Friday, August 30, 2013

Just Keep Swimming

It should go without saying that writers are courageously persevering people. A spirit of courage and tenacity is practically a requirement for those who write. Just think of it. So many incredible books would remain yet unwritten had the author not persevered. Theodore Roosevelt said, "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

I think it's rather funny that there are people who believe that writing isn't a "real" job. To them I ask, "Really? Have they tried writing a book?" I think, too often, we judge people for the positions they hold in life. You know, the lack of appreciation shown to the housekeeper at the hotel or the cashier at the fast food place, or the men who collect our garbage every Monday morning at an ungodly hour. Why do we esteem the lawyer and doctor, but look down on the person who clears our table at the restaurant, drives the taxi, or agonizes over which word to peck out on the keyboard writes books?

I've been reminded this week of 1 Corinthians 12:14-26:

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

While this verse is talking about Christians in the body of Christ, it holds truth than can applied to the world's view of people and positions. We are all equal in God's eyes as far as worth and value, yet gifted uniquely and individually by the Creator to make an impact on our world. If we see ourselves through the eyes of Christ, we will courageously persevere in whatever job we do.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Two truths and a lie

If you know me, then you know this one's the lie. There's nothing I hate more than sweating and a lack of temperature-controlled surroundings. Bring on the fall weather!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Courage. Have you got it?

Last week I attended the Global Leadership Summit. Honestly, I'm still wondering how I got there. I mean, I'm not a leader. I'm not some business exec in a suit. I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, for pete's sake. Isn't that about the farthest away you can get from the world's idea of leadership? I expected a conference on leadership to be way over my head. How was I going to understand a word they said? After all, don't these leaders all speak "Leader-ese?" But there I was. I was sitting among a few hundred other attendees at a satellite location with other members of our church. God had even taken care of the conference fees for me and our group carpooled, so I couldn't provide any further excuse for not going.

I am still reeling with information overload, but have learned SO much about being a leader. In some respects, however, I'm also left with more questions. Questions like, "Am I leading well?"and "What changes do I need to make to become a better leader?" and "How do we model these leadership qualities in our church?"

One of the speakers that left a big impression on me was Gen. Colin Powell. His example of leadership left me simply amazed. In a nutshell, I want to be the kind of leader he is. He talked about how leadership isn't about ordering people around. It's about believing in yourself and inspiring others. It's "getting more out of people than science and management says you can." You do that by having a common vision and purpose. You do that by giving them the resources they need so that they can get the job done. It's about empowering others, "giving them a zone of operation," and then acting "in a way that causes them to trust you." (Gen. Powell)

Leadership takes enormous courage and "demands a non-stop flow of fortitude." It involves risk, and it most certainly ensures failure. Courage requires us as leaders to "keep leading strong in spite of blistering criticism, in spite of discouragement, and to finish strong." (Bill Hybels) Another conference speaker, Brené Brown, said, "What a leader does is model the courage to ask the questions." And when it comes to failure, she asked, "How many times did you fail? How quickly did you clean it up? What did you learn from your failure?"

Brown also explains that "The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage literally had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” (Brené Brown)

In closing, Brené shared the following quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." 

(THE MAN IN THE ARENA - An excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic" delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910, by Theordore Roosevelt.)  

This is just a sampling of what I heard at the Global Leadership Summit. It was a wealth of vital information that anyone can draw matter where they lead. You can lead with courage. Have you got it?


Friday, August 9, 2013

Self, Doubt, and Writing

I found this wonderful and convicting article on the Desiring God blog. What resonated with me was the question she ended with. For me, in essence, it means, "Do I write to bring glory to myself or to God?" 

I used to think my self-doubt and insecurity about writing were signs of my profound humility. It felt noble and heroic to be this full of agonizing self-doubt. It felt lowly and meek to be so tortured about whether or not I could write. I could almost hear the soundtrack and the violins. If there'd been open, windswept moors nearby, I'd have been on them.

But that's the thing about pride. It hides itself.

The more I go on, the more I realize, it's entirely the other way round. Our self-doubt and insecurity don't reveal our humility; they mask our pride.

When you’re doubting whether you can do it, whether you're a good writer, you're looking to yourself, what you can do, what resources you have. You're focused entirely inwardly, on yourself.

It's pride because it means you think it's all about you.

But if you realize it's not about you — that whatever you have is a gift from God — if, in other words, you get out of the way — then you can be fearless. There is no vision too great, nothing too outrageous to dream, nothing too impossible to dare.

Peter looked at Jesus and walked on water; he looked down at his feet, at the waves and sank.

God conscious. Or self-conscious?

Or what about that little boy and his too-small lunch: he could look at his lunch (not nearly enough) and worry (how on earth will it feed 5,000?). Or he could look up at Jesus and give him what he had.

Which takes more humility?

If you believe, as Madeleine L’Engle believed, that your writing is not so much about control as it is about trust, you will be bolder, braver, more able to take risks — and your writing will become more like faith.

It's no longer about you and what you can do. You do the hard work of writing, you practice your craft, you show up. But you become servant to the story. And the story is cleverer and bigger than you are. Your job is to get out of the way and let the story through.

I’m learning that God wants his children to operate out of freedom and joy. Martin Luther said: "Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger."

So I continue showing up at my desk every day, a sinner struggling with self-doubt. But I’m learning to call it what it is — pride.

And I’m learning that my job is to simply give what little I have to God — my not nearly enough — and let him do The Impossible Thing. I’m learning to keep my eyes off the waves and fix them on him.

And I’m learning to ask not, “Am I a good writer?” but instead ask, “Am I telling a good story?”

The first is pride.

The second is just good storytelling.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Staying True to Yourself

I came across this link and thought it was wonderful! Writing and illustrating, as Jarrett says, isn't about copying someone else. Learn from the best, but then put your signature style on it. Be who God made you to be. He made us unique individuals for a reason. Let's not be cookie cutters. :)