A WRITERS VOICE

a writers voice

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It might be obvious that I like to read and I suspect not many people have a passion to write without first developing the passion to read. I’ve always enjoyed getting to know or find out about the person who’s writing I’m reading and it doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction.

You can tell a lot about a person by how they write. A writer’s voice. Although I knew that to be true, I never knew exactly how perfectly true it was until last Thursday night.

For the last couple of years, the church bulletin had a “creative writers class” announcement under the Calendar Of Events heading. I’ve been either out of town, busy or trying to be, so as to have and excuse for not attending.

To walk into a group of strangers and announce “I’m a writer, or at least I want to be someday…..When I grow up,” isn’t on the top of my list of fun dates. It almost makes me feel like when I was a kid being sent to a new school or church.

Oh no, I call the shots now… Well, maybe not exactly. I was beat, tired and had to get up early the next day and didn’t even have time for a shower between work and the group. My wife had made a special dinner, but I knew I was running low on excuses.

“That writers group is meeting at the church tonight,” I mentioned quietly to my wife. I thought there was a chance she might give me an out since the dinner and all. She quickly answered, “You should go.” One more excuse I couldn’t use.

I called one of the leaders of the group and asked, “Can you tell me a little bit more about the group”? She kindly gave an explanation. “How many people usually show up for this”? I asked, hoping for a large number to use as another potential excuse. “I don’t think we’ve ever had more than eight,” she replied. I gave it one last shot, “Can I show up in gym clothes”? She warmly answered, “Sure that’s not a problem,” or something to that effect. She added, “If you want to bring something you’ve written that would be fine.”

I grabbed my manuscript minus the first three chapters I sent to the last agent, my water, and some non-fat string cheese sticks from the frig and out the door I went. I walked in late after having to call one of the ladies running the group because I couldn’t find the right room.

Everyone was polite, friendly, and I was surprised how many in the group had been published. Two of the ladies are actually in the business. The truth is I went to learn and that’s exactly what happened. I learned some details about the industry and how it works, then when it came time to listen to what some of the other participants had written, I was blown away.

The talent was amazing and enjoyable, but even beyond that I was struck by how the writing was exactly who the authors were. The first hour and a half was spent talking and sharing thoughts and ideas. From that interaction time, I learned a lot about the people and more specifically their personalities.

The words of each person’s writings fit perfectly with their personality. Our written words are like our voices, they might be similar, but they are distinctly unique to each of us.

How fitting it is, our words even not heard audibly are unique like our voices. Designed by God and are the same in speech or writing, each with a specific purpose and desire. Without exception, everyone in that room has a desire given by God deep down to make a difference in this world.

Although no one asked what the desire was for each of us or what we hoped to achieve with our writing, it was pretty clear as I listened to the different personalities pour out in words. Some of the desires were to bring joy, purpose, laughter, companionship, inspiration, and encouragement.

My hat’s off to those writers whom God gave the desire to make a difference in this world, and they’re doing it. Talk is cheap, so is writing if the words don’t have a specific purpose.

However we’re heard, in speech or print, our voice is designed to make a difference, to fulfill our unique purpose for having been here…

What are you saying with your voice?

PLAGIARISM?

plagiarism

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I’m not proud to admit that I cheated on tests my junior year in high school. I turned in answers to tests that weren’t mine. I used them as though they were my intellectual property, but they weren’t.

It’s kind of stomach turning to watch someone take credit for something they didn’t really do isn’t it? Remember Milli Vanilli? The now-famous pop/rock duo who got busted for lip-syncing at one of their concerts. Shortly thereafter, information was released that reported the two guys who were the “Milli Vanilli” didn’t even sing on the albums. A talented studio musician did all the singing. They felt so much disgrace that one of the men actually committed suicide.

Even non-Christian people have the basic understanding of what constitutes a lie. Many of us justify our lack of truth for our own selfish reasons.

Have you ever had someone take credit for something you have done? For those of us who have, we understand clearly the feeling of betrayal and the reality of another person’s lies and deceit.

It’s one thing to enjoy the work, talents, or gifts given to someone else, it’s quite different to take those things and claim them as our own. This act is so looked down on in the writing and intellectual property community that anyone quoting or using an idea from someone else makes sure to never forget to note or mention it.

None of us want the title of “plagiarist.”

Have you ever been to a restaurant where the waiter or waitress tells you about the specials as if he or she actually made the food when you know for sure they didn’t? They might say something like, “I’ve prepared the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as our speciality tonight.” (Never Brad though!)

I think, “Do you have a magic wand in back or what”? They, while important to the success of the business are merely the deliverer of the special items. To be sure how the items are presented is a gift unto itself and can make a good item even more enhanced.

Sometimes many of us even as Christians “fall into our flesh” and become Milli or Vanilli. We pretend to be the beginning and the end of our gifts or talents. Even though, many of us know we were created by God in His image. We take all the credit for His grace, mercy, and blessings.

We are the delivery vehicle for what God has chosen to send others, to speak to them His truths. Often we get too caught up in the blessings we’re transporting for the glory of God, we forget that they aren’t our gifts, talents, or works.

We’re not the artist, His initials are the ones on our canvas for the world to find honor. “That’s a great painting”! “Who’s the artist”? Our painting should be directing traffic His way.

We aren’t the chef, He made all things, we’re just His designated deliverer chosen to deliver His most special item in a way that brings joy and honor to everyone involved.

For me, the other people I read, those of you who have left encouraging comments, thank you. I consider you and me the deliverer, not the author, printer or publisher. We are the vehicles created and chosen by God to deliver His words to the people He wants the words read to.

I believe we are the “orators” of His words.

In essence, the entire world is guilty of plagiarism. God designed, created, and sustains all of us. Everything we have belongs to Him and is for Him.

Lest we forget and become known as a “plagiarist,” or worse yet: “A cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater.”

A PRINCE AND PRINCESS

prince and princessOnce upon a time in a land far away, there lived a young prince and princess. They looked like average people to everyone else. They weren’t born in a castle, they were born in their respective humble surroundings.

The princess and the prince attended the government schools like most of the population. Eventually, they married fine looking spouses who like them, were the people of humble and average looking lives, but were also unnoticed royalty.

The other seemingly average people the prince and princess encountered throughout their lives never had the inclination to consider them royalty. After all they “looked” just like everyone else.

The laws of nature that are visible and obvious are taken at face value by the world. Few of us take the time to contemplate the laws of the universe that cannot be seen. We assume the laws of nature that can be viewed is all there is.

Even when something happens in the world that can’t really be explained in physical terms, the world ignores it and chalks it up to just a fluke.

When I was in my late teens I got ran over by a 6,000 lb. forklift. It actually rolled up the back of my leg, over the back of my knee and hamstring area, up onto my buttocks, up my back about a foot before the back wheel of the forklift turned off my body. The place where it happened was mostly sand, except this location. My knee was directly over rocks.

I was hurt but not dead. The x-rays didn’t even show any broken bones. I would find out many years later the bottom vertebrae of my back had a hairline fracture and my knee cap was sheered in half long ways. I wasn’t down for too long, a couple of weeks with it elevated and then drained and I was on my way.

The physical chances of that much weight rolling over bones and joints doing only that little damage is absolutely impossible. So how could I explain something like that? At the time, I didn’t give the principalities possibility any thought or credit. Sure I knew God was powerful, made the earth, did miracles, but this, in my youthful ignorance I considered to be my invincible being.

Consider an underfunded, undernourished, outmanned, American army defeating the most powerful military in the world… Luck, chance, fluke, really?! Interesting the common denominator for these flukes is almost always faith in God. The Power over nature and it’s laws that can’t be seen by the human eyeball.

I wonder how many people who are Christians have fallen into the trap of the senses. Most of us use what we can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste to form our perspective of this world. We have faith in our senses until we witness or discover a miracle. Then like the world, we use those senses to desensitize ourselves from the reality we can’t explain through our senses.

We make up or listen to theories made up in the flesh to explain away a supernatural occurrence. Most of us know the teaching of Jesus Christ and profess it and His gift as our heritage. Our faith must be significantly smaller than the mustard seed Christ described as the insignificant amount of faith needed to move mountains.

The world preys on the senses of all of us as if laws of nature were the only laws guiding our lives. When the Creator and Lawgiver of all things tell us otherwise we should consider being obedient in spite of what we can see or hear.

What the people who wrote the prince and princess off as average didn’t know or comprehend was the other-dimensional world that surrounded all of us that they couldn’t see.

They didn’t realize the KING of all creation had chosen the prince and princess from before the foundations of the universe. The world couldn’t see with their eyes what the prince and princess knew in their heart.

They would live happily ever after… Forever!

We are that prince and princess…

A KICK TO THE SHINS

kick to the shins

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My buddy Curt and I were sitting outside having breakfast the week between Christmas and New Years. It’s a local, non-franchised little place that has a group of regulars.

The place was crowded so we sat outside to eat. It was a bit cold which deterred any other outside diners. The place started to get busy so the owner had the hungry customers sign in on a clipboard attached to one of the front stucco columns.

A dad and his two kids had signed the clipboard and were enduring their time outside while waiting to dine inside. The daughter was the oldest and looked to be about 10 or 11 years old. She was about a foot taller than her little brother who appeared to be 7 or 8.

It didn’t take long and the both of them were bored out of their gourds. They started to pick at each other to pass the time. The process escalated to the little brother giving an accidentally-on-purpose step on his big sister’s toes. Her response was less than subtle. She grabbed him by his shoulders and kicked him as hard as she could on his shin! Ouch! It looked painful… The boy turned away unfazed.

The both of us started bustin’ a gut immediately. We shared stories from our childhood that had similar results.

I’ve played both roles as a kid. I’ve been the one to pester my siblings, I’ve also been the one to administer justice. Being the youngest, I freely confess to the former significantly more often than the latter.

Generally the justice is taken from the instigator without retaliation. Interestingly that only usually happens with people we love or care for greatly. As kids, if anyone outside our family treated us the same way we treated each other we would attack to protect the ones we love.

As I sat laughing at the boy who reminded me a bit of myself a long time ago, I realized with years not that much changes. The ones we love and live with are the ones we have the least patience for. We know each other so intimately that we know which buttons to push in order to aggravate or get under the other’s skin.

The ones in this life who should be getting the best of our personalities, sometimes get the exact opposite. I know I’ve been guilty of wearing the talking mask of manners around all day long and taking it off as soon as I walk through the door. Sometimes behind that mask we hide a monster.

What were some of the adjectives Jesus Christ used to describe love? Oh yeah, patient and kind. Never mind the rest for now. If we can conquer with God’s power in us just those two alone, we begin to bring God honor and the loved ones He’s blessed us with as well.

We might be able to get an academy award for our acting throughout the day, but the people we live with know the truth. No one knows our strengths and weaknesses like our family.

I’m not condoning conflict, but we all get a taste of it in an ongoing basis. I’ve learned the last place and the last people I want conflict with are the ones God has placed closest to me.

These are my gifts. I can never possess anything more precious than these in this physical world. They are part of me with strengths and weaknesses just like mine.

I desire what they desire, love, peace, and happiness from a Biblical perspective. Isn’t that what all of us want?

Most conflicts in life are similar to that step on the toes, repaid with the kick to the shins. “You Get What You Give.” What are we giving the ones closest to us?

For the record, I don’t miss being kicked on the shins…

ONE OF THESE DAYS

one of these days

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I’ve heard people my whole life say something like, “You know one of these days I’m gonna…” Finish the sentence just about any way you can think of and we’ve probably already heard it.

I’ve found that people that talk about change rarely earnestly attempt it.

That’s why New Years resolutions never made too much sense to me. If I feel a need for change I’m not going to wait for a new year to get started on it. If it’s important enough to warrant a change it shouldn’t wait until a certain date, unless there is a binding contract or agreement involved.

I remember when my dad quit smoking. He didn’t make a New Years resolution, he contemplated it for years. One day he threw out his pack of unfinished cigarettes and never lit up again.

I have to confess I ate like a horse over the weekend of Christmas, I had let down my discipline a bit for a couple months even prior to that. April from Blessed Beyond Measure (add shameless plug for your friend’s blog here) had a picture of a candy store in one of her posts. My mouth watered just thinking about it and knowing the delicacies I’d soon be consuming.

I knew it was time to get some extra cardio. I didn’t wait for the week to end so I could start fresh in the New Year. I started that day. The day I realized the need. I’m not saying I’m exceptional for having done so, I just know that my human nature if allowed to put something off, will very likely continue to put it off, whatever it is.

One thing I do at the start of the New Year is make a list. The title at the top of my list is “Goals.” The things I want to be a priority in my life for the next 12 months. I fold up that list and keep it in my wallet. My list of goals is with me every day of the year. I don’t look at it every day, but occasionally pull it out, unfold it and measure where I’m at on my quest for the year.

Things like doing cardio to lean out or landing a literary agent don’t make it onto my list. I figure if I take care of the big things, the little things will take care of themselves. Here is a sample of my last list.

1. Trust God in everything.

2. Learn to have only fear of God. (no fear of the world)

3. Be of the highest character during everyone else’s meltdown.

4. Honor God by how I love my wife.

5. Be a bigger part in my kids lives.

The next two lines were business related and the goals for my Lacrosse girls regarding work ethic, character, and their self-image. OK, yes, and to win a state championship.

In truth resolutions and goals are essentially the same thing. We have to be resolute or determined and unwavering in our pursuit of fulfilling our goals or desires.

I like to use goals, not only due to the negative connotation that have become associated with resolutions, but also because goals don’t ever have to be completely attained in order to receive gratification. I think anything attempted in life that is done for the right reasons and is carried out with passion and perseverance carries the gratification within the process, not just the outcome.

I’ll make a new list of goals for this year. I’ll have to carry some over from last year, probably even every year for the rest of my life. Each year as I do a little better and get closer to my goals I’ll be encouraged. God honors seekers…

“Someday” isn’t one of the days of the week. I’ve also heard it said that “someday never comes.” Whatever day of the week it is, regardless of what week or month it is, it is today…

Do you know what today is…? TODAY’S THE DAY!