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Remember, I have moved my book reviews to their own blog. Tracy's Book Nook is now active.

Wednesday, May 19

Confessions of a Desert Dweller

I am a desert rat. That is to say, I grew up in the Phoenix area and have spent most of my life here. In the dry, hot, dusty desert. Many people say they can't see beauty in the desert. Not me though. I think the desert can be quite beautiful. Beautiful, mysterious, treacherous and deadly. Very deadly.

Because I have spent most of my life in the area that is known as the Sonoran Desert, I have a fair amount of knowledge and respect for the desert. I know a bit about the types of critters that abound in the desert, the weather that is common to the desert, and basically, how to survive in the desert. There are three things crucial to survival in the desert – shelter, food, and most importantly, water. With the intensity of the heat, sun and dryness of the desert, all three are critical. A person will not last long without any of these truly life-saving items, but most especially water. There's no need to fear the desert if you know, have, and utilize, what is needed to survive.

While I've been talking about the physical desert, the same can be said of the spiritual desert. For some time now, I have been in the desert. I have been wandering lost and alone in a spiritual desert that has been dry, intense and void of life. It's been a long journey, and at times I wondered if I would make it. Or would I, like the Israelites before me, perish before I got to the Promised Land?

I'll admit it; there've been times in my Christian life that I've smugly wondered what was wrong with those people. After all, they were God's chosen people! He delivered them from captivity and led them in the way they should go, amid signs and wonders, toward the Promised Land. So, He hung out with just Moses for a bit on Mt. Sinai , that didn't mean He'd abandoned them. Why'd they have to make that stupid golden calf idol? What happened to their faith?

Boy, have those thoughts come back to bite me in the backside! No, I didn't make a golden calf to worship, but that doesn't mean that I didn't lose faith either, because I did. I came to believe I was all alone, that God had abandoned me and that I would die in the desert, having never made it to my Promised Land (if there actually was such a thing).

But you know what? I'm coming out of the desert. I am no longer desert dwelling. And I can see that God neither turned His back on me, nor abandoned me. And like the good Father He is, He lovingly showed me what I did wrong.

I know what is needed to survive in the physical desert (water, food, shelter) and I know that knowing about them isn't good enough, I have to use them. It's the same with the spiritual desert. I know that to survive in a spiritual desert, these things are of utmost importance . . . reading my Bible, prayer and worship. But knowing and doing are two very different things.

I didn't read my Bible. I stopped - completely. I had no interest in it. It wasn't exactly out of rebellion, but rather, when I tried to read my Bible, I felt as if all the promises, all the encouragement, all the love was for everyone else, not for me. Honest! I understand that I (we) have an enemy who is waiting desperately for an opportunity like that, to whisper in my ear, you are nothing, you are worthless, this Book is not for you. But understanding this with my head and feeling it with my heart are two very different things.

I didn't pray. Why would I? After all, I felt as if my prayers were unimportant, wrong and falling on deaf ears. It had been a few years since my prayers were answered the way I thought they should be – whether the prayers were for me, someone else, or a broader situation. I wondered how could I have such a track record of praying wrong? It got to the point that I wouldn't pray for someone because I didn't want to "cause" them to not get what they wanted. Of course, I knew that I didn't actually have that kind of power, but understanding with my head and feeling it with my heart are worlds apart.

I didn't worship. Well, that's not completely true. Like water in the physical is needed more than anything else, and even a small amount will carry you along, worship in the spiritual works the same way. I didn't choose to worship because I never felt like I had it in me to do so. But I did. Even though my flesh was weak and weary, my spirit responded to promptings of worship in church, on the radio and on my Ipod. And those moments, when my spirit responded in spite of me, I was sustained. It got me through. God is wonderful and amazing and He deserves my worship, no matter what I'm going through, but I sort of forgot that. How like Him though to prompt my spirit, with His Spirit, to do the one thing that will carry me through.

What my spirit knew was that in worship, it wasn't about me, but about Him. Worship is about who God is, and who He is doesn't change, no matter where we are or what we're going through. Circumstances can't stand in the presence of God, the Creator of the Universe. We worship God because He is worthy of our worship, but it's for us too. It strengthens us, builds our faith, lifts us up and encourages us. It helps us to go on. Just like we need water to survive in the physical, we need worship to survive in the spiritual. That's true whether we're in the desert, the valley, the Promised Land, on the mountaintop, or somewhere in between. Have you had your worship today?

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. ~ Psalm 100

Monday, May 17

To Begin Anew

It has been so long since I’ve actually written a blog post, I almost feel as though I should begin with by introducing myself. How about just an update? For those of you who’ve been reading my blog for only the last six to nine months, it may seem as though book reviews are all I do. That isn’t truly the case. For those of you who’ve missed my actual writing, I’m pretty sure it is back now.

First, I had decided to use a pen name for my writing and online presence, and had some really good reasons for doing so; it was interesting, fun and security-minded, which I thought was wise, in this open-information age we live in. The one reason I never acknowledged to myself, much less others, was that a pen name was different. It belonged to someone else. A writer. Someone with talent, confidence and purpose. Someone not me.

But alas, God spoke to me about that (as He will do when allowed), and quite directly told me that if my real name wasn’t good enough, no pen name in all the world would ever be good enough. Ouch. See, the name was not the problem, my perception of myself was (and is) the problem. So now, He and I are working on that. And I have returned to using my real name, because according to God, it (and I, by the way) is good enough.

Second, the reason I have written nothing except book reviews for the last half a year or longer, is because I haven’t had the words. Now, those of you who know me personally may laugh, because the idea of me not having words is actually pretty funny. But what I mean is this, when I write, my words are not my own. When I write, the words that are transferred from my mind, to my fingers, to the keyboard, then the screen, are really the words God gives me. In truth, they are His Words.

The reason I haven’t had words to be able to write is because I have been isolated. I have been distant from God, wandering around in the desert (which felt an awful lot like Hell), desperately putting one foot in front of the other to just keep going. In this awful place I experienced the weight of depression, oppression, and self-pity. I allowed anger and frustration to rule in my life. Sounds like a great place to be, right? I have not experienced darkness and heaviness like since before I became a Christian eleven years ago.

The good news is, I’m back! I have my energy, my zest, my enthusiasm, and most importantly, my faith back. The one blog post I’ve written so far in 2010 was called I Will Not Grow Weary. In it, I spoke a bit of what I’d been dealing with, and how I felt that my theme verse for this year (personally and on my blog) was from Galatians 6:9, And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap a harvest of blessing if we do not give up. But I was weary, and I almost gave up…

But God! I love way that sounds! But God would not give up on me, and He wouldn’t let me give up on me, or Him, either. It didn’t matter what I was feeling, God came along, and He held me, and He lifted me up, He comforted me, and strengthened me, and He brought me through. Yes, I was battered and bruised, but I made it through. But God wasn’t finished… He’s showered me with love, put a song in my heart, filled me with hope and if that wasn’t enough, He’s given me words! Because once again, I’m aware that my words are not just for me, and He will accomplish His purposes with them.

My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it. ~ Isaiah 55:8-11

In closing, I excited to be able to begin anew. I have two new blog posts that are coming soon. In them, I will expand on what I’ve alluded to here. I will also continue doing book reviews, but will probably not do as many. All book reviews will state that in the title, whereas a normal blog post will merely have the title. There may be some aesthetic changes to Seed Thoughts, but for the most part it will remain the same. I’m so glad to be back and look forward to spending time here with you all again!

Sowing Seeds,