Friday, August 31, 2012


    Waiting is no fun. In our family we are waiting for the birth of our third child.We've been waiting and looking forward to this for so many months and now it could happen any day. We had a little false alarm on Monday and it had us all on edge. This is going to happen...and soon! But all that excitement just made the waiting a little bit harder when the contractions faded away again. When is our little daughter going to arrive? When are we going to hear her little voice? When are we going to see her beautiful face and feel the brush of her soft baby skin? And so we wait and we pray and we entrust ourselves to God's timing.
    Waiting just isn't easy to do. Every experience...even the waiting experiences...are good for us. God uses them to grow us and teach us patience. He reminds us that it's his time-table...not ours. He doesn't want us to worry and stress out because our plan isn't going as we planned or our timing isn't going as we've timed it. He's going to work all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) and that promise extends also to when things happen.
    I was reminded again recently of that beautiful serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. What an excellent prayer. What valuable gifts to ask our Father to give us. What a great reminder for ourselves every time we pray it.
     As we continue waiting for our daughter to arrive, we'll pray that prayer and relax and leave the timing in God's hands. Soon enough, when the time is right our amazing blessing will arrive. As I work on writing my book and experience the ups and downs of following that passion, I'll continue to pray that prayer. As I continue my life's journey with all its twists and turns, its mountains and valleys, its sweet joys and moments of pain and heartbreak, its successes and setbacks, I'll continue to pray that prayer and rejoice in the gifts God has given. Afterall, no matter what happens, the reality remains that I am a child of God by his grace, that I have a perfect Savior who's life, death and coming to life again have ransomed me forever. Now each day I can live in that fresh confidence, even if today God wants me to be patient and wait on his timing.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Real Connections

Acceptance. We're all looking for it on some level. The need to feel like you're important and that people love you is ingrained deep in our souls. God made us that way. He made us as social creatures who hunger for connection with others and with himself. It's one of our basic human needs. When that need is not met or understood people suffer, problems and pain rip us apart or linger in the deeper regions of our psyche. Our relationships with loved ones suffer further damage through our own reactions or defense mechanisms. It's our lack of connection to God that causes all of those problems and so much more. Can you imagine what it will be like in heaven when we fully experience the deepest possible harmony with God and each other? When we fell into sin we tragically lost that harmony. What we call "normal life" right now is not normal. It is not normal to deal with the pain and conflict and misunderstanding and lack of trust and all that comes with it. We can't re-create Eden on earth, even though many human movements try to do that. We can't get true harmony again by tolerating sin or sinful lifestyles. Only God can bring us back into harmony with himself through his powerful truth. Only he can give us true worth and a good, healthy relationship with himself. He did that by sending his Son, Jesus, to take our sins and credit us with his perfection. Only through God's gift of faith in Jesus as our Savior do we have any positive connection with God. Only through Jesus do we grow in our relationship and connection with one another. We love because he first loved us.

The main character in my novel is wracked by his inability to connect with others. Some of it is his own fault and sinful resentments. His community is also largely to blame. I really want his struggle to resonate with people...especially people who have been damaged by the lovelessness of others and their own sinful responses. It's this impulse to find acceptance and honor in his community that will lead to his adventures and self-discoveries. He's going to need to grow in his understanding of who his God is and what God has done for him and will do. Don't we all? One of my prayers in writing this book is that those who read it also grow in their understanding and appreciation for God's undeserved mercy and grace. All of us feel disconnected on some level. Only God can truly save us, heal us and reconnect us as his people.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Words We Need

A favorite quote of mine and one that I need to take to heart more and more is: You can grow a lot if you actually listen to many of the things you hate to hear. Especially when they come from someone who loves you.

No one likes to be critiqued or evaluated. No one likes hearing criticism even when it is constructive. But if everyone just smiled and nodded and said what we wanted to hear how would we grow? How would we be challenged to go in new directions, look at things from a new perspective, or deepen the convictions we already have? Challenges strengthen us. Set backs are opportunites for growth. Every failure is a great learning experience. The problem often we hear criticism and bristle at it. We refuse to listen to those who try to correct us or have a new perspective for us. We ignore valuable advice or opportunities for growth because we don't like being challenged.  How we cheat ourselves!

I'm not saying all criticism is constructive. Sometimes people are out to hurt us with words and negative opinions. Sometimes without intending it people say things that dampen our enthusiasm or bring us down. Sometimes people truly don't know what they are talking about when they criticize. But even these experiences are valuable learning opportunities. Perhaps they just reinforce the course that we are already on or give us opportunities to grow in being patient. All too often though, we dismiss the criticism that truly is constructive. Maybe its a spouse or other loved one who has a few words that are aimed at making us think. These people love us. These people know us. They often truly want good things for us. Yet we still don't want to hear it.

It's far more dangerous when we dismiss the difficult things that God has to say to us! God loves us. He always wants what is best for us. Yet God has some very tough things for us to hear. Jesus tells us "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)  Wow. That floors me every time. That is a standard that is obviously something I haven't achieved. Perfect? Every moment? Every thought? Every word? Every action? Morally flawless in all I do? Pure self-less, God-honoring motives in everything? One break in that, one slip and its all over! Life-long perfection. That's a standard I've never achieved and already have fallen short of in the last minute...let alone the last 29 years of my life! That's really hard to hear. Yet God wants me to take a good hard look at myself and to see that I'm a failure. I have not and cannot achieve his standards for human life. God wants me to realize that I don't measure up. God wants me to see him (not anything I am or do) as my one and only hope. God used his words to open my eyes to see Jesus, his Son, my Savior, as my only hope. Romans 5:6, 8  says, "You see at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly...God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." That truth just can never get old! That truth is my reality every single day. I am forgiven, bought and paid for by Christ's sacrifice on that cross. He paid the debt for every moment of my imperfection. He did that for every person in the world! Because of the salvation that is mine as a free gift from my God I am free to thankfully grow as his child. Part of that growth is listening to the tough things that I need to hear from his Word, and from the people he's put in my life. Thank God for that! Thank God for any growing that actually happens! So I want to keep listening to the things that are difficult to hear and I want to keep taking them to heart and acting on them. I realize that I have so much room to grow as a Christian man, as a husband, as a father, as a pastor, as a friend, as a son and in every other role and responsibility that God has given me. I can't wait to grow as a way of honoring and thanking God for the amazing grace he's shown me!

So please, don't tell me what I want to hear...tell me what I need to hear! Be real with me. Be honest. Let's all listen to the words we need to hear most--God's. Let's all give and take good constructive criticism...and grow every day!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thought of the day...

Lately I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed. Sometimes I make the mistake of looking at the big picture and getting worked up over all the countless deadlines and problems and tasks that need to be done in life...(I'm not just talking about my writing project either). If you try to focus on everything...or list off everything that could go wrong or the long "to-do" list--it is naturally going to be overwhelming. It's like looking directly up at a huge mountain and saying, "I can never climb that!" But when you focus just on the next step and put one foot down where it needs to be then it isn't overwhelming any more. A passage I've needed to really keep in mind this week: In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9).

Sometimes I imagine everything depends on me and my plan and what I do. That's my sinful pride at work. God wants me to work hard and do my best...but ultimately the results are in his hands. I can plan out every last detail and worry myself silly over things and then God can take my plans and my work in a whole new surprising direction. He's in control. He knows what's best. He loves me. He's proved his love for me by sending his own Son to die for me and save me forever. He's set me free to live for him. This is not "my" life, but the life he's given me to serve him and other people. It's not about me, it's about him! I need that reminder.

I found a little thing I wrote a long time ago that was supposed to remind me of this truth. Thankfully it reminded me again when I needed the reminder:

Let go, just let go.
Relax that tight, incessant grip and let it slip
know that flood of desperate relief
when you let go of yourself
and find that God is still holding you up
His perfect promises tell you so.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Writing Takes Discipline

I'm finding that writing really takes discipline. It's a major passion of mine to write and create and I enjoy working on creative projects like this, but the distractions are endless!!

Fridays have become my free day. My weekly and daily schedule is quite flexible, but I find that my other studies and work occupy most of my week...even my early morning hours during the week. That doesn't leave much time for writing "for fun". I realize that I need to find some time to work each day on my book if there's any hope of reaching my goal: a completed first draft by the end of this year. Right now, Friday is one day when I can get up early and dedicate quality, quiet hours to writing. Those hours go by way too fast!!

Today I was re-working the opening of the book. I felt that my original opening just wasn't attention- grabbing enough. I wanted to launch into some major action right away while also introducing some of the internal and external struggles of my main character. (The previous opening was an internal struggle going on in his mind which I'll use a little later on.) I was really getting into it and getting excited about where I was going next and then ....I hear the gentle tapping steps of my 4 year-old son coming down the basement stairs. It was 6 am. His smile melts my heart. His curiosity is endearing. I love having little chats with him. It was a distraction worth having, but it was still a distraction.
Soon enough my 1 year old daughter is awake and wanting to come out of her crib. Breakfast needs to be made. My wife is up and getting ready to teach an exercise class. The daily schedule is off and running again and my computer and my writing are soon left behind. The kids need my attention...more than they have been getting. My wife needs me and my time and has things for me to do. The garden needs weeding...badly! The tasks of the day soon fill the open time slots and my "free" day is a "full" day and my book is collecting dust before it is even a completed manuscript! That's a bit frustrating. If anybody has tips for time management during the writing process...I'm all ears. I need all the help I can get...

I know its going to take major discipline. It's going to take a very firm schedule. I need to carve out quality, distraction-free, focused writing sessions not just every week, but every day--and they need to be carved in stone!  That is going to take discipline and determination, but that is what it is going to take to get this project finished and finished well.

Friday, June 22, 2012


One of the biggest challenges about writing a novel set in ancient Israel is trying to figure out what daily life was like at the time. What did they eat? What were the homes like? What were the typical family structure and relationships? What did they do for leisure? What was it like to be a soldier in those days? The questions are endless and a bit daunting as I try to answer them. That said, I love doing the research. It's fascinating to track down the answers and grow in my knowledge and appreciation of this time period.  I enjoy trying to imagine myself in a totally different culture and circumstances and then recreate that in a creative way in the storyline.
Another getting lost in the research. There always seems like so much to learn. I can keep learning forever and never have all the answers. The temptation is to spend inordinate times researching and then minimal time actually writing and creating. Finding a balance lately has been hard. I understand that I'm really just beginning the process and right now it will take a lot of research and understanding to write historical fiction, but I don't want to just do research all the time. I want to write and create.
Currently I'm delving deeper into what we know about the family structure and roles in ancient Israel. Much of my book will deal with family, relationships and how the family responds to difficult circumstances. What did the "family" look like in those days? Obviously the concept was quite different than what we today would call "family." What were the roles and responsibilities of different family members? How might they relate and interact with each other? Questions, questions, questions. The answers are fascinating. I can't wait to create a family with characters that reflect what we know about that time and yet also a family that we in the 21st century can relate to, sympathize with and even learn from.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Writing Free: What's that all about?

I have two huge passions in my life: Writing and God's Word.

I've always loved to write. Growing up I filled notebooks with poetry and reflections on life, faith, people and God. I also loved to read what others wrote. A picture may be worth a thousand words...but when people read a thousand well-written words they may see a million pictures, smell a million smells, taste a million tastes, feel a million feelings, and most importantly they will think a million thoughts. I love to create with words and I love to make people think. I am currently working on publishing a book, a work of Christian fiction. I'm taking a real person mentioned breifly in the Bible and imagining what his life's journey may have been like. I want to explore what it must have been to live in the days of Saul and David and experience that world and see amazing things that God did in those days. I want to write a story that illustrates what God's Word has always done in the lives of people on earth and glorify God by communicating his love and his truth in this work of fiction. I pray that God will use it to bring more people into contact with his saving truth--his Word.

God's Word is my chief passion. It is because of God's truth that I am free--free from the most desperate situation a person can ever imagine. I was born dead-spiritually dead. We all are. God's truth is clear about that. (Ephesians 2:1-3) Dead in sin, born a sworn enemy of the true God, separated from him and his love, spiritually blind, tragically alone, eternally condemned. It is by God's grace that I am free from all of that. He worked a miracle! He used his truth to save me. The truth that my Savior has truly come and fulfilled God's age-old promises. I cannot stand before God as I am, but my Savior lived my life in my place--perfectly! He donated that perfect life on my behalf. He died the death I deserved in my place. He experienced my eternal condemnation. He died on a cross. He was buried in a tomb. He came to life again and shattered death's grip on me. God has rescued me by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to save a world full of people born dead to God--including me! He has communicated that amazing truth to the world by giving us his Word--the Bible. (Ephesians 2:4-10 and Romans 1:16)

I am nothing apart from Christ. He has set me free to serve him and other people with everything that I am and have and do. (Galatians 5:13) And so, I am writing free!  May the posts I write here and all I do give glory to the God whose grace alone has set me free.