Sunday, June 26, 2011

Grasping the Nettles of Commitment ~

Serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  Deuteronomy 10:12
Nettles are the subject today from Meeting God in Quiet Places: The Cotswold Parables by F. LaGard Smith--the way nettles can represent more than a wild weed which stings. LaGard says that nettles can remind you that not everything in the English countryside is cozy and inviting. Nettles may look like a harmless green plant, but they can be very painful when you brush them on your walk. You may remember the old adage to "grasp the nettle" and get on with it. Do you have the courage--the boldness--to do the right thing even when it's going to be costly? When you know the pain is going to linger with you for hours? It is said that if you grasp the nettles quickly and firmly, it won't hurt. How many of you want to try out that expression, to see whether grasping the nettle will end up in a lot of pain?

Surrendering to God can have the same sense of grasping the nettle--a painful experience. And that pain creates hesitancy on our part. You may be hesitant to surrender your personal pleasures and lifestyle to accept a faith that seems onerous and burdensome. You wonder whether knowing God is worth the sacrifice. On the other hand, you may have that comfortable feeling of one who has walked with God for many years--church on Sundays, Bible study during the week, and keeping your nose clean, which means that you can live pretty much like everyone else. But what does Jesus say about that attitude?

This quotation from Jesus says a lot about half-hearted discipleship; you must either surrender to him all the way or just quit pretending: "He who is not with me is against me." And remember the scathing rebuke given to the Laodiceans: "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither cold nor hot--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Holding onto God with one hand and the world with the other doesn't work. Jesus said: "No one can serve two masters." And Joshua said, "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve!" It's all about commitment, isn't it? And our job is to think about just how committed we are--not just getting by, not just biding our time, not just seeming to be a Christian, but truly committed to faithful lives of service and dedication to God. .
This is enough for you to chew on today. I'll give you more on how to surrender to God as many others have done. There are some good examples for all of us to follow. But no one has ever grasped the nettle as completely as Jesus did. More on what it means for us to grasp the nettle next time.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Joy to the World ~

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.
Matthew 1:21                      

It's a beautiful morning here, but it's going to be hot! I don't mind as long as the smoke stays away. We've been blessed that even though our air quality hasn't been good some days, the fires are not giving us the angst that I first anticipated. I'm actually going out to lunch today. It's my first day out of the house in about a month. Thankfully, I have Los Poblanos Organic Farm to deliver food to my door. I'm very thankful that the situation didn't get any worse here.
A quick update on the novel writing: I'm going through the manuscript slowly with the idea of taking out all the extra words I tend to put into my writing. And though I hate to admit it, I went through earlier and took out the contractions, only to realize that it was stiff and stilted, and so I'm putting them back. Please let me say that the books by Ken Follett, which I talked about in my last blog, are not fit for moral consumption. I just hadn't read enough reviews to share that at the time.
And one more thing to share with you are excerpts from The Intimate Jesus by F. LaGard Smith. I began reading this book a few days ago, and have been struck by the power of the gospels once again. Because we are in constant earshot of bad news and the way of the world, it's easy to forget how blessed we are. So here's an excerpt from a chapter on JOY with the hope that it affects you the same way it did me--opening my eyes anew to the blessings and  JOY we have in Christ. Listen to LaGard:
Jesus' birth is also the fulfillment of a promise and a reminder that, even in our lives, God is faithful who has promised. When he promises us eternal life, we can rest assured that he has indeed prepared a place for us in the world to come. When he promises us a life of joy and peace on this earth, we can rest assured that, even in the rough times, there is in Christ a peace that passes all understanding.                                
The Christian who does not feel joy daily in his or her own life has missed the message of Jesus' birth. The carols we sing about his birth mean little if they do not bring into our lives the joy of reconciliation with God. And the celebration of the angels has a hollow ring if we fail to find joy in the living of life each day and in the simple sharing with our friends.
For those who DO know the true meaning of joy, life takes on purpose spiced with pleasure. How about us? Has happiness run its course in our lives? What a wonderful opportunity to embrace a little child and bring him into our hearts! Great joy awaits those who do.
I felt like putting these words in all caps, but I restrained myself. And, of course, what that means is that I needed this message. Perhaps it will lift you too.
Have a great week!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gently Down the Stream ~

You may be wondering where I've been or what I've been doing. Mostly I've been working on the novel that I thought was finished. Almost the same day that I said I was finished, I realized that I had a good basis for a novel. I had written about 53,000 words moving toward the first deadline for NaNoWriMo. Then I was given time to get it right by editing and subtracting those odd sentences you can't believe you wrote in the first place. This added another 25,000 words and once again I thought it was complete. But as I moved my mind into other areas of life again, I began to see that I needed more depth to the story that I was writing. So I'm working to tell a deeper story, so that readers can have more understanding of the main character at least.

At one point, I looked at novels by other writers and some of my favorites are in first person. I decided that my novel should also be in first person. First person makes it so "in the now" and personal. So I proceeded to change all the pronouns and tenses in the novel. And first person sounded wonderful for the first three chapters, but not for most of it. As I read through again, I recognized my voice very much like the one on this blog! So I spent a few days changing it all back to third person. Now remember that at this point, I have almost 78,000 words! The best part of this process was seeing that I had too many words in many cases, and that changing the phrase into two words instead of three made a big difference in the awkwardness of reading it.  All in all, it created a better-flowing paragraph.
Having accomplished that chore, I was gratified once more in thinking it was finished--complete. But as I was looking around for a movie to watch on Netflix streaming, I saw one movie on my list from some time ago: The Pillars of the Earth. Netflix didn't think I'd like it all that much, but it had a medieval theme and I wanted to see if I liked it. After watching the first part--there are about 8 parts--I realized that I had heard of the author of the book from which the movie was made. His name is Ken Follett and he has a website, which I looked at. As it turns out, Follett's book had been published in 1989 and was still selling 100,000 copies a year. In talking about the book, he said he had taken 3 years to write it with lots and lots of research being done. His book contained 400,000 words. He thought he would never finish it. And he had a sequel which he wrote a couple of years after this one which is also very long. Can you see where I'm going with this?
My 78,000 words suddenly seemed insignificant. Couldn't I do better than that? Couldn't I put some depth into my novel? But my novel isn't supposed to be all that's for girls and young women. Well, don't I owe them more than fluff? So the blush of writing a novel that began last November continues to haunt my days and nights, while I decide what I want to do with my novel. You asked what I've been doing, and this is my reply. I'll try to give you some blogs along the way.

I hope you're having a good week!