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“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:17-19

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I Need My Sister Time

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer…” Romans 12: 10-12

I am supposed to be in Florida right now—at least according to MY plans. When you have two sisters that you love dearly, you go to any lengths to spend quality “sister time” together. Every year for the past four years, I’ve been going
to see my Florida sister in February, and my Pennsylvania sister in June. I praise God for allowing us this sister time. The above scripture defines the relationship the three of us have. When I read it, I sometimes substitute the word sisterly where it says brotherly, and the meaning remains intact.

But God and Jarhead had other plans this year. (Jarhead is my car.) I left on schedule, but by the time Jarhead and I had traveled about one-third of the way there, I knew the jerky hesitation and surging motion from the car indicated a real problem. So I turned around and coaxed Jarhead home, praying all the way that we’d get there. I realize if I’d kept going I might have reached my sister’s house, and yes, I know they have mechanics in Florida. But they don’t have Mr. Ken, Jarhead’s doctor, the world’s best automotive specialist. (Hensley Automotive, Hoschton, GA) He is the only one I want taking care of this car. I guess the “patient in tribulation” part of the scripture could include unexpected car repairs that interrupt my sister time.

So here I sit, waiting for Jarhead to be fixed so I can be on my way to spend time laughing, hugging, crying, giggling, praying, shopping, talking, cooking, solving all the world’s problems, and relaxing with my sister. Sisters can be a pain sometimes while you’re growing up, but in adulthood, sisters are one of the most precious relationships a woman can have. Since both of mine live far away, God has made sure I have substitute sisters here in Georgia—friends who are as close as sisters, and I am grateful for their friendship when I need a sisterly hug.

Since I have time to reflect, I’ve been thinking about the many times I’ve heard people talk about their siblings in a negative way—brothers and sisters who don’t speak to one another because of some petty disagreement. Don’t they realize what they’re squandering? God instructs us to honor each other, prefer the company of each other, and be diligent toward one another. What would I do if I didn’t have my sisters to rejoice with me, hope with me, and pray with me? How it must grieve God’s heart when His children bicker amongst themselves and nurture bitterness toward one another. What a waste of precious time they can never reclaim.

I need my sister time, and as soon as Mr. Ken fixes whatever is wrong with Jarhead, we’ll be on our way once again. Chrissie, make sure we have plenty of our favorite snacks (she makes the most amazing home-made humus) and I’ll get there as soon as I can. Have a hug ready for me.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Has God Ever Put You In Time-Out?

A while back, my friend, Susan broke her foot. She was engaged in creating an artistic backdrop for a musical program at church. So it seemed (to me, anyway) that for her to suffer this injury while expending her energies and using her talents for the Lord was a bit unfair. After all, it wasn't like she was doing something foolish or sinful.

For six weeks, she hobbled around on a cast, and when she finally got the cast off, tenderness in the area where the break occurred limited her activity, as well as her choice of shoes. Patient in her nature, she endured it without complaint. I marvelled at her quiet acceptance of the boundaries God had placed around her, however temporary. God used Susan's quiet and gentle spirit to teach me something.

I wish I could say I have always endured periods in my life when God has put in a position of having to be still with grace. Unfortunately, I've probably had to spend more time waiting for God to finish His work in me because of my chafing impatience to jump back into action. If I would regard these periods in God's waiting room as a time of learning and growth, I'd likely develop a better attitude toward them. I admit I've said on more than one occasion, "I hope I hurry up and learn whatever it is God is trying to teach me so I can see the end of this trial." I can almost see God shaking His head at my impatience.

When the lesson is finally learned and the growth complete, I can anticipate God's nod of approval, releasing me from the season of waiting. But I've learned that if I sprint away from that precious place of instruction without taking the newly acquired knowledge or wisdom with me, He will bring me back to repeat what I neglected to learn the first time.

"The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." Lamentations 3: 25-26

Scripture admonishes us repeatedly to take one step at a time and place our trust in God in every circumstance, especially when we don't understand His purpose. I don't suppose Susan was expecting to break her foot in the middle of the holidays when she had a long "to do" list. Even though we might consider a broken bone an infirmity, God views it from an entirely different point of view. Psalm 91 says He will give His angels charge over us, keeping us in all our ways. We presume that scripture means the angels will keep us safe and never allow harm to come to us. But perhaps there is a broader meaning of this Psalm. That word KEEP is an interesting word. It means to confine, contain, and control. It also means to delay and hold.

If God is keeping us with the purpose of instruction, we can be certain it's a good thing. When this happens, we have a choice. We can fret about the "inconvenience", or like my friend Susan, submit to the hand of God as He constructs something beautful in His child. We don't have the privilege of knowing the outcome beforehand, but we have the blessing of watching God's workmanship unfold. I doubt that Susan realized what God was teaching me through her.

By the way, that word KEEP? It also means to fulfill, preserve, guard, and tend, much like a Shepherd cares for the sheep. Comforting, isn't it?

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Why Do I Write What I Write?

As soon as people find out that I'm a writer, one of the first questions they ask is, "What do you write?" Over the years, I've learned to be a bit cautious with my answer, depending on the person with whom I am talking. Within the Christian community, there are those who hold to the idea that a Christian should only read the Bible and those non-fiction books that aid a Christian to grow in their walk with God. Once, when I told a man in our former church that I write Christian fiction, he immediately snorted and declared that there is no such thing. His reasoning was that "Fiction is a made up story, which means it's a lie. Therefore, you cannot attach the word 'Christian' to it, because Christianity is not a lie." (Yes, he actually said that to me.)

I tried, to no avail, to explain to him that Christian writers strive to take back what the world stole and reclaim it for God. The world took romance--the pure love between a man and woman resulting in a union with God at the center--and turned it into smut. Our stories depict realistic characters who struggle with real problems and real weaknesses, but cry out to God for their strength and healing, then determine to live for God with His help. Isn't this a description of our lives? Unless we have somehow attained sinless perfection on this earth, (that's never gonna happen!!) we live the same imperfect lives as the characters we write about, and we can put ourselves in the picture, learning a biblical truth along with the fictional characters.

It might shock this man to realize that the Inventor of romantic love was God. Ever read The Song Of Solomon? Or the Book of Hosea? God created romantic love between and man and a woman, but He intended that love to be untainted. The world sullied the idea of romance into something dirty. Writers of Christian fiction create stories that show romance the way God intended it.

I think we can all agree that Jesus is the example we are to follow. Well, with that in mind, Christian fiction writers are following His example. Throughout the gospels, Jesus spoke and taught in parables: STORIES. Because most of the time He wasn't speaking to theologians, He was speaking to normal, everyday folks--farmers, fishermen, shepherds, laborers, families--people who would relate better to a story than they would to a deep, theological sermon. Jesus met the people where they were, in their everyday lives, and drew their attention to the kingdom of God by telling them a story. At least thirty-nine parables of Jesus are documented in the gospel accounts. If Jesus reached people through story-telling, shouldn't we as writers in the 21st century do the same?

How many times have we picked up a book and become so involved with a character, that we felt what they felt, and hurt when they hurt? We can identify with their predjudices and weaknesses because we struggle with the same issues, whether or not we admit it to anyone, even ourselves. How many times have we felt a twinge of conviction or wiped away a tear because we have walked in the same footsteps as the character about whom we are reading? That is the same way Jesus touched the hearts of the people to whom He ministered.

That fellow from our former church? I doubt he will ever see past his own narrow-mindedness, and that's sad. He likely doesn't realize he is discounting one of the most effective tools Jesus Himself used. I pray that as I write I will stay in lock-step with God and let Him direct my fingers on the keyboard. My goal is to paint vivid story-pictures to draw a reader into the very shoes of my characters, and in doing so, grasp a better understanding of becoming a vessel fit for the Father's use.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Monday, February 1, 2010

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

My friend, Jalana, sent me a challenge. Seems a friend of hers had honored her with the Happy 101 Award, meaning that she had to post a list of ten of her favorite things. Now don't ask me why it's called the Happy 101 Award if I only have to post a list of ten. I'm just glad I don't have to think of 101 things. So, here we go...ten of my most favorite things:

1) Knowing Jesus

2) My wonderful husband, John

3) Knowing I'll see my son in heaven

4) My sisters

5) Friends who are as close as sisters

6) Writing

7) Books / Reading

8) Quilting

9) Teddy bears

10) My Sweet Pea kitty

Like Jalana, I found it was really difficult to stop at ten. I could go on...I love my country, my church, the United States Marine Corps, my 13-year-old car, my sunroom, my roses, ivy, dark chocolate, hot spiced cider, chai tea lattes, book stores, antiques, listening to southern gospel music, ....Hmmm, maybe it wouldn't have been so hard to list 101 things after all. How blessed we are to be able have so many favorite things.

Thanks for letting me share my heart, and my favorite things.