Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Patience, Trust and a Very Special Delivery

A guest post by Sally Poyzer

Today is a very special day.

It’s a day I’ve been looking forward to for three years. It’s taken many prayers, much hoping and a lot of patience, but today my dream has finally been realized.

This morning, at 9:35 am, my precious package was delivered.

Right here in my lounge room.

My much longed for…new couch.

Okay, so it’s not as exciting as the delivery of a baby or anything, but I’ve been wanting this couch for a long time.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Choose the Best of What a Busy Day Offers You

by Emily Conrad

I spoke at a conference last weekend. My Justice galley is due tomorrow. A house guest is coming for the weekend. I need to prep blog posts. I need to clean. I have had a busy couple of weeks, and the fun isn't over yet.

As I think about the to-do list that daunts me, I remember Martha and her bustling work, and Mary, who sat and listened and whose choice was defended by none other than Jesus Himself.

We've all heard the story many times, and, to be honest, it's a little frustrating.

There is so much work to be done. The same Bible that contains Mary and Martha admonishes us to serve. Wouldn't doing what Mary did be the equivalent of reading our Bibles all day and finishing none of our other responsibilities? Wouldn't that be irresponsible?

Yet this attitude puts me on the opposite side of the situation from Jesus, and that's a dangerous place to be.

So, I look again at the familiar story.

She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he said. But Martha was distracted with all the preparations she had to make (Matthew 10:39-40a, NET)

Distracted. Martha was distracted. That implies to me that she knew she was supposed to focus on Jesus's teaching the way Mary did. She meant to listen to Him, to spend time with Him. She really did.

But, oh, she'd forgotten to baste the chicken. And oh, look at that cobweb. And the dog tracked what into the house?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Wielding Power Well

by Emily Conrad

The word power gets my attention, probably because I sometimes feel weak rather than powerful. Don't even consider the areas of money, politics, and fame. I'm talking about feeling and acting weak in even more pervasive, everyday ways.

I'm talking about weakness in conversations and in relationships, weakness when it comes to speaking truth and sharing light.

Yes, when we’re weak, Jesus is strong—and it’s our very weakness that leads us to rely on Him. And then, in Him, we're strong. We should have a certain amount of power. Not apart from Christ--understand that--but in and through Him. Yet, sometimes, I let weakness have the final say.

In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul mentions sending Timothy to the church in Corinth and a little later writes, But I will come to you soon, if the Lord is willing, and I will find out not only the talk of these arrogant people, but also their power. For the kingdom of God is demonstrated not in idle talk but with power. (vs 19-20, NET)

What a thing it would be to watch Paul demonstrate the kingdom of God with power.

As a believer today, I wonder where my power is sometimes, why I shrink back, weak and shy, when I ought to speak up or step out.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Raking Up Fallen Attitudes

by Emily Conrad

The old maple in our front yard puts on quite a show in fall, but it does so early. While other trees remain green, ours has been dropping orange and red and yellow leaves since August.

My sister complimented us on having done some raking when she spotted the leaves neatly piled on the terrace along the road in front of our house. Unfortunately, the city was less impressed.

The garbage collectors put a notice on our trash can informing us leaf collection doesn’t start until October 17th, and in the meantime, our leaves can’t hang out on the curb. Except the notice didn’t call it that. The notice called the curb the City Right-of-Way (ROW).

On reading the notice, my first instinct was to go out and scatter the leaves all over the yard again because we wouldn’t have gotten a notice if we hadn’t taken the initiative to clean up our yard.

My second instinct was to post a snarky comment on Facebook like the mature adult I am. I’m defensive about maple leaves, which I realize is silly, but even as I type that, I’m thinking, to be fair, the city started it…

These instincts of mine are hypocritical for a whole slew of reasons. Toward the top of the list: I don’t particularly like reading complaints on Facebook, and as a Christian writer, I’m publicly claiming to follow Jesus, and what did Jesus teach?

To give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. To give to the city what is the city’s.

The city spelled out in the notice that leaves can clog sewers and contribute to algae blooms, so they have their reasons for not wanting the leaves on the curb early.

Regardless of whether I agree with their reasons, the leaves were on the City’s ROW, and my attitudes fall on Christ’s ROW. Both need to be cleaned up.

I'm extra-convicted about this when I look up that give-to-Caesar verse, which actually goes like this:

He said to them, “Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21, NET)

I went out and moved the leaves off the curb.

But how to rake up that attitude of offense?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

He's Got My "Not Enough" Covered

by Emily Conrad

Atonement is the word of the day on September 30th, not by my choice, but because that’s the word Dictionary.com chose to email to its word of the day subscribers. I’d signed up only a couple of days before.

When I see atonement in my inbox and leave it, a pin in a thought that’s bowled me over and demands closer examination.

It all started the day before with a simple assignment from Christina Hubbard of the blog Creative and Free. In October, writers celebrate 31 days of writing, and for her part, Christina went out and invited 31 creatives to join her on her blog with the mission of encouraging other creatives. She offered some prompts, the first of which was to share insight to bolster and heal when we feel like we aren’t enough.

On September 29th, when I sat at my laptop to put together my 3-4 sentence response, I was emotionally pretty normal-okay. I put my fingers to the keys without thinking too hard and let two sentences rise:

There are days when I am certain the words I write reek of my imperfections. I look at them and wonder how God could ever use such a tainted offering.

And just like that, I had myself in tears.

This is not normal for me. I've heard other novelists cry when they write sad scenes, but I don't think I ever have. In my non-fiction, should I write something about myself, something so true it prompts tears, it's usually in my journal, and not for a blog. But this assignment was specifically for sharing, and hey, the assignment said to be vulnerable.

Until that moment, I hadn’t realized my fear of not being enough went so deep. I decided I had to stop to investigate, I had to finish the assignment. Maybe I wouldn't be ready to share the result, maybe I'd have to start over, but I had to watch it play out on the page. So, I continued.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

30 Reminders for the Next Time You Face Rejection

by Emily Conrad

As a writer and as a human, I'm familiar with rejection. You, too?

Yeah, I thought so.

Rejection burns and disorients. Or, at least, that's what it's done to me. I'm slowly learning to handle it better and to keep it in healthier perspective.

Are my responses to rejection perfect these days? Um, nope. But what follows are 30 things I aim to keep in mind next time rejection looms larger than life.

  1. Jesus loves you.
  2. No one has the right to disparage your worth.
  3. Reflection and self-examination lead to growth.
  4. Shame and despair are cries for healing in Jesus.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Life Lessons from a Sleep Mask: What's Influencing You?

by Emily Conrad

Having a bedroom with 3 skylights has turned me into a bit of a sleep mask snob.

I have a favorite with a pretty satin floral pattern on one side, velvet on the face-side, and real lavender inside. The mask is getting older, and, unfortunately, my hound also likes the smell of lavender... I caught him chewing on my precious mask. He didn't damage the fabric exactly, but he soaked it with slobber.

I thought better of subjecting something with real lavender inside to the wash, so I cleaned the mask in the sink and dried it out again, but getting it wet (or maybe it was the slobber) turned the satin yellowish. And I’m still leery of the idea of residual slobber. I love my dogs, but there are limits.

Cue a hunt for a new favorite sleep mask.

The packaging of the one I found promised the mask inside was lavender scented. It smelled okay in the store, but when I got it home, the fragrance was fake and powdery instead of the soft zing of real lavender. Even worse, this new mask has so many beads in it, it may as well be a big pink beanbag pressing heavily against my eyes.

Disappointed, I tossed the new mask on a bedside shelf, where I also keep the old one. Since I can't sleep with the new one on, I remind myself that I cleaned the slobber off the old one and use that if I really need to block out sunlight. Unfortunately, one day when I lifted the old mask, up wafted the scent of the new mask.

Because I was storing them together, the lighter scented old mask had begun to take on the stronger, unpleasant scent of the new mask.

I immediately started trying to mind-control the old mask: No! Don’t do it! You had it right!

I do, however, understand the sleep mask’s struggle.

Suddenly, a newer mask was in town. It looked different and smelled different, and since I’d brought it into the house, I must’ve thought it was worth having here. It’s enough to make any sleep mask insecure. No wonder it felt a need to adjust.

Yes, I’m projecting my own tendencies on a sleep mask. There have been times when I've needed Jesus to say through Scripture and believing friends the same thing to me that I said to the sleep mask: No, don't do it! You had it right!

So, as soon as I smelled that powdery scent on the old mask, I knew the lessons applied to how people influence each other.