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Writing with God

Then he said to him,

“Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
– Lk 17:19

Last week, I shared one of my favorite posts of all time, “Writing into the Light.” (Link here: micksilva.com/writing-into-the-light)
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That post has long served to remind me of why I do this, why I fight to write in the light, day in day out. And we all know how tough it is to keep going when no one’s forcing you to, no one knows what you’ve got to say, and it’s all too easy to think it’s humble and smarter to keep your mouth shut.

Because so often, it is.

But none of that kind of thinking gets a book written. The whole point of writing in the light is not just to write your book but to get something great out of your writing time: being with God. If you go in looking for God, looking for where he is, he will guide you to what’s really important.

The great news is, all you have to do is seek him, and the Bible says you will find him. You can believe that. I know because I’ve seen it happen.

Three times recently I’ve gone into my writing time doing this and I’ve seen him (I’ll share how I knew it was him at the end).

The first one came as I wrote about my main character, basing his desire and response on familiar situations and remembering how it felt to be there. I worked to convey the scene through action and show the emotion and thought process, and the scene felt real and good.

6332db62d348f71c9edfb921134f818aThe second happened the very next day. It was a difficult scene and I was trying to rework it to make a better point and convey a stronger theme. I also had to work in several missing details so it was complicated and I was struggling to bring it all together. I prayed, got focused on the central motive and opposition, and By the time I had to quit, I still wasn’t happy, but I had clarity on what needed to happen next.

The third time God showed up came when I went back to the scene. It wasn’t what I anticipated but it was stronger than it was before. And I saw I didn’t need more complication; the scene worked. I saw I could, and should, save the fuller picture for later.

Three writing sessions, three God experiences. No one else might have seen these as particularly miraculous–and they weren’t. But what’s a miracle other than God intervening in our lives for our benefit? It wasn’t showy, but it was clearly not just me writing alone.

And it felt so much better to know that.

Now, does this mean it’ll always happen right away? No. Or should our writing only be about producing a spiritual encounter? No. Or are others missing out if they just want to get their story down? I think so, but I’m not judging that.

I’m simply saying when you go in realizing you’re writing with God, you can be sure it will produce a better result regardless of what words get inspired and captured. And you can expect your writing time will go better than trying to go it alone.

DSC_0018I’ve long maintained that writing well is one of the hardest things one can do. It requires so much. I’ve justified that by saying the hardest things have the most opportunity to be life changing. And that’s true. The hardest work is the most trying, but it’s also the truest test of your deepest beliefs. And God knows, we wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t for the promise of that reward. Maybe that’s base self-interest, but I think God takes what he can get. And if it gets us to start writing with God, he delights in taking the work and making it an adventure.

Oh, at times it’ll still be a slog, and it’ll always be a huge undertaking involving lots of sacrifices. But remember that’s what makes it so worthwhile. And there can always be this higher purpose to it too.

I think we can know this is true because it’s based on the upside-down principles of God: in the giving is the getting. In the searching, is finding. In the sacrifices is abundance. Because he is there with us making it all into more than our paltry, half-hearted offerings.

Like discovering unexpected treasure along the way, writing with God is ultimately writing for yourself. You will always be the primary beneficiary.

And yet, because he is God, you may find this is also the best way to write for your readers.

So try it in your writing today. Go with him and trust him to be your guide and best first reader. As He says in Luke, acting on this call in faith is how we writers can come to know we’ve been made well.

Healed. Cleansed. Saved.

You can trust that too. Because he’s always there.

For the higher purpose,

Mick
Continue to “Writing into the Light”…

Ending My Struggle For Art

“[Art] is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.”

― Leo Tolstoy, What Is Art?

 

Art, like faith, requires nothing so much as imagination.

Yet as a Christian and as an artist, I tend to get so crumpled up by so many things.

Of course, there’s a place for being focused on results. What’s practical. “Reality.” But so often, all that just gets in the way. At the start at least, I have to ignore all that. Even if it means not knowing what’s happening elsewhere.

Somehow, I keep thinking that in finishing this book, this product, is how I will finally be free, me, defined. I don’t know. It’s so embarrassing to admit, but at its core, it’s a lie–a simple lack of imagination.

I’m forgetting my process. I’m forgetting yet again that nothing comes from nothing.

What raises an artist to his or her greatest height is not the final work but the daily work.

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I want to create art and capture well-chosen words for books.

And yet, even with my best intentions, it gets life-draining when I forget that I and my art are not defined by the results. I get depleted because I stop believing art is only defined by its process.

And this artist is only defined by one man.

Why do I keep forgetting? Why is this my continual lesson, how to value the basic foundational process?

This is my real work, the point of the art, the pursuit of the process and what it reveals about life and God and my place as his vessel.

Art can’t create value or status. It’s the Giver, and through this creative process, I learn and am caused to grow into who I’m becoming.

If anything can make art more worthwhile than ordinary life, it must be that.

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This simple process of creating art, it’s working through the constant changes of life. Each tiny, tremendous discovery is more of my place within it. Secrets are spoken and brought into the light and understanding grows, and hence its value. And with every new discovery, more and more I see the struggle as necessary.

Each step by incremental step, all we rely upon is visible in the work process. Struggle brings motivation. The pain, it makes true joy recognizable. Isolation, rejection, frustration, it all births a greater appreciation of commitment and community. And the strength to speak it all, it rises from the knowledge that these truths have incubated in the dark for years and they demand my respect and my full attention.

The process, it grows my understanding of the Higher Purpose, through all I’ve lived through, learned and been prepared to share.

Seeing this and appreciating it, this is the real point of making art. Valuing the process and all its shaping influences.

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But all of that floats away when I get distracted again.

Ultimately the reason the process is so important is because it reminds me that there’s only one place where I can start. And it’s where I will end up. It’s the beginning, the core, and the end of the process–

listening.

If I haven’t taken the time to listen to Jesus, how can I expect to have anything of value to share? We’re but channels for inspiration, we have to listen to the source!

The process is so critical to me because it means just this, time and time again: Stop. Wait. And listen.

You’d think I’d start remembering eventually, wouldn’t you?

Luckily, there’s a story about this.

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Mark 9:2-9: “Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

It’s painfully familiar. Peter just wants to get doing something instead of what he should be doing.

i.e. nothing. i.e. listening. i.e. processing.

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Don’t I realize I have nothing to say unless I listen to Jesus?

I want to speak. I want to help. I want to be heard.

We can only give when we’ve received. We can only give if he’s given. 

The process is about relearning this until it finally sinks in deep. Maybe like Peter, it takes a lot for me to be able to hear. Maybe the only way to know the depth of love I want to share is through this struggle to receive it.

Maybe this is the only way because I have to be made willing.

The process for me is to get my will out of the way of his will. And I guess I just don’t believe that until I learn it again.

Dang it, I’m the cause of the lion’s share of my struggle.

How much of me is still not what he has made? And who am I in the end if I’m in the way of who I’m ultimately becoming?

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We can be disappointed with where we are. Or we can start where we are. That’s the choice (and of course by “start,” I mean Stop. Wait. And listen.)

I guess I do believe God will use whatever we give him.

So maybe it comes down to that one word: will. My will for His.

Am I willing?

“I am wrapped in mortality,

my flesh is a prison,

my bones the bars of death.

What is mortality

but the things related to the body,

which dies?

What is immortality

but the things related to the spirit,

which lives eternally?

What is the joy of heaven

but improvement

of the things of the spirit?

What are the pains of hell

but ignorance and bodily lust,

idleness and devastation

of the things of the spirit?

The imagination is not a state,

it is human existence itself.”

– William Blake

For His Perfect Will, that is the Higher Purpose,

Mick

Waiting In Bewilderment

“To be engrossed by something outside ourselves is a powerful antidote for the rational mind, the mind that so frequently has its head up its own ass—seeing things in such a narrow and darkly narcissistic way that it presents a colo-rectal theology, offering hope to no one.”

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Navel-gazing is one thing. A “colo-rectal theology” puts a whole other spin on it.

So often, we think we’re so smart when we’re anything but.

Most of us think too highly of ourselves while battling low self-esteem. How can this be? I think I’m unworthy of love and I am too certain of myself. You too?

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I should be even more honest here. What teachers and adults often thought was quiet confidence, I was both too proud and self-assured, and too terrified of being seen. I was too in control of my world and too afraid to show my feelings and let anyone know me.

If I didn’t show myself, maybe I could remain unharmed. And that worked for a while. Sort of.

Now I write continually asking a different question. Am I willing to show this? And even further, Am I willing to be uncertain?

Because I never know if it’ll be useful. That’s not what’s important. What matters is if I trade my rational control, can I be lost in bewilderment, willing to trust and go forward anyway?

Sometimes, life’s full of inspiration and insight that comes pouring out. But that isn’t its usual state. Life is uncertain. So many people want to tell you what life means. But life means uncertainty.stream

My post last week was about believing that the struggle is a necessary part of the beauty that will eventually be revealed. I quoted three writers on what that struggle to wait looks like for them. Then I said:

“If you understood the truth of the BLESSING coming, you’d understand the magnitude of the battle you are fighting….If you could measure the size of the result of your persistence, you’d know the reason the one thing he asks for is faith.”

It was encouraging to remember that everyone struggles to believe.

On Tuesday the 3rd, when Harper Lee’s new book was announced, I felt God rekindling something in me from long ago that had been burning low: “Will you simply believe and trust Me regardless of what things look like?”

I don’t know why that was the message I sensed, but I wanted to say yes.

I didn’t think being willing to wait in bewilderment was a key measure of maturity, but for me, I think it just might be. When the evidence of my foolishness, my incapability, my lack of conviction and immaturity and fitness to carry this vision I’ve been assigned–when it all comes parading before me, can I accept and wait there in confusion? Can I choose to respond with the all-important willingness to accept “I don’t know,” and write in the darkness anyway?

That’s hard. That’s not certainty or control. That’s something else.

caveThat’s got to be a place of faith. That’s saying yes to God’s question: Will you simply trust and believe? Instead of fighting to prove myself, can I lay that down? Instead of faking everything’s fine, will I just believe he knows what the point of this waiting is?

Instead of giving up, holing up, clamming up,  will I trust that he knows more than I what’s coming, and speak anyway? Instead of making a selfish grab for attention, will I make room for the stabler foundation he is building, i.e. the only thing that can and will speak of a higher purpose?

Don’t you want to say it with me, “YES, Lord?” deer

I want to choose to simply step forward anyway in faith that the guiding light will find me and illuminate the way.

What if beyond characters, our own character is the real point? What if getting this now is what prevents us from getting hurt when we do publish? What if we did get out of this waiting what we really needed by not getting out of it?

Could we give our reader what they truly long for amidst publisher demands and a want-driven market?

Patience. Wisdom. Something larger than yourself and your weak human nature.

All we may need when we’re unsure and afraid is not power or insight, but a powerful trust in the sovereignty of God over all we do. That is the one thing irreplaceable. And won’t we learn it if we’re only willing to endure the angst and pain of waiting in bewilderment for the answer to come?

Maybe the best answer is the simplest:

I don’t know. 

 

For the higher purpose,

Mick

Getting the New Words Down

There’s no other goal.

And yet, so often, it feels like the only thing I can’t manage to do.

So I’m constantly searching for help.

It’s a perk of running a site for writers as long as I have—I get the direct benefit. All the great insights and stories of writers struggling just like all of us, people you’d think have no worries, they’re so prolific and powerful.

But everyone who writes struggles.

This week, I wrote a new chapter. But it almost didn’t happen.

It had everything to do with the fact that in the space of two days, three incredibly inspiring writers shared inspiration from their own struggles.

Anne Lamott, Glennon Melton and Ann Voskamp.

Anne Lamott shared at Facebook.

“I love not writing books. I think it might be what I want to do when I grow up. But other than writing, I am completely unemployable.”

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She said she and her editor were done with her last book Small Victories in early August. That’s the part she said she loves—having a trusted partner help her get the final drafts to their best. But then, nothing for months. And she doesn’t want to do it anymore.

You wait to hear whether anyone likes it, all the time sure “you have squandered your life thinking you could write.” And people start asking what she’ll do next.

And after 16 books, she feels everything’s already said.

She just wants to help people keep their heads above water, She said she doesn’t know what she’s doing and just wants to be of service—“partly because God tells me too, and partly because it is the only way to fill up.”

Glennon Melton shared she was struggling with deep doubt.

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“I regret to inform you that I am currently surrendering to the pull of a dark whirlpool of self-loathing and panic and doubt because during the writing of this second book it has come to my clear attention that I am – as a matter of sad fact – the worst writer in the history of the world…. It is over for me. It was a nice ride, but apparently I have only been able to fake being a writer for six years…. And I also need to change religions because shouldn’t Jesus have TAUGHT ME SOMETHING BY NOW? SOME WISDOM OR SOMETHING? SOMETHING I CAN USE?”

An hour later, she posted a status update.

Hundreds of messages of encouragement had poured in:

Dear G,

Just a thought. What if it’s OK to love and hate hard things at the same time. Like labor. Yes, like giving birth. It’s hard. Everything about it. Before, during and after. Yet 95% of people I know swoon while telling their story. (I did hair for 10 years. I’ve heard a lot of stories). Same thing about having littles. HARD STUFF. Complain all the way through it. Yet 1,000,000 people will stop you and say “enjoy it” because they miss it. You get the idea.

Soooo I say… It’s ok to dislike today in your book number two journey. It’s a part of the awesome story yet to be told. And you’ll swoon over it all later. The mess you feel today. Yeah. Embrace it sister. Your message is coming.”

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And then my own favorite Ann Voskamp, confronted her own fears.

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Dear You,

who doesn’t want to…do that big thing that feels like an impossible thing—okay, yeah, boy, do I hear you.

…You’re meant to do hard and holy things because they are the next thing—to get to the best thing.

…you get to choose: either the Pain of Discipline or the Pain of Disappointment.

…Potential doesn’t add up to anything if you get addicted to perfectionism because perfectionism is slow death by self.

Fire your perfectionism and your procrastination will quit too.

Because here’s the thing: You’re the Presenter.

You’ve been given a gift and you’re the person who is trying to be present to this present moment and do the hard work of unwrapping your gift, your talent, your vision, your God-given dreams. Presenters want to be present to life and their calling and the joy and the work but they know that the path is painful.

Presenters know that the path is painful because behind every corner lurks The Perfectionist Terrorist. The Perfectionist Terrorist is a liar to the nth degree. He tells you that if you’d just get it perfect enough, do it right enough, be good enough—that you’ll be liked by everyone enough.

But the truth of it is? Sometimes you have to accept that you’ll never be acceptable enough for some people. And whether you accept that as their issue or yours is up to you.

The Perfectionist Terrorist claims to have High Road Motives, claims to want to make everything turn out perfect, but his policing pressures you and poisons you and prosecutes you, until it all paralyzes you.

So The Procrastinator tries to protect you, The Presenter, from The Perfectionist Terrorist, tries to intervene with distractions, temptations, and interruptions—or just pushes you to pull out and give up.

…So Who’s missing in this struggling, messy triangulation of The Presenter, the Perfectionist Terrorist, and The Procastinator? The compassionate Words of Perfect Love.

…His Perfect Love who accepts you 100% before you perform even 1%. There is His Perfect Love who speaks Protection and Peace and promises the Power of the Holy Spirit—so you can fire perfectionism and procrastination will quit too.

You fire your perfectionism every time you let His Perfect Love ignite you.

When you rest in Perfect Love, discipline comes easily because you’re being a disciple of Perfect Love, you’re following Perfect Love.

And Perfect Love says you don’t to have show anyone up; you just have to show up.

Perfect Love says you don’t have to impress anyone; you just have to press on.

Perfect Love says when you mess up He’ll pick you up… and when you can’t carry on, He’ll carry you.”

65614cf5b209017449d0bab900147be2If you understood the truth of the BLESSING coming, you’d understand the magnitude of the battle you are fighting.

If you could see the smile of God for what he knows is coming, you’d understand the meaning of beautiful within this temporary suffering.

If you could measure the size of the result of your persistence, you’d know the reason the one thing he asks for is faith.

Belief.

Not in yourself. In his perfect provision.

Just get the new words down today. There is no other goal.

How Honest Is Too Honest?

Being real isn’t easy. It isn’t commonly practiced. It isn’t valued.

Yet some folks have the idea that it’s becoming too common and we need to be careful about being transparent. They don’t agree we should promote more honesty and openness.wreath

Make no mistake, there is a battlefield over vulnerability.

“…but once you are real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” – Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

So what are the real folks supposed to do? Hide themselves? Restrict how honest they are for the sake of those who don’t understand?

This is a real question. Especially with the new online frontier where everything seems to be free for all and no one seems to hold back in their critiques. It isn’t safe to be your true self anymore.

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Jonathan Merritt at Religion News Source says, “Vulnerability has almost become a Christian virtue, and they often desire to create ‘viral’ content to get noticed and increase their platform.

Certainly, people do this, even Christians. But is it following Christ? The commission was not, “Come, follow me, and I will get you noticed and make you well-respected.”

Not that that stops many Christians from believing it.

Some will be authentic within reason. They’ll only get personal up to a point, yet talk about Jesus very openly.

Others will set a looser boundary on personal honesty, but never even mention Jesus’ name. They’ll be blasted for not taking a stronger stand for Christ. But others will love them for being “so real.”

There are many points between these 2 extremes, but Christians seem to identify more with one or the other. So who is right? How honest should we be?

Sure some make a platform of their faith. And the Christian market loves it. Yet others merely strive to live by the principles Jesus did—humility, honesty and putting others first. Is one better than the other? Both are callings. Aren’t both equally valid? We all must decide our path and let others decide theirs.

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One blogger recently shared about her experience telling a police officer about her grandfather molesting her when she was young. She says, “I called my sister, Aimee, and put her on speakerphone. We were all crying. Aimee, I said, He’s writing it down. He wrote it down. We said, This happened to us, and he listened. He WROTE IT DOWN. I cannot begin to tell you how powerful that was.

When we express our truth and someone listens to it and affirms it, we are liberated. How honest is too honest? Maybe the question is, How much truth are you willing to live?

Will the haters kill you? Do you fear the scorn of the critics more than God? Sure, there are bad people out there who want to steal and hurt and take the love, joy and peace you’ve found. Will you let them by silencing you?

It’s always easier to walk away. When something’s difficult, it will always be easier to get up and go see what there is to eat in the kitchen. While waiting for inspiration or courage, we need grace for ourselves and our ordinary fears.

But eventually, it’s clear what we have to do, isn’t it? The process of honesty is the most important part. To practice patience and to wait for all that won’t come easily, this is the work. Especially when it causes pain. It will always be easier to bury it. Everyone knows this. It’s easier not to feel it but that’s what the world does. They numb it and stuff it down.

Well, maybe being a Christ-follower means being different. Maybe we had no choice to get wounded, but we have a choice now how to respond. And maybe we have no choice but to live through what he allows, but by his grace we have a choice now and this is it.

And I, for one, will respond.

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So what if some people use their stories to try to get famous? Can we do what’s not easy and use our vulnerable truth to help others?

Practicing discernment is critical. But shouldn’t we always aim for complete honesty in what we share? Not that we disregard restraint and decorum. We must wait and take enough time to heal before publishing, or we’ll face more trouble.

Unresolved pain makes us think and do many bad things. Such unexpressed and unhealed pain created this dangerous world we live in. And our pain-shattered world will flame you in their unresolved pain. The words may hurt.

But will it make you live afraid to bare your true, honest soul?

Who will listen before they speak? Who will preserve dignity and yet risk vulnerability to share their intimate selves? Who will work through the initial blindness strong emotion always causes, to get free of the impulse to spew unconsidered exposure? Common emotion, anger and anxiety, leads to oversharing, but when the truth is finally expressed, it will be seen for what it is: immortal, eternal, indestructible.

There are but a handful of critics. But there are entire nations who need your raw, unfiltered honesty.

Why shouldn’t we accept that that naked truth must be fought for to be expressed?

It’s true: the most personal stories are the most universal. As writers we must realize, our silence means someone else may not fully live.

And what if that someone is first yourself?

Here’s the truth: writing for any reason other than to share who you really are is worthless. And who you are is a worthless mess except for love. I’m only able to see because of the love I’ve been shown. Life’s pains have prepared us to bear the burden of sharing our truth.

So share it. None of us is deserving of love, so embrace the rebukes and disrespect with humility. You have everything you need; you are completely provided for. Oh, you’re not deserving. But you’re worthy. Because He has said so.

Believe it. And choose to do the harder thing.

Derision or accolades change nothing. I am who God says I am: loved.

And that’s all the honest truth I need.

Mick