Writing

Note to Self…Look Beyond

True love looks beyond the current sacrifices, struggles, and doubts

to the good that can come from it all.

Source: Note to Self…Look Beyond

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the Giver of Words

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Will not the Giver of Words grant us the right words in due season to speak to the injustices of our generation, and to bring truth and life where there is deception and death? Will not the maker of the tongue loosen it to speak order into the chaos and confusion? If our heart is for the afflicted and oppressed, will he who hears their deepest cries not empower us to labor on their behalf?

 

Source: Blank Pages

Photo Credit: open gate | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

My Life, Edited

Blog_WritersBlockWouldn’t it be nice if we could always get it right on the first try? No drafts, no re-writes, no edits or overhauls. I’m talking about writing. And I’m talking about life.

Once upon a time, I believed the first draft was the best draft because it came closest to writing from the heart. Not to mention that I hated the editing process. Ugh. Talk about tedious. I believed nothing could be further from the creative process than drowning a manuscript in red ink and transforming it into something unrecognizable when compared to the original.

How I’ve changed.

Since I first started working on my novel, I’ve become a ruthless self-editor—murdering more sentences than an old west gunslinger. I’ve learned the best work takes time and revision, much like a sculptor works and re-works, chisels and refines until the unformed slab of clay becomes a thing of beauty. Art is a process, making progress in small yet significant ways until the greater masterpiece emerges.

Yes, this is about life, too. Because no life is perfect without some editing. Every day, I have to edit out impatience, selfishness, ingratitude, complacency…and more than that old gunslinger could handle in a lifetime of gun slinging. If I’m to live my best life—a life that blesses and benefits others, I’m gonna need a lot of editing.

The good news is that the God who created all the beauty that we see is the author of life. He sees and knows everything, loving us as we are yet caring enough to bring about the change we so desperately need. That our lives can be edited is beyond good news.

Lord, cover my life in red ink! Delete all my inconsistencies and any hypocrisy. Edit out all that’s unworthy of my life story, until only love remains.

There Will Be Laundry

Blog_MountaintopThe thing about mountaintops is you can’t stay there too long. There comes a time when you have to leave the awe-inspiring landscape behind for another, less magnificent view. Like the mountain of laundry overflowing from the hamper. Or the colorful vista of dishes in the sink. Or the panoramic scenery of toys strewn across the living room floor.

I recently returned from a mountaintop of my own—a writers’ conference not far from where I live, giving me the luxury of commuting the short distance rather than staying on campus. While others enjoyed a much-needed escape from the daily grind, I had the benefit of returning each night to a house full of responsibilities. At least it made the last-day transition more bearable. It wasn’t such a shocking jolt back into reality when the glorious mountaintop vista finally faded from view.

As hard as it can be to face daily life after being immersed in something more appealing, reality can teach us something most mountaintops can’t. Especially if you’re a writer. The greatest of words flow from the humblest of circumstances, from the grit of everyday living. We can’t write what we haven’t lived, and if we haven’t lived. Yes, there’s life on the mountaintop. But there’s wisdom in the monotony of the valley that can’t be gleaned from anywhere else.

I’m grateful for the mountaintops. But I’d get bored if I had to live there. Give me a rugged terrain, filled with highs and lows and in-betweens. There, I find life. And there, I find words.

Blank Pages

Blog_BlankPageThere are few things that trouble me more than a blank page. I’m a writer. Words wait impatiently inside, begging for escape. And yet here I sit, staring blankly at a blank page.

Those things that trouble me more than a blank page are the very issues I want to write about. Injustice. Violence. Racism. Slavery. Innocence lost, stolen, from our children.

And yet I wrestle to find the right words.

We come into this world a blank page, waiting to be filled. There is much good to be written upon us, and through us. Yet the evil pen strikes, stealing order and beauty from our story, replacing it with chaos and confusion. How I want my words to speak life and light into the death and darkness that seek to overtake the page.

It doesn’t seem fair that those who would seek to twist our world into something ugly have the greatest platform. Those who hunger and thirst for goodness are silenced, while the voice of hatred prevails. Yet we are not as powerless as we may think.

I came across these verses recently: “You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted, you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more” (Psalm 10:17-18) and, “’Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,’ says the Lord” (12:5).

Will not the Giver of Words grant us the right words in due season to speak to the injustices of our generation, and to bring truth and life where there is deception and death? Will not the maker of the tongue loosen it to speak order into the chaos and confusion? If our heart is for the afflicted and oppressed, will he who hears their deepest cries not empower us to labor on their behalf?

Writing and Servanthood

Blog_TypewriterRibbonWhat do you picture when you hear the word servant? Probably not a person sitting at a computer keyboard. The more typical image associated with servanthood would be a person tending to the sick or helping in the food line at a soup kitchen. Or maybe you picture someone on their hands and knees, scrubbing a dirty floor or washing filthy feet. And such people truly are servants.

But did you ever think that you could serve through writing? I didn’t used to think so. After working all day at an inner city outreach, I’d come home hungry to write, yet feeling a tinge of guilt that I wasn’t doing something more worthy of a servant. Though I’d be up late into the night for days on end, wrestling for the right words, I was convinced that those doing the more evidently sacrificial works were the only real servants.

True servanthood is using your gifts, whatever they may be, to bless others. Yes, there are times we’ll be called out of our comfort zones to serve in less-than-ideal settings. Yet if your gift of words will challenge, encourage, or inspire others, it is a pure act of service.

I’m grateful for those nameless ancient scribes who translated scriptures that we might have wisdom for today. I’m grateful for those authors who speak encouragement from beyond the grave because they devoted themselves to pouring out their lives in ink. I’m grateful for those living servants who write words in season for our generation.

To be a servant is to invest your talents for the benefit of others. It’s to sacrifice your time and resources that others may reap from your labors. For those who write, your words may travel to places where even the greatest missionary could never go. And they may touch lives even the most devoted of servants could never reach.

 

Photo Credit: mess of typewriter ribbon | the both and | shorts and longs …

The View from Where I Sit

Mountain View from Google ImagesSee that amazing view? Yeah, that’s not what I see from where I sit. My office isn’t exactly the idyllic writer’s retreat—unless you consider the kitchen counter idyllic. Hey, if you like staring at a fridge, a stove, and a sink ever-filling with dishes, good for you.

Prior to this, my “office” was the back room of an inner city two-flat, overlooking a trash-filled alley and the fire escapes of the apartments across the way. Not quite the equivalent of a panoramic mountain landscape. My typical choice of views hasn’t been particularly inspiring from a writer’s perspective. But I’m in good company. Some of the most inspiring works were written from what most would consider not-so-inspiring locations.

Much of the book of Psalms was written in caves while the not-yet King David was running for his life. In fact, many Old Testament books were written in the wilderness or in exile, from people facing impossible circumstances. Paul wrote some of his epistles while in prison. And John wrote the glorious book of Revelation as a captive on the Island of Patmos.

Fast-forward through history. Amy Carmichael and George Mueller wrote their greatest works while surrounded by children, faithfully awaiting God’s miraculous provision for the orphans in their care. The faith-filled narratives of escaped slaves like William and Ellen Craft, Josiah Henson, Henry Brown, and Frederick Douglass were written against the backdrop of abolition and impending war. Watchman Nee wrote in the midst of severe persecution from the Chinese government.

So here I am, a captive of my own kitchen. And I realize…the best writing is life-inspired writing. Sure, it would be great to take a trip to the mountains—or better yet, a white sandy beach with palm trees swaying behind me and miles of ocean before me. But some of my greatest inspiration has come from the city streets where I spent so many years of my life, and from right here in my apartment—surrounded by noisy kids, needy pets and a stockpile of dishes.