Monday, October 31, 2005
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
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
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
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
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.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
I’m moving tomorrow—and right now I’m surrounded by packing boxes (mostly full of books.) Walls are bare. I’ve sorted and tossed and wrapped and taped. Yes, I’m excited about the move—especially my big new office—but…
Now I’ll need to find a new church, new grocery store, and new post office. My sense of direction is faulty to an alarming degree, so I’m nervous about finding my way around. I’m a bit anxious too about meeting new neighbors. Even good changes can be frightening. How do we deal with that?
“I command you—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NLT)
Hmmm… God requires that we be strong and brave. It’s not just a suggestion! God expects us to show great strength and power and to face fearful things without running away. We are not to give into defeat or lose hope. For God is with us no matter where we go.
Fears come in all shapes and sizes. You may be afraid of the water, but you’re required to take swimming lessons at school. Perhaps you’ve moved, and you’re afraid to attend the new school. You may fear that you’ll never have a close friend who really, really cares about you. Maybe you live in an area where tornadoes or hurricanes are frequent, and you have whole seasons of worry.
Yet God expects you to be brave. How?
God never commands us to do something that he won’t give us the power to do. You can count on that. If he tells you to have courage, to be brave, then he will give you the strength and power to do it. Just ask him. Admit that you’re nervous (or scared stiff!) Ask him to be your courage—and then step out in faith and expect his power to see you through. It will!
Girlz Rock (Devotions for Girls) Zondervan
No Boys Allowed (Devotions for Girls) Zondervan
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
I'm reading a book titled "On Writing Well". My fav chapter thus far is called CLUTTER.
The author says that fighting verbal clutter is like fighting weeds--the writer is always slightly behind. We clutter our sentences with excess, and even silly, words.
He went on to say that clutter is the language that throws dust in the eyes of others to mask the truth. It hides mistakes. It covers ugly words with euphemisms to make it more politically correct. Like saying "economically depressed socioeconomic area" instead of "slum" or "ghetto".
I know. I know. I can see the politically correct standing at attention.
But this is the deal (a clutter sentence, by the way). I see this in our faith.
My son-in-law, a worship leader, described it well last Tuesday at our college service. He said, "I don't know why such a simple gospel is made to be so complex."
We clutter our faith with tradition and rituals that fail to initiate intimacy or change. We mask the truth because it might not be palatable. We even clutter the way that we present salvation. I don't understand the "close your eyes, raise your hand, stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight" rendition when asking people to receive Christ.
Jesus simply walked up to people and asked them to follow him. He saw hungry people and invited them to be a part of the kingdom. They began that journey and their life was impacted on a daily basis.
I want to present the gospel clearly. I want to paint a picture of mankind and the hole that sin left. I want to explain the cross, mercy, grace, and destiny. I want to invite people to begin the journey right where they are.
I don't want to portray faith as magical, as if you say a prayer and suddenly life's answers are all solved. Sometimes it's difficult to listen and obey when God speaks. Sometimes you might stumble, but God is faithful to forgive and teach through our mistakes.
I can't change the world, so I must begin with me. What clutter do I have in my faith? Have I made the simple message complex? Do I make my relationship with God more complex as I tangle it with cultural and traditional requirements?
I just want to follow him. One day at a time. Cutting out all the clutter so I can hear his voice and respond.
Monday, October 17, 2005
No matter what your age we all face difficulties in life and it seems like the enemy's first tactic is often to make us feel alone in the midst of that difficulty.
I called a friend tonight and shared about a problem I was having and after I got off the phone I felt so relieved.
She had prayed for me, yes, but even more than that, I felt like I wasn't alone in it anymore. Someone else would be praying for me and was willing to be an advocate for me. What a relief that was!
In my first novel, The Masquerade, Beka had the same problem. She felt like she couldn't talk about what was really bothering her. That made her feel more and more isolated until finally she was ready to give up on everything. That's no way to live.
God is always with us - He will never leave us, never forsake us. But God also knows that there are times when we need to speak up and ask for help. To talk with someone and share your burden. We were never meant to be spiritual lone rangers, out there fighting all by ourselves. My writing tends to isolate me anyway and if I don't make a conscious effort to reach out, well, I can almost forget that there are others out there who really care.
We need to pray about the things in our heart, but for some of you, maybe it's time to reach out and talk to someone. Remember, you are not alone.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
First Timothy 1:12
I can’t remember how many years ago I discovered this verse. It struck me at the time that I entered the verse backward. Over the years, I have matured enough in my Christian walk that sometimes I manage to enter it from the beginning.
Let me explain.
In my youth, I was a "yes" person. Drive kids to the park? Yes, I’ll do it. Make cookies for the Bible Study? Yes, I’ll do it. Head the committee for the VBS? Yes, I’ll do it.
These things are called "service." If you take note in the verse above, it is the last word. I often said yes and found myself in service before I even knew what the service entailed.
The words before this are "putting me." Once I was in service, I had to determine who put me there. Sometimes it was God; sometimes it was me. When it was me, I had to hit the knee position quickly for help. When it was God, I still hit the knee position but not quite as frantically.
When God maneuvered me into a service position, I gratefully backed up another step in the verse and said, "Wow!"
"He considered me faithful!"
"Wow!" and "Wow!" again. I have to admit, occasionally, I got to that point and said, "Are you sure you were thinking about me, God? I mean the faithful part? You and I both know I can be a pretty pathetic wimp."
Ah! But we can move back one more step.
"Who has strengthened me."
Well, praise God for that. Many times when I was in over my head, He came along with just the right bit of information, just the right helpers, just the right creative doomaflicky to save the day.
I did manage to make it through umpteen projects, growing as God stretched me, achieving some goal that was way beyond my expectations. And the success was indubitably due to God’s enabling.
And now we come to the end, which is the beginning.
"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord."
And why is the thankfulness last? It should be first, shouldn’t it? I told you this was my backward verse.
I’ve matured some. I don’t always say yes now, because I am more sure of what my spiritual gifts are. I think and pray and thank God first before committing to a project of service. It is more comfortable to go into that verse from the beginning instead of from the back side.
From which end do you come into the projects God lays before you?
Thursday, October 13, 2005
That's what one of my writer pals, Mike Snyder, calls his blog. He got the name from Matthew 5, verses 13 and 14. "You are the salt of the earth" and "You are the light of the world."
Mike could have called his blog "salt and light," but I like the way he zeroed in on the two characteristics. Salt is gritty, and light is bright. I've heard a lot of sermons about various ways Christians are like salt, but I don't remember any of them mentioning its grittiness. And yet, the world needs gritty Christians--people who are willing to walk dirty streets and meet the needy where they live.
How gritty is your salt? I think mine could use a little shakin' up!
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
So cheer up, writers. We don't always crave adulation for pride's sake, although admittedly pride twists its' way into everything we do. In this lonely vocation, we're ravenous for relationship, a chance to connect the dots between us, our work, and the reader — any reader, even one who hated every word we penned (or keyboarded). And readers, here's my plea: send a note of response to the writer of the last book or article you read. It might forestall another round of wasteful self-Googling and inspire her (or him) to obey the Spirit's prompting: GET BACK TO WORK, MY LOVE.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
"A major portion of our eye troubles could probably be diagnosed 'Ingrownius Eyeballitus.' Ingrown eyeballs. It strikes us all. In both dramatic and subtle ways, the stubborn enemy of our souls urges us to look ever inward instead of outward and upward. He whispers little nothings in our ears. He reminds us of how unappreciated and ill-treated we are . . . how important yet overlooked . . . how gifted yet ignored . . . how capable yet unrecognized . . . how bright yet eclipsed. Why not try God's remedy . . . a long, well-needed look at your Savior in His Word." ~Charles Swindoll
The symptoms have appeared in my life over these past few weeks as I've struggled to finish my latest novel: Why do I have to do every little thing? I mean, am I the only one who can make a trip to the grocery story? Or check the mail? Doesn't anyone appreciate the fact that I'm trying to WRITE A BOOK. They just assume putting 100,000 words down on paper and making it historically accurate, entertaining, and page-turning is an easy thing!
That doesn't sound too pretty, does it? So I'm attempting to focus on what Swindoll claims is the cure: a long, well-needed look at my Savior. It's then I remind myself that HE is my source and my strength. He knows the story and will tune me into it as I turn to Him.
AS IF I could write it without Him, anyway?! Besides, Jesus actually loves it when we depend on Him for every little thing.
by Tricia Goyer
Monday, October 10, 2005
I’ve been dealing with trust issues lately—leftover baggage from being hurt in the past. Trust can be hard. Sometimes really hard. Do you have trouble trusting other people? Have people mistreated you, or let you down, or broken their promises to you? Maybe they overlooked you when you needed attention. How did that make you feel?
Being mistreated and ignored can make us overly sensitive later in life. If you feel destroyed emotionally when your friend doesn’t compliment you on your new dress, her opinion is too important. If you’re depressed for weeks when someone doesn’t invite you to a party, your hope is in the wrong place. You’re using other people’s reactions to you to define who you are. (This is such an easy thing to slip into, no matter what your age!) If you look to others to let you know if you’re “okay” or “acceptable,” you will constantly need to be working for their love and approval.
If you trust in other people for your self-worth, it’s time to shift that trust to God. If we trust in Him, we won’t be let down. Even the most loving parents or devoted friends will fail us sometimes. They’re human, not perfect. But believers can trust God for their self-esteem. We can count on Him to see us through any pain or difficulty we’re in. No matter how much you love other people, keep your total trust in God alone.
“The LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you.” (1 Chronicles 28:20 NASB) Trust in the Lord. Lean on Him for your hope and self-confidence and acceptance. He will never, ever let you down.
No Boys Allowed (Devotions for Girls) Zondervan
Girlz Rock (Devotions for Girls) Zondervan
Sunday, October 09, 2005
The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand has become one of my favorites—not because of the great miracle of Jesus multiplying the food, or even the fact that there was food left over. What I love in this story is what Andrew did.
The hidden gem here, I believe, is the fact that Andrew realized it wasn’t just an adult that could make a difference. He saw a small gift in a child and then made an attempt to put that child in a place of having an encounter with Jesus, even though he wasn’t sure what would happen. But it paid off. That boy’s little gift made a big difference that affected thousands.I love that story because it challenges me. What am I doing to prioritize young people? Am I willing to see their gifts? Will my writing put them in a place of having an encounter with Jesus? I certainly pray so…because only then will the world be blessed.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
20 "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;
21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
"You’ve got all these blessings in the wrong box!"
My friend and I were packing up my belongings in preparation for a move. Supposedly we were sorting things that would go to Goodwill, things that would go to my new home, and things that would go to the dump.
I have to admit I’m not very good at sorting. I had been doing too good a job of packing the keep-all-these-things boxes.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"When we go to the thrift store and you find something great, what do you say?"
"What a blessing!"
"Other people feel that way too. You’ve packed all their blessings in the ‘take to new house’ box."
In a sudden shift of focus, God made it easier for me to pack blessings for some unknown shopper. After all, I really don’t need four wooden spoons and two toasters.
It is more blessed to share the wealth than to be a pack rat.
Monday I turned my attention to the next project. I't is a series of discipleship books for teens who want to take their faith to the next level. The first is titled, "Just You and God". It's how to find your own unique relationship with God and how to take it to the next level.
It's due in three weeks.
I also have an article due for a magazine. And in the midst of all of this, I'm flying out in a couple of weeks, first to minister with Teen Mania's Battle Cry for Parents, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and then with After Eve in Virginia. I need to prepare my workshops.
Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? That's what I keep hearing in my heart -- keep writing, Suz. Stay on the treadmill and run, run, run, because doors are opening and you want to keep up.
But I quiet that voice in my head each morning. Before I run, run, run anywhere, I want to sit with God.
The things God has called me to do are so much more than projects. The book I deposited on Friday is way more than a project. It's a story of God's healing. It's the story of destiny because my mom's brokenness was fracturing me and somehow I found a God that understood and was bigger than our chaos. Not only did God reach past my angry, hardened heart, but he gave something so much more valuable to share with my own children.
The second project is a very personal part of what God has called me to do. I've worked with teens and now college students for a long time. I keep running into hungry teens and college students that want more than religion, more than church activities. They want God. They want to take their faith to the next level, to a depth where they hear God's voice in spite of the clutter, where they can impact their friends and family and world. They want to know God, not just about him, but to have that face-to-face relationship.
I pray that the Holy Spirit will work inside of me as I write this book. I don't want it to be a fluff book, or just something that has my byline on it. I want to share his heartbeat with words on paper.
Same with the article. Same with the workshops.
One thing that I've learned is that it's easy to get focused on the stuff that we do for God and lose sight of why we do it.
That's why I've stopped run, run, running long enough to hang out with God every day. It's kind of like checking in with the boss before I report to work, but it's more than that. It's also communing with my best friend, hanging out with my Savior, finding that place where I can be real about who I am. Coz way before I'm T. Suzanne Eller, author and speaker, I'm Suz, child of God.
The Bible calls it a secret place (Matthew 6:6), and I get that. It's a place where God knows what you need before you ask. It's a place where you can crowd out the hype and noise.
So, I have a lot to do today. In fact, I have so much to do that it seems impossible, but it will all come together. You see, I'm not in this alone.
Gotta go. I have a morning appointment I just can't miss. : ) Someone I love a lot is waiting to hang out with me.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
But this time we came as visitors. Several weeks ago a friend told me about a young man, Eric, who'd suffered spinal cord injury in a motorcycle accident. Eric's original prognosis was total paralysis, but he'd recently begun to show evidence of sensation and mobility in his fingers and toes. My friend suggested I might be able to encourage Eric and his family in their BIR journey, having walked a similar path. After several e-mail and phone exchanges, we arranged for the Wednesday afternoon visit.
Grace and I approached Eric's room just as a transport tech was in the process of transfering a slender, 6'7" young man from a wheelchair to the bed. I was amazed to see him raising his arms in what was obviously voluntary movement. He turned his head toward us and smiled.
"Are you Eric?" I asked.
"Yes. I just returned from swimming."
As we waited for the tech to position him in bed, a blonde woman walked up beside us and smiled warmly. I extended my hand. "I'm Jeanne. Are you Eric's mom?"
"Yes, I'm Sam. Jim told me you'd be coming by."
Grace, Sam, and I entered the room together. The tech raised the head of Eric's bed so he could sit. His lower body was covered by the blanket, but he still wore only swim trunks. Skin grafts, surgical scars, and pink skin from road burn covered large areas on the left side of his shirtless upper body. Thanks to an excellent helmet, his face and brain escaped injury when he crashed on an exit ramp going more than 100 mph. His motorcyle bounced off a concrete wall into a curb and slid across the asphalt. The handlebars punctured his side but struck no vital organs. He'd been through several surgeries for broken bones.
Eric has been on this road to recovery for three and a half months now. He's a 21-year-old former athlete, and he's just beginning the long, exhausting therapy process that may or may not enable him to walk again. Wanting to show us how he could slightly grip, he stared intently at his fingers, willing the signal to move through his damaged spinal cord, down his arm, and to his hand. The fingers fluttered forward, and Eric grinned.
So much trauma and pain. So far to go in the healing process with no guarantees. But Eric's smile radiated calm trust and even joy. The soul that spoke in his shining eyes said, "All is well."
The previous week he'd found the brain connection to raise and bend his arms. He can push his hair back. He can place his hand over his mouth. This brings him great delight.
Sam told us about taking Eric home for a visit. He was sitting in a leather recliner and requested her help to get up, but somehow as they attempted a transfer, the cushion slipped out of the chair and Eric slipped with it to the floor. She ended up beside him. Then they did about the only thing they could do. They laughed. And for the next little while, they just stayed there on the floor, talking and laughing.
He laughed as he told Grace and me about his mom's attempts to fix his hair the way he likes it. He laughed when a therapist I remembered from nine years ago entered the room and I reminded him he'd worn a pony tail back then. I never sensed the slightest hint of bitterness in Eric. No blaming. No whining. No asking, "Why me?" There was only peace, peace, peace.
Eric has gotten to know most of the other patients on the spinal cord injury floor. He expressed his concern for some of them and said he's tried to help them face their anger and questions. We talked for at least an hour. And always there was that smile. Always that light in his eye.
Finally I said, "Eric, I came here hoping I could encourage you. But I honestly think you've encouraged me more."
When we said goodbye to Eric and his lovely mother, it felt like leaving old friends. Dear friends. I will follow his story with much interest, because I know it will be beautiful.
I remember a line from an Amy Carmichael poem. "In acceptance lieth peace." There are things in life we would love to change, but we are powerless to do so. There comes a time when we have to decide we either believe there's a God ruling the universe or we don't.
I believe. Eric believes. It shines in his eyes and lights his smile, falling like a gentle benediction on anyone who enters his presence.
We comfort others with the comfort we've received. I visited Eric at BIR. And I was comforted.
Monday, October 03, 2005
I rode a city bus to make my visits, and dressed in sarees like the rest of the women. But in the standing-room-only ladies' section of the bus, I towered over the shoulder-high heads surrounding me and felt suffocated by guilt. Why had I been so fortunate? I'd been given opportunities galore in America. My strong, tall body was the result of years of access to good nutrition. Meanwhile, undernourished Indian girls had to work long days scavenging on the streets or sewing in garment factories. Maybe the only godly response was to sell my stuff, renounce my citizenship, and spend my time and money serving the poor.
Yeah, right. What I really wanted to do was escape the guilt, rush back to my comfortable life in America, and forget these poor women altogether. That voice in my head continued to accuse me: And YOU call yourself a 'Christian'?
That's when God reminded me of what He expects of me. The bus careened to avoid a bicycle rickshaw and bounced over a stretch of potholes. I grabbed a sturdy metal bar suspended from the ceiling. The women around me teetered and stumbled, clutching each other and calling out for help.
Oh no! I thought. They're going to fall like ninepins! Should I let go of the bar and try to catch some of them?
Before I could make a move, about a dozen of them reached up and grabbed my arm to steady themselves. For the rest of the journey, everybody in the ladies' section hung on for dear life — me to the bar and them to me. Somehow, we all managed to stay on our feet.
I get it, God, I thought, exchanging grins with the other passengers. I'm not the Messiah, You are. All I need to do is stay put and hold on tight to You. I can manage that.
I didn't eliminate poverty in Kolkata that year (surprise, surprise), but God showed me ways to bless a few women while I was there. And I learned a big lesson when it comes to responding to global suffering. Godly sorrow spurs me to life-saving action. False guilt makes me cower and flee. How about you? When you encounter disasters, wars, homelessness, hunger, disease ... can you stay put and hold on to Jesus?
Photograph courtesy David Primmer
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Last year, my family had the opportunity to get backstage passes to a Newsboys concert. Truthfully, at the time, I thought their music was just okay. They really didn't stand out amongst the other Christian rock groups hitting the charts.
But all that changed once I saw them backstage. They were warm and genuine, like normal people, and their love for God was hard to miss.
As we waited, we had a chance to meet all of the guys right away--except Peter. He struck up a conversations with one of the teens at a table next to ours and talked and prayed with the kid for what seemed like 30-minutes. It was too awesome for words.
On their Adoration CD (my all time favorite), these are some of the words to the song, Blessed Father:
"Father, blessed Father, lead and guide us for thy namesake. And keep us in the shelter of your presence till we see your face."
That day, the Newsboys proved to me again the importance of sharing God's love not only "on stage," but also behind the scenes. It's a lesson I'm trying to incorporate into my own life, and the words of that song have become my prayer, "Father, guide me for thy namesake."
I pray this because on stage or off, in front of a crowd or alone, since we are God's kids His name is incorporated with who we are and what we do.
And you can be sure the eyes of others are always watching, taking it all in.
Saturday, October 01, 2005
So, how do you feel about flirting? Is it all harmless fun? And as a Christian, are you held to a higher standard of conduct when it comes to the opposite sex? Take this quiz and see where it leads you.
Part one: Do all his moves mean "I like you"?
You’re partnered with this guy in your lab class, and he asks you to meet him at the library after school to cram for your presentation next week.
He’s at your last two volleyball games, cheering the loudest when you score.
He said hi to you as you walked past him in the hall.
Your older brother’s best friend talked to you on the phone about a hot new CD that you have going in the background for ten minutes before he even asked to talk to your brother.
When the school photographer asked a group of your friends to pose for a yearbook picture, he stood behind you, wrapped his arms around your neck, and hugged you tightly, grinning over your shoulder.
Part Two: Do all your moves mean "I like you"?
You’re partnered with this guy in your lab class. You know he has a good grasp on his periodical table, and you’re just lost every time you look at it. You ask him to meet you at the library after school to cram for your presentation next week.
Everyone has school spirit at the basketball and football games, but for some reason the school loses their spirit come spring and baseball season. You happen to love baseball and get to every game you can. The centerfielder, while not pro material, has really shown heart and a lot of improvement since the beginning of the season. As a baseball fan, you appreciate his hard work and cheer as loud as you can for him every chance you get.
This guy who was your best friend through elementary school just looks like he is having a bad day as he slams his locker shut. You don’t really have any classes together anymore, and you’ve really lost touch. But you decide to say "hi" anyways hoping it will make him feel better.
Your older brother’s best friend calls, and you can hear the new Afters CD you’ve been wanting to get your hands on playing in the background. Before handing the phone over to your bro, you have to get the scoop on if its worth the cash or not.
When the school photographer asks your group of buds to pose for a picture, you wrap your arms around your friend sitting in the chair in front of you and give him a big hug. Everyone knows he’s been your best friends since kindergarten, and besides, this way, the ketchup you dribbled down the front of your shirt won’t be immortalized in the yearbook for eternity.
When it comes to flirting, everyone has his/her own opinion. Innocent fun. Reckless behavior. Shallowness. The only way to find out if a guy likes you. The best way to get to know someone.
Those were some of the opinions I got the last time I talked with a group of teens about flirting.
Someone else said that it would be a lot easier if flirting was just listed as one of those Thou Shalt Not’s in the Bible. There’s a lot of things young people are going to face in life that aren’t spelled out in God’s Word. True, no where in the Bible does it say "Thou shalt not flirt," but there is plenty of tales of flirting gone bad (think of Joseph and the Pharoah’s wife in Genesis—right smack in the beginning of the Book.) In The Perfect Girl Jenna Rose thinks of flirting as a tool to get her what she wants, and as a result, she puts herself in danger.
There’s a belief in the world today that a girl should be able to take flirting as far as she wants, and then, when no means no, no means no. In a perfect world, all guys would respect women the way God intended them to, and that would be well and good. Too bad we don’t live there. In Psalm 51:10, the psalmist asks God to "create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me." If Jenna Rose had prayed like that, asking for a steadfast spirit and a pure heart, she would have found herself in a lot less trouble in her new school.
So, how’d you score? There’s no right or wrong answers here—just food for thought. Quizzes are a blast, I know. There’s nothing like hanging with your girls, a good cut on the radio, and the latest teen mag quiz in hand. They dare you to dream, look at things differently, and see things in a new perspective.
Or do they? In this quiz, did you look at part one differently after reading the questions in part two? Maybe even go back and change an answer or two? What’s your dating I.Q.? What kind of flirt are you? When you see these kind of titles, you have a preconceived notion of what your quiz results are going to be. Don’t get me wrong—I love quizzes. I still get a bit giddy when I get my mail and one of my mags has a quiz listed on the cover. (Of course, for me and the kind of magazines I get on a regular basis now, those quizzes have titles like Are you getting enough vitamins in your diet? And Do you get enough time away from the kids?) It’s fun to see if you can learn something new about yourself. But don’t let a quiz make such an impact on you that it changes you from the person that God wants you to be.
In His Service,