My Promised Land

“And after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.” Hebrews 6:15 (NIV)

Have you ever prayed for something for so long that you have to continually remind yourself that God’s timing is perfect? And even though we know His timing is perfect, the wait can be excruciating!

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. God put the desire in my heart at a very early age. Stories have played like movies in my head since as far back as I can remember.

I won my first poetry contest in fifth grade. A simple poem I wrote in 1976, the theme: The Bicentennial.

One of our famous presidents was Lincoln,

He did us lots of good thinkin’

All though he was tall,

He was loved by all and

He kept the southern states from leavin’!

Wow, and I won first place. Amazing, huh? My prize…a book about boys track. Yes, the ultimate punishment, they thought Dana was a boy. Ugh. Not the first time someone thought I was a boy, but I graciously accepted my book, taped my poem in it and have cherished it since. Occasionally I pull it from the shelf, look at it and giggle. It is a reminder of God working in my life even before I knew Him as savior and friend.

I began the year 2015 with these words, “Okay God, it’s been twenty some years since I started putting our stories down on paper and this is the year. It’s time to start trying to get them out to the publishing world. By the end of 2015, I will be entering my Promised Land. And if I don’t have a publishing contract, I will self-publish.”

Reminded of my promise to God daily, and with the help of my critique partner’s encouragement, I subbed one of my books to two publishers in September. Nothing like waiting until the last minute. But God is good and before I knew it, I had both interested and one offered a contract. I’m excited to say that I signed that contract on December 4, 2015 with a release date set for next year. Whew. Twenty plus days to spare.

A Second Chance is due out May 24, 2016.

As I sit here and write this I believe our God to be big and I believe Him to fulfill our dreams. I am a walking example of His answer to prayer. I pray you will dream big dreams and believe our God to be as huge as He really is. Thank you, Jesus, for continued answer to prayer!

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Better Blessings!

As I reflect on Easter weekend, I am amazed at the “better blessings” I’ve had. On Friday, we had a Great Day of Service and a Good Friday Night Church service. On Saturday we had our Easter Egg Hunt, with over 400, probably closer to 500 people. Every spare moment Saturday and Sunday, I spent helping my daughter and writing out high school graduation invitations for my oldest son.

Today’s Easter service was amazing, then our family went to lunch. From Friday to Sunday life was non-stop.  It was so crazy, that last night by ten, I was so groggy that I barely remember getting my daughter into her bed. I sat down to wait for that last load of laundry to get done but fell asleep on the couch only to wake up around six this morning.

I had plenty of time to get ready for church. As I prayed about my lessons, I asked God to give me something to teach about the resurrection that was new and refreshing.  For myself to learn something new and refreshing about the resurrection.

I taught out of the Gospel of John and began to really focus on the disciples.  They witnessed the most horrifying thing in the world.  They watched the Lord not just go on trial but He was convicted even though He was innocent.  They saw Jesus beaten beyond recognition, whipped, spit on, insults hurled, a crown of thorns, carrying his own cross, nailed to the cross, then left, hanging, to die. If that wasn’t enough, the soldiers cast lots for his garments and a thief hurled insults at him.

His body taken down and buried. That was Friday. What happened next in the disciple’s lives, I can only imagine from my own experiences of losing loved ones to death, then multiplying it by a million.

The grief. The shock. The disbelief about what happened. They were scared for their own lives. They sat locked in a room. I’m not sure how much they even ate. Their weekend must have been the longest in their lives. They’d given up everything for Jesus. Everything. Now he was gone. Dead. Buried. I can hardly imagine it.  Every thought they had was of Jesus dying. It replayed in their heads. What do they do now? Where do they go next? It’s no wonder Thomas wasn’t around.

My weekend was filled with amazing, Godly things we did, but I couldn’t help but think about how different theirs was so many years ago. Mine was fun, exciting, and meaningful. They were scared, grieving, and exhausted.

But how exciting it must have been for them that Easter Sunday when they saw Jesus alive!  We can enjoy Good Friday because we know the outcome.  We believe. We know. He’s alive! They grieved in a way we can’t even comprehend, but oh, how they must’ve rejoiced when they saw Jesus appear in that room. How they must’ve rejoiced when He breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

As I taught this today I told the kids something really cool happened a week later. Yes, Thomas doubted and wanted to see Jesus for himself. Jesus appeared to the disciples again, showing Himself to Thomas and then he mentioned each one of them in my class. He mentioned me. He mentioned you. “Jesus said, “So, you [Thomas] believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing. “ John 20:29 The Message

Did you catch that? Even better blessings are in store! What a better blessing this weekend has been! I pray yours was filled with better blessings, also!

Reeses

I wrote this one in 2004, I LOVE the reminder!!

My four-year-old son would live on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups if I’d let him.  Often times I buy an extra package of them and hide it in the refrigerator so I am able to surprise him.

This particular morning I needed him to get up and get ready quickly because we had to be somewhere.  I bent down on my knees and said, “Collins, I’ve got a surprise for you but you can’t have it until you are completely ready to go.”

His eyes widened and his face lit up then a smile spread from ear to ear.  “Okay, Mommy.”

He got dressed, ate his breakfast, brushed his teeth then stood proudly before me with a grin on his face.  “I’m all ready!” he proclaimed.

“You sure are,” I said proudly, smiling.  He even had his shoes on the right feet.

He began to jump up and down, the anticipation of the surprise was overwhelming.  “What is my surprise?” he shouted, “Is it a dollar?”

“No, better.”

“Is it gum?”

“No, better.”

He’s now dancing in excitement.  “Is it a new toy?”

“No,” I giggled, “it’s better.”

“Better?” his eyes widened and I knew he’d explode in excitement if I didn’t hurry so I opened the fridge and stuck my hand into the secret stash and pulled out a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

He squealed in pure delight.  “A Reese’s?  Yes, oh baby, oh baby,” he said dancing in the room then reached for the candy bar.

“Isn’t that better then a toy, a dollar or gum?” I exclaimed.

He ripped the wrapper open and shoved a peanut butter cup into his mouth, “Yes, but it’s not better then God or Jesus.”

“That’s true,” I said, in utter amazement at his strong love for our Lord.

I can picture God sitting on His mighty thrown, a greater blessing or two hidden away while He waits for that opportune moment to offer them to us.  Then, one day, He reaches His mighty hand out, grasps the blessing, bends down and offers us something so much better. He says, “Here my beloved, isn’t this better than anything you’ve asked or imagined?”

Do you simply agree with Him or do you squeal in utter delight and shout, “Ah, yes it is better then what I asked or imagined but it isn’t better then You!”

Oswald Chambers says, “The full flood of my life is not in bodily health, not in external happenings, not in seeing God’s work succeed, but in the perfect understanding of God, and in the communion with Him that Jesus Himself had.”

Look for the Reese’s but remember, pure joy is when you simply bask in Him!

I Will Never Forget

On September 11, 2001, I was at home watching the morning news when pictures of the already hit North Tower came on. I was in shock as I witnessed another plane slam into the South Tower. Like so many others, I was glued to the TV when the Pentagon was hit and when American Airlines Flight 93 went down.

I found out my cousin’s cousin was on Flight 93. Tom Burnett called his wife Deena and she told him about the towers and the pentagon. He knew they had to stop the plane from heading back to the Capital or the White House. Those brave men and women on Flight 93 gave their lives to save others.

I remember staring at the TV, praying for the victim’s families and for any survivors. I remember crying out to God asking the question, why. Not why would He allow it to happen or why He didn’t stop it but my question was why would anyone be filled with so much hate that they would set out to kill so many people?

He spoke clearly. Not in an audible voice but a quiet voice that pressed upon my heart.  He said, “Jesus died for them, too.” I remember crying as it really soaked in. It didn’t matter that the terrorists did unbelievable, unthinkable crimes, killing so many people, Jesus died for them, too. It was at that moment I got a glimpse into just how much He really loves us.

September 11, 2001. I will never forget the feeling of helplessness. I will never forget feeling scared and vulnerable. I will never forget mourning for so many complete strangers.  I will never forget the overwhelming sadness of so many lives lost. I will never forget the ash that fell and covered everything and everyone. I will never forget those on Flight 93.  I will never forget the firemen, policemen and others who ran into the buildings, selflessly giving their lives for complete strangers. I will never forget watching people from all over the country work together to help. I will never forget what hate can do. I will never forget that God can heal. I will never forget how much He loves us and I will never forget that He loved them, too.

The Throne Room

Imagine you are walking down the corridor of an enormous throne room.  The walls are made of gold, draped in precious jewels of many colors.  As your eyes follow the wall up, you are taken back by the enormous gold arched cathedral ceiling adorned with more stones and pearls.  It is the backdrop of a host of angelic beings encircling above shouting “Hosanna to God in the highest!”

Your heart pounds furiously and your steps grow smaller as you approach a doorway into a vast room.  The light radiating from it is blinding, but you squint, trying desperately to see inside.

God, in all His glory, sits on the throne, surrounded by more angelic courtiers and attendants.  Some stand before Him, some bow at His feet but all have reverential respect on their faces as their eyes are focused on one thing, the King.

Access to the throne of God is available only through proper protocol, like any earthly king.  His enormous white robes flow onto the golden ground and His radiance is so bright you are forced to turn away.

Fear over comes you.  Your chest is heavy and you can’t breath.  You feel faint, thinking, “How can I come to God?  I am, but a sinner.  I am unworthy to even be in His courtyard.  I’m unsure of what to say or even how to say it.  Thou’s, thee’s, thus’s, I cannot speak in such holy words…maybe I should go back.  He already knows what I need, what I desire.  He doesn’t need me to pray.  He’s omniscient, omnipresent, omnipowerful.  But if I do speak, will he even hear my simple words?”

Then a figure walks out from behind the flowing robes.  A crown of many crowns adorns His head, three, four, five tiers high.  Royal angels surround Him as He walks towards you, they are ready to execute any command He speaks.

His radiance is glorious as His arms widen and the scars on his wrists become evident.  You fall to your face but soon feel the warmth of His hand on your back, then on your arm, as He helps you up.  He leads you to the throne of God, assuring you that He is “your advocate and will speak in your defense.” (I John 2:1)

 

To know that Jesus stands before God to intercede with us is so utterly awesome.  It assures me that when my anger flares and I barge into the throne room, forgetting all etiquette, Jesus is up there defending my actions.  After all, He is a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses.  He has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin.  (Hebrews 4:15)    He understands our human nature and goes before God, fighting our battles, voicing our causes, asking for the fulfillment of our desires.

Can you think of anyone better to approach the throne of God with then Jesus Himself?

For many years I skated along with a somewhat simple prayer time.  I prayed, but shamefully, not very effective.  It wasn’t exciting, it wasn’t life changing.  But the old cliché is ever true…prayer DOES change things, only there is one hitch…you must pray.

It’s a simple concept.  Why it is so difficult at times, I don’t know.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 says “pray continually.”  And we must, where ever we are and whatever we are doing.

I used to believe my words weren’t eloquent enough to approach God, and that used to keep me from going to the throne.  But I’ve learned to not get hung up on how to pray, but to just pray.  Yes, He is God and He deserves every ounce of our fear, reverence and respect.  But He asks one thing, for us to come to Him just as we are.

Jesus does the rest.

If you remain in me and my words in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.  John 5:7

Glorify Him through your prayers!  Give Him a reason to answer!