Posted in Christian Living, Living

Enough Already

How much?  This much!
How much? This much!

How do you define ENOUGH?

As a Christian, we accept that we can never do enough to earn the gift of salvation that is given to us through the grace of Christ. That is why we embrace the concept of grace by understanding that salvation is as simple as asking Christ to be our one-and-only Savior. Nothing we can do will earn our salvation for us, which is why it is so important that Christ has given us the gift of His sacrifice for our salvation.

But, even though nothing we do can save our souls, those who accept Christ as their Savior cannot then do nothing. Instead, we are infused with the Holy Spirit in such a way that we should desire to do good and follow the Word to be as Christ-like as we can be.

Being human in the modern world has its own set of unique challenges. Each of us has a wide variety of roles we play in our day-to-day existence. We are Christians, spouses, parents, children, siblings, employees, friends, neighbors, citizens, volunteers, to name a few. We often have twenty-six hours’ worth of tasks for each twenty-four hour day. And in all of that, we are supposed to exhibit the characteristics of the only One who ever managed to live a human life without a flaw.

So, do we give up on being Christ-like? Of course not! We do best when we lean on the support that Christ gives us to offer the qualities of love and peace and patience that are the hallmark of a Godly life. Only with God in our corner can we even hope to accomplish being Christ-like in this life.

With so many roles to fulfill, so many distractions to tempt us, and so many opportunities to love and help others presented to us in any given day, when do we say enough? For those of us who have type “A,” perfectionist personalities, failing to say enough can lead to trying to do too many things and actually getting none of them right, wearing ourselves out in the process.
God saw a need for enough, proclaiming a day of rest even for Himself. The Sabbath is such a wonderful gift if we truly take advantage of it. A day of rest spent worshipping God and His glory and spending time with people who share your own beliefs and faith can be so rejuvenating. Taking time to worship is like stopping yourself in the middle of a bad moment to take a deep breath. The body and soul re-center and are ready to face the next moment’s or week’s challenges.

For some of us, days are often spent hearing a voice in our head that tells us we are not fulfilling our purpose in this life, that we are not worthy or productive. Learning to discriminate between a twinge of conscience guiding us to better living and our own brains nagging us in such a way to actually distract us from the work of God, we will be ready to define enough in our day-to-day living.

I’m still working on this ability, but I am beginning to understand more and more why God told us to “be still and know.” When my mind is racing with thoughts of tomorrow’s problems along with today’s, I have no room to acknowledge the One who assured me that He had it all under control. Only in moments of silence will I really know that He is God.

And that will be enough.

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Posted in Christian Fiction, Christian Living, Writers

Legacy: A New Chapter

The Texas Stray cover
Find my latest book at Lulu.com and in the Nook and iBookstore!

I wish I could say I was slick as all get-out and had planned a series on the concept of legacy to end up in conjunction with finally getting my second book published, but I’m just not that smart. Writing on legacy began for me because we had taken it up as the next subject of study in Sunday school class and because, before I started getting to use my writing through blogging and self-publishing a couple of years ago, I really struggled with questioning what God wanted me to be doing. (I still struggle with that, by the way, but it doesn’t consume me as it once did.)

Now that I have spent some time reflecting on what legacy should mean to a Christian, I of course realize even more that worldly things like writing a book are not what legacy is really about. But, since I am trying to use my writing to plant seeds for the kingdom, so to speak, I hope that my writing will be fruitful in that sense.

For all of my fellow bloggers out there, you know how exciting and frightening sharing a finished work can be. We never really are finished with editing anything we write. Something can always be improved upon, just as we ourselves can always find things personally to improve. But there comes a point when we must let the little bird leave the nest, and so I am ready with my second novel.

I want to take a minute, just a minute, to let myself feel good about this accomplishment. How many people always say they want to write a novel, but never get around to it? Now, by God’s grace, I have been able to complete two! I may never get published by a major house, but with print-on-demand venues like lulu.com, I am able to share my writing with someone other than a person I am related to. If I can touch just one person, haven’t I let God use me to His good purpose just a little bit? You can read more about my book here.

Now, concerning legacy. I need to make sure I don’t put all my hopes of bearing fruit into the proverbial writing basket. In fact, it would be complete arrogance and misunderstanding of the Word on my part to assume I have come close to living a Spirit-filled existence if all I did for others was try to write. Let’s face it, writing is probably 90% for the writer and only 10% for her audience.

No, I need to make sure I am harvesting the fruit of the Spirit in my daily life. I need to shine the light of Christ by being kind, doing things for others, helping those in need when I have the ability and resources to do so, and trying to see things from the other person’s perspective.

This week, with Thanksgiving, I think we will all have opportunities to reach out to others with Christ’s hands. What a wonderful way to begin the ending of the old year and move into the new one.

Thus endeth the lessons on legacy. Thanks for joining me in them.
Posted in Living, Self-Help

Where Is Your Victory Garden?

A Live Sculpture of Sprouts some 50 ft. off the ground in Baltimore, Maryland

No matter which side of the current political race you choose to support, I think we can all agree that this country is in a state of crisis. A growing number of people are out of work. The haves are dwindling in numbers at the same time that what they have is outdistancing the have-nots by leaps and bounds. We live in a global community that, if recent events are any indication, want our heads on a very pointy stick. Somebody should do something about it.

Riding in my car today, listening to old-time radio on my Sirius XM, I got to hear the perspective of a time when our country was in equally high crisis. It was a “Dagwood and Blondie” show from the early 40s. At the end of the program, the actors playing the leading roles made the usual war-time appeal to buy bonds. But, they also did something I had a hard time imagining our current stars of today even thinking to do, much less having the courage. The radio voices urged their audience to make the sacrifices now that would ensure that the government could pull itself out of its war-time financial hole once the action was finally over. “Don’t let us suffer as we did after the last war,” the voice said. The actors also told the audience not to buy items for prices other than what the government had set for them, not to buy items they didn’t really need, not to indulge when that indulgence would mean somebody else would suffer.

I couldn’t help but contrast this blunt, everybody-does-his-part approach to a weird commercial I saw recently involving actors of our day. In this modern commercial, we are shown back after back of famous people. Finally, they show their faces to say, “don’t turn your back on our military.” We’ve been involved in severe action for more than 10 years in dangerous conditions abroad. We are fighting an economic and social crisis at home, and these actors are just now coming out to say “don’t turn your back?” What’s more, their commercial gives no positive steps to do right now, no action points. The organization or cause the commercial is supposed to be promoting is even unclear.

I wonder what would happen if George Clooney had the courage to put himself in front of a camera and tell us to quit relying on the government to take care of us, to look to our neighbor to extend a helping hand and receive one, to remember that an honest day’s work, no matter what kind of work it is, is more valuable than a lifetime of handouts to one’s esteem and for the community at large?

During World War II, people planted victory gardens, canned everything they could, ate all leftovers. Housewives even saved used grease to donate for the purpose of making rubber. Ford assembly lines shot out tanks and war machinery at an even faster pace than they produced non-war-time cars. Even the children were not exempt from doing without so that the country as a whole might benefit.

Where is your victory garden today? You can’t fix the problems swirling around this country, but you can control you. All it takes is each one of us taking care of business, refusing to do what isn’t right, even if every one else around us is doing it, and being a helping hand whenever possible to start making a difference. With God, all things are possible. Let’s bring Him back into the fore again in this country, one Victory Garden at a time.

Posted in Christian Living, Faith

God Is Our Hiding Place

20120914-214405.jpgActions speak louder than words.

And sometimes, when actions speak so loudly, it’s hard to find words to say anyway.

But there is one place where all the words we will ever need have already been recorded for us, and in times such as these, turning to those words is the most powerful thing we can do.

Do you have your go-to verses? The words that have spoken to you so strongly through your years of faith that they pop into your head whenever you face troubling times?

We all should have them. The fact that we don’t always reflect on them before we act is the reason why grace is our only means of salvation. The fact that I have them but still let anxiety get the best of me is something I’m still working on.

I think we all should write a book with the title “Verses I Am Glad I Have Read.” Better still, I think we all should memorize the verses that would go in our book by that title. My time would be better spent on such a task than many of the mindless things I do during a day. And when actions speak louder than words, then those verses could be louder still.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27 KJV).

Posted in Christian Living, Faith, Living, Love

A New Meaning For Carpe Diem

He may be one of our greatest Christian writers ever, but I have to admit that I am late to the game when it comes to reading C.S. Lewis. Maybe that’s just God’s timing so that my Spirit and mind are actually prepared for the depths of what Lewis has to say.

At any rate, I have just begun “The Screwtape Letters,” a collection of correspondence between Screwtape, an Undersecretary of the Devil, and his nephew, Wormwood, who also happens to be new to the job of making sure the people he’s been assigned stay on the devil’s side instead of God’s.

Early on in the correspondence, Screwtape reminds Wormwood that “He [God] wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.”

At first glance, the two parts of this statement may not seem that different, but actually they are worlds apart. If I am worried about what will happen to me, several bad consequences occur. First, I am centered on myself instead of paying attention to other people. Even if my worries about my future are about other people, making me think I am being altruistic, they are ultimately self-centered.

When I concentrate on future what-ifs, I am wasting my time as well as God’s. Didn’t Jesus tell us to concern ourselves only with this day, as it has enough problems of its own? Did He not also tell us not to worry because God takes care of us?

Thinking about what will happen to us usually also makes us focus on more materialistic things. Worry traps us into what we can see, feel and touch. The more we are drawn to the things of this world, the further away we are from God. “Where your treasure is,” Christ told us, “there will your heart be also.”

On the flipside, if we are concerned about what we do, we are smack dab in the middle of the only thing we truly have, which is this moment. To seize the day in this way, by thinking about our current actions, means we can be free to think outward.

Thinking outside ourselves means seeing the real needs of others and doing something about it. It means realizing the immediate effects of our actions. It means we have the opportunity to stop ourselves from sinning before we get caught up in it.

Doing instead of fretting is an even bigger challenge in our modern world. With telephones, television and the internet, we can go for ages without physically interacting with anyone. We can go our whole lives without meeting our neighbors face-to-face. And what we don’t actually see in person is very easy to push aside. Hasn’t watching television news footage our whole lives desensitized us to what we see on the screen, making it seem somehow not real?

In the moment, doing and interacting with our fellow wanderers, these are the times when we are on the same page with God. When we concentrate on what we are doing instead of worrying about what might be, we come the closest to loving others as God loves us.

Now, if I can just carpe diem God’s way every time I catch myself fretting instead of paying attention to what I am doing, I will already have learned a wonderful lesson from “The Screwtape Letters,” even though I’ve only just begun reading them.