Category Archives: Jesus

Where Peace Is Found

The prompt today at dVerse Poets Pub is to write about something that is part of our every day life. I could have written about any number of things, but decided to write about prayer.

Where Peace Is Found

Kneeling here
elbows leaning on my soft footstool
head in my hands
I find peace

Reading Psalms
thoughts leaning on God’s promises
Bible in my hands
I find peace

Praising God
soul leaning on my sweet Jesus
heart in His hands
I find peace

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Nothing to Fear

There’s nothing to fear but fear itself

and bears if you’re in Yellowstone
loneliness if you’re all alone

failure if your theory is flawed
sickness and death if you don’t know God

Yet if God is on your side
there’s nothing to fear
just trust and abide

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You Can’t Go Back to Tuesday

I’m working on my book proposal today. I posted the draft Prologue last week. I’m determined to finish the proposal this week so an editor friend can review it before I submit it to the publishing house editor who requested it at the Faith & Culture Writers Conference. I had a breakthrough this week when I realized the Chapter 1 I’d drafted started in the wrong place. This is the beginning of the new Chapter 1.

I’m planning to include a poem on the title page of each chapter. The poem for this chapter is one I wrote a week after the events recounted here.

You Can’t Go Back to Tuesday

Last Breath

Breathing
in, out again
no other sound so dear
except if you spoke, one more time,
I’d hear.

I sat in that suffocating little room with my sister Suz, my brother-in-law Dick, and the shell of my sister Peggy. When I had arrived earlier in the day I wouldn’t have known it was her in the bed if Suz hadn’t also been there. I hadn’t seen Dick in 28 years; he’d changed, kind of looked like Grizzly Adams after a month in the woods alone.

And Peggy, she didn’t look like anyone I knew. The last time I’d seen her she didn’t look too bad. She admitted the cancer was back, but she covered up how bad it was pretty well. And she had been hopeful, ready to fight and win again. But she wasn’t going to win this time—she would breathe her last in that tiny, sterile room with just the three of us there.

I’d woken up that morning with plans to go to the dentist in the morning—even though I was dreading it—and then in for my annual mammogram and breast MRI. On Friday I was going to go visit Peggy in the hospital. I was told she’d probably be feeling better by then.

But Suz called early that morning and said Peggy had taken a turn for the worse. “You should come as soon as you can. Dick said she was pretty bad.”

I called my cousin Noryce to tell her what was going on with Peggy and to just talk. Noryce always has good advice and knows just what to say.

“I don’t know what to do. I have these two appointments I have to keep, but I want to go see Peggy. Maybe I can just wait until tomorrow to go,” I said. “I should have just gone to see her on Tuesday.”

Noryce, in her infinite wisdom, replies, “You can’t go back to Tuesday. What are you going to do today? What’s the worst that could happen if you cancel your appointments and go? What if you wait to go until tomorrow and she’s already gone?”

She knows the story of when my dad died and I wasn’t there. He had called me and said, “Come see me.” But it cost money to fly to Desert Hot Springs where he was and we didn’t have a lot of money at the time. So I bought an inexpensive ticket for two weeks out. He died a week later. I will always regret that decision.

So I called the dentist to cancel my appointment, worried that they would be upset and charge me for the appointment anyway. “Don’t worry about it. Go see your sister. Give us a call when you’re ready to reschedule.”

Then I called the hospital to cancel my mammogram and breast MRI. They were even more understanding given that my sister was dying of breast cancer. I don’t know why I was afraid they wouldn’t be.

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It’s 2:00 a.m.

Anthony Desmond has challenged us over at dVerse Poets Pub to write a poem incorporating 2:00 a.m. Here’s what I came up with.

It’s 2:00 a.m.

It’s 2:00 a.m.
I should be sleeping
Tomorrow’s a big day
But I’m wide awake

It’s 2:10
I should be snoozing
But in the dark I lay
Thinking it all through

It’s 2:20
I should be snoring
The moonlight shines gray
All I can do is worry

It’s 2:30
I should be dreaming
Instead here I am praying
Now I wake, it’s morning

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Courageous

The prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today is to write using antithesis. Bjorn asks us to use contrasting terms to encompass the real truth of the matter as we live in a world both black and white at the same time. As the topic of fear and courage have been much on my mind lately, I immediately thought of the antithesis of feeling fear while having faith. This is how we can be courageous.

Courageous

The giants tower above me
menacing and cruel
I tremble in faith
Stand resolutely with fear

The waves crash down upon me
mighty and powerful
I  shudder in faith
Rise unflinchingly with fear

The enemy surrounds me
threatening and heartless
I cringe in faith
Prevail triumphantly with fear

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Prologue to Fearlessness

Today I’m working on the book proposal for a book I’m planning to write. I thought I’d share with you all the first draft of the Prologue. I’d love to hear what you think.

Prologue

Some people are born fearless. You can see it when they are just a kid. They are almost like adrenaline junkies with no thought of the consequences.

There was a kid that lived in our neighborhood when my son was young. He was the epitome of fearlessness—or perhaps more accurately recklessness. One day I saw this kid on his scooter heading down the hill we live on. (I never could get my own cautious son to try his scooter down that hill until he had learned to ride it on much safer roadways.) Now riding a scooter may not sound fearless—or reckless—but when you do it with roller blades on it’s what I would call foolhardy.

If you are one of the fearless ones, then this book isn’t for you. You can put it down right now, or better yet, give it to one of your scaredy-cat friends. You know the one—you’re thinking of her right now.

But if you aren’t fearless—if friends call you cautious, reserved, timid—if you feel like life is passing you by because you are too afraid to take a risk—then this book is for you.

I’m 50 years old and since I was a teenager I’ve dreamed of writing a book. I have numerous book ideas scribbled in journals, but I was always too afraid of failure to do anything with them. I’ve even seen some of my book ideas in the bookstore—written by someone else.

Nine years ago I had an idea for a book about telling our stories. It was inspired by a women’s retreat that I helped plan and spoke at. I spoke to the women about how important it is to tell our stories because it is our stories that bring us together, help us feel not so alone in this big, scary world. I talked about why we don’t tell our stories, which is essentially because we are afraid that people will judge us, that they don’t really want to hear what we have to say, and that it will make people not like us. All of those reasons are a lie, and I toyed with the idea of writing a book debunking those lies and telling my stories.

In 2014, Nish Weiseth wrote a book about telling our stories titled Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World, published by Zondervan. It’s not exactly the book I had in mind, but it’s close. And it’s been quite successful.

All that fear got me was a missed blessing. The book I didn’t write wasn’t a failure because I never took the risk to write it. I kept it in my head—and as a little journal note—where it was safe. It was also unusable by God in that place.

Since that time I have written and published my first book—it’s a book of poetry about my struggles with depression called Light in My Darkness: Poems of Hope for the Brokenhearted. It’s not the book I ever thought I would write, but it has been such a blessing. (More about that in chapter 9).

My hope is that this book will help you take a few calculated risks in this scary life. My prayer is that in doing so you will understand that God has your back and will bless you with greater knowledge of His love and grace than you could ever imagine.

To be clear, I’m not advocating recklessly riding your scooter down a hill with roller blades on. That’s just dumb. I’m advocating listening to God, trusting His Word, and living like you are fearless. It can be done. I’m living proof.

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Jeremiah Preached the Gospel

I’ve been reading through Jeremiah, alternating with Hebrews, as part of my Bible-in-a-year reading schedule. I’m up to chapter 23 of Jeremiah, but I kept thinking about chapter 17. So I went back and re-read chapter 17 the other night. As I read through it, I realized that this passage encompasses the Gospel and that is why I was drawn back to it.

I love when I find the essence of the Gospel of Christ in the Old Testament (it’s all over the place, you know), but I didn’t really expect to find it in Jeremiah. This is a book by a prophet that the Israelites did not like. His gloom and doom predictions for Israel resulted in the priests and “prophets” plotting against him, and he was arrested, whipped, and put in stocks. He spoke on behalf of the Lord to warn the Israelites of God’s anger because they had turned away from Him, and he predicted that many of the Israelites would die at the hand of the Babylonians or from famine, and that others would be exiled to Babylon, if they did not change their ways.

But in the middle of all of the warnings and predictions is this passage that I believe encompasses the Gospel in a nutshell:

Wisdom from the Lord

 5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land.

 7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.
Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NLT).

Verses 5-6 speak of those who trust in their own ability to be righteous and believe they can earn their own way to heaven. When their judgment day comes, they will be cursed because they have trusted in human strength. Even in this life, their spiritual lives are barren and they have no real hope or strength in the face of the trials of this life.

Verses 7-8 speak of those who trust in the Lord Jesus for their salvation and know that they have no hope of righteousness on their own. They are not bothered by the trials of this world because they have the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain their spiritual life. They have the hope of eternity with God.

I love the imagery of this passage of Jeremiah. When trouble comes, and it will come for all of us, the one who trusts in human strength is “like stunted shrubs in the desert.” But the one who trusts in the Lord “like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.” The stunted shrub is the perfect picture of worry and hopelessness. How can such a shrub ever survive? But the tree by the riverbank is the perfect picture of peace and hope. Such a tree will survive the worst drought because it has tapped into the source of life.

In this passage, water is life for the plant. In the New Testament, Jesus promises living water to all who believe in Him.

Jesus Promises Living Water

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.) John 7:37-39 (NLT).

The question that faces every human being is whether they will trust in human strength or will put all their trust in their Creator. How about you? Do you seek to earn your own salvation through the strength of your own righteousness? Or have you chosen to trust in Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for your sins, recognizing that your strength and righteousness are nothing compared to His? When the drought comes, will you die of thirst because you have no power to create living water? Or will you thrive because you trust in the One who offers an endless supply of living water for all who believe?

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The Blessings of Obedience at F&C Writers Conference

It’s been three weeks since I went to the Faith & Culture Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since, but with the NaPoWriMo challenge and other responsibilities I just didn’t have time.

But I’m glad I waited, because if I’d written this post two weeks ago I probably would have simply listed bullet points of what some of the speakers said. While that may be useful and interesting, because they said a lot of profound stuff, it wouldn’t get to the heart of what I learned. In the past few days, I’ve been pondering what I truly learned from my conference experience and that’s what I want to share today.

First, I learned to listen to God’s nudges to do something even if it makes no sense. He has a plan and blessings will ensue if I am obedient.

The first day of the conference I wasn’t sure which breakout session to attend during the first set of breakouts. I had tentatively decided ahead of time to attend one that I thought I should go to and that looked interesting. But that morning I felt a strong nudge to attend a session titled Christ-Centered Editing led by Leanne Sype. It seemed ridiculous to me because I know about editing. At work, I live and breathe editing, am familiar with style guides and grammar resources, and know the importance of having someone else edit your writing. But the nudge was strong so I went with it.

It didn’t take me long into the session to realize I was in the right place. Leanne was a wonderful presenter who talked not about the mechanics of editing, but rather about a number of books she had the privilege to edit. The titles of those books spoke to me. Her focus on Christ-centered big-picture editing of those books was spot on.

Leanne talked about not writing or editing to sound like someone else who is a great writer, but rather to find my own God-given voice. It requires surrender to Christ when I write, staying tuned to Christ so my nature voice will emerge in my writing. In my notes I wrote, “Organized, linear, logical is my voice.” Turns out this is what I needed to hear.

The real blessings from my obedience to that nudge came later. Blessing one was when, in a session by Bob Welch the next day, Leanne sat next to me and we had a wonderful conversation. I found out she was a delightful person with fears and insecurities, just like me.

Then, the following week when I received my score sheets for the essay contest, I discovered that she was one of my judges. She gave me awesome, encouraging feedback and a good score. She affirmed that my organized, linear, and logical way of writing resonated with someone and was an encouragement to trust God. Her feedback, coupled with the less-than-positive scores and feedback of the other two judges, reminded me that my writing, my voice, will not resonate with everyone. But God will take my writing where it will be an encouragement and those who flat-out don’t connect with my writing shouldn’t discourage me from writing what God wants me to say.

Second, I learned to listen to God’s nudges to do something even if I really don’t want to do it. When I registered for the conference, I signed up to meet with an editor from a mid-sized publishing house. I had a plan to pitch to him a daily devotional on being fearless. I began working on the book proposal, but I struggled with writer’s block.

God began nudging me to pitch a different book—my memoir. I did not want to write my memoir, at least not yet, and I told God so. The nudges continued and my conversation with God about the subject ended with “Fine, I’ll write a book proposal!” I sat down at my computer to work on that book proposal and the words fairly flew onto the page.

I was still conflicted because the publishing house I had the editor-appointment with doesn’t publish memoirs; they do a lot of devotionals and other types of books, but not memoirs. I decided I would just talk to the editor about the two projects and get his feedback, without expecting him to have any interest in either book. But as I prayed for direction, I felt uneasy about this plan. I knew the editor was at the conference with the hope of finding a new book idea that he could get behind, and I would be wasting his time just seeking advice.

The Tuesday before the conference, as I prayed, I felt a new nudge. “You could sign up for a second appointment with another editor or agent,” the Lord said. So that’s what I did. I signed up to meet with an agent, who I later learned specialized in memoirs.

The blessing came when the editor and the agent independently suggested that I combine the two proposals. The editor told me that daily devotionals are not selling that great these days, perhaps because there are so many on the market. However, a book about overcoming fear written in a memoir style would fit into a popular trend. Then he told me to email him a revised book proposal for a book along those lines. (There was more to his suggestion, but I don’t want to reveal too much about my current book idea just yet.)

If I had walked into the appointment with the agent with only the devotional proposal, I don’t think the current book idea or the editor’s offer to consider my book proposal would have happened. Because I was obedient to God’s nudge to write a proposal for my memoir even though I didn’t want to, I was blessed by this new direction and opportunity.

There is more that I learned at the conference, but this blog post is already long enough. Perhaps I’ll share more another day.

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Kind Words and Iron Doors

It’s Day 29 of NaPoWriMo. I have mixed feelings about the month of celebrating poetry coming to an end. On the one hand, it’s good to have the motivation to write every day. On the other hand, some days it’s nice to not feel compelled to write. Today I’m hanging onto the one hand, and I’m completing a poem that was inspired by a Facebook post I saw yesterday. It’s off-prompt, but that’s okay.

Kind Words and Iron Doors

A Turkish proverb says
Kind words will unlock
an iron door

Often this is true
and so we ought
to speak kind words
always willing to open
an iron door and let peace in

But some doors
iron or otherwise
are sealed from the inside
by bitterness and hatred
so strong even the kindest words
won’t make them budge

These doors to the heart
can only be opened
by forgiveness from within
by the occupant’s choice
to step outside
into a world of grace and peace

5/21/15: Shared for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night.

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The Bridge You Built

The prompt for Day 28 of NaPoWriMo is to write about bridges, either real, imaginary, or metaphorical. I decided to write about my favorite bridge.

The Bridge You Built

The ravine between me and  You
is deep and wide and long
I pine here on the far side
quite enchanted by Your song

I have no way to get across
to rest peacefully where You are
I cannot even go around
the journey’s much too far

So You built a bridge for me
You stretched Your arms out wide
So when it’s time for me to cross
I will rest eternally on the other side

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