For Me, With Me, Instead of Me

Footprints in the sand on beach near San José del Cabo, Mexico at sunriseI’m sure most of us know the “Footprints in the Sand” poem, as well as its accompanying images. I think the piece strikes people for the same reason: It’s good to know we’re not alone.

However, that one-set-of-prints is not the full picture. At least not the way it plays out in my head. Sometimes, I imagine it’s multiple sets going in different directions within a dark and pot-holed parking lot. The kind where you worry someone is watching you, waiting to pounce. And even when it’s only one set, when God is carrying you through, it isn’t always on some idyllic beach. It’s on a scuffed batch of linoleum at the local Walmart, through the spilled Kool-Aid.

There are times when God is for us. I imagine this footprint scenario looking like one set of prints is a bit behind the other, trying to keep pace, but not really. I used to think God’s prints are the ones out front, and I’m the lollygagger behind. Yet, the longer I walk this walk, the more I side with the conclusion that it’s the opposite. For us means in support of. It means that He’s letting us go on ahead, cheering us on and holding back like that crazy mom who hides behind the oak tree on the first day of Kindergarten. We need these moments to build our faith. Having God carry us won’t build muscle, will it?

Then consider the times God is with us. This puts two sets of prints side by side. I like it when God is with me. I feel strong and sure and kept. Like a big girl who can legitimately say “Dad” instead of “Daddy,” and Pops couldn’t care less because even he knows it’s true. I believe these are the good times. The great times. The times when we’re almost not stupid and prone to create our own apocalyptic downfalls.

stock-footage-friendly-business-people-walking-away-across-grassy-field-in-the-country

And then, of course, when God goes instead of us. One set of prints, His, when it’s time to fall back onto something that never fails. I guess if you’re a wee bit on the nostalgic side, the footprints on that gently lapping coastline paint the perfect picture. It used to for me. But I’ve had some scuffs over the years, seen some things, been through some pits. So, when God has to pull me out, when He has to do the walking instead of me, I imagine Him fighting the fight that I cannot, busting up the joint, and no, there’s no beach. Not for some of the stuff God has to carry me away from. If an alley fight took place anywhere else than a stinking alley, then even West Side Story would have been filmed in Malibu.

Yet, however you want to picture it, the prints will always indicate He’s there. For you. With you. Instead of you.

I think this video explains it best. Take the time to give it a look.  http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=GD6PNNNX

Artist Sharpening Artist Series, Part II, Lecrae

Boasting, by Lecrae

LecraeRehab

Listen to the music here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ec7ofMOqVM

When I first heard the above song on the radio, it got me. I welled up and blamed it on my hormones the first time, but then it happened again. And, again.

I realized I couldn’t keep blaming it all on my hormones, or else my husband would wise up and figure out I use “hormones” as an excuse not to do the laundry and vacuuming, on occasion. I can’t have that now, because those chores suck to the 10th degree and what not.

So, no, it wasn’t the hormones. It was the truth behind the lyrics.

“If this life has anything to gain at all
I count it lost if I can’t hear you, feel you,
’cause I need you. Can’t walk this earth alone.”

Sometimes I ask myself why I strive to gain the things in this world. The question applies whether it’s with my work, my writing, or whatever else I put in my sights. Is it a gain for me and only me? And if so, at what cost? If I let my faith trickle out to garner that success, even if it’s only a slow trickle, what will the win feel like when I’m left empty inside?

empty-inside3

“So in times that are good, in times that are bad,
For any times that I’ve had it all I will be glad.
And I will boast in the cross. I boast in my pains.
I will boast in the sunshine, boast in his reign.
What’s my life if it’s not praising you.
Another dollar in my bank account of vain pursuit.”

I often ask myself, what’s more important? The money and posturing that may go along with doing things the world’s way, or just keeping who I am in check.

“Tomorrow’s never promised, but it is we swear.
Think we holding our own, just a fist full of air.
God has never been obligated to give us life.
If we fought for our rights, we’d be in hell tonight.”

Our lives, our families, and even our talents and desires have been given to us as gifts. It’s easy enough to squander the impact of that premise as we come to feel it, but I fear we often completely forget the entire premise as well. Especially when we strive to have our way with what’s been given to us.

your-unique-gifts-and-talents_t

“So now every morning I open your word and see the Son rise.
I hope in nothin, boast in nothin, only in your suffering.
I live to show your glory, dying to tell your story.”

This is pretty much all that’s needed. Doesn’t seem so hard. Thanks for putting a sweet beat to it, too, Lecrae.

Hooptedoodle and You

You know the thing about writing styles, right? How they’re like our beloveds’ beauty in the beholderfaces. Beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that other pomp and parade. The skinny guy loves the fat chick, but no one knows why, except them. And that’s all that matters. The same goes for writing styles. Some styles click for readers and others repulse them.

And while styles range from aristocratic splendor to colloquialisms at the john, I’ve learned that the only authentic way to find out who I am as a writer was to first discover who I wasn’t.

Consider the following nugget of prose:

“The sun rose like a uniformed officer in full salute, beckoning me to face the day with equal vigor.”

Yes, many authors are entitled to write like this, and do a splendid job at it. I commend them. It’s not me, though. I tried to make it me, but failed. I’d probably write it like this: “Ah, cripes. The sun’s up. Shoot it or me. You decide.”

Not to mention that if one of my characters was privy to someone regaling in the sun in the same manner as in the first scenario, they’d push said regaler to the ground and rob them of loose change to buy a pumpkin spice latte. Not looking back at the sun, no, not even once. walkingawayfromthesun

My style, of course, doesn’t resonate with everyone, and for that, hoorah. Because if it did, then there’d be a whole lot more people doing a whole lot more shoving and robbing for pocket change. And, that’s just bad business for us as a society, don’t you think?

(I kid. Reserve the hate mail for when I talk politics or let my kids run wild at the mall.)

It’s important to dip your toes into the styles of others. Not to emulate, per se, but to see what hits home with you and what simply slaps you ugly.

You never know, the constant searching might help you find your anthem, as I’ve found mine. You see, when people criticize me for having too minimalistic of a style, I can now tell them to take their hooptedoodle out for a nice steak dinner and smooch it.

That’s right. Hooptedoodle. Courtesy of the one and only Steinbeck.

“Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. The guy’s writing it, give him a chance to do a little hooptedoodle. Spin up some pretty words maybe, or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up in the story. So if the guy that’s writing it wants hooptedoodle, he ought to put it right at first. Then I can skip it if I want to, or maybe go back to it after I know how the story come out.”

Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck  sweet thursday

Artist Sharpening Artist Series: Part One

The City Harmonic, My God

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Doppwe7qd1I

(Please watch the video here when you get a chance.)

I admire singers and musicians. They can sing and I cannot. They can play instruments and I just stare at stringed things and suffer the fear of the unknown. Many of us here are storytellers, are we not? And songwriters, well, they just tell shorter stories. It makes us sort of brethren. Except they wear skinny jeans and shake their tushes, while we stay in our pajamas as long as possible and watch our ankles swell.

Skinny jeans, check!

Skinny jeans and tush-shaking all rolled into one.

Lately, I’ve discovered I need these Christian tush-shakers while I work things out in my head because more and more often, I find myself up against walls in my writing.

Take the song My God by The City Harmonic, for example. I really got into this song when I was at the gym one day, riding one of those accursed stationary bikes. Maybe it was because I had to suffer through a really hard bike seat, maybe because it’s a really good song, or maybe it was because I really needed it that day, but whatever it was, the song struck me in a multitude of ways.

I lift my eyes up,
in these days of trouble.
Will my help come from You?
And if I stumble,
will You pick me up?
What else could a father do?
Well, You know just where I’m going.
You made the open road.
So take my hand, Lord, and lead me home.”

Yes, God, I would like to ask You that: Will You pick me up if I stumble, if I fall, if I just generally suck at this writing thing? Oh yes, what else would a father do?

Oh, my God.
Oh, my God.
I lift my heart up,
whether it’s whole or broken,
good God I know You’re gonna work it out.
So on my heart beats
to a beat that I put my hope in
the love of my God pouring out.”

God, I have to be honest here. I’m already coming to the table broken, and writing . . . well, sometimes it feels like it requires things of me that I don’t think I have left. Oh, but, okay . . . I see . . .You’re gonna work it out.

Yeah
Oh, my God.
Oh, my God.
I will sing, sing, sing and You will be my song.
Yeah.

But, people’s ears hurt when I try that, so I think I’m going to write, write, write and You will be my page.

I’m gonna [write] it like it’s everything to me,
I’m gonna [write] it like the deep calling out to deep
I’m gonna [write] it like it’s all I’ve got
‘Cause all that I want is to [write] for the love of God.

I’m gonna [write] it like it’s everything to me,
I’m gonna [write] it like the deep calling out to deep.
I’m gonna [write] it like it’s all I’ve got
‘Cause all that I want is to [write, write, write].”

iPod shuffle: the poor man's iDevice.

iPod shuffle. It may be the poor man’s iDevice, but it packs a bunch of awesomeness on it for me.

And then there’s a clash of cymbals and the beat hastens. My iPod shuffle is cranked so loud that I don’t notice I’m singing. I don’t notice the RPMs on my exercise bike are over 100 or that everyone around is staring at me, but by goodness, I’m singing, singing, singing about writing, writing, writing. And the world is good and meaningful and suddenly I have strength.

All from one little song.

And then I wonder, can I make someone feel the same thing from my words? Hmm, it doesn’t really matter, does it? All that matters is we’re doing it for the love of God.

Thank you, The City Harmonic. You’ve sharpened me. I hope I can return the favor one day.

WordServe News: December 2012

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

As the year comes to a close, we’re so very grateful that WordServe Authors released 83 books in 2012, and signed 80 book contracts for nearly 119 books to release off in the future.

IntotheFreeJulie Cantrell had the agency’s first New York Times Bestseller in many years with her book Into the Free. It also garnered a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. A rarity.

We had several books climb over the 100,000 copy mark:

* The Secret Holocaust Diaries of Nonna Bannister, written by Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin (Tyndale)

* The Devil in Pew Seven by Rebecca Alonzo, with James Pence (Tyndale)

* My Flight to Heaven by Dale Black (Bethany)

* Edge of Apocalypse by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall (Zondervan)

* Linspired (adult and YA book together) by Mike Yorkey (Zondervan)

And we’ve had several authors show up on national shows:

* Rebecca Alonzo on Dr. Phil (twice)

* Lauren Scruggs appeared on several shows in November at the launch of her book, Still Lolo.

These WordServe authors signed their FIRST BOOK CONTRACT in 2012:

* Anita Agers-Brooks (Leafwood)
* Leigh Ann Bryant (Authentic)
* Deb DeArmond (Leafwood)
* Rebecca DiMarino (Revell)
* Jan Drexler (Love Inspired)
* Michael Hidalgo (IVP)
* Heather James (Kregel)
* Amanda Jenkins (Tyndale)
* Caesar Kalinowski (Zondervan)
* Heather Larson, with David and Claudia Arp (Bethany)
* Tracie Miles (Leafwood)
* Jerry and Caroly Parr (Tyndale)
* Christina Powell (IVP)
* Rachel Randolph, with Becky Johnson (Zondervan)
* Tina Samples (Kregel)
* Lauren Scruggs (Tyndale)
* Amy Sorrels (David C. Cook)
* Mandy Stewarad (David C. Cook)
* Janalyn Voigt (Harbourlight)
* Jeremy & Jennifer Williams (Thomas Nelson)
* Tricia Williford (WaterBrook)

These WordServe authors had their FIRST BOOKS published through a traditional publishing house:

* Julie Cantrell, Into the Free (David C. Cook)
* Arnie Cole, Unstuck (Bethany)
* Katie Ganshert, Wildflowers from Winter (WaterBrook)
* Adam Makos, A Higher Call (Berkley Caliber)
* Jay Pathak/Dave Runyon, The Art of Neighboring (Baker)
* Zeke Pipher, Man on the Run (Howard)
* Lauren Scrubbs, Still Lolo (Tyndale)
* Helen Shores and Barbara Shores Lee, The Gentle Giant of Dynamite Hill (Zondervan)
* Jordyn Redwood, Proof (Kregel)

So all in all, we had lots to celebrate!

New January Releases

WhatJesusSteve Addison, What Jesus Started.

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UnholyHungerHeather James, Unholy Hunger, her debut novel!

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RadicalDr. Rita Hancock, Radical Well Being

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AHigherCallAdam Makos, A Higher Call

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JustWhatDoctorRick Marschall, Just What the Doctor Disordered

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TheRiverGilbert Morris, The River Palace

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DilemmaOlivia Newport, The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow

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GreatStoriesJoe Wheeler, Great Stories Remembered #1, audio (eChristian)

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StinkyJoe Wheeler, Stinky: The Skunk Who Wouldn’t Leave (Pacific Press)

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New WordServe Clients

Several new clients have joined the WordServe stable with Alice Crider as their point person, but we’ll report more on that next month.

New Contracts

Christina Powell signed with Intervarsity Press (IVP) for her first book. The book is tentatively titled Question your Doubts. It explores the many roots of doubt experienced by both believers and nonbelievers, providing a corresponding response of faith from the rare perspective of a Harvard-trained research scientist who is also an ordained minister. (SF)

What can we help you celebrate?