I Will Step Up, I Will Be Faithful–I Will Even Stay Home

HOME-E-O-STAY-SIS — We will not be using the typical spelling or implied definition of the word. (Just didn’t want you to think the editor had lost her marbles!)

My first royalty check on the second book, Beyond Belief: Jesus Saved You, Now What? was less that $15. When they tell you that being an author is not lucrative–take them seriously. Of course there are exceptions; I’m not one of them. And perhaps that’s in part, or mostly my own fault. Let me start back at the beginning.

When my second book came I out, I was tired of writing. I felt God leading me toward editing (which I love) and He opened wide several doors. I stepped through with enthusiasm and God has blessed my new endeavors. So I quietly allowed the door to close behind me, effectively closing the chapter on my books.

To be quite honest, I hate promoting my books. I think every author does really, but I simply decided not to do it. Other than requesting a few reviews and a handful of comments on Facebook, I left that job to my agent.

Suddenly, I was swamped with discontentment and insecurity. I lay in bed Monday night and felt a familiar wash of melancholy and panic: What am I doing with my life? What if I don’t receive any more clients for editing? What if my books really go nowhere? What was the point of writing? Maybe I shouldn’t even call myself a writer. I can’t even come up with blog posts anymore. Maybe I should go back to school. Maybe I should get an outside job. Maybe my life is just pathetic. What am I here for, Lord?

All I do is stay home and keep myself busy with what–work that maybe doesn’t even matter? Suddenly, my contentment at home, my home-eo-stay-sis was interrupted. 

Forlornly, I took my tears the the Father the next morning. Gently, as He always does, he layered answers from His word with sermons and affirmation from friends.

I listened to a sermon from Elevation Church the other day, a guest sermon by the author of Through The Eyes of a Lion. 

I won’t give it away, but his comments about focus, vision and sticking with it–doing the same things a new way–instead of “calling envy” and longing for a more important, significant calling, struck me. 

Then, God’s Word in Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work … will complete it.” God doesn’t stop halfway. And Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.“–Don’t give up! And then the clincher that tells me I am expected to be faithful too: “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Next, in Bible study this morning, a sweet friend confessed to feeling the same way recently. That night as she prayed with her husband, he voluntarily closed the prayer (which apparently, he rarely does.) His words: “Thank you for my wife, thank you that she is such a good friend.”

Her heart soared. No matter how low she felt in the eyes of the world, no matter how small her calling felt at home, her husband’s affirmation that she was his friend confirmed to her that she is smack in the center of her calling. And it encouraged my heart as well. That’s why I stay home–for the sake of my marriage, for the sake of my home, because this is the first and highest calling God has given me. Everything else that He’s blessed me to do falls neatly under that banner of wife, homemaker … friend.

Finally, God prodded my heart concerning faithfulness to the good work I began–faithfulness to work diligently to put the books He wrote through me into the hands of as many people as possible. A crazy idea occurred to me, and mustering my courage, I grabbed a copy of my book and marched into a local, Christian-owned coffee shop.

“Hi! I recently wrote a Bible study and I was wondering if you would permit me to place a few copies in your coffee shop for free. I’d like to put a business card in them in case readers would like to buy some. But would you permit me to simply offer a few free books to your customers?”

Their response was overwhelming. First of all, the only people working that shift were the owners (exactly who I needed to talk to). Then, not only did they agree to let me place some books in their store, but they offered to host a book signing. A women’s Bible study group meets there every Thursday night: “Would you want to have a book signing on a Thursday evening? You could start before they arrive and then you’d have an audience that is exactly suited to your book … ”

The rest of the conversation was equally uplifting. We briefly shared our stories, our desires to further God’s kingdom and our understanding of His call on our lives.

Only God could have suggested that idea to me and then prepared the way for my request to be received and blessed.

Oh! and one more thing. Out of the blue a wonderful Christian radio host asked me to do an interview with her this Saturday on Beyond Belief! (Details to come!)

So, I will step up. I will be faithful. I will be content in my home, diligent in and proud of my calling.

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Drop the Golden Rule!

Throw out the Golden Rule!

Yep, I mean it. God doesn’t want you to love your neighbor as yourself.

Now, before you run off and start pulling your sister’s hair, stealing your friend’s clothes or yelling at your parents, consider the fact that Jesus wants you to do so much more.

In Mark 12:29-31, a rich, young man approached Jesus and asked Him what was God’s most important commandment. Jesus answered him straight from the Ten Commandments:

 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.’”

It’s true, God did say that. But the rules changed when Jesus came to earth to pay for our sins by His death and resurrection.

In fact, later in Jesus’ ministry, only days before He went to the cross, He sat in an upstairs room for one last special meal with His disciples. There, He shared His heart. He told them that He had a new commandment for them.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

(John 13:34-35)

Under the old commandment, in order to love your neighbor properly, you had to really love yourself. You’ve probably even heard someone say, “You can’t love others until you love yourself.”

There are many times in our lives when we don’t really love ourselves. We can be upset with ourselves for a little while, or perhaps even struggle with depression. Sometimes, we even hate ourselves. When that happens, how are we supposed to obey God and love others?

This is where it gets really good! In the new commandment Jesus gave us, we are told to love others as God loves us. That sounds even harder! But the truth is, in order to love this way we have to learn, understand and believe how much God loves US!

The next time someone tells you, “You have to love yourself before you can love others,” tell them, “No, in order to love myself or others, I have to know how much God loves me!”

The way Jesus wants us to love forces us to stop looking at ourselves and instead to look at Him. As we receive His love for us, then we are able to be obedient and love others. At the same time, we will find peace and joy in who we are because we know how much God loves us!

Be All To Me

Funny, I can go months at a time without writing a poem. Then, all of a sudden, one hits me and a few follow. Hope you don’t mind me posting another prayer-poem. 🙂

May God bless and keep you, Friends.

Oh Father, 
Increase my hunger for you. Screenshot 2014-04-12 13.55.44
Whet my appetite for prayer
And my tongue with intercession.

Greater in me,
Let your Life-breath swell my chest.
Illumine my eyes.
Weaken my resistance to your probing eyes,
healing hands and pure, fiery heart.

I want to know you and,
In knowing you to need you more.
I want to pummel you with questions,
Seek you for guidance,
Fear you with wisdom,
Love you with passion and an undivided heart.

Even in my frailty and oft distracted gaze,
I know, I know that you alone
Are sufficient for my days,
And more, more, more!

With answers to past troubles,
And light for distant paths,
Oh Father, when hungry teach me to feast on you.
When thrilled to glory in you.
When troubled to seek you and rest in you.
Be all to me.

Because He Lives, Generational Blessings

In the late 1960s, Gloria and Bill Gaither wondered if it was irresponsible to bring new life into the world. Newspaper headlines dripped with despair. The Vietnam War raged and by the end of 1968, over 22,000 American soldiers had died. John F. Kennedy was assassinated that same year, the cost of living rose. Rock and roll music was gaining popularity, eclipsing the wholesome songs of their youth. “Love” and “peace” were being paraded through the streets on rainbow-colored banners and in hazy smoke circles, irrespective of their true source. Peace was expected to follow, “whatever makes you happy”.

A little over a decade later, my own mother fretted about the wisdom of starting a family as morality seemed to decline and the world seemed headed to hell in a hand basket. Did God really mean to bear with His creation much longer? It seemed as though the days of Noah, when “all the thoughts of mens’ hearts was always evil continually”, were replaying on an erie global screen.

In March 1980, the month of my birth year, stories of riots, murders and natural disasters landed in the driveway with every thump of the daily paper. American politics grew steadily more liberal beneath the Carter administration. God was systematically evicted from public education.

Fast forward a little more than 30 years…

On a sunny, delicious day in Dallas, TX, three generations of my family crowded around a circular table in my sister’s kitchen. Rays of warmth poured through open windows and drew geometric patterns across the crumbs of our bagel breakfast; a light breeze stirred the ribbons of steam rising from mix-matched coffee cups.

“Why do I deserve to be here?” the thought was half prayer and joined my heart’s whispers of thankfulness to heaven. Why, in the midst of a crumbling economy, school shootings, talk of death panels, government shut downs, broken homes, starving countries, racism and deception, am I allowed to bask here in the love of family, the promise of life, the comfort of fellowship and full bellies?

Across the table, I saw my dad’s eyes shimmer. They always do that when he’s thrilled to bursting with the blessings of our High King. Next to him, my mother cradled her newest grandchild, gulping air into tiny lungs less than a month exposed to oxygen outside his mother’s womb. Each of my three sisters pushed back from the table, one teetering on the back legs of her chair just as we were warned not to do as little girls. “Baby Hay”, so nicknamed by the squirming toddler in my lap rested quietly on the floor nearby. And I leaned forward to press my cheek to the soft pigtails of my niece. At her behest, I sang, Jesus Loves Me, to her, “again”, hushed so as not to interrupt the ebb and flow of conversation, like a peaceful tide unchecked by second thoughts.

Daddy pulled an envelope from his lap under the table and reached across, placing it in my hands. Mom produced a large shoebox at the same time.

“These are for you,” she said.

I must have looked surprised. None of their new or expected grandchildren were mine, so there was no occasion to shower me with gifts. Christmas was fast approaching, but none of us were ready to admit that, let alone begin shopping for gifts. My birthday had come and gone this year.

“You’ll understand when you open it,” Dad said.

I peeled the paper from the box and lifted the lid. Folded back and forth upon itself lay a blue and white, latch hook banner. Immediately, I remembered it. Now my own eyes shimmered, and I pulled it out, stretching it to the full length.

“Because He Lives”.

About a year ago, I began signing most of my letters and emails with that closing phrase. I did it mostly because “Sincerely”, “In Him”, “Love”, “Yours Truly” and “Blessings”, seemed over done. But I had no idea why this particular line came to me, or why it filled me with pure pleasure to place my name beneath the assurance. “Because He Lives”. It just seemed so…me.

As my parents’ first born, the latch hook banner once hung in my nursery. I claimed it as my own, even though it hung in each subsequent nursery as my sisters arrived. But as an adult, I accepted the fact that it would most likely hang in one of my sisters’ nurseries. Without children of my own, I hardly expected to be given the handmade treasure.

“Open the envelope.” My mom gestured.

Still wordless, I placed the banner in my lap and began to read.

“The lyrics to this song have held true, are true and will continue to hold true. As you have heard many times before, God placed this song on my heart when I was fearful of ever having a family. He showed himself faithful time and time again in raising our family. He took two broken people who love Him and brought four beautiful girls into the world. And now through His faithfulness He has started four more wonderful families. Families that He will continue to do His work in, “because He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it…”.

Suddenly, I knew why God had given me this precious phrase, “Because He Lives”. Every generation has grown up in the darkness of their own age, in the particular ills that beset those years. Personally, I was accosted by the worldly demands to have a perfect body, be self-sufficient, brutally self-disciplined and in control. I fell beneath the blows of an eating disorder and many nights I wondered if God would simply relieve my pain through death. He refused.

After each wave of fierce battle, as I lay panting and still stubbornly broken by sin, Father God breathed hope into my spirit. My journal is replete with the question, “What makes life worth living for those who do not know Jesus?”

For 15 years, God held my frail spirit in His hands; He must have exhaled the breath of life into my lungs over and over again. In time, I drank that breath deep. Because He lives, I saw purpose lingering in front of me like light filtering through a dust storm. Slowly, I regained my health. The only reason I have for finding life worth living is “Because He Lives”.

We live in a fallen world. Christians are full aware of the of spirit of anti-Christ in their own age. (1 John 4:3) Even the apostle John identified it in the fledgling years of the early church. But, we also live in a redeemed world. For those who believe in Christ’s substitutionary payment on the cross, there is reason to bring new life into the world. Indeed, it is God’s great glory to push new generations through human oneness into the world of His creation – The world, so loved by God that He sent His one and only Son that everyone who believes may have eternal life through Jesus Christ. (John 3:16)

I remember a small plaque that perched on the shelves of my parents’ headboard when I was young. It read:

“A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on. ~ Anonymous”

Bill and Gloria Gaither grasped that truth and memorialized it in song. The sweet melody etched itself into my mother’s heart one morning in church as she agonized fearfully about the future of her children. And then, that same truth preserved my life when I too wondered at the purpose for living in a hurtful, difficult world. The truth remains, “Because He Lives”.

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus;

He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

Chorus
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!

Chorus

And then one day, I’ll cross the river,
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to vict’ry,
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives!

Chorus