Month: June 2014

What do Cheese and Pepper have to do with faith?

OK, I’ll admit Pepper the puppy has nothing to do with faith. She’s just cute and I wanted to share her photo with you guys!

Pepper is the newest addition to the Everingham farm.

Pepper is the newest addition to the Everingham farm.

She’s my little sister’s new Moodle (Maltese cross Poodle), and since I’m spending my short holiday at Mum and Dad’s farm I’ve had lots of fun with her.

The cheese refers to my latest guest post on Christine Lindsay’s website, How to Convert Knowledge to Action. Read it and you’ll understand. (Though I wrote it one or two months ago, so the job dilemma I refer to in the post has obviously been resolved. I start on Monday!)

Since I’m on holidays I’m taking a break from my usual weekly post, but I’ve had three guest posts up this week so hopefully that will be enough to satisfy you guys till next week. 🙂

I’ll let you know how the new job goes.

Meanwhile, enjoy Pepper!

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Teamwork is Sexy

I’ve done some completely different blog posts this week!

The first is up on the Christian Writers Downunder blog, and is piece for writers on how the concept of partnership is an effective tool to supercharge romantic (or even platonic) relationships in novels.

It’s even got a checklist with examples from popular books and movies. 🙂

Captain America 2 is a great example of teamwork.

Captain America and Natasha Romanoff have great teamwork in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

 

Dr John Watson and Sherlock Holmes are one of the greatest fictional teams of all time.

Dr John Watson and Sherlock Holmes are one of the greatest fictional teams of all time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annie and Auggie's partnership as workmates in the CIA is central to the TV show Covert Affairs.

Annie and Auggie’s partnership as workmates in the CIA is central to the TV show Covert Affairs.

Prince Charming and Snow White demonstrate fantastic teamwork in Once Upon A Time.

Prince Charming has partnership all figured out with Snow White in Once Upon A Time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second is an interview I did over on Shannon Vannatter’s inspirational romance blog, Inkslinger, about my own love life.

Shannon Vannetter

Check them out!

How to Make the Fog Work for You: A Journey of Faith Part III

Fog Forest

What does it mean to ‘have faith’? And how does that look in everyday life?

This has been God’s challenge to me in the past few weeks, as I debated over a big decision regarding my job. I’ve been pretty faithless during this entire  process (I’d rather eat a cactus than search for another job), and even though I knew my mindset wasn’t ideal, I didn’t think it was a major issue.

Then a friend asked me to speak at church, and gave me a topic: How did Jesus do life?

During my study of the Book of Luke, I noticed that when Jesus commended people, it was usually about their faith. In fact, faith seemed to get him pretty excited. And then I remembered a verse from Hebrews 11:

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb 11:6 NIV)

Ouch. This was a bigger problem than I’d given it credit for. When the Israelites were faithless and didn’t believe God would deliver the Promised Land to them, they lost the privilege of entering it. Instead they wandered the desert for the rest of their lives and it was their children who saw the fulfillment of God’s promise.

I don’t want that to be me. Hence this series on faith.

As I work on my attitude and get ready to give my talk at church, I’ve been studying the Bible’s most well-known chapter on faith: Hebrews 11.

The whole thing is a description of faith, and a bunch of examples of what faith looked like in the lives of people in the Old Testament. I’ve been making a list.

Here’s my two favorites for this week:

By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going… Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations – the City designed and built by God. (Heb 11:8-10 MSG)

Faith looks like: Obeying even when you don’t know where you’re going.

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age–and Sarah herself was barren–was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. (Heb 11:11-12 NIV)

Faith looks like: Believing God’s promise, even when it looks impossible.

I like the first one because right now, as I start a new career, I feel like I have no idea where I’m going. Yeah, on the outside it looks like I do. This new job is full-time, more secure, better paying and holds greater opportunities than my two old part-time gigs.

But I didn’t expect to get it. I expected to work part-time jobs and focus my energy on becoming an author. I expected God to use me through my role as a mentor–something I’ve had to give up to take the job. While this new opportunity is awesome, it’s unexpected, and I don’t quite know where I’m going with it.

But Abraham was in the same position, and having faith panned out pretty well for him. He fulfilled God’s purposes for him, and came to know God in a deeper way. Can you imagine what a shame it would have been if he had’ve said, “No thanks God, I think I’ll stay where I am”?

And then the second part takes it to a whole new level. Abraham trusted God when He promised something–even something that seemed so far out of reach. I have trouble believing God when He promises me reasonable things. I think I would’ve struggled a little if God told me I’d have a baby when I’m in my 70s and my husband’s 100!!!

But again, look at what Abraham would’ve missed out on if he had no faith.

In my position right now, I feel a little like I’m walking through a thick fog, feeling my way around. I’m making progress, but I’m not sure what’s going to happen next.

But looking at this from Abraham’s perspective, the fog might not be an obstacle. It might be an opportunity. He didn’t need to see where he was going; he needed faith.

So do I.

 

 

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God’s Not Using Me: A Journey of Faith Part II

I feel like God isn't using me.

Everything is about to change.

Two weeks ago, in the third post of my series on contentment, I wrote that I had another decision to make regarding my career.

Usually this is where I stress and panic, unsure of which direction God wants me to go and worried that He won’t clue me in.

This time I prayed about it with faith. I did my best to be confident that God would come through and guide me. But as each day passed without a word from heaven, my confidence slipped.

I realized this on Monday, after I read the story of David and Goliath in my morning devotions. David’s confidence in God really struck me. A whole army was quaking in fear, and David said, ‘What’s the problem guys? Impossible odds are nothing when God’s on our side!’ (Okay, that’s my paraphrase, but you get the gist. The whole story’s in 1 Samuel 17)

Then he grabbed a few pebbles and went to face the giant alone. Just him and God.

That’s what I call confidence.

So I prayed for confidence. I realized that if God was happy with either path, they must both lead to fulfilling his purposes. Neither would be a mistake. And I decided that if it was offered to me, I’d take this new opportunity.

On Tuesday, I did get an offer. I took it. Now I’m saying goodbye to my kids at the boarding school (which is very sad) and preparing to start a new job as a training content developer (which is exciting!).

Even though I believe God led me to this decision, after making it I’ve been attacked by fear. The change back to full-time work means I have to give up being a mentor at a local youth program, give up working with the boarding students at school and I won’t have as much time to write my books. It seems all the places where I thought God was using me are disappearing. And with them, so is my David-like confidence.

It all adds to an old fear I’ve had that God isn’t using me. This one goes back a few years, and stems from a general frustration that I can’t see much good happening in the world because of anything I do. My childhood church never grew. My youth group kids backslid. The first girl I mentored dropped out of the program and stopped talking to me. I often get frustrated that no matter what I do, my life seems completely ineffective.

Yes, some positive things have happened. I saw dozens of people convert on my mission trip to India. Some of those youth group kids stopped backsliding and turned to God again. But it feels like my list of positives should be longer than that.

I have a friend who gets used by God all the time. This person is a leader in the church, also runs effective independent ministries and always seems to be getting really specific instructions from God. No one would ever doubt that this person is getting used by God.

Why does that never happen to me?

While mulling this over, God’s revealed several possibilities.

  •  If God uses me in an obvious way, that doesn’t require much faith. It’s easy to have confidence when you can see everything going right. This situation could be designed to grow my faith.
  •  If this isn’t some type of faith-building exercise and God really isn’t using me, there are three other options:
    1. God doesn’t want to use me. For some reason He has decided that He will have plans for everyone else in the world, except me. (I’m starting to see how ridiculous my thoughts are.)
    2. I have some sin stopping God from using me. This could be a possibility. Have I been jealous of someone? Arrogant? Or is my sin just a big fat lack of faith? I’m going to pray that God will show me if there’s anything that needs changing, and that He keeps helping me with the faith thing.
    3. I am not obeying God, so He’s not using me. I don’t see anywhere in my life where this has happened (except for sometimes not obeying his command to have faith), but again, it can’t hurt to pray that God will show me if there is something that needs fixing.

The idea that God has decided I will be the only Christian left out of His plans is clearly a silly fear being thrown at me by the devil. But it’s one that’s been effective for a long time.

But let’s look at the truth. The truth is, God loves me and has included me in His plans. However, I don’t always see His plans or understand them. I can also be held back by sin, fear, faithlessness and disobedience.

So it looks like the answer’s pretty simple: Have faith that God’s plans will prevail, and that I am a part of them. Pray for help in clearing my heart of disbelief and sin. And then have some more faith while I keep moving forward!

What about you? Have you ever struggled with this issue? How did you deal with it?

 

Oh, and did you want to hear the end of last week’s story about the person breaking into my house?

Turned out, it was our housemate. We’d gotten home late, seen her bedroom door shut and car in the drive and assumed she was asleep. She had actually been picked up by friends and we’d locked her out.

Next time, she knows to call out loudly and let us know who it is!!!

 

 

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Someone’s Breaking Into My Room: A Journey of Faith Part I

What did Jesus mean when he said, 'Have faith'?

Image by Laura V, sourced from CreationSwap.com.

“Jess, I need you to wake up really fast. Someone’s trying to break into my room.”

Those were my sister’s words at 1am Saturday. I went from being in a deep sleep to on my feet and moving in about one second flat.

Everything was quiet in the house I share with my sister and my best friend. Everything except the rattling of the glass sliding door in Bek’s room.

I jumped out of my bed, ran to my phone on the dining table and began dialing the police. My sister stood outside her bedroom door, a weapon she’d quickly grabbed in her hand, listening to the door violently rattle. It was definitely the sound of someone trying to get in.

By this point I’d only been awake for less than a minute, but I’d already planned that if the bad guys got in, I’d run out another door and go screaming down the street trying to wake up as many people as possible.

“Make a noise! Let them know we’re awake and ringing the cops!” I said to my sister.

Just after I finished speaking, the front door started shaking. We have a good deadbolt on it, but I ran over anyway to double check that it was locked. My phone was still in my hand, I was still trying to dial the right number for the cops.

Let me pause there.

Can you feel the adrenaline spiking through our systems? Can you imagine how scared we were?

Take that emotion, multiply it by ten and you’ve probably got what the disciples were feeling during this experience, recorded in the Bible:

 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out.  As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

Luke 8:22-25 NIV

“Where is your faith?” Are you kidding? At 1am Saturday, I didn’t roll over and go back to sleep trusting that God would get rid of the baddies. Plenty of Christians have been attacked, mugged, raped or killed. Their ‘faith’ didn’t save them. I would have been squealing right along with the disciples!

But Jesus’ question got me thinking. What did he mean by ‘faith’?

Even though at the end of the story Jesus calmed the storm and saved their lives, I don’t think he expected them to believe that God would definitely save them.

Yes, in this instance he made the problem go away. But a few decades later, most of the disciples were executed in a variety of gruesome ways. And at that point in their lives, they did have faith. Yet God chose not to save them.

So what does it mean, then? To have faith? What does Jesus expect of us?

And furthermore, how does ‘faith’ affect our life decisions, our stress levels and our prayer lives?

It’s something I’m going to investigate through a multi-part series over the next few weeks. This is also the topic I’m probably going to speak on when I do my first ever talk at church in July.

I’d love to incorporate people’s insights, questions and thoughts as we go on this journey together. Join the conversation in the comments below!

And curious about what happened after I checked the lock on my door?

You’ll have to stick around to find out.

 

 

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