The force behind the words

The jam session ended with Brad singing a quiet, acoustic version of "Daggers," one of his best songs. When it was over, he said, "That's the first song I didn't write." It came to him... in a burst of divine inspiration. "It belongs to God," Brad said. "But I get to carry it around for a lifetime."
~from O Me of Little Faith, by Jason Boyett

Readers, I'd love to hear your stories of when this has happened to you (if it has), whether it was in your writing or speaking or music or art or...

And since I've been asking for input but not offering much myself lately, I'll just tell you about one small instance. I've kept a journal for years, starting seriously and regularly shortly after I "discovered" God. Without fail, writing to God and for God brings my life back into order. I remember sitting on the front porch, back when we had a lovely front porch with a purple porch swing (which my friend Rosanne enjoys now). I was writing in my journal, and I decided to flip back a few pages and read what I'd written. I remember getting chills all over as I read the words, in my own handwriting, in my own journal, from two weeks earlier... and not having ANY recollection whatsoever of writing them. It didn't sound like me. It didn't feel like me. My only conclusion was that it wasn't me. I was awed and humbled and amazed. From that point on I knew, without the slightest hesitation or question, that I could never stop writing, always hoping and praying that He will take over. It sounds rather presumptuous to say they're His words, to claim that the holy, divine God would deign to speak to me or through me, and I promise I don't mean this to elevate myself at all. Not at all. I know much of what I write is mine. But I long for the moments when the words that come are no longer mine. When I feel Him take over, when the words tumble out, complete, correct. When certain words are the only ones that will do. When I try to change them only to know that the original word must remain, only to know that the rhythm, the meaning, the thoughts, everything is already done for me. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does I don't want to move or lose the moment. And when it does I thank my God, in tears, for being so real, so personal, so present, so so amazing.

It doesn't matter

My lack of does not diminish His greatness. None of my failings can change His essential character.

It doesn’t matter what I do, Lord. You’re still able to work in spite of me.
It doesn’t matter how I fail. You still succeed.
It doesn’t matter how incapable I am. You’re still able.
It doesn’t matter if I have nothing. You’re still everything.
It doesn’t matter if I’m broke. You still provide.
It doesn’t matter how alone I feel. You’re still there beside me.
It doesn’t matter what the news says, or doctors, or anyone else. You’ve already proved victorious over the world.
It doesn’t matter who I am. You’re still who You are. You’re still all in all. More than enough. Effortlessly, elegantly enough.

And the winner is...

Joyce — which seems right she was the first one to clue me in to this holiday. (And no, the drawing was not rigged, and I would have been just as happy had any of the others of you won instead.) And since you're local, Joyce, I'll get them from Pastries Plus. I'll email you to work out the details. Thanks, everyone, for participating. Now I have some writing to do.

National Donut Day Giveaway

I didn't know until the day after, but yesterday was National Donut Day. Seems like a date that should be commemorated on this blog. How did I not know?

According to Wikipedia, National Donut Day is on the first Friday of June each year, succeeding the Donut Day event created by the Salvation Army in 1938 to honor the women who served donuts to soldiers during World War I.

So how does this holiday affect you? Leave a comment with a suggestion for some topic you might like to see discussed, or some aspect of Christianity that seems confusing or gets in the way, or just say hello. I'll send a gift certificate for a box of Dunkin' Donuts (or buy and deliver a box from Pastries Plus if you're local, and maybe even a cup of coffee) to one winner chosen at random (names in a hat). Your odds are good — I think I only have about 10 readers :-). I'll post the winner next week. Thanks!

Putting the action behind the verb

There used to be a clear distinction between nouns and verbs. Nouns are people, places, and things. Verbs are words that show an action. Simple, right? But in the past few years, our society has switched things around. Developments in computer technology have given us new abilities, and instead of creating words to mean what we want to say, we’ve simply “verbed” the nouns. It used to be that I would send [a verb] an e-mail [a noun]. Now we’ve changed it to a verb — I’ll e-mail you. When I highlight something and color it pink, I say, “I’ll pink that.” When I want to send you a message, I message you, and of course we text each other. We’re all familiar with Facebook — a website [noun] — but now, it’s also a verb. He facebooked me. Or he friended me.

Ironically, when it comes to many things in the Bible, we’ve done just the opposite — we’ve taken words meant to be active and converted them into static, dry, abstract concepts. When the Bible tells us to love one another, it doesn’t mean to write romantic letters or daydream or evaluate the nuances of that love to determine how it makes us feel. It means to show love. Feed the hungry, clothe the poor. When it tells us to have faith, it doesn’t mean to spend months hypothesizing about the relative truths of Jesus’ claims and trying to figure out if or how they apply. It means to walk in faith. Act as though we believe it. Proceed as though it’s all been proven, even if it hasn’t. Even if we have doubts. Even if we aren’t 100% sure. The actions transform the motions into beliefs. The gestures evoke the feelings. And then the words mean what they are supposed to mean.

I don’t know about you, but I think I’ve been missing the point. Have I been so concerned with my own abstract “spirituality,” so focused on how I feel about God and so intent on discovering what purpose He has for me, that I’ve neglected to do what God wants me to do? Do my prayers focus on my own needs and neglect those of the community of believers? Have I changed faith from a tangible, concrete belief that makes a difference into a vague concept that means virtually nothing? Go. Do. Preach. Teach. Clothe. Feed. Help. Follow. In the Bible, Jesus’ disciples didn’t sit around waiting, unless Jesus specifically told them to. They didn’t have to earn a degree to be qualified to talk about God, or talk about whether they’ve been suitably empowered by the Spirit to be able to serve, or wonder which song would inspire people to kneel at the altar, or look at their watches when “worship” lasted too long. Their lives changed. They watched others’ lives change. So they went. Baptized. Preached. Made disciples. Shared their experiences. Obeyed. Prayed. Worshipped. Believed. Inspired. And loved. In the most active sense of the word and in the simplest of languages, they had faith. And so will I.