Saturday, May 29, 2010

Submission, or Death to the Ego!

Submission is a word that no one likes to talk about. But I'm reading the book, “How to Inherit the Earth: Submitting Ourselves to a Servant Savior” by Scott Bessenecker – and this book is talking about it. The book was a gift to my from my friend, Dave, who is also the editor of the book and who came with me on the trip to Haiti. How could he have known that this is just the book I needed! God is Good!

Submission is difficult for me. I imagine it's difficult for everyone. But it can be especially difficult for actors. I mean, come on, you don't become an actor because you like anonymity and serving others. That's for stage managers, the people who hang the lights, pull the curtain, you get the point. You become an actor, in part, because you like being in the spotlight in front of lots of people (believe me there are other noble reasons for it too!). As a Christian, I'm having to figure out how to walk this tight-rope. I'm thankful that my work involves children and I seek to make them the center of my shows – but that doesn't mean it's not easy at times to ride an ego wave when a show goes well or receives lots of accolades. It's also difficult since doing the work I love to do requires earning a reputation as a performer – ie; getting noticed – so that people will invite me to perform. Achieving balance in this – so that it's not about me but about my belief in the work -- can be challenging. And in our self-aggrandizing culture, where the ego is lifted up and exalted, it becomes difficult to embrace a way of submissive servanthood – the way that Jesus has called us to.

I'm ashamed to say that much of last year I was pretty dissatisfied with life. I was staying at home, doing a lot of writing and a little performing, but it seemed like it wasn't going anywhere. Despite the fact that I was doing the work I loved, I wasn't happy. Why? I guess because no one was taking notice. This year, it's the exact opposite. I've got three books accepted to be published. More shows than I can keep track of. And am very satisfied with life. But I've realized the danger in this – my contentment or satisfaction has been based on whether or not others deem what I do as valuable. But there is something inherently wrong in this. As a follower of Jesus, my job is not to please man but to please God. So how can my satisfaction be wrapped up in my reputation, worldly success, recognition, the enlarging of my ego, etc? It can't! Or at least it shouldn't. I said to my husband that I wished I would've had a copy of this book about submission that I'm reading now last year when I was struggling with a lot of negative feelings related to my need to be noticed. He said that it's probably better that I didn't. Experiencing those feelings for the length of time that I did and now being able to look back and recognize them for what they are is probably a good thing – a growing thing. I'm just praying the next time I'm in that place, I'm able to take what I've learned and apply it. Easier said than done.

At any rate, it's been awhile since I've read the book “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis, but I seem to remember an unforgettable part that is fitting to this discussion of the ego and submission. In this book there is a Lizard who represents the ego. Some people say he represents lust, but I think lust, or getting what we want when we want it without regard for how it affects God or others, is the driving force behind the ego anyway – so for the purposes of this discussion, I'm counting them as the same. At any rate, the Lizard sits on the shoulder of one of the protagonists – a Ghost – and an Angel tells the Ghost that the Lizard must be killed.

The Ghost is hesitant. He protests, saying: “How can I tell you to kill it? You'd kill me if you did.” The Angel insists that it isn't so. The Ghost wants to wait, to come back tomorrow and do it, but the Angel says, “This moment contains all moments,” (ie; It's now or never! Make a choice! Will you let the ego live or will you let me kill it?” Then the Angel says, “I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?” The Angel moves forward as if to grab the Lizard around the throat and right at that moment the Lizard begins to plead his case to the Ghost who has the power to give him up to the Angel or let him live. He says: “He can kill me. . . Then you'll be without me for ever and ever. How could you live? You'd be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now.” (Of course the irony here is that the protagonist is a ghost, not a real man, however he doesn't see himself that way.)

This moment in the book is so compelling. At the moment that we consider the possibility of killing our own ego, we can be assured that he will strike back with vengeance. He will have every possible argument to tell us why we shouldn't. He tries to convince the protagonist that without him he is nothing – and the world tells us the same. It says that without the fame, recognition, and accolades of others, we are nothing. That if we aren't ever climbing the corporate or social ladder or any other ladder that takes us higher than our fellow man, we are nothing. This is so easy to believe, and yet it is the greatest of lies. It is the ego that keeps us always hungry, ever lusting after more, never content with what we have, ever comparing ourselves to others, unable to be happy for someone else's successes if we feel as though they have surpassed our own, completely absorbed in self.

We know that the ego needs killed, but it's so hard. At the moment where we are ready to give a decisive yes, the ego pleads, saying, “I'll be good. I admit I've sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won't do it again.” Of course these are more lies, bent on getting us to believe that just a little bit of ego can be a good thing. That we can hold on to both love of self and love of God simultaneously – but it doesn't work. You either pick up your cross or you don't. You either lose your life for the sake of the kingdom or you don't. There's no in between, although the modern day church has done a good job of making us believe otherwise.

In the end, the protagonist gives in, albeit somewhat reluctantly, (I think he's just tired of coming up with excuses for the Angel since he knows deep down that the Angel is in the right) and allows the Angel to kill the Lizard. And this is the image I remember more than anything else from the book. As the Angel twists the Lizard's body, he bites and writhes and screams. The protagonist screams and is reeling from this as well. Then the Angel flings the Lizard, broken-backed, onto the ground. The whole thing is quite painful and agonizing for both the Lizard and the Ghost. And so it is for us... killing our ego will take everything we've got. And as we watch it writhe and beg for mercy and as we feel the pain and hurt that its death brings (not getting your way does hurt!), we will want to give in, releasing our death hold and allowing our ego to go on living. But if we do, it will be to our own detriment and we will miss out on becoming what we were meant to be. Because the story isn't over.

After the back-breaking of the Lizard, something happens. It turns out that the Lizard is not actually dead. All this time he's been moving and writhing and growing larger, but taking on a different form. He becomes a silvery stallion. And the protagonist who was once a Ghost has become a real man. That which was once an apparition of a thing has become the real thing. And so it is with us.. . When we kill our ego, we don't lose ourselves. Instead, we become who we were truly meant to be.

I wish I could say that the Lizard on my shoulder were dead, but if I did, that would be a lie. At times, he is super convincing and plies me with all of the reasons why he should stay there and why I should let him go on living, and to be honest, sometimes I like the sound of his voice. He is my ego after all. But I know he is a liar. And so daily I'm working on submission – saying, “Yes God, you have my permission, take him and kill him.” And I think that's what it is – a daily choice. No matter how badly we bruise him today, that Lizard is tenacious and he will find a way to climb back onto our shoulder by tomorrow.

But the way of the ego is empty. In the end, it may leave you with a lot of accomplishments and attention, but you are still a ghost of a thing. And ghosts are dead. Ghosts are creatures who inhabit the world of the dead, but would do anything to get in on the world of the living, even for just a second.

The world of the living isn't what happens when we try to get bigger and better than everyone else. The world of the living is what happens when we wash each other's feet, when we sit around the table together and everyone has enough to eat, when we say 'thank you' and mean it, when I'm just as happy to see you succeed as I am to see myself succeed. It is a world void of jealousy and lust. Many of our poorer neighbors know something about it. And you don't need a college degree to understand it – in fact, maybe if you have one you are at a disadvantage.

Think about it – I spent 2 and half days with a family in Haiti. They never told me about their careers, their successes, or any of the rest of what our culture would deem as giving a person worth. Instead, they shared their food with me, their laughter, their friendship. They washed my feet. They practiced a kind of submission that is almost completely foreign in my culture, and I will never forget them because of it.

There's something special about the way that God does things. He doesn't allow anything to die without redeeming it and turning it into something newer and more full of promise than it was before. I'm going to try to remember that the next time I see my Lizard asking for mercy.

Reflections from Haiti

(Written May 25, 2010) I got home yesterday afternoon, and as I continue trying to process all of my experiences in Haiti, I find it rather disorienting. First of all, it's kind of hard to explain this trip. I've been on lots of missions trips in the past to many wonderful and exciting places – and when I got home I could say: “I helped build a playground or paint a wall” or “ Our team led worship services and did a Vacation Bible School.” But this trip was very different. It's not so easy to put into words. I don't take with me so much a sense that I did anything so much as that I experienced everything.

I wasn't there to do; I was there to listen and learn – to be fully present and take in whatever I could. And so it becomes problematic at times to find the right words to share with others in a way that they will understand and find meaningful. And yet, we live in a culture that is so focused on doing that oftentimes we never stop and take the time to listen and learn first. Our idea of missions has been one intent on doing, one intent on having something to show for our efforts, something that will look like progress to others. And so maybe this trip and my difficulty to explain it reveals something deeper to me. My need to do and to quantify my productivity is exactly that – it's my need. It's not God's need. God needs me to listen and and learn from Him – and then after listening and learning, perhaps, I'll know what it is that I should do. He says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Be still, even when it doesn't make sense to everyone else what you are doing, even when you can't explain it satisfactorily, even when it would be easier to do something and feel better about yourself – be still because it's not about all of that anyway.

I take with me from this trip no simple statements about what I did or accomplished. Instead, I take with me a plethora of images and vignettes, feelings and experiences, which despite being a writer, I find hard to put into words. (Kudos to Kent here, because he did it so well in his book that I am still reeling by it! If you haven't read it yet, I think you would be blessed by reading his book: "Following Jesus through the Eye of the Needle." It's published by Intervarsity Press and it's a fantastic and fascinating read in which the author, Kent Annan, is so honest and thoughtful that you will be amazed someone would be so transparent. There are gripping moments of sadness as you explore the realities of life in Haiti, but other moments that are just laugh out loud funny! I can't recommend it highly enough! I am going to start reading it again.. especially since the family he lived with and describes in the book is the one that I got to stay with and I can now put faces to all of the names!)

Anyway, back to what I take with me from this trip!

I take with me the deep imprint of the servant hospitality that comes from those who will wash your feet or sacrifice to buy ice for your drink (ice you can't even drink for fear of getting sick from the water). I take with me the lived ideal of community that makes loving your neighbor – not loving the idea of your neighbor – possible. In a culture like ours where we can so easily protect ourselves from our neighbors, holding them at a distance and only allowing them to see of us what we want them to see, I feel almost jealous, even desirous, of some Haitian cultural aspects which refuse to make escape from those we are supposed to love an option. Whether it be pumping water at the well for one another because we all depend on the same source or, as it strange as it may sound, not being afraid to wave and say “bon jou” to your neighbor who is standing there taking his or her bath, lathered up in soap, right before your eyes – I am encouraged by the idea of living with and loving neighbors whom you have seen and known – warts and all – and whose vulnerabilities are not hidden from you.

I take the laughter and courage of a people who have suffered deeply but who hang on because they believe in the goodness of life; because they understand that if they are still alive it means that there is work for them to do, people for them to care for, and joy and suffering to be found in it all.

On our first night in Haiti, we sang a song that was taught to us by Alex and Merline, John's brother -in-law and wife. The lyrics said: “Mwen se Ayiti.” It means, “ I am Haiti.” At one point there was a break in the song where we began to hum. Then we went around the circle, and one at at a time, everyone said: “Mwen se Ayiti tou,” or “I am Haiti too.” It seemed kind of funny to say it that first night, and some of us kind of giggled or wanted to, but for some reason, it doesn't feel funny any more. In fact, after what I have experienced, it feels completely natural.

And so, I say with confidence this time . . . Mwen se Ayiti tou. Amen.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Haiti (Miami) Trip Day 1 -- A Wild Beginning

Dear Friends,

Well, my trip to Haiti is off to a wild start! Let's just say it's a good thing I left a day early to get to Miami. This morning, my first flight was delayed 30 minutes out of Akron Canton Airport. Knowing that I only had an hour in between flights as it was, the lady at the counter was kind enough to confirm me on the next flight out of Miami in case I missed my first one. We arrived in Atlanta and I had 30 minutes to make my connection. By the time they got my bag to me (which they'd taken when I boarded the plane), I had closer to 15-20 minutes. I was in concourse C and needed to be in concourse A, so I took off running in hopes of still making the first flight. First sign of bad news: the tram was out of service. Second sign: people backed up at the entrance to concourse A -- no one is moving! I learn that supposedly there was some kind of electrical fire and no one is being allowed into concourse A. I figure I've missed the first flight, I'll wait for #2.

I go upstairs to concourse B to find out what gate my next flight leaves out of -- unfortunately, it is also out of concourse A. So there is nothing to do but wait. At this point, there is a line in concourse B waiting to take the escalator down to concourse A and most people have no clue what is going on. An airport worker says that she has no idea when it will be open again. A man standing next to me asks if I speak Spanish, I tell him I do and he asks me to explain the situation. It turns out he is from Colombia -- but not only that, he's from Manizales -- my husband's hometown! Small world, huh? As I talk to him, I feel like I am talking to my brother-in-law because he has the same accent! Then he starts using some words that are "paisano" -- or from that part of Colombia, and it reminds me of Estith! :) We decide since we have to wait we will have something to eat. He says he is glad to have found someone who could explain what was going on because everyone was so busy that no one would stop to talk to him. He ends up buying me lunch -- which was very kind of him. The terminal opens again and I have to leave in the middle of the meal because I only have about 30-40 minutes before my next flight leaves.

I wait in line at the escalator. Tons of people. i get downstairs -- worse. People are backed up and we are only inching forward. Finally I make it to the escalator up to concourse A -- as we are moving, the escalator comes to a lurching stop. It doesn't stop again -- I carry my extra-large carry on bag up the escalator, just hoping that I don't miss the second flight, because since this is the airport's fault and not the airlines, I'm not really sure how this is going to be handled -- and it seems to affect everybody!! I get to the top of the escalator thinking it will be easy going from there. . WRONG! It is chaos! There is barely room to get off of the escalator. People are crowded around from all sides. Some are trying to go down the escalator next to mine. Others are trying to cross the terminal to the right and left, others are trying to go forward to the baggage claim, and wherever you turn you are sandwiched in like sardines and the people around you are moving in the opposite direction! I have NEVER seen anything like this in an airport before!! Finally, I get into the clear and run towards the nearest gate, realizing I don't know which gate I'm supposed to go out of. I am told my flight, which now leaves in 5 minutes, departs from A18. That is back the opposite way from which I just came -- through a huge bottle-neck of people!! I make another run for it, only to hit the crowd and be at slow goings again. . all of this while trying to keep my bag from hitting, bumping and/or running over people's toes as we are smashed together. We are told by an airport worker that the planes are being held -- but I've been told that before when it wasn't the case, so don't know if their word is trustworthy or if they're just trying to avoid a bunch of angry, disgruntled passengers who might riot at any moment because they can't get where they're headed! The people on the side of the terminal where I'm headed are trying to leave the terminal, but they can't because of the bottleneck! So basically, there is no room for those of us who are trying to get into the terminal! Luckily, my gate is the first one, and I manage to slide along the side until I can get there and am able to board, because indeed they did hold the plane! Phew!

I arrived in Miami at 5:30pm instead of 3:30pm, but I am just glad to be here! It is rainy and overcast, so I haven't missed any sun. . and so much for my plan to hit the pool before tomorrow's trip! :) Again, I feel blessed that I was able to leave a day early, because if my Haiti connection would have been today, I would have missed it for sure. It was wild in that airport -- there was no order, no one really making order and everyone trying to go their own way. I guess I would have thought the Atlanta airport would've been better prepared to handle such a thing, but I was wrong. I know this was minor in comparison, but as I stood there amongst the throngs of people it made me think about what it must have been like when the earthquake hit Haiti. In the aftermath of that, the stakes were much higher than people needing to get to their connecting flight. It was survival, food, medical attention -- and oftentimes, from the reports I've seen on TV -- there were so many people clamoring, trying to get help. I can't imagine how chaotic it must have been.

I'm not sure how much time I'll have to write while I'm in Haiti, but if I get a chance I will definitely post an update that I've arrived. Thanks to everyone for your prayers and support. God is good all the time! And tomorrow, the adventure continues!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Understanding Paul's Laments

Lately I have reconnected with some former members of my youth group on facebook. As I began checking out their profiles to see what they've been up to in the years since I've seen them, I found myself saddened to see that one listed his religion as 'atheist;' some of the others had descriptions that were more ambiguous but based on some of the language used and the pictures posted, I had my doubts about where their faith was headed as well.

I've found myself thinking about it a lot over the past few days, and it has made me feel very sad. I worked with these kids about six or seven years ago when they were in high school and middle school -- now many are in college or working. I thought about the lessons taught, the church lock-ins, the mission trips taken -- and wondered -- was it all for nothing? What happened? Or did they never really get it in the first place?

I don't know -- but I now have a deeper appreciation for Paul's letters in the Bible. I'm reading his letter to the Corinthians now, and I can feel his pain as he laments the poor choices the believers in Corinth have made and how they have turned away from the gospel to follow idols. Not only have they rejected the truth of the gospel, but in many ways they have turned against him as well -- despite all that he did for them.

But it doesn't matter. Paul's love for them remains strong. In fact, he says:

I will gladly spend myself and all I have for your spiritual good, even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me. -- 2 Corinthians 12:15

Paul doesn't care how much they offend him or hurt him, he only wants them to be in a good spiritual place -- to have right relationships with the Lord. This is a convicting verse for me because I think of how often we want to give up on people or turn our backs the first time they offend or hurt us. But the gospel teaches us another way -- to love even those that don't love us; to love even when we are hurt and offended.

It's been eye-opening for me to see how much the college or post-high school years are formative in terms of religious growth. I think these are the years where we really determine what we believe and how we are going to live. My own college experience has had such an impact on where I am now and the person that I am that I could write a whole book about it. Thankfully, I was rooted in a solid fellowship of believers that helped me to grow in faith and challenged me and held me accountable. I wonder where I would be without this group that truly was heaven sent!

In high school, many kids are still going to church because their parents make them or at times because it provides a social outlet for them. But once out of the house, the choice becomes entirely up to the individual. I think the college years are make or break in a lot of ways. I'm not saying that if someone drifts during these years that they will never come back, but I feel that the likelihood is much less.

My sister is going off to college this year. She has chosen a Christian college, I think in large part because she fears losing her faith after high school. She goes to a Christian high school where she stays in the Word, must attend chapel services, etc; and perhaps she fears that once that structure is gone, she wouldn't be strong enough to make the choice to continue seeking God on her own. I don't see her choice as a sign of weakness, but rather of maturity. All of us are weak when it comes to the things of the spirit. Christ said: "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." I think my sister understands that the pull of the flesh will be great, especially in college, so it's best to be in an environment where the pull of the spirit will be encouraged -- especially during the years that may be the most crucial to her further development as both a person and a Christian.

How I pray that the youth that I work with now would understand the gospel and cling to it! And how I pray that the youth that I worked with before would remember the gospel and return to it! For there is no greater joy than living for the Lord, for apart from Christ there is no life. As Colossians 3:3-4 says:

Your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And . . Christ. . is your real life.

Looking for Donkeys

I have to laugh sometimes at God's sense of humor and the irony of some of the happenings in the Bible. Like take 1 Samuel 8 for example. Lately, I can't stop thinking about it. In this chapter we meet Israel's first king, Saul. Only at this time, he's not a king -- just a regular boy from the smallest tribe of Israel, and he readily admits that his family is the least important of all the families in his tribe! Basically, he's on the bottom of the totem pole!

Saul is out looking for his father's lost donkeys when he meets Samuel --the priest and judge who tells him he is going to become king. Imagine, you're out looking for donkeys when you receive the completely unexpected news that you're going to become king! I don't think looking for donkeys was any more glamorous in Saul's time than it would be in our day. So I had to laugh at how ironic the whole thing was. Saul leaves the house a donkey hunter and returns a king! Weird, huh?

As I read that passage, I thought to myself -- I bet there are a lot of people 'looking for donkeys' right now (ie; doing something that seems relatively unimportant to them and feeling like they are on the bottom of the totem pole). And yet, who knows what God has in store? Who knows how God might meet them and turn their whole life upside down when they least expect it? After all, that's what happened to Saul -- why couldn't it happen to you?

Monday, April 5, 2010


Well, the season of lent has come and gone. Although supposedly a time for reflection and stillness, it seems this lenten season was busier than most for me. I had set out with the intention of blogging every day, and yet, just couldn't make that happen. I ended up having to give myself some grace on that one as oftentimes it was a choice between blogging or spending quality time with my husband.

At any rate, the past few days have been truly amazing as I've considered the sacrifice of Christ. As with most stories that we've heard before, we fall into the mentality that we already know it, and the story loses its power. Even with a story as amazing and incredible as the resurrection, we often fail to see how miraculous and mind-blowing it was just because we've heard it so many times, celebrated it so many years.

But God has been doing something in my heart these past few days and I'm trying to figure out the best way to live it. This lenten journey has taught me that I have a lot of things to figure out still, and that life is about trying to figure them out. It's also about taking action. We can have the best of intentions, but if we don't do anything with them, it doesn't matter.

At any rate, on Sunday morning before heading for church, I happened to read 2 Corinthians 5. The whole chapter is fascinating -- talking about how we will one day be given new bodies in heaven, etc. But what stood out to me most were verses 18 and 19 which say:

And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others.

What an appropriate reading for Easter Sunday. Christ's death was all about reconciliation. And it struck me that our ministry as individuals and as the Church is one of reconciliation as well. I think the church has become good at telling the world everything that they're doing wrong, and clearly there is a lot of sin in the world. But Jesus came to bring reconciliation -- not to count people's sins against them. How many times in the church are we guilty of counting people's sins against them instead of setting about the ministry of reconciliation, instead of sharing the wonderful news that we have been given?

The night before we had a friend over for dinner, and he happened to talk about how Jesus was always eating with sinners. He made the comment that sinners back then were certainly no different than sinners today. Their language was probably foul and laced with expletives, their topics of conversation enough to make 'religious' ears blush, and their activities reprehensible. But that didn't stop Jesus from eating with them. He didn't expect them to clean up their act before He shared a meal with them. He could eat with them and He could see beyond all of that stuff to the soul of the beautiful person that He created. The religious leaders of the time often criticized Jesus by saying: "This man eats with sinners!" And I had to ask myself, would anyone describe me that way? Would anyone say of me: "This woman eats with sinners?" Because if they wouldn't, maybe I'm not doing something right. If they wouldn't, maybe it's because I'm too busy surrounding myself with people that are just like me, people who talk the way I do, believe what I believe, act the way I act. And if so, maybe I've been guilty of turning Christianity into a club for people that already have it figured out instead of a hospital for sinners, which is what Jesus had in mind.

On Thursday night, my husband was invited over to the house of one of his co-workers, his superior. My husband works for an electric company, and he has told me that his co-workers swear like sailors, talk about women in demeaning ways and drink too much. He accepted the invitation of his superior and went to his house along with another co-worker. The man lived out in the country and had a bunch of guns. Apparently at one point, he got out the guns and was shooting them into the woods and allowing my husband to do the same. It sounded like a strange way to pass the time to me, (especially after the man had had a few beers!) but I guess this was something he enjoyed and there was really no harm in it. At any rate, as my husband was describing his visit, I said, "I wish I could picture these people you work with. I have no idea what they look like." "You will," said my husband. "I'm sure you'll meet them soon." Then he told me that his co-worker had invited me to come along the next time. At first, I thought that I might feel a bit uncomfortable with the language and the guns and the whole nine yards -- and then it occurred to me that being uncomfortable isn't a bad thing. It's part of being an ambassador. Also, it would really be no different than being in another culture, which is something I love. When I go into another culture, I don't immediately understand their way of doing things. But while we may speak a different language and have different ways of doing things, that doesn't stand in the way of me trying to develop a relationship with the people. And I do that by listening, trying to learn from them and loving them.

I realized that I have been shamefully arrogant in the past. I have actually said that the people my husband works with are not the kind of people with whom we could be friends with. I said that thinking of their vocabulary and conversation topics and how their values didn't really mesh with our own. But shame on me!! I am ashamed of my attitude. These are exactly the type of people we can be friends with. These are the type of people that Jesus was friends with. Shame on me because I am a sinner saved by God's grace and given the ministry of reconciliation! But praise God for revealing to me the error of my ways and reminding me that I still have so much to learn.

I want to be an agent of reconciliation in the world. That is the purpose of the church! But this can only happen when we stop counting mens' sins against them and focus on the wonderful message Christ has given us to tell others. Judment for sin will come, but it is not our job to judge. We can leave that to the Righteous Judge who judges without partiality.

Will you tell others the wonderful news that by Christ's death on the cross they can be reconciled to God? Will I?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I haven't written a blog post in the last few days, but it's with good reason. You see, on Friday morning I woke up knowing that I had a show up in Cleveland so I'd have to leave the house around 11:30am. I had plenty of things to do -- clean the kitchen, do my daily devotions, do some paperwork, check emails, etc, etc -- but I sat down to pray and as I did a story just popped into my head. The strangest part was that the story that came to my head wasn't just a random story, but rather it was very clearly the sequel to my first children's book, Lily and the City of Light, which I wrote back in college and which is going to be coming out this summer.

Now, I never set out to write a sequel for this book, never really even considered the possibility -- but as I sat there I was just flooded with images. I saw the characters and what else they needed to accomplish and why this story needed to be told -- so I grabbed a pen and paper and started to write. and the ideas just kept coming. I had practically the whole story, written in snippets with a few wholes still to be filled in when I looked at the clock and realized that I'd better get in the shower and get ready to go or I was going to be late for my show! It was hard dragging myself away from my pen and paper because when inspiration strikes, the last thing you want to do is squelch it -- but duty called!

The crazy part was that as I drove up to Cleveland, all the holes in the story seemed to come to me and filled them in as well. The result being that by the time I got out of my car to go into the library, the rest of the story was fully formed in my head. I had a very full day and later that night got home and scribbled furiously all of my ideas onto paper. It wasn't until Sunday that I actually got to sit down with all of my pages and begin typing it into the computer. I kept marveling at the whole experience because I've written a lot of books, but very rarely do they come to me like this. But both this book and its predecessor came to me in their entirety with almost no pause for thought on my part. In both cases, it was as if the story were writing me instead of me writing the story.

In the Christian church we say that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. That, yes, men wrote it, but that God inspired them to write everything that they did. Now, I certainly don't put my works in line with those of the Bible, but I believe that my experiences of writing both of these stories have helped me to understand this whole idea of the Bible being inspired. In the end, I'm not sure where the ideas came from or how or why they came to me in that moment. I just knew that they were significant and that I had to take them down right away. I believe wholeheartedly that they were inspired -- and I believe that God is still inspiring men and women today. I have no idea how God is going to use either of these stories, but I have a feeling that He is because they are more His than mine.

The other thing I've noticed is how, subconsciously, the things that I'm learning about in regards to my faith and my daily devotions begin to seep through even my fiction writing. I was reading in 1 Corinthians when Paul says that he doesn't do what is best for himself, but rather what is best for others -- on Thursday. I actually journalled about it in my devotional journal. Then on Friday I was incorporating that same idea into my story without even really thinking about it. The Word has a way of getting inside of us and coming out when we least expect it. I believe it's the work of the Spirit, and it's awesome when you can say, "Yes, I saw God working at that particular moment in my life, with that particular verse, etc."

Last Friday morning after having furiously penned as much of my story as I could, I hopped in and out of the shower and took a look at the Psalms portion of my daily reading. It was from Psalm 47, but for some reason I kept reading and read Psalm 48:1 & 2:

How great is the Lord, and how much we should praise him in the city of our God, which is on his holy mountain! It is magnificent in elevation -- the whole earth rejoices to see it! Mount Zion, the holy mountain is the city of the great King!

I could only stare in amazement! My story is about a great city, set on a hill for all to see, in which lives a great King! I had incorporated all of these Biblical truths into my children's book without even thinking about it really. I guess the Spirit knows exactly what He is doing even when I don't have a clue!