Thursday, February 26, 2015

You? Write a memoir?

Chip MacGregor made my day. If you read on to find out why, you’ll know what a memoir-geek I am.

Chip sensed God wanted him to write about what He had done for him—but he felt unqualified:

“All I saw was a very tattered, frayed thread,
broken and retied in a number of places.”

You know the feeling?

Maybe you hear those hissing little whispers: You? Write a memoir? Wait a minute! What makes you think you’re so special?

You might be asking, “Who am I that I should write my stories? I’ve made more than a few mistakes, and besides, I’m a nobody: I’m not a Billy Graham or a Chuck Swindoll or an Elisabeth Elliot or a minister or a best-selling author. What could I be thinking?”

But Chip, bless his heart—even though he was all too aware of the shortcomings in his life, he also recognized that the “tattered, frayed thread, broken and retied in a number of places” actually “wrapped around the entire story. It was the thread of redemption.

Yessss! That’s what I’ve been saying, in my own words, of course: Write your God-and-you stories not because you are so great, but because God is so great.

Chip continues, “…[W]hat qualifies you to tell your story is your experience of redemption.”

Chip and you and I can, and must, write our stories of redemption!

Write about everyday events and relationships,

about babies and teenagers and grandparents,

Boy Scouts and Home Ec and your most embarrassing date,

best friends and bullies and bigots.

Write about learning to drive, or swim, or cook, or kiss.

Write about funerals and weddings and heartbreak,

about honesty and lies, about money and taxes,

about mowing the lawn and making beds and cleaning toilets.

Within them all, dig deep and find the threads of redemption!

Peel off layers, one by one, until you find glorious, sobbing, humbling, joy-filled, life-saving redemption.

Listen: The stories of people like Billy Graham, Chuck Swindoll, Elisabeth Elliot, and other modern-day heroes of the faith are important—but not because those people are so great. Each of them admit to being deeply flawed. Their stories matter because God is so great.

Hear this: It’s not what they did—it’s what God did.

God called us with a holy calling,
not according to our works
but according to his own purposes and grace.
2 Timothy 1:9

Don’t miss this:

your story of redemption is
the journey your readers want to take.
And if we can whittle down our lives
to reveal how God has brought redemption to us,
readers will be inspired to believe it may happen to them.”

That’s it! Our hearts long to inspire others to hang in there, to be assured that God is for them, He loves them, and He has His own stories of redemption for them!

Don’t underestimate the power of your story
Just one story can change lives—
one life, or a hundred thousand lives—
maybe for eternity. 

Write your God-and-you stories, your stories of redemptionnot because of who you are—but because of who God is.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"If you stop writing"

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

"You fail only if you stop writing."

Related post: "An unfinished manuscript cannot..."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Words, words, words

Written words are merely shapes and scratches on a paper or black squiggles on a computer screen.

But they pack punch. They have power. Potential.

Words inspire, comfort, entertain, make the heart soar, cause laughter and tears. Words can change lives.

Words are a memoirist’s most important tools. We must learn to use them with excellence.

Words—especially religious words, words that have to do with the depth of thingsget tired and stale the way people do," writes Frederick Buechner. "Find new words or put old words together in combinations that make them heard as new, make you yourself new, and make you understand in new ways. (From Now and Then; emphasis mine)

So, use crisp, bright, refreshing words

but avoid ornamental words,
extravagant, snobbish words,
self-important words to impress readers,
elusive words that make your readers get up and find a dictionary.

A good thesaurus and dictionary can be a memoirist’s best friend. Computer programs usually have a thesaurus—a minimal one, but one that could help find a better word quickly.

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner,” writes Diane Setterfield. “Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”

 “I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions,” writes James Michener.

“…The right words in the right order might be worth a thousand pictures,” says Roy Peter Clark

“Words whispered, shouted, and sung.
Words that move, dance,
and change in size and color.
Words that say,
‘Taste me, smell me, eat me, drink me….’
[T]he word has the power to create.…
When God says,
‘Let there be light’ (Genesis 1:30),
light is.…
It is this creative power of the word
we need to reclaim.…

(Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey,
emphasis mine)

One of my favorite blog posts from the past is Gather “crackly”words for your memoir. Don’t miss it! (If you haven’t already started the practice of gathering “crackly” words, you’ll want to start right away.)

You’ll also enjoy reading another blog post from the past, The power and potential of words.

Take four minutes to read those two posts and then get out your manuscript and replace boring, tired words with words that have zing and melody and texture.

“Writing is the painting of the voice,” said Voltaire.

Have fun!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tuesday Tidbit: Only a drop in the ocean

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

"We know only too well
that what we are doing
is nothing more than a drop in the ocean.
But if the drop were not there,
the ocean would be missing something."

Mother Teresa

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Writing about your fear's pros and cons

We all deal with fear, but sometimes fear races out of control.

Fear can take over.

Fear can cripple.

Fear can paralyze.

Cowardice, dread, trepidation, apprehension, worry, anxiety—they can hinder our potential and rob us of living a full life.

What-ifs can incapacitate us.  

We don’t like to admit we’re afraid. We feel ashamed of being anxious. We think that if we were better people, better Christians, we wouldn’t have fears.

But fear is a curious thing.  Sometimes fear is a friend, a guide.

Fear can alert us to potential danger. It gives us pause.

Fear can give us time—
time to take a careful look at what’s before us,
time to exercise discernment and discretion.

Fear can give us time to weigh our options
 and understand what we’re getting ourselves into
and make choices with wisdom and maturity.

Fear keeps us from recklessness
and from flinging ourselves into foolishness,
left to thrash around,
leaving us with regrets later.

Being paralyzed by fear can offer the gift of time—time to count the cost. To prioritize life’s goals and heart’s desires. To commit to being steadfast. (adapted from Oh God Don’t Make Me Go Don’t Make Me Go: Winded and Scruffy and Brimming with Tales, copyright 2015 by Linda K. Thomas)

You have wrestled with pros and cons of fear
and dread and worry.

The question is:
How can you turn those experiences
 into valuable lessons for your kids
and grandkids—
and who knows how many future generations?

Be intentional. Make time to remember incidents in your past. Choose to write at least one story for your memoir that will challenge your readers as they face their own fears.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tuesday Tidbit – “We will all die one day”

Here’s your 15 seconds of inspiration for today,
your Tuesday Tidbit:

“We will all die one day.
That is one of the few things we can be sure of.
But will we die well? That is less certain.
Dying well means …
making our lives fruitful for those we leave behind.
The big question, therefore, is …
‘How can I prepare myself for my death
so that
my life can continue to bear fruit
in the generations that will follow me?’”
(Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey)

One way to "bear fruit in the generations that will follow" is to do what Jesus said, “Go back to your family and tell them everything God has done for you. 

Get your God-and-you stories into writing for your family!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

They can sneak up on you: Benefits of writing your memoir

We write our stories because we believe others—our readers—will benefit from them. And they do.

But many of us are surprised at how beneficial writing our stories can be for usthe writers.

The insights, the healing, the clarity, the hope, the joy—marvels that have been there all along, hidden to us—well, they can all kind of sneak up on us writers. They can delight us. They can change our lives for good.

"Writing is a process in which we discover what lives in us," writes Henri Nouwen. "The writing itself reveals what is alive. The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write." 

"There are many good reasons for writing that have nothing to do with being published," says William Zinsser. "Writing is a powerful search mechanism, and one of its satisfactions is that it allows you to come to terms with your life narrative. It also allows you to work through some of life's hardest knocksloss, grief, illness, addiction, disappointment, failureand to find understanding and solace."

Elizabeth Andrews writes, "The writing itself becomes a means for spiritual growth. Often the writer stumbles on this strange occurrence mid-draft, suddenly discovering that writing can be an avenue for prayers, or a means of wrestling with angels, or a form of contemplation."  

"We find the effort of organizing our thoughts and memories in story form deepens their meaning, and we often mine gems of insight and joy from the dirt of the past," writes Sharon Lippincott. "Life takes on richer meaning and becomes more satisfying."  

Sharon also writes, "All of the dozens of memoir authors I've asked have confirmed that writing has changed their view of life, leaving them happier, healthier, and more serene."  

"In thinking back, we see [God's] hand and see how far we have come. There's no way to predict specifics in the future, but if we see God's hand and how he has blessed us, it totally prepares us to live in joyful and blessed ways." (Pastor Sid Tiller's sermon, A Thousand Generations, based on Psalm 100:5; August 21, 2011)

We receive so many blessings
by taking the time and
making the effort to write our stories.
What are some of the blessings and benefits
you've discovered?
Be sure to leave a comment below or on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tuesday Tidbit: The value of your stories

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

“Stories are the oldest 
and most valuable equipment 
we have as a human community 
and as people of faith.” 

Marilyn Chandler McEntyre

Stories are important.
Stories can change a person.
Stories can change a family,
and a village,
and a country.
Stories have even changed the world.

Your stories are important.
You might never know 
how many people your stories can touch.
Write your stories!