Blessed to Be a Blessing

I think I’m on an “offend as many people as I can” streak lately. Yesterday On Reflections, I talked about submision in marriage, and today, I’m talking about our tendency to rob God’s glory. Neither of which are very popular topics. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I’m about to break rule number one in blogging–never go over 1,000 words. So…I’m warning you now. Feel free to check out at any time.

Most of my friends are writers, so I hear a lot about being goal oriented and “pursuing your dream!” But often, it appears the dream overshadows the Dream-giver. It’s easy to get so caught up in the things of God that we forget God all together. Only problem, without God, they’re just things.

Let me illustrate. When you think of Abraham, what comes to mind first? We often hear about how God blessed him and made his offspring into a mighty nation, right? Or what about Joseph? God gave Joseph a dream of grandeur, a dream that was ultimately fulfilled some thirteen (or so) years later. When we retell the story, what do we focus on? The dream, right? How God gave it to Joseph and everyone else wanted to slam on it, but God exalted Joseph anyway.

Only it wasn’t about Joseph, and it wasn’t about Abraham. God raised up Abraham for a purpose–not to bless Abraham, but instead, to bless all the nations through him. Abraham was the father of the Jewish race, and the Jews were the nation God used to reveal Himself to all mankind (and to bring about salvation through Jesus Christ.) When God blessed Abraham, in reality He was blessing us.

Same with Joseph. When we first meet Joseph in Genesis 37, it appears he’s consumed with the dream and how he’s going to rule over his brothers.

Genesis 37:5-11

 5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

 8 His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

 9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

 10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

After a few hard knocks and some rather painful humbling, he comes to realize it was never about him. It was about how God wanted to save many, including his brothers.

Notice the difference in tone, and who Joseph points to, in this passage:

Genesis 45:5-7

5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

So, although God used one man, named Joseph, to bring about His plan, all the while He was thinking about the masses. Because that’s how God works. (I can’t help but wonder how his brothers felt, once they’d reached the end of the story and realized that God had their well-being in mind the entire time. Ah, if only we could see the bigger picture!)

So how does this related to writing? (Or any other “dream” God has given you.) God doesn’t give us gifts for our own benefit. Nor are they ever intended to bring glory to ourselves. He gives us gifts so that His purpose can be fulfilled. He blesses us so that we will be a blessing. But when our eyes are on ourselves, we get in the way.

The first step, it seems, is to let it go. Hand your gift, whatever it is, over to God, to be used as He sees fit. Whether that means writing a best-selling novel or spending hours crafting a Vacation Bible School lesson for your small, unknown church. It’s His gift, remember? You’re just the vessel.

As I continually work towards intentionally living, I’m going to ask God, daily, to empty me of self, fill me with Him and help me to catch a glimpse of the bigger, eternal picture. I’m going to actively and personally pray Romans 12:1-2

“Dear Lord, do not allow me to conform to the things of this world, but transform me by renewing my mind. Help me to see and understand Your good, pleasing will. Help me to offer my body, my time, my gifts and my mind, to You as a perfect, pleasing sacrifice. This will be my act of worship.”

The world says forge ahead. God says wait on Me and allow Me to live through you, as I want, when I want, because I see the bigger picture, and I’ve written the ending.

Yesterday a fb friend sent me a message with this video in it and I thought I’d share it. After you watch it, spend a moment in prayer, asking God to show you areas or times when you’ve been tempted to seek your own glory instead of acting in humbled obedience. Then, ask Him to help you lay yourself, your gifts, your dreams, your time…whatever, on the alter so that you can be a cleansed and open vessel ready to do His will. Ask Him to enable you to catch a glimpse of His bigger, eternal picture. And remember, when our time on earth is done and we stand before the throne of God, we will be held accountable for not what we accomplished, but how well be obeyed.

(And be patient. Eventually I’ll quit talking about Joseph…I think.)

Be Still

Okay writers, this one’s for you. We’re an insecure bunch, aren’t we? Most of us are so emotionally volatile, we go from laugh-out-loud gregarious to self-isolated hermit faster than a schizophrenic on crack. And only a writer can turn a compliment into a downer:

“Hey, I read your latest blog post. I totally loved it.”

Oh, no. That’s the last one. I know it. I’m bone dry here. What’ll happen when this guy figures out I really can’t write and that was just a fluke?

And an opened door into a dungeon entry:

“I’d love to have you join our team.”

Deadlines? Expectations? What if I let them down? Which blog post, article, or interview made them think I’d be good for this job or ministry position and what’s going to happen when they figure out I’m not who they think I am?

We read so much about platforms, branding, networking, and marketing, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Writing is no longer just about writing. In today’s technological age, it takes much more than flowery words to get yourself heard. You need strong marketing skills, a dash of big-picture thinking to stay one step ahead of the fray, a psychology degree to navigate all the PR requirements, media and industry connections, and enough stick-to-itness to stand up against the ever-flying obstacles hurled your way. It’s easy to get lost amidst the noise, but running in circles won’t do you any good. So what do you do when you can’t see above the ever-swirling storm clouds? You retreat, and rest. And remember this battle is not yours. And you don’t have to do it alone.

“Relax my child, this really isn’t about you. Nor is it up to you,” our Father says, as He lovingly takes our hand. “Be still and know that I am God. Keep your eyes on Me. Trust my plan, and the life jacket I provide. Yes, the waves are strong. Yes, the wind is loud. But My hand is stronger, and I will never let you go. My power is displayed in your weakness. And remember, this is not your story. It never was. It is my story, and I will pen it through you.” And then the Creator of the universe leans down and whispers in your ear the story that will be woven in a million hearts as He draws His beloved into His warm embrace.

2 Corinthians 3:5-6 “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

Yahoo! It’s almost conference time!

I joined American Christian Fiction Writers a month ago (wow, how time flies) and already I feel like I am part of  a giant, encouraging family. My writing has improved triple-fold and interacting with other dedicated and passionate writers motivated me to complete my current novel in just over two months. (Although the editing process will not be so “flowing”.) And now, having received such blessing via online interaction, classes and critique groups (just a few of the benefits of being part of ACFW) I can hardly wait for the ACFW conference!

This years ACFW Writers’ Conference is a “must attend” event. Held in Indianapolis, Indiana, writers, editors and agents across the nation will meet to learn, fellowship and encourage one another. The classes and workshops offered are phenomenal. A quick glance at the schedule tells me I need to prayerfully make a list of “must take” classes that way I can utilize every minute available. Needless to say, I don’t anticipate a wasted moment. I know I want to attend Dr. Dennis Hensley’s class on symbolism and I have a feeling Jenny B. Jone’s class on using humor in fiction will be a hoot. Everyone can use a few guffaws now and then, right? For new authors, Tracie and Jim Peterson will be teaching the basics of fiction writing and more advanced writers can learn how to move your readers from laughter to tears then back to laughter again. But even more than having my brain fed, I’m looking forward to the spiritual fulfillment I know I’ll receive at the ACFW conference. I can’t wait to spend time with other authors who have given their lives, and keyboards, to the cause of Christ.

Writing can be a very lonely endeavor, if you let it. Spending hours locked away in an office while your fingers pound away on a keyboard doesn’t form close relationships…unless you know where to look. ACFW has allowed me to interact daily with incredibly strong Christians, all from the comfort of my computer. There is something very encouraging about talking with someone who shares your passions, and your struggles. And this is what I look forward to most as I anticipate this year’s conference—the opportunity to get to know other authors better.

Wanna join me? Sign up now at http://www.acfw.com/conference