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In this post, I continue with my thoughts on the first Psalm, elaborating on the second verse. If you have not yet read my exhortation on the first verse, click here.

Following is the second verse of the first Psalm:

Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.

Instead.

The first thing I notice when reading the verse is that little word that holds great significance, “instead.” A blessed person does not follow the advice of the wicked, take the path of sinners, or join groups of mockers. Instead of doing all of that, they delight in the Lord’s instruction.

Delighting in the Lord’s instruction.

This begs the question: what does it mean to delight in the Lord’s instruction? Maybe we should back up a step further, and ask first what exactly is the Lord’s instruction? Keep in mind that the writers of the Psalms were pre-Christ believers. There was no Bible, no Old Testament or New Testament. What they had was the law that God handed down to Moses at Mt. Sinai.

Uh-oh. Does this mean we’re supposed to memorize all of Leviticus and follow all of God’s commands written therein to the letter? Of course not. First of all, Yeshua came to fulfill the law because fallen humanity are incapable of doing so. Second, He clearly stated the one command that trumps and encompasses all others: Love God with all your might, and love your neighbor as yourself. Also, after He went to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of believers so that we would have living guidance.

Thus, for believers today, the Lord’s instruction is letting His love shine in our lives, and the personal nudges and revelations and whispers into our spirits. That said, the “delight” part is easy to explain: we delight in the Lord’s instruction when we readily and willingly live out His love, and readily and willingly obey His internal nudges and whispers.

I don’t mean to say that we ignore the Bible. The Old Testament shows the path and plan of the Father to redeem humanity, as well as giving us glimpses into His grace and mercy along the way. Obviously, reading the Gospels enable us to learn even more about the character of the Father and about who He wants us to become in Christ. And the New Testament books after the Gospels provide practical insights into how to live a life of love, how to stay on track with where the Father wants us to go.

If my exhortation on verse one of the first Psalm sounded difficult, take heart! Because people who  delight in the Lord’s instruction – allowing God’s Spirit to flow through them and taking time to study His written word – are going to tend to shy away from the world’s ways. They are going to walk humbly, seeking to be healed and made whole so that the temptations of the flesh that surround them will be easier to ignore and avoid.

How is that possible? When you let God take over your heart, your desires change. And you gain immeasurable spiritual strength that you cannot have without Him.

In other words, when you allow the Holy Spirit to fill you, when you have a heart to obey His instruction, you lose your desire to live in sin. Not following the advice of the wicked, not taking the path of sinners, not joining mockers – they all become a matter of course in your daily life.

Delighting in the Lord’s instruction is only the first step to becoming that blessed person who avoids evil. There is an additional step that helps living right before a Holy God to become easier.

He meditates on it day and night.

Modern science has proved out that our thoughts are so powerful, that they literally create our respective realities. You can be a person after God’s heart, desire to please Him in every way possible, yet have a mind filled with either anxiety or garbage, if not both (anxiety is a kind of garbage – believe me, who has had a lifetime of experience dealing with it!). The salvation of your spirit does not equate to the salvation of your soul. You know how the apostle Paul wrote that we need to work out our salvation? That work is mostly done in between our ears! The bad news is, most of us have a lot of garbage in that space. It’s that garbage that leads us into temptation, into making justifications for giving into temptation.

The good news is, meditation – or intense focus – on the right things clears away the garbage and refills our minds with godly thoughts. When our minds are full of godly thoughts, the sinful world becomes repulsive.

How, then, do we go about meditating on the Lord’s instruction day and night so our minds will become more pure? Get up in the morning and focus on a truth that will help you fight a particular battle. If you tend to worry a lot, read out loud several times the verse in Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.”

Then, throughout the day, every time a worrisome thought tries to worm its way into your head, fight it off by thinking or speaking that verse.

If you have a low self-esteem and feel unloved, you might think and say throughout the day, “I am a child of God. He created me because He wanted me. He loves me with an everlasting love, and will never leave or forsake me. He is my shepherd, leading and guiding me into His good plans.”

Should you set aside some time each day just to meditate? If you find that helpful, sure! However, a lot of people who do that leave their meditation during that time only, then as they go about the rest of their days, allow the world to refill their minds with trash. That’s why it’s even more important to cultivate the habit of fighting ungodly thoughts with godly ones as they come up.

Your next step

Right now, take a minute to consider one of your most persistent thoughts or beliefs that are contrary to God’s Word. It may be worry, lusting over someone, low self-esteem.

Next, think of or look up at least one Bible verse or godly positive phrase that counteracts that thought. For the rest of the day, whenever that thought comes up, recite the verse or phrase that will fill your mind with godliness. In the days ahead, take on other ungodly thoughts and beliefs in the same way.

In the next post, we’ll look at Psalm 1:3 and learn the benefits of leaning into the Father and seeking to emulate His holiness.

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Psalm 1, Verse 1 Exhortation

I was looking around for faith-based podcasts the other day, hoping to find at least a couple that were created by laypeople, and which were not institutional church-oriented.

I found none.

More than once in the past twenty years, I’ve heard that if you want a particular thing, and no one else is providing it and you have the skills and opportunity to do so, God might be calling you to fill the gap. I can’t say for sure that God is calling me to what I’ve decided to do, but it’s something that will not only edify myself, but other people.

I’m going to meditate on one to several Bible verses per day and write my thoughts up in a blog post. Once I get to somewhere between one and two thousand words worth of thoughts, I’m going to make a video out of it. (Or not, she added a few days later, still trying to decide because she was going to be jumping into a new novel in a few weeks.)

This post is my first in what may end up being a long-lasting Bible study series. Today’s exhortation is based on the first verse of Psalm 1.

How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers!

I’ve heard that the word “happy” here would be better translated as “blessed.” Blessings come from God, and while they can lead to us feeling happy, the state of being blessed goes much deeper. Someone who is blessed lives under the sense that they are taken care of, that they are loved, that their lives matter.

But how many believers are actually living in that state of blessing today? Many, if not most, of them do at least one of the three “does nots” in this verse on a regular basis, though not necessarily intentionally. However, much of the behavior and many of the beliefs that society accepts as normal, even appropriate, are not seen as such by God.

…follow the advice of the wicked…

Instead of seeking wisdom via prayer or counsel from a fellow believer who walks the walk, we go online to seek answers. That’s not always a bad thing; in fact, the Lord may lead you to find an answer that way. The trouble comes when we go about seeking advice that will tickle our eardrums and make us feel good, rather than the advice we really need.

“The advice of the wicked” doesn’t just mean advice that comes from ungodly sources. Perhaps even more, it refers to advice that is easy to follow, that seems like it will make us more comfortable, that won’t force us to make hard decisions or difficult changes.

That’s not to say that godly advice will always cause you to struggle, be painful, or make life more inconvenient. But it often will. And we shouldn’t shun it, because one of the best ways to grow as a person as well as to discover God’s best path for us is to get out of our comfort zones.

…take the path of sinners…

How many people do you know who claim Yeshua to be their Savior, yet they spread gossip, make snarky comments, steal small items from their workplace, have sexual fantasies about celebrities or attractive colleagues, continually seek after more and more money, or lie, justifying it all with the belief that they’re not really hurting anybody?

How many Christian women (and men) read secular romance novels with sex scenes and justify it by thinking it will help them please their spouse more? How many believers play video games with occult elements (spells and potions and magical helpers, for example), and/or that are filled with violence, claiming that they’re “just games” which aren’t doing anything to pull their soul away from God?

I’m going to stick my neck out and bring up abortion, homosexuality, masturbation, pre-marital sex, and remarriage while the ex-spouse is still alive (these  are all related to lust, which is a topic for its own article).

Yes, there is grace, and our Father does forgive when we ask for it. Yes, He accepts us the way we are, with all of our failings. Yes, God usually deals with our issues one by one and doesn’t expect us to become perfect overnight.

The issue isn’t our issues. The issue is how we allow ourselves to be blinded by our fleshly desires, laziness, and complacency.

When we persist in doing things the world’s way, justifying them in our hearts because “I was born that way” or “I’m just a sinner saved by grace” or “the Bible is irrelevant to today’s culture,” we are taking the paths of sinners.

…join a group of mockers.

How do believers join groups of mockers? How about getting on social media and taking a side? The issue doesn’t matter. You pick a side, and with your posts and tweets and stories constantly try to belittle those who have chosen the other side.

I’m not saying you can’t try to gently and civilly persuade other people that you have good reason to believe what you believe. But I think we can agree that most people on social media who have taken a side to a particular issue are being neither gentle nor civil.

Then there are people who actually mock other groups of people. Back when I was single, I attended a charismatic church where the “pastor” semi-regularly made of fun of Baptists. Many Baptist preachers, in their turn, call Catholicism a cult. And so on.

I know it’s going to be a long time before Yeshua returns. Know how?

The members of the Body of Christ still mock each other.

And He is returning for a pure Bride. From where I’m standing, the Bride has a long way to go before she’s clean enough for her Bridegroom.

Your next step

Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, confess your sin, and repent. That doesn’t mean you become perfect overnight. That means you continually seek the Father for the strength and wisdom to not be a mocker, not walk with sinners, and not follow ungodly advice. That means you give the Holy Spirit permission to convict you every time you make the slightest wrong move.

And that means you have a heart that will joyfully accept correction, and desire above all else to follow God and to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

And so will you be mightily blessed.

Click here for my thoughts on verse two, which will highly encourage you if you believe verse one expects too much of  a mere mortal!

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How (And Why) I Write For Text-To-Speech

If you’ve read all five of my series so far (you haven’t? Why not? Click here and get moving!), you might have noticed that the writing mechanics in the last three (“Pine Mountain Estates,” “Rock Star Husbands,” and “Little River Village Christmas”) are a little different from the first two (“Texas Hearts” and “Choices And Chances”). That’s because when I began to write the “Pine Mountain Estates” series, I decided to write for text-to-speech. Why?

Because I use text-to-speech.

In fact, unless I want to quickly skim over a section, I consume my Kindle books by listening, not reading. Why? Because my eyes strain easily, more easily with each passing year. When I was in my teens, I had to stop reading after an hour because I’d get tired. Nowadays, I have to stop reading after about ten minutes because I start to feel discomfort behind my eyeballs. And get tired.

So I listen to books, using text-to-speech. And that function hasn’t been programmed for every single nuance of punctuation or spelling possible.

For example, when it gets to a chapter heading, it doesn’t read, “Chapter One,” and then pause, like you do in your head before going on to read the actual story text. No, it reads the chapter heading and first sentence of the chapter as one sentence. For example:

Chapter one it was a dark and stormy night.

Chapter one the building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault.

The only way text-to-speech knows to pause is if there’s a period or comma (or similar punctuation marks) after a word. This is why I started putting periods after the chapter headings in my novels. When you’re listening to a book, having headings run together with sentences is at best annoying, at worst jarring and distracting.

You might have noticed that I use a lot fewer hyphens in my latter books compared to my earlier ones. One reason is that authors tend to use hyphens because they’re too lazy to write a separate sentence, or to write more tightly. I am guilty of that sin in my earlier work.

When it comes to listening to books, the reason I don’t use them anymore is that text-to-speech often doesn’t “see” hyphens. So again, it doesn’t pause like you do in your head, or when you’re reading a sentence aloud that contains a hyphen. Take the following sentence:

She didn’t want to make the same mistake again – it would have been the third time in four days – so she was much more careful this time.

Text-to-speech would read it like this:

She didn’t want to make the same mistake again it would have been the third time in four days so she was much more careful this time.

Now, the chapter heading issue is easy to ignore. The hyphen issue? Downright befuddling. Thus I’ve trained myself to use hyphens only when absolutely necessary. Otherwise, if I feel the need to break up a sentence, I use the ellipsis (…) which text-to-speech generally sees as a period.

I’ve never written “C’mon” for “Come on” in any of my books, and I never will. Why? Kindle text-to-speech has been programmed that “mon” is the abbreviation for Monday. It therefore reads “C’mon” as “See Monday.”

Similarly, “Lemme” as a lazy way to say “let me”, it reads as “lem.” Pronouncing it as if it were a French word.

The absolute worst is dialect. I’m done listening to Jan Karon’s books, because they are full of her attempts to write a thick Southern accent. How do you think it sounds to listen to

Right on th’ money. Glad I asked you t’ think about it.

And that’s one of the milder examples from one of her novels. I’ve encountered several sentences in a row where “the” and “to” have been truncated to “th” and “t.”

CONFUSING!! Sometimes to the point of nonsensical. When authors try to exactly imitate a heavy dialect or an accent in writing, instead of being able to enjoy the story, I’m constantly having to translate the gibberish in my head. Or, look at the book. Which makes my eyes tired, then strained.

Now, in many of my books, I do have characters speaking Black English or in a Southern or Mexican accent. But I try to write out the differences in pronunciation so that they’ll make sense when read by text-to-speech.

There are a few other things I’ve begun to do to make my text-to-speech users have a more pleasant listening experience, but they simply won’t come to me right now. Just know that my writing mechanic quirks, and my refusal to use certain slang phrases that many other authors use liberally, are to help out my fellow book listeners.

You’re welcome. 😉

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What A Wonderful Fan Base I Have!

Writing novels is hard work. No, not the same kind of hard work as teaching school (did that for thirteen years) or being a lumberjack. But however fulfilling and joyful it is, the story creation process can be grueling at times. Marketing – for me, anyway – is grueling all the time.

Add a struggle with anxiety and digestive issues due to low serotonin levels due to low estrogen (I’ve passed the half-century mark as I write this), not to mention low energy levels, and I’ve had plenty of days in the past few years that I’ve been tempted to throw in my proverbial hat when it comes to my writing career.

Yet I keep on. Why?

Two reasons.

First, the story ideas keep on coming, and they refuse to stay inside my head. 😉

Second – and really, more important – my faithful readers.

Every once in a while, a reader sends me an e-mail thanking me for a particular book and telling me how it made an impact on their life. Then there are all the encouraging four- and five-star reviews. One woman recently was tickled pink that I responded to her e-mail.

I was tickled pink because I was the very first Christian author she’d ever read! Out of all the hundreds, maybe, thousands of Christian authors out there, I was the first? Above Tracie Peterson and Gilbert Morris and Janette Oke and Christy Barrett and Francine Rivers and Lacy Williams and Susan Page Davis and on and on?

And this woman wasn’t some twenty-year-old who’d just gotten saved. No. She confessed to being, like me, perimenopausal.

I have one fan who responds to many of my automated e-mails, telling me how things are going in her life. A couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, she e-mailed me, “How can I pray for you?”

It just so happened that the night before, and that morning I found the e-mail in my inbox, I’d been feeling really down and wanted to quit everything. I summarized what I was going through, and she sent me the most beautiful, uplifting prayer!

The other day I discovered a comment on a post I wrote a few weeks ago from writing this one. Click here to read the comment in full. Essentially, the woman, who is almost my mother’s age, told me that I was her favorite author out of all the ones she’s read during the lockdown! She also encouraged me to keep on keeping on (in the post I more than hint at my frustration with the self-publishing world).

I’m sure I have fans who have prayed for me, perhaps even pray for me on a regular basis, but as Yeshua said, they keep it private so as to gain a heavenly reward.

And so, as we approach Christmas 2020 – which will prove to be different and perhaps difficult for many, if not most of us – I want to give you the gift of thanks. Thank you, dear reader, for encouraging me through reviews, e-mails, and blog comments. Thank you for reminding me that someone is receiving blessings from my work. That my work has purpose beyond entertainment.

Thanking you for helping me see that I am making a difference.

Merry Christmas. 🙂

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I Wrote A Christmas Song…

I wrote my very first Christmas song ever. Might not be my last. It was fun and challenging (mainly due to a lot of experimentation with equipment and new video editor). Lyrics below.

 

 

 

Bells ringing
People singing
Excitement in the air
Smiles blooming
Laughter booming
Happiness to spare
Christmastime is here
Joy and peace are ever near
Hearts are open
Love flaming wide
Peppermint sticks
Hot apple cider fix
Steaming cocoa in a cup
Fragrant spices
Cinnamon entices
Gingerbread houses going up
Christmastime is here
Joy and peace are ever near
Hearts are open
Love flaming wide
Drifting snowflakes
Watch the cookies bake
Fire crackling in the hearth
Christmas movie
With the family
Tree lights sparkling in the dark
Christmastime is here
Joy and peace are ever near
Hearts are open
Love flaming wide
Decorations
Color creations
Presents underneath the tree
Church steeple
Drawing people
Celebrating the Baby
Christmastime is here
Joy and peace are ever near
Hearts are open
Love flaming wide

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