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Breaking Bud – A Roguish Spring

KATHY JOY, AUTHOR, EDITOR, MESSIAH COLLEGE ALUMNI

You’re likely familiar with “Breaking Bad”, the TV series about a chemistry teacher desperate to secure his family’s financial future, after his devastating cancer diagnosis. Facing the reality of death does funny things to people.

Find a Singing Spring Gift Book here. A Breath of Joy

Even if you’ve never watched Breaking Bad, apparently most of America has. The series quickly became a national sensation and rendered a new buzzword, “breaking bad” for when someone good suddenly changed character.

If “breaking bad” is slang for “defying expectations” then “breaking bud” is a crisp turnofphrase for “just kidding, the weather has a mind of its own”. Out of the brown and crinkled tan shades of left-over winter, buds are due. The milk of flowers is already rising through pale green rose stems.

Fine, with this springtime tease, we’ll don a warm jacket today, a light sweater tomorrow, carry a pair of boots in the car for just–in–case.

Spring waltzes in sideways, full of bluster and drizzle, followed by little sunny intervals of calm. Throw in a late snow squall for good measure, and you have springtime in Northwest Pennsylvania: Unpredictable, moody, playful, and perplexing. But we always tolerate the irregularities of spring because it holds promises: Birds returning, leaves unfurling, windows are thrown open to let in the breeze.

We’re starting to hear the spring peepers, those tiny chorus frogs that give us loud concerts every night for a fortnight. The early flowers are already pushing through soil, declaring forgiveness for winter’s icy grip. Something shifts in the air. There’s a mix of earthy smells, a giddy kick of anticipation.In spite of all the challenges we’ve endured, there is this one thing: Spring is “breaking bud”.

I had the honor of proofreading the book, BEING CREATIVE, by Laura Bartnick this spring. Her thoughts on creativity simply jibe with my feelings about springtime’s empowerment. I’m declaring new explorations this year. Did you know. . .

God calls all of His creation His servants, because He has a purpose for our existence. He is the Re-namer, and Redeemer, and Re-purposer. When we walk with the LORD, the possibilities are endless. We can search for Him—though He is not far from any of us. Coming closer to our Creator, we can accept His call to be cunning and skillful. We can even become His friend.

“Anything can become the next exploration. Even those creatives who want nothing to do with being a child of God often find their best material in Scripture and in the church. God can use the imagination of anyone to teach us.

“Your own skill is a learned thing. Wisdom takes time. You may not yet understand this when you begin to write about a tragedy causing a family to become displaced, all their treasures to be lost. What you are really going to discover and write about is the greater gift of creativity from loss, the value of new relationships, and community—finding other treasures in hidden places. This story may require much prayer, wrestling with God for the blessing, and many edits to test and strengthen the wings.”

Spring is going forward and gathering steam, hurtling headlong into backyard picnics, flip-flops, beach time and road trips.

There are ten little rules of creativity listed at the end of each chapter in BEING CREATIVE. There is also the suggestion to keep a journal nearby.  I have practiced this invitation of capturing the wonder of my days, of God’s creative invitations to life in my own way. This is where the gift book series, BREATH OF JOY, was budded and flounced. SINGING SPRING announces this season of life burgeoning from death. It celebrates wonder with yellow daffodils, with purple lilacs, and with perfuming pink hyacinths.

Crops are going in this spring, and before we know it there will be rows and rows of sweet corn. That’s what I love about seasons. They simply show up. Regular as a heartbeat, as welcome as the friend you haven’t seen in quite a long time. Springtime is roguish, breaking bud and being mischievous in all the best ways.

I found one of my favorite quotes in chapter four of BEING CREATIVE:

Experience allows us to follow the dots into the unknown. We learn from intersecting paths along the way. We learn to improvise.”

I just love this! I want to lift it out, highlight it, then repeat it for emphasis!

Unconcerned about vaccines, politics or March Madness, the season is a joyful riot of mud puddles and sudden bursts of color, chasing away the landscape’s last edges of grays and browns.

Happy Spring, ya’ll !

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Using the Psalms as Prayers

By L. L. Larkins, author of the Psalm Hymns series

I’m one of those pray-without-thinking-too-much-about-it sort of people.

I pray about parking spaces.  I walk around the lake near our home and just talk to God about the birds and turtles, the sunrise and sunset, about family struggles and many, many things. Often, the welling up of joy and surprises in nature and certain wonders of those who pass by me or walk near me make me cry in praises and gratitude.

I thank God for this and that.  I wrestle with God in tears about people and issues, and my wants and needs. Sometimes beautiful poetry will come to me in that space. I wonder if walking with the Lord is simply talking to Him about everything and listening closely enough to follow as He talks back to us.

It’s the week of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

When I was struggling in a really dark spot in my life, the Psalms became deep wells of teaching for me. Once, when I was apologizing to the Lord for dragging Him through the mud and cow patties with me, sorry for bringing down His holy name to such a low level, I saw an image of him sitting next to me in a mud puddle, cross-legged, and grinning at me with a missing tooth. Half naked, and smeared with something disgusting, he said so very gently, “I’ve been dragged through much worse. You think I’m afraid of sitting with you in this mess? There’s nothing you can do to me that hasn’t been done before.”

In meditation and prayer in the Psalms, I began to understand what people had prayed for years ago when they were betrayed or when they had experienced insufferable losses, or when they suffered in post-trauma over their sins or others sins against them. That was when I began setting the five books of biblical Psalms to music that I could sing and remember.

Many of the Psalm Hymns are praises as we know and understand them to be, with the power to lift our minds out of our circumstances and place them on the Lord.  But, in addition to these types of Psalms, there are those that offer experiences of grief, pleas to God as to a doctor or a priest or a king, someone who has the power and credentials to save us.

Psalms also include some moments of pedantic teaching to engage our minds even more than our emotions. Each of these Psalms also offers some striking spiritual landmarks for life. A way to get up and go forward in trust and faith.

Psalm 78 starts out this way, sung to the tune: On Jordan’s Stormy Banks (Bound for the Promised Land)

My people, hear my words of teaching;

Listen to my words.

I begin with a parable of old

And will speak to the hidden yore, —

These are things our people have heard and known,

They are things ancestors told.

Should we try to hide them from our own

Descendants, who need to know?

Psalms can be specified as prayers to God.

But, because praying is also a communal form of conversation, the Psalms are definitely bright bits of meditation and self-talk. They were given to God’s people for the purpose of spiritual reasoning with one’s self, self-counsel. So, in that way, it is a means of God praying back to our hearts and minds and will. The Psalms are truly a two-way conversation with the Lord.

The words of this Psalm 78 informs me that there are hidden treasures and parables in the Psalms and in the stories of our spiritual ancestors that we need to know and we need to pass along to our littles and our teens asking those deep questions.

Moses wrote Psalm 91, which for all the seriousness of Moses’ reflection, I have aligned with the Doxology.  Most of the Psalms were written by King David, or by someone, a scribe in his court maybe, so it was interesting to me to get a King’s take on God’s law when people where saying law makes no difference to a walk of faith. I really struggled, you know, with what I believed about law and whether following the ten commandments was legalism. Through the Psalm Hymns, an understanding about God’s heart for how the commandments offer healthy limits, and a healthy community was forged.

The law wasn’t a mode to salvation, but it was a mode to loving one’s neighbor, a mode to justice and mercy and self-restraint, a mode to honoring our Maker.

A verse of Psalm 119 about the value of the law sung to the tune: Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine

O, that I sought You in Your commands!

Shame would release its hold of my hand.

I would have praised Your judgments in all;

I would have seen You, righteous for all.

You rule uprightly; this I discern!

Now I observe Your statutes and learn;

Oh, do not leave me, LORD, take my hand!

Do not forsake me!  LORD, help me stand.

There are Psalms that recount how the waters were separated from parts of the earth and put into boundaries, like in Psalm 24, or Psalm 104. Here is a verse of Psalm 24 sung to the hymn, At Calvary (It starts out, “Years I spent in vanity and pride. . .” did you ever sing that one in church?)

All the fullness of the earth begun,

Land and spaciousness for everyone,

All of it including what may come:

It is the Lord’s!

For He founded it upon the seas, drawing limits,

Drawing floods and springs.

Who shall come to Him, ascend His hill?

It is the Lord’s!

A verse of Psalm 104 talks about this, too, sung to the great hymn by Isaac Watts, I Sing The Mighty Power of God. 

You covered earth with waters deep

As with a garment drenched;

Above the mountain heights they stayed.

Rebuked, the seas retrench;

As voices of Your thunder played,

They hastened to their place!

Now, far away they rest in pools

And valleys where they stay.

These Psalms are wonderful teaching tools for a Bible study or a music ensemble because when the words of scripture are combined with music, our spirits soar to the heights in mysterious ways, and with the soaring of a spirit comes questions and mysteries to talk about and pray about.

One music group used the Caroling Through the Psalms book during Advent season. 

They spent the summer arranging and building parts and solos, and in the season before Christmas, they sang on the mall, at retirement homes, and in churches in their community. It was a life-changing experience to anchor their modern holiday experiences in the past prayers and testimonies of others.

God as my judge, and our judge — so often prayed to in this capacity in the Psalms, reminds me to expect justice and mercy from Him, but there is more! Did you know there is a Psalm written specifically to judges who do not judge righteously? Here is the first verse of Psalm 82 sung to The Battle Hymn of the Republic (and it only gets better).

Standing in the great assembly,

God presides and takes His place;

He is rendering His judgment

To the gods of earth’s dismay.

His decree begins by reasoning:

“How long have you displaced

The weak and fatherless?”

God presides to judge the jurists;

Earth is trembling in her footsteps;

God inherits all the nations.

Our God is over all!

To bolster confidence in depression, Psalm 27 centers me every time I sing it and amazingly, I can sing it to several tunes! Immortal, Invisible works brilliantly. Any version of Away in a Manger works wonderfully, and I will reserve the best tune in a minor key as listed in Caroling Through the Psalms.

Caroling Through the Psalms

 

The Lord is my Light and my constant Estate!
Then whom shall I fear when His Stronghold is safe?
Though evil advances against me for ill
To slander, devour me all will be well.

My rivals and enemies stumble and fall.
Though armies besiege me, I fear none at all;
Though warriors may shake down a valiant defense,
Then yes, God alone is my sheer confidence.

This one thing I seek and I ask from the Lord,
To hold my insurance for life at the Source
To gaze on His beauty to seek His embrace
For here in my trouble He will keep me safe.

Another Psalm to reach into the core of my heart and pull out the dark secrets of worry and doubt is Psalm 139. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  I praise God every time I sing Psalm 139, and I can sing it now to the tune Open My Eyes that I May See this way.

What if I ride the wings of dawn?
What if I move to seas beyond?
Yet, even there your power abides—
and there your hand will be my guide.
What if I isolate in gloom?
begging the night to be my womb—
Yet, even there Your Presence shines!

Where shall I hide?

You made the inward parts of me—
You know my body’s mysteries.
Knitted my limbs in my mother’s womb—
Wonders performed, there’s none like You!
Your workmanship is marvelous—
Deep in my soul, I know it is!
No-one knows how You wove my frame—

Physics of God!

I can also sing this Psalm to the rollicking favorite of old town Christians, Wonderful Grace of Jesus, which Psalm 139 is also arranged for in Book Five of the Psalm Hymns.

When you worry about the power and legacy of evil people who seem to cheat death, Psalm 49 explains the path of these financial estates and those who follow the words of evil counsel, there is a Psalm for that. Sing it to the tune, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.

Hear this, all nations of the world;
You great and small in heart,
You rich and poor together hear
My wisdom on the harp!
My meditation shall be clear as understanding prose:
The proverb and the riddle sing
As I explain them both:

Why should I fear when danger comes

Confounded enemies,
The ones who put their trust in wealth

And boast iniquities?
For no one’s assets can redeem

The price of human life;

Each costly soul is ransomed by

Our God who sets its price.

 

What could we pay that God would trade

To let us out-live time?

Immortal like, enjoying life

In rich estates sublime?
For one can see that wise ones die,
And fools, they all pass away.
They leave their wealth to other hands.
Their homes become their graves.

Estates are named to flatter pride

Of pompous heirs below

But generations pass on by
Those silent wealthy bones.

Despite one’s wealth, the flesh won’t last;
For humans die like herds;

There goes the path of the arrogant,
And those who follow their words.

In Book Five, you will find the Pilgrim Psalms, the Psalms of Ascent for tours to the Holy Land. But in each and every book, you will find Psalms that are simple prayers and pleas to the Lord for help and rescue.  Like Psalm 88.  It can be sung to Lord, Plant My Feet On Higher Ground (I’m Pressing on the Upward Way.)

You are my Lord, the God Who saves;
You rescue when I cry in faith.
Oh, hear another prayer to You;
Oh, turn toward my anguished soul.

I’m overwhelmed with troubles, Lord;
See how my breath in whispers pours.
They’ve counted me among the dead;
And lacking strength, my friends have fled.

One of my favorite praise Psalms in Psalm 147, sung to the tune, Wonderful Love of Jesus! (When We All Get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!). If you have difficulties remembering these old hymn tunes, you can look them up on YouTube or in Hymnary.org. Here is a link for this song. https://hymnary.org/text/sing_the_wondrous_love_of_jesus_sing_his

Praise the LORD! O Praise the LORD from heaven!

Praise Him from the bluing atmosphere!

All His angels—hosts of armies—praise him!

Praise Him far and near!

Praise the LORD—sun and moon and all you

Twinkling starry crowns!

Praise the LORD! Every vapor—

Every particle, resound!

 

Let His creatures everywhere give praise—

For their bodies and their very lives.

His command is their existence—placing

Each where it survives!

His decrees are forever; they will never

Overturn or end.

Praise the LORD from the earth, and

From the ocean depths ascend!

Finally, I will leave you with one of our most beloved songs of victory and praise, Psalm 150. 

It is sung to the old hymn, Love Lifted Me (I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore).

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

Celebrate God in might!

Praise Him for celestial power—

Praise Him for heaven’s gates!

In His sanctuary—praise—sounding the trumpet loud!

For His all-surpassing greatness—praise Him now!

Praise Him with strings, sweet melodies—

Praise Him with drums and bells— loud jubilance!

Praise Him with dance—pipes—will you praise?

Praise Him with the cymbals’ clashing—

Praise! Praise! Praise!

Indian woman an angel and a child
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Sharing Creativity is to Grow in His Gifts

By Jenny Fulton, author of Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye

Has God ever asked you to make a personal gifting or a private hobby public?

In many ways, this is a terrifying transition for a creative person. Before, creating something provided an inner joy; the only critic was yourself or the Gift Giver.

Princess Lillian’s Book Launch Activities! Find them here: https://www.facebook.com/events/274521184047823/?active_tab=discussion

I have numerous journals, each of which are personal and private. How could I bridge the gap between my writing for private process and writing for what others wanted?

To share a talent with others is to expose yourself – to open your vulnerability to another’s criticism, to discover how much you still need to learn and grow in your abilities.

It’s far easier to hoard such giftings in isolation. Yet, more often than not, God won’t allow us to keep them shut away indefinitely.

I was teaching in China when God asked, urged, and encouraged me to start writing for more than myself. His first prodding came through a friend.

She speaks softly and listens loudly

Lara was another American teacher at the school. She possesses a quiet and gentle spirit, a trustworthy one, a daydreaming one.  We formed an instant connection; I somehow knew she was a creative before she verified it with words. Our time together included playing our guitars, engaging in deep conversations, and talking about writing.

She was one of the first people with whom I shared the fulness of my passion for this art.

One day, we were sitting in her apartment, talking about our secret hobbies. “You know,” she said, “I was just reading this book, The Soul Tells a Story, by Vinita Hampton Wright. She talks about writing and creativity going hand-in-hand with spirituality and encourages people to say, ‘yes’ to their God-given gifts. You can read it when I’m finished.”

I did. As I read, a long-held dream crept from its world of silence and impossibility into the realm of light and reality.

What if my desire to write wasn’t temporary?

What if it wasn’t meant to remain a side-hobby or a means by which to communicate newsletters, but was given to me by God to be used for Him to His glory?

What if my dreams to write and be published didn’t just belong to me, but were a reflection of His dreams for me?

It’s been quite a winding journey from that time to the present where my book, Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye is now offered in audiobook for your listening pleasure.

Faith writing

Soon after this conversation, Lara introduced me to Faithwriters.com, an online writing site for Christians. For the first time, I put my heart and stories on display to be read and critiqued by strangers who had no knowledge or context for the person behind the words. I didn’t know where it would lead or how God would use it; I only knew I must obey – I could no longer ignore the desperate call within me.

In 2008, I submitted my first fictional story, Chang Chang’s Hope, to the lowest level of the Faithwriters weekly writing challenge. Then I waited in terrified expectation for people to post their comments.

People really liked it! The judges liked it and gave it a 2nd place ranking in its level.

My next entry, More Than a Yearly Journey, was an autobiographical one. It caught the attention of the site managers who featured it on the Front-Page Showcase.

While I certainly seemed to be off to a good start, I knew my skills needed to develop. But maybe, with time, instruction, and practice, I could really do this writing thing.

These initial successes persuaded me to be more intentional about learning the craft. To this end, I read the highest-ranked stories and tried to pinpoint what made them so good. I studied writing lessons on the site and tried to incorporate those skills into my entries.

Sometimes my pieces connected well with the readers. Other times they didn’t

Regardless of whether my writing connected well with others, I was learning, improving, and gaining insight into where my strengths and weaknesses lay.

After several months of sharing online, I gathered my courage and tentatively offered to write the devotionals for an upcoming youth retreat. Offering, writing, and sharing God’s gifting to me in this form was far scarier than posting online. Exposing my heart to strangers was one thing; revealing it to those I knew was another.

Although the devotionals were presented as anonymous, I was able to gain some encouraging feedback.

These occasions to share made a few things very clear.

  1. My desire to write wasn’t temporary.
  2. The enjoyment and ability to write had been given to me by God to be used for Him to His glory.
  3. My dreams to write and be published were a reflection of God’s dreams for me.

“Lord,” I prayed. “I entrust this writing, this interest and ability, to You as something You want me to continue to develop and use for Your glory. I’m not sure to what extent, but I do know that I will follow Your lead in this and seek any opportunities You may have for me. For whatever reason, and to whatever extent, You have, among other things, made me a writer. To You belong the details.”

Life Happens in The Details

I continued posting short stories online for the next five years. Life changed drastically in that time, but the commitment to write held steady. In 2010, I moved back to the U. S. Two years later, I was married, and a year after that, I gave birth to my first daughter.

In 2014, when my daughter was a year old, I left teaching to become a stay-at-home mom.

The dream and dedication to writing continued. With my husband’s encouragement, I pursued a few freelance writing jobs. One of them landed me a contact as a ghostwriter for a young adult fantasy novel. That book was published in 2016.

This past year, in July 2020, I came across Laura Bartnick with Capture Books. After a few months of communicating back and forth about a couple of writing projects, she offered me a contract to publish my first picture book. Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye was released on March 10, 2021, with paperback and hardback versions as well as ebook versions.

Timing for this release thrills me because the book is now available for comfort and hope around the Easter holiday because the theme of Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye is eternal life after death.

Encouragement from the Word

In 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks much about the giftings of the Holy Spirit. Although writing or other artistic endeavors aren’t specifically mentioned, the manifestation of the Spirit is. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.[1]” The expression of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is meant for the common good.

Many times, God’s gifts aren’t given for the benefit of the receiver alone and aren’t meant solely for personal use and gratification. Instead, He often grants us skills and abilities so that we may use them to help others.

Matthew 5:16 (NASB) says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” God’s light is expressed through how we live our lives, in our physical work, in what we say and do. This includes artistic endeavors.

May the dreams, skill, and abilities God has given us shine before others in such a way that they might glorify our Father who is in heaven.

Although it’s scary to publicly share our gifts, I’ve discovered the value of opening my heart in creative writing. It’s definitely worth it.

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 12:7.

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A Spouse’s Blessed Persuasion

By G.K. Johnson, author of The Zealots

Suddenly I was out of excuses. I stood at the starting line of a race I’d always wanted to run. When a major life change came our way, my husband and I decided that “now” was the time to give my writing dream a shot. Or at least, my wise husband did. God bless him. I started getting excited.

For years, I knew the story God had put on my heart. I knew who I wanted my main character to be and I knew the general gist of the storyline, random points of climax, the fuzzy details between.

Whenever I was asked about a dream I hoped to achieve in my lifetime, I often said, “I want to write a book!” But for years I never put pen to paper. The thought of doing so wore the luster off the idea of being an author. How would I begin? If I didn’t start the ‘right’ way, all would be lost!

Fear of Being a ‘Said Failure’

Looking back on it now, I know the reason I kept putting off my dream. I was afraid of failure.

Perhaps more than being afraid of failure, I was afraid of the ensuing consequences of being a ‘said failure’. What would it mean about me if I wrote something I thought was good, only to find out nobody else liked it? Telling people I had the intention to write a book one day sounded great and impressive but. . . hollow because I never actually sat down to do it.

My husband has a keen sense of discernment. He knew the real reason I was holding back the writing before I did. He urged me to take this opportunity to fulfill my dream. To treat writing like a job and get serious about it.

Getting Serious

I began to imagine my life as a writer. I pictured myself holding a beautifully covered novel, signing books, speaking at events. With these visions in mind, I sat down at my Mac one morning and hit ‘go’ on my stopwatch, the closest thing I had to ‘clocking in.’

I began to write no matter how I felt. I began treating writing like a job. My intention was to write for eight hours. If I was treating this like a job and giving it my utmost effort, that was the thing to do, right? I had no outline, I literally just started writing.

Two Hours In, Mentally Exhausted

Library Story Hour – The Zealots

I know some people can write in coffee shops or listen to music in the background and be incredibly productive but that’s not me. When I write I need silence. This is a bummer because I love the romantic idea of writing a bestseller in a coffee shop while drinking a mocha. It just doesn’t work for me. Anyway. I had typed for two hours and I felt pretty good about what I had on paper, but my brain was worn out.

I stared out the window and wondered how I was going to fill six more hours with productive writing when I felt creatively wrung out. It felt as though my fear of being a failure was already becoming a reality.

What Happened

Halfway through I realized I really needed an outline and wrote one.

After that day of trying to write for eight hours, I realized that was an impossible goal. For me at least. My sweet spot used to be two to four hours of writing a day. Any more than that, and I noticed that the quality of my writing went downhill.

Ultimately I finished that novel several months later.

This time period included several teary breakdowns in which I insisted ‘I can’t do this’ and my husband reminded me I could.

My writing career got even more complicated when our baby came home. Now, I needed to consult with my editor, make changes, rereads, and begin to blog. I squeezed in writing between my infant son’s nap times.

I’m learning that the practice of writing is a fluid thing-ebbing and flowing with seasons of life. I brew myself a cup of coffee for that romantic ‘close-as-I-can-get to a coffee shop’ feeling, but my brew usually gets cold before I drink it. Why? Because my goal is to write and I’m doing that.

My finished manuscript was accepted by a publisher, edited, and finally, my book was published by Capture Books, complete with the important aspects that make a professionally published book sell (hooray!).

In the first month after its release, I didn’t do any book signing events unless you count the ones I signed at my dining room table and sent out. And no one has asked me to speak at their event. Of course, there is a pandemic needing to be quieted for the population to feel comfy in group settings.

In the Midst of the Process

I sent my book to some friends for their feedback and while most of them said nice things, some didn’t like every part of the book.

Yikes, that must have triggered my fear of failure, right?

Well yes and no. Yes, I would be happy if everyone who picked up my book loved it! And yes, it stings a little when someone tells me they don’t like a certain part. But it’s impossible that every person would connect with my genre and writing style. Concerning the story critique, if I’m being honest, I appreciate their input! It’s cliche, but without constructive criticism, it would be impossible for me to grow as a writer. So I’m doing my best to take all the feedback and sort through it. This is the life of a writer.

This week, I was awarded a stunning editorial review from BookLife, an arm of Publishers Weekly.  You may want to read it here.

Here’s the Thing. . . I-Wrote-A-Book.

God told me to write a story and I wrote it. Perhaps this has been the biggest takeaway for me from this entire process. At the end of the day, regardless of whether everyone likes it, I followed through. So when God puts something on your heart believe that He will give you the resources to do it. The support of my husband was crucial throughout the process of writing The Zealots. He is God’s blessing to me.

That first step is scary, but I promise that you will learn so much in following through and accepting the resources the Lord offers. Let someone special in to your writing life to hold you accountable and to help persuade you when you are not “feeling it.” The Lord will be with you every step of the way. When you’re listening to His voice you can’t fail.

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“First” Ain’t Everything

By Laura Bartnick from Welcome to the Shivoo

What does John 1:1 mean?

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

Nothing exists without this Word.”

Just imagine, in the beginning, God announced the news, “Hey, watch the beginning of EVERYTHING!”

SUNRISES! SUNRISES AND SUNSETS COMING!  SUMMERTIME SWIMMING IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER! WHEELS ON THE DUSTY ROAD AHEAD! FRESH PEACHES IN THE NEWS TODAY! CHERRIES, LAUGHTER! PLUMS, KISSES! TUNES, HARMONY, AND RHYTHMS! DEBATES ABOUT ENGINEERED SEEDS! STEEL AND IRON HIDDEN FOR SKYSCRAPERS! GREEN LIMES! GRASS FOR THATCH! EYES TO READ, FLIRT! EARS TO WHISPER INTO! POMEGRANATES! ROMAN NOSES! CHEDDAR AND CARAWAY!”

God announced everything with the Word of life.

Did you know that Christ was already in the beginning, not created by God, but being fully God, this God? Jesus, the Christ, is not only the Savior, but was this Logos Who summoned it all into existence. Colossians 1:16-18 explains that in Christ all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. Christ is before all things, and in Christ, all things hold together. He is also the Head of the Church, the first to rise from the dead so that in everything, He has the preeminence in and for Life!

His most clearly executed point of argument for Himself and His message to Earth was made in the flesh, the personification of Himself, the person of—

JESUSWHO WAS, AND IS THE LOGOS!

WATCH FOR HIM.

I can see it now: God the Father and God the Word breathed, in the beginning, which light appeared on the waft of the Holy Spirit. Three Persons, One Front, so unified that They could only be separated for one sacred purpose. And, even on that painful separation, They were agreed.

His Word didn’t fall with gravity from lips as we understand lips. But lifted by the experience of creating our planetary spheres including Earth’s own boundaries, He planted objects. The Word began to fill up the void with the sound and the activity of an announcement breeding results. God’s own language began to shine. To find life, ongoing life in a myriad of defining ways.

Notes on the page began to sing their tones, their lengths, their harmonies, and together they scattered upward into the heavens, a choir.

Photo by Daniel Frank on Pexels.com

The waters of the heavens were layered for God’s purposes by another word and they began to flow. The sea was then separated from the dry land. Animals were created––each after their kind––on another breath, another heavenly word. The seeds and leafy vegetation began to spring from the earth and curl into patterned whorls on another spiritual exhale, another word of inspiration. Then, God formed flesh. In God’s image, both male and female.

I’m curious, though. How did God breathe His full expressive Self into the flesh of Christ thousands of years later? And, how did God insert the Logos into a living, written Word that lies published on a coffee table, bookshelf or on a desk seemingly inert, or in the pockets of so many? Was God’s language only a verbal expression, “The Word?” Or, did it include physical energy flung like stones into a pool, some physiological forms of communication as well?

Referring to “The Word” in a biblical sense is a mystery to Earthlings. We search our alphabet for symbols and references of connotations to the “Logos” because it is so difficult to understand the term, the God-breathed WORD.

I just love word definitions and following their connotations through. So, when I looked up the term, “word,” the meaning of this verse invited me in for a deeper look.

The Word, translated, does not mean an English language noun. It does not mean that the Word existed only after Gutenberg’s first publishing of the Bible. It does not mean that God generated His impressions only to the left side of the human brain, which tends to control aspects of language and logic, or to the right side of the brain, which tends to handle spatial and visual comprehension.

The LOGOS, in its essential definition, means the Essential Point of Expression or Argument.[i] In this case, the biblical author, John, uses the Logos creatively by applying it to the greatest argument for the living God, as the incarnation of God, begotten Son, best human, fully lit up for all to see.

“Word” is actually an incredibly bad translation of logos.

The specific term, logos, in Greek philosophy, means “the central, defining principle or idea of an argument or philosophy.” In fact, it is the hub upon which all else within the system turns![ii] Logos is a term that would have been commonly known among the people to whom John, the disciple of Jesus, was writing.

So, “in the beginning,” as the beginning relates to Earth, our Father God and God the Son expressed what the Godhead wanted the world to know by:

1) personally mingling, walking, and talking with those created in His image,

2) lavishing on them a perfectly-created universe and the human form with perfectly working systems, expressions, and a will to act bodily, and

3) offering a unified form of necessary imagination and communication to people: the elegant and sword-like word of God full of history, math, law, natural science, prophecy, injunction, psychology, mercy, testimony, and justice. “Word” was the argument passed from generation to generation tucked inside image, song, drawing, story, human example, nature, and writings.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

The Word then, in every other sense of creative expression, is everything else—all the bits and pieces—that God wants us to know about Himself. From the gifts of music which evoke rooted emotions without lyrics, to ever-changing projections of His hand-eye coordination in nature. From the heavens and the Earth, to the comical animals and the fierce, to the fragrant and shady foliage, in diverse human abilities made in His image and imagination, and in the continuing recreation of this world’s cycle of each day and night. The heavens declare the glory of God. His harvests provide food for hungry mouths, showing the Father’s care. In the expression of God’s law, ordinances, statutes, poetry, drama, and peace in a variety of testimonies, stories, and letters of love contained in the Bible that the oil flows. All of this is God’s intentional Word to us.

How safe are we as co-creators, as copycats of Christ, since He is the Head of the Church[iii], since He goes before us in every creative aspect and since He also sits as the preeminent Judge of all?[iv] When I discovered this truth, my insecurities about my desires to create, the process of creating and researching whatever I was creating, the editing of what I’d created and the length of time it took to express myself properly, the space taken up in my room, the messes, I stopped apologizing. Instead, I focused on how to make everything I do, write, eat, drink, sing, love, or serve is to glorify God.[v] Artists are not necessarily lazy.  We live amidst the tensions of the unknown, distractions of creating, sin, and glory.

I often interrupt a creative process to answer the phone or doorbell, to do something more pragmatic,  more pressing, more fun, or more financially necessary. I have turned off my music when a friend or family member joins me in my own car. I am a conflicted soul. Aren’t most maker types this way? Some are more defiant in protecting their creative interests. But if someone asks me, “Whatcha doin’?” I’ve been known to say, “Oh, nothing. What are you doing?” as a means of deflecting attention away from me having to explain my art, my source of reflection, my songwriting, or my poetic process. What about the priority that God Himself puts on making things and creativity in the beginning?

FIRST ISN’T EVERYTHING, BUT FIRST IS PARAMOUNT

In the beginning, God revealed Himself by creating. Apparently, this was His heart’s desire. To create things, to be creative! The Father and Holy Spirit did this with the best form of persuasion.

I see that pattern of firsts because the phrase, “In the beginning”[i] is combined with, “God created” meaning His first entrepreneurial acts.[ii] These phrases are found in the first book of the Bible. First, first, first. The first book of the Holy Bible. First in our time (beginning), and first in God’s activity on our behalf (He is First). God’s Word was effectively creating (wording, speaking, breathing, expressing) light into the cosmos, going forth from the corporate office of the Godhead. God’s creativity skillfully set the stage for your personal salvation.

You could argue that creating was first more of a necessity than a priority. But an author sets the rules of His created world, and in the case of Earth, God’s rationale was to create first, and the finest creativity was set into a pocket of belonging to Him. He is our Creative Hub. Knowing Him is the beginning of learning His secrets.

The Father and Holy Spirit did this with the best form of persuasion. By offering His creative subjects a place and a time, growth and purpose, and a genetic footprint and bloodline, God gave every living thing a place to belong. God’s creative joy mingled with the first humans, almost as though a writer had entered into his own plot becoming a character in his story.

In the beginning, there was, and is, The Being. There was, and still is, The Being’s energetic self-expression. Creating. Persuading. Through His artistic activity in nature, through many varied forms of communication, the revealed Logos welcomed human beings. He expressed Himself as their place of belonging. He offered this belonging to anyone in the world, for God so loved the world.[iii]

SO WHERE DO WE FIT? ARE WE IMPORTANT?

In one extraordinary move, God said, “Let’s make someone like us.”[iv]

He differentiated this living human being from his high ministering angels, from the low minerals of Earth, from all the flora and fauna, from breathing-yapping emotional animals procreating after their own kind, and from the asexual sun, moon, singing stars, and orbiting planets, by anointing the first man and woman with a measure of His own creativity. “I want family!” God declared.

Hebrews 2 tells us that Jesus calls us brothers and children. He is the One Who set us apart, and the ones set apart are of the same family. With a breath of His inspiration, humanity received layers of First Adam gifts:  inspiration, imagination, the ability to love, to learn in complexity. “Belonging” was defined as an ability to know Him personally, to be with the One who knows all things, to walk, work, and play in His gifts.  Then, Christ died to redeem us from sin’s domain.

Creativity came prior to salvation, to evangelism, to preaching, and teaching.

The Son, Jesus, was God’s creative power expressing His heart for a story and a place of belonging for all life. If you study it, the gift of creation, sin, and plan of salvation makes little sense to us. When this plan is fulfilled, it proves God’s creative excellence.

In the beginning, the incomprehensible Being expressed His attributes and benefits to us via the incredible architecture of His ongoing universe. With particularly, He measured and engineered systems so that this world became a place of belonging for us.

Without God’s wisdom in creation, nothing exists. Yet, creativity is ongoing.

When we work along with God’s inspiration, He offers us authority for this world and into the next. We’ve inherited enough of His legacy, enough purposeful cunning, and His Holy Spirit to help us understand and implement aspects of the Logos together.

When we express our own innovation with God’s blessing, we can differentiate a new species, discover a new form of things. New combinations of ideas and skills rise to divine inuendoes under His guidance. We join with Him for contemporary or future purposes.

Focused, thinking analytically, we can understand and implement science and physics well, write new books, design new designs, find new markets. We express more joy, broader peace, deeper concern, a purity, a true meekness, and wondrous self-confidence by accepting God’s mysteries. Let’s look for His ironical purposes, shall we?

  • Here’s one. Seek to become a more righteous character from day-to-day.
  • Here’s another. Exemplify sheer delight by writing around the secrets as you explore them yourself.
  • Here’s yet another! Write until intrigue infuses itself, beckoning you to spin off from the worn path, exploring the mysteries.

The Logos created the human mind to capture and direct paths of electricity, velocity, biological genes and viruses; to make engines, imagine wheels, design homes, plumbing, a space shuttle.  In other words, God gave us each a measure of His own creative intelligence.

Throughout the day, can you imagine bits of the Creator’s glory breaking off like bread crumbs, dropping a trail of joy in our processes, leading us on to the big Shivoo? Joy is the present assurance of the glory to come.

However, The Lord’s own particular glory is reserved for Himself. We can only sense hints of this glory in the feats of God’s miracles.

God often communicates through natural wonders to which adults become accustomed. It is the child who asks, “Why, how, who, and what?” Adults try to analyze wonders away scientifically as if these explanations substitute for the deeper truth that God designed physics. At some point, many a child will cease to wonder and accept others’ limited explanations about nature’s wonders. Yet, some adults continue to experience these wonders in human awe.

When the father of the prophet, Sampson, was first visited by the Angel of the Lord, the father asked, “What is your name?” The angel said His name was beyond understanding, secret and wonderful. Then, while the parents were offering a sacrifice, the angel ascended in the smoke of the fire (Judges 13:17-20). Recognizing that only the Angel of the Lord could rise into the air with the smoke and disappear, the parents fell on their faces, freaked out.  Wouldn’t you be? The Lord’s mysterious events on Earth are wonders to us because they come from the Wonderful One and from a different heaven, say, a different dimension.

Magic removes the Wonderful One from the equation by mimicking the wonder with a sleight of hand. Cutting these cords between the wonder and the Giver may feel fanciful, but the illusion is empty, leading to dead ends.

It was only when Adam and Eve broke confidence with their Creator[v] that the wonder of God’s Spirit separated from them. This is because God is Holy and cannot mingle with sin.[vi]

In love and goodness, the Lord devised another means of expression through connective blood and tissue in His covenant with us.

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