I Dare You To…BEGIN

I DARE YOU

I’m going to be bringing you some steps you can take to bring spiritual abundance in your life. I’m not talking financial gain, although that could be a side effect of following these steps. What I’m talking about is bringing a quality to your spiritual life that you didn’t have, or think you could have, before.

Don’t be confused. These steps are simple, common-sensical actions you can take that will make a big impact on your life. And, yes, you’ve heard them all before. So, let’s begin with BEGIN.

  1. Begin

You have to start somewhere. Change your mind. Clean your closets. Organize your life. But start with one step.

In other words, tell yourself you will not think negatively about (insert whatever it is holding you back in life), but instead look for the positives in any given situation.  Countless movies have been blockbusters because they were feel good stories about people in dire situations making the most of their circumstances and overcoming. You can do it.

Then, take two things out of your closet and get rid of them. You know you haven’t used them in forever. Just do it. This gives you more space and allows you to move on with other things that do matter in life. Trust me. You’ll feel better when you’ve done it.

Last, make a plan for something in your life. Set a goal to do something you want to do, but that you’re afraid of doing, or you feel insecure with putting yourself out there for. It doesn’t even have to be big. I’ve done small things such as smile and tell someone they look nice today. For those of us who are introverts, this is a big step. But determine it in your mind to do it, and then do it.

So, have I practiced what I’m preaching here?

At the start of this year I determined I was going to put myself out there and send my manuscripts out to a list of at least a dozen agents/editors that were accepting the types of stories I had written. It took me awhile to organize it, but with the help of a blog that forwards information via email about new acquiring agents/editors, I quickly logged almost twenty names. I polished up my query, had a friend look it over to be sure it was clean, and following the guidelines on how to submit to each person, sent out a dozen queries.

 

I’ve received one rejection so far.Rejected

But the important thing is that I put myself out there, with something I’m insecure about (sending out my manuscripts) and I managed to cross off those manuscripts and “clean out my manuscript closet” by getting them out of the unused section of my life. It also gave me the boost I needed to move on to plotting my next novel.

What is the spiritual gain by doing these three easy steps? You will be using your God-given talents to further your light in the world. Don’t be the servant Jesus criticized that didn’t trust his Master enough to do something with the talents he was given (Matt: 25 14-30).

Just BEGIN.

Sacred Breath

I remember the first breath each of my sons took when they entered this world. It was a magnificent inhale before an equally magnificent scream. The hospital was abuzz with tending to my needs and to the needs of a newborn babe. I wouldn’t get many peaceful moments for quite a while after that.

I remember equally the last breath my mother in law took on the day she died. Marilyn had been diagnosed with brain cancer and we knew her time was short. John and I had moved out of state and drove back when we received the call letting us know the time was near. The family all stood around her bed in the hospital room, our conversation was hushed and overcast with sorrow. I watched Marilyn breathe in and breathe out as the room went from hushed to silent. And then she breathed no more.

The air I breathLife, when you boil it down to its very essence, is stunningly amazing. How can one fully understand what it is to truly be alive or to create life?

Genesis 2:6-7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

 

Each breath we take in this life is a miracle and gift straight from God. There is not one person alive who is able to create matter from nothing, and then breath into it life and animate it. Only God can.

 YHWH. Can you say it?

There were no vowels given it except that which we have assigned it long after the fact. God’s name was so sacred to the Jewish people they did not say it. They said instead Jehovah or Lord when they read from the religious documents.

But I ask you to take those consonants and say them without any vowels. Can you hear it? It sounds like a breath. God’s actual divine name (and not a title such as the word God or Lord) sounds like a breath. Sacred breath.

Each breath we take in this life time, from the first glorious lungful to the last dying whisper declares the awesome name of our God. Just as it was at the beginning of all time until the end of the ages, it is His stamp on life itself.

Breathe in – YH. Breathe out – WH. Sacred Breath

The Simple Life

I often tell people I was born in the wrong era. At my core, I want to live a simple life. In this fast paced world of technology I often think back to life prior to the 1900’s. I know I’d have to function without the modern conveniences of air conditioning, washers and dryers and even cars, but simple living speaks to my soul. What was it like reading by candlelight? What was it like driving a horse and buggy?

The thought of working and living off what we build feeds my soul. And so does gardening. It is as close as I can come to living the life I want, in the era God placed me in. A couple of years ago my husband and I moved to the country. While it’s only three acres, it’s plenty for me to maintain.

We have been working the land gradually. Just this year we planted a strawberry patch,

Strawberry Plant

a couple of bluebBlueberry Busherry bushes,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fuji Apple Tree

 

 

even planted an apple tree!

 

 

 

 

 

Garden

My husband tilled the garden up and thanks to my father-in-law, I planted more vegetables than I intended.

 

I’ve yet to see the fruits of my labor and probably won’t for several more years as I’ve learned much about pruning for optimal fruit production, but every time I see the growth, I’m reminded of how good God is. Now I can’t wait to bite into a good homegrown tomato and can the rest for winter!

In the next few months we are going a step further and getting chickenS! I’m SUPER excited about that!

 

Interview of a Lifetime

Photo Credit by: www.freeimages.com
Photo Credit by: www.freeimages.com

If I could interview one person about the book they wrote I’d shoot for the stars. In my opinion there’s only one BEST SELLING AUTHOR of all time. I’d like to talk to the maker of this universe and ask Him a few things about the book He wrote. Some parts of the Bible are so cryptic while other parts are simply stated. My questions to the Almighty are these:

Lowly Me: Many times in scripture You tell us what to do, but not necessarily how to do it. Why didn’t you just tell us how?

Heavenly Lord:  Because I want you to trust me. I told you what to do, but you must lean on me daily to receive my instruction. Once you trust me with your heart, I will guide your steps each and every day. I just want you to obey. Once you obey I’ll give you next step.

Lowly Me:  Why did you write through so many different people?

Heavenly Lord:  Everyone has a different story with much pain and hardship. All cannot relate to one. So I chose humble willing spirits, like Moses, Luke, and Paul to write their journeys and the journeys of others, so those that read, know they are not alone. Others understand their pain and their struggle, especially my son. I chose people who could tell His story as I couldn’t bear to be apart from Him any longer than necessary, so once He accomplished my will, I brought Him home.

Lowly Me:  I know how this story ends, but can you give me a little bit of a spoiler as to when Jesus will return?

Heavenly Lord:  (Chuckling) Nice try 😉

Perhaps it is audacious for me to anticipate the Lord’s replies, but I felt it was all in good fun!

 

Question: What questions would ask the good Lord Almighty if given the chance?

Lessons from The Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings 03-25-15

The Lord of the Rings is a classic. So many life lessons can be learned from examining just one of the many characters in these novels.

The greatest lesson I have learned is that through Jesus, I’m capable of more than I thought. Just like Frodo, God calls us to take many journeys. Journeys full of danger, pain, sorrow, and maybe even death. Most often we don’t feel qualified or capable. Like Frodo, parts of the journey become too hard to bear and we contemplate bailing.

The sacrifice is too much and sorrow surrounds us immobilizing our efforts. We cry, we ask God why He chose us for such a task. We ask Him to pass this cup from us because we can’t possibly see the outcome as favorable. We realize we may not survive. But He speaks across our hearts whispering to do His will and go with Him. He promises to be with us and carry our burden when it’s too much to bear.

He is our Samwise Gamgee.

And though we cannot see it, this journey will create hope and healing for the great many people. Many will come to Christ through Jesus if we accept the journey from Him. So don’t be afraid to be used. Be honored and know that whatever journey God calls you take, He will make you capable through Jesus.

Question: Has God sent you on a journey you’ve been reluctant to accept?

E is for Eager

I love fall, especially September. I was one of those kids who loved school. I was ready for it to start by mid-August (but I always had to wait until the Tuesday after Labor Day). I still wander through the school supply aisle when summer winds down – what writer doesn’t love new pens, pencils, and paper?

Living in Minnesota, I love the change of every season. Even when we first head into winter. (The problem is, it takes MONTHS to head from winter into spring so to say I’m eager for warmer weather by then is a huge understatement.)

candy cornI’ve been eager for September to arrive, eager for the cooler weather, although we had a really lovely summer here, and for the smell of bonfires and the sound of football games on a Friday evening. And my hubby is eager for candy corn and those candy pumpkins.

The changing color of the landscape is always something I look forward to, although I can’t say I’m quite as excited by how quickly the yard gets piled with leaves needing to be raked. I’m eager for the amazing smells of fall – baking pies,  crisp fall air, evening fires, and apple orchards.

I’m also eager to see where God is leading me in the coming months. To book publication? A new job? New writing friends? My eagerness can easily slide into impatience when change is slow to come. In the midst of the life’s occasional harshness, I have to cling to His enduring promises. And yes, be eager for whatever He has in store for me, because it will only bring me closer to Him.pumpkin pie

What are you eager for as we head into fall? Are there potential changes looming? A particular dream you’re waiting to see realized? Are you eager for that first taste of pumpkin or apple pie, or to eat smores around a blazing fire? Whatever it is, I pray it’s all that you hope it will be.

 

My Hero

I know, I know, we’re supposed to write about a fictitious hero, but since I haven’t read a lot of fiction lately, I’m writing about my favorite hero…period. Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I felt inspired to write it as a poem. Yes, a poem, but I warn you–I really don’t do poetry. So here goes:

My Hero

My Hero…

Loves me though I’m not deserving,

Walks beside me day by day.

He feels my every sorrow

And shares in all my pain.

He wipes away my tears of woe

And sheds some of His own.

He wraps His arms around me

To shield me from my fears.

He whispers words of comfort

To cheer me when I’m down.

He blesses me with all my needs

Though not my every want.

He teaches me to grow,

To be humble in my ways.

He gives me many joys,

More than I dare to ask.

He knows just what my heart needs

To give me hope again.

***

He asked me to come follow Him

To walk life’s rocky path.

How could I not say “Yes”

When He said these words to me,

“Take my hand, don’t let go.

I promise I won’t let you fall.”

Though troubles came at every turn,

I forgot that He was there.

I let Him go

Not looking back.

When enemies taunted

And threw barbs at my soul,

I stumbled and fell, scared and alone,

Weeping for all I thought I had lost.

I looked for my Hero,

And cried out to Him.

“Lord, my body is bruised,

And my heart is scarred.

I don’t understand

Why I’m hurting so much.”

I felt a warm presence

And looked up to see

My Hero beside me,

A red bud in his hand.

“Take this, my child, for a job well done.

You’ve turned out quite well, just as I planned.”

Confused, I said nothing,

But accepted the gift.

“This bud,” He continued, “is just like you.

To become a rose of great beauty,

You must get past the thorns.

 

Written by Shari Barr

Copyright February 14, 2013 All Rights Reserved

Adonai – Lord, Master

Lord and Master make me think of servants and slaves. In Bible times, the Masters lorded over their servants and slaves. What’s the difference in a servant and a slave? A servant served willingly. A slave was owned.

God longs to be our Lord and Master, but not the type of Master to Lord over us. We aren’t His slaves. We’re His servants. We are to serve Him. And as Christians, we should be willing to serve.

The last two books I’ve written, I had tight deadlines. Every word was like pulling teeth. Meeting my wordcount and deadline was a challenge. I turned both books in on time. At the moment, I don’t have any newly contracted books. I don’t have anything I have to write by a certain time. That freedom has been daunting. I’ve dabbled on four different books, but can’t seem to focus on any of them.

I’ve sent my agent this three chapters and proposal and that three chapters and proposal to see what she thinks might interest a publisher. She told me what she thought of each book, but since we’re submitting to a new publisher, she thought I should pick one and finish it.

Which one? I love them all, want to work on them all. I’m excited about them all.

Last week, I took off from writing for spring break. I prayed to my Lord and Master for focus and direction. Midweek, the fog began to clear. I was only thinking and plotting one book. The book that had always had problems. The book where I knew there was a plot issue, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. The next day, my agent e-mailed with her perception of the very book I’d been zoned in on. And she pointed out clearly what the problem was. Everything fell into place. Today, I’m focused and I fixed the problem. The book makes more sense. I like the characters better.

So what if I’d prayed to my Lord and Master about the last two books instead of plodding through on my own? When I took my petition to Him, I was better able to serve in writing the book He wants me to write. I hate when I get so deadline weary and become such a slave to my computer that I forget that.

When God is our Lord and Master, He wants it all–from the smallest worry or discomfort to the large issues and trials that seem like they might break us. With Adonai, we can withstand the strongest storms and tribulations. When we try to do it on our own, molehills turn into mountains.

Who is He to you? Is He your Lord and Master? Is He your co-pilot or your pilot? Do you ever forget to give it all to Him and try to trudge through on your own?

In the Quiet of the Night

In contemplating Christmas and what it means to me, I’ve found it difficult to get past the hustle and bustle of the commercial side of things. It’s easy to get pulled into all of the shopping and cooking and decorating that seem to go along with the season.

But in those quiet moments, when I take the time to think about the true meaning of Christmas, I find something deeper, something more. It’s not just about the birth of Jesus, the Christ.

If you want to get right down to it, the birth of Jesus was in the early Spring months according to historians. But even that isn’t what’s important.

The story of Christmas, the meaning of the holiday, is all about the strength of convictions. Mary, Joseph, and the people who supported them had to live during a difficult time by the strength of their convictions. They believed in a God that few trusted with a trust that surpassed rational explanation.

Late a night, when the house is quiet and the hustle and bustle of the season isn’t overwhelming, this is the message that I hold on to. I’m thankful for the birth of the Christ, but I’m warmed by the thought that a young girl would believe in her God so much that she would be willing to risk her life to trust His word.

I’m warmed by the thought that a man trusted his God so much that he would believe a story that would defy rational thought. And I’m strengthened by the thought there was a community their God enough to support these kids that were living by faith.

In today’s world, there are few examples of faith and trust that are stong enough to sustain the kind of faith and trust that these people exhibited. And in the quiet of the night, when I have time to think of all that’s happening in my own world and the world around me, the thought that Jospeh, Mary, and their community had so much more going against them…well, that’s enough to make me stop and consider what I’m facing.

It’s enough to make me forget about the prefect presents and a holiday dinner that will wow the socks off all my guests. It’s even enough for me to look at the struggles going on in my own life and around me and say “Thank you, God.”

For sending people before me to make the hard sacrifices. For sending people before me to create an example of how true faith is lived.

And in the quiet of the night, as I sit in front of a tree, decorated with lights and ornaments, I find that my faith and my trust is increased by the faith and trust that a young couple and their supporters had in a God that loved enough to trust them with the most precious gift ever given.

I’m Not Unsinkable

“Unsinkable Faith” brings to mind images of water, Jesus and His disciples in a boat, or Jonah in the belly of a whale.  But that’s not what came to mind when I saw this topic.  Instead, I immediately thought of Job.  Talk about a man with completely unsinkable faith!  And God knew that.  So he allowed Job to be tested – a LOT!

Job withstood all of the trials that were thrown at him, and during it all his faith remained unsinkable.  That is the kind of faith that I want to have.  But if I’m being completely honest, having that kind of faith scares the daylights out of me.  It requires something I struggle with day in and day out – trust.

Trust is one of those hard-to-explain concepts.  It means believing that something or someone will behave or react exactly the way they promise to, without any specific proof of that behavior.  It’s faith that promises will be kept. And the whole concept gets a little skitchy when it comes to Christianity because we have the Bible as proof that God carries out his promises.

But I’m human, and as much as I would like to believe that the Bible is true and have faith in concepts that I can’t really see or completely understand, my human nature takes over at time.  Like Job, I consciously give my problems to God. “It’s yours.  I’ve made such a mess of it, surely you can do better.” But that’s where my similarities to Job end.

BuoyAfter I give that problem over, I can’t just trust that God will take care of it.  I worry over it.  I monitor the situation, and the instant that it seems to me that God isn’t handling it the way *I* want it handled, I grab that problem back.  “Maybe you better let me handle this one.  You don’t fully understand my thought process here.”

On the other hand, Job handed it over and let it go.  And in the end, he reaped great rewards for his faithfulness.  He just had to go through an earthly version of Hell to get there.  But he trusted his God and had faith that God would not allow anything to happen to him that didn’t have specific purpose.  No matter how bad it got, he maintained unsinkable faith.

Job is my hero.  To use a sports analogy, he kept his eyes on the prize.  I want to do that.  I want to be like that.  And when I start to slip, Job is the character that I look to as an example of how Christians should trust.  Over time, that trust gets easier.  Over time, God provides the little proofs that Christians need to help them build trust.  And over time, I’ve come to realize that God is unsinkable.  I can still be sunk.  If I let go, if I take my eyes off God, and when I think I have the strength to do it on my own–that’s when I sink.  But as long as I hold on to God, nothing can push me under or pull me down.