New Beginnings

Pursuing-God-2019

I began the year with plans…

Plans to read through the Bible and corresponding works of biblical fiction.

I started out plodding along with the same story I’d been brainstorming for over a year, indulging clunky tortoise-like steps with little progress while also wondering, “Is this really the story God wants me working on now?”

See, I’ve been feeling a steady awakening ever since God healed me of the anxiety and depression that kept me anchored to this pressing need to prove my existence had value. Before that, all I was trying to do was survive. Then I was taking little baby steps, finding a rhythm to my morning time with God, which led to my new reading goals a la biblical fiction + Bible.

Then God derailed those plans.

Just as I began wondering if my novel-in-progress was God’s purpose for my writing in this season—even while a desire within me was being birthed to write something deeper, not alone but with God—He downloaded a fresh idea. One I thought would end in a short story, but His inspiration kept flowing. Overnight, I transitioned… from striving and struggling to plot a novel that seemed determined not to flow… to a story exploding with creativity and floating as free as the wind. To go from plotting (yessiree, I have all the answers) to half-pantsing (no idea where it’s going or how it’ll all work out, but it’s going, it’s going, IT’S GOING—at last!)… that takes faith.

And with the shift in writing came a shift in reading as well. No rigid plans for me, thank you very much! Not that plans are bad, but I’m willing to ditch the sinking ship when God supplies me with an ark. I’m willing to surrender my wearisome plans for His so I can flow with His Spirit.

So now instead of only reading biblical fiction, I’ve taken a break to focus on Middle Grade (MG) fiction. The story inspiration God’s giving me  f e e l s  like MG (or perhaps YA, Young Adult), and I’m excited about that. Middle Grade fantasy strikes me as being among the most creative of genres and I’m enjoying the shift. (Want to read some great MG fantasy, check out this book I reviewed here.)

My devotional reading has proven fruitful as well. Just two examples below…

(1) Courageous Creative

I haven’t yet finished this beautiful devotional by Jenny Randle, but it’s inspired some prophetic art that touched one of my friends, and it also led me to write an inspirational song that speaks to my new vision for encouraging the downtrodden to lift their eyes to the ultimate Healer, God.

Devotionals

(2) Encountering Our Wild God

This inspirational book by Kim Meeder is absolutely amazing. There wasn’t a single chapter that didn’t touch me deeply to the point of tears. I felt God’s presence in reading this book, and I’m so thankful He helped me find it. Each of the author’s stories powerfully focused my thoughts on the Creator and Lover of my soul and started my day with a boost of faith and hope while driving me to a deeper hunger for the things of God.

Deeper… to the point of feeling like there’s a message inside me just waiting to burst out. A message of hope that longs to be shared to the right crowd in the right situation. Three weeks or so ago today, I took a leap of faith and, during our church service, shared a word I felt the Holy Spirit had impressed upon me.

It’s just like Kim says in her book, “The motivation to share our faith does not rise from courage but love.” When we see God as He is, we can’t help but love Him. The more we experience that love, the more we love God back and the greater our hopes to make a difference for Him.

So here I am. Embracing change inside and out, begging God to fill me and guide me.

Makeover
Thank you, Becky, for the awesome new color! Visit her Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/rebeccaroehairdress/

Now my greatest hope is to be walking in God’s will. Now my passion for life is that I would press so close into my Savior that it becomes impossible to tell where He begins and I end. Now I have this vision that my writing can be about more than just me.

I want to be like Abraham in that my life would be a blessing for many.

all-things-new

 

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Inspirational Authors: My Testimony, Part 2

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We all have childhood dreams, don’t we? Some of us pursue them. To some of us, they seem more like a childish fantasy to be put aside at the proper time. Adulthood and fantasy don’t mix in the real life. We’re not princes and princesses, but paupers pursuing paid work—or else we’re starving artists.

Isn’t that the way of things?

No wonder then that my dream to write—which seemed both to peak and peter in high school—turned out to be a foolish hobby to be set aside.

Instead, I pursued science. I rode a rocky rail through graduate studies at RPI, stalled when it came time to edit my first paper, then finally made it through—by the skin of my teeth it seemed.

Mediocre-Failure

If “mediocre” was my word in high school, then “failure” was my label as a post-grad.

That label fused into my soul as I began teaching, airing my inadequacies for every student to see. Dumped into the deep end, sinking, I felt like the biggest fraud that ever lived—with an audience of witnesses in every classroom.

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I thought the first year would kill me. It didn’t. Another year, another move fulfilling another sabbatical replacement. The second year was better—I was improving—but I never made the cut in my heart. Three years and three states later, I looked for university positions in my field and found none.

Just like that my 12-year pursuit (4 years to get a bachelors + 5 for the PhD + 3 as a professor) came to a timely end.

I didn’t really want to continue on that path anyway… which was good since that train had derailed. That rocket ship had flown. But without the train, the track, the rocket—I was like a floating astronaut, stranded—once tethered by my job… now bound to vacuum.

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All my life’s pursuits had lead to this moment, crystal clear in retrospect: I was finished. I didn’t want to teach anymore. I didn’t want to do research or work in industry. There was, in fact, nothing I could imagine wanting to do with the PhD I’d been so eager to earn in my own strength. Nor could I imagine anything I either was able or wanted to do with my life, period.

Game-Over2

Thus began the years of emptiness. I lived in dread of a single question from strangers—“what do you do?”—and another from friends—“found a job yet?”

I shudder to think what my life would’ve been if I hadn’t been married then. As it was, I became a stay-at-home wife, pursuing meaningless hobbies like brewing beer… and writing a novel.

In all these pursuits I was searching for significance—for purpose… or else just hoping for distraction.

As time passed, I began placing all my worth in my writing, growing happy and hopeful when all was well… only to feel the weight of mountains crashing down at the tiniest snag, the smallest setback. Any whispered suggestion that I could do better—even well-meant critiques from friends—amounted in my mind to utter failure and hopelessness.

Cue the identity crisis that prompted these words:

“As the prodigal son attempted to transform his father’s fortune into joy, so I use my Father’s “talents” in hopes of earning satisfaction. And yet…my talents aren’t enough. I’m mired in emotional squalor, feeding—starving—on the deficit of my own futile attempts to find meaning within.”

During this time, my prayers were pathetic and desperate. I knew I needed steady devotions, but with much of Scripture triggering the very angst I fought desperately to escape, I barely summoned the nerve to face it.

Nevertheless, with the tiniest seed of faith, I searched for verses that fed my soul rather than shredding it. Instead of passages urging me to do more and try harder to be good, I drank in every verse proclaiming God’s power and strength… like Isaiah 46, which prompted one of several blog posts on my journey toward the light.

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If you catch nothing else, catch this:

Since about halfway through grad school until the summer of last year, I struggled off and on with anxiety and depression. That’s over ten years of struggle. More than a decade living with an Ecclesiastes 1 mentality, just ready to be done with this strange experiment called life.

Was there anything I could’ve done to have shortened this period? Perhaps. We can never know what might’ve been, but here’s what I’ve learned from looking back:

  1. Anxiety and depression aren’t things one just snaps out of. Studying the Bible can help, but when our understanding is skewed because we’re blinded by life-long misperceptions, it can also hurt. Which leads me to my next point…
  2. Whenever I felt condemned for not living up to the Bible’s standards, that wasn’t God’s voice in my ear. Unlike me, He knew I was on a transformative journey that would take some time to manifest. (Conviction is another matter, but when God bids us change, He promises to walk beside us as our guide and aid.)
  3. Even when the Bible seems to be a burden, seeking God Himself is always the right path. However, it does take faith to press into Him when our emotions keep telling us God’s not interested. (I assure you, He is.)
  4. When a person is struggling with anxiety and depression, they generally don’t need to be EXHORTED (urged to do better); they need God to be EXALTED. Whereas exhortation presses us down and aims our focus on ourselves and the shoulds and oughts of future action, exultation fixes our gaze on God—His sufficiency, power, and strength to deliver us from whatever ails. Worship is a powerful weapon, my friends! If you’re in need of a little pick-me-up, try reading through these enemy-shattering bombshell Scriptures.
  5. For my type of anxiety and depression, renewing the mind was critical. Note, however, that the burden of our transformation is not ours to bear. We can read resources that will help to change our mindsets, but only God can initiate transformation. As such, the journey is inherently a cooperative partnership—not something we can do by ourselves, which is a bit of a relief really. Ultimately, the heavy lifting of our transformation is on God’s shoulders, not ours. What I’m trying to say is—unless we think the weight is ours alone to carry (so that the other side of the yoke is left empty)—His yoke is indeed easy and His burden light!
  6. Not everything which is good advice in general will be good for every individual in any given moment. God knows we’re all different. He speaks our language even when others—even well-meaning people—don’t. As such, not everything spoken, written, etc—even those things that are spoken to us with an intent to help—should be taken into our spirits. For that reason, also, it took me a while to find the right resource to aid me in renewing my mind. In the timing and manner I found this particular book, I know God brought it to my attention. Then He used it to heal me of my anxiety and depression.

Here’s the bottom line: God was working in my life, even when it felt like I’d been abandoned. He took the most painful parts of my story and turned them around for His glory. As I said in an earlier post about these struggles:

God wasn’t hiding Himself, you see? My skewed perceptions—the same ones that turned God’s word against me—they were the culprit. The truth is, our reality is shaped by what we truly believe, which means some of us are living in Hell even while the kingdom of Heaven looms near.

For each one reading this post today—each person out there who’s still struggling beneath the weight of their anxiety and depression—I pray God would guide you to the resource that speaks to your heart—and heals your hurts. For me, that resource was, without a doubt, Ted Dekker’s Forgotten Way Meditations. I’m so grateful to God for leading Ted to write that book, for guiding me to read it, and for using it to heal me.

Perceptions

If you’d like to read more about my transformative journey, check out these earlier posts:

How about you? How has God shown Himself powerful in your life? What’s one book, novel, movie, or other resource that God used for your spiritual growth or transformation?

Not on the upswing yet? Don’t fret. We’re all a work in progress. If you have prayer requests or just need to reach out to someone who understands your brand of pain, feel free to write to me through my contact page. Seriously. I believe God let me suffer with these issues for so long in order to instill in me a heart that hurts for the mentally and emotionally distraught. I love you. God loves you. I pray He’ll help you lift your eyes to see Him smiling down on you.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Biblical Fiction Author: Kandi J Wyatt

Dragon's Eye background Biblical Retellings

Today, I’ve invited Kandi J Wyatt to share her heart for Biblical Fiction with special emphasis on her medieval retelling of Hagar’s story, The One Who Sees Me

Without further ado… here’s Kandi’s post on her transition into biblical retellings:


I grew up in a Christian home and was in church at least three times a week if not more up until after I graduated from Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa. That may explain my love of Biblical fiction. Since I heard the Bible stories from the time I was too little to remember and still hear them today, almost forty-nine years later, I needed a fresh perspective on old favorites.

About sixteen or seventeen years ago, I gained an interest in bringing the Bible to life for believers who, like me, had heard the same stories over and over again. My husband and I collaborated to create two plays for church. One was mostly his doing and the other was more my doing. For Easter, we created a passion dinner play that rocked my view of the crucifixion for several years, since my husband played the part of Jesus. I’ll never forget the feeling when I heard the pounding of the nails and then looked up from my spot on the floor in front of the cross to see Eric there.

The following Christmas, we blended scenes from the passion play into a Christmas program that focused on Jesus coming to the manger with a view for the cross. He Made a Way Through a Manger can be found on my website.

That intro gave me a heart for making Bible stories alive and interesting. Most of the time I kept my stories in the time period they were told and just tried to give a fresh perspective, until November, 2014, when National Novel Writing Month came around.

Our Sunday school class had been studying the life of Abraham. I saw his marital relationships much like a modern-day blended family. However, I knew I couldn’t write a modern Abraham story, but I loved the medieval and fantasy settings. So, I set out to write a Biblical retelling in a fictional medieval realm, never expecting to have historical fiction tagged to my name.


The One Who Sees Me hardbackTeenage slave girl Faru’s life has been turned upside down when she discovers she’s been traded to a new master, forcing her to leave all she‘s ever known. Upon her arrival, Faru meets a friend, Cailean, who helps her adjust to life in the strange location. Life settles into a new pattern, and romance blossoms between the young friends. But as soon as they plan to get married, another proposal comes about – one that cannot be ignored. Being a slave means not always marrying who you love.

On a daring journey to heal her heart, Faru encounters the Existing One. Will she trust Him and do His bidding even if what He requests is so hard?

Follow Faru’s tale in author Kandi J Wyatt’s retelling of a Biblical story found in the Old Testament book of Genesis, showing that when things don’t make sense, God will guide the way.


The One Who Sees Me gained its title from the name that Hagar gave the Lord when she ran away from Sarah. I love that aspect of the Lord. He’s the One who sees me no matter what I’ve done, or what I’ve gone through. It wasn’t until after I wrote the novel that I realized how important that title was to me personally. You see, as a fifth grader I experienced abuse but hid the memories until I was in my late twenties. I drew comfort from the idea that even though it was a horrible happening, Jesus was there with me walking through it with me and saw all the pain and hurt.

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Since I moved the story’s location, I changed names of characters. Hagar became Faru, a servant girl in a castle. We meet her as King Cyning has a conversation with a stranger while Faru’s on her mid-afternoon break.

Chapter two begins with her hard at work:

FARU HAD RETURNED to her duties in the kitchen. Each day she oversaw the plating and delivery of the queen’s evening meal. It was with a jolt of surprise that she heard her mistress’s voice call out her name.

“Thank the gods, Faru,” the tall, fair queen exclaimed. “I’ve found you.”

“Milady?” Faru drug the word out a bit with apprehension. In all her life in the castle, she had never seen the queen concern herself with dinner preparations; she doubted today was any different.

Even in the surroundings of the hot, sweaty kitchen, the queen seemed to preside with the dignity of her position. She moved with a lithe grace that Faru had always admired. Yet, underneath that poise, Faru saw an uneasiness that was unusual.

“Faru, come with me,” the queen commanded, in a voice that was not to be questioned.

The prep cook just shrugged and called to another servant to take Faru’s place. Faru turned and followed her mistress, a fear beginning to settle in her stomach. She knew better than to ask any questions.

The queen’s steps tapped a staccato on the stone floor. Her skirts swished as they brushed past servants, potted plants, and other decorations in the hallways. From past experience, Faru knew that her mistress’s anger was much like a volcano. It could erupt at any moment, and it didn’t matter who was at the receiving end of her wrath.

As they rounded a corner, a drapery swished past the queen. With precise movements, she ripped it down. Dreading what she was about to do, Faru opened her mouth.

“Your majesty?”

With a frustrated sigh, the queen turned around, her blonde hair swinging behind her.

“Faru.” Her voice came out soft compared to her movements. “It is nothing that you did.”

Faru raised a delicate eyebrow, her dark eyes pleading for more information.

“No, young one. It was my lord.”

Faru nodded understanding. The royals were known for their spats.

The queen pulled Faru into an alcove where they were out of the way of castle life. She laid a shaky hand on her servant. Faru’s initial reaction was to move away, but the tenderness in her mistress’s touch surprised her.

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As I researched into Hagar’s life, I knew we’d want to know more about her background. The Bible tells us she was Egyptian, and she shows up after Abraham lies about his relationship with Sarah to Pharaoh. So, I decided to show that aspect of Hagar, a girl who has no say over what happens to her, as she’s traded off in exchange for a bride for the king.

There are so many darker scenes in Hagar’s story. I tried to treat each with the respect and honor they deserved while still being true to the written account. There were several characters that popped up unexpected, but that was okay since the story is framed in a fictional account. Since my first books were middle grade to young adult, I was concerned that my Biblical retellings were for an older audience. I’ve framed these with the young adult to adult category.

Writing The One Who Sees Me seemed to have broken my inability to write Biblical retellings. Since then I’ve written a steampunkish retelling of Esther, and am working on an Ancient Egyptian view of the plagues and exodus of the Jews. I don’t even have a name for that trilogy yet. Whereas my Bible 2 Life writings in plays and stories on my website were focused more toward believers, my Biblical retellings have a broader scope. Yes, I want to draw in believers who’ve heard the stories ad-nauseum, but I also would like to bait in non-believers who’ve never read the Bible or maybe don’t even realize the Bible’s important. For them, my goal is that they read the story and think, “Wow! I never knew this was in the Bible,” and then they’d go read the original story.

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As my Biblical retellings have morphed over time, I see a possible adjustment yet in the future. I really enjoyed taking spiritual truths and masking them into a fantasy world in book three of my Myth Coast Adventures trilogy. Last Christmas, my husband spun the idea of a world that has slowly been taking shape in my head. It’s the perfect place for more of those stories with spiritual truth to come to fruition. Who knows? Maybe my Biblical retellings will take place in that fantasy/sci-fi world.

In the meantime, I still have a desire to share God’s truth with the world to edify both believers and seekers with His guiding, timeless principles. The means of achieving this is through the written story. As the Lord burns these tales into my heart, I will write them—no matter the format that they take.


About the Author:

Kandi J Wyatt Author

Even as a young girl, Kandi J Wyatt, had a knack for words. She loved to read them, even if it was on a shampoo bottle! By high school Kandi had learned to put words together on paper to create stories for those she loved. Nowadays, she writes for her kids, whether that’s her own five or the hundreds of students she’s been lucky to teach. When Kandi’s not spinning words to create stories, she’s using them to teach students about Spanish, life, and leadership.


Where to find me:

Website: http://kandijwyatt.com/
Facebook: http://facebook.com/kandijwyatt/
Instagram: http://instagram.com/kandijwyatt/
Google: http://plus.google.com/u/0/+KandiWyatt/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/kandijwyatt
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/kandijwyatt
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13817774.Kandi_J_Wyatt
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kandi-J-Wyatt/e/B00ZTC4T10/
Fellowship of Fantasy: http://www.fellowshipoffantasy.com/directory.html?filterP=Kandi%20J.%20Wyatt
Clean Indie Reads: http://cleanindiereads.com/dragon-courage/
Langlois, Oregon website: http://worldfamouslanglois.com/content/dragons-langlois-local-author-kandi-wyatt


Buy links:

Kandi J Wyatt books branded as of 6-17

Dragon’s Future: https://www.books2read.com/u/bzpDq9

Dragon’s Heir: https://www.books2read.com/u/47YQE3

Dragon’s Revenge: https://www.books2read.com/u/b5qvGb

Dragon’s Cure: https://www.books2read.com/u/47kxJa

Dragon’s Posterity: https://www.books2read.com/u/4DA8og

Dragon’s Heritage: https://www.books2read.com/u/3neVN6

An Unexpected Adventure: https://www.books2read.com/u/3yDLX6

An Unexpected Escapade: https://www.books2read.com/mythcoastadventures2

Journey from Skioria: https://www.books2read.com/u/4AwJee

The One Who Sees Me: https://www.books2read.com/u/mdrRlb

To Save a Race: https://www.books2read.com/u/49PG5k

Lessons from the Patriarchs: Abraham

In New Year’s resolutions and Character Goals, I talked about the difference between desires and goals, suggesting that goals are superior.

“The trouble with desire,” I said, “is that it tends to be passive” (a negative). “Furthermore, desires need not be within our power to achieve.” In other words, desires can be futile. But this week I’m flipping those assumptions on their heads.

That’s not to say that goals aren’t good. As creatures made in God’s image and imbued with fundamental skills, as well as His choice of special talents, we all have the ability to achieve certain pursuits in this fallen world. But as children of God, born again into His kingdom, we also need dreams beyond what we can achieve in our own strength… dreams beyond all we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

As children of God, we pursue the impossible through faith.

Which brings me back to my recent studies in Genesis and my contemplations of the Patriarchs. What can we learn from their successes and mistakes?

ABRAHAM

The promise God made to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15 (which I describe here) transferred to their son Seth, then eventually Noah and his descendants leading up to the first patriarch, Abram. In the first divine promise made to this man, God said:

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
Genesis 12:2-3

On some level, Abram believed God (for he proceeded at least in partial obedience to the LORD’s command), and yet—when his wife Sarai failed to conceive—he tried to simplify the promise—to achieve it in his own strength by using Hagar as a substitute.

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What lessons can we learn from Abraham’s story?

First of all, we can’t force God’s timing or even His methods. Receiving a promise isn’t about being in control; it’s about trust. Obtaining a promise isn’t about working hard and then asking God to bless our efforts. As I said in my review of Havah (by Tosca Lee),

“God’s promise fulfilled in man’s strength is no promise at all.”

But why is that?

God told Abram, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Among the prose of promises listed in Genesis 12 above, that one line is the most important—and it could never have been fulfilled in man’s strength—through Ishmael’s descendants and the lineage of Hagar, the slave girl (as explained in Galatians 4:21-31).

It’s true that Ishmael would fulfill other aspects of the promise—such as becoming a great nation—but partial fulfillment wasn’t enough for God. Partial fulfillment wouldn’t lead to the Messiah, the cross, and the redemption of all mankind. Partial fulfillment wouldn’t satisfy the promise made to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15. For the enemy to be crushed and mankind to be freed, the essential lineage was the one leading to Jesus. For that, only Isaac—the son conceived in God’s strength—would do, because…

It’s only through God’s power that all people can be blessed.

Perhaps that’s why God alone—and not Abram—bore the weight of the Genesis 15 covenant:

“I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half…

When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram… (Genesis 15:7-18)

Note how Abram never sets foot between the severed pieces. That’s because this isn’t a covenant both parties entered into. It’s not a two-way street with promised blessings shifting back and forth. Instead, the blessing flows in one direction only: to Abram (and all peoples) from God. As such, God alone is accountable. His cutting a covenant in this manner is the same as if He’d proclaimed: “Let Me become as these severed animals if I ever go back on this promise.”

In other words, “I’ll be dead before I fail you in this.”

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And that’s just what transpired. God died—willingly. On a cross. To fulfill the promise He’d made to Adam and Eve, then to Abraham, and—eventually—to all the inhabitants of this fallen world. A promise made in His wisdom, carried out in His strength, and fulfilled for His glory (and our benefit).

A promise to bless mankind. If we can only cease our working and striving to receive the promise only God can fulfill.

But how does that transfer to our writing—or whatever God-given passion we pursue?

“I will make you into a great nation…”

Do we only want great influence (numerous descendants) in order to feel we’ve made our mark?

“I will make your name great…”

Do we only wish for notoriety and fame so everyone knows our names? Or would we rather make a name for God?

Do we want our writing to be only an escape from reality—or to be instead an escape into a reality only comprehensible in God’s strength?

“…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

If we want the most important part of God’s promise to be true for us—for our writing, our ministry—that it would be a spiritual blessing to our readers (or whomever our audience may be), we’ll need more than an Ishmael. More than our own efforts and strength.

We’ll need a dead womb submitted to God, every earthly hope fading—until all our hopes center on God.

As Allen Arnold says in The Story of With:

51fhqlyy5fl“Let go of your preconceived notions of what is possible and ask God about His dreams for you. They will likely be far bigger than anything you’ve yet imagined.” After all, “The only way to experience a miracle is to put yourself in a position to need one. That is part of stepping into dreams so big that only God can make them come true.”

The Power of Promise?

So God says, I’ll give you a land. A place of belonging. A name, a son, a nation (Genesis 12). This in itself is a great promise, but I wonder if Abraham fully understood what God was saying.

Consider how Abram asks God for proof: “how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” (Genesis 15:8)

God indulges Abram with the outward sign of a covenant (the severed animals, and the ceremony), though I believe the words God speaks just prior to this moment serve as a pre-answer to Abram’s doubt:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”
(Genesis 15:1)

A son was nice. A nation, too. But here God whispers what really matters… “I AM… your reward.” In other words…

“Don’t trust in the promise, my son. Trust in the Promise-Giver.”

This, I believe, was the very reason God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. To ensure that his trust was properly grounded. Not in Isaac—but in God.

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If the Sovereign Lord once planted a son in a dead womb, He could do it again. Or raise the sacrificed boy from the dead so he might again become the son of promise. The Creator of time itself can do above and beyond anything we can ever ask or imagine.

So… when we think we’ve finally produced a novel that could be our very own “son of promise,” instead of rushing out to the printer, we need to lay it on God’s altar. Give it back to Him to do away with or to use however He wishes.

We submit our work to God—or else it becomes an idol, a snare.

We need to realize that the tangible product in our hands is nothing apart from God’s divine power. Furthermore, God is more concerned with our relationship to Him than with our productivity. Rather than any blessings He might bestow, God Himself is our greatest reward.

Genesis: An Overview

So many important people and events come alive in the pages of this first book in the Bible—including the first man and woman, hand-fashioned by God.

This simple creative act—simple for God—surely carried a weighty resolve to which Hero Yeshua consented… Just like I discussed in my post about the Hero’s ordinary world.

To allow creation was to invite all kinds of destruction—including His own.

Though it’s hard for us to grasp, God stands outside of time—sees the beginning from the end. In this way, God creates man, knowing full well that time plods inexorably toward the cross and Yeshua’s death. Both Father and Son have already counted the cost and decided it’s worth the sacrifice. That we’re worth it. That’s the beauty of Creation.

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God created man in His image, male and female. Not as robots but free agents capable of obedience… or else defiance. He made life in the garden simple. No ten commandments there; just a single rule: “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

God essentially said, don’t stick your finger in the socket or you’ll pay the price. Unfortunately, even then man had an enemy (Genesis 3), the crafty serpent, who may as well have said as he “palmed” his scaly forehead, “but of course God doesn’t want you to stick your finger in the socket. He’s hoping to keep you from the very power He Himself bears!”

Can you imagine how someone with no concept of electricity might mistakenly feel snubbed here? How long, I wonder, did it take mankind to succumb to this twisted taunt? To this day, we still suffer for acting without having all the facts. (And trust me—no matter what we think—we never have all the facts.)

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To this day, we’re still faced with choices that reap blessings or curses… life or death…

The question is: In any given moment, will we choose to follow God or Satan?

Will we submit to the Creator—remaining within the protective bounds of His perfect law—or will we sin?

Will we trust our own strength to carry us—thus erecting Self as a golden idol—or will we admit that God is the Source of every talent, every fortune, every success?

Let’s be clear: To choose God is to choose life.

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life…” Deuteronomy 20:19-20

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The remainder of Genesis ushers in a series of divine promises and human failures as God steers mankind toward the great redemption He’s planned:

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“And I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he (singular) will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

Even if this passage speaks of an ongoing battle—for surely we are, even now, victims of spiritual warfare—it also hints at the One whose death would ultimately cleanse man’s sin and reverse The Fall’s curse.

Even in the beginning, a Savior is promised… He’s coming—but not yet.

Before that time, man’s inclinations are so evil, God can’t withhold justice. His judgment comes in the form of the Flood, followed by another promise symbolized in a rainbow.

And on it goes. The tower of Babel—defiance and pride. The confusion of language—mankind brought low. And finally the Patriarchs, through whom God’s promise in Genesis 3:15 will ultimately be fulfilled in, Jesus, the promised Messiah.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. (Galatians 4:4-5)

Genesis displays God’s power and provision in creating a world to fulfill more than man’s base needs. The natural world beckons exploration. Adam and Eve are co-fashioned for deeper relationship. Even knowing the risk of rebellion, Father-Spirit-and-Son grant their image-bearers the freedom to choose. And when man inevitably falls… God’s plan of redemption sweeps into motion.

See also, Lessons from the Patriarchs and Genesis: The Bible in Fiction, coming soon. Learn more about the biblical fiction blog series here.

Resources

Youtube Overviews: Part 1 | Part 2

Outline of Genesis: Blue Letter Bible | Bible Study Start

Chronological Reading Plans: 1-year Plan | Simplified 61-day Plan

Bible Timelines (Pinterest): Bible Hub | The Bible Timeline | Amazing Bible Timeline

Jesus in Genesis and other Genesis-related Questions: Answers in Genesis

 

Biblical Fiction: My Testimony, Part 1

Young-LaraSome people “come” to Christ in a spectacular moment of revelation. For me, that’s not how it was. I grew up in a Christian household. I attended church from birth. One of my earliest memories recounts a time in Sunday School in which I scribbled my thoughts on a scrap of paper: “I hate myself.” Naturally, the Sunday school teacher’s face showed her shock. I’m sure I confounded her (and maybe even myself).

It seems the enemy had a grip on me even then—but where was God? He was a concept. I knew all about God, of course—through my years in the pew, in Sunday School, and, later, as confirmand in the Lutheran church—yet I somehow missed knowing… Him. Or maybe I knew Him as well as an infant knows anyone.

Whatever the case, I lacked the living, breathing faith that presses into God daily. I tried devotions for a while, of course…in my own strength. But the fervor didn’t last. How could it for a concept?

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In high school, I started caving, which led to an interest in geology. After earning my BS at my hometown university, I never wavered in my intent to attend graduate school; I wanted a PhD like my dad. Furthermore, I knew which field most piqued my interest: Volcanology. I was so sure of this decision, my mom and I visited several west coast colleges. (Where else would one go in the US to study volcanoes?)

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Geology Field Camp out west near the end of my undergraduate studies.

But—after spending all that time and money… after freaking out from my mom’s crazy driving in San Francisco before giggling our way twice down Lombard Street in a much needed release—I woke up one morning back at home with a very different certainty: Rather than studying volcanoes, I wanted to understand metamorphic reactions.

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< Lombard Street zig-zagging down  |  My graphic of the Rock Cycle >

At this point I should note that, as a Geology undergrad, I learned almost nothing on this particular subject, since the professor who taught hard rock petrology—which is the collective study of igneous and metamorphic rocks—was, in fact, a volcanologist who focused mainly on what he knew. As such, roughly 75% of class time was spent on Igneous rock processes and identification with the last 25% glossing over the metamorphic equivalent. Suffice it to say, the logic in my sudden change of mind—to pursue a field I didn’t know enough about to really know why I should pursue it—was minimal.

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It wasn’t a logical decision but, rather, a deep inner knowing.

And from that knowing, the landscape of my future suddenly changed from a steep-sided volcano—the source of rocks born in a violent reincarnation of molten material—to a graveyard of mountains, sheared by erosion to expose old rocks transformed from a slower subjection of heat and pressure. And in so doing, I would undergo my own slow metamorphosis… in upstate New York instead of California.

So there I was, my first real time away from home. I met my future husband almost immediately and connected with others through the outing club. I traded caving for whitewater kayaking and indulged my scientific curiosity. My graduate studies began with a vibrant enthusiastic hope and ended in disillusioned depression.

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< Posing with my dad by our recent whitewater conquest  |  A whitewater slide >

During my first years at RPI, I didn’t attend church. There was no platform for God in my life besides the former knowledge of my upbringing. My would-be husband was agnostic, saying, “I believe in God, but I’m not sure about Jesus.” To which I replied, “But it’s all about Jesus!” My upbringing spoke, yet God was still silent.

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During this time, my would-be husband began reading The Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Sometime later, we discovered the first few movies in the discount bin at Walmart. I never read the books, but I did watch the movies and found my soul gripped with emotions I can hardly put to words.

81xrn3cckwl._ri_sx300_It wasn’t the theology that won me (whether the theology in that book is flawed or not). Or the production quality or acting (which some have claimed is not up to Hollywood standards). Instead, it was the fervor of the persecuted church. It was the thought that Jesus could be so real His followers would risk anything to remain true to Him… Like Stephen the martyr looking to God instead of the stones hurtling toward his head. The idea of a peace that truly passes understanding. Of beauty and truth and a love beyond what any of us can fathom in this life except in a brush with our risen Savior.

That’s what captured my imagination and whispered to my heart, “This is how it could be.”

God used those books and movies—used fiction—to inspire me (and my husband) to start going back to church, but—in retrospect—His tender luring began long before that. You see, my home church was good, but God knew I needed something different. He knew I needed to leave my father and mother and be joined to His Son, no longer relying on the faith of my parents but—with His help—coming into my own. He knew I needed to hear the whispers of His Spirit… to be exposed—for the first time—to tongues and prophecies and the Spirit of God Himself.

I wanted to study volcanoes, but God had a different plan.