For Writers: Behind the Writing

Below is a piece I wrote for Authenticity Book House and their Devotional for Writers series. Enjoy!

What if we wrapped our writing process in the blanket of worship? This question swirls around in my mind each time I sit down to write.

As the sun peeks through the window, I pull back my sheets and crawl out of bed. I sit and stare at my screen for hours. I scroll through Facebook. I watch the birds outside the window, stumped on which extended metaphor to choose. I re-read each piece again and again and again to remove every be-verb possible. How do I transform the grueling details into worship?

The matter of our hearts determines the substance of our writing.

The central issue of every parable in the gospel wraps around the condition of the heart. The actions matter. But the motives that fuel our actions and works direct our path.

What motivates you to write? Do you invite your Creator into your writing time?

Peek into Luke 18:9–14. Jesus discusses the actions of the Pharisee and the tax collector. What concerns him the most? Does the discipline of the Pharisee impress him? Does the sin of the tax collector anger him? No, he smiles upon the humility of the tax collector.

Glance further down at Luke 18:19–23. The rich young ruler scrolls down his list of good deeds. One by one, he checks each deed off the list, bundling up in the warmth of his pride. Christ challenges him to take off the weight of his possessions and free himself. Yet the young ruler decides his riches, rather than Christ, keep him warm on sleepless and lonely nights. Once again, Jesus consumes himself in the root of the matter—our hearts.

What lies at the heart of your writing? Meditate on these two reflective questions. Examine your heart and create habits to turn work into worship.

Who do you think of when you write?  We write to process pain, events, thoughts, and life. And we write to inspire and encourage others. But even these good motives fall short if our writing doesn’t wrap itself in worship to our Creator.

What purpose lies behind the writing? Do you wrap your identity in your work? Do you need to prove something to yourself or to someone else? These piercing questions dig deep into our hearts and have the power to cleanse our motives of selfish ambition.

Self-examination benefits our writing life and our spiritual life. We need to let our faith fuel our creativity and cover every detail of our writing processes. Then and only then, does writing turn into worship.

For Writers: Be True

Below is a piece I wrote for Authenticity Book House and their Devotionals for Writers series. Enjoy!

Be true. I preach this to myself daily. Whether I grab coffee with a friend, get to know a co-worker, or write a book, I must stay true. I write raw and honest stories for those held captive to the lies and fears of the dark ruler of this world.

I am a soldier for Christ; therefore, I resolve to wear my imperfections as his armor protects me. When I embrace vulnerability, I write true so others might find freedom.

I ask myself—do I write to impress others, or do I write to love others well?

Write true to Christ, to his fight for the lost, to grace, to truth.

Let me challenge you—mirror the surrender of Christ to the Father and devote every book, paragraph, and comma to your Creator.

Write true.

It requires humility, courage, and boldness.

A humble stance.

Do not think so highly of yourself and so lowly of others. Write with the humility of Christ, who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (Phil. 2:5–8).

In all his divinity, Christ took on the form of a servant. The President of Reflections Ministries, Dr. Boa, defines humility as “the strength and understanding of one’s great dignity and identity in Christ.”

What does a posture of humility look like in your writing? Do you write out of fear and control? Or do you write out of confidence in your identity in Christ? Remember who you are.

A commitment to courage.

Courage stands tall and peers into fear’s eyes, piercing the depth of its dark soul. Put on the courage of Moses as he freed his people from slavery and stood up to Pharaoh (Ex. 9:1).

What are you afraid to write? Take courage. Write the vulnerable story that leaves you shaking in the knees. What if it frees a reader from a fatal lie? Write for the flourishing of others. Usher in the abundant life Christ promises.

A bold spirit.

Do not give way to a spirit of timidity, but speak with boldness (2 Tim. 1:7). Put on the boldness of Paul who fought for the world to know the saving power of his Holy God. He fought to the point of imprisonment and even to his death (Acts 16:16–40, 23:23–35, 28:16).

Who do you need to be bold for? What has the Lord revealed to you that needs to be shared with others? Don’t succumb to timidity.

We write true to fight for others, out of a devotion to Christ. We take our pens, and we put to death the lies, fears, and sins that hold us captive. We fight for those who know not the comfort of the Father’s love. We challenge and strengthen the exhausted believers. We write for the hopeless. We write for those entangled in sin.

Be true.

For Writers: Take Note

Below is a brief post written for Authenticity Book House and their Devotional for Writers series. Enjoy!

A couple months ago I walked through a dry spell. I dragged my feet like a crippled zombie.

I worked 40+ hours during the week and plus some on the weekends. I slapped on my makeup and exhausted myself over trying to put together a cute outfit. The only place I saw my friends was during an hour in church on Sunday mornings and a couple hours at home group.

Busyness leaves my writing life and spiritual life as fertile as cracked soil of the Atacama Desert. I run dry on inspiration when I get caught up in my to-do list. But when I slow down, drop after drop of inspiration waters my mind.

After February ended with all the conferences, projects, and work deadlines, I resolved to water my soul and created some time of sacred silence.

I turned off my TV to read and spend time in the Word. I signed up for art classes, refused to check my inbox on weekends, and planted the herbs I’ve been wanting to try.

I had lost sight of the value of rest and community. The introvert, perfectionist, task-oriented side of me didn’t realize how much the weariness impacted me as a writer and follower of Christ.

Throughout the Gospel of Luke, we find references of Christ walking away from the crowds to be alone in prayer. Christ took note of the people around him, listening not to just their words, but the condition of their hearts. He dove deep into the well of people’s lives.

Christ accomplished much in his three-year ministry, not because he focused on the task at hand, but because he focused on His Father and the people.

Take note of the world around you. Don’t passively walk through the crowds; soak in the people you meet. Get to know your waiter. Talk with your co-workers. Take out the headphones and rest in the outdoors. Turn off Netflix and open the fresh pages of a book.

As writers, how can we love ourselves and people well? Take note of the moments around us. Check out these three suggestions below.

  1. Schedule a time of silence. Turn off the computer and TV. Put the phone on “Do not disturb” mode. Use this time to read a book, soak in the words of the Bible, and kneel in prayer.
  2. Keep a notebook on you. Take note of what you see, what people say, how they inspire you, challenge you and make you think. Whether you go on a walk, drive to work, or grab some food on lunch break, notice the moments around you. What do you see?
  3. Ask questions. Get to know the people around you. What’s the story of your desk mate at work? How well have you gotten to know the parents of the kids your children go to school with? What’s your barista’s name?

As you take note of the world around you, you become present in the moment. This is a challenge to be intentional, to engage others, to take care of yourself.

This frees you to flourish, not just as a writer, but as a follower of Christ. Taking note of the people around you and the moments that pass by spills into your writing life, allowing inspiration and stories to bloom.

Sneak Peek from A Broken Lens Coming Spring 2015!

In my upcoming book to released this coming Spring 2015, I talk about my journeys around the world on short-term mission trips. Sadly, when I signed up for my first mission trip, I did so out of more fascination with an unknown world than a desire to tell people about my Savior.  In this book, I share what I learned from the people I met in various countries through my photographs and written words.

Here is a small clip from my first chapter, "Unexposed":

I did not go on my first mission trip to tell anyone about my Savior.

Sadly, the idea of having my own photographs of a foreign life entranced me. Little foreign children scurrying around my feet made me giddy. And having a purse made in a foreign country and not just shipped to the United States with the sticker, “Made in China” got me to sign up for my first mission trip.

One summer, a friend of mine, Hannah, came home after working in Zambia for a month. We grabbed some popcorn, jumped on her bed, and stories rambled from her mouth for hours. She told me two stories I would never forget—two stories that changed my life.

 She told me about a little Zambian girl who pulled her aside one day while on the campground. After they found a secluded place, tears began to flood the little girl’s eyes. Her silent sobs turned into raging tears. Terrified of what might happened if she told someone, she cried in my friend’s arms for hours. Eventually, the little girl shared what happened each night after her parents went to sleep. The witch in the village coaxed the little girl outside of the hut. For the next couple hours, the witch would try to force her and other children to eat human meat and sip on human blood, so demonic spirits would possess her.           

Is this what happened in all foreign countries? Were they all really this dark? My thoughts exploded like a spilt bag of ping-pong balls. I could not gather my thoughts.

Sitting on her bed, Hannah shared another story. Another day at the camp, a lady ran up during worship time. Foam dripped from her mouth and her eyes bulged, as if she was about to combust. A group of leaders ran over to see the woman. The woman collapsed on the ground, with her hands and legs violently convulsing. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head. Foam gurgled from her lips. The leaders shouted prayers over her. Minutes later, the name “Jesus” mumbled from her lips and everything ceased. Her vibrating body turned into a limp rag. Her eyes closed and her mouth relaxed. As someone squeezed her hand, she began to wake up, as if nothing had every happened.

After she slowly came to her feet, the leaders comforted her. As they sat and talked, the woman began to process this power of a Holy God. After experiencing His saving grace in that moment, she decided to become a follower of Christ.

In both of these stories, the fear of darkness led this little girl and this woman to run into the arms of God. But for me, as I heard these stories, I wanted to see these things for myself. I wanted to see the power of God in this explicit manner. Demon possessions, witches, and cannibalism shattered everything I had ever known. I had to go and see for myself if these stories were real. 

If you have any questions or would like to help promote the book, please contact me at ascar998@gmail.com 

Thank you!

 

 

 

To Serve a Nation: A Veteran's Take on Second

One year ago today, I had the privilege of interviewing former Navy SEAL, Remi Adeleke for the non-profit, I am Second.  In regards to both interviewing and photography, my favorite part of the job is getting to hear about a life so unlike your own.  What was unique about this interview, was that I not only got to talk with Remi about his experiences overseas, but also hear from his wife. Remi and his wife, Jessica, share an inspirational story of mental-toughness and dedication to God. To read more: http://www.iamsecond.com/2013/11/to-serve-a-nation-a-veterans-take-on-second/ 

 www.iamsecond.com   

www.iamsecond.com

 

In the Grips of Grief: Breast Cancer Awareness

Today, about 1 in every 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. During Breast Cancer Awareness month, I got to talk with one of our former staff member's at I am Second, Denny. If you have ever seen some of the photo stories of those who walk through Breast Cancer treatment, you have seen how it tear apart a woman's hope and dignity. It leaves me asking, is there light in the midst of such an invasive disease? What amazed me the most about Denny, is that she could answer this question with a resounding "yes." To hear more about her story: http://www.iamsecond.com/2013/10/breast-cancer-and-greif/