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)

 

 

Tuesday Prayer: Awe

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
(Hebrews 12:28-29)

Ancient of Days, You are the Eternal One, the Everlasting God who has no beginning and no end. Creator of all yet uncreated, the very idea of Your infinite nature is an enigma to us.

We confess that too often, we try to define You in finite terms or set limits for You based on the limitations we, ourselves, know because a limited God can seem a more comfortable thing to our mortal minds. Yet You defy those limits constantly because they are not of Your Spirit but only a feeble attempt at understanding You defined by our finite natures.

Lord forgive us for these silly ways! Instead of grappling to understand You or attempting to squeeze the Most High into a box, give us faith enough to simply believe. Help us to trust in You without reservation. Train our hearts to worship You not as we think You ought to be, but with absolute faith that You are who You say You are.

Oh our God, mighty in power and working wonders, as we learn to rest in Your presence and rejoice in Your magnificence, remind us of the one fact we often forget: You do not exist for our convenience and glorification, but we exist for You. To bring glory to You. To honor You with our trusting obedience. To live as ambassadors of Your. joy, holiness, and grace in a darkened and hopeless world.

Today we ask forgiveness for our selfishness and self-focus. In humility, we submit our hearts to You for pruning and for refinement. And Lord, when this process hurts, we choose to trust You because we know You are good and that You love us.

Thank You for embracing us with Your love; for covering our shame with the righteousness of Your Son. Teach us to love others as You love them, and help us to learn how to live for You and not for ourselves. In all our days, Lord, teach us to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. Oh how we love You, Lord our God!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8)

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)

 

Tuesday Prayer: Relationships

Elohim, in the first mention of You in Genesis, Your name is given as a plural. In Yourself, You are a fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a mystery which You have chosen to reveal to us in Your word – a profound and infinite mystery which our finite minds struggle to grasp. Yet we are not commanded to understand but to believe.

If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
(John 3:12)

Today we choose belief no matter what. We commit ourselves to walk with You in humble trust, knowing that You are who You say You are and are able to do what You say You can do. And we are thankful that You are not a disinterested, detached God. Instead, You are the God of relationships; the Triune Creator who deigns to commune with His creation. You are the perfect fellowship, inviting flawed and rebellious beings to lay aside our sin and join in Your holy unity.

As we go about our lives on this ball of rock and dirt, help us to be mindful that we who are in Christ belong to You. As Your word says in 1 Corinthians 6:20, we were bought with a price and are no longer our own. We are literally redeemed – bought back from a temporary master by the blood of the Holy One of God.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Because of this simple yet fathomless fact, every aspect of our being ought to be in submission to You – even our relationships. Yet You allow choice, because love can only choose; it cannot coerce. Today, show us those areas where our relationships are not guided by You and Your ways.

In fact, start with our our relationship to You. Show us where it is broken and in need of restoration. From that primary and most vital relationship, we pray that healing, love, and unity will flow out from Your heart, fill ours, and spill over into others as we walk in obedience to You. Let us truly be the branches of Your Vine with Your life-giving truth and love making us strong for fruitful, eternal service to You, amen.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
(John 15:5)

Tuesday Prayer: Long Term Goals

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
(Psalms 119:18)

Almighty God, all the wonders of heaven and earth belong to You and were wrought by Your hand. As we look at the world around us – the majestic vistas of the horizon, the vast and ever-changing skies, the delicate beauty of a butterfly – we cannot help but be in awe of Your creative power. You are truly the Most High God. And to think that all the breathtaking splendor of earth is but a shadow of Your glory. What a God we serve!

Today, Lord, we ask that You open our eyes not only to the wonders of Your creation, but also to the wonders of Your Word. As we read our Bibles, we ask for the guidance of Your Holy Spirit. Please do not let our minds stray, but keep us focused on what You want us to see in the Word of Truth. Let Your word pierce us, making us humble before the Throne of Grace as we approach You with awe and reverence. O Lord, even as we think of it, our hearts are filled with gratitude at the incredible privilege of speaking with You!

As we grow in the daily disciplines of our faith; in spending time with You through the reading of Your word, reflection on what You show us, and in prayer; we ask for Your Spirit to be our unfailing Guide. Give us understanding that we may keep Your commands. Turn our eyes from worthless things and make us to delight in Your ways. As we learn to love You more and the world less, guide us in steadfast devotion to You.

In dark places where we harbor sin, even if we are unaware of it, we ask that You make us aware and lead us to the Godly sorrow which produces repentance and leads to a salvation without regret. Start a revival, Lord, and start it in our own hearts first.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
(2 Corinthians 7:10)

As we engage the world around us, remind us not to answer anger and venom with more of the same, but to overcome evil with good. Fill our hearts, minds, and lives to the overflow with the joy of our salvation so that we are truly a light for You, beckoning others to the goodness and stability of Your eternal Kingdom.

For we know, Lord, Your Kingdom will outlast any earthly turmoil or trial we may face. Thank You for making us a part of this Kingdom, and help us to walk in the world as those who reflect the values and culture of the Living God, amen.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
(1 Peter 5:10)