Saturday, March 12, 2016

Taking off King Saul's Armor

I don't know why it's so hard to do this. Except that maybe I do. It's rarely easy to admit mistakes and doing so publicly is not most people's version of fun. (Asking for help isn't something I'm good at either.) But I want to tell you what God's been teaching me this week, so I'm doing it anyway.

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I've been working on writing a book. In the last several months, I've ended up on several writers' email lists and have received many emails with suggestions for how to write or market a best-seller, how to create a book proposal, and all manner of ways to expand your "platform" (or following or audience or reader list or whatever.) I've read some of it and questioned much of it, partly because I don't really want to write a best-seller and don't want the pressure (that I imagine) of having so many readers. I listened, though, and while I think God perhaps was leading me to work on a book proposal (in part to clarify to myself what I was thinking) I took that and ran with it where God wasn't leading. At least that's how it seems now.

Yesterday I finished reading 2 Chronicles. Unlike 1 & 2 Kings (which follows the history of both the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah) 1 & 2 Chronicles sticks to the Davidic lineage through the kings of Judah. Some of Judah's kings completely disregarded and blatantly dishonored Yahweh - the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - but there were several kings who truly did all they could to pursue, honor, worship, and obey Yahweh alone. They were inspiring, until they would do something foolish, like look to another country for protection or ignore the messengers God sent them. Often it was because they listened to the wrong advice.

I marveled and shook my head at it all, and finally realized I was just like them. God has brought me so far and carried me through so much. He put on my heart to write down my story and the lessons He has taught me on this journey, even when it didn't seem logical to do so. From beginning to now, He has led me (I think and hope) by His Spirit to walk and write by faith. Why would I think I should abandon this work of faith and take the path advised by the experts? 

"Hold on, Melissa. What are you talking about?"

Well, it's like this. "Experts" suggest that if you want to get a book published and purchased, you should probably have a base of followers first. This base (also known as a "platform") could be blog readers, email list subscribers, or Instagram, Twitter or Facebook followers, to name the most common. Experts also suggest you write a lot. Write everyday. Whether or not it's published on a blog or kept private, it's good to practice, because the more you write, the more you'll develop your "Voice" and become a better writer. Working to get your writing shared as a guest post on other blogs is recommended, as well. They also suggest you read a lot, because you'll get ideas and be able to compare your writing voice to other authors, discovering what might be similar about your styles and what might set you apart. All this can be just fine. (It actually sounds smart, doesn't it?) There's nothing wrong with any of it - unless you start thinking about all of it too much and it starts to overload your brain and heart because it's not what God is leading you to do! I haven't tried to do it all. But I have started trying to post more and think more like a real "writer" and even more than the posting, all of the thinking has been a big distraction. My heart and home and family have suffered a bit for it. The big proof, however, might be that I haven't gotten hardly anything done recently on my actual book - which is what I'm most certain I am being led to work on. 

Back to the kings. I keep thinking about Saul and David - specifically when the Israelite army was being taunted by the Philistines and David said he would face Goliath. Saul offered David his armor and David tried it on. He decided not to wear it because he wasn't used to it and he trusted God  to lead and protect him, even without King Saul's armor. All of my thinking about readers and writers and platforms has been my equivalent of trying to fight wearing King Saul's armor. Saul's armor fit him, but it didn't fit David. Those strategies might fit other writers, but they don't fit me right now.  So I've unsubscribed from some things and quit some other things.

I'm taking off King Saul's armor.

Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden is light. The yoke he has for me fits me and the stage of life my family is in right now. It will still involve work, but it will be a work of faith rather than a work of fear that my efforts won't be enough or that God won't come through if I don't follow the advice of others. 

The first step I believe Jesus is leading me to take is to invite people to pray for me. It's time I stop trying to do this mostly on my own. A friend who has prayed for me for years already recently said, "I'm sure you have other people praying about this..." and I hemmed and hawed and had to admit I haven't regularly asked for prayer about this. Gulp.

So I'm swallowing my pride and repenting and admitting I can't do this without more people. My husband, amazing as he is, can't support me alone. Neither can one praying friend. Others are praying some, but I haven't shared with them enough. I need a team of people who believe God is calling them to join me in making this book happen.
In all my life, I don't think I've ever done anything significant for the Church and the Kingdom of God without a group of people praying me through. 
And I need to start talking to these pray-ers more about specifically how they can pray for me. If you're interested in this, as far as I'm concerned, it will have to be God. You hardly even know what I'm writing about. And please don't feel obligated. If you've read this far, I already consider that amazing. :) But if you actually want to pray for me (and my family) as I write by faith and walk where God leads, let me know somehow. Leave a comment, send me a text or a message on facebook or something. I'll figure out later how we'll communicate. I just know for now I've got to ask.

Lord, I think this is what You wanted me to do. Show me what's next. Move in the hearts of people You want on this team. It's not even mine. It's yours. It's all yours. My story, the book, my life. It's all yours. Show us what to do. Thank You for showing me I needed to let all that other stuff go. You are who I need to hold on to. But thank you for the Body of Christ. You made me to need them, too. 
In Jesus Faithful Name, Amen

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Walk with Me

I went for a walk this morning.  The peach trees (or nectarine trees. I'm not actually sure.) are blooming and I hadn't taken time to stop and savor them yet this year. I thought about you when I was out there and wondered what it would be like to take you on a virtual walk with me... Have you ever seen an whole orchard in bloom?

Parked here next to an old olive grove, it's just us and the crows.

But the blossoms are gorgeous. Even more beautiful than my phone can capture.

Ever since I was a little girl I've been mesmerized by rows... rows of trees, rows of cotton plants, rows of vines... They make me happy.

It's interesting how grapes don't have blossoms like the fruit trees. There are signs of new growth, though. See the green new leaves popping out?

The olive trees behind us still have a few olives hanging on them. Drying out leftovers after the harvest, I guess.

Walking back, I can't help but notice the branches that have been pruned in preparation for this year's harvest. The trees are beautiful partly because they've been lovingly, painfully cared for by the workers who aren't afraid to prune back branches so there will be better fruit.

Some blossoms started blowing in the breeze. It was dreamy, snowfall-like loveliness. I picked up a few scattered petals to take home. That's when a word came to mind:

To carry a handful of petals, you have to be gentle. You can't hoard and carry too many, or they'll be crushed. It reminded me of one of the lessons God taught me at the retreat this past weekend.

I have to take the pressure off of my life, or I will crush it instead of letting the GENTLE life of Christ in me CARRY my life. 

My heart was made for GENTLE living, not PRESSURED striving.

My kids were made for GENTLE training, not HARSH impatience.

My marriage was made for GENTLE love, not DUTIFUL obligation.

"I therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and GENTLENESS, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." ~Ephesians 4:1-3 (NET)

We are also instructed to allow the Spirit to grow the fruit of GENTLENESS in our hearts (Galatians 5:23), to clothe ourselves with GENTLENESS (Colossians 3:12), and to let everyone see our GENTLENESS (Philippians 4:5). 

Why? Because Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I AM GENTLE and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry." ~Matthew 11:28-30 (NET)

We can be gentle with each other and on ourselves, because God is gentle with us.

My friends Wendy and Debby both became grandmothers yesterday. They are so excited, and rightly so. Their granddaughters are adorable. While neither of them have older siblings or cousins, you can bet that if a toddler or other child was holding or touching those baby girls, the word "GENTLE!" would be on the lips of those grandmas. Why? Because we treat babies with gentleness. It's instinctive.

It's RIGHT. 

Friends, let's remember that it's also right to treat ourselves and those around us with gentleness. Somewhere along the way, it becomes less instinctive. By the grace of God, though, we can learn again. Because we can learn from him. And HE IS GENTLE.

Thanks for walking with me today, friend!
Have a blessed and gentle day. :)
See you next time,

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