God’s Timing

September 29, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

I recently shared this on a writer’s loop I’m on, but after re-reading decided to share it here as well…

I think that this is absolutely the best thing I have learned in my writing journey:  God is faithful all the time.  Trust Him, and He will lead you in every moment EXACTLY where you are supposed to be in that moment.  You may not know it or see it or understand it, but when you look back, you will see the fine and perfect tapestry He’s been weaving the whole time.

For me, this lesson comes in several ways (some more fun than others).

#1 The YES times!  This would be the moments when it all makes sense, when I see God at work most clearly, when the perfection of His Will and what He’s doing is not just a glimmer but a full-on, turn the spotlights on moment.  The completion of a book I didn’t know how to finish.  The right person showing up at just the right time.  That flash of understanding when you just KNOW how a story all ties together.  I’ve had all of these and so many more.

#2  The NO moments.  I heard a story one day about two little boys who came into their father’s house with a box.  As they headed to the basement, their father stopped them to see what was in the box.  It was their new project:  two snakes!  Guess what the father said?  NO!  Well, just like those boys sometimes my Dad tells me no, and most of the time I’m just as disappointed as they were.  But the truth is when God tells me no, I see it now as His way of keeping me from doing something that would ultimately hurt me–like putting snakes in my basement.  “No” might be a contact I thought I needed falling through.  It might be a path I thought was going to be great not working out.  It might be MY agenda not working out like I’d planned.  Do “no” moments make me frustrated?  Yes.  They do.  But when I can breathe and remember that God’s got my BEST in mind–not just a momentary good but an eternity good, I can let go of my way and grab onto His.  And He has shown me over and over again how awesome things work out when I do that.

#3  The NOT YET moments.  Oh, have there been a lot of these!  I tend to want to force things to go my way.  I get in a hurry for them to be done and get frustrated with myself when I can’t do everything.  But God my AWESOME FATHER uses “not yet” a lot–both to bring about His perfect timing and to teach me to not rely on my plans, my agenda, myself but to always rely on Him.  I get a lot of “not yet” moments when I’m writing.  I get going on something and then something else comes up (I have a lot of something elses around here!).  I get stopped on the story.  And I get frustrated with it.  One story I literally did this for SEVEN YEARS!  But when the book was finally finished, I understood why God said, “Not yet” repeatedly… because the book could not have been the book it is without the lessons I’d learned over those seven years.  I was a different person than I had been when I started writing it.  So now, not yet moments don’t throw me like they used to.  It’s okay.  God’s got this one too!

#4  The GO THROUGH IT WITH ME moments.  These, I have to say, are the hardest.  Some call them the valleys of life and of writing.  Oh, these are HARD!  And when they come up, my heart breaks, my world shatters, and I wonder “How can God make something good out of THIS?”  But I will tell you, the two most difficult “go through it with Me” moments of my writing career brought two of my best friends into my life.  One of them, not knowing me at all, edited two chapters I had sent out through my newsletter.  She bled on them and then sent them back to me!  I didn’t know what to do with that.  Should I be angry?  Should I write her back and give her a piece of my mind?  Should I be hurt?  Should I quit?  Finally, I decided to rest in God and just see…  The next month I sent out the next two chapters of my cyber-serial.  In about 30 minutes I got this message back.  “OH!  I’m SOOOOOOOO sorry!  I thought those were from my critique group!  I’m new to all of this and I edited the wrong thing…”  hahahah!  I still laugh about that.  Deb, not quite as much, though she can laugh now but it took her a long time to get to that point.  The thing is, Satan threw that at both of us to take us both out.  He wanted to undermine my following God and He wanted to take her out altogether.  Because I let GOD handle it and not myself, we became best friends, and God has worked miracles through that relationship.  I helped her with editing.  She’s now a multi-published author.  God is awesome!


Choosing to Forgive

September 26, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

Certain songs really make an impact on me.  One of those songs is “How Beautiful” originally recorded by Twila Paris.  In the last year or so a couple of my local choirs have begun singing this song.  We have sung it on several retreats at which I’ve helped with music, and my hometown choir has started singing it too.

Recently I went back home on a night that they sang this song, and there was a line that jumped out at me.  It goes:

“How beautiful the tender eyes that choose to forgive and never deny…”

I love that line.

However, I’ve noticed something.  The word “choose” is very close to the word “chose,” so some people sing “chose” (past tense) rather than “choose” (present tense).  It probably has to do with the whole English teacher thing, but I can’t help but feel like “chose” makes a different statement than “choose.”

When you say, Jesus chose to forgive me when He was on the cross, that is certainly true.  No doubt about it.  All the way back there, He looked at you and what you’ve done, and He CHOSE to forgive you for it.  But saying it that way, for me, feels somewhat removed from right now, and although it really isn’t, it makes this seem more an academic exercise than a right-now personal one.

To me, when I sing that line, looking into Jesus’ eyes and seeing Him CHOOSE, in this very moment to forgive me for all the stupid things I’ve done that hurt Him, I “get it” on a different level.  It’s not academic.  It’s personal.  He is looking at me and with tender eyes saying, “I know what you did, but I choose to forgive you–right now, this minute, you are forgiven.”  I don’t know why, but that feels different.

The truth is that Jesus chose (past tense) to forgive us, but He also chooses (present tense) to forgive us.  Past, present, and future–you are forgiven!  Now go live like it!


Living Backward

September 22, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

So much of the struggles in life are because we get things backward.  We want X, and we feel like there is no reason we shouldn’t have it RIGHT NOW.  So we buy the thing, put the cost of it on the credit card.  Yes, we will pay for it, but we want it NOW.

Then the bill comes due in a month or two, and since we’re already behind from those other six things we bought that we just had to have RIGHT NOW, we’re now drowning in debt.

I think too many of us have never been taught that life lived in order brings with it much more peace than a life lived backward.

What does life lived backward look like?

Well, it could be a mountain of debt that we racked up thinking we could pay for it later.

Or it could be thinking that when we get something, or achieve something, or win something, THEN we’ll have a good attitude.

Or it could be thinking that we will love someone when they love us first.

Or it could be thinking that we should be a success first and then we’ll work hard.

Or give me the promotion, and then I’ll really show you what I’m capable of.

In every one of these circumstances, we think our level of commitment and care will change once something out there does.

I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t work that way.

To change anything out there, what’s “in here” in your heart and your spirit has to change first.

Do you want to get out of debt?  Change your heart from wanting things out there to being content in here.  When you change that, the things out there won’t look so enticing.

Want to have lots of friends who love you?  Be someone others want to be around.  Learn to be welcoming and happy.  Learn to have a good attitude when things are good and when things stink.  Be the same person whether you are in church, at work, at home, or shopping at Wal-Mart.

When you go to work, work.  Be creative.  Go the extra mile.  Give more than expected and do it with a smile.  Encourage others on your work-force.  Smile at management and help them to attain their goals.  Be a team player.  Give credit where its due to your co-workers.

In a relationship, let things go.  Don’t make a federal case out of simple humanness.  None of us are perfect.  Cut people some slack.  Love them with all your heart–whether they deserve it or not (they don’t… love them anyway).  Seek to be a peacemaker and to extend mercy and grace.  Learn how to forgive and do so often.  Be generous with your time and talents in helping others out (and with your money if that’s possible).  Give more than you take.

Resolve to change your “in here,” and though it make take some time, your out there will start to change as well.  Most of all, ask God for help to stop living backward.  Learn to be patient, to wait and save for those things you want to buy, to budget and make priorities.  Learn to love others.  Learn to put in the hard work.

Mostly learning to live forward is called growing up, maturing, becoming wise.  When you do that, the struggles will become less of a factor and more of a “wow, remember when I thought THAT was a good idea?  What was I thinking?!”


Love in its Purest Form

September 19, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

Take 7 minutes.  Watch this video and know, no matter where you are, no matter what has happened, there is a God…

 

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=2064354724061


What are Readers saying?

September 16, 2011

Feel free to chime in if you’ve read any Staci Stallings’ book.  Just leave a comment about which book and what you thought!

Also, if you have an account at either Barnes & Noble or Amazon, I would appreciate a review over there as well.

Thanks.

From the mail bag:

Lee Franklin is reading Staci Stallings book, Cowboy. Loved it the first time I read it, and still love it this time round. Brilliant romantic read. :)

Mary Foster  I loved that book too. :-)

Betty Aragon

Thank you Staci for another incredible book!! I just finished reading The Price of
Silence!!
I read late into the night most nights but well worth it!!

Kenyan Moran

i love coming undone
and am sniffling
you got hankies?

Lisa Schulte I have several !!! Great inspirations!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jenny Verkamp I have read many also. Love them!

Julie K. Neusch I’ve read The Long Way Home. Very good — would like to read more of your books although I’m not an avid reader.

 

So join in the conversation… what Staci Stallings’ book have you read?  What did you think?  Be sure to tell the world too over at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

Thanks, wonderful readers.  You all make this fun!


The Way To Prosperity and Success That is Good

September 15, 2011

Today I’m excited to welcome guest blogger, Joie Fields.

Josh 1:7-9

 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (NIV)

If you go to Amazon.com and put in the search box, “prosperity” you will get thousands of results. If you put in “success” you will get thousands more. Admittedly, I have purchased some of those books. Don’t we all want prosperity and good success?

Well, God wrote a book on prosperity and good success. In his book, God says to Joshua, “don’t let this book of the Law depart from your mouth . . . “

I love to study the ancient Hebrew writing. It makes things so simple and clear to me. The ancient Hebrew people did picture writing similar to the hieroglyphics we are familiar with from Egypt. The Hebrew word translated Law throughout the Old Testament is torah. If you look up the word torah in the ancient Hebrew, it is literally drawn as a finger, pointing the way. That’s what God’s word was intended to be—a pointing the way for us to follow to prosperity and good success. God told Joshua to more than see the way, he was to say the way as well. “Don’t let it depart from your mouth,” means to speak it always.

Interestingly, Jesus (the Greek form of Joshua) is called the word made flesh (Jn 1:14). He was the Law personified. He was the finger pointing the way to genuine prosperity and good success. The writer of Hebrews says Jesus was the exact representation of God—the perfect reflection of the Father (Heb 1:3). He was prosperous and successful in every aspect of his life and we are his followers. Jesus gave us a very important key to understanding the way. He said, “Out of the abundance in the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matt 12:34).

Our heart is the key to prosperity and good success. The heart is where our feelings and emotions reside. It is where we believe (faith) or allow disbelief to pull us away from God’s way. Our heart is the center of our life, and out of that center—we speak. When I first learned this, I actually took a tape recorder and set it to record and went about my day. After 90 minutes the recorder shut off and I listened to what I had been saying. I was amazed at the unbelief that came out of my mouth in that 90 minute period. The words I spoke randomly did not match those found in God’s word for a believer. I was negative and I put myself down a lot back then. It was shocking to hear myself saying things about myself that made me cringe with shame as I had when my parents said them to me while I was growing up. It was an eye-opening experience—to hear what was in my heart.

I determined then, to change my heart, which would change my words which would change my course in life. I began to pray submission to God’s word and allowed it to change my heart. The Bible says (Prov 21:1) that God turns the heart like a watercourse. I worked with legal descriptions and title of land for years—I know the way a river changes the land’s lay-out. The change is so minute and gradual, it is almost unperceivable, yet it changes. When I submitted to agree with God’s word it allowed his hand to take my heart and begin to change it’s very description. As my heart changed, so did the words of my mouth. As my words changed so has my life. I’m not there yet, but I’m not where I was when I started this journey either.

Prayer: Father, I give you my heart. I submit to and agree with your words that point the way for me to live life abundantly. I take in your word and I allow it to do all your word does: create, change, clean, and accomplish what you sent it to do. I love you deeply and trust you absolutely. Show me your way for me today. Amen.

 

Joie Fields is a freelance writer who lives by the adage stated by Mother Teresa, “We are all pencils in the hand of a writing God, who is sending love letters to the world.”

Joie says… I am God’s scribe, ready to send his word where he wants it to go in a palatable form. I love to study the Bible and share what I understand of God with others. I have articles published in Light & Life, The LookOut, Chicken Soup For The Soul and I’m currently working on my first work of historical fiction. I love the gift of writing and I love the Giver of my gift.


Holding On, Letting Go

September 12, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

One disturbing life trend I have noticed since beginning to read Lysa TerKeurst‘s book “Made to Crave” is that some people actually hold onto destructive idols.  I’m not even talking about things like alcoholism or workaholism.  I’m talking about things in their past that caused them a lot of hurt.

I’m not going to say I don’t understand this because I do.  Sometimes our past seems so powerful that we let it control our future.  For example, let’s say that in the past you were overweight.  It is difficult to let go of “being” that even after you’re not.  Or in the past you were poor, so now you hoard everything in case it ever happens again.

Sometimes it’s not so much the addictions that we’re holding onto but the difficulties.  A spouse that loses their partner for example may live the rest of his or her life holding onto the grief of the loss.  I’m not saying, “Don’t grieve.”  Or even that it’s easy to let go, or that you should let go because everyone tells you to.  What I’m saying is, holding onto what was can keep you from embracing what is.

I know people who let their past mistakes haunt them for years, chained to their foot, dragging behind them, sometimes even filling up their arms, head, and heart so nothing else can get in.  My books often have characters like this.  For example, my newest book coming out, “Deep in the Heart” features Keith Ayers, a young man with the world at his fingertips who hates everything about his life.  He’s stuck because he has unresolved issues with his father whom he tries desperately to please on one hand and pushes away from on the other.

These types of “issues” are not easy to navigate and get past, but sometimes we are doing it to ourselves.  We hold our “used to be’s” up like shields to protect us from what could be now.

“I don’t want to get into a new relationship because I got hurt in the last one.”

“I’m afraid to try this new investment.  I lost money in the last one.”

“I’m afraid to trust God.  He didn’t give me what I wanted last time.”

We let “the last time” determine what we are willing to do this time.

Now there is room for learning, and repeating destructive patterns is not a smart idea.  But neither is clinging to old hurts, old issues, the old you.  The more you cling to the old, the less the new can get in.

I have a dear friend who reminds me every time we talk about moving in the Spirit of God that, “I had 20 years of teaching in that church that said it was all up to me…”  I understand.  I really do.  But if you want to get past it, ask for God to help you really get past it, and to stop using it as a reason not to embrace what He’s offering now.

I have great compassion for friends who are stuck in what was.  In fact, in talking with one friend some painful memories of being left at the altar came up.  It was literally 40 years later, and he was still holding onto that hurt!  Even though he now had a wife and two grown children.  As we worked together, he sent me a message one day saying that he’d used up a whole box of Kleenexes as he wrote about that day, but finally, thankfully, he had put it to rest.

It’s helpful as we think about what we crave and what we’re holding onto in place of God to realize that unforgiveness held against someone or ourselves takes up valuable God-Space in our hearts.  Learn to forgive.  Learn to let go.  Learn to put even the greatest life hurts into God’s hands.

It’s time to let go and walk free, to step into this moment and live as God intended you to.  Put the idols of past hurts down.  Put idols of those who have hurt you down.  Put down resentments, bitterness, anger.  Put it down and leave it at the foot of the cross.

God has so much more He wants to pour into your life.  It’s time to let Him.


Consulting God

September 8, 2011

By: Staci Stallings

I’ve been reading Lysa TerKeurst’s phenomenal book “Made to Crave.”  Although it’s about food specifically, it could just as well have been written about any idol in our lives from success to power to control to money.  Doesn’t matter what the idol is because what it means and what it does to us is all the same.  I realize now that Satan’s game plan is really quite simple:  Learn what we value and love more than God and then put that in front of us as a possibility.

It’s like that donkey with the carrot.  We’re so focused on that thing we want that is right there, we keep taking steps toward it (never really getting it, mind you) until we would walk right off a cliff after it!

The story I am reading in the book now about Eve.  I never really thought about it, but Eve was the very first woman to want food more than God.  Yikes!  Does that hit home.

I don’t want to.  I try to eat healthy and get my fruits and vegetables every day.  I know I should want the carrot stick instead of the brownie, but… oh, does that brownie look good.  And just this once won’t hurt.  Besides, I’ve been eating good all day…

Maybe food isn’t your issue.  Maybe it’s money.  “Well, this one little thing won’t hurt.  I’ll have the money by the end of the month, I can always pay it off then.  But I’ve been working so hard, and I really deserve this.  A little more on the credit card won’t hurt.  What’s a hundred bucks?”

Sound familiar?

Or maybe your idol is power.  “I’m the boss.  They should learn to respect me.  It’s my company.  They’ll know better next time.  Employees are a dime a dozen these days if this one doesn’t want to work themselves to death, I can sure find someone who does.”

Or how about success?  “I know it’s probably not ethical to do this, but it’s what everyone does if they want to get ahead.  I can just be gone a few nights.  The kids will hardly miss me.  If I could just sell X number, then I’ll really be happy.”

Or maybe it’s the approval of others.  “If I do this, they’ll have to notice me.  Look what I did for them, and they didn’t even say thanks.  No one even notices I’m on the planet.  If I would’ve done it a little better, then they would have been impressed.  Should I wear the black dress or the red one to get his attention?”

Now, I’m not here to bash you for these thoughts.  Far from it!  In fact, I’m right there with you one some of them.  But all of them are choosing exactly what Eve did with that apple because all of them are choosing to pursue something other than God to fill the hole in our heart.  We look for things “out there” to fix “in here,” and it will never work.

The thing TerKeurst points out is that Eve never bothered to consult God about her decision.  She tried to make it on her own!  She used her own reasoning and limited wisdom.  She saw the apple, wanted the apple, and let her want overpower what God had told her about that apple.

How about us?  Do we consult with God… especially about our idols?  Do we ask His help with them?  Or are they problems because we don’t?

The more I pay attention to life, the more I realize it is the things and areas that I don’t consult and listen to God where I make the biggest messes of things.  So, today, look at what’s not working in your life.  Look at the things that feel like they have power over you.  Then take some time and consult God about them, and listen to what He has to say.  Begin with God’s help to remove the idol from your heart and replace it with Him because nothing else, nothing in heaven or on earth, can ever compare to Him!  Of that I am 100% certain!


Flaufle Ball: The Spiritual Lesson

September 5, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

You may think that my post about Flaufle Ball was funny or interesting, but I will tell you this:  It is one of the most important spiritual lessons you will ever learn.  Why?  Because too many people put that lesson to work in their lives but neglect it in their spiritual walk.

At work, they watch, listen, question, practice, and learn.  In fact, they have probably gone through these five steps for countless things in their lives:  sports, music, reading, math, spelling, writing, cooking, building, designing, gardening…

But do they take it with them into and back out of the church doors?

Think about it.  When was the last time you watched someone model being a Christian?  When was the last time you really listened to God’s Word and tried to put it into practice in your life?  When was the last time you sat down with a spiritual friend and asked questions about your walk with God?  Are you learning to walk in Christ’s footsteps, or are you at the same place spiritually you were six months ago, or five years ago, or ten years ago?

Moreover, have you been doing these things with God?  Do you make a point of watching how He works in the world?  Do you listen for His Word–not just in church or when you’re reading your Bible, but all the time, every day, in every situation?

How about questioning?  Do you ask God questions and actually listen long enough for Him to answer?  Do you ask for help?  Do you ask Him to guide you?  Do you actively seek His answers to your life’s issues?

As you do these things, do you then practice what you are learning?  Or does God’s Word stay at church as soon as you leave the pews?

Do you practice His Way in relationships?  Do you forgive when necessary?  Do you actively seek reconciliation if possible?  Do you practice kindness, generosity, love, respect, and patience?  Do you practice faith–especially in those moments when it would be most easy to forget faith and do it on your own?

Do you feel like you are learning to live the way God would have you live?  Can you see progress in your daily life in the past say, five years or six months or three days?  Or are you still doing the same, old things that aren’t working and haven’t worked for years?

If you are stuck (and even if you are not), maybe it’s time to:  Watch what God’s doing, Listen to His Word and His soft voice in your heart, Question and seek for His answers to life’s struggles, Practice your faith, and Learn how wonderful it is to not just say you’re Christian but to live it every day in every relationship!

So, it’s time to play flaufle ball now.  You ready?


Flaufle Ball: Learning How to Learn

September 1, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

Okay.  This morning we are going to play Flaufle Ball.  I’m going to give you this grabber and this little oval ball.  Now. I will stand over here.  Are you ready?  Great!  Let’s play!

Oh.  What?

You don’t know how to play flaufle ball?

Well, sure you do.  It’s easy.  Trust me.  You’ll learn as we go.  Are you ready now?  Great.  Let’s play.

What?  You still don’t know how to play.  What do you mean?  I already told you, it’s easy…

So, are you frustrated with me yet?  I’m frustrated with me, and I’m not even you!

The problem with how I’m attempting to “teach you” is that I’m expecting you to know everything I know about Flaufle Ball without explaining anything, right?

Really it’s not hard to see the problem with “teaching” like this except that we try to do this to each other and to ourselves every day.  But the thing is, no one can learn like this.

To learn to do anything new, you must go through 5 steps:  Watch, Listen, Question, Practice, Learn.  If you skip a step, it will be much harder to learn whatever it is you are trying to do.

If you wanted to learn to play flaufle ball (which is not a real game by the way), first it would be helpful to watch others play it.  Go to a few games or watch it on TV.  My nephew used to do this when he was very young — like 2 years old.  He would sit in his living room and intently watch baseball.  Then he would take his tiny hands and mimic what the players were doing.  He would get books on how to play sports and look at the pictures and then try it.  Is it any wonder the kid is a phenomenal sports player at 15?

The second component in learning to do something well is to listen.  You get a coach or a teacher who is good at it, and you listen to them.  When they tell you to choke up on your grip, or put your elbow down, or hold the ball like this… LISTEN!  If you don’t, you will never correct what you are doing wrong and you will stay at the level where you are indefinitely.

The next component is to question.  This is where learning often breaks down in an authoritarian classroom.  The teacher says to do it, and the students are supposed to do it without asking questions, but that does not work.  A student or anyone learning something new MUST be given the chance to ask questions.  If I tell you this is a compound-complex sentence and I can’t tell you why, that doesn’t help you at all.  But if I can explain it and you can work with it enough to understand it, then you have my knowledge and can use it for yourself.

However, in order to know what to question, you have to try it for yourself.  You have to do it a few times (or a few thousand).  As you do it, you will come up against issues that you will need further guidance with.  “Why do you do it like that?”  “How do I use this kind of sentence?”  “When I throw it, I’m not getting the power behind the throw like I need.  How do I get that power?”  Practice is essential.  I can tell you how to do it all day long. I can draw diagrams of the field or the sentence.  I can explain the rules of the game and the strategies of the game, but if you never get to practice it for yourself, it is simply head-knowledge and nothing else.

When you put all of these elements together, real learning takes place.  Learning is not a one-shot, one-time thing.  Learning is a process.  In fact, it is doing the other four elements over and over and over again.  You watch, you listen, you question, you do, you learn.

This process can be applied to reading, sports, music… even spirituality and life.  Tune in next time to find out how!


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