Insights and Delights Blog

Insights and Delights Blog

The Smile of God

Posted by on June 30, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Smile of God

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:23-24, NLT   For the third time last night, I woke up with something on my heart and the compelling need to pray about it. As I prayed, I snuggled into the covers and reminded myself that God was near and he was smiling. My husband and I are in a place of trusting the Lord at a deeper level, and we—individually and together—are discovering that the faith Jesus talked of in his Word is reliable. We’ve been on our knees often, on our faces at times, during the past few years and most acutely in recent months. We have felt the ache of several years of toxic situations, broken promises, friends who abandon, questions about the future, questions about God’s desires for us . . . and surrender to him. We can see these years as a time of brokenness and training in certain areas, and we are experiencing the closeness with the Lord that is unique to those times. We can cherish them for their blessings even as we hope for the relief of answers. In their own way, these years have been life-changing and precious in their building power, even as we have felt chipped away by them. We are feeling the precious pleasure of God when our human minds instinctively default to wonder if God is holding his hammer over us. We are recognizing the lying patterns of the enemy that tempt us to think we must work harder, do more, prove ourselves. We are thankful for the lessons, but the journey to get to that point has been difficult, and we certainly are still learning. But we are comforted because . . . God has been with us, and we feel his smile. Without giving too many details about the situation, we are discovering in the midst of it that the faith Jesus asks of his followers holds a sweetness when we keep our eyes on him and not the problem. Surrender to him, his timing, and his answers brings security because we are freed from the situation being all about us. When we trust, we are acknowledging that Jesus’ part—by his own commitment—is to care for us (Philippians 4:19). Our part is to surrender and rest in his care. I really think our part is to look for his smile as well. We may have to release our hold on more areas as he shows them to us. That can cause pain. However, when we look to him, we see again his smile on us. God’s smile brings warmth and comfort and hope. Jesus is about newness and healing and strength in weakness and wisdom when ours isn’t enough. He is about his Kingdom and inviting us to align every aspect of our lives with his very good purposes. We don’t have the answer yet, but we have our God and his delight. God’s smile offers his presence and pleasure and reaffirms his promises. When we live as fully his, for his purposes and not for what the world offers, he is pleased and he loves to shine his delight all...

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The Delicate Nature of Healing: An Interview with Novelist Wendy Paine Miller

Posted by on April 29, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Delicate Nature of Healing: An Interview with Novelist Wendy Paine Miller

A couple of years ago I was blessed to meet author Wendy Paine Miller, a writer to watch. Her novels (The Disappearing Key, The Flower Girls, and The Delicate Nature of Love) are original, hope filled, and refreshing. And the writing is excellent. Her latest, The Delicate Nature of Love, released in February of this year, and I connected with it right away in part because the book has several themes in common with The Hope of Heaven. Our books are completely different stories; in fact, Delicate is a novel, which reminds me of one more reason I love writing. Writing, no matter what type, holds the power to touch universal needs and struggles and joys in all of us.   Wendy recently shared with me about the process of writing The Delicate Nature of Love, where the idea began, and how her own experiences helped develop the characters and story. I think you’ll enjoy her insights. . . .   Me: Thanks for taking time to share with readers, Wendy! First off, what are the main themes of The Delicate Nature of Love? Why those themes?   WPM: Not giving up. Unexpected connections. Letting go. Grief. Depression. Alcoholism. Suicide. Some heavy hitters, I know. I’m drawn to exploring real-life issues women face. These themes unraveled organically, but I’ll be the first to admit this isn’t a light and fluffy read. I’ll also share how encouraging it is to hear form readers that despite tackling such serious issues, people aren’t depressed after reading Delicate, but rather filled with hope.   Me: Tell us more about the book: How long did you work on it? How easily (or not!) did the characters form in your head? Did you have a clear vision at the beginning, and does the finished product line up with that first vision?   WPM: It took me about three months to write and several more months to edit (with the help of my critique partners and an editor I hired). The story came to me not long after Robin Williams committed suicide. I felt overcome with emotion and knew I needed to pour my feelings into something. And so along came Zoey. The characters in Delicate introduced themselves, then set up camp in my mind. I usually have an idea of where I want the story to lead but as has happened in the past, the characters like to remind me that they run the show.   Me: As the author, how do you relate to both Emma and Zoey?   WPM: I relate to Emma’s love of refurbishing furniture. And there’s been a time or two I’ve identified with her struggle to cope with tragic life events. And Zoey. Man, that child climbed inside my heart. On some levels she’s fearless and endlessly inquisitive, while on others she’s fiercely introspective and at war with her own thoughts. I can relate to her deep bond with her dog, her desire to feel understood, and some of her mental anguish.   Me: In your words, how does healing happen?    WPM: Healing starts with raw honesty. I remember lying in a hospital bed, years ago, mumbling over and over, “This sucks.” I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to walk in the room and tell me I shouldn’t be saying that, and I shouldn’t view my situation that way. It did...

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Why Hope?: An Interview with Author Cynthia Ruchti

Posted by on April 27, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Why Hope?: An Interview with Author Cynthia Ruchti

Over the past month since The Hope of Heaven released on March 10, my thoughts have been stuck on the power of hope. Why do we crave it? Why do we need it? How do we hold on to it? The Hope of Heaven deals with important issues such as depression, suicide, faith, life after death, and holding on to hope when life fails us.       Fellow author Cynthia Ruchti understands the impact of hope. She is a gem whom I had the pleasure of meeting and even brainstorming with a couple of years ago at a retreat with our literary agency, Books & Such.   Cynthia values the healing power of hope so much that she even wrote about it in her book Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices (Abingdon Press, 2013). Hope is even the theme of her author tagline, “Stories hemmed in Hope.” Recently, I had a chance to ask her about the book. I wanted to know how it came about, where she found her stories, and why she focuses so much on hope. Here’s what she had to say:   Me: Why the theme of hope? Was your desire to focus on hope born from your own life or from ministry?   Cynthia: Hope shows up in everything I write–devotionals, blog posts,  novels, novellas, nonfiction, notes to my grandkids’ teachers . . .  In some ways, I suppose it could be said that I’m a hope-scavenger, looking for where it might be hiding in even the most desperate of situations, grateful when it’s lying right out there in the open, and happiest when I can serve as a hope tour guide for others. Hope seems in short supply these days. From God’s perspective, the supply is as abundant and accessible as it’s ever been. But the ragged places of life–whether on the news reports, the doctor’s report, the financial report, or the repercussions felt in the family room–can distract us from hope’s reality. No matter what I’ve written, my longing is for the reader to emerge from the experience with a courageous, “I can’t unravel. I’m hemmed in Hope.”   Me: Tell us more about the book. How long did you work on it? Who published it and when? How did you find the stories?   Cynthia: A book like Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices lives in a writer’s heart for a long time before it reaches print form. Beginning back in my days of writing for radio, I kept my ears tuned to the needs of the people to whom the broadcast or speaking events ministered. As I listened, I heard beyond the sighs. Their stories touched me, moved me, and moved me even more profoundly when they were family members, friends, community members, from my own church home. So many people live in the fallout ash of someone else’s bad decisions or wrong choices. Paying the price for someone else’s misdeed. My heart aches for them. But I knew they represented so many others who bore either the same or a similar raggedness. I contracted the book Ragged Hope from a simple dinner discussion with an Abingdon editor, and then set to the work of trying to show where those shredded by the unthinking, unwise, or cruel decisions of others found hope in the midst of their fallout....

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Because he said it better than I would.

Posted by on August 29, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“But our culture has constructed a fantastic and utterly fictitious rationale which allows us to cooperate with evil without confronting the reality of what we’re doing.”   Well said. More...

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When Your Child’s Heart Breaks

Posted by on May 2, 2014 in Uncategorized | 4 comments

When Your Child’s Heart Breaks

Last night I left my son’s room after kissing him goodnight, walked downstairs, and quietly sobbed in my husband’s arms.     Several minutes later when my tears were spent for the time being, my husband asked for details. He knew I’d been up there longer than usual, and my grief was setting off alarms in him.   Our son is a great kid with lots of talents who, like all of us at one time or another, is experiencing negativity from some of his peers at school. He is a well-adjusted, well-liked boy who is entering into a phase of life that’s testing his self-esteem as certain kids decide they’re the ones to define acceptability and what it means to fit in. (Cue Mother Bear growl. That’s me on the inside; don’t mess with my kid.) My superboy has reached a new season of growing up when he must decide who to believe and whether to keep trying in certain things that other kids are better at right now.   Seeing him deflated and wanting to give up is killing me. I laid in bed for several hours praying and crying some more, asking God to fill him up and meet his heart-needs, as well as my heart-need to see him feel good about himself and to roll with the ups and downs in a healthy, proactive way.   I prayed. I cried. I missed sleep. I ached for him. I wondered what I had done wrong and how best to reach him. And I prayed some more.   Just before I finally drifted off to sleep I felt it steal over me: the promise I had been hoping wouldn’t take long in coming to relieve my crushed spirit. Feeling the Holy Spirit minister to me isn’t a new thing, but each time it happens He surprises me.   I am for him. Remember that. He is more mine than yours, and yes, you can trust me with our child.   I am for him.   It is easy to say the words that God loves our kids. But only when I stop to say “GOD is for my child” and exult in that promise does my heart begin to see a situation through his divine lens.   GOD. GOD is for my child. He is for yours as well.   The GOD who spoke the universe into being, the GOD who made the first rain fall and caused the sun to stand still, the GOD who saw with unsurpassable love my child’s face when he sent his own Son to die for mine . . .   That GOD is for my kid. He rules the earth and skies; He whispers to us and clouds scatter; and He settles my small one’s insecurities by speaking His own private language to his hurts. The One and only Holy Spirit who whispered to my spirit in the stillness is the very same GOD who will minister to my son at his place of woundedness. My son knows Jesus as his Savior; I have to trust that GOD is building his faith and well being through all of this.   Without realizing it, I often assume that I care for my children more than GOD does. Hallelujah and amen that...

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A Response to the Response to World Vision’s Decision . . . Er, Retraction . . .

Posted by on April 2, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Befuddled yet? If so, Satan says great! That’s right where he wants us. After all, if he can’t win us or blind us, then he will work hard to scramble us.   Case in point recently when many Christians were up in arms over World Vision’s policy change that allowed same-sex marriages to be recognized within the organization. As a conservative Christian who loves Jesus as my Savior and his Word as ultimate truth, and who supports the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, I can’t help but be deeply saddened as the story continued to unfold. But not so much by their policy change as by the shocking number of sponsors who, I believe, chose to fight a lesser battle at the expense of the greater one.   You see, by various accounts, several thousand sponsors withdrew their support after WV announced the policy change. Several thousand.   Several thousand children had food yanked from their hungry mouths because a bunch of Jesus’ followers were more committed to a battle in a culture war than to the children they had committed to provide for. Several thousand innocents were treated with lesser value than fighting for a cause in what strikes me as a misguided way. But we haven’t heard much about that. Yet, nowhere in the Bible do I see Jesus set a precedent that sacrifices the innocent to make others bend to his truth. Many of those sponsors may have switched their sponsorships to other organizations, but I do not see how that justifies bailing on the precious ones they had previously committed to, as if an individual child can be discarded if the funds are shifted to save another. One is pretty much like the next?   I am so thankful Jesus does not “love” my children that way, or me for that matter.   The truly disturbing issue is that so many people who call Jesus Lord made children castoffs to prove their point. Apparently to an alarmingly large group, the point was more precious than the person. That is nothing to mince words over; this seems wrong to me, and I think it sends the wrong message about Christ’s love. Then when WV retracted their change, many of those sponsors asked for their kids back. I have felt sick over this kind of discernment in the Christian community because I don’t think it rings true with how Jesus modeled love or truth. If we Christians withhold our Savior’s love–his faithful love–to prove some point, then shame on us a thousand times over. I think Satan won a big battle against evangelicals who didn’t keep the higher priority the higher priority; he did it insidiously as usual, and it grieves me.   The only way to love as Jesus does is to keep our eyes firmly focused on him and study how he blended love and truth.   Today I am lingering over another chapter of Henri Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus. He writes, “Do you know the incarnate God? In our world of loneliness and despair, there is an enormous need for men and women who know the heart of God, a heart that forgives, cares, reaches out and wants to heal. In that heart there is no suspicion, no...

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Unadorned

Posted by on March 10, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Unadorned

Today is a big day. Today is my long-awaited first day to breathe deeply again. Unfortunately I’m having trouble stilling my thoughts.     In mid-February I finished a ten-month writing project (yay!) after balancing it with two others since last fall (phew!). For nearly a year I’ve been governed by meticulous time management, holding my breath lest a big interruption derail my efforts, juggling all the balls without dropping any on my children’s heads or lobbing one at my husband’s. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write. The creation and refining. How a phrase sprouts from a single thought and blossoms into a chapter. But it is a process that taps my energy deep inside my gut and yanks it all the way up and out through my head. Over and over until the end. It’s exhausting.   When everything seemed on course at the beginning of 2014, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and finally allowed myself to dream of the upcoming post-project break. I envisioned taking time for any old thing my heart longed to do: relax, read, bike, window shop, play. However, as life would have it, my R&R was delayed several more weeks by caring for a houseful with the flu and strep and lack of sleep and more snow days (a plethora). Granted, the abundance of time with the family offered a lot of sweetness, but eventually sickness and snow need to go (amen?).   So today, instead of recollecting myself, I’m feeling more scattered than ever. It’s no wonder that this morning–when both kids are back in school, no one is sick at the moment, and no winter storm lurks in the forecast–I’m struggling to find my next purpose, the next first-things-first thing.   I’m pretty sure some of my scattered thoughts are still gasping for breath back in November or January, so this recovery phase may take a while. I think back over just this past weekend and sigh. Sure it held laughs and precious memories, but my thoughts zero in on whether I’ve been enough for my family. I have to work hard at patience. I wouldn’t characterize myself as a yeller, but my tone can get testy when it should sound more upbeat. And this morning I sent two not-so-happy children off to school. My son’s tears were brief amidst complaints about having to go back. My daughter’s were more lasting and haunting to my heart. Did I comfort enough before sending them off to do what they need to do? Sure I’d had enough of the whining, the griping, the wishes for more, more, MORE of me; but mama-guilt visits anyway and it’s a demanding guest. And to top it off (BIG SIGH), I’ve been eating too much sugar as a coping mechanism and feeling the effects. Irritation, indignation, inflammation! And I wonder why I see the best and worst from my children?   So much for my determination to maintain patience and a good attitude–at least a better one than I expect from my kids. So much for my 2014 word of the year: delight. Delight isn’t the beat of my heart right now. If only I could still my spirit. If only I could reduce the inner frenzy, enjoy the here...

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Where Mercy and Truth Need to Meet

Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

A hot-button social issue close to my heart showed up on Facebook today. Here’s the link to a well-written article that calls it what it is. Abortion claims far, far too many victims–and the victims are not only the innocent children murdered.   The victims also include the hurting women and men who have fallen for a convoluted argument of convenience, the siblings who won’t meet or grow up with their little brothers or sisters, the grandparents who won’t see the beauty of an ongoing generation in their family, the children who were almost aborted who live with questions of how such a decision was almost made about them, the misled medical practitioners who give in to cultural pressure . . . an entire world that groans under the burden of brokenness, chaos, and confusion.   Mercy and truth must meet at the crux of this lie that seeks to distract us from what abortion truly is: the violent murder of innocent children, children who are not happenstance or mistakes. We must discern truth and live for it, convenient or not. And mercy is as necessary as standing up for truth. May we not employ one without the other. May we not disregard...

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Did They Wonder?

Posted by on December 10, 2013 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Did They Wonder?

Imagine the wise men who journeyed so far after seeing the brilliance of one special star. They had heard that a King had been born to the Jews who had waited so long for such wonderful news.   Imagine their thoughts as they traveled each mile. Did they talk the whole way? Were they silent awhile? Did they wonder at all if this new King would be full of kindness toward others and rule tenderly?     Did they search for a palace with guards at each gate? Did they hurry to find him? Could they hardly wait? Gazing up at the sky full of sparkle so bright did they know they were looking at salvation’s light?     After long weeks of waiting and wond’ring had passed were they speechless with awe when they met him at last? What they saw in his eyes, did it fill them with joy? Did they know they were looking at God as a boy?     It’s a fact that most others had not understood that the child they called Jesus was more than just good. And although many saw him as loving and wise, to get to the truth we must have deeper eyes.     Much more than mere human was Jesus, God’s Son. On the day of his birth a great victory’d begun. His life meant our healing from death would be sure. But our life meant his death. There was no other cure.     Will you be like a wise man and wonder anew of the infinite impact his birth means for you? At the end of this time here on earth you’ll recall that the ones who kept searching were wisest of all.       Copyright © 2004 Erin Keeley Marshall. All rights reserved. No portion of this shall be reprinted without written permission from the...

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Focus for the Holidays 2013

Posted by on November 3, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I have the joy of guest blogging on my church women’s ministry website. This one posted about a year ago, as I anticipated Thanksgiving and Christmas and wondered about all the precious ones who don’t know provision or hope. Focus for the holidays season . . . revisit one of my favorites originally posted here.   Bless...

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