Stories that Shine on an Awesome God

Archive for the ‘Shining on God’s Character’ Category

Equipped

Scraps of tune weave into my waking.
What is that song?

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I reach for my phone and press Search on my app. I must need the music. Why else would the Spirit impress it on this coming-out-of-a-dream moment? Yes, it is Him. I’ve experienced enough dream-related moments to recognize the insight.

I raise myself on an elbow and type. You will overcome. No, not that one. Broken strongholds. Nope. How does that song go? Something about a crown … ah, yes. Victor’s Crown. I select Play and the music spills over the edges of my downy comforter, flooding my mind with words of war. (Click on the link below to listen to the song.)

Victor’s Crown

I hold my breath. I’m secure in a room that’s warm within a house stocked with plenty of food, so why does the music of conflict stir my heart until it swells with hope and courage?
Do I need a buttress from the craziness in my nation’s capital, an hour’s drive away? Or perhaps against the monstrous hurricane bearing down on my favorite island beach?

Waves

My lungs whoosh out their air.

Maybe. Yet I believe in a God who stays with me through events I can’t control. Even if they affect me, which they undoubtedly will, He will give me wisdom and strength.

I listen through to the end, press Replay, and sink my head onto the pillow.
No, this is not about any exterior event churning my world into one I don’t recognize. These words of absolute victory strike a more intimate note.

It’s been a packed and wonderful summer of reunions, vacations, travel, loved ones, grandchildren, and … an empty nest.

That last one has nearly gotten me. Not the empty nest. It’s the fledgling, miles away, still trying to learn which way to fly and how, that knots my gut and tightens my throat.

You are ever interceding …

Fledging

The music definitely applies to my fledgling and to my other adult children and their children. I’ve needed the courage to rise above recent depressing demons of helplessness, ineptness, regret, and doubt where they are concerned. I’ve offered weak prayers, it seems, against their weaknesses inherited, in part, from their mother. The spirit-battles in their regard have raged and I’ve been near defeated.

Every high thing must …

I can’t control my children. I know that. Don’t want to. I can only pray and influence a little. Precious little.

I press Replay and throw off the covers. The music resounds and moves beyond my kids.
The song is for me this morning. It’s for my own personal war.

The carpet is soft to my feet. At the sink, I turn on cold water and splash my face.

You have overcome … You have overcome …

A verse I read a few days back comes to mind:

“Get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on … I am the Lord your God.” Ezekial 20:7&8

The Spirit of Light pokes with gentle touch. I bury my face in a terry towel.

What have I set my eyes on?

Easy. A screen. Hand-held or on my lap. A screen filled with the latest news that isn’t news, or maybe it is, who knows? Or filled with a recommended movie. Or a fellow author’s book. They are all good things in due season, but not when that screen should be pulsating with words, sentences, and holy passion being typed into an unfinished manuscript the ruler of darkness absolutely Does. Not. Want. Me. To. Write.

Not to mention my blog.

Cell phone

I surrender to my truth. My war is one that extends well beyond media, but I often set my screen idol before my eyes and it consumes precious minutes. Hours.

High things must come down.

You will overcome … You will overcome.

Music in hand, I pad down the hall and settle into my devotion chair. I want to enter the sacred place that holds my battle gear. I open the Word.

Bible

“…but you, woman of God, flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith… keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in His own time.” I Tim. 6: 11, 12 & 14

“Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness … pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart … gently instruct [those who oppose] in the hope that God will grant them repentance … and will come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil who has taken them captive to do his will.II Timothy 2: 19, 22, 25-26

“But God’s Word is not chained.II Timothy 2:9
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness, and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14
“It wasn’t by THEIR sword that they won the land, nor did THEIR arm bring them victory. It was YOUR right hand, YOUR arm, and the light of YOUR face, for You loved them … Through You, we push back our enemies; through Your name we trample our foes. I do not trust in my bow. My sword does not bring me victory, but You give us victory over our enemies. Psalms 44:3, 5-6

Sword fight

I glance at my phone, press Replay, and bow my head.
Jesus, it’s You who wear the victor’s crown. You have won this good fight of faith. Since You are in me and I am in You, it’s my victory too.

I close the Word, equipped.

HALLELUJAH

If I had known…

If I had known all the arduous effort, attention to detail, and mind-and-heart-breaking labor my first literary work would take, I probably wouldn’t have started.

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It has been a labor of love from the first day, but I had no idea what a degree in creative writing would involve—even though it’s only a home-schooled course. If I had known, I might have chosen a different field.

Fortunately, I didn’t know.

Even more fortunate, this school has a fabulous Teacher. He knows the end from the beginning. He views a thousand years as only one day and one as a thousand.

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My teacher knows that in order to heal, one must go back to the point of pain and doing that takes time.

It takes experiencing the healing process in the now, even if one turns gray in the meantime. For me, it meant setting my work aside for about twelve years, but my Teacher didn’t give up. It’s been messy. It will continue to be messy, but he continues to teach.

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His most recent lesson, the one that brought this blog concept to the forefront, involves Point of View.

Disclaimer: The following includes shop talk. I know from experience how tedious shop talk can be for those not interested in the shop. I’ll try to make this succinct.

I studied the craft of writing stories. I wrote and wrote and rewrote and rewrote. I shared my manuscript baby. I cut out complete scenes. I pitched to publishers. I entered contests. I applied the judges’ suggestions. I submitted to publishers. I involved editors. I even lived life beyond writing. I submitted again.

The latest answer? “Resubmit when it is in Deep Point of View.”

Resubmit, for those not in the shop, is a very encouraging word from a publisher. It’s another word for “Your manuscript has potential…but…are you a serious writer? Really? Are you willing to stretch yourself more than you ever dreamed possible? If so, resubmit.”

Evidently, I was still telling too much and not showing enough. Still? Yep. After all my long nights and early mornings and solitude and tucked-in-around-living writing-time…after all my gray hair…it was still too easy for the reader to get out of the character’s head.

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I bought a different book on deep point of view. I read and reread.

My “telling” statements began to pop out like hands waving in a classroom. I began my umpteenth edit.

“Now, I’m done,” I said. “I’m ready to resubmit.”

“Uh, not so fast,” said my Teacher. “Take a look at that blog. Yeah, that one, right there, on your email feed that you were about to delete. The one for writers that you subscribed to. The one with the headline about point of view.”

I opened the blog and learned that having the character’s name too many times in a scene distracts the reader. Pronouns work better. It was a simple point. The kind I should have recognized myself. Did I really want to resubmit with reader-distraction words embedded in my scenes? Messy work, this.

My Teacher had caught me just in time.

I am so ready for graduation. I’m ready to move to the next level as I start a new project, but these instances with my Teacher are worth all my work.

There’s no guarantee for a publishing contract. I may have to submit far into the future, but it’s all good because…

My Teacher controls the calendar and that’s OK with me.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4

On the subject of God’s school…

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I’m including a little bonus for those who have read down this far. It’s one of those scenes I just told you about, out of my book. At this point in the story, Rose-Marie, the main character, is fourteen and just graduated from eighth grade. This is how she formed her ideas about being in God’s school. Matthew is a sixteen-year-old she has deep feelings for. Enjoy!

***

Whew. What a night. She slid off her shoes. What would Matthew’s card say? The bathroom would be private enough to find out.

On the front was an owl wearing a graduation cap with the word, “Congratulations.” Inside was the single word, “Smarty!” She chuckled. That rascal. Such a tease.

Even what Matthew had said under the streetlight had been half teasing, but it had also been true. You will enjoy dating. She squirmed, remembering. What else had he written?

Dear Rose-Marie, I found this quote and thought about your graduation. Something to remember: ‘The highest education possible is learning God’s will and God’s way. Build upon principles that are eternal, not on the principles of this world.’ Yours truly, Matthew.

What a way of making her laugh while making her think—all with one simple card. She would hide it in her Bible.

She slipped off her A-line dress with three-quarter bell sleeves. Its filmy outer layer with a leafy pattern in aqua, slid between her fingers. Pretty, but not sweet. She had sewn it for graduation., but with her graduation gown covering the dress most of the evening, Matthew hadn’t even seen it. Oh, well.

The house was quiet with everyone else in bed. A warm bath for relaxation would be just the thing.

God’s education? She lowered herself into the tub. God’s education was different than graduating from elementary school, high school, or college. And more important. Eternal salvation depended on how well she learned God’s lessons. She rubbed the soap, with its sweet bouquet, over her bare arms. How would she do in God’s school?

Writing Prompt

Oranges…  I see. I feel. I taste….

Oranges as a creative writing prompt?

I could turn this into a blog. I’ve needed to blog for months. Fallen way behind, doing other writing and editing and living. Blogs are important for writers to keep up. Mine is particularly important, because I’ve dedicated it to sharing God, in little “penpoints” of light.

Why not?Oranges

I was nine, just home from school, and ready to play. The garden patch with its tangle of dried plants and weeds beckoned my little brother and I into a game of Hide-and-seek.

Run and disappear into the weeds. Wait for footsteps. Jump up. Run. Repeat. Laugh a lot.

Trip. Fall down. Scream. Leap up. Scream some more. Swat at yellow jackets angry that you landed on their home. Dash to yours.

Mom met me at the door, stripped off my clothes, and prepared a tub of water and Epson salts. As she sponged the healing potion over my seventeen stings, my tears subsided.

“You stay here and soak,” she cooed. “I will bring you something to help you relax.”

Enter oranges.

A plate of orange wedges placed, eye level, on the edge of my tub. A whole plate of expensive and therefore, scarce and carefully doled out fruit, all to myself. To be savored in private. One at a time. Each section glistened with succulent promise. Mom smiled, turned, and closed the door.

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My nose touched the plate. I sniffed the tangy, citrus burst, then closed my eyes and took time to inhale the smell of comfort.

The surface of the wedge of orange between my fingers pressed firm yet pliable, smooth yet dimpled. Most of the wedges included the globular flesh of the orange’s navel. I would tug them off to savor their peculiar texture and their enhanced sweetness. Under the skin, a layer of white cushioned the juice. Perfect. The pith of a navel orange would extend the pleasure.

I sank back into my very first luxury soak, and brought the orange to my lips. As the elixir slipped between my teeth and over my tongue, the stings on my body receded. I sucked the wedge dry and reached for another. And another. Life was again worth a game of Hide-and-seek.

As my friend, Grand Andrew wrote and sings, I was “living in the luxury of the little things.” (Check out his music, here. Grant Andrew Music )

To this day when I’m in pain, and if I’ll remember, there is comfort in the little things. There is luxury and solace in the smell, the taste, the feel of the oranges in my life.

 “The [orange] trees of the Lord are watered abundantly.” – Psalms 104:16

If I take the time to relax and enjoy God’s simple gifts, so are my days.

Wake Up!

WooOUUUwooo!

Dad’s cow horn, found at some tacky souvenir shop somewhere along a tourist trap, blasted down the hall past my bedroom door. I scrunched my pillow over my ears.  

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Dad had decided this was the best way to wake his family.

It was time for breakfast. Time to get to work. Time to go to school.

“Wake up! Hit the deck. Up and at it.”

WooOUUUwooo!

Rising at four to milk the cows had been his childhood routine, so, of course, being on time and no sleeping in came as a natural part of my inheritance.

This summer, I’ve been pretty sleepy. Spiritually sleepier than I like. Longing for deeper relationship with my Lord, but not sure how to break through. Still praying. Still reading the Word. But sleepy.

A week or so ago, God woke me up.

It began with a book(s) and a letter to my dad.

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The books, Lost in Translation Vols 1,2 & 3 by John Klein & Adam Spears, have taught me that there is an inheritance covenant that we can enter into with God. It’s the third level of covenant that we walk through as we grow in our relationship with him. I have always considered myself a child of God, intellectually, but has my soul reached that point emotionally? I read and I wondered.

At the same time, I have been encouraged to write a letter to my dad – the one who used to blast me out of bed with his cow’s horn and who has now been dead for over four years. Most of my life, I have embraced Dad’s positive influence, but it was past time to shed myself of the negative ways he still swayed my thinking. I needed to be specific.  And, yes, I was crying by the time I wrote the last few pages.

One by one, I named and let go of his hurtful choices. We have all made hurtful choices. We have all been wounded by someone else. I had thought myself free of them, but no, naming them, as my counselor encouraged, really does help.

Then God turned up. He assured me that he is my true father. He will never wound. I can trust him emotionally, as a child. With tears, I claimed this truth, finished my letter as though I wrote it to God, and walked deeper into his inheritance covenant.

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Then, a short day or two later, just like the dad that he is, God woke me up.

At this age, I pretty much know my destiny. I’m sure there will be deviations and surprises, but my Father has laid out most of my path in how I am to honor him and help restore others. I don’t have much time left. My destiny involves publishing what I have written and writing more, deeper stuff. Stuff that’s hard, that will take its toll, but that glorifies him.

But, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve been sleepy and a little bit scared and a whole lot distracted.

Thankfully, not so distracted as to quit reading the books by John Klein and Adam Spears. I continued to read how Christ’s letters to the churches in Revelation can be applied through the ages as well as in our personal lives. Their book quotes the letters. God’s letter to Sardis in Revelation 3 along with Klein and Spears’ explanation was written to me, right here in late summer, 2016:

“Wake Up,” my Father God called while he raised his cow’s horn, “and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard and keep it and repent. Therefore, if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. . . She who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garment; and I will NOT erase her name from the book of Life.”

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“I’m awake, Daddy/Abba Father! Keep me that way, even if you have to blow your cow horn.”

 

Old Fashioned Sanity – 2

Southern Appalachia isn’t the only place our ancestors eked out an existence clearing virgin timber and hauling rocks from new fields. Across our nation, across our world, survival usually depended on hardy folks with muscles hard. Folks in touch with nature and in tune with the soil. When food was scarce, what fed their souls? Other than fellowship, when they lost a loved one, where did they go for comfort?

“I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?”

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They lifted up their eyes to the hills, the windswept prairies, over the sandy beaches across the infinity of water, or up to a night of pulsating stars. Nature, mixed with its wild surprises and eternal solidity drew their souls to a larger existence.

Every day they woke up knowing oneness with the earth and there was something, someone, larger than they. They could depend on spring loosening the grip of winter. They were assured autumn would slow the intensity of summer’s hot work.

Nature can still do that.

It did for Rose-Marie, the protagonist in my manuscript, my work still-in-progress-submitting-to-publishers. A couple scenes pulled from an early draft describe nature’s role in her heart’s healing:

“At the top of Newfound Gap, Rose-Marie and her friends piled out of the car. A road, dipping and twisting along the mountainside, had long forgotten the teams of loggers that had rutted its surface. Now, blanketed with snow, it called to the teens. They grabbed their sleds.

When the afternoon grew late, she took a final ride, reached the end of the normal run, and continued to glide on deep into the forest. Snowflakes drifted. Hemlock and spruce stood like mute soldiers with their giant boughs drooping with snow in a world that was very still. Her sled stopped. She listened to the silence, turned onto her back, and with flakes gentling her face, gazed into the vast gray sky. There, in the peaceful quiet, she longed for Matthew.”

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 Near the end of the book, with teens of her own, nature continued to feed her soul:

“That weekend, fresh air currents swept the mountain and took the fog with them over the grassy bald, leaving a holiday scent of Frasier fir and Carolina blue sky. A mass of lavender rhododendron spilled a bank. Rose-Marie’s workweek slipped away like a leaf through an eddy.

She stepped into a clearing and dropped her pack. Soft, layered branches of majestic hemlocks drooped to the forest floor. Green expanses of fern waved from mossy ground.

Sunset spun the air with filtered gold and reflected from the white quartz outcropping where her family sat in awe surrounded by a sea of mountains. Forever they went, in hazy, folded shades of blue while the golden sun settled itself for the night. God had done his homework.”

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God still does his homework. Lift up your eyes to the hills and know where your help comes from. Take the time. Find the place.

In our complex, often crazy world, get out in the woods, the creek side, the ocean. Drink in the sanity it provides. Appreciate the symmetry and strength of a tree even if its growing in the medium of a traffic-jammed highway. Know, deep in your soul, that your help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

“I lift up my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalms 121:1 & 2

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Food Distribution Centers

“They need help unloading a trailer of food.” The coordinator at the flood response crisis center handed me, my husband, and a local friend a work order. “It’s a church, or what used to be.” She shook her head of gray hair as she turned to the next group of volunteers.

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Inside our truck, we followed her directions through an isolated river town in the heart of the West Virginia mountains. Flood cleanup had been going on for over a week. Soggy possessions piled along the streets next to homes that were now empty shells, filled, not with children’s laughter or a mother’s prayer, but with mud and mold.

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Mounds of dirt and debris lined the sides of a strip mall’s parking lot. Outside the town’s only grocery store, shopping carts tangled with twisted metal shelving. The nearest food store was nearly an hour’s drive away.

Connected at the far end, the church shared the mall’s disaster, but this flood casualty was undeniably still a church. I have seen strip mall churches before, with their flat fronts blending into the mall’s length of bland architecture with perhaps a small sign above the door, but evidently, this church had never planned to hide. Its church-y facade with cupola and cross still proclaimed its identity. From the outside.

We parked the truck, asked how we could help, and walked through the doors.

Church – padded pews and stained glass windows. Songs of worship, words of praise. Prayers. A place of respite in a week of stress. A place for spirits to be fed with the Bread of Life.

But not this one. Not now. Not after the river had risen and with a roar, claimed its interior. Walls, ceiling, and floors, already stripped clean by volunteers, offered no such sanctuary.

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“We will use this pile of boards to keep the food up off the wet concrete,” the pastor instructed, seeming resigned to his tragedy.

We started hauling lumber to turn a church into a food distribution center, and, in the process, constructed a real life object lesson.

Church – Sometimes, no more than a social club where members jostle one another for position and recognition. Judgement without mercy. Pride. Politics. Splinter groups. Holy Spirit grieved. Pantry shelves devoid of the Bread of Life.

“I am weary of bearing them [your assemblies, festivals, and feasts]. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong. Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless. Plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:14-17

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is NOT a church. It is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. It is to keep oneself unspotted from the prideful, me-first mindset of the world.

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I plunked my end of a board onto the concrete floor. I straightened my back. One American Christian church, gutted of its plush interior, had changed into a food distribution center.

Hopefully yours will too, but does it have to take a crisis?

“I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35-36

Soothing Oil

Entering my trashed apartment was like entering a mind diseased.

Your whole head is injured

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Carpet blanketed in filth –

Kitchen sink smeared with a brown film –

Your whole heart afflicted.

Food rotting in the refrigerator –

Windows broken –

From the sole of your foot to the top of your head, there is no soundness.

Counters and cabinets strewn with debris –

Walls pot marked with myriad holes, screws, and nails –

Only wounds and welts and open sores.

Hundreds of decals placed for hallucinogenic affect.

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Legal eviction had vacated the occupants, but not their mess. They had left that job for me.

I donned gloves and mask, scooped leftover items off the counters, and dumped decayed food from the refrigerator.

In less than six months, two people with diseased minds had turned a pristine, freshly painted, scrubbed and impeccably furnished apartment into a rat’s hole. They were two human beings caught in a trap of disrespect, dishonesty, and low living.

One glance at their mug shot and my son, quite snarkily, had commented, “How did you say ‘yes’ to that face?”

Not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil. (Isaiah 1: 5b- 6)

Eight heavy contractor bags later, I was down to the walls. Colored paper, butterflies, and flowers stuck to the sheet rock, the plaster clinging and tearing as I peeled. Bit by bit. Like the thoughts that dinged my brain with each decal ripped from the wall.

Disgust. Bitterness. Superiority. No soundness.

Human hands had pasted each item and pounded each nail into a scattering of holes my own hands would have to patch. My hands, created just like theirs. They were two fellow humans caught in a web. How had they become oppressed?

Caught in a web of its own, my heart was an open sore. I couldn’t clean up their heart or mind, but mine required soothing oil. I was willing.

Stop the meaningless religious rituals (Isaiah 1:7-15)

A prayer. A decision. Thoughts flowed: Compassion. Humility. Cleansing forgiveness. The good things of the land. Plenty of bandages and soothing oil.

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Come, let us settle the matter, says the Lord, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. (Isaiah. 1:17-19)

Every head, every heart has wounds and open sores. Yours. Mine. Be willing to be cleansed. Know the Holy Spirit’s soothing oil.

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