When Hard Times Seem Endless

Sept to Oct 2013 Misc 063Every month I squirt a small tube of Revolution between Jazzy’s neck and shoulder blades. The medicine protects her from fleas, ticks, and heartworms. The liquid has a distinct smell that Jazzy does not like.

 

 

 

The second I pull the plastic tube out of the foil wrapper, my picky pooch twists her ears back, tucks her tail between her legs, and slinks away. When I call her, she lowers her head and inches her way toward her doom.

 

Experience has taught me that Jazzy will roll on her back and rub the expensive medicine into my carpet as soon as I finish applying the liquid. So, after I’ve squirted the last drop onto her exposed line of skin, I immediately comb her fur over the wet spot and slip a cloth cone around her neck.

 

We’ve nicknamed the dreaded accessory “The Cone of Shame” because our usually perky pup mopes the entire time she’s wearing the protective gear.

 

I always stay close to make sure she doesn’t try to paw the cone off. So, I get the full show of doggie dramatic despair.

 

Her brown eyebrows lift and lower as she watches me with woeful eyes, periodically huffing air through her nose.

 

“Really, Jazzy? I’m right here. Just be patient. You’re all right.”

 

My words do not console her.

 

After the liquid dries, I call her name.

 

She looks my way but doesn’t budge.

 

“Are you ready to take that cone off?”

 

Her ears perk as she bounds toward me, tail swooshing.

 

Jazzy Cone 1Ready? It’s about time! I’ve been wearing this thing forever!

 

 

 

 

As soon as I untie the cone and slip it off her head, Jazzy flops on her back. She grunts as she tries to rub off the evidence of her painful experience. But it’s too late.

 

As her loving master, I know how long it takes to soak up the medicine that’s intended to keep her safe.

 

I toss her a small treat and shake my head.

 

When will she realize I know her needs?

 

When will she believe she can trust me to do what’s best for her?

 

Jazzy Resting with God's Word Oct 25, 2013When will her master’s presence and words of assurance be enough to bring her comfort when hard times seem endless?

 

 

 

Oh, how much I have in common with my pooch!

 

In Isaiah 30:20, the prophet writes:

 

“Though the LORD gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes.”

 

My first response to this verse was, I do not want to be invited to that dinner party!

 

Then, I took a closer look and discovered the overflowing hope and assurance.

 

Suffering and affliction on this side of eternity is inevitable. But, in the midst of our suffering and affliction, God is with us, teaching us, and revealing Himself to us.

 

Our Master may not give us the relief we desire, but He will never leave us. And we can be sure our pain has a purpose. He never wastes our experiences, good or bad.

 

When we feel trapped in affliction or suffering, we can mope, like Jazzy, or choose to praise the Lord and rest secure in His constant presence.

 

While we trust God’s all-knowing goodness and perfect timing, we can armor up with His Word. The Holy Spirit uses the truth in the Bible to strengthen and comfort us when hard times seem endless.

 

After all, moping doesn’t make me take off Jazzy’s cone any sooner. So, why should we expect God to move faster when we don’t like our circumstances?

 

Thank You, Lord, for never leaving us. Thanks for offering us a new perspective in regards to suffering and affliction. To You be the glory! In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

What can we do to help us remember God’s presence when we’re in the middle of the season of longsuffering or affliction?

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Writer’s Prayer: An Open Invitation

Feb to March 2013 267“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” Psalm 139:7-10, NIV

 

 

Thank You, Lord, for reminding us that You are Immanuel, God with us.

 

When we are facing uncertainty, You shine a light on our path.

 

When we are feeling isolated, lost, or alone, You hold us firmly in love everlasting.

 

You go before us and secure our flank.

 

Your presence overpowers the magnitude of our circumstances.

 

Your Word reminds us we can do nothing apart from You.

 

Even though we know You’re constantly present with us, we invite You into our day to day living, Lord.

 

We invite You into our writing process, too.

 

Please give us the story ideas that bring You glory.

 

Help us seek Your face before we sit down to write.

 

Help us bend to You as we craft each piece, allowing you to guide our word choices.

 

Help us praise You as we welcome You into the editing process.

 

Help us trust Your plan, even when it differs from our expectations.

 

May each piece we write be a reflection of our communion with You. We surrender our writing journey to You, Lord.

 

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

How do you invite God into your writing process?

 

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A portion of this prayer was previously published on the Inspire Christian Writers blog on May 6, 2012

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Built Up in Community: The Purpose of Critique Groups

Inspire - Mount Hermon 2012 - Group Photo“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16, NIV)

 

 

 

Scripture affirms that Christians grow in community. As we work through conflicts and serve one another within healthy and holy relationships, God prunes His children so they bloom in Christ-like attitude and behavior.

 

This biblical perspective of growing in spiritual maturity applies to the writer’s journey, as well.

 

As Christians wanting to use our gifts for His glory, we need community in order to grow spiritually and hone our craft in excellence. When we remain humble and teachable, we honor God and can improve our writing skills in ways we could never manage in isolation.

 

“You will always lose objectivity about your own writing. You will always have something you can improve in your craft. And you will always need humility in this and every aspect of your life.” (Jeff Gerke, The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction)

 

A good critique group and continual training, especially through writers conferences and workshops, help prepare writers to rise up out of the slush piles.

 

Since I’ve joined Inspire Christian Writers, my writing skills have been sharpened and my work has been published.

 

My critique group helps me catch mistakes that my eyes skim over after I’ve completed numerous self-edits.

 

They help me identify my pet words and phrases, challenge me to use active verbs and develop a deeper point of view for my characters.

 

They encourage me to strengthen my plot and keep my dialogue meaningful.

 

Feb to March 2013 125As a member of Inspire Christian Writers, I’ve been blessed with another perk. These writers pray for me!

The emotional support and thriving sense of community are priceless.

 

 

 

Their prayerful and professional feedback helps me take my writing to a higher level of quality.

 

They prove time and again that there is always something new to learn and that everyone has something of value to offer to my growing process.

 

In The Introduction to Christian Writing, Ethel Herr defines a critique group as a “small group of committed writers seriously interested in critical assistance for their never-ending flow of projects.” She notes that the “emphasis is on actual working to improve manuscripts and skill level of members.”

 

When we’re connected to a positive and diligent group of writers, we can build one another up in love, support and encourage one another as God grows us spiritually through our writing journey, and challenge each other to excel in the craft.

 

It’s also a whole lot more fun when we know we’re not alone on this crazy adventure of learning to use writing as a tool for ministry.

 

How has your experience in critique groups helped you improve as a writer?

If you’re not a writer, how has God used community to grow you spiritually?

We can all benefit by hearing your story. :)

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Photos taken of Inspire Christian Writers at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and The Christian Writers Seminar

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