Monday, December 26, 2005

The Truth About Santa

When I was growing up as an immigrant kid, I thought Christmas was about a fat man in red suit who only brought presents to white kids. That might explain why I still had a bit of disdain for Santa even after I became a follower of Jesus. It helped me to browse the St. Nicholas Center site and discover the truth behind the myth — a brother in Christ who was dedicated to a Middle Eastern baby born 2000 years ago. Happy Birthday, Lord Jesus!

Friday, December 23, 2005

your mission, should you choose to accept it


Hello, 4:12Live readers. Today is December 23, which means tomorrow is Christmas Eve. (Yes. I know my powers of deduction are astounding.) This being such a special time of year--a time when we give gifts and spread good cheer and enjoy two weeks of sleeping late--I thought it appropriate to give you an assignment.

Don't worry. There's no advanced math or research involved. It's simple really. You're already sitting at your computer, so you can do it right now. Dust off your direction-following skills, and read on:

1. Log on to your e-mail account.
2. Select ten people from your address book.
3. Compose messages of gratitude, telling them why you appreciate them and how much you love them.
4. Send the messages.

For five points extra credit, make phone calls instead. And for a whopping 10 extra points, write actual letters or notes and send them through the mail.

That's it. Not too difficult. Doesn't cost you anything (except maybe a few stamps). And, no, this won't be on the test. But it will leave a lasting impression on your loved ones and brighten their lives. Perhaps they'll even follow your example and pass the blessing along. Let's reverse the greedy grab-fest me-me-me mentality, and heap some love on a few unsuspecting heads.

Oh! and one more thought for the day: You'd be surprised how much impact you have on other people. Don't underestimate your influence. Love lavishly.

This message will not self destruct. On the contrary, its repercussions may be felt all around the world. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Concentration


I don't know who said it, but this quote is taped to the edge of my computer: “For him who has no concentration, there is no tranquility.”

Ever have those days where your brain’s scattered to the four winds? Last minute holiday rush can do it: getting the presents bought and wrapped, cards sent, parties and programs attended. But any overcrowded "to do" list can make it difficult to concentrate. My jobs list for any given day used to be crammed full from 5 a.m. till evening—sometimes late evening. I constantly watched the clock, making sure I didn’t give any particular project more time than I’d allotted. Couldn’t afford to get behind! Hurry, hurry!

As I worked, my gaze constantly rotated from the project on my desk, to the clock, then a glance toward the pile of work still waiting, then back to the current work in progress. I couldn’t focus on what was in front of me because I was too aware of all that had yet to be done. My scattered brain couldn’t concentrate—and there was definitely no tranquility.

Then one day a project went astray during its overnight express ride to me, and I realized I magically had three extra hours in my schedule that day. I resisted the urge to hurry and fill it up with projects in the queue. Instead, I deliberately slowed down. I took one thing at a time. I didn’t watch the clock. I didn’t look at what was next on my "to do" list. I just focused on the project at hand. It was heavenly. Yes, I took longer per project than normal, but (for a change) I had no headache or neck ache at the end of the day. I was also able to eat away from my desk (in my porch swing, no less) and did half an hour of guilt-free reading after lunch. I returned to work, still able to concentrate, and definitely feeling tranquil.

Do you have trouble concentrating? Are you unable to focus on school assignments or reading a leisure book? Do you rush through reading God's Word without meditating on it or applying it to your life? (Devotions done. Check.) Maybe you’ve over-scheduled yourself. Try cutting back. Remove the word "multi-tasking" from your vocabulary, and do one thing at a time at a sane pace. See if you don't gain both in concentration and a peaceful spirit.

I can't think of a nicer Christmas gift to give yourself this year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

And faith will come

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
Martin Luther King Jr.

My oldest daughter is six and one of her teachers at church tells me that she is the first to offer to lead worship during their children's church service. Yesterday, our worship leader called our house and asked if she could sing a short solo for the Christmas Eve service and my outgoing daughter dissolved into tears. She was terrified at the thought of singing in front of people.

It didn't matter that she had done it before. She didn't hear us as we pointed out that she loves to perform for us all the time and reminded her of leading worship in children's church.

"I can't. I just can't" she kept crying over and over.

Fear is not a new struggle for her. Over her short life we have seen fear get a strangle hold around her. When she was two, it was a gymnastics class, when she was four, it was a set of shots. My husband and I prayed for wisdom. We didn't really care whether she sang at the Christmas Eve service - what we cared about was not letting her be ruled by her fears. We talked with her, prayed with her and told her we would take it one step at a time and that we wanted her to at least learn the song.

She wasn't happy but she eventually calmed down last night.

Today as we walked into the church for her rehearsal, she again turned into a corner and began to weep saying that she didn't want to and that she couldn't do it. I prayed, talked to her and after much cajoling got her into the practice room. Eventually we got her to sing through her tearful hiccups. Before too long I was able to leave the room. Ten minutes later she was singing on the large stage with a mike in hand and right now she is downstairs praticing the song - over and over and over again.

She asked me if I was going to make her sing on stage. When I said "yes", she said "Yeah!"

And I was grateful. It's hard to know when to push, and when to let go. My parents never pushed me and there are times I wish they had. That fear my daughter struggles with - it's not from God. It is from someone who doesn't want her to try new things and have the chance to discover the gifts within her. I want her to know that we serve a God that pushes us beyond our limits so that we will learn to trust Him - not ourselves, not the results - but Him - that He will never leave us, that we can do ALL things through Him.

It's not an easy lesson, whether you're six, or sixteen or sixty and I think it's one we continually have to learn. Being brave is not the absence of fear, but a willingness to press on despite the fear and have faith in the One who sees the beginning from the end.

I know that every time I walk my daughter through the process of moving from fear to faith, she'll grow stronger and be more willing to trust in God's strength instead of her own. I wonder today what God might be asking you to do that scares you. I hope you will let God take your hand and walk you through it. And instead of looking at what you CAN'T do, try looking at what He CAN do.

Merry Christmas....

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Christmas Story

"What's your story?" someone asked recently.

It's a common question, especially among adults. However, the stories I love to hear come from teens. Stories of life and family and relationships. Stories of faith. Many times those stories make me cry. Sometimes I want to "fix" the problems or challenges that teens face, but I realize that I can't. I can only encourage, pray, and walk with them as they live out their stories.

Our pastor is preaching a series on Christmas.

"Tell your story every day," he said. "Let this be your gift to Him."

My story? Your story?

How powerful is one person's story?

Very powerful. . .

Recently someone read my story on my website at http://realteenfaith.com. They lifted it and shared it in a newsletter. Now to most writers, that's called copyright infringment, but this is the scoop: My story is on the web so that others might be encouraged to know God.

I knew the story was circulating somewhere in cyberspace because emails started trickling in, and then the flood broke. I received stories from N. Africa and W. Africa and S. Africa, and then it hopped the ocean to circulate among another continent, and then it jumped back to the U.S. as two to three more newsletters picked it up and shared it.

Again, as a writer, if I were really focused on payment, I could have asked people to stop taking my story without permission, but God showed me a long time ago that my writing could never be about money. Do I get paid? Absolutely. I'm paid well and I love writing and there are times that copyright is very important and that people don't plagurize, etc. blah, blah, blah. . .

But this was different. It was people who were excited about what God could do in the life of an ordinary person. How he could help her find forgiveness for those who hurt her in the past. How he reached past a hardened, broken heart to reveal himself. How he showed her destiny when she couldn't see past her faults and weaknesses. How today she is still running after the Savior and delights in who she is through Him.

One little story traveled around the world and I received hundreds of emails from people hungry to know God. Some read like this:

"I am sitting at my desk and tears are running down my face as I read your story. Is this God? Could he possibly want to do the same thing in my life that he did in your's? Will you pray with me so that I can also know this God?"

I was humbled, amazed, in tears over and over again as I watched how God could take a simple story and open the door for relationship and purpose with others as they began their own journey of faith.

What is your story? Who is God to you? What does it mean to be intimate with the God that breathed the universe into existence?

In just a few days we celebrate a very special day. Whether that day is the original birth day or not is irrelevent, really. Because every day is a day to know God and to share your story. But perhaps you and I can celebrate the spirit of Christmas by sharing our stories every day between now and the 25th.

Why?

Because there are thousands and thousands of people who are waiting to hear. . .

Suzie Eller
http://realteenfaith.com (click on Suzie's story)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Hijacked Holy Days

Well, its that time of year again. It comes twice a year and this year you better watch out. I am talking about the Christian Holy Days. Christmas, once held dear as the day of the Savior's birth, has morphed into the strange tale of an obese slave driver of elves who is able to not only observe you at all times, but invades your home at will. Yes, he brings presents for the good children, but those little ones who haven't played nice all year (or, perhaps, dared to pray in school) get coal.

And it amazes me how Jesus laying down his life on the cross and resurrecting himself three days later was sanitized into a visit from a large, wandering rabbit who drops off eggs and candy. And people say the immaculate conception is just not believable?

We have allowed those who are not even of our religion or, even worse, who hate our religion to redefine the Holy Days for us and the rest of the world. Children visit Santa at the mall instead of pray to Christ in church. They search for Easter eggs instead of the meaning of the Resurrection. Our children are banned from singing "Silent Night" and we can't say "Merry Christmas" at work because it may offend someone. Isn't that kind of like crashing a birthday party and kicking the birthday boy to the curb while you enjoy his cake and gifts?

How about I AM OFFENDED! How about I want to say MERRY CHRISTMAS at CHRISTMAS time, I want to hear CHRISTMAS music, go to CHRISTMAS sales and I want to call it CHRISTMAS break, not winter break. How about YOU GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF OUR HOLIDAYS!

Or perhaps we should test just how tolerant the offended would be if we did the same to them. Why not join the celebration of Ramadan with month long eating contests? Maybe we could make up a story about a dreidel spinning master named Chanuka Harry and we could hold worldwide dreidel competitions? Perhaps the Hindus would enjoy us bar-b-qing some juicy burgers outside their temples? The opportunity for offense is limitless.

Why is it only Christians, the very ones who founded this country and made it safe for everyone to practice their religions, who have to tolerate a hostile takeover of their religion? I say it is time to take back your Holy Days.

It is time to celebrate CHRISTMAS in church with a nativity scene. I say we remember the Savior's sacrifice on the cross and rejoice in his victory over it. And to anyone who has a problem with the intolerant fanatics who have the nerve to want two Holy Days a year where WE, THE CHRISTIANS, get to decide how to celebrate OUR HOLY DAYS....why don't you just thank us for the sales, the great decorations and the excuse for an adult to wear a bunny suit and respect our Freedom of Religion. Especially since we gave it to you.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It's About Time

As the Christmas season approaches, we're all hit with a flurry of things to do and things to buy. Already this year, we've spent hours setting up our Christmas tree, putting up decorations, sending out Christmas cards and running from store to store, or shopping online, to find that "perfect" thing for every person in our family.

It seems every conversation is focused around the season, too. "What should we do for Christmas Eve?" "Do you think so-and-so would like this-or-that?" "Do we have enough holiday bucks to do one more thing?" :)

But this season, amidst all the craziness, we must not forget one very important truth: the greatest gift we can give each other is time.

Take time out of the busy-ness and have some non-Christmas conversation. Discuss what's on your mind and your goals and dreams. Rather than running to a store, go for a walk in the park--even if it's cold. I think you'll find it's the perfect breath of fresh air to get you into the true spirit of Christmas.

Chris

Christopher Maselli
TruthPop.com

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Listening


I spent much of the past month and a half choreographing a Christmas musical for the local high school choir. Last weekend as they sang and danced their hearts out for packed audiences, I watched with as much delight as the folks seeing the show for the first time.

I love working with those students. They're talented, fun, and so appreciative. The whole process energizes me. And I learn from it, too.

A couple of weeks before rehearsals begin, the director gives me the music, and I face my biggest challenge. I listen.

Over and over again I listen to a song until it works its way from my ears to my feet. I listen until the dance emerges from somewhere inside me, and I know I've found just the right steps.

Then I start all over with the next one. I always wonder if I'll finish all the songs by the time I'm supposed to start teaching the dances to the students. Somehow I always do, and then the real fun begins. Step by step they learn each dance, and we practice, practice, practice until they've memorized every nuance of every movement.

Finally opening night arrives, the spotlights blaze, and the stage comes to life.

As I watch them dazzle their audience I can't help but remember the slow, steady process it took to get there. What is now an explosion of energetic expression started with a hidden work no one saw. Listening.

Isn't our walk with the Lord a lot like that? If we want to find our way and keep from stumbling in this divine dance of life, we have to start by sitting still and listening. To His heartbeat. To the song He whispers in our ear. We have to listen until we know how the dance is supposed to go. And then we're ready to walk out on stage where all the world can see. The lights come up. The music plays. And the dance begins.

But it really began with a hidden work no one saw. No one but the One who's always ready to whisper His song. The real question is, are we ready to listen?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Soap up and Shut up

I saw the ad for the waterproof radio and thought, "Wow! I'd LOVE that!" But then I thought about the hype and noise that would mar the one ritual in my day that guarantees quiet. The body needs a daily quota of rest and food; the soul needs a daily quota of entertainment-free silence. Especially the teenaged soul, which gets even less than the adult RDA, thanks to school. Tongue in cheek, the late Mike Yaconelli gave this advice to people who love teens (like me):
Hey, kids today are MTV kids! They can’t sit still for any length of time. Silence, solitude, prayer, meditation, fasting? All totally lame in the eyes of this generation! Nope, keep ’em busy, active, noisy, and shuttling from one Christian rock concert to another. Fill every moment of your program with something to do—otherwise you’ll lose their attention (which would be disastrous because then they’d have to pay attention to God and their souls.)
Our souls are starved for down time that doesn't involve noise, and sometimes a long, hot QUIET shower is the only way to get a fix.

Mitali

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Overcoming Temptation

What would you do if an old boyfriend called you? (Or, in the case of our guy readers, an old girlfriend?)

Two weeks ago, I would have thought I'd be slightly shaken, but I'd be able to say, "Sorry, I'm married. I love my God. I love my husband. I love my work as a Christian writer, and I'm not interested. Please don't contact me again."

Until he emailed.

Out of the blue, someone I hadn't talked to in sixteen years, and I hadn't dated in 20 sent me a note via email. At first I tried to tell myself we were just catching up, there was no harm in it. But after a few emails led to a phone conversation, and he confessed he'd been thinking about me all these years, that he felt we were soul mates . . . Well, then I knew I was in trouble.

You see, this was the first person I was intimate with. We were only teenagers, and in my eyes he was "the perfect guy." He moved away, and we'd gone our separate ways, but obviously I had carried something for this guy all these years.

How did I know I was in trouble, especially with my thoughts and emotions? The pounding of my heart clued me in . . . and the longing to have him continue to say all those sweet things to me through email and over the phone.

Yet, even in temptation, I knew where to turn. After the second day of contact, I brought my friends and husband on board. I told them what was happening. I explained my crazy emotions. And I asked them to pray and encourage me. I also broke off communication with the old boyfriend.

Are "older" Christian women (I'm 34) who love Jesus, love their husbands, and love serving God with their lives tempted? Yes. And this temptation also opened my eyes to a few things.

1) While the world tries to tell us sex is no big deal, everyone is doing it . . . there is no denying that hearts and souls are knitted together during this act. And the painful truth is that sometimes this binding still keeps us bound, no matter how many years pass.

2) God's way of escape works. Praying, diving into God's word, turning to sisters in Christ, asking for prayer and support, confessing to my husband, asking my husband to pray with me . . . these are all hard things. It's much easier to keep things a secret. Not to tell. Not to show vulnerability. Yet, if we remain in the dark with our actions, we cannot expect to find light for our souls.

3) God can bring good out of hard stuff. The result of this temptation is that my husband and I have been more open with our struggles and temptations. We've started praying together more often . . . and concerning more issues. I've also built a new level of trust with my Christian friends who love me, despite my hang ups.

Did the enemy of my soul find something to shake me up? Yes.

Yet, God proved that no matter what temptations I face, He is at my side every step of the way to overcome them . . . as long as I turn to Him and depend on Him. Through the sacrifice of Christ, chains of the past can be removed for good--even chains I didn't realize existed, twenty years after the fact.

God is faithful!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Going Against the Grain


“Studies reveal that people in executive positions read two to four hours per day. So to be as productive as you need to be, you often act in ways that run counter to what society tells you is ‘productive activity.’”

This quote is from a Christian leadership book, written for those who want to make it to the top in business. But I think a key point can be extracted for all of us. If you want to do your best and be your best for the Lord, you may have to do some things that run counter to your culture’s values.

I recall being stunned when I first read that quote. I had always pictured people in executive positions having an even more frenzied work life than I had. I imagined them zipping from one high-powered meeting to another, on to a power lunch, then more meetings, and then racing off to catch a plane to start over the next day in another town. I had not pictured them taking half a day to read! For a blissful moment, I tried to imagine getting to read two to four hours per day during the day, instead of late at night when I’m too sleepy for more than a few pages. According to this leadership book, the intensive reading program was a key factor in every executive rising to the top.

What counter-cultural things might you need to do to be as productive as you want to be? Go to bed early instead of watching movies with your friends till 3 a.m.? Eat well balanced meals instead of the daily diet of artery-clogging burgers and fries? Instead of settling for doing less than your best, ask the Lord what you need to do to max out your performance. It might not be what you think, and others might not understand. That's okay. Let the Holy Spirit guide you. Instead of urging you to work more, harder, faster--he just might tell you to go curl up with a good book!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Brand New Contest


I've been wading through a maze of HTML today but I finally have the information for my new contest up on my site and this is my very first place to announce it! All the details are on my Becoming Beka website but I'll give you all the basics.

"The Encore Prize Box" will include a hot off the press, autographed copy of The Encore as well as other cool prizes making the box worth more than $50!

Intrigued?

For every submission you make, you'll get one entry in the drawing for The Encore Prize Box. There are four submission categories...

Movie Picks – In 150 words or less, tell readers about your favorite movie and why they should go out and rent it right away.

Website Picks – In 50 words, tell us about your favorite website and why we should surf on over.

My Blessing - In no more than 150 words, tell us about something God did for you in 2005.

WebHelps - In fifty words, tell us about a spot on the Internet that a teen can find valuable information about a topic, any topic. Where do you go when you have a question?

Be sure to check here for the complete rules and a link to the form to enter.

I hope you'll enter, and go ahead...spread the word about it!

Monday, December 05, 2005

WWJD

WWJD

A few years ago the initials WWJD swept the Christian culture. Unfortunately it sold a lot of T-shirts and wristbands, but didn't make much of an impact otherwise.

And yet it is still a great question to ask.

A good friend called me today and he wanted to know what to do for a friend. His heart was in the right place, but listening to him I realized that his methods were askew. Dangerous even.

I gently asked him, "when you search out the New Testament, do you see a model for that approach? Is it the right thing to do?"

After thinking, his answer was "no". He decided that getting alone with God was the first thing that he needed in this situation. You see, he was going by feelings. The decisions and plans he was making had very little to do with biblical wisdom, but rather an impulsive move because it felt "right".

Feelings are great, but they can also be misleading. You may never catch me wearing a WWJD T-shirt, but I hope that the question is imprinted on my heart.

WWJD?

Friday, December 02, 2005

I have to admit...


... I watch MTV.

Oh, I use the excuse that I just do it as research-- check out the latest in clothes and trends and stuff for my writing.

Truthfully, I've never gotten over my own teen obsession with the video as an artform. I totally dislike a lot of the music MTV plays, but seeing a "When September Ends" or "Untitled"- kind of video with some true meat to it just brings me back over and over again.

Now, nobody go run to MTV and get me in trouble with the 'rents or anything, but if you do get the chance to check out Relient K's "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been," (click on the little tv beside the title and you can stream it through RealPlayer) sit and really watch it. Boy, God has really used that video with me today.

The video shows a girl taking a walk. Soon, she realizes that her steps are directly related to the actions of people around her. She's having a ball watching people retrace their steps as she walks backwards. A falling stack of books re-stacks themselves. All kinds of fun stuff. She's laughing and its all good until she realizes that someone crossing the street gets hit by a car. Quickly, she backs up, her actions moving him out of harm's way, but if she moves forward, he's just going to get hit again. So-- since this IS a video and time is of the essence-- she decides to step aside. To change the path she is on. Everything else around her no longer is so neat-- an apple tossed by a fruit seller hits someone in the back of the head, a television is dropped, and other things get messed up. All that chaos causes the distracted man to stop and, as a result, the car passes by without incident.

I haven't been able to get this video out of my head all day. I just think its awesome that my hometown boys are singing to Jesus on MTV like every hour or two, and I praise God for the ministry of Relient K out there in MTV-land. I think there's two great thoughts to be taken from it.

First, the path we chose at times in life might be a blast for us. We might be having a grand old time on it, but those choices may be leading others around us into peril. In Luke 17:1-2, Jesus says to His disciples, Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Pretty harsh stuff, but I bet we can all think back to a time when we looked back and realized an action we took in fun caused someone else to sin. We probably didn't even think a second thought about it at the time, or we might not even known that it was something that would cause our brother to sin.

Second-- and this is the redemption part-- all we have to do is take that step over to the right path. The one that is Jesus. It might be a bit messy along the way. It might not seem like the way to go at times, but we just might save a friend along the way.

Peace,

~B.

Surf the Web BETTER

Obviously, this blog is about writing, but once in a while news comes out that's worth reporting on, even if it's not entirely writing-related. In this case, it's about web browsers--what you're using to view this blog right now.

And this week, the Mozilla foundation has released version 1.5 of their increasingly popular Firefox web browser. If you're still using the browser that comes built-in with Windows, now's the time to give Firefox a try! Some people say it has better security than Microsoft Internet Explorer. I'm not going to argue that here. What I will say is that I was very skeptical when I tried it out. But after using it for a week, I could NEVER go back! It truly makes your web experience better.

Then, once you've downloaded and installed it, don't stop there. Download these plugins which will automatically install into Firefox. They are what will make it really fly. Soon you'll be enjoying the web--and this blog--like never before!
  • Customize Google -- This makes your Google searches better by adding small pictures of the websites beside each hit and more.

  • Fasterfox -- Makes Firefox run as fast as possible on your system, so you're not waiting around as you surf the net.

  • IETab -- This allows you to still view pages in Internet Explorer mode if they're specifically formatted for IE.

  • PDF Download -- This allows you to view PDF files in your browser, easily, or download them.

  • Tab Mix Plus -- Adds a BUNCH of great tab additions.

Then, while you're at it, click to install this theme: Noia 2 Extreme. It will make Firefox look cool too!

After installing, let me know what you think of Firefox.

Chris

Christopher Maselli
TruthPop.com

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Where Are Ideas for Novels Birthed?

(Photo of memorial service for Holocaust survivors in Austria)


One of the most common questions I'm asked is how I get the ideas for my novels.

God gave me the idea for my first novel, From Dust and Ashes, while visiting Austria and a historian told me about the true events liberating a concentration camp.

The idea for my second novel, Night Song, came when I was interviewing veterans for my first book, and they told me about the orchestra of prisoners.

The idea for my third novel, Dawn of a Thousand Nights, came when I was interviewing veterans for my second book, and a friend of one of the veterans told me he was a survivor of the Bataan death march--and would I consider writing about them?

The idea from my fourth novel, Arms of Deliverance (Moody, August 2006) also came from research pertaining to my first three books.

And next from Tricia Goyer is an up-and-coming three book series about The Spanish Civil War and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade of American volunteers. I was researching for my 4th novel, Arms of Deliverance, when I read an autobiography of a B-17 crewmember who was a veteran of the brigade in the Spanish Civil War. I'd never heard about that war, so I started researching. I was fascinated by the volunteers who would fight for the freedom of the Spanish people.

So you see, there is a trend forming . . . I wonder what I'll discover next?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Fans Anonymous

My sister used to plaster the walls of our room with posters of pop stars. I still don't know how I fell asleep with scores of smiling, airbrushed faces leering at us from every side. Admiring musicians, actors, and jocks is a normal part of growing up in America, but when does fascination with a celebrity cross the line?

Admiration becomes addiction when we rely on our so-called "connection" to the stranger as an escape from pain. Do we "fan"-tasize about one of People magazine's hundred most beautiful people as a way to calm ourselves from worrying? Do we feel like we "know" that famous actor better than others do because of our loyalty to him through thick and thin — even though he doesn't know us from Adam? These are clues that adulation may have crossed the line into idolatry.

Strikingly, along the red carpet, starstruck fans often call out "I LOVE YOU!" to a celebrity, and savvy celebrities are primed to reply with an echo. What a sham of three life-changing words intended to be exchanged first and foremost with God, and second between people in an intimate relationship. But there's room to admire peple we don't know personally — after all, I've never met Amy Carmichael, Mother Theresa, or Catherine of Siena. But there's a huge difference between admiring a celebrity and looking up to a hero — celebrities don't need character to draw attention. Heroes do. So what famous person besides Jesus do you admire and why?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Maybe I Should Have Started Sooner

This sentence is taped to my computer: “Hard work is often the easy work you did not do at the proper time.”

Do certain things keep being pushed to the bottom of your list of things to do? Last year at this time, I was caught in a scheduling snafu, and so things like “shop for kids’ gifts” and “address Christmas cards” and “wrap presents” kept getting dropped to the bottom of the list. In November those would have been fun activities to do. In years past I would light candles, put on one of my dozen Christmas movies, and have a special treat (defined chocolate) after finishing a holiday task. It’s easy—when done at the proper time.

But last year when I finally got around to buying, decorating, and wrapping, it was after December 15. The stores were a nightmare of frenzied shoppers, my hands got cramped doing cards for hours (no time to rest—hurry, hurry!), and wrapping gifts was a marathon culminating in the worst backache I’d had in years. Not done at the proper time, this “easy work” that was a joy had definitely become hard work.

This certainly applies to more than Christmas, and it’s true year-round. The dishes done at the proper time (right after they’re used) are easy; a five days’ accumulation, with gunky food cemented to the dishes, is hard work. Losing the three holiday pounds right after Thanksgiving isn’t too bad; waiting to get it off till you’ve added six more at Christmas and New Year’s will be hard.

So often when I’m struggling through a particular project, I will notice that sentence taped to my computer. I stop and ask, “Lord, is this some easy work the Holy Spirit prompted me to do a while back?” Quite often, it is. If I had tackled it when prompted the first time, it could have been accomplished in several easy stages. I could have scheduled the completion of the project with plenty of wiggle room. By waiting too long, the easy work had become hard. I am most often my own worst enemy.

Take a look at your life. Yes, teens are just as guilty of this phenomena as we adults. The projects may be different, but procrastination will have the same results. Make a list of upcoming events, projects due, even the fun things (like going to prom or on vacation.) Then back track and see how soon you need to begin preparing in order for the work to be easy. Done at the last frantic moment, it’s stressful and no fun. (e.g. Imagine hunting down your prom dress two days before the event.) Done in a leisurely manner, though, the work can be easy and enjoyable!

Hmmm... I think I'll make this a New Year's Resolution...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Twilight Inventory Time

Sorry, I’m a couple days late with my blog entry again. Hopefully everyone’s been too busy to notice.... My apologies, but life’s been jam-packed.

Okay, it hit me last night, about 3AM when I couldn’t sleep, that in less than two weeks my hubby and I will be in Maui. And while I’m thrilled at the aspect of sun and surf, especially since there’s snow on the ground here, I also experienced this sense of dread. Like where did the time go? And why didn’t I manage to loose those ten+ pounds? And how can I stand to put on a swimsuit in December? And what about these thunder thighs? And how did I get so old anyway?

Of course, I know better than to think such destructive and superficial thoughts. Haven’t I even written books for teen girls on the subject of body image and all the reasons we shouldn’t fall victim to such idiotic forms of self torture and self loathing? Doesn't one of them release next month? (Faded Denim in TrueColors). But it was 3AM, for Pete’s sake, and we’d been eating Thanksgiving leftovers for a couple of days…what can I say?

And so I put myself through the same exercise that I’ve shared with others who fall into this self-defeating trap. Take a real inventory. And that’s when I had to pause and thank God for a pair of strong legs, so what if they’re chubby. And I thanked God for two arms that are strong enough to carry my own bags, even if they are a little flabby in places. And on I go until I begin to feel very ashamed, because I suddenly remember a dear friend who recently died of leukemia. She was about my age, but due to the ravages of her illness, was model thin before she succumbed to the disease. And, okay, now I can’t believe my ungrateful attitude toward my relatively healthy body. And I thank God for all I’m able to do—and I ask him to show me how to use it for his glory.

A Word of Encouragement
You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; you know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day. Psalm 139:15-16 (The Message)

Tears to Triumph

I missed church today. I didn't mean to, but when I saw a young friend crying I went over and wrapped my arms around her and took her to a place we could talk. She said her boyfriend had broken up with her and I could see that her heart was just shattered. I sat and listened to her share her story as the tears streamed down her face. My heart broke for her. I wanted to take away her pain and make her stop hurting.

But God was at work.

You see, it's easy to think that God doesn't want us to hurt but more often than not, there is a purpose to our pain. Some of the things I heard her say today:

"He's so perfect."

"I'm so stupid."

"I have no one now."

"I was lucky to have him."

None of those statements were true, but because of her pain, she believed them. Believed that she'd never find anyone else, that it was all her fault, that he was perfect. I could see God calling her back to Himself. Lots of things can get in the way of our relationship with God - things, desires...and people. She had put this guy on a pedestal and God, in His mercy, put a stop to it.

God should always come first and if He doesn't, then we have to adjust. It hurts though. When we have to give up something to go deeper in God, it can hurt. I felt for this young woman today because I used to be her. Crying over some doomed relationship, sure that my heart would never be whole again. But just as God was at work deep within me, He is at work deep within her - and you. We not only get to share in God's glory, but we also share in His sufferings.

The sufferings may be hard, but I know they are worth it. Because in the end, they make us more like Christ.

If you're in a hard place today, may God's love comfort you and bring you peace.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Your Story

"Share your story every single day between now and Christmas."

Hmm. That should be easy. I blog. I write for teens. I have a website. I speak.

I'm a communicator.

I shared it on my personal blog and the comments came in. I shared it on my website.

But I don't think this is what my pastor meant. He meant that I should share it one-on-one with people. Eye to eye. Face to face.

"Hey Suz, how are you doing?"

"Good, really good. Hey, have I every told you my story?"

"Your story? Umm. I don't think so."

Then I will tell them. You see, there was a time that I didn't believe in God and then I discovered that he was real. Every day I get to know this amazing Savior who gives me purpose and marks me with his love. He's there in the tough times. He's there in the good. He pushes me with his word to greater destiny. I'll never forget that broken young girl that challenged God, but today I'm whole and it's because of faith.

"Really. So how did that happen? Like, what's the in-between stuff?"

Those are conversations that I want to have to celebrate this season of my faith. You see, Christmas is just a day, really. It's not the exact day of Jesus' birth. In our culture, it's definitely not celebrated as such. But maybe if I can share my story then the celebration becomes much more meaningful.

Hmm.

So, what's your story?

Buried by the World

Mark Twain once said something like "The reports of my demise are vastly exaggerated." Well, the reports of my early retirement are premature.
I apologize for missing my blogs lately. You might say I had been buried alive by the cares of this world. I had an eye infection, a looming deadline, a cold that should have been classified category five, and a major case of "I CAN"T DO IT ALL!"
Once I turned in the manuscript, I stared at the wall for a week, then I was icky sick for a few days, and then stared at the wall some more. I had been under pressure and in high gear for so long that when I stopped, well, I really stopped. Then I looked around at all that had slid into a major to-do pile while I concentrated on the number one priority - the manuscript. I was horrendously overwhelmed.
Then I prayed.
And I got a clear message.
One step at a time.

I shook myself like a dog coming out of the water and grabbed the first bone of contention on the pile. Days later, I am beginning to feel like a normal person again.

But one thing is clear to me once again. I am SO not equipped to be God. I can't handle a schedule that is just a little overcrowded. Think about what God handles daily. Wow! And He doesn't get stressed. He doesn't stare at walls. He doesn't get icky sick and He doesn't fumble His responsibilities.

Yep. I'm glad I am NOT God, and I'm glad I have God, a God who is capable of all His tasks.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Petra: Farewell

After 33 years, veteran Christian rock band Petra is calling it quits.

I saw them at their Farewell concert in Dallas this past weekend. I was even able to get front row and center, which was a real treat. But regardless, I wouldn't have missed it.

Back in the mid-80s, my first concert was a Petra concert, during their Not of this World tour. At that concert, I bought the first album I ever bought with my own money: Never Say Die.

Since then I've enjoyed at least 20 of their albums. Petra means "rock" and they've never failed to disappoint. Their sound has changed as the times have changed, but their message has never compromised. They've had no ambitions to "cross over" or water down their lyrics. To this day, every concert has ended with an alter call.

I don't believe it's every Christian band's perrogative to have alter calls or extremely bold lyrics. But I do think that what used to be the rule has now become the exception. Petra was signed to a Christian label back in the days of "pure" labels--when Christian record companies were first and foremost concerned with a band's stand...the hope for profit was secondary. Today it's different, and understandably so. Christian labels couldn't exist without being run as profitable businesses. But that's another discussion. The point is that Petra came along before we knew profitability was necessary--and they survived purely on their bold message, musical ability and grass roots efforts.

I'm sad to see Petra go, but 33 years is more than we will see from most bands today--and every one of Petra's years has been marked by quality music, a non-compromising message and the ability to rock. Farewell, old friends. We'll miss you more than you know.

Chris

Christopher Maselli
TruthPop.com

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Confused About Love

Recently, I tuned in to MTV for my periodic check on the state of youth culture. I watched "50 Cent" rap his take on "love" to a mesmerized crowd of teens, caught part of "Room Raiders," where a guy on the hunt for same-sex intimacy was checking out bedrooms belonging to three other guys, and chuckled over the crazy improvisation on the Andy Milonakis Show. Ad sponsors included Christian Children International, an upcoming movie about a female assassin starring Charlize Theron, a troubling new violent video game that's rated "M" (I forget the name), as well as the makers of products galore aimed right at 13-17 year olds.

Wow. So that's a taste of youth culture, at least as interpreted by the thirty-something marketing-to-teen experts who carefully craft MTV's content. I glimpsed a few signs of hope and spirituality, but was struck by the complete state of confusion over love. Will you be valued and loved if you get more cool stuff? Will you be loved if you are sexually fulfilled? Will you be loved if you look and feel good? This is a generation that's ravenous for love.

But are they finding it? Our high school psychologist estimates that 25% - 35% of teens at the school will experience severe emotional distress (eating disorders, depression, complete inability to function for long stretches of time) during their four years there. Where are the healers? Where are the truth-tellers? As writers, it's up to us to bless this generation — to show them that their Maker is fiercely, passionately in love with the REAL world. A broken, bruised Lover on a cross, dying in place of His beloved? Now that's true love.

Mitali

With Thankfulness We Give

Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner, and for those born 1981+ (a generation call Millennials) you most likely will be more concerned with what you will give this holiday season, than with what you will receive.

According to Graeme Codrington and Sue Grant-Marshall, authors of "Mind the Gap!" (Penguin):

"Millennial kids . . . will be civic minded, determined to help their communnities, will (and already do) care for each other, volunteer more, be conscripted if the case is just." Which is exactly what 2 Corinthians 9:7 is talking about, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

This heart of giving also reflects the heart of God:

"Generous to a fault, you lavish your favor on all creatures," (Psalm 145:16, The Message).

So how about you? How are you going to give this Thanksgiving and Christmas? I'd love to hear all about it!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Singleness of Mind

I’ve had a fever all week that keeps peaking, then falling, then peaking again. So I’ve missed many meetings, appointments, and outings, but it’s given me tons of time to think. One morning, as I tried to focus through my headache, I started reading the various pieces of advice and scripture taped around the edges of my computer. One was from Romans 12:8-9 “Give yourself to your gift…with zeal and singleness of mind.”

God has given each of us one or more gifts. They give us pleasure when we exercise them, and they bring God glory (and generally are useful to others.) Those of us on this blog believe writing is our gift. My thirtieth book comes out in 2006, and I hope there will be many more. And yet… I hadn’t been able to find any time to write for weeks. I was certainly not giving myself to my gift, as we are commanded to do.

I absolutely drooled over the idea of being focused with a “singleness of mind.” My mind lately had been scattered in a million directions. This week I took time to examine my schedule and saw why. I had no fewer than seven jobs in four ministries of various sorts that I contributed time and/or writing to, usually both. This is in addition to my own book writing, teaching, editing and critiquing work. No wonder I was sick a lot and under stress. I just kept taking on more things, muttering under my breath, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

So now I’m beginning the painful time of paring back my list of activities. I don’t think the Lord means for us to live at such a frantic pace. I’d lost my peace, plus my joy in my work. How about you? Does this describe you too? Rather than ask for more strength to keep up with my nutty schedule, I felt it was time to let him “lead me beside the still waters.” As I pray over each ministry activity and decide which ones to let go, my heart gets lighter. I look forward, by January, to being able to give myself to my gift “with zeal and singleness of mind.”

No Boys Allowed (Zondervan 2004)
Girlz Rock (Zondervan 2005)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Come...Just Come...

Life’s been crazy this week. But then that’s nothing new. Trying to make tough deadlines, dealing with family stuff, appointments, realizing that next week is Thanksgiving, preparing for a couple of trips…and then I get an “urgent” email telling me to get over to a radio station to record some spots which I agreed to a couple of months ago. Of course, this means I have to write these 200 word spots about my “favorite scriptures,” which shouldn’t take long, but seems to take forever, and then I’m trying to get myself together, grumping at my husband for no good reason, and then hopping in my car, where I mess up directions to the radio station (which seems to be hidden on a back-street) and finally arrive there in a state of frustration.

So, there I am sitting in this stuffy recording studio, reading my “spots” while this guy who barely speaks, is watching me from another room, and I wonder why am I doing this??? Then I come to the last spot, and the scripture, of course, is the one where Jesus says, “Come to me…and I will give you rest…” And, okay, it hits me—why am I not doing this?

So, on my way home, I do come to Jesus, I do allow him to give me rest, and then I take time to breathe and to relax and to enjoy the mountain views. And by the time I get home, I am amazingly refreshed. Then I apologize to my husband, go back to my office, and return to work.

How about you? What do you do when life is pressing in, stress is piling up, and you are feeling overwhelmed?

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
(Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

Swept up...

I'm not much for computer games really. Except for the occasional solitaire, I've just not been interested.

Until this weekend.

My sister introduced me to Zoo Tycoon. I got to create my own zoo, buy animals, plop down fences and create whatever kind of land I wanted. It was a very powerful feeling let me tell you. With one sweep of the mouse I could create a blistering sahara or a frozen tundra. Before I knew it two hours had slipped by and my husband came looking for me.

Him: Are you still down here?

Me: I've got to creat a habitat for my pandas.

Him: It's two o clock in the morning. Your sister wants to go to bed.

Me: Oh look! My flamingos just had babies!

I got a little carried away. But it's very easy to get to stirred up about something when we throw ourselves into it. It's probably why Paul told Timothy that he should "fan into flame the gift of God". (2 Tim 1:13)If we are to keep up our passion for God we have to add fuel to that fire in our hearts. A fire left unattended will eventually burn itself out. Passion is something we can - and should - stir up daily. I haven't even loaded the Zoo Tycoon game my sister gave me into my computer. I have a feeling I shouldn't fan that flame.

But that fire for God inside me? That can always use some attention. So if you've been feeling kind of cold and empty, throw some wood on that fire and spend some time with God today. It's amazing how easy it is to get a roaring fire going when you put your heart into it.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

flashbang


I'm reading a cool book right now. In fact, while flying home from D.C. I snuggled in the miniscule space allowed on the airplane and read all the way across the U.S. At one point I snorted and laughed out loud.

My seatmates stared, but I couldn't help it. It was funny, a laugh-out-loud, wow this guy is a good writer type of laugh.

On the surface it seems like just another book about a humorous guy's experiece, but it's by a publishing company called Relevant, so I expected relevance.

And I found it.

The title of the book is called Flashbang.

Flashbang is a term for the explosions on stage that create light, flash, and dazzle, but really have no substance or flame. They're mostly noise and sparklies.

The author said that he was on a journey to overcome "flashbang faith". He wanted faith of substance. He wanted it to make a difference in the world around him. He didn't just want to sear the eyebrows off of listeners with the message and fail to impact them with the heart of the gospel.

I love it when an author shares a message with humor, and while I'm laughing and occasionally snorting here and there, think, "hey, that's really deep".

The book started me to thinking and that's the sign of a great book. That's exactly the type of book I pray to write.

Will they be funny? Probably not. I screw up the end of jokes every time I tell one.

But they will be real. That relevant factor -- that's what I'm asking God for. Not just in books, but in every day life.

What about you?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Top 6 Writers' Conferences

For today's entry, I thought I'd make a list of the Christian Writers' Conferences that people seem to like most--so you can get to one! There is NOTHING better for a writer's career than attending writers' conferences, and they're all over the country. They cost a good chunk of change to attend (between $100-$500 plus travel and food), but if you meet one editor who you can write a magazine article for, you'll easily pay for the whole trip.

So here are what I'd consider the top 6 most popular Christian Writers' conferences in America. Hopefully you can attend one...one of the writers of this blog may even be there attending or teaching, too!

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

How Do You Spell "Manners"?


This morning I'm speaking to the local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. When the steering committee approached me in August, they asked me to organize my talk around the title, "Star Spangled Manners."

I happily agreed, but I requested they add a subtitle: Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World. As important as manners are, I didn't want the morning's focus to be on stuff like how you get a three year old to chew with his mouth closed. The way I see it, we all learn to conform our behavior if the consequences of disobedience are painful and consistent enough. The real goal is to get that three year old to value certain behaviors so much that, even when no one in authority is around, he still uses them.

So, I asked myself, "Why do we use proper manners?" And the best answer I came up with is, "Respect."

Now you ask, "Why are you writing about preschoolers when this blog is for teens?" (Yes, you do. Work with me here.)

"Fair question," I answer. "Let's ask questions that apply to your age group."

Q: Why do you refuse to go to a wild party, even though your parents probably won't find out?

A: Respect for your parents and yourself.

Q: Why do you keep your mouth shut when "the cool kids" are ridiculing the awkward kid?

A: Respect for someone made in the image of God.

Q: Why do you choose to abstain from pre-marital sex?

A: Respect for your body, the body of the other person, and the plan of God for your life.

You get my drift. We learn right from wrong in our heads, but unless we honor it in our hearts, we'll choose wrong when no one's looking. Or when peer pressure gets too strong. Or, or, or . . .

Respect springs from belief that God created us for His glory, and His plans are for our great good and delight. He places authority figures over us--parents, teachers, youth directors--because He loves us too much to leave us to stumble around trying to figure things out on our own. Of course, authority figures are human, too. They sometimes make mistakes. But God never steers us wrong. We have His Word as a clear guideline on how to live, and it starts with the heart--not the outward behavior.

Good questions to ask yourself today: Do I respect God's Word as truth? Do I respect myself as God's child created for His glory? Do I respect the authority figures God has placed in my life? Do I respect others as people created in the image of God?

Somehow I think, if we get to the place where we can answer YES to all those questions, our manners will fall in line. Don't you?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Prayer That Puts You To Work

"Strider! Co-ome!"

"Here, boy!"

"STRIDER! DINNERTIME!"

Our cries had been ringing through the neighborhood for hours, but there was no sign of our yellow lab. He'd been missing since 3 o'clock. By midnight, hoarse and chilled to the bone, we gave up searching. But we didn't drop into bed without praying for his safety and recovery.

Early the next morning, we made posters and stapled them on trees near the pond and in the woods. The phone rang fifteen minutes after we got home.

"I saw your poster," a voice said. "Do you want to come get your dog?"

Before long, Strider was home, and all was well. Was this the result of prayer? I wondered. Or a well-placed, eye-catching poster? What if we'd prayed but hadn't put up the posters? Or vice a versa? Would we have found our dog? Maybe. But usually both are needed, prayer and action, faith and works, because God delights to call us partners, even in the granting of our own requests. Keep talking to the Master, keep working, keep asking for direction, keep waiting for the next step. That's how Kingdom work gets done; that's how anything lost gets found ... even a tired, footsore dog who wants his own bed.

Real Life Faith

Sunday was my day to post, but it was impossible as I traveled 12 hours that day from D.C. back to beautiful Oklahoma.

I spoke at a conference called After Eve in McLean, Virginia. I travel a lot to minister and love all the diverse places and people God allows me to experience, but this was the most amazing yet.

It was relevant. The atmosphere was one of hunger and friendship and community. The topics didn't cover external issues, but delved deep into what it meant to live as a biblical young woman in the 21st century.

At one workshop I taught (Where's the Faith?) several university students shared their dilemma.

"I love God and I want to impact my world, but I don't feel God." One young woman broke down in class. "I'm sorry to be so emotional, but if I can't feel God it makes me wonder if I've done something wrong or if he's still there."

Wow. Such a beautiful portrait of real-life faith. I wrapped my arms around this girl afterward and told her that carrying her faith into a new environment was a transition time. She was carving out her own faith, separate from mom and dad and youth group. She was learning to trust him, to turn to him and be honest about her feelings and doubts.

"Sis, your faith is powerful," I told her. "Watching you profess how much you love God, and yet how much you desire his presence and want to make an impact on your world, that's a beautiful thing."

I assured her that God hadn't abandoned her. Her heart was SO in the right place and it was a season of growing spiritually as a young woman flying solo in her faith. She cried as she received that affirmation. I felt God just wrapping her in a cocoon of encouragement.

Once again I am reminded of the struggles, victories, and even doubts that the real-life (NT) disciples faced. Are we any different? No, we are modern-day followers of Christ. God's not afraid of your honesty when you rip the mask off and say, "hey God, I'm struggling here and just want to be real with you about it."

Being real. Loving God even when the feelings dip low. Trusting that God is in control. Having a desire to impact the world around you.

That's faith in action.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Good and Proper

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Yielding returns for hard work is a benefit of life. In elementary school we’re rewarded with gold stars. In high school our hard work achieves A’s and B’s. Even in our jobs, our “harvest” consists of bi-monthly paychecks, vacation time, and bonuses at Christmas. Yet what happens when our rewards for doing good seem to fall behind schedule? The paycheck never arrives, and there is no red-penned “Good Work!” shimmering from atop a progress report. We grow weary and discouraged. We look around and question if the sweat and strain is worth our time and effort. Face it, without at least one gold star, or one grain of wheat ripe for the plucking, we contemplate giving up.

The fact of the matter is, our reward for doing good isn’t a matter “if”, but “when.” “For at the proper time we will reap a harvest,” we read. And just what is proper?

- Personal. Your time isn’t your friends’ time. It’s impossible to compare how God works in one life, verses how he works in another.

- Relational. The proper time for your harvest is interconnected with God’s plan for others. Interconnected rewards result from interrelated lives in the body of Christ.

- Out of Sight. The harvest we reap isn’t always visible, but it is often “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

- Permanent. While we may reap the benefit of small harvests here on earth, our ultimate reward is eternal life—a gift that can never be snatch away.

- Exact. Our God who designed the intricate and complex universe knows the precise time for you to reap your harvest.

- Resolved. The "when" is determined and is waiting in God’s hands. Now, it’s your job to set your jaw in determination and continue on!

When is the last time you became weary from doing good? Remember, God's rewards may not be evident in your life today, but they are far better than any gold star!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Crossing the Finish Line...


Two days ago I participated in my first race. It was five miles long, and I zipped right along until the final mile. Then I tried to take a hill too fast for my sagging energy level; I wheezed like a sick accordion. My lungs screamed, “Quit this insanity!” My running partner called out, “Slow down, or you won’t be able to finish.” I followed his advice—and I finished in good time.

When you begin a project, don't quit halfway through. Stir up your original enthusiasm, and complete the project.

Do you have unfinished papers for school, chores at home, or craft projects you started? Did you make a promise—like visiting a nursing home weekly—but you haven't gone in a month? Good beginnings are great, but if you don't complete it, you won't gain any benefit. Neither will anyone else. Excuses like "I meant to do that last weekend, but I got invited to the mall" don't count.

We begin projects with enthusiasm and a rush of emotions. Someone wants our help, and we promise without thinking. Then, when the mood passes, we regret starting the projects. As our enthusiasm dies, the unfinished projects collect dust.

"I suggest that you finish what you started a year ago, for you were the first to propose this idea, and you were the first to begin doing something about it. Now you should carry this project through to completion just as enthusiastically as you began it." (2 Corinthians 8:10-11 NLT)

How can you prevent having unfinished projects?
"Don't begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first getting estimates and then checking to see if there is enough money to pay the bills? Otherwise, you might complete only the founda­tion before running out of funds." (Luke 14:28-30 NLT)

Do you have enough time, money, and energy to com­plete the project? If not, wait for a better time. Think carefully before saying you'll do something. Then be a person whose word is true, someone who can be counted on. Finish what you start.

(excerpt from No Boys Allowed Devotions for Girls, Zondervan, 2004)
Girlz Rock Devotions for Girls, Zondervan, 2005
Coming in 2006: God Talk and Chick Chat, Devotions for Girls, Zondervan

Thursday, November 03, 2005

From Melody: Perfection Deception

Maybe it’s because I’m writing a novel about a woman with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or maybe it’s just life in general, but I seem to be encountering more than my fair share of perfectionists lately. It’s easy to recognize the characteristics—especially since I used to be a perfectionist myself. Or perhaps that’s overstating it. I think it’s more accurate to say I’m a recovering perfectionist.

What I’ve learned lately, through my main character as well as others I’ve been observing, is that 1) trying to appear perfect is usually just a big fat cover up, 2) “perfection” is totally subjective, and 3) the goal of attaining perfection is hugely misleading and deceptive.

People who attempt to live a “perfect life” almost always have deep, dark wounds beneath that glossy exterior. Because a veneer of “perfection” is a good way to cover things up as well as keep others at arm’s length. I mean who wants to cozy up to a perfectionist? She might point out your flaws!

Another irony is that when people think they are “perfecting” their lives, they’re usually just making things worse—making it harder for God to get to the heart of the matter. That’s because our perspective on “perfection” is totally skewed. For instance we often assume that things like being attractive, getting good grades, having material wealth, a life that runs smoothly, etc. is a sign of perfection. It’s not.

God’s perspective is so much bigger than ours. And His plan will probably include some pretty big bumps along the way. He wants to use what we might consider some bad “imperfections” to make us look more like Him. The old “no pain no gain” kind of thing. And it doesn’t always feel good or look perfect. But the results are good.

So if you find yourself falling into the perfection deception trap, you need to remember that God is the only one who really gets perfect. And if you find yourself craving that “perfect” life—remember that’s what heaven is for.

In the meantime, don’t hesitate to ask God to perfect you. Just know that His ways are a lot different than yours. And His goal is true perfection—the kind only He can bring about.

~Melody

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Are you a votary?

Here's the word for the day:

votary \VOH-tuh-ree\, noun:1. One who is devoted, given, or addicted to some particular pursuit, subject, study, or way of life.

Are you a votary? Are you dedicated to your faith? Your writing? Something else?

Or do you find yourself still searching for that "something" that will capture your heart?

Just remember Matthew 6:33... "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Chris

Christopher Maselli
TruthPop.com

Monday, October 31, 2005

to eat or not to eat


Yesterday I read Romans 14, a very interesting chapter about matters of conscience. It talks about accepting weaker believers and not causing them to stumble. It says we shouldn't judge each other, but should each conduct ourselves according to what we believe to be right. But it also says, if what we believe to be right looks like sin to our weaker brother, we should choose love over our own freedom. In everything we should pursue peace and build each other up.

Not so easy to do, is it? Sometimes living the Christian life feels like walking a tightrope. And one thing's for sure: pleasing everyone all the time is impossible. When people around us disagree on what's right, what are we supposed to do?

Verses 7 & 8 explain that we don't live for ourselves, we live for the Lord. And that fact should dictate our choices. Oh, and guess what comes right before that? Here are verses 5 & 6:

"One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God."

Today is Halloween. Some Christians will dress up in costumes today and go trick-or-treating. Some will attend "Harvest Festivals" or theme parties. Some will hold prayer meetings to pray against the occult. Some will stay home and treat the day like any other day.

What do you suppose God will do today? Probably what He does every day. He'll love and discipline His children not based on their outward appearance, but on their hearts.

Halloween is a holiday that can cause lots of tension between Christians. I think it's good to discuss our views and why we hold them, but we should keep in mind that we're each accountable to God. I'm not your judge, and you're not mine. The important thing is, whatever we do today, we should do it as unto the Lord and with a heart full of thanks to Him.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Christ the Vampire Slayer

The author of Interview With A Vampire and other spine-tingling gothic novels has come out with a book called Christ The Lord, written from the perspective of a seven-year-old Jesus. In "The Gospel According to Anne," David Gates of Newsweek chronicles Anne Rice's change from a "life of despair" to the discovery of "the ultimate supernatural hero ... the ultimate immortal of them all."

I get a kick out of how shocked people are by a smart person's decision that Jesus really did rise from the dead. But I also love how an unlikely conversion widens our horizons when we're looking around for who might be next. If someone like Anne Rice can be changed by faith, why not that teacher who thinks you're nuts for believing in God? Or a parent who's worried about that youth group you've started attending? Or even that buddy who doesn't want to talk about spiritual things? I'm sure of one thing — Ms. Rice definitely had some people praying for her behind the scenes. Forget Newsweek and Time; we'll get the real scoop when we're sitting around exchanging stories in heaven.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Where Is Your Steps of Faith Taking You?

I usually post my blogs in the morning, so I can make sure I don't miss my day. Not today though. Today, I spent most of the day working on my newest novel "Arms of Deliverance" that is due to my publisher on November 1.

And as I thought about what to blog, I realized the best thing I could share is the note I wrote to a few friends, just yesterday.

Hi, friends, this is a verse I read this morning that I wanted to share with you:

"And as they went, their leprosy disappeared." Luke 17:14

One thing popped into my mind today as I read this. With three days left and 10,000 words to go in my World War II novel:

"And as she typed, the story appeared."

I don't know how to explain it, but over this past month, I've literally seen the story "appearing" and unfolding before my eyes. For example, just last night I was trying to figure out the name of the baby born to my Jewess. Before she turns him over to others to care for him and raise him, she would name him after . . . (yes, that's it) her father who she loved so much.

What was her father's name again??? Then I remembered: Samuel. I was floored as I thought about Samuel in the Bible and his mother's sacrifice. I hadn't made the connection the whole time I was writing this novel. And when it hit me, I literally stared up at the ceiling, lifted my hands in praise and said, "Whoa, God, you are goooood!"

So, as I type, this book will continue to unfold. That's good, because I don't know the climax yet! Okay, I have an idea, but the specifics on what's exactly going to happen is beyond me!


I wrote that note yesterday morning, and since that time, I've written 9,435 words and typed THE END just five minutes ago. The climax came to me (God dropped it in my head) less than an hour after I wrote that note to my friends. And I have to admit, it's good. Really good.

God did it again! Just as the lepers didn't see their healing until they walked . . . I couldn't see my completed story. Yet, I set out in faith just as they had.

Is there something in your life you need faith to accomplish? Sometimes God hits us and BAM the answer is there, but sometimes we need to put feet to our faith (or in my case as I type, fingers to my faith) and set out.

So, how about you? Where are you headed?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Art Thou Frazzled?

It always starts in the pit of my stomach. Holy Spirit acid telling me I’ve done it again.

For some reason, during the past two years I’ve said “yes” to everyone and everything. At one time I was great at setting boundaries, leaving me plenty of time to work, to exercise, to spend time with family, and to be effective in ministry. But somewhere along the line I slipped into my old habit of prioritizing according to guilt. I accepted many projects that I didn’t want to do that ended up wreaking havoc in my life. If someone could make me feel guilty, I took on the project. (“I thought you’d be someone who made time for the unknown penniless writer,” whines wannabe novelist in her e-mail. I sigh and kill another six hours doing a free critique.) Sometimes the guilt-tripping was thinly disguised by flattery. (“You’re so good at this, and you’ve got the experience,” says sneaky flatterer. “No one else can do the job like you can!”)

I’ve struggled for years with knowing when to say no to people. There is so much need. So many opportunities to help. Aren’t we supposed to be flexible and open to the leading of the Holy Spirit? The more I thought about it, the more I confused myself (and took on more unwanted, unpaid work.) Then I saw Charles Stanley’s daily devotion. I cut part of it out and taped it to my computer. It’s called “Recognizing the Voice of God,” and the opening paragraph grabbed me by the throat.

“The Lord wants His will to be the single factor in our decision-making—not what we want or what others think; not the size of the need, our availability, the worthiness of the request, or our previous experience. ‘What God desires’ is to be the litmus test that decides what we do and say.”

Aha! I rarely asked God what He thought about a request. I just said “yes” under pressure. Now I’m learning to give myself time to think and pray before giving an answer. I respond with “Let me look at my calendar and get back to you” or “I need to pray about this first, and I’ll call you by the end of the week.” Or even sometimes “I can’t work it into my schedule right now, but if something changes, I’ll let you know.”

I’ve been a push-over in this area since high school; the requests were just different back then. Kids wanted me to type their term papers (often after writing them.) Teachers wanted me to produce the club newsletter, stay after the concert to clean up, and come early to paint signs. I was so afraid of rejection or people’s anger that I rarely said no.

If you don’t let the Holy Spirit guide your life, others will gladly do it for you. It’s never too early to learn to listen to God’s direction. God has a special purpose for your life. If you burn out doing everything other people want you to do, you’ll never have the energy to fulfill God’s call on your life. Memorize some simple responses to requests, then give yourself time to think and pray before taking on one more task. Free yourself so you can run the race God has set before you.

Girlz Rock, devotions for girls (Zondervan 2005)
No Boys Allowed, devotions for girls (Zondervan 2004)
Coming in 2006: Chick Chat and God Talk, devotions for girls, Zondervan

Thursday, October 27, 2005

One Year Later


A year ago, while sitting in the same chair I am at this moment, I got a phone call from my mother. I had been crying all morning anyway because we had just received the news that our little puppy died during a routine surgery. Then my mom tells me that my father has cancer, pancreatic cancer to be exact, and that his prospects were not good.

I can't believe it's been a year. We had no idea then that he would live only three and a half more weeks, that the cancer had already spread so viciously that there was nothing the doctors could really do. We figured that day maybe we'd have six months, maybe a year. But no, it was a fast downward spiral for us all and we found ourselves at a funeral before we even made it to Thanksgiving.

It still hurts, and I am so thankful that we serve a God who understands that. Even when we walk through tragedy, He never leaves us, He holds us in His arms and weeps with us. Because despite the ache inside, I also have peace - that unexplainable peace that can only come from God. I still don't feel like facing the holidays this year, all the memories of what happened during this time last year. But because God understands, I am free to weep in His arms and let Him take my hurts and sorrows.

If you're in a hard place today, let God comfort you. Let Him wrap His arms around you and give you the peace that passes understanding. Let Him be your Daddy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Little Bit of Heaven in a Tow Truck

Tonight on the way home from writers' workshop, our car died. Really! Wouldn't even turn over. Battery kapoot! The only warning was an odd clanking sound and the little light that says "Check Gauges." It should have flashed "Too Late," because ten seconds later we were coasting to the berm.
Now this happened at approximately 9:14 PM. We had everything taken care of by 10:07. The car towed to the appropriate car repair shop, the problem semi-diagnosed, and a ride home arranged and there waiting.

I believe in miracles.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Right Perception

Here's a neat tidbit from the story of Samuel and Eli. If you remember, God spoke to Samuel several times, but he kept thinking it was Eli calling him. Finally in 1 Samuel 3:8:

"Then Eli perceived that the LORD had called the boy."

After that, Eli told Samuel to answer the Lord's voice...and when he did, God used him for great things.

What I hadn't seen before was that for Samuel, it took someone to perceive that God had called him.

Just another good reason to keep our hearts open--God calls young people! And sometimes they just need someone to perceive that calling...so God can use them for great things.

Chris

Christopher Maselli
TruthPop.com

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Call. The Need. The Answers.

Every day I receive emails from teens:

How do I forgive?
I want God, but I don't want God. Does that make sense?
The Bible says that we can know God. What does that mean really?
I read your testimony and now I'm crying and I don't know why. Is this God?

What I've decided is that people are hungry for answers, even if they struggle to ask the question. Even if on the outside they don't look like they want faith or God.

This conclusion changed my ministry some years back. Every time I speak to a group of teens, I do so knowing that on the inside there is a person of faith waiting to connect with God. When I talk one on one with a teen (or adult) whose lifestyle says I don't need God, I ask the Holy Spirit to help me love that person in a way that they'll consider the reality of God's love.

In our faith we sometimes get so wrapped up in church stuff that we forget the call on our lives to share good news. That good news is for people who may never show up at your church, so you need to show up in their lives.

This morning as I taught DEEP (I'm a discipleship pastor for a college ministry) I asked them to consider three things:

1. The call
2. The need
3. The answers

We are all called to share the gospel (aka good tidings). Whether it is spoken or unspoken, there are thousands who are seeking God. A recent poll among those who don't attend church or profess to be Christians expressed that 83% would go to church or have a conversation about faith if someone would only ask.

And last. We don't have all the answers and never will, but we do have the answer -- God loves you and wants to know you. We have our stories of faith, our testimony. We have answers that just might be the answer to prayer for someone asking questions about God and faith and life.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

divine appointments




It was a gorgeous autumn afternoon my senior year in college. I sat in the grass and leaned against one of the campus buildings, soaking up the beauty of the day and worshiping God. He'd blessed me in so many ways--taught me, taken care of me, given me delight in His Word. All I wanted to do was make Him happy.

About fifty feet away I spotted a girl walking along the sidewalk. As I watched her progress, a strong impression broke into my thoughts.

"You should go talk to her."

"I can't go talk to her," I argued in my mind. "I don't even know her. What would I say? She'll think I'm weird."

"You should go talk to her."

"I'll pray for her. That will do just as well, won't it?" I figured if I debated the matter in my mind long enough, she'd turn the corner and move out of sight. Then it would be too late. I sensed I was resisting the Holy Spirit, but I really didn't want to make a fool of myself. He understood my feelings. Surely He'd forgive me.

She approached the corner, turned, and . . . sat on a bench in plain sight. Alone.

I sighed. "Okay, fine, Lord. But I still don't know what to say." I prayed for wisdom as I headed toward her. Unfortunately no great revelation presented itself. So I just walked up to her and said, "Hi. Um, I just saw you walk by, and . . ." I laughed nervously, "Well, this may sound dumb, but I just wanted to tell you God loves you."

She stared at me in silence for a few moments, and I felt certain she was looking for antennae or some other evidence to prove I was from Mars. But then she shook her head and smiled. "I don't believe this! I've been thinking about God a lot lately, but I had so many questions and didn't know who to ask. I prayed He would send someone to talk to me."

Now it was my turn to stare in silence. I'd come so close to blowing it. I'd almost excused myself from God's assignment. I'd almost missed being the answer to someone's prayer.

It's hard to be bold and speak up about our faith. We worry about people's reactions, and sometimes they do mock or ridicule us. But I learned an important lesson that day. Reactions aren't my concern. Obedience is. I don't even have to say something impressive. The Truth speaks for itself. And I get to experience the amazing joy of being part of God's plan.

Had any divine appointments lately? I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Mutual Admiration Society

Great Blog. I was surfing and I found it. Keep up the good work! And you might want to visit my site: makeMEmoremoney.com.
I'm tired of this underhanded ploy marketing folks use to show up in the "comment" areas of my blogs. But that's the power of compliments, and they know it — words of praise open the door of the soul. And we're hungry for them. Admiring words are a key part of a good relationship. But here's some wisdom from Minna Atrim to ponder: "Between flattery and admiration there often flows a river of contempt." What does she mean? How can you tell when someone's flattering you or is expressing genuine admiration?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

What's Your Favorite Way of Worship?

How do you like to connect with God? Do you enjoy sitting in a quiet room with your Bible and a notebook to jot down your thoughts?

Maybe you like to play your music real loud and sing along?

I have a friend, Will, who loves to hike in the mountains. He senses God's presence with him as he moves amongst creation.

Or there are those who fell closest to God in a beautiful cathedral, for it is there they sense God's closeness and majesty.

There's a book I'm reading that I JUST LOVE called "Sacred Pathways" by Gary Thomas. It was recommended by Rick Warren in "The Purpose Driven Life." Gary Thomas wrote Sacred Pathways because he feels that one reason many Christians become discouraged with their devotional lives is because they've adopted a narrow, cut-and-dried approach--one they're not wired for as individuals.

And from this book, here is my favorite quote:

"Unless you happen to be born into just the right tradition [of worshiping God], you're brought up to feed on somebody else's diet. Unfortunately, some Christians have a tendency to question the legitimacy of any experience that may not particularly interest them. Instead of says, 'That's not for me,' they proclaim, 'That should be for anybody'."

So how about it? What is YOUR favorite way to connect with God? It may be different than that of your parents, or even your friends. The hymns may not work for you. Then again, loud praise music might be the thing that turns you off. Either way, I encourage you to find the way that you best connect with your Lord and Creator. Don't give up just because your way is different from someone else's. God made us as individuals and finds a way to meet with each of us individually.

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
Designed by Munchkin Land Designs. Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.