Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Yesterday, Scott and I attended a memorial service for a godly man...father, husband, and friend to many.
It was humbling to listen to how he influenced so many to go out and be a better person. It was moving to see just how many lives he touched on earth...both young and old. You couldn't help but be changed after that service. Changed for the better.
We sang songs of praise to the One who made it all possible: Jesus.
This man loved Jesus and taught his kids to love Jesus, too.
As we sang, I couldn't help but thank the Lord.
I thanked Him for eternal life that, even in pain and sorrow, we could glorify His name knowing our friend is there with Him and we will see him again.
Oh how great is our God.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?8
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
Running From The Empty Tomb
Last week, I listened to a wonderful message by Dr. R.C. Sproul regarding how Peter denied Christ 3 times...and then the rooster crowed.
It's a story I have heard over and over again all my life, and yet the impact is still profound.
In the message, Dr. Sproul focuses on how Christ looked at Peter right after he denied Him the third time. Dr. Sproul wondered allowed just how did Christ look at Peter? What did that glance look like and what did it say to him?
"Peter, how could you? After all we've been through..."
"Peter, now do you understand what I was saying?"
"Peter, go and edify the brethren..."
Whatever that look was, it must have been devastating.
But then Dr. Sproul went on to talk about what happened after the crucifixion. Another Bible passage I have read and studied over and over again, yet I saw something I hadn't seen before.
I love that about God's Word, don't you?
When the women go to the upper room to tell the disciples that the body of Christ isn't in the tomb and that they actually saw the risen Jesus, how does Peter react to the news?
But does he run to the empty tomb? ...or does he run away from the empty tomb?
By reading that Peter ran toward the empty tomb, we can know that the look Jesus gave him that night had to have been a life changing look.
Amazing, isn't it? What we glean from God's word is truly amazing.
Our pastor announced he will be going through the book of Jonah for the next four weeks. As he spoke, I read through the first chapter. Again, I have read and studied this book over and over again.
So I prayed and asked the Lord to show me something new.
And He answered my prayers.
As I read, the Lord showed me how this book is applicable even today. As I blogged about last week, so many friends are hurting right now.
They are dealing with real issues that can either strengthen one's faith or destroy it.
These friends can either run to the empty tomb...or they can be like Jonah, and run away from it.
But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish;
so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go
with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
His desire was to avoid God altogether.
Jonah's motivation was to flee from the commands of the Lord. Why?
Hatred. He didn't want to proclaim forgiveness to the wicked enemies of God.
Have you ever been there? The Lord has commanded you to take His word, His healing gospel message, to the wicked of this world...and, instead, you run off in the opposite direction?
a. Because you don't want to be rejected.
b. Because you don't care about those evil wicked people.
c. Because deep down inside...you want those evil wicked people to burn in
hell for what they do.
d. All of the above.
I know I felt that way, too.
I tried to pull a "Jonah" many times. I ran away from God instead of running toward Him and His perfect plan.
God Found Jonah
You might be saying to yourself that your situation right now is dire. You are hurting so badly now, that you can't possibly talk to anyone about Christ, let alone the wicked.
Or you might be telling yourself that you don't have the gift of evangelism. That's a gift other people have.
But trust me, the Lord has commanded all of His believers to GO and proclaim what the Lord has done or is doing in your life.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy
Has the Lord done great things in your life?
Has He healed you?
Has He redeemed you and saved you from the pits of hell?
Has He shown you great things in His word today?
There are so many ways to tell of God's glory today that we are without excuse. Yes, social media and the internet can be used for evil...But instead, use social media for good! Use it to His advantage!
You have a story, you have God's Word, you have Him on your side....there is nothing to fear.
So you might be rejected. So what? So, the person might call you bad names, so what?
Think of what some Christians are facing right now just because they proclaimed the gospel message of Christ:
Remember what happened to Jonah who ran away from the commands of God:
God found Him.
God found him unfaithful.
How do you want God to find you?
Run To the Empty Tomb
God warned Jeremiah and Ezekiel that if they did not go and speak the words of God, they would be punished:
“Therefore prepare yourself and arise,
And speak to them all that I command you.
Do not be dismayed before their faces,
Lest I dismay you before them."
And speak to them all that I command you.
Do not be dismayed before their faces,
Lest I dismay you before them."
Ezekiel 3:18 & 20
"When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.
“Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand."
You might say, "That's the Old testament...surely, God was talking to them, not me!"
Remember....the God of the Bible does not change. If He has commanded us to Go, we are to go and speak His words to the world!
As Dr. Sproul pointed out in his message, we can either run to the empty tomb or run from it.
The Bible is full of stories of people who ran from God. In the end, it wasn't pretty.
In our sorrows and trials, we can either run from God or run to Him. He clearly says in His word to proclaim your story.
If you have been redeemed...say so!
We cannot hide from the presence of the Lord no matter how hard we try. And we definitely do not want the blood of others on our hands when we stand before Him.
My advice? Be found faithful.
Put on your running shoes...and run to the Lord!
Your turn: where are you at right now? Are you running toward the empty tomb or away from it? Are you telling your story or not?
Thursday, July 11, 2013
|Photo credit www.quarterlife-health.com|
"Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord?
Arise! Do not cast us off forever.24
Why do You hide Your face,
And forget our affliction and our oppression?"
Wow. Just wow.
For the past two weeks, I have received so many prayer requests from friends who are truly hurting....
- Loss of a baby
- Death of a father
- Job loss
- Financial issues
- Cancer diagnosis
- Surgery recovery
- Marriage problems
...and many more! The Lord has brought so many to mind during my morning prayers that I am weary. My heart is breaking! I cry out to the Lord!
And He hears me.
For the last 4 weeks I have been in a Bible study on the Book of Habakkuk and I have gleaned much from this book.
I have learned that there is a purpose for affliction and I have learned that it comes from the Lord.
Is there comfort in knowing that?
I suppose there can be.
All I know is, the Lord created the nation of Babylon for one purpose only:
To afflict His people, Israel.
Can you imagine that? A nation is born for one reason only... to wreak havoc on God's people.
Why? To bring them back to Him.
When? During a great time of apostasy and idolatry.
"We have heard with our ears, O God,
Our fathers have told us,
The deeds You did in their days,
In days of old:2
You drove out the nations with Your hand,
But them You planted;
You afflicted the peoples, and cast them out."
Why does God allow us to be afflicted with pain and suffering?
Answer: to bring true believers near to Him.
Habakkuk realized who God was during the time of affliction. He asked God questions and got answers. And as a result, Habakkuk saw the attributes of the Lord.
He remembered the God whom he served.
Asaph was conflicted when he saw how the wicked prospered even though they were afflicting God's people. And the result? Asaph almost stumbled. But he entered the sanctuary of the Lord and saw how it ends for the wicked.
"Truly God is good to Israel,
To such as are pure in heart.2
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.3
For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked."
"When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—17
Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end."
He remembered the God whom he served.
As you can see, affliction is there to force us to look at God and NOT our circumstances.
"...For He hears the cry of the afflicted."
If anyone was afflicted in Scriptures, it was Job. And yet he remembered his God.
I love to pray for others who are in need because I know the Lord hears me. I have faith that He will go the those in need and comfort them.
I know He is faithful.
And just this week, I have learned that God has answered my prayers and is helping some of my friends.
And the others? They are still in need, but I know God is with them getting them through the storm.
Storms are scary.
My friend, Pam, reminded me of the story of when Peter walked on the water and only began to sink when he took his eyes off the Lord and focused more on the storm and his circumstances.
"...But when he saw that the wind was boisterous,he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
And immediately Jesus stretched out
His hand and caught him, and said to him,
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased."
Ahhh, peace. We all crave it.
To have peace, we can learn from Peter...never take our eyes off Christ during the storm!
My prayer for those of you suffering right this moment is that you would draw closer to the Lord during this time of affliction.
Draw near to Him!
And listen for Him.
It is there in the midst of the storm that He reaches out his hand to save us! When we look at our surroundings, we miss it.
We miss that opportunity to grasp His hand and be saved.
Trust the Lord. The wind will cease. The calm will come. Draw near to Him!
And there will be peace again.
"Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.26
My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
Friday, July 5, 2013
Words That Inspire
On my blog, I have posted about movies that inspired me to write. Today I post about books that inspired me to write...
A couple of years ago, around the time I had decided on the plot, setting, and theme of The Dragon Forest II, I realized I needed some inspiration for writing prison scenes.
I came upon this book, The Count of Monte Cristo, and found it most helpful for writing the prison scenes, but also it was most helpful with writing the scenes involving conflict and change my story lacked.
My hero, Peter, must undergo extreme changes that occur from experiencing a horrific trial that no mother or father would ever want their child to endure. I found this book most helpful with this task. Dumas writes about the anger, frustration, and sorrow his protagonists deals with along with the powerful feelings of revenge that drive him and keep him alive in that prison setting.
I learned how to input those exact feelings into my story a couple of years ago when I read this book. Dumas left me appreciating language all the more when I put his book down. I became a fan after that experience!
I didn't read much as a child. When I did pick up a book, it was usually a history book, a book about horses (I loved to draw horses!), or a science book.
Every once in awhile, I would pick up a book of fiction to read. One day, I read a book about King Arthur. I was forever hooked on the legend!
When I decided to write my own book series, I knew I would write about castles, knights, kings, and sword fights all because of the impact this book had on my imagination as a child. My own series deals with a noble King struggling to keep his kingdom from falling into the enemy's hands while dealing with betrayal among his own friends.
I feel this book has given me the most inspiration to write a story than any other.
Finally, the story of Joseph in the Bible also inspired me to write.
I, like most Christians, had read this story and heard this story numerous times ever since I was a child in Sunday School class.
But it took writing a story about a young boy innocently thrown into prison, to open my eyes to the precepts in this book. I needed help in writing about what emotions a person innocent of all charges would feel if suddenly placed in prison, and this book revealed a young man who served his time well. He served with honor and obedience. He served in such a way that the Lord remembered him.
Wow. How many of us could do this if we found ourselves unjustly accused and thrown in prison?
Joseph's story also helped me write about how it is futile to sit in a prison cell and plan out revenge on those who wrongfully imprisoned you, as the protagonist in Count of Monte Cristo did. Instead, I thought about Joseph's hope and how that got him through this trial.
And how God rewarded him.
Well, these are the three books that have inspired me to write. I have read many more through the years, but as I look back, these three came to my mind over and over again.
Emerson was correct. To write creatively requires reading creatively. Now I read outside my comfort zone of non-fiction and I have found so much inspiration this way!
Your turn: What books have inspired you to become the writer you are today?
Monday, July 1, 2013
|“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” — Harper Lee|
One of the hardest things I have ever had to do was stand in front of a room of strangers and try to inspire them. Did I mention those strangers were 13 & 14 yr olds?
I explained to my students on the last day of school my story: How I was once a little girl who dreamed of having my own classroom because I love school...I'm weird that way. I also told them how hard it was to stand before them and teach them writing. But I ended by telling them how welcome they made me feel and how kind they were. In the end, they inspired me much more than I inspired them!
Writing a book is almost the same thing: you put yourself out there in front of total strangers and hope they accept you and your story for what it is.
Boy is that scary!
I remember asking my editor to read The Dragon Forest II thinking I had hit it out of the ball park! I thought for sure he would be so impressed with my story line.
I was wrong.
He had ten...yes TEN...typed pages of constructive criticism for me to read through, AND he wanted to meet with me to go over each point.
Ugh. That was a bad, bad day.
Yet it was also a very good day because it was the day my story was saved...from myself!
I learned that day the true meaning of "constructive criticism" and how much it stings.
|Image credit: maineschoolswritingcenters.blogspot.com|
When I looked over my Dragon Forest II manuscript again after meeting with my editor that day, I realized how off course I was from my original idea. And I realized my editor's ideas were very beneficial to my story.
So, I revised....and revised...and...well, you get the picture.
My book went from 158,000 down to a workable 115,000 words. It was hard to cut out so many words, but it made for a much better story.
Then I sent my editor an apology email telling him how sorry I was that he had to read such tripe in the first place! But he told me, "That's the writing process..."
And he's so right.
|Image credit: www.joe-ks.com|
Bend, Don't Break!
After revising my book, I asked my beta reader to read the edited copy. It came back with stellar reviews from my target audience.
Yes! God is good.
I knew there and then that I was a writer. For the first time, I felt I truly understood the whole process of writing.
I rediscovered something about myself: I can bend without breaking!
I knew this before, I had just forgotten.
So much about being a writer is bending...
- Listening to an editor's harsh criticisms along with the heartfelt praises.
- Accepting the publisher's timelines instead of your own.
- Reading your beta reader's comments and suggestions with an understanding that they, too, want you to make a better book.
All this "bending" makes you stronger...just like a tree after a storm.
I hope this post encourages you to work through the constructive criticism and not give up!
Keep the faith...keep believing in your story...keep dreaming.
In the end, you'll not only have a better book, but you will be a much stronger person!
Your turn: How have you handled harsh criticism from your editor, readers, critique partners? How do you handle rejection?