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Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

Questions to Ask

Recently, I have been thinking of two things: how we teach our children to think of others and how we train ourselves to do the same thing.

In a Bible study for parents my friends are doing, the author prompted them to teach their children to ask “What needs to be done here?” when they leave a room or enter it.

“What needs to be done here?” forces the speaker to think how they can contribute to the overall effort of the family to keep the house, of a group to prepare for a meeting, or simply to help another person complete a task. What needs to be done could be picking up, doing dishes, opening the door for someone, or offering to help with an ongoing effort.

Asking “What needs to be done here?” also teaches that someone must step up to solve problems and that person is often you. Be courageous and ask, “What needs to be done here?” even if that thing is out of your comfort zone. Be someone who contributes and not someone who only takes.

Yesterday, the teacher of my Bible study group told us to ask ourselves “How can I show love in this situation?” Like the previous question, it forces the speaker to look beyond themselves and ask what someone else needs. Answering this question honestly means placing the needs of the person before you above your own. It means working towards loving someone else when we may feel like reacting in the exact opposite way.

Something our children, and some adults still, need to be taught is that it is not all about them. In fact, it never is. This path we are on is about others. It is about how we can best show love to other people. This is the thing Jesus asked of us. He told us to love God and love others.

He did not say love when it was convenient, when we were being loved in return, or when we would get something out of it. He just said to love.

Next time you are in a situation with anther person and you are unsure what to do ask, “How can I show love in this situation?” or “What needs to be done here?” and then have the courage to respond.

 

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We say prayers for many things in our family. At meals and bedtime, we let the boys lead the prayers. They usually choose to sing the mealtime prayer and switch off saying the bedtime ones. Wash, who just turned three, has the idea of continually giving thanksgiving down.

Wash’s Prayer

Thank you God for eatin’
Thank you, God.
Thank you, God for playin’
Thank you, God.
Thank you, God for dinosaurs.
Thank you, God.
Thank you, God for sleepin’
Thank you, God.

My children continually remind me to be thankful for the simple things in life. Thank you, God. Thank you, God.

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This is an ongoing series of devotionals for writers posted every other Tuesday.

When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.

Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:2-3, 14

Our true nature is often revealed by how we react to adversity. When we are surrounded by enemies and there is no path through the darkness, we must find a way to move forward, to overcome, or be overcome ourselves.

The Psalms are full of the wailing and pleading of people, mostly David, for God to help them in their times of greatest need. Times when the tears are so many they feel they could drown. Times when the enemy is so numerous there is no escape. Times when the writer is so ashamed by their own guilt they could not face themselves.

Psalm 27 is my favorite of all the Psalms and one of the many things it says is to be confident and wait on the Lord. It says, do not fear the enemy surrounding you, but be confident in the Lord and in your ability to be courageous and do what is right.

For you:

Are you surrounded today by an enemy or by a treacherous path? What can you do to find God in your trouble and find victory?If you need courage or patience for your current situation, pray to the Lord for His strength.

For your characters:

How do your characters act when they are surrounded and things are not going their way? What do their reactions tell the reader about their past or their personality? Does the way they react change over the course of the story? Why?

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This is part of an ongoing series of devotionals for writers posted on Tuesdays. I skipped last week because of Christmas. I hope yours was wonderful.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

This is the time of year when everyone is making resolutions crossing the gamut from diet to improving one’s mind. Every resolution starts out with 100% commitment, but only 12% of resolutions come to fruition.

I do not normally make New Year’s resolutions and this year will be no different. I prefer goals instead of resolutions. Goals are more attainable. Resolutions seem more amorphous. It is all semantics.

As Ecclesiastes 3 points out, all things have a season. Each turning year marks a new season in our lives. Whether you make a resolution this year or not you can choose to walk into 2014 and make it a different, better season.

Spend more time listening to God. Choose to love others. Choose to forgive. Choose to listen rather than speak. Choose to dance.

Choose a better season.

For you: If you make a New Year’s resolution, make it small with measurable goals. For example, I want to do one kind thing for someone else each week or I want to pray for another person every day or I will choose to be thankful for a different blessing each day.

For your characters: If your character made a New Year’s resolution, what would it be and why? What does this desire say about them and their priorities? What will they do if they fail? What will they do if they succeed?

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This is part of an ongoing series of devotionals for writers posted on Tuesdays.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-14

Some things in our life do not make sense until time has passed. Some events, even though significant, do not fully reveal their meaning until much later.

God’s only Son was born and He sent angels to a cold field full of sheep and lowly shepherds. He could have sent the host of angels to the palaces in the region to declare his intentions: This child will change the world. He will rule, but not as people expect. He will rule with service and love, not with power and wealth.

But God did not send his declaration to the important people. He sent his declaration to the people who needed to hear it and who were open to the message.

Shepherds seem an unlikely audience until you consider that Jesus became The Shepherd. He gathers his flock to Himself. He claims them and protects them from a world of wolves. When we know the whole story, the humble audience makes much more sense.

For You:

Is there an incident in your past which only made sense after time had past? Did that time in your life prepare you for something you are doing now?

For your characters:

Choose an incident from your character’s past. Do they fully understand the meaning and impact this event has on their current situation? Can you help them through this growth during the course of your plot?

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Do Not Be Silent

(This is the third in a series of devotionals for writers which was originally created for a writer’s retreat I hosted.)

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High; and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor me. – Psalm 50:14-15

When we call on God in our trouble, God rescues us and redeems our trials. He rescues us in the way that only He can. When we have gone through the fire, we come out refined and then another work begins, the work of telling our tale.

Our thankfulness is a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord. Telling others of all the ways God has moved in our lives is a sacrifice which honors Him and the work He has done in us and it shows others what His love looks like in the life of a believer.

One of the blessings of our trials is the way we use what we have learned for God in service to Him and others. Do not be silent. Be glad and proclaim the wonders He has wrought in your life.

I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all They wonders. I will be glad and exult in Thee; I will sing praise to Thy name, O Most High. -Psalm 9:1-2.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.–Hebrews 13:15-16

For You:
For what are you thankful? Think beyond the normal list and dig deep. Do you share this thankfulness with others? Why or why not?

For your characters:
For what are your characters thankful? What does this reveal about their hearts? Does their list change as their story progresses?

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Trouble Redeemed

(This is the second in a series of devotionals for writers which was originally created for a writer’s retreat I hosted.)

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. – James 1:12

As believers we are not assured an easy life, free of troubles. We live in a fallen world and we will face trouble, but how we face them and what we learn from God as we walk through the storms in our life make the difference. When we persevere under trial and draw near to God amidst the storm, He refines us into a better version of ourselves. Just as He redeemed us through Christ, He continues to redeem our trials so we can grow to be more like the Son who saved us.

When we allow the Lord to refine us, He blesses us in ways we never would have imagined. In the middle of his pain, Job could only see the disaster his life has become. He had no notion that God would turn his sorrow into joy and wealth.

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased all that Job had twofold… And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning… – Job 42:10, 12

When we focus on our own troubles and lose sight of the Lord, we forget that our path is not about what is happening now but the destination and reward before us, the crown of life which we receive at the end of our journey to Him.

For you:
How has the Lord redeemed a trial in your life? What were the unexpected blessings of your trial? If you are currently facing trouble, do you need to refocus on Him?

For your characters: 
How do the conflicts in your WIP refine and redeem your characters? How does each character’s personality affect how they struggle and grow through the conflict? What do they learn about themselves at the end of their journey? What do they learn about God?

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