Monday, January 28, 2013

Faith, hope and love...

A long time ago, when I was a teenager, I had such a faith-love-hope necklace that I wore without realizing what it really meant. Maybe someone gave it to me, to be honest, I don't remember... Faith, hope and love... the conclusion of the 13th chapter in the first letter to the Corinthians.

These three elements keep coming back throughout the Bible and not too long ago my eye fell on a scripture that clearly mentions all three. Paul wrote a letter to the believers in Thessaloniki and in his introduction he says: We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3). Beautiful, isn't it?

Paul has a tendency to write really long sentences, and sometimes that causes us to miss the point he wants to make. It often helps me to separate his sentences in small portions, a kind of schematic version of what he wants to say. I noticed when I read like that, the words stick with me. Yeah, I personally find it easier to learn with bullets, numbers and a,b,c's :) His introduction teaches me the following (and I hope you will see it too):

  1. My faith must produce work. Saying that I believe in God, means nothing if I have no fruit to prove it. The devil believes in God too. Faith produces works. James 1:22 says: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
  2. My love must result in labor. In other words, the godly love that the Holy Spirit produces in my life should prompt me to act. This is not the cheap 'love' version the world promotes, wherein we LOVE pizza, the weather, the girl next door and the Lord... all in one word. No, this is supernatural love, the kind that prompts us to love our enemies and to be kind to the ones that are unlovable.
  3. My hope inspires endurance. The hope I have in Jesus Christ inspires me to go on where others stop. It inspires me not to give up and not to whine when things don't go my way. My endurance tells others something about the God I love.
Faith, hope and love... a marvelous theme to think about and act upon this week. Does this help you?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Interview with Cecelia Lester

I am delighted to host an interview with fellow blogger Cecelia Lester. She writes from her heart on her blog Following My King and I am happy and thankful that she graciously agreed to answer the questions I emailed her. Let's get to know Cecelia a little better...

Please, introduce yourself… anything special we need to know about Cecelia Lester?
Hello Marja, Thanks for having me on your blog. I am happy to be here.  My name is Cecelia Lester. My dad gave my mother a lapel pin that was a little Dutch girl with blonde braids. He called it ‘Cecelia.’ Hence, my mother chose to name me that. I am an encourager, it’s one of my spiritual gifts. One of my local friends sent me a card reminding me. I have a few bad habits that I am trying to break. I am a pack rat. I am easily discouraged by people; but I get my encouragement from Jesus. I am married to my husband,Jim, for 44 years. We have a grown son who lives in Kansas.

How and when did you start your blog?
In planning for the presentation of one of my plays for Good Friday 2007, I was talking to our pastor. I told him I wanted to share my writing with others. He suggested that I start a blog. My first attempt wasn’t very good. I tried to make my blog work on the first site but in July 2008 I moved Quiet Spirit-following my king to Blogger. 

What is your drive behind blogging? What do you hope to accomplish?
My mission statement says: “Quiet Spirit writes with the focus to minister to those who hurt, to them who search for God, and those who wish to have a closer walk with Jesus.”

Your word for 2013 is GRACE. Any reason why you picked that?
Last fall, I reviewed a book by Max Lucado, GRACE: more than we deserve-greater than we imagine. I fell in love with the concept. Several years ago, the church I was in studied Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace? From time to time I need a refresher course in the basics of my beliefs.

You live in Indiana. Please tell us, fellow bloggers, why we should come and see your state.
Our state park system is wonderful. We have park land set aside at different locations throughout the state from Indiana Dunes in the northwest to Clifty Falls in the southeast. Our Indianapolis Motor Speedway presents the Indy 500 the end of May and the Brickyard 400 the end of July or first of August. The fall is a beautiful time of the year in Indiana. The leaves dress themselves in reds, yellows, and golds .

Top three on your ‘places-to-see list…
1.) New England, 2.) Mount Rushmore and 3.) Yellowstone or Carlsbad Caverns (Yes, I like to travel.)

If the whole world could see your bumper sticker, what would it say?
“What would our world look like if we all followed the Golden Rule?”

Do you have any authors or specific books that have been an inspiration to you?
Having worked in a library for a few years, I became interested in several authors: John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks, James Patterson, Beverly Lewis, and Janet Evanovich. (I started reading John Grisham before I went to work at that library.) The first Christian author I read was Catherine Marshall. I have read most of the Left Behind series by Tim La Haye and Jerry B. Jenkins I have on my desk another book by Max Lucado. On my coffee table I have two books by Lauraine Snelling, Ruby and Pearl.

Any words of encouragement to us bloggers?
It is a privilege to read your blogs. It is an honor to become friends with a lot of you. Keep up writing your blogs. 

Thank you Cecelia, for taking the time to tell us a bit more about yourself, your writing and your influences. We truly appreciate your quiet spirit!
Cecelia can be found here:

Website: Quiet Spirit
Weblog: Following My King
Cecelia also contributes a weekly column at Live as if...

Monday, January 21, 2013

What is the longing of your heart?

Have you spotted any attractive and desirable donkeys in your town lately? Probably not, although... I just came back from a short mission trip to Macedonia and there I saw a lot of donkeys. They were carrying heavy loads of firewood, while their owners guided them on the way home. In many parts of the world donkeys are still desirable means of transportation.

So, what's up with donkeys? Well, in my latest book My Neighbor's House I have taken a closer look at the tenth Commandment, yeah... the one about desiring someone else's house, wife or cattle. This Commandment tells us not to desire the wrong things. The most logical next question would be, “So how then do we desire the right things?” After all, we don’t really want to go through life with just a short list of do’s and don’ts as if we were programmed robots. As intelligent beings, we prefer explanations and reasons; surely the Bible must have an answer for us.

The first thing I noticed when studying this subject was that the apostle Paul wrote extensively about it. It almost seems like a war was constantly going on in him between good and bad desires, spiritual and natural desires. His writings were based on his personal experiences. He says in Romans 8:5, Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. His words should trigger the evaluation of our own lives. It is one thing to say we do not desire someone else’s stuff, but what do we desire? What is the longing of our heart? Are we happy and content with life? What does it mean to live in accordance with the Spirit, and what does the Spirit desire, anyway?

Both the Old and the New Testament talk about the desires of our human nature. The teaching of the Tenth Commandment is simple; don’t desire anything that is not yours. The teaching of the apostle Paul in the book of Romans goes beyond that restriction; make sure you set your mind on what the Spirit desires. It is clear that the instruction for us New Testament believers goes further than a simple prohibition; it urges us to seek the blessing behind it.

I remember when I was in high school, and at the beginning of each new semester we would receive our class schedule as well as class rules and restrictions. At first sight it seemed nothing but a set of instructions and regulations that would make our lives as students miserable. But then we learned that there was also room for a school dance, movies to watch, and field trips to make, which surely made life in school more pleasant. Learning and enjoying went hand in hand. This is how it often works with God’s Word. The Bible contains many laws, rules, and regulations—whatever you would like to call them. But that is not all there is, certainly not! The Bible contains promises, blessings, and insights, as well. When God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, He didn’t send him down the mountain in a hurry. He spent a long time talking with Moses and gave him various moral and religious laws, laws of justice and fairness, and even laws of healthcare. 

Do you see His commandments as too hard, too complicated, out-of-date, not relevant or are you curious to find out more about the spiritual principle behind them?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Restrictions indicate opportunities

Dutch bicycle
My mother, who is now eighty years old, is in good health. She still rides her bicycle to church and walks to my house for coffee. Well, not this week ;) because we have tons of snow blocking all traffic. Years ago she lost most of her eyesight, so she cannot read small print or do cross stitch. However, she does not focus on what she cannot do; she focuses on what she can do!

This perspective is the main thought behind my book series on the Ten Commandments. The commandment not to desire our neighbor’s house, for example, doesn’t put a ban on human desires; it gives us the opportunity to steer our desires in another direction. Therefore, as in the other books in this series, I am never focusing on the negative command (don’t do this) but on the positive urging of God’s Spirit, who will always guide us in what we can do and should be doing.

In the Today’s English Version (more commonly known as the Good News Bible) that I often use, the word covet is replaced with “desire.” The Tenth Commandment, as described in Exodus 20:17, simply says, Do not desire another man’s house; do not desire his wife, his slaves, his cattle, his donkeys, or anything else that he owns. At first sight this commandment looks like an easy one to understand. Just keep your thoughts and hands off of other people’s belongings, and you will be fine. When, however, we seriously think about such a moral code, a thought arises. If we are not allowed to desire stuff that belongs to someone else, we certainly must be allowed to desire certain things that don’t belong to anyone necessarily, which tells me there are right and wrong desires.

That makes sense, doesn’t it? If the Bible tells us not to do the wrong things, it will surely teach us how to do the right things. Restrictions indicate opportunities. My mother knows this as no other. Disabled people often understand this best because they learned the hard way. Certainly we can learn something here as well...

In my latest release My Neighbor's House, as well as in my previous books, I want to offer a helping hand in reading and interpreting the commandments (which we often see as restrictions) in relation to what the Holy Spirit is saying (which is often very liberating). Hopefully this will enable us to look beyond the commandments. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:6, The written law brings death, but the Spirit gives life. He knew this like no other. A written law can be kept or broken; a spiritual law will teach us something. In case of the Tenth Commandment, the Holy Spirit will show us what is behind that law and will make us understand the purpose. The Holy Spirit will teach us a valuable principle about desires.

Please don’t just look at God’s commandments as a written law but as a spiritual law that will bring us to a higher and healthier level of living. I pray that as individuals, as a church AND as a nation we will grasp this!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Blogging buzz...

The beginning of a fresh new year, what a great time for a blogging buzz... I have gathered some news items about books and blogs and writing :) I hope you enjoy it.

New release
Today, January 8th 2013, is the release date of my latest book My Neighbor's House. It is the fifth book in my series about the Ten Commandments in the 21st century. If you have read some of the previous books in this series, you will certainly enjoy this one. If you have never read one of my books, well... this might be the right time to start :) In My Neighbor's House I offer an in depth look at the 10th commandment. As in the other books the emphasis is not on keeping the commands, but on living them. It is one thing to say, “Oh, I don’t envy my neighbor, his house, car, or wife. I don’t desire what someone else has.” But come to think of it, what do you desire? What are the desires of your heart? Are you passionate for the right things?

Blogging goal
I didn't really come up with a motto for 2013, but I have picked (again) two words: Share & Connect. Those two words are part of my blogging goal for this year. I want to continue to share fresh insights on ancient truths with you. I can only hope and pray that my fresh approach towards God's Word will encourage and inspire you and most of all: make you grow. It is also my goal to connect more bloggers, writers and readers with each other, simply because it is not good for (wo)men to be alone! It is my plan to host some interviews, highlight interesting blogs, and promote new writers. I promise to keep my blog posts short.

Guest post
This week I am a guest over at Lynn Mosher's site: Devotionals that encourage. Lynn is a doll, as most of you know :) and she offered me some writing space on her website to introduce my new book, My Neighbor's House. I am very grateful for her generosity and hospitality. This is exactly what I want to do in 2013: share & connect! Helping each other to get the word out, inspiring each other to keep going forward and encouraging each other to keep the faith. So, for more news about my latest release, please visit Lynn and once you're there, don't forget to give her a thumbs up for her wonderful writing work!

Fellow blogger Diane Estrella is still doing a giant meet & greet over at her site. She has made room for bloggers and authors to introduce themselves. You will probably recognize many names from the Christian blogging world on her list. It is a great way to find fellow bloggers and to get links to other blogs. Diane is also forever hosting give away's and promoting good stuff. She calls her blog PR friendly. Don't miss it!


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New beginning

Therefore, if anyone is united with the Messiah,
he is a new creation - the old has passed;
look, what has come is fresh and new!

2 Corinthians 5:17 (Complete Jewish Bible)