So the beginning of this week was kind of weird, because I spent it helping a friend out in her place of work, the Washington Institute. It’s a Christian organization dedicated to integrating faith in the workplace and helping individuals and groups act on that idea. As a volunteer, I felt out of place, but I got to hear a lot and meet new people, including Steve Garber, who is really popular where I went to college.
While Steve and I aren’t exactly best friends (there’s an “Anna’s awkward” story in there somewhere, but I’ll spare you), here are a few points from the conference that struck me. They aren’t necessarily new ideas to me, but they stood out to me as both a writer and a Christian.
1.) There’s a difference between listening and hearing, but they’re both necessary.
When it comes to hearing God and what He wants me to do, I don’t get especially good reception. But it’s not a problem of hearing; it’s a problem of listening. If you don’t hear, it implies that there’s something wrong with a message itself and the way its transmitted. If you don’t listen, it implies that there’s something wrong with you and your process of listening. So before you say “I can’t hear God,” think about the question “How are you listening?” Are you making time for silence? How do you pray? Are you meditating on the Word? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not good at it. In fact, on a scale of 1-5 of how effectively I practice this, I’d say C.
Writer application: I’ll just say this; silence really is golden. You never know what’s going to come out of a little quiet time. Unplug. Go somewhere where people aren’t going to talk to you, and brainstorm. Having a conversation with God about your story/article/whatever is a neat way to implement both ideas and help your relationship with Him too.
2.) Mentors are key
I’ve never really had a mentor, but I’m feeling convicted about finding one. Having an older and mature Christian in your life who can help you wrestle with ideas, doubts, direction, etc. is invaluable. We all need a little help, and it’s no shame to admit it (and if I’m owning up to that fact, then you know it must be true). It’s all about growth and following Christ more effectively.
Writer application: This is true of your writing as well. While I don’t think it’s as crucial, it can be beneficial to your writing to have a more experience writer to go to for advice.
3.) In both your place of work and in your writing (if you’re so inclined), there’s a big difference between having a flashlight in your pocket and actually being a light.
In other words, when you’re trying to spread light in an environment, you could take the flashlight approach which includes having a Jesus-Fish bumper sticker, a few Bible quotes hanging up around your cubicle, and signing-off on your emails with “God bless.” Which are all fine. But this is like having a flashlight in your pocket that you take out every once in awhile and shine into people’s faces (I wish this was my metaphor, but it’s not). Being a light is living a life so close to Christ that our very presence is a witness wherever we are and in whatever circumstance. And I think that sounds pretty great.
4.) God speaks to us both through our discontent and our excitement (I added the second, but it’s true).
This isn’t to say that we should always rely on our emotions. If we don’t check ourselves in our eagerness or lack thereof, we could be like puffs of wind that are always going this way and that but are never satisfied. I’m suffering from a little of that right now. It’s called needing to take a chill-pill. However, God can use a Fallen system to tell us a lot. So don’t discount all the feelings.
Writer application: Sometimes we’re discontent with our writing, which can be a clue to re-asses and make a story or article even better. But sometimes we need to see a story through instead of constantly changing it.
5.) Take the next clear step. God is working.
This is something I have in my notes from the lecture but which may actually have been my own random thought (or one I heard from someone else and it got lodged in my subconscious). But the basic idea is that it’s not about making huge leaps and figuring out exactly how God wants you to change the world. It’s about taking that next clear step and going for it. God is working, so it’s not like you’re going somewhere He doesn’t exist or didn’t intend for you to go. It’s important to identify what fears hold you back and obscure what God might be calling you to do next. This gets into listening (see above).
My favorite part of the conference was when everyone met in a really dark bar/cafe called Jammin’ Java. The atmosphere was like nothing else, but the best part was that the Christian artist Makoto Fujimura spoke. He’s another figure who’s popular at my Alma Mater. It’s also another “Anna’s awkward” story. Anyway, his entire talk struck me, so I’m going to save that for another blog post.
And for the record, I don’t separate my Christian life from my writing life (meager as it is). It was more convenient to write about the two in a semi-separate way. Until next time.