Tag Archives: God

What Does This Mean?

I was probably about 12 years old. We were on our way home from church, and my cousin, who was visiting from out of town, had attended the service with us. Her church background was very different from mine, so the question she posed during our car ride home should not have surprised me, but it did. Sitting in the back seat next to me, she asked, “What does THIS mean?” and raised her hand.

Having grown up in a church where hand-raising during worship was a common occurrence, I didn’t understand her confusion. I hadn’t realized that the sight of people with their hands in the air during service was a new experience for her.

I wonder how many others have the same question, but they’ve never asked. Not just children, either. How many adults aren’t really sure what all this hand-raising is about? Maybe you’ve heard of it, seen others in church doing it, or even tried it yourself – but aren’t sure what the point is.

If you’ve ever pondered my cousin’s question, let me try to shed some light on the answer – with some more questions to consider:

  • What does a person look like when they surrender?
  • What do people often do when they are excited about something?
  • If I hold out a gift for you, what must you do to receive it?
  • What do people often do when they experience a victory?
  • What do children do when they want to be held?

Humility. Praise. Celebration. Connection. Surrender. Worship. Excitement. Victory. Adoration.

There are many meanings to this simple act of raising one’s hands. It helps us express a variety of emotions and thoughts in a physical way.

The same is true when we use this posture to communicate with the Lord.

Do you want to surrender to God? Are you celebrating the victory you have in Christ? Do you simply need to be held by your Father? Is your heart filled to the measure with all the fullness of God, and you simply need to do SOMETHING physical to express it?

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. Psalm 134:2

Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. Psalm 28:2

Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 1 Timothy 2:8

My prayer is set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. Psalm 141:2

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. Psalm 63:4

 

 

A Rat Toy for Valentine’s Day?

I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day. No, my husband did not surprise me with a rat toy this morning. In honor of this day of love, I wanted to share a thought that’s been tumbling around in my heart a lot lately. It has, in fact, been changing my heart since I first heard it this past fall from Barb Wilson.

The thought is this: I’m living in a hamster ball.

Not a hamster wheel, a hamster ball. If you pictured the wheel first, I can understand. I often get confused and think it’s a wheel that I’m in, but it’s actually the fully-encompassing sphere.

The difference is so immense it’s nearly indescribable.

On the wheel, I’d run and run and never get anywhere. I’d grind away the days in joyless scrambling. I’d also be exposed to anything that comes along (like my cat, Rusty).

So, it’s a good thing I’m in the ball instead. Inside this enclosure, I am completely surrounded. I can’t escape it, and nothing outside of it can harm me. I may take a spill down the stairs or get pushed around by a feline. In either case, I may get jostled around a bit, but, in the end, I’m ok.

I can roll for miles and miles, free to roam wherever I please, and, wherever I go, I’m still inside this ball. A glance in any direction reveals its surrounding presence. It’s inescapable.

But that’s ok. I don’t want to escape it. The sphere that holds me safely inside is a picture of God’s love.

His love surrounds me, carries me, and protects me. Everywhere I look, it’s there. Everywhere I go, it’s there. No matter what I do, it’s there.

I pray you know God and can enjoy your own hamster ball. There’s truly nothing else like being wrapped in his indestructible, unending, unconditional love.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

How God Made Me a Writer

As I sit in my recliner, I glance up from my keyboard to gather my wordsmithing thoughts. I suddenly pause. As I take in my surroundings, I am struck once again with the realization of what God has done. He really made this my reality. He really did it. It’s still hard for me to believe. He made me a writer.

I love this recliner. I love that this is my office. I love that wherever I want to take myself and my laptop becomes my office. I love that I can “clock in” and “clock out” on my own time and terms. I love that I can hide inside when it’s cold and never have to commute in the snow anymore. I love that I love my work. I love that God answered my prayer.

I love that God made me a writer.

How it happened

I wasn’t always a writer. At least, not by profession. It’s been my dream since I was old enough to wield a pen, but it took until I was in my 30’s to pursue it. What happened then? Well, God used a snowstorm, a country song, a supportive husband, and encouraging family and friends to make my dream come true.

When I shared my snowstorm story, I promised to fill you in on the details of the process God used to do this, so here it is.

By the time I finally found this career, I had wandered down four other paths. A degree in social work and various jobs in retail, real estate and photography had produced a single realization: I still hadn’t decided what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I guess that’s not entirely true. Like I said, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. The problem was, I just hadn’t figured out how. I didn’t see that as a realistic goal, so I continued to putter along, trying to find something else I could enjoy. And, I actually had. My job as a photographer was a good fit. After several years, though, I realized I still wanted more. Somewhere in my heart I knew that writing was still the best fit.

Starting down a new path

So, I started to dabble. As a school photographer, I had the summers off. This gave me time to pursue side jobs here and there as a freelancer. (Please note the God-at-work aspect of this – providing this job to prepare me for the next one!) I did some web content. A couple blog articles here and there. I found the work exciting, challenging and enjoyable.

However, as I mentioned in my previous post, I saw this simply as a side gig. I didn’t really believe at the time it could be much more. Once God convinced me it could be, I dove in.

Was it scary? Heck yeah! (Read about facing this fear here.)

It was scary to truly go after this goal, but this process was also SOAKED in prayer. I prayed for guidance, for wisdom, for blessings in my writing pursuits. I prayed for God to help me achieve this dream. I prayed. I asked others to pray. We prayed.

And, I put in a lot of hard work. With incredible support from my loving husband, (I kinda thought he was a little crazy when he first told me he thought I could do this full time and be successful at it) and encouragement from my friends and family (whose accountability continues to help me with writing goals today) – I dug in.

What digging in looks like

Like I said, I had already snagged a few writing jobs here and there. Now, though, I didn’t want side jobs. I wanted this to be my only job. My goal was to put together enough regular freelance work from multiple clients that I could do it full time (setting my own hours and working from home).

Achieving this goal required several key steps.

  1. Pray – Frequently and fervently.
  2. Apply for writing jobs – A lot of them. When I really decided to get serious about this, I was applying to at least a dozen jobs some days. (More on where I found these jobs in a later post.)
  3. Pray some more.
  4. Set up a website – You’re lookin’ at it. Previously, I had a blog-only site. I now needed to add info about my writing, including the all-important portfolio. Thankfully, I had those “dabbling” jobs to include on the portfolio page, so potential clients could see samples of my work.
  5. Keep praying.
  6. Choose – Make the leap? Once God brought several opportunities my way, and the writing jobs started building, I had to make an important decision. I had reached a point that I could no longer sustain both jobs – writing and photography. There simply wasn’t enough time in the day. I had to start turning down writing gigs or make the leap and quit my other job. I reached a point when I was making 80% of my photography income through writing. I felt that if I built it up that much, I could quit my photography job and continue to build the writing income to completely replace it (and hopefully grow it even more!) So, that’s what I did. I gave notice to the photography company and officially started working for Nenn Pen, Ink full time on November 1, 2015.
  7. Guess what I did next? Yep – kept praying.

And God continues to answer! He has blessed me with great writing opportunities. He has grown my income to significantly more than I was making before – and I get to do what I enjoy – from home! Praise the Lord!

God would still be an amazingly good, good Father if none of this had happened. But, I am grateful that it did.

I’m thankful that God made me a writer.

When the Penguin Talks Back

Picture a cute little penguin in a red ball cap, carrying a blue lunch box. This is Petra, a character I created for one of my children’s books. I sent him on an adventure, during which his encounters include an octopus searching for eight shoes, a juggling walrus with only one tusk, and a giggling pirate.

What if one day, as I was reading over this story, Petra decided to offer some feedback? What if he jumped off the page, turned to me, opened his beak, and out came the following:

“Hey, why do I have to wear a red hat? I really prefer orange. And what’s with the lunch of three fish? You couldn’t have made it five? Why is it that I have to meet those pirates? I was really scared for a minute there. What’s up with that walrus anyway? She’s so annoying! Couldn’t you have given me easier friends to be around? Oh, and this igloo I travel in is a bit small, and a skylight would have been nice. What were you thinking when you wrote all this?”

I imagine my response would go something like this:

“Seriously? I created you. I’m the author. Who are you to question me? I have the right to do whatever I want with your story. I didn’t even have to provide you with a lunch. I could have let those pirates eat you instead of laugh with you and give you treasure. I could make you swim your entire journey instead of giving you a nice igloo and iceberg for your travels. Besides, I knew how I wanted your story to end before I even wrote one word, and knew the best situations to craft to get you there. Most importantly, don’t you realize I could have chosen to not create you at all? Or, even now, I could hit that delete key and say goodbye to Petra. I won’t though, because I love your character, and want to share you with others, and even write additional books about more adventures. I have not given up on you, and continue to shape your story and submit you to publishers, despite the heartache from rejection letters. I believe you are worth it. Wouldn’t it be awesome if children read about you, grew to love you, and your stories made me the household name Dr. Seuss is? My perspective from out here is a bit bigger than yours. Try to remember who’s the pen and who’s the penguin. Remember, I can do all this, because it’s actually my story, not yours.”

I’m thankful for this insight into our relationship with the Lord. How quick are we to question our creator, the author of our salvation? How quick are we to doubt His goodness? Question his methods? Complain about his writing? God, please forgive us for our pride, our self-righteousness, our self-centeredness, our doubt. Help us seek your glory as you write our story. Thank you for speaking to this writer in a way she can understand. Help us all remember:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 12:2

And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, Hebrews 5:9

See also Job 38-41

Fill ‘er up, God!

I’m not a coffee drinker. Never have been. My taste buds don’t crave that bean. They prefer the sweeter cocoa variety. With an overarching saccharine inclination, my beverage choices lean toward hot chocolate, sweet tea, fruit juices, and, when I want to get really crazy, Mountain Dew.

As tasty as these treats are, at the end of the day, they are not what I prefer fill my cup.

Reading one recent morning (glass of orange juice in hand,) I encountered the following words, and was given a fresh vision of what “my cup runneth over” truly looks like.

“that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

This statement, part of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, created for me a vivid picture of God’s love. These words are the last of a sentence that begins:

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—

that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

I imagined what it would look like to be filled to the measure. Completely full. Overflowing. A cup running over.

overflowing-cup

Me, the chalice, overflowing with God. A constant stream of His love filling me up and spilling over the sides. Other things try to get in – the murky liquids of anxiety, despair, insecurity, lies – but there’s simply no room.

The flow from God is so strong, streaming over the sides of my cup, a constant river of His love, glory, hope, and peace, that it shoves everything else out in the abundance of its flow.

This  is the fullness my soul longs for. My prayer, like Paul’s for the Ephesians, is to fully grasp the love of the Lord, and be filled with it, to the measure, so that my cup runneth over with it each and every day.

Fill me up, Lord!


 

What fills your cup?

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