The Invitation: a good invitation?

You’re invited into a quiet, intimate conversation in your favorite comfy place. It’s just you and me in the pause you create in your day. Are we meeting in the morning at the kitchen table with a hot cuppa? Or is it the comfy, oversized chair near the window on a chilly, rainy day? This post is an invitation, and you picked it up. You are here for a purpose. We both are.

Invitation: You're InvitedAn invitation is special. Imagine a beautiful, ivory, embossed envelope on top of the stack of mail as you retrieve it from the box. Because you have received similar envelopes over the years, you immediately form an idea of the secret contents inside—a beautiful, matching card decorated with frilly calligraphy, a smaller envelope, and a response card you’ll fill out. A finger gently slides under the edge of the flap and removes the beautiful card. Wait. What? The ornate card is—blank?

Not a single detail is included. You have no idea who the guests of honor might be. You assumed the event was a wedding, but you can’t be sure; it doesn’t say. It’s impossible to know where you are going or when to arrive. At this point, there’s no reason to believe you’ve actually been invited, except that the invitation was delivered. Why would you attend the event? How could you? What kind of invitation was extended?

This scenario reminds me of my own wedding invitations sent more than two decades ago. We sent beautiful, white and purple invitations to friends and family. Invitations and response cards were tucked in crisp envelopes.

We forgot one detail: maps. Our wedding took place before everyone carried little computers in their pockets with GPS apps. To make things more complicated, the church asked that we change the location of our reception at the last minute, and we settled on the brand-new park district building in the next town. We provided maps in the church lobby for our friends and family, but that made one assumption: all our friends and family made it to the church.

What happened there? We put time and effort into creating a beautiful invitation and reservation card; each invitation was carefully and neatly addressed; and we hoped everyone would come. Local friends had no problem, but forgetting to include a map made it difficult for our distant friends to find the event.

What makes a good invitation? What do you really need in order to say yes to the invitation that appears in your box? I’m curious what you think.

~jennifer

 

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Announcement: A New Thing!

Hi there, if you found me in the last months or years, thank you for returning!

I’ve Announcement: New Thingsbeen MIA, but I used the time to organize things related to my online presence. That meant saying yes to the hard work of building an (slightly imperfect) editing business site and no to some of the things I love, like writing here. When I sifted through the writing on this site, I noticed I was flourishing in my writing—yay!—but it was impossible for a reader to find anything.

I quickly discovered more than one reader in this space. One reader enjoyed reading the thoughts I share on writing and editing. One reader wanted to know more about my experience and journey into health and healing from hard places through the relationship I have with my God, my own self, and with others.

Two words came to mind: simplicity and location, location, location.

Now you can easily find the content you’re looking for. (You’re welcome!)

  • For the writing-editing content, go to qualityediting.net.
    • Develop your writing heart and brain.
    • Visit the new home of the “Hey Writer” series.
    • Learn about the opportunity to partner on your project.
  • For my personal writing and content related to relationship, stay tuned!
    • I’m leaning into the healing journey from hard places.
    • Learn about your relationship to God, yourself, and others.
  • And I’m still writing monthly at facetsoffaith.com on life, faith, and friendship. I’d love to meet you there, too!

There are exciting things on the horizon! You’ll see my popular “Hey Writer” series has vacated this place, but all is not lost. I’ll be introducing new, thought-provoking, heart-tending, life-transforming content. I hope you love it!

Glad you’re here! I hope this announcement helps you in your search for the content to support your next right step.

~Jennifer

Believing God: Promises Kept

Blog Graphic_ Smoke (orange overlay)Hello, friends. I’m so glad you’ve stopped by to take a peek at what’s new in my little corner of cyberspace. This post is my attempt to share the speaking material I brought to a women’s event last week, though I’m not sure any of it exclusively pertains to women. I think you’ll see why.

The overarching theme for the night was settled: Becoming a Woman Who Walks with Jesus. When I began to think about “walking with Jesus,” I noodled what it might mean to walk with Him, and if there might be significance to the “what” and “how” of that.

My own story includes a sweet moment in time when a friend told me about the “relationship” part of Christianity. Through that conversation I knew Christianity was attending church, but I suspected it was also more than attending church. I knew it was knowing what the Bible said, but I secretly hoped it was also more than knowing what the Bible said.

Twenty-five years ago I didn’t know that being “saved” wasn’t the one-and-done prayer I prayed. I had no idea that life could still be hard after I prayed. And I really didn’t know how sweet that relationship with God could be.

Maybe that’s why, when I thought about this night, one word dominated my mind: Believe. The verses I trust Holy Spirit brought to mind almost immediately and very strongly were the ones about Abraham believing God.

Do you know those verses?

For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. Romans 4:3 CSB

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Romans 4:18 NIV

So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness , and he was called God’s friend. James 2:23 CSB

Believing God
What was Abraham believing? He must be believing in the existence of God—and His good, loving heart
. He must have trusted the words he heard—the promises from God
. And he believed in the truth and permanence of both
. Ultimately, he trusted in God’s power to keep the promises.

Let’s talk about Promises…
A promise’s value and worth lies somewhere within the promise itself. Some are better than others. In the Bible some are for specific people (in a place or time). The promises are still good and reveal something to us today about the character and power of God. Some of the promises are for us today, and I think we should pay special attention to those.

Most importantly, a promise is nearly completely dependent upon the one making it! When someone speaks a promise but never makes good on it, we question their integrity or sanity, or both. (Or we question our own for believing the lies so many times, don’t we?)

These aren’t ordinary promises; they are God’s.

Is God a Promise Maker…and Keeper?
For me to trust any of God’s promises, I would want to see what’s true of His character first. If even one was broken, then trust in any of them would be altogether foolish. If God is even a little wishy-washy, I don’t want to trust Him. Period. Who would? Any list of promises I could compile might be full of half-truths, lies, or bait-and-switch moves, right?

So what does the Bible say?

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

Furthermore, the Eternal One of Israel does not lie or change His mind, for He is not man who changes his mind.” 1 Samuel 15:29

…in the hope of eternal life that God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, Titus 1:2

Joshua, who experienced the leadership of Moses, up-close-and-personal, testifies to the promises of God:

Not one good thing that ADONAI had spoken of to the household of Isra’el failed to happen; it all took place. Joshua 21:45 CJB

“Not one good thing.” Every one of the promises was fulfilled. Joshua would know (Numbers 11:28).

God was truthful in in Moses’ time, but what about now? Are the promises for a group of people in a land far away who are long dead and gone?

I’m thankful Paul writes

For however many promises God has made, they all find their “Yes” in connection with him; that is why it is through him that we say the “Amen” when we give glory to God. 21 Moreover, it is God who sets both us and you in firm union with the Messiah; he has anointed us, 22 put his seal on us, and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee for the future. 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 CJB

God’s promise to Abraham
God’s foundational promise to Abraham was made in sacrifice and covenant. In Genesis 15 we notice the “blood path” covenant made. I see that the LORD walked through, but not Abraham. Long story short, only God could keep the promise being made. Making this kind of promise was saying “May it be to me—may I be torn apart and killed as the animals lining the path—if this covenant is broken.” The LORD makes this covenant and is saying, “If you (Abraham) break this covenant, may it be to me, not you.”

God’s Promise to Us
God’s foundational promise of love to us was made on a hill outside Jerusalem on an execution stake. Jesus, the God-man, at the cross is our covenant with God fulfilled.

For it is clear that He [Jesus] does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring. Therefore He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:16-17

“May it be to Me…”
Jesus was beaten, torn apart, and killed. For us. That promise was kept.

God said, “I will…” We say, “I believe You” with our all our hearts when we give Him our lives!

We have been given an incredible gift at the cross. The payment for sin is death, and none of us could pay the debt to holy, perfect God. In His great love for us, God has given us a second gift.

The Promise to Help Us
Ultimately, God promised to rescue us, and He did at that execution stake. Yet we still live in this world, as messed up and distorted as it is. But it’s not the end. God promised those who love Jesus a “seal…a guarantee for the future,” Holy Spirit in us.

In our covenant with God, He waits for us ask the Father to show Himself and His love, to be near and present as our Daddy-God. He waits for us to choose Him, to ask Him to intervene, to ask Jesus to forgive and cover our sin, and to ask Holy Spirit to teach, lead, help us moment-by-moment. Out of that relationship with God, through Jesus—we live out of that and have the ability and desire to obey His wise and loving direction.

Friend, the promise of redemption is real, and it’s for everyone. Better yet, we can be sure it was made to us and kept! From Genesis to Revelation, the story is all about one single promise: our redemption.

That begins with an intimate moment with Jesus at the cross and continues every day until we see God face-to-face (when our redemption is complete).

“B-b-b-but, God…”
God makes and keeps promises. In faith on a good day, I can believe that. But I’m human and faith-challenged sometimes. Truthfully, I have a lot in common with “doubting Thomas” (John 20)
 and the desperate father of the boy controlled by a spirit (Mark 9). I can just hear my heart saying the same words—

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

I ask myself, How would I, or anyone, know I believe His promises? I answer that question differently today than at other times.

Some time ago, I thought listening and repeating truth equaled belief. Now I know truth informs belief, but believing God’s promises is more than that.

Trusting the words I read to be true begins to get at it. But want to be very clear I’m not talking about blind or misplaced faith in the words. Thankfully, as we look closely at Scripture, we can see that studying the whole of the Bible informs the whole of it. Authors agree across the distances of time and space.

Now, living like it’s true—thinking, speaking, and acting according to the belief—that’s when believing the promises has legs!

I find it helpful to remember these things:

God’s promises are written down in the Bible.
God’s character is revealed in the promises He makes and keeps.
His promises to me show His love for me.

What are God’s promises to me?
I’ve been on the hunt for some of God’s individual promises (in addition to the foundational two I fleshed out: the cross and the Spirit). I think I found two kinds of promises.

Some are what I might call “blanket promises” that are gifts.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9a CSB

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 CSB

The grace and the good work are His to do. Blanket promises sound a little like these two, and they show the beautiful heart of God to us in the things we cannot earn or increase in any way. When you read Scripture, take a close look to see if there is a promise embedded in the passage you’re reading. Is it a gift to you from God?

Then there are the promises we participate in. These are some of my favorites because they speak to the relationship with Him that I desperately need and want to cultivate.

All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. Matthew 11:29 CSB

When I’m in relationship with God through Jesus, I can choose to learn God’s ways (and do them), as Jesus teaches and the Spirit empowers. Then I see there is the promise of rest. I don’t see striving or living up to some imagined expectation. I see relationship leading to a beautiful life.

For me, as one who often strives for so many things (including perfection), this promise of rest means more to me than many others. What does that rest mean to you? When you read, be on the lookout for opportunity to partner with God, knowing He infuses you with all you need.

One Final Thought…
What have we done to the Christianity and its Gospel? An old, broken, distorted view reigns until we understand the truth and reality of the Gospel (which is every redemptive promise God makes to us).

I’ve noticed a new theme when we discuss the Christian life: we do Christianity. We have an unspoken hope to attain some kind of spiritual maturity through the disciplines—all of which are beautiful gifts to cultivate our relationship with God, but are never the things by which we reach relationship with Him.

I’ve also seen a “one-and-done” mindset when it comes to being saved and

I might suggest that we believe God.

Is there a difference? What do you think?

Thanks for reading along. This is a good deal of my talk, with a few additions and minimal eliminations. I’d love to hear what you think!

Below you’ll find the discussion questions made available to the groups that night, too.

Enjoy!

Jennifer

 


Group Questions:

Do I believe God’s promises? Why or why not?

 

God, what are your promises? Which ones can I recall? (Make a list including promises you think you know and the ones you’ve found in Scripture.)

 

Which promises are for me? (List verses, so you can go back to them when you need to.)

 

Verses from tonight:
Abraham: Romans 4:3, 18; James 2:23
Truthful God: Numbers 23:19; Joshua 21:45; 1 Samuel 15:29; Titus 1:2
Abrahamic Covenant: Genesis 15
God’s promises (Jesus and Holy Spirit): 2 Corinthians 1:20-22; Hebrews 2:16-17
“Blanket promises” or gifts: 2 Corinthians 12:9a; Philippians 1:6
Promises we participate in: Matthew 11:29

“Please, Fence Me In!”

Blog—picket fenceHave you read this yet? Jeff Goins has a way with words, and sometimes he grabs my attention with a topic that arrives right on time. I’ve been mulling a couple of the points from his post. I don’t disagree with the post. The truth is, I’m not thinking about marketing when I’m kicking around potential titles. I know some would say I should be more concerned about that, but I’m really thinking about a lovely white picket fence.

Sure. It’s all about marketing, and I get that. But it’s about content.

For me, the title is the neat, welcoming picket fence that defines my boundaries. When I’m drafting the gate is open to almost any and all words, but eventually some of those words are shown the sidewalk when I know which ideas, scenes, and sentences play nicely in the yard with the others.

But that fence. I guess I need a plat survey to know where the posts will go before I can seriously evaluate what stays or goes. It’s the granddaddy of all college term papers in my mind sometimes. Writing needs a raison d’être. I’m on the hunt for that.

The nugget I needed in Goins’ post was this: choose an argument.

We called this a thesis for college papers, but it never goes away in our writing. This argument is the work’s reason for being, the lifeblood of the work itself. To be honest, a storyline is a beautiful thing (especially in memoir), but I need to consider the why behind the story. Why tell it? Why should my reader invest time and emotional energy in the story? The tension in the argument makes all the difference, and it’s still there when the content is “just a chronological story.”

There’s a big idea out there somewhere. It may be entertainment, but I think there’s something deeper. Stories have purpose. They draw us in. They teach us. They engage us. They sit with us in a kind of conversation (usually while I sip mug after mug of java). And stories also have a life of their own, flowing at their pace and following their chosen path. The reader rides the current, and the current is the story. But that’s no excuse for words traipsing all over the page without restraint in my mind.

I have a favorite title in mind, and I haven’t been able to shake it. In a moment of brilliance—at least I hope it was!—I saw a connection between the main character’s name, her understanding of her identity, and a couple of different meanings of that name. We’ll see if White Wave Crashing remains when all is said and done. I definitely need to take a closer look at my work’s purpose, audience, and argument because these are posts or pickets in the fence that defines my book.

Goins makes a fantastic point about marketing. An author has one chance to grab the reader’s eyeballs in order to get their fingers leafing through the pages. He’s right about the marketing, and if I could see just a little further down the road—

What do you think?

Does the author let the work grow at its own pace? A sculptor might say the rock speaks, and he merely responds by removing whatever is not part of the piece it wants to be. Maybe authors are like that. Maybe I am a little like that, too—on a good day when I am not self-editing the self-edits or plotting every curve, rise, and fall in the WIP.

I say, “Fence me in, please!” I’ll be working on this in order to have a loose framework, but I don’t expect to write a final draft the first time through. This is a process. Even knowing what the book is not is a very good thing.

What has helped you in choosing an argument? Can you share an argument you used in a sentence or so? If you write memoir, how do you think this plays into that genre? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

~j

Water, Water, Everywhere…

As I reflect on my life, I’m sensitive to something I’ve glossed over more recently. As I explore it, bear with me. Maybe we’ll discover something unique and useful as we go.

I was thinking about water—different kinds of water. Water can be completely still in stagnant puddles. It can be strong and forceful in  the motion of white-capped waves. There’s something between those two that has always been the topic of my archived blog—gentle motion as the result of an impact, ripples.

Stagnant water has some appeal at first glance. It’s smooth like glass, nonthreatening, and looks peaceful. But something else is going on. Check out stagnant water areas, and the ecology is pretty consistent. While certain kinds of life can found there, some general rules apply:

Stagnant: adj

1. (of water, etc.) standing still; without flow or current
2. brackish and foul from standing still
3. stale, sluggish, or dull from inaction
4. not growing or developing; static (Dictionary.com)

Spiritually speaking, I hope I am never in the stagnant water category for long. Not to be confused with periods of rest, times of slowing down, or seeking direction—stagnation is an eventual standstill leading to something foul. The closest thing in Scripture related to stagnant water is the “sluggard” (Proverbs 6:6,9; 10:26; 13:4; 19:24; 20:4; 26:14). Over and over, we are warned about complacency and laziness. Our stagnant condition, when we find ourselves in it, can be our responsibility to a certain extent. We absolutely must be active. The stagnant condition is detrimental. I’ve experienced it, and it was a tearful wake up call—a wake up call I hope always happens whenever I settle into this state.

The other extreme water condition that came to mind was the strong, forceful motion of white-capped waves. So much is going on with this water. It’s in motion, impacts everything it touches, and can be heard a long way off. Captivating, exciting, and maybe overwhelming—waves can be so impressive! Some of us dream of riding one. Others wait for one to crash near on the beach. I can stand watching them pound the beach all day, awestruck!

Wave: 
1. a disturbance on the surface of a liquid body, as the sea or a lake, in the form of a moving ridge or swell. n.
2. to move freely and gently back and forth or up and down, as by the action of air currents, sea swells, etc. v. (Dictionary.com)

Dictionary.com listed more than a dozen definitions of wave on the site, so I picked the two that made the most sense in this context. A disturbance on the surface, a swell, back and forth or up and down movement. There is untamed power in the foamy wave’s crash on the beach, and maybe there’s something soothing in the repetition. The motion is consistent. Forward and back. Forward and back. Powerful advance…followed by retreat. I don’t want to be known for that kind of life. I want to be known for a life that moves more forward than back, one that progresses and matures. No one really wants the life characterized by fear at the sight of a little conflict, or the one that languishes and dies. The only retreat I want to be known for is something like Luke 5:16 (withdrawing to spend time alone with my heavenly Father).

No, I’ll take the little splash that leads to the ripples on the surface. The beauty of it is that there is a specific cause and effect. In my case, it’s Truth causing a disturbance in the surface as it hits. It doesn’t seem like a lot of power, but it travels outward, impacting the water in every direction. Truth advances outside of my small world, and it’s a matter of simple hearing and living according to the truth I know—sometimes sharing with words.

Thanks for reading along. This post is a rewrite of an older one, and I like it so much more this time around. I hope you enjoyed it. Water is a theme in my life much of the time.

~j