The Danger of Quick-Fix Mentality When Sharing Truth

couple sitting with backs turned to each otherI can easily fall prey to our “fix-it-quick”, culture, tossing out truths that are, well, true, but fail to hit their mark. In fact, there’ve been times when I’ve caused more harm than good. When I’ve hurt others and damaged relationships. Usually my motives were good. I desperately wanted friends and loved ones to come to Jesus. I wanted them to experience the life, healing, and freedom only He can offer.

But in my zeal (often coupled by fear), I took off running and verse touting and left the Holy Spirit far behind. I was convinced I was right. After all, I only spoke truth, and truth sets people free, right?

Besides, Jesus never shied away from hard conversations, nor did He worry about offending people. When He encountered the adulterous woman, didn’t He tell her to go and sin no more? And the “invalid” He healed by the pool of Bethesda to stop sinning?

Yes and yes, but He also told the Samaritan woman who’d cycled through men (or perhaps had been discarded by them) to go and grab her husband. And the tax collector in Matthew nine to “follow Him.”

In other words, Jesus addressed each individual individually, speaking directly to their deepest needs, deceptions, and unique stumbling blocks. But He had something you and I don’t—insight.word image Jesus knew the history, hurts, and fallacies each of them held. In fact, He knew each man and woman better than they knew themselves. So when He spoke, He always hit His mark.

You and I don’t have that insight, nor do we always invest the time necessary to gain it. At least. When engaging others in spiritual conversations, I didn’t even consider there might be deeper issues involved.

But then God reminded me of my story. Through I trusted in Jesus for salvation at a young age, I didn’t begin growing in Him until my early adult years. Actually, for a while I spiraled in the opposite direction, living a drunken, partying, throw-myself-away type of lifestyle. By the time I met my husband, I was consumed with shame and self-loathing.

Around then, pastors started coming around. Not just one, but two. One would come knocking at our door, would step inside and talk with us a bit, and then leave. Another took my husband and I out to lunch with him and his wife. I don’t remember much of what either of them said, but I do recall the warmth in their smiles and the easy way they conversed. I remember the way they made me feel—safe. Loved. Welcomed.

The interesting thing is, my husband I were living together, unmarried, at the time. In other words, living in sin. (Though my worldview was so warped, I didn’t think a thing of our lifestyle. It seemed normal to me.)

Had those men come at me with “truth”, they only would’ve deepened my shame and pushed me away. They would’ve confirmed to me what I already believed—that I was worthless and disgusting. Bad. Not just that I was doing bad, but that I was bad. I understood that I was a sinner. What I didn’t understand, what I needed to see, was grace.

That’s exactly what those pastors showed me. With every interaction, they revealed the gentle love of Christ. A love that beckoned and drew me, that healed me bit by bit, and ultimately, transformed me.

Because Jesus knew my story. He knew what was keeping me from living in His will. While it’s true my lifestyle was very contrary to God’s desire for me, this wasn’t because I was actively trying to rebel against Him. Rather, it was because I’d given up on myself.

I needed Jesus, revealed through the grace-filled actions of others, to rekindle my hope so that, eventually, I had the desire to reach for life.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying we should never speak truth nor that we should accept or coddle sinful behavior. What I am saying is we should approach each broken, hurting child of God carefully and prayerfully, being careful to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading.

I often think of how I might talk to someone standing on a rooftop, ready to jump. I think of how alert, how attentive, how “others-focused” I’d be. My greatest desire in that moment would be not to say anything that would tip them over the edge and to coax them, ever-so-gently towards life.

That might seem like a drastic analogy, until we remember, with every interaction, real lives are at stake, lives that will either spend eternity with Jesus or separated from Him. That doesn’t mean we should become paralyzed by fear of messing up. But it does mean we should ensure, with each conversation, that God, and not our pride or our fear, is doing the leading. Only He knows when to speak truth and how much, when to listen, and when to simply say, “I love you, and I’m here.”

Let’s talk about this! Is there someone you’re trying to reach out to? How can you build trust and get to know them better—beyond surface level? Would you add anything to my thoughts? Do you perhaps disagree? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments below.

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The Birth of a Story

I sure spend a lot of time clinging to my safety nets, for one who talks so often about living God’s great adventure. Although, I do eventually drop them, and take that next step, and then the next, though my hands might be clammy and my legs may quiver every step of the way.

This was me, when our family joined our former church for a week-long mission trip to El Salvador back in 2011. My biggest angst? I hated flying. I’ve gotten much better, but back then, every trip felt like torture. While the other passengers slept or read books or chatted with one another, I’d obsess. On every plane crash I’d ever heard of, on every bump or dip as we soared through the sky, on how high our plane flew and how long it’d take us to spiral to our deaths.

Ah, the joys of the writer’s brain.

If only I’d been more diligent to “fix” my thoughts on truth, as Philippians 4:8-9 puts it. But I wasn’t. Instead, I fixed my thoughts on potential catastrophes and what-ifs, and instead of experiencing the peace that “surpasses understanding,” I worked myself into a near panic.

And let me tell you, fear is exhausting and self-defeating!

It didn’t help that our descent into the country was horrendous! Flying over the mountains and through a storm, it felt like someone had strapped us onto a roller coaster and were tossing and shaking us about.

That first night in the hotel, tired, and pushed out of my comfort zone in numerous ways, one thought dominated: “I want to go home.”

By the end of the week, with my heart full and broken simultaneously, another even stronger thought took hold: “I never want to leave.”

Saying goodbye and stepping back on that plane, with my pockets stuffed with letters from sweet orphan girls, was so incredibly hard. Our family returned to the states convinced God wanted us to go back, so we began making plans. My husband would take an early retirement, we’d sell our home, and we’d rent an apartment in El Salvador so we could help the orphan girls we’d fallen in love with learn English (a quick ticket out of poverty in that country).

But then I got sick. For a while, really sick. And suddenly, our plans were flipped upside down and inside out. Our hearts still ached for those precious girls. We still deeply loved El Salvador, its people, and their culture. I could’t believe God would stir then break our hearts for nothing, but I had no idea what He was up to.

He’s since shown us there’s a lot of ways one can become involved in His mission to heal, save, and restore. Some are called to go; others to support those who go. Some are called to adopt; others to support those who do. Some are called to raise awareness or work for life-transforming organizations behind the scenes.

The ways one can help, can be a part of life change, are as endless as God’s love for each and every orphan crying out to Him each day.

I write. That’s what I do. And so, that’s what I did–not about my adventure though an experience or two from our trip might have found its way into the story. But instead, I wrote about Brooke’s, a woman I can relate to in many ways. A painful event in her past has caused her to form a near-impenetrable safety net, one that has caused her to strive and grasp and fight for control.

But God has so much more planned for her.

Here’s the back cover text:

A news anchor intern has it all planned out, and love isn’t on the agenda.

Brooke Endress is on the cusp of her lifelong dream when her younger sister persuades her to chaperone a mission trip to El Salvador. Packing enough hand sanitizer and bug spray to single-handedly wipe out malaria, she embarks on what she hopes will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But Brooke is blindsided by the desperation for hope and love she sees in the orphans’ eyes. And no less by the connection she feels with her handsome translator. As newfound passion blooms, Brooke wrestles with its implications for her career dreams.

Ubaldo Chavez, teacher and translator, knows the struggle that comes with generational poverty. But he found the way out – education – and is determined to help his students rise above.

When he agrees to translate for a mission team from the United States he expects to encounter a bunch of “missional tourists” full of empty promises. Yet an American news anchor defies his expectations, and he finds himself falling in love. But what does he have to offer someone with everything?

Can you relate to any of what I shared? When has God pushed you out of your comfort zone, and what was the result? When have you been convinced His plan was X, but He later showed you it was Y, and how’d you process that?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Trusting the Author

If you’re reading this, it is likely because you love stories. Whether you’re a reader, a writer, or love a good movie or TV show, we all relate to story. However, sometimes that story takes an unexpected turn. When it does, do we stop reading or watching? Or do we trust the author? Today, my sweet friend, Carrie, joins me to talk about the middle of the story.

Revelation 21

In the Middle of the Story
by Carrie Schmidt

Since I was very little, my life has been all about story. I drank it in wherever I could, however I could, in whatever form it came.  Especially books. Always books.

And one of my very favorite things about “story” is how every story at its root is ultimately a reflection of THE Story. God’s Story of redemption.  The Truest of true stories. The one bible-1031288_640that starts with “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1) as its “once upon a time” and ends with the happiest “happily ever after” of them all (Revelation 21:3-4).

But that’s another blog post for another time.

Sort-of.

Because right now I’m in the middle of my own story.

Life is not at all going the way I had planned. Especially not the way I had dreamed. And trusting God in the middle of this not-going-according-to-plan story He’s writing for me? Well, to say it’s not always easy would be one of my greatest understatements ever.

And yet… I do this on a much smaller level every time I read a new novel or watch a new movie. You do, too.

If we had stopped reading Pride and Prejudice in the middle of the story, Mr. Darcy would never have become one of the greatest heartthrobs in romance. Instead, he would be forever memorialized in our minds as arrogant and aloof and a relationship-wrecker. And Colin Firth would have not been nearly as famous… but perhaps he would have been drier.

books-1141910_640If we had stopped reading Little Women in the middle, we may not have grieved quite so much … or gotten quite so irritated … but we also certainly would not have rejoiced as much either. We wouldn’t have seen independence and triumph and unexpected selfless love.

What about the movie Sleepless in Seattle? If we had turned it off halfway through, we might think that Tom Hanks (spoiler alert – although, really, if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s your own fault, haha!) ended up with that annoying woman and Meg Ryan went back home from her stalking research trip and settled for the adorable but boring Bill Pullman who didn’t understand her.

But we keep reading. And we keep watching.

Why? Because we trust the author, the screenwriter, the director. We trust them to give us the happily ever after, the need for which – incidentally – is imbedded in our hearts and called “eternity” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We trust them even though we don’t know them.

In God’s Story, our own personal happily ever afters may not look like we envisioned. But that’s because our individual separate stories aren’t individual or separate. They are subplots in THE Story, all threads of grace and redemption that tie together in one ultimate Narrative called Jesus. We can trust Him because we know Him.

When the middle of your story looks a bit chaotic, a little murky or a lot hopeless, trust the horse-58374_640Author and Finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). Trust Him to complete the story He’s started writing in you (Philippians 1:6), the one He’s promised to keep writing even after everyone else thinks the story is over.

Because the truth is – it’s not over until our Prince Charming comes riding in on His white horse to sweep His bride off her feet and conquer the enemy with a single word (Revelation 19).

And that’s my favorite story of them all.

***

img_4522Carrie Schmidt (aka MeezCarrie) is an avid reader, a book reviewer, a story addict, a KissingBooks fan and a book boyfriend collector. She also loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. Her passion in blogging/reviewing is to connect readers with a new favorite author or book, especially in the Christian fiction genre. Carrie lives in central Kentucky with her hubby Eric and their quirky dog Zuzu and is the long distance cool aunt to nine nieces and nephews. When she’s not reading or reviewing or “cool-aunting”, Carrie teaches English as a Second/Other Language to international adults. Learn more about Carrie at http://readingismysuperpower.org.

***

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Carrie opened up about how her life, in the middle of her story, isn’t going according to how she planned. I think it’s safe to say that most of us feel that way. However, she also talked about not giving up in the middle of our story and trusting the Author. Have you ever felt like giving up in the middle of your own story? How did the Lord bring you through that chapter? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below (or over at Living by Grace) so we can encourage and pray for one another.

Showing Vs. Telling

Normally, I stick with devos and other life applications, but this has been quite the topic swimming around the ACFW loop lately. I’ve also noticed this topic appear on numerous blogs within the past week, so…yep…I’m jumping on the bandwagon. And since about 70 percent of my subscribers are writers (intimidating, yes), I thought this might be a topic of interest to you.

This morning as I was critiquing a manuscript sent over the scribes loop, I realized about half of the first page could be cut. It was all telling–recapping. So how do you explain the difference between showing versus telling? I love the illustration one author provided. She encouraged us to think about a theater production. In drama, you don’t have the luxury of explaining how the character feels and there’s no way to provide background information except through action (via flashbacks) and dialogue. So, when we write, it helps to envision our characters as actors on a stage. If you were directing them, what would you tell them to do? How would you encourage them to reveal the desired emotions?

When you write, you want your reader so involved in your characters they feel exactly what your characters are feeling. They see as if through the eyes of the character and draw conclusions as they would if they were watching the story unfold on the screen. (Meaning, we must resist the urge to spell out the conclusions for them. Example, if your character slams their fist on the table, there’s no need to say, “He was angry.”)

Allow me to give an example. In my Operation First Novel finaling manuscript, Breaking Free (formally known as Impossible Choices) a big part of the story revolves around Alice’s insecurities. She feels unattractive and blames herself for her husband’s emotional withdrawal. Unaware that her insecurities are the result of wounds inflicted early in childhood and that her perception of the present is based largely on those insecurities (and the lies she’s come to believe about herself) she assumes her feelings are caused by events in the present. This may sound a bit confusing, and I don’t want to venture too far off topic here except to say we will act in accordance with who we believe we are and will often interpret the present based on past experiences and our beliefs about ourselves and our role in this world. Meaning, if you assume people are out to get you, perhaps because you were mistreated as a child, you will see injustice in day-to-day encounters. Similarly, if you have experienced a steady dose of love and acceptance as a child, you will likely assume people like you. When they behave inappropriately, because you assume you yourself are likeable, you draw the conclusion that the issue must lie with them.

Okay, so how does this translate to showing vs. telling? Back to my example. In my story, Alice (my heroine) struggles with insecurity, and believes she is unworthy and unlovable. So, when her husband pulls away, she assumes it is because of something she’s done, or hasn’t done. If only she were prettier, more exciting, more alluring, her husband would stay home, wouldn’t drink, all those things.

Yet, my reader doesn’t want to hear all that. That’d be like sitting through someone else’s therapy session. Ugh! But if I design scenes to show this, perhaps by having my heroine join a gym, tug at her clothes in an attempt to hide her stomach, and pop Lean Cuisines in the microwave, the reader begins to feel what Alice feels. Hence, there is no reason to tell them.

Similarly, when revealing emotions, I don’t want my reader to know Alice is scared. I want to make them scared with her. I want to make their pulse race, spine tingle with adrenaline, and their muscles tense.

But how do I do that? First, by telling an excellent, vibrant, and descriptive story. This involves carefully selecting details that set the desired tone. For example, if I want my reader (who has become my main character) to feel joy, I can weave enticing or comforting aromas, sounds, and images into the scene. Perhaps children giggling on a sloping hill, or a hummingbird flittering among fragrant rose bushes.

And here’s one that somewhat makes me laugh. You want to demonstrate surprise, so you tell the reader, “The sound of a slamming door surprised her.” Or, “Her thoughts were disrupted by the sound of an approaching car.”

How about you immerse the reader in the thoughts of the character, then jolt them out with the sound of an approaching car? Meaning, reveal the thoughts, then, bam! Reveal the sound, “A car door slammed. She turned…”

See, you don’t need to tell us her thoughts were disrupted because our thoughts are disrupted as well.

I’d love to hear you thoughts on this, and perhaps I will address it more later. But for now…back to that critique I told you all about.

Tomorrow I’ll route you to a friend’s blog so you can hear a bit more about Alice, her story, and why I wrote it.

Turning a Picture Into a Story–my dad’s version

My dad, Rex Febus, sent this one via facebook. Again, the photo used is:

The assignment was to use this photo to create a scene, partial scene or story background. Here’s Rex Febus’ version:

oh that boy of mine. jest dont know what im gonna do wit im.

ever since his paw ran off after that fool fourth baby he gived me. he just been a handful. day and night

why just the other day he got himsef kicked out a that piggily wiggliy store.
the little scamp was watching “laurel and hardy” on jim bob’s dad’s picture box.
so he saw them picture box boys give each other a hot foot and then traipsed his self down to the store.
he seen this man over lookin the meat counter and like a snake in da grass he slithered on his belly up to the man’s foot. he stuck a match in the crack tween da sole and da shoe. then he lit it and then run off.
curious as a daggone cat he comes back and seed the man swatting his leg cause da pants ketched a fire.
the man grabbed him by the scruff of his neck cause he was laughin so bad and carted him off to the sto manager.

nows i gotsta whack him a good one or so. but these othere chilluns are weighin me down so i cant catch im. now i gonna have to get mysef down to da sto