OneWord 2017: Hope for the New Year

Image/KarenJordanHave you chosen your “OneWord” for 2017?

Focus. I selected my initial “OneWord” after reading an inspiring post on  Lindsey Nobles’s blog in 2011. I decided on the word “focus” after wrestling with distractions.

Fearless. I decided on the word “fearless” the next year. I needed to defeat the spirit of fear and pursue my projects, plans, and dreams.

Essential. After skipping three years, the word “essential” surfaced in 2015. Struggling with my priorities, I needed to rethink what mattered most. Plus, I faced a book deadline. At the same time, my husband, Dan, retired.

BookCover/KJordanRelease. I didn’t select “OneWord” in 2016. Why? I concentrated on my first book, Words That Change Everything. So, I suppose my “OneWord” became “release,” since I focused on marketing my book.

Hope. Recently, I sensed “hope” should be my 2017 “OneWord.” I had lost my confidence as I faced my lack of experience in marketing my book. Plus, my husband acts like “every day is Saturday” since he retired.

When the Lord placed “hope” on my heart, I sense new direction and a renewed purpose for the future.

Choose hope. Do you feel hopeless about the future? Perhaps our recent presidential election left you disheartened.

God’s Word offers us this promise of hope after a difficult journey.

(We can) rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom. 5:3-5 ESV)

Can you identify the reason for your hopelessness? If you need direction and clarity of purpose to overcome your discouragement and doubt, I challenge you to accept His gift of hope today.

Happy New Year!

Troubles, Many and Bitter

sail-boat-508183_640 troubles many and bitter post pixabay“Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, You who have done great things. Who is like You, God? Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more.” Psalm 71:19-21

When the world mourned the passing of Princess Diana, I heard a pastor say, “There is no earthly sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.” In the midst of the darkest days – or even the ones that just don’t measure up to our expectations or hopes – we can be absolutely certain that our Heavenly Father is already, right now in fact, restoring everything.

Everything.

Troubles, though many and bitter, come into our lives; yet these circumstances cannot touch or change the beauty God is already weaving through it all. When you’re walking an unfamiliar pathway, and there doesn’t seem to be any hope in sight, remember that God often does His best work behind the scenes. A better day is coming. Hang onto the promises in His word; remember His faithfulness in the past; and simply breathe in His grace while you exhale whatever prayers you can. Your Heavenly Father has you and He isn’t about to let go of you.

And then, to add grace upon His already extravagant grace, God increases the honor of the one who chooses to praise Him anyway -through the storms and challenges of life. May He find us trusting Him and relying upon Him more and more, regardless of the storm clouds blocking our view of the sun.

Surviving the Depths of Despair

Destin, Florida June 2008 451This week, our family is enjoying a long-awaited respite by the sea. I’m sad to admit we have been tested in many ways this year. But the good news is – after much suffering – we have come full circle.

As I sit on shore, toes tucked beneath warm sand, the roar of white caps rushing through me, I am reminded how small and simple our problems really are in the broader scope of universal infinity.

In fact, without the frames of time or space to help us process our daily lessons, our worries seem petty, ridiculous even. And that is an important thing to remember.

The Difference One Year Makes

One year ago, life as I knew it exploded. Everything I believed to be true was proven false.The one person I loved and trusted completely destroyed us all. And I never saw it coming.

It was if we had stepped on a land mine.

Our spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being were all under attack, and the enemy’s fire was relentless. My children and I endured round after round without pause, without relief.

But all the while, no matter how pointless it sometimes felt, I clung to my faith, insisting to my children that God had not abandoned us. That we were not alone. That love would see us through.

Now, here we are, back on the same shores where one year ago I threw my hands into the air and cried to the heavens.

Only once again, we are laughing. We race waves below blue skies; chase crabs from moonlight; scoop water as we kayak; cast nets below waves; and revive our spirits in a way that only a week at the beach can do.

Do You Believe in Evil?

Our family has survived an attack from what some would refer to as Evil. When I was a child, I was taught that the enemy seeks to divide and destroy, and that is indeed how I felt.

Forces beyond my understanding seemed determined to conquer our family. To divide us and destroy us. But somehow, with a lot of prayer and a tight grasp on our faith, we have withstood the storms.

Love One Another

When my children ask someday, what does it mean to love another, I hope they remember this lesson.

Love is not always easy. Sometimes it seems impossible. But when you love someone, you don’t give up on them. Even when, especially when, they reveal their weakest hour.

God’s Grace

My faith has taught me that we are all flawed. We all sin. We all fall prey to temptations and make bad choices along the way, even the best of us. At some point, we hurt others, and sometimes, we hurt the ones we love most in this world.

If we’re lucky, and if we are brave and honest enough to admit our mistakes, seek repentance, and work hard toward healing, our loved ones will stand by us and carry us through the darkest depths.

Today, our family is enjoying days in the sun again. But it wasn’t long ago we felt as if we were deep underwater, with strong currents pulling us down beyond hope.

There were moments I was certain we would all drown. But here we are, healthy of mind, body, and spirit once again.

So, now I ask, “Have you entered into the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?” (Job 38:16)

Are you suffering? Have addiction, abuse, abandonment, betrayal, poverty, or violence shaken your spirit? Threatened all that matters to you in this world?

If so, hold tight to your faith and remember you are never alone. Protect yourself and your children from harm, and never doubt your own strength. Your own worth.

I promise, you can…you will…get through to the other side. And there, you will feel the wonder of God’s grace, as you master the ability to both love and to be loved – the one true purpose of this life.

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Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Into the Free and When Mountains Move. Learn more: www.juliecantrell.com

 

Choosing Thanksgiving

Photo/KarenJordanAs the autumn leaves began to fall this year, I had to admit to myself that I didn’t feel very thankful. So, I asked God to change my viewpoint as I focused on this Thanksgiving season.

In the past, I struggled with similar emotions, like love, forgiveness, and hope.

Love. After 40-plus years of marriage, I know that love must be a choice in every relationship. Our emotions and feelings ebb and flow with time. But as we invite God to intervene, He helps us navigate through the seasons of life.

Forgiveness. How can we release our anger and bitterness when we can’t forget the offenses? Impossible! That kind of forgiveness requires a divine source. But the Bible encourages us to offer ourselves and others the same forgiveness that Christ provides for us. And as we choose to remember what He’s done for us, He enables us to forgive ourselves and others.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13 NIV).

Hope. In the past, I’ve been guilt-ridden when shame covered me like a dark, heavy cloak. I lost hope and succumbed to despair and depression. But when I choose to seek God and embrace His Truth, I experience His hope and peace. Hebrews 10:23 says to embrace hope, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Thanksgiving. Today, I choose to give thanks. Often holiday seasons bring painful memories and cloud my vision of God’s blessings. But as I confess my ingratitude and ask God to change my focus, He always offers His promises.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, notice four powerful strategies that can help us when our circumstances and emotions distract our focus on God’s blessings: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

  1. “Rejoice always …” (16). First, this passage reminds us to rejoice, even if that choice seems impossible. In Mark 10:27, we observe the disciples struggling with a seemingly impossible teaching. But “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God’” (NIV).This message is repeated in Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
  2. “… pray continually …” (17). The Bible also teaches us to pray all the time, in every situation. Philippians 4:5-6 reminds us, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
  3. “ … give thanks in all circumstances …” (18). Notice my emphasis of the words “with thanksgiving” in the previous passage. Again, the scripture tells us to give thanks in every situation.
  4. “ … for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (18). Why rejoice? Why pray? Why give thanks? This verse answers these questions for me. Philippians 4: 7 offers this promise, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Today, I choose to give thanks, even if my circumstances never change. And I plan to begin by focusing on my blessings.

YouTube/LoveOneAnother2011 (Laura Story “Blessings”)
Photo/KarenJordan

What strategies help you as you enter into this season of thanksgiving and celebration of God’s blessings?

Seek Hope While Waiting

4864922_s“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.

Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”

(Harold Glen Borland – a nature journalist who wrote poetry, fiction for adults and children, and other nonfiction. 1900-1978)

As a writer, I need patience and persistence. But I am more than tree and grass. I’m a creative emotional being with spirit, mind, and soul, who struggles with waiting. Right now I’m in squirm mode—between book contracts. I’m lowly bait, a worm on a hook writhing with concern over my writing career. Pathetic, fickle creature.

I recently read patience is the level of endurance one can take before falling into negativity.

Thoughts such as:

-I won’t get another contract because I’m a lousy writer.

-Writing is too much effort for the reward. I’m dangling on the end of a hook, remember. And it’s not the first time either.

The psalmist understood fickle creatures and negative thoughts. And of all things, he preaches back at them with a pep talk regarding God’s love.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God.” Psalms 42

In squirm mode, I’m itching for action.

Anything to hope again.

Even preaching to myself.

Preaching to myself . . . I guess I could clean my desk so I can read my inspirational plaque: Live creatively.

I could tape my theme scripture on my bathroom mirror. “Explore who you are and the work you’ve been given. Sink yourself into it. Don’t be impressed with yourself or compare yourself to others. Be your creative best for you.” Gal 6:1-5

The psalmist reminded himself of wonderful experiences of past worship. I could search my prayer journal and see what God’s accomplished in my life. Perhaps it’s time to browse my writing scrapbook, or make one.

I suddenly see it. My writing lull is a comma, not a period. It’s a gift of time from a loving God. I can use it to rethink priorities, set writing and marketing goals, hone new skills. Persistence urges me into action and hope marches up my spine. I shiver with delight. Yes, there is hope in the waiting.

Even so, a negative thought returns. Working without a deadline? Impossible.

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No!

 I preach to myself. Soul, you’re strong in Christ.

Waiting is extra time. A gift from God. Praise Him. 

I don’t want to squander my time wallowing in negativity when I have a gazillion better choices. I will catch up on life. Ideas pop into my mind of ways to bless my family and friends. Or I could use my time to practice self-discipline. I’m not pathetic or fickle. I’m normal. I’m also chosen, forgiven and loved. I find another blessing. Waiting makes me thirsty for living water.

Psalm 42:1 “As the deer pants for the water brooks,

so my soul pants for Thee, O God.”

Beyond the tree and grass and worm is a larger stream. I can wait in confidence that He’ll nudge me along in His time.

What uplifting sayings or verses do you cherish?

What blessings do you experience in wait mode?

If Ever There Was A Time For Writers . . .

269665_10200995681632023_245803796_n
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“It is the miraculous language that drags me back into its delicious kingdom again and again . . . meticulously chosen words . . . I want to enter this kingdom, with such desperation, I am willing to die for it . . . And to enter a book, to let my life course out and stream past me, is to, in a  small way, die.”

On Reading, by Cynthia Cruz, via The Rumpus, 4/29/2013 

*****

If ever the world groaned for hope, it is now.

If ever the world needed writers, artists, poets, and musicians, it is now.

Even a glance through centuries past testifies to the power of artists, those sage interpreters of the soul, to draw hope from the detritus of despair and unveil rainbows from the bleak abyss of injustice.

And so, if God has called you to write, He has called you to deliver His people from this present darkness.

If that sounds like a big job, it is.

If that sounds like it’s too much for your feeble pen to handle, it is.

Because only a Savior can sand down the sharp edges of pain. Only a Savior can sweep darkness away with a great exhale which leaves in its wake a symphony. Only a Savior can deliver us.

So what’s a writer to do?

First, like the brown, peeling bulbs we tuck into the earth in the fall, don’t be afraid to plant the seemingly worthless and ugly. God is smitten with the beauty we allow Him to create with the broken, insignificant and useless parts of our selves. Keep writing, even if there’s no tangible payback or reward. Be faithful with little, and He will be faithful with making much of whatever meager loaves and fishes we lay at His feet. Spring comes, dear one. Spring comes.

Second, take time to celebrate Sabbath. Renew your mind and stretch your imagination by reading a book outside your usual genre, or a book in the Bible you haven’t considered in a while. And as you do, pray God gives you eyes to see and ears to hear what He wants for His lost ones. Look for ways to infuse His whispers into your stories.

Third, if you feel stuck, dig deeper. Press into the words you pen, and let them press into you, that they may make an unmistakable imprint of redemption and hope upon the reader by the time the last page is turned.

Make people want to enter not just any kingdom, but God’s Kingdom, breaking into the world by the surrender of your pen today.

*****

    “I spoke to the prophets,

gave them many visions
and told parables through them.”

Hosea 12:10 (NIV)

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How can you let God lead you more in your writing life? In what ways can you more fully surrender your pen for His glory? 

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Amy writes words of hope for a hurting world. Look for her debut novel, How Sweet The Sound, coming March 1, 2014 from David C. Cook.

Marketing Love

Striding down the endless hallway of the Mayo Clinic, I passed hurting people on all sides.  This wasn’t about being heroic; I simply wanted to make my day about more than a doctor appointment.

“Okay, Lord. Who?”  My book felt sweaty in my hand.

Copy number one went to the sweet lady in a wheelchair. “Oohhh,” she said, pursing  fuchsia lips.  “It looks wonderful.  Thank you, Dear.”

Copy number two returned to me with the cold shoulder of rejection.  I kept walking because I couldn’t shake off the possibility that God might still want to do something. Besides, I was stubborn and didn’t want to go home with the book.  When I got to the end of the hallway, I discovered I’d inadvertently funneled into a large waiting room.

“Okay, God.  What now?”

Doing a three-sixty over a sea of people, I tried to look inconspicuous.  Then, with a puff of a prayer, I picked a pleasant-looking lady.  She’d be the one.  I took a deep breath and plopped myself down with only a chair between us.

After a minute of pretending to read my own book, I cleared my throat.  It worked.  We made eye contact.

“Hi,” I began.  “This may sound strange, but I prayed God would lead me to someone I could bless with this free inspirational book, and I feel it’s you.  May I give you this?  I wrote it.”

Her eyes lit up.  “Oh, bless you,” she said, glazing with tears.  No fanfare, just a simple exchange.  I went home happy and bookless.

Two or three weeks went by and apart from a few imaginations of finding “A Friend in the Storm” in a thrift shop, I basically forgot about my give-aways.  That is, until three days ago, when I received this heart-stopping email from Sara, a friend I hadn’t talked to for months:

Dear Cheryl,

I talked to my neighbor & friend about 2 weeks ago, Krista Flint.  She had an amazing story of being touched by God’s love through a stranger.  And that stranger was YOU!  It gave me goose bumps to hear of how she had been going through so much and that you sat beside her in the waiting room and gave her your book.

She was so blessed by your words, kindness, & the power of your poems. She said that she knew that God was near, but it was so comforting to hear it from someone! So I wanted you to know that your choice to follow God’s nudge to go to the waiting room and give “someone” your book was exactly what God planned for you & Krista!! It was so exciting to hear how God did that for both of you.

Sara’s P.S. explained that Krista was a breast cancer survivor.  Later, the same day I gave her my book, she was in a major car accident.  Although her car was totaled, she somehow managed to make it through it okay.  “A Friend in the Storm” gave her peace and reminded her that God has a purpose.

“Make use of every opportunity.”  Ephesians 5:16

When we ask God to go before us and use us for His glory, He makes a way.

Until heaven, we can’t possibly grasp all the ways God uses us to reach others.  We simply rejoice in these glimpses.

Giving away books is only one of many ways we can be God’s messengers.  We can also share personal notes, Scripture cards, and post cards or business cards with thought-provoking quotes or concepts from our books.

One time, when I gave a waitress a poem card, she threw her arms around me and burst into tears.  The Lord used a simple poem to reach into her heart and start a healing conversation.  Don’t you love how the Holy Spirit works behind the scenes?

How do you share marketing love?  I’d love to hear stories of how God used you and your words.