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Faith Doesn’t Work without the Works

Book launchOn the 13th of January, my book was released. It’s titled, Fit2Finish: Keeping Your Soccer Players in the Game. No, I didn’t self publish. There is actually a publisher out there who believed in me and believed in my message enough to work with me to get this into print. Thank you, Morgan James, Publishing, for getting it into stores and into e-format so people can take a look at my work and decide for themselves whether it’s worth buying.

Here’s the KC part: when you publish a book, people are really happy for you. They congratulate you on your accomplishment, celebrate you on Facebook and Twitter and generally make a big deal about you.

“It must feel good,” they say, “to have arrived!”

IMG_6436IMG_6318And for a moment, it does. The moment when you open your box of shiny new books and look at your name on the cover, it feels very satisfying. But then the delivery truck arrives with the cases and cases of books needing selling. You thank the nice man who helped hoist your crate into your garage. You thank the kind neighbor who helped form the brigade to heave the cartons into your basement. You stack them neatly out of the way, waiting for the orders to roll in, so these books can go flying out the door!

But they don’t, because who knows about them? Who knows you? Who are you anyway?

When the glitter fades you are left seated on the throne of your unsold books, or perhaps buried by that very pile of books. The ones that were meant to be your “contribution to the world!” your “gift to all those families” the “saving grace for all those kids.”

Well-wishers glance in your direction and smile. “Good luck,” they say, as they depart for more important things and to attend to more pressing matters. They don’t say but I hear, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill.” (James 2:16)* The words spoken to a brother or sister in need who lacks the necessities of life, while (we) go along (our) way, failing to supply it.

Faith doesn’t work without the works.

How very poignant this message is to me now. My dearest of friends – the ones who truly believe in me – show me their faith, not with casual mentions or polite congratulations, but by showing up and sharing the work. They have purchased books, shared them with friends, connected me with resources, and generally spread the good word.

lebolt_v10There’s a book here whose author I know and trust. She’s got something important to say. Listen to her.”

I am responsible for that book. Inspired by my friends’ belief, I continue to work for the good of those who are dearly loved by the One who inclined me to write the book. Sale or no sale, He still gets His word in edgewise. “Don’t let up. This is My work you are doing.”

Faith in your story isn’t enough. You have to be out there telling it. Books don’t sell themselves, you know!

*God-nod: I was inclined to share the idea of this post but I couldn’t quite recall where the Bible story was. I opened my copy of The Upper Room this morning, and there was the verse, inspiring a powerful meditation by another author.

Are you leaving a margin?

IMG_7198What if we printed our books and wrote our essays right up to the very edges leaving no margin? Wouldn’t that be a much a better use of our space. Why waste all that good white paper around the edges?

I know. I know. The book publishers out there will tell me it’s easier on the eyes, better for binding, and cleaner for copy to leave a margin. But there is a better reason: it’s jotting room. A place to make note, respond, or converse with the author, whom you may imagine is sitting there with you, reading or speaking these printed words to you.

Apparently, I am not the first to discover this and even to value this. There is actually a project called Book Traces which is seeking books with notes in the margin or entries in blank space or even with things shoved in them for safe-keeping. As libraries go digital, these treasures are in danger of being lost. They are asking for help:

Thousands of old library books bear fascinating traces of the past. Readers wrote in their books, and left notes, pictures, letters, flowers, locks of hair, and other things between their pages. We need your help identifying them because many are in danger of being discarded as libraries go digital. Books printed between 1820 and 1923 are at particular risk.  Help us prove the value of maintaining rich print collections in our libraries.

Ironically, the books they are particularly trying to save – pre-copyright books published before 1923 – do not qualify as rare or fit for special collections, because they are considered damaged because of their marginalia. I would call them personalized, but to find their personality each has to be opened and examined.

A University of Virginia English professor found a tale of lost love in a 1891 copy of Longfellow’s poetry he pulled from the shelves at the Alderman library. In it, Jane Chapman Slaughter, one of the first women to receive a PhD from the University, wrote in a blank front page,

“Our readings together were in this book, ere you went to your life of work and sacrifice, and I remained to my life of infinite yearning for your presence, the sound of your voice; a yearning never to be satisfied in this world or the next.” (more here)

Ah, books are more than printed pages. There is printing, for sure. Words lived and spoken and acted out. But those margins have purpose:

  • So we can expand our thinking?
  • So we can share our thoughts?
  • So we can reach out to others?
  • So our eyes can rest from their reading?
  • So we can doodle during the Service?

Somehow, my creativity is meant to go there. I’m meant to be a bit more adventuresome, to try things out, squeeze it in, go sideways or up and down. Perhaps shade or circle, foot print, teardrop or floralate. (yep – just made that up) The margins let me be me, even when we are all looking at the same printed text. They let me put my signature flourish or quiet discontent in writing. After all, who will ever read them?

But what if someone did? What will they say to those who never knew me? Perhaps more than I would say, were I to be standing there wearing my most honest, politically correct and socially acceptable face. There, in the margins, I stand exposed.

Regrettably, so much of my life is pushed to the very edges, leaving no margin, no room for error, no padding, and no comfort zone. There is no room left for whatever might come along.

What if I treated margin as it’s meant to be treated, not as extra room to fill, but extra space for extending?

  • Time for someone who needs it.
  • Patience for a child who deserves it.
  • Calm for a body that rests in it.
  • Quiet for a mind that expands in it.

Then in the end, in the very end, there will be room around the edges, just enough for the affixing of our frames in the banquet hall of masterpieces. We will be not only justified by our typewriters, but by our Lord. Oh, our words do echo through the generations, perhaps because the Word Himself left a margin for us.

A letter from my dad to his parents about his first scout trip

What would Jesus Tweet?

“Your words were a blessing.”

It may have been the timing or the delivery or the situation, I don’t know. They were just words, my words, on a card or letter. Not flowery or lovely or well-heeled, but offered sincerely whenever I felt the nudge to write. After I had heard this blessing-thing from a few people, I began to wonder… If my words were received as a blessing, then God was in that. I owed it to God to become the best writer I could.

I signed up for one online course and then another, attended workshops and went to conferences, formed a writers group and began blogging. I had, for years, written regularly in my journals, but this new writing was different. It was public. Out there to be critiqued, challenged, berated and/or celebrated. No controlling what other people say once you punch that send button.

But sending out was exactly what I needed. Being at the mercy of public opinion, especially honest and trusted opinion, required me to risk. Risk spurred me to write well, or at least as well as I could, and then to receive what came back and give it its proper due.

Fit2Finish coverThis week, I held in my hands the very first copy of my very first book. Congratulations and well-wishes abound, celebrating my accomplishment. And it is. The work of a whole career and the lessons of a lifetime have shaped that book. It’s tempting to be proud. Proud of the work, proud of the success, proud of the adulation. Why not take a bow?

But from the pinnacle it is easy to lose one’s balance. Shouting from the mountaintops “I published a book!!!!” would echo from canyon to canyon. What a great symphony that would be! And that’s what the book-people tell you to do. Establish a platform and get it out on social media. Post it to Facebook; share it on Linked In; tweet it from the mountaintop!

But we’re not meant to build on the mountaintop. Peter got laughed off the Mount of Transfiguration for offering to build three tabernacles. How silly we are to think of making our permanent residence here.

Still, why didn’t Jesus make a bit more noise from the mountaintop? I mean, think about the distance those teachings would travel and the multitudes who would hear. What a splash He could have made on Twitter! But that wasn’t His way. When He was surrounded by many He shoved off in a boat to address the crowd. Why use a boat when you can walk on water?!! Because He didn’t want that kind of attention.

Recently, Cara, the young daughter of a dear friend convicted me in this. Cara is 5 years old, I think. Her mom was telling me how Cara had stopped the swimming instructor before her turn to swim from the wall because, first, she had to pray.

“He tells me to pray to him, so I do what he tells me,” Cara says, then repeats the swim lesson prayer for me: “Dear God, thank you for soccer camp and swim lessons. Amen.”

“What does God sound like?” I have to ask. I mean, how can I pass up an opportunity to question an eye witness?

She cocks her head and thinks for a minute, remembering. “He’s quiet, kind of whispering to me,” she says.

“Why do you think He’s so quiet?”

“If he was loud, everybody would look and shout and point…” she explains, matter-of-factly. An older child would have added, “duh,” but older children don’t seem to hear quite so clearly.

I was immediately dumb-struck. What this child was telling me made perfect sense. God speaks in whispers in order NOT to draw attention to Himself. Of course He does, because God is perfect in everything, including humility. Perfectly humble.

There is no pride there. No shouting from the mountaintop, even though His message is the most important of all time, essential for every single soul to hear. He leaves its expression to us to unfold in our lives and our conversations because that’s where it takes on new life.

Fit2Finish: Keeping Soccer Players in the Game is the title of my new book. I have tweeted and Face-booked and will invite my email contacts to opt in to the newsletter to find out more. That’s the way things get done on the mountaintop. But in the valley I expect the real message will get conveyed person to person in quiet whispers, friendly conversations, and a team talk or two.

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