Break the Silence

This is an interesting time of year. So many things are in turmoil. Seasons are changing, the weather is very unstable. In most of the U.S. school will be winding down, so kids (and teachers) are becoming unstable. Sleeping things are waking up. Nature, dormant and looking dead for the winter comes back to life and color comes flooding back to the world.

It’s the time of year that Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We spend time reflecting on his life, and then his death, and then how he conquered death to reign victoriously at the right hand of God.

There’s so much that has been written, by way of devotional, and so much more that could be written. I’ve been struggling to come up with the “just right” thing, and so, have accomplished very little. I’ve been sitting on the sidelines, watching things unfold, reading others writings, watching some few put their words out there, wondering how many others are like me, sitting silently, watching it all happen.

Isn’t that what happened on that fateful Friday just over 2000 years ago? The ruling elite, the religious elite, made a decision that protected their interest, and they set their plan in motion. They were able to get some to cry out against Jesus. Whether they knew the charges against Jesus were trumped up or not is immaterial (though I believe most knew). They followed the elite in calling for Jesus’ blood.

But most the people, the vast majority, just stood and watched. They had nothing against Jesus. Yet they remained silent. Whether they believed Jesus is the Son of God or not, they stood silent in passive unbelief.

We, as human beings, tend to do this. They say, in any organization, that 90% of the work is done by 10%of the people. Well, it’s time for Christians to change that. Time is ticking away, and there is more and more evidence that we are close to the end. Certainly we are closer to the end than we have ever been. And there is still a lot of work to do. It’s time to get busy. People need to hear about Jesus. How will they hear unless we tell them? It’s time for us to break out of our fearful silence and tell the world.

No One Does Good

In Romans 3:9 Paul wraps up what he’s been talking about over the previous couple of chapters and says, “So are we Jews better off? Not entirely; for I have already made the charge that all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, are controlled by sin.” He then quotes from some Old Testament (Tanakh) sources when he says, “As the Tanakh puts it, ‘There is no one righteous, not even one! No one understands, no one seeks God, all have turned away and at the same time become useless; there is no one who shows kindness, not a single one!” (Romans 3:10-12 Complete Jewish Bible) During that time, to the Jewish way of thinking, there were only two People types, Jews and everyone else. So basically what he’s saying is that the whole of humanity is under sin and in need of a Savior. “There is no one righteous.”

While the known world may be a bit bigger now, expanding across the entire face of the globe, and we may acknowledge other people groups, the rest has not changed. No one is righteous, not even one! The entire human race is still in need of a Savior.

In this particular section of Scripture Paul is talking about how the law of the the Jews is basically just telling people that they are in sin. It doesn’t tell people how to get out of the situation. It’s kind of like telling someone, “Hey, you’re really dirty,” but not telling them, “You need to go take a bath, and by the way, use some soap!” All the law does is make us aware of sin, it doesn’t tell us how to get out of the situation.

Once we become aware of our need, once we understand that we are in sin and need to be cleaned up, then we can be made aware of the need of a Savior and how to apply the soap. And that Savior/soap is not just any savior, but the Savior, Jesus Christ.

The world needs Him so badly. There’s a pain, an emptiness in the world. So many people think that they’re okay, they’re good people. And they are “good people” when you compare them to the “bad people.” They put a bag of canned goods out for the mailman’s food drive, or they drop a toy in a box at Christmas time. They’ll even take care of the neighbor’s kids for a couple hours so Mom and Dad can get something done. But where did the canned goods come from? Fresh from the store, or the back of the cupboard? Was the toy from the center aisle, or the clearance aisle? (What did their kids get for Christmas?) When the neighbor kids go home and the internet comes on, what are they watching? (What do their own kids see when they don’t think the kids are watching?)

Before I knew Jesus, I thought I was a pretty good person. I believed in God, I did good, I even prayed sometimes. But deep inside there was a place that no one (including myself) was ever allowed to see. There was a hole, an emptiness that just would not be filled. I tried to fill it with new age stuff, crystals, runes, tarot, I Ching. The hole didn’t fill. I tried to fill it Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Islam. I even tried reading the Bible. But the hole didn’t fill. I tried to fill the hole with food. The hole didn’t fill, and I got bigger. I tried to fill the hole with alcohol, sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll. The hole didn’t fill and I lost my job.

Finally some friends said, “Hey, come check out our church.” I told them I don’t do church. They said this place is different. I said I don’t do church, I’m dirty. They said this place is like a come as you are party, you don’t need to be clean. Every excuse I came up with, they had an answer. So I said Okay, I’ll try it once. And I did. And a little bit of the hole filled in, so I went back. And people talked to me. And I went back again, and they smiled when they saw me. One time I even went straight from a 5K race, in shorts and running singlet, number still pinned on, dripping sweat… And they smiled and asked me how I did!

All the while, the hole was still there. It had filled in a bit, but it was still there. And then it happened. One night, after a special presentation, the presenter started talking about allowing Jesus in to be the Lord of your life, that without Him we would never be able to have the best life available. The good and the better, as good and better as they may be, will always get in the way of the best. And the way to the best is through Jesus.

I said yes to Jesus that night, inviting Him into my life to rule and reign as my King of kings and LORD of lords. And the hole is filled! My life changed that night. It’s been quite a ride since then. While it’s not been all up hill, it’s certainly been more uphill than down. From unemployed drug addict/alcoholic to a possibly soon retiring homeowner. I know in my heart of hearts that if I had not let Jesus into my life that night, I’d be dead. But now, I will have everlasting life with Him, even when this body passes from the earth.

If this is something you want, contact me. I’ll pray with you and for you. Just admit that you’re a sinner, and know that you can’t clean yourself up. Invite Jesus in. Ask Him to help. Tell Him that you believe in Him, and that He died for you, and give Him permission to come into your life to reign as your King. It’s the easiest hard thing, or the hardest easy thing you will ever do.

I’m a Writer!

Well, I still haven’t figured out how to make my new blog, Distractifying.com do what I want, sonfor now I’ll just have to post here.

My novelette, The Barbeque, has officially made me a writer. I got my first official rejection letter. So I now feel official – I AM A WRITER! However, my next goal is to become a PAID writer!

I have three stories in two publications. Paulie and Talitha I’ve mentioned before. They are in a book called “Reasons For Hope: Speculative Fiction and Poetry” by The Writing Journey. It can be found on Amazon.

The most recent acceptance is a story called Sunday Morning that has been recently published in, “Gleam: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group Second Flash Fiction Anthology 2019.” It is available for purchase at:

http://www.clarendonhousebooks.com/anthologies

While there is no pay for this, but it is another feather in my writing cap. And, while I don’t know the details yet, there is a contest involved with this publication. As soon as I know details, I will let you know. Voting happens for each Clarendon House publication. The author that garners the most votes wins a contract for a future, paying, book. I’ll let you know when I learn how voting works.

Competition will be stiff for this. Not only are there many well crafted stories in this anthology, but there are some well established writers with large readership as well. No matter what happens, it is a privledge to be placed in a publication with such talented writers. It only whets my appetite for more.

With that said, I’m going to send this on it’s way, and get back to work! Have a great day!

Final Apology

So many time, in so many ways, I’ve apologized for having so many long gaps of time between writings. Each time I’ve tried to change, it has ended in failure. Of course, there’s always the possibility that I will change. I’m working on it again.

I’m working on changing many things in my life right now. And I’m actually being fairly aggressive about it. I’ve been writing on the regular for a couple months now. I mean writing things other than journal. Like actual, “real” writing. “They” say it takes twenty-one days to form a habit, and ninety days to turn it into a lifestyle. I’m about two thirds of the way to a lifestyle as a writer, and I’m enjoying it.

In the past I’ve allowed things to get in my way. This time I’m not. I’m seriously striving to create a lifestyle as a writer.

I had two stories published in an Anthology last year. The stories, Talitha, (my favorite), and Paulie, (good, but not as good as Talitha as far as I’m concerned), are in “Reasons For Hope: Speculative Fiction and Poetry” by The Writing Journey and edited by Tim Yao. It’s available on Amazon if you want to buy it. (Shameless plug!!) There are many good stories by many good writers. But when I saw my name in print, I knew I wanted more. Yet still I just dabbled.

In June of this year, in the midst of the hubbub of the busiest month at my j.o.b. I saw a facebook meme. I wish I could remember exactly what it said, because it’s changing my life. It had to do with focus, something I’ve struggled with for my entire life. It stressed that you have one thing that you are meant for, and you need to focus on that one thing. I believe, however, that there can be subsets, so to speak. Or, to put it another way, I hedged. I have more than one thing.

There will always be Jesus. He is my One and Only. And in spite of another near miss of a mission trip to Kenya, I still believe that I shall be a missionary in my future. But I also know that I AM a writer! Not, want to be, or will be in the future, but I AM a writer.

So, I have renewed my focus. I have a flash fiction piece and a novelette submitted to publishing houses for inclusion in anthologies. I’m hoping to hear something soon. I’ve also been involved in research to FINALLY continue my Ephesians study. And I’m looking forward to November and NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. I intend to finish my novel by the end of November, if not sooner.

Most of my off time, now, is spent writing or researching. I’ve looked up more stuff on Google in the last month than in the last two years combined. I’ve wondered what people would think if they looked a the history of Google searches by a writer, especially a mystery or horror writer’s history. 🙂

All this is to say that I will not be apologizing again. I’ll either stay focused, and write, or I won’t. You will either get new content, or you won’t. Also, soon, you will be able to read more from me on Distractifying.com. (As soon as I figure out how to get it up and running.) I’ll post something here when it launches. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I get distracted easily. Distractifying will be a way to use those distractions to continue writing. I look forward to turning it all into production.

Thank you for supporting me and not giving up as I’ve gone through so many changes, yet stayed the same. Here’s to enjoying the next months and years of shared words!

Vision

What happens when you lose vision? Things fall apart, you lose track of where you are, what you’re doing, perhaps even how you’re supposed to get it done. And more importantly, when you’re supposed to get it done. Losing focus, losing touch, losing vision, can cause a leader to lose everything.

This can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. And this is what has happened to me. Sometimes life just gets in the way of the vision and you end up distracted. And if the distraction lasts a while things just get worse.

Things started off so well. I was on task, on target. I knew where I was going, and I knew when I needed to be there.

National Novel Writing Month is in November. I knew that I needed to have my classwork done before then, because once November started, it was all writing, all the time. NaNoWriMo’s goal is 50,000 words in 30 days, and hopefully it holds together as a good story. My personal goal this year was 75,000 words, hand written! So there was no time for anything else.

All was going to plan. I finished the classwork and took the exam on October 30th. One whole day to spare. Or, if you will, one whole day to relax before diving in to a month of writing. I figured, with a whole month, and needing 75,000 words, I’d surely get my blog post done, perhaps even several.

But then…

Writing went well, then it didn’t, then it did, then it didn’t… And as I focused more and more on writing words, I lost focus on what the words were supposed to accomplish. The upshot of it all was, not only did I not reach my 75,000 word goal, (although I was close with nearly 73,000), I completely forgot about writing a blog post.

And then December and January happened. Sorry, but you’re not getting details. Suffice it to say, those two months are not good months for me.

So now, as I pull things back together in February, I realize, I have three days left to get this blog project done and write a report on it. And right now, I’m not feeling terrifically good about it. The really frustrating part about it all is that I had something. I just can’t find it. I found the journal entry that says I wrote a blog post, but I can’t find the actual post in order to post it.

What does all this have to do with vision and leadership? Well, it’s more about what happens when there’s a lack thereof. Everything falls apart. And not necessarily leadership of a group, but leadership of self. But it also has to do with learning from mistakes, striving to improve, and humbling oneself to ask for help.

So, in the last few weeks I have: Gotten back into the Word daily, gone back to the gym, started taking my vitamins again, gotten back onto a healthy (semi) eating plan, and actually told people what I’ve been going through and asked for accountability help. Things are back on the upswing.

I have two projects due in the next few days. I think I can get them both done. In the long run, it’s going to be all good. Learning from mistakes is better than not learning at all. And I’m pretty sure I’ve learned. And if I didn’t, well, extra grace required.

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Cheering on the Bleacher Rat.

rat

It was my first Cub game in years. I was so excited. I’d be going with a group of Pastors attending the Connected Conference with the Illinois District of the Assemblies of God. It was a way to rest, relax, and reconnect with each other. And it was a way for me to get to the game without having to drive! It was the perfect scenario.

All that being said, it was really sad that the greatest thing we had to cheer about at the game was a rat. Yes, I said a rat. (This isn’t him, or her, by the way. This is a picture I picked up when I did a google search for rats. Thanks thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com). In straight away center field, right over the wall, is a grassy area. I’m not sure when or why it came into being. And quite frankly, I don’t really care. It’s just the way it is. But the night I was there, Tuesday, September 25th, in the year of our Lord 2018, a rat was spotted in the basket on the field side of the wall, trying to jump back over into that grassy area.

I don’t know how he came to be there, but he was working really hard at getting back over that wall. He’d jump, and miss, and fall back into the basket. Then he’d try again. Jump again, miss again, fall again. He’d run up the basket a little farther, turn around, judge the distance, then JUMP!, and miss again, and the crowd would groan. Soon, a chant started, “Go rat go. Go rat go.” Emboldened, he tried yet again. Not only did he miss again, but this time, when he fell into the basket, but also between the basket and the wall, sliding down into the ivy.

Soon, his little head appeared again above the ivy, and the chant began again, “Go rat go. Go rat go.” It was great! And then, with a might leap, and nearly all of the outfield crowd cheering him on, he finally made it! The cheer that went up from the bleachers was the biggest of the night. The funny part was, when I turned around, there was nothing really going on in the game. I don’t know if they were between pitches, or between batters, but there was nothing much going on when the cheer went up. I turned to look at the field, and the players were very confused, having no idea of the seeming life or death struggle that had been going on.

As I journaled this scene, I realized that this could be a metaphor for our lives. We go through life, playing our own game, oblivious of the true life and death struggles going on in other places. Sometimes it’s even quite close by, but we’re so involved in our own little world, we just don’t see it. In fact, two of the people within our group, the two sitting closest to me, had no clue. Once his attention was drawn to the situation the rat was in, the one guy kept saying, “I don’t see it. Where is it?” Even though it was being described, and pointed to, he just wasn’t able to see. Isn’t that the way it is for so many of us? We’re so involved in our own struggles, life and death or otherwise, that we just don’t see what’s going on around us. And if the situation is farther away, the other side of the city, the state, the country, the world, it’s just so much noise, and we just can’t see.

We decided to leave during the eighth inning. The game was a complete bust, with the Cubs losing 6-0, and even though I’m a firm believer in “it ain’t over ’til it’s over,” that game was over, and we needed to beat the traffic out of the park. On the way out, the rat was back. I don’t know if it was a different rat, or if it was the same rat back for more attention. As we were walking out, the chant went up again, and the folks next to me finally saw it. We had changed our position, and they had a different perspective. And they saw the rat.

The reaction was not sympathy, or empathy with the rat, but, “Holy crap! That’s a big rat!” It was just a rat. But they, from a more rural environment, only saw a BIG rat. Rather like 10 of the 12 spies in Numbers 13, “They’re giants. I’m scared.” But this was just a simple rat, stuck in a basket, a situation that it fell into, trying to get back home.

Karma? Chameleon

There’s a big Bible, Christianese word that scares a lot of people, especially non-Christianese speakers. It’s “sanctification.” Some think it has to do with how you live out your faith, cutting your hair, not cutting your hair, woman having to wear head coverings, and all manner of other “rules” that people glean from the Scriptures. But what it really means is so simple, separation. There are, however, two basic aspects to this separation, both being equally important. To be sanctified, in the Biblical sense, one must be separated from evil, or even just the common things of the world, AND devoted to God. Simple. Right?

Yeah, right!

Sanctification is an instantaneous process that takes a lifetime to complete. And that’s another thing that confuses the non-Christianese speakers. What it means is, when a person commits his or her life to Christ, the process known as being born again, they are instantly sanctified. They have committed their heart to the Lord, devoting themselves to Jesus, and setting themselves apart from worldly things.

But! The world is still the world. It’s still there. It’s still RIGHT there, calling from the place of familiarity. And those that still live their lives in the world are quick to spot every little sin of the new believer. “Hey Jesus lover, how come you swore when you hit your thumb with the hammer? I thought you couldn’t do that anymore. You Christians are such hypocrites.” It’s a tough thing to overcome when you’re a new Christian. But there’s a line that is often quoted in Christian circles, that we are “to be in the world, but not of it.” And that is sanctification, living in this world on planet earth, yet set apart from worldly thoughts and ideas. And it can be difficult to maintain that separateness and not become a monk (or monk-ess as the case may be). And while we are set apart when we accept the Lordship of Christ, God then begins the process of making it stick, and that process will take the rest of our lives! We will have ups and downs, good days, holy days, and bad, satan filled days. We will have challenges from friends, relatives , and strangers. But – “When God looks at us through Christ’s blood, He does not see our sin but sees the holiness and righteousness of Jesus. We are holy before Him because of Jesus’ sacrifice. However, those around us can still see the sin.” (Ford, Johnny; Introduction to Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective 4th ed; pg 111).

So, how do we go through this process of becoming more holy, sanctified, set apart and devoted to God? Well, there are several steps, and it will take each of them at one point in time or another, and all of them together sometimes. Just like everything else in life, sometimes you’ll run far and fast, and other times it’ll be 3 steps forward and 2 steps back, or even 1 step forward and 5 steps back.

The first thing we need to do is chase after holiness as an act of our own will. Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He will never force Himself on us. We have to go after it! The more we focus on God, seek Him, and pursue His will for our lives, the more our actions will fall into place. Colossians 3:2tells us, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.” (ESV). We also have to be intentional about setting ourselves apart from things that could lead us into sin. It’s those little “well, this won’t hurt, it’s just…” things that turn us into chameleons. We start to blend in and look like the rest of the world. We pick and choose what we want to adhere to in the Bible, and then, either people don’t believe we are Christian, or we become “one of those” Christians. You know the ones, the ones who make the non-believer stay a non-believer because of all the hypocrisy.

In order to keep on track and not fall into chameleon status, we have to be very self-disciplined. The way to do that is to stay focused on God through being in the Word and through prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us that we need to “pray without ceasing.” (ESV). That’s not easy. Even establishing a regular daily routine for 20 to 30 minutes is hard. The excuses come, “Oh, it was a late night last night,” “Let me just check my email real quick,” “Jimmy, why did you just dump that on your sister’s head!?”

And finally, – (whoops, my phone just beeped gotta do a quick check of facebook…) – ok I’m back now…

Finally, we need to obey. Holy Spirit will not steer us wrong. If we stick with Him, He won’t let us down. He’s ever the gentleman, so He won’t force us to do something we don’t want to do. However, if we listen and obey, He will lead us to more than we can even imagine. It’s a lifelong journey, but in the end…

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him,” (1 John 3:2)

Happy Father’s Day

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I recently began reading the book “becoming myself” by Stasi Eldredge. In it, she points out that, no matter the bad, most often there was also some good in past relationships, so shift your focus to the good things. And there were moments of good. Far too few, but moments to cling to none the less.

Probably some of my earliest memories of my father, though I don’t remember how old I was, but I know there are multiple memories, were being tucked into bed. I loved “butterfly kisses.” In fact, I always thought it was “our thing” until I heard the song of the same name at a wedding decades later. No one understood why the photographer was standing at the edge of the dance floor crying her eyes out.

When I was about six, Dad borrowed a small sailboat from a friend and brought it to our summer cottage in Michigan. I have flashes of images of being on the lake, sun glistening off the water, a gentle breeze moving us along silently, with the only sound being the light slap, slap, slap of the waves on the boat. When Dad would share his memories of this, his recollection was me, stretching out, kicked back in the boat, arms behind my head, saying, “Man, this is living!”

There were many years, and many experiences, that were not nearly this enjoyable. However, in hind sight, and as I search my memory, there were hints of the good man he had been before alcohol took over. I’ve learned to see his goodness through the darkness in which I grew up. Like the time my car broke down while I was delivering newspapers and he came and picked me up at three o’clock in the morning, in the snow, in pajamas and a parka. We loaded my papers into his car, and he drove me to finish my route. No matter how much bad happened before then, or after, on that particular early morning, he was a good, good father.

Thank you, Daddy. I miss you.

In Between – Again

The Saturday before Easter. The day in between. Not knowing what’s next, but now, knowing. (We know He comes back, but somehow, always seem to wonder).

On the way to work, I heard a “commercial” for the resurrection. The line that really grabbed my attention was about how, when Jesus was being beaten, whipped, spat upon, reviled, crucified, NO ONE stood up for Him. And something clicked in my head.

This past week, the news has been filled with a men, forcibly removed from an airplane because of overbooking. I’m not here to debate whether this was right or wrong. My purpose lies elsewhere. In Facebook comments, one of my friends said something along the lines of “this is Trump’s America,” implying that the incident was a consequence of Trump’s election. She said that incidents like this stem from an atmosphere that Trump has created.

I disagree. I believe that this attitude is the same attitude that existed over two thousand years ago, that led to an innocent man being crucified. I believe it stems from a sin condition that has existed since Eve did what she wanted rather than what God said, and ate the apple. It is an attitude that has been pervasive throughout history. It may have crests and troughs as it waves its way through history, but it’s always been there.

The larger than life evidence of that comes from the crucifixion of Jesus. Just as no one stood up to the Pharisees and the Sadducees for fear of their reaction and possible consequences, so today, no one wants to stand against bullying.

While there are more people speaking out on social media, that really doesn’t do much. There are more people writing letters to their elected officials and voicing their discontent. This may do more. And there is an increase in people speaking out at rallies and demonstrations. These too, can be constructive when done properly. There are more and more stories showing up on social media of kids standing up for the kids that are being bullied. Girls are standing up against kids that are attacking them, and some are even coming to their aid.

We may be building a wave that will once again crest, and fall back, but if we stand up together, against social injustice and bullying, perhaps we will be able to ride that wave to a peaceful, smooth ending on the shores of love.