Month: October 2014

When the Lie Won’t Go Away

Copyright Creationswap, by Eric Sikma.

Copyright Creationswap, by Eric Sikma.

An old lie reared its ugly head this week as I sat—of all places—in a prayer meeting.

Regular readers will have read multiple posts before about how I often feel like my life isn’t very useful for God, and how God has answered that issue.

But earlier this week, as I sat and prayed, once again I was overwhelmed with a feeling that I’m not doing enough for God, and that what I do isn’t effective anyway.

The thought never starts out that obvious. Usually the way it begins, is I hear about a ministry or people suffering or a need that I’m not involved with, and feel like I should be a part of it. Yet I don’t really want anything extra on my plate. Then I weigh up everything I do to see if it’s ‘enough’, and it never is, and then I struggle between ‘I don’t want to do anything more’ and ‘you’re selfish for not wanting to do anything more’. Then that spirals into ‘the stuff I do never makes a difference anyway, even if I tried it wouldn’t work’. And that’s how the downward spiral works.

This is something that has come up a lot, so  I won’t bore you by repeating  how God has shown me the right way of handling these thoughts.

Rather, I’d like to talk about the fact that that this is a repeating issue. Because God really has dealt with this, probably five times already this year alone. It was a major theme of my trip to India, two years ago. And it had come up even before that. God has answered, and answered a lot. Yet I still get plagued by the same insecurity, and when it happens, I really can’t remember what God told me last time.

What can you do, when God has dealt with a problem or issue and it hasn’t gone away? What is left in your arsenal? Do you give up and say ‘enough!’?  Do you query whether God was strong enough to really deal with it the first (or second, third, and fourth) time?

This week I read 2 Corinthians 12, where Paul wrote about a problem he had; a ‘thorn in the flesh’ that he asked God to remove.

But God did not. Instead he said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. (2 Cor 12 NIV)

Perhaps the answer is not that God will solve our issues and make them go away. What God does promise is that His grace will be enough, every time a problem comes up.

How much more trust does it take to rely on God repeatedly, than it does to watch Him slam-dunk an issue and send it on its way?

I hope the devil’s lies, like this one about uselessness, will fade over time. But goodness knows he’ll probably come up with new ones. Yet I don’t have to accept defeat.

I’m glad that God promises it’s okay to be weak. Every time something happens, He will be there to get us through.

What to Do with ‘What If’

Copyright Creationswap, photo by Brad Castaneda.

Copyright Creationswap, photo by Brad Castaneda.

Am I where I’m meant to be?

I wonder sometimes if I should take a crazy chance and do something ‘amazing’. Have I missed opportunities? And is God happy with the way I’m tracking? Is my life accomplishing anything?

These questions popped up for me again this week. It’s mostly just because I’m thinking about a trip to America for a writer’s conference next year. Of course, to see everything I’d want to see, I couldn’t do it in a two or three week holiday. I’d have to live there. Which raises the question … should I live there?

After years of watching New York on TV and in movies, it seems like an amazing place. How can I live my life without experiencing this? How can I experience it unless I live there?

I also spent last weekend researching TV writing, which is a job that looks really awesome. But I’m 23; if I want to act on any of this, it needs to happen in the next few years.

Usually questioning like this would lead to turmoil and a great inner debate. I have a great job—is it crazy to toss that and go overseas to try new things? But if I don’t take a chance, am I a scaredy-cat?

It’s a testament to how God’s been changing me, that I cruised through this week with barely a stressful thought, despite the questions. He’s burned Philippians 4:6-7 in my brain;

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I prayed about my questions, then happily lived my life while I pondered them in the back of my mind.

After a week, I have a few conclusions:

  1. I am open to God’s leading. If he really wants me in the US, he’ll tell me. I acknowledge that a desire to go can be God’s leading. Right now this is more of a ‘what-if’ exercise. If that turns into a real desire to go, I’ll consult God and decide.
  2. I watch too much TV. A big part of why I’d like to go is because of the glamour. Everyone talks about how awesome New York is, etc. Take the glamour away, and I’m suddenly not so committed. I found a great website this week called ‘Life After College’ which shows the lives of college graduates and is searchable by job and location. They write about what their daily life is really like—no glamour—and even post pictures of their apartments. The ones I saw work really long hours and their apartments look nothing like the one on Friends. Nuff said.
  3.   I actually love my life here. As cool as NYC and America are, the older I get, the more I fall in love with Australia. Plus I have the best housemates and family ever.
  4.  Books are my passion. As cool as writing for TV would be, I don’t care about camera angles or any of that stuff. I care about the story.
  5.   I have kinda lived life, half-expecting some ‘happily ever after’ movie ending to happen to me. You know, I’ll marry a prince or make it big with my writing or wind up living someone interesting (like NYC). I find that the not knowing, the potential for something great to happen, is exciting. I would sometimes look at people whose lives had ‘peaked’ (in my view, anyway) and think, ‘Wow, it would really depress me if that potential for something awesome to happen wasn’t there anymore.’ But let’s face facts; less than 1% of people would have those ‘ideal lives’ that I picture, and once you achieve that status, it’s not as fulfilling as you thought. The masses of humanity are just normal. I like to write about things we all experience, so why would I get annoyed that I’m just normal too?
  6.  I feel like a chicken because I haven’t taken a crazy chance, and instead I’m ‘settling’ for a normal life. But I know that’s not right. It’s not like I want to be an actor or anything. I don’t have any crazy dream to take a chance on, except for my writing, and I’m already doing that!
  7.  My contentment and purpose is found in God. If I’m where He wants me, I’m not ‘missing out’ on anything, because the action is happening right here! I wouldn’t matter more to God if I was a Hollywood writer or a stay-at-home mum trying to write novels while wrangling her kids. The world’s idea of ‘important’ is a lie. It’s God’s opinion that matters.

So there we go; I questioned something and found my answer, all minus the usual stress! Thanks God!

Now I just  have to organize this trip…

 

 

Does God Love Gotham?

Capture

How does God feel about Gotham? I watched the new TV show on Sunday night, and it gave me an awesome reminder of God’s grace.

But if you’re not familiar with the series, let me fill you in.

The show, named after Batman’s home city, tells the story of young Detective Jim Gordon. He’s the man who (in the Batman story) would go on to become the Dark Knight’s first ally in the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD). Later, he would become police commissioner.

But this show goes where no other has gone before—to twenty years before Batman’s rise, in Gotham’s darkest days. Bruce Wayne is still a child, and the city is enslaved to its own corruption.

Jim Gordon in 'Gotham'.

Jim Gordon in ‘Gotham’.

This is where Jim Gordon starts. As one man who believes in what’s right, in a city that makes Sodom and Gomorrah look like a schoolyard.

I’m only one episode in, but I already love the character for his integrity. It’s the same reason Captain America is my favourite superhero. These guys never give up. They never compromise on their beliefs. They swim against the current, even when a tidal wave’s coming.

And it kinda makes me melt into a puddle of goo.

But even though I love the ‘do right, fear not’ mantra of these heroes, (that motto is stolen from Ace Lightening—another great superhero!) I watched the show and Gotham itself overwhelmed me. It’s just so evil. If I was God, I’d be raining sulphur all over that sucker. It’s just too far gone.

And then I remembered, we are Gotham. I am Gotham.

The sin in this world, and my own heart, is darker than that terrible, terrible place. More corrupt. More treacherous. More hell-bound.

It’s hard for me to comprehend. I grew up in a Christian family and have a compliant, typical oldest-child personality. I like to obey. Rules make me feel secure. How much have I really done wrong?

So the show was a good reminder for me of God’s incredible grace.

I look at Gotham, and wonder how Jim Gordon mustered up the courage to face the city and work toward saving it. How could he love it? Gotham’s problems were of its own creation. The place was just plain bad.

But Jesus stared down an evil that was even worse. And he didn’t back down. He didn’t give up. And, even knowing that some would not respond, he fulfilled his quest to save us. He invited us to take his help. And he keeps on inviting.

Thank-you God, for not giving up on us. Next time I watch that show, I’ll remember Your amazing grace.

 

How do I Reconcile God, Suffering and ‘Taken’?

This is a movie that always rattles my faith in God. But when you watch it, you just can’t look away.

taken-film

‘Taken’, starring Liam Neeson, tells the story of an ex-spy (Neeson) whose daughter, Kim, has been kidnapped by a European sex trafficking ring.

It’s a fast-paced, well-crafted, gritty story, and it shows all too clearly that the illegal sex trade is not just a third world problem.

In the movie, Neeson basically shoots his way through the continent to rescue Kim. Along the way, he witnesses some of the brothels where they take the kidnapped girls. Suffice to say, it’s horrific.

Thankfully Neeson rescues his daughter in the nick of time. But as you watch, you see so many girls who don’t get rescued. And while the story is fiction, the issue is not.

The movie is a strong reminder that not everyone’s life is as protected as mine. And it makes me question God.

How can the God who says ‘trust Me’ when I stress about little things like work, also be the God who watches over those girls?

What does He say to them? Does He love them?

At the moment I’m writing the end of my second novel, Hating Jeremy Walters. Two of my characters are also struggling with the question of God’s love, but in very different ways. One lives as through she has to earn it. One believes she can never earn it. Both attitudes are wrong. And the lesson that I’m teaching my characters, I often must repeat to myself.

At the end of the day, we have to view everything through the lens of the cross. (I’m pretty sure I stole that line from Experiencing God,  so full kudos to Henry Blackaby).

The truth is, God loved us enough to watch His Son die for our sakes. It seems impossible to imagine suffering worse than what those trafficked girls endure, or what Syria and Iraq are enduring right now. But God Himself, through Jesus, experienced worse. It wasn’t just in the physical pain of the cross, but in being separated from God the Father and taking the full weight of our sin.

I struggle to understand how God can witness such suffering, like what we see on the news or in movies like ‘Taken’. I wish He’d just fix it.

But then I remember, it’s mankind doing those things, not Him. And while He could stop it, He must have reasons for waiting.

It’s tempting to doubt whether God loves people, if he allows such terrible things to happen for them. But God endured even worse things for those same people.

This is a case where I don’t understand, but I do know. I don’t understand how He can bear to watch, but I know that God loves us all. I know He cries alongside us. I know His motives are perfect and pure. He proved it 2000 years ago.

I’m just going to have to trust that.

Why We Put Pressure On Ourselves

focused

Copyright Creationswap, photo by Dave Elledge.

In a world measured by statistics, how can I not judge my own worth and efforts in the same way?

This week I’ve been learning more about how to market my writing. Marketing has always been a problem for me, because:

  1. It’s hard;
  2. I get frustrated that it’s not happening quickly;
  3. I get frustrated that I cannot use brute force to make it happen faster, and;
  4. I fear that my work and efforts are not good enough, and therefore I am not good enough.

I’m particularly vulnerable when it comes to marketing, because it is totally a numbers game; statistics are the only way to measure if what I’m doing is effective.

Where I come unstuck, is when I equate ‘effective marketing technique’ to ‘being talented,’ and ‘being talented’ to ‘having significance’.

And it all starts with this voice in the back of my head, playing like a song on repeat.

phone

Copyright Creationswap, photo by Aaron Burden.

When I start to worry about the numbers, this voice says:

 “Doing my best and accepting God’s plan is not enough. I have to be as good as, or better than, everybody else.

“I have to be the best. Anything less is failure. Failure is unacceptable.

“Not only do I have to be the best; I have to be special. I have to be recognized.

“God’s approval on my life is not enough; I crave the approval of others.

“It doesn’t matter that this season of ‘rookie-ness’ is drawing my soul closer to God. I have to ‘make it’ by the standards I see in others, the media, and those I set myself.”

This voice is both quiet and loud. It’s quiet enough that I don’t recognize it for what it is. It’s quiet enough that I almost never question it. It’s quiet enough that I’m used to it being there.

But it’s loud enough to make me discontent and anxious. It’s loud enough that I believe my current efforts are not good enough. It’s loud enough that it sucks my joy and peace and energy.

But I have to recognize that measuring the effectiveness of my marketing strategy is very different to measuring my value as a writer, or as a person who lives to please God. In fact, the statistics are completely irrelevant as to whether I’m living a life that pleases God. Gaining my self-worth from statistics, instead of God, is actually displeasing to Him. And since the purpose of my life is pleasing God, this little numbers-obsessed voice has got to go.

The only way I can think to do that is to replace it with God’s voice, and focus on the truth.

“Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.”

Isaiah 55:2-3 NIV

“… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV

God, please help me recognize this voice when it starts to whisper lies to my mind. Please alert me to other negative messages just like it. And please help me to draw my self-worth, and my entire being, from You and You alone.

What about you? Is there an area in your life where you’re similarly vulnerable? Share in the conversation below!