beach in Australia every day, it would take over 27 years to see them all.
  • Australia’s first police force was made up of the most well-behaved convicts

Writing prompt: Study a different culture and imagine your character landing in a completely new culture.

Is it really true? Genre: Biographical Fiction

Biographical Fiction takes a contemporary or historical figure and uses elements of that person’s life to tell a fictional narrative.

An author might choose the genre, biographical fiction, when writing about real experiences in their life or even a fictional account of the full story of their life. This genre isn’t a memoir (but can be written like a memoir with first person narration) because the story also contains elements of fiction.

Sometimes an author uses biographical fiction to avoid hurting others who become characters in their writing. They also may want to take liberty to change the details for dramatic effect.

41O0WxzeQ5L._SX255_BO1,204,203,200_An example of biographical fiction is, I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn. It’s told in first person as Amelia Earhart, using biographical information known about the pilot.

Blurb from Amazon.com: “In this brilliantly imagined novel, Amelia Earhart tells us what happened after she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared off the coast of New Guinea one glorious, windy day in 1937. And she tells us about herself.

There is her love affair with flying (“The sky is flesh”) . . . .

There are her memories of the past: her childhood desire to become a heroine (“Heroines did what they wanted”) . . . her marriage to G.P. Putnam, who promoted her to fame, but was willing to gamble her life so that the book she was writing about her round-the-world flight would sell out before Christmas.

There is the flight itself — day after magnificent or perilous or exhilarating or terrifying day (“Noonan once said any fool could have seen I was risking my life but not living it”).

And there is, miraculously, an island (“We named it Heaven, as a kind of joke”).

And, most important, there is Noonan . . .

51v-zo8SXkL._AA160_Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar, originally published under the pen name, Victoria Lucas, is also considered a biographical novel. It was the only novel that she ever published and it’s known to be associated with her own experiences with depression. She published it under a pen name because, according to “The Guardian” and many other sources, she didn’t want to hurt people that she wrote about in the book, namely her mother.

410XvrbROEL._AA160_From Amazon.com (back cover blurb) The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under — maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that Esther’s insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic. 

One of my own writing goals is to write a series of biographical novels based on historical Christian men and women. I’m working on a biographical novel now about William Wilberforce using lots of research into historical documents.

Following is my excerpt from the beginning of Wilberforce — In, but not of, the World. The characters are real. I only added details to flesh out historical documents.

“Good Heavens Hannah, what have you done to my son?” Billy’s mother turned from his aunt to his uncle and namesake. “And William, have you no regard for the memory of your dear brother? Your aging father? Or me?” She pressed a gloved hand over the knotted bow of her cloak. “You allowed Billy to parley with low class fanatics while I’d fallen victim to a long and most dangerous fever.”

Aunt Hanna’s ashen appearances drew a stark contrast to his mother’s face, as red as the glowing embers in the parlor fireplace. She’d emerged from her illness like a lioness and rendered his aunt and uncle as stiff as the statues of Canterbury Cathedral.

His mother waved an envelope addressed in his handwriting. “It is quite evident that our best laid plans for Billy have gone horribly awry.”

If he’d known his letter would bring Mama to St. James Place, he never would’ve penned it. 

***

Often biographical novels are made into films, like Amazing Grace, which was based on the life of William Wilberforce.

1coverAnd lastly, while my first novel, Crooked Lines, is fiction, some of the scenes in the book were based on on mine and my husband’s life experiences. I’m including an excerpt here from a time–a true story–when my husband, a young seminarian in India, was put into a position to rescue teenagers who had dropped out of school to join a dangerous and radical communist group.

“Raju, where are your brother and his friends?”

“I cannot say.” The child stared at his bare feet.

Sagai knelt in the dirt, grasped Raju’s shoulders and looked him in the eye. “Raju, do you love your brother?”

“Yes, Brother Sagai.”

“Then take me to him.”

The boy folded his hands across his chest and jutted out his chin. Sagai spoke in his kindest voice.

“Raju, your brother is in trouble. Together we can help him.”

He pointed northward and ran.

Sagai followed down streets and alleys away from the lights of the village. Near a lone mud hut on the edge of town, the boy stopped.

“You’ve got to fight,” came a voice from inside. “Resist the government.” Sagai took a deep breath, made the sign of the cross and offered a prayer, then pushed open the door. 

***

Writing prompt: What experience have you had that would make a good premise for a biographical novel? Or would you prefer to call it fiction to add your own twist to the story…or to protect the identity of the characters based on real life people?

New Year – Joy

I’m bad. I never seek a word from God–a one word theme for the New Year as so many do, but this New Year, God gave me the word anyway. Really put it on my heart.

From Christmas onward, it began…the word “Joy” kept popping up everywhere. In sermons at church, in my readings, in dreams, in songs, in my thoughts…

…even on the battered old cup I drink from every day.

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Photo by Holly Michael

So, I didn’t even make a New Years list of resolutions this year. I have my goals, but I don’t need a list of resolutions. I just need to hold onto JOY.

A new year holds promise and hope. January 1st…and for a few weeks, it’s easy to hold on to joy, promises, goals, dreams.

But…then there is reality. We have to deal in day to day stuff, hardships, issues, struggles. Two weeks after starting that new diet, we fail. (At least I did). A few months in to the new year, we often find ourselves disappointed. Our work is boring. Bills still must be paid. Sickness and illnesses still strike us and our families. Those goals we set are still so far from our reach.

James 1:2-4 says, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Which I take to mean that Joy is the key to Christian living, even if the circumstances of our lives are far from joyful.

Though, I will admit that a couple years ago, during a Bible study, when we pondered on this Scripture quote, I actually got a little bit angry. Seriously? Who is joyful when everything is coming against them? It’s not reality. Life is hard. But as I pondered on that verse…God spoke to my heart. Be joyful anyway. Trust me.

Philippians 4:4 says, Brethren: Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Baruch 4:36, 5:1-4 says, O Jerusalem, look about thee toward the east, and behold the joy that cometh unto thee from God. Put off, O Jerusalem the garment of thy mourning and affliction, and put on the comeliness of the glory that cometh from God for ever. Cast about thee a double garment of the righteousness which cometh from God; and set a diadem on thine head of the glory of the Everlasting. For God will show thy brightness unto every country under heaven. For thy name shall be called of God for ever The Peace Of Righteousness, and The Glory of God’s Worship.

Fanny Crosby (Mrs. Frances Jane Van Alstyne), a blind poet, wrote thousands of gospel songs including “Blessed Assurance,” “Rescue the Perishing” and “Saved by Grace.” She knew how to hold onto JOY. I’m going to take a cue from her.

Here’s a story about Frannie from, Our Daily Bread (August 12, 2003):

Fanny Crosby lost her sight when she was only 6 weeks old. She lived into her nineties, composing thousands of beloved hymns. On her 92nd birthday she cheerfully said, “If in all the world you can find a happier person than I am, do bring him to me. I should like to shake his hand.”

What enabled Fanny Crosby to experience such joy in the face of what many would term a “tragedy”? At an early age she chose to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). In fact, Fanny carried out a resolution she made when she was only 8 years old: “How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t. To weep and sigh because I’m blind, I cannot and I won’t.”

Let’s remember that “the joy of the Lord is [our] strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Let’s also take comfort in the teachings of Jesus, who in John 15:11 said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” When faced with the choice of self-pity or rejoicing, let’s respond with rejoicing.

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photo by Holly Michael

Here’s to a JOY-FUL 2016!

And the writing prompt: Try this…Sit quietly in a comfortable place with a pen and a writing journal or piece of paper. Say the word “JOY” out loud. Now close your eyes. Now say the word “joy” quietly to yourself. Allow the word joy to bounce around your mind. What images come to you? What memories? Open your eyes. Now, get out your writing journal and write down your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

THE BEST GIFT EVER

This month’s topic is “What Christmas Means to Me.”

As a child, Christmas was all about the gifts. Oh, I knew the “true meaning” of Christmas–the celebration of the birth of Jesus–but the anticipation of gifts loomed larger and mightier than anything else. By December 1st I had already made my list.  The gifts were the reason I counted the days…hours…until Christmas morning. Gifts kept me on my best behavior for nearly an entire month.

Christmas mornings, I wasn’t thinking about Jesus as I tore down the flight of stairs, racing my siblings to the Christmas tree. My heart was thrilled with the anticipation of discovering the best gift ever…the one that I put three stars beside on my list.

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photo by MorgueFile

Maybe that’s how most kids are…then and now…but years go by and we mature. Those best gifts of childhood are long broken and have become faint memories.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 1 Corinthians 13:11

Thirty-three years…from the time of Jesus’ birth until His horrific death on a cross…a death intended for the Only One who could take away the sins of the world.

My sin.

Thirty-three years…about time it took me to mature enough to understand the heart, soul, and true meaning of Christmas–Jesus. THE BEST GIFT EVER.

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photo by MorgueFile

Christmas. Christ Mas. Christ Mass. Mass is the liturgical celebration of Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary. Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s Mass.  Simple. Yet Profound. You can’t have Christmas with out Christ.

At Christmas, believers gather to celebrate God’s gift to the world: the long-awaited Savior. But, in pondering on the fullness of our faith, we should also consider His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. The fullness and wholeness of THE BEST GIFT EVER.

Whether it be Christmas or anytime, God is always waiting for us to come home…to repent our sins and finally accept Him into our hearts, embrace Him as our Savior. He wants us to give our lives to Him.

Completely.

When we do that, we gain a deep joy in our spirit…oh so deep in our soul…that fills us with peace that no temporal gift can give. Then, in awe, we see with new eyes. We embrace life with the wonder of a child–and  finally get the BEST GIVE EVER, the True Gift of Christmas.

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photo by MorgueFile

While we are living in this tumultuous world, we may not see the Peace on Earth we hope and pray for, but will will gain peace in our souls. We belong to a God who is truly the Lover of our souls. He wants to give us all of the best gifts life can offer. He is the Best Gift Ever. The tree, lights, wrapped gifts, and the yummy food are only extras, trimmings.

So…what does Christmas means to me? The same thing it did when I was a kid–the hope of getting the BEST GIFT EVER.

This Advent season, I will make my requests known. I will pray, seek, and hope. I will be on my best behavior. Then on Christmas Eve, I will rush to the altar of God and I will receive the BEST GIFT EVER.

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photo by Holly Michael, St. James. Kansas City, MO

And now for the writing prompt:

Kristen pulled the woolen blanket around her shoulders and shivered. The ache in her heart was as void as the space under the pathetic tree she got for half-price from the lot next to the gas station after work…the night before Christmas. Bah. Humbug. That’s what she felt like telling everyone at the end of her shift before the store closed for Christmas. She sighed. After all of the gifts were picked up from layaway, everyone at work went home to their families and loved ones.

She slunk lower on the couch. For months, she’d been praying for that special someone to come into her life by Christmastime.  Why bother praying now?

Pray. God always hears prayers.  A memory from her grandmother returned–Grandma  kneeling beside her bed every night when Mom and Dad died in that horrible accident. “Pray,” she would say. “God always hears prayers.”  

2013-01-28_09-16-34_256She doubted, but out of respect for her beloved grandma, Kristen lowered her head and offered one last heartfelt prayer. Please Lord, I know it’s late, but please don’t let me be alone again this Christmas. Send me someone. 

A strong wind gust rattled the trailer’s windows. She lifted her head. A light panned across the walls. Her heart raced. Who would come at this time of the night? She pulled back the curtain. Could it be? She rubbed her eyes. Was it?

She gasped! There, coming up her steps was…

 

WORLD DIABETES DAY

Today is World Diabetes Day. To educate a little about diabetes and football, I’m sharing a post from my son’s devotional book – First and Goal – What Football Taught Me About Never Giving Up published by Harvest House Publishers.

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photo by Sean O’Toole

Jake is a type 1 diabetic who pushed hard, fighting against diabetes highs and lows to climb to the pinnacle of football success and play in the NFL.

This month, National Diabetes Awareness Month, Jake is giving $1 from each AUTOGRAPHED copy of his book sold to the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.) 

First and Goal is filled with short anecdotes and stories about overcoming and faith. Below is a devotional story, the first one in Jake’s book where he shares his diagnosis story. This A-Z football devotional is filled with short inspirational clips of his life, faith walk, and journey into the NFL.

Audible  – When the quarterback changes the play at the line of scrimmage, based on the defensive formation, he calls an audible, which is a better-suited play.

01f5b5aca74f53007313ae467f0f98784ea4d3f3edBeginning my freshman year in high school, through hard work, dedication, and by the grace of God I’d earned a starting spot as an offensive tackle on our football team. Standing at 6 feet 5 and weighing in as a 240-pound 14-year-old, I was one of the team’s biggest players. With early interest from college scouts, I ran full steam ahead, thinking I had life all figured out.

By the time the season had ended, I’d dropped 40 pounds and suffered from constant fatigue. The drastic weight loss confused me, my parents, and the coaches. I ate like a ravenous wolf and worked out constantly, hoping to gain weight. Instead, I shed pounds like a German shepherd sheds fur.

An unseen offense had launched a full-scale attack against my body. First, relentless hunger and weight loss. Then, the thirst. I guzzled gallons of Gatorade and water. My constant bathroom breaks annoyed my teachers and had me worried.

At the doctor’s office I expected a prescription for a bladder infection. Instead, I got rocked by the hardest hit I’d ever taken: a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 ).

Diabetes meant a major lifestyle change. My endocrinologist assured me I could still play football—but only if I did everything by the book. I had to call my own audible. This disease forced me onto my own personal line of scrimmage, where I had to come up with a new game plan and change my mind-set. Controlling my blood sugar meant huge dietary adjustments. I had to act as my own pancreas, injecting proper amounts of insulin each time I consumed carbs in order to maintain healthy sugar levels.

Support from family, friends, and coaches carried me through difficult moments, along with a peaceful reassurance that God cared about my plans, hopes, and dreams. Have you been there? Believed you had your game plan all figured out, only to take a hit from an unexpected challenge? Have faith and listen to the audible God is calling. Trust that He has plans for you—good plans for a future and greater plans than you can ever imagine.

Houston JDRF Ad 3Want a copy of First and Goal autographed to you or a special someone? $1 from the sale goes to support the JDRF. Click here Great motivational devotional for anyone. 

***
12016186_10156044039905635_176705038_oWRITING PROMPT: Know a diabetic? Type 1 or Type 2? Think of a character with high goals and dreams. Bam! They get hit with a diabetes diagnosis. How do they react. Also, if you use a diabetic character in your writing make sure you do some research into the differences between type one and type two. Type 1 diabetes has no cure. It’s an autoimmune disease. It means you are completely insulin dependent. Type 2 is curable.

Jake Byrne grew up in Rogers, Arkansas. A type 1 diabetic since the age of fourteen, he has since been proactive combating the disease and mentoring diabetic youth. He played football for the University of Wisconsin as a tight end, and went on to compete in the NFL. Originally an undrafted free agent who signed with the New Orleans Saints in 2012, he has also been a Houston Texan, Kansas City Chief, and San Diego Charger. Jake lives in Dallas with his wife, Emma, and two four-legged kids: Duke the Dogo Argentino and Yeti the Great Dane.

Jake blogs at www.typewon.net. He can be reached through the following social media:

Facebook Page (Type Won): www.facebook.com/typewon1

Twitter: @sugarfreejb82

Instagram: Jakebyrne81

Email: typewonquestions@gmail.com