Just Start

Part 1 of a Work in Progress (WIP)

The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. “Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?” he asked. “Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

My to-do list has lists at the moment. Sitting on my desk are ideas for four non-fiction pieces, an idea for a short work of fiction to use as a giveaway, and my blog post idea turned into a blog post series idea. Not to mention, today I began work on a website for my writing which has a to-do list of its ow,n along with sub-lists of lists. My head is spinning like the little blue circle on my computer that show up when I’ve asked it to compute more than it can compute. What’s a writer to do?

Just start!

That was the command Anne Lamott gave to her writing students in the book Bird by Bird. They wanted to know how to be published authors, and she said you have to start writing first. The thought of writing a novel, the thought of having my own website, the thought of spiritual growth and revival all sound great in theory. It is the working it out that slows us down. My first question is where do I start?

Just start!

The king in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland had it right when he said start at the beginning. You have to start where you are. No matter what path lies in front of you, start from where you are and take a step forward. One of the things I learned about anxiety is that action is one of the greatest weapons against it. If you sit and think about something, you will begin to imagine all the worst case scenarios and begin a negative spiral downward until you are frozen in place. However, if you just take action, you are literally and figuratively one step ahead. It frees you to keep moving.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

If you are moving, then you are making progress, which fuels you to keep moving. Our spiritual walk is just that, a daily walk. We have to get out of bed every morning and decide to walk. We have to start from where we are: sinners saved by grace. Then, we move forward a step at a time through whatever the day holds, whatever life’s journey holds. But, we don’t walk alone.

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

Isaiah 43:2

We have a guide and a companion who goes alongside us. So, there is no need to fear what might lie ahead. Our job is to take it one step at a time. With Christ as our Shepherd and Leader, we can’t get lost, although we might go down a rabbit hole or two. Just like Alice we get to the same place at the journey’s end, home sweet home. In the meantime… what is it you need to do?

Just start! Take it one thing at a time and enjoy the moment. It’s all a work in progress, including me.

Coming next week: Part 2 of Work in Progress… Stuck in the Middle

Free Indeed

“For truth is truth to the end of reckoning.” 

Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

John 8:32, 36

We often joke at the yarn shop that the biggest lie we tell ourselves is “I will remember that.” So, we don’t write it down and by the next day we are struggling to remember exactly what we said we would not forget. While that may be the biggest lie we tell ourselves, it is probably not the biggest lie we believe

In the Bible study Get Out of Your Head, Jennie Allen says that the lies we tell ourselves fit in one of three categories:

  1. I am helpless.
  2. I am unlovable.
  3. I am worthless.

The enemy will use these lies to try and make us utterly useless to the cause of Christ. We get so caught up in listening to the lies that we become frozen, unable to move forward. In order to break free from this bondage, we must recognize Athe origin of these lies.

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. John 8:44

The enemy is a liar. He has been at work on the earth a long time, and he knows just how to punch our buttons. It is usually so subtle that we often don’t realize what is happening. If we want to be free we need to recognize his tactics; however, there is something even more important: knowing the truth.

When federal agents are train in how to identify counterfeit bills, they don’t study fakes. They study the real thing. The biggest key to being spiritually free is not to study the enemy or his lies; it is to study truth so that we can identify the lies when we hear them.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

When you start hearing that little voice in your head, counter it with the truth:

  • When it says, you are helpless, say:
    • For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
  • When it says you are unlovable, say:
    • “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” I John 4:10
  • When it says you are worthless, say:
    • But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Ephesians 2:4-8

Jesus Christ is the Truth, so when we know the Truth, He will set us free. However, we have to choose to accept the truth and make it a part of our everyday lives or we are still living in bondage to those lies. The best defense is to have an arsenal of weapons, so get in the Word and write verses on sticky notes or index cards and keep them at the ready. When the enemy attacks, follow Jesus’ example when he was tempted and point him back to the Word of God because what God says is all that matters

What lie is the enemy telling you? More importantly, what does God say?

Believe It!

“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said: ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’

‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.‘”

From Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

How many of you remember Ripley’s Believe It or Not? It was a television show in the 80’s that gave facts and stories that stretched the imagination. Lately, it seems to have been a theme in my life. I just finished reading The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, which was originally published in 1959. The concepts and exercises he gives on being successful are still applicable today, but one of the major points was to get rid of the word impossible from your vocabulary. He said if you believe it is possible, you will find a way to accomplish it, but if you think it is impossible, you will be blocked from ever accomplishing it. There is a biblical correlation to this idea.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

1 Corinthians 13:12

In the Polar Express, the main character is a little boy trying to decide if he believes in Santa Claus and ends up riding a train to the North Pole. At one point he meets a hobo who tells him, “Believing is seeing.” We like to be able to see everything laid out before us, fully explained and concrete, but the spiritual life is not like that. Sure, sometimes we get glimpses of things, but for the most part we are trying to see through a dirty window.

Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.

John 14:11

Yet, if we look around, we can see God at work all around us. When we believe that He is who He says he is, then we see the world and events differently. Just looking at nature, really looking, shows us they we don’t really understand what is possible. Some animals can re-grow lost limbs. A tornado destroyed a church but the podium and the Bible on it remained untouched. Like the White Queen said, the “impossible” happens all of the time.

For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Luke 1:37

The trick is knowing who God is and what His will is. If God wants it to happen, He can make it happen regardless of the constraints of the universe because He created the universe. So, when we live in His Will, then we live in the sphere of the impossible being possible.

And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Matthew 17:20

A mustard seed is one of the tiniest seeds on the planet but out of it grows a tree. It is an example of a faith in that it starts small and then grows into something that can stand time and the elements. When we believe in God and follow His Will, things will happen in ways that only God could accomplish.

What has God asked you to do that seems impossible? If He has given you a dream, a calling, He can and will make it happen if we only believe. But, it doesn’t stop at believing. If we truly believe, then we have to take a step of faith or a leap of faith if you will. We may not see the whole path laid out before us, but we know the next step. Once we take it, God will show us the next one, and so on.

So, get rid of the impossible and ask God to give you a heart and mind that imagines what great things He will do. Then do the next thing until what seemed impossible becomes not only possible but reality.

The Approach

Last week I was working on a couple of deadlines with a pressure headache, making it hard to think. I sent a draft of one article to the editor with the caveat that I knew it needed work, but I was having trouble getting it right, especially the tone. The editor sent me back notes saying that the tone was definitely negative and suggesting a more positive slant to the same topic of scripture. It was the same idea, but it came at the topic from a different angle that was more about pointing someone in the right direction versus reprimanding them.

Tone will get you every time. No matter how true your words are if the person feels singled out and chastised, they are unlikely to take heed to what you have to say. How many times have you been in an argument and the other party says, “It’s not what you said; it is how you said it”? That, my friend, is tone. It is a common problem, especially in today’s electronic society.

When I was teaching and tutoring online, there was an emphasis on pointing out both the good and bad in an assignment. The trainers suggested the equivalent of a compliment sandwich. You open with what the student had done well, give critiques, and then close with an overview of the paper as a whole focusing on good points and positive suggestions on how to proceed. This approach helped the student know what they were doing right while helping them to improve in weaker areas. The student then felt inspired to make the corrections in order to make their writing better.

So, before we decide to correct someone spiritually, or grammatically, let’s take a look at what advice we can glean from the Bible on the subject. Proverbs is known as a book of wisdom and instruction, and it has a lot to say about words and how we use them:

  • “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4)
  • “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)
  • The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.” (Proverbs 18:4)
  • “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)

All of these verses emphasize the idea of good words: wholesome tongue, pleasant words, deep waters, wellspring of wisdom, word fitly spoken. These phrases suggest words that are chosen thoughtfully and not just spouted off the top of our heads. Unfortunately, we are a society that speaks first and thinks later, me included at times; therefore, how should we approach correcting someone?

First, we need to make sure our tone is right, meaning humble and helpful not egotistical and condescending. Second, timing is as important as tone. The acronym HALT is a good one to remember: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. If you, or the other party, are any one of those things, you should probably wait. Finally, and most importantly, we need to figure out our motivation. If we aren’t doing it out of love, humility, and the leading of the Holy Spirit, then we should probably keep our mouths shut.

Now, let’s recap: think before you speak. That pretty much sums it up. It’s simple, but it is not easy. Writers have a step up on other people because we can revise before we publish; however, the way my face looks when people say stupid things is another issue altogether. I should probably work on that and the think before you speak thing. I would say it might require duct tape, but that won’t help the eye rolling. Well, let’s just all try to do our best. We are all a work in progress, which we would all do well to remember.

What a Difference a Day Makes

I was watching a television movie the other night and the main character talked about how life can change in a matter of minutes. We often think of it as something terrible happening, but it can also be a turn of circumstances for the better.

Some mornings start out on a negative note and we often dismiss the day as shot, something we must endure until it is over. Then, even a small event can turn it around. The sun can peek out after a torrential downpour followed by a rainbow. We suddenly feel lighter, even more so when we get a glimpse of sun after nearly a week of rain and storms from recent days.

I had high hopes of today being a good day, a productive day. Then a series of unfortunate events sent me into a downward spiral, fearing another day swallowed up in a cloud. I took a moment and tried to get a new perspective. The character from the movie was inspired by the concept of life changing in a moment to take a chance for something great. This is the key to joy. Looking for the opportunity to see God work in the moment and to take a chance on Him. But, with God, it is never really a chance because He was in complete control of the situation all along.

 

 

As The Tongue Wags

It has been said that you are what you think and do daily. Someone recently said as the tongue wags so goes the rest of the body. I think there is a lot of truth in these statements. Matthew 15:18 says, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.” What we say comes from what we think. Thoughts lead to words and words lead to actions and repeated actions make habits, some good and some bad. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” If we start with focusing our thoughts on good things, it will most likely lead to good actions and good habits.

It is very easy to get caught up in negative thinking. Focusing on the negative leads to self-pity and discontent. What we focus on really does affect our words and our behavior. For instance, when I have an ache or pain, the more I focus on the pain, the worse I feel. However, if I focus on something else, the pain often lessens. If I constantly talk about the pain, then it becomes even worse until it is all I think about.

The same can be said of our circumstances. If I focus on what I don’t have, I become discontented and have a bad attitude. It can lead to complaining and eventually to poor choices. For example, I have wanted a chaise lounge for my living room. If I focus on the fact that I don’t have one, I can begin to feel like I have been cheated, and then I may complain that I don’t have one. This could lead to me buying one on a whim, say on credit or by ignoring other bills that will be coming due. Poor spending can lead to financial problems down the road. However, if I focus on what I do have, then I have a spirit of thanksgiving, especially when I think about how much worse my circumstances could be.

Once I focus my thoughts, I can then change the focus of my words. I often complain out loud when I should be grateful. I also notice that when I am around people who complain all of the time that I am more prone to complain myself. How much better would it be if I was the voice of thanksgiving and possibly changed the tone of the conversation and the thoughts of others instead of encouraging the negativity?

Once my thoughts change, my words change. When my words change, my attitude changes as well as my actions. I become more productive and happier in general. So, if you want to change your life, start with the way you think and the words you say, and you will soon find that it will change your attitude even if it doesn’t change your circumstances.