Tuesday, March 18, 2014

When the Children Pray, A Miracle called Rain

RAIN . RAIN . RAIN. Yup, that's what the need is. Something called Rain.

No rain. It is January. The weather is like spring. The sky is clear. The grass on the hills is dry, the lakes are at 33 percent of their capacity, a meager snow pack in the mountains, there's no food for the cattle in the hill country, the farmers have crops and orchards they may not be able to irrigate come summer, the northern California communities are starting to get alarmed, water conservation is becoming a reality, farmers are irrigating tree crops in winter, unprecedented, never been done before. It is starting to look like summer in the dead of winter. Concern is growing to alarm.

The water situation in California is dire.
An announcement: It's official: Worst drought on record.
Season total so far: 4 inches rainfall.
Normal season total in January: 18 inches rainfall.


I gather the children at my church to tell them the story of Elijah. I tell them why it didn't rain for over three years... not even a drop of dew. I explain how the hearts of the people turned hard against the Lord. That God wanted their attention. I bring it home. I show newspaper pictures of Lake Oroville with its barren basin, looking like a puddle of water at the bottom of a steep canyon. Time to learn how real prayer works, the reason I have chosen this story. It is a teachable moment. Do we have the faith? First, private prayer, the children and leaders getting our hearts right before God. Next, we gather in a circle, children and leaders. I explain that we are going to pray, in faith believing. We begin to pray. Three children ask God to send rain. One says, "We don't want it to be like when Elijah lived. We don't want the people to turn away from you. We need rain. Could you send rain?" I ask God to send us an abundance of rain. We leave. Will God answer our prayer of faith? I knew it was a risk. Yet. It was in my heart that God wanted us to do this ... together.

No rain the next day...and the next day, and the next, and next. Then a few sprinkles--but not much. I pray and I pray, and I pray some more. Please, Father God, won't you send us some rain. I want God to perform a miracle just for the children, and for everybody else in California. I pray several times a day. Other people in the State are praying, I read about it in the paper. I ask Facebook friends and Twitter contacts to pray.

I wake up to clouds on Wednesday, it's Awana children's club day. That morning the rain begins to descend. It starts to pour, and pour. By evening, it has been a steady rainfall. My heart rejoices. I can't wait to connect the dots with the children.

I gather the children to tell them the end of the story of Elijah. They learn about the contest at Mount Carmel. We see the prophets of Baal crying out to their god to send down fire. Nothing happens. They plead, beg, cut themselves. Nothing. nothing... Elijah stands up. He repairs the altar. He says to dig a trench around the altar. Precious water is poured, and poured some more, over the sacrifice--streaming down the altar into the trench. Elijah prays a simple prayer before the people and the godless prophets of Baal. He asks God to show his presence by sending fire to the sacrifice. Fire bolts down from heaven--consuming the sacrifice, the stones, and even the water in the trench. The people see the might of God. They fall of their faces. "The Lord, He is God. The Lord, He is God," they acknowledge. A rain cloud appears in the distance. Elijah declares, "Hurry down the mountain for I hear an abundance of rain. The rain pours, and pours, and pours. God has answered.

The children and I speak of our own miracle, the rain God has sent. We pray, our words thank God for the rain. His answer to our prayers. We ask for more rain. God sends some more in the weeks to follow. Our faith has been stretched. We see in living color what God has provided. Not only the children, but the adults find that their faith has been strengthened.

Since that day, when we asked for rain, northern California has received approximately seven inches of rain. There is grass on the hills. Lake Oroville is at 45 percent capacity. There's a deeper snow pack in the mountains and some runoff for the lakes. The plants look refreshed. The drought has eased, at least to some extent, the situation less dire.

No, California isn't out of the woods and the drought will still affect us. There will be conservation measures, and less crops in agricultural regions. But. But, it certainly is better than it was. I"m glad the children prayed.  

Thank you, God, for answering the faith of a child.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Love Story in Reverse: Miracles Still Happen

I have this friend who has struggled with her marriage relationship for as long as I have known her.  Not a first marriage for either of them, but the first Christian marriage for both of them. Their religious belief is what brought them together initially, the opportunity for a better second marriage, becoming the focus of a union based on Christian living. But, as is often the case, it was not easy. There were the children from both marriages and its stressful dynamic. There were the unresolved issues from their first marriages, a carry-over from the hurt and rejection they both had experienced. Greater than these areas was a lack of understanding on how to make love work for them. One partner seemed to dominate the relationship and the other had some areas that needed attention as well. Several times they went to their minister for counsel, independently and also as a couple.

They both wanted the marriage to be successful and to bring them happiness. But happiness seemed to elude them. They went through job losses, family troubles, and financial crises. Life was hard. Then it came to a point that one summer she left him, not for someone else but because something had to change between them. The love was there in a remote place hard to access. The impossibility of it all had created a deadness deep inside her, and I assume, deep inside him as well.  He missed her, wanted her to come back. People at church didn't know what was going on. He seemed lost without her. With his promise to try to work on their relationship and to be more attentive, she came back a couple of months later. They recommitted their purpose together.

Those of us from the outside looking in could see a spark being rekindled. We saw them both trying. He became more gentle with her in his speech, more demonstrative by putting his arm around her as they sat in church. She was less to complain about him to her friends, less to voice frustration with him. They led in a children's ministry and made it blossom, keeping their stuff to themselves as they worked together side-by-side, choosing to be united in front of others. It couldn't have been easy with their personalities and past history. He was the more vocal in public, expressing his desire to be the man God wanted him to be--and meaning it. He would ask difficult questions about living the Christian life, about how to let go of the things that hinder, to move in the direction of a man who is an authentic seeker of God. It was good to watch. I saw in her this same desire, to be a woman after God's own heart. She would talk to me about her wishes in the spiritual realm. However, something was still was elusive in their relationship. They couldn't seem to connect on an emotional level, to feel things as one, to be in harmony.

Valentine's Day, 2014, ushered in a new beginning for this couple. She told me about it in person a couple of weeks later. We were talking about other church-related topics. After I remarked how I have seen positive changes in both she and her mate, I asked her how they were doing these days. She began to share a story with me. We were like sisters, sharing a joy after the days of sorrow have passed. Here is her story.
She walked in the door in the late afternoon on Valentine's Day, weary from her work. The first thing she noticed was the table set all fancy like with candles, nice dishes, and a bouquet of flowers. The house smelt delicious and her husband was busy in the kitchen. He greeted her with a hug and smile and then returned to cooking dinner. The music was playing as they ate by candlelight. This was different than ever before. There was something about him that was extra attentive. After they ate, he said to her, "Why don't we dance?" They turned up the music and began to dance. Tears began to flow. He asked her why she was crying.
"This is what I've always wanted," she said to him while nestled in his warm embrace.
"I know you have. But I never knew how to give my love to you, how to show you," he replied, his voice expressing regret.
"What happened? Why now?" She asked him.
With softness in his eyes, he replied, "Last night when we were singing that song about love with the children at church, my heart was touched. And then, that lesson that Jennifer gave for Valentine's Day explaining the different types of love, somehow, while she was talking about Agape' love, I finally understood it. I can't explain it, but suddenly I knew what was missing, and saw how I didn't know how to live out my love for you and was keeping myself from expressing it to you.  It's like something clicked. I knew I needed to show you how much you mean to me. I want you to be happy."
My friend turned to me and smiled. I was so happy for her. I knew how much she had longed for his love and to rest in it (to feel secure in it), and how she had prayed for years that something would change between them. I asked if I could share her story in a blog as a way to encourage others who are discouraged with their mates and marriage. She nodded. As in many things, the wait may be long but that isn't necessarily the end of the story.

Miracles still happen.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Olympics & The Heart of a Champion

An Olympic Champion. 
I always enjoy the Olympics. I've watched them through many seasons of life, starting with my childhood. I have my favorites in the select group of Olympic champions. Thanks to the internet, I can enjoy revisiting their moments of triumph, and those other times when I thought they should have won, and they didn't, their performance so lovely it brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my soul.

One observes the heart of a champion, a desire within like a flame that refuses to die, increasing in brightness as it gains it's strength--despite setbacks and disappointments. We saw a few of these in the past two weeks. They persevered regardless of major physical traumas from past competitions and some failures that mentally would have to be overcome. They arrived, loaded for bear! Ready to compete as an overcomer, a champion; one who is not easily deterred.

It is also hard to see champions fail, or lose their edge. Yet, their flame is still lit and glowing. It will always glow brightly. It's in their blood, the heart of a champion. They live in our memories like fond friends. We enjoy seeing them on t.v. or whenever we get a chance. Some will live on forever. I respect their courage, fortitude, and achievements.

Thanks to all the hardworking families, who sacrifice to support their children's dreams; a dream that is nurtured and developed until one day they shine brightly on the world stage. Those of us sitting at home in our places of ease, do not know the true cost and joy of a champion's pursuit of perfection. It started with a belief, that grew to a desire, was flamed into a dream, developed through time and tears, and blossomed into an olympic champion.

Thank you. You are talented, persevering, and beautiful. We appreciate you and your hard work and the effort with which you reach to the stars. Carry on!

#The Olympics #Olympic champion

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Character is as Character does

Character: You can't manufacture it. You must cultivate it.
I guess I'm a little old fashioned.
There are some things I miss, living in this day and age. I miss the old days when a person's word was their bond, when a handshake meant good faith that each person would keep their agreement. I miss people being honest, valuing integrity, and honorable in action and deed, when lying was considered a sin and not part of doing business, covering one's tracks, as in the end justifies the means. I dislike the term "I lied," spoken so easily and frequently by people from all walks of life, who don't think twice about the lies they tell to make the story jive for their benefit.
My parents raised us to be people of character.
My parents were intentional about their responsibility in raising us to be good stewards with our lives. They followed the golden rule and the ten commandments in their own lives, and they expected the same from us. I learned to believe in a wrong and a right with few gray areas. Although it sounds harsh by today's relaxed standards, I don't believe it was. In fact, living with a sense of propriety was sensible, practical, and important, allowing a framework for making life's choices.
As a teenager and then as a young adult, I began to form my own character.
It came down to choices. It is still about choices. It will always be about choices. Every day we make choices. The choices matter. To develop character that has staying power, one must figure out the parameters that will become the boundaries for the way each will live out their life. Without these boundaries, compromise is swift, it is around every corner at work, in every school, and part of every kind of entertainment. A guard must be erected within one's thinking. This is necessary to keep one's mind clean, one's habits appropriate, one's business honest, one's behaviors circumspect. A Christian should care about their character since it is attached to Christ's name. It takes on a greater meaning. God wants us to be people of his way, and his way is just and pure, loving and kind, forgiving and strong.
Suggestions for building character:
1. Look at the guidelines found in the scriptures. The Ten Commandments' guidelines are a starting point.
2. Determine that you will choose to live honestly and with integrity (even when it is challenging).
3. Choose like-minded friends who live in a similar way. Stay away from people who negatively influence you or bring you down.
4. Remove yourself from areas that lead to compromise, addictive behavior, or deceitful practices.
5. Do the right thing, even if you have to go it alone. Stand by your principles (know what they are).
6. Don't cheat, brag, or self-promote; don't devalue others, put-down others, or act with prejudice.
7. Humble yourself, tone down the over-reaching pride, be grateful for the gifts you've been given.
8. Help others, often, and with little thought for self. This is a beautiful character trait!
9. Self-assess frequently, keep yourself in check, notice warning signs...those little temptations.
10. Strive to be kind in word, action, and attitude. Bless others by caring about them. 

A farmer must plant the seed in fertile ground. He cultivates the ground, then plants the seed in the tilled soil. The farmer waters the seed, he removes the weeds, he adds nutrients to the soil. The farmer prunes when needed, and encourages sunlight to reach the plants for abundant growth. The crop is harvested after all this has been completed, after much effort, time, and expense has been incurred. The same is true for character. It is developed, nurtured, lived out. It will have a good harvest when the cycle is completed. People of character stand out. They are believed and not doubted. They are honored and not despised. They have depth beyond their peers. Character matters.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Writing Basics: Proofreading and Book Editing Tools

Writing is an adventure!
Looking back on the last two years gives me the right to say that! Starting at nothing and moving toward something started me on an unknown and winding journey. I can look back now and say, I really didn't know what I was doing when I first started out. All I knew was I wanted to write a book as a way to share my thoughts. Before that, I wanted to write, but it was more for the purpose of writing's sake, not for the purpose of sharing a heart-felt message.

My newest venture in this unknown land, is in the area of editing and proofreading.
Quite by accident I landed at The Christian PEN, an organization whose purpose is to help Christian authors, proofreaders, and editors develop their writing skills into marketable services. I signed on as a way for self-development, professional development that will help me become acquainted with this side of the business, and to improve my editing skills (and knowledge of language constructs). I quickly enrolled in a proofreading class already in progress. I also signed up for their Christian PENN conference plus another Christian Writers conference since they dove-tail together back-to-back. My purpose in joining up was to get better at what I do as an author, and, maybe, even down the road, incorporate proofreading and editing as a side-income.

Like any job, you have to have the right tools, the tools of the trade.
We are five weeks into the class. The message comes out loud and clear. You have to do it right, use the right reference tools, and double check your work. The Chicago Manual of Style is the style guide of all style guides, the one used for secular work. The Christian Writer's Manual of Style is for Christian books. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary is the standard reference tool of the professionals. It is the right dictionary to use. Dictionaries don't all match in word spellings (really!). The Associated Press Stylebook is the reference tool to use for article writing. All of these reference tools should be the most recent edition. For Christian writers, it is also important to note that scripture quotes must be carefully checked for wording, punctuation, and citings. Familiar passages are easy to quote incorrectly. Just because it can be found on the internet does not mean it is quoted correctly.
It helps to know your stuff!
Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors by Kathy Ide, is a newly published book that will be a great asset to any serious writer. I can already tell that it will come in handy and is user-friendly. It is written by the founder of The Christian PEN. She has done us a favor by giving us a handy dandy book that is practical and helpful.

I will include a link to Amazon.com should you wish to hurry on over there right now to purchase one of these books.   "amazon.com "

Love Hunger is Universal

What do you need? What do I need? What is the greatest need we all have as humans?
You need love. I need love. We all need to be loved. It is our greatest need.

People can meet that need. Some will love us. The fortunate ones are loved from the moment of their birth. Their family is crazy about them. Some are not so fortunate.

Back in the 1980s, I remember when my son was in the hospital for two weeks. He was in the pediatric unit with his legs strapped up in traction. In the room next to us there was an infant, a baby about two months old. This baby was born with multiple birth defects. His hands and feet were bound in wrappings and it was mentioned to me that he had hydrocephalus as well. The room where he lay in a crib was always dark. Never once did I see a visitor or family member in his room. The on-duty nurse would care for him, but no one held him for more than a few minutes at a time. Rarely was he taken out of the room. The little guy seemed abandoned, unwanted, and he seemed to receive only the basics of care. It made me wonder the particulars. It bothered me. I felt it in my maternal heart, that he was being withheld from bonding with an adult, as if his little life didn't matter. We need love to survive. He needed love. That was the point. The neglect of one so young hurt me to watch. Some have known so little love.

There is one who meets our love-hunger need. It is Jesus. He meets our need to be loved regardless of what the world around us should imply about our worth and value. Jesus walks with us. He talks with us. He listens to our woes and celebrates our joys. Jesus caries our burdens and lifts our cares, even when we are too weary to ask him to do that for us.

Jesus loves you. He always will love you. You can count on his love. It never fails. Never, ever fails. You can take that to the bank!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Effects of Loss and What to Do About It.

Loss affects all of us. It is one of those hard things you can't deflect. It comes when it comes. There is no stopping it. The effects of loss crowd into our lives like unwelcome intruders, sabotaging our happiness in sad, hurtful, confusing, difficult-to-deal-with ways.  Lost love is a particularly painful loss. It hits hard: separation, divorce, abandonment, relationship break-ups, rejection, dementia, and death.  Some losses take a toll in our personal lives. We lose jobs and positions, status and reputation. We lose our innocence, health, finances, possessions, family, and friendships.

When loss occurs, we are forced to make a choice. What will we do with the bad that just happened to us? Will we meet it head-on, or will we run from it? To be healthy in our emotions after a loss requires that we become proactive in our response to it. The emotion must be figured out, the hidden message we have believed about ourselves (or others) as a result of the loss, that has undermined our steps and brought us to a screeching halt. The feelings of blame or regret, anger or bitterness, towards others, self, or God.

The pain of loss is strong. Because of this, the cure or remediation will take time, effort, and determination. One must not hide, live in denial, bury or shield the pain. One must choose a better thing, choose life and healing, and another new day. Loss, of any kind, has a grieving period attached. It takes time to sort through the thoughts and feelings associated with the loss. To deny this, is to shut down one's emotions, an unhealthy way of coping. Moving forward, as we deal with loss, will come as we look for answers, solutions, and find them.

If you are in the middle of a personal crisis that has loss attached, I want you to know that you will make it. Do not despair. The sun will rise again. A new day will be yours. Joy comes in the morning. You will find your new path. It may take hours, days, months, or years ... but you will find your way to happiness once again. Join me and many others who have crawled out of the pit, who have been side-lined many times by a curve ball from out of no-where, and chose to hang on to hope for dear life  ... and it delivered.

Blessings always,

Valentine's Day is a hard day for many of us. Be encouraged, anyways. Find your hope. There is always hope. You can count on it.

#loss #healing #hope #grief #emotions, #grieving, #pain , job loss, relationship loss

Monday, February 10, 2014

Writing, Money, and Purpose

Is Writing about Making Money or is Writing about Communicating a Message?
Writing is not all about making money, creating a name for yourself, or building a following. I think not.Those things are part of the deal, but not the most important element.   
Writing is about passion. It's about having something to say that is worth saying, that the writer believes has merit and meaning. It has an objective. Writing is communicating big ideas in carefully crafted wordings. Writing is speaking with a musicality endearing to the reader, causing them to want more. Writing with substance is to take writing to a level of purposed endeavor which will influence and create something of value for its intended audience.  I believe if we only write to make money, then we have missed the point of the greater reason.

If it is only about dollars and cents, writing will be of a temporary quality with little lasting value. Cranking out volumes of text to print for this purpose only--to pay the bills--in itself is not what writing, in its pure form, is about. Writing which captures ideas to bring them to life, and incorporates understanding of human foibles, errors and triumphs, will endure and become legendary. 

The test of time will sift the wheat from the chaff. Time showcases the people who know how to write, to spill their guts, to make language speak in ways people can hear whereby causing the cream to rise to the top. Real writing has something to say that is worth saying, if not for others at least for one's self.

Great writers write because their voices refuse to be silent.  
The fire burns within them. Some writers did their writing from prison cells where they languished for their beliefs of no compromise nor deliverance. Thoughts came to them in the quietness of the hidden place behind walls of darkness. There, some of the greatest works blossomed within the harshness of their crucible. The spirit within them would not die or disbelieve in the greater good that could be accomplished if the truth could be released from out of the bowels of their tomb. Some authors' works speak louder in today's world than in the day in which they were written. #Tolkien, Lewis, #Bonhoeffer, #Solzhenitsyn, #Bunyan, the apostle Paul, Saint John, #Merton, and #Chesterton, to name a few, had much to say that came out of lives bound to a greater purpose. The world is a better place, richer in dimension, because of their contributions.
Passion and writing are like hand in glove, one needs the other to make it work. Writing is the observation of the nuances of language and emotions of life, showing the spirit of the spiritual and evil of the diabolical, coming together in an on-going clash of plot and message, teaching through subliminal message and characterization through carefully constructed plots which weave the very essence of life and living.  
Writers write like sculptors sculpt. They release the image through the uniting of their soul with the material at hand, seeing the hidden message found in beauty or distress by means of expression with unexpected and unusual clarity. Their words take us to the place, emotion, belief, or conflict. Our eyes see through their words.

#Writing #Fine literature #Classics #Authors

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

THE SECRET? It Really Is About Love

 I SPEAK because of LOVE
 A new friend and I were sitting at the table talking about our lives. Our daughters are friends which brought us together to visit while the girls watched the Super Bowl. We are the same age and God is important to both of us. Then the conversation got real. She told me her story and I shared mine. She is an accomplished woman, a former corporate climber of the ladder of success who became a Christian in her early thirties. She married a Christian man and became a homemaker mom who also home-schooled her daughters. Then life took a turn for the worse. The bubble popped. They divorced, she returned to work, custody battles and so forth and so on. She asked about my children, my life, how God worked in my life.   Tears welled as emotions surfaced while I related some of my story. "Three hours seem like fifteen minutes," she was saying to me. "You understand how hard it is. You're so easy to talk to." 

Yes, I do understand. Pain did that to me. Yet, it no longer owns me. I am free of its curse.
* * *
In our sharing, we both gave an explanation for why we help others. She uses her voice as a compliment to service. She helps others. While helping she often shares the grace of God. Right now she is helping a couple in their eighties with some pretty challenging issues. Her explanation was so beautiful that I want to remember it forever. ... She sees herself as a teapot. 

Her analogy is a perfect picture of how it works in being real!
Her words: "I am like a little teapot.
Christ pours his spirit into me and then I pour out to others what he has given me. It comes in the top--from God to me, and then it goes out the spout--from me to someone else. I do things for others things I would never have done before he came into my life. And, I am happy to do them. The important part is to keep myself open to God, to let him continually fill me so I have something to give to people he puts in my path."
 * * *
My story is a little different. The changes in me came as a result of a vow and a list. Both were promises I made to God from out of a wounded heart and after years of struggle. I decided that I would use anything he wanted to do in me or reveal to me for his glory, to help others who suffer in silence. I made the vow in February the week after my mate chose to leave our marriage of twenty-one years. The list was written on the day I was served divorce papers on my forty-sixth birthday.  I submitted the list to God in a prayer, asking him to do something I could not do on my own. I was on empty. I had done everything the best way I knew how--and it had never been enough. The list was my declaration of what I wanted God to do in my life with a plea to change me.  For all my trying, I hadn't been able to save my marriage, now I wanted God to save me from defeat and despair and from becoming a bitter old woman. As I sought God for all I was worth and he initiated change in me, surprisingly (or not surprisingly, actually), every one of the items on the list became true in my life. I received a beauty make-over!                     (The list is abbreviated)
My Vow: 2002 - My first journal entry.

"Gracious Father, Work on my heart and mind. Help me to learn to listen. Help me to push past my fear and to have eyes to see. I want to see Jesus. May my reality adjust and readjust as my vision for you changes. May I see you alone. May the work you are doing in me be used outwardly to minister to others. I seek you and you alone." 
         2002 - My List which changed my life. The Key - intentionality and surrender.
1. God first in everything. I want his power and strength in all I do. I want to change.
2. Healing in my emotions and deep inner spirit. I want to be free. I want joy.
3. Be myself. Let go of the chains and conflicts that bind me.
4. Become more self-decisive, less worried about what others think.
5. Develop more honest "transparent-real" friendships with godly people.
6. Seek deliverance from the bondage I've been under in this marriage relationship.
7. Pray for repentance which brings godliness, for wellness in all areas of my being.
8. Pray for God to change me. I will pray for awareness and humbling. 
It truly is amazing how God can take a broken person and breathe life into them. His life becomes their life. His Spirit renews and heals their spirit. These days I can not imagine living without God. He has become my breath and being, my sustenance. It is hard to explain how even the simplest of common things, like a dainty wildflower, can reduce me to tears of wonderment and joy. 

When we give God access to our lives, what God gives to us, in return, is his love. We, in return, receive a beautiful heart. After the healing transformation has begun, our hearts becomes free to love in a new way. Because of its swelling abundance it must share its love. It becomes an outworking of the love God has given us which replicates through us in an a sundry of ways. God makes something beautiful out of something ordinary. He is that way. We must trust him for the journey. I must say, though, it rarely is easy, and we are desperate at times. Yet, he walks with us right in step ... even when we can't see him through the fog of circumstances. It is such a privilege to help a sister who is going through the fire, to encourage her, to tell her that she will make it and life will get better because you know it is true, you've lived it. The more real God becomes the better it gets, even through the difficulties and heartaches. He touches us where we need touching, in our deep inner places. He frees us through his love, forgiveness, and life.

Because of love, true love, God gives us the most gorgeous Valentine of them all. 
Its words say, "I LOVE YOU!" 
Blessings ... Your friend, Norma
The Lord bless you and keep you. May his face shine upon you. Never forget, you are loved. Norma
#When A Woman Finds Her Voice

Character is a Choice

In life there are some areas that matter far more than wealth, power or fame. Although we don't talk about them much, they are there nevertheless. I want to talk about one of them. It is so integral to person-hood and self realization; it is the area of character.

We have certain perceptions about character. We believe it is taught--and it is: we believe it is formed--and it is. We believe that a set of guiding principles are what character traits hold true--and they are indeed. There is one more thing that character is about. It is an internal dial that is constantly moving us through the moment by moment occasions of each day, like a compass giving us direction. Personal habits influence character. Belief fuels our choices. Until we cement our personal boundaries, the daily stuff may become a minefield of temptations, a cage of internal conflicts that form areas of bondage we must battle and struggle against.  Someone's character is trashed when they succumb to the forces of lust or some form of want or greed. This comes quite naturally as we all know.  

No matter how vigilant, one is always vulnerable. One must determine what they hold sacred, what values they WILL live by and stand by through thick and thin. Areas of non-compromise. I believe the battle for character is won deep on the inside of the person. Especially in the context of a society at large which no longer supports a standard of acceptable behaviors that are wholesome. The assault on cultural mores opens up avenues for degradation we never thought possible, the slide down hill into the quagmire. One has to go up the hill, plan for the future. Choose how one is going to live their life in the actions of the will. We as individuals are always responsible for our own actions. We make the choices in most circumstances--except those whom have had the wrong thrust upon them by wrong-minded adults and others. These are not of their doing. Character is precious. We may not agree on politics or religion but we respect a person who lives a life of character and integrity.
Be careful of your THOUGHTS:
For your Thoughts become your WORDS.
Be careful of your WORDS;
For your Words become your ACTIONS.
Be careful of your ACTIONS;
For your Actions become your HABITS.
Be careful of you HABITS;
For your Habits become your CHARACTER.
Be careful of your CHARACTER;
For your Character becomes your DESTINY.

When wealth is lost, nothing is lost;
When health is lost, something is lost;
When character is lost, all is lost.
Sow a thought and you reap an act;
Sow an act and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit and you reap a character;
Sow a character and you reap a destiny.
                                                           Poem - courtesy of Pete Coulson

#Character Matters

Monday, February 3, 2014

Truth is True, Opinion can Counterfeit as Truth

National Monument to the Forefathers: Plymouth, Massachusetts.

  "The monument depicts Faith, and Faith is pointing to God and has an open Geneva Bible and a star of wisdom." Marshall Foster.  Photo and quote from Wikipedia. Statue is featured in the movie, Monumental, a movie about the bedrock beliefs that shaped America, starring Kirk Cameron.
Truth is always true. Truth cannot be manipulated. It either is the truth or it isn't the truth. If something is true and always will be true, it is incapable of being something it is not. It is no longer easy to talk about truth. It has become a 'dirty' little concept in many circles. Why is this? I could say why I think it is this way, but that isn't necessary. Truth represents a standard, an absolute, something unyielding. The natural parameters of truth, in its purity, get in the way of its fully being embraced. It has limits that determine behavior. It may be easier to denounce or avoid what is true because then a life can be lived without binding restraint.

If truth were to bend it would not be truth. The nature of truth means it cannot be manipulated. ‘Find your own truth’ is a statement one hears which seems to mean, what is true for that individual person.  That statement seems in-congruent with the steadfastness of truth. Yet, we all understand its meaning. It is a subjective truth, truth based on the individual’s belief. or dare I say, their opinion on what is true. In truth, true truth is based on something that will always remain true—the same--it will never change. It is wrong to steal. That will always be true, an agreed upon principle for behavior, even though people steal in little deceitful ways and big obtuse ways. The truth will always be the truth, regardless of whether it is believed or not. Truth stands alone. If it is an inconvenient truth, then it may be hidden or buried or disbelieved.

Understanding truth can be a little complicated. There was one time when I stood alone for something I believed in. It was in the workplace. I felt I must stand up if I was to be true to my own convictions and self. So, in a sense, the thing I stood up for may be perceived as ‘my own truth,’ and my colleagues, in their respect, were living out their ‘own truth.’ I believed in a truth but others did not see it as I saw it. We differed in our understanding, perceptions and beliefs, in a situation, it could be argued, where there was no true right or wrong. We all felt passionate about what we believed and it was not easy.

There are times when truth is being compromised. Whistle blowers seek to expose the truth, the coverup, the corruption, the wrong doings and wrong behaviors. This is difficult and even may be deadly. They know a truth, an unpopular truth, that to expose will be of potential risk to them. Someone I know experienced this very scenario. He was in a management position with an agriculture processing company. During the course of his work, he uncovered some inside corruption. He went to the top with his findings. The truth was quickly silenced. He was given notice. It stung. But he knew--that didn’t make it any less the truth. Spiritually speaking, truth is what binds the Bible together cover to cover.

Christ said some astonishing words that few, if any, could comprehend at the time. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” He was claiming to be The Truth, not just as a way to find truth. His sacrificial life (life, death, and resurrection) backed up these words. These were not empty promises with false hope nor were they rash words. Jesus’ death and resurrection validated his earlier claims, proving the Messenger’s message as true, a truth for in that day and still apropos for our present day and on ahead into future centuries.

People have an awareness of truth even if they do not believe the the concept of a universal truth. An argument for the defense of truth is found in everyone's conscience. Embedded within our thinking is a strong sense of right and wrong. Even a very young child displays an awareness of this. They will hide when they sneak something that doesn’t belong to them. People cry 'foul' when there is a cover-up or lack of equality in some way that affects their person or community or even nation. Fair treatment is action everyone understands and expects. “Just’ treatment is in the same category, both related to a sense of what is true, what is right societal behavior. “Speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” are not fanciful or empty words. When testifying in court, the unvarnished truth contains the facts,  as they were at the time and not as we wish they had been. Nothing but the truth is resolute. It cannot be manipulated through embellishment or minimization of details. Truth is connected to a code of behavior. Truth-telling has its basis in truth. Truth can not be shaken or destroyed. It remains and endures.
Jesus Christ makes no apology. His very life was a defending of truth. He was a Rock in the sifting sands of time and shifting waves of public opinion. To this day, we can measure truth by actualizing the life of Christ. The Sermon on the Mount, found in the gospel of Matthew, chapters 5, 6, and 7 is truth we are well advised to heed that it might go well with us. Framed in Christ’s words is how truth should be lived.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall  inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when other revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:3-12) ESV 
 Truth, would not be truth if manipulated by changing days and societal mores. The things of which Christ said are most important are not on many agendas or to-do lists. That doesn't make them any less true. We see a few saints who qualify for the groupings listed above. Their understanding of truth is lived out God's way. It is as if God's truth flows into them and then flows out of their spirit. It is of a different quality than the world around them. Truth has a reality about it that frames the question. Many people believe that truth is relative. It it is relative, then it couldn't possibly be truth. The two are in contradiction.

A rose is a rose ...
#truth telling #opinion #spiritual #Beatitudes #Jesus and truth #relative truth #Monumental #Kirk Cameron

Friday, January 31, 2014

Book Writing & a Message for Life's Pathway

The Beauty of Writing: God Gives the Message to the Messenger.
Coming soon ...
Sometimes we look back to see where we've come from. Other times we look forward to see where we're headed. And then there's reality, where we're at this point in time. For some of us, we never quite arrive at that place where we want to be. If we let this stop us then it will impede our progress. Looking forward is critical to our success. A plan is needful, too.

Introspection is helpful but it also can be crippling. All depends. It can keep us stationery and immobile--if we're stuck looking backwards or inward. Action is necessary to start a movement forward, the snowball effect. It helps to have a purposed approach. It has been this way for me in my various writings. I have a target audience. The Christian community is where I focus my creative energies. There is something I have found in my walk with God that has made a change-around in my life. So much so, that I want to give my readers a taste of what I have learned and received so they will want it for themselves. My desire to share these thoughts come in the form of something I term, "A Great Compelling." It would be wrong of me to keep quiet. So, I speak and write.

~I want my readers to know the Lord Jesus Christ for in him truth is found.
     ~I want my readers to grow closer to their heavenly Father in the richness of relationship.
         ~ I want my readers to let go of their anger, pain, bondage, sin, problems, and insecurities.
                ~ I want my readers to find and experience greater joy, contentment, peace, hope and love.
                         ~I desire for my readers renewal, revival, rejuvenation, restoration, revitalizing.
                 ~I wish for my readers a hunger for spiritual life that is never satiated or boring.
          ~I wish for my readers an intimate walk with God that is rich and satisfying, delightful.
     ~I wish for my readers a hope that never dies, a belief that keeps on believing, and life that is real.
~I wish for my readers a deeper faith that is not uprooted by the trials of living but is steadfast. 

In some small way, I am invested in the lives of my readership. My writing reflects the call I have on my life. A call I feel called to enact and complete for the remaining years of my life be they many or few. I love God and I love his Word, it spills out of me and cannot be contained. He has done so much for me that words fail to express how dear he has become to me. Life is joy when one lives close to God. He has a way of changing even the smallest of encounters into causes for celebration. A smile, a handshake, a lovely flower, a blade of grass, a soft baby blanket, the aroma of baking bread, the embrace of a friend--a healed heart and a forgiven soul. Everything is important when God is in control. He is a kind friend. Father God makes beauty from ashes and joy which comes in the morning.

#book #BlogRadio #Spirituality #Intimacy with God

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is God into Book Marketing?

I am a person of many theories. I notice a trend and then I try to make sense of it, what it could mean. I guess it is the part of me that is part philosopher. Blend that with my desire for spiritual truth, an awareness of God at work, and you get an interesting dynamic. The Christian  and religious book genre is something I have been tracking over the years. Some books rise to the top and get lots of attention. Is it just beginner's luck, good timing, or something else?

A few years ago I was teaching an adult Sunday school class about ways to go deeper with God. I made a statement then that got a little traction in the group. I mentioned that I have noticed certain books in the "Christian/Religious" genre that have literally flown off the bookstore shelf and into peoples homes around the globe. Some of these have been a phenomenal success (and unexpected) from the marketing analysis point of view. Their amazing success has seemed almost uncanny.

I don't think the book selling success is strictly of the author's doing or writing skill. No, I think not. There is another dynamic at play, at least I think there is. I think it has a lot to do with God. How so? My theory is this: I believe that God uses certain author's books to spread his message around the world. He multiplies the effort. I find it interesting what people are chosen for this way of being used. Their backgrounds vary and their books are widely divergent. But, the message inside their books, have a similarity. Redemption finds its way into their books' pages. Life, truth, and forgiveness are part of the message as well as overcoming and healing. Purpose is given to life, and a pursuit of greater understanding bleeds through the pages. I do not minimize the talents of the writers nor their effort in getting their books to press. Without their commitment to the process, we would be the losers.

~ 3 BOOKS ~
I will name three books that I believe that are this way.  Books written and delivered through the tools of believers in Christ in this present day. The books they have written have impacted lives around the globe. Even some of the people I know.

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young
Amazon link--The Shack 
The Shack  is a fiction book by Paul Young, through the yskills found in a natural born storyteller. The reader is placed in the mind of a man hurt by life and then haunted by the memory of the death of his young daughter. He cannot escape the punishment that comes with the joining of his father's tyrannical behavior with the losing of his innocent sweet child. God is presented in the form of three persons using surprising imagery. The book is both feared and embraced by the faith community. I find it delightful. It is obvious that this book is written to show the way God loves, heals, and revives people in the church whom have been injured in their emotions. The truths have a way of touching the inner person.

                                             Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson

Amazon Link - Prayer of Jabez 
I heard about Prayer of Jabez soon after it was released. Members in my church were talking about it. They were asking each other what to make of it. Did it work? How to apply it to their lives. This book takes a passage in the Bible, nestled in a book in the Old Testament, and explains its application to today. It explains that God wants to bless us and to expand our influence within the sphere of our influence. I remember the day I bought my first copy. I was in Walmart. A young woman took it off the shelf and told her male friend, "If you do what this books says you're supposed to get what you want." Of course, that was an abuse of the concept in the book. One has to be tied closely to the Source, God himself, and yielded to his way of living life. Many pray the prayer Jabez prayed as part of their devotional life.
The Purpose Drive Life by Rick Warren
Amazon link - The Purpose Driven Life 
Rick Warren lays out a forty week process in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, for helping people find out their purpose in life. Then he gives tools for living it out. It is an easy book to read for it is written for the layman who just wants to live a life that has substantive purpose. A plan for sharing this book and its content with others is encouraged through video sessions and lessons that are implemented within homes and churches, with neighbors and friends. My sister's family participated in a neighborhood study. It was a blessing in many ways and brought people together in a non-threatening way to discuss spiritual truths. A friendship developed between the people and a sharing of areas of faith with acceptance a part of this dynamic.