I’m honored to have a blog post about finding solace in the home library during lockdown published today at 805 Lit. Find it here.
Today Word Weavers published a post I wrote about learning from rejection.
Lent starts tomorrow.
It’s the season in the church calendar when Christians traditionally give up some earthly pleasure in order to draw closer to Jesus by, in some small way, joining him in the suffering he would endure on the cross.
I want to strengthen my faith, but this year, the idea of giving something up seems absurd.
Haven’t we already given up enough?
Yes, I can still give up chocolate. That would still be a sacrifice. But would it strengthen my faith? Maybe in years past, I would open the bible when the Reese’s started calling, but this year I’m not so sure. I’m already spending at least a little time in scripture every day.
Some years I’ve added something extra into my life during the 40 days of Lent. A devotional reading, an act of kindness. This year the answer isn’t really clear as to what the Holy Spirit is calling me to do. Could it be nothing special? Could it be to keep on keepin’ on?
I feel like I’m trying to pick out a gift for Jesus and just can’t make up my mind.
Maybe if I pray before bed tonight, it’ll come to me in the morning. And if it doesn’t make that deadline, I guess that’s ok. God doesn’t really have the same calendar we do.
Come to think of it, my 2021 focus word didn’t make the New Year’s Day deadline. But it did eventually arrive.
My word this year: BALANCE
Seems about right.
We are a week into 2021, and I haven’t quite settled on a focus word for the year yet. When I relinquished the idea of setting New Year’s resolutions a few years ago and decided instead to choose a word, it was easy. (And certainly easier than setting a NYR.) In 2019, my focus word was SIMPLIFY. I did that. In 2020, my word was simply FOCUS. The idea being that I would be more intentional about making time for and devoting my attention to the things and people that are most important in my life. I did that, too.
This year, I was thinking about choosing JOY. There is so much weighing us down these days. I thought that if I focused on the simple things in life–like love, nature, music–it would ease some of the emotional burden and remind me to look up and around and wonder at the world again.
Then I remembered all the things I wanted to accomplish this year. Maybe my word should not be a noun but a verb. I know someone who chose EXECUTE as her word last year. That could work for me.
But I still like JOY and want more of it in my life. I could combine the two: EXECUTE JOY.
I’ll think on it a little more. It should become clear soon.
Good luck choosing your own word. If nothing else, thinking about it helps us know our priorities.
We’ve been having some colorful sunrises, but when I woke up and looked out the window today, the sky was monochrome. Grey as far as the eye could see. Nothing spectacular today, I thought.
I went into the other room to write an email. Yesterday I submitted a lyrical, wintry piece to perhappened literary magazine. I had written it last year but hadn’t managed to find a literary home for it. I had heard wonderful things about perhappened on Twitter. I decided to give them a try. The deadline for their theme SNOWFALL was ending last night at midnight. I sent my piece in yesterday afternoon. I woke up to a lovely rejection letter from editor-in-chief Isaura Ren. (timestamped 3:12am, mind you).
Since I rarely use the words “lovely” and “rejection” side-by-side, let me explain. After gently rejecting my piece, she complimented it, told me why the readers rejected it (it was similar to much of what they’d already taken), and suggested seven other publications which might accept it. I so appreciated that she took the time to send me a good word. She didn’t have to do that. No money is changing hands here. I didn’t pay her to read my essay and the magazine doesn’t pay for pieces. What’s happening in exchanges like these goes beyond all that. When someone takes time out of their busy day (and we’re all busy) to send someone a kind word like this and then even take it a step further and suggest places they might find success, it lightens the heart, brings a smile, and motivates the next step. If there’s anything we need this year, it’s kindness like that.
I have been writing and submitting for ten years. In all that time, I’ve gotten several rejection letters, many of them form letters but also quite a few sincere missives. But only one mentioned another place to send my work. That letter came about ten years ago, and they only suggested one place to send it. Isaura suggested seven. Her email left such an impression on me, I wroter her back. When I was done, I glanced out the front window and realized the whole sky had turned pink. If the sky was that blushed out the westward-facing window, certainly the sunrise out the back window must have taken on some color as well. When I’d checked the status just moments before, it seemed the day was destined to remain grey. When I went for a second look, sure enough those grey clouds were now flooded with copper and complimented by pink cotton candy puffs. All I could think was, I didn’t see that coming!
*Incidentally, submissions for perhappened issue themed LOVE open today. After such a lovely letdown, you know I’ll be sending them another piece. See how you make friends?
I subbed for the music teacher in kindergarten today. We watched “There was an Old Lady” and when it got to the part about how the spider “wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,” one of the little girls in class must have remembered something. She started to cry. I asked her what was wrong.
She said, “I have a wiggly tooth.”
She said she’d never lost a tooth before and that she was afraid. I asked her which tooth. She lowered her mask and wiggled one of her lower incisors. I told her she’d be all right. I asked her what she was worried about.
“That it will bleed.”
One of her classmates gently told her it would bleed for a little while and then it would stop. Although I couldn’t remember losing my first tooth, I could see why she would be afraid of blood and essentially losing a body part. I wanted to reassure her. Quiet her with love.
Reading this morning:
“O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm, On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.'”(Zephaniah 3:14-17)
The prophet Zephaniah spoke this to the people of Judah during the reign of King Josiah at a time when the people were called to repent of their pagan worship of other gods. The prophet warned the people that God would punish them for their sins, but he also said God would protect his own.
The verse that stood out to me today was:
“He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (verse 17)
How often have I delighted in my children. Even now that they are young adults, I take joy in the way they laugh and cajole each other. When they were younger and would have nightmares, I would listen and reassure them that it was just a dream, that they were safe. Indeed attempting to “quiet them” with my love. And to think, God does this with us. Even in our adult lives. With concerns over finances and job security and the state of the world and our children’s future. God delights in us. He quiets us with his love. He rejoices over us with singing.
What is our part? To listen for the song.
Since we seem to be living in Old Testament times, I’ve decided to use my devotional time to see how the Israelites handled the many obstacles they faced. I read 2Chronicles 20 yesterday. It had such a profound effect on me, I had to read it again today.
At the time, Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah in Jerusalem. “A vast army” of the Moabites and Ammonites came to wage war on them. Knowing they were powerless to defeat the army, King Jehoshaphat stood before “the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord” and called out to God for guidance. What humility we see in the king here. He doesn’t stand before his people attempting to instill confidence in himself. He doesn’t make promises he knows he can’t keep. He calls out to his God for help.
God answers him through the words of the prophet, Jabaziel:
“…Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them…You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. go out to face them tomorrow, and and tLord will be with you.” (v. 15-17)
Here we see God answering the king’s plea immediately. There is no delay. The men are most likely scared and feeling this impending war will be futile, but God tells them twice not to be afraid or discouraged. When God repeats Himself, He really wants us to get His point. Then he gives them marching orders. Despite the fact that they are afraid, he directs them to show up for the fight. “March down against them.” “Take up your positions.” They don’t have to fight, but they do have to show up for the battle.
Sometimes that’s the hardest part: showing up for the battle. I don’t really want to go to that doctor’s appointment. I might get scary news. I’m not sure I want to go back to work. What if I get sick? I don’t want to talk to my spouse/kid/friend about that thing that’s bugging me. What if it causes an argument? I’m not even sure I want to go to the grocery store right now. But what if we took these ancient words to heart as if they were God’s love letter to us?
“You will not have to fight this battle.”
Hmm. . .that changes things a little. All I have to do is show up? God will do the work? Wait. Let me look at that again. What’s my part?
“Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you.”
Stand firm. How do I stand firm? That verse harkens back to putting on the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6, beginning at verse 10. In that letter, Paul encourages us to suit up with spiritual armor, describing each piece and its function. And after we have done everything, to stand. Like a strong, brave, confident soldier, to stand firm. Just as God called the people of Judah and Jerusalem in the passage above. If they remained scared and discouraged, they could not stand firm. But God was with them. This passage also reminds me of Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”
God does indeed show up for King Jehoshaphat and his people. He not only sets up an ambush against the Ammonites and Moabites, but Judah’s enemies actually fight amongst themselves. The result? All of Judah and Jerusalem’s enemies were defeated. Can you imagine this scene and the awe and wonder instilled in the victorious people that day?
How does the story end?
“And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.” (v. 30)
Ahh. Yes, Lord. I want rest. On every side. I’m taking a lesson from these brave folks today. These battles in front of me are not mine to fight.
God’s got me.
He’s got you, too.
Seek Him. Find peace.