Slow Down and Learn to Love

Slowing down has given me time to read. I’ve enjoyed reading a couple of good books lately. Haven’t done that in a while.

I’ve also had time to take advantage of some great online courses via the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference.

I took part in the conference and contrary to my preconceived notions about online conferences, enjoyed it very much. I recognized familiar faces. I heard every moment of each session. If I missed something, I knew I could go back and listen to it again.

So, in the last few days, I’ve been writing again. I have to confess, I had almost lost heart.

There is so much going on in the world right now to distract me.

Then I discovered a beautiful truth buried among all the distractions. A TV remote with a red “off” button. I pressed it. Voila!

Peace. Tranquility.

However, I also found that my heart and soul had been injured by what my eyes had seen and my ears had heard, so I took refuge in the Word of God. I studied the first epistle of John, so pertinent right now.

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. – 1 John 3:11

Was I playing the ostrich, head-in-the-sand, avoiding the world’s troubles?

I think not. I was giving myself the chance to grow stronger so that whatever lies ahead, I can face it from a position of strength.

And maybe I can do something to help.

Sometimes the best way I can help is to be kind. Show love. I have to confess, I am not colorblind, neither do I want to be. I love all the different shades. Each one has beauty and purpose (Read Acts 17:26-28). We won’t always understand. We can’t possibly walk in someone else’s skin. What we can do is acknowledge, appreciate, and love them for who they are.

This is the message of 1 John: Perfect love originates with the Creator, Who asks only that we believe and love what He has created.

Times are changing, so quickly, it’s hard to keep up. Many of us are fearful and wondering what the future holds. Trust, in times like these, is difficult but not impossible. John talked about that, too. There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear.

The only perfect love comes from God. He loved us so much, he gave the greatest gift of all—His Son. He laid down His life for us.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. – 1 John 3:16-18

 

Back to the Land of Ruth

Happy Thursday morning! Coffee needed and keep it coming! We’ve had an extremely wet week in our neck of the woods. I’m hoping for sunshine and maybe a little more summertime.

I’ve spent several weeks in memory mode, contemplating my future writing. Now, it’s time to return to the story of Ruth. Once again, I’m immersing myself in the beautiful Biblical story. Once I’ve studied it, I’ll re-read Annabelle’s Ruth and Sutter’s Landing.

This past week, I’m also researching my setting for the third and final book in the Kinsman Redeemer series. Something caught my interest, and may find it’s way into the story line. If you are of a certain age, and lived in the southeastern region of the United States, you may remember what happened in the late fifties/early sixties.

Jackson, Tennessee, just a short drive south from my rural setting, was often in the news in those days. It’s the home of Lane College, a traditionally all-black college (during that time), associated with the Methodist Episcopal Church. Several brave young men and women took it upon themselves to force the desegregation issue by staging “sit-ins” at area drug store soda fountains (like the one in my stories).

This, and several other “powder-keg” events happened during the timeline of book three. So, of course, I need to find a way to incorporate it in the story.

Back to the present: the church I attend is culturally and racially diverse. Though comparatively small, our congregation has a wonderful balance. Right now, under the leadership of our pastor, we are studying The Third Option by Miles McPherson. It’s a book about honor and respect, and learning to love your neighbor without prejudice.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect. One of the main reasons I’ve been able to handle the racial issues in the first two books in this series with grace, is the balance in my life. I believe it is directly tied to interaction and fellowship with my church family—a vibrant group of men and women united by their love for God and each other.

At one time in the south, it didn’t matter whether a person was Polynesian or Haitian, or African, or even Latin or Native American. They were considered a lesser race. Even a person of mixed race was denied the privilege to marry a Caucasian at one time. So my main character in books one and two had a couple of hurdles ahead of her.

Why even include this in my story? Why did I need the racial element in Annabelle’s Ruth? Consider the original story. If you’re familiar with the book of Ruth, you’ll remember that she was a foreigner, a Moabitess. She left her home, where she was in the majority, and traveled to Naomi’s homeland, where a Moabite was definitely a minority, and subject to prejudice. It is obvious from content that a Moabite looked different.

Ruth earned something dear—God’s blessing—through her loyalty to Naomi, one of God’s chosen.

As I complete this series, I need to finish with a bang and tie up all the loose ends. I believe I’ll find what I need in the pages of the original story. I can’t wait to find out what happens!

The Prayer He Prayed for Us

coffee, cup, laptop, memeHello, Thursday morning! Grab a cup of coffee and  join me. My Thursdays are usually a little less frazzled than the rest of the week. I go through my morning routine, visit and market online, then get out my latest manuscript and start creating.

The last couple of weeks have been a little different, as I’ve completed one book and am starting another. I have lots of preparation to do in front of the June release date.

Regardless of all that, I still want to spend time reading and studying the Word of God. That’s my morning meditation. My breathing session. It’s both relaxing and invigorating. Gets my mind flowing. Oh, and you thought that was the coffee! 🙂

This week, I’m meditating something new. I’m thinking about the prayers of Jesus, and how I can pattern mine after His. He didn’t pray complicated prayers. He had such a close relationship with God the Father, he just carried on a conversation. And then I found this one–

  • Jesus prayed for us. For US. You, and me.
I’m praying not only for them,
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me. John 17:20
  • “Them” and “their” in this passage refers to his disciples. “Those” refers to us—those who come after—those who believe. He goes on to say:
 “The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.”
  • And now, we are, “all of them.” He wants us working together, not struggling against each other, because…
“Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.”
  • There’s a purpose beyond our own comfort. Believers should live in unity, loving one another. This is the natural result of our common belief. If you mix yeast into flour, add a sweetener like honey or sugar, then add some warm milk, you will see a natural reaction. We are the yeast and the flour, mixed together. The milk is the Word of God. The sweetener—the honey—is the love.
 Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.”
  • The evidence is love. He loved us first. When the man who would later become my husband first showed an interest in me, I was a little surprised. It was unexpected. But when he acted as though he liked me, and wanted to keep seeing me, I was encouraged to believe in the possibility he might love me someday.
  • Jesus loved us first. You could say He pursues us.
 “Father, I want those you gave me
To be with me, right where I am,
So they can see my glory, the splendor you gave me,
Having loved me long before there ever was a world.”
  • All of this happened because God loved first. We are made for His glory.
So, here’s my prayer for you:
May you glorify God through the life you live today, exhibiting the love of Christ, so others may believe in Him, and become one of “those”.
Scriptures — John 17: 20-25 The Message

Daniel in the Den of Kings

coffee, cup, laptop, memeI’m a little sad. I’ve just finished the last chapter of Daniel. It’s seemed so short. Every time I read this book, I learn.

So, who is Daniel, really? Is he more than the man who defied the king’s edict and faced the lions’ den?

So much is revealed about the prophet Daniel in this book. If you do a bit of digging, you may be surprised by what you find.

He was a little like Joseph. Both men lived through dire circumstances, yet their obedience and great faith in God allowed them to prosper in the midst of difficult times.

Daniel rose to a position of authority that lasted through several sieges, from Nebuchadnezzar to Darius the Mede. Though Daniel served in the courts of kings, he was not ruled by them. Ultimately, he answered to God, as he proved over and over. And, no surprise, he suffered persecution for his faith.

Thus the den of lions.

This next statement of Daniel’s grabbed my attention and opened a window in my heart and mind:

And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him. Daniel 11:1 [NIV]

Daniel took his stand to support and protect Darius the Mede? I’m reminded of the scripture, “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7 NIV)

Bring this home to your current situation. Do you “seek the peace and prosperity” of the company (occupation, job) in which God has placed you? Or do you constantly revile them, and curse them with your complaints and unkind words? (Gee, this could also apply to marriage.)

I have to tell you, I’ve done it in the past. Many of us pray for a job, a good position, and when we get it, we’re praising God. But time passes and the shiny newness wears off. The honeymoon is over. We become unhappy. We murmur and complain about the gift of God to us.

Daniel’s position was one of honor, and I imagine he had the ability to live pretty well, though he didn’t take everything given. He refused to eat the rich food of the kings. Anything that stood in the way of his worship of Almighty God, he tended to reject. But he prayed for the king who sat on the throne. He didn’t try to escape, because he knew God’s word. He knew God had a plan and he was in it.

It seems to me, if God truly has opened doors and placed me in a position, He might be a little displeased with my complaining. If I’m unhappy with a situation, maybe I should try praying, which is what Daniel did. And his obedience and faith brought this next statement from the angel, Gabriel:

He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” {Daniel 10:11-12 NIV}

To hear words like these, in answer to your prayer! What a thrill!


 What would our life look like if we truly sought God’s presence in our situation? If we gave Him glory in the midst, and prayed for the prosperity of the place we’d been sent? Even if we feel it’s the wrong place…pray. Remain obedient until the time of God’s deliverance. It will come.

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What I Do Instead

boss-432713_1280Some people love to give orders. Or maybe they just like to be in a position to give orders. They want to be the big guy in charge. The Boss. The CEO. But being in charge means having great responsibility.

Giving orders is a lot easier than teaching. But if those you’re ordering around don’t know how to accomplish their tasks, it can end up taking more time.

So you need a teacher. I know a guy.

His name is Jesus. Often called “Rabbi,” or teacher, He came to show us—by example—how to live. He didn’t pop in, give orders, then leave us to it. He started as we do, as a helpless infant, who grew into a child, then an adolescent, and a man. Through his day-to-day life, he left a lasting impression on the earth. Is it possible to live a perfect life?

For him, it was. With eternity’s sparkle in your eye, and full knowledge of what it all means stowed away in your mind, it is.

person-1281536_1280But is it possible for the ordinary, flesh-and-blood man or woman? Is it possible for me?

With Christ living in me, it is.

Am I always perfect? Do I always make the right decisions?

No, and no. One thing I always do is—make mistakes. I’m human. I may know what’s right to do, but I don’t always do it. Sometimes, I move too quickly. Sometimes, I speak too soon. And in that instant, I’m in the wrong.

But one thing is always available—God’s forgiveness. His forbearance. He knows I’ll make mistakes. Jesus covers them if I admit them and ask forgiveness.

If you need more proof, if my word isn’t good enough, open the Bible. Study the book of Romans. Try reading it in The Message version. Here’s a quick link: Romans 1.

Yes, I’m not the first, nor am I the last to fail at it. Honestly, sometimes I really suck at it. But it doesn’t matter. Because I know how to make it all better.

Remember Paul? He was a teacher, too. And he knew all about failure. Here’s one of my favorite passages from his letter to the Romans:

“It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. [Romans 7:21-25 The Message]

“…to do something totally different…”

What I do instead of what I should do. What we all do, at one time or another. But I have presented you with the answer. Even when you do the wrong thing, all is not lost.

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