Category Archives: Bible Doctrine

Repost: Reflections on Soaring

When the eagle soars, he doesn’t have to work. The shape of his wings and his momentum are what provide the lift along with the rising air currents. All he has to do is extend his wings and float, so of course he’s not going to get tired. He’s just lying there…Resting. Waiting. Letting other forces carry him along.

We like to flap our wings. It feels good and strong to flap flap flap and suddenly, wow! you gain a bit of speed and lift and you’re flying. Only to fall back to earth panting, dazed and exhausted. But oh, that bit when you were in the air – stimulating in the extreme. Flapping comes naturally to us.

By contrast the eagle most often begins his flight by jumping off a cliff. The very last thing we want to do! Jumping off cliffs does not come at all naturally.

The analogy continues as you consider that the shape of the eagle’s wings is the way God made him to be, tools he’s been given that he had no say over and did not make. For us, that would be all the things God has given us at salvation in the spiritual realm, but most importantly the indwelling of the Spirit and His Word. The eagle’s momentum comes from flying – from jumping off the cliff and gliding away. After he has glided a bit, he flaps his wings to gain more altitude so he can float some more. For us, flying would be learning the doctrine (flapping – because it does take effort to learn), believing it, then applying it to the circumstances of our lives. Which leads to rest. So… flapping is learning and applying the word to our lives, while floating is the result of that application.

An hour a day reading/studying the Word, 23 hours resting in what you’ve learned. No wonder the soaring eagle doesn’t get tired.

Originally posted Thursday, April 20, 2006 on www.karenhancock.blogspot.com

Repost: Soaring Eagle

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National Wildlife Federation Christmas card: Sacred Heights by Daniel Smith

 

I was thinking about soaring eagles and prairie chickens the other day and recalled this card we received last Christmas. I dug it out of my pile of papers and was struck by how relevant it suddenly seemed to me. The fact that the eagle is ALONE is a big one. As is the fact that when he is soaring, he’s not really doing anything, just resting on the wind currents. His perspective is high and far. And even though there are storm clouds all around, there is light bursting through them. Beautiful picture of our life with God.

He soars above it all, and below him, far, far out of sight are the prairie chickens — flocking and squawking and chattering. Fluttering, clucking, scratching in the dirt, huddling together, going after bugs and seeds. They find safety in numbers (you only have to fly faster than one other prairie chicken to escape the predator!). Where one goes they all go, often without thought. It’s a horizontal existence and a horizontal perspective.

But the eagle lives in the heights. He lives with the higher, bigger, broader perspective. And he is at peace. Ironically, the title of the card is “Peace on earth” and after reading that, it hit me that the only way one can have true peace while on earth is to be a soaring eagle.

Is 40:31 Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary.

Originally posted on Tuesday, April 11, 2006 www.karenhancock.blogspot.com

 

And Now the Regularly Scheduled Blog Returns

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Maybe.

As you may have noticed, I have not been posting much in the way of words. Perhaps because I have not been writing much in the way of words — at least words that are in any way coherent.  It’s not just with the blog, but also Sky and answering emails and even my regular journal is getting ignored… not entirely, but almost and waaay more than in the past.

I have no explanation for why this is happening, though I have tried to come up with one repeatedly. If only I could figure out what is going on, then maybe I could fix it.

Well, my most recurring conclusion in this matter, is that I can’t figure it out. And even if I could, I wouldn’t be able to fix it. God is the one who has it all figured out and so far He hasn’t included me in His figuring. He is also the One who is going to “fix” it, if indeed, it requires fixing.

In fact, the messages I’ve been most consistently receiving from all sorts of sources is… back off, relax, WAIT and Trust Me to come through in MY time, not yours.

In addition to the “wait for MY timing” messages, I’ve also been having occasional epiphanies about other things. Such as, “My job of taking care of our home (cleaning, meals, shopping, dishes, laundry, the dog) is every bit as much a part of my calling as writing is. So why should I get all upset when attending to those things requires some of my time, time I could (presumably) devote to writing if I didn’t have to do the daily chores?

Because I DO have to do them. God has assigned me that task as well as the one of writing Sky. Neither is more important than the other. He will enable me to do both of them in some measure according to His timetable, not mine. So instead of getting all agitated because I have to sweep the floor again and thinking it’s taking time away from writing, I’m thinking, “No, this is also part of God’s plan for my day and I simply have to trust Him to see that I get everything done that is on His agenda and forget my own.

 

 

 

 

 

When Progress is Invisible

my painting of a dove on her nest in our grapefruit tree

my painting of a nesting dove

I painted this mourning dove one year as she sat on her nest in the grapefruit tree in our back yard.  She watched me as I took the pictures that I would use for the painting, but she didn’t stir, didn’t leave the nest. She sat on those eggs for weeks.

And all that time she was mostly doing “nothing.” More than that, the things she was sitting on, her eggs, also seemed to be doing nothing. All that time she spent sitting there when she could have been flying around or walking about looking for seeds or taking a shower in the sprinklers with her dove friends… instead she was sitting up there on her eggs which did not seem to be doing a darn thing. For a very long time, no change whatsoever registered in those eggs, at least as far as the dove could see. And yet… amazing, profound, complex, rich changes were occurring behind the façade of the thin white shell.

She might have been tempted to give it up. I mean… 15 to 18 days of sitting there doing nothing at all? With only brief time outs to feed and get water? I doubt I could do it for even 2 hours!

And yet, lately God has been using the dove analogy with me as regards my working on Sky.  There’s been a lot of time where I can’t see any changes occurring… I was getting no ideas, I’d go in to write and couldn’t seem to think of a thing, couldn’t keep my mind on the work, couldn’t get anywhere. Stuck.

But a couple of months ago, He sent me the dove analogy courtesy of Elisabeth Elliot’s daily devotion site. Not only as the analogy regards the book, but even more so as regards my spiritual life. I love the idea that growth is occurring, unseen, unnoticed, behind the scenes, where I can’t feel it, can’t measure it, can’t realize it. Even as in another unseen place, He is orchestrating the pulling together of different elements of character and plot and setting to produce the next scene that I will eventually write.

I could freak out and get impatient and condemned and anxious or I can be still and trust that He’s at work even when it seems He’s not.  I know this, because He’s told me that it’s so:

“For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to execute for His good pleasure.” ~Philippians 2:13

“Faithful is He who calls you, and HE will bring it to pass.” ~I Thessalonians 5:24

I just have to believe it.

Growing an Amaryllis Bulb: Day 14 – 25

At 20 days, the buds began to open:

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By Day 21 it was really starting to look like an amaryllis (notice there is now a third stalk and bud!) :

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And by Day 25, it was fully flowering.

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But the thing is, this all happened in a period of 25 days, whereas the bulb had been sitting around in a box on some store shelf for who knows how long. Doing nothing whatsoever. Even so, all the energy, all the food, all the instructions for the plant itself were there inside that bulb, utterly invisible from the outside.

And that’s the illustration the Lord has been using with me for the past three months in a veritable barrage of forms. The story I’m writing is “there”. The work that’s being done on it, is being done out of my sight and my awareness, but it is being done. I have only to believe that… believe that He is at work… (and present myself at the desk), and in time the work will flower as surely as the amaryllis did.

Handling Your Problems

Years ago, a friend gave me this tile that she got from the local  San Xavier mission gift shop. It sits against the pot of my ponytail plant just beyond the kitchen sink. I read it almost every morning and smile …Handling problems

 

In case it’s too small on your device to read, it says, “Good Morning! This is God. I will be handling all your problems today. I will not need your help. So, relax and have a nice day!” ~ San Xavier, Tucson, AZ

 

 

 

Surprise! I’m Posting Again!

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Yes, indeed, I am finally getting back to posting something on this blog. That’s because I have finally gotten into a rhythm of working on Sky, 6 hours a day, 6 days a week.

For the last 8 weeks I’ve been working up to it. The first week I only stipulated I must get into the office and work. I averaged 1.8 hours per day that week, and only worked 5 days for a total of 11 hours.  The next week, I got in 6 days and averaged 3.2 hrs/week for a total of 19 hours. Then 21 hours, 23 hours, 25 and finally 35.5 hours!! Yay! I’m hoping this week I’ll do 36, but there are potential complicating factors coming up for the weekend.

Still, just the intent to get in here for 6 hours has helped immensely —  though really I think it’s the Lord’s doing, since I did ask Him for help and He is delivering.

One other contributing aspect was my realization that while I’d been coming into the office trusting the Lord to guide me, I had also decided that I needed to figure out my make-believe world in detail and the entire plot before I could really start writing. As I’ve written before, that was turning out to be an exercise in frustration — every time I tried my brain just flipped out with confusion and the more I tried to nail things down, the more confused I got.

Then, as I wrote in my follow up Quote Post on Koontz’s book, A Big Little LIfe, I was struck by his claim that he never uses an outline or character sketches, etc., but just writes the story as it comes. It started me wondering… if God is guiding me, and if it truly doesn’t depend on me figuring it all out, then maybe I should try really trusting Him to guide me as I went and just go forward with it. Coming up with a plot, a plan and a world seems to be me getting everything in place and then working… not so much about me trusting Him.

About the same time I came across some old notes from Bible class where Pastor John was describing his own realization that in preparing a sermon it’s not up to him to

“…come up with a great creative solution,” but rather to go to the Lord. “I can’t tell you how long I thought it was up to me, ultimately. Me figuring it out, putting all my energy into it and fail, fail, fail… The fact is, God is the one who’s behind this. This is something where you can relax and understand that Ephesians 2:10 says He’s  already ordained the things for you to walk in — all you gotta do is show up with a heart that’s wanting to serve, with the doctrine that’s already in your soul and WALK!  God’s doing the heavy lifting here. Just say yes! One foot in front of the other, show up, go in the right direction, have a desire and God will take care of the rest.”

And then, since I am a very slow learner, He hit me with something from one of Elisabeth Elliot’s books, where she said tht God most often guides us while we are doing our regular daily work — Samuel was serving in the Temple, David and Moses were with the sheep, etc.

Somehow all that translated in my mind not just as “being  in the office thinking about the novel” but as… “Why don’t you just start trying to write the scenes and let Me guide you while you do?” “Walking” through the story, so to speak.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. I finished chapter 8 last week and am working on chapter 9 this week. My goal is to have it finished by Saturday, though I have to admit I feel a little silly setting any kind of goal these days…

A Novel Situation

Some time back I was asked to read a new Christian fantasy novel for the purpose of possibly endorsing it.

I have a general policy of not doing this, because it always ends up taking a lot of time away from my WIP, mostly because of the angst and mental distraction these efforts stir up in me. I’m very picky about my reading, especially when it comes to Christian works, and unfortunately I often find myself at odds with the doctrines presented.

I tell myself that many people would just set that aside and if they liked the story in general would go ahead and endorse it. I tell myself I should do that as well. It’s not my job to run around setting people straight in regards to their supposed doctrinal deficiencies.  And many times there are things in the story that I like. Can’t I just overlook the parts I don’t?

Yes, if I were simply reading the piece for pleasure. But to put my name on it in an endorsement? Therein lies the rub.

My own purpose in writing in the fantasy genre is to illuminate spiritual truth, particularly as regards the Angelic Conflict, one of the least studied, least understood, and, I think, least believed of Christian doctrines. Of course, the conflict itself and the way it’s carried out – primarily by deception – guarantees its true nature will not be well-known, or even believed. Of all doctrines it has been most distorted and/or buried. And that comes as no surprise since the kingdom of darkness works hard to do just that.

One might argue that in a fantasy novel, where good and evil are often set against one another in a rough parallel to the angelic conflict, what matters most is the characters and their actions, the plot and the world, not the specifics of explanation for the battle or the parameters for the set-up of the fantasy novel’s world…

Except… that’s kind of the whole point of writing a fantasy, in my view.

The world we live in and its parameters are based upon the angelic conflict. Understanding this conflict changes one’s perception of God, of man, of the work of Christ on the Cross, who He is, what His purpose is, who we are as part of His Church, and what is going on around us every day.

We are constantly bombarded with the lies of the kingdom of darkness, because as even human advertisers and propagandizers  will tell you, that is the way to change people’s thinking; or to keep their thinking from changing, depending on your objective.

Worse, even as believers in Christ each of us still has a sin nature, that part of us that is drawn to those lies, always ready to latch onto them. Indeed, for most of us, God is hard at work stripping away the lies so He can replace them with truth.

The lies have power and I believe we who have learned to see them, are not to simply ignore them, skipping over them as if they don’t matter… I believe God holds us accountable for our actions in regards to them.

So, in regards to the novel in question, I hit a spot that was, in my understanding, completely wrong.  I reacted. I wrote at length in the notebook I keep when reading books. I paced about the house, asking God what I was to do.

Was I being arrogant? Making a big deal out of nothing? Should I just set this aside and move on? I’d like to help the author and the publisher and the field of Christian fantasy in general. Maybe the parts I read didn’t mean what I thought they meant. Maybe the author didn’t mean any more by them than just to provide an explanation for the storyline. Most people aren’t even going to think twice about it or even take note I’m sure. Surely I was just being too rigid and inflexible.

But this is an outright insult to my Lord and Savior! Even if it was done unknowingly. How can I put my name on it as recommending it, when it does that? How can I put my name on it before the angels who are watching?

Well, that was Saturday.

Sunday morning I awoke double-minded as ever. Surely it was enough to have seen the false concepts, but I needn’t be militant about it, right?

As I drove to church I asked the Lord for answers. What was I to do about endorsing this novel? “You know how weak and easily confused I get,” I told Him. “I don’t want to make a stand when no stand is required. Please make it clear to me.”

So then maybe an hour or so later, about halfway through the message, which was on discernment – how God goes about developing in us the ability to see with spiritual eyes instead of natural eyes – Pastor John said, “So I’m faced with a novel situation. Will I trust this (new) person’s standards or my own?”

A novel situation? Pastor John rarely uses this word, and Sunday it leapt out at me. Yes I knew he meant “new” situation, but the personal double entendre was clearly from the Holy Spirit.

Not long after that, Pastor said, “There’s more going on here than meets the eye. Angels are checking out how you treat the Word.” He’d not mentioned angels in some time. Yet I’d thought of them the night before.  “They’re with you here, in class,” he said, “and outside of class, rubbernecking to see how (what you learn here) is working in your life…”

Then he quoted I Th 5:20, (Wuest translation): “Stop counting as nothing the divine revelations from the pulpit.”

And elaborated: “This is talking about when you know the Holy Spirit is pointing out truth from the Word, but you ignore it. With discernment it’s great to see the truth in a situation, but then it calls upon us to make decision about how to apply it.”

Could the message have been any more pointed to my situation? Yes. It could:

“We are to cultivate the ability and practice of examining everything carefully…to determine what’s true and false.” Examing everything. Carefully.”

Then he had us go to 2 John, pointing out as we turned there, that the various letters of the New Testament are addressed  differently, some to the church in general, some to specific congregations, some to individuals like Titus and Timothy.

This one was addressed to “the chosen lady.”  The chosen lady???

And in it, the Apostle tells her, “Don’t let false teachers into your house.” (vs 10)

“These are people,” said Pastor John, “who go out and try to teach what they think is right but don’t check with the Word. ‘Do not receive him into your house and do not give him a joyful welcome. For the one who welcomes him, participates in his evil deeds.’”

“When you’ve discerned something to be bad in your life,” said Pastor, “you’re to actively hold back from it.”

So. I had my answer. Not the one I wanted, but clearly my answer, nonetheless.

He could have talked about loving the brethren, putting the needs of others before your own, treating everyone in grace, not being legalistic and self-righteous… But he did not. And I do not believe that was “coincidence.”

Slowly Returning

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I think.

At least that’s the plan.

I’ve been “on staycation” for about two months now, with posting here pretty sporadic.

A lot of stuff has happened. Most recently the shingles came back to my eye, and for the last three weeks I’ve been dealing with that, complicated by the fact that I seem to be reacting adversely to the antiviral the doctor wants me to take.

We had a wedding here of one of “our own,”,that is one of the members of our local congregation, a young lady who happened to be one of the students in my Sunday School class, and went on to become one of my dear friends.

Friends and family came in for the event, and such things always cram a lot of things into a very short time, where you spend days after recovering, not only from the simple exhaustion of late nights, longish drives and lots of talking, but having your head and heart full of wonderful moments that surface in a disjointed parade of memories afterward. (See my Introvert post, Static and the Need to Recharge, about needing to “process” the sudden high-volume of “deposits” that have been made into your soul)

At the same time as this was happening, my hubby was away elk hunting, and I had full charge of walking Quigley. (I don’t usually walk him every day — we take turns.) Hubby returned successful, so then we had, well, A LOT of meat to deal with. YAY! (We were completely out of wild game and I detest store-bought hamburger, and am not much fonder of ground turkey…) He did most of the work, but the kitchen and refrigerator were commandeered for about a week, I think, which was… distracting at a minimum.

Then there was the matter of my car failing its emissions test, twice, and various  trips to the repair shop, until finally it was decided that we could get a waiver on the whole thing. And all of this pretty much happening concurrently.

So it’s not really been the most “restful” staycation, and it’s not like I’ve had nothing to do but play… though I have managed a bit of that.  In fact, I actually went on 2 Artist’s dates!  And  yes, a month ago or so, I picked up the next Artist’s Way book, Vein of Gold, and started working through it…  only to stop not far in as the Lord took me off in another direction… but that, I think, is for another post.

In fact, I’ve already written a good deal more than I had thought I would. I just wanted to take a tiny step back toward regular blogging, and here I’ve got a full-sized post already. 🙂

Staycation

Resting: my sketch of our former Redbone, Bear,  asleep

Resting: my sketch of our former Redbone, Bear, asleep

My last post was titled in part,  “Take a Day Off…”

When I wrote it I didn’t realize I was actually going to continue to do it, but that’s what’s happened. Even though I mentioned that I thought the Lord was giving me a vacation — seeing as I’d turned the whole matter of me trying to write and failing, failing, failing, over to Him, and it seemed He was doing nothing, thus it must be a vacation — I guess I didn’t think it would continue to go on. After all, the usual times for a vacation are a week, maybe two. Not a month…

Surely, I thought even as I wrote that last post, I’d been “vacating” long enough  and it was time to get back to work.

Apparently not.  Because I still haven’t been able to get myself to work. I’ve continued to avoid the office and have spent a lot of time reading news and comment stuff on the internet, watching videos on making cards, actually making cards… and just doing the general things around the house and yard that are always there, and could easily take up all my time if I let them.

Internally, however, I continued to fight the whole vacation concept. Or at least to feel guilty about it, as I repeatedly questioned whether I was correctly applying what I’d been learning in Bible class. Maybe I was actually just deluding myself, thinking I could just throw everything out the window like this and and let God do it all. Wasn’t that a bit flakey? After all, as every “Professional writer” knows, if you want to write you must go into the office and force yourself to write. It takes self-discipline, and you must train yourself to do that.  It’s absurd to just “trust the Lord.”

I now think that is the voice of my flesh, which I’ve recently become more and more able to identify. More on this later, but for now though, the fact is, I had already done the “just use self-discipline” thing and it led nowhere.  The only thing left was that I trust the Lord to return the motivation to write, as well as the ideas and the direction the story is to take. Even though He’s taking MUCH longer than I think He should be taking.

Which, of course, means I have to trust Him even more to move me and, as I outlined above, it is very difficult for me to do that. I don’t want to rely on Him. I want to take control and get it done myself.  I have a plan, a timetable that I think is reasonable, and He’s not following it!

Well, yesterday I was doing a search on the Internet for “effects of too many things to do.”  (a subject some friends and I were discussing on Sunday). I didn’t find much on that, but in the course of the search, I did stumble upon an article called, “Recovering from Writer’s Burnout: Steps to Happier Writing.”

Here’s the first paragraph:

Many writers (and other creative people) hit that point eventually: they burn out. They feel tired. They can’t feel any interest in their work, and doing that work becomes harder and harder. “

That was and still is me. Feeling very tired. No interest in the work. I’ve mentioned it before. I kind of like what I’ve done so far, but I can’t think of the right place to go from here, and for some time now it’s all seemed dead. I don’t want to think about it.  When I try, I just confuse myself. Should it be this or that? I can’t decide. If I force the decision I can’t write… Or flip back to the alternative the next day when everything after the bit I’ve written goes blank.

I thought I’d already gone through the whole burnout thing. I thought I’d given myself a break. After all, it’s been six years since I finished The Enclave. Of course, that led right into the caregiving for my mother. And then dealing with her estate and all kinds of family changes — my son leaving home, settling in another state, and getting married, the arrival of our granddaughter… in addition to my own health issues …

All of those things, even the happy events, still intruded into the flow of my writing, sometimes for weeks at a time.  Does that sort of thing contribute to burnout as well? I”m not sure, but I can say from experience that after a while it gets frustrating… I couldn’t remember what I’d decided the last time I’d worked with the material, stuff that had seemed good before the interruption no longer seemed so good… I lost a sense of where I was going exactly…

The article continued in a second paragraph:

“I started to hit the burnout point last year with my freelance writing. Unfortunately, I missed some of the signs and so I continued taking contracts. Eventually I became almost completely burned out — unable to take interest in all but the lightest, most relaxing writing. That’s a terrible place to go if writing is what you’ve wanted to do all of your life.”

Not just wanted to do, but what you’ve actually done. I’ve been writing fiction for over forty years and the drive was always there. Now suddenly, it wasn’t. And since throughout most of that time I believed it was the Lord who was supplying the drive, the desire, the ideas, the guidance… then it must be that for some reason He was withholding it now, and not just something about me. In other words, I don’t think it’s actual “burn out” so much as me stressing out because God hasn’t come through in my time, and so I keep trying to get back in the game when it’s pretty clear He’s been telling me I need to wait.

The biggest reason I can think of for Him to remove the drive, desire and ideas, is to remind me that it really is Him doing it, and not me. Secondary reasons include forcing me to trust Him for all of it and teaching me to put aside the internal shrieking of my control freak sin nature in the process. He’s also making me take a deeper look at ways I’ve always looked at life and self and my work and finding they are not really in line with His ways… Plus, there’s been a huge upheaval and change of direction in how I’m coming to understand the spiritual life overall. And how can one write Christian allegory/analogies if one’s whole perspective on the Christian life is changing?

One of my friends reminded me of the blessedness of winter concept, when the trees are stripped of their leaves and stand bare and gray, seemingly dead. But inside God is doing a work and before long the new life of spring appears…  That He does the same with us.

I know she’s right, and  I think that is what’s happening to me. And part of that includes the fact that God really does want me to have a longer vacation than I think is appropriate.

Because in the above mentioned article, the very first suggestion of what to do for the “burned out” state is “Take a Vacation.”  🙂

Here’s what she has to say:

“There’s one thing that, above all, you should try to do for yourself when you start to burn out. If you can afford to, take a vacation. If you’re still finishing off a contract then take a vacation as soon as it’s over. Be lazy. Sit around the house and read thrillers, mysteries, or something equally pointless and fun. Watch movies. Take lots of walks in the sunshine. Relax. You need to be able to approach the rest of all this [ie, her other suggestions] feeling rested if at all possible.”

So, that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing, even if by default. I haven’t, however, yet allowed myself to read novels, thinking that would be too great a “time consumer”. But having read this, I decided that maybe I really should treat my vacation as a real vacation, so yesterday, I picked up one of the recent Brad Thor novels sitting on my shelf, Full Black, and am now halfway through it! 😀

Update:  I wrote this post in the afternoon, and barely got it done before time for live Bible Class from Lighthouse Bible Church in Florida where Pastor John got up and started talking this very thing!  That we keep thinking there’s something good about us that’s going to get the job done (be more loving, be more self-disciplined) when that’s part of the old self that was crucified on the Cross!  The words and phrases he used were almost direct answers to things I’d thought and wondered about in the course of not just writing the above post, but over many days. It was one of those times when I knew that God was talking directly to me, and reinforcing my conclusion.

Yes, the writing is to come from Him. No, I do not need to try to be “more self-disciplined.” Yes, it is right to wait for Him to lead, and I do know what that feels like. This very post, for example, I believe was the result of His leading and guiding and moving,  because until I started writing it, I wasn’t planning on writing anything at all. I don’t even really know why I accessed my blog in the first place, and initially all I did was check out some of the other blogs I follow. Then suddenly I found myself opening the new post window and the words were flowing.

Here’s a link to the message in case you’re interested. I thought it was pretty phenomenal even aside from the immediate personal connections:

The Activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Church Age believers, part 51