Just Because I Can Doesn’t Mean I Should

Another uproar. Another point of division in a divided country. Another debate about free speech.

The gifted, diverse cast of a Broadway play exercised their right to free speech by making a political appeal to a VIP in the audience.

Supporters of the cast affirmed their right of free speech. Supporters of the VIP expressed outrage that his right to enjoy purchased entertainment had been violated. Both are partially right and partially wrong.

There’s a larger issue here than that of defending our rights.

We’re big on rights in this country. We demand that the government protect those rights. And it seems our society is in the process of identifying new rights on an almost daily basis.

But just because we have the right to do something doesn’t mean we ought do it.

Legal isn’t always the same as moral.

And just because I can doesn’t mean I should.Just because I can doesn't mean I should

The New Testament speaks little about our rights, except to say Christians are to sacrifice them. One of the marks of a Christian is to put others’ rights ahead of our own. To prioritize their needs above ours. To extend forgiveness when it’s undeserved and to withhold criticism and condemnation even when it is deserved.

This perspective doesn’t fit our culture’s obsession with having rights and being right. And it certainly doesn’t seem appropriate in the dog-eat-dog world of politics.

Yet, for 2,000 years, to be a Christian usually meant being out of step with the prevailing culture. We cannot simultaneously reflect Christ and fit into the world. Jesus said His followers are in the world, but not of the world (John 17:16). There’s a difference. And when we fail to live out that difference, we fail to reflect Christ.

So the next time you and I are furious because our rights have been trampled, consider whether fighting for our rights results in failing to live for Christ. Do we need to say everything we have a right to say? Do we need to do everything we have a right to do?

What about extending forgiveness and grace?

How does humility and mercy fit in?

Might it be the very moment we give up demanding our right to something is the moment people actually see Christ in us?

Now that would be something to be truly thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Pay It Forward

Once upon a time I was the Vice President of Human Resources for an international insurance company. The corporate rat race consumed all my energies. Writing for publication was a vague dream that belonged to another life – a life far removed from my reality.

Twenty years later, we left New York City and settled in South Florida. I finally had an opportunity to pursue my passion for teaching and writing.

When I did begin to write for publication, I approached it from a lonely perspective. Just me and my computer. Yes, I read books on writing. But it wasn’t until I connected with other writers that I realized my dream didn’t have to remain a dream. Activities such as attending writers’ conferences, participating in critique groups, and joining writers’ associations have helped me develop my technical and professional skills.

The result has been publication of three books in the past year, with additional contracts in the works. I say this with gratitude and humility, knowing I never would have reached this place without the help and encouragement of others in the writing community.

My goal is to continue growing as a writer, but I also want to “pay forward” the assistance that was invested in me by more experienced writers. Part of paying it forward for me includes serving on the Board of the Christian Author Network (CAN).

Paying it forward is not limited to writers. It’s not limited to any one profession or personality. Every one of us has been helped by someone else along life’s journey. I think of the first two lines of John Donne’s poem, “No Man is an Island”:

No man is an island entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…

When I take full credit for my accomplishments, I’m being foolish at best and arrogant at worst. The Bible tells us God is the One who gives us the ability to be successful (Deuteronomy 8:18). Even then, He often works through our experiences and relationships to give us the skills, abilities, and encouragement to accomplish our goals.

Paying it forward is something I want to do in every area of my life. My writing life is just the beginning. I’m looking forward to seeing how God will use this desire to touch others…who hopefully will do the same. Then ripples will reach distant shores I, myself, may never walk.

How about you? Who has assisted you on your life’s journey?
What will you do to pay it forward?

Promotion – A Christian Author’s Dilemma

My first book, One Year Alone with God: 366 Devotions on the Names of God, was published by Revell Books this month. My joy at the release of this project has been tempered by the need to market it through a website, blog posts, newsletters, Facebook author page, Twitter, book signings, and most recently, a launch party.

A recent conversation with a family member highlighted the tension inherent in promoting my book. “Why are you doing book signings?” he asked. “If God wants your book to sell, then it will sell. You should just trust Him.” His voice was tinged with reproach and his meaning was clear: a mature Christian should trust God rather than schedule book signings and develop other marketing efforts.

Marketing and promotion. I am uncomfortable with this part of a writer’s job. I dislike doing it and I hate that others – even family members – mistake my actions for self-aggrandizement. After all, I’m a Christian. The Bible tells me to be humble, to put others first, and – in the vernacular – to not toot my own horn. Proverbs 27:2 says to “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”

Still, publishing is a business, and that includes Christian publishing. In these days of staff cuts and diminishing budgets, most authors can no longer expect their publishers to roll out the red carpet to market their books. Even before a book is contracted, the publisher wants to know what marketing plans you have for the project. If you’re not willing to promote your book, your publisher probably won’t be willing to publish it.

This is not about measuring success by book sales. Literary agent Chip MacGregor often speaks of significance over success. Chip defined significance as “making a difference in the lives of people over time.” He notes that “significant people are those who made a difference in our world, whether they attained success or not.”

My goal – my significance, if you will – is to glorify God with my life. That includes my writing, which I believe is a gift He has given me. If this is true, then my goal must also be to glorify God in my marketing, just as I sought to glorify Him in my writing.

This is not about me. I never want my marketing efforts to be about self-aggrandizement. I don’t want to be the one waving her book high in the air, shouting “Look at me! Look at what I’ve done! Buy my book!”

Rather, I want to promote my book because it is a work God has done in and through me. He has given me an ability to use words for His glory. He has opened doors to publication while many writers more talented than I am are waiting for their opportunity. This is about what God has done. That’s what I want to say. I want to shout, “Look at my Creator! Look at my Redeemer! Look at what He has done!”

If, in order to do that, I need to “put myself out there” then that’s what I’ll do. But I’ll do it in the hope that others will be blessed by the work He gave me, and they, in turn, will proclaim what He has done through this book.

Matthew 5:16 (NIV) says, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Everything I do is for the purpose of giving glory and honor to my Father in heaven (I Corinthians 10:31).

So, yes, I will continue to develop my website, write blog posts, send out a quarterly newsletter to those who subscribe, update Facebook, tweet on Twitter, and schedule book signings. Not because I want to draw attention to me, but because I believe One Year Alone with God with God: 366 Devotions on the Names of God, is His book. I believe it will be used by God to touch others for His glory. And if that’s what I truly believe, how can I not tell others?

Do you think it’s possible for writers to promote their work without promoting themselves?