Raising Up Daniels in a Babylonian World

As my husband’s been speaking on Daniel the last couple of weekends, I’ve been reminded how relevant Daniel still is in 2018. Mark’s tag line the first week was: “When we stand firm, we will stand out; and God will help us stand up!”

Automatically my thoughts went to our sons who are just entering their teen years and becoming men. Men who hopefully will become Daniels in a increasingly Babylonian world.

There’s so little tolerance for men or Christians today that I feel like our boys begin with three strikes against them. As a parent it concerns me, but I remind myself it’s not any different than Daniel’s experience. He was a Jew, and a slave, held captive by the Babylonian Empire. An alien in an alien world. Those are some pretty big strikes against him!

 

But Daniel was doing some things right. He obviously had some charisma that went along with a winsome attitude, as Mark mentioned yesterday. Because of his favourable attitude and respect for those in authority, Daniel found favour with those in charge over him.

But what really made Daniel a stand out? He never let his eyes stray from his God. I’m sure there was lots to look at in Babylon. Idols, women, riches and so much more. It was a heathen heaven so to speak. Daniel however, kept focused on who he believed in and chose to follow the only one true God when it would have been so much easier to choose a different path.

It is my prayer that as our boys grow up, they will do the same. That they will keep their focus on the one true God. Because there will be lots to look at; idols, women, riches and so much more. But if they keep their eyes on God and truly live out what they believe and know is truth, the rest falls into place.

Does it mean it’s all rainbows and unicorns? That would be a resounding no. Being a Daniel in a Babylonian world means you’re going to have some major trouble. You can count on it. (Lions’s den anyone?) And when that trouble comes barrelling down, God is going to help them stand up against it. You can count on that too.

What does being a Daniel look like? Love when it’s easier to hate. Generosity when it’s easier to keep it all for self. Not having the last word. Admitting being wrong. Being bold. Standing up for what is true. Self-control. Being a Daniel can only be done with the help of God. The good news is he’s given us a helper, the Holy Spirit and He’s there for the asking.

He’s ready to help everyone. Including me. It’s far too easy as an adult to hide away and think it’s a lesson only for my kids. I need to raise myself up as a Daniel too.
If I want my boys to be Daniels, as parents we need to lead the way. Disciple them in Daniel 101.

We need to keep our focus on God and not look to the right and get caught up in circumstances or to the left and get sucked into the lies of Babylon. More stuff will not make it better. Only Jesus will.

I need to be willing to put myself out there, what about you? Ah, but there’s the rub. It means engaging with people. I like my glass castle that keeps me isolated. Most days, I avoid as much human contact as possible. Because life’s just easier that way isn’t it? If we don’t engage we can’t say or do the wrong thing.

That kind of living makes up impotent. We were created to have relationships. Daniel was a slave in a foreign land, but God didn’t let him off the hook. We’re not excused either. I can’t really model Daniel to my four walls. I can’t expect from my boys what I am not willing to do myself.

“When we stand firm, we will stand out; and God will help us stand out!”  Mark Willcock

(Friends I am preaching this message to myself first and foremost!)

A Map for New Year’s

Happy 2018!

It’s the start of a new year and people have been making plans, choosing words and verses, making resolutions for this next year. It’s all good stuff but what I really want for this new shiny year? A map.

A map to show me how to navigate the year 2018 because at the moment I feel profoundly lost. Also, bewildered comes to mind.

 

I no longer recognize parts of this world that I’ve inhabited for a long time. I feel like I’m in some other alternate universe or maybe how Alice felt when she fell down the rabbit hole.

I don’t understand the culture, the trends and the language. I doubt myself and then doubt those around me. Some days I don’t even recognize myself or how I got here. So a map would be super helpful. Because I don’t want to get further lost because I might not get back.

I’ve been fascinated with the theme of being lost. What does it really mean to be lost? Is being lost really a bad thing? Maybe it’s just a detour and in fact, you aren’t lost at all but are right on course.

If you are lost what happens if you aren’t found? Can you find yourself? Do you actually need someone to find you? If you are really lost, can you turn it into something positive? What if you don’t want to be found? Or is being lost just part of the journey? Because we all get lost sometimes right? See what I mean? Fascinating.

Honestly I don’t have any answers. I’m still trying to figure this out, hence the wish for a map.

Did they have maps in the bible? The closest thing I could think of was the wise men from the east, following the star for a very long time and at the end of their journey, they found Jesus.

You may be thinking you’d like a map too. But our maps may not be the same. My journey through 2018 is probably going to look very different from yours. So although we both have maps, our travels will be different and you may use a tablet or phone to look at your map where I may use a paper one. But in the end, we get to the destination we are supposed to. Hopefully.

Matthew Henry writes in his commentary, that the star was so out of the ordinary that the wise men took it to mean that some extraordinary person was born and since the star sat over Judea, that’s where the person was. He goes on to state that the shepherds were told about Christ’s birth by an angel. They were Jews, they would understand and believe in angels. The men from the east, understood a star because they studied them and worshipped them. “..to both God spoke in their own language, and in the same way they were best acquainted with.” God gave them their own unique maps which they could understand and follow.

So we’ll have individual maps. Which is awesome but the fact is, I don’t have any map at the moment. Not a star. Nor an angel.

As I read the wise men and the shepherds’ accounts, I realize that God did not give them the whole enchilada. He gave them one thing to follow. An angel. To listen to and then follow instruction. A star. To recognize it for what it was and then follow it. For a long time.

After the night at the stables, what did the shepherds do? We aren’t told. But God unfolded the maps of their lives in due time.

With the wise men we have a little more insight into what happened afterwards. They run into Herod in Jerusalem, find Jesus in Bethlehem and then are warned in a dream to go home another route. Each direction was given at the right time and the right place. They weren’t given more. They were given enough.

God often works this way. I don’t particularly like it. I want the whole map. Not just the next step. The story of the wise men reminds me of the truth. Although a map would be nice, we only get the next step. And when we’ve taken that step, then we are given the next.

Who gives the directions? Like the star and the angel, God sends us the directions in a way we can understand. It may be people, it may be through prayer and reading the Bible. It may be through circumstances. The one thing I do know is that God meets us where we are and he’ll use whatever He chooses to get our attention, to direct our paths. It can literally be anything. We don’t need the whole map, we just need to be open to following His lead.

 

Some fav Quotes about Being Lost:

“He showed me how to get lost, and then I showed myself how to get found. Maybe accident isn’t the right word after all. Maybe miracle is.
Or maybe it’s not a miracle. Maybe this is just life. When you open yourself up to it. When you put yourself in the path of it. When you say yes.” Just One Day by Gayle Forman, p. 367

“I wasn’t lost. Just because you couldn’t find me doesn’t mean I was lost.” The Edge of Recall by Kirsten Heitzmann p. 208

“God seeks the lost and pursues the broken.” Rachel Harter, incourage.me.blog Aug 30/17 titled, Lessons in Rock Hunting

Ezekiel 34:16(NLT) I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak. But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes–feed them justice!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones! I hope you find time to enjoy the season of our Lord’s birth and meet Him in a very personal way this Christmas. Sometimes it’s hard to find Him when it’s so busy and and all you want to do is stay in bed under the covers! But He’s there under the covers too! If we look for Him, He’s right beside us, waiting for us to stop. I hope you get the time to visit with Him.

Thank you for taking the time to read the blogs and comment.  It always blows my mind that someone would make time to read a message God gave me to write.  I am so grateful for your continued support and encouragement.

Thank you too for support the publication of Whole.  It’s been a great year seeing that dream realized.  I hope many have benefitted from reading the story of a faithful God.

Here’s a couple of links to Hopestream Radio with blogs I recorded or you can read them too. They are blogs that ran a number of years ago and I revised them and recorded them this year. I hope you enjoy them.

The Scandal Of Christmas

New Insights from an Old Story

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

From Our Family to Yours

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When God Seems Silent at Christmas

Christmastime.

Smiling kids, bright lights and the piney scent of trees all dressed up for show. It’s a magical time of year.

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Sometimes. For some of us, it’s a struggle. I’ve had years like that as I’m sure you have too. The very idea of putting up a Christmas tree is exhausting. Or makes you sad.

The pressure to DO Christmas seems to build more and more every year. Along with the pressure, comes the stress stealing the joy in our hearts. In many ways, Christmas brings out the worst in us as we fret and buzz around.

So I hide. I don’t think I’m the only one. Sometimes the busiest people are really just hiding in their business. Others of us, really do become hermits.

Why would we want to hide at Christmas? Isn’t it the time of miracles? The most wonderful time of the year?

One reason I hide is to avoid the inevitable disappointment. There have been times I’ve looked for Christ at Christmas but all I hear is silence. Ever happen to you?

I walk away from the holidays disappointed with God. Isn’t that the anti-thesis of Christmas? When it rolls around in twelve months time, I hide again, Afraid that down deep I’m doing something wrong. Christmas magnifies our hurts tenfold, doesn’t it? So we hide.

Pretty depressing, right? Isn’t Christmas supposed to be joyous? Maybe in our fantasy lives. Because in real life, stuff happens. Suffering happens. It doesn’t miraculously stop for Christmas.

Christmas in real life is very different from all the Christmas feel good movies and stories. But the miracle is still there if we can be open to seeing it.

In fact, the story of Jesus’ birth is not all unicorns and rainbows. Have you noticed that? Mary and Joseph didn’t have a place to stay and she was ready to give birth. Can you imagine the almost heart attack Joseph was probably having? Mary was going to give birth amongst animals. Without a midwife or help of any kind. I.Can’t.Even. Not to mention the gossip that followed them like a black rain cloud. What? You think that stayed in Nazareth? Probably half the village had to go to Bethlehem too. The gossips probably travelled with them. None of this was easy.

When we look at the story of Jesus’ birth we skip over some of these very messy details. One often overlooked is the four hundred years of silence from God between the Old Testament prophecies of Malachi and the birth of Jesus.

Four hundred years. Of Silence. We get fretful and anxious waiting twenty-four hours. Imagine waiting four hundred years!

It’s not like God’s people were cloistered either during those years. Those four hundred years were busy times indeed.

Major ancient world events were happening. Palestine was ruled by five different nations; Persia, Greece, Egypt, Syria and Rome.1 Some of it was brutal.2

The Jews were forced to worship pagan gods.2  It was a time of unrest and revolt.

Not a word from God.  His silence must have echoed like the winds of a hurricane. Here were His people under pagan rule and he wasn’t lifting a finger. Where was He?

Silent doesn’t mean absent.

I don’t know why God remained silent those four hundred years. I don’t even know why  he remains silent in my own life or in the lives of those I love. But what I’m learning is just because he’s silent doesn’t mean he’s not present. It’s just the opposite.  He’s right in the middle of it.

He had things under control back then.   He was putting into place the events of His Son’s birth and life and ministry. For the New Testament Church.

“Many things occurred that made the time just right for Jesus’ ministry and the writing of the New Testament. For example, the Greek language spread throughout the world, providing a common language, and the Roman period provided a time of unprecedented peace, magnificent highways, and uniform laws that aided the spread of the gospel by the first century church.” Kids Answers website

God was working everything together to put His plan of salvation in place.  And later, to spread that Good News around the world. He was there and he was getting ready to send His Own to us.

“All of these changes set the stage for the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ, to come ‘in the fullness of time’ (GALATIANS 4:4).”1

In the fullness of time. It all rolled out just as God had planned. When everything was in place, God’s Son came down to earth to save us.  To be present among His people.  In the flesh.

Emmanuel. God with us. God may seem silent in our lives and maybe during the Christmas season but that doesn’t mean he’s absent. Look for his hands at work. Wait with expectation until you can see Him. But most of all know that He is with us, whether silent or not. Emmanuel. God with us. At all times.  In all circumstances.  In all joy.  In all suffering.  All.The.Time.  This is the miracle of Christmas.

1.  https://answersingenesis.org/kids/bible/years-of-silence/

2.  https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/what-happened-between-testaments/

Things Learned from a Month of Perceived Insanity

So here it is twenty-three days in to National Novel Writing Month and The End is in sight. Literally.

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The idea of writing a novel in a month is a little crazy town but so worth it. Not only will I have accomplished a goal and have the skeletons of a novel by the end of November but I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. Which for me, is a win all the way around.

So what have I won? Well hopefully I will win Nanowrimo with a 50K word count by the end of the month. Here are some other things I’ve won( or learned over the course of this month):

  1. I am much more capable of “doing” than I give myself credit for. I quit things so  easily. Maybe quit isn’t the right word?  I get done the required amount and quit after that. Maybe you find yourself doing this too? We do just what is asked for, no more. Rarely do we push ourselves beyond our own feelings, or fears to something  bigger, more.
  2. Having a deadline looming is a good thing. Having a deadline looming with a cast of characters watching and cheering you on, motivates you even more. I did not want to come back with anything less than 50 000 words.  They preach it at Nanowrimo.  Telling people makes you accountable!
  3. I waste a ton of time. I don’t need to say anything else. Ugh.
  4. Reading is actually research. Hooray! I’m closing in on 130 books read this year and honestly felt a little guilty. But here’s the thing; I would not have been able to write so quickly if I hadn’t read so much. Reading lots of different genres makes you a better writer. It’s advice seasoned writers always hand out to up-and-comers.
  5. The excuses of why I wasn’t writing do not hold up any longer. I told myself I couldn’t write at night because I was too tired. I told myself I could not get up early to write because I’m tired. I told myself I didn’t have stories to tell that came from my imagination. (Even though I have been telling myself stories since I was a little kid when I couldn’t sleep at night. What did I do during those long dark hours? I made up stories in my head with characters from tv shows. Early fan fiction when it wasn’t even a thing. I think a lot of writers have this experience.) But this month, I wrote at night. I wrote in the morning and I wrote in the afternoon. Did I have time frames that I was more productive? Yes. I am a morning person. The words flowed easier in the am. BUT I still got my word count at other times. Huh. I’ve almost written 50 thousand words. I had a story to tell. Maybe more.

Some Practical Do’s & Don’t’s of NaNoWriMo that I learned:

a. Stay in your chair or on the couch or bed until you have your day’s word count. Wrimos (People doing Nanowrimo) tell you this and it’s true. Do not get up to do dishes (Well, really, why would you do that?) or any other chore that suddenly occurs to you. Stay still until you reach your goal. It’s amazing what your brain will do if you give it a chance and still your body.
b. Don’t get caught up in a good book during this month of novelling. Why? Because if you’re like me, you will get caught up in someone else’s characters and not care as much as you should about your own while you are reading said book. I read mostly what I call fluff stuff and books that had no intense plot lines or were totally different than the book I’m writing. Because you know, I couldn’t stop my research! 🙂
c. Do have a separate folder entitled NOVEL NOTES opened when writing. The wise people at Nanowrimo suggest this and it is pure genius. You will be adding things or coming up with new ideas as you write and you want to be able to put them somewhere easily accessible. For example when the protagonist’s parent’s job changes from a mechanic to an engineer by the end of the book and as an author you don’t catch this nor do any other early readers.  So after publication, your reader is left going, “Wasn’t he a mechanic in the beginning?”  And then has to search through the book to find it.  Hence Novel Notes. It saves everyone from going crazy or thinking they are!
d. If you have a family to feed while trying to writing an outlandish amount of words in a month, do invest in a lot of easy prep food. It will save your butt more times than not. You will be a superhero because chicken wings and fries are awesome! Instead of being the person who at five o’clock in the afternoon, is searching feverishly through the freezer, looking for somehting, anything to eat that will be ready NOW. FYI no one fainted from hunger here during the month of November. Next year they learn to cook for themselves!
e. Do have some writing buddies who are writing along with you. It is inspiring and fun. It takes the solitude away and they can talk you off a ledge better and faster than anyone else.
f. Finally Do have a pet rabbit or any other kind of pet who will keep you company as you type feverishly. Who will listen to plot ideas or character assassinations. Who will let you pet them to relieve stress. Or provide you with a good laugh as they give you fodder for material for your book.

So will my first nanowrimo be my last? Definitely not. This month has been everything I hoped it would be and worth the insanity.  It was also a lot of fun.  In some ways I am sorry to be done.  But I’m not really done, there’s revisions in the months of January and February.  You know, adding flesh to that skeleton I’ve created this past month…

 

Why NaNoWriMo Now?

So we are two days before NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) officially begins, November 1st. Then the insanity commences.

It’s my first year attempting to write 50 000 words in 30 days. Why am I doing this crazy thing in the middle of one of the busiest times of the year? (We’re only about seven weeks off Christmas, right?)

It’s doesn’t appear to make sense, I know, but last year I thought about it. This year I AM DOING THIS THANG.

Usually if I’ve thought about something like this for any length of time, it’s because deep down, I really want to do it. In the past, I would make excuses not to, justify them and feel let down and disappointed in myself because I didn’t do what I really wanted to do, deep down in my soul. That’s all changed. I now listen to my soul whisperings. And it’s telling me to do this wild, crazy thing.

I like a challenge but I used to run from them too, even though I’d be drawn in. Again I’d make excuses and justify why I couldn’t. I am done with justifications on why I can’t.  Like the Little Red Engine, my motto is “I think I can, I think I can.”

Another reason for attempting this little project? It’s my dream. Why not chase it now? I have no other answer but “Yes”.

Since I have no writing deadlines or projects in the immediate future. Except for this one: 50 000 words in 30 days.

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Also, I believe God is leading me into this adventure, saying “Follow me. This is the next step.” I know, right? Why would he lead me into this adventure that seems so frivolous? It’s my experience that God doesn’t always lead in what we would term rational ways. He is radical and we follow Him radically. Do you have similar experiences?

I also love the philosophy of NaNoWriMo. Quantity not quality. It’s not as bad as it sounds. The idea is to get the story told and worry about perfecting it (rewriting) later. Just get the ideas down on the page. The first draft. It’s for your eyes only. This is how I write. Fast and with a lot of mistakes. I form the idea and then go back and make it work. A friend gave me this advice a long time ago and I find it works for me.

Chris Baty, the founder of National Novel Writing Month, called it “exuberant imperfection.” He writes in his book, “It dictates that the best way to tackle daunting, paralysis-inducing challenges is to give yourself permission to make mistakes, and then go ahead and make them.” (p. 38, No Plot? No Problem) He goes on to make even more sense, “By giving yourself the gift of imperfection, you tap into the realms of intuition and imagination that your hypercritical brain normally censors. (p.39)

So true! I’m eager to see what comes out of this month of intense writing!

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Baty also addresses the fear. Fear is what has kept me from attempting this in the past. Fear I couldn’t tell a story. Fear I wasn’t good enough and didn’t have the talent. Baty writes, “At the first awkward line of prose or botched brushstroke, we hurriedly pack away the art supplies and scamper back to our domains of proficiency.” (p. 38) Don’t we though? I see it in my kids too. They don’t want to try things because they are afraid they’ll make a mistake. Or they think they should have it perfect the first time through. Why do we get like that?

For this time, I’m going to bash that fear of imperfection. Believe me it wins more times than I care to confess, but this once I’m not going to let it take over. I have permission to make mistakes and make it ugly at first.

I’m hoping that the courage to be imperfect is contagious and it catches on in more areas of my life. And maybe with my kids too. That they’ll be able to have fun trying and not worry about outcomes all the time. I think it’s a valuable life lesson.

I’m not alone in this either. I know there are lots of you out there that just need permission to make a mess and have a glorious time doing it. That’s part of what this next month is about. That’s somehow liberating.

The only thing fear is going to do is motivate me to finish the 50 000 words. That’s considered acceptable.  And if for some reason I don’t, I’m still ahead any words I do write.  Win-win.

So starting November 1st, if you see my family, you might want to extend a hand of sympathy to them as they are going to be witnessing the frantic writer/crazy person in first person. My best friends will be pre-made food (not a regular dinner guest at our table), coffee in my Wonder Woman mug and my chiropractor (aching back, headaches and carpel tunnel syndrome all possible in the next 30 days).

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Feel free to encourage, ask my word count (not every day please) and generally give friendly reminders to not give up even when the muse has walked out the door.

NaNoWriMo 2017: 50 000 words in 30 days or BUST. (That’s 1667 words a day for those of you who are challenged mathematically, like myself.)

What crazy dream are you following right now?  

PS: It’s very hard to push the Publish button on this one.  Once done, I’m accountable.  Ahhhhh!

The Life of Un-ease

Recently I travelled to a conference on mothering but quite honestly didn’t come away with too much about being a mom. Not because there wasn’t a lot of good information on mothering and raising the next generation. There was. The speakers and workshops were fabulous. What I heard however was something completely different.

It was an echo of a lesson that has been reverberating through my life the last couple of weeks. The lesson being an answer to a long held question. An answer I’m not sure I want to accept. Because it doesn’t make things easier. At least not my circumstances. That’s what we all want isn’t it, circumstances that are smooth, that slide along the journey of our lives barely making a ripple. I want ease and quiet. Our world in so many ways, tells us we can have it, that easy lifestyle within our grasps, if we only do this and this and this.

We chase after it, this lie of ease. At least I do. It beckons me and I reach and grab, only to lose it again and the chase starts again. Relentless.

Wouldn’t it be better to just face the circumstances?

I’m wondering if our lives have no ripples maybe we’re doing something wrong? The enemy would have us chase after ease because then we are too distracted, running after the wrong thing, to see the truth. Our lives are not supposed to be easy peasy. Following Jesus is not a crutch into an affluent, carefree, prosperous life that many mistakenly believe it is.

Jesus himself tells us this in the gospel of Mark 8:34-37 (MSG)
Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for? (emphasis mine)

This is what I learn from these verses:

1.  We Follow, He Leads. That’s just the way it is. I’d like to say that I want to do that but if I’m really honest, no, I want control. I want to lead. My husband says that I want to lead when we dance. I like to blame it on my dance training but in reality, I want control. So we look good.
2.  We Follow wherever He Leads. “Don’t run from suffering; embrace it.” Most days I want to run from suffering and not follow wherever he leads. I fight Jesus every step of the way. I.Don’t.Want.This. I scream. Do you do this too? I feel like a two-year old. Maybe because I’m acting like one.
3.  He’ll show us how. How to embrace suffering, to stand and face our circumstances. If He shows how to do that, doesn’t that mean that He’s here, beside us, through it all? The suffering, the difficulties, the challenges, the good, the bad?

Whether our circumstances and situations are mothering challenges, marriage challenges, health challenges, work challenges and/or relational challenges, whatever they are, He is there right in the middle of the mess, the frustration, the angst. We don’t have to run away, instead we need to run towards Him and He’ll show us how to live, really live, even in those uneasy, desperate, noisy circumstances.

We can trust Him to stay because He has said He won’t abandon us. We don’t have to chase Him, we just have to grab onto Him or jump into His arms. He’s got us and He’s already gone ahead of us right into what we think is a murky future.

The choice is really up to us. Run after the relentless pursuit of ease only to find in the end, we chased after the wrong thing or face the suffering, the challenges, the difficulties, the unease and know He is right there, navigating us through it it all.

Navigating us through the darkness to a light and a reward. A heavenly reward yes, but today, the prize is Him. Jesus. Following those footsteps enables us to have an intimate, deep relationship with the real deal. But we have to let him lead. We follow into a glorious, loving relationship.