Expectation

As the Advent season begins, the first candle lit symbolizes either hope or expectation and sometimes is called the Prophet’s Candle. To me, hope and expectation are tied together. Generally when we have expectations, we are hoping for good. Biblical hope is the confident expectation of God’s promises. Given the state of the world, we could all use some hope and expectation for good.

Pathway to Hope

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Romans 5:3-5

The pathway to hope is more of a hike, so think of it as an adventure. Romans chapter five tells us that tribulation creates patience as we learn to deal with the troubles of this world. Patience grows with experience because when we follow Christ, we witness His faithfulness to us. The more experience we have, the more we have hope that God will do what He says. As a matter of fact, we expect Him to do what He says.

Expectations of Hope

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

What can we expect from God? Jeremiah tells us that God has plans for us, plans on an eternal scale. The things that happen on earth are just preparations for what is to come in eternity. But, it’s not just expectations for the hereafter; it is also expectations for a life of peace here.  How can we have peace in this world? We can have the peace God gives that is not tied to what is going on around us, but is an expression of His presence in our lives.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Because of His presence and his peace, we can expect to be renewed daily. When you team up with God, He does the heavy lifting. You don’t have to do it alone or in your own strength. You can expect help and never be disappointed.

Results of Hope

I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

Psalms 130:5

When we hope in God, we are never disappointed. Hope by definition usually requires a waiting period. The world had to wait a long time in earth years for the coming of the Messiah, but in eternal time it was just a drop in the bucket. Now we patiently hope for Christ’s return. In the meantime, we have the promise of God, and in the season of Advent we are reminded that God fulfilled the words of the prophets regarding the coming of the Messiah.

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

So, light the Prophet’s Candle and have hope for a brighter tomorrow because Emmanuel has come.

To Everything a Season

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

This fall everything seems to have come early, including Christmas. Since I work part-time in retail, we have to start ahead of the season. We started talking about Halloween decorations in September and planning for Christmas. Then I got an idea. People who know me well get a little nervous when they hear that phrase coming from me, but I should have been the one who was nervous.

My idea was for a collection of Christmas novellas about four women who had lost their love for the season. I came up with the basic concept in the middle of hot Alabama summer at the Southern Christian Writer’s Conference several years ago but never quite got around to working on it. On a whim, I sent an email to Cheryl Wray asking if she had any Christmas ideas for her new publishing company Southern Story Books. She liked the idea but there was one catch: In order to publish by Black Friday, she needed the finished manuscript by November 1.

That was near the end of September, so I had roughly five weeks to write four novellas. Luckily for me, Hallmark starts early too, so I had some inspiration to get me in the Christmas spirit while the world was setting up for Halloween. You may have heard about Novel in November, well I was early for that, too. I did it in October…barely.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

In the midst of pandemic panic and election mania, God provided everything I needed. He opened up time and space for me to work when I thought there was none. He gave me inspiration and ideas when I thought there was none. He gave me strength and energy when I thought there was none. God has a way of making the impossible possible and something out of nothing.

Now, Black Friday has arrived and so has my new book, something I was beginning to think would never happen again. My Christmas present came early this year, but I am willing to share. So, Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas and may my words spread a little joy and laughter in the midst of this crazy year.

Now I have and idea…

Redefine

Everybody likes makeovers and shows about makeovers. There is just something satisfying about seeing a before and after photo, whether it’s a person or a house renovation. We just like to see something spruced up and revitalized. Given 2020, most of us would like a makeover for the year. There’s just one catch: In order to have a makeover we have to be willing to let go of the old.

18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Personally, I reject the phrase “new normal” as most people apply it these days. I prefer the word redefine. My world has changed in recent years but not because of the pandemic. There are different seasons in our lives due to changes in age, job situations, relationships, and health. There are mountains and valleys. When a new season comes, we have to let go of the old so that we can enjoy the new. If we want to enjoy the colors of fall, we have to put away the shorts and flip flops of summer.

The same is true spiritually speaking. Growth can be a painful process sometimes but the blessings far outweigh the negatives. We can sit around and whine about what we don’t have, or we can be grateful for what we do have. Look around and I’m sure we can find reasons to thank God. We shouldn’t let what isn’t steal the joy of what is.

When we are tempted to complain about how different things are at the moment, we need to take a moment to grieve what has passed, whether it’s a loved one, a job, or even a dream. Then, we should take stock of what we have and where we are, and dream a new dream. Give it all to God and let Him make something new out of it.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

God only wants the best for us, but sometimes that means giving up something we think is good in order to have what is best. The key is learning the fine art of letting go so that we can hold on. Let go of whatever is not of God, and hold onto our faith.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.

Philippians 3:13

So, as we move into a time of giving thanks, let’s be mindful of what we have and open to the new things that God will do. Let God redefine us so that we are more like Him tomorrow than we were today.

Flowers out of Season

When Tropical Storm Zeta descended on my house in the wee hours of a Thursday morning, I was awakened by sudden silence. I realized the power had gone out, shutting off my diffuser, fan, and nightlight. It was dark and very quiet in the house, but outside was a different story. The wind howled and yanked at the plastic covering some of my windows. Every time I would start to relax it would start again. After several hours, the storm abated enough that I drifted back off to sleep. I woke up the next morning still without power, but the house was intact, so I was grateful and got ready for work by flashlight. When I went out to the car, I saw these lilies and was reminded of God’s goodness.

Earlier in the summer some friends and I were trying to get my yard under control. Weeds had overtaken my flower bed. In the process of cutting down tall weeds with a Weed Eater, some of my lilies were mown down, too. I was sad but hopeful they would return in the spring. That morning not only had the lilies miraculously returned, they were also blooming in all their splendor totally out of season. God was kind enough not to make me wait; He sent me flowers as a reminder that He was listening to my prayers and was able to answer.

So, as the season for thanksgiving approaches, let us remember that it is always the season for thanksgiving. No matter what the situation, no matter what the problem, God is always the answer and no one else.

21 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing. 23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; 24 These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. 25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. 28 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

Psalms 107:21-30

No matter what kind of storm we are facing outside, we can have a haven of rest inside when we trust in the goodness of God. When we cry unto the Lord in our trouble, He will bring us out of our distresses and into our desired haven. Above all that, sometimes He sends us flowers out of season just to show us:

 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

Matthew 19:26

When the Bucket Meets the Road

October was a long month in some ways and way too short in others. I wrote 4 novellas, so every day I went to my first job, and then my second job, and then I came home to write a couple thousand words. I was happy to see November and was down to correcting the last two novellas to send to the publisher.

Driving home in the dark, suddenly there appeared a bucket in the road. Not your average bucket, but a heavy duty one. I couldn’t swerve or stop because of traffic; I had to hit it straight on. I figured it would hit and bounce, maybe ding my already dinged car, but no. It had staying power. It scraped and screamed on the asphalt and refused to break loose or break up, so I finally pulled over. I couldn’t see it and the side of that particular highway was not safe due to high traffic. Since all of my tires seemed fine, I waited for all the traffic to pass and then eased onto the road and drove to the parking lot of an empty building down the hill.

I finally found the offending bucket wedged under the front of my car and managed to pull it loose and toss it to the side. Saying a quick prayer, I got back in the car and headed home, thankful not to see any warning lights on the dash. I made it home without any further ado and went inside to finish what I had started.

It occurred to me that the incident is a lot like life. We are rolling along taking care of business when suddenly life throws a bucket at us. Whether it is a unexpected bill, an illness, a death, or just a bad day, it throws a kink in our plan and slows us down. We want to pull off the road and quit, but we still have to get home, so we have to deal with the problem and carry on.

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

1 Peter 5:7-8

First, the Bible says to cast our cares on God. We weren’t meant to carry them around. God wants us to trust Him with our problems. The devil is trying to trip us up and throws whatever he can at us, even a bucket in the road, but God is on the throne and better equipped to deal with the obstacles at hand. God allows the obstacles and uses them to help us grow in faith and in character.

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Genesis 5:20

The enemy and even people will make plans against us, but they cannot over throw the will of God. He has a plan even when it seems like nothing is going right. Joseph had to be sold into slavery in order for him to end up in the right place to save his people from starvation. We may not always know the purpose of the bucket in the road, but we do know God.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

God can use even a bucket in the road to teach us something, or even protect us from something that we can’t see. There might have been a potential wreck further down the road, or it might have just been a warning to slow down. Regardless, God can use it for our good if we let him.

So, when the bucket meets the road and you can’t avoid it, know that God will be there by your side. You need only to ask for His help and carry on. It’ll work itself out eventually. Stop stress eating because of poll results and getting angry over social media posts, God will work the bucket out however He sees fit. It’s out of our hands and that’s probably a good thing because we would have tried to save Joseph from being sold into slavery and look where that would have led.

Unplugged

When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God.

Billy Graham

Just about everyone knows that if you are having issues with a piece of electronic equipment that if you unplug it and plug it back in, it will usually reset. The same principle works for humans. We are often told to unplug from social media or electronics to reset ourselves. For me, it was not about the electronics but about remembering to take a break when I needed it.

I set myself a tough deadline for October, and I was doing pretty well, partially because I would take breaks. When the deadline started approaching, I felt I needed to double-up. I started getting more done but it also wasn’t my best work. This past week I developed a tic in one eye and an attitude, a clear sign I needed a break but I thought if I just push through this week, I will be done, and then I can take a break. Yet, if I looked at the schedule, there wasn’t really going to be a break in the next two months with other projects and the holidays approaching. But, I pushed on.

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Colossians 3:17

Then, a little storm called Zeta dropped on my doorstep. The wind and the rain blew and blew, keeping me up half the night. The power went out, but I got up and went to work, expecting the power to be back on when I got home. It was not. I had a bit of a melt down with anxiety because I was tired and the alarm system was beeping because of a dying battery but not the kind of battery you can remove, and I couldn’t reach the company because it was after hours. Add to that my phone, my one access to the world, was dying and running out of minutes. I reached out in desperation to a couple of people.

My best friend suggested plugging my phone charger into my laptop which was fully charged. She also said her alarm system, which is the same as mine, eventually quit beeping. The phone charging suggestion worked; however, the beeping was still unnerving me. A writer friend suggested putting in ear plugs and going to bed (Read his thoughts on burnout by clicking on the link below). At first I thought I can’t do that because I don’t have ear plugs, but then I remembered that my sister had gotten me some headphones last year that I had barely used and my Kindle Fire was fully charged. I got ready for bed, plugged the ear phones in, and listened to the sound of the ocean until the battery died and the system went silent. I rested and even napped during that time, and then I went to sleep and slept until the sun was fully up. This disturbed Young Man who is very attuned to schedules, especially treat times, but he survived just like I did.

God had to send a storm and unplug my entire town in order for me to take a break. I mean my entire town was dark for a day and some, as in my case, for two days. Yet, in that darkness was when I saw the light. Usually that is how we find our way to Jesus, the light of the world, in the darkness. When we come to the end of ourselves, then we come to the One who can fill our world and spirits with true light.

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

John 8:12

So, I suggest you take time to unplug and reset, or you might just find yourself unplugged with a beeping dying battery and grumpy cats.

In The Background

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:18

My computer often gives me a message that a web page is slowing down my computer and gives me the option to stop it or wait. I usually just ignore the message because it disappears not long afterwards. Sometimes it is slow because a program is working in the background. Sometimes that program is the antivirus software that makes sure nothing can harm my computer.

In writing we have the same thing because of point of view. We normally see things through one character’s eyes. While a book may contain more than one point of view you usually only see a scene from one character at a time. The character only knows what they have seen; they have no idea what the other characters are doing or thinking in the background where the reader can’t see.

Our spiritual lives are like that as well. 2 Corinthians tells us not to look at the things which are seen, but the things which are unseen. We should be looking to God for answers because he sees everything. He is the author, so he knows what all the characters are doing, and he knows the end of the story. Therefore, we should trust what he is doing instead of worrying about what the other characters are doing or looking to them for answers.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

The other half of 2 Corinthians 4:18 is the reasoning behind the command to look to God instead of man or current events: they are temporal. They are temporary. They will change. God never changes and is eternal.

For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

Malachi 3:6

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

I Timothy 1:17

So then, we should set our eyes on God, the author, knowing that He will bring about a good end and that He is working in the background for our good. He is protecting us, leading us, and helping us grow. When circumstances look grim, just remember that God is always at work and never sleeps. Look to him and be kingdom-minded and eternally focused and the din and clamor of the world will fade away.

Turn on the Light

There was a picture that went around on social media years ago of a snake wrapped around a toilet, a big snake. Supposedly it had come in through or around the plumbing and made itself at home. In the middle of the night the owner went to the bathroom and happened to turn on the light to find the snake before they sat down. I vowed to always turn on the light. This week I broke that vow.

Sunday night I was trying to start the week off right, so I cleaned up the kitchen, turned on the dishwasher and put away some laundry. Feeling pretty good about things, I grabbed a plastic bag to go clean out the litter boxes for the evening. One of the boxes is in the corner of my office (aka the cat’s room). I didn’t bother to turn on the light because I could see well enough by the light of the computer, or so I thought. I took two steps in and hit something slick and my foot slid out from under me and I fell to my knee, the same knee I fell on back in July. I got up and turned on the light and discovered my geriatric cat with IBS had gotten sick (mostly fluid) and I didn’t hear him because of the dishwasher noise. An ice pack, ibuprofen and prayer later, I thankfully had no real injuries, but I still had to get up and go clean up the mess.

The thought came to me that if I had only turned on the light, then I would have seen the danger before I stepped in it. The same is true spiritually. If we turn on the light, God’s Word, His Holy Spirit will alert us to impending danger so that we can avoid it.

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

James 5:16

My Bible reading for the day was James 5:16. When I fell, I was worried I had caused even more injury to my knee after I had just regained pain free use of it. I messaged someone I knew would pray and asked for prayer that my knee would not have a serious injury because I had a lot of obligations that needed my attention that week.

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

My Bible reading the next day was Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. God has a sense of humor and great timing. I may have been physically alone when I fell, but I was not alone. The Holy Spirit was right there with me, and I had another believer willing to pray for me. I also had these verses of scripture to encourage me that came at just the right time to encourage me and lift me up.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalms 119:105

The Word of God is a light that we need to keep turned on. We don’t have to worry about a power bill because it has a never ending source of perpetual power. It is always on, but we do have some control of the on/off switch. We can turn it off and sit in the dark, or we can turn it on by opening the scripture and letting it guide us. When we study the Word daily, it will come to our minds just when we need it most.

So as we start each day, it is a good idea to start with the Word of God so that He can guide us through the twists and turns of this world gone crazy. Oh, and don’t forget to turn on the light. It could save you from slipping and falling or from really big snakes in the bathroom.

Suit Up

I know several motorcycle people, and all of them are into wearing protective clothing when riding. I usually see them putting on jackets and gloves as well as goggles and helmets. They are always wearing the proper clothing and shoes for riding. I found the following acronym on a biker lingo blog:

ATGATT = All The Gear, All The Time (helmet, gloves, vest, trousers and boots).

Some even talk about armor, or specially reinforced gear. I thought it was a great reminder that has spiritual implications:

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesian 6: 11-17

The reason we put on the armor of God is the same reason bikers put on their gear: protection. When I took martial arts, I wore gear when I was sparring to reduce the chance of injury. Bikers and martial artists suit up as protection  just in case there is an incident. Even more so, we should wear our spiritual armor because we are going into battle every day. It isn’t a chance of battle; it is a foregone conclusion.

Not only should we wear it every day, but we should also wear every piece of armor. Each piece protects a different part of our being. Whatever we leave undefended, the enemy will target. For example, if I want to retrieve something from my car but I don’t want to take the trouble of finding my shoes. I tiptoe out over the hot concrete, and while I am digging around in my car, a fire ant bites my foot. It’s the same in our spiritual lives. Every piece has a purpose.

We wear a helmet to protect our mind, we wear the breastplate to protect our heart, the belt of truth keeps us grounded, the shield of faith protects us from the enemies weapons, and our feet are prepared to step out to do God’s Will. Our only weapon is the Sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word. People often say talk is cheap, but not this talk. God’s Word is powerful, more powerful than a two-edged sword because it can cut to the heart of the matter. Not only that, God’s Word also brought the world into being. What He says happens. When we wield His Word wisely, no foe can stand against us.

So, before you leave the house, or maybe even the bed, suit up. You never know what the day will bring.

Extra Portion

35 And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. 36 And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.

Genesis 41:35-36

We often say at work that it is either a feast or a famine. We either have more work than we can do, or we have nothing to do. The same is often true in the writing life. I either have so many ideas I don’t know what to do with them, or I am drawing a blank. The key is to follow Joseph’s suggestion to Pharaoh about storing up during the feast time for the famine.

There have been several times over the last 6 months that I have had almost an overwhelming number of ideas and concepts for books and articles rain down on me. I was blessed with having a chunk of time and opportunity for multiple Bible studies and for listening to podcasts and sermons. I was also blessed to take a writing seminar that jump started my writing practice. Suddenly I had all of these breakthroughs with projects that I had been stuck on for ages, plus ideas for even more. What was I going to do with all these ideas whirling around in my brain?

I decided to start an idea box, project notebooks, and a journal. When I have an idea for an article or blog post, I put it on an index card or sticky note and put it in a little decorative cardboard box. I also write down ideas for novels on sticky notes and keep all the related notes in a notebook for that project. The other things God shows me I write in a journal every night to clear my mind and get ready for rest. I store these revelations for times of famine.

And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. 24 And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. 25 And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field. 26 Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.

Exodus 16:22-26

Right now I am under a couple of writing deadlines, and usually I spend most of Friday morning coming up with an idea for my blog posts and working it out for submission. I really don’t have that kind of time for the month of October because I need to work on other projects. Last week as I was listening to podcasts and reading God gave me enough rough ideas for five blog posts. He gave me enough ideas ahead of time that I could meet my deadlines and still get some much needed rest.

God knows what is coming, and He provides the extra portion that we need. Instead of eating until we are sick at the feast put some aside for times of famine. Then we can call upon the storehouse to maintain us. For the same reason we should study the Bible and memorize scripture when we have the opportunity so that we will have a supply to draw from during seasons of spiritual famine. So, when God gives you a double portion, store it in your heart (or idea box) so that you have a source of inspiration come the next dry spell.