Moving To A New Address

I’ve set up a website and will now be posting to the website blog. If you’re a subscriber, I’d appreciate it so much if you’d move over to my new location. You’ll find me at http://www.maryhamiltonbooks.com/

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Relax.

I love it when God surprises me with new understanding of a familiar verse. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” The King James Version uses the term “very present help” I’d always taken this as a time related term, meaning God is “always” present to help us when we need it.

Recently I looked up the Hebrew meaning of “ever” and found it really denotes a quantity. The BlueLetterBible.com defined it as exceeding, abundant.

In light of that, let me rephrase this verse. God is our refuge and strength, an exceeding, abundant present help in trouble. When we’re in trouble, God is all there. It may not feel like it when we see those waters roar and foam and the mountains quake and fall into the deepest part of the sea. But God is there in full force. Exceeding. Abundant.

Understanding this truth makes it easier to obey verse 10. “Be still, and know that I am God.”

That “Be still” part? Another surprise. It doesn’t really mean to just quit moving. It means Relax. Let go.

How can we do that in the midst of the storm? Know that he is God. That word “know” isn’t just mental agreement. It’s to know by experience. Knowing and experiencing can be very different things. I’d been through a couple of hurricanes before Hurricane Ike threatened my area. I thought I knew what to expect. But when Ike hit at three o’clock in the morning and the house trembled under the wind’s force, I knew by experience what Ike was capable of. It’s a different kind of knowledge, accompanied by deep certainty.relax

Another way of saying verse 10: Relax. Know God by experiencing him and His power.

There’s a lot more in between these two verses. But I love the sound of them together.

God is our refuge and strength, an exceeding abundant help in time of trouble. SO relax. Let go. Experience God.

Today, remember that God is all there with you. Relax. Let Go. Experience Him.

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My First (and Probably Last) Political Post

politicsI’ve never written a post on politics before. Since I don’t handle hostility well, it’s better for me to stay away from such emotionally charged topics. But this morning I was thinking about how my faith influences my vote. And I’d like to see if this makes sense to anyone else.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I tend to want a fellow believer in office, assuming that means we’ll be in agreement on policies. But this has not proven true. There is wide disagreement on many different issues among faithful believers, from fiscal policies to foreign policy to education and health.

I’ve come to the conclusion that what we need to be looking for is not what the man or woman believes in regards to their faith. If they believe Jesus Christ is the son of God, that’s a plus, but that doesn’t guarantee a competent leader. Jimmy Carter was a man of great integrity and faith in Jesus but he showed himself a poor leader. Many of our presidents and other politicians profess a belief in Christ while living contrary to the Christian principles in their personal life.

Faith in God has never been a requirement for political office. That’s what our founding fathers were trying to escape. And yet, they allowed their own faith to drive their convictions and actions in creating this democratic form of government. It laid the foundation for our great nation.

So, my conclusion is that besides looking at the policies of any candidate, my choice for political office must be governed by leadership qualities, not by the candidate’s faith. I want a strong leader for my country, my state, my community. Someone who is willing to defend us at all costs and in all circumstances, whether by word or by action. Someone who will take responsibility for both the good and the bad that happens on his watch. Someone who will surround herself with quality people and qualified people. Someone who will see this position as a trust, rather than a power tool.

Does that make sense? What do you think?

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Darkness

 

As a child, I wasn’t bothered by monsters under the bed. What scared me was the guy hiding in the closet. I knew that as soon as I fell asleep, he’s slide the door aside, tiptoe over to my bed and stab me. Lucky for me, he left when I realized that no self-respecting bogey-man would wait until I was asleep. Where’s the horror in that?

Funny how 40+ years later, I’m still sometimes afraid of the dark. To be more accurate, I’m afraid of what might be hiding in the dark. Last summer, I drove out to a neighborhood park for an early morning walk/jog. The eastern sky was just beginning to lighten when I parked the car. Thirty minutes later when I returned, my window was smashed and things inside had been tossed around. Someone had been lurking in the dark shadows.

Recently, I’ve returned to the park for early morning jaunts. As the days have grown shorter, the darkness lingers nearly to the end of my walk. But I’ve faced my fear enough times that it no longer controls me. I actually look forward to those mornings when I make the two-mile loop through trees silhouetted in moonlight. Bright stars blink in familiar constellations against a night sky as deep as the sea, and the grassy expanse in the center  seems lit by a silvery glow.

I am not alone. Here and there on the trail, I meet another jogger or runner. An occasional car passes by on the streets that border the park, but it’s not the roar and hustle of traffic that comes an hour or two later. I enjoy the peace, the quiet, the time to think and appreciate the beauty that hides even in darkness. And as I round the last corner to head back to my car, I see the hint of daylight in the east.

Maybe that’s what I like best about my journey through the darkness–the promise of light at the end. That’s tough to remember when life surrounds us with darkness. But the dawn will come, because the Son has already risen.

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Beginnings

The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands.

In the heavens, He has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion.          Psalm 19: 1, 4-5

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Seeking the Face of God

“Look to the Lord and His strength. Seek his face always.” 1 Chronicles 16:11

Have you ever wondered what it means to seek God’s face? I recall hearing an admonition at church to “Seek God’s face, not His hands.” I understand that to mean I shouldn’t always be looking for what God can do for me. But since I read this verse in 1 Chronicles, I’ve been pondering what it means to seek God’s face. Is it like looking for a loved one in a crowded room? Just how do we seek the face of an invisible God?

A.W. Tozer lamented that most believers long for Christ’s return because of what He’s done for them. But the cross shouldn’t matter. We should be so enamored with Jesus himself that our yearning is based on His person, not His work. “Seek His face, not His hands.”

I think I get it. On my refrigerator is a dry erase board where we leave fun messages forexample of seeking His face each other. Weeks before my son left for his freshman year of college, we used the board to count down the day until his departure, which we anticipated with both excitement for this new phase of his life and sadness at the loss of his presence in our daily lives. On the day of his departure, we changed the message to count the days until he comes home at Thanksgiving.

We’re not looking forward to his return because he mows the yard, or because he keeps us informed of all the latest news in the world of sports. We simply enjoy his presence, being able to chat with him whenever we want, to share jokes and laughter and upsets and concerns and ideas. To celebrate our relationship with him.

I’m convinced that’s what it means to seek God’s face, to look forward to Christ’s return for no other reason than the joy of my relationship with Him.

Seek His face. Always.

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IDENTITY CRISIS

Last week we dropped our youngest off at college. Between moving him into the dorm, attending a parents’ orientation and other activities, the last few hours we spent with him were interrupted a couple times. I expected the day to be emotionally difficustarting collegelt, but watching him walk away with a sort of lost look about him tugged at my heart. He was a thousand miles from home and didn’t know anyone on campus.

One of the students who spoke during the parent orientation said it well. “When you start college, you lose your identity. No one knows who you are, where you came from, what you’ve done.”

That comment has stuck with me, not only because it expressed perfectly what my son was experiencing but because it’s true of more than just starting college. Many life events rob us of our identity–starting a new job, retirement, moving to a new community, death of a spouse, divorce.

An empty nest has forced me to re-examine my own identity. I’m no longer known as Matt’s mom, Beki’s mom, or Dan’s mom. Who am I?

In a different context, Moses, David and Solomon asked the same question.

“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Ex. 3:11

“Who am I. . . that I should become the king’s son-in-law?” 1 Samuel 18:18

“Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family that you have brought me this far?” 1 Chronicles 17:16

“Who am I, and who are my people that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from You and we have given only what comes from Your hand.” 2 Chronicles 29:14

The answer can be found in Isaiah 43:1 where God says to his people, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine.”

Identifying myself with the living God insures that my identity will never be lost. It is eternal, not based on what I’ve done or where I’ve been. It is based solely on His grace.

How reassuring to know that no matter where I go, no matter the circumstance, I know exactly who I am. I am His.

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CHANGE IS HERE

Change has come, though not exactly the way I expected. Rather than change this blog, I decided to set up a different website to promote my middle grade novel, Sticks & Stones. The book doesn’t have a publisher yet, but if you’re curious, hop on over to http://www.maryhamiltonbooks.com/  Be sure to leave a comment and tell me what you think!

I’ll post news both here and on the website about my progress finding a publisher, but most of the time, this blog will continue to carry my own personal thoughts and musings.

Lately my mind has been filled with thoughts about sending my youngest off to college. My youngest and several other young men that he grew up with. Two boys lived on one side of our house and two others lived down the block on the other side. That’s not counting the four or five others who lived on off to collegesurrounding streets. The Flagmore Boys, as we called them, played neighborhood league soccer together, then Little League, basketball, and even a little football. They celebrated birthdays with sports-themed parties and wore out the neighbor’s grass with their front yard football games. One summer, after a crowd of sweaty, thirsty boys repeatedly trooped in and out of my kitchen for water, I wrote each name on a large plastic cup and lined them up my counter.

Only a couple years ago, they all started driving, and we joked about asking the street dept. to install a couple speed bumps on Flagmore Drive. After that came girlfriends, and homecomings and prom. And now they’re all off to college.

One morning recently, while sitting on the patio, I heard an odd sound, something between an egg cracking and tissue paper ripping. Several minutes later, I noticed a butterfly had “hatched” from its cocoon on my passion flower vine. What a fitting metaphor, I thought. The cracking and ripping that takes place as our kids break the bonds and leave the cocoon. Little by little, they stretch their wings, gathering strength until the moment they let go and fly. And off they go.

The house, like the cocoon, is quiet, lonely. It may even seem empty. But that’s okay. It simply means a life has grown beautiful wings and taken flight.

Well done, guys! Spread those wings and fly!

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Under Construction

Change is coming!

If you chanced to read the page titled “My Life as a Writer,” you learned that I’ve written a novel for middle-grade readers (ages 10-15), although every adult that has read it told me it kept their attention all the way through as well. I’ve been in the process of submitting a proposal for the novel to an agent and recently received an offer of representation from Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency.

I met Terry only briefly in the hall at last September’s American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference. Since then, I’ve learned that he is well-known and much loved and respected by his clients and others who know him personally. I consider it an honor to accept his offer of representation.

Now the work begins. I am in the process of transforming this blog into a website, so the next time you visit, don’t be surprised if it has a whole new look and feel. I hope you will stop in to see the exciting changes and check back often for news and other tidbits. Above all, please pray for the progress of this novel, Sticks & Stones, that the Lord will use it for His purposes. All glory belongs to Him alone.

Thanks for following me on this journey.

Blessings,

Mary

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Health & Wealth (Not) Gospel

Ever feel like you’re doing everything right but everything around you seems to be going wrong?

In 1 Samuel 18, we read about Saul’s growing animosity toward David. As king of Israel, Saul was more interested in his popularity with the people than with God. He listened to them rather than obeying what God had told him to do. As a result, God took the kingdom away from his family and promised it to David.

It took many years for the promise to be fulfilled. In the meantime, David slew Goliath and distinguished himself as a fearless warrior as well as a man after God’s own heart. When Saul heard the people praising David over him, he became jealous. Murderously jealous. More than once, David dodged Saul’s spear before concluding he needed to make himself scarce. For the next several years until Saul’s death, David lived on the run, constantly trying to stay out of Saul’s reach. But even when it was within his power to subdue Saul, David chose the high road. Twice he could easily have taken Saul’s life. Instead, he let God be the judge and executioner.

Have you ever been in David’s position? You’re holding on to your integrity, doing your best to honor the Lord. You’re doing everything right, but you’re suffering. Nothing is going right.

There’s no indication that David ever questioned God’s plan. The Bible never tells us that he looked up to the heavens and asked, “Why, Lord? Why is all this happening when I’m faithfully obeying you?” Did he ever tire of fighting the opposition, ever resent the fact that such opposition was undeserved?

The life of David, as well as the Biblical account of Job, Paul, and others contradicts the “health and wealth gospel” that is so popular these days. More than that, it contradicts the modern mindset that if we are “good,” good things will happen to us. If we obey God, He will make our life easy.

This account of David teaches shows us the proper attitude toward our circumstances. We must hold onto our integrity, honor God in our need, and let Him be the judge. We can’t expect everything to go our way even when we’re right with God. Like Saul, our opposition may be struggling with submission to God’s will. Or God may be using people and circumstances to test us and strengthen us. Bad things do happen to good people. It doesn’t necessarily mean the good people did anything wrong. It might just mean they are destined for the Kingdom.

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