Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

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How God Used My Fictional Character to Teach Me True Things

November 6, 2015

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What if our characters are real?  What if they are actually the souls of unborn children who died before birth, and God gives them to authors as inspiration for characters in our stories?  What if we will meet all our characters someday in heaven?

When I came up with that fun fictional concept last week, I didn’t intend to write a story about it.  I just thought, “Haha, this is a cool idea.”

But a dear friend urged me to write a story, so I decided I would have some fun with it.  I flung my “Is this the best use of this concept?” worries to the wind, and sat down and wrote the first thing that came to me, the idea that tugged at my heart – a near-death scene where I encountered my most precious fictional character, Kevin, from beyond the grave.

It was like lightning struck.

It was fun, the way skydivers find jumping out of a plane fun. 😛

The entire couple of hours I worked on the story, adrenaline buzzed through my body.  I poured out words without inhibition, completely honed in on the emotions of the scene, blind to everything around me.  When I finished it was like I was walking on air.  I floated upstairs and went to bed, worn out and slightly totally obsessed.

I knew this story would be exciting and interesting to write, but I had no idea it would leave me full of tension and aching with yearning.

I had no idea that for two days I would cry out to the Lord for help and wisdom, terrified that I had built my own character into an idol by envisioning him as a sinless saint from heaven.  (I already adored the guy as my character, and now he’s perfectly sinless and “alive”??)

I had no idea the adrenaline would leave me with muscle cramps and no appetite for half the week, and I would lose four pounds in four days from the stress of remembering the story, re-reading it (more aftershocks of adrenaline!) and sharing it with some fellow authors in my writer’s group and elsewhere (*terror* Will they despise this chunk of my soul??).  It was not a real experience, but as far as my emotions were concerned, it might as well have happened in reality.

And I had no idea that as time passed, God would suddenly hush the siren-cry of character worship and catapult me into a spiritual ecstasy so joyous that I (the totally introverted shy person!) would go grocery shopping and smile at everyone I passed and want to talk to them, even mentally fish for ways I could share the gospel as I went because I was full to bursting with Christ’s joy.

What is this madness??  God, who am I and what did You do with myself?? 😀 

For the first couple of days, I thought I had made the most horrific writing mistake of my life.

I prayed for wisdom and just waited for some convicting inner urge to delete the whole thing and never think of it again.

I felt like it blurred the lines between reality and fiction and was too close to a “ghost story” for my personal comfort.  I thought it was completely off-the-wall-weird and I deserved rotten tomatoes flung at my head.  I thought I had walked right into a swamp of temptation and my imagination had led me astray (it wouldn’t be the first time).

But I prayed that God would use this piece of writing for other purposes, to glorify Himself to me.

Suddenly, while thinking about the themes in the story, my heart was captured by eternity and my Savior in a new and incredible way.  I had been seeking the Lord in a stale fashion for a long time, going wearily through the motions because I should, despite having no deep feeling there…and suddenly I was all feeling.

My emotions were gushing over, uncontainable.  I could no longer gripe about any hardship, rather bursting forth with reasons for praise and gratitude.  I started delving into God’s word not because I should but because I was delightfully starved for it, and I got fresh bursts of adrenaline simply reading about heaven.  I overflowed with prayer of all kinds throughout the day, not just simple thank-Yous or petitions, but full-hearted, amazed exaltation.

Things that Kevin said in the story convicted, encouraged, and uplifted me.  His glorified zeal for the Lord was infectious!  I started applying his words to my daily life across the board.  Discussions about the story with fellow writers who read it led me to more snowballing epiphanies and spiritual joys, both about my stories and my real life.

Wow!  God really doesn’t care about my prayers being organized or eloquent – He is patient and doesn’t mind me taking time to formulate my words or pause for a minute just to feel in awe.

Wow, He has perfect, personal love for me.

Wow, Lord, You have given me the promise of heaven!

Wow, when I am suffering You cradle me in your almighty hands like a mother holds her hurting child.

Wow!  When I push my characters to overcome their flaws, and I’m sad about their pain but know it is best for them, that must be how God feels about the trials of our sanctification.

Wow to everything.

My “revelations” about God were not new. Mostly they were things I already believed, grasped, and agreed with in theory – in my brain.  But pouring them out on paper, experiencing them so intensely that I was physically in pain for days afterward, suddenly they became tangible truths wrapped tightly around my heart and flowing out of my actions and words.

And the timing was impeccable.

This week my daughter’s neurological issues worsened.

For some time we’ve been waiting impatiently for her neurology appointment in mid-November, watching her increasing symptoms with concern.  But in the past week week her speech clarity took a nosedive.  She struggles to speak articulately, a new problem that is deeply concerning.

A few weeks ago, I might have been a distraught mess at this new development, frustrated by my helplessness, and angry at the lack of speed in the medical world.

But it is very hard to feel grumpy or angry about anything when you almost died and met your character from heaven, 😉 and had him gently point you toward the earthly service of Christ and the love of God that holds us even through agonizing pain.

I have wept to see my daughter struggle, and wept imagining the worst.  Trust in God doesn’t erase pain, though He holds us through it.

But I am not angry, not despairing, because my eyes are set on life beyond this fallen world, and the Savior who bought me for that life.  He is the surpassing treasure that will sustain me no matter what else happens!

The road might be hard ahead.

But because of what I’ve learned from that short story, I feel prepared by God to meet it.

I am blown away by God’s kindness.  I can’t stop talking about it!  Not only did He revitalize my faith right when I needed it (so I could hold His hand tighter rather than flailing and panicking when things got harder), but He also taught me these lessons through one of the things I love most: writing stories, my characters, and exercising my imagination.  He used my favorite thing to touch my heart!  He could have brought me these lessons any old way – sermons, blog articles, a simple talk with a friend – but he chose to do it through my own passionate storycrafting.

I almost wept with joy as I realized that.  What a personal, sweet expression of His individual love toward me!  It was like a parent giving their child a new folder full of schoolwork, and decorating it with stickers of their favorite animal – or giving them glasses to see with and getting them frames in their favorite color.  But this was deeper and more delightful than those kinds of tiny tokens.  It was an approving and loving validation of my imagination’s worth and why He gave it to me.

God used my own fictional character I love to take rarely-applied truths from the depths of my mind and apply them to the depths of my heart.

I can’t quite express why that was so incredibly special to me, that He taught me this much and used this writing experience as the catalyst…but it was a gift, and I treasure it.

One friend has joked that my stories make me bold.  They break me out of my shell to talk passionately, or make me do crazy things (like snap surreptitious photos of random strangers just because they look like my characters).

I guess this is why God gave me stories.  To make me brave.  To make me bold.

I don’t think this particular story is “going anywhere.”  It’s esoteric, odd, and probably only touching for fellow writers who share the yearning for their character to be real.  It’s slightly messy, with no real plot.  It will never be published.  It’s so deeply personal and so true to my imperfect soul that I cringe at parts to think that I’ve actually shared this with anyone!

But I realize now it wasn’t for anyone else, so their opinions don’t matter. God meant it for me.

I will never forget this tiny story, because God used it like a lightning rod to set me ablaze again for Him. <3

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

– Revelation 19:6-10

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When God Gives You Darkness

August 27, 2015

Oh, oh, here we go
Welcome to the show
Lights shining, so blinding
From our head to our toes
When this room blacks out
You know we will stand out
So come on, oh
We’re gonna glow!

– “Glow” by Britt Nicole

Children love glow sticks.  Actually, adults love glow sticks too.  (At least I do…I still count as an adult, right?)

And what’s the first thing kids do with a glow stick?

They run into the darkest room in the house and shut the door so they can see how bright it is.

In broad daylight, the glow is faint – if visible at all.  But in the dark, you can fully see the glorious illumination.  It’s a beacon, a reading lamp, a thing of beauty.

Perhaps you can see where I’m going with this.

This little light of mine

I’m gonna let it shine

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Fellow Christian, you’re a glow stick.  You have the light of Christ inside of you.  You are His temple and His workmanship.  But how could the world see your glow, if you always shone in the noonday of perfect peace and ease?  How could your faith grow stronger, if it was never held against the night?

Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” – Job 1:7-11

Sometimes for reasons we can’t comprehend, God sends us into the deep, dark closet and shuts the door.  Sometimes he lets Satan take us there.

“In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus said.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

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How many stories of martyrs have you heard, where the darkness was great but their faith only grew and the gospel spread like wildfire?  Where they sang hymns while the flames licked their feet or prayed in power as the waves rolled over their heads?

God never lets the darkness or the devil steal His glory.  They can’t snuff His light out.  They can only provide contrast.

Sometimes God brings us darkness so that we might learn His light…but sometimes He sends us into the dark so we might shine His light in a way we could not do in the sunshine.

Put it under a bushel?  NO!

That song is supposed to be about children proclaiming their witness, but it might just as well be God singing about his own little lights that he has sent as ambassadors into the world – because we don’t light ourselves, He lights us.  And God never puts His light under a bushel.  Rather, He displays it high.

“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.” – Luke 8:16

Maybe this is why sin is on the increase, persecution is rising, and stocks are falling.  Perhaps this is why the world looks so dark to many believers today.  Contrast.

This world is a dark place, and God is filling it with lampposts.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16

If He’s brought you into a dark place, perhaps He is holding you aloft against the night, a tool to shine His glory more brightly against the black.  Maybe He’s proving your faithfulness to the devil.  Maybe He’s proving His faithfulness to you.
Hold fast.  There will come a time for a new world with no darkness at all.  And for now, the light shines in the darkness even brighter than in the day – and the darkness will not overcome it.
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Of Books and Babies

August 4, 2015

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As a writer, I know the importance of beginnings.

Everything hangs on the first few pages of your novel.  If readers don’t enjoy those, they probably won’t move on.  There are lots of books in the world, so unless someone else told them it was a good story, why should they spend time on a book that confused them, bored them, or offended them right off the bat?

You have to foreshadow everything right.  You have to lay the foundation for the story and its themes, introduce your main characters and setting (in an interesting way!), and put your plot in motion.

Beginnings are HARD!  I can get so fixated on how my book starts that I don’t move forward, perpetually rewriting and revising my opening scene.

I tend to carry this attitude over to my mothering.

These little years are all-important.  I’m forming human beings!  It’s my job (I think to myself) to make sure they don’t grow up malformed, like a tree that was bent into an awkward shape while it was a sapling, and keeps growing crookedly.  It’s my responsibility (so I fear) to dot every “i,” and cross every “t,” so they have the best possible, perfect, ideal foundation for life.  Sometimes I feel like someone is standing over me, putting negative tally marks for every time I do something that is less than ideal for my children’s foundational years.

Oop, too much TV today. Bad mom.  She lost her temper again.  Bad mom.  What, no veggie with dinner today?  Bad mom.

Some people brush off worries about the little years with thoughts like, “Eh, they’re little.  They won’t remember this stuff anyway.”

But! But! I splutter inside.  They might not remember, but they’ll be irrevocably shaped!

They are shaped by my words, attitudes, and fears.  They are shaped when they see me crying over a poop mess, and when I yell about spilled milk on the carpet.

It can’t be done again.  I can’t rewind time, erase my progress, and start over with a stronger opening – my kids’ life, 2.0.  Their childhood thus far is set in stone.  And that’s a scary thought.

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In the world of fiction, there is a writing rule called “Chekov’s gun.”  It states that if there’s a rifle hanging over the fireplace in the first scene, it needs to go off by the end of the novel.  There should be no loose ends, no details that are not relevant, because all details tie into the plot.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of guns I’m hanging here, over my children’s heads.

(Is that…is that a nuclear missile???)

What part do I play in this opening scene of their lives?  Am I a loving mom?  A sweet mom?  A mom who languishes on a sickbed and weakly entreats her child to “have courage and be kind?”

A lot of the time I worry that I’m more like the wicked stepmother.

You had a potty accident on the couch AGAIN??

But I tell myself these things:

God is the ultimate Author of their stories, not me, and God’s stories always have perfect endings, no matter how messy their beginnings.

However I shape my children, His hands are around them (and me), far more powerful and purposeful than my clumsy little fists.

God’s stories are simultaneously first drafts and finished products, full of crazy, unexpected twists and concluded with every plot thread in place.  All His guns go off, and they all go off at the right moment – even if the characters were only fooling around and fired them by accident and hit somebody in the eye.

And my children are shaped by far more than my flaws!

They are shaped by our Bible lessons, even when I think they’re not listening because they’re busy giggling and smearing cinnamon toast on their faces.

They are shaped when my hubby kisses me in front of the kitchen sink.

They are shaped when I play Christian music on Pandora.

They are shaped by my hugs and kisses, that cup of water I bring them at 2 A.M., those many hours reading Beatrix Potter.

It just isn’t as simple as, “You’re either doing everything perfectly or YOU ARE FAILING AT LIFE.”

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We are all a crashing, colliding, crazy, messy crowd, mixing our good acts with bad attitudes and our worst mistakes with our best intentions.  We are saved in Christ, yet struggling sinners.  We aren’t perfect, but we rest in Perfection.  We are flawed and fallen, and yet He does His good works through us, and appoints us as His representatives in the world and His members in the church.

He didn’t just put me on the earth to make my children grow up well.  He also put them here to make ME grow up well.

So I can’t be paralyzed by these first pages.  I have to keep moving forward, working out my part in my own story and in theirs.  For praise be to God! – I pen imperfect novels, though I may write the beginnings a million times, but He never needs revisions, and He is creating a masterpiece.

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When God Says “As You Wish”

July 2, 2015

Last week I was chatting with a friend about parenting struggles.  She has a child who had gotten addicted to TV, and she had to do the hard work of cutting back screen time.  Not only was it upsetting to the child, but it was hard on Mom too!  Now she has to entertain the child during the time that was spent on TV before, or put up with the whining of a child who wishes they were being entertained instead of having to entertain themselves.

Parenting is hard! we agreed.  Challenging a child means challenging ourselves too.  It means putting aside our wants (peace and quiet, me-time) to help a child get over an idol or a disobedience issue.

And that got me thinking.

Most of us are familiar with that iconic line from The Princess Bride:

That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying “As you wish”, what he meant was, “I love you.”

I definitely don’t deny the sweetness of that line (my husband and I sometimes say, “As you wish,” to each other!), and I don’t deny the beauty and practical love of deferring to others and serving them.

BUT.

That kind of deferential love can only go so far.

As parents, if we love our children, we can’t tell them “as you wish” for everything.  There are times we have to do the hard stuff: take away privileges, discipline them, limit screen time, let them make mistakes so they can learn.  We have to put them to bed even though they’d rather stay up all night, and feed them their vegetables even though they’d rather dine on sugar all day.

A parent who rolls over and says, “As you wish,” to every whim and demand of their child is not a loving parent, but a neglectful and lazy one.

He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.

– Proverbs 13:24

While there’s debate over whether the “rod” in this text is meant to be literal or metaphorical, the basic point is clear to people of all parenting styles – love disciplines.  Love sets aside my wants and needs, my mushy desire to never confront my child, my laziness, and the inclination to let things slide.  I have to get off my backside and intervene when my oldest is bullying the baby.  I have to take the time to talk to my daughter about her attitude instead of merely placating her wishes in hopes that she’ll stop whining.  Love doesn’t always give them what they wish, but rather sets aside what I wish in order to give them what they need.

Similarly…

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. – C.S. Lewis, “The Great Divorce”

God does not always say, “As you wish,” to His beloved children.  That is what He says to those He does not love.  And that is a frightening thought!  Those who happily go their own way, besotted with their sin, are those who are condemned to destruction, those who are hearing God’s, “As you wish.”

Those who go through trials, their desperate faith tested and stretched again and again, may wonder why God hates them so – but in reality, He is giving them His very best, not what they wish, but what He he knows they need.

You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you. – Deuteronomy 8:5

And maybe it would have been easier for God to let us slide, wash His hands of us, and say, “As you wish.  Throw my law to the wind.  I’m done bothering with you.”

But He made us.  He knows what’s best for us, and what we were made for – and it’s Himself, and beauty, wholeness, and truth.  He cannot sit idly by while we twist His law and destroy one another and leave Him forever.  So he did something harder than any human parent will ever have to do – God left the peace and joy of heaven, entered this sin-soaked world as a Man, and suffered and died so that He could buy us back for Himself.

He gave Himself for me, so that I can have the strength in Him to confront my children’s sin – and my own.

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Simmer Starters – Mar. 6, 2015

March 6, 2015

First, I have to share these three Simmer Starter links that directly correlate to the series on love that I have going right now.  If you don’t check out any of the other links, read these!

The Three Sieves (Tim Challies) – Amen and amen!  This is on my mind too, all the time.  I love the 3 sieves notion.  “I know it is not the perfect standard by which to judge, but I often find myself thinking it: If others speak of me the way I speak of them, I would be devastated.”

10 Ways to Hate People (HeadHeartHand) – A very brief post with a self-explanatory title.

Seven Ways We Can Guard and Repair Relationships (Ray Ortlund at The Gospel Coalition) – Beautiful thoughts about love and grace in relationships with others.

Second, four links about writing and books:

Why Everyone Deserves to Tell a Story (ScribblePreach) – “ ‘I have a story idea,’ he said to the girl sitting across from him. ‘Do you want to hear it?’ ‘Looks like I don’t have a choice,’ I thought. What happened next was the last thing on planet earth I’d expected: I was riveted.”

99 Essential Character Creation Quotes (WritinGeekery) – This list is gold!  It takes a long time to read through, but is well worth it.

How Pursuing Your Gifts Impacts Your Kids (Jessica Turner, on Ann Voskamp’s blog) – Beautiful post about pursuing our artistic gifts even in the busyness of motherhood.  Your kids will see it, and enjoy it, and be blessed by it!  “My mom comes from a long-line of women who made time for their gifts. My grandmother loved to knit and read. My great-grandmother loved to embroider and sew.  This legacy of self-care and seeing it in practice made a huge impact on me. As I mother, I want to instill the same values in my children.”

No Boys Allowed: School Visits As a Woman Writer (Shannon Hale) – This is something that frustrates me about how we treat boys and girls and their reading habits…the concept that “boys don’t read books about girls,” or worse, that they should not.