Thursday, February 16, 2012

Father Knows Best (No, really, He does.)

Ever had a dream that didn't come true?
A vision that failed to come to pass?
Plans that never materialized, in spite of your best efforts?
I have.
(If you haven't we all want to know your secret formula for success!)

Despite their colonial wardrobes and really awesome hair, Seren and Finley, the main characters in Gina Welborn's debut novella "Sugarplum Hearts" are just like us ... people with dreams and plans for their futures. Finley, the hero, has a plan for becoming a successful broker of goods, but he's thwarted at every turn. Heroine Seren knows her candies will provide a living for her, if she can just get past the discrimination and superstition and sabotage.

These are sugarplums... for the uninitiated, like me!

At some point, Seren and Finley will have to ask themselves, "is the way I'm going about this really God's plan?" And isn't that a question we all need to ask ourselves? After all, the Lord told the prophet Isaiah:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Isa 58: 8-9 NKJV

What we come up with isn't necessarily in agreement with God's thoughts, or in line with God's ways. Even the most well-meaning, pious, devout Christians can find themselves fighting for causes or agendas that later turn out to be thoroughly contrary to the will of God. The lesson? No matter how close something is to our hearts, we have to be willing to submit it to God's inspection according to His word and His character. 

In Sugarplum Hearts, Seren is something of a control freak (Gina can tell me if I'm wrong there). In her attempt to overcome a perceived lack of security in her unsettled childhood, she has reverted to a way of life many of us have adopted: ordering our own steps. The problem? When we order our own steps we tend to trip over the Lord's steps for us, prepared before the foundation of the world.

In the same way, Finley (being a man's man) longs for independence and freedom and to conquer uncharted territory, to make his own way and a name for himself. The problem with that? Superimposing our vision onto God's vision and plan can cause blindness to the things that God is doing FOR us.
Beware Of Orcs

It's not all that difficult to submit to God and consecrate our lives to Him when everything around us is going our way. It's when the deepest desires of our hearts, the longings and needs that are sometimes hard to verbalize, are threatened that we are tempted to snatch our little day planners out of God's hands and begin filling in the blank spaces with things that seem good to our natural minds.

Custom Moleskine Planner & iPod touch
Confession time: I walked past our local cafe today and saw a help wanted ad in the window for "experienced kitchen help." Dear hubby has been out of work now for a little over a month, and my part-time job at the newspaper is not exactly sufficient for our household bills. Temptation struck with a vengeance, speaking as "the voice of reason": Quick, run in there and apply. Sure, you have NO kitchen experience outside of your own home, and the pay is probably less than minimum wage, but...

Fortunately, while I waited in line at the pharmacy the voice of the Lord spoke up on the inside. (Sometimes waiting in line is a blessing in disguise.)
"Did I tell you, call you, inspire you, or otherwise direct you to apply for a job in the kitchen at the local cafe?"

"Um. No, Lord. Not that I'm aware of."

"Do you trust Me?"

"Yes, Lord."

"Then throw that idea out the window. That's not your job, that's someone else's job, set aside for them."

"Thank you, Abba." *sigh*
Ever been there? As readers of inspirational fiction, we should be aware by now that the moment a character tries to save him or herself from impending doom, he or she is about to make a terrible mistake that will likely take the rest of the story from which to recover. (I'm quite sure there's a formal literary term for that moment of lousy decision-making in a novel, but I don't know what it is. Dina?)

happy endingThe reason (IMHO) most of us read inspy fiction is because we are (almost) always guaranteed a happy ending. Eventually, with God's help, the hero and heroine find their way out of the mess they made of things and sail/ride/fly/swim/dance off into the proverbial sunset. Ahhhh. We close the cover of the book with a smile. And face our lives again.

It's important — no, crucial — for us to know that with God's help, we, too, will recover. God has a happy ending for us, good plans for us, and a way out of every mess... I copied Paul's words to the Corinthians this week and posted it on my desk organizer where I can see it again and again:

We don't want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn't think we were going to make it. We felt like we'd been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally — not a bad idea since he's the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he'll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing.
2 Cor 1:8-11 (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

The scripture Gina used in the opening pages of Sugarplum Hearts is 1 Peter 5:10. I looked it up while writing this post and discovered words almost parallel to those from 2 Corinthians. They gave me courage, as I pray they do for you!

Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. 10 The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ — eternal and glorious plans they are! — will have you put together and on your feet for good. 11 He gets the last word; yes, he does.
1 Peter 5:9-11 (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

What's more comforting than knowing God gets the last word? Not much, because His word is always for our good!

Easy question: Have you ordered your copy of Highland Crossings yet?
Hard question: When things are hard, what do you do to keep your mind on track with God?

About the Author: Niki writes fiction, blog posts, articles in the local newspaper, grocery lists, and Facebook status updates. She can be found at her own blog, In Truer Ink, in addition to posting here. She was a 2009 finalist in the Faith, Hope, and Love "Touched by Love" contest.


  1. Niki is right, of course, you all need to get this book.

    And, I have to admit that I wrote down something you said, Niki, about that poor choice moment (a little bell went off).

    When things are hard, it's easy for me to keep my mind on God and our conversation going because I'm generally carrying on (on the inside) like a baby. Begging. God you gotta help me out here, show me what to do...
    Is it any wonder God hasn't put me on the easy track yet? (Because I tend to wander off when things are easy!)

    We had this conversation (I guess it was part of the sermon?) last week that we sometimes have to just take the plunge and act. We can't always stop and pray about a decision for days before we have to make it. Sometimes we just have to trust that we've 'done the prep' already. That's very freeing.

    If we are in the habit of walking with God, we don't have to stop and take a new path looking for His guidance. I know you are in the habit of listening, Niki, because you heard the no, quickly and clearly.

    not that the image of you flipping eggs at 6am wasn't amusing...

  2. Hmm...fatal flaw...Achilles heel? I think you hit it on the head, Niki. It's not about just passively trusting God or about steamrolling ahead with our own plans. It's about learning to know his voice and submitting to his plans for our lives.

  3. Mmm, that's good, too, Deb, "trusting that we've done the prep already." That's a really hard one for me, because I have this tendency to think that whenever anything difficult comes up it's my fault, and I try to go back to the beginning and start all over, which is futile and a waste of time. Sometimes trouble IS the result of our own choices, but often it's just part of the process of living, and we can use it, no matter where it came from, to grow stronger in our walk with Him.

    Heheheheh... yes, somehow imagining myself in a grease-splattered apron in a hairnet at 6 a.m. solidifies my sense that God did not tell me to go that direction!

  4. thanks for the reminder to trust God and know He has our best interests already planned for and taken care of.

    i'm guilty of derailing said God plans with my own "better" solutions...(yeah, those "solutions" didn't work out so great). This post is a nice kick in the keister (a good thing, btw) to help keep me on track and of the same mindset of God.

  5. Excellent, Dina. I didn't even think about the other side of that ditch while writing this, but it's true, God doesn't want us turning "que sera, sera" into our theme song, either. Passive faith is ineffective faith. Good point!

    Knowing His voice and following it is the key to everything, really. If we're listening, I believe he can/will direct us out of harm's way, out of strife, into peace and satisfaction, etc...

  6. Hi DebH! Feeling that same pain in the keister myself. That's the "fun" part about writing faith posts and devotionals... the writer gets the realignment first. : )

    Remembering that He has our best interests at heart is SO important in trusting His lead in this dance of faith!

  7. There is nothing like a crisis to get your mind focusing on God. A crisis happened to us in mid October of 2011. My husband lost his job of 19 1/2 years and no unemployment benefits. We were in shock. We tried not to panic..that didn't work. For a few days...well more like several weeks we were beside ourselves. Sometimes I couldn't even pray. This is when others were praying on my behalf. Soon God's promises to never leave nor forsake us started to come into play. We drew nearer to God and amazing things began to happen. Does my husband have another job with benefits? No, but he does have a fill in job right now with no benefits. God is providing and we are doing o.k. We do not have any medical insurance but we pray that God will keep these old bodies healthy!

    Judy B

  8. Judy, My heart goes out for you. I've lost my job but I have health insurance. Yet I do know what it's like to feel so unglued that you can't pray. Thank God for those he sets around us!

    My pastor reminded us last night of the importance of even our weakest (feeling) prayers, and not to feel that someone else's are any more 'better' or important than ours. God listens to our heart wherever we are in our walk with Him.

  9. Oh, wow, Niki! Yes, Seren is a bit of a control freak . . . in what she's able to control in her life.

    I can see how some easy it is to say "I'm waiting on the Lord" and literally do nothing but wait.

    But the sun is gonna rise tomorrow and the next day and the next. Do something. And listen to God's directing.

    Ilove your story about the kitchen job. While not faced with the tempation of working in a kitchn, I've been there. Sometimes I've listen to the Spirit saying, "Gina, don't." Other times I scramble, strive, and grasp to conclusion myself, a la Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar.


  10. Oh, Judy, I feel your pain.

    Last week my FIL gave him his kindle because he got an i-pad. Well, on his kindle was a copy of Beth Moore's Get out of that Pit. Now I haven't read beyond the intro, but just in the intro something stood out to me.

    Moore told the story of a meet-and-greet in which several fans shared prayer requests. One lady's pastor husband had been "invited out of the church."

    I probably shouldn't have laughed when I read that but I did. So when hubby and I were enjoying our V-D lunch, I shared that quote with him and said, "That's what I'm going to tell people now instead of saying you were asked to resign."

    "invited out of the church"

    Anyhoo, Judy, you're right about God providing for needs. Thank you so much for sharing with us. :-)

  11. Ah, Judy, thank you for sharing your story! I know what you mean about needing the prayers of others to buoy us up. Thanking God with you for your hubby's fill-in job and for the right job with benefits coming his way soon!

    We haven't had health insurance in 13+ years. Just too costly. We've clung to Psalm 103, "bless the Lord, o my soul, who daily loads us with benefits." He's kept us covered, and I believe He'll do the same for you in the interim.

  12. Yep, Gina, the Abraham/Sarah/Hagar debacle is a classic example of this principle. And the whole world has been affected by their choices... scary thought.

    Love the "invited out of the church" quote. Will have to share that with some friends who had a similar experience. I've also heard this one:
    "They gave us the left foot of fellowship." *grin*

  13. Great post, Niki. Ah yes, I've played the Abraham/Sarah/Hagar card far too many times to count. I give things to the Lord, then I take them right back. I'm going through something like this right now.

    When will I learn? Things never go as well when I grip them as they do when I let God do what He wills.

    Oh yes, I have my copy of Highland Blessings right here. Love it.

  14. Susie, THAT is the question... when will we learn?
    I like to think our heroes and heroines learn their lesson the first time, unlike us.

  15. Great post, Niki. Seems like I need this particular reminder continually!

    Yes, I got my copy of Highland Crossings! (e-version anyway!)

  16. Me too, Lisa! It's a constant struggle.

    I got the Kindle for my iPhone version of Highland Crossings.

  17. Wahoo! I love all the different versions available. When I was at Wal-Mart tonight, I saw a copy of Highland Crossing on the shelf. Sweet!!!

  18. Niki, great post as usual. Oh, and I knew it was you!

    I have a constant struggle with this as well. You give such relevant reminders and I always look forward to what you have for us next. Thank you!

  19. Gina, that is SOOOOO cool! Years ago I had a dream (seriously) that I walked into Walmart and there were Christian books and music and T-shirts on the shelves. A few years later, it happened! How awesome is that?

  20. LOL, Suzie, I love that you recognize my posts! : ) That blesses me more than you know!


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