Thursday, February 28, 2013

Who is your Abigail?

Have you ever gotten yourself into a horrific mess that was dragging you toward certain ruin? Have you made an atrocious choice that would hurt other people?

Did you ever decide to carry out something you knew was wrong, something you could never undo—but it felt so good at the time?

Most of us have carried out—or tried to carry out—any number of vile things and now, when we look back, we’re sickened to recognize the appalling things we’re capable of doing! We’re horrified at how hard our hearts can become.

Well, we are not alone. Even David—yes, the David of the Bible, the guy God called a man after His own heart—committed despicable things.  

On one occasion, David decided to slaughter a bunch of people but God intervened: He sent Abigail to persuade David to change his mind (1 Samuel 25).

Let me tell you about Abigail. While you read, put yourself in David’s shoes.

David and his men moved to a wilderness where a wealthy man, Nabal, owned thousands of sheep and goats. Because Nabal and his flocks were vulnerable to thieves and other dangers, David and his men watched over them.

When David heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep—a time when Nabal would have had plenty of money from selling the wool—David sent ten men to Nabal on a feast day, a day most people showed extra generosity to others. 

David told his men to say to Nabal, “Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours! ….When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was stolen from them. Ask your own servants and they will tell you. So would you be kind toward my young men…. Please give your servants and your son David whatever provisions you can find for them.”

One of Nabal’s men verified the character of David’s men:  David’s men were very good to us and we never suffered any harm from them; in fact, day and night they were like a wall of protection to us and the sheep, and nothing was stolen from us the whole time they were with us.”

Now, Nabal is described in various versions of the Bible as being surly, mean, uncouth, churlish, stubborn, ill-mannered, harsh, evil in his doings, and dishonest. Read on and you’ll see why!

Nabal replied to David’s men, “Who is this guy David? Who is this son of Jesse?” (Saul had just acknowledged that David would be Israel’s next king!) Nabal continued, “Lots of servants these days have run away from their masters. Why should I take my bread and water and meat and give it to a gang of outlaws coming from who knows where?”

Imagine David’s surprise. His shock turned to insult. His sense of unfairness led to anger that led to a vow to take revenge that would lead to mass murder: David told his men, “Get your swords!” David strapped on his own sword and took 400 men and marched toward Nabal. David said, “He has paid me back evil for good. May God curse me if even one of Nabal’s household remains alive by 
tomorrow morning!”

Nabal’s wife, Abigail, is described in the Bible as intelligent, sensible, a woman of good understanding, and full of wisdom. (What a contrast to her husband Nabal!) She got word of David’s plan so she immediately set out to stop him and his men before they got to Nabal.

As she rode her donkey down a trail, she saw David riding toward her. She got down and bowed before David with her face to the ground. 

“Please don’t pay attention to what my husband said. He is a bad-tempered fool, just like his name means.” (In Hebrew Nabal means “fool.”) By her presence and her words, she tried to stop David 
from killing Nabal and his entire household. She said, “The Lord has kept you from murdering and taking vengeance into your own hands.” 

Abigail knew David still wanted to kill Nabal so she spoke a second time, “Let no wrongdoing be found in you.” 

Abigail must have sensed she still hadn’t convinced David so she tried a third time.

“When the Lord has made you king of Israel, you don’t want this to blemish your record. You don’t want on your conscience the staggering burden of being a murderer.” 

Finally, after three tries, Abigail persuaded David to change his plans. 

When he cooled off and came to his senses, he said, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you to me today! Blessed is your advice and blessed are you! Thank God, because you have kept me from murdering and carrying out vengeance.…  If you had not hurried out to meet me, not one of Nabal’s men would be alive tomorrow morning.” 

Who is your Abigail? Who persuaded you not to carry out a sinful act? Who urged you  to refrain from wrongdoing? Who begged you to think of your record, reputation, and future?  

Who helped you turn away from a particular sin and start living in a new, better way? 

Maybe, like Abigail, it took him or her two or three attempts, or more, but that persistence helped you choose right over wrong. 

Like David, have you acknowledged that God Himself sent that person to you? 

How is your life different today because of that person’s influence in your life?

Write your story! Someone needs it. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

How do you write about your family’s baggage?

Your family and mine include dysfunctional people. Parents, grandparents, great-grandparents—some carried out unhealthy practices and held offensive attitudes. 

And now our generation has skeletons in the closet. Every family has baggage.

You know—the enabler.

Or the one who should have protected you but didn’t.

The bully, the controller, the know-it-all.

The petty one always looking for ways to take offence and blame you.

Your grandfather might have been a wife-beater. 

Perhaps your father was quick to criticize and slow to praise. 

Maybe your mother was egotistical and self-absorbed. 

Your family tree might include a drunkard or abuser, a liar, murderer, adulterer, sex addict, drug addict, or thief.

Even Jesus’ genealogical chart shows ill-famed characters: Rahab was a prostitute and King Manasseh deliberately defied God, carried out evil, and led God’s people astray. 

Yes, your family, like every family, has lots of good people and a few flawed people, and those people have influenced you

Some of the dysfunctional ones have played major roles in your life

So how should you, a memoirist, write about your people and their baggage?

First, examine your motive. It is all-important

Hear this: Memoir is not about revenge.

Forbid yourself to use your memoir to shame people.

Refrain from humiliating anyone. 

Refuse to get even. 

Writing a memoir can bring much-needed healing to you, the writer, but focus on the right reason to write about your past

Writing can help break the cycle of hand-me-down hang-ups that crippled your family’s generations, but focus on the right reason to write about your past.

“God’s Word clearly expresses 
what a good and effective teacher the past can be. 
The past will be a good teacher 
if we will simply approach it as a good student, 
from the perspective of what we can gain 
and how God can use it for His glory.”
(Beth Moore, Breaking Free; emphasis mine)

Do everything you must to be at peace with God:

Recognize that like your parents and grandparents, you have made and will make mistakes in raising your children and relating to your grandchildren

Your malfunctions might be different from those of your parents or grandparents but, be assured, you have your own shortcomings and failures

Ask for God’s forgiveness. 

Accept His forgiveness. 

Allow God to wrap you in His grace and mercy. 

Wrapped in God’s grace and mercy—that’s where you find peace with God

That’s where you find God’s healing in your life

Then pass it on: In writing your memoir, extend to your ancestors the same forgiveness, grace, and mercy God extended to you.

Read the following slowly, and then read it again. Take in its message:

“Thank God that 
although you cannot change the past, 
He can help you change what you’re doing with it
And the changes He makes in you 
in the present 
can certainly change the future
Hallelujah! Our God reigns!” 
(Beth Moore, Breaking Free; emphasis mine)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Singing in the dark

Why have you suffered? Why has God not prevented harsh days? or miserable months? or gloom-filled years? 

In writing your memoir, are you asking such questions? Are you searching for answers to: "Can anything good come from darkness?"

Oswald Chambers writes, "Sometimes God puts us through the experience and discipline of darkness to teach us to hear and obey Him."

Ah, yes, sometimes God does things we humans don't understand at first. Have you ever asked God to help you hear Him? Obey Him? Then perhaps your troubles were leading you to God's answers. Could it be that your sorrows were necessary for you to hear and obey Him?

Chambers says, "God puts us into 'the shadow of His hand' until we learn to hear Him (Isaiah 49:2)."

Chambers has a special message for memoirists like you: "When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else once you are back in the light."

Read that again! 

"When you are in the dark, 
and God will give you 
a very precious message for someone else 
once you are back in the light."

Chambers reminds us that "song birds are taught to sing in the dark," and so are we!

Jesus said, "What I tell you in the darkness, share with others when your daybreak appears. What I whisper into your murky shadows, shout from the rooftops when your sun rises" (Matthew 10:27).

What precious messages has God given you to share with others? 

What vignettes can you include in your memoir about God teaching you to hear Him in the dark, and to obey, and to even sing in the dark?   

Your stories are important. Someone needs to hear them. 

Make time to get started today, even if you jot down only a few words as a reminder to yourself for another day.