Back to Top

Tag Archives: Jill Hups

The Three-Legged Stool

stoolWhen you sit on a three-legged stool, seldom do you think about the fact there are only three legs holding you up. You simply sit and trust. Yet for a three-legged stool to balance properly, all three legs must be equal in size and function. If any of the three is compromised, the stool is compromised.

The same with our relationship with God. If we don’t have a relationship equal in size and function with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, then our relationship with the LORD is unbalanced. When that happens we try to use our own leg(s) to make it work. That produces burden, frustration, and exhaustion. How glorious it would be if we could learn to trust in and lean on ALL three aspects of God in equal measure! Then all that would be required is simply sit and trust.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. -Matthew 11:28-30

(Thank you, Deb Besaw, for being my inspiration for the above when you share the vision God gave you regarding the three-legged stool).

Moving Forward

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Saying Good-Bye
As I look back on my eight years with the ACFW North Denver board, I am reminded how far the LORD has brought me on my writing journey and how many wonderful people He placed in my life. With that in mind, I would like to share with you my Facebook post from November 10th. It pretty much sums up everything I feel:

Today is my birthday. I turn 59. It is a sad day for me as well as a joyous one because God has asked me to step into something new and trust Him with the next season of my life by letting go of what I have come to know and love for the past eight years–being part of God’s movement in American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and its North Denver chapter.

I didn’t start with ACFW. God surprised me 12 years ago by giving me a “by the way…” speech that ended with Him saying He had a project for me: write a book series. Being the obedience person I am, I told Him no, I wasn’t a writer, never wanted to be, thank you very much, now go find someone who is qualified and wants to do this project. Needless to say it didn’t go very well after that.

For a year God and I had the same argument until finally I “gave in” and began His instruction to apprentice. This wasn’t easy. I knew nothing about writing, knew nothing about how to go about finding a support group, and since the Internet wasn’t the way it is today, I felt pretty much on my own. Plus, I still wasn’t all that happy about being called to write. But God promised me He would be with me and lead me to people He wanted me to get in touch with.

    Things were okay at first, but by 2006 I was tired of trying to learn how to do this writing thing on my own so I went before the LORD and said sorry, but I’m quitting. It was then He told me He would give me new wine skins that would never run dry. Not understanding what He meant I shrugged it off until one day I stumbled across a meeting run by Sharen Watson in south Denver. At that meeting she introduced me to one of the most wonderful persons I have ever know, Kathy Kovach, who just “by chance” was starting a writing group up north with an organization called ACFW. Kathy invited me to join them for their first meeting where I met the equally amazing Paula Moldenhauer and Margie Vawter.

Needless to say, Kathy, Paula, and Margie became my life blood and dearest friends, being there for me through thick and thin, 24/7, during my very weird writing journey. Through them I became involved in ACFW and its North Denver Chapter (called HIS Writers at the time), serving on the board in the capacity of secretary for 4 years, vice president for 1-1/2 years, and president for 3. From these ladies and this wonderful organization I learned how to write, how to network, and how to trust others with what God had entrusted me with.

I never wanted my involvement to end, but this past summer God told me it’s time to let go and step into what He wanted me to do in the first place, and that is finish the writing project He gave me back in 2002. So in June I talked to Kathy and Paula, told them what the LORD told me, and put in my resignation as chapter president and ACFW Colorado “woman of all trades.”

Even though I knew I had six more months of meetings to organize and a new board to get ready for next year, my eyes were focused on what would be my last, big, hands-on project: our 2014 Novel Crafters Seminar of the Rockies on November 8th.

The seminar was wonderful! But after it was over, once I got in my car and drove away from the Ramada, I was overcome with deep sadness knowing the part of my life–that season I had finally come to know and love–was over and it was time to move on.

When I walked in the door that night my husband, Kevin, asked how it went. I told him great, then noticed a Happy Birthday balloon floating in the family room above a lamp. When I saw the balloon I smiled and asked him if he got that for me, fully expecting him to say yes. But Kevin didn’t say yes. Instead he told me this: while working in the yard that day he noticed that a Happy Birthday balloon had gotten stuck in our grapevines. The balloon was limp and pretty much deflated. But Kevin felt the LORD was telling him to take it inside and give it to me when I got home, that it was a gift from Him. Then a strange thing happened. Kevin took it inside and the balloon inflated and rose ’til it touched the ceiling.

This is my birthday balloon. It is from the LORD. It is His way of saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It is His way of reminding me how much He loves me and how His promises are always true. It is His way of thanking me for trusting Him even when I found trust a million miles away. It is His way of reassuring me my life is fully in His hands, and regardless of which way the path turns, He will always be there fore me.

So, LORD, I want to publicly say “thank you” for this beautiful and precious gift. This Happy Birthday balloon that was found entangled in your grapevine. I want to say “thank you” for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. I want to say “thank you” for not giving up on me, for refusing to take “no” for an answer, and for walking with me not only during my writing journey, but during my entire life–even when I didn’t know or care who you were. For all this and more, thank you, LORD!

Like I said, today is my birthday. I turn 59. Can’t wait to see what the next decade has in store, and as long as my God is with me, I will be alright.

“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 on 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. [And] I will be found by you…”

~Jeremiah 29:11-14a

The Long and Winding Road

The light of morning on the forest paths - Olympic Nat'l Park

The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before, it always leads me here
Leads me to your door

The wild and windy night that the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears crying for the day
Why leave me standing here, let me know the way

Many times I’ve been alone and many times I’ve cried
Anyway you’ll never know the many ways I’ve tried
And still they lead me back to the long, winding road
You left me standing here a long, long time ago
Don’t leave me waiting here, lead me to you door

But still they lead me back to the long and winding road
You left me standing here a long, long time ago
Don’t keep me waiting here, lead me to you door
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

(McCartney, Paul. The Beatles. “The Long and Winding Road.” Let It Be. Apple Records. 1970.)

Everyone has a long and winding road. My most recent one began in the fall of 2012, when I started planning two weddings: the first for my only son, who was married September 22, 2013, the second for my middle daughter, who was married May 31, 2014. Although delighted with my growing family, I’m glad the stress is over.

But there’s more to that road than just the weddings. You see, somewhere along the way I lost my writing and I can’t quite remember where. It could have been that first meandering curve where I found myself gazing into the anticipated beauty of my children getting married, or that last sharp turn where all I cared about was putting my feet up and sleeping in the day after it was over. All I know is, scattered here and there along that path are bits and pieces of a story God called me to write over 11 years ago.

The Beatles song, “The Long and Winding Road,” is my cry to my LORD, begging Him to return me to that place which was lost before “the wild and windy night that the rain washed away.” It was a time when I felt joy in the project He gave me, joy in my writing, joy in His promise of my book. Then the wind and rains of life came, and the road became long and winding. It was not till afterwards—when I tried to regain the momentum I had prior to the fall of 2012—did I realize what I had lost.

I know I’m not alone in this discovery. Almost every writer walks down a long and winding road at least once in their life. They feel the rain splash like tears against their face and wonder why they were left standing alone. The funny thing is, they really weren’t. For all they really had to do was continue down the road because, as the song tells us, it always leads us to His door.

My prayer is you, like me, can rediscover that which was lost, that God gives you grace and stamina to continue onward to His door, and that the joy He gave you when you were first called to write is rejuvenated.

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you. ~Psalm 143:8 NLT

Giving Thanks

man-praying-on-one-knee2

Always be full of joy in the Lord…don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:4,6-7 TLB


Throughout Scripture you find verse after verse about giving thanks to God, both in times of blessing and adversity. But how do you give thanks when your world is falling apart? And how can you thank Him, I mean truly thank Him, if the answers are not what you want to hear?

Everyone knows someone who is going through adversity. That “someone” might even be you. So how can God expect us to rejoice, let alone give thanks, when our life is unraveling?

Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while in prison. As you read his account, you can feel the tug of war between pain and victory. Part of him wants to go home to be with the LORD, the other part wants to continue his work so that Christ may be glorified. Did Paul enjoy imprisonment? No. But if going through adversity meant he could “shine like stars in the universe as [he held] out the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16 NIV), then knowing he had not run or labored in vain was worth the sacrifice.

Rejoicing in adversity does not mean we rejoice because of hardship. It means we rejoice in the knowledge that God is walking with us the entire way, that He does not and will not leave us alone. Giving thanks in adversity means we put our trust in God to know the big picture, and that we have complete faith His will for our life is grander than our own. It does not mean we have to be thankful for the problems, only that we are thankful to have a God big enough to hold us up and walk with us as we face the impossible.

God wants to hear our prayers. His desire is to have the same relationship with us any loving parent would want to have with their child. Life issues? Talk to Him! Heartbreak? Talk to Him! Bad day? Talk to Him! Don’t try to take on burdens, don’t try to solve all of life’s dilemmas because if you do, you’ll be crushed under their weight. Instead, rejoice and give thanks that you have a God whose shoulders are strong and broad enough to carry your burdens, and whose love for you is so great that His desire is to do so. Then, as Paul concluded in Philippians 4:7, “If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.”

LORD, November is traditionally a month of giving thanks. But sometimes giving thanks is hard. Life throws us curve balls, some of which hit us smack dab in our middle, knocking the air out of us. We fall to the ground and don’t want to get up. During these times, hear our cries, O LORD. Lift us up. Carry us. Show us that in times like these we not need rejoice because of the hardship, but because we have a God who can and will carry us through it. Give us peace, O LORD, when there is no peace to humanly be found. And help us to rest in You. In Jesus’ beautiful name we rejoice and give thanks. Amen.

Enhanced by Zemanta


Practically Perfect in Every Way

Mary Poppins

As I expected: ‘Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.’ ~Mary Poppins
(from the movie “Mary Poppins,” Walt Disney Studios, 1964)


As a child, Mary Poppins was one of my favorite movies. I remember my parents taking me to see it at the Cooper Theater on South Colorado Blvd., in Denver, when the movie came out in 1964. The theater had 814 seats and a 146-degree panoramic screen known as Cinerama, measuring a massive 105 feet by 35 feet.

When the movie’s introductory music began and the curtain parted (yes, this theater actually had a curtain in front of the screen), a sensation of excitement passed over me equaled only to the anticipation I used to have on Christmas morning. I squirmed waiting for the story to build, then squealed in delight (along with hundreds of other children) as I watched Mary Poppins float down from the sky in her wonderful, perfect glory.

When the show was over, I left the theater determined to be like Mary Poppins: practically perfect in every way.

As time went on I grew up. Mary Poppins became Julie Andrews, and practically perfect in every way was a balloon that exploded in my face. It didn’t take long for me to realize life wasn’t perfect. Thus, I laid aside perfectionism for practicality.

Or so I thought.

Enter the me of today. Here I am at 3:00 a.m. working on the HIS Writers newsletter, proofing it over and over to make sure it’s “perfect.” Sleep, what’s that? As long as whatever I’m working on is not done to the standards I’ve set for myself, the standards of “perfectionism,” I will work on them again and again and again until those standards are met.

So what’s wrong with perfectionism? Isn’t it a quality we should strive for? Especially as writers, we want our work to be the best it can be. We dot our i‘s, cross our t‘s, draft and redraft, then double check every rule we’ve learned from every seminar we’ve attended to make sure our work is as perfect as possible. But what happens when it’s not? If you’re a perfectionist like me, you pull yourself back together and do what you can do to make it as perfect as possible. Or you quit.

Sometimes I shake my head in wonder at God’s sense of humor. Why in the world would He even consider asking a perfectionist to become a writer? But the Bible says in our weakness Christ is made strong. How well I know this verse! It is etched into my mind like writing on a stone tablet. But knowing and KNOWING are two different things. Yes, I know I’m not perfect nor ever will be. And yes, I know there is only ONE who is perfect, and He is my LORD. Yet I so easily fall into the enemy’s trap and listen to his lies that perfectionism, not failure, is what really makes God happy. And so, like a hamster knowing nothing different, I climb back onto my wheel and run till I’m exhausted.

If not perfectionism, what do you struggle with? What lies do you allow the enemy to whisper in your ear? What untruths of his, stop or slow you down from becoming the man or woman of God you’ve been called to be?

Praise be to God, our heavenly Father, who stands in the gap for us and gives us grace! Who brings us out of the wilderness of our own failings and into a land flowing with milk and honey. Who places a robe on our back and puts His ring on our finger, calling us into an inheritance greater than we will (or can) ever know or understand.

My prayer for you is that God brings you out of whatever wilderness you are in. That He refreshes you with the water of His Holy Spirit and gives you strength to move forward. That He lifts you up on the wings of eagles and, once again, gives you faith, hope, and vision. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NASB)

Enhanced by Zemanta


Letting Go and Letting God

Letting GoDon’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is. ~Romans 12:2 NLT

 

It’s your baby. You birthed it, fed it, stayed up late at night with it, watched it grow. Then you sent it out into the world of publishing only to watch it slowly die. Now the decision is obvious: you have to let it go.

Letting go of ambition and letting God take control of our writing is difficult. After all, for most of us writing has become our identity—and who wants anyone, even God, to mess with that? But letting go and letting God is the very thing we must do if we wish to succeed in this business. I don’t mean “succeed” in the sense of financial gain or notoriety; what I’m referring to is success in the sense of becoming secure in the writer God made us to be—even if that means we don’t write the next bestseller or are never picked up by an agent or publishing house.

Is letting go easy? Heavens no! Take it from me, a control freak. Letting go is like pulling teeth without Novocain. But when all is said and done, when the “bad tooth” is out, letting go takes on a whole different meaning.

LORD, why is it so hard to let go? Why do we hang on to so many things You’ve tried to pry from our fingers? Whether it be our work in progress or something personal in our life, control sometimes feels like a safety net when it’s actually a pit of doom. Help us, LORD, as we write, to let go of our own desires and hang on to what’s precious in Your sight. Help us let go of our “baby” when you say it’s time to let go. And give us the discernment to know when what we’re writing is from our own selfish ambition or from You. I praise You, O LORD, for calling me to be a writer. May all glory be given to You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Enhanced by Zemanta


Reading Levels Aren’t Just For Kids Anymore

I was inspired by the presentation of Chris Richards, editor at Written World Communications and president of Mile High Scribes (ACFW South Denver Chapter), at the August 12th HIS Writers (ACFW North Denver Chapter) monthly meeting, to delve deeper into the literacy problem in the U.S. today. As I did, it occurred to me why Young Adult (YA) fiction not only appeals to youth, but to older teens and adults as well.

scholastic-logoFor instance, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series is ranked by Scholastic as having an Interest Level of 6th – 8th grade (MG), which is equivalent to an age level of 11-13 years, Lexile Framework of 810L, a Grade Level Equivalency of 7.0, a Guided Reading Level of Z, and a Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) of 7. (For more information on these terms, go to http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/leveled-reading-systems-explained.)

In an article written by Doug Barry, Scholastic was quoted as saying,
hungergamescover

…as of July 19, [Scholastic] had over 50 million copies of
Collins’ books (23 million copies of
The Hunger Games, 14 million of Catching Fire, and 13 million of Mockingjay) circulating around the U.S., having their covers folded back, their pages filled with beach sand, and their bindings generally abused by careless readers. (Barry)

But does that mean the popularity of this book series is limited to middle grade? Absolutely not! In fact, if you do a Google search you will find many parents feel the interest level of 6th – 8th grade (age level 11-13 years) is marked too low due to the graphic content of the series.

The popularity of The Hunger Games series is proof that a 7.0 reading level appeals to older teens and adults as well as middle graders. There are 2,400+ reviews for the series found on Amazon.com, which came from adults 18 and over, considering you must have a valid credit card to set up an Amazon account and only those who have valid Amazon accounts are allowed to post reviews. And according to another article written by The Atlantic Wire in their Entertainment section,

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins has amazon-logosurpassed J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series as the best-selling books of all time—print and e-books combined—on Amazon.com, and The Hunger Games is also the most-borrowed book in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. (Doll)

So what’s my point in all this? My point is…

KNOW YOUR READER’S READING LEVEL!

2000114154_0c2c82f176_oAs a writer of fiction, you need to be aware that understanding reading levels isn’t just for children’s books anymore. With illiteracy at an all time high, it is important to realize more than 20% of adults struggle with reading levels no higher than fifth grade (5.0), 14 percent (30 million) of adults in the U.S. are functioning at Below Basic (defined simply as “not having adequate reading skills for daily life”), and 44 million adults in the U.S. can’t read well enough to read a simple story to a child. This means they cannot:

  • Understand the instructions on a medicine container
  • Read stories to their children
  • Read a newspaper article or a map
  • Read correspondence from their bank or any government agency
  • Fill out an application for work
  • Read the safety instructions for operating machinery
  • Compete effectively for today’s jobs

Studies show that low literacy is not the problem of immigrants, the elderly, high-school oneoutoffivedropouts, or people whose first language is not English. Low literacy is a problem that knows no age, education, economic boundaries, or national origins. Most people with low literacy skills were born in this country or have English as their first language.

When people pick up something they cannot understand, they put it down. So it is your job, as a writer, to make sure you know your target market and their reading/comprehension level. 

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Readability
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Readability is integrated into Microsoft Word, so there’s no excuse for a writer to be unaware of the readability level of their fiction piece. To turn this option on, do the following (you only need to do this once):

For Word 2003

  1. On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Spelling & Grammar tab.
  2. Select the Check grammar with spelling check box.
  3. Select the Show readability statistics check box, and then click OK.
  4. On the Standard toolbar, click Spelling and Grammar.

When Microsoft Word finishes checking spelling and grammar, it displays
information about the reading level of the document.

For Word 2007 and 2010readability-statistics

  1. Select File > Options from the toolbar at the top of the screen.
  2. Click the Proofing tab from the list to the left.
  3. Check the box next to: Check grammar with spelling.
  4. Check the box next to: Show readability statistics.
  5. Click OK.

When you finish spell check (F7), the [Flesch-Kincaid ] readability level will now appear as well. NOTE: Word doesn’t score above grade 12. Any grade above 12 will be reported as Grade 12.

So how exactly is the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Readability level determined? Here’s the formula:

  1. Calculate the average number of words used per sentence.
  2. Calculate the average number of syllables per word.
  3. Multiply the average number of words by 0.39 and add it to the average number of syllables per word multiplied by 11.8.
  4. Subtract 15.59 from the result.

The specific mathematical formula is:

readableFKRA = (0.39 x ASL) + (11.8 x ASW) – 15.59

Where,

FKRA = Flesch-Kincaid Reading Age

ASL = Average Sentence Length (i.e., the number of words divided by the number
of sentences)

ASW = Average number of Syllable per Word (i.e., the number of syllables divided
by the number of words)

Analyzing the results is a simple exercise. For instance, a score of 5.3 indicates a fifth grader in their third month of that grade would be able to read the document. The score makes it easier for teachers, parents, librarians, and others to judge the readability level of various books and texts for the students.

shutterstock_69000412Other Readability Assessment Tools
Other readability assessment tools include Lexile Framework, Dale-Chall, Spache, Fry Graph, Raygor Graph, Gunning FOG, DRA, Powers-Sumner-Kearl, Coleman-Liau Index, and SMOG Index.

For more readability calculators and text tools, go to http://www.readabilityformulas.com/search/pages/Free_Readability_Calculators.

If you don’t want to wait until after you’re done writing to discover the readability level of your fiction piece, a good book to have that references words introduced by grade level (K – 6) is Children’s Writer’s Word Book by Alijandra Mogliner (Writer’s Digest Books). Another resource is the K12 Reader website at http://www.k12reader.com/.

Everyone's A Reader logo2Interested in writing a high-low book (high interest, low reading level)? ACFWs Colorado
Springs chapter, Worship Write Witness, is conducting an “Everyone’s A Reader” novella contest (15-25,000 word YA novella or a 25-35,000 word adult novella–YA needs to be written at a 2nd-3rd grade level; Adult needs to be at a 3rd-4th grade level) to help address this very issue. The winning novella will be submitted to Harpstring, an imprint of Written World Communications, with the possibility of a contract if accepted by their review board. For more information, go to http://worshipwritewitness.acfwcolorado.com/writing_contest_2013.html.

_________________________
Sources:
Barry, Doug. “The Hunger Games Trilogy Has Now Outsold All the Harry Potter Books.”Jezebel. N.p., 12 Aug. 2012. Web. 13 Aug. 2013. <http://jezebel.com/5936436/the-hunger-games-trilogy-has-now-outsold-all-the-harry-potter-books>.

Doll, Jenn. “‘The Hunger Games’ Breaks the Potter Book Barrier on Amazon.” The Atlantic Wire. N.p., 17 Aug. 2012. Web. 13 Aug. 2013. <http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2012/08/hunger-games-breaks-potter-book-barrier-amazon/55914/>.
http://www.readabilityformulas.com/
http://www.impact-information.com/impactinfo/literacy.htm
http://jezebel.com/5936436/the-hunger-games-trilogy-has-now-outsold-all-the-harry-potter-books
http://www.scholastic.com
http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/book-selection-tips/assess-dra-reading-levels
https://lexile.desk.com/customer/portal/articles/379871-what-is-a-lexile-measure
http://www.lexile.com/about-lexile/grade-equivalent/
http://www.renlearn.com/
http://www.readinga-z.com/readinga-z-levels/level-correlation-chart/
https://hosted233.renlearn.com/265945/help/ar/InterestLevels.htm
http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=12177361
http://www.k12reader.com/
http://www.readabilityformulas.com/free-readability-calculators.php
http://www.amazon.com

Enhanced by Zemanta

 

This Game Called “Life”

Game of Life

[Jesus speaking] Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. ~ Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

lifenoun ˈlīf  1. a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings 2. the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual 3. a board game created by Milton Bradley.

Decisions, decisions. Do I go to college or straight to a career? Buy a house? Stock? Insurance? And then there’s deciding on the color of that little plastic car which neatly houses a family of blue and/or pink pegs. Spin the wheel, move ahead, collect a paycheck, get married, have children, live happily-ever-after. Don’t know about you, but as a child that pretty much summed up my expectations of life. That and Barbie.

Funny how things change over the years. How reality sets in, how the challenges of balancing family and bills and health and God’s call changes our perspective on this game called “life.”

1 Corinthians 13:11 NLT says this about becoming an adult:

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.

Putting away childish things can be good or bad. If it leads to irresponsibility and control, then it’s bad. But if it leads to maturity and growth, it’s good. If we’re honest we’ll admit there are times we don’t want to be mature and certainly don’t enjoy God stretching us into growth. Those are the times we ask the LORD a LOT of questions, most of which begin with “why” or “when.”  And, those are the times we usually wait (and wait and wait) for His answer.

Verse twelve of 1 Corinthians 11 goes a bit further into what putting away childish things encompasses:

Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

It tells us that, for now, we see things imperfectly—as if looking into in a cloudy mirror, but that one day we’ll see with clarity. The Greek word for the NLT version of the word “cloudy” is ainigma(ah’-ee-nig-ma), which means something obscure or hard to understand or explain, and for the NLT version of the word “clarity” it’s prosopon (pros’-o-pon), which means faced forward to see our actual self [countenance/appearance].  So basically, one day God will show us the person He sees/created us to be, including the situations used to grow us to maturity—and it will all make sense.

In the meantime, we need to trust in and lean on God, and allow Him to place His “burden” of grace and rest upon our shoulders so that life doesn’t overwhelm us. Then, and only then, will we be able to capture glimpses of His perfect will for our lives.

LORD, I am tired. Life is as hard as it is beautiful and sometimes I just don’t think I can move—let alone be stretched into maturity by Your loving hand. It is during these times I realize life isn’t just a board game I played as a kid. It’s real and it’s tough, and sometimes the spin of the wheel sends me back 10 spaces instead of jetting me forward. I need you, LORD. I need Your guidance and Your yoke of rest—a yoke that will not weigh me down no matter how many spaces I have to go back. Lead me in Your way everlasting, and teach me what it’s like to completely trust in You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Enhanced by Zemanta


Finding Your Way

Finding your wayLean on, trust in, [and] be confident in the Lord with all your heart [and] mind and do not rely on your own insight [or] understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, [and] acknowledge Him, and He will direct [and] make straight and plain your paths.~Proverbs 3:5-6, AMP

 

 

Writing is hard. It can be a love-hate journey one moment and a feel-good journey the next with the ups and downs, as well as beauty of, a rock-strewn, backcountry mountain road. It’s difficult to walk that road sometimes—and even more difficult to find people who will walk it with us. That’s where American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and HIS Writers (ACFW North Denver Chapter) come in.

Realizing we’re all in this together—regardless of where we are in our writing journey—the goal of HIS Writers is to walk that road with you. Not just for the short-haul, but for your entire journey.

As a writer’s adventure progresses, they pick up nuggets of information along the way: writing skills, marketing ideas, social networking nuances—things like that. And like a walking cane or road map, these nuggets help ease the journey along. But sometimes a walking cane or road map isn’t enough, especially when we feel crippled or lost. Sometimes we need the strength and prayers of others.

If you are serious about writing, becoming part of a healthy writing community is a must! No one understands writers like other writers. No one else “gets” how difficult it can be to write one simple sentence, or to find that pièce de résistance word or phrase, or to determine why one’s plot or POV is off kilter, except other writers. PLUS, trying to explain those strange “voices” in your head can seem pretty psychotic to someone who’s never dealt with creating story characters.

Like any other community that supports one another through life’s journey, healthy is the key operative. Make sure the writing community you belong to is gentle, yet direct. That they are more interested in helping you become the writer God created you to be than the one they want you to be. The atmosphere of the community should be one of building up, not tearing down. Critiques should be salted with love as well as expertise, and instruction should be sound.

Prior to running into ACFW seven years ago (actually, running into Kathy Kovach, who told me of a new ACFW writing group they were starting up north called HIS Writers), I was on the verge of giving up. The group I had been involved with had sucked the life out of me, and the call God placed on my life to write seemed hopeless. Earlier that year God had promised me new wineskins, and He kept that promise by providing me with a great group of ladies (Kathy Kovach, Paula Moldenhauer, Margie Vawter, and Bonnie Doran) as well as an awesome support community that has put up with my silly questions and insecurities, and taught me more than I ever could have imagined.

My prayer for you is that you find our community of writers an oasis in the desert. That like with me, HIS Writers can become your “new wineskin” as you walk the path God has laid before you as writer.

LORD, like I said earlier, writing is hard! I remember how many times I wanted to throw in the towel and walk away, but you kept bringing me back, providing me with amazing people who understood my struggles as a writer, and who patiently took me under wing and shared with me their knowledge and forbearance. Please be with those who are currently part of HIS Writers, LORD, as well as those You are drawing in. Help them to trust us with their writing journey, and keep us forever sensitive to their needs, struggles, hopes, and dreams. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Enhanced by Zemanta


Mr. Worry

mr-men-mr-worryThat is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?  ~Matthew 6:25-27 NLT

…but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.  ~Philippians 4:6 AMP

How many of you remember the Mr. Men children’s book series by Roger Hargreaves? Adorable books that were easy to understand, filled with brightly colored illustrations, and had straight-forward messages conveying simple, moral lessons. We had quite a collection at home, and I don’t know who enjoyed their stories the most, my children or I. Some tales were silly and made us laugh, such as Mr. Tickle or Mr. Funny. Others, like Mr. Mean, Mr. Lazy, and Mr. Rude, dealt with more serious issues. But regardless of the topic, after each story my kids and I would spend time talking about the book and how we felt about Mr. Whomever.

Recently I came across the book, Mr. Worry. Mr. Worry worried about “everything and all things.” He worried about leaving things behind on the way home from the store, he worried about Mr. Bump getting hurt, and he worried that the roof of his house might leak when it rained. One day, Mr. Worry ran into a very wise wizard who told Mr. Worry to go home and write down everything he was worried about. So Mr. Worry did. The next day, the wizard dropped by to pick up Mr. Worry’s very long list. The wizard looked over the list, then told Mr. Worry he’d make sure none of these things happened. This made Mr. Worry very happy. So happy, in fact, that he enjoyed his day without worry. Not only did he enjoy that day, but he enjoyed the next and the next and the next. Unfortunately, come Monday, Mr. Worry woke up worried, so he went to see the wizard. When the wizard saw Mr. Worry he asked him what was wrong. Mr. Worry said, “I’m worried.” The wizard asked why. Mr. Worry replied, “Because I don’t have anything to worry about.”

When I read that, I laughed. How silly of Mr. Worry to worry about having nothing to worry about. But then I realized, Mr. Worry is very much like me. I worry about things I have no control over, even though my heavenly Father promises it’s all taken care of.

So why do I do it? Worry, that is? Why do I spend so much time focusing on things I have no control over? Is it because I don’t believe my heavenly Father desires the best for me? That although He is fully capable of taking care of me, He won’t? Or could it be that Mr. Worry sends his sidekick, Mr. Lie, to convince me my God would never really care for all my needs. And instead of ignoring Mr. Lie, I turn around, go home, and start to worry all over again.

Thank goodness I have a God whose provision does not depend on whether or not I worry–or even whether or not I believe He will take care of me. God’s promises go way beyond my shortcomings and are fulfilled simply because He is God and He loves me. And He loves you, too.

So next time you find Mr. Worry pounding at your door, tell him to go away. For you have a mighty and powerful God who promises that all is taken care of.

LORD, why do we worry? Especially when we know we have no control over tomorrow let alone today. Help us let go of anxiety and trouble, and instead rely on You, our provider. Hold us close when life falls apart, and keep our ears sealed from the murmurings of the liar. Show us how to trust in You and lean on You for strength, not only when life throws us the curve ball of worry, but when we have peace as well. Thank You for being there and for being God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Enhanced by Zemanta


%d bloggers like this: