Sep 01

DIY

I have owned my house since July 1994.  It had been a rental, and needed a lot of work before my children and I could move in.   Thrashed carpets, ripped flooring, broken sinks, and dingy walls all had to be repaired, remodeled or replaced.  With the help of friends and family, I did the work myself rather than hire contractors (especially since I had just spent almost all my money for the down payment).  What a wonderful feeling it was when the hard work was all done, my home was as good as new, and I (and the bank) owned it!  In the last few years, though, I realized I have lived in my house so many years it again needs repairs, remodeling or replacement of things.  The walls need painting again, bathroom plumbing problems went on too long, windows warped when winter condensation turned into ice, the old furnace finally gave up, and the roof was completely covered in moss.  All were big projects costing time and money.  This time, however, my good friends have moved away, family dynamics have changed, and due to medical conditions and injuries suffered in the past two decades, I can no longer do manual labor.  As a result I have hired various contractors and consequently owe more than when I bought the house 19 years ago.  But it is slowly shaping up, and I feel good about that.

Though I am hiring a contractor to paint the outside, I am doing the inside myself, with what little help I can garner from those around me.   It is fun to do some things myself, even if I’m not that good at it.  I like experimenting with different colors in each room, with different methods of applying the paint, i.e., sponge painting, stencils, or various shapes to stamp on the wall.  It puzzles me why people wait to fix their house until they intend to sell.  Then they do all this work for the next owner.  Not me.  It’s my house, I’m fixing it up for me to enjoy.  I have gotten home improvement ideas from my children, the internet, or browsing Lowes and Home Depot.  It’s difficult to find the time and money, but it is worth the effort.

As important as it is to fix up my physical home, keeping my spiritual home in order is so much more essential.  Though by its nature it requires divine intervention, fixing my interior and exterior spirituality heavily depends on me having a do-it-yourself attitude.  James 1:22 says ‘Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.’  So I not only need to believe in him, but also be willing to make the changes necessary to live a godly life.  Knowing how to keep my spiritual home in good condition can be difficult; God’s truth is sometimes hard to understand, maybe even harder to believe it is true for me.  Attending a Bible-based church helps provide instruction and illumination.  However, 1 John 4:1 warns ‘Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.’  It’s critical for me to read the Bible for myself, not just take someone else’s word for it.   Cult leaders, such as the infamous Jim Jones, pervert the scriptures to gain complete control over their followers, including to the point of suicide.  I do not want my life based on false truths that will take it, figuratively and literally.

Though I came to faith in Christ as a young child, through the years I have had plenty of repairing, remodeling and replacing needed within my spiritual house.  Repeatedly I have had deep emotional wounds repaired through studying God’s Word, obeying the scripture, and praying for wisdom and revelation.    Through the renewing of my heart and mind, the Lord remodels those invisible wounds into scars that strengthen rather than tear down my soul.  What a truly wonderful feeling when he replaces the pain and fear with peace and calm, choosing to right my world despite any surrounding chaos and uncertainty.  So, just as I choose paint colors for my house, my daily choices color and weave my life tapestry.   I know the more choices I make based on biblical principles and deep faith, the more my tapestry will show the beauty of knowing and serving our Creator.  I pray the same beauty shows in others’ lives.  ‘I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation, so that you may know him better.’   Ephesians 1:17.

Read Any Good Books Lately?

Read Any Good Books Lately? (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

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Aug 30

Immorality vs Decency

When I joined LinkedIn, I joined some writers groups thinking I would learn more about the industry and make some connections.  I joined both Christian and secular.  There are so many posts, its impossible to have the time to read them all , or even skim all the titles consistently.  I can access my e-mail on my phone, but if I try to use the link to the post on LinkedIn, sometimes it opens, sometimes it doesn’t.  So most times I don’t even try, I just wait until I can get on my laptop to read them.  Which makes it even harder to keep up with the groups, especially if I have had a busy week.

 

My e-mail was out of control, so last night I carved out time to at least glance and delete.  I came across a post in the Aspiring Writers Group that caught my eye.  It is entitled ‘Is sexual content always a no no?’  The title is frank enough, but what was actually interesting was why the author asked the question.  A person who read his book left a review on Amazon.  It was a good review, the reader liked the book.  His only caveat was that the sex scenes were graphic, and, as a Christian, he didn’t care for such.  The author was asking this writers group that since the book was obviously not for children, should people who take offense realize that ‘life is actually filled with some sexual activity?.’  I found that last phrase somewhat patronizing, especially since the reader was actually recommending the author’s book.

 

As I scrolled through the over 100 comments, many, many were negative because the reader professed Christianity. Some said it was completely inappropriate for him to identify himself as a Christian because he doesn’t represent all Christians; some implied that Christians were unbalanced and irrational, some used it as a forum to criticize Christianity as arrogant, hypocritical, and judgmental, another even said he knows a large number of Christians who read porn.  What?!  While Christians may struggle with sexual immorality just like everybody else , I seriously doubt this man personally knows a large number of truly devout, conservative Christians who think it is perfectly acceptable to God for His believers to engage in such appalling immoral behavior.

 

Its true though, that it is a challenge for an avid reader to find a good story without graphic intimate scenes.  I admit it, I like Harlequin romances.  They were pretty clean when I read them as a teenager.  However, they became more risqué as the years went by, following the trend of our society to sacrifice decency for self-indulgence.  It has been refreshing that they broadened their genres by creating series with different themes, including Love Inspired, the Christian romances.  However, I have preferred Christian authors such as Dee Henderson, Terri Blackstock, and Francine Rivers as more skilled than most of the Love Inspired novels I have read, no disrespect to their authors.  Which has encouraged me to try my hand at writing a Christian romance when I have completed my second work, a Single Mom’s Bible study.  I’m thinking of naming it Balm for the Broken.  My devotional Breadbox for the Broken is on track to be published by the end of this year.  I hope my writing will inspire and entertain without compromising the standard of decency the Lord has set for us.

 

 

Romans 13:13-14 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.    Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

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Aug 08

Seek His Face

How does God speak?

How does God speak? (Photo credit: Randy Willis Photos)

Psalm 27:7-14

Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”  Your face, Lord, I will seek.

Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger;  you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior.

10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.

11 Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.

12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.

13 I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart  and wait for the Lord.

 

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Aug 01

Savor the Summer

I don’t know about you, but I do not remember this nice of a summer in all the years I have lived here – which is since April 1970 when my parents moved our family up here from California.  We came up the Alcan on vacation the summer before; I wondered why my parents wanted to move here because all I remembered was dirt roads, brown grass, and cool weather.  However, like so many people who settle in Alaska, they wanted to start a new life.  So here we are.  It took me a good five years before I begrudgingly decided it was not so bad.  I still remember the day.  Not a warm summer day, rather it was a cold winter day, snowing the big fluffy flakes.  As a young teenager, I stood on the back deck of our house, which overlooked Rabbit Creek, and appreciated that there was not another house in sight.  Watching the wilderness through the gentle curtain of snowflakes I finally thought to myself, this is beautiful.   And besides, my heavy sweater, insulated coat, snow pants, lined mittens, knit hat, wide scarf, double socks and moon boots were keeping me warm.  Alaskans know it is important to layer.

All these years later, however, I still do not like being cold.  I never did get into winter activities, though there are many, and it becomes less and less likely the older I get.  I do not mind the snow so much as I really do not like the cold; if it is 10 degrees or less, I am not a happy camper.  And though I say I do not mind the snow so much, when it snowed on May 17th this year, I was so ready to hang it up and high-tail it out of here, I was done with winter’s chill.  But now I am eating my words, since I have been thanking God every day for this summer’s gorgeous weather!

I am also thankful I have all my five senses, sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch, with which to experience life.   I take them for granted, I know, for there are people without one or more of them.  On that day I accepted living in Alaska was not an exile to the ends of the earth (though it kind of is), I cannot imagine not being able to see the gently falling snow, hear the quiet creek flowing under the cover of ice, taste a cold fluffy flake on my tongue, smell the fresh brisk air, and feel the warmth within my winter wardrobe.  With this summer’s unusually high temperatures, I so appreciate seeing the late evening sun’s golden red glow against the tree trunks, hear the rustling of the green leaves in a gentle breeze, taste the flavors in ice cream made all the better by the hot sun, smell the remnant aromas of home barbeques and freshly cut grass, and feel the embrace of warm air, without needing a sweater.

Pausing to savor these experiences’ sensations reminds me of a saying, ‘we are human beings, not human doings.’  In those moments, I was simply being aware of my surroundings.  I have come to realize, however, that most of the time I am so busy ‘doing’ life rather than ‘being’ in life.  I have the perception that I need to be doing something to be worth something.  However, to the Lord we have value simply by being – existing as his creation.  Acts 17:28 says ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’    This resonates with my soul because I live for him, I want to move my life in his direction, and I strive to have my core being centered on his truths.  Mindfully meditating on the scriptures allows me to simply be in his presence to hear his voice.  As my soul is daily made well through the ministrations of the Holy Spirit, that wellness can spread to other parts of my being.  Through this spiritual growth, I can learn to be more of a ‘being’ than ‘doing.’  Though there actually is plenty of doing to be done.

As you savor this uniquely warm summer, stop yourself in the moment to see, hear, taste, smell and touch it.  Create experiences with loved ones, and be there, don’t ‘just do it’ this time.  Give yourself a meditative moment or more with the Lord to be renewed and rejuvenated for what needs to be done.  Let his wellness spread from your soul to other areas of your being.  I leave you with III John 2 ‘Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.’

 

 North America Mount McKinley Denali National Park Alaska, sharewonders.com

North America Mount McKinley Denali National Park Alaska, sharewonders.com

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Jul 06

The Road to Publication

crossroads

crossroads (Photo credit: Laenulfean)

Greatlander received favorable responses on the Faith article I wrote last month; so my nephew again graciously requested I write another article for July’s issue.  I had more confidence this time, and approached their July’s theme, the Road Less Traveled, with thoughtfulness and research rather than a blank mind and fear of failure.  I really enjoyed writing it too.  It inspired me to take the next step for my devotional.  I have signed a contract with Publication Consultants to publish my book.  I feel comfortable with them because they are local, were recommended by the founder of Alaska Writer’s Guild, and based on my contact with them since October 2012, I believe the company’s Christianity is authentic, not a marketing tool.

They are not a ‘traditional’ publisher like Thomas Nelson; instead, they are considered assisted publishing rather than self-publishing.  After researching and learning about the three options, regardless of which one I went with, I discovered I will have to do most of the marketing myself.  That surprised me on traditional publishing.  They not only get the rights for the book (authors keep their rights with assisted or self-publishing), but traditional publishers do not make a lot of effort in marketing except for big name authors.  So their investment can be as limited as they choose, yet, mine will be about the same in any scenario.  Therefore, since I will be doing most the work anyway, I think assisted publishing is the best option for me. Publication Consultants will provide me with expertise in the publishing world, education on how to market my book along with providing some opportunities like book signings, and, quite important, manage the printing and distribution of the actual books.  It’s going to cost me in finances, time, patience; however, I know the Lord will provide as the need arises.  I feel a peace that this is what God wants me to do, and having that peace gives me confidence to forge forward into the unknown.

This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.  Jeremiah 6:16.

 

 

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Jul 01

The Road Less Travelled

The phrase ‘The Road Less Travelled’ originated back in 1916 through Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken,’ using part of the last stanza:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

There are two schools of thought for Frost’s meaning of ‘I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.’  The more common thought is choosing the road less traveled proved meaningful.  The second interpretation is that, though at first the paths seem different, upon closer inspection the fact was time ‘Had worn them really about the same’ (second stanza quote).  Therefore, perhaps the poem’s point is that there will always be a lingering wonder and possible regret for ‘The Road Not Taken;’ the alternate life not lived.

Books have been written using the phrase and the premise that choosing the road less travelled makes a positive difference.  The most notable are by Dr. Scott Peck.  ‘The Road Less Travelled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth,’ along with his subsequent similarly-themed books, are New Age classics, though he did not label himself as such.  Another is simply entitled ‘The Road Less Travelled,’ a devotional book by Charles Cravey, a 39-year pastoral veteran of the United Methodist Church.  Based on his years of serving others, he writes poetry and articles on life and living, success and failure, trial and error.

Biblical inferences to roads less traveled imply they are the better choice.  Matthew 7:13-14 talks about entering the narrow gate, for the wide gate leads to destruction.  Proverbs 14:12 warns a way may seem right to man, but it may lead to death.   Isaiah 30:21 says ‘Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk [ye] in it.”  However, mankind is innately independent.  Man’s initial nature does not like being told what to do, especially by an unseen authority speaking through an ancient text associated with centuries of controversy about whether it really is the inherent Word of God, should He actually exist at all.  Therefore, believing and following God daily, through faith, is a road less traveled.

Statistics on religious followers, however, are interesting to note:  Christianity 2.3 billion, Muslim-Islam 1.5 billion, Non-religious/atheist 1.0 billion, Hindu 900 million and Buddhist 400 million.  Based on these statistics, Christianity actually seems to be the Road Most Travelled.  However, there is a difference between identifying with Christianity as religion and living in daily relationship with God.  Basic religion is a system of beliefs, not necessarily internalized as a code to live by.  Being in relationship with Christ means He has become an integral part of my identity, evidenced by the way I live my life.  Religion can be seen as a set of rules; we all know the 10 commandments, and the harsh punishments meted out in the Old Testament days.  Nowadays stealing and killing, of course, remain punishable offenses.  The rest have been relegated to good character traits: Honoring God, honoring parents, faithful to vows, truthful, and contentment with one’s own lot in life.  In Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus basically re-stated the Ten Commandments into two. He said the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and the second is to love others as yourself.

Loving God and loving others involves subordinating my own wants and needs as necessary.  Because of my relationship with Him, I want to seek God’s will before I make decisions, not because there is a set of rules to live by, but because it is my desire to follow where He leads, knowing it is for my good.  By studying His Word, praying for His guidance, and daily inviting His presence into my life, I follow the path He has set before me, even if it appears overgrown and difficult.  As time goes by, I have learned that what was once a difficult path, has proven to build my character, strengthen my perseverance, and anchor my faith more firmly in Christ for future successes. And though now and then I may nostalgically think of the road not chosen, I know that by following God’s leading I chose the better path, and it has made all the difference:    ‘This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Jeremiah 6:16.

road-not-taken2

Jun 23

More grace

Hand_ofGod2

JAMES 4:6-10                                                                          

But He gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and He will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn and wail.  Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.

 

Dear Lord,

Thank you for Your grace, I am humble before You.  I resist the devil’s countless suggestions of disobedience by drawing close to You, though I still stumble.  It is only by Your grace and nothing in ourselves that may save our souls – I call out to Jesus, my Intercessor before the Father; My Counselor who dries my tears; my Peace amidst the storm; and the Lifter of my head.  Yes, Lord, You lift me up in body, spirit and soul when I humbly bow before You.

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Jun 06

Step of faith

faith-hebrew-t-shirt_design

One of my nephews works for Anchorage Printing.  A few weeks ago, he asked me to write an article about Faith for  one of their publications.  As much as I say I like to write, I was brought up short.  Yes, I have been making several steps toward publishing my devotional ‘Breadbox for the Broken,‘ but so far it has really only been preparation and planning, nothing has actually happened in print.

Well, I have been writing this blog for almost a year now.  I started off slow; I have picked up some speed since the first of the year, but my readership is still basically non-existent.  (So if you read this, leave me a comment so I know it was read!)  And I have had to use discernment as to how God wants me to go about the devotional’s actual publication, meaning I bypassed an opportunity because it just did not feel right.  Now, here my nephew has faith in me to write something printable about Faith, and I was immediately scared I could not do it!  But I had to write something!  I could not tell my nephew I got nothin’.

So I prayed, then struggled, stretched, and wrote an article; and re-wrote and re-wrote until I thought it sounded decent enough to send him, though I was expecting he would have to tell me, politely, that it was not quite what they were looking for.   Instead, he said he loved it, and I believe him because I just read it in the June 2013 issue of the Greatlander, page 22.  So something I wrote is in print!  I am so thankful the Lord gave me something to say, and Mr Cody Liska printed it.   You can see for yourself on their website, in a week or so, after the hard copy mailing has been completed.

Hebrews 11:1 ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’  Having been given this publishing opportunity, it confirms my faith that I am going in the write direction.  When the evidence is unseen, I can be reassured He is working behind the scenes to open doors for me.  He empowers me to remain determined to pursue this long dormant dream of writing.

fish leap of faith

Jun 04

There is now no condemnation

ROMANS 8:1-5                                                                            no-condemnation

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be full met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.  Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Sprit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 

 

Dear Lord,

Thank you that through Your sacrifice I am set free, no longer condemned by my sinful nature.  God’s holiness requires sacrifice for sin; in Old Testament times there were so many laws of what to sacrifice for which sin.  However, You sent your Son to be the final sacrificial Lamb for the sins of all mankind.  Through Jesus’ human death and spiritual resurrection, we are empowered by Your Spirit to live righteous lives.  Though our sinful nature’s desires derails us at times, living according to Your Holy Spirit brings us back to You, our contrite hearts the only sin offering required.  I serve You not out of fear based on a list of do’s and don’ts which condemn me, rather I serve You out of love and thanksgiving for Your mercy and grace.  My mind is set upon living for You.

Jun 01

What is Faith?

What is faith? Webster defines it as ‘allegiance to duty or a person; firm belief in something for which there is no proof; complete trust, something that is believed especially with strong conviction.’ What do you have faith in?  We can have faith in ourselves, in our innate abilities, in family loyalty, in the education system, in the country’s ideals, in those in leadership roles, or in a ‘Higher Power.’  There are things we have faith in that we take for granted.  We have faith in gravity to keep our feet on the ground; we believe the sun will come up in the morning, we know wind is a powerful force though we cannot see it.

Why do we need faith?  The faith pendulum swings from what we take for granted to what we need to survive.    Unless a person knows what and why they believe, they can be swayed to follow the latest trend.  It’s not a big deal if we are talking about fashion sense, but it is critical to know what you believe to have a solid sense of self.  Everyone needs a sense of purpose and meaning for life.  Without faith in reliable truths, we can drift through life without direction, without achieving our God-given potential, and end up being persuaded to go places and do things we never intended.  Also, it is key we believe in reliable truths, not ones that will eventually deceive and fail us.

How can we grow faith?  I believe to have a sense of self a person needs to be nurtured spiritually.  My spiritual strength comes from the Lord.  He provides the true foundation upon which I base the essentials of my character, my morals, my ethics, and he governs how I treat others.  My faith grows continually through circumstances where he proves over and over I can trust him.  While, for example, I can trust the education system to impart knowledge, I do not necessarily have faith it will produce wisdom.  I can trust my wages pay on my bills, although I do not have faith money brings happiness.  With God, however, I can trust that the end result of spiritual faith in him will bring growth in all areas of my life.  When we lose faith in others, in ourselves, in things around us, that’s when our faith in God can grow.    He sustains my hope while I struggle in the valley of disappointments, and he celebrates my victories when I am on the mountaintop of success.  When life is not going my way, I know where to look for continual encouragement and direction; when life is going well, I know who deserves my thanks and trust.

So again, what is faith?  I like the Hebrews 11:1 definition: ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’  Substance implies materiality, something of weighty importance.  Evidence attests reality, something actually exists.  Spiritual faith is of utmost importance.  It’s unfortunate that sometimes I reach rock bottom before I observe his outstretched hand patiently waiting, waiting for me to find a little faith, even faith as small as mustard seed, to take hold of his promises. Once I chose to believe, spiritual faith wells up from deep within my soul, it spreads a warm glow of hope throughout my being, and re-establishes the tone of complete trust in the Lord.  Faith makes all the difference in my life, the difference to believe there is unseen evidence that he is at work for my good regardless of my circumstances.    By faith, I have learned to find blessing in brokenness, joy after a night of mourning, peace while the storms of life rage.  I live by faith in God because I can sense his presence with every fiber of my being.  May your soul find such faith to bring more meaning into your life.

Hebrews2_11-1

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