Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"I have prayed for you..."

"But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:32)

So often, we are given the impression that a true Christian has a faith that is never shaken. To be a true believer, someone God can use for great things, you have to be someone who is walking forward on the right path at all times, never distracted or sidetracked or a bit lost.

It seems tied in to the same train of thought that says a Christian should never question God, something I've come to disagree with (you can read my thoughts on that over here).

There's this guy in the Bible, though, who seems to go against just about every description of a Christian that we cling to so faithfully. In the Scriptures he comes across as impulsive, hotheaded, and a bit short-fused. At the end of the Last Supper, we see him arguing with Jesus. In the garden, he cuts a guy's ear off. While Jesus us being questioned by Caiaphas, this guy is down in the courtyard denying he ever even knew Jesus.

Yeah, I'm talking about Simon Peter again, that guy who stepped out of the boat only to start sinking.

The guy who answered Jesus's question of "Who do you say I am?" with, "You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

The guy Jesus named Peter, the rock.

Even then, when He said that Peter would become the foundation upon which He would build the church, Jesus knew what was in store for Peter. He knew Peter would deny even so much as knowing Him, and I'm sure it cut Him deeply:
not just the fact that He would be hurt by Peter's denial, but the knowledge that Peter would be hurt, too.

Just like He knows what each of us will face, He knew what lay ahead for Peter. He knew he would turn away--and He prayed for him.

Isn't that an amazing thought, the Messiah praying personally for someone?
What makes it even more incredible is the knowledge that He prayed for all believers.

And I don't think it was a quick, all encompassing prayer like we see in John 17, where the red letters spell out Jesus's prayer in the garden the night He was betrayed and arrested. Though that prayer definitely isn't short, it wouldn't last hours into the night and be something the disciples had time to repeatedly fall asleep during. I can't say this is true, but I like to think He saw each and every one of us flash across His mind that night as He prayed for "those who will believe."

That's more than enough, but it isn't all that stands out to me about what Jesus tells Peter here.

When someone turns away for a moment, it is easy for other Christians to say that person's faith has failed. But here is Jesus, saying that Peter would turn back to Him. He also prayed that Peter's faith wouldn't fail, so I believe that can only mean that Peter's faith held its ground despite his denial. You can't turn back without first turning away, so I would say that tells us that we can turn away for a time without it meaning our faith has failed.

So if you find yourself in that place, the dark night during which you have turned your back on the One who went to the cross for you, remember that He prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. It may be shaken, but it is on a foundation firm enough that all of creation was built on it.

And when you turn back, use your story to strengthen others.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

a man of value

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value." ~Albert Einstein

One of the definitions of success is, "the gaining of fame or prosperity." Value has a lot of definitions, but there are 2 that stand out to me:
1~ "utility or merit"
2~ "a principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable"

The world, it seems, holds success high above value. Too often people--and probably men especially--are judged on how famous they are or how much money they have managed to accumulate. By those standards, Pop wouldn't rate very highly. His name isn't known around the world; there aren't thousands of people who would recognize his picture. His bank account has never been one of those at risk o not being covered by the FDIC--the paycheck flows back out to pay the bills pretty quickly. By the world's standards, he probably wouldn't be considered a success.

But a man of value? That's a very different story.

The first definition of "value" was "utility." That, in turn, is defined as being "designed for use." And if that definition can be applied to anyone, it's Pop. He's had quite a few purposes in my lifetime, and he was designed for each and every one of them.

Pop and Sarh--father and daughter,
coach and athlete
 As a coach, he had the ability to push people to do their best. He was hard on the girls who played basketball for him, but judging by the former players who have asked him to perform a wedding or who have brought their kids to meet him, his players thought the world of him and wanted to play for him.

As a pastor, he can step on toes when needed and offer a pat on the back when deserved, even if nobody else notices. He preaches on everything from "Flying in the Chicken Coop" to "Granny's Chocolate Pie," making even obscure biblical truths easy to understand. He lives his faith and isn't too proud to hold up his own weaknesses as examples. He can carry on a deep conversation about God with either a 4 year old or a scholar, knowing he has something to teach to and to learn from each one. He doesn't avoid the hard questions by throwing out something like, "God works in mysterious ways."
picture by Sarah :0)

As a farmer, he wakes before the sun. His hands and arms are strong enough to drive fence posts and string barbed wire, yet gentle enough to scoop up a baby chick out of the mess of a leak in the chicken house. When something goes wrong, he can figure out a way to make it work just long enough, even when he only seems to have MacGyver-type supplies. He can shrug off banged up hands, even when they're bleeding, and say it was nothing. He worlds long hours all year long, in the dog-days of summer and the dead of winter, and most of the time those hours don't start until he finishes his school bus route. He hauls hay and bottle feeds orphaned calves and picks up dead chickens without complaint.

As a teacher, he shows kids every day that they are capable of so much more than they thought. He teaches math, a subject most say they either don't like or can't understand. He's given some students their first A in math and others their only B of their high school career because he believes in pushing all of them. Though he doesn't coach anymore, a lot of his kids still call him "Coach Goins." He holds his students to a higher standard, and they rise to the challenge because they know he believes in them. His methods are a bit unconventional, but they work amazingly. He's talked a time or two about not teaching anymore, but there's always some student who needs him, some kid he wants to see make it through, and he stays.

He has other roles, other uses he is designed for like Popeye (named by his granddaughter), husband, son, and brother. If you ask me, though, above all else he was designed to be Pop. In the midst of all the rest of his responsibilities, he took the time to support all three of us kids. He taught (and teaches) us the importance of God, family, and hard work. He supports us and pushes us, telling us we are made for great things and that God has big plans for us. He was quick to correct us when we needed it, but he has always understood that sometimes we learn best from mistakes.

I've been told I think like Pop, that we operate on the same wavelength. There must be some truth to that since I'm one of the only ones who can work cows with him, but otherwise I can only hope it's true. What I know, though, is that I'm proud to be called his daughter.

Love you, Popa!

  "Righteousness guards the man of integrity..." Proverbs 13:6a

Thursday, June 6, 2013

keep on...

I haven't written here in a while, and for that I have to say sorry. I've gotten wrapped up in other things the past couple of weeks, namely the release of a book that has been a long time in coming and which now sits on my shelf--an actual book, in print, with my name on the cover.

I am beyond excited to see it, though to be honest it still doesn't really seem true even when I look up at the bookshelf across the room from my chair in the living room. It fits with the other paperbacks there, but at the same time it doesn't.

Because inside is me.

It's fiction, a fantasy, but it is me just as much as if I had been telling my life story in its pages. Other people may not see it, but every word has a little piece of me hidden inside. Every line is a glimpse into my soul. I'm on every page, my strengths, weaknesses, flaws, and beliefs there for everybody to see.

There's a quote from E.L. Doctorow that says, "Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake." Though I don't have much experience with it yet, so far I completely agree.

I'm excited to see my book in print, but I'm also more terrified and nervous than I would have thought possible. 

~What if people don't like what they read?
~What if nobody wants it?
~What if I don't finish anything else?
~Maybe I shouldn't have released it--will other people see how immature the writing was in the beginning, despite the changes I made?
~Are the people who know me going to think differently of me now?
~Am I just plain crazy for writing a fantasy, a story with magic and sword fights and a Healer and and escaped prisoner and a crazy old hermit and...?

The list goes on, but I'm definitely not going to bore you with all the questions that roll through my head on a daily basis now and which regularly keep me up at night, my brain refusing to shut off.

I worry about what people will think of my writing because I worry what they will think of me because of it.

The thing is, I didn't start writing The Prophecy so that people would think of me a certain way. When I first started writing it, I never even imagined putting it out there for people to read.

I wrote it because I couldn't not write it, because God has wired me in such a way that writing is as much a part of who I am as my eye color, shoe size, or name. I wrote it because God gave me a passion for writing, and even if I'm not 100% sure of His purpose for my writing (or even 10% sure, for that matter), I am sure that if He gave me a passion and a love for writing, He expects me to use it.

One of my favorite authors, Dean Koontz, wrote in The Taking, "Pages crystallizing into chapters, chapters accreting into books: The story-painting, spell-casting, truth-telling work of a novelist had seemed to be a lifelong purpose. Her mother had taught her that talent is a gift from God, that a writer has a sacred obligation to her Creator to explore the gift with energy and diligence, to polish it, to use it to brighten the landscape of her readers' hearts."

So, I'll work on silencing the questions so I can start listening to the One Voice that matters.
I'll strive to understand how this crazy dream fits into His ultimate plan for my life.
I'll explore the gift I've been given in hopes of helping just one person step out of the harsh reality he finds himself in, even if it's just for a moment.

And I'll keep writing, because I don't know how not to.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

..the other side of my writing

As those of you who know me (or have read very many of my posts here know) realize, the things I post on this blog aren't always the easiest things for me to share with other people. I'm a pretty private person, but this blog was started out of obedience--and sometimes (who am I fooling? most of the time would be better there) obedience is hard.

As you may also know, at my core I'm a writer. I study physics and raise 2 kids and drive my husband batty and have no idea what I'm going to end up doing in life, but one other thing that makes me who I am is the fact that I have to constantly be pouring something out on paper. And yes, most of my writing is done with paper and ink. There's still just something so impersonal about a computer that makes me resort to the old fashioned way of writing.

All that has been said as an introduction to this: there is another side to my writing.

The stuff I post here is deeply personal and very much non-fiction. That is a wonderful thing and has its place in my heart, but I'm also a storyteller.

Yes, I know I tell stories here. I love writing them, love reliving the good memories and having an outlet for the bad. The storyteller in me, though, hsa another love.

Fiction.

There, I said it--and somehow I feel like I'm at a support group or something: "Hi, my name is Mandy and I'm a paperback writer..." (Am I the only one who just heard the Beetles start singing?)

I love seeing a story come to life on the page. I like setting back and watching the characters develop and am thrilled when I come to a point where I am surprised by what happens nest in a story I'm working on. I also like seeing the battle between good a evil unfold, even if it is in a magical world of fantasy.

So, with that said I would like to show you something a little bit different:
 I've been working on this book for a lot longer than I want to admit, but it is finally done and ready and out there in the world. If you click on the picture above you'll go to a site where you can order a real physical copy of the book. I'll say up front that it is listed at a higher price than I would have liked, but when each book is printed when it is ordered the minimum price is pretty much stuck.

If you are an ebook person, the Kindle version is available here. Amazon Prime members with a Kindle can even borrow it for free, which I think is wonderful! What's better than reading a free book?

If you do feel like picking up a copy...and then reading it...and then think you might like to help me out a bit, I would love to read your reviews on Amazon.

Thanks for bearing with me through what is a bit of a different post for me :0)