Saturday, January 28, 2017

Resisted: We, The Authored Volume III

“I was transformed by the program.
Nothing is the same now.
Not me. Not Kyle.
Not the world.
It’s been two years since the Titan first started killing off Legionaries. He challenged us all to a game but killed ninety-percent of our soldiers before the fight for our survival could begin.
My brother is dead. So is Sarah and all of Kyle’s task force.
Europe is a nuclear wasteland.
The other continents have gone dark.
America is barely a flicker on earth’s rotating screen.
And I know that if things don’t change, its meager light will go out.”

-        The Prime Way Program: Divided (Coming fall, 2017)
Conflict sparks a story and keeps it in motion. The first element of plotting an author must determine is the inciting incident, the moment when a character’s life is thrust in a new, life-altering direction. Before the grand conflict, all that exists are a backstory, a character with tremendous flaws and limitless potential. What matters most about the character comes from the pain, the suffering and times when he or she has to either conquer or be conquered. The story itself stems from resistance.
When readers reach the final sentence of a novel, they desire resolution, a sigh-worthy scene where the protagonist at last has what he or she has been fighting to gain. THE END is the end for a reason because once a book or series is finished, the conflict is, in theory, no more. How can we, the authored, live with the expectation that life is meant to be different for us; we should be without obstacles and villains, we should waltz into our dreams as easily as stepping across a threshold?
Without a villain, there cannot be victory.
Without obstacles, a story is an eternal state of THE END.
Obstacles come in various forms. Writers have pinpointed and categorized these struggles: man versus self, man versus man, and man versus world. However, there is one other conflict not included in the list—man versus Satan.
Self is a villain often overlooked. We, the authored, sabotage ourselves. Like any well-developed character, we believe our own lies, we allow insecurities to riot against our calling. Self is an insurgence waging war against the confidence gifted to us as children of the Most High God.
Man is the more notorious villain. In most books and movies, there is an individual wreaking havoc on the protagonist’s life or threatening the world on a massive scale. Although used by storytellers to give evil a face, men can be overcome. They are mortal. They believe their own lies.
World is a villain with power over the physical. It can attack a character’s body and state of wellbeing, but it cannot fully reach an emotional level. The world doesn’t have supernatural authority. However, its ability to deprive is its greatest weapon.
Satan surpasses all villains. He is our greatest enemy, knows when we are weak and works without relent to prevent us from fully experiencing the favor of God. He works . . . but the war against him has been won. We, the authored, have been victoriously rescued and claimed. Our THE END was written before we breathed our beginning. The conflict was resolved before the inciting incident.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John, 16:33
Suffering comes with the question of why, and the answer isn’t sweet and straightforward. It isn’t wrapped in a gift box or include hot tea and fuzzy slippers to comfort us while we deal with its truth. Suffering is the foundation of our story. We live to fight a God-won war, to grow as characters in His saga and reach the victorious THE END. We suffer to manifest the glory of Jesus Christ on earth and magnify His sovereignty.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” – 1 Peter 5:10
My intentions for this post are not to woo with poetic language. Instead, I desire only to offer truth and encourage my fellow comrades. We have been called by the Living Christ to enter into a crusade for His glory. We, the authored, suffer so we can have a meaty, rich story that oozes His divine power. The war isn’t easy and will require everything to complete. With urgency and determination, we must clothe ourselves in righteous armor and battle the villains, obstacles, conflict.
We must allow God to conquer our villains by surrendering ourselves to His plot.
Friends, I have been fighting the good fight and I am weary. Conflict rages in the rooms I enter, saturates the air I breathe, but God has declared victory over my heart and soul. He has won the battles I am now facing, so all I must do is endure.
“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” – Exodus 14:14
Our villains do not define us, whether they are memories of sexual abuse, bad relationships, addiction, anxiety or depression, etc. If we have entered into the kingdom of God by confessing our mistakes and asking Him to claim us as sons and daughters, the conflict in our stories has been resolved. We fight with divine armor and God-favor. We are free of fear.
What are your villains? Have you surrendered your pain to God and asked Him to transform your suffering into a glory-rich story?
The protagonist climbed the plot graph, gained and lost, bled and sweat, reached a climax, then plummeted down a falling action. They endured a catastrophic amount of turmoil, yet they’re stronger, wiser. And when their THE END comes, all that once seemed impossible no longer holds relevance. With their THE END comes victory.
Through resistance, they discovered their story.

We, the authored, are won.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Love-Struck: We, The Authored Volume II

A barista shoots me glances of confusion while I slump over my laptop and coffee-stained notebook. I squeal like a teen girl at a boyband concert while rereading conversations between my book couples. I’m the author of their story, yet I delight in each sentence of their journey. Why? There must be a reason for this insane, geeky reaction, a connection to someone greater than me and my fictional stories.
Over the past five years of having my books on shelves, I have learned people crave stories with romance. Some of my friends won’t read a book or watch a movie unless there is a prominent love interest. What gives us this need? Why do we hunger for hope in someone else’s happy ending?
Books hold incredible romances, but our love story began at the cross where the Prince of Peace, Son of the Living God, sacrificed Himself in a wild, unrestrained, indescribable gesture of desire. Love-struck and infatuated with us, He did the one thing others have written into their stories for millenniums. He demonstrated love in its purest form.

“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

– Romans 5:8

Before documentation of Jesus Christ, there isn’t a recorded case of sacrifice in the name of love, so why has society accepted the selfless giving of one’s own self as the most extreme expression of care?

We, the authored, radiate with our Creator.

Our hearts ache and break for a cinematic meet cute; boy and girl make eye contact from opposite sides of the room—maybe they sit next to each other, begin an awkward first conversation—and they fall in love. Easy. Fast. Straightforward.
We want to be able to fit a love story into a few chapters or a two hour movie because for the duration of our lives, we’ve been taught by the media that love happens fast and concludes with a couple lounging on a park bench, hopelessly enthralled with each other as the camera zooms out or the final paragraph comes to a sweet conclusion. Although we all have a victorious ending in Christ, our stories read different. They’re each beautiful and captivating in their own way, but their plot graphs differ in rising action and climax.
I met a dear friend for coffee a few days ago. As we sipped our fancy Cubans, she reminded me of a truth that has stuck with me—Love may start with sparks, but it comes softly with time.
God delights in our love stories more than we could ever “fan girl” over book characters and their climactic, romantic breakthroughs. He is writing our love interests into existence, smiling as we move toward each other. He reveals His own love for us as we grapple with the uncertainty and fear of opening our hearts. Softly—a word saturated with the deep richness of all beauty and excitement that is to come through our intimate relationship with the Author.
Time is irrelevant to God. In fact, He uses time as a buffer between plot points, a suspense-builder and a catalyst to merge His glory into the romance. He manifests Himself when the story reaches a prime moment, when the unfolding beams with evidence of His inspiration. As heroes and heroines in the God-authored saga, we must ask Him to sync our souls with His will for our stories and be confident in all that is to come because . . . it will come . . . in forms we may or may not expect.
Uniting the threads between writing and resting in God’s composition is the simple truth: Without the author, there cannot be a love story. Relationships in books require the author’s inspiration and the characters’ willingness to subject their independent nature to reliance on the author’s care for them. Three entities. Three lovers. One story.
Genesis 24 holds the love story that has haunted my mind for months. I often feel like Rebekah, carrying my jug of water to the spring, waiting for God to choose me for His Isaac. I have been like Abraham’s servant, asked for signs, watched closely to “learn whether or not the Lord had made (my) journey successful.”
Hearts cry out with joy when the Lord taps His podium, raises His conductor’s baton and signals destiny to erupt in a symphonic celebration. The audience sighs when the story unravels at the pristine instance, when both characters mature to perfection and merge lives. They clutch their mouths when Rebekah appears on the horizon, clothed in her wedding garb. They weep as Isaac moves across the field, captivated by her. They cheer as the Author unites both characters in a scene of desert breezes, canvas tents and ordained lovers standing face-to-face, hand-in-hand.
Crafting a romance between pages or on a screen is nothing more than an allegorical representation of our lives with Christ Jesus. When we write books, we reflect what God is doing with us, the craving He has for our attention and faith. Write with this fact in mind, know that perfect love takes three entities and Jesus-inspired sacrifices.

Our desire for a meet cute is the echo of need we have for a romance with our Writer. Once we’ve synced ourselves with His cinematic story, we melt in the sheer wonder that comes from His anointed plotline because . . .

We, the authored, are love-struck.

Friday, January 13, 2017

We, The Authored Volume I

Motivation to write stems from various needs. One may begin to type or scribble words as a way to relieve inward tension, escape reality, tell stories to entertain and teach, explore realms of thought. Whatever one’s reason to begin, writing soon becomes an extension of body and soul, a proclaiming voice to eager minds.
The tenacious surge required to become an author is a result of a different need, a desire to flaunt the love and devotion poured into our stories, showcase carefully crafted characters and spread our message, once an exclusive exchange, to the world.
What gives us the need to express? Why do each of us carry a desire within us to speak and be heard, explore and discover, grow close to our own creations?
Since I was a platinum-haired child with a single ponytail on the top of my scalp, I’ve adored stories. They’ve been my teachers and friends, the captains of voyages to places not found on any map. They’ve been mirrors and open doors. Overall, stories have rooted themselves within me. I read and write them to grow, bud, flourish.
Again, I ask the questions: What gives us the need to express? Why do each of us carry a desire within us to speak and be heard, explore and discover, grow close to our own creations?
Children reflect their parents, thus creation reflects its Creator.
We radiate with the artistic splendor of our Alpha and Omega Author.
God has our beginning and end, indented the first paragraph and reserved a final period to conclude the epic novel of our lives. He’s brainstormed, outlined. He has crafted us with precision because we, the authored, are His protagonists.
To float in the peace of His orchestration, all we have to do is surrender ourselves to the scandalous, all-consuming plotline mapped out before the dawn of time, constructed from His sovereign desire to have an intimate connection with us. We are His expression.
No one can love us more than the Author of our story.
The classic verse, Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘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 hope and a future.’”
What beautiful, miraculous hope we have in Christ Jesus! If the end of our stories have already been written, what do we have to fear? If the Love of our lives is composing our every moment, why should we be overcome with anxiety, crushed by the weight of MAYBE?
“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book.’” Jeremiah 30:2
For the longest time, I didn’t understand why God placed me in a waiting room, kept from the blessings I could see in the distance. I couldn’t figure out why my Father allowed me to experience deep hurt, sink into trials before pulling me up to stand on top of them. Through writing, He revealed His intentions in a bursting epiphany.
A wonderful story isn’t captivating unless the main character is confronted with obstacles.
I have spent many afternoons crying over my computer (while sitting in coffeehouses) as I placed my characters in painful situations. I wept when they wept. I rejoiced when they rejoiced.
God does the same with us. Through muck and mire, darkness and anguish, happiness, progress, He walks with us; He grows closer to us while proclaiming His presence to the world.
But the great thing about obstacles is this: They can be conquered. They have already been overcome by salvation’s grace. They will subside, and our stories will be better because of them.
Waiting seems to be the overarching theme of the publishing industry. I wait to hear news regarding my books. I wait for progress, opportunities to present themselves. I wait for personal desires such as relationships, direction, etc.
Life is a state of constant expectance, yet we must be sure to not passively wait but place our hope and faith in the Author’s hands. 2 Peter 3:9a says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness.” His timing is without fault. He knows our stories backward-and-forward, has crafted extravagant plotlines for us.
Blessings given too soon become burdens so by allowing us to wait in His care, He is aging us like fine wine kept in a cellar, preparing us to experience the fullness of His plan.
“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.” Hebrews 10:36
Over the past few years, I have learned God wants nothing more than to have a close relationship with us. He values the righteous desires of our hearts because He placed them there. That said, He often makes Himself known in situations to verify we are in His will, yet refrains from fully manifesting an opportunity. We can become restless and believe a certain schedule is best for our lives. However, His plot for our stories exceeds our expectations. He holds us in a rising action until the perfect moment, when the climactic roar of fulfillment rushes onto our metaphorical pages and an average story transforms into an epic novel written for His glory.
You are a beloved character.
I am a beloved character.
We have been given a spirit of power.
And with endurance and faithful expectancy, we can successfully climb our plot graphs as protagonists in a God-authored saga.

I’m humbled and honored to be an anointed ambassador, a radiating creation of my Creator. He gives teaching through typed words on a screen. He shows me the worth I do not see and gives me dreams I have no right to dream.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Gifted Note: Pursuing Music as His Steward (SAMPLE)

Purpose is an innate desire within us and inflicts more questions than any other element of human nature. It drives us to ask, “Why am I here? Does my life matter? What are my talents? How can I be used by God?”
First and foremost, purpose is found in Jesus Christ alone, but as children of God, we have been entrusted with gifts to use in His name, to glorify and project Him to the world. These gifts, when developed with the right intentions, have the power to transform culture, society and ultimately, be tools of evangelism. Jesus expounded on the importance of being good stewards of God-given gifts in the Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 25.
Gifts can be any physical or emotional actions expressed with above-average ability—this broad definition includes music and art talent, a desire to serve others, an intimate connection with God through prayer, etc. Recognizing your gifts is the first step to becoming a good steward of God’s talents and taking ownership of the power, the unfair favor willed to you through salvation.
Like a flame hidden behind a bushel, a gift not applied is useless. Galatians 6:4-5 says, “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”
Writing is the gift God has handed to me, and I strive each day to use it as a tool to magnify His light and love. However, music has established itself within my life as a limitless beacon. I live in Nashville, work as a publicist for a recording artist and compose songs with friends from My Local, a young adult ministry organization. Music absorbs my God-given gift and shines it in a different format, a revised medium.
To those with a passion for music, take heart. There are countless ways to serve God with your talent. Music is universal. It affects anyone with the ability to hear. In contrast, if you feel God leading you to pursue music as a career, you have an extensive journey before you. The music industry is a congested business. To reach an audience and generate a sustaining income, one must have determination, a “thick skin,” networking ability and the Lord’s blessing.
Nothing is impossible with God.
When I first met with my client to discuss her public relations plan, we went through several steps to establish who she was going to be as an artist and strategize ways to broaden her audience. The following steps will help you become a better steward of your gifts . . .
(Read more in the April 2017 digital issue of Pursue Magazine)