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I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned  in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. –the Apostle Paul, Philippians 4:11-13

wind-treeContentment is so fragile, so subjective. If we truly desire to be content no matter our circumstances, or believe we’ve achieved it, soon something comes along to test this resolve. I can’t resolve to be content. And I’m tired of faking it.
I often see verse 13 plucked out of this paragraph, and yes, while always true, the apostle is specifically saying we need help to be perpetually content in every situation. The fact that Paul makes a point to say he needs God’s strength to achieve this tells me that continual contentment is important to have and yet impossible to achieve alone.

I live in a world that constantly tempts me to desire comfort and ease as a replacement for contentment, and it is quick to tell me what it will take. The latest fashion trend (which appears to be 90s Grunge at the moment-ehh, no thanks). Newer furniture. Bigger home. Perfect body. A newer-faster-cooler car. The latest app to make life easier. Healthier junk food. Stress-free relationships-job-commute-vacation-etc.

Deficiency or pain or discomfort or unrest or disunity or human imperfections (ours AND others’) will always be with us. ALWAYS. Contentment is going to need to be more deeply felt, more firmly established, less apt to be plucked away the moment something goes wrong.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
(She) will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.” Jer. 17:7-8

What shakes your sense of contentment? I confess that for me, and more lately as I am “feeling” age gaining, it doesn’t take much. How do you respond to adversity, or a rough day at work/home/with kids? Boneheads on the road? (um, I’ve never seen any…) Unsatisfactory customer service? Mind-numbing political rhetoric? Facebook feed? How long does it take for you to turn from the source and reach deeper for the Source, for the Lord’s strength and larger eternal perspective, for peace that passes understanding in the midst of discontent?

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Waking to find all 3 of my books listed on book blogs for Top 10 Tuesday 5-star titles today. Here’s one featuring The Memoir of Johnny Devine, along with 9 outstanding titles. Also, visit Reading Is My Superpower for not one but TWO of my books listed, as well as some excellent titles for your reading list!

By The Book

Thanks to the folks over at The Broke And The Bookishfor hosting Top 10 Tuesdayevery week. There are lots of book bloggers that participate, so make sure to click HERE to find out what they are up to.

toptentuesday

This week’s theme is 10 of My Most Recent 5-Star Reads. I have been inundated with reading blessings this year and have enjoyed lots and lots of great books. The following are the last 5-star books I have read. Make sure to check out the reviews I have linked.

Top 10 5-Star Reads

(In Alphabetical Order)

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa (suspense)

The Body under The Bridge by Paul McCusker (mystery)

The Fragmentby Davis Bunn (historical suspense)

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Guarded by Angela Correll (women’s fiction)

The Hearts We Mend by Kathryn Springer (contemporary romance)

A House Divided by Robert Whitlow (legal drama)

If I Run by Terri Blackstock (suspense)

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The…

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Revisiting Good Friday…

Along The Banks

I don’t know about you, but I’ve wondered on occasion if God really loves me.

Remember when Jesus said take my yoke on you, for my yoke is easy and my burden light? Imagine a thick wooden yoke with slots for a pair of oxen and Jesus strapped into one side. He not only offers to help shoulder the burden, but I think he carries the bulk of the weight, gives us the “light” end. He positions the wood across his shoulders in such a way as to lighten our load. I love that picture.

It’s Good Friday and I’m reminded that Jesus carried another piece of wood across his shoulders for me—alone. Not a yoke, not a shared burden, but a lonely task. To bear the weight of all my sin.

Before I realized this week’s post lands on Good Friday, I was planning to write about why I…

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I fell in love. With the book. With the characters. With the settings. And especially with the message of letting go – of fear, bitterness, and burdens we were never meant to carry.

Source: Review (and a Giveaway!): Like There’s No Tomorrow by Camille Eide

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Happy Valentine’s Day

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girl cage freeI find myself holding grudges, though I don’t mean to.

Okay, what that really means is that I know I shouldn’t, but that doesn’t stop me.

Do you have trouble holding grudges, either consciously or unconsciously? Does it matter whether or not harm was meant?

Should it matter?

How do we judge the actions and motives of others? Do we take circumstances outside our knowledge into account, such as the person’s background or current circumstances? Or do we, without hesitation, view every offense as an intentional injury? We are wired via human nature to hold others accountable. We feel it’s our right, even our duty. After all, people shouldn’t get away with doing that, not to us or anyone else.

In my upcoming novel, Like There’s No Tomorrow, the hero, Ian, faces his longstanding mortal hatred for a man who wronged and wounded him deeply. Ian can’t let go of his bitterness, and understandably. After all, he’s human. Humans are self-preserving. We are wired for survival. This is logical. We are logical.

But God is often not logical, and is, in fact, the God of Irony, as I have learned and am reminded again and again. A few examples:

  • But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matt 5:44)
  • Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. (Rom 12:14)
  • Vengeance is mine. (not yours) (Rom 12:19)

God’s ways are too often incomprehensible, too often unnatural to our way of thinking. Perhaps unnatural because He is supernatural. To align ourselves with the supernatural (and God-illogical) requires an uncomfortable amount of surrender and blind faith.

In this above-mentioned story, Emily, the heroine, suggests that Ian try praying for the man who wronged him. After all, she says, what can it hurt?

Is it possible to be free from bitterness and feel only compassion for the one who hurt you?

I bared my soul over a similar situation in THIS POST. No, you’re right, it’s no coincidence that a real-life experience ended up in my novel. Art has an interesting way of imitating life (or is it the other way around?).

I hope you will get a chance to read the book and keep the miracle that inspired that part of the story in mind. If you do, I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts.

Q: Have you ever prayed for an enemy? If so, what happened?

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If you’re a Christian, how did you begin your God Life? Did you wake up one day and say “I need to clean up my act and start going to church”? Or “I don’t want to go to hell, so Jesus, please come into my life.” Or “Jesus, take the wheel, you’re in charge now.” Or did you grow up hearing about Jesus and you’ve always believed?

For me, becoming a Christian was the “Jesus, take the wheel” thing. I was a sixteen year old low-life stoner (pot-smoker if you missed the 70s) bound for jail or death—I knew without a doubt. I wanted out, but felt trapped in a cycle of addiction, pressuring peers, and failure. I wondered about God but thought even if he was real he couldn’t do anything about my screwed-up life. Out of options, I began reading a Bible that had somehow trailed me through several moves. It kept falling open to the Psalms where David often mentioned God’s presence and love, talking about God like he was real. Like he cared and had the power to help. I figured David was either crazy or really did know God personally. So if David wasn’t stoned or crazy, maybe God was real. And maybe . . . if God was as powerful and caring as David said, maybe he could help a dumb girl caught up in a hopeless, destructive lifestyle.

So one night I put God to the test. I told him he could prove himself by taking away my 5-year cigarette addiction. (Yes, I was an idiot, but remember I did mention drug use.) I said if he did that, then I’d believe in him. Like God needed my validation. When I woke the next morning, all cigarette cravings had vanished. I was instantly free of an addiction I’d failed repeatedly to kick. I realized not only was God real and capable, but he had answered my challenge just as I’d asked. He wanted to help me with my issues, but more importantly, he wanted me to believe in him, trust him. And I did. I gave my life to Jesus that day.

I sometimes cringe when I use that phrase “gave my life to Jesus.” I did make a conscious decision to give God control of Camille and let him call the shots. But was it a done deed?

Psalm 31:14
But I trust in you, LORD; I say, “You are my God.”

The Bible talks about laying down our lives and taking up our cross daily. Anyone else struggle with this? I do. Not that I want to do terrible things, it’s just that not all my days begin with “THY kingdom come, THY will be done . . .”

Sometimes I’ve surrendered my will and chose God’s way instead of mine. Yay, me. But there have been plenty of days in which I’ve ignored that nudging of his Spirit and did my own thing. Because I don’t feel like going out of my way. Or waking up early. Or being nice to an arrogant jerk. Or putting away the leisure thing and studying God’s word. Or skipping what I was planning to do because someone has a need. Or spending more than a few rushed minutes in prayer—on my knees. Or, or, or.

I have often despaired of being a good, God-led, dead-to-self person. Sometimes I wonder if I’m giving God a migraine. After all these years, you’d think I’d have it. I mean, he’s delivered me from addictions, healed some deep wounds, taught me to love, to trust. Why do I still fight to keep my grubby little grip on my will?

Once in a rare while, am reminded how far God has brought me. When God helped the Israelites cross the Jordan, he had them stop and build a memorial of river stones to help them remember where they’d come from and how God had delivered them. I rarely remember where I was headed when Jesus met me that night, and so forget to look at all he’s done in me since. He’s done miracle after miracle. Which makes me feel guiltier about this selective dying to self thing. But then I remember that, unlike his instant help with the smoking, the many other changes in me didn’t happen overnight. I am reminded that he knew what he was getting into and yet he helped me that night.

And he will continue to help me now.

As I pray-whined recently about this problem I have with laying down my will and submitting to his, I felt God remind me I can ask for his help. He can help my lips utter the words “Have your way in me, Lord, Your will be done.” And I only need enough desire and ability to do this TODAY. Not for the rest of my life, just today. My WILL is my weakness, my drug, my idol. I am reminded that like any addiction, I can’t change this without his help. My God can give me a heart of flesh, which is awesome because I need a heart like his daily. For some of us, it’s scary to say “have Your way, Lord.” I mean, he might ask me to go to Africa or New Jersey. Or downtown Portland. (Ack!) To give up comfort. To walk along the edge of a cliff with no safety net—other than his capable hands.

Sound too hard?

It is. Thank God he will be with me, giving me the ability, the courage, the strength, and the resources to follow through. And by his amazing grace, he will even help my heart be willing, just for today. Just one day at a time. That’s all I have to worry about!

Question: Do you find it hard to let God call the shots? If so, how does one day at a time sound? Or maybe one “shot” at a time?

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