Your Christian Walk: a habit a hobby or a lifestyle

My boss has Celiac disease, which causes a serious allergic reaction to gluten. The body reacts in such a way that it rejects the ingestion of this protein with an angry vengeance. The thing is gluten is such an intricate part of the American diet he often struggles when eating out, which, is more often than not because he travels a lot as part of his job. His dietary lifestyle is so drastically different from the rest of the team we center our team lunches and outings around where he can get a decent gluten-free meal. I often think of what a pain this must be. I mean, he can’t have too many spontaneous food outings or even enjoy a good old fashioned potluck.

I think about how set apart his lifestyle is. I’m reminded that as Christians we are called to be set apart as well. (I Pet. 2:9) We are chosen by God, set aside for his purpose. Yes, we are called to be different. Our lives do not represent the status quo. But too often they do. Too often our Christians walk is not a reflection of what we say we believe. We ascribe to Christian ideals—goodness and kindness and such but our lifestyle plays out in a manner that is flexible and changeable depending on what is going on around us.

 

Is your Christian Walk more of a hobby?

My husband and I like to bike ride. We hit the trails with our mountain bikes when we can but not nearly often enough. In fact although we’ve had the bikes for a couple of years they still have a beautiful glossy finish which gleams as we ride. But we don’t sweat it too much. We’ll ride when we get to it. Those bikes have a cozy spot in the garage.

When our Christian walk is more of a hobby we practice it when we get to it. If we are plunged into a midst of a crisis he suddenly hears our fervent and desperate prayers. Or, there we are at church walking with heads up clutching our bibles while averting the stares of parishioners that give us that “what are you doing here?” stare. And our Bibles are certainly accessible if we need to reference them. But we hardly ever do. After all, they are the same old stories we heard as a kid. Besides, the good Word we hear on the Sundays we visit church is usually enough. No one would mistaken us for anything but a Christian—that’s pretty darn certain. Right?

Is your Christian Walk more of a habit?

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. Good habits provide structure and expectation. They make us more predictable and create a definable cadence to our lives. We love to say that we have good habits. Habits may be based on some strong belief system or simply the way we’ve always done things. Going to church may be a habit. It’s a good idea to hear a good, inspiring message to get us through the week. When our Christian walk is a habit we “do” Christian things more often than not and no one would mistake us for anything more than a Christian—and that’s almost a solid fact.

Is your Christian Walk a Lifestyle?

The Bible says that if you are a part of Christ you are a new creature. The old you is gone and there’s a new you. A lifestyle change is broad and far-reaching. You take great means to protect it and nurture it because it is your life.

When your walk is your lifestyle your relationship with Christ becomes more intimate. It is one that is personal and necessary as you seek to please and honor the one that has given life to you. You sacrifice and give up things that were once dear to you but are no longer, because they are an offence to the one with whom you share this relationship.

You shy away from relationships that dishonor Christ. Your lifestyle is changing not in one area but in all.

My boss’s kitchen is quite different from mine—filled with rice and oat flours, Xanthan gum and such. He makes no apologies for the great pangs he takes in selecting restaurants. He never complains. It is his way of life. He protects his health. He doesn’t risk it to appease our group or anyone else because in the end he is the one that would suffer.

A Christian lifestyle is not always convenient for the ones around us. Some may be offended by the way we live. They may find it tediously annoying to witness the careful way we choose to always honor something or someone we cannot see but claim to know.

Are our lives perfectly coiffed? Absolutely not. But as we walk daily he guides us.

With this lifestyle we are more prepared for the obstacles that will surely come our way. Prayer is not awkward monologue as we reach out to a strange, distant bigger than life force. It is dialogue between us and our Creator—it is private, personal and comforting because we know that he hears us. When tempest threaten our peace of mind we may not know what to do but we certainly have access to the One who does. When it is a lifestyle our mental breakdowns lessen. This is not to say that fear won’t creep in but our path is straight and our steps are assured.

Why you don’t receive your heart’s desires

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37:4, ESV).

 The cliché declares the heart wants what it wants. It enforces the belief that we have these heart-felt desires of which we cannot control. We roll with this as if our heart is apart from the rest of our being—a separate vessel that we must submit to regardless of whether we want to or not. The heart wants what it wants. We are often told to follow our heart as if the truth of every issue of life flows from it. We can depend on it to guide us everlasting peace. These beliefs are both true and untrue. Allow me to explain.

The unregenerate heart

We are born with an unregenerate heart which simply means that it has not been changed by the power of God. It is the heart connected to our sinful nature. It is the heart of which Jeremiah spoke of when he said, “The heart is desperately wicked.” The unregenerate heart does not and cannot submit to God. If you don’t know God as savior it is possible to diligently follow your heart and be completely, perfectly and utterly wrong. If we don’t have the spirit of God ruling our hearts—which is given to us when we are born again—we will not be obedient to God. And even with all of our good intentions we will follow our fleshly, natural desires, never coming close to pleasing God.

“…the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:7-8)

Our hearts are submissive to the world view. We react to what is going on around us, pressed on every side to fit in with what is normal or seemingly necessary. Our desires and wants for our children and families become a reflection of what the world deems right and necessary—the way spend our money and time, our view of political and social issues, the way we love and seek to be loved. We become the walking billboard of the self-absorbed and progressive view of the world in which we live, rolling with the order just to keep up.

When we seek God with this heart it is not a reflection of his will but our own. God allows us to choose, of course, but it doesn’t mean he will be a participant or an approver in our wrong choices, even when our hearts are hungry for it.

Shining the Light on our Desires

But you say, what about us who are born again? What about those who desperately want to please God? God speaks to our spirit and in our innermost man we know what God knows. But even as born again believers our soul is often bent towards the world’s belief. If our desires don’t fall in line with the Word of God, they can be just as undesirable as that of someone who is not walking with God. Even as Christians we often absorb what we see, feel, and experience, and live out of this fleshly nature. We become prone to the same desires as the world, seeking to satisfy a longing that can only satisfied by a true and intimate relationship with God.

How do we change our heart’s desire?

We change by renewing our mind with the word of God. We find out God’s take on things and line our thinking up with his way—even if we feel something differently. We remember that he knows best.

It’s funny, but looking back at my life only five years ago it’s amazing how my desires changed as I sought a closer relationship with God. For so long, I was bent on a plan that I thought suited me. When I reexamined many of my desires they sought to look the part of someone I thought I needed to be. Many of them were prideful and self-serving based on deep-rooted insecurities and fears.

“And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

When we seek intimacy with God and truly set out to know and do his will not only will our desires change but we will begin to receive what we ask for because we are in alignment with His purpose and plan for our lives. His desires become our desires and his plan becomes plain.

 

 

 

Why Ignorance isn’t Bliss

Why Ignorance isn’t Bliss

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Is. 54:10, NIV)

I like a story that is so intriguing that it keeps you in the moment. It’s that story that can’t be easily broken by way of predictable plot twists and tired story lines. But it enraptures you and the writer leads you down the unknown path. It is those times that you trust the story, trust wherever it is headed. You are willing to follow.

We can’t live in those moments in real life which is why we look forward to them when we are allowed to escape reality.

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In the real world we are expected to face the truth about tragedy and disaster, dishonesty and impending doom, responsibilities and change. We are expected to talk election, figure out the best candidate and make the right choice. We count on each other to make the proper decisions based on what we know. And many times it is too much. The burden weighs on us, sapping our energy and spirit, leaving us jaded, confused and looking for a way out. We turn to ways to open the preverbal door of altered reality—and it comes in many forms.

It sometimes escapes us that there is a God who cares and who has purposely not equipped us to carry such weight. The doom we fear is to be averted. It is through prayer and relationship that we find peace and direction on what to do when we don’t know what to do. When we forget the source of our hope we forsake our solid foundation, our guiding light, our eternal beacon. We can live blissfully, not because we live in ignorance, but because of what we do know.

Why attempting the perfect novel may be hindering you

Why attempting the perfect novel may be hindering you

For everyone who writes there are a million ways to get those words down on paper. If you’re anything like I am you stress over the perfect word wondering if your reader will get it. Is it as compellingly written out as it was in your head? You may even be tempted to labor over every paragraph for days at a time moving from page to page until the last chapter rings in your head like prose from a NYTBS. And even then, you aren’t sure, so you rewrite it—again. You could take months or even years with this routine and still not have a finished novel. The truth is, although there is no right or wrong way to edit and rewrite, working that prose like a drill sergeant with OCD can kill your flow and leave you feeling creatively bankrupt.

The problem with perfection is that it truly does not exist. But that is not the only problem. Passion and creativity are the driving forces of fiction. Sometimes it is easier to simply let it flow to get it out. Trust your instincts. If you think the first scene is too early to kill of the father, you’re probably right.  You may think, well, I’m new at this so I’ll get the opinion of a couple of other folk. Well, you’ve seen that show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Remember the episodes when the contestant asks the audience and gets practically the same margin in response for all choices presented to them?  It is then the frustrated contestant actually has to make his or her own decision. Imagine. Go with your flow. One false move, such as fixing it to please someone else well inevitably lead to another false move and then another and then…well you get it the idea.

I try to keep in mind while I’m writing that I could indeed be wrong. This entire novel could be headed in the wrong direction. But I also know the worse that could happen is that I’ll have to rewrite. But once the story is done how will you know when you are indeed finished? You will know. The story will be told. The issues will be resolved. You will have created tension and your characters will be developed. When this sense of completion hits you, stop writing.

Perfection

Writing is like housecleaning—there always something left to do. There will always a paragraph that could’ve be written tighter, stronger. There is always room for more intense character developed. Stop. Save it for the next novel. Now it is time to send it off to your editor and let he/she take a stab at it, or, even better, take it to your beta reader. But stand in the confidence that you have written the best story for the experience and skill and creativity you now possess.

And look on the bright side—the next novel will be even better.

Stephen King’s Advice for Writers

Stephen King’s Advice for Writers

His advice has been well publicized, but I thought it worth repeating:

 

  1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”
  2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”
  3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend.” (e.g., “he said happily” and “she said angrily”, etc.)
  4. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”
  5. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”
  6. Read, read, read. “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”
  7. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”
  8. Turn off the TV. “TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”
  9. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”