Lord, reveal and remove my pride. Extend and expand my humility. Amen
A simple prayer but a powerful one. All work for God, whether writing, preaching, praying, parenting, teaching, loving, giving, sharing, all work that we do that bears fruit in the world starts with our humility.
Humility is being humble. The word, humble, comes from the root word, humus, which is soil. Like dirt, we aren’t much without God’s Spirit in us. When we recognize that, we become open to God’s work through us, and His power to do amazing things in the world.
Today, before you come to the keyboard, the office, the breakfast table, the bedroom chair, the classroom, pray for humility. It is a prayer that God loves to answer.
What power there is in the pen. The power to allow a reader to step into a world of our creating and experience truth, love, revelation, joy. Or with stories we can take a reader to a place of fear, hate, abuse. Our creator God has made us in His image to create. It’s up to us how we will wield that power.
Light or darkness
Love or hate
Building up or tearing down
“A farmer went out to sow some seeds . . .” Jesus begins a story that is layered with meaning but simple. The reader, even years after the telling, has room to move around in the story. Jesus loves the reader.
“A man had two sons . . .” Jesus begins again and our hearts are drawn into the narrative, listening and experiencing, not manipulated and controlled. In humility Jesus creates the world of a story and gives it to us.
In the best writing the author is invisible. The reader enjoys the story without awareness of the writer’s agenda. The author’s intent and focus as been on the reader, not on himself.
As writers, storytellers, mothers, fathers, teachers we use words every day. The most powerful words are spoken or written in love and humility.
Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. Ex. 3:5; Josh. 5:15
Want to be a better writer? Take off your shoes.
Sometimes when we are writing, the self slips away, out of the chair, gone, but the typing continues. Then the words on the screen seem to come from a place beyond ourselves, a holy place. In those elusive moments we feel the hands of God take our hands and the result is something beyond our own ability.
When God appeared to Moses and later to Joshua, He told them the same thing: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Ex. 3:5; Josh. 5:15).
Two writers share about this thought:
So why did God ask them to take off their sandals? I think it was an act of humility, an act of worship. It was a way of acknowledging absolute dependence on God. . . In case you care, one of my idiosyncrasies is that I remove my shoes whenever I’m writing. I do it as a reminder that I need God’s anointing. It reminds me that I am fulfilling a sacred calling. Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle
Why should you take off your shoes in the Lord’s presence? Because without shoes you are not going anywhere. You might try to walk, but you will not get very far. . . Barefootedness means immobilization, and so it is a symbol of submission. Being immobile . . . is a prerequisite for all activity, all service. Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job
Could it make a difference in our writing to take off our shoes? Sometimes our small actions in the physical world can reveal our desire in the spiritual world. We might move into a place of surrender by a small act of submission.
Maybe we should all take off our shoes today as we sit down to write.
Let us be silent that we may hear the whispers of God. Ralph Waldo Emerson
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16
In contemporary society our Adversary majors in these things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in “muchness” and “manyness” he will rest satisfied. . .
In the midst of an exceedingly busy ministry Jesus made a habit of withdrawing to “a lonely place apart.” He did this not just to be away from people, but so he could be with God. What did Jesus do time after time in those deserted hills? He sought out his heavenly Father; he listened to him. And he beckons us to do the same.Richard Foster, The Celebration of Discipline
Can we take time to get away to a lonely place? Why is it so difficult?
Let us be silent that we may hear the whispers of God. Ralph Waldo Emerson
How do you hear from God? Fenelon writes that God speaks in whispers. Can we be silent long enough to hear from Him?
Don’t listen to your self-nature. Self-love whispers in one ear and God whispers in the other. The first is restless, bold, eager, and reckless; the other is simple, peaceful, and speaks but a few words in a mild, gentle voice. As soon as you listen to the loud voice of self you will not hear the soft tones of holy love. Each speaks only of one thing. Self-love speaks only of self—it never gets enough attention . . .
God’s love, on the other hand, whispers that self should be forgotten—counted as nothing so that God might be all. God wants to completely fill you and unite himself to you. Let the vain, complaining babble of self-love be silenced so that in the stillness of the heart you may listen to the love of God. Fenelon, The Seeking Heart
What do you think? Does God speak to us?
Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. Hosea 2:14
When I see a flock of sheep I see exactly that, a flock. A rabble of wool. A herd of hooves. I don’t see a sheep. I see sheep. All alike. None different. That’s what I see. But not so with the shepherd. To him every sheep is different. Every face is special. Every face has a story. And every sheep has a name. . . The shepherd knows his sheep. He calls them by name.
When we see a crowd, we see exactly that, a crowd. Filling a stadium or flooding a mall. When we see a crowd, we see people, not persons, but people. A herd of humans. A flock of faces. That’s what we see.
But not so with the Shepherd. To him every face is different. Every face has a story. Every face is a child. Every child has a name. . . The Shepherd knows you. He knows your name. -Max Lucado, Experiencing the Heart of Jesus
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.
I Corinthians 13:12
There’s something magical about seeing your work published – and you never know when that moment of joy will come. You stroll out to your mailbox one day, not expecting anything special; and voilà, there it is. You rip it open and beam with joy. After all that work, lots of ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, your initial idea has been transformed, and you are face to face with your words in print.
When we first begin a new writing project we are filled with excitement and hope and promise. We have no idea what the finished product will look like, but we eagerly rewrite, get critiques, rewrite again and again – all the while watching a transformation take place. We eventually pass it on to an editor and illustrator, where more transformation occurs. Then eventually, it is finished.
The Shepherd’s Song was like this. When the idea came, we did not know what the final book would look like. We had to have faith that our work would be shaped and used by God. We got glimpses of the final book along the way. First the printed pages. Then the cover art. The bound galley. A jacket proof. Finally face to face we held the book.
The Christian life too, is filled with ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, joys and sorrows. Like a book, our lives are being written, edited and transformed. We start with great excitement and hope and promise; then transformation begins. It’s hard work, but slowly we are transformed more and more to the image of Christ.
Best of all, there is a moment coming when all the work will be done, and we will see our Savior face to face. It is hard to imagine what such a moment will be like – the magnification of joy and awe and wonder.
Our experiences in this world teach us about God, and transform us more and more into His image.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
The Shepherd’s Song has stories about twelve people whose lives are changed by Psalm 23. When it was time to write about the rod and staff, we started with research. We learned that the rod and the staff are the tools that a shepherd uses to protect and discipline the sheep. The rod is a club that the shepherd uses to ward off predators. The staff is a crooked stick that the shepherd uses to guide the sheep and pull them back from danger. If we look at God as our Shepherd, the rod and staff would be his protection for us. How would we show this in a story? What does this look like in a real life? read more
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . John 1:14
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6
This painting was found unfinished on Rembrandt’s easel at the time of his death. It was different that the seven other works he had created depicting Simeon and the Christ child.
“The heavenly light appears . . to emanate not at all from the baby, but wholly from the face of Simeon, whose eyes are nearly shut and whose lips are parted in his prayer of praise. . .The vision Rembrandt was attempting to portray is visible in the luminous glow of Simeon’s face. Here is the last days of his life, Simeon has seen the Deliverer, the Messiah, often promised and long awaited. His face shines with the knowledge of the sight, and in a remarkably bold insight, Rembrandt has given the face of the Christ child a reflected glow. . . Rembrandt has dispensed with any hint of the glow he has so often given Christ, in drawings , in etchings, and in paintings, and has given that glow instead to Simeon, as a glow from the inside.” The Biblical Rembrandt, John I. Durham
When Rembrandt was younger, he painted Christ shining with a holy glow. In this final painting, as Rembrandt reaches the end of life, we see the old man, Simeon, is the one who is glowing – the light coming from the inside out reflecting out onto the baby in his arms.
He came as the Light of the World to make us the light of the world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. May it be so this year for you.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. Luke 2: 25 – 32