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Archive for April, 2012

“Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head.”        Ephesians 4:15 GNT

My 12-year-old granddaughter is writing her first book! While I’m so proud of her that I could “bust my buttons,” I also know her writing contains a lot of mistakes that need to be corrected in order for her to become an even better writer. But the problem lies in how to tell her about her mistakes and help her correct those writing faux pas without discouraging her so much she just gives up, never to write again.

Over the years I’ve spent critiquing other writers’ work, I’ve learned a trick or two. The first is how to make a palatable critique sandwich.You’ll need two slices of “bread” which are the good things about a writer’s piece and the filling – the part that needs some work. By sandwiching the  criticisms between two honest compliments, it’s easier to swallow the truth.

Another trick  is to always be sure the criticisms are constructive. I generally try to tell my writers why something doesn’t work for me and offer them suggestions on how to improve it. That way, they don’t feel like I’m just nit-picking at their work. I really am interested in helping them to succeed.

Lastly,  for those face to face critiques at writers’ group meetings, I’ve found it helps to smile when offering critiques of another person’s work. The smile seems to break down barriers between people and conveys a genuine interest in the other person so they’re not as defensive of my words.

Being a Christian for over 50 years, there have been many times when Christ had to confront me about my many spiritual faux pas. Looking back, I’ve seen how He uses these same tools to open my spiritual eyes to the things that need to change in my life.

He is a master of the critique sandwich, showing me things that do please Him while He works on those things which aren’t so loveable. He  always lets me know why things need to change as He points out sin in my life. Then He shows me how to change them through forgiveness, trust and growth. And even though He can be stern or firm with me, I also sense His smile. I know He loves me and wants the best for me as I grow up in Him!

Thank you Lord for speaking the truth to me in LOVE with a smile and for helping me to extend that same attitude toward others. Amen!

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“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save those who are lost.” Luke 19:10 NLT

I paid close attention the first time my husband drove to my daughter’s new house. I even took notes when we reached her community so I would remember when I had to drive there by myself the following week.

The first part of the trip I already knew by heart since we passed through Indiana, PA, a town where we had lived for three years. But once I passed through Indiana, I relied on my memory.  No we don’t have a GPS – yet!

I was doing fine. I got into my daughter’s town and remembered the road that took a sharp right, angling up the face of a cliff. After all , it was a memorable landmark. But once I reached the higher ground atop the plateau, I took a right turn where I should have gone straight. Within minutes I was hopelessly lost. Now I’m not squeamish about asking for directions, but there really was no place to stop! So I tried to find my way back to the place I made my wrong turn. Unfortunately, the one way streets I met kept me confused. LOL!

About 2 hours later, after many wrong turns, several phone calls to my daughter and several stops to ask directions, I pulled into her driveway. By that time I was ready to get out of the car and kiss the ground! The truly funny thing was that several times I was within a mile of her house, but yet so far away because I kept making wrong turns.

But being lost did have a positive side. I learned not to rely on my memory alone. I need to have a map or clear step-by-step directions. Maybe I can talk hubby into buying that  GPS for Christmas? And I learned the lay of the land so I didn’t get lost later when I had to run out to do a few errands for Allissa.

Seriously though, it was a great object lesson for me, reminding me that when I try to rely on my own power to make it through this life, I’ll mess up or get lost every time.  I need lots of prayer and help from others when I encounter confusing or difficult life experiences. And I especially need Jesus as my heavenly GPS system, to guide me through those experiences his way.

Thanks Lord for being there to help us when we are lost – physically, emotionally and spiritually!  Amen.

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“And so he is able, now and always, to save those who come to God through him, because he lives forever to plead with God for them.”        Hebrews 7:25 GNT

Animal cruelty officers seized a young puppy from the home of an abusive owner and brought it into the animal shelter. The pup had a series of fractures to both front legs which left it unable to walk. Upon examination, the vet found several older  fractures which had healed in other areas of its body, including the ribs and hind legs. In spite of all the abuse, the puppy had a sweet disposition, winning the heart of all involved.

But the prognosis was grim for this young puppy. Not only were officials concerned that the puppy would not walk  again, the humane society had to fight for custody  of the dog to  begin giving it the treatment it needed.

Thankfully, the story had a happy ending. The courts awarded custody to the humane society. A veterinary surgeon volunteered his services to perform the necessary exams and operations to help the pup recover. Rescue organizations got involved to  foster the pup and help with the bills during its recovery. And because the pup itself was a fighter, it recovered the use of its front legs and responded well to treatment, ultimately getting adopted into a loving home.

A lot people invested a lot of time, money and love into that one dog to save its life, but to all involved, the investment was worth it!

Like that puppy, sin breaks us, leaving us unable to deal with life. The prognosis isn’t good – without Someone to fight for us, we will die,

But when Jesus steps in, he fights against sin and Satan for the custody of our eternal souls. He cleans us up, investing His time and love into us as we heal from he ravages of sin. And he adopts us into his family, giving us a loving, secure environment in which to live and grow. To Him, the investment was worth it.

Thank you Lord for being there for me! Amen.

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“Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought…. God always knew he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.”        1 Peter 1:18-19 MSG

It never ceases to amaze me how God orchestrates the smallest details of the events of our lives to bring us exactly  into the place He wants us . But even thought I knew about His sacrifice and believed He died for me, I never paid much attention to the intricate details of His workings in my life until I became a writer.

The thoughts of writing 60,000 words was somewhat daunting at first. I’ve always been an impatient reader, wanting to get to the end of a story for that feel-good, happy finish. I’ve even been known stop in the middle of a book and read the ending because I had to know what  happened to the heroine. Then I’d skim/read to the end to see how the story actually resolved.  Horrors!

The first draft  of my first novel tended to reflect that need to get to the end of the story. It also left the story way too short and very flat!

I had to learn to slow down the action and take time to explore my character’s interactions with God as well as her thoughts, feelings, ways of coping with people and  life experiences. These things helped build a bond between the readers and the character, as well as heightening anticipation and excitement to keep them engaged.   The story development lay in the details.

By pacing myself, the writing experience took on a new excitement for me. It also caused me to look at my life differently – more like a story unfolding with each new event, experience or person who entered my life building on the next, heightening my spiritual growth and development.

It helped me to gain a deeper consciousness of God in my life – always close by, always protecting, stretching, growing me to make me into the woman He created me to be.  God enriched my life story by the huge investment of time and energy He put into the details!

Thank  you Lord, for giving me a glimpse of your patience and love as you author the story of my life.  I’m not afraid of  the future because I’ve seen You writing  my past. Amen.

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“There are things about God that people cannot see—his eternal power and all that makes him God. But since the beginning of the world, those things have been easy for people to understand. They are made clear in what God has made. So people have no excuse for the evil they do.”        Romans 1:20 ERV

There is a tiny molecule in the human body called laminin. It’s a cell adhesion molecule – literally the glue that holds all the other cells in our body together.

Maybe it doesn’t really sound exciting in written form so here is a textbook photo of laminin:

Think about it for a moment! The glue that holds the molecules of our bodies together is in the shape of a perfect cross! We carry around inside each cell in our body a micro-biological “photo” of our Father – our creator.

In the smallest molecules seen through microscopes to the largest star systems we can see through our Hubble telescopes, we can see the glory and magnificence of the creator of the universe. In the power of nature and in its beauty we see Him.

Even without the Bible, He is there around us and in us shouting out His love for us every day. We really have no excuse for not worshipping Him.

Father, open the eyes of my heart. I want to see  you more clearly! Amen

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At that very moment, Jesus overflowed with joy from the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you’ve hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and shown them to babies. Indeed, Father, this brings you happiness. Luke 10:21 CEB

A group of business executives were asked to answer the following questions as part of a study to test their problem solving/question answering skills. Try your hand at them to see how you do.
(Don’t cheat! See if you can answer the questions before scrolling down farther.)
  • Q. How do you put an elephant in the refrigerator?
  • Q. How do you put a giraffe in the refrigerator?
  • Q. The Lion King hosted a gala party. All the animals came but one. Which animal wasn’t there?
  • Q. You have also been invited to the Lion King’s party. But in order to get there you have to cross an alligator infested river. How will you get across?
Yes, these were actual questions in the study!
To prove their point, the creators of the study asked the same four questions to a group of fourth graders.
Okay – now you can check out the answers and see how well you did:
  • Q. How do you put an elephant in the refrigerator? A. Open up the door and put it in.
  • Q. How do you put a giraffe in the refrigerator? A. Open the door, take the elephant out and put the giraffe in.
  • Q. The Lion King hosted a gala party. All the animals came but one. Which animal wasn’t there? A. The giraffe because it was still in the refrigerator.
  • Q. You have also been invited to the Lion King’s party. But in order to get there you have to cross an alligator infested river. How will you get across? A. You can swim across the river – all the alligators are at the party.
Do I hear a collective groan out there?
The 4th grade students actually scored higher, getting the correct answers 80% of the time because the business executives spent their time trying to analyze the situations, missing the simple, obvious answers.
This is the spiritual application of the study: We must become as little children to accept the simplicity of the gospel by faith, otherwise we will over analyze it every time and miss the wonderful truth of God. No wonder we adults have so much trouble trusting!
AMEN!

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“But now Christ has come back from the dead. He is the very first person of those who have died to come back to life. Since a man brought death, a man also brought life back from death. As everyone dies because of Adam, so also everyone will be made alive because of Christ.”        1 Corinthians 15:20-22 GW

Is real leadership about always being first or in control?  Not  necessarily.

A good leadership strategy often involves  giving others a problem to solve and allowing them to research it, brainstorm about it and develop strategies to solve the problem and not doing it for them. It helps foster ownership and pride in the organization among those who work there as well as mentoring them to take on higher  leadership positions in the future. That’s always been hard for me, though I’m working at it. But it seems to be a strategy God uses quite a bit!

When he created the world, he made man  to manage it. He let Adam name the animals and take care of the garden where he lived. Then God gave him the responsibility to populate the earth with human beings who would love and serve God in the same way. If Adam had succeeded, this world would be a much different place than it is today. But Adam failed and sin became a part of our DNA, causing spiritual and physical death. His failure effectively separated us from God.

God stepped in to give the solution to the problem of death and sin by sending Jesus in human form, yet being every bit divine in his nature. He was the only one who could effectively reverse the damage caused by Adam’s failure and remove sin from our DNA.

But even after his intervention, God didn’t just take control of the situation and run things with an iron fist. He never said, “Oh you stupid human beings! You can’t do anything right.”

He reverted back to his original strategy. He personally mentored 12 disciples for three years, then gave them the responsibility to take his message to the ends of the earth and to “birth” more disciples without his physical presence. He didn’t solve the how-to-do-it problem, but he did give them tools, instructions and special help in the form of the Holy Spirit to carry out his plans. He allows us to “mess up” and turns each mistake into a practical lesson for the future, thus making us very much alive and growing in him.

Thank you Lord for dying for me, and especially for giving me an exciting, opportunity to live and grow with you! Amen.

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