A Hand Held Out

My desk sits right beside my bedroom window, which overlooks our front yard.¬†Right across from our driveway, another streets T-bones into ours. We have a two-story house, plus we’re at the highest point in our neighborhood, so I have a pretty good view of the goings-on.

Which makes for excellent spying.

Now I don’t really spy with binoculars or anything, but I do love to people-watch. So if I catch a glimpse of movement outside, I’ll pause my work and watch a neighbor unload their groceries or whatever.

(Incidentally, one of my neighbors just pulled into his driveway, and I paused my writing to spy on him.) ūüôā

But earlier this week, I spied something that made me very sad.

A couple was walking down the sidewalk on the street across from me. The woman had her cell phone in her hands, texting, from all appearances. Then she stuck the phone in her back pocket. They turned around and walked back up the sidewalk.

As they reached the end of the sidewalk where they step onto the street, the man’s left hand reached out as if he wanted to take the woman’s hand. At that exact moment, her right hand went to her back pocket and pulled out her cell phone again. Soon both hands were busy tapping the screen.

And I wondered what on that phone could be so much more important than the person she was with.

Maybe it was their children who needed them to return home. Maybe.

Or maybe it was just a friend she was texting. A friend who, through the cell phone, became a third wheel on their walk.

I forgot to look for wedding rings, so I don’t know if they’re married or dating. I’m not sure which would be worse.

If they’re dating, love is in its springtime, when everything is fresh and new and special. Yet this woman didn’t want to hold her boyfriend’s hand?

Or if they’ve been married a while, they probably don’t get much time alone together to just walk and talk. Yet this woman didn’t want to hold the hand of the man who has committed his life to her?

It’s a good reminder to me. I don’t have a smartphone, actually. But I have a computer. Writing (and everything that entails) keeps me glued to the screen a lot.

But then there’s social media. I tell myself I’m keeping up with friends I don’t see much. In reality, I end up wasting an exorbitant amount of time looking at mindless stuff I’ll forget within an hour.

I live with my four favorite people in the whole world–my parents and two sisters. The people I love most. The ones who love me most. Honestly, what on this device could possibly be so important that I would rather interact with it than with my family?

I don’t want to be oblivious when those I love hold out their hands–literally or figuratively–because they want to get closer to me.

-Miss Darcy

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Writing Is a Gift

A lot of writers feel insecure calling themselves writers. Can’t say I haven’t been there. After all, it’s hard to make a living as a writer–always has been. You can’t say, “I’m a writer,” and command the same respect as saying, “I’m a nurse,” because people have a lot of preconceived notions about writers. (Some of which are quite accurate, some of which are true for certain writers, and some of which aren’t true at all.)

But, when it comes down to it, all of that is beside the point. I’m a writer because I write.

And writing is a gift.

I don’t mean that the way we say, “He’s a gifted painter,” or “She’s a talented musician.” I mean, writing is a gift from God, wrapped in the plain brown paper of education and tied with a gorgeous colorful bow of creativity.

This is a gift partly for my enjoyment. Stringing words together in sentences, putting thoughts into coherent text, painting pictures with black marks on white paper, gives me a great deal of joy. (Why do you think I’m so apt to get long-winded, hmm?)

And if I never wrote for anyone except me and God to see, it would still be a precious, delightful gift that never grows dull.

But I¬†do get to write for others to see. I get to try to amuse people, challenge people, encourage people, and bless people. That is a lovely gift. (Granted, I don’t always succeed, and that’s one difficulty of being a writer–we are never perfect, much as we’d like to be. And because we put our imperfections into the semi-permanence of written words, they can sometimes haunt us more strongly.)

Yet when I succeed in writing something people are glad to read, I’m delighted all over again with this gift.

Best of all, I have the opportunity to glorify God with my words. To unveil Him to this world. To capture a tiny facet of His glory. To point others, and myself, to the God who created language in the first place.

Hard to describe how I feel when I think about that. Kind of overwhelmed and kind of disbelieving.

Writing isn’t always a rose-garden gift.

Some days what I write wrings me out and I feel physically tired. Some days the words refuse to come–they feel clunky, they won’t fit, and I erase almost as much as I write.

But the Lord never said our gifts wouldn’t mean work. Contrary to popular belief, work is a good thing.

Then some days this gift feels like a burden.

“I’m not reaching my word-count goals.”

“I can’t say this the way I want to.”

“I can’t find the passion to write this.”

“I can’t get into this character’s head.”

But for me, and I can’t speak for any other writer, I’ve discovered writing becomes a burden when I’m focusing more on the gift than the Giver.

“God, I want to write for you. Why can’t I find the words? Why can’t I write better? How am I going to write all the stories You’ve given me?”

But it’s not about the words. It’s not about perfection. It’s not about what I can do.

It’s really about Him. He gave me a gift, just as surely as if I found it under the Christmas tree one year.

This gift is to push me to Him. To give me joy as I use it under His direction. To challenge me. To serve others. To glorify Him.

God gives us many gifts.

Family. Friends. Pets. Jobs. Possessions. Food. Land. Beauty. Feelings. Knowledge. Music. Skills.

But these are all to point us to Him, to inspire gratitude toward Him, to bring us joy in Him.

The gifts must never be more important than the Giver.

It doesn’t help me to pressure myself, saying, “You must write such and such for God. You must write more words for God’s glory.” But when my relationship with Jesus is in the right place, when there is nothing coming between Him and me, then I can write freely. And even if it’s hard work, it’s satisfying and good.

You can’t brag about a gift. (Well, you can, but it’s silly because you didn’t acquire it through any merit of your own.) But you can make use of a gift. You can revel in it. And you can talk about the goodness of the Giver whenever you get the chance.

-Miss Darcy

It’s All About Souls

The devil has many talents. He’s a great liar–Jesus called him the father of lies, in fact.¬†(see John 8:44) Which means he can cook up the best ones. The ones we’ll be dead-sure are the truth unless we’re submerged in the Word of God daily.

He’s a great accuser. He can heap guilt like nobody’s business.

And he’s a top-notch master of distraction.

Oh, yeah. He knows that for some of us Christians, the lures that ensnare the world won’t necessarily work on us.

“Alcohol? Are you kidding? Drunkenness is strictly condemned in the Bible, and besides, it’s bad for your health.”

“Cheat on my husband? Are you out of your mind? I’d sooner die.”

“Try drugs? Well, I guess that would let you take me to hell in a hand-basket.”

Oh, no, we’re too spiritual to fall for such tricks. (Okay, we think we are. You and I both know we see that kind of junk happening in the church so often it’s terrifying. But you know what I mean. Most of us think we’re above that.)

So Satan distracts us from the most important things by consuming us with good things.

Yeah, things that are in themselves good.

Such as a sound knowledge of good doctrine. We can get so caught up in pursuing theological excellence that we miss who Jesus came to save.

Or we get so consumed by Bible prophecy that we forget our lives are here, now. And we are supposed to be about Jesus’ business.

Or we get so concerned about the best plan to grow our church, that we forget what the Church–Jesus Bride–is comprised of.

Take note that all of these distractions (and these are only a measly three examples) are¬†good things. Good doctrine, studying Bible prophecy, and growing our church fellowships are all worthy pursuits–if, and only if, we never allow them to override our main concern.

In the end, it’s all about souls.

“for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

-Luke 19:10 (NKJV)

When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

-Matthew 9:12-13 NKJV (emphasis mine)

 

We forget, in our pursuits of so many good things, that Jesus’ main purpose in coming to earth was to atone for the sins of all the souls who ever lived.

We get so caught in our own agendas that we divide our forces and cripple our ability to reach this world. We even shoot bitter words at our own brothers and sisters, wounding their souls, making ourselves the enemy. (see Psalm 64:3)

Brothers and sisters, what are we doing? What are we doing?

How have we missed that our Redeemer’s main concern is souls?

Bringing souls to Jesus for salvation from sin. For healing of the deepest wounds. For strength to overcome any bondage from Satan.

All we can do is quibble over predestination or freewill; post-Trib or pre-Trib rapture; hymns or contemporary music to draw in new church members.

When all around us souls are dying, going to spend eternity in hell. Souls are bleeding in secret because this world and the enemy have struck them so many times. Souls are drowning in addictions and destructive behaviors.

God have mercy. What are we doing?

I’ve seen so many older brothers and sisters whom I respect. I should be able to look up to them. But somehow they seem to have missed this principle. Or at least, they haven’t managed to pass it on with any passion.

It’s all about souls.

We can be so quick to judge one another.

So focused on our own convictions, our own ideas, we can’t accept our brothers’ and sisters’ differences. Without taking the time to know our brethren, we write them off as the problem.

Granted, sometimes our fellow churchgoers¬†are¬†a problem. I firmly believe that Christians have a responsibility to hold one another accountable. (I mean, would you rather hear your faults pointed out by God when you stand before His throne? I think I’d rather hear it now from a sister in Christ who loves me.)

But we forget to speak in love. We go blundering in and pierce the souls of our own brethren. What are we doing?

I have friends I love deeply. I see areas in their lives which I think need growth. But I know them, so I’ve gotten a glimpse of their hearts. I see hearts that love God fiercely. That desire passionately to follow Christ and grow more like him. That long to see souls saved and thriving in grace.

I see a mirror of my own heart. Flawed as only each individual and God can know. But striving to follow our King and join His work.

How can I speak condemning words to them when they are just like me? How can I refuse to work alongside them?

I’m not a person easily brought to tears. But I could cry when I see a church so distracted that it cannot fulfill its main purpose–to join Christ in winning souls.

What are we doing?

How have we let ourselves become so distracted?

-Miss Darcy

The Measurement of Success

The world has its measurement of success, and pretty much screams it at us constantly.

Money. Wealth. Things.

Fame. Popularity. Status.

Pleasure. Any kind. All the time.

But when you don’t plan to spend most of your life in one place, it’s important not to stockpile your treasure there.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;

but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

-Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV)

Writers usually measure success in sales. In number of positive reviews. In number of loyal readers. Or number of new readers who rave about your book.

And, to be honest, I would appreciate all those things when I finally publish. But I never want to forget how I measured success when I first started writing: success is giving someone a blessing, however small.

Souls touched for even a little good will be treasure in heaven, yes?

But the world’s measurement of success can be distracting from what’s important.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

-Matthew 6:24

I can’t afford to get distracted by pursuing this world’s success. Yes, I’ll do the best publishing job I can. Yes, I’ll market my books. And, most certainly, I want people to enjoy and be encouraged by what I write. I want it very much. But I must remember that people’s approval is not the main thing to aim for.

I want to write for my King’s approval.

Of course, I want His approval in my whole life, not just writing. But writing has become a big part of my life.

You’ve probably heard the verse about “well done, good and faithful servant.”

His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.

-Matthew 25:21 NKJV (emphasis mine)

That’s what I want. To enter into the joy of my Lord.

-Miss Darcy

Life Is Too Short to Be…

A few days ago, I ran across one of those sweet, “inspirational,” slightly sappy Facebook sayings that bug me for multiple reasons.

But, to spare you, I’ll focus on the main reason. At first it seems like a nice little message about avoiding negative people and investing in friendships that uplift you. Then it ends with–

Life is too short to be anything but happy.

Oh, really? You mean my personal happiness is the most important thing in the world? Let’s take this to its logical conclusion: If life is too short to be anything but happy, then my happiness is my first priority no matter who I have to crush to make myself happy.

No.

No, my happiness is not supposed to be my first priority. Jesus didn’t come to live on this inglorious planet among sinful people, and then die a ruthless, brutal death for those selfsame sinners, just so I could be happy on this earth.

Jesus came to give us much more. Blessings more rich, more lasting, more powerful than a mere feeling of happiness.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

-Ephesians 2:4-6 (emphasis mine)

We were dead because of our sins. Dead men walking, bound for hell. But Christ came to wash away our sin and set us free to live and sit together with Him in the heavenly places. That’s an awesome gift.

When you turn your life over to Jesus, He promises never to leave you. He offers peace, strength, and joy (not the same as happiness). But He also promises trials, pain, heartache.

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

-2 Timothy 3:12 (NKJV)

All you have to do is desire to follow Jesus and you’ll suffer persecution. Imagine what happens if you actually succeed!

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

-John 16:33 (emphasis mine)

Jesus never promised that lovely feeling of happiness. In fact, He promised the opposite.

But it is worth it to live for Jesus.

To serve Him on this earth. To speak with God unashamed. To rest in knowing our physical death will take us to Paradise. To have the comfort only our Creator can give when this life crushes us.

I guess those trite little “you need to be happy” mottoes frustrate me because they’re cheap. They cheapen the powerful grace of God. Yes, my life has been full of wonderful happiness, interspersed with very real pain. But who can tell whether the pain did not do me good?

God does give us happiness. But the truest joy, which transcends happiness, is found in knowing you are doing right, knowing you are completely at peace with your Creator. Watch out for sweet-sounding messages.

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

-Colossians 2:8 (NKJV)

Life is too short to be anything but fully—and I meant utterly, nothing-held-back—surrendered to Jesus Christ, our Savior.

-Miss Darcy

When the Bad Guy Dies

Confession: Every once in a while, I like to read a western. You know, an old Louis L’Amour story with a good guy, a bad guy, and all their friends and enemies scheming and fighting over–something.

I’m not perfectly certain why I like them. I like that the good guy always wins over ominous odds. I like the excitement, I suppose. I like the characters’ capability to handle whatever situation confronts them. I like the beautiful, dangerous, wild land where the story unfolds. I like the code of honor, so to speak, that all the decent characters adhere to.

Anyway, I enjoy them. But, honestly, it’s a purely superficial enjoyment. Because, when I stop to analyze the story, there isn’t much that’s worth holding on to. Let me explain.

Many of the fights start over land. Or cattle. Or power.

And even the good guy is prepared to kill people–people with immortal souls–over land, or cattle, or power. None of which will be worth the powder in a cartridge when he meets his Maker. All the land he deeply loves, all the power he wields will mean nothing when he stands before God to give account of his deeds done in the flesh.

Now, generally, the good guy will eventually shift his goal. Instead of fighting for the land, he starts fighting because the bad guy is just plain wicked, often stealing something from someone who can’t defend himself–or herself. (Throw a bit of romance in; it helps the story immensely.)

So the good guy takes the side of justice, and law, and human kindness. Admirable. In fact, the Bible advocates it.

‘Thus says the LORD: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.

-Jeremiah 22:3 (NKJV)

But. (You knew there was a ‘but’ coming, right?)

But the bad guy still has an immortal soul. A soul Jesus died to save. A soul the Lord loves.

In the end, he dies. (Once in a while, they let him depart in disgrace.) And, yes, the bad guy deserves to die. The good guy is decidedly in the right. By all human law, all human morality and decency, the bad guy deserves what’s coming to him.

But, in the eyes of the Lord, the good guy is just as sinful as the bad guy.

God doesn’t place degrees of wickedness on sin. The bad guy kills; the good guy cusses. Sin is sin compared to the holiness of God.

Now I’m not saying the bad guy shouldn’t pay for his crimes. I’m not even saying he shouldn’t die.

I’m saying that a Christian should never be casual about a person’s death.

Even if the person needs to die–even if it’s not a pointless death as regularly happens in westerns–his soul still plunges into eternity, unready to face the Lord. That should never be a nonchalant event. But in the western, it always is.

So what am I trying to say through this rambling?

I’m reminding myself that, with God, it’s all about souls.

Not land. Not money. Not power. Not even personal rights. It’s about souls surrendering to their Creator.

Is it really worth killing someone to stay on land I legitimately own? Well, many factors influence that question, but I dare to say: “Not always.” If I’m fighting for others, like my family, perhaps. If I’m fighting to stop someone who will only do worse if allowed to succeed at small crimes, perhaps. But if I’m fighting for only myself, maybe I need to give up.

Because what really matters is not what I want, or what I think is right. What matters is what is important to God–saving souls.

Of course, none of this is even relevant to our times. (I hope.) So why write a weblog post about it?

Good question.

Because, as innocent as entertainment may be, it will subtly influence my thinking. Whether I like it or not. Whether I realize it or not. I can’t keep putting this stuff in and expect to have no alteration in my thoughts. The brain doesn’t work that way.

I have only so much time for entertainment in life. I want the best entertainment–stuff I don’t have to filter too closely to make sure it’s not influencing me the wrong way.

That’s why at the top, I said, “Every once in a while.” Maybe it doesn’t hurt to breeze through an old western on a rainy afternoon.

But it pays to be aware.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

-1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)

-Miss Darcy

 

America and “Lord”

There’s a story about a British man who came on business to the American West in the 1800’s. He arrived at his destination, a ranch, and wanted to see the boss. So, employing common phraseology from his country, he asked a cowboy, “Can you tell me where your master is?”

And the cowboy, employing one of the Old West’s favorite bits of profanity, replied that the man hadn’t been born yet.

Americans are raised on the ideal of independence.

The government exists to serve us and has no right to exert overbearing influence in our affairs. Authority can always be questioned. If we don’t like the way the government or authority behaves, we’ll fight it.

(In order the keep this post to a reasonable length, as well as prevent a tedious diversion from my subject, I will refrain from further comment on the previous paragraph.)

Most of all, Americans hold that no one has a right to call himself our “master.”

Then, if we become a Christian, we readily call our God by His well-deserved title of “Lord.”

In the original language of the New Testament, Lord is kurios (pronounced KOO-ree-ohs).

It is the same word translated master, as in

Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh . . .

-Ephesians 6:5a (NKJV)

Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in Heaven.

-Colossians 4:1 (NKJV)

Lord means “master.”

But in our American culture, the word master historically referred to a slave-owner, not an employer as the innocent Englishman meant it. And slave-owners are bad, right?

Well, not when the slave consented to the arrangement for his own benefit.

For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in you body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

-1Corinthians 6:20 (NKJV)

Bu now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

-Romans 6:22 (NKJV)

We are God’s slaves. And every time we call Him “Lord,” we acknowledge that.

But often we don’t take it seriously. After all, we are Americans. Americans are independent; we submit to no one.

And we are all too quick to carry this mindset into our relationship with God.

That is something we can’t afford to do.

Jesus is Lord.

Jesus is Master.

By submitting to Him, we get the best end of the arrangement–joy, peace, and everlasting life.

-Miss Darcy