Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: fiction

For Every Action

Actions have consequences. It sounds like a “no duh” statement, but think about how much time we spend trying to convince ourselves they don’t. Hard lives and hours in the sun leave us wrinkled, but there’s always Botox. We like to eat what we want, when we want it, but we don’t like being fat. Enter the next miracle weight loss pill requiring no changes in diet or exercise. Maybe you’ll even have some liposuction. Got a quickie wedding when you were too wasted to realize what was going on? Get a quickie annulment and make it go away.  Break the law? Get yourself an expensive lawyer and get off scot-free.

Even our children are subjected to the mindset that says I can do what I want and not have to pay the price. Some young athletes don’t put the effort into their education that’s necessary to stay eligible to play. But if you’re a good enough athlete, that’s okay. You’ll miraculously pass anyway. A child misbehaves in class, and we let it slide because discipline is taboo. Instead, we reward behavior that should be seen as fundamentally right and then wonder why things go south when the rewards are cut off. Parents buy their children out of trouble instead of letting them feel the pain of their actions. We’ve even divorced them from damage to their reputations due to their choices. A person who cheats on things isn’t a cheater. The habit of lying doesn’t make you a liar, and a life of stealing doesn’t make you a thief. Those are just things we do. They don’t make us who we are, and it’s wrong to insinuate otherwise. We’re teaching them what we’ve been taught; what you do doesn’t matter because there are no lasting consequences.

Only there are consequences.  And those consequences can be far reaching. Psychologist Taylor Martin, the main character from Shadows of the Past by Patricia Bradley understands this well. Taylor not only teaches psychology, she puts it into practice as she helps law enforcement solve crimes through profiling. Taylor looks at the cause and effect relationship to determine how victims and perpetrators are related. What actions spurred on which reactions which in turn led to the crimes committed? Taylor puts the pieces together to find the unknown criminal.

The process becomes a matter of life and death for Taylor when a stalker’s obsession turns violent. Unmasking the criminal and making sense of how everything weaves into the history of her family is made harder when suspects’ actions muddy the waters. Scott, a former student, seems harmless enough, but early life choices led to alcoholism which in turn left him in vulnerable positions. He soon finds himself suspect number one in not only Taylor’s stalking case but murder as well.  Is Taylor’s gut reaction true or is it a set up? And if it is a set up where is the true danger hiding and why? Taylor struggles with lining up the correct actions and consequences in time to catch a killer and keep from becoming the victim of a murder herself.

A failure to correlate our actions to our consequences may not invite a murderer into our circle of acquaintances like it did for Taylor, but it can take us into places we don’t want to be both physically and spiritually. The Psalms and Proverbs are packed with warnings to make godly choices, and neither book shies away from the idea that choices have consequences. In fact, many times, David and Solomon were very firm and descriptive in their explanations of the results that follow poor choices.

One of results is the damage of our witness. We become associated with the choices we make.  In kindergarten at my children’s school, they had to memorize a verse that I hope has stuck with them as much as it has me. Proverbs 20:11 says, “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” It’s a truth even children can understand, but we can use it as a tool to measure our own grasp of actions and consequences. It’s as simple as asking ourselves one question. What did my actions today say about who I am?

By the Book: Think about some of the choices you’ve made in life. What were the consequences of those choices? What do your daily choices say about you? Is this what you want the world to see when they look at you?

Seeing the Unseen

At some point, you’ve probably experienced the feeling that someone or something is behind you. I feel that way after watching creepy movies or television shows, which is why I don’t knowingly watch them. But that’s not really what I’m talking about. That’s rooted in fear of something that isn’t really there. It’s transferred fear from what I just watched.

The feeling doesn’t have to be born of something sinister. Today at work, I was having a conversation with a co-worker when that feeling struck. I work in a doctor’s office. Danger doesn’t lurk around every corner waiting to pounce. So, as this feeling of being watched came over me, it did so without inspiring fear. However, as I turned and realized another co-worker was standing directly behind me, just inches away, staring intently at me, I have to admit I jumped a little. How in the world did she invade my space without me realizing it? I have a pretty impenetrable personal bubble. How did she weasel her way inside to surprise me?

I wasn’t in tune with my surroundings. I was so focused on the conversation I was having with my other co-worker that I had blocked out everything else. Being caught unaware didn’t hurt anything in this situation, but that isn’t always the case. Dark parking lots, empty nature trails, and secluded alleys are all areas where being aware of your surroundings can be the difference between life and death.

For Thea, the main character in the fantasy novel The Seer by Erin Howard, being in tune with what’s going on around you takes a different twist. Thea doesn’t know it, but she’s a seer, a person with the unique ability to see what’s going on in the spiritual realm alongside our physical realm. Seers are protected by angels and hunted by demons because of their gifts. As Thea first awakens to her gift and realizes the battle raging around her, her gift doesn’t seem like such a gift. When learning to master her ability requires partnerships with not only her protecting angel but also the demon sent to kill her, Thea wants nothing more than to return to normal life. But once a seer has awakened to happenings in the spiritual realm, normal is over.

Particulars of faith aren’t spelled out in The Seer, but the idea of spiritual battles raging around us is scriptural. The Bible doesn’t spell out exactly how angel and demon interaction weaves into our physical lives, but the reality of spiritual and physical lives working in tandem is undeniable. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” That’s not to say I think every bad thing that happens, every illness or failure is the result of demons at work. We live in a world marred by sin. Bad happens naturally as a result.

But with scripture stating it so clearly, we as believers need to be aware there are things happening beyond our line of sight. There are battles going on every day that we don’t see, but we can see the results of them. And like Thea, we have been given a gift. We may not physically be able to see angels and demons, but we’ve been given the Holy Spirit. Part of His job is to give us discernment. When we’re in tune with God and scripture, the Holy Spirit can help us sense when something is not right spiritually. We can feel God’s Spirit moving in a service. We can also feel it when we’re listening to a wolf in sheep’s clothing. That unsettled, sometimes sickening, feeling can be God giving us insight into what’s going on in the spiritual realm. It warns us to proceed with caution or flat out run from a situation. This gift of discernment can lead us to the people God wants us to help or away from those who seek to destroy.

And like Thea found, the gift comes with a responsibility. We don’t get to choose when to use the gift. We need to be ready to move in the direction the Holy Spirit leads us. If God moves in us to help someone, we need to be ready to answer that call no matter the outcome. If God tells us a situation or person is not right, we need to get away from it. Sometimes, we need to do it while warning others of the dangers. We find that out through discernment as well.

And once we’re awakened to this gift of discernment, life will never be normal again.

By the Book: Have you experienced discernment from the Holy Spirit in your life before? Have you felt the Spirit giving approval to a service or action before? What about Him warning you? What are you doing to stay close in your relationship with God so that you are better able to use the gift of discernment?

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