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“Teach me to do Your will,
for You are my God.
May Your gracious Spirit
lead me on level ground.
Because of Your name, Yahweh,
let me live.” — Psalm 143:10-11

September clung to the calendar by less than a week. I still hadn’t enjoyed my autumnal pumpkin spice latte. My conditioner ran out. I scraped at cosmetics to stretch them a few more weeks. I didn’t mind a few sacrifices to share time with my writer friends at a retreat. Sharing a dim bathroom? Doable. Cafeteria food? Well, it was only for three days.

But when the speaker questioned our willingness to suffer, I balked. Pain and grief didn’t paint a sparkly advertisement. I couldn’t say I felt eager to leap onto the hurt wagon. Yes, I’d make minor concessions here and there, but would I be willing to charge into suffering?

This  guarantee of trials peppers the New Testament, but I hadn’t considered my consent. The resolution to use faith to cope with trouble differs from volunteering for certain angst. I had often professed a desire to fulfill God’s purpose, but had failed to anchor my commitment in this depth. The resolve would need to burrow into my core to hold a Savior-sized beam of dedication. I’d have to reject the priority of my own comfort to embrace the splintery cross. Beyond confessing my love for Jesus, I must decide my reason for living. Will I live for Him … or for me?

Our culture invites us to live for our own comfort. We work to accumulate possessions, engage in costly hobbies, and obtain the security of others’ approval. Reward-seeking shimmers like a mirage and beckons us down its well-paved path. Though we experience less resistance on a self-centered path, the indulgences fail to offer us a satisfying existence. Happiness evaporates the instant it passes our lips. Hedonism leaves our souls empty, and our comforts abandon us at the grave.

Christ invites us to trade a dying body for eternal luxury. Our temporary investment of suffering on His behalf guarantees an exponential return. Unlike the selfish indulgences we savor on earth, sharing Christ’s joy never loses an iota of shimmer or a bit of thrill.

What will you choose to live for?

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing…A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” —James 1:2-4,12

I peered over the kitchen sink to check my herbs. Spider mites crawled over the remains of yesterday’s sprouts. A few hardy gnats swarmed among the carcasses of their siblings, which I’d doused with organic weaponry two days before. I emptied the last of my seeds into the not-so-jiffy pots and pried them from the tacky sill. With a sigh, I carried the remains outside. I laid them to rest on the deck between my dead squash and withering tomato plants, offering each doomed plant a parting spritz of insecticide.

So much for growing food. I should have known better. Though farming stretches back several generations in my family, the inheritance didn’t make it into my genes. Instead of nurturing life, my fingertips beget as kiss of death on all things green. I sometimes pity new plants when I bring them home, since few survive longer than a month. A quest to provide drives me to keep trying. With my counseling practice losing money and writing career mired in the doldrums, I had hoped to create something fruitful for my family.

Weeks after the herb funeral, I strode past the wilting houseplants on my dining table to gaze at the overcast day outside. A burst of green drew my attention to the abandoned jiffy pots. Was that…basil? The herbs gleamed with the sheen of a recent drizzle. Nearby, fresh growth sprouted from the tomato stalk. My plants thrived after I got out of the way.

Discouragement burdened my soul and I buckled under its weight. Fatigue dragged my body to the couch. As I closed my eyes, a silent plea rose from my soul.

 I need You, Lord. Let me rest in You.

I longed to be held with divine tenderness while supported by infinite strength. I sank against the cushions, imagining God holding me against His chest. Only His embrace could be softer than a cloud and reinforce with more power and strength than the musculature of a grizzly bear.

A ray filtered through the window sheers and caressed my cheek. I opened my eyes to breaking sunlight. The grey clouds had dissipated. From the dark, pungent confirmations of my ineptitude, a fresh thought sprouted in my mind.

I can’t grow anything, but God can make anything grow.

Only He begets life. Our participation offers relationship, but the Lord alone wields the power to bring life. And He can resurrect things we’ve left for dead.

I closed my eyes for a few more minutes, resting in the Son’s light. I’m praying for the Lord to make me grow in His ways. And, if He wills it, to grow whatever He likes through me–green or otherwise.

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me” (John 15:5).

“Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will He do for you—you of little faith? Don’t keep striving for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you.  Don’t be afraid,little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:27-32).

“’The kingdom of God is like this,’ He said. ‘A man scatters seed on the ground; he sleeps and rises—night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows—he doesn’t know how. The soil produces a crop by itself—first the blade, then the head, and then the ripe grain on the head” (Mark 4:26-28).

 

I don’t venture up onto my roof often. In fact, I only brave that weak-kneed climb if no one else volunteers to help with an annual task. My core tightens as I wobble those initial steps. After I reach the center and grip onto an anchoring structure, my lungs relax for a full breath. I look out across the treetops as dusk honeys the heads of our neighborhood live oaks. My view extends beyond our street to the school, ballparks, and the mass of homes further outward.

A moment on the peak shifts my perspective. The sunshine’s caress penetrates my cheekbones. The breath of a fresh season revives my senses. I consider distant homes as my neighbors. At this moment, when God secures my quivering frame, the world feels both larger and more intimate. Standing on the rooftop, I recognize myself as a saint.

As twilight darkens my view, time demands my return to life on the level earth below. I resume my daily routines, walking across the dust of the past toward the tomorrow from which it will grow. The miseries and burdens of passers-by permeate the stagnant air. I see despair in their eyes and feel the pull of hopelessness from their hearts. So much pain. I reach out with an urge to help, but hesitation quivers in my fingertips. I, too, have knees prone to buckling. Who am I to offer them strength? What if I let these fragile neighbors down? My doubts and fears tire me, and I begin to sink onto the curb of purposelessness. The suffering of life on the roads and in the alleyways tempts me to forget I am a saint.

Rays warmer than sunbeams lift my drooping chin. I need not search with my eyes to know Who is there.

“You are not made to be a saint for the rooftop,” He says. “Nor are you made to pour your own strength out to sustain these others.”

I want to leap from the curb and snuggle in His arms. Every muscle of my body, to the core of my soul, longs to soak in His presence forever. “Keep me with You,” I say.

My spirit inhales a heady draft of His invigorating fragrance.

“You are a saint because I am with you. Here on the road…” He turns my shoulders to face out across the vast neighborhood, through the nearby fences and into the world beyond them. “And out there. I am the strength you offer, the healing you convey. You got your bearings on the rooftop so you can live My purpose while you’re down here.”

I crane my neck, attempting to glimpse His brilliance. Though my eyes fail to capture a view of the Son, He has not left me alone. The Word of my promise-keeping God anchors my certainty about His location–within my heart.

I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20).

The confidence that He remains with me girds my weak knees to venture out into the world and steadies my frail arms to reach out to bless those who suffer. I do not merely give myself to those in need, but I offer Someone far better. He alone can transform the unsteady roof climber into a earth-treading saint. The Son Who did so for me can change any willing soul. With such immense suffering, the world needs more saints to climb down and share His love on the roadway. Let’s reach out together, in His strength, to leave no neighbors to despair of hope.

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John17:20-23).

 “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:18-20).

20140521_164204Bridges draw my eyes up and across their magnificent structures. Age and wear tug at my slumbering imagination, inspiring me to wonder at a bridge’s creation and years of shouldering live burdens toward safety. The builder invested careful engineering before setting the first stone at its foundation. Intense toil erected its magnificent path. The suffering laborer knew his work would provide means to cross a treacherous divide. For those who would follow his work, the bridge offered freedom from grave pitfalls below. The number of bridge goers would continue to increase beyond the end of the worker’s life. How many life stories plodded across this divide? Who paused to gaze into the ravine below and consider the passion required to secure their way?

So it is with our Bridge to Eternal Hope. Our Father, the Great Bridge Builder, engineered our way as soon as its need began. When sin ruptured the earth and triggered an epic collapse, a ravine gaped between the Father and His children. Deadly pitfalls threatened us, and we could not reach Him. The Father placed each stone with precise engineering, His heart empassioned to carry His children home securely. At the perfect moment, He set the Cornerstone which would never falter. Christ toiled and suffered, rending His body as building materials for the cross beams. He crafted a bridge to traverse the impossible divide.

We no more need linger on this forsaken shore. The passage welcomes us, drawing our wondering eyes up and over its secure structure. Let’s cross together with thankful and joyous hearts, pausing to cast a tearful gaze across the ravine. Thank You, Lord, for making the Way for us.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

 

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. ..But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christand seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:1-9

“God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” 1Timothy 2:3-6

Writer’s World Blog Tour.

Bookshelf

Welcome to my writing loft.

Feel free to glance through the archives and check out a few devotional posts. I’m taking a break from the norm to participate in a blog tour. This event invites readers onto a cross-country cybertrain, in which they meet new authors and taste fresh posts. Grab a cup of tea or your favorite latté as I introduce you to my friends. I’m honored to know these brilliant and lovely women, and hope you will be, too.

Meet Bethany Jett

bethany-jett-headshot-7-14

I enjoyed meeting Bethany at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference this year. She’s a beautiful, sweet spirit with a heart for teens. I leaped at her invitation to join the blog tour, and am excited to introduce her to you.

National speaker Bethany Jett is an award-winning writer, whose first attempt at writing a book proposal landed her Writer of the Year at the 2012 Florida Christian Writers Conference, a contract with the MacGregor Literary Agency, and a publishing deal. Her book, The Cinderella Rule: A Young Woman’s Guide to Happily Ever After was a finalist for the 2014 Selah Awards.

Bethany is a video blogger for ChristianMingle.com, and has been interviewed on radio stations across the US, as well as internationally. She is a featured columnist with Choose NOW Ministries, and also writes for Charisma, Sisterhood,Sonoma Christian Home, ChristianityToday.com, SpiritLedWoman.com, Crosswalk.com, along with other magazines and sites. Bethany is also an editor for Splickety magazine.

When she’s not writing or speaking, Bethany enjoys cooking for her husband and three little boys. She coaches cheerleading, loves spending time with the kids in their youth group, and roots for her favorite football team, the Florida State Seminoles.

Bethany blogs on girly topics, godly perspective at BethanyJett.com.

 

My Interview

As part of the Writer’s World Blog Tour, I have been asked to answer a few questions about my writing process.

What are you working on now?

I’m crafting a supernatural suspense series for young adults. Alicia Godfrey, a fifteen year-old abused orphan, opens a portal into the unseen realm when her mental escape game becomes more than she’d ever dreamed. Her words carry Alicia and her foster siblings into the spiritual realm. Inner gifts emerge and transform the kids’ outward appearances. Demonic creatures slither from the walls, shadow their peers, and hunt them in the dark forest behind their home. The characters in Inscaping discover the spiritual reality which surrounds and indwells them in their ordinary world.

The first draft of its sequel, Wordscaping, is near completion. When taking occasional breaks from my novel, I enjoy writing short stories and flash fiction with a spark of supernatural flavor.

 How does your work differ from others in its genre?

Empathy runs deep, an inextricable part of my nature long before I became a counselor.  I love the poetry of sensory images, but an emotional connection with readers is far more important to me.  Stories can carry us along the rough pathway between chilling shadows and the dawn of hope.

Why do you write what you do?

An inner craving for magic niggles at our minds, tugs at our souls. Long after childlike wonder fades, the mysteries of things unseen continue to clamor at the gates of our imaginations.  We yearn for a power far greater than magic. Adonai alone empowers the human soul with supernatural potential. No sorcery can compete with the awesome display of power we see when the Holy Spirit shows up.  Scripture tells us that an epic battle rages in the air around and within us. I hope to alert readers of the unseen forces so they might seek true power and thereby prevail.

How does your writing process work?

My professional and personal schedules vary from week to week, so establishing consistent writing time remains a challenge. When I have a block of time available, I pray about which part of writing I should tackle. Blogging, articles, and short stories work best for short intervals or time slots prone to interruptions.

With regard to the novel writing process, I prefer an organic flow of writing to the structured plot diagram. As the tale unfolds before me, I remain engaged. Characters and plot twists surprise me sometimes. I envision a few plot points along the curve and at the finish line, but the story would bore me if I had every detail planned in advance.

Dreams and daydreams contribute valuable content to my work. Sometimes my prayer time veers into storyweaving. Since the Lord called me to write, I feel peace about obtaining creative tidbits during meditation with Him.

I edit a little as I write. I don’t encourage other writers to adopt this sluggish habit, but I can’t seem to help it. My Word Weavers group offers additional insight with content and line edits. I cannot recommend such critique groups highly enough. At a novel’s completion, I plan to hire a professional editor before publication.

 

Sweet Taste of Fresh Posts

I relish the opportunity to carry a magnificent dessert to my guests. Chocolate brownie cheesecake frosted with ganache marks the party’s defining moment, wouldn’t you say? I’m thrilled to offer you a scrumptious opportunity to meet three of my dear writer friends. Each will post their interview and introduce two new authors on their sites next week. We’re only supposed to showcase two blogs, but I couldn’t resist plating you an extra-large portion. How often do we get to indulge in a decadent treat with no calories, after all?

DSC_0776Leah DiPascal is a speaker, Bible teacher and writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries. Her focus in ministry is to help women engageunderstand, and apply God’s Word to their hectic and oftentimes stressful lives. Leah serves on the editing and writing Team of Proverbs 31 Ministries for their Encouragement For Today Devotionals which reaches over 700,000+ people each day. She is a contributing devotional writer for the NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Woman and Your Life Still Counts which will be released in October 2014. Leah is a contributing blogger for Bible Gateway’s Blogger Grid  and Life Notes Café. She holds a Bachelor of Theology Degree and a Master of Divinity Degree from Tabernacle Bible College and Seminary. With over 19 years of experience in women’s ministry, Leah has served in leadership roles through Moms In Prayer International, Stonecroft Ministries, Community Bible Study International, Women of Destiny and Proverbs 31 Ministries. Leah inspires women weekly on her blog, Whispers for the Soul. You can connect with Leah there and through these social media sites: FacebookTwitter or Pinterest. Leah and her husband, Keith, live in North Carolina where they fulfill their most important calling as parents to their teenage sons, Brody and Carson.

This week Leah is giving away a signed copy of Lysa TerKeurst’s new book, The Best Yes, which was just released last month and is already on the New York Times Bestsellers List! Visit her blog and sign up for the drawing today.

 

Andy Lee2Andy Lee is an award winning writer, inspirational speaker and mentor for Word Weavers International. She’s ministered to women for over twenty years through Bible study, retreats and conferences, and just being a friend.

She is a self-proclaimed Bible Study geek who loves teaching people how to dig into the ancient biblical languages to discover the breath inside. She’s passionate about helping others find their value in Jesus, their purpose beyond today, and camaraderie with the biblical saints. Jesus always called the unqualified, the socially challenged, and most unlikely to succeed—so we fit right in! She has written a Bible study on Ruth that will be in stores fall of 2015, published by AMG.

Andy believes that life is better with chocolate, geraniums, the ocean, and good friends. She’s an Oklahoma girl who loves living on the coast of North Carolina with her sweetheart of twenty-four years and their three almost-all-grown-up children. You can read her authentic, grace-filled words about finding purpose beyond today at www.wordsbyandylee.comwww.christiandevotions.us, and in a collection of 50 faith stories, Divine Moments.

 

Wendy_1705

On her blog, www.beautybattlefield.blogspot.com, Wendy Herrmann Smith aims to help women fight the culture’s lies with the truth of God. One of her top priorities is to protect her children from the media’s harmful messages. Wendy and her husband got their son the old-fashioned way and adopted their daughter from China. She’s written 13,000 words towards a book about the adoption. Her critique group says, “We like your book, but you were made to write articles.” So she keeps cranking out the shorter form, whether it’s about adoption, beauty, or seeing the femininity of God in Scripture.
In seminary, she learned alongside many male students and was probably the first to graduate from the school with a Masters of Divinity while pregnant. She can’t decide which was more harrowing — eighteen hours of labor or the fourteen-hour flight from Beijing with a screaming baby.
Wendy says, bring it on. What are you going to write unless you have great anecdotes? Find her stories on her blog and at the Christians for Biblical Equality website where she is a guest blogger. (www.cbeinternational.org)