"Every human is created in God's image, with spiritual, intellectual, creative, relational and moral capacities, and therefore cannot be satisfied with today's superficiality, whether in faith or in culture. This explains our universal longing. Today, religions and irreligious alike face the lose-lose proposition of both a superficial culture and a superficial faith." - Dick Staub, The Culturally Savvy Christian
"Every human is created in God's image, with spiritual, intellectual, creative, relational and moral capacities, and therefore cannot be satisfied with today's superficiality, whether in faith or in culture. This explains our universal longing. Today, religions and irreligious alike face the lose-lose proposition of both a superficial culture and a superficial faith." - Dick Staub, The Culturally Savvy Christian
I gave a little talk last night on envy, and I thought it might be interesting to post some of my notes here. It’s amazing to see how much envy invades our lives; more than I ever realized before I started studying it this past month. As one lady pointed out after our meeting, many of our tragedies in society - like Virginia Tech - stem from envy taken to its extreme. The root of envy is comparison. We determine our value, our self worth, the quality of our life, the amount and goodness of our blessings by comparison. Envy robs us of the abundant life God desires us to have. We miss out on how God has blessed us - with gifts, with relationships, with provision...and how He wants to use that to bring glory to Himself.
Simply put, the answer to envy is contentment. I've added a few thoughts below on how to practically address envy.
1) Repent. Acknowledge the emotion when it arises. Call it as it is. Confess it as sin, and pray to God.
James 3:14-16: But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. (NIV)
2) Remind yourself that God has given you every thing needed for your life.
2 Peter 1:3-4: ...seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that you May become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
Hebrews 13:20: And now, may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, all that is pleasing to him. (MSG)
3) Refocus your eyes on God, not yourself and those around you. Stop comparing yourself to others. Don’t miss out on what God has blessed you with because you’re busy concentrating on the blessings of others.
Galatians 6:4-5: Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. (NIV)
4) Rejoice. Befriend your rival. Try to see him or her as a person, not the competition. Celebrate success with them; it’s not about winning and losing - it’s about advancing the Kingdom...and any advance is worth celebrating.
Luke 15:7: I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (NIV)
5) React. It might be to pray or memorize a verse. It might be to plan ahead in instances when you can. Maybe it’s to establish an accountability partner or confess your envy to the person you envy.
Proverbs 14:30: A sound heart is life to the body, But envy is rottenness to the bones. (NKJV)
Any tips to add on how to deal with envy? I'd love to hear them.
Galatians 1:18 - 2:2
“Then, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles, only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. Later, I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.
Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gosepl that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.”
First of all, a confession. I don’t have the second half of the passage memorized yet this week. I’ve just forgotten. In some ways, I see how quickly the devil can gain a foothold because I felt a little discouraged, that I would struggle to catch up...so why continue?
What? I mean, we’re talking two verses here, and I’m feeling so behind that I can’t catch up? I still have two days. A verse a day wouldn’t be hard. But that’s where I am. I’ll share a thought about the passage that I have pondered a little, but please don’t think I’ve meditated on it all this week. The positive side of it is that I’m sad about it. I’m sad that I’ve missed out on meditating on a Scripture passage this week. I know that I’ve lost a week of time that I could’ve been growing closer to God that I won’t get back. Don’t worry, I’m not discouraged. Quite the opposite, I’m motivated. I don’t want to miss another week...another day...even another hour. For that, I’m excited. Excited about what the next two days will hold as I meditate on this passage. Anxious for next week’s passage and what lesson He might have for me there. That’s the joy of truly being in the Scripture, isn’t it? Waiting expectantly for what He wants to teach me, how He wants to grow me. I can’t wait.
As for this passage, what struck me was a comment my friend Beth made during our Bible study. Do you think you could praise God for someone who formerly persecuted you who was now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy? I think I’d have a hard time. If Osama Bin Laden suddenly became a Christian and began sharing the Gospel, would I rejoice? I’d have a hard time with that. I’d still want him to suffer for what he had done. I wouldn’t really want his sins to be forgiven and to spend eternity with him by my side in heaven. Mother Theresa? yes. Billy Graham? yes. Bono? yes. Osama Bin Laden? Nope, not really.
But Jesus came to die for our sins, period. Not for certain sins - the nice ones, the ones that aren’t so bad. All sins. Any sins. Sin is sin. It’s what separates us from God, even the so-called small ones. Luke says “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7, NIV). Paul needed Jesus. I need Jesus. Osama needs Jesus. And when a sinner repents, I want to join in the celebration.
PS - My friend Bekah, has a somewhat related post over at Xanga on forgiveness.
I met Bekah at Mount Hermon and immediately fell in love with her sweet personality and humble spirit. It amazes me that she’s still in college, and yet so accomplished and focused. She’s been writing for about six years professionally and was recently engaged to her amazing boyfriend, Ethan. She currently lives in North Carolina. I hope you enjoy getting to meet my friend, BJ Hamrick.
*What is your passion in life?
Last winter, I lay on the floor and watched the snow hit my window. Little pellets of ice... when they made contact with the window pane, they melted into tiny trickles of water.
That's the way I want my life to be.
I want everyone who comes in contact with me to be forever altered.
But I can't change their lives. I'm only the window pane... and God is the heating force behind that pane.
I want Him to give me His passion... His warmth... His love for the world...
*What was your main takeaway from Mount Hermon? How are you going to apply it in your daily life?
The biggest thing I learned at Mount Hermon was how to fish.
I know this sounds crazy, but let me explain.
The day before I got to Mount Hermon, I got a rejection from a literary agent who was going to be at the conference. "It's not about you," he said, "It's about me. I don't do books for teenagers."
"Are you breaking up with me?" I asked. "Because this sounds more like a breakup letter than a rejection."
Anyway. What does this have to do with fishing?
I was feeling discouraged after the breakup/rejection letter, and decided I wouldn't pitch to any agents at all during the conference.
Poor, pitiful me.
The fourth morning of the conference, I woke up and started to read my Bible.
It was the story about the disciples when they had been fishing all night without any success.
"Cast the net again," Jesus told them.
"But LORD," the disciples whined, "we've been fishing all night."
Apparently they realized Jesus was serious, because they decided to cast the net again. Out of obedience to Him.
As I read, God spoke directly to my heart.
"Cast the net again," He said.
"Excuse me?" I asked.
"You heard me," He said. "Cast the net again. Talk to another agent. Put yourself out there."
That night I sat at dinner with a literary agent whom I had been praying about pitching my books to for 2 years (talk about working up the nerve).
The moment I gave my pitch, the agent handed me her business card and told me she wanted to hear from me. Last week, she sent me a contract.
When I think about it, I'm amazed that I almost didn't obey. That I told the Lord I was tired. That I wasn't willing to cast the net again.
The biggest thing I took away from Mount Hermon was that God doesn't call us to fish without first giving us the strength to do what He's asked.
*How has being a writer impacted or informed your daily life as a Christian?
It overwhelms me -- every day -- the sense of responsibility God gives me as a writer. When my life is not in line with what He wants, it shows in my writing. My lack of relationship with Him affects not only me, but also those for whom I write.
*I hear you have some exciting news in your life. Care to share?
About one month ago, I was out on a walk with my boyfriend. We were off the beaten path when he got on one knee and asked me to be his little wife. Well, he didn't say it quite like that -- it was much more eloquent. And of course I said yes!
*What are you most excited about in being married? Most concerned about?
I'm most excited about spending the rest of my life with my best friend. I'm most concerned about not being able to express to him exactly how much I love him. Some days, it's just impossible to convey how much he means to me. There just aren't enough words... and I'm a writer.
*I'm doing a talk about envy next week. Just for fun, what's the silliest thing you've ever been envious about?
I am completely envious of Mary DeMuth's hair. Seriously. How in the world, when you're camping at Mount Hermon, can you get your hair to look that good? It's a mystery to me.
And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven…” Matthew 18:3-4
During our trip to Africa, we visited a slum area in a village outside of Mbale-town. The main trade (and vice) of this area was a grain alcohol made from fermented corn. We met a small congregation inside the area who offered hope to their community. Many of the women participated in a Woman’s Enterprise project in which they learned how to form small businesses to sustain their families. The church was growing and truly beginning to make a difference in their small community.
But the amazing story behind the church left me awed at the mysterious way God works. As we sat and listened to testimonies and songs, a large group of children joined the meeting on the floor directly across from us. The pastor later told us they called the church the children’s church. A missionary visited this slum some years before and began the church with a seemingly solid foundation. Many in the community came to Christ, including children. However, at some point the missionary left and slowly the church began to dwindle as the members slipped back into their previous way of life. The children, however, remained.
And they prayed.
They prayed for their parents, their teachers, their community and their church. They prayed for God to save their community. They prayed until the adults began returning to the church.
We often think about the phrase “faith like a child” as all about being simple, and in comparison to being complex, it is. But just because it is simple, does not mean it lacks depth. Children are persistent, single-minded and determined. To have faith like a child doesn’t mean you follow along unthinking because you were told to. It doesn’t even mean having faith will always be easy and carefree. Becoming like little children means to allow ourselves complete dependence on God because we trust Him and love Him. It means clinging to Him when we are scared or we don’t understand what’s going on around us. It means pursuing Him with a single-minded focus, unrelenting because we long to just sit in His lap and be with Him.
Photo: Children's Church in Uganda (2004)
Okay, something more profound soon, but I just had to post my recommendation for the new NBC show "The Real Wedding Crashers." I'm laughing out loud, which I haven't done at a tv show in a while. The bride and groom are in on the joke, so it makes all the pain hilarious...check it out.
My friend, Llama Momma, is participating in the Walk for Life event in her area. She has a touching blog about why she is involved and a link to sponsor her, if you are interested. I'm posting in support of her because I have a long history with this issue...nearly 30 years, in fact, so it obviously holds a special place in my heart. Additionally, my mom started a Crisis Pregnancy Center in my hometown a long time ago, and we even had a young, unwed mother and her son live with us for a while. Supporting events like this are worth the investment, and as my friend Sarah points out over at headlines, we need to take a stand on important issues. It does make a difference!
Photo: Newborn birds in our backyard (2007)
“I want you to know brothers, that the gospel I preached to you is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of our fathers. But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.” Gal 1:11-17
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about in relation to this passage.
Paul was sure in his calling. The Scripture doesn’t say, “When God, who set me apart from birth and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles (the calling), I questioned God whether it was really Him telling me to do it or myself making it up. I looked through the Bible for some kind of confirmation, then I asked all my friends to pray about it with me for six months, after which I agonized over discerning God’s will for my life for another three months. Finally, I thought about going to Arabia and later returning to Damascus, but since I was still a little uncertain if this is what God was calling me to do, I decided to stick around and wait for another sign.” Nope; his words were “I did not consult any man” and “immediately.”
Now, I’m not saying that it is wrong to seek wisdom from godly friends, ask people to pray about our decisions with us or weigh whether or not we are acting from selfish motives or godly motives. However, sometimes we wallow in indecision because we doubt what we have heard. It’s like what Mick touched on at the end of his interview. We live in a time and place where we’ve relegated the Holy Spirit speaking to us and guiding us to the “charismatic” Christians. The truth of the matter is God has given us the Holy Spirit to teach us and remind us (John 14:26). We talk about discerning God’s will as though it’s a game of cryptography that God plays with us. We must do a specific, unknown number of Christian acts, say the right combination of prayers and cross our fingers hoping that today might be the day that He gives us the secret decoder ring. Many things are mysterious about God, but I don’t believe His will is intended to be one of those things (Eph 1:9, Jas 1:5).
So like Paul, we can be sure of our calling. We can move on immediately to follow His direction, without being paralyzed by second guessing. Because really, when we do that, we’re not trusting God. As a writer that gives me encouragement to continue writing and to know that when I hear that little voice inside me saying, “Maybe God didn’t really call you to do this” I can claim the authority of my calling and continue on.
Photo: Hunting for eggs (2007)
As promised, here is my last interview from Mount Hermon. I met Mick two years ago through my friend Jeanne. Besides just being an all-around nice guy, I was struck by his authenticity and genuine interest in people. At the time, I was feeling overwhelmed and way out of my league. I met with Mick to ask my naive little questions, and he made me feel like I was just as important as the accomplished (and published!) writers around me. As I've gotten to know Mick better through reading his blog, I also appreciate his challenging insights and thought-provoking comments. I hope you enjoy getting to know him better as well.
Editor, married for 6 years, has 2 girls, been writing since age 17, currently resides in Colorado Springs, CO
How has your job as an editor impacted your spiritual life?
Just as a composer creates an emotional tone, I like to think I help create an emotional tone within an authors’ work. My passion is to guide the message of other writers into its greatest form, helping draw out the greatest ability to connect. This process is all the better if the writer is someone who understands that and gets the spiritual implications. As an editor, I am humbled to be entrusted with the task of guiding these authors. It’s almost like the role of a pastor—which is scary when I think about incurring the judgment of James 3:1 (“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”). But in Christian books, we are all teachers in some respect. It’s a heavy responsibility to stand before God with that. Yet this process of helping writers see what they’re missing grows me because I have to hone in on the core of the writer’s message and help them streamline their words so the reader connects quickly. Practicing this teaches me how to stay in the moment. It translates into efficiency in life—with conversations, emails and phone calls, in prayer or Bible reading time, just get to the core issue. But in order to do that, I can’t rush ahead of God. I have to stay on my knees to receive guidance. Overall, I think being an editor has made me do this more with gratitude and humility.
Palm Sunday celebrates the entry of Christ into Jerusalem. How do you celebrate His entry into your life?
My life forever changed when we had kids. I became a different person, particularly as I learned about humility. Christ was hailed as the great leader who would lead everyone into great power, but he rode in on a donkey on a road paved with palm branches and coats - the only things the people had. My kids serve as a constant reminder to me that I am not all that. We don’t all have these huge things to offer to God. I try to enjoy Him in what He is already doing. I celebrate that with my kids, telling them what I feel about them. I’m also keeping journals for my daughters about what God has done in our lives. I try to focus on humility.
You’ve talked a lot about humility. What brought you to this focus?
My cursed pride, of course! (Laughs.) Pride is one of the things that keeps us from experiencing the true spiritual gifts and rewards that God has for us, that he wants us to understand. We can’t experience everything He has for us unless we come with open hands. Pride makes up two of the three great sins, and yet we don’t focus on it much. We think we have to be strong (this victorious Christian living concept), and we use that as a license to be prideful. We need a willingness to be humble before God and others, otherwise you will never get past that starting point. I constantly need that reminder. The other part is that you give yourself worth from where God is leading. Your self worth is given to you through God’s work in real life, so when you’re trying to get it from this false sense of confidence - or whatever - that’s not really where you need to be. Ironically, God is a humble God. He came to us as a man, and we are to accept him willingly in the same spirit He had. The exciting part is we can come to Him directly. He wants to be a part of us, to fill us, and that gives us so much self- confidence. We need that connection to see how He sees us. For me, that’s the beginning of everything.
At this point in the conference, a sense of weariness is often setting in. How do you keep from getting weary?
I never have a problem keeping interested when I’m connecting, when I’m really getting at what the core of the message is with an author. It is tiresome when most of us are introverts, and yet we’re talking all day long and being “on” all the time. But I deal with it by not being “on” (again, related to humility thing) and being honest connecting with people. You don’t have to have this facade all the time. Having a good time is not tiring. I try to stay relaxed and in the moment. I must constantly remind myself, but it’s gotten easier. And that sustains you: love people, learn to listen and connect with them. That’s energizing.
As Christians, particularly Christian writers, we sometimes tend to be inwardly focused on our circle of like-minded people. Why do we create these Christian bubbles?
We’re strangers; we’re not accepted in this world and Jesus’ radical message is off-putting. It’s hard to be out in the world and be pushing - worse yet, peddling - the Gospel. We come to places like Christian conferences to refuel and recharge. That’s not bad; we need to do that. However, we also need to be aware that where we live gives the world a perception of who we are. If we isolate ourselves and don’t have a lot of contact with those who aren’t Christians, we create an impression that we don’t like non-Christians.
So, how do you and I make a change in that perception?
Do it personally. Be humble and grateful. We trust God that we can go out and have an impact through how He has gifted us and through our personalities. By employing these things he’s given us and within community, we become the hands and feet of God. We then use our restorative times (like Christian conferences) to actually equip us to then go back out. That requires trusting Him that He will be there. We don’t have to be afraid to go out and say what needs to be said because we are equipped with the Holy Spirit. We often think it’s presumptuous to say the Holy Spirit spoke to me, but that’s not true. He speaks to every Christian and employs us to spread the gospel to everyone. We don’t believe it happens because we aren’t actively doing it. But with just doing it, we take baby steps forward.
Photo: Me, Leslie, Jeanne, Mick, Bekah, Madison (2005) Credit: stolen and used without permission from Jeanne although I think TJ actually took the picture!
Where do I even begin? I don’t know exactly how to sum up in words everything I learned and experienced. For me, this conference was more about spiritual growth and myself as a writer than it was specifically about the craft of writing or the publishing industry. But as I mentioned before, I think it was a necessary part of my journey in being a writer. I walk away from the conference with three main things:
1) New friendships that I am excited about growing and deepening
2) A heart focused on writing for God’s glory and not for publishing. Yes, I would love to be published one day. However, the difference now is that it’s not about seeing my name or my words in print, but having the opportunity to share God’s story to a wider audience. I am also at a place where if that audience is an audience of one, then that’s exactly what God intended and it still means He wants me to write.
3) An awareness that sin in my life prohibits the flow of words from my pen. Jesus cannot overflow out of a heart that is barricaded by sin. That definitely means that my time with Jesus takes priority over my time writing. Any time spent writing apart from Him, is wasted anyway.
Not directly from the conference, but definitely as a by-product, I’m also starting a writer’s group with my friend TJ and a couple other girls from my church. I am way excited about that, as it has been my desire since the last Mount Hermon I attended. I’m also excited to already be considering going to Mount Hermon again next year. We’ll just see.
I wanted to type up all my notes from specific sessions and our keynote speaker for you, but I’m trying to wrap this all up in the next ten minutes, so let me share this in closing. Our keynote speaker, Dick Foth, shared a story with us about a friend who had a stroke. While his speech and his mind never fully returned (he suffered from total amnesia as well), the Word of God he had memorized and the songs about Jesus he knew remained. Dick’s point? The Word of God penetrates deeper than even the core of the brain. I want to write words that have eternal significance. I’m not satisfied with words that end at the core of the brain; I want them to penetrate deeper. Not for my glory, but that His glory might be declared to all nations and His righteousness among all peoples.
Here’s a link to little slideshow of most of my pictures from Mount Hermon. Hope you enjoy.
PS - I have one last interview to post from Mount Hermon. I'll get it up this week.
Okay, as I mentioned before, I have some unfinished Mount Hermon blogs to wrap up. First is a group of bloggers from Mount Hermon. We all met together one night for a Blog-o-rama, and shared tips and ideas on blogging. Here are the people who attended (and wrote their names/blogs down). Check out their blogs; there's some good stuff there.
Actual Unretouched Photo and The Amazing Shrinking Mom - Melodee Helms
Real Women Scrap - Tasra Dawson
Relevant Blog - Mary DeMuth
maxgrace.com - Bill Giovannetti
Christian Work at Home Moms - Jill Hart
Larry's Bible Blog - Larry Wilson
Parenting Solo Devotionals and Rebuilding Hackberry - Doug Mead
Moral Movies - Dean Anderson
Exploring Adoption - Laura Christianson
Writebrained - BJ Hamrick
Why didn't you warn me? and Sometimes I feel like a piece of bologna - Pat Sikora
Happy Feet - Jon VonHof
Goddess Worship - Susy Flory (who's doing a Christian investigation of goddess worship)
Mommy Life - Barbara Curtis
I am currently at the women’s retreat for my church, and the theme is “renewal.” We attended sessions on renewing your heart, your strength and your mind. Now I sit here during a private time allotted to renew my soul, and I’m left to ponder what that word renewal really means to me, today, at this point in my life. Truth be told, I didn’t come here because of the topic. Oh, it sounded interesting enough, but I came for the fellowship and for the pure fact that it is the first women’s retreat for our church and I wanted to be a part. But I also came with baggage. I’m used to being a part of events, if not the planner. It’s difficult for me to sit on the sidelines and not do anything. I thrive on being involved, being helpful...and doing, doing, doing. For this event, however, I was only marginally involved - and my small part was due more to the fact that I hounded my friend who was planning it to give me a job. As it got closer to time, I realized that I was feeling kind of bitter. I suppose my feelings were hurt. It made it worse to have people begin asking me their questions, as if I knew. So I came with a critical eye and a dramatic flare. In my mind I exaggerated the weather (albeit pretty nasty) and the effect it would have. I started looking for things that could’ve been done better (and presumably would have been if I was more involved...ouch that hurts to confess!). What is my deal? Here, I just worked on some of these very issues of envy and acceptance at Mount Hermon. I was naive to think that God ripped it all out and I wouldn’t have to deal with it for a while.
So renewal, for me, has come in the form of this. Lord, I need you to renew my heart and my mind. I need you to give me the desires of my heart, because the desires that are there are definitely not yours. I need you to renew my mind to think on things of eternal significance, not on earthly gain. Father, help me to discern when I am trying to win the approval of man or of you. Or when I am trying to please man. Lord, when I am still trying to please man, I am not being your servant. I want to be your servant. I want to be open to your use. Father, set aside my old self and help me claim my new self. Help me to be renewed today.
(PS - I realize that some people from my church are now reading my blog - which I love. I don’t want this to come across the wrong way. In the spirit of authenticity, I’m still going to post this. But please don’t think it’s an attempt to gain pity or make anyone feel bad. Obviously, God needed to do some work in my heart, and that’s what I wanted to share.)
Photo: Retreat Center (2007)
A few more photos to share, while I'm working on a wrap-up blog about the experience.
No conference is complete without it. Particularly when you're attending prayer and praise at 7:15am each morning. Llama Momma, this one's for you.
I'm guessing you've noticed by now that I like to take pictures of flowers...
This circle of trees created a natural chapel. Gorgeous.
A conferee. No, just kidding of course. He was our keynote speaker. Ha!
Okay, really there were people at the conference, not just flowers and wild animals. Me and my friend TJ. Is this the first picture I've ever posted of myself on here? (pondering whether or not to go through with posting it)
The party cabin: TJ, me, Jeanne, Leslie, Mary
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel, which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have alraedy said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
I've just started memorizing this section (again), and it's not coming back as easily as the first five verses. I actually must be intentional about memorizing it, which is probably better anyway. Here are a few thoughts that strike me about this passage.
1) I am ASTONISHED...I want to be in the place where Paul is - so in love with Jesus and following hard after his teachings that it would astonish him that someone was distracted by a different gospel. Personally, I get distracted all the time, so it's not really astonishing to me to think about it happening to others. But Paul can't even imagine why someone would desert Christ because he is walking so closely with him - and may I go so far as to say, experiencing the abundant life that Christ had for him. I need to get to that place.
2) Okay, it might be just me, but I'm thinking Paul was serious in his admonition to pay attention to the gospel being preached. Eternal condemnation doesn't sound fun to me. Of course, in this text he warns the Galatians to beware of those "throwing them into confusion" but I like that he then switches focus momentarily to warn those who are doing the throwing into confusion. In the same way, we need to test the preaching that we hear against the Word, AND we need to be careful about the gospel we spread as well.
3) The last verse in this section is one I think of often. It's easy for me to get caught up in focusing on the approval of man...and it's definitely something I crave. But it's not eternally significant, and that's the type of impact I want to make. I can't please man and be a servant of Christ at the same time. Sure, sometimes it coincides, but pleasing man should be a pleasant by-product, not my focus.
Anyone have any thoughts on this passage they want to share?
I still feel like I'm catching up from being gone for nearly a week. And while I want to go back and bring myself back up to speed, the thought of it exhausts me to the point of not wanting to do anything. I'm trying to get there, but we'll see how it goes this week. I still haven't even finished our taxes! Hang with me. My normal self should be back sometime soon. Hopefully.
The verses for this week are Galatians 1:1-5 "Paul, an apostle, sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead, and all the brothers with me to the churches in Galatia: Grace and peace to you in God our Father and Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of the Father to whom be the glory forever and ever, amen."
Next week, I'll post some reflections on this memorization and the sermon. This week I'm still catching up on everything from being gone.
At Mount Hermon, I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people, with wonderful stories to tell. I first saw Marilyn from across the room, and her smile immediately captured my attention. Her warmth and laughter attracted me, and I was determined to meet her at some point. I had the privilege of sitting at her table during lunch one day, and I asked her for an interview. I hope you enjoy getting to know Marilynn a little bit. I am currently reading her first book Pink in the Shades of Style series.
Freelancer, married for 16 years, has 7 kids, written for 7 years
What is your passion in life? Being a good friend, helping people be good friends, learning how to juggle all these things of womanhood (being a mom, a sister, an aunt, etc) and maintaining some sense of self, helping others figure out how to hold onto family and Jesus in one hand and their dreams in another.
How have you managed to do that in your life? I have a great husband. I enlist my kids to work with me as a team. Everyone works together as family; we see it as a family business. My kids participate in achieving those goals, so when a check comes in the mail we all celebrate.
What do they think about being a part of those goals? Sometimes they get tired of it, but really they love it. They give books to their teachers. When people ask them what their mom does, they love it to say I’m a writer. Of course, it has its ups and downs.
How has writing affected your spiritual life? Wow. I think that I didn’t realize how safe I was as a Christian. My writing voice wasn’t established as a christian, so my writing was raw but Jesus was there. I didn’t realize how many safe things I implemented in my life. I discovered a bigger Jesus - scary, but good, even though everything doesn’t always have a happy ending. God is still there, even if you don’t get anything you prayer for. It was a big self-discovery.
As Palm Sunday approaches, how do you celebrate Christ’s entrance into your life? At home we would attend a sunrise service. As a child, we used to even receive palm branches and wave them. I use the time to look back on the year and meditate on all the things God is showing me. It’s like a guidepost to stop at and evaluate whether I am moving toward Jesus or coming away. It’s a sort of new year, and a chance to give back that lordship that I might have taken.
Anything additional you’d like to add? I love to meet new people and hear from people. So if you are interested in reaching me, you can find me at my website: http://www.marilyngriffith.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I met Kay two years ago, at my first Mount Hermon conference. She encouraged me greatly with her heart for the global Body of Christ, and her courage to travel around the world to gather the stories of persecuted women. She's written an awesome book called Daughters of Hope that I highly recommend. I'm pleased to introduce to you, Kay Strom.
Kay Marshall Strom
Freelancer, married for 8 years, written for 20 years, currently in Santa Barbara, CA
What is your passion in life? Actually, it has come out of my writing. My passion at this time is letting believers in this country know that they are part of the global family of God. They need us as much as we need them. It pains me that we don’t realize we’re part of a bigger family. Being a part of the Body does not just mean that we need to help our brothers and sisters around the world, but to realize that we need them just as much. We think we’re just depriving them, but really we are depriving ourselves, too. And we are depriving the Body of God.
How did this come about? That’s actually an interesting story. I love to read historical biographies. I was reading the story of Marie Antoinette. It’s amazing, she’s not as hard hearted as we think; she was just totally clueless. She had all the royal people over for a banquet, and there was so much food the tables were sagging - all while people in Paris were starving. After everyone left, she turned to the Emperor and said, “Let’s not throw away all this food, let’s spread the leftovers on the sidewalk.” As they stood and watched the people lick the sidewalk so as not to waste anything, she said “We are so good for the poor; they should love us.” The poor people of France heard this, clenched their fist and resolved to have her head. A week later, 9/11 occurred. At church on Sunday, an elder in church stood up and talked about the need to pray for the families of those who had lost their lives. Then he shared that he didn’t know how this could happen. “We are so good to the world, everyone should love us.” And I thought, we’re just like Marie Antoinette, and the world is going to have our heads. That became the inspiration to write Daughters of Hope (Kay’s book sharing stories of women around the world who are persecuted for their faith). I was in India interviewing women for my book, and as I normally closed my interviews, I asked if there was anything else someone would like to say to me. They asked me if I had ever been kicked out of my house for being a Christian, thrown rocks at, persecuted, hated, denied food for being a Christian. I answered, “No, we just don’t face that type of attack in the US.” Then they asked me if we did have to suffer, would we still be Christians? And I thought for a long time, and didn’t know how to answer. They said they would pray for strength for us. They would pray that if we did have to face persecution that we would endure it. And they asked me to tell everyone I spoke to that they were praying for them. When I am asked to speak - even at Rotary meetings - I share their story.
How has your writing affected your walk? It has changed it totally. It has changed my perspective on life and death, on my purpose in being here. The biggest battle is being patient with others. I know other people haven’t been where I’ve been. We complain about things here, but we’re so fixated on the wrong things. It is so hard to be patient with what I see in the American church. When you go and see, you can’t come back and be the same. I will never to my dying day, get out of my mind the pictures of the people in Sudan - the most wonderful people in the world - who bounced back despite the most incredible things. When I talked with them, they asked me, “Does anyone care about us?” No one asked me for money, they asked me to pray for them. They requested we pray for their children that they will stay firm to the faith (aka be willing to die, be persecuted). When we left them, they ran behind our bus as fast as they could for as long as they could keep up, saying “Pray for us” and then they disappeared into a cloud of dust. I still see that image in my mind. If only we would truly partner with our brothers and sisters around the world.
As Palm Sunday approaches, how do you celebrate Christ’s entrance into your life? I remember reading through the Bible as a 13 year old, trying to figure out how to get it all together, when I came to Micah 6:6-7, “With what shall I come to the Lord and bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” And then comes the answer in verse 8. “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” That’s how I celebrate and pray to celebrate - to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God.
Here are a few thoughts as my conference comes to a close. I promise to have more detailed updates once I get home, and a few more interviews.
1) To truly find my contentment and acceptance in Christ, and nothing else. I truly feel God changed my heart in a way I’ve never been changed before and uprooted seeds of envy and self-doubt.
2) To let my writing be the result of my heart, overflowing out onto the page. Not only does this require me to write about what stirs my heart, but it refocuses me on ministry, rather than publication.
3) To ensure my writing points my reader(s) to the eternal. Writing about anything else is insignificant.
4) To put on my eye makeup. I’ve never really known how to do it with more than one color. My mother in law gave me this beautiful compact with four shades in it, and I stare at it in bewilderment. Now I’m experimenting and having fun!
5) That sin can be a lid that contains my writing and prevents the outpouring of my heart. I must deal with it to be effective in my writing.
Photo: Flower outside of Central Lounge, Mount Hermon, CA (2007)
My theme today is authenticity, and I have so much to share about what God revealed to me and how he has grown me. However, in the spirit of being authentic, I have to say I'm exhausted - physically and emotionally. I'll write more tomorrow, so stay tuned.
Photo: Flower on the way to Editor's Panel, Mount Hermon (2007)
I tried to select one theme for today, but I just couldn’t narrow it down past two. Speaker after speaker reminded me to keep an eternal perspective. Certainly that’s valuable to remember in light of rejections and tough feedback, but even more importantly as I approach my writing. As Dick Foth mentioned last night, the truth of what we speak is of eternal significance. If what we are writing is not, then why should I write it? My goal as a writer is not to be published. It’s to point people toward the eternal. If I stay focused on that, then I allow myself to be used by God for whatever His purposes are. I so often try to usurp control and focus on worldly things like success, fame...acceptance. But God desires to use me and He blessed me with talents (because what He calls me to do, He equips me to do) to glorify Him. I don’t want to bury mine in the ground, or spend all my time complaining and comparing.
The second reminder I heard multiple times today was to write what I’m passionate about. We get distracted by trends or numbers (or whatever), and sometimes stray from what burns in our hearts. I am passionate about building relationships, with a special place for families, but I often feel discouraged in writing about those topics because I think I lack credibility. Hearing this theme repeatedly today affirmed for me that I should write about them.
I carried that theme into the interviews I conducted today. I’ll summarize my learnings from the major morning track and the evening general session in a separate post (probably tomorrow...too tired now).
Photo: Waterfall at Mount Hermon (2007)