By the Book

where a love of God and good books meet

Tag: ministry

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.

 

Pure and Undefiled Religion

givingSix months after I was born the Southern Illinois Christian Conference held their first summer camp. It was held at a local camp since the conference didn’t have a place of its own to use. That would quickly change. One family donated a large piece of land that would become the property of the conference after one hundred years being used as a Christian youth camp. After the first hot summer, my grandpa told the kids there would be a pond to swim in the next year. There wasn’t money for a pond. There wasn’t really money for anything since the camp was run on donations.

One night after dinner a couple men came knocking on my grandpa’s door and said they would like to build the pond for the camp free of charge. Campers still swim in that lake each summer. Cabins were built by a man who knew construction, and volunteers provided the labor to put them together. Every time there’s a need, people show up to help. Sometimes it’s just a handful of faithful workers, but the work gets done. We’re getting ready for our 42nd camp season now, and it runs like it has since day one, through love and labor of faithful volunteers and donations. It’s amazing watching God work to provide for the needs of the camp each year.

It’s that same spirit of coming together to watch God work through the faithful I found as I read Callie by Sharon Srock. Callie Stillman’s love for the hurting doesn’t seem to be a match for the pain she feels after unthinkable circumstances leave her shaken to the core. After all, it was her desire to help that put a toddler back in the home of his abuser. It was her lack of judgement that allowed that abuser to take the life of the little boy she’d come to love. And her guilt from that innocent life lost is what immobilizes her when Sam, Iris, and Bobbie come into her life.

God speaks to Callie’s spirit that something is wrong when she meets her granddaughter’s new friend, Iris. Even though Callie refuses to get involved, she feels God’s call to do so. With baby steps and a lot of wrestling with God, Callie goes from simply trying to find out what’s wrong to being fully immersed in the lives of this struggling family. But Callie isn’t alone. The core members of her Monday night Bible study are determined to be right there with her encouraging her and helping the family. When Callie shares with them the needs, they spring into action without a thought for what it will cost them. They simply love God by loving the family in a practical way, and their care opens the door for Sam, Iris, and Bobbie to experience life in ways they’ve been forced by circumstances to abandon.

It’s God’s love in action in the lives of those with needs. I’ve seen it in our church camp. Sharon Srock portrays it clearly for readers in Callie. And I’ve experienced it in my own life as God moves in people’s hearts to aid our family when we’ve had needs we couldn’t meet on our own. It’s a powerful testimony to God’s care and provision. It’s a blessing to both the receiver and the giver as God uses the act of giving to speak to their hearts and grow them in their understanding of who He is.

Jesus lived life ministering to those in need. He encouraged his followers to do the same. In Acts, the believers sold their individual belongings in favor of sharing all things and taking care of each other’s needs. The story of the good Samaritan shows us that giving goes beyond the boundaries of friendship and our individual houses of worship, reaching even to those we might see as enemies. James directs us to “look after widows and orphans in their distress”.  And Jesus’ own words tell show us his heart on the matter in Matthew when he tells us whatever we did “to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” A heart that listens to the Spirit when it says go or give is a heart that will leave a lasting mark, a testimony to God’s love to draw those in need into the arms of God.

By the Book: Do you take time to listen to the urgings of God when He’s directing you to go, to give, or to speak? What keeps you from it? Can you remember a time when someone else made God’s love real for you through their actions?

Speaking God’s Truth

While it’s the day for Main Character Monday, I have something else on my mind tonight. I had a hard weekend that didn’t leave its struggles behind as the work week started. It’s left me tired physically, mentally, and emotionally. Spiritually, it has sent me to my knees in prayer more focused and dedicated than my usual daily prayers. It is in these kinds of trials that submitting to the unknown of “Your will be done” becomes a true act of surrender.

Even though the exact nature of this situation is completely new and totally unexpected, it isn’t the first time my world has been rocked by a trial so life changing that I almost can’t wrap my mind around the idea that it is in fact my reality now. It isn’t the first time I’ve waited for the other shoe to drop or been forced to face the fact that I don’t know what comes next and fully realize that I might not like it when it comes.

The first time I faced the complete undoing of my perceptions of what my life was and was supposed to be, it broke me in ways I never thought possible. Even as I immersed myself in prayer and God’s word, I struggled with frequent panic attacks and depression. Even though I saw God working in my life and felt His strength getting me through each day, I hurt more deeply than I ever thought possible. I grew closer to God and learned to rely on Him as never before. The road to get there wasn’t easy, but God didn’t leave me on my own. In fact, a Facebook thread in one of the reading groups I’m in reminded me tonight that not only was I not left on my own, God went above and beyond to speak to me during that time in a way that was unexpected and user friendly.

When circumstances became too much, I’d read. My brain didn’t have to fight through the depressed exhaustion I felt in order to read. When I was immersed in the story, I could finally contain the thoughts running amok in my head. It was the perfect way for me to decompress for a small period of time. Little did I know that as I picked up The Still of Night by Kristen Heitzmann, that God would use it to challenge me to change my perspective on the painful hand I’d been dealt.

I’ll admit I bawled reading that book. So many points hit home. The specifics of the fictional circumstances were far from mine, but the truths about faith and life and pain were all too real. One of the moments when things clicked with me was in a quote that has stuck with me for the last fifteen years. “Things don’t always work out the way we want. The trick is to want the way they work out.” It’s simple and profound. It summed up “Thy will be done” perfectly, and it was wrapped in a story so well written that I had to finish it even though it was speaking hard truths to me.

I’ve enjoyed many well-written Christian fiction books through the years. I’ve been encouraged and challenged by them. But none have felt as much like God had it written especially for me, to help me accept where I was and encourage me on the path to healing.

Even God’s timing was perfect. I get Kristen Heitzmann’s books as soon as I know they’ve come out. If The Still of Night had come out years before, its message might not have resonated as deeply. I hadn’t been broken yet. Years later, and I would have already come through enough that the message would have merely been a reminder of a lesson learned. This one came out only a few short months before my storm hit, and I purchased it just after. Because the author chose to let God use her, my walk of faith was strengthened at a time when I needed it most.

I share this with you for two reasons. The first is as a reminder that God may choose to speak to us in unconventional ways. Scripture is of utmost importance, but He will use people, songs, and even fictional stories to open our hearts to His truth. Don’t shut Him out just because His message isn’t coming from your pastor or the 66 books of the Bible. Listen and accept His encouragements and challenges as the loving gifts they are.

The other reason I share my story is as an encouragement to let God use you. I’ve always been passionate about writing. But reading good Christian fiction sparked a desire in me to do for others what my favorite authors have done for me. I want what I write to communicate God’s truth to other believers. I want the stories I write to encourage and challenge people in their faith.  It’s my desire to let God use my stories to touch others. If God uses Faith’s Journey or any future books I write to speak to even one person the way He spoke to me through The Still of Night, I will count that as success.

By the Book: Maybe you write. Maybe not. Do you sing? Draw? Speak? Make cookies? I don’t care what talent you have or what you’re passionate about. Let God use it to speak to others.

Speaking God's Truth

While it’s the day for Main Character Monday, I have something else on my mind tonight. I had a hard weekend that didn’t leave its struggles behind as the work week started. It’s left me tired physically, mentally, and emotionally. Spiritually, it has sent me to my knees in prayer more focused and dedicated than my usual daily prayers. It is in these kinds of trials that submitting to the unknown of “Your will be done” becomes a true act of surrender.
Even though the exact nature of this situation is completely new and totally unexpected, it isn’t the first time my world has been rocked by a trial so life changing that I almost can’t wrap my mind around the idea that it is in fact my reality now. It isn’t the first time I’ve waited for the other shoe to drop or been forced to face the fact that I don’t know what comes next and fully realize that I might not like it when it comes.
The first time I faced the complete undoing of my perceptions of what my life was and was supposed to be, it broke me in ways I never thought possible. Even as I immersed myself in prayer and God’s word, I struggled with frequent panic attacks and depression. Even though I saw God working in my life and felt His strength getting me through each day, I hurt more deeply than I ever thought possible. I grew closer to God and learned to rely on Him as never before. The road to get there wasn’t easy, but God didn’t leave me on my own. In fact, a Facebook thread in one of the reading groups I’m in reminded me tonight that not only was I not left on my own, God went above and beyond to speak to me during that time in a way that was unexpected and user friendly.
When circumstances became too much, I’d read. My brain didn’t have to fight through the depressed exhaustion I felt in order to read. When I was immersed in the story, I could finally contain the thoughts running amok in my head. It was the perfect way for me to decompress for a small period of time. Little did I know that as I picked up The Still of Night by Kristen Heitzmann, that God would use it to challenge me to change my perspective on the painful hand I’d been dealt.
I’ll admit I bawled reading that book. So many points hit home. The specifics of the fictional circumstances were far from mine, but the truths about faith and life and pain were all too real. One of the moments when things clicked with me was in a quote that has stuck with me for the last fifteen years. “Things don’t always work out the way we want. The trick is to want the way they work out.” It’s simple and profound. It summed up “Thy will be done” perfectly, and it was wrapped in a story so well written that I had to finish it even though it was speaking hard truths to me.
I’ve enjoyed many well-written Christian fiction books through the years. I’ve been encouraged and challenged by them. But none have felt as much like God had it written especially for me, to help me accept where I was and encourage me on the path to healing.
Even God’s timing was perfect. I get Kristen Heitzmann’s books as soon as I know they’ve come out. If The Still of Night had come out years before, its message might not have resonated as deeply. I hadn’t been broken yet. Years later, and I would have already come through enough that the message would have merely been a reminder of a lesson learned. This one came out only a few short months before my storm hit, and I purchased it just after. Because the author chose to let God use her, my walk of faith was strengthened at a time when I needed it most.
I share this with you for two reasons. The first is as a reminder that God may choose to speak to us in unconventional ways. Scripture is of utmost importance, but He will use people, songs, and even fictional stories to open our hearts to His truth. Don’t shut Him out just because His message isn’t coming from your pastor or the 66 books of the Bible. Listen and accept His encouragements and challenges as the loving gifts they are.
The other reason I share my story is as an encouragement to let God use you. I’ve always been passionate about writing. But reading good Christian fiction sparked a desire in me to do for others what my favorite authors have done for me. I want what I write to communicate God’s truth to other believers. I want the stories I write to encourage and challenge people in their faith.  It’s my desire to let God use my stories to touch others. If God uses Faith’s Journey or any future books I write to speak to even one person the way He spoke to me through The Still of Night, I will count that as success.
By the Book: Maybe you write. Maybe not. Do you sing? Draw? Speak? Make cookies? I don’t care what talent you have or what you’re passionate about. Let God use it to speak to others.

Write Stuff Wednesday Interrupted

living roomNormally, this is the day I feature a writing quote. It’s something to inspire, encourage, or challenge us to become better writers. Of course, it ties into a faith lesson. By the Book is the place where a love of God and good books meet. All of my posts from the writing focused ones on Wednesdays to the book reviews on Saturdays and the character interviews on Mondays work to bring these passions of my life together in a way that is hopefully helpful and meaningful to readers.

I try to stay consistent. Every article on blogging and writing preaches consistency. Knowing what to expect from the blogs you’re following is great. If I like a particular feature, I want to know when I can expect more of the same. But I have a confession to make.

Hello. My name is Heather Greer, and I failed at consistency this week. I didn’t read a book this week. That’s highly unusual. I have a library full of To Be Read books on my tablet. I blog book reviews. One of the requirements to do book reviews is to read books. Sure, I can grab an old favorite to write about every now and then, but I try to make sure my reviews feature fairly recent releases. Not finishing a book during the week hinders my ability to do that.

I didn’t post a review on Saturday. Friends from church came and laid my living room floor, which looks great by the way. They were done by early evening, and I had plenty of time to write a review. But I didn’t. Ten hours of cleaning, helping lay floor (even though my contribution was only helping pull staples out of the floor), and having people in my house wore me out. I didn’t have it in me to write a review.

I also didn’t post on Monday. It was a holiday from my nine to five job. I spent the morning grilling my family’s meals for the rest of the week, after all it would be a shame to waste good, hot charcoal once you’ve got the grill lit. I spent time with my elderly grandmother who was having trouble remembering why my parents weren’t home. It helped her to have someone to eat lunch with and to take her to buy orange juice and bread. Oh, and I wrote about 5,000 words on Grasping Hope. I thought about stopping to do my post, but I have a deadline with the publisher if the book is going to be ready for its March release date.

Being inconsistent wasn’t easy. Every time I thought about my missing posts, I suffered blogger’s guilt. Is that a thing? If not, it should be. Saturday I consoled myself with the idea that I would post on Sunday. I didn’t, but I did tell myself I would do it on Monday. We know how that turned out. I felt the same guilt on Monday, but my progress on my book eased my conscience.

As I considered my posting failures, the idea that I had become a slacker nagged in the back of my mind. I don’t want to be a slacker. I want to be productive. Today, as I considered what my post should cover, I knew my focus should be my blogging struggle. But it should do more than chronicle my failures. I needed to encourage too.

I don’t think I’m the only one who occasionally struggles with being productive. Maybe you’ve had an off week and feel a little bit like a slacker yourself. For me, these slacking tendencies affect my writing because it’s my ministry. I don’t know what ministries you’re involved in, but I’d be willing to bet whatever they are, that’s where your slacker tendencies show up. Ministry takes a lot of mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. Throw life into the mix (especially if you’re dealing with outside work, kids, or family issues), and it seems like you’re on a never-ending roller coaster ride suffering from motion sickness without the help of Dramamine. It’s exhausting.

I know I said I was going to encourage. Hang in there. It’s coming. The good news is God didn’t intend us to go 24/7 without a chance to care for our own needs. He didn’t rest on the seventh day of creation because He was tired. He rested to set an example. When Jesus was on earth ministering to the masses, scripture says there were times He needed to get away by Himself to pray. He was taking time to make sure He stayed strong spiritually, and He, too, was setting an example for us. It points to the wisdom in Ecclesiastes 3. “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven”. I think passage could include something like a time to review books and a time to lay floors with friends, a time to post and a time to write on your book, a time to minister to others and a time to minister to your family.

It’s not an excuse to stay in a place of slacking off. It’s not downplaying the importance of staying consistent. But it is an escape from ministry guilt (also not a term, but I think it should be), when it’s time for that much needed rest and recharging of our emotions, minds, and spirits. Sometimes, other things need to come first for a short time. We need to take care of ourselves to continue doing what God is calling us to do. So, take your break when needed, and then return to your ministry with a fresh energy and focus. It’s okay. A brief respite doesn’t make you a slacker.

By the Book: When was the last time you were proactive about taking care of own emotional, spiritual, and physical needs?

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