Thursday, May 28, 2015

Memories of fathers

Father’s Day is coming up and some of you have stories—yet unwritten—about your father.

Was he a praying man? A humorous guy? Tenacious? Lazy? An athlete? Gentle? Gruff? Charming? Tall? Short? Educated? A charmer? An intellectual?

What sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures come to mind when you think of your father?

What lessons did he teach you? Maybe you learned from his good example, or maybe you learned by watching him mess up.

Do you have blue eyes like your father? Do you have his curly hair? His artistic talents? Maybe your kids or grandkids inherited physical attributes, personality, or talents from your father. What are they?  

Looking back at incidents from long ago, what stands out? Whether you knew your father or not, whether he was a good father or not, he influenced who you are today.

Mick Silva writes that his dad “made us breakfast every Saturday and took us to the hobby store and the bike park and then helped build models we picked out and design the bike jumps on the front sidewalk. He took us fishing and when I showed no interest, he bribed me with candy bars.…

He loved to wrestle even though he never won, and it always seemed we’d only just barely overpowered him.…

“He taught me to believe in myself and to be myself even when I didn’t much want to. He’s always accepted just who I am and was always proud of me and prayerful for who I was becoming….”

Click here to read Mick Silva’s blog post about his father and his own goals and hopes as a father himself. 

Steve Moakler writes, “Good dads lovingly lead their children into things that are scary. As much as it must pain a father to watch his kid scream, shake, and tremble, he knows his kids need to walk through fear to get to the good stuff.” Continue reading Steve’s blog post, What We Can All Learn from Good Dads.

And then there’s dear Cecil Murphey. About ten years ago, I and three or four others sat at a lunch table with him at a writer’s conference and he briefly, quietly mentioned severe beatings he received from his father. In a recent blog post, Invading the Privacy of God, Cec writes of learning about and eventually having a good relationship with a loving heavenly Father despite his own abusive human father: “My dad was an alcoholic.… With a few beers in him, he became harsh and short-tempered. I received a number of undeserved beatings, a lot of blaming for things I didn’t do, and a feeling that no matter what I did, it wouldn’t be good enough….

“Yes, I knew about an earthly father, and it wasn’t much to inspire me. Then I heard about a Heavenly Father who is different. He’s the Father who wraps loving arms around us, who listens to us, and most of all, who understands our pain.” Click on this link to read the entire touching, moving post, Invading the Privacy of God.

(Recently Cec started a valuable ministry for men who were sexually abused. Click on Shattering the Silence to learn more. Cec has written more than a hundred books on spiritual growth, Christian living, caregiving, writing, and heaven. He’s the co-author of the enormously popular 90 Minutes in Heaven, now being made into a movie.)

Stacy Sanchez writes of her father: “In my mind’s eye I can see him stillsitting out on the back porch, legs crossed, one leg resting atop one knee.  And of course, punctuating those long legs of his, cowboy boots.…

“While I vividly remember his mannerisms and gentle ways, it is the words he spoke to me that I remember most. I think this is because he was a man of few words. Even now I hear his words of instruction, guidance, humor and spunk.

“In winter: Don’t forget to pack a sleeping bag in the trunk of your car.

“In summer: If you get a flat tire, make sure when you pull over you aren’t parking on tall, dry grass. You wouldn’t want to start a fire. Oh … and watch for snakes.…”

Click here to read Stacy’s The Voice of My Father.

Claire McCarthy writes this about her father: “When my sister and I were little, we had an almost daily ritual with my father: drawing stories.

“He would sit us on his lap and get out his clipboard, a piece of paper and his black click pen. He’d divide the paper into four parts, and draw as he told a story. Sometimes he drew old favorites and we knew what would be in each of the four drawings. Sometimes he let us decide what he should say and draw. But most of the time, we had no idea what would come next.…

“Sometimes my father made fun of me with the stories, like the ones he drew when I was applying to college. I was reasonably freaked out about it, and the stories helped. Like the ones he drew when I was little, about the brave little girl who conquered whatever came along (insert fear of the week: the dark, dogs, getting lost), the stories about the silly teenager with the permed hair helped put things in perspective—and helped me see that ultimately, how I see my fears, and the world is up to me.

“That lesson has meant everything.

“My father died suddenly in 2005. I didn’t get to say goodbye, and I didn’t get to tell him how much I loved him—or how grateful I am to him.

I so wish I could say: Daddy, thank you so much for the stories.”

What stories do you need to write about your father?

What will your kids and grandkids and great-grands
miss if you don’t write those stories?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tuesday Tidbit: Your life, a detective story

“ . . . Everybody’s life, I believe,
is a kind of detective story,
every clue of our forbearers’ lives,
every decision,
missed opportunity,
guessed motivation,
a part of the solution to our own existence.”  

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!