Celebrate The Small Victories

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So…here I am. It’s 11:20p.m. and I should have been asleep at least an hour ago. I do need to get up in the morning to work my regular day job, after all. I can’t sleep, because tonight reality finally smacked me across the face. Although the world might not recognize it yet, I’ve officially been granted the title “Published Christian Author”. I’m not talking about a general title for a single blog post, or a few contributing lines to someone else’s project. No friends, God finally granted one of my heart’s deepest desires, by guiding me through the simultaneously tedious and exciting process of starting and completing a book.

Paraclete’s Promise: The Fantastic Fantasies of Timothy” is the realization of a dream come true. You see, I originally wrote the story over ten years ago, long before I surrendered to Jesus. In truth, my writing skill was horrible, my story-telling technique was flimsy and my grammar skills were downright deplorable. But, that didn’t stop me from throwing the story out to publishers. I received so many rejection notices, that  I actually tried to toss the manuscript out. But something kept me from destroying the master file and first print (I actually took a copy to Staples and had them bind it for me). Of course today I recognize that “something” as God’s providence. He knew what he was planning to do in my life all along.

God set this whole thing up from the very beginning. He knew I’d surrender my life to him someday. He knew I’d promise to use my writing talent to serve him. He led me to the wonderful community of Christian writers – Faithwriters. He used them to hone my writing skills through challenges, small contests, positive feedback and amazing relationships with the community’s owners-Mike and Bea Edwards. He knew I’d someday be ready for a real contest with impossible rewards at stake.

Our god is so awesome, he not only gave me an incredible writing victory, he opened a door that I never imagine being able to walk through. God took pieces of nothing and sewed together an opportunity that I could never deserve, especially when there are so many talented and well deserving writers out there. And when the time was right, he made it perfectly clear to me, that I needed to rewrite my original story formally titled, “T.J. And The Magic Box” and change it into a tale that would glorify him throughout its entirety.

For almost six months, I’ve been so focused on seeing the project completed, that I never stopped to consider all the miraculous lanes God opened up for a clear drive toward the goal. I kept working at the project and waiting for the bottom to drop out; waiting for a loophole to open up and swallow my dream; doubting God’s Sovereignty. But in reality…tonight’s reality…I see that he’s bringing his plan together.

To date, I haven’t spent a single dime toward the publication of my book. That’s a miracle all by itself! The contest prize of publication, the fine staff at Xulon Press, the patience and support of my family, the prayers coming out of my church congregation, the subtle inspirations that seemingly appeared out of thin air. All of it was orchestrated by God. I see that tonight. I don’t know what he has planned for the future of this published book, but I trust in him and give exaltation, honor and praise where it is due. God gets all the credit. I simply obeyed his commands and did what he told me to do.

Friends, I celebrate every small victory that led up to tonight. I celebrate God’s guidance in those victories. If you have a dream, don’t ever give up on it. God can pull a miracle from nothing at all. I may not know where he’s taking the next leg of my journey to, but I’m excited to see where I land.

I want you all to enjoy the story God’s put in my heart to write. Check the  link above for the opening chapters. If you like what you see, the book can be purchased on Xulon.com, Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and Apple.com.

The Blessed Victory Into The New Year

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In January of 2014, I said a prayer. Unfortunately I don’t remember the words verbatim, but the gist of it was something like this:

“Lord, let this be the year of ‘The Blessed Victory‘ for my life. May this be the year of breakthrough, prosperity, easy living, and happiness for my family and I.”

After I made that prayer, I got the sense of God answering me. “Okay,” He said. “‘The Year of Blessed Victory’ it is; trust me.”

I once heard someone say, if you really wanna hear God laugh, just tell him what your plans are. I tell you that, just in case you don’t know who God is. He’s all powerful, omnipotent (look it up in the dictionary, kids), kind yet jealous, gentle yet firm, fiercely loving and he’s got a sense of humor.

When I made my plans through that New Year prayer, I had a different perspective on what I actually wanted the year to look like, than the way it actually progressed. In short, 2014 turned out to be the toughest year for my family and I to endure. In fact, I believe it’s been the end of a stretch that began seven years ago, after my Mom passed away from Cancer. I was so mad at the Lord for taking her away. Despite my anger, he called me to him anyway.

Coming to the Lord wasn’t easy because of the lifestyle I wasn’t exactly ready to give up, but he was patient with me. In time, I began to follow him, but I had a lifetime of baggage to unload through the process. In the Christian community, we believe life progresses in seasons. There are seasons of prosperity, season of peace, even seasons of sorrow, loss and sadness. Sometimes those seasons might last a few months, or they can stretch out for a few years. That’s just life: one gigantic roller coaster. My season just so happen to last seven years, during which time, God allowed all sorts of trials to test my faith in him and my resolve in allowing my life to be changed by the truth of his word. The first six years were a culmination of painful lessons and miraculous blessings. God, knowing that I was still a baby Christian, walked me through, holding my hand. But, there comes a time in every man’s life when he needs to find out what he’s truly made of and what he really believes in.

2014 put my faith to the test in ways, I might not have been able to handle in previous years. God will never give you any more than you can handle, but he’ll allow it get awfully uncomfortable, to build and sharpen your faith. I learned true humility. I’ve learned that it is not a sign of weakness to cry out to the Lord in front of your kids. I’ve learned how to pray the God for the miraculous and the mundane. I’ve learned that…there really is a difference between the world of the faithful believer and the world of the non-believer.

I want to spend just a moment on that point, if I may. This is so very important. There was a time when I thought being Christian meant you simply added the words of the bible to the life you already have; that every once in a while, you needed to throw in a “praise Jesus” after a couple of words, just to let people know where you stood regarding religion; that every once in awhile, you needed to go to church, just to get that emotional pick-me-up, from an entertaining pastor. But overall, you really didn’t have to change who you already were. You simply needed to add to it, like learning a new craft. Afterall, we all live in the same world, right?

I could not have been any more wrong. Contrary to popular secular belief, Christianity is not brainwashing. The Lord Jesus knew exactly what he was telling his disciples when he charged them to take up their cross daily, and follow him. Parents, the culture of today is in direct conflict with the teachings of God’s Holy word. Everything about our culture is in direct defiance to what the Lord had intended life to be like.

How many times have you seen a homeless person, and immediately felt the urge to be someplace else? How many times have you seen a wicked celebrity fall from the grace of Hollywood, and thought, “Well, they had it coming anyway.” That’s the world we live in. It’s different than the world God wanted us to be in. The two simply can’t coexist because a house divided cannot stand. A person who is both compassionate and cold at the same time, will always have to deal with some form of torment. You have to be one or the other.

There really are worlds within the world. If you’re not careful about what you’re following, you may find yourself walking through a season of sorrow longer than you’d like. And so it was for me, and my family. On the surface, we may have all looked like we had everything together. But we struggled this past year in ways that would amaze some of our friends and family. There were days, we prayed for the gas tank to make it another few days. There were days of choosing to pay a bill to keep the electricity on for another 10 days, or eating. There were times when fasting wasn’t really on purpose. Your kids eat before you do.

I doubted my writing ability. When you need to make a living, you turn to what you know how to do first. When that doesn’t offer enough, you start to dream. When you dream, you learn to start praying. But, when your prayers go unanswered, you find yourself tested. I was tested a lot this year. In the passed, there were people I could call on for physical help, or secret stashes I could dip into. Not this time. This was the season to believe or not believe.

Somewhere I heard, “To get what you’ve never had, you have to do what you’ve never done.” Now, that saying could go in many different routes. Sure you could brandish a piece and go out and rob someone. No thanks. In my case, I did something I never saw myself as capable of doing on a somewhat long-term basis. I fasted for 21 days. I won’t go into detail with that, because the honor and glory is not mine to be had. All praise is given to the Lord for walking me through that very difficult time, because in the midst of it, I found out what true joy in the Lord looks like. At the end of that period, nothing happened.

Or did it?

In the late November, I got a word from the Lord while I slept.

“Your season is over, son.”

That’s it. I really didn’t think much about it, until I recalled my daughter giving her heart to God in September. That was a huge deal, and though she fights her own personal struggle against the influences of the world, I know who’s walking beside her. There were a few other miraculous occurrences; things that might be explained logically to anyone else. But to my wife and I, we recognized God’s hand working in our lives. And then, on the 19th of this month, God showed up and reminded me of the promise he made back in January.

Despite my doubts on the effectiveness of my writing, I continue to write. I don’t know how to shut it off, so failure is never an option where my writing is concerned. Faithwriters and Xulon Press must be in agreeance because they sent an email to me, announcing that I had just won a publishing package for a book I’ve only written one chapter for! That, my friends, is the blessed victory. It could mean absolutely nothing to anyone who just happened to click on this story, purely for entertainment. But, to me and my wife, it is the beginning of something new and great; something that was promised by the Lord himself.

When I look back on the trials and challenges of not only 2014, but the last seven years, I understand that God needed to take me through some things in order to get me to a place where I would willingly lean on him alone. That’s a good thing, you see. I’m selfish, self-centered, judgmental and sometimes cruel without him in my life. I had to get to a place where I could honestly admit those traits exist within me. But, with him leading me, I am the opposite of them all.

You see that gauge I picked up? It topped out at just over 120. Let’s say the 200 mark is the tipping point between my faith in the Lord and going back to a life without him. It’s a pressure gauge, you see. It tells you just how much you can take before you quit and go back to a life devoid of God’s presence. Now, look at that needle again. Over seven years, that’s how close I came to giving up. I was more than half way there. But God knew me better than I did. He always cheered me on, while I struggled to believe in him through the hard times.

“C’mon son, just a little more. You’ve got this, and I’m still here with you.”

I wouldn’t change a thing. The road ahead is still littered with trash I have to walk through, but I know God is with me. I know he’ll make a way. I know his promises are faithful and true. I know that when times get tough, he will never leave me as long as I believe in him.

The promise of the blessed victory happened, and I didn’t see it coming. 2015 is going to be an exciting year for my family and I. So let me ask you, friend. What are you believing in these days, and what are your expectations for the New Year?