guest posts, I Am Kept

Kept: Guest Blogger Salley Bradley

Such were some of you… ~1 Corinthians 6:11

I enjoyed Jen and Susan’s blog post on Monday. It’s always fun to see what people first think about a book titled Kept and where it takes their thoughts. For my book, Kept means different things at different times to Miska Tomlinson, my main character who is a kept woman.

Like Miska, we are all kept women. We are all slaves to something, whether we want to acknowledge that or not. It’s easy to get philosophical and say we’re slaves to our jobs or our cultures or our families or the pressures of others, but the Bible makes it pretty cut and dried. We are either a slave to Satan or to God. We are either kept by Satan himself. Or we are kept by God.

We all start out kept by Satan, and for however long we continue in that path, we tend to mostly enjoy it. We like our sin. We like those pleasures that last for a time. But when the pain of sin comes, two things can happen. We either shrug off the pain as just another fact of life, or we start looking for answers. For truth. For someone who will keep us like we’ve never been kept before.

Something that amazes me over and over is that sometimes it’s our enslaving sin that God uses to bring us to Him. We begin to hate the bondage we’re in, the pain we’re suffering, the constant battle we fight . . . and lose. There has to be more, we think. And it’s at this point that we realize that we are slaves to an evil we cannot escape on our own.

Kept begins with a snippet from I Corinthians 6. In verse nine, Paul tells the Corinthian church, a very messed-up church at the time, that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. He lists sinners who will not inherit: fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, covetous, drunkards, and others.

That’s our American culture. We are running fast and hard from God. We don’t want Him to keep us; we want our sin to keep us. We want Satan. We want eternity away from God. We see this more and more, don’t we?

But then there’s that beautiful verse that gives us hope. “Such were some of you.” The verse could stop there, but it doesn’t. “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

This is still happening in America. Men and women who’ve fought God are still being saved. They’re being washed, sanctified, and justified. Yes, their past is still there, but it doesn’t keep them anymore, does it?

In Kept, I wanted to explore that scenario. What if an unchurched woman runs into her complete opposite? What if she’s perfectly happy with her life as it is? What would it take to make her want Christ? And when she finally did, how would her past affect her present and future?

I hope you’re already kept by Christ. We know He won’t let us go. Once He saves us, we are His forever because it’s His power completely that saves us, nothing that we do. And that means that our past can’t control us anymore either. Yes, there will still be consequences of our sin that can’t be undone. We all deal with that in varying degrees. But once we’ve exchanged Satan’s chains for God’s, we find freedom and safety we never had before.

Here’s the verse I chose to end Kept with. It’s one of the first verses in the short book of Jude. “To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.”

Now that’s the kind of slavery I want.

Smaller HeadshotSally Bradley writes big-city fiction that deals with real issues and real hope. A Chicagoan since age five, she now lives in the Kansas City area with her family, but they get back to Chicago often for important things—like good pizza and White Sox baseball. Sally loves to connect with her readers, and you can find her at sallybradley.com and her Facebook page, Sally Bradley, Writer.

Kept is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.kept RGB front lower resolution

I Am Kept

Out of Bondage

“Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever.” –John 4:13-14a, HCSB

I wonder what she was thinking as she walked that well-worn trail on her own. Every day that trek to the well must have been a reminder…Of dreams unfulfilled. Of a longing unmet. Of shame. It was a walk most women made together, a chore done as a social engagement. Except for the outcast, the scorned.

With every step toward that well she could hear the whispers in her restless soul. All she ever wanted was love, the lasting kind. But men…they’re not the faithful types. And because she cannot extinguish the thirst to be held, wanted, she is that woman.

A kept woman. A mistress.

A man’s voice meets her at the well, drawing her attention from her feet. “I am thirsty.”

She stares at him. He is a Jew. Jews don’t talk to Samaritans, especially Samaritan women. Unless… She gauges his inspection. His look is not the seductive kind. She would know, after all.

“Why do you speak to me?” she stammers. “I am a woman. A Samaritan woman.” And it’s so much worse than that.

He cracks a small grin, as if he knows a secret.

Oh, no. Does every man in Judea know about me as well?

His voice drifts with kindness over the well between them. “If you knew who spoke to you, you would ask me for living water.”

Does he think he’s a magician? She snorts. “How will you draw the water, sir? This well is very deep.”

“Ah,” his grin spreads full. “But you see, woman, everyone who drinks from this well will thirst again. I am talking about living water—whoever drinks of it will never thirst again. It will become a spring life within.”

No more drawing water? No more taking the lonely walk of shame throughout town? “Sir, give me this water so I will not have to come here again!”

That knowing look crept back in his eyes. “Go, call you husband, and come back.”

Her heart stalled. Husband? Did he know? “I—” She swallowed. “I’m not married.”

His gaze didn’t waver. “Indeed, not at the moment. But you have been, five times. But the man you are with now…”

Her face burns as she casts her look to the ground. How is this possible? How can this man know the ugly, intimate details of her life?

How can he know all this…and still speak to her?

“You are a prophet.” And not like any religious man I’ve ever met. What makes you so kind to a woman you clearly know is unworthy? “Tell me, how do I worship God?”

“The Father wants people who will worship in spirit and in truth.”

Truth? I know the truth about me—and apparently so do you. Does God know? Probably.

She chances a glance back at him again. His face is gentle, and yet, absolute. Truth. Can He be? “The Messiah is coming. He will tell us Truth.”

He smiled like a proud parent. “Woman,” his eyes dance, as if he’s about to share that secret, “I am He.”

She knew it. But He is here, talking to her? A woman of…filth. Tears gathered in her eyes. He talked to her, and offered her living water—the kind that would satisfy her forever. The kind that she’d been longing for her whole life.

Suddenly, the invitation became clear. Everything that she’d searched for in life He held in His kind hands. Love. Belonging. Forgiveness. All that she’d thirst for, quenched by his living water. Water that would satisfy. Water that would cleanse.

He would give it to her. All she must do is ask.

Blue Columbine Cover

I Am Kept

Kept in Perfect Peace?

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3 ESV

Perfect peace. I don’t know about you, but I don’t often have perfect peace.  I am far more often kept in a state of fretfulness.  And as we’ve explored being “kept” this week, my heart has been drawn to this verse.  It’s a promise with a catch. We can be kept in perfect peace only if our minds are “stayed” on God, trusting in Him.

So, following the logic here, it appears that my mind is not stayed on God, because I’m not peaceful. My mind does anything but stay anywhere.  It flits from one subject to another, from one unfulfilled desire to the next, from this problem to that one.  Worry creeps in, entangling me.

I am my own keeper. And I’m doing a lousy job of it.  I’m ready to allow God to do the keeping.

And so, I must choose to focus on Him, not on all the things I want or need. I must trust Him to meet my true needs instead of trying frantically to devise ways to meet them myself, worrying that I’m using the wrong means to get to my end.  I must learn to find contentment with Him alone, not in any other thing or person.

When I look at God instead of my problems – ah, there it is. Peace.  And He’ll keep me in it, as long as I keep my mind “stayed” on Him.  His faithfulness.  His sufficiency.  His trustworthiness. He is a bottomless pool of peace.  May I choose to swim in it today, tomorrow, next month and 10 years from now.

Peace.

I Am Kept

Called and Kept

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. – 1Peter 2:24-25, NASB

I’m not good about writing things down. Seriously, you’d think I would learn after a bazillion missteps, forgotten whatevers, and lost moments. But here I am, a full grown woman who still fails to write things down. Appointments. Order amounts. Directions.

That last part is where my thoughts went today. Because, like a sheep, I stray continually, especially without directions. Case in point: I went to my daughter’s first cross country meet a couple of weeks ago. I was so excited; she’s a good runner and she loves it, and this is the first year she’s allowed to participate in a school sport. So it’s a big deal. One would think that I’d write down the directions to the golf course where she’d be running, right? Especially since it was almost a two hour drive to get there, and she’d run that mile-long race in about six minutes. Not a lot of room for error there. But guess who didn’t write down the directions.

Guess who was late for the race.

I turned left where I should have turned right. By the time Google maps via my smart phone got me back on track I was able to make it in time to see her finish. She did so well—placed ninth in the junior high division—and I’d miss all but the last thirty seconds.

I needed a road guardian that day. Luckily, I did have that smart phone, or I would have missed it completely. But still…

Life seems like that sometimes, doesn’t it? We turn left instead of right and can’t figure out why we’re at the feedlot (If you’ve never been near one, ew. That’s all you need to know.) instead of the golf course.

Praise God, while life is that way, Salvation isn’t. Those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ have a soul Guardian, and He doesn’t fail. Jesus told his disciples “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”  (John 10:27-28, NASB)

He who holds eternity also holds his sheep in it. No matter which way we turn, he will keep us safe in His hand.

I Am Kept

I Am Kept: A Joint Post

“I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You, Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. …I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” –John 17: 11, 15

From Jen:

I have to confess, Kept isn’t something I came up with. My writing friend, Sally Bradley did. She named her newly released novel Kept. While I thought that was an intriguing title, I honestly didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it until I neared the end of my journey through the book of John a few weeks ago. Jesus’s prayer for the believers leapt of the page to me, and it was almost as if the word keep was in bold print before my eyes.

Kept. I am kept. By whom? From what? And for what purpose?

From Susan:

I read the first chapter of Sally’s book Kept online, and it had me intrigued from the get-go.  I can’t wait to buy the whole thing, and I’m thankful for her creativity that has inspired this week’s blog topic.

I only keep things I treasure.  I tried to give away my daughter’s princess-dress-up clothes this week.  But I just couldn’t do it.  Oh, she’s 11.  She lost interest in them years ago.   But when I opened the box, the memories of my dancing 5-year-old were hidden there in the sparkling folds.  I could taste the sweetness of that earlier time in the perfumy fragrance of the fabric.  I closed the box.  I’d keep them.  Maybe for a granddaughter, if God gives me one in a couple of decades.

I kept them for two reasons: Firstly, I enjoy them right now.  I like just owning them.  They give me pleasure.  And secondly, I have a future use in mind for them.

Which brings me to Jen’s questions, stemming from these beautiful verses in John.  Who keeps us?  God himself.  And why?  Because He treasures us.  He enjoys us.  We bring the God of the Universe pleasure.  And, He has a future in mind for us.  God has plans for us.  He must keep up safe to accomplish them.

“Safe” doesn’t mean we are stashed in a box under a bed.  Safe may not even mean physical safety.  Instead, he keeps us spiritually safe for all of eternity, nestled in the palm of His hand, ready for all His future plans – plans on this earth, and plans beyond.