Although I did not daily post something for which I am thankful during the month of November (as many of my Facebook and Twitter friends did), I do try to thank God on a regular basis for all the many blessings in my life. I’ve discovered this practice makes it harder to give way to feelings of discontentment. Even so, I’m well aware of the ever lurking temptation to focus on what we don’t have as opposed to what we do have. I’m guessing that is why the Apostle Paul penned the following in his letter to the Philippians: “I have LEARNED to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” (Philippians 4:11) Chances are Paul knew from experience choosing contentment was not something that comes naturally, but instead is something we must deliberately choose as we discipline ourselves to practice thankfulness.
I’ve learned if I spend my days focusing on what I don’t have, or comparing myself and my accomplishments to others and their successes, or if I focus on what the world says I need, deserve or must have, I inevitably fall into a pit of discontentment. But if my focus is on God and who I am in Christ, and if I’m diligent to seek His guidance in my life on a daily basis, then discontentment rarely finds a place in my attitude or thoughts. Therefore, staying focused on God is the key to a contented heart since He alone truly knows what is best for me and my circumstances.
So what does this have to do with writing? As an author in a competitive world that is daily becoming saturated with more and more books, training my ear to listen and respond to God’s voice as opposed to the voices of others is paramount. As I shared a few weeks ago, I believe my writing skills are a God-given talent He has called me to use for His glory. But if I listen to the voices of this world, I can easily become discouraged and fall into the trap of discontentment. I’ve got to continually remind myself that what God has chosen for someone else is not necessarily what He has chosen for me. And just because I’m using the talent He has given me does not mean I should expect to see my name on a best sellers list. I suppose I could, but chances are I won’t. Does that mean I give up and quit writing? No. Using the gifts and abilities God has given me is not about popularity and success as the world defines them. It’s about staying intimately in tune with God’s leadership in my life, trusting Him to use my literary offerings according to His plans and purposes.
I recently read Tamera Alexander’s latest book – A Lasting Impression. In one scene in the story, the main character is struggling with her desire to be recognized as an accomplished artist and she hears God asking if she would paint even if she were painting for Him alone. In the author’s notes at the back of the book, Tamera shared about a time in her own writing journey when she felt God asked her a similar question: “Would you write this book if you knew you were writing it only for Me?” What an awesome reminder that first and foremost as Christian writers we are writing for the One who has given us the ability to write. And while I want others to read what I’ve written, if I’m obeying God and praying daily for His guidance, I can rest assured He’ll see that my books get into the hands of the people HE wants to read them – whether that be a few hundred, a few thousand, or a few million. And if only a few dozen read them and are blessed, are they not still a success?
This week’s ramblings remind me of a dream I had a number of years ago. It was one of those down times when I was allowing the enemy to bombard me with the “you’re not being very effective in ministry” lies. I had gone to bed one night with this thought heavy on my heart. That night I dreamed I was praying and telling God about my woes. In the dream, God told me to look out in our backyard. When I did, I saw the fenced area of our vegetable garden was full of dandelions. As I stared at the strange sight, God told me all those dandelions symbolized the garden I had planted with my life and ministry. “But, Lord,” I said in response, “if that’s true, I’ve planted a garden full of weeds.” Even as the words came out of my mouth, the wind started to blow, and the seed pods of all those dandelions broke loose and filled the air as they were carried along by a gentle breeze.
As I prayed about this dream, I realized all those dandelions represented the people I’ve had the honor of ministering to, mentoring and/or discipling over the years; and while we may call a dandelion a weed, in God’s creation, they are so much more.
Did you know?
1. The seed head of a dandelion has a tiny parachute that enables the seed to spread far and wide as the wind carries it along.
2. Dandelions spread farther and are more difficult to exterminate than most other plants. They can grow under the most adverse circumstances. In fact – the more you try to weed them out, the faster they grow.
3. The taproot of the dandelion is deep, and unless you remove it completely – it will keep regenerating.
4. Dandelion greens are nutritionally good for you. There are more nutrients in dandelion greens than anything you can buy in a store. They are high in iron, calcium, vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, C, E, & D, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.
5. Dandelion greens are a popular herbal remedy. They have the nutrients needed to strengthen the whole body. They also serve as a diuretic – helping cleanse the blood and recycle nutrients. Dandelion greens are good for the bladder, spleen, pancreas, stomach and intestines. The milky sap of the plant can be used to remove warts, moles, pimples, calluses and sores. It soothes bee stings and blisters.
6. The seeds of a dandelion can germinate without long periods of dormancy.
Now read back through that list and study it from a spiritual perspective. I ultimately determined God was using the dream to tell me that like those dandelions, by the power of the Holy Spirit (the wind), all the lives I’ve been privileged to invest in have divided and multiplied (the seed pods being carried far and wide), and this side of heaven I will never know how many lives I’ve actually touched. And yet those lives, in Christ, are deeply rooted, having grown strong under adverse circumstances, and are offering spiritual nourishment to others. As I’ve reflected on the message of that dream, I’ve decided the influence of my books has a similar legacy. Like a friend who e-mailed today to say how much she had enjoyed my books, and that she has now passed them on to her mother . . . who may in time pass them on to someone else . . .
Failure or success? In God’s eyes, if a story touches the life of just one person, I believe it’s a success. Or if God uses one of my Bible studies to change the direction of just one life, I believe it’s a success. Remember the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin? (Luke 15:1-10) Therefore, “I’ve learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” (Philippians 4:1-12) “But godliness is actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” (I Timothy 6:6)
How content are you?
If you are a writer, or hope to be someday, you might want to check out the Q & A page, especially if you are looking for information on self-publishing.
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And I hope you’ll take a few minutes to stop by for a visit at my bungalow retreat: www.bungalowretreat.com, where I depict country living, bungalow style, through words and pictures.
This week at my bungalow retreat: Got Your Goat. Check it out: www.bungalowretreat.com
Books do not write themselves. I must be deliberate and intentional in setting aside time to write.