Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Thankful for the Dreary Days

Many of you who are regular readers know that I've been on a journey to better health, but despite my efforts, I haven't arrived at that "I feel great" stage yet.  For the most part, I haven't felt bad, but I haven't exactly felt good either, or at least, not as good as I would like to feel.  Last week, however, when I was sick, I was reminded just how miserable it is to feel bad, and I began to appreciate feeling good or even fair.  Compared to how I felt last week, the few weeks leading up to it were Heaven on earth.  Funny how our perspectives can change, huh?  Now that I'm recovering and regaining some strength, I realize how much I'm longing to at least feel fair again.  It's a shame that it took being sick for me to appreciate what health I did have.

The same can be said for our spiritual condition.  Oftentimes it takes a severe storm to allow us to appreciate not only the calm waters but also the slightly choppy seas.  A long stretch through the valley helps us appreciate not only the mountaintops, but also the strenuous climb to get there because we realize we're finally heading up.  Leave it to the "really bad" to help us appreciate the "not-so-bad."  It's all a matter of perspective.

I don't know what you're going through today, but I do know this--our storms have a purpose.  Our valleys inspire growth.  And while your current dilemma may seem like the end of the world, it's not. God promised to bring us through the storms and through the valleys.  They are not our destination, only pit stops along the way.  Some days will be better, and others, not so much.  But keep in mind that even though our moods and perspectives may change, the God who is controlling all things doesn't.  He is, and always will be, a God of love.  He doesn't send the storms to punish us but rather to remind us of just how much we have to be thankful for.

So, when was the last time you thanked God for the dreary days?

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. - Isaiah 43:2

Friday, July 3, 2015

I'm Sorry, Did You Say Something?

May I be honest with you?  I have been distracted this past week and have found it difficult to perform the most ordinary tasks.  The housework has been neglected.  E-mails have gone unanswered.  Even my daily blog writings have seemed like a chore where they are normally a pleasure.  It is as if everything in my life has been out of sorts except for one area:  my latest novel.
Yes, the source of my utter distraction is my latest writing project.  In short, I am caught up in the story I've created.

When I lie down at night, my mind swirls about with new ideas and interesting twists I can add to my story.  As I go through the day, trying to concentrate on other tasks, my thoughts are drawn to new possibilities for my detective team.  And with this particular book being part of a series, my mind is already plotting out the next few books in the series so that I can make sure I have somewhere to go with the story at the end of this current book.  It is a long, drawn-out process, but I love every minute of it.

What I don't love is that once I get into "book-writing mode," it's difficult for me to think about anything else.  Everything else seems to become a blur in the background.  The tasks are there, calling for my attention, but I can't seem to hear.  I am completely and totally focused on my book.  And, to a degree, that sort of focus is commendable, but it can also be costly. . . especially if the focus is on a not-so-worthy goal.

How often do we become so focused on the negative circumstances in our lives that everything else becomes a blur in the background?  The other things, including our many blessings, are there, calling for our attention, but we can't seem to hear them.  We are completely and totally focused on our problems.  It's all we see when we look around us.  It's all we can think about when we lie in bed at night.  It permeates every fiber of our being and dictates our every attitude and action.  In short, we become caught up in the misery we created.

While we are not responsible for every circumstance that comes our way, we are responsible for our attitudes and actions concerning those circumstances.  We can choose to allow ourselves to become solely focused on our problems, or we can take the extra effort and look beyond our circumstances to the One who is in control of it all.  If we feel we must be solely focused on one thing, let God be that one thing!

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; - Ephesians 5:19-20

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Jeff Allen: Master of Clean Comedy

I know I've done this clip before, but I think it's hilarious!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mysteries Revealed

For the past couple of weeks, I've been working on the third book in my middle-grade mystery series, The Delaware Detectives, and I have to admit, I've been having a blast.  For the most part, I enjoy writing nonfiction more than fiction, but there's something about piecing together a mystery novel that is utter joy for me.  Using my rough outline (which is actually a set of index cards organized by chapter), I type out the story, inserting embellishments and other little ideas that come to me as I write.

My favorite part of the writing process is when I add in the red herrings.  For those of you who don't know what that is, red herrings are little clues or components added to the story in an effort to distract the reader from the truth of the mystery and instead lead them to their own false conclusions.  In other words, I'm faking you out!  Red herrings are a vital part of any mystery, and to be honest, they are a lot of fun for the author of the story.  For example, the other day, as I planted evidence (twice) that leads my reader to suspect John Doe to be the culprit, I literally laughed out loud.  I knew the secret.  I knew who the real culprit was.  And I reveled in the fact that I was leading my readers astray.  Why?  Because it makes for a better mystery.  (That, and according to Jason, we mystery writers are a bit sadistic.  Who knew?)

What aggravates the life out of me, however, is when people put a question mark where God has placed a period.  Why does the world insist on making a mystery out of something that is quite clear? Take, for example, the end times.

I told you a couple of posts back how I was watching a series of documentaries on the "science of the Bible," where scientists (both Christian and non-Christian) debate whether or not the Bible is true and if there is any evidence to its claims.  For the most part, the show has just made me angry, but they've also said some things that have made me want to dig deeper into God's Word.

In the episode I watched this morning, the scientists were discussing the validity of the book of Revelation.  Wow, some of those people were out there on what they believe!  And get this, some claim to believe that Jesus is coming again in the final revelation just as the Bible says, but it will be a time of peace and joy for all because that whole "hell thing" is just not true.  How is it, exactly, that man can determine which parts of the Bible are true and which are not?  As far as I'm concerned, either it's all true or it's all false!  After all, if part of it is false, how can we trust anything it says?  That line of thinking makes absolutely no sense to me, yet there are entire movements out there that pick and choose which parts of the Bible are true and which parts are not.

The segment that really stumped me, though, was one of the closing statements.  The narrator stated that over half of the world's population seems to agree that we are in the end times, and that soon Jesus will return.  Then, he said this, "But the question that remains is one that has been passed down through the ages:  who will be rewarded with eternal life and who will be cast into that place of eternal punishment?"  Then he commenced to talk about people living in fear because of not knowing what God will do to them in the final days, like it was some big mystery.

My friends, I have news for you:  There is no mystery here.  God has made this abundantly clear throughout the entire Bible.  Who will be rewarded with eternal life?  Those who have trusted in the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  Who will be cast into the place of eternal punishment?  Those who have not accepted Christ's sacrifice on the cross.  The Bible makes that abundantly clear!  There is no question about it.  People don't need to wonder what God will do to them.  They can know beyond a shadow of a doubt.  All they need to do is accept Jesus.  After that, there is nothing to fear.

If you are unsure about what would happen to you if Jesus were to come back today, I urge you to seek salvation immediately.  If you don't know how, contact a local pastor, a saved friend or send me an e-mail.  I would be happy to show you the way.  For those of us who are saved, there is no need to fear the future.  We already know that God wins and that we will rule and reign with Him for all eternity.  There's no mystery.  No red herrings.  The Bible is clear, and unlike sadistic mystery writers (myself included), God is not out to trick us.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. - John 3:16-18

Monday, June 29, 2015

How's Your Balance?

My washing machine has major issues.  A couple of weeks ago, it started making this horrendous noise about halfway through the wash cycle.  When I stepped into the laundry room, I became even more concerned.  The machine was dancing back and forth in its small space and ringing out with a loud clanging and banging.  Upon opening the lid, I noticed that the inside of the washing machine was not only spinning but also gyrating wildly, signifying to me that the basin was out of balance.  After adjusting the clothes more evenly around the inside of the machine, I closed the lid, waited in breathless anticipation, then sighed in relief.  The washing machine was back to normal. . . until the next load.

Yes, most (but not all) of the loads since that time have had to be readjusted (sometimes multiple times per cycle) to restore the balance in the machine.  For the most part, this latest "malfunction" is an annoyance, nothing more.  But when I'm deep into the writing process and I have to stop to go dance with my washing machine, I am less than pleased.  And those times when it gets picky and demands that I readjust the clothes over and over again until it's happy with my arrangement drive me absolutely mad!

Yet I have to wonder if it's the washing machine that's making me crabby or the fact that it serves as a metaphor for my life.  How often do I feel out of balance?  How many times in a single day must I readjust my schedule to prevent my life from shifting about wildly?  How many times do I readjust and readjust my plans or goals only to discover that that order doesn't work either?  Yep, I understand exactly how my washing machine feels, for I, too, often feel like I'm spinning out of control.

Jason believes the washing machine needs new springs, which thankfully are not very expensive.  The trouble lies in the actual process of replacing the springs.  According to my husband/handyman, it's going to be a booger of a job, and possibly not worth the time on a machine as old as ours.  So, for the time being, we have decided to let it dance, knowing that means countless interruptions and a good deal of frustration on my part.  Still, it's better than not having a washing machine at all! (I guess I just need to learn to dance, huh?)

As for me, I wish the solution were as simple as replacing some broken springs, but I fear the process will be much more tedious and time-consuming than fixing the washer.  Balance is not something one achieves once and then possesses for the rest of his/her life.  Finding balance is a daily task.  Just as each load of laundry has to be readjusted--sometimes more than once--so does each part of me and my life need to be readjusted from time to time.  This means making tough decisions like letting go of some things and deciding what's really important.  Finding balance is not always comfortable, and sometimes it takes multiple attempts to find what works.

This is where it's important to listen to the Lord's leading.  He understands your schedule better than you do.  Turn it over to Him.  Ask Him to show what things He wants you to emphasize and what things (if any) He would have you turn over to someone else.  Only then can we find true peace and joy in our daily walk with Him.  Dancing is great, but I'd rather dance for joy than dance because I'm spinning out of control.  One is a blessing, the other a curse.  And one is God's will, the other, not so much.

How's your balance today?

A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight. - Proverbs 11:1