God’s Spoken Word
Today I am grateful that I was brought to a place where I understand what it means to venerate, revere, fear the LORD. I think that I live in the world and know who He is, but in the distraction of my life, I forget, or could I humbly say, disregard His omnipotence. I shudder and cower at the thought that those words are true for my heart. Bowing at His Holy feet for forgiveness, brings to mind a concept I never fully understood, but I believe I do now, to Fear the Lord.
Based on the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar was the greatest ruler that had ever ruled. He had a kingdom of Gold where all the forthcoming kingdoms were reflected in lesser metals or in clay. He lived in prideful luxury over what he considered his great accomplishment. His power came at a costly prideful price. God made it known through a dream that his kingdom would be crushed and he would be reduced to one of the beasts of the field. One day as he strolled in his palace living in the lap of true luxury God spoke. His grandiose delusion that he was like god or perhaps a god himself was snuffed out with a word. “While the words were still in the king's mouth (the words from his mouth were glorifying his own majesty), there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar.” Daniel 4:31-32. The italics are mine. His mind was removed and he was made like an ox, IMMEDIATELY WITH JUST A SPOKEN WORD. A true display of Gods sovereign omnipotence.
God Actions are Just
After King Nebuchadnezzar’s ruling came his son, King Belshazzar. He was also haughty and ignored the Lords decrees and majesty. One day when he was celebrating in revelry he pushed the Lord too far. He brought out the vessels of gold and silver that Nebuchadnezzar has taken from the Jewish temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and filled them with wine and drank from them. It feels as though he stole precious heirlooms and discarded them with carelessness at an all night party. Who can blame the Lord for His anger. His outright blasphemy was his last act of kingship. “Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, opposite the lamp stand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king's color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.” Daniel 5:5. He was terrified. Can you blame him. Imagine if before you fingers appeared and wrote foreign words on your kitchen wall. Once again after his enchanters, Chaldeans and astrologers failed Daniel was brought in. The king offered him robes and jewels for his interpretation, but Daniel refused the gifts of debauchery and suggested he give them to someone else. He interpreted the inscription of MENE, MENE, TEKEL and PERES. “Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” Daniel 5:26.
What I found immediately striking was that the King didn’t really acknowledge the words. He seems to celebrate and clothe Daniel with purple and chains of gold and announced that he would be the third ruler in the kingdom. His weakness and trembling had apparently disappeared now that some interpretation was given. Not much else is said about King Belshazzar, other than Gods forecast came true that night and he was killed. GOD FOLLOWS THROUGH WITH WHAT HE SAYS, SO HEED HIS CALLING.
God as Parent
I have read this story before, but never has the Lord brought to my attention the greatness of His power. How He chooses who He gives grace to and who He snuffs out with a single act. King Nebuchadnezzar was given grace. He was given great power and authority for many years, and he was humbled by his mind being removed from him and being made to live like an animal for 7 years. Then at the end of his 7 years he was transformed and he revered the Lord. The shocking part is the immediacy of the Lords words. He spoke and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from his palace. With King Belshazzar he wasn’t given a second chance. He was killed the day he was told his days were numbered.
The Lord is loving and forgiving, but He is just, sovereign, omnipotent and intentional. He wants all of us as His children forever. So to fear Him means we follow and obey Him, which means we can receive forgiveness, which means He gets to have us and we get to have Him for eternity. So fearing the Lord allows a real relationship with Him. For us as parents we can understand this loving act. We hope our children have a bit of fear of the wrath of mom and dad causing them to obey. Disobedience equals consequences. King Nebuchadnezzar and King Belshazzar are clear examples of strict parental consequences. I pray this understanding can be embedded in all our minds and heart as we make choices every day. That we make choices that God chooses for us. From the words of Beth Moore, I pray for God “to perform miracles over your mind and to utterly invade your subconscious.” I pray this as a prayer for my mind and yours.
It is wise to fear Him and to acknowledge His ways. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” Psalm 111:10. “Then he charged them saying, “Thus you shall do in the fear of the LORD, faithfully and wholeheartedly.” 2 Chronicles 19:9. “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.” Psalm 34:7. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7. “You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.” Deuteronomy 13:4.
When I found out I was pregnant with each of my babies the first thing I purchased was a beautiful leather journal. I'm not a fancy scrap booker but I do love to gather memories, words and thoughts. As each pregnancy progressed I tracked doctor appointments, gifts given, blessings bestowed.
When my babies arrived I was a stickler about making each visitor write a message to the newest family member. Occasionally I drag out the book and read their stories to my girls. We talk about their beginnings. My goal was to write words of honor and legacy onto their souls. My five-year-old is enthralled. She loves her book.
Last night we were sitting around chatting before bed while the eldest did homework and the youngest was drawing. She paused and said "Oh - I want to write this in my book like I did earlier.".
Wait a minute.
I gave her a look. "Are you writing in the baby book?" My brow did it's furrowing thing. Was she really scribbling in her baby journal? Wrecking my labor of love?
"Go get the book". I said. "I want to see it."
Her eyes welled up in tears and her voice squeaked out. "I didn't want there to be blank pages".
She handed me the book and sure enough, she'd spent much of the day drawing in her baby journal.
I took a deep breathe as God spoke into my heart. He whispered. It's her book you know?
Here is a drawing she did of Mr. Grinch and his lesser known wife Mrs. Grinch. That was me. Mrs. Grinch. Sigh.
I gave her a hug. I asked about her pictures. We went through the drawings and labeled her work. She talked about her people. Big sister cuddling her as a baby got me.
The journal is a good thing. The legacy and blessings are a gift. They are not a script for her future. I was crabby because I was holding on to ownership of something that wasn't really mine. Truth is my daughter isn't mine either. She's entrusted to our care for a time by her creator. He has much better plans for her life and I hope the words she really listens to are His. At some point I have to let go of the plans I have for my children and let them write their own story.
Last night my youngest was my teacher. Happens all the time. I agree with the little one. I don't want her book to have blank pages either. I can't want to see what she writes.
Brilliant. Obviously, it won a Pulitzer. But its not high brow in the way you tilt your head and wonder why it won an award. This book is lovely. It's sit and ponder, soak into your soul, write the words on your heart kind of lovely.
"Love is holy because it is like grace 0 the worthiness of its object is never really what matters".
Have you read it? What's your favorite quotation?
We decorated for Christmas last week. Nativities set out, presents wrapped and stockings hung. When we were done the four year old immediately ran up to his room to take a nap. I was thrilled thinking he was tired and I was going to get a little break. He stayed in bed and was very quiet for an unusually long time that afternoon.
What I didn't realize was he was convinced his stocking would be filled when he woke up.
He was staying in bed so Santa would come.
It was a sad moment when we pulled out the calendar and he realized he had a long, long time to wait for the big day. We bought him a chocolate advent calendar to count down the days. Chocolate helped. Waiting 30 days for Christmas feels like an eternity when you're four.
Waiting is hard.
Lauren Daigle's Christmas song titled, "Light of the World" beautifully announces the good news-
For all who wait
For all who hunger
For all who've prayed
For all who wonder
Behold your King
Emmanuel means "God with us". He came at Christmas. Santa comes once a year and brings tangible things that waste away. Toys break, sweaters pull, socks get holes, new cars lose their shine. Weeks pass and we lose interest in the things Santa brought. We have a hard time recalling what we got last year and the year before that. Christ came and brought love, joy, peace and forgiveness. He came and gave his life. He rose and gave the gift of hope. He ascended to heaven and gave the gift of his daily presence-the Holy Spirit. His gifts do not disappoint and they are eternal.
This year when you count down the days to Christmas know He is with you every day of the year. He is waiting for you to come to him.
O come, all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
O come ye, oh come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold him
Born the king of angels
Oh come let us adore him
Oh come let us adore him
Oh come let us adore him
Christ the Lord
And as you worship and live and breathe continue To wait. For He is coming again.
That's the Book: Galatians
The annual preschool bell choir was yesterday. It's one of my favorite days of the year. I love 3 and 4 year olds. I get them. They seem to get me. We do well together. They are funny, smart, mostly kind and they could really care less about all the pretense which can show up later in life.
We have been practicing for today's bell choir for the past several months. Every Sunday morning we go over the rules. Don't touch the bottom of the bell. Two feet on the ground. Big voices. Smile. Be nice. The rules are there to protect us all. It hurts when a wild bell hits a neighboring child's head. And the bells break if you touch the bottom bit.
Galatians is a letter the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Galatia. Prior to this letter, Paul had preached and served in Galatia. Many Gentiles (non-Jewish people) had accepted his teaching about the grace of Jesus to cover their sins and bring them into right relationship with God. The church was born and was growing. Later, Paul heard this church was twisting the new faith of the local people by adding all kids of rules to the faith. Difficult, detailed, depressing rules. The church was being dragged away from the simple idea of following Jesus to a complicated faith with too many structures and requirements. The book of Galatians is Paul's simple "Stop That".
I grew up in the church where I still attend. This is amazingly joyful most of the time because I know their stories and I see Jesus in them. They know my stories and can call me out when I need it. Occasionally this is hard. Sometimes I hold off writing or doing something I know God is calling me to because I happen to know it will offend someone I love. I really like everyone I love to be happy. But increasingly I'm learning the people pleasing part of me has to die.
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Frankly, sometimes I let them down because I'm following ME. This requires an apology. But if my people are disappointed because I follow Jesus I'm learning to be okay with that. Took me a long time to get there. I like to follow the rules. I've learned sometimes the rules or traditions are wrong or outdated or not as important as the people standing in front of me. I like grace and freedom.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live,, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. Galatians 2:20-21
The kids this morning stood up on stage and declared to the believers watching the glory of Christmas. "For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord." The whole reason I teach preschool is not so we have a cute and heartwarming program. The reason I teach the 3 and 4 year olds is because I don't want a single one of them to remember a time when they did not know about Jesus. How much he loves them. How they can be a part of his family. How he is the greatest gift ever given. It's why I bother to write as well. I think Paul felt the same.
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, than an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7
Paul knew freedom isn't the same thing as anarchy. Freedom has responsibilities. It has relationships. But it isn't bound up in a list of rules. I'm free to follow Jesus. So are you.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:13
Before we dug into bell season, we ran through nine lessons with the preschoolers on the fruit of the spirit. This is the most well known section of Galatians. Paul is begging the church to return to a vibrant growing relationship with Jesus and let go of the piles of rules. He's convinced if they follow Jesus with their whole heart the rest of it will work out. We told the kids if you have Jesus in your heart things will start to grow. Good things. Powerful things. You won't have to worry or stress or fight. The lists will be covered because grace grows the good stuff.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5: 22-24
Today was a crazy schedule day. Bell choir, meeting after church, birthday party, piano recital and play practice. Goodness. I showed up at church this afternoon for the last event kinda spent. My friend offered to bring my kid home after practice. Little thing. HUGE impact. An hour to read, reflect and write.
You know what I figured out in Galatians? Loving people is way more important than pleasing people.
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:9-10
It's the beginning of December. I know your schedule is nuts. Take a few minutes and read Galatians. It's six chapters all about the freedom and grace found in following Jesus. Love people. Follow Jesus. Let go of some rules. Breathe. Don't grow weary. Christ is born. What a great way to ring in the season.
If you are used to these at the end of the That's the Book posts you know I think they are a great tool. If you haven't watched one yet - why not today?
Galations - lots to check out. Here is a great visual from New Spring Church
Gah! Christmas can be a stressful, breathless, list driven and exhausting time. Or. You can purposefully slow down, reflect and embrace the joy.
Louise Richards’ book A Christmas Story A Day is a thoughtful tool to choose joy this season. This clever book provides a story a day to read through each day in December. It’s a fiction lovers advent!
I was drawn in to this treasure trove of believable characters and stories. Each story calls the reader to ponder the meaning of Christmas. Available on amazon for Kindle or print copy this is a fun way to slow down this Christmas season.
The best part is I have a copy to give away! And the winner is Reta H. You win!
That's the Book: 2nd Corinthians
I've spent the last couple weeks procrastinating writing this post. Honestly I have tried. But I haven't had the courage to fully embrace writing about 2nd Corinthians. This is the second letter Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. Paul wrote the letter to encourage the believers to hold it together during some massive hardships. I've struggled writing this post because it's all about suffering. So it hurts. Also I felt it was important not to be flippant or trite. Suffering is a sacred privilege not to be tossed around lightly.
So I've spent the last three weekends pretending to write and instead looking at twitter feeds of cute animals and playing with new emojis on my phone. I was especially distracted by the hedgehog. But the verses and the post kept sitting there asking me to show up. To think and pray and write and bleed. Sometimes we avoid people who are hurting for the same reasons. It can be uncomfortable to join.
I recently sat on the phone talking with a friend of mine. She was in pain. Needed a friend. I didn't have much to offer - except I love her - and I can stand as a testament that on my hardest days Jesus was enough. I hope the reminder helped. This is the point of 2nd Corinthians. We should carry each other's pain. Use our own as a light to point others towards the hope of Christ. Understand He will be faithful to carry us. He is enough.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:2-5
Two years ago my mother-in-law was suffering from a recent diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer. The whole family was struggling and worried. We were tired. Exhausted really. Overwhelmed with the knowledge of survival rates and heartbroken over the crisis etched in her face.
Several weeks later, in the middle of the night, I received a phone call from my father. He said my mom had fallen down the stairs. He said there was a lot of blood. She was being taken by ambulance to the hospital. I should hurry. Would I call my sister and come to the hospital? I hung up. Got out of bed. Could not stay standing. Hit my knees. Gasped. Prayed a two-word prayer.
And in that very moment I knew. In this painful awful moment at 4:00 am I knew. I knew despite the horror on multiple fronts we were not alone. I knew God's presence would not leave. God provided the strength to stand, to pick up the phone, to call my sister. The verses in 2nd Corinthians are real to me because I've been in these places. My guess is you have as well.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves, we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed, but not despairing, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4: 7-9
How do you keep going when things aren't good? When people lie and break trust? When the diagnosis is elusive? When we can't see beyond this moment?
A couple of weeks ago I sat in a writer's conference and listed to Andrew Peterson describe how he came to write the song The Dark Before the Dawn. (Listen Here).
He wrote it one morning after he woke up to news of a school shooting. You know that sick feeling? The dark is pressing in feeling? He talked about how the only way forward is to remember this is not the end.
"Oh, I believe, I believe that the light is gonna come
And this is the dark, this is the dark before the dawn."
What I learned is God's promises don't make all things joyful - yet. And this yet makes it bearable. For heaven is coming. Glory wins. Despair loses.
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For this momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2nd Corinthians 4:16-18
If you are reading this and do not have the same hope; please hear me out. We all face hard times. But you don't have to do it alone. 2nd Corinthians is a beautiful invitation to join the victory.
"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us, we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2nd Corinthians 6;29-21
I think the reason my two word prayer, "I can't", was so powerful is because I came to the very end of myself. When I ran out, Jesus showed up. This is one of those upside down truths in the Bible. The weak are strong.
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
I've thought a lot about suffering the past couple of weeks. About what we went through and the ways God made the difference. Sometimes it was simply His presence and strength. Sometimes it looked like a friend pushing a broom, bringing a meal or answering the phone. God showed up when people showed up. I know it was hard to be around me during those days. But I'm grateful people dove in. This post was hard to write. But sharing the truth of God's power in our struggle is an honor.
Turn off your phone for a few minutes. Read 2nd Corinthians. If you are in the middle of a crisis - pray a call for help. His grace will prove enough. If your life is currently stable you may have time to lift someone else's load. Call a hurting friend or get take-out for an overwhelmed neighbor. Wrestle with your own memories and look for how God showed up. Share your story. I know it's uncomfortable to do the work to heal or to help someone else. But it's life giving. Worth the courage it takes to see it through. Second Corinthians is important. Hedgehog emoji's are not.
Andrew Peterson's song The Dark Before the Dawn.
Here you go, the next section of the Bible Project's Read Scripture series. 2nd Corinthians.
Infographic from New Spring Church. These are helpful.
One of my favorite parts of our whirlwind trip to Nashville was meeting so many talented authors. Jolina Petersheim was a lovely, kind and gentle soul. I was so impressed with her warm smile and matching spirit. Read below for our interview and pick up a of one of her books today.
I loved the concept you used to intersect two major genres; namely the Amish/Mennonite fiction with Dystopian literature. Do you plan on a sequel or more mashups?
Unless I see some writing in the sky, The Divide is the conclusion to The Alliance series. I know it doesn’t provide all the answers, and yet I wanted my main characters, Moses and Leora, to find peace even though their future remained uncertain. Peace despite uncertainty is something I’ve personally had to learn. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, all our lives remain uncertain. But trust in our Creator and loving each other deeply—perhaps at an even deeper level because of that uncertainty—is a beautiful way to pass our days.
As for more mashups: I’ve been toying around with a new idea for a couple of years, but it’s a little over my head, so I’m giving it time to ruminate. 😊
Your major character faced a crisis of faith. I don’t want to give away the ending – but has your personal faith been through anything similar?
God has a way of deepening our faith through trails. In December 2014, my husband had emergency brain surgery for a rare, benign brain tumor. We were living in Wisconsin at the time—on a grid-tie solar-powered farm with a woodstove as our main heat source. We had a two-and-a-half-year-old and a four-month-old. Looking back, I’m honestly kind of floored that we made it, but we had friends and family who helped lessen our burdens by babysitting, bringing loads of firewood and food. I was in the middle of editing The Alliance, and Tyndale (my publisher) gave me time to allow our family to heal. Going through that crisis made me really question God’s plan for our lives. So much of my security—my stability—was stripped away. My husband is such a dependable, larger-than-life individual, and I hadn’t realized how much I relied on his strength until I suddenly became the one he had to rely on. One night—the most pivotal of my spiritual walk thus far—I stared out at the snowy darkness after everyone else had gone to bed. I looked out the window, like I was staring into the face of God, and I said, “You must meet us here; You must meet us here.” It was both plea and command. He did. He met us there. Despite having sick babies, and a sick husband, we all slept through the night for the first time since the surgery, and it was what we needed to get back on our feet.
In July of this year, an MRI showed some residual tumor in my husband’s brain. And yet, because I’ve experienced God’s faithfulness, I continue clinging to Him—beseeching Him like I had that winter night in our farmhouse: “You must meet us here; You must meet us here.”
And the beauty lies in the fact that I know He will.
Where does grace fit in your fiction – and your real life?
My characters are such broken people—Rachel, Tobias; Beth, Rhoda; Leora, Moses—because I believe that we’re all broken in one way or another since we live in a world rife with the fallibility of man. I love to take my characters on a journey (or sometimes they take me), and the grace lies in the fact that they usually find healing for their brokenness by The End. God is faithful to take me on a journey along with my characters. Each story I write explores a certain facet of my own grace-filled, stumbling walk.
Another area I’ve found grace is in motherhood. I’ve only been a mother for six years, and yet I am fiercely in love with this calling, which I believe is one of the greatest of my life. Three precious souls that I get to lead closer to God as they witness my own walk! It’s an incredibly humbling and challenging experience.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
Sign up to receive Mindy's Quirk-E-Mails