Category Archives: Life

Undisciplined Devotion

Once again my church offered an opportunity to write several devotionals for Lent. This time focuses on the book of Mark. Because I have so much reading and editing to do, I chose to write only four (I usually pick five or six).

I’m not one to set aside time for devotions, whether it’s reading the Bible, other devotionals, or scriptural studies. My faith suffers a little for it, but it’s never been enough to change my ways.

The main reason I like to volunteer to write devotions is it forces me to read and study. Even more than that, it forces me to discover how it applies to me, so the reader can apply it to his/her life also. Writing devotions requires study, but also introspection and humility.

Laying one’s heart and shortfalls on a page for hundreds of people to read is never easy. It’s a 300-word journey from ignorance to wisdom. Even more importantly, it should end with a focus on God, not the writer. A difficult task for someone as prideful as me. So much so, this time I’m tempted to tell the editor to add Anonymous to my devotions instead of my name. I want God to shine through the words, not me.

Defend Yourself!

“I learned a long time ago that anything worth doing is worth defending.” ~ Mike Rowe

Does God call us to follow him blindly and without question?

Some like to accuse Christians of being blind sheep, ready to dive off a cliff simply because God said so. I’ve heard some Christians accuse others that to doubt and question is a lack of trust and faith in God — and could even be considered blasphemous (I was told this once as a teenager when I revealed that God makes me angry sometimes).

In a previous entry, I talked about how God appreciates when we doubt. A friend commented thusly (in part), “Though a Christian may from time struggle with the no fear part of our faith, I believe when we still follow God’s word despite that fear, that God rejoices in our faith, love for him. So submit to His Word!”

To which I respond:

I’m not suggesting God doesn’t rejoice in our faith. Of course he does! Nor does doubt mean we love God less. All I’m saying is God understands and even expects us to doubt. Having doubts is part of who we are in this world. Nor do I recall him ever saying we should never ask him questions, or to never get angry at or frustrated with him (acting out in that anger is a bit different. When God told Moses he couldn’t enter the promised land because he acted out in anger, and as such didn’t give God credit a good example [See Numbers 20]). As if we could hide our doubts from him anyway.

Doubt isn’t always a bad thing, as long as we come to him with those doubts.

Moses argued with God, as did Abraham (which saved Lot and his family). David and Job had doubts. Lots of doubts! Jonah tried to run away, and got angry with God when Nineveh repented. Naomi believed God had abandoned her (as did Mother Theresa for most of her life). Peter argued with Jesus, Thomas doubted him. Paul worked against him, and Ananias felt a little betrayed when he was asked to heal and forgive Paul who had persecuted so many of them.

So what does all that have to do with defending oneself as the title suggests?

Because when we struggle and doubt (and as long as we turn to God with those struggles and doubts) he teaches us where we have fallen short or are mistaken in our assumptions. When we learn through those doubts and struggles, we grow stronger in our faith, and as such can better defend that faith.

God often compares us to sheep, because sheep are stupid creatures. They will literally jump off a cliff following other sheep, never realizing the danger until it’s too late. That does not mean, however, God wants us to remain like sheep. He wants us to be able to defend our faith to those who also question and struggle (including ourselves).

Proverbs 2:1-5 says, “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Emphasis mine).

Other such examples of the importance of seeking God and his wisdom, and for defending our faith:

Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

1 Peter 3:15: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (Emphasis mine)

2 Corinthians 10:5: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

Titus 1:9: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

In short, yes, we need to submit to God and his word, but by submitting without question or not attempting to overcome our doubts, we can neither grow, understand, or defend our faith.

Prove It!

I see a lot of this on social media: Someone makes a charge or claim, and someone else asks for verification or citations of said claim. Instead of providing any evidence, he/she says something like, “I’m not your research assistant. Google it.”

Nope.

If you make a claim, it’s your responsibility to provide the evidence. The same goes for me, too, by the way. If I state a certain fact, I better have the evidence ready to back it up.

The US judicial system is based on the idea that the accuser has the burden of proof, not the accused. I see discussing and debating issues the same way. The burden of proof is on the person making a claim, not on the person who questions it.

After all, if someone states something as fact, that person had to arrive at that conclusion somehow. Logically, shouldn’t that person have the evidence already? Why try to force someone else to do the research all over again? It’s rude.

When people make statements like the above, it implies to me that they have no real evidence, and instead don’t want to be proven wrong. I’ve lost count on how many people have blocked me, or refused to respond because I dared to ask for evidence.

Ignorance really is bliss, I guess. Or they prefer a delusional world of their own making instead of the real one. Scary either way, because, as a character in one of my books said, “Reality will only kick you in the face that much harder.”

I’m Not Dead

Although the silence of my blog might have indicated I might have. I’ve been busy! I’m rewriting a sequel — which may seem kinda silly since the first one isn’t published, yet. A friend read the first one and asked to read the second. I realized that I should probably polish the second one before sharing it, though. I’m about a third done.

I’m also co-editing a flash fiction magazine called Havok. The first edition will be released January, 2019, so if you like flash fiction in multiple genres (mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, and thriller), go check it out. So far the stories we’ve acquired are amazing (and no, I’m not getting paid to write that). For the first month alone we received over a dozen stories in the fantasy genre alone, so even for the first edition, there’s no shortage of stories.

Now I need get over this cold my son gave me yesterday. I accomplish a lot more when I’m not sneezing and coughing all over my computer.

Taking Pride

“I am proud to be a woman!”

Even as a woman, statements like that make me cringe. I take pride in many things; being a woman is not one of them. The answer is simple: I didn’t choose it. Do I like being a woman? Sure! Granted I have no experience being anything else, but I still wouldn’t change it if given the chance.

Taking pride in anything that requires no action on my part is foolish. How many of us take pride in our eye color, the fact our innards work how they’re supposed to, or that we breathe? How is taking pride in my genitalia and other genetic traits any different?

Other things I don’t take pride in: any other physical features, my heritage, or my ancestor’s accomplishments. I am responsible for none of that, so claiming it for myself isn’t right. It also diminishes those who did the work.

While I didn’t choose the country I was born in, I can still take pride in that, because I choose to stay. I also contribute to my country, my state and community’s success through my hard work, purchasing ability and voting in elections.

I take pride in my work, my home and immediate family, because my success is theirs, and their success is at least partially mine.

What I’d like to see, instead of claiming pride in our sex, heritage, etc., we express our gratitude to God for creating us the way he did.

It was You who created my conscience; You fashioned me in my mother’s womb.

“I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your work is wonderful; I know it very well.

“My frame was not concealed from You when I was shaped in a hidden place, knit together in the recesses of the earth.

“Your eyes saw my unformed limbs; they were all recorded in Your book; in due time they were formed, to the very last one of them.” ~ Psalms 139:13-16

Story Matters

An author recently posted on Facebook asking for feedback on one of his series. Unable to turn down an opportunity to read a book in one of my favorite genres (two actually. The series is a combination of sci-fi and fantasy), I eagerly accepted.

I ended up loving the story and characters, and the author graciously sent me the other two in the series as well as a prequel novella.

In one of the emails, he mentioned that he was pushing the release of the final two (out of five) due to an illness. I was bummed, but I also know the importance of one’s health takes precedence.

Yesterday, the author posted that his cancer had returned, and the doctors gave him about two months to live.

My completely selfish response was what you might expect. I thought, “Oh, no! I’ll never read the rest of the series now!”

As you also might expect, I mentally berated myself for thinking such a thing. I did post a comment saying that I would pray for him and his family, but it felt hollow as I typed.

Do I want him healed, or if not, that his family experiences God’s strength and comfort? Absolutely. But my prayers still feel tainted by my selfish and silly desire to read the final books, when a man is dying and a family is soon devastated. What’s an incomplete series compared to that?

Or am I wrong?

I heard a story years ago where a woman dying of cancer wrote Stephen King. She asked him to tell her what happened at the end of his “Dark Tower” series, because she wouldn’t live long enough to read the remaining — and as yet unreleased — books.

Sadly, he couldn’t answer, because even he didn’t know at the time.

Studies have found that those who read fiction are statistically more empathetic. Understandable when you think about it.

When reading about fictional characters, we learn their thoughts, motivations, loves, hates, fears and desires. Something we don’t always see or get in real life, because few of us lay ourselves bare with the exception of a scant few — if that. As we read, we place ourselves in the shoes of the characters, and we can’t help but correlate their experiences, thoughts and feelings into our own life and those around us.

To give an example, I’ve never been clinically depressed. I didn’t understand how debilitating it can be, and I used to quietly scoff at those who did. Until I read “Becoming Olivia” by Roxanne Henke. The book is about Olivia who has a great life, but can’t shake the depression that seemed to come out of nowhere.

After reading it, I will never again scoff at anyone who suffers from depression again.

Now it may seem at this point that I changed subjects on you. First I talked about selfish prayers, then I jumped to how stories make us more empathetic.

What both illustrate is the importance of stories in our life. They not only entertain, but can convey certain truths. Stories, like most other arts engage us emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. They can also live beyond the creator’s own life. Plus we never want the story to simply stop with no end in sight.

We are built to both create and listen to or read stories. They’ve been used since the advent of language to remember our past as well as convey truth. Even non-Christians know the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s ark, and Jonah and the whale (although technically, it was a fish). Whether they literally happened is always up for debate, but their messages still stand many millennia later. The same goes for Dicken’s “Oliver Twist,” and “A Christmas Carol,” Shakespeare’s plays, many Greek tragedies, and countless others.

Stories matter. My selfish response and a dying woman’s letter is evidence of that.

Still, I do hope God will ignore my selfishness behind the words of my prayers, because I never want to see a person die so soon, and his/her family left to pick up the pieces.

Offending Jesus

I wrote six devotionals for my church dedicated to the minor prophets such as Hosea, Amos and Obadiah.

They were a bit difficult, because most prophets describe where the people (in this case the Israelites) are convicted of their wrong-doing. As such my devotionals are more convicting than usual.

Last Sunday I helped teach the kindergartners for Sunday school. A lady approached me and said, “I’ve really enjoyed your writing this month.” I had to think about it for a second. I thought, “You read my blog?” I don’t remember even inviting her to my author page on Facebook, so how did she find it. And then I remembered. She meant my devotionals.

“They’re convicting,” she said, “but in a very good way.”

“Oh, good,” I said. “I knew how convicting they were, and was a little fearful they would be offensive.”

“Sometimes that’s what we need.”

“That’s true,” I said. “Jesus himself was very offensive, and is part of why he was killed.”

“That should be the title of your next book,” someone else said. “The Offensive Jesus.”

An interesting idea, but I don’t know if I could write an entire book on the subject. My first thought is that it would contain little else but existing scriptural passages where Jesus offended people (usually the Israeli leadership such as the Pharisees). Still, as with all ideas, it’s worth thinking about.

To add a little brainstorming: I would have to start with why the Pharisees found Jesus so offensive, and perhaps seek to answer why so many today still do.