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Archive for the ‘Devotional’ Category

I love to watch Hallmark movies at Christmastime, and they are numerous. I’ve noticed that many of them have a similar theme: single parent with cute young child returns to his/her hometown and meets a man/woman they used to know. Love grows, obstacles pile up, love overcomes.

The details differ, but the themes are similar. So why do I keep watching? I know the setup, I know the outcome.

For me, it’s the journey. Who are these people and what makes me care about them? What problems come into their lives? How do they overcome them? What tools do they use to do so? What are their values? What finally brings them together?

These are the same questions that apply to the books we read, and we usually invest more time reading (unless you read a lot faster than I do) than watching. Whether we are readers or writers, finding a connection between the main character at the very outset it enormously important, or I don’t care to read / watch. The more I care, the more I’m invested in the story.

One more thing: I also notice that the real meaning of Christmas—the birth of our Savior—is completely missing from many, if not most, of the stories. I wish that your journey to the manger this season doesn’t stop there. The reason for the season is Jesus, and his journey goes on to the cross. That’s our reason for joy and celebration.

Blessings to you on your particular path this Christmas.

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“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” Psalm 90:12 NIV.

That’s good advice, especially these days when so many people are distracted by their tech devices and busy lives, and fail to realize that life is passing them by.

This year turned out very differently than I had originally planned. As some of you know, shortly after Christmas, my husband and I invited my mother to live with us. She came in April, and our home became hers until her passing in November.

My mom

I had planned to continue writing as usual, but I also wanted to spend time with Mom, having tea or playing a game of dice or watching her favorite game shows. We enjoyed all of the aforementioned activities, and when I look back, I do not regret any of the time spent with her. However, it was not always an easy decision for me, because writing waited, and games are not my favorite thing.

We writers love to be alone with words and ideas and characters, but sometimes God has other plans for us. When I realize how quickly time has flown, how short my time with Mom turned out to be, I’m so glad I chose to be present in her world. Because I won’t have another chance for that.

As David says in Psalm 103:15, “As for man, his days are life grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone and its place remembers it no more.” Or, to quote the lyrics of an old song, “Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.”

We each have decisions to make about how we spend our time. I pray for discernment as we review the past year and look forward to what God has for us in the future. In the meanwhile, let’s celebrate the mystery and miracle of Christmas, and be present in the lives of those we love. And happy writing too!

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Accuracy is important in all areas of life for many reasons. We want, I assume, to represent our thoughts, actions, and written words with reliability; to communicate with precision and correctness. In other words, say what we mean and mean what we say.

Attention to accuracy in life implies integrity.

 

The first four verses of the gospel of Luke (NIV) read this way: 1Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of things you have been taught.” [I love http://www.biblegateway.com]

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Luke was determined to share only the truth with his readers. With the help of God’s Spirit, he listened, recalled eyewitness accounts, investigated, researched, and organized. He did this for two reasons:

* He wanted his readers to get the message as it was meant to be transmitted and understood.

* He was a servant of the word and strove to glorify the Lord.

For writers, especially those of us who write from a Christian worldview, accuracy is doubly important. If our facts aren’t correct and well-represented, our readers will not trust the underlying spiritual takeaway values we wish to leave behind.

It’s critical to be credible.

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Remember the days of Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys create-your-own-ending books? My daughters were at the perfect age for these books when they first came out, and they loved them.

The idea was to read up to a certain critical point where the heroes/heroines had a choice to make, and then choose one way or another. At each juncture in the story road, the reader had to choose which direction to follow. For the obsessive, the book could be read a number of times, choosing different endings each time until the entire book was consumed.

As a writer, I certainly have many choices to make for my characters. Better to say, they have many choices to make as I set them up. Just recently, I was writing a scene where the lost person was found, but she refused to come home. The following day I re-read the scene and changed it. The lost person did come home, but it didn’t really bring her back.

As in reading, writing and life itself, we have many choices to make all along our journey through our specific storyline. These choices can make a night or day difference in the outcome.

As a Christ-follower, I have the blessing of the Spirit of Christ living in me, and He offers guidance in His still, small voice that I can choose to listen to or not. He knows the beginning from the end and exactly how each decision will affect the outcome. But He allows me to choose. When I choose a wrong or less desirable path, I may lose out on things, but because of His mercy, God always brings me back, through the detour, onto the road He has for me.

I find it such a relief and encouragement to know that God loves me so much that no matter how often I fail Him, as His child, I am the apple of His eye and He loves me enough to bring me through to the best ending for my life. And after that, the promise of eternity with Him.

Joshua 24:15

“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

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My husband and I recently experienced a waiting day. We were in the hospital for his surgery pre-op, and ended up spending seven (7) hours for what could have been an hour-long appointment in a perfect world.

I had read the daily devotional thought that arrives in my inbox every morning, and had then forgotten about it. When I saw it there again the following day, the title took me by surprise: “Waiting on the Lord.”

How fitting. Throughout our day of waiting and reading and eating food from the cafeteria (amazing how they can make all the food taste the same) and talking, I had forgotten that “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him” Isaiah 64:4. I had momentarily forgotten that He cares and He sees and He is aware of our minutes and hours. Of our waiting times.

The gist of the rest of the inspirational thought was that we need to respond by focusing on Jesus. The article said: “We wait and God acts.” What an encouraging and energizing reminder of our great God and His love for us.

Life is full of times of waiting, so let’s wait actively and expectantly as God works in our lives.

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This morning as I walked down our country road—my favorite thinking and praying time­­—I thought about expectations. So often, our lives become dull or difficult because we haven’t taken the time to consider our expectations.

When we are honest with ourselves about what we expect of a situation, we are halfway to accepting it and dealing with it. But if we deny the possible/probable realities, life can become burdensome.

The key is that the Lord keeps giving us grace as we ask for it and are willing to accept it. Not in truckloads, but in teaspoonsful. Grace isn’t something we can stockpile. I think the reason is that God wants us to be dependent on Him. Every day. Every hour. While we can do nothing of ourselves, we can do everything God asks us to as we depend on Him.

What do we expect from life? From our writing? From God? If we truly wish to please God, we need to suit our expectations to God’s will and listen for the Spirit’s guidance. We need to be flexible (a difficult concept for me to put into practice).

I want to live in honest expectation of what God has for me each day, whether it’s in my writing or my family life, because that’s when life goes from humdrum to exciting.

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I am excited today to offer you a guest post from my dear friend and fellow author, Janet Sketchley. Thanks for this beautiful inspiration, Janet.

Unfailing (Unlimited) Love
by Janet Sketchley

Have you ever personalized a Bible verse as your own?

Some verses we speak back to God in prayer, and others we cling to as promises.

In an effort to fill my mind and spirit with good things, I’m working to memorize Scripture verses. I have them on note cards that I see in the morning and when I’m getting ready for bed, and I try to recite them to myself at traffic lights and other moments of waiting.

 

But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.

I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.
Psalm 13:5-6, NLT*

 

 

What I first loved about this one is that ending with “He is good to me” builds a warm reassurance that yes, God is good to me. It makes these verses good weapons for times of discouragement.

Then I saw something new. Don’t you love it when God does that?

“I trust in Your unfailing love” — why had I limited that to myself?

This is a personal psalm, affirming the writer’s personal trust and declaring his needs, but trusting God’s unfailing love can go way past the boundaries of trusting for ourselves.

We can trust His unfailing love for others — for the ones so painfully heavy on our hearts, the ones we fear won’t turn to Him, the ones in crisis, the ones who are sick or grieving, lonely, or lost.

He doesn’t just love us. His love reaches for each one, and that love has the power to draw and to save.

When we speak these verses, silently or aloud, it’s an opportunity to remind ourselves that His unfailing love is big enough to trust for our loved ones as well as for our own needs. And yes, He is good to us.

~~~

Janet Sketchley is the author of the Redemption’s Edge Christian suspense series and the devotional book, A Year of Tenacity.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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