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A Holy Spirit Smack Upside The Head

I’ve always had a problem with being judgmental. The only time I didn’t was three or four years ago when I went through about a two-year period of deconstruction.

Yeah, I always thought the word referred to tearing down a building, too. But somewhere along the way, someone decided it would be a cool word to use for the process of someone seriously and systematically questioning their spiritual beliefs. And when that happens, a person is open to almost anything. It’s easy to drop their judgmental ways.

And that’s what happened to me.

But then I reconstructed, and found that the process left most of my previous beliefs about God intact. And, WHOOSH! Back came the judgmentalism, because despite my beliefs, I hadn’t wholly given myself back to the Lord. Had kept as many of my fleshly habits and mindsets as I had of my spiritual ones.

That changed recently after I read (wait for it, wait for it) A Year Of Living Prayerfully. I got hungrier for God than I’ve been since the first time He knocked me down with His power twenty-six years ago. I’ve begun spending a lot more time in His presence, and so have regained that sensitivity to His leadings and inner nudges that I’d left at the curb years ago in favor of chasing mammon (though I certainly wouldn’t have admitted that until around a month ago; self-deception is the worst deception).

As the sensitivity as re-blossomed inside me, I’ve begun to see the truth about how much I’ve been living in the flesh. And one of the most painful parts is my judgmental tendencies. Most of it has stayed in my head; much of it has come out of my mouth in the form of soap-box lectures to my husband; some of it has leaked out into the blogs I’ve had over the years.

It almost happened yesterday. I had a revelation about a certain eveny that happened centuries ago, and wanted to share my genius insight with the world. I began to type out my theory. The more I typed, the more I had the feeling of walking through wet clay wearing a pair of wooden boots.

Initially, I brushed off the feeling as my own reluctance, either to stick my neck out or to actually do the work of writing. But it got stronger.

I set the article aside for awhile, thought about my theory and what I’d been writing.

And the Holy Spirit smacked me upside the head. With conviction. He convicted me that number one, I was putting myself – yet again – on the throne of God. And number two, that I couldn’t possibly have the whole truth about the situation, if any, and thus had no business propagating my opinion about it online. Number three, that what I was writing was going to potentially insult at least two different Christian groups.

So, around two-thirds of the way through the article, I quit writing it. And instantly felt a release. A sense of God’s approval.

So you’re getting this article, instead. A confession of my sin of trying to play God. And an apology, for any complaints I may have made either out loud or in my spirit during the past few years about my readers, and for anything I may have ever written that resulted from my judging other people unfairly and/or my tired, self-righteous opinions.

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Yet Another One Of My Dire Confessions

I have a confession to make. Another confession, as I’ve made four or five confessions over the course of my blogging career (though not all on this blog).

Here’s my confession: I wrote the series “Rock Star Husbands” for the express purpose of making money. Of course, I wrote and published all of my novels with the hope that they’d help out with the household bills. But with each of the others, there was a deeper purpose. To lift up Yeshua. To encourage believers in their faith. To teach people about healthy eating and financial responsibility.

This series? I said to myself, “Sweet, clean romances with a celebrity protagonist are hot! I’m going to get on the bandwagon, and finally start making a living income from my writing!”

It’s been my worst-selling series yet.

I will say this about the first book in the series, Worth The Risk: after I wrote the short story “Revenge,” which was based on a dream I had, I’d felt an inner nudge to turn the story into a novel. It had to be God, because it happened right after I’d told the blogosphere that I was no longer going to write novels.

In retrospect, I believe that the novel was meant for me, and me alone. It was a kind of catharsis. (Not going there; none of your business.) As a matter of fact, the original novel was completely different, entitled Tony’s Rose. The reason I rewrote it was that after I published it, the first review was only two stars.

That should have been my first clue.

But I didn’t want to have taken two months to write a novel and not make any money from it!

And there’s the problem, right there: I had my eyes on greenbacks instead of on Yeshua.

I repent, and humbly ask for my readers’ forgiveness. It’s really hard not to get drawn away from God when you focus on making money. From now on, the primary purpose for any novel or non-fiction book I write will be to spread the Gospel, and/or to encourage believers in their faith.

A secondary confession? The novel I recently finished, I wrote for the general marketplace. Though it had Christian undertones and carried the theme of forgiveness, I wrote it with the hopes of finding a big-name, non-Christian publisher so I’d have a better chance of making a lot of money from it.

I’m currently rewriting it to glorify God. (I’m actually writing this post on March 24, so the rewrite might be finished by the time you read these words.)

I’m a work in progress, but He’s progressing me. 😉

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Why I’m Quitting YouTube…Sort Of

“Should I give up on YouTube?”

“I want to quit YouTube!”

I know many people besides me have asked that question, and made that declaration. And not just new YouTubers. There was one channel I found last year that had over a million subscribers and had hundreds of thousands of views on most of his videos…but the creator had given up on his channel, even though it must have been netting him at least a couple thousand dollars a month.

And that’s what it comes down to for most people: the money. The work (and in some cases, money) they’re putting into making the videos isn’t monetarily worth their while. For example, on the channel I started ten years ago which has over 700 videos, I’m not even making $25 per month. And the most I’ve ever made in a month was $80.

YouTube is noisy.

Then there’s all the noise. I recently wrote about how all the online business stuff I’d gotten into had been stressing me out. A big part of it has to do with the fight to be seen. People say that there’s room for more on YouTube, but the fact is, competition has become fierce in most of the popular topic areas.

On YouTube, that means you have to pay attention to the website’s algorithm and follow the necessary rules to snag the algorithm’s attention. You have to upload with a certain frequency and get a certain number of initial views with each video and get a certain amount of engagement.

When I wrote the above-mentioned post, I’d decided to give up on YouTube altogether.

Except, there’s this calling…

I feel like in this time of my life, God has called me to share what I’ve learned about following Yeshua. With every passing week during the past few months, I’ve felt a stronger and stronger tug to be one of those older women who mentor younger women as mentioned in the  book of Titus.

I can only interpret the tug as the Lord speaking to me. And whenever I think about it, I feel a divine confirmation inside my spirit.

The other thing is, as I talked about in this post, just because I’m at a place in life where I can take a permanent vacation, doesn’t mean I’m supposed to. I have gifts and knowledge to share with the world, and the only way for others to find them is for me to market myself.

And YouTube, if you use it correctly, is a great way to market.

My final (ha, ha!) decision

My husband would tell you that my final decisions never are. Nevertheless, I’m going to tell you where I am right now.

I’m going to start a brand new YouTube channel for the express purpose of helping younger women on the spiritual journey. On that channel, I’m going to remain anonymous because I don’t want anyone to idolize me.

I’m going to take an existing channel that has only one video on it at the moment, rename it “Author Emily Josephine,” and use it to market my books. My plan is to write a piece of faith-based flash fiction –between 500 and 1000 words – every week, and video myself reading the story.

I’m going to give that channel a year to give me traction. If it’s not working as a good marketing tool by then, I’ll walk away from it.

***UPDATE (before I’ve even published this post!): I’m just not feeling that idea anymore. With every passing day, I feel more strongly that in the foreseeable future, I’m going to be teaching about how to live a truly Spirit-filled and led life, both on YouTube and with books.***

The other channel, I will stick to no matter what because if I can help just one person get serious about following Yeshua, my time and effort that I put into it will be worth more than all the money in the world.

I’m not going to monetize either channel with ads, mainly because I’ve never relished the idea of being on Google’s payroll. I’m not going to play algorithm games, because I like my sanity. I’m going to plan to upload once a week to each channel, but allow myself leeway in that plan.

In case you’re curious, here’s the link to my author channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-0QHHw6BobMlE3adtpQgVg

I’m writing this post about a month before I publish it, so I hope to have at least two story videos uploaded to the channel by the time you read this.

Get out of the YouTube bondage!

Many creators love making videos for their channels. But if you have a YouTube channel and follow Yeshua, and your channel has started dragging you down, consider the possibility that your disillusionment or discouragement with it may be the Holy Spirit trying to speak to you about making changes regarding your relationship with that platform.

In which case, your next step is to get alone with God and pray.

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A Dilemma, A Prayer, And An Answer

The Dilemma

I recently wrote about my revelation that the life I’ve been yearning for has been in front of me for years. In that post, I shared that I want to withdraw from the online business rat race, that I’ve recently recovered a deep sense of joy and peace that I lost years ago.

Since writing that post, however, I’ve encountered a problem. After a nice, long (for me) period of rest, after my shoulders began to improve significantly and I began to want to be more active, my mind kicked back into high gear, as well.

It brought back the urge to teach, the feeling that I’m supposed to somehow share my knowledge and life experiences with other people.

At the same time, I don’t want to get sucked back into online marketing. Which is another part of the dilemma. These days, you can’t just start a blog or a YouTube channel, or publish a book on Amazon, and attract an audience without doing a lot of marketing.

For blogs, that means diddling around on Pinterest an hour or two every day, and/or working your buns off and/or shelling out big bucks to get backlinks to your site. For YouTube, that means committing to uploading at least one video a week, on topics a lot of people are searching for, and making the videos as appealing and “shareworthy” as possible. For books, it means spending a lot of money on advertising.

The thought of doing any one of those activities brings a twinge in my gut that means I’m going the wrong way. Also, engaging in those activities would pull me right back into competition mode. Not to mention that my eyes strain very easily when I’m on the computer, so most of the above activities can actually be deleterious to my eye health.

Competing with other people not only stresses me out, but it makes me feel guilty, as well. A lot of people who are saying the same things that I want to say genuinely need the attention of others, because that attention brings them the money they’re counting on to feed their families.

Could I just set up a YouTube channel and upload whenever and whatever I felt like? Or use this blog as a teaching vehicle? Write whatever books I want to teach whatever I want to get across, and just put them up for free without marketing them?

Sure, and all those ideas appeal to me.

But if I don’t engage in the appropriate marketing for each thing, my message would only ever reach a handful of people. Some might say, “Well, Emily, you should just believe God that those are the people who are supposed to consume your content.”

No offense, but that’s what I call a Christian cop-out. Taking the easy way out, then saying, “I’m believing God,” is the most effective way not to impact the world.

I guess my dilemma is, how do I promote my message without A, feeling like I’m unfairly competing, B, feeling like I’m promoting myself (as opposed to giving God the glory), and C, losing my peace over it – as I have ever since diving into the world of online business?

Maybe I’m supposed to just spend time praying every day for other people trying to spread the same messages that I want to?

But that sounds like a cop-out, too. After all, faith without works is dead.

See my dilemma?

The prayer

I was about to complete this blog post with the following:

Feel free to share your thoughts about it in the comments section. I’m all ears (er, eyes, I mean).

Of course, you are perfectly free to share your thoughts. 😉 But a few hours after I’d written that invitation and walked away from the article, thinking I was done with it, it occurred to me to pray about the dilemma.

I know that we are to be interdependent, not islands onto ourselves. We’re supposed to sometimes seek godly counsel. But number one, I hadn’t yet seriously prayed over the dilemma before writing about it. And number two, I think it’s the sort of thing that doesn’t require many counselors.

So I prayed. Sat silently.

Listened.

The answer

And, I got an answer.

Take one day at a time.

I knew it had to be God, since Yeshua instructs His followers to take no thought for tomorrow, because today has enough troubles of its own. The advice is really difficult for people like me, who have a natural tendency, even enthusiasm, for planning for the future.

Yet, I can plan for the next several months, and still pray each day what I’m supposed to do. Today, shall I make a YouTube video? About what? Write a blog post? Start a new novel?

That took care of the first part of my dilemma. But there still remained my instinctive dislike for marketing.

I sat on that for a day, and began to wonder if the red flags I’ve been feeling toward the online marketing sphere have been more about my disinclination to engage with people than about God trying to tell me that I shouldn’t spend my time marketing.

Two different thoughts helped me here. First, God knows the world isn’t perfect. He knows what it’s become, and if He gives a specific person a specific message that He wants widespread, He knows that marketing is going to have to happen. So if I believe a certain message is from God, and is supposed to help a large piece of the population, He’s not going to be against my marketing efforts. I just have to make sure that when I am in the world, I don’t become like the world.

The second thought had to do with what I read in the book A Year Of Living Prayerfully. The author provided more than one quote, and more than one commentary, that reminded me that believers who want to follow hard after Yeshua are going to be active in sharing themselves and their faith with the world. A classic book by Andrew Murray on obedience that I subsequently read confirmed those thoughts.

Again, faith without works is dead.

What it all comes down to…

I need to trust the Lord to guide me every day. And if I have zero peace or joy about a certain activity, I need to pray to make sure it’s not just my own fear.

And no matter what, if something doesn’t lift up Yeshua, or if it pulls me away from Him, I need to run away from it as fast and as far as I can.

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The Curse Of Self

One day, I’m going to sit outside early in the morning and listen to the whippoorwill sing her song until dawn breaks and her voice fades into the chirping of the daytime birds. And I’m going to silently praise God for His creation, and let the peace of the morning saturate my soul.

One day, I’m going to go on a hike with my teenage son and say nothing but what he wants me to say, follow his lead, and enjoy his company. No matter how silent the company may be.

One day, I’m going to leave for work early so I can grab breakfast for the homeless man who’s been sitting on the corner three blocks away from the office for the past month.

One day, I’m going to find a charity that needs the extra money I’ve been spending on clothes I never wear.

One day, I’m going to call an old friend – call her, not text or e-mail her – and thank her for the support she gave me so many years ago when I was struggling and had no one else to turn to.

One day, I’m going to surprise my husband with a love note on the driver’s seat of his car every day for a week.

One day, I’m going to get to know that young neighbor who often walks by our house with a baby in a sling and a toddler in a stroller. And I’m going to offer to help whenever she needs it.

One day, I’m going to do all that. But not today. Not right now.

Right now, I’m too busy.

Too busy living for my Self.

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