Tuesday, April 28, 2015

On writing what you know


Writers often hear the admonition to “write what you know,” which means if you grew up in the rural south, it’s probably not a good idea to write a coming of age story set in Manhattan. Of course, given our access to information these days, via the worldwide web, our ability to reach outside our usual parameters has been greatly expanded.

That is not the kind of “write what you know” I’m talking about.



I write organically. This means I don’t sit down and plot out a 300 page novel before I write it. I may have an idea before I start about a few things, but I take to heart the advice of novelist, Terry Kay, who says, “We don’t write to tell a story; we write to discover a story.

When I’m writing, I may not know what’s going to happen next in Chapter One, but I may already see what’s going to happen somewhere near the end of the book, maybe Chapter Twenty-Seven, so I write that. I write what I know.

I write the next thing I’m thinking about, the very next thing that’s coming to me.

I hear writers say they don’t know what to write, that they’re stuck. But, you writers know something. It may be a small, a seemingly inconsequential thing―write that. And you will find that when you do, a door may open to an entirely different thought. I believe writers get stuck, because they don’t write what they know.

In fact, we sometimes push those thoughts out of our mind, determined to get the next step in what we’ve determined should be a linear progression. Forget linear. Piece it together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. You don’t put a puzzle together in a linear way, you work with the pieces that fit, and then you find more that fit. Approach your writing like that. Work with the pieces that fit. Again, I say it. Write what you know.

The life of faith is very similar isn’t it? We take one step in the light that we have. We don’t get the whole story. God doesn’t give us an outline for our entire life, but He does give us a Guidebook (Bible), and a Guide (Holy Spirit).
 
Sometimes that next step can feel like a detour and appear to have nothing to do with where we think we should be going, but God knows how the pieces fit together, and He knows what the story of our lives should be about.
 
With Him, we may prayerfully find the next step in this great adventure of life.

“Direct my footsteps according to your word . . .” (Psalm 119:133).

 

 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

When you need comfort


I know a dear woman who was told a few weeks ago that her sister is dying. Then this week she found out her daughter has had a recurrence of cancer.

Sometimes, we can hardly catch our breath before the next storm blows in.



 

Like everyone else, we have had our share of these circumstances. I was just recovering from Posttraumatic stress when doctors told me I had cancer.  Only a year later, my mother lay dying, when 911 took place. Fast forwarding a bit, while dealing with a very difficult situation, which I still don’t write about, my husband was diagnosed with cancer.
 
It can feel as if we have whiplash from all the jarring.

Pregnant with my first child, I remember folks telling me that labor was hard. But I naively thought, “How hard can it be?” And then I went through twenty-five hours of labor, which included seven hours in transition, most of which was without the benefit of any anesthetic.

Really hard, and I know people with much worse stories.

God knew it could be like that.

Jesus said in John 14, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

In all the train wrecks and seemingly over the top circumstances of life, God is coming. Coming to walk and talk with you. Coming to listen. Coming to comfort.

The Message says it this way, “I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back.”

You are not alone, and you are not without comfort. In his presence, we can face anything.

Often, I’ve placed a chair beside me and imagined that Jesus Himself was sitting beside me as I poured out my heart, because the truth is, He is beside us. He is in us.

So, today, I’d thought about writing another kind of post, but  sometimes, we don't need to hear a whole lot about what to do, or how to deal with something, we just need to be reminded Jesus is present.

Consider clicking here to listen to Meredith Andrew’s wonderful song “You are not alone.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Everything New


It’s spring, and the newness of it all causes me to want to make some things new myself. I’ve been ready for an office reno for a while, but as a ministry family, we’ve always had to live on a budget. That budget insures all decorating requires getting creative.

I remembered a piece of furniture in storage that I almost sold at a garage sale. It started life as a dark pine buffet in a dining room. When I bought it second hand, I painted the base white, the hutch interior wisteria, and put it in my soon-to-be-born daughter’s room. She lived with it until she was in middle school. Then my mother left her a little money with which she bought a sleigh bed and matching dresser. The buffet went to the barn. And there it has stayed for over ten years.

I wondered if I could strip down the top of the base, paint the bottom, and use it as a sort of credenza in my office/sunroom.

I spent an entire day last week doing just that.  Jerry helped me move a whole lot of junk so I could pull the buffet out. It was covered in dirt and some mildew, so it took a good bit of cleaning before I could do anything else to it. I pulled off the doors, because I intended to use baskets where the doors used to be.

I didn’t want to use chemicals, so I scraped the paint from the top by hand then used an electric sander to smooth it (the wonder of power tools). I went to the paint shelves and took a can of yellowish paint/primer I had left over from another project and mixed it with a little bit of grey and teal from two sample cans. I know this is making some of you perfectionists cringe.  I'm following the Nester's creed, "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." After a few adjustments, I covered the base with color. I bought a few new knobs from a craft store, and spray painted the pulls I already had.

And here it is.

 

I painted my scratched up faux cherry desk to match, then covered pillows and an ottoman with fabric I’d had for over a year. I need a rug, but I have my eye on a pet friendly one which I hope will go on sale.

So, I did this with stuff I already had except for eight dollars in knobs. 
 

 
There’s a verse in Revelation that circles through my brain especially this time of year. “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:5).

God is the ultimate renovator. At a time in my life, when I felt everything about me was broken, God came in and began restoring and renewing me from the inside out. He scraped off the veneer I’d been hiding behind, so that His glory could shine through. He repaired the shattered pieces of my heart. And every day, he continues that restorative process. The verse says, “He is making . . . , “ present tense. He continues the work he began, on and on.  

It’s a comfort to know that when I feel like a mess that He does not abandon the work of His hands.

So, I’m enjoying my renovated furniture and my renovated life.

However, I’m having a hard time convincing the cats I didn’t redo everything just for them.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

If you want to live a long time

 
 


Easter Sunday afternoon, after everyone had left, I picked up an insert in the Sunday paper and scanned the lead story, “Cheater’s Guide to Living to 100.”

Journalist, Dan Buetter, has conducted research among the people who live the longest on this planet and arrived at some interesting conclusions.

Based on his research, the article highlights several things that could extend life expectancy. For example, an exercise regimen can add four and a half years. Not surprising. Those who eat mostly plant based diets can live over twenty-five percent longer. But there’s something you can do that may extend your life more than fourteen years. What is it?

Wait for it . . .

Dan Buettner has found, “Attending services (faith-based) four times a month can add up to fourteen years to your life.”

Fourteen years. That’s incredible.

Yet, according to those who study these things, for many years, church attendance has been in decline in the US.

Cultural values have shifted in the past few decades, and church attendance no longer tops the priority list as it once did. Folks haven’t necessarily left the church, they just don’t come as often anymore. Why? There are many reasons, but being too busy often tops the list. It seems we're cheating ourselves out of life because of it.

Buettner includes this finding about church attendance under the heading, “Find Your Tribe.” In a culture sometimes driven by social media, we can find ourselves, especially as we grow older, growing more and more isolated. But church attendance, real live showing up and sitting in a seat attendance, helps us to connect to others. Typing in a comment on Facebook doesn’t provide the same interaction.

And what might even be better is having a responsibility in that church, because according to Buettener, “Having a purpose in life provides a buffer against mortality, no matter your age.”

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, a tentmaker once wrote, “Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25 The Message).

God knew that among the many benefits of gathering together for worship, it could help us live longer. And as my husband often says, “It’s not true because it’s in the Bible, it’s in the Bible because it’s true.”


So, next Sunday, don’t let the weather dictate what you’re going to do. Don’t plan on catching up on your emails Sunday morning, and don’t decide you’ll just sleep in. Get up, go to church. When you get there, see if you can’t find a way to contribute.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll just see you on your 100th.

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