Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Testing & Faith

Continuing thoughts on conflict, trials and faith . . .

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
James 1:2,3

Faith must be like a muscle that can be trained and strengthened. We can’t lift weights or do push-ups for this muscle, however. It’s the trials we face in life that train our faith.

I often think of faith as similar to bravery. Just because someone is brave doesn’t mean they have no fear, it simply means they don’t allow the fear to interfere with their action. So with faith, having faith doesn’t mean we have no doubt, only that we don’t allow the doubt to dictate our action. We act based on the truth of God’s word.

Hebrews 11 has been called the Faith Hall of Fame. When we read the stories of the likes of Abraham who left his home, not knowing where he was going, but followed God’s lead, I’m sure he, and the others, had doubts but all we read is what they did. They followed and obeyed. We know Moses had doubts, he told God a number of times that he wasn’t up to the job. In the end though, Moses obeyed God. There were many trials along the way, but Moses’ faith increased with each one, he became a strong man of God as he watched God come through in the midst of trials time after time.

I’m beginning to see God’s wisdom in allowing trails. I’m finally starting to understand why trials and evil people are important to include in fiction. My heroes need to stretch and grow as characters, they need to discover the strength within themselves and to do that, they must be tested.

Thank you, Lord, that you don’t test us the way writers test their characters in a book. And help me to devise some evil plans against my fictional heroes. Amen.

Mint Tea

When the stress of various trials starts to get to you, try some Green Tea with Mint. Mint settles the stomach and its aroma clears the mind.

For hot tea, simply pour near-boiling water over green tea leaves and a handful of fresh mint leaves. For iced tea, place several green tea bags and a handful of fresh mint leaves in a clear pitcher and set it out in full sun for about three hours. When the tea has brewed, remove the tea bags and mint and place the pitcher in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Conflict & Change

I'm studying characterization today. How to write believable characters for a novel. I've been struggling with my protagonist. He's just too good. He's too nice and has no deeply rooted conflict or motivation. Isn't it interesting that the things we want to avoid in our own lives are the things we love to read about in novels? They are also the things which bring the most change whether in our own lives or the lives of our beloved characters.

My favorite books and movies are the ones in which the characters change the most. They start off weak, or handicapped in some way and discover their strengths through the conflicts they face.

So why do we avoid conflict like the plague? And why do we accuse God of not hearing our prayers when he allows conflict into our lives? "Is God evil?" Many may ask. But He has revealed Himself to us as a God of love.

Like a parent's love, God loves us enough to allow circumstances to teach us. A recent example happened in our family this week. Our son needed to get up for work. We've been encouraging him to set the alarm early enough to allow himself a little more time in the morning. "Get up the first time it goes off," I always say. Since school has been out, he's had to work a couple times in the morning, but not until 11am. He figured he'd just wake up on his own by that time, so he didn't set an alarm. My husband and I were both at work when he needed to get up. He slept right through and was 1 1/2 hours late for work! He sure learned his lesson that day. Luckily he didn't lose his job, he just got a little embarrassed. Now he's begun to set the alarm and get up when it goes off. Experience is so often the best teacher.

An example from nature. I picked a mixing bowl full of strawberries this afternoon. This year has been the best yield I've ever had from my small, urban, backyard strawberry patch, each day a handful or small bowl. Pondering the possible reasons, I've considered that it could be because we had such a long, cold winter. Spring took her time arriving in Minneapolis this year. A few trees didn't make it and still I see some that are half brown and half green. But the strawberries have spread and each plant is full of baby white berries, soon to be bright with color and flavor. Could it be that these delicate, nutritious berries thrive when challenged by the elements?

I’m not sure, but I know people do. Paul says to consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4.

Now back to torture my characters a little more.

4th of July Strawberry Treat:
Place fresh Strawberries and fresh Blueberries on top of a small bowl of real whipped cream.
It's delicious and patriotic!

Friday, June 5, 2009


Ever wonder why Americans are so out of balance?

We take everything to the extreme. If something tastes good, we eat as much of it as we can, as often as we can. We eat even when food doesn't taste good or we're not hungry. If we want to lose weight, we find some diet that starves us, we knuckle down and stick to it until the unwanted pounds fall off and we can get back to indulgence. How have we missed the wisdom of elder cultures that have discovered good health in balance?

Actually, our tendency toward excess is being exported around the world today until countries, which used to understand balance, are becoming more and more overworked, overfed and overstressed just like us.

Let's step back. Take a breath. And think a moment.

Balance makes me think of a tight rope walker. He's got to keep his feet in line. One step too far to the right or the left and BOOM, he hits the crash mat below.

Life isn't that restrictive--Thank the Lord! But take too many steps too far to one side or the other and balance is lost. When we lose balance we lose right perspective and good health--spiritual and physical.

Nature demonstrates balance. The earth needs water. Too little water and life dies. But too much water and life dies as well. It's natural. We understand that if you over water a plant it will die. And we understand that if you forget to water it for too long it will die. We have to regulate our watering schedule for our plants.

How about us? Do we make the effort to keep ourselves in balance? Our health depends on it as well. We may indulge in a piece of cheese cake for a special occasion and be just fine. But if we had cheese cake every night our bodies would take the toll. N'est ce pas?

Is it possible to be too spiritual? Of course, if we thought we had to read the Bible eight hours every day and when we were not reading we could do nothing but preach to our neighbors, we'd be out of balance. And probably not appreciated by those neighbors.

On the other hand, we Americans probably tend to the opposite extreme more often. We're so busy, caught up with so many important tasks (often ministry related), that we rarely have time to give attention to the Word, Prayer or Meditation. Hard to be like Christ when you don't know Him.

It must be possible to make Him our priority and still get day to day stuff done. If we decide that God is our first priority, we set a certain amount of time for His presence and His word each day. Then if our schedules get out of hand and we miss that time one day, we'll get back to it the next--no big deal. But if we wait until we get all our tasks accomplished, we'll never have time for Him.

Balance is healthy in every aspect of life. Balance includes a large dose of grace and readjustment. Invariably we'll get off that line of balance. At that point, we just forgive ourselves, as Christ does, and get back to what we know is right. This holds true in spiritual disciplines, diet or any other aspect in life.

Don't forget balance when it comes to other people too. Allow them to get off to one side or the other. Forgive them. Encourage in a positive way, a way that doesn't judge, to move back to center.

Let's don't get stressed-out about it. Just remember moderation and balance. And always allow yourself room to readjust.