Unsheathing the Sword

Last time I wrote, I talked about the Sword of Truth, God’s word. Today I’m going to share four ways that I unsheath that Sword in my own life. I’m no expert, mind you, but these methods bless me.

When I use them. That’s the catch. I have to actually do it. And, short-sighted human that I am, I neglect them. So I’m preaching to myself today.

Daily Practice

If you don’t draw the Sword every day, you can’t expect to get comfortable and skillful with it. So, every day, open the Bible and dig. I like to read a chapter and see which verse or which concept impresses me most. Some days I have to look harder than others. Then I write down the verse, as well as my thoughts on it.

Somehow writing it out makes my thoughts clearer in my head. This also gives me something to read later and think, “Oh, yeah, it was so neat when the Lord showed me that!”

Some days I do Bible study “homework” for the Bible class I’m part of at my church. I have a workbook that gives Scripture passages to read, followed by questions and meditations about the passage. The important thing is to actually have a decent helping of Scripture in there. Devotions that give one verse and a little meditation are fine, but they’re not unsheathing your Sword; they are notes on Sword-technique, so to speak.

Sometimes on Sundays, I only unsheath my Sword at the two church services. I’m not sure if that is perfectly sound practice, but it sometimes happens that way.

Quote It

If you can stop a wrong thought or motive in your mind before it comes out, you’re fighting well. So memorize some verses to divert your mind when it starts wandering down the wrong trails.

Do I always do this? No. But when I remember to wield the Sword this way, it is very effective.

Read for Recreation

You know those times when you haven’t read the Bible yet today, but you’re so tired you think you couldn’t possibly get anything out of Bible study? Or you just feel “down” and you don’t want to read the Bible? Just read it. Not to mine some deep theological truth you’ve never found before. But because there is nothing more wholesome you could read.

Flip to one of the stories you liked as a kid: Jonah, David, Creation, Joseph, The Five Loaves, The Resurrection. Read because the stories are interesting.

Read because the words are beautiful. Try the Psalms or even Job, or one of the prophets. Read for the vivid imagery. If no one’s around, read aloud with expression, to discover the power in the words.

Sometimes, when you’d normally watch TV or thumb through a magazine or surf social media, pick up your Bible and just read. Try a random place you haven’t visited in a while. Or a favorite passage.

Why? It’s like mindlessly hearing a song over and over: you eventually memorize most of the words. If you read the Truth over and over, it washes through your mind, refreshes your soul, and makes a difference.

Pray It

If you don’t have the book, Praying God’s Word by Beth Moore, I highly recommend it. The principle is to find a Scripture verse that applies to your need, and pray it to the Lord. I’ve found this to be so effective personally that it astounds me. (And then, getting short-sighted again, I slack off and start losing ground I gained.)

And you may ask, “Why? That sounds a little odd.”

I don’t completely understand the power of this method. But I think it may be this: When I pray God’s Word, I know I am praying according to His will.

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

-1 John 5:14-15

When I pray God’s truth, I don’t waver around in my prayers. I pray with confidence and power. My favorite chapter in Beth Moore’s book is “Overcoming the Enemy.”

But you don’t have to get the book. I have some Scriptures that I’ve looked up to help me guard my mind for Christ. And when I remember to use them, I have much less defeat. Its effectiveness still amazes me.

The references are 2 Cor. 10:3-5, Rom. 12:2, Philippians 4:8, Psalm 51:10, and Psalm 55:22. I have them written on a piece of paper, and I might pray something like this:

Lord God, the weapons You have given me for warfare are not carnal but mighty in You, for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of You. I can bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

Lord, don’t let me be conformed to this world, but transform me by renewing my mind, that I may prove what is Your good and acceptable and perfect will.

Whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy, help me to meditate on these things.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

I’m casting my burden on You, LORD, knowing that You will sustain me. You shall never permit the righteous to be moved. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

In whatever area you want victory, I promise the Bible has verses for it.

(Disclaimer: I once heard a televangelist preaching that this method may be used for “financial victory” which sounded very much like “gaining wealth.” If you study the Bible enough, you’ll find the Christian life is way deeper than material security.)

So, do I use all these methods every day?

No. One of them every day? Usually.

See, I know all these wonderful techniques for my Sword, yet I don’t always use them. It’s hard to write about it when I don’t practice it perfectly. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. But I hope by putting it up here, I’ll challenge myself to faithfully use my Sword every day.

-Miss Darcy

A Choice of Tools

My church is focusing this week on consecration. It’s horrifying how unconsecrated I can get without realizing it at all. Then I checked out a book of short stories by one of my favorite authors, Grace Livingston Hill, from the library. And what is the focus of the stories? Wholehearted devotion to Jesus.

Writing is a big part of me. I wrote this poem nearly five years ago, reminding myself why I love the written word so. With all the whirlwind of the writing industry, it is good for me to keep things in perspective.

Words are powerful; they have great potential for God’s glory. I don’t want to misuse them.

The pen, ’tis said, is mightier
Than sword or spear or dart.
Indeed, the sword can only kill:
The pen can soothe the heart.

The sword can serve but to destroy
The one opposing me;
The pen, howe’er, may make a friend
Out of my enemy.

So teach me, Lord, to use this tool
To glorify Your Name;
And let me write to bless mankind,
Not seeking worldly fame.

-Miss Darcy

He Knows Us

I’m helping with music for my church’s Vacation Bible School this year. It’s providing a lot of good, clean fun.

We (the music leaders) have learned six songs in a week, complete with hand motions that are–how shall we say?  Let’s call them fascinating. I have favorites. (And, yes, I have ones I don’t care for so much.)

But one of my favorites is about how Jesus knows us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He loves us in a way no one else can.

Yes, you’ve heard that before. I’ve heard that before. Nothing new.

But think over it again for a moment. Jesus knows me. He knows what makes me tick–even when I don’t know what makes me tick.

Of course He does. He made me.

What’s more, He loves me.

See, if Jesus knows me that well, that means He knows my ugliness.

The things you can’t see. The things I hide so carefully that maybe even my family, who rub shoulders with me every day, can’t see.

Jesus sees every thought, every action, every word that is wrong. He even sees the things I do or think that I don’t realize are wrong. (I know I have a blind spot somewhere. No telling how many. I’ll find them one day, God willing, and likely be horrified.)

And Jesus is holy. My ugliness must be much more repulsive to Him than to me.

Yet even with knowing all my faults, Jesus loves me.

That’s not to say that I can ignore my faults, or even that Jesus ignores my faults.

The wonder is that He loves me in spite of them.

When someone loves you that much, how can you not want to please them?

-Miss Darcy

The Grand Canyon

Three years ago tomorrow, I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time.

It is hard to find words to describe such a sight. It is indeed grand. If you haven’t seen it, search for some pictures online. They aren’t near the same as being there, but they’re pretty breathtaking.

I don’t use the word “awesome” lightly, but I apply it to the Grand Canyon. So here is the poem I wrote a few months after I saw this masterpiece of God’s creation.

My friend, approach with reverence,
With quietness, with awe,
For this is the Grand Canyon
Stretched out before you now.

It reaches on for miles
Of ruggedly carved cliffs,
Of layers, chasms, colors
That make this massive rift.

It tells of roaring waters
Of churning waves of mud:
To carve this awesome canyon
Required a mighty Flood.

Oh, this is a cathedral,
The open sky its dome,
The layered cliffs its pillars,
The quiet breeze its song,

The towering buttes its statues,
The stony ground its floor,
The rugged rocks its carvings,
Old trails its open door.

The minerals have painted
Their colors on the walls,
The golds and reds most vivid
When sunset on them falls.

The shadows add their patterns,
Bring out the violet hues.
Some obscure desert flowers
Their faint incense diffuse.

So please approach this presence
Respectfully, with awe.
Breathtaking view that this is
Deserves a reverent pause.

For this is God’s great temple
Designed to give Him praise.
It stands to shout His glory
As we with wonder gaze.

For years it stood here quiet,
Not lauded by man’s voice.
It bids us now, “Look upward,
Lift up your hearts, rejoice!”

-Miss Darcy

P.S.  Yes, I want to visit again one of these days. The poem doesn’t even mention the spectacular star-gazing the you can do at the Grand Canyon.

Lost in Hartford

For my sister Molly’s graduation trip last year, our whole family took a road trip to Prince Edward Island, Canada.  (Benefit of homeschooling:  the whole family enjoys the senior trips.  But I digress.)

On the way there, we wanted to visit the site of the Charter Oak in Hartford, Connecticut.  We arrived in downtown as the sun was descending, and we spent some time photographing the stunningly ornate Capitol building.  Then we spent some more time walking in the wrong direction, and we had to turn around.  Finally we made it to the stone monument that marked the place where the Charter Oak had stood. A stone pillar with metal plaque, which we photographed, right on the edge of the part of town that kind of gave you the creeps.

We made it back to the car, only mildly unnerved by a gang who rode by us on bicycles, glancing over their shoulders a time or two.  My sister Leah complained the whole walk about getting a blister on her heel (cowboy boots weren’t designed for sidewalk strolls), but nothing especially interesting happened.

Until we were in our minivan, riding back to the interstate.  Dad followed the signs and turned right.  The road forked almost immediately.  The left lane had “Bus Lane” painted on the asphalt, and a little sign to the side said, “Buses Only.” (Or something equally clear; I can’t remember the exact words.)

Inexplicably, Dad bore left at the fork. “But Dave,” Mom objected from the back seat, as I said, “I don’t think…”

Too late. We had taken the wrong lane.

Dad didn’t seem concerned as we drove between short, concrete walls with no highway in sight.  Until we approached a lighted building on our right–a bus stop.

“Wait, this isn’t the road!” Dad exclaimed, as we glided by, astonishing the few folks waiting at the bus stop.

As we’re busy getting nervous about how we’ll get out of here, and trying to explain to Dad how it happened, we see headlights behind us.  Yes, a bus.  We had a grand laugh imagining the driver’s reaction.

“What is this van doing on the bus line?  Oh, look at that license plate.  They’re from Georgia. They are lost.”

Which we certainly were. Dad drove straight on past another bus stop.  This time I took a good look at the people waiting.  One man lifted his head from studying at his phone and stared in blank surprise, following our van with his gaze.  (I can’t help laughing as I remember.  He was too surprised to frown or do anything other than stare.)

Anyway, the bus behind us halted at the stop, and we went on until we came to a place where a normal road crossed the bus line.  With no idea where we were, Dad turned right. We’d thought the monument was in a rough part of town.  This place looked worse.

“We are in the hood,” Dad announced, none too excited about the prospect. “We are lost in the Hartford hood.  I have no clue where we are. I don’t know how we’ll get out. We are so lost. We are totally lost.”

And, no, I’m not really exaggerating what he said.  His tone bordered on panic. (Did I mention it’s quite dark by now?)

Molly, our brave navigator, pulled out the cell phone to consult Google maps (which gave us fits the whole, livelong trip).  As she tried to figure out our location related to the interstate we needed, Mom said, “Turn right, here, Dave.”

“Honey, I have no idea where we are. We are completely lost.”

“I know. Just turn right.”

So he did.

“What’s that street ahead?” Molly looked between the street names and the map, trying desperately to locate us. (So we’re not the most techno-savvy family in the world, and we hadn’t discovered the phone’s built-in GPS yet. Molly was truly amazing, fighting with the maps.) “Okay, I think you turn left up here, and the highway should be nearby.”

We turned and, hurray!, a sign for the interstate exit.  We made it.

After Dad’s heart-rate returned to normal, and Mom and I explained again where we made the wrong turn, we all had a spectacular laugh.

“I wondered what was up with that exit ramp,” Dad said. “I thought, ‘Well, it doesn’t look like a normal exit, running along all by itself. This is interesting.’ And then I’m driving past the bus stop with folks looking at us like, ‘You ain’t the bus.'”

We reached our hotel a bit later than planned, but, hey. Not many folks can boast the experience of driving down a bus line in Hartford, Connecticut.  It wasn’t on my bucket list, naturally, but I’ll take nearly any adventure life offers.  I can’t tell you how hard we laughed.

I hope you laughed, too, because what’s the use of a funny story if you can’t make people laugh?

Yet I can’t resist adding a moral.  Dad was utterly convinced he was on the right road, but he was dead wrong.  It’s possible to be deceived. 

It’s good to evaluate your path once in a while–and I’m not talking about asphalt roads.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

-Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV)

In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.

-Proverbs 12:28 (NKJV)

-Miss Darcy

When I Think I Don’t Deserve This

Over three years ago, Mom read about an exercise program that sounded great. Many people reported stellar results, it only took half an hour a day, and the whole family could do it together. So Mom ordered the DVD, and we enthusiastically dove in.

No doubt about it, this was a workout; it left us covered in perspiration. For the basis of all the moves, we held an unusual position, but the instructor stressed the importance of this to prevent injury. Wow, was she right!

We did our best, but due to my mother’s complicated health issues, we dropped the program within two weeks. Several more weeks passed before I noticed something odd in my lower back. Turns out, I had developed a knotted muscle.

To make a long story short: after three years, it’s still there. A couple times the pain has been severe enough to bring me to the floor. Most of the time it lies dormant, flaring up when I least expect it, sometimes keeping me awake at night, and interfering with my activities. The respites between flare-ups are longer now, and the pain has grown much less intense. But despite multiple chiropractic treatments, the chiropractor tells me my back will always be weak in that spot.

I was eighteen when it started, way too young for an injury that will haunt my whole life. I wish I’d never heard of that exercise program.

And sometimes I’ve caught myself thinking, I don’t deserve this.

We hear a lot these days about “our rights” and what “we deserve.”

  • We deserve the best.
  • We deserve to do what we want with our lives.
  • We deserve lots of money and nice things.
  • We deserve to define who we are.

The list goes on: I’m sure you’ve heard it.

The dictionary defines deserve as, “to be worthy of: to merit.” And according to the Bible, we actually get far less than we’re worthy of.

We are worthy of hell.

Just to give us a working definition, hell is eternal torment and eternal separation from God. It only takes one sin to send us there. Take a peek at these Bible verses:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV).

The fact is we’ve all done wrong.

“For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 ESV).

Wages are what you get paid for your work; it’s what you fairly earned.

“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22 ESV).

Clearly, only my death could have paid for my sin.

But I don’t have to get what I deserve. Jesus embraced a horrible death that He certainly didn’t deserve so that He could justly give me eternal life. I love the rest of Romans 6:23:

“but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So, come to think of it, I really don’t want what I deserve.

I don’t want my wages. I want the gift.

This glorious gift of life in Christ, peace with God, and love from my Creator is way better than anything else I could ever desire. God is lavish with His gifts. He doesn’t hold back, eying me to see if I’m behaving well enough to merit His blessing. He just gives.

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NKJV)

In truth, I deserve absolutely nothing good. But Jesus died to rescue me from what I deserved. And besides the wonderful gift of salvation, God has showered me with countless other blessings. When I remember that, it makes the hard things ever so much smaller and easier to bear. Honestly, I still haven’t passed this class with honors. But surely with Christ’s strength, I can bear anything and do anything for the One who died to wash me clean.

So, yes, I am going to keep praying that God will heal me completely. Yet even if He says, “No,” I will choose to rejoice and be grateful for all God’s wonderful goodness. When He has been so good, how can I doubt His love just because He withholds something?

And who knows? Maybe even my sore back is a good thing in disguise.

Do you ever think you get more bad things than you deserve?
Does it sometimes seem like God isn’t being fair with His gifts?
Could a new perspective make a difference in the way you view your life?

I would absolutely love to read your thoughts in the comments!

-Miss Darcy

Five Lessons from JavaScript

Back this spring, I took two online classes in HTML and CSS, which are used to build websites.  To my great astonishment, I enjoyed them both.  So I thought I would go ahead and complete my web-building skills with a course in JavaScript.

JavaScript is a real programming language, different from HTML and CSS.  I met functions, variables, loops, arrays, objects, parameters (not to be confused with arguments), and other, more complicated friends of JavaScript.  Friends such as JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) and AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript And XML).  Not to mention other ‘libraries’ like JQuery and Handlebars.  Highly interesting in a frustrating kind of way.

So as not to make the story too painful, we’ll just say I procrastinated.  The night of my deadline I was up until midnight, trying to get my JavaScript application up and running.  My wonderful Mama stayed up with me as I nearly went crazy.  The code was giving me fits, and, dramatic though it may seem, it felt like the screen was closing in on me, making a tunnel with several passages, and my brain was getting lost.

In the end, I submitted a half-finished project, though I did get a good score on the final exam.  But the horrid programming language still haunted me.  While reading a novel the next day–a novel, mind you–I ran across the word ‘variables.’  Oh, please, don’t mention variables!  I know it sounds ridiculous, but my chest tightened when I read that word.  And it happened again with, of all things, a guitar chord:  something like ‘Dsus(4)’ which looked just a little too much like calling a function and passing in an argument.  And you’d think I could get away from it on vacation, but no.  The dish soap that confronted me is called AJAX!  I mean, really, everywhere I look something reminds me of JavaScript. 

Of course, it wasn’t all bad.  I did learn a good deal about programming, my instructor was great, and now I can sort of understand Daddy when he discusses his work with me, which I love.  The fact is, I could have done better if I had thrown more study-time at it.  And believe it or not, JavaScript can teach life-lessons.

  1. Don’t procrastinate.  You’ll never get anything done if you don’t do it, and putting it off till the end will drive you nuts.  Besides, you can’t expect to do your best work when you’re stressed by time.
  2. Feeling like you failed isn’t fun.  Actually, I found it harder to handle than I thought I would.  I didn’t really fail, I suppose, but I didn’t give it my best.  I could have conquered that thing, but I settled for only surviving.
  3. Don’t be too proud, or too scared, to ask for help.  My instructor would have gladly helped me more if I had simply asked more questions and explained my difficulties to him.
  4. I’m not cut out to be a full-time programmer.  I just don’t like it well enough.  It’s all right, or would be if I mastered it, but I would not like to make a career out of it.
  5. Jesus knows JavaScript.  It was wonderful to discover for myself that no matter how ‘modern’ my problem may be, Jesus can handle it.

I can’t honestly call the experience fun, but it was good for me.  And–who knows?–maybe one of these days I’ll try it again.  Maybe. 

Anyhow, I ought to get some enjoyment out of it.  If I ever have a son whom I wish to name Jason, I’m spelling it without the a–Json.

-Miss Darcy