Thursday, September 27, 2012

Your memoir can have an outcome beyond your expectations

The Bible’s characters “may not have realized the privilege and certainly didn’t know the eternal impact they would make,” writes Priscilla Shirer in her Bible study, Jonah.

“How could they have known that their names would go down in God’s Word to encourage us millennia later?”

Realize the truth of what Priscilla says here:

Like those holy heroes, you’ve got an outcome you can’t make out.…” and:

“The fog of your life’s journey will clog your spiritual sight.…”

(Let me interrupt Priscilla here. That fog she refers to—that’s a holy fog. It keeps us from navel-gazing and pride. By God’s grace, He dims our self-absorbed vision in a blessed fog!)

OK, back to Priscilla and this important point of today’s blog post:

In future generations, your story will be the one that encourages someone else to follow hard after God.”

Read that again and believe it:

In future generations,
your story will be the one
that encourages someone else
to follow hard after God.”

Priscilla’s insights here suggest two ideas for your memoir:

First, which Bible characters have impacted your life? Abraham? Moses? Ruth? Joseph? David? Esther? Peter?

What did they say that helped define your life’s choices?

What did they do that changed your life’s direction?

Include vignettes in your memoir illustrating why and how those Biblical characters have inspired you, influenced you, and shaped you into the person you are today.

Then do an about face. God has used other people’s stories to encourage you, teach you, admonish, and inspire, and now it’s your turn to pass on the blessings: Turn from the past and look toward the future.

Your stories are important.

“I’ve seen it happen.… A lost human being
feels like they’re the only one
who has ever felt this much pain.
They don’t know how to reach out for help
but then, inside of a story …
they see every emotion or secret
or hope-for happy ending
that they’ve ever kept bottled up inside, acted out,
and they start to believe—maybe there’s more.…”
(Martha Carr, Just Keep Writing)

Do you see your writing as a privilege?

Do you realize the impact your memoir can make?

“Have you ever considered,” Priscilla asks, “that just as the previous stories encourage us along the way, yours will encourage someone else?”

God can use your words to help readers experience God’s grace, cling to hope, remain strong in their faith, and delight in God’s love.

Write your stories!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Butterfly Effect: It’s about more than butterflies

“Did you know
that there once existed a single man who,
more than a century ago,
that still dramatically
affects how you live today?”

Andy Andrews asks us that question in The Butterfly Effect.

He’s referring to a hypothesis presented in 1963 by Edward Lorenz, mathematician and meteorologist:

“A butterfly could flap its wings and set molecules of air in motion, which would move other molecules of air, in turn moving more molecules of air—eventually capable of starting a hurricane on the other side of the planet” (Andy Andrews, The Butterfly Effect).

In the early 1990s, physics professors around the world proved Lorenz’s hypothesis was accurate and is now known as The Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions.

But the butterfly effect is about more than butterfly wings!

Andrews describes it this way:

“Science has shown the butterfly effect to engage with the first movement of any form of matter—including people.”

Andrews provides an example through the story of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a young, inexperienced Colonel in the Union Army who, in Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, led his men against one fierce rebel charge after another.

After surviving the day’s fifth brutal charge, Chamberlain and his men braced for a sixth—and even bigger—rebel charge.

Only 80 of Chamberlain’s 300 men remained.

Three sergeants huddled at Chamberlain’s feet, yelling, “Do something! Give an order!”

But what could Chamberlain do? His men had run out of ammunition.

He stood on a wall at the top of a hill, watching the approaching Confederate soldiers. Then he turned and ordered his men,

“Fix bayonets! … Fix your bayonets now!”

Knowing he faced overwhelming odds, Chamberlain led his men downhill, ripping his sword left and right.

Within ten minutes, Chamberlain had captured a Confederate captain, and his eighty exhausted, broken remnant of men—with no ammunition—had captured over four hundred rebel soldiers.

According to Andrews, historians believe that (1) had Chamberlain not charged on that particular day, rebels would have won at Gettysburg; (2) the South would have won the war; (3) possibly the U.S. would be two nations, the Union and the Confederacy; or (4) the U.S. would look more like Europe, divided into as many as thirteen nations.

Andrews goes on:

“Which means: When Hitler swept across Europe … had Chamberlain not charged on that afternoon so long ago, there would not have existed a United States of America to stand in the breach.”

When Hirohito invaded the South Pacific, “there would not have been a country big enough, strong enough, wealthy enough, and populous enough to fight and win two wars on two fronts at the same time.

“The United States of America exists as it does today because of a single man: One thirty-four year old … and one move he made more than a century ago.

Don’t you see? Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain is a human example of the butterfly effect. One man who made one move whose effects still ripple through your life today.” (Andy Andrews, The Butterfly Effect; emphasis mine).

Did you catch that?

What young Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
chose to do on July 2, 1863,
rippled throughout the generations
and still ripples through your life today.

Think about people whose lives still ripple through your life today—

a soldier, doctor, policeman,
a grandparent, teacher, missionary,
a stranger, singer, preacher,
even people from generations past:
maybe a nation’s leader, a spiritual leader,
an explorer, scientist, inventor.

Who were they? What did they do? How did their choices and actions impact yours?

Take time—make time—to discover the ways God has gone before you, preparing for and carrying out the plans He has for you (Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 139: 15-16). Notice the ways God has used people in the past to bless, protect, and lead you according to His purposes for your life.

And then: Write your stories!

Flutter your butterfly wings. Your children and grandchildren need to know about those people.

“There are generations yet unborn
whose very lives will be shifted and shaped
by the moves you make
and the actions you take today.…”
(Andy Andrews)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

At SM 101, change is in the air: “You’ve gotta do this. Do it. Do it now.”

I missed posting on Saturday.

Instead of blogging, I was flying home from southern California after a visit with my three grandsons—and their parents, too, of course: daughter Karen and her hubby, Brian.

Missing my regular Saturday blog post bothered me but, at the same time, it felt OK.

It felt OK because it symbolized a change I’ve felt coming on. I’ve been feeling it in my heart, my mind, my spirit.

Missing that blog post prompted a change I knew was inevitable.

I hinted at that change on my birthday in June when I pondered God’s words to Joshua: “You are getting very old” (Joshua 13) and He pointed out Joshua still had big tasks to carry out before it was too late—duties only Joshua could complete.

God listed specifics and then said, “You’ve gotta do this, Joshua, as an inheritance. Leave this legacy for your tribes—your family. Do it. Do it now.”

Since then I’ve been thinking. And squirming. God has tasks for me to accomplish while I’m still walking this earth, things He wants me to leave for my family.

For the past couple of years, my oldest grandson, Chase, has been asking me to write a book for him, another book of family stories.

I have a few vignettes snapped into a three-ring binder for him and the other grandkids, but I need to write so many more!

Doing so has been on my mind a lot since June, and—you guessed it—again last week Chase asked if I was writing our family’s stories. I knew the time had come, as if God again nudged me: “You’ve gotta do this, Linda, as an inheritance. Leave this legacy for your tribes—your family. Do it. Do it now.”

I can’t know how many days or weeks or years I have in which to prepare and complete that legacy, so I’ve been asking myself, What should be my priorities? What am I doing with the time I have left? What activities must I set aside—or cut back on—so I can spend my time wisely? What legacy do I need to be working on?

If you’ve followed SM 101 for even a short while, you know one of my priorities is carrying out Deuteronomy 4:9, “Always remember what you’ve seen God do for you and be sure to tell your children and grandchildren!”

Soooo ~~ here’s what’s changing at Spiritual Memoirs 101: Beginning next week, I will post only once a week, on Thursdays, so I can dedicate more time to writing for my grandkids.

I want to tell our family’s stories—not because our family is special but because God is special.

It’s not about us. It’s all about God.

See you next Thursday, September 19!

Continuity gives us roots;
change gives us branches,
letting us stretch and grow
and reach new heights.

Pauline R. Kezer

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Your memoir’s Grand Finale, part 4

“It is true that sometimes the best things said come last.
Your [memoir’s] ending need not be lengthy,
but surely you will want it to come from the heart.”
(Frank P. Thomas, How to Write the Story of Your Life)

When you craft your memoir’s Grand Finale (your conclusion, ending, postscript, or epilogue), make it personal.

Consider addressing your readers by name: your children and grandchildren, if your stories are for them, and even speculate on readers you’ll never know because they have not yet been born.

Leave your readers with a benediction, a blessing.

Lee Eclov, in “Let Us Stand for the Benediction,” explains what a benediction is not: It is not “a kind of churchy, Hallmark sentiment.…”  

He says a benediction “isn’t a wish. We really shouldn’t say, ‘May the Lord bless you,’ the way people say, ‘May all your dreams come true.’ The benediction is a declaration: ‘The Lord blesses you—he really does!’ It doesn’t tell us what God will do for us, but what God is doing ever and always for his people.” (Lee Eclov, “Let Us Stand for the Benediction,” Leadership Journal, Winter 2009; emphasis mine)

With that in mind, in your memoir’s Grand Finale, pour out heartfelt, personal words—of God’s blessings and of yours—that will cling to your readers the rest of their lives.

Here is a benediction based on Philippians 4:7, “May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and minds.”

Consider 2 Corinthians 9:8 for a benediction: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

Acts 20:32, Romans 12:2, and  2 Corinthians 13:11 will give you good ideas for benedictions to include in your memoir’s Grand Finale.

Here is my favorite benediction:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;   
The Lord turn His face toward you
and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26)

Lee Eclov describes Numbers 6:24-26 as the “one blessing [that] is the source and summary of all others.”

Eclov reminds us of God’s instructions to Moses: Aaron and his sons were to use those precious words to bless the Israelites.

“This blessing was Israel’s national treasure, their holy heirloom," Eclov writes. “This national blessing began with God’s promises to patriarchs, unique promises of success, safety, and significance. In these three lines, God summarizes what he would always bring to those who trust him.”

When you craft your memoir’s Grand Finale, search for words to impress upon your readers “what God is doing ever and always for his people.” Create a “holy heirloom” for your family, a declaration of God’s blessings that will anchor them in your family and God’s family.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Your memoir’s Grand Finale, part 3

For the past week, we’ve focused on writing a rough draft of your memoir’s Grand Finale—even if you’re still working on the main body of your memoir.

If you missed comments left by Sherrey Meyer this past week, let me tell you what she shared: She has already crafted her finale (while she’s writing her memoir) and it’s based on 2 Corinthians 12:9 in which the Lord tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient.”

Sherrey writes: “At the end of my mother’s life what has given me immeasurable peace was the manner in which God had healed us both with His grace, His sufficiency.” (Check out Sherrey’s two blogs: Letters to Mama, and Sowing Seeds of Grace.)

Sherrey knows where she’s going because she has pinned down her ultimate message. Because she has drafted a Grand Finale, she knows her target and she’s aiming at it with each vignette she writes. (And what a grand message Sherrey has for her readers! She’s writing a celebration of God and His grace—I can hardly wait to read it!)

Do what Sherrey did and write a rough draft of your Grand Finale (rough draft because stories can take a direction you might not have envisioned at the outset. Don’t worry if, after you’ve completed the main body of your stories, your memoir’s overall message ends up slightly different from your original plan. It’s better to focus on where you think you’ll end up, rather than drift, directionless.)

Drafting a Grand Finale helps you focus on your overall goal in writing this particular memoir. It helps you stay on message and bring everything full circle.

And then, when you’ve finished the main body of your memoir, tweak and polish and finalize your Grand Finale so readers will resonate with your memoir’s significance.

“Make sure no loose ends hang from the story
that leave people wondering.
They will feel the story isn’t over.…”

You want readers to feel the story is over, to feel that:

 “The story has been told, the tension resolved,
the consequences shown.
End the story with one strong sentence
that has a feeling of finality.…”

(Craig Brian Larson, “How to Tell a Moving Story,” from The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching, Haddon Robinson and Craig Brian Larson, General Editors)

Strive to leave your readers satisfied.

Strive to leave your readers celebrating God!