"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

4/29/13

Seeds to Sheaves

Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. Psalm 126:6
 
Hopelessness can come very easily. Circumstances can beat us down. Our own sins can make us feel like there is no way out. Helplessness will set in and overtake everything, until we are convinced it will always be this way.

Photo credit
So we weep, certain life will never be better.

But His Word tells us that as long as we have the seeds of hope, all is not lost. And as long as we sow those seeds, they will grow. Our own tears of fear, anger and hopelessness can water those seeds until they bloom into a crop of blessing. God allows our struggles and hopelessness to strengthen us, to prepare us for what is to come. To make us more like Him.

And once those seeds of hope, planted in the midst of our hopelessness, watered by our tears and cultivated by our Heavenly Father, grow to their heavenly harvest, we will sing again, carrying the sheaves of blessing that grew from our sorrow.

**
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?


Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

4/22/13

Sins of Thou Shall

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do
 and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:17  NIV

They say there are two different kinds of sins, and in all honesty, most of us pay much more attention to one type than the other. 

There are the "thou shalt not" sins  - the things we are NOT to do (murder, covet, etc - "I don't smoke and I don't chew, and I don't go with boys who do."). There are lots of these, and most of us know what they are. Of course, there were more in OT times (at least it seems so with all the kosher issues and other such laws in the Pentateuch), but even in this age of grace, there are still plenty of things we shouldn't do - plenty of things that if we DO practice them, we are sinning.

But not all sins are like this. There are some sins that come from neglecting what we should do. And sometimes we don't think about these as much. But as I was reading through the book of 1 Samuel, one instance of this grabbed me by the collar and wouldn't let me go. And it made me wonder how often I am sinning through my INACTION rather than my action.

I'll set the scene. The prophet/priest/judge Samuel has just installed Saul as Israel's first king, and he
was giving a farewell speech as their official leader. In the twelfth chapter of 1 Samuel, he told them of the mistake they made in asking for a king, and even had the Lord send down thunder and rain out of season to emphasize their error. (1 Samuel 12:12-18) The Israelites ask for forgiveness, and Samuel speaks to them of it - and then he says a most incredible thing - in my view, anyway.
As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. 1 Samuel 12:23
Not praying for the Israelites, for Samuel, would have been a sin. How often have you told someone you would  pray for them and not done it? (hopefully less often than I have :::blush:::) How about that time God whispered in your ear to go witness to someone, to get off the computer and hug your child, to call a struggling friend, to pray for your enemies - and you didn't do it? Maybe you weren't just ignoring a suggestion. Maybe you were sinning against the Lord.

Aren't you glad that Jesus paid the price for ALL our sins on the cross - the sins of COMMISSION as well as the sins of OMISSION?

Thank You, Lord, for making us aware of ALL our sins, and of making a way for us to be right with you. Help us, Father, to not only not do what is wrong, but to do what is right. Guide us in Your way, Lord. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen
**
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
Graphics courtesy of Christians Unite 

4/18/13

Biblical Flash Fiction - Crossroads

Next week, I promise, I'll have a Bible character biography. Been quite busy with "life" and other writing stuff - and these are "premade," so much less work to put up here. And besides I've already read about the characters in this piece in my chronological Bible reading (about a week ago, if I recall!). It's a favorite story of many, I know (the Bible one - not my rendition of it, necessarily LOL).

Hope you enjoy it!

Crossroads


Photo credit
"Oh, how I love you, dear Mahlon." She caught the lump in her throat with a gulp, as tears misted from her brown eyes. "Whatever shall I do?"

The delicate hand of Orpah touched her shoulder. She reached up and gave it a squeeze.

"Now I understand, Orpah," Ruth whispered. "Now I understand."

The two widows held each other tightly, until matronly arms engulfed them both.

"Mother," the ladies said in unison.

"Ruth. Orpah." Naomi sighed. "What a month this has been."

Friends and family bowed their heads as the women left the burial site together.

**

"Nothing. Nothing left in this land." Naomi kicked the dirt beneath her feet. "Barely enough grain for a loaf of bread."

Ruth, grinding the wheat, shielded it from the dust particles. "We will make do, Mother. Your God will provide."

Naomi sighed. "Perhaps. He has provided dear daughters-in-law to this old woman."

"And to us, a wonderful mother," Orpah said, entering the home from the outside.

The three grinned.

**

"She has been so good to us. She has lost a husband and both sons. How can we deprive her of daughters as well?" Ruth sat in the corner beside Orpah, her voice barely above a whisper.

"We are a burden on her, Ruth," Orpah retorted. "Two more mouths to feed and no man to help her with it. If we go back to our homes, we will be provided for. We may even get new husbands. We are still young, you know."

Ruth held back her tears. "But what about Naomi?"

Orpah smiled. "She is returning to her people. Perhaps they will take care of her, as our people take care of us."

"Perhaps." Ruth shuddered. "Or perhaps not. Who knows what will meet her in Bethlehem? The least we can do is help her-go with her and aid her in her new start. Would she do less for us? Think of how supportive, how loving, she has been toward us--enemies of her people--for all these years. What an amazing God she must have to treat us that way. Do you really want to go back to our old way of life, our old gods?"

Orpah rested her chin on her hand and sighed. "I suppose you're right. She would certainly appreciate the help."

Ruth rose from the ground and grabbed a bulging satchel leaning against the wall. "Then we need to make haste, so we can catch up with her before it is too late."

**
Once the girls caught up with Naomi, the three strolled together in silence. After a few minutes, they reached a divide in the road. Naomi stopped and looked both Ruth and Orpah in the eye.
The stiff body before her did not answer. She continued staring as it was lowered into the ground.
Courtesy of Christians Unite

"Go back, each of you, to your mother's home. May the Lord show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.*" Naomi embraced and kissed both of them, and they wept together.

Ruth looked up at her mother-in-law. "We will go back with you to your people.*"

Naomi dismissed the idea as nonsense.

Orpah leaned into Ruth and whispered, "She has a good point, and we would be a burden." Backing away, Orpah kissed Naomi on the cheek. Wiping away tears, she left Ruth and Naomi, trudging back toward Moab.

Ruth, however, clung to Naomi, swearing to follow her wherever she would go, and claiming Naomi's God as her own. I will help her through this struggle. And, God willing, she will help me through mine.

**

Naomi put out her arms eagerly, receiving the wiggly, giggly bundle and pulling him close to her heart. "Little Obed," Naomi cooed, "What a wonderful family you have been born into."

Ruth and Boaz looked down at their child with glowing, love-filled eyes. "Thank you, Mother, for loving me, for supporting me, and for encouraging me in my grief to reach out to this wonderful man." Ruth's eyes left her child's and rested on her husband, then her mother-in-law. "You have helped me discover the beauty from my sorrow."

Naomi handed Obed back to Ruth. "It is you I should thank, sweet Ruth. You have given me help and hope. And, perhaps best of all," Naomi ran her hand through Obed's hair, "you have given me a son."

**
This story's empty spaces can be filled in by reading the Old Testament book of Ruth, Chapters 2-4.

References (from NIV):
Ruth 1:8-9, 10

How had God turned YOUR sorrow to joy?
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

4/15/13

Growing In Stature and Favor

As I was reading the first couple chapters of 1 Samuel last week, a verse struck me as it never had before. And trust me - this was NOT my first time seeing this particular portion of scripture. I have read the entire Bible through almost every year since I got saved in 1999.

And it wasn't just that I love the way the verse sounded, or even the message behind it (both of which are true). It's that I was CERTAIN that I'd heard the verse before. And NOT in 1 Samuel.

After a bit of searching (Bible Gateway certainly makes THAT easier to do), I  figured out why. I HAD read it elsewhere - or at least something incredibly similar. In the NEW Testament.

Wanna see? Below are the two verses, with the proper names removed. Can YOU tell which is OT and which is NT?

1. And ________ grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (NIV)

2. And the boy  _______ continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people. (NIV)

Can YOU fill in the blanks? I'll admit, if I hadn't looked it up myself, I likely couldn't have told you which was from 1 Samuel and which wasn't - though I likely would have known which two names to slide into those blanks.

Just FYI - verse #1 is Luke 2:52, and is, of course, about Jesus. The second is 1 Samuel 2:26, and Samuel himself fits in that blank spot.

So, what's my point? I guess I have several:
  • The Old and New Testament are ONE BOOK. One narrative, told through dozens of people over thousands of years - but still, one story. Jews will have nothing to do with the New Testament. Many Christians marginalize the Old Testament. In my view, they are BOTH wrong.
  • The Perfect Son of Man isn't the only one who can grow in stature and favor of the Lord. Samuel was a person - not God's only Son. He wasn't perfect - in fact, it appears that, though he was a faithful prophet and priest, he wasn't the best father (1 Samuel 8:1-3). But still, he was a man of God, who pleased the Lord AND the people around him. Sometimes modeling my life after perfection (i.e. Jesus) can be disheartening. Here's a human being I can emulate.
  • Growing in stature and favor is important to God. He doesn't waste words, and he doesn't repeat things just for the fun of it. If you find something in His Word more than once, give it double the attention - at least.
  • I have an eye for detail. Yeah - I NOTICE minutia like this (need a proofreader? LOL).
Isn't God's Word amazing? Is there any better place to turn to "grow in wisdom and favor?"
 **
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths
Graphics courtesy of Christians Unite

4/11/13

Our Promised Son - Biblical Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is a fun medium, one I first discovered several years ago when I joined FaithWriters. That site is also where I discovered my love of biblical fiction. I haven't written much flash biblical fiction lately, but I've got a store of ones I did write "back in the day," and as I reach certain passages in my chronological Bible reading, I will share some of them with you.

Well, it's time. This one was a fun one to write. I read about this particular incident last week. Hope you enjoy it!
 Our Promised Son

It was a blessing straight from God. The answer to my prayers. My dream come true. What I'd been hoping for since I was a little girl.

Or so I thought.

Then again, who would blame me for expecting the best? When the angel of the Lord shows up on your doorstep not once, but twice, who wouldn't think life was about to get rosier? Yet, that's not exactly how it ended up for me.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Maybe I should just start from the beginning.

When Manoah and I got married, we planned to have a houseful of children. We were soon reminded, however, that we could prepare all we wanted, but it was only the Lord's plan that was guaranteed to come about.

As the years went by, we (actually, I) began to wonder if I'd done something to fall outside of God's favor. Children are, after all, a blessing from Him, and we just weren't getting any.

Courtesy of Christians Unite
I have to admit I was close to losing hope when the angel showed up. That all changed the minute I looked into his face. How could a woman be pessimistic when an honest-to-goodness angel announced that her prayers would be answered beyond her wildest imagination?

Not only was I going to be blessed with a child, it would be a boy. To top that off, he would be a Nazirite from birth, dedicated to our Lord, and he would grow up to deliver us from 40 years of Philistine rule. What could be better than that?

Apparently, several things. But I'm getting ahead of myself again.

I told my husband what the angel said, but it seemed he needed confirmation from a higher source, so to speak. He asked God to send the angel again, and before I knew it, that awesome figure was before me. He informed Manoah that our son was to avoid anything from the vine and all things unclean, and all the other Nazirite restrictions (Exactly what his loving wife had told him earlier, by the way). So, it was settled.

Manoah and I assumed our job as parents would be easy. After all, God had hand-picked our son for the job. Our sovereign Father would raise him up to follow Him devoutly, right? We were certain our boy would graciously and wholeheartedly live up to his Nazirite vows. After all, why would God have us devote him in the womb if our son wasn't going to follow through?

I hate to say I may never know the answer to that question.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love my son. He is God's gift to Manoah and me. It's just that he seems to have this tendency to go against our, and the Lord's, commands. Trouble seems to be his middle name, and, besides his physical strength, defying authority appears to be his defining characteristic, if you know what I mean. We tried to bring him in the training and admonition of the Lord, but there's only so much a parent can do.

Like that Philistine woman. I tried to warn him that she was trouble, that he should marry one of his own kind. But did he listen to me? Not for a moment. He dragged us off to Timnah to arrange the marriage with that pagan anyway. Imagine our shame. Our son, a Nazirite, marrying outside the faith.

Fortunately - thank the Lord - their marriage didn't last very long. His exploits didn't stop, however. It seemed all he wanted to do was incite the Philistines to anger. I thought the angel said my son would deliver us from our oppressors - not rile them up at every opportunity. He doesn't seem to be making much progress, either. Makes me wonder if that really was an angel.

I do have a bit of hope. He's found himself a nice girl, it seems. She's certainly pretty, but seems sweet too, and our son clearly adores her. Perhaps my dream come true is still possible. Maybe all he needs is the right girl to help him get straight with God, to help him live up to the promises the angel made all those years ago.

Maybe, just maybe, Delilah is that girl.
Courtesy of Christians Unite
Based on Judges 13-16

So - how long did it take you to figure out who the story was about?

 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

4/9/13

More Than One Kind of Shower

It's raining right now (well, when I wrote this, anyway - 80% chance in the area for most of the day today).  It is April, after all.

The Barn Door

But those aren't the only kinds of showers that fall in this area in April. Come by the Midwest blog The Barn Door, and see what I have to say about West Michigan, different kinds of showers, and the flowers they bring.  Check out Showers - of More Than One Kind!
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

4/8/13

But When The Judge Died...

Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. Judges 2:18-19 NIV

Whether we like to admit it or not, we are influenced by those who are in power over us. Whether that person is a teacher, parent, pastor, or employer, it's easy to allow your boss's attitudes and philosophies to affect your own.
Nobody I know - photo credit

Of course, this isn't always a good thing. It depends on who you're being influenced by. If your leader is Godly, it can help. If he isn't, well, that's another story.

But regardless, who's the boss should not determine your behavior (unless we're talking about the Ultimate Boss). Yet, it seems that was the case with the Israelites, especially during the time of the judges.

The entire book (all twenty-one chapters, 618 verses) is quite succinctly summarized in nine verses in the book's second chapter (Judges 2:11-19). And my summary of that summary?
  • The Israelites stopped following the Lord, so they were captured by enemies.
  • God rose up judges to save them from their enemies, and they were saved.
  • While the judge ruled and saved, they listened to the Lord
  • When the judge died, they returned to their wickedness
  • Later, rinse, repeat ;)
Don't allow your faith or actions to be governed solely by your earthly boss. Have your OWN convictions - formed in prayer, with God and His Word as your guide - and follow them no matter who is in charge.

You don't have to wait for the judge to die to prove your own convictions.
**
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

4/5/13

What is Biggest?



 Come by the Internet Cafe and see what I learned from analyzing a chapter from my book - and it wasn't about my book ;) What is biggest? Come see.


 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

4/4/13

Introducing Caleb: Faithful to the End

There are some Bible characters where just their name inspires you - makes you smile. They could be big, important, well known ones, but they certainly don't have to be. Ever since I decided to do Bible character biographies, I've known that one particular guy would get featured when I got to him. And well, it's his turn.

Caleb, son of Jephunneh, is of the tribe of Judah. He is first mentioned in Numbers 13:6, and his story continues, on again off again, through the OT narrative to Judges 1:12-20.

Caleb was one of the twelve men sent into the Promised Land to spy it out and report back to his people in Numbers 13. He saw the large and fortified cities, the powerful people - the giants who lived there (Numbers 13:27-29).

But he also saw that his God was more powerful.
 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” Numbers 13:30
But only he and Joshua son of Nun (recognize that name?) believed that. The other ten allowed their fears to overcome them - and convinced the rest of the Israelites to do the same.

So the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, and nobody over the age of twenty at that time entered the Promised Land - except for Joshua and Caleb. (Numbers 14:30)

And by the time they did enter...Caleb was eighty years old. And it was another five years before he was given the land God had promised him in Numbers 14.

Photo credit
So Caleb received his inheritance at the age of eighty five. And it wasn't handed to him on a silver platter. This octagenarian had to fight for it.
I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said. Joshua 14:11-12
And he took it - because the Lord helped him.

Just picturing ANY 85-year-old fighting off giants successfully puts my anxieties and doubts to shame. I have never had to wait 45 years (or even close to that!) for a promise from God. And most of my blessings don't require a fight like Caleb's did.

But, to Caleb son of Jephunneh, it didn't matter. God was faithful - and so was he.

Are YOU faithful to the end like Caleb? What inspiration can you take from this man?
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

4/2/13

A New Month - New Goals (a goals/progress update)

Well, March didn't go quite as planned - but that is DEFINITELY okay. In fact, it's pretty wonderful. In case you missed it - my nonfiction won a contest! After a bit more work (not sure exactly what yet, but I should know soon!), it looks like Ailing Body Nourished Soul is on the road to publication!

Image courtesy of Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


This fact put a bit of a twist in my writing plans for the month (and following), but I still did fairly well, I'd say.

How well, you ask? Let's look at my goals, straight from last month's goals/progress post:
  • Post, on topic, at least twice a week to my blog (with 2/3 of it fresh content) - this does not count teaser posts to other blogs I post to.
  • Write a minimum of 40,000 words in Handmaiden to a Princess
  • Be done with ALL the lectures in Margie Lawson's Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors.
  • Try to at least read the emails/lessons  in Ane Mulligan's free ACFW Course on Motivation, Goal, and Conflict.
 Well, ALL my posts were fresh content this month - but one week I only had one of them, so I almost managed the first goal. I did NOT make 40k in my novel - but I did manage exactly 21,000 - plus some needed revisions for Ailing Body, Nourished Soul.

I am on the wrap-up for the last Margie Lawson lesson (and, assuming all goes as I expect on this tech-free Tuesday, I will be finished before April 2 is over) - so, again, close. And Ane Mulligan's class? REALLY good - and helpful. I have done all but the last lesson (which I WILL get to!).

So, enough looking back. Time to move AHEAD with my goals for April!
  • Post, on topic, at least twice a week to my blog (with 2/3 of it fresh content) - this does not count teaser posts to other blogs I post to.
  • Finish the last Margie Lawson and Ane Mulligan lessons.
  • Once I know exactly what I need to do, a minimum of five chapters a week "fixed" for Ailing Body Nourished Soul.
  • Until I know about ABNS, a minimum of 5k a week in Handmaiden to a Princess. After that, 2k a week minimum.
Thanks again, folks, for your encouragement, and following along with my progress. Have a great week!

 How was your March? Have you set April goals?


Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

4/1/13

Living Dayenu

Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20 NIV

Tomorrow is the last day of Passover (more details in my last post if you're interested), and as I was looking and thinking back through the traditions of this Jewish holiday, one particular song - a true Passover staple - came to mind.

 Sung during the Passover seder, Dayenu isn't just a song, I realized this past week. It's a philosophy - a way of thinking.

First, though, I want to start with a pronunciation guide - and a definition. Dayenu means "it would have been enough" - or "it would have been sufficient." And how do you say the word? (dyeYAYnew)

This is a song of thanksgiving to the Lord for the many things He did for the Israelites. The lyrics (those at the link are in English - it's generally sung in Hebrew) list fifteen different ways that the Lord blessed his people during their departure from Egypt and following. And after every verse, the refrain - Dayenu - is sung.
Even if the Lord had only done one thing for His people, He would still be worthy of praise.

If He had brought us out from Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against them... Dayenu.
If He had carried out judgments against them, and not against their idols... Dayenu.
If He had destroyed their idols, and had not smitten their first-born... Dayenu
Dayenu. It would have been enough.

How much better would my life be if I lived by this mantra? How often do I get caught in the cycle of discontent, of complaining and grumbling about what the Lord has not done for me?

Sure, He saved me, gave me a wonderful family, and a cozy house to live in, but why couldn't He have not let the icemaker in the freezer break? I love my son, but why couldn't God have made him more obedient/social/calm/fill-in-the-blank?

He gives us so many blessings, and yet all we do is look for more. Our God is gracious and loving - and if all He had done was save us from our sins, it would have been enough.

Dayenu - Amen?

**
Are you living a life of Dayenu? We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

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