Are We Willing to Lay It on the Altar?

Photo courtesy of ChristianPhotos.net

Most of us here are writers and speakers. It’s not only what we do, but it also cuts to the core of who we are. We often say we write or speak because we have to, that we feel God has given us the ability to communicate so we can share Him, the cure for a lost and dying world.

This past Sunday morning, my friend and writing sister, Edie Melson, posted her compelling poem, A Divine Obsession, in which she states a repeated refrain, “I write because I must.” And to that I say, “Amen, sister!” I read Edie’s beautiful post Sunday morning, took comfort in the truth of her words and God’s blessing on me as a writer, and headed to out the door to worship.

In Sunday School that morning we studied 1 John 2 and I was reminded again that God called John and Paul and Peter and James to be writers and communicators, just as He has called you and me. Of course, I’m NOT saying our words are the inspired Word of God, but I am saying He put in us everything we need to be able to spread His Great Name through the written and spoken word.

Praise and worship time brought me to that place where I want nothing more than to be in His presence, seeking Him and His will. Then during Sunday morning worship, our visiting pastor, Russ Chambers of Hingepoint Church in CA, challenged us with a powerful message about the cross.

I had had a great morning, starting with Edie’s vivid poem about writing, straight to Sunday School and the reminder that God had called me to write and speak, just as He called the scribes of His Word, right on to anointed worship before the Lord, and then to Russ’ message, to which I could nod my head and my heart in agreement.

But then Russ said, “Our personal preferences have to die.”

In that very moment, my writing and speaking and teaching and singing and acting flashed before me. A catch gripped my heart and mind. Surely He would never ask me to lay THAT down on the altar…would He? After all, He’s called me, gifted me, ordained me if you will, to be a communicator of the Truth of His Great Name!

But…what if…my goodness, I can hardly say it…what if He asked me to lay it all down?

I admit, I’ve had fleeting thoughts along those lines through the years, but it’s usually just that–a fleeting thought. After all, why would God choose us…only to later UNchoose us to be writers and speakers? But this time the possibility was real, more urgent, more in the moment.

Even as I write this, I can hardly wrap my mind around the concept. But as one who loves the Creator and all it means to call Him Lord, I have to accept that the day could come when He says,”It’s over.”

It scares me how much that thought scares me.

Oh, I can speak in my spiritual voice and say yes, we must be willing to lay everything down for Him and His sake. And I believe it with as much belief as my heart can muster. But if I’m honest–which I’m trying to be here–I hope He doesn’t ask that of me. The truth is, I don’t want to lay it down.

After all, as Edie so brilliantly wrote, “I write because I must.”

But as God clearly showed me this weekend, I cannot let my preference for and my joy in writing or speaking or acting or singing or teaching determine what I will or won’t do with my life.

I have to remember I’m merely a sinner, saved by the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. The time He has given me to be a writer or speaker or anything else could very well come to an end. But that wouldn’t mean my life as a useful tool of God would be over.

It would simply be the beginning of another new thing.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts…regardless of what He has for you–and me–to do,

Vonda

(Photo courtesy of www.ChristianPhotos.net)

Posted in categories: Acting | Christian Living | Jesus | Uncategorized | Writing Instruction

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  • Thank you for joining in the conversation, Glenda, Diana, and Karen. It’s apparent this touches the hearts of all those who love the Lord and want to please Him.

    And Karen, you’re so right, He gives us gifts to worship and honor Him, not to build our self-esteem or our resume. And like someone else said, if He takes something away, He will put something else in its place!

  • Glendafm

    Vonda,
    Your post brought tears to my eyes, because I can so identify. There is nothing more rewarding than using the gifts given by the Lord. Yet time and again, He has asked me, “do you love me more than these…gifts? I love the old hymn that says,” We can only be blessed and have peace and sweet rest, as we yield him our body and soul.” thanks for sharing your heart.

  • Dianaleaghmatthews

    Vonda, thank you for sharing! I’ve also wondered and struggled with the same thing.

  • Karen Nolan Bell

    Vonda, thank you for sharing this today. I have spent most of my life NOT writing out of a fear of failure and rejection. Instead, I became a singer and actress. Then He forced me to lay those loves on the altar by removing them from me with health issues. My damaged vocal chords don’t allow me to sing or to speak for very long. My loss of mobility keeps me off the stage. Singing and acting were my loves. MY loves. Not His. I now realize He took them away so I could see that I am supposed to recognize that He gives us a gift that we are to use in worship of Him, not our own desires. Even though I feel most days that I’m not good enough to be a writer (especially since I’m still not published), I know this is what I am supposed to do. It’s the one thing He has given me in this season of my life to give back to Him. That’s the only way it will be successful. So, for me, laying it on the altar means I am giving control to Him instead of using it to build up my self image–or lack thereof.

  • Lill Kohler

    Vonda, As I read your article it occurred to me that you have been asked to be like Abraham, offering up as a sacrifice to God the son you have birthed and nurtured (your writing, speaking, acting career), so that in your sacrifice you can be given more. I am excited to see the expansion of your ministry that God has planned for you.

    • Thanks, Lill, but just to make sure it’s clear…God hasn’t told me I have to lay down anything. But He has certainly brought me to the point of realizing that He could, and I must be willing.

      Thank you for your prayers for my ministry, and I pray for yours as well…AND for the wedding coming up!

  • THIS COMMENT IS FROM JAMIE BRITT:

    I agree with Nan wholeheartedly. Since I’ve surrendered my life full time to women’s ministry and writing, it’s been one struggle right after another. I was like Nan, when I got home from Boot Camp I was ready to put my hands on the keyboard and get to work. I had a guest blog that I had a deadline for, my own blog post to get out, and I wanted to sit and write and get ahead of schedule. Well, none of that has happened! I’d been running myself ragged getting ready for Boot Camp and when I got home, I got sick with a cold. I’ve been barely keeping up with emails. Needless to say, no writing has gotten done. I think it was God trying to get my attention and tell me to slow down! I’ll be honest (I know I can do that with you) I’d felt like I’d failed the Lord because I hadn’t gotten all of this “stuff” done. I guess He was saying “I have a plan, here it is!” Thank you so much for opening my eyes once again. I was in tears today before I could reach the end of the post. I love you!

    • Thank you for your kind words, Jamie. Believe me, I know how that is! I’m so thankful you had a good time at BootCamp!

  • megan

    Vonda,
    I have learned this lesson too. We want to define ourselves by saying “I’m a writer” or “I’m this” or “I’m that.” or even better, “I’m a professional.” Kind of makes us proud inside. When really God wants us to define ourselves by saying “I’m a daughter of the Most High God.” We subtly want to give credit to ourselves, and we should only give glory to Him. I was trying to get back in shape and took up jogging again, after a more than almost 30 year hiatus. I was getting proud of myself, deep down, I guess. But I have suffered two terrible bronchitis and asthma flare ups as a result of those sunny winter day runs. I think God was saying something to me about pride. Yes I think He wants us to be willing to lay it on the altar, but often it brings Him glory and we are edified in using our gift, He may not want us to lay it down. But we should be willing, if He would ask.
    Megan

    • You’re so right, Megan! And yep, I think that’s the key–to be willing, if He would ask. Thanks for your input!

  • Mostonvt

    Yes, we’re quick to think we ‘d lay our lives down for a friend but don’t touch my…. Thanks, Vonda

  • CelesteVaughan

    Our plan definitely does not always coincide with His plan. I certainly would have never believed I wouldn’t be practicing pharmacy. I do miss some parts of it and I keep my license current, but He definitely had a new plan for me and He readied me for it. Granted, I obviously fought it, but at the time I didn’t even realize it. Now that my life has taken this 180 degree turn, I realize that it’s all about faith and trust in Him, and being ready for anything.

    • Yes, Celeste, your story is a perfect example of this very principle. You would never have chosen it, but my goodness, look at the ministry that has come from it! Thank you for being willing to share your story.

  • Yvonne

    Yes, this is real life when we serve God. Thank you for writing this, Vonda.

    • Yvonne, you have a powerful story to share of God’s goodness and grace, too…even though the experiences were hard. What a confirmation that His thoughts are not the same as our thoughts. They’re so much better!

  • Elaine Carr

    Thank you for “Are We Willing to Lay It On the Altar?” You’ve said it marvelously well. The Isaiah passage and the photo say it too.

    Most sincerely,
    Elaine Carr

    • Thank you, Elaine. I’m glad it spoke to you. And thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation. You’re such an encouragement to me!

  • *sigh*
    Letting this sink in today…

    • Yes, it’s still inking into this heart and mind…

  • Alycia Morales

    I love your transparency in this post, Vonda. I can relate. Not in writing, but in relationships. God has had me lay my preferences down more than once and prove that He is what holds my heart – not something or someone else. Every time I’ve laid it down and left it at His cross, He’s returned it in more abundance, in more ways than I could ever think to ask, with a magnitude of His love.

    Such a wonderful thing to consider…

    • Amen, sister! You’d think at my age and with loving Him for so many years, this would be a thing of the past. But even after all these years, this struggle over my life and what I do with it periodically rears its ugly head again. :-/

      Praise God He truly is in control…and not me!

      • Catherine Young

        Vonda,

        We come back around this mountain anytime a person or profession becomes an idol in our life. When we put the love of something above our love for God, He asks us to open our hand and let it go. Then God who is faithful may return it to us, as one said “purified and refined”.

        I remember in college when I would tell people that “Hockey was my first love” — God placed on my heart that it was time to lay it down. I laid both lacrosse and field hockey at the Cross. A year later I wanted to go back into lacrosse because of a living situation — I prayed about it and God’s response was “it’s up to you.” My Christian roommates harassed me about my decision because of my previous confession–that’s why I wanted to go back! The strains, aches, and pains of going back into the game only seemed to confirm my roommates convictions. However, as I stood on the sidelines at the final game of the season, my name was called and my teammates pushed me out onto the field. I had to lean over to one of the other players to find out that I was named All-Conference Goalie — God confirmed me at that moment.

        God only asks us to lay down the idols that we set up in our lives. As we learn to recognize when something is taking over our passion that should be rightly God’s, and we turn our hearts back to the Lord without His prompting, imagine how much stronger our ministry and words become!!

        Blessings,
        Cathy

        • What a great testimony to His goodness and grace. And what a confirmation that you were doing what He’d called you to do!

          Congratulations on your award, too. Another kudos!

  • Dana

    Once again you have spoken the voice of our hearts….thank you Vonda.

    Dana Armstrong (Mobile, AL)

    • Dana, thank you for the confirmation that I’m not alone. 🙂

  • Ellen Andersen

    Thanks for your honesty and transparency Vonda. Yes, it is hard to lay down what we see as our desires, even when we use them for God’s glory. But God uses us in different ways at different times. He seems to change how He uses us for His glory. It’s hard to see at the time, but I guess that’s where trusting Him comes in.

    • You’re right, Ellen. It all ultimately goes back to trust. Thanks for joining the conversation!

  • Carolyn Knefely

    A power filled post, Vonda.
    Write on!

    • Thank you, Carolyn. I pray God’s power fills us all as we write and speak for Him!

  • Wow, Vonda. That post goes straight to the heart. Powerful. Thanks for the reminder. <3
    Laura

    • Your heart, too, huh? That’s exactly where it hit me. I’m still mulling over what He revealed to me about myself on Sunday.

  • Marilynturkwriter

    Vonda, I’ve been through this before with another career which I knew God had placed me in. And I had to give up a home I had prayed for. Just when I thought I was where God had permanently placed me, He pulled the rug out from under me, forcing me to relinguish control. I felt like I was clinging to an overturned boat when I heard Him say, “Let go.” The Bible verse that says “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you,” reminded me to thank Him for providing thus far and therefore allowed me let go and start over in a new place with a new life and a new calling. Sometimes our dreams seem ripped out of our hands by unexpected events, But God will refocus us on a new dream where He can use us for His glory, if we are wlling.Thank you for reminding us that we are His instruments – He is not ours.

    • Yes, I remember part of your story, Marilyn. And you’re right–He has given you a new place, a new life, and a new calling. What an encouragement you are to all of us!

  • Nan

    Wow! Thank you Vonda. I struggled with very similar thoughts last week after returning from Writer’s Boot Camp. I was so pumped up, ready to set my fingers in flight over the keyboard and DO THIS THING. Every moment of every day last week was filled up with needy people needing ministry. I am ashamed to admit that I became very frustrated because I felt that “my writing” was being pushed aside. The Lord quickly got my attention! He said, “Nan, this is not YOUR writing. It is MY plan and My purpose, not Yours.” Ewww….ouch. I quickly fell to my knees (and slowly, stiffly got up – lol) and asked that He would create a clean heart in me once again. He did and He has helped me find balance once again. I love you Lady V. You are an awesome woman of God.

    • You’re a woman after my own heart, Nan! I can’t tell you how many times through the years that has been my thought. I’m so focused on what I’m sure God has called me to do that I get frustrated when ministry gets in the way! How messed up is THAT thinking?

      Oh, what a wretched woman I am! But praise God, He loves and cares for me, even in the midst of my wretchedness. What a mighty God we serve!

      • Nan

        Well, you sure are a sweet and faithful woman to be so wretched **grin** I guess you’ve noticed by now that you hit a nerve today. I think this has to do with all the shaking going on in the Body of Christ. He is calling us to be Holy before Him and to make Him Lord. Amen? I love you.

  • Jackie Castle

    When I read this, I kept thinking about Joseph (the one with the coat… =)) How God gave him a vision of greatness, only to send him to prison first. I know God calls us to things and it’s easy to get hyper-focused on that ‘ministry’ and think this is what I’m made for. And when we are put in a different place, our hearts falter.
    So we get our identity from that thing we do and if we’re not careful, that ‘ministry’ becomes an idol to us. This question is something worth thinking about. Being willing to consider the what-ifs. If I think my life would be over if I can’t be a writer, then where have I placed my writing in my life? Ugh. As long as I have God, my life will never, ever, never be over or worthless, or any of that stuff. I’m eternal. I’m a King’s daughter. I’m a Kingdom representative no matter where I go or what I’m doing.
    Thanks for talking about this. I need reminders to keep me in perspective with my writing. I do it for Him. Right? Not for me. Well, a little (lot) for me, too. =0) But really for Him.

    • Thanks for your honesty and transparency, Jackie. It’s encouraging to see that I’m not the only one who can get pulled stray by even the good things of this world. But like I said, I’m learning that even if He were to say I’m done, I know that as long as I’m on this earth, He has a job for me to do!

  • Belinda Elliott

    This is such a great message, Vonda. Thanks for sharing. I went through this a couple years ago when my full-time writing position was cut due to downsizing. In the months that followed there seemed to be no writing jobs available and God took me into a totally different field. I was happy to have a job, but not thrilled with where He had put me! I finally had to accept that even if He never allowed me to write professionally again I could trust Him with the plans He had for me. Since then some doors have opened again for my writing and God used the job in the new field to prepare me for a ministry opportunity. It reminds me of the song lyrics from “Trust His Heart” — “When you don’t understand, When you don’t see His plan, When you can’t trace His hand, Trust His heart.”

    • Brenda, I LOVE that song! Brings back so many memories of what was going on in my life back when our choir did that song. So much has changed since then, and yet so much is the same. One King. One Savior. One body. Many parts. Different jobs.

      That will always be His plan!

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  • kimberly long

    Oh my, I got a twin knot right along with you, Vonda, just thinking about it. I also thought of Abraham and Isaac, and almost always cry when reading that story because of my admiration for his faith. I know God wants us to love Him more than anything … even His work.

    • Powerful statement: “God wants us to love Him more than anything…even His work.” Wow. Thank you.

  • Marcia Gaddis

    Maybe it is for a season, but if we are being faithful to Jesus and His commission to us, we certainly then would see His hand in moving us elsewhere, don’t you think? Yesterday, March 5, Oswald Chambers talked about “need vs. call.” His last sentence says, “It does mean that you must be sensitivie to what God has called YOU to do, and this may sometimes require ignoring demands for service in other areas.”

    • How true, Marcia! I struggle with wanting to do all the good things there are out there to do…instead of doing the RIGHT thing He has for ME to do. As I get older, I believe I’m beginning to see it more clearly, but as one who enjoys doing a variety of things, I believe it will be a constant focus of prayer for the rest of my life!

  • What a convicting thought. My stomach is knotting up just thinking about it. But I love what Edie commented – if we lay it down, He purifies and refines.
    Thanks, Vonda, for making me think 🙂

    • I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who experienced a knotted stomach through this heart and mind process. As I said in the post, it scared me to realize how much the idea scared me. Thank you for your honesty. It’s easy to say all the spiritual “right things.” Much harder to look inside and evaluate the truth in my heart…

  • Oh Vonda.. what a brave, authentic post. Puts me in the mind of Abraham and Isaac at Mt. Moriah.

    • Brave? Thank you, dear friend, but I don’t know that I was brave. I was shocked and scared and almost sick at my stomach at the concept.

      And that in itself was what scared me the most. Thank you for your continued love and support, Keiki. 🙂

  • Vonda, I think this is something we all grapple with at one time or another — and in any arena of life. It all comes down to a willingness to surrender, and like you said, that can be a scary thing. I pray that I’m always ready to follow His leading in my life.

    • Yes, if we’re honest, it is something we all do and will continue to grapple with at times. But it is a scary thought. I’m praying along with you that we’ll be faithful to the call…whatever it is!

  • Cathy Baker

    I had a similar thought last week, Vonda, and the queasy feeling to go along with it. He may ask “us” to lay those things we love to do on the altar, but thankfully, I think it’s our heart He’s most interested in, with the question being — would we be WILLING to lay them down? To me, our answer reveals who has true lordship over our lives and it also reminds us to continually hold all our desires loosely in our hands (and hearts). Very challenging, Vonda. Thank you for your transparency.

    • It’s such a God thing, but this morning, my online Bible study (www.ShannonMullins.com) was about Balaam and the donkey. (I had already posted this blog, of course.) And what does Shannon talk about? The fact that even though Balaam blessed Israel 4 times, his heart, his motivations weren’t pure, and in 2 Peter 2 Peter says he was on a mad course! What a confirmation of this concept that we must be sure we’re doing what God has for us to do! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Linda Parks

    Though I struggle with my insecurity, I know God has called me and will put the words in my mouth and fingers when needed. Praise God, I can trust Him!

    • What a joy to hear from you, Linda. And you’re right–He will give us exactly what we need!

  • Angela Brown

    Vonda,
    I so appreciate this particular message you have shared this morning. It is so easy to see our identity in what we do with the Lord as opposed to who we are to the Lord. First and foremost we are his beloved children and to enjoy Him and be with Him is our first and foremost calling. It is hard for most of us to see that as the highest identity we could possess. But all we do and say and perform is nothing without knowing and enjoying Him. Thanks for challenging us to remember He is the prize, not our accomplishments.
    Blessings,

    • “But all we do and say and perform is nothing without knowing and enjoying Him.” “He is the prize.” Powerful reminders, Angela. Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Tough questions. I know because, years ago God did ask me to lay down my writing. I finally did and He returned it to me, purified with purpose.

    • Yes, He has returned it to you in powerful ways! Thank you for your example. And thank you for sharing your beautiful poem, A Divine Obsession. We must constantly be aware of Who and what we’re serving in our obsessions!

  • Julie Garmon

    You can’t imagine how much this spoke to me this morning. Thank you, Vonda.

    • I’m thankful it touched you, Julie. I can’t get it out of my heart and mind. You’ve encouraged me this morning!

  • Jeanne Doyon

    Great challenge, Vonda. I will be meditating on this one for awhile 🙂
    Father, keep my ideas at bay and help me to follow yours, in your strength and power.
    Jeanne

    • I love your prayer, Jeanne! A great reminder of what we’re here to do. I’m reposting that!

  • Yes. I don’t know how not to write, to sculpt, to speak or to sing. But I know if He asked me to lay them all down, He would have something else for me to do. I am His servant, and He equips me.

    • Marcia Gaddis

      Maybe it is for a season, but if we are being faithful to Jesus and His commission to us, we certainly then would see His hand in moving us elsewhere, don’t you think? Yesterday, March 5, Oswald Chambers talked about “need vs. call.” His last sentence says, “It does mean that you must be sensitivie to what God has called YOU to do, and this may sometimes require ignoring demands for service in other areas.”

    • You’re so right, Cyn–He WILL equip us for what He has for us to do!

      • She1news

        As someone who walked away from a successful Tv career 3 years ago and I am currently in inner city ministry, it is the hardest thing to do to lay down what you have loved but learning His presence and intimate character is worth it. God teaches us hope and identity in Him alone. He never promised ease when I said “I’m all in” but He does promise Himself. Enjoy the journey ladies!

        • Wow, She1news, thank you for your vivid example of what I’m talking about. I pray God just blesses the socks off your ministry as you continue to bless others in His Great Name! Thank you for reminding us that His only promise is His presence. Powerful!