Desperate or deliberate? 

My favorite college literature class focused on American Transcendentalists. A famous passage from that era from Henry David Thoreau reads:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”



Note that Thoreau did not write: “I went to the woods to live desperately.”

Because I think that’s how many, if not most, of us live.

Desperate.

We are the Great Martha (Luke 10:38-42) Generation, the do-ers, the be-ers, the movers and the shakers.

We not only force our own lives to happen, we ultimately force what we believe to be the hand of God in our lives…even onto the lives of others.

We make the plans and then tell God to join us.

Our constant heart cry is, “Are we there yet?” when God wants us to be still and know and perhaps…perhaps to enjoy the ride. Our constant posture is shoulder-to-the-grindstone instead of resting in the easy yoke of His guiding hand.

We forge ahead when God says wait.

I attended the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference this weekend to sit at His feet, to renew my writing purpose, to refocus my all on Him, to clear my mind of everything that distracts and burdens and sucks the marrow out of my soul. The world does those things to an artist. The blessing and the curse of a creative is that we are born with ears that over-hear, with hearts that over-feel, our senses skittish and overwhelmed by all the world tells us we should be doing, rather than what the Creator made us to be. Spending time shoulder-to-shoulder with other writers seeking Him beneath ancient redwoods centers me again. 



Being with other writers and creatives makes me determined again to live deliberately.

Walking with Him, and not sprinting ahead.

Listening for Him, and not talking at Him.

Refusing to act on any muse other than the Spirit moving in my heart.

It is only in that intimacy, only in that grace, only in the mercy of his light and loving load that life becomes worth living.

Only then can story be written.

“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30

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What about you?

Do you live desperately or deliberately? 

Is your burden heavy or light?

What can you do to live more intimately, more in-step, with God, today?

On lapidary and artists: The story behind the theme of Then Sings My Soul

I think one of God’s favorite things to do is to make and shape people. Of course I can’t speak for Him, but the works of God’s hands are mentioned not infrequently throughout the Bible, how God sculpts the land and the heart, and how He creates artists, too.

Moses talks about an artisan named Bezalel who may have been one of the earliest lapidarists.  Exodus 31:5 (NLT) reads, “[Bezalel] is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!”

And in Isaiah 64:8 (NLT) we read, “And yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.”

Jakob, the main protagonist in Then Sings My Soul, is a lapidarist–one who works with and fashions stones and gems. Jakob’s father (Josef) was a lapidarist, too.

This is a piece of raw aquamarine, the sort of stone Josef  would have worked with and passed on to Jakob in the story.

I used the trade and theme of lapidary in this novel because my grandfather was a lapidarist, too. In fact, he actually made the stone on the cover of the novel, and you can read more about that providential story in the afterwords in the back of the novel.

As a special treat for you today, here are the actual diagrams and notes my grandfather used to make this stone:

When you read Then Sings My Soul, I think you’ll discover why the theme of lapidary lends itself so well to Jakob and his daughter, Nel. They both start out pretty rough, living in ways not everyone would approve of. But that doesn’t mean God doesn’t see the beauty He knows they can become.

The same story can be yours, friend. If you feel dirty and rough, unnoticed, worthless…God sees the new and clean, the priceless and sparkling person He is making you to be.

The work a lapidarist does on a stone is harsh at times. There are cuts and chisels, chunks hacked off and angles shorn. But in the eye of the Lapidarist, all these steps are necessary.

More than that, as He works, the Lapidarist holds you in His hand and never lets go.

What about you? 

Do you have places in your life that need polished? 

Do you wonder where God is in the midst of your journey?

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mourning dove. a poem for the martyrs.

your cry cut through the empty
black morning, shuffling on
into another long day of wondering where
in the world is the hope?
surely even you had pounded your weary
wings against the hard cold, fleeing
from winter. but just when I wasn’t listening
i heard your lonely keen
a refrain I hardly realized I’d yearned for
until i heard you singing
again

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“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38-39 ESV

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*dedicated to the Coptic Christians and martyrs everywhere, and that each of us would be so brave when our time to stand for The Cross Draws nigh*