Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday Tidbit: A story you never thought would be yours

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

God wrote your story, perhaps one you never expected,
never dreamed of, never wanted,
but, in ways only God can do things,
your life is turning out well.
He wrote it, 
now it's your turn to write!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

“Opportunities with your name engraved on them”

Today I hope and pray the words below
will stir up ideas for
stories to include in your memoir.

May you find here
“a seed of an idea”
and may you be
“available and ready”
to write!

What past events or encounters do the following quotations bring to mind?

What do you or a friend or a family member know, 
from personal experience,
 of each quotation’s message?

What wisdom, what blessing, can you share in your memoir?

“Each day sets before us unique, unprecedented opportunities and challenges. More than a few of them have our names engraved on them. Most of the time, we are too busy or too conveniently self-deluded into thinking that our decision will have no consequence. Yet every now and then (from where does that thrilling and terrifying insight come upon us?), we feel compelled to act. Each one of us are messengers on a sacred mission. The world depends on it!” Lawrence Kushner, Eyes Remade for Wonder (emphasis mine)

Our lives mean much more than we can tell; they fulfill some purpose of God about which we know nothing.... Oswald Chambers, The Quotable Oswald Chambers (emphasis mine)

“It’s impossible,” said pride.
“It’s risky,” said experience.
“It’s pointless,” said reason.
“Give it a try,” whispered the heart.
(author unknown)

Faith is a decision you make to believe that the dark road you are traveling on will eventually yield to a sunrise.” Tony Evans

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” President Theodore Roosevelt 

“Any grief we have gone through ourselves and given over to the Lord’s healing is preparation for comforting others.…” (Lloyd John Ogilvie, Silent Strength for My Life)

“… Through flaws and fissures in the bedrock harshness of things, there wells up from time to time, out of a deeper substratum of reality still, a kind of crazy, holy grace.” Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey (emphasis mine)

They can give your readers hope,
a hand up,
a warning,
a smile,
a good cry,
help in making a decision,
faith in God,
and so much more!

God gave us the gift of language to express something extraordinary. Well chosen words launched intentionally from one heart to another establish bonds, create character, soothe, heal, edify, build, and bring comfort.” Birdie Courtright (emphasis mine)

Be intentional.

Write your stories as a gift for others.

Launch them from your heart to your readers’ hearts.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Not fluff!

What comes to your mind when you read the following passage? Does it remind you of something?

“… [N]othing is more pleasing to the Holy One
than when you tell about the secret things
he is always doing for people
or trying to do if they give him half a chance.
I am thinking about all the things he has done for you
and your family, for instance.
Tell people about those things and never forget them yourself.
Tell them how
even on the darkest stretches of the road to Ecbatana,
he was always at your side
if you’d only had the eyes to see him.”
(Frederick Buechner,
emphasis mine)

I hope it reminds you of the theme verse for Spiritual Memoirs 101: 

Always remember, and never forget,
what you’ve seen God do for you,
and be sure to tell your children and grandchildren!
Deuteronomy 4:9

Here’s the same message in other words:

O God, let each generation tell its children of Your mighty acts;
let them retell stories of Your power.
Psalm 145:4

Stories … are far more than entertainment,” says Peter Guber. “They are the most effectiveform of human communication, more powerful than any other way of packaging information.… Stories…connect us to others.… Without stories … we couldn’t  understand ourselves. They provoke our memory and give us much of the framework for much of our understanding.… While we think of stories as fluff, … something extraneous to real work, they turn out to be the cornerstone of consciousness.” (Peter Guber; emphasis mine)

Think of this: You have worked hard for the wisdom you’ve gained over the years. You’ve shed tears over the hard lessons you’ve learned. You know the regret over making poor choices and by now you’ve learned how to make better choices.  You’ve figured out life a little—and your stories could help others avoid some of the foolishness and heartache you have experienced.

You have been confounded by questions that seem to have no answers.

You have seen—maybe up close, maybe from a distance—injustice, prejudice, hatred, violence, corruption.

You have also made good choices and wise decisions. You have lived in ways that spill over as blessings for others. You’ve made choices that have given you peace

You have experienced God and His grace. His love. His forgiveness. The curious—the surprising, even hilarious—ways He sometimes leads.

You have scraped through the dirt and rocks of life and unearthed gems, and over the years they’ve become shiny and polished.

You’ve discovered, maybe the hard way, maybe through trial and error, what real love is.

You’ve reevaluated what’s really important in life. Your heart has softened. You’ve worked hard for success—the right kind of success. You’ve learned to laugh at yourself.

Write your stories. Be transparent. Be honest. Go deep.

God uses stories. They are among His most powerful, compelling, effective tools.

“…You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.” Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus (emphasis mine)

Your stories can change hearts. Give hope. Inspire faith. Teach courage. Motivate tenacity. Trigger joy.

Don’t let your stories remain secret.

Before that day comes, let’s write our stories!
They’ll never do anyone any good if they go to the grave with us.



Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"It was not your children who saw what he did for you in your desert wilderness…"

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

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

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Your dinner table memories

Some twenty-five years later, I still remember Tony’s question.

He had come from out of town to visit our daughter during their college Christmas break.

After two or three days, he took my husband, Dave, aside. “Does your family always eat meals together?”

Dave assured him we did, but was struck by what a strange question Tony had asked.

Tony must’ve picked up on Dave’s bafflement so he explained, “I’ve never eaten dinner with my family. At my house, when we’re hungry we look in the fridge and eat whatever we can find.”

Later Dave told me about their conversation. Both of us were shocked—we’d never heard of such a thing—and we were sad to think of all that Tony and his family missed by opting out of family meals together.

I thought of Tony the other day when I read these words penned by Henri Nouwen in 1997:

“Today fast-food services and TV dinners
have made common meals less and less central.
But what will there be to remember
when we no longer come together around the table
to share a meal?…
Can we make the table a hospitable place,
inviting us to kindness, gentleness, joy,
and peace and creating beautiful memories?”
(from “Creating Beautiful Memories,”
Bread for the Journey, February 18 selection)

Did you eat meals together around the table when you were growing up? When you were raising your kids?

Catching up with our dear friend John along the River Thames
If so, you’ll enjoy—and maybe even applaud—the following Nouwen thoughts:

“..[H]aving a meal is more than eating and drinking. It is celebrating the gifts of life we share. A meal together is one of the most intimate and sacred human events. Around the table we become vulnerable, filling one another’s plates and cups and encouraging one another to eat and drink. Much more happens at a meal than satisfying hunger and quenching thirst. Around the table we become family, friends, community, yes, a body.” (from “The Meal that Makes Us Family and Friends,” Bread for the Journey, February 15 selection; emphasis mine)
4th birthday around Formica table with plastic-covered chairs

Nouwen’s words stirred up memories of a special dinner table that’s been in our family for four generations so far, and counting (I shared Vera Bachman’s Table with you a year or so ago) and the variety of meals and family activities that have taken place around it.

Jo Harjo also wrote about a dinner table: “…The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and will go on.… At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.… Wars have begun and ended at this table.…” (excerpts from “Perhaps the World Ends Here,” from The Woman Who Fell From The Sky, by Jo Harjo)

She’s right. Sometimes dinner tables resemble war zones.

Henri Nouwen writes about that, too: “Although the table is a place for intimacy, we all know how easily it can become a place of distance, hostility, and even hatred.” He writes of husbands and wives refusing to speak to each other, siblings bickering, and awkward silences. He says, “Let’s do everything possible to make the table the place to celebrate intimacy.” (from “The Barometer of Our Lives,” Bread for the Journey, February 17 selection; emphasis mine)
Celebrating 70 years together around the family dinner table

Consider including in your memoir a story about a dinner table—and the life-shaping experiences you had around it.

Give yourself a day or so to think back.

Maybe you’ll come up with a story set at your childhood dinner table,
Karen and Raggedy Ann at the table Grandpa made

or your grandparents’ dinner table,

or a rough-hewn picnic table at summer camp,

or maybe a story that took place at a cold industrial table in a hospital cafeteria,

or with strangers along a plastic counter at fast-food place in the Rome airport.

Look again at Jo’s words: “Wars have begun and ended at this table.…” If your dinner table has resembled a battlefield, write stories to inspire an about-face in the way your readers do meals.

Your story could provide motivation to break the cycle, end the war, and create a happy, healthy, affirming experience around the dinner table

Your story could be the turning point so that in the future, people will have pleasant memories to pass on to their kids and grandkids.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tuesday Tidbit: Who is your Mr. Romero?

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

Prepare to be surprised and delighted
when you peel off layers
surrounding your past experiences.
Prepare to discover links, insights, and joys.
Prepare to make sense of mysteries (at least some of them).
Prepare to feel good about it.

Read one man's story:

"...I knew this was an important experience in my life
but I never realized how seminal it truly was
to the man I was to become.
It wasn't until a few years ago ...
that I came to realize that my entire life's work was,
in fact, a reflection of
what Mr. Romero did for me as a young man....
I have been continuously reliving
what Mr. Romero did for me
and I never even knew it--
until I looked into my 'why.'"

Who is the Mr. Romero in your life? No doubt you have several Mr. or Mrs. Romeros in your life.

How did he or she help shape you into the person you have become?

Does your life reflect what someone did for you as a young person?

Are you reliving what he or she did for you?

Make time
to dig deeply, ponder, reflect,

Then write your stories!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Celebrating God’s fingerprints

Here at Spiritual Memoirs 101, we recognize the value of writing our stories for our kids, grandkids, great-grands, nieces, nephews, "spiritual children," and other important people in our lives.

Writing a memoir is so much more than just telling stories, spinning yarns, and passing on tales from the past.

We memoirists dig deep to discover what God has done for us—in us, through us—
every day,
every step of the way,
in the best of times and the worst of times.

The digging, probing, and questioning can be beautiful—well, at least the result can be beautiful.

The examining, reflecting, and unraveling help us discover significance we probably missed earlier, and that can be life-changing for the memoir writer as well as for the readers.

Writing a memoir is a holy work

It’s a ministry.

Jesus said,
“Go tell your family everything God has done for you.”
Luke 8:39

Tell everybody about the amazing things God does.
For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise!
1 Chronicles 16:24-25a

Writing a memoir is our "Yes!" to God in what He tells us all to do.

Memoirists have the privilege of working with sacred stories. We get to remember God's marvelous works (Psalm 105:5) and tell the next generations about God's power and involvement in our lives and our families' lives (Psalm 145:4).

Writing a memoir does not require that we have supernatural, astonishing stories that would make the evening news and get tweeted around the world.

Mostly we write about everyday events and ordinary people.

Our job is to notice God in the midst of our gatherings and activities and responsibilities and relationships and homes.

Our goal is to detect God's fingerprints and footprints all over the place.

We avoid being preachy and holier-than-thou.  We eliminate everything that suggests: "Too bad you can't be like me."

Our stories need not be dry and boring. They can and should include charm and humor and adventure and intrigue. Our stores must be winsome and fascinating to read.

We need to remind ourselves what a memoir is—and what it is not.

Write your memoir as a celebration of God
in all His goodness
and faithfulness
and majesty.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tuesday Tidbit – A key role: Storytelling

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

"I believe with all my heart
that a key role grandparents are given in the family
is that of storyteller.
The power of story is undisputed when it comes to
impressing upon hearts and minds
the truths of God's world and work in our lives.
Stories stick in our mind.
They flesh out truth so that
it becomes more than information.
It is something we can visualize
and vicariously experience ...
and thus, it comes alive in us."

Cavin Harper, Executive Director