“Cookie Cutter Authors?” You ask. What on earth do you mean by that? Well, let me try to explain. I will admit first off, that my first two books didn’t quite measure up to NYTBS list material. As a matter of fact, there probably aren’t many of us authors whose first books will make that highly coveted list. That doesn’t mean we give up of course. We simply learn from those experiences and become better writers. If yours haven’t done well either, don’t feel bad. Hey, we cut our “writers’ teeth” on those first books, and if we had never written them in the first place, we might never have come to be writers. We have to crawl before we can walk, right? That said, even though we may come from small beginnings, I have now been in this business long enough to know a few things. So, grab some coffee, sit down, and let’s talk about this.
Genre Expectations: Are Readers getting bored?
I have well learned, at least at this point, that there are certain expectations for each genre that readers expect to see. (By the way, for any of you fellow authors still struggling to pin down a genre for your book, or just needing a brush up on the whole genre thing, check this handy Book Genre Finder site out.) Put a book in a wrong genre that’s not the right fit for it, and it will likely result in negative reviews. Thus, my coining the term “Cookie Cutter Authors”, if someone hasn’t already beat me to it. Hey, we can do that, we’re writers. 😉 Too often, this has caused increased pressure on us as authors to put out what our readers want to read. But more and more lately, I am seeing articles and posts with comments from readers saying they have begun to tire of what seems like the same story repeated in numerous books within a given genre, and the same, typical, even stereotyped characters, only the names, places, and scenes have changed. While many readers may continue to expect books they read to fit into those expectations, there are also a good number of them out there who have become bored with the same old scenarios repeated in books by authors trying to fit the old cookie cutter molds. It’s time for us to break the molds of pleasing the world, and write to please Him.
So, What’s Your Point?
So, what’s my point, you ask? My point is this: There are too many Christian authors these days who have failed to “stand out” as Christ called us to do, for fear of “offending” their readers, and losing sales. They fall for the deception of writing what readers expect, to the point of settling for compromising, even sacrificing what our Lord expects of us as the writers He has called us to be. They have chosen to “blend in” rather than stand out for Him. I am at the point, I can no longer settle for just being one of these cookie cutter authors, just spitting out generic stories that “fit” into what the world wants to read. As a Christian author, I must answer the call to stand out and make a difference, to write that one unique story that’s not a “cookie cutter” copy of 800 others, but one that might just inspire its readers to change their lives for the better. We as Christian authors will not do that by “blending in”. There will never be a time that the money, riches, and fame this world has to offer will be worth more to me than what my precious Savior has called me to write.
A Choice to Make: Pleasing the World or Reaching Readers for Christ
So, for most of us who are Christian writers, it looks like we’ve come to a “fork in the road”. Every one of us has a choice to make. I know that for those of us who choose to represent the King, Jesus, our Lord and Savior, in our writing, it will likely mean that we may never see our books rise to popularity by the world’s standards. But then, I am no longer writing to please the world, but my Lord. If even one of my books somehow touches someone’s heart and inspires them to change their life for the better, maybe even accept Him as Lord and Savior, then it will all have been well worth it.
Avoiding the Idolatry of Selfish Ambition
Up until now, I have mainly worked on fiction, and, until now, like many other authors, I had aspirations of making that “NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR” list. That is, until God began to continually lead me to Philippians, chapter 2, verses 3-4, which says (NKJV): “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” The more that began to sink in, the more I have come to realize, through the intense spiritual awakening that has followed, that it is no longer important for me to make that “list”. I no longer subscribe to the covetous, selfish ambitions of worldly fame and recognition, or even the desire to maybe see my books made into movies. Coveting all those things more than the work God wants to do through my writing, and the people He wants to reach through my work falls under something the word of God explicitly warns us against: idolatry. Am I saying that’s a bad thing (Making the NYTBS List)? No, of course not! And if I ever do make it, wonderful! And if you are an author or know one with at least one book on that list, let me be the first to congratulate you, or even the 59th person to do so. Please understand here, that I am not saying that in itself is a bad thing. Not at all. I am just saying that I will no longer covet this above the difference God has called me to make and the plan and purpose that He has for me with the books He has given me to write (see Colossians 3:2 and and 2 Corinthians 4:18).
God has really begun to drive this important truth home to me more than ever before. He recently spoke to me and said, “ANYTHING you put before ME becomes an idol!” He also warned us that idolaters will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 6:10-12). For too long, we have put on the “masks” of tolerance, political correctness, etc, and chosen to “blend in” to society, rather than stand out for Christ. I will no longer blend in, but I choose to stand out for Him, and help people see that what He has done for me, He will do for them. I choose to believe He is faithful and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (see Hebrews 11:6), and my work from this point onward will reflect that.
Oh sure, it would be easy to tailor my stories around “what the world wants to see”, and what will guarantee me a spot on that coveted list, but when I think of the price tag that is attached to that deceptive “selfish ambition”, no thank you! What my Lord and Savior did for me on Calvary is deserving of no less than my all for Him, and the complete surrender of those things I once considered important, for His will for me instead, and the lives He wants to touch through me. In Philippians 3:7-8, Paul says, “ But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” His will, and what He wants to do through it all, and my testimony reaching more readers through my work for Him is much more important now than the selfish ambition I held on to in the past. All of that other stuff is no longer important.
Mark 8:36 says, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Indeed, the lure of worldly fame and recognition is the greatest illusion ever perpetrated on humanity by the deceiver we all know as the devil. Even my fiction work is now undergoing a huge “face lift”, as I re-evaluate my projects and seriously seek Him to show me how to write works that line up with the message He wants me to project to my readers. I will still, of course, do all I can to maintain the professional standards expected of any of us as writers, but at the same time, I will not compromise to the world’s standards (see 1 Corinthians 10:21 and Matthew 6:24). I want to be that one that’s different from the others.
God’s Version of Success: Choosing the Hidden Rewards of Writing for Christ
I know that conflict and tension have to be there in order for readers to appreciate the big, powerful, “Wow-I-didn’t-see-that-one-coming” conclusion when it ends. But we as Christian writers can do this without sacrificing our God-given purpose and perspective. There may even be “pre-Christian” characters in my stories, or characters representing the hurting, lonely, and struggling. My soon coming book, “LOGAN – Chain of Grace”, is a good example of this. I feel that most readers will be able to identify with at least one of the characters, especially once they see how their lives are transformed by what happens in the story. Thus, it is my goal that as a result, readers will see how their own lives can be transformed if they are willing to surrender their all to Christ. (It is mainly for this reason that a couple of my current fiction works in progress have been delayed, but they are coming soon, promise!) But if we continue to settle for being “cookie cutter” authors, just writing the same tired old scenarios others have written, we may never see others’ lives touched like this. It is only in breaking free from the “fit-in-to-what-everyone-else-is-doing” mold that we will ever reach this hidden pinnacle of success in God’s eyes, as He sees it. He has gifted each of us with unique talents and insights, and we will never see these gifts come to fruition as long as we are busy trying to please the world instead of Him. But if we are willing to break free of that limited thinking and rise to His definition of “success”, who knows, we might just pen that best seller anyway. After all, you may never know the lives He wants to touch through you until you hand Him the quill, the pen, or these days, the keyboard/typewriter, and let Him write through you…
So, why don’t we stop being so afraid of losing sales, or missing out on the “big ticket”, or offending someone, and start being more concerned with reaching the world with the special, unique, encouraging, faith-building, life-renewing message that He has chosen you, out of all the other writers in the world, to write. Pray and ask Him to show you the bigger picture of what He has for you, and He will. And throw out the old cookie cutter image of yourself, break the mold, and get out there and get your message into the hands of the readers the Great Author Himself has already chosen for you to reach…
...That, you see, is how it works when you write for the King!
Besides, He makes BIGGER “cookies”… and no two are the same. We are all unique, just as He meant it to be. Now, wouldn’t it be a shame if you let the world miss out on that?
November 16, 1985 was almost the last day of my life…
Now, at a time when giving up is simply not an option, more people than ever are giving up on their faith. We are the Body of Christ, yet the “pulse” has weakened…
…and the clock is ticking as we move ever toward the return of Jesus, our Lord, to rapture the Church…
If you don’t read another book this coming year, you don’t want to miss this one!
November 16, 1985 was almost the last day of my life…
But God had a different plan…
As my family watched me being rushed from the ambulance into the emergency room, bleeding from a gaping head wound, and in agony from a fractured pelvis, they didn’t know if I was even going to make it…
…GOD looked into the future and saw you…
Now, in my book,“CPR For Your Faith From Beyond Death’s Door”, coming soon from K&F Stewart Ministries, (initials of my husband’s and my first names, Keith & Flossie), under our new imprint, Rivers of Grace Books, I will share my story, along with what I’ve learned on my long road to healing, and what God has given me to share with you about the special kind of “CPR” your faith needs.
You may be one of many people who have been through a life altering event and reached a point of feeling there is no hope. I know what that feels like. I’ve been there. While I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers (only God’s Word fits that category), I do know that what God has done for me, He can do for you.
I’ve often said, God can take the “lemons” life has handed you and turn it into some of the best “lemonade” you’ve ever “tasted”. But you have to give Him the lemons! Whatever it is the devil intended to use to destroy you, God wants to take it and turn it into your testimony, just as He has done for me! He can and He will!
November 16, 1985 was almost the last day of my life. I was in a horrific auto accident that derailed my nursing career and changed my life forever. Only later, through the divine power of the Holy Spirit revealing it to me, along with the help of my psychiatrist, would I come to learn that I had gone through a Near Death Experience, and that I had indeed passed through death’s door. Although I was left with a fractured hip, a terrible head injury,a speech problemI still suffer from although it isn’t immediately obvious, and other problems due to the traumatic brain injury (specifically,right temporal and frontal lobe damage, my head actually dented the dashboard, and I was unconscious), PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and psychological scars that would last long after the physical ones had healed, through Christ and His healing power in my life, I have triumphed over it all and gone on to write “CPR For Your Faith From Beyond Death’s Door”(Resuscitating the Christian Heart, Yes, Your Ship is Coming In!), which should be available soon. (I’ll keep you posted! You can also stop by and “like” my Facebook author page, just click the link to the right! –>) In the book, I will tell my story, and share with you what God has taught me on my long road to healing in the hope that just as He has done for me, your faith will be renewed, and you will be on your way to discovering His plan to take whatever has happened in your life and turn it into a powerful testimony to help others!
We are in the finishing stages of the book, and we will hopefully have a release date sometime in the near future. So, if this is you, run, don’t walk, and hit the“Subscribe to my email”tab and subscribe so when it does come out, you’ll be one of the first to know! You can also feel free to share this to your Facebook, Twitter, etc, using the buttons below.
Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”
But Ruth said:
“Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.”
– Ruth 1:14-17
One moment in time. A bereaved mother, and her two daughters-in-law, on their way back to “the land of Judah” (Ruth 1:6-7 NKJV) from Moab after the deaths of both her sons. Two women, grieving for their husbands. One moment that would change everything and alter the course of history. Urged by their weeping mother-in-law to return to their people, both young widows had a decision to make at a moment’s notice that would change their lives one way or the other. With tears in their eyes, they wept, wanting to stay with her. Broken in her grief, with nothing left to offer them, the woman could only urge them to go back to the life they had known. The one kissed her and turned back. The other stood there, no doubt, with tears running down her cheeks as she watched her sister-in-law walk out of her life. She could have just walked away. But the choice she made in that moment would change her life forever. Her name was Ruth.
Have you ever had a “Ruth” moment? I am sure at one time or other, we all will at some point in our lives. For some, it will be the right choice they make in that moment. For others, it will be one they will regret for the rest of their lives.
For Ruth, it was the right choice. She could have chosen to go back to her people in Moab, and their gods. In the eyes of Naomi, her broken-hearted mother-in-law, there was no more reason for either of her daughters-in-law to stay in her life. The tension builds as they both look to her, weeping as they have, at this point, intended to go back with her to her people (Ruth 1:8-10 NKJV). It’s pretty clear that Naomi is thinking of their future, even in her grief, still weeping as she cries out, asking why they would want to stay with her, seeing she is past childbearing age, and knowing that even if she could have more sons, they couldn’t possibly wait until they were grown. The one, Orpah, finally kisses her mother-in-law and walks away. Naomi, looking to Ruth, can only try to get her to see the obvious pointlessness in her staying with her (Ruth 1:15 NKJV): “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” Yet, in that pivotal moment, the young, widowed Ruth couldn’t walk away and leave the poor woman to go on alone. In a dark time of faithlessness and everyone doing whatever was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25 NKJV), she chose to be faithful to the God of Israel, and spoke the well-known words that have now been used in many weddings as wedding vows (Ruth 1:16-17 NKJV, see above). It was settled. Ruth chose in that moment to let it be firmly known that she would not leave her. In time, she would see God’s reward for her faithfulness.
As the two women reached the city of Bethlehem, you might say they had a pretty big welcome. Yet, when the women asked about her, calling her by her name, Naomi changes her name (Ruth 1:19-21 NKJV) to Mara, which, in Hebrew, means “bitter”, saying God had dealt very bitterly with her. Click here for the meaning and history of the name, “Naomi”. So, this is a woman who is truly devastated at this point (Verse 21). Yet, before it was all over, God would turn her situation around.
You see, if you think about it, with the state of grief she was in, she could have adamantly ran Ruth off. Yet, instead, she chose to let her go on with her. Verse eighteen of Chapter One reads, “When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her (or, I guess you could say, she saw no further point to argue with her).
But here’s where it gets interesting. In those days, Jewish custom, or law, said that when a woman’s husband died before she could conceive, his brother was to marry her in order to raise children in his brother’s name. For example, in Genesis 38, we read of the story of Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah. So, you see now, why Naomi is so grieved for her daughters-in-law, thus, her emotional response to their pleas in verses 11-13 of that first chapter of Ruth:
But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go—for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!”
Yet…I’ve gotta say it! BUT GOD!!!! (You had to know there was a “but God” coming!) 😀 So, Ruth was in the right place at the right time. God placed her directly in the path of Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband! You can read the Book of Ruth in like 5 minutes, but I love what he says to her in Ruth 2:11-12, after she asks why she has found favor in his eyes, that he should take notice of her, since she is a foreigner (Verse 10):
And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before.The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”
More and more lately, I believe, as Bishop T.D. Jakes has well said, Nothing Just Happens. In this message, at about 8:10, Bishop Jakes mentions Orpah and Ruth, and talks about this story, so if you’re interested, you can click the link and listen to this excerpt of his message on this. The footsteps of the righteous are ordered by the Lord (see Psalm 37:23)! So, as God’s reward for Ruth’s undying loyalty to her mother-in-law, and her faithfulness to Him as the God of Israel, she was rewarded with an honored place in the bloodline leading up to the birth of Christ, through (of course) the Tribe of Judah.
The story of Ruth has to be one of the most beautiful love stories in the Bible, (2nd only to our Jesus and what He did for us, of course). So, Boaz married Ruth, and they had a son, who was named, Obed. Here, from Ruth 4:13-22, is the wonderful ending to their love story, as only God could write it:
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. Now this is the genealogy of Perez: Perez begot Hezron;Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab;Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon; Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed; Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David.
Remember when I mentioned Tamar earlier? Well, Perez was one of her twin sons. Even the well-known geneology sites can’t touch this! So, think about this story if you ever have a “Ruth” moment, and trust God. He only writes the best love stories.
So, Naomi found joy again, and no doubt, got lots of cuddles in with that new baby boy. Ruth took her place in history, in the bloodline through the Tribe of Judah, leading to the birth of our Savior. She was the great grandmother of David, and another page turned in Biblical history…
Hi everyone, yes, I know I haven’t posted much in a while, just been busy, but just thought this was worth re-blogging. Meanwhile, I am working on the final touches of getting my book, CPR For Your Faith From Beyond Death’s Door, finished, as well as another couple of fiction books I’ve been sitting on. I’ve actually started the ball rolling towards getting my own imprint, which the “faith” book will be published under, so I am really excited about it, more on that later. I do plan to get back to posting more soon, promise! But in the meantime, feel free to scroll through some of my recent posts here, and if you know someone who would be inspired, please share!
Could God be calling YOU to write a book and tell your story? The truth is, God is no respecter of persons (see Acts 10:34 & Romans 2:11), and what He has done for one, He will do for another. If you have a testimony of a traumatic event or trying situation God has delivered you from, then it is now your testimony! What have you learned from it? How could the wisdom and strength you’ve gained from it help others? Here are some Bible verses about letting God use our testimony to help others.
Is writing a book one of your goals? If not, maybe it should be. Maybe like a lot of folks, you have been walking around with a book stuck inside of you, you just haven’t known how to go about writing it. Or if you are like…
“Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; To shew that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” – Psalm 92:13-15
In November of 2018, the Eastern North Carolina Church of God Senior Adults (50 and older) gathered at the ENCCOG Campground/gathering center in Kenly, NC for their annual Young at Heart/Senior Talent Convention (<– Click here for info on this year’s event). I entered in the Woodwinds Division, with a solo I played on my clarinet, and in the Creative Writing/Short Story Division. I started not to even bother with the writing part. But then, at the “last minute” I decided, “why not?” So, that evening, with the deadline approaching as of the next morning for the entries to be sent, or emailed in, I started thinking of what to write. Sitting here at the computer, I prayed about it, still thinking of just giving it up and going to bed.
The great, white, blank screen loomed before me…
“Okay, God, You’re writing this, so please just take over. Help me write what you would have me to write,” I prayed.
Before I knew what was happening, the words started to flow onto the page, the keys clacking into the night, as I worked to get it done and send it in to our Pastor’s wife, so she could email it to them.
Even now, as I look back and read it, I can only say that God wrote this, not me. I am only the hands that typed it. Seriously, there is no way I could have ever come up with this on my own. It has all the elements of good fiction I have worked to have in my books, especially the newer projects I am working on, you know, depth, character development, conflict, and tension, and believable dialogue with the characters, all building up to the powerful resolution at the end…an ending that makes us think, makes us take a closer look at ourselves. All of this has to be balanced with not giving too much away early in the story.
When I started writing a few years back, I will admit now, even laughing at myself, that I did not really know what I was doing. I didn’t know then, what all experience has taught me. Things like having the necessary conflict and tension in the story in order for that powerful climax, or resolution at the end to be fully appreciated. I will also admit that even now, at my age, I have often thought of giving up. (Can anybody out there relate? Anybody out there over 50 still writing, or whatever it is you do, shout out to you! 🙂 )
For all my fellow “writing seniors” out there, you may have felt that way yourself at times. So, after much prayer about this, as well as what to do with this thing now, other than let it sit here on my hard drive, collecting “computer dust”, I have felt led to share it with you. You can click this link to download it. I hope you enjoy it and find it encouraging…
Not bragging or anything like that, but I feel led to share it with you, just to show you, what any of us, every single one of us, can achieve if we surrender our all to the Master. All of us have talents, everyone. Some of us are terrible at things others are good at, and vice versa. But that is not a bad thing. That’s just God showing His creative variety. When we put it all together, all of us working together, doing the best we can with whatever He’s given us, it all comes together like a big, beautiful quilt (by the way, we had some nice quilting and needlework entries, including our “first lady”, our Pastor’s wife’s awesome entry of a crochet rendering she did of the missionary couple who were pastoring at the church where she got saved and accepted Christ).
For all those my age and older, it can be too easy at times, to just give up or think that we are too old, tired, sick, or (insert whatever comes to your mind here) or that we’re not really as good at doing things as we “used to be”. It’s easy to get tired, stressed, and overwhelmed with all that is going on in the world around us. I am no exception, thus, my putting this whole idea off till that last night before the Creative Writing entries were due in to the ones who would be judging them. But maybe that is why God gives us our creative gifts, not only for building His Kingdom together, but to encourage others through whatever it is our talent is.
Whether it’s a drawing, painting, an uplifting song written, sang, or played, every little thing we accomplish through Him can encourage and influence someone. Maybe it was just that last little bit of encouragement the Holy Spirit was trying to give me, that last little nudge that made me change my mind. Who knows how many of our greatest inventions might not have come to be if it hadn’t been for that little last minute nudge. And so, on I typed into the night…
Fast forward to this past April 30th – May 2nd, 2019, in Gatlinburg, TN, with my husband, our Pastor, and his wife. (We drove separately of course)…that’s right. My little short story won Runner Up at the Senior Talent Competition/Young at Heart Convention, and several others in our church won in their categories as well. The one who won over me in the Creative Writing Division would not be able to make it, so I was able to go and compete at the Nationals. That adorable little crocheted couple our “first lady” did, and our Pastor, who competed in Percussion, Indefinite Pitch, and my short story, made it to the Nationals Competition in Gatlinburg, at the convention center there. There were others in our church who also won who were unable to make it to the Gatlinburg competition, but we still shared our pictures and everything, and they were still cheering us on. The thing is, all of us in the group of those who entered the 2018 Senior Talent Competition were the ones who listened to that last little nudge…that one more little prompting in our spirits that said, “Aww, come on, you can do it!”
And that’s right. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me.”
We are all in Christ, and together, with all of our talents and gifts He has given us, we make up the Body of Christ as a whole. We can do anything He calls us to do. Whether it’s crocheting, knitting, woodwork and building things, quilting, writing, singing, or playing a musical instrument, we all have something we are good at. But we are not gifted in these areas in and of our own accord, but it is through Him, working in us, that we do these things. We try and fail once, we learn from it, we get up and try it again. Besides, as Seniors, (or soon to be seniors), especially those of us who are grandparents now, or even great grandparents, we have to remember that those precious eyes of our grandchildren, and even our adult children, are still watching us. Like that lighthouse beacon guides the ships at sea, we are that shining light to them.
The greatest inventions would have never come to be if their inventors had given up.
Just the same, we will never know what we are capable of if we don’t try. It doesn’t matter how many times we may have failed before. What matters is that we had the courage to get in there and try again. Perhaps the best thing about it all is, as my husband and I walked through the room where all the entries were displayed on the tables in the various categories, admiring the paintings, drawings, crochet and knitting projects, quilts, etc., we knew it was the same wonderful hands of our Creator who had done it all. Just as He had gifted each of these creators with their talents, He had also gifted all the musicians, singers and instrument players. Together, it is the awesome God we serve, showing His creative variety, knowing that when it all comes together, it completes the greater masterpiece He is painting, a grand design only He can see. We are only the various hands that He has gifted for each of the colors, musical notes, and stories that He chooses as He works to create the legacy we will leave for our children and grandchildren…
So, what about you?
Whether you are young or older, like us, there is something you can do, and little eyes will be looking up at you for their own encouragement. After all, that is what our Master Painter does. We are just the hands He uses to do His work.
So paint that painting. Build that little cabin or church woodwork project. Make the quilt. Write the story (or song). Play the music. Sing the song, because all of it glorifies our wonderful Master, and there is no limit to what we can do if we only yield it all to Him. All He needs is a trusting heart and a set of willing hands.
My short story did not win at the Nationals in Gatlinburg, but then, we weren’t there to “win”, but rather to enjoy the blessing of meeting and shaking hands with other “movers and shakers” who are working, as we all are, to build the Kingdom for our Jesus as we work toward His soon return. That in itself was an encouraging experience for me. “Faith Builders” encouraging one another, knowing that what He has done through one of us, He can do through another. And in that respect, we are all winners from the start, because it is the same great Master hands working through us all. It was an honor and a blessing to me, to have just made it that far, to have had the chance to go. And by the way, our Pastor, Bishop Allen Gupton, won in the Percussion Division, so we did not return home empty handed! In fact, as I told him before we left to return home, I was already shifting gears for what is next. On that note, I have to give a shout out to our graduates in our church family who have just graduated high school, as well as our own graduates, my youngest daughter, who just received her Master’s in Social Work (her B.A. is in Psychology), and my husband’s son, who just received his Bachelor’s in Psychology. His wife and my eldest daughter will finish in their respective degrees in December (2019). We are proud of each and every one of you, and our prayers and best wishes are with you as you each look toward the future. We look forward to seeing what God is going to do through each of you! Congratulations to you all, and all Class of 2019 graduates everywhere!
Nevertheless, we all give Him the glory, not only for what He has done, but for what He is about to do, what He can do, through you, me, and any of us who yield to Him what He needs most to complete His masterpiece…a trusting heart, and willing hands.
I’m glad now that I said yes to that little nudge in my spirit. As the sun rose and began streaming through the windows, I finished my humble little short story entry, including the “tightening” and editing I had to do to get it to be within the allowed word count. Was it worth it? Of course it was! A big, resounding YES on that one! I hope you will say yes too, to whatever it is He is calling you to do. I promise you, it will be more than worth it.
Need some more encouragement? Okay, I promised to share it with you, and here it is. FREE for you to download and read, my short story I entered in our Senior Talent Competition. I hope you enjoy it, and that it gives you encouragement in some way, because what He has done through me, He can do through you. Whatever He has gifted you to do, just remember, it is often just when we feel like giving up, like we are just too tired and worn, or discouraged to go on, that He does His greatest work through us. And even though it did not win in the Nationals, I know that there is no limit to what He can and will do with it, so I have yielded it to Him. After all, it’s His story. Again, I am only the trusting heart and willing hands that He used to write it. You can click the link below to download it and read it…and yes, again, it’s FREE 🙂 .
So, for any of you out there who are in the Eastern North Carolina Church of God region, if you can paint, draw, sing, play, drum, knit, crochet, or you are awesome at woodwork, (or even cook & clean!) why not try and join us this year? Many seniors just do it for the fun (and food!) and fellowship, and worshiping God together, even if they don’t feel they will win. After all, you’ll never know what God can do through you if you don’t try. Remember, it’s all through His hands, not ours! We only have to have a trusting heart and a willing set of hands. And just as the people of the little church in the story, you will never know what beautiful music our Grand Maestro could play through you…
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, butwhoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give himwill become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” – John 4:13-14
* * * * * * *
You know, those pesky hiccups can show up without warning, and at the most inopportune times. And when they do, forget even trying to have a conversation! Can you say, “embarrassing”?
HICCUPS STOPPING HACK (This works!) –
For all those people like me for whom, nothing, and I mean, NOTHING, works when you get hiccups…
So, I found a way to stop hiccups instantly. So far, I have tried it twice, and it works. One of the neat things about the fact that I know God guides my life and my steps is the joy I feel when He guides me even in the smallest things. It’s knowing that He is never “too busy” to be bothered by our concerns. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
In ALL your ways…did you get that?. and “he SHALL“, not might…
So here you go…(No guarantees here, but just had to share this): If you have a water bottle sitting nearby, and those pesky hiccups start up, here’s what you do:
1. Pick a number (I did 3)…
2. Take 3 (or whatever no. you chose) sips, then STOP…
3. Wait and count 5 or 6 seconds, THEN…
4. Take 3 more sips.
5. Repeat this like 2 or 3 times.
I have done this twice, as I have had a couple of mornings recently that I actually woke up with hiccups, and both times, it worked, they just stopped instantly, within 2 or 3 repeats of the above steps. Evidently, in processing the sipping, stopping, and counting rhythm, your brain “forgets” to send the signal to keep the hiccups going, and it stops them instantly! Again, no guarantees, and if they keep up, or if you have other issues, you should still follow up with a doctor, but I just thought this was too good not to share. I will be curious to see if it actually works for anyone else. 🙂
…You’re welcome 😀
Life’s Little (Or Sometimes Not So Little) “Hiccups”…
Just the same, life can be full of “hiccups”, and just like the physical ones, those “bumps in the road” of life can have a way of uprooting everything. Kind of like that hurricane we just had move through our area, Hurricane Florence. Oh, and if you ever visit North Carolina and you ask one of us older folks about Hurricane Fran, make sure you aren’t in a hurry to get anywhere.
Below are links to some of my recent posts that you or someone you know might find helpful. Think of it as that “drink of water” for whatever “hiccups” you may have encountered on life’s road. Click on each link to open the post in a new tab, then look for the buttons below the post to share them with your friends, or like, tweet, or whatever you do!
WANT TO KNOW ABOUT A LOVE STRONGER THAN ANY STORM? – Click here for my recent post about how God reminded my husband and me that even in the midst of the worst storms, when we’d lost our electricity, and even the use of our phones, and even if we were to lose everything, NOTHING can separate us from His love for us!
BEEN THROUGH A TRAUMATIC EVENT? FELT LIKE GIVING UP?– Don’t miss my book coming soon, if you or someone you know has been through a traumatic event, or just plain felt like giving up. If you’d like to be among the first to know when it comes out, hit the subscribe tab, above. Could your story help someone? You might also find this post helpful. Here is another insightful post, a study on the Book of Job.
ARE YOU OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE DEPRESSED DURING THE HOLIDAYS?– The time of celebrating our blessings at Thanksgiving and the joys of our Savior’s birth at Christmas should be a joyful time. But more and more people are finding this time of year depressing, unable to feel the peace and joy of the season. Are we looking for them as Christ wants us to? Do you know someone who needs the message of His love for them? This post may be the “drink of water” they need.
I’m not talking about water you drink. This kind of water is found only in God’s Word, The Holy Bible He gave us, and we can only come to Him through Jesus Christ, His Son, Who died for our sins, and took our punishment so we could have eternal life with Him. John 14:6 says, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
My friend, Jesus has provided that water for you, but He will not force you to “drink” it. But I can truly testify to you that if you are willing to receive it, you will never “thirst” again for the things of this world.
No, we cannot stop life’s “hiccups” from coming. We will face those bumps in the road, those storms that often derail us and leave us wanting to give up. But we can face them knowing we do not face them alone, because He has already gone before us to prepare the way, and if He lives within you, as He does me, then you know you are already a fountain of that water, springing up into the everlasting life He has promised to all who will believe. Come get your drink now. Jesus is waiting for you with open arms.
Do you know someone who has suffered from life’s “hiccups”, who could use a “drink of water”? Know someone who would benefit from this information? Please share via the buttons below to share this post, or visit the individual links above to share those posts.
Do you sometimes feel like your life is out of balance, like there’s something missing?
Does it seem that no matter what you do, things just don’t “add up”?
Would you like to know how you can find that balance and peace in your life?
My friend, there is a way. But are you really seeing the greater picture, or just going by what you can see immediately around you, as it applies to you?
Stay with me here, this gets really good. I know it has helped me. I know this because I have lived it, and found out most of it the hard way. I am currently 52 years old, soon to be 53, and I can honestly say, when you reach this pinnacle on the journey through life, you want to share the wisdom you’ve gained (most of it the hard way if you’re like me) with others, and hopefully maybe prevent someone else from taking the same falls in life you have.
Isaiah 40:31 is a powerful verse that has guided me through some of the rockiest, toughest roads of my life. It reminds us to see that greater picture through the eyes of the eagle:
“But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”
We all go through hurt in this life. Most of us can relate to going through these painful times in our life. People you thought you could trust “stab you in the back”, reject you, judge you without getting the facts. Old unforgiven hurts and grudges. People who have written you off a long time ago. So how do you ever find peace despite it all?
1. Look at the Bigger Picture…From the Greater Perspective of Our Creator
The answer is simple. But you must first understand that you need to look at it from the proper perspective. As humans, we only see what is immediately around us. However, the eagle sees all that is on the ground below. If we pray for God to help us “mount up with wings as eagles” as the above scripture promises we can, then we see the picture through the eyes of that eagle, or closer to God’s perspective, seeing the whole picture.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we tend to see ourselves in the middle of our little “circle of life”, envisioning everyone else and everything in life rotating around us. But in reality, we are not seeing the full picture. It is our Heavenly Father, our Creator, Who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save us by His grace, which we didn’t even deserve, Who belongs in the middle of that circle. So, the first thing each of us must do is put Him back in the center of our lives, and stop making it about ourselves.
Hey, I am talking to myself here too, friends. I went through years of heartache, dysfunction, and disappointment, because of the bad choices I made early in my life. I’ve also gone through a lot of undue stress and wasted precious time I cannot get back before I could ever get it through my head that it wasn’t all about me.
But what about all those hurtful situations that we find ourselves going through that we feel we didn’t even deserve? How do we forgive those who have hurt us deeply for no good reason, or treated us unfairly?
2. Forgive, Let Go, and Let God…
Well, first, we forgive them with the same grace Christ was willing to forgive us of our own sin. (See Matthew 6:14-15, Mark 11:25, among others).
Romans 12:19 boldly emphasizes this: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
He sees that bigger picture a whole lot better than we do, and He sees the hearts. Nothing is hidden from Him and nothing surprises Him. Besides, we never know that when we show them the love of Christ and forgive, it might just touch their hearts and win them over to Him. When we insist on being angry and getting our own vengeance, we rob Him of that.
Once we see it all from His Grander Perspective and forgive, this closes the door to the enemy being able to further use it to control us, and it opens the door for our loving Heavenly Father to work it to our advantage (see Romans 8:28, Galatians 6:9). Then, we apply a simple formula, which I will share with you here. For that, we’re gonna do some math.
I heard those groans! I know, math was never my best subject either, but this is a simple and time-tested process. I know because I have already been tested on it, so now, I am sharing it with you because I know it will work for you just as it has for me…
I have a chapter in my upcoming book, “CPR For Your Faith From Beyond Death’s Door”, called, “God’s Mathematics”…If the “equation” of your life isn’t “balancing out”, try what He has told me (and it won’t, until you do this, trust me, no better yet, trust Him)…
3. Take yourself OUT of the equation.– Hey, I know that’s hard, believe me, it was for me. But like I said, in order for this to work, we each and every one have to get this through our stubborn, human heads…it’s not about us. It’s about Him, and what He did for us. It’s also about what is available to us, if we are only willing to believe, trust Him, and put Him back in control. This means total surrender from all the “I deserve, I shoulda, I coulda, I woulda, I’m gonna…”
Let. It. Go. This is the only way it can work. It represents total surrender to Him, the only One Who can save us…even if it means saving us from ourselves first. Trust me when I say, I went through this one “kicking and screaming” – okay, not literally. 😉
4.Put Him (Jesus, our Lord and Savior) in all the places you’ve been putting yourself.
Then…and only then…will it finally start to balance out. Trust me. It works.
For a long time, I held on to resentment, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, and the longer I held on to it, the longer I kept making it about “what I felt I should have been entitled to”, what I deserved, ya da ya da… I wasted a lot of time trying to figure it all out myself. It wasn’t until I let all of that go, and turned it all over to Him, and did just what He’d told me, that it all began to work out, and I began to finally have peace.
Now, for no. 5…
5.Put down the pencil. – That’s right, just give Him the “pencil”!
After all, HE ALREADY HAD YOU FIGURED INTO THE EQUATION– long before you or I were even born. We need only turn to His Word for proof of this…
Genesis 15:5 – “And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”
Galatians 3:8-9 – “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed. So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.”
Galatians 3:29 – “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Matthew 10:30 – “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
Luke 12:7 – “But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
Matthew 6:26-27 – “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”
Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
And this one, which speaks for itself, as all of God’s Word does…
Psalm 139:13-16 – “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.”
The Grand Equation…
Too many times, the hurt, damaged self esteem, and feelings of worthlessness we have suffered at the hands of others leaves us damaged in ways that have left us unable to trust our Heavenly Father, Who only wants the best for us, and created us with His perfect plan in mind for each of us.
Only He sees the grand equation of the plan He had for our lives, fully balanced out, with all the factors in place, blessings He had originally intended for us, many of which we often forfeit when we insist on being in control and doing things our way. Far too often, we grieve His Spirit when we do this, and we hinder, or delay His ultimate plan for us.
Jeremiah 29:11“sums” it up best: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” – KJV
The New King James Version renders it this way: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
In truth, it is only in finally letting go, releasing it all to Him, turning the “pencil” over to Him, and trusting Him to balance it all out, in His perfect, all-knowing, all-seeing way, as He sees fit, that we will finally begin to see that we are already a part of a far grander equation than we could have ever dreamed possible. We only see one page, of the greater “book” that He sees, the “bestseller” He penned, with you as the main character, long before you were even born.
If you know someone who needs this word of encouragement, please share via the buttons below! And don’t forget to subscribe to my email, via the tab above so you can receive email notifications of my book, “CPR For Your Faith From Beyond Death’s Door”, coming soon, as well as future book releases.
“True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that – it is spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.” – Charles Spurgeon
As most are probably aware by now, Hurricane “Florence” (OK, no “Flo” jokes) just tore through our area here in the Carolinas. It came ashore here in North Carolina, causing major damage and catastrophic flooding, then tore through South Carolina, and according to this news report, is still wreaking havoc, now spread over six states. As my husband and I just got our power back on Saturday night, and our internet wasn’t restored until late Sunday, we are just now being able to access information as to just how bad the damage has been. We had some tree branches down all over the place, including about half a tree in the back yard, which, thankfully, didn’t hit the house, and some flooding, which we are still dealing with, but we are thankful that our kids and everyone in our families is safe. That said, we are also praying for all of those in areas that got it worse, and especially the families that lost loved ones in this storm…which brings me to what this post is about.
The little angel figurine in the picture was part of a collection of Christmas figurines, some Nativity pieces, and other things, which, up until now, have remained in a box, carefully wrapped in pillow cases, etc. The collection came from household belongings which were donated to our church a couple of weeks ago by a local preacher and his wife after her mother passed away, most of which was dispersed by our Outreach team of our church. Keith and I have gone out with them the last couple of times, reaching out to the community, and we have truly been blessed and humbled by our experience so far. We are seeing lives restored and people saved and delivered at our church, and I believe it has only just begun.
Until recently, setting up a “prayer room” in our home was just an idea, something I had been thinking of doing, ever since I saw the movie, “War Room”. But when our pastor began to speak about it in his messages, we knew it was time to stop “talking about it” and make it happen. I can tell you, things have changed for the better since we cleared out that back room and turned it into our own “War Room”, and God has certainly made His presence known in that room in some powerful ways, which is just what happened this past Sunday morning.
I can tell you that if our own resources were better right now, and we weren’t sitting here unable to even get out or get anywhere much because of the flooding, (the dirt path leading to our house has pretty much been turned into a river), we would most certainly be out there, helping others who have gotten the worst of this storm. But since I can’t do that, I have done the next best thing, and that is, pray.
For the sake of everyone’s safety, our pastor as well as I am sure, most around here, made the decision to cancel services, urging everyone to still honor God in our devotions as well as staying in prayer for those affected by the hurricane. So, after I got up Sunday morning, I just felt the urge to go into the prayer room, and just pour it all out to God. I don’t mean just my family and our little circle of friends and all of that. I will just say here, that my faith has grown in leaps and bounds since I came under strong conviction to pray for others more, in our church, our community, and not just my family. We pray for each other in our church, and we share each other’s burdens. We rejoice when someone in the church’s prayers are answered, and it gives us a special kind of joy when we know we prayed for that need with them. It helps build our own faith. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” So, that is what we do. We rejoice with others as their prayers are answered, because we know that what God has done for them, He will do for us.
So, that is what I had in mind when I went into the prayer room. I knelt down at our humble little makeshift altar and just began first to praise Him, which is how I always begin my prayers. Then, I began to pour my heart out to God, not only for our own family, our kids, and our church, but for all those in our local church community, and the church as a whole. In other words, as the “Bride of Christ”, and others all over who have been affected by this terrible hurricane that has done so much damage and wreaked so much havoc and devastation everywhere. I prayed for God to help our Outreach program, and to help us all be the true examples, the light of Christ’s love, that we need to be as we reach out to those around us. I prayed for the families of those who lost their lives in this storm. I prayed until I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit begin to fill that room, lifting up my praises to Him.
When I came out, I looked at the time and realized I had spent at least a whole hour in that room, and I can tell you, I received an immediate answer. So, in effect, this special way God chose to answer my heartfelt prayer is for you, too, which is why I just had to share it with everyone. Immediately, as I walked out of the prayer room, I began to hear what sounded like a tune being played, from somewhere. At first, I thought something had happened with one of our neighbors, and it was someone’s cell phone. I walked all around the house, trying to figure out where in the world it could be coming from. It wasn’t my husband on his phone.
Then, I realized it was coming from somewhere in the house. It was muffled, like it was coming from inside of something…the box! That was it. It was coming from the box of Christmas figurines, which I had yet to even go through. I got down the box from where it was sitting, and opened it, and sure enough, it was coming from inside it. When I located the piece it was coming from, I carefully unwrapped it, the one you see in the picture above. It was playing “Silent Night”.
I sat down at the dining room table, where we usually have our devotions, and after a minute or so, turned it over to find the button to turn it off….
…it was already in the off position.
Flipping the switch to “on” only made it play faster. I got my phone and took a picture of it, then shared it with our pastor’s wife. Ten, fifteen, twenty, then thirty minutes passed, and it was still playing. My husband actually had to take the battery out to get it to stop. Although it could very well be possible that this may have been a regular, or at least, occasional occurrence with this figurine, that doesn’t really matter. I know that my God is an on time God, and His timing is NEVER off.
It was then, that the Lord brought to my mind the passage in Romans 8:37-39 (NKJV):
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This all took on a special significance to me, as I sat there listening to “Silent Night”, after spending almost two days, and one sweltering night, without power, or internet service, in the dark, and with no way to access internet via phones, as we have just switched to flip phones for now to cut corners. Though it was just an electronic tune, I knew the words, and found myself singing along with it, and being filled and surrounded by the peace of God, in a way I had much needed.
So, there you have it, God’s immediate answer to my prayer, to yours, and all of those who have been affected by this catastrophe, as we pray for one another, and help each other through this. Whether it’s hurricanes, tornadoes, or other storms of this life, even after we have lost electricity, internet services, or even our homes, and even if we have lost everything, nothing, NOTHING, can ever separate us from the power of an almighty God who loves us and will never leave us, nor forsake us. Indeed, the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac, the God of Israel, Who parted the Red Sea, and led the Israelites into the Promised Land, and Who sent His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ to earth to die for our sins, has Himself sent this message of His undying love for us. So, as we all work together to rebuild our lives, may we ever be reminded, that even if we lose everything, and we have nothing left but God, it is then that we will realize, He is all we need.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, which was inspired by a powerful message we recently had brought by one of our newly ordained ministers, that saying is actually on the wall in our laundry room. You can believe I took another long, hard look at it, by flashlight, of course, during the time we were without power, reminded once again, that we will never lose the Power we have available to us through the Heavenly Father Who loved us enough to send His Son to die for us. Thanks to a little angel figurine that played “Silent Night”, one stormy morning in September, even though it was turned “off”, we have been reminded once more of the Love that is stronger than any hurricane. It is a timeless message, lovingly sent by a God who needs no electricity or modern technology to communicate with us, for His power, His love for us, and His amazing grace, are much stronger.
I posted this back in 2016, (re-titled) but thought it worth another share. May the light of God’s hope ever burn in all of us, as we remember those who were lost…Please give this a read, and feel free to share. If each of us can light someone else’s candle…
(Photo Credit: John Skelson, at bottom right of photo)
“Five years from the date of the attack that changed our world, we’ve come back to remember the valor of those we lost—those who innocently went to work that day and the brave souls who went in after them. We have also come to be ever mindful of the courage of those who grieve for them, and the light that still lives in their hearts.” —New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani at the World Trade Center site in 2006
September 11, 2001. One of the darkest days in American history. According to Wikipedia, 2,996 people were killed immediately, including those on the four planes, the World Trade Center and surrounding area, and the Pentagon. Many more have since died, due to their injuries, or cancer from inhaling the toxic dust. Of course, this number varies, depending on what source you…
So I was going through some of my pictures, trying to pick out one or two to use for this post. I came across these I took on a summer outing to a local trail park with my husband and grandsons a couple of years ago. The dandelion reminded me of when I would pick one when I was little and try to bring it to my mother. It always made me almost want to cry when all the little thingies blew off before I could get it to her. But now, looking a little closer, I decided it would be perfect for what I want to discuss in this post…the story of Job, one of the “Dwellers” in the Bible, as was the subject of the message brought this past Thursday night at our church. If you think about it, all those little “flyers” that float through the air when you blow on it (my youngest grandson still likes to do this) could represent all of the things that Job lost during his trials: his family, his health, and everything he had. Actually, we’d probably need a hundred or so of them to more accurately represent his losses. After a child or someone blows on it, all that is left is the stem…just the way many of us have felt at times in our lives, right?
Now, more than ever before, God’s people are going through difficult trials, and Jesus said that during the last days it would be this way (See Matthew, ch. 24 and Mark, ch. 13). Being realistic, most of us will go through traumatic events, tragedies, and difficult times at some point in our lives, and all too often, we turn to man-made solutions, and everything else but God. I’ll be the first to admit, I have done this, more than I’d care to admit. Now, I am learning, more than ever, what it means to really “cast our cares upon Him” (see 1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 55:22). My faith has grown in leaps and bounds since I have learned to pray for others in my church family and community, and not just myself and my family (see Romans 2:11, Galatians 6:2, Phil. 2:2-4).
Most of us have to admit that at one time or another, we’ve referred to ourselves or someone we love as a “modern day Job”. But have we really taken the time to read the book of Job and take into consideration all that he went through? Better still, for those of us who feel we have endured similar circumstances where we’ve suffered such significant loss that it’s left us feeling hopeless, like nothing matters anymore, what could Job teach us? How could we learn from his story and how he handled it all? Perhaps we would be more inspired to learn from him if we were to read his story and see how his faith paid off in the end. Truthfully, I can’t think of a better one to learn from than Job, if we ever have to face a time when there’s nothing left…
Would You Still Trust Him? Have You Been “Considered”? (If you are serving Christ, and you haven’t, you most likely will be)…
First, before I go any further, let me give a special shout out to my sister in Christ, Rev. Tamika Clark, who inspired this post. She brought a powerful message on the “Dwellers” of the Bible this past week at our church. Basing it on Psalm 91:1-2, she named several throughout the Bible who were dwellers, men who chose to dwell securely in their faith in God, and saw His answers to their prayers.
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.” – Psalm 91:1-2
During the message, she gave a challenge for us to go and read the book of Job, and learn from it, and perhaps post what we learn. So, being one who loves to accept a challenge, the next day, I did just that. Then too, I am a writer, this is what I do. But I must give credit where it is due. I have to say, I woke up Friday morning with some things coming to me about this, and I just had a knowing that God was placing it in my heart to do this.
Soooo… after starting my day in our prayer room, and my husband and I had finished our morning devotions, I sat there and read the entire book. I want to say I have read it before, but it’s been a while, so I went ahead and read it through again. In reflecting on Job’s story after I had read it, some interesting points came out to me. As I prayed about it and thought it over, I found that it spoke volumes on trusting God in the midst of suffering and trials, and paints a picture of a man who remained steadfast in his faith and love for God, all the way through to the end.
In all that he suffered throughout this whole trial, yet Job never cursed God. As Rev. Tamika brought out in her message, we have to each ask ourselves, could we still love God and stand strong in our faith and loyalty to Him if we were to be considered as Job was? (See Job, chapter 1.) Would our faith stand strong through the trial, as his did? Would we still love Him and trust in Him, even if we reach that point that there was nothing left? Then too, this can happen in many different ways, divorce, job loss, divisions in the family, debilitating accidents (such as the one I went through, click here for more info on my upcoming book) as well as tragedy.
To summarize the book of Job:As the book begins, two times, the devil goes before the Lord, and each time, the Lord asks him if he has considered Job: “Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” – (ch. 1, vs. 8). He is told that all that Job has is in the devil’s power, only do not lay a hand on his person. So, Job loses his livestock, his servants, and all of his children. Then, of course, the devil cannot resist, so going back before God the second time, he gains permission to further torment Job, and so, Job loses his health. As the story unfolds, Job is then visited by his three “friends” who proceed to voice their opinions on the matter, accusing him of being a hypocrite, speculating as to whatever great sin Job has committed to deserve all of these calamities that have befallen him. All three are convinced he has to have committed some terrible sin against God to bring all of this on himself. Yet none of them are getting anywhere, as he has something to say each time, so they finally give up. Then, finally, when they’re done, another young man is angered and decides to get his two cents worth in. He is angry at the other three because they have condemned Job without cause, having found no answers (his “rant” begins in ch. 32), and at Job because he “justified himself rather than God”.
Meanwhile…God is just waiting patiently for all of these to get through, and in chapter 38, it says He answers Job out of a whirlwind, and His response, His challenge to Job, is recorded in chapters 38 through 41. I found this part quite interesting. Here are the first 5 verses: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said “Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know!” Job’s response quickly follows in chapter 42, verses 1-6:
Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.”
In the end, Job repented of his anger and hasty answers before God, and so God forgave him, and let the other 3 know that His wrath was aroused against them (chapter 42, verses 7-9). God also restored to Job twice as much as what all he had lost, after he had prayed for his friends. Interestingly enough, in verse 16, it says Job lived after all of this one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations.
Interesting Points: 5 Things We Can Learn From Job…
Unshakable Faith in our Redeemer…In chapter 19, verses 25-27, in answer to Bildad, the Shuhite’s accusations, basically insinuating that he “doesn’t know God”, (thus, all of this befalling him), Job makes it plain that even after all God has allowed him to go through, he still proclaims his faith in his redeemer: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Are we building up our faith in Him through studying His Word and staying in prayer and fellowship with Him, so that if we were to go through such a trial, our faith in Him would remain unshakable? The key is to keep trusting Him, no matter what, and not listen to our “flesh”. Job saw beyond the flesh, choosing instead to focus on the end result, as we can clearly see by his response here.
Trusting God’s Righteous Judgments… It is interesting to read the “rant” from Eliphaz the Temanite in chapter 22, then note Job’s response in chapter 23, especially in verses 10 -12, where he clearly lets him know he trusts in God’s righteous judgments: “But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food.” Do we trust Him no matter what? More than anything or anyone else? Job knew there obviously had to be something God wanted him to learn through all of this. He knew that even though he couldn’t understand it, or why it was all happening, He trusted in God’s righteous judgment in allowing it, and He trusted that God would work it all out for his good. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Isaiah 55:11 further confirms this: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” His Word will not return to Him void! All things work together for our good, no matter how hard the devil tries to make us think otherwise. Job believed in what he could not yet see (see Hebrews 11:1), and that faith worked for him, just as it will for us. Just as in Job’s case, what the devil intends to destroy us, God will use to make us stronger, AND, He will vindicate us for our losses, and turn it all into a powerful testimony, if we only trust Him, even through the pain.
Repenting for his family/children… Going back to the beginning, in chapter one, (this was also brought out in Sister Tamika’s message), Job would regularly offer burnt offerings for them all (before the time of Christ on earth), so he regularly prayed to God on their behalf. How many of us, when we feel we have been wronged, whether by friends, co-workers, or even family, can we pray and repent on their behalf? Note again here, in the end, in that last chapter, Job’s losses were restored to him, even more children, after he had prayed for his three friends and forgiven them himself, basically repented on their behalf. Of course, we know those who have wronged us will have to repent on their own to God, but again, Job’s vindication came from God, for all he had suffered, not only after his own repentance, but in offering the prayers for forgiveness for his friends, as if you read God’s initial response to them in chapter 42, verses 7-8: And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”
God Knew the Devil Would Lose this Battle…We have to remember here, that God knew how this whole thing was going to turn out from the beginning. (I’m actually picturing God, shaking His head, with a big grin on His face as the devil walks off.) In reading chapter one, we have the conversation between God and the devil: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” Clearly, the devil thought he would no doubt, win this whole thing, and get Job to turn against God. But think about it. He is clearly being offered a chance to get at the most Godly and faithful man there was, on earth even! Yet, through it all, it says in verse 22: “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” Even in chapter 2, verse 10, (after being struck with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the top of his head) when his wife asks why doesn’t he just curse God and die, he answers: “…“You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” It further reads, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”. And even through all the torment he went through with the “debate” with his three “friends” and all their accusations and speculations, and his defense rants he retorted back to them, yet his faith was never shaken. Why should it be? He knew God Himself was his “Attorney”, and that His judgment was the only one that mattered. Throughout all that he lost, he never cursed God, and in the end, after he prayed for his friends and forgave them, even as he knew God had forgiven him once, God restored to him twice all that he had lost. Job’s faith was tested in the fiery furnace, and because he never lost faith in God, (as God well knew that he wouldn’t) and indeed, continued to praise him, even after the loss of his children, his health, his wealth, and everything, he came out “as fine gold”, just as he had said he would (ch. 23, vs. 10-12). He did, and we will too, if we keep our faith, and our focus, on our Redeemer, and not what others say. Like Job did, we must place our trust in the One Who laid the foundations of the earth, and what His Word says about us, not what our naysayers think.
The Boils – What We Can Learn From His Pain…If you’ve ever known anyone who has had them, they are no doubt likely some of the most painful kind of sores you can get. As I woke up and went into the prayer room that morning, the Lord brought to my mind an insightful comparison on this. If you apply this in a spiritual context, many of us are walking around with deep emotional wounds that we’ve managed to hide, even from ourselves. Only after going through some fiery trials myself during the past few years have I finally begun to see this. Like many others, sometimes it seems after a “wound” is almost “healed”, there is always something else that happens, or is thrown upon us, or someone who hurts us, in a way that seems to “rip the scab” off again, leaving us “bleeding” emotionally, or in a spiritual sense. We can’t understand why it happens, after we’ve prayed about it, fasted, and prayed some more, yet still, it happens. (We must understand here, that when we “hide” our wounds, instead of giving it fully to God, the enemy sees this, and he will hit us where it hurts.) Many times, instead of really trusting God, we say we’ve prayed about it, but then, we still keep “nursing it”. No doubt Job, in his initial discourse, was in enough pain to regret the day he was born. Yet, like Job, we must remember, God, our Healer and loving Heavenly Father, will bring us through these painful trials, and bring us healing and deliverance, in His time, not ours. In my own personal experience, I found myself at times, feeling sorry for myself, (even sometimes, calling it “prayer”), in effect, “nursing” those wounds again, when it finally occurred to me the more I sought the Word and prayed about it, that He can’t “heal” all those old wounds I’ve been covering up and hiding, even from myself, until I completely turn it all over to Him. Then, there won’t be an old “wound” for the scab to be ripped off to start with! When we get in the Word, believe it, and speak it over our situation, this breaks the enemy’s power to use it over us any longer! God wants to heal all those old wounds in our hearts, and use it all to make us stronger, but we have to open the door of our hearts and let Him in so He can!
When There is Nothing Left…
In reflecting on my own journey through life, I’ve gone through some “Job” trials, and before it’s all over, no doubt, I will go through more. Jesus said as long as we are on the earth, we will have trials. In John 16:33, He said: “These things I have spoken to you, thatin Me you may have peace.In the world youwill have tribulation; but be of good cheer,I have overcome the world.”. At age twelve, I lost my nine year old brother, Charles, in a tragic freak accident, and at twenty, I was in a horrific automobile accident that almost took my own life. The road to recovery for me was a long and hard one, and because of the choices I made early in my life, it was a lot harder. There were times I almost threw in the towel. Even in more recent trials I have gone through as I work toward getting my books finished and preparing for my ministry, I have had times I felt like that. Yet, through God’s grace I am still here. We will go through those fiery trials as long as we are on this earth as we work while we await our Lord’s return. But if we:
Never lose faith in our Redeemer
Trust His righteous judgments as Job did (in other words, stop second guessing Him and questioning why He lets things happen-again, see Romans 8:28)
Open our hearts so He can go in and heal all of those old “wounds”,
Study His Word, and let it build our faith, then…
Speak it over the situation!…
…It is then that we will have developed the truly unshakable faith that Job had. It is then, as we are passed through the fire, that the impurities are removed, all those weaknesses we had before are purged out, and then that we will come out tried as fine gold. Yet, in His infinite wisdom, God knows that sometimes, it is in reaching our lowest valleys in this life, when we feel we have lost everything, when there is nothing left but God Himself, that we finally see that He is all we need. Perhaps that is what motivated the previous residents of our home to put this on the wall in our laundry room: “When you have nothing left but God, you become aware that God is enough”. Job’s point, exactly.