A Continuing Conversation

I saw this quote in my writing inspiration book last week, and it got me to thinking about my goals for blogging. Then, my thoughts expanded to include what I think we all hope for from a conversation. First, let me share the quote by Andrew Sullivan. “A blog is in many ways a continuing conversation.” Mr. Sullivan was one of the first mainstream journalists to experiment with this form of writing almost twenty years ago and soon had a large following on his blog. He was able to have a continuing conversation with his followers through the comments and was able to receive almost instantaneous feedback on his work.

Now, it’s almost twenty years later, and there are many, many more blogs. Some of them have large followings and some, not so much. I fall into the latter category. Barely 100 followers, and maybe a couple hundred more who access the link through my Facebook and Twitter. Actually, there’s no way to know exactly how many can access my blog link on social media. I’ve had some comments over the years I’ve been writing these posts, but nothing that would say it was wildly popular. I’m not complaining though. Having this space has given me the opportunity to practice my writing in public, work through some things from my past, work through some faith questions, have some good conversations, and meet some neat people. It has shown me that I can do this writing thing and that I can be consistent with it.

Reading this quote though has brought to mind all of the conversations I’ve had on this blog, on the Internet, and in real life. Have I done my best to ensure those conversations can be continuing? Have I been flexible enough to agree to disagree or have I wanted to be proven right each and every time–rigid enough where someone felt like they had to walk away from a relationship? I’ve fallen on both sides. We all have. In an effort to change how I interact with people, I haven’t talked about the most divisive items in our society for a long time–race, poverty, politics, abortion, immigration, any issue that could be divisive. What good does it do to scream about something when I can spend my time and energy loving the people in my life the way Jesus wants me to?

But, I think Jesus would want us to talk about the hard stuff. The stuff that keeps us from having relationships. The stuff we use to climb the judging pedestal because it hasn’t happened to us. The stuff that is too different from our norm.

Like abortion, for example. I think abortion is wrong. It is killing a child who has never had the chance to life. But, I know people who have had abortions, and I have no way of knowing the factors that led them to their decision. So, I refuse to judge. Jesus loves the woman who had an abortion just as much as He loves the rest of us.

And, what about poverty? So many things factor into being poor. Race, unemployment, gender, country of birth, mental illness. Those of us who are more fortunate just turn a blind eye to the less fortunate and argue about the politics of it all. I remember the times my husband has been unemployed and thinking constantly that people were judging us. Judging eyes seemed to be everywhere.

Isn’t that why we need a continuing conversation? To acknowledge the hard stuff. To practice grace with the people Jesus loves as much as He loves us. To listen, really listen, to the person with an opposing view and not think how we’re going to reply the whole time. Over the past few years, I have worked on opening my heart to new and different viewpoints and to trying new things. I haven’t been perfect, but I have felt my heart getting softer and more in tune with this faith I practice. May we all be willing to have continuing conversations full of grace and love!

Have a great day, everyone!

 

Called on Purpose

It took me awhile to wrap my head around the theme my church has for this year. It’s not that I don’t understand what Jesus is calling Christians to do. The Great Commission from Matthew 28:19-20 states it plainly. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I also understand the Scriptures my pastor used yesterday, one section of which showed how people were amazed by Jesus and how He found favor with God’s people and then, how people were amazed by the apostles and the wonders and signs they performed. I especially liked the Scripture from Acts which described the first century church. From Acts 2:42-47, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

I’ve always thought the ideal time for the church was when it was first formed. Now though, it is over two thousand years later, and we need to know what God wants for the church in the 21st century. For many years, I considered myself inadequate for God’s calling. I would look at Scriptures like the ones in Titus 2 and tell myself I looked nothing like the women in those Scriptures. I didn’t consider myself a good role model. (still don’t) My interests didn’t lie with anything  having to do with the home. I felt inadequate with the way God made me. There was no way God could have called me for anything on purpose. Not as a follower and especially not as any kind of leader. I loved Jesus, but I didn’t feel like I was any good at anything.

I had to go through that tension to know God made me the way I am for a point and a purpose. He is calling me to show His love in a way that is different from the person on my right and the person on my left. God is calling for me to be a part of a faith family, but He is also calling for me to use the gifts He has given me whether it is in my church or in the world. So, my called on purpose will look different from everyone else’s except for the overarching theme of showing God’s love.

What will that look like for me during the next few months? I’m still planning some things, but I’ve also got some things on my calendar. I’m going to participate in a 5-K walk to end cancer. This is a first for me as an adult. I never thought I would be in good enough shape to participate in a run or a walk, but things have changed since I made physical activity a priority. I’m also going to an anime convention with my son and husband next month. I’m looking forward to becoming more familiar with one of my son’s passions. And finally, I’m going to a writing workshop which is one of my passions. These things don’t even count the times my husband and I will be serving a meal at my son’s campus ministry in the next few weeks.

I look at all the things I wrote in the previous paragraph, and a point is becoming clearer to me. These are all events in my community and not in my church.  Maybe, that is what “called on purpose” really means. 🙂

Have a great day, everyone!

The “True” Definition of Success

Before I go into today’s story, let me issue all the usual disclaimers. Yes, I know there is not one true definition of success. What I write today is my opinion and no one else’s. Success can be gained with the world’s values or with religious values. I could literally talk with twenty people and get twenty different definitions of success. But, today I want to share my own thoughts of success and what it took to get me here.

It begins with my pre-adolescence, a TV show, and an actress and ends many years later with a journey to meet said actress and a realization that, for me, the only “true” way to be successful is to invest in other people like Jesus did. Y’all, adolescence was not kind to me. I was chubby, nerdy, and bullied by other people. I was as far away from being in the “in crowd” in middle school as you could possibly get. I wasn’t interested in boys, and I wasn’t interested in make-up either. I think, even back then, I knew my value wasn’t tied up in those artificial things. I was more interested in the things that mattered and in the world around me. In science fiction and action-adventure. In changing the world around me. But, those things at that time were not the things young girls were interested in. So, I longed for the role model I didn’t have at home.  I had not become a Christian yet so the closest thing I had to role models were my teachers at school and the characters in the books I read.

Enter the TV show and the actress. I was ten the year The Bionic Woman premiered. Watching the first episode, I was spell-bound. Here was a woman on television who was doing all of the things I dreamed of doing. Yes, some of it was cheesy. Yes, some of it reflected the time it was shown in. But, all in all, Jaime Sommers (the main character) taught me that what was important was the content of your character and not what you looked like. Those were important lessons for me to learn between the ages of ten and twelve and even later when I faced constant criticism for what I looked like and for not following the crowd. I admired Lindsay Wagner, the actress who played Jaime, so much and even had a poster of her on the wall of my room for a time.

Fast forward to many, many years later. I was an adult and a Christian who was married and had two children who were teenagers. Adults had poured into me as a new Christian, a teenager, and a young adult. I had learned about the best  and worst things the world had to offer, and it seemed like I had experienced all of them. Now, I’m not trying to say I was perfect. I was far from it. I could be as selfish as the most worldly or the most Christian among us. I had lived a good portion of my life. That year I had the opportunity to go to something called Dragon Con. Many actors, writers, and artists make appearances there. Some are well-known, and others are not. I had recently come back to writing, and as a science fiction, fantasy loving wanna-be author, it was the place to be. Finding out Lindsay Wagner was on the guest list sealed the deal.

So, off to Atlanta I went. At this point, as an adult woman in her 40’s, I knew that actors and the characters they portray were different people. I knew there was a chance that Lindsay Wagner wouldn’t be anything like the character she portrayed all those years ago. But, I also knew I had to say thank you for what she had meant to me. I spent the weekend going to writing workshops, seeing other actors I was interested in, and soaking up the whole experience. I noticed that some of the professionals were more approachable than others and some had very inflated egos. (It cost more money to see them.) Finally, it was time to see Lindsay Wagner. I was so nervous as I stood in line because she was my childhood hero. Finally, I got to the front of the line. She was so kind and very aware of the role model she had been. I said what I wanted to say and received my autograph and picture. It was an amazing experience and showed me that some people were aware of how they influenced others and acted accordingly.

It has been over five years since that experience. Tumultuous years. Years where the American public has become deeply divided. Years where we all have become more selfish. Years where I’ve been sure nothing would ever go right again. But, these years  have also been years where I’ve become part of an interracial church family. Years where I’ve made a deliberate focus to talk to people others wouldn’t talk to. Years where I’ve done my best to use words Jesus would want me to use. I haven’t been successful all of the time. There are people who would testify to this. Human nature and life have knocked me down again and again.

Most importantly though, I’ve worked through a lot of the garbage from my own past. My growth and experiences through this work have brought me to the point I stated at the beginning of this post. The “truest” success people can have is the success of investing in and ministering to other people. In other words, truly listening and being happy for the other people in your life. But, it’s the hardest kind of success to achieve. In fact, I know only a handful of people who are like this in my own life. People who are heart friends. People who don’t let prejudice get in the way. People who are not concerned  with cliques or what the “rules” are in their interactions with other people. People who share joy.

I am a work in progress in this area. There are days when I am at my most selfish and wonder why the “trappings” (money, achievement) of success don’t come to my family. Then, there are days when one of the maintenance guys at my apartment complex corners me and wants to talk about his Christmas because I had talked to him before. There are days when I think no one notices my presence and days when I get a comment or two saying how my writing has touched them. I’ve said my word for this year is “believe”, but perhaps I should add two words to it. Authentic and joy. That’s how I want to live. As someone with authentic joy. Not as the world defines it , but as my faith defines it. For those of us who are Christians, I believe this is the way Jesus wants us to live. And for all of us, it can bring us to the place where we know character counts in how we live. Thankful for all the heroes in my life and for the people who have invested in my life!

Have a great day, everyone!

New Year, New Start

Most of you who follow this blog also follow my blog Write What You Know, and you might be wondering what happened to last Thursday’s post. Wonder no longer. There wasn’t one. I’ve been doing some over the last few weeks about my writing and what I want to happen with it. I realized my focus had been divided. So, as of the other day, all content from Write What You Know has been folded into this blog on this website.

I’m wanting this blog and this website to include all the facets of my life and my writing. Yes, there will continue to be Christian themed posts, but I will also reflect on the writing process and tell stories I hope will be encouraging and inspiring to all of us. Some will be fiction, and some will not. Others will help me process things as I continue to reflect on what God is doing in my life.

Today is my first day of Jeff Goins’ 500 words/day challenge for January. I should end up with more than 500 words/day between my journal writing, blog writing, and story writing, but I’m doing the challenge because I need a kick in the pants to work more on my short story and my book. I’ve been doing more planning than writing, and that needs to stop. Hence, the challenge. I’m also going to submit one of the stories I already have on the computer to a contest. Besides the writing challenge, I would also like to have a goal of submitting something to a contest or for publication once a month so I can start putting myself out there as a writer.

I might keep up with the writing challenge after January to keep myself in writing mode every day or at least every weekday. Some of those words will end up in this blog, but all of them will help me become a better writer.

Have a great day!