Yesterday, we talked about how when we think God is silent it's usually because he's silent on the issue that we want addressed. The example was the disciples who asked Jesus if he was going to restore Israel and how Jesus never answered their question except to tell them it really wasn't their business. Yet, we did see that Jesus did say something, even gave them some very specific directions, the biggest being to wait.
Waiting is one of the hardest things we do.
The Bible gives us lots of examples of people who had to wait. Abraham waited for a son not very patiently. In fact, he got a little ahead of God and tried to make it happen on his own, which caused all kinds of problems. I have enough problems without causing any more, so I'm asking God to give me the strength to wait.
Today I wrote a letter that I believe was God-inspired. I was ready to hit send when it struck me that I should run it by my project partner. When I ran it by her and we prayed we both felt that the letter was good and should be sent...but not yet. I need to wait.
Whew! I almost jumped ahead of God once again.
Joseph was given a dream that he KNEW was from God. Yet he had to wait many many many many long years before the realization of that dream.
David was anointed king over Israel when he was quite young yet he had to ... you guessed it ... wait many many many many long years before that dream came to realization.
This morning I read something about that wait in Psalm 35 and guess what? He felt God was silent.
Verse 13 (NIV) says, "...When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother."
And then he goes on to tell of how his enemies were delighted to see him so cast down.
In verse 22 he says, "LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord."
So, it looks like we're in good company when we think God is silent and we find ourselves waiting for an answer or for some sign of the promise given so long ago.
Lettie Cowman, the author of "Streams in the Desert" went through a terrible time of God's silence and waiting following the death of her husband. In her words...
"Can there be a sorrow that others have borne,
Now breaking my heart--making night of my morn?
Alone in this sorrow, alone in this grief--
'Tis that breaks the spirit and blocks all relief.
Alone, midst the many; alone, when alone
With a loneness so deep that forbids e'en a moan."
With a heart so crushed by grief, Lettie doesn't even feel like doing what God has called her to do, so she doesn't. Instead, she waits. She has no sense of the Lord's presence. "With all her host of friends she feels utterly alone upon the earth. And such aloneness! Alone in the house, alone in the quiet time, alone in the Word, alone in the book shops, alone among friends, alone with the throng!"
There is Abraham sitting alone, an old man waiting for a child to begin a nation...
There is Joseph sitting in prison for a crime he did not commit, waiting for God...
There is David running for his life, waiting for God to come to his rescue...
There is Lettie struggling to find words and purpose, waiting for God...
There is me broken in body and clinging to a thin thread of hope regarding a promise given long ago, waiting for God...
There is you.........
Today I'm in the process of healing. I would dearly love to rush the process and get to the next stage, but that is not happening. Instead, I'm discovering that God has important lessons for me to learn through the healing process.
Lessons. I don't know about you, but the word "lessons" doesn't really bring great images to mind. I think of study and more study and drudgery, all the while hoping that the lessons will sink into my mind once and for all. Of course, they rarely do. Most of us feel fortunate to remember at least a portion of our lessons.
So maybe lessons isn't really a great term for what I'm in the midst of. Perhaps it's better to say that I'm learning something about God that I didn't know before, that there is an aspect of Creator Redeemer being revealed to me in a way I would never know without this process.
Okay, that's a bit better, but I'm still not liking the process. The process stops me in my tracks. It truly stopped me dead in the water when pain was in every heartbeat and nausea in every breath. The only word that came to mind was, "Help." And that was a weak plea for some kind of relief.
I knew God could touch me and heal me. Jesus did that often when he walked as a man on this earth. He does it often now, both in my own life and in the lives of others. But this time, he didn't reach out and take away the pain, though I begged him over and over and over.
It would be easy to think he didn't care. He, who said, "Who of you when your child begs for bread will give him a stone?"
I felt like I was getting just that...pun intended...for I had an enormous kidney stone and an infection so bad that it nearly burst my kidney. Of course, I didn't know the cause of the pain at the time, because I was in too much pain to make the hour trip to the doctor.
Satan was trying to take me out. I knew that for sure. But I also knew that he couldn't do any more to me than my Creator Redeemer would allow. So, though Satan meant it for my harm, God meant it for my good. Finding the good, then, seemed the important thing to do. But I couldn't even think about finding the good when all I could do was cry out in agony. I couldn't even recall a single scripture I had memorized. This lasted for ten days before I finally knew I had to get to a doctor.
So, what was the purpose in all that? Why was God so silent?
I'm not the first to ask that question. I'm sure you have asked it yourself about something going on in your own life. Why is God silent?
Is God really silent?
I suspect not. But our ability to hear him is often blocked.
Why do I say that? Because God does speak...all the time...in dreams, in visions, in His Word, through His creation.
This morning I began reading in the book of Acts. In chapter one, Luke is talking about how excited they all were to walk and talk and eat with Jesus for 40 days AFTER He died on the cross and rose again. During those days he talked with his disciples about the kingdom of God.
Wow! They were jazzed. Jesus was who they thought all along. The Messiah! The Warrior King! The One who would at last usher in a kingdom of peace! Their tomorrows were all sunny. They were with their Lord and King. They were on the winning side.
Then Jesus said something odd. He told them to wait.
Wait? Really? But I thought all the waiting was over. They had been waiting hundreds of years as a nation. And now these men and women had been waiting for several years. Jesus had just conquered death. What is this about waiting?
Then Jesus tells them they are waiting for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Oh, okay. That doesn't sound so bad. They could wait for that. But then, they ask him THE question.
"Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
Okay...it comes out as a question. But was it really? Kind of. Kind of not. Like many of our questions, I bet the disciples were so sure the answer was yes, that they didn't really expect any other answer.
Jesus does not say, "yes," and he does not say, "no."
But still...he did not say no. So, you know as well as I do that at least some of those guys, maybe all, were absolutely convinced Jesus was going to restore the kingdom to Israel. Yay Jesus!
Now, before we go much further, it's important to note that Jesus DID say something. He told them that it wasn't really any of their business to know the time of restoration. But that kind of gets lost as he goes on to tell them that they're going to receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them.
Hey! Power! Now, that's something worth waiting for. And it's not too far a stretch to think that some of the disciples, maybe all, were standing there thinking that the power would enable them to restore the kingdom. Because, you see, that was what was on their minds. The kingdom and its restoration. That was their whole goal in life.
But then Jesus gives them the real goal. The power was going to enable them to be his witnesses. And he even tells them where: in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. They are to make disciples of all nations.
Now, they were so intent on Jesus restoring the kingdom that they may have missed this great commission except that something very strange happened. Jesus was taken up in the sky before their very eyes!
"They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going..."
Can't you just see this? You're watching him go, up and up and up until you can barely see him and then a cloud hides him from sight and you're still looking, thinking he'll come back at any moment and wondering if you can believe what your eyes saw. And then two men dressed in white say, "Why do you stand here looking into the sky?"
Why are we standing here looking into the sky?
Isn't that exactly what we're doing when we say God is silent?
I recently gave a challenge to one of my students and myself…”Let’s write a book that will sell,” I said.
You may think, “Well, duh,” but the truth is most of us first-time book writers don’t stop to think whether our book will sell or not, we simply write the book that’s burning inside us. We attend writers conferences and read blogs by editors that tell us to “write the book of our passion,” so we think we are doing just that by writing that burning book.
After writing a few books of my passion that might sell AFTER I’m published but will be a hard FIRST sell, I took a new look at what I was doing and why I was doing it.
1. Why do we write the books of our passion? Is it because we are passionate about the subject? Is it because we are passionate about the meaning behind the story? Is it because we are passionate about our characters? Is it because we’ve been told that’s what we need to do?
Now, ask yourself if there are other subjects, meanings, characters that you might ALSO be passionate about. I suspect there are.
What I have discovered is that I can take a good subject and characters and the deeper meaning will come through naturally. It’s not so much because of the subject matter, it’s because of who I am as a writer. My passions and beliefs will always come through in some way in any story I write. There is no need for me to hammer it in.
2. What kind of books do you like to read? What genre? Are you writing in that genre?
If you are not writing the kind of books you like to read, ask yourself why. I like to read supernatural suspense, but that wasn’t what I was writing. When I asked myself why, I discovered it was mainly because I was chicken. I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. So, I was trying to take the easy way out by writing something that was more up my alley. Also, since I mainly write in the Christian market I was trying to avoid a genre that isn’t as well accepted in that market.
I read an average of four books a week (some of them are books on tape), and a lot of them are supernatural suspense, so why on earth didn’t I think I could write that genre?
As far as not selling well in the Christian market…I have long suspected that any great book will make it through the channels. And isn’t it easier to write the GREAT book if you are writing the genre you most love?
So, in trying to take the easy way out, I found myself having to work harder and do a lot of fixing and not getting very much return for all my hard work. Doesn’t sound like such an easy way after all, does it? But I don’t regret all that hard work, because it grew me as a writer and I may yet do something with all those first efforts.
So, now I’ve chosen the genre I like to read…supernatural suspense. And I’ve chosen some characters and a setting that I think will be interesting to others (keeping that secret for now). The plus is that I’m quite familiar with the culture and setting of my characters, so that cuts out a bit of research and also gives me an edge as someone with some kind of authority to write about these characters and setting. That will look nice in my proposal.
Now, I’ve placed myself way ahead of the game in writing a book that will sell:
1. I’ve chosen a genre that works and that I’m familiar with.
2. I’ve chosen an interesting setting and culture.
3. I’ve chosen interesting characters.
This is just the beginning of getting ready to write a book that will sell, but I think it’s enough to think about today. My next post will cover the next step.
1. In looking at the three things above, don’t worry if you’ve chosen an interesting setting and/or culture that you know little about. You can cover that with good research and interviews.
2. If you are concerned whether you have the skills to write your favorite genre, then head to some of your favorite author’s blogs, pick up some good reference books, and take some classes. This is a skill you can learn. And, of course, one of the best things is to read a lot of books in your chosen genre. See what works and what doesn’t.
3. Choosing interesting characters is a bit more difficult. I’ve discovered that writers choose their characters in many different ways. I see my characters in my mind long before I write them down. I don’t make character charts first, instead, I learn about my character and fill out the chart as I go, referencing it as needed. This is an “intuitive” way of working and is how I’ve discovered most character-driven novels are written…at least, that’s how my favorite authors write.
I’ve also discovered that some of my students who fill out long character charts, give their characters jobs and backgrounds that don’t work with the character after the story moves along. I end up being the one to tell them that they have their character doing something they would never do. Ha!
If you have trouble with choosing characters at this point, don’t worry too much about it. My next post will give you more insight on how to SEE your characters more clearly.
Until then, have fun thinking of a genre, setting and culture that would be a fun write that others would like to read about.
Most of you seldom leave comments, but I would love to hear from you regarding how this process goes for you or if you have a different way of developing characters. We’re all in this together. Different methods work for different writers and sometimes a combination of several suddenly clicks.
Regarding the photos…
As usual my photos have nothing to do with what I’m writing about. They are simply a slice of my forest life. Today’s grouping shows the saga of a poor rose. My squirrel had some nerve to eat that thing right in front of me!
I loved this little book! The Noticer
tells the story of broken people in the small town of Orange Beach, Alabama and of their meeting with a man named Jones who teaches each of them how to view life from a new perspective.
He explains that he has been given a gift of noticing things that others miss. "Your time on this earth is a gift to be used wisely," he says. "Don't squander your words or your thoughts. Consider even the simplest action you take, for your lives matter beyond measure…and they matter forever."
The mystery of Jones kept me turning pages but I also kept a highlighter handy to mark the many treasures of wisdom scattered throughout the book. Here are just a few: “…a person could lose everything, chasing nothing.” Pg 49 “It’s time to stop letting your history control your destiny.” Pg 51 “Worry is focus! But it is focus on the wrong things.” Pg 56 “Many of life’s treasures remain hidden from us simply because we never search for them.” Pg 83
Through this delightful story I learned how to better love some of my friends; how to change a small area of my life to make things easier for others and myself, and gained hope that my life still has value.
There’s a wonderful reader’s guide in the back of the book. I rarely use these, but this one is awesome. It left me with a new regard for the life I yet have to live and for the people who cross my path. The Noticer
is a great book, and I will recommend it to many, but I will also give a bit of caution. For many people, it could be quite frustrating to live out this kind of life without the power of the Holy Spirit. And for those who are able to do it on their own, they face the danger of thinking they may have earned something from God.
While reading this book, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that salvation is a free gift. We cannot earn it. None of us deserve it. But for those who accept it, taking on the perspectives found in The Noticer
is a good way of showing their thanks and gratitude to God.
I can't believe it's almost time for the best art conference ever!
If you are anywhere near or can take a plane, train, or any kind of transportation to get here, you really don't want to miss this.
Check it out at Masterpiece Christian Artist Conference.
Hope to see you there!
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