Friday, January 30, 2009

What's This?

A blog post! Where has the time gone? Well... starting late January 15 our 2009 Arizona Bible Conference unofficially began. It lasted until late Sunday, January 18th and was the best conference I've had yet. I was amazed by the way God orchestrated things, from the teaching, to the living examples of that teaching, to the challenges people wrestled with both from the teaching and from each other, to the interactions between them. It was truly like a living organism, the way people fell and rose again, and came and went, bringing challenge, inspiration, nourishment and encouragement, and carrying away the waste materials of old, wrong thinking, pain, bondage, condemnation and failure.

God told me through the classes and through nearly every person I spoke with that I have to stop trying to do things, stop trying to take control with this book. He will do it. He told me that I cannot make the deadline an idol to which I sacrifice my life and time and peace (and really, my relationship with Him) in hopes of satisfying it and not bringing its wrath down upon my head.

He told me that Jesus was late to the wedding at Cana, and when the people came to tell him about Jairus's daughter who was dying, he dawdled and thus missed His deadline, which was a true deadline: the girl died before He got there. Ah, but He's in the business of resurrecting the dead, and missing that deadline was part of the plan.

The lessons have continued since, and I have fought them. At least until the last few days. This all sounds so trite and superficial in light of what has happened. But for the longest time I have been so confused. How do I relax and let Him do it (speaking specifically of writing this book) and yet do the work? When I relax, I always think I get too relaxed and wander off into distraction. When I try to work, I get too wrapped up in it and start to try to take control.

There are many aspects involved in this whole situation. One of them is the fact that our sin nature doesn't just produce sin, it produces good. Good that is disgusting to God (as Isaiah 64:6 reminds us -- all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment). The trouble is, it doesn't seem disgusting to us. It seems good to the natural mind. It seems right. And sensible and professional.

And that's been part of my problem with this whole book and deadline thing. What God has been working on in me (not me working, I've given up) is not my sins and weaknesses, though they come out, but my strengths. My tendency toward human good. I want to fix things. I want to make that application. I see that I'm not supposed to care about the deadline or whatever, and now I want to make myself not care. I see that I'm supposed to do my work heartily and now I want to make myself do it (even though I may not be sure what "heartily" means and may not even stop to think I might not know -- or, maybe, can't know?). So part of what I've concluded in the last few weeks is that I just can't do it. Which is really ironic, given how many times I've told other people that we can't change ourselves. Oh, but I want to. So badly, do I want to.

I want the Life beyond Dreams. I want to be a winner. I don't want to be ashamed in heaven. I want to do what I'm supposed to do and to obey. And what I'm grappling with is the reality of how the old self can take those perfectly good and legitimate desires and warp them. Seize them for itself and go running off on a plan to make them happen. And it doesn't seem wrong or wicked at all. It seems very right and good and even doctrinal. Which, as I said, is often how human good seems to the natural mind.

The laughable thing about it all is that it's not very long before I've fallen into frustration, dismay, anger, anxiety, guilt, condemnation, etc, because I can't execute my plans. I told the Lord, "I don't know how to just let go and still do the work. I don't know how to wait and still be ready. If I start trying to make sure I'm taking every thought captive and sort out what doctrine to apply I end up tying myself in knots."

And He told me I don't need to know. He'll do it. I just need to relax.

He reminded me of One Day at a Time and Stay out of the Future. What I must consciously do is STOP thinking about anything related to the future. Focus on today. Focus on the work I'm doing today. Not the work I have yet to do, or the work I will do tomorrow, only the work I have to do today. And of that, really, only the next thing. Whatever is the next thing -- the next chapter, the next scene, the next paragraph. That's all I need to do right now. When that is, done, then I will focus on the next thing.

He reminded me to believe Him when He says He will be good to those who wait for Him, to the person who diligently seeks Him. (Lam 3:25) To rest in His Hands. The book is His production, not mine. When someone else is in charge of an operation, you don't have to think about the big picture, you only have to think about the task you've been assigned in it.

He reminded me that even if everything seems like it's wrong, it's not. Everything is actually right, because it's exactly as He has chosen it to be in eternity past, for His glory and the blessing and benefit of His creatures. Like me. Whatever happens, whatever comes in that looks like a disaster, a hindrance, a delay... it's okay. He's got it all in hand. He's decreed it to be.

He reminded me that when I'm confused or lost or tired, I can come to Him for answers, guidance and renewal. This may seem like a "DUH" point, but I lose sight of it sometimes when I'm deep in the mire of paragraphs and lines of dialogue and bits of scene setting and elements of world building that all need to be integrated somehow in a way that makes sense, moves the plot, is internally consistent, doesn't use too many words, and sounds good. I was formerly getting frustrated and overwhelmed and backing off. I still do that, but now, after a break, I go back and ask Him to show me. He has been.

As a result I now have, in finished form, the first 29 chapters of The Enclave. I don't know how many chapters there are going to be. Maybe 40. Maybe more. I told my editor that I didn't think I would finish it all by the 9th but that it would not be too long after it. Maybe a week. Maybe two. We're playing it by ear. And things are finally starting to get clearer. Not flow, necessarily, but it's gathering shape and substance and clarity, which in itself is motivating. It's hard to keep pushing yourself through a sea of mush...

Anyway, that's kind of where I've been for the last couple of weeks. And oddly, I've had no words for the blog. I wasn't even intending to write this one, but suddenly the Spirit moved. And here it is. How about that?


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Interesting Items in the News

This weekend, in between my battles with chapter 25, I gleaned the following interesting news items from the Internet:

From :

Earth on the Brink of an Ice Age
According to a large and compelling body of evidence from within the field of climate science, data sources indicate the 10,000 year warming trend we've been experiencing is approaching its end and the earth will be gripped in an ice age for the next 100,000 years.

Record snow in Wisconsin steals spotlight from frigid temps
The average December temperature in Wisconsin was 15.8 degrees, which makes it the 10th coldest December in the city since weather records were kept starting in the 1880s, said officials from the National Weather Service in Green Bay.

Other cold related headlines this weekend :

Chicago socked by Snow - Over 8 inches at O'Hare

Snowblast set for Gotham

Snow on Palm Trees in Marseilles France

Snow continues to trap thousands at Madrid Airport

Life at -78 degrees in Alaska

And they're predicting unusually cold weather for the Jan 20 inauguration in DC -- temps around 30 with potential for icy rain...

But wait... aren't we supposed to be worrying about... Global warming? How can all this be happening if the world is getting warmer? Oh, that's right. All these frigid temps and snowfall are actually a sign it's getting warmer. Right.

On a related note (sort of) there was also a report on Fox News this weekend about the potential for a massive solar storm that could take place soon. According to this article the sun is on an 11 year cycle with respect to its activity levels. It's in a lull now, but the next peak is expected to be strong.

In 1989, the sun unleashed a tempest that knocked out power to all of Quebec, Canada. And in 2003, "a remarkable rampage included 10 major solar flares over a two-week period, knocking out two Earth-orbiting satellites and crippling an instrument aboard a Mars orbiter.

In 1859 an especially powerful storm shorted telegraph wires in the US and Europe causing widespread fires.

Were a widespread, powerful magnetic storm similar to the one in 1859 to occur today, it could knock out most of the US power grid with potentially catastrophic social and economic disruptions.

When is this peak predicted to occur? (all you Raptards out there, listen up) 2012. LOL

Back to work!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Little Things

In the email from my friend Mary that I posted yesterday, she expressed concern about sharing her doubts and struggles -- because they were embarrassing. What I've found is that often it turns out not to be embarrassing at all because the person we're sharing with turns out to be going through the same sorts of things. Externally different, maybe, but internally the same. It's really encouraging to be able to compare notes, make application, bounce ideas off each other when we're both struggling with the same things. But you'll never know it if you don't open up.

When Mary said she feared that if she complained or expressed what she was going through, it would seem insignificant, I could relate. I have the same fears, the same thoughts. Here is this huge battle going on in my soul, that I can't seem to win, and I think of people on the outside looking in thinking it is nothing. And it probably is.

But I'm coming to believe that the things we tend to dismiss as nothing are often the most damaging areas of battle. Because the battle IS primarily one of thoughts. And personally I've always thought that it's the small struggles that are the ones that matter. The place where the battle is won. The big things, what are you going to do? The house is lost, the health is gone, the child is dead. You have little choice but to accept it...It's big and obvious Suffering. People understand and offer sympathy. But the little things are hidden, constant, not regarded as "anything" and can take us down so fast, so efficiently half the time we don't even know what's happened.

I think it's significant that we're warned in 2 Ti 2:4 not to get entangled in the everyday affairs or details of life. In Luke 16:10 we're told that the one who is faithful in the little things, will be faithful in the big things.

Little things, little thoughts, the stupid, petty things that get us out of fellowship. Someone's remark, you drop the box of eggs on the floor and they break, someone tracks mud in, the neighbor throws junk metal over the fence, you said something stupid to someone and now you feel guilty, there's dust on the piano, you're not getting everything done you "need" to... stupid, petty, little details. Yet that's where the battles are fought and won. Or lost. Though of course all it takes is rebound and now you've won.

I've found for myself that sometimes some of the little things, little thoughts, inconsequential matters really, are so little and inconsequential I don't even consider the fact that they might have gotten me out of fellowship. I'm not on guard against them. It doesn't even dawn on me to beware. They're small like a mosquito, yet like a malaria carrying mosquito they can make you very sick and cause a lot of problems.

Lately I've become more aware of when I start getting tense, and instead of going on to the various elaborations of tension, I stop and try to figure out what's happened, what small thing has just intruded to steal my peace. It's been a fruitful practice I think, because then I can confess it and put the correct thinking in its place.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Trembling Puddle

After last Thursday's blog post ("Perplexed...") I received a response that same night from a dear friend who is also marching along under Pastor McLaughlin's ministry out of Grace Bible Church in Somerset, MA. I thought her response was a great elaboration on the post itself, and expressed a lot of things I have felt or experienced. Because the concepts being taught right now are new and so against what we've always believed, I think it's edifying to "discuss" them in this way. So with her permission, I'm posting her words here today in the belief that other readers will find them as edifying and enriching as I did:

"I loved your blog tonight. Having listened to the same class, what you said about how it affected and encouraged you made great sense. I thought about you during class. It was a great lesson, one that makes me think about things differently than I'm used to.

"I almost hate to email lately, everything I go through is so embarrassing. It all seems like I'm chronicling failures, embarrassing doubts and fears. Yet, if I never talk about it then I wouldn't get to say what the Lord is showing me and I wouldn't have anything to talk about but the weather.

"Tonight's lesson makes me think that what I'm experiencing is part of God's love for me. He makes me face all the dark rooms in my soul that I'm trying to hide. A few years into doctrine I felt SO confident, I understood so many new things, I felt strong and assured. Now a few years later, I don't feel quite so confident in the same way. I had learned a lot of great things but not much had been tested. I didn't have to find out what I really think under pressure. Now, I'm usually shocked and dismayed to find out that I say I believe one thing but under pressure I don't really.

"I love what Pastor John said yesterday "Don't torment yourself because you don't FEEL like you've been trusting Him". I'm still here even if I'm not all I want to be. This is who I am. He's letting me see the instability of all my ways. I'm hoping that one day the confidence I'll have will be really and truly in Him and not false confidence. I thought that if I knew what I believed and why I believed what I believed and I had all the answers I wouldn't be insecure with people anymore or insecure within myself even and for a time I felt like that was accomplished. Well, that hasn't turned out to be true! lol.

"That wasn't the only reason why I wanted doctrine but it was high on the list. Doctrine as a system was going to solve all my problems without and within. Then I find that instead of better, I'm worse off than ever! All the old problems I've ever faced come screaming back into my life and I'm supposed to be handling it all exquisitely with the doctrine in my soul (that's what I want to happen) but I don't, usually the doctrine I've learned is the last thing I get to. I try what I've always tried and only after I'm a heap of rubble the Lord comes in and brings the doctrine I should have been thinking back to me.

"Then I go through the guilt and condemnation. Why can't I think right? Why don't I believe what I've learned? etc... I rebound a lot. I want to run everywhere for help except to Him. I want to be happy and He gives me sorrow. I want to be comforted and He wants me to be patient. I want to come out looking good and He doesn't care about that at all! I want to be strong and He is perfectly content if I'm just a trembling puddle on the floor. Sometimes I feel like I'm fighting with Him. He isn't doing what I want. Instead He's doing all this painful stuff that I can't even complain about because it would sound insignificant.

"So in tonight's lesson I learn that this is God loving me and it's sort of baffling. It wasn't MY idea of love. As a parent I sort of get it though. When I'm really loving my kids, it doesn't look all sweet and rosy. I've got a wooden spoon in my hand and I'm correcting. Still, I don't feel abandoned or hopeless or despairing. I'm often comforted by Him and He sends me lots of lessons that speak to my issues. He's always reminding me to rebound and He is correcting my thinking all the time. I know I'm loved. I suppose that by itself is worth it all."

Amen to all of that, Mary. Thanks for sharing. I am edified every time I reread your words and am reminded anew that God's thoughts are not our thoughts, His ways not our ways, and probably everything we thought the Christian way of life was supposed to be is not it at all. At least that's what He seems to be showing us lately. And it was cool the way Pastor, in his Friday night message, affirmed and amplified a lot of the thoughts you shared.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


...but not despairing.

Well, according my schedule based on time I have left to finish The Enclave, I needed to get three chapters completed a week. Last week I did indeed do three chapters. Unfortunately one of them I hadn't counted in my assessment of what I had left to do, so I really got only two chapters done.

This week, I ran into a series of severe time inconsistencies in the narrative I had no idea were there and set about fixing them. That's led to yet another recasting of events in chapters 15, 21 and 25. And to perhaps changing quite a bit of what's going to happen in ch 29, which is where I left off with the other plotline in this book of two parallel plots/worlds last week.

So. I don't think I'm going to meet my goal this week either. (What a shock! LOL) But that's okay because some very cool stuff has been happening spiritually. The last two messages (tonight and last night) from GBC were amazingly on target with what I was experiencing. Or, considering how often that happens, maybe not so amazing, but I guess it's not a bad thing to be continually surprised and delighted when God makes it so very clear He knows exactly what's going on not just in my life but in my head, and answers me.

Anyway, today I was thinking that it must really be my fault that I've had such problems progressing through this book. I just must be failing to exercise the proper self-discipline. I need to be more disciplined. As I was concluding this, I remembered there was a quote on the matter somewhere in one of my little books I gather such things. I went searching for it, but couldn't find it. Oh well, I must not have needed to read it.

Four hours later the message from the pulpit tonight said the exact opposite. It's not a lack on my part. It's God putting me into a situation where I'm not comfortable, where I'm not being successful, where I'm perplexed (and the definition of that word was so right on target it blew me away: "not to know what to do, not to know what to decide, not to have enough resources, to be embarrassed!").

God's the one who's releasing this story, and I've always known that. He's not doing it as fast as I'd like because it's a distressing situation. It's a pressure situation, a perplexing situation and those are the situations where He is really able to show us His love for us. It doesn't make sense from human perspective, because we don't show love for each other that way. But He knows what's best and the only way we're going to learn certain things, and the only way sometimes we're going to see His hand in a way that will really make an impression. That's usually a pressure situation. The one I'm involved in right now demands that I just keep going back to him again and again.

Today I likened the experience to chasing madly after a rabbit over hill and dale, down one street, then another and suddenly the rabbit leaps through a wall and disappears and you, chasing it, crash hard into the same wall and fall stunned in the street. That is literally about how fast a thought line, a plot line, a flow of words and thoughts can dry up on me. I'm following a promising sequence along, and suddenly hit a dead end. What would I do if I'd really slammed into a wall and lay there in the street, no idea whatsoever where the rabbit is now or what to do about it? I'd go to the Lord. What do I do now?

So I did. And a little later something else developed... I don't think I have quite managed to express what I'm trying to. I think I must still be processing it all.

But it was cool to be told this wasn't my fault. That everything that's involved in this situation is by His decree for my blessing and His glory.

"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body... " 2 Co 4:8-10

And now, I shall go and ponder this further.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Blockbuster or Bust

The other day I came across an interesting article on the Wall Street Journal Online called Blockbuster or Bust Why struggling publishers will keep placing outrageous bids on new books

It talks about how even in our difficult economic times publishers still make it a practice to put big, big bucks on books they hope will turn out to be blockbusters, and how the entire system actually runs in such a way as to discourage anything else. They also rely on the big sellers to support the other books on their lists. One company cites the fact that 80% of its sales and an even larger share of its profits came from just 20% of its titles in 2006.

As an example the article cited publisher Grand Central, which in 2007 allegedly paid $1.25 million to buy the rights to Vicki Myron's "Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched The World," a nonfiction book about an abandoned kitten found in the returned-book slot of an Iowa public library. Why did they choose this book for all that money? The selling point is that it's like the recent blockbuster, Marley and Me (a recently released movie, which I have yet to see but intend to; not sure Marley has anything on Quigley, actually).

I've always been somewhat annoyed when marketers, agents, editors, and assorted publishing advice givers want me to tell what other books on the market are like mine, because for a long time I didn't know of any. I would say well The Enclave is like Sigmund Brouwer's Double Helix because it's got genetics in it. But Enclave isn't anything like Double Helix. Or, the Legends of the Guardian King series is like Lord of the Rings. But different. (Which is like saying chocolate chip cookies are like brownies, but different, in my opinion). The LOTR tie was the route marketers took, for better or for worse with Legends of the Guardian King. There really wasn't anything else out there. And after reading the article, I understand a little more why they do it.

Here's an excerpt:
"Media companies' hit-focused marketing did not emerge in a vacuum. It reflects how consumers make choices. The truth is that consumers prefer blockbusters. Because they are inherently social, people find value in reading the same books and watching the same movies that others do. This is true even in today's markets where, thanks to the Internet, buyers have easy access to millions and millions of titles. Compounding this tendency is the fact that media products are what economists call "experience goods": that is, shoppers have trouble evaluating them before having consumed or experienced them. Unable to judge a book by its cover, readers look for cues as to its suitability for them, and find it very useful to hear that "Dewey" is "a 'Marley & Me' for cat lovers." In much the same way that potential publishers do, readers value resemblances to past favorites.

I think I must be different than most readers, and maybe my trouble finding books that are like mine to offer marketers as sales tools originates in my relationship with reading. First of all, I'm more likely NOT to read a book that's a blockbuster because so many of them have been disappointments.

Second, when I look at the stories and books I've loved, I don't see a lot of resemblance to each other among them: Watership Down, Lord of the Rings, Horatio Hornblower, The Farseer Trilogy, Watchers, Miles Vorkosigan, Captain Blood, Jurassic Park, Without Remorse, The Scarlet Pimpernel... In fact, I tend not to like books that are like my favorites and try them with trepidation and the expectation that they will not measure up. I adore Forester's Hornblower series, own almost every one of them (I have 9 of the 11 books in the series, plan to eventually buy the other two), and have read many of them multiple times. I couldn't make it through the first chapter of Patrick O'Brien's sea stories, even though they're supposed to be similar. They're not, not to my way of thinking. I didn't even like the movie, and that was with Russell Crowe in it. (Which was admittedly the best part of it... Okay, I like the sea and the ship stuff, but the whole rest of the story was not my cup of tea.)

I loved Watership Down. But Redwall is in the pile with the O'Brien Books. Lord of the Rings has a ton of ripoffs and I'll admit I did like The Sword of Shannara when I read it as a young adult because it was simpler and shorter and easier to read. That opinion has not survived the years, however, and has, in fact, reversed. LOTR has a lot more depth and substance and now Shannara just a rip off. There are multitudes of Clancy and Koontz clones, too, but I haven't been able to generate interest in any of them.

Well, I always knew I was not in the mainstream. Because there is one main similarity between 60% of the titles I listed above just off the top of my head and that's the science fiction/fantasy/action element. Which right there puts you out of the mainstream.

You can read the full article HERE.


Monday, January 05, 2009

Yet Another Extension

A week ago Monday, on Dec 29, I chanced to look at a calendar, which I had consciously not been doing, and realized there was no way apart from a miracle that I was going to finish The Enclave by Jan 15. So I emailed my editor to see if she was in the office. She was. I explained that no matter what I tried, I couldn't get things to flow any faster than about 2 chapters a week, and sometimes 3. I figured I had loosely 18 chapters worth of material left to go through. At my past and present rate of progress, that would take me 9 more weeks. I could just bull my way through, I said, and let it be bad, illogical, inconsistent, etc. At least then it would be done and maybe no one but me would notice.

She said she wanted it to be the best story it could be and so has given me yet another extension for this book that will not end. Or maybe it's just that from the beginning I underestimated the amount of time I'd need to write it. Because I've been writing for 30 years, and during all that time 2 chapters a week is probably a good average rate for me. Anyway, bottom line she gave me 6 weeks because that worked out well for the schedule. It's now due February 9 and if I make that, it should slide right into their plans for a summer release.

And if I don't? Then I guess God has another plan.


Sunday, January 04, 2009


Part of living in the freedom that Christ died for me to have is learning to enjoy my writing process instead of stressing out about it. I've been learning this for a long time, and stressing out about it longer. Over and over, again and again. I am a slow learner. But then, there are many forces arrayed against my learning this lesson, and, as I'm discovering, no lesson, no substantial and lasting change is made except by baby steps.

Which is kind of what this post is going to be about, but from a different angle. As I was faced with a stuck point last week in chapter 21 (formerly 16) (I'm now working through Enclave's second major plot thread, which means I had to go back to the beginning and pick up those chapters I'd skipped on my previous run through) I found myself doing all the usual things I do when stuck. When I considered the material I saw only that there were problems -- lots of them -- and that much was going to have to be rewritten, but I had no idea how, in what way, or anything. My mind was blank and dead. Worse, it kept flitting around, distracted by everything, thinking of all manner of other things I could be doing. hmmm. I think I've described this before. I pulled down my Overcoming Writing Blocks book, and read that exact description for being blocked.

Except, for the first time I realized I wasn't really "blocked." When you consider the principle that waiting is the main state of living, and the open doors are few, then really I'm not blocked, I'm just waiting. Waiting is, as I think I've said before, also the main state of writing. Most of the time I'm not writing. I'm either thinking and researching, or I'm... dinking around, flitting from thing to thing, wanting to do anything but write and then condemning myself for it and getting more and more impatient with myself.

But... if waiting is the main part of writing, if the long-established pattern is that there will be this time when my mind is blank and the stage is empty and nothing seems to be happening, why can't I just accept that? And not as a bad thing, as part of it. Like accepting sleep. We have to sleep. If we don't, strange things happen at best and at worst we get sick or go insane. I actually enjoy sleep. I don't begrudge it. I embrace it.

So... why not embrace these empty times? Just part of the process.

Good idea, I thought. I'll go do a nonstop. As I was writing the nonstop, which was sheer blither, it suddenly occurred to me to look up patience on the Internet. I don't think that suggestion originated from me, because what I found has been... well it remains to be seen if this is a key, but it seems like it.

This definition showed up on a website called "Patience is the ability to sit back and wait for an expected outcome without experiencing anxiety, tension, or frustraton."

Whoa! That's Faith Rest in a nutshell.

Patience is the ability to sit back (as in take your hands and nose out of the work and just observe) and wait for an expected outcome... An expected outcome. As in, God is going to come through and show me where I'm to go with this portion of the story in His time. It will come. I've been through this countless times before and it always comes, so why, why, why should I get all flustered and bothered by it? It's part of the process. Like cells after they divide, they have to rest. There is no activity. They rest for most of the cell division period and then they divide again.

Patience is the ability to sit back and wait for an expected outcome without experiencing anxiety, tension or frustration. So if Iam experiencing anxiety, tension or frustration, well then I am not focused on the fact that there is an expected outcome, which will occur and that that occurance doesn't really depend on me.

It depends on God. Who is all powerful, faithful, who loves me beyond my capacity to understand or really appreciate, who has already chosen every thing that is to happen in my life for my benefit and blessing and often pleasure.

If I'll just do things His way and stop worrying about the future, stop bothering about the past and stop getting all caught up in my timetable but remember that I'm His servant, on His timetable and He will release the story in His time and in His way and not mine. His plan is about Him bringing glory to Himself through us, and it will go forward, unfolding as He has decreed and all my little breaks in concentration and flitting about will do nothing to stop that plan. He knows I'm a silly, stupid, sheep, easily distracted, easily frightened by shadows, pieces of paper and other inconsequential things. And He can handle it in spite of all that.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

To Live in Freedom

Happy New Year 2009!

Wow, the years just seem to go faster and faster. I can't believe it's already 2009, which I'm pretty sure is I said when we started 2008. I have thought, periodically about posting some end of the year reflections. I thought of posting Christmas thoughts too, because I had some thoughts about Mary that I'd never considered before. The moment is past but... maybe I'll just share those thoughts anyway...

In the course of listening to the Christmas story over the holidays, I was struck with the manner in which God the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary so that only she knew the truth. No one else knew for sure. God did not send the angel to her family or her town. Not even to Joseph, though He did give him the dream later. Now do you really think anyone believed she'd gotten pregnant by God and was carrying the promised Messiah? Especially since God had been silent with Israel for the last 400 years and now this complete nobody of a girl from a hillbilly town was carrying the son of God in her womb? Who would believe that? Translate that to your sister, daughter, cousin or friend. And God did not tell anyone else what was going on. He made her look like an unwed mother. Like a fornicator. And He didn't do anything to make it appear any different for at least thirty years.

Why? She was a spiritual girl. She was loved God. She was making good decisions, and yet... she would not have appeared in any way to be virtuous to those around her. People would have ostracized her for her supposed sin and immorality, would have judged her, talked about her behind her back, and Joseph, too, because nobody else got the angel message. Yet here she was, in all her apparent "immorality," an integral part of the greatest spiritual event ever to happen in all of time. God becoming a man. And look how it was presented to the world.

God's ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. Pastor
Bob has been saying lately that with God, everything is opposite the way it is for man.

That has application for us. We think it's important to appear respectable. God obviously does not. Not only was a shadow of impropriety cast over Mary for years, Jesus had it even worse. He was crucified, stark naked on a Roman cross beside the city gates as a common criminal. For all sorts of people to walk by and gawk at.

Mary was condemned by people for doing something she didn't do, because that was the only way they could see the situation. Jesus was condemned by many also for doing things he didn't do, because that was the only way they could evaluate the facts they had. In neither instance did the observers have all the facts.

How often do we condemn ourselves for things we have failed to do, or did poorly, and yet we don't have all the facts either. Or, if we do, we're not thinking about them right then. Facts like as believers in Christ we are perfectly righteous and that's how God sees us, that we are not to be concerned with what others think, or what they do, only with the thoughts of the one who has saved us. In fact, we're not even to be too concerned with what we think about what we did. We're to be concerned with what HE did.

God doesn't want us to be occupied with our sins and failures. Nor does He want us to be occupied with how to be better. He wants us occupied with His son. With all that He has done for us.

I took Quigley on a walk around the park today and reflected on some of the things God was doing just there... I was healthy and so was Quigley, it was a beautiful day, the scenery was wonderful, there were no worries of being bombed or finding myself in the middle of a gunfight between opposing armies/sects/gangs. Quigley's learning to be a fairly decent walking companion... those are just the outward things.

More are the doctrines and truths that He's providing. Fantastic things that I see are life changing. Rooting out all the old ways that are going in the opposite direction from God's direction, and setting a new course for me. Or rather, showing me the course He's always had me on. Jesus died to make me free. I am called to live in that freedom.

And that would be my New Year's Resolution, if I made resolutions. To live in the freedom that Christ has called me to, that He died for me to have.