"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

8/30/08

Alternating Insanity

God is amazing.

I thought about just posting my blog with those three words (yeah, I'm tired), but I thought I might get my message across more clearly if I share what particular "amazingness" brought this idea to the front of my harried, tired, distracted head.

As you may have noticed, I haven't been around here much the past week or so. It's been a busy time for me - things on and off the computer have kept me pretty occupied - everything from editing to reading to cleaning to getting the kids ready to start school (this Tuesday!!!!!) has kept me away from blogdom for the most part.

But it has also created a lot of stress, for both myself and my wonderful husband Marc. My sweet, wonderful, active children are pretty excited and bursting with energy. You parents know this can be a very good thing -- or a very bad thing.

Both my husband and I have been in various states of "bonkers" lately: especially over the past couple days. But do you know what the incredibly amazing thing is?

We've never been "certifiable" at the same time. When the kids have been dancing, hard, on my nerves, Marc has been in control. When Marc has been inches from drop kicking them out the window, I have been the calming (relatively, anyway) influence. And sometimes, the "switcheroo" has happened within minutes. And it's a good thing, too. I can't even fathom what might have happened to those kids if they'd had parents who were both insane at the same time.

Since the beginning of time as we know it, God has planned for this type of "checks and balances" in the family. Way back in the second chapter of Genesis (can't get much earlier in the history of humanity), the Lord declared that we need that balance.
The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Genesis 2:18 NIV
This, of course, is not the only way Marc and I balance each other out. The ways are numerous. He's analytical; I'm not. I'm an encourager; he craves encouragement. I'm distractible; he's amazing at getting me back on task. And more. And every single one of them is orchestrated by God. And yesterday, by helping Marc and I alternate our insanity, he MAY just have averted quite a catastrophe. Our kids are, in fact still alive ;)

Amazing, isn't it?

Heavenly Father, thank You for orchestrating this balance between my husband and I, and between married couples everywhere. Help us to cherish our differences, and how wonderfully you have fit the puzzles of our lives together. Help me to appreciate, rather than bristle against, those differences so I can glorify my husband and You. Thank You for making this wonderful combination we call marriage. In the precious name of Your Son I pray. Amen.

Oh - and note for the curious - my new goals for September are up on my sidebar :)

8/29/08

Friday Fiction: Just Like Jenna

Welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction at Patterings. I wrote this a while back as a potential story for the Christian children's magazine Pockets, but it has yet to find a home. Well, now it has one here, on my blog! :D Be sure to check out Patterings for more wonderful fiction--and/or add your own story to Fiction Friday! All are welcome!

Just Like Jenna

Jenna sighed. Why did she have to miss a bike ride with her best friend to go to the nursing home this afternoon? It sounded so boring. She’d rather play with Cara than go visit some old people she didn’t even know.

Maybe Mom will forget, and I can go with Cara anyway. Jenna smiled. I think I’ll grab my bike helmet, walk past her, and see what she says.

Just as Jenna grabbed her gear, her mom called from the kitchen. “Get your shoes on, Jen– it’s almost time to head to the nursing home. Oh, and could you grab Evan’s shoes too, please?”

“Yes, Mom.” Jenna moaned and flung her helmet on the couch. So much for that plan. I guess I’m going whether I like it or not.

Jenna went to the closet and grabbed two pairs of shoes: her white tennis shoes, and Evan’s little fire truck sneakers. She put her own shoes on slowly, then shuffled to the kitchen clutching her two-year-old brother’s pair.

Mom was finishing the dishes while Evan played with refrigerator magnets. Jenna plopped down on a kitchen chair between the refrigerator and the sink. Her mom glanced up from the dishes, looked toward Jenna, and laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Jenna asked.

Mom pointed at Evan, who had stopped playing and was following his sister. “He’s doing exactly what you are doing – he’s even making the same facial expressions.”

Jenna rolled her eyes and grumbled. “Why does he always copy me, Mom?”

Mom sat Evan down on a chair at the table and took the shoes from Jenna. “He wants to be just like his big sister. He thinks you’re special.”

Really?” Jenna smiled.

Her mom nodded. “Remember how Pastor was talking in church last Sunday about being witnesses? How we’re supposed to be like Jesus so others will see us and want to be like Him too?”

Jenna nodded.

“Well, it’s like that with everyone. With Evan, he wants to be like you because you’re his big sister. With others, though, if you act nicely and do what God wants you to do, people will want to be like you. You can be anyone’s role model.”

Jenna was surprised. “I thought role models had to be older than you. Aren’t we supposed to learn about being good and stuff from grownups?”

“Sure,” her mom said. “But it doesn’t always have to be that way. You can be a role model for anyone. Jesus said in Matthew 18 that adults had to become like children to be in His kingdom. If you act like one of His children, you can help adults see how much they need Jesus.”
“So I can be a role model to anyone? Even a grandma or grandpa, or a pastor or something?”
“That’s right, Jenna.” Her mom smiled. “You know, some of the people we’re going to visit in that nursing home do not believe in Jesus. If you behave how Jesus would like you to, maybe they’ll be interested in why you’re acting the way you are. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll get a chance to tell them about Jesus.”

How cool is that? Jenna couldn’t believe a girl like her could help an older person learn about Jesus. She couldn’t wait to get to the nursing home now.

“Mom, isn’t it time to go now? We don’t want to be late!” Jenna was the first one to the door, with Evan behind her, imitating her every step.

8/26/08

No Need To Panic :)

This is something of a crazy week for me - the kids head back to school a week from today, and I've got lots of things I need to get done (both on and off the computer!), so I really do not know if I'll get much if any blogging (or reading of blogs!) done over the next several days. Plan to at least have something up for Fiction Friday, but no guarantees beyond that.

Will be thinking of, and praying for, many of my dear regular readers, and of course I'd SO appreciate your prayers in return. It's not a bad time - just a busy one :)

Thanks so much, ladies and gents. See you back when I can!

8/23/08

Some New Goals

First of all, I am oh-so-pleased to announce that my work from the past several months (perhaps, more accurately, of the past several years) has, in a sense, come to fruition. As of Thursday afternoon, August 21, 2008 (that would be eleven days before the September 1 deadline!), I have entered my introduction, first chapter, and synopsis of my non-fiction book, Ailing Body, Nourished Soul, in Faithwriters' Page Turner Christian Non-Fiction Contest. The winner will get a boatload of prizes (including a wonderful cash prize, free editing of the entire manuscript, and a year of publicity at Faithwriters once the book is published.) and will be announced--along with two honorable mentions--on December 1 (hence my new ticker above). ALL entries will also get professional feedback on their submissions (which makes it worth the work I've been through, don't ya think?)

But, do you know what? This is not the end of my work--not by a long shot. I need to avoid my natural tendency to rest on my laurels and "throw this project aside" and focus on something easier (yes, this is not necessarily an easy write. Reliving those difficult days through my writing can be a tough experience). I know for a fact that I have been called to write this book (whether anyone has been called to publish it, or read it, is another issue I won't deal with here), and as simple as it would be to take an extended break from it, that is not what I am planning to do.

As of right now, I only have what I have submitted truly "written" - the intro and the first chapter. I have written several challenge articles that cover the events/timeframe the book will focus on (some fictionalized, some not): "Proof My Husband Has A Brain," "In My View," "In Love and Desperation," "Litter Box Ministry," "Doctorese-English Dictionary," and maybe a couple others I have forgotten about. A few of these are even in the "format" I plan to use for my book (which, incidentally, I worked out through the challenge).

So, I have a lot to do. I have whole chapters (how many? Not a clue!) to write, as well as challenge entries to "convert" to chapters. And, considering how well I've done with my goals the past couple months, I do believe the wise thing would be to set some more. Thankfully, I do not need to have the whole manuscript done by the time winners are announced in three plus months, but I would love to be quite a bit further along than I am.

So, now that I'm done beating around the bush, I suppose I should get to it. My goals for the rest of this month include 1. finding a place to submit "Contemplating History" (my Friday fiction from LAST week!) for paid publication, and sending it off for consideration, and 2. "gathering together" all the stories and such that I have written in the past that can be used for Ailing Body, Nourished Soul.

Then, starting September 1, I will have a new set of goals for the month. Tentatively, I am planning to try to get two chapters written and one chapter "converted" ("fix" an old challenge entry into a chapter) each month. After that first month, I suppose I'll figure out if that's doable, or if it's too much or too little. And when it gets closer to September 1, I will again post my goals on my blog sidebar - including what general elements of the story will be covered in the chapter.

So, I press on toward my goal, following my Lord's leading, and grateful for those of you who are here encouraging me and spurring me toward the "finish line."

8/22/08

Fiction Fridays: "The King Has Left The Building"

I am pleased and honored to have been asked to host this week's Friday Fiction for Patty Wysong at Patterings. Don't forget to add your link to the Mr. Linky gadget at the bottom of this story, then visit the other stories. Enjoy this, and the other wonderful fiction for this week!
This is a former Writing Challenge entry (the topic was "The Church"), and probably one of my favorites as far as creating the "atmosphere" I was going after. Hope you enjoy it.

The King Has Left The Building

"It looks like a castle, Mama." Becky tugged on her mother's scarf, her eyes never leaving the structure. "Does a king live there?"

Rachel looked at the building's columns and turrets. "It's a cathedral, Sweetheart. A big church. Kings live in castles, not churches."

"Actually, a king did live there, but he hasn't been back for a while."

Becky turned toward the unfamiliar voice. A lad, perhaps twice Becky's age, smiled through a dirty face and torn clothes.

"Really?" Becky asked.

Rachel eyed the boy suspiciously, resting her hands on Becky's shoulders.

The boy nodded, smiling brightly. "In fact, I'm one of his subjects."

Becky looked him over. "He doesn't give you very nice clothes."

Rachel blushed. "Becky!" She turned toward the boy. "I'm sorry, young man. She didn't mean anything."

He grinned. "It's fine. She's right, of course. My king is very generous, but not necessarily in material ways. He always provides, though."

"You said he's gone." Becky scrunched up her face. "How does he give you stuff when he's gone?"

The boy laughed. "Oh, he's here. Just not in the cathedral."

Becky jumped up and down. "Can you show us where he is?" She turned toward Rachel. "Mom, can we please go see the king?"

Rachel looked down at her. "I'm sure this king doesn't meet with just anyone. We probably need an appointment."

The boy grinned, shaking his head. "No appointment necessary. We can go right now."

Becky left her mother's side and stood by the boy. Rachel raised her hand to call Becky back, but seeing her excitement, walked toward them instead.

"I'm Becky and I'm eight years old."

He grinned. "My name's Michael. Ready to go?"

Becky nodded eagerly. Michael looked back at Rachel, who also nodded.

"Okay then. Follow me."

Michael sauntered along the sidewalk. His guests followed. At the first intersection, he turned right, heading down an alley.

"Are you sure this is the way?" Rachel held her purse close to her chest.

"Positive."

About 500 yards down, they arrived at a dead end, strewn with garbage. Michael pointed into a corner of the alley, behind a beaten-up refrigerator box.

Before them were two women, both seated on the pavement. One, probably in her 60's, was ghostly pale and clearly sick. She was resting her head in the lap of the second woman, in her late teens, who was running her fingers through the ill woman's hair. Both ladies, to the shock of Rachel and Becky, were smiling.

Becky turned to Michael and glared at him. "Kings are boys. These are not boys."

"Kings are also wealthy: they don't live in alleys." Rachel grabbed her daughter's hand. "Let's go."

"My king has wealth beyond your wildest imagination, and he is here." Michael gently grasped Rachel's hand and led her back to the women. Becky followed.

"Look at them." Michael pointed toward the women and smiled. "Have you ever seen such happiness on the faces of women so sick and destitute? Only the greatest riches - the riches of Christ their King - can produce this joy, this peace.

"You know, it's been said that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there.*" Michael pointed up the alley, where the three had walked moments before. "That cathedral used to be filled with my King. But not any longer. The people who enter that building these days worship their egos, their possessions, themselves." He turned toward the women and knelt in front of them. "The real church is here. My King is here, with Sarah and young Teresa."

Rachel wept. She knelt beside Sarah. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

Sarah smiled. "Your scarf would be lovely, if you don't mind? Prayers would also be a blessing."

Rachel removed her scarf and wrapped it around Sarah. "I would be honored to pray for you."

Becky removed her own scarf and gave it to Teresa. "Here you go."

"Thank you. God bless you, dear."

Becky bit her lip, then tapped her mother on the shoulder. "I have an idea, Mom."

All eyes turned to the girl. "Why don't we all go pray for them in that church? Then the King will go back there; right, Michael?"

"That he will, Becky. That he will." Michael looked to Sarah and Teresa. "Ladies?"

"God bless you, Michael, but we'll stay here."

Michael, Rachel, and Becky walked back to the cathedral hand in hand. And, for a sweet moment, the King was back in His castle.

* Matthew 18:20

Don't forget to check out the rest of Friday Fiction below, and to put your own fiction in the gadget. All are welcome!



8/21/08

But Even If He Does Not...

During my devotional time, I am working through reading the Bible in a year. This is actually something I have done almost every year since I got saved, and I often use a specific reading schedule (Usually from RBC’s Our Daily Bread). This year, however, I am not. I started at the beginning on January 1, and have read every day since, however much I felt led to read – starting with Genesis and working my way through.

I just finished the book of Daniel today, and once again came across one of the most incredible statements of faith in God in the Bible—in my opinion, anyway.

Let me set the scene. Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, are in the service of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. He has recently built a 50-foot statue, and demanded that every one of his subject bow down and worship it. These three men of God, high up in Nebuchadnezzar’s organization, refuse to worship anyone but their Lord.

The king approaches the three men and gives them one more chance to obey: "If you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?" Daniel 3:15 NIV

Now, if I had been one of those men, I'm fairly certain my panic alarm would have gone off at maximum volume. Doubts, anxiety, and fear would have dominated my thoughts. I might have even bowed (with my body) just to save my life (admit it--you might have considered it too!).

But not these guys.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Daniel 3:16-18 NIV
Now that, my friends, is faith. These men knew He could save them, but were willing to pay the ultimate price even if He chose not to do what they wanted. That is faith no matter the circumstances--faith despite circumstances.

There are many around the world who are faced with the same dilemma as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: men and women who risk their lives, families, finances, possessions and everything else every day just to share the Gospel, or to live it out. The persecuted church is huge, yet it is the fastest growing part of the body of Christ. These people are willing to look their oppressors in the face and say "but even if He does not." And in some cases, He does not. But they still say it.

That is the kind of faith I want.

Heavenly Father, I pray for all those who are suffering for their faith, for those who risk death daily because of their love for You. Give them the strength to say, and life "but even if He does not" each day. Strengthen them, and hold them close to You.

And Lord, I pray that you would give me that kind of faith. Help me to trust You enough to live for You no matter what the consequences. Make me an "but even if He does not" Christian.
In Jesus' name. Amen.

8/20/08

Who's Number One? (Part 5)

This time, I can tell you for certain this is the last blog in this series, since, once I’ve written this one, I have covered every verse in this stanza of a wonderful poem from the August 7 devotional from Streams in the Desert (click on any of the actual verses below to read my thoughts on it). I hope you have been as blessed (and perhaps as challenged!) as I have during this series, and that you will perhaps explore the rest of this poem in this wonderful devotional.
1Has He purified you with the fire from above?
2Is He first in your thoughts, does He have all your love?
3Is His service your choice, and your sacrifice sweet?
4Is your doing His will both your drink and your meat?
5Do you run at His calling with glad eager feet?
(Streams in the Desert, L. B. Cowman, August 7)
When I first opened my eyes this morning (if you consider 4:30AM morning, that is), my first thought was: “I so do not want to be awake right now.” I’d had a long day yesterday, and I knew I needed sleep. So, I closed my eyes for a minute and then opened them again an hour later. This time, I had a different thought.

“Sounds like Andrew is poking around. Better get moving.” So I did.

This was hardly atypical for me. The first thoughts I have each morning are often, for lack of a better term, mundane. I may think about my need to use the restroom, how thirsty I am, how badly I’d like to go back to sleep, or maybe how pleased I am to be the first one awake.

Or how about my first thoughts when I come upon a crisis? Or when I get good news? Or when I finally get a moment to myself? Or when the phone rings? Again, my thoughts often start out focusing on the mundane, the practical.

Yet, I am a resident of the Kingdom of Heaven. Heaven is my home: not my tiny Michigan town, or my lovely two-story with the finished basement. The only part of me that should be fully in this world is my body. My mind, my emotions, my soul, my thoughts should all be focused primarily above. GOD should be the first thing I think of in every instance, and His unseen kingdom (not my own pleasure, benefit, or will) should be my primary focus.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2Corinthians 4:18 NIV
So, when a difficult trial slaps me in the face, my first thought needs to be prayer instead of panic. When I get good news, I need to praise God first – not the circumstance. When I’m alone in my house with some time for “myself,” I need to seek Him first, instead of my own selfish priorities. And the next time I wake up at some ridiculous hour, instead of whining and grumbling, I will pray—and perhaps pray myself back to sleep. But even if I don’t, I will know it is His will that I stay awake, because I am seeking Him first.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 NIV
Once I put God first, He’ll take care of the rest. And there’s nobody more trustworthy to take care of “the rest,” is there?

Heavenly Father, I know that, more often than not, You are not first in my thoughts: that I put my own worldly needs and desires ahead of Your Kingdom. Help me, Lord, to keep you #1 in all I think, do, and say. Teach me the blessing of making You top priority, and help me to make your supremity a reality in every aspect of my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen

8/18/08

Dairy Queen...or Root Canal?(Part 4)

This MAY be the last in my August 7 Streams in the Desert series - or there may be one more. I've covered verses 1 and 3 and 4 in past blogs (click on the numbers if you need to catch up), and today, I'm blogging on the fifth verse. We'll see if the second verse grabs me and motivates more thoughts in the near future.

1Has He purified you with the fire from above?
2Is He first in your thoughts, does He have all your love?
3Is His service your choice, and your sacrifice sweet?
4Is your doing His will both your drink and your meat?
5Do you run at His calling with glad eager feet?
(Streams in the Desert, L. B. Cowman, August 7)


I have very long legs (I'm more leg than just about anything), and as a consequence, I have a very long stride. Add this to the fact that I am a naturally fast walker (and talker - but that's probably for another post!), and I'm sure you can guess that I often leave other folks behind when I'm traveling anywhere by foot. The same thing happens, for some reason, in the car (and I have the history of speeding tickets to prove it :( ).

Yet, it all depends on my destination. If I'm heading toward the dentist for, say, a root canal, I can be as slow as (or slower than) a slug. But if it's Dairy Queen that's my target, get outta my way.

Yet, sometimes God's will for me feels more like a root canal than Dairy Queen. "Lord, do I have to be kind to that woman who insulted me?" "Is punishing my child really Your will for me?" "Is submitting to my husband truly necessary?" It is at times like this that I will often plod in His direction rather than taking my full stride--if I head in his direction at all.

Yet, this is not what the Lord wants from me. He wants me to do his will, and do it with eagerness and gladness.
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
"Your God reigns!" Isaiah 52:7 NIV
When we run to do His will, it makes our feet beautiful, and our offering pleasing in His sight.
Even in our own suffering, we are to do His will with joy.
Out of the most severe trial, their (the Macedonians) overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 2 Corinthians 8:2 NIV
Is this how you approach God's will for you, no matter the sacrifice to yourself? I'll admit that I'm trying (much of the time, anyway), but do not succeed every time. I do know, however, that the Lord wants me to "run at His calling with glad eager feet:" to approach him like Dairy Queen instead of a root canal.

Heavenly Father, help me to seek Your will for my life, and to pursue it with joy and happy anticipation. I know that any struggles I may go through is for Your good, and that my eagerness to do Your will grow each day, and will be a pleasant aroma of offering to You. In Jesus' Name. Amen

8/16/08

Purifying Fire (Part 3)

Has been a busy week, but I'm back to my little series again. For those of you who have been following, I've been sharing my thoughts and insights on the stanza from the poem below, which I found in Streams In The Desert during my devotional reading. I've already blogged on the third and fourth lines, and today I'll cover the first. I'm thinking I'll have one more in this series, then move on to something else. I hope these thoughts have blessed you.

1
Has He purified you with the fire from above?
2Is He first in your thoughts, does He have all your love?
3Is His service your choice, and your sacrifice sweet?
4Is your doing His will both your drink and your meat?
5Do you run at His calling with glad eager feet?
(Streams in the Desert, L. B. Cowman, August 7)

The whole idea of purification by fire has always intrigued me. It sounded counterintuitive, somehow. I mean, if you want to make something clean and pure, you wash it, right? (and yes, I know that's another metaphor the Bible uses to talk about purification) How would fire make something clean? I associate fire with destruction, not cleanliness.

Yet, often a forest fire will clear everything away, but as time passes, a whole new growth begins. And I know there are several precious metals where the only way to bring out their true beauty, their "shine," is to burn away the impurities.

Becoming clean is not necessarily a comfortable process. It hurts. Removing the impurities isn't as easy as sprinkling a little water over our "dirtyness" and calling us cleansed. It requires us to suffer a bit (or more) to become more and more pure--more and more like Christ.

Watching my husband suffer through the after-affects of three brain surgeries has not been a pleasant experience. It has been, in a word, painful. But the trust I have in God, the love for others, the empathy I feel, the encouragement I freely give, were built in me through those experiences. The perfection of Christ--the purification by fire--has, to a small extent, been put into me. I'm nowhere near "there," but, praise God, I am closer than I was yesterday. And, as I continue to live in the flames of God's work in me (and we are ALL in the flames) and choose to see them from God's perspective, He will continue to burn away the impurities of my flesh and make me more like His Son.

Heavenly Father, as a human, I often wish for the easy road, for purification and perfection from a light drizzle of water. Help me, Lord, to realize that true purification needs to come through trials of fire. Help me to see these trials from Your perspective, and to not fight them. Help me to learn from my trials, and to grow more and more like You because of them. Thank You, Lord, for continuing to mold me, through fire, into the image of Your Son.

8/15/08

Fiction Fridays: Contemplating History

Welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction at Patterings. My post this week is in honor of my wonderful husband, Marc, whose birthday is today. (Happy Birthday, my dear!!) I decided that I would ask him what my favorite piece was, and then post it on his birthday. This was a challenge piece from February of this year. During this particular quarter, I challenged myself to write Biblical fiction for each topic. This is the only poem I did that quarter, and one of only a handful I've done for the challenge. I actually placed 5th overall with this piece. Hope it blesses you, and don't forget to stop by Patterings for more great fiction!

CONTEMPLATING HISTORY
(yeah, I know this needs a better title, but I dunno what it is)

A man - jaw set, countenance firm -
looked out in the distance
contemplating history,
recalling events of the past.

They said they loved the Lord,
that God was their Father.
Yet, Adam and Eve disobeyed,
eating of the forbidden tree.

And the man pursed his lips.

He said he would follow God,
that he trusted His direction.
Yet, Abraham bedded Hagar
to sire a son his own way.

And the man cringed.

They praised the Lord for miracles,
declaring their devotion to Him.
Yet the Israelites built an idol in the desert,
bowing low to a calf of gold.

And the man sighed.

He said he would fight for God,
that the Lord was his portion and provision.
Yet, Achan defied God's decrees,
stealing the spoil from his Maker.

And the man clenched his fist.

He said he would rule for God,
that he would lead His people righteously.
Yet, Saul took power into his own hands,
offering an unholy, forbidden sacrifice.

And the man closed his eyes.

He said that God was his shepherd,
that the Lord would meet his every want.
Yet, David sent a man to his death
to satisfy his own lust.

And the man wept.

He said he wanted Godly wisdom,
That he would serve Him only.
Yet, Solomon took wives by the hundreds,
and followed each of their gods.

And the man shook his head.

He was a prophet of the Most High,
speaking His pronouncements far and wide.
Yet, Jonah turned from Ninevah
and entered the great fish's belly.

And the man bowed his head.

They praised God with singing,
celebrating their return to the land.
Yet, the remnant neglected His temple,
letting its gates disintegrate.

And the man bit his lip.

They taught God's Word to the masses,
rebuking those who defied their authority.
Yet, the Pharisees hated His Son,
and worked to destroy Him.

And the man grit his teeth.

He marveled at Christ's miracles,
following and speaking for Him.
Yet Judas betrayed Jesus,
sending Him to death with a kiss.

And the man grimaced.

He said he would never leave Jesus,
declaring Christ was the Son of God.
Yet Peter turned his back on Him,
denying Him thrice in one night.

And the man scanned the crowd.

They said they were God's chosen,
following His laws and precepts.
Yet, the crowd rejected God's Son,
condemning Him to death on a cross.

And the Man examined His hands and feet.

"It is finished," He cried, and He gave up His spirit.
At that moment, the curtain of the temple
was torn in two from top to bottom.


**
Based on Genesis 3 and 16, Exodus 32, Joshua 7, 1 Samuel 13, 2 Samuel 11, 1 Kings 11, Jonah 1, Nehemiah, and the four Gospel accounts.

The direct Bible reference is taken from John 19:30 and Matthew 27:50b-51.

8/13/08

Empathy

My Wednesday night prayer meeting was...well...something else. And maybe not for the usual reasons.

As I mentioned in my last blog, Wednesday is the fifth anniversary of Marc's first brain surgery. It has been a pretty emotional day in general, as I'm sure you can imagine.

Well, this evening, I took my kids to Wednesday night children's church, and I went to prayer meeting, as usual. (Marc's generally too tired by the end of the day to do anything outside rest)

One of the prayer requests was for one of our church's shut-ins. She was scheduled for surgery to drain some liquid from her brain this afternoon. It was supposed to take about an hour. When our visitation pastor called the hospital right before prayer meeting--a good three or more hours after it had started--she was still in surgery.

Can you say "flashback?"

I spent the next half hour, at least, focusing on nothing but praying for this woman (who I'm fairly certain I've never met) and her step-son (who was my adult Sunday School teacher last spring) and his wife. I felt such empathy for her and her family, and such a need to pray. I even went as far as to kneel in front of my chair (which I can only recall doing maybe twice in my life), tuning out the other prayers people were praying. I could think of nothing else--and I'm still praying for her.

It reminds me of a Bible verse that came up in a Ladies' Bible Study during Marc's health issues, and that I've held onto as one of the "reasons" for our trial.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV
I can give this woman and her family the very same comfort that God gave me through my trials. I can pray more intelligently, meet their needs more effectively, because I have been there.

What a blessing to see how this trial has grown me. Especially today.

Five Years Ago Today...

Today is an "anniversary," of sorts.

On Wednesday, August 13,
2003--exactly five years ago--my wonderful husband, Marc, had his first craniotomy (two more followed within a year's time)--that's brain surgery to the layman. While I would probably say our "illness journey" actually started the Friday before, this was the first BIG event that occurred that hinted this was not going to be a short trial.

Of course, those of you who have been reading my blog know that this very trial is the basis of the book I'm working on: Ailing Body, Nourished Soul. There is obviously a lot to this story--more than what happened on this day five years ago. I'm working on telling it all so you can be blessed by it as much as, if not more than, we have been.

So, in honor of this day, I am posting, here on my blog, the very first thing I wrote about this trial. It was one of my fairly early writing challenge entries (entered on November 11, 2006). I have not edited it for this blog (though I have in other places), to show you at least some of the "rawness" of it - though, of course, the fact that it was written three years after it happened probably takes some of that away. (FYI some of the names have been changed)

So now, without further ado:


PROOF MY HUSBAND HAS A BRAIN

"There’s a mass on his brain that shouldn’t be there."

Those words echoed in my mind. How could they not? I’d heard them last Friday, and here it was, the following Monday morning, and we knew little more.

Next time, could someone remind my husband not to develop a serious illness on a Friday afternoon?

The ordeal had started less than a week earlier, with a migraine. Marc stayed home from work Tuesday, hoping to sleep it off. He felt better in the morning and tried going in, but the pain came back with a vengeance.

He came back home and went to the doctor, who gave him a shot. It helped, but not for long. The migraine returned - this time with vision issues. We went back to the doctor Friday, and were sent to the ER for a CAT scan.

That’s where we first heard that haunting proclamation. They immediately transferred him to a different hospital, where the best neurosurgeon in the area was on call. A lot of good that did, as it was now Monday morning, and we hadn’t seen him! Other doctors had come by, but not Dr. Stern.

An MRI had confirmed the mass was a tumor, but gave us no further information. So my husband and I sat in a hospital room waiting for news we were fairly confident was NOT going to change our lives for the better.

Marc and I didn’t talk about what was going on. We chatted about our son Andrew, my pregnancy, hospital food, and Marc’s lack of solid sleep (they had to wake him every two hours to test his blood). The light conversation stopped us from dwelling on the possibilities too much.

Finally, two unfamiliar faces entered the room - Dr. Stern and his nurse, Jen. Dr. Stern got right to the heart of the matter. Marc needed brain surgery - and soon. The tumor was likely one of two different types, and benign. The surgery should last four to six hours, and would be performed that Wednesday. The plan was to remove the tumor completely.

Wednesday morning, bright and early, Marc’s parents and I were in pre-op with him, along with our pastor. His wife was home watching Andrew so we could all be at the hospital.

Pastor’s words, in conversation and prayer, were encouraging and comforting, and his presence helped me keep my thoughts away from the "what ifs," and focus on God’s promises: to always be with me, to uphold me, to work everything out for His good. While I was certainly nervous, concerned and, at times, frustrated, panic did not take me over.

I kissed my husband goodbye, squeezed his hand, and went to sit in the waiting room with my in-laws. Jen had said she would give us updates as the surgery progressed. I sat, read, ate, watched TV, chatted, and prayed. I rarely left the room.

The one time I did go out for some air, I returned to find out I had just missed Jen. She had told Marc’s parents that the tumor was deeper in Marc’s brain than originally thought, and the surgery would likely take longer than expected.

Dr. Stern finally came in to talk to us about the surgery - an operation that had ended up taking eleven hours. The tumor was neither of the types he had originally thought, and was actually part and parcel of Marc’s optic nerve.

The doctor, therefore, was unable to remove it completely, as cutting through the optic nerve would have left Marc blind. Instead, he took out only as much tumor as he thought he could remove safely, then closed Marc back up again.

It had been a very long day, but I wasn’t quite ready for it to be over.

"Can I see him?"

"He’s in deep sedation, but yes, you can if you want to."

My in-laws tried to convince me to just go home, but my mind was made up.

"I need to see him."

Marc’s parents headed for their car, and I headed for Marc’s hospital room, where I found him hooked up to more wires and machines than I’d ever seen. But he was breathing, and appeared to be resting fairly comfortably.

I felt the need to touch him. I caressed his cheek, then put his hand in mine.

"I love you, Marc, and we will get through this together," I whispered, tears streaming down my face. I kissed his hand, lingered a bit, then walked out.

8/11/08

Monday Manna - Psalm 27:8

Welcome to my contribution to "Monday Manna" at Exemplify. Don't miss the other wonderful thoughts on this weeks verse at Kristen's blog, and feel free to post your own!

Psalm 27: 8
My heart says of you, "Seek his face!"
Your face, LORD, I will seek.

You can tell a lot about a person from their face. Emotions show on the face more than even words sometimes. Facial expressions can show us joy, anguish, confusion, frustration, peace.

So what does it mean to ME to seek God's face? In my view, God's face shows what is important to him. What makes my Lord smile? What turns his countenance to sadness, pain, or laughter? What aspects of our world--or of my thoughts, actions, and words--bring my Lord joy, and which bring Him sorrow?

But seeking His face is more than just knowing. Most importantly, I want to align my actions, thoughts, and words with the face I long to see on my Lord. It should grieve me if, when I find His face, the expression is one of sadness, disappointment, anguish. My goal is to make His face full of joy, pleasure, and peace. And if I DO find an "unpleasant" face on my Lord, I should long to make it right.

Heavenly Father, I so want Your desires to be mine, for what You work for to be my goal too. Help me, Lord, to see what brings You pleasure and what brings You pain. Help me to seek Your face, Lord, and to work in Your power to bring a smile to Your Heavenly mouth. In Jesus' name, Amen

8/9/08

Service and Sacrifice (part 2)

On Thursday, I started a series on the many many blessings I received and thoughts I pondered from my reading of the August 7 devotional from Streams in the Desert. The poem below is part of a longer work in the devotional for that day. I may do a blog on each line, or perhaps just several. My first blog dealt with the fourth line of this stanza. Now I'm moving on to the third line.

1Has He purified you with the fire from above?
2Is He first in your thoughts, does He have all your love?
3Is His service your choice, and your sacrifice sweet?
4Is your doing His will both your drink and your meat?
5Do you run at His calling with glad eager feet?
(Streams in the Desert, L. B. Cowman, August 7)
I looked in the bathroom sink this morning and almost wished I hadn't. It was an unwelcome reminder of some things I needed to do that I had been avoiding.

I am not a natural neatnick. In fact, I am quite the opposite. There are few things I dislike as much as cleaning bathrooms, straightening, vacuuming, etc. To add to this, I am very good at not being bothered by messes I see. And so, I'm ashamed to say, I often avoid addressing these issues. When I do get around to doing the work, it is not with a joyful heart.

Yet, as a child of God and a wife, that is part of my "job"--at least in my house. Keeping the home is my responsibility, and a way of serving my husband and my God.

Ouch.

There are certainly other things I do for the Lord and/or my family that I (generally) do with a happy heart. Preparing dinner is generally done with a right attitude, as is (surprisingly enough) doing the dishes. My ministry of encouragement and writing are usually on this list as well, as is my "church back scratching ministry" to my husband (ask if you're curious. ;) )

I am certain that the Lord sees these acts of service and is pleased: not only with the acts, but with my attitude. I am choosing to do what pleases Him, and I am doing it with a gracious mindset.

But what about that dirty bathroom? Exactly the opposite. I am choosing not to serve until I absolutely must, and when I do, it is with frustration and regret in my heart.

That makes me a bit like Cain, doesn't it? I offered my service, I "made my sacrifice," but it certainly wasn't a sweet-smelling, pleasing one. In fact, it stank--more than that bathroom smell I ought to scrub away. And God is not pleased.

What God REALLY wants from me is for me to choose to serve him.
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15 NIV
When we make a different choice--to avoid our duties, to put our focus on more "fun" things, we are serving a different master. And we know we cannot serve two masters.

God also desires that my sacrifices--my giving up of what I want for what He wants--be sweet. A willing heart is perhaps the best gift we can give to our Father. He certainly doesn't need us to do anything. He could clean my bathroom faster than I could blink my eye. He wants our hearts to be pointed toward Him.

And for me, I think that means I need to go clean that bathroom--and do it with a glad heart.

What do you need to do?

Heavenly Father, I so want to do Your will, to do the work You have given me to do. But Lord, sometimes my heart and my motivation are not in it. Help me, Lord, to make the choice to serve You first, and make my sacrifice sweet to You. Help me put You before everything else, and to serve You with joy. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen

8/8/08

Friday Fiction - "Care For An Apple?"

Welcome to Fiction Friday! After my VERY heavy contribution last week, I thought I'd give you something lighter - a LOT lighter! This really, truly has no point other than to make you giggle - and I hope it works. I wrote this for the humor genre challenge at Faithwriters. It was fun to write, fun to read again, and I hope it makes you smile! And don't forget to stop by LauraLee's Lifesong Blog for more great fiction - whether you want to post it, or just read some.
Care For An Apple?

I never should have gotten out of bed this morning.

As soon as my eyelids opened at 6 a.m. I should have reached behind my head for the medicine bottle, grabbed a few sleeping pills, swigged them down with the warm can of Dr. Pepper that had been sitting on the headboard for days, and closed my eyes again. The minute my droopy eyes registered the presence of a three-foot tall woman with a long flowery dress, a pink floppy hat, and an orange cauldron, I should have rolled over and just gone back to sleep.

Unfortunately, I didn't. Instead, I asked her what she was doing in my bedroom.

"Looking for you." Her voice reminded me of door hinges that needed oiling, or an old rocking chair. "Got a message for ya."

Well, that got me curious. I sat up on the side of the bed.

"What kind of message?"

"I dunno," she squeaked. "I think the kind that tells you something."

This was when I should have lifted her by her pudgy little arms and drop-kicked her out the bedroom window. But, being the model citizen I am, I simply rephrased the question.

"Who is the message from?"

The woman put down her cauldron and sat on it. It appeared to be somewhat bigger than she had thought, for her rear sank a good six inches into it. She almost looked like a turtle that had gotten stuck upside down. Oddly enough, she didn't look the least bit uncomfortable.

"It's from your horse."

I pondered this for a moment. Only a moment, I tell you, because I was already getting a headache. "My horse has a message for me?"

My visitor nodded. "Wanna hear it?"

I nodded. I figured if my horse (who was in a stable a good hour away, by the way) took the trouble to get a "little person" to come to my house at 6:00 on a Saturday morning to tell me something, I might as well hear what it was.

"Well, let's go see him. And bring some apples along." She stood up awkwardly, pried the cauldron off her bottom with a pop, and handed the pot to me.

This lady seemed to be in a hurry, so I put the cauldron down on my bed, dressed quickly, and ran a brush through my hair. I headed for the kitchen, where I rinsed out the cauldron (I knew ONE place where it had been) and put half a dozen apples in it.

When I returned to the bedroom, the woman was gone. I looked all over the bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom - every room in the house, and she was nowhere to be found. I even looked under the bed, and in the refrigerator. This strange woman seemed to have disappeared as mysteriously as she had arrived.

I began wondering if this whole thing had actually been real. Maybe I was losing my mind, or I had too much takeout Chinese last night and was having one of those dreams. Yet, I still had this orange cauldron in my hand. I pinched myself, but I didn't wake up.

I figured maybe I should head out to the stable. No matter what was going on, it certainly couldn't hurt to check on the horse, right? So, I grabbed my purse and keys (and the cauldron of apples, of course) and headed for the car.

As I sat and tried to put my purse and apples on the passenger seat, I solved the mystery.

"Took you long enough." There she sat, seat belt already buckled, tapping her fingers on the dash - which she could barely reach because of her short stature. "Let's get going."

We drove in silence, my eyes on the road. I don't think I even looked in her direction but once or twice, until about halfway there when I heard what sounded like several things dropping. Glancing her way, I saw a pile of apples on the seat. The woman, along with her cauldron, was gone.

So you see, officer, that's why I ran the red light and crashed into your cruiser. Wouldn't you have been distracted too? I'm really sorry, sir. It's just been one of those bad days. And now a ticket too, right? I really should have stayed in bed this morning.

Care for an apple, sir?

8/7/08

Hunger and Thirst (part 1)

If you've read many of my blogs, you've probably figured out that I am using Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman as my daily devotional this year. This is my first time through this wonderful devotional of the faith, and I am blessed and challenged nearly every day.

Well, today I came out with a boatload of blessings, and many, many things to think about. In fact, I think all my thoughts are going to end up taking up more than one blog. Don't want to keep you too much in suspense, though, so I'll share at least the stanza of a particular poem featured in the August 7 devotional that so blessed me. Today, I'm just going to tackle part of it--but stay tuned for more! My plan is to post this whole stanza each time, bolding the line I'm focusing on.


And HERE we go!
Has He purified you with the fire from above?
Is He first in your thoughts, does He have all your love?
Is His service your choice, and your sacrifice sweet?
Is your doing His will both your drink and your meat?
Do you run at His calling with glad eager feet?
(Streams in the Desert, L. B. Cowman, August 7)
Have you ever been really hungry? You know, the kind where you could legitimately come up to someone and say "I'm starving" and not be exaggerating?

I would venture to guess that most of you would have to say "no" to this particular question. Living in a "land of plenty," what we call hunger is a pale comparison to those who truly are lacking in food.

Yet, I'm sure we've all said we were hungry before - probably within the past day. So, maybe we think we can relate to what it means to hunger for God.

Or maybe we can't. Maybe only people who have truly been on the brink of starvation can truly conceive of what it means to crave God, to need God as much as you need food and water.

Yet, that is how we should feel about our Lord. David felt it.
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1 NIV
So did Paul and Moses, and other Biblical saints. Do you? Is doing God's will YOUR drink and your meat? Can you be satisfied with nothing else? Do you need it to live as much as you need food and water? Do I long for it when I've "skipped a meal?"

This has been very convicting to me, and I wish I could give a resounding "yes" to each of the questions above. Yet, I cannot. I love my time with the Lord, but I'm not sure I quite have this kind of craving for the will of God - at least not all the time. Other things take up my time, or keep me distracted, or blush I find other things to temporarily fill that "God-sized hole."

But that's not what I want. I want to desire His will more than drink--His plan more than choice morsels. And with His Spirit, I can.

Heavenly Father, I confess that my desire for You is not as strong as you or I wish it to be. Lord, help me to desire Your will more deeply, to crave Your plan more strongly. Bring me to the point where I can say, with the Psalmist, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God" (Psalm 42:1 NIV). In the name of Your Precious Son I Pray. Amen

8/6/08

Much Counsel

As I work on my Page Turner entry, I'm finding that having another person's eyes on my work can add to and improve it quite a bit. And often, more than one is even better.

I have had a total of three different people look over the introduction to Ailing Body, Nourished Soul. One reviewed my "first draft" a month or so ago and gave me some AMAZING feedback (thanks, Jan!). I then fixed it up and sent it to two others (Cat and Seema, you're incredible) to get their perspectives. Both of them are writers I admire, and who have looked over my work before.

I think what amazed me the most is that both of them caught things I missed and gave me wonderful suggestions--and not one of their corrections was duplicated by the other. In other words, if I had relied on just one of them, my piece would not be as polished as it is now.
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22 NIV
Don't you just love it when you walk into a living example of the accuracy of God's Word?

Originally, I was only going to send this to one of the two "editors," but the first one got a busy schedule and wasn't getting back to me QUITE as fast as her impatient editee was dreaming. In my selfish impatience, I sent it off to another dear friend in the hopes she would get it back to me lickety split (by the way, they both sent me back their edits on the very same day - yesterday). Despite my selfishness and anxiety, God used my for good (the good of my intro, anyway!). What an amazing and gracious God we have.

And if I can trust God to accomplish His best for me in little things like this, despite my own selfish motives, how can I NOT trust him for the larger things in life?
Thank You, Lord, for teaching me the validity and value of Your Word every day. Thank You for using even my Godless motives to lead me on the right, blessed path. Help me to learn to follow You and Your way, and to see things from Your perspective. In Jesus' precious name I pray.

Amen.

8/5/08

Peace AND Quiet?

I love it when I wake up early, before anyone else in the house. This is a common thing, as I am, in general, a VERY early riser. I am almost always awake between 5 and 5:30am.

That quiet of the early morning hours is a wonderful time for me. I'll often take a quick shower, then go sit on my special recliner with "Streams in the Desert" and my Bible beside me, along with my obligatory glass of milk. There, God and I will meet together, alone, for a time of sweet fellowship, peace, and study of His Word.
I did not have one of those mornings today.
Oh, I woke up first, but my four-year-old daughter made her appearance right as I was getting out of the shower. My seven-year-old son soon followed.

It was probably a pipe dream, but I thought I'd try to have my devotions regardless. Sometimes the kids will go off and play elsewhere (perhaps on the computer, perhaps in their rooms) if I'm too dull. I eased into my recliner (after moving my son's blankie) and placed my milk and reading material on the table beside it (shifting my daughter's books to the side).

This morning, however, I was entirely too interesting to be left alone. For the next 20 minutes, I sat with my children on either side of me as they"read" and chatted about the new "Dora the Explorer" books we'd picked up at Sam's Club yesterday.
There went my quiet, peaceful quiet time.
But hold on. Is this what the Lord is talking about when he promises us peace? Do we need complete silence to learn from, spend time with, grow in Him?

As a stay-at-home-mother of two and a wife to a husband on disability, I certainly hope not. My quiet moments are few and far between, and if I had to wait for them to spend time with the Lord, I'm not sure I'd "visit" Him at all.
No, the peace God promises His children is not a peace from struggles and noise and busyness, but a peace in the midst of them.
A couple of years ago, I received an incredible insight about God's peace in a Beth Moore Bible study with my church group. I'm sure each of you remembers a verse in the Old Testament, or at least a hymn, about what kind of peace God promises to give us. This reference is actually found in Isaiah.
For this is what the LORD says: "I will extend peace to her like a river..." Isaiah 66:12a NIV
What I learned was not that our peace is to be like a river (I knew that already), but what that peace looks like.

Think about a river. It is not stagnant and still. If it were, it would be a pond or a lake. It is moving: moving past rocks and branches, stirring up the waters, eroding the edges and carving its own path through. As I wrote almost two years ago in an old challenge entry,
"He doesn’t promise us peace like a pond--now THAT is calm. A smooth sail; an easy life. That’s what you were expecting. He promises us peace like a river: peace and security as you go over the twists, turns, and boulders of life. Jesus promised us trouble in this life - but he also said we could have His peace through it."
So, perhaps I need to learn to have that peace with God while my kids are chattering on either side of me, while my busy life goes on, while the world seemingly spins out of control around me.

Or...maybe I need to get up even earlier. ;)

8/4/08

A little break

Been congested and BUSY today - should have something tomorrow :D (and I'm kinda excited that I feel a touch guilty about not posting - only been doing this daily for a week, and it's already a habit!)



(and if you like this little sign, pop over to Heart Stirred Designs - it's a freebie from my dear Kristen)

8/3/08

Whose Day?

Today is a very special day. You see, exactly 41 years ago today, in a hospital in Encino, California, at 3:31pm PT, a future writer, mother, wife, and child of God emerged from her mother's womb. And, like every other person on earth, I was born a sinner. And every year, I celebrate that: some years with more fanfare than others.

Today is also Sunday, what many Christians call the Lord's Day. It's a day to focus on God by going to church, worshiping, resting, praising Him, singing songs, listening to His Word being preached, etc.

This is the second time since I've been a Christian that my birthday has fallen on a Sunday. Both times, I've found it very special to spend much of my birthday in church. It certainly helps with my mood!

It got me to thinking about "days" in general. Because this is my birthday, people tend to tell me it's "my day." Generally, on "my day," I expect certain perks, if you will. A bit of extra attention. A present or two. My favorite foods. Some phone calls or cards from folks I haven't heard from in a while. My choice of activities. Perfectly behaved kids (I can dream, can't I?). Most would not consider these expectations (well, besides the last one!) unreasonable. And, ashamedly, I will say that if I DON'T get these, I might get a bit testy.

What do you suppose our Lord expects from us on "His day?" A bit of attention? Prayer and praise? Focus on Him? Some time learning about Him in His Word? Focusing on the message He's sent to us through His messenger, the pastor? Again, not unreasonable. How often do we do this for Him?

But, do you know what? God does not own just one day out of the week. He created Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and the others just as much as He did Sunday.
Every single day of the week, from eternity past to eternity future, is the Lord's Day.
Can you imagine how pleased the Lord would be, and how different this world would look, if we treated the God with the same respect and honor we expect on our own birthdays every day of the year? How would you feel if your child/best friend/spouse forgot to call you on your birthday? Perhaps the Lord feels similarly when we don't spend time with him in prayer and Bible reading. I certainly don't want to cause Him that kind of disappointment. Not much of a relationship builder, is it?

And what if I only acknowledged my mother's birthday every seven years? And how is that different from only giving God my attention one day out of seven?
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalms 118:24 NIV
Whether it's Sunday or not, remember that it IS the Lord's Day--more so than August 3 is "my day."

Try giving God the attention He deserves--and you don't even have to pick Him up a gift card.

8/2/08

Mountains into Roads

Sometimes, life is hard. It feels like you are making no progress. You just want to turn around and go the other way--any way but the awful path you seem to be stuck on.

But you can't. The illness won't go away. Your kids won't behave. The job doesn't get any better. Your marriage isn't mending. The bank account is empty.

So, what do you do? You keep plugging on. You keep climbing that mountain, hoping against hope that you'll make it to the top and back through to the other side in one piece.

That mountain. We all have mountains we're trying to climb, barriers that are keeping us from where we want to be, that are making getting there (wherever "there" may be) tough.

But, do you know what? Those mountains are not truly our mountains. Sure, they're affecting us, but they don't belong to us. Those mountains--those struggles--are God's. He knows about them. He allowed them to block our path. In many cases, He put them there.

When I was doing my quiet time this morning, the Lord taught me something else He will do with those mountains. The book of Isaiah is one of my favorites, and this verse has blessed me all day, the more and more I think about it.
I will turn all my mountains into roads. Isaiah 49:11a NIV
The battles we face--the mountains we climb--will become direct paths to God's will for us. As we hike up that seemingly insurmountable peak, the Lord will use it to lead us on the path He wants us to follow. The very struggles we are experiencing will become the road that leads us to the precise location where God wants us.

So, if you're hiking one of those mountains, thinking you can't handle another day, press on. You may just be on just the right road, and God is right there with you.

And that's the best place to be.

8/1/08

Friday Fiction: "The Pain of Gain"

Welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction at Patterings. This story was written for the writing challenge about a year ago, and was truly unlike anything I had written before, or since. It is pretty dark, and probably disturbing--but I still think it is one of the best challenge entries I have written (even though it didn't make the EC LOL). I hope this makes you think, praise God for what you have, and pray for people in situations just like this (and there are more, I'm sure, than you could ever imagine). OH - and don't forget to check out Patterings for more wonderful fiction (and post your own if you have some you'd like to share!
The Pain of Gain

Zipporah, lying on the stone floor, opened her swollen eyes a slit. The room was unfamiliar, yet quite similar to the one she'd been dragged from right before she lost consciousness. She had no idea how long she had been out, nor when she'd entered this room. All she knew was it was daytime when she slipped away, and now it was night.

Looking up, she noticed a tile missing in the ceiling above her. The moon, a day or two from full, shone through it, giving the drab surroundings a ghoulish glow. She could see no other possible light source. But for that opening, the room would be pitch black.

Zipporah smiled at the light, reopening the scabbed-over gashes on the side of her face. She could feel blood dripping from her cheeks, but made no effort to stop its flow. Her arms felt like gelatin beside her. She did, however, mute her countenance a bit, impeding the further opening of her facial wounds.

Her grin changed to a grimace as she felt the tearing of flesh on her thighs. Shifting her eyes, she saw a guard cackling, a whip dripping with blood in his hand.

"Wiped that smile off your face, didn't I?" The guard's grin was eerily joyous, like a man who'd just received a promotion, or a bride on her wedding day. Zipporah's stomach turned and she closed her eyes.
How can a man derive such pleasure from my pain?

Willing herself to relax, she slowed her breathing and focused on her blessings. The glow of the moon. Happiness in her heart. The promise of paradise. The privilege of suffering for Him who gave up everything for her.

As she meditated, an image from God permeated her being. It began at the top of her head and coursed through her body until it was flowing through her very lifeblood.
Forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky.*

Opening her eyes again, she gazed up to bask in the ethereal glow. The corners of her mouth turned slowly upward and her body loosened.

"Get up." The guard's words rolled off his tongue like cream. He smirked, his eyes dancing.

Slowly and methodically, Zipporah rolled onto her left side and pushed herself to a sitting position, ever cognizant of the whip in her captor's hands. Every time she groaned or strained, his smile grew wider and his laugh deeper, until he was roaring with glee.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.*
"So, where is your Jesus now?"

Zipporah examined her captor's face, contemplating whether he expected an answer. Deciding the question was rhetorical, she smiled. He scowled, glaring at her peaceful countenance.

He lifted the whip above his head again, bringing it down with a snap, inches from Zipporah's feet. He chuckled as she flinched.

"Missed you by this much."

Breathing in deeply, she lifted her head and gazed up at the moon. The smile returned to her face.

"What - do you think you're going to escape out that hole in the ceiling?" He chuckled. "You can barely sit up, much less stand. Or is your Jesus going to charge in through there and save you? I have the power here, not Him."
You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.*
"You may not believe it, but you are going to die here, lady. Your death will be miserable and painful, and I am going to enjoy every moment of it."
"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.*"

The pleasure in his eyes turned to hatred in an instant.

Zipporah focused her remaining strength on keeping the corners of her mouth turned up. As the whip tore at her flesh again and again, her body slumped to the ground. She slipped into the arms of her Savior with a smile, her ears echoing with the maniacal laughter of her captor.

And the moon shined red.

**

All scripture references, listed in order, are from the NIV
Psalm 89.37
Luke 6:25
John 19:11
Philippians 1:21

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