I've been sharing blog posts every day this week, leading up to my guest post TODAY on Southern Writers' Magazine. As a new author, I am grateful for the opportunity to share some ideas with the writing community. And, as a southern author, I'm especially happy to be associated with a magazine that promotes literature and authors from the south.
Read my post, titled "More Than a Story", on Southern Writers Magazine's blog called "Suite T".
What is the essence of a person?
The dictionary defines "essence" as "the properties or attributes by means of which something can be placed in its proper class or identified as being what it is" and "the most significant element, quality, or aspect of a thing or person".
In the book of Matthew, we find a familiar story that describes the essence of Jesus:
And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. Matthew 9:20-22
A significant part of Jesus' essence is His power. His miracles help us identify Him as God. Certainly, the healing virtue didn't come from the garment. Jesus didn't wear a magical cloak, neither do I believe that his power was actually transferred to the fabric. I believe if the woman had reached out and come up ten feet short of touching the hem of his garment, she still would have been made whole. Because what she grabbed wasn't just the hem of His garment, it was the "Him" of his garment. Her faith wasn’t in the clothes. It was in who Jesus’ was, His identity as God in flesh. And her faith resulted in a miracle.
This story displays not only Jesus' power, but two other traits that describe his essence: He is omniscient and compassionate. People pressed in from all sides, yet He knew who had reached out in faith. He picked her out of the mob. And He had compassion on her, encouraging her to "be of good comfort". He reassured her that her faith had worked.
We may be reaching for His garment, for something that we need from Him, but we first need to grab hold of who Jesus really is. Meditate on his essence. Trust in his power, rely on his omniscience, and rest in his compassion.
There's a helpful book about writing novels that discusses widely-accepting industry rules, the author's opinions and experience with these rules, and how to get past the industry gatekeepers when it comes to deviating from them. The gatekeepers that Jeff Gerke describes in his book are the acquisition editors who have the power to decide if a writer will be represented by an agency or publisher. They keep unwanted things out.
The term "gatekeeper" resonated in my spirit. While there are plenty of things that should be kept out of the church, we need a different kind of gatekeeper. We need watchmen at the doors, not of the physical building, but of the body of Christ, for two specific reasons.
1.) To hold the door open to invite people in.
I know some of these gatekeepers. They bring new people to church often. They say, "Hey! Come inside! Jesus is for you, too! He wants you here!"
We need gatekeepers to make sure people feel welcomed within the church and to hold the doors open for all who would seek to enter with a desire to encounter God.
I imagine this kind of gatekeeper swinging back and forth on the gates, calling to those in the street, "It's open! It's open! It's open!"
2. To make it harder for people to slip away.
This is where the term really struck me. Too many people, especially young people, slip out of the church's gates unnoticed. We don't realize they're gone until it's too late. They have no desire to come back. And I worry it's simply because nobody tried to stop them from leaving. There was no one guarding the gate, saying, "We'll miss you if you're gone. There's nothing out there for you. You're safer in here. Please stay."
Obviously, we have free will. If someone is determined to leave the safety of the church, they are ultimately accountable to God for their choice. But what if we had more gatekeepers to guard the doors of the fold? With kids, it should be the parents that guard the gate. But if that doesn't happen, who will be standing there to keep our young people from going astray? While a pastor guards the flock, laypeople can be gatekeepers, too. Reach out to your church's young people. Keep them involved so they understand they have a place. Don't let them slip out unnoticed.
Oh, Lord, make us gatekeepers. Teach us how to swing the doors open to everyone that may pass by, and help us stand guard for the ones that need encouragement to stay within the gates.
It's easy to understand, breathing is necessary for life. God's design for all creatures includes standard functions, including respiration.
As a child, I had mild asthma which first presented at age seven when I had my tonsils removed and required oxygen after the sedative gas triggered breathing difficulty. Throughout my youth, asthma episodes were minor nuisances, usually brought on by physical activity. I used an inhaler only during P.E., and was never really sure if my shortness of breath was from being out of shape or truly because of asthma.
Fast-forward to age twenty-six. I hadn't carried an inhaler in years. Never needed one. Asthma was something "I used to have as a kid". Until pregnancy. Hormonal changes during my first pregnancy brought the condition back into my life with a vengeance. With each baby, my asthma either worsened or got a little better, but never left. Now after three pregnancies, it's a pretty regular part of my daily life. I never go anywhere without an inhaler, and it is a necessity often. Colds can trigger a bad asthma flare that requires steroid injections and pills, as happened recently, just to return my breathing to normal.
There is nothing like the relief of taking a complete lung-filling, complication-free breath after an episode of breathing difficulty. It feels miraculous. It makes me feel so grateful, so in awe of life!
Just as we couldn't understand love if there were no evil, or appreciate the beauty of life without pain, I never appreciated and understood the awesomeness of one clear, deep breath until the first time as an adult when I struggled to breathe.
One of the scariest moments of my life was during Sarah's delivery. The spinal block went high, and I couldn't feel my chest for a few minutes. The anesthesiologist told me I was breathing, but my brain told me otherwise, and it was a terrifying feeling for a few minutes.
In a way, it's like the difference between being spiritually lost and being saved.
Genesis 2:7 says, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
Every living soul is born of the breath of God, but every soul does not automatically have the breath of eternal life.
John 20, verse 2 says that after Jesus' resurrection, when he visited the disciples, "he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost". This was a new kind of life-giving breath from God.
Before Christ, we may have been inhaling and exhaling, but after Christ, we breathe deeply and experience the fullness and completeness of life in Him.
I'm not a very patient person. I think I get it from my father. Or, at least, since he has the same character flaw, I can claim it's a learned behavior or some undiscovered genetic predisposition and give myself an out. But I guess it really doesn't work that way.
The older I get, the worse my impatience grows. I generally show grace, but often fail when it comes to customer service hold times and waiting for a table at restaurants.
Lately, I find myself waiting for a lot of things.
The writing-related things on my list are normal. Just part of the process. So, I'm not complaining. No one has dropped the ball or has been too lax about anything. They are working on multiple projects for different authors, not just me. I'm just impatient.
The last item on the list, simply by nature of the process, takes a long time, too, although it's frustrating.
But I had a revelation today: I need to be waiting on something even more important than the things on my list. The words of Jesus in John 14:30 reveal the thing I should anticipate most anxiously.
"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
It's so easy to forget, or take for granted, or push to the back of our minds, the promise of Christ's return. But the expectation of His second-coming is fundamental to our faith. We are waiting. Not just waiting, but in a constant state of waiting, watching, and working, as we continue to live and enjoy the life He has given us.
I'm in a season of waiting now. But that's where I should live! Expectant!
When I stop and put things into perspective, the nearer-every-day reality of my blessed hope as a believer should make me more patient when it comes to all the other, lesser expectations in this life season. I'm thankful that, as with Jesus' return, God controls the times and the seasons. Everything works out for good, no matter my perceptions of "on time", "quickly", "slowly", or "delay". I need to trust God's timing every second of my life, even when I have to wait longer than I'd like for a book layout, a life-changing situation, or a pizza buffet. And may we all wait together anxiously for His coming.
From the start of age five, until adulthood, children get a special holiday each year that grown-ups don't observe: The first day of a new school year!
New Year's Day is a fresh start for everyone, and we all have birthdays to mark the first day of a new age, but the first day of school is a third day on the calendar when kids can enjoy the excitement of a new start. As grown-ups, we may remember the feeling, and live it alongside our children, but we no longer fully experience it.
As I prepare to send my baby to kindergarten on Monday, my middle daughter to third grade, and my oldest to a brand new adventure in middle school, I see their excitement. "Firsts" fuel excitement for life!
For us old, married, parents, there are no more "first dates". There will never be another "first kiss". Most of our firsts are lived vicariously through our children. But experiencing new things can still fuel excitement for life! If you feel like your life is dull and boring, a little lackluster, think about a new experience you can try, something you can do for the "first" time, to create that "first day of school" feeling. Here are just a few suggestions:
The more outside your comfort zone, the better, to build a feeling of excitement that might add a spark to life! You're never too old for a new experience or a new challenge.
Grown-ups need more "firsts". What will your next one be?
About the Blog
Thank you for visiting my blog. I share devotional and Bible study-type posts as well as musings about my life, parenting, and the writing journey, and important news about my books. I hope you find something encouraging and/or entertaining here.