The Message of Christmas


Christmas quote

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The Truth of Our Stories – Frederick Buechner


Frederick Buechner quote

In the long run the stories all overlap and mingle like searchlights in the dark. The stories Jesus tells are part of the story Jesus is, and the other way round. And the story Jesus is is part of the story you and I are because Jesus has become so much a part of the world’s story that it is impossible to imagine how any of our stories would have turned out without him, even the stories of people who don’t believe in him or even know who he is or care about knowing. And my story and your story are all part of each other too if only because we have sung together and prayed together and seen each other’s faces so that we are at least a footnote at the bottom of each other’s stories.

In other words all our stories are in the end one story, one vast story about being human, being together, being here. Does the story point beyond itself? Does it mean something? What is the truth of this interminable, sprawling story we all of us are? Or is it as absurd to ask about the truth of it as it is to ask about the truth of the wind howling through a crack under the door?

– Originally published in The Clown in the Belfry

Will the Right Agent Please Stand?


Writer’s Conference Series, Part 4

On the third day of my third writer’s conference, I felt no closer to finding the right agent than I did on the first day of my first conference. Okay, maybe a little bit closer. I knew more about the agents’ role and the concept that having an agent is a good idea if you’re serious about taking on writing for the long haul. But as far as me finding the right agent … I recently wrote about my fear of making the wrong choices in my writing journey, and one of those primary choices, in my mind, is having an agent.

I had read books dedicated to agents, who grew to be the authors’ dearest friends. I wanted an agent like that. Or at least someone who could offer advice on the writing path. I had gotten advice from a few agents that I had met with on conferences past.

Things like, “Build a platform; our agency doesn’t usually look at a writer unless their platform is in the tens of thousands.” That only intimidated me. As a work-from-home mom of three and also trying to get through university, building a platform is a slow and tedious process.

Another agent suggested I choose whether I want to write fiction or non-fiction, and perhaps write the other under a pen name. But I like my name. And I want the freedom to write what I am inspired to write without being hindered in my choices because it’s not good for marketing.

I told another agent that I’m probably every agent’s worst nightmare … for the reasons above. He declined to respond and smoothly changed the subject.

At one workshop I attended, I got some good advice from an author on what to look for in an agent. It was helpful, although I only remember one point of of the three the author gave me. I’ll leave that to him to share on his blog.

What I really wanted, while I was standing in the auditorium waiting for my appointments, scoping out the myriad of agents and editors of publishing houses … was for the right agent to just stand up. That’s it. Make it easy for me. Cut out the guess work and the trial and error.

But until the perfect agent is also telepathic and not scared away by my genre jumping and half a dozen blogs, I’ll have to settle for the guesswork and the trial and error.

One helpful point I thought to settle on, when searching for the “right” agent … something I hope will help you if your search is somewhat similar, is the idea of finding an agent whose strengths are in inverted order to your own. Or to put it another way, someone whose talents in the writing world complement yours.

Let’s say you’re great at marketing, but need someone who wouldn’t mind giving your manuscript or proposal the once-over with an editing eye; you might want to look for an agent who has that eye and interest in the more in-depth details of your manuscript.

Or perhaps your manuscript is perfect, but you need a little more help on the marketing side of things. You might want to look for an agent who has a blog for her authors, or a private group where his authors brainstorm ways to support each other.

And yes, finding the agent who complements your writing talents probably does take some homework, some guess work, and some good old fashioned coin flipping. Oh, and prayer. Everything about a Christian author’s writing journey, if bathed in prayer, will find the right results at the right time.

Perhaps not when we want it.

But in God’s time.

Always the right time.

He Who Seeks


midnight guest parableBy Frederick Buechner

In Luke, Jesus tells a strange story. At midnight an unexpected guest arrives. He is hungry, but you have nothing to feed him . So you go to the house of a friend to borrow some food. “Don’t bother me,” the friend says. “The door’s locked. The children are all asleep. I can’t give you anything now. Go home.” But you keep on pestering him. You are so persistent that he finally gets up and gives you what you want.

Then Jesus adds, “For every one who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.”

And his point seems to be that the secret of prayer is persistence. Keep at it, keep speaking into the darkness, and even if nothing comes, speak again and then again. And finally the answer is given.

It may not be the kind of answer that we want — the kind of stopgap peace, the kind of easy security, the kind of end to loneliness that we are apt to pray for.

Christ never promises peace in the sense of no more struggle and suffering. Instead, he helps us to struggle and suffer as he did, in love, for one another. Christ does not give us security in the sense of something in this world, some cause, some principle, some value, which is forever. Instead, he tells us that there is nothing in this world that is forever, all flesh is grass. He does not promise us unlonely lives.

His own life speaks loud of how, in a world where there is little love, love is always lonely.

Instead of all these, the answer that he gives, I think, is himself.

If we go to him for anything else, he may send us away empty or he may not. But if we go to him for himself, I believe that we go away always with this deepest of all our hungers filled.

Originally published in The Magnificent Defeat

More than Words at Stake


seeing what is sacred

Books in a way are sacraments that make the communion between an author and a reader possible. The white paper and black ink are the means through which one heart is revealed to another. But the paper and the words are merely the elements of the sacrament. What is sacred is the heart that writes the book and the heart that sits in silent communion to take and read what has been written.

The words that are read are small, waferlike things. But sometimes, on some page, God humbles Himself to come through some of those words and touch the reader’s heart. It is not the words that are sacred but God who is sacred . . . and the person to whom He comes.

In a sermon C. S. Lewis once said that next to the Blessed Sacrament our neighbor is the holiest thing presented to our senses. Most of us, though, are oblivious to that holiness except at rare moments …

“The awe that we sense or ought to sense when standing in the presence of a human being is a moment of intuition for the likeness of God which is concealed in his essence,” wrote the Jewish scholar Abraham Heschel. “Not only man; even inanimate things stand in relation to the Creator. The secrets of every being is the divine care and concern that are invested in it. Something sacred is at stake in every event.”

Something sacred.

At stake.

In every event.

A sobering thought, if it’s true. And if it’s true, it changes everything. Every moment of our day, every day of our life. Every dinner with the family, every breakfast with a stranger. – Ken Gire, in “Seeing What is Sacred”

 

The Edge of the Wind


The air moves

In ways strange

It doesn’t explain

The winds change

From gentle to gale

From rushing to ripple

And I feel the urge

To clean out my house

Or my heart

Or even to disappear

Into the wind

And let it carry me

Far

A mountaintop perhaps

Or even a star

I can’t track the movement

Of the wind

Its cycles and cold fronts

Colliding with heat

Piling cumulus over nimbus

And stratus beneath cirrus

All I know is the rain

And the magic scent

Of sky before it falls

A smell like the sound of skittering leaves

Whispering the approach of a storm

This wind change

Will it be a storm

A calm

Perhaps a little bit of both

Settling and stirring me

At the same time

I don’t know

And at times

All I can do is close my eyes

To better feel the change

Skirting the edge of the wind