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Don’t Borrow Trouble

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"Worry" is not a word often spoken in a kayak.

“Worry” is not a word often spoken in a kayak. (Photo by Ashley L. Jones)

Are you worried about how you’ll get through tomorrow, next week, or next year? Like me, you may have peace that God’s grace is sufficient for today, but you can’t help but worry about the future.

I wrote today’s blog, “Don’t Borrow Trouble,” a couple weeks ago. That was before I had to travel to Orange Park so my kitty, Sue, could have surgery. Thankfully, she’s doing very well, and I get to take her home today. But, I know worry; it comes in all shapes and sizes. However, no matter how big or how bad tomorrow looks, it never helps to worry about it today.

My new friend Lindsey P. Brackett understands. She has a beautiful blog site, Just Write Life, where she writes about faith, life, writing, and all the beautiful and difficult things in between. Lindsey graciously agreed to host my blog this week, so click over to her site to read it: Don’t Borrow Trouble. While you’re there, check out her other posts and let her know you stopped by.

Thanks for reading!

Keep on Keepin’ On!

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Cranes welcomed me to the conference center yesterday afternoon. (Photo by Ashley Jones)

 

I finally made it to the writers conference—the 2016 Florida Christian Writers Conference, to be exact. But it wasn’t easy.

 

The Day of the Gauntlet

We had tornadic weather across the state. The weather system had already passed by, but we still had sustained winds with gusts up to 20 mph as I drove to Leesburg yesterday afternoon. That meant I had four tense hours as I drove with both hands tight on the wheel just so I could keep it between the lines. And then there was the flying debris: fistfuls of dirt and leaves being flung about while little sticks were trying to stab at me through the windshield.

After about a half hour of this, I realized it seemed…fitting.

 

The Year of the Gauntlet

You see, I went to my first writers conference last year, and I left with more information, resources, and contacts than I could handle. I hit the ground running by starting this blog site as well as other social media accounts. I then focused what was left of my energy on a book I’m calling Girls with Gusto. (More on that to come.)

I was sure of the direction God wanted me to go in, and I felt equipped to start the journey. Things were finally coming together! That is, until I got hit with a series of illnesses punctuated by a back injury that succeeded in delaying my efforts substantially.

But I was determined to turn this dream God gave me into a reality. With God’s grace, and Robby’s support, I’ve been able to make forward progress this year and, ultimately, return to the same conference—this time with a proposal in hand for Girls with Gusto.

All of this crossed through my mind as I made my way through the gauntlet of I-10 and I-75. I knew the enemy had plagued me during the year, and he was still up to his old tricks. But I also knew that my experiences throughout the year helped me to focus my efforts, prioritize better, and seek assistance when needed. It had all worked out for the better. (Romans 8:28 says that all things work for the good for those of us who love God and are called according to His purpose.)

 

Encouragement

I want this to be an encouragement for you. If you know for sure that you’re on the path God has for you, but you’re getting hit from every direction, just hold on! Slow down if you have to, regroup if necessary, but keep on moving!

If God put you on this road, then it’s for a reason—a reason that will bless God and extend His kingdom in some way. Trust that God knows best and will see you through this difficult time.

Remember, the enemy will do whatever he can to sideline you. Recognize this for the evil tactic it is, and pray for whatever it is you need: strength, faith, energy, stamina, knowledge, wisdom, etc. For protection, you can apply the armor of God (see Ephesians 6:10). Be sure to maintain a spirit of thankfulness because God is doing something great and He is using you to do it.

While some roads are sunny and fair, others are gauntlets filled with danger, both seen and unseen. Remember the reason for the trip. Keep the faith. Keep trusting God. And keep on keepin’ on.

The Meaning of Christmas

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Our first Christmas with Sue, 2011. She loves Christmas (but not the Santa hat).

 

I admit it: I’m hooked on Christmas movies. I like the sweet, funny, crazy ones, even the low budget ones. I appreciate that they’re wholesome and family-focused, with themes about forgiveness, love, and generosity.

Most Christmas TV shows and movies tell us Christmas is a time for:

  • Gifts
  • Children
  • Forgiveness and second chances
  • Rebirth and renewal
  • Telling the truth
  • Falling in love
  • Being generous with the needy
  • Hope and faith
  • Family traditions
  • Wishes and miracles
  • Christmas spirit.

 

All of this is nice, but it’s incomplete. The truth about Christmas is so much bigger and more meaningful.

 

Words of Meaning

The term “Christmas” comes from “Christ mass,” or a church service in honor of the birth of Jesus Christ.

The word “Christ” is a descriptive title that means “Anointed One” or “Messiah.” The Jews were looking for the promised Messiah, or Savior, for thousands of years because the Old Testament indicated He would come to save them. When Jesus’ followers referred to Him as the Christ, they meant that He was the promised Messiah; He was the Savior they had been looking for.

Even the name Jesus has special meaning. Mary didn’t thumb through baby name books before settling on Jesus. No, an angel of God told her specifically to call Him Jesus (Luke 1:31). Why? Because the name “Jesus” means “the Lord saves.”

Paul said the following to the church in Philippi:

Philippians 2:9-11, NAS  Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

That’s why Jesus is the name above every name – it summarizes the one truth that we should all know and accept: Jesus is Lord, and He saves. Fortunately, He isn’t just the Savior of the Jews; He’s our Savior, too.

 

His Story

The Bible says that Jesus was and is God and that He took the form of a man when He was born of a virgin about 2,000 years ago. He taught people that He came to serve and to save the lost. Jesus then gave Himself up to die on a cross as a sacrifice for our sins – the only sacrifice that could put us right with God the Father. He then raised Himself from the dead three days later so that we might share in His resurrection. Jesus now sits at the right hand of God the Father where He intercedes (prays) on our behalf. (For more on Jesus’ life on earth, you can start with Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.)

You see, when the story doesn’t include Jesus, it’s not complete. When it’s not centered on Jesus, it’s out of focus. How can we talk about real hope, faith, and forgiveness without talking about the One Who gives us those things? How can we really bless our children if we don’t share with them the real Blessing? What value is there in gifts, if the real Gift isn’t shared?

 

The Line in the Sand

Have you ever wondered why characters in TV and movies talk about everything but Jesus? I’ve even seen movies where the characters actually pray to Santa for miracles. Why not just pray to Jesus, the real God? Why do movie producers go to such lengths to keep Him out of it?

I believe it’s because most people love the trappings of Christmas, but they’re uncomfortable with the real meaning of it. The gospel – the good news of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection – gives us no wiggle room. We either believe in Jesus and go to Heaven or we don’t. He’s the ultimate line in the sand, and we’re either on one side or the other.

John 14:6, NAS Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

For those of us who have accepted Jesus as our Savior, our job is to love God and love our neighbors. Through that love, we can share the hope we have in Jesus with the rest of the world.

 

More than a Day

We can fill our holidays with gifts, Santa Clauses, and reindeer, but we can’t really celebrate Christmas without Jesus the Christ.

But this also means that we can’t limit the spirit of Christmas to one day out of the year. If we believe that Jesus is the Christ, then our hearts should be full of His presence and love throughout the whole year. Christmas should be a reminder to us to be thankful for the gift of our salvation and to be generous as we share the meaning of this gift with others.

Yes, I still love corny Christmas movies, but I keep them in perspective. I remember that Jesus isn’t just the “reason for the season,” He’s the reason for everything.

Both Feet In

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A few weeks ago, I watched the 1953 movie “Roman Holiday.” It’s a true classic, starring none other than Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.

[Spoiler Alert!!]

 

One Foot In

In the beginning of the movie, Princess Anne (played by Hepburn) acts like a child. She is frustrated with all of the duties her royal position requires of her, and she chafes against the life she has not chosen for herself. She does what is expected of her – attends parties, meets with dignitaries, etc. – but her heart isn’t in it. Instead, she dreams of being free to live a normal life. It’s like she has one foot in the life she belongs to and one foot in a life she can only imagine.

Princess Anne decides to rebel. She runs away from the embassy for the evening to attend a party as a commoner. In a funny turn of events, she spends the next couple days touring Rome with an American, Joe Bradley (played by Peck). However, Princess Anne doesn’t realize that Bradley is a journalist using her to get a news scoop. By the time she discovers the truth, though, they’ve fallen in love.

 

The Royal Decision

Princess Anne has a difficult decision to make: does she leave her royal position to be with Bradley? After weighing what she wants against what is required of her, she makes the painful decision to return to her post and her responsibilities.

Most people who love this movie speak of Princess Anne’s sweet innocence and how she takes such pleasure in the little things, like enjoying a gelato on a sunny afternoon. They also speak of the wonderful on-air chemistry of Hepburn and Peck, including their tearful good-bye when she leaves him to return to the embassy. In fact, if you look online for movie clips, those are the ones you’ll find.

However, there’s one scene that really stands out to me, and I can’t find a clip of it anywhere. You see, it’s not romantic, sweet, or funny. It’s after Princess Anne has said her sweet good-bye to Bradley and has returned to the embassy.

It’s only been a couple days since her disappearance, but Princess Anne’s whole demeanor has changed. Where she was child-like before, she now holds herself like the princess she is. Her servants and caretakers don’t notice the change at first and begin to scold her for skipping out on her “duty” to her country. Princess Anne, now looking truly regal, replies, “Your Excellency, I trust you will not find it necessary to use that word again. Were I not completely aware of my duty to my family and to my country, I would not have come back tonight or indeed ever again!”

 

Both Feet In

So, why do I love this scene? It’s because it’s the first time in the movie that Princess Anne speaks with authority and people treat her with the respect her position requires. She’s technically the princess through the whole movie – from throwing tantrums to driving around on a scooter – but she never acts like a princess until she finally accepts the position as her own.

In other words, it’s only after she puts “both feet in” that she finally becomes the princess she’s supposed to be.

 

Christian Holiday

Do you see how this a wonderful allegory of our Christian faith? Many of us are born into Christian homes, or we become believers at an early age, so it’s all we’ve ever known. However, instead of being grateful, we often treat our faith like it’s something thrust upon us, something we never chose or asked for.

This attitude leads us to rebel against our own faith. Like children, we test God. Do we really have to go to church? Do we really have to wait until we’re married? Everyone else is out drinking and having a good time; why can’t we? Do we really have to obey God?

We have one foot in Christianity and one in the world. It’s like we’re on our own Christian Holiday.

 

Jesus Warned Us

There are many Scriptures in the Bible that talk about this issue. In fact, Jesus Himself explained that we have to be “all in” if we are to follow Him.

Luke 9:59-62  And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.”  But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

I don’t believe Jesus is trying to be harsh or to undermine the importance of family here. He is simply trying to explain that people can’t go in two different directions at the same time and can’t be in two places at once. We have to choose.

Jesus says it another way in Matthew:

Matthew 6:24  “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Put simply, when you believe in God and you walk His path, both feet have to be going in the same direction.

 

Decision Time

Princess Anne needed to experience a different way of life before she could appreciate the responsibility and cost of her position. However, as believers, we know the cost of our faith: Jesus died for us so we could have a relationship with God in this life and in the next.

Princess Anne had to give up on love to accept her duty as princess. But we’re not losing anything by accepting our duty as Christians. No, we actually gain everything – peace, love, comfort, joy, life everlasting…. There is no comparison between living a life that honors God and one that runs from him.

Have you ever really prayed to God and invited Him into your heart? Have you accepted that you need to live a life that honors God so He can work through you to reach others? Have you begun to walk in the authority of a child of God?

Or are you still acting like a child, rebelling against a faith that you have not fully accepted as your own?

It is time, my friend, for you to decide. Are you going to put both feet in?