Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Living life God's way

There was a company that once said, "Have it your way..." I believe it was Mcdonalds, but it's the same advertisement many fast food restaurants boast of.

We've gotten so used to having things our way that when God tries to speak to us we at times say, "No, but I want to do it this way!"

You want to know what's funny about a statement like that? It's the same statement children give to their parent or caretaker.

But you want to know what's even funnier? Usually when a child is whining about why they have to do something a certain way, it's because we know something they don't. We also are more than likely trying to get them something they want or will love.

It's the same way with God in our life. He wants to give us so many good things, but often we just want it our way as they way God shows us is fraught with too much work, trials or struggles we don't care to meet.

But God is looking to work on our behalf, not give us something we don't want.

Is living life God's way not worth the trouble?

There are some who would say that it's boring living life God's way. There are too many do's and don'ts. It's too hard. This list could go on.

It's true, living for God isn't always easy, but it is a choice that has to be made on a daily-sometime minute by minute basis. That means sometimes you have to be uncomfortable in order to do what you know is right. It means you may meet opposition.

Is it still worth it?

Allow me to put it this way: God sent his son to die for us. Why? Because of our sin. And yet, despite our failings and sin he is still a loving father who sees and knows what and who we are. Yet he goes out of his way to give us good things that we don't deserve. And that's just in this lifetime.

The bible says that we can't comprehend what he has in store for us in heaven! An eternal life with our Lord.

Is it going to be worth it? You tell me.

Friday, June 20, 2014

It's between me and God

I lived my life to make others happy. I made my standards in my life to live up to what others thought was right. And some even thought it was right according to God's word. But that didn't and doesn't always make it right for me.

My life is between me and God. And as long as he is leading and guiding me and I'm walking with him then I need to be confident in my choices. God will tell me if it's not right. Why? Because I ask him!

This doesn't mean that I don't listen to sound advice, but it also means that I don't always have to follow it if I don't believe it's right.

When I worked at the camp I always had people tell me their words of wisdom and what they thought would help me. I even had one person get pretty miffed at my not following what they thought was the right way to do a dish I was serving. They were so miffed they walked out and didn't come back. But the food was my responsibility. If I ran short or it didn't turn out they wouldn't have to worry about repercussion...I would!

It's the same with our lives. We will give account to God and him alone for the actions and decisions we make in our life. With that in mind we shouldn't be so quick to judge others for their choices and decisions. If they want your opinion they'll ask!

If you have a concern it's okay to inquire about it, but don't come with the attitude that they have to see things your way. After all, even God give men a freewill.

Just some thoughts going through my mind....what do you think? Have you come upon those annoying and aggravating people who attack you at the slightest thing you do against their opinion? How do you handle it?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Writing: Research

You know you need to write and write a lot! But what else is behind every book you'll write?


I have a love-hate relationship with research. I love to find out new things that will make my story or book all the more realistic and truthful. But it can be a pain when you sit down to write and end up spending the next four hours on research...and pain and exhausting!

Then there's the research you do not only for your book but also for the promotion and marketing of your book. If you're planning to take another option besides just e-books then you'll be looking into agents and publishing companies (unless you're set with one).

When you write about anything, there is always some kind of research that comes up...even if it's about a topic you could write in your sleep...why? There's always some new information or if you're like me, you want to check to be sure you're being accurate about what you're writing!

Research can also be the background and facts you need to know that will enhance your story. It can give you a clearer picture of what your characters are dealing with and how they would be feeling. I'm writing a book right now where I asked a Doctor some questions about a particular illness. I asked such deep questions he actually cautioned me to not over do the details.

What he didn't realize is the questions weren't for my readers, it was so i could understand what the family of my character was watching their loved one go through and what my character itself was facing!

Be careful to not get so caught up in research that you take time away from what you're working on. Research is good, but too much a weariness of the flesh!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day

I’m going to be honest, father’s day has become one of the most difficult days for me. It’s the day I wish I could not emerge into the land of the living and just pull the covers over my head and sleep right through it. Unfortunately, Father’s day falls on a Sunday, so unless I’m ill…that’s not an option. I get out of bed and go to church anyways…still hoping I can avoid the Father’s day spirit in the building.

I then head home and try to forget that it’s the special day most of the country is giving attention to their father’s. I don’t know why it bothers me so much. I try to scold myself and say: “You can remember daddy. And if that’s too hard you have a heavenly father who will never leave you and focus on that!”

But saying that and feeling it is very difficult. But this year, I’ve decided that even if I spend the next 20 years not looking forward to father’s day I will face my fear and follow the advice I try to give myself every year.

Since my dad has died, it seems like each passing year becomes more and more difficult. As life sends its many challenges I miss having him be there for me and my siblings. I often feel that if he was alive I may not have had to face some of the challenges that have entered my life. But one day, a few years ago, I came across one of his famous 3x5 cards. On it was a verse he had written: 2 Timothy 3: 14-15- “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

When I read the words, tears came into my eyes. It was as if my dad was speaking to me, telling me that he had taught me everything he could have and from that foundation I could continue my life for Christ. I still wish he was here, but I must comfort myself, sometimes on a daily basis, that God knows best even my heart cries out in agony.

It seems like each year I call to remembrance more and more memories and things my dad taught his family. Here are a few I was thinking of the other day:

Prayer is important: 

He was a serious, ultra, hardcore prayer warrior- and I’m not over exaggerating  when I say that. He had a family prayer list that took us almost an hour on some days to get through, generally it was at least a minimum of 30-45 minutes. I only knew that because our family prayer and bible reading took at least an hour to an hour and a half.

Besides family prayers, I know he prayed personally. He was also at every prayer meeting he could be at- even the special ones, he made sure he was there-oh, and he took the whole family with him, unless it was a men’s only event!

At one church, on Sunday morning while the pastor preached, he would go into the little room just off the sanctuary and pray during the service. The pastor asked him why he was doing it. My dad replied, “I know that during the service is the time God speaks to people. There are spiritual battles going on and I want you lift up in prayer while you’re up there preaching God’s word.” Slowly but surely more men joined in and at the request of the pastor, my dad created a schedule so he could still attend the morning service himself….otherwise he would have been in that little room tearing the paint off with his prayers every week. The pastor convinced him by telling him he should at least sit with his family every now and then!

Prayer was the one thing I knew was so important to him that no matter how sick we were, no matter how busy or even if we were out of town on a family vacation or a mission trip- we prayed. Sometimes because we were so busy we brought the list along and prayed in the car! I hated that because after we prayed we’d read the bible and since we took turns reading out loud I had to keep track of where we were and then take me turn. What made me hate that I that I often got carsick-blah. I knew it would happen, but it was something that was important and we did it no matter what obstacles stood in the way.

He was actually known to have prayed for dead people, because if you asked him to pray for someone or something, he would pray until you told him the answer to prayer. If you never updated him…that name remained on the list…especially, if he knew your situation personally. Only occasionally would we cross a name off, and that was after we’d prayed for so many years we had no clue what was happening.

I once heard a preacher say that they committed to praying for a missionary everyday, and less than a year later they repented to God because they couldn’t keep that promise. I thought it was the most shameful thing I could hear a person say, especially a pastor. Prayer for others is important whether you think it is or not. You may not see the results of your prayer, but they sure feel them or the lack of them. And you don’t know how you’re prayers will affect others until you get to heaven…so pray.

Serve God no matter your talents: 

He encouraged others to serve God even when they didn’t think they could or had the necessary talent to minister. He encouraged families to sing specials- even though some couldn’t sing too well, he told them “you’re singing for God, not us”. He encouraged men-young and old alike to preach. They didn’t need to be called to preach, but they could still preach a sermon of some kind! 
And he then opened opportunities for them to preach, whether in a small bible study gathering or at the nursing home he ran…and sometimes it was even in church.

Funny thing is…time and time again I saw these people would get up and sing and preach messages…people who wouldn’t have done it otherwise. It taught me that you should encourage others…don’t look at the talents they may not have, but encourage them that they can be used of God no matter how big or small the talents they may have.

The other thing it taught me was how one person could make a difference. You never know the difference you make in someone’s life. One of those men he encouraged to preach actually stood and his funeral and gave testimony, “Pat Gresens encouraged me to preach and now I’m going to be a missionary.” His family is still serving on the missions field today.

Be involved in your children’s life: 

He encouraged men to be leaders and fathers in their home. He not only encouraged it but he did it! One of his greatest set backs was that he never had a father growing up, but he often told us that when he accepted Christ as his Savior, he was glad. He could now have the best father ever and he could learn from the best father.

When we got sick and it was a church day, unless he had a ministry he had to lead, he’d often stay home with us so my mom could go to church. With four children, the sickness usually lasted two weeks so instead of my mom missing church the whole time, he’d stay home certain day…personally, I think it’s because he wanted to spend time with us…even though we were sick and miserable! I’ve never seen a father do that…except one, and he did it because he saw my dad so it and thought it was a good idea. His wife was grateful.

He taught his children at every chance he got. Not only did we do family prayer and bible time, but we also had a separate family devotional time. Sometimes people came over to do bible studies and my dad would have us kids sitting through it. Or he’d sit the family down around the table and say, this week we’re going over the book of Acts…a bible institute course. I can’t tell you how many times he went over his bible institute courses with us! He had kept probably every note and course he took and I’m sure he had us go through most of them!

The earliest I remember this was when I was 6 or 7 years old. I remember thinking- “Aren’t I too young to understand this?” I think he loved the Lord so much, that he just had to share him with everyone he knew, and he wanted his children to learn and know the scriptures so we could have a firm foundation he didn’t have as a child.

I don’t know how much I’ve retained, but I know it’s in there somewhere! About a year before he died he started taking books from his vast library and assigning them to us kids to read…I will be honest, Dr. Ruckman’s history of the new testament church-I think that’s the name, it had two volumes- I didn’t read it. I said I did, but I didn’t. The print on those books was so small, that even with perfect eye sight you’d need a magnifying glass; and the books were super thick!

And then the words…..I have enough difficulty reading books like that as it is….the words jumbled until all I could see was a black mess on the page. I gave up. I kept the book and tried to read parts of it, but eventually, after I thought enough time had passed, returned it. E.M. Bounds books on prayer…were much easier to read! (They were also, as you can imagine, one of his favorite books to read.)

We were homeschooled from the time I was in 5th grade…once again many men leave this task wholly up to their wives, but when the decision was made to homeschool us my dad told my mom, “I’m teaching them history.” History was his second love after Jesus. He taught our history class from the first year we started homeschooling up to the very week he died.

Be a giver: 

Even if you don’t have anything to give: It. Did. Not. Matter….what our financial situation was, if my dad saw a need he tried to fill it. And God always provided his needs in return…somehow, we made it through.

Over the years he gave not only his time, talents, preaching and testimony, but also food to those who had none, car rides for those who couldn’t make it, bibles to those who needed a new one or wanted a new upgraded one, money to missions-this was the most important- no matter how little we had in the bank account, I know he gave without holding back. And you know what’s interesting? He often gave, but did it in a way where the person never knew it was from him. He wanted them to thank God for the gift and blessing.

Don't just say you love someone-show it: 

He was always available for a hug and every night before bed it was important that after we prayed and read a portion of scripture we make the rounds to hug everyone. The last memory I have of my dad, besides looking in and seeing him sleeping, the night before he died was him giving me a hug before he went to bed. I miss those hugs and embraces.

One person makes a difference: 

I know I mentioned this already, but it was important to him that he make a difference in the world. In fact, it was the title of the Sunday school lessons he was teaching around the time he died.

Everything he did was towards the goal of turning the world around him upside down and making the biggest difference he could. He would say, “I want the Gresens’ generations down the the 4th and 5th generation to still be serving God.” It was what drove him to be the man God wanted him to be.

What’s the main thing I’ve learned from my dad? 

You may have guessed it already, he strived daily to use his life to turn people to Christ. To encourage others to live their life and open their lives up to what God could do.

He shared his love of God on a daily basis. He didn’t just talk about Jesus he walked with him daily and he was serious about his relationship with his heavenly father. One of the things that spoke the loudest to this fact was this: After he passed away the place where he worked sent home his belongings. There was only one belonging important enough to keep a work, he had many at home, but one specifically so it would always be there to read on his lunch break: his bible.

As a father (or anyone who isn’t a father) you may read this and think: “That’s impossible! No one could be like that!” Perhaps you’re right…but my dad was. He was one of those people who when he got saved, even though he couldn’t swim, jumped right into the deep end and kept on swimming until he was home. I know very few men who love Jesus like he did and even fewer who prayed as he did. I just hope the prayers he said for his children are still out there somewhere and that God is still working on them.

Was he perfect? No. Did he make mistakes? Yes. But don’t we all? Did he cruise through life with this awe-inspiring spirituality? No, he had many disappointments, trials and heartbreaks, but he knew that when you serve God you aren’t committing to a life of ease, you are committing to a God who has promised to carry your burdens and bring you home in his time. Who has promised to be with you each step of the way.

Sure, he had doubts just like all of us have had at one time or another, and asked: “Am I doing the right thing?” But one thing he never doubted and remained strong in his resolve until the very morning God took him home, “I will serve where God places me until he moves me somewhere else!”

And perhaps that is the greatest lesson of all.

Happy Father's Day

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Have You Met Them??

Have you met my family?

This picture is from last November when we were all together.

They are the reason I can do what I do! They have supported me with all my challenges and problems. When I've complained, they let me get it out of my system and then asked, "What can we do to help?"

They have seen me at my lowest and been with me through all the disappointments and the occasional victories that came along.

We don't always get along, but that's okay. If we always agreed with each other there would be no room for us to grow or be pushed to further our lives.

We are slowing going our separate ways and that makes me sad, but no matter where we go I know one thing, we will all meet in a special place someday: heaven.

That's also where I have family waiting...but of course they are busy enjoying time with Jesus!

I'm so grateful for my family!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Writing: Allowing Growth

When writing I will often have an idea of the character I want to write about. But a funny thing will I write that character will sometimes change. The more I learn about them and the more the story comes together a different character will emerge than I had originally intended.

The same can be said for plots and story-lines. You'll start with and idea of how it will all play out; but then as the story unfolds it all changes. You come to the proverbial fork in the road. Where depending on what you do, it could change the whole outcome of the story or end result.

Don't be afraid to allow your characters to grow. It's perfectly okay to go back and re-write a section that will make your writing so much better! It's also okay to take a chance and take a different route.

It can be a lot of work and challenging to keep everything lining up the way you want to see your story turn out. But remember, just as you will grow during your writing, you will also get to learn a lot about your characters or topic you're writing about.

When the plot changes or story-line shifts, be okay with it. Obviously it's changing for a reason and that could be because you're growing as your write your story.

Now there could be the time where the story has so many changes you have to sit back and determine what is really happening. What do you want to happen? And how can you make it happen?

Taking the time to evaluate can be a good thing and sometimes taking a break is all that is needed to get a clearer picture. Just don't take too long!

Remember, you are a writer and writers while they work hard are rewarded with wonderful adventures and the ability to share that with someone is priceless!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Rejoice And Again I Say Rejoice

There are many variables in life that make us wonder: does God know what he's doing? Does he actually have a plan? Or are we just moseying along hoping for the best?

There is a song, I'm sure many of you have heard of it, entitled: "Rejoice In The Lord" By: Ron and Shelly Hamilton. (If you haven't heard the song my mom, sister and I sing it on our CD.)

The words to the song are this:

God never moves without purpose or plan
When trying His servant and molding a man.
Give thanks to the LORD though your testing seems long;
In darkness He giveth a song.

I could not see through the shadows ahead;
So I looked at the cross of my Savior instead.
I bowed to the will of the Master that day;
Then peace came and tears fled away.

Now I can see testing comes from above;
God strengthens His children and purges in love.
My Father knows best, and I trust in His care;
Through purging more fruit I will bear.

O Rejoice in the LORD
He makes no mistake,
He knoweth the end of each path that I take,
For when I am tried
And purified,
I shall come forth as gold.

I often find myself challenged with believing that God is working in my life, especially when a challenge I am facing gets me down so far that I can't see any hope. Lately, my health has been acting up and giving me trouble.

I have dreams and goals that I want to do, but am hindered by these physical challenges. I talk to the Lord about them and I speak scriptures and healing into my body, but often I wonder: where is all this leading? 

Philippians 4:4- "Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice."

We'd sing that verse in Sunday school as a child, often those Sunday schools songs come back to me and I realize that they are much more important for us "adults" to sing than for children. Why? Because as adults we often forget the simple aspects related to our walk with the Lord.

It can be hard to rejoice when struggles come and all you can see is the struggle, but we can find hope in the knowledge that God is working- even when we can't see him working on our behalf!

God knows how our life will play out and we can trust in that. He will always bring us through the trial- we must just have the faith to believe and rejoice in the victory that will come!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Writing: Editing and Re-writes

One of the hardest parts for me of writing a book is the editing and re-writes. I don't mind it when I'm on a roll and have a clear idea of where I'm going, but when I know something needs to change and can't figure out what it is...then I'm stumped.

When that happens don't be afraid to ask for help! I will tell the truth...while I don't fear asking for help...I do sometime fear what will be said!

I will usually go to one of the following people:

  1. My family: my mom thinks everything I do is that can be good for morale, but not so good if I want to push myself. She is however, the best spellchecker and grammar queen I know! Now when I share my work with my sister, that's another story. She is the most critical, nit-pick every detail to a fault. This also has it's good and downside. The good is that she pushes me to do and be better with my writing. The downside....well, morale isn't usually good. I have to have super thick skin when I get thoughts from her. However, she has told me she thinks I'm a good writer, so she must think there is some good! And my brother, he doesn't care for spelling, grammar or the finer points, he just likes listening to me talk about my stories and that in itself helps me to iron out details I'm struggling with!
  2. I will often post something on It's free to join and you can ask people to review your work. I just did this a few weeks ago with a chapter I was having trouble on. A few of the people didn't respond with a review, but one person did (remember all you need is one person to make a difference, so don't get discouraged if the results you seek aren't what you're looking for). That one person gave me just what I needed to get what I wanted, but for some reason had trouble getting.
  3. They do a challenge every year in November: write a 60,000 word novel. I participated in it this this, but as I was moving my mom to FL and then had a over-due vacation (where I did nothing!) I was only able to accomplish 20,000 words before the end of the month. But they also have forms where you can submit some of your work for review. I have done this and received some help with the first 200 words of a chapter I did.
  4. Close friends-this can be a great way to get reviews and ask them questions you may have, such as: "Was the book easily understood?" "Did it grab your attention?" "Did you catch any mistakes?" They may even be able to review your book on Amazon when you get it published! Which is something you would want as the more reviews you get the more people will be interested in reading your book! 
Those are just a few ways I use to help me with edits and re-writes. Getting opinions from others can be difficult to hear as they tear down something you've sweated and put your hard work into, but the best thing you can do is get tough skin and eat the meat and spit out the bones!

There is a fine line that must be traveled here. Editing and re-writing is and can be good, but don't overdue it. You may never reach that "perfection" you want to see. Be okay with that. Just do the best job you can do.

Years from now you may look back and see how you could have improved, but that would be a good thing! It means you'd have grown in your writing. And besides, what's the important thing? The important thing is that you are writing!

Keep up the great work!