Tag Archives: Christianity

You Can Call Me Peter

Among Bible characters, I have often identified with Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. I can easily spend time in contemplation about God or spiritual matters, essentially sitting at the feet of Jesus, while the chores of the day go unnoticed.

I have also identified with the apostle John, who referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” I know that Jesus loves me in the same way. Plus I love John’s gospel, epistles, and account of his vision in Revelation. I love the way he writes and his focus on the deity of Christ, and I identify with him because of my desire to do the same in my writing.

But this week I found myself identifying with a Bible character I never really identified with before. And that is the apostle Peter.

In Bible Study Fellowship we are studying the book of Matthew, and there is much about the character and behavior of Peter in that book. Last week we were studying Matthew 26. In that chapter, at the Last Supper, Jesus warns all the disciples that they will fall away that very night, and Peter fervently denies this, saying he will die with Jesus if he has to, even if all the others do fall away. Jesus then tells Peter he will deny Him three times before the rooster crows the next morning.

In the next scene, the little band of disciples is off to Gethsemane following their Master after a long day. In the garden, Jesus goes off to pray but brings Peter, John, and James with Him. He tells them to stand watch and pray, but all three fall asleep instead of praying. Jesus awakens them and again tells them to pray because “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Then He goes a little further to pray again His heartbreaking prayer that the cup of the Father’s wrath be taken from Him if it is possible. Jesus returns to the three to find them again sleeping and not praying.

In the next scene, Jesus has submitted to the Father’s will and awakens the disciples yet again to go and face His betrayer and the crowd that is coming to arrest Him. In spite of Jesus repeatedly telling the disciples that His arrest, crucifixion, and ultimate resurrection are the Father’s plan, Peter takes matters into his own hands and pulls out his sword, lopping off the ear of one of the crowd. Jesus rebukes him and tells him to put the sword away. Then as Jesus (and Old Testament prophecy) predicted, the disciples, including Peter, all scatter.

Two scenes later we see Peter again, slinking around the fire outside the courtyard where Jesus is being unjustly tried by the high priest. Three times Peter is asked if he was with Jesus, and three times Peter denies that he even knows Him, just as Jesus predicted.

Many times this year in BSF, something has happened in my life that fits right into whatever the lesson is for that week. Maybe God knows I learn better when the lesson is directly relatable to my life.

This week is no different as I find myself identifying with Peter. This bold and sometimes hot-headed disciple faced a great difficulty. And though he was warned by Jesus about what was to happen and admonished to pray so that he would not fall into temptation, Peter did not heed that warning.

I faced a difficult situation this week. I felt the Spirit’s nudge to pray about it, and to do so earnestly. Yet I did not pray. Although I didn’t literally sleep instead, I might as well have because I filled the time I should have been praying with useless activities. Then I found myself unprepared to face the situation. Instead of meeting it calmly, with love and grace, I exhibited my Peter-like hot-headedness. I met the situation with anger and fear instead of forgiveness and faith.

The good news is that if I repent of my sin and turn to Jesus, He will forgive me and restore me, just as He did Peter. And His plan will prevail in spite of my failings, just as the plan of redemption through His crucifixion and resurrection prevailed in spite of Peter’s failings.

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Have You Read What He Said? – A Poem

You think He’s a prophet, a great teacher,
nothing more, nothing less

Seriously?
Have you ever read
the many crazy things He said?

He spoke like a street corner sandwich-board

From that time on Jesus began to preach,
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

Or a homeless man rambling on
about angels and demons

The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom.
The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

He was homeless, with no place to lay His head

No one listens to a crazy man with a sandwich-board
or the homeless man rambling on

You surely don’t call them prophets, or great teachers
just crazy, nothing more

He spoke like a paranoid schizophrenic
certain the ones in power were after Him

We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered
over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law.
They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles
to be mocked and flogged and crucified.

He was plagued by delusions of grandeur
claiming He was God; had always lived and always would
even after He died, He claimed He would rise again

“On the third day I will be raised to life!”
 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

No one would listen to someone who made such claims today
They would lock Him in the loony bin, put Him on meds
until He understood He was just a man

The leaders of His day did even worse
They crucified Him because He claimed He was the Messiah
the Son of God

Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man
sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.

Then the high priest said, “Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.  What do you think?”
“He is worthy of death,” they answered.

But He offered some great advice, you say
and spoke of love and forgiveness

That He did, but His advice, His commands
turned many away who thought His teaching too hard

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. . .
And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. . .
And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out.

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life,
and I will raise him up on the last day.
For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.

Those who followed Him then, those who follow Him now
do so not because He was a great teacher or a prophet
but because He was who He said He was
Immanuel, God with us
nothing more, and certainly nothing less

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The End – A Poem of Hope

What will you hear
When His coming is near
Rumors of war
Earthquakes galore
Widespread famine
Love of mammon

Don’t be alarmed
Your future is charmed
By the gift of life
That overcomes strife
Peace will transcend
When He comes in the end

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Memories Haunt in the Light – A Poem

I stand upon the solid Rock
I’ve found my firm foundation
Living each day in the Light
Being sure of my salvation

I know His words of grace are true
‘Cause I feel them deep in my heart
I rise each day, out into the world
And that’s when the memories start

The sky is blue, the sun is bright
A chill wind stings my face
I should be happy and light, but cold
Triggers thoughts I seem to chase

Like Paul with his thorn, I pray the Lord
Would remove the pain today
“My grace is sufficient,” He replies
As over and over I cry and pray

But what if grace is not enough
As this memory haunts the light
This is when I must trust and believe
To escape the darkness of night

He uses this memory of pain
To teach me compassion and grace
For the bruised and the broken
Haunted by memories of disgrace

He’s made me merciful and kind
This lesson is not meant to destroy
But some days I’d rather be less caring
And remember only love and joy

My Rock remains firm beneath me
In spite of my doubt and fury
His grace will suffice, I rest in His Light
One day this memory He’ll bury

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Thoughts on “Discovering My Purpose”

The following is an essay I wrote for the Faith and Culture Writers Conference 2014. It is the essay that I mentioned in an earlier post that was scored 29/100 by one judge and 68.5/100 by the other. One of the comments I received from the first judge was that if the first sentence of the third paragraph was so important I should give it more than a passing mention. As I’ve thought about that comment this week, and struggled with whether to post this essay here, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t need to say any more about the past than I have here. That is not my real story and the details aren’t that important. Rather, my story is the story of Redemption through Christ and to focus on the details of the past does not further that story.

Discovering My Purpose

We are all born with a unique purpose. I now know my purpose is to glorify God with my writing and poetry, but I didn’t always.

Writing is in my blood and is the backbone of much of what I have done in my life. Naturally, I pursued a career that involves writing—I became a lawyer and now hold the title Director of Legal Publications. I am also an avid blogger and poet for the Lord. But I’m getting ahead of myself. My journey towards realizing my purpose as a poet has involved walking through darkness and pain, which I often masked with my own personal achievement and pride.

I went to college largely to escape the small town I had grown up in, having been gravely wounded there. I pursued a political science major at a small liberal arts college, which required writing numerous long research papers and essay exams. I enjoyed the process of consulting diverse research sources and crafting cohesive arguments. Despite the admissions director’s warning that I would surely earn some C grades, I immersed myself in my studies and excelled, graduating in the top 11 percent of my class without one C.

Next, I attended law school and again thrived. Writing meticulously-cited research papers and briefs as well as challenging essay exams suited me. In fact, my first semester Contracts professor distributed copies of my final exam as an example of an A+ essay. I learned the IRAC writing method—IRAC stands for Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion. Because of my naturally organized writing style, I excelled and graduated cum laude. I was on my way to greater success!

During this time I believed in God but He took a backseat to my life and achievements. I was proud of my accomplishments and failed to recognize my writing ability was a God-given talent. I had great knowledge about writing, but I didn’t have wisdom to know what He had created me to write.

After law school I accepted an associate position at a small construction law firm. I was thrust into a world where writing was not the key to success as I had assumed it would be for any lawyer. Meanwhile, the small-town past I had buried under mounds of academic achievements caught up with me and I took a nosedive into major clinical depression. My boss and I “agreed” that this firm was not right for me; I found myself looking for another job. I landed one easily enough, but it didn’t last either.

For the next six years I battled with depression, with the devil himself, trying to find myself and get back on track. During this time most of my writing was private journaling—primarily rants about how hopeless my life was. I wrote a few poems, but they weren’t very good and were quite self-focused. For example, I wrote this untitled poem:

The me that no one knows
writes poetry and prose

The me that people see
writes briefs in legalese

The me that no one knows
seeks counseling for my woes

The me that people see
pretends I’m always pleased

There’s really only one of me
but different sides I reveal
depending on the circumstances
or how I think I should feel

I tried medication and counseling to find relief from depression, all to no avail. My doctor told me that I would be on antidepressants for the rest of my life, though I couldn’t see how they were helping me. I researched depression, trying to find the answer, and came across a book titled, “The Broken Brain.” Reading it, I concluded that my brain, the thing upon which I had hung my professional hat, was irreparably broken. I felt helpless and hopeless, to the point of contemplating ending my life, thinking my husband and young son would be better off without a wife and mother who was so broken.

And this is where God stepped in through the kindness of a Christian friend who invited me to Bible study. During that months-long study of Ezra and Nehemiah, God brought me back from my exile into darkness and depression. He taught me that it was not my brain that was broken, but my heart and my soul. He showed me that anger and unforgiveness I had been harboring for over 15 years drove my depression. He gave me wisdom and strength to forgive. He healed my brokenness and gave me hope. He became my Light, my Rock, and my Redeemer. I learned to boast in Him, not myself. (Jeremiah 9:23-24.)

Not long after, God led me to an unadvertised position as managing editor of a legal newsletter. I was writing again! That position became a stepping stone to my current position in legal publishing, which I love. But still something was missing in my life. I was not passionate about what I was writing at work. In my managerial position, sharing God’s gift of salvation was not appropriate. I longed for a spiritual outlet for my writing.

In September 2009, through a series of God-orchestrated events, I started blogging. Initially, I wrote short essays about faith, life, music, and forgiveness. I was blessed to become part of an active community of Christian bloggers. I had long given up on being a poet, but as I befriended other Christian blogging poets I was encouraged to try my hand at Christian poetry.

I started small with acrostic poems for holidays. Then I ventured into writing poems about thankfulness for my Thankful Thursday theme day. Finally, I found my voice—my purpose—and began to express how God had rescued me from the darkness and despair of depression through His forgiveness and grace. A favorite of my poems is one titled Learning to Forgive.

Someone I don’t know commented on my blog: “thank you for writing this if i didn’t read this when i did i never would have been able to forgive my father for what he has done. so thank you again.” This heartfelt, healing response to one poem that God had led me to write blessed me with a greater feeling of accomplishment and purpose than all of my academic and professional writing combined. I finally realized that my purpose in this life is to share God’s grace and love, to give voice to lost souls struggling in the darkness, in need of the light of Christ to bring them healing. At last I was being used by God for His glory.

Since embarking on my poetic journey, I have focused on two things: truth and craftsmanship. First, and foremost, everything I write must be true to who God is and true to the valley of the shadow of death He has walked through with me. I rely on the Holy Spirit to give me the best words to convey healing wisdom and truth. At times, particularly during periods when I have challenged myself to write daily, I have prayed specifically for what to write and the Lord has been faithful to place in my mind the first stanza and framework of a beautiful poem.

Second, I desire to hone my poetic craftsmanship, so God’s truth is clearly and beautifully communicated to those who need His healing grace. I’ve read poetry blogs with lessons on various forms of poetry, such as triolets, pantoums, and trireme sonnets. I love writing poetry to form because it utilizes the structured writing skills I learned in college and law school, and more importantly because it beautifully conveys that He is a God of order, not chaos. This triolet melds repetition, meter, and rhyme for a reminder of who Christ is and who we are in Christ.

I am blessed to have discovered my purpose. “Now the one who has fashioned [me] for this very purpose is God, who has given [me] the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Corinthians 5:5.

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Learning from Disappointment

Earlier this week I wrote this post about my experience at the Faith and Culture Writers Conference 2014. In that post I said that, for the most part, the conference was not disappointing. Some might have wondered in what way, then, was the conference disappointing? Well, here’s what happened.

The weekend started off great when I picked up my friend Ginger in my new red Honda Accord Sport and we took the back way out to Newberg to avoid rush-hour traffic. The weather was sunny and warm, and we made great time and so we had plenty of time to stop and get dinner. Unfortunately, Siri was not much help in locating a suitable restaurant for dinner and we resorted to just looking for a place that might work. We ended up at Finnegan’s and sat down in a bright, sunny corner booth by the window. I had a Chinese chicken salad and she had a BLAT.

We both had been up since 4:00 a.m. and so knew that coffee was essential if we were to make it until 9:30 p.m. and then the drive home. But again, Siri was no help. So we headed straight (okay, maybe we took a few twists and turn) to the Friends Church in Newberg. We got a great close parking spot and went in to register.

That’s when the disappointment started. At the registration table they did not have a name tag for me. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, but still it left me feeling like I didn’t belong, like I was sneaking in, even though I had registered the very first day that online registration was open. I was told they would have a name tag for me in the morning.

Ginger and I (at least I was with someone who had a name tag) went in and found seats in the balcony and then went in search of coffee. Disappointment number two—there wasn’t any. Thankfully the nice women at the registration table point us in the direction of a local coffee shop that sold Stumptown coffee and we had time to walk there and back before the conference started.

The speakers and worship were awesome and we had a great evening. (See my previous posts on speaker topics here and here.) The drive home was a great time to debrief on what we had heard and talk about what break-out sessions we wanted to attend in the morning. I climbed into bed, set aside the little disappointments, and tried to get some sleep so I’d be ready for the early wake-up on Saturday.

We arrived at George Fox University on Saturday morning and went to the registration table to get my name tag and to find out if my essay contest results were available. Disappointment again—still no name tag, not even an extra lanyard to put a handwritten name tag in, and the essay results were not yet available. There were some lanyards still there, but they wouldn’t give me one in case those whose name tags were in them showed up later. They gave me a sticky name tag and in we went to the meeting hall for the morning kick-off session. Thankfully, I sat next to a very nice young woman named Kara who was going to have to leave right after the opening and she gave me her lanyard. Finally, I didn’t feel like an interloper.

Once again, the speakers and worship were awesome. At the first break-out session I attended with poet Phil Long almost made all the disappointments fade away. He was so inspiring and encouraging. Sadly, there were still two disappointments to come that made me feel as though I did not belong, despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

Just before lunch I noticed a bunch of manila envelopes on the registration table. They were the essay contest results. I walked over and began to scan the names on the envelopes. Mine was not there. Perhaps I had just missed it because some had name then essay title, and others had essay title then name, so maybe I just missed it. I scanned them all again. Nope, no Linda Kruschke. Then I noticed that two essays had the same name but different essay titles, and one of the titles was two words from my essay title. The woman behind the registration table looked at the contents of that envelope and confirmed that it was mine and handed it over.

Now, I’d been looking forward to getting feedback on my essay for weeks. I’d prepared myself for some negative feedback and had prayed the Lord would help me take any criticism to heart and learn from it. But I was not prepared for what I pulled from that envelope. Standing in the middle of a sea of conference attendees, I stared at my score from the first judge: 29/100. I couldn’t believe it—I have never gotten 29/100 on anything I’ve ever written in my entire life. That’s an F by most grading scales, and I’ve never gotten an F. I did get a D once, but it was in P.E., not writing. You might think that the 68.5/100 I got from the other judge would have softened the blow, but it didn’t.

I felt like a fraud. What was I doing at a writers conference? Clearly I didn’t belong and someone wanted to erase my name from the books. Even singing “We Belong” during the closing worship time didn’t help.

Now I could end this little pity party of disappointment right here and conclude that I don’t belong among the ranks of Christian writers and poets. I could discount the fact that I gained 4 or 5 new Twitter followers during the conference, won a book, and learned a lot. But then the whole experience would be wasted. Instead, as I pondered, I thought about what I learned about the nature of disappointment and about myself. Here is what I’ve concluded:

First, it is ridiculous to think that the organizers of this conference were intentionally trying to disappoint and reject me. Putting on a conference is hard work—very hard work—with a great many details to be worked out. Missing nametags and lanyards, a mislabeled envelope, and anonymously graded essay scores are not a reflection of whether and how I am valued as a writer and fellow believer. They are just details that fell through the cracks.

Second, it is important for me to examine my own actions in dealing with others at church, work, or other settings. What am I doing or failing to do that might cause others to feel disappointed and left out? What can I do to make sure others feel valued and included?

Third, I must remember that my value is not in how well I write or whether others recognize me. My value is in Christ alone. He has redeemed me and I belong to Him, always and forever. And in the end that is all that really matters.

By the way, I’m looking forward to Faith and Culture Writers Conference 2015!

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Illustrating the Importance of Diversity

As I’ve mentioned before, this past weekend I attended the Faith and Culture Writers Conference in Newberg. There was a very interesting keynote speaker who was relevant to something I am involved in at work. I am part of the Diversity Advisory Council at the Oregon State Bar and so I’m always on the lookout for information and illustrations that are relevant to that role. I didn’t really expect to find that at this conference, but I did.

The speaker’s name is Randy S. Woodley and he spoke on the topic of diversity. He used two illustrations for how important diversity is that resonated with me.

First, he used the image of a fruit orchard vs. a fruit forest. In the fruit orchard there are only fruit trees that are all alike. If disease comes to the orchard all of the trees are likely to be wiped out. In a fruit forest, however, among the fruit trees many other plants are planted to provide important nutrients to the soil to strengthen the trees, while the trees provide a sheltered habitat for those same plants. All the different plants and trees work together to create an environment that is better for all of them. In the fruit forest, if disease comes the fruit trees and plants are more likely to survive because they have strengthened one another.

Second, he used the image of stew vs. a melting pot. He said that a diverse culture needs to be like stew that has many different ingredients, but that each ingredient retains its own shape and flavor while simultaneously enriching the flavor of the other ingredients. A melting pot, on the other hand, involves all of the different ingredients being melted down to be the same. I liked this illustration because I love stew.

Here is a link to Randy’s website about his ministry with Native Americans, working within their culture rather than trying to change it. http://eagleswingsministry.com/about/index.htm

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Poetry and Fearlessness

Last weekend I went to the Faith and Culture Writers Conference in Newberg, Oregon. I was really looking forward to it for weeks before the event. And for the most part it was not disappointing.

I was inspired by several of the speakers — Tony Kriz made me laugh, Deidra Riggs taught me that patience in following God’s lead will reveal the unexpected, and Paul Louis Metzger showed me inspiration from King David I’d never seen — but the most inspiring of all was Phil Long, a spoken word poet that opened my mind to the real possibilities of poetry. We heard Phil share his poetry both Friday night and Saturday afternoon, plus I went to his break-out session in which he shared videos of several other awesome spoken word poets. As I listened, I poem started forming in my mind, but the weekend was too busy to get more than a title written down. Later he sat down with us at lunch and I got to talk to him about his poetry and preferred self-publishing platforms.

The theme for me for the weekend was “no fear.” It sounds so easy. Just don’t fear. Nowhere was that message clearer than the break-out session by Elizabeth Chapin. In the space of fifty minutes, in a session titled Creative Nonfiction: The Art of Telling the Truth, she shared her story in great detail. I learned from her that the little details are important — like how she spoke slowly and deliberately, that every seat in the room was full, and my dear friend Ginger sat to my right. A young guy in the back asked about using story arc in memoirs, and I wondered how he could already have experienced anything to write a memoir about. Elizabeth told me that telling my story is important. I left that session with more bits of my poem swirling around in my head.

The conference ended with reminders that I belong, that I am a writer, and that writing about our experiences in the context of faith and culture is essential.

So you might think that as soon as I got home I would have committed that poem to paper (or computer screen) and post it. I did start to write it. I sat in my favorite writing chair in my room and turned on the floor lamp. I pulled out the purple Relay for Life journal that I’d taken with me to the conference and turned to the page with my poem title — Memories Haunting the Light. I wrote the first two stanzas, coming to the stanza that was to describe the first “memory” that haunts me. I was going to be fearless and put it all down on paper. But I didn’t. Instead, I closed the journal and went to work on dinner.

As the days have passed and the journal has remained closed, I’ve pondered Paul’s thorn, and how we don’t know what his thorn was and that makes his experience more universal so that anyone with any thorn can relate to Jesus saying His grace is sufficient. Then I wonder if that thought and its corresponding decision to write only vaguely of my experiences, rather than in vivid detail, is merely a means of denying my fear.

And again I wonder what it is I’m afraid of and how I can continue to fear when my Savior has clearly commanded me not to, and provided me of examples of people who have not feared and been blessed as a result.

I do know that I no longer fear compiling the poetry I have written into a book and self-publishing. I did gain valuable information about self-publishing that I will put to good use this year and was encouraged. And now I’m looking forward to Faith and Culture Writers Conference 2015!

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I Once Knew a Woman – A Poem

In my Bible Study Fellowship group leaders meeting this morning, I answered a question and my friend Ginger (who is going to the Faith and Culture Writers Conference with me this weekend) said, “There’s a poem in that.” She was right; and here it is.

Interestingly, as so often happens when I am open to what God is saying to me, part of this poem was already being written in my mind starting yesterday. I’ve been pondering fear and how I sometimes still let fear—of what I don’t know—hold me back from taking hold of the dreams God has placed in my heart. I really feel like this weekend and the conference I’m attending are His way of finally and completely crushing the fear that has so often crushed me.

I Once Knew a Woman

I once knew a woman
riddled with fear
crushing fear
made her greatly insecure

Pain and loneliness
were her constant cry
hopeless cry
made her want to die

I once knew a woman
whose dreams lay dormant
sadly dormant
her fear their deterrent

Despair and hopelessness
were her inward cry
lonely cry
made her want to die

I once knew this woman
and she was me
a lost me
But new life I see

Hope and mercy found in Christ
bring dreams alive
no fear survives
makes my soul thrive

I once knew a woman
but she no longer lives
she died and I live
because I learned He forgives

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Fewer Words – A Poem

The prompt over at dVerse Poets Pub yesterday was to write poem about a time or times that influenced our evolution to the poet we are today. I had to really think about this one to come up with something, and here’s what I came up with.

Fewer Words

First it was research papers,
then long-winded briefs

Perhaps just a memo
or letter to a client

but never a poem,
that’s not the sort for me

Expressing in essays
my thoughts and beliefs

No limit on wordiness
to slow me down

Others expressed ideas
great and profound

in simple poetry
of few lines and words

Maybe, just maybe
I could give it a try

Use fewer words to express
the mercy and grace of my Savior

the pain and the darkness
shattered by Light

Turns out a few words
are sometimes all it takes

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