Writing Tips From Jesus: Take Off Your Outer Garment
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer garment, and wrapped a towel around his waist. John 13: 3-4
Take off your outer garment. But we don’t like exposure. A writer’s ego is fragile.
There is a poet who hides her beautiful poetry under her bed in a box. Another writer burns her journals. A friend of ours will not tell his story because his sisters would not approve.
After publishing The Lord of the Rings Tolkien said, “I have exposed my heart to be shot at.” And there are those that would take target practice on our hearts.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. compared a critical reviewer to “a knight in armor beating up on a hot fudge sundae.” And there are those knights in armor waiting.
We are all protective of ourselves. Writers can’t be. We “take off our outer garment” and serve by being vulnerable. When we write, we show ourselves and connect with others by being transparent, allowing others to see inside of us. It’s risky.
There is a cost to the exposure that writing brings.
Knowing that God has all things under control makes us brave. We make a choice to be “shot at” and “beat up” and we expose our thoughts anyway. We let go of fear and use our one wonderful life for His Glory.
But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. John 8:6
On this earth nothing we write will last. All is temporary, even the old classics are fading as new writers rise up. In a thousand years or even a hundred who will be remembered?
In the Bible God wrote twice. Once with his finger reaching down to give the law on two stone tablets. Then again as Jesus wrote with finger, this time scribbling in the sand.
When Jesus wrote men were ready to stone a woman for adultery. Jesus made a space in time. He slowed down the action as he scribbled and the men were changed. No one knows what he wrote.
It’s the idea that art is something unexpected and creative and creates a space in time where we can hear God. Michael Card.
Perhaps no one will remember our words, but if we can create a space for God though our writing our readers can be changed eternally. God can speak into that space and time.
What is your goal as a writer? Bestseller list? Fame? Few attain those goals and the satisfaction is temporary. What if we could shift our focus and write from the perspective of eternity. The best writing creates a space in a reader’s mind and heart for God to enter.
A blog, a tweet, a story written for our children, a devotional message in the church newsletter, a lesson prepared for a small group. All writing is important and at the same time all writing is just scribbling in the sand.
Some are called to be prophetic goads, and some giants may hammer in firmly embedded nails. But the rest of us can aspire, with no tinge of shame, to scribbling in the sand. Philip Yancey
The Shepherd’s Song has a cast of characters and all those many characters meant many names. Each name provided us with a challenge. Like choosing a name for a baby you want it to be just right. read more
We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:4
One day when we visited a school to talk about writing we learned something from a second grader. A little guy raised his hand and said. “I can do the stories, I just can’t do the words.” He captured the struggle that every writer (or wannabe writer) faces.
How do you get the stories out of your head onto the paper? How do we even have the courage to begin? Often we write and rewrite stories over and over in our heads, but they never make it to the written page or screen.
Today at Blogs by Christian Women we are sharing some scripture passages that were important to us over our years of writing and some of what we learned on the road to publication. read more
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Henry Cloud tells a story. A scientist did a study on fear. He had a monkey in a cage. He wired the monkey with sensors and then scared the monkey. He could then measure the response of the monkey to fear and the monkey’s reaction went off the charts. He then began to explore what would lower the monkey’s stress and fear. The only answer: putting another monkey in the cage. The fear reactions were lowered by half.
Life takes courage! Writing and publishing take courage and we are thankful for others who are with us on the journey.
God has given us people to help us navigate our time here on earth without fear: spouses, friends, family, co-workers, even sisters.
Who is in your cage with you? It could make all the difference.
It seems a little pointless sometimes-putting together collections of words, sending them out into the void of the world. Does it matter?
I am moved by the words of Sara Groves in her song “Why It Matters”. The lyrics were inspired by Vedran Smajlović, a former cellist in the Sarajevo String Quartet. During the Siege of Sarajevo, he played his cello in the bombed out buildings and on the streets where mortars had killed his neighbors and friends. He called this “a protest of the darkness” and spoke of his cello as a weapon.
Our efforts of creating art and music and writing matter. We can send them out “as a protest of the darkness.” Or as Sara Groves writes we can see our efforts as “small ramparts for the soul”.
Like the statue in the park
Of this war torn town
And its protest of the darkness
And the chaos all around
With its beauty, how it matters
How it matters.
I am reminded that Beauty in the world combats evil and darkness. We have a choice to be part of that Beauty.
It happens to us all, in writing or in life. We can get stuck. How do we move forward and get going again? We found these thoughts about being stuck in Andy Stanley’s ebook, Communicating for Change.
So what do you do when you are stuck?
The first thing I do when I am stuck is pray. But I’m not talking about a quick, Help me Lord, Sunday’s a comin’ prayer. When I get stuck I get up from my desk to head for my closet. Literally. If I‘m at the office I go over to a corner that I have deemed my closet away from home. I get on my knees and remind God that this was not my idea, it was His…
None of this is new information to God…
Then I ask God to show me if there is something He wants to say to prepare me for what He wants me to communicate to our congregation. I surrender my ideas, my outline and my topic. Then I just stay in that quiet place until God quiets my heart…
Many times I will have a breakthrough thought or idea that brings clarity to my message. . .
Like you, I am simply a mouthpiece. Getting stuck is one way God keeps me ever conscious of that fact. Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley
Can prayer be the way out? Can being stuck be a way to pull us into the right perspective about our role?
But the fruit of the Spirit is … faithfulness Galatians 5:22-23
My friend always reads the last few pages of a book first. She wants to be sure that she won’t be disappointed by the ending! When I read a book I want to be surprised. I don’t want to know what happens. Part of the fun of a book is the journey that it takes me on. But – I need to trust the author.
When I choose books to read, I often choose based on the person who wrote the book. I like surprises but I want to trust that the experience of reading will entertain, delight and grow me.
My faith is like that. My faith in God intersects my action in the world. Faith allows me step out on the journey. But – I need to trust the author.
Can I embrace my own story despite the uncertainties of my life? I can’t flip to the end and read my final pages or even look ahead to the next chapter. But I can put my faith in the One writing the story.
“To be certain of God is to be certain in all our ways. You never know what a day may bring. This is generally said with a sign of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation.” Oswald Chambers
Faith allows me to take life’s uncertainties and live in them boldly. I can trust the God through the plot twists of life because I know He’s writing a good book.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
I’m praying for my life to be a page-turner. How about you?
But the fruit of the Spirit is …goodness. Galatians 5:22
In writing it is hard to know how good is good enough. Is it good enough to finish a page, a chapter, a manuscript? Is that good enough?
Or is the criteria for being good enough whether your work is published? Soon after we are published we realize we only have one book or one article. Is one good enough? We look around and see that others have more. A series! A body of work!
And then there are reviews, awards, Do we need this affirmation to feel good enough? The bar keeps moving. If we chase the goal of being good enough in our writing life we will always remain frustrated.
What about faith? How good is good enough? Serving others? Telling the truth? Going to church? Reading the Bible? You look over and see your neighbor packing for a mission trip. Another friend is memorizing the book of James! The bar keeps moving. If we chase the goal of being good enough in our spiritual life we will always remain frustrated.
In my writing life I rest in the comfort that I will never be good enough. I’ll never “make it”. I don’t even know what “it” is. I can have peace knowing that my work is about being faithful to show up at my desk and be present.
And my faith – I’ll never be good enough with my own efforts. I must base my faith on God’s goodness. Again I must show up and be present with God.
In both areas of my life it is in the surrender of the striving to meet the criteria of the world that brings peace and growth.
So how good is good enough for you? What do you think?