God Prepares Us For Things to Come

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Have you ever been in the middle of a situation and found yourself thinking I can see now why those things in the past happened—God was preparing me for this situation. Or, like me, perhaps you’ve had times when you’re going through something difficult and wonder to yourself what bigger purpose God has, what he may be preparing you for down the road.

God has been preparing us his children for what is coming—for what we will be facing—since the beginning of time. After their disobedience in the Garden of Eden, God told Eve she would now experience pain in childbirth and then declared to Adam that their food from the earth would come only through the sweat of his brow and painful toil. Later he told Noah about the coming flood. I’m sure you can think of other examples.

While on earth, Jesus also plainly told his followers about things to come, preparing the way the best he could. Before his betrayal and crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples, “‘. . . the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life.’” (Matthew 20:18-19)

Today God still prepares us for the future by speaking to us through his Word, the Bible. Not only is “. . . the word of God . . . living and active” (Hebrews 4:16a), but “the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8b) Also,“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Yes, the words of the Bible, written so long ago, are for us today as well.

For example, God tells us in his Word that Jesus is coming again (Matthew 24, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). And before that comes to pass, Jesus warns that “‘false Christs and false prophets will appear . . .’” (Matthew 24:24a). He also warns that “in this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33a) Again, I imagine that many examples come to your mind as well. The Word of God is filled with teachings that prepare and equip us for living life and for facing the future.

God also prepares us for future events and challenges through our past and current experiences. Before David ever faced the giant Goliath, God had him learning to cope with and battle danger through his job as a shepherd. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, but through that, God eventually promoted him to a position where he would be able to save his family and many others from a severe famine.

And how has God prepared me? A couple of examples come to mind. God prepared my family and me for the unexpected loss of my mother a year and a half ago by giving us several wonderful family celebrations that year. He also had Mom and Dad move closer to family prior to the accident so Dad had a great support system in place when he so desperately needed it. Where my work life is concerned, I feel like God prepared me to be a writer—and more specifically, a writer who refreshes spirits and nourishes souls—by giving me an appetite for the Word of God many, many years ago. Because of that, I can share encouraging words with others.

What about you? How has God prepared you for events, responsibilities, or ministries in your life? Perhaps he’s preparing you and me right now for something we can’t yet see. I’m so glad we have a Father who loves us and prepares us for things to come, aren’t you?

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

*Can you think of other ways that God prepares us? How has God prepared you? I would love to hear some of your testimonies!

*Don’t miss out on the Splurge A Little Giveaway. Deadline to enter is 6 p.m. (CST) Wednesday!

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out May 1. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by Moyan_Brenn, Creative Commons License

Spark Your Creativity

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September—in all of its back-to-business glory—lends itself to fresh creativity. We’ve all put summer escapes behind us and are busy diving in to regular routines and new challenges. The very nature of the season re-energizes us. And fresh energy many times sparks creativity.

Some may think creativity is beyond them, but that’s just not the case. Since scripture tells us that we are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and since we know that God is the Master Creator, we must believe that creativity sounds its drumbeat within each of us. True, the drumbeat will be different in intensity and rhythm from person to person, but we all have God-given creative potential.

So what are some practical ways we can we spark our creativity and fan that flame that’s within us? At one of our Fellowship of Christian Writers group meetings this summer, our president, Elece Hollis, presented a program of tips on being more creative in our writing. I’m sure these tips will spark creativity in other areas, too, though, so with Elece’s permission, I’d like to share a few of my favorites with you. Why not give them a try!

1) Read, read, read—books outside your interest, books on your craft, books for other ages (like children’s story books), the Bible, etc.

2) Allow curiosity to be your indulgence—stop and look at interesting things, take a different route, ask questions, look it up, etc.

3) Use all five senses to observe the world in your own backyard—notice details that you would normally miss, focus on increasing your sensory perception, etc.

4) Try new things—taste new foods, take up a new hobby, learn a new skill, do things you were once afraid to do, etc.

5) Go see art—visit an art museum on every trip you take, view art collections online, visit all art museums in your locale, find other local art, etc.

6) Try some hands-on creating—cooking, gardening, sewing, woodworking, pottery making, crafting, painting, drawing, photography, etc.

7) Get outside and enjoy nature and expose yourself to beauty—revitalize through fresh air and taking a walk, treat your senses to the wonder and beauty of God’s creation.

8) Change your environment—travel, see life through another person’s eyes, try writing (or other work) in a different place (the park, a café, a bookstore, a garden), redecorate your home or office, etc.

9) Schedule some time off every week—don’t make plans until the last minute, maybe walk or just sit and relax, be refreshed by unscheduled minutes.

This summer I’ve been lucky enough to live out several of these tips. I traveled to places I’ve never been before, visited an art museum, and enjoyed nature in a national park, a botanical gardens, and a zoo. And I got to enjoy my hobby of photography while doing it all—and yes, these experiences sparked my creativity!

Join me, won’t you, and try some of Elece’s creativity tips over the next few months. Let’s allow the sparks to fly! (Thanks, Elece, for all the tips!)

“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” Psalm 33:3

*What are some other ways to spark creativity?

*Photo by my husband Don

Risking the Awkward

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Do you ever hold back from doing a certain thing—something you either want to do or feel like you should do—because you feel awkward? I certainly have. And truth be told, most of us probably fail to act on good impulses time and again.

Not long ago, my friend Elaine at Peace for the Journey wrote a blog post called The Unspoken Blessing (well worth the read, by the way). It made me think of the many times I’ve left words unspoken—usually because I would feel awkward speaking them. I left a comment for Elaine and told her this:

“One of my heart’s desires, Elaine, is to encourage others. . . Even so, I miss times of speaking blessing into the lives of those around me. I’ve noticed sometimes that happens because the other person isn’t really comfortable with receiving spoken love and blessings — and so I hold back at times so neither of us feels awkward. I need to risk the awkward.”

If you’re like me, you need to risk the awkward, too. We need to go ahead and speak words of love even if it feels unnatural in some relationships. We need to voice our admiration and let it be an encouragement. And sometimes we need to offer words of comfort even when we’re afraid we’ll say the wrong thing.

Sometimes we need to risk the awkward in even more uncomfortable situations—like when it’s time to confront or to hold someone accountable. We also need to risk awkward rejection at times in order to be a witness for the Lord. Of course, it’s best to enter situations like these with much prayer, depending on the Spirit’s leading throughout.

Risking the awkward applies not only to our words but to our actions as well. Sometimes we hold back on acts of love or service or gratitude because we’re afraid—afraid of looking silly or offending or that our overtures will be unwelcome in some way. How many opportunities have we let slip by us?

Is it time to set our fears of rejection or personal discomfort aside and risk the awkward, in both word and deed? If we do, I think we’ll find that most of our fears don’t even materialize or that the results are much less uncomfortable than we’d thought they’d be. We’ll probably even receive welcome and positive responses. And then we’ll wonder why we didn’t do or say certain things earlier.

How about it? Let’s risk the awkward!

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

*When was the last time you risked the awkward?

*Flickr photo by Freddie Peña, Creative Commons License

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, will come out next week. Sign-up is free and to the right!

Fear of Success: The Plague of What-ifs

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Have you ever been afraid of success? I know that question my seem odd at first glance, but as wonderful as success sounds and feels, many times it arrives with a whole new set of challenges to be conquered and/or skills to master.

I recently returned from a top-notch writers conference—the Maranatha Christian Writers Conference in Muskegon, Michigan—where I took a few important steps toward success. While there, I got to meet individually with several publishing professionals. A few were very interested in my book project and asked me to send them either the proposal and sample chapters or the manuscript. Yay, right?!

As exciting as these steps forward are, the what-ifs of actual success—and the steps getting there—also scare me a bit. What if those who requested my materials end up saying no after taking a closer look? Is more rejection ahead?

If someone does offer representation or a book contract, what if I make the wrong decision about that particular agent or publishing house? After signing a contract, what if I’m not able to meet the deadlines for edits or future books? What if I’m not able to do the edits to their satisfaction?

And it doesn’t stop there. The what-ifs keep coming. What if I’m called upon to use new skills while getting the book ready for publication or while marketing it? What if I have to go way beyond my comfort zone to market the book? What if my efforts aren’t enough? What if the book fails to sell as well as the publisher wants? Bottom line—what  if I fail?

In order to stop the runaway what-if train and keep my fears at bay, I must remind myself that if God opens the door for success, he will equip me to do the work. He will direct me and help me each step of the way. The same God who has faithfully walked with me to this point will continue to walk with me in the future. And he is enough for whatever comes.

How about you? Are what-ifs plaguing you today? Yours may not even be related to success, but the principle still applies. God will be with us come what may. And yes, he is enough.

“. . . ‘Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you . . .’” 1 Chronicles 28:20

*When have you been afraid of success? Did things work out okay?

*Flickr photo by Trekking Rinjani

Shattering “Never Haves”

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Hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail for the first time in my life.

If you’re like me, you have a mile-long list of things you have never done. I’m talking good things here. Noble or interesting things. Fun things. Daring things. In other words, life experiences. And even though I’ve lived well over five decades now, there’s still a lot of life that I’ve not yet experienced. A lot of things I’ve never done.

I’m happy to report, though, that during our vacation I shattered some of my never haves. On the way home I go to thinking about how many new experiences I had racked up during our time away and decided to make a list. With each item I recorded, I realized how cool it all was. Not that the activities themselves were all so extraordinary—just that I felt really pumped to have done so many new things for the very first time in my life.

Here are some of the never haves in my life that I can now say that I’ve done:

*Finally traveled east of the Mississippi. We spent time in Tennessee and even made brief appearances in North Carolina and Kentucky.

*Visited the Smoky Mountains National Park. Absolutely beautiful.

*Straddled two states at once—along the Tennessee/North Carolina border in the Smoky Mountains National Park.

*Hiked on the Appalachian Trail. So happy to join the company of those who have done this.

*Saw a couple of bears in the wild. I wanted to see a bear while in Tennessee bear country, and my wish came true our very first morning.

*Followed a bear in an excited-but-extremely-unwise attempt to take some photos. Am thankful the Lord was watching over me!

*Ate at a Bubba Gump and a Johnny Rockets. My taste buds are happier for having visited them both :)

*Ate corn fritters—and were they ever yummy.

*Saw an American Idol winner in person—David Cook!

*Drove go-carts. And not only that, but drove go-carts with American Idol winner David Cook in our group of drivers. If I remember correctly, he left me in his dust :)

*Enjoyed a family-only worship service with my parents, my sisters, and all our families.

*Attended the Grand Ole Opry. They put on a superb show. Highly recommend it. During a backstage tour, they also took us out on stage where we got to stand on the famous circle from the Ryman Auditorium where all the performers have stood throughout the years.

*Acted as navigator in Nashville while Don drove. Quite challenging since I had never been there before this trip! :)

*Drove through the area where the Ohio River meets and empties into the Mississippi.

Pretty neat, huh? Some of these things I hoped and planned to do, but some were complete surprises. And now my world is larger simply because I shattered some never haves. I wonder what will be next? Can’t wait!

“Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things . . .” Psalm 98:1a

*What are some of your never haves you hope to shatter soon?

*Photo by one of my family members

*Don’t miss out on the “Back At It” Giveaway. Deadline to enter is 6 p.m. Aug. 28. Details are in my Aug. 15 post.