Tag Archives: Gospel

Desiring to Know God

I love when several things that I encounter in a day all point to the same truth about God. That’s what happened today.

As part of my devotional reading, while I played ball with the dog, I decided to read a couple of Psalms. I went to my old favorite, Psalm 116, which I’ve written about before. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say I’ve read this particular Psalm at least 50 times (probably closer to 100). Yet as I read this morning I saw a truth that I hadn’t seen before in verses 8 and 9, which say:

8For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,

 9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.

My focus has always been on verse 8, because God did deliver me from death, tears, and stumbling when He showed me the root of my major clinical depression. But this morning I noticed why He delivered me. It wasn’t so I could go about my business and do whatever I please. And it wasn’t so I could work hard to earn His approval. It was so that I could have a relationship with Him, so that I could “walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”

Later, after I had showered and dressed for work, I kneeled to pray as is my morning habit. But first I read a one-page devotion from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. (I started this devotional this year because I thought it didn’t have dates in it so it wouldn’t matter if I missed a day, but I discovered this morning that the dates are in the footer at the bottom of the page. Oops.)

Anyway, as I read the January 31 entry, I came across this sentence: “Christian workers fail because they place their desire for their own holiness above their desire to know God.” Ouch. As I prayed, I pondered where I might be doing good works to prove my own holiness. I asked God to help me focus on just knowing Him. I’m finding as that becomes my desire, the work that is before me becomes less of a burden. Instead, it becomes a blessing because I do it in His power and for His glory.

Finally, I was finishing up my children’s lesson for Bible Study Fellowship, reviewing my answers to the week’s questions to decide how to answer the question “What have you learned about God in this week’s study?” The study is about the suffering Christians face. My answer was that, “All of our suffering, comfort, and joy are designed by God to bring us into a closer relationship with Him, like the one He had with Adam and Eve before they sinned.”

This life really is about walking with God in all that we do, whether it be work or leisure, suffering or blessing. When we do it all with God, instead of apart from God, we have the abundant life Jesus promised. John 10:10.

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Coming Clean: A Book Review of Sorts

In case anyone is wondering, I’m still working on my memoir, but it’s no longer going to be titled “My Year of Living Fearlessly.” That was a title that was suggested to me by an editor and I thought it was saleable and what I was supposed to be writing. But after manufacturing a structure to the book that involved five antidotes to fear and submitting a book proposal to said editor as well as several agents, I hit a brick wall with the writing. I think more aptly, I felt like the Holy Spirit prevented me from proceeding with my plan for the book, much as He prevented Paul and Silas from preaching in Asia. Acts 16:6.

I decided that I needed to read some other memoirs to get a better idea of how they are written and what makes good memoir. About the time I had decided this, a friend posted a link on Facebook to Seth Haines’ new memoir Coming Clean: A Story of Faith, which was available on Kindle at the time for only $1.99.

I bought Seth’s memoir primarily to learn the craft of memoir writing in preparation for writing my own. I got so much more out of this wonderful book than I had bargained for. On the surface it is a story about overcoming alcoholism and Seth’s first 90 days of sobriety. But what is below the surface is relevant to anyone who is using some earthly crutch to mask the pain we all inevitably experience in this world and to hide from a God we sometimes aren’t sure knows or cares. I thought I knew all I needed to about forgiveness, but this book opened my eyes to the many ways I still need forgive and let God be in control.

One of my favorite lines in the book is when Seth quotes Buddy Wakefield, a spoken-word poet, who said, “Forgiveness is releasing all hope for a better past.” When writing memoir, one must necessarily face the past and accept it as unchangeable. This is why my new working title (who am I kidding, it’s going to be the final title if I have any say in the matter) is You Can’t Go Back to Tuesday. As I’ve pondered this, and started on my next memoir to read, God is teaching me more and more what that means for today.

I had the pleasure of meeting Seth a year ago at the Faith & Culture Writers Conference and he encouraged me to write exactly the book I’m determined now to write. Having met him, I shouldn’t have been so surprised about the depth and honesty of his writing. If you’re looking for a formulaic answer to your problems or a nice neatly organized, chronological story, you won’t find it here. But you will find the heart of a man who loves God, loves his son and family, and struggles like the rest of us to understand suffering. This book is well worth the price (even if I’d paid full price) and the time it takes to read. From the day I started it I could hardly put it down.

The double blessing is that I also learned something about how to write great memoir, which was my goal in the first place. I learned that great memoir happens when the author writes for themselves and for purposes of their own growth and understanding of their circumstances. If you try to write what you think others want to read or what you think a publisher will buy, you’ll never write great memoir. If you try to impose some formula—like five antidotes to fear—then you won’t help yourself or resonate with your potential readers.

Seth wrote this “journal” for himself, and in the process shared honestly with us in a way that resonates deep in the soul. I hope and pray I can do the same.

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Rejoice!

Revel in the joy of Christ who
Empowers us bid sin adieu
Jesus born so He might die
Once for all our souls to buy
Incarnation a great mystery
Calling all throughout history
Ever more to rejoice, rejoice

_____________________________

I wrote this for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night, and also to promote my new poetry book, Rejoice! Rejoice! Poems for the Holidays, available now on Amazon.com in print and on Kindle. This poem isn’t in the book, because, well, I just wrote it. But maybe I’ll add it to the next edition.

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The Red Horse and His Rider

When the Lamb opens the second seal
The red horse and his rider will go out
With power to take the peace of this world
That the end is then nigh there is no doubt

But will the rider find any peace on this earth
Where mothers kill their children and nations war
Despite our songs of peace in a post-hippie culture
We daily venture closer to hatred’s door

They say “let’s coexist” though we are in disagreement
Even so the so-called peaceful want their peace by force
Requiring agreement with them on fundamental issues
Never realizing the need for repentance and remorse

Peace without God is what mankind desires
But such a thing is only temporary
Though we must live in peace as far as we are able
Of mere men promising salvation we must be wary

Amidst the strife and turmoil of this life
The only true peace is that which Jesus gave
The rider on his fiery red horse is surely coming
But can’t take peace from those the Lamb died to save

__________________________

The Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub this week is brought to us by Bjorn. He’s calling for us to write about peace in a way that is not trite and doesn’t rely on platitudes. The night before reading the prompt, I spent the evening teaching Revelation 6 to fourth graders, so my mind immediately went to the image of the second horseman of the apocalypse. I didn’t have time to write yesterday because I wanted to read the haibuns from Monday first, but as it turned out this one needed overnight to percolate anyway.

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What We Deserve

We think we all deserve God’s love
All good gifts that come from above
A good God wouldn’t send folks to hell
And therefore the story we tell saves all with love

Except, of course, men like Hitler
Terrorists and Jeffrey Dahmer
They don’t deserve to see heaven
Don’t belong with the eleven we are so sure

But just where do we draw the line
What is your fate and what is mine
We all deserve God’s holy wrath
Because we’ve followed our own path and think we’re fine

We must be repentant sinners
When the truth of God’s mercy blurs
Vision of the Lamb who was slain
And how He took all mankind’s pain troubled heart stirs

Not one of us deserves God’s grace
Praise to Jesus who took our place
He saw our need and came to save
His life for us He freely gave, we must embrace

* * * * *

As is typical for me, when I learn a new poetry form I can’t write just one. The idea for this poem was originally going to be an essay, but this morning this Florette started forming in my mind, so I finished writing it while I ate my breakfast and decided to post it in time to share for Meeting at the Bar at dVerse Poets Pub.

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Why Are We Surprised?

When people do terrible things, such as yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Paris or the most recent school shooting in Oregon last month, people are surprised. And when you believe, as our culture seems to, that people are basically good, the surprise is understandable.

But my Christian brothers and sisters, why are you surprised? Scripture tells us that we are all born with a sinful nature. In Romans 3:23 Paul points out that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are all of us sinners—the difference is the degree to which we accept that fact and the measures we take to overcome our sinfulness. When others sin, we should not be surprised.

Nor should we be surprised as things seem to get worse in our world, as we hear stories of terrorism, of child abuse, of the acceptance of pornography as normal, of the staunch defense of the practice of abortion, greedy corporations and politicians putting their own bottom line first, and much more. The daily headlines can be depressing, especially if they take you totally by surprise.

Spend much time at all in scripture, however, and you’ll find that the current state of our world is not a surprise to God and shouldn’t be a surprise to us. We see a clear warning in Paul’s second letter to Timothy:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—
2 Timothy 3:1-4 (NIV).

That verse pretty much sums up our culture and our news headlines, including the tabloid headlines about our favorite stars.

So if we aren’t to be surprised about what is going on around us, what as Christians should we do? Especially in the wake of a terrible tragedy like the multi-site terrorist attack in Paris yesterday? Well, again, let’s turn to scripture for our answer.

Love in Action

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Thinking of the people of Paris, the phrase that stands out to me in this passage is “mourn with those who mourn.” We certainly do today. And we encourage all to trust in Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who alone is able to change hearts and help us overcome our sinful nature.

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Not Unforgiven

The Meeting the Bar prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today is brought to us by De Jackson who wants us to write using the poetic device of enjambment (which is when thought doesn’t end at the end of a line of poetry but spills over onto the next line). Lately I’ve been writing more form poetry, but I’ve been known to write a fair amount of free verse using enjambment. So I decided to take on De’s challenge to write using hyphenated words for this short poem on forgiveness.

Not Unforgiven

Feeling un-
forgiven is what I am

I will be-
loved for all eternity

Love is with-
held only by the wicked

You are whole-
some of what I need

God is all-
knowing my heart’s desire

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Spiritual Coup

The past has no hold on me
it reveals my old self but I am new
Created in Christ Jesus
in an amazing spiritual coup

I’m not sure when it happened
though it happens day by day
I become more like my Savior
in the most marvelous way

And yet some days I stumble
drifting in the dark
I forget to seek the Spirit
who helps me hit the mark

But He is ever faithful
never forsaking me
He restores me to the way
His grace the golden key

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Grafted

I was a wild olive shoot
wandering lost and alone
certain I could thrive
on skill all my own

Lived a wild and crazy life
no one to answer to
sowing seeds of great regret
searching for something new

Though I had creativity
wisdom was far away
focus was quite absent
to guide me through each day

But then the Gracious Gardner
gently grafted me
into His wise and merciful root
finally I am free

Now I have direction
a perfect reason to live
the secret of His love and grace
to others I want to give

 

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Blessings of Boldness

Being bold and courageous is hard and sometimes risky, but it’s always worth the risk. Last week when I posted my 6th Anniversary post, I mentioned that I was going to share on Monday about the blessings of being bold. But one of the two things I planned to share didn’t go as I had planned and so I didn’t write that post. After God added another blessing to the mix, I’m now ready to share.

Several weeks ago I wrote a post about my personal experience with Planned Parenthood. I was terrified to post it, but I did, on a Wednesday evening thinking no one would see it. That one little post ended up getting more views and shares in three days than I’ve ever had for any post. Some of my posts have been viewed more over the long haul, but never in such a short period of time.

Then, about a week later, I got a comment from Randy Alcorn (okay, it was from his media relations specialist) asking if he could re-blog that post. Of course I said yes, because being re-blogged by an author with his credentials is a great blessing for a relatively unknown author like me. Plus, it meant my story now has the potential to touch even more lives and be a blessing to others. His post including my re-blogged post went live on Monday here.

The next blessing came when I was bold and courageous to share my story in church this past Sunday. We are doing a sermon series on how God changes lives, and He has definitely changed mine. It was hard and risky to share my story, but it was well worth the risk. Afterwards I got lots of hugs, plus a few people who said they had been through something similar and that what I shared helped them. I also received some follow-up notes from some members of our church, including a handwritten note that came in the mail (those are my favorite kind).

I was all set to share the link to the audio of my testimony in my post on Monday, but it turned out that the recording got messed up and you couldn’t really hear it. There was a lot of static and my voice was so quiet that even when the static stopped for a second or two, you couldn’t hear me. I was so upset, because I knew there were people who had asked me to send them the link because they wanted to listen but weren’t able to come to our church that morning.

So, because I didn’t have the audio to share in this post, I had decided not to write it. Then I mentioned to my awesome husband that the audio had been messed up on my testimony and he replied, “I recorded it. It’s on my phone.” I was so happy and felt so blessed that he cared so much to have recorded it. I was able to upload it to SoundCloud and create the recording below.

And the triple blessing in all of this is that I discovered how easy it is to use SoundCloud and embed a SoundCloud clip into my blog, so now I can add audio readings of some of my poetry, too.

Anyway, the lesson for me this week is that God is good and often works to bless us even when we think He’s forgotten us or doesn’t care. That is the story of my life, but it’s also the story of the recording of my story. I was disappointed that He didn’t make sure the church recording of my testimony worked out, but He had a plan for me to see how much my husband loves me. And how much He loves me.

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