Not to worry! How to de-stress

“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?” (Matt 6:30) winter_flower_wallpaper_025

Almost every day I hear from someone that he or she is “stressed.” Even I say I am stressed from time to time, though I know by now that stress is in direct disobedience to God’s will for us. It’s a form of worry that things aren’t going right now which opposes the state in which we are supposed to try to be – grateful for how things are – or a state of fear that things won’t go right in the future, which opposes our faith.  When we stress – over our jobs, our parents, our kids, our health, our future, our lives – we are feeling and acting faith-less, or in a state of distrust. So it would make sense to me that the only way out of stress is to make every effort to trust – in ourselves, the people around us and especially in God. And I think the season of Lent is the perfect time to give it our all.

Trust in ourselves – Sure, we shouldn’t only trust in ourselves. And most problems are bigger than we are. But we have to believe that we are God’s children and that often the answers lie within us – and if we do the next right thing, we can trust in the outcome, even when we make mistakes and fall. I think sometimes we just need to find the right balance of trusting not only in ourselves, but enough so that when we work with others and with God, everything will be okay. Lord help me find the right balance of trust in myself.

Trust in others – We are living in an increasingly distrustful world. An AP poll recently showed the percentage of Americans who trust in other people has fallen from half in the 1970’s to just a third today. Distrust usually brings fear and discord. “Even the rancor and gridlock in politics might stem from the effects of an increasingly distrustful citizenry.” the article says.  The solution? Open our minds and hearts to trust others – it’s never too late – and teach our youth to do the same. I tend not to have a problem with this as I’ve been told I can be too trusting – gullible even. But I’d much rather err on the side of trust in my fellow human beings than the alternative of living in fear. This Lent, Lord, help us to work with and trust our fellow human beings.

Trust in God – This is the most important thing we can do to de-stress, and what Jesus specifically calls us to do.  Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Look atmaxresdefault the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
(Matt 6:25-27)
And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?” Wow. Those last words are so true and powerful. This Lent, Lord help us most of all to trust in You.

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Filed under Christian Fiction Author, Inspirational Fiction Author, Modern Day Bible Stories

bible-sunset-2As an author, I often feel like I am taking one step forward and two steps back. I’m sure the millions of other authors out there, who write books that haven’t sold millions of copies (yet) or been made into movies (yet) or reached the New York Times Bestseller List (yet) feel the same way. Yet day after day we strive to put words on the page (or computer screen), market our books already published, and pray for the best. It can get a little daunting, discouraging, frustrating. Yet every so often there’s a light that shines through the clouds.

 

A few rays have shone forth for me lately…my novel, The Peace Maker, is being promoted through a company called Books Go Social and reviews and sales are happening as a result! My novel, The Runaway Prophet, is also gaining sales through good reviews. And my latest novel, The Faithful One (republished on Feb. 14, 2017 by Morgan James Publishing) just received a good Kirkus Review: “…an exploration of what a contemporary Job might look like, Chynoweth’s tale should more than satisfy.” (KIRKUS REVIEWS)

 

I write “Modern Day Bible Stories,” contemporary, edgy, inspirational novels full of suspense and romance based on Old Testament stories in the Bible. Many times I’ve been asked why I write novels based on Bible stories…instead of something more “in vogue.” But I write them because I feel that’s the calling God has put on my heart…to “re-imagine” these otherwise hard to read and comprehend stories into fast-paced, entertaining fiction so that today’s readers can get the message (and escape into a good book at thmy-bookse same time!)

 

There is part of me for sure in each story…I started writing The Faithful One based on the Book of Job (about the guy who has it all and then loses everything and questions God) when I was going through a lot of Job-like trials and tribulations; I wrote The Peace Maker about the story of David and Abigail in the First Book of Samuel after going through a rough divorce (Abigail is in a terrible marriage and faces some tough decisions to do the right thing when she meets soon-to-be King David who is ready to obliterate her husband and her village); and I wrote The Runaway Prophet based on the Book of Jonah (about the guy who tries to run from God’s call and then falls into all sorts of trouble as a result) when I was mired in doubt and frustration about my own calling.

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So how do we keep trudging along when the light seems to fade? First, I think we have to find our true purpose and then keep trying to fulfill it with everything in us. I actually have come to love my calling, despite the hardships that come along, and am writing the next novel based on Cain and Abel in Genesis (stay tuned!). Second, I believe we all need to try to help each other whenever possible. And last but not least, we need to just keep putting one foot in front of the other on this journey we call life – and hope, pray and have faith in God’s Will and Purpose.  And although all of those other great bonuses I mentioned (millions of sales, movies, bestseller lists, etc.) are still part of my dream, my main encouragement meanwhile usually comes through my readers. Every time readers tell me they got something out of one of my books, whether it was enjoyment, entertainment, inspiration or even a little more faith, my spirits are lifted. I pray I am lifting your spirits right now with this message. And with that I’ll leave you with my favorite Bible quote: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Thank you to all of my fellow authors, readers and even critics – you push me to keep striving and keep writing!

 

Michele Chynoweth is the award-winning author of The Peace Maker, The Faithful One and The Runaway Prophet, contemporary, inspirational suspense/romance novels that are Modern Day Bible Stories. She is also an inspirational public speaker, book coach and writing instructor at her local college. More about Michele and her books can be found on her website: www.michelechynoweth.com

Sign up to get more inspirational messages each week through Michele’s blog: God’s Word Today.
NOTE: The Peace Maker is on sale for a limited time for $3.99 on Amazon Kindle:
The Peace Maker on Amazon Kindlethe-peace-maker-cover-web

 

 

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February 16, 2017 · 3:25 pm

Raising the Bar…

3xebneI’ll never forget when my husband was going through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) program with our church to convert to Catholicism (and marry me!) and I attended meetings with him as one of his sponsors, what the priest, Father (now Monsignor) John Hopkins, said in response to a question raised about “why become Catholic?” As in, what makes the Catholic church any different than any other church? And Fr. John answered, “I guess it’s because we raise the bar.” If you knew Fr. John (an extremely humble man) you’d know that he didn’t say it in any sort of arrogant way, but meant it’s because the Catholic Church calls believers to follow the teachings of Christ and the Word of God in the Bible to the utmost degree, not diverting in any way, nor leaving anything up to our own (or anyone else’s) interpretation. For example, the Church calls us to strive to be saints and to participate in the Sacraments including Confession, Holy Matrimony, and Holy Communion, in which we actually participate in the Last Supper and eat of Christ’s body, as He commanded us to do “in memory of me.” (Luke 22:19) Much the same way, Jesus raised the bar for the Jews back in His day, and for us today, through His example and teachings.  He told the people “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” To paraphrase, He tells the people that the Commandments are a good start, but we have to go further…not only to “not murder” but to not hold any anger in our heart, not only to “not commit adultery” but to get rid of any lustful thoughts, not only to “not bear false witness” but to not swear at all. (Matt 5:17-37) Often people refer to Jesus when they defend the secular world, saying He opened His arms to everyone including sinners. But that’s a convenient way to let ourselves off the hook I think. Better to keep striving to reach higher as a Christian and to keep striving to enter through the “narrow gate” than to take our chances of just getting by and possibly missing the ultimate reward of being with Him one day in paradise.

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Being freed from financial worry

Tax form with pen, calculator, dollar banknote , and glasses taxThis is the time of year when we usually sit down to do our taxes…never a fun thing of course. So what do taxes, finances, or money have to do with spiritual matters (which is usually what I write about)? Didn’t Jesus say “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s?” But it turns out if you look at the Bible, there is a lot to be said, both in the New and Old Testaments, about how we should view and handle money. You have probably heard of the “ten percent” rule when it comes to giving to the Lord, or tithing. This comes straight from the Bible: “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.” (Prov. 3:9) and “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord…every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod will be holy to the Lord.  No one may pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. These are the commands the Lord gave Moses at Mount Sinai for the Israelites.” (Lev. 27:30-34) I will be completely honest and admit it wasn’t until just yesterday I sat up and took notice of all of this (although my husband has suggested it more than once) finally realizing we should be—and are not—tithing ten percent of our income. It’s ironic because my sudden epiphany comes at a time when we are making less income than we have in years now that I quit my day job last year and am working full-time as an author. My spiritual awakening came as I was reading a little book sent to me free in the mail, apparently in return for a donation we made, by a church which we had attended with family at Christmastime. It’s “The Treasure Principals” by Randy Alcorn. It talks about how we will be richly rewarded if we give away our treasures (and a good beginning can be made by tithing.) The Bible also talks about this reward system:  “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:8-10) I cracked the book open early Sunday morning and found my heart cracking open with it. We have been worried a lot the past few weeks about income running out, not being able to pay the bills, debt mounting, etc. And I read, “Ironically, many people can’t afford to give precisely because they’re not giving. (Haggai 9:11) If we pay our debt to God first, then we will incur His blessing to help us pay our debt to men. But when we rob God to pay men, we rob ourselves of God’s blessing.” It’s also ironic that just when you feel like your back is up against the wall and you face the most fear that’s when God usually steps in! So we tithed ten percent for the first time in church yesterday. I won’t test God on this. I’ll just see what happens. But I’m sure being obedient to Him certainly can’t hurt any!

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Blessed are they…

march-for-lifeI was proud of those who marched Friday in the 45th annual 2017 March for Life, and proud of those who had the courage to speak out against abortion. In Sunday’s Gospel reading in mass from Matthew Chapter 5, Jesus gives us the beatitudes in his Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” I truly believe that those who march for life and against abortion are hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Later in this same chapter, Jesus goes on to speak about the law, anger, divorce, adultery, swearing, retaliation and love of enemies – and on each topic, He “raises the bar” on all of these, giving the Jews at the time a more strict definition of what it means to obey God’s commands. I wonder what Jesus would have said on the Right to Life issue if He was with us today? I’m thinking that He would have been one of the crowd marching, or maybe even one of the speakers! Later in Matthew’s Gospel, there is a story of the King (Jesus) sitting on the throne, separating the sheep (those who obey God’s laws) from the goats (those who do not) to pass final judgement. To the sheep,  “the King will reply, ‘truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ And to the goats He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matt 25: 40-46) Certainly the unborn who cannot speak for themselves can be considered among the “least” I would think. Lord, I pray today that we all help and support, even if only in prayer, the mothers, fathers and families struggling with bringing a child into this world, that You help them know they are loved. 

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Religion and Politics…

march-on-washington1Are you pro-Trump or anti-Trump? Are you pro-life or pro-choice? Are you unsure about which side you’re on,  or sure but afraid to speak out for fear of being unpopular? Today more than ever before with the recent inauguration of our new US President and the protests that have followed, people seem to be speaking out on how they feel on religion and politics…or holding back on how they feel out of fear they might be harassed or bullied for voicing their opinions. This past election has divided families and friends in America almost like the Civil War. And yet, even after that war, where brother fought brother over their strong convictions, people did eventually come together again as believers in God and His Word. I hope they will again soon. It’s obviously important to have convictions. I consider myself first a child of God and a Christian; I am also a woman but I believe in pro-life because that’s what the Bible – God’s Word – tells us that’s what God is about. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” (Jer 1:5) And I can’t justify my rights as a woman to choose if they conflict with my beliefs as a Christian. I hesitated on speaking out on this subject at a recent gathering of friends because there were a few vocal women talking against the new president. I knew if I debated them  it would cause more harm than good just to get across my convictions or beliefs on religion and politics. I’m glad the March for Women’s Rights was peaceful this past weekend. But I’m also disappointed that, although the march focused on being “for” various issues, many protesters were “anti” Trump more than anything else. This week in the Catholic Church is dedicated as the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.” It couldn’t come at a better time, in the world at large, but especially in America.  I believe we should focus on our common faith and spiritual beliefs, not our different religious or political views, we should move forward from this election supporting each other and our country instead of trying to keep tearing them down, we should promote peace instead of protest, especially in these fractious times, and we should work together for the common good. Just as Jesus embraced the Gentiles with the Jews and encouraged them to love each other, we need to be tolerant, accepting, even loving toward those who disagree with us, in our words and actions. As St. Paul says, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.” Amen.

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How Do We Stay Excited?

Long Distance RunnerSo…Christmas is over, the anticipation of looking forward to the New Year is already waning, it’s the dead of winter in many parts of the world (including where I live in Maryland), and perhaps the road ahead, continuing to take the steps needed to achieving the goals you set and reaching your finish line, seems very long. Perhaps even the winter blahs or even a mild case of depression is starting to sink in, especially if (like me) you don’t have any warm, tropical destination plans for the future. So…what’s next? How do we stay excited at this time of year? Maybe it’s time to call in the “big guns” and ask the Holy Spirit for a little help remaining spiritually motivated! Yesterday the Gospel reading in Mass was about John the Baptist seeing Jesus coming toward him and saying this was the Messiah of Whom he had prophesied.  Imagine John’s excitement! Then, “the next day John was there again with two of his disciples.  When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’ When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.  Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’ They said, ‘Rabbi’ (which means “Teacher”), ‘where are you staying?’   ‘Come,’ he replied, ‘and you will see’. So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him.” (John 1:35-39). Imagine Andrew and his brother Simon (Peter)’s excitement! Imagine our excitement if Jesus, the Messiah, was to walk up to us today! Would we see Him? Recognize Him? And yet, we are called to follow Him every day just like the disciples did. But again, what’s next, and how do we get and stay excited? I think we need to be just like the disciples in this story. First, I think we need to be open to seeking Him in others, and within ourselves, every day. Second, I think we need to answer Jesus’ question, “What do you want?” If we can answer that question in our hearts and simply ask where He’s staying (where can we find Him today?) and have faith that if we but come and follow, we will “see” as He promises, I think we have a good chance in staying spiritually motivated. And since He’s not here physically like He was for the disciples back then but sent His Holy Spirit to us, I believe calling on the Spirit’s power, grace, strength and guidance will help us stay on the course. Every day I think we are called to wake up with spiritual goals. For me, it’s not too much of a stretch as I am called to write Modern Day Bible Stories, contemporary novels that re-imagine God’s Word in the Old Testaments stories to inspire readers today. But even I get stuck a lot, which is why I need to follow my own advice and call on the Holy Spirit to help me write, and continue to give me faith that this calling will eventually pay the bills! In addition, my spiritual goals include finishing reading the Old Testament from start to finish (a page or two a day…I am getting close to being finished after nearly three years!); and being of service (following Jesus) when opportunities present themselves, whether that means doing something nice for someone, showing grace or forgiveness, or just paying a compliment or encouraging someone. As I write this, I feel re-energized and excited to face the day, one step at a time, and not look too far down the road because I know, Jesus promises us in fact (in the Book of Revelation), that I will win the race! 

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