Category: Inspiration for writers

Afflict the Comfortable?

Bullet holes in the front door of the Alexander’s home in Taipei. Two members of the family were used as human shields and shot in police crossfire. Yet the Alexanders forgave their terrorist captor and helped lead him to faith in Christ before he faced execution for his crimes.

The famous newspaperman Joseph Pulitzer is said to have had this motto:

“Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Do you think this is a good motto for a Christian writer? And maybe for a Christian reader?

Jesus gave comfort to the afflicted. He saw the real needs of individuals and responded in love and power. Today, the Lord works through his people to give comfort to those who are burdened, oppressed, and bereft; to build up others in love and faith to sustain them in the difficulties of life.

On the other hand, Jesus often unsettles us—afflicts us, if you will—with his words and actions. He criticized the religious and political establishments. He gave his time and attention to the weak, the sick, the unlovely, the powerless. He spoke directly to the heart.

Does the Lord want to use you as a writer to challenge and unsettle those who are insulated in ease? Perhaps the Lord wants to remind us of his call to feed the hungry, heal the sick, comfort those who mourn.

To be used this way, you may need to let him move you out of your “comfort zones” of shallow thinking, self-protection, and playing it safe. Read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Read the Acts of the Apostles. Read about the lives and deaths of the early-church martyrs. Read about Christian persecution and martyrdom in the world today.

Other suggestions for reading that will “afflict” us out of our false comfort and into a life of more compassion and faith:

John and Judy Pex’s story of their work in Eilat, Israel. Reading about the Pex’s 30 years of personal evangelism in Israel can fortify you with the desire to live out the life of Jesus, perhaps even opening your home, your arms, or your prayers and giving to reach others with God’s love.

Stories of Christian refugees fleeing the genocide in south Sudan will disturb your ease but may also give you perspective on the troubles you face.

Reading about the Alexander family’s hostage experience at the hands of a Taiwanese terrorist may afflict you when you realize what evil there is in the world and what sufferings God allows his people to go through; or the Alexander’s story may comfort you to see how they were able to show love and salvation to the very man who caused them great bodily injury and emotional harm.

Now a word to readers: Open your hearts to what our Lord, who himself comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable, may be saying to you. Don’t just read books that offer escape and make you feel good and even more comfortable. Read books that challenge you, maybe even afflict you with a desire to show compassion.

A Christian Writer’s “Wildly Unbalanced Life”

I hear writers bemoan the demands and distractions in their days (including technology) and how hard it is for them to achieve balance in their lives. Perhaps you’ve felt that, too. You’re working at the computer and think you’ll just check Facebook for a few minutes. An hour later, you wonder where the time went. Or you hear the musical tone that tells you new emails or text messages have arrived on your cell phone. You were just about to focus in on the theme of a blog post you’re preparing to write. You touch your phone screen, read the text and one thing leads to another. Let’s see, where did that inspiration, that thought, that focus go?

I ought to read more, pray more, call so-in-so, go shopping, attend those meetings, deep clean my house/office, sort through papers, watch those recommended movies, re-decorate my house, exercise more … while tweeting, blogging, posting, submitting copy to editors.

So, how do we achieve “balance”?

Or, is that even the right question?

I got help on this issue a few days ago when I attended the “Writers on the Rock” Christian writers conference in Lakewood, Colorado, as a workshop presenter. Happily, I had opportunity to go to a session taught by Allen Arnold of Ransomed Heart Ministries. “Balance isn’t the key,” he told us. “God wants us to write—not for him or about him—but with him. This leads to a wildly unbalanced life. Let other things fall away.”

Demonstrating his teaching, Allen presented a creative, God-breathed message that brought clarity to my mind and both piercing and encouragement to my heart. In fact, the heart was his theme.

“Infuse Your Creativity with Heart” was his topic. “Nothing great was ever achieved without great heart,” stated the workshop blurb in the conference program. “Yet writers often become disheartened, discouraged or overwhelmed” (that’s where I started this post, remember?) “and when they do, their stories slowly begin to die.” Allen’s workshop promised to tell us “how to discover the truer you, consecrate your creativity, and feast on hidden Spiritual Manna.” He delivered on that promise.

A tall man with a joyful smile and eyes that seem ready to laugh with you or cry with you according to your need and the Lord’s leading, he said, “God cares far more about the story you’re living than the story you’re writing. Live well. Then write well.”

Does living well mean keeping up with everything the world, and even the church, often tells us we should keep on top of and keep “in balance?”

“You can’t write a better story than you’re living,” Allen Arnold states. “Nothing is more important than how a story was born—what your heart is like at the time of writing. … Your writing changes when it becomes about presence over productivity.”

If writing and connecting with readers to encourage them, lift their sights to Jesus, come alongside them, instruct them in the living Word, bring them hope through a well-told story, is what gives you life … then this may be what the Lord is calling you to do; and to live out this calling, you will have to let some other things fall away.

Tend to your heart. Then write and connect and live a “wildly unbalanced life” in—and flowing out from—the presence of Jesus.

 


Update: I recently got Allen Arnold’s book, The Story of WITH : A Better Way to Live, Love, & Create. I recommend it! ~ C.L.

Attempting the Impossible

Cyclist-on-Boulders

 

We shivered in ski jackets on the beach in January. With my son David and his family, I was walking a stretch of Long Island Sound’s northern shore.

A shrub-lined, curving trail took us over a hill and down upon a tumble of boulders, where we met an unexpected sight: a fit young man bouncing his seat-less bike from one precarious, rocky perch to another. He was focused, concentrating, balanced in spite of what seemed insurmountable odds. To the music of salty wind, lapping waves, laughing children, and calling gulls, he worked silently.

David continued up the trail with binoculars, intent on birding. The children explored shells and driftwood. My daughter-in-law, Hannah, and I stood watching the cyclist.

He hopped off his bike and looked our way.

Hannah called to him, “Are you training for something?”

Without hesitation he answered, “To be a better man!”

Taken aback briefly, Hannah blinked then said, “God bless you!”

“I’m a stuntman,” he explained. “Just came out here to practice.”

He returned to his balancing-act practice. Hannah and I enjoyed the show a few moments longer then hurried to catch up with the family. But the image of someone accomplishing—with apparent ease and grace—something that to me seems impossible, has stayed with me.

Like my grandchildren, since childhood I’ve loved exploring beaches, forests, rivers and meadows. In those places my imagination soared. If I had a book with me, all the better. Good stories opened a world of possibilities. Early I dreamed of writing a book myself. But in my child mind it seemed impossible. How could anyone choose and balance and fit together so perfectly that many words, to make characters and places come alive, to create meaning so believable and absorbing? To me such a process held as much mystery as the thought of God creating the flowers in the meadow and the fish in the creek. But he did. And people do.—They create stories and poems and write books.

I found out later in life, just as the stuntman on the boulders had no doubt learned, that such talent and achievement requires diligence, work, and passion.

Years ago, as I was preparing my first book for publication, I felt as if I was trying to balance two narrow wheels on steep, slippery boulders, and I felt dizzy and inadequate. One night, as deadlines approached, I cried to my husband, “I can’t do it! This is too hard.” He just hugged me and prayed for me.

The next morning I woke with new courage. The book came to be and has found readers—opening windows of possibilities to those readers—around the world.

The stuntman probably started bouncing his bike on the pebbly beach and the uneven, rocky trail before he tried to mount boulders. If you have the passion and the vision, then the way of carrying out that vision will come clear. Maybe not all at once or as easily and quickly as you would like; but the path will open to you and the grace will come, as you practice, learn, and keep trying.

Along the way you will have the opportunity to pursue an even greater purpose. Like the stuntman on the beach, you can say, “Yes, I’m in training—to be a better person”: a person who listens to the wind, takes time to dream, look for birds and seashells, and speak from the heart.


Photo by Catherine Lawton

Christian Writers and Editors are Window Washers

WINDOW WASHER

We need to perceive the Truth.

Yet, darkly we peer through the glass.

Clean me for use

Free me to serve

Lift me to reach

That I may wash windows for You.

Wrong doctrine obscures

Gray living besmears

Raw weather, it blurs

The pane on this side.

Provide a soft cloth—not abrasive

The vision to transcend the obstructive

And courage to rub for perfection

Searching

Editing

Polishing

Till, through one clear corner,

Someone sees You.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Catherine Lawton

from the book, Remembering Softly: A Life In Poems © 2016


Photo: (c) Can Stock Photo / Ghen

For the Love of Words and the Living Word

If you’re a word person, as I am, then perhaps you also have “a love affair with words.” You use words, but take care not to abuse them. You like to play with words, but you also take them seriously. You cherish them, listen to them, pray over them, respect them, have faith in them, and you know when to release them.

Words are a writer’s tools, the building blocks of our stories, articles, blog posts, tweets and books. Words have power. With words we instruct, entertain, woo, influence, write and speak.

God spoke the world into being. Jesus is the Word become flesh. Spoken words matter. Written words matter. Every word matters. They matter because they enable us to see the unseen, to know the unknowable, to grasp the undreamed of.

The well-chosen correctly-used, creatively-connected, ingeniously-employed word has power. If your words fit that description, and they are prayed over, respected, understood—then these words may form a piece of writing that is Christ-infused, Christ-honoring, and Christ-giving to a person and a world that needs the living Word.