What do we do while we’re waiting for Change?

What do we do while we’re waiting for Change?

Waiting sometimes feels like wandering in darkness—seeking the light. We’ve prayed about change we feel it on the horizon and then…and then…nothing. It’s like God put up the preverbal finger and said, “Wait here, I’ll be with you in a moment.” What do we do while we are waiting on change?

 

don't grow weary

Be diligent and faithful in your present situation. Sometimes we become frustrated during those periods of quietness. In our restlessness we complain, withdraw our integrity, become weary and convince ourselves we will do better when something better comes along.

 

Walking in the darkness

We forget that God says”… Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, (HCSB-Col. 3:23). And that doesn’t just mean working like a boss at that dream job, but it means bringing that same enthusiasm to that ‘dead-end’ job, to that place of work where you feel undervalued, underappreciated; it is bringing it 100 percent to that job that you absolutely detest. When God has us in a holding place it is the perfect place—for now—withdrawing our diligence can delay our progress. When we become unfaithful, it dishonors God and makes waiting difficult, if not impossible.

Remember the last thing God instructed you to do and do it

We are always looking for something new—a fresh idea, a new venture—it gives off the sensation that life is moving, and progressing. But often new is not what we need. We need to pick up where we left off.

Do you remember when you got bored and uncomfortable with the path He’d placed you on and you decided you’d try something else? You were sick of hearing about the success and progress of others—new positions, promotions and acquisitions; there were the constant invites to friends’ and family members’  grand openings, baby showers and weddings and then of course there were the Facebook posts and Instagram pics. You thought I’ve got to be doing something wrong.  I must have missed it.

You walked away from it–quietly step away and into something more intense, interesting, easier, faster, and less humiliating–something that promised quick success only…it didn’t bring much of anything except a different spin on your ongoing frustration.

It is during times like these that God is testing a couple of things:

  • Obedience to Him
  • Trusting Him in what He has assigned you to do

Remember it was about 15 years between the time Samuel anointed young David as king and the time he finally begin to reign over the tribe of Judah. Preparation takes time and if your heart isn’t ready you aren’t ready.

Remember the last thing God told you to do. Are you doing it? Are you doing it with integrity? Well, keep doing it. He knows exactly where you are.

Stop Complaining

Complaining sabotages everything for which we work. Again, we read in the Word, “Do all things without murmuring and disputing.” (KJV 2000 Phil. 2:14) Complaining produces energy that is counterproductive to the results we want. It’s like putting bad gasoline in your car. It’s not going to perform as it should no matter how hard you press on the gas pedal.

Believe it or not complaining gives off negative energy and draws to us the exact opposite of what we want. Contrary to what we have heard expecting the worse in hopes we’ll get the opposite doesn’t work. The Word also tells us whatever we sow we reap. It we are constantly speaking negativity guess what we’ll get in return? Speak what you want and what He has promised you. Fill the atmosphere with positive words. Declare what God’s Word says about what you’re going through—and his Word always affirms His goodness.

Don’t give up. Don’t stop believing. The only one that can keep you from getting to there is you. Pressures may come but God has provided everything you need to make it. Take hold of the tools and resources. Renew your inner man daily. But whatever the cost, don’t give up.

Trust God. We trust that he has heard our prayers and that he cannot and will not forget or forsake us. It is His word. It does not change. When the world around us seems uncertain, His help and His presence are certain. You can count on it.

The Power of Silence

The Power of Silence

A friend said to me one day that she couldn’t image her commute to work without music, that talk radio show she loves so much or something to fill the quiet. She went on to say that she knew someone who actually rode with nothing on. Can you imagine that? !

Yes, actually I can. I find it interesting that we are a culture that attempts to fill every white space, almost every moment of every day. The Daily News reports that  more than 80% of the world confesses that they can’t do without their mobile devices.

This leaves us with little to no precious time to clear our heads, our thoughts, evaluate what we’ve learned without forces sucking    us in to respond to some type of stimuli– begging us, beseeching us to buy or sell or react emotionally to some news, gossip or current event. Overloaded with information, we are often no better for it. We subconsciously take in stuff which produces no benefit in exchange for something, anything to fill our heads. It’s kind of like eating when you are clearly not hungry.

We seldom give ourselves time to evaluate, ponder or consider whether information is useful before we are back at it taking in more—stuff. And even when we are conversing with others in real time, we often do more talking than listening always ready to pour out from our head what we know. It just seems the natural thing to do considering we know so much. Sigh.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting with a curmudgeon old lady who rarely smiles and is never up for small talk. She is not the one to chat about the weather –mentioning how unseasonably warm it is for the month of May. Her talk is purposeful and to the point. When she is done, she stops talking.

There was an incident which occurred with my son and her niece and she came to talk to me about it out of concern for her niece. My first reaction was one of defense. I wanted immediately to remind her that I have successfully raised three children and I’ve got this thank you. I wanted to tell her all I knew on child rearing. Did I mention I have three children? But something inside willed me to hush. Be silent. Listen. And so I did. I took in everything, immediately mentally applying it where it was necessary. No I didn’t listen as we often do; we barely hear what the person is saying because we are awaiting our turn to share, to tell what we know, add meaning and depth when often none is needed. No, I emptied myself of preconceived opinions and drank in her words.

 

silence

What I noticed is that truly listening is well…humbling. It is like sitting at the feet of a sage for the beauty of their knowledge. Assured that they have a perspective, you haven’t considered or experience in an area where you lack.

I saw that day behind that droopy, leathery face and glassy eyes a women who’d truly lived. Her life hadn’t been particularly exciting but she’d lived. It was the same kind of living I was doing. But the difference was she’d already been there. She wasn’t condescending or mean. She was calm, with a slow, measured rhythm to her words. She wouldn’t allow me to rush her But took her time to ensure I didn’t miss anything.

As writers silence is powerful because it allows us to process knowledge in a way that makes it useful, instead of busy chatter clogging our minds. We began to know how an experience feels, what it tastes like, what it smells like and the way it leaves you in the aftermath. It allows us to compartmentalize what we know and apply it when and where it’s needed and discard what is not needed or at least place it aside until the next time.

Silence is powerful because it shows control and discipline on our part. It forces us to think about what we are thinking about. It helps us to hear our inner voice. It is that voice—the spirit of a man, which guides us into truth, helps us to make sound decisions, not just based on how we feel, but what our spirit is revealing to us. It is the God part of us, because it is he who is feeding our spirit-man; yes. It is spirit to spirit.

The next time your emotions are screaming, or you are tempted to make a decision bred from some emotional high or low or you’re incited to write some crazy, impulsive comment on Twitter or another form of social media, based on what some political blowhard has feed you, I ask you to be still. Be silent. Consider. Think about it. Listen. Simply listen.

In the Moments of Quiet

In the Moments of Quiet

If you are like me you are on a constant move from the moment your feet hit the floor. From the kids, to the hubby or wife, work and so on your ‘to dos’ are heap upon a plate that is overflowing. Perhaps as you are dressing or in the car on the way to work or school you breathe a quick ‘thank you’ to God, call it your morning prayer time and keep it moving. I know the feeling as I’ve done it more times than I care to admit.

Now prayer doesn’t have to be a 90-minute knee-bending event or a drawn out session where we dump on God our every woe. But it is important that we crave out some quiet time with God–have a conversation before the day begins to wear away.

Prep Time

I’m not a huge sports fan, but I know others that are and from my understanding before the coach send his players out there to face the opponent he takes time to encourage, uplift and direct and yes, pray. He prepares them for the challenge, to mentally fortify them with what is necessary to win. This isn’t the time to scrimmage or lift weights, no. You see the coach understands that the game is both mental and physical and if either is lacking, the opponent can easily undercut. For us this life is more spiritual than natural. Anything that has or will materialize exist spiritually first. We must prepare. Moving in our day unprepared leaves us open to the enemy and his tactics.

 

Coach Prepping Team

The bible says the devil is as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. (I Pet. 5:8) He is seeking—a slow calculating search for those that are open, inattentive, unaware. Prayer is our preparation—our scrimmage, pep talk, rally, conditioning period. It is the time we equip ourselves to deal with those spiritual influences that will surely challenge us throughout the day. It helps us to divert stress, escape danger and receive direction. We cannot blame anyone when we make a wrong decision if we did not first seek the Master. (Prvb. 3:6)

God walks to talk with you

A friend of mine has a daughter with whom he was estranged from for some years. When they finally reconnected she was on a perpetual quest to get everything she could from him. She only appeared when she wanted money, gifts or a place to stay. Once she had what she was after, she was gone. When he couldn’t provide what she asked for, she pouted like a two-year-old ranting that if he was a real father he would make it happen.

God is a real father and he will do for us. But God is about relationship. He wants to talk with you, hear your voice and hear your praises. Our prayer is not all about a list of wants( although he is a God of provision). It’s about communing with our Lord, finding out his heart so that ours may align with it. It is a time we check with him on today’s agenda. How many tragedies would be averted it we’d only checked with God?

Time with God_blog

God sometimes will give the preverbal tap on the shoulder sometime during the day, to tell us to take a different turn, but how much more so if our hearts are already open to hear him. If the world’s voice is louder than his, we’ve missed something.

Talk to him. Share your heart and then let him share his. Sing a sweet love song, He, like us loves to hear the sound of His name.

But there isn’t any time

There is always time, but it is our priorities that we must adjust. Twenty-four hours is twenty-four hours no matter who you are. Time spent with God may make the difference in wrong decisions, tragedies and bad moods. Time with God is never wasted, no matter how we may waste away the rest of the time.

Take the time. You will be glad you did and so will He.

How to best benefit at writers’ conferences

How to best benefit at writers’ conferences

You learn early that writing can be a very isolated and sometimes lonely process. Days at a time in a room with nothing but your computer and your thoughts can get start climbing the walls and dare you to join them. Perhaps that is why social media can be such a gem to writers. (It can also be the bane to your success if you aren’t careful.)

To be involved, to network and to learn your craft takes concentrated effort. Writer workshops and conferences can be a perfect resource for all of the above. Workshops and conferences not only offer a reprieve from the isolation and the “butt-in-chair” experience, but so much valuable and useful information can be gleaned if you go with the right attitude and expectations. Below are some points to keep in mind in order to get the most out of writers’ workshops and conferences.

Set your goals

As I’ve said, mingling and networking can definitely be achieved at these gatherings. But what else do you want to achieve? Are you looking to tighten a particular skill(s)? Are you looking to talk with an editor or agent? Know what goals you have in mind and that way you can make the most out of your time. There will most likely be a bevy of seminars and events happening simultaneously. Your key will be to focus on what you need for that particular time in your writing career.

Be realistic about your expectations

Hoping to sell a manuscript or land an-on-the-spot commitment is not only lofty, but also unlikely. These are not realistic goals for a conference—neither agents nor editors make snap judgments at such gatherings. Most likely you will be able to meet and talk with agents for a short period of time. You may also be able to find out what type of material they are looking for and follow-up with a query if you are invited to do so. Remember everyone is clamoring to sell their work. It may not happen on the spot, but a meeting-even a brief one-with an editor or agent may be the start you need.

Choose the conference based on your needs

If you are a Christian Fiction writer, attending a murder mystery writing weekend will probably not be profitable to you. Likewise, if you are looking to talk with editors and agents look for conferences that specifically indicate you will have that type of opportunity. If you are a beginning writer, trudging through your first few chapters focus on workshops geared toward beginning writers.

If you are in a position where you cannot get away for a conference consider other opportunities like online conferences. The panels and workshops all take place in a virtual setting. You can learn skills and even network in your PJs and slippers. It is completely interactive and can often be much more intimate. Also asking questions may be a lot less intimidating.


 SORMAG Conference registration

Come Prepared

You won’t leave empty-hand, but don’t come empty-handed either. Bring your business cards or copies of your manuscript. Bring pens and notepads or even your tablet. Be prepared to write down questions and take notes. Have your “elevator pitch” in your head so that you aren’t bumbling when it is time to spout a short blurb about your current project. Come prepared to get as much out of the writers’ conference or workshop as you can. And what you don’t learn from this one, you can get it from the next one.

Join me online at the SORMAG Readers and Writers’ Conference, November 1-3.

 

Fact or Fiction: Is it OK to write about friends and family?

If I had one share of Amazon stock for every time I’ve been on the receiving end of some juicy news and thought to myself, “Now that would make for a good story,” I could write for free. I suppose it is the nature of fiction writers; we see situations–no matter what they may be–in terms of a good story. We’re always thinking: “what if.” Now this is not to say that we can’t be trusted with your most intimate secrets and such because we are not gossipers (at least not by the nature of the craft) but writing it out, helps us to figure it out. It is a necessary therapeutic action for dealing with and figuring out our world. But when does that cross the line? When do we have to pull back because the lives of our friends and relatives are being written in ink for the world to see…forever?

Several years ago I’d written a story which I loved and thought would be great material to be published. It was one of the first full-length novels I’d ever written. I gave it to a close friend of mine to read. She was in fact, my beta reader.  Sometime afterwards, she choked back tears and slowly handed it back to me. She stood silent. I couldn’t for the life understand it. She finally asked, “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to write about me? Not cool at all.” You?…huh…what? Was she kidding me? How full of yourself could you possibly…It was a character birthed through my imagination!

But at second glance I could see that subconsciously her life was an open book (pun intended) in my hands. Yikes. And it wasn’t pretty—provocative–but not pretty. I played around with it hoping for a neater, sanitized version, but it just didn’t work. The first draft came from a pure place. The second and third drafts were bedtime stories. And by this time the story had lost some of its chutzpa with the subject matter breathing down my throat in hopes of a more appealing character. It didn’t matter. I was done. I knew that I wasn’t willing to risk a friendship for a best-seller (one can hope). I wrestled with it and finally ended up storing it in the back of my closet. It may have eventually become scrap paper. As I said, we were and still are very close.

“It has to be permissible to draw on your real-life experiences. Otherwise, you can’t write fiction.” Martin Garbus, lawyer for Penguin USA.

A former lover of author Terry Mcmillan sued her for defamation in the 90’s, claiming he was the basis for the character Franklin Swift from her novel, Disappearing Acts. His $4.75 million dollar suit rang with bitter resentment over the “hostile, angry, lazy” way the character was portrayed. The suit was eventually dismissed. And considering the “chilling effect” it could have posed on writers, this was good thing. Chilling effect simply means that other writers may be dissuaded from using their rights to draw on personal experiences from which to write because of fear of legal sanctions. In other words, a verdict in favor of the “victim” could be very bad for free speech.

Thankfully the First Amendment gives us great leeway when it comes to expressing ourselves (lots of it). According to the law’s definition:  Libel requires a false and defamatory statement of fact “of and concerning” an identifiable living person (or business entity). Not only does it have to be about that person, it has to be false and defamatory.

The problem for writers often isn’t so much the law as it is a moral obligation. Who wants to loose friendships or create bad vibes with the people they love for the purpose of writing a killer novel? Often drawing on personal experiences make for the best stories but there are ways to get around it without it resulting in being shunned from family picnics and reunions or having friends bad mouth us on the sly on Facebook. Here are some tips:

  • Disguise the character beyond recognition. Keep the essence of the character. But change the ethnicity or location. If the real-life person is a college grad with a plethora of degrees, make your character a college drop-out who absolutely hates schools. Make it difficult for the person to say, “that’s me.”
  • Write a disclaimer. O.K. most of the time we do this anyway. But it does say to anyone who may be suspicious, “Hey, dude, not about you.”
  • Don’t defame. In other words, don’t paint the person in a bad light. Defamation is a necessary element in a libel suit. Brighten them up a bit and save the unsavory stuff for the other characters

We can never get away from writing about real life people—and who would want to? But simply keep in mind that we must tread lightly.

What are your thoughts? I love hearing from you.