Thursday, May 21, 2015

Your story could make all the difference

What have you been afraid of in the past? What are you afraid of now?

Consider writing a vignette for your memoir about how you cope with fear. How can you inspire your readers to be courageous?

Here are words to get your thoughts going:

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence
by every experience
in which you really stop
to look fear in the face.
You must do the thing
which you think you cannot do.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—
not absence of fear.”
Mark Twain

“We are all brave men and we are all afraid,
and what the world calls a brave man,
he too is brave and afraid
like all the rest of us.
Only he is brave for five minutes longer.”
Alistair MacLean, Scottish novelist

“I will never leave you or forsake you.
Be strong and courageous...”
God (Joshua 1:5-6)

“Be strong and very courageous.”
God (Joshua 1:7)

“Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you
wherever you go.”
God (Joshua 1:9)

“Only be strong and courageous.”
God (Joshua 1:18)

I suspect that most, if not all, people have a problem with fear, and in light of that, I marvel at what a kind, comforting God we have: He has given us hundreds of Bible verses to help us deal with fear.

Many years ago, I heard that there are 366 Bible verses telling us, in one way or another, "Fear not." That means God has given us one verse for every day, even in leap year!

He longs for us to replace fear with courage, faith-based courage.

Maybe there was a time when you had courage to do nothing more than pray. And that’s okay!  (See 1 Chronicles 17:25 in which King David found courage to pray.) I suspect prayer is the very place each of us should start!

Your story about wrestling with fear
and triumphing over it (maybe only sometimes)—
Someone needs to know your story,
someone facing fear,
someone who will deal with fear in the future,
someone who can’t quite take a leap
and do the courageous thing.
Your story can quiet fears.
Your story can help others live with faith and courage.
Your story could make all the difference
in a person’s life.
Your story could lead someone
to take a fresh look
at God,
at life,
at faith.
Your story could change the way
a person lives.
Your story could fortify a timid heart.

Write your story!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Your memoir: Leave a legacy, finish well

“How does a person finish well?” Pastor Sid challenged us.

Once people get to my age, ears perk up when such topics surface.

Younger people’s ears should perk up, too, because time marches on more quickly than we realize, and we all need to take action now to finish well.

Finishing: It’s a sobering word, a serious reality.  Each of us is approaching the finish line. Some of us will reach it sooner than others will.

“How do you make your lives matter?” Sid continued. “How do you leave a good legacy?”

Let’s be honest. Don’t we worry that our lives might not matter? That we might not leave a good legacy?

In his sermon, Sid shared with us a few ways to finish well. And being the memoir geek that I am, of course I applied them to the importance of writing our stories.

So, then, as I share Sid’s thoughts with you, think memoir. Think your memoir.

Sid spoke of the power of partnership—of sharing our lives with others. Investing our lives in them. Connecting with them. Shepherding our flock. Teaching them about God. And isn’t that what writing and giving a memoir is all about?

Then Sid got personal. He asked us to assess ourselves. He asked, “How willing are you to give to others, to invest in others?”

So, applying that to writing memoir, let me ask: How willing are you to invest your time and talents in finishing your memoir?

The more we invest our lives in others, the more time we invest in preparing and sharing our stories with them, the better we will finish.

Sid also spoke of the power of perseverance. He reminded us of Paul in the New Testament: Despite his imprisonment for preaching the gospel, he kept partnering with Timothy and persevering with him (2 Timothy). He mentored Timothy despite his personal suffering. Paul knew he was approaching the end of his life, but he didn’t quit. He focused on investing in Timothy even on the days he didn’t feel like it.

He knew God would help him finish well, and indeed he did. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” What glorious words. What a great role model Paul is for all of us.

Pastor Sid asked us to assess ourselves: “If you were struck mute, what would people know about your life and the way you ran your race?”

He challenged us to be difference-makers: ordinary people making a difference for eternity, ordinary people leaving a legacy that lasts.

Your memoir can be a priceless legacy for your kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, friends, relatives, and maybe even strangers. Your memoir is one way to exercise the power of partnership that Sid spoke of. Your memoir is one way to exercise the power of perseverance.

“What does God mean for you to do?” Sid asked, and he left us with this challenge: “Run with everything you have!”

Leave your memoir as a legacy for your family.
Do it.
Do it now.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Marvel at the mosaic of your life

What does a memoir and a mosaic have in common?

You’ve probably known about mosaics since you were a little kid, but today let’s take another look.  

A mosaic is a collection of small stones (or bits of colored glass, tiles, pebbles, paper squares, seashells, or similar materials) which, when arranged and glued together just so, create a large picture, a piece of art.

Think of your life as a mosaic, and then read these words from Henri Nouwen. They’ll get the wheels turning in your head:

“A mosaic consists of thousands of little stones.
Some are blue, some are green,
some are yellow, some are gold.
When we bring our faces close to the mosaic,
we can admire the beauty of each stone.
But as we step back from it,
we can see that all those little stones
reveal to us a beautiful picture,
telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself.”
Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
(emphasis mine)

In the story of your life, stones of one color represent one experience, stones of a different color represent another experience.

Stones of other colors represent:

each person who comes into your life,
each choice,
each victory,
each relationship,
each heartbreak,
each celebration,
each new job,
each mistake,
each new home,
each joy,
each setback,
each surprise,
each significant life event.

Each little piece has a size and shape and color and texture of its own. Some are light and crisp and fresh. Others are dark and dull and brooding, while others are shiny and intense.

Each little piece plays a special part.

We often recognize the individual pieces—the individual events and people—of our lives and appreciate them up close at the time, but what about the bigger picture?

In writing memoir, we deliberately do what Nouwen says:

We step back, take a broader, deeper, higher look.
We glimpse the bigger picture, The Big Picture
and WOW, it can surprise us!
It can bring us to tears.
Taken together, like Nouwen says,
it can “reveal to us a beautiful picture,
telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself.”

And we realize that without each piece, the larger picture would lack in vibrancy and beauty, and it would be incomplete.

Make time to recognize not only the smaller bits and pieces of your life, but to stand back and marvel at the big picture.

When you do, you might hear God whisper in your ear: “Remember all the times I told you I knew the plans I had for you? They have been good plans, plans to prosper, not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

When you look at the big picture, you’ll witness the way God brings beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3).

You’ll see that God does make everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Look for God’s fingerprints and footprints all over the mosaic of your life. Notice the ways God has guided you and brought you to where and who you are today. He is making a beautiful picture out of you and your life.

When you write your memoir, 
assemble the pieces—
the small bits of colored glass, stone, tiles, 
pebbles, paper squares, seashells—
and you’ll begin to see that, together, 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tuesday Tidbit: Watching for God

Here's your 15 seconds of inspiration,
your Tuesday Tidbit:

Watch for God's involvement in your life,
look for God's involvement in the past,
and then
write your stories!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tell them who they are, to whom they belong, and …

Oh, wow. A blog post that sounded like music, like a symphony. Rachel’s words rang oh-so-true and I knew I had to share them with you.

You’ll want to read the whole post but below is the excerpt that made my heart sing.

"Telling them the story that they couldn't remember
but which belonged to them
was like cracking open a space in their self-identity
and pouring in the backstory.
This is where you came from,
this is what brought you to this here and this now.
This is what we once feared and grieved
and how we moved forward.
This is your story,
this is who we are."
Rachel Pieh Jones, "Telling Them Their Story"

Like Rachel, you and I mustn't assume our kids, grands, and great-grands know stories from when they were little.

And we must be deliberate in telling them important stories that happened before they were born, intentional in telling them stories that would have a significant impact on them once they were born.

Remember, your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the Lord your God: His majesty, His greatness, His awesome power. It was not your children who saw what he did for you in your desert wilderness and how He brought you to this place. No, you saw these things with your own eyes (Deuteronomy 11:2-7, paraphrased). 


We will tell the next generation the praise-worthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done … so the next generation would know … even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds, but would keep his commands (Psalm 78:4b, 6-7 NIV). 

We need to tell our children, grandchildren and great-grands who they are, to whom they belong, and how they became who they are and where they are.

What brought you to where you are now?

What brought your kids and grandkids to where they are now?

To whom do they belong?

What events, what stories, belong to your family and shaped who you all are?

You have a great opportunity to carry out a holy work.

Writing your stories is so much more than a hobby, so much more than just telling stories and spinning yarns and reminiscing about the past.

You have stories only you can tell.

You are part of a story much bigger than you. Your story includes earlier generations, and it's your privilege to be sure your kids and grands and great-grands know their part in that story, too.

Writing your stories is a ministry!

Write stories that will be like
"cracking open a space in their self-identity

Write stories that tell your family:
"This is your story,