Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: spiritual growth

Eustace Clarence Scrubb

dawn treader“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

Wow. Could there be a better opening line and character description? Immediately readers, even the children for whom the story is meant, will be able to identify the Eustace’s in their lives. With one sentence the “nails on the chalkboard” existence of Eustace is firmly planted in our minds.

C.S. Lewis draws us in with the first pages of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and he continues to lead us through the misadventures of Eustace. We can understand the sentiments of Lucy and Edmond as they deal with his attitude of superiority, and we find it too easy to give in to the idea that he gets what he deserves as things fail to go in his favor. He tries our patience just as he does the same to every creature on the Dawn Treader.

When an author so completely gives us an image of his or her characters, it’s easy for them to become real to us. Suspending our disbelief to accept Narnia and Aslan and dragons as real is only natural. But a great description is only the beginning.

In a well-told story, readers get to know the characters. They get to see beyond the actions and outward appearances to who the characters are at their core. C.S. Lewis describes this occurrence in another quote from Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

“‘In our world,’ said Eustace, ‘a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.’

‘Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.'”

There is more to a star than what is is made of. There is more to a character than their looks and behaviors. It is an author’s job to give their characters souls. In doing so, readers are able to enjoy a fully formed person as complex as the ones sitting beside them while they read.

But in a well-told story the characters evolve through their failures and triumphs. This is not to say they become perfect versions of themselves. Readers don’t want perfection. They want a better understanding of reality. Even in fantasy, there has to be something for the reader to connect to. If readers see themselves in the characters then they also need to see attainable hope. We won’t reach perfection, and I find it frustrating to read about someone who always does the right thing. I want to see the one who tries and fails and gets up to try again. It makes a character work. It made Eustace Clarence Scrubb work.

“It would be nice and fairly nearly true, to say that ‘from that time forth, Eustace was a different boy.’ To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.”

It had begun. It was not finished. And we can appreciate this in the characters we read about. Sometimes it is more difficult to appreciate in the real world with the people affecting our day to day lives. We sit in church and judge the one who tried and failed or the one who is traveling at a snail’s pace in their journey of faith. We place people on a pedestal of perfection that no man since Jesus has been able to attain. We hold them to this impossible standard and crucify them when they fall. Just like we did with Eustace at the beginning of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we fight pleasure at their circumstances when they seem to get what they deserve.

But often we fail to let ourselves relate to them. We color over our own failures. In Jesus’ words, we “look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye”. (Matthew 7:3) When we realize we are all Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and we almost deserve it, we find patience we didn’t know we possessed. We find empathy that desires to see those we previously rooted against become the people God created them to be. We learn how to come along beside our brothers and sisters to encourage each other to continue to grow in faith. We stop taking note of every failure and choose to look at God’s cure in them that has already begun.

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.

 

 

From Year to Year

path1February 13th was the anniversary of the release day for Faith’s Journey. One year. One year since I held my first published book for the first time. One year since I sold the first copy. One year since I celebrated with friends and family at the release party.

A year before that I was busy finishing that same book. I’d gotten my contract with Mantle Rock Publishing, and I was working hard to make Faith’s Journey the best story it could be. I had a summer of editing deadlines to look forward to. I had twelve months to start letting people get to know Heather Greer, author.

The year before that I was faithfully attending writer’s group and getting feedback from that trusted set of writing friends. I was gathering the nerve to send queries out to agents and publishers. I was researching those agents and publishers to determine the best options for me and Faith’s Journey.

This year I am busy making plans for the release of Grasping Hope, the sequel to my first book. It comes out in a month. The edits are done. The cover is beautiful. It’s available for pre-order. I’ve got invitations sent out for the launch party. I’ve got decorations lining the walls in my office. I’ve even ordered a new dress for the occasion. And if you know me, you know that’s a big deal. I don’t do dresses.

The point is that a lot has changed over the last few years. I’ve always felt like God wanted me to use my love of writing to minister to others. And though I never stopped writing completely, I have to admit there were times I wondered if I would see this dream become reality. But it’s a journey. Each step, each year has brought me closer to where I am today.

It’s also reminded me that the journey is not over. Where I am today is not where I will be next year. Each day is giving me an opportunity to learn and grow as a writer. It’s allowing me to implement ideas for marketing that I hadn’t previously known or considered.

The dream, the ministry, is not complete. What has happened is simply a milestone on the road to where God is taking me. Seeing my first book published was a big milestone. There will be many more in the years to come. This isn’t the end of the writing trail. It’s only the beginning.

I could choose to operate under a different perspective, and it would drastically change the path of my writing journey. The same is true in our faith. So many times people see salvation as the finish line. It is the goal to reach for and once grasped, we have everything we need. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We need to adjust our focus and realize the act of coming to God for forgiveness of sin through Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection is a beginning. It is the beginning of being reconciled to God. It is the point where we find our relationship with God restored.

The key word is relationship. A relationship is on-going. It grows and changes over time. We learn more about our God. We learn more about how He sees us. Our love for Him develops changing the way we relate to Him and to other people. From the inside out, the truths we learn about Him transform us into the people He wants us to be.

When I look at last year, I want to see how much I’ve changed in my relationship with God. I want to see areas where I’ve learned and grown. And I don’t want it to stop there. Every year in my future I want to be able to look back and see a little more of Jesus and a little less of me.

 

Write Stuff Wednesday: What I Need

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” –Virginia Woolf

An author friend of mine used this quote on Facebook this week as she shared about her new space dedicated to her writing. It caught my attention, and so I did what any good author does. I borrowed her quote for my blog post.

On a side note, Linda Fulkerson has four fun and creativity inspiring adult coloring books for writers available on Amazon. If you enjoy coloring, quotes, coffee, or a combination of the three you’ll enjoy her books. I have one myself and have pulled quotes from it for Write Stuff Wednesday more than once.

Anyway, back to the quote at hand. I think it resonated with me because of my own writing journey. Starting out I wrote in my room, lounging on my bed. With a house full of kids, it was the only place I could call mine. Even sequestered in my personal space, the noise of television, music, game systems, and arguing children chose to disregard my very real walls of separation. This was initially the reason I started writing to music, a practice I continue to this day.

As my family grew up and my children started working, I moved from my room to the living room couch. I had to contend with my kids’ frequent trips to the kitchen for snacks or into the utility room to do their laundry. Trying my best to block out everything that was not writing I plugged in my headphones and kept my eyes fixed on the computer screen as much as possible.

My bedroom and living room writing arrangements were less than ideal. I did the best with what I had available because I had to write. In September, things changed. My oldest son married and moved out leaving his bedroom empty. Tonight I write this post from my office. It houses everything I need to write in peace and comfort. The simple act of having my own space has increased my productivity and given me greater opportunity to keep my writing business organized.

My office makes up the corner in an L-shaped trio of rooms. The other two belong to my two remaining sons. If you have teenagers, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that I still have to deal with noise, but that’s okay. The difference is amazing.

My biggest struggle in writing has changed along with the changes in my family. Now, instead of a room of my own, I deal with lack of funds. Teenagers are expensive. I have no choice but to work a full-time non-writing related job to help pay the bills. There are nights when I come home too tired to write. There are nights when no matter what I do I can’t make enough time to write on my work in progress, blog, market, and continue to learn about the business of writing. If only I had the funds to stay home and write full-time. How much more could I accomplish? How much faster would projects be completed?

It’s frustrating and discouraging. But still, I keep going. It may not be the way I pictured it, but I’m getting to do something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl. I’m getting to carry out the purpose I’ve always felt God had for me. And if what I do encourages or challenges one person in their faith, then it’s worth all the difficulties.

The decision to keep on despite the hurdles is one that I find I have to carry into my faith walk too. I want to be able to spend my time in ministry and not just my writing ministry. There is so much I’d like to do, but I have to weigh each thing carefully due to a lack of time. But the issue is more than a simple shortage of time. It’s about my expectations versus God’s reality.

I want to be stronger in my faith. Spiritual growth is important to me. An increased and deepened prayer life appeals to me. I know how I’d like those things to happen. I’d like to be able to spend more time in detailed study of God’s word and enjoy closeness with Him that naturally springs for my time with Him. It happens that way sometimes, but it’s not been my experience the majority of the time.

My faith has grown and my prayers have deepened more often through the devastations of life. I’ve felt closest to Him when I’ve had no choice left but to lean on Him completely. I’ve learned first-hand the truth in “counting it all joy” and considering “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Though I never sought to go through hard times, I’ve seen God do pretty amazing things in my life because of them. I just had to keep on despite the frustrations and disappointments.

Whether in faith or in writing, it’s important to remember reality may be different than the dream. It’s not a reason to give up when frustration sets in. We choose to keep going because what we’re doing means more to us than what we’re going through. One day maybe we’ll have the room of our own and the money to go with it. Until then, keep putting pen to paper and faith into action.

Giving Back

Usually I post character and character development related things on Mondays. Forgive me for not following protocol today. While we’re at it, why don’t you consider forgiving me for being a little less than consistent with writing any of my posts in the recent weeks. I’m trying. I really am. But with a deadline hanging over my head and life events or misfortunes happening one on top of another around my house, I’m lucky I haven’t shut down completely!

But all of that isn’t what I want to discuss today. There’s a lot of people in the world, good people who are completely misinformed about how Christianity and a life of faith works. They’ve been given the impression that if you accept God’s gift of salvation, you enter this amazing life where it’s all rainbows and sunshine and unicorns.

Don’t misunderstand me, I think a life of faith is amazing. There’s nothing more exciting than watching God show up in an unexpected way. Whether it happens in your life or the life of a friend, seeing God work in and through circumstances strengthens our faith and gives us glimpses into who He is. There’s nothing better.

But a life free of betrayal, pain, sickness, or problems is as realistic as the mythical unicorn. Though we are not intended for it, though it isn’t our home, we currently live in a sinful, fallen world. Hurtful things happen. To expect they won’t simply because we have God in our lives is like expecting to wade through the mud without getting dirty. It’s not going to happen.

But that doesn’t mean our faith in God does us no good. God’s right there with us when we’re wading through the muck. He’s helping us not get sucked under. He’s encouraging us to keep going. He’s showing us how to have peace, hope, and strength in those times when it doesn’t make any sense. And He’s with us to make sure the mud doesn’t leave it’s stain on our lives.

Our path through the mud can go one of two ways. We can cling to God, keeping our eyes on Him, and end up with stronger faith in the end. It doesn’t change the circumstance, but it reminds us the truth about those circumstances. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t take away the pain and heartache. But it does help us stay strong and find the peace God has for us in it.

Or we can fight it. We can try to “do it God’s way” for the selfish reason of wanting Him to take us out of our situation. We want God to work like a genie in a bottle there to grant our every wish. So, we adjust our behavior in order to earn God’s favor and a get out of jail free card. When we find it doesn’t work that way, we declare faith useless or worse, false, and throw in the towel. We walk away from God without truly understanding what faith is all about.

Giving lip service to God in order to have our path cleared of the mud doesn’t do us any good. But as counter-intuitive as it sounds, living our faith out through the muck does a world of good. In my hardest circumstance and my deepest pain, I couldn’t see what God would do. To be perfectly honest, I wanted out of it. But that wasn’t how God wanted to use it in my life. When I decided it was best to trust and do it His way, I found God grew me through that pain. But it was more than that. At least two people had the opportunity to accept salvation because I was willing to go through it God’s way instead of my own. If that wasn’t enough to make it worth it, I’ve seen God use my experiences to speak to others through teaching and writing.

That’s the beauty of living a life of faith. When we allow God to grow us through our circumstances, He can later use us to minister to others facing pain in their own lives. He allows us to become part of their faith growing process. We share in the hurts and joys of other believers, and we all reap the benefits. It’s a way to give back to God after He’s carried us through so much. It’s a way to practically show God’s love to others. It’s never easy, but it’s always worth it.

By the Book: Has God brought you through a trial? What did He teach you in it? How have you used it to reach out to others?

Write Stuff Wednesday: Grow

grow“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Stephen King

Reading is my superpower. With the current fascination with super heroes, statements of an individual’s superpower aren’t unusual. Everything from hobbies to activism is touted as superpowers. But in this case, it’s a little bit true. For a writer, reading has power.

In order to grow as a writer, all the successful writers agree, you must read. Currently tucked in amid a plethora of Christian fiction is a book by Brandilyn Collins on creating characters. I want to read it not because I know nothing about creating characters but because there is always something new to learn on the subject. There’s always a tip or trick or different perspective that I can incorporate into my writing to make it better. As I writer I read because I want to grow. There will never be a time when I’ve learned all there is to learn.

And my lessons aren’t only found in books on the craft of writing. I find inspiration in addition to pleasure in the pages of fiction. In reading well-written stories, I expose myself to writing techniques without conscious effort. I’m not trying to learn. I’m simply enjoying the story, and my brain captures lessons on technique and style and characterization I don’t realize it’s taking in. Even an occasional poorly written story isn’t a total waste as it drives home the things I want to avoid in my own writing.

In accepting the idea that I don’t have it all together as a writer, I create the environment and drive to become better than I was yesterday. I don’t stop with reading and understanding concepts about writing. I apply them to what I write and in doing so, my writing is strengthened. Reading becomes my superpower to better my writing.

But reading is more than just a superpower for writers. It’s also a spiritual superpower. There’s a whole chapter in Psalms (119, in case you’re wondering) dedicated to the benefits of God’s word. The New Testament tells us scripture is good for teaching us, correcting us, and training us in the ways a righteous person should think and act. Scripture is our way to get to know God and understand our relationship with Him. Scripture gives us direction, encouragement, strength, and conviction (both the “I know I am wrong” kind of conviction that leads us from sin to forgiveness and the “I shall not be moved” kind of conviction we need to stand strong in our beliefs).

As believers in 2018 we have an unheard of number of ways to grow in our relationships with God. We can listen to godly music everywhere we go. There are numerous Christian books and movies. Christian speakers and teachers pack conference halls to hear their messages. These are wonderful tools we have in our lives as Christians, but they can’t compare to the word of God. They are the tributaries, but God’s word is the source they spring from. It is what gives their words meaning and power.

Scripture also gives meaning to our actions and power to the way we live. It transforms us into something new, something closer to the image of Christ, as we let each word soak into our souls. Time spent reading God’s word is more than a mere superpower. Reading scripture is a believer’s supernatural superpower.

By the Book: As a writer, do you spend time growing through reading? Feel free to share a favorite book in the comments. As a believer, do you spend time through reading God’s word? Feel free to share a favorite verse in the comments.

Main Character Development

apple-464182_960_720Things we know about fairy tales:

  1. If there’s a step-mother, she’s evil.
  2. The prince ends up with the girl whether he’s done anything to deserve her or not.
  3. Good always wins.
  4. The good one is always very, VERY good. Like making friends with woodland creatures and

earning the help of fairy god-mothers kind of good.

We don’t read fairy tales because they’re full of suspense. The plots are pretty cut and dry. The good one is hated by the evil one without cause. The hated one either tricks the good one creating an issue the good one overcomes or the hated one simply makes life miserable for the good one until something is done to free her from her pain. Something happens and the good ones win while the bad ones get what’s coming to them. Of course, their consequences don’t come from the good ones. They’re too good for that.

It’s become popular in recent years to retell the old stories. Instead of the same old, same old, we get backstory on both the heroes and the villains. In the movie Ever After, we find that the step-mother is jealous of Cinderella and the road to happiness for Cinderella has some potholes. In Maleficent we find there’s more to Maleficent than simply being evil. There are reasons she does what she does. In Snow White and the Huntsman we find that the evil step-mother has abuse in her past that’s helped make her into the evil she is. And in the television show Once Upon a Time, well, I don’t even know where to begin. There are more twists and turns in that one than all the roller coasters at Six Flags. And each twist points to the fact that there’s more to the characters than simply being evil or good. There are hurts and triumphs in their lives. There are losses and mistreatments.

Due to these retellings, familiar characters have taken on new depths. You may not agree with the evil they do, but you can sympathize with the hurts in the villains’ pasts. You may cheer on the heroes, but you can still get frustrated with them as they act less than heroically in sticky situations. What were once flat characters, good is good and bad is bad, are now characters we can more closely relate to. And they don’t stay the same throughout the story like the original fairy tale characters. They grow and learn. They recognize their character flaws and work to minimize them. They develop.

Character development is a vital part of any good story. Just like real life, the things our characters face should push them to change. Sometimes the change is negative. Sometimes losses cut so deeply we begin to react out of pain. But that same pain in someone else can drive them to be a more caring and empathetic individual.  There are even going to be times when your character goes one direction for a while before something nudges them into doing an about face. It depends on your character and your story.

Take time to find out who your character is. An introvert reacts differently than an extrovert to the same situation. They have unique ways of looking at it. Their paths of growth will be one of a kind, created especially for them. Personality, past experience, race, gender, economic status, and geography all play a part in determining who your character is. Get to know them. Knowing what has shaped and what motivates your character will help you know how to develop them through their circumstances. It will allow you to take your characters from predictable and one-sided to realistic and intriguing.

We want to see why the villain became the villain when we read. We like to see that the hero has faults and is working through them. But how often do we take the time to do the same in real life? We should be constantly developing our character. It happens naturally when we interact with our world. Hopefully, we strive to develop it in godly ways. Scripture is full of reminders that we aren’t there yet, but we should be developing the attitudes that Jesus portrayed for us in His life and ministry.

At the same time, we need to recognize others are going through the same process. Instead of putting that preacher or teacher on a pedestal, we need to realize even our spiritual heroes have failures and faults. We shouldn’t idolize anyone, even our mentors. We all make mistakes, and we need to be able to be honest about them both in our own lives and in the lives of those we love.

And the villains in our lives? We need to exhibit patience, love, and the rest of the fruits of the Spirit in our dealings with them. More than likely, they didn’t set out to be the villain in our story. No, you may not ever be besties, but you can find a lot of freedom in forgiveness. And understanding the whys sometimes makes offering that forgiveness a little easier. Take a moment to consider some of the things that made their character develop in the direction it did. Let that understanding help free you to react to them in a godly way.

Let’s put away our fairy tale definitions of the people in our lives and start taking the time to see the character development happening each day.

By the Book: Do you tend to see people in your life as only good or bad? Do you try to look beyond to the whys? Are you ever guilty of defining yourself by fairy tale definitions? Why is it important to understand you are not a one-dimensional character?

Write Stuff Wednesday 2

quill“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” Anne Lamott

Next year is my twenty-five year high school reunion. Other than making me feel older than I think I am, it brings to mind all the writing I did in those years. I have a three ring binder I’ve kept through the years that holds most of what I wrote. There’s the paper I wrote about Walt Disney and the play that won judge’s choice in a local writing contest. There are the poems that prompted my senior English teacher to comment that there must be a dark humorist lurking inside me. (In my defense, I was going through a pretty angsty time that year.) I think there may even be a short story I wrote in grade school called “The Case of the Missing Idea”. Catchy title, huh?

Occasionally I’ve re-read these great masterpieces, and do you know what I’ve found? They aren’t great, and they definitely aren’t masterpieces. Some of them are quite laughable. Some are decent, but I’ve grown as a writer since those days. I’ve become more proficient technically, and I’ve developed in my ability to tell a good story. Improvement in the craft of writing is to be expected if someone writes with regularity. It would be odd if I didn’t continue to grow as I continued to write.

Even in a single piece of writing, one expects growth from the first draft to the last edit. A good story can be shaped into a great one if the author is willing to work with it. My first draft of Faith’s Journey is very different from the finished product. As I wrote, trusted friends and the members of the writers’ group I’m in offered feedback at regular intervals. Some of the feedback was geared toward the themes and overall effect of the story. Other comments were more technical in nature. I implemented some suggestions. Others I passed on.

There was one specific piece of advice I remember passing on. Near the beginning of the story, group members felt there were two chapters where the story lagged. I kept them in as I sent my manuscript to the publisher. Sure, the chapters were a little lighter on action, but they held important information. Imagine my surprise when one of the first things the publisher asked me to do was get rid of or revamp those exact chapters. I should have listened in the first place. I have learned from that mistake. I re-wrote those chapters, and I found they were completely right. Once combined, the chapters still gave the information I wanted, but the way it was done kept the story from being slowed down. The result was a stronger story than I began with.

It’s a lesson that runs parallel to our faith walks. When we accept Jesus’ death on the cross as the punishment for our sins and begin a relationship with God, we don’t start off as the saints we want to be. Scripture tells us we start as babies learning the simple lessons of our faith. The Holy Spirit inside us gently guides us and corrects us. He shows us truths from scripture and helps us implement those truths in our lives.

But we can’t stay in that starting place forever. Just as it would be odd if I were to write regularly yet remain at the same level of proficiency I was in high school, it should be odd to us when we see someone who professes a relationship with God that does not grow through the years. It should be more than odd if we are that person. It should be a red flag that all is not right in our spiritual lives.

Paul told the Hebrew church in Hebrews 5 that they were not growing like they should. He said they were stuck with the simple teachings of faith and not progressing into the deeper ideas of faith. Other verses tell us we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and that as we grow from spiritual childhood to spiritual adulthood we put away the childish things.

To remain unchanged in our writing probably means we won’t have a very long or successful writing career. To remain stagnant in our faith has devastating effects. With spiritual growth comes greater spiritual understanding. With that understanding comes greater discernment to protect us from sinful teachings and temptations. When we fail to recognize sin as sin, we allow it into our lives where it stands between us and God. We begin to follow the world in our beliefs and desires instead of God.

It isn’t just us our lack of growth can affect. Matthew 5 speaks of our mission to show God to the lost in the world. Several scriptures implore us to live in ways so foreign to the world that the people we come in contact with can’t help seeing the difference. In this way, doors are opened to share our faith and bring God glory. Which friend or family member in our lives might miss the chance to have a relationship with God because they don’t see the difference God makes in us?

By the Book: What time do you spend trying to grow as a writer? What do you do to encourage that growth? How much time do you put into growing in faith? What has helped you grow?

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