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Thankful for a Beautiful Day

With buying a house taking top priority with our finances, I have to admit I wasn’t looking forward to Christmas as much this year. Admittedly, it was our smallest Christmas budget  in a long time. Paul quotes Jesus as saying in Acts 20:35,  “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” That’s never been more real to me than during Christmas. Watching the face of my wife and kids light up at surprise or unexpected gifts is one of the highlights of my year.  While my bride and I wrapped presents last night, we did a few special things for the kids that made me feel better about the coming morning. Yet, I was convinced it wouldn’t be the same.

Morning came quickly. The kids woke up with smiles galore. We read the Christmas story and prayed as is our tradition, then headed to the living room to exchange gifts. The morning unfolded full of smiles, cackles of delight, and the usual struggle getting our youngest to open all his gifts (because he’s playing with the ones he already opened). And at the end, as I sat on the couch, each child was enjoying something they received, their eyes full of wonder.

It’s a beautiful day.

Yes, some things were different. But there’s a song I love that has a line that grabs me every time it plays.

“What you don’t have, you don’t need it now.”

How true is that? We don’t have a house yet, but we do have a home. And while the morning was short a few of my signature surprises, I still have a great family who loves me and is together.

It’s a beautiful day. And I’m so thankful to my Savior that I get to enjoy it!

Have you thanked the Lord for today, regardless of how “good” your Christmas has been so far? Stop and take some time with Him to tell Him so! And if you like, enjoy a great song :)

Thankful for God Moments

I originally planned to post yesterday under the title “Thankful for Stretching Moments”.

That was until I snapped.

Fear is a powerful emotion. It destroys rational thought and eradicates spiritual thought. It simultaneously paralyses and drives a person to poor decisions. And I was gripped with it.

See, we put our house on the market a few weeks ago. We’ve believed for a while that God wanted us to sell our home and finally took a step of faith. I didn’t expect it to sell in nine days. We got an amazing offer which will net us way more money than we expected. There’s only one problem. We had to be out in three weeks. Where would we live in the meantime?

Get an apartment. Get a house. Easy right? It’s been so long since I’ve done that sort of thing, I forgot all about security deposits for said dwelling place. How on earth would we come up with the funds to move into one of these places before the sale of our home went through? No problem. God is our source, right? He’s just stretching us a bit and learning to trust him more is always good.

Then those numbers started rolling in. And I snapped.

I’m surprised Beverly didn’t kill me last night. There was so much flesh and so little Jesus in me because I had let fear get hold of me. When I woke up this morning, I felt more in my right mind, but I was still wrestling. So, on the way to pay the reserve on our new apartment, I tried to get my mind straight.

Fear isn’t from God, so this fear that we made a mistake in selling our home can’t be from him. God’s thoughts toward me are good, so He’s not going to bless us with the sale of our home to leave us homeless. I concluded that my fear that I’d led my family into a homeless wasteland wasn’t from God. Ingenious, eh? So where did that leave me.

My devotion this morning was in Judges 6 – The story of Gideon. I’ve always given Gideon a hard time because God does so much to show Gideon that He’s on his side and that its His will for Gideon to lead Israel against the Midianites. Gideon asks for a sign from the angel who initially visits him. Then he asks God for two signs with the fleece. Come on dude. Are you gonna trust God or not?

But Gideon was afraid. His fear is mentioned on numerous occasions in Judges 6. I figured God was trying to tell me not to be afraid. Boy was I wrong.

When I stopped at the bank to get the money order to reserve the apartment, they told me it was five dollars to do money orders. Well, Amscot does it for free so I decided to do a withdrawal. But a question came to mind. What about that Freedom card we got a few months ago? We were supposed to get a hundred dollars just for signing up. The bank attendant told me that we were given it in points and he could send that money to our account if I’d like. Woah, free money. Thanks Jesus!

And then I got in the car. Have you ever been blubbering so hard you couldn’t talk? The next two songs that came on were two of my favorite worship songs and they were very appropriate to my situation.

I see Your power in the moonlit night
Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright
We are amazed in the light of the stars
It’s all proclaiming who You are
You’re beautiful

And …

The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes
Bless the Lord, oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I’ll worship your holy name

Oh yeah. I was a mess. To top it off, the Amscot attendant’s name was Jesus and they had Tootsie Rolls (my favorite candy).

God wasn’t just trying to tell me to not be afraid. He was telling me that despite all my fears (like Gideon), He loved me. I see Judges 6 a little differently now and I’m a lot more understanding of Gideon. God doesn’t promise that He’ll give us moments like this. We do need to learn to trust Him even when we don’t see Him. But sometimes, He knows we’re at the point of snapping (or already broken) and He steps in with a compassionate reminder that He sees, He knows, and He cares.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18

I’m so thankful my God loves me and never gets tired of my weaknesses. I’m so thankful He takes an active interest in my life, even when I can’t see. I’m so thankful He helps me see His amazing compassion. I’m so thankful He’s giving me a better understanding in His love each day so I never have to be afraid.

Are you dealing with fear right now? Do you know that God loves you and is there whether you can see Him or not? Take some time today to thank Him for His love and then rest in His everlasting arms!

Thankful God knows what He’s doing

God knows what He’s doing. That’s a pretty simple theological statement.

So, why is it that we sometimes have a problem trusting Him?

I’m at the ACFW Conference this weekend, and a small part of me was wondering why in the world I was here. Oh, the fellowship is awesome. It’s the only time each year I get to see some of my writer friends. The teaching is excellent. But, for an author who writes speculative fiction, it didn’t seem like there was a lot for me. Speculative fiction feels like the black sheep of the Christian market at times. We’re part of the family, but for the most part our stories are accepted rather than embraced. Often I’ve had agents hear the word “fantasy” and immediately say, “I can’t sell this in the Christian market”. For all purposes, the meeting is over at that point.

As I’m struggling with my place in the market, we had Michael Hyatt share that this was the greatest time to be a writer. He talked about his own struggles in the publishing industry as well as his personal struggles as a writer. Then, the gal who gave the devotion talked about daring to trust God to do what we can’t do. All this time, I’m sensing the Lord reeling me back in like a skilled fisherman.

I’m a passionate person. Give me a vision and I’ll bleed for it. But when things don’t click right, passionate people tend to wonder if the bleeding is a waste of time. I’m no different. As the Lord reeled me in, I found myself remembering  how much my writing career is in His handsd and how much I’ve been putting it in my own hands. Yes, I need to work hard. Yes, I need to invest my time and energy. But like everything we do for the Lord, the results are up to Him.

So, I recommitted myself to trusting Jesus with my writing career and took a deep breath. An hour later I had an amazing meeting with a wonderful agent. It wasn’t just amazing because she requested to see the full manuscript of Soul Yearning. It was amazing because she seemed to get what I was about and showed excitement about my writing career. As a Pastor, I constantly preach about how we need one another. I want the same thing for my writing career. I want to be part of a team. And the Lord showed me that He wants the same thing for me.

Even if things don’t work out with this agent, the Lord reminded me that He sees the end from the beginning and makes no mistakes. He knew about this appointment before it happened, and He knows about everything that will happen in my future.

Even when I can’t see it.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we don’t war according to the flesh (2 Cor 10:3). My attitude about life is never to be based on what I can see, hear, or feel. It’s to be based on God’s character and His written Word. And He’s said that He doesn’t fail, He doesn’t lie, and He never lets me go.

I’m so thankful God’s love’s me perfectly. I’m so thankful He doesn’t make any mistakes. I’m so thankful He knows what He’d doing!

What obstacle do you see right now that’s frustrating your attitude? Tell Him you’ll trust what He says rather than what you see today :) And then thank Him for His perfect love for you!

When I first became serious about my writing career, I stumbled across a website called The New Author’s Fellowship. It’s a collaborative blog by Christian speculative fiction authors to promote our genre in the Christian community. I thought, “Man it would be so cool to be a part of something like that!”

A year and a half later, I am :)

My friend and fellow writer, Kristen Stieffel, recommended me to the group and I very excitedly accepted their invitation a few weeks ago.

Starting on July 8th, I will be blogging every Sunday about my writing journey. I will still maintain Rejoice Evermore as its emphasis is on thankfulness. But you’ll find all my writing updates on New Author’s Fellowship from now on.

I encourage you to hop on over and follow me as well as the other wonderful authors who are chronicling their writing journey.

Thanks again for all your support and check out my blog post on Sunday!

The Bible stopped me in my tracks today. You know how it works. You’re reading a familiar passage and then…wham! The Lord allows you to see something that never caught your attention before. And it changes your life.

I’ve always struggled with Israel’s invasion of Canaan. Not that I doubted God’s character, but sometimes it’s hard to wrap our minds around God ordained genocide. Oh, we can get all theological and explain why it was necessary, etc, etc.

But the actual doing of it.

Would you be able to obey God if the sword was in your hand?

Enter Joshua 11:18-20. After cataloging Joshua’s complete victory over the Canaanite nations, it mentions that Israel didn’t wipe out everyone they came across. They made peace with the Gibeonites. God very clearly instructed Israel in Deuteronomy 20:16 not to offer peace to any of the Canaanites nations. So, why did He allow them to do so with the Gibeonites? Joshua 11:20 holds the key.

Concerning all those other nations, God said, “For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.

That word harden means “to strengthen or make firm”. There are two Hebrew words for harden. When we harden our hearts it means “to make oneself unresponsive or dull”. According to Genesis 15:16, God reached out to the Canaanite people for 400 years. But the majority of them pushed away that conviction and refused to respond. When the last hour struck, only one group finally responded. The Gibeonites. While all the other kings formed an alliance against Israel after Jericho fell, Gibeon threw themselves on God’s mercy.

And God showed them mercy. See, God never intended all the Canaanites to be destroyed. God was reaching out one last time through judgement. And to those who threw themselves on God’s mercy, He forgave. If you think I’m off the wall, Just ask Rahab the harlot, another Canaanite who’s in heaven today.

Ezekiel 22:30 says, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it ... ” God is looking for an excuse to show mercy because judgement is His “strange work” (Isaiah 28:21), not His heart. If we make ourselves unresponsive to Him, then He’ll come alongside and confirm that decision. But if we throw ourselves on His mercy, He is ready to forgive.

I’m so thankful my God loves to show mercy! That when I cry with Isaiah, “Woe is me! I am undone”, His heart is to cleanse and restore me to Himself.

Have you thanked the Lord lately for His merciful nature? Don’t harden your heart toward Him! You’ll only be hurting yourself.

I just want to thank Jesus for His grace and kindness toward me. I’ve been part of ACFW now for a year and a half. This is my second year entering their Genesis contest for unpublished authors. I was pretty much a newbie last year and squeaked in as a semi-finalist.

This year, I entered two books into the contest and both of them made it to the next round! Out of 70 entries, both of mine placed in the top twenty percent to move on to round two. At the end of May, another round of judges will decide the top three from the remaining 14 entries. I’ve got a double chance of moving on this year :)

Thank you to everyone who has stood beside me and encouraged me to keep working at this. My heart is to please my most important reader – My Jesus. He’s so faithful and deserves nothing less than the same from me!

Thankful my God is mighty!

For many years, my bride and I have planned to adopt a little girl from India. But when she kept getting pregnant, we had to put it off until our children were a certain age (India requires a family to maintain birth order for adopted children). A month ago, the Lord very clearly showed us that it was go-time. So we started the process.

Two obstacles stood in our way. Well, three … but I don’t count money. We’ve never had much of that and it hasn’t stopped the Lord yet! But the two obstacles facing us were time and our home. And both were intertwined.

Adopting from India is a long process. Anywhere from 2-3 years from application to bringing your child home. Because most of the paperwork that qualifies a family for adoption has to be renewed every 18 months or so, that can really up your cost if you don’t time things right. Well, after inquiring with both the adoption agency and our home study agency, it turns out that time is NOT a factor for us. The most we’ll have to pay to renew our paperwork is three hundred dollars. Now you might think that’s a lot of money, but it’s not three thousand dollars, which is what I thought it was going to be. Time? We have all the time in the world because of the way things are set up now!

But what about our home? It’s relatively small. And we were under the impression we would either have to buy a new home or add another bedroom to our current home to qualify for adoption. Sell our home in this market? Sure, God could do that easily. But it still seemed like a crazy idea. How would we make any kind of return on our investment in this market? But adding on requires money up front. So, that was going to be tricky as well.

After talking to our home study agency tonight, it turns out none of these concerns were founded in reality. Our home is perfectly fine to qualify for adoption. If you could have seen our faces when our agent explained that to us, you’d have seen two very relieved people who couldn’t believe their ears. Literally every excuse I’ve had for not moving forward with adoption is gone.

And did I mention that the total cost for our home study is going to be a thousand dollars less than we were first told? Go-time indeed.

Isaiah 40:4 says, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” Then verse 9 says, “O Zion, that brings good tidings, get yourself up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that brings good tidings, lift up your voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!”

Behold your God gang! He’s mighty! And there are no obstacles in His path. Ever.

I’m so thankful my God is the most powerful being in existence. I’m so thankful that any obstacle I encounter can be demolished by Him!

Have you thanked God lately for being mighty? Do you have some obstacles in your life right now? Take some time today to thank Him for who He is and then start looking at those obstacles in light of it.

Thankful for Jericho moments

Prayer is powerful.

Some of you know I participated again in Clash of the Titles last week. You can read my interview here. I didn’t win, but I only felt a little disappointment. See, I was up against Nancy Kimball, one of my critique partners. So, win or lose, it was a win for me. At the same time the clash was going on, I was in Lake Yale attending the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference. On Friday, I learned I lost the clash. Then, I met with an agent who pretty much said there would never be a market for my book.

Now, God doesn’t need a market of course. And while I want to be published, my goal is to please God by writing the best books I can for His glory. Needless to say, late Friday night my emotions were pummeling me about the uphill climb I faced as a writer. I was holding up good, but there was definitely a battle going on inside my heart.

Enter the book of Joshua. When I woke Saturday morning, I opened my Bible to spend time with the Lord. Two things caught my eye. First, the Lord told Joshua, “This day will I begin to magnify you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, I will be with you.” Then, the Lord parted the Jordan river (just like the Red Sea) for Israel to enter the promised land.

After reading that, I prayed a simple prayer. “Lord, I know I’m facing Jericho right now. But I know you’re bigger than Jericho. I don’t deserve anything, but would you magnify me in the sight of the people somehow? Would you knock down some walls for me? Either way, I’ll write my best for you until you take me home.”

I had an appointment with an editor that morning from a small press. She asked for my manuscript. No promises there of course. But it was farther than I’d ever gotten before in a meeting. Answer to prayer right?

Wrong.

Beyond my wildest imagination, when awards were given out on Saturday night, the MC called my name for Novel of the Year. Talk about knocking down Jericho! That wasn’t even on my radar of hopes and dreams for that weekend.

So, now I’m an award winning writer. Thank you Jesus :)

I’m so thankful for Jericho moments, where God does something I don’t deserve to show just how powerful and unstoppable He is. I’m so thankful that God answers prayer, even when it seems like he won’t (or can’t). I’m so thankful that God has blessed me far more than I could ever begin to deserve.

Have you thanked the Lord for an answered prayer today? Are you spending time seeking His face? You have not because you ask not!

Thankful for Encouraging Words

I don’t have a lot to say in this post, but today I am thankful for the encouraging words and prayers of a friend. It is strange that we curl up with our phones, TV’s, computers, and e-readers so easily, and in the process keep ourselves from the living, breathing body of Christ.

Our interaction with other believers is the way Jesus touches us with hands that can be felt and words that can be heard with our ears and not just our hearts.

In 1 John 1:1,3, the apostle writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life….That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.”

Since the days of John, Jesus has been passing on His touch through His people. When we decide to encourage, pray for, or cry with another believer, we are like a living letter of love from the Savior.

I’d like to share a song with you that has always blessed me. I trust it will bless you as well.

 

 

Character Development.

It’s been a while since I gave an update on my writing. That’s not because I haven’t been writing. In fact, during November, I started my second novel. It’s called Mander’s Scar. The story is about a vigilante (Mander) with the ability to teleport over large distances. The problem? When the most powerful man in the world asks him to assassinate a rival, Mander refuses and becomes a target himself. Cool, eh? I’m about 15,000 words in and the feedback has been outstanding so far.

I haven’t forgotten about Soul Yearning either. I’ve been restructuring the storyline and Albione’s character arc a bit. When I started Soul Yearning 10 years ago, I was just writing a story. I never thought I’d have to sell the idea to someone. When I finally made my first pitch to an agent, I wasn’t expecting much. After being rejected, I realized that while the story made sense to me, there were character development issues as well as story structure issues. Because of those issues, I had a hard time developing a cool sounding pitch. So, for the last 4 months, I’ve been working on Albione. What does he want most in life? Why does he want that? What made him want that most?

What I realized is that Albione was a much deeper character than I thought he was. And it caused me to treat him and his arc throughout the story differently. Enter re-writes lol. I’m finally satisfied with where I’m taking him and the external events that bring him there. So, you should see that “edit” bar moving again soon. I’m putting on the finishing touches for my Genesis entry this year and am excited to see the results in a few months.

As for Mander, hindsight is 20/20.  I started off asking all those questions before I started writing. Which may be why the feedback has been so good :)

So, I guess I’ll pose a question to anyone who’s reading this. Who’s your favorite character (book or movie) and why?

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