Tag Archives: Life

To Publish – A List Poem

Today over at dVerse Poets Pub Meeting at the Bar, Tony Maude challenges us to write a list poem. As I read his article and poetry examples, I decided to write a list about the things I still need to do to self-publish my poetry book. I accomplished a lot this summer towards my goal of publishing by year end, but loose ends remain. I think a to do list on paper, instead of just in my head, will be helpful.

To Publish

Talk to reviewers
“How’s it going? When do you think you’ll be done?”

Consider suggested edits, proofread and edit

Decide on Bible verses to include and where
And divisions, do where do I include divisions?

Promote the book on Facebook, blog, Twitter

Final formatting, styles, font, so many decisions

Edit the preface and acknowledgements
Finish the front matter

Tell everyone I know I’m publishing a book of poetry

Encourage Benton to finish the cover art
Love the concept sketch; can’t want to see his final draft

Create a final PDF
Proof one more time to make sure it’s right

Upload PDF to CreateSpace
and upload cover art to design cover

Publish

Pray (wait, this probably should be first on the list)

Start on the next manuscript

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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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Words from Above – A Poem

The prompt at dVerse Poets Pub yesterday (and still there today) is to write a poem about our thoughts on the failure of language to capture our thoughts and feelings. I immediately thought about the challenge of writing a poem to a specific form, though the poem I penned isn’t to any set form but the one that came to me as I wrote.

If you want to read more poetry, head over the dVerse and check out what’s offered up in the Mr. Linky box.

Words from Above

Writing poetry to form
Struggling to make words conform
To meter and rhyme
A set scheme of repeating lines
Yet still sound sublime

It’s a challenge I love
Splendid words come from above
When self I dethrone
And don’t rely on my own
Desiring God be known

Still language falls short
His grandeur words distort
The best I can do
Is share what I know to be true
To touch a heart or two

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Darkness to Light – Take Two

The prompt over at dVerse Poets Pub today is to think of our words as seeds and to consider what we want to grow from what we write. I decided to share a revised version of a poem I wrote almost three years ago. I recently submitted the original version to a poetry contest, and although I did not make it into the final round I received some great feedback, so I decided to incorporate that feedback into this version.

What I hope will grow from these seeds are encouragement, hope, and faith for at least one person who is struggling today with the darkness of depression.

Darkness to Light—Take Two

Darkness surrounded me
Darkness invaded my mind
Darkness enveloped my barren soul

In the darkness
The evil one whispered
Thoughts that seemed my own
They’d be blessed without me
It would be better if I was dead

Tears drowned me
Tears flooded my mind
Tears drenched my barren soul

Through the tears
The evil one whispered
Thoughts I believed were true
I am broken beyond repair
These tears will never end

Pain ensnared me
Pain clouded my mind
Pain threatened my barren soul

Amplifying the pain
The evil one whispered
Thoughts I was powerless to deny
This pain will forever cripple me
I will never know joy

Then God’s Light
Pierced the darkness
Illuminating my soul
Revealing the sin in my mind
Proclaiming the way for me

Forgive Jesus whispered
As I’ve forgiven you
Your darkness will subside
His words are true

Then God’s Love
Dried all my tears
Infusing my soul with joy
Clarifying truth in my mind
Declaring healing for me

Live Jesus whispered
As I live in you
Your tears will be dried
His words are true

Then God’s Truth
Erased my pain
Protecting my soul
Clearing lies from my mind
Redeeming my life for me

Love Jesus whispered
As I forever love you
Your pain will be decried
His words are true

Darkness, tears, and pain
Replaced by my Savior’s
Light, Love, and Truth
Holding me forevermore
He is my Light

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God Is Always with Me

At the end of the book of Matthew, Jesus says to the disciples, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b (NIV). When He said this, He was talking not just to those disciples who were present, but to all who believe in Him even today. That includes me. He is always with me. He showed me that in a very concrete way this past week.

On Tuesday I had an appointment that I had been putting off for over a year. It may seem like a small thing to many of you, but to me it was huge. I was afraid to make and keep this appointment. But with God’s encouragement I finally did it.

I went to the dentist to have prep done for a crown. I know, people get crowns every day, but I have since childhood been extremely uncomfortable in the dentist’s chair. It stems from a childhood experience that I won’t go into because it’s not the point of this story. Suffice it to say that I have for as long as I can remember been tense and nervous when I have to go to the dentist, even for a cleaning.

There was no getting around the fact that I needed a crown. I have a hairline fracture in a tooth and I barely chew on that side because if I chew on anything even slightly hard it hurts. A year ago the new dentist I started seeing told me I needed to do this. He was nice about it and understanding about my fear, and he didn’t pressure me to put a crown or overlay on every molar in my mouth as a prior dentist had tried to do. I liked his manner enough that I finally felt like I’d found a dentist I could trust. (His name is Jack Henry in Lake Oswego, if you happen to be looking for a good dentist.)

After praying for God’s peace (see Philippians 4:6-7), I finally scheduled a cleaning one week and the crown prep the following week. Halfway through the cleaning appointment, I realized I was the most relaxed I had ever been in a dentist’s chair. This gave me hope that the crown prep wouldn’t be so bad.

Did I mention that I dislike Novocain intensely? It tends to cause my cheek and jaw to hurt for several days. So in spite of the good cleaning appointment, I was still feeling anxious as I looked ahead to the crown prep because I knew there would be Novocain and drilling involved.

But again, I prayed that God would give me peace and help me to not be afraid during this appointment.

I arrived on time and was escorted to the dentist’s chair. I asked if I could listen to music while they worked because I had brought my iPod and headphones. The dentist not only said I could but said it was a great idea. He likes to listen to music when he has dental work done, too, because he doesn’t like the sound of the grinder and drill. It was very reassuring to know that he understood that this procedure was not at all pleasant and that he was going to do whatever he could to make it better.

As he began to work, I shuffled my iPod on a MercyMe and Jeremy Camp playlist I had created in anticipation of Fish Fest that I am going to in August with some friends. And that’s when God so clearly reminded me that He is always with me. The first song that played was God with Us by MercyMe. I heard these beginning lyrics:

Who are we
That You would be mindful of us
What do You see
That’s worth looking our way

We are free
In ways that we never should be
Sweet release from the grip of these chains

I knew that He was mindful of this small thing in my life. I knew He had released me from the chains of fear that had kept me from making this appointment a year before. As that song ended, I felt the peace of knowing God was with me, but He wasn’t done reminding me. The next song to randomly play on shuffle was Here with Me, also by MercyMe, with lyrics that say:

And I can feel your presence here with me
Suddenly I’m lost within your beauty
Caught up in the wonder of your touch
Here in this moment I surrender to your love

You’re everywhere I go
I am not alone
You call me as your own
To know you and be known

Oh, that He would care so much for me; that He knows so well my anxiety and fear and also how to calm that fear. And then He reminded me of why I was feeling such peace in what would have otherwise been a tense and stressful situation. The next song to play was Every Time by Jeremy Camp. The chorus and one of the verses of this song say:

Every time I’m on my knees, pleading for Your strength
I will find You there, find you there
Every time I’m on my knees, reaching for Your strength
I will find You there, find You there

I’m holding on to this hope
I’ve been given, to be always with You
I’m seeing now
That this fullness of faith is, always seeking You

That very morning I had been on my knees pleading God for strength and peace to endure this appointment that my natural self dreaded. I held onto the hope that He would be with me, and He was faithful as always. Rather than be anxious about my appointment, I brought my concern to God, with thanksgiving, and His peace was my reward.

By the time this third song ended, Dr. Henry was done with the drilling and grinding. I was not tense and had not felt a thing. And to top it all off, the Novocain wore off much more quickly than I had expected and there were no lasting effects of pain in my cheek or jaw.

God is always with me, even at the dentist. What an awesome and wonderful God He is!

 

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Repent and Follow Jesus – A Poem

This poem is a found poem of sorts. It is based on the principles from my Bible Study Fellowship Teaching Leader’s lecture on Matthew 11–12. I rearranged the exact words of her four principles, but the concepts are what she shared regarding this passage of scripture.

Repent and Follow Jesus

Go straight to Jesus, trust His Word,
when facing doubt and frustration

Indifference to Christ’s revelation
brings only condemnation

To those called by God who humbly obey
in faith He brings peaceful elation

The proud who stubbornly reject Christ
will be excluded from His gift of salvation

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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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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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