Before that next cup of coffee, consider slowing down a bit to chat with me. I may not hear your voices yet, but I’m here. We’re a family of writers, and we do best when we support one another.
For all of us, the current quarantine has brought minor to major changes to our lives. In general, our daily lifestyles have been disrupted. Many dimensions of our everyday life have been altered and one of them is our writing routine–let’s talk a little about how our writing, creativity, and inspiration have been affected.
Some writers have bloomed under these new, confined conditions. With less demands from the outside world, they’ve awakened to a new burst of imagination that has them writing and inventing like Agatha Christie or Stephen King on steroids. In fact, their secret wish is to linger a bit, like a happy hobbit in a smaller world.
For others, confined quarters have had the opposite effect. They’ve found it almost impossible to create under the hustle and bustle of family life. Space and silence once served as catalysts to their creative flow, but now they’re on sensory overload. The usual daily outings and family schedules that once sweetened and refreshed daily reunions, have now been stifled—even a beloved spouse may have become too much of a good thing. Each of us are different and flourish under different conditions.
Some writers are like emotional empaths. They have difficulty tuning out the noise and problems of the world. Worries about finances and health, echo around in their minds, leaving little space for imagination. If you fall into this category, there’s a good chance your writing is not only huffing and puffing but has come to a complete stop. Some are facing writers-block as they struggle to summon up new ideas.
Many literary artists require new surroundings and scenery to pen fresh ideas. They now feel trapped within the same four walls and are having difficulty seeing past them. In the absence of all their treasured hideaways—the writing nooks, bookstores, and coffee shops that once stimulated productivity—they’ve lost their mojo, their get up and go.
The good news is the Lord knows under what conditions you write and create the best. If the conditions you’ve been writing under have been difficult or even a complete train wreck, consider this—God’s plan for you, may not be a matter of production, but a matter of quality. He could be engineering a deeper well from which to draw words, a greater store of ideas. In fact, this could be the game plan for all of us–a chance to be given a fresh perspective, new experiences, and novel ways of communicating. As realizations dawn on how fragile life and civilization really are, we might feel more compelled to write about the eternal. These new insights could be the missing element in our work.
As we consider these scenarios, we may also want to ask ourselves—Is it possible the Lord saw our writer’s well of wisdom was becoming dry? And because He loves us and desires us to be the best we can possibly be, he’s now busy filling our wells with fresher, deeper water. The Apostle Paul said, “… we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Ro.5:3-5 NIV)
Think of all the great people in history who have birthed wisdom from pain. Their names could fill many novels, but let’s look at just two. Anne Frank’s diaries spoke of bright hope, despite her gloomy life, and a deep insight far beyond her years. Where did such wisdom come from? It’s doubtful her words would have spread across the world, survived over a generation, if she hadn’t been locked in an attic or died in a holocaust camp. If Anne had been free to grow up amidst friends, attending parties and proms, it’s unlikely her well of words would have reached such depths of truth and passion.
If Corrie ten Boom had never suffered, never been imprisoned and tortured in a German holocaust camp, would she still have touched the hearts of millions? If Corrie’s life had remained one of ease, sheltered in a loving home, busy about her family clock-shop, would her words of Christ’s love still have been immortalized in print?
Throughout the bible, believers were moved from place to place, uprooted from their homes, challenged to travel to vast new lands. We, on the other hand, have been moved to a smaller place, a smaller world deep within our homes—but what I believe to be, to a much greater plan.
When our lives are shaken, we’re challenged to grasp not only for reasons why but for ways to overcome. In our time of soul-searching, we may begin to question the direction of our lives. As writers, we may be asking specific questions: What has God called me to do? Am I truly called to write? Am I in the right genre? Targeting the right audience? How do I shift gears in this new world of marketing, and how do I entertain and yet still inspire?
The answers will come. With our focus on God’s purpose, we need to embrace instead of resist, the trials he has brought. Writers not only prosper from ideas of joy and hope, but from ideas of controversy, confusion, suffering, and pain. While we’ve been building grand illusions about who we are in this great big world, we’ve now found it shrinking—it’s a small world after all. A small world, yes, but the Kingdom of God is vast. Great beyond imagination. If you look around, you’ll see big things happening.
I believe God is using this time to bring families closer. He’s showing fathers how to teach their children and mother’s to better nurture. I see this same beautiful bonding at work within my own family, in my neighborhood, and especially on social media. While I peruse and scroll through streams of pictures and videos, I see mothers homeschooling and baking bread with their children. I see father’s teaching their son’s carpentry and the art of fishing. Parents and children are playing, singing, and dancing. Children are exchanging phones and I-pads for good old-fashioned fun.
There’s been sadness about us, but there’s also been gladness. Now, it’s time to step back and ask ourselves—when the world opens back up, will we bring the gladness with us? When we step back into the sunlight of this big bright world, will we be blinded by the light, or will we see much better? Ask yourself–will the treasures I’ve found be left behind, or will I bring them with me? As writers, we’ve been called by God to be modern day scribes and word weavers. With this in mind, will we be ready to express and document all we’ve felt, seen, and learned in these troubled times. Today, as the world around us slowly begins to open its doors, hopefully we’ll bring with us a deeper well of water, springing up in a dry land.
Words can sink you or float you. And people are sinking. We find ourselves in a season of life in which people are lost and afraid, but as writers, we’re prepared—we’ve got skills. We have the ability to mold words into life preservers for those who are drowning in despair. Now is the time to dispatch them.
In these troubled times, our lives have taken a sudden change. So many plans have been way-laid, but not without purpose. The wise know not to look backward but forward. As for Christian writers, we know we’ve been given new marching orders—life experience has been our boot camp, and as authors of words, we’ve been called to duty. This may come as surprise to many, but we have now been enlisted into the Literary Coast Guard. It’s time to put on the life vest of God’s truth and to launch your words like lifeboats into today’s turbulent seas. Be ready to resuscitate and revive lost hope and to give people a reason to take their next breath.
Have you heard the armed forces are boosting enlistment?As writers, our weapons of warfare are books instead of bombs, poems in place of guns. We are soldiers armed with an arsenal of words. Christians have been taken out of church buildings and deployed to a boots-on-the-ground battle. This is your moment in time to make a difference.
If the armed forces are not your cup-of-tea, then prepare yourself to be a missionary to the United Statesof America. Fields of fear and cities of hopelessness are ready to be conquered with courage and joy. We have all heard of Africa, Haiti, the Middle East as popular mission fields but what about America? Is prosperity, or lack of, the only measure of a country’s need? We are a country of broken families, drug and alcohol addictions, depression and suicide, and sexual addictions. Perhaps God has declared 2020 tobe the year missionaries are dispatched to this country. So here we are, authors of truth, smack-dab in the center of a vast mission field—whether we like it or not.
The U.S. has never experienced anything like this particular pandemic before. Historically, there have been many killer diseases—the Spanish Flu of the twenties, and more recently Sars, and H1N1, and the list goes on. But never before has a virus been so contagious or able to make such rapid global assault. But take heart, we are not unprepared. Just as Esther of the Bible was divinely placed in a time of national crisis, we also have been placed here “for such a time as this.” Each of us have been hand-picked for this season in history to use our abilities as best we can.
If we’ve been called to be soldiers, then words are our weapons. If we’ve been called to the mission field, our words are as food and water. If we’ve been called to the healing profession, our words will be the anecdote to pain. As anxiety and depression increase, it’s time for us to wield our words into action.
Statistics show the U.S. has a high suicide rate. In fact, a recent article in Psychology Today, stated suicide has increased every year for twenty years. Typically, one in three people who commit suicide are jobless. In view of today’s increasing job losses we may expect suicides to significantly increase. But we can help these people before it’s too late; our words can help to pull them from their own heart’s tomb.
Armed with God’s word we have power over life and death. We can reach out to our neighbors and family members, but most incredibly we can reach people across the globe. The internet has become a missionary’s dream as the gospel travels across the air waves. Satan is called the prince of the air, but Christ Is the King of all. The internet is still open for Christians to spread life-infused words. Don’t waste this far-reaching arm of opportunity. Social media blurbs; memes; poems; blogs; articles; flash fiction; short stories and novels, are all ways to reach people across the globe, even in their quarantined space.
As you peruse social media, don’t let all the happy platitudes fool you. Posts must stay positive or followers will be lost. If people lose their following they may lose their business or the products they’ve been marketing. As you look at the countless smiling faces plastered across Fb or Instagram, know that many are really upside-down frowns. As followers of Christ we have something real to offer; it’s time to weave these truths into letters, posts, blogs, and stories. If you’re a writer, you’ve been given a passion for words–the gift of weaving them together to form a message of purpose. Now, is the time to use this talent to give others a reason to get up each morning. Words have power.
Christ’s one word, “Come!” gave Peter all the encouragement he needed to walk on water. But the moment he took his eyes off the Lord, and on to the storm, he began to sink. Everywhere, people are sinking—help them to put their eyes where they belong. We have threats of war, global meltdowns, pandemics, destructive weather patterns. Pandemics are a part of history, but they all passed. This too shall pass. The first baby step of hope is to see past the storm to the coming sun. Even if the world were to end, for believers it would only be the beginning.
By our very nature, humans dislike uncertainty and crave routine. Couples are frazzled, getting on one another’s nerves as they battle lockdown fever. Parents are trying to work from home with toddlers hanging on their legs while older kids run wildly about the house. People are afraid of losing their jobs, many already have. Small businesses are failing. But the most challenging part of all is not knowing how and when the crisis will end.
Please consider this thought: Our country is hitting the peak of the virus contagion during the week of Easter—the holiest time of the year for Christians. Is this coincidental? I think not. Is it possible this is God’s perfect timing and we’re being given this unprecedented opportunity to spread the Word? We have the power at our fingertips to share hope for the future, and as we help others, our own joy will follow.
Float someone’s boat today with the hope of God’s love. You’ve been called to be a missionary with a message; a soldier with an arsenal of words; a doctor with injections of hope. You’ve been given the gift of mastering words. Words are tools. Words are art. Let’s not hide our talent under a basket. Now is the time, more than ever before, to let our words flow. You, my friends, now have a captive audience.
Many of us are experiencing some level of shock right now. After all, pandemics don’t happen everyday! My suggestion—breathe deep and slow down. As a former family counselor, I’ve witnessed shock, up close and personal; but you don’t have to be a professional to recognize it. We’ve all been there to some degree.
When trauma happens, the ability to process information slows down. You may be experiencing that now. I admit—I’m there! Today I found myself holding my phone and couldn’t remember why I picked it up. I have friends and family members who are feeling disoriented, overwhelmed, and fearful. Some are feeling nothing—their emotions have shut down with self-protective denial. If you’re having any of these feelings, my suggestion—be kind to yourself. Make time and space to think things through. For me, that translates to sitting by the river, or ocean—thinking and praying. For you, it may mean sitting on your porch watching the birds soar and sing, oblivious to human worries. We’re all wired differently, but many of us could do with a little less adrenaline right now. With that in mind, I’ve made a practical list of ways to cope with a changing world.
Ten ideas to combat pandemic shock:
1. Try not to make sudden, knee-jerk decisions—they may not be good ones. Take the time to make well-informed decisions.
2. Consider a think-tank meeting with wise friends and family members to come up with Plan A, B, or even C—a plan to make life as secure and comfortable as possible. Priority purchasing and sharing resources may be at the top of your discussion list.
3. Accept that some of the old plans may have to be put on hold while the new ones are underway. As fall-out from this pandemic continues to change, we’ll have to change with it. And hopefully the changes, in the long run, will produce new and better versions of ourselves.
4. Don’t kick yourself with—I should’ve done this, or I should’ve done that—no one could’ve seen this pandemic coming!
5. Consider doing some things you haven’t had time for, until now: Reconnect with old friends; work-on strained or broken relationships; finish projects you haven’t had time for; organize closets, drawers and garages; start a new hobby. (Learn to paint, dance, operate a ham-radio, or enhance your computer skills.)
6. Watch movies that make you laugh. Play board games with your family. Do some wild and crazy things that lets your inner child out. (Last week my three-year-old grandchild and I did some evening dancing on the deserted streets of Disney).
7. Get on a work-out program and become super buff!
8. Outdoor activities: Fishing, swimming, boating, backyard sports, picnics. For the Handy Andys–try building a tree-house or chicken coupe for the kiddos.
9. Enhance your work skills with online classes or tutorials
10. This one I can’t resist. As a writer and author, I say, READ, read, and read more. Try some of the great classics like Les Misérables, A Tale of Two Cities, Jane Eyre. Or, download some current books just begging to be read. I’ve never seen so many great books released all at once. (My own book, Dark Motives is set for a May release) And don’t forget that Bible in your dusty bottom drawer!
This crisis will pass, but It’s time to face it—major change has come—for some more than others. My family has already felt our world tilt a little. We’ve taken a financial hit and our jobs have taken a beating. We’re also facing the possibility of having to move from our current residence. But I know this—God is not ignorant of this pandemic. He knows the beginning from the end. I chose to trust He has a plan—a plan much bigger than mine could ever be.
On the bright side, quarantining in times past meant great isolation and loneliness, but today, we have phones, texts, and online social communities to buoy each other up. Most importantly, we have a God that loves us. I’ll keep you all in my prayers!
What-if, on this high-tech planet where people feel naked and vulnerable without smart phones in hand, a sudden global catastrophe occurred that stripped away all electricity and technology? That’s a lot to think about. And it’s pretty frightening.
Last Light brings the reader to Birmingham, Alabama, where Doug and Kay Branning and their four children are torn from a secure life of wealth and luxury and thrust into chaos and danger. Streets suddenly jam with powerless vehicles, airports become engulfed in flames, computers, cell phones, and radios go dead, and general mayhem reigns. Within minutes, the city’s panicking people begin to storm local stores for the daily necessities of life. The darkest side of humanity is unleashed as everyone moves to grab whatever it takes to survive . . . wherever they can find it. Frightened customers fight over bicycles, bottled water, baby formula, and food from emptying shelves, only to find their credit cards won’t work, and outdated cash is the order of the day. And you’ve got it—the banks are closed. (This is the part where I wanted to put the book down and rush out to buy silver and gold!)
While families and friends gather together in shock to come up with possible causes for this chaotic wreckage, others are returning to dark homes to find their spouse or child have not made it back. As problems mount, neighbors who were once strangers, must learn to work together for mutual protection. With time, they acquire the art of bartering goods and how to effectively live off the land. But as you can already guess from viewing a slew of zombie movies, apocalyptic times bring out the best and worst of people. Not only do families in the Branning’s neighborhood need to protect themselves from roaming bands of thieves, but they soon discover there’s a vicious killer amongst them. Surrounded by danger, it becomes necessary to form their own system of law and order.
The people of the town gradually come to terms with a new form of existence; one fraught with danger and hardship. A world where rescue services, medical facilities, or any other modern conveniences are a thing of the past. Many people begin to realize they can’t survive without community effort. At some point, every character in the story must decide for themselves if they’ll focus on their own needs, or, if they’ll reach out to others, sharing what little resources they have. This is the pivotal point in the story in which people either turn to their faith, or to isolation and self-reliance. Doug and Kay Branning and their four children decide to stop living in fear and to trust God to provide for their needs. They also discover the highest form of survival is in giving and helping others.
After reading this book, you’ll probably experience a compelling need to rush out and stock up on canned food, water, and other basic necessities. But don’t worry—after a few days of friendly Netflix, trusty cell phones, and heaping plates of food—you’ll forget all about it. I did. Almost.
This book is the first in a series and each is better than the last. The entire series is a must-read!
Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (NKJ, Isa. 43:19)
Sadness and despair can feel permanent. But it rarely is. Sorrow has an ebb and flow like the rise and crash of ocean waves. The water swells, churns and rises, but just after it crashes, it gradually levels and clears. It’s at this point, you may see beneath the sunlit surface, speckled sand, colorful shells, and gleaming fish. In the same way, after each wave of grief, something new awaits us. Around the corner is good news, fresh opportunities, new friendships, gifts to give, and gifts to receive. Behold, I will do a new thing . . .
A man woke one morning, dreading a phone call from the doctor with his test results. The phone rang and he was given the message his terminal illness was in total remission. The Lord did a new thing. A woman, feeling like an old spinster, waited in a long grocery line on another lonely Friday night. In that line she met the man she married. The Lord did a new thing. A young woman felt betrayed by her husband, and just when all hope was gone, repentance and reconciliation came. The Lord did a new thing.
God always breathes fresh purpose into our lives. It may not be what you thought or hoped, but it will always be what you need. It may not be in your timing, but it will always be timely. Remember, behind each crashing wave is calmer water. Ahead stretches the solid shore.
Calling on all deep thinkers! This book is unique and one of Dekker’s best. The story revolves around a young orphan, Caleb, who was abandoned by his parents. He’s subsequently taken in and raised by an Ethiopian monastery. Caleb, never having gone beyond the monastery walls, has been completely sheltered from the world. He’s never known violence or cruelty, only peace and kindness. But this sweet bliss can’t last long—powerful people want him eliminated and he must flee or die. His enemies know something about Caleb that could change the world, and if they can’t have him, they’ll make sure no one else does.
A relief expert, Jason Marker, along with a French-Canadian nurse, Leiah, work together to rescue Caleb from the monastery. They know if this child gets into the wrong hands, he’ll be subjected to cruel experiments on a physical and psychological level. When Jason and Leiah go in to extract Caleb from his life-long home, exciting twists and turns begin to take place. They are hunted down by unknown enemies, powerful people who want to capitalize from something Caleb possesses—the supernatural ability to heal. As Caleb and his two rescuers flee, they must escape an expert militia, but just as they see no way out, spectacular events begin to happen. Jason and Leiah realize Caleb’s abilities extend much further than anyone had guessed; his pure, untainted faith in God moves events in ways that surpass all scientific explanation. The world isn’t ready for someone like Caleb, nor is he ready for them. He’s special, and his enemies know it.
On a personal level, I wasn’t the same after reading this book; my faith became challenged as never before. Armed with my Bible, I was determined to answer the question: How much of what happens in my life is because of faith or the lack of it? I’m still working on the answers!
If you pick up this book, be prepared to be challenged. It’s almost impossible to read this story without a new awareness of miracles, or a personal desire to explore the possibilities.