A Labor Day Vacay with the Fam at Myrtle Beach!

Just what the doctor ordered!

A long drive over … Tropical Storm Hermine … braving the rain to eat out for lunch at TBONZ … fierce games of Sorry and Triominos while the streets flooded … homemade meatballs and pasta for dinner by the best private chef in the biz! … sunshine, sand, saltwater, sunscreen, and some serious beach time … no-holds’barred mini-golf at Jungle Lagoon, Mount Atlanticus, and Hawaiian Rumble … a happy 40th birthday …. a Thai birthday dinner … more beach time … amazing sunsets … terrific pools …. and then clean up, pack up, and hit the road again.

And a great time was had by all.

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Fearfully and Wonderfully Made – Part 3

We’ve talked about how human beings rank fairly low in the animal kingdom in regards to physical strength and durability, and we’ve looked at how man’s superior intelligence evens the score by giving him an edge in the survival game. But there’s a third factor to consider.

There is an almost undefinable essence that truly sets man apart from the other animals.

Scientists attribute this uniqueness to our DNA. Philosophers call it our soul or spirit. Others identity it as our conscience, while many more call it personality, individuality, persona, or nature. Whatever  label you choose, it comes with an overabundance of quirky eccentricities not found in the other species cohabiting this world.

Personality

Yes, I agree that humans and animals have personalities, but only man can claim the vast complexity of traits that set us apart from them. A recent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) identified 638 primary Personality Traits. After dividing them into three categories, they classified 37% as positive (ex: amiable, courageous, optimistic, and reliable); 18% neutral (ex: ambitious, determined, self-conscious); and a staggering 48% negative (ex: abrasive, apathetic, discontented, imprudent). (Ref: http://ideonomy.mit.edu/essays/traits.html)

While the list is fairly comprehensive, it is nowhere near complete, especially when you consider the infinite number of possible combinations. And that’s before you take other factors into consideration. Factors like …

Emotions

Plutchiks Emotion WheelRobert Plutchik, professor emeritus at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine with a Ph.D. from Columbia University, set out to classify emotions into primary categories. Working with the Dalai Lama and using scientific approaches to analyze facial muscles used in heightened levels of emotion, he determined there are eight primary states: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy.

Of course, there many, many more feelings than these eight, but based on similar muscle usages, Plutchik concluded that all emotions fall into sub-categories under the primary.

Fact or hypothesis? It’s your decision. But  the question arises – Do animals have emotions? Let’s consider two definitions pertinent to this discussion:

Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. It encompasses a wide spectrum of both positive and negative physical and emotional experiences. Most scientists today are in agreement that all vertebrate animals, which includes mammals, our winged friends, cold-blooded reptiles, and the creatures of the sea, are sentient beings.

Sapience, on the other hand, is defined as good sense, intelligence, wisdom, or the ability of an entity to act using a mental faculty to apply appropriate judgment (Homo sapiens  – Latin: “wise man”). Sound judgment requires the ability to assess conditions in a complex and dynamic environment, apply a moral code, analyze risk factors, calculate outcomes, and derive a best case conclusion. I believe we can all agree this ability belongs to man alone.

So, to answer the above question,  yes, I believe all animals experience emotion. Consider the threat of danger that triggers fear … which in turn triggers survival behavior (the fight or flight response). This is inherent to all animals, man included.

Emojis

On the other hand, I believe sapience is God’s gift to man alone.

Spiritual Needs

For the duration of a pregnancy, the mother’s body provides everything a baby needs: nutrition, oxygen, temperature control, and waste management. At birth, when the baby is separated from the mother’s body, the newborn must learn quickly how to regulate all of these things for himself, while experiencing a nightmare of new sensations – light, sound, taste, temperature fluctuation, movement restriction, and hunger. It’s a scary place.

Each newborn babe, whether animal or man, comes into this world with an innate craving, a need for connection, acceptance, comfort, and safety.Newborns

Those needs don’t change as time passes. Wolves roam in packs. Red Snapper swim in schools. Geese fly in close formation as they relocate with the seasons. Man searches for a place to belong within families, communities, social groups, schools, workplaces, organizations – and yet he often moves on. Changes jobs. Makes new friends. Searching. Always searching. Always wondering. Always asking questions. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Is this all there is?

Christians often claim there is a “God-sized hole within our hearts that only the one, true God can fill,” which leads us to yet another question; Is this a biblical concept, or just fanciful rhetoric?

My answer is no. And yes.

Back in the 1600s, Blaise Pascal, inventor, mathematician, physicist, theological writer, and apologist, said in defense of Christianity:

“What else does this craving and this helplessness proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object. In other words, by God himself.”

But we can also attribute a story from the Bible where the Apostle Paul was witnessing to the Greeks. Now the Greeks were notorious for all their idols, even a monument to an “unknown god” – kind of like hedging their bet, I guess. In case they missed one.

In Acts 17:22-27, Paul says:

“Then Paul stood before the meeting of the Areopagus and said, “People of Athens, I can see you are very religious in all things. 23 As I was going through your city, I saw the objects you worship. I found an altar that had these words written on it: TO A GOD WHO IS NOT KNOWN. You worship a god that you don’t know, and this is the God I am telling you about!

The God who made the whole world and everything in it is the Lord of the land and the sky. He does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 This God is the One who gives life, breath, and everything else to people. He does not need any help from them; he has everything he needs. 26 God began by making one person, and from him came all the different people who live everywhere in the world. God decided exactly when and where they must live. 27 God wanted them to look for him and perhaps search all around for him and find him, though he is not far from any of us.

All animals follow the primal, never-changing eat-sleep-procreate dictate set out for their lifespans, but only man seeks for more. Call it ego, the soul, a conscience, spirit, chi, or life-force, only man seeks acceptance and a reason for his being.Heart of Clouds

For Christians, the truth lies in that ‘God-sized hole’ in our hearts, the one that Jesus readily fills with love and a peace that passes all understanding.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made – Part 2

I think we are in agreement that the human body is a unique system of systems. So why then is it encased in such a fragile shell?

In the physical realm, humans rank pretty low on the survival totem pole.  We don’t have the luxury of natural body armor like the armadillo, or a defense system like the porcupine. Neither do we have the ferocity and strength of a grizzly bear, or the speed of an antelope. We can’t smell like a bloodhound, hear like an elephant, see like an eagle, or feel vibrations like a bat.

And yet we don’t just survive, we thrive. How?

Creation - Dominion

Here are 5 reasons (not comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination) that I believe sets mankind apart from the other animals.

  1. clock-70182_640Man is aware of his own mortality. He is conscious of time passing, not like the seasons fade one into another, but of generations gone before and generations to come. We conceptualize. 
  2. Man has an inherent spiritual nature, religious even. The vast majority of people believe and/or pursue some form of spiritual or religious faith. We wonder about what comes after we die. 
  3. Man keeps records. We (sometimes) learn from what has gone before, make plans for the near and distant future, and are always searching for ways to improve or better his life. 
  4. the-thinker-1431333_640Man is a thinker. We reason, question, create, learn, anticipate, apply logic, and discern truth. We also harbor prejudices, vanity, pride, ego, and nurture grievances and seek revenge … unlike other animals. 
  5. Man communicates at a far more superior level than the other animals. We use complex language forms, both verbal and written to connect with other humans. We use this language to satisfy a deeply rooted yearning for community, a need to communicate with others of our kind, to connect.

So, the human body is a (physical) complex machine run by a (mental) sophisticated intelligence. But what about motivation. What drives us? That’s the part I call the “Thou shalt and Thou shalt not” factor.Creatures of logic

Next, we’ll look at what makes man tick.

 

As a reader, do you skim? Why?

Authors, newbies in particular, are repeatedly cautioned about certain basic writing requirements:

Write tight.  Trim the fat.  Cut word count.  Eliminate unnecessary words.
Does it advance the story?

As a reader, I find I’m prone to skim. For me, it’s the invasion of dirty words into our literary culture. Oh, and gratuitous sex.

couple-love-people-romanticDon’t get me wrong. I like a sexy romance as much as the next person, but it’s enough to leave the action at the door. I know the mechanics of the act. My imagination works fine, thank you very much. I don’t need step-by-step instruction.

So, let’s apply the list from above to the prolific sex scenes romping through our books today:

Write tight. fail  Trim the fat. fail  Cut word count. fail  Eliminate unnecessary words. fail
Does it advance the story? double fail

Now, let’s talk about profanity. Um, er, uh … Wow. Just wow.

ProfanityFour-letter bombs and worse fill almost every page these days. I get that language can aid in establishing a character’s quirks and personality, but please. A little moderation would go a long way. 

So, once again, let’s apply the test:

Write tight. fail  Trim the fat. fail  Cut word count. fail  Eliminate unnecessary words. fail
Does it advance the story? triple fail

Exclamation markIt is commonly understood in the writing world that an exclamation mark is a lazy writer’s shortcut. A good writer relies on words to convey the excitement of the scene, the fear, happiness, anger, etc. – not punctuation.

This same concept can be applied to the overuse of gratuitous sex scenes and abundant profanity. True skill is hidden by these “unnecessary words,” and like me, your reader may not  be able to get past them to finish the book.

Data rules.

With the ease of self-publishing today, not all authors bother with the basics, opting for quantity over quality. Sales are up, but profits are down because the content has been cheapened and purchase prices degraded.

eReadersBeware. Digital readers tell the tale.

According to emerging statistics, readers finish less than 50% of eBooks purchased in certain genres. There’s even talk of online retailers creating a new category for “eBooks Actually Finished.”

My advice? Let’s get back to the basics. Perfect the art of good writing. The author’s self-esteem will soar, and readers will thank you.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made – Part 1

The human body is an odd and vastly complex creation.

It comes with an amazing variety of systems to keep it working. These include a circulatory system that moves blood, nutrients, gases, and hormones around the body; a digestive system to ingest food, break it down into usable nutrients, and remove the waste byproducts; and a DNAurinary system that aids in the removal of waste and digestive byproducts.

We have an immune system, the body’s first line of defense against disease, injury, and harmful pathogens; and a lymphatic system that works hand-in-hand with the immune system to help in the fight against infection and to stabilize body fluids in the tissue and cells.

Our nervous system controls both voluntary (conscious movement) and involuntary (like your heart beating) movements, and directs signals to the rest of the body; the muscular system aids in movement of blood and some body functions, but also works closely with the skeletal system which allows the fundamental structure for physical movement.

The respiratory system brings vital oxygen into the body, infuses it into our blood stream for distribution to all cells, and removes harmful carbon dioxide byproducts. The integumentary system is the body’s largest organ—the skin. It protects our internal workings from the outside world, is a barrier against bacteria, viruses, and other harmful pathogens, helps regulates body temPregnancyperature, and assists in the elimination of waste through perspiration.

And let’s not forget the reproductive system that allows the creation of life-a miracle in itself.

All of these systems have to work in concert with all the others every second of every day. No time off. No vacation. And sick days means overtime work.

Now let’s take this a step further. In addition to the complex machine described above, these delicate creations require five things to survive:

  1. Water dropletsOxygen – The most essential need. After a mere 15 minutes without oxygen, brain damage will be so severe most cannot recover.
  2. Water – a human body cannot survive more than 3-4 days without it.
  3. Food – protein, carbohydrates, fatty acids, fiber; certain minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium; and vitamins A, Bs, C, D, E, K. And this is only a simplified list.
  4. Protection from the elements – We require a constant core body temperature in a very Temperaturespecific range. At 104°F a body begins to hallucinate; at 107°F the central nervous systems begins to break down; at 111°F the brain overheats and causes death. Conversely, if the core body temperature drops to 94.1°F the body will fall unconscious; at 86° the body loses its ability to control body temperature; and at 82.4° there is complete muscle failure.
  5. Sleep – Extended lack of sleep will eventually result in headache, temporal and spatial distortion, memory and cognitive impairment, hallucination, loss of muscle control, and if paired with any other system failure, could lead to death.

BANG! It all just happened? Riiiight! I think not.

Computer codeYou could as easily throw a million lines of code into a paper bag, shake it up, and come out with a complex software that will calculate the necessary thrust for a rocket trip to Mars, pass twice around the moon, make a fly-by of Venus, give a nod to the sun, and then land safely at home again. On earth.

Again I say … riiiight!

Yes, I’m a Christian. No, I’m not trying to persuade you to my way of thinking. All I want is for you to start using that amazing computer in your head to figure things out for yourself …

Why you believe what you believe?

Ask questions. Don’t settle. Find the answers for yourself regarding what you believe or don’t believe. Stop accepting what the world is dishing out.

Imagine …

Imperfect Bonds FRONT COVER smallBook Three in The Imperfect Series, IMPERFECT BONDS, is due to release on July 30, 2016. Light, funny, and a little bit sad, it also touches on the edgy topic of Human Trafficking.

https://www.amazon.com/Imperfect-Bonds-Book-3-ebook/dp/B01J6E0K5U

July 30th is also “World Day Against Trafficking in Persons (#wdatip), as declared  by the United Nations. 

Human trafficking. Slavery. Bondage. Servitude. Enslavement. Oppression. Loss of everything you know, everything you have, and everything you are. Whatever we call it, Human Trafficking represents identity theft in the worst, most heinous way possible, much to mankind’s everlasting shame.

I am reminded of the story in the Bible of when the Israelites were taken into bondage by the Babylonians, specifically the tales of four teens, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. I find it interesting that Daniel, who was given the Babylonian name, Belteshazzar, kept his “Daniel” identity all through history, while his three friends are better known by their Babylonian names—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Thousands of Jews were taken captive and transported far from their homeland in Judah. These affluent boys were reduced to no more than slaves with no civil rights and no say in anything that might affect their lives. They had to adapt to a new culture and learn a new language if they wanted to survive. 

helpSlavery continues in our world today, but without respect for life. In fact, this juggernaut industry profits more than $32 billion annually, and affects between 20-30 million victims – children and adults, male and female. (Authorities believe these numbers are low  with most of the criminal activities hidden.)

Take a walk with me for a moment. Exercise your imagination:

Imagine you’re a young woman working on a deadline. The project runs late and you leave your office well after everyone else. The walk to the parking garage seems longer in the semi-lit darkness. Every shadow is sinister, every sound amplified. You hurry your steps, knowing there is safety inside the locked doors of your car.

Imagine as you approach the driver’s side, a van comes around the corner. Nothing special about it. Just another work vehicle with scuff marks and a few dings. And yet, fear zips through your body. Do you turn around and race back to the building? Or hurry to unlock your car?

Imagine in the moment of hesitation as the van picks up speed. It draws near. Panic grips you when the sliding door flies open. A man jumps out and rushes toward you.  You scream and turn to run … but it’s too late.

Imagine rough hands grab you. A nasty rag is crammed in your mouth. You’re lifted and tossed bodily inside the van. The man scrambles in behind you and slams the door. Darkness envelops you as the vehicle speeds away. The panic becomes gut-wrenching terror.

Imagine having all your possessions taken away — purse, money, jewelry, phone, clothes, even your name.

chains-19176_640Imagine being tossed into a cold, dark cell with only a blanket on the floor. You’re dressed in the thinnest of rags with no one to hear your cries for help.

Imagine being ridiculed for your tears, beaten for your screams. You soon learn not to complain, but to beg instead for the meanest comfort —  a toilet, food, water, or perhaps a simple scrap of information.

Imagine being told you’ll never see your family, home, friends, or anything familiar again. That your life as you know it is gone forever. That now, you’re a commodity.

Imagine being forced to do terrible, shameful, demeaning things because that’s what your captor demands, and your performance determines if you’ll receive another beating or whether you get to eat or drink. Or possibly even live to see another day.

Imagine you’re forced to take addicting drugs that leave you fuzzy, delirious, incapable of clear thought or logical decisions, unable to control your body movements or speech. You can’t fight or deny your captor anything.

Imagine losing all hope.children-788782_640

This is but a single scenario that a victim of Human Trafficking might face. Everyday children are snatched from shopping malls and playgrounds while under the watchful eyes of parents. Young men are abducted from bars and nightclubs. Young women are lured away with promises of … whatever. Boys and girls are snatched from schools, sporting events, skating rinks, right off the street. And the list goes on. 

Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from falling prey to these monsters. Educate your children. Visit the Department of Homeland Security’s Website:  Human Trafficking 101  http://ow.ly/wW7O302Ayip

Support The Blue Campaign    https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaignBlue Campaign

Imperfect Bonds Releases on July 30, 2016!

IMPERFECT BONDS, Book 3 of The Imperfect Series, will be released on July 30, 2016!

Imperfect Bonds FRONT COVER small

 

She’s come home to mend fences with her twin sister.

He’s an ex-Navy SEAL just doing his job.

A serendipitous encounter on a deserted highway and a seemingly innocent cell phone picture plunges Cassie Cameron into the crosshairs of a shady organization with ties to organized crime, illegal arms sales, drug running, and the terrible world of human trafficking.

A daring rescue. A risky escape. Kidnapped children. A race up the mountain.

Published by Write Integrity Press

The Imperfect Series and Other Books by Elizabeth Noyes

 

 

Peace in the Valley

“There will be peace in the valley … one day.”

I woke this morning with a song playing in my head. It was like I was a child again, sitting on the floor of our living room on a Sunday afternoon while my father settled a stack of 45s on the record player. He loved music, but preferred two types—Western and Gospel.

Now when I say Western music, I’m not talking about the country twang of lost dogs, wrecked trucks, hangovers, and cheating lovers. Not the banjo-picking or bluegrass stuff either, though they each offer something special. He loved Western, the smooth, mellow outpouring of the soul we heard from the likes of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and The Sons of the Pioneers.

He also loved gospel music—The Blackwood Brothers, George Beverly Shea, and his all-time favorite, Tennessee Ernie Ford. It was Mr. Ford’s rendition of Peace in the Valley that rocked me awake today. My first conscious thought was, “Yeah, our country needs this reminder more than ever.”tennessee-ernie-ford

Which brings me to the point of this blog: Politics suck!

The news has been filled with negativity for as long as I can remember, this week even more so. Next week will likely follow the same pattern.

Yes, I worry about the state of our country. I fret over the BLM violence, the police-hating, the race-baiting, and all the political posturing. I grieve even more over the terrible things happening in the world. Evil has a foothold, but I have a higher hope.

“Concerned yes, but I refuse to let it consume me.”

I know that nothing happens by chance. Not kismet, not fate, not happenstance, luck, accident, or destiny. The two candidates vying for the role of President of the United States may not be ideal, but they’re what we have, and I don’t believe for a second they’re in this position by happenstance. And though the journey be long and difficult, as my grandma used to say, “Things don’t just happen, sweetie. They come to pass.”

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  ~Romans 13:1 (NIV)

I don’t like my choices, so I will pray. And listen. And then I will vote for the one who best supports a return to a God-fearing America. To not vote is to abdicate my responsibility as an American.  It is an admission that I have no value as a citizen of this country, and a declaration of my failure as a Christian.

I will do my part. And I will trust God to work things out according to His great purpose.

Peace in the Valley Picmonkey Collage

‘Nuff said. Listen to this oldie and let it soothe you, for I know that one day, we too will find Peace in the Valley.

 

Exciting news about a fantastic sale and a new release!

I have 3 very exciting announcements to share with you today!

*  The kindle edition of Imperfect Wings, the first book in my Imperfect Series, is on sale for a limited time for only 99¢!      What a steal!

* Book 2 of the series, Imperfect Trust, has also been discounted and is now available for only $2.99.

and ….. (can I get a drum roll please!!!”

* Book 3, Imperfect Bonds, is on schedule for an early August release! Yay!3-book collage

Bonus: Here’s a YouTube link to a short video trailer with a sneak peek for what to expect in the latest book: http://ow.ly/Xphw302kCEJ

Help me spread the word! Share this information with all your friends, neighbors, co-workers … all book lovers.

Better yet, help them complete their summer reading list by gifting a copy direct to their Kindle device. Amazon makes it so easy. (Here’s a link to my website explaining how: http://ow.ly/ttcU302kBMT)

Thanks so much for supporting me through this journey. Happy reading!

Yeah, but what if I’m right?

I woke this morning to the terrible news of another shooting, this one in Dallas where law enforcement officers were targeted and killed when they answered the call to duty.

My heart broke even more when, only hours later, a ‘spontaneous’ march sprang from nowhere to parade down the streets of MY city, MY Atlanta in support of– not the fallen heroes, but the Black Lives Matter movement. Similar marches occurred all around the country.

Think about it. Spontaneous marches don’t just happen. An event of any size requires a great deal of organization and communication. While I have no doubt the vast majority of the protesters had no idea of the violence planned – yes, I said planned – going forward, they have to realize how they’re being used for nefarious purposes.

Black Lives Matter, BLM for short, is formally postured as an international activist movement originating in the African-American community to campaign against violence toward black people.

I wholeheartedly agree. Black lives do matter, but NOT MORE than Whites, Asians, Hispanics, Slavs. Males and females. Adults and children. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists. Politicians, farmers, soldiers, stay-at-home moms, teachers, rich men, poor men, homeless men, and COPs.

The truth is …

all-lives-matter

Think about it. We have to look beyond these individual tragedies, look at the overall picture, profile what is happening in our country, ask the hard questions, and follow the money trail. These are not random acts of violence. They are too well-orchestrated. And I fear more are planned. I fear we face a summer of violence meant to further a bigger agenda.tears

Think about it. When the policemen grow tired of being set up like sitting ducks, when they refuse to step forward in your defense, when the protesters riot out of control and come for you, when the government has confiscated your guns – who’s going to protect you and your family?

As Mahatma Gandhi so eloquently stated…eye-for-an-eye

“You’re just another right-wing conspiracy nut,” some will say. Maybe so. Maybe not. But to repeat my lead in question … what if I’m right?