Facing a Change?

Photo/KarenJordan“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed … ” (1 Corinthians 15:51 TNIV).

I first noticed this scripture many years ago displayed on a wall mural in our church nursery. I laughed at the clever inference to the care of the babies. But the verse prompted me to research its biblical context.

I discovered differing opinions about the end times. But I also found Someone who never changes: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8 NIV).

Possibilities. Change is inevitable. And many times it arrives when least expected—like an illness, untimely death, or even an opportunity you never dreamed possible.

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future” (John F. Kennedy).

Politics. Politicians also promise us change. But their promises often prove to be just as empty and meaningless as their rhetoric no matter how well intended.

Such shallow commitments remind us of what the Bible says about keeping our word:

And since you know that (God) cares, let your language show it. Don’t add words like “I swear to God” to your own words. Don’t show your impatience by concocting oaths to hurry up God. Just say yes or no. Just say what is true. That way, your language can’t be used against you. (James 5:12 MSG)

Projects. I embrace change at times, especially with my writing projects. The writing process requires many revisions. Some people believe writing is just a three-step process—pre-writing, writing, and re-writing. But most writers agree that each of these steps involves much more.

For instance, the beginning of the composing process includes things like brainstorming, asking questions, researching, outlining, and other pre-writing strategies. Even the simplest blog post requires multiple revisions. The first draft of this post needed a lot of editing and changes.

Promises. The Bible also reminds us, “… in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye … we will be changed” (15:52).

But even though God’s Word promises change, it also encourages us to “… stand firm. Let nothing move you … ” in our faith (15:58).

So when you face change or resist it, remember, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (15:58b).

What changes are you facing right now?

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The Heart of An Artist

Hands of Businesswoman Using LaptopWe think, we feel, we bleed on the page. We’re sewers of words, stitch by stitch until our heads unravel fuzzy.  Hey, are you talking to me?

People don’t always “get” us, and we’re okay with that because we already know we’re a bit strange, no shocker. Our dearest people love us anyway.

We writers draw boundaries and let our voice mail field calls. We plop our rears on chairs and pop up prayers and Advils and away we go, ready to transport our readers.

A thousand distractions call, but we have a dream-scream and God put it there. And if God put it there, nobody can take it away. And who needs to clean her house anyway? We have books to write.

We’re emotional creatures, God bless us. We’re well endowed with feelings. We love and hate our emotions with a passion. We get a high when we make readers laugh, cry, and get angry, boom-boom-boom, sometimes all at the same time.

My husband wipes his eyes as he reads the fruit of my year-long labor. He’s lost in the part where Ema McKinley swallows her grandsons into a hug. It’s her first hug since the miracle. And as Ema absorbs the feel of those boys, my husband sniffles and I swell. Swell with the joy of the craft and the miracles and the emotion-packed words.

Jesus had emotions. Remember how he wept? To love is to feel, and when Lazarus died, Jesus felt what we’d feel. In love, He felt for us.

We feel for our audience when we write, and this is our love gift.  We want to love them closer to something. Just like Jesus, the Living Word, wants to love us closer to Himself.

Hey, big-hearted artist, what do you love most about writing? What drives you to do what you do?

Beautiful words stir my heart. I will recite a lovely poem about the king, for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet. Psalm 45:1

Coming Out of the Wilderness

Denabutterfly1The last half-decade has been full of changes for our little family. Stressors included the death of several friends, unwanted job changes for both my husband and I, health challenges, and a total of four moves in five years. We’ve bought and sold three houses (well, we bought three houses…one is yet to sell, so we’re renting it out). Finally, both my dad and my father-in-law underwent major heart surgery within a few months.

Whew. It makes me tired just reading that . . . let alone living it.

To add to the chaos, my writing career stalled. Ideas I felt were timely were turned down again and again, although my previous editors loved several of them and went to bat for me. I prayed, cried, doubted, and wondered what God was up to. He provided income through work for hire projects, magazine and editing work, and I was thankful. However, I longed to write books again.

I didn’t want to turn my back on God because I felt like I didn’t deserve my circumstances. I longed to be obedient, even in the difficulties. I prayed continually for strength, and I kept seeking Him . . . even when He seemed very, very quiet on the subject of when (or if) we might be done with the “desert” we were in.

Wanna know something? Every time I cried out to Him, He answered. Sometimes He reminded me of a Scripture passage that ministered profoundly to me. Songs came on the radio which seemed to have been written just for my situation. Friends and family members called, texted and emailed me at perfect moments, when I couldn’t seem to take another step or cry another tear. He was faithful. So, so faithful.

Two years ago, my friend Tina called me with a book idea, and I knew in an instant that we were meant to collaborate on that project together. Greg Johnson agreed to represent us, and (in a first for me), we actually had two offers on the project.

WoundedWomenIt came out this month, and my heart is full. Though the process of putting the book together was emotionally draining, it was a pleasure to write with such a kindred spirit. I couldn’t be more excited about the finished product (thanks, Kregel!).  Everything I’ve lived through, in publishing and life, has prepared me for Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts.

Six  months ago, God led my husband into full-time ministry and moved us back to a place we love. It feels as if we are finally coming out of the wilderness and into an oasis. We are grateful beyond words. And we can see in hindsight that He’d been honing and refining us all along to minister more effectively to hurting people.

Friend, are you suffering today? Do you wonder if God has something against you? And do you fear that you’ll ever feel joy again?In-Gods-economy-our

Oh, I’ve been there. My heart aches for you. But this I know: the path He has you on may seem lonely, and you might not feel His presence. But He hasn’t left.

He is up to something, even when we can’t see it. Until then, trust Him with your wounded places, for one day, they will become ministry spaces.

He promises.

Are You A Hypocrite?

Have you ever been in church, or on-line reading blog posts, or just conversing with a good friend when something they said just is like a dagger to your heart with how much truth it speaks? Love those times . . . sometimes.

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Me trying to be less hypocritical about fitness! Warrior Dash 2013.

As a Christian, I am tired of being called a hypocrite. There’s been a story floating around Facebook (cannot verify its veracity) about a new minister that dressed as a homeless person and attended his own services in this disguise. The post laments how no one came up to speak to him or welcome him in any way and then the minister, in this outfit, goes up to the pulpit and gives a sermon on– well, you get my drift.

Then there is comment after comment about “This is exactly why I left the church!”– even one from my own relative.

Honestly, it makes me mad because I think two things.

Did said I’m-dressed-up-as-a-homeless-man-minister actually offer to shake anyone’s hand? Did he take an initiative, despite his dress, to get to know a few people? And those that use this example as the reason they left their own church– why aren’t you out there greeting people? Be the change you want to see.

I feel like I do try and live what is taught on Sunday. But then a sermon came up about being a hypocrite and I was in the beginning stages of rolling off a barrage of thoughts like the ones above until the minister said this:

“Hypocrisy lives between what you believe and what you do.”

Well, now . . . ouch.

It dawned on me that hypocrisy doesn’t just apply to aspects of the Christian life but to all aspects of our life. For years I said, “I want to be published.” but what was I really doing to accomplish it? That gap between my words and my action is hypocrisy.

These words hit home most for me in the area of weight loss. About three years ago, I saw a photo of myself and it was like a very bright spotlight on the lie I had led myself to believe. I knew I was a little fluffy– but not obese by any means.

Everything changed when I saw that photo. A dagger right into my heart. I couldn’t deny the truth anymore. Well, of course, I could but I knew I never wanted to see another photo like that . . . ever.

So I started on a wellness path . . . very slowly. It’s taken me about three years to lose forty pounds but I’m not quite there yet. Quite honestly, I should be at my goal weight. I have plenty of excuses why– or what we call “reasons” when we’re living in hypocrisy. Some of them sound very good and reasonable but they’re really not.

I’m trying to decrease my “reasons” and increase my actions. I don’t want to be viewed as a hypocrite. I want people to believe that I’m going to do what I say I’m going to do.

What about you? In what area of your life are you being hypocritical? Where is the gap between what you say you’re going to do and your actions? Is it spiritual (I’m going to pray more), or professional (I’m going to start my novel– maybe tomorrow!) or physical (I want to be a size six.)

How do you plan to change it?

And yes, all my ranting about the church above was being hypocritical, too. I have lots of self discovery in process.