Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Blahg: Shrewd as a Snake? Not So Much

When I was on a mission trip in Thailand about five years ago, I tried a little experiment.  One of my friends had told me once about this really pretty girl he went to high school with.  She would invite guys to the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) meetings, and they would come, just because she was pretty.  According to my friend, a lot of those guys she invited eventually became Christians through attending FCA meetings.  Well, I wasn't that pretty in high school (especially in my pre-contact lenses days), and I didn't really have a knack for talking to guys.  But for whatever reason, when I was in Thailand, I attracted the attention of a guy named Sin (insert lame joke about "my Sin finding me out" here). 

Well, Sin was really into me, and so I thought I'd try what that really pretty high school girl had done.  I invited him to lunch, hoping that the other members of my team and I could "tag-team witness" to him.  Well, I think it just offended him a little and generally creeped him out...and well, I don't blame him.  It wasn't the smartest decision on my part, and I really should have known better (insert joke about how I should have "fled from Sin" here).  My intentions were good, but unwise.  I still just have to ask myself...what was I thinking? 
Well, the other day I was at the tire shop getting my tires checked, and this stranger dude randomly asked me out to get sushi with him.  I immediately turned him down and stuck my nose in a book so I wouldn't have to talk to him anymore.  In the awkward silence that followed, I considered my decision, wondering if maybe I should have been a little more open to talking with him.  Now, I wouldn't have gone to get sushi with him, but maybe I could have at least been a little friendlier, struck up a conversation.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I'd done the right thing by not talking to him. 

There are some amazing people who can talk to anyone about anything, who can tell strangers about Jesus at the drop of a hat.  They can take any topic and seamlessly transition it into a conversation about spiritual matters.  I'm just not one of those people.  And if I'd tried talking to that guy with the intentions of telling him about Jesus, it would have almost certainly turned out similarly to my experience with Sin.  He would have realized I was interested in talking to him because I wanted to tell him about Jesus, not because I wanted to date him.  And while there's a LOT to be said about caring about someone just because they're a fellow human being whom Jesus loves and died for, I can definitely see how he would have been offended if he were just looking for a pretty girl to eat sushi with.

The thing about me is that what you see is pretty much what you get.  I have a lot of respect for Jesus' command to his disciples to be "shrewd as snakes, but harmless as doves."  The thing is, I just don't think that I'm meant to be "shrewd as a snake."  I am extremely shy around people I don't know.  I am not a good conversationalist even with people I do know.  I love people, and I have a lot of friends, but I have to warm up to people gradually over time.  And I can't just pretend to be something different besides what I am.  I can't talk to strangers (unless the Holy Spirit takes over--that has happened before, and it's awesome, but I have no control over it).  And I felt guilty about it for years before realizing that I'm the way I am because this is how God has made me.  I was doing something wrong when I tried to force myself to be friendly.  ...and honestly, when I did try to be friendly towards strangers, I think I scared them off.  I'm apparently such a weird person that my true personality doesn't come out until after people have had a chance to get used to me.

Recently, I've been thinking about I've been trying to market my writing.  I haven't actually been marketing my writing, mind you; I've just been thinking about marketing my writing.  And what I've been thinking is that I've been frustrating myself with my own agenda.  I used to have this idea about marketing my vaguely Christian writing in the mainstream writing market, in the hopes that some people would pick it up and small Truth that would make them want to search for greater Truth.  But the problem is that I have trouble keeping my faith separate from my writing--so most of it is more than just vaguely Christian.  Also, with the way the current YA writing market is going, my style really wouldn't sell well.  That doesn't mean that what I've written isn't good or sellable, but it means that the current market trends are going a completely different direction than what I'm wanting to sell.  Dystopian.  Paranormal.  Cursing and sex in teen books.  Dystopian and paranormal I can appreciate--and maybe even market some of my other writing in those directions.  But honestly, I think the specific book I'm trying to sell (or thinking about selling) is too innocent (perhaps even "as harmless as a dove") for the current mainstream markets.

And I've been on and off considering that it would probably be a good idea to start switching gears.  I think I'm going to have to start marketing more towards Christian publishers.  The more I've thought and prayed about it, the more it seems like the route I need to go.  I'm not good at being "shrewd as a snake" even in the way I market my writing.  If it's a book with strong Christian themes, then it's a Christian book, and I think I'm going to have to market it that way.  Straightforward.  That's how I am.  I can't change it, and really, I shouldn't try to change it.  God's agenda for me and my writing is greater than my own agenda.  I don't know what's going to happen or how He's going to lead.  I may not become as popular of a writer as I had once hoped (but really, that was always a longshot, and I don't think I want that much publicity anymore anyway).  I do want my writing out there.  I want people reading it.  I want people to know my characters and know what they experience.  I want God to be glorified through my writing.  And I guess if that's my main goal, then I shouldn't be too concerned about all the particulars.

I need to make the transition from thinking about marketing my writing to actually marketing my writing again.  ...but then again, there's a lot of things I need to do.

--I need to stop eating everything in sight.  This week has been bad.  I've just been out of control and not honoring God with what I eat. 

--I've been out of control in my prayer life/Bible reading, too.  I need to get back on track.  I've been talking ABOUT God a lot, but not talking TO Him very much.  That's not okay, but it's an easy trap to find oneself in.  But the thing is, as chaotic as life has been (and will continue to be this week--I'm working at least 2 jobs almost every day), God has just been so gracious.  He's shown me that even when I'm spinning out of control, He's still in control.  His grace is more than sufficient.  That doesn't excuse me from striving to follow Him, but I know that even when I'm struggling, He's got me.  He loves me.  He's not letting me go.  Great is His faithfulness!

--Running?  Going well!  I'm glad something is!  I did 12 miles last week.  I'm going to attempt 13 miles this week (today hopefully), and then start backing off to about 9-10 miles for my last two long runs before the race.  It's a little less than 3 weeks until the half marathon!  I'm getting excited about getting to see family and getting to run my legs off!  Please pray I stay injury free and that I continue to praise God with every step I run!  Those are my only real concerns as the race day approaches!

--Grown up stuff--like job applications and planning to move in JUNE (not to another town, but to another apartment in the same town)?  I feel like I haven't had time to work on these things, but really I've not been MAKING the time to work on them.  This week is going to be busy, but I HAVE to put on my big girl pants and DEAL with this stuff.  Seriously.

--I need to make an effort to go to sleep earlier.  I've been oversleeping and just generally being exhausted during the day.

Honestly, I feel really out of control right now, but that's good.  I'm grateful for the times when the Lord humbles me and reminds me of how much I really need Him.  I pray that He's shining through me, even when I'm a mess. 

Shiny Monday to you!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fiction Friday: Excuses, Excuses

I was going to try to do a book review today.  Actually, I was going to try to do a book review LAST Friday, but I just haven't finished rereading the book yet. 

You see, I was going to reread the book, and indeed, had started, when an interdimensional portal opened in my room.  A man stepped out and said that he was from the 27th century.  He told me he needed my book so that he could do a study on ancient interdimensional literature. 

I told him "Tough tomatoes.  I have to write a book review.  And I hope that interdimensional portal doesn't leave a mark on my wall." 

He said, "We don't have tomatoes in my dimension.  We did, but they were eaten by the plague of Garfs.  But that's beside the point.  I really need your book more than you do.  And if the interdimensional portal leaves a mark, you should use a magic eraser."

"I love magic erasers!" I exclaimed.  "They get crayon off of anything!"

"Is a crayon some sort of interdimensional portal?" he asked.

"It's a portal into the greatest interdimensional port of all," I said happily.  "The imagination."

He looked at me kind of funny and said, "Wait a moment.  Do you have magic erasers in this dimension and in this century?"

I ran to the kitchen and got a magic eraser--those little sponge thingies that get crayon off of anything.  I held it up for him to see.

"What is that?" he asked, sounding both curious and somewhat horrified.

"A magic eraser," I said, shrugging.

He shook his head.  "That's not a magic eraser!  THIS is a magic eraser!"  He pulled a large pink rubber eraser--like the kinds they sell to elementary school kids...who never really use them for anything besides chewing or throwing them at each other.

I laughed.  "That's magic?"

He seemed slightly offended.  "Magic?  Of course it's magic!"  And he proceeded to rub it on one of my shoes.  My shoe magically disappeared.

"Dude!" I exclaimed, first in surprise, then in anger.  "You erased my shoe!"

"I know.  These magic erasers are amazing."

"No, man.  You erased my shoe.  I liked that shoe!"

"I don't know what you're complaining about," he said.  "You still have the other one."

"What am I supposed to do with only one shoe!?" I demanded.

"Well, if it will make you feel better, I'll just erase your foot.  Then you'll only need one shoe!"

"I think it's time for you to go," I said, pointing to the interdimensional portal.  "After you work whatever 27th century magic you have that will get me back my shoe."

"I can get you back your shoe," he said, "but first you give me that book."

"I can't give you this book," I insisted.  "I have to do a book review for my Fiction Friday blog."

"I've read your blog from the future," the man said.  "It's really not that great, you know."

"That's it!" I exclaimed.  "Give me back my shoe and get out of my dimension.  And my century.  And my room."

We wrestled for a moment, and due to my lack of balance, we somehow managed to trip through the interdimensional portal.  I spent the next several days battling the interdimensional traveler through space and time.  I learned that his name is Steve and that he likes Mexican food. 

In our travels, we discovered that if he had journeyed to another place (a bookstore) and another time (a few months from now), he could get his own copy of the book he was trying to steal from me.  We laughed about this, and he used a magic uneraser to give me back my shoe.  All's well that ends well.

Except when he returned me to this dimension, he brought me back too late to finish rereading the book before today.  So no Fiction Friday blog.

Or I didn't manage my time well, had another insanely busy week that involved car problems, running, and a preschool arts night--and I just didn't have enough time to read.

You decide which story is fact and which one is fiction.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Sometimes, worship happens in a building with a steeple.  I put on make up and a dress and sing with the choir before going to sit in a padded chair and listen to a sermon.  Then I go to my adult Bible study class, which is full of prayer and Bible-centered discussion.  And it is good.

Sometimes, worship happens when I'm sitting in my room.  I'm either loudly strumming on my guitar or quietly writing in a notebook.  I come to meet a holy God in faded blue jeans and a tattered t-shirt.  And He comes near and inspires my songs, my words.  And it is good.

Sometimes, worship happens when I'm wearing sweats and a hoodie, driving to the store.  A song comes on the radio that captures my soul's attention, and I can't help but sing out in praise.  And it is good.

Sometimes worship happens when I'm in a work shirt, playing with one of my preschoolers.  I suddenly look into her eyes and realize that only God could make a little person like that, with such a sweet little face and a distinct personality.  And I say, "Do you know who made you?  God made you!"  And it is good.

Sometimes worship happens when I'm in shorts and a sweaty dry-fit t-shirt, running along the pavement.  I'm tired, but He is my strength.  I'm too out of breath to sing along with the praise songs on my mp3 player, but my heart is rejoicing.  I don't know if church can happen with just one person, but I'm not alone.  The birds are singing; the butterflies are dancing; the trees are clapping their hands.  There's a worship service going on out here, all right.  All creation is praising the Lord.

And this is His sanctuary

It is good.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Blahg: The Change in Me

They changed blogspot.  My actual blog probably looks exactly the same, but I'm writing this post in a little text box that looks completely different from the old text box.  There's nothing I can do about it, and I'm sure I'll adjust to the changes soon, but I still don't like it.  I don't like change.  That's why I haven't switched over to Timeline on Facebook yet, though I know they're going to force the change eventually.  I'm just delaying it as long as humanly possible.  By the time they switch me over, everyone else will already be used to Timeline, and I'll be the only one who's confused. 

But that's no different from now it usually is. The fact that I'm confused will never change.  That is comforting--I guess.

Change isn't my favorite thing, but there seems to be a lot of changes all around me.  In fact, I think I've changed a lot recently, too.  I don't know if anyone else sees it, but I feel so different than I did from just a few months ago.  I think this change has been gradual, so gradual I haven't taken too much notice of it.  I just feel--I don't know how to describe it.  The first word that came to mind to describe the way I'm feeling is "happy," but that's not really right.  I am feeling happy, except my happiness is just that--happiness.  And happiness is one of those things that changes like the weather. 

For instance, while I'm generally pretty happy, Saturday I had a time where I wasn't so happy.  I spent the day being busy working on something for an event.  I wasn't careful with time and had to rush rush rush to finish what I was doing and then rush rush rush to get to work on time.  When I got there, I realized the schedule hadn't been made out correctly, and consequently I was there an hour earlier than I needed to be.  I was so upset that I had rushed and stressed when I had a whole extra hour.  It worked out, though.  The girl I relieved just went home an hour early, and everything was fine. 

Then I got an email that informed me that an event I'd been stressing about had been cancelled.  I'd been working on something for this event all day, which was fun, but still really stressful.  So I did all that work for pretty much nothing.  I was not feeling happy at that moment.  Saturday afternoon was not a happy afternoon.  I called my roommate and whined to her about all of it, and then I felt better, prayed, refocused my perspective, and went back into happy mode.  But happiness, while good, is not something reliable.  It changes with circumstances, and (just between you and me) I'm just a little bit on the moody side.  The change in me isn't something that fluctuates that much.

The second word I thought of to describe the way I'm feeling is "confident," but that's not quite right, either.  Because, dude, I've pretty much come to the realization that I'm never going to be confident.  Not really.  I have moments where I feel good about myself, but like happiness, these moments are fleeting.  For every victory I could claim that would make me feel confident (like having a good hair day, saying exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, going on a really good run), I've got about a gazbillion failures to cancel them out (my hair is usually out of control and trying to eat small children, I usually say the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time, and my best runs are pathetic, especially when you consider that there are people who can run marathons in much less time than it takes me to run ten miles).  And even if I always looked perfect, always acted and spoke eloquently and graciously, and was good at everything, I'd still have absolutely nothing to boast about.  Those who can finish 26.2 miles in about two hours are amazing, but no matter what they believe, I know God has made their bodies.  He's crafted and gifted them to be crazy-fast/strong runners--while training has a lot to do with it, no amount of training can give you that kind of amazing talent.  I could train for years and still never run that fast (especially for that long).  And I've been gifted in writing and in music, but I can't claim credit for those things.  I can work to improve the skills I have, but I didn't will myself to have the initial talent.  So the things that I'm "good at" aren't reasons for me to be confident.  So...confidence isn't the difference in me.

I thought about it for a while, and then I realized what it was.  The answer is pretty obvious.  What's the difference in me?

I'm Hopeful.

One of the characters in the first book I wrote really struggles with the concept of Hope, and this is the character I've written who is most like me.  As a writer, I've really put him through a lot...his life hasn't been easy, and it's not going to get easier.  I have other books planned for him in which he will grow and learn and eventually realize what Hope is.  It isn't the knowledge or expectation that everything is going to turn out exactly how we want it to.  It isn't the belief that everything is going to always be happy or perfect.  It's the knowledge that whatever happens, everything is going to be okay.  God is in control.  God is working all things together for good.  When our Hope is in the Lord, it doesn't matter what else happens.  Circumstances can change.  Happiness and confidence in self, etc. are fleeting.  But God?  God is faithful.  He doesn't change.  And the change in me, whether anyone else has seen it or not, is that I'm finally really learning to HOPE in Him.

The more I become like Him, the more I'm also becoming more of the me He has designed me to be.  I really like being me.  He has only made one of me, and when I look at it that way, who else would I want to be?  Even with all my failures and moods and imperfections, He's working in me and through me.  He's in control of all that's going on around me, no matter how much change there is.  So I've got good reason to be Hopeful.

Last week:

-- I ran 11 miles (in a longer time than it took a lot of people to finish the Boston marathon).  I was told by about three different people that I need to back off a little and not run so much.  They say (from experience that I really should listen to) that since I'm running this long now, I'm already trained up for a half marathon.  But, I'm really enjoying the running and pushing my limits.  I want to actually run 13 miles before I have to run 13 miles, if that makes sense.  Plus, I'm burning LOTS of calories with this much running, and that lets me eat more.

-- I played guitar some more.  I really need to keep this up.  I think after the half marathon, my next big plan is to work towards getting my cds recorded.  I'm eating the whale of goals for 2012, one bite at a time.  Or learning how to do that, anyway.

-- After the stress of Saturday, I took it easy on Sunday and watched "Johnny English Reborn" with my roommate.  We both LOVE Rowan Atkinson and the first Johnny English movie.  We tried to see it in theaters (yay!) and it wasn't playing around here (boo!), but I was able to get it for free from Redbox with a promo code (yay!).   Great flick.  It wasn't as good as the first, but it was still hilarious--and there was an extra scene during the credits that might be one of my favorite Rowan Atkinson moments everrrrr.

-- I got a little more work done on some job application stuff.  I need to get my act together and finish that up.  I hate doing grown up stuff.  I hate change--but I really feel like it's time for something different.  And I'm feeling remarkably Hopeful!  The thing about Hope is that it leaves no room for fear.  I'm not afraid to try, because I know that whatever happens, God is in control.

This week:

-- I will aim for 12 miles--despite the advice to back off on the running.  I still have about four weeks to go, and I definitely will allow my body some good rest time as the day of the half-marathon approaches, but for now, I really want to just keep up with my own running plan. 

Also, I want to apologize for blogging about running so much, but it's kind of a big deal to me.  I don't promise that I'll stop blogging about running after the half-marathon on May 19, but I probably will stop blogging SO MUCH about it.  The half-marathon and training is a major part of what's going on in my life right now.  After I accomplish that goal, I'll try to make more time for other goals.  Then blog about them until all my readers go crazy....

-- I hope to play my guitar more.  I really think there's a song in the works--at least some lyrics.  Music usually doesn't come as easily as the lyrics--but sometimes it all comes together in ways that completely surprises me.  I can't claim credit for that, either.

-- I really hope to reread that book so I can review it--and not post another lame Fiction Friday blog.  We'll see!

-- I'm going to see a display of Princess Diana's dresses with my roommate.  Fashion isn't my thing, but I saw an ad for it and knew that my roommate would love it.  And I am a little interested in Princess Diana's dresses--80's-90's fashion that isn't tacky!? Gasp!  The tickets were cheap, and I'm really trying to do as many fun things with the roommate as humanly possible.  She's moving away in just a couple months now, and I'm going to miss her terribly.  More changes! 

But even with all these changes, I can't ignore the change in me.  I'm Hopeful.  The Lord is faithful.  And no matter what happens in the next few months, it's all gonna be okay.  Maybe even more than okay.  I'm just holding on (or letting go) and waiting to see what's coming.  The Lord is so good!

Hopeful Monday!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fiction Friday: Lame Lists

I've had a busy week and haven't had time to reread a book I had planned to review for Fiction Friday.  Instead, I'm just going to post some of my favorite literary things.  Lame?  Yes. 


Five Top Favorite Book Series:

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
    -Fave book from the series: Voyage of the Dawn Treader
2. The Time Quartet by Madeleine L'Engle
    -Fave book from the series (and favorite novel in general): A Wrinkle in Time
3. Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
    -Fave book from the series: The Return of the King
4. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
    -Fave book from the series: either The Prisoner of Azkaban or The Half-Blood Prince. I think.
5. The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
    -Fave book from the series: Taran Wanderer
Honorable Mentions: The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins, Anne of Green Gables books by L. M. Montgomery, "Austin Family" books by Madeleine L'Engle, Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books by Douglas Adams, Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis, Winnie-the-Pooh books by A. A. Milne

Top Five Film Adaptations of Novels:

1. The Princess Bride, novel AND screenplay by William Goldman
2. The Return of the King, novel by J. R. R. Tolkien
3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, novel by J. K. Rowling
4. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, novel (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) by Roald Dahl
5. Jurassic Park, novel by Michael Chriton
Honorable Mentions: Ramona and Beezus, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (both parts), Water for Elephants, 10 Things I Hate About You

Five LEAST FAVORITE Film Adaptations

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, novel by J. K. Rowling, film by morons
2. A Wrinkle in Time, novel by Madeleine L'Engle, film by malicious beings intent on mutilating one of the greatest works of fiction of all time
3. Eragon, novel by Christopher Paolini, film by people who didn't seem to realize this would have made a brilliant SERIES of movies
4. 2010: The Year We Make Contact, novel (2010: Odyssey Two) by Arthur C. Clarke, film by people who probably thought it was a good idea at the time
5. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005 version), novel by Douglas Adams, film by people who were brilliant enough to cast Zooey Deschanel and Alan Rickman, yet who still just don't seem to get it
Dishonorable Mention: Twilight

Five Film Adaptations that were vastly different from the books, yet, IMO, still highly enjoyable:

1. Pollyanna, novel by Elanor Porter, film by Disney
2. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, novel by Victor Hugo, film by Disney
3. The Sword and the Stone, novel by T. H. White, film by Disney
4. Mary Poppins, novel by P. L. Travers, film by Disney
5. The Black Cauldron, novel (mashup of The Book of Three and The Black Cauldron) by Lloyd Alexander, film by Disney (I'm totally seeing a theme here)
Honorable mentions: Alice in Wonderland, The Three Musketeers, and The Jungle Book.  All wonderfully screwed up by Disney.

Top Five Fictional Characters (that I didn't invent)

1. Meg Murray from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
2. Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
3. Lucy Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
4. Vicky Austin from A Ring of Endless Light (etc.) by Madeleine L'Engle
5. Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Honorable Mentions: Eeyore, (I'm ashamed to admit it--okay, so I'm not) Peeta Mellark, Anne Shirley/Blythe, Puddleglum, Inigo Montoya, Taran

Top Five Dead Writers

1. Madeleine L'Engle
2. C. S. Lewis
3. Lloyd Alexander
4. J. R. R. Tolkien
5. Alfred Lord Tennyson
Honorable Mentions: Douglas Adams, L. M. Montgomery, A. A. Milne, Kenneth Grahame, Beatrix Potter, Shel Silversteen, Roald Dahl

Top Five Writers Who Are Still Alive:

1. J. K. Rowling
2. Suzanne Collins
3. William Goldman
4. Beverly Cleary
5. Tie among several authors who wrote books I loved as a kid (and as an adult): Katherine Paterson, Jerry Spinelli, Louis Sachar, Judy Blume, James Howe, Caroline B. Cooney, etc.
Honorable Mentions: Homer Hickman, Lemony Snicket

Thanks for reading this drudgery.  Please now feel the need to bombard my comments with all of your favorite and least favorite things, and I'll promise to read them.

Again, I am sorry for this boring blog of lame lists.  Please accept my apology and this lame picture of me holding the book with my least favorite title:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


“John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” –Luke 3:7-8

“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’
‘I tell you,’ He replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’” Luke 19:39-40

A couple of years ago, I bought a Betta fish and named her Julie Andrews. Poor Jules didn’t survive the first night. So the next day, I took Julie Andrew’s fishy little corpse back to Pet Smart and traded her in for Johnny Depp (AKA Betta Version Beta). Johnny did not make it through the week. I took his fishy little corpse back to Pet Smart and got my money back. I was done with grieving dead celebrity-named fish. In fact, after that, I strongly considered just getting a pet rock. It’s hard to kill something that’s never been alive.

It doesn’t get much more lifeless than a rock.

I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors lately, so I’ve seen a lot of rocks. They sit there, looking…rocky. They’re nice to look at sometimes, but they don’t do anything. The rest of nature? It’s alive! Puffy clouds catch the sunlight, looking so peaceful and perfect as they float in the blue, blue sky. Large birds soar overhead, while little birds flitter from tree to tree. Squirrels rush around acting squirrelly. Flowers sway in the breeze, painting the green grass with tiny bursts of color and beauty. Butterflies and bumblebees dance from flower to flower, chasing the wind, enjoying the wonder of being alive, just doing what they were created to do.

Nature is alive with praise.

All living things have been given God’s breath—the birds and bees and even the squirrelly squirrels are praising God just by doing the simple things they’re created to do. They don’t have too much of a choice about it. They do what they do because God has made them the way He has made them. They praise God just by being alive.

But we do have a choice.

I forget sometimes what a privilege it is to even be able to praise the Lord. I have the breath of God inside of me. Without it? I’m nothing more than dust—as lifeless as a rock. Sometimes I squander that precious breath on such trivial things—things meant to build up my pathetic kingdom instead of God’s Kingdom.

Other times, I forget a very simple truth and start allowing myself to believe a very tricky lie. I allow myself to believe that God needs me, that I’m something special, that I have to do things because I’m important to the work God is doing.

But God doesn’t need me.

And God doesn’t need you.

If we chose not to praise God, or if we fail in our attempts to serve God, God would not cease to be God. God doesn’t need us to be His servants, and He doesn’t need us to praise Him. He doesn’t need anything. But if God needed servants or needed praises, He could raise servants and worshippers out of the rocks. The lifeless rocks. 

God doesn’t need praise. He desires it and is worthy of it because of who He is. And we were created not because God had a need for us, but because He desires us. He doesn’t need us; He’s chosen us. He wants us. He LOVES us. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s a lot better to be loved than to be needed. It changes my perspective. I don’t have to be great and constantly fight to maintain my own greatness. God isn’t going to love me any more or any less whether I succeed or fail. He just loves me—without degree or condition—and that love doesn’t change depending on what I do. God doesn’t love me because I’m something amazing; He loves me because He’s something amazing. …and the awesome thing is that through His amazing love, I too become amazing. God doesn't change, but through Him, I am changed.  He's constantly working on me and in me to make me more like Him.

I started out as dust, as lifeless as a rock. That humbles me. It also helps me realize how wonderful God is.

He is able to give life to nothingness. He has given us His breath, made us in His image to glorify Him. We have a spark of His awareness and creativity inside of us. Out of all creatures, He has given humanity the ability to choose whether or not we will serve and praise Him. Out of all creatures, He’s offered us the choice to come and work alongside Him—not because we’re needed, but because He’s gracious enough to offer such a grand and glorious thing.

I’m thankful for His faithfulness. I’m thankful for His conviction. I’m thankful for the beauty of nature and the ability to see His hand in all of it. I’m thankful that He has given me life, inspiring the dust to move and live and breathe for His glory. I’m thankful for the power that is able to raise worshippers from stones, for the power that is able to roll stones away from graves, and for the fact that this power is at work in me.

I’m grateful for the Living Rock that makes all other life possible. If Abraham’s children are raised from the stones, I pray I might join their number. If the rocks cry out, I pray I might join their songs of praise.

He is worthy.

And I’m just humbled and amazed that One so mighty would want me for His child.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Blahg: Let Me Sum Up

I'm going to try to make this quick.  I'm tired.  Here's how last week went.

-- Ran a little over 11 miles all at one time.  It was an amazing time of worship.  I think I finally hit my "runner's high."  I think my "runner's high" involves sobbing.  I have to work really hard to control my sobs because running and sobbing don't mix well.  Running and sobbing don't mix well because sobbing and breathing don't mix well.  Running and breathing?  They mix much more better, yes.

--Ran in the Quintiles Girls on the Run 10th Annual 5K.  Last year's race was the first 5K I'd ever run (I'd walked one other one before that).  It was the one I originally started training for, the race that eventually caused me to enjoy running.  I thought about wearing my Second Wind shirt, but since my race registration was free because Right Time Kids (one of my employers) was sponsoring the race, I thought it best to represent them.  But just because my shirt didn't have Isaiah 40:31 posted on the back, that doesn't mean my hope wasn't in the Lord.  The Lord has worked all these circumstances together to shape me into who I am now.  I'm still very much in awe of all that He's done to change me physically, mentally, and Spiritually in the past year--and running has been a HUGE part of that transformation.  I'm not a fast runner.  I ran this 5K in 32:38--which was my fastest 5K time yet.  And that's not a fast time.  Little girls were passing me like I was barely even moving (I'm like a turtle--slow, but cute).  But running isn't a time for me to display my awesome athletic ability, because I don't happen to have any of that.  Every time I run, the Lord is revealing His strength in my weakness, giving strength to the powerless, renewing my strength.  My hope is in Him, and I can boast in my weakness because He is my strength.

--I received three pairs of new socks this week.  New socks are a pretty big deal to me.  One pair was even argyle!

--Played the guitar.  Twice.  Realize how horribly I stink at it.  I enjoy it anyway.  Good worship.

--Finished reading a book.  Not sure what I'm going to read next.  I need to reread a book for a review, so maybe that.  ...or Blue Like Jazz, since the movie is out and everyone is talking about it again.  I tried reading it once and never got into it, but I still own it.  It's been sitting on my bookshelf shooting me plaintive looks for over three years....

--I ate way too much food.  I was feeling really convicted about it Saturday night, but then I pigged out again on Sunday.  Hopefully I'll stop being a glutton this week.  It seems like something so minor--especially when I'm burning off so many calories with my half marathon training, but it's not a calorie issue.  I'm eating junk food when I'm not at all hungry, and it's gotten out of control.  And the Lord is good enough to have convicted me about it.  It seems so small, but God is too holy to allow even seemingly small things to slip by.  I've been using food for fulfillment--even if just a little.  And when I'm seeking fulfillment in ANYTHING besides God, that thing is my idol.  And that's just not good enough.  So I'll be trying to get back on track this week--reminding myself that my hope is ONLY in the Lord.  I'm grateful the Lord is good enough to show me even the failures that seem innocent.

This week:

--Hopefully will eat better--in ways that nourish my body and fuel it....

--...because I'm aiming for another 11 mile run this week.

--Yeah...I'd better reread that book I need to review so I have something to blog about on Fiction Friday.  Lol.

--Figure out some financial/job/grown up type stuff.  I'm a slacker.

--Really try to put my hope in the Lord (and only in the Lord) in all circumstances.  It's hard. 

I'm glad He gives us grace. 
Happy Monday!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fiction Friday: Writing Towards

I know.  I know.  I blog a lot about running.  I don't see this trend ending anytime soon--at least not till after May 19, the quickly-approaching day of my first (and perhaps only--but I am starting to highly doubt that) half-marathon.  Now if only I can make it through the rest of this post without any more parenthetical comments....

When people post about running on Facebook or other places, there's always some Smart Alec who asks the question, "What exactly are you running from?"  It's a bad joke, of course, meaning that no one in their right mind would be running unless something ghastly was chasing them.  And honestly, I used to rely on an imagined monster when I first started running.  I guess I was still in my right mind at that point, because I didn't like running, at first.  I started imagining monsters that were chasing me, giving me an incentive to keep going.  Only, I hated running so much that I couldn't think of a scary enough monster.  If given the choice between getting eaten by something and continuing to run, I would have chosen getting eaten by something.   Every monster I thought of wasn't scary enough.

So eventually I was clever enough to invent a monster that gave me adequate motivation.  I imagined a Giant Treadmill Monster was chasing me, promising that if it caught me, it would make me run on it forever and ever.  That got me through the first few months of running--until I figured out that the longer I went on each run, the easier it got.  The first two miles are usually two of the hardest, but once I get through them, my body figures out that I'm not going to die, and it's a lot easier to find a rhythm and keep going.

And I'm sure at this point all three of my regular readers are wondering what all of this has to do with fiction.  I'm getting there.  Like with the first couple miles of running, sometimes I have to get through a few paragraphs before I figure out what's going on.

There are still times when I am running away from things when I'm running.  Last week, when I ran my first ten miles, it wasn't that hard.  My legs went numb for a while, and of course I was tired, but it really was one of my better runs.  I think it was because I had just gone through a really long and stressful week at work, and I just needed to run away from the noise and chaos that comes with working with large numbers of children.  In that instance, I was running away from something.  There was nothing wrong with that.

But most of the time, I'm not running away from anything.  In fact, I'm running towards something.  I'm running towards the goals I've set for myself.  I'm running towards getting that 13.1 sticker/magnet for the back of my car.  I'm running towards just the feel of the wind on my face and the rhythm of my shoes on the pavement.  Sometimes I just set one foot in front of the other, knowing that with every step I take, I'm one step closer to the One who has created me for His pleasure and glory.

The other day I had to take the middle girl I watch, "The Diva," to her indoor soccer practice.  I always bring a book with me, because even though I'm immensely proud of the girls' soccer accomplishments, I really just don't get soccer.  If it doesn't involve bases and a bat, I don't get it.  In fact, I don't really get baseball either, but I get it better than most sports.  So for soccer practices, I bring a book to entertain my brain for an hour, occasionally looking up just in time to see "The Diva" score a goal. 

Well, I didn't plan very well the other day, and I finished the book about halfway through soccer practice.  So I tried to watch soccer for half an hour, but my mind started wandering.  I was watching "The Diva," thinking about how much fun she and her sisters are.  I was thinking about all the people in my life, all the things I love about my life.  And my mind drifted back to the book I had been reading, and I realized that while the book was good, it didn't hold a candle to my life.  Now, right now, I don't know if I'd say that I'm the happiest I've ever been, but I think I'm the most joyful that I've ever been.  I feel more beautiful than I've ever felt.  I feel more like me.  And I realized that none of the stories that I write, as much as I love them, aren't nearly as important to me as the life God has given me.

And I realized that there might be a reason why I'm not writing as much as I used to write.  I don't have as much time, obviously, but there is more to it than that.  When I was younger, I used to write to escape life.  I suppose that's one of the reasons fiction exists.  Yes, there's the entertainment factor, but sometimes fiction is a form of escapism.  We want to forget our own world and our own troubles for awhile and get inside the world of fictional characters.  We want to read the book, watch the play or movie or television show, just to experience something other than reality. 

That's one of the reasons I used to write.  Reality was either too painful or too boring, so I invented my own worlds and characters.  I was using writing to run away from the real world.  I'm not sure when I stopped doing that.  I'm not sure when I stopped "writing away from" reality, when I started investing more in the life I'm actually living instead of the fantasies I sometimes wish I could be living.  But the fact that I no longer have that particular motivation might be one of the reasons why I don't write as often as I did in the past.

The desire to write still exists, of course.  I am a writer.  I wouldn't be me if I didn't write.  But I don't make as much time for it as I used to.  And maybe I need to reevaluate the things I'm writing towards.  There are dreams and goals and visions I have for my writing.  There is simply joy to be found in the act of writing, of putting pen to paper or allowing my fingers to freely type across the keyboard.  There's also the ultimate reason of writing because the One who has made me for His pleasure has graciously given me the pleasure of writing.  The Creator has breathed into me creativity, giving me the chance to experience just the smallest idea of how it feels to create something.  And if I'm not writing for His glory, then all the other reasons seem...well, sort of silly.

I don't believe that the Lord has given me the ability and desires to write or run or sing or do anything I do without a reason.  With this belief, with this knowledge, I gain the freedom to try just about anything--whether I succeed or fail--knowing that all things work together for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose. 

I'm not "writing away from" anything anymore.  I'm not escaping.  I'm not trying to find some relief from the real world.  Rather, God has given me such great joy in the real world, and I'm suddenly struck with the awareness that I can't keep the gifts He has given me to myself. 

So I write.  I write towards the hope that He will do more than I could ever ask or imagine through my writing, through me.  I keep saying how much of a weak fool I am, and I keep saying that because it's true.  The only hope for me is that the Lord has chosen the weak to shame the strong, the foolish to shame the wise. 

But that's a great hope, friends.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Colorful Afternoon

Yesterday afternoon, the youngest of the three girls I watch ("Princess") wanted to ride her scooter outside.  Well, she's not much of a little girl anymore.  She's going to be eight in a few months, which sounds so grown up.  Still, I feel the need to protect her as much as I still can.  So when she started riding away on her scooter, I shouted, "Wait!  Come put your helmet on."

Surprisingly, she obeyed me, but she still protested.  "I don't like my helmet. It feels funny because the strap tickles my chin."

I said, "Well, it feels better than busting your head open."

She exclaimed, "I WON'T BUST MY HEAD OPEN."  This is a promise every child makes, and every child keeps this promise.  Until, of course, the child busts his/her head open.  There's always a first time.  And as Eeyore the donkey said, "Funny things accidents.  You never have them till you're having them."  There's a reason why that's one of my favorite quotes.

So what was my response to Princess' promise that she wouldn't bust her head open?

"I know you won't bust your head open, because you're going to wear that helmet."

She sighed and rode off on her scooter. 

Her oldest sister ("Drama Queen") was inside doing middle school homework (which is too advanced for me to be able to help her with).  "The Diva" was at soccer practice.  So it was just me and the Princess.  I sat on the front steps and watched her ride around the cul-de-sac, taking in the beauty of the afternoon.  The sky was so blue, the grass so green.  It's days like yesterday that make me realize how much I take the gift of sight for granted.  There's a line from a Rich Mullins song, "Here In America," that goes, "There's so much beauty around me, but just two eyes to see.  Everywhere I go, I'm looking."  This world gets so flashy sometimes, so loud, that I forget to look.  I forget to listen.  But yesterday afternoon was just one of those times where I took the time to breathe.  I took a few moments to just be.  And it was good.  It was very good. 

That's when the real magic happened: a simple, fun, beautiful moment I'll remember for a long time.

Princess rode her scooter around the cul-de-sac, but then she came up to where I was sitting on the front steps of her house.  "What happened to your toe?" she asked, referring to the middle toe of my left foot, which is a lovely shade of bluish black due to an ugly bruise I've received while running.

"I bruised it when I was running," I explained.  "It's not a big deal."

"Does it hurt?" she asked.

I shook my head.  "It doesn't feel like much of anything."

"It's numb," she said, as if announcing a new vocabulary word.  I confirmed her word choice as being accurate.  She smiled and ventured to touch my toe--something I normally wouldn't allow.  I've got germ issues and feet issues (seriously, I don't let ANYONE touch my feet)--but today, for some reason, I just didn't worry about it.  She touched my toe and shuddered.  "Why are your toes hard?" she asked.

"I have callouses," I explained.  "They protect me from getting hurt.  I get them on my feet when I run, and I get them on my fingers when I play guitar.  Otherwise, my feet would hurt every time I ran and my fingers would hurt every time I tried to play guitar.  So callouses can be a good thing, even if they don't look or feel that pretty."  It suddenly seemed like I was teaching her a life lesson instead of just explaining why my feet are such a mess.

This seemed to make sense to her.  Satisfied with my answer, she rode off on her scooter for another lap around the cul-de-sac.  Then she returned to me. 

"Do you see our new flowers?" she asked, pointing to some new flowers her parents had gotten for the front yard.

"Yes!" I said.  "I like them very much.  They're beautiful, and such pretty colors."  They were yellow and purple--my two absolute favorite colors for flowers.

"The flowers mom and dad planted earlier are big now, see?"  She pointed to some flowering bushes that I hadn't really noticed before...but I think I'll make a point of noticing them from now on.  They were lovely.

I nodded.

"Can you make flowers grow?" she asked me.

I shook my head.  "I have tried, but whenever I try to grow any kind of plants, they die.  I don't have a green thumb."

Her brow furrowed and she started looking at my thumbs. 

I laughed and said, "No!  That's just what people say when a person is good at growing things.  My sister has a green thumb, because she makes so many pretty flowers and yummy vegetables grow, but that doesn't mean her thumbs are really green."

"What color are her thumbs?" she asked.

I held up my thumb.  "They're kind of like mine."

"Do you have a green thumb?" she asked, still looking at my thumb.

"No," I said, sadly shaking my head.  "I have a black thumb."

She sighed really hard.  "No, Ruth.  You have a black toe, remember?" 

Princess rode off on her scooter.  I laughed to myself, just grateful for moments like that one. 

Too soon, she wanted to go inside and watch tv, and I had to make dinner.  Magic happens in between all the everyday moments.  It's so easy to miss them.  I'm glad for all the colors of yesterday afternoon--the blue skies and the yellow flowers and the green thumbs and the black toes.  I'm grateful for the people in my life, like Princess, who help make every day more colorful. 

And even though I've just been given two eyes, I pray that everywhere I go, I'm looking.

"Be praised for all Your tenderness, by these works of Your hands.
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land.
Look down upon this winter wheat, and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise." --"The Color Green," Rich Mullins

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday Blahg: Sunday Came!

Last week was Spring Break for the main school system around here, which meant my schedule was both 1) different and 2) busy.  The preschool where I work was closed; the kids I nanny for were out of town.  With two out of my four jobs out of the picture, you'd think I'd be less busy.  Well, at times I was.  I still managed to work every day last week (except for Sunday, of course).  And when I was at work, it was INSANE.  I couldn't WAIT for Sunday to come.

But I found some nice pockets of time where I was able to take care of some things. 

--I finished reading a book I need to review, but I think I'm going to reread it before getting to that.

--I actually found a little time to edit my second book.  It wasn't much, but it was something--which is way better than nothing.  I'm a little discouraged at how bad the beginning of this book still is, and I have a feeling I'm going to have to send the first several chapters through the "editing mill" a few more times before I'm even close to being happy.  But honestly, this is part of the writing gig.  I've got to put on my big girl pants and get used to the idea.  Praying for a breakthrough needs something....

--I finally found time to run ten miles!  What with work and unexpected rain delays, I didn't know if I'd have the time, much less the energy, to do it.  But Friday, after work, God provided both the time and the energy and the strength (and beautiful, nearly perfect 60ish degree weather).  I can't describe the feeling, when I put my foot down on that concrete at the end of the sidewalk, realizing I, pansy girl Ruth Campbell, had just run ten miles.  I know I keep repeating myself, but I'm still in total shock that God has allowed me to run and allowed me to enjoy it.  For me, running has become an act of worship, like writing, singing, etc.--and really, everything I do is supposed to be an act of worship.  But unlike writing, singing, etc., running doesn't come easily or naturally for me.  I have to hope in the Lord to give me strength (and renew my strength) with every step that I take.  It has been quite an adventure, and I can't shut up about it.  I'm not sure that I'm supposed to shut up about it.  The running, etc. group ( I run with has just started up a new spring season, and I'm excited about what God is doing.  If you're in the Raleigh, NC area, come join us! 

--I drank tea.  And sat in the rocking chair on my front porch.  And read a book.  That's a big deal.
--I watched a movie for fun because I wanted to.  The Muppets.  Really good.  I laughed SO hard. 

--I had to buy a new tire.  Saturday morning, I had planned to help out with an Easter Egg hunt at my church, but when I tried to drive there, I found that my tire was flat.  So, I spent the morning at the tire shop instead.  Turns out there was a hole in the side of the tire, where they could not repair it.  Two of my tires were under warranty, but of course, the damaged one was not one of them.  So, after an oil change, a new tire, a warranty plan on said new tire, and some other stuff, I put a lot of money on the credit card I'm actually trying to pay off.  So, my debt is growing instead of shrinking.  But--it's really not a big deal.  Unexpected stuff happens.  I have far too much to be thankful for to get stressed over money.

Honestly, with all the various work issues and tire issues and life issues of last week, I was really ready for a break.  I was ready for Easter to come.  And it came.  It didn't just come yesterday, but it came 2000 years ago.  Jesus didn't stay in the grave.  Death could not hold Him.  And so no matter what else happens, I have hope.  My hope isn't in me.  My hope isn't in my finances or my jobs.  My hope isn't in my abilities, as if I could claim credit for even the ones that come easily.  Everything I have is a gift, and sometimes gifts are hard to accept.  Sometimes it's hard to accept that I'm a weak sinner and that I can't do anything to save myself.  Sometimes it's hard to accept the grace of God--but Jesus died so that I could have that grace.  My hope is in Him.

And this week:

--I want to run another ten miles.
--I want to get back to the old work routine.  I miss my preschool kids and the girls I watch!
--I want to edit my book some more.
--I want to start reading Slide by Jill Hathaway.  Amazon finally delivered it, and I finally finished the other book so I can start it!
--I want to play my guitar for more than just a few minutes.  Something tells me it's time to write another song soon.
--I so need to work on a job application.

Yeah.  There's lots of things I want to do.  I don't know if I'll do them.  Unexpected things (like flat tires) happen.  And that's okay.  Everything that comes my way is allowed by grace.  Everything that comes my way is an opportunity to trust God and love others.  And I don't have any reason to worry about any battles I face, because Christ has already won this war.

And this is still my song for 2012.  May it be a blessing as you start this week.  Hopeful Monday!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fiction Friday: Forgetfulness in Fairy Tales

I have a great love for fairy tales, whether they’re modified Disney movies or old Hans Christian Anderson classics. Recently, I was watching the Leslie Ann Warren version of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” mainly because I love the music, and I was struck by one of the themes to which I’ve never paid proper attention.

Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother had warned Cinderella that she had to leave the ball before midnight, and Cinderella firmly promised that she would remember. Yet, as she gazed into her prince’s eyes, she became distracted and forgot the promise that she had so insistently made. Only when the clock started to chime did she remember, and she almost didn’t make it out of the castle before her dress turned back into rags.

I let my mind drift a little, and immediately thought of the original story of “Beauty and the Beast,” in which the Beast, when allowing Beauty to return home, told her that if she did not return within a certain span of time, he would most certainly die. Beauty assuredly promised him that she would return within that span of time, and yet she allowed herself to be distracted by her family. She forgot the promise she had made until it was almost too late. The Beast was almost dead when she reached his side and proclaimed her love for him, breaking the spell.

The dwarves warned Snow White not to open the door of the cottage to strangers. She promised she would not open the door to strangers. Yet upon three separate occasions (according to the original fairy tale), she allowed herself to be tricked by her disguised evil stepmother, and opened the door to a stranger. She forgot her promise and almost died—three times!  I'm not sure if that's foolishness, arrogance, or both!

In "Rumpelstiltskin," the young girl promised her first born child to the dwarf, but in her happiness over her newborn child, she forgot her promise until Rumpelstiltskin came to collect.
In "The Frog Prince," the princess conveniently (purposefully) “forgot” her promise to the frog who had rescued her golden ball. She didn’t want to allow him to eat off her plate or sleep in her bed. Only when the king heard of her promise did he enforce it, reminding her of the importance of remembering one’s promises.

There are other examples, but most fairy tales are too obscure for those who don’t make a point of reading them. I find it interesting both that many fairy tales deal with this theme of forgetfulness, and that I haven’t really ever consciously noticed it before.

I think the reason that I’m more aware of it now has to do with the fact that I’ve been reading through the first few books of the Bible. I’ve just completed my readings of Numbers and Deuteronomy, and I’ve begun reading the book of Joshua. Throughout these books are little reminders—both of God’s promises to Israel, and of Israel’s commitments to Him. It’s interesting how many times the Lord reminded His people of the covenant He had made with them. It’s interesting how readily Israel accepted the covenant, promising to follow all of God’s commandments. It’s interesting how quickly Israel forgot their promise.

I see examples of many different kinds of forgetfulness in Scripture. The people of Israel forgot their promise to follow God because they were distracted, because they were arrogant, because they were foolish, because they were fearful, but mainly because they were just plain sinful.

None of this surprised God. He knows humans are forgetful. That, I believe, is why He gave so many reminders. That’s why He recommended His people take special care to remember. He knew how easy it was for sinful man to forget.

"These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." --Deuteronomy 6: 6-9

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit and home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.” --Deuteronomy 11: 18-21

In The Silver Chair, by C. S. Lewis, which I consider to be a modern fairy tale, Aslan gives Jill Pole four signs to remember (in order to aid her in finding the lost Prince Rilian).  He tells her, “…Remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs.”

Aslan knew Jill would forget the signs.

The story still had a happy ending. Prince Rilian is found, regardless of Jill’s forgetfulness.

Just as “Cinderella” marries her prince, regardless of her distracted forgetfulness.

Just as Beauty returns to her Beast just in time to love him back into a prince, regardless of her world-weary forgetfulness.

Just as “Snow White” awakens from her death-sleep to find her Prince Charming, regardless of her foolish/arrogant/etc. forgetfulness.

Just as the young woman in “Rumpelstiltskin” names the dwarf and keeps her baby, regardless of her blissfully ignorant forgetfulness.

Just as the princess in “The Frog Prince” transforms the ugly frog into a handsome prince, regardless of her intentional forgetfulness.

The true hero in The Silver Chair, and indeed in all of the Narnia stories, is not Jill Pole or any other human character. The hero is always Aslan. Aslan knew that if Jill had remembered the signs, things would have gone much more easily for her and all involved. But He also knew that she would forget the signs, yet He still worked all things together for good.  Even though Jill forgot, He was still the one in control of the story.

And that’s true for Israel’s story, which, because I've been grafted into Israel, is also my story. I, like the Israelites, am forgetful. I make promises quickly, and forget them even more quickly.  I know, and God knows, that if I were diligent to remember, if I fixed His truth on my mind and heart, if I reminded myself of His truth when I went to bed and when I woke up, if I reminded myself of His truth when I went about my daily life, then things would be much easier for me...and often much more pleasant for the people I encounter.  But I am not the hero of my own life story.  And God knows that there are going to be times, many times, when I forget.

Fairy tales are meant to teach morals, and many fairy tales have more than one moral. Certainly the value of keeping promises can be found in “The Frog Prince” and in “Beauty and the Beast,” as well as the reminder to not judge by appearances. “Cinderella” and “Snow White” are examples of how being kind to others, especially in times of suffering and humility, leads to happiness. I'm not sure, but I think that the moral of “Rumpelstiltskin” is “don’t tell the king that your daughter can spin straw into gold unless she really can,” or perhaps, “don’t promise your first born child to a dwarf unless you’re on a first-name basis,” or perhaps, "don't provide offspring for a greedy king who only loves you because he thinks you can spin straw into gold."  That one's a little ambiguous, I guess.

In all of these stories, however, I don’t really see the main characters as the heroes. There is always another force at work, be it a royal servant who hears Rumpelstiltskin singing his own name (for whatever reason—having a name like Rumpelstiltskin probably made him a little loony) in the forest, a Fairy Godmother, or just plain magic. The characters don’t guide their own destinies, which is a very good thing.

If "Cinderella" were in control, she would never have gone to the ball.

If Beauty were in control, she would have returned to the castle to find nothing more than a dead Beast.

If "Snow White" were in control, her stepmother would have probably succeeded in killing her on the first try.

If the young woman in “Rumpelstiltskin” were in control, that dwarf would have won the custody battle.

If the princess in “Frog Prince” were in control, she would have remained a spoiled, selfish, promise-breaking child who never grew up.  Which, by the way, would pretty much be my destiny, too.

But I’m not in control of my own story.

Though I’m forgetful and faithless, my God is faithful. Even though I make my life so much harder than it has to be with my forgetfulness, God is still working things out for good.  I'm grateful that He's in control of my story...of HIS story.

And I’m grateful for these great truths found in the simplest of tales. Fairy tales were told and passed down and written partly to be reminders.

I, for one, can use all the reminders I can get.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How God Ruined (and Keeps Ruining) My Life

Sometimes, I inadvertently make good Southern Baptists really nervous.  It's because I'm not a good Southern Baptist, or really a Southern Baptist at all, though I've always gone to Southern Baptist churches.  I'm a Christian, and I hope to be a good one, but that's as far as I like to be labeled about such things.  People have argued with me that if I don't have a denominational label, like "Southern Baptist," then people aren't going to know what I believe.  Well, I argue back that if I call myself a "Southern Baptist," people STILL won't know what I believe.  I do believe most of the things that good Southern Baptists would claim to believe, but I'm a Christian.  If you want to know more about what I believe, a label isn't going to tell you.  I could call myself a "Southern Baptist" and believe that pink monkeys in sailor suits grant my wishes every time I pray.  The only thing that will help you know what I believe is asking me questions and getting to know me--or reading my blog, since I explain myself better in writing than I do in speech.

One thing I don't think I've ever really liked about good Southern Baptists is that most of them stress the importance of having a "personal testimony."  I understand what the point and purpose is, and I know that a lot of people will respond to a personal experience more easily than they would respond to Scripture.  My problem isn't that I don't think "personal testimonies" are important, but I never really understood what they were supposed to be. 

Some people have really awesome "personal testimonies" that are easy to tell.  "I was a drug addict for seventeen years, lost my job and custody of my four kids, was at the end of my rope and ready to just give up on life...BUT THEN I FOUND JESUS!  Now I have an awesome job, contact with my kids, and I haven't touched drugs or alcohol in years.  But most importantly, Jesus has saved my soul and I have hope of living with Him forever!"

I'm not making light of those testimonies.  They're amazing.  I've heard of so many wonderful stories of how God has changed lives, and God is using those changed lives to change the lives of others.  It's a beautiful thing.

Far too often, though, I hear a testimony that is a lot like I think mine is supposed to sound.  "I was raised in church every time the doors were open.  I was 'saved' as a child.  I fell away in my teenage years, but God got a hold of me.  Now I'm living every day for Him."

There's also nothing wrong with those testimonies.  God uses them, too.  I just think they're boring.  And they kind of make me feel like salvation is a thing of the past.

You wanna know something that will make good Southern Baptists shudder?  I don't know when I became a Christian.  I "walked forward" the day after my ninth birthday and told a minister that I'd accepted Christ.  I was baptized a week later, on Easter Sunday.

I didn't become a Christian at the age of nine.  It was before then, though I'm not exactly sure when.  I remember being afraid of hell and of demons.  I remember lying awake in bed at night and knowing I wasn't alone.  I remember wanting with all my heart to believe in God.  And I don't think there was some kind of "sinner's prayer" or grand change in my life.  I think that my salvation was something as simple as slipping my hand into the Hand that was extended towards me.  The action was so simple that I don't remember when it happened.

God had been pursuing me all my life, in a way I couldn't ignore.  Though I was a little hellion as a toddler (okay, and after I was a toddler, too...and okay, when I was a teenager...and right now), I can't remember my life without Christ.  He's always been a major part of it.  So, as uncomfortable as it makes good Southern Baptists to hear this, I kind of believe that, in a way, I've always been a Christian.  I wasn't born free of the curse of sin.  I wasn't sinless.  I didn't come out of the womb professing my faith in Christ.  But God has had His hand on me all my life.  I can't ignore that fact, or what it means...but more about that in just a bit.

What I just wrote is not my "personal testimony."  See, I've learned that my testimony isn't so much about how I've become a Christian.  I can't remember that.  I can't remember the moment when I slipped my hand into God's Hand.  All I know is that He's never let go.

Did I fall away from faith?  I don't know.  I guess so, but not really.  In my early teenage years, I certainly worried more about my own image than I did about representing Christ.  I was slightly more solid in my faith in my middle teenage years.  But then, when I was nineteen, I became an atheist for 10 minutes.

I couldn't feel God.  I was suffering from my first real bout of seasonal depression (but I didn't know what it was then--I just thought I was literally going crazy).  My friends at the time were not the best influences or encouragers, though I'm not blaming them.  It was a season God wanted me to walk through, but He didn't leave me there. 

I was in the tree house in my backyard, praying.  And I had just had enough of everything.  So I told God, "I just can't believe in You anymore."  And I sat there, wondering what to do in my new found lack of faith.  The funny thing was, I wanted to pray about it, and I had to remind myself that I didn't believe I had anyone to pray to.  I had no idea how not to believe in God.  After a few minutes, my eyes fell upon one of my journals.  I opened it up to a random page.  There was a poem I'd written while watching the sunset a few nights before.  I recognized my handwriting.  I remembered the occasion when I wrote down the words.  But I didn't recognize a single word from the poem.  And the Holy Spirit said, "I wrote this.  Read the words, because I wrote them through you."  It was a simple poem of praise.  I hadn't written it.  The One who wrote it was the God whose Hand was still heavy upon me.

Having God's Hand upon me is a curious thing.  It means I'm protected.  It means I'm guided.  It means I belong to God.

It also means that my life doesn't belong to me, anymore.  Not that it ever really did....

I was such a horrid little toddler because I always wanted my way.  I was a horrid child because I wanted my way.  I was a horrid teenager because I wanted my way.  And sometimes I really am a horrid adult because all I really want is to have my own way.

But I can't.  I can't because God isn't really all that interested in giving me what I want--especially not right when I want it.  God fulfills my needs.  God gives me more than I deserve.  But God doesn't cater to me and my demands, but He demands that I regard Him as holy.  And sometimes that's really hard to do, but I have to--because His hand is upon me.

And because His hand is upon me, because I'm dependent upon His guidance, I'm in a fearful place.  I have all the blessings of Christ, but it as C. S. Lewis wrote "...He's not a tame lion..."  It's hard to trust in God's provision and strength in the darkness.  Because even if God is able, that doesn't mean He has to give me what I want.  Because even if God is good, that doesn't mean He won't lead me to something that is incredibly difficult.  Because even if God is merciful, that doesn't mean He won't lead me to something that hurts me immensely.  Because even if God is strong, that doesn't mean He won't lead me to something that might even cost me my life. 

...not that my life was ever mine anyway.  That's such a hard lesson to learn.  Thankfully, I have a patient, loving Teacher who has experienced all the beauty and strife of humanity (yet was without sin).

But that's my testimony, isn't it?  It's not that "one big moment" where I chose to give my life over to Christ.  It's the thousands of little moments where I still choose to give my life over to Christ.  It's when I'm still the child in the darkness, afraid of demons, afraid of the unknown, but still knowing I'm not alone.  It's when I have all the things I want to do and I want to have and I want to be, but I hear the still small Voice telling me that I belong to Him.  It's when I still make the choice and reach up to take the Hand that's been extended to me--and walk, one step at a time, into whatever He leads me to.

God loves me, but He's not interested in my way.  And I'm pretty sure that my way leads to destruction anyway.  His way, the only way, leads to life.  I might have to lose my life in order to find it in Him, I might have to lose the world in order to gain my soul.  It's not a bad trade off, in theory, though it hurts like crazy in practice. 

But at the end of the day, all I can do is be thankful that God wants my ruined life for His glory.  All I can do is be in awe and wonder of a God who can take someone as selfish and simple as me and give me a purpose beyond anything I could ask or imagine.  All I can do is worship the God whose grace is so complete that it not only provides a way out of the monotony of working on things that I think will bring me glory, but allows me to come alongside God in the work that He is doing to bring Himself glory.  All I can do is be amazed that the Creator of the universe loves and wants me.  It's unbelievable.

Yet I am not able to not believe it.
I've never been not able to believe it.

And the One who reached His hand to me in my childhood--He's still holding on. 

That's where my true, my only Hope rests.  My ruined life?  It belongs to the One who has redeemed it.

That's my testimony.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday Blahg: Free Timez Plz?


My toe is blue. 

It's the middle toe of my left foot, just in case you wanted to know.

Why is it blue? 

Oh, my toe is blue because I majorly bruised it while running 9 miles this week.  It was 82 degrees outside during that run.  I didn't get sick.  That's a big deal for me.  I was sure I was going to get sick, because I always get sick when it's over 78 degrees.  But I didn't.  BOOYAH!  Take THAT environmental factors!

I thought about taking a pic of my blue toe and posting the pic on the blog...

...but I figured most of my readers wouldn't really want to see that.

In fact, I'll bet that a few of my readers didn't even want to read about my blue toe, but since I've already told you about it, I might as well continue.

I talked to some more experienced runners about my toe, and they said that it's very normal, but my toenail will probably fall off eventually!  YAY!  A sports injury!  A sports injury!

...I'm either really weird, or really awesome, or both at the same time.  You be the judge.

So when the blue toe thing is the "front page headliner" of my blog, you know the rest of my week was pretty lame.  What else did I do this week?

--I did see a Gilbert and Sullivan show.  Having a roomie who plays violin and can sometimes get me free tickets to shows she's playing in, yeah, that comes in handy.  I'm so spoiled.  The show was "Iolanthe," which was a wonderful combination of politics and...fairies.  It was imaginative and hilarous, and the music was lovely. 

--I pet a kitty.


Honestly, I don't remember much else from this week.  I think it's because I didn't do anything besides work.  I worked a lot.  And when I wasn't working, I was either running/exercising, watching live theater for free, petting kitties, or sleeping (and honestly, I didn't do as much of that as I wanted to do).  So...there wasn't much long-term productivity there, but every week can't be awesome.

But this week is Spring Break for my preschool AND the family I nanny for is going on vacation (the kids' Spring Break, too).  While I'm hoping to pick up some extra hours from the drop-in childcare center(s), I'm also kind of hoping to have at least one FULL day off.  Even if I can't have a full day off, it will be nice to only have work a few hours on some days.

Hmm.  What would I do with a full day off (or most of a day off)?

--Run ten miles?  Gotta try to do it this week anyway....

--FINALLY get back to editing my book?  I've really been slacking on that.

--Clean my room?  Definitely needs to be done. 

--Finish reading the book I'm eventually supposed to review, or at least make some progress with it.  I don't do well with books I'm supposed to be reviewing, because it's kind of like homework.  I don't want to do it because I have to do it.

--Scream and run in joyous circles because I have some blessed time off? might be that last one.  I might spend all my free time rejoicing because I'll be so happy to have free time that I won't be able to contain my exuberance!  I will just go find a meadow somewhere and frolic!

...and then I'll be sad again because I wasted all that free time frolicking in some random meadow.  ...and my free time will be gone.

Happy Spring Break! 

And if it's not Spring Break for you, then, uh, well...Happy Regular-Type Monday and stuff.