“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
You know, ya gotta love John the Baptist. I mean, come on—the guy is as about as down-to-earth and real as you get, the true salt of the earth. His clothes were made of camel hair and leather, he ate nothing but locusts and honey, and speaking of sodium chloride, his tongue was salty enough to call a spade a spade … or a Pharisee a brood of vipers. Let’s face it—he was a truth-seeker. A bottom-liner. A no-nonsense type of guy. Everything I love.
Which is why I thought of him this week when the Christy Award finalists and the Genesis Semi-Finalists were announced, because that is the moment of truth for so many of us Christian writers. Will we final? Are we good enough? Will we impact people with what we write? You see, the Christy Awards are the Christian Oscars, and I don’t care what kind of Inspy fiction you write, there’s gotta be a longing in your heart to snatch one of those babies. At least for me there is, especially since I’ve been a die-hard fan of Catherine Marshall since I was 23, the author who wrote the novel, Christy, for whom the Christys are named.
I didn’t final, of course, a bottom line that always brings me back down to earth with a not-so-gentle thud, but to be honest, stone-cold reality is where I like to be. Not floating on a cloud, mind you, but on solid ground where the truth lives and breathes and anchors you to what is really important. And the truth is—it’s not about me. It’s about Him. Good ol’ John the Baptist in a nutshell—we must become less so Jesus can become more. This has been an endless mantra for me and something I strive for despite the blood in my veins and the humanity in my soul.
Last week I wrote about the evils of comparing in my Journal Jot, which essentially is what contests are, elevating some over others, and I honestly have nothing against that. In fact, I love American Idol, the Oscars, the Grammys and the Olympics—they’re exhilarating and fun to watch and, quite frankly, competition is healthy and important to our society. Without question, excellence in music, movies or sports brings pleasure to the masses, yes, but not finaling, winning or placing? Who would believe that it has its benefits as well? You see, those things bring one’s focus back to why we as Christians do what we do, be it sing, write, dance, perform, compete or just live our lives. For His glory and His pleasure. Like my good friend and author Cathy Gohlke said in her recent Seeker post entitled “The Road Less Traveled to Publication”: “Suddenly, I had not only permission to do what gives me joy, but the assurance of God’s blessing. I felt like the Olympic runner Eric Liddel (from the movie, Chariots of Fire), who felt God’s pleasure when he ran, only for me, it was, “When I write, I feel God’s pleasure!”
God’s pleasure—the place where each of us truly wants to be. To give Him pleasure with our obedience, our prayers, our lives … and yes, even with our attitudes of humility and thanksgiving when we don’t final, don’t win, don’t make the grade. And the beautiful thing is that His pleasure is eternal, not fleeting like awards that can tarnish with age or taint our humility, bestowing instead a holy glow when He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
No, I didn’t final in the Christys this week, but I sincerely congratulate those wonderful authors who did and my prayers are with them. The good news is, however, that I did final in the Rochelle, and so help me, God, it brought tears to my eyes. So, what’s the Rochelle, you ask? No, it’s not a contest like the Christys, but in a bottom-line, rubber-meets-the-road, John the Baptist kind of way, it’s a prize far greater, bringing joy to my soul and pleasure to my God. You see, I received an incredible e-mail earlier this week from a beautiful reader friend by the name of Rochelle, which was a wake-up call to remind me just why I write in the first place. It’s for His pleasure and glory. Not mine, not my editor’s, not the Christy committee and not the Christian market. It’s for Him, first and foremost, a lesson I had to learn all over again in the wake of the Christys, and all because a sweet lady by the name of Rochelle took the time to send me this letter:
I have a friend whom I truly enjoy and care about. She is a reader and we have discussed some spiritual things before. Based on that, I recommended your books. We had a deal. I would read one of her books and she would read one of mine. She has fallen in love with the O’Connors and is falling in love with God in the process. She recently told me that after reading your books she felt the need to go back to church and so she, her husband, and 2 children have been attending church regularly and are even taking classes in the church to learn more about God and His love for them. Thank you for being able to share Christ with those who may not have been easily drawn to Him in any other way.
Okay, somebody, quick—pass me the Kleenex, please! I mean, seriously, does it get any better than that? Not for me, my friends. True, it doesn’t shine or glimmer like a Christy nor can I plop it in my signature line, bio or resume, but somewhere way, way up in the heavens above, there’s a holy God smiling, and I gotta tell you, I can feel His pleasure clear down to the tips of my painted toes.
My Journal Jot last week spoke of the fact that we are all pieces of the puzzle in God’s heart, like Faith O’Connor tells her little sister in A Hope Undaunted, “You own a little piece of God’s heart, like a piece of a puzzle that’s missing. A piece nobody else can fill.” Yes, some pieces are louder, more vibrant and colorful and stand out in a pile of die-cut cardboard, but all are truly needed to create the whole that brings pleasure to the creator … or in our case, the Creator. “Now you are the Body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” —1 Corinthians 12:27. Colorful or no, bestseller or, award winner or no, we are all important pieces of God’s heart, not only vital to the joy and pleasure of the Almighty, but the pleasure of others when we emulate Him. Like another author friend of mine, Sharon Hinck, so beautifully wrote in the excellent devotional, Mornings with Jesus, which I highly recommend:
“When the first snowstorm of the winter arrived recently, I set up a jigsaw puzzle. As I worked on it throughout the week, I glanced passed the pieces that seemed dull and uninteresting. My eyes were drawn instead to the key red piece for the roof, or the vibrant blue bit over the treetops. I shoved aside a muddy brown piece and left it to wait at the side of the card table. But when the puzzle was complete, that last piece was vital. Each piece, each shape, each color, contributed to the finished work. God hasn’t called me to be every piece in the puzzle or even to be the brightest or shiniest piece. He asks me to be the specific piece He has made me to be.”
The specific piece He has made me to be. Oh, the reward in resting, enjoying, thriving as the piece—the author, the mother, the daughter, the wife, the friend, the person—He created us to be! As God is my witness, I will take it over a thousand Christys because I have learned—as Katie O’Connor learns from her sister, Faith, in A Heart Revealed—that “His will is … the path to our highest pleasure.”
And so, I want to thank dear Rochelle for taking the sting out of not finaling this week and also my sweet friends, Gabe S. and Jen C., for your God-breathed encouragement during a week that my soul desperately needed to soak it up. Like Aaron and Hur in the Bible who held up Moses’ hands during battle so the Lord’s will could be done, you held my hands up until the battle against discouragement and jealousy could be won, and it was! And for my precious friend, Laura, who I know was praying for me just like I was praying for her. You are remarkable blessings, all! Finally, I want to thank good ol’ quirky John the Baptist for teaching me that less is more—me becoming less so Jesus can become more—the true path to peace and joy in my writing, my family and in my life. What a guy! And, oh my, what a God!
FUN WEEKEND EDITION IN SEEKERVILLE!!! Everything from how to know if your agent is good to why old books smell PLUS Christian Retailing video clips of Mary Connealy, Deb Giusti, Audra Harders and me talking about our THREE FAVORITE BOOKS. Join us at http://seekerville.blogspot.com/2012/04/seekerville-weekend-edition_21.html
NEW FEATURE ON MY WEBSITE!! I read somewhere (Publisher’s Weekly, I think), where authors need to put excerpts on their websites because it increases sales, but I have been MOST negligent in this, so I have remedied that. I now have a tab on my website called “Excerpts,” where I list my favorite romantic and spiritual scenes from each of my books, including my upcoming novel, A Love Surrendered. So spread the word if you know anyone you think might like my books—just direct them to my Excerpts link for a taste of my writing style, okay? Thank you SO much!!
YEP, THE SALE IS STILL ON … Steven’s story, A Love Surrendered is ON SALE IN PRE-ORDER!!! For a very limited time, you can pre-order A Love Surrendered for only $7.72, which is almost half off, so if you plan to order it, NOW is the time to do it and if you do, PLEASE like the link, okay? Here are the links, but keep in mind that CBD.com’s sale price may not be loaded yet:
Barnes and Noble:
Happy Weekend, all!