I am taking a week off from my blog to finish the rewrite of my Christian living book, One Nation Under God. I'm behind schedule in getting it into print again, so I wanted to share with you a preview. You can find the new first chapter on this website as a free download. Go to Books by Janet, scroll down to the original One Nation Under God listing, and click on the link beneath the photo of the book cover.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the chapter!
And let me know if you have any questions you are hoping the rest of the book will answer.
I read an interesting Bible passage today. It’s at the beginning of the story of Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel. In Genesis 12, God makes his first covenant (or promise) with Abraham, who was still called Abram at the time. God said, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3, NIV)
In the very next verse, we see Abram taking God at his word and acting on it. Abram moves, taking his wife, nephew, and all his possessions. Stopping in the land of Canaan, God again makes a promise to Abram to give him all the land around him (Genesis 12:4-7). But then, three verses later, Abram and his wife, Sarai, leave the land that’s been promised to them to go to Egypt to escape a famine. Entering Egypt, Abram makes a most amazing statement to his wife: “You’re a beautiful woman, Sarai, and I don’t want somebody here to kill me to get to you, so it would be better if you tell everyone I’m your brother instead of your husband.” (Genesis 12:11-13, paraphrased)
Abram put his wife in a terrible position and even allowed her to be taken into Pharaoh’s household (i.e., harem) all “so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you” (Genesis 12:13). In my opinion, there are few better examples in the Bible of someone failing to live as if they believed what God had promised!
In the first place, Abram didn’t need to be “treated well” by Pharaoh or his people. The Almighty God had promised to give him a large extent of land and to make his name great. Abram also didn’t need to worry about dying before he had any children because God had promised to make him into a great nation of people. The Bible doesn’t tell us how much time passed between the promises in verses 2-7 and Abram’s act of cowardice in verses 11-13, but it would be pretty hard to forget being told directly by God himself that he would take care of you, bless you, and give you a multitude of descendants!
Abraham wasn’t the only person in the Bible to face a scary situation. David went through numerous wars and was pursued as a young man by a king intent on killing him. But God had promised David that he would be the next king. Again and again through the book of Psalms we hear David crying out in fear, frustration, anger, and impatience, but in each and every one of these Psalms he ends up remembering the power, love and faithfulness of God. Then his fears and frustrations melt away.
Today, as Christians we have a choice: to live like we believe in God’s promises and his ability to make those promises come true, or to give into fear, frustration and anger because our lives at this very moment aren’t everything we think they should be. We can live our lives focused on protecting our own interests or focused on caring for others and showing God’s love to the world.
It isn’t always easy to live like you believe, but it is always worth it! What will you choose?
Just last week I wrote about my commitment to write this year. I’ve made it a personal goal to keep this blog going with 2 or 3 posts each week and to work steadily on my current book project. But here it is on Friday, and I haven’t written anything all week. On Monday, my laptop crashed. I spent most of the day on Tuesday trying to get an older laptop updated and ready to use. On Wednesday, I started feeling unwell myself, as I tried to take care of other responsibilities that kept me busy most of that day and the next.
Now it’s Friday afternoon, and I’ve been trying to talk myself into writing all day. I still don’t feel well, but I decided I needed to write at least a short blog post. I’ve been thinking a lot about grace this week, so maybe I could say a few words about that.
Staring at the empty page on my computer screen, I decided to find out just how sick I am. A good fever would surely give me an excuse to put off writing for another day. I went in search of a thermometer, but it took me a while to find where I put all my medical stuff when we moved last year. I finally found one and took my temperature. It’s a little bit higher than normal, but not in the “fever” range. So here I am back at the computer.
Have you ever wished you had a thermometer to take the temperature of our nation, or your home church, or your family? Would you like to know exactly how sick – or how healthy – is your government, or your church leadership, or your marriage? Election years are great for hearing about everything that’s wrong with our economy, the national defense, and the state of schools, health care, and more. The problem is that everyone has a different opinion about what’s wrong and what needs to be done to fix it. Many churches are struggling, too, but solutions are hard to come by and usually impossible to implement without upsetting someone.
We look at opinion polls, and charts, and percentages, and compare this year to last year or ten years ago. We forget that opinion polls are just opinions, and charts and percentages can be made to say anything you want them to say. It’s not like a good thermometer. When it reads 98.8 degrees, it’s saying, “You’re not sick – get back to work. When it gets to 101, then you can have some chicken soup and go to bed.”
Well, here is my unasked for opinion on the state of our nation. It’s not perfect. It’s not as healthy as it could be, but it’s not time to give up and go to bed and wait for someone else to fix things. Instead of obsessing about what’s wrong with our country, let’s do what we can – each of us individually – to make things better in our own little corner of the world. Not just for ourselves and our family, but for our communities. Let’s focus on what’s good and make it better. Let’s make ourselves better before we stand up in judgment against someone else.
Finally, before I sign off to go and make some chicken noodle soup, let me leave you with these words of grace: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).
A few nights ago, President Barak Obama delivered his eighth and final State of the Union Address. The State of the Union Address is a tradition as old as our nation, a result of the Constitution’s requirement that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Presidents often use this opportunity to push their agendas on particular legislation, to rally their supporters and scold their opponents for putting roadblocks in the way of progress.
In his latest State of the Union Address, President Obama did discuss some of his goals for the remainder of his term, and he did scold his opponents, but he also raised some big questions that will continue to be relevant long after a new president takes office in 2017. The fourth of the President’s “big questions” was “how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?” I appreciate what he had to say on this question, because it has been a concern of mine for some time – and never more so than in the past year as I have listened to the political campaigns of those who would see themselves as the next President of the United States.
I think few people would argue that our present system of choosing national and state leaders brings out the best in us. More often than not, the public is encouraged to vote on the basis of fear, anger, party loyalty, and, of course, personal gain. Gone are the days when a politician would dare to say, “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country” (John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961). Instead, we have a roster of political Santa Clauses each promising in tweets and sound bites to single-handedly make everything better for you, their loyal voter, and describing in detail how their opponents (in the same or the opposite party) will make it worse.
If you missed the President’s speech, here is a little of what he had to say on this matter:
“A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.
“But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.”
If all each of us cares about is how the government and the politicians will make our individual lives better, we will continue to have a political process that brings out the worst in us. The President gave some good reasons for why we should embrace civility and open dialogue instead of hatred and fearmongering. To Christians, Jesus gives another:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? ... And if you greet [or listen to and agree with] only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
That doesn't mean we have to agree with everything other's believe or go along with everything other's say, but we do have to listen and consider if we are doing everything we can to show God's love to others - even if they are in different political parties or hold different political views from our own.
I’m a little late getting my New Year’s Resolutions written. 2016 is almost two weeks old, and I am still struggling to find words to express my goals and hopes for this year. It doesn’t help that I haven’t blogged at all in a month, or that I have been thinking about giving up writing (again) and wondering if anyone would even notice if I did.
I wanted to be a writer way back in my college days. I wanted to be an attorney first and then get married, have a couple of kids, and take some time off to be a mom and write a few novels. I did become an attorney, get married, and have two kids, but when I took time off from the practice of law I never went back. Being a wife and mom was more demanding than I expected, and more rewarding in many ways, and I couldn’t imagine being any good at it if I was working 50-60 hours a week as a trial attorney.
I tried writing my first novel when my children were still in preschool. It wasn’t very good. I wrote a second novel, went to some writers’ conferences to learn how to make it better, got some good feedback on it but no publishing contracts, and eventually self-published it. Promoting it was a lot harder than I expected, and I wasn’t very good at it. Or maybe it just wasn’t a good book. Either way, I sold few copies of it.
Several years later I decided to give non-fiction a try. I felt that God had given me something to say about a difficult issue – the intersection of religion and politics – and I thought it would make a good book. The publishing agents and editors disagreed, and I ended up self-publishing a second book. A third self-published book followed, but by then I was growing discouraged. Self-publishing can be expensive, and self-promotion can be overwhelming, especially when few results are seen. I prayed for help, for guidance, for encouragement, for anything to keep me going, but nothing could overcome the feelings of failure and despair I was experiencing. So I quit.
Until last year.
About half-way through 2015, I felt a great urge to try again. I believe it was a call from God. I had a very specific desire to spend a year and a half doing all I could to get into the business of writing again. I decided to rewrite and republish my two Christian non-fiction books and then write a third book. I decided to update my website, start a blog, go to a writers’ conference, get all the mentoring I could, write and submit articles to Christian magazines, and find ways to promote my writing. I taught a women’s Bible study class using one of my books as I updated it and prepared it to be published anew. Standing Firm: Are You Ready for the Battle? became available for purchase at Amazon.com in October. I also started rewriting One Nation Under God, updated my website, posted 2 or 3 blogs a week from September through November, and registered for the Mt Hermon Christian Writers Conference coming up in March.
December came with a family situation demanding much of my time and attention. The book rewrite was shelved. The blog stopped. I had been getting fewer and fewer comments, likes, and views of my posts, and I wasn’t sure anyone was finding any value in them, so it was easy to let it go for a while. I wondered if people didn’t care about what I had to say or if I just wasn’t very good at saying it. As 2015 closed, I had to make a decision whether to quit again or to persevere for the full 18 months I had given myself to try again. It’s 2016 now, and 12 months is a long time to work, and write, and raise my voice if only a few (or none) are going to listen. But I still believe God told me to do it, and so I will.
Today I launched a new Facebook page to promote my writing. I’m posting this blog, and I will post another in a day or two. My calendar is freer now than it’s been in a long time, so I can finally get back to my book. So I invite you to come back, read the blog, comment if you care to, buy a book, write a review, send a note of encouragement, and recommend me to your friends. I’m praying for God to give me words to write in 2016 and to increase my readership. I have 12 more months to go on this journey, and I hope many of you will go with me. Then I’ll see where God leads from there.
Happy New Year!
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope.” Romans 5:3-4
What is my mission as an author? It's a tough question, but I believe the goal dearest to my heart is to help Christians think about what they really believe and then to act as if they really believe it. It all begins with understanding what it means to be a Christian. Then we have to learn to live like a Christian.