Month: March 2014

Brand New Day!

Welcome to the new and improved site, everybody!

Along with the new-look website, I am making a few changes. I will now post regularly on a Friday, (and occasionally throughout the week), and I will regularly update my ‘recommendations’ page.  Keep an eye out for some great books and websites!

Today I have a guest post up over at Jennifer Slattery’s blog; check it out and join the conversation here.

Jennifer Slattery

Here’s a taster:

“I don’t believe Your timing is right.”

“I don’t believe You can accomplish Your purposes through my life and writing.”

“I don’t think You can reach the hearts that are ready for You.”

“I don’t think You can take care of my financial needs.”

Have you ever caught yourself saying this to God?

Probably not. Few people say these things out loud, or even in their heads. But the other day I realized that I was saying all that to God through my actions….

 

You’ll have to visit Jennifer’s site to see the rest!

I Have Been Missing Out

Do you wait for joy and peace to hit you in the head?

Photo sourced from EveryStockPhoto.com by familymwr, used under licence. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Photo sourced from EveryStockPhoto.com by familymwr, used under licence. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

I did. And I wish I hadn’t wasted years doing so.

I used to wait around for those feelings to magically appear, slogging through life until they did. When they came, I was happy. When they left, I fretted and stewed until they floated my way again. It never clicked that I could skip the stressing stage and chase after them.

Now I know that I have to ask God to help me change. I have to recognize my worries as a lack of trust in God and decide to put my faith in Him. It’s taking time, but it’s working! I wish I’d done it long ago.

Same with my relationship with God. Sometimes I’d feel really close to Him, but usually I wouldn’t. That didn’t bother me too much; I knew that emotions were fickle and not to be trusted. And it’s not like I paid no attention to God; I’ve always taken Him seriously and had a devotion time pretty much every day. But there would still be times when I coasted along, and times when I really dug in, chasing after God.

I’m lucky to now be part of a group that meets weekly, not for a routine Bible study, but to chase after God. We pray and sing and talk, and while I’ve been doing those things my whole life, there’s something special this time. We’re all meeting together because we want to seek God. We want to drive in closer to Him. We want to chase after Him. And He’s happily letting us catch Him.

Does this mean all things are easy? Most certainly not. We’ve all got stuff going on in our lives. But as I go after God more and more—with my friends and individually—I’m discovering again how I only ever really find myself in Him.

I think often people are afraid they’ll lose their individuality and become another zombie robot Christian, doing only God’s work and none of the things they’re interested in. But in reality, it’s the opposite. I’m only really finding myself, my purpose, my joy, my creativity and my individuality in God. On my own, I’m another zombie robot Millennial, busy with my family and job and hobbies. But the more I get to know God, the more I feel like there’s a whole other dimension out there that I’ve been blind to, and it’s so much more important than the things I’ve been focusing on. Wouldn’t it be sad to get to the end of your life and realise you’ve totally missed the point of it?

I’m starting to think that I need to passionately pursue God, even when I don’t feel passionate about Him. I always thought I was okay because I spent time with Him and obeyed Him. And I was okay—but I wasn’t great. Even though I was chugging along, I wasn’t chasing after more. I never prayed, “God, give me more of you.” But now I see that this Holy Relationship is like a marriage—even the happiest married couples never stop learning about each other. And the further you go, the greater the relationship is.

The leader of the group I attend often starts the meetings off by praying, “God give me more of You. I need more of You.” The first time I heard that I thought, “Huh. I don’t think I’ve said that before.” I was a bit surprised, because I’ve always considered myself quite serious about God.

As I kept coming along to the group (we’re called Project X—check out the website here) I’ve seen this example lived out in the lives of my friends. I’m seeing that I want to chase after God too. I’m not content with what I have of Him; I need more. Even though I already knew my purpose was wrapped up in God, now I’m understanding it. How can we get distracted with the world when, at the end of the day, it just doesn’t matter? And yet it happens so easily.

The more I know God, the less willing I am to allow myself to get distracted. I want Him. I need Him. I want to join in His work in the world—I want to be part of the stuff that does matter.

Sometimes a new TV series will come out on DVD or I get good ideas for my book and I’ll be very distracted by the world for a few days… or weeks. But if I pray for God’s help in loving Him, He will come through. He will help me love Him. He’ll help me not get distracted, He’ll remind me to practise discipline, He’ll show me how mind-blowing He is and how meaningless everything else is.

And slowly, inch by inch, I’m transforming.

 

Come near to God and he will come near to you.

James 4:8 NIV

…Anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 NIV (emphasis mine)

Big Surprise

I was nervous when I submitted my latest guest blog post for Angela D Meyer’s website—until I received an email that blew me away.

Angela D Meyer

To backtrack, when I was trying to decide what to write, I noticed that Angela’s guidelines allowed short stories. My mind jumped to a story I wrote a few months ago, Nightmare. I thought it was the one most likely to connect to her demographic of readers.

The next morning, when I sat down to look at the story and decide whether to use it, I had an overwhelming feeling that the story was too strange. People don’t read short stories very often, and this one was different to the other stories I’d written so I wasn’t too sure about it.

But I looked at my other ideas for a blog post, and I just wasn’t feeling it. I flicked open my Bible on a whim, wondering if a verse would hit me in the face. The page landed on Isaiah 55:9 (NIV); “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”.

I figured that was pretty obvious. I might not think that people would connect with the story, but maybe God had other ideas. I sent it off to Angela, letting her know that if she didn’t like it I could do something else.

The story tells the experience of a young mother in hospital, waiting to hear if her infant son, Josiah, will live or die. It addresses the topic of where God is when we’re in pain.

I got this email back from Angela:

“Just read your short story. I love it. Very powerful. I have had 2 miscarriages and one of the babies we named Josiah. The emotions that threaten to pull you down can be overpowering. I am sure this story will be relatable to many women who have lost babies. Have you experienced this yourself? The emotions you voiced hit the mark.”

Wow. I was stunned. What a co-incidence! And I almost didn’t send it!

For the record, thankfully I have not experienced a miscarriage. I am not a mother, but I do have a six year-old sister, and my worst case scenario is something happening to her or another member of my family. I wrote the story out of a desire to better comprehend God’s attitude toward human suffering.

So, it looks like even though I wasn’t too sure about what I was doing, God knew better than me what was going on!

If you’d like to check out my guest post—and the rest of Angela’s site— click here.

My Heart is a Big Fat Liar

I suspect my heart is a culprit in the theft of my joy.

shattered heart

A week ago I wrote in my journal that I feel like God’s next lesson for me (in addition to recent lessons on trust) is about joy. More specifically, how to have more of it.

Yesterday morning I woke up after a restful sleep-in; it was the first morning of two days off work. I’d had great fun the night before, yelling at the TV with my housemates (it was a really dramatic episode of Chicago Fire!). But I woke up with guilt weighing me down. It wasn’t sumo wrestler-sized guilt; more like those exercise weights you strap to your ankles. It just made everything a bit harder.

Why? I wasn’t sure. But I felt unproductive, like I’d wasted chances given to me and God was frowning.

It’s not the first time and I know I’m not the only one. About eighteen months ago, I was sitting on a hotel rooftop in Warangal, India, having a devotion time with my seven mission trip teammates. We were all listening as one of us confessed that he’d been feeling distant from God and cynical about his faith for months. The feeling was eating at him, and he didn’t know how to fix it. He was torn apart by fear that this feeling meant something was fundamentally wrong with his relationship with God.

The view from our hotel rooftop in Warangal.

The view from our hotel rooftop in Warangal.

As I listened, I remembered something my Mum once told me during a difficult period of my teenage years: We all have our logic, spirit and emotion. And sometimes Logic and Spirit have to grab Emotion by the arms and drag him along, kicking and screaming. Sometimes, we have to ignore our feelings—our hearts—and go with what we know is the truth.

I’ve also heard of a pastor, who, when someone tells him, “I feel far away from God,” immediately asks, “Are you sleeping, eating and exercising right?” He believes that these are the most common causes for a feeling that God is distant or unhappy.

I don’t want to minimize emotions relating to a tragedy, clinical depression or a spiritual distance caused by sin. Those are real issues, and they need dealing with. What I’m talking about is that vague feeling that God’s looking at me, frowning—and I can’t figure out why.

So today, I’m proposing a new theory: Just because you feel something, doesn’t mean you have to believe it. Even the Bible says: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9 NIV)

I think a lot of people—including myself and my teammate—freak out when our emotions tell us that we’ve moved a long way from God. We assume that we are a long way from God and immediately take action to rectify the situation, despairing when nothing changes.

Then one day, the problem is magically gone. Why? It was never there to start with. You probably just had messed-up hormones that week.

Yesterday I woke up and prayed for a while, trying to relieve my heavy feeling. Then I looked back over my week and realized that I’d been working pretty hard. I hadn’t been unproductive. And the feeling that I’d displeased God with my laziness was just…wrong. And with that realization, the feeling evaporated.

The Waiting Begins…

It’s been a big week!

As well as starting work on my next novel (YAY!), I have entered my first novel, Open Your Eyes, into the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Genesis contest for unpublished authors. I have to wait for ages (until May/June) to get feedback from the judges, but I can’t wait to hear their opinions on how I can improve my writing. 🙂

I also have a guest post up today at Cherie Burbach’s awesome site, Working Writers and Bloggers. Her site is one of the best I’ve found, so I’m pretty happy I get to be a part of it.

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Step Two is a Killer

Background - 3D notebook with the points marked in the list

There are eighteen inches between my head and my heart, but sometimes it feels like eighteen miles.

I’ve only recently started to comprehend that just because I know something, it doesn’t mean I believe it. Not in a way that affects my actions, anyway. For example, after twenty-odd years of knowing that God is trustworthy, I discovered that I Don’t Trust God. And last week I published a guest blog post claiming that I Don’t Want to Succeed, because true success is found in God. But was that really true? This week I’ve gotten frustrated with a lack of ‘success’ in my productivity, my writing and growing my author platform. Even though I should know better.

So what’s been missing? I’ve had the lightbulb moments; I have the knowledge necessary to change. That’s Step One. But as it turns out, that’s not enough. It’s Step Two that’s really the killer; I have to follow through with action.

Not rocket science, I know. It’s actually pretty obvious that change requires action. But I don’t think I’m alone in this situation—not by a long shot. Many people get stressed, lose their tempers, give in to negative thoughts, aim for the wrong goals… the list could go on. And I’m not talking about one-off incidents.These behaviors are consistent patterns in our lives. Yet we know we should trust God, count to ten, think positive and put God above all else.So what are we all missing? Step Two.

For me, Step Two involves not expecting knowledge to automatically translate into change. It means adjusting my thought patterns. And it requires recognition that this is not a five-second decision, then ‘poof’: I’ve changed. It’s a process, and it takes work. And that leads me to the all-important Step Three: asking God for help.

The Bible is clear; we are as capable as jellyfish in the desert on our own. But, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. (Phil 4:13 NKJV) Doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it’s possible. With God’s help, I can remind myself of His truth when I start to feel stressed or frustrated. I can take time out to spend with Him, let go of my worries, and replace them with peace. I can recognize negative thoughts when they start and hit them out of the park.

So what about you? Think for a minute. What is that thing you do that you wish you didn’t? Have you ever had an epiphany, but later realized that things are still the same? Maybe it’s time for Step Two. (And Three.)

Origins of the Dance Floor

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‘Meet Me on the Dance Floor’ is my latest guest post at Emilie Hendryx’s website.

And if you haven’t had the chance yet, make sure you visit my article on Ada Brownell’s website, ‘I Don’t Want to Succeed’.

And I’m not neglecting my own blog; a post tentatively titled ‘Step Two is the Killer’ will be up in the next week.