A while ago I looked at everything I write and made categories for each. I prayed over each and found Scripture to go with each segment.
It turned out like this: my fiction universe is called, quite boringly, Jill Penrod Novels. The verse to go with that is But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ. Ephesians 4:15
My blog changed gears a little bit this year. Its focus was anxiety and Christianity, and that’s still key, but I opened it to more. Now it’s called Bare Feet on Holy Ground, and its verse is this:
He brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
…Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:2, 3b
Then we get to the nonfiction publications. I named that group Lamp Oil Resources, and it’s based on one of Jesus’s parables about ten virgins and their lamps, Matthew 25:1-13. The foolish virgins didn’t take extra oil, so they were out buying some when the bridegroom arrived. The wise virgins had enough oil for the waiting, and when the bridegroom arrived, they were invited to walk with him into the kingdom.
I heard a sermon on this parable recently, and it warmed my soul, largely because the speaker agreed with me about the lamp oil in our lives and how to attain it. So, since God was verifying this to me, I thought I’d share those insights with you.
That painful waiting
First, we’re waiting. True confession—I hate waiting. Hate it. And yet, we wait. I’ve waited for the birth of babies. I’ve waited for doctor’s appointments, house closings, vacations… Good and bad waiting. I’ve waited long and hard for God to bring some of my loved ones into the fold.
Waiting is hard. As I heard in the sermon last week, Waiting is hard and leads to deeper surrender. Yes, I wait. The bridesmaids in this parable waited. All of us wait for something. In this dark age, we wait with renewed intensity for Jesus to return and take us home. The godless wrongness of this world claws at us worse every day, and waiting becomes painful.
So, lamp oil has something to do with waiting. But it’s not a posture of idleness or apathy. It’s active waiting. Preparatory waiting. We don’t sit and stare in despair. We use our waiting. We don’t wait simply for something to happen to us, but we participate in this thing that’s going to happen.
Jesus will return. While I wait, I prepare my heart. But I also work to build a kingdom, which means I play a role in preparing other hearts. For a posture of waiting, it’s pretty busy here. I imagine a castle of servants awaiting a long-absent prince. Sheets must be cleaned. Gardens weeded. The pantry needs to be full. The castle won’t take care of itself, and the preparations happen constantly until the prince sets foot through the door.
So that’s how I wait. I seek Jesus’s knowledge and wisdom. I use my gifts to help encourage and prepare others to seek Jesus’s knowledge and wisdom. We work together, and we work without ceasing until we hear the cry that the bridegroom is outside our door.
To share or not to share
The speaker said something simple that really hit me. The virgins with oil COULDN’T share their oil. The oil that keeps our lamps burning is our own internal relationship with Jesus. Not sharable. Trust me, if I could share it with my wandering loved ones, I would. But I can’t.
So the oil is internal. It leads us to act and prepare while we wait. But if it’s internal and not sharable, how do I make sure I have enough? How do I make sure I make to midnight with what I’ve got?
It’s a question with a lot of answers. I answered it when I called my nonfiction Lamp Oil Resources. We constantly nurture our relationships with Jesus. That means prayer. Bible engagement. Reading what other saints have said about God. Fellowshipping with other believers. Spiritual disciplines.
It means intentionally working, every day, to keep your relationship with Jesus healthy and growing. Conversations that go two ways with you both speaking and listening. Knowing more about Jesus through His word, your experience, and the experiences of others.
Making it personal
What does it look like for me to keep my lamp burning? First, I work hard to start my day with Bible reading. Sometimes I have a journal. Sometimes I have a Bible study. At the very minimum, I use a journaling Bible, and I require myself to write SOMETHING on the lined margins every time I read. I need to interact or I don’t remember things.
Second, I’ve started holding Business Meetings with God before I start my writing and marketing for the day. I cobbled together a lot of resources to make my plan, but I start with praise and thanksgiving. I ask him questions about my day, my work, my heart, and mostly his heart for my day. Then I listen and ponder before barreling ahead with my own plans.
I’m also reading about rest, because I’ve been going full speed ahead, and in September it caught up with me. A hormone mess led to anemia led to surgery, and while I’m fine, the neon lights screaming “You need to do better” are not going unheeded. Rest is where we reflect, ponder, surrender, and hear Jesus’s voice. Rest is my new thing.
Finally, my anxious, introverted self would love to live solo, but this year I’ve found a tribe. I have some writing friends who help me stay motivated and accountable in my walk with Jesus. I’m not good at it, but I’m trying, and He is blessing my feeble forays into a social life.
What about you? How are you making sure your relationship with God is intact and growing and feeding your life so you can actively wait and participate in his plans? What does life as a bridesmaid with a full jar of oil look like?
If that image doesn’t make you happy, what could you do to make it better?
Today, make sure you’re putting your relationship with Jesus high on the priority list. It should be at the top, in fact. Fill your life with Jesus in so many ways that you’ll never have to worry about your oil lamp guttering and sputtering and going dark.
Wait. Surrender. But keep busy while you do it. This kingdom we’re preparing won’t build itself, and that means we help each other remain in healthy communion with the Prince whose return colors all our hours and days.