Thursday, February 11, 2021

How Can I Smile at the Future?

Hey Friend,

For several months I've felt like the character Tom Hanks plays in the movie Castaway. Hanks, a FedEx troubleshooter stranded on an uninhabited island after his plane crashes in the South Pacific, has one friend on the entire island - "Wilson" - played by a Wilson volleyball.

My situation hasn't been that dire, since the refrigerator is only steps away, but I have been alone with "Dell," my laptop, in my writer's world - gritting it out in a book proposal bootcamp. I developed a pinched nerve in my elbow from all the clicking away on Dell's keys. I haven't seen or talked to friends in months. It's been a focused, awesome, grueling, lonely existence.

After going from 1000 to 100, I found out on Monday that I didn't make the final seven who will most likely go on to having their books published. I won't lie - the disappointment hit hard especially due to the sacrifice of missed time with those I love. 

I'm leaning in to find out what God would have me learn from this whole experience. Afterall, it was at His shoving that got me started writing this book in the first place. What up, God?

Most of my life, I have entertained the notion that I've got to be continually on the move building God's kingdom. Everything I do has to have an eternal good purpose. Talk about self-pressure?!

I can't remember the last time I read a fiction book for pleasure. Is this what God wants for me?

I also admit to feeling an urgency in sharing the hope that is in me because I believe the days are evil and numbered. I don't see the rapture being some far off event seen only in the distance of the high beams. 

Jesus implores us to be ready for His coming which could happen at any time (Mark 13:33-37). What response are we to have? This is what I gleaned from a recent rereading of Revelation:

1.  Obedience: We are to be living in obedience to God's word. We are to not only be hearers of His word, but faithful doers. This chaotic and lost world is watching us and we need to live in such a way that we are not ashamed of our behavior. How would you appraise your behavior in terms of will or Thy will?

2.  Worship: God has provided a way to escape His end-time judgments - His free gift of salvation offered through Jesus. Our job is to receive His salvation and live in gratitude before Him. Our worship on earth will one day become worship in heaven. What song are you currently singing?

3.  Proclamation: The message of God's gift of salvation through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, and the truth of His second coming need to be proclaimed for all to hear, especially to those who don't yet believe. We must give everyone the chance to turn to God, repent, and be saved. Revelation 22:10 says, "And he said to me, 'Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.'" What are you doing to proclaim this life-saving message?

4.  Service: As believers we should be diligent about carrying out God's will and performing good works. Yes, this has become more challenging during COVID distancing, but there are creative ways of serving others. We do not enter heaven based on our works, but 2 Corinthians 5:10 says this, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." You are saved by grace, but what will God say about how you used the gifts given to you?

No, this is not meant to be a giant guilt trip. I have always taken these precepts a little too legalistically which is not God's intent. I need less guilt and more joy in my obedience. 

I felt a certain urgency in proclaiming God's love and faithfulness through writing a book. I have served others by founding a Christian non-profit which brings the Good News to a dark corner of the world. Those are big things, but maybe, my obedience, worship, proclamation, and service need to be based more on the everyday right now?! How can I encourage someone who is discouraged and downtrodden by this pandemic? How can I be a friend to someone who is lonely or suffering? How can I serve those I abandoned while chasing the grandiose?

Maybe, just maybe, I need to get back to basics - loving those around me in my everyday world. Let my life-arrow point to Jesus in the grocery store check-out line, as I walk my dog and greet my neighbors, in lifting my voice in worship as I wash the dishes. 

Sometimes God calls us to extraordinary challenges...and sometimes He calls us to simply know and love Him and love our neighbor as ourself. If I know God - I mean really KNOW Him because I've spent countless hours with Him to the point that thoughts of the future bring eagerness and comfort, then I'm walking in His will and can smile about what is to come. Second, what have I done for my literal neighbor lately? 

I'm going to bake something and take it to my nextdoor neighbor. I'm going to write a note to my other neighbor battling pancreatic cancer. I'm going to pick up some flowers for my elderly neighbor who lives alone. I'm going to think of creative ways to be Christ to the next person with whom I come in contact. What about you? How do you plan to be mistaken for Jesus? How might this help you smile at the future?

Will you share some ideas you've done or want to take on to pursue obedience, worship, proclamation, and service?

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