Stories of faith, life, and love

Category: Knowing God (Page 1 of 4)

What I’m Reading: Wrestling for My Life

Ever have one of those times when you find challenge or encouragement in a completely unexpected place? I found both as I read Wrestling for My Life by Shawn Michaels. For those scratching their heads, wondering if they should be familiar with the authors name, let me help you out. You probably aren’t.

For starters, the book is nonfiction. The nonfiction reviews I post are few and far between. I really have to get something from the book to include it. I tend to stick with fiction.

Plus, the author is a professional wrestler. Yes, you read that correctly. No, you do not need to read it again. Shawn Michaels is a well-known professional wrestler. But please don’t let that fact deter you from reading this review.

You now know something about me that I rarely, if ever, talk about in my writing/reading circles. I like watching professional wrestling. But before you start with the typical list, let me clarify some things.

I know the matches are predetermined. That’s why it’s called sports entertainment.

There are characters and story lines I do not like and cannot support. I generally fast forward through those or check my social media pages when they come up.

I’m not a fan of the scantily clad wrestlers either. But, in a lot of ways, I’m kind of immune to that. My son was a competitive swimmer for several years, and there’s a lot of scantily clad in that sport as well. If they’re scantily clad and overly sexual, well, I simply don’t watch.

I like wrestling for the story and the athleticism. I’m amazed that some of these huge people can move the way they do. I know I can’t do the things they do. And, as a writer, I’m intrigued by the wrestler in the ring and the person outside the ring. In fact, it was this dichotomy that inspired a new book I’m writing. And the writing of the book led me to Wrestling for My Life.

Another thing you may not know about wrestling is that there are Christians in the wrestling world, just as there are Christians in Hollywood and nearly every other profession. In the interest of writing my story to accurately portray what it means to be a faith-living Christian in the wrestling world, I bought Shawn Michaels’ book. I wanted to hear it straight from someone who was known for living it.

What I found was not only a lot of ways to develop my character, but also encouragement and challenge in my own faith walk. Shawn Michaels wrote a very down to earth book about what it means for him to live his faith in a profession where faith isn’t part of the plot. He wrote honestly about the path that brought him to see his need for God, the struggles he has faced since embracing faith, and the joy he receives from keeping God a priority in his life.

Where some celebrity Christians seem to gravitate to a fad version of faith, Shawn Michaels seems completely grounded in the Word. The passion with which he speaks of taking time in God’s Word each day challenged me to look at my own Bible reading habits. The openness with which he tells of what comes after the newness of faith wears off was an encouragement that we all face these times. The humbleness I saw when he acknowledged his past mistakes and even the ones that came after his conversion are a clear reminder of the hope we have as believers.

In the end, the story of Shawn Michaels holds up a mirror to my own life. He works in a profession where faith isn’t prominent. In many ways, the job may even work against faith. Still, he navigates it with his faith intact and shines a light where other people wouldn’t be able to. He’s making a difference for God in the arena where God has placed him.

My job and the groups I’m part of are not antagonistic towards God. We’re everyday people in everyday circumstances. Those I work with know of my faith. They know there are things I won’t do, places I won’t go, and things I won’t say because of my faith. But after reading Wrestling for My Life I have to take a long hard look at my life and ask myself if I’m living out my faith with as much consistency and shining that light as brightly as this down-to-earth wrestler does in a professional world that’s designed to lift up the man instead of his God.

Where have you found unexpected challenge or encouragement in your faith?

What I’m Reading: The Ravenwood Saga

If you’ve followed my blog or any of my social media accounts very long, you know I’m just as likely to sit down and watch an episode of Doctor Who as I am the latest Hallmark movie. I equally love the Lord of the Rings, Marvel movies, and While You Were Sleeping. There’s enough love in me for fantasy, action, sci-fi, drama, and romance. At least, there is when it comes to television and movies.

As much as my tastes in television and movies span the various genres, my taste in reading has rarely strayed from one genre, the romance genre. Any variations have come from whether or not I’m in the mood for historical or contemporary romance. Through the years a couple of suspense books have wormed their way onto my shelves. But it wasn’t until the past year that fantasy/speculative fiction made its own appearance, with the exceptions of a few that are not in the Christian market which I read to share the experience with my kids.

Anyway, a year or so ago, I won a copy of the first book in Morgan Busse’s The Soul Chronicles series and devoured it along with the second one. When I saw she’d come out with a new series and I found myself with a couple gift cards, it wasn’t a difficult choice to add The Ravenwood Saga to my cart. It wasn’t until last month that I had the chance to read them.

I’d just finished a couple contemporary romances, and I wanted something different. I opened up The Mark of the Raven as a way to cleanse my reading palette. I intended to read one book before returning to my standard genre. My plans changed.

The second I read the last page of The Mark of the Raven, I opened up Flight of the Raven. I didn’t have the third book yet, but I added it to my library as soon as I finished the second book. Cry of the Raven didn’t have a waiting period. I finished it the next day.

I loved the characters and the world the author created. Lady Selene is a strong character, gifted with the power to dreamwalk. It is the gift of House Ravenwood, and they have used it to exact revenge on the other houses in their land for abandoning them to the enemy many years before. Lady Selene has been raised on the stories of betrayal and the belief that through using their powers to torment others, steal their secrets, and at times, kill them in their dream worlds, House Ravenwood stays strong.

Only this idea and the reality of what she’s expected to do doesn’t sit well with Lady Selene. Deep inside, she feels there must be more to her gift than fear and death, and she is determined to find out where her gift came from and its true purpose.

As one man steps forward from House Maris to unite the different houses against their common enemy, Lady Selene has her first hint that her family has indeed missed something in the way their gift is used. To seek out truth could lead to more than being disowned. If her mother finds out she’s not following the ways of her house, it will most certainly mean death. But can she continue in the ways of House Ravenwood and dreamkilling when her heart is telling her the gift was given for a better purpose?

Selene’s quest to find the truth behind the gifting continues through each book. As war draws closer, she is faced with terrible choices, deadly consequences, and inner battles she never imagined possible. Finding the correct path for her life isn’t easy, and it’s made more difficult through the suspicions of those around her and the danger she faces from her own family.

The spiritual lessons of the book are clear but do not detract from the story. In fact, the story makes the scriptural truths more vibrant and inspire the reader to seek out and care for their own gifts and talents. The Ravenwood Saga is a beautiful example of truth clothed in fantasy leaving its message to resonate in the reader rather than being content to simply entertain, though it does that as well.

What I’m Reading: An Aria for Nick

At the risk of sounding like I’ve become the president of the Hallee Bridgeman fan club, today’s review is for An Aria for Nick. (I’m not sure that’s a thing but wouldn’t it be great if your favorite Christian authors had fan clubs? Someone should look into that.) Other than Kristen Heitzmann, I don’t think I’ve reviewed any other author’s books as frequently, but I’m always looking for a good deal and a great story. Hallee’s books often fit both categories. Besides, I’ve reviewed books one and three in the series. It only makes sense that I should go back and take care of book two! Let’s take a look at An Aria for Nick.

Sometimes life doesn’t go like we planned. Events beyond our control seem to conspire against us, or our own choices land us in the middle of consequences we never imagined. Aria and Nick understand this better than most.

Aria’s love for Nick never got a chance thanks to Nick’s stubborn refusal to entertain the idea that a girl like Aria could be interested in a boy like him. He makes sure of it when he enlists in the military.

Aria is just as headstrong. She pursues friendship with Nick throughout their school years and through letters during his time in the military. Maybe one day, Nick will see how much she cares for him. Only that day doesn’t come. Instead, Aria is met with the news that the man she loves has been killed in the line of duty.

She’s lost her hope of love with Nick, but her losses keep coming. Aria’s dream of playing piano professionally are lost when her wrist is injured. The situation leaves her no choice. Aria must find and live a new dream. This new direction puts her in contact with brilliant scientists as she works to develop nuclear technology. It also puts her in the crosshairs of the enemy when she discovers a plot to use her technology in a terrorist attack on the United States.

Aria doesn’t know who to trust. When the man she loved comes back from the dead as the one entrusted to protect her and stop the attack, Aria’s world is turned upside down. Aria and Nick must work together and trust each other in order to prevent nuclear destruction. This is made more difficult as their insecurities and the hurts of the past wreak havoc in each personal interaction. Though the feelings they shared in the past are reawakened, Aria and Nick have to choose whether to embrace those feelings or ignore them without the assurance of what each choice will bring to their futures.

Nick and Aria aren’t that different from me and you. Sure, our one true love probably didn’t come back from the dead. And most of us are probably not brilliant nuclear scientists. But when you remove all the physical trappings of the story, you find a reality that speaks to each of us. We love to plan what our futures will look like. We’re encouraged to do it from the time we are young. Don’t believe me? Did you ever have to write a “what I want to be when I grow up” essay? Our childhood is all about preparing us for the future, and we are pushed earlier and earlier to decide how we want that future to look.

Sometimes that life doesn’t go like we think it should. Events beyond our control throw us off our path and onto other foreign ones. Choices we’ve made have consequences with far more impact than we imagined possible. Even in the times when we end up at our originally planned destination, a look at the path that brought us there shows a drastically different road to success than we dreamed we would take.

When we realize this, the temptation is strong to give in to fear, doubt, hurt, and anger. As believers, we have a different option. Trust. We can’t trust things will work out the way we want them to. We can’t trust that the hurt is finished. But we can trust that God is in control. He knew the path our life would take, the good and bad choices we would make, and the ending destination before we were even born. The Psalms tell us He had every one of our days written in His book before we’d even lived one of them.

He doesn’t promise to end all the bad or surprising things in our lives. We live in a decaying, sin-marred world. Horrible things happen. The unexpected happens. But God does promise that He will be beside us in each thing we face. He will give us strength and peace and hope. The hope is that whatever happens, He will make us more into His image as we go through it with Him leading the way.

Fear and doubt no longer color our decisions. Instead, we move forward in confidence knowing God is by our side no matter what the future holds.

Write Stuff Wednesday: Love You Forever

child“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” – Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

I doubt any children’s book garners reactions as strong as those elicited by Love You Forever. Those reacting in the negative find it kind of creepy. The elderly mother pretty much drives across town, breaks into her son’s home, and holds him like a small child to sing him her song of love. I get the creepy vibe, but it is only a story meant to bring home a point. I can overlook that particular part of it.

For others, the book is a wonderful story of a parent’s unending, never changing love for her child. At each stage of his life, the mother never fails to remind her child that her love won’t fade away. When she is too weak to sing her song to him, the son responds to that constant love by singing the song back to her and then continuing the song by singing it to his newborn daughter.

Anyone who has spent time with children know there are less than lovable times. Whether it’s fits in the toddler years, questioning authority in the junior high years, out and out rebelling in the teen years, or knowing everything there is to know about life in early adulthood, a parent’s patience and child-rearing know-how is tested at various times throughout the process of raising their children.

Even if we remember to cherish each stage of development, we pray for strength to survive it and bring our child through it successfully. We hurt with them when they fail, even as we encourage them to get back up again knowing they’ve not learned yet and will fall again. We repeatedly face disappointment and frustration as we watch our children act against what we’ve taught them. At their worst times of disrespect and disregard, our patience wears thin.

But even when we’re pushed to our limits, our love remains strong. No matter what our children do, we love them. We may not agree with their choices. As they choose paths better left untraveled, we hurt for them. We pray for them and try to guide them as we see them head toward sin. The pain and frustration we feel runs deep as we watch our children choose lives that take them further from God instead of to Him. But even then, we love them.

It’s a stunning picture of God’s love for us. We have hurt, disappointed, and betrayed Him time and again. We’ve chosen to ignore Him to go our own way until the results of our choices send us crying to Him to fix the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. When He doesn’t fix it, we treat Him like He’s the one responsible for our pain.

We act this way even though He’s given us everything. In our sin, God is the one who provided the way for us to be reconciled to Him. He is the One who sent His Son to die on the cross in our place to take the punishment for sin that only we deserve. He is the One who promises to make us His children and heirs with Christ when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior. He gave us His Holy Spirit to live in our hearts so we can know and follow Him better in our earthly lives. He allows us to be part of reaching others with the gospel. And He promises one day we will spend eternity in His presence.

God hasn’t blessed us with these things because we deserve it. Our continued failure to turn to Him, seek Him out, learn from Him, and live the way He wants us to live is proof enough that we aren’t deserving. But God gives anyway. Though our continued sin and reluctance to follow after Him in everything we say and do has to sadden our Heavenly Father, He always forgives. Though He doesn’t always remove our consequences, He is always willing to bring something eternally beautiful from the chaos we find ourselves in. God does all this for one reason. Love.

Jeremiah 31:3 is God’s own Love You Forever to us. He tells us, “‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.'” Everlasting is forever. It isn’t contingent on us. It relies solely on God’s love, on God being love. 1 John 3:1 reminds us that it is God’s love lavished on us that allows us to be called children of God. His love isn’t dribbled down over us. It is poured in abundance over us.

God’s love is freely given to everyone. We don’t earn it through being good. God acted in love toward us while sin still made us His enemy. We can see what love is not because “we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins”.

Unlike our fallible love, limited by our weaknesses, God’s love for us will never fail to do what’s best for us. It will never let us down, no matter what our circumstances may try to tell us. It is forever, unchanging, and perfectly given. God will love us forever and for eternity His children we will be.

What I’m Reading: Delicate Balance

man bunThe man bun. It’s one of those things in life that most people have a definite opinion of and no hesitation in sharing those opinions. Think about the pineapple on pizza debate, only with hair styles. (By the way, pineapple most definitely belongs on pizza.) You want to get a conversation, and quite possibly an argument, started? Show up with a photo of any one of the popular male celebrities sporting the hairstyle and make comment on it. The opinions will fly in seconds, only they’ll be worded as if they’re fact.

Honestly, I’m not a fan. But I’m also one of the odd ones out that doesn’t fall solidly into the “no man bun” camp. Most people can’t pull it off well. Almost all of them should probably stop trying. But there are exceptions to the rule. I can think of a few celebrities whose looks are not diminished by a well-done man bun.

As I was scrolling through the blogs I follow the other day, it was a man bun that caught my attention. I paused. It was a book review by The Christian Fiction Girl. (In case I haven’t said it before, you should check out her blog. I’ve found several new authors through her reviews.) I don’t think I’d ever seen a Christian or clean reads book with a cover like that before. I clicked the link and read the review. Then, I bought the book.

Delicate Balance . . .a romance (The Blair Brothers Book 1) by Brooke St. James turned out to be a fun, quick read. Henry and Aiden have known of each other for years. Everyone who’s lived in Astoria long knows of Henry’s family. But when his family is seated in her section to waitress at work, Aiden finds herself with the chance to get to know him for real.

Acquaintances turn to friends turn to . . .maybe more? Who’s to say for sure? The signals are there, unless they aren’t. Maybe it’s all wishful thinking. Aiden and Henry second guess each other’s feelings while trying to put the lid on their own. It doesn’t work for either of them. But it’s not a smooth road to romance.

Family drama, self-doubt, and misunderstanding all play a part in keeping this couple from realizing what they are to each other. They also play key roles, along with the chemistry between Aiden and Henry, in making Delicate Balance an entertaining story. And it all started with that man bun.

By the Book: The conversations started when opposite sides discuss hair styles and pizza toppings can be a fun way to pass the time. But there are times when opinions have no place in the conversations. The topics of sin, salvation, and who God is are spelled out clearly in scripture. When we try to apply human opinion to a matter already decided by our Creator, we make a mess of everything. That’s why it’s important to take to heart the direction in 2 Timothy 2:15. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” It’s through getting to know God through His word that we are able to understand what’s already been decided by God and learn how to live inside His will.

What I'm Reading: Delicate Balance

man bunThe man bun. It’s one of those things in life that most people have a definite opinion of and no hesitation in sharing those opinions. Think about the pineapple on pizza debate, only with hair styles. (By the way, pineapple most definitely belongs on pizza.) You want to get a conversation, and quite possibly an argument, started? Show up with a photo of any one of the popular male celebrities sporting the hairstyle and make comment on it. The opinions will fly in seconds, only they’ll be worded as if they’re fact.
Honestly, I’m not a fan. But I’m also one of the odd ones out that doesn’t fall solidly into the “no man bun” camp. Most people can’t pull it off well. Almost all of them should probably stop trying. But there are exceptions to the rule. I can think of a few celebrities whose looks are not diminished by a well-done man bun.
As I was scrolling through the blogs I follow the other day, it was a man bun that caught my attention. I paused. It was a book review by The Christian Fiction Girl. (In case I haven’t said it before, you should check out her blog. I’ve found several new authors through her reviews.) I don’t think I’d ever seen a Christian or clean reads book with a cover like that before. I clicked the link and read the review. Then, I bought the book.
Delicate Balance . . .a romance (The Blair Brothers Book 1) by Brooke St. James turned out to be a fun, quick read. Henry and Aiden have known of each other for years. Everyone who’s lived in Astoria long knows of Henry’s family. But when his family is seated in her section to waitress at work, Aiden finds herself with the chance to get to know him for real.
Acquaintances turn to friends turn to . . .maybe more? Who’s to say for sure? The signals are there, unless they aren’t. Maybe it’s all wishful thinking. Aiden and Henry second guess each other’s feelings while trying to put the lid on their own. It doesn’t work for either of them. But it’s not a smooth road to romance.
Family drama, self-doubt, and misunderstanding all play a part in keeping this couple from realizing what they are to each other. They also play key roles, along with the chemistry between Aiden and Henry, in making Delicate Balance an entertaining story. And it all started with that man bun.
By the Book: The conversations started when opposite sides discuss hair styles and pizza toppings can be a fun way to pass the time. But there are times when opinions have no place in the conversations. The topics of sin, salvation, and who God is are spelled out clearly in scripture. When we try to apply human opinion to a matter already decided by our Creator, we make a mess of everything. That’s why it’s important to take to heart the direction in 2 Timothy 2:15. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” It’s through getting to know God through His word that we are able to understand what’s already been decided by God and learn how to live inside His will.

What I’m Reading -Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe

macaronsSometimes it’s the name of the author or the back cover copy. This time it was the cover. The title is written in a fun, laid back script. The woman is blurry, but her hands are not. And those hands are holding colorful macarons.

Before Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe, I’d heard of Carla Laureano. You can’t follow authors on social media without hearing about her. The Saturday Night Supper Club was everywhere I looked for a while. Now, this second installment is taking it’s place in all the posts. I’ve still not read the first book. I considered it, but this one was on sale. It made my decision easy. My only concern was whether or not I would be lost reading stories out of order. I didn’t need to worry. I had no trouble keeping up, and I don’t think you would either.

Anyway, back to the colorful macarons. I’ve never had a macaron. In all my amateur baking, I’ve never had occasion to make them. But they definitely caught my attention and convinced me to check out the blurb on back. Finding out the story centered on a baker pushed me over the line from curiosity to “buy this now”. With the button successfully pushed, I began the story.

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe follows Melody Johansson, a dreamer that feels locked into her life. Her hopes of owning a bakery seem impossible. Her desire for a love life where she’s good enough is an even bigger impossibility. Her track record is awful, and she’s decided she can’t trust her heart to lead her to the guy God has for her.

This is where Justin Keller enters the story. Their attraction is immediate, but he decided long ago that lasting love and the pilot’s life can’t coexist. He won’t go for anything more than a casual date, and he won’t go after any woman who might want more. And Melody definitely projects wanting more.

Circumstances throw them together, and against their better judgment they both seek more time together. As they come to the place of hoping for a future with each other, Melody finds the pieces of her life coming together in unexpected ways. A cutting loss allows her the opportunity to follow her dream and open a bakery with her best friend. Her roots are quickly becoming firmly planted in Colorado.

But Justin’s are taking him to Florida. He’s agreed to go in business with his brother-in-law for the sake of his sister’s health. It’s the roadblock he’s ignored as he and Melody get to know each other. As his plans force him to consider a swift end to their relationship, Justin knows neither heart will escape unscathed.

The bitter and the sweet events of the past have shaped both their lives and outlooks. They’ve also worked together to bring Melody and Justin together, whether for a time or forever.

Isn’t it the same for us? Bitter and sweet mingling together to create the story of lives. And isn’t it encouraging to know the One who is working to create that life knows exactly how much of each is needed to create the most beautiful story possible?

What I'm Reading -Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe

macaronsSometimes it’s the name of the author or the back cover copy. This time it was the cover. The title is written in a fun, laid back script. The woman is blurry, but her hands are not. And those hands are holding colorful macarons.
Before Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe, I’d heard of Carla Laureano. You can’t follow authors on social media without hearing about her. The Saturday Night Supper Club was everywhere I looked for a while. Now, this second installment is taking it’s place in all the posts. I’ve still not read the first book. I considered it, but this one was on sale. It made my decision easy. My only concern was whether or not I would be lost reading stories out of order. I didn’t need to worry. I had no trouble keeping up, and I don’t think you would either.
Anyway, back to the colorful macarons. I’ve never had a macaron. In all my amateur baking, I’ve never had occasion to make them. But they definitely caught my attention and convinced me to check out the blurb on back. Finding out the story centered on a baker pushed me over the line from curiosity to “buy this now”. With the button successfully pushed, I began the story.
Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe follows Melody Johansson, a dreamer that feels locked into her life. Her hopes of owning a bakery seem impossible. Her desire for a love life where she’s good enough is an even bigger impossibility. Her track record is awful, and she’s decided she can’t trust her heart to lead her to the guy God has for her.
This is where Justin Keller enters the story. Their attraction is immediate, but he decided long ago that lasting love and the pilot’s life can’t coexist. He won’t go for anything more than a casual date, and he won’t go after any woman who might want more. And Melody definitely projects wanting more.
Circumstances throw them together, and against their better judgment they both seek more time together. As they come to the place of hoping for a future with each other, Melody finds the pieces of her life coming together in unexpected ways. A cutting loss allows her the opportunity to follow her dream and open a bakery with her best friend. Her roots are quickly becoming firmly planted in Colorado.
But Justin’s are taking him to Florida. He’s agreed to go in business with his brother-in-law for the sake of his sister’s health. It’s the roadblock he’s ignored as he and Melody get to know each other. As his plans force him to consider a swift end to their relationship, Justin knows neither heart will escape unscathed.
The bitter and the sweet events of the past have shaped both their lives and outlooks. They’ve also worked together to bring Melody and Justin together, whether for a time or forever.
Isn’t it the same for us? Bitter and sweet mingling together to create the story of lives. And isn’t it encouraging to know the One who is working to create that life knows exactly how much of each is needed to create the most beautiful story possible?

Right Stuff Wednesday: Making Rainbows

“Finally the Rainbow Fish has only one shining scale left. His most prized possessions had been given away, yet he was very happy.” – The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

It’s easy to get distracted by the things we don’t have. According to the society I live in, I don’t have a lot of worthwhile material possessions. I’ve never owned a new car. I’ve never been to Disney World or Ireland which are the two very different places topping my dream vacations list. I have doors in my home that need replaced, not to mention the flooring and a couple ceilings with water damage. My emergency savings consists of a prayer for God to keep emergencies away just a little while longer.

The tricky thing about material possessions is that rich and poor are all in the eye of the beholder. Even down the road, there are those who are far worse off than my family. My home doesn’t leak (mostly). I have running water and electricity. I have a television and internet. My car may be well-used, but I own it. My clothes may be old, but I have warm clothes for winter and cooler ones for summer. If I need a gallon of milk, I can empty my change jar and go buy one. I have all I need and then some. To some people I am beyond rich in my possessions, and you don’t have to go to a third world country to find those people.

If these things are the things I prize most, I’m missing out. God has blessed me, but it goes far beyond whether or not I own a television or a car. God has given me a family to love that loves me back. My husband, children, children in-laws, parents, grandparents, siblings, and cousins overflow the holiday dinner table when they all show up. And even though I’m no social butterfly, God has blessed me with friends at work, home, church, and various ministries. All these people provide support, encouragement, and challenge to me in my life and faith. Laughter or tears, it doesn’t matter. These people are there for both. But even these are not the greatest blessing in my life.

God has given me all these wonderful things and people, but He has also given me Himself. God looked into my life and saw my sin. My failures were evident to Him. He created me, and He knows my propensity for getting it wrong when I want to get it right. But God looked into my life and saw someone He loved no matter my mistakes. He saw someone He wanted a relationship with. He saw this, and He saw my hopelessness. He knew I could never do anything to fix the relationship sin had broken between us. But he didn’t leave me to wallow in the results of my sin. Instead, He chose to send His Son to take the punishment for my sin. He extended mercy and provided the way to forgiveness, the way to reconciliation with Himself. He gave me the way to be friends with Him again. And He didn’t stop there.

Once I accepted God’s gift of forgiveness, He chose to bless me further. He sent the Holy Spirit to live inside me to guide, teach, and correct me. He gave me His word to learn how to live like Him. And He gave me the opportunity to use my interests, talents, and the lessons He teaches me to encourage and challenge others. He lets me be part of letting others know about His gift of love.

God allows me a place in His plan, but it isn’t because of something wonderful about me. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”

It’s all about Him working in and through me. These are the greatest blessings in my life. The other things will wear away or fail me at some point. But the treasure of God’s love and salvation won’t wear out or fail me. That’s the kind of possession to treasure above all else.

That’s why it’s important for me to take a lesson from the rainbow fish. He didn’t hoard his treasure. He gave it away. It made his world a better place for others and himself too. I need to remember that in my life of faith. I could hoard all I receive from God, but there is enough of His love for everyone. I need to share His love in my words and my actions. I need to love others the way God loves me. When I give this treasure away, God becomes clearer to those around me. They seek Him, the salvation He offers, and the love He freely gives. As others come to know God, their lives and the world we live in are changed for the better. And that’s something we can all be happy about.

Crooked Calendars in 2019

calendarChristmas gifts added several things to my writing space this year. I got a new lap desk to use with my lap top, almost a necessity since I refuse to write at an actual desk. Although it arrived a few days after Christmas, I received the latest edition of The Christian Writers Market Guide. And even though it couldn’t be wrapped up in a shiny box under the tree, I was also given membership in ACFW. Now, if I can just find time to use the site to its fullest potential, it will help me in my writing journey.

I asked for all of these things because I believe they will be beneficial to me as an author. But there is one gift, or maybe four depending on how you look at it, that has already started helping me in more ways than I originally hoped it would. I spent part of the day after Christmas hanging four dry-erase wall calendars on my office wall behind my writing chair. Four? Yes, four. If I wanted to track that many months at a time, why didn’t I simply get a planner? I’m horrible with using planners. I start off with great intentions, but I fail before I’m out of January. Dry erase boards are different.

These four calendars help me track a quarter of the year at a time. And I put them up for a specific purpose. One of my goals for 2019 is to improve in my marketing ability. With a full-time non-writing job, it’s hard to keep on top of things. With purple representing people scheduled to be guests on my blog and orange showing times I’m scheduled to appear on other people’s blogs, a quick look at my calendars can give me all the information I need to determine where I need to step up my game and where I’m doing alright.

I also don’t have to find my calendar every time I want to record something. I grab a marker out of the marker basket hanging on the wall and fill in as much or as little detail as I want. A planner is always a bit inconvenient. You have to carry it with you at all times or go find it every time you need it. I don’t have time for that. Besides, I’m notorious for losing things. I can’t count the number of times in a week I have to grab my spare keys because my main set is not where I thought I left it.

I asked for these four calendar boards for these reasons, but they’ve also proved useful in an unexpected way. If you actually look at the boards hanging on the wall, you can see the boards on the right are about ¼ of an inch away from being level. I purposely hung the bottom right one that way so it matched the top right one. I figured it would bother me less that way! But originally, all four boards were meant to be straight and level. I measured each one with a tape measure and pencil. I even measured multiple times before drilling the holes I needed in the wall. My first attempt left me feeling pretty good about my abilities. I placed the calendar on the hooks, and it lined up perfectly. The second one deflated my ego a bit as I realized I’d miscalculated somewhere. Maybe I stepped on the end of the tape measure with more pressure and forced it further into the carpet? I don’t know. But it’s a little off.

Why didn’t I use a laser level to project a beautifully, perfectly straight line on my wall to mark my drilling spots? It makes sense. It would have been nice. My calendars would all be straight. There was just one problem. I don’t own a level. The tool I needed to do my job efficiently and completely successfully was missing from my tool box. The result is a functional wall of calendars that would drive some people crazy due to ¼ of an inch.

When I look at my calendar, I’m reminded how important the proper tools can be. In writing this doesn’t mean I can’t write without the physical tools like my wall calendars or my lap desk. These are frills that make things easier, but they aren’t the tools that will improve me as an author. Taking time to learn from and network with other authors who are farther into their writing journey can help tremendously. Reading books on the craft of writing and the marketing side of writing will help equip me to be more proficient and efficient in what I do. Taking part in local writing groups, interacting on ACFW boards, and attending conferences are all tools authors have available to do their job and do it well.

As we come into a new year, I want to become better about using the tools I have as a writer. But more important than that, I want to apply the lesson to my faith walk. I’ve been given all the tools I need to live a life of faith that will add up to hearing “well done good and faithful servant” when my time on earth is done. There are churches on every corner, apps let us take the Bible with us everywhere, devotions and Christian living books are easily found on every topic, Christian radio can fill our cars and homes with praise, and guided journals provide easy ways to track our ups and downs. But all of these are just the extras. They aren’t the tools we have to have. They are the tools we use to make the journey a more pleasant experience. They help us, but just like my tape measure and pencil were not the perfect tools for hanging my calendars, these tools alone are not the perfect tools for growing my faith. When Jesus went back to heaven, He promised help in the form of the Holy Spirit to live in the heart of each believer. The Holy Spirit teaches and corrects us. I need to commit to listening to His quiet voice with more consistency. God gave us prayer as the way to communicate directly with Him.  It’s a powerful tool that too often gets relegated to the equivalent of rubbing a genie’s lamp and making a wish. I need to be vigilant to fashion my prayers and my reasons for them after the examples given in scripture. And that’s the final tool I need in my toolbox of faith, God’s word. Without scripture we can’t get the full picture of who God is. Scripture is able to cut to the heart of the matter and show us where our motivations fall short of our loving God. It is God’s word to us about how to live like Jesus lived. It gives us encouragement, strength, comfort, and correction. It doesn’t stop at leading us to salvation. It provides the instruction we need to live a life of faith and walk in close communion with God.

Have I been using these tools the way God intended when He gifted them to me? Do I study His word, listen to the Holy Spirit, and pray with the motives of His will being done? I have all the right tools. I need to use them. What about you?

By the Book: Read the following scriptures referenced in this devotion. Matthew 25:14-23, Luke 22:41-42, John 15:26, Acts 1:8, Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:16

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