Tag Archives: #ModernDayBibleStories

It’s Weeding Time!

Yesterday’s Gospel reading about the parable of the sowing of seeds reminded me that my “soil” or soul probably needs a little weeding…just like most farms or vegetable gardens at this time of year (and for sure our backyard patio!) Being a writer or storyteller myself,  I love that Jesus often talked in parables or stories full of description so that we of little understanding could get what He was saying – back then and now.

In Matthew’s Gospel (13:1-23), He tells of a farmer who goes to sow his seed; some gets eaten up by the birds, some falls on rocks, some falls in shallow soil and gets scorched, some falls among thorns (or weeds) and got choked, and some falls on good soil and grows and produces crops. “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means,” Jesus explains.  When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

I have been struggling in trying to grow closer to God despite feeling overwhelmed with my workload and scattered in different directions, in trying to know and do His Will in my writing career despite worrying about a lack of income and difficulties with finances,  in trying to find peace and joy in each day despite feeling worried about the future, and in trying to know Him better by improving my relationships with other people despite worrying they are resisting me because of their own resentments. I see that all of these thoughts and feelings that stand in my way are like weeds…I hear God’s word and start to have a little faith in His care, but then the “worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” choke it out and I become anxious, irritable and discontent – over and over again.

In another parable immediately following in the same Gospel, Jesus actually talks about weeding! Basically, He says the enemy sows these weeds but the landowner (God) decides not to pull the weeds for fear of uprooting the wheat growing alongside them. This tells me that I should be very careful when pulling out my weeds. If you’ve ever weeded a garden in frustration or impatiently, I’m sure you’ve probably pulled up a plant or two by accident. I’ve done this before and was upset that I actually lost some budding vegetables or fruit I didn’t want to lose. So in getting rid of negative thoughts, worries, negative behaviors or even negative people, I am also reminded to be gentle and loving – so as not to cause harm to myself or others. In another words, when I lay aside feelings of being overwhelmed in my work, I can’t do so and be slothful and just not work at all; when I try to forget my financial worries, I can’t do so and completely forget my financial responsibility to my household; when I try to stay in the day, that doesn’t mean I can’t make plans for the future; and when I try to let go of resentments I feel about others hurting me out of their own resentments, I need to be patient and not cut them off altogether but perhaps give them time and space.

Lord, I pray that you help me be more fruitful by helping me to gently get rid of any thorns or weeds choking my productivity and my spiritual growth. 

 

 

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You are NOT invited…

Sometimes we get left out. We are not included or invited to a family or friend’s gathering, party, celebration…and it hurts. And sometimes one of our kids isn’t invited…which, as a parent, often hurts us just as badly as it does the child if not more so. Recently this happened to me when my daughter wasn’t invited to a big event that I thought she should have been invited to.  My daughter was a little hurt and I was even more hurt for her. I know what it feels like to be left out, whether it’s unintentional or deliberate on the part of the person doing the inviting. I sat through Mass yesterday stewing about all of this as soon as the priest started his sermon about receiving an “invitation.” (Of course he was talking about God, and how He invites the lowliest, the least loved, the most in need of help among us, not the popular ones or our best friends or closest family members as is the case among us humans.)

Instead of hearing much of the sermon, my resentment kicked in and I was thinking of all of the things I would say in a text or email response when I got home. Luckily during the church service I also heard the words, “lead us not into temptation” loud and clear during the Lord’s prayer! And I realized my building resentment was probably just Satan trying to pull me off of my spiritual beam. I also reflected on the words of a good friend of mine who I talk to often whenever I am feeling spiritually off-center or resentful or down. She says, “their rejection could be God’s protection.” Think about it…whenever we are not included, not invited, uninvited, rejected…that could be God’s gentle hand trying to keep us from more harm.

Fortunately, there is Someone who always invites us…and that is God. I believe God extends a daily invitation to each and every one of us to be part of His Kingdom…whether it’s inviting us to the Lord’s banquet here on earth at Holy Communion, or inviting us to do His will by serving others, or inviting us to feel joy through all of His gifts. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t always RSVP…we either ignore the invitation or decide not to accept it. In the Gospel of Matthew, Chap 22, Jesus tells a parable about a king inviting his friends and family to his son’s wedding…but his first and second rounds of invitations go unanswered. So he invites people off of the streets to attend. But then the king notices one of the attendees is not “dressed” in wedding garments (or in other words, is disrespectful and not really wanting to be there.) Jesus concludes by saying “…many are called but few are chosen,” meaning that most of us are called, or invited by God to be part of His kingdom…but only those who RSVP and suit up and show up to be fully present will be chosen to be part of the eternal party known as heaven. And in the end, isn’t that really the only party that matters?

 

 

 

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Faith Business

Do you ask for spiritual guidance in your daily work, in your job or career, in your business? I am in the business of writing contemporary novels based on Bible stories, and in the book coaching business of helping other writers become authors, and after years of struggling to find the right balance of trying to run my business as a business (developing and following a plan, trying to make enough money to stay afloat and even make a profit, marketing my business to try to promote and build it, etc.)  and trying to have faith that everything will work out – despite expenses, debt, delays, mistakes, wrong turns, changes in plans, unforeseen bad circumstances and the like – I have finally come to realize that I need to focus on having a consistent balance between the two.

It used to seem a bit easier when I worked a nine-to-five job (not that faith here isn’t equally important) when I learned to just pray walking in the company front door that God come along with me that day into the workplace so I would do the best job I could do. But being self-employed now, I tend to swing from one extreme of the pendulum between faith and business to the other, which usually only leads to frustration. (You’ve probably heard of the saying, “we make plans and God laughs.”) My conversation with God usually goes something like this: “I’m doing the work Lord, but now nothing’s happening (or happening fast enough), the bills are piling up, if you can just show me the light at the end of the tunnel, show me a sign I’m headed in the right direction, send your favor soon, then everything will be alright…etc.” And another day goes by that I pray and feel like I get no answer, or direction, or sign, or favor. And then my emotional pendulum slowly swings from faith to tackling this business stuff hard on my own (meanwhile forgetting to continue to pray or listen or be grateful for how far I have come and the talents and direction I have received and forgetting God has the ultimate control). And then I get stuck once more, so I swing back to fervent (desperate) prayer again.  And so it goes.

Today I have decided to try to do and have BOTH – to do my business, one step at a time, making an effort to incorporate everything I’ve learned in my head, and to have faith in my heart, still praying for favor and trying to listen for God’s direction even through the tough times. And suddenly I’m feeling peace take over the old feelings of frustration. I can’t think of anybody – prophets, priests, judges, disciples – in the Bible who were called to do God’s work and didn’t experience setbacks, challenges, hardships and the like – and who didn’t come through them in the end. And I guess in the long run, it’s not how we start the race, but how how we finish it that really matters. So I’ll leave you with this Bible verse from Jeremiah 29:11: ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ For those who are struggling and have doubts like me, let’s hang onto this promise. If it’s in the Bible, it will come true!

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You are not alone

I finally watched the movie “The Shack” last night, which I thought was good timing since it deals with the Holy Trinity, or God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit – and yesterday was the celebration of “Holy Trinity Sunday” in the Church. I’ve always had a difficult time comprehending the concept of a Triune God, even though that’s the God I was taught to worship growing up and the God of my understanding today. The movie (and the book it’s based on) really do help make it all a bit more understandable.

But as I reflected on yesterday’s Mass readings and the movie, I had an epiphany as to why God is not a solo being but a God in three persons…I believe that He/She/They want us human beings to know we are never alone and that love can only be expressed through relationship with others. Think about it…you can feel peace, joy and comfort (as well as anger, sadness, discomfort) on your own, but you really can’t feel love (or hate) unless it’s toward someone. And while you can feel love or hate for yourself, you can’t actually experience love except with someone else (through kindness, generosity, charity, comfort, forgiveness,  intimacy and so much more). So it only makes sense that God is a “we” God…because God is love and wants to show us how to love each other. The Bible tells us God is a “we” God: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’.” (Gen. 1:26)

Although I am grateful I have relationships with so many loving people in my life…my husband, children, step-children, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, parents, sister, mother and sisters-in-law and their families, and all of my friends…sometimes I can still isolate, wanting to be left alone. This is never a good place for me to be for too long though, especially when I am dwelling on my problems and how to fix them or fears and how to be rid of them. It never fails that when I talk about my problems or fears with someone else, they lose their power and I tend (with their gentle guidance or even just listening) to come up with solutions so much easier and faster than I do on my own. Sometimes when I talk or pray to God I talk to the Father, sometimes to Jesus, and sometimes to the Holy Spirit…Whomever comes to mind. And I’m pretty sure He/She/They usually answer me through other people.

Thank You God, for showing us how to love through relationship and for letting us know we are never alone – we have All of You!

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We all have seeds of greatness!

It is that time of year…for the promises of spring, for young people to blossom into adults, for proms and graduations and new beginnings. I attended a Confirmation of two twin boys who I watched grow up in my neighborhood from babies to teens. They are fortunate to have good parents who love and support them in their growth not only physically but spiritually. I was moved by the church ceremony when the pastor placed his hands on each confirmation candidate and read: “Stir up in (name of Confirmand) the gift of your Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in your presence both now and forever. Amen.” I realized then and there that each of these young people have seeds of greatness in them.

But how often do we, as adults, realize there are still seeds of greatness in us just waiting to be cultivated? Earlier Sunday morning, getting ready for the church ceremony, I caught the words of Dr. Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries who was preaching on his weekly television show about having faith in God’s will, plan and purpose for our lives. He said (to paraphrase) that God truly does have a specific purpose and plan for each of us and the sooner we discover and follow it, the happier and more fulfilled we will be. He said it’s a shame so many people live their lives, sometimes reaching near the end, only to realize they don’t really know what that purpose is, wondering what life was really all about and feeling sad they wasted so much time not asking, knowing, nor cultivating their gifts and talents, and not growing.

I feel like I have finally found out – and am following – one of God’s purposes for my life: to write Modern Day Bible Stories, contemporary Bible-based novels that “re-imagine” Old Testament stories so that today’s readers can realize God’s messages in them through entertaining fiction. But I recently discovered another “seed” or calling I believe God is trying to reveal to me: helping other writers become authors. And so I have embarked on a new venture, teaching people how to write their own books, and helping them edit, publish and market those books so that they too can fulfill God’s plan and purpose for their own lives. Trust me, I have balked each time I heard these “callings,” telling God “I can’t do it, I’m not equipped, it’s too much work…” etc. etc. Kind of like many of the prophets and saints did back in the day! But I am beginning to see that once God plants the seed, He isn’t going to let it die!

Which brings me to my favorite Bible passage from Saint Paul, which I hope will inspire you today like it does me: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined…And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)

He does the planting, and watering and harvesting. Often, all we have to do is face the sun!

 

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Progress…not perfection

 

Let’s face it, in this thing we call life, we are going to fall short. Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I had a beautiful, wonderful day with my children and grandchild and husband and mother-in-law. And yet, I allowed my joy to be tinged with guilt in the end that I fell short as a daughter. (In the hectic fun of the day, I forgot until later in the day that I told my own mother, who was away, that I’d have everyone call to say hi, and we missed her. I felt bad she waited around for the call and we had to leave a voice mail.) I have a hard time letting go of my guilt…which affects my present thoughts, which in turn affects my future actions. I’m sure I am not alone in this. As human beings we want to do our best, and so we strive for excellence, and then beat ourselves up when we fall short.

I know God calls us to be our best. But He also forgives us for when we fall short. And if I don’t forgive myself, well, isn’t that a way of turning from God? The Bible is full of saints who strove for excellence and fell short, and yet, are remembered for the good they did, not their failures. Their examples show us that we just have to learn from our mistakes and move on. St. Paul tells us, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us…but we must hold on to the progress we have already made.” Wow, pretty simple, huh? Forget the past, look forward to the future, press on to be our best, and focus on the progress we have made.

Sometimes the road is forked or the way is foggy and our choices are unclear. We might make a wrong turn…we are going to make mistakes. We can either throw up our hands and stay stuck, or we can press on. Two steps forward, one step back…means one step forward at least. We need to continue to strive for perfection, to do God’s Will, to become saints. But I think in God’s eyes, it’s the striving that counts.

Lord, help me to remember that in striving to do Your will, I am making progress, even when I make mistakes and fall short. Help me to forgive myself, forget the past, focus on the future and press on.

 

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Don’t Quit Before the Miracle Happens…

I can only begin to imagine a mother’s (or father’s) grief over losing a child. Fortunately I have never had that experience and hope I never will. How does one go on? Yet Eve, the first mother, not only lost one child but really two, since Cain killed Abel and then “went away from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.” I have just finished writing my next novel, The Jealous Son, which explores this question, how do we go on in the face of overwhelming tragedy and grief?  Yet people lose loved ones, even children, every day and do continue to live, putting one foot in front of the other in this journey we call life. The only answer I can come up with is that these same people have faith in God – in His ways, His will, His plan. For Eve, that faith came to fruition in that she eventually, in her old age but nevertheless, had another son named Seth, who was to become the next member in the royal bloodline of Jesus, the Messiah. Eve had probably been ready to give up hope when Abel died and Cain, burdened by his sin, left his home and family, turning away from God in shame. Imagine Eve’s joy in having her hope fulfilled in Seth.

Although I haven’t lost a child, I have come to that place of almost giving up hope from time to time…sinking into grief or despair over the loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job, a dream…and yet I have moved on with the every day business of living life in hope and faith that something new must be waiting for me down the line, that God does have a plan for me too. In 12-Step recovery programs, you’ll hear people say “don’t quit before the miracle happens,” which means don’t give up your sobriety, no matter how much pain you might be suffering, because good things in life will happen, miracles even, and life will eventually be “beyond your wildest dreams.”

Sometimes Mondays are especially hard…we have enjoyed a fun or relaxing weekend and now it is back to business as usual…which is why I write this for you and for myself, reminding me that today is a new day of a new week just waiting to unfold…with miracles waiting for us to discover. For me, today is also the first day of a “new year” – I quit my day job and began my full-time author career exactly a year ago today. And while it has been a struggle and I am no where near where I want to be on this journey as far as material things go…book sales, recognition, money…I have to look back and see the good – another novel completed, a growing belief I’m on the right path, the ways I’ve helped other writers – and see that while slow and painful, I have moved forward in my journey. I know the road ahead is long and fraught with even more obstacles and challenges, and no, I can’t see what’s ahead on the horizon – yet I believe there also must be rewards ahead as well. If I quit today, I will never know the possibilities, rewards, miracles, that lie ahead. And the only way to “get there” is to keep moving, one day at a time, praying to know and do God’s will, believing He has a plan for me.

“Thus says the LORD, Who makes a way through the sea and a path through the mighty waters…Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.…to give drink to My chosen people…” (Isaiah 43:17-19)

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