Christmas is coming! Did that fill you with the warm fuzzies or make you want to scream?
I’m afraid I now fall in the screaming group. Don’t get me wrong—Christmas is a joyous time to celebrate the birth of our Savior, but the month of December brings a crush of expectations. Decorating and baking and entertaining and Christmas cards, and worst of all, the shopping, wrapping, and mailing. I love the people in my life, and I want to find the right gifts for each one. This gets harder each year, because everyone seems to have everything they want and need. Still, we buy more.
And the credit card debt grows. And the pile of toys in the children’s rooms grows. And our closets get crammed with more and more until they overflow, so we fill our garages with stuff until they overflow, then we rent self-storage units to fill with all that stuff. Still, we buy more.
Jesus tells us, “‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’” Luke 12:15.
How much of our time is spent working to pay for our stuff, shopping for stuff, taking care of our stuff, and figuring out ways to better store and organize our stuff? What if we realigned our priorities and spent our money and our time on things with long-term value? Family. Community. The Lord. How would that look? Warm. Fuzzy. Peaceful. Like Christmas is meant to be.
What about you? Do you have any creative gift ideas to reduce the flow of stuff in your life?
Bay Area friends! Would you like to meet five authors at one event? (Sorry, but one of them is me.) Come to The Door Christian Bookstore in San Carlos on Saturday, November 21 from 2-4pm for fun, music, and book talk. In addition to signing books, we’ll be chatting about “The Story Behind the Story,” how we each got started writing. Granted, I have nothing to sign yet, but my publisher, Revell, will be providing excerpts from A Distant Melody. And I’ll have bookmarks!! Interested? Check out the link for The Door at: http://www.thedoorchristian.com/featured.html
or contact me for more info. Please feel free to send this to anyone who might be interested, or I can send you postcards to mail to your friends. I hope you all can come!
In ancient times, people worshipped idols. They bowed down to chunks of wood or metal fashioned to look like cows or people or birds, trusted in them, and devoted themselves to them.
We laugh at that. We know better.
Or do we? Do we bow down over our computer keyboards, investing our time in celebrity updates, YouTube videos, and Facebook—and say we don’t have time to read the Bible? Do we trust in our abilities, finances, and strength—without asking for God’s guidance? Do we devote ourselves to sports or TV or our latest gadgets—and grumble about tithing and serving?
Idolatry happens whenever we put anything above the Lord. This doesn’t mean we can’t follow our favorite team, meet our friends on-line, or keep an eye on our financial portfolios. God gave us many good gifts—to serve Him, to help others, and yes, for our enjoyment. But whenever anything comes between us and the Lord, we need to watch out.
God designed the laws of nature that allow our technologies. He gave us our abilities and strength. He created the natural resources we use, and provided everything we own. How foolish we are to put the creation above the Creator, how ungrateful to put the gift above the Giver, how arrogant to put ourselves above the One True God.
The prophet Elijah told the idol-worshippers in Israel, “’How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’” And when the people saw the power of the One True God, they fell to their faces and cried, “’The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!’” I Kings 18: 21, 39.
Let’s not forget the power and sovereignty of our God. Let’s keep Him first, where He belongs.
It must be fall. My antisocial cat has come out of hiding to absorb my body heat. Janie is a tease of a cat. She rolls onto her back in front of me, baring her fluffy white belly, then darts away when I reach to pet her. But when it gets chilly, she curls up next to me, purrs, and lets me pet her. I think she’s using me.
Our yellow lab, Daisy, has caused hundreds, probably thousands of dollars of damage to house, clothing, and pool equipment. Our three children have given me smart-aleck comments, sleepless nights, barf on the carpet, and several “I hate you’s.”
Why do I put up with it? The answer is obvious, isn’t it? Love. The cat is so irresistably fuzzy. The dog has big brown eyes and goes into a full-body wag whenever I come home. The kids make my chest ache because I love them so much.
1 Peter 4:8 says, “Love covers over a multitude of sins.” So true. Love helps me put up with Janie’s standoffishness, Daisy’s destructiveness, and my kids being kids.
Why don’t I show the same grace to the guy who cuts me off in traffic and makes me miss a light? To the lady at the department store who keeps sending the cashier back to see if they have that blouse in a different size? To the fellow employee who pesters me with stupid questions (yes, there’s such a thing as a stupid question)?
I don’t show them grace because I don’t love them.
Not the warm, fuzzy love reserved for those close to me, but the “love your neighbor as yourself” kind of love. The kind of love that remembers God made that person too and loves them just as much as He loves me. The kind of love that stops to wonder if maybe that person is having a bad day or has troubles I can’t see. The kind of love that remembers I’m human too. I cut people off sometimes. I’ve been known to take too long at the cash register. I ask stupid questions.
That’s the kind of love I want to receive the next time I goof up. The kind of love I want to give the next time someone else goofs up.
Love is more than a feeling. It’s a choice.
This week the brace came off my broken wrist. Eldest son says the scar looks like a lizard. Youngest son calls my arm Skeletor. Daughter says my arm looks like Darth Vader’s head when he takes off his helmet. Can you feel the love?
After five weeks in a cast, then two weeks in a brace, the change in my arm is striking. The skin is pale and flaky, the tendons and ligaments are tight, and the muscles have wasted away. My strength is significantly decreased and my range of motion limited.
Seven weeks without use, and my hand is almost useless.
Atrophy can occur in our spiritual lives as well. Worshipping the Lord brings a healthy glow to our souls. Reading the Bible stretches our thinking and aligns us with God’s will. Serving Him exercises our spiritual gifts, and God gives us strength to do the tasks He gives us.
In just a short time, neglecting worship, the Bible, and service can leave us as pasty, stiff, and weak as my poor little arm.
In the next few months, I’ll be working my arm hard to regain what I’ve lost. And I’ll be keeping my spirit in motion too.
“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.
A trophy or atrophy – the choice is yours.
Someone’s tried to kill you. Not once, but multiple times. He has disobeyed God. He breaks his promises.
Now you have the chance to take care of him permanently. Everyone will understand. “Justifiable self-defense,” they’ll say. Finally you can achieve your goals – goals to fulfill God’s will and glorify Him.
Do you take that opportunity?
David didn’t. The future king of Israel had been hunted down by King Saul, who had vowed to kill him. In 1 Samuel 24 & 26, David finds Saul unarmed and unaware, not once but twice. The perfect chance for David to get rid of his enemy. But he didn’t.
Why not? Did our mighty warrior turn into a wimp? On the contrary, sparing King Saul’s life probably took more courage and strength than any of David’s feats in battle. David knew it was God’s will for him to be king of Israel, but God would accomplish His will in His way and His timing. Meanwhile, for David to take action against a man God had placed as king would be wrong. “‘The Lord forbid,'” David said, “‘that I should…lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord'” (1 Samuel 24:6). Then he told Saul, “‘May the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you'” (1 Samuel 24:12).
We all have people in our lives who oppose us, who disobey God, or who simply can’t be trusted. Sometimes they’re people in authority over us. Such as political leaders.
David’s example shines. He doesn’t excuse Saul’s actions; in fact, he reprimands him. But he leaves judgment and vengeance to the Lord. David showed Christ-like “turn the other cheek” mercy. As a result, Saul repented (for a while) and spared David’s life. Grace and truth – that’s a winning combination.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
The other day, I took our yellow lab, Daisy, for a walk. We rounded a corner, and she stopped and raised her front paw in a perfect pointer pose. What snagged her attention? A bird? A cat? Um, no. It was a stone squirrel.
My daughter then told me Daisy once attacked a plastic lawn flamingo. Yanked it from the ground, shook it, and growled at it. Not that I blame her.
Daisy also barks herself silly at the pool thermometer shaped like a frog and was beside herself for weeks when our neighbors erected a dartboard visible from our back yard.
So she overreacts.
On the other hand, at least she notices potential dangers and reacts. Sometimes we allow insidious sins and dangerous attitudes into our lives. We don’t notice. We don’t react.
Do we have stone squirrels of bitterness hunkered in our lives, cold and unyielding? Does the pink flamingo of pride flaunt itself on our front lawns? Does the green frog of envy bob in our pools? Have we erected dartboards of self-pity, wallowing in our victimhood?
So this is a bit silly.
Perhaps. But maybe we should be a bit more like Daisy, keep our eyes open, react to dangers in our lives, and when we find them, yank them out and shake them to bits.
But please leave my garden hose alone. It is not the devil.
Words have the power to build or to destroy. This week I’ve revisited one of the worst ways I’ve ever misused words and taken steps of redemption.
My best friend growing up was my opposite in many ways. She was outgoing and fun; I was quiet and serious. But we enjoyed each other’s company and complemented each other, bringing out the best and toning down the worst.
Our junior year in high school, I sensed her pulling away from me. Instead of talking to her, I chose the cowardly path. I wrote a letter. Even more cowardly, I slipped it into her locker. Oh, and that letter! The venom flowed through my pen as I chronicled everything she’d ever done that annoyed me. Any close, long-term friendship can generate a long list, but it should never be put to paper!
The friendship was shattered. Our mutual social network lay in shambles. Worst of all, I hurt my friend deeply. And we each lost out on joys we can never recover – long phone calls from college groaning about boys, holding each other’s babies, and being there for each other always.
Over the years I’ve prayed for the opportunity to tell her how wrong I was and how sorry I was – and this week, I found her on Facebook. We “friended” each other, and I’m thankful for this second chance.
Words are powerful, and the written and electronic word have a permanence I will always be wary of. Every day I grapple with this power and struggle to choose my words wisely, edit mercilessly, and season them with prayer.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” Ephesians 4:29.
It’s official! Here’s the cover for my first novel. If you received my newsletter last week, you may notice Allie’s suit is now red.
A Distant Melody will be released by Revell in March 2010 and is now featured on their website at http://www.revellbooks.com
Here’s a brief summary of the story: Never pretty enough to please her gorgeous mother, Allie Miller will do anything to gain her approval–even marry a man she doesn’t love. Lt. Walter Novak–fearless in the cockpit but hopeless with women–takes his last furlough at home in California before being shipped overseas. Walt and Allie meet at a wedding and their love of music draws them together, prompting them to begin a correspondence that will change their lives. As letters fly between Walt’s muddy bomber base in England and Allie’s mansion in an orange grove, their friendship binds them together. But can they untangle the secrets, commitments, and expectations that keep them apart?
A Distant Melody is the first book in the Wings of Glory series, which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II.
So many of you have lavished me with prayer and encouragement, critique and advice, for which I am deeply grateful. The name on the cover is almost a lie – none of this could have happened without the support and love (sometimes in the “tough love” category) of my family, friends, and critque partners. Thank you all! I love you!
Names have always fascinated me. In a few syllables a name proclaims a message to the world.
As girls, my sister and I loved to pore over my mother’s baby name book. We giggled over silly names, sighed over melodious ones, and delved into the meanings behind them. Each time I was pregnant, my husband teased me about the lists I made, but I wanted our children’s names to be right. The decision would affect them for a lifetime.
This past week I had the joy of naming a new “baby,” the heroine of a novel percolating in my head. Most of my characters come with names attached, but her name eluded me. I knew she hated her name, and that it was long and unusual. Since the story takes place during World War II, I had to remember that many names my generation laughs at were popular then. So back to the baby name books! Was she Aridatha, Calandra, or Ludovika? How would you like to go through life with that name? Then I found Philomela, which comes from an ancient Greek legend of a woman changed into a nightingale. A shiver of recognition ran up my arms. My series follows three women who are flight nurses, and I’m calling it “Wings of the Nightingale.” Philomela it is, and her friends will call her Mellie. Oh, and she has a lovely singing voice.
How about you? Do you love your name or hate it? Does it fit you or did you have to alter it to fit you? What do you look for in choosing names – the sound, the meaning, the cute nickname? Do you like a name that’s fun and trendy, one that stands out in a crowd, or one with the weight and wealth of tradition? I can’t wait to hear from you.