Our Calling is Connected to OTHERS

It’s refreshing to know that God called us to be
connected to others; think of how lonely you would be otherwise!

Your calling, the assignment, purpose, vision or
dream that God has for your life, is connected to other people. It is
impossible to fulfill your purpose in life by yourself. Apart from others, we
cannot succeed in our calling. 
Pastor Rick Warren emphasizes, “Calling and
community go together. You cannot be what God wants you to be…fulfill what God
wants you to fulfill…enjoy your destiny on your own. You have to do it
connected to other people.”

Think about the different parts of your body. An
eye can translate the world into beautiful pictures for your brain to store as
memory. An ear can bring you the sounds of the ocean or the voice of a friend.
A hand can write, fix things, or support a friend. But an eyeball outside of
the socket cannot see. An ear lopped off cannot hear. A hand removed cannot
pick up a child. Apart from the body, each part is worthless—powerless, talentless,
purposeless—because they are not connected. You have to be connected to the
body to fulfill your calling.

There is a similar example in nature. The beautiful
and grand redwoods are magnificent trees that commonly grow to
between 200 and 275 feet tall. The tallest one currently measures 368.6 ft.
And as tall as redwoods are, they have a comparably shallow root system. How is it that they so rarely fall? 
The redwoods’ root systems reach out for
great distances and are intertwined with one another, literally holding each
other up.

We are a church family—God’s family. In order to
reach our full potential, we need to support each other and hold one another up! 

“Brothers and sisters, you are
holy partners in a heavenly calling.”
Hebrews 3:1

# # #
Sandra D. Bricker
is a best-selling and award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy
for the Christian market. Her most popular series (that started with Always
the Baker Never the Bride
) will conclude this spring with Always the
Baker FINALLY the Bride
, which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.

Sandie leads a team of writers in creating the Living It Out daily Bible study for CedarCreek Church. Today’s devotion is based on the Living
It Out study on the importance of community within bodies of believers. If you enjoyed it, feel free to
check out the daily studies by e-mail or audio podcast by clicking HERE.

Evolution Isn’t All Bad

CynthiaRuchti tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark through her novels and
novellas, devotion collections, speaking, teaching, and a history of 33 years
as a radio writer/producer. Her books have been recognized by RT Reviewers’
Choice, Retailers’ Choice, Family Fiction Readers’ Choice, and other honors. Her
novel When the Morning Glory Blooms (Abingdon
Press Fiction) releases April 1, 2013, and has received an impressive 4-1/2 stars AND Top Pick from Romantic Times. In July, her nonfiction project—Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of OtherPeople’s Choices—releases from Abingdon Press Christian Living.
* * *
 “I can’t imagine
this scene any other way.” … “No, I can’t kill off such a beloved character!” …
“Read my lips. I’ll never write historicals.” …“I’ll never
write contemporaries.” … “You’ll never find the word Amish in one of my
novels.”
I
don’t remember saying the words aloud, but the last of the foot-planting fell
this past month when I keyed in the letters A-m-i-s-h
in the final draft of a novel that releases in 2014. I know. It surprised me,
too.
Another
novel, releasing April 1, 2013—When the
Morning Glory Blooms
(Abingdon Press)—could form an Evolution is Not a Dirty Word chapter of a fiction craft
book. In its earliest form, it had one viewpoint character and one timeline—the
late 1800s. It languished that way in the primordial ooze for years. Not quite
whole. Its limbs weren’t fully formed. The character telling her story did a
lot of that. Telling.  But
I couldn’t imagine the book any other way.
Tenacity
is prettier than stubbornness. So I traded up. I let imagination wander far
enough to include a second era, a second point-of-view character. Better. Now
the story could both swim and crawl. It crawled and swam for three more years. But
I wanted it to fly, too.
On
the phone with a writer friend one day, I moaned, “I feel as if it needs a
contemporary element. A third viewpoint character. A third era. That’s crazy.
How could I make that work? But I can’t get away from the feeling that it needs
the contemporary component.”
“Then
do it,” she said.
Evolution?
In the world of writing, it pairs well with creation. The book that started out
as one woman’s story turned into three women’s stories told in three eras. When
I quit fighting the things I said I’d never do, the novel was free to become
something better, richer, deeper, more satisfying—even to me—than its original
version.
 “I’ll never” may be among the most dangerous
words a writer can utter. Stubbornly clinging to an initial concept could cost
the heart of the story that longs to be told.
Swim.
Crawl. Fly. What questions should a writer ask to help a story evolve to its
full potential?

  1. Would
    the story be stronger in a different setting?
  2. Are
    all the secondary characters worth retaining? Are they worth the page space?
  3. Am
    I stubbornly hanging onto a favorite scene, chapter, line that needs to go…or evolve?
  4. What’s
    missing? Am I brave enough to consider something radical?
  5. What’s
    holding it back from soaring?
  6. Have
    I resisted the depth of research it would take to pull the story out of the
    ooze and onto solid ground? Is resisting fair to the story?
  7. Am
    I tapping into the wisdom of others who have the story’s best interests at
    heart—a wise author friend, my editor, my agent, a mentor…?
  8. Am
    I looking at the words I write as if they are untouchable treasures or as tools
    of storytelling? One will make them petrified. The other will make them
    pliable.
  9. How
    far am I willing to let imagination roam in order to discover what the story
    lacks?
  10. Am
    I thinking dangerously about this story, using words like “I’ll never” or “I
    can’t imagine it any other way”?

Just
a few days from the launch of the novel that evolved when I was willing to ask
questions like these, I’m grateful for the friend who challenged, “Then do it.”
I’m grateful for the editor who said, “Go for it, but make sure all the threads
of all three stories are tied up at the end.” And I’m grateful for a God who
isn’t stingy with imagination, a God who decided creativity was one of the
character traits we could share with Him, a God who cared about the story
before I did and wouldn’t let me settle for half-formed.
If
you pick up a copy of When the Morning
Glory Blooms
, try to picture it with any one of the three eras and three
viewpoint characters missing. It wouldn’t be the same, would it?
When
have you waded through a similar process in one of your own projects? How hard
was it to give up the form you thought the story was meant to take in order to
let it find its breath? 
Leave a comment about that process or your thoughts on
these “evolution” questions so we can keep the discussion going, and I’ll enter
you to win an autographed copy of When
the Morning Glory Blooms
.

Now is the time for AGAPE

“The
best use of life is love.
The
best expression of love is time.
The
best time to love is now.”
― Rick Warren
The Greek word Agape is often translated to Love in the New Testament, and the essence
of agape love is self-sacrifice. Unlike our English word Love, Agape
is not used in the Bible to refer to romantic or sexual love, nor does it refer
to close friendship or brotherly love. Agape love is unique and distinguished
by its nature and character. Agape love is the love of God, whose very nature
is love. God does not merely love;
He is love.
Everything God does flows from
His pure and loving heart. His affection for us comes for no other reason
except that it is His nature and the expression of His being. We are the
undeserving recipients upon whom He lavishes His affection. In that same way,
we are called to love others sacrificially.
Loving others takes time and sacrifice.
Jesus gave the parable of the
Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) as an example of sacrifice for the sake of
others, even for those who may care nothing at all for us, or even hate us, as
the Jews did the Samaritans.
Sacrificial love is not based on
a feeling, but a determined act of the will, a joyful resolve to put the welfare
of others above our own. But this type of love does not come naturally to
humans. Because of our fallen nature, we are incapable of producing such a
love. If we are to follow the example of agape, it can only come from its true
source:
Only God can generate within us
the kind of self-sacrificing love which is the proof that we are His children.
And because of God’s agape love toward us, we are now able to love one another.
Ask yourself today whether you’ve
been a free and willing vessel of God’s agape love, and whether you’ve allowed
it to flow out to others. What was the last sacrificial expression you’ve
extended to someone else?
Remember the wave of people who
initiated and encouraged others to follow suit in a trend toward
Random Acts of Kindness? Step
out today and revive that trend. Give yourself the permission to perform five acts
of random and selfless kindness this week. Make it your mission to take the
time and make the sacrifice. As Rick Warren wrote, “The time to love is NOW.”
John 15:10-12 (New Living Translation)
10 “When you obey
my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you
will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is
my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”

# # #

Sandra D. Bricker is a best-selling and
award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the Christian
market. Her most popular series (that started with Always the Baker Never
the Bride
) will conclude this spring with Always the Baker FINALLY the
Bride
, which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.

Sandie leads a team of writers in creating the Living It Out daily Bible study for CedarCreek Church. Today’s
devotion is based on the Living It Out study on the importance of loving others.
If you enjoyed it, feel free to check out the daily studies by e-mail or audio
podcast by clicking HERE

Doing Unto Others

“Put your love where your mouth is.”
“Actions speak louder than words.”
To remain humble and forgiving, to
ask strangers and our enemies to sit and eat at the table that the Lord has
prepared for us is sometimes the hardest – but also the biggest – way to show
God’s love. By serving others, we put our love where our mouth is and show the
world our faith.
If you have a hard time evangelizing – that is,
telling people about Jesus Christ and salvation – show them. Think about the
image of someone with an “I (heart) Jesus” sticker on their bumper but behaving
badly in traffic. It leaves an impression; just not a favorable one.
It’s difficult to live out what we know
Christianity should be about, but that’s what people see. By actively living
our faith, we show others around us the love of Christ.
How do you serve the stranger on the street, the co-worker
you have never gotten along with, even your own friends and family?
In Craig Groeschel’s book, The Christian
Atheist
, he
writes about the many different ways in which we can serve and how service is a
great way to share our faith. He writes, “You don’t have to be a Bible scholar
to take some time to serve… When you serve others in Christ’s name, with no
strings attached, people will notice something is different about you.”
Notice he said serve with “no strings attached.”
It’s as simple as asking your neighbors if they need help with chores or
volunteering at a food pantry or other outreach, without sharing anything
Biblical at that point—just serving them. Then when they ask, “Why are you so
nice?” or “Why are you doing this for me?” you can share the love of Christ!
Galatians 6:10
(New Living Translation) says:
Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity,
we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.
Serving others is a huge way to
share our faith in Christ. By giving our life away, we receive so much more in
return.

  # # #
  

Sandra D. Bricker is a best-selling and
award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the Christian
market. Her most popular series (that started with Always the Baker Never
the Bride
) will conclude this spring with Always the Baker FINALLY the
Bride
, which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.

Sandie leads a team of writers in creating the Living It Out daily Bible study for CedarCreek Church. Today’s
devotion is based on the Living It Out study on the importance of service.
If you enjoyed it, feel free to check out the daily studies by e-mail or audio
podcast by clicking HERE.