Attitude

Writing from a prison cell in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote about the attitude a Christian should have. “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27) He’s telling us that no matter what unexpected disruptions, frustrations, or difficulties come our way, we are to respond with a Christ-like attitude. Paul later writes, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 2:5) He also encourages us in Ephesians 5:1 to be “imitators of Christ as dearly beloved children.” As children love to imitate what they see and repeat what they hear, we also are charged to imitate and model Christ’s behavior and to be clear reflections of the Lord. (Matthew 5:16)

Jesus maintained a perfect attitude in every situation because He prayed about everything and worried about nothing. Reminds me of the saying, “If you’re going to pray, why worry? And if you’re going to worry, why pray?” We need to seek God’s guidance about every aspect of our lives and allow Him to work out His perfect will without interference. Jesus’ attitude was never to become defensive, discouraged, or depressed because His goal was to please the Father rather than to achieve His own agenda. In the midst of trials, He was patient. In the midst of suffering, He was hopeful. In the midst of blessing, He was humble. Even in the midst of ridicule, abuse, and hostility, He “made no threats . . . and did not retaliate. Instead He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23)

When Paul tells us that our “attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,” he had summarized in the previous two verses what such an attitude was: selflessness, humility, and service. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” In other words, the attitude a Christian should reflect is one that focuses on the needs and interests of others.

Without question, that does not come naturally to us. We are wired to think of ourselves and our own survival first. Pride often dictates our behavior. When Christ came into the world, He established a whole new attitude to relationships with others. One day when His disciples were arguing among themselves regarding who was to be greatest in His kingdom, Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is teaching us that, when we become preoccupied with our own things, it can cause conflicts and other problems with people we know. Instead, God wants us to have an attitude of serious, caring involvement in the concerns of others.

Paul speaks more about this Christ-like attitude in his letter to the church in Ephesus: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Many religions of today, including the New Age philosophies, promote the old lie that we are divine or that we can become gods. But the truth of the matter is that we will never become God, or even a god. Satan’s oldest lie was promising Adam and Eve that, if they followed his advice, “you shall be as gods.”

Each time we try to control our circumstances, our future, and the people around us, we’re only demonstrating that we want to be a god. But we must understand that, as creatures, we will never be the Creator. God doesn’t want us to try to become gods. Instead, He wants us to become like Him, taking on His values, His attitudes, and His character. We are meant to “be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23-24)

Finally, we must always keep in mind that God’s ultimate goal for His children is not our comfort, but the transformation of our minds into the attitude of godliness. He wants us to grow spiritually, to become like Christ. This doesn’t mean losing our personalities or becoming mindless clones. Christlikeness is all about transforming our minds. Again, Paul tells us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

It is God’s will that we develop the kind of mindset described in the Beatitudes of Jesus. (Matthew 5:1-12) He wants us to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) God says we need to emulate the principles in Paul’s great chapter on love. (1 Corinthians 13) We strive to pattern our lives after Peter’s characteristics of an effective and productive life. (2 Peter 1:5-8) Remember this: Your attitude (that is, your approach) will determine your altitude (how far up you will go). Put on the right attitude and the sky’s the limit.

Share Christ, Love People

I have to admit that I initially came to Christ at a fairly young age of thirteen. I was in junior high school. Our family was very involved in a local Bible church. We attended Sunday school every week, then stayed for worship and the sermon. Our pastor was very dedicated. Very charismatic. I felt led by the Spirit when he spoke. He had my undivided attention, and that was rare at my age. He often became emotional, and was not ashamed to let his congregation see him cry. We would come back to Church at 7:00 Sunday evening for an evangelistic hour live on a local FM radio station. Our pastor would preach the Good News, talk about sin and repentance, and the sin solution. He would invite listeners and and people in the church to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. It was very moving. Our pastor was reaching out the hand of hope. It is unfortunate that he announced one Sunday morning that he was being called away to start a new church. Many were devastated. I had taken a strong liking to his youngest daughter, Faith, and was sure I would miss her.

His final sermon was electrifying. He spoke of our duty as Christians to share Christ. He made me think, even at the young age of thirteen, of what type of difference I could ever hope to make. It felt right. It felt possible. Perhaps with some work, with some education, and with somewhat of a change of heart. You know, the kind of change that comes with growing up and putting others first. I just didn’t think it would take me nearly forty-two years to grow into that role. It was during this time-period that I struggled with wrong-living. I went over to the dark side. Hung out with the wrong people. Discovered marijuana and booze, broke the law, and was sentenced three years in state prison. My drug use grew worse over the years, culminating in a falling out with my family.

Fortunately, God was not through with me yet. Facing homelessness, my family allowed me to move in with them. Dad and I talked a lot about what I was going to do differently this time. I applied for welfare benefits and underwent a drug and alcohol evaluation. I was approved for an intensive outpatient program, attending several group sessions and one individual session per week. I was a patient of that service for one year.

It was at this same time that my father introduced me to one of the neighbors on his block, an associate pastor at a local Pentecostal Church. Reverend Bob. He invited me to attend church with him. It was a small Pentecostal church in a basement. Membership was about thirty-five. A nice worship team. I knew I found a church where I could grow. I fit right in from the first. After all, I’d just come off a six-year-long run of drinking and smoking marijuana and basically living from jobsite to jobsite. I was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder on top of polysubtance abuse. I was hurting, and I was ready for a respite. The members rallied around me, loving me until I could love myself.

Did I do everything right? No. I was able to quit drinking and smoking pot, but I continued to struggle with opiates. My depression and my back disability defeated me. I began taking a lot of Percocet and Vicodin. I would go to multiple sources, many times paying cash. I couldn’t keep up with the need, and started taking pills belonging to family members. Unfortunately, during this time I was attending AA and chairing meetings. I even sponsored a few men. But this type of situation always gets worse, never better. I ended up overdosing on Tramadol and being rushed to the ER in an ambulance. You would think that would have got my attention. Unfortunately, I kept stealing medication and eventually got caught. The family put me through an intervention, and I agreed to spend twenty-one days at a drug and alcohol facility.

That turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever agreed to make. I wasn’t really scared. I was relieved. Something had to give. I was living a lie. Making a mockery of my Lord and Savior. Pretending to be a sober life coach. Praying. Attending church. Telling everyone everything was okay. But I was suffering silently. Slowly dying inside. Figuring nothing was ever going to change.

I did a lot of praying while in rehab. I brought a Recovery Bible with me. I knew I had only one recovery left in me. This was it. Fifty-five years old, on disability, sitting in a rehab after thirty-seven years of drinking and getting high. No prospects for the future. No time to put a new career or life together. Twice divorced, no idea what true love was. Two sons. No idea how to be a father. But I didn’t feel done. I had God. I had a faith I believed in since I was a young man. I had a spark deep down inside me that said I belonged to Him. He was not done with me yet.

And so it is for this reason that I choose to serve the Lord. I was saved for a purpose. I’ve been in many places where I didn’t belong. I’ve driven drunk. I’ve committed crimes. I’ve walked down long dark allies in Philadelphia to buy crack. I’ve snorted cocaine. I’ve tried PCP and model airplane glue and mushrooms and all kinds of pills. I gave myself over to the dark side for decades. It’s no secret that anything could have happened. I’ve met many men just like me over the years. Some die. Others end up in prison for years. Some take their own lives. Then there are those of us who feel we’ve been saved in order to save others. This was brought to my attention this past weekend at our Mens’ Conference. God has set me free from the bondage of addiction. His ministry is one of forgiveness and redemption, not condemnation. My sins have been paid in full. God has called me to the ministry of helping others who suffer from addiction. After a year of dedicating myself to servicing my own local church, I plan on entering Bible college. I will never forget the day I told my grandmother that I felt led to join the ministry. I told her every time I turn my back on the Lord I end up in trouble.

Thank you Lord for saving me from myself, and for giving me a purpose.

Admit It You Are Scared to Talk about Jesus

I find myself tongue-tied sometimes when I speak of Jesus. I understand, however, that to love Him is to share Him. And to love others is to want them to experience eternal salvation. I attend AA meetings on a fairly regular basis. I am sometimes frustrated by the “ban” on speaking about a specific higher power. I know what I believe, and I want to share it. I’ve been able to do this one-on-one, but I respect the boundaries of sharing Jesus in the meeting. I can only hope this practice is not angering my Lord and Savior. I read the following blog and wanted to share it with you. Enjoy. Let it motivate you. Let it make you think long and hard.

Sadness

We all feel sad sometimes. Sadness is a normal emotion that can make life more interesting. Much art and poetry is inspired by sadness and melancholy. Sadness almost always accompanies loss. I have written several poems following the loss of a girlfriend. When we say goodbye to a loved one we usually feel sad. The sadness is even deeper if a close relationship has ended or a loved one has died. Sadness also helps us appreciate happiness. When our mood eventually changes from sadness toward happiness, the sense of contrast adds to the enjoyment of the mood.

There are ways to experience normal sadness in a healthy manner and to allow this emotion to enrich your life. Allow yourself to be sad. Denying such feelings may force them underground, where they can do more damage with time. Cry if you feel like it. Notice if you feel relief after the tears stop. If you are feeling sad, plan a sadness day. Plan a day or evening just to be alone, listen to melancholy music, and to observe your thoughts and feelings. Planning time to be unhappy can actually feel good. It can help you ultimately move into a happier mood. Think about the context of the sad feelings. Are they related to a loss or an unhappy event? It’s usually not as simple as discovering the “cause” of the sadness, but it may be possible to understand factors involved.

Sadness can result from a change that you didn’t expect, or it can signal the need for a change in your life. Change is usually stressful, but it is necessary for growth. Know when sadness turns into depression. Get help if this happens rather than getting stuck in it.

People deal with sadness in different ways, and it is an important emotion because it helps to motivate people to deal with their situation. Some coping mechanisms could include creating a list, getting support from others, spending time with a pet or engaging in some activity to express sadness. Some individuals, when feeling sad, may exclude themselves from a social setting, so as to take the time to recover from the feeling. I tend to isolate when I’m sad. Any thought of facing people causes me to shut down. In the past, I dealt with sadness by drinking or getting high. The irony here is that alcohol is a depressant.

While being one of the moods people most want to shake, sadness can sometimes be perpetuated by the very coping strategies chosen, such as ruminating, “drowning one’s sorrows”, or permanently isolating oneself. As alternative ways of coping with sadness to the above, cognitive behavioral therapy suggests instead either challenging one’s negative thoughts, or scheduling some positive event as a distraction.

Being attentive to, and patient with, your sadness may also be a way for you to learn through solitude; while emotional support to help people stay with their sadness can be further helpful. Such an approach is fueled by the underlying belief that loss (when felt wholeheartedly) can lead to a new sense of aliveness, and to a re-engagement with the outside world. Take for example sadness that accompanies the loss of a loved one. It is possible to come to terms with the fact that he or she is in a better place, at peace, no longer in pain.

Though much has been made of the many benefits of happiness, it’s important to consider that sadness can be beneficial, too. Sad people are less prone to judgmental errors, are more resistant to eyewitness distortions, are sometimes more motivated, and are more sensitive to social norms. They can act with more generosity, too.

The benefits of sadness have their limits, of course. Depression, a mood disorder defined at least in part by prolonged and intense periods of sadness, can be debilitating. And no one is suggesting that we should try to induce sadness as a way of combating memory decline, for example. I’ve read that mild, temporary states of sadness may actually be beneficial in handling various aspects of our lives. Perhaps that is why, even though feeling sad can be hard, many of the greatest achievements of Western art, music, and literature explore the landscape of sadness. In everyday life, too, people often seek ways to experience sadness, at least from time to time, by listening to sad songs, watching sad movies, or reading sad books.

The famous psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote, “Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.” I like the designer Bill Blass’s quote: “Red is the ultimate cure for sadness.”

When dealing with sadness in your life, focus on the good and move on. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and get on with things. There is a contemporary Christian song that includes the lyrics, “A man who walks by the side of the road can turn himself around. Pick himself up. Dust himself off. Start all over again.” Before you know it, you’ll be happy again. After all, you have so many things in your life to be happy about. Appreciate those things, and suddenly your sadness will feel smaller and your happiness will grow larger.

Writing is an Act of Courage

Here is a recent entry from my journal pages regarding writing as an act of courage. I strongly believe that writing is an act of courage; it’s almost an act of physical courage. You get up, you have this great idea, and you sit down to write it, and almost always what was brilliant before is somehow not too brilliant when you go to write. It’s as though you have a certain piece of music in your head, and trying to get that music out on the page is absolute hell. And so you fail. You never really get, I never really get, to that perfect thing that was in my head, so I always consider the entire process about failure. I really, really do, and I think that’s the main reason that more people don’t write. Writing is a lonely profession. It is by definition generally a solo act. Some people find they cannot be that alone, and they write as part of a partnership or a team. I am not a team writer. I work alone. I don’t always have the discipline to write. I’m afraid at times to put the truth on the page. Afraid, I guess, of what certain people will think when they read it. Especially if I write about them. That’s part of the reason writing is an act of courage.

Lonliness and God

It was the sixth day. God had just finished creating all the living creatures that move along the ground. As He had at each stage of creation, God paused and evaluated His work. Genesis 1:25 says, “And God saw that it was good.” Only one more task remained. “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7). Here was God’s only creation that would not live its life in total ignorance of its Creator. Rather, made in God’s image, Adam would fulfill a role no other creature could – he would have fellowship with God and be the object of His love.

But, after placing Adam in the garden, God observed that there was still something missing. “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” (Genesis 2:18). God recognized Adam’s need for contact with another human being – a need God had built into him. More than just a fellow inhabitant of Eden, Eve would be the object of Adam’s love and would love him in return. She would share the wonders of creation and the responsibilities of stewardship. With the creation of Eve, Adam’s intimate relationship with God was complemented by communion and companionship with someone like himself. By God’s design, we have an innate need to be loved and belong.

As children, we learn to give and receive affection and are taught the skills that will help us find acceptance in society. Through our relationships with family, friends, co-workers and others, we form our sense of individuality and find our place in the mosaic of life. It’s when that need for affection and fellowship goes unfulfilled that we become restless, unhappy, lonely. If you are struggling with loneliness, you are not alone. Everyone experiences seasons of isolation for one reason or another. Usually, we overcome loneliness by meeting new friends, entering new social circles, or taking some other action that reengages us with people. However, a variety of personal factors and other circumstances can sometimes short-circuit our ability to connect with others.

Perhaps you have become insecure about meeting new people after the death of a loved one. Maybe some social setbacks have led you to think that no one would be interested in your company. Relocating to a new area may have left you yearning for old friendships and unable to start new ones. There are many other ways that long-term loneliness can take over our lives. Perhaps we’ve been isolated by a job in a very remote geographical area, or have been put into prison for a time.

Causes of Loneliness

Loneliness does not develop overnight. It can be the result of a lifetime of influences that shape our personality. Or it can evolve after a major transition or trauma. Often, we are unaware of the subtle forces that can slowly lead us into self-imposed isolation. Some people tend to be loners because of circumstances in their childhood development. For example, growing up with a parent that failed to show affection or who was overly critical may make one shy away from the intimacy with others. Some people simply never learn to communicate well or get along with their peers.

Others have overly aggressive or demanding personalities that make people withdraw out of intimidation. Conversely, people with low self-esteem often withdraw from social situations they believe will lead to rejection. Loneliness can become a lifestyle for the person who struggles with poorly developed interpersonal skills. There are also many social factors that contribute to loneliness. We live in an age in which modern technology has made it easier to do things without other people, and without ever leaving our homes. Television is the chief culprit that robs us of time with relatives and neighbors. How often do we sit, even through commercials, not speaking to others in the room. This is more true with the Internet.

For some, especially the elderly, the increased likelihood of becoming the victim of a crime keeps them from venturing out of their homes out of fear. Also, because our society is more mobile than in the past, families may relocate several time for career advancement or other reasons, which tends to discourage the development of deep and lasting friendships. Loneliness can result from situational factors, circumstances in life that increase the possibility of isolation.

People who are unmarried, divorced or widowed are more likely to encounter loneliness simply because that are more likely to be alone. However, loneliness can also occur when a marriage doesn’t produce the closeness we expected. The student separated from home, the leader who must remain aloof from his subordinates, the individual with a disability or disease – all face a greater chance of loneliness due to a situation in their lives. Often loneliness brought on by developmental, social or situational factors leads to problems that only worsen loneliness. Alcoholism, drug abuse, family breakdown, and other social ills are frequently rooted in loneliness and usually lead to greater alienation from meaningful human contact.

The proliferation of gangs, religious cults, and other deviant social groups can be attributed largely to people’s need to belong somewhere, and their failure to find acceptance in a traditional setting. Whatever may be contributing to your loneliness, there is a way out. It begins with confronting a cause of loneliness that every human being must come to terms with – the spiritual loneliness of being separated from God. Each of us has an inborn need to connect with something larger than ourselves in order to fill the spiritual vacuum that exists within us all. The Bible is God’s plan for developing the most important relationship in our lives.

Loneliness and The Bible

As the story of Adam and Eve illustrates, God intends for us to share our lives with other people. The importance of interpersonal relationships in God’s eyes is evident in the amount of space devoted to them in the Bible. Both the Old and the New Testaments have a lot to say about marriage, parenthood, friendship, and church fellowship. But it is also clear from God’s Word that what there is on relationship is from God’s point of view. He talks about the fellowship He wants to have with us, which forms the foundation of all other relationships.

When we accept God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, we enter into communion with the Creator of the universe. God Almighty becomes our Heavenly Father and He places His Holy Spirit within us. Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the Counselor (John 14:16), whose presence would guide us into all truth. (John 16:13). The Apostles Paul and John said God’s Spirit would fill believers with assurance of our membership in God’s family. (Romans 8:16, 1 John 14:13). Day by day, through prayer and Bible reading, we can experience the wonderful fellowship that God wants to have with each of us. He is never too busy to listen. A dynamic walk with God is a solid foundation for building relationships with others.

As God’s children, we are members of a very large extended family that encompasses the world. Our brothers and sisters inhabit every nation on the globe. Spiritually speaking, our immediate family is the group of believers with whom we attend church. They form an important support group that functions much like our natural family does. Christians who don’t go to church, or don’t get involved in church activities such as Bible study, cut themselves off from a rich source of companionship.

If you are a Christian who is suffering from loneliness, ask yourself if you have taken full possession of the abundant life God wants you to have. Are you spending regular quality time with God? Are you active in a local church or Bible study? Ask God to lead you into a deeper relationship with Him and greater involvement with fellow believers. If you have asked Jesus Christ to be your Savior, your life has been put on a path that leads to intimacy with God, new friendships with fellow Christians in this life, and an eternal place in God’s presence in the life hereafter.

Steps for Overcoming Loneliness

Perhaps you have heard these suggestions from well-meaning friends: “Why not join a club?” or “You should do some traveling.” They aren’t bad ideas, but they aren’t solutions to the problem of loneliness either. The following steps will help you break free from thinking, emotions and behaviors that may be at the root of your loneliness.

Admit the Problem. Only after you acknowledge that you are lonely can you take the steps necessary to escape from your isolation.

Consider the Causes. Evaluate your life honestly in light of the factors mentioned previously. Do any of them apply to you? Are you living a self-imposed exile? Are you living separate from everyone?

Accept What Cannot be Changed. The death of a spouse or loved one, a relocation away from old friends, and other unalterable circumstances must be faced squarely. God can use transitions in our lives to open doors to new experiences, but we must be willing to let go of the past and move on.

Alter What Can be Changed. Many of the causes of loneliness discussed so far can be overcome. Do you fear rejection because you feel inadequate? Do you keep to yourself when you could be engaging in social activities? Has your best friend just moved away?

Regardless of the reason for your loneliness, you owe it to yourself to take measures that will meet the problem head-on. Try working on developing self-esteem by stopping destructive self-talk, such as telling yourself that you are unlikeable. There are many good books on the subjects, or rational thinking and misbelief therapy that can help you. Better yet, practice looking at yourself from God’s perspective. Study the Scriptures and meditate on verses that depict God’s view of His children. Make it a point to get out of the house or be with people at least once a week.

Attend church, go to Bible study (even if you don’t feel like going), participate in a community function, take a class, etc. Get involved in something. Develop new habits that build up your inner self. As you become a stronger, more self-assured person, you’ll find it easier to make new friends and encounter new situations.

Try some of these strategies for self-improvement. Meditate on God’s Word for relaxation and to ease the effects of stress on your life. Establish a schedule for a day, weekend or a week. Loneliness often seems more intense when we have nothing to do. Organize your time and be sure to include some outside activities.

Start exercising regularly. Take walks around your neighborhood or within your area of confinement. You’ll feel better physically and emotionally. Make the most out of your time alone. Being alone (as opposed to loneliness) can be a very positive experience. Solitude gives us a chance to reflect on our lives, to meditate on God’s will for us, and to find healing for the wounds inflicted by the world. Many experts feel that we spend too little time alone and that we would all be better off by planning regular times of solitude in our lives. Make an Effort to Make New Friends.

Often all that is required to escape loneliness is the determination to seek out a new friend. Overcoming shyness and the fear of rejection are usually the biggest obstacles to initiating a friendship. Keep the following in mind as you try to establish new relationships. Look for someone with whom you share a common interest. The Gospel, for instance. Take initiative and give the person a call. Approach him. Chances are that person may be looking for a friend as well. Build a friendship slowly. Don’t overwhelm a new acquaintance with your problems and opinions. With time, the openness to express feelings will develop. Give compliments and be thoughtful. Be a good listener.

Remember, loneliness is an aching void in the center of our being, a deep longing to love and to be loved. To be fully known and accepted by another human being. It is a hollow, haunting sound sweeping through our depths, chilling our bones and causing us to shiver. Is there a person who has never felt the stab of loneliness, who has never known the eerie distance of isolation and separation? Who has never felt the pain of rejection or the loss of love? But another kind of loneliness is deeper than love.

Spiritual loneliness is not longing for a specific person, or the general urge to have contact with more people. Rather, it is an incompleteness of being, an emptiness, which we mistakenly believe can be cured by better relationships. Being together with other people, even people we love intensely, does not overcome this deep incompleteness in or beings. Spiritual loneliness is really a void within ourselves – a hollowness that cannot be overcome by other people. The yearning we feel is real; it comes from the depths of ourselves. Love is not the answer in this spiritual yearning. If we are spiritually empty, getting together with others will not overcome our spiritual void. In fact, it may even generate worse feelings of incompleteness.

The belief that “true love” will settle our spiritual dilemma is one of the strongest illusions there is. How Can We Distinguish Between Interpersonal and Spiritual Loneliness? Both the longing for a specific person and the general urge to make connections with others are clearly interpersonal feelings. But spiritual loneliness only seems to be yearning for love. Even the best love will not abolish our spiritual loneliness. After a while, the inner lack or hollowness gnaws thru again. Interpersonal loneliness results from being isolated and alone. When we reunite with the people we love, our loneliness disappears. But when being together with the people we love does not overcome our ‘loneliness’, it may be spiritual loneliness. We may feel ‘lonely’, incomplete, and unfulfilled even when we are receiving all the loving we could ask for.

Nothing others can do will abolish this loneliness because the problem is spiritual rather than interpersonal. Interpersonal loneliness is usually temporary; when our relationships improve, this loneliness disappears. But spiritual loneliness is a permanent condition of our beings. Independent of the ups and downs of our love-lives, our spiritual loneliness remains—a persistent lack of wholeness. Interpersonal loneliness affects only one part of our lives. Spiritual loneliness affects every dimension of our lives. We feel incomplete, inadequate, miserable.

We know now to cure interpersonal loneliness: Find people. It is seldom easy to create good personal relationships, but at least we know some appropriate ways to open ourselves to others. But rearranging our relationships will not cure our spiritual loneliness. In fact, we may be disappointed to feel essentially ‘lonely’ even when our relationships are doing very well. Our hollowness remains unfulfilled no matter what the state of our personal relationships. Loneliness can be overcome. But it’s up to you to take the steps necessary to break free from its grip. Ask your Heavenly Father for the courage to reach out to others and try new things. Trust Him to give you what He wants you to have – an abundant life that includes intimate and faithful friends. And come to realize that through His divine grace and love, He is able to fill the spiritual void you feel. Hey there, ready to reach out?. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

CNN Got Jesus Wrong

I have not read a piece about the wrath of God as it fell upon Jesus that explains it as well as this post does. It makes perfect sense. It is very well written, and quite inspiring. It’s both comforting and mind blowing to realize that Jesus wanted to die for us. What he wanted to avoid, if it be the will of the Father, was that foamy cup of God’s wrath poured out to purify and sanctify. Thank you Jesus for all you faced in my place. I will forever love you and serve you.

Some Mistakes Made by Beginner Writers

I recently read an online article regarding the four major faults of beginning writers. It was written by Caro Clarke, who is an editor by day and a writer by night. She said it is easy to know when she’s reading someone’s first novel. She has cute nicknames for the four giveaway faults of new authors. She calls them “walk and chew gum,” “furry dice,” “tea, vicar?” and “styrofoam.” She sees at least one of these faults in every manuscript where the writer has not mastered the craft of writing before submitting his or her work.

Walk and chew gum.

This happens when the writer has not integrated action and dialogue, internal monologue and action, or internal monologue with dialogue. It is as if the characters can do only one thing at a time. Here is her rather unique example:

“If you think you’re going to town you’d better thing again,” said Ralph.
He put down his can of beer.
“I’m not having any daughter of mine going to a Cantrell boy’s party, and that’s final!”
“Oh, Pa! How could you be so cruel!” JoBeth cried.
Then, hunting in her pockets for a tissue, she dried her eyes and stared at him defiantly.
“If I want to go, how can you stop me?” she demanded.
Ralph knew this would happen. She had always been independent, like her mother.
“You little hussy!” he bellowed.
Running up the stairs, JoBeth turned at the landing.
“I am going, do you hear? I am.”

Not integrating action and dialogue makes for jerky, lifeless prose. Combine, combine, toujours combine:

“If you think you’re going to town you’d better think again,” Ralph snapped, putting down his can of beer. She was too damn much like her mother. “I’m not having any daughter of mine going to a Cantrell boy’s party, and that’s final!”
“Oh, Pa! How could you be so cruel!” JoBeth hunted her pockets for a tissue, dried her eyes and stared at him defiantly. “If I want to go, how can you stop me?”
Ralph half-lurched to his feet, bellowing, “You little hussy!” But JoBeth was already upstairs. “I am going, do you hear? I am.”

This might not be award-winning prose, but it reflects the reality of the action and feelings better by having action, thought and dialogue knitted together.

Furry Dice.

Ms. Clarke says adjectives, adverbs and prepositions are furry dice hanging from a car’s mirror. They don’t do anything for the car’s performance, they simply clutter the place. She once stripped a fifth of a novel by removing words and phrases such as very, up, down, over, about, some, a little, a bit, somewhat, whole, just, and other modifiers.

For instance:

She picked up the gun and aimed it straight at him. His smile disappeared as he lifted up his hands into the air. She waved him over to the wall, saying, “Spread ’em out, and no funny business, you hear?” She checked all of his pockets for the money, then stepped back. “Okay, I’m convinced. You haven’t got it.”

This would be better without the modifiers, and with the tighter language you’ll have to write to replace them:

She snatched the gun and aimed. His smile disappeared as his hands climbed. She waved him to the wall, saying, “Spread ’em, and no funny business, you hear?” She checked his pockets for the money, then retreated. “Okay, I’m convinced. You don’t have it.”

59 words have become 44, and even then the passage could be trimmed. But the first, necessary action, before you seriously begin to rewrite, is to grab that swimming pool net and remove clogging, unnecessary modifiers that muddy the water. Earnest Hemingway didn’t need them, and you don’t either.

Tea, Vicar?

“More tea, Vicar?” Angela asked, taking his cup and placing it on the tray beside her.
“Don’t mind if I do,” said the Rev. Phelps.
“That was two sugars, wasn’t it?” she asked, pouring the fragrant liquid from the heirloom pot into his cup and stirring in the milk. When he nodded, she dropped in two sugar lumps, stirred again, and handed him back the cup.
“Thank you, my dear,” he said, accepting it with a smile.

Clarke said she has often read loving descriptions of cups of tea being poured, pots of coffee being made, even whole meals cooked and eaten, rooms cleaned or decorated, or journeys made. Too darn often. Writers get a high out of conjuring a tableau from thin air, and in the white heat of creation forget that tableaux of mundane details are not exciting. The reader will not share that euphoria.

Reading about a cup of tea being poured is about as exciting as watching paint dry. How does this scene help further the plot or character development? It doesn’t. The writer simply gets carried away with describing everything. Fiction is supposed to be like life, but with the dull bits removed, not spelled out in excruciating detail. Examine your work. Test every scene. Is there anything that you think of as setting the scene or capturing the atmosphere? If there is, cut it. Every scene needs conflict and movement to give it life, and tea for the Vicar has neither.

Styrofoam.

This is related to Tea, Vicar?, but it arises not from self-indulgence, but panic. Styrofoam is the padding novice writers stuff into their novels because they haven’t enough story to tell (or think they don’t) and need to create word count. Padding is distinguishable because suddenly the forward movement of the story stops dead. Nothing happens for a few pages. You read, you read, and at the end you’ve learned nothing about the characters you needed to know, nor have the characters done anything essential to the story. Every scene has to propel the plot to the crisis that will resolve the story. Styrofoam does neither.

Clarke advises that if you fear you haven’t enough narrative, add more conflict. Don’t give the reader tours of the countryside, long rambling chats, the characters making travel arrangements, or any other lifeless block of prose. The reader wants action. Inexorable movement towards the crisis. The reader wants to be gripped. So cut the padding. If that makes your novel too short, re-think your premise, your plot, your primary and secondary characters, and rewrite.

Ms. Clarke says, “If you want to be published, you’ll have to cure these faults yourself, because your editor won’t do it for you. She’ll just send it back.”

If I Knew You Then (A Poem)

If I knew you then,
Rather than later,
Your past would be part of our yesterdays.

If I knew you then,
Rather than later,
Those others would have gone their own ways.

If I knew you then,
Rather than later,
Your life would be filled with less pain.

If I knew you then,
Rather than later,
Ten years would be our love’s reign.

If I knew you then,
Rather than later,
I would have told you how great you would be.

But I know you now,
Rather than then and
I’m so grateful that you’ve chosen me.

And knowing you now,
Rather than then,
Is better than never at all.