Got Writer’s Block? These 7 Tips Will Help.

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I’m writing this piece because I have writer’s block.

Seriously.

Well… I’m also teaching my kids how to write, so this has been crowding up my brain lately.

“My paper is due tomorrow!”

“I have a sermon to preach!”

“I don’t know how to give this presentation!”

“I haven’t posted for a week! What should I write about?!?!”

“My editor needs this draft tomorrow!”

At some point in life, whether you are a writer or not, you’re going to face that blinking cursor drumming, “Dead-line! Dead-line! Dead-line!”

IT’S… WRITER’S BLOCK. [Cue Beethoven’s 5th]

Continue reading

What’s slinking around in your heart?

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In case you’ve been wondering, I have not forgotten about the GenNext series, nor have I fallen off the face of the earth. I’m currently working on editing some of the tools in the upcoming articles, and waaay behind schedule. I posted the following to our Elihu’s Corner Facebook Page a few days ago, and am sharing it here on the blog for my readers here. This is a short excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.

We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case.

When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated.

On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.

From Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

 

Keep on fighting (day 23 of the #encourage marathon)

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Fight the good fight of the faith.

Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

~ ‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭6:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Welcome to mile marker 23 of the #encourage marathon. (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there is tired of fighting. It might even be you.

We spent three days of the marathon talking about the armor of God:

Once you’ve equipped yourself for battle, it’s time to engage in the fight.

Ephesians 6.12  describes what we are up against:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

As much as I would love to see peace on earth, the cynic/realist/pessimist in me knows that if 1 billion people laid down their arms, there’d be at least 100 people secretly hoarding the deadliest weapons in order to stage a takeover. Satan has no desire for mankind to dwell peacefully together, being the original manufacturer of strife. So, let’s get real, and face the fact that as long as we are alive on this earth, there will be all sorts of wars—wars of words, wars of ideas, wars of conquest, wars of greed, wars to overthrow injustice, wars to resist oppression, and wars to depose dictators.

What battle are we called to fight as Christians? Continue reading

Day 19: My Country

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

Bald_Eagle_Profile_Portrait_2I am thankful to live in the United States of America.

I haven’t had the opportunity to travel all over the world. I  traveled to France for 2 weeks in college (and it was both fun and enlightening.) I’ve always wanted to travel to countries like England, Germany, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Greece, India and Japan, but I have not yet had the opportunity. I love so many things from all over the world—the different foods, the history, the contributions to literature, the accents, dialects, the music and the cultures. I am thankful for other countries too!

Yet, in all this, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the blessings afforded to me by my United States citizenship. These blessings include the following:

Freedom.

While many of our freedoms have been eroded over the past century, the fact remains that I am still free. I can worship without persecution. I can speak my mind about policies and politicians without being tortured or permanently silenced. I have the ability to own a gun to protect myself and my family. I can travel throughout the country without being interrogated. I can participate in the election process. I can even run for office if I am crazy enough to do so. I can choose to pursue wealth or live simply.

I enjoy freedom.

As I stated in my post about military veterans, and other posts about military—I am thankful to the men and women who have fought to keep our country free. This country would not exist if courageous men and women had not put their lives and livelihoods on the line.

Peace.

In my short lifetime, I have not seen war—in all it’s ugliness—on American soil. I have seen men declaring war by flying planes into buildings, but I haven’t actually been in a full scale war zone. In the L.A. Riots, Hurricane Katrina, the Baltimore and Ferguson protests, people attempted to create war zones by rioting and looting, but it was put to a stop. There aren’t bombs dropping overhead. The military don’t patrol the streets with AK-47s or M16s on their shoulders.

I am thankful that my children have not had to witness violence. I am thankful that I don’t live in fear of men beating down my door and using my house as a military quarters.

There is always the potential for peace to be shattered. I know it could be gone in an instant. At this moment in time, all is quiet in my little corner of the country. I am thankful for the peace that I have enjoyed for so many years and that I still have at this brief moment in history.

Beauty.

If there is one thing we are truly blessed with here in the States, it is the vast amount of natural beauty carefully preserved for future generations. People travel from all over the world to visit places like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Alaska, Sequoia and the Rocky Mountains. We are so blessed to have such an abundance!

I will never forget my 3-year old daughter’s exclamation of joy when the Grand Canyon came into view for the first time. Her eyes grew huge and she shouted, “That’s a BIG CANYON!!!!” It’s an understatement, but she in her limited vocabulary she was trying to express how awestruck she was feeling.

The sequoia redwoods—giant trees—invoke similar feelings. (I wouldn’t  want to be near a falling Sequoia tree.) I hope that as my children continue to grow, we will be able to show them the astounding wonders of God’s creation in these strikingly beautiful places.

Imperfection.

The United States is not a perfect country.

Yes. I really said that.

Most of our politicians are corrupt. Many of our citizens are lazy. The ability to reason is a lost art. People care more about the suicide of some fool celebrity than the heroic sacrifice of a soldier.

Nope. It’s not perfect, and I am thankful.

Before you start shouting at the screen, read on…

It’s only natural that we desire a pleasant life. After all, we have to live it. Who seeks out misery? We want our government to be perfectly just and administered by politicians with integrity. We hope for informed citizenry and compassionate society. But remember this: as long as we are here on this earth, there will be corruption, immorality, poverty, sickness and death. As long as Satan roams about this decaying globe, there will never be perfection.

When faced with the foibles of my country, I am forcefully reminded that I am just a traveller on this earth. My true country lies elsewhere.

In Hebrews 11 (the Heroes of Faith chapter), the author talks about Abraham, Noah and Sarah, then remarks:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

~ Hebrews 11.13-16, ESV

long for that country. I ache for that place where the soul doesn’t die. I  yearn to be surrounded by friends of God and join in their songs of praise. I want to know if it is “a far green country under a swift sunrise” as Gandalf describes it in The Lord of the Rings.

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

~ C.S. Lewis

It’s easier to bear with the troubles of the United States knowing that a better country is waiting for me after I die.

For all it’s faults, I am still thankful to live here in the United States of America, and I am thankful to all the men and women who have sacrificed to make it the nation that it is.

Day 4: I am thankful for small pleasures.

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

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“You can never find a cup of tea large enough nor a book long enough to suit me.”

~ C.S. Lewis

On the surface, the above quote almost sounds like insatiable greed, but what I think he meant was, “I love books and I love tea!”

In the United States, we are drenched in luxuries. We have well-insulated homes, small and large appliances, comfortable slippers, soft beds, abundant food, regular entertainment and ready access to supplies. All these things we take for granted and sometimes get a tad miffed when they aren’t readily available. I have observed veterans fresh from the front lines get rather disgusted with people’s obsession over stupid things like long lines or the lack of soy for their latte. These soldiers have gained perspective. Valuable, unique perspective.

Small pleasures are not necessities. Too often we view our large and small blessings as an entitlement. Let’s not fall into that trap! We start by being thankful—especially for the little things.

Here is my short list (in no particular order):

  • a great fiction novel
  • a cup of warm chamomile lavender tea with honey before bed
  • soft ugg slippers on a chilly morning
  • the smell of fresh coffee
  • a freshly printed book
  • beautiful graphic designs
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • sand in my toes at the beach
  • the smell of sea air
  • the early fall
  • red starbucks cups during the holidays
  • iced chai in the summer
  • the laughter of babies and small children
  • being completely surrounded by music
  • driving a manual transmission
  • driving an automatic transmission
  • the view from a mountain top
  • kayaking
  • sunsets
  • writing my thoughts on fresh paper
  • the smell of the desert when it rains
  • a frothy cup of chai
  • doodling
  • the smell of a newborn baby
  • stimulating conversations
  • the smile of an old friend
  • the beautiful sound of a clarinet solo
  • watching my daughter play violin
  • snuggling up to read a good book with my kids
  • holding my kid’s hands to cross the road
  • fresh water
  • singing
  • christmas lights
  • warm summer nights

I am so thankful that God has allowed me to enjoy these things. Some, of course, have greater value thank others (and I am sure they will overlap with other topics over the next several days).

What small delights has God given you? Take a few minutes today and make a list. On days when the world seems gloomy and at it’s worst, take time to thank God for the little things. There are so many who live without even their basic needs like food and clean water.

Let’s be grateful for what we have instead of grumbling about what we lack.

A mere taste of heaven.

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Have you ever performed in a choir, orchestra or wind ensemble? I have done all three. It’s exhilarating. There is nothing quite like the simultaneity of being surrounded by and creating music. The vibrations of tightly tuned harmonies, the pulsating hypnotic rhythms, the pathos, all combine to evoke euphoric delight.

Sadly, the rehearsals, performances, jam sessions, all come to an end. The gloriousness of the experience is inevitably tinged with sadness.

When I was fifteen years old, I went camping with two of my friends. We were on our way to Sequoia National Park, but we made a brief stop on the Central Coast in California. In a high school gym in Morro Bay, California, many fellow Christians had gathered to sing together. Over a thousand people were seated in a full circle around a central podium. The first song leader stepped up to the platform and began to lead everyone in the first song, “Our God, He is Alive.”

Never before, and never since, have I been surrounded by the sound of anything as beautiful as all those voices singing out in four-part a cappella harmony. The sheer volume took my breath away as my voice joined with those around me. No single voice stood out. It was as though we were one voice, united in praise to our awesome and powerful God.

It was a momentary taste, the palest glimpse, of what I imagine awaits us in heaven.

I cannot fathom what heaven will be like, but I imagine it will be unspeakable joy to stand in the presence of the Lord who has loved me forever. What a beautiful sight awaits us, surrounded by those who share in our love for the Lord, as we praise to Him beautiful, resonant harmony.

Life is chock-full of these momentary splashes of pleasure and delight, yet they never seem to sate us. We always crave something more.

C.S. Lewis said it best:

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. 

If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.

Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.

If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.

I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”

~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (emphasis and breaks mine)

“Press on to that country, and… Help others to do the same.”

My purpose here at Elihu’s Corner is to encourage you to press on to know the Lord. Knowing your Creator will give greater joy than any other earthly experience. In fact, those joyful moments will be all the richer. Anything worth having demands effort. A relationship with God is worth every single minute of time and effort we invest in it. Living in such a way as to be with the Lord in heaven is worth every earthly sacrifice. Our small glimpses of heaven and the accompanying craving for more is not meant to harm us. It is intended to spur us on to what is purely perfect.

Several months ago, I had a discussion with a young man about the Christian life. He considered the phrase “enduring to the end” too miserable, so he always replaced the phrase with “enjoy to the end.” I’m not sure what my face reflected, but my heart twisted with sadness. I replied, as gently as I could manage, “What of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Paul, Peter, the early Christians and Jesus himself?” Did they “enjoy life” in the way we think of enjoyment? Many suffered repeatedly. Jeremiah didn’t enjoy being thrown in a pit or watching the Jews self-destruct. These people possessed the lasting joy of the Lord, not the passing pleasures of earth. They endured; I don’t exactly think they ‘enjoyed.'”

If we aim for earth, we will miss heaven. There is so much more to life than mere sensational enjoyment!

The Hebrew writer, when talking about the people of faith said,

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 

For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 

And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 

But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. 

Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”

Hebrews 11.13-16, NKJV (read full chapter by clicking here).

Are you a traveling foreigner or a citizen of the world? Do you seek pale imitations of joy or the lasting satisfaction of being in Christ?

It’s easy to get bogged down in the heartaches and pleasures of what we see, taste, touch, hear and feel. Don’t settle for what is easy. Press on to attain that which has value!

Paul wrote the following to the Philippians:

“…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way…”

Philippians 3.13-15 (read full chapter here.)

We have something far better waiting for us than this life. We have a “why” to live for no matter how bad things get. We have a beautiful country waiting for us that is far better than what we see here. When you get those small tastes of heaven, give thanks and glorify the Lord.

We have hope. And the hope we have in Christ does NOT disappoint.

Press on to know the Lord.

Press on towards that far distant country.