Thursday, September 6, 2012

Give Up, Get Outta The Way!

Something remarkable happened when I gave up. I guess I didn't actually give up, I just gave it over.

For those of you who have endured the "summer of my discontent" you know exactly what I am talking about. I have been extremely discouraged with the lack of apparent movement and provision in regard to "The Rhyme and Reason Series."

Last year I realized my former publicist embezzled so much money he nearly bankrupted the ministry. It was devastating in more ways than I can count, but one of the primary ones was that I no longer had the money to move forward to get "Exodus" to press.

A huge and timely LifeWay order gave me enough money to move forward--or--pay back a $10,000 loan that allowed me to launch the series with the release of "Genesis."  After much wrestling in prayer I felt sure the Lord would have me pay back the loan and be debt free. I trusted that provision would come as I was obedient to what the Lord asked me to do. I was pretty sure He was so happy with me that it would come soon! And so I waited. And waited. And grew discouraged. And pouted. And whined. When that didn't work, I got mad. But that didn't work either.

So I did the only reasonable thing I could think of: I took matters into my own hands! I sent out letters of support to people who have contributed to the ministry in the past and got one response. Then I asked a woman (at another woman's suggestion) if she might consider hosting a fundraiser for me like a friend did to launch the ministry. I'm pretty sure I freaked her out.

In desperation, and out of other ideas, I gave up. Or, like I said, I gave it over. "Lord," I prayed, "This series is Yours. It's always been Yours. It will always be Yours. My job is to trust You. Your job is to provide what I need when You are ready."I turned the whole thing over to Him and resolved to wait on Him for as long as it took. Because I had tried so hard in my own strength, I asked that when He finally moved, He'd do it in such a way there could be no doubt it was Him.

Meanwhile, on July 4th, a woman in the US Virgin Islands was channel surfing on her day off and came across a rerun of a television interview I had done some months before. She wrote down my web address and ordered a copy of "Genesis." After she received it she sent an e-mail asking if I'd be willing to chat  with her about a children's series she has in mind. Of course I was! We arranged a time for her to call.

She told me she cried when she read "Genesis" because of the creativity and obvious hand of the Lord behind it. She told me she had a heart for the Lord and for children and wanted me to help her figure out how she might get her series published. We talked for well over an hour. At one point she asked me why the next book in the series wasn't out yet and what I needed to make it happen. "Money!" I said, "So if you happen to have an extra $10,000 laying around, let me know!"  Silence.  "I'm kidding," I assured her. "That was a joke!"  She laughed.

We talked some more and then finally she paused and said, "Actually, I do have an extra $10,000 laying around." I nearly fainted. I had no idea what to say but we agreed to both pray about it.

A few days later she e-mailed me and told me she felt sure the Lord wanted her to sow into Rhyme and Reason Ministries and that He would have her donate the money to get "Exodus" to press!

I'm still in shock. But God moved the minute I gave it over and answered my prayer that I'd know it came directly from Him in a most mind-boggling way!

So now it's your turn. Was there a time in your life where the Lord did something for you after you gave over. Or are you in the process of giving over to Him now so He can show off on your behalf--and move?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Jaw-Dropping Perspective Shift

I just read something shocking and I want to share it with you. I have no doubt you will find it as fascinating as I did, and that it will change your perspective as it changed mine.  I'm not sure who gathered this information, so I don't know whom to credit or I would happily do so.  Here goes.

If you could fit the entire population of the world into a village consisting of 100 people, maintaining the proportions of all the people living on the Earth, that village would be made up of:

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 Americans (North, Central and South)
8 Africans

There would be:

52 women and 48 men
30 Caucasians and 70 non-Caucasians
30 Christians and 70 non-Christians
89 heterosexuals and 11 homosexuals

6 people would possess 59% of the wealth and they would all come from the USA
80 would be in poverty
70 would be illiterate
50 would suffer from hunger and malnutrition
1 would be dying
1 would be being born
1 would own a computer
1 (yes, only one) would have a university degree

Consider the following:

If you woke up this morning in good health, you are better off than the one million people who won't live through the week.

If you have never experienced the horror of war, the solitude of prison, the pain of torture, are not close to death or starvation, then you are better off than 500 million people.

If you can go to your place of worship without fear that someone will assault or kill you, then you are more fortunate than 3 billion people.

If you have a full fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are wealthier than 75% of the world's population.

If you currently have money in the bank, in your wallet and a few coins in your purse, you are one of 8 of the privileged few among the 100 people in the world.

If your parents are still alive and still married, you are a rare individual.

If you can read this post, you are extremely fortunate because you aren't one of the 2 billion people who can't read.

Amazing stuff, isn't it? My question for you is how has this information changed your perspective. Please be sure and leave me a comment. I'm genuinely curious.  Thanks!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

It's Deja Vu All Over Again!

It's been a few years ago now, but before the first book in "The Rhyme and Reason Series" came out, I was feeling very frustrated with how long it was taking for everything to come together so my vision could become a reality. There were a few times when I was tempted to take matters into my own hands and self-publish, or put out an audio book.  Something! Anything!  Each time I would make a move, the Lord would say to me, "Catherine, if you will not get ahead of Me, if you will not take matters into your own hands, if you will not give birth to an Ishmael, I will give you an Isaac."

I can't tell you how many times that caution kept me waiting on Him and trusting Him to move.  And eventually, He did exactly that. It was worth the wait after all.  The books are all I had hoped they would be and people's response to them have proven to be everything I had dared to hope.

During all the waiting I had innocently but foolishly assumed that getting the first book published would be the hardest part of the journey and that everything after that would be relatively easy. What I learned instead after climbing that first mountain and looking out from its peak--was that there was an entire mountain range stretching out before me! It was genuinely shocking to me to realize this journey was never going to be an easy one--even with the Lord in it!

I am irritated to find myself in the same position of frustration I was in with the first book as I wait for the Lord to provide the means for the series to continue. It's been two years since "Matthew" came out. I thought for sure I'd have 4-6 more books out by this point. It's been extremely difficult to figure out exactly what the Lord is doing and why He seems to be procrastinating again!

The good news is I have no choice but to wait on Him. I can't move forward on my own or, knowing me, I probably would! But I am reminded of His past faithfulness and resting in the fact that He always finishes what He starts--whether that involves my sanctification or the series.

And so I wait. And even though I am eager for provision and movement, I don't wait as one with no hope. I wait with confidence that God is in this and He is ever faithful. He moves according to His time table and not mine. He always has, He always will. Perhaps the lesson is learning to be grateful for  what He has already done and have faith for what He is yet to do.

I just wish I knew if learning it would move things forward again!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Careful What You Pray For

Everything about my life seems to go in spurts. I reread, for the 647th time, "Destined For the Throne" by Paul E. Billheimer.  It reignited a deep yearning within me to go to greater depths in my walk with the Lord, as it always does which is why, even though I have books stacked everywhere and my reading list is a mile long, I reread that book often. I spent several days worth of my prayer time pouring my heart out to the Lord, telling Him how much I want to know Him, how desperately I want to come to a place of such surrender and obedience that His life in me is evident to everyone I encounter. I declared my singular allegiance. And I meant every word of it.

I guess I sort of expected accolades from heaven, answers to my prayers, or revelation from the Word.  Instead, all hell broke loose.

I can't even describe it.  Multiplied frustrations. Staggering disappointments. Someone closest to me saying something that devastated me. That pesky negative thinking cycle. All of it left me feeling downright depressed, discouraged and demoralized.

It's really been a hard few weeks. And there is no end in sight. After spending days in the "poor, poor, pitiful me" cycle, it was like the Lord shook me and said, "You need to stop moping. I'm just answering your prayer."  

"What?!" I yelled in my head, "I want to be close to You, not frustrated and demoralized wondering where You are when I have such passion to know You!"

But suddenly, everything started to make sense. The way we draw close to the Lord is through trials! The way we learn to trust Him is by clinging to Him! The way our faith grows is by having to exercise it!  The way we surrender is by acknowledging our own inadequacies. And I realized the Lord was only allowing opportunities for me to do just that. Draw close, pour my heart out, exercise faith. Trust Him despite the circumstances. Realize how poor is spirit I truly am. Cling to the truth and not the lies.

At that point all I could do was laugh! And give thanks. Thanks that He hears and answers my prayers. Thanks that He loves me enough to take me through hard stuff, confusing stuff, hurtful stuff so I can better learn the sufficiency of Christ in all things. Thanks that He is using this life to prepare me to rule and reign with Him throughout all eternity! From that perspective, everything looks much different. 

As someone much wiser than me once said, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  James 1:2-4

The Message puts it this way: "Consider it a sheer gift, my friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so that you are mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."

Amen. Thank you Lord, for loving me enough to grow me up in You.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

These Three

"But now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Cor. 13:13

Fatih, according to the timeless wisdom and relevance of the Bible, is defined in Hebrews 11:1 as the confident assurance that the things we hope for will actually come to pass. Other translations are a little more poetic, but the essential truth is that faith is an unwavering belief in Jehovah God and a firm confidence in His fidelity to His promises. It is the essential component to any serious endeavor to live a Christian life. By faith we are saved, thus instigating the journey. It's the starting point of a transformed life for those who embark on an eternal relationship with the invisible God. Faith is the conduit--the connection--of the finite with the infinite.

Hope is the mechanism by which the connection is sustained. It is the part of us that is certain there is a God in heaven who can and does intervene in our circumstances and who has a purpose for our lives that continues into eternity. It is a gift from God that we can also give to one another. How good of God to let us join the fun! We can offer hope to one another, bear one another's burdens and, "comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Cor. 1:4) We are comforted and comfort others with the hope that God is at work and we have not been abandoned regardless of how bleak things might seem at a particular moment in time.

Interestingly, faith and hope are not eternal qualities, but essential tools for navigating life in a fallen world. They will be unnecessary in the world to come. The instant we see God face-to-face, our faith will be rewarded and our hope realized. And when they are, it will be more extraordinary than anything we can possibly imagine! What I like to call the eternal gasp of delight.

But love? Ah! Love is eternal! God is love and God is eternal, therefore our faith and hope will culminate in the unending and ecstatic enjoyment of Divine perfection and love. It's the greatest of the three because it is the perpetual and sine qua non (without which not) nature of God.

How magnificent of the Lord to give us all the tools we need to navigate a life of faith while we are "alive and remain," then sweep us into His heavenly home to dwell with Him forever in the bliss of perfect love and fellowship. One thing is sure: I will cling to faith and hope tenaciously in this life, but will gladly lay them down when it's my turn to enter the supreme satisfaction and rest of the eternal life to come.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Joy to the World" The Lord DID Come!

I have a friend who has a friend who is dying. She prayed to be healed, but instead, the Lord gave her a vision of a small, shallow, babbling brook and told her, "Dying is easier than crossing that stream." I can't shake the beauty and comfort of that thought.

When my Uncle Ned was dying, his son Bob asked him what it felt like to know he was going to die. He said he felt like a little boy getting on a bus that would take him to his grandmother's house. He had to ride the bus by himself, and that was a bit scary, but he knew that when he arrived at his destination, he would be sitting in his grandmother's kitchen eating chocolate chip cookies, and she made the best chocolate chip cookies in the world!

One of the greatest gifts the Lord gave me was an easy death for Jordan. Rather than eventually suffocating from the effects of bronciolitis obliterans, he simply never woke up after emergency surgery and instead of seeing our faces, he saw the Lord's!

It might seem odd to be writing about death on Christmas Eve, when most of us are preparing to celebrate a very significant birth. But unlike the rest of us who are born, that birth was all about a death. And that death would not be easy. It would be bloody and agonizing. It would be vile and painful--and it would be for all of us.

It would, for the first time in all eternity past and all eternity future, rip the Godhead apart and stagger the universe in an unprecedented display of atoning grace.

But that death would not be permanent. The power of God Himself would raise His Son Jesus from its cold grip and in that triumphant victory, overcome our final enemy on our behalf. At last, salvation had come to mankind!

At Christmas we celebrate the most significant of births. At Easter, we celebrate Christ's glorious resurrection. In between those two events are His life and His death. And for me, none of it can be separated. For without His birth, there would no substitutionary Life, and without His death there would be no resurrection.

I pray the significance of all that God has done on your behalf would resonate in your soul this Christmas and manifest itself in heart-felt worship to the King.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Home Away From Home

I went to get my nails done today, a fact that irritates my husband just as much as it delights my publicist who insists, "If you're going to sign books, your hands need to look as professional as the rest of you."

I went to the same place I always go, a shop just up the street from my house, owned, like most nail salons it seems, by a Vietnamese couple. Usually the wife does my nails but today her husband Tran had the honor.

After the requisite discussion about the relentless heat, he asked about my children, so after answering him, I returned the favor and asked about his. They have two, a son and daughter, both students at OU. I asked if they had been born in this country, and he said, "No Vietnam. But we left when the youngest was two." That was eighteen years ago.

I asked if they had been back since, and he said told me they'd only been back once because it is so expensive. I asked if he missed it and he replied with a most emphatic, emotional, "Oh yes! It's home."

It hit me hard. He has been in this country eighteen years. His children have no memories of their birth country, yet he has chosen to make a home away from his true home.

Immediately the verse in Hebrews 11:9-10 came to mind where it speaks of Abraham and says, "By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents...for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God."

And like Tran, we Christians also are making a home on earth away from our true home which is heaven. We live here. We build our lives here. But our true home, and the one we long for even more than Tran longs for Vietnam, is with our Father and Brother.

May our hearts yearn for that home, even as we go about living the gift that life is, and using that life to do things that will glorify God and last for eternity.

See you at the reunion.