looking forward

Year’s end is pregnant with new year’s beginning. Reflecting and planning come with mourning and hope. Lessons from the past are making plans for the future. Maybe it’s time to let some things go. It’s okay to move on.

You miss the beauty of change when you hold mementos that can’t be changed. Coffee cups never again shared. It’s time to make some new memories. It’s time for new cups.

The year is long when winter drags on. Plenty of time for the heart to mourn when night comes early and days are barely there. The snow is gentle. It hides the shame of naked death. It stores up life for the buds of Spring.

Like a new mother’s breast, forgiveness aches for you. Like a starving infant, you can’t survive without it.

Losing your innocence is like losing an article of clothing. One less layer between you and the sandpaper of life. You see reminders of your experience in the mist under the street light and you hear it in the cackle behind the seductive laugh of virtue about to take leave.

Whether innocence was taken or you gave it, it takes a mountain of faith to believe in a mustard seed of purity.

You cannot get the spirit within you to stop ringing the bell of ‘what if’.

What if, with the morning sun, the new day came with a fresh chance? What if today is a new day and you can leave the sting of yesterday behind? What if today brings a renewed promise?

God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today… -Hebrews 4:7

You must remember that sin is inevitable, but the power it has over you is an illusion. The only reason a person would let grass grow under the defeat of their sin  and no longer be gaining life and godliness is because they have forgotten that they have been set free.

But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. -2 Peter 1:9

Don’t forget your freedom, defeat is not yours no matter what you’ve done. Today is a new day.

New Day

Serena Woods, Grace is for Sinners

how to write

To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. ~ Elbert Hubbard

The call of God is not to make you popular. It’s to make a difference. If you can abandon your need to be liked, you can be a great writer. You can be used to seep Truth into places of which you are unaware.

“God rarely allows a person to see how great a blessing he is to others.” -Oswald Chambers

You never know who is reading. Your experience and your questions are not unique to you. What is unique to you is your voice and your calling. One of the hardest parts of writing is when you have to write without needing to know if you’re being heard. If you’re only writing for acceptance, then you’re not writing anything worth reading. You are merely the thick fluff that the thirsty must cut through to find the Living Well. 

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”-Jesus, John 7:38 ESV

Writing is selfless work done by selfish people. Good writers deny themselves to create something bigger than they are. 

The writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master – something that at times strangely wills and works for itself.’ -Charlotte Bronte

When God has given you a gift for writing, you are not the work that is on display. He is. If you look at a bouquet of flowers and marvel about the vase that holds them, then the florist did something wrong. 

Would your writing be different if you were doing it anonymously? Write like that. 

When you hit “publish” and it makes you feel exposed, that’s when you know you’ve written something that matters. People stop cutting through the fluff when they find that stuff. They stop for a drink. You may never know it, but they do.

“A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.” -Proverbs 18:16 ESV

That scripture makes me think of a child sitting on his father’s lap, “driving”. Your gift is bigger than you are, never let it be limited by your own need to control it. Only His feet can reach the pedals and only His hands can keep you on the road. He makes room for you on His lap because He knows it exhilarates you to “drive”. 

Writing

I blog here:
Grace Is For Sinners

timeless beauty

My friend and I used to have this inside ‘friend’ language when we described someone’s beauty. She’s not here, so I’m going to go ahead and take credit for the initial categories, because, really, I do think I came up with it first. I called someone ‘trailer-park’ pretty, and the categories were born. Someone who is really pretty, but a little rough around the edges, is ‘trailer park’ pretty. Then our categories branched out into decades, like 70’s pretty, or 80’s pretty. It’s something about bone structure and facial features. These people can still be pretty, but they’re prettier in their environment and for their time in history. 

Then there are people whose beauty is timeless. It doesn’t matter how you package them, the beauty shines through. They make an ugly package look good. 

In the public world there are certain subjects and styles that are “cool” now, for whatever reason. Christianity goes through different fads just like any other social or cultural thing. Back in the 90’s Christian Ska music was the thing. (Remember that song by the W’s? “You are the devil and the devil is bad, you are the devil and the devil is bad…”) Right now, it’s the cool thing to be a little edgy. Pastors have tattoos and shop at The Buckle. The worship team has smoke machines and the power points have grungy graphics. It’s all about cultural relevance and I don’t see an issue with it. That is, unless that’s all there is to it.

The minute a Gospel messenger makes the draw more about him or her, is the minute they damage the message of Jesus. You’re not drawn to God because the preacher dressed super cool or the worship team sounded like they should be on the radio. You may be drawn to the flavor of the culture, but there has to be something more. Otherwise the draw will dwindle when the flavor goes out of style. You’re drawn to God because the truth about Jesus was preached. That’s the tug that lasts.

We share the message of Jesus, of grace, of unconditional love, and God draws men to Him. If people are drawn to the messenger, then what happens when the messenger isn’t cool anymore? What if the messenger doesn’t think you’re cool? When we’re pleasing them and they’re pleasing us, who is pleasing Jesus?

I’m talking about a timeless message, a timeless beauty, here.

Society, and Christians are social people, tends to discredit someone because they’re flawed. They think they make the product look bad. That’s why Sunday morning masks are so sadly important. You don’t want anyone to know your flaws, because, for shallow reasons, people think your relationship with Jesus is flawed. We all know that we make mistakes, but we’ve set up this whole thing to not allow our shortcomings to be known because we think it discredits the story of Jesus in us. 

Since when can a person damage the Gospel by not being a perfect messenger? The Gospel isn’t a product we peddle. How many people won’t share their testimony of the salvation power of Jesus because they don’t think they’re good enough or because it illuminates something in us that they’re not proud of? The story of Jesus, personalized to our individual lives, is a timeless story where we become less and He reigns. It means nothing without Jesus. It’s Jesus who makes us beautiful, not the other way around.

The story of Jesus is alive in our lives. None of us are good enough. Don’t let your own insecurity sew your lips shut or keep you from writing your praise. Some of us hold back the best parts of God in us because they, more often than not, reveal the worst parts of us. 

Jesus said:

“I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” -Luke 19:40 ESV

Jesus shines the brightest when His lamp, clearly, cannot light itself. You are His miracle. If He can make a rock cry out His praise, can’t He use you? 

Something that I tell myself every time my own insecurity starts clawing at my purpose is this: Every human being is made by God and for God. That means that the truth and beauty of the Gospel resonates with the core of who we are. It doesn’t matter what package it comes in, there is always a place for your story when it’s about Jesus. Countless broken hearts are searching. They are dying to hear that what brought you through can bring them through, too. 

You have the words to tell that beautiful story, even as flawed as you may be. It’s not about you, remember, and thank God for that. Some of us are a mess of a story. (Hi, I’m Serena. Have we met?) Those other messes will thank God for you if you have the guts to speak up and tell them they’re not alone.

And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. -1 Corinthians 2:3-5 ESV

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