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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Bedtime Reading

Every night before I sleep, I pick up a little book a friend gave me over a year ago for a birthday gift. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young is a year-long devotional, but I’ve continued to read it even after reading all 366 devotions. I have been caught by the mystery that no matter what kind of day I’ve had, the day’s devotion seems to speak directly to me and my circumstances.

I recently found out two friends also read this devotional as part of their daily routines. We read the exact same thing every day, but we never knew until now. But it gets stranger. One of these friends told me that the daily readings always have some application to her day. Even though my friend and I may have completely different days, we both can connect to what we read in Jesus Calling, and it tells us just what we need to hear.

It doesn’t matter what my day is like, this book leaves an impact, calling to those deep achings of the heart. Each devotion is written as if it is a personal message from Jesus, supported by Bible verses listed underneath. This format helps me to realize the Bible as God’s words transcribed for me. Instead of reading dry text, I start to hear his voice coming through, that whisper on the wind.

The devotions also emphasize God first, as the primary priority before my goals, work, and worries. Each day’s passage reminds me to refocus on Jesus and center myself on him, letting everything else weighing me down to fall away. Jesus Calling is about resting in the presence of God, the one who invites you into peace and joy. I cannot imagine a better comfort as I fall asleep.

Tonight’s devotion reads:

“Leave outcomes up to Me. Follow Me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out. Think of our life as an adventure, with Me as your Guide and Companion. Live in the now, concentrating on staying in step with Me. When our path leads to a cliff, be willing to climb it with My help. When we come to a resting place, take time to be refreshed in My presence. Enjoy the rhythm of life lived close to Me.

“You already know the ultimate destination of your journey: your entrance into heaven. So keep your focus on the path just before you, leaving outcomes up to Me.”

Which devotionals do you enjoy reading? What time of day do you prefer to read them?

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Posted by on November 17, 2013 in Books

 

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Adopted by Our Abba

With Halloween over, that means NaNoWriMo season has begun. This is my second year participating, and I’m hoping to start a winning streak. As you might remember from last year, I bent the rules and wrote a nonfiction book of rambling essays rather than a traditional novel with characters and plot. The first week of writing is done, but I still haven’t got into the swing of fiction.

Each time I sit down to work on my book … well, let’s say we are not on good speaking terms. I have about half as many words down as I should by this point. And I still need a title. It’s a young adult book about a teenage girl who struggles for independence and control of her life despite living in state foster care. So far, I just call the book “Foster” for short.

I grew up knowing both foster and adoptive parents. I saw personally what it meant for the children they would take into their homes. The children had hard lives since birth, suffered abuse in many forms, and felt the pains of abandonment and loneliness. The parents I knew offered shelter, security, and the love of a family, blessings other children take for granted. Like I did. Not every foster care situation is healthy or beneficial for children, but when the parents genuinely love the children who are not their own, that is beauty in my eyes. It calls to my heart because it reminds me that I am adopted too.

If you are a Christian, then God has adopted you. He rescued you from abandonment and abuse, bringing you into his loving protection and care. Paul says, “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father'” (Rom. 8:15 NLT).

My adoption by God is a more powerful truth to me than knowing he also created me. Adoptive parents struggle with difficulties unique from parents raising biological children. Children in foster care or adoptive homes do not come fresh out of the package. Other adults have already left their marks, even when parents take home a baby girl the day after her teenage mother gave birth to her. In choosing to adopt, parents have to recognize that their new child has been hurt and broken. The longer the child has lived in foster care or in bad family situations, the more apparent the damage from an unstable, unhealthy childhood. Parents with biological children cannot guess the faults of their children. But adoptive parents can see beforehand, and they willingly choose a child who may struggle with ADHD or self-destructive habits or a tendency to violent anger. They see the faults and choose to love anyway.

God does the same when he chooses us. He welcomes us into his family, knowing well our every wound and scar. He knows the faults and weaknesses that we try to hide or ignore. He knows every part of us and yet wholly loves us.

Paul continues, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39 NIV).

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2013 in Books, Other thoughts

 

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“Find Rest for Your Souls”

When you are unemployed and meeting new people, the hardest question to answer is: “So what do you do?” You know what they are expecting to hear: “I’m a teacher/doctor/lawyer/zookeeper.” But a stigma seems to exist against outright stating your unemployment. It’s as if your new acquaintance who knows nothing about you will hear instead: “I do nothing. I’m a lazy bum who can’t keep a job. I am utterly worthless for productivity and am, in fact, a leech upon society.” You are demoted to joining The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.

Being unemployed doesn’t mean I sit on the couch staring at the ceiling every day. I have used the “unexpected vacation” to finally pick up that mental list of things I had wanted to do but had not made time for. The tally continues to grow from invitations I would have declined, opportunities I would have passed up, friends I would have missed seeing, experiences I would have refused–if I still had a full-time job. My time “out of work” has not been wasted.

I have been working, though, even if it isn’t sustainable pay just yet. Every Tuesday morning, I babysit two-year-olds during the women’s Bible study at my church. Caring for small children is a learning experience more valuable for me than the monetary compensation. I’ve also been hired to do freelance work through a couple websites. These jobs are mostly suited for people wanting extra spending money, not anyone who plans on actually living off what they earn. Again, I’m gaining experience more than anything else.

Besides the side jobs, I’ve also decided to pursue my old goal of becoming a published author. I want to write a book and have it read. Up until high school or so, I was convinced that this was my life destiny. J. K. Rowling was my role model. But reality has a habit of destroying dreams. The chances are slim of ever making it on the bestsellers lists, the literary big leagues. Even if I could write eloquent, page-turning books, I had to admit that I lack the stamina and focus to be a full-time author. Talent alone won’t get you far. But with my new free time, I’m giving it a shot, anyway. I’m “living the dream.” NaNoWriMo started yesterday, and with a bit of grace and perseverance, I will have a first draft by the end of the month. It’ll be messy, but it’s a step forward.

“So what do you do?” For now, I’m a freelance writer and editor (even if it doesn’t pay). You could say I’m self-employed and work from home. And the surprising thing is … I like it. You see, it feels like a break. The pressure is off. I don’t have to commute anywhere or spend eight hours in an office. I can focus on other things besides earning a paycheck, things that I would argue are more important.

In professional terms, I am taking a sabbatical. More than anything, I have an insatiable thirst to simply be with God and rest from all the normal concerns of the world. I want to fall into his arms and lie there like a child on her father’s lap. I’ve never been in the habit of having daily time to pray and study the Bible, but the past weeks have helped me start. When I close my bedroom door and have quality time alone with God, I wish I could stay there and ignore the rest of the world. I don’t have to say a word, and neither does he. We just enjoy each other’s company.

Credit: www.pi-e-t.com

I feel a little guilty to admit this desire. I can imagine a jury of peers accusing me of idleness. “Get a real job like the rest of us!” they criticize. If they require scriptural support, Proverbs features plenty of harsh condemnations to “inspire” the slothful.

Yet even Jesus knew the importance of rest. He told his own disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). To the greater masses, he made the famous declaration: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29). God formerly disciplined the Israelites when they wouldn’t listen to him and rest. He told them, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isa. 30:15). Psalm 127:2 says, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” And, of course, there’s the well-known Psalm 23, which says of God, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”

This is all straightforward. God wants us to rest. If we don’t, he will make us. Work is good and necessary, but rest is a gift we’d be ridiculous to refuse. Without physical rest, our bodies crumble. It’s easy to see the effects. Our minds and spirits need rest as well, and God tells us to find it in him.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2013 in Publishers

 

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