Forty Reasons Why I Write

Thought I would focus on my writing side today since I read about this challenge on the Positive Writer blog and decided to participate. http://positivewriter.com/reasons-why-write-challenge/  I’ve written about the reasons why I write before, but it was more of a telling of my own story and what led me back to writing after going away from it as a young adult. Writing down the reasons themselves will be a good exercise for me. So, without further adieu and in no particular order, here are the forty reasons why I write.

1) I write because I can be honest with myself.

2) I write because I need to get the words out of my head.

3) I write because it’s the best way I communicate. When I talk, I have a tendency to stumble over my words. I don’t have that problem with writing.

4) I write because I like telling stories.

5) I write to give people hope.

6) I write to help with my depression.

7) I write because I want to keep a record of my life.

8) I write because it helps me not to feel alone.

9) I write to honor the gift my Lord and Savior has given me.

10) I write because it helps me be a better teacher. (I homeschool my son.)

11) I write because it helps me make sense of the craziness in this world.

12) I write because I like “happily ever after” endings.

13) I write because I want to leave something of myself behind.

14) I write so I can write the bad parts of my life in my journal and leave them there.

15) I write because I like finding just the right word to put in a sentence.

16) I write because I can’t imagine giving it up.

17) I write because it’s my way to escape.

18) I write because I dream.

19) I write because I like to see filled up pages.

20) I write because it reflects who I am.

21) I write because I want my grandchildren to read what I wrote just like I read what my grandmother wrote.

22) I write to share my faith.

23) I write because I would like to be on someone’s bookshelf or Kindle one day.

24) I write because I want to encourage people.

25) I write because I like to build different worlds.

26) I write because it takes me back to my childhood.

27) I write because it helps me remember.

28) I write because I’m not the typical woman my parents would like me to be.

29) I write because I’m a geek and a nerd.

30) I write so I won’t be confused.

31) I write because I want to make a difference

32) I write because I like creating something out of nothing.

33) I write to bring closure to my past.

34) I write because I want to be heard.

35) Writing is cheaper than therapy.

36) I write because it has changed my life.

37) I write because it reflects more of who I am. (I’m not just a wife or a mom.)

38) I write because I like creating characters.

39) I write because I like it when someone tells me my writing meant something to them.

40) And finally, especially this week, I write so I won’t be jealous that half of my town is in the Caribbean for spring break. 🙂

Advertisements

Temptation

As defined by Wikipedia, temptation is an “immediate, pleasurable urge and/or impulse that disrupts an individual’s ability to wait for the long-term goals which the individual hopes to attain.” It can also mean “the state of being attracted and enticed” like when you want to eat a piece of chocolate cake, but know that you shouldn’t. Since this is a Christian blog though, the definition of temptation I will be referring to is the “inclination to sin”.

It’s not that the other definitions don’t matter. I think in some instances, they can be intertwined. For example, that piece of chocolate cake. In most instances, having it wouldn’t affect us in the long-term. But, what about the person who struggles with taking care of their body like God says they should? What about the person who buys themselves an indulgence? Some people can stop at only one, but others would keep going on and on and wouldn’t be spending their money the way God wants them to.

So, everyone has been tempted and can be tempted. Even Jesus was tempted. My church is doing a year-long series of sermons about keeping our eyes on Jesus, and the topic of temptation was brought up recently. I’m thinking most of us are familiar with that story in the Bible–where Jesus was tempted after forty days and nights of fasting. Satan tempted Him on three occasions. Matthew 4:3-4 says, “The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.””

The other two occasions had Satan telling Jesus to throw Himself off the highest point in the temple because the angels would save Him if He did and offering Him all the kingdoms of the world if He would only worship him. Verse 10 of Matthew 4 says, “Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.””

I have a head understanding of these verses and of what God wants from us. Doesn’t prevent me from getting tempted though. In fact, the other week God reminded me of my own brokenness. I talked to someone who freely admitted to having been in jail. I was astonished because that has never happened to me before. I did a pretty good job of not showing my astonishment. (Actually, that was because God was giving me very strong urges to keep my mouth shut for the questions that would normally be asked on such an admission.) Afterwards, I thought about the encounter and how I had done well enough to never be arrested in my years of living. God knocked me down pretty fast. He pointed out that though I had never murdered anyone, I had lied. I’ve never stolen anything either, but I’ve judged those who have. I’ve not made a golden idol to worship, but I’ve considered other things more important than God. I’ve been jealous of people who have more than I do, and I haven’t rested on the Sabbath. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. We’ve all sinned. Some sins are just more noticeable than others.

I say all this about temptation today because of the other part of what was stated in the verses I quoted. Jesus had been fasting when He encountered Satan. He had been doing without food and water. This is not something I encounter often in the western world. Especially for forty days and forty nights. Western Christians aren’t big on depriving themselves of anything, and it is not a concept I’ve been able to apply well to my own life. But, last week I decided to take a dare. We have been talking about fasting at church on Wednesday nights this month, and my older son got to attend one of the classes last week while he was home from college. Our pastor spoke of how he had given up coffee until Easter and encouraged us to fast from whatever was preventing us from getting closer to Jesus. We got home from church, and my son said there was no way I could give up coffee. Oh, the wisdom of a college student. 🙂 I took the dare and made the promise. No way was I going to let my son hold one over on me.

I am now at five days without coffee, and I can tell this is going to be one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I use coffee to wake up in the mornings, and it’s been hard to be without it. But, I’m going to honor my promise to God and to my son for two reasons. One, I’m stubborn and don’t want to hear about my failure forever, and two, most importantly, because I want to honor my Lord and Savior.

I also know I’m not alone in this endeavor. God is with me as it states in I Corinthians 10:13. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I think this sums it up.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Exploring a Question

The Internet can be an amazing place. I was reading another blog from a writer who lives halfway around the world the other day which stopped  me short. I try to read as much as I can because I feel like it makes me a better writer. Anyway, back to this blogger. He spoke of a situation he had encountered in his own country which was really bad. What he wrote to start with would be something you and I would consider to be a rant. I read it and was astounded. No one who lives in a first world country would put up with the sort of situation he was describing. By the end of his post though, he was calmer and said something I’m not sure I could say. He said he was going to take the situation and use it to grow his character as a Christian. Use it to learn how to forgive and how to endure. He wasn’t going to quit standing up for justice and what was right, but in the absence of said justice, he was going to use it to grow in his faith because, after all, that is what was most important.

I say all this because it relates to a question I’ve been puzzling over. No, my question is not as severe as the situation my blogger friend is having to deal with. First world problems, after all. But I’m thinking the resolution he came up with for his situation is something I need to consider for my own problem.

Here’s the question. When is it okay to say no in the church? Is it okay to say no, you don’t feel called to do something? Is it okay to say no, I feel like I’m burning out at this task, and I need a break? Is it okay to say no when you feel like you’re being taken for granted? Is it okay to say no about doing anything? Or is it okay to feel excluded when you are shut out of something you wanted to try?

Part of the problem with all of these questions is that there is a big problem in our congregations today with getting people connected and getting enough of them to volunteer for all of the tasks that need to be done. There are also, I hate to say, tasks that are more desirable than others and more a part of the “power structure” of the church. I think some of this might have led to my exclusion from the thing I really wanted to try.

But, that’s neither here nor there. I’m really wondering when or if it’s okay to say no. I know Jesus called us to share our gifts in the local body of believers, and I believe in that wholeheartedly. What happens though when you are the only one or one of a very small group of people who has a particular gift that you are expected to use week after week, not ever getting a break to study or get filled up with the Word? Are you ever supposed to say anything, or do you work until you are burnt out and ready to slam the door as you leave the church never returning to its doors?

There’s not an easy answer for this question. Many people do want to serve God and their churches and feel called to be in their positions to the point of being burnt out. They don’t want to admit they need a break. They think it’s wrong to say no.

For me, part of being a writer is asking the difficult questions and trying to figure out answers. I think if more of us actually shared our gifts with a local body of believers this wouldn’t be as much of a question. There would be resources to cover for someone who needs a break from sharing a particular gift.

But, in absence of a way to make everyone march in lockstep and do the things we want them to do (Would we really want that?), I need to figure out what I’m going to do and how I’m going to deal with my fatigue and with my feelings. And that goes back to the story I shared at the beginning of this post. My blogger friend, who is dealing with a situation no one should have to deal with, is using that situation to grow his character and his faith as a Christian and to learn how to forgive and how to endure. How can I do any less?

Praying for God’s blessings on you all today!

Our Refuge and Strength

Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” I write these words and think about how true they’ve been in my own life. God has been my refuge and strength through unemployment, illness, financial stresses, and through the uncertainty of life.

With all of the noise of this world though, it’s hard for me to think past the uncertainty of the latest stressors. That’s why I think a verse that appears later in this chapter can be paired with the first verse. Verse 10 of Psalm 46 says, “He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'”

I think these verses can be paired with one another because I can feel God’s presence most when I am still. When I go down to the lake near my apartment, I can feel His presence in the wind, in the water, in the blue sky, in the trees, in the quiet of this place. I can hear His voice in a way I can’t hear it when I have noise all around me. I can hear Him speak, and I can talk to Him too.

I wonder if that’s why Jesus told us to go into our prayer closet when we want to speak to Him. Matthew 6:6 says, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Quiet and still–that’s how He wants it to be when we pray to Him. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with public prayer. Far from it. We need to pray to God and praise Him when we’re together.

But, when I pray to God when it’s quiet and still, I feel His presence more strongly. I know, for a fact, that He is my refuge and strength and that I can come to Him any time I need to. When He speaks to me in these moments of quiet, I hear Him more clearly and know the next steps He wants me to take in whatever situation I am praying over. He is there in the stillness, and there is no pretense in how I speak to Him.

And that’s the point. No pretense. God wants us to speak to Him honestly. There is no reason to pretend when we’re with God. He knows everything anyway. Besides, how can we trust Him to be our refuge and strength if we haven’t been honest with Him? A question for us to consider this week.

 

Praying God’s blessings for you all this week!

The Courage to Cry

This is an entry for the Writing Contest: You Deserve to be Inspired. Hosted by Positive Writer. http://positivewriter.com/writing-contest-you-deserve-to-be-inspired/

Most of us have the tendency to not want to cry in public.  Crying is seen as weak and not at all like how we want to be seen by the public around us. People who have it all together or who seem to have it all together are more respected in our society. There is also the actual issue of control that limits our ability to cry. I want to argue that crying or expressing emotion takes more courage than those who try to “maintain shields in public.”

It’s almost been a year since my husband was in the hospital for possible heart issues. He had experienced chest pain like he had experienced the previous year when he had also been in the hospital for a night. Every test that was run during both hospital stays had shown that things with his heart were normal. But, there was no explanation for why he was having chest pain or why he was so exhausted all of the time. He was at the end of his endurance as was I, the only difference being that it was okay for him to express it and not okay for me. I needed to be strong so I could take care of him and give him the encouragement he needed. This was not like his previous health issues. For those issues, there was a clear diagnosis and path to take care of whatever the issue was. It was not like that this time.

He was released from the hospital, and I was a tumble of emotions trying to handle his care, our household, and homeschooling our then 16-year old son. I didn’t know where to turn, and I felt lost, but didn’t feel like I could express it. On Saturday, I took our son to a youth event which would last overnight and came back home. I had been praying this whole time for healing for my husband, for clear answers, for something that would turn all of this around. (Oh, by the way, did I mention that my husband was the sole support of our family?) God had something else in mind though.

I woke up Sunday morning on edge and not certain whether I should leave my husband or not though I was going to have to go up to church to get our son by the time service was over. My husband was frustrated which increased my frustration. He wanted to go to church himself, but wasn’t in the shape to do so. I wanted to yell and scream and hurl insults at God for putting us through this. There had been no end to the pain and suffering over the past couple of years, and I wanted it to be over. I wanted, no, I needed to break, but didn’t know if I could. I was worried about what people would think of me.

I ended up deciding to go to our worship service and hide in the back so no one would see me. It was on the opposite side of the auditorium from where I usually sat.  But, even though I didn’t see very many people I knew, God still saw me. He spoke to me through the words of the songs and through the people who spoke to me. He also spoke to me through the sermon. I know the words came from God because my pastor had no idea what was going on. During the final prayer, tears started spilling from my eyes. I couldn’t hold them back any longer. When the congregation started singing Never Once by Matt Redman, I knew that was God’s signal. It was time to face my fear of rejection by being emotional in public.  I was weeping so much I could barely see as I made my way towards the front. I choked out words to my pastor. “Please pray for me. I can’t take this pain anymore.”

There were other words too, lost in the jumble.  He prayed, and people surrounded me, many more people than I had expected. I cried and shook from the relief of releasing the pain and stress. Once he finished the prayer, people hugged me and said it was ok. Their words were so encouraging, and I was blessed. I wondered why I had ever had any fear of breaking down. The relief I felt was palpable, and I felt strength come over me that I had not felt earlier in the morning. I was inspired to keep going.

Being a caregiver is not for the faint of heart. There are many stresses and pressures. Couple that with the fear of being judged for expressing emotion which had been programmed in me from childhood and it could have been a recipe for disaster. It wasn’t though. I was still loved even though I had cried. I figured out there was a reason God had given us tear ducts, and it wasn’t just to cry in private. I also wrote about it in my journal. These lessons helped me then and have helped me many times in the year since. Having the courage to cry is more beneficial to all of us physically, mentally, and emotionally than trying to hide our emotions. God knew what He was doing that day in my life by blessing me with this knowledge which is why I shared this post today. Blessings to all who read it.

The Muck and the Mire

One of my more unusual titles, I think, and it got you to look which was the point. 🙂 While we’re still living in this world and not in heaven with God, we’re going to spend time in the muck and the mire, some, more than others. It started me wondering yesterday, and thinking of questions which I thought I would share with you this afternoon.

What does it mean to be Jesus’ hands and feet? My relationship with God has come to the forefront over the last few years, and I consider it more of a priority than I did before we moved here. I pray, study, go to church, and consider what God wants me to do in situations that come up. I’m not trying to brag, far from it. I know I am still a broken human being, but God has become more real to me than He has ever been.

So, back to my question. What does it really mean to be Jesus’ hands and feet? Does it mean going on mission trips or participating in church activities? Does it mean being kind and loving towards everyone you come in contact with? Does it mean having a particular political bent? Ugh, don’t get me started on politics. 🙂

What about paying for someone’s cup of coffee or meal which is the latest “do-good” thing? How about paying for someone’s groceries? Or talking to a cashier who seems sad? Or giving money to the homeless man at the intersection?

What about taking on extra work for someone at your job who is dealing with an illness? What about going to visit someone at the hospital? What about pulling over when someone has car trouble and waiting with them until help comes? Or pulling over at the scene of an accident and waiting with the people until help comes?

Yes, I believe these are all examples of being Jesus’ hands and feet, but why is it such a big deal when someone does something like this? Why don’t more of us who are professed Christians display these helping acts as part of their lifestyle? I think there are several reasons. One, we are selfish. We don’t want to come out of our comfort zones to help people. Two, we are afraid for our safety. Three, we don’t have the training to help like I was thinking with my car repair or accident examples. I could have stopped in those examples though and provided comfort, but I didn’t.

Where does this leave us? Does God just want us to do the best we can and forget the rest? I know He doesn’t want us to do things in exchange for our salvation. That’s where grace comes in like the cover verses for this blog state. But, if He has truly changed our hearts, shouldn’t we want to do some of these things? Shouldn’t we want to give money and share our talents with the church body? Shouldn’t we want to be Jesus’ hands and feet and not say this is a job for the church staff or elders? Has Jesus really changed our hearts if we don’t want to show the love of our Lord and Savior?

There’s one more question to consider. Do we still help someone if their life hasn’t changed after the first encounter? Someone who has gone back to their old sins? Someone whose point in asking for help was to take advantage? I don’t know. Actually, my first thought is to say no because I was taken advantage of. I judge, and I condemn because of the sin committed towards me. I might even point out there are no examples in Scripture of someone coming to Jesus a second time. Did they? We don’t know. Maybe we don’t know because the writers of Scripture inspired by God didn’t want our natural and sinful judgmental tendencies to come out. I think the answer might be yes though. A second time, a third time, whatever it takes to change their lives though I resist because I want to judge as many of you would.

As I get to the end of this post, I realize I have created more questions than answers. I want to get past my sin nature of judging and condemning someone for their sins. I want to be Jesus’ hands and feet to the world around me. I guess the best answer I can give is to listen to the whisper of God when faced with a possible helping situation. May we all listen to God’s whisper.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

 

God Can Use Anything or Anyone

I came up with this title yesterday when I was writing in my journal and thought I’d see what I could do with it today. The elements of my post may seem disparate, but they are tied together by this title–God can use anything or anyone!

You might be aware of a movie which premiered last weekend–The Shack–based on the book of the same name. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I did read the book last year. It was a good read, and I enjoyed it. Some Christians have problems with it because of how God is portrayed or because of theological questions. I don’t, and here’s why. I believe God can use anything as we make our journeys in this life. He created us with an imagination, with creative spirits, and with the ability to ask questions and to express doubts. We don’t know what He looks like, and we won’t know until we get to heaven. So, if this new movie gets people to ask about God and wonder about their relationship with Him, that’s a good thing. Therefore, we, as committed Christians, need to be willing to talk about God and show people what He says in His Scriptures about a relationship with Him. Christians need to be willing to show the love of Jesus to those who are asking questions and not give long speeches on why they think the movie is wrong. Many people already think of Christianity as the religion of “no” so we need to consider any questions non-believers have with an open heart and an open mind.

My thoughts about this movie started forming the idea for this blog post. I truly believe God can use anything. It doesn’t have to be overtly Christian. In fact, it might be better if it wasn’t. Why, you ask? Let me explain. Many of the Christian movies being made today are being made with the health and wealth gospel in mind. This says that everything in our lives will be just fine if we love God enough, pray hard enough, and do everything He tells us to. Life doesn’t work that way, and I think it’s a huge shame there are so many Christian leaders in the west who promote this way of thinking. Bad things are gonna happen. They’ve happened to me plenty so that’s how I know.

The way Christian movies portray it though,  lives are supposed to be fixed by the end of the movie. So, my life should be fixed, but it’s not. According to the people who ascribe to this philosophy, my life and faith should be a failure, but it’s not. Jesus is still in my heart even though its broken and even though my life is broken. Praise God!

I think we forget sometimes who God used in the Bible. They weren’t perfect, not by a long shot. People like Abraham, Moses, Rahab, David, Bathsheba, Job, Jonah, Peter, and Paul. I know there are many more. They all did things that were wrong, that are sins, but God used them anyway. I think I would rather be in this class of people than in a group of modern-day Christians who insist you put up shields and never admit to doubts, questions, or wrong-doing. I’m pretty sure Jesus would have been in the first group anyway. 🙂

As I conclude this post, my prayer for all of us is that we remember God wants us to build relationships with Him and with each other based on His love and grace and to remember that He can use anything or anyone to accomplish this!

God’s blessings on all of you today!