Saturday, January 26, 2013

If you’re stuck and want to quit


 
Okay, so, Wilbur isn't really stuck, but I have no idea how he made himself so small.
Lately, I've felt a bit like Wilbur looks--cocooned, stationary, stuck.
In a recent podcast, Michael Hyatt, former Thomas Nelson CEO, and leadership blogger, said, “So often people give up right before their inflection point.”

Inflection point?

By context, I thought I knew what Hyatt meant, but to be sure, I sought out Mr. Webster.
 
Inflect—“To turn from a course or alignment.”

In other words, right before a significant course change, people walk away.

Beth Moore echoed this in a lesson from Mercy Triumphs. She said, “People give up just before the baby is due.” Another way to see it is like just before a butterfly breaks from its cocoon.

I understand. I spent twelve hours in transitional labor with my first baby. I didn’t even think that was possible. I was near to giving up which would have meant a C-section. The only thing that kept me going was I didn’t want all I’d been through to be in vain.

I’m reminded of a panel discussion I sat in on last year at a writer’s conference. One of the writers said with conviction, “I believe the only folks that don’t get published are the ones who give up.”

Someone will pen their first devotion, first article, first book and send it to a publisher, only to be met with the all too common rejection. Stunned their heartfelt work didn’t meet with approval, they quit. This happens, and it’s sad, but the real tragedy is when writers work long--filling their hard drives with hundreds of thousands of words, studying, honing their craft, and then, after years of work, they despair thinking their time will never come. This is the real heartbreak.

Writing may not be your thing, but probably every person reading this has experienced working toward a goal in the face of unvarying circumstances--circumstances that seem Gorilla-glued into place. Stuck. Unmoving.

As we contemplate our situation, the temptation to quit grows stronger. We take our eyes off the goal and put them on the problem.

It blessed me to hear even Hyatt say he struggles with giving up on a weekly basis, but he offered a tip, which I think goes a long way in helping us persevere. “Take a step forward.”

Not a hundred steps, not run a marathon, just one step. When the urge to quit intensifies, lift your right foot up, and place it squarely on the ground in front of you.

Persevere.

In Mercy Triumphs, we’re studying James. “Let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2).

When we walk away, we’re not just giving up on the personal goal for which we’ve been working, we’re giving up on the work God wants to do in us through perseverance.

So, if you’re stuck and want to quit, remember, perseverance starts with one step.

Taking it with you, friends.

Monday, January 21, 2013

MLK, a dream, and love


 The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday always brings back special memories from our home schooling years. One January, we began committing to memory a portion of the King “I Have a Dream” speech. Day after day, we’d sit together and recite his words. Here’s some of what my children memorized:

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

My great-great Grandfather owned a plantation in the Piedmont of South Carolina, so I am a descendent of a former slave owner. As I’ve sometimes gathered with our African American friends in worship, in my head, I hear my children’s voices, “…sons of former slaves…sons of former slave owners…sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

Though we have not realized all that Dr. King envisioned, I give thanks that many things have changed because of his contributions.  

This afternoon, we’ll gather with our brothers and sisters in worship at an MLK celebration where my husband is one of the speakers. I’m sure once more, I’ll hear in my head the wisdom of Dr. King spoken in my children’s voices and pray that they would be sure to school any children they might have in these words.

But I’ll also remember these lines from the song of a Jewish King, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1), and these words spoken by the King of Kings, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Join me in praying that in all ways love might be the determining factor in how we relate to each other, and that Dr. King’s dream might become reality.

Monday, January 14, 2013

If you're struggling to "Consider it pure joy..."


Humbled and thankful to share that a revised version of my script, Brave Girl, has made the list of semi-finalists for the 2013 Kairos Prize for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays. I appreciate all the folks at the Kairos Prize, Movie Guide, and the John Templeton Foundation who work so hard to promote Christian Filmmaking.
 
As some of you know, my script for Give My Love to the Chestntut Trees, which was a Kairos Prize finalist in 2009 has been under consideration for some time for a film. In the past month, I've had communication from a producer who's hard at work to make this happen. I don't have anything definite to share, but we're closer than we've ever been to a decision which could provide necessary resources for production to move forward. Oh, how I'd appreciate your prayer support. Many thanks.

One of the options in the Beth Moore Bible study I’m participating in, Mercy Triumphs, is to memorize the book of James. I thought I might give it a shot and see how far I can go. I’ve been repeating the first few verses over and over, but my thoughts seemed to have kept hanging on verse 2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2).
 
As I mentioned above, a few days ago, I learned my script, Brave Girl, made the semi-finalists for the Kairos Prize again this year. I’d worked hard to revise this script, which made the list the year before, but sometimes revisions don’t always go the way you hope, so I was glad to receive the news. As far as my work goes, it’s an accomplishment for which I am especially thankful.

Less than two hours later, I received a piece of news in another important arena—and it wasn’t good. In fact, the report seared through me like a hot knife in butter. Instead, of shifting my focus to gratitude for what happened earlier, I let the joy drain out of me.  For almost a whole day, I just tried to keep breathing.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2) began rolling in my mind, again.

My thoughts seemed to lock on the word, “Consider.”

I turned to the Greek Lexicon in the Strong’s Concordance and the accompanying notes.

The Greek word for consider  in James 1:2 according to this source  denotes “ a belief resting not on one's inner feeling or sentiment, but on the due consideration of external grounds, and the weighing and comparing of facts.”

Consider here is the same word used twice in Philippians 3:8, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things, I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ.”

I must confess that my “inner feeling or sentiment” controlled my response to the bad news I received. I didn’t consider it joy, because I let my feelings rule me. My feelings said consider it heartache, consider it disappointment, and consider it discouragement. God says, “Consider it pure joy…”

None of this is news to me. I know not to let my feelings rule me. However, sadly, sometimes, I do. As I memorize God's word through James, I want these words to go deep inside of me, so that all God wants to do in me might become a reality.

When I face “trials of many kinds,” I pray my first response might be that of joy in God’s presence, because I know He holds all things in His hands, and He can use every circumstance in the lives of those who love Him for good. When I consider the truth of God's faithfulness and the power of His word and allow these things to govern me, how can I help but have joy? When I choose to offer up a heart of gratitude for the blessings of even this one day, I can only dance in His presence.

So, here I am facing 2013 with something else to add to my focus of living this moment, now, instead of a future one, which I wrote about earlier in the month. As James states later in Chapter 1, I want to be “mature and complete, not lacking anything,” so I ask God’s help no matter the circumstance to “Consider it pure joy…”

I imagine I am not alone in this struggle. Let me know how, you, too, friends, are allowing this word in James to become part of you.

 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Excited--can’t wait--excited--can’t wait--excited


 
Tonight, I’m joining a group of women who are beginning an eight-week Bible study by Beth Moore, "Mercy Triumphs."
 
Since I already have the workbook, it’s been all I can do not to plunge ahead and get started. But I want to process this at the same time as the rest of the group, so I’m holding back.

It’s been a while since I did a Beth Moore study, and seeing the videos will be like having a family reunion, she’s been such a mainstay in my life.  

This study on the book of James, “Mercy Triumphs,” promises to be as life changing as the others I’ve done, and for that reason, I have a huge sense of anticipation. I know God is faithful to His word, and I know when we study to show ourselves approved, God does what only He can do. Sometimes, it’s painful, sometimes, exhilarating, but always transformational.

For the first time, Beth is offering five levels of participation: watching the videos alone, the videos and the workbooks, reading supplemental material written by her daughter Melissa, writing out the book of James, and /or memorizing the book of James--all 108 verses in five months.

I want to do every level, and am praying for God’s strength to do so.

You might want to check and see if the study is offered near you, if not, you may go HERE for the workbook and to view or listen to the sessions individually.

Excited. Can’t wait.  

“…so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11

Love this post about starting new habits like a daily Bible study or memorizing scripture. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

That One Word Thing



I’ve never chosen one word to focus on for an entire year before, but as I asked God what I might choose, the answer came almost immediately.

I saw it coming when we bowed our heads to pray a few days ago, and I had to pull my thoughts back from a to do list forming in my mind for the next day. When we gathered as a family, and my mind jumped ahead to figure out how much time it might take to clean up later, the word was on its way. And yes, I knew what it was when I tried to sit down to write the post, but less important tasks took me hostage to busyness.

My word, my focus, for 2013 is NOW.

NOW is the time to quiet my soul and focus on the One who made me. NOW is the time to cherish the few moments and days I have with those I love. NOW means doing the most significant task first.

NOW means not letting anxiety and worry pull me into the future, and rob me of the present.  

NOW is all I have—all any of us have. Why not make the most of this fleeting second? Why not live NOW?

God is NOW. According to this author, St. Augustine proposed that God lives in the timeless present tense. My only experiences with timelessness have been occasionally during prayer, or when I’ve been painting, writing, or playing music and found when I looked at the clock, I had absolutely no idea how much time had elapsed. Somehow, when we slip over into that place so close to the Lord, we lose the temporal sense.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “For the present is the point at which time touches eternity.”

I think of all the ways I’ve allowed my NOW to be stolen from me, when I’ve cheated myself out of touching eternity.

So, NOW is my word.

Come, Lord, invade my present, my NOW with your presence.

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites; “I AM has sent me to you” ‘ “ (Exodus 3:14).

" 'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I am!' " (John 8:58).

 

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