Notes from “Meeting the Commander in Chief”

He stood before me, blocking my view of the city we were to take. I did not know from which direction he’d come, he’d appeared so suddenly. His sword was drawn. The way he held himself spoke of power and authority. He was formidable in every aspect. His very presence might have made me doubt whether I could lead my men forward. But I did not doubt. Perhaps I was given the charge of taking this land for that reason: I’ve never doubted the success of my orders from the top…(Read more)

Joshua’s encounter with God became my springboard for writing the four Stories of the Valiant. Those three verses in Joshua are packed full of meaning. Joshua doesn’t know who the man is at first; but seeing he is armed as one who goes out to fight, Joshua confronts him. The reader can see from Joshua’s words that he’s not willing to assume anything, but isn’t going to retreat from the command he’s been given—to go in, drive out the Canaanites, and inhabit the land.

That’s faith. Faith is real and living. When it is planted, the believer must act upon it, changing his/her thinking to conform to what the believer knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is the truth.

In Joshua’s case, he wasn’t expected to understand who he was speaking to. He didn’t know that the One standing before him in the form of a military leader was his Lord. But he did know what God had told him to do and was going forward with that. That’s what God wanted of him. Joshua didn’t need all the pieces to obey. He didn’t need to know everything about God’s plan for removing the Canaanites to confront the man he thought was standing in his way.

What is so incredible to me about this verse is that God, the Creator, allowed Joshua, the creation, to approach and question His position. Who of us has any right to do that? Yet, God has always allowed each of us to ask, “Are you for or against me?” And the answer has always been far above us, for who are we to have a side to defend? And God explains over and over to His children, “I am on my side.” Joshua understood and knew that he, Joshua, was on God’s side, too!

God, the Father, sent Jesus, God the Son, into spiritual battle for our souls. It was fought in a physical way when Jesus took on the lower form of man to be tempted in all points as we are. The war hung in the balance as Jesus perished on the cross. Death was defeated when Jesus, the perfect, sinless sacrifice, could not be bound by eternal death—because He is God, deity, “the brightness of the glory of God and the express image of his person.” He rose from the grave! The sin He carried with Him to the grave could not condemn Him to spiritual death because He did not commit any sin. That was the victory. He removed the sin, the sin that would condemn us to an existence separated from the presence of the Source of all Goodness.

Joshua’s story shows what it is to seek always to be on God’s side, to give up the things that keep us from His presence, and to learn to do what pleases Him. Just like He did for Joshua, God welcomes us into His Presence to bow in worship and ask for counsel from Him to take on the life battles we face. To be allied with Jesus Christ, the King of God’s Eternal Kingdom, is to be assured of that victory and to expect the fulfillment of the promise of spending eternity in the presence of God. It is a relief and thrill to know that putting on Christ means never being on one’s own side in the battles that rage both in the heart and in the world.

And that’s what I came away with when I read about Joshua and his meeting with the Commander of the LORD’s army. Three little verses brought thoughts to mind that gave me a better glimpse of God’s love.

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Happy Memorial Monday!

Over the weekend, Realm and I celebrated our 17-year anniversary by visiting the Manchester, Tennessee area. You might be asking, “What’s to do around Manchester, Tennessee?” The answer is: Research the sequel to Dragonfly Prince. I needed inspiration and info on a special character and a setting for Book 2.

This is the second time we’ve merged our anniversary getaway with my writing research. The first was our visit to Clarksville two years ago. I thought Realm would hate it. I was sure he wouldn’t go for, “Happy Anniversary! Now these are the places I need to know about. We only have a couple of days, so let’s go!”

He surprised me by saying, “Sounds like fun. Let’s do it.”

We found out we make a great team. I prepare the itinerary, and he gets us there. He chats up the locals for me, while I take notes and let my brain marinate in the details. Yeah, I’m 100% grateful to God for every one of those 17 years. There is no doubt in my mind that God chose Realm for me and me for him.

 

For The Last Man Standing

Story 4 – Stories of the Valiant

When you are at peace with two peoples who are at war, you must choose your side.

He came from the mountain in the plains of Esdraelon, running for his life. He came to me for refuge because of the peace between our families. I left my tent and called to him, “Captain! Come. Come in, and don’t be afraid.”

He entered my dwelling and fell upon his knees, shattered by the chase. He was out of breath, and his eyes darted about in terror. In them I could read what he was thinking: His armies were gone, every man of them killed. He was the last—their captain, he was the last!

I drew a blanket over his huddled figure. He looked up at me with his wild eyes, sunk into his drawn face, and said, “Please…Give me water. I am…so thirsty.”

I could have given him what he requested, but I placed the skin of milk in his hand instead, the cream risen, smooth and silken, to the top. He drank of the milk until his thirst was quenched, and I covered him once more.

I heard it in his sigh: His weakened body was giving way to the lulling effects of the rich cream.

“Guard the door,” he slurred, commanding, “That way if they come seeking me, you will stop them and tell them you haven’t seen me here.”

Sleep claimed him then.

I stood at the entrance as he slept and withdrew a spike that secured the cords of my house. Approaching him softly, my hammer in my right hand, I heard his heavy breathing. Nothing could have pulled him out of that torpor. Nothing.

I drove the tent nail through his temple and into the ground.

“Come,” I called to his enemy, when he came in search of the dead captain. “I will show you the man you’re looking for.”

It was I to whom the LORD sent the last man standing. To me, Jael, was given the honor of taking down Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army and the enemy of God’s people.

Sisera, the captain of the armies of Jabin, king of Hazor, went to Jael, the wife of a Kenite, for refuge. She killed him with a tent nail to his temple after giving him milk to drink when he requested water (Judges 4:15-22).  Deborah, the judge of Israel, prophesied to Barak, the captain of the Israelite army, that the honor of the battle would not go to him–that Sisera would be delivered into the hand of a woman (Judges 4:9). They sang of Jael in Judges 5:24-27, and how she killed Sisera.

Focus!

Every school year I start some sort of exercise regimen in the fall with the kids, convincing myself it’s going to be our routine for the rest of the year. Then I give up somewhere around the second or third session. I think it’s because I’m Type A about my exercise. I need focus, and kids are my anti-focus. But—and this is how I know I’m not a true pessimist, even though my husband has his doubts—every year I think, It’s going to be different this year. They are older…They like doing my yoga videos with me…They’ve got a little more stamina because of soccer practice that spring, oh, a year ago… I come up with a plethora of reasons why it’s going to work this year.

English: The back of a pair of white Reebok Pr...
English: The back of a pair of white Reebok Princess sneakers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Today we’re going on a walk,” I tell them. I’m starting simple—no major overhaul of the system. I’m not setting myself up for disappointment by expecting that brisk jog I tried for last year on the first day. We stretch and everyone grabs a coat for the blustery day.

My kids know me. They know I can’t stand to be bothered when I’m exercising. And this turns them into the Anti-Focus Brigade.

“Move it!” I bark, circling around the loping culprit who isn’t keeping pace.

“My side hurts.”

“That’s because you’re not breathing in correctly! Remember to breathe into your belly. Lift your arms up. Breathe in deep—Don’t stop! Keep moving!”

“Mom, can you carry my water bottle?”

“Yeah, hand it to me. You don’t need to stop to give it to me—I’m right beside you!”

My son likes to walk ahead and slow down like that annoying driver who speeds up and lets off the pedal right when you set the cruise.

I threaten, “I’m going to step on the back of your sneakers if you slow down in front of me again.” He knows I’ll do it.

“My legs hurt.”

“Hurt like a tingling burn? Right here?” I point to my calf as I walk.

“Yeah.”

“That’s good. That means you’re strengthening your muscles. Keep going: one, two, one, two, one, two…” I begin the mantra because they’re getting restless. I can tell it by the way my son is sticking his finger in his sister’s ear for a reaction.

“Mom! He just—!”

“Keep moving!” I turn to my son and warn, “And, boy, I’m gonna make you run, if you don’t quit aggravating your sister.” He knows I’ll do it because I’m getting restless, too. We’ve made it seven minutes into the walk—a perfect warm up. I have the urge to pick it up, but I tell myself not to overdo on the first day. The goal is just a brisk walk…just a brisk walk.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m holding all but one of the water bottles and everybody’s coat. One child is sprawled out on the grass convinced her leg will fall off if she moves; another is investigating a dead armadillo while unscrewing the lid of his water bottle. (I assume to pour water on the carcass? I dunno… Honestly, who knows what goes on in that kid’s head?) I call in the last straggler, and we go home. I consider this day a winner: I was even able to burst into a jog for a whole two minutes!

English: A basketball falls through the hoop
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the way home, I say, “Who wants to play basketball?”

Mom’s approval rating shoots through the roof. The kid with the leg injury is miraculously healed. We play a game of Horse. I lose. Then we play for points for a bit longer than I’d intended and come inside.

Within seconds, a child approaches me as the spokesperson for the Committee for Funner P.E. with Mom. She is holding a schedule. “Mom, tomorrow we’ll go for a walk with you (emphasis on ‘you’—this child is a born diplomat), and then we’ll play balley ball. The next day is football, then soccer, then baseball…”

“What’s balley ball?” I ask.

“It’s like volley ball, only we don’t have a net.”

“Ah.”

“So…wanna do this?” She hands me the list of activities. Soccer is spelled ‘socker.’

I nod. “Let’s try it.”

We played them all this year. We also added Ultimate Frisbee (there were three injuries, so it merits the “ultimate” title) and a riveting version of Four-Square. Soccer was especially fun. My son decided to slide through my legs for the ball—at least I think that’s what he was doing. I tripped over him and came down on my head. I heard something crunch in the back of my neck.

When my vision returned, all three of my kids were bent over me, their faces peering into mine.

“Mom?”

“Yeah.”

“You okay?”

“Gimme a minute; I’m seeing stars.”

Kid 1: “Really? What do they look like?”

Kid 2: “Like real stars?”

Kid 3 looked up at the sky. “There aren’t any stars.”

As I tried to sit up, I mumbled, “I’m getting too old for this.”

“You’re not old, Mom! Come on, can’t you play just a little bit more?”

Flattery works every time.

wpschooltimeWe have nine days of school left, and I’m going to huff and puff through them like The Little Engine That Could. After that, my plan is to lie on the couch like a slug and forget what the word ‘focus’ means.

Confronting the Vengeful King

Story 3 – Stories of the Valiant

“My lady! My lady!”

“What is it?” I asked the young servant who was out of breath.

He huffed out, “It’s the master. He’s yelled at the messengers of the Hunted King who came to ask that they be given food from the feast. My lady, they were a wall to us shepherds and protected us and the sheep all the season. They were very good to us, and your husband, that son of Belial, has set certain death upon our heads!”

I dropped my work and ran, telling the servant who followed behind me, “Gather the donkeys. We cannot waste a moment!”

I went directly to the baskets, loaded with food for the celebration, and took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five cooked sheep, five bags of parched corn, a hundred clusters of the sun-kissed raisins, and two hundred lumps of pressed figs. While we loaded them onto the donkeys, I prayed. Would it be enough? Would any offering to the Lord’s Anointed be enough to excuse such treason?

I knew the answer, and my hands shook as I took the reins to set off for the camp of David and his warriors. David, of whom the women sang, “King Saul has killed his thousands, but David, his ten thousands!” Was there any hope of stopping the massacre that would come upon us all?

I told the servants, their donkeys laden with food, to go in front of me. Perhaps if he and his men saw the food first, their hunger would persuade them to listen. Perhaps then their fury might be placated.

But I had no real hope. My husband had acted as he always does—selfishly and without thought for the consequences. The consequences for this would be annihilation of every male in our household. What had begun as a celebration of our bounty was soon to be a day of mourning and loss. As I rode, the tears spilled down my cheeks. What could I do? What could I do?

My heart gave way as we rounded the hill to their camp. His warriors rose up and came out to meet us, already arrayed for battle. It was everything I feared. My husband’s actions had been the ultimate insult upon this great man, God’s chosen king.

Then I saw him. David. His handsome face was hardened with wrath and vengeance, and even in those seconds I could see the toll Saul’s relentless hunt had had on him. I slid from my donkey quickly and ran to him, throwing myself at his feet. I bowed my head to the ground, aware of the heat of the fierce fire in his eyes as he looked on me.

“On me, my lord! Let this reproach be on me! And let me, your servant—I beg you!—speak to you and please hear me!”

My breath caught in my throat, but I cried, lifting my head, “Please, my lord, think nothing of this man of Belial, Nabal. He’s just like his name means: foolish, and trouble is what he makes. But I, your servant, didn’t see your messenger when he came!”

Our lives were on the brink in that moment, I knew. And I’d hidden nothing from him, my king. I’d called out my own husband for what he was in the ears of his men and my husband’s servants. I knew what this king could take from me: everything. But he would pay more than I would; before our God, his own hand would be cursed with the blood of the innocent ones in my husband’s household. And that was what I told him.

“As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, seeing the Lord has stopped you in time from shedding blood and from getting revenge with your own hands,” I begged, “now let your enemies and those who seek your life be just like Nabal.”

I raised my arms, gesturing to the laden donkeys. “And now this gift, my lord, which I, your servant, have brought, let it be given to your young men who serve you.

“And,” I pleaded, “I beg you, forgive the wrong-doing of me, your servant!”

I praised him then for following our God, for doing what was righteous, and I feared less that he would lift his sword to me. I could see in his eyes that the fury was going out of him while I spoke the truth of what I knew of him—of dethroned Saul’s pursuit of him, how God would set him on the throne to rule over us, and how he would be found guiltless this day. Perhaps my words pleased him. Perhaps the look of me pleased him. I saw the admiration in his eyes and thanked my God that He had made me beautiful to look at and had tested me in the presence of my foolish husband many an hour that I would be ready to speak words of peace to this mighty man of God. These blessings of God prevented a great massacre that day.

Abigail pleads with David in I Samuel 25 verses 14-31. The women sing “Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands” in I Samuel 18:7.

Monday, Monday

Do you think-write out your disappointments? I do. Here’s a therapeutic piece I wrote to get over something I experienced about a year ago. I wasn’t ready to admit to it at the time. I’m over it now, so it’s time to share. It’s entitled, Monday, Monday because that was the day I received the call.

"Restart Button" offered by U.S. Sec...
“Restart Button” offered by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Switzerland March 6, 2009. Department photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Sometimes I need a restart button. Not like the one Hillary Clinton gave to the Russian Foreign Minister in 2009–preferably something less “nuke the world”-ish. Just let me crawl under my desk and sob. I feel really worthless. I know I’m not, but rational thought isn’t prevailing at the moment.

“I received a call from a representative who wanted me to consider his publishing company for my book. Consider? Uh, yeah, I’ll consider! The question I asked was: “Well, what does that mean?” (Yeah, great question, amateur.)

“Let me backtrack just a tad. I did submit my book to this publisher, but not really of my own volition. It is, in fact, the only publishing company I’ve submitted anything to. You see, I was told I was being too much of a perfectionist in crafting my queries to specific agents I’d researched. But then I kind of sent my manuscript to show I was not being picky (which means, yes, I’m OCD and I just went the other extreme on a dare). I didn’t really expect anything to come of it. I am so, so naive.

“After the call from the publishing company, I phoned one of my best friends and had a meltdown over the phone. On the surface, I was so elated that it was positive feedback! Beneath that, I knew it was just an offer to vanity publish. (I’d read the fine print of this company’s procedures.) Then I messaged a self-pubbed writer. His was historical fiction, so I didn’t think his experience would really be the same as mine. He replied, “I was ‘taken by them too’.” *Cue the shoulder slump*

“I’m supposed to put this under my belt and continue on, right? I’m supposed to view this as a profitable learning experience. I just need a blanket I can hide under for a few decades. I think I’ll be okay by then.

“I know I’m overreacting. And I keep asking myself, Why am I letting this affect me? It’s not like a doled out the cash (which isn’t really a testament to my business savvy as much as the realization that I don’t have it to dole out). It’s not like I got burned. But it hurts, and I just need to acknowledge that.

“After collecting my shattered ego, I emailed the company, stating I wanted to look into other options. I’ve become calm about it, though I’m not over crying about it inside. And it’s a good thing that this happened. This is a clear indication I’m not ready on so many levels. I have a lot to learn.”

Have you ever had something like this happen to you–something that wasn’t bad, exactly, but disappointing all the same?

Meeting the Commander in Chief

Story 2 – Stories of the Valiant

He stood before me, blocking my view of the city we were to take. I did not know from which direction he’d come, he’d appeared so suddenly. His sword was drawn. The way he held himself spoke of power and authority. He was formidable in every aspect. His very presence might have made me doubt whether I could lead my men forward. But I did not doubt. Perhaps I was given the charge of taking this land for that reason: I’ve never doubted the success of my orders from the top.

I could have gone for him then and there, initiating an attack, but I’m not one to react hastily. I needed to know what I was up against in order to fix on a strategy to defeat his army. So I stepped forward, acknowledging him with a quick lift of my chin, and asked, “Are you allied with us or fighting for the people in the city?”

My muscles tensed when he lowered his eyes to mine. Immediately I wished I had not been the first to speak, though I was sure he had waited for me to do so. I began to wonder whether he was born of royalty. There was something in his manner that made me want to fall on my knees and vow allegiance to him. But I knew I was on the winning side of this war.

The sun’s light flashed across his breastplate and glinted off his shining sword when he answered, “No. I am the captain of the royal army of your Commander-in-Chief come to you.”

Then I did drop to my knees and bowed my head to ground. He was not only from the top, he commanded the most superior army known to man. But why he was come I did not know. So, again, I raised my head with my question, this time with no hint of a challenge. I could hardly lift my eyes to meet his.

“I await your orders, sir.”

His expression changed as he looked down at me. I had the feeling I pleased him–me, the captain of a wandering people.

He commanded, “Take off your shoes. The place you are standing is hallowed.”

My heart stopped short in my chest, but I reacted as a soldier and immediately untied my shoes. I was in the presence of the Commander-in-Chief Himself, come to prepare me for the victory ahead.

Joshua 5:13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the Lord‘s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.