My Impatience: A Confession

Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”

Exodus 5:22-23

When I selected this verse in a state of sleepiness last night, my intention was to revisit an idea I wrote – and somehow lost – a few years ago. Perhaps I will try again on another day.

However…

This morning, the Lord reminded me of the verse when I said something very similar to Him as we walked and talked together.

During my study of Revelation, I’ve found my heart torn in half. Every day I read it, I am filled with excitement and wonder as well as fear – but not fear for myself.

On one hand, I long to see the coming of the great and terrible Day of the Lord. I’m eager to see Him take possession of what is properly His and destroy evil once and for all time. I cannot wait for the end of pain and suffering and horror.

And yet…

I am burdened by fear for loved ones who do not know Him; who reject Him or who know of Him but choose not to walk in His ways. I am not yet ready for the Lord to come again because I want time for these to be able to choose Him. I don’t want their time to run out, and I don’t want to see them destroyed as unbelievers, on that Day or any other.

In short, I want to see them saved, delivered from sin – from the spiritual Egypt, if you will. Most of them I know and love. Some are the loved ones of dear friends. And I have been praying for them: Nathan. Jessie. Steve. Eric. Katie. Robert. Chris. Sherry. Gail. To name just a few.

This morning, I received the tragic news that one of the names from my list is no more. A precious friend’s brother took his own life. I found myself unintentionally echoing Moses’s words: “You have not delivered these people at all.”

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Habakkuk 2:3

And He reminded me that while He is patient, waiting for all to come to repentance, I am not. I am desperately impatient, and I want to see this thing done. Now. Maybe yesterday.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

Still, in my heart of hearts, I know He will bring it to pass – in His way and in His time. I trust Him. So I continue to pray that He will make the stony hearts into hearts of flesh and pierce them with the Godly grief for sin which brings repentance and leads to salvation without regret.

And I will continue to pray that each of these, and many more, will come to a saving faith in Yeshua Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I also know that no matter how earnestly and desperately I may plead before the Throne of Grace on behalf of these, they each have a choice. God does not force Himself upon any of us. They have to choose for themselves whether or not they will surrender to the Lordship of Yeshua, because what He desires is for us to love Him back. And love is a choice.

So my prayers continue to rise to the Lord.

Oh Lord, let each one of these people choose You. Please turn their hearts to You. Open their eyes. Heal their hurts. Bring them into wisdom and knowledge of You, and let them taste and see that You are good. Protect them from the enemy’s schemes and from harm, and please do not allow another one to leave this earth until they have made their peace with You and been saved by Your glorious grace, amen.

And I continue to trust Him, knowing that He will work all things out for the good of those who love Him. All of them.

And I continue to love Him. No matter what.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:1-2

Tell Me a Story

Good afternoon, Blogosphere and all my bloggy friends. Once more, I am likely to be scarce for a bit while I work on a project which just fell into my lap. It’s a bit exciting and a bit scary because it has the potential to lead into something new for me. So today’s post is a dramatic shift from normal.

I can’t say much more about the project right now, but it will definitely occupy my time. I’ll still post at least once a week, but I may be slow answering comments and will definitely be limited as to how many blogs I can read.

I have a deadline and a substantial amount of research to do before I can start writing. And you can help me with some of it!

So today, I’m asking you to tell me a story.

Specifically, I want to hear about your best ever boss. I’d love to hear as many details as you can. How did he/she do the job differently? What stood out to you? Did they communicate well? Give good feedback? How did they handle difficult situations?

That’s not all… I also want to hear about the worst boss you’ve ever had. Gimme all the dirt you want, but keep it clean dirt – no profanity, no names or identifying features, nothing you wouldn’t want done to you on social media. Just the facts, but as many facts as you’d like to share.

Plenty of information to keep me busy for a while

Thanks a ton! I’ll be seeing you, if somewhat sporadically!

Apt Words Then and Now

In the course of my life-coaching with my blonde daughter, I’ve read some of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. This section stood out to me as incredibly pertinent to the modern day. It also reminded me of some more ancient words penned in a letter to a young preacher named Timothy some hundreds of years ago.

“In the conduct of my newspaper, I carefully excluded all libelling [sic] and personal abuse, which is of late years become so disgraceful to our country. Whenever I was solicited to insert any thing of that kind, and the writers pleaded, as they generally did, the liberty of the press, and that a newspaper was like a stage-coach, in which any one who would pay had a right to a place, my answer was, that I would print the piece separately if desired, and the author might have as many copies as he pleased to distribute himself, but that I would not take upon me to spread his detraction; and that, having contracted with my subscribers to furnish them with what might be either useful or entertaining, I could not fill their papers with private altercation, in which they had no concern, without doing them manifest injustice. Now many of our printers make no scruple of gratifying the malice of individuals by false accusations of the fairest characters among ourselves, augmenting animosity even to the producing of duels; and are, moreover, so indiscreet as to print scurrilous reflections on the government of neighboring states, and even on the conduct of our best national allies, which may be attended with the most pernicious consequences.These things I mention as a caution to young printers, and that they may be encouraged not to pollute their presses and disgrace their profession by such infamous practices…”  –Benjamin Franklin from his autobiography

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene…
(2 Timothy 2:14-17a)

 

 

The Time I Went to a Writers’ Conference and It Wasn’t About My Writing

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

Last night, I returned home after attending the ACFW conference, and I can’t wait to share what God did there. It was A-MA-ZING. Really, truly amazing.

For starters, He provided the opportunity for me to go. People, that’s no small thing for a mom of five who’s writing career reports its profits in cents to make it sound bigger.  But God has always been gracious to provide all we need and more than a few of our wants, so I am grateful.

God also afforded me a chance to stay in the hotel along with the three best roommates a girl could ask for. Seriously! The four of us met for the first time on Thursday and had the equivalent of a slumber party for the next couple of nights, complete with lots of laughs and great conversation.

All three of them are writers, of course. Ann Stewart and Abbey Downey are already published authors. And I’m beyond excited for Rebecca Reed who will probably join the ranks of the published soon. I’ve linked their names with one of their social media outlets. I encourage you to check them out.

As for my own conference experience, it was… different. I confess a bit of discouragement on Friday. Of my three assigned appointments, none was with an agent or editor who worked within the genera of my novel.

At some point, I took a break to walk and talk with the Lord (which at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel is almost like outdoor walking but without the Tennessee humidity). While we communed together, I asked Him, “Lord, what am I even doing here?”

He reminded me of the passage I’d read in Acts 11 that morning, impressing on me the idea, “What do I usually have you do?”

So I asked him to direct me to people who needed prayer during the rest of the conference.

Saturday found me stalking random people for the purpose of praying for them. OK, technically I only stalked one because for some reason, the Lord put this man particularly on my heart. After I prayed for him, he told me the prayer resonated with him because his life verse was Galatians 1:10. I promised to look it up. When I did, I couldn’t suppress a giant grin. In that verse was an echo of what the Lord laid on my heart to pray.

Our God is so, so good.

Another time, I felt the familiar nudge as I was walking with a lady I’d met earlier, so I asked her if I could pray for her. When we finished, she looked at me oddly and then shared some details of her week. Once again, the words God put on my heart were apt for her.

Then there was an elevator encounter with a man who stepped off before I thought of prayer. As the door slid closed behind him, I realized I’d missed it. I asked, “Lord if you want me to pray for him, provide another chance.”

He did. So I did.

There were quite a few more but only two are really worthy of note. One of them is a pretty funny illustration of my own tendency to be oblivious of certain cultural norms. Stick with me and I’ll explain.

It happened as I walked to my next workshop Saturday afternoon. On the way, I spied a delightful speaker I’d heard earlier exiting a conference room. In her session, she’d shared how the Lord gave her joy in cancer, and I felt a desire to pray for her.

With this aim, I walked up to her with a smile. But she was talking with a man (her husband, I think) and their conversation provided no opportunity for me to break in without being rude.

The art of awkward lurking being my particular specialty, I continued to hang around and in hopes of a moment to pray with her. The man once met my eyes, but something about their body language seemed intentionally closed, so I gave it up.

The speaker was a lady named Liz Curtis Higgs who wrote a book I remember my mom and aunt talking about years ago. I guess she’s something of a Christian celebrity, so I suppose that explains the strange body language. Without a doubt, the two probably suspected me of stalking – something I find hilarious in retrospect!

Anyway, I prayed for her, just not with her.

But one of my favorite moments occurred over lunch on Saturday. Throughout the conference, one older man caught my attention, maybe because he reminded me of a friend’s dad. On Saturday, this gentleman gave his ticket to the evening’s gala to one of my roomies so she could give it to me.

After lunch, I ended up talking with him and discovered he has a neuro-degenerative disorder that’s so rare, it doesn’t even have a name. He was absolutely delightful, and I not only enjoyed hearing a bit of his story, I  also relished the privilege of praying for him.

Ironically enough, I ended up leaving before the gala anyway because I didn’t feel well. I have a sneaking suspicion the whole ticket thing occurred for the purpose of prayer.

But the most ironic bit of all is this fact: When I signed up to attend the ACFW conference, I thought I was attending to benefit my career. Instead, my Redeemer awarded me unbelievable joy in praying for others.  My Saturday experience was Psalm 16:18 made manifest as I enjoyed the company of my Father and my many brothers and sisters in Christ!

What about you? Ever had an experience you thought would go one way, but God did something you never would have guessed instead? I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relationships in the Void

By the time this post goes live, I will be figuring out where to go and what to do for the conference I’m attending. The thing is in God’s hands. His will be done, and may He be glorified whether I come away with a contract or not. In keeping with the relationship theme of the week, I leave you today with an old post from my first blog:

We love because he first loved us.
(1 John 4:19)

It is quite impossible to live on this earth without having an impact on anyone else. In order to avoid having any effect on any other person – even a slight effect such as causing them to wonder briefly if you are in a bad mood – one would have to live in a relational void with absolutely no contact with another human being.

To put it very bluntly, this simply means that it is impossible to hurt oneself without hurting others. There are no crimes perpetrated against self only; they all have repercussions to others.

For example, a drunk or a drug user does not merely poison his or her body. Relationships are poisoned as well. If an addict drives under the influence, he or she risks – and sometimes robs – the lives of others.

If such a one is married, puts the bottle comes between spouses. If a father or mother, an element of embarrassment and confusion is added to the children’s view of the parent. That’s the best of situations. In the worst, the user brings fear and suffering into the parent/child relationship. Often, children raised this way are condemned to live and grow within the abuse cycle, either becoming abusers themselves or accepting abuse as normal.

No matter how self-contained this one may seem, if help is not sought and the habit kicked, self-destruction occurs and brings heartache to loved ones. A drunk or drug user does not merely harm him or herself, he or she is an indiscriminate inflictor of harm.

Another common viewpoint is that any sexual act happening between consenting adults is harmless. This is also bunk, unless the consenting adults in question happen to be permanently committed to one another in marriage. Otherwise, the promiscuous couple carry emotional baggage (and sometimes physical consequences) which they impose upon any future sexual partners without regard for the feelings of the other.

In this case, “the more the merrier” falls short of truth. The more baggage, the more emotional debris is strewn across the relational landscape.

If, by some flight of complete idiocy, one or both of the “consenting adults” is already married, they by their self-serving act bring an emotional wrecking ball into the marital relationship. If children are present, they are ruthlessly battered  in the process.

Sex, then, fails to be a personal and private act unless it is kept between permanently between two people. Otherwise, it is somewhat clownishly public.

I will confess the pre-Christ me was party to both of these points of view, and therefore I have no qualms in railing against them. In doing so, I rail against my own past and my own foolishness. I am the clown; I am the idiot of this story. Too many were wounded by the shrapnel of my former self-destruction.

However, I am delighted to say that this human quality of inter-connectedness works in more pleasant ways as well. Love, too, can trickle out from others and bring succor to war-ravaged emotional landscapes. Scars may be left behind, but healing can be complete beneath them.

I found this love in no other but the one the Jews call the Messiah. I was far too damaged at the time I met Him to even see it in others. It was the stunning realization of His love and humility that caused me to see past my own pain to the harm I caused others.

Once enough healing had taken place that I could limp along a bit on my own, He began to show me the messy, imperfect, and glorious love found in the community of true believers.

Now I find it is my duty to love others rather than to loathe myself. It is at this time my fervent prayer that love will be my whole motive, that selflessness will replace selfishness, and that those who were wounded by shrapnel in my battle with myself will find the same healing, the same peace… and the same shock of cold water waking them fully to the Absolute Truth.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
(1 John 4:20-21)

 

Legacy

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
(1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Just over a week ago, a lady I have immense admiration for passed from this world. She was an absolute beauty and the wealth she left behind is a fortune of dizzying proportions.

But neither her wealth nor her beauty were notable by the standards of this age and culture.

In fact, her body showed the wear and tear of her 96 years. Small of stature, I doubt she weighed 90 pounds fully dressed and soaking wet. The last few months saw her in much pain and often in a wheelchair, yet she was cheerful and had a smile and kind words for everyone.

Nonetheless, she was truly lovely. Hers was the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit – a beauty which has followed her and found its fulfillment in her permanent home with the Eternal God.

And her fortune… How can I describe it? It is one of the largest I have ever seen. A spiritual legacy spanning four generations. A wealth of faithful obedience to God and of love and compassion which staggers the mind. It is a fortune of far greater value and permanence than any dollar amount.

Her son and daughter-in-law, their children, and their grandchildren have all been heirs of this vast treasure. I see the same gentle and quiet spirit in them. There is joy and laughter and love all around.

Of course, there is pain and strife, too. But when error or rebellion rise up here or there in the family, mercy and grace abound. Within the family and for those who know them, there is not a soul who has reason to doubt that they are loved and important, not only by the family but also by the Lord.

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
Psalms 103:17-18

One of my close friends, a prayer and accountability partner, comes from this spiritual inheritance and so I, too, benefit from it. So do our daughters who are also close.

Of course there is mourning for the temporary loss of this precious woman of God. Yet I must say they grieve splendidly, for in the family’s grief, there is also a streak of joy – the joy of knowing she has arrived safely Home.

All of us, myself included, look forward to our own Homecoming. Some future day, we will see her again and once more worship the King of Glory together, but better than before. Then, we will no longer encumbered by sin, weariness, or pain.

And in the meantime, all of us have seen in her an example of eager expectation of the day the Lord calls us home and faithful, uncomplaining endurance if He leaves us here – even if leaving us here is the most difficult part.

So today, my prayers go out for these, my friends. But even more so, my prayers reach out for those friends and loved ones who do not have this hope. My prayer is for my Lord to draw all who are consumed by sorrow and despair to Himself that they may share in an inheritance beyond all imagining.

I was once one of these – hurting and hopeless – and I well know the futility of denying God and living for myself. But He called me out from this pit; called me to die to myself and live for Him.

For my recently departed friend,  for her loved ones, and for all of us who are in Christ, physical death is no longer the enemy to be avoided but the friend to be embraced. It will be the final conquering act over our flesh before our true lives begin.

My friends, my dears, if you have not found love in this dark world, know that it is there. He is there – the One who is Love. The Way, the Truth, the Life.

Find Him. Find hope.

And someday, I pray I can introduce you to Nan – one of my personal heroes.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:55

And Now For Something Completely Different

This is not going to be one of my normal posts and I’d like to start it with a confession:

I am not a terribly good patient. In fact, I may even be notoriously careless about such things as pain levels and general health.

To give you a snapshot of precisely how oblivious I can be, let me relate a conversation I had with my chiropractor (who specializes more in sports medicine PT than a traditional chiropractor):

Me, as I’m sitting on the table: “Oh, hey, do you remember when I came in with a swollen foot?” (He nods his assent) “Well, it still swells off and on when I walk.”

Him: “How long ago was that now?”

Me: “I don’t know. Probably two or three weeks or so.”

Him, checking my chart before rolling his eyes and looking over at me: “Or maybe 5 months…”

Me, somewhat sheepishly: “Or maybe 5 months… anyway, it still hurts…”

Of course, I also could have recounted several instances in which my poor, beleaguered husband had to try to guess at how bad I was feeling – like the time I had viral meningitis but didn’t think to go to the doctor until he carted me to the ER somewhere around the 60th hour of me being unable to hold down even a teaspoon of fluid…

Whatever. Suffice to say that I’m not the best at communicating my own pain levels, possibly because physical pain has been a part of my life for so long that I have grown accustomed to thrusting it aside and ignoring it until it becomes so noisy that I cannot.

So it didn’t really come as a surprise when, a little over a week ago, I woke one morning with some pretty intense back and neck pain. I remember telling my husband that I had to lay down again, although I did not manage to articulate why on the spot.

Now back and neck pain are not unusual for me and I had, in fact, had some degree of discomfort for several weeks. However, this pain had a quality that was entirely new. I remained intensely uncomfortable through the rest of the week.

Then one afternoon when I was talking with a friend and mentioned the pain. She pointed to my wrist and suggested I take off  the fitness tracker my husband had given me over a year ago in hopes of finding out if poor sleep contributed to my overall fatigue.

As it turns out, she had experienced similar back pain and had even had tests run but had no resolution of the pain until she removed her own fitness tracking device. Her mom had a comparable experience. Sure enough, within a few hours of removing the device, my pain had begun to subside to a more familiar intensity.

It made me wonder about the days when I was waking up with numb hands and chalked it up to possibly carpal tunnel. And it may well be coincidence; a fact I have not discounted.

Certainly I have had a history of chronic pain and some known medical issues in my thoracic and lumbar spine. However, I cannot help but wonder if there are others who have experienced something like this and if so, what might be the cause?

It still makes no sense to me, but I thought I’d ask. Has anyone else had weird or worsening symptoms appear after wearing a fitness tracking device?

Meanwhile, even the more typical types of pain which I am still dealing with serve only to make me look forward even more to this glorious future day:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4

Even in pain, “normal” or otherwise, I will still praise Him!