By the Book

where a love of God and good books meet

Tag: children’s book quotes (page 1 of 2)

New Beginnings

“’Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’

‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.”

– Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Pen writing once upon a time on blank paper

It never fails. The sudden flip of the switch turning on the light bulb of an awesome idea comes when you’re smack dab in the middle of your current project. You may grab a notebook and jot it down for later or even take the time to type out the opening paragraphs to use when your time is your own. But first things first, you have to finish what you’re working on. You’ve got a deadline and a blank page to fill.

In my last post, I discussed the difficulty of endings and that anxious feeling one gets when the end is in sight but still unreached. When you’ve got a new project waiting, the feeling intensifies. You’ve tried to purge it from your mind so you can continue on with your Work In Progress, but it calls to you from where it’s hidden in the dark corner of your mind. You keep telling it to hush until finally, your WIP is complete. You’re free of the deadlines and free to pursue a new WIP.

You approach your idea file almost bursting with anticipation. You flip through each possibility wanting to make the right choice. All the voices of all the ideas shout for your attention, but one invariably raises its voice above the others. This is the idea you choose to pursue. The others slink back to their hiding spots in those dark corners of your mind, pouting until their turn finally comes.

You turn on your laptop and open your word processing program. A blank page fills the screen full of possibilities and waiting to be full of life. The cursor blinks in anticipation of the words that will soon cover the page. It’s time. The idea steps into the light, and its energy courses through you and into your fingertips loosing itself through each touch of the keyboard.

Worlds take shape. Fully formed characters emerge to take their place on the stage your idea created. Characters and plot step in time together creating a beautiful dance of tension and resolution in the ballroom of your setting. It’s a passionate dance that will leave future readers steeped in emotion and fully invested in it. The story becomes a thing of unrivaled beauty. And it all starts with a new beginning.

By the Book: With the three books in Katie’s story complete, I find myself at a place of beginning. I love Katie’s story, but I can’t deny the fresh dose of excitement I feel for my new WIP. Starting something new can be scary, but it can also infuse your life with new energy and excitement. If you’re facing a new beginning with trepidation but know it is where God would have you, pray for Him to reveal aspects of this change that you can be excited about. Ask Him to give you a different perspective about this new adventure and fill you with hope and anticipation for it.

Different Voices

“The baby owls thought (all owls think a lot) – ‘I think she’s gone hunting,’ said Sarah. ‘To get us our food!’ said Percy. ‘I want my mommy!’ said Bill.” – Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Mother Owl and Babies

 All parents of small children know there are some nights you dread story time. When your little angel asks you to read Elmo Blows His Nose (I made that title up, but you know they publish things like this all the time) or some other equally unimpressive and unimaginative story for the thousandth time, all you can do is suffer through. You remind yourself that you’re spending time with your child and instilling a life-long love of reading (at least that’s what the research says).

But there are those nights when the book really is a wonderful story and a joy to read. I always felt that way about Owl Babies. The premise is simple and taps into every young child’s need for family and security. The illustrations are dark and earthy, perfect for a story about owls in the woods. But what I really loved about reading Owl Babies to my children was the fun I got to have playing with voices.

Sarah, Percy, and Bill are siblings as unique as my own children. Each has a different personality and way of relating to the news of their missing mother. Sarah always sounds so grown up in my head. I give her a steady, logical tone. Percy jumps on whatever bandwagon of thought Sarah voices, only he is a little younger and more excitable. That always factors into the way I read his lines. Then there’s Bill. Poor little, nearly hysterical Bill. The baby of the owl family. Each consecutive “I want my mommy!” gets a little more desperate when I read his lines. And their differences each spoke to my children in different ways. Each child had an owl sibling they related to most because the author took time to make them unique.

They may be owls in a children’s book, but what made it a joy to read Owl Babies to my children is something we need to remember in our own writing. Each character has their own personality, their own sound. The rhythm and speed with which they speak is unique. Even the area they came from plays a part in how they sound. (I can’t help but think of the line from Sweet Home Alabama. You know the one. “Honey, just cause I talk slow doesn’t mean I’m stupid.”) And a character’s actions before, during, and after they speak can highlight their differences even more.

It’s important to consider all of these things when writing dialog for a character. If something they say is out of their norm, it’s important to note the difference and give clues as to why it happened. Is the uneducated, poor serving girl trying to impress the rich, handsome duke? Her speech will be different when addressing him than when she is in the privacy of her own hovel.  Is the bear of a lawman dealing with a small, frightened child? He may lower himself to the child’s level and speak in softer, easier tones to coax the child into doing what is needed. But when he’s interrogating the culprit, he’s back to barking orders, red face and all.

When authors take the time to understand their character’s way of speaking and interacting with the world around them, the reader gets a more well-rounded, relatable character. It works whether that character is a person or a baby owl. By leaving the cookie cutters behind and letting each character be their own person, we give our readers more to relate to in our story. The more they relate, the more the pages will turn, and the more the messages of our stories will be heard.

By the Book: It’s important to remember God gifted each of us with unique personalities, interests, and experiences. Sometimes it’s hard, but try to take time to appreciate these differences I the people you interact with each day. When it’s especially hard, make it a practice to think about the difference you are having trouble with and turn it around. When could that trait come in handy? What situation might benefit from having that personality type? Thank God for His foresight to make us each uniquely suited for the purpose He has for us.  

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.

Changing Winds and a Chance to Win

mary“‘I’ll stay till the wind changes,’ she said.” Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

The winds have changed directions unexpectedly and drastically in the few weeks since summer began.

In my writing life, the changes have been wonderful. God blessed me with the opportunity to grow as a writer through attendance at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and the KenTen Writers Retreat. Gorgeous, peaceful scenery surrounded me at both. And in addition to everything I learned, I got to connect with other writers of faith. It is an incredible encouragement to spend time with people who love the same things you do, minister to others the same way you do, and understand the joys and struggles of that ministry because they’ve been through it like you have.

The winds changed for my family while I was at my second conference. Both my mother and I were away from home during this time. This left my grandmother’s caregiver and my aunt by choice to care for my elderly grandmother in our absence.

The diseases of dementia and Alzheimer’s do not play nice. The most loving, sweet, and considerate people can become irritable, impatient, and rude. Dealing with outbursts and hatefulness day after day is taxing. It doesn’t matter that it’s uncontrollable and far from personal. It takes its toll. I got the call on Wednesday that Friday would be the caregiver’s last day with Granny. My mother would not arrive home from her mission trip until Sunday evening.

With the exception of the two and a half days I attended the conference, I’d already been taking the evening, night, and early morning shifts with Granny while my mother was out of town. The caregiver’s departure didn’t change that. But those winds of change blew through hard and fast when my mother asked me to consider taking the caregiver position. My mom knew she could not give 24/7 care to Granny. She understood that Granny related better to family than anyone else. And she wasn’t ready to consider a nursing home for the woman who has given so much of herself to her family through the years, especially when she would be aware of her surroundings.

My husband and I took as much time as we could to pray and discuss our options. That Friday, I turned in my notice at work. I would finish out the next week, before becoming Granny’s caregiver. Yesterday I said good-bye to the people I’ve worked with for almost two years. It’s bittersweet. And before you ask, no, I do not feel prepared for what’s ahead.

In fact, one thing I’ve already learned in taking care of Granny is that the winds change constantly. What brings peace one day may induce frustration on the next. And the days can go from sunny and bright to dark and stormy in seconds. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. But she is my grandmother, and she needs me. I will continually seek God’s wisdom, pray for grace and mercy, and love her as best I can.

These changing winds are why you have a quote today in place of “What I’m Reading”. With everything happening at once, I’ve not been reading this week. I’m going to look through my TBR pile tonight and hope something jumps out at me. It’s my plan to have everything in my blogging world back to normal this week.

Before I go for today, I promised in the title a chance to win something. The something is a copy of my second book, Grasping Hope. I was interviewed by Hallee Bridgeman this week. There were some unique questions included that I had a lot of fun answering. And in the interview is the contest link. I hope you’ll take the time to stop by. You can find it here:  http://www.halleebridgeman.com/interview-with-heather-greer/

See you Monday!

If I Only Had the Nerve

cowardly lion.jpg“‘But how about my courage?’ asked the Lion, anxiously.
‘You have plenty of courage, I am sure,’ answered Oz. ‘All you need is confidence in yourself.'”  – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum

I realize this is a Write or Right Stuff Wednesday type post, but seeing as it’s Saturday, I didn’t think it would be proper to name it as such. And since I’ve just returned from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, I haven’t read anything new this week. I’m under a pretty tight deadline right now on book three, but I hope to return to the usual blog format in the next week or so. Forgive me for the lack of consistency!

This week was amazing. I met a lot of writers. Some are just starting out and others have written for years with many published books under their belts. We came from different areas of the world with different genres of interest and different home churches, but we were able to gather each day for worship. Then, we spent the day learning more about ourselves as writers, the craft of writing, and how to market. We encouraged each other as companions on the writing journey instead of competitors. We prayed with and for each other. We shared favorite writing tools and apps. We exchanged business cards to keep in touch. As I said, it was amazing, and I didn’t want to leave.

Thursday came and, ignoring my desires, the conference ended. I came home with a new excitement about all aspects of writing and ideas of how to find improvement in each one.

Riding that wave of excitement while browsing the aisles at Wal-Mart may not have been my best option. I needed ink. That’s all I needed. Yet the electronics aisle sent out a siren song that could not be ignored. My cart found its way there of its own volition, and I stood face to face with the smart phone accessories.

As I looked at the tripods available, I tried to tell myself they didn’t have the one I needed. The one the presenter used was more professional and versatile. This one was a tiny one that didn’t adjust in height. On the other hand, my budget is more of a non-adjusting budget and much less than a professional budget. Maybe it would work for what I needed. It did come with a blue-tooth remote to start and stop video or take pictures. That’s pretty important, right?

I picked it up.

But it’s only an idea. What if no one is interested in mini book review videos to pair with the written reviews on my website? It would be a total waste.

I put it back.

Of course, how will I know unless I try? It could be fun.

I picked it up again.

Fun? I don’t like having my picture taken, and my voice sounds so strange when recorded. Why would an introvert such as myself even be considering this foray into the videoed world? Honestly, nothing sounds more horrifying.

I put it back.

But didn’t I just spend the week reaching outside my comfort zone and interacting with strangers? Didn’t I just make myself say “hi” to them even before they said it to me? Didn’t I just spend the week learning all these great things to put into practice? And isn’t my tagline “where a love of God and good books meet”? And isn’t the message of God’s love for us and us loving Him back one I want to get into as many homes as possible? And wasn’t I considering that very thing when this idea struck?

I picked it up again. I made my way to the checkout line, and I completed my purchase before I could second (or third or fourth) guess myself. Excited for the possibilities, I put it together and tried it out. Success! The tripod holds the camera, and the remote starts and stops the video as it was designed to do. I texted a couple people who gave me the green light on the idea. Confidence boosted.

Now, the tripod sits on the shelf across from me waiting patiently for the first video. Or maybe it’s silently judging me from across the room for not having started my video review series yet. It’s hard to tell from this distance. Maybe it’s reserving judgment until a time when it can accurately determine if I’m ever going to work up the nerve for the first video. Of course, more than likely, it is an inanimate object and doesn’t have an opinion one way or the other.

I suppose I could be putting my own feelings onto the tripod. It is a rather small one to carry such heavy thoughts. I want to pursue the things I know to pursue in effort to live out the purpose God has for my life. I don’t want a lack of confidence to keep me from making the most of the things He has brought into my life. But going against my introverted nature is a significant task.

I can avoid this particular activity without fear of falling into disobedience. I don’t think God actually instructed me to take this path. I don’t feel His hand pushing me to do it. I believe it is simply one more way I can take, if I so desire, to broaden the avenue where His message can be heard. But the idea is there, and it will not let me go. I know the idea will not make or break anything in my life. God has given me a ministry, and He is the one who will bring the results. It is my job to keep moving forward. And like the cowardly lion, I hope I find the courage is already inside me and I have the confidence I need to free it to move forward. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Right Stuff Wednesday:New Growth

grape hyacinth“No great wisdom can be reached without sacrifice.” The Magician’s Nephew – C.S. Lewis

I have a flower garden in my front yard. Well, technically it’s true. I have a spot dedicated to growing flowers, but my roses are dead. The trees growing in them saw to that. And I’m pretty sure my hydrangea has decided against life this year. I knew better than getting plants that need constant care and attention. I’ve never been good at remembering to feed, water, and prune my flowers. Due to lack of care-taking most things I plant end up dead.

In fact, the only thing even close to growing in my garden is a sprinkling of grape hyacinth. Even these grow outside the borders of the garden. And they come up each year through no help from me. They are remnants of a garden past.

Before the rose bushes and hydrangea I had the brilliant idea of planting a bulb garden. I love tulips, iris,and daffodils. Not only are these beautiful flowers to look at, they are also flowers you can plant once and not have to replace each year. For a non-gardener it was a definite bonus.

I planted my garden and waited until the next spring, eager for the bright spots of color. Nothing happened. My mother assured me it can take a couple years for bulbs to really take root and grow. The next year brought only a couple flowers. The third year offered no more than the previous two.

It was around year four I decided bulbs were just not meant to grow in my garden. I dug them up with a vengeance. I pulled each bulb from the dirt and tossed it into my yard. Then, I planted my roses and hydrangea. Good riddance to the bulb garden that wouldn’t grow.

Imagine my surprise when the next year, my bulbs began to come up. A few rogue bulbs must have hidden beyond my spade in the garden’s soil. Grape hyacinth and crocus peeked from the dirt in early spring. And outside the garden’s borders? I didn’t think I had planted that many flowers! It baffled me.

In the years the bulbs were planted in the garden, I weeded and watered the spot. I made sure the area had adequate sunshine. I thought it was everything my bulbs needed, but I was wrong. The soil had settled. Left on its own the ground I expected to grow my bulbs became their tomb. Little could get through the packed dirt. My bulbs needed the soil surrounding them shaken up. Only when I loosened the dirt did my bulbs finally begin to grow.

Sacrifice, change, adversity. These are events in our lives that often cause fear and anxiety. The unknown (or the known we perceive as negative) seems far beyond our control and the idea that the end could mean unavoidable disaster is unsettling to say the least. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The circumstances in our lives may very well cause pain. They shake loose the dirt around the carefully constructed garden of our lives. They leave us wondering if it would be better to simply start over. But God is a master gardener. He can use those times in our lives to get to the seed of faith within and get it to grow in ways we never imagined.

God promises to use all situations in our lives to bring good if we will let Him do His work. It may sound cliche because we hear it so often, but this scriptural promise is truth. It’s not saying God will make the rain disappear and allow only rainbows and sunshine. The rain is needed as much as the sun. And God knows how much of each will create the perfect blossom in our lives.

If you wonder how this can be true, take a look at David. Hunted at times by the current king and later his own flesh and blood, there were definite storms in his life. But in those times, God was shaping David into the leader He wanted. David’s heart of worship was poured out in the creation of several psalms during these times. Not only did these words bring peace and hope to his life, but they’ve survived centuries to bring the same to our lives.

Look at Esther. She was plucked from her people and subjected to a beauty contest. The prize was marrying a difficult king she didn’t love. Though she found favor with him, her people were threatened with genocide. She had to go against the required royal protocol and put her own life in jeopardy in order to bring her fears to her husband’s attention. The end result? God used Esther to safeguard the nation of Israel. He used her to unite the people in prayer. He used her to show His chosen people He would be with them wherever they went.

These stories are only a couple of the many from the Bible and our lives that bring to life the truth of the scripture we hear so often. They give us hope when life gets tough. They remind us that this is how our garden of faith grows.

Right Stuff Wednesday:Adventuring with Alice and the Pevensie Children

alice“It’s no use to go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” – from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carol

Think about the life of your favorite book character. What draws you to that person? Do you see a bit of yourself in them? Can you relate to their struggles? Or do you find a challenge to be more than you are as you consider their life?

Whatever draws you to them, one thing is certain. The best characters grow throughout their story. It’s story writing 101. Your character develops as your story progresses. A stagnant character is more than likely a boring character.

The same circumstances will change each character in a different way. Consider the four Pevensie children in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. They faced the same circumstances, but their own personalities shaped how they saw those experiences and their reactions. The end result was four children growing in ways unique to them.

This personalizing of the character’s responses and their individual growth may be part of what draws us to one character over another. I may relate to and learn from Lucy while you may aspire to be like Peter. Of course, maybe you’ve felt like you had to prove yourself and come up on the failing end one too many times. If so, Edmund’s journey from failure to redemption may be the most inspiring part of the story for you.

To see a beloved character revert to behaviors they’ve previously grown out of can break a reader’s heart. We want more for the characters we love. They’ve changed. We know they have, and we know it is pointless for them to return to the more immature version of themselves. Who they were yesterday has no place in their today. They’re different now.

As frustrating and heartbreaking as it can be for a reader to see this happen in the fictional world an author has created, it’s worse when we see it in our own families. The consequences in a book end with the last chapter. The consequences in the real world can continue for generations. Especially as a spouse or parent, watching our loved ones fall into old patterns of behavior hurts. Seeing the pain they inflict on themselves can cause our own emotions to bounce between disbelief, anger, disappointment, and hurt.

If it’s this way for us, imagine what it’s like for God. We are His creation. When we accept God’s forgiveness and salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are reconciled to God. But He doesn’t stop at offering us a Savior and saved relationship. God adopts us into His family. He makes us His children. And He doesn’t leave us unchanged.

Scripture is filled with examples of the need to grow as believers. We’re compared to babies as we start our faith walks, but we’re encouraged to learn and grow into spiritual adulthood. We’re instructed to be dead to sin and our old self and alive to God. We’re told to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. God tells us we are new creations and the old us has passed away.

God’s word also warns us that we will battle the old self. Paul speaks of wanting to do the things that please God but finding himself doing the opposite. We are not slaves to sin anymore, but there are times we live like we are. We are human, and we fail. We revert to old patterns. We forget who we are and whose we are. We slide back into the old self, and we pay the price. Our witness is weakened and our relationship with God becomes strained. Those are just spiritual effects. Depending on what we slip back to, there can be physical consequences for us and those we love.

How must God feel when He sees us revert to our old selves? He knows more completely than any earthly parent the harm those ways cause. He knows how much better the path He sets out for our lives is for us. He wants His best for us and sees us choose the refuse of our old lives over and over again. Can you imagine the disappointment and hurt that must cause?

But also consider the joy when we choose to be who we are today instead of trying to be who we were yesterday? Nothing brings me greater happiness than seeing my children learn from mistakes and grow into more of who God designed them to be. Through grace and mercy, failure is not once and for all. They can find forgiveness and turn away from the person they were yesterday. When they do, my mother’s heart celebrates. God’s joy is more complete than my own, and it isn’t reserved for our children. It’s meant for His children and that includes me and you.

Like Alice we need to understand that being who we were yesterday is not an option. We need to keep changing and growing.  In stories it’s called character development. For us? I’d have to say it’s character development too.

 

 

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.

Write Stuff Wednesday: Max and the Prodigal

wild“’Now stop!’ Max said and sent the wild things off to bed without their supper. And Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.” – Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

My husband and daughter love this book. He read it to her when she was little. Surprisingly, I never read it as a child. We didn’t own it when our sons were small, and they never had the chance to read it as children. I couldn’t tell you if they’ve read it now or not. I kind of hope they have.

As I read this quote tonight, it made me think about the story in a new way. I’m sure Mr. Sendak didn’t mean it as such, but I see a lot of the prodigal in Max. Stick with me for a moment.

Max is a spirited young boy. He has a good home and a loving parent. But sometimes his strong will gets him into a little bit of trouble. He doesn’t always like his mother’s rules fails to exercise good judgement. This tendency lands him in his room without his supper.

But Max is an imaginative little boy. He’s not going to let a little thing like his parent’s rules stop him from having the life of fun and adventure he wants.  Not a chance. Max decides to run away, if only in his imagination. He leaves his parent’s home and sails for a faraway land full of creatures that should be scary to a small boy. These are creatures with wild ways that love to party. They are capable of ending Max’s life with a single swat of their giant claws. But they don’t. They make him their king. He leads them in their rumpus.

Eventually, the rumpus comes to an end. The monsters sleep, and Max is left to consider what he’s really accomplished by running away. He has the monsters. They may fear him, but they don’t have the one thing he wants more than playmates and freedom to do only what he desires. They don’t have unconditional love for Max. Knowing this leaves Max feeling completely alone. He always had love at his parent’s home. His mother always loved him, even when he was wild and rude. She loved him when he was unlovable. She loved him even when she had to give him consequences for his choices.

Realizing this, Max is left with one choice. He boards his boat and heads home with the wild things begging him to stay. That isn’t the life he wants. He wants a life of love. He wants a life with his mother. But will she have him? Yes. Max knows even after all he’s done, his mother loves him still. He knows because she left his dinner for him.

What an awesome picture of the biblical story of the prodigal son. What a great reminder for each of us. Sometimes we are Max. Sometimes we are the prodigal. We fight to go our own way.  We tire of God’s expectations and grow frustrated with situations that don’t work out the way we believe they should. We fool ourselves into thinking we can do better on our own. We storm off in our boats and join the wild things. But soon, reality hits and we realize we are alone. The things that we gained by joining the rumpus are empty. We are alone in our tent while the wild things sleep around us. Or if you prefer, we are in the pen with the pigs.

The joys we experienced with God come back to us. We’re reminded of the peace, strength, and direction He provided. Most of all, we remember His love. It draws us into the boat and across the waves. It brings us with a repentant heart back to Him. And we find He has already prepared for our return. His arms are open wide to receive us, and our supper is waiting.

By the Book: If you aren’t familiar with it (and even if you are) take a moment to read the story of the prodigal son. You can find it in Luke 15.

Right Stuff Wednesday – Very Bad Days

Have I told you that I love quotes? I do. I love movie quotes, quotes famous people, and quotes from books. But some of my favorite quotes come from children’s books. The ability to wrap up an adult sized truth in a package that children can understand and relate to is amazing. The fact that the words are as meaningful to adults as they are to the books’ youthful audience makes them nothing short of beautiful.

“It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. My mom says some days are like that.” – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

It’s a simple end to a story chronicling the misadventures of a young boy. Nothing seems to go right for the story’s main character. At the end, there is no redemption. He simply states what a horrible day it has been, and his mother doesn’t attempt to talk him out of it. She doesn’t point out all that’s gone right. She simply agrees. Yes, some days are like that.

I’ve had days like that. I’m sure you have too. No matter what you try nothing seems to work the way you planned. Those days leave me wondering why I didn’t stay nestled in my comfy bed. Too bad hibernation is not a valid method of dealing with things.

Then, there are those events and issues in our lives that encompass more than a single day. They are those heartbreaking, spirit shaking pains that are light years away from the troubles of a bad day in childhood. No matter how they’re handled, it cannot be escaped. These trials change us.

In recent years it has become popular for believers to adopt an attitude that faith in God will protect us from the pains of life. If we believe enough and pray enough, God will bless us with only good things. Jesus tells us differently. He warns we will suffer for our faith. Men like Paul gave us God’s word on how to deal with hard times when they come. He wouldn’t need to if we wouldn’t face difficulties. Paul, himself, asked for a specific trial to be taken from him but God refused.

Life gets messy. Life can hurt. “Yes, some days are like that.” And some weeks, months, and years. But it doesn’t leave us without hope.

I have experienced pains I thought would break me. I have old wounds that cause me pain years after they were inflicted. Events beyond my control forever erased the way I thought life was going for me. I won’t get into specifics. I don’t need to. My trials may be different than yours, but I’m guessing yours probably left you feeling much the same way. The events causing our pains are different but it doesn’t make one more or less important. When someone experiences life changing situations, the initial results are the same. Confusion, hurt, and anger vie for our attention and energy.

But, and I don’t say this lightly, I don’t wish these experiences away. I learned more about God and myself during those times than I did on hundred bright, happy days. I was more focused and spiritually minded during these trials, and I realized how much I had taken my faith for granted. It sounds trite to someone who’s currently in the flames, but seeing where I am now, I appreciate the refining fire I found myself in.

Does this mean I want to go there again? Absolutely not. Does it make the pain of the old wounds disappear? No. But God might even take care of those one day. Do I find myself skipping through the heartaches with a smile? No. And I wouldn’t be even if I did regularly find myself skipping through my days. I cry. I get angry. I complain.

Then, I turn to the one place I know I can find strength and peace for the fight. I realize my limitations and my God’s limitlessness. I wish I could share with you an easy to follow five step plan for peace and contentment in the midst of devastation, but I can’t. I have lessons I’ve taken to heart from scripture. You might try Philippians 4 and Psalm 121. I often find direction and peace when I reflect on and put these into practice. But God is using these things to change each of us in a very personal way. Maybe your focus needs to be on God’s love where mine needs to be on His provision. Whatever it is we’re looking for, we can find it through God’s word, prayer, and the godly support of Christian friends.

This attitude adjustment isn’t easy. It’s not a quick fix. You’re still going to feel like some things are terrible and horrible. You may experience more days that seem no good and very bad. But you’ll notice the shift in perspective and be able to say, “Some days are like that.” And one day, if you let God work in you through the circumstances you may even realize that while you hated going through it, you’re grateful for the person they’ve grown you into. A person who is more Christ-like than the one that existed before the trial’s refining fire.

« Older posts

© 2019 By the Book

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑