April 20, 2015

Writing Conference!

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 3:01 pm by Tamara

Image credit: http://centrum.org/2014/08/creative-nonfiction-workshop-nov-6-9/I have to share a cool story: I’ve been wanting to go to a writers conference for years, and a few months ago I found out there’s a big Christian writers conference in Estes Park in May.  I instantly wanted to go; unfortunately it’s too expensive for me to be able to afford all three days of it, but I found out they offer a few partial scholarships and I thought maybe if I could get a scholarship I could go to one or two days of it.  I wanted to take my time to write as compelling an application as I could, but then morning sickness hit with a vengeance and I could barely get off the couch, let alone write an eloquent scholarship application.

A couple Friday nights ago something (or should I say Someone) made me think about the conference and I got on the website to see when the scholarship deadline was.  I was crushed to see that it was that day.  I told Adam I had missed the deadline, and he pointed out that it was still technically the day of the deadline, even if it was already 10pm.  I was exhausted and feeling miserable but I decided the worst that could happen was that I submitted a horrible application and they rejected it, so I started writing.  I had to tell why I wanted to attend the conference, my writing goals, current writing project, what I’m doing to meet my goals, why I need a scholarship, etc.  What I sent it was honestly pretty pitiful; nowhere near the compelling and eloquent application I had wanted to take my time to write.

I didn’t expect to hear anything for a while, but the very next morning I got an email from the conference organizer saying that she was so blessed by my application that she contacted the man who offers the scholarships to ask him if he would consider covering one more FULL scholarship for me, and he said yes!  She also said she wanted to arrange for me to meet with five agents to present my book, and recommended that I sign up for critiques with two authors.

I was completely stunned and told Adam, thinking there was no way I could leave him and the kids for three days, but he immediately insisted that this was too great an opportunity and I had to go.  My parents and in-laws said the same thing and graciously have offered to help with taking care of the kids and helping pay for my hotel for the conference.  So, it looks like I’ll be going!

The conference looks amazing: the theme is “Write His Answer” (Habakkuk 2:2); there’s a faculty of 56 authors, editors, and agents; workshops on everything from writing in deep point of view to how to handle spiritual takeaways in fiction without preaching to how to market your book; and one-on-one meetings with agents and publishers.  Estes Park is a beautiful mountain resort town; I wish Adam could come with me so we could enjoy it together!  I’ve only been away from Bear overnight once and have never been away overnight since Songbird was born, and while I feel a little heartsick thinking of being away from my family for three days, I also suspect it will breathe new life into me as a mommy!

I’m amazed that God is giving me this opportunity; not only because of the opportunity itself but because of the timing.  We’ve had some really discouraging closed doors lately.  I KNOW the truth that God proved his love for me once and for all on the cross (Romans 5:8), but I’ve struggled to hold onto that lately when so many circumstances seem to imply that he’s just forgotten about us.  The fact that God chose to bless me with an opportunity I’ve dreamed about for years at a time when I have felt discouraged and even angry with him is amazing proof of his gracious love for me, and how his love is not conditional on whether or not I am worthy of it.  What a message about the gracious, generous character of our God!

Secondly, it has reminded me that I can trust God and the members of his body to accomplish what he wants to accomplish.  One of the things that is so intimidating to me about the prospect of missions work is that we will need to raise financial support.  I worry that we will never be able to share our vision in a powerful enough way to compel people to be involved in our ministry.  The fact that total strangers are being so generous to me, even without the perfect, eloquent application that I wanted to write, reminded me that if God wants to take us to the mission field it won’t be through my efforts and clever words, but through his power (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).  It has reminded me that there are believers in the body who are eagerly listening for his voice and willing to joyfully and sacrificially participate in his work.  How encouraging!

The Israelites set up stones to remind them of what God had done for them (Joshua 4:19-24), and I have several stories of God’s provision that I’ve set in my heart as my “12 Stones”–things I can go back to it and be reminded that God loves me and will provide for me–and not just my needs, but often my heart’s desires, as well.  I’m adding this to the list!  (If you want to read other stories, click on the “12 Stones” tag in the sidebar.  Some of them are pretty funny.)

Since I registered so close to the deadline I’ve been SCRAMBLING to get everything ready; choosing excerpts of the book for critique, preparing my “one sheet” and book pitch for the agents, registering for my workshops and one-on-ones, and all the other little details.  The fact that I’m still dealing with pretty severe morning sickness (and even got to spend a day in the hospital last week) hasn’t made it very easy to get my rusty creative brain functioning again, but I’m doing my best.  I’m really praying that I’ll be feeling better by the conference so that I can get everything possible out of it!

If you’re curious about the book, to be honest I don’t feel like it’s anywhere near ready to be sold.  Mostly my goal for the conference is to just learn about how to improve my writing and get some feedback on my strengths and weaknesses as a writer.  The prospect of having my story critiqued by agents and published authors is, frankly, terrifying (!) but I’m going to swallow my insecurities and just try to learn from the experience.
Many of you have been so encouraging to me and my writing dreams in the past, and if you would pray for me related to this conference I would so appreciate it!  Pray that I can prepare well, that I’ll be healthy and have energy for the conference, that I’ll learn everything that God wants to teach me, make good connections, and for my husband and kids while I’m away for the first time!
Write His AnswerI know many of you are also writers, and if you’re interested in attending, here is a link to the conference.  Registration is still open and it would be so fun to have friends there!  :)  http://colorado.writehisanswer.com/

June 25, 2012

Life Update

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , , at 11:29 pm by Tamara

It may be hard to tell from the last few posts, but my life really isn’t a book (or a review of a book).  So I guess I should give a life update before I write the next two book reviews I have planned….

You’ve probably already guessed it, but we aren’t going to be going overseas this fall.  As I mentioned here, once we started the application process a bunch of reasons not to go suddenly popped up, and we were left trying to discern whether that was God speaking or just life being life or the enemy being the enemy.  We were concerned about the timing for several reasons, such as our desire to have more kids sometime in the next few years (and the possibility that I’d have to come back to the states if I needed another c-section), and the fact that we’d have to raise all our support in the summer, which is when I also needed to complete my internship for my degree.

Also, right when we were turning in our applications we found out that Adam’s mom’s cancer had started progressing faster than expected.  She was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukemia a while back, but told it would be ten years or so before she would feel any symptoms or need treatment.  Unfortunately, her check up showed it was progressing faster than they expected, and they said she would probably need to start chemo within the year.  I promised Mom I wouldn’t be dramatic when I wrote about this, but you can imagine how difficult it was for all of us to hear that!  She very much stressed to us that she wanted us to follow God wherever he was leading us, but it was definitely a new factor in our decision process.

So, we did a lot of praying and talking with people we trusted, and finally decided that we should wait at least a year before trying to go overseas.  Ironically, a few days after we decided that, the organization got back with us and told us that they didn’t think they had quite the right placement for us.  So that closed that door!

I had very mixed feelings about that.  My first reaction was to be very thankful that God had clearly closed the door and confirmed our decision to wait.  Unfortunately, other emotions followed quickly on my thankfulness’ heels!  Chief among them was a deep feeling of rejection.  “Why didn’t they want us?  What’s wrong with us?”  And that quickly transitioned into “Why doesn’t GOD want us?”  It’s baffling to me that God clearly calls us to “Go into all the world” and says “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” but then when we say “Here am I!  Send me!” he says…”No.”  What do you do with that?

So I had to take a few weeks to really wrestle with some things I believe in my head but had to come to grips with in my heart.  A big one was that God’s love for me has nothing to do with my usefulness to Him.  And that closing one door doesn’t mean He’s given up on me and doesn’t want me anymore.  That He loves me fiercely and unconditionally and considers me as valuable as His own Son, and that will never change.

Once I had some peace in my heart about that whole mess of emotions and lies and truth, it was pretty much back to my old reaction: “Alright, Lord, thank you for clearly closing that door.  But, now, where is your open door?  I’m very thankful for clear ‘No’s,’ but where is your ‘Yes?’”

And…you’ll have to wait for a future blog post about that, because we’re not exactly sure about the answer yet!  We are sure, though, that God doesn’t have us here for no reason.  We don’t want to just be here because we aren’t “there” (wherever there is); we believe God has a reason why we are HERE, NOW.  So we’re trying to be faithful with what’s on our plates right now and keep our eyes open for what God wants to do in and through us right now.  There are a couple things on our radar screens, but this is getting long, so I’ll save them for later.

Mom has had a couple of doctor’s appointments since then, and we’re very thankful that she’s found some fantastic doctors.  They are still thinking she’ll need to start chemo sometime before the end of the year, but say there are some positives about where her condition stands now, such as that she’s still considered stage one.  So we’re waiting, praying, and trusting God.  I’d really appreciate your prayers!!

Thanks for reading, caring, and praying for us!  I can tell you are.  : )

January 13, 2012

Dead Chicken Wrangler

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , at 11:07 pm by Tamara

Slimy....

The other night I had to use a whole chicken for a recipe.  I’m not particularly freaked out by raw meat, but there’s just something mildly disturbing about being covered in bacteria-infested slime from a dead animal as you tug and hack away at it.

Life lately is a little less than glamorous.  In theory, we’re trying to get into fulltime ministry.  In practice, life doesn’t feel much like ministry.  It seems like things like “serving God,” “ministry,” “missions,” etc. should have at least an aspect of glamour to them.  Like there should be some sort of heart-swelling feeling of changing the world and leading people out of darkness and sacrificing for a cause and being looked up to as a spiritual giant.  Like I should feel like God’s special favorite, like he’s proud of me.  Happy with me.  I don’t quite envision ministry to entail things like living with my parents and spending half the day wrestling with a dead chicken.

I was reading Leviticus a while back, and thinking how awful being a high priest sounds.  Here is the man with the most “spiritual” job in the whole country, and his job seems…disgusting.  I wonder what Aaron thought when he heard the list of his new responsibilities and compared them to his brother’s.  I have to wonder if I would have been angry:

Well isn’t this just fantastic.  Here’s my spoiled, stuttering brother Moses, who already got to grow up in palace luxury while I was a slave, and now he gets the glamour of leading the nation, and what do I get?  I get the nasty, bloody job of constantly slaughtering, dissecting, bleeding, burning, and cooking sacrifices.  I get to check for hairs growing in yellow skin sores.  I get to inspect houses for mildew.  I get to tend fires and lamp stands and carry heavy things.  I get to teach people laws about bodily discharges.  I get to kick people with infectious skin diseases out of the city.  Wonderful.  Sign me up.

But there is something incredible, awesome, jaw-dropping that priests got to do that no one else did: they got to commune with God.  There is only one person who gets to go into the holy of holies, into God’s very presence and glory: the high priest.

Pillar of Fire

The wonder of that is easy to miss, because I forget how great my God is.  This is the God who shakes mountains, who thunders and smokes, who makes men fall down in terror, who can make your skin radiate after just a glimpse of his back, who makes walls of water crash down over entire armies, who conceals himself in a giant swirling pillar of fire.  To approach him is a very, VERY big deal.  To communicate with him, be his special assistant, step in between him and people he’s angry with, be a recipient of his blessings, sweep the floor of his house…these are big deals.

“Ministry” for me right now is NOT glamorous.  It is not heart-swelling.  I do not feel like I’m impacting anyone, or helping anyone, or doing anything grand to advance the kingdom.  No one is impressed by me or looking up to me.   Lately I am cutting a lot of chicken, changing a lot of diapers, doing a lot of apartment searching, paying lots of bills, scrubbing lots of gunk, etc, etc, etc.  I don’t feel very “useful” to God.  But if Leviticus teaches me anything about service to God, it’s that serving doesn’t always involve glamorous things.  That’s not the point.

What I DO as God’s servant isn’t always glamorous, but what I GET is very, very glamorous: I get to know God.

Friends with the God who made THIS.

What could be more glamorous or heart-swelling than getting to personally be friends with the creator of the universe?  To communicate with him whenever I want?  To know that the veil keeping me out of the Holy of Holies was dramatically ripped in half when Jesus died, and now I can go in his presence whenever I want?  To know that he loves me and values me, and that neither of those is dependent on how glamorous or important or useful I am (or feel)?

As I was writing this, a snippet of a verse floated through my head, so I went to find it.  It sums it up pretty well:

“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.  For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.  O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.”  Psalm 84:10-12

So no matter how insignificant my daily grind may seem sometimes, that’s really not the point.  I’m a dead chicken wrangler in the house of the God of the universe, and not only that, he’s my friend.  That certainly makes my heart swell a bit.

 

P.S.  This post was really hard to come up with pictures and a title for.  “God’s Diaper Changer?”  Um, nope.  Pictures of slaughtered little lambies?  Um, no.

November 14, 2011

Beautiful Things Out of Dust (A-la-carte life update)

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , , , at 3:28 am by Tamara

For those of you wondering if we fell off the face of the earth, the answer is yes.  Thankfully, (after a stop in Wisconsin) we landed in Colorado.  Whoo hoo!  I’m pretty sure my stress level was supposed to decrease after the move was over, but that has not been the case.  I’m not sure if it’s really exploded or if it’s just cumulative stress of the past six months, but I’m kind of freaking out about life.

We haven’t found an apartment yet, mostly because we’re trying to figure out exactly what our income is going to be.  Adam’s looking for a second job, and possibly a different first job.  We’re also, believe it or not, considering the possibility of (gulp) taking the leap into full time ministry, which would (gulp) require raising support.  Anyway, I feel kind of suspended in the air with no place to land.  I’ve heard husbands freak out without a job; I think wives freak out without a home.

School wise, I’m taking a rather difficult philosophy course right now.  I’m pretty sure that times in life where one is emotionally and mentally depleted are NOT good times to take challenging, thought-provoking philosophy courses.   It is definitely adding to my stress level.

As for NaNoWriMo…sigh.  I’ve managed to keep at it so far, in spite of great adversity (the day it began was the day we started driving to Colorado, so I wrote the day’s word quota that night in a dark hotel room with a husband, two dogs, and a crying baby in the background, in spite of a dead computer, a broken desk chair, and a semi-truck rumbling outside the window.  That’s dedication).  Unfortunately, I feel like I’m drowning in life right now, and the stress is brutally draining the life blood out of my creativity.  I’m not sure if I’m going to make it this year or not.  We’ll see.

The upside of life right now is wonderful, adorable Bear.  He just turned seven months old.  I can’t believe it!  Where has the time gone?  He has been an absolute angel through all the chaos of the past month.  He had his first cold while we were visiting Wisconsin (so traumatizing!  He didn’t like it much, either), and just got his first tooth a week ago (my baby is growing up too fast!!)  I can’t believe how sweet he was during the trip in spite of a cold, cutting a tooth, meeting a ton of new people, and having his entire life turned upside down.  He’s really been amazing.  He’s getting much more comfortable and confident meeting new people and being in new situations.  We LOVED getting to see family and friends in Wisconsin on the way here, and finally introducing them to Little Bear.

So, all that to say…I don’t know.  Adam and Bear are my parachutes in life right now.  I feel like I’m just hanging onto them as we fall through the air to land…who knows where.  But, as long as they’re wherever we end up, I’m sure it will be okay.  God has always come through for us in the past; I think maybe all this stress and uncertainty is a chance to put into practice what we’ve learned about Him in the past when He’s come through in fast, glorious ways that far exceeded our expectations.  Things don’t seem to be falling into place very well right now, but the story’s not over, and God hasn’t changed.  I have two mantras lately.  1) “Stress is pressure incorrectly handled,” and 2) this song:

July 18, 2010

Human/Sex Trafficking

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 11:19 pm by Tamara

I’ve started doing research lately on human and sex trafficking.  The knowledge that children are forced into slavery and prostitution not only around the world, but in the UNITED STATES, shocks and infuriates me.  In fact, Atlanta, Georgia, just a few hours from here, is one of the top three cities for sex trafficking in the world.  Statistics show that there are more people in slavery today than ever in history, and yet we act like this ended with the Civil War.

I don’t know yet what I’m supposed to do about this, but I know I’m supposed to do something.  We’re commanded to “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17), and that command is just as real today as when it was first spoken.  So for now I’m researching, praying, and planning to speak out what I learn–and praying for courage to do whatever God tells me to do next.

“ Tolerate not evil against humanity.  And when thee is powerless to do anything else, speak with vigor.  Protest!”

—Daniel Anthony, father of Susan B. Anthony

July 13, 2010

Bandwagon of My Own Uncertainty

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 11:53 pm by Tamara

This video cracks me up, and it’s so true!

I know I’m very afraid of offending people, particularly over what I believe about Jesus.  Sometimes the easiest way to avoid the embarrassment of someone getting mad at me is to speak with a shrug of the shoulders and an “I could be wrong…” attitude.

I really believe, deep in my soul, that God is worth going out on a limb for.  But I have a very hard time going out on the limb of “They might be offended.”  I want to talk with grace and humility, but I think too often what I call “humility” is just speaking with doubt.  It is not humble to be wishy washy about what the God of the universe has said, yet, somehow in the church we’ve become proud of our doubt.  Proud to say, “Look how humble and honest I am!  I’m not really sure about this God stuff, either!”  Rather than crying, “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24), we’ve become quite satisfied with our doubt.

I’ve been reading a book which talks about this:

We are so afraid of sounding overly certain and confident in our beliefs that it has almost become…an unwritten dogma that it is actually more godly for us as Christians to be unassuming in our expectations of God.  It’s now more spiritual to be uncertain of how He will perform on our behalf than to confidently proclaim what both we, and a dying world, can expect from the God of the Bible (Eric Ludy, The Bravehearted Gospel, p. 146).

It was doubt that kept the Israelites from moving into the land God had promised to give them, and Hebrews doesn’t mince words about what God thought about it:

Who provoked Him when they had heard?  Didn’t all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses?  And who was He angry with for forty years? Wasn’t it with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  And who did He swear wouldn’t enter His rest, but those who were disobedient?  So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief!  (Hebrews 3:16-19, emphasis mine).

God certainly doesn’t get warm-fuzzies about our “honest doubt.”  My favorite line in the video is when Mali says we talk as though, “I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions; I’m just, like, inviting you to join me on the bandwagon of my own uncertainty!”

Why would anyone want to jump on that bandwagon?  I’d like to say, loudly and with conviction, that I DO have “something invested” in what I believe.  In fact, I have everything invested in it.  And it’s not just my own opinions (that would be arrogant)—it’s what GOD HAS SAID.

The newborn church in Acts turned the world upside down with the Gospel in just a few years, and Acts is peppered with the word “boldly.”  They weren’t afraid to tell people about Jesus because they knew, without doubt, who He was.  Peter and John were threatened with their lives if they didn’t stop talking about Jesus, and they responded “we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).  Paul asked the church in Ephesians to pray “that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should!” (Ephesians 6:19-20).

I want to talk about Christ in a way that is gracious, honest, and open–but I want to talk with conviction and power.  Because the story IS powerful!  God-forbid that I make it sound any less earth-shaking than it is.

July 1, 2010

The Journey

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 11:55 pm by Tamara

I sat in a far corner of the bustling terminal, dressed in pants and a long cotton coat in spite of the stifling heat.  The most amazing thing, however, was the scarf covering my hair and wrapped around my shoulders.  I’d been waiting long months, months full of endless preparations, worry, details, communication, and tears.  Now, at long last, I had arrived in the airport in Dubai, pulled that scarf out of my suitcase and carefully placed it on my head.  It was like becoming someone else.

The exhausted knot of worry in my stomach was accompanied by a leaden feeling that seemed to slug through my veins.  I was terrified.  Through the entire lonely trip I’d felt distant and removed, like I was watching myself in a movie.  I found myself repeating an inner monologue as though I was commenting on my life from outside.

What am I doing?  I’m not brave!  Why am I here?  What was I thinking?  I can’t do this.  I’m not…brave.

It was like I’d had delusions of grandeur and suddenly realized they’d gotten me in way over my head.  Was I really here, and really about to go there?  It almost seemed hilarious to me, like a farce.  What EVER made me think I could do this?

But, like a robot, I had packed my suitcases, walked though airport security, boarded one plane, then another, then another, until suddenly I found myself on the other side of the world, with burqa-clad women bustling around me, listening numbly as the swirling tones of Arabic carried through the humid air, staring up at spiraling mosque turrets and quickly lowering my gaze from the prying eyes of dark-skinned, turbaned men.

One more plane, and the long, exhausting hours of sitting and rumbling would be over.  One more plane to board, and I’d be there.  The place I’d prayed over, agonized over, longed for.  Afghanistan.  I was going.

What was I thinking?

Before I knew it I was staring out the plane window as we took off.  It was final now—terrified or not, I was being hurtled towards Afghanistan.  Where was the excitement?  How many years had I ached to be right where I was now, about to step onto Muslim land?  But all I felt was numb inadequacy.

Hello, Lord, I said, reaching for that connection, desperate to know I wasn’t alone.  It was like grabbing for a rope and pulling, trying to get closer to my anchor, wanting to feel the tension on the line that meant God was on the other end of it.

After an hour that felt like minutes we started our decent, and I reached up to make sure my headcovering was in place.  It was going to take a while to get used to this.  I pulled my camera out and held it at arms-length, forcing a brave smile.  Click, and it was real.  Me, in a headcovering, flying into Afghanistan.  Exhausted, grimy, unsure, but going.

I looked out the window.  The clouds were beginning to wisp away, letting green smudges melt through.  The smudges became more clear, rising up to form gray-green mountain ranges, then sinking down into flat, bright green fields.  This was it: my first sight of a place I’d prayed for for so long.  Tiny, weather-beaten houses began to dot the landscape, and I felt a quiver go through me, like a spark of light in a dark room.  The land continued to take shape; I could see fields, houses, people, roads.  The flicker began to spread, sending warmth gently from my heart down to my fingertips.

Afghanistan.  It was here.  I was here.

Suddenly the fear seemed to be dripping and mingling with the slowly pulsing beat of excitement.  I grasped that excitement with amazement.  At last, there it was!  Suddenly I felt again what I’d felt for years—a longing, broken-hearted desire to touch this place, to step onto the ground with light and truth.  To see the darkness shattered.  In that moment my heart broke with the overwhelming feeling that I was loved and not alone.  I could feel his hands around my heart, infusing the broken pieces with love and strength and momentum.  Cradling my heart above this place I’d ached for so long, ready to let the pieces fall like seeds in the desert.

The plane landed, and I gathered my things, checked my head covering and walked to the door.  I stepped outside, walked down the steps, and put my foot on the ground.

I was here.  Afghanistan.

June 30, 2010

I’m Afraid I’ve Been Thinking

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 2:22 pm by Tamara

Today at work I was shelving Bibles and came across a section I didn’t realize we had, called “Famous Author Bibles.”  Funny, here I always thought GOD wrote the Bible. But, there they were, Bibles with names of popular Christian authors/teachers splashed across the front in big, bold type.  Which got me thinking about a LOT of semi-related things.  (“Lefou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking!”  “A dangerous pastime—”   “I know!”  …Ahem.)

First off, what an incredible responsibility when people take your teaching so seriously that they actually publish an entire Bible with your comments on it.  There’s a lot of potential there to either lead people closer to Christ or put slippery banana peels all over their path.  But that doesn’t just go for those of “us” who have our own brand of Bible, but for every one of us who’s ever written something, given advice, or even stated an opinion.  Our words are powerful.  Mark Buchanan wrote something in his book The Rest of God that has seared my soul:

All our authority is derived.  Either God gives us words, or we are only giving opinions.  …If anyone ever stops to listen to you or me, this had better be solidly in place:  Our speaking comes out of our listening.  What we say comes out of what we hear.  We have to be people who listen, day and night, to God.  Our  utterances ought to be as Jesus’ were: an echoing of the Father, an imitation of him…. “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God”  (I Pet. 4:11).  That verse should be paired with Jesus’ statement: “He who has ears, let him hear.”

How much of what I say could I call “an echoing of the Father, an imitation of him?”  Three areas convict me immediately: Facebook statuses (so easy to “vent” on there), agreeing with coworker’s complaints (sigh), and giving advice that’s based on my own subjective experiences but doesn’t have real Biblical backing (and I have a whole post on that rattling around in my head, so I’ll say no more.)

The second thing these “Famous Author Bibles” made me think of is the “Cult of the Personality.”  Sadly, I think a lot of organizations/churches get all their fuel from one particularly passionate and likable person.  But what happens if they die, quit the ministry, or get in a scandal?  Will the whole thing fall apart?  A crucial part of leadership is replicating yourself to the point where you’re sure you could fall off the planet and God’s work would still continue.  Also, when thinking of the cult of the personality, I need to make sure that, just because I trust/admire someone, I still test what they say and write against the Bible.

Lastly, my Bible shelving experience was frustrating because the shelves were so impossibly tight that I couldn’t get all the new ones on.  We carry every imaginable translation, size, and style of Bible you can imagine, from massive gold-edged King James Versions to magazine shaped New Testaments with photos of models on the cover so no one knows you’re reading the Bible.  Now, I’m incredibly thankful to live in a country with so many Bible resources, but as I was breaking my fingers trying to shove even more Bibles on the shelf, I couldn’t help feeling sick about the fact that there are thousands of people whose Bible translations look like this:

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.

.

That’s right.  Empty.  Because not a single word of the Bible has been translated into their language.  They estimate there are 2,500 entire LANGUAGES with no Bible translation.  I’ve seen letters from indigenous groups in the middle of nowhere begging for someone to come tell them the story of Christ, and I’ve talked to people ready and waiting to go, just as soon as they have the funding to do it.  What if we spent a little less money on another Bible (or another movie, purse, or meal at a restaurant, for that matter) and sent that $15 to a missionary instead?  Western Christians have enough money to evangelize the entire world in our lifetime.  But it won’t happen unless we’re giving.

Convicting day for me.

March 17, 2010

The Fifth Gospel

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , at 8:59 pm by Tamara

Today I felt a little palpitation of panic for no good reason.  I’d left my book in clear sight on the breakroom table, with “Christian” loudly printed on its cover for all to see.  I had to deliberately resist an urge to flip it over as I headed for the microwave.  My workplace is not exactly a haven of Christianity, in fact it seems to draw the loudly liberal.  There’s one regular customer who’s particularly hostile and has told me repeatedly that he hates—yes, hates—Christians and Republicans (“You know why Republican ends in ‘N’?” he asked me,  “It’s for Republica-nazi.”)

All I could think as I sat down with my lunch and flipped open my book so you couldn’t see the cover was Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.”  I could almost hear those words spinning around and around in my head, accompanied by a sad, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I’d never say I’m ashamed of the gospel, per se, but openly reading a book with “Christian” stamped boldly across the cover?  I felt like a scared, fleeing disciple, running away from my Savior in the night.

Where has the power of the gospel gone—how does it so easily slip out of my sight?  The next half of the verse is “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”  Really, power?  Yes, I believe—I believe it!  There is power in the gospel.  So why don’t I feel secure?

I think sometimes it’s not that I’m ashamed of the gospel, but that I’m afraid of my stuttering, ineloquent delivery.  If someone called me on the carpet for why I’m studying to be a Christian counselor, could I answer them?  Could I answer with the joy and security that I feel when it’s just me and my wonderful Redeemer, alone in worship?  Could I tell them why I KNOW that Jesus is the only balm that will heal those deep, deep wounds?  And why am I so afraid of the reaction—so afraid that my poor witness will be the thing that turns them away from Jesus instead of to Him?  What a delicious trick of the Enemy—make me so scared stiff of turning them away from the Gospel that I won’t even share it.

Ironically, the chapter I was reading opened with a quote: “There are five gospels of Jesus Christ—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and you, the Christian.  Many people will never read the first four” (Gipsy Smith).  I see my hostile customer several times a week, and I’m always glad to see him.  Let’s call him Mr. New York Times.  I know his name, I know which paper he always wants, I greet him with a big smile and—almost inevitably—listen to the story he’s about to read in the paper: one more professing Christian (usually a politician) who just got caught in a sickening affair.  He points to that story and says that’s the Gospel.  I pray I can show him otherwise.

Please pray for Mr. NYT!  Pray for me to cling bravely to the power of the Gospel, and send those seeds out wherever they land, believing in their power to divide soul and spirit.

I am not ashamed—Lord help my shame!

July 16, 2009

The Upside

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 5:03 pm by Tamara

http://www.comune.venezia.it/flex/images/Gallery/D.d7d119dc8f79a29fd98a/Quaderno_a_112_folgi_in_formato_A5_o_A6___112_page_blank_book_in_A5_and_A6_formats.jpg

I’ve written about a lot of the struggles of my current “blank page between chapters” (as my friend and mentor Natalie called this stage in life). I think I’m drawn to write about struggles because I like wrestling with them and trying to learn from them. But there have been a lot of enjoyable things about being in a time of limbo. Here’s a few (in no particular order):

I commented to my mother-in-law the other day that I’ve never been so available to help out with random things. I think in the midst of all the business and the drive-to-accomplish that I usually thrive on, I’ve lost a lot of my sense of compassion. I’ve learned (pretty well) how to guard my time, “saying no so that I can say yes to other things,” but that’s meant that I’ve said no to a LOT of unexpected, practical needs the people around me have. But suddenly I have very little reason to say no! The result has been helping with a lot of things I usually just wouldn’t have the time (or the compassion?) to help with. Helping several friends pack, clean, paint, move, etc, for example. I’m currently pet-sitting one fish, two birds, and a cat, for another example. I’m surprised I haven’t been babysitting. Anyone need a babysitter?

It’s nice to have so much time to be in the Word and in prayer, and no excuse not to be. Granted, I should probably be spending MORE time in the Word, but I’ve enjoyed having more time than usual. I would think that down time would naturally increase the amount of time I spend with God, but it doesn’t always. Sometimes knowing I have “all day” to get around to Bible study means I never get around to it. But I’ve determined not to let that happen, and it’s been nice. I’ve been reading in the Old Testament, which I don’t do as often as I should. I’ve just felt a drive to understand GOD better—how He works, what He does, how He acts/reacts to things, etc., so that drove me to the Old Testament. Another perk of where I’ve been reading is that they’re stories, which draws me to want to read just one more chapter…. There are so many things God does in those stories that I don’t understand. I want to know Him better.

I get a massive thrill of exhilaration when I see my list of “Books I’ve Read This Year” grow, and there’s been a significant growth spurt lately. I just finished Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace by the Ricucci’s, Holy Available by Gary Thomas, Emma by Austen and The Enclave by Karen Hancock. Now I’m reading Glocalization by Roberts, Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible by Farah and Braun, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Scazzero, Plot by Dibel and Romans Verse by Verse by Newell. Plenty to keep my head spinning.

I also just accepted an internship at my church! That’s pretty exciting. My job at the moment is to research how to connect and involve women in missions, even if they can’t go overseas themselves. I’m supposed to have a proposal of ideas ready to present to the church in September. It’s a very exciting opportunity! I welcome any practical ideas you might have. How do you help people catch the vision for missions AND get involved in it?

And last but not least, have you noticed my proliferation of blog posts? You may consider that a blessing or a curse. Not sure which….