Writing

Shame

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I read once in a book that the Japanese make shame a tradition, part of who they are.

Now, when you read that, you probably think that they should change their ways, because shame is never a good thing, right?

Well, there are two kinds of shame.

The first kind of shame, the one that you probably think of when I mention it, is the crippling kind of shame, regret for something you’ve done, the feeling of dirtiness, of worthlessness. This shame is obviously not good, and this is the kind you want to avoid putting on yourself. Most of the time, this shame comes from doing a bad thing that you shouldn’t have chosen to do in the first place. What you have to realize is,if you’re a Christian, you can go to God and repent, and you’re forgiven. You need not be ashamed any longer.

The second kind of shame is actually beneficial: the feeling of embarrassment you get when you do something you shouldn’t, or cross boundaries you shouldn’t. The way you feel when you sweep the dust under the rug, or break something and hide it instead of confessing. Some might call it your conscience.

If a Japanese child asks someone a personal question (or simply too many questions), their parent will ask them something like, “Have you no shame?”

There are four children between the ages of 6 and 11 who live two houses down from mine. They play in our yard, even when none of us are outside with them, and they play with whatever toys they find on our property, without asking. I caught them once at the front door, knocking and knocking, then one of the boys lifted up one of the girls so she could attempt to peer through the peephole.

Can you guess what question I want to ask them? That’s right: Have you no shame?!

Let me finish by stating that you do not need to feel shame for anyone else’s actions. If your friend does something you’ve been trying to keep them from doing, you have no guilt in the matter, and therefore you should not feel ashamed. You are not responsible for their actions, as my friend Kaitlyn says.

Also, because I know a couple of you have gone through the same thing I did recently, I just want to put this out there: If being friends with someone is too much for you, and you absolutely cannot handle it, or it’s unhealthy for you, it’s okay to tell them so, and back away from the friendship. You do not need to feel any shame, even if that person tries to shame you for it. (Especially if that person is most likely clinically insane. Again, this is for the people who went through the same thing I did recently… if you don’t understand it, you’re not one of them.)

Have shame, but do not be ruled by shame.

4 In you our fathers trusted;

   they trusted, and you delivered them.

5 To you they cried and were rescued;

   in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

-Psalm 22:4-5

Categories: Devotionals and Lessons | Leave a comment

Fight the Lies

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I visited Life Point Church in Wilmington, NC on September 15.

Why was I there, you ask?

I spent September 1-14 in Myrtle Beach, SC with one of my very best friends, then took a bus to Wilmington, where my dad picked me up, we stayed overnight with some friends in town, and then attended their church the next morning before beginning the drive home.

The message that Sunday hit me hard, and I’d like to share what I learned from it with my dear readers, because everyone needs to know these resounding truths.

Everyone has been led to believe a lie before. I know I have. I’m not going to recount any of the lies I’ve been told or believed, but boy, have I been lied to in my life, just like you have.

I’m sure you’re not considering that I don’t necessarily mean people telling lies. They do, of course, but that’s not the subject of this post.

Who is the father of lies? The devil, Satan.

“`You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.’”

That was Jesus speaking in John 8:44.

Satan’s very language is lies. And, being the father of lies, he is an expert at weaving them around us and making us believe them.

He whispers lies to us about ourselves, so subtly that we see them as truth, and we repeat them to ourselves until they’re ingrained in our hearts:

  • I’m worthless
  • I’m stupid
  • I’m ugly
  • I must please everyone

In the Bible, God speaks to us and dispels these lies. All we need to do is believe Him, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, not the father of all deceit who would have us angry, dissatisfied, and depressed because we believe his lies.

“For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.” – Psalm 139:13-14

I have a very close friend who does not like herself at all, to say the least. She’s beautiful, self-sacrificing, and one of the kindest and most caring people who ever lived, but when she looks in the mirror, all she sees is an ugly thing who should not even be alive. She can’t see why people love her so much, or why people tell her how pretty she is, because she honestly can’t believe it. It’s sad, because she is amazing, and she is gorgeous, and she’s so important to so many, but she believes the lies that the devil has told her about herself.

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

We were made to live for an audience of One: our Father, the one who created us, who loves us dearly, no matter what we do or how far we run from Him. We are called to live for Him, not to live to please the world, not to live for our own pleasure.

Satan whispers lies to us about the world, entwining them so expertly with shards of truth that we find it almost impossible to believe anything else:

  • I should have what they have
  • Life should be fair
  • I deserve this
  • My performance determines my worth

The reality is, we deserve nothing. We have a mindset of “I should have this, because I’m a hard worker,” or “Life is great for that guy; why does my life stink?”

Let me tell you something. A lot of the time, when you see someone whose life seems perfect, it’s really the furthest thing from perfect.

I have a friend who is always smiling, always enthusiastic, and loves to tell anyone who will listen about her Savior. Many people assume that she’s had a great life, that she’s never had true hardship, because she’s so optimistic and happy.

The reality is that her father committed suicide when she was younger, after years of abusing her in multiple ways,  and her cousin and best friend killed themselves as well. She was practically a mother to her siblings for a while, working three jobs to support her family, and going to school, and taking care of her brothers and sisters, all at the same time.

Yet when you see her, she will smile big as anything, and ask how you’re doing. She’ll let you know that she’s been praying for you. She’ll randomly break out in singing a hymn. Love for her Savior glows from her, making her radiant.

Let me tell you something else – something a bit more personal, about me.

Most of the time, I feel like doing anything but smiling and being happy. In my line of work, though, I have to smile and be in a good mood, so a lot of the time, I fake it. None of the customers I take care of at work know that I had been up until 6 in the morning talking one of my close friends out of suicide the night before. They don’t know that a customer being angry and cursing at me just a moment earlier threw me into an anxiety attack that I’m having to suppress just to continue providing quality customer service so I don’t lose my job. To my customers, I’m just a happy cashier who will probably go to the mall when she gets her paycheck, even though in reality my paycheck will be going to cover bills, and I’ll be lucky if I see twenty dollars of it in my savings jar.

Looks can be deceiving. Don’t look at another person and wonder why their life is perfect and yours isn’t, and get upset because it’s “not fair”. No one’s life is perfect.

Another fact is that the only thing we, as fallen humans, deserve is death and an eternity in hell. We are so very privileged to have what we have, even if it’s not much, even if we’re struggling to keep it, and even if we end up losing it.

The devil even dares to murmur lies to us about God:

  • I have to earn God’s love. Until I do enough good things, God can never love me.
  • God hates the sin and the sinner. If God knows everything I’ve ever done, how could He love me?
  • God can never use me.

These are the most blatant and disgusting lies that Satan dares to tell us.

“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Let that sink in. While we were still sinners – we, meaning everyone, all the murderers, adulterers, liars, addicts, thieves, and other sinners of this world – while we were still living in sin, He died for us. Before we loved Him, He bled for us.

God hates evil, it is true, but he doesn’t hate the person committing the evil act, no matter how wrong it is.

A mother still loves her child, even if the child breaks her favorite vase, or lies about taking an extra cookie out of the jar.

How much more perfect and all-encompassing is our holy Father’s love for us? It knows no bounds. He even loves those who nailed his beloved Son to the cross, who tortured him, spit on him, and made fun of him.

Satan says you’re worthless.

Well, if you want to know what something is worth, you have to look at what someone is willing to pay for it.

You, my friend, are worth the blood of God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ. God bought you with His child’s blood. If that doesn’t tell you that you’re worth anything and everything, that you’re priceless, valued, cherished, and treasured, then I don’t know what will.

No matter how broken you are, God is working on you. Even if you abandon Him, He will never abandon you.

Have you ever seen a mosaic? It’s art, beautiful art, that is made of many broken pieces of glass, stone, seashell, and many other things.

God takes our broken pieces, and He glues them together into an incredible masterpiece. While we’re stuck on looking at one broken shard of glass and wondering how it could ever be beautiful, He’s looking at the entire mosaic, every piece needed, every piece contributing to its overall beauty.

Fight The Lie

Elizabeth Altenbach

 

You’ll never be

You cannot see

These are the things that

Are whispered to me

I’m being bent

I’m going to break

I’m growing tired of

Struggling to stay

 

Fight the lie

Straight from inside

Raging and burning

You have to try

Hear the truth

Speak the proof

And know the sound of

What’s right and true

From deep inside

We’re fighting the lie

 

Memories drifting

Attacking me

I cannot fight them

And I cannot see

I’m being bent

I’m going to break

Why won’t this nightmare

Just go away?

 

Fight the lie

Straight from inside

Raging and burning

You have to try

Hear the truth

Speak the proof

And know the sound of

What’s right and true

From deep inside

We’re fighting the lie

 

Where is my fire?

I can’t find my desire

How much more of me

Will this require?

I’m aching and sore

Looking for more

And I find a spark burning

Deep in my core

Feeding the flame

I cry Your name

I’ll turn away from

All of my shame

Now I can see

What You’re doing in me

Won’t You come closer

And help me believe

 

Fight the lie

Straight from inside

Raging and burning

You have to try

Hear the truth

Speak the proof

Know the sound of

What’s right and true

From deep inside

We’re fighting the lie

 

Now I can see

What You’re doing in me

Won’t You come closer

And help me believe

Categories: Devotionals and Lessons | 3 Comments

Confidence

Yesterday, a good friend of mine asked me for advice on confidence. I thought that what I told her could be useful to others, so here it is.

Confidence (noun)
1.
full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing: We have every confidence in their ability to succeed.
2.
belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance: His lack of confidence defeated him.
3.
certitude; assurance: He described the situation with such confidence that the audience believed him completely.

Confidence is not being boastful, prideful, or arrogant. It’s not something you have to assure people that you have. If you’re confident, it shows.

A confident person is someone who doesn’t doubt their own abilities, but doesn’t draw unnecessary attention to them either. If something needs to be done, and you have the ability to do it, it’s not being arrogant to step up and say “I can do it.” (It may be arrogant if you stand there for ten minutes boasting your previous accomplishments.)

A confident person is someone who doesn’t put himself and his abilities down. Someone who knows his abilities, and tells of them only when necessary (when asked, or when trying to prove himself to someone), and not in an arrogant or boastful way.

It is hard to be confident without coming off as arrogant. (Funny fact: I used to think “arrogant” meant “loving to argue.”)
But contrary to what many people think, confidence is not always acting like you know everything, or can do everything. It’s knowing and trusting in your abilities, and not putting them down or acting like they’re nothing.

Now, to seem confident, even if you’re not…
The way I do it is, I put my shoulders back, put a little bounce in my stride, and keep my chin up (literally). You can fake having confidence – when I’m walking through the dark parking lot at work alone after a shift that ends at 11pm, I’m not too confident that nothing bad will happen, but I’ll keep my chin up, walk with pep, and maybe hum or sing a song.
If anyone is going to go after a girl to hurt her, they’re more likely to choose a girl with hunched-over shoulders and her face tilted toward the ground, who does not look confident, over someone who does, even if it seems they could easily overpower either of them.

Ever seen Lord of the Rings? Frodo never seemed confident, on the journey. He always looked so defeated, frightened even. The one time he showed confidence was on his last effort to climb up Mount Doom, although that would probably be better labeled as desperation.
Sam, however, was always one to step out and do whatever he could. He knew he could cook, so he did, and he didn’t put himself down, but he didn’t boast. The same with gardening. He was confident in his ability to protect Frodo, and in their ability to finish the quest, because he believed the entire time (except maybe when Frodo told him to go home) that it was possible (and it was).

Part of good confidence is being confident in other people as well. Of course, this is easy to do, or at least act like you do. If you have younger siblings, I’ll bet you do this kind of thing all the time with them. “Come on! You can do it!”
Confidence without arrogance is knowing that you’re not the only one who has an ability, and letting someone else step up to the plate if they have the same ability.

For example, if someone asked, “Can someone take this family photo for me?” I would probably jump up to do it for them, because I love photography, and I’m good at it. But if someone else volunteered as well, and didn’t immediately back down and let me without me having to ask them to, I would let them try if they wanted, and remain nearby in case they needed help. I wouldn’t hold a grudge against them for taking the opportunity away from me, because I know that I’m not the only person who knows how to use a camera.

Confidence is not boastful. Confidence is a quality that people can sense in you without you having to say that you’re confident (actually, if someone tried to convince me that they were confident, I would think otherwise).

I was at the bowling alley Friday night, with the boy I take care of. He’s part of a bowling group in his city for people with special needs (he’s autistic). I met this girl, Kristin, there. I don’t know what her special issue was – she definitely didn’t have autism or Down syndrome. I think she just had low IQ or a learning disorder – she said she was 29, and she acted like she was 12. She was sweet, and I enjoyed talking to her.
When it was her turn to bowl, she stepped right up with full confidence in her abilities, and rolled the ball. If she made a good score, she’d get excited and grin and exclaim, “Yesss!” But even if she didn’t get a good score, she’d just shrug it off and keep smiling.

That’s another attribute of true confidence – not being self-deprecating, and not being a sore loser.
It’s hard to lose with grace. But if you keep smiling and congratulate the winner, maybe joke that you’ll get ’em next time, that’s perfect. Even if the losing does make you angry or sad.

Confidence is probably the most important trait you can have, even if it’s pretend confidence, because it will better people’s opinions of you and bring you higher in their esteem, which will in turn boost your true confidence. You know, sometimes, if you fake it well enough, you can even fool your own brain into thinking that you’re more confident than you are.
Confidence is quick to smile, slow to be bitter. It is never boastful, and does not back down from a task unless said task proves impossible, in which case confidence would admit its failure without dwelling on it, and without letting it make it bitter, or being angry with the person who succeeds at the task.
Confidence understands its own abilities and doesn’t undermine them, nor does it puff them up and make them seem more than they truly are.

True confidence is hard to define – harder than I thought it’d be until I tried – but hopefully, I got the gist across. I hope this post was helpful to someone. 🙂

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The Last Singer

I thought I’d share the premise of my current work-in-progress with all of my awesome readers. Feel free to tell me your thoughts. 😀

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Imagine a world created by a God who loves music. Imagine that this God created people to play music for Him.

This world exists. Its name is Ereth. The God’s name is Lyr.

The kingdom of Elda, on the warm side of this other Earth, is full of light, cheer, and peace.

The kingdom of Iltur, on the cold, forbidding end of the planet, is where Silence reigns. Darkness and chaos abide there. This is where those who neglect their music, therefore neglecting their God, end up. It is a place of evil, sorrow, discord.

What happens, though, if the Silence grows powerful enough to rise up against those loyal to Lyr?

Hana is the princess of Elda. All her life, she has been told that her mother died when she was young.

Holden is her older brother, the prince, and he knows that this is a lie. Their mother is not dead; she is Silent.

Havega, the former queen, manipulates Holden using her newfound black power as a leader of the Silent.

The only ones standing in the way of the total destruction and Silence of all Ereth are Hana and her cousin, a simple huntsman. But what can they do after being banished from their home by Hana’s brother?

This is the story of a daughter’s love for her family. This is a story of one girl’s quest to save her father’s kingdom.

A tale of love and loss, of loyalty and betrayal, of music and Silence…

This is the story of The Last Singer.

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Of Listening at Doors (A Poem)

Don’t ask me what inspired this. Most, if not all, of my poetry is completely random.
This poem is rather creepy; be warned. 😉

*****

Never listen at doors, my son.
For they’ll send you on the run.

Never listen at doors, little girl.
Guard your innocence like pearls.

Never listen at doors, my dear.
What is said may burn your ear.

Never listen at doors, not at all.
Just keep walking down the hall.

Never listen at doors, my child.
You’ll wish you hadn’t, in a while.

Never listen at doors, hear me now.
Even as sweat beads on your brow.

If you listen at doors, trust me.
What’s heard may bring you to your knees.

If you listen at doors, though not wise,
Prepare to say a quick goodbye.

If you listen at doors, be brave.
Don’t get scared and run away.

If you listen at doors, listen well.
But promise you will never tell.

If you listen at doors, beware.
A hand may snatch you by the hair.

If you listen at doors, for you must,
Beware the blood, the dirt and dust.

Never listen at doors, dear one.
Sleep ’till the dawning of the sun.

Never listen at doors, my darling.
They’ll sense you; soon you will be bleeding.

Never listen at doors; stay safe.
You don’t need to know their hate.

Never listen at doors; you’ll regret
And they’ll avenge the crime yet.

Never listen at doors, hear this.
When they hit you, they’ll not miss.

Never listen at doors, understand?
But it’s too late; you heard, and ran.

*****

Thoughts?

Categories: Poetry | 6 Comments

In Which I Compare Joseph’s Life to Romans 8:28

Anyone who follows my blog probably knows about my favorite verse, Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”

We see this verse played out in the lives of many Bible characters, but the one I’m going to discuss today is Joseph.

He had a pretty good life. Some sibling rivalry, but lots of kids have that. And he had a colorful, handsome coat, which lots of kids didn’t have.

Overall, life was pretty smooth – until the day his brothers sold him into slavery and faked his death.

Can you imagine that moment of utter betrayal Joseph must have felt when they threw him into the pit? Can you visualize his confusion, his shock, his sadness?

This was the first “thing,” like in the verse, that he experienced.

Then his brothers pulled him out… only to sell him. A second stab of betrayal. The second thing.

The people who bought him made him march to Egypt, where they sold him as a servant to Potiphar’s household. He was not only a stranger in a foreign land, he was a slave. Third thing.

This job was okay, until he was framed for sexual assault. He did nothing that even remotely resembled making a move on Potiphar’s wife, yet this upstanding woman testified against him, and therefore he was condemned without trial. Fourth thing.

So Joseph was thrown into a filthy, dirty prison. Fifth thing.

Now, lots of other people would give up at that point. Betrayed in the worst way by their own siblings, sold as a slave, then framed and thrown in jail… That seems pretty hopeless to me.

But look at what happened! If he hadn’t been thrown in jail, he wouldn’t have met the baker and cupbearer and interpreted their dreams. And some time after the cupbearer got out of jail, he told Pharaoh that Joseph could interpret his dream, and then Joseph was made second in command over all of Egypt!

As if that weren’t enough of a good thing, Joseph saved the lives of many Egyptians and Canaanites by storing up the food, rationing, and selling it. His family might well have died if he weren’t in that position of authority. And then finally, he made up with the brothers who tried to ruin his life.

All things work together for GOOD.

If Joseph hadn’t been sold, he would have never made it to Egypt.

If he hadn’t been framed, he would never have gone to jail.

If he’d never gone to jail, he wouldn’t have met the baker and cupbearer and interpreted their dreams.

If he’d never interpreted those dreams, he never would have been referenced to the Pharaoh and been fetched from jail to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream.

If he’d never interpreted the Pharaoh’s dream, he never would have been put in charge.

If he’d never been put in charge, he wouldn’t have been able to save so many lives.

So you see, all these horrible things that happened to Joseph worked out for good. For his good, his family’s good, the whole land’s good, and our good as well. He kept His eyes on God and never stopped trusting, even when his life was at its darkest. We need to follow his example and follow the Lord even when we can’t see the path.

All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.

Categories: Devotionals and Lessons | 4 Comments

My Thoughts on Romans 8:18-39

I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about my favorite Bible passage, Romans 8:18-39, and what it means to me.

This passage is about hope. Sure, it talks about other things too, but I think the main theme is hope; this theme reflects throughout the entire thing. Hope in salvation; hope in God’s love; hope of Him being with us here; hope of us being with Him in Heaven.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

This is saying that no matter what we’re going through here on earth, even the worst that can possibly happen, pales in comparison with the glory of God that we’ll see when we meet Him face-to-face.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

The Lord knows our hearts; He knows what’s on our minds and what’s hurting us. Even when we can’t find the words, He knows how we feel and He knows our hurt. He knows. Isn’t that amazing? When we hurt too deeply to find the words to express it, He knows how we feel; He knows the words our souls are crying.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

This is one of my favorite parts.

Let’s look at verse 28 again:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

All things. Not some things, but all of them. Every wound, every heartache, every circumstance, no matter how horrible it is… all things work together for good. It’s not something you want to hear in the midst of something bad that’s happening, but it is true; It’s all working together for your good. God allows the trials we go through, in order to teach, mold, and shape us. It’s impossible for us to see how these things could possibly be for our benefit, but God knows what He is doing. He is sovereign, always. No matter how distant He seems, He is in control. He knows what you’re going through and why it’s happening to you. He also knows how it will change you, and how it will contribute to your growth as a follower of Christ.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

He loves us. Enough to sacrifice His only Son. That in itself never ceases to amaze me. If you had one child, and you really, truly loved him more than anything, would you give him up to watch him be beaten and mutilated, then put to a slow, torturous death on a cross? All to save a bunch of sinful people? There’s a small chance that some might, but it wouldn’t matter anyway because your child is not perfect. God’s perfect Lamb had to be sacrificed, had to take all the sins of the entire world onto His sinless Self, in order to save us all. This, my friends, is perfect love.

Perfect love from which nothing can separate us. No matter what we do, what sins we commit, how unworthy we feel, we can always come back to the Lord and He will accept us as His children.

If you love Him, He is working all things together for your good.

He is perfect. He is sovereign. He is holy. He is just. He is loving. And in Him we have hope.

Hope in His purpose for our lives.

Hope of a life everlasting.

Hope in His unconditional love.

And hope that no matter how dark the night, no matter how long, there will always, always be a dawn.

What are some of your favorite Scripture passages? Why do they mean so much to you? 🙂

Categories: Devotionals and Lessons | 7 Comments

A Reward for Putting Up With Me

Hello, everyone! Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted.
To hopefully make up for that, I’m going to let y’all read the first and only short story I’ve ever written, which I wrote a couple weeks ago. 😀 I hope y’all enjoy it.
____________

A True Soul

No one ever noticed her. She sat every day on the bench outside the store, but no one paid any attention. To them, she was just another homeless young adult – there were a lot of them in that city.
It was winter; early January, to be precise, a Tuesday at four-thirty in the afternoon. The stores were overflowing with people returning or exchanging Christmas gifts. All running their errands, none taking the time to notice her. At least the Salvation Army bell-ringer was finally gone.
Sadie’s black hair fell just to her shoulders in choppy layers; her overlong bangs covered half of her pale-skinned face, and her dark slate-gray eyes cast a cold, calculating glare on every single person who passed by. Her black shirt covered her shoulders but went only halfway down her arms.
If they noticed the girl who never opened her mouth, staring at them with her intuitive gray eyes, they never let on, except for the occasional dirty look.
No matter, she thought. I’ve got a job to do.
Just then, a tall young man with a shock of blond hair pulled into a nearby parking spot in the lot right on the other side of the road. He stepped out of his car, slammed the door, and walked briskly toward the store’s entrance. A wrinkled plastic shopping bag swung from his hand as he joined the stream of people.
As he passed Sadie by, she caught his gaze. He gave her a tiny, sympathetic smile and plowed on through the throng.
I wonder if that’s him, Sadie pondered, a slight melancholy grin tugging at the corner of her mouth.

Ben parked his car in the lot across the street, grabbed the big bag full of items his mother had bade him return, and ran across the street toward the store. Glancing back at his car, and then around it at the crammed lot, he thought, Wow, I’m lucky to have found such a good parking spot. He looked at the silver sky and sent up a silent Thanks.
There were so many people, it seemed that everyone in creation must have decided to come to the store on a Tuesday at four-thirty in the afternoon. He joined the crowd, calling out “’Scuse me, please” and “Sorry” repeatedly as he bumped into people or vice versa.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a girl sitting on a bench near the door. She was looking straight at him, her eyes deep and intriguing. Her forearms were bare, and there was no sign that she owned a coat, or anything else for that matter.
Pushed along by the crowd of people, he smiled sadly and entered the store.

He’s the one, realized Sadie. She’d taken a look at his eyes when they met hers; his were the clearest blue she had ever seen. The eyes truly are windows to the soul, she thought, smirking slightly and settling in to wait until he came out.
She was lonely, so lonely. But a happy feeling fluttered in her heart at the thought that she would soon, if only for a moment, have someone to hold.

There’s got to be a way to improve the customer service system, thought Ben as he stood in line to sell back the Christmas presents that his mother hadn’t wanted.
After a twenty-minute wait, he finally walked away from the counter with the cash value of those items in his pocket.
Pulling out a crumpled Post-It note, he studied it, squinting at his mother’s intricate handwriting. Pick up your father’s watch from the jewelry station, make sure they actually fixed it, get a new frying pan (15”) from the display rack in the left front corner of the store, and don’t forget to pick out a new tie and dress shirt for church. Make sure they fit correctly. You’ll be going right back to return them if they don’t, and I’ll come along and embarrass you. Love you, see you soon. The message ended in the winking face emoticon that his mother always drew perfectly.
Ben smiled, shaking his head, and plodded off to find the things specified.
The whole time he shopped, he could not stop thinking about the girl outside. Her eyes…

Sadie knew how it would happen, but she wouldn’t let herself think of it. She told herself that it was because she wanted the action to be fresh and enjoyable, but something in her heart ached, wishing it didn’t have to be the way it was set to be.
Burying the sadness, she focused on the happiness of finally not being alone, just for a few seconds, on this Tuesday at four-thirty in the afternoon.

Finally, thought Ben as he stepped out into the fresh, cold January air again. The errands were done; he could go home and relax. Maybe he’d play a video game with his brothers.
There was that girl again. Ben stepped out of the way of the bustling people, and stood for a moment, looking around aimlessly, until he found the courage to bring his eyes to meet those of the girl.
She was staring again. What was with her? Her glare unsettled him a bit, but it was interesting. She was interesting.
And all of a sudden, he realized his feet were moving, walking toward her. Well, here goes nothing.
“Hi,” he said, standing awkwardly in front of her, shopping bags in both hands.
She tilted her head forward in greeting, and smiled, still looking into his eyes.
“Mind if I sit down?”
She shook her head, still staring and grinning, and shifted to make more room on the cold, metal bench.
O…kay, thought Ben as he set down his bags on the cement; he didn’t really know what else to think, besides that she was weird. But an intriguing weird.
She looked cold; before sitting, Ben pulled off his coat. “You look cold.”

When the boy removed his coat, Sadie smiled widely. She nodded in thanks as he handed it to her, still not opening her mouth.
“So, are you…” the boy began.
What? Am I what? Sadie thought at him, wishing he could hear her.
“Uh, never mind.” He blushed and looked away.
Though it was something she would normally never do, Sadie reached out and touched his sleeve. The boy jumped and turned back to her; she gave him a questioning look.
“Well, I was going to ask…”
What? Am I homeless? Am I waiting for a ride? Am I a prostitute?
“Can you talk?”
Of all the things to ask. Smiling, Sadie shook her head, her lips still closed. If only he knew what would happen when she opened her mouth. Ah well, he’ll see soon enough.

“I’m sorry…” Ben didn’t know what else to say. “Can I… give you a ride somewhere?”
The girl shook her head, still looking into his eyes.
“You have very nice eyes,” he told her, because with her shining graphite orbs locked onto his, there wasn’t anywhere he felt comfortable looking except right back at hers. Even that wasn’t comfortable, but it felt appropriate. Mom always taught me to look people in the eyes… maybe this girl’s mom did too. She seems to be taking it a little seriously though…
The girl’s smile stretched so large that her eyes turned to slits, but he could still see that they were fixed on his. It seemed as if she were looking right into his soul.
Just then, Ben’s phone buzzed.
“I’m sorry, just let me check this real quick. Do you mind?”
The girl shook her head.
It was a text message from his mother, asking him to hurry home.
“I’m sorry, that’s my mom. I have to get home.” Ben stood up.

Sadie stood as well, and started to take off the coat he’d lent her, but he stopped her, holding out a hand.
“No, you keep it. You need it more than I do.”
Sadie absently admired his warm, sincere smile, but that couldn’t distract her much from the glossy blue circles of color staring back at her. So clear, so pure, so true.
“God bless,” the boy said to her with a sad smile and a nod. Then he turned and walked toward his car.
Sadie heard it coming; the roar of the engine, the shouts of the drunken driver, but no one else could. It was too far away yet.

When Ben realized that his hands were empty, he turned around and jogged back.
“Forgot my bags.” He picked them up and then nodded awkwardly at the girl again before striding back out across the street toward his car.
“Wait!” he called back, turning. “What’s your name?” He wanted to at least have a word in his head to know her by.
Then something hit him, and he watched his body fly through the air from where he stood in the middle of the road. What… he thought. Is that possible? He looked on as his body tumbled to the ground; the truck that had hit him swerved drunkenly. Vehicles sped past him, even through him. What’s going on?! he thought frantically.
Looking back at the girl, terrified, he saw her moving slowly toward him.
And finally, she opened her mouth.

As Ben walked away, a pang of remorse struck Sadie’s heart, if indeed her kind had hearts, for she knew what was going to happen. And it shouldn’t happen.
But it had to, if she were to do her duty. And she wanted that contact, she wanted to have someone to hold, if indeed only for a moment; a true soul.
It was coming, she knew it. Slowly, she stood, and kept her eyes locked on the boy’s as he called back to ask what her name was. When she disappeared from human sight, no one noticed. She didn’t remove her gaze even as the truck slammed into his body and it flew through the air. She still stared straight into his soul.
It was time then. At last, Sadie opened her mouth.
The ribbons and streams of light were familiar to her now. They swirled and danced out of her mouth when she opened it, as the song of souls began. She couldn’t help it; every time she opened her mouth, she sang the death song.
Sadie walked toward the boy, or the soul of the boy, slowly and surely, looking into his eyes the entire time. Vehicles went right through her, but they no longer sped; there was commotion around the still earthly form of the boy. Everyone was slowing down, stopping, going to see what was wrong. Sadie knew without looking that someone would be trying to perform CPR; the foolish people didn’t know that it was simply the boy’s time.

The beautiful music continued to pour from the girl’s mouth as Ben, or his soul, stared dumbfounded. He was more confused than he’d ever been in his life, but the song, and the girl walking toward him, reassured him and let him know that somehow, everything would be all right.
He wanted to look over to where his body had landed; he wanted to see it. But something told him that he would be better off just watching the girl’s eyes – what was her name again? Oh, it was Sadie.
When Sadie took Ben’s hand, he didn’t protest; she was warm and comforting. He didn’t know who she was or what was going on, but he could tell that she did, so he submitted to her.
Then finally, things clicked into place in his mind; the truck slamming into him, his body flying through the air, the commotion around it…
I’m dead, aren’t I?

Sadie reached the boy and smiled reassuringly, her mouth open this time, as the beautiful lights surrounded them both. The boy was scared, but not too scared; the perfect amount of scared.
I’m dead, aren’t I? she heard the true soul think.
Yes, you are, she thought back. But don’t fear. Letting the song pour from her mouth, Sadie took the boy’s hand in hers and shivered at the contact; it had been so very long since she had touched a human, and even longer since she had had the privilege to ferry a true soul to its resting place.
Be very still now.
Sadie took the soul in her arms with a wide smile, and looked upward. The beams of colorful light swirled about them and blocked out the traffic, the commotion, the dead body, as Sadie carried the boy up to be with their Maker.
And so at last the girl – or not-girl, as it were – received the touch, the friendly, trusting embrace she had been waiting for, though only for a moment.
A true soul.
____________

Tell me what you thought!
Hopefully I’ll have an actual post written up soon.
See you then, awesome people! 😀

Categories: Short Stories and Such | 2 Comments

First Week of NaNoWriMo

Alright, so I’m a little under par wordcount-wise, but that’s okay. I’m actually liking my story so far. 😀

I’m going to do what my friend did and post some mini-excerpts, along with a bigger one. So here goes!

“Sitting once again on Xavier’s bed, Jared strummed the chords to the song’s chorus, finger-picked the melody, and sang the lyrics in his smooth, clear voice. Xavier leaned back and laid his head on the pillow as his eyelids drooped. He was tired, but he was afraid to sleep. It had to happen eventually, though, he knew.”

“”Xavier’s worried eyes followed him as he moved toward the door. “Dad?”

“Yeah?”
“Can you… can you play my song? Please?”
Jared pinched the bridge of his nose. He really didn’t feel like doing anything except descending to the basement, crawling into his uncomfortable cot, and sleeping for a few days. “Maybe tomorrow, B-Bud.””

“Snatching his sweatshirt off its hook again, he pulled it on as Xavier led the way out the door, his light frame bouncing a little. Jared envied his energy and happiness. It had been a long time since Jared had felt that happy, or even just normal, not depressed or sad. The bad mood hadn’t started when the marital problems began; it had started long before that. On that dark, dark night when he was sixteen…”

“The round, squat doctor pushed his wire-framed glasses up on his nose as he pushed the button to call the elevator. Jared looked down at his balding head and wondered if there was anything at all inside it.”

And here’s the longer one:

“Jared didn’t even try to eat his food. His stomach was in turmoil. Every time he thought he might be able to take a bite of the unhealthy-looking mush on his plate, he glanced at Xavier and felt like throwing up again. If he had only been able to get the words out to warn him…
And then the realization struck.
It was all Jared’s fault.
His jaw went slack and he stared blankly into space as he turned the fact over and over in his head. He hadn’t stopped Xavier. He hadn’t been able to shout at him. He hadn’t been holding Xavier’s hand like he should have. If he had, Xavier wouldn’t have run in front of that speeding car…
Not for the first time, the room spun violently and Jared’s stomach lurched. The tears he thought he’d defeated made his vision swim and threatened to make him a weakling in front of Kira.
Glancing up from her food, Kira saw Jared’s face and apparently the look on it concerned her, because she raised an eyebrow. “What?” she asked in a half-caring voice.
“K-Kira…” His breathing quickened. What would she do? She would hate him forever, that was what she would do. But he couldn’t not tell her. She had to know that it was all his fault their son was possibly dying. How could he possibly not let her know? He couldn’t…
“Spit it out, Jared.”
He drew a deep, shuddering breath. “M-m-my fault-t…”
She cast an incredulous glare.
Jared tried to continue. “I w-wasn’t-t-t hold-d-d-ing his hand.” He looked down at the floor as a lump arose in his throat. Tears choked his voice. “I c-c-c-couldn’t-t st-t-op him. He want-ted t-t-to race. He ran-n.”
Kira’s brow furrowed as she tried to take this in. Jared couldn’t hold back a sob; he buried his face in his hands.
“No… No…” Kira shook her head, as if arguing the fact could change it. “Jared, how could you?!” She stood and shouted at him. “You… you idiot! You know he’s impulsive! You know you need to hold onto him, especially on that busy street! What were you possibly thinking?!”
“I don’t-t-t-” Jared gave up, just concentrating on breathing. He didn’t know why or how he could have been such a fool. He looked up at Kira’s face; she was crying, tears of anger and despair.
She looked as if she was going to say something, then shut her mouth and gave her head a shake. Dropping back down onto the chair, she burst into tears.
Jared didn’t know what to do. His first instinct was to try and comfort her, but he knew she wouldn’t appreciate that. She was too angry.
“K-Kira…”
Her sobs quieted. “Just go away, Jared. Just leave.”
“I will,” he agreed, standing. Trying to keep his face straight, and trying to avoid people – which wasn’t too hard at midnight – he made his way through the halls and down the stairs. Elevators were too slow.
He ran full tilt from the hospital doors to the parking garage and up the stairs to the second level, where his truck waited. It took him several tries, but he managed to get his key into the lock and turn it. Jumping in, he slammed the door shut, locked the doors, and then sat still, shivering, staring out over the railing that kept people and cars from falling over the edge to the pavement below. He watched the dark clouds roll across the sky, only occasionally catching a glimpse of the moon. What if Xavier’s eyes never opened, and he never got to see the moon again? What if he – what if he died?”

I hope you enjoyed them. I might have more up soon; we’ll see. 😉

Categories: Excerpts | 4 Comments

Happy Happy, Joy Joy!

So what is the difference between happiness and joy?

hap·pi·ness [hap-ee-nis]

noun

1.

the quality or state of being happy.

joy [joi]

noun

1.

the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.
This doesn’t really tell us much, does it?
Well, happiness is fleeting. We can be happy when we’re at the store and we find a shirt that fits just right, but that happiness often disappears when we see the price tag. We can be happy when someone gives us a gift, but when that gift breaks, when it no longer fits, we’re unhappy. When we meet a new friend, we’re happy. But that fades away after a while. You don’t stay eternally happy and smiley.
Joy, on the other hand, can last. Joy is something you can have in your heart that is beyond compare or comprehension. When a loved one dies in the Lord, we are sad and we grieve, but at the same time we have joy in the knowledge that they’re in Heaven with Jesus and we’ll see them again one day. When a friend moves to another country, we miss them, but we have joy because we got the chance to be with them, even if for a shorter while than we would like.
Joy is hard to feel sometimes. Hard to have. Because when all these bad things happen, when you don’t know how anything’s ever going to work out right again, and you can’t see the sun, everything looks hopeless. You don’t know what you can have joy in. But there is always something.
Joy in the knowledge that Jesus loves you.
Joy in the fact that you’re on your way to Heaven.
Joy in the fact that God is always with you.
Joy in the Lord’s promises.
Joy in the fact that God does nothing without a purpose. Your life has meaning.
I know it’s hard to remember these things, and even harder to find joy in them sometimes, but if you have Jesus, you can have true joy that lasts, persists, endures forever, even during the darkest times.
Categories: Devotionals and Lessons | 7 Comments

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