Thursday, April 25, 2019

Don’t think for a minute that this has nothing to do with you

Reading time: 2 minutes, 26 seconds

Listen to what I have to say today. It’s important. 

It’s not my message, and it’s not Frederick Buechner’s message. I’m pretty sure God sat beside dear old Fred and helped him write. And then Fred shared the important info, and now I’m passing it on to you.

Fred writes about what a preacher must do—not necessarily does but should do—while standing in his or her pulpit. Having read that, don’t think for a minute that this has nothing to do with you.

Erase all thoughts you might have in your head that might sound like: “I’m not a preacher. I don’t stand in a pulpit on Sundays with a message from God.”

Don’t even think such thoughts.


Because writing your memoir is not a hobby, not a pastime, not a fun thing you do when you have a few leisure minutes to yourself.

Writing your memoir is a ministry, a sacred calling, a holy project.

Eugene Peterson suggested that churches should ordain writers the way they ordain pastors.

Serving God as a writer is, indeed, a heavy, humbling responsibility.

Did you think I’d forgotten about Frederick Buechner? It took me a while to get back to his message but here it is.

Read it slowly—
recognizing yourself as a writer ordained
as if you were a pastor ordained
to share a message from God Himself.

Read Fred’s words several times.

Ask yourself what his message means to you 
as a pastor-preacher/memoirist.

Frederick Buechner writes:

“ . . . Let him take heart. He is called not to be an actor, a magician, in the pulpit. He is called to be himself.

“He is called to tell the truth as he has experienced it. He is called to be human . . . . If he does not make real . . . the human experience of what it is to cry into the storm and receive no answer, to be sick at heart and find no healing, then he becomes the only one there who seems not to have had that experience because most surely under their bonnets and shawls and jackets, under their afros and ponytails, all the others there have had it whether they talk of it or not.

“As much as anything else, it is their experience of the absence of God that has brought them there in search of his presence, and if the preacher does not speak of that and to that, then he becomes like the captain of a ship who is the only one aboard who either does not know that the waves are twenty feet high and the decks awash or will not face up to it so that anything else he tries to say by way of hope and comfort and empowering becomes suspect on the basis of that one crucial ignorance or disingenuousness or cowardice or reluctance to speak in love any truths but the ones that people love to hear.” (Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth; emphasis mine)

Frederick Buechner is calling us memoirists to be real, to refuse to merely entertain, to refuse to think of ourselves primarily as actors or magicians.

He’s confronting us, telling us to face up to what needs to be said. He’s urging us to tell it like it is rather than sugarcoating life and faith.

He’s calling out to us, reminding us that we have a sacred task—the responsibility to write about what hurts, about prayers God doesn’t seem to answer, about the terrors in the night.

Writing those truths can be painful. It requires courage and integrity and tenacity. Are you up to the task?

Ponder Fred’s words. Apply them to your memoir.

If you will take to heart Fred’s challenge, your memoir can speak to those who pick it up in search of God’s presence. It can speak to those who long to spot a little light in their darkness, to those who desperately need hope.

Don’t avoid writing the hard stuff, the mysterious stuff.

You can do this.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Despite your imperfections, God can use your story

If only perfect people should write memoirs, the world wouldn’t have any memoirs.

Are you struggling to feel adequate, or qualified, to write your story? If so, these two powerful messages are for you.

The first is from Henri Nouwen:

“Some of us tend to do away with things that are slightly damaged. Instead of repairing them we say, ‘Well, I don’t have time to fix it, I might as well throw it in the garbage can and buy a new one.’ Often we treat people this way. We say, ‘Well, he has a problem with drinking; well, she is quite depressed; well, they have mismanaged their business . . . we’d better not take the risk of getting involved with them.’ When we dismiss people out of hand because of their apparent woundedness, we stunt their lives by ignoring their gifts, which are often buried in their wounds.

We all are bruised reeds, whether our bruises are visible or not. The compassionate life is the life in which we believe that strength is hidden in weakness and that true community is a fellowship of the weak.”  (Henri Nouwen, “Not Breaking the Bruised Reeds,” Bread for the Journey, March 17 selection)

The second is from Mother Teresa:

“I have experienced many human weaknesses, many human frailties, and I still experience them. But we need to use them. We need to work for Christ with a humble heart, with the humility of Christ. He comes and uses us to be his love and compassion in the world in spite of our weaknesses and frailties.” (Mother Teresa, No Greater Love)

“A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”
(Isaiah 42:3, Matthew 12:20, NIV)

“He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt. . . .”
(Matthew 12:20, The Message)

“. . . And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish.
(Matthew 12:20, NASB)

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tuesday Tidbit: It’s your time!

What kind of difference could you make, or do you want to make, or need to make, with the time you have left on this earth?

Here’s another question for you:

“ . . . How do you turn your dream of making a positive and meaningful difference in the world into a reality?”

Nina Amir asks the question and then she answers it for you: “You author change.

“You write and publish a book that inspires positive action or change. . . .

“The world needs change agents. It’s your time to make a positive and meaningful impact with your words.”

Your words, your storiesyour memoircould do that. It’s your time, Nina says.

It’s your time!

Not on your own, of course. No, every writer depends on numerous others to help in very practical ways, people in writing groups, critique partners, beta readers, editors, proofreaders, and the list goes on and on.

And then there’s God. Our main source—of inspiration, skill, tenacity—comes from God. Set aside a few seconds to take in this prayer:

“Gracious Father . . . 
I confess my total dependence on You 
not only for every breath I breathe, 
but also for every ingenious thought I think. 
You are the author of my vision and the instigator of my creativity. . . . 
You have chosen me to serve You. 
All my talents, education, and experiences 
have been entrusted to me by You. . . . 
Thank you in advance, Lord, for Your provision 
of exactly what I will need to serve You this day.” 
(Lloyd John Ogilvie, Quiet Moments With God)

May God bless you as you continue writing your memoir. 
It's your time!
Pray for His guidance and enabling. 

You probably can’t imagine all the ways 
He plans to use your story!

There you have it, your Tuesday Tidbit.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

I did it! I hit the “send” button!

Reading time: 2 minutes, 26 seconds

Yesterday was the day I'd dreamed of for years. I hit the “send” button and shipped my manuscript off to the publishing company. I'm talking about my new memoir, Please, God, Don't Make Me Go! A Foot-Dragger's Memoir.

Here's the book description from the back cover:

What’s a comfortable—and cowardly—suburbanite to do when her husband wants to move their young family to Colombia, South America, so he can teach missionaries’ kids?

Linda K. Thomas has always planned to chase the American dream. Adventure doesn’t appeal to her, and she’s ill-equipped for missions work. She begs God, “Please, don’t make me go!” but after months of soul-searching, she hears Him say, “Go!”

So, with flimsy faith and wobbly courage, she sets out with her husband and kids on a life-changing adventure at the end of the road in the middle of nowhere with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

When culture shock, tropical heat, and a boa constrictor threaten to undo Linda, she’s tempted to run away and hike back to the U.S. Instead, she fights to settle in and soon falls in love with her work alongside modern-day heroes of the faith disguised as regular folks. God has sent her where she didn’t know she wanted to go.

Once life is under control and easy, she gets a surprise—a request to go to one of the world’s most dangerous drug-dealing regions where hundreds of people have lost their lives. Colombia is perilous in other ways, too. Marxist guerrillas don’t like Americans or missionaries, proving it with bombs, kidnapping, and eventually murder.

Linda won’t trust God to help her make the trip, and she can’t trust herself, either. Gripped by anxiety, she longs to stay in the only safe place, the mission center. She prays, “Please, God, don’t make me go!” But once again He urges, “Go!” Thus begins a fierce internal battle.

In this heartwarming, sometimes humorous, sometimes shocking memoir, you’ll walk alongside a young wife and mother as she faces two universal struggles: 
  • choosing between her plans and God’s, and
  • choosing faith and courage over fear and cowardice.

Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go! will motivate the timid to cancel membership in the Society of the Faint-Hearted, and it will inspire every reader to enjoy God more and embrace new adventures He dreams up.

I was ready to send the manuscript a year ago but ran into one technical problem after another after another. The past year has been a nightmare as far as technology goes. But I sure did learn a lot! Too bad using one's brain doesn't burn calories. . . .

When you're ready to publish, contact me and I'll share tips to help you avoid the snags I encountered. Publishing my first memoir, Grandma's Letters from Africa, was much easier than publishing this second one. I willingly chose the method I used this time. It's just that I bit off more than I could chew.

They say old age isn't for wimps. Let me assure you, writing and publishing a memoir isn't for wimps, either. 

Don't let me scare you out of publishing our own memoir. The bottom line is this: It is possible for you to write your memoir and get it published. Yes, it is. Never doubt that.

You just need to commit to doing it and seeing it through all the way until you're holding your memoir in your hands and thumbing through the pages. You can do this!

I nearly melt in tears when I think of all the people who helped me get the manuscript polished, the interior formatted, photos just right, and the cover designed (well, actually . . . ahem . . . redesigned). And I thank God for His help and for sending good people to walk me through the technical parts.

I admit it: I'm tuckered out.

For now, here's my encouragement to you:

Keep writing.

Keep praying while you write, too.

Check out the Facebook Page for
Please, God, Don't Make Me Go:
A Foot-Dragger's Memoir

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Are you having trouble remembering details about your memoir’s key people?

Reading time: 1 minute, 36 seconds

Have you ever forgotten specific details about a person dear to you?

I’ve been thinking about my sweet little mother. She died five years ago last week. During her memorial service, my brother Douglas told about one of Mom’s possessions, which she used to pull off many pranks: an inflatable, life-sized woman’s body—but only from the waist down. Mom would put pantyhose, shoes, and a skirt on it and slide it part way under our guests’ cars. Her prank always got squeals and guffaws.

One time she pushed it part way under our youth minister’s car. After Mark’s visit, he descended the dozen front stairs, only to burst through the front door a few seconds later, a blubbering, sobbing mess.

“I think I killed someone! Call an ambulance! Call the police!”

Mom explained it was just a prank, but he persisted.

“I don’t know how it happened,” he bawled, “but I ran over a woman in your driveway! I think she’s dead!”

Eventually, Mom calmed him down and showed him they were fake legs. Poor dear guy. I wonder if he ever forgave her.

Mom visited us in South America
My brother’s story during Mom’s memorial service made me laugh aloud. I’d forgotten about that season of her life.

That, in turn, sparked more memories, like the time Mom, an elementary school teacher, snuck into the principal’s private bathroom one day when he was gone and stretched plastic wrap over his toilet bowl. (I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.)

Don’t get me wrong: My mother was more than a prankster.

She was named Washington State Teacher of the Year. She went on to become a finalist for National Teacher of the Year and enjoyed a reception on the White House lawn with First Lady Pat Nixon.

Washington State Teacher of the Year
She was on a first-name basis with our governor and first lady.

She held state-wide and nation-wide positions on various boards and commissions.

She founded a museum.

But all that’s kind of dry, isn’t it?

If you were reading stories about my mother, wouldn’t you enjoy knowing that beyond her professional accomplishments, she was also a prankster? Doesn’t that information make her seem more real and alive? More fleshed out?

Are you trying to give life and personality to one of your memoir’s key characters?

If so, strike up a conversation with someone who knew him or her well. Start telling stories to each other and see what memories come to mind.

Also, look over old pictures. Photos can trigger memories, too. (And be sure to include pictures in your completed memoir!)

Memories are crucial in the development of your memoir’s significant people. That’s important because you don’t want—and especially your readers don’t wantlifeless, vague, colorless characters.

Your readers will thank you for 
making your memoir’s significant people 
come to life.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Tuesday Tidbit: Whoa—I think this has to be a God-thing!

Reading time: 1 minute, 20 seconds

If all goes well, in a matter of hours I should hit the “send” button and propel my memoir closer to publication: Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go! A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir.

And less than 24 hours ago, something astonishing happened. It has to be a God-thing. I’m still rather stunned, but so excited about it.

Let me tell you what happened.

Yesterday afternoon, I was taking a snapshot of my granddaughter after she competed in a track meet. She’s the one in red with her back to the camera.

But then, a man on the right, wearing black, caught my attention. I looked again and . . . Yes! It was Glenny Gardner! (Actually “Glenn” now—he’s all grown up.)

Glenny was about six years old, maybe seven, when he popped into our lives. That was in 1976 on my family’s first day at a remote mission station named Lomalinda (pretty hill) in rural South America.

You’ll have to read the memoir to get the whole impact of the welcome Glenny gave me that day. For now, let’s just say it involved a boa constrictor a few inches from my face, cradled in Glenn’s hands, and, on my part, a lot of hollering. And a hurried snapshot in an attempt to apologize to Glenny for screaming at him.

Glenny and his boa constrictor

Many years later that photo, and the lesson I learned from Glenn, hit me so hard that I had to write a memoir about the three years my husband and kids and I lived in Lomalinda. And by the way, the photo I took that day is on the cover of my memoir.

And somehow, yesterday God blessed my socks off by bringing Glenn and me to the same middle school track meet. I hadn’t seen him in 40 years. What a great gift it was to see him again and swap stories and meet his wife and daughters.

Running into Glenn just hours before sending off my memoir to the publisher—it just had to be a God-thing, don’t you agree? I can see His fingerprints all over it!

Glenn and me yesterday at the track meet