Blog Quotes 2018

Recently faced with the realization that I’d been blogging for over a year and HAD NOT CELEBRATED (insert your favorite shock-faced emoji here), I decided it might be fun to review the posts I’d written and select, for each, a favorite quote where appropriate.

Another way I celebrated in retrospect was by creating a tagline and a new graphic. What can I say? Getting my hair done turns me into a selfie-nut:

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I hope you enjoy perusing the quotes as much as I had fun rooting them out. This post also serves as a great Table of Contents for 2018. So, without further ado

Quotes from 2018

The Journey Begins: Writing a novel is an act of faith. Even starting a blog can feel like stepping out to walk on water.

Learning to Write a Novel: What more does a writer need, after all, than a paper and pencil (or a word processor)—and a brain? Input a little time and creativity and voila! Out pops the great American novel. (Note the use of sarcasm.)

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Writing Lessons from The Goose GirlWhen our hearts fist around strangled capillaries, damming up angst and blood as we read some imaginary scene, we know the author has touched us on a deep emotional level. If a scene milks our emotions, perhaps it somehow speaks to the cavernous vacancies in our own soul.

Critiquing to Learn: How can we analyze a tale’s beauty if it disappears when we stop to look? 

A Writer’s Promised Land: We need God every step of the way: thanking Him amidst bursts of productivity; leaning into Him in the barren wilderness of doubt (and depression, too); trusting, even then, that He who filled us with the desire to write has a plan and a purpose for our creativity.

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Writing Lessons from Driven to the Hilt: Characterization: Invent a world – check. Make stuff happen – check. Create a nuanced-but-not-inconsistent character with built-in experiences, fears, desires, and wounds, with whom readers can immediately sympathize – cheh—er—hmmm.

Writing Lessons from Driven to the Hilt: Setting: [To] fully explore characterization, writers need to give flesh to whatever world our protagonists inhabit.

Cause & Effect in FictionFrom the smallest fragment of a scene to the broad expanse of character arc and plot, cause and effect permeates good fiction.

Renegade Skyfarer Blog Tour:

[It] takes real skill to achieve that fine balance between too much information and too little. Too much too soon weighs the story down… Too little breeds confusion…

Readers need enough context in the moment to grasp what’s happening now, and they need a trail of hints that add up to the big payoff later—but without becoming predictable.

Sound like a tall order? Oh, boy, yeah.

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Scratching and Success: Realm Makers 2018 (Reblog from A.D. Sheehan): “I was already successful. It was something I’d heard years ago in a Mike Bickle sermon, but, like so many essential Christian truths, had lost in the roiling vat of information I call a memory. The heavier truths sink. We have to keep diving for them over and over.”

Identity Crisis (before God healed my anxiety and depression):

My peace is gone; God isn’t enough.

Haven’t I learned a thing?

Of course I have. In my head… But I have a prodigal heart—perpetually blind to the great expanse of Love Who calls this fragile temple His “home” and lives to satisfy this broken soul. He’s been living inside all along, and yet my heart wanders to the farthest reaches of my dark imagination, still searching for a shred of worldly hope or some flicker of self-worth.

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A Writer’s Idol: Meditations on Isaiah 46 (My Guest Post at Christian Creative Nexus):

An apple tree might sustain us, but an apple plucked from the tree never will—not for long…

No idol will ever lighten our loads. Instead, they weigh us down with false hopes…

So long as we keep a tight grip on our desires, refusing to commit them to God, we alone must face the burden.

My Fault: This Book How I Love Thee! Let Me Count the Ways: Juxtaposition: Light and dark. Bursts of laughter in the midst of pain. The good and the bad mingled together.

Story Physics, Part 1: How Newton’s First Law mimics character motivation: Whatever story you’re writing, it’s just about guaranteed to involve some kind of literal or figurative journey—one your hero would rather avoid.

Story Physics, Part 2: How a character’s internal change mirrors Newton’s Second Law[Characters] are the most stubborn of people. They don’t learn from their mistakes the first time around. They aren’t self-enlightened individuals who spontaneously decide to become better people overnight. They scoff at their mentors, presuming they themselves know better—until struggle and hardship teach them otherwise. Only after they’ve experienced the full constriction of their flaws can they embrace the idea of change.

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Story Physics, Part 3: Action-reaction in fiction as Newton’s Literary Third LawBack and forth like lumberjacks moving a two-person saw, the hero and villain push and pull, perpetually digging in deeper. It’s not always as straightforward as hero vs. villain, but the point is, your hero isn’t working in a vacuum (er—unless you’re writing sci-fi). But even if he is in a literal vacuum, it’s not clear sailing to the finish. He’s dodging space debris where there should be a planet, getting caught in a tractor beam, and being diverted into smelly garbage mashers by a pushy princess (all because he’s coming up against that antagonistic force).

Celebrating Science Fiction in September:

What I love about Driven to the Hilt: In spite of the sometimes dark subject matter…the overall narrative retains a buoyant feeling of hope… In the end, I think you’ll find there are many treasures to unearth from this story, including layers of theme, symbolism, and a beautiful mirror of the beginning at the very end.

A Guest Review of Thrawn: Alliances:

Lauren Salisbury’s The Legacy Chronicles (Novel Summary):

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J Andersen’s Destiny of Design Series (Novel Summary):

Driven to the Hilt I : A Review: Truth be told, this book is unlike any I’ve ever read… I can’t say I’m naturally drawn to survival stories. It takes talent to keep interest high when the hero spends a fair amount of time on his own, but in my view, this author succeeded. 

A Visual-Emotional Tour of Driven to the Hilt: (A great post to visit for a view of some of my digital creations!)

Self Care with Less Self: Advice for writers & other CREATIVE Planet Earth inhabitants:

Wouldn’t you be happier some days if you lived with emotional amnesia? If—instead of hashing and rehashing and worrying and wondering and fearing and desperately wishing for change—you could press the pause on all your stressful thinking?

What if (for example)—instead of wondering how you’re going to solve all those plot problems and become the successful author you one day hope to be—you simply forget yourself, your expectations, and relish in the enjoyment of writing… One day at a time…Knowing that no accomplishment worth pursuing is achieved in a single day anyway. Realizing that stress only serves to steal your creativity. What if?

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The Spiritual Power of Our Words (a brief anxiety relapse after God healed me):

The moment the words were out, [suddenly] they had power. Before voicing my fears, all I had was a little niggling doubt—something entirely manageable. But after?

I’d opened the floodgates to the enemy. The anxiety struck anew—and it wasn’t pretty. It bowled me over with unstoppable power, reminding me of the greater Power that had rooted it out of me to begin with. I was like Adam and Eve, longing for the very fruit that made me sick.

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Mythic Orbits Blog Tour:

A Visual Tour of Forging the Blade:

Fall Giveaways:

Driven to the Hilt II: A Review: There’s nothing more satisfying than a fully-realized hero with heart and depth. For me, Joshua Vernon is that character. 

Driven to the Hilt III: A Review:

Mineralogy & Petrology of Terrene (Guest Post):

Visual Scavenger Hunt, Winter 2018: (Visit the post for links to search for the hidden pictures.)

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A Peek Inside Wings Beneath Water: In my Goodreads review, I said this about Wings Beneath Water: “[It’s a] poignant story about truth, sacrifice, and brotherly love. Absolutely amazing: 5+ stars.” If you know me at all, then you know I don’t say such things lightly. 

Build-a-Better-Alien: In my opinion, creating intelligent fictional life requires a whole new depth of development: Not just environment—but culture. Not just biology—but personality. And the last thing we want to do is reinvent the human. On second thought—Just make ’em blue!

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The Hero’s Ordinary World (Creative Nonfiction: a prelude to Jesus’ birth): The prince paces on air because the pond is gone—the waterfall silent. Instead, its thundering pulses in his head. He sees…all. Every child born into sin—yet precious. Every tear streaking their dirty faces. They don’t all see the dirt—but He does. They don’t see their worth—but He does.

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Any favorite quotes? Any favorite posts?

The Forgotten Prayer (a short story)

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I watched from the crystalline platform suspended across the rift. Veils of space and time swirled for ages and fathoms beneath My feet. Through the sheer and shifting curtains of mist, I glimpsed the lab room, and the girl studying My creation with all the childlike wonder of discovery I’d planted within her. Those seeds had borne fruit. And what a joy to observe her steady self-awakening.

I felt His warmth behind me and spoke—though I need not for Him to know My thoughts. “For the first time in her life, she’s beginning to sense her place in the world—to see she’s not an extraneous part, but to realize she fits.” I strolled along the glassy bridge. My resplendent robe trailed across vapor and ice, swirling around feet that had trod the sands of time.

I glanced back over one shoulder, with human eyes that shouldn’t have been capable of beholding such brilliance—yet they did. “When I draw near, she’s beginning to sense my presence. She’s actively seeking. Her toes are to the threshold.”

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A voice emerged from the light, bursting with greater force of power than a hurricane’s crushing clamor. “Our enemy has plans to ruin that. But we put it in her heart to pray that prayer. He will do what he does—try to rewrite her story—and think he’s rendered her ineffective.”

“While we pen a different ending.” A pang of bittersweet joy consumed My heart. She would soon forget the prayer, but as for Me, it would be My guiding hope for her life—My map for her future. A future destined to take ten-plus years to sculpt. Ten dark years in which she would muddle through—essentially—as if I didn’t exist. “She won’t understand for a long time, but she will,” I muttered, returning to the exact moment in time when she’d recorded that prayer in her journal.

January, 17, 2006. Ten years and one day until her first child’s birth, and three years more until she would shed the blinders of fear and doubt. This was her prayer to Us.

“Father, breathe Your life on me…cleanse me from within. As an unclean pot needs to be broken…break me and reform me again in Your image…” And it went on—but the heart of the prayer was there. My heart was there too, ready to be crushed alongside her—whether she sensed Me or not.

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But I knew she wouldn’t sense Me again for a long time. Her prayers would falter. Her light of hope would dim, flicker, and expire in a puff of smoke and cinder. She would think I had abandoned her—or worse—that I’d never cared at all.

O, how wrong she was.

A few weeks later, she wrote in her journal again.

01/24/06: “Father, You nudged me back to church because of a crazy movie! You have not let go since. I am here at this point in my life because of You. When I say, “Lord, it will be very hard, but I know I need to change,” You replied, “Lara, can I not do with you as this potter does?” You have told me that You are going to do it! All I need is to trust You and believe in You…and You will do the rest! Thank You, Father…Thank You, Jesus!”

My lone tear slipped along one cheek and dropped to the glass as hissing steam.

One day, she would thank Us again. But before then, the enemy of her soul would shatter that youthful idealism into dust. He would shake every pillar on which she attempted to stand.

And there I stood, knowing the intense anguish that had been stored up for her, unable to keep those pillars from collapsing beneath the burden of her misplaced trust. Those pillars—degree, career, husband, and passions—they were never meant to carry such a weight. Not even one such pillar had the power to sustain her. There was, unfortunately, no other way for her to learn. We—and we alone—had the power to bear up beneath her desperate search for significance.

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“The idols must fall,” My Father uttered in a whispered voice nearer yet than my own breath.

“Indeed…” And I knew the prayer’s answer would soon begin to unfold with greater intensity, even smothering the other desperate prayers she would weakly offer up—seemingly without any answer. The trials of her doctoral studies would graduate into what would feel like the greatest failure of her life. Three years hence, she would finally “give up” on that career—would consider herself a fraud with a degree worth less than nothing. “But before then, let’s send her a gift to look back on. A treasure to be unearthed from her journal at the glorious conclusion of this journey’s end.”

I sensed My Father’s approval. Moments later, the veil shifted, and We watched it unfold. A little vignette in a lab room. A visiting scientist with a story—an atheist even, telling a parable from My own creation. How wise he felt—and clever. A man who believed I was a lie as he uttered the words I gently coaxed from his lungs. And My Lara, she and I chuckled together at how I slipped her that message she later recorded in her journal…

01/26/06: A visiting scientist came today. In a conversation with my then advisor, I heard this visitor talking about something he’d learned from a wine connoisseur. Apparently the best grapes are those produced from a crummy-looking sandy/gravely soil because they have to “struggle.” The grapes in this environment have been documented to grow roots as deep as 10 meters! The visitor said that if you plant them in good soil and keep them well watered, you will produce a lot of grapes…with no taste! My advisor said, “Do you think it’s the same for people?”

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“That, my beloved, is not just a parable,” I whispered to her heart. “It’s a picture of the beauty and depth I’ll be working into your soul… Though you won’t believe I love you for many years to come, I’ll prove myself in a way you can’t ignore.”

Is the Creative Life Worth it?

A guest post by:

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What makes doing something worth it? It’s easy to say something is worth doing if it’s fun, if it makes money, if you’re good at it, or other people think it’s really great. The benefits are obvious, immediate, and tangible.

But what if good outcomes are questionable? Unlikely? What if it’s hard? What if there’s no guarantee you’ll ever make money at it? What if the people around you think it’s a waste of time or even actively discourage you from attempting it? What if it’s risky?

Both of my books wrestle with this topic a little. That’s because I have wrestled with it a LOT. As a creative whose creativity does not (yet!) pay the bills, I’ve done a lot of asking myself, “Is this worth it?” What I finally realized is that many of my ideas about what makes something worth doing were wrapped up in the likely outcomes of doing that thing.

And I realized that was pretty silly (and not at all Biblical), given there is no way I can actually know the outcomes. I was judging the worth of my endeavor by playing a guessing game with the future instead of trusting God with it. There’s a pretty good discourse on this in my book “The Worlds Next Door.” Here are a couple of snippets from that section:

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“You are not guaranteed success, but many more successes would have been gained and many more heroes born if people would begin journeys without being certain of their ends. Countless discoveries, countless loves, and countless brave deeds have been considered and tossed aside because of uncertainty and the consequences of possible failure. Would you be one of those who live knowing they have passed that by? Bravery is still bravery even when it does not accomplish its goal, though, sadly, the world rarely recognizes it. You may not be praised as a hero if you fail, but you will still be one if you have done the thing you were called to do. Just remember: if it is fear causing your doubt, it is not of Tanri.”

and…

“If you can only be happy with your choices if you are happy with the consequences of them, you are using the wrong criteria. Consequences are not in your control. You must choose what your conscience will not regret, regardless of what happens because of it.”

And to sum this up:

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That’s clearly a joke, but it’s pretty much how the world sees it. If you succeed, you’re a hero. If you fail, you’re a fool for trying. I think the trying is what makes you a hero, whether you appear to succeed or not. Because success can’t always be seen in the moment.

I think Vincent van Gogh’s life proves this point beautifully. In my book, “Vincent in Wonderland,” he’s not quite sure if his own gift is worth what it costs him. Another character’s response:

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“It is always worth it, though you may never know it in your lifetime, for ripples go out and out forever from every bit of love given and every hardship endured for the good of others. I have seen from the dawn of all worlds as each gift embraced rides on and on into the future like a wave.”

As a Christian, I know God is in charge of the outcomes. If we’re following His lead, we can trust that His perspective is far bigger (and better!) than our own. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:8-9)

Maybe fifty years from now a kid will read one of my books, and it will pull them back from an emotional cliff. Or maybe a great artist will be on the verge of giving up because no one believes in him but reading “Vincent in Wonderland will convince him to keep going. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

Despite a tragic lifetime of failure, Van Gogh is now arguably the most famous artist of our time. He was told, readily and often, that he was worthless, talentless, lazy. And truthfully, he was a difficult person. He was troubled. But he still poured into his passion, and the rest of us are grateful for it today. Those around him were not.

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Hebrews 11 (also known as the “Faith Chapter”) always reminds me to look ahead to the real reward instead of what is happening around me at this moment. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) The Bible assures of the hope to come—the ultimate end of eternal peace with Him. In the meantime, those in the chapter who were praised for their faith were also tortured and mocked and flogged and poor and imprisoned and homeless.

I guess if those people can live lives of faith through conditions I can’t even imagine, I can write a few books God has laid on my heart, though they may never make money and a few people may not like them.

Just remember, if it is fear causing your doubt, it is not of God.

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C.E. White is an author and collage artist living in the mountains of North Georgia with her husband and two cats. She loves whimsy, fairy gardens, and the Oxford comma. She also delights in rainy days spent on her porch with long books and large cups of coffee. Vincent in Wonderland is the prequel to her first book, The Worlds Next Door.


 

Author Website: www.cewhitebooks.com
Artist Website: https://www.cewhiteart.com/
Instagram: www.instagram.com/cewhitebooks
Facebook: www.facebook.com/cewhitebooks
Twitter: www.twitter.com/cewhitebooks
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/C-E-White/e/B077V7FVPT/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

Writing: A Journey of Trust

God’s been talking to me again, and when that happens, He speaks most often through impressions from different sources: A thought that flits through my head. A sentence with sudden revelatory depth from a paragraph just read. A conversation with a friend.

When these sources—like some cosmic compass from heaven—all point in the same direction, God holds my attention.

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The message God gave this time is not so different from what He revealed in the writing of An Abiding Peace (of mind). In that post, I wrote:

It seems human nature to equate uncertainty with stress. (An uncertain future. Our plans up in the air. Confusion over the path ahead. Or maybe we’re stuck in circumstantial discomfort.) This manner of logic presupposes UNDERSTANDING to be the ultimate pathway for finding peace. Isn’t this the way our human brains think?

It even applies to writing fiction!

After several months hiatus, I began again on the story I felt God had inspired. The one of which I wrote in an earlier post:

“I thought [it] 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.”

But then I hit a block. (That and I sensed God telling me to wait.) Hence the hiatus.

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For 4 months, I didn’t work on that project. Wasn’t sure I was meant to write fiction at all. Maybe it was simply God’s vehicle to bring me to the end of myself and set me free from all those binding perceptions. And maybe the free-flowing story was simply a momentary gift—to be enjoyed in a time of transition.

However, I’d already registered for the Realm Makers (RM) Conference and, in the weeks leading up to that time, new ideas began trickling in once more.

Then, through the suggestions I received at RM (the same answer from three people—Can anyone hear God talking? Ahem.), I began again in earnest, brainstorming ideas as fast as they came, pressing forward to break past the former block in my story… And I just kept going.

Not writing, mind you (Be gone from my presence you foul white page!)—but brainstorming.

Idea after idea after ideain list form.

The suggestions received at RM clearly broke the dam, bringing a fresh creative flow (after turning over said stone). And since God often speaks to me through triplets, I don’t doubt their advice. Yet, as the ideas amassed, a little nagging voice whispered its doubts. 

“These ideas are great,” it said, “but not quite comprehensive enough to get you from beginning to end…

“Not ready yet, luv. So keep plugging away on your list. Don’t try to face the page when you know you’re not ready.”

In other words, don’t start writing ’til you see a clear path throughthe trail through the thicket. Does that sound like God to you?

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Well, I reasoned, He did show me this craft book to read—and I haven’t finished with that yet. And besides, I’ve derailed too often without a plan—wasted countless hours writing garbage.

Though—in case you don’t realize—you’re amassing so many ideas your human brain won’t be capable of sorting them in the end. Not to mention…have you forgotten which story this is?

Mmm. The story of promise. The one I prayed for. The one that began with a flood of creative power unlike any I’d experienced in the writing wilderness of the last ten years.

If the conversation had literally gone as above, I’m sure I would’ve caught on faster. Even so, just a few weeks had passed since my story’s re-beginning, and already my feet were sinking beneath the slippery sands of trust in my own sense of understanding. A well-timed conversation with a wise writer friend confirmed my sinking suspicions.

In my heart of hearts, I knew I had to make a change, which I expressed in my journal:

Am I trying to create on the page a journey of the mind or of the soul? A logical journey, devised in the mind of man—or an authentic one, born of God? Perhaps in pondering each detail so methodically, so thoroughly, with a mind to predetermine the logical progression of character and plot in hopes of removing all risk, I’m refusing to take the journey with God. Perhaps I need to do that hard thing and face my fears (the empty page) with God as my Source.

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After all, who am I trusting to bring me through if I have to plan every detail?

Whose story will it really be if I refuse to relinquish control to the One with the most pure and eternal perspectives?

If I only ever begin writing when the story makes sense, I’m trusting my own powers of reasoning above God’slooking to Hagar to bring the promise—instead of the Miracle-Maker.

As Ted Dekker says in his Meditations, “When we humbly surrender our intellect’s need for certainty, we are set free to trust our Father as only a child can trust.”

So, as I received this re-revelation that seemed to be from God, I faced the chasm spiraling infinitely downward before me. With fear and trepidation, I shuffled my toes to the very edge. Heart pounding, I pondered the tiny pebbles plummeting away into foggy nothingness. But instead of building a bridge across, I looked to my Heavenly Father—and I jumped

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Father, it doesn’t matter if this outpouring of words leads to better understanding of my story. It doesn’t matter if the words are perfect or the plot solid. In this moment, it only matters that I begin this journey with You, a journey of discovery and trust in which I can’t help but grow. So I transition my worries to You, shifting that pressure to perform from my shoulders to Yours.

After all, we were never meant to carry the weight of the results—the unbearable weight of making our stories a success—only to practice the faithfulness of dining at the Father’s table each day. There, we eat with joy. We drink the cup He provides. We write what comes—without pressure!—knowing that our writing is better and purer that way anyway.

Instead of fretting, we trust. When our wheels spin, we cease striving. We let go of expectations of what we feel pressured to achieve and, instead, we invite God to fill the gaps. We don’t fear the blank page which is merely an invitation to trust. Instead, squinting, we take shuffling steps into the white-page snowstorm, flurries whipping past our face with a stinging chill.

Into the whiteout we go, leaning forward into the wind, and there we discover, through story, beautiful lessons from our Daddy.

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How about you? How much are you trusting God each day to meet you on the blank page? And if He doesn’t seem to show? Is it because you closed the door to uncertainty, to risk, to trust? Is it because your expectations are hemming you in, thundering up from the ground like fast-growing hedges that block your sight of the One Who holds all creation in His hands? Can you trust Him, even when He doesn’t seem to deliver?

I’d love to hear where you are on the journey—to pray for you, to cheer you on—in the comments below or in a private message.

A Gift for You

In the meantime, here’s a little inspirational photo-collage I put together—for myself, for others. Feel free to save it for your personal use. It prints nicely to an 8 by 10 photo. If you want to bring a smile to my face, send me a picture of where you’ve anchored it in your home or your writing space.

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The Root of Every Arc

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Character Arcs, Trials, and Transformation, O My!

One of the most satisfying elements of good fiction is the character arc, the dynamic inner changes our favorite characters undergo from beginning to end.

Like Errol, who—in Patrick Carr’s The Staff and the Sword trilogy—transforms from an underdog drunk to a self-sacrificing hero.

Or Abramm, who—in Karen Hancock’s Legends Of The Guardian-King Series—shifts from spiritual darkness and weakness into a destiny forged in light, truth, and strength.

Or Haegan, a formerly paralyzed and bedridden prince, who—in Ronie Kendig’s Embers (Abiassa’s Fire Book 1)—is unexpectedly thrust out into a dangerous world he never expected to face, relentlessly pursued by his king-father’s lethal forces. Under such strain, he can’t help but change. In fiction and life alike, this is the formula for character transformation.

External Conflict (PLOT) + Internal Conflict (CHARACTER WOUNDS & WEAKNESS) = Internal Change (CHARACTER ARC)

In the books and series listed above, each hero faces grave trials that challenge his notion of himself and the world around him. Given enough time and pressure (and an author determined to make them better), each one emerges wiser, stronger, and kinder. Why?

Just as exercise builds muscle, suffering builds character—good or bad. Or—if it doesn’t build character in the traditional sense—it proves character. After all, how do we know what’s really in us until we’re tested? How do we know we’re patient until our patience is tried? How do we know we’re selfless until we have to sacrifice what we most want for the good of another?

Our Hero of heroes Jesus, being in very nature God, didn’t need refinement and yet—just like us—His suffering showed His true character. Unlike us, His suffering proved a purity of love no human being before or since has shown. What He suffered both proved His character and also served as a light for humankind (Luke 23:34, see also Luke 6:32-36). Furthermore, those trials enabled Him to empathize with humanity’s plight (Hebrews 4:15). “He never sinned,” Camp’s song Overcome, expresses, “but suffered as if He did.”

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As for us mere mortals, the first-fruits of our suffering are usually rotten, dredging up from the heart all manner of emotional garbage. In this way, suffering either builds character—or it plunges us deep into the valley of the shadow of death, paved with misery, fear, bitterness, self pity, and every other rotten fruit imaginable. I know because I used to LIVE there.

The Root Problem

For over ten years, I lived in a spiritual wilderness, unable to accept God’s love, find my purpose, or discern any real meaning in life. My career derailed. My spiritual lifeline frayed. Emotion gripped me in a chokehold.

Why was I so miserable? What was the root of my problem? Should I have shifted into a new career? Like the writing that also floundered? Should I have settled for a simpler career—one at odds with my God-given desires and natural talents?

When the anxiety and depression worsened, I took medication for a time, though it didn’t truly help. Should I also have sought a psychiatrist? Gotten more exercise? Eaten healthier balanced meals?

In terms of my spiritual life, should I have studied my Bible more often…even though the vast majority of scripture would trigger acute anxiety? Perhaps if I’d served more—prayed harder?

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My point in raising all these questions is to provoke thought: What kind of advice do we usually give to others currently immersed in emotional misery? What do we tend to perceive as their root problem? During the course of my struggle with anxiety and depression, I’d received platitudes, suggestions for vitamins to take as well as an exhortation to exercise. The message the world offers includes the following kinds of advice:

Do something for yourself. Try a new hobby, get a pet, go on vacation. Make yourself happy—whatever it takes. And while none of these actions are inherently bad (“whatever it takes” notwithstanding), they only ever serve as a distraction to the root cause.

The fact is, the world’s advice leaves us flailing…like blind men shooting crossbows in random directions, hoping against hope to hit a target we’re not sure is even there…

Because the external problem isn’t usually the root problem.

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Digging to the Roots

My own experience has convinced me that every emotional trial I’ve faced is rooted in one thing: perception. In other words, I’ve always found the root cause for every emotional trial to be—not something I do or fail to do, but rather—(1) what I believe and (2) how well those beliefs align with God’s truth.

If I were to generalize this observation, I might say it like this: The problem—and, therefore, the solution to every emotional trial we face—isn’t somewhere out there in the WORLD, something to be attained or achieved, some universal tangible fix-all. The problem is in the mind, in the inner man—within our WORLDVIEW.

In the midst of every outward trial, what we believe will determine whether we overcome the emotional pain—or else sink down to the depths. Believing God’s promises—that He’s working all things for our good and using every trial to build character—gives us hope in hard times. In contrast, depression and hopelessness characterize those who believe their struggles to be pointless and their efforts futile.

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Clearly, pondering whatever is noble and lovely and pure (Philippians 4:8-9) is good, but there’s a subtle distinction between faith in God and the world’s generic positivity.

Believing a pleasant lie (that is, positive thinking) may satisfy for a time, but only those beliefs that align with God’s truth will stand the test of time. Just as there are physical laws we dare not break (step off the cliff and you will fall), spiritual laws hold serious consequences for those who pay them no mind. Breaking those laws may seem harmless at first, but we always reap what we sow.

My false beliefs, for example, reaped years of anxiety and depression as well as a deficit of peace. No external change brought relief—only a revelation of God’s truth.

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A Word of Warning to the World

Based on my experience, the first step to inner healing and growth would seem to begin with the recognition that what we believe holds power—power to bring either inner peace or emotional pain. However, it’s not only what we believe that matters, but also, whether or not it’s actually true.

Relative truth is one philosophy society offers to bring comfort to the world. “It’s okay,” they say, “We can hold mutually exclusive beliefs. What I believe is true for me; what you believe is true for you.” But is it? I think we can all agree science only works because truth is fixed and not fluid. Natural laws and constants—like gravity—are surprisingly, um, constant. In the same way, the rules of the road aren’t “each to his own.” Most people accept the absolute truth signified in a red light, whether or not they absolutely refute the existence of absolute truth.

Put another way: Disregard a stoplight at your own risk.

Likewise, any who disregard spiritual truths will suffer the consequence.

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A Warning to Christians

If the previous section was a warning to the world, this next section is a warning to fellow Christians, and the warning is this: Knowing the truth isn’t enough.

I certainly don’t mean this as a judgment on those who struggle. This warning comes from a place of compassion as one who struggled so long with the results of deception. I’d attended church almost all my life. I knew the Bible inside and out. I “knew” the truth—so why wasn’t I free?

Because I didn’t really accept the words as being true. My mental assent wasn’t enough; I didn’t receive the truths I most needed on a heart level.

Here’s the crux of the matter: Truth is a powerful tool that does us absolutely no good if we don’t lay hold of it through faith. Even for Christians, who generally know the truth, it’s not how much Scripture they memorize, but how deeply they believe.

Even though the victory is ours through Jesus, we won’t experience that victory in our daily lives unless we know and stand upon the truth. God’s word is described as a sword, but a sword only has power insofar as it’s used.

Victory-Sword

This applies to everyday life as we encounter situations—experiences or memories, any attitudes, feelings, or thoughts—that run counter to God’s Word. Whenever this happens, we have a choice what to believe. Will we elevate our emotions and logic over and above God’s truth? Or will we catch the revelation that the perceptions that sprout from life experience are often perversions of the truth?

The Inner Journey

One of the revelations that inspired this post was the clear parallel between my own transformation and the inner journeys our characters face. Why I should be surprised at the similarity?—I’m not sure—but it drove home a critical truth about the nature of human change: Whether in fiction or life, every upward character arc hinges on some fundamental lie being exposed, which empowers the hero to finally embrace some transformative truth.

Perceptions

Within this discovery, there’s a critical “aha!” worth pondering: No matter how in control we feel, we aren’t ultimately in control of our outward lives. Yes, we make decisions; we take actions. Then along comes a plot twist to derail our careful plans. In this way, our control over the external plot of our lives is limited.

However, even when plans go awry and our goal is thwarted, we still have some choice in how we’ll react. Will we be like Jesus, forgiving the soldiers who nailed him to the cross? Or like the Israelites in the desert, grumbling against God?

The answer depends—as stated above—on what we believe to be true. For example, do we believe suffering is random and pointless—or that God is sovereign and in control? If the latter, do we really believe He sees the beginning from the end and works all trials for our good? To the extent our understanding of God’s truth is skewed, our perception of His character is also skewed. If we think He enjoys our misery, we’ll never see Him as the good Daddy He truly is; we won’t believe His plans for our lives are infinitely better than anything we could ever plan for ourselves.

 

Frustration

 

So, just as Weiland discusses on her blog and in her book Creating Character Arcs, “The Change Arc is all about the Lie Your Character Believes.”

In a future post, I’m hoping to expound on my own journey of transformation and the lies I unwittingly embraced. Until then, I hope you’ll chime in with your thoughts and insights about how truth has shaped your particular journey. If you’re still enmeshed in emotional struggles, can you pinpoint the root as a lie—or is your struggle an exception to the rule? There’s no judgment here—only encouragement to press on. Sow a comment and you’ll reap a prayer. Until next time…

Our Fearsome Abba?

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“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13).

In a recent online search of Scriptures about God as Father, I encountered one person’s vehement reaction to the verse above—in particular, the idea of God as One who wants to be feared.

To be honest, I think we all tend to shy away from verses that mention the fear of the Lord—either because they seem to be inconsistent with our view of God as love, or because we’re afraid such verses will be misunderstood apart from the larger Biblical context, which is probably true. And yet it hurt to read this person’s reaction.

As my emotions bubbled up over their hurtful words toward my Daddy God, I had to remind myself that God’s Power and Truth are greater than man’s misunderstandings—that’s He’s perfectly capable of defending Himself and revealing Himself to whomever He wishes in whatever timing His superior wisdom dictates. And yet I felt compelled to examine and put to words how I personally reconcile the seemingly discordant attributes of Father God.

How, for example, can one Person embody uncompromising holiness—which requires judgment and justice—while, at the same time, allowing mercy and forgiveness of sins? What does it mean to both love and fear God, and how can a God who wants us to fear Him also represent unfailing Love? Even considering the fact that His thoughts and ways are beyond our understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9), I believe we can get at least a rudimentary grasp for how to reconcile these seeming inconsistencies in our Heavenly Father’s character through a few related analogies.

Fusion, Fire & Fear

“The Sun contains 99.8 percent of all matter in the Solar System. Under crushing pressure and extreme temperatures generated by gravity, the violent process of nuclear fusion powers the tremendous energy output of the Sun.” (Science Channel YouTube video)

The Sun, our star… Light and heat from fusion… Technically, not fire, though I’m pretty sure the human brain would register close proximity to the Sun as a kind of roasting nonetheless.

The surface of the Sun boasts a temperature of 5,778 Kelvin or 9,941 degrees Fahrenheit. I don’t know about you, but that commands some respect and makes me pretty glad the earth orbits that blazing inferno at a distance of 93 million miles and no closer. And yet, as glad as I am we’re not next door neighbors to the Sun, I’m equally glad it exists—for the light and heat it provides!

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If we think of God as the Sun (or fire) and sinful man as straw (even flesh), we can begin to understand the meaning of fear. In all its blazing glory, the Sun is a fearsome body indeed—or it would be if we teleported onto its blinding, burning brilliant surface (if an expanse composed entirely of gas can truly be considered a surface)! Even so, before we ever got that close, I’m pretty sure we would vaporize. I’m not being very scientific here since a chemical reaction (“Man + Sun = toast!”) is not my primary concern but, rather, an emotional one (“Oy vey, I’m flambé!).

With a little imagination, we can read Isaiah 6:1-5 (+) and catch a glimpse of the fear manifest in Isaiah’s throne room experience. As you read, try to place yourself in Isaiah’s shoes:

6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

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In God’s immediate presence (vs 1-4), we can’t help but fear Him because we see ourselves as we truly are: sinners (vs 5) in need of His mercy (vs 6-7). In His presence, we see the truth—and we’re changed (vs 5-8). I realize there are varying degrees of His presence; I don’t consider myself an expert. But the main point is this: Fear is as natural a response to God as if the fiery fusion ongoing in our very own Sun were repackaged into an activated bomb in our very own hands!

In other words, if we choose to scorn God for requiring our fear, we do so with the same results as if we scorned the well-known rule to look both ways before crossing the street—to our own detriment!

A Consuming Fire

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29 (see also Deuteronomy 4:24)

The idea of God as fire is not unbiblical, and I’ve found it to be a useful analogy for pondering the melding of love and fear in a believer’s life. We all know that fire and straw don’t mix. In the presence of fire, straw can’t help but disintegrate. Likewise, when a flammable object approaches a blazing fire, the fire can’t help but consume it. It’s in a fire’s nature to burn just as it’s in God’s holy nature to consume evil.

There are those who may struggle with the previous statement—and even become offended—but when evil is committed against us, don’t we want God’s justice? When a chill darkness surrounds us, don’t we want light and heat? No one rebukes a fire for burning them when they get too close. Instead, they give it the proper respect—the fear it deserves. In the same way, the one and only God, whose holiness and power far exceeds our own, merits respect, fear, and awe from all those He created and even now sustains with His life and breath (Acts 17:25, in context).

One problem is, we necessarily live apart from God, and as a result, we don’t often see Him rightly—unveiled, as Isaiah did. This is because, in this world, He often conceals from us the full radiance of His glory. This divine posture of hide and seek might seem cruel to some, or even offensive—but truly it’s an act of mercy, for no one may behold His face and live:

Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:18-20).

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Judgment Delayed—for a time

The evil in our hearts, called sin, consists of anything that separates us from God. It severs us from Him not because He can no longer draw near, but because if He did draw near, His holiness would consume us like chaff in a blazing fire. His aloofness, then—at least in part—is an act of mercy. But that mercy must be balanced with the promise of judgment and justice. As 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance [before the Judgment].”

God longs to fellowship with us, but our sin—not only damaging to our own souls and to those around us—is inherently offensive to His holy nature and sense of Justice. He longs to fellowship with us, but how can fire and straw be joined?

They can’t—unless the straw becomes something new, like gold.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Here is a truth to ponder in depth: God’s love compelled Him to make a Way to restore His bond with mankind—to restore the same kind of intimate fellowship He had with Adam and Eve in the garden, but even better.

“The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him” (Isaiah 59:15b-16).

No natural man could bring justice and also save mankind; so God Himself intervened “by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering” (Romans 8:3). “He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26).

By human logic, justice for the wronged and mercy for the accused can’t possibly mesh. But in God’s economy, nothing is impossible. In God’s economy, righteousness and peace kiss (Psalm 85:10)—at the cross.

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Peace with God

This, then, is how God reconciled Justice and Mercy, Offense and Love, Sin and Peace: “He gave his one and only Son, [Jesus,] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And so, “the punishment that brought us peace was on Him” (Isaiah 53:5).

As cruel as it may sound for any Father to sacrifice His Son, we must never forget that Jesus was a willing participant in this plan. In fact, Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10:14-18): “…and I lay down my life for the sheep… No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Many people say they love us, but Father God proved it by sacrificing His Son. Some may wonder if a Father who sacrifices a son can truly epitomize love, but consider this: If by one adult child’s suffering you could save all your other children from death, would you do so?

If the adult child consented, even longed to save his siblings in spite of the pain required to do so, would you not consent?

Father God loves all His children, and so He said, “Yes.”

Consuming to Refining

So, we are reconciled to God through Christ. But the analogy of fire doesn’t end there. When we’re joined with Jesus—grafted into the True Vine—we’re made right with God through Christ. We’re justified (JUST as IF I’D never sinned)—but not yet perfected. The moment we’re rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred into God’s kingdom, we’re transformed from something like stubble or straw into a substance akin to unrefined gold.

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Just as it’s in a fire’s nature to consume stubble and straw, so also silver and gold are purified by fire:

“[One] third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God’” (Zechariah 13:9).

This purification (called sanctification) is a lifelong process culminating in Jesus’s return:

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).

And just as Isaiah was forever changed by his vision of God, so also any man, woman, or child who belongs to Christ must also be changed, being clothed with the imperishable—and not just any imperishable substance, but only that which is capable of living in eternal fellowship with God (Revelation 21):

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4)…

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:22-27).

Final Thoughts

It’s not in God’s nature to wish that anyone should perish, but just as fire and straw can’t coexist, neither can sin and impurity survive in the presence of our Holy God.

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I doubt anyone alive truly despises the idea of heaven—though many despise the very idea of God. What these people don’t realize is this: Taking God out of heaven is equivalent to turning heaven into hell. God’s glorious presence is what makes heaven good. His absence is what makes hell bad. In this life, we often take for granted all the marvelous blessings God provides while eagerly blaming Him for every mishap and remaining oblivious to our true enemy who would see us all in hell—with him—if he had his way.

So, if anyone reading this happens to be one of the ones who remain skeptical—maybe even hostile toward God, can I challenge you to pray this prayer:

“God, if you’re real and you really love me. Open my eyes.

An Abiding Peace (of mind)

On a recent trip to Florida, while staying at a hotel the night before my flight home, I found myself in a hot tub alone. There, the thrumming jets transformed the clear green water into a foaming white froth. I had been seeking God’s will for my life—in particular, hoping to learn to hear His voice better: Devouring every resource I could find. Striving to discern that little voice in my mind (or through my reading) that may or may not be God. Constantly questioning if I was doing all I could to hear—and hearing right.

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Amidst the solitude, warmth, and the bubbling hum of churning water commanding my full attention, a clear thought crystallized: “This is your mind.” Immersed in the boiling jets with turbulent currents buffeting my skin, the meaning was clear.

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Tarássō / Troubled

My mind. Always in motion. Rarely settled.

Always studying, questioning, striving, reaching. Ever searching for another glimpse of God’s work in my life—or a hint of His direction for future action. Always striving to be proactive. Even when my goal has been to abide in Him.

My mental norm, in a word: Restless. The Greek root tarássō (from John 14:27, to be discussed below) adequately conveys this state of mind, which according to HELPS Word-studies (on biblehub.com) can mean the following:

“properly, put in motion (to agitate back-and-forth, shake to-and-fro); (figuratively) to set in motion what needs to remain still (at ease); to “trouble” (“agitate”), causing inner perplexity (emotional agitation) from getting too stirred up inside (“upset”).”

Though I crave pure spiritual milk (1 Peter 2:2), it seems I often churn it into butter! I turn God’s Word (and my walk with Him) into a sticky, viscous mess that’s hard to navigate. In lieu of the simplicity of trusting in Him, I revert to complex rules and regulations that stretch my intellect to the max. While my flesh tries to divine the exact ways to act and the exact prayers to pray under a diverse multitude of circumstances, God gives me this simple equation: “You + Me = Success.” 

Eirḗnē / Peace & Wholeness

Clearly this hot tub analogy bears a negative connotation. Surely it’s not the state of mind God intended for His children. After all, what did Jesus say in His parting speech to His disciples just prior to His arrest?

PEACE [Eirēnēn] I leave with you; My peace [eirēnēn] I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be TROUBLED [tarassesthō], nor let it be fearful [deiliatō].” John 14:27

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Rather than allowing our minds to be stirred up in agitation, Jesus calls us to manifest the same inner peace He Himself displayed (Mark 4:35-41). The Greek word translated as peace in this verse (eirēnēn) can mean “one, peace, quietness, rest.” HELPS Word-studies (on biblehub.com) says it like this:

“eirḗnē (from eirō, “to join, tie together into a whole”) – properly, wholeness, i.e. when all essential parts are joined together; peace (God’s gift of wholeness).”

Wholeness? I don’t know about you, but that’s not the definition I expected. Nevertheless, even the well-known Hebrew word shalom connotes “completeness” along with soundness, welfare, and peace. 

Furthermore, if peace is wholeness, then surely it has no place apart from Him since, from the very beginning, man was made to live in communion with God. Jesus says in His pre-arrest speech, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). But when we’re joined/married with Him (Ephesians 5:31-32)? Then we merge our meager resources with His. Our blindness with His sight. Our weakness with His strength. When our very being—like a branch to a vine—is linked to Him, we’ll find we have all we need.

But what’s the caveat? Remember my thoughts from above? Gods-math

That simple equation (“You + Me = Success”) paints a picture of wholeness, BUT… it requires humility and trust. The humility to recognize our deficiency as compared with His power. The honesty to recognize our inadequacy apart from Him.

The Path of Understanding?

It seems human nature to equate uncertainty with stress. An uncertain future. Our plans up in the air. Confusion over the path ahead. Or maybe we’re stuck in circumstantial discomfort. This manner of logic presupposes UNDERSTANDING to be the ultimate pathway for finding peace. Isn’t this the way our human brains think? 

In ignorance (or arrogance), we believe we can orchestrate our own lives, but Proverbs 20:24 says, A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way?” Likewise, we often think we need to scrutinize our choices before we take that first step, but Proverbs 3:5-6 says to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Path-of-Understanding-vs-Proverbs

In my early graduate school days, newly acquainted with the idea that believers can actually hear from God, I struggled and strived to make His voice a reality in my life. Most of those efforts ended in frustration. In the book I’m reading now about hearing God’s voice, the author expresses his belief that God is always speaking but we don’t often recognize Him as the source.

This reminds me of a time a few months back when I was praying on the way to church one Sunday, interceding for the service and asking God to prepare our hearts for Him—to shake off what could be shaken so we would see Him more clearly (paraphrase). For some reason (in part because He’d unexpectedly prompted me to prophecy in church on a previous Sunday—something I never would’ve imagined myself doing in the past), I asked Him to give me a clear sign if He wanted me to share that prayer with the church. To my surprise, one of the church leaders began the service by announcing we would have an open mic up front for people to share anything God might’ve laid on their heart!

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Knowing I would go up, I worshipped for a time in preparation. As sometimes happens, I felt His Spirit with me—a confirmation like a tightening in the gut and a shaking beneath His power, though I wasn’t shaking in fear. For me, He often brings His words in a flurry of fresh writing, but not this time. This time, the writing was a flurry of recollection, remembering the prayer I had prayed in the car. That written message is what I shared. After the service, a number of people told me they believed what I spoke was a genuine word from God.

What amazes me about that experience is that I had no idea those words I was praying were from God. Somehow, I’d been so in touch with His heart that He spoke His words through me without me knowing it. Later, in the midst of my more recent struggles to hear His voice, I wrote this in my journal: I’ve been so concerned about hearing from God, but hasn’t He shown me that He can so insert Himself into my thoughts that I pray His heart without knowing it? Am I so powerful I can keep God from getting through to me when He knows I WANT to know and do His will?

Trusting Our Thoughts or Trusting His?

The point in this story (tying it back to Proverbs 3:5-6) is that God didn’t need my intellect and understanding to be engaged at all in order for Him to steer me. Indeed, a reflection on my past proves that God was guiding me all along.

Is it wrong, then, to try and understand our own path?

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In general, I would say no—except when our search for understanding leads us to stray from His peace. After all, there will be times in our lives when He hasn’t given us to understand the reasons behind our day-to-day struggles. In those times—even in the fog and seemingly senseless trials; even in those seasons when we’re not confident we’re hearing His voice at all—He wants us to trust in Him because of who He is: All-powerful. Faithful. Merciful. Kind. Always working for our good. (More on His attributes here.)

The real question is this: Do we spend as much time pondering who God is (e.g.worthy of awe) as we do trying to discern our purpose and our future? Do we meditate on our own thoughts and logic more than we meditate on His (John 15:7)? Are we focused more on pointing our compass toward success than aligning our life with His person—His character (Psalm 103:7)?

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Interestingly, the word translated as acknowledge” [yada] in Proverbs 3:5-6 means “to know (by experience); to perceive, see, find out, and discern; to recognize, admit, acknowledge, and confess.” John 17:3 says, “Now this is eternal life: that they KNOW you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

When we know God, truly know Him as He is, we’ll have no difficulty entrusting our lives to Him. Even in periods of silence, though we desperately long for a word from Him, we’ll be able to let go and rest in the knowledge that He is bigger than our concerns—that His presence far surpasses our need for answers. In the silence, as we read His word, obeying Him to the best of our understanding, His peace overcomes our restless thoughts in the knowledge that we’re not alone as orphans. Rather, we have the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, sent from the Father in Jesus’s name to teach us all things and to remind us of everything Jesus said (John 14:26).

In short, peace of mind doesn’t come from reasoning out the logic of our life circumstances while determining the safest pathway ahead; it is born in a relationship of simple trust summed up in this equation: God + Me = Success. 

Success-relationship

How about you? What topics tend to trip you up? What situations send your thoughts spiraling into a turbulent tailspin? Share in the comments or contact me here for prayer.

If you’re currently stuck in a bubbling-hot-tub mentality, consider making this your prayer:

Psalm 62:5-8 (NLT)

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times.
Pour out your heart to him,
for God is our refuge. Interlude

Rest-in-Him

Visit these links for songs about peace and rest: