There’s a current onslaught of opposition in life for many. I’ve heard from others and have experienced this myself. One bad thing after another, making one feel like a walking piece of bad luck. Opposition can appear as fire, war, storm, pestilence, disease and/or chronic ailments, destruction (and sometimes construction), relational distress, broken possessions, unexpected debts, stuck-ness—i.e., impossible situations and you don’t know what to do, delays, malicious gossipers, unfair or unseeing bosses, scrappy coworkers, clingy people, even difficult pets. Maybe daily life resembles Tzorah, a place of wasps, and you feel the unending stings and wonder when it will ever end.
But as the conflicts keep coming, God’s favor and blessings build up with the energies of a tsunami to wash over your life at the appointed time. Many are expecting breakthrough yet grow weary of waiting for what seems like eons. God’s promises never fail; but we have to do our part to believe and keep faith. Even—and especially—when it’s hard. It’s always toughest right before a quantum leap. The Lord’s angelic armies rush to our defenses, removing obstacles, enabling us to walk into the freedom of our fruitful destinies. Where divine alignments replace discord. But it’s God’s timeline and not ours, and he charges us with uttering from our own mouths his Word. And praise weakens the enemy.
If the place you’re at right now is dark. If everything seems against you. When trials and tribulations trip you up. Even if it sounds broken, say it: hallelujah. Even if you’re angry, frustrated, weary, doing your best, or losing hope and you don’t feel like it, say it anyway: hallelujah. The inclination will grow stronger. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord. You’re at the cusp of breakthrough. You’re almost there: the turnaround of the tide in your land. God’s Decree. Amos 9:13-15 (MSG)
~~~~~~~ 🎶 Hold on, baby hold on! 🎶~~~~~~~
I’ve heard this expression more frequently lately. It’s come from different sources and marked out a bit differently, but the message is the solid same: God didn’t call you to be good, he called you to be faithful. He didn’t call you to be successful, he called you to be obedient.
I’m not a proponent of pursuing fame or fortune. If it happens while you go about your business, super. You can do more for others if you’ve been gifted with much… Responsibility and all. But what if you’re only to do well with what you’ve been given, even if it’s ever little? That’s not to say we don’t strive to do well. But what if “to do well” means simply: with integrity, dedication, motivation, and honor?
There was a time when it was more important for me to be known and successful, to please and entertain mainstream. Now, I don’t care so much. Because in the eyes of the world (amid fruitless comparisons), I am neither good nor successful; often overlooked; and criticism can outweigh encouragement. In the eyes of the Lord, though, I am faithful and obedient. Guess whose eyes matter most?
Seek holiness and purpose, not prestige.
Sure, labor to do whatever you do to the best of your ability and within your means. But be who you are, pursuing God and not man.
“People who don’t know you can’t define you.”—Perry Noble, Second Chance Church
Choices make destinies. Destinies can also change.
A short story
In a year when thirty people jumped from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to commit suicide and succeeded, one person determined to join their throng.
Near light pole numbered sixty-nine, he swan-dives off the ledge, traveling at a velocity of eighty mph, free-falling 250 feet at low tide. Bound to converge on the despondent crowd of over 1,600 who preceded him in death since the majestic span erected in 1937, something shifts. Instant regret consumes him the second he unhands the viaduct. But the chance for survival after the four-second drop stands at less than one percent.
What if somewhere between his last contact with the steel bridge and the impact of the frigid, bone-crushing bay, hovers an alternative Courtroom in the Sky? A panel of Judges who reviews the motives in a person’s life.
Here enters Ralph “Specter” Specht, the famous frontman for the rock band, Ghosts of Fleas. In the eyes of the world, he led a good life; talented, successful, and spoiled. Nobody thought he could do such a thing, fling himself over the edge, even him. Not until the dark impulse.
The defendant on trial crosses the threshold into weighted proceedings. With a blooming change of mind, Ralph wonders if he will find a different sentence than what he first intended. His verdict awaits.
New book alert! Dark King’s Human Bride is available for preordering at select bookstores. Click the button below to reserve your copy of my latest dark fantasy of messianic proportions.
After its official release on January 24, 2022, the novel will be available in digital and/or print formats wherever books are sold.
“Never listen to your critics. They aren’t qualified to usurp the still, small, voice that speaks in the silence between your own thoughts.”—Russ Walden
It takes courage to write truths in fiction; write what hurts. To contextualize emotions, the struggles; tapping into the raw nature and grind of real life and transposing them into an altered universe. The result might not represent a true existence verbatim, but can harbor the angst, dilemmas, struggles, and sicknesses of hope-depleted hearts in order to instill hope in the end. It can be scary sometimes to release a story that holds a little more truth than you’d care to admit. Makes one feel vulnerable. But it’s always the still, small voice, a reminder that what’s written might be intended for one person only. And that one person to get it, feel moved and encouraged by your labor of love, washes over any potential collection of critics, large or small.
Writing with boldness, listening with care…
A reader asked, “Did that really happen to you?” after finishing one of my novels. I’ve heard this before, and the character-revolving question churns in my mind. It’s a great question. One for which I don’t always have a ready answer, because it’s rather loaded.
When I was a professional dancer, one of my fortes was Character Dance. I think this is where I first came to understand that, as an artist, I’m all my characters and none of my characters. I abandoned myself in a role, poured out blood, sweat, and tutus, until I became another persona. The interpretation was all mine (via the Lord’s inspiration and direction). After I hung up the costumes and retreated to the hotel or home for a cup of tea and a foot-soak, I was just me and nothing like the earlier identity on stage.
It’s the same with creating characters in books. Sometimes a reader will say, “I can relate to you,” when referencing the protagonist in a novel. I appreciate the response; it’s also interesting for me. While I can draw parallelisms, such as an incident or event that motivated the story, antics that aided a character’s development, or inject personal likes and dislikes, I’m not that person. Not even in my first novel, which is assumed in the industry to be every writer’s veiled autobiography. I'm just a vehicle to carry out another's story.
If I am my characters, then I’m also a human-flesh-eating imp, a war criminal, and a subterranean giant. I’m ALL of them (because creators invest in roles), and NONE of them (because I’m somebody else at the end of the day). Clear as mud? Lol. I'm inclined to think it's more the moral of the story that speaks (if anything does), which is sourced from a gracious God.
In hindsight, last year gave us the means to sharpen our vision for the future, to balance what is important, and find a better way to manage and appreciate life. The means to seek a clearer vision according to God’s perfect vision for us (his will, not ours) and be grateful for each day we have despite what storms around us.
We’ve been rocked—and not in a good way—by the pandemic and politics. We can’t help these things… or… can we? To some extent, we can. It’s our responses to these things that make the difference. I’m fond of the phrase, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” Here’s another by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” Our behavior should correspond with the root of our beliefs. So now, I’d like to address some of my fellow believers in Jesus.
Call this a heart’s cry, but I’m crushed by what I see. Most disheartening, the attitude and angry speech from quite a few of my Christian peers who are spouting steam worse than an old locomotive. How persuasive is the demonstration of anger and the spirit of hate, which is contrary to God’s spirit, when the entire world rolls in hate-hysteria? Where’s the differentiation? Where’s the hope and encouragement? What difference does political affiliation make in loving your neighbor? Some of us have lost sight, are losing sight. If there was, God forbid, a massive earthquake in your neighborhood and people were trapped under rubble, would you reach in there and offer a helping hand or would you stand by and say, “What’s your affiliation? Because I’m only helping you if it lines up with mine.”
If you’re one of those screaming about injustice, remember that Jesus, the one in whom you believe, suffered the greatest injustice of all. Yet, he went as a lamb to the slaughter--as a lamb—for the sake of us all; not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s coming back as a lion, but that time hasn’t come yet—and it’s his right to roar when it does. In the meantime, by his grace we’re commissioned to be examples of light, salts of the earth, human versions of God’s steadfast love. Instead, social media, especially, reeks of an old famous bar where everybody knows your name and has to prove a point, prove a point, prove a point! It’s a frenzy; it’s an addiction. Easy to get caught up in—but where is the higher standard if we do as the world does? Where are the lambs?
I hope that instead of heated tongue-wagging, name-calling, and other adverse reactions, we can create an element of infectious peace—even, and especially, if we don’t agree with the climate. If you think I’m saying that we need to strive much harder to live and lead by Jesus’ example, then you are absolutely right—and I’m speaking to myself first.
Finally, if the present affairs are just too ugly and you feel like a loner going against the whitewater current of popular hysteria, then find a nice quiet place to pray. Because in the Lord’s presence is peace. There, we can find the strength to hold higher, a shield of honor, emblazoned with the blood of Jesus, this scripture:
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” — Colossians 3:12-14
Whenever out in the woods, or sleeping in the hammock under the stars, I feel closer to God (sense God close); I feel less alone in the world. When the commotion of society, along with its grumpy people, tax me too much, the need to head out into nature for a refresher becomes almost insurmountable. I get the desperate urge that I have to live… I have to breathe again, to renew again. The wilderness offers an active, unpredictable, and rejuvenating energy, a salve for the weary-hearted. It’s not the worship of creation but recognition of our Great Creator; his creation to take delight in and appreciate. I can worship God by glancing at a leaf, Baruch HaShem. (I just need, sometimes, to feast my eyes on PILES of them now littering the forest floor).
Last week for me was a regular nature fest, several long hikes—one in the early morning in fog so thick you could cut it, which is my favorite condition! (And I so love witnessing fog dissipate when the sun breaks through). At night, with the temperature dropping allowing the cover of frost, I pulled my blankets outside stumbling to the hammock and wrapped up in a cozy cocoon, all toasty, with just a slit for my not-yet-frozen eyeballs to take in the spread of stars. Sensing his presence, I whispered, “Ah, there you are, Lord, I’ve missed you.” Just then, a shooting star wrapped the night sky above with a bow around my heart. I had the best night’s sleep!
It’s not that God isn’t omnipresent, but it’s sometimes hard for me to sense him in the daily grind. Once out in the woods teeming with life, though, I admire his creativity in the sights, scents, and sounds of nature. My mind unclutters, and I can pray with clarity. I don’t feel alone anymore. I feel more alive than ever. (I’ve been like this since I was a kid seeking adventure, getting lost in the woods that ever drew me, along with my sisters, or on horseback, more times than I can count). There may be some reading this who might not relate; however, I know there are many others like me who relish nature and consider it a part of God’s healing balm, a hug for the seeker. (I know you’re out there because I read your blogs, memoirs, and autobiographies!)
I don’t know why I’ve shared this, but there it is anyway. Enjoy your day.
“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has the power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, Rejoice, for your soul is alive.”—Eleanora Duse
I’ve moved a lot in life. In fact, we’ve relocated again during this COVID-19 era. It’s not the woodsy rural environment I prefer, but more urban with constant buzz and people present. First time in the real burbs, but there are viable reasons for making this transition and, honestly, I look at it as temporary anyway. I’ve lived in exceptional situations, sucky ones, and in-betweeners. As far as materialism, I know what it is to have little, a lot, or thrive in moderation. I’ve gained and I’ve lost, so I don’t get too attached when I regain. Life can present us with all kinds of living situations and circumstances—sometimes changing on a dime. Some we bring on ourselves by choices we make; other times it’s circumstances beyond our control. But we have the means within us to adapt to life’s seesaw.
Life on earth is transitory. And because we are spiritual beings destined for eternal life, heaven is our true home. So in a big-picture sense, if you ever feel like a stranger in a strange land, it’s because we all kind of are. Strangers passing through in what is a privilege to live a purpose-filled, lungs' air-filled life… wherever we are… by mindset. We can bloom wherever we’re planted. It’s not where we are, but how we are.
We can bloom from whatever situation we’re handed, too, even the self-inflicted ones. Because no matter where we move, or how things pan out, what we do, or who moves in or out of our lives, the one constant is that Yeshua, Jesus, loves us unconditionally, as we are, where we are, without terms or conditions. By the time you reach a certain age in a fallen world full of broken people, you’ll have experienced friends who wound you, partners who break you, situations that hurt you and you hurt back. We are flawed, but God takes it all and loves us, as us, anyway, just like that.
The other day, I listened to an artist I admire, Kendall Payne, in a shuffle mix. I was on the treadmill maintaining my half-century-old body; I was also musing over blooming and belonging when her track “Belonging” played. Gah, if my heart didn’t ache to hear it just then. The timing, the bittersweet message of the song, the relatability, made me realize again how profound faith is and the absolute love God has for us as he waits for us on the other side (home, at last) with arms open wide.