J10: When You See His Face

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(Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash)

Question for this week’s Creative Writing assignment: What famous person would you like to meet and why?
This might seem like a cliché answer, but I would want to meet Jesus face to face. True, God lives inside my heart, but it would be so amazing if I could get a direct answer from Him instead of waiting for that nudge and praying for weeks that He would guide me through the Holy Spirit.
The first questions I’d probably think to ask Him would be those that have been going on inside my mind this past year: Where do I go to college, Jesus? Or do you want me to stay home and be a writer? Or travel to Africa to teach English?
But then perhaps I’d ask Him about my relationships: Which friends do you want me to hang out with and invest my time in? Who do you want me to pursue a deep, meaningful relationship with? How do I encourage my friends and family to draw closer to You? And of my nonbelieving friends, which of them are open to hearing the gospel? How do I even go about sharing the good news to people?
I’d also probably ask Him about my shyness: How do I get out of my shyness? How do I free my mind from thinking about other people might be thinking?
Finally, I’d dig deep into my heart and ask Him: Out of all the things I could do to help this hurting world, what would you have me do for You, Lord? Who did you create me to be?
But maybe I’d be asking all the wrong questions. Maybe He wouldn’t answer directly at all, and instead give me a parable or metaphor to decipher. Maybe He’d smile at me and tell me that I needed to live my life and wait patiently for Him to reveal the answers.

Now that I think about it, praying through the Holy Spirit and waiting on the Lord are probably some of the greatest tests of our faith we will ever face. Perhaps God wants us to grow our trust in Him, to learn to trust Him completely no matter how mysterious life seems. Rather than giving us a direct answer, He guides us quietly in a faint whisper so we have to lean in and listen carefully with all our might. He isn’t trying to be mean. He is drawing us in to the most intimate and satisfying relationship that has ever existed.
My encouragement for you is that we can see Jesus here today, whether after a long period of waiting on the Lord or through the briefest moment of realization. Whenever the Holy Spirit calls out to our hearts (and we test the Spirit and know it’s Him), we see Jesus. Whenever we pray or read the Bible, we see Jesus.
God is with us, and someday those of us who believe in Jesus will most certainly get to meet Him face to face.

 

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” – John 16:13 (NIV)

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CW9: A Song for You to Hear

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A story set in a nursing home consisting the perspectives of a deaf pianist, an elderly lady, a little girl, and a waiter… who is more than a waiter. Disclaimer: This is not a true story.

Lila:

My fingers flew across the slippery keys along with the quick, joyous beating of my heart. To my deaf ears, it was a silent rhythm, but I knew I was giving the dear nursing home residents a sweet, harmonious tune that pierced the air, bidding them to reflect on old times.

I had heard this song I had invented only a few years ago, at the beginning of my high school years before this dreadful curse fell on me. Now I had lost everything but my growing awareness of my visible surroundings. I could see my little sister, for example, chatting animatedly in the back with an old lady while I tickled the ivory keys in a grand display. And I could practically feel the young waiter staring at me from across the room.

Feverishly, I ran my hands across the piano for the finale. The movement of the elderly residences’ clapping bid me relax, but tears threatened to spill from my eyes. I stood up and curtsied briefly, wishing I could have heard the song that I’d played. Was it any good, or did they just clap because I was a poor deaf girl who’d lost her mind?

***

Betty:
The young lady was extraordinary, if I did say so myself. Now of course the adorable nine-year-old girl was keeping me busy—oh, I couldn’t remember her name—but I did hear the song in the background with what hearing I had left. The music filled my heart, sending me back to the dancing days of my youth, when that Ricky asked me to the dance floor.

When I told the little girl this, she laughed merrily and danced around herself—the cutest thing I’d seen in years!

I laughed with her, but just then Titus, the nice young waiter, poured me another mug of coffee.

“Lookin’ thirsty, Betty,” he said. I grinned at him. “Just thirsty for old times.”

***

Annie:
Mommy had said to keep the old lady entertained, whatever that meant. So I talked to her about my school friends and my favorite doll, but she seemed so busy listening to my big sister’s piano playing. She’d probably be even more interested if she knew Lila was deaf and had made that song up all by herself—but I didn’t tell her that. Lila always took over the show!

“This music reminds me of when my crush Ricky asked me to the dance floor when I was in high school,” said the old lady.

At that, I laughed and danced around to the song, showing off my moves from hip-hop class.

“Did you dance like this?” I exclaimed, but I didn’t think she heard me, because a waiter came up to her and poured her coffee.

Maybe Lila’s song wasn’t so bad. It was really pretty actually now that I thought about it.

***

Titus:
The music was phenomenal. No one would expect that I, a nursing home waiter, would know anything about it, but I was working on my senior year in college, majoring in music. I could hardly believe that a deaf girl could invent such a masterpiece full of a broad range of dynamics and melodious sound. Her fingers played the keys so swiftly and easily, her eyes darting here and there, aware of everything. Not to mention that her whole figure was beautiful.

I would have to talk to her—I’d have to, but not now. I noticed Betty’s mug was empty, so I poured her a cup of coffee, slowly, to make sure I didn’t make a fool of myself in front of that remarkable young woman who couldn’t hear, but no doubt could see everything.

(Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash)

 

J9: The Community College Enthusiast

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An assignment to write a true event you were a part of told from someone else’s point of view. (No, you didn’t do anything wrong, I just don’t want to go to a community college in the middle of nowhere. ;))

Aha! Another young high schooler innocent of the world. This one’s a tall, lanky girl looking very timidly up at me with a question in her eyes. Easy to convince her, I think. Then I see beside her a supportive father standing with his arms crossed, putting on an intimidating demeanor.
I reach out and shake the father’s hand, then quickly turn to the girl to do the same.
Realizing she doesn’t have a question for me, I try to put her at ease by exclaiming, “What’s your name?”
“Grace,” she replies softly.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
The question sends a familiar flash of terror in her eyes as she pauses for a moment. “Um, one of the things is a writer.”
But I hardly remember that as I plunge into my speech about the community college’s wonderful programs and mentorships and even dorms not found at most community colleges.
“You get to have some real life experience, and its significantly cheaper than using the dorms at the university here.”
I hand a brochure to her and another young lady that just now walks up, as I inform my audience about the unique on-campus housing, the amazing programs, and the fact that you only have to attend classes from Monday to Thursday.
The quiet girl smiles and nods politely during the whole burst of my passionate rant, while her father stands there with his arms crossed, suspicious of my every word.
“…So if you want to receive more information about this college, just jot down your information here,” I say with a triumphant smile, gesturing to a card with fill-in-the-blanks.
The girl smiles and nods again, looking slightly overwhelmed by my enthusiasm. “Thank you,” she says, as she and her father walk away without taking a card.
As I turn to persuade the next young lady of the excellence of this community college, I cringe. I’m in the business of winning students over, but with so many factors to persuade them in so many directions, it doesn’t come easy. Sometimes I wonder, did I do something wrong?

J8: Reflections on the Mid-Semester

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It’s mid-semester in my beloved Creative Writing class, and now the assignment bids me reflect on the wonderful writings of myself and my fellow classmates, who have named ourselves The Writers of the Round Table.

  1. Which Journal entry is your favorite and why?

I’d have to say my favorite journal piece I’ve written is His Power Made Perfect in My Shyness, because I really put my heart into that one, which made God’s power seem to work through my writing! I’ve noticed that the more of my heart I put in my writing, the more people seem to relate to my message.

  1. Which Creative Writing assignment is your favorite and why?

My favorite Creative Writing piece I’ve written would probably be my short story retelling of the Prodigal’s son. I actually didn’t realize till later that it was supposed to be a modern retelling, but I ended up really liking it anyway. I love to tell stories from the perspective of Bible characters, because it helps me to appreciate those stories better and understand more fully the message God is trying to bring across. If you’re interested, I have several other short stories told from Bible characters’ points of views on this blog:

Abigail the Intelligent – story of Abigail wife of Nabal and how she changed King David’s mind.

Anointed – story of Mary sister of Martha and Lazarus when she anointed Jesus’ feet.

The Girl Who Died – story of, well, the girl who died… when Jesus was in town.

The Samaritan Woman – story of the woman at the well… when Jesus was at the well, too.

  1. Do you have a least favorite?

Yes, I’d have to say I really didn’t especially like my Four Men in a Furnace poem. I wrote that on a trip, so I was just trying to get the words on paper, and adding metaphors and other wonderful poetic elements was in a land far, far away from my mind… 😉

  1. Do you admire anyone else’s work?

I really do love my classmates’ works and I’m really excited to be in a class with so many amazing writers.
I didn’t get to read all of them, but from what I’ve read I really admire Queen Guinevere’s Trials of Character, which showed how one Bible verse can change your whole perspective.
I also loved Morholt’s Affliction and Glory—I’m going to think of that verse in a totally new way now!
King Arthur, Owned It was such an awesome, creative piece, told from a unique perspective. Well done!
I’d have to say I thought your fables were really clever, Lancelot, and the illustrations are so good!
Ywain, I loved your journal piece An Interesting Connection—it truly was interesting and very insightful.
Elyan, Here’s My Everything was just so beautifully written and inspiring. The picture you put with it is perfect!
Finally, Taylor, I loved your poem Purest of Peace. Amazing word choice and creative formatting—it draws you in and conveys God’s peace really well!
I loved each one of my classmates’ work; sorry if I didn’t get to yours!

If you are having trouble with remembering the names of the Writer of the Round Table like I am, here’s Morholt’s awesome post that explains everything. 🙂
I am just realizing how many of these our journal 7 assignemts, lol! Anyhow, I really have enjoyed sharing my writing as well as reading my classmates’ writing so far.

Hope you have an amazing week and second half of the semester!

CW8: Insecurity vs. Security

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(Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash)

Insecurity
Trapped in an endless position of fear,
I don’t know what to say.

My mind blanks as I stare at the questioner,
and I cry in my heart, “Someone do this for me!”

Because I want this curse of insecurity to end,
but I don’t know how to stop it—

this embarrassment,
gripping my throat and telling me
who I am—
a somebody that no one understands.

Help me, help me,
but there’s no one who hears me;
everyone’s stricken in panic,
groping for a rock
in their own little worlds.

In the same room
we all cry for somebody who will understand.

In the same room
we’re all standing alone,
wishing we could lay down and die.

Security

Struggling free from my endless position of fear,
I try to think of what to say.

My mind blanks as I stare at the questioner,
and I cry in my heart, “Jesus, do this for me!”

Because I want this curse of insecurity to end,
and He’s the only one who can stop it—
this embarrassment
gripping my throat and lying
about who I am—
when the Author of me can only understand.

Help me, help me,
and I’m sure He hears me;
everyone looks up in awe,
seeking the Savior
in their own little worlds.

In the same room
we cry for the only Somebody who will understand.

In the same room,
we’re all lying down together,
getting the courage to stand up and live.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
Psalm 27:14 (ESV)

CW7: The Wayward Son– A Modern Retelling of The Prodigal’s Son

A story told from the perspective of the prodigal’s son with a modern twist: Will he stay hungry and poor or undertake the journey home, to a likely angry father?

I raised the mop out of the bucket and began pushing it against the tile floor, back and forth. Suddenly my boss’s golden retriever that he always kept around his office ran giddily up to me, rubbing against my ankles.

I set the mop against the wall and quickly found the dog food and dished it out in the little bowl that said “WOOFY” on it and was surrounded by little paw prints. As I watched the golden retriever gobble down his meal, my stomach rumbled. I didn’t want to admit it, but I could go for some of that dog food right now. I hadn’t eaten for three days straight, and I was ravenous for food, for anything… That man, that cursed man!

No. I shook my head and laughed bleakly at myself. No, I couldn’t blame my misery on my employer. It was me. All me.

What would my father think if he saw me right now? I was a ragged, unshaven servant boy whose stomach was gripped with incessant hunger. He’d hate me.

The golden retriever, having finished his food, snorted for my attention. He whimpered as he laid with his belly up on the filthy ground. I bent down and stroked the layer of fur on his stomach, realizing that I’d never actually seen my boss even pat the dog on the head. Woofy was just like me. Alone. Unwanted.

I clenched my teeth together. Why had I ever been so foolish as to run away from my father? I’d used up the money I’d taken from my father weeks ago, blindly chasing after pleasures which my father had so long sheltered me from. I wanted freedom, but I ended up bound to a job I hated that gave an income that could barely feed and clothe me. What had I been thinking? There was abundantly more freedom in my father’s house.

I petted Woofy one more time and then rose to my feet. There was no sense in just standing in this office building with a mop for the rest of my life. My father was probably going to hate me, but I would gladly bear the shame if it meant a dinner in my stomach.

***

As I stepped off the bus and began walking home, deliberating on what I would say to my father, I heard a shout in the distance. I looked up to see I was nearing my father’s house, and my father was running toward me. My heart pounded, for I feared he would reprimand me harshly and whip me for the foolish thing I had done. And wouldn’t I deserve it?

But as my father drew closer, his expression grew more distinct—and it was full of joy.
Soon he threw his arms around me and kissed me. I could only feebly return his affection, for my throat was thick with grief. How could he love me after what I had done? Did he not realize I had squandered his wealth on prostitutes?

Guilt gripped me as I spoke to him: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

But my father called my mother to come and told her, “Bring quickly the frozen turkey and cook it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

We celebrated my return all that day, my heart overjoyed by my father’s compassion. What had I done to deserve it? I had given him nothing, but he had given me everything; I had run away from him, but today he had run towards me with open arms.

Later I heard of my older brother’s jealousy. Unlike me, he had remained loyal to my father, yet he did not receive such a grand celebration.

My brother complained to my father: “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me even a pizza, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you had the frozen turkey cooked for him!”

My father told my brother, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

I did not know what my brother thought at my father’s words, for he did not say another word on the matter. But he treated me with the utmost respect from then on.

After that day, I never wanted to leave my father’s side. I walked with him, I talked with him, I ran joyously to obey his orders. I did not mind feeding the pigs either. For not only did my father give his loyal son all that was his, but he gave the same blessings to me. He loved me, his wayward son, and all I could give him in return was myself.

Dialogue taken mostly from parts of Luke 15:21-32 (ESV), with modern revisions. 😉

J7: Cling to Belief

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In this journal piece, I will be talking about the importance of believing in God’s abundant grace for us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Paul, speaking to Cephas, who separated himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of the Jews who still lived by the law/circumcision (Galatians 2:21)
The idea permeating through this gospel-centered verse blew my mind last Sunday. God’s grace is so baffling that you and I will take a lifetime to even begin to understand it. Sometimes I am so afraid to believe that Jesus is all I need to enter heaven. I think, “But He wants us to serve the poor and to tell everyone the gospel and sacrifice our time and money for others, doesn’t He?”
And that’s absolutely true.
But our focus needs to remain steadfastly on Jesus, because without Him, we are trying to make our own way to eternal life. It’s so easy to get caught up in doing things for God, as if we could do enough things for Him to actually break open heaven’s gates.
Maybe we don’t realize we are believing this, but the truth is, reluctance is a sign we have the wrong focus.

Reluctance is a sign that perhaps our half-hearted attempts to serve God reflect our half-hearted belief that Jesus has paid the ultimate price for our sins.

If we only half-heartedly acknowledge that Jesus is the sole reason we can worship Him eternally, we are dismissing the whole truth of the gospel. If we say, “Yes, Jesus made the Way, but now I have to be good so He doesn’t change His mind”—who are we? Why is it so hard to fall prostrate before our King, admitting that He truly is the One thing keeping us alive? Why do we think God is so weak that Jesus wouldn’t be quite enough to save us?
It’s so hard for me to believe in the goodness of our Savior sometimes, but we can’t let uncertainty bring us down when we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us (Rom. 8:37). Cry out to Jesus like the father of the demon-possessed boy, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
Make believing that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, more important than doing things for Him. Spend time in His Word, pray to Him, worship Him. Jesus delivered you from the snares of death and bore your shame on a cross so you might live. Be in awe of that.

Here’s how my pastor explains it: Jesus + nothing = eternal life

Once we believe that His grace truly is sufficient to cover all our sins, true joy and motivation will blossom in the deepest parts of our hearts.

 

My God Saves

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A poem I wrote last year that I completely forgot about, and I don’t believe I’ve ever posted it. Enjoy!

Sometimes I am afraid,
Sometimes I doubt the truth that makes me who I am;
I believe confusion is inevitable,
But God is a God of peace.

So one reminder of His love, His inconceivable power,
One glance at the Bible and I am free again.

I am nothing without God—I have no purpose for eternity;
I am a sinner without a cure drifting in the sea of false hopes
And empty dreams.

Without Jesus to die away each sin,
Without His love to rise up again—
Well, I’m dead.
I might as well forget, because
Nothing matters.
Without Him I am ashamed beyond repair.

I guess that’s what helps me believe what’s right in front of me;
I have no hope without God,
I have no peace.

Sometimes the fears and doubts entangle me,
I fail and sin and forget about His grace.
But please believe me when I say—
I know in the inner parts of me,
The Lord is good, His love is great;
And He is mighty to save me from a life of shame.
“At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you. I will rescue the lame; I will gather the exiles. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they have suffered shame.” – Zephaniah 3:19 (NIV)

Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

Little Obediences: Everyday Actions that Matter to God

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Introducing my cousin, Amy Caylor! She wrote this essay that I thought was too good and true not to share. 🙂

 

I have a quote on my wall that says “You need to give your life to God in the little ways too, not just the big ones. —Waiting for Your Prince Charming.” I don’t remember much else about that book, but that struck me as something I needed to remember, so I put it on my wall. Now, four years later, I came across the idea again, in “The Man Christ Jesus” by Bruce A. Ware.

When people think of giving their life to God, or obeying Him in everything, they often think of the big stuff. Accepting the call to be a missionary. Selling everything, and giving it all to the poor. Refusing to deny Jesus, and being martyred for it. While following Jesus might mean that, it isn’t everything to obeying Jesus. Following Him truly means obeying him in the little ways too.

This could mean deciding to have a good attitude at work. In the context of the book I read about purity, it meant being patient and trusting that God’s plan was best for your life, whether you married or not. These “little obediences”, as Bruce A. Ware called them, can be harder to do than they sound, because we don’t necessarily see these things as important, or “little sins” worth being conquered. Being snappish because “Can’t you see I’m reading?” doesn’t feel or sound like it is something to overcome, but in a life that is suppose to be characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, it isn’t honoring to God. We should “be imitators of God, as beloved children” as Ephesians 5:1 says, and Jesus was sinless.

We don’t truly understand what that means. Jesus was sinless. He repressed both the “big” sins and the “little” sins. He followed His Father’s heart in every single way. He both forgave the Pharisees as he hung up on the cross, and refused to roll his eyes at his earthly parents, even when He knew how superior to them He was. Every single time. Every time temptation hit He prayed and struggled and didn’t give in for the whole duration of the temptation. What an amazing Savior!

We need to follow God. Not only in the big, life-changing ways, but in the small, daily, moment by moment ways. How we act and how we treat others should show glory to God. It is really hard to do, which makes it even more amazing that Jesus did it. Though we could never be sinless in this life like He is, we are called to follow His example.

Four Men in a Furnace

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A poem about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace… and the Man who met them there!

When a king demanded his subjects to bow

To statues meant to satisfy

Three Hebrew men stood tall and proud,

Which upset the ruler’s pride.

Angrily, he ordered his men

To ignite flames inside a deadly furnace.

He yelled, his anger hotter than the fire within,

As he glared at the Hebrews and shook his fist.

But the Hebrew men didn’t flinch at all,

Though when they marched in the fire the guards fell dead,

Those three good men stood proud and tall,

And the fire didn’t even burn their faces red.

As the king looked on his eyes opened wide,

And he declared at what he saw,

“Not three but four men are standing unharmed inside,

And the fourth looks like he’s a son of the gods!”

So the king called the Hebrews to come out of the flames,

And he saw that neither smoke nor ash had singed their skin.

Amazed and awed and perhaps ashamed

The king praised their God and blessed the men.