New Chapters Up!

May 26, 2010

Chapters 3 &4 (and 1 & 2) of If You Believed In Love are up over at:

Spread the word.  If I see people are reading it this way, I might do another.


Spirit Light Works Has Officially Opened!

May 25, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

Because I don’t want to clog this blog up with “works” other than short articles, I have now posted a brand new blog called:  Spirit Light Works.  For the next couple of weeks, I will be posting my newest story, “If You Believed in Love” on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to tide you over until Dennis returns.

After that, I’ll put up stories, Bible Studies, etc. over there so they can do more good than just sitting here on my computer collecting virtual dust.  ; )

Please feel free to pass the info about Spirit Light Works on to your friends, your family, and anyone else who might benefit from a little inspiration!

Peace, Joy, and Love to you all.

And now, here are the first couple of chapters!

If You Believed in Love Cover

If You Believed In Love Ch. 1 & 2

Of Mortar Boards & Life

May 24, 2010

First, an update on Dennis. For those who have been praying, thank you.  It appears Dennis needed all the prayers he could get.  The knee surgery was a success, but in recovery Dennis “crashed” as he put it in his very short note to me the other day.  He was transferred to ICU where he coded several more times.  His wife and sister were called, and according to Dennis every chaplain on staff as well to pray.  By the Grace of God he pulled through.  He is now at home but his computer time is limited (and his otherwise questionable spelling abilities are even more questionable under the painkillers).  However, he is alive and hopes to be back with us soon. Thank you so much for all the prayers sent his way!

Between now and when Dennis comes back, I need your help with what to post on Tuesdays & Wednesdays.  I can either finish the Bible Study book “Theirs is the Kingdom,” or I can post one of my here-to-for unpublished novels  (linking to it from a different blog) for you to read.  Vote in the comments section!

And now, onto more fun…

By:  Staci Stallings

I don’t know what it’s like in your life right now.  Mine is filled with one thing:  GRADUATIONS!

I’m not totally sure how this happened, but my nephew graduated from college, my niece graduated from college, my nephew and godson is graduating from high school (God willing and the creek don’t rise!), one of my VBS kids is graduating from high school, my oldest is graduating from middle school, and my middle one is graduating from fifth grade, leaving the school she’s been at for six years.

That’s a LOT of graduations to pack into one little month!

During the first graduation I attended, the school had printed a history of the mortar board, which I cannot find duplicated anywhere else, but one that really made me think about this whole business of graduating differently.

The story in the program went something like this:

In ancient Greece there was a famous teacher who came to one of the big cities.  He attracted many of the upper class young men to come and study with him.  After a few years, it came time for the students to move on, out into the world instead of staying at his side learning.  So a graduation was planned.  The parents of the young men were very pleased with themselves and their sons and they wanted to show off their sons’ educations to the world.  Happy and chattering, they gathered, ready to witness the coming of age of their children, to launch them into society as leaders.  Gasps were heard throughout the crowd, however, when the young men entered, each wearing a mortar board–the symbol not of the elite but of the working class.

The professor hearing the gasps of disbelief, bordering on outrage, quickly took to the front to explain.  “Before you,” he said, “are your young men.  They have come and studied.  They have learned much and are now ready to go out into the world.  You may wonder at their attire, particularly the mortar board that they wear.  Understand I chose this symbol on purpose because these young men are no longer students.  They are now the builders of our world.  They will build with their minds and their hearts.  They will build the world that we will live in and that which our grandchildren and great-grand children after that will live.”

Now, I don’t know if that story is true, but it brought tears to my eyes.

These graduates before us today ARE the builders of tomorrow.  They will literally build the world we will all live in.

If you are fortunate enough to go to a graduation, please remember this little story and say a prayer for these builders.  Their task is great, but with God on their sides and in their hearts, the world they build will be better than the one they were born into.

Congratulations to all the graduates out there!

May God be with you as you begin the next chapter of your life!

Patience is…

May 20, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

Patience hasn’t always been a strong suit of mine.  Sometimes it still isn’t.

A couple weeks ago, I got really antsy because I hadn’t been writing anything, and by anything, I mean… if it wasn’t the blog, it wasn’t being written.  I had plenty to write including one book that was about 150 pages from the end.  It had come to a dead STOP several months before.  I couldn’t have told you why.  Still can’t.  It didn’t even seem like that big of a roadblock.  It wasn’t like some I’ve encountered, where there was a thread that wasn’t making sense or something equally frustrating.

With this one, I just didn’t know what came next as in, “Okay. Now what?”

Frustratingly, I knew what happened after that, but this piece just wasn’t there.  And nothing I did was working.  I went back and read a good bit of the story.  Then I got to that sentence.  “If you want to, call him.”

Worse, I knew she DID call him.  But the words were not there for me to continue.  I was just… blank.

Now I have had some strange experiences with this kind of thing.  It’s kind of the reverse of a Holy Spirit Moment.  It’s more a Holy Spirit Stop Moment, and let me tell you, they are frustrating!

I mean, come on.  It’s a PHONE CALL.  I’ve probably written hundreds of them at least.  Why was this one so hard?  Why couldn’t I come up with the words to even get it started?

On Tuesday, I drove by a local church, one that always has a short witty saying out front.  This one was particularly relevant to me.  It said simply:

Patience is trusting in God’s timing.

I knew that was right.  I’ve lived through waiting for His timing enough times to know that His timing works, mine doesn’t.

I like the concept of God’s timing much better than the concept of patience.  Patience is hard.  God’s timing, for me, just makes sense.  It lets me relax and quit pushing.  I just have to wait for God to say, “Go.”

So it was interesting when that day I sat down with my story, and it was suddenly there.  It was nothing earth-shattering.  It just took off.  I”ve now written another 90 pages since then, but here’s the thing.

I may have told you that there are certain people on the planet who really inspire me.  Tony Romo, Brett Farve, Keith Urban are three of them.  I can’t explain it more than they inspire me to get in there, love what I’m doing to the max, and just… LIVE!  No fear.  No regrets.

One such person that I’ve found in the last year is Nick Jonas.  (I know.  I know.  Hear me out.)  This is a young man who came out of nowhere with his brothers and became a worldwide sensation.  Now sometimes when that happens, the person has no grounding and the world just takes over.  But something happened to Nick when he was 14 that yanked him into reality and has kept him there.  He got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

At the time, he and his brothers were already making a name for themselves.  He was young.  He had the world by the tail, and all of a sudden, life came crashing down around him.

So last night I was searching iTunes for some of his music because he’s one who really inspires me, and they had put up a concert he did back in January.  During one song, “A Little Bit Longer” that he wrote about getting the diagnosis, he spoke about how most of the time he’s very positive, and he speaks about the diagnosis and fighting through it and not letting it stop you.  But, he said, there was one moment he doesn’t talk about much, one moment when going on looked like more than he could do.  He said, “It was the moment I asked, ‘Am I going to die?'”

I don’t know what it is about how he says it, but you can FEEL the fear and the sadness of knowing the life he had planned might never happen.  You can also hear the temptation to quit because it’s all pointless anyway.  Hearing it, you know, this kid isn’t just telling a story to get the audience on his side.  He’s really sharing the deepest most painful moment of his life.  Why?  Because I think he gets it that he’s not the only one who’s ever been there.  He understands that everyone has those defining moments, the moments that change who you are forever because they change how you see life itself.  It’s saying, “Look, I’ve been there.  Don’t give up, okay?  Because tomorrow is possible.”

Today, I did a little more searching, and I found a short clip of him with a young girl who had been diagnosed with diabetes as well.  He has her up on stage because at his concert during his song, “Who I Am,” people hold up signs “defining themselves.”  “I Am a Teacher.”  “I Am a Daughter.”  “I Am Hopeful.”  This little girl’s sign apparently said, “I am a Diabetic.”  Which is just like the sign he holds in the video.  So he called her up on stage, and he’s asking when she found out and how she’s doing.  He tells her to chase her dreams and never let anything stop her.  It is the most touching thing because it is honestly like it’s just him and her, no stage, no audience.  He didn’t have to do that.  He didn’t have to acknowledge someone else who is struggling and give them a special moment in the limelight.  He didn’t have to, but he did.

That’s the kind of person I want to be.  Open.  Honest about my journey.  Sharing parts of me that maybe I’m scared to admit.  Why?  Because in sharing my story, someone who is struggling might find a little hope, a little assurance, a little peace.

Not sure I can explain why, but those two little clips of him sharing himself opened the floodgates of my life.  I wrote today.  Just wrote.  Being me.  Letting my life and my experiences pour out into the words through the characters.

I think that may have been what God was waiting for.  I’m so glad I chose to follow instead of forcing my agenda on life.

This feels strangely like freedom.

I would never have thought that freedom would come from being patient until now.

God is so cool!

God Did It For Me

May 17, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

Sometimes living with children gives you great insights into God and how interested He is in the details of our lives.

We’ve been having a lot of rain.  I don’t know if this much is normal or not, but it seems to me to be more rain than normal.  Of course, we could use more… a lot more for our lakes and our water resources, but the regularity of this current rain has made other issues less of issues.

Take watering the grass.  Now, I don’t do much with the grass other than admire it and occasionally walk across it.  I don’t mow it.  (I’m not allowed on the mower after I made a mess of the alley.)  I don’t fertilize it or water it or spray it or anything.  What my kids can’t do, my husband takes care of.  And yet, this spring, the grass is green.  Greener than I can remember.

My son has had to “swath” it at least twice because it’s too wet to mow most of the time, and by the time it gets dry enough, the grass is several inches taller than it normally is when we mow.

Now my son is the son my husband deserved and wanted.  My son loves mowing and taking care of the grass.  He loves watering trees.  He loves planting trees and plants and vegetables and tomatoes and strawberries… And he most of all loves watering all of them.  Joy is that child watering something.

Me?  I forget.

Sometimes for weeks at a time!

In fact, my daughter was reading The Pigeon Wants a Puppy, and the pigeon who is trying to convince the reader that he is responsible and will take good care of the puppy says, “And I’ll water him once a month!”

That’s me with a garden.  If I remember to water it, I forget I turned the water off.  So we either have a dry bed or a lake.  You think I’m kidding.  I am most definitely not.

My son, on the other hand, absorbs every lesson on watering my husband gives him.  “Sprinkle, don’t drown. Just like this.”  (Son nods, practices, and does exactly that… every single time.)  “Only this much water.” (Go ahead. TRY to put more water on it than that.  My son will have an absolute FIT.)

So, it’s become my son’s job to water the garden.  Well, it was… until it started raining.

On Friday, my husband called to remind my son the garden needs watered.  However, the call was quite funny because it was raining here when he called.

My son said, “Dad, I don’t have to sprinkle the garden today.  God did it for me!”

By this morning (after 4 days of rain), my husband told my son he’s getting lazy because God keeps doing his chores for him.  We all had quite the laugh.  I said I wish God would come do the laundry for me!

What’s God taken care of for you today?  Look around.  I bet there’s something!

Of Enemies, Sins, and Debts

May 13, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

Not too long after I really found Jesus (or He really found me), as I began to surrender to Him and His love for me, I found something I’m not sure I was even looking to find.  Very precisely, I found that God had forgiven me for so much that I could not find it in my heart to condemn anyone else.  That’s not to say I’m perfect at forgiving or that I never get angry at injustices–just that I see what God’s mercy and love did for me, and I want that for everyone.

The other day I was talking with a friend of mine who owes me some money.  By “some,” I mean a very small amount.  She is very concerned about this amount and often mentions that when this or that happens, she hopes to have enough to pay me back.  I totally understand this from her perspective.  I certainly do not like feeling that I owe anyone anything.  But it’s interesting being on my side of the situation.  You see, that amount is hardly worth bothering about for me.  In fact, until and unless she mentions it, it’s forgotten to me.

I learned long ago that I’m the child of the God of the Universe.  He’s going to take care of me.  He asks that I take the steps He’s asking me to take, like helping my friend out.  He doesn’t even require me to be perfect even in this, but as I am obedient, I can see the abundant, overflowing blessings He pours into my life.  So I’m not really looking at her “debt” to me.  I’m much more focused on His provision flowing into and through my life.  The truth is, whether she ever “pays me back” or not, I have already been “paid” by Him over and abundantly, so much that I cannot hold it all.

Furthermore, over the years I have done many things for her that others would have charged for.  Not a small amount, but a large amount.  Tamped down and still overflowing.  Not because of my goodness, but because of the goodness God has sent into my life.  How could I withhold the help He wants to give her through me?  I could not.

So the other day when she started talking about how she was going to send me that money “as soon as,” I just shook my head.

How many days, minutes, years did I make that same stupid deal with God?  “God, really, I’m going to pay You back for the forgiveness.  I’m going to make it up to You.” Even if I could pay back this one small amount, He has done so much for me that this pittance looks stupid to even try to pay back.

And the truth is, I could not make it all up to Him if I worked night and day for thousands and thousands of years.  How do you pay back eternity?  How do you pay back forgiveness and mercy and love?  How do you pay back for Him rescuing your soul but even more your life from the rotten, wicked, miserable place you were at?

It’s impossible.  And I’m sure all those times, He smiled and shook His head at me as I made all those futile “bargains.”

So today as I edited a manuscript by a young man who’s got more answers because of the pain that he’s gone through than most people gain in a lifetime, God hit me with another reminder of this very lesson.  In the story, one character has done something despicable and has come to see his action as despicable.  He has repented and now wants to get on the right track.  His “savior” brings him to the body of a friend-enemy who has died.  This man taught the young man all the wrong lessons and represents his own old life.  He has died, and his body was just left to rot.

It is a disgusting scene, but then my young friend who wrote it nailed me between the eyes when the “savior” tells the young man who has decided to change that until he learns to that we’re all sick, we’re all desperately in need of forgiveness, the sickness will be viral in his life–that to judge the friend-enemy as wrong while holding ourselves “higher” is to not comprehend that we are all afflicted with that sickness.  It is only in seeing the humanity of our enemies that we learn we are not better than them.  There is, in the end, no difference between us at all.  We are all sick and in need of a healer.  We all have a debt we cannot pay.

We all need a Savior.

When you can embrace that truth for your own, when you can see that “yes, sin was winning in my life and it is only because Christ saved me that I am whole”–not through our own effort, not because we are better than anyone else…. When you can see that, accept it, and embrace it as your reality, at that point, you begin to be truly free.

I may not have written this so you can understand it.  Putting it into words seems so very insignificant to how it feels in my heart.  But I pray that you will find this key for your life because when you find it, you will never again be the same.  God does not hide it from those who seek it, but He will not force it upon you either.  It is always and in every moment your choice.  Choosing to remember it is life–God’s life, here and now, in this very moment.

You, like everyone else, has a debt you can never pay.  God has been merciful on you and loves you anyway, and so He does with everyone else.

An Opportunity To Learn To Love

May 10, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

There’s something about sleeping for me that sometimes plugs me into something (Someone) far deeper than I can access when I’m not prone and unconscious.  Like the other night.  I can’t tell you what the dream was about, it’s hazy and very indistinct.  But what I do remember is that someone had made life really difficult for me.  It wasn’t that I was fighting something or running away from something.  It was more that I was angry and in real turmoil at whatever this someone had done.

I remember asking angrily why God had allowed this to happen.  It wasn’t my fault.  It was nothing I had asked for.  It wasn’t even something (from my small perspective) that I had deserved, and yet here it was, on my doorstep making my life miserable.

The weird thing was that in this dream, God actually answered back.  Not like a booming voice or anything, just like a whisper in the air.  The voice said, “This isn’t really a problem.  This is just an opportunity for you to learn to love a little deeper, a little better, a little more than you knew how to before.”

I woke up remembering that line, “This is an opportunity for you to learn to love…”

Some part of me knew even then, half-asleep, that I had gained access to real spiritual wisdom in that moment, and I repeated that over and over to myself so I wouldn’t forget it.  “This is an opportunity for you to learn to love…”

How many opportunities have you been given recently to learn to love, a little deeper, a little better, a little more than you knew how to before?

Was it when someone else did something to make you mad?  Or when someone didn’t do something they were “supposed” to?  Was it a challenge in your schedule, a challenge in your life, or a challenge in your heart?  Did you want to forgive, but they really deserved you being mad at them?  Or maybe you’ve been mad at them for a long, long time.

Whatever the challenge is, I can assure you that it really is just an opportunity to learn to love a little deeper.

How do you do that?

You stop trying.

You can’t.

No. You really can’t.

That person really IS unlovable.  That person really IS too bad for you to forgive.

But here’s the thing.

You’re not in this deal alone.  If you’re a Christian, you’ve got Help.  You’ve got a HELPER, living right there inside your heart.

You can’t do it, but He can.  And He will… if you will let Him.

See, I think the challenges in our lives are really opportunities not to test OUR love (which is puny and insignificant in the face of real challenges), it’s an opportunity for us to back up and let God show us how compassionate He can be.  It’s an opportunity to let Him speak, to let Him act, to let Him be our compassion and our peace–even in the midst of trial and tribulation.

God has overcome the world, but He will not force His way into yours unless and until you surrender your life to Him.  This is different than accepting Him as your Savior.  That’s a great place to start, but I’m talking about a continual, in-this-moment surrendering of your life to Him.

Some people think when you do that, life gets easier.  I’m not sure that easier is the right word.  More peaceful and joyful, yes.  Easier?  I don’t know.

Because when you learn to do that, God will send some of the most unlovable people your way… so you can learn to let Him love them through you!

I firmly believe that this is the path to miracles.

So this challenge, whatever it is in your life, is just a cleverly disguised opportunity to learn to love.

Now I’m going back to sleep because it’s the middle of the night, and I just had to share that with you before I forgot…