Say Goodnight, Grace

Imagine that it’s the middle of August and your Christmas present is still under the tree, waiting to be unwrapped, and waiting to be used. You know it’s there, and you’re so grateful for it, and you love it because someone picked it out just for you, it’s got your name on it.

But you just keep savoring the idea of it, content in the knowledge that you have a gift, and it’s there waiting for you. You’re hoarding it, keeping it to yourself. Maybe you’re scared that there will be responsibility that comes with that gift.

I’ve been given a gift from God; the Bible promises that we’re all given gifts. And after many, many years of just looking at it, hoping that gift box isn’t empty, I decided to unwrap it.

God has blessed me with an inordinate amount of patience and stamina and a love for writing novels. I have written several, but none that I’ve tried to have published. Now I’m working on the first one I’ll try to publish.

So I’ve had trouble posting here lately. Have you noticed? Did anyone miss me?    So, I think I need to take a blog break.

There comes a time when you’re writing a novel that it takes on a life of its own. At first, the flow is just barely a trickle and you coax and you stare out the window a lot and you pace. Then it starts to flow a little more. And then a little more. Eventually, your head is overflowing with the book and its people, and you can’t think of anything but the book, and you have to write like a maniac to keep up. That’s where I am right now with this book.

God has given me a gift that I need to honor and use. How do I know? Because I’ve experienced the difference between me doing the writing and God writing through me, between my own meager “talent” and a “talent” that is God-inspired and prayer-activated. And since this is a precious gift from God, then the responsibility goes with it to “step up to the plate” and let it shine!

I thank you all for your help and readership thus far, and I will let you know when I am back at it. After all, it isn’t like I know everything. Ha! Also, I’ll still be lurking and commenting on your blogs as I have the time, too.

May I ask you to pray for me? Ask God to work through me, to use me for His glory. All I want out of it is to become a vessel with which He is pleased. Thank you!

Later; to be continued . . .

Catherine

Living in a Material World

In a pious kind of way, I’ve always been proud of my resistance to materialism. When I do spend money, it’s usually on books, and then only those I can’t get at the library or that I really want to own. Not that this isn’t materialism, too, it is, but somehow because it’s books, it doesn’t crack my pride and piety.

My only real ambition (career-wise) has been writing, and I never made much money at that. I have not cared so much about my career “label,” or my salary or what kind of car I drove, I bought clothes at Walmart or Target or sometimes Goodwill, let my one or two pairs of shoes wear out before buying new ones. I’ve been basically broke most of my adult life, at the best of times living paycheck to paycheck. Often, living with no paycheck.

I am apparently a slow learner, or I’ve been living in denial. At this late stage in my life, duh, guess what . . . I need money, whaddya know! Who woulda thunk?

I’ve been hindered by some serious health issues the last few years. But God has blessed me richly by taking care of my needs through others. In that respect, truly, I feel like one of His favorites! And that makes me smile.

Do you think God cares about our material well-being, or are we on our own? I don’t want to be rich, but I was tempted recently to do something dishonest just because I need the money so badly.

(Prov. 30:8-9 “Give me neither poverty nor riches–feed me with the food allotted to me, lest I be full and deny You, and say ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God.”)

An Eye for an Eye

Matthew 5:38-42 (NIV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

These verses confuse me. Was Christ exaggerating to make a point? Is it key that He said “do not resist an evil person?” Could He have been talking about agressive attacks against us, perhaps a vengeful or vindictive person, and that it’s best not to go too far down that path with them?

In our society, translating those verses literally could create an explosion of homeless, naked, and penniless Christians. So how do I interpret this passage? What is the meaning of it in our world today? 

I think of the missionaries slaughtered in Ecuador by the Auca Indians. The missionaries were armed with guns, could have defended themselves, but they allowed the angry Aucas to kill them. I would love to believe that I could do that as well, but. . .who knows until we are faced with that situation.

These verses don’t confound me because I want to protect myself or my stuff. It is because I don’t know where to draw the lines; what constitutes sacrifice for Christ versus being a doormat out of ignorance? When do we stand and when do we step aside? When do we protest and fight versus going limp and letting someone take their stabs at us? Indeed, should we ever protest?

Once Saved, Always Saved?

I read an incredible post today by Phil at:

http://abmi.wordpress.com/2007/03/16/playing-games-with-eternity/

If you haven’t read it, please make time to do that now. He addresses our walk with Christ and the times when we stray and the possibility that we’re rolling the dice with our eternal destination.

It’s a very thought-provoking post, and I thank God that he let the Holy Spirit speak through him in such a way. Living a Christian life is most often difficult, an uphill climb. They don’t call it “backsliding” for nothing.

Enjoy his post! Have a blessed Sunday.

(Um, is this “cheating?”)

Apologetics

First, may I just thank those of you who have been praying for me, and giving me some wonderful and helpful advice. My pity party is over and I’m feeling so much better. God is faithful to His promises, and He “upheld me in His righteous right hand,” and did not let me sink to the depths that I have known many times before in my life. As the song goes, “our God is an awesome God.”

Onward… 

Recently, I learned about this word ‘apologetics,’ and it confused me because of it’s close resemblance to the word ‘apology.’ So now I get it, there is a whole branch of theology which seeks to defend the divine origins of the Bible and Christianity.

Here’s the extent of my defense:

“Yes, Jesus loves me,
for the Bible tells me so.” 

When confronted with challenges to my faith, I am totally inept. I keep reverting back to faith: faith in the Word of God, faith that the Word is God-inspired, faith that what God says in the Word can be trusted.

“…because that’s what the Bible says…”
“…because God said so…in the Bible…”
“…because I believe it, I have faith that it is true…”

Okay, seriously, how convincing can that sort of defense be?

There are books, I believe, which can help me with this. I’m not looking to be argumentative, mind you. But let’s face it, obviously I need help when people challenge me about the validity of the Bible, God, and the validity of faith. 

Can anyone recommend some good books on this subject, or even links to online information? Anything would be helpful and appreciated.  

Who Do I Serve? Diet Issues…

I admit to having a problem with self-discipline sometimes. Seems I have that gene that’s so common in our society: the self-indulgence gene, and so I often have trouble telling myself “no.”  

My biggest self-indulgence problem is food addiction. It used to be smoking, but thank God I was able to quit that habit. But I still use food as a reward for good times and bad. I eat if I’m upset or depressed, and I eat when I’m happy as a way of rewarding myself.

Joshua 24:15–“Choose. . . this day whom you will serve.”
Matthew 6:24–“No one can serve two masters.” (NIV)

I know that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, so it seems logical that when I choose food that is not the healthiest for me, I am disrespecting the Spirit within me. Is this biblical, though? Are we  charged with taking care of our physical bodies, not out of vanity but because God said that we should? 

If so, any suggestions on handling this area of one’s life in a more effective way? 

Digg ‘n Religion

I realize Paul said “I die daily,” so it shouldn’t have surprised me that I was buried 3 times last week on the Digg website!

For those of you unfamiliar with Digg, it is one of many sites for “social bookmarking,” which is a fancy way of saying, “hey look what I found, you might like this too.” You mark sites or articles that you like, creating a public list of your own recommendations.

Since I’m new to this, I started simple, Digg.com. Every time I found articles and posts that I enjoyed reading, I marked them (or dugg them, to use the lingo they use). Other people on the site can then read my recommendation and visit the site as well, if they are interested. They can either agree with me (also digg it) or disagree with me (or bury it, as they call it).

I started to see a pattern. Upon further inspection, I realized that every recommendation that had any religious content whatsoever was being buried on this site. A sample of the comments:

“Buried due to inaccuracy. GOD DOES NOT EXIST.”

“The only real answer is to get out now before you’re 100% brain-washed.”

Wow. There are a lot of people out there who really don’t like to hear talk about Jesus. And they don’t or can’t just ignore it and skip on to the next entry, they feel a need to lash out about it. (When someone recommends a great site for football lovers, I don’t go out of my way to “bury” that site and make rude comments, I just pass it by because I’m not interested.)

But any mention of religion, God, or Jesus is more like hitting raw nerves, isn’t it? I’m learning that Christians are really not very popular out in the non-saved world.  

His Absence

I’ve been arguing with God lately. Whining, pitching fits, stomping my feet. Like a kid with abandonment issues, I can’t tolerate His silence and seeming absence from my life. It depresses me.

“I have these needs, still, as You know” I say. I stand outside in the dark of night, my hands upturned, trying not to make fists at Him. “Why is all this happening? What is up with this?”

“Look at all these bills piling up,” I tell Him.
“Why can’t I find a church?” I ask Him. 
“Did You really mean for me to be alone?” I whine. “Why?”
“Will You please make the path clear to me? I don’t know what You want me to do.”
I ask for the hundredth day in a row, “Please, will You help me with this, and this, and this, too?”

No answer. I search the Bible for answers. I pray. I give Him pieces of my mind, and listen in the silence. Nothing.

Maybe I’m doing something wrong. Maybe I’m praying wrong. Maybe my heart is not in the right place. Maybe my faith is lacking. 

Are You there for me? Are You listening to me? Will You please answer me? 

Words as Weapons

Yesterday, I was told by a very close friend that my words had deeply wounded her. Ugh. This is not the first time I’ve heard this.

I am apparently good at cross words. Not crosswords (the puzzles), but cross words, using words as weapons. When you’re told that you have an offending behavior more than a few times, by more than one person, then you know you have a problem. 

James, in the 3rd chapter, talks about taming the tongue.

Verse 3:8 — “…but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (9) With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. (10) Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”

There is so much in the Bible about guarding against a lying tongue, a deceiving tongue, a wicked tongue, but also Pr 10:19 “…he who holds his tongue is wise,” and Pr 12:18 “…the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

My tongue betrays my ignorance, and certainly brings no healing. I am ashamed of it, frustrated by it. I want to either “cut off the offending body part” or take a vow of silence. It is my albatross.

Sometimes the people closest to me must get their kindness from strangers, because they don’t get it from me. Despite my repeated, almost constant praying about this, I remain critical and judgmental.

In my attempt to be more honest in my verbal communications, I have somehow overshot the mark.

Why can’t I get this right?  

How to Use a Fleece

Gideon couldn’t believe that God was actually calling him to lead Israel against their enemies. He felt that he was too insignificant to have such a high calling. Of course, this is God’s metier, His usual method of operation.

So, as we know, Gideon tested God, asking for reassurance: “You want me to do what?” (Judges 6:37)

Now, this seems like a mighty handy strategy to me. I know a woman who does this regularly; she calls it “throwing God a fleece.” She might pray to God, “Lord, if You want me to do this shopping today and spend this money, let me find a parking space right in front of the store,” or, “If You don’t want me talking to this guy or seeing him any more, don’t let him answer the phone.” This might seem silly or worse, because she uses this for silly things. But what about the idea of using fleeces? Can we still use fleeces today?

I constantly find myself asking God for direction. It feels as though I live at the intersections of good, better, and best choices, all seemingly perfectly acceptable, Christian choices. And I’m constantly saying, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” I anguish over every little thing, wanting to only do what He wants me to do.

Somehow, though, I don’t think God expects to direct every single step we take. But, especially for big decisions, wouldn’t a fleece be really handy to determine God’s will for our lives?