Isaiah delayed… NaNoWriMo in full swing


I’m afraid I ran out of time, so my series on Isaiah is on hold for now. I’ll be back to it in January.

At the moment I’m up to my armpits in National Novel Writing Month 2018. The challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. If you’re looking at this on a laptop or computer screen, you’ll see to the right hand side my NaNoWriMo total so far. Just under 15k as I type. I’m really enjoying the story, and the more I write, the more it unfolds for me.

I’ve played around with cover art. and I’ve written a blurb. It might change, but here it is for now…

Molly is a school teacher who lives alone in the house her parents raised her. A solicitor’s letter informs her she has been anonymously bequeathed ‘Gorse Lodge’, the old Gatekeeper’s Lodge of the nearby Hepworth Estate. 
The terms of the legacy state that she cannot sell it until she has lived in it for 12 months. But it is in disrepair, and the only way she can afford to renovate it, is to sell her parents’ house. 
Together with Maggie, a homeless woman who has been in Molly’s life (and kitchen) for as long as she can remember, and Richard, Molly’s friend and colleague, she tries to find her mystery benefactor; and work out if Gorse Lodge is a millstone around her neck or the opportunity of a lifetime.

During December, I’m inviting  writers to contribute to a series of guests posts. Would you be interested? 300-500 words on the theme of winter or Christmas. Drop a comment below if you’re up for it.

For the Isaiah fans, I’ll see you in Jan 🙂 x

Isaiah 36 and 37 – The Power of Prayer


We move from prophecy to history in the next few chapters.

Take a look at 2 Kings 18 and 2 Chronicles 29 and you’ll see what a good King Hezekiah was. He reversed a lot of the pagan practises that Ahaz had brought in.

“Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses.” 2 Kings 18:5-6

After 14 years of his reign, Isaiah reports the coming attack from Assyria. The King of Assyria, Sennacherib, thought that because he had been able to destroy the ‘gods’ of other nations, Judah would be no different. Hezekiah, being the faithful man that he was, prayed. See 37v14ff. His prayer does not deny the power of the enemy. His prayer is realistic — this is the situation, and on first glance, it looks bad! Unless of course, God delivers them from the hands of Sennacherib.

It struck me that some people who don’t believe in God, think believers use prayer like a false sense of security. But it was Assyria’s presumption that all gods are made of wood and stone — made by human hands and easily indestructible – which led to Sennacherib’s failure.

Prayer is not a talisman. Prayer is vital because we cannot rely wholly on ourselves.  Relying only on what we think we know or what we are confident we can do, is more likely to send us down the wrong road. Sennacherib was relying on own strength and past success. He didn’t see the Kingdom of God’s people any differently than the other places he had ravaged and ruined.

In v21 b God responds to Hezekiah’s prayer – because you have prayed… this is the word the Lord has spoken against him… 

We know there is a difference, and that prayer changes things – even if  it’s only our attitude. As believers, we need to dig in in prayer, trust God to answer, and never fall into the trap of thinking we can do it all ourselves.

“I will defend this city,” said God in 37v35. Pray, and exchange the word ‘city’ for your particular issue. He will answer. He always does 🙂

 

 

A few thoughts next time from chapter 39 and then 40, will see the end of this series for now. I’ll be delving into NaNoWriMo in November, and launching a collection of short stories too, please God.

In December I’ll be welcoming some guest posts here on the theme of winter and Christmas. Do give me a shout if your interested in writing something.

ttfn x

Waiting for the abundance of Isaiah 35


Greetings all. Welcome to the new followers – and thank you 🙂 I’m continuing a short series in Isaiah; sharing some of the encouragement and challenge of reading the book over the summer. If you like, you can read Isaiah and Me or The Isaiah Disclaimer as these were my introductory posts.

It was a  joy to read the first couple of verses of chapter 35 from the New Living Translation…

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
    The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
 Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! (v1,2a)

It reminded me of church.

At times church can feel a bit like a desert and a wilderness. There are seasons when I have felt church life to be a spiritual wasteland.  If you’re shocked and/or you disagree with me, then you should count yourself extremely blessed. You should thank God every day, that church life has never been like that for you.
It has for me, and for many I know.

Thankfully, those seasons pass, and church life becomes a literal,  ‘abundance of flowers and singing and joy.’ I’m grateful to God that is also my experience.

What struck me about these verses was that there is a reason to be glad, even in the wilderness days. Our spiritual wastelands have the potential to bloom. And this message of hope is to be passed to those who need it.

With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
    and encourage those who have weak knees. v.3a

The image of tired pray-ers comes to mind. Hands raised or simply joined together; on our knees – either literally or emotionally. It can be disappointing; praying for the same things over and over. Waiting is tiring, but the news of God promising an abundance of blossoms and joy from desert lands, brings strength. And of course, that promise comes back again in chapter 40. Strength for those who wait on Him.

We should tell people that. I bet we all know someone with tired hands and weak knees. Or maybe it’s you who needs to hear it. I know it cheers my heart every time I read it. So be encouraged, or be an encourager. No matter how dry and desolate the situation, there is promised cause for celebration.

It might not feel like it everyday. It might not feel like it today. But there’ll be flowers, and singing, and joy; and lots of it.
Just you ‘wait’. 🙂 x

 

 

A funny thing happened on the way to Isaiah 30


Before we jump in, make sure to pop back on Friday when I’ll be starting the blog tour for the 2018 Chaiya Art Awards compilation, ‘Where is God in our 21st century world?’ I’ll be interviewing one of the finalists and sharing some images from the book.

For now, back to Isaiah…

I look back at the notes I made when reading Isaiah 29 and 30 and wonder why on earth I decided to share this stuff! I remember feeling challenged and chastised after 29, then after reading 30, going back to it again and again, I was burning with a desire to grow up and be humble in the church work I’m involved in. To rid my self of the attitude I had when reading 29.

I now want to qualify and quantify some of the things I wrote, cos I’m a bit embarrassed by them. But… I’m going to go ahead share my ponderings with you anyway. This would probably be a good time to remember what I said in, ‘The Isaiah Disclaimer‘ about you being gentle on me etc… 😀

Some verses really stood out to me in Isaiah 29

v.13 “These people come near to me with their mouth and  honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”

v.15 [They] hide their plans from the Lordwho do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?”

vv 23, 24  When they see among them their children, the work of my hands,
they will keep my name holy; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction.”

I started thinking about all the people who could benefit from reading these verses. People (I feel) honour God with their lips, but not with their lives.  People who (I feel) live as if the Lord can’t see them, and how foolish it is.

I made a little list in my head. A list of the wayward and complainers I know, wondering how long it will take them to recognise the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob!

I started to pray for those people and when it came to naming them individually the first name that came out of my mouth was my own. I realised how arrogant I was! I spent some time asking God for forgiveness and prayed more generously for my list of people. I felt quite sheepish after that.

Then it was Chapter 30’s turn to challenge me!

Once again, my ‘squishy’ view of God and my instinct to shy away from the image of an angry wrathful God was brought into focus here. There is no condemnation for those of us in Jesus, but God always has, does, and will, hate disobedience.

And he shows it in chapter 30. The accusations against his people are ones he could make about me too…
Going places I’m not supposed to go
Making plans without consulting him
Forming alliances that are not for my spiritual benefit
Wanting only to hear nice, pleasant things – and rejecting His correction

And though consequences of these actions are promised, verses 15 and 18 show that more grace follows…
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it…Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”

I prayed a lot after this chapter. I felt like a weak and arrogant ‘leader’ after 29, but chapter 30 called me to sit up and suit up. Here’s the prayer I wrote down..

“Father God, please help me. Develop my service to you in the right way. Keep me humble. Make me like you – a hater of sin, a lover of repentance – and this nowhere more than in my own life. Help me be more gracious as a leader. Please guide me Give me confidence and let my confidence in you encourage others.
Lead me Lord I pray, in Jesus Name, Amen.”

Please pray it with me, or if you don’t need too, pray for me.
Sorry this was a long post. 🙂 xx

See you Friday when I kick off the 2018 Chaiya Art Awards blog tour…

Photo credit: Jonny Back
Photo credit: Jonny Back

 

 

Don’t blame your tools – Isaiah 28


If you’ve just joined us or haven’t visited for a while, hello and welcome 🙂 You might want to have a quick read of  “Isaiah and Me” or “The Isaiah Disclaimer.” They’ll give you a bit of background to this short series I’m focusing on at the moment. Sharing a few thoughts on my time reading the Book of Isaiah.

Hard going as it was at times, I ploughed through the chapters and was writing notes as I went. It was more of the same – disobedience, punishment and glimpses of the mercy to come.

I got to Chapter 28 and was praying as I read. As I mentioned before, I was asking God to teach me through Isaiah; to answer specific issues I’d been seeking Him about. One of the issues that troubled me was my work in the church.

Self doubt comes in waves; my writing, my day job, my work in church, my weight/eating, how awful I am in general, then it swings back around to writing and does another circuit. When I got to chapter 28, I was thinking about service to the church and the people; the usual doubts filling my mind. Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Did I say too much, or was it too little, or unclear? Could I have tried harder, or visited longer, or been nicer, or been firmer? How do I know if I’m getting it right?

I was reading through the verses of chp 28, trying to work out if these words could speak to how I was feeling. Then I read this, from the New Living Translation…

Listen to me; listen, and pay close attention. Isaiah 28:23

So I stopped. I prayed a bit, saying sorry for not listening. I sat in quiet, took a few deep breaths, then I continued reading from v.24

“Does a farmer always plow and never sow? Is he forever cultivating the soil and never planting? Does he not finally plant his seeds— black cumin, cumin, wheat, barley, and emmer wheat— each in its proper way, and each in its proper place?
The farmer knows just what to do, for God has given him understanding.
A heavy sledge is never used to thresh black cumin; rather, it is beaten with a light stick. A threshing wheel is never rolled on cumin; instead, it is beaten lightly with a flail. Grain for bread is easily crushed, so he doesn’t keep on pounding it. He threshes it under the wheels of a cart, but he doesn’t pulverize it.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is a wonderful teacher, and he gives the farmer great wisdom. Isaiah 28:24-29 NLT

I almost cried. Actually I think I did cry a little. I felt so relieved.

There are seasons for each stage of farming. Preparing ground, sowing, harvesting… Each seed has its time and place to be sown. Each crop has an appropriate tool for harvesting. Some crops just need a gentle tap, others need a stronger approach. The farmer is given wisdom by God not to use the wrong tool at the wrong time.

I have been trying to work it out myself. Where as I should only be relying on the teaching and wisdom of ‘The Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’ I’m not saying I won’t get anything wrong, but I have peace about it now. I’m not so tormented about what to do next and where and when and with who. I just need to ask him for his wisdom.

Every time I examined my service I pulverised it! God wouldn’t do that to me, so I shouldn’t do it to myself!

photo credit: faungg’s photos Harvesting Sugarcane via photopin (license)

Isaiah in the early 20s


I was all ready to give up by the time I got to Isaiah 24! 

It was verse after verse of warnings and terrible prophecy. Egypt (chp 19), Egypt and Cush (chp 20), Babylon (chp 21) , Jerusalem (chp 22) , Tyre (chp 23) , then the whole earth (chp 24) .

I should have been prepared for it, I should have known this is how it would be. The book of Isaiah is made up of two major sections. Chapters 1-39 are collectively known, by some commentators, as ‘the judgement book’. If you know Isaiah then you’ll know that the ‘comforting’ stuff doesn’t appear until 40:1. I knew that, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised by the tough stuff. But I was.
And as I mentioned, by chapter 24 I’d had enough.

Then… like a little oasis in the desert there was some refreshing cool. 

“So will it be on the earth and among the nations, 
as when an olive tree is beaten, 
or as when gleanings are left after the grape harvest.

They raise their voices, they shout for joy; 
from the west they acclaim the Lord’s majesty. 
Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord;

exalt the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, 
in the islands of the sea.

From the ends of the earth we hear singing:
“Glory to the Righteous One.”” Isaiah 24:13-16a

Look closely in these ‘judgement’ chapters and you still find the faithful promises. As angry as he is, God regularly drops in the promises to the remnant of believers. Our faith will be beaten, shaken and we may feel like a combine harvester has actually run over our souls. But there will be ‘gleanings.’

The Church might well look like an empty harvest field with just a few olives lying around here and there. Or a vineyard with just the odd grape remaining.
But we few who are left “raise our voices and shout for joy.”

Continue on in Chapter 24 and Isaiah returns to words of woe. The tough stuff is not over yet. But there is always a reason and an opportunity to stop and give glory to the Righteous One. We had our Harvest Services yesterday and we thanked God for all he has given us, and will continue to provide for us.

We’re a small church but few as we are,
                                           we gave glory to the Righteous One.

So tell me… which end of the earth do you live in? Were you in church yesterday? What did you shout? What did you sing?

Godly Gory Stories – Isaiah 14, 15, 16


It took me to chapter 13 to really dig in and commit to seeking God in this Book. I wanted to know how these ancient words could speak in to the things hanging on my heart. So I began to pray about specific issues I’m facing, not having much confidence that there would be any connection.

One of the things troubling me lately is how different my writing became after experiencing tragic and sad loss late 2013/early 2014.

I’ve always said, ‘unless the Lord builds the house’, I write in vain; that includes the devotional and fiction work. The short stories have changed because I have changed. Mixed in with the regular light-hearted fun stuff, is murder, death, loss and mental confusion.

As I prepare to publish the collection – the question won’t leave me… Can a story about murder please God?

Chapters  14, 15 and 16 of Isaiah talk of terrible destruction. Murder, rape and devastation. I find it hard to see how the narrating of those actions are glorifying to Him. Yet – He commanded Isaiah to say those things. No wonder Isaiah didn’t want the job . Did he know what God would ask him to say?

When meditating on those chapters, I dared to wonder if this answered the question  of my altered writing voice?

I still want to reflect redemption, forgiveness and second chances, as these are God’s gifts to his people. But Isaiah has shown me, sometimes there is murder. Sometimes there is destruction; devastation that no one can make sense of.

I’ve experienced loss. Senseless, pointless, faith-bruising grief. It came out in the stories I wrote afterwards. I don’t think there was much of that the first time around. I’ve changed as a writer.

Until reading those chapters in Isaiah, I wasn’t sure if those stories were from God, or even ok with Him. But I dare to think they are. Sometimes the hard story needs to be told. It has to come out to begin the journey back from it. The words need to be allowed to come out. Ugly, scary, uncomfortable as they are.

Just cos the story is gory, does it mean it’s Godless?

I hope God is ok with the new voice. I’ve always wanted him to lead my storytelling. I pray he continues to do so.

So… how do you feel about some of the horrible stories in the Bible? Do you find it hard to reconcile some of Scripture’s more gory stories?

photo credit: Art DiNo Ocaso / Sunset via photopin (license)

The Isaiah Disclaimer


No, this is not a post about a new Dan Brown novel. Or an episode of The Big Bang Theory!

Read the title again — it totally could be though, right?

Anyway, you’ll be glad (or disappointed) to know it is just my preamble to sharing my thoughts on my recent studies in the Book of Isaiah.

I’ve had messages saying that some of you lovely folk are looking forward to it. That is wonderful, and a bit scary. One of those #nopressure moments!

So I thought I should introduce the series by giving caveat in advance 🙂

I’m no expert in the Book of Isaiah, and though I’ll check my conclusions against commentaries as I go, it’ll be a very personal take on what I’ve read. I’ve been praying about specific things in my readings, and I believe God has spoken through His Word. You may read one of the posts and think “that verse DOESN’T say THAT.” By all means you are free to challenge me and question my ponderings.

But be gentle.

I have a BTh and a Post Grad Dip in Applied Theology, but the more I study, all I know is I know very little.  I have prayed and read, and been blessed. I’m eager to share the blessing.

This blog has been going for about 6 years and as far as I can remember, this is my first efforts towards a series of Bible study posts.  Like I said, I’m all for interactive Bible study, so do chip in 🙂

1st post will be this week. See you then 🙂
A x