During the twenty years I’ve known Cynthia Howerter, I have witnessed her abiding faith during many challenging situations and have marveled at her closeness to God. She has a willingness and ability to share with others the lessons God ha...
--- Isaiah 40:31
For months I’ve been researching the American colonial period in preparation for writing a novel. I’ve found all of the information I need, but when it came time to put together a plot for the book, I drew a blank. For weeks I’ve prayed over the plot, I’ve meditated on the plot, and I’ve brainstormed about the plot – to no avail.
I’ve read numerous books, hoping for a spark of plot inspiration. Nothing. I’ve asked, “What would the Protagonist want to accomplish in the plot?” Nothing. I’ve spent months doing everything I can think of to come up with a plot, but instead, I came up with nothing.
Do you ever feel like you’re spinning your wheels on a certain situation? The harder you try, the more frustrated you become because no matter what you do, the situation is still the same, still staring you in the face with no resolution. It’s not a good feeling, is it?
Perhaps, I wondered, God is telling me not to write a novel. Maybe novel-writing isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing. So I prayed for direction. Nothing.
I thought back to the day in 2008 when I heard God tell me to write, that I had a story to tell. And it occurred to me that since then, God has never told me to stop writing. So back to my problem of not finding a plot for the story that will not stop playing in my head.
My husband gave me sage advice: “Stop trying so hard; you’re getting too frustrated to be creative.” And he was right. Frustration breeds frustration – you know what I’m talking about. But when I stopped focusing on trying to find a plot, it still did not come to me.
Then a writer friend with a close walk with the Lord gave me the right advice: “Cynthia, praise God out loud. Praise Him for all He’s given you. Praise Him in advance for the stories He’s going to give you to write. But praise Him out loud with a joyful heart.”
As I began praising God out loud, the story of Paul and Cyrus in the prison came to me. Isn’t this exactly what these men did when they were bound in chains with no foreseeable change in their situation? And what was the result of their midnight praise songs? God heard and responded.
And just like the earthquake that struck and released Paul and Cyrus from their fetters, my jubilant praise for God produced a plot. And not just any plot, but one that was far beyond anything my imagination could have conjured. Rather than run for my computer so I could record the words that were flowing into my mind, I knelt and praised God for this incredible provision.
What situation is proving unsolvable to you? What problem won’t go away? Perhaps the solution is so simple that, like me, you just cannot grasp it.
Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts. 1st Chronicle 16:9 (NIV)
To God be the Glory
Come join me at Colonial Quills today where we’ll learn about 18th century tea tables from master furniture craftsman, Keck Jackson, owner of Jackson’s 18th Century Cabinet Shop in Allison Park, Pennsylvania.
Click here to go directly to Cynthia’s Colonial Quills article -> Colonial Quills
Photograph by Cynthia Howerter ©2014
To God Be The Glory
Picking up where I last left off about wanting to live to the best of my ability rather than be content with living a mediocre life, I’m focusing on the area of my citizenship and its importance to me.
For months, I’ve been studying the eastern American Indians during the 18th century. I’ve read thousands of pages of scholarly research, but in keeping my SWE articles to about 500 words, my comments will be succinct.
The 18th century American Indians taught me how to be a good citizen.
When the first European settlers arrived on the eastern shores of America, they met the natives—eastern American Indians. These Indians were peaceful and friendly, and had they not helped the newly arrived Europeans, the settlers would have perished from starvation. The settlers needed land on which to build their homes, so they asked the kind-hearted Indians for a very small amount of land and received it.
More European settlers continued to arrive in eastern America. In need of additional land to accommodate the increasing population, representatives of both settlers and Indians met, and it was agreed that the eastern Indians would sell a designated section of their land to the settlers. Right from the start, the Indians believed that the white representatives were truthful in their agreement to abide by the boundaries agreed to by both sides.
What a shock it was to the eastern tribes to learn that the whites were not keeping their word, both verbal and written, to stay on their side of the boundary lines.
“Well, our dear Indians,” the white representatives explained, “we simply misjudged things. We actually need more of your land than we told you, so let us pay you for another parcel, and we promise that we’ll stay on our side of the boundary lines and will never allow white settlers to move into your land.”
The white representatives spoke and wore the look of truth and sincerity, and the Indians, whose culture loathed liars and cheats and didn’t tolerate those behaviors, believed what they were told. Again.
Shortly after the new treaties were signed and boundary lines were revised, white settlers moved into the Indians’ clearly designated land and cleared forests to build homes and farms for themselves.
“But you agreed to stay on your side of the boundary lines,” the Indians protested.
“And we meant it, but now we realize we’ve misjudged. We actually need more of your land.”
“All right, but this is the last time we’ll let you purchase land from us.”
“Absolutely. This time, our calculations are correct, and there won’t be a need for more of your land. After you sign this treaty, go live on the lands you have left, and we’ll leave you alone.”
Too late, the Indians learned that the words of the white leaders were hollow and self-serving. Too late, the Indians learned that the white leaders never intended to keep the signed treaties. Too late, the Indians learned to be wary, to ask tough questions, to demand accountability, and to stand up to bullies disguised as powerful leaders. Too late, the Indians learned about gullibility and complacency.
Thanks to the 18th century Indians, I’m going to stop assuming that my representatives are making decisions that are in my best interests. I’m going to pay close attention to what my representatives are saying and doing. I intend to regularly let my elected officials know when I’m pleased with their stands on issues and when I am not.
Unlike the 18th century Indians, I do not want to wake up one morning and discover that the land of my ancestors is no longer my land.
With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape. Proverbs 11:9 (NIV)
To God Be The Glory
Last week, I wrote about the importance of giving our very best effort in every area of our life; mediocrity is the result when we use our talents and gifts just enough to get by. Today, I’m going to look at several spiritual areas of my life and set some realistic goals.
Life’s Purpose: Because our society encourages self-centeredness, it’s easy for me to get caught up in me, me, me. However, our purpose as Believers is to serve God, not ourselves, every single day. We are called to be a godly light, an upright example for others. My goal: I need to remember and implement my true purpose every single day: I am here to serve God, not myself.
Bible Reading: My day gets the best start when it begins with reading the Bible, God’s guide book for life. The Bible contains all of the wisdom I need to make good decisions in every area of my life. Troubles arise when I don’t read God’s word daily; biblical wisdom isn’t fresh in my mind, so when I try to handle things using my own wisdom, it’s no wonder I get unsatisfactory results. My goal: Read the Bible in one year by reading it daily. I’m using the Chronological Bible in One Year.
Praise: Praising God when things go well is easy, but praising Him when things go wrong is not second-nature—but it needs to be, at least for me. Why? Because when I praise God during difficulties, my faith is at its strongest; I’m saying, “God, I know You want me to learn something valuable from this situation, and I praise You for the good that will come out of it.” My goal: As soon as troubles arise, praise God rather than complain.
Thankfulness: Each day, God provides numerous blessings for me. However, I tend to take most of these blessings for granted. I need to be thanking God throughout each day for each good thing He does for me. The benefit of doing this is that it forces me to be aware of specific things God does for me each day. Not expressing specific thankfulness makes it easy to take God’s blessings for granted—and that, as I know all too well, can lead to uncomfortable correction. My goal: Thank God throughout each day for specific blessings.
Prayer: For me, praying throughout each day is not a problem. Where I sometimes fall short is telling people I’ll pray for them. Every promise I make to pray must be kept, otherwise, my word is hollow. Even worse, someone is counting on my prayers for them. My goal: Keep every single commitment to pray.
Make no mistake about it, the evil one hates all of the time we focus on God, and he will do everything he can to deter our daily focus on the Lord. It happens to me all of the time. What about you?
So, I need steadfast, but realistic goals for each day, and then I have to stick to those plans no matter how Satan tempts me with worldly things that appear to be more important.
Knowing that Satan will do everything in his power to sidetrack me and keep me from accomplishing these goals, I’ve come up with a question to keep me focused on my daily spiritual goals: When I come to God with my problems, does He ignore me? The answer: He never ignores me or turns me away under any circumstance; therefore, how can I justify paying attention to Him sporadically?
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3: 13-14 (NIV)
To God be the Glory
I began by asking myself a tough question: Am I using all of the gifts and talents I’ve been given to the very best of my ability—or, am I just doing the minimum and living a mediocre life? My honest answer? There’s a lot of room for improvement—I’m not consistently giving my best effort.
I’ll bet most people, if they’re candid, live mediocre lives. Why? Because being mediocre is so darn easy; you don’t have to push yourself or try hard at anything. All you have to do is enough to get by.
But there’s something wrong with living a so-so life: it’s wasteful. Let me provide this analogy: Let’s say that after years of sacrificing and saving for your child’s college education, he or she arrives home at the completion of their first semester with grades of Cs and Ds. Asked for an explanation, your child tells you that their focus was not on academics but on having a good time. Would you say your child spent your money and his abilities well?
I have to wonder how God feels when he gives us gifts and talents and we do the minimum with them. What does He expect from us? Colossians 3:23 (NIV) says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
Clearly, God expects us to give our best effort at whatever we do at all times. God doesn’t say He expects us to be better than everyone else. After all, not everyone can be a brain surgeon. But ordinary people—just like you and me—can do extraordinary things – if they give their very best effort in everything at all times.
I can’t say that I’m giving my very best effort at everything at all times—but I want to be able to say it because some day I’ll have to stand before God and give an accounting for my entire life. There’s no way I want to tell Him that I took His gifts and used them just enough to get by.
After much serious reflection, I’ve concluded that I need to identify the major components of my life so that I can knowingly do my very best in each. Here are the areas I’ve come up with (so far):
In my next Soar With Eagles article, I’ll take a closer look at these areas. But today, I’m making a decision to give my very best effort at everything I do. I’m going to set some goals that will be difficult—if not impossible—to achieve. And then, I’m going to ask God to help me do everything in my power to accomplish them.
What about you? How are you living your life?
If you know someone who would be encouraged by this article, please tell them about it.
Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty! Proverbs 14:23 (NLT)
To God be the GloryRead More