Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fear & Frontier

I can feel my blood pressure rising, my pulse quicken with anxiety. Why? One word: transition.

A new season of transition has begun. The last one began with Ellie's birth. Now, just when I was feeling like I had motherhood in hand, I turn around to see my five-month-old barrel roll across the floor to get into the Xbox wires, and eat her first solid foods (which I'm going to have to start actually cooking and storing soon), and take two naps instead of four (meaning I have less time for writing and voice acting), in addition to realizing that we're moving across the country in two months, and my husband's going to school and working part-time, and I'm not going to know where the grocery store in Wake Forest is.

It's new, and so it scares me. And while slipping into the all-too-comfortable "American Dream" scares me more, a house, white picket fence and 2.5 children certainly sounds a whole lot safer.

I mean, how will I know who I'm going to be in these new situations? I know how I am now - I can avoid the pitfalls easily. But in the future, when new stresses beset me and I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off because Ellie spilled her milk and rubbed peanut butter in her hair and the maybe-new-baby is squalling because he/she rolled over onto a sticker and I haven't taken a shower in two days and we have to adjust the grocery budget because prices went up and income went down and we're taking our first overseas family mission trip in three weeks...then, who will I be? How will I handle it? Can I accomplish every task set out for me in that dark frontier of the days I've not yet lived?

But isn't this a picture of my whole life? Have I ever really known what I was doing? I'd say no, and as it turns out, God has not failed me in staying true to his good, gracious, sovereign character to date. This doesn't make my feelings go away, but the Word does command me not to be afraid. It says to bring my requests to God in prayer and thanksgiving, instead. Friends, if you think of me, will you pray that I will turn my fear of transition over to the Lord in thankful prayer as soon as it arises? I could use the prayers, and the reminders of just how in control God is over periods of great change.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Fine Art of Discouragement

I've done it, I've done it. I've made discouragement into a fine art. I have fine-tuned the ability to spiral downward into a pit until the only thing that can drag me out is what my friend Katie calls a "come to Jesus meeting" with my journal and the gospel.

When you've made discouragement into a fine art, it takes some artfulness to find encouragement, too - thus the journaling. My journal entry starts out with this: 

Why does it seem like every time one big issue goes away, another steps in to take its place? Last year, it was desire for a child. God help me - this year...it's overwhelming discouragement about writing.
Call me a temperamental artist, if you will. I am, and I know it for true. Over and over, I have to remind myself why I write in the first place, or why I should write in the first place. It's to glorify God through my profound joy in the task, I tell myself, as well as my skill in my work. However, because it's so much easier to slip into daydreams of fame and obsession with the opinion of others, I usually end up camping there. Then I end up here, and voila! the cycle begins again!

As I journaled tonight, the Holy Spirit opened up my heart to a new idea - that the cycle doesn't have to happen in the first place, and that my struggle, my almost-daily discouragement in writing, is an opportunity for me to learn how to immediately redirect myself away from worldly goals and toward godly ones. If that is what comes of these days of frustration, all of it will have been worth it.

So, if nothing else, I pray that these days teach me genuine dependency on the Lord for my joy, my purpose and my identity. Discouragement is a lousy fine art, after all, and never worth the time that I give it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

An Issue of Obedience

"You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?"

A photo that may or may not represent me "running well."

Since becoming a Christian in 1999, I've read this phrase in the Bible many times. It's typical Paul - no-nonsense, straight-shooting style, telling the church at Galatia how it is. 

It hit me anew when I read it again yesterday. Here's the whole passage (Galatians 5:1-8) so that you can have the context (context is of paramount importance in interpreting Scripture aright):

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you.
For those unfamiliar with the issues surrounding this passage, Paul is criticizing members of the Galatian church for succumbing to false teaching, teaching insisting that circumcision, a necessity according to Jewish law, is necessary also for salvation. Paul reiterates that salvation is through "faith working through love," and that those who would treat it as an issue of works or law is bound by something lesser than the glorious grace of Christ, "the hope of righteousness."

I am a works-oriented person. I struggle with wanting to do Christianly things just to make God "like" me more (as if it worked that way). A reading of Galatians has, therefore, always been encouraging to me. 

And it should be encouraging! I know I'm not the only one who struggles with dependence on works in this task-driven and output-oriented American culture. However, these verses are so much more than mere encouragement - they are challenge. 

The are challenge because reliance on grace instead of "circumcision" - the works we depend on to "save" us, in whatever form they take - is not just something that will better our lives when we embrace it. It is an issue of obedience. Paul says, "You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?"

That simple statement made me realize what I hadn't been able to see my whole life past. Living by grace and not works is non-negotiable. To do anything but what God has prescribed is sin.

To do anything but what God has prescribed. It is sin for me to embrace any thought pattern, lifestyle or worldview that is not the Lord's perfect will. Oh, no! If I did not already know Christ, I would be asking, with desperation, the question that the disciples asked in Matthew 19:25: "who then can be saved?"

Recognizing all this, isn't it amazing that I can turn to the Lord in repentance and know that even in my constant, systemic, unrecognized sin, I am forgiven through Christ's blood? Merciful Lord! I only pray that my current repentance will carry through to its conclusion, and bring about a change in my mind, heart and soul. Praise be to the Holy Spirit, who convicts and guides even when we would be willful and unbiddable!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Part 3 of Blog Serial

Part three of "Bloodlines of Epheria" is up!

Stay tuned for more, and thanks much for reading.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Part 2 of Blog Serial

Hey, everyone! If you read the last post, you know that I started a fantasy short story (maybe novella - not sure yet), which I'm posting as a serial on my official website. I put up part one last week, and just posted part two.

If you haven't read either part yet, check it out. You may like it. I'm enjoying writing it, for sure.

See ya on the flipside.