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Spring Cleaning


I am not a clean freak. Dust does not offend me. And I’m okay with organized clutter. I do, however, have my limits.

Take, for instance, my living room: The one place in my house that’s always clean. Always. Of course, that means family members are not allowed to enter its realm unless they sit quietly on the couch or tap lightly on the piano keys. Doing anything beyond that usually results in someone getting the “mom look” and a brief scolding.

Next room on my nice-n-tidy priority list is the dining room—probably because it can be seen from the living room.

Prior three goes to the kitchen and priority four to the family room.

As far as the rest of the house goes, well, it’s pretty much a free-for-all.

When I think of my house—its tidy parts and its messy parts—I also think of my life…and my writing. Upon first inspection, some areas look clean and organized. Those are the ones you see. But if you look closer, if you dig deep down into my heart, you will find areas that are so unkempt that I’d rather have a train run over me than show them to you.

David once said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT)

Are you willing to let the Lord search your life? Will you let Him test you? Will you allow Him take control of everything—including your writing, even if that means laying aside that which you desire for that which He desires? Will you let Him into those nice-n-tidy and/or unkempt areas to do some spring-cleaning, or will you bar the doors and say, “Another time, Lord.”

Heavenly Father, my life, my time, my writing—all this belongs to You. I give You permission to freely roam its halls, open its doors, and rearrange or reorganize according to Your will. For it is You who calls. It is You who strengthens and encourages. It is Your path—Your priority of “organization” that matters, not mine. Guide me and teach me, O Lord, according to Your wisdom. And lead me along the path of everlasting life.


There is No God Like My God.

There is no God like my God. For who else could command the sun to rise in the east and set in the west? Who else could stay the moon and tell the waves of the ocean to only come so far?

All things have beginning. Not in the minds of men, but in the heart of God.

Life comes from life, and is breathed out through the power of the LORD. His hands mold and create like a fine artisan. His eyes search the globe for hearts of men who will believe in Him and believe His word to be true.

My God is like a fortress. His wings protect me and His Spirit pours life into my soul. His wells are never dry and His table never empty. He prepares a place for me to rest at night and a safe path for me to walk at dawn. His angels stand guard day and night. They rejoice at His glory and bow at His song. His arms sway gracefully upward as He conducts His symphony. Stars cry out as His melody spreads itself to the far corners of the universe. As He exhales the universe expands and as He inhales, it contracts. Like the beating of a heart, it keeps all things alive.

Grace and mercy are the names of my LORD. They adorn His garments like fine weavings. His crown shines with the brilliance of a million suns and the train of His robe wraps around the expanse. The sea and sky and soil of the earth rejoice in His presence. In excitement they collide like cymbals and swell to the beating of His drums—a thousand orchestras, bowing to His glory and majesty.

Oh how great is my God! How great He is indeed. For although I am nothing more than a tiny seed, His hand raises me up like a mighty redwood. His voice is heard in my ears and His love is felt in my heart. My arms extend like branches to receive Him as He reaches down to embrace me with unconditional love.

No, there is no God like my God.

None.


Dear Diary

For our sruggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. ~Ephesians 6:12-13

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dear Diary,

Another day. Another blog. I almost forgot about this one. Looked at my calendar and realized it was the 25th. Oops! LOL. Anyway, I wanted to jot down some of my thoughts in regard to what happened to me this past week—a week where God dove deep, down, inside my heart and pulled up things I didn’t even know were there. Lovely things. Frightening things. Things that challenged who I was in Him.

Question: Where do I start?

Ah yes…

Eight years ago God called me to write something that was beyond my comprehension. One story. Nine books. An epic. Then He said “apprentice.” So I did.

Things went along just fine…for a while. Then my “wine skins” dried up. I wanted to quit. But God said “no.” Said He’d provide me with new skins—ones that would never empty. And He did.

Enter ACFW. Enter Kathy and Paula. Enter Heather and others.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard. It was. There’s a lot of pressure making yourself accountable to a group of women who barely know you. Sharing your dreams, your visions, your words from the Lord. Watching in amazement as they stand by you—believe in you even when you don’t/can’t believe in yourself.

So, dear diary, I stepped out in faith and trusted.

Days turned into weeks, weeks into a few years. Time did what it does best: moved forward. Sometimes slow. Sometimes fast. Sometimes at a steady drip, like water from a faucet. Yet these friends stayed there. So did the story.

Writing is an interesting experience. You start out not knowing who your characters are or what they’ll be doing. For a while you feel like a stranger in a foreign land. But before you know it, the characters—the story—belongs to you, becomes a part of you. But not without challenge.

Last week was my challenge.

Five days ago a friend sent me a link to an article posted on publishersweekly.com. When I read it, my heart stopped, my blood froze, every cliché I’d ever heard, happened. Thoughts exploded through my head as doubt clashed with promise, fear clashed with hope. I began to question everything the Lord had told me regarding my call, regarding the story, regarding His promise.

How could someone else—someone secular—been given the same story I had? Someone who I could not compete against? Someone with credentials a mile long that could propel his books—my books—into the public’s eye? And by autumn, nonetheless. It was eerie, the similarities between “his” and “mine.”

There was only one answer I could come up with. Only one answer that made sense.

I had failed God.

Failure sucks. Especially when it comes to believing you failed God. So without second thought, I did what was, to me, the next obvious step: I decided to quit. Quit writing. Quit hoping. Quit believing in the promise. I mean, why bother? I had failed the only One in my life who had never let me down.

I clicked off a text to the friend who had sent me the link and told her my intentions. Her response: get over it.

What? Get over it? Yeah. Right.

I was quick to reply with one simple word: No.

We texted back and forth for a while until the stark reality of what needed to take place next, hit me. I needed to take it to the Lord.

How long does it take, dear diary, for self-pity to turn into anger? A minute? An hour? A day? I was there now. Throwing myself in a full fit at the Lord’s feet. Accusing Him of leading me on. Of giving me false hope. Of letting me down. Yet during the entire time He did nothing but listen. Quietly, lovingly, listen. No condemnations were thrown my way and I didn’t get hit by any lightening bolts (although I probably should have). Instead, gently He lifted me up and held me close.

“Do you think I was surprised by this other book?” He whispered. “Do you think this wasn’t part of My plan? That I can’t handle a mere bump in the road? A bump the enemy put there to deter you?”

What could I say? He was right, you know. It was His plan. Not mine. His. And I had to trust that He knew best.

The evening melted into early morning before I was finally able to fall asleep. I had my tantrum, and God and I had our talk. In the end I realized what the Lord had called me to do…to write…had landed me dead center in the middle of a battleground. On my own, I would never survive. But with God on my side, carefully guiding me through the minefield, it would all work out.

After all, the battle belongs to the Lord—even when it comes to my writing.


Blog: A Four-Letter Word (Part Two)

(blŏg) n. A weblog; intr.v. blogged, blog•ging, blogs To write entries in, add material to, or maintain a weblog.(1)

Another month, another blog. The struggle continues, but light is at the end of the tunnel. And although blogging is still not part of my comfort zone, at least I’m doing it.

Sorta.

Blogging and writing have had interesting treks in my life. Like I mentioned last month, I never wanted to be a writer so when the Lord asked me to do it, and gave me a specific project, I felt paralyzed.

For a good year after that I fought God’s call then, in the winter of 2001, finally gave in. By that point I was tired, empty, and spent. My spiritual wineskins were cracking and had been void of living water for who knows how long. My mouth and throat seemed caked with sand, and parts of me were dying that I didn’t even know existed.

In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 Paul said, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

For in my weakness He is made strong.

Yes, I was scared. Yes, I had concluded I was probably the last person on the face of this earth who should have been called write a nine-book, young adult, sci-fan epic, but let’s face it—when the rubber meets the road, when God’s hand sweeps down in desert places and picks us up, it’s no longer about our wants or desires, our strengths or accomplishments. It’s about Jesus.

For in my weakness He is made strong.

In my darkest moment the living God looked down on my pitiful, crumpled form, lifted me up, then gave me a promise. “I will replace your old wineskins will new ones.”

And He did.

Less than one week after that I was unexpectedly swept into the world of ACFW, and being introduced to such wonderful ladies as Sharen Watson of Words for the Journey, and our own Kathy Kovach and Paula Moldenhauer. These ladies became living water to me. They became my oasis in a parched land. They became my wineskins.

Thank you, Lord, for being there even when I wasn’t, when faith was pointless and doubt was Ruler. It was then you picked up me and placed me by still waters. You restored my soul and gave me new wineskins. You filled me up with Living Water and lead me to a land filled with milk and honey. Thank you, Lord, for all you have done. But especially, forgiving me such wonderful friends. May their lives be blessed.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity.’”
Jeremiah 29:11-14

(1) “blog.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 14 Jan. 2009.


Blog: A Four-Letter Word (Part One)

When you bow down before the Lord, and admit your dependence on Him,
He will lift you up and give you honor. ~James 4:10
 
 
 
 

(blŏg) n. A weblog; intr.v. blogged, blog•ging, blogs To write entries in, add material to, or maintain a weblog.(1)

Four letters. One word. Who would guess it could instill such fear in me? But it does.
Why? Because I don’t blog.

I’m sure the above statement will ensure a few raised eyebrows, some gasps, maybe even a question or two on how in the world one could call oneself a writer yet not blog. Friends say it’s only a matter of time before I start blogging. Others chuckle knowing that, as an officer of HIS Writers, I am now required to blog on this site. Monthly.

Oh joy.

My fear of blogging is an oddity, considering I’m secretary for ACFW Denver’s HIS Writers and have been since 2006. It’s an oddity because I like taking notes, I like writing, and I LOVE computers and cyberspace. Even keep a journal. So why then do I look at blogging like a trip to the dentist?

Thinking doing a little research on blogs might help me get to the root of this fear, I started with the world’s most “reliable” source—Wikipedia—and moved on from there. This is what I found:

  • Online diaries (pre-blogs) became popular shortly after the World Wide Web hit the consumer scene in the early 1990s.
  • By the mid 90s, a number of servers offered “homepages” to their subscribers. These homepages allowed consumers to post tidbits about family life, personal interests, etc.
  • Then in the late 90s (December 17, 1997, to be exact), Jorn Barger of Robot Wisdom coined the term “weblog” to describe the daily list of links that logged his travels across the web.
  • Shortly thereafter, the “we” was dropped and word “blog” evolved.Needless to say, although I found the above facts interesting, my fear of blogging still remained.

Double joy.

Maybe I’m afraid of being transparent. Maybe I’m concerned that, by blogging, I will find out my life isn’t nearly as interesting as I thought it was. Or maybe…just maybe…it’s a deeper, much deeper, issue I have with the Lord.

When God called me to write back in 1998, I didn’t want to. I was not one of those women who had dreamed of writing my whole life. Sure, I enjoyed it. I had written a number of songs and poems over my lifetime—even mentally jotted down a handful of bedtime stories that I read to my children. But writing was something “fun” done during my leisure—not a goal or dream. So it was a shock when “the call” came.

Not only did the Lord call me to write, but three years later He handed me a specific project—an ENORMOUS project—gave me the plotline, along with a thimble full of characters, then said, “Write, Jill, for such a time as this…”

Unqualified and unmotivated, I did what every good Moses archetype would do: I fled.

Running from God is a funny thing. No matter how far you run or how deep you hide or how many “not me, Lord” excuses you come up with, He is always there—patiently waiting when you return home. So after a year of desert walking (and running and hiding), I realized God was not going to let up. He gave me this task regardless how long it would take, and told me I was the one responsible for completing it—I was the one whose hands would be bloodied by the souls of those who missed redemption due to my disobedience. The ones Providence called to read the books I was to write that had not been written.

“Apprentice yourself,” He said.

So in the winter of 2001, I did.

“The job has been given to me to do.
Therefore it is a gift.
Therefore it is a privilege.
Therefore it is an offering I may make to God.
Therefore it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him.
Therefore it is the route to sanctity.
Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way.
In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.
The discipline of this job is, in fact,
the chisel God has chosen to shape me with—
into the image of Christ.” –Elizabeth Eliot

(1) “blog.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 14 Jan. 2009.
(2) Barger, Jorn. “Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers From Original Blogger Jorn Barger.” Wired. 15 Dec. 2007. 14 Jan. 2009.

Walking in the Fog

We live by faith, not by sight.  
~2 Corinthians 5:7-8, NIV

Last night the fog rolled in. To many, that might not be significant. But to me, it is. I live in Colorado.

As a child, I remember the rare days of fog and how it reminded me of being back at my grandmother’s in Pennsylvania, where fog is not uncommon. Those misty mornings when the green, rolling hills seemed to disappear and the world was cloaked in mystery; when the sounds of every-day life was muffled in distinction–like the hushing of a room in the presence of dignitary; when anonymity of the seen was something to be embraced and not feared, like a journey into the great unknown. I delighted in the fog then. I delight it in now.

There is something about fog that is comforting as well as fearsome. On one hand there is beauty in how you can almost reach out and grab it. How it encircles you with its mystical presence and spins you around, daring you to embrace its arms and accept its dance. Almost teasing you–challenging you–to walk forward and test its boundaries. On the other hand there is uncertainty behind its veil. It disguises the seen and requires that you keep your light aimed toward the ground so you do not run off course.

It is not much different than our walk with God. Often God gives us clear vision. The day is bright, the path is well lit. The sun is at our back and warms us as we walk. Then there are times when God brings the storm. Those are the times when we need to stand still and wait upon Him. Wait until the tempest passes. Wait until we hear His voice. And in between, there’s the fog. It encircles and encompasses like a shroud–a mask–concealing what is in front of us and requiring that we walk, slowly, in faith, as we hold God’s hand.

So today, as I gaze out my window and marvel at the beauty of God’s fog–reflecting on its significance–I will remember that, during these times when the path is not quite as clear as I’d like it to be, when the quiet is too quiet, when the beauty is as equally startling as the formidable, that by keeping my eye on the Lord, my feet will never fail, and the path which I’ve trod will always lead me back into His arms.

Intimacy with God


Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. ~James 4:8
Intimacy with God doesn’t happen automatically—we must desire it more than anything else around us. Having passion for Him is important. We must be hungry.

There’s a story of a young man who approached Socrates one day as he sat by a lake. He greeted the wise philosopher, then told him he wanted to know how to gain the wisdom Socrates possessed. The young man told him he’d do anything to get it. After a moment, Socrates stood up and motioned for the young man to follow him. Interestingly, he walked right into the lake, until he was waist high in water. Then Socrates asked him what he really wanted. When the young man replied he wanted wisdom, Socrates pushed the young man’s head under the water. The man struggled, then surfaced, wondering what the philosopher was up to. Again, Socrates asked him what he wanted. The man responded, “Wisdom.” Again, Socrates shoved his head under the water. The man struggled longer, then came up for air. For the third time, Socrates asked the man what he really wanted. When he pushed his head under water this time, Socrates held it there for almost an entire minute. Finally, the man fought his way up, and gasped for air. Socrates asked him in that moment: What is it you want? This time the man was honest. He said, “I want air!” Socrates smiled and responded: “Well then, when you want wisdom as much as you wanted that breath of air—you shall get it.”

So it is with intimacy with God. When we want it more than anything else—we shall get it.

Do you know who you are? I mean REALLY know?

As I peruse the Internet I am deeply saddened by the vast amount of loneliness one finds hidden beneath the masks of its people. People—mostly young—who have no idea who they are, why they’re here, what they believe in, or why. Their purpose seems lost in a black hole of “whatever.” They’re like reeds on a turbulent ocean, tossed back and forth by the force of a sea to which its murky depths are calling them by name. “Come to me,” it cries. “Ride my wind and let freedom greet your face.” Yet when they step out, they are met with surprise by another force—one that is much more sinister than expected. One that wishes to devour them and send them spiraling to the churning nadir of its abyss.

If they only knew how much the great I AM, the ONE and ONLY who created them, loves them. If they only knew how desperately HE wants them to know HIM as intimately as HE knows them, so they can have purpose and life, so they can be rescued from the darkness that so well masquerades itself as light.

The psalmist David said it best: “LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. . . . for you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:1-4, 13-16)

Therefore my challenge is this: To those of you who are reading this blog, seek after the One who created you and ask HIM your purpose. Ask HIM who you are. Let HIM guide your steps and fill that void—that emptiness that garnishes your soul. And, in doing so, HE promises you this: you WILL find rest for your soul!

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