Nov 29, 2016

Knowing the Battle Plan

As believers in Christ, we are called to be warriors for His name.  Our job is to stand up against the evil of the world and share the Good News that one day we will once again live in a perfect land of peace, joy, and harmony.  We resist Satan's fiery arrows with our shields of faith, breastplate of righteousness, and helmet of salvation.  We prepare our feet with readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace.  Our waist is buckled with the belt of truth.  But we don't stop there.  No, we not only resist evil, we fight evil with the sword of the Spirit  the Word of God.  We are warriors.  Our lives aren't easy, but we will stand together and declare the truth.  When hard times come our way (and they will!), we won't back down, retreat, or fall away.  We will stand tall with our shoulders thrown back and our face towards the sunrise declaring our allegiance to the one true God.

While all of that is extremely vital as Christians, is that all we should be doing?  Is resisting evil and standing up for good the only task that we have?

For some reason, it seems that we often stop there.  In the middle of the book of Galatians, we pause and sit back with a smile on our face.  What a worthy goal!  What a glorious calling!

Even so, we often forget the very next verse.

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying..." Ephesians 6:18 (emphasis mine)

What powerful words!  We are to pray on all occasions.  Always.

What does "always" mean?  A book I read today explains it nicely (and you know I love lists!)...

"It means pray and pray a lot!  Pray when you're alone.  Pray when you're with a lot of people.  Pray when you're in small groups.  Pray on your way in; pray on your way out.  Pray in your closet, in your car, at your desk.  Pray morning prayers, pray mealtime prayers, pray in between mealtimes.  Pray fervently, expectantly, and unself-consciously.  Pray when you're burdened, worried, sick, or brokenhearted.  Pray when you're soaring, setting records, or dancing on a mountaintop.  Pray when you're up, and pray when you're down.  Pray when you're healthy, when you're sick, when you feel like it, and when you don't.  (Especially when you don't.)" Bill Hybels in Just Walk Across the Room

I have a friend in Ecuador whom I love dearly.  We have been writing letters back and forth for more than eight years!  Even after such a long time, every letter I receive is better than the last.  When I open the mail box, my eyes light up if I see a pale, yellow envelope with my name on the front.  I force myself to finish school, my mind always imagining what is inside.  And then the time comes.  I throw open the letter, the eyes devouring every word.  If there is a picture, I treasure it, eagerly showing my friend's smile to everyone willing to look.  After all these years, I have saved every single letter because they are very precious to me!  Every sentence shares my friend's thoughts, desires, dreams, and love.  As I read her words shared on paper, my own heart grows closer to hers.  Even though we have never met, I love her as my own sister.

THAT is why prayer is important.  The #1 way you can build a relationship with Jesus is through talking with Him. (Talking to someone versus with someone is completely different, but I can't cover that in this post)  It is impossible to have a thriving friendship with someone without spending time talking to one another.  If you have an acquaintance whom you don't speak with regularly, you will probably discover that your friendship is not very strong.

How can we get to know God on an intimate level without talking to Him?  How can we love what He loves and hate what He hates without knowing what His plans are?  How can we represent Jesus to the world around us if we don't know who Jesus is?

God has already written a beautiful love letter for us  the Bible!  He shares His plans for the future, His immense affection for those who follow Him, His sorrow when His children stray from Him, and the perfect plan of salvation that He created for us.  All this, God penned for us  His children.  Why?  Because God wants a relationship with us!  If that doesn't blow your mind away, realize what that means.  The Creator of the universe, the great I AM, the One who died for You, wants to know YOU personally!!!  Is there any greater news?

Being a warrior for God is so important.  The world needs us to take a stand and declare what we believe in.  But we will not be effective unless we know Who we are fighting for.  We will only be true warriors if we are reading God's battle plan (the Bible) and talking constantly to Him.

Many people feel distant from God.  I know that I often feel the same way.  Oddly, the times I feel that my relationship with Him is not where it should be are also the times that my prayer life is lacking.  I have never been very faithful at prayer, but it is something that I am going to work on diligently.  Will you join me?

Is your prayer life hot, cold, or somewhere in between?  How has prayer blessed you in your personal life?  Do you have any other thoughts on prayer?  Comment below!

Nov 22, 2016

Thanksgiving Priorities

Thanksgiving is on Thursdaaaaaaayyy!!

Am I excited?  Of course!

Am I looking forward to the guests and platefuls of delicious food?  Definitely!

Am I disgusted that we have flipped this celebration completely backwards?  *sigh*  Yes.  Very.

Just like every other holiday, it seems like we have forgotten the point.  The day to celebrate Jesus' birth has turned into a day to celebrate ourselves.  Easter, when we should be rejoicing that He has risen from the grave, has been covered in chocolate bunnies and colorful eggs.  And now thanksgiving, a day spent in praising God's blessings upon us, has turned into a day for stuffing our stomachs until we feel sick.

It's terrible.  How could we have forgotten the whole point?

Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks.  It's a day to praise God for all that He has given us.  But somehow we, in the 21st century, have turned it completely around.  If you ask someone what they are looking forward to this week, they will most likely comment on the vast amounts of food awaiting them. Yet do they mention how thankful they are?  Or are they even thankful in the first place?  When Thanksgiving comes our way, we forget all the blessings that God has bestowed upon us so generously and merely take it for granted.  Instead, we often focus on friends, family, and food.

Are friends, family, and food wrong?  Certainly not!  Food is absolutely necessary for survival, and family and friends are wonderful and important parts of our life.  But it is also definitely true that we can make them more important than they should be.  What is #1 in your life?  Can others clearly see that it is #1 in your life?

I realize that you already understand what Thanksgiving is.  We have all heard about the first the pilgrims celebrated with their Native American friends and worshiped God for His blessings.  We already know what this celebration should look like.  But don't you think that we could all use a reminder?

"I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving." -Psalm 69:30

"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" -Philippians 4:4

"In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Even a secular dictionary described Thanksgiving with the right mindset... "a day set apart for giving thanks to God." ironic that gets it right when we so often get it wrong.

This week, I propose a challenge to you.  Instead of focusing on ourselves, let's make a difference.  Let's use this Thanksgiving celebration to honor God.  Let's remember Who our #1 should be and be diligent at actually living out our beliefs.

The challenge is simple.  I want to wake up every morning with a prayer of thanksgiving on my lips.  I want to live each day sending up prayers of gratitude to heaven.  I want to use the blessings God has given me to encourage others through simple complements, random acts of kindness, and spending time with them.  I want this week to point to God, not myself.

I would love if you would join me.  Do you also want to make a difference this Thanksgiving celebration?

How are YOU going to point others to Christ instead of yourself?  Comment Below!

Nov 15, 2016

4 Ways to Get Writing Inspiration

I know that a lot of different writers, bloggers, and authors write about how to get past "writing block".  How to become inspired to put words on a page.  How to get ideas.  But because this question has been asked of me several times, I am going to give some tips from my own writing career. =)

I sit down at my laptop to write a blog post.  I already have a great idea...I thought of it last night.  As the computer warms up and the page appears, I stare at the box which will soon fill up with my words.  Suddenly - somehow - the idea vanishes.  Like a passing mist, it's completely gone.  I'm left staring at the screen wondering what do to.  How do you just come up with words when they are avoiding your brain?  Panic sets in.  How can you be a blogger if you can't think of a post to write?  What will all of my amazing readers say?

Yup.  If you're a writer, I'm sure you can relate.  Have you ever had an inspiring, amazing post that just vanished into thin air?  Or maybe you're writing on your WIP and realize that you have a chapter - a whole chapter - that you need to write...but you have no clue what to put on the paper in front of you.  You are forced to come up with an idea that is both captivating for the reader and prods them to read on.  Those middle chapters of a book can be the hardest to write for that very reason.

Some people call it writer's block.  I never really believed that such a thing existed.  Usually, thousands of ideas are floating around in my head begging to be the first to appear on the page.  But those occasional times come around when inspiration vanishes.  Suddenly, you're left with a blank page, a chapter to write, and no ideas.

How do you overcome this dilemma?  I can't give you a straightforward, perfect answer.  But I can tell you what I do when I need to write but am void of a plot.  Here is a small glimpse into my writing life. =)

  1. PRAY!  As a daughter of the King, I want everything I write to bring Him glory.  I want every chapter to encourage, uplift, and show God's love to my readers.  Also, it's important to realize that every idea that comes into my head will either come from God to promote His work or from myself to get my priorities and my goals accomplished.  If I center my thought-life on God, the ideas that will result will also be centered on Him.
  2. Don't panic.  Realize that it doesn't matter if you are out of ideas.  It's not the end of the world.  Your readers will understand if you need a break off blogging for a week or two or three.  (thanks for the break that you gave me last month, dear readers) =) Worrying about what your readers think shouldn't be your priority anyway.  We should be eager to please God first and foremost.
  3. Talk it over with a friend.  As I worked through the second draft of Emblem of Hope, there were many times when I was out of ideas.  My brain was empty.  I wondered how to carry the plot from point A to point B without losing my reader's attention or creating a totally dry, uninteresting story.  Thankfully, I found a solution.  When I needed inspiration, I found it at night while laying in bed.  (for you night owls, that's the best time to dream up stories!)  I would talk through the problem with my ten-year-old sister.  As we went back and forth over possible solutions, every single time I fell asleep with an answer to the dilemma!  Though she didn't always give me a perfect solution, as we combined out dreamy thoughts and story ideas, I always ended the conversation feeling excited and strangely at peace.  My "writer's block" had vanished!  (Thanks, sis!)  ;)
  4. Keep writing.  Even if you didn't come up with anything that reaches up to your standards, just keep writing.  Keep dreaming.  And keep creating stories. Push through the dry spells and look forward to the satisfying rain that's sure to come.  Just take writing one letter at a time.
I hope these ideas helped you as you embark on your own writing adventure. =)

What do you do to get inspiration in your stories?  Do you have a friend or writing partner who helps you with ideas?  Has God ever giving you insight after you asked Him for help?  Comment below!

Nov 8, 2016

Are We Silent? || Discussion

"Why are we sitting here waiting until we die?"

The question caught me off guard.  I stared at my friend as he waved his deformed hands in the air.  Sunken eyes flashed as he stared into my face.

"The famine is everywhere!  If we go into the city, we die.  If we stay here, we die.  Who cares what happens to people like us?"

Us.  Through no one spoke the word, it hung in the air like the scent of a decaying carcass.  Lepers.  Unclean, dying lepers.  The very words seemed vile.

I stared at my three friends.  Ears, fingers, toes...they were slowly being eaten away by an invisible enemy.  Leprosy.  An unconquerable foe.

But it was worse than that.  Vacant eyes stared into nothingness.  Empty stomach refused to growl, knowing that there would be no response.  Hunger gnawed as painfully as the leprosy.  Threatening doom hung over our heads.

"The enemies will kill us if we try to leave."  My other friend said, his voice breaking.  He rubbed his last thumb over the stub of his hand.  "But we'll die either way."

The words should have sent a chill down my spine.  Instead I blinked.  What did it matter?  We slowly pulled ourselves to our feet.  Better to die a quick death by the sword than a long, foreboding starvation.

The enemy camp loomed over us as we stumbled forward.  Dark.  Dangerous.  Rough tents billowed in the early morning wind.  They were like fingers, reaching out to squeeze the life out of our lungs.  I shivered but pressed on.

A light hand touched my cloak.  I cut off a scream as I recognized one of my companions.  His voice dropped as he hissed in my ear, "Where are they?"

We froze, standing in perfect silence.  Not a cricket chirped.  Bleak silence hung in the air.  Like icicles, they seemed to dangle above us, eager to fall and wreak havoc at the least of disturbances.  I held my breath.

My friend took one tentative step forward than another.  Pushing his shoulders back, he shoved open the flap of a tent.


The entire camp was deserted.

A smile broke out onto my face.  I rushed into tent after tent, throwing silver and gold coins and precious stones in the air.  I found one table loaded with a meal of my dreams.  Grapes, figs, raisins, was too much to take in.  I laughed as my friends slapped each other's backs, happy chatter ringing through the air.  We had hope!  The famine was gone!

I froze, a grape half way to my mouth.  "What are we doing?"  I looked down at the grape and dropped it back onto a plate.

"What?"  My friends lowered deformed hands to stare at me.  The joy that radiated in their faces froze, replaced by fear.

"We are doing wrong!"  My eyes opened wide.  "This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent!"  I motioned to the nearby city.  "They starve while we rejoice and feast?"

Silence filled the tent.  The same thoughts that plagued my mind raged in theirs.  Why would we spread good news to the ones who cast us out of the city?  The ones who mocked us because of our disease?  The ones who fed us scraps of food so we wouldn't clutter the streets with our dead bodies?  Why would we care for them?

I turned away.  "Do what you will, but I am going to share this good news."  The dust swirled under my feet as I stumbled back.  Away from the feast.  Away from the treasure.  It beckoned to me, calling my name.  But no.  I had a greater calling.  My pace quickened.

"Wait!"  Three lumbering figures followed, grins spreading across their faces.  "We will spread this good news!"

Together we shuffled towards the city.  Our backs were clothed with rags, but happiness filled our soul.  Our faces were calloused and distorted, but smiles creased them.  Our stomachs still churned in expectation of a future feast, but our hearts were full.

We were going to bring hope to the hopeless.  This was joy.  True joy.

As I read 2 Kings 7 today, I noticed this unusual passage.  Four lepers – despised, mocked, abandoned – rescued Samaria by discovering a treasure too good to keep to themselves.  They shared the good news with the people who avoided them, stared at them, and exiled them from the city.  Through miraculous circumstances, God selected four suffering lepers to deliver an entire city.

In last month's post, Their Desperate Plea, I shared my heart on the topic of witnessing.  But now I want to hear from you.

We, like the lepers of 2 Kings, have a choice to make.  We can spread this news of deliverance to the world or we can sit back and feast on the glory alone.  We can fill out stomachs or we can give to the hungry.  What have you decided?

Sharing your faith is one amazing benefit of being a Christian.  Sadly, we seem to see it as a daunting task or heavy burden.  As Christians, I want to know your thoughts.  Let us encourage one another to pursue a deeper relationship with our Savior while we share His love with the outside world.

Let's get conversation rolling, shall we?

Is there something keeping you from giving the Good News to starving soul?  Perhaps fear of rejection keeps your tongue tied from speaking Truth?  Or perhaps you don't see any opportunities to make a difference in the lives of people around you?

Have you ever shared your faith?  What were/are some of the struggles you faced?  How did you feel afterwards?

I encourage you not only to share stories and struggles from your own life but also to read and comment on those of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  Let's get to know one another as we encourage and uplift each other in this noble goal.

And if you haven't accepted Jesus into your heart, I still would love to hear from you!  Has anyone shared their faith with you?

Comment Below!