I am writing my first novel and I must confess that I have picked this up and put it back down for years! But God is nudging me and saying, “Finish it. You have something to say.” So I have made a goal to set aside July and August for some solid writing.
There are already so many people who have helped me as I have started this journey. I am part of a writer’s group that does a yearly retreat and they are so encouraging. I met with Kent Sanders, a writer in St. Charles MO, and he was SO supportive. I felt like I had just been to an awesome pep rally after spending time with him. If you have never listened to his podcast, The Daily Writer, I highly recommend it for anyone who writes. https://www.kentsanders.net/podcast/.
I recently posted about a “dry fire” I had at my house on Mother’s Day. (https://lindadelaywallace.com/2022/05/13/smell-that-smoke/) It was quite an experience and because there was no soot or ash–only a house full of smoke–insurance would not cover anything. That meant that everything in my house had to be cleaned by yours truly, and luckily some faithful friends and family! It was an interesting two weeks following the incident.
As I washed every cabinet and closet (and everything in them) in my house, I noticed that I had items I never used taking up space. Some of them were beautiful pieces of crystal that just sat in my upper cabinets the entire six years I have lived here. Some of them were clothes that I wondered what was I thinking when I purchased them. I have a fairly neat house, but when you must take every single thing out and clean it and evaluate it, it gives you a new perspective. My daughter cleaned my spice cabinet and ended up with about half the items I had before, because, well, you do not want to know how many expired spices I had!
After I disposed of expired items, gave away some of the crystal, and took bags of clothes and unused household items to the thrift store, I felt like a burden had lifted. I was unhindered by all of the things in my house that had been bogging me down and I look forward to not needing to “spring clean” or sort through clothes or cabinets. For now. Because no matter how careful I am, somehow clutter starts again, spices get expired, and laundry still needs to be done. But for all the hard work, there is a great freedom in the process I went through after the smoke cleared.
With all of this, I was reminded of a scripture in Hebrews 12:1. The writer of Hebrews is talking about all of those who have gone before us and were witnesses of the greatness and goodness of God. He says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (NIV) Hebrews 12:1
I love the way it is paraphrased in The Message, “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (The Message)
It took a house full of smoke for me to do some deep cleaning. In the same way, in my spiritual life, I need to always be evaluating where I have let sin in my life, always letting go of the things that tie me down to this earth, and racing toward the finish line to heaven. I love the part where it says, “When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls.” Maybe it will take some “dry smoke” for me to evaluate my life sometimes, but it will be well worth it in the end!
In the book of Acts we see the infancy of the church. As we read we find that as early as the third chapter of Acts, the body of believers was established after Peter addressed the crowd on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 3:42-47 we see the response of the believers, who devoted themselves to the teaching of Christ and to fellowship with one another. Some of the highlights of this passage: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship”, “selling their possession and goods, they gave to anyone who had need,” and “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
On Mother’s Day many families choose to grill something for Mom and a commonly heard phrase is, “Smell that smoke.” It invokes memories of grilled pork steaks (if you live in the Midwest), grilled chicken, or maybe even grilled steaks. They are all typical b-b-q fare where I live.
But on this Mother’s Day, “smell that smoke” took on a whole new meaning. My son and his fiancee came over after church. I started cooking some ground beef on the stove because it needed to be used, and I thought I could fix spaghetti or sloppy joes–something quick and easy. My son quickly informed me that they were going to take me to lunch and so we started talking about where to go where there would not be a long wait. We have a Townsquare Pub close to me that serves good food, so I called to see what the wait time would be. She indicated that right at that time there was no wait. So we got in my car and off we went.
We were seated in the restaurant fairly quickly and had a leisurely meal. When we arrived back home, I noticed a funky smell in my garage, but could not quite identify what it was. Then I heard the smoke alarms blaring. When I opened the door to the house, thick, gray smoke billowed out. Unwise I know, but I quickly ran in and realized I had forgotten to turn off the stove. I turned it off, and ran through my house and threw open windows in every room. My wiser and anxious son kept reminding me, “Mom, you need to get out of the house. You have breathing problems already and the smoke will make it worse.” He was right, but sometimes in a situation you do not stop to think through the wisest course of action!
One of my friends shared on facebook that she is really struggling with all the things that life is throwing at her right now. Unfortunately, I think we can ALL identify with that feeling of being overwhelmed on occasion! Women, who tend to be fixers, sometimes have difficulty admitting they need help when life becomes overwhelming for them. So how do we learn to swallow our pride and ask for help? How do we let our friends and family know that we have reached a point where we are ready to scream, or cry, or just hide, until we can face life with equanimity again?
For those of you who find yourself in this circumstance, here are five things I’ve found helpful.
There are times in our lives that we consider milestones. Becoming old enough to get a driver’s license, graduations, college, marriage, birth of our children, and more all fall under that heading. But for me, yesterday was an opportunity to travel back in time to one of the biggest milestones in my life—college.
The Bible college I attended for four years has come to the point where they merged with another college and the existing campus will be sold. Yesterday was the last opportunity to visit the campus to see the dormitories where we lived and walk the halls where we had classes.
Saint Louis Christian College was small, but it was just what I needed for my hungry heart. I think I would have been somewhat lost in a larger university. My freshman year was everything I dreamed of, despite the fact that first semester I failed a couple early morning classes! I was challenged to grow in my knowledge of the Lord and to develop more than a surface relationship with God. I was exposed to new ways of thinking and looked at theology in a whole new light. I found relationships with peers, faculty, and staff that turned into lifelong friendships.
This past week I was able to vacation at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I have been two other times with my friend, who swears it is her happy place. And I believe her. She makes a better guide than most of the employees since she has been there so often! For a newbie like me that is a blessing, because she doesn’t get lost (unlike I would) and knows shortcuts to take through the parks.
Normally, I would be walking with her ahead of the vacation so that I am not utterly exhausted at the end of each day. About three weeks out, I was having a problem with my foot hurting, but assumed I needed new shoes. So I went to my favorite store and got fitted for my shoes. I picked out a cute (as much as tennis shoes can be cute) corn yellow Hoka shoe and was so excited. But alas, my foot still hurt when I walked.
This evening as I was sitting in our Good Friday service, listening to our minister eloquently speak on the significance of Good Friday, I couldn’t help but think that for everyone who was present that day, it was not such a good Friday.
The fact of the matter is that not one individual who was present that day knew with certainty what was really occurring, not even the disciples who had spent the last three year with him. Indeed, even the last week with Jesus did not prepare them for what they experienced, even though Jesus himself spoke of what was coming.
Today is Palm Sunday, but for Jesus it was a week that was just beginning. Palm Sunday is a day that many churches celebrate with waving of palm branches, emulating the people of Biblical times who proclaimed “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” while he entered Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey. It is a day when I will be speaking to a group of individuals at an Assisted Living facility. As I wondered about what to speak on, I realized that, of course, I need to speak about the last week of Jesus’ life.
All four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, share the triumphal entry. When Jesus came to Jerusalem the crowds were already being stirred up by the disciples and started chanting together “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” You see the crowds welcomed him thinking he was going to be their earthly king. They were expecting a Messiah who was going to deliver them from the Roman rulers and establish the kingdom of Israel once again.
In fact, they did not recognize that they were actually fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
But that same crowd who cried out “Hosanna,” cried out “Crucify Him” when they realized that their dreams were not coming true. So let’s talk about Jesus’ week and the things he did after his triumphal entry.
“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.” – 2 Peter 1:3 (NLT)
Recently I was using my computer and a screen popped up notifying me that my battery was at a critical level and needed to be plugged in to a power source. Sometimes the plug that goes into the computer gets knocked loose when I move it, so I just pushed it in a little more, and assumed the problem was resolved. That is, until my screen went black and my computer shut down.