"God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform..." William Cowper

Monday, October 29, 2012

50,000 Words (and other Random Things)

I’ve never done writing quite like this, but I’ve decided to give it a go. 

The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November and I’m up for the challenge! I’ve been busy planning out my story and I’m excited to dive into writing.

Follow the links below to find out more!

In order to focus my attention on this challenge, I’ll be taking a blogging break (except for an occasional progress check) for the month of November.

Other random and crazy things happening in my house:

Bracing for Hurricane Sandy (no school today for the kiddos), Cub Scouts, basketball, make-your-own football uniforms, search for the perfect Poodle Pup for a surprise Christmas present for the boys, search for a part-time job, parties, praying, and hikes in the leaves.

What’s some random and crazy things going on in your house lately?

Have you ever tried a writing challenge? Do you have any helpful hints?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Gospel Math

I’ve never been much of a math fan, but this kind of math…well this I can get excited about. Gospel math. Basic addition and subtraction. And it goes something like this.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Or why not switch it around?

Everything – Jesus = Nothing

I read Tullian Tchividijian’s book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, this past summer and although I was already familiar with some of his teachings thanks to my amazing Bible Study teacher, reading the book gave me even more to think about.

In this study of Colossians, Tullian dives into grace. He points out that sometimes we try to temper grace, put a harness on it, dish it out in little convenient spoonfuls…just enough to goad us to improve a little more. Just enough so we feel guilty about not doing the right thing. Sometimes we might even view grace as something that happened long ago at that single moment of salvation.

But grace is a living, breathing, alive phenomenon that God has for each of us every day. We will never move beyond the gospel. We need it every day. God’s goal for us is to move us deeper into the gospel, not beyond it.

In his book, Tullians says, “Preach the gospel to ourselves every day—here it is, If God has saved you—if he’s given you the faith to believe, and you’re now a Christian, if you’ve transferred trust from your own accomplishments and abilities to Christ’s accomplishment on behalf of sinners—then here’s the good news. In the phraseology of Colossians 1, it’s simply this: you’ve already been qualified, you’ve already been delivered, you’ve already been transferred, you’ve already been redeemed, and you’ve already been forgiven. Day by day, what God wants us to experience practically only happens as we come to a deeper understanding of what’s already ours in Christ.”

The gospel truly is freedom. Freedom to not only allow Jesus to remove our chains of bondage, but to keep them broken at our feet. Freedom to not add anything—even those good things we cling to (church, behavior, etc.)—to Jesus. And freedom to stop obsessing over conquering our sin but instead, soak in the conquest of our Savior.

If our focus is Christ, our behavior will follow. Our life will be filled with good fruit.

I’m just beginning to learn that salvation isn’t a one-time thing, it’s an ongoing process, one I need to seek God for every minute of every day. My dependence can’t be on anything else. I can’t add anything to my Savior. He’s paid it all.

I love this song by Kristian Stanfill called “One Thing Remains.” I think it says it all. Enjoy! 

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Right To Write

As writers, we can be confident of our protection under the First Amendment, a wonderful thing. But are there times when the right to our words blurs, are there times when the line isn’t clear, when our words could do more harm than good? What do we do in these situations?

I was recently talking to a close writing friend who struggled with such issues. She’d been writing a fictitious story surrounding a real-life event from her past, involving one of her parents. The event was painful, but my friend had forgiven her parent and was twisting it into something good. Her story of redemption was born of a desire to help young girls who had gone through similar circumstances.

Nearing the end of the writing process, my friend was assailed by doubts. Of course she wanted to help others, but would she be hurting her parent in the process? No matter that the parent had been completely at fault, that the sin was theirs to own, my friend wanted to forge a relationship, not break it apart.

After a talk with her parent, she became even more discouraged. Said parent was against her writing such a story.

What to do?

When my friend came to me with her problem, I could see the passion she held for her story, the desire to make beauty out of the bleak ashes of her past. But could such beauty come to light beneath the disapproving heavy hand of her history?

When I’d last left my friend, I felt some of the old anger at her parent churning. She would write the story, and that was that.

Part of me cheers her on. Her past is her story, and she could do what she pleases with it—particularly in the fictional world.

Another part of me doesn’t want to see her relationship with her parent further bruised.

So sure, we do have a right to use our words however we want, but my question to you, my blog-readers, is this: are there times we should opt not to use such rights? How do we decide between the costs? Should we dare stop the opportunity of good overcoming evil?

Monday, October 8, 2012

What's The Deal With Church?

I think every believer comes to this point after a time of journey with Christ. Someone in the church disappoints us, we’ve left our hearts open and vulnerable, and we get burned.

Then, we wonder.

What is the deal with church? Do I really need to be there, to leave my heart unguarded? What does Jesus care? I can read my Bible at home, worship Him by myself in the safety and convenience of my own time.

At the ACFW Conference last month, I had the privilege of sitting with a new author at lunch. Caleb Jennings Breakey, whose book Following Jesus Without Leaving The Church, is releasing soon by Harvest House Publishers. Caleb inspired me with what he had to say on this topic, and with his realness (there’s no word that fits better).

He also got me thinking and doing some studying of my own. One verse I came across was in Acts 20 when Paul is talking to some leaders of the Ephesian church for the last time. He says, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” 

Jesus loved the church—He died for the church. If I’m going to take that Him seriously, and take the things He loved seriously, then that includes the church.  

Let’s face it. Many times it is the same handful of people carrying out the church’s mission. No matter whether it is a big church or small church, the fact is the same. And sure, there are many times of joy and satisfaction, but when those times wear thin, when we come face to face with the inevitable imperfectness of the church, I encourage you to remember how dear the body of Christ was to our Savior. Let’s get real about Jesus and the legacy he left us—His church.
For that is certainly one legacy I don’t want to miss out on.

Click here for more information on Caleb’s book and DVD series.

Have you ever been discouraged with other Christians or with the church? How did you deal with it? Why do you think many young Christians leave the church? How can we change this?

photo credit: stock.xchng

Friday, October 5, 2012

Short and Sweet Friday: Names That Stick

We have a small table in our living room dubbed "the farm table." There is no farm in sight. No picture of a farm, or even toy cows around. But three years ago that was not the case. The kids had a Playmobile farm on this table, and now--and forever--it will be the farm table.

I was called Hogshead in middle school. More accurately, hos-sheed. Flattering isn't it? I had thought this was how to pronounce the word in seventh grade, and my friends didn't every let me forget it. (It was all in fun--that'll teach me to pronounce words correctly...)

My sister works as a nurse in an elderly care facility. She told me of a woman whose nickname is Twink. She didn't ask the story behind that, but my writer's mind is going to town on some ideas.

What are some things in your life that have names that stick? Do you have one of those names? Isn't it funny how each name, or nickname, has a story behind it?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Where's The Line?

Last week at the ACFW Conference, I had the honor of attending the awards gala and witnessing Allen Arnold, former senior vice president and fiction publisher at Thomas Nelson, receive ACFW’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Last night, as I read my ACFW Journal, I had the pleasure of reading an interview with Allen Arnold by Christa Allen.

I was particularly intrigued by Mr. Arnold’s response to Christa’s question, “What do you know now that you wish you’d known then (in relation to starting the fiction line)?”

The second part of his answer reads, “I learned quickly that if a story isn’t God honoring, then it isn’t worth telling or reading. Sure, there are great stories out there that have no Christian worldview. But they ultimately don’t leave the reader with truth or lasting hope. Life is too short to chase after novels that simply entertain. Entertainment is okay, but a story with eternal impact is far better.”

Wow. I totally applaud this answer. After all, our purpose in life is to glorify God. That should follow through in all we do, including what we spend our time on.

As a reader of mostly CBA (Christian Bookseller’s Association) books, I often feel a certain guilt over not reading more broadly, of not reading more general market books. In fact, just last week in a workshop at the ACFW Conference, a well-respected person in the publishing industry urged her workshop attendees to read widely, in both the Christian and general market. As writers, it is our job to know what’s out there, to know good stories. Period.

And yet part of me doesn’t want to waste my time on stories that don’t offer that ultimate hope of which Mr. Arnold speaks. What good is a story without God’s redemption at the center? And another part—the writer part—wants to read anything that garners attention (Hunger Games, anyone?), anything that is a good story.

So I’m not choosing sides here--I couldn't if I tried! More than anything, I want to start a conversation. What do you read? Do you tend to veer to a specific genre? CBA or ABA? Is there a balance, a line? Does that change if you’re a writer?

If you haven’t gotten a copy of the ACFW Journal or would like to read Allen Arnold’s full interview, click here.