Tag Archives: Faith

Be Still

June 9, 2008
You are sad. Why? — Because you are living in yourself and not in God. Remember that God is present. You are not alone for a single moment. He surrounds you. He sees you. He bears everything with you. He wants to help you. Always live in the assurance that God is present. The awareness of His presence will transform everything for you, and your sadness will disappear.
Mother Basilea Schlink, Daily Meditations

Plug End

Unplugging…it speaks of stopping…even of taking steps back, but the very word itself…unplugging…is a word of modern times, of action, of being electrified, charged up and holding voltage…even as the end of the cord lies on the floor…out of the source of juice…unplugged.Lightning Multiple

I have absorbed the static electricity of our times, not knowing that the very first step of unplugging was just that…the very first step.

Modern life has taken on a visceral quality.  We are propelled forward with our first breath in the morning, a schedule sounded by the alarm, children and school bells, snarls of traffic and a push on the gas at the first open stretch, having mastered the one fluid motion of bumping-wheels-to-the-curb-turning-pulling-key-opening-door-feet-out-and-down-closing-a-click-of-the-key-as-it-drops-into-purse-door-locked-almost-early-again-one-minute-late.

But it’s not just the activity of the day.  It’s the activity of the mind…of the spirit…of the soul.Psalm 4

The more I unplug, the more I find I need to unplug.  I exchange my radio and television for music.  I exchange my music for melody…lines of quiet musical poetry that aren’t improved by bass.

No longer needing to respond to the latest Fox News Alert, confident that next week will be soon enough to know who won the primary, silence beckons with her promise of a door that opens into a different world…and I turn the dial to fade the last diminishing flute tone down and out of sound.

Silence makes me aware of a different noise, the noise of the self, the mind turned inward, feeding on worries, questions, and habits that have pressed out the Source of life.  I am plugged in still, plugged into myself.

I have been struggling to set myself on a more inspired path for the coming years.  I have strained to hear and see God’s vision.  I thought that unplugging would reveal the Word.

Sunset DockIt hasn’t.  And I fear it is because I am still plugged into the barrier that separates me from my Master.  I still grasp for control.

Unplugging my desires, my plans, my goals, my pride, my vision of what I think I need to do…I have been led by the challenge laid out by modern motivational speakers, “Make a difference, think big, ask for the sky and lay it all out, like Jabez, before our Father.”

From a quieter perspective, I think I have been trying to build a bridge to heaven.  Not His bridge, but my bridge.  His bridge was given on the cross.  It’s already here.Crucifix 5

Laying down plans, unplugging from myself, I set myself down…quiet…chided…chastened…and loved.   The only thing left to do is pray that my every desire and every action will be created and activated from the Source above.

I am still.  Waiting.  He is God.

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RETURN to LOOKING FOR SIGNS OF LAND

First Published:  FROM THE HOME FRONT
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Copyright, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Shadowchild

Writer Ink Well Scroll

 

Writing is an odd world of contradictions.

Three months ago I decided not to write. It was not a writing issue. It was a life and death issue. There was no food in the house.

I might have gone to the grocery store and solved the problem there, if not for the ten family members coming to spend the month with us. For three months, I shopped, cooked, drove children here and there, helped pack and unpack suitcases, traveled to Tennessee, and taught math workshops. We survived. And I survived.

I quit writing, and I survived. If you had asked me in April, “What would you do if you couldn’t write?” I would have told you, “Die.” I would have killed myself to prove the point. But here I am, a survivor…alive…not having written a paragraph in three months.

Unexpected things happen when you’re working to survive. For one solid year I wrote up a storm, Praying Hands BW Dotsa literal storm. I wrote about family, being lonely, about writing, and about God. Some of my best pieces were prayers to God, extended prayers of supplication, God, make me a writer, and make me a humble writer. I really meant the humble part. I had a serious tendency to think I was hot stuff, and it seemed dangerous to let this flaw go untethered, reeking havoc on planet Earth. God could fix it.

He succeeded. So much so, that as I sit here at the computer, I am held back from typing by the realization that everything worth saying was said 2,000 years ago. And who’s listening? What do I have to say? How could I ever add to the life of a perfect man who chose to go to the cross as a love gift for me and all of mankind?

I’ve got things to write. But more than that, God seems to point me toward things to do. I have difficulty thinking any page of words will accomplish more than what I can do with my two hands on a Saturday afternoon at a food kitchen.

I reach out to writers of influence hoping to catch the power of their words. King David in his 23rd Psalm 23Psalm has given courage and comfort to countless men and women. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each preserved the life of Jesus and sealed the witness of the apostles who gave their lives for me. Paul carried God’s offer of reconciliation and His promise of salvation down thousands of miles of dusty roads, leaving behind his enduring words of encouragement and exhortation.

I sit in awe of the power and majesty contained in the words of believers in Christ. Bonheiffer, John Henry Jowett, St. Francis of Assisi, Thomas a Kempis, Fulton Sheen, Basilea Schlink, Mother Teresa. These are the lives of Mother Teresa 1people who have earned the right to speak in words. Because their actions speak louder.

Here I sit, a whiney, demanding, lazy, cowardly believer, my belly full, cooled by refrigeration, and my day secure enough for me to dawdle at the keyboard. What can I possibly write of significance?

God has definitely whittled me down to size. Now, with time on my hands to write, I struggle to think of an idea worthy of His confidence. In May, I wanted to write the book that would reach millions, the words that would explain the depth of God’s love with such persuasion that atheists would stop in their tracks and look up to the sky with an open heart. I wanted to write for world peace. Cure social injustice. Give loving homes to tiny babies before anyone could abort them.

Several months later in August, I shake my head at my audacity. I laugh at my pathetic ego. I cringe in embarrassment, afraid to read any of my essays written in headier days. What can I possibly write? How can I hope to touch the heart of one human being, when I’m painfully aware of my own need for improvement?

I prayed, God make me a writer, make me a humble writer. He has succeeded. And now the humility is so complete, I sit immobilized, afraid to be a writer, ever.

While the hopelessness of the situation grows, I stare through the computer screen, through the lamp’s reflection behind the words on the glossy white, past the bits and bytes inside the monitor, Shadow Personand out through the wall of the office into space. If I hold that thought and close my eyes, I can barely make out the shadow of one person. And, looking closely, I can just make out the empty space in their chest where a heart should be, a hole, a hurt that explains the droop of their shoulders and the quiet splash of a tear at their feet. Don’t leave Shadowchild. I think I share your pain. If you will be patient with me, perhaps I can write an honest thought with enough clarity so that you will recognize yourself in me. If we sit together and read a true and loving line, perhaps we can fill our own eHeart Treempty space with the love of the other, and maybe together we can reach out to pull just one more shadowchild into our circle.

If God approves, I think I could write to at least one person. That’s the least I can hope for. And the most.

 

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God’s Will

Stamp Post Office

I wish God worked at the post office.  Then He would have a rotating two-tier wheel of clamps by His side.  It would hold red ink rubber stamps.  And if God worked at the post office, one of those stamps would most certainly say, God’s Will.  We could just drop our letters at Stamp Approvedthe post office and ask, “God, is this Your Will?”

Everybody talks about seeking God’s Will.   I look for God’s Will just about as hard as anyone I know.  In the first seconds of wakefulness each morning, my face smothered in the pillow, I say good morning to God.  “Please, God, let me do something for You today.  Let me know what You want.  Give me the courage to do what You ask.”

In the morning darkness, on the couch under a quiet brass lamp, I open His Word and read for daily guidance and comfort.  During the day in the car, I turn to AM radio, listening to others Prayer Corner Lampwho seek His Word.  They speak with such confidence.  They’ve found it, His Will.

“Look,” they say, “ask yourself what your mission is.  What do you hunger to do?  What are your talents?  God wouldn’t give you a mission and talents if they weren’t part of His Will.”

It’s so tempting to latch onto their advice without challenge.  I love to write.  If I could sit at the typewriter skipping breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I would scarcely feel hunger.  Wouldn’t it be great if God loved what I love!  But I know better…I think.  My thoughts call up my personal divining rod: Hitler.  He loved cruelty, killing, and war.  Does our own passion and commitment to a cause prove God’s Will?  Hitler might have thought so.

A Christian writer’s conference is a wonderful place to seek security in the love of writing.  At Typewriter Classicmy first writers conference ever, I carried one book and two articles in my bag hoping to find God’s Will in some editor’s approval. Encouragement was there.  “Keep at it,” a few told me.  So I listened eagerly for advice from the experts:  buy tapes, buy books, write proposals and query letters, write more, join editing groups, expect rejection, keep at it, hundreds of rejections mean nothing, organize, keep going, keep records, keep writing.  But above all, they intone, seek God’s Will.  Remember, God doesn’t create talent for nothing.  You can do it, get published, be a star, be a writer.  If you love it, God will, too.Stamp Approved 3

I crave their reassurance, but when does my will get relabeled God’s Will as justification for what I want?  If it’s God’s Will, why does he make me spend weeks writing and rewriting book proposals?  Couldn’t writers just send out a book proposal to God at the post office and have Him stamp it with red ink:      God’s Will or…

Forget It!

I must be God’s most rebellious servant.  God, if it’s your will, make it happen.  You’ve left too many hurting people on earth for me to dilly dally around writing query letters and book proposals.  One mile down the street, Pat lies alone in her nursing home bed, her bones poking through tightly stretched skin all covered over with painful lesions.  She is waiting for me to return this week, waiting for any bits of conversation with me as interludes in her long day, in a long week, filled with bed pans, IV’s, pain pills, and cold food.  I don’t need publishing.  I don’t need fame or money.  At least send me a sign.  Desert LightningSomething big that I won’t miss.

Lucy Swindoll understands.  She told God she wanted to do something significant with her life.  But she also begged,  “God, let me know when that moment of significance happens.  I know you, God, you value small things.  I might miss it.  Don’t let me miss it.  I might do something so small I will never realize it was significant.”

Maybe Lucy Swindoll’s radio program was my sign.  She caught me in the car on my way home from Officemax yesterday with her story of a birthday party in a hearse.   Immediately my mind turned to the unbelievable antics of her “gang of grownups” who managed to lose a long black car in the middle of the night. My giggles and laughs followed her details from one escapade to the next, until finally, she and her four friends sat, riding in the front seat of a Hearsepolice car to pick up the “lost” hearse from the police impound.  I approached the turnoff to home and tapped my foot on the accelerator, “Speed up Lucy!  I need to know how the story ends.”  But they arrived at the police station at the very same moment I had to turn the car over to my daughter for her work transportation.  Cut short, I turned off the radio, not to know whether Lucy was arrested or not.  Ah, well. “God’s got more important things on the schedule for me,” I consoled myself.

Later that night, as I relaxed on the patio, my son Justin called for a ride home.   I pulled my feet off the coffee table and tried to gather energy to meet my motherly obligation without grumbling.  Driving to meet him, I had a moment’s inspiration.  On the way back, we could buy ice cream for root beer floats.  We had never done this.  It was just the excitement we both Ice Cream Coneneeded!

Maybe God wanted ice cream.  Maybe it was He who pointed at Smitty’s grocery store, a place I never shop.  Did He nudge me, while Justin was in the store, “Turn on the radio.”  I did.  I turned to my normal Christian station 960 AM, and as usual in the evening, it was lost in static.  I thought of picking my regular country western alternative.  “No,” God nudged again.  “I’m here.  Keep looking.”

Inexplicably, for the first time in my life, I turned to the FM dial.  On the first push of the “seek” button, there was Lucy again, arriving at the police station, ready to pay $43 to pick up her Hearsehearse.  Wow!  Thanks, God.

I followed her story to the end, laughing all the way.  Her point?  She wanted God to use her and she wanted a sign.  For Lucy, it came one night at a dinner party when an American Christian Writer editor walked up to her and asked her to write.  Incredulously, she pointed out to him that she wasn’t a writer.  What would he suggest, she queried.  He asked, “What do you think you could write?”

“Well, I won’t use scripture,” she declared.

“Fine,” he agreed.

“Perfect,” she deadpanned, “a Christian writer who doesn’t use scripture.”  Now, that’s my kind of writer, I thought.  I quit listening to the radio and turned my thoughts to my own doubts.

Stamp“Is that you God?” I asked.

God is one persistent person.  Elie Weisel is a writer rejected over 20 times because the world doesn’t want to get depressed about his life.  Poor world.  But finally, one person hears God’s call and publishes Elie’s words.  His words and books based on his survival of Hitler’s concentration camps have pulled me out of my deepest depressions.  I have survived my own life because Elie wrote his story and persisted to find a publisher.

A new writer friend Marsha tells me, “Maybe somebody else will know what you mean when you write.  Maybe your words will help someone, someday.”  I think of my father-in-law, the eternal atheist.  Unexpectedly, he reads the book I wrote for my children, and he is converted for a week.  It’s the longest week of his life.  Is this a sign?

Tonight at 2:30 a.m., I wake, unable to sleep, restless, but settled.  I need to hear God.  I wander to the office and turn on the computer.  God, is that you?  I want to lie down, but I’m not tired.  The strain of listening for God shatters my peace of mind.  I seek the determination Praying Manto walk away from writing, to let it go, but a pecking insistence remains.  In the darkness, I must sit and type for one more chapter.  “God is that you?”

“Please, God, I need a sign.  There is simply too much of me in my writing for good judgment’s sake.  I have promised a year. I’ll give writing a chance, just in case that’s what you want.   A year.  I know it’s not my place to tell you what to do.  But I need a sign.  I can’t bear to leave Pat alone in bed during the day at the rest home unless I know there’s a better reason to write than Praying Hands Goldkeeping my own sanity.

“Please, God, if it is really You, use your red ink stamp.  Better yet, hit me with a brick.  I’m not a very good Christian. I need a big sign.  I don’t think I will be able to detect Your whisper.”

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Return to:  CONVERSION – Looking for Signs of Land
CONTENTS

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Copyright 2013.   All Rights Reserved.

Posted also on www.JaneJimenez.com
JANE JIMENEZ – ALL THINGS WRITTEN

GodTalk

Inkwell Feather 2I write.  I want to make GodTalk.

As a relatively new believer of only six years, I often feel stuck in the middle of two opposing worlds.  The world I left behind, my past life before Jesus, has my history, my dearest friends, and my family.  But it has almost no GodTalk.Psalm Title Board

Yes, I still get together with old friends.  And yes, they talk about ‘god.’  But he is only a speculation, a question mark, a little ‘g.’   He is the god of spirits and ghosts and angels that are fun to watch on make-believe television.   And when a click of the remote passes by the waving, prancing preachers who ‘do’ religion on television, my friends smile.  They even tell me God might really be out there, somewhere.  But that’s not GodTalk.

Bible Reading Praying HandsIn my new life born of Jesus, when I visit with my new friends, there’s plenty of GodTalk.  It’s all about finding God’s will, submitting it to the Lord, and praising the day my Savior redeemed me.  But that’s not GodTalk, either.  This is privileged communication between believers, privileged because we’ve taken the time to learn some special words, short-cut words to explain how we feel.  But the only people who can possibly understand us are other believers.Pilgrims 2

GodTalk is special.  It’s the bridge between these two worlds of my life.  It’s more than words.  It is attitude, an openness to hearing God.  It is watchfulness, the desire to see God in the simple things of the world.  It is the willingness of a heart to meet God, to really have a desire to answer him with our life when we ask Him if He’s there.

For me as a writer, most often GodTalk is the personal, lonely mental conversations I have, trying to bridge across the world of my past into the world of my future.  It’s the struggle to translate what my Christian friend is saying into non-Christian words my secular friends will accept.  Or it’s the silent mental apologies I make for my secular friends when they fail to communicate their deep spiritual longings to Christians.

Fireworks 2When I write, I am writing my GodTalk.  Essays, editorials, books – words placed one after the other on the page – how can they move my old world closer to my new world?  How often this writer’s desire feels like a slow train to China.  I dream for the words that can build a rocket.  Where’s the blast that lifts the Sunshinewords off a page and makes them live in people’s lives?

I want to write.  But Lord, give me your heart for stories that teach people to GodTalk.

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Return to:  CONVERSION – Looking for Signs of Land
CONTENTS

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Copyright 2013.   All Rights Reserved.

Posted also on www.JaneJimenez.com
JANE JIMENEZ – ALL THINGS WRITTEN

Whiplash

Whiplash is a non-medical term describing a range of injuries to the neck caused by or related to a sudden distortion of the neck commonly associated with motor vehicle accidents, usually when the vehicle has been hit in the rear.  The injury can be sustained in many other ways, including headbanging, bungee jumping and falls.  It is one of the main injuries covered by insurance.

 Crucifix 5

 

 

It hurts…
…what just happened?

 

I never intended to become Catholic.  But…then…I never intended to believe…in God…or in anything or anyone other than myself.

Having lived for a considerable time on each side of the faith fence, one thing I can testify to for all the agnostics and atheists out there is that they have an easier ride than people of deep faith.  This is not what non-believers propose.

In the typical characterization put forward by agnostics about believers, Christians are CB Linus Blanketgrasping onto God like Linus holding onto his blanket.  “No matter what happens in the world, if you Christians have your little God  blanket, it will all turn out OK.”

It is easy for agnostics to hold onto this misconception, because they are generally not willing to engage in serious, meaningful dialogue with Christians.

From this side of the fence, I understand the hesitation of agnostics to welcome “GodTalk.”  I get it.  The talk between believers and non-believers quickly turns passionate, and if someone doesn’t get tarred and feathered, they are sure to get thumped by a Bible before things are over.

This is where the concept of sin becomes useful, even to agnostics.  We are all subject to the failings of human nature.  Call it what you will…sin…or bad judgment…we all have it.  Christians are not hypocrites.  They are, quite simply put, fallen human beings.  Paul, chief among sinners, bemoaned his condition:

 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.   [Rom 7:18-20]

RCIA FormIn these twenty chapters of Coming Home, I have struggled to tell the story of my personal car crash.   A little VW Christian on a journey into the Catholic Church, after detours and traffic jams and speeding tickets, finally crashed full speed into a brick wall.  The road turned, and the little VW never saw it coming.Brick Wall

This project is not about getting even.  And it has not been for the purpose of making me gloat in retribution.

I began the trip early in 2013, hoping to prepare myself to become Catholic.  I was ahead of schedule at that point.  In 2012, honoring my marital vows and love for my husband, I had “put Catholic on hold” for a future date…many years hence…when my husband could fully trust that I treasured his faith in Christ no less than mine.  Just when I had settled on waiting, he flashed the green light.  “Yes,” he told me.  “It’s time for you to begin your journey into the Catholic Church.”

Praying Sun RaysBut faith is not a straight road dictated by Christ, charted by maps and marked at night with bright landing lights. It is an adventure where our faith is tested…tempted…challenged…thwarted…and redirected.

I hurt.  Today, I am far afield from the map I had charted.   I am not where I expected to be when I first opened the door and walked into RCIA v.1.

I could have used less law and more love in RCIA v.3.

It would have been nice to have heard the truth more promptly and more succinctly in RCIA v.2 and RCIA v.4.

Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one. [Mat 5:37]

But even after all that…after RCIA 1 and 2 and 3 and 4…I could have handled all of that…until finally running into the brick wall in RCIA v.5.

Brick WallWhat comes next?  I don’t know.  I am waiting to heal.

Yes, healing takes time.  And healing involves more than broken bones.  In October, I could have knocked on more doors and tried to beg my way into an RCIA program that had empty chairs.  Even now in November, I figure that is still a possibility.Church Door

But I am tired of banging on the door of Christ’s church begging for entry.  My body is aching. My heart is in traction.  My soul is wounded.  And Christ…I try to fit my experiences of the past year into his parable of the wedding feast.

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.  [Mat 22:1-10]

Church Door Man 2I stand on the street, waiting for an invitation to the wedding.  If they are inviting both the good and the bad, that should include me.  If they can’t find me, if they don’t see me in the throngs of those wanting to enter, I will jump in the air and wave my hands…even with all the aches, pains and bruises.

Still…I wait…outside a closed door.

I ache. I am bruised. My neck hurts so badly that it can’t turn right or Church Door Handleleft.  Is there a speeding train headed toward me on the road ahead where it crosses the tracks?  I pray it isn’t so.  In this condition, I will not be able to turn and see it before it runs me down.

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