My People

Calendar Board with Business Cards.jpgWe were created for community. We were created for relationships and interaction. It seems strange to say that as a card-carrying introvert. More than many, I value my time alone. I use time without the pressures of social interaction to recharge my batteries. But as much as I need my quiet time, I cannot deny the need to connect with people on a personal level.

My love language (and if you’ve not read the book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, you really should) is quality time. Sitting in front of the television together doesn’t count. I need to really connect with those I love, and that same principle carries over into my friendships. I’m happiest in social interactions when I can share something I love with others. And I don’t think I’m that different from everyone else.

As believers, God has given us the church to fill this need. Scriptures throughout the New Testament reinforce the idea that believers need each other. In Acts, the first church sold their worldly possessions to join resources with the other believers. They relied on each other for everything. In Romans, Ephesians, and Corinthians we’re told that believers are all one body made up of many parts working together for the good of everyone and the glory of God. And Hebrews tells us not to avoid coming together in worship and support of each other. We are supposed to “rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep”. (Romans 12:15).

First and foremost, I am a believer. However, it goes beyond that. I said the body is made of many members. Some of us are teachers through writing. Whether non-fiction or fiction, there is a message God has placed in our hearts to share with others. It doesn’t matter if the message is one of challenge, correction, or encouragement. It’s a message God has entrusted with us to share with other believers in a way we are passionate about. He has given us the ministry of writing to come alongside others in their journey of faith. These Christian writers are my people.

I had the opportunity to spend last week with my people, and I have never felt more at home. I wish it could’ve continued indefinitely. There were over 500 people who understood my struggles, my hopes, and my successes. They’ve faced the same frustrations and celebrated the same accomplishments. We worshiped together, learned together, and shared fellowship all week. It was an amazing time, and I don’t want to forget it.

More than the experience, I don’t want to forget the connections. God put each person I came in contact with at the conference in my life for a reason. We do understand each other, and with that shared understanding comes a responsibility. It is the same responsibility I have to the believers in my life at home. It is the call to share in each other’s successes and sorrows. It is the call to lift each one up in prayer.

I left the conference with several business cards. A lot of them have pictures on them, and, as an introvert who isn’t given to remembering names, I’m thankful for that. I’ve tacked several to the calendar boards in my office. I want to keep them handy for business needs, but it is more than that. I want to keep them in front of myself daily. I want the gentle reminder to pray for these people who have the same faith I do and the passion for sharing it through the written word. These are my people, and I need to remember to lift them up to God just as I hope they are doing for me.

By the Book: Think about the body of believers God has placed in your life. What similarities knit you together? What can you do to remind yourself to pray for them each day?

Crooked Calendars in 2019

calendarChristmas gifts added several things to my writing space this year. I got a new lap desk to use with my lap top, almost a necessity since I refuse to write at an actual desk. Although it arrived a few days after Christmas, I received the latest edition of The Christian Writers Market Guide. And even though it couldn’t be wrapped up in a shiny box under the tree, I was also given membership in ACFW. Now, if I can just find time to use the site to its fullest potential, it will help me in my writing journey.

I asked for all of these things because I believe they will be beneficial to me as an author. But there is one gift, or maybe four depending on how you look at it, that has already started helping me in more ways than I originally hoped it would. I spent part of the day after Christmas hanging four dry-erase wall calendars on my office wall behind my writing chair. Four? Yes, four. If I wanted to track that many months at a time, why didn’t I simply get a planner? I’m horrible with using planners. I start off with great intentions, but I fail before I’m out of January. Dry erase boards are different.

These four calendars help me track a quarter of the year at a time. And I put them up for a specific purpose. One of my goals for 2019 is to improve in my marketing ability. With a full-time non-writing job, it’s hard to keep on top of things. With purple representing people scheduled to be guests on my blog and orange showing times I’m scheduled to appear on other people’s blogs, a quick look at my calendars can give me all the information I need to determine where I need to step up my game and where I’m doing alright.

I also don’t have to find my calendar every time I want to record something. I grab a marker out of the marker basket hanging on the wall and fill in as much or as little detail as I want. A planner is always a bit inconvenient. You have to carry it with you at all times or go find it every time you need it. I don’t have time for that. Besides, I’m notorious for losing things. I can’t count the number of times in a week I have to grab my spare keys because my main set is not where I thought I left it.

I asked for these four calendar boards for these reasons, but they’ve also proved useful in an unexpected way. If you actually look at the boards hanging on the wall, you can see the boards on the right are about ¼ of an inch away from being level. I purposely hung the bottom right one that way so it matched the top right one. I figured it would bother me less that way! But originally, all four boards were meant to be straight and level. I measured each one with a tape measure and pencil. I even measured multiple times before drilling the holes I needed in the wall. My first attempt left me feeling pretty good about my abilities. I placed the calendar on the hooks, and it lined up perfectly. The second one deflated my ego a bit as I realized I’d miscalculated somewhere. Maybe I stepped on the end of the tape measure with more pressure and forced it further into the carpet? I don’t know. But it’s a little off.

Why didn’t I use a laser level to project a beautifully, perfectly straight line on my wall to mark my drilling spots? It makes sense. It would have been nice. My calendars would all be straight. There was just one problem. I don’t own a level. The tool I needed to do my job efficiently and completely successfully was missing from my tool box. The result is a functional wall of calendars that would drive some people crazy due to ¼ of an inch.

When I look at my calendar, I’m reminded how important the proper tools can be. In writing this doesn’t mean I can’t write without the physical tools like my wall calendars or my lap desk. These are frills that make things easier, but they aren’t the tools that will improve me as an author. Taking time to learn from and network with other authors who are farther into their writing journey can help tremendously. Reading books on the craft of writing and the marketing side of writing will help equip me to be more proficient and efficient in what I do. Taking part in local writing groups, interacting on ACFW boards, and attending conferences are all tools authors have available to do their job and do it well.

As we come into a new year, I want to become better about using the tools I have as a writer. But more important than that, I want to apply the lesson to my faith walk. I’ve been given all the tools I need to live a life of faith that will add up to hearing “well done good and faithful servant” when my time on earth is done. There are churches on every corner, apps let us take the Bible with us everywhere, devotions and Christian living books are easily found on every topic, Christian radio can fill our cars and homes with praise, and guided journals provide easy ways to track our ups and downs. But all of these are just the extras. They aren’t the tools we have to have. They are the tools we use to make the journey a more pleasant experience. They help us, but just like my tape measure and pencil were not the perfect tools for hanging my calendars, these tools alone are not the perfect tools for growing my faith. When Jesus went back to heaven, He promised help in the form of the Holy Spirit to live in the heart of each believer. The Holy Spirit teaches and corrects us. I need to commit to listening to His quiet voice with more consistency. God gave us prayer as the way to communicate directly with Him.  It’s a powerful tool that too often gets relegated to the equivalent of rubbing a genie’s lamp and making a wish. I need to be vigilant to fashion my prayers and my reasons for them after the examples given in scripture. And that’s the final tool I need in my toolbox of faith, God’s word. Without scripture we can’t get the full picture of who God is. Scripture is able to cut to the heart of the matter and show us where our motivations fall short of our loving God. It is God’s word to us about how to live like Jesus lived. It gives us encouragement, strength, comfort, and correction. It doesn’t stop at leading us to salvation. It provides the instruction we need to live a life of faith and walk in close communion with God.

Have I been using these tools the way God intended when He gifted them to me? Do I study His word, listen to the Holy Spirit, and pray with the motives of His will being done? I have all the right tools. I need to use them. What about you?

By the Book: Read the following scriptures referenced in this devotion. Matthew 25:14-23, Luke 22:41-42, John 15:26, Acts 1:8, Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:16