Category Archives: Faith

Why I Hate The Phrase . . .

“God answered my prayer.”

People only say that when they get the answer they want and/or expect. What about the times when we don’t get the answer we want? Does that mean God didn’t answer it? That he turned a cold shoulder as a way of saying, “What a stupid prayer that was. Don’t waste my time.”

When we ask people for something and they say no, do we run around complaining that they didn’t answer?

No. Instead we say, “He said no.”

Same way with God. He answers all our prayers. Most of the time the answer is no, and that’s a good thing. We don’t always know what’s best for us, but God always does. I can look back at some of my more fervent prayers when God said no, and invariably I find out later he was right.

Instead of telling everyone, “God answered my prayer,” we need to say, “God said yes.” It works the other way as well. Instead of crying to everyone, “God didn’t answer my prayer,” we need to say, “God said no.”

And be thankful for it. God always says no for a reason, even if we won’t know that reason for a while, if ever.

That’s the definition of trust.

Addendum: I actually wrote this four years ago today. The program I use to write my journal/blog entries sends me automatic notices of past entries I’ve written on today’s date. It’s possible this same entry is on my blog, but I think it deserved a re-post.

The Power of Words

I’ve always believed writing is one of the most noble skills out there. Books, both fiction and nonfiction, when done well, will never lose their relevance hundreds, sometimes thousands of years later. They can heal, inform, and inspire. They can bring light to those drowning in darkness.

Here is one such example of how a teacher’s small act of sharing a book with a student literally (see what I did there?) saved his life. Warning. You may need to keep a few tissues on hand.

Never underestimate the power of words — even your own.

Walk with Me

As I continue my search for an agent, I can’t help but feel a little worn down and wore out.

Each time I ask myself, “Am I wasting my time? This agent’s time?”

God has told me time and again to keep on keeping on. It will happen. Eventually. And since he knows, why won’t he tell me which agents to approach, and which agents to pass on by?

After all, if God means for people to read my words, why won’t he show me the right path at the outset instead of allowing me to take so many dark and winding detours?

In Luke 24, Jesus had just risen from the dead, but none of the remaining disciples believed it.

While two of them traveled to Emmaus (verses 13-35) Jesus joined them to discuss his death, resurrection, and how scripture predicted all of it.

They didn’t recognize him until later that night.

Jesus could have revealed himself and the truth of his resurrection the moment he joined them on the road, but he chose to journey with them, to talk with, and teach them.

For him — and the disciples — the journey was of equal importance to the destination. Perhaps even more. That, and as witnesses, they were afterward better armed with scripture to help other disbelievers believe.

The same is true for for all of us. We can’t be so anxious, eager, and rushed to reach our destination that we miss walking with God, and allowing him to teach us along the way.

Sure, I want to know right this instant which agent will be the best fit, but by jumping ahead, what will I miss along the way? Lessons learned, people met, and wisdom gained?

After all, this journey isn’t only about me, but others who are, and will go through the same thing. I can only be a witness if I make the journey right along with them.

Eyes Wide Open

When it comes to photography, I’m always keeping my eyes open for something interesting to photograph and share. I loved today especially, because it was cold, calm and foggy. Hoar frost abounded on the trees, grass and shrubs.

What normally takes me fifteen minutes to walk around a few blocks during my breaks almost doubled today, because I couldn’t get enough of the frost-coated — everything.

Unfortunately, I too often don’t have that kind of “eyes wide open” mentality when it comes to my writing — or even my faith at times.

I ran into a quote the other day: “If you wait for inspiration to write, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.” ~ Dan Poynter.

I also found something I had written years ago to keep me motivated: “Write fearless. Anything less, it shows, and the words inevitably stumble and fall.”

Fear holds me back. Fear of offense, of being misunderstood, of boring my readers, my how the list is long!

Some people call writing — whether fiction or non-fiction — their ministry. They write to bring people closer to God. It’s a calling like any other type of ministry.

I, on the other hand, don’t. To me writing is my form of worship. Do I want to encourage people with my words? Absolutely. I’ll even admit that I hope my words will bring others closer to God; to see his love and beauty as I do. I also believe writing is my calling, because as much as I may complain about quitting, I never will. I can’t. God won’t let me (and believe me, I’ve tried).

I hesitate to call it my ministry, because I stumble so much. I don’t know enough about Jesus, scripture, or faith in general to claim any kind of authority. I see ministry as a form of spiritual leadership, and because I too often don’t know what the heck I’m doing, I don’t want anyone to follow me. I’ll only make them stumble as much as I do, if not more.

That kind of thinking, however, limits God. If God wants me to reach others with my words — whether it’s this blog or my stories — then I have to put those words out there, and trust that they will reach the right people at the right time.

Taking hoar frost pictures on my phone during my morning break may give me joy, but no one else if I don’t share them. Joy was never meant to be hoarded (see what I did there?).

Jesus’ love is the same way. It must be shared, and I can’t fear offending, being misunderstood, or boring my readers (be aware, yes, because writing is also a skill that requires a lot of practice, but never afraid). Doing so only means I would rather keep my eyes closed, and prevent others from seeing what I see.

I am no good to God that way. He gives us our gifts not for ourselves alone, but for others who need them even more than we do.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:14-16

Spiritual Fatigue

With 2018 less than two weeks away, one can’t help but take stock of the previous year, what we accomplished, and didn’t accomplish, our pains and our joys. We also look toward our goals and hopes for the next year.

One of my goals is to avoid politics (it’s an off-year election in the States, so I expect things to get almost as heated and divisive as both 2016 and 2017, if not worse), and spend little if any time on social media.

A few times this last summer, we camped at a local lake called Lake Tschida. With the heat and drought, however, the lake bloomed with blue-green and slimy algae that few dared to swim in. I was not one of them.

That’s what social media feels like to me lately. Just perusing it with all the vitriolic politics and constant hate and nasty insults to those who simply disagree on a particular subject feels like swimming in a bathtub-warm, and algae-choked lake. I leave feeling slimed, emotionally and sometimes spiritually drained.

In 2016, I took a full year off social media except my author page on Facebook and other writing sites. Not only did the spiritual ick leave me, but I wrote many blog entries and finished three languishing novels. All told, I wrote over 200,000 words in those twelve months.

I hope to meet or exceed that number this year.

First I need to write my 2018 Lenten devotionals which are due by the end of January. I’m not stressing about those, though. Yet.

My other writing goals are to write more entries here on multiple subjects, rewrite my fantasy, and perhaps submit it to ACFW’s Genesis contest. As with the First Impressions contest, while winning is great, the real benefit is the judges’ critiques. Having outside opinions of my work can only help me improve my skill.

My other writing goals are to continue to submit queries to literary agents (four down, fourteen to go of my current list). I’d also like to write and submit more short stories, but we’ll see. I’ve started two so far, but am having trouble finishing. I think it’s due to my spiritual fatigue. I lose both motivation and confidence when I’m so drained.

But I am also an eternal optimist. Having endured spiritual angst multiple times already, I know it’s a seasonal thing, and like every time before, I’ll get through it and hopefully a little wiser in the end.

Oh. And read. A lot.

If this be my last entry for 2017, I pray you have a stress-less holiday season, and 2018 ends up the best year ever for all of us.

Sins of The Christian Voter

I’ve heard a lot of talk to the effect of: “How can you call yourself a Christian for voting for that candidate?”

From both Christians and non-Christians alike.

Let’s use Alabama’s most recent senatorial election as an example. Of the two main candidates, one is pro-life and an alleged sexual predator. The other has no sordid accusations, but is staunchly pro-choice.

The Christian is faced with a hard choice: Vote for the alleged predator who believes life at all stages deserves protection, and the second candidate who thinks abortion should be legal up until birth, but was never accused of preying on young women.

This Christian voter needs to decide which sins the candidates have committed is the more and least egregious.

The Christian can also not vote, or write in a better candidate. Perhaps a third party choice if one is listed.

That’s not the end of the struggle, however. Once the choice is made, the Christian has to decide to never reveal the choice, or openly support said chosen candidate.

This is a difficult one. By staying silent when unfair criticism of chosen candidate arises, the Christian can continue to remain silent, or risk being counted as (and accused of) supporting either sexual assault or infanticide.

Most Christians expect criticism from the worldly no matter what they do. After all, the world hated Jesus first (see John 15:18).

What Christians don’t expect is to hear such vitriolic criticism from fellow Christians. Aren’t they all members of the body of Christ, united in a common cause and inseparable?

Here’s how I see it.

Government is a secular institution. Any person we vote for is a fallible, sinful human being, and they seek to occupy an office equally secular in nature. It’s neither a religious nor spiritual occupation. Therefore, I think our standards shouldn’t be the same as voting for a new pastor or priest at a church. The qualifications and expectations are too different.

Aside: Do we all want good, moral people to lead us? Absolutely! Still, even moral people are flawed, so no matter how good they appear, they are still sinful (That and what society considers moral is in constant flux). Voters, Christian and otherwise, are too often faced with deciding which candidate holds to their own world-view the closest — the least of evils to use a cliche. Perhaps not vote at all, and let the chips fall where they may.

What concerns me is how willing so many Christians are to judge, condemn, and divide over political lines.

Paul warned us against divisions in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, and how we’re all parts of a single body with different roles to fulfill in 1 Corinthians 12.

When we allow the world generally, and politics specifically, to divide us, the Body falters, and we lose both sight and effectiveness of our mandate to lift up others and spread the Good News. Those we seek to save instead laugh at us. Because of our petty and public arguments, and the constant finger-pointing, we deserve to be mocked.

The only remedies are to quit mixing in politics when discussing spiritual and Godly matters (especially in public), vote our conscience (including not voting at all), and remain silent about both our choice, and the choices others make. Let God judge the heart and intent of the voter, because the rest of us are far from qualified.

In other words, watch for those planks instead of scrounging around for specks (Matthew 7:5).

Never Complain . . .

About being bored, or out of stuff to do.

I learned that at an early age. I once told my mom that I was bored, and she eagerly eliminated that boredom by giving me chores to last at least the rest of the day.

Same goes for my job. I tell my boss I’m out of work, and my desk is soon drowning in incomplete projects.

My last entry I complained about how my motivation and desire to write had waned, and that no idea seemed good enough to start, let alone finish.

I received this email today:

Hi Andra,

I help coordinate a team of devotional writers who periodically (and hopefully more frequently in 2018!) write short devotions to encourage faith development and unity at Legacy. As I was pulling together information for next year’s Lenten Devotions, your name came to mind. I recalled that writing was a passion of yours and wondered if you might want to help out with the next round of devotions?

Here’s how it typically works:

1 I obtain Bible focus/sermon planning information from pastoral staff

2 I develop Scripture focus for devotions (number of devotions vary-for example we usually have 33 Lenten Devotions about 5/each week of Lent) and create document for writing assignments

3 Writer’s Group is invited to sign up for specific devotions

4 Devotions are written by individual writers and submitted for review and grammatical edit

5 I submit entire project to JoAnn for design and printing

Attached are some guidelines that might answer some initial questions, but feel free to let me know what questions you have. Does this sound like something you’d enjoy?

Of course I agreed, even though I haven’t written devotionals in a while.

I had to chuckle, though, because the opportunity showing up right after my last entry seemed too coincidental.

I’m reminded of a short conversation between Sherlock and his older brother, Mycroft from the BBC series “Sherlock.”

Mycroft asked Sherlock, “What did I tell you about coincidences?”

“The universe is rarely so lazy.”

I replace “universe” with “God,” when coincidences like this happen. Today I was also reminded of how my mom would invariably give me something to do when I was bored.

I think God heard my complaint and thought, “She’s not writing, and not liking not writing, so I need to give her something to write about. Here you go.”

I’ve heard it said that if we ask God for patience, he will place us in circumstances that teach us to be patient. It’s an example of “be careful what you with (or pray) for.” God just might say yes.

The best part of writing devotions is it forces me to study the Bible more, something I’ve lacked of late as well. Writing devotions will help me learn, study, further build my relationship with God, and perhaps help others do the same.

That’s my hope anyway.

Since I’ll be writing the devotions for someone else, I don’t know yet if I can share them here. I’ll try, though. If not, maybe I’ll write more than I need to. We’ll see.