Life Renewed

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Beginning to believe

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So today, I was challenged to do what it takes to truly believe that I’m a writer. I’ve declared it, and It’s the answer I give when asked what I do, but do I really believe at the core of my being that this is what I am?

I write at work. And on a purely technical level, that does make me a writer. But for me, that’s not enough. To me, that doesn’t make me a writer. I have to write from my heart. I have to let what’s in me out. In my mind, it’s when I write for me that I become a writer. But there’s an interesting dichotomy here, because before I can do that, I have to believe I’m a writer. I have to sit in that truth and give myself permission to create.

Jeff Goins says we have to trick ourselves–we have to trick ourselves into believing that we are writers. And this isn’t about lying to ourselves. It’s about doing what what we need to do to help ourselves recognize who we really are. Because most of us don’t believe that we are who we were made to be. Most of us believe lies about ourselves. To become who we were made to be, we have to rebuke those lies. We have to shake them off. We have to begin to step into the truth. But we first must believe it–really believe it–to the point where it changes our actions. To the point where we begin to live out of that truth.

In today’s challenge, Jeff Goins quotes a wise man who said that that we are the sum of our conscious thoughts. And this is true. Words create worlds. And the words we speak over ourselves–whether audible or not–will make us who we are. So what do I have to do to believe that I’m a writer? I have to silence the lies. And when they’re too loud to be silenced, I must ignore them. I must speak truth louder. The key is being intentional about what I focus on. Will I focus on the voices that tell me I can’t or will I focus on the truth I know deep down–that I am a writer? This is what will determine what I believe.

Written by liferenewed

June 7, 2012 at 3:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

My Declaration: I’m a writer

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So, I recognize that It’s been a while (a long while) since I’ve blogged, but I’m starting to find my voice again, and I plan to establish a new presence on the web (stay tuned). In the meantime, as I hone my craft, I’ve decided to re-enter the bloggosphere by participating in Jeff Goins’ 15-day writing challenge. You can learn more about this challenge here. But first, be sure to check out my declaration, and feel free to share your own in the comments.

I am a writer

I am a writer. I’m not a wanna-be writer, a struggling writer, or a future writer. I am a writer. Here, today, in this moment. I know how to craft a sentence, a paragraph, an essay, a story. But that’s not what makes me a writer. I am a writer because I believe I have something to say. Something that matters to me, and just maybe, matters to you too.

I’m not Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, Emily Dickenson, J.D. Salinger, or Donald Miller. I’m Jessie Lester. And I’m a writer. I walk in the footsteps of these greats. I admire and learn from their work. But I will never be them. And I don’t need to try. All I need to do–all I can do–is be me. I can ignore the voices that tell me I won’t succeed. I can–I must–laugh in the face of fear and embrace the possibility of failure. Because this is where true art–true creation–begins: in the place of vulnerability. The place where I stop caring what people think, stop trying to create a persona, and begin to write from my heart.

This is my declaration. It’s for me, more than it’s for you. It’s me owning who and what I am. And as I do this, I begin to walk toward my destiny. Perhaps slowly at first, but I’m taking steps nonetheless. And I invite you to join me. What do you need to declare over your life? What fears do you need to reject, and what potential failures is it time to embrace? Whatever it is, start today. Take the first step and declare your destiny.

Written by liferenewed

June 5, 2012 at 9:11 pm

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Surrender

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It’s the day you wake up and admit

it’s not working.

 

Your feet hit the floor in the same place as always,

but today you feel the thud —

the mechanical grinding as everything starts to move.

 

You’re walking round a racetrack,

promising yourself you’ll win.

But you’ve been at this far too long to believe your own voice.

 

It’s the day you ask the question — why it even matters.

The competition that is.

Everything you believed was important.

 

You can see them all behind you —

the years you spent looking for perfection.

They mock your broken reflection and the

uncertainty of future.

 

It’s the day you finally quit — just stop trying so hard.

Stop caring. Or maybe it’s when you really start.

 

Stepping of the track, you put your hands up

and surrender.

Written by liferenewed

September 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Posted in Life lessons, Poetry

Learning from Lars

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In honor of Valentines day, I’m re-posting a blog from a few years ago. As you celebrate love, take a few moments to think about what it truly means to love those around us, and seize the opportunity to Learn form Lars. Lars and the Real Girl is, in my opinion one of the best best love stories found outside the Bible. Here’s why I think so:

I want to give a shout out for Lars and the Real Girl, an unusual but very sweet and endearing movie about the need for community, physical touch, and true, compassionate love. It’s also peppered with a bit of Napoleon Dynamite-style humor, though not to the extreme. Don’t be scared away by the basic description: Lars orders a life-size doll and is convinced that she is his real, live girlfriend. Strange? Yes. Raunchy? Absolutely not. For a plot that has potential to go south fast, Lars and the Real Girl keeps it clean and honest. It’s all part of the movie’s commentary on true, authentic love. I think we can all relate to Lars on some levels, and we can all learn from him and his rather unusual ‘girlfriend,’ Bianca.

Lars loves people.
He just has a funny way of showing it. We see this from the very opening scene when he gives his sister-in-law, Karen, his blanket to keep her warm on the short walk home. He’s afraid of interaction with people, but that does not mean he doesn’t love them. Karen doesn’t understand him and thinks she has something against her, but over the course of the movie, she learns that love does not look the same to everyone.

Physical touch hurts Lars. He equates it to the burning sensation you feel when you’ve been outside in the cold and come back in where it’s warm. He wears layers to help protect him from the pain of physical touch. Lars’ strange ‘condition’ is a commentary on the pain involved in love. By locking himself in his own world he has indeed become ‘cold,’ and as he begins to interact with others, he is stripping off some of his layers and beginning to expose himself. If we are to love authentically, we will have to do the same, and chances are, it just might hurt.

Bianca used to be a missionary. Lars says she is on sabbatical to experience the world, but what he does not realize is that she is still a missionary, actually helping him to experience the world. Bianca brings a message of love both to Lars and to his entire community. She gives Lars the confidence he lacks to begin to interact with his family and his friends from work. And she helps the community — especially Karen and Gus — understand that loving someone means accepting them as they are, and not trying to change them. At the end, the pastor calls her a ‘teacher,’ and a ‘lesson in courage,’ and he is right, because true love, the kind that Lars, Gus, and Karen all learn about, takes an incredible amount of courage.

Lars love for Bianca is genuine. He does not use her, as one might expect a man would use an attractive, life-size doll. In fact, Lars never touches Bianca romantically, save a sweet and simple kiss near the end. To Lars, commitment supersedes anything physical in a relationship. He knows that Bianca is committed to him, and that’s enough. Even when Bianca is unsure about his marriage proposal, he stands by the belief that “a man doesn’t cheat on his woman.” Some of the most endearing scenes are when Lars waits nervously at Bianca’s weekly doctor appointments, when he sings to her at the lake, and when he reads aloud to her. Lars gives of his time and affection out of genuine love, not a desire to get something in return.

Sometimes it’s just about having the presence of another person. In the words of the women from the community, “that’s what people do in times of crisis. They come over and sit.”

Gus tells Lars that you know you are grown up when you decide to do what’s right for everyone else, even if it is not what you want. Ironically, I think that Gus learns this more than anyone. He has to overcome his embarrassment to do what’s right and love his brother unconditionally. And we know that Lars has learned this at the end of the movie when he finally lets Bianca go. He has discovered the hardest thing about love: sometimes it means that we sacrifice that which is most dear to us. I think that Lars sacrifices Bianca because he has grown up, in Gus’ definition of the term. Lars realizes that, while love involves sacrifice, it also does not demand it of others. He cannot show genuine love to those who love him as long as Bianca is in the way and so, he gives her up.

Written by liferenewed

February 14, 2011 at 5:49 am

Healing for your bones

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What I learned from walking on a broken leg

The day after Christmas, my sister talked me into going ice skating. It had been years since I’d laced up a pair of skates, but I took to the ice like a pro. Okay fine, not exactly like a pro. But I was skating quite well and having a great time, and that’s when I learned the main difference between me and the professionals: professionals have been trained how to fall without twisting their ankle and fracturing their leg. That’s right — five minutes before our skate time was up, this is exactly what I did.

As I went down, I knew it would be a bad fall. I wondered if I would break something. But I was able to get up and walk away. I was in pain and my leg was swollen, but no one with me thought it was broken. And let’s face it. I didn’t want it to be broken. I didn’t want to spend the night in an ER waiting room; I didn’t want this to slow me down. So, I decided to take some ibuprofen, apply ice, and keep an eye on it — if it got worse, I’d go to the doc. But it didn’t get worse. It got better. After two days, my limp was gone. After three, I was back at the gym. If I took it easy, I didn’t have any pain.

They say hindsight is 20/20, and looking back, of course I can see signs that I should have had this checked out, but at the time, they were easy to ignore. It was easy to rationalize why it would still be hurting — why my ankle was still swollen. You don’t fall that hard and not have pain, right? After three weeks of telling myself I didn’t need to slow down — that I could push through this — I finally gave in and decided to see the doctor. More for peace of mind than anything.

That was three and a half weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been in a cast up to my mid thigh, hobbling around on crutches. And let me tell you one thing I’ve learned — if God needs to slow you down, he can do it. I’m not suggesting that God caused my fall, but I am saying that he used it. He used it to get my attention. To give me some time to pray, listen, and think.

One thing I realized during this time is how we often ignore sin in much the same way I ignored my injury. Think about it. When God begins to bring sin issues to our attention, it’s easier to ignore them or make excuses than face up to them. If we admit to them, that means we have deal with them, and dealing with the sin in our lives is messy, unpleasant, and downright inconvenient. We want to continue with our normal routine. Addressing sin would simply rock the boat.

The thing is that, much like my injury, sin won’t go away just because we ignore it. We can try to convince ourselves that it’s getting better. We can clean up our lives just enough that the outward signs of it our gone. But unless we’ve addressed the heart issue, the pain, division, and dissatisfaction caused by sin will remain.

God used my injury to show me some areas where I’d been ignoring sin in my own life. He used it to show me that my focus was off. I was pursuing other things with the vigor and attention that should have been focused on him. My injury forced me to take a break from some of these things and to look at my heart. And it gave me time to re-focus my attention back on God. And so, I’m thankful. Having a broken leg sucks, and hobbling around on crutches is a drag. But having a God who loves me enough to call me out on my crap, encourage me to face up to my sin, and draw me closer to himself, is pretty awesome. For that, I’m thankful.

A week or so ago, I came across a verse in Proverbs 3 that reads, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing for your flesh and refreshment for your bones.” I’d read the verse before, but it took on a whole new meaning when I literally had a broken bone. And I think it gets to the core of what God’s been teaching me. Making excuses for, or ignoring, sin is human wisdom. If I’m wise in my own eyes, then I’m too proud to admit when God calls me out on my sin. But if I honestly fear God, I’ll want nothing more than to address my sin issues and turn from the evil in my heart. And that’s my prayer, that as God continues to bring physical health and refreshment, he’ll also work on my heart, stripping me of “self wisdom” and giving me the strength to turn away from sin.

Written by liferenewed

February 11, 2011 at 12:51 am

Are you losing your attention?

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My thoughts on a world in love with technology

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person from my generation who feels that technology has actually done more to complicate — rather than simplify — our lives. I wonder if I’m the only one who finds it disconcerting just how addicted we are to instant communication and worrisome that we spend so much of our time in the virtual world. I’m old enough to say that I remember life before the internet but not so old that I lived most of my life without it. Despite the fact that I can navigate my way around most computers with relative ease, I often feel like a grandma among my peers. Why? Because while others are concentrating on how they can pull themselves closer to the world of technology, I’m wondering what I can do to push myself farther from it.

Let me explain. I love technology. I love that I can listen to podcasts of my favorite radio programs or watch TV shows days, weeks — even months — after they’ve aired. I love that I can get news from anywhere on the planet at any time of day. I like knowing about big events in my friend’s lives moments after they take place. And let’s be honest, I love that I can type my symptoms into a computer to diagnose my own illnesses (can you say hypochondriac?) or Google my latest debate with my sister to prove that, once again, I’m right. But in the midst of my increasing reliance on, and gratefulness for, technology, I also have a growing unease about the role we allow it to play in our lives.

Ours is a hyper-connected world — we’re constantly plugged in to an endless stream of information that is taking many of us to interesting, often beneficial, places. But if we’re not vigilant in our use of technology, I think we run the risk of unwittingly allowing this stream to carry us away. Recent history shows that as a society, we’re pretty quick to accept new innovations and integrate them into our lives. Our ability to adapt and change with the times is part of what makes us human. Nevertheless, I sometimes wonder if, in our eagerness to improve our lives through technology, we’re failing to recognize the sacrifices that technology demands of us.

Simply stated, we only have so much time and attention to dole out. While technology may increase our efficiency, it also demands our time and attention. And sometimes, I think we fail to realize that for everything we add to our lives, we must also give something up. That’s just how it works. This principle isn’t unique to technology — it’s true of any venture we pursue — but I find it particularly important where technology is concerned, because technology is beginning to infiltrate every area of our lives. I recently heard someone on NPR saying that nearly everything we do today is virtual. I wanted to argue with him, but generally speaking, he’s right. This worries me. It worries me, because the more involved we become in the virtual world, the less engaged we will be with the real one. A fascinating infographic detailing the world’s obsession with Facebook recently reported that 57 percent of people talk to others more online than they do in real life. Again, the more time we spend in the virtual world, the more opportunities we’ll miss out on in the real one.

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI shared his opinion of social networking in a speech entitled “Truth, Proclamation, and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age.” While I’ve not succeeded in finding a complete transcript of his speech, what I gather from the summaries is that he condoned social networks as something that can add value to our lives, while also issuing a strong warning of what he sees as their dangers. The Pope made it very clear that we must use wisdom and caution in the way we engage in social networks, asking: “Is there a risk of being more distracted because our attention is fragmented and absorbed in a world ‘other’ than the one in which we live?”

I think that, in the digital age, we’d all benefit from using this question as a microscope with which to examine our own lives. Is the technology we use enhancing our lives or simply absorbing our attention? Where is our focus? I’m not here to bash social networks or suggest that we give up on technology and join the Amish. Instead, I’m imploring us to evaluate the technology we do use and ask if it’s truly adding to our lives. This is an ongoing process. In our fast-paced world, this question will never get old. And the answers aren’t the same for everyone. The things that enable you to live your life more effectively may prove to be a distraction for me. But a good rule of thumb, if you’re wondering what you might need to limit — or eliminate altogether — is to examine where your time and attention are focused. Do a systems check to see how grounded you are in the real world. Ask yourself if your life has become more complicated as a result of your technology usage. Are you struggling to maintain friendships in the physical world, while constantly stressing over the nuances your virtual relationships? Are you sitting at the computer, wondering why you don’t have as much time as you used to? Are you reading about your friend’s days on Facebook, wondering why you’ve lost touch with your family?

It’s when we don’t stop to ask these kinds of questions that I think technology becomes dangerous. When it comes down to it, technology is just a tool. It can be used well, or it can be misused. Using it correctly requires purpose and attention. And I think the benefits of technology are worth it — worth taking the time to regularly sit down and evaluate the risks.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to post a link to this blog on Facebook.

Written by liferenewed

February 4, 2011 at 4:33 am

Talk about offensive …

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Why censoring Mark Twain is an assault on art and education

Few things rile me up enough that I talk aloud to the radio while alone in my car, but last Wednesday, when I heard the news about an Alabama-based company’s plans to publish a “new,” censored edition of Mark Twain’s classic novels—Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn—I couldn’t refrain from speaking my mind to the broadcasters on the other end of the airways. “Seriously? One hundred years after his death, Mark Twain is rolling over in his grave,” was all I could think.

The edited books are the project of Professor Alan Gribbon, who is replacing the n-word with that of slave and removing all appearances of the term injun in an attempt to make the novels less offensive. While Gribbon’s motivation — to see more schools teaching and more children reading these classic books — is noble, his method is a slap in the face to literature and art and a cheapening of the education system.

Mark Twain was one of the first to employ the use of local vernacular and slang in his writings, and with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, he paved the way for similar works that would follow, all while portraying a culture, a way of life, and a slice of our country’s history. He chose his words carefully, and he had a reason for using them. Twain didn’t just throw in the n-word to be offense or see how quickly he could get his works on the banned books list, he used  it intentionally because it said something about the era his stories are set in and the attitudes of his characters—something that slave just can’t say.

Stripping Twain’s novels of the n-word in an attempt to make them less offensive is equivalent to painting clothes on replicas of art from the Sistine chapel in an attempt to avoid scenes of nudity — once you’ve messed with the art you really can’t call it a work of Michel Angelo anymore, can you? And I’m sorry, but if I find myself reading about Indian Joe, rather than Injun Joe, I’m no longer reading Tom Sawyer. Twain’s language is an integral part of his characters. And, it’s an integral part of the story he’s trying to tell — a story that I think kids would benefit from reading, in its holistic entirety.

It get that the n-word is offensive. And I agree with those who believe that it should not be liberally thrown into the hands of our youth. But I don’t think that scrubbing it out of classic novels is the answer. We can’t scrub it out of history, and we can’t scrub it out of existence. It may be a dark part of our past and an unpleasant — though thankfully less frequent — occurrence in our present, but it’s still there. Our kids are eventually going to encounter it (whether they read Mark Twain or not), and the way we deal with it today will determine their attitudes toward it in the future.

Again, I’m not suggesting that we hand our children Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn and allow them to interpret his use of language on their own — from their limited knowledge of culture and history. On the contrary, I’d like to see us using these novels and their use of the highly offensive n-word as an educational tool. As parents, educators, and individuals who have influence in children’s lives, let’s sit down with our kids and talk about what they’re reading. Let’s discuss the n-word and help them understand what it meant in the mid-1800s, what it means today, and why Mark Twain used it when portraying life along the Mississippi River. Who knows, it might just lead to open conversation about race, the history of African Americans in our country, and the tension and struggles that Huckleberry Finn feels as he befriends a man for whom others have so much hate. Twain makes an important point with his use of the n-word, and as I’ve already suggested, slave simply doesn’t mean the same thing. The two words have different connotations and evoke different feelings. If our children are going to learn from history, they need to understand that.

I know one could argue Gibbon and his publishers have a right to do whatever they please and if we don’t like it, we can go on reading our classic editions of Twain. And in some respects, that may be true. What I’m reacting to, however is the fact they’re tampering with art that was not theirs to begin with, and in doing so, they’re diluting the message and doing our children a gross disservice. And that’s what I find truly offensive.

Written by liferenewed

January 11, 2011 at 5:15 am

Posted in Books