Tuesday, January 27, 2015

An open letter to Christian artists, musicians, and writers who are still looking for a breakthrough

Dear friend,

I know. You’ve worked a long time and you’ve tried to put in those 10,000 hours this man says you need in order to perfect your craft. You’ve lived on hope, and following a dream, and yet, up ahead, you only see more of the overgrown, and hard to navigate road that you’ve traveled so far. And you’re thinking, what difference does it make if I quit? What difference do I make?

Here, it’s important to remember those first few words in Genesis, “In the beginning, God created . . . “ You were created in the image of God, and you were created to create. Those gifts and talents are part of your DNA and by using them, you continue His artistry in the world. By the beauty of what you do, you make pliable the hard surfaces of life for others, you give people a place for their own emotions and feelings to resonate. “I’m not alone,” they think because of what you do, because of your honesty, and they find encouragement in the heartfelt renderings of your life.

God could have given us a soundless, black and white world, but He chose to give us one teaming with sensory beauty. In the same way, you spin delight with your offerings.



 
 




 
When we heard about the butterfly effect, we wondered, but he says it’s true.  Those butterfly wings flapping on the other side of the world can affect what happens on this side of the planet. The same is true for you. What you do not only affects you, and the people you touch, but the people they touch and on, and on in ripples ad infinitum. Your work matters in this generation, and the next, and the next, and the next. Truly, a “people yet unborn” may praise him because of your efforts today. And it’s not just the big things that matter, but the small things, too. Even those works unseen by others have import in ways we cannot imagine. Perhaps, tomorrow, in a dark recess, half a world away, another finds hope because you didn’t give up, because you persevered.
 
When you are tempted to minimize the value of your efforts, remember, the God of the universe leans forward to take in your painting, your singing, and your writing. Your talents and gifts were his idea and He has chosen you. Sift critiques for what can make your work stronger and use them for transformation, but don’t allow rejections or negative comments to summarize the worth of your work.
 
Do not confuse what you do with who you are. You belong to God, and you are highly esteemed. Your value is not wrapped up in what you do. And if you seemingly fail in your efforts, it does not mean you are a failure. Just use those detours as a segue for what comes next.

No matter the means of expression, whether you tool belts, fashion jewelry, design greeting cards, paint landscapes, write screenplays, novels, or devotions, pen lyrics, sculpt clay, construct tables, draw cartoons, play an instrument, develop lessons for adults or children, etch woodblocks, create culinary delights, or anything else where creativity is involved, "Let every detail in your lives, words, actions, whatever, be done in the name of the Master, Jesus . . . " (Colossians 3:17 The Message).

Let Him make His mark through you.

In a week or so, I start a new Bible study on Gideon. In preparation for that, a friend also in the study, sent me this scripture from Judges 6. "But God faced him (Gideon) directly: 'Go in this strength that is yours. Save Israel from Midian. Haven’t I just sent you?'” In the face of overwhelming odds, long lines of closed doors, and feelings of inadequacy, we go in the strength we have, even if it seems little, because God has called us. God has sent us. And God only knows how He will capitalize on our weakness to fulfill His purpose.

Friends, be encouraged to continue. You are not alone. We are on this journey together. Don’t let discouragement shut up your heart.

Please know, in this dimly lit world, the shimmering jewel of your creativity shines forth and brings glory to Him, and He smiles.

Many blessings,

 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A good dog and avoiding a big mess


 My husband, Jerry, was out of town, so I planned to see a community theater production of “Beauty and the Beast.” Lucy, our sweet lab, has escaped several times by climbing the fence in the backyard.  I didn’t want to take a chance in leaving her out there with the possibility she might escape and get lost while I was gone, so as we’ve done many times, I left her in the house to hang out with the cats until I returned. I put the usual items she might chew out of reach (like the TV remote) and headed out. She's always been fine.

The production was stunning, and I left singing “’Beauty and the Beast” under my breath. What I didn’t know is our own little beast had a surprise for me on my return.
 

What are those rainbow colors all over her bed?

About eight tubes of artist’s oil paint. She had a special affinity for ultramarine blue as she decimated two tubes of it.

Then after she ruined her bed, she didn’t want to sleep in it and climbed onto a chair, which is documented by the colorful paw prints she left on the upholstery.

Yeah, I know, it’s my fault for leaving the tubes in reach, but it never occurred to me that our sweet dog would do such a thing.

I dropped to my hands and knees with Turpenoid and tried to scrub the paint off the rug in the den.

As I scrubbed, I thought Lucy is a really good dog, but I guessed even she still has her moments.

And I thought of those words from the play, “. . . tale as old as time . . .”

Solomon may have said it best, that there’s “. . . nothing new under the sun . . . “ (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Dogs have always chewed things, and my good dog is no exception.

In the same way, no matter who we are, or how far we’ve come with the Lord, we still have the capacity to err, to step out of God’s purpose for our lives. And thinking otherwise reminds me of something Oswald Chambers said, “Unguarded strength is double weakness.”

Additionally, the more we zero in on what God has for us, the more the enemy targets us and tries to derail us. He will use any tool in his box to do it, and especially likes to use the powerful ones, fear and doubt.

Sometimes in the spirit, it seems we are right on God’s purpose, but in the natural, everything seems to be unraveling. And it all looks so I.M.P.O.S.S.I.B.L.E. That’s when an avalanche of anxiety may overwhelm.

It’s also when we can choose to remember what He has poured into us and why the early church  “rehearsed all that God had done with them” (Acts14:27 KJV),  because of the times in which they lived, in the face of extreme opposition, it helped to remember God’s faithfulness. We remember that if we don’t guard our hearts and cling to the Lord and His word, we can wind up chewing up a few tubes of oil paint and making a big mess like my sweet dog Lucy.

And once that paint is out of the tube, well, do I have to say it? It’s not going back in.

I’m a bit short on paint for a project I intended to start this week. But on the other hand, even as we begin this process of getting a film into production, I’ve gained a strong reminder to not allow the enemy of my soul to move me away from God’s purpose, no matter how difficult the road.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Big News at One Ringing Bell

When the phone rang that night, I almost didn't answer, because we hardly ever get anything but solicitation calls on our home phone. I'm glad I did, because it was a life-changer.

Some of you know that for the past several years, I’ve had a movie script I wrote under option with an independent film company, Elevating Entertainment.  Last week, the call I answered was the producer there, Dave Moody.



That script, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees,was a finalist for the Kairos Prize in Screenwriting as well as a screenwriting finalist at the Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival.  
 
As of last week, it has now been green lighted for production.

What does this mean?

It means according to the production schedule, that on June 19 of this year, cameras will begin rolling on St. Simons Island, Georgia , where the screenplay is set, to capture this story God planted in my heart.

Am I excited?

Over the years, I’ve tried to keep my feet firmly planted on terra firma, because I know how quickly these deals can unravel. However, this is a huge step, even though there is still much to be done.

I now have a date, and I believe it is going to happen, because I trust Dave Moody and have seen his work as I was on the set for the filming of Rusty Whiteners’ wonderful story, Season of Miracles.

I’ll keep you updated as plans move ahead. This is an indie film, so we’re still looking for investors. If you’re interested in that regard, check out GreenLight Groupe.com for more information.

I’ll also keep you posted about other ways you can be involved.

I once heard a conference speaker say that a movie never changed anyone’s life.

Well, a movie changed my life.

I was eight years old when a neighbor, Mrs. Kutz, came over. “My daughter and I are going to see Mary Poppins. Could Beverly come along?” she asked my mother.

Up to that point, I don’t think I’d ever been to a motion picture except a drive in. And I’d sure never been to a musical. Oh, how I wanted to go and looked up at my mother with pleading eyes. I wasn’t sure my mother would allow it as we hadn't known these neighbors very long. I anxiously stood in our tiny kitchen awaiting the answer as if my life depended on it. It would later turn out that it probably did. When the yes finally came, I could hardly stand it.

Sitting in that darkened theatre, from the first Chim chim cher-ee, it seemed I’d entered another world—a world full of singing and dancing and wonder. My black and white life lit up with color. I began to see possibilities far beyond anything I’d ever imagined. Inspired by that movie, a short time later, I asked my mother if I could take piano lessons.

I can’t imagine the sacrifice involved to pay for those lessons, but somehow, we managed. When I sat at the piano, I entered that same world I’d seen in Mary Poppins—the world of music. Those lessons led to a lifetime of ministry in church music, as well as a personal ministry through songwriting and singing. Music also helped me survive a childhood replete with challenges, many of which continued into adult years. I look back and wonder what would have happened to me if it hadn’t been for what God did through Mary Poppins and music.

Yes, a movie definitely changed my life.

I have the hope that on some not too distant day, perhaps another girl will see this story, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees, and realize her life can be more than she ever dreamed, too. Though this story is in no way autobiographical, it still carries the message that we can reach beyond black and white to beauty to change the world around us and with God’s help, offer others hope.

At times, I feel I’m awfully late coming to the table, but I know God’s timing is perfect. It seems poetic to have the ability to give away in some way what was given to me.

I pray this film will be part of my spiritual legacy.

I am currently reading this wonderful book, Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love by Sally Clarkson. In it, she dares to throw out these questions, “What might God do through my life, in the power of the Holy Spirit, if I were willing to dream big and believe in miracles? What might He accomplish through me if I would only throw off my cloak of worry and just enjoy the beauty, dance with the invisible music, and celebrate life?”

Over the years, I’ve asked similar questions and perhaps it is those questions that led me here. But I still struggle with the daily grind and worry way too much. And even though I have known for a week about this script being green lighted, I have told no one except immediate family, and a few in my writers group. Why? Because I hear this little voice in my head saying it isn’t true, and that people will think I’m crazy if I tell them I have a script going into production.

Honestly, if it weren’t for a small group of kindred souls I met through the Gideon Media Arts conference who are involved in similar pursuits, my writer’s group, church friends, my sweet family, and you dear readers who keep encouraging, I don’t know if I could do this. It also helps to see God using other people as unlikely as me to accomplish His work.

So after this rambling post, I ask for your prayers in the months ahead. And I challenge you to dream the big dreams, the improbable dreams, and keep hoping for the deep desires of your heart. There will be sacrifice, and there will be waiting, but it will all be worth it.

I end this piece with the verse I used when I first wrote about the option on Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees in 2010 as I began this blog. Yes, it will be almost exactly five years since the option began when the film starts production.

“May God, who puts all things together, makes all things whole,
Who made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus, the sacrifice of blood that sealed the eternal covenant,
Who led Jesus, our Great Shepherd, up and alive from the dead,
Now put you together, provide you with everything you need to please him,
Make us into what gives him most pleasure, by means of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah.
All glory to Jesus forever and always!
Oh, yes, yes, yes” (Hebrews 13:19-21 The Message).


If you haven't read the novel, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees, it’s available many places including HERE.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

When it's just too heavy

I’m a chronic over packer. But it never seemed a problem in the days when I traveled so much.

I had a piece of Hartmann luggage that I loved, and even though luggage styles had begun to include wheels (oh, how I date myself), I clung to that bag. I was a fashion buyer, so I couldn’t exactly go into the New York market looking like a ragamuffin. It was just big enough to hold the shoes, scarves, and outfits I needed for a week.

I never had to handle the bag much, as I’d check it in curbside at the Atlanta airport, get a cart at LaGuardia on the other end, and wheel it to a cab where the cabbie would load it. At the hotel, a bellman would unload it and get it to my room after check-in.

As I was saying, it never seemed a problem. Except once. And that was the last time I used that piece of luggage.

A fellow buyer and I had the bright idea to have an adventure: take a train to New York, leave a few days early, and stay in Washington en route.




It wound up being an adventure, all right. When we arrived at Union Station, we found it under serious renovation.

“Where are the carts?” I cried when we deboarded the train, scanning the platform through a mob of people.

“I don’t know,” my friend said.

Of course, she didn't need one, smart cookie that she was. She had a bag with wheels.

I looked down at my over stuffed bag. I had no alternative but to pick it up. I wound up lugging it for what seemed like miles through a maze of construction to get it to a cab. That trip is one reason my right shoulder is now about an inch lower than the left. I think my posture was permanently altered on that trip.

I immediately bought a rolling case on my return.

In the last post, I wrote about a quandary in which I find myself. And it feels like that piece of luggage. Heavy. And it also seems like I’ve been dragging it all over Union Station. Alone.

 I sense if I were to keep going like this, the whole thing is going to have a distorting effect on my spirit just as that luggage had on my posture.

What I keep hearing the Holy Spirit whisper is, “My burden is light.”

“Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:29-30 The Message).

When I remember that vintage suitcase, I’m thankful I won’t ever have to heft it again. The same is true for that luggage of striving. Here at the beginning of the New Year, I know that as I keep company with him, I can permanently throw that heavy bag of striving to the curb.

If you, too, find yourself loaded down, remember there’s a better way, a lighter way.

Together, friends, let’s get rid of our vintage luggage.

In the New Year, we’ll roll with grace.

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