Hold Loosely

I remember back in my reporter days for a business magazine hearing from a sales motivational coach who said at the beginning of his presentation that if you walked away with only one nugget of wisdom, he had done his job. Just one nugget. That’s all it took to not only make his talk worthwhile financially, but worthwhile in terms of making your business better.

That advice changed my life as I have always remembered it didn’t do you any good getting bogged down with lists of tips or bullet pointed must do’s in order to change your life for the better. All it took was one nugget—received and then acted upon.

Such a nugget recently came my way and it has made a wonderful impact on my life. Early this summer I was attending a writing symposium at Princeton Theological Seminary. I was gathered in a group of advanced writers who had the opportunity to hone our craft, share our prose and talk one-on-one with a former pastor-turned mother-turned published author of teen devotionals and other such books.

One afternoon, as we were gathered in small groups practicing and perfecting our elevator pitches to be used someday on potential book agents, the former pastor-turned mother-turned published author offered some sound advice. She said when writing a sermon, a daily reflection for a devotional, a scene to a mystery novel, whatever it is you’re writing, don’t ever be tied down to the words or ideas you are so in love with.

You might have a vision of where you want your story to go, but many times the story will have a life of its own. Let your story live. Be brutal and pry yourself away from that too long paragraph, that extra descriptive scene, that conversation between two characters that doesn’t move the story forward. Yes, you might think it is the most brilliant thing you have ever written, but holding tightly to your words doesn’t make for a delightful read. Hold loosely the words you write, she said. Cut and paste and put aside. You might eventually include what was cut. Or you might use those words in a different way. Or you might come to see they weren’t as great as you thought them to be.

It’s all okay. Hold loosely.images.jpg

Out of all the nuggets of wisdom gathered at that conference, her nugget is the one I keep hearing and applying  beyond my writing. For how many times do we find ourselves holding on to something we are so enthralled by but it isn’t moving our story forward? How many times do we refuse to edit out something that isn’t good for us? How many times do we cling tightly to something that has died a long time ago? Isn’t it true we tend to stay too long on the battlefield, bloodied and beaten down, never realizing the skirmish has long been over?

While the preacher side of me always gravitates to the message that there’s always hope for tomorrow and that God can revive all that is lagging, there’s also the reality that a seed must first die before bringing forth new life. We are to hold on to hope, but our hope is in the promise of resurrection. And resurrection cannot happen without the holding loosely—and the eventual letting go—that death asks of us.

Hold loosely—to your words.

Hold loosely—to your ideas.

Hold loosely—to your future plans.

Hold loosely—to even those you love and things you love.

Cut and paste and put aside. The story of your life will be brilliant. Just let God offer His revisions.

Soaring High

It’s been a while since I’ve been on a business trip. One that involves getting on an airplane. Here I am, though, sitting at the gate waiting to board my flight.

I glance down at the bag of overpriced goodies sitting on top of my tote bag. Gummy bears, a pack of gum, a bottle of water and a magazine or two. All were my travel standbys back in my magazine days when I was jetting off to exotic places such as Africa and Thailand as well as the not so exotic such as Fayetteville and Manhattan (Kansas, that is, home of the Little Apple).

Back then I was in search of the next big story. I was in search of the next big promotion. I was in search of the next big what’s next in my life. I would board the plane and settle into my favorite seat right by a window. I would snap tightly my safety belt and do the obligatory check for the nearest emergency exit. Then I would wait. I would wait for the plane to begin its race down the runway, enjoying the sense of speed and power, until finally it lifted off high into the clouds. I could feel my hopes and dreams soaring as well.

The excitement. The anticipation. The sense that God was not done with me yet. (Oh, yeah, thrown into my tote bag were not just the overpriced goodies. My tiny tattered travel Bible came with me as well.)

Back then I was in search of the next big what next in my life. And back then I knew with God the next big what next would be a beautiful reality.

Now?

Often at times I wonder about the possibility of all things being possible. Will my fledgling someday farm actually become all that I have sketched it to be on paper? Will I run a marathon? Climb mountains? Change lives? Make a difference? Will I…

What is this doubt and questioning? I don’t know who this me is, for I’ve never wondered before about God’s ability to answer the cries and desires hidden in the deepest part of one’s heart. Before I would let my heart cry out and allow my dreams and hopes to soar with trust in God, soar just as high as the planes I travelled on soared.

Now?

Perhaps this is what growing older does to a person. I’ve heard with age comes wisdom. Is this wisdom, though, the culprit in welcoming a cynicism that turns against God’s possibilities? I want to ask wisdom, “How true of a friend are you?”

Back then I was in search of…and I found it.

Now what am I in search of? More importantly where is my faith in God that I will indeed find all my heart is crying out for?

Gummy bears, a pack of gum, a bottle of water and a magazine or two…and my tiny tattered traveled Bible—they’re all in my tote bag, again.

I’m at the airport traveling on business. It feels good to reconnect with my younger self. But it feels even better knowing soon I will be seated by the window where, after clicking on my safety belt and doing the obligatory check of the nearest emergency exits, I will look out into the clouds and allow myself to dream the impossible dreams once again. I will soar beyond all that has kept me down. I’ve done it before. Back then. And with God, I will do it again. Here and now.