Jesus

I Don’t Get the Point of This, God

I don’t understand the direction my life is going.

Photo sourced from EveryStockPhoto.com, by KellyB. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Photo sourced from EveryStockPhoto.com, by KellyB. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

I don’t want to sound like a whiner, but…I’m about to.

My job is not a career, my writing will take forever to become a career, I can’t see God working through me and things just aren’t turning out the way I expected. It drives me crazy that I can’t see which way I’m going.

I’m the kind of person who likes to set goals, then work hard to achieve them. I hate drifting, I hate aimlessness and I hate waiting without knowing what’s going on. I guess ticking goals off my list makes me feel in control and successful.

So this time of my life—while I love many parts of it—is sending me bonkers.

But as I studied the Book of Luke yesterday I got a bucket of cold water thrown over my soul.

As I read through Chapters 7-9 I took note of patterns in what Jesus said and did. And I found one theme coming  out stronger than all the others: faith.

©CreationSwap/Tonya Christner

©CreationSwap/Tonya Christner

Jesus praised the faith of the centurion, the sinful woman and the bleeding woman. All three trusted Him when they were in desperate circumstances. Jesus also taught people to have faith through the Parable of the Sower, and he told Jairus to have faith when he raised his daughter from the dead. And when the disciples freaked out at a deadly storm, he questioned why they didn’t have more faith!

Let me tell you, if I was in that boat I would have been screaming my lungs out along with Peter.

As I read, I remembered how the nation of Israel had to wander the desert for 40 years because they didn’t have enough faith to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14). And how Jesus later showed Peter that he could even walk on water if he had faith (Matt 14:22-33). I thought to myself, “Wow, where is my faith?”

If Peter can walk on water, I can choose to trust that God knows what He’s doing with my life, even if I don’t. I don’t have to understand. I don’t have to be able to see where my life is going. I just need to have faith.

I have to admit, up until yesterday I didn’t grasp how much of a big deal this was to God. Faith isn’t just a nice little Sunday School lesson we learn alongside, ‘Play nice’, and ‘Don’t hog all the cake’.

Going by the amount of times Jesus mentioned faith, the pivotal role faith played in Israel’s history and 1 Corinthians 13:13, I’d say that from God’s perspective, faith is the second most important thing in our lives.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV

Love is obviously number one; Jesus was pretty big on the whole, “Love God with all your heart” thing. But I’m pretty confident that faith is number two. (Okay, so maybe it ties for second place along with obedience, but you get the idea.)

This is a big deal. And I have been totally content to do nothing about it. I don’t want to miss out on a Promised Land and wander the desert because I refused to believe.

So I prayed, asking for God’s help. And as I prayed I realized how silly I had been. God was powerful enough to design DNA; I’m pretty sure He can handle my life.

So thank-you for your help God, and please remind me of this when I start to worry in the future.

What about you? What trigger points are in your life that cause you to lose faith? How do you combat them?

 

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God, What Do You Call ‘Success’?

If everything in life went as planned and you achieved your idea of ‘success’, where would you be in five years’ time?

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

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

In my Day Dream Land, by 2019 I’ll be 27 and a well-known author of several novels and maybe some Christian living books. My writing career will be financially stable and growing, my readers will write to me and tell me how I’ve changed their walk with God and newbie authors will look to me for advice (which I will benevolently bestow).

Like I said, this is Day Dream Land.

God had me thinking about motivations the other day, and a possibility smacked me in the head. What if God asks me to keep my day job forever and release all my writing as free eBooks under a pen name, eliminating any money and recognition?

Yikes. I’ve never thought of myself as someone motivated by cash or fame, but that scenario sure took the shine off my ‘success’.

I’m not saying I will publish everything I write anonymously and for free. But all options are on the table; I’m following God’s leading here, not my own. Would I be happy if I had to let go of my definition of success for His? What is God’s definition of success?

I found it in the examples of David, Ruth and Joseph in the Bible.

David spent years on the run from King Saul, wondering why God promised to give him a kingdom only to make him a fugitive. Ruth left her family and country for a life of poverty in a foreign land. And Joseph was sold as a slave, unjustly imprisoned and then forgotten about for years. All three endured circumstances that they didn’t expect, and that no one would call ‘successful’. Yet all three remained faithful in the midst of their difficulties. And today they are some of the most highly honored people in the Bible.

If you read the rest of these people’s stories, their lives did come good in the end. But they weren’t honored as Jesus’ ancestors because of their eventual promotions. No, they were honored because they were committed even when life sucked. They were available to God at all times and they were obedient in all circumstances. They loved God above money, status, comfort and even family.

Because of that, Ruth has a whole book of the Bible written about her. David was called ‘a man after God’s own heart’. And Joseph saved his family and the entire country of Egypt from starvation.

So what if I never earn the admiration of readers? If I never make a living from my passion? The greatest names in the Bible achieved astounding success—though it wasn’t always recognized by the world—simply by being faithful.

 

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Mark 8:36 NIV

To read the stories of David, Ruth and Joseph, look up 1 & 2 Samuel, Ruth and Genesis 37-50 in the Bible.

Who else do you know of who didn’t fit the usual definition of ‘success’, but pleased God anyway? Leave a comment!

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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.

Origins of the Dance Floor

Image

‘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.

 

Waiting, Self-Doubt and Heroes

You are wasting your time. No one will see or appreciate your work. You’re failing.

Photo by Alex E. Proimos, sourced from everystockphoto.com.

Photo by Alex E. Proimos, sourced from everystockphoto.com.

Even though I haven’t been consciously thinking those discouraging thoughts, they’ve definitely been on my mind over the past few weeks. Self-doubt has been infecting me. Quietly hovering on the edge of my subconscious, a general feeling of failure and foreboding has been like that sticky black goo that covers Peter Parker in Spiderman 3. Strong, dark, evil, and hard to get rid of.

Why?

Part of it is my addiction to affirmation. God’s weaning me off it, and this novel-writing venture is certainly stretching me. It will be a very long time before an agent, editor or reader tells me, “Good job!”. In the meantime I must plot, research, write, read, re-write, edit, edit, edit, re-write and so it goes on.

To put it simply, the waiting is frustrating. Alone at my computer, sometimes I feel insignificant, unworthy and foolish.

But then God reminded me of something I should have known all along: everyone has to wait.

Abraham stayed childless for decades. Joseph served time first as a slave, then as a prisoner. David was chased from cave to cave. Even Jesus spent years building tables and chairs. I’ll bet they were all tempted to feel forgotten, useless or alone. Yet when the time was right they founded nations, ruled empires and saved the universe.

The book of James opens with the words, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds”. (James 1:2 NIV, emphasis mine.) Pure joy? That’s right. Because God is teaching me perseverance; giving me maturity. Same as He did for them.

It’s a little humbling. Suddenly I almost feel proud that God is asking me to wait. I’m sharing in an experience that all the greatest men and women of faith have gone through. It’s an honour, really.

And so is God’s reminder in Psalm 139 that I’m not alone. Even when it’s been just me and my computer all day, God’s actually paying pretty close attention.

Blog 136 O LORD, You have searched me

and You know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

You perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

You are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

You know it completely, O LORD.

Psalm 139:1-4 NIV

 

How about you? How do you feel when you’re stuck waiting? What do you do about it?

The Dance Floor

Photo source: everstockphoto.com. Photographer: Zabara. Used under attrition license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Photo source: everstockphoto.com. Photographer: Zabara. Used under attrition license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

The dance floor in my heart helps stop the wrestling match in my head.

Huh? She’s been cooped up in her office for too long.

No, I’m not crazy. Let me explain.

For me, it is a constant effort to keep God at #1. There is a wrestling match going on in my head at all times – sometimes of WWE proportions.

I love God, but I also looooooooooooove my writing. And while I’m working to follow God and use my writing for His purposes, the devil is still trying to exploit anything I love.

The temptation comes all the time. The nature of writing means it is continually on my mind, no matter what I’m doing. I listen to novel-writing lectures while I wash the dishes. I invent plots while I drive. I think about blog posts while I do my devotions. And nearly every spare moment when I don’t have to be anywhere else (and a lot of moments when I should be somewhere else), I’m typing away at my keyboard.

Writing is hard to break into, so I need to put in these hours. But it’s so easy to get anxious. I feel like I’m not working fast enough. I want to hurry up and get published so I can start getting paid. The self-doubt creeps in and I wonder if an agent will scorn my manuscript.

I can see how easy it would be for God’s voice to fade away – especially if all I’m thinking about during my devotions is what verse to use in my next blog post. Yes, my writing is full of God. But just writing – or knowing – about Him is no good if I don’t know Him. If I’m writing an article on someone, I can read a book about them, interview their friends and look at the work they did. All good stuff. But it doesn’t replace sitting down with that person over coffee and having a chat.

My counter-measure – apart from sticky notes on my wall reminding me to trust God and be patient – is a dance floor in my mind.

It’s my version of that verse in Psalm 46:

Be still, and know that I am God.

No thoughts about writing are allowed on the dance floor. I approach, wearing my awesome lace gown. God is there, in His tux. Sometimes I’m so amazed that He’s always there, I bow to the floor before He picks me up and we start to dance. Other days, I just run and hug Him.

After a while I might start to tell Him about my book. But only if I’m talking to Him about it, not just writing it in my head. But we don’t always talk. Sometimes I just let Him hold me, and as we stand there it slowly seeps back into my brain just how much He loves me. It’s like the love is soaking through my dress, my skin, into the core of my being.

Then I feel better. That’s when I remember who I am. I am not just a writer. I may not even be a writer at all.

I am a person God loves. That’s all that matters

.

They will be called the Holy People,

the Redeemed of the LORD;

and you will be called Sought After,

the City No Longer Deserted.

Isaiah 62:12 NIV (emphasis mine)