I just need to write

Motivation comes and goes. I go through stretches where writing comes easily, and then I go through much longer periods where I don’t have the slightest idea what to say. I just need to write, so that’s what I’m going to do.

My contribution for today – I am grateful to God that, even though I am feeling quite uncertain about the future, I’m not suffering under the weight of anxiety. It’s a blessing to sleep peacefully. Small blessings sustain me, and I need to give thanks for them more often.

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An antidote for anxiety

Lately it’s all too common for me to start the workday with an elevated degree of anxiety about the uncertainty of what lies ahead. When I feel this way I try extra-hard to pray it away. But you know what always makes that anxiety go away? Working…putting my head down and working. There’s no time to worry about anything when the mind is occupied with the business of getting stuff done.

That doesn’t mean that the prayer isn’t helpful. God knows that what I need is not to be rescued from hard work, but to be equipped to do hard work.

Fear of the Known

Irrational fears about my (in)ability to perform my job at a high level have hung around my neck for many years. I’ve tried to determine why, but with little success. Even when people tell me that I’m doing a good job on a particular project I can’t seem to find any peace in that because there’s a part of me that doesn’t believe it. Something will happen – a detail overlooked, a deadline in jeopardy – and the old familiar panic starts to creep in yet again.

I’ve been reading a book in which the author talks about Jonathan, the son of King Saul. In 1 Samuel 14, he entreats his armor bearer to join him on a crazy plan to attack a large group of Philistine soldiers, just the two of them. The author of this book commends Jonathan for trusting in God and taking a huge leap into the unknown, encouraging others to find similar ways to boldly step out in faith in their lives.

I haven’t been especially bold in my life, and I wonder if it’s because my fear of the known is actually greater than any fear of the unknown. Fear of those details and deadlines, fear of errors in formulas and forgotten tasks, fear of stumbling through an explanation without conveying confidence or expertise. I worship a God whose perfect love is supposed to cast out all fear, who longs for me to do everything He has equipped me to do through His strength; and yet there are too many mornings where I start the day feeling alone and helpless. I tell myself it’s because I’m not doing something I’m passionate about, but should that really matter? Joseph couldn’t have been too excited about being a slave and a prisoner, but that didn’t prevent him from being given authority over others because he performed his duties so well.

I’m think I’m ready for some unknown, because the known keeps robbing me of joy.

Time Mis-Management

Anyone else finding it hard to stay on top of everything important in your life? In addition to trying (not hard enough) to promote a book and write a blog, we have a side business selling antiques and collectibles. Despite my fervent desires, these things do not happen by themselves. The time required to make any of these successful comes after working a full-time job and being a husband and father, which encompasses meeting the needs of my family and such glamorous duties as grocery shopping and doing the dishes. On top of that, the first time I wrote this paragraph I completely failed to mention the importance of spiritual growth through prayer, study and service. How can anyone find adequate time for some of these things, much less all of them, especially now that The Defenders is out on Netflix?

I don’t want to bore anyone with a post about having a finite number of non-sleeping hours in a week and having to be wise in our choices of how to use them, so I’ll just ask the question – how do you do it? How do you make time for what’s important in your life?

Creativity Block

I set aside time each morning for writing. I put in on my calendar because I lack the discipline to follow through consistently. But putting something on the calendar doesn’t automatically make ideas flow. As often as I have an idea but lack the will to write I experience the opposite problem – a desire to write without any clear idea of what to say.

I’m certain that I’m not alone in feeling this way. I’d be very interested in how others overcome this. When you’re feeling moved to create, but you lack a specific vision, what do you do? Do you create something, even if you don’t feel much inspiration behind it, because it’s better to use those creativity muscles? Or does it feel contrived to try and force creativity?

I’d love to hear how others approach this.

A Brief Reflection on Charlottesville

[Jesus said,] “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:43-48‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The dehumanizing of people is a cancer in our culture. It permeates attitudes and ideas across the political and social spectrum. People are lumped into categories and viewed with contempt through a narrow lens that diminishes them as individuals; when we do this we fail to realize that we are also diminishing ourselves.

Even as we pray for healing, strength and unity in response to the terrible spectacle of this past weekend, we must also pray for those enslaved to poisonous ideologies. The corrupting power of sin can’t be broken by laws, programs, rallies or coercion. Sick minds and sick hearts need healing. Sick people need a Savior.

Q&A – 3

Hard to believe that my presentation to Job Seekers Network was less than two weeks ago. It feels longer than that, perhaps because I’m already working on my next presentation, which is about 5 weeks away. The focus of that message is the power of storytelling, something I am constantly refining in my own life as I try to explain to people why I wrote a book and what the book is about.

What are some tips on journaling?

The best advice I can offer is simply to make it a priority and stick with it. The primary reason I have kept journals in the past is to process my emotions, experiences and questions in a safe place. Those pages are mine and mine alone, although I chose to incorporate a lot of journal content into my book. I journal when I need to, not just for the sake of doing it, although someone who aspires to write for a living probably ought to need to more often!

Because the journal is for your benefit, and should be for your eyes only, it’s important not to self-censor. If you’re mad at someone, get it out of your system. If you’re scared and confused about a turn of events, describe why and see if any insights emerge that can help you push through it. Lack of honesty in your journal is the same as writing a work of fiction.

I like keeping a paper journal, as opposed to using my computer. It’s easier to carry around, and there’s an emotional satisfaction in seeing the effort that went into the transference of ideas from mind to paper; I suppose it’s an act of therapy. The downside to paper is that I have terrible handwriting, and if I don’t keep my pencil sharpened it gets harder to read the longer I write. Also, there are times when I feel like my hand can’t write fast enough to keep up with the flurry of thoughts in my head.

Re-reading journals from past years has helped me remember who I was and what I  experienced during those times. I can see patterns of growth I might have otherwise denied or forgotten. But that wouldn’t be possible if I wasn’t willing to be really honest with myself, so if you’re going to start keeping a journal please don’t ever be afraid to be your most authentic self. If you can’t do it there, where can you?