By the Book

where a love of God and good books meet

Tag: fears

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.

 

A Snake in the Path

forest-438432_1280I was a carefree kid tromping through the woods behind our house. I wasn’t oblivious to the dangers that lurked there. The tunnels running under the highway that cut through the woods were dark and damp and the perfect hiding spot for snakes. I came across a very large black snake one afternoon when I rode my bike down our well-worn trails. So I knew they were there. But it didn’t keep me from the woods, and I didn’t need anyone to accompany me on my treks down the path of the creek.

I can’t pinpoint when it happened or why, but somewhere along the way I lost that carefree kid. I still enjoy a hike in the woods. I prefer the trails at Giant City State Park though. They’re clearly marked and regularly used. In my mind that means less chance of coming across and unwanted guest. Even then, I don’t like hiking them alone. I prefer cooler weather for hiking, late autumn or early spring. Reptiles, if they’re out, are sluggish in the cold. I stand a better chance of a successful getaway, at least I can tell myself that.

There are several areas of life where I don’t proceed with as much abandon as I once did. I didn’t give jumping into the muddy pond at church camp a second thought as a kid. Now you can’t pay me enough to get in it. The health department approves it each year, like it has to for every beach. But now, Tantor’s words from Tarzan ring in my mind. “Are you sure this water’s sanitary? It looks questionable to me.” And don’t even get me started on eating food with suspicious origins. I want to know who brought what to the potluck, and I’ll gag if I see someone double dipping. I’m not about to eat that dip anymore.

It’s not that I live in constant fear. I don’t have any phobias, and I don’t let these things keep me from doing what I want to do. But it’s interesting to me that I now give time to things I never considered as a kid. Fears like these are manageable. They’re really more of a nuisance. Other fears can be crippling. Just ask Jake Porter.

Jake, one of the main characters in A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade, knows about the kind of fear born out of trauma that digs its talons in and doesn’t let go. He was always cautious and provided a balance to the reckless abandon of his childhood friend Lyndie. He was beside her every step of the way. He protected her and respected her freedom when her ideas could land her in a mess. Then, she moved away, and Jake knew his first taste of loss.

His desire to protect and caution served him well in the military until a disastrous mission changed his life forever. Dealing with PTSD, Jake retreated to the solitude of home to train Thoroughbreds and shut out the world. When Lyndie marches back into his life, Jake’s tentative peace is shattered. Lyndie hasn’t changed. Her spirit is as free as it was in childhood. Her passion for riding and his desire to protect conflict.

Though they quickly find friendship again, it’s not without difficulties. As Jake’s feelings start to go in a more romantic direction, his fears threaten to keep a wall up between them. He can’t lose Lyndie, and Lyndie can’t settle down. Jake has to deal with his past and his fears or face losing his love for the second time.

While most of us won’t ever deal with circumstances that lead to PTSD, we still let fear influence our decisions. As believers we are taught that God has a plan for us. We have a purpose, and whatever ministry God has for us to accomplish, He will provide the way for it to work out the way He intends. Our heads know this. Sometimes our hearts forget.

No one wants to fail. That’s a big fear factor for a lot of people, myself included. The first time I gave Faith’s Journey to a professional author to read and tell me what she thought, I was terrified. What if she said it was awful? What if she told me I was wrong, that God wasn’t calling me to write anything because I couldn’t write? And if she did think it was worth something a whole new set of worries developed. It meant I was ready to send it to publishers and agents. What if I sent it out to everyone I could and no one wanted it? I knew that feeling from other projects I’d worked on, things that I believed in that no one I spoke with wanted to take on. But this book was different. This was the dream. I’d wanted to write Christian fiction for as long as I could remember. If no one wanted the other projects, their rejection stung but it wasn’t my first love. If no one wanted to take a chance on Faith’s Journey, it would be devastating.

I had a choice. I could let my fear keep me from going forward with what I felt in my heart God had called me to do, or I could work through my fear and send my manuscript out. More than I wanted success, I wanted to be a good steward of the passion and ministry I felt God had given me. Even if that meant no one wanted my book, I had to put my fear aside and send it. I queried a few agents and publishers. A few said no and that stung. But it made it sweeter when Mantle Rock Publishing said yes. In His time and in His way, God has brought me to where I am today. My first book has been out almost a year. In March the sequel arrives. And I’m currently working to wrap up Katie’s story in a way that will be honest and encouraging for readers.

None of this would have taken place if I hadn’t moved out of the place of fear and done what I felt God would have me do. It was mine to move when God said move and to trust God with the outcome.

Forgiving Isn't Easy

“Say you’re sorry and give each other a hug.”
Growing up, it’s likely we all heard this phrase. After the heartfelt “sorry” mumbled under the offender’s breath, the adult would turn to the offended. The new mandate became, “Now tell him you forgive him.” The offended would then mutter an equally heartfelt “I forgive you”.
The idea is good. Teach children to accept their wrongful actions or attitudes, while simultaneously giving them a lesson in forgiving wrongs done to them. Now, I’m not knocking the use of this tactic. I’m sure I even used it with my own children. Looking back, however, I can see some problems with the method.
Think about it. Was their ever a time when you followed your parent’s request with sincerity? Probably not. More than likely, you were still heated about whatever got you riled up enough to do whatever you did that you shouldn’t have done. Your apology, even asking them to forgive you, was empty of real feeling just like the hug that followed. The offended didn’t want your hug anyway. They definitely didn’t want to forgive you. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out from the glares and hateful mutterings that took place when parents weren’t watching.  The plea for forgiveness and the giving of it were meaningless, except to get you out of hot water with the adults. Besides, this method also teaches children that to extend forgiveness, forgiveness must be sought after by the offender. What happens when they run into people who hurt them without regret? Will they simply hold onto the wrong done to them?
I understand why adults try to instill the idea of seeking out and giving forgiveness. Children don’t realize how crucial these practices are to having healthy relationships, not just with others but with God. I’d wager a lot of adults don’t get it either. But harboring a grudge, not forgiving wrongs done to us, puts us in a dangerous place.
The residents of Hades, Mississippi found this out for themselves in Whitewashed, by Amy C. Blake. As she returns to her grandparents’ home to begin her journey into adulthood as a student at the local college, Patience believes everything is working out perfectly for her. It doesn’t take long for her path to become rocky. Verity College isn’t all she expects. Built out of an old plantation, the school is more run-down than she remembers. Add to that the sordid past of the plantation and undercurrents of distrust and dislike among the small town’s residents, and Patience soon finds herself tangled in a web of deceit and facing a mystery that could end up costing the lives of those she loves.
As the plantation’s past and Patience’s present are woven together, Patience has to work to find the truth before it’s too late. Patience’s quest for understanding is muddied by those who haven’t allowed themselves to forgive past wrongs. The grudges they carry make them all seem guilty, and Patience can’t see past that to find truth. In some, the hatred and lack of forgiveness has left them bitter and susceptible to rash actions. In one, it’s led to a broken mind and a sick plan to bring vengeance down on those who are seen as committing the wrongs. Finding truth would have been much easier for Patience if the people of Hades had practiced forgiveness.
While it takes a very broken person to let an unforgiving spirit lead them to a place of psychotic action, it doesn’t mean harboring an unforgiving spirit is safe for any of us. Forgiveness works to accomplish several things. For the one who offended, forgiveness can show the love of God. It can start the people involved on a path of healing for their relationship. It can help the offender more clearly relate his or her actions to the consequences of those actions for the one they hurt. Seeing first-hand the pain or hurt they caused can help keep them from practicing those behaviors again.
But what if the person doesn’t want or seek forgiveness? There are still benefits to forgiveness. First, scripture tells us that we are to forgive as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:31-32, Matthew 6:14-15, Colossians 3:13). That means we are to forgive freely, often, and before forgiveness is even sought. It’s not an option. When we withhold forgiveness, we sin. Our sin puts up walls between us and God. Forgiving others helps keep our relationship with God strong. Another positive effect of forgiving is that it frees our emotions from being controlled by what the other person has done. As long as we harbor a grudge against someone, we give them a measure of control in our lives. Because we are called to forgive as Christ forgives us, doing so helps us have a greater understanding of what Christ has done and continues to do for us.
Just because God asks us to forgive doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are some hurts so deep that giving up the right to hold those hurts against the offender is a definite struggle. Our temptation is to pick the pain back up each day, holding it close as a protective shield to keep from getting hurt again or fuel to keep our anger burning. This is especially true when the hurt comes from a betrayal or when the sin has hurt someone we love. In times like these, forgiveness may have to be a daily decision. But the good news is that forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice, and it is a choice that will make a huge difference in your life.
By the Book: Is there someone you are withholding forgiveness from? Consider how God has forgiven you. Ask Him to help you learn to extend that forgiveness to others.
Side note: It’s important to remember there is a difference between forgiving and putting yourself back into a bad situation. God requires forgiveness, but forgiveness does not always require a relationship to continue. Pray for God’s leading if you feel remaining in a situation may not be God’s best for you.

Forgiving Isn’t Easy

“Say you’re sorry and give each other a hug.”

Growing up, it’s likely we all heard this phrase. After the heartfelt “sorry” mumbled under the offender’s breath, the adult would turn to the offended. The new mandate became, “Now tell him you forgive him.” The offended would then mutter an equally heartfelt “I forgive you”.

The idea is good. Teach children to accept their wrongful actions or attitudes, while simultaneously giving them a lesson in forgiving wrongs done to them. Now, I’m not knocking the use of this tactic. I’m sure I even used it with my own children. Looking back, however, I can see some problems with the method.

Think about it. Was their ever a time when you followed your parent’s request with sincerity? Probably not. More than likely, you were still heated about whatever got you riled up enough to do whatever you did that you shouldn’t have done. Your apology, even asking them to forgive you, was empty of real feeling just like the hug that followed. The offended didn’t want your hug anyway. They definitely didn’t want to forgive you. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out from the glares and hateful mutterings that took place when parents weren’t watching.  The plea for forgiveness and the giving of it were meaningless, except to get you out of hot water with the adults. Besides, this method also teaches children that to extend forgiveness, forgiveness must be sought after by the offender. What happens when they run into people who hurt them without regret? Will they simply hold onto the wrong done to them?

I understand why adults try to instill the idea of seeking out and giving forgiveness. Children don’t realize how crucial these practices are to having healthy relationships, not just with others but with God. I’d wager a lot of adults don’t get it either. But harboring a grudge, not forgiving wrongs done to us, puts us in a dangerous place.

The residents of Hades, Mississippi found this out for themselves in Whitewashed, by Amy C. Blake. As she returns to her grandparents’ home to begin her journey into adulthood as a student at the local college, Patience believes everything is working out perfectly for her. It doesn’t take long for her path to become rocky. Verity College isn’t all she expects. Built out of an old plantation, the school is more run-down than she remembers. Add to that the sordid past of the plantation and undercurrents of distrust and dislike among the small town’s residents, and Patience soon finds herself tangled in a web of deceit and facing a mystery that could end up costing the lives of those she loves.

As the plantation’s past and Patience’s present are woven together, Patience has to work to find the truth before it’s too late. Patience’s quest for understanding is muddied by those who haven’t allowed themselves to forgive past wrongs. The grudges they carry make them all seem guilty, and Patience can’t see past that to find truth. In some, the hatred and lack of forgiveness has left them bitter and susceptible to rash actions. In one, it’s led to a broken mind and a sick plan to bring vengeance down on those who are seen as committing the wrongs. Finding truth would have been much easier for Patience if the people of Hades had practiced forgiveness.

While it takes a very broken person to let an unforgiving spirit lead them to a place of psychotic action, it doesn’t mean harboring an unforgiving spirit is safe for any of us. Forgiveness works to accomplish several things. For the one who offended, forgiveness can show the love of God. It can start the people involved on a path of healing for their relationship. It can help the offender more clearly relate his or her actions to the consequences of those actions for the one they hurt. Seeing first-hand the pain or hurt they caused can help keep them from practicing those behaviors again.

But what if the person doesn’t want or seek forgiveness? There are still benefits to forgiveness. First, scripture tells us that we are to forgive as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:31-32, Matthew 6:14-15, Colossians 3:13). That means we are to forgive freely, often, and before forgiveness is even sought. It’s not an option. When we withhold forgiveness, we sin. Our sin puts up walls between us and God. Forgiving others helps keep our relationship with God strong. Another positive effect of forgiving is that it frees our emotions from being controlled by what the other person has done. As long as we harbor a grudge against someone, we give them a measure of control in our lives. Because we are called to forgive as Christ forgives us, doing so helps us have a greater understanding of what Christ has done and continues to do for us.

Just because God asks us to forgive doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are some hurts so deep that giving up the right to hold those hurts against the offender is a definite struggle. Our temptation is to pick the pain back up each day, holding it close as a protective shield to keep from getting hurt again or fuel to keep our anger burning. This is especially true when the hurt comes from a betrayal or when the sin has hurt someone we love. In times like these, forgiveness may have to be a daily decision. But the good news is that forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice, and it is a choice that will make a huge difference in your life.

By the Book: Is there someone you are withholding forgiveness from? Consider how God has forgiven you. Ask Him to help you learn to extend that forgiveness to others.

Side note: It’s important to remember there is a difference between forgiving and putting yourself back into a bad situation. God requires forgiveness, but forgiveness does not always require a relationship to continue. Pray for God’s leading if you feel remaining in a situation may not be God’s best for you.

Even if He Does Not

We live in a scary world, full of unknowns. Yesterday, a boy opened fire on his classmates at a school two hours from where I live. I have friends watching the marriages of those they love fall apart. Other friends are supporting their loved ones as they deal with life-threatening diseases. Job losses, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks are a staple of the evening news.

Events like these leave a mark on our lives. They change and challenge us. They can leave us unsettled. There isn’t an answer out there that makes sense when a child, barely old enough for school, is fighting cancer. The idea that we live in a fallen, sinful world doesn’t make it easier to accept it when the relationship we’ve invested our energy in dissolves into lawyers, judges, and divorce.

These things happen, and we can’t make sense of why. The lack of control and understanding couple with the questions of what is going to happen next to create a perfect storm of fear swirling around us and, at times, in us. Fear is powerful. Fear has been the catalyst in many poor decisions. Fear has provided the bricks that have built walls between loved ones. Fear has dared hurting people to fire arrows of hate at the ones they’re supposed to love and protect in a warped attempt at protecting self. What causes one to fear may not faze another. It doesn’t make it less potent. And reactions to fear are as varied as the things we fear.

Some of these reactions are depicted in the fictional lives of Melody Mason and James Montgomery in A Melody for James, by Hallee Bridgeman. Melody faces betrayal and a near death experience before coming out on the other side in stubborn rebellion against her fears. Even facing a potentially dangerous stalker, Melody pushes through refusing to give in to fear. It’s not logical, but it’s what she feels she has to do to keep fear from controlling her life.

James, on the other hand, has known his share of loss. Without answers to questions of who or why, James learns there is only One he can lean on to get through. But faith doesn’t keep James from struggling when the past and present collide. The depth of loss he suffered paralyzes him as his path gets tangled up with Melody’s. The threat of losing all he’s worked for and cares about becomes a challenge to his faith. His desire to freeze and Melody’s desire to rebel against the fear pit the two against each other until their relationship comes to its breaking point. And it’s all because of fear.

Their fictional story rings true to our own struggles with fear, and I wish I had better answers for those times. So often, we fall back on scriptural reminders that God will work good out of any bad situation we face if we let Him. We remind ourselves that with His help we can do all things, and that includes going through whatever we are facing. We look at ourselves in the mirror are try to encourage ourselves with a pep talk that includes us not being given a spirit of fear.

All of these things are true. Each one of them has power to help us through the fear-filled times. But sometimes, we’ve heard them enough that we don’t really hear them anymore. We cling to the idea that we will get through this and be better than we were when we started. One way or another, that is true. But we tend to see it in very physical terms, that the situation will pass and all will be well.

A scripture I have been thinking about recently reminds me it doesn’t have to happen the way I want it to in order to believe God is still in complete control. “And they lived happily ever after” doesn’t need to take place for God to be worthy of my devotion and unwavering trust. It’s a story we’re all familiar with, and we focus on the good ending every time we tell it to a group of children in Sunday school. We recount the story of three brave young men who stood up to a king for their God, and they were rewarded with a trip to the fiery furnace. With gusto, we act out the declaration that there are not three but four walking around in the fire and one is like the Son of God! We revel in the calling of the men from the fire and the king’s change of heart. But that’s not the part of the story that has struck a chord with me.

I need you to back up a little. Go back to Daniel 3:17-18. “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” The three Israelites believed God would deliver them, but they didn’t have that promise. What they had was an angry king and a furnace hot enough to kill men who simply approached it. They had an unknown outcome, and a situation that would strike fear into the heart of the strongest of people. But they also had hope.

This hope wasn’t in God resolving the situation the way they wanted or even the way they believed He would. “But even if he does not”, that is a powerful statement. These young men knew they had no control over what the king would do to them, just as we can’t control what men are going to do in our lives. They knew they had no control over the outcome any more than we have control over the events in our lives. Like is so often the case, they didn’t have the answers to what was going to happen. What they did have was a deeply ingrained belief that whatever happened, God was in control and would not abandon them in their time of need. Even if God chose to let them die, they knew He was still being faithful to deliver them from this evil king into His presence. Their hope wasn’t in what man would do. Their hope was in who God was. And who God was, He still is. I pray when fear inspiring situations come into my life, I am able to stand as they did. I pray I can remain strong, with my hope anchored in who God is despite the storm raging in my life.

By the Book: To have hope in who God is, we have to know Him. Spend time searching out scriptures that remind you of who God is and what He is like.

It's a Mystery

It was a winding, narrow gravel road like any other country road. It led to Grandma Stearns’ farm. But there was a single stretch of that road lined with trees on both sides, as deep as you could see. Their limbs reached across the road creating a canopy overhead. This nature made tunnel was dark and cool. Sounds peaceful, right?
It might have been, if it weren’t for my older brothers. They informed me, while I was a young child, this stretch of road was called Sleepy Hollow. Now, I hadn’t read the book, and I didn’t know the story that well. What I did know was that a headless horseman terrorized and killed people in Sleepy Hollow.
Suddenly, that small piece of road became an endless tunnel of certain death. The shade became sinister, and evil lurked in the trees. I hated driving down that road. It made me anxious. Even today, as a logical adult, that old childhood anxiety sometimes tries to creep in. I blame my brothers.
Is it a trend for older brothers to traumatize their younger sisters? I can honestly say this isn’t the only time it happened in my childhood.  And experiences like this one taught me that I don’t like feeling anxious or afraid.
I believe it’s part of the reason I’ve never gravitated to reading mysteries. The unknown, especially when there is a sinister plotline, isn’t fun for me. It keeps me up at night and fuels bad dreams. My two favorite authors have challenged this dislike at times, and because of them, I’m branching out. I’m learning that just because something is a mystery doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it.
Linda Fulkerson proved this with her mystery, Dead Broke. I chose it to introduce myself to a new author, but I wasn’t quite sure I would like it. It’s a mystery. A mystery with the word dead in the title. But I tried to keep an open mind, and I’m glad I did. The mystery begins in the very first chapter for Andy Warren, a sports photographer. And as Andy goes back to her hometown, the mystery continues to grow, becoming more complex and dangerous for Andy. It doesn’t help that her hometown is the typical southern small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. It gives Andy plenty of suspects and just as many doubts about each one. Every time she thinks she has it all figured out, Andy finds out something new that sends her back to the drawing board.
It’s these twists and turns that keep readers guessing, but they cause a lot of frustration for Andy. It’s a feeling most of us can probably relate to. There are lots of things scripture tells us about life. We know sin separates us from God. We know that God sent His Son to die so we could be forgiven. We know that when we accept God’s forgiveness, we come into relationship with Him and will one day spend eternity in heaven with Him. We know that the battle has already been won, and good wins over evil once and for all.
Knowing these things is great. They bring hope and peace into our lives. It’s the things we don’t know that sometimes cause us frustration. Life is messy. It’s full of twists and turns. We seek to live the way God wants us to live. We want to do His will. We trust that God has plans for us, just as it says in Jeremiah 29. But those plans aren’t usually spelled out for us in black and white. And even when we do know what God wants for us, unexpected situations come up and seem to throw everything out of whack. People hurt us, disaster strikes, jobs are lost, or people get sick.
Whatever the situation, we don’t expect it. We think we have it all figured out, and then something comes along to send us back to the drawing board. Sometimes, we’re still on the right path, but the path looks different than we imagined. Other times, the situations force us into a completely different direction. Whatever the case, the mystery, the not knowing, can cause anxiety, fear, and doubt. The things that cause people to love a good mystery novel don’t feel so fun when they become part of our daily lives. But even in the middle of the chaos and unexpected circumstances, we have something to hold onto that will calm our frayed emotions. We have the promises of God.
Scripture never says bad things won’t happen. The book of Job is a good reminder of that. What it tells us is that no matter how bad the situation is, God will use it to bring something good into our lives when we love Him (Romans 8:28). He also promises us strength when we feel weak. (Philippians 4:13, Isaiah 40:31, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). We don’t have to worry about being alone because God promises to never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6). And these are just a few promises to help us through the circumstances we don’t understand.
You may think it seems too easy, but there’s nothing easy about it. When you’re going through the most difficult times in your life, easy doesn’t exist. The pain still cuts. But because of God’s promises, you can know peace in the pain and confusion. You can rest in His strength and look forward to what He will accomplish in your life through the circumstances. You can let go of your fear of the unknown, understanding that to God, your circumstances are not a mystery.
By the Book: What mysteries threaten your peace or bring you pain? Look up the verses above and search out other promises of God. Ask God to help you experience these promises in your life. Write them in a notebook or journal to meditate on when the unknown threatens your peace.

It’s a Mystery

It was a winding, narrow gravel road like any other country road. It led to Grandma Stearns’ farm. But there was a single stretch of that road lined with trees on both sides, as deep as you could see. Their limbs reached across the road creating a canopy overhead. This nature made tunnel was dark and cool. Sounds peaceful, right?

It might have been, if it weren’t for my older brothers. They informed me, while I was a young child, this stretch of road was called Sleepy Hollow. Now, I hadn’t read the book, and I didn’t know the story that well. What I did know was that a headless horseman terrorized and killed people in Sleepy Hollow.

Suddenly, that small piece of road became an endless tunnel of certain death. The shade became sinister, and evil lurked in the trees. I hated driving down that road. It made me anxious. Even today, as a logical adult, that old childhood anxiety sometimes tries to creep in. I blame my brothers.

Is it a trend for older brothers to traumatize their younger sisters? I can honestly say this isn’t the only time it happened in my childhood.  And experiences like this one taught me that I don’t like feeling anxious or afraid.

I believe it’s part of the reason I’ve never gravitated to reading mysteries. The unknown, especially when there is a sinister plotline, isn’t fun for me. It keeps me up at night and fuels bad dreams. My two favorite authors have challenged this dislike at times, and because of them, I’m branching out. I’m learning that just because something is a mystery doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it.

Linda Fulkerson proved this with her mystery, Dead Broke. I chose it to introduce myself to a new author, but I wasn’t quite sure I would like it. It’s a mystery. A mystery with the word dead in the title. But I tried to keep an open mind, and I’m glad I did. The mystery begins in the very first chapter for Andy Warren, a sports photographer. And as Andy goes back to her hometown, the mystery continues to grow, becoming more complex and dangerous for Andy. It doesn’t help that her hometown is the typical southern small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. It gives Andy plenty of suspects and just as many doubts about each one. Every time she thinks she has it all figured out, Andy finds out something new that sends her back to the drawing board.

It’s these twists and turns that keep readers guessing, but they cause a lot of frustration for Andy. It’s a feeling most of us can probably relate to. There are lots of things scripture tells us about life. We know sin separates us from God. We know that God sent His Son to die so we could be forgiven. We know that when we accept God’s forgiveness, we come into relationship with Him and will one day spend eternity in heaven with Him. We know that the battle has already been won, and good wins over evil once and for all.

Knowing these things is great. They bring hope and peace into our lives. It’s the things we don’t know that sometimes cause us frustration. Life is messy. It’s full of twists and turns. We seek to live the way God wants us to live. We want to do His will. We trust that God has plans for us, just as it says in Jeremiah 29. But those plans aren’t usually spelled out for us in black and white. And even when we do know what God wants for us, unexpected situations come up and seem to throw everything out of whack. People hurt us, disaster strikes, jobs are lost, or people get sick.

Whatever the situation, we don’t expect it. We think we have it all figured out, and then something comes along to send us back to the drawing board. Sometimes, we’re still on the right path, but the path looks different than we imagined. Other times, the situations force us into a completely different direction. Whatever the case, the mystery, the not knowing, can cause anxiety, fear, and doubt. The things that cause people to love a good mystery novel don’t feel so fun when they become part of our daily lives. But even in the middle of the chaos and unexpected circumstances, we have something to hold onto that will calm our frayed emotions. We have the promises of God.

Scripture never says bad things won’t happen. The book of Job is a good reminder of that. What it tells us is that no matter how bad the situation is, God will use it to bring something good into our lives when we love Him (Romans 8:28). He also promises us strength when we feel weak. (Philippians 4:13, Isaiah 40:31, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). We don’t have to worry about being alone because God promises to never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6). And these are just a few promises to help us through the circumstances we don’t understand.

You may think it seems too easy, but there’s nothing easy about it. When you’re going through the most difficult times in your life, easy doesn’t exist. The pain still cuts. But because of God’s promises, you can know peace in the pain and confusion. You can rest in His strength and look forward to what He will accomplish in your life through the circumstances. You can let go of your fear of the unknown, understanding that to God, your circumstances are not a mystery.

By the Book: What mysteries threaten your peace or bring you pain? Look up the verses above and search out other promises of God. Ask God to help you experience these promises in your life. Write them in a notebook or journal to meditate on when the unknown threatens your peace.

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