When I Write a Book . . .

I picked up Alice Hoffman’s The Third Angel because it was recommended in Fearless Writing.

I have a like/dislike relationship with this book, but I’m keeping on with it because it keeps redeeming itself, keeps pulling me along with unexpected delights.

I am not delighted with a woman who is marrying a man she knows to be selfish and flawed, but I am carried away with the answer to her own question:  How do you love such a person?  You just do it.

I am delighted when a book reminds me of the truths in my own life, how love is an act, a sacrifice, a looking like God.  Love is God and I am becoming more transformed into His image when I “just do it.”

Like the character in The Third Angel, I find myself unmoved by the flaws in those I love, even blind to them, when I get on that love train and we both start going places.  Life becomes an adventure of raw discovery, flaws become idiosyncrasies, differences become intriguing – even delightful, and life is good.

There is language in The Third Angel.  If not, the editors would probably say to the author, “This is London, you must have language, no one will believe it otherwise.”  But if I write a book, the strongest language will begin with “sh” and end with “it” even if the plane is crashing.

Wait.  No planes crashing in my book.  I will, as they say, write what I know.  Spaghetti sauce in a favorite antique bowl slipping out of my hand as I swipe it out of the fridge, breaking and splattering spaghetti sauce all over the kitchen.  Living and moving and breathing spaghetti sauce.  Everywhere.  Little faces astounded at the crash and even more at Mommy saying that word.

But then I would forget about a broken bowl and a messy kitchen because there is a much larger issue:  tender and bare feet.  I would shoo them away and clean every last speck – not perhaps every last speck of spaghetti sauce, which I will be finding this time next year, but every single last speck of glass.

Because I know these feet are going to be with me forever.  I know what is real and good, and that is the life of my children.  Life.

I don’t know if Alice Hoffman knows life is good, if her book will end as a good book must, with a satisfactory and victorious ending (a love ending).  I do know if I write a book, it will be filled top to bottom, end to end, and side to side with “Just do it” love.

Amen.

P.S.  Don’t miss The Homefront Show Fridays at 2:00 MTN.  Go to 1360am.co and join the fun!

 

 

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Is This Romance or a Colossal Waste of Time?

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So many books, so little time.  Why, then, am I reading the most forgettable of books?  Because I am trying to escape laziness by being lazy.  Say what?

I recently read two very different books.  The second one is so forgettable (by a very successful modern author) that I won’t bore you with its title.  The first book, however, sent me to Alibris.com to see what else I might find by the author.  I started this book during Thanksgiving week, so it took a while to finish.  But even as I was busy with other quite enthralling and enjoyable activities, I was thinking about the book, about the main character’s dilemma.  I was, as I explained to my family, “intensely involved’ in this story.

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Right.  The name of the book:  Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.  This book enhanced my thinking, revved up my mental engines.  Like another recently enjoyed excellent book, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, Lady Audley’s Secret satisfied my heart’s desire for new insights and revelations, as well as reacquaintance with deep and almost forgotten heart’s truths.

So, why again do I pick up twaddle and use up precious hours of my life reading it, and then forgetting it as soon as possible?  It’s called “escape” and aptly so, but to where?  I escaped to intriguing worlds with Mary Elizabeth Braddon and with Elizabeth Gaskell, but with the author who must not be named I escaped to . . . I don’t remember.

 

beautiful library

So many bad (inane, intelligence insulting, smut-filled) books.  So many good books.  I choose good.

Oh, and one more thing!  Beware the “poignant” books.  This usually means the author’s life stinks and he/she wants yours to, also, via reading this tripe.  Try instead something whose very feel in your hands makes you say, “I wonder what’s in here.”

old books

My Child was Sad, and that was BAD

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There was lots of fun stuff happening, and I was loving every single minute of it, except when I looked at Rebekah’s tight, sad, face.  I gave her hugs, I asked her if she was OK, I mentioned it to John (husband/dad), and I queried her siblings, “Do you know what’s bothering Rebekah?”  I gave her more hugs (she seemed to want lots of them) and finally, I prayed.

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Rebekah is a writer, and we’ve had an ongoing issue about her using up school, chore, family and personal time on the computer–not writing, but looking up and reading about the somewhat ridiculous antics of various celebrities.  Recently when I asked her if she was writing she fibbed to me about it.  I don’t mind lies as much as I mind a child acting like I am the village idiot.  “Shut the laptop,” I instructed firmly.  “Do NOT get back on there until I say so.  You can write in longhand on your legal pads for now.”

And I went about the business at hand: celebrating:  Hannah was born on my and John’s anniversary and this year was, as all years, a celebration of the unmerited, beyond-all-I-could-ever-ask-or-think-or-imagine LOVE of Jesus.  Still, I noted and pondered and watched the expressive and beautiful face of Rebekah.

Hannah had her birthday date with John, John and I had our anniversary date, we celebrated both with a steak dinner and birthday/anniversary party, I went on my Hannah date, and finally, last night about midnight, Hannah, John and Seth were off to bed, and Rebekah found her way to a bit of quiet with me.

“Mom,” she said, “I got on YouTube today.  And yesterday. And the day before.”

“Why?” I said a bit sharply, reluctantly looking up from watching Creflo Dollar teaching about what the Bible says about speaking in tongues (very interesting stuff).

She looked utterly miserable and I was filled with compassion.  I scooted over on the couch and told her to come curl up next to me.  I took her in my arms and kissed her head.  “Rebekah, God forgives me absolutely when I make a mistake, and I forgive you absolutely.”

She began to cry, and I recognized that look, the sound of those sobs:  I try and I try and I just can’t seem to do what I say I will do.  I’m such a loser, blah, blah, blah.

It’s OK, Sweetheart,” I told her.  “Tomorrow we will talk and pray and make a plan about exactly what you want to be learning and doing and enjoying.  I want to see you practicing your violin.  Do you want that?”

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She began to cry again.  “I don’t know why I haven’t been doing that.”  Back to the self-chastisement, the recriminations and condemnation.

I was inspired as I thought of the “roaring success”  of breakfast (cooked by her and her brother, Seth, while Hannah and I were gone).  “There’s no reason you and I can’t cook more together (she loves doing things with me).  We’ll put that on our petition of things we want to learn and do.  Now, you just don’t worry about anything at all.  We’ll work everything out tomorrow.”

She was still curled up next to me, in my arms.  She sat up.  “I feel better now.”

I did a few things right:  I paid attention to my child, amidst all kinds of diverting activities; I responded correctly to all those hug requests; I shared my concerns with other family members, so that everyone would be kind, aware that “something’s bothering Rebekah”; I made myself available; I listened and suggested solutions, and she listened to me, because of the most important thing of all:  I said, GOD FORGIVES YOU ABSOLUTELY AND I FORGIVE YOU ABSOLUTELY.

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The Bible tells us that it’s His kindness that leads to repentance.  In receiving His kindness, we are able to extend kindness to our children and to our mates, and to ourselves.  Let’s do it! Amen.

Yay! Chapter 3 of The Maker’s Marriage

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.” – Proverbs 15:4

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Beverly has got her a good man.”—Leona Webb, my grandmother, upon watching John do his usual stellar job in changing Rebekah, using his perfectly folded cloth diaper. I store up and call on such memories any time the enemy of my soul tries to make me discontent. And, what’s more, I share such stories. I brag on my man.

3 – Them Positive Confessions

 First Words Count Bigtime

       Her name was Sharon, and she was an obvious and victorious Christian. She was my beautiful and joyous neighbor, striding across the parking lot on her husband’s arm. When she asked how things were going, my litany of defeat was the wrong answer. “Oooh, Girl,” she said, “Quit makin’ them negative confessions!”

Your first words, in any situation, set the tone; they give the invite—either for blessing or breaking, for life or for death. Deuteronomy 30:19 tells us, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”

Look at the following two scenarios and then determine which one sounds more like my friend Sharon’s probable response to any marital discord:

  1. “That’s it. I’ve had it. I don’t have to listen to this crap.”
  2. Long and deep breath, concentrated thought and internal prayer. Father, you promised me wisdom. Help me to understand what’s really going on here. Help me to see my mate as you see him. Give me the words. Speak through me, Holy Spirit.

Incidentally, Sharon had a special place in my heart simply because she was the wife of an OU football player.

“Who cares?” you say. “How is OU football relevant?”

Do you not know? Have you not heard? OU football is relevant to all things, especially my and John’s first argument.

We were having Thanksgiving at my dad’s and we ruined it for everyone, arguing over Oklahoma vs. Arkansas football. When John started badmouthing the Sooners and I came right back with cut-to-the-bone remarks about the Razorbacks (to which John said I was just as obnoxious as any other Sooner fan). We knew nothing about the power of first words. We were simply focused on having the last word.

*****

Recently John and I got a little tiny bit crossways over the care and cleaning of wooden cutting boards. When he responded to my learned wisdom with an unbelieving “Who told you that?” my mind instantly went into turbo-charged overdrive. But right in the middle of the thoughts, I think I know a little more than you about a few things, and I am not the village idiot, and I don’t have to give you chapter and verse, I put on the brakes and started trying to see things his way. He does not think I’m the village idiot. After a few moments wherein he picked up his book and began pretending to read as I watched and tried not to grin, he looked at me and grinned back.

Who, really, gives a flying flip about the care and keeping of wooden cutting boards? I do, I do, I do. I’m right. Go find the info on the Net and prove it to him. Or just shut up, give him a hug and let God handle it.

If it turns out John is right (using harsh soap and hot water and scrubbing my lovely boards) I will simply smile and say, “Well, Honey, I should have known you were right. What was I thinking? Where do I sign up for the Germophobe Club?” He’ll then give me a bear hug and call me a smartass and wonder why he ever thought he could have the last word. I just can’t lose, really. And neither can he.

Oh, you want to know the details, so you can see who’s right and who’s wrong? After all, you say, “There are different protocols for cleaning up after raw chicken as opposed to chopped walnuts!” The point is simply, “Are we really going to get crossways over this?” If pride’s on board (giving Satan legal access) then yes, we will get crossways. Two people cannot live together in real harmony of spirit when pride is in operation. Pride’s presence will result in both people thinking and saying “I” and “me” thoughts.

John and I once cooked dinner for a young couple with two little ones (one a newborn), and were enjoying their company immensely. But when the toddler got stinky there was an immediate battle about who would change him. I empathized with the stay-at-home mom who, when the husband said it was her turn, came back with, “I’ve been changing him all day. It’s your turn.”

In John, I am blessed to have a husband who wanted his turn, who was smart enough to know I had gotten my fill of “turns.” But still, when my babies were wet or dirty, I just handled it. Whoever found it, whoever was closer, took care of it. We looked at caring for our children as a duty and a privilege, and as a joint and joyous effort. It was not a competition in laziness.

Of course, I wasn’t always so sharp. In fact, I was more than a bit overwhelmed with my firstborn, Vann. My dad came by to check on us when Vann was three weeks old. He found Vann crying in my arms as I wailed and dropped tears all over my baby’s sweet head. “One of you,” Dad said, “is going to have to be an adult.” Not me, I immediately thought. I looked down at my child. Oh.

In those days I was truly on my own, except for the blessed weekends when Dad bought my gas so I could go home to Mom. It was a tough job, but there was no alternative. One of us, as a wise man once said, had to be an adult.

What does that look like? First of all, let’s establish the fact that adult behavior very often has an inverse relationship with age. I have numerous memories of adult and responsible behavior as a child and as a teen, and even more memories of being a brat at age 45. Adult behavior begins with yielding to Jesus, and therefore operating in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Childish behavior whines, “I want what I want and that’s the end of it.” Adult behavior has the sense to know that first words set the tone, that first words are irretrievable, that the other person (remember, that mate God gave you to love, honor, cherish, bless, and fight for?) will be affected for good or for evil, depending on the words chosen.

First words go along with first actions. You will not get good actions in tandem with bad words. You will not rub your mate’s shoulders at the same time you say, “I hate your sorry self.”

Oh, you know all this, but you just can’t seem to stop with the harsh and hurtful words and ways? Jesus is the only permanent and complete solution to evil. And words that invite the devil to come on in and take up residence in your home are evil.

Again and as always, Jesus is the solution. To be more specific, the unconditional love, grace, kindness, goodness, forgiveness, and mercy of Jesus in you, will cause you to pass these things on to your mate. If Jesus doesn’t have your heart, if you haven’t accepted the gift of His love for you, if you aren’t spending time with Him every single day, then every time a problem or issue comes up, you’re in for it.

How much time with Jesus? That depends on how skilled you want to be in the fine arts of love and marriage. How much victory do you want?

Maybe your marriage is a battlefield. Change your weapons. In order for there to be Strife (remember Strife’s attendant putridness—confusion and every evil work?) you must be using the wrong weapons and fighting the wrong enemy. Repeat after me: “My mate is not the enemy. My mate is my mate.”

Words, particularly first words, are weapons, for good or for evil. Make up your mind for once and for all that your words will be weapons for good. And since we know from the Book of James that no man (in his own strength) can tame the tongue, you must harness yours to the Holy Spirit and get out of God’s way.

Yes, I know the pressure, the temptation to say what you’re feeling, is almost unbearable. I know when you manage not to go ballistic on your mate, you feel you have to tell someone. But resist! This is hazardous to the health of your marriage. The only one you can always safely tell is Jesus, and even then you must muzzle your tongue.

Satan can and will use everything you say against you. He’s the one pressuring you—endlessly, maddeningly—pushing, taunting, and provoking.

I remember once, long ago, when I decided to have a TV fast (the kids were little and I was beginning to use TV as a sitter) and I put the TV in the garage. The reactions were interesting. John didn’t care, the kids didn’t care. I, however, was consumed with a desire to watch all the Rocky movies. I couldn’t think of anything else. Well, I was smart enough (if barely) to recognize where this pressure and temptation came from, and to laugh at it. Note: If you laugh at the demons hissing in your ear, they will cease.

When I recognize fearful and untrue thoughts as what they are—lies, and refute them aloud with the truth (scripture), just as promised, the devil flees (“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7). When I eat half a jar of fudge sauce straight from the fridge and thoughts of defeat, recrimination and disgust come at me, I say, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.” I’m choosing to believe II Corinthians 5:21 – “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” This doesn’t mean I particularly approve of my behavior, but let me tell you this one thing: If I’m going to speak someone else’s words about me, that someone is not going to be Satan.

Who’s Using Your Words?

Remember, the words you speak will determine your actions. You’d better make sure they’re words of life and love and light. The words you speak will be used by God to make a way for His will, or they will be used by the Great Deceiver. First, he will pressure you into saying them (“Go ahead and leave, see if I care,” is a good example of words from Hell), and then he will convince you of your right to say them, and soon you’ll actually believe them. Of course, when the inevitable regret sets in, he’ll get you with shame and condemnation.

But if you know Jesus, if you meditate on His Word, you will be strong in His love, and able to refuse the enemy’s guilt trip. You will understand how guilt strengthens sin’s power over you.

I rejoice when I read Paul’s words about this shame-obliterating love in Romans 8:38, 39 – “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 creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Eventually, as you spend increasing time in the Word and in prayer, you’ll recognize thoughts that aren’t life thoughts, and when you feel the pressure to say what should not be said, you’ll be able to say life words back to the death words—you’ll know in an instant to take those thoughts captive (Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ – II Corinthians 10:5). You’ll be so in tune with the Holy Spirit that at the first hint of stress, you’ll be able to recognize and deal with its source.

The Fruits of the Spirit will become your weapons, your antidotes. When hateful thoughts come, you’ll counter and defeat them with Love (the really big gun!). When sorrow comes you’ll regain your strength by calling on Joy. Peace will annihilate worry, and impatience will give way to the formidable force of Patience. Rather than driving your mate away from the love of Christ with unkind words, Kindness will make both of you victorious! And rather than being a “control freak” (who is actually someone out of control), Self-control will rule you to such an extent that you won’t even notice the misbehaviors of others (except to pray POWERFUL prayers for them). Your weaknesses will become strengths.

The enemy of our souls attacks us when we’re weak, and in our weak spots. But we can look at these attacks as signposts, pointing us to the areas needing our attention, our nurturing, and concentrated prayer efforts.

Take Joy, for instance. The joy of the Lord is our strength, as we know from the Word, and from experiencing the power we feel when we’re joyous. Because I’m naturally a happy person, I don’t accept a lack of joy as normal. Do I still have to fight for my Joy? Absolutely! Because Joy is so important to a Home Maker’s success, the enemy will steal it if at all possible.

Do I walk in the Fruits of the Spirit all the time? I am there sometimes, in some areas. Other times, I feel myself getting all bent out of shape, and that’s my warning: Wait just one minute, Sister. What’s really going on here? Jesus, are you trying to tell me something?

Whadda Ya Say? Let’s Praise Our Mates!

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There’s only one human whose opinion really matters to me. Recently John got up feeling terrible (an entire night following three entire weeks of coughing all night) and growled at me at the breakfast table. Because I’d given up sleeping next to him, and spent my night on the couch, I was not my usual wise and charming self. I snapped right back, slammed my uneaten breakfast in the sink and went on a walk.

In days of old I’d have stayed gone an hour or two—let him stew, right? This one took about five minutes. After asking God for wisdom (how did Satan get at us?) I thought of two things immediately: 1) I didn’t have my Quiet Time; and 2) just before our little tiff I said some very dangerous words—words of judgment. I judged people for judging people.

I was talking about the rampant divorce in the Church and saying that one major reason is because of how judgmental many Christians are about divorce. “What you judge will come on you,” I had said with just a bit of satisfaction.

You see, I was one of those divorced women who felt she had a huge red “D” branded on her forehead every Sunday. And when those family members who once judged me ended up with children who had their own marital issues (including divorce), perhaps I had been a bit smug.

Had I evaluated my own behavior, judging myself (For if we would judge ourselves we would not be judged. – I Corinthians 11:31) maybe I would have recognized I hadn’t quite forgiven those who judged me.

But God is patient, and always working with me, bringing me gently along. So, after my little walk and talk with Him, I went back to John, determined not to have my say and get my way and make him see the errors of his ways. I went back determined to join with him in kicking Satan in the teeth (and elsewhere).

Meanwhile our children were joined in prayer for us, and later told us they prayed almost exactly what we prayed. We prayed for additional issues (unbeknownst to them) that were uncovered through this event, and God grew us rather marvelously.

My “Ha, ha, ha’s” are now aimed at the enemy. And added to my never-to-be-missed-again Quiet Time is ever more fervent prayer for freedom for the Body of Christ.

Perhaps most satisfying of all is the sure knowledge that it will be a long, long time (I declare never) before I receive ugly thoughts, much less speak ugly words, to or about my darlin’.

*****

What do you say about your mate, about your marriage, and about yourself? Do those words line up with scripture? Are your words builder’s words or breaker’s words? Beware! Your mind will shut down to hear what your mouth has to say and will then act on it. If you say you’re sick and tired, you’re not putting up with it, it’s not fair, your marriage was a mistake, there’s no use in trying, your mate is a pig from Hell who gets to have all the fun, he doesn’t know how hard you work, etc., then your life, and you too, will be one big drag.

Suppose, however, that your words line up with scripture and you count your blessings all day long, always including that God neither gets fed up with you nor gives up on you. If also, you pray and read the Word morning, noon, and night, then your words will be life words, and your life will just get better and better and better.

Do you want your words to bring life? Do you want wrath long gone from your home? Find and memorize the following scripture from Proverbs 15:1—A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.

Yes, memorization sounds formulaic, and therefore suspect—perhaps not exactly what the Holy Spirit has for your individual situation. But here’s the beauty of it: the more time you spend with Jesus, even if it begins simply as a habit and/or because someone else suggested it, the sooner you’ll get to that place where you love being with Jesus, and it will just be who you are—someone who listens, hears, trusts, and obeys; someone who is blessed and highly favored by the Most High.

Relish, guard, and look forward to your blessing time with Jesus, where you learn what He has to say about you, your mate, and your marriage. Tuck those words and thoughts away in your heart. Soon, those words—life words—will be what come out of your mouth. You will be a blessing to yourself and all others in your sphere of influence.

Yes, you have influence, and yes, you want that to be a good influence. Everything you say to and about your spouse is powerful. Get this. Your words count (“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof .” – Proverbs 18:21) and your thoughts count, as they determine your words.

It’s Not That Complicated

So how do you change your thoughts? The Word fills the heart, which fills the head, which fills the mouth. (“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”– Matthew 12:34). It’s as simple as that: move in close to Jesus and keep the Word before your eyes, and coming in your ears. When you fill your heart with the Good Word of Jesus, you will speak good words.

It’s your choice. Are your words going to bring life or death to your marriage? Are you going to build your mate, or tear him down?

Spare yourself the grief of knowing you let the enemy use your words to hurt those you love, those whose hearts God has entrusted to you. Remember, this doesn’t only happen in an all-out battle. You can deeply wound that heart so attuned to you—the one so desperately in need of your absolute and always-faithful love, respect and kindness—with seemingly inconsequential words (no such thing). Just a tiny little whine about something they were “supposed to” do, or something they “should” be, will wound a weary heart.

God wants your marriage to be beautiful, so get your eyes off your mate’s issues and onto Jesus. If you don’t think there are areas in your heart He would like to heal and clean up, you have a pride issue. Repent! Otherwise, you are bound to wound your mate.

Warning: “Supposed to” goes right in the trash can with “should.” You are under grace. Refuse law, and stop trying to be the law. Your name isn’t Sheriff Wife. Your name is Lover Girl. (Think in fives: See Romans 5 and Galatians 5.)

The Builder Lady

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Proverbs 14:1 speaks to me every time I read it: “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.” The word “house” in this verse is translated from bayith, meaning “a house, especially family.”

Growing up and working on my dad’s construction sites gave me a good sense of what’s involved in building a house. Long before the homeowner served a lovely Thanksgiving turkey in her walnut-paneled dining room, there were plans, bulldozing, and slab pouring, plumbing, well drilling, and so forth. And this was just the beginning!

For the contractor, it was the beginning of headaches. Subcontractors didn’t show up and in some cases that was a blessing in disguise. Lumber store trucks delivered the wrong products, slabs resembled mountain ranges, rain never stopped, and the homeowner changed her mind about details almost daily.

But the contractor expected these little blips and even if there were times when he packed it up and went home early in hopes of saving his sanity, he always showed back up the next day. He was there for the duration. He was the “contractor”—he had a contract, an agreement, and he had a responsibility. And of course, he had the rewards: a beautiful finished product, a healthy amount of cash in the bank, and the satisfaction of a job well done.

More Than a Contractor

You, however, have much more than a contract. You made vows pertaining to a covenant. Even as your mission and calling are so much higher than that of a builder’s contract to construct a physical house, so are your potential rewards.

You won’t easily, magically, or instantly attain a strong and sure marriage and family. But if you are wise (and God promises us all wisdom for the asking) you can and will build your house, your family, your mate. With good words.

Suggested Reading: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell illustrates how great differences can be great strengths if we will let love have say-so; The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks

Keys to Victory: Praise God that your tongue is a weapon for good; be the kind of woman your in-laws can brag on, because they love how you build their boy with your words; daily declare, “I take a stand against my enemy. My mouth is off limits. My words bring life!”

School by the Creek

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One day, a few years back, Seth and Rebekah asked to go to the creek and “do school later”.  I said they could go, paper and pencil in hand, and to bring back something they’d written–a story, a thought, a drawing, poetry.

Here is Seth’s offering:

I have a cathedral of willows over my head

The sound of the creek in my ears,

A hoodie under my back.

I will try not to fall in the creek.

Ack!

All this comfort, all this wonder,

I’ve claimed a little nook.

Yet all the while I wish I’d brought a book.

Rebekah wrote me a love letter, and some of her thoughts, as well as this “Spring Poem”:

The creek laughs happily over stones

I hear birdsong and breezes.

But something else is talking –

Tis neither wind nor birdsong nor the creek.

Tis Spring.

Why Would a Sane Woman Write?

IMG_2408Sometimes we get stuck in our writing because we don’t know what to say.  All we know for sure is that we’re unsure.  Where the world says wait for the muse, the Word says wait for the Holy Spirit.  Though it tarries, wait for it.  Because it will surely come.

God is patient with us and we must be patient with ourselves.  Just because our fingers aren’t dancing about the keyboard doesn’t mean we’re not in writing mode.  As I sat with my children on our chilly balcony with rain pouring down just beyond our tea cups, my daughter’s words echoed my thoughts.  “I’m going to have lots of rain and storms and dreary days in my book,” she said.  Earlier as I ironed my apron and went straight to the kitchen to spill burned butter all over it, it was yet another writing prompt.  My heroine would be a closet apron ironer, to feel close to her grandmother.  Later on, I mused, I would walk in the rain with an umbrella and think of Jo March and her professor in Little Women.  And I would ponder the beauty of a book set during the Civil War in which nary a battlefield was seen.  Might such a book be considered tame by today’s standards?  Yes, but today’s readers still read it!  Is my book too tame?  No.  What’s tame about professors and umbrellas and rain and love?  What’s love got to do with it?  Everything.

Love is to the reader as rain to a thirsty land.  Just as the water I gave my plants this morning surely qualifies as a good and perfect gift, so, I reason, should be my writing –  a quenching outpouring to readers thirsty for beauty and truth and light.  God’s answer to the ugly, the deceptive, the dark.  Is such my writing?  Let’s just say I’m working on it.  I have been given a gift, a mandate, a race.  I think of my friend who runs marathons.   Like all exercise, the highest purpose of a marathon is to illustrate the similar attributes and benefits of spiritual exercise.  My friend reads about running, talks about it, buys all the right gear, hangs out with other runners, and makes practice runs.  You might say she was not really a marathon runner until she entered to race, sweated through the miles, and crossed the finish line.  We might believe we’re not writers until our books are published, but every moment of our life is part of our writing, part of the race.

The key is knowing why we’re running, why we write.  We may struggle for years with little to show for it, for two simple reasons:  First, we don’t know why we write, only that we must; and second, we’re writing for publication, rather than for the benefit of our readers.  If you write truth, it will find an audience.  So, after all this time of waiting for success, for publication, adulation and riches untold, am I suggesting we wait some more?  Yes, but with a difference:  I’m suggesting patient expectation.

Patience – when we study it in the Word – we find little was accomplished apart from it.  Patience is the undergirding of faith.  It’s what enables us to continue through that long trek between the vision and the destination.  Notice I did not say “agonizing and painful journey between vision and apocalypse.”  Yes, it has often seemed so to me, but that was my fault.  If our writing is in fact a calling, the One who calls is the One with the easy yoke and the light burden.  It’s our adding on to the burden that makes what could be a walk in the park more of a slog through a bog.

We often, in our quest to hurry the writing, make it take longer.  Alas, there are no shortcuts.  We learn to write by writing, to live by living, to love by loving.  If we will write His answer, we must adopt a sense of adventure and privilege, and know there will be a bit of work involved, including the work to develop perseverance and patience.  We are speaking for the Most High.  Let us take the time and do the work to learn His language, the language of love.

Love must be our reason for writing.  And to the questions in our readers’ hearts, that is His answer:  Love.

What does love look like?  See Rosamunde Pilcher’s Coming Home wherein a family opens their home and their hearts to a young girl practically abandoned by her parents;  see Pilgrim’s Inn, the story of a home where the wayfarer could heal; examine Georgette Heyer’s characters, seen through the eyes of an author in love – with humanity.  Read and be changed by Neville Shute’s A Town Like Alice, as a young woman changes the lives of all those around her in the direst of times, even as the man who loves her gives his all.  See Jane Eyre demonstrate her love for God as even greater than her love for Mr. Rochester.  Love ultimately looks like sacrifice working through faith.

Love was Paul’s reason for writing.  And writing.  And writing.  Love letters from Jesus, himself the conduit.  Writing, as Paul did it, is the way to say exactly what we mean to say.  We may consider and reconsider.  We may call on God’s promises to give us the words, searching deep in our hearts for that which we must voice, and finding the words to reach that listening heart.  We write for that waiting, yearning, listening heart.  In so doing we have a conversation with another beautiful soul, with a brother or sister yet unmet.  We write and we meet and we are both improved, encouraged, loved.

But what about you?  What about me?  Can we write such things?  Are we any good?  Let us scrutinize our work for one ingredient.  Laying aside concerns about writing on par with Jane Austen and C.S. Lewis, let’s look at our writing and ask the question:  Is it love?

Love says we weep over the agony of those in bondage, and when and only when the Holy Spirit makes the way and gives us the words, do we speak.  Or write. Writing before we’re sure of His wisdom, of His leading, is speaking ahead of Him.  It’s powerful, only in the wrong direction.  We can actually nullify the freedom work He is doing in an entrapped soul by getting in the middle of things.

We must be as careful of what we write as of what we speak.  Writing with love means taking our words captive and comparing them to the Words of God.  We are to be His ambassadors, deployed for battle, not the agents of Satan to turn people away from Christ.  Many Christian writers have ignored those words of Jesus Himself found in John 10:10:  The thief comes to steal, kill, and  destroy, but I have come that you might have abundant life.  Indeed, it is as though they believe Jesus is the thief, the enemy (putting cancer on your heroine to teach her a lesson – just because He turns what the enemy does to your good, doesn’t mean He is the enemy!).  Why would anyone in their right mind want to serve such a god?  Such a god is served by pagans – angry, and to be appeased and placated by works and sacrifices.  Jesus was and is the sacrifice.  We are the redeemed.  Let us say so in our writing.

People are often antagonistic to Christians because they are disappointed, disappointment leading to anger.  Never doubt they know Jesus’ commandment to us – love.  Never doubt they are watching.  Hoping.  We can all think of people who abandoned their parents’ faith.  They have thrown the baby out with the bathwater, the baby being Jesus, the bathwater filthy religion, religion being man’s sad attempt to improve on the finished work of the Cross.

When we as writers respond to the anger and antagonism of the lost, we fall right into the enemy’s trap, and lose all possibility of effectiveness.  A defensive posture is one of fear.  We are never to respond in fear.  We are to prepare with the full armor of God, and then, when He says we have something worth sharing (and our lives reflect it – i.e. don’t go giving marital advice when yours is on the rocks), we go boldly forward.  We are to be a powerful offense against Satan and for man.

Our writing, incorporating patience, faith, and love, must point to Jesus.  We don’t write based on our experience, denomination, pastor’s opinion, education, or upbringing.  If we want to have influence, we’d better be sure we’re not seeking to promote our influence, and we’d better get real.  Our writing must point to the ultimate reality – Christ Jesus.  Paul, in all his writings, never once wrote to a group of perfect Christians.  There were none.  He admitted his failings, and never forgot who he would still be, if not for Christ.  He didn’t write Paul’s answers.  He wrote God’s answer:  The Love of Jesus.