Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An Open Letter to Writers: Stop Apologizing!

What if John gave me a beautiful ring and I showed it to you one day over coffee?

“Robbie, it’s lovely.”

“Thank you. It’s not a huge diamond, but I like it.”

“It’s gorgeous.”

“It didn’t cost that much because we can’t afford a lot and John had to save for a while to buy it, but I like it.”

“Sounds like he really wanted you to have it.”

“Well, I guess so. It’s not like your ring. That’s huge. But I like mine.”

Did I honor John? Did I honor his gift?

Nope. I apologized for it.

The Spirit has convicted me lately that I do the same thing with a gift God has given me – writing. And I need to stop. The enemy keeps having victory and it’s got to end.

Indulge me in another metaphor. A baseball player wants to be the best and play in the major leagues. But his path includes Triple-A. Maybe he moves up from there, maybe he doesn’t. But he doesn’t apologize. Can you imagine an announcement at the beginning of a Triple-A game?

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are so sorry that this is not a major league game. Do the best you can to have fun.”


And yet…

When I self-published a book of Joyvotions called Joy Dance, I always included the words “self-published” when I talked about it. “This is my book Joy Dance, (and apologetically,) it’s self-published. I apologized for a gift. And writing and publishing that book was a GIFT. I’ve had many, many comments from folks who’ve read it and heard from the Lord through it. What a GIFT!

In September, my first novel will be published through a small print on demand publisher. This is a GIFT from God to me.

And yet, the enemy keeps trying to steal the joy of that gift by whispering lies:

It’s not a big company like Tyndale, Robbie, so it’s not that great.

Your book may never even make it to a traditional bookstore.

Other writers can get contracts with the big companies. You just aren’t good enough, Robbie.

ENOUGH!!! When I dwell on these lies, insecurity happens and the apologies come forth. The best way to fight the lies of the enemy is with God’s truth:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

My gift is from HIM and it is a good gift!

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:5-6

God establishes my boundaries and the path He has given me is delightful!

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

God knows the future and He is ultimately in charge. If I truly believe in His Sovereignty, then I can trust Him every step of the way.

When I wrote this, I thought it was just for me. But then it occurred to me that all writers deal with the comparison trap. As do every one of us, writers or not. What is the gift God has given you? No matter what it is, a wonderful way to honor God is to be grateful for the gift.

Writers, let’s stop apologizing!

Whether you are published or not,

Whether you are self-published or traditionally published,

Whether you are working for a Triple-A company or a major league company,

Whether you have tons of sales or a pile of books in your garage,


Let’s use our words to glorify the gift giver, not apologize for the gift.

Those diamonds He’s put in your heart and mine are priceless.

Let’s rewind. I just showed you the ring John gave me.

“Robbie, it’s lovely.”

“Isn’t it? Thank you. John loves me so much and he gave this to me and I absolutely LOVE IT! So grateful for my husband and this ring.” 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

He's There if You Look for Him

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. Psalm 89:15

Monday morning I decided to really look for God everywhere during my day. God is omnipresent, but sometimes we are not present to Him, meaning we don’t consciously seek Him. Takes practice and a simple choice to focus.

So I did. During the morning it was easy. I saw God in the tree outside a window, its green leaves shaking in the joy of a cool breeze. I saw Him in Noah’s silliness, the dog’s unconditional love and in a friend’s heart. I felt Him in the courage of trying something new.

But after lunch, the easiness ended.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to see a counselor who specializes in food issues. On the phone this lovely lady gave me directions to her office and told me that parking in the back of her building was free.

As I neared the area of the office, I discovered I’d forgotten my google directions. I called my counselor and she gave me to them again, once again pointing out that I could park in the back.

I met my counselor and it turns out she is 13 years old. At first I thought, “Great. The Doogie Howser of mental health will be trying to help my 50 year old brain?” But then I remembered that my medical doctor, Kelsey, is 12 and she pointed me to food allergy tests that stopped years of stomach pains. Youth can be a great thing. So I opened my heart.

We had a good session and I left, not wanting a cupcake to ease the discomfort of seeing a professional. This was a good sign to me.  I walked to the parking lot in back to find my car was not in its parking space.

Thoughts of God were nowhere. I went back in and told my counselor that my car might have been stolen. She began to freak out. We went back to the parking lot so I could show her where my car was not and on the way, a man who ran a business in the same building walked by. When told of my situation, he said, “I’m sure you were towed. That’s permit-only parking back there.”

Sweet young counselor almost had a heart attack and went into guilt mode and apologized over and over. I felt bad for her and began to comfort her. “It’s not a person, it’s just a car,” I said. “And if it was towed, well that’s much better than stolen.” She calmed down and told me she would reimburse me for the towing.

I phoned the towing company and they told me they couldn’t tell me if my car was towed. I had to call the Denver police first. I called the Denver police and they said yes, it was towed by that company so call them back. O-kay. A cupcake started to look pretty good.

I called them back. “Oh sure, we towed it. But you’ll have to wait before we can locate it.”

??  O-kay.

I waited the prescribed 30 minutes and called them again. “The driver hasn’t called you yet? Here’s his number.”

The driver, in an extremely rude tone, told me he’d be at a certain address in exactly one hour. I was to come with (get this) $209.56 in cash only with exact change. I wanted to ask him if I would get my car and cocaine, too. I didn’t. I just started to wonder about what kind of icing would be on that cupcake.

Enter my husband John. He picked me up delighted to help. Well, he wasn’t delighted, but he wasn’t angry. Just one of those things that happen, right?

I told him the story.

“So you’re not going to go back to this counselor, are you?”

“Actually I will. She may not be good with parking lot rules or a client’s possible stolen car, but I have a feeling she’s good with food issues.”

John’s turn to look at me and say, “0-kay.”

We arrived in the tow driver’s neighborhood and found we’d entered a part of Denver where they manufacture shivs. Okay, maybe not, but it felt that way. After asking a couple of people, we found the address. We sat in an alley outside his business. Yes, an honest to goodness alley.

I called Mr. Charming and told him we were there at the exact time he wanted.

“I’m held up in traffic. I’ll be there in just a minute.”

“How long is a minute?” I asked.

He knew exactly what I meant and answered, “Half an hour.”

I got angry and hung up. How dare he? Why are people rude? I ranted and my husband listened in silence.

After a bit, the Spirit tickled my heart, “Remember what we talked about this morning?”

I let out a humph and turned to John, “So let me ask you, where is God in this situation?”

John answered quickly and sincerely, “Maybe He’s answering the tow guy’s prayers for money for food for his family.”

It was not a moment of appreciating my husband’s Godly perspective.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked. “This guy is a jerk! What woman would marry him? I should buy her a cupcake! She probably needs it more than me!”

When the guy showed up, (it was longer than half an hour) I did not show him the love of Jesus. He did not apologize for being so late so I used my brusque voice and took my time inspecting my car for any tow damage. I gave him the exact amount of extortion money he asked for and he gave me a receipt. We parted.

After, in my car alone, my emotions got out of my way and I processed what had happened.

I’d run into a jerk. There are plenty of them in the world. And I have to confess that there are many times I am one of them. And even though I’d begun the day seeking God in everything, when discomfort entered my world I sought comfort or at times, revenge.

So where was God?

He was always there. He was in my counselor’s office, sitting with me and holding my heart that so wants to get better. He was in the parking lot, giving me perspective that a car is not people. He was in those moments of frustration offering humor and wisdom and peace, even when I didn’t accept them. He was in John, trying to give me balance as always. And He was in me, giving me the courage to not have a cupcake, because it wouldn’t have offered what I needed. Only His presence could offer that.

I didn’t seek Him in everything on Monday. No need to beat myself up. Each day is new.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Take a Hike!

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
Hosea 2:14-15

He didn’t lead me into the wilderness, but instead, Steamboat Springs. I woke up at a Holiday Inn and found I had the whole day to myself to do whatever I wanted. Glorious. And in such a pretty town.
At breakfast, a nearby lady was talking to a nearby couple about things she recommended to do in Steamboat Springs. “You have to ride the gondola up to the top of the mountain.”
Eavesdropping is not listed as one of the gifts of the Spirit in the Bible but if it was, I would have it. Later that morning, I headed for the gondola. It occurred to me as I got on and it revved up to climb the mountain, that I am not great with heights.

Thoughts like “Great time to remember that, Iobst” crossed my mind as I watched the ground beneath me get farther and farther away. The single cable that stood between the gondola and certain death for me seemed to make a strange noise. The only thing worse was when it got quiet. I mean, really quiet. Of course, my mind ridiculously ran through all the possible outcomes of a fall: broken leg, organs damaged with me in a hospital and ultimately the scene of me giving Jesus a big ole fist bump.

But courage came in and sat with me in the rocking gondola and I was overwhelmed with the Spirit of God. His presence reminded me to look around and SEE HIS beauty. I did. Joy.

At the top of the mountain, there was a restaurant with incredible views so I sat and had most of a hot dog and some watermelon and enjoyed. I read God’s Joyful Surprise by Sue Monk Kidd and became more inspired. In the middle of enjoying my time, I felt a nudge on my heart.

“Take a hike.”

 It wasn’t said like a gangster in a 50’s movie telling a kid to scram. It was a gentle suggestion of the Spirit.
“I’m not a hiker.” My response was firm. In fact, when I had asked for directions to the gondola from a Holiday Inn employee she had said there were many hiking trails up there if I was interested. I giggled, “I’m not a hiker.” She was a bit older than me and carried some girth with her and she giggled, too. An unspoken agreement between wise women who see no point in engaging in such activities.

But see, God knows my heart and He keeps showing me that I can do so much more than I think.

“Take a hike, Robbie.”

Ignoring the Spirit’ voice, I read more of Kidd’s book and came to this quote by Charles DuBois: “The important is to be willing at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we can become.”

Somewhere in the meal I decided to do it. Of course, as I made my decision I tacked on all sorts of addendums and requirements:

I’ll go for 15 - 20 minutes and then I will turn around. I will not jog. I will turn back at any time I feel I need to. I will wear my IPOD to distract me from the pain. I will stay at the bottom of the trails until I see someone going so I can follow them so I know that if I fall and have a heart attack, I can scream. I will hold my key in one hand so if a serial killer happens to be on the hiking trail and attacks me, I can plunge the key into his neck and limp away.

At this point, I would love to tell you that I am exaggerating. I’m not. (And how could I have a heart attack and scream?)  But the neurosis and fear that have plagued my personality still have remnants that jump up and shout any time I do something out of the ordinary.

I told God okay. We’ll do it Your way, Lord.

I didn’t time myself or hold onto my key. I did carry my purse, which I noticed no other folks seemed to have around that restaurant. Backpacks and fanny packs but no purse. Still I went. I didn’t see anyone near the trail I chose and I just took that trail cause it looked pretty. I wore no IPOD. This was a hike about me and God. Just walking. Just doing it.

Here’s what happened.

I found freedom on this wonderful path.

Beauty. I didn’t know how long I had walked at any time. I didn’t know where it would end or when it would end. Somewhere along the way, a strange man and I came to the same spot. I found myself smiling and talking to him like we were long lost friends, not some character from an evil TV show bent on hurting me. And best of all, God and I talked on our hike. It was one of the sweetest times I’ve ever had. I heard lovely things that are only between Him and me. I felt loved and I felt strengthened. My fear, my doubt in myself was completely suspended simply because I chose to put my feet in front of myself, one step at a time. 

I breathed hard and I almost slipped once. I kept going. I saw a little butterfly that seemed to follow me or lead me. I’m sure there were a million of them up there, but to me, I had one little butterfly leading the way.

Maybe the Spirit used that butterfly to encourage me. Why not?
I finished the hike covered in sweat. (My people don’t perspire. We sweat. I asked a lady near the restaurant to take my picture)

I was also covered in possibilities.

You and I just don’t know all we are capable of, until we say YES GOD. We just don’t. We assume because of our age, size, job, family situation, or everyday rut, that there are certain aspirations we cannot possibly complete. Every one of us has a fear that stands in the way of going for it. I know a hike is not a big deal to everyone, but to me it is a huge accomplishment. And I didn’t honestly know I could do this. I didn’t.

Not until I said, “Yes God, I will take a hike.”