Jairus' Daughter

21 And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh
unto the sea.

22 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,

23 And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.

24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.

I can’t focus on this scripture without mentioning what happened before this. There was no rest for Jesus that day. He’d already calmed a storm and cast out demons, then journeyed across the sea. Again. Why? Because the people asked him to leave. Only the demoniac Jesus had returned to his right mind was grateful.

As soon as he got to the other shore, a crowd awaited him. Jairus fell at his feet, begging Jesus to heal his daughter. Jesus immediately went with him only to be thronged by the crowd.

I’ve wished so many times that I could have lived back when Jesus walked the earth. Me—put aside my love for electricity, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing? Yes.

I like to think I’d have been one of the ones who fell at Jesus’ feet. Who would have sold everything to follow him. Who would have railed and mourned when they killed him. Who would have been waiting for his resurrection because he’d said it was so.

But would I have? Or would I have been frightened by the Gadarene’s healing? Would I have been one of the people praying Jesus to depart from my coasts? Would I have been in the press thronging him, getting in his way, and distracting him from Jairus’ daughter. Not because I knew who he was, but because I’d heard of his miracles and needed one.

The people living then didn’t know who Jesus was. They were looking for the Messiah, but they expected a king not a carpenter. Some didn’t recognize him. Even the disciples didn’t understand the big picture.

Would I have recognized him? Or would I have fallen asleep in the garden instead of watching? Would I have denied him like Peter? Would I have been one in the crowd crying for the release of Barabbas? Would I have doubted him like Thomas?

Knowing my short-comings and how I often fall at Jesus’ feet only after I’ve tried everything else, I think I’m glad I didn’t live back then.

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?

He Leadeth Me Beside the Still Waters

Facts about sheep: 

  • They consume ½ to 4 gallons of water per day, depending on the weather and content of water in their food.
  • They have trouble with depth perception.
  • Rushing water frightens them.
  • Because of their wool, they are poor swimmers.
  • They prefer to drink still water.
  • They require pure water.

This part of the 23rd Psalm is four-fold to me:

  • We’re to follow God just as the shepherd is to lead and the sheep.  

Let go and let God. But instead, we try to take control, handle decisions, and navigate the U-turns life throws at us. We blaze our own trail instead of following the shepherd. If we wander, He seeks us until we are restored into fellowship with Him. 

  • God will provide for his flock just as the shepherd waters the sheep.

The shepherd leads the sheep where they can drink safely. God will never lead where He can’t provide for us. He understands our limitations as the shepherd understands the sheep’s weaknesses. He loves us as we are and provides for us.

  • He’ll calm our turbulent waters just as the shepherd calms the sheep’s fears.

All we have to do is turn our worries over to Him. He can handle it all. His shoulders are much bigger than ours. But we keep taking our problems back and trying to handle them on our own.

  • We are to drink of His Holy Spirit just as the sheep require pure water.

Sheep must drink pure water to stave off disease, just as our thirsty soul can only be fully satisfied when our spiritual thirst is quenched by God. He will provide eternal water and if we drink of it, we’ll never thirst again.

What’s your take on the still waters? Anything I missed?

The Perils of Perfectionism

Perfectionism is my rut. My life and my writing often consist of a vicious cycle. I set unreachable goals and fail to attain them. I place myself under constant pressure, becoming self-critical, anxious, which sometimes leads to depression.

When I realize I can’t attain one of my unreachable goals, I give it up and move on to something new — change directions. Given a fresh start, I start new projects full of enthusiasm, but soon I get back into the rut of setting unreachable goals and the cycle continues. The inevitability of failure squelches my productivity. Instead of living the “Try, try again” mantra, my motto is often, “Do or don’t bother.”

My problem? Trying to do everything myself, my way.

Perfectionism is self-reliance gone amuck. It often stems from a rigid need to control, perhaps because those who are plagued with it are afraid to let God take charge of our lives. The “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” syndrome confines us to attempting only those tasks we can accomplish alone, which sets us up for failure.

Imagine how many goals I could reach — writing and otherwise — if i surrender and become willing to accept His help! One of my missionary friends helped me with my perfectionistic patterns by offering me this advice — “Make a decision you know you can’t do alone, but ONLY with God’s help. Plan beyond your abilities. Pray. And then do it! Not because you think you can, but because you know HE can!”

I read a quote just yesterday that got me thinking about this topic — “You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it going!” There is no limit to what we can accomplish with God’s help. Only He can pull me out of my rut and into His groove.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

MADE TO SURRENDER

Dear Father-God,

Surrender.

Sigh.

You know my history with surrender. When I was 8, I surrendered my heart to You. You’ve never left me. Oh, sometimes I scooted away from YOU, but I know that You were always there, waiting patiently for me to get a clue.

My problem was that I didn’t have patience with YOU, the Master and Creator of everything.

You see, I have this problem of laying down my burden to You, and then, when You don’t solve the issue in what I consider a “timely manner,” I promptly pick it back up again, figuring it’s one of those issues that You gave me the intelligence to handle, after all.

Oh my.

Like You made me for THAT.

The other night we had a worship time that included the song “Made To Worship” by Chris Tomlin. As soon as I heard this little portion, it stuck:

You and I were made to worship
You and I are called to love
You and I are forgiven and free
When you and I embrace surrender
When you and I choose to believe
Then you and I will see who we were meant to be

You didn’t make me to carry all those burdens around. You made me to love YOU, and to believe in YOU, and to listen to YOU. YOU, God, are the only one who knows me, and You know me better than I know myself.

You know me so well that you sincerely understand when I have a hard time singing “I Surrender All.” And You love me anyway.

You have a plan. You show me, daily, that there is a purpose for me.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Since I don’t know the plans You have for me, I simply have to trust You.

And after all, isn’t that the beauty of surrender? It’s all in the next step. I simply need to go from I Surrender All to Trust and Obey.

Thank you, Father, for the blessing of SURRENDER.

Amen.

Reluctant Surrender

The ground rumbles beneath your feet and with your jacketed arm you wipe perspiration from your forehead. Heart thumping, arms trembling, you raise your weapon toward the hills. The weapon’s empty, but the enemy doesn’t know that. A third of the army that once stood beside you has deserted, their own weapons barren. A dusty cloud rises behind the hill and the ground quakes. You swallow the knot taking over your throat and squint, but the enemy remains hidden. Beside you, one-half of the remaining fighters raise their weapons, but the other half have taken a knee, already giving in. But surrender isn’t in your vocabulary. You’d rather die fighting than yield control.

Let’s face it, few of us like the word “surrender.” We’re continuously encouraged to keep pressing on. As someone who likes to be in control, surrender is a particularly ugly word. But, God calls us to relinquish control. And oftentimes, when we’re not listening to His call, He takes drastic measures to get our attention.

Back in September, with an army-load of people praying for me, I drove to the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis equipped for victory. Four completed manuscripts, two of which were written with the market in mind. Unique stories. Eye- and ear-catching one-sheets. A captivating pitch. All designed to win over editors and agents.

The first person I met with was an author (whom I greatly respect) who critiqued one of my manuscripts. It was a glowing critique. Extraordinarily encouraging. She loved my voice, my characters, the setting. More proof that I was ready to be published. This author added a powerful weapon to my arsenal: pride.

Turns out my weapons weren’t so mighty after all. The editor I met with took my one-sheets but showed no enthusiasm for my work. And the agent? Well, let’s just say it was clear we weren’t compatible. All my well-honed weapons were deemed impotent.

For the first time ever, I returned home from a conference with no clear direction or purpose. I offered fake smiles and the excuse of “not yet” to my prayer-army. I had no proposals to spruce up. No first chapters to edit one more time.

Defeat stripped hope away.

Or did it?

Yes, God did some stripping all right. He stripped away pride. He stripped away my focus on the wrong audience. My writing had become all about what pleases the world. I wanted the world’s validation, not His. My writing was no longer an act of worship, but an attempt to make people love me. Although I followed all the rules, my voice lost its passion, its edge. I forgot who my audience really was.

That Audience of One had to strip away all the excess to bring my focus back to Him. To be still, pray, listen. To surrender.

And what glorious freedom is found in surrender!

As I look forward, writing again excites me. My ideas may not be what publishers are currently looking for, but God is bigger than the industry. If that’s the path He wants me to follow, He’ll forge a way. If He has a different destination in mind, I’ll follow Him there.

Surrender isn’t easy, and I’m sure I’ll continue to fight against it, but God has a way of stripping down my defenses so I’ll have no choice but to let Him fight the battle for me.

And He always wins.

~~~~~

As I considered this topic for these past two weeks, a song kept running through my head, one my college madrigal group used to sing, and it has become my anthem. The lyrics may not include the word “Surrender,” but I hear that very message when I sing the words.

Here Am I, Send Me

    words and music by John Purifoy

 

Here am I, send me.

Here am I, Lord, send me.

Unto thee, willingly, yielded I come.

Show the path that I must walk,

Compel me then to go,

And if I stray, bring back the light of day.

For here am I, send me I pray.

 

Send me to be what’s created in me.

Formed in your image, I stand.

Turn my weakness into your power,

Pow’r to be at last all I’m able to be.

 

Here am I, send me.

Here am I, Lord, send me.

Precious Holy Spirit, come, fill me anew.

Give me wisdom, send me strength,

Grant that I may be a mirror of your never-ending love,

For here am I, send me I pray.

 

Send me to be what’s created in me.

Formed in your image, I stand.

Turn my weakness into your power,

Pow’r to be at last all I’m able to be.

And if I stray, bring back the light of day,

For here am I, send me I pray.

Surrender the Details

Jesus

Our ladies prayer group at church set a goal of thirty shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Some of us have struggled financially this year. Some could only afford to fill one box, some no boxes, and some several boxes. We decided to all buy however little or much we could, then bring our gifts to the church and fill the boxes together. We ended up with a closet full of donated toys, jewelry, crayons, coloring books, school supplies, and hygiene products. 

Before everyone arrived to fill the boxes, we decided we didn’t have enough items for older kids. Some people had donated money, but the treasurer hadn’t arrived yet, so we didn’t know how much. On faith, a couple of us went shopping and ended up spending more than we thought we should. When the treasurer arrived, the donations amounted to almost exactly the money we’d spent.

By the time we ran out of boxes, another donation had come in to pay for more. Another shopping trip only brought in four more boxes. Apparently several of the churches in my town are participating in Operation Christmas Child. Once we find more boxes, we should be able to fill a total of fifty.

We didn’t make any plans on who would buy what, how many, for a boy or girl, or what age group, but it all worked out above and beyond our goal. See what happens when you surrender the details to God?

POTHOLE PADDING

Did you ever hit so many potholes that you wished for padding? I mean, in my case, it’s not like I’m going to avoid the darn things, so could I just get a little relief?

For some reason I think the current pothole in which I reside is one I’ve visited before. I recognize it by the little touches I left the last time I hit it and simply stayed a while. It’s not such a bad pothole, as potholes go . . . Reminds me a little of a certain set of medication commercials – you know, the one with the little “mucus guy” that settles into your lungs and seems surprised when you finally do something about him and take the silly medicine?

Yeah. I feel myself settling in. Writing hasn’t been a priority. On a pretty day, there’s yard work to be done, or laundry to do, or windows to wash. I do love to look out of nice, clean windows. Between Spring Fever and end of the school year activities, something is bound to slide.

So guess what it is? Writing. In fact, I didn’t hit this pothole with a giant “ka-thump,” but literally slid into it. It was just waiting there, insidiously, waiting for me to try to ease by it, but instead of letting me pass unscathed, it literally began to quietly crumble along the edge where I stood, and I gently slid down much as Alice slid into the hole after the White Rabbit.

pooh_balloonSince I’m not wearing a big full skirt to act as a parachute, like Alice, and I’m not holding on to a helium-filled balloon like Pooh, I’m afraid, even with the ease in which I made my entrance into the pothole, I’m going to accelerate and hit the bottom with somewhat of a thud. It’s gonna catch up with me.

But even as I hurtle to the bottom of the pothole, there’s that glimmer of encouragement that can only come from God. Maybe there’s some padding down there I just haven’t hit yet. Padding? Dream on. Really? Oh yes, it’s there. We’ve read about it these last two weeks. We’ve talked about distractions, about making it a destination, even. These potholes, they are what we make them, after all. They’re not always the villain of the piece.

But what about that thud at the bottom? I want the assurance that when I get there, I won’t be alone, and that it won’t hurt. I want to know that those promises from God – you know, the “I will never leave you or forsake you” ones? I want to know those promises are for real.

They are. The padding is there, and even though it may have a few peas under it that the “Princess and the Pea” would find a bit uncomfortable, I realize that the padding I seek is not pure comfort. It’s not even to make my life smooth out like a nice, wide, brand-new highway. It’s knowing that God loves me, and I’m not alone.

The padding I seek lies there in the form of turning to my friends and family. In finding more blogs to read and respond to (what great friends I’ve found this way!), new authors that I MUST read (hey, I’m a librarian, after all), school and church activities revving up as we finish the school year (must make that dessert for the band banquet . . . and I’m down to play the organ for revival services . . .), and so much more.

The padding I refer to, right now, is anything that tends to turn my mind from writing. But not from Him.

But we’re talking about writing. He gave me the desire to write. So how is it that I can write about my inability to find time to sit down and WRITE?

CB100475Hmmm. I’ve been reading a lot about surrender lately. Surrendering myself TO God, not SURRENDURING to something. From what I’ve gathered, surrender, like a ka-thump pothole, is often looked upon as a negative, but in this case, it can actually be a positive. Have I surrendered my writing to Him? I may have surrendered to that pothole that I find myself in, but do you know what my padding is? What my comfort is as I peer up from what might seem, at first, like an absolute abyss?

It’s that God is in control, He hasn’t forsaken me, even when I’m in a pothole. I just have to surrender the frustration and all that goes with being in a pothole, to Him.

He hasn’t taken away the desire to write. He’s just simply given me a breather. He kept me from falling in, head-first, into a rocky, dirty, icky pothole, and instead is telling me to rest in Him. Maybe that pothole isn’t actually a pothole at all. Maybe it’s just a little detour on the road to writing. Maybe I missed a sign somewhere, and He’s telling me to trust Him. He won’t let me falter for long. Just long enough to catch my breath. Long enough to read someone’s words that say, “Do what works for you.”

And guess what? Every pothole I find myself in, even the great-grandmother of all potholes, Serious Self-Doubt, the one that tells me I’m not cut out for this writing thing—Even this one has some padding in the bottom, put there by God, just for me.