NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

A Great Day

Yesterday is one of those days I don’t want to forget, so I thought I’d share about it on my blog. I know I’m not writing as much now, but I’d still like to occasionally share what’s going on in my life. So on to yesterday.

It all started with this really cool dream. Most of my dreams I don’t remember and I don’t remember all of this one either, but I do remember the feeling it gave me of being excited about sharing God’s truth with people and being used by Him even when I didn’t feel adequate. I think it had something to do with giving a sermon (something I’ve never done) and the topic boiled down to sharing our faith. And what kept going through my head, is sharing your faith isn’t something you should be guilted into doing, it’s something that comes naturally when you love God. You can’t share what you don’t have yourself, and if you really do have a faith in God and love for Him, it will spill into your other relationships.

Anyway, it was a cool way to wake up and it reminded me that God is at work and being a part of His plans are exciting. And I think having that dream prepared me for more of what God was going to do that day.

I went to church, and our pastor shared a heartfelt message of honesty and when we were singing I felt like I was joining in praising God with every believer around the world and every generation that had gone before me and followed Him. It was awesome. And in the middle of the service, I got a text from an old friend I hadn’t talked to in months. But more about that later…

As church was letting out, my phone buzzed with the noon text message. (Every day at noon our church sends a text to all our members to pray for someone). I didn’t look at the text but as I was leaving, someone told me, “Lydia we’re praying for you today.” And it was nice to know God was with me and was covering me in prayer for all that was happening to me that day.

I came home and got to meet with several freshman girls for our weekly discipleship group. We read in James together and prayed for each other and my fellow leader stayed late to just talk and share about her life and how God has changed her from who she was to who she is.

The afternoon turned into a nice family time of talking and laughing at a funny movie and just being together. But then I texted my friend who had originally texted during church. We decided that since we were both free for the evening, we would get together to eat dinner and talk. And as we talked I got to invite her to my church and try to encourage her in her faith. It was just so cool to me that we got to actually meet and talk on a day when I’d already been thinking about sharing my faith and being used by God.

I ended up dropping her off in a neighborhood right where my brother and sister-in-law live, with her mother. So I thought I’d stop by and say hello. My brother and his wife weren’t there, but the mother-in-law was and she was going to have surgery the next day. So I got to end my day visiting with her and praying for her about her upcoming surgery.

It was like God had all these things lined up for me to do that day and He had everything prepared in advance for me to do it. And it was just so fun to be a part of. So I don’t know what God has planned for me today, but I’m excited to see how He’ll continue to work in my life and my friend’s lives.

I hope you have a blessed day and I hope this post encouraged you to share your faith and be available to be used by God where you live.

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The Bird on the Wire

Have you ever seen a bird on a telephone wire? I’m sure you have, it’s so common that I often don’t notice it. But today I did. It’s windy today and as I watched, the bird swayed with the wind, buffeted back and forth, sometimes I was surprised he still hung on. I found myself thinking, “Just let go, just fly. It’s what you were made to do.”

But still the bird clung to the wire. And suddenly I saw myself as that bird. I cling to what’s comfortable, holding on to my little piece of wire. Then when the winds come, and life gets hard, when I feel like God is giving me more than I can handle, do I let go and trust Him? Or do I hold more stubbornly to what I want, what I think I need, what’s comfortable? Because when I do let go, I find I can fly. I have a faith that can move mountains, a hope that soars, a joy that can laugh at adversity. But I never experience that thrill if I don’t first let go of what I think will make me happy and trust that God really does have what’s best.

This past week my pastor said we don’t see how great faith is, until we’re in the storm. And as I look back on my life, I can see it’s true. When life is rolling along, everything fairly manageable, my faith doesn’t seem as important. Sometimes I forget it’s actually needed. But when those storms come, when the relative gets cancer, or the friend’s marriage is falling apart, or you lose your job, that’s when faith shows it’s strength. There’s a certain peace, or confidence God gives His children in the midst of suffering that you don’t experience until you’re in those moments. And even though it’s still hard, it’s also really good. The closest to God I’ve felt, has happened when I’m going through a hardship.

So that’s what God has been teaching me today; that He designed me to know Him, to trust Him, to love Him and that I’ll be happiest when I let go of all the other stuff, and choose to love and trust Him. Even if it takes a storm for me to do it, it’s worth it. because knowing Him is worth everything.

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Waiting

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This morning I was in a Doctor’s Office Waiting Room and it reminded me of what I’ve been reading in the book of Job. You see Job was in the tough spot of waiting on God for answers. There was a little diagram in my Bible that mentioned several other people in the Bible who had to wait for something. It seems like one of God’s favorite tools to help us grow and mature is making us wait for something. I usually think of myself as a pretty patient person, but to me waiting is usually nothing more than sitting in a doctor’s office for 30 minutes or sitting in traffic for an hour to get home from work or school.

There have been occasions where I had to wait longer, maybe months, or maybe years for something and I think that’s when it gets really hard to be patient or content. I’m sure several people in the Bible felt the same way about having to wait whether it was for a child, a promise from God, or all kinds of other things. Some of them never even got to see what they were hoping for, because it wasn’t fulfilled until future generations came along, but still they waited and trusted God to keep His promises.

In this day and age waiting can be seen as a negative thing. We want everything at the touch of a button. Even Amazon has started a new delivery service that gets you your product shipped to you within hours. But waiting isn’t all bad; in fact it has some benefits that we often overlook. When I think about it, having to wait for something often increases the value of the thing I am waiting for. For example, say a movie comes out that I’ve known about and wanted to see for years. I’d be really excited to go see it because I’ve had to wait for it for so long. But say I just hear about a movie the week it comes out. I may want to see it, but I wouldn’t be as excited. Another example comes from when I was a kid. Waiting for Christmas to arrive was really hard, but when I finally got to open all those presents under the tree on Christmas morning, it made for a very special and memorable occasion.

Another benefit of waiting comes more specifically when we are waiting on God. When we get what we want from God, or what He has promised us right away, there is some good that comes from it. We usually praise God and it feels great. But when we don’t get the answer, or the thing we’re waiting for, it forces us to trust God even when we don’t get what we want, or don’t see His goodness. It helps us to practice trusting Him, and not just what He gives us. Faith can be defined as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. God wants us to have faith in Him even if we do not see. He doesn’t want us to just say He is God and we trust Him, he wants us to live it. And He gives us plenty of chances to practice living our faith when we are stuck waiting. And although it isn’t fun, it is effective. Our faith grows and is strengthened by the obstacle of waiting.

So maybe this week you’re stuck waiting for something, try to remember that waiting can be a good thing and ask God to strengthen your faith while you are waiting.

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Christian Movies and TV Shows

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There seem to be more and more movies and TV shows about Christian topics these days. Recreating Bible stories has become especially popular in the entertainment industry.  For example, “A. D. The Bible Continues” is a new TV show that has started quite recently. But recreating Bible stories is not the only Christian themed entertainment out there. There have also been a slew of Christian films coming out in theaters. One such film that I got to see recently was “Do You Believe?” As a Christian, or Christ follower, I thought I’d give my opinion on these most recent Christian entertainment pieces, and how we as Christians should react to them.

 

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I’ll start with A.D. Since Easter this new drama has been playing on NBC. It follows the stories of Christ’s disciples and what they had to face in the early days of the Church. The network picked the right time to start the series, launching the show on Easter Sunday, with the Resurrection of Jesus being the main focus of the first episodes. The 3rd episode showed last night. As a Christian, I was naturally interested in this show. I’ve read about the history of the early church in the gospel accounts and in the book of Acts several times, and I was excited to see how this TV show would portray it.

But just as a movie can take liberties with it’s source material, (It seems like fans of books that were made into movies are never satisfied with the outcome), so this show can take liberties with the Biblical accounts. And I admit, there were a few instances when something was left out of the story. For example, in this most recent episode I was looking forward to seeing Peter give his sermon that brought thousands of people to believe in Jesus. In the Bible, this happened right after the Holy Spirit came, as a result of people asking questions about the disciples strange behavior. But this part of the story was skipped over in the episode, and instead the focus was put on Peter and John getting arrested in the temple.

From what I’ve seen of this series so far, the focus is on how hard it was for early believers, and the trials they had to overcome. It also gives us a look into the Roman ruler’s life and how they viewed what was going on. And although it is enjoyable to watch, and much of the story is consistent with the Biblical account, you can tell that this is meant to be a drama. And just like any cop drama on TV, there are good guys, bad guys and action and adventure with the audience always left hanging, so they’ll want to watch more. I will probably keep watching this show with interest, and I think the quality of the plot line and acting is all nice and good. But in the end, this is a TV show, not God’s Word. So keep that in mind, and remember that the screenwriters have taken a creative license with their source material.

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Next, I’d like to talk about “Do You Believe?” Like so many other Christian films, this movie attempts to give a Christian message through the telling of a compelling story. It ties together the lives of several characters all with the focus of if they will choose to believe in Jesus and act on their faith. The movie was well made, the story compelling, and I liked the character development. I think the film had a good message; that Christian’s can’t just say they believe and then go on living however they want to, that it takes commitment to follow Christ. It can be an encouraging story to see played out. But in the end, it is just a story. The events did not really happen, and even though God is at work in our lives for real, we often don’t see things work out as nicely as it does in a movie script.

So in conclusion, here’s a few things I think we should remember when watching Christian entertainment, whether it be a movie made by Christians, or by Hollywood, or even a TV show.

1. Always Come Back to God’s Word. 

Don’t base your faith on a movie or TV show. Base your faith on Jesus Christ and no other. He didn’t leave us a movie when he went back to heaven, but He did give us His Word, the Bible. Don’t take his gift lightly. Use it, and get to know Him for yourself. And make sure your view of God is shaped more by His Word, and a pastor’s teaching, than by the entertainment you watch.

2. Don’t let watching something become a substitute for doing it yourself.

If can be easy to watch some compelling movie or show, get caught up in all of the emotions, and enjoy the thrill of it. But don’t confuse it, with real life. God didn’t just use the disciples in His work, He wants to use you too. It’s not enough for us to watch and clap when someone else does the right thing, we need to do the right thing in our life. And we need to keep doing it, even if things don’t work out the way we want, or we don’t get the happy ending that we expect. God’s plan is so much bigger than our own, so much bigger than a human writer’s script. We won’t get to see the Big Picture in our lifetime. Maybe we’ll get hints at it, little previews of how God is working things together for good. But even if we don’t see it all, we can still have faith that it will because God is Faithful, and He is Good.

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A Few Short Stories about Faith

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I know I’ve posted on this blog about many Christian topics in the past. But there is something else I would like to share that is a bit more personal. It’s my story of how God saved me. Often called a Testimony, I’ve written it in the form of three short stories. Perhaps it can be encouraging to someone out there. I do want to mention, before you read this, that all of the details in these stories might not be correct. They happened so long ago, I had to improvise on what was actually said and I could be remembering things incorrectly. But the essence of the story is true, and it is my own.

I grew up in a Christian home and from a young age I was introduced to Jesus and chose to believe in Him. As any person can attest, following Jesus is a lifelong journey; starting with life on this planet and then continuing into eternity. So although I chose to follow God at a young age, there were definitely times that I had to grow. My understanding of grace especially took a long time to develop. But God has had a hold on my heart from the beginning.

I remember once when I was very young closing my eyes as tight as I could till I thought I could see stars and thinking what if this was all fake… what if I wasn’t real? What if God didn’t exist? It scared me so bad that I opened my eyes and mentally stepped away from that void. It couldn’t be true. How dark and scary the world would be without a God.

These stories I’d like to share, come from three critical points in my childhood, the first was when I discovered the truth of God’s gospel, and the second was realizing the freedom that God’s grace gave me. And the last one was realizing what my faith was based on. I hope you enjoy.

The Simple Prayer

The old blue minivan with the wood-paneled sides was purring in the driveway. I sat in my booster seat staring out at the front windshield. Mom had run inside to grab her purse and a few other items, now that she had the kids settled in the car. But she had made sure to leave the air conditioning on for us. Even in springtime the heat in Texas could creep up, especially inside a darkly painted car.

Brian was sitting next to me, calmly sitting in the chair, without a booster seat. He turned to me, his eyes full of concern. “Lydia?”

I focused on his face, “Yeah?”

“Do you want to go to Heaven?”

“What’s that?” I tilted my head to the side.

“It’s the place people go when they die, but if you’re bad, you go to Hell instead.”

I thought a moment. “Where are Mommy and Daddy going? I want to go with them.”

“They’re going to Heaven, and so am I.”

“I want to go!” Being separated from my family was the scariest thing imaginable to me; I knew I wanted to be wherever they were.”

“Alright, but the only way to go to Heaven is to believe in Jesus.”

“Okay. How do I do that?”

“Just repeat after me.” Brian closed his eyes and clasped his hands together. “Dear Jesus….” Brain paused and peeked at me, waiting for me to repeat what he was saying.

I tried to mimic his hands then said, “Dear Jesus.”

“I believe in you and what you did for me.”

“I believe in you… and….”

“What you did for me,” Brian whispered.

“Thanks,” I said then closed my eyes again. “And what you did for me.”

“Please come into my heart.”

“Please come into my heart.”

“Amen,” Brian said with a sigh then opened his eyes.

“So I’m going to Heaven now?” I asked.

“Yep,” Brain confirmed.

Just then Mom came back to the car, purse in hand. She pulled the door shut and settled into the seat.

“Guess what Mommy!” I said excitedly.

“What is it sweetie?” Mom asked as she turned back to look at me.

“I’m going to Heaven now! Brian told me how.”

Mom smiled, “Oh that’s great news!”

The Meaning of Grace

Several years had passed and I had gone through the stage that many young converts experience of being unsure of the sincerity of the first prayer. I had often repeated the prayer to God that He would forgive me, and reassuring Him, or really myself, that I truly believed in Him and wanted to go to Heaven. Unfortunately, these prayers were not solving my problem. I was stuck because I couldn’t comprehend God’s love and my mistakes. I knew that if I prayed, God would forgive me and save me. But I wasn’t sure how sincere I had to be, or if I had to pray again if I messed up and sinned. This led to me being very aware of all that I did, or could do wrong. I developed the annoying habit of asking Mom about every possible action I could take and if it was right or wrong. It got so bad, that I was worrying myself into a wreck. Especially on a vacation we took to visit some friends in Colorado.

I bounded down the stairs into the dimly lit basement. The rooms looked cozy with carpeted stairs and floors, and rows of bunk beds lined against the wall. Part of me wanted to explore, but the other part of me was scared to touch anything… what if it was wrong? It was much easier at home. I knew what Mom wanted for us there, I could obey my parents for the most part and ask God for forgiveness if I messed up. But here, the rules were unclear. Were we allowed to jump on the beds? Were we allowed to even run down the stairs? I didn’t want to get in trouble. For some reason the idea of sinning as little as possible seemed like the best goal in life and I was always striving towards that. I waited as the rest of the family came down the staircase.

The kids were soon all downstairs, but Mom and Dad were not too far behind.

“Hey Mom, look!” I said as I jumped onto one of the bunk beds.

“Uh huh,” Mom said.

She hadn’t told me to get off, or to stop, so I judged this action as appropriate. Then I pulled myself up so that I was standing on the lower bunk but holding onto the top bunk, I began bouncing up and down, like I was on the trampoline back home. “Look Mom, look!”

Mom nodded, and then walked past me towards another bigger bed in the corner, it was a full sized bed and would serve as Mom and Dad’s sleeping area.

I thought of one more thing to test with the beds. I jumped to the floor and scurried to the side of the bed, where a ladder led to the top bunk. I climbed up and sat at the top. “Mom! Mom! Mommy!” I called.

Mom was busy unpacking her suitcase, and was ignoring my calls.

“Would you cut it out?” Brian said annoyed. “You don’t need to show Mom everything you’re doing. It’s so annoying.”

I stopped. Was I being annoying? Was I doing something wrong? “I just want to make sure I don’t sin…” I said with a whimper.

“Well that’s not the point,” Brian said. “Jesus died on the cross to forgive us from all of our sins. We don’t have to worry anymore, He took care of it.”

I sat back on the little bunk bed trying to process what my brother had just told me. I didn’t have to follow all the rules? God forgave me even if I forgot to ask Him to? He loved me even if I did something wrong. I was coming face to face with the grace of God and it was beautiful. I didn’t have to earn God’s favor, or keep track of hundreds of rules so I wouldn’t get in trouble. Jesus had forgiven me completely for all I had done and all I would do. I was overwhelmed. I was free.

It took some getting used to, to not stress about all of the rules, but that conversation with my brother began to open my eyes to the beauty of God’s grace. I began to understand that I couldn’t please God with my good works but I didn’t have to, God loved me even when I messed up.

Is My Faith Real?

Alright, one last story about my growing relationship with God. When I was in middle school, I was in a Bible study with several other girls, and I finally made a confession one night at our group.

“My fear is that I don’t believe in Jesus. I’m afraid that it’s not real. How do I know if I really believe?” Tears began streaking down my face as I got the last words out. This had bothered me for months. I wanted to know that I was saved, and I didn’t know how I could be sure.

My youth leader looked at me compassionately and offered me a hug, “Aww Lydia, it’s alright.” She held me for a minute. “You know I asked myself the same thing when I was younger, and the very question itself shows that you are genuine about your faith.”

I nodded.

“One thing that helped me was a verse in Matthew. It said that God’s followers will be known by their fruit. If you can see the fruit of following God in your life, then you know you really believe it and it’s real. And Lydia, I can see the fruit in your life.”

I wiped the tears out of my eyes, “Thanks Stevi. I guess sometimes I just doubt.”

“And that’s normal,” Stevie continued. “We all have doubts sometimes, but we keep coming back to what we know is true.”

That conversation really helped to solidify my faith, I knew it was more than an imaginary belief, but that it was real to me, affected my life, and produced fruit. As I continued to grow, I realized how much faith is really dependent on God and not on me. He is the one who helps me believe, and it is He who I’m believing in. It is not my belief, some kind of feeling of trust that I can muster and strengthen, it’s a willingness to let go and say God I can’t do it, I can’t even believe hard enough. I’m just coming to you to save me. It’s nothing that I do, it’s all You.

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Speaking of Jesus

So on this blog I often write about movies, or the novel I wrote, and occasionally other things that are on my mind. But I also read books. Now I’m not one to recommend books very often. I’ll tell you what I like about a book, but usually just stop at that. I mean I don’t know what kind of books you like, maybe you’re not into youth fiction or historical fiction or whatever. But today, I would like to recommend a book. Because it really made me think, and got me excited and well I just want to share it!

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The book is Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis. I received it for my birthday about a month ago, and finally got it off the bookshelf a couple days ago. From the minute I started reading, I was hooked. Carl does a great job of engaging his audience with short stories from his life and giving real life examples of what he’s talking about. He’s also quite funny.

But the biggest reason I liked this book, is because what Carl talked about is something I’ve struggled with all my life. I grew up Christian, went to church, learned about God and Jesus and read my Bible. But I always felt awkward trying to share my faith, or share the gospel, or ‘evangelize.’ It wasn’t comfortable, wasn’t easy, and just never felt natural to me. I kept thinking, well God is just going to have to help me grow in this area, because it is not where I’m gifted.

But almost ironically, I loved talking about Jesus, at least with other Christians. I would get so excited that I’d start shaking when the subject came up. I love hearing stories of how Jesus is working, what He’s doing for people, how He provides, brings love and hope to dark and scary circumstances and just does what He does.

Well, in his book, Carl suggests that ‘evangelizing’ really isn’t what Jesus did, or wants us to do. We’re not supposed to go around telling people you’re wrong, I’m right. Now believe what I believe, repeat this prayer and become a ‘Christian.’ Instead Carl just talks about Jesus, tells people about what Jesus is doing, who Jesus loves, what He cares about and he avoids the word “Christian.” Instead Carl says he’s just trying to follow Jesus.

It seems so simple, yet it’s so freeing. I don’t have to explain all of the problems with Christianity, or make excuses for all the messed up people who called themselves Christians but didn’t live like Jesus at all. Instead I should just point people to Jesus and what He did and said, and try to do likewise.

Carl does a much better job of explaining it than I do, so I highly recommend reading his book, and I hope whoever reads it enjoys it as much as I did.

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