Daily Write 1

So, I decided to start writing for twenty minutes every day. I need to get back in the habit. Or, at least maintain the habit. I didn’t go through five years of college just to forget all that I learned. And one of the fundamental practices of an author is writing every single day. Even if just for a little while. It’s desperately important….

I know that God has gifted me as I writer. I believe that He wants me to be an author, hopefully more than just Mounting Up. He has given me the opportunity to learn so much over the past five years of college education…more years than that if I count home-schooling and the correspondence course I took. But the past five years have truly finessed my skill.

Not that I can’t learn more. A person can always learn more. But how can I learn if I don’t keep writing? If I don’t make mistakes and correct them? If I don’t try new things? If I don’t find new editors.

Writing is a passion. One that I never want to give up. So many books touched and molded my life as a child – fiction and nonfiction books alike! I need to read War and Peace again. That was by far one of the greatest and most transforming books I ever read. My goal in writing – perhaps “my mission” is a better term – is to change lives, much as books have changed my life.

Twenty minutes. I’m currently giving myself twenty minutes a day to just write, to pour myself out on the page. But what do I want those twenty minutes to look like? I don’t necessarily want to free-write every single time as I’m doing now. Certainly, free writing can be very useful, especially for brainstorming, but it isn’t the most disciplined or productive form of writing, at least for me. So what should I write about? How should I write about it?

Maybe I should just answer those main reporter questions as I write….

What should I write about?

How should I write?

When should I write?

Where should I write?

Why should I write?

I think I already answered the “why,” so how about we start with “what” – what should I write about? And, of course, one of the key things I learned in class comes to mind – write what you know. (Was that Dr. Davis’s class? I believe so.) Write about God, faith, college, cooking, newlywed life, running, horses, goats, sheep, cattle, driving, riding, writing, hiking, running, eating disorders, dogs, settling into a new home, crafting, joy, friendship, Scripture, mountains, road trips, Wyoming, Montana…. Write what you know.

So how will I write about what I know? Not just freestyle, but with specifics. I’ll focus on character, setting, plot, and dialogue. (Aren’t those the key components?) Maybe one day I’ll create a character or two. Another I might describe something I know well – an old horse barn with cracks between the logs, allowing shafts of sunlight to illuminate the tiny specks of fragrant dust rising from the disturbed straw. (I love description…I’ll have to be careful to not spend all my time there!). Then I might combine the two with vibrant action!

When to write…right now I just finished my run/stretch routine and, for now, I think this might be a prime time to write. A good workout and stretch clears my mind of all the distracting pieces of life flittering about, allowing me to calm down, sit still, and focus on a task at hand. We’ll try that plan for a while. What about the days on which I don’t run? I’ll probably still have to do some sort of workout or stretching routine, just to calm my mind enough. That’ll be good incentive to workout on “off” days!

Where to write? That’s easy…at my writing desk! The beautiful little roll top desk that is just barely big enough for my laptop, a cup of tea, and some papers. But it’s big enough for the imagination and that, my friends, is all that matters. I’m in the brightly lit kitchen – one of my favorite places to be, with windows and doors right in front of me, letting in the fresh air and hilly, grassy, soon-to-be-snowy views. The door will be left open when possible, for the noise of birds is beautiful this afternoon. And when the winter months are too cold, I’ll shut the door and open the curtain in front of me, opening to a view of snow.

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My Jericho

(from Joshua 6 and 1 Kings 16: 34)

God tore down these fortress walls;
My dirty hands rebuild them.
He commands, He warns, He whispers, He calls;
My willful heart ignores Him.

I pour the foundation and bury my Lord;
I raise the gates and nail Him high.
The bricks are whetstones to sharpen the sword
That pierce His heart and mine.

He destroyed what once held me.
I build it back in zealous lust,
Too proud to kneel, too blind to see
The mortar is made of blood and dust.

Dear Lord, I wish to let my hammer drop,
To let the fortress lie,
To let green grass cover the barren spot,
And rivers fill the streets so dry.

 

Strong

Joshua 1: 6-7 – “Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.”

Strength. It seems as if more than once, especially over the last couple of months, people have commented on my having spiritual strength.

But am I really that strong? Or am I just so weak that God’s strength shines through?

Because when I look at myself, I know I’m not strong. Sure, I can be. When people need me, then I will do everything I can to come through for them, to be strong for them. And, in most situations, it seems as if God allows me to be strong for them, to be that person on whom they can lean. And I am so thankful for that; I am so thankful that God has made me a person whom others can rely upon.

But when I’m alone…I know who I really am. When I finally just shut my door and sit on my bed, when I quit focusing on all the crazy activities of life, when I finally let myself be still before Him…then I realize how overwhelmed and weak I am.

I am not as strong as people think I am.

Those times when I am at my “strongest”? Those are undoubtedly the times when I was begging God for His strength and guidance, knowing that my abilities were entirely inadequate.

In 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10, Paul says, “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I hope that when people see my “strength,” they can recognize that I am only the weak and broken pot, and that God is the Strong One who is holding me together and making me a serviceable vessel. Because the Strong One they see isn’t me — it’s all Him.

Enough

Habakkuk 3: 17-18a

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor the fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls — Yet I will rejoice in the Lord , I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.

The picture painted here is one of utter desolation. The trees and vines produce no food, crops aren’t growing, the livestock are gone…it’s a bleak, hopeless outlook, especially for people whose lives depend on agricultural output (which, really, all of us do). But there is no hope here, no joy in a dead farm.

Nothing is growing, nothing is going right. Despair, destruction, hopelessness, failure.

Life.

Tell me, where’s the joy in that?

I don’t believe there is any.

But Habakkuk doesn’t find joy in that life. He finds joy in God:

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

God is enough. He is our joy. No matter how dismal my life is, I can still find joy in Him. We need nothing else; He is our joy.

Even when we are the lowest of low by the world’s standards, when we have absolutely nothing, when life is the most barren desert we could ever imaging passing through, just look at the position God puts us in. Look at verse 19:

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.

I like how my footnotes explain this passage:

“The Lord God”: Here the divine name Yahweh is tied to the term Adonai, which means “Lord.” “my strength”: God will strengthen those who trust in Him [….] He will give those who live by faith the same confidence that a surefooted deer has  in climbing mountains [….] like a victorious army, the righteous with God’s strength will occupy the high hill.

God is the Strength I need to face this life.

He makes me able to maneuver the crags and crevices and predators and danger zones.

And He gives me the victory. Oh my goodness, He gives me the victory to stand tall with Him, no matter how Satan attacks.

God is my Everything.

When God Doesn’t Answer — Rambling Thoughts

Did you know that I have a heck of a lot easier time trusting God when I feel Him telling me exactly what to do and assuring me that everything’s going to be okay?

The other night God called me to send a text which I normally wouldn’t send. No details, but it just wasn’t something I would typically be comfortable doing. But I felt so strongly that God wanted me to send it that I obeyed. Granted, for the rest of that night and into the next morning I was completely fretting about the decision, wondering if I had made a fool out of myself, worrying if I had completely stepped out of bounds, and basically chewing myself up over it. Even though I kept feeling God tell me, “It’s going to be okay.”

You can probably guess how silly, ashamed, and relieved I felt when everything worked out perfectly. Just like God said it would.

But what if God is silent?

What if I’m begging for an answer to a question and He feels entirely distant about it?

What if I’m totally confused about a situation and I have no idea what to expect, and God doesn’t say a word?

What then?

It’s at moments like this when it’s harder for me to trust God. I grow impatient, I want an answer now, I want to know what in the world I should expect in the future, which hopes to hang onto and which to let go. And when God doesn’t give me an exact answer, I can be very tempted to take matters into my own hands and/or assume God wants things one way or another when I really don’t know what He wants.

I’m a high-energy, let’s-get-up-and-go sort of person. I like to move, to be active, to go do something. I don’t care for waiting.

But maybe that’s exactly what God is calling me to do right now. To wait.

And yet to also do more than just wait.

To wait patiently. To sincerely trust Him, even when I have no idea what He’s doing. To continue to serve Him whole-heartedly while I’m waiting.

There’s probably a good reason I’ve recently been listening to John Waller’s “While I’m Waiting.”

Why does waiting have to be so hard?

Maybe that’s just a rhetorical question. It’s hard because trusting on God and waiting for His direction requires my being patient, killing off my own desires, and choosing His will over mine.

As I read somewhere, nothing of value is easily earned.

My journey with Christ, my daily decisions to follow and trust Him, will be hard fought. But I know that they will also be entirely worth the battle.

Not “Just”

I recently borrowed a movie called Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. While there were certain aspects of the movie that I didn’t approve of, I fell in love with the overall theme of the movie. It’s a story that focuses on using one’s imagination, believing the unbelievable, and making the impossible possible. It has a beautiful plot with incredible quotes and photography that encourage the viewer to take a childish, innocent, and awed look at the world without any of the legalities and restrictions that our “realistic,” “mature” adult minds tend to use.

During one scene in the movie, the business-minded accountant — who has no belief in magic whatsoever — is asking the store manager Molly Mahoney what the matter is with the Emporium, which is Mr. Magorium’s toystore. Molly tells the accountant that it’s a magical toystore but he refuses to take her word literally, sure she’s using “magical” as a figurative way to describe the store. Frustrated, Molly tells him that he is a “just guy” —

“A guy just like you. Same hair, same suit, same shoes, walks around, no matter what, you think it’s all just a store, it’s just a bench, it’s just a tree. It’s just what it is, nothing more! “ (IMDB)

Ever since watching that movie, I’ve noticed the same “just guy” (or “gal”) mentality popping up occasionally in one of the Bible studies I attend. While we try to dig into Scripture, sometimes a verse just seems straightforward. Somebody will explain, “It just means that it’s only by grace that we’re saved,” or “It just means that Christ is the second Adam who saves us, just like the first Adam condemned us.” And then we move on. It’s just this, it’s just that. No awe. No amazement. It’s just matter-of-fact, take-it-as-it-is.

I’m getting to the point where I want to scream, “No, it’s not!”

Jesus Christ didn’t just die for us. God didn’t just sacrifice His Son for us. We weren’t just given His grace. We weren’t just saved from the punishment we deserve for our sins.

The problem is that we have heard these messages so often that we have lost our wonder for them. We have adopted that stagnant, this-is-a-fact-of-life mindset even in relation to the Scriptures. And let me ask you, how believable are the stories and messages in Scripture if we take a look at them as if we’ve never seen them before? God literally became a human being? God is three Persons in One? Jesus lived a perfect life and after He died and was buried for three days, He came back to life again? All of the wrongs we have ever done in our entire lives can be washed away by the blood of one Man? God actually cares about the measly human beings here on earth?

How believable is any of that? How “just” is Scripture?

No wonder Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Luke 18:16b-17).

Children implicitly believe what they are told, and they tend to adore the teller. Jesus desires that same implicit belief and adoration. But children also never lose their sense of wonder and amazement toward the world around them. Don’t you think Jesus wants the same from us? For us to be ever in awe of what He has done in the past as recorded in Scripture, of what He is working in our lives on a daily basis? For us to never take Him for granted, to never rationalize and simplify what He has done as mere fact, to never say “He just does this” and move on with our lives?

Have we forgotten how magical, improbable, and impossible our God is? Do we speak of Him as “just God” or as….

God?

Unpredictable

Psalm 40:4a – Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust….

I guess that if there is one thing that I have learned in life, especially over the last few years, it’s that I really can’t trust anybody here on Earth. As harsh and critical as that sounds, it’s true: people are simply untrustworthy. But God isn’t. When He does things in my life that I don’t want, or when He doesn’t answer my prayers the way I want Him to, He is actually working in my best interests. He has not, does not, and will not let me down in the same way people are bound to do.

God is not untrustworthy. He’s just unpredictable.

It’s like riding a horse. I can trust my mount to always act like a horse. That doesn’t mean that I can trust her to do what I think she should do, or what I’ve asked her do, or what I think is the sensible thing to do. My horse doesn’t think like a human, so she won’t act like one. Simple, right?

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Neither does God think like I do:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55: 8-9

God will always think and act like God. Scripture tells me that God is trustworthy and always working in my best interests. I might not understand His ways – oftentimes I won’t – but I can always trust that His ways are ultimately better than mine and that even if I feel like He is letting me down, He is actually building me up.

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Because I can always trust a horse to act like a horse – which includes being unpredictable – I always have to stay alert when I’m riding. If I don’t then I’m probably going to get dumped. I wasn’t prepared; I wasn’t watching; I wasn’t listening to my horse’s cues; I wasn’t ready to respond….

My relationship with God is the same way: I can’t just go along for the ride. God is unpredictable, and He might throw something at me I’m not ready for. And then what will happen? If I’m not prepared, my faith might be shaken. I might not handle the situation to the best of my abilities. I might mistake His unpredictable nature for untrustworthiness.

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I have to be prepared; I have to be ready to ride. My relationship with God isn’t like my relationship with people, whom I tend to relate to at arm’s length so that I’m always somewhat protected if they somehow break my trust, and to protect them from my breaking theirs. My relationship with God is more like my relationship with my horse. I can’t work with my horse at arm’s length if I really want to know her well enough so that we can both grow as a team. The only way for me to understand her nature and to be prepared for her unpredictable ways is to be as close to her as possible, both physically and emotionally. To ride with close contact on the bit rather than on a loose rein. To watch her ears and not the clouds. To learn her reactions, her habits, her means of communicating. To build up our trust in one another. To create a relationship with her that nobody else has.

That’s when trust in the face of unpredictability is enacted. That’s when faith comes to life.

And that is how I want my relationship with God to be….How it should be….

The most beautiful, trusting, epically-glorious, and truly unpredictable ride of my life.

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