Ladies and gentlemen, it’s almost here: Christmas, the most magical time of the year. Weeks of planning, coordination, and frantic planning are about to come to their purpose as that blessed date finally arrives.
As we come upon Christmas, I’d like to urge all of you to remember the reason for the season. It’s so easy to get caught up in full schedules, gift buying, parties, family, friends, food and fun that we forget WHY we’re celebrating. It isn’t about gifts, decorations, meals, or Santa. It’s about the most wonderful gift that humanity has been given: Christ, our King who brings our salvation.
We talk about family, friends and church. These are wonderful gifts, but remember that the core of why we celebrate is the personal victory that Christ gave us when he died on the cross and defeated Satan for once and for all. It’s our responsibility to claim that victory and the free Grace of God that is offered with it. Nobody can do it for us. This is a free gift offered to each and every one of us and we alone must claim it. This is a time to give thanks for it. Remember that we join together to give thanks to Christ for coming into this world. We give gifts to one another as symbols of the wonderful gift of Salvation that Christ has given to us. We celebrate because we know that we’re free from the devastating consequences of sin on our soul and know we have eternal life.
I know the days ahead are full, but please take some quiet time to reflect on the reason for all of the activity in the coming days. Otherwise, it becomes another item on the “to do” list. Christ deserves better than that.
It isn’t about putting on the “perfect holiday.” It’s about celebrating the “perfect gift” that we have, now and always, throughout all of eternity. Thanks be to God.
I recently heard a sermon on BBN about how the Book of Nehemiah shows 4 ways the devil trys to stop people from doing God's will. They are derision, discouragement, destruction and division. I think this is pretty accurate. After all, God doesn't attack us. He usually changes our circumstances and/or prompts a change of mind and heart within us if the intervention is Holy and an effort to put us on a right path. I believe my story from yesterday's entry showed this at work. There were no attacks in that situation; simply changing circumstances which eventually lead me to a change of heart. Certainly I could have continued to pursue an advanced degree in a different program, but the experience shifted my desires to other areas. In fact, I felt strongly prompted to pursue writing after this incident and I had an experience last year that showed all 4 of these steps at work to divert me from what I felt prompted to do.
In April 2010 I had an idea for an apocolyptic sci-fi thriller novel. I had just completed the manuscript for Anywhere But Here, and frankly I was surprised to have an idea for another novel so soon after completing one. I'm usually exhausted and novel ideas come, at best, every 2-3 years. I was excited to already have another potential project, so I immediately dug in and began writing the first chapter of this new piece. Frankly, it was the only excitement I had in the area of writing. I hadn't had anything published in over three years, and a contract that I was offered a year earlier fell through when the publisher filed for bankruptcy (see discouragement and destruction at work). This lack of success had caused enthusiasm to wane over my writing, and people that had been so excited when I published Battleground Earth in 2004 had now dismissed my writing as nothing more than a "nice little hobby" (see derision at work). Through this dry period I did pray about whether it was a sign to stop writing and move on, but the ideas kept coming and I continued to feel compelled and prompted to continue writing, even if the stories never made it any further than my hard drive.
My progress didn't make it past the first chapter, though, because I got tendinitis in my right wrist. It took about 8 weeks to heal. During that time I had to keep my typing to a minimum. I prayed and felt that I should use the time to research and further develop this novel. In fact, I decided to use the entire summer for this task and to enter this novel idea in the 2010 National Novel Writing Month challenge for 2010. That gave me 5 months to research, brainstorm, outline, and prepare to write the rough draft of the novel, and it would finally give me a chance to enter this writing challenge that I'd had my eye on and thought about entering for many years.
I tentatively call the tendinitis a destruction attack on me. I say "tentatively" because I am aware that the tendinitis was caused by typing at work all day and then coming home and typing at night to write Anywhere But Here, so the injury was a result of actions that I knowingly and willingly took.It was just the timing of the injury and the fact that my left wrist wasn't hurt at all that made me suspicious.
I proceeded with my plan and come November 1, 2010 I was ready to start on the novel. I was fully healed and had plenty of notes ready to go. I made great progress for the first few days. I was going through a major life transition at the time from major changes in my personal and professional life, but I felt that I was on a right path. In fact, writing Splinter for NaNo felt like a claim of independence; like a way of saying this is my life and I'm taking it and putting it together my way. It was a personal victory for me.
Unfortunately, the devil had his last punch to pack, and he gave me a wallop right when I didn't need it. It was at that time that other people in my life decided that they had a whole lot of problems with all of these changes, and it was time to do something about it. Tempers exploded and I saw sides of people that I had known for years that had never come out. They weren't angry at me, but since the change was centered around me then I was viewed as the linchpin of it all, and they saw me as the one to "make things right." They were mad at circumstances, mad at situations, and yes, mad at one another. I tried to soothe them, but tempers raged on. I even pointed out, as gently as I could, that they were reacting violently to things that usually didn't bother them, or were minor irritations. Occasionally they would stop, look stunned, say "you're right, that's wierd," then proceed to keep screaming about everything wrong with the world. Most of the time, they said I was crazy and needed to do something about things NOW. (See division at work.)
Once again, I prayed about the situation and this time, I had what can only be called a divine inspiration: Don't worry about anything else; just finish that rough draft as quickly as possible. Ignore everything else until it's done and deal with people once you get this story, which has been percolating in your head for months, out of the brain and onto the hard drive. Until then, reality can wait.
That's exactly what I did. I quit socializing, cleared my calendar, only did the bare essentials, and pounded away at that manuscript in every free minute I could squeeze out of my days. I amazed myself by finishing a 51,000 word first draft of Splinter by November 15.
A funny thing happened when I cautiously re-emerged back to reality. World War 3 hadn't broken out, and nobody had killed anybody else. In fact, all those tempers quieted. Most of them slunk away in silence, but a few did express shock and dismay at their behavior. They couldn't believe they had reacted so violently to things that were nothing more than minor irriations and didn't understand. I knew exactly what it was. Satan lit them with some hell fire to stop me, but when I wasn't there to burn then it was useless so he took it from them. I could have easily stayed angry at them and cast blame and judgement, but I realized it as an attack of division and didn't want to allow it to succeed on any level. It was hard, but I made an active decision to forgive and let it go.
I'd like to say that the devil just went away after that, but the truth is that I faced similar attacks every single time I worked on Splinter. Every rewrite, every edit, every proofread it happened. People saying they couldn't believe I was still at it when I clearly wasn't going to get published again. Illness, computer problems and yes, those tempers did flare back up every single time. But you know what? I prayed for protection, I persevered, and with the Lord's grace and help, I finished the manuscript last month. It's in the submittal process now and I pray that protection and help continue to bring it to publication.
Another thing did happen in the wake of all of this. I was offered e-book contracts for Blurry and Anywhere But Here, finally ending a 4 year publication dry spell. I also got several flash fiction pieces and a couple of short stories posted online, and that success gave me the confidence to self publish two more pieces: Quarantine, a suspense novellette, and Resonance, a horror long story. Thanks be to God that the opportunities offered by e-publishing took me from “a nice little hobby” to being an Independent Author!
The point of this story is to show that you will come up against opposition when you try to do God's will by finding your authentic self, but the rewards of perseverence are great. Prayer is absolutely essential - in fact, it's key. I think you see in my tale that prayer is how I channeled the Lord's power into my life. Through it, He provided me with wisdom, healing and protection. I can tell you for a fact that if He will do it for me, He will do it for everybody. God is no respector of persons. If you love and trust Him, He will provide, protect and comfort you.
I know it's discouraging to find you'll have to fight the devil to be who you were made to be, but the fact is that you're going to fight him no matter what you do. Satan will taunt you whether you do what he wants or not, so you might as well claim Christ's victory and piss off the devil every chance you get. Because face it: With Satan you can't win, but with Christ you can't lose. That is the most universal truth there is.
Thanks for sticking with me through 2 life tales. I hope that my experiences have given you insight for your own life and perhaps inspiration for dealing with situations that you face. Take care and keep fighting the good fight.
Next time: Personality Quirks - What's Sin, What's There For a Reason.
Somebody recently came by my office to read a letter they received protesting a clause in a law that states that only licensed funeral directors can sell caskets. The protest letter stated several reasons why the law is archaic and outdated and closed by stating “I don’t know why a person has to have an education and two years of experience to sell a box.”
“So, what do you think?” they asked.
“Well,”I replied, “when you put it that way, it does sound stupid.”
I know that closing statement was meant to make the point in a simple and logical manner, but I believe they oversimplified the case. Yes, it did sound stupid –but when I was given the larger context of the comment, it seemed to me that they were oversimplifying the entire case. It made me wonder if there weren’t huge issues being glossed over in an attempt to be witty.
I wonder how often this happens. Sometimes, people say things trying to make things sound simple, but they don’t realize how much they leave out in their efforts to simplify.
Do you know another time when I believe this happens? It’s when people say “you need to have a personal relationship with Christ. “ I don’t know how you feel about that statement, but for years, my response was “how the heck are you supposed to do that?” Even though I do better understand the meaning of this statement, it still strikes me in the same way as the “education and experience to sell a box” scenario. It skips the entire process and takes you straight to the end result. It’s like telling somebody to meet you somewhere out of town,
and refusing to give them a map. People need direction to make the journey. It’s great to know where you’re heading, but it’s useless if you don’t know the way. It gives you the end result with no hint or clue of where to find the train that leads to that destination.
As Christians, we all know that Christ is the foundation of our lives. We are supposed to build everything on our faith in Him. This means that we totally let go and allow Him to lead and guide our lives. So, how do you do this? In my experience, it’s been a two step process.
First, you have to acknowledge that you really aren’t in control of your life. People are control freaks, and we want to believe that life is totally in our hands. The problem is, it really isn’t. Control is an illusion. The truth is
that God is really in control, and He will keep bringing things into your life to remind you of that fact until you finally accept that you’re riding in a sailboat on His ocean, and the only thing you really can do is adjust your
sails. And heck, you don’t even own the boat. He’s loaning that to you to make the journey that He laid before you. You can make your plans and that’s ok – it’s even advisable– but remain flexible and aware that tomorrow may bring an unexpected detour.
Second, you must have an active prayer life. Yes, God does know everything, but it helps us to pray because in talking to Him, we’re able to open our eyes to our own cares and concerns. Talking to God not only brings
comfort, but it helps us to know ourselves, and to see what is really on our hearts. Christ died so we could communicate directly with God in prayer, and that privilege is our lifeline to Heaven. It’s how we get Divine knowledge about how to lead our Earthly lives. How does this happen? It happens because it opens the lines of communication with our Creator, and it gives the Holy Spirit – you know, that little voice that most people call “intuition” – a place to speak in your heart. Through prayer, God gives us insight to our lives and situations that we wouldn’t have on our own, and allows us to discern truth in times when it would be impossible by natural, worldly means. It isn’t magic by any means. Rather, it’s a heightened awareness of truth, and the only way to get it and keep it is through prayer.
This is how a personal relationship with Christ develops. It happens over time, as we stretch our faith muscles and tune in to the Holy Spirit working in and through us. It develops just like any other friendship develops, with time, dedication and effort.
Developing this personal relationship with Christ does have a lot in common with natural friendships. You will find over time that He speaks to you in ways that are unique to your personality. For example, I hear from Him
through thoughts and ideas that I know are of the Spirit. One person I talked to said they don’t hear it that way, but rather they see Him through how their thoughts or emotions change or shift on certain areas that they’re praying about. I’ve heard others say they hear from the Spirit by seeing changes in attitudes or situations they’re facing. He speaks to everybody differently because He speaks in ways that each individual understands best.
I know this isn’t a full explanation of what having a personal relationship with Christ means. I wonder if such a thing exists, because there is no one process for doing this. The journey is as unique as we are, and it wholly depends on who we are and how we communicate with our Creator. I just hope that these two first steps that I took to begin my own journey help you to see the starting point for your own. As you proceed in prayer, I believe you’ll find a better guide for the rest of the journey through the Holy Spirit.
Now as for the education and experience to sell a box – sorry, I can’t help with that!
Next Week: The devil – no friend of ours!
Greetings, and welcome to my new blog series titled “From Sidekick to Superhero – Claiming Your Place in the World.” This idea was actually born from suggestions from several people that I return to my first book, an inspirational self-help book titled Battleground Earth - Living by Faith in a Pagan World and update it with lessons and life experience I’ve gained over the six years since it was published. It sounded like a great idea, but in looking over that manuscript, I discovered something shocking: I’m not the same person I was six years ago. While my morals and basic ideals haven’t changed, I have undergone a radical change in my perspective on life and the world that make the approach I took with Battleground Earth seem inadequate and, frankly, too elementary for me to return to. I feel I’ve moved to a new level and as such, I need to pick up at a point beyond that particular book. (Plus, I’ve also switched to writing fiction due to changes in the publishing industry since that time). I do welcome you to purchase and read it, though, because it provides an excellent foundation for the very intent of this blog series.
So what is the point? It’s simple. My platform is finding your purpose through God and being authentic. I have always believed that if your foundation is in Christ, then the ground level should be knowing, accepting, and appreciating the person God made you to be and to build your spiritual house based on His purpose for your life. The problem is that we live in a world where things like authenticity and unique perspectives are not only devalued but mocked. I suppose it’s always been this way, so nothing has really changed, but with the spread of technology the pressure to conform is coming at people in means and ways that didn’t exist before. It’s harder to find quiet places to be alone and to disconnect with the world. It’s harder to turn off the pressure to conform. It’s harder to stand up for what you believe in and to find the courage to be yourself when you’re pounded with messages through the countless means of communication telling you to get in your place and stay there.
Personally, I believe that I’ll be in a box when I’m dead, so I refuse to be trapped in one now. I also have a very strong and independent personality. Life experience has shown me that it’s actually very difficult for many people – maybe most – to be themselves. They don’t feel like it’s safe because they fear judgment from others, many times from those closest to them. They believe in Christ, but they don’t understand the freedom Christ brings. They don’t have to be in a box, but they stay there because it makes other people happy and it’s easier to stay there than to fight their way out. Rising above where they are might make others uncomfortable or unhappy, and they don’t want their individuality to cause trouble or pain to anybody.
That might be the safe way and the easy way, but I believe there’s too much at stake to play it safe. First, life is too short to settle for the lowest common denominator. God created you for a purpose and the greatest tragedy isn’t how people reacted to you, but the fact that you will one day stand before Him and have to explain why you weren’t the person He made you to be, and why you didn’t fulfill the purpose He sent you to fill. Too many of us fear judgment from others when we should be concerned with the final judgment where we will answer for all – it’s the classic tunnel vision of only seeing what’s convenient today at the expense of the good of eternity. Second, there’s no guarantee that people will be happy or comfortable no matter what you do. People have an inherit sense of when people aren’t being genuine or honest with them, and they resent it if they feel like you’re wearing a mask. I know, I just said we live in a world that prizes conformity – but people also don’t like to be deceived. It’s a double edged sword. They want you to want to center your life around their desires/wishes/convenience, but the truth is that none of us were created to be a sidekick to anybody. God meant for all of us to be superheroes, and you’re never going to find peace, contentment or joy in your life until you mine that hero out of the muck of conformity and let it fly in the light of day.
The purpose of this blog series is to share my faith, journey, and observations with you on how I discovered myself and “grew up” into the person I am today. Experts are great, but sometimes it helps to hear from somebody that’s travelling on the road with you. Consider this blog series as a companion along the way.
As we start this journey, I’d like to spell out a few disclaimers for you:
· I’m not trained in the ministry, so this isn’t formal theology. In other words, this isn’t “meat and potatoes.” It’s more like your cup of coffee in the morning. It’s intended to wake you up and set you off in the right direction. There are many resources from those formally trained in theology and psychology. I’ll draw from some of those sources (and other media) and will hopefully offer you others to point you in the right direction for formal education on the issue of individuality. Here, I offer my experiences, observations, and personal knowledge to get you started on the journey of finding your authentic self.
· This is Christian and it’s Biblically based. I’m not going to beat you over the head with a Bible, but it’s based on scripture and I will quote scripture if and when it’s relevant. And other things as well.
· I welcome feedback. You may agree or disagree with what I present here. I’d never deny anybody their opinion. In fact, I encourage and welcome your feedback. If you agree and find some spiritual help, please let me know. If you think I’m coming from outer space, tell me. Writers need to know what their readers are thinking and how their work is being perceived and received.
Welcome to the journey! I hope there is insight, knowledge and spiritual help offered through this blog series and that we all come out of it enlightened and stronger than before.
Next time – The epiphany that changed my perspective on everything. It was more recent than you think, and it will explain why I titled this series Sidekicks to Superheroes.