Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

My Lesson – A Poem

Over at dVerse Poets Pub today, Claudia has challenged us to write about anything we want, but we have to really look at it first. No clichés or hollow shadows of the thing allowed.

My Lesson

My BSF lesson was just some questions,
Bible passages to read—long passages
This is the life of Moses, Exodus and all that

Now it’s filled with my scribbles,
that half cursive, half printing jumble
that is my barely legible handwriting

Good thing no one else has to read it
It’s just for me, and to share with my
Saturday morning discussion group

But the real lesson is yet to come

I’m amazed every week, with each new lesson
that others don’t always have
the exact same answers as I do

We read the same passages yet
we glean different principles as
God’s Word speaks into each life, each heart

My lesson is that our Creator, omniscient
that He is, has a different lesson for me
than He has for you today, this week

Perhaps next week, or next year
I’ll be on the same lesson as you are now
or vice versa as our circumstances require

And that makes me rejoice
that my God truly knows
our daily needs and provides

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Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry, Women

Obstacles – Hopefully Not a Bad Christian Poem

Last weekend I went to the Oregon Christian Writers fall one-day conference. It was a great conference filled with inspiring moments and lessons to learn. There were take-aways that will be incorporated into the poetry book I’m working on, but there was also a new poem I wrote.

One of the break-out sessions I went to was “How Not to Write a Christian Poem.” We talked about what makes a poem a “Christian poem.” My thought was that it must have an underlying Christian theme or worldview. Another comment was that it should glorify God—I liked that, too. We read a few poems and talked about whether we thought they were Christian. For some poems there was agreement, for others there wasn’t.

Of course, beauty and goodness are in the eye of the beholder, and I might like a poem you don’t, and vice versa. In the final analysis, though, we learned that a good Christian poem should:

  • not be overly laden with “Christianese”
  • not be trite or include over-used language
  • not be dull and boring
  • not be overly sentimental (I’m not sure how the presenter defined this)
  • be based on truth and the author’s experience

As part of the session, we each wrote a poem in the space of about 5 minutes. I thought I’d share mine just as I wrote it there. It needs some work to be a finished poem, but I liked the direction it went under the time pressure I was facing.

Obstacles

Obstacles appear
sickness and pain, busy-ness and loss
seemingly at random in my path
deterrents to my dream
The American dream of success and great gain

What is my dream?
A nightmare it seems has
overtaken me instead
Chaos in my world, in my mind

I thought I knew what was best
but Your detours have led me
to the real dream

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Swimming with the Fishes Fearlessly

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I took a vacation to Maui. It’s only our second time to Hawaii. The first time we went, I missed out on the snorkeling trip he and our son went on because I was afraid of the water. I missed out on cool tropical fish, octopus, spinner dolphins, and more. Simply because of fear.

It all started when I took swim lessons at the Collier Park pool in Ramona, California in the third grade. I was a skinny little thing back then, with not an ounce of fat on me and pitiful lung capacity due to living with smokers. The instructor told us to get into the 7′ end of the pool, push away from the side, and tread water. I followed his instructions—and a sunk like a rock. I frantically tread water at the bottom of the pool, looking up at the surface of the water where life-sustaining air was in abundance, terrified that I couldn’t get to the top, until someone jumped in and pulled me out.

Ever since then, if I ever got in a pool, lake, river, or even the ocean—and it has been seldom that I have—I always stay in the shallow end and my hair and glasses stay dry.

But as we planned our trip to Maui, I felt a strong desire to snorkel so that I could witness the beauty of God’s underwater creation. I knew it was going to take more courage than I have on my own to overcome a decades-long fear of water.

So I asked several groups of friends to pray specifically that I would be able to overcome my fear and snorkel. I prayed myself that God would give me courage to experience a successful and enjoyable snorkeling adventure.

God is good. He answered that prayer in ways I never imagined. In fact, I realized afterwards that He had begun answering my prayer 29 years ago when I met my husband, long before I even knew it would be my prayer. God knew I would need more than courage—I would need encouragement and someone to hold my hand through the experience.

I started in the hotel pool with rented snorkeling equipment, including prescription goggles so I could actually see. My husband was patience and encouraging as he sat relaxing in the lounge chair by the pool. Once I had mastered the ability to put my face in the water and breathe through the snorkel, we ventured out to Black Rock just down the beach from our hotel. As we first began to snorkel, my husband literally held my hand and we paddled around together looking at the fish. When I got water in my snorkel and became frustrated and wanted to quit for the day, he didn’t give me a hard time but was understanding.

Although it was a short snorkel that first day, we snorkeled three more times during the week. As long as I needed him to, my husband held my hand. Once when I felt a little panic, I recited one of my favorite versesPhilippians 4:6-7and God’s amazing peace did calm my heart. Eventually I was comfortable in the water and was able to snorkel on my own around Honolua Bay and Honokohua Bay. I even saw an octopus, a turtle, an eel, and a ton of colorful fish and coral.

Are you letting fear hold you back from something you would love to do? Are you missing out on life’s abundant blessings because you are paralyzed by fear and anxiety? Ask God to give you the courage—and whatever else He knows you need—to overcome that fear. He is faithful and He will answer, “for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7.

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This Big Light of Mine

For the past week or so I’ve been listening to the new MercyMe CD “Welcome to the New” as often as I can. There is not a song on this CD that I don’t love. I’ve written a post inspired in part by one of the songs, Flawless, and have wanted to write about more of the great music on this CD, but it’s hard to choose which song to write about. Perhaps in the end I’ll write about most or all of them, but for today I want to share my thoughts on Burn Baby Burn. I’m going to start by sharing the video:

I love this song because it is another one that reinforces what I’ve been learning in Bible Study Fellowship this past year. I’ve learned that it is not enough to believe who Jesus is and that He saved me if that knowledge doesn’t change me. I have the Light and I need to let it shine. I have the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, and I need to rely on that power in every circumstance. I need to truly know, with every fiber of my being, who I am and what I have in Christ.

Jesus’ disciples were truly changed by their encounter with Him, both before His crucifixion and after His resurrection. But even more importantly, when they were filled with His Holy Spirit, they became bold and fearless proclaimers of the truth. They knew who they were and what they had. The book of Acts is brimming with stories of the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through Peter, John, and the others. Eventually they all were martyred for their faith, but because they knew to whom they belongs they did not fear death or any earthly trial.

You probably know the old children’s song This Little Light of Mine. If all you have is a little of God’s light, it is good to let it shine. But I’d rather have a gigantic portion of the Light of Christ and to let it burn baby burn. How about you? Do you know who you are? Do you know what you have? Are you letting the torch of Truth burn bright in your life because you are thankful for God’s gift of grace and know He is with you?

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV).

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Comprehending His Power Is My Power

We are just about to finish up my first full year of Bible Study Fellowship, and as a group leader, in the study of Matthew. The experience has been richer than I could have ever imagined. I am so blessed to have been invited to be a group leader even though I had very little BSF experience.

The final two lessons cover the second half of Matthew 27 and Matthew 28, Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The lessons coincided with Holy Week and Easter, and what an amazing blessing that was! I’ve heard the Holy Week and Easter stories many times. I’ve attended Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter church services for years. And yet this year, going deeper into those stories through the BSF study, I saw a great truth that I had never seen before in quite the way I did this year.

Throughout this year the Lord has been speaking to me through this study about how in His humanity He faced the same temptations and trials that I do. He resisted the temptations and overcame the trials with the same tools I have at my disposal: prayer, scripture, and the Holy Spirit. But it wasn’t until we got to the crucifixion and resurrection that it really sunk in.

As Jesus faced the cross in the garden of Gethsemane, He prayed earnestly, to the point of sweating blood, for the strength to see His mission through. When I face difficult trials, I can do the same. I have direct access to the Father in prayer because of what Jesus did for me.

But more importantly, I have the power of the Holy Spirit living in me. After His resurrection, Jesus said to His disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18, 20. The authority He had, and still has, was sufficient to allow Him to lay down His life on the cross for our sake, and to take it up again at the resurrection and thereby defeat death, our greatest foe. Now that’s power! And He will always be with me so that I have that power at my disposal when I face temptations and trials.

If Jesus can overcome death by the power that enabled His resurrection, then by that same power overcoming sin is well within the realm of possibility for me. His power over death is my power over sin.

I feel like Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus and for all believers has been answered in me:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:18-21.

I’ve known for a long time that I have the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, but somehow the enormity of that power that raised Christ from the dead never quite hit me like it has in the past two weeks. This power will not only convict me of my sin and lead me to repentance, but when exerted in the authority of Christ it can and will enable me to overcome the temptation to sin that I face on a daily basis. I am a conqueror of sin because Christ lives in me and His power is my power!

As if to reinforce this message, just this week I bought the new Mercy Me CD titled “Welcome to the New.” There is a great song on this CD titled “Flawless.” It starts like this:

There’s got to be more
Than going back and forth
From doing right to doing wrong
‘Cause we were taught that’s who we are
Come on get in line right behind me
You along with everybody
Thinking there’s worth in what you do.

Then Like a hero who takes the stage when
We’re on the edge of our seats saying it’s too late
Well let me introduce you to amazing grace

And then the chorus reminds me that:

No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made,
The cross has made you flawless.

No matter what they say
Or what you think you are
The day you called His name
He made you flawless.

In the eyes of God I am flawless because He sees Christ’s perfection when He looks at me. Knowing that, and knowing the power He provides, I don’t have to go back and forth from doing right to doing wrong because that’s no longer who I am. If I embrace His amazing grace and His resurrection power, each day He changes me and enables me to be more of who He’s called me to be.

And here’s the video of Mercy Me singing this awesome song. I hope it blesses you as much as it has me, and encourages you to hold tightly to His grace and power, because the cross has made you flawless, too.

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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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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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A Matter of Comparison

As humans, we have a tendency to compare ourselves to others. Either we see someone with a talent that we admire and wish we had, or we see someone who is sinning in a way that we are proud we don’t.

I admit that when I hear other women in church or in my Bible study sing in a beautiful soprano voice I feel a little jealous—okay, a lot jealous—that I cannot sing very well.

And when I see greedy, self-centered, immoral, and wicked people on TV I sometimes feel a twinge of superiority because I don’t act as they do.

But God has not called me to compare myself to others, whether it makes me feel less than them or better than them. It doesn’t matter if I don’t have the talents that others have, because I have the talents that God gave me. It doesn’t matter if I don’t sin in the same way as others, because I still fall short of the glory of God.

There are only two people in this world that I should ever compare myself to. The first is my former self—solely for the purpose of realizing what the Lord Jesus has done in my heart, how He has made me a new creation, and how I have used the talents He has given me. The second is Jesus—for the purpose of knowing what the gold standard of required behavior is, what I am striving towards with God’s help.

So who are you comparing yourself to today? What talent that God has given you are you neglecting because you are wishing for the talent He gave to someone else? What sin that God wants to save you from are not seeing in yourself because you are too busy focusing on the sins of others?

Won’t you change your focus with me today and keep your eyes on Jesus? He is the author and perfector of our faith, the source of our talents, and the power to overcome all our sins.

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My Heart, Your Home – A Poem

My heart is a mansion

where Christ dwells

The parlor filled with

His mercy

The kitchen overflows with

His love

 

But in a back room

locked up tight

dwell fear, doubt,

and guilt

Sometimes late at night

they make their escape

Squatters wreaking havoc

throughout the house

 

My Savior has promised

to evict these intruders

by His Spirit—

not a spirit of timidity

but of power and of grace

 

“Be strong and courageous”

“Do not fear for I will not leave you

or forsake you”

“There is no condemnation in Me”

These are the promises

that restore harmony and hope

to the mansion that is my heart

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