• Coming Christmas 2019

The Delusion

DSC05213By Elaine Baldwin | @elainehbaldwin

This is one of multiple pictures of our trek out west to our new home in the state of Washington. The white car is one of two vehicles we drove out. I’m taking the picture from the other one. And, yes, I was driving at the time. I was careful. Don’t know who the semi belongs to. But, I do know who the mountain belongs to.

Itty Bitty car–Ours!

Great Big Mountain–God’s!

It’s been interesting during the months leading up to this trek , that I have been reading in Isaiah and Jeremiah. I’ve not read these with any deep interest since college too many decades ago. Shame on me! But, God has given me a renewed longing (panting like a deer) for all His Word, not just what is easier to understand. What I have found takes my breath away and helps my perspective stay in God-like focus.

There is A LOT I do no understand in these Old Testament prophetic books, but I am determined to gain more insight and application in this next year. And I believe God is determined to give me this insight and application. I know this because He has already smacked me upside the head about idols.

Yes…Idols!

Isaiah and Jeremiah reveal in no uncertain terms what God thinks about idols and it’s not pretty. You may be thinking like I have that the whole discussion of idols has no application for 21st century American Christians. We need to rethink that position. Listen to this…

Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the LORD, “Do not learn the way of the nations, And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens Although the nations are terrified by them; For the customs of the peoples are delusion; Because it is wood cut from the forest, The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. They decorate it with silver and with gold; They fasten it with nails and with hammers So that it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, For they can do no harm, Nor can they do any good.” Jeremiah 10:1-5

Isn’t that exactly what we do today? We may not have mini statues in our homes or gardens, though more and more Americans do, but what we have is actually much worse and more deceitful. We have houses and garages filled with idols made by man’s hands. We are in the same delusion with these idols as the people were in this verse with their wooden idols. We think our diplomas and cars and expensive vacations and boats and designer clothes and plush carpets and four bathrooms can make us better humans. Worse yet, we think these things can save us!

Oh, I know, we don’t physically bow down to these things or utter mantras to them or sing to them. But, we do give them an awful lot of attention and an exorbitant amount of our time. And we do judge others and ourselves by them. And we do worry what we would do without them.

As I was following our itty bitty car up and down one mountain after another, I was struck by how much stock I put into “the customs of the peoples” and how little my trust and faith really is in the God of the Universe!

There is none like You, O LORD; You are great, and great is Your name in might. Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? Indeed it is Your due! For among all the wise men of the nations And in all their kingdoms, There is none like You. Jeremiah 10:6-7

It’s a little crazy to move t0 the northwest in the middle of January. It’s even more crazy to move 2000 miles away from any family and friends. And even crazier to do it all on purpose! But, what is beyond crazy and even delusional is to believe that I control my own destiny (“the customs of the people”) and that my stuff will save me and give me life everlasting.

What is not crazy is resting in the gracious and loving arms of my Savior, Jesus Christ!

A Letter-Live!

LetterBy Elaine Baldwin | elainehbaldwin

Along with millions in our country and even around the world, I’ve paused and contemplated the evil brought upon the community of Sandy Hook, CT. The images and accounts from that day and in these ensuing days of pain have been part of conversations and integral in prayers…as they should be. This truly is a time to weep with those who weep. But I live half a country away and know no one personally or even remotely connected with this greatest of heartaches.

I am only one and the complexity and depth of the need is great, but it is my heart’s desire to do something…not just anything…but something…profoundly meaningful.

But, what will last? What will have the greatest impact; not just for those in Sandy Hook, but for our nation?

I struggled with a suitable answer until I was reminded of a letter received long ago that I had  pulled out from my stash a few months ago. I’ve poured over its words several times since its rediscovery and I believe it is most appropriate for the times we abide in.

The letter was written by a man, a leader, facing great struggles. In fact his life could be characterized as one big tragedy. I think that is what makes his letter so credible and practical. He didn’t write it as one who’d been spared hardship. No! He lived in hardship every day and yet he believed and lived with great hope and strength. I guess you could say he practiced what he preached. I like that.

I don’t like being told how to get along in life by people surrounded by comfort and ease. But, not this man. He’s seen and lived among wickedness and evil. He wrote this letter to several of us who have lived in captivity. (I guess I’ve never told you about my captivity. I will some day.) Captivity is awful and can hardly be described in words. And I must say that when I first read his letter I thought him crazy, at the least, and, at worst, callous.

Did he not understand what we captives were going through? Had he forgotten our cries as we were carried away  and dragged from the arms of our loved ones? Did he not realize our deepest desire to be free from the unbearable pain and anguish? Of course, he did. Though it took me several reads to understand the wisdom of his words and his plan for not just surviving our captivity, but thriving even while in captivity. Because even though we may be captive, we are free and no one can separate us from the One who gives this freedom.

It seems impossible, but I share his letter with you now as a testament to its truth and power.

Oh, I almost forgot. I think you have this letter as well. You remember. It’s the letter from Jeremiah. I know you have it. It’s probably just stashed away like mine was. Jeremiah 29: 1 and 4-13

Now these are the words of the letter which Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the rest of the elders of the exile, the priests, the prophets and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon…

…Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD. For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

Here’s the bottom line according to Jeremiah.The very best thing we can do for our hurting nation.

Live life While Seeking Our Nations Welfare!

The saying goes, “The only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” I think that is true. But according to God, evil also needs God’s people to stop living and to only exist. There is a huge difference! It would have been easy for these captives to simply give up. To stop living and just survive. But God commanded them to thrive and live fully. As the New Testament puts it, “to be salt and light.” We can’t do that if we allow our weeping to become more than consoling and instead turn into worry, fear and despair.

Do you want to help those in Sandy Hook? I do!

Do whatever tangible, specific thing God instructs you personally to do and then…Live!

Live wholeheartedly with reckless abandon for God and His Son, Jesus Christ!

Seek the welfare of our nation; however God shows you to do so.

This is this week’s One Another Living Challenge, and, I would dare say, the never ending challenge for all of us!

(I was re-introduced to this passage in the Fall of 2012 by Janet Parshall at the True Woman conference in Indianapolis, IN. It has made a huge impact on my outlook on life and drilled my focus to why God leaves me here, a captive in a sin cursed world. I pray my small, condensed, and inadequate version of Janet’s insights compel you to thrive as we wait for our complete deliverance to Glory! You can hear Janet on Moody Radio and you can also purchase her book, “Buyer Beware”. This is not a book about economics…it is about living life fully in a hostile world. I highly recommend it.)

photo credit: athena. via photopin cc

Turn Write Series with Author Vicki Lucas

Not a Doorstop

If you had five hundred thousand dollars, what would you do with it? Would you get a better car, give some to charity, travel, or save for a rainy day?

You probably wouldn’t put it outside your front door to get rained on, kicked around, and muddy. But that’s exactly what Conrad and his Dad did in 1799. While Conrad was fishing one Sunday morning, a large rock caught his eye. He lugged it home and showed it to his father. They didn’t know what it was, so they didn’t treat it special. It became a doorstop for their front door.

How often in our lives do we treat something or someone poorly because we don’t know what we have? And how often is something overlooked because we don’t recognize its value?

We often fail to notice people and things that have great value in our lives. We all long for a million dollars, a large house, or a fancy car. However nice those things might be, have you ever considered what your life would be like without a house to live in? Without electricity or running water? What if you had water, but it was too polluted to drink? And what if your last paycheck was one year ago instead of one week ago? I know life is hard, but too often we take what we have for granted.

God has given us so many things to be thankful for, but He has also placed people who have great value in our lives. Maybe this is a family member who encourages and supports you no matter what. It might be as small as friends you happen to see in the grocery store when you are lonely and discouraged. They greet you with a huge smile and ask how you are doing. Best of all, they listen to you.

All around us are stories of great friendships. Sam and Frodo. Wilbur and Charlotte. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Robin Hood and Little John. Timmy and Lassie. Snoopy and Woodstock. Spock and Captain Kirk. Even in real life, people’s friendships become famous.  Look at Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway, and C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Bible tells us of loyal friends as well. Read the story of Naomi and Ruth. David and Jonathan were close friends despite many adversities. Not only does the Bible give us stories of these people, but it gives us verses about friendship.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times.

Proverbs 18:24 There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Perhaps you won’t journey to Mount Doom together. You probably haven’t lived in Sherwood Forest or journeyed through space. The two of you may not write fiction that is loved throughout the years. But your friend has been there for you when you were lonely. I’d wager that they’ve laughed, cried, and giggled with you. They’ve encouraged you when you needed it and love you no matter what.

Don’t treat what you have and who you have as a doorstop.

We often fail to recognize that we are priceless. We tend to place our value on what we do. Our identity becomes wrapped up in our work. This is why we get so upset when someone criticizes us, even if it’s constructive. As writers, we see that stream of rejection letters come to our door, and it becomes so easy to think that the editors are discarding us as a person. Thoughts fill our heads: I’m stupid. I can’t do this. No one likes me. I’m no good.

I know. I’ve been there. Some days I’m still there. But then I have to remind myself of God’s promises.

  • I am God’s child.  (John 1:12)
  • I am a friend of Jesus Christ. (John 15:15)
  • I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)
  • I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances. (Romans 8:28)
  • I know that God will complete the good work He started in me. (Philippians 1:6)
  • I have been made new by Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • I am an heir with the Father and a joint heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17)
  • I am chosen of God. (Colossians 3:12, I Thessalonians 1:4)

So as you read those rejection letters or when you hear the criticism pound through your head, don’t forget. You are the child of the King, friend to our Savior. You belong to the One Who created everything. Your good in all circumstances is being arranged by the God Who controls all. You are forgiven of all you did and will do. You were chosen and are now an heir of God! You are priceless

If rocks could think, I wonder what that rock Conrad brought home must have thought. All I’m good for is to hold open a door. No one wants me around, for I’m outside during the heat and the cold. I have no talents – anything can hold open a door. I’m no good. I’m worthless.

Three years after using this seventeen pound rock as a doorstop, Conrad’s father finally found someone who knew that they had. The giant stone was actually a gold nugget! To put this into perspective, today a seventeen pound gold nugget would sell for roughly four hundred thousand, nine hundred and eighty-four dollars. From this point on, Conrad and his family lives’ changed forever. The value of the rock didn’t alter. It didn’t morph into gold over the years or shed a shell that was hiding the gold. No, nothing changed except they knew what was valuable in their life.

How much would your life change if you valued what you have, who you have, and who you are more? What have you done to let the people in your life know that they are special to you?

Vicki’s Bio

I have never been able to tell people what I was going to be when I grew up. I received my Bachelor’s in Psychology…only to find myself with no desire to work in that field. I switched careers to Teaching English as a Second Language and obtained a Master’s from Seattle Pacific University. Teaching at universities and colleges gave me eleven years of incredible experiences, remarkable coworkers, and unforgettable friends from many different countries. However, the distant mountains began to call, and I responded, not knowing where I was going or what my purpose was. After a year and a half of traveling through the quiet places that are left in the world, I settled in Montana with my husband and my dog. I have begun to write the stories I heard on the wind.

Webpage: www.vickivlucas.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vicki-V-Lucas/296644940383708

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/VickiVLucas

Blog: http://blog.vickivlucas.com/

Vicki’s Book:

You can purchase Vicki’s wonderful fantasy novel, Toxic, from Amazon

Paperback here and on Kindle here