Monthly Archives: December 2013

Writing Is My Path, Redux

I’ve been told so many times in the past several months, believe it or not.  The good thing (for me) is that I don’t need you to believe that’s what I’m being told so much as I need to believe it.

Honestly, some days I do, and some days I don’t.

As I sit revising my first full-length book, I realize there are no shortcuts on this path.  It would be easy for the lazy person inside of me to go through, and having made sure everything is grammatically correct, send it out into the world.  The writer, the storyteller inside of me wants to completely restructure things to make them flow better.  Giving in to the latter takes more time, but it will make my work better.  And I realize this too is my path.

I think about how I used to be a voracious reader, how I challenged myself to read the greats.  About how during my college years, I developed a terrible habit of reading light, and how that turned into light writing because the writer I aspired to be changed.

I know this is not the path of ease, or success, or renown, but it is my path.  On one hand, I didn’t choose this path, on the other, I must choose it every day, because if I’m on any other path, something is always not quite right.

This is my first New Year’s Resolution for 2014.  I’m going to devote my year to writing.  It’s going to be my personal focus and ministry focus. In fact, I’m not taking on any personal or ministry (outside of person-to person ministry, that is) endeavors that don’t involve writing.

Writing is my path.

For the first time, I’m going to live like I believe that.

 

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Lessons I Learned

Lessons I Learned Writing and Directing a Play for Eleven Months

Whether you know this or not, some eleven months ago I was approached about writing a play for my church’s Christmas program. (That’s right, the one that just took place last Saturday night).  We began bouncing around themes and ideas in February and decided on “Emmanuel: God With Us” in March. We wrote the script and I was asked to direct in July.  Finally, we performed the play on Saturday night.  This play has pretty much characterized my year, and many of the lessons I’ve learned this year have centered around its production.

  • Lesson #1: I learned not to over-commit.  If I could go back and do it all over again, when approached about writing in January, I would say, “I’m sorry, that’s eleven months out still, and I just can’t commit that far in advance.” In eleven months’ time, a lot can come up, and it did for me.
  • Lesson #2: I learned about long-term commitment. This is the other side of the over-commitment coin. While there were times I definitely had way too much on my plate, times when nothing was going the way I thought I should, times when it would have been much easier to walk away, I stuck with it.  As many fun times as there were, as nice as the finished product was, there were many, many times in the course of the production where I genuinely wanted to save myself some grief and take myself out. I didn’t, but I wanted to.
  • Lesson #3: I learned how to communicate with guys in a ministry context.  Oh brother, guys just don’t communicate, do they?  And it’s just so darn frustrating, especially when I need an answer, like, now.  Towards the beginning of this process, I sent out long, detailed emails about what I was thinking and visualizing for the play, and the guy on the creative team wouldn’t read them or respond.   I learned this wasn’t going to be effective if I wanted his input (and I did), so I learned to communicate succinctly via email for his benefit. I noticed measurably different responses from all of the guys I worked with, not just in the play.
  • Lesson #4: I learned to let someone else lead. Confession: I’ve been facilitating Christmas programs and the like since I was thirteen years old, and I was involved in a small-time production group during middle school before that.  I went to college and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film, and have been producing and directing independently since that time.  I have become attached to a certain way of doing things, namely, the way that is most effective for me. While I was the writer/director, I was NOT the coordinator/facilitator of this production, a role I am accustomed to filling, a role I have a LOT of experience in.  You see, I like being to control all of the factors, but somebody else had that control in this production, and that was hard.  Towards the beginning, I would express if I thought things were not going the way I thought they should to our coordinator, mainly because she was younger and less experienced than I am in these things, and I wanted to share the benefit of my expertise with her. (Haha).  Then, one day as I spent time with God, I realized I was striving for what I wanted, and not giving our coordinator the opportunity to grow as a leader through her decisions and yes, even mistakes.  I’m not going to lie, she still did things that made me cringe at times (and she usually heard about it in the form of “This is your decision, but…”), however, the power struggle was over on my end. It was no longer worth it to me to strive and be in constant turmoil fighting for control.
  • Lesson #5: I learned to trust people to do things I wasn’t able to do myself.  Last Saturday, I was scheduled to work until the program began.  I work half an hour a way from my church, so that meant I was going to arrive late, but it also meant I would not be at our final rehearsal.  I had to trust all of my kids to remember their roles and blocking, and I had to trust someone to direct in my stead.  I also had to trust someone to do facilitate scene changes, because I had other work to do during the play itself.  (Nobody disappointed me, by the way! They all did a tremendous job!)
  • Lesson #6: I learned to communicate my needs and assert myself. It’s hard to put myself in a vulnerable position, but in the past month, that is exactly what I had to do with some people I was working with.  They had communicated to me in such a manner that the end result was discouragement. (Like, crying for an hour discouragement, thinking about what was said and trying to honestly assess whether or not it was true,…).  I could have let it go and never brought it to this person’s attention, but I chose to deal with it instead, and let them know honestly they had discouraged me. I didn’t want to because these things are generally not well-received and can go horribly wrong, but I chose vulnerability, and I was able to put it away from me once I had communicated my discouragement.  I didn’t deal with any desire to walk away from the production after that point. (Which, granted, was only two weeks ago).
  • Lesson #7: I learned to ask for support. This program has been prayed over by A LOT of people, but my role in it has been brought before God’s throne of grace by so many more.  I am thankful for my faithful praying Facebook friends from every church I’ve ever been involved in covering me in prayer.  I am thankful for my sweet friends who came out to the program Saturday night, not just to see the play, but to remind me to breathe before, and to say good job at the end.  I am thankful for my little brother who came to two rehearsals to hold my hand and keep me from going crazy.  I need a support system – not in a needy, clingy way, but sometimes I just need to clearly see and know those who are standing with me, and y’all have shown me that. (THANK YOU!!!)
  • Lesson #8: I have learned that God is with me.  The theme.  I have spent more time meditating on this theme – Emmanuel: God With Us – than I have any other theme in my life.  This passage sums it up:  “I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave,you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you” (Psalm 139: 7b-12 NLT). This Christmas, and all year long, I’ve been thankful for the gift of God’s presence, which became available to as many as receive Him in the person of Jesus Christ.

“One of Jesus’ many names is Emmanuel, which means, ‘God with us.’ During His life and earthly ministry, Jesus walked with humans, changing their lives with His presence.  He healed the sick, spent time with social rejects, and even made sure His own mother was taken care of as He was dying.  More than that, Jesus took the punishment for our sin on the cross and defeated death by rising again.  Although our sin had separated us from the Holy God, through Jesus, God set up a plan for humans to enjoy His presence forever.  If you accept Jesus’ work for you, He can and will save you from your sins and change your life through a relationship with Him.” ~Emmanuel: God With Us, by Joselyn Varghese and Lydia Thomas

Other posts about the 2013 Christmas Play:

 

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Cooking Up a Storm

I am going to cook today.

I love to cook when I am by myself at home and can turn on some music and not worry about anybody looking over my should and saying, “That’s not how I would do that.”

And I love feeding people.

Sunday, I’m feeding the participants in our church Christmas play before our practice.  I promised them I would make them my awesome enchiladas if they memorized their lines by last Sunday.  As we were iced in Sunday, I have no idea whether they’ve all memorized their lines or not, but I’m super proud of them all for their dedication and just how well they have been doing.  So, I’m making lunch.

No, I’m not going to share my recipe (which, incidentally, is not my recipe, but my older sister’s recipe that has been tweaked by yours truly) or pictures.  Just wanted to share about my day 🙂

God’s Word Does Not Return Fruitless

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall be My word that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11 NKJV).

I rest in this promise.

God’s word, from His mouth, bears fruit.  It is life giving.

It does not need my help.  It does not need to be reimagined or revamped by me.

By itself, it fulfills the purposes God sends it too.

The enemy tries to get me to let this peace go, to make me think there is something I must do.  Not long ago, I would have taken that bait, but no longer: it is God, solely God who sends out His word to accomplish His purposes.

And then, the more subtle lie: that my purposes, however good and well-intentioned, are the same as God’s purposes.

Perhaps when God’s word goes out, it produces fruit beyond what I can imagine or see.

Even more hidden deception comes to mind: that the benefit, the fruitfulness, the liveliness is strictly for the hearer.

No! It replenishes the one who imparts it as well!

Heavenly Father, I confess I overestimate my part in spreading Your word, and underestimate Yours.  I confess that as a writer, as a storyteller I’m continually looking for ways to present the gospel, as if Your word does not speak for itself, as if it needs to be in a clever guise for people to accept it.  Give me a heart to love Your word and to love sharing it with others without presentation. I confess that I always have an outcome in mind when I share Your word with anyone, and I rarely consider that Your purposes in having me share may be different from what I desire.  Give me a heart to leave the framework of intention behind and to just share Your word because it is good.  I confess that when sharing Your word, I am way too focused on the hearer, and not focused enough on  the goodness of Your word for me, and for others who are imparting it.  Give me a heart to see the practicality of Your word for me, and for the teams of people I work with, not just for the people we’re trying to reach.  Most of all, God, give me better and better understanding of how You are in control of where Your word goes and what it does once it’s there. Thank You, God!

 

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God’s Representative On Earth

I’m about to get controversial again, y’all.  😉

I’ve actually been percolating on this since before Thanksgiving, but hadn’t really known how to frame my thoughts until this week.  I want to organize my argument, my discussion around a concept that has been with the Church for ages: God’s representative on earth.

I guarantee you I just made some ex-Catholic Evangelical cringe a little bit, because one of the older forms God’s representative on earth has taken is the Pope.  For the benefit of non-Catholics or people who have been ill- or under-exposed to Catholicism, the Catholic Church believes the Popes are spiritual descendants of Peter, the rock upon whom Christ promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18).  Until the Reformation, it was widely accepted that the Popes spoke for God.  Then King Henry VIII formed a popular opinion that a monarchy of a given nation was God’s representative on earth to that nation.

And we Evangelical Christians might get a little high and mighty, because we’ve been enlightened, and haven’t believed Popes and monarchs are God’s representatives on earth for hundreds of years. (Especially not here in the U.S.A. where we are all about no authority but ourselves).  We don’t put mere men on such pedestals.

I’m here to tell you, in case you were not already aware, that this issue of putting men on pedestals is alive and well in Evangelical Christendom.  Among those who are aware that this is indeed an issue, it is popular practice to blame the men on the pedestals, especially when they fall into sin and are not held accountable for it.  After all, being on a pedestal, they’re just asking for it, aren’t they?

I want to invite us all to take a look at ourselves as we look at God’s representation on earth.

“Now then, we are ambassadors [or representatives] for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (1 Corinthians 5:20).

In Christ, we are ALL new creatures, and all representatives for Christ.  But is the position one where we are to assume authority in the lives of others, telling them how to live, forcing issues that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things? NO! The only message I’ve been given from God to deliver on God’s behalf, the only message any human has been given from God on God’s behalf, is to implore, to beseech, to beg people to be reconciled, restored, brought back into a right relationship with God!

How is it then that we have so many men and women on pedestals in Evangelical Christendom today? And how is it that we place sole blame for these pedestals on the people who are on them as if we their worshippers haven’t put them there?

I’ve seen a lot of disappointment on the internet over the past few months concerning two leaders in Evangelical Christendom who have committed sin and been dealt with publicly.  I’ve never idolized either man, although I had more respect for one than I had for the other; no, I’ve always recognized them as being human just like me, and being equal representatives for Christ, even though both have far greater influence than I ever hope or desire to have.  I’m not reeling from the revelation of these sins, but other people are. And in their understandable pain, they tack all of the blame onto these two men.

While these men are most definitely responsible for their sin, they are not responsible for the places others have given them in their hearts and lives.

I have been reminded a number of Sundays in the past couple of months that all humans are created to worship something: if we don’t make THE God our God, we will make something else our god.  And isn’t that what we have done with so many of these men and women in Evangelical Christendom? Haven’t we exalted them, their teachings, their methods without considering the One who calls and enables them? Isn’t HE the one who deserves the praise, the adoration? Don’t put that on these men, that is on us and our treacherous hearts, ever looking to someone or something besides God!

Let me break it down: I grew up in the church.  I have seen the failures of its leaders up close and personal since I was a very little girl, and for many years I was incredibly resentful.  Although it has been nearly ten years, I remember very clearly the day I gave up on the church, I remember how angry I was over deceit from the pulpit, and how I told my mom that if that person named names and lied again from the pulpit I would walk out the door of that church and never go back.  I remember my mom calling my dad and having him talk to me because of how upset I was.  And I remember my dad telling me that God would deal with this person and hold him accountable, but I would also be held accountable for my response.  And frustrating though it was for many years, this was always and continues to be my dad’s counsel concerning me and any issues I have with the church. And hard as it was for me to admit when I realized it, my dad is right.

I was looking to the wrong people, to the wrong things even, for things only God could give me.  Being a jealous God, He made sure I could not get what He wanted to give me anywhere else. 

I can now love the church better, even love its leaders better, accepting their humanity, making room for when they fall.  I’m not saying their sin is any less sinful, but it doesn’t leave me reeling anymore, because I’ve come to see them the way I’m supposed to. It’s true for you, too, however little you want to accept it: if you have been completely disoriented by the failures of men, you have placed them in too high a position in your heart.

I close with a snippet from Martin Luther:

“[Idolatry] consists not merely in erecting an image and worshiping it, but rather in the heart, which stands gaping at something else, and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils, and [does not] care for God.”

 

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I Don’t Want To Settle Down

It’s not that I don’t want to settle, I just don’t want to settle down.

It’s not that I’m afraid of commitment, I just don’t want an adventure-less life.

And it’s not that I don’t want to be in a relationship, I just don’t want to lose myself.

I used to think that I would be single forever because of these things, or that at least my heart would need to change about them.  I realized earlier this year, my heart isn’t going to change on these things: they are a part of who I am.

Now, I am certain there is at least one guy out there who doesn’t want to settle down, who wants more than the careers, the house, the cars, the kids.  I am certain there is at least one guy out there who still wants to explore life and do things.  I am certain that there is at least one guy out there who will understand my autonomy.

I’m confident we’ll find each other when it’s time.

In the meantime, I just enjoy life and take everything as it comes! 🙂

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Please Don’t Drive Impaired

You know who you are.  This is not one of those general posts for everybody, although if you’ve stumbled across this post, and you drive impaired, please take it to heart.   In my selfish little heart, I really only care about ONE person driving impaired.

So whether you’ve been drinking, smoking pot, texting, or having terribly intense phone conversations while you’re driving, please just STOP.

You’re going to hurt somebody else, and more importantly to me, you’re going to hurt yourself.

The roads are dangerous enough without adding extra hazards. Don’t do it, don’t do it.

Love,

Me

 

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Only Human

This song.  My life today.

Human by Christina Perri

I can hold my breath
I can bite my tongue
I can stay awake for days
If that’s what you want
Be your number one

I can fake a smile
I can force a laugh
I can dance and play the part
If that’s what you ask
Give you all I am

I can do it
I can do it
I can do it

But I’m only human
And I bleed when I fall down
I’m only human
And I crash and I break down
Your words in my head, knives in my heart
You build me up and then I fall apart
‘Cause I’m only human

I can turn it on
Be a good machine
I can hold the weight of worlds
If that’s what you need
Be your everything

I can do it
I can do it
I’ll get through it

But I’m only human
And I bleed when I fall down
I’m only human
And I crash and I break down
Your words in my head, knives in my heart
You build me up and then I fall apart
‘Cause I’m only human

I’m only human
I’m only human
Just a little human

I can take so much
‘Till I’ve had enough

Cause I’m only human
And I bleed when I fall down
I’m only human
And I crash and I break down
your words in my head, knives in my heart
You build me up and then I fall apart
‘Cause I’m only human

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Good News

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things” (Isaiah 52:7a).

“I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be for all people.  For there is born to you this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10b-11a).

This is the central message of the Christmas season: Christ the Savior is born! This is the gospel, the good news – that the God of the universe became a man, the God-Man, and in so doing became the acceptable sacrifice for sin. This is the best news!

I sometimes forget how good this news really is.  I don’t keep it fresh.  I don’t remember how much I need Him; how small, how insignificant I am and how great He is; how much He loves me, wants me.

I can get tired of the same story, because it hasn’t changed.  But it should still be exciting to me.

It is good news, the best news.  I need refreshed.

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Hope

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes it is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

I know about hope deferred; at times, this season of my life has been characterized by hope deferred.  It does make my heart a little sick, a little less hopeful.  I think I got to a place where I stopped hoping altogether, and this past year has been about gradually reclaiming hope in my heart.

Advent is all about hope realized: that life-giving bloom in your heart when your expectations come.  It’s about how all of the hope in a Savior from sin was realized.

What am I hoping for this Advent season?

  • Christ’s return, when He’ll take me to be with Him – where I belong – forever, when God will wipe all tears away from my eyes.  I’m just ready.
  • For clear direction and purpose in my life – I sort of have no idea what I’m doing anymore. (Mostly just trying to stay above water).
  • A city to live in.

 

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