Thursday, February 20, 2014

Write? 2 Online Writer Conventions This Month (February 2014)

The first one, WANACon, has the open house tonight (Thursday, February 20) and then kicks off tomorrow, February 21st, at 12 p.m. EST. I'll be there, because I'm one of the volunteer moderators.

I didn't think to mention it last week due to the price tag ($149), which is a lot cheaper than an in-person conference. Speakers include Kristen Lamb, Kait Nolan, Jami Gold, and some other people whose names you (and I) might or might not recognize. If interested, the registration page is here.

The second conference is FREE. I just found out about 2 days ago. That one has Rachel Aaron (known for her 2k to 10k book), David Vandagriff (the guy behind the Passive Voice blog), David Gaughran, and others. I'm looking at the class list and salivating, but my grandparents are coming in town—

*blinks at screen and double-checks dates*

Hey, that's Tuesday through Thursday, next week. Grandparents aren't coming into town until Wednesday, probably evening, so I might be able to slip a class or three into my work schedule. Maybe. So maybe I'll be at that free one, too.

Does this news interest you? Do you wish I'd mentioned the first one sooner? Do you have any plans for the coming week or so that you want to share?

—Misti


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Trusting God's Providence

As you may or may not be aware, I'm Christian, and I specifically identify as reformed presbyterian. On one hand, "reformed presbyterian" can be summed up as "Calvinist". On the other hand, there's a lot of misunderstanding and propaganda about what, exactly, that means.

One area that gets lot of flack is the believe in God's Providence…which a lot of Christians actually believe in. They call it things like "God's provision" or "God's blessing". Same concept; different names. (Though, to be fair, "God's blessing" has a slew of potential meanings of its own, depending on whom you ask.)

Some people actually do expect God to provide them nice cars, great wealth, and amazing health…which leads them to be lazy about their own pursuit of it…which gives the concept a bad rap.

But in Matthew 6:25–34, , Jesus does famously say not to worry, that God knows our needs and will provide them.

Our needs, now. Not our wants. And considering God's outside creation, what He knows we need and what we think we need won't always coincide. In fact, they probably won't coincide. I knew one lady whose husband's death led a man to Christ…who ended up being her second husband, several years later.

(Side note: I think this is at least part of why I like the fantastical so much. The powerful creatures or inhumanly knowledgeable characters are a dim, shadowy peek at the discrepancy between a human and an omnipotent being. They're also a pointed reminder that even the most perfect thing we can imagine is still imperfect, and they demonstrate how humans' attempts to perfect themselves fail…but now I'm getting off topic.)

Some claim that this belief in God's Providence/provision/blessing leads to laziness, but the Bible also says that a person who doesn't work won't be fed (II Thessalonians 3:10, KJV, which I'm paraphrasing).

My circle (Calvinists) describe that as "God uses means"—using a definition of means that isn't really used anymore by anyone but us and some classic literature buffs. (We Calvinists use a lot of out-of-date verbiage, which I think contributes to the general confusion about what, exactly, we believe. It's a side effect of a lot of us reading more centuries-old classics than modern-day works.)

So when I say "God uses means," what am I saying?

means
something (as a step, stage, connection) intervening, intermediate, or intermediary
Source: The Unabridged Merriam-Webster, online edition

So to update that reformed presbyterian saying "God uses means" for the 21st century: "God uses intermediaries." So yeah, I gave my pastor cream cheese-stuffed jalapeƱos and cherry juice last week, a snack he could actually eat. (He has celiac disease, as well as other allergies that make it hard to provide him things he likes.) But my pastor might well say, "God provided me with a snack." (I don't know if he would, in that context, but some Calvinists would.) From the purely human standpoint, I gave him that. But if you assume God's omnipresent, omnipotent, and outside of time, then I was the intermediary used to provide the pastor with a snack when he needed/wanted it.

Neither negates the other. It isn't an either/or. It's a both/and.

That dichotomy of how things look from our side and how things look from God's side is another reason why Calvinists are often accused of believing things we actually don't. Because for some of those either/or theological questions, we see the answer as "Yes."

In one sense, it's as convoluted as it sounds. From a logic standpoint, it's simple…but it builds on more details that others disbelieve, call by other names, or don't think through. Nothing wrong with that, but there's a reason presbyterians are stereotyped as cerebral. We are.

But the entire "anti-fun" or "anti-smiling" stereotype? It refers to maybe 0.3% of us, in my experience…and it tends to be a phase, not a lifestyle. God did give "wine that maketh the heart of men glad" (Psalm 104:14–15, KJV).

Now, why am I mulling on this now? If you've been following me for a while, you know I have some health issues—but that's doing better, praise God! I'm feeling better than I have in quite some time, and even when I do get sick, it isn't as bad. I'm happy and loving my apartment. So is my cat, for that matter.

My cat, asking for a belly rub.

I have work, and I can pay my bills—which is what matters, right? My needs are met.

What caused me to think about this Monday evening (which is when I'm typing this up) is that I'm currently facing the choice between paying over $500 to fix a 20-year-old car or driving it to death and figuring things out from there. Because I rarely use my car, but in some ways, I do "need" one…to get to places like the chiropractor or the farmer's market. Technically, I could probably get rides most places, and there is a bus system that stops in front of my apartment complex that could get me to some places I shop, but…

Where I live is very convenient for getting all those places I need to go. It is not so convenient for someone to pick me up and then take me, unless that driver is my brother…who I don't think shops anywhere I do, except the pet store, because we feed our cats the same thing. (My brother lives in the same apartment complex I do.)

So although a car makes my life a lot easier and makes shopping and appointments a lot more convenient, I don't actually need one. That means I can't expect God to provide me with one.

By that same token, I can't expect any of you to do anything but pat me on the back and say "Poor you; sorry to hear it." And I'm certainly not asking you to open your wallets for me. (If I ever put out a "Help!" post, it'll be for something far more important than a car I could actually survive without.)

I'm trusting God'll provide what I need right when I need need it, not when I want it—something He's done, consistently, in my years as a freelancer.

But that doesn't mean I fold my hands and wait for a handout. Remember II Thessalonians 3:10? If I don't do my part to meet my needs, I can't expect that someone else—God included—will meet them for me.

So on one hand, this is an explanation for why I'll be…busy. Very busy. Because I have bills to pay and need means to fill it. Lord willing, I'll be able to get A Fistful of Water to you in the next few weeks. (At which point I also may or may not have some interesting news, regarding something that popped up this week.)

I may not reduce my posting frequency here. I've not decided yet. We'll see. I do want to revisit the site coding and possibly port it off Blogger and over to my web host, but with my schedule at the moment, that might be delayed a year or so.

Update, as of Wednesday night/Thursday morning:

My car wasn't in as bad condition as I'd feared. It was an attack of the littles that got the bill so high, and multiple maintenance guys at the shop commented that my engine was in remarkably good condition. (I am thanking God for that.)

Do you have any reaction to or thoughts about this post? Is there anything in particular you'd like to discuss in future posts, or to see in a story or something?

—Misti

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