Hallelujah is a glorious word to say

Hallelujah is a glorious word to say

Hebrew word halleluyah

Just say it. Hallelujah!

You’ve shouted it once. Remember, on the mountaintop, hands raised in the V of victory exclamation. Blessed so blessed, God is good. All is well. Hallelujahs full of perfect joy. Praiseworthy.

You’ve sung it. Hummed along or belted it out. Heaven’s common language music, earth’s Hallelujah answering back to heaven’s holy, holy, holy. Notes and lyrics penned by one and sung by many. You’ve owned that verse, it was his but it is yours. Poetry undefinable disputable yet explaining the fragile complexity of your soul. And the sinner’s song, sacrilegious and contaminating, broken and yet most pure as Hallelujah is lifted up like a confession.

You’ve also closed your eyes and bowed your head. Finally opened your fist, exhaled sacredly that long held offense to breath out, Hal-le-lu-jah. The sound a welling up, a giving over, a soul-speak kind of surrendering.

I once asked why. And God’s answer to the offended was hallelujah.

Hallelujah. Broken or beautiful. Holy. Hallelujah!

This January it was 30 years since Leonard Cohen released the song now heard on every sing-show, heartbreak episode of a TV series or elevator ride called, “Hallelujah“. He spent years struggling with the lyrics, penning as many as 80 verses “banging my head on the floor and saying ‘I can’t finish this song’ before he was finally able to cut the song down to its recorded version on the 1984 album “Various Positions.” Then his label, CBS Records, refused to release it not realizing that “Hallelujah” would become one of the most haunting and often sung songs in American musical history, versions made famous by Jeff Buckley and sung by Rufus Wainwright in “Shrek”.
k. d. lang, one of the most notable interpreters of “Hallelujah,” talked about listeners responses to the lyrics. “My mom is eighty-eight years old,” said lang. “She lives in a seniors’ apartment and all her friends were like, ‘Oh, I love that song!’ I said, ‘Mom, do they know what the lyrics are about?’ And she goes, ‘I don’t think they listen to the lyrics; I think they just listen to the refrain.’ I think it’s very indicative of spirituality in general, that something as simple as saying ‘hallelujah’ over and over again, really beautifully, can redeem all the verses. “Ultimately,” she concluded, “it’s a piece of music and it belongs to culture. It doesn’t belong to Leonard, it doesn’t belong to me, it doesn’t belong to anybody.”

I agree. Creative work is inspired to be shared. And when it is universal it connects us and we become part of its symphony of story. But it is also extremely personal. It is pieces of us, exposed. And releasing it takes courage because of the vast vulnerability it generates in its exposure, uncertainty and emotional risks to the artist.

My first fiction novel, “Hallelujah, The Psalm of the Offended” just passed its own anniversary as a published work. What took me years to work up the courage to release has been out 2 years. I relate to Cohen’s head banging struggle to finish the piece and cut it loose. The Psalm of the Offended is really my personal story. Not my-story in a biography, but my story in my journey as an offended one as the Lord spoke to me could His answer to the question why be Hallelujah? I went back this past week to update some content to the back of the book and started re-reading it. I know better. I’m my own worst critic. It was painful. I already knew The Psalm of the Offended had a slow start. It’s an epic in scope, there were several places the story could have begun much faster and tied up quicker, but before I could edit a word, I resigned myself to get my fingers off the keyboard and let it “start where it starts and let it finish when it finished.” Just last night a friend said, “please don’t mess with it. I love their story.”
Like Debbie, too many people have told me they love these characters-Cheyenne & Bennett-and want to see more of them in future books even after the slow beginning and the long happy ending.  But others were offended and balked, loudly, about the first cousin crisis-they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Conflict obviously. And I mean that in a ‘plotting’ way. Try to give me a few believable reasons 2 people can’t be together in this century? Stories need well developed external conflict—ie: some thing that keeps two people apart or the hero from reaching his goal. First cousins worked-see the forest now? probably not but that’s okay, some people just like to look at the trees… sorry, rabbit trail. . .

rabbit trail... 
Readers agree this is a raw,realistic and heartwarming story but I was surprised that some admitted they were immediately prejudiced at the beginning because the family was rich and life seemed perfect and they thought the story was going to be another one of those stories. I smile. I do like to catch you judging and I definitely set you up to get caught with meaningful character development. Plot spoiler, no character is perfect and everybody lies when they’re wearing their mask. Another bit of insider information on writing: You can also expand or shrink a storyworld with several techniques and one of them is to make the characters affluent and widen the playing field. The music industry gave this novel an interesting backdrop playing off the business world of the agents and the global entertainment audience that forced Cheyenne to travel in contrast to the internal world of solitude and inspirational struggle inside the songwriter’s head.

I was also surprised by what people wanted to talk about. I thought those sins would be the hot topic. They weren’t. They’re universal, we’ve all been there. It was the broken a-ha moments. It was Chet in his trailer after New Year’s Eve hitting rock bottom. And the African mother holding her infant son in the back seat of the car. It was Lexi Reed being found, loved and accepted. And Daniel speaking tough truth as he told Cheyenne to take a long walk in the cold and get over herself. It was the complex dynamics of family and the ultimate simplicity of Bennett’s forgiveness.

When people share their thoughts about The Psalm of the Offended with me and their own story of being an offended one, I’m still silently saying, “hallelujah.” The work fulfilled its purpose.  And even though I’d love to go in and tighten this book up with a polishing re-edit, that’s not for this story. It needs to read slow so that it’s hallelujah can haunt you into thinking could God’s answer to your why be Hallelujah too.

If you’d like to read The Psalm of the Offended I’m promoting it for free from June 6 – June 10 on amazon kindle.

Please share the deal with your friends and let me know what you thought of the story.

Grace & Peace

The Psalm of the Offended Book 1 of the Glory Series http://amzn.to/1yppOH1
The Psalm of the Offended Book 1 of the Glory Series http://amzn.to/1yppOH1

 

The Psalm of the Offended is the story of Cheyenne Cooper. Born to sing, her anointed gift of songwriting takes her farther than she ever imagined into the music world. But Cheyenne never wanted fame or fortune, just the forbidden love of one man. Yet her anointed purpose keeps putting more people, places, and problems between the love she longs for and the life God has ordained her to live. She can’t silence the music and she can’t stop the furious pursuing love of God from transforming her through its song. Her epic story spans glorious mountaintops and the dark valleys of the soul that will change your thinking forever. In a world entitled to blessings and unconvinced by religion, Psalm of the Offended is a raw wrestling match of spiritual reality in a tremendously moving story. For anyone searching for the answer to why, For anyone hurt by the tragic happenings of life and aching for healing, For anyone stirred to finally move towards forgiveness and acceptance, For anyone who loves music and is interested in the creative process behind the melody, Psalm of the Offended is a fresh and original perspective on suffering and surrender. This parable is a must read for anyone who has been offended by the all powerful sovereign supremacy of God.

Reviews:

“This book is so much more than a romance novel. It is an inspiration for anyone who struggles to accept the sovereign will of God when life deals out heart-wrenching challenges (and really, isn’t that all of us?). There is not a sugar-coated page in this book, and we come out the better for it. Read “The Psalm of the Offended” and see yourself in this captivating story of longing, self-denial, and heavenly deliverance. ”  ~ Lynn D.

“These characters will hook you fast and you won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough as you read this romantic story of love and loss.  I could not put it down. I was drawn to this powerful family as the love story melted my heart. I would recommend this book to everyone that likes strong characters with a steamy love story and a faith-based background . ” ~ D C

“Excellent read. Fast paced. Couldn’t stop reading to find out how things turned out. Looking forward to J.L. Kelly’s
next book.” ~ J. Lee

 

Practicing the Presence of God #abideinChrist

practice the presence of God

Over the 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus trained His disciples to practice His presence.
He was with them . . . then He wasn’t.
They were alone then He appeared.
Sometimes they saw Him physically and sometimes they did not recognize Him until He did a familiar action, like break bread or pray, but they began to realize the relationship they had with Jesus would be practiced differently.

He told them He was leaving and sending the Holy Spirit to be their counselor and comforter. He promised always to be with them even if they couldn’t see Him. “Don’t be afraid, Surely I am with you always.” God’s commands are often tied to God’s promises to encourage and strengthen us.

Jesus last two visual teaching moments were about a vineyard and a fishing net but they symbolized the same great truth. Abide with me and I will bring a harvest (of fruit) and an overflowing net (full of fish). Cooperate with me and I will take your willingness and weakness and add it to My will and supernatural power and bring about God’s fullest blessing of influence, responsibility and opportunity to make a mark for the glory of God.

Abiding is the practice of saturating ourselves with God’s word and being in the continual fellowship of God’s presence.  When we fail to abide, a believer becomes captive to his circumstances where thinking is based on emotions of the moment and his actions are based on the impulses of his old nature. Apart from Christ habitual sins easily consume us until they are compulsions repeated addictively that give us a name- greedy, gossip, angry, worried. When our gazes glance away from Christ we get distracted by the things of this world and become afraid by the things we can’t control. And when we realize where we’ve ended up…awareness hits, we’re ashamed and we hide when we really need to turn quickly and return to our loving God.  I love the encouragement from Brother Lawrence in his magnificent little book “The practice of the Presence of God,” and include three things he said about abiding.

On knowing himself and know his God he confessed: “I regard myself as the most wretched of all men, stinking and covered with sores, and as one who has committed all sorts of crimes against his King. Overcome by remorse, I confess all my wickedness to Him, ask His pardon and abandon myself entirely to Him to do with as He will. But this King, filled with goodness and mercy, far from chastising me, lovingly embraces me, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the keys of His treasures and treats me as His favorite. He talks with me and is delighted with me in a thousand and one ways; He forgives me and relieves me of my principle bad habits without talking about them; I beg Him to make me according to His heart and always the more weak and despicable I see myself to be, the more beloved I am of God.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

On the love of God he gave this truth: “The difficulties of life do not have to be unbearable. It is the way we look at them – through faith or unbelief – that makes them seem so. We must be convinced that our Father is full of love for us and that He only permits trials to come our way for our own good.

Let us occupy ourselves entirely in knowing God. The more we know Him, the more we will desire to know Him. As love increases with knowledge, the more we know God, the more we will truly love Him. We will learn to love Him equally in times of distress or in times of great joy.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

On Prayer and meditation he gave this encouragement: “When the mind, for want of being sufficiently reduced by recollection at our first engaging in devotion, has contracted certain bad habits of wandering and dissipation, they are difficult to overcome, and commonly draw us, even against our wills, to the things of the earth.

I believe one remedy for this is to confess our faults, and to humble ourselves before God. I do not advise you to use multiplicity of words in prayer: many words and long discourses being often the occasions of wandering. Hold yourself in prayer before God, like a dumb or paralytic beggar at a rich man’s gate. Let it be your business to keep your mind in the presence of the Lord. If it sometimes wander and withdraw itself from Him, do not much disquiet yourself for that: trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract the mind than to re-collect it: the will must bring it back in tranquility. If you persevere in this manner, God will have pity on you.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

I say three but I mean four, on abiding he clarifies: “He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

To order this Christian classic follow this link:

The Practice of the Presence of God

And watch for how the Fury practices the presence of God in the FURY series books by J.L. Kelly to see abiding in action in a Christian Character.

The FURY Series by J.L. Kelly. An Intense Epic Where Two Worlds Collide.
The FURY Series by J.L. Kelly.
An Intense Epic Where Two Worlds Collide.

Witness Through These Words

Thanks for following along with me this Lent
in the Witness Through These Words blogs.

These 47 Words through Lent gave me a lot to think about each day and I hope they inspired you as God inspired me.
Soli Deo Gloria.

it's a new day choose joy

Remember, Easter is our chance to start a new.
To return to the Lord. To be, renewed.

God became flesh in His Son, Jesus Christ and at the cross, He took all the sin of humanity on himself, bearing it in His body until He became sin and offers us to count sin dead and buried with Him, believing that in the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus came back to life, conquering sin and death in resurrection to give us abundantly life today and eternal life tomorrow.  Believing by faith in this truth we make the great exchange with Jesus and receive His free gift of salvation. Now God no longer sees us as sinners, but as righteous in Christ.

I love how Steve Thomason taught that, “On Easter God hit the massive “Restart” button on the universe”, and we all have a chance for a mighty do-over, to begin fresh, free from guilt and shame and live loved.

I pray that my witness of these words through Lent was a springboard for your own meditations.

Sign up (on the left) to get notified by email of new blog posts as I continue to write as a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Or follow my Pinterest board for short recaps of the blogs.

And FURY book two Echo is coming soon.

FURY Book Two ECHO by JL Kelly

ECHO should sound familiar. Book Two of the FURY series resonates with the aftermath of adversity after Jaclyn Cooper’s rescue and return. Recovering in her father’s house, her recent abduction feels like a bomb blast. The initial explosion of Eros leaving concentric circles of destruction. There is wounding shrapnel that leaves scars, explosive heat that burns like anger and a force of energy that leaves her strangely numb even as the nightmares echo like ringing in the ears. Then almost instantaneous there is the mysterious countering blast wind that fills the void with an equal and unstoppable force. Echo proves that God is the FURY of the blast wind, always counterbalancing and equalizing the force of evil in a believer’s life and through the Spirit’s sanctification, causing all things to work together for good.
In Book Two of the FURY series, Jaclyn Cooper is learning to accept the new normal of her life. To heal she must move through the stages of numbness and anger, to choose forgiveness over vengeance and realize the divine deliverance of God’s presence. God. With you there. Yes, even there. In the unimaginable horrible moment when He allowed the worst adversity to come against you.
Echo is the story of sacrifice, rivalry and revenge. It is the recovery process of finding the truth a midst the rumbling distractions of feelings and expectations.
Echo reminds us we all must remember. And in the Hebrew tradition, make present God by rehearsing our story in His story until we find the reality of the truth—God was always with us. Even there. When normal blew up and a new normal was formed.
Echo is the parable of how God turns evil’s wounds into victory’s scars.
FURY Book Two Echo continues the intense epic where two worlds collide in a gripping love story of rescue and redemption.
Echo is an intense and original perspective about the furious healing love of God.

 

JOURNEY. Day 17 of Lent. Story of a hero.

JOURNEY. Day 17 of Lent. Story of a hero.

hero's journey

Everyone has a story. And we all love a good movie. If you’ve ever gone with me I can be a bit of a spoiler.  I’ll whisper things like, “Ah, he’s refusing the call” or “Cool gatekeeper” or “creative watering hole”.  I can see the structure in good stories because its universal. So to me the word journey is used to symbolize a story.  In literature, The Hero’s Journey is a pattern of fundamental structures and stages that form a story, let me quickly tell you about it.

Joseph Campbell summarizes it this way in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces:     A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow-man.

Campbell describes 17 stages or steps along the hero’s journey. Very few stories contain all 17 stages, and the steps may be organized in a number of ways, but there are 3 main divisions to any story. Campbell calls them the Departure (sometimes called Separation)- the beginning, Initiation-the middle, and Return- the end. “Departure” deals with the hero’s call or refusal of the call prior to the journey; “Initiation” is the sequence of the hero’s many adventures along the way; and “Return” deals with the hero’s return home with knowledge and powers acquired on the journey.

The reason a story is so powerful is that we all can relate to the hero’s journey. We all experienced the call at one time or another.  And we can remember refusing some and yet finding ourselves right there, accepting it in the end. Whether it’s taking a new job or starting chemotherapy, every journey has a BEGINNING. The journey of a million miles begins with the first step. You have to start to finish. The hero begins in a mundane situation of normality and receives some information that calls them to step into the new strange world, at the beginning every hero meets a mentor and is given supernatural aid. Story magic isn’t evil or bad, its an element of story that illustrates favor and requires faith. Office supplies or ipad technology given by a tenure secretary who knows the ropes are as supernatural as the magical healing power of Taxol or Herceptin given by a caring chemotherapy nurse. Just think of Glenda giving Dorothy the ruby slippers and our hero is on the way down the yellow brick road. But there is still a moment of resistance when the final choice is made, and sometimes it’s even presented as a door or a gate-with a scary gatekeeper that requires a secret code. The hero must know the combination to open the door and once through it the hero has crossed into the field of adventure, venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not know.

In the middle of the story the hero is initiated through a road of trials or a series of tests, tasks, and ordeals often occurring in threes that begin the transformation through improvements and setbacks. Often the hero fails one or more of these tests but they have met new friends along the way to help them like the Scarecrow or R2D2 and there is often a gathering place, a ‘watering hole’ like a cantina or coffee shop, and more dragons to slay and barriers to climb, love to find, and temptations to overcome as momentary glimpses of the goal ahead are seen in the approach. The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world and the hero enters a central space and confronts death or faces their greatest fear. Here out of the moment of death comes new life and the hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death. Whether Dorothy gets the witch’s broom or James Bond finds the nuclear codes they have the boon in hand. There is often celebration but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.

The Return is the road back to complete the adventure, leaving the special world to bring the boon or treasure home. Often a chase scene or a ticking clock signal the urgency and danger of the mission home. It is at the climax that the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home. There is one last sacrifice or another moment of death and rebirth which purifies the hero to a higher level of transformation.  Through the hero’s action the oppositions in tension at the beginning are finally resolved. The hero returns home bearing the boon, some element of treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.

Cool, huh.  The next movie you see or book you read see if you can spot some of the 17 stages. And look at your own journey. Maybe you’re refusing a call, or your being transformed by tests. Maybe there is a mentor with ‘supernatural’ powers as simple as office supplies you’ve missed seeing in your current situation.  And remember, every journey has a beginning, middle and an end. God has an expiration date on trials and we’re to consider them all joy.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,a whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:2-5

FURY Book One Eros (Fury Series 1) follows the classic Hero’s journey.

The FURY Series by J.L. Kelly. An Intense Epic Where Two Worlds Collide.
The FURY Series by J.L. Kelly.
An Intense Epic Where Two Worlds Collide.

Abounding in Thanksgiving -5 ways to gratefully live loved- Colossians 2:6-7

Abounding in Thanksgiving -5 ways to gratefully live loved- Colossians 2:6-7

rooted in christ col 2

1-Remember God’s faithfulness – Joshua 4, 1 Samuel 7

Remember your very best days and your worst failures. And see God there. Memories reveal God’s presence, even if you didn’t realize it at the time. There are no coincidences. God is governing this world. “Thus far the Lord has helped me”-He is sovereign. God has forgiven and restored us yesterday, worked in us with sanctifying power today, and He is our hope in the future for glorification.

Remembering what God has done prepares our hearts to live a life of thanksgiving.

2-Keep the Conversation going all day in prayer – Philippians 4:6

If you’re not praying about something you are worrying about it. Fear erodes are faith and makes us use are self-sufficiency to cope with life when things get out of our control. Prayer keeps us trusting. And a prepared prayer- one that is specific instead of general makes the answers clear. We see God working with purpose. Over 20 times in the New Testament God links ‘ask me’ with thanksgiving.

Faith thanks God continuously for His ever-ready presence found in prayer.

3-Generously give as we are called for His purposes- 2 Corinthians 9:11

God’s Word links thanks and giving together. When we understand that God owns it all and how generously He has given to us our heart and hands are open to generously give of our resources of time, talent and treasure to His purposes.  God asks us to be cheerful givers and the way our hearts are grown is through the trust and faith of the ‘giving test’. Who gets the first of your time, treasure and talents?  If God did a spiritual audit of your spending this week what did you spend your time, treasure and talents on? “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

Thankful hearts give and produce thanksgiving to God.

4-Share your gratitude and gladness with others – Isaiah 12:4

God is writing His story in your story and you are an eye witness of God’s active living power and love. A life of thanksgiving is lived as a witness of where God showed up.  We are like a tour guide in a museum, we know all about the “artist” and we point to His work, showing off His master pieces and telling of his creative work.  We all have a story of God’s faithfulness and only you can tell others your unique story. “Thank the Lord! Praise his name! Tell the world his wondrous love. How mighty he is!”

Thankful people don’t let God be an anonymous giver, they tell the world about his generosity and share their blessings with others.

5- Sing to God and about God – Psalm 147:7

There are more songs written about Jesus than there are about love. Christianity is a singing faith. We sing songs about who God is in our worship and we sing songs to God about who we are in Him.  God invented music, filling the heavens with worship first then anointing men to express our hearts to him through songs. Singing restores us. Worshiping God refocuses us on Him instead of our circumstances. Words put to music give people a way to corporately all say the same thing together as we sing. So don’t just stand there, sing!  “Sing out your thanks to him; sing praises to God.”

Expressing our thanks to God in song and worship restores us.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7

5 Ways to Live a life  abounding in thanksgiving Colossians 2:6-7
5 Ways to Live a life
abounding in thanksgiving Colossians 2:6-7

God’s people need lifting up. Psalm 28

God’s people need lifting up.

Our thoughts are double minded.  Our souls are restless. Our pasts bear regrets.  Our burdens are heavy. Our battles long.  Our character weak.  Our faith subjective. Our judgment fierce. Our hearts grow cold. God’s people need lifting up.

David understood this as a man and a king. In Psalm 28 he writes, “The LORD is their strength, and He is the saving strength of his anointed. Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up forever.”

David taught us first we need to seek God personally – “Unto Thee, O God, do I lift up my soul.”

His Psalms taught us to pray for 5 things for ourselves:

Ps 143 – When I find myself in battle- Revive me

Cause me to remember what God has done in the past. Help me to know I can fight one more day if you wake me in the morning with the counsel of your loving, living voice.  God will deliver and hide us, teach us and show us the way. Where he leads we can follow for the Lord quickens His servants.

Ps 35 – When I need assurance- Reassure me

When I am under persecution, say unto my soul, “I am your salvation.”  Let me hear you say “I’ll save you.”  And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in my salvation.

PS 25 – When I am uncertain- Give me Hope

I lift up my soul to your counsel, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame.

PS 86 – When I am poor and needy- Give me joy

Because of who you are God, forgiving and good, abounding in love, none is like you, O Lord, For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. Great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave, a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, merciful, imparter of strength, help and comfort.  You train me and teach me, put me together to be one heart and mind-undivided. What love! Knowing You I am filled with joy.

PS 141 –  When I need protection-Give me faith

I lift up my hands to worship you and call on you for help. Guard my mouth and heart from wickedness. Let me be indifferent towards everything accept your will for me. Set me straight through correction. Threats come but let me fix my eyes on you, O Sovereign LORD. I take refuge that you control all things and take good care of me. Keep me safe from traps and let me pass by safely.

PS 23 – When I am dumber than a sheep- Shepherd me

Lift them up is translated in the NIV, “be their shepherd and carry them forever” To lift God’s people up is to shepherd us forever.  If we are the Good Shepherd’s sheep “I shall not want” for the Shepherd feds and leads us. If we wander, he seeks us.  If we’re scared, he goes first.  He’s with us, even in the darkest moments and when we look back, we see it was only “goodness and mercy”. Our shepherd will never lead us where He cannot care for us.

As a King David also knew there were 3 ways God’s people need to be lifted up:

Living in this world but not of this world, God’s people need to be elevated in character.

More than 3000 times a day the world will try to convince you to follow its ways, put yourself first, gratify your lust, exchange a counterfeit for the truth and take a short cut. We need to be lifted up. Past our disciplined obedience that too often arm-wrestles with ourselves, out of the muck of our shame that never forgives ourselves and get down wind of the stink of our self-righteousness and be lifted up and empowered by God’s Holy Spirit.

We need to be lifted up to love God enough to obey not because we’re afraid of the consequences but because we love God.  We. Love. God.  And devotion requires our faithfulness to his instructions.

Moreover, God’s people need to be prospered in conflict.

When the battle comes, and it will hit you right between the eyes in your mind, we need to be lifted up out of the deception of our senses to remember the truth.  If we forget our helmet, drop our shield, put our barefoot in our big mouth and the combat boot of our enemy is upon our chicken necks, help us grasp hold of the sword of the spirit and speak Your words even if the only thing we can say is, “the Lord is my shepherd” let it be a battle cry.  Lord, lift up your children’s spirits in the day of persecution when our feelings get hurt help us not to fret or worse take vengeance but lift us up on the high road our savior walked of love.  When we hear bad news of cancer or chronic, suffer not the adversary to vex us to despair but lift us up in our weakness to experience Your supernatural strength. When we battle the mysteries of depression, the dark pits of failure, the heartbreak of betrayal, lift up your people’s voices to worship You who both gives and takes away. And if we are called on to die for our faith, may we rally beneath the banner of love that the martyr’s wave from Jordan’s shore and be lifted up by a measure of grace to endure any and all that is temporary for the eternal glory.

Finally, God’s people will be lifted up at last.

God will lift us up eternally. He will lift us up by taking us to a place prepared for us. A place that no eye has seen and no mind can imagine.  A place of glory without sin or its nature. He will lift us up and take us home.  He will lift up these worn out bodies from the grave and raise them to be imperishable.  At last, He will sweep our souls at once to his bosom and embrace us up to glory.

Lift us up. Lift our eyes up to fix on you. Lift our souls up to love you. Lift our prayers up to worship you.

Lift us up be our shepherd and carry us forever.

 

I wrote this after talking to someone about The Fury series.
I talked with God about why I’m writing, what we’re after in this partnership of story telling and the conclusion was again, to tell the truth in love. Reviewers agree that I am sometimes intense and might not be for readers who are looking for the classic sweet Christian story where characters do everything right. Apologetically my style is to write it real—meaning closer to real life, tackling issues with universal importance in a God honoring way. My characters will never be perfect but they will proclaim to you the love, grace and mercy of a perfect God. When I’m told my writing is intense, it makes me smile- I want to be branded as a Christian writer that writes it real not sweet. Labels like “raw and compelling” also reinforce that I’m finding my audience.  I’ve also been told the Fury is inspiring and that makes me lift my hands and give God the glory.  I held the pen and God directed the strokes.  I believe what we were both after is to communicate how much God loves us. We just can’t hear it said enough.

Here are some answers to a few questions I’ve been getting about Book One Eros.

Your new book is so intense. Why?

I like the ‘what if’ question it wakes me up – God’s people get complacent, we like our comfort zones, we need to be woken up and prepared to put into practice what we know.

But it’s horrible what happens (to Jaclyn) and the bad guy is…really evil.

Evil tends to be really bad- God’s people need to be reminded we have a savior and He came because we’re in a situation and need to be rescued.

But the spiritual battles are really raw and despite the story world, real.

I’m a teacher at heart and the spiritual armor of God (Eph 6) is subtly applied layer by layer throughout the conflict.  It’s the standard tell them, show them, let them, coach them strategy I learned in Christian leadership. We wash, rinse, repeat until we remember how to fight along with the characters.

But this book sounds edgy and I’m looking for a love story

You’ve found one, I wrote the Fury Series to remember that I am loved by God so much that Christ stopped at nothing to save me.  The hero in this story is outstanding, you’ll fall fast for the Fury. Promise.

But I’m not sure I can handle the evil element…I don’t like spooky/scary/suffering

Neither do I, the story isn’t about the details of abuse or the dementedness of an abuser but the battle to be free and believe in the power of God no matter where that battle might take place.  This story is for the captive but it is also for those that answer the call and come to bring the good news of freedom.

My prayer is that you are lifted up by this story.

Read the reviews on The Fury Series

http://www.amazon.com/FURY-Book-Eros-Fury-Series-ebook/product-reviews/B00OWPYUVY

The FURY Series by J.L. Kelly. An Intense Epic Where Two Worlds Collide.
The FURY Series by J.L. Kelly.
An Intense Epic Where Two Worlds Collide.

Digging deeper to unearth the story of the FURY series

Very recently I’ve been called to dig deeper into a certain mystery God began to reveal to me. I think the experience is universal to anyone who has been asked to share their faith.

If you know me as a teacher or speaker then you’ve heard me say, “We have to know ourselves to know our God and we have to know our God to know ourselves.” I describe myself as a student of the philosophy though it’s not a very original thought.

Augustine would pray, “Let me know myself; let me know Thee.”

Calvin stated, “Nearly all wisdom we possess…consist of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” Calvin argued that one could not truly know God without knowing oneself and that one couldn’t truly know oneself without knowing God, voicing the obvious dilemma, “which one proceeds and brings forth the other is not easy to discern.”

I agree, in fact I believe it’s a mysterious dilemma. And Christ’s first Beatitude as well as the first step toward understanding salvation begins with the knowledge that we are a sinner (know ourselves to be poor in spirit-a beggar with nothing to offer) in need of a savior (know our God someone who alone can rescue us from this condition).

So it became very humbling to me over the past month that I couldn’t form an answer to a question that God continued to set into the mouths of many people,

“What is your new book, FURY about?”

I should quickly know the answer to that question. I’d invested well over a year of my life in the story. I have a marketing degree which should help me sell it, but I was tongue-tied and my stuttering reply, “Well…ah, um, hm…Just read it,” wasn’t going to produce a lot of interest. And to answer with the theme, “It’s about counterfeits,” doesn’t elicit emotion but confusion and the symbolic approach, “It’s about the crucible of suffering.” Makes even me think, “Really!? … who wants to escape into a book about suffering, we’ve all got enough of that ubiquitous subject.” But besides a long pause of silence with the massive, I guess I’d call it stage freight to have my creative work in the spot light, that’s what was coming out of my mouth—babel. Which if you read Fury will be very ironic…

I’ve always said I need to form an AA type group, where I go once a day and have to say my name and “I am a writer,” because I know myself and I hate talking about my books. But that’s not totally true. I love to talk about the stories, especially when I’m in the middle of writing them and the plot is just rolling out or all twisted up. What I hate is selling the story—the business side of the business—the branding and the buzz words and the catch phrases and the mastery of a 60 second sales pitch where I hook you emotionally until you just have to read that book. Some people just have the gift and the confidence to pull it off like Billy Graham does evangelism. And whatever our reasoning, we’re much more comfortable letting the apologist defend the gospel like I’d rather my friends talk up my books.

But God says, “ah, not so fast to be afraid my friend, I called you-to go-and promised you I’d be with you to the end-so what is there to be afraid about. (Matt 28:19-20)

“We need to dig deeper and unearth some mysteries.”

Jesus was showing me once again that the greater the preparation the less need for courage.

Preparation first calls for training on how to prepare oneself. God uses words to train me and words are found in books, so off I went to be a student again. It was a refresher course on the fundamentals of story- Hero with a goal meets conflict that transforms him—and marketing—communicate the most powerful elements of your product/book clearly, succinctly and passionately to get the buyer/reader involved enough to buy/read. Evangelism is done the same way. We have to learn the Biblical truths, verses and the pathway and communicate it with a clear passion by practicing.  Yes. Practicing. That means you prepare and then you practice what you are going to say. Out loud. And first to a few people you trust for feedback. The first few times someone pops one of “those” questions—Tell me what’s different about you. How did you get to be a Christian? How can you believe Jesus is the only way? It’s scary, terrifying, totally out of our comfort zone kind of work to give a reason for the faith we confess. But we are all called to open our mouth and give an answer. And God has a way of ‘calling us out’, repeating the same question a few times until we get that He’s calling us to ‘prepare’ an answer.

As I organized my thoughts to give an answer about FURY I thought about my faith and how prepared I was to share it. I thought about the privilege it is when someone we’ve built relationship with trusts us enough to ask those intimidating questions. And I refreshed myself with my prepared answers. Remembering 1 Peter 3:15-17 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.”

I dug deeper to know myself and my God and the story that He gave me to tell in FURY.

I thought back to my own conversion as a teenager and what brought me to the point where I came up with the origins of the story of FURY. I told you about how I imagine FURY in my last blog as an attribute of God. But in September of 2003, National Geographic made a profound statement that unsettled my soul and later sparked my curiosity to create this story .

“There are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The modern commerce in humans rivals illegal drug trafficking in its global reach—and in the destruction of lives.” They called it 21st century slavery and it penetrated my heart as I read about the “estimated 27 million men, women, and children in the world who are enslaved—physically confined or restrained and forced to work, or controlled through violence, or in some way treated as property.”

I thought, what if that were me? Abducted and enslaved with no way of escape. Hopelessly held in an evil often terrorist system. And then I realized, that had been me. And you, spiritually. We were once held by evil, enslaved to sin, afraid and hopelessly lost people. Victims of a fallen world and enemies of God in dire need to be rescued and redeemed.  Read Romans 5.

So in a future not so distant from ours, I began to pen a supernatural story. . . There is an evil terrorist who abducts a beloved daughter who you might have come to know first in the story, The Choice. This daughter is loved by her father and quickly coveted by a powerful enemy. Like all of us, Jaclyn Cooper wants to be rescued and returned to her father but the world she is held in is unescapable. She becomes a victim to its violent culture and is exploited by a powerful drug called Eros. Enslaved by such evil, it looks hopeless. As her family prays, an elite group of warriors are sent to find her. Their commander, the Fury, is an experienced veteran of battle who is up for the confrontation with this kind of enemy. What FURY is not prepared for is the aftermath of the rescue where they must deal with the internal enemy of the drug Eros. As they are pursued, duty will call the Fury sacrificially to obey without exception. He must learn to equip and empower a civilian girl to a faith beyond what she can see as they face overwhelming odds to return Jaclyn Cooper to her family.

Evil has held us all, but God is furious, pursuing us with great FURY in this gripping love story of rescue and redemption. For those who long to break free. For those who need to be reminded we weren’t created and saved just to survive. For those in the battle who need to be encouraged by the Spirit’s victorious power. For those who wait that long to know God remembers them.

The FURY Series is an intense and original perspective about the furious love of God.

The Fury was inspired by the supernatural style, compelling characters and futuristic story world’s of authors like Ted Dekker or Erin Healy. If you look at the covers of The Fury Series you will see a tree that symbolizes the tree of life. As Dr. John D. Hannah teaches, “the Bible begins in a garden and will end in a garden.” Each book in the series begins with a supernatural prologue that sets the tone and the theme for that story. You will quickly learn that counterfeits-our enemy’s use of lust as the counterfeit of God’s love-is the theme of Eros.  Use this link to read the prologue and first chapters for free. http://www.amazon.com/FURY-Book-One-Eros-Fury-ebook/dp/B00OWPYUVY

 

The FURY Series by J.L. Kelly. An Intense Epic Where Two Worlds Collide.
The FURY Series by J.L. Kelly.
An Intense Epic Where Two Worlds Collide.

 

Fury. How do you imagine fury?

Fury. How do you imagine it?
It’s more than a movie or a book. It’s no myth.
God is furious in his longing for you. This active energy of saving us is His story of love in the story of your life.
Blessed are you sinner so beloved. He is jealous for you.
With great fury.

fury with how do you imagine it

How do you imagine Fury?

To David Ayer it is a Sherman tank that Brad Pitt’s character, Wardaddy, commands in the final push into the European Theatre during World War II in the movie Fury. “Outnumbered and outgunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.” Ayer imagines Fury as a war that never ends quietly.  So is fury that quality of honor and courage that is produced in battle?

In Greek and Roman mythology, the Furies were female spirits of justice and vengeance who punished their victims by driving them mad. These angry ones appeared as storm clouds or swarms of insects when the three foul-smelling sisters weren’t dressed as hags. They pursued people who had murdered family members, their fury besot to banish injustice. Perhaps in another story they preyed on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It’s this character that famously informs us in his guilty unrest that, “Life’s … a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” But Faulkner took that ‘nothing’ line and made it into something. He said in his speech upon being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for “The Sound and the Fury” that people must write about things that come from the heart, “universal truths.” Otherwise they signify nothing. So fury is then, something telling to be penned into story and sang in a ballad.

It was Rich Mullins in his song The Love of God, who first had me meditating on the fact that Fury could be linked to love when he sang of the ‘wideness in God’s mercy.’ And recently David Crowder sang the words, “He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy,” Yes. Oh. How He Loves us. So. Oh…

God is Furious.
That’s how I imagine my Lord. And when I ascribe that attribute to God most people will immediately misunderstand me to be saying God is extremely angry. You link fury to wrath which evokes fear of a coming punishment because deep down we sinners all know we deserve judgment. So a God of fury has made you frown and shake your head. It’s definitely not the attribute you would lift your hands up and rehearse with awed applause in worship. “God you are furious!”

Instead you would choose another attribute from the list He has given to describe Himself. You would humbly whisper, “God is God.” Meditate on, “God is Spirit.” Teach, “God is Light.” Believe, “God is Love.” And then confess, “God is a Consuming Fire, a jealous God.”
And from that very revelation we discover the meaning of Furious morphs. The mere emotion becomes a visual.

We imagine fire.
And you’re back to fear, equating fire to heat, something that could hurt you, and the spiritual are thinking consuming fire-ah, the suffering of the sanctification process when the dross is removed, and others are just hell-bent on imaging fury with punishment.
Read on. I pray.
Begin to imagine energy instead of anger. “The fury of a gathering storm,” is how the Oxford Dictionary of Current English discusses the energy displayed in a natural phenomenon or in someone’s actions.

See this furious God as a gathering storm of energy and action. A marvelous, mysterious, endless energy. A holy pursuing wind. With no beginning and no ending yet intentional in direction. Just step out and face a storm. Feel its strength as it passes over you and moves. Sense its power. Be in awe and humbly understand your human frailty. Realize perhaps that’s why a storm moves in, to give us an occasional object lesson ‘to cease striving and know that I am God.’ A furious active living God who is endlessly pursuing us with a gathering storm of energy. Energy that is enormous in vitality and strength in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus is furious.
And I’m not referring to the two times he turned over tables and drove the self-righteous out of the Temple with whips. Christ is a gathering storm of energy and action. Watch him move to heal the leper. Hear him woo the woman at the well. Taste his wine and eat his bread given to you. Feel him lifting your face up to live forgiven. He engages every sense in His pursuit of us. Isn’t there even a smell of home, and it is named heaven when we come to know Christ.

Rich Mullins sang about
“the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God.”
Reckless? You question.
How reckless for the Creator to give us free will.
Raging? You wonder.
What can separate us from the love of God.
Fury? You understand.
Is not what you imagined it to be.

Love? This kind of furious energetic love is foolish.
“L’amour de Dieu est folie!”
Brennan Manning used to cheer, “The love of God is folly.”
Foolish this fury, to love so much you would die for those who hate you. To the world it is foolishness, not to us Paul preached. This kind of love is powerful. This kind of furious love is enormous enough to take on the wrath of God we fear and bear it in his divine human body upon a cross that there might be atonement. Reconciliation. Union.

God is Furious in His longing for union with us. God longs to love. Seeks. Pursues. It was G.K. Chesterton who first described “the furious love of God” in Christ. This love by its nature seeks union. Father. Son. Holy Spirit. A trinity of three in one. United. To love. With a jealous longing. A furious energy and action in direct opposition to all evil.

Oh? You’ve nodded. Agreed, because I’m back in your comfort zone of linking fury to anger, you’re afraid—of punishment and judgment. And it’s safer to stand with the crowd far from the thundering mountain top of Sinai and tell ‘Moses’ to go on up and hear what God would say. Because that gathering storm of energy and action is scary after all. Smart people don’t face a storm for an object lesson, they take shelter and pray. They obey. All the time.

No we don’t.  We sin. It’s a serious problem. And sin makes us hide. We’re in the cover-up business, I can tell by your designer label.    No, not Michael Kors, I’m talking about Pride or Shame. You’re wearing one or the other. Transparent people are criticized a lot by the way. And judged, another thing we never do, to anyone’s face. We just gossip. A lot. Check your iPhone if you don’t believe me. Or your Facebook. Is everyone’s life really that perfect. Opps, I’m judging. Where were we? Gossiping, yes. And God says He hates gossiping. So we’re also hiding. Yes, sinners hide.

And this furious God asks, “Why are you hiding?”

The proud answer behind their religious masks, “I am not hiding.”  Shame answers with a rebellious tone, “You know why I’m hiding.”

And God steps closer. Holding out a nail scared hand with His invitation. “My beloved, I long for you to know me. Come then my beloved, my lovely one, come, to know me.”

But we’re so busy. Believing. What we think we know. That God might love us but he doesn’t like us. In fact, He might hate us, because we’re doing that thing, you know, that he hates. You are a gossip, remember? See, we get distracted so easily.

And deceived by the counterfeits. Disillusioned by our religion and destroyed in the crucible that is meant to show us that failure isn’t final, it’s just a test to show us what we don’t know about ourselves yet. We’re not as strong as we think we are—another Rich Mullins’ quote. And we’re more loved by God than we could ever imagine.

J.I. Packer said it this way, “What matters supremely is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it- the fact that He knows me. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst of me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me.”

God loves the worst of us. And He is jealous over us. With great Fury. He is provoked from his goodness to love His people and hate our sins, pursuing us with astounding means.  Pursuing us with this marvelous, mysterious, endless jealous energy until the great wrath that was against our sin turns ultimately upon its enemy in judgment.

Motivated by love, this energy and action of God’s furious love is in a battle against our enemy. Satan our ancient foe is also furious.  And very jealous of us. His rage is a fevered poison, a cruel venom of destructive lust. A counterfeit. For the jealousy of the devil is evil, to hate people and love their sins. To deceive, divide, destroy. To imprison with addictions and cause indifference with our habits. To make us want what we don’t need and need what we already have. Yes, universally we all want to be loved and we already are. God loves us. So our mind is a battleground.

And God is furious. Consumed with your salvation. He has come. Settled the sin problem just as He said He would. Given you a choice. To believe. You are known. The very worst about you is known by God. And you are still loved. Engraved into the palm of His hands and never out of God’s mind. And Love hates anything that would come against His beloved. He hates your pride. Your cover up. Your rebellious shame that won’t believe you are forgiven. He hates sin, and we should be afraid because God will judge it with the fierceness of His wrath.

Wrath is what Jesus saves us from. He doesn’t coddle the ragamuffins and say, “It’s alright sinner. Grace to you, I know you’re trying.” The ragamuffin knows the cost paid for the prodigal. He knows that fire is hot and God’s wrath is certain. Jesus sanctifying work isn’t weak or wishy washy. God is holy and He hates sin. Like a father hates a rattlesnake that threatens the safety and life of his child, He crushes its head to protect us. Christ loathes any evil that would pull people down to a godless eternity and it is this furious love for us that prompts God to hate sin with such a vengeance. The furious love of God longs for us to understand this truth. Sin separates us from God. And God in His fury sent Jesus to reconcile us back to Him. Atonement. Union. Peace. A battle fought and won. And the wooing of the Spirit says worship now.
God is furious in His love for you.

Oh.
Yes.
God is furious. How do you imagine it now?
Oh.
Yes.
With every sense.
Fury. It’s more than a movie or a book.
It’s no myth. It’s His story of love in the story of your life.
Blessed are you sinner so beloved. He is jealous for you.
With great fury.

fury is coming

The FURY Series by J.L. Kelly.
An Intense Epic Where Two Worlds Collide.
Despite the power of evil, FURY is coming. The great collision of opposing forces is made personal in this gripping story of the battlefield where both faith and courage must take their stand. And hope, the very fragrance that comes from the crucible of suffering, gives strength when God allows the unimaginable to happen or calls us to obey without exception.
The Fury Series is the parable of the counterfeit and the crucible.
Sometimes it takes a fire to remove the dross and sometimes it takes a war to make us understand peace.
Evil has held us all, but God is furious, pursuing us with great FURY in this gripping love story of rescue and redemption.
For those who long to break free.
For those who need to be reminded we weren’t created and saved just to survive.
For those in the battle who need to be encouraged by the Spirit’s victorious power.
For those who wait that long to know God remembers them.
The FURY Series is an intense and original perspective about the furious love of God.

FURY book one Available November 2014