Loaves, Fish, and Writers

Late in the afternoon the twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” 

He replied,  “You give them something to eat.” 

They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.”  (About five thousand men were there.)

But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.”  The disciples did so, and everybody sat down. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  Luke 9:12 – 17

Give it up

Poking at God about what I could cook for you today, he flipped this sizzling little fish story onto my brain plate.

Eyes scrunched on “impossibility” rather than on the Master of limitless capability, it’s easy for us writers to be disciple-like and condescend to natural-mindedness.

The crowds aren’t growing less hungry, aren’t inching any closer to food. Cloistered in the middle of nowhere, fatigued and famished, the beloved twelve scratch their heads before Jesus speaks: “Give the people something to eat.”

As we shake our heads at our scanty drizzle of words, Christ tells us the same: “Give the people something to eat. Don’t worry about sparse resources or small beginnings. If I’m in it, as sure as the heavens, you can make a difference.”

“Give them something to eat.” 

Thrust in this love-test, the apostle John records a different angle in sharing Philip’s retort: “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.” Andrew speaks up. “Here’s a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

No matter how measly, how un-supersized our flounderings, if God calls us to serve fresh truth in a word-stir, if he speaks the royal “ok,” we step up.

Notice how Jesus dishes up faith-stretching instructions to the disciples. Directing five thousand people to sit in groups of fifty is no small potatoes. It takes time and sweat. Just like advancing in writing.

And so we lift our minuscule loaves and fish, and give thanks.

Give Thanks

Wouldn’t you give your lunch to see the puzzled looks on those hungry faces when Jesus raises his bitty snacks to give thanks?

Thanksgiving flows from a posture of humility. The soul bends low, acknowledging our Sovereign Source, his power, ability, and desire to provide.

Jesus gives thanks and his fingers rip the bread. I wonder if he considers how his flesh will soon be broken to feed many.

Writers know about brokenness, the heart-deep pain-sap that drives and feeds our meanderings. With battle scars, we give thanks to the living Word who uses our words and wounds to paint blood-colored pictures of grace.

No matter how few or many we touch, we give thanks for the opportunity. Chosen conduits of hope, we’re blessed to be a blessing. Our words, charged with Spirit-power, awaken God-hunger. They sustain and multiply life!

Whenever we naturally live out thankfulness, we display God’s bigness to a hungry, watching world. We become more than wishful thinkers about remote possibilities.  We reveal supernatural expectancy. This is how the world sees truth in us as we step up to our dream.

Expect Much

“It will take a miracle to get published!” We say it like miracles are viruses when they’re more likely God’s favorite pastimes.

Food in hand, Jesus says thanks because he expects the miracle. He prays and “looks to heaven.” He isn’t focused on his stomach, the food, or the crowd, but on his Father, the source.

The more we fix our eyes on God, the more we see miracles. The more we see miracles, the more we look for them in him.

“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread…” God’s prayer transcends the “me,” and rests on “us,” because we, in the body, are one, and because love necessitates caring for those outside ourselves.

If we want to use our love gift to nourish souls, we can expect God’s provision to match his call. I haven’t forgotten that we can also expect spiritual warfare (perhaps even intensified tests from a rattled enemy), but ultimately mercy triumphs over Satan’s thievery. God promises to give us everything we need to win!

This gift, this impervious spawning of words, isn’t an instant dinner miracle; rather, it’s a progressive one, a long-term partnership with Chef Jesus.

Part of the miracle involves staying with the process. If God says, “Get everything and everybody in place,” that’s what we do. We plunge in for the long run, expecting to produce sweet fruits like patience and perseverance. Likewise, we expect readers, writers, characters, and observers to be transformed by our faithfulness.

We’re Christ-followers, sojourners on the cusp of miracles. In the course of our collective, out-of-this-world writer-journeys, we can expect nothing less than God cooking up his best.

Bon appetit!

“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 a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. 

The Slow Loris Road to Publishing

I’m what you might call the slow loris of book publishing.

 Are you familiar with the slow loris? I know it sounds like a Dr. Seuss character, but the slow loris is actually a real animal – a tiny primate with big, puppy-dog brown eyes and a round head (so far, nothing in common with me, in case you’re wondering). The slow loris is also described as a slow and deliberate climber.

Yup, that’s me: the slow, deliberate climber.

It took me two and a half years to write my first (and at this point, only) book. In my defense, I also had a toddler and a newborn at the time, as well as a part-time job, so I wrote only in the very early mornings and in the evenings, after the kids were tucked into bed. I wrote every day, slowly and deliberately ticking off chapters one by one until I had a completed manuscript. I marvel at writers who crank out two or three books in a single year. I know people that do this, and they are very good, fast writers. I am not. I am methodical, and my editing is nothing short of painfully laborious.

After I finished writing and editing my book, it took me another two years to land an agent. Again, I was slow and deliberate in the querying process. I purchased The Guide to Literary Agents and The Christian Writers’ Market Guide, and scoured the exhaustive lists of agents, categorizing each with the letters A, B or C. “A” designated a top-choice agent; “B” were the agents I considered good, but second-tier; and “C” was reserved for those I might query in desperation. I researched the agents online and then crafted a personal query letter for each. I queried most of my “A” list and some on the “B” list before Rachelle Gardner (top of the “A” list, by the way) offered me a contract (truth be told, I queried her twice).

 “Whew!” I thought, after I’d finished cartwheeling across the living room the day Rachelle offered me representation. “Now the process will finally start moving along! Let’s roll, baby!”

I assumed once the manuscript was out of my slow loris hands (claws?) that the pace would accelerate.

That was last February.

My memoir has not yet sold to a publisher. I’m not saying it won’t sell eventually. I am simply stating that in the nearly 365 days since I accepted representation from Rachelle, it hasn’t sold. As it turns out, Rachelle chooses the slow loris approach, too, if the market demands it. Sometimes, as she noted in a recent post, publishers aren’t in the market for a particular genre (in this case, memoir), so she puts the manuscript aside and patiently waits for a better opportunity.

I admit, being the slow loris is frustrating at times. I see some of my favorite authors publish one book, and then a second, and I wonder, “What about me? What about my book? Why doesn’t my book sell?” Doubt creeps in. And insecurity. I begin to question my ability as a writer, my story, even my choice to pursue this publishing dream.  I contemplate ditching writing all together and taking up needlepoint.

In the end, though, I continue to stick with it. After all, slow lorises, in addition to their slow, deliberate climbing skills, are also known for their ability to cling to a tree in one spot for an exceptionally long period of time, patiently waiting for the perfect meal to wander into proximity.

“Everything in its own time,” Rachelle reminds me.

I’m patient. I can wait.  I am a slow loris.

{For the record, the slow loris is also the only mammal with a toxic bite. Just saying.}

What animal would you choose as a metaphor for your journey to publishing or your writing style {please don’t say cheetah or I may die a little inside}?