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Writer’s Block and Overcoming Fear

Two posts in one week! Incredible! If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you will recognize this as a momentous moment. Posts here are as spotty as free coffee shop WiFi. It falls just shy of the standard for miracle-worthy.

So what could justify the sudden escalation of communication?

My former lack of communication. Writer’s block, to be blunt.

You see, Wednesday’s post was weeks in the making. I meant to finish it within a couple days of the idea. Actually writing the post wasn’t that difficult. But it was more difficult letting it be read. I hesitated to publish, rereading it, tweaking a sentence here or there, waiting for the fairy dust that would make it perfect.

I was worried what people might say. I wondered if it was even relevant to this blog. I thought maybe I should keep it to myself. Maybe it was only useful to me and no one else.

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Credit: Alun Salt (https://flic.kr/p/opKr6)

My drafts folder has other posts that may never get published. Some are half-formed thoughts I haven’t taken the time to finish. Others are a topic–a phrase or single line–more than a thesis. I told myself that my life was too busy, that I would blog more if I didn’t have so many other priorities. Meanwhile I watched other bloggers generate new posts every morning.

The same problem appears in writing beyond the blog. It’s gotten to the point that freelance articles take far more hours than they should and I’ve totally given up opening the Word document with my book manuscript.

Last Monday, toiling all evening on an over-due article, I complained to my sister, “When did writing get so hard?” Second only to Christ, being a writer has defined my identity since first grade.

I was thinking about this on Wednesday and why I hadn’t posted anything for so long. Not only could I not publish, but I couldn’t write. I am scared of typing something (which could be easily deleted) because it might not be perfect, it might be misunderstood, it might be rejected. Fear keeps me from both writing and publishing what I wrote.

My writer’s block is nothing more than fear.

I believe fear is one of our greatest dangers. Of course, fear saves us from harm, but it can also hold us back from good. The Israelites refused to go into the Promised Land because they were afraid of the Canaanites living there. They were so intimidated by the size of the Canaanites that they forgot how big God is. The consequence was 40 years wandering the wilderness instead of the land flowing with milk and honey (Numbers 14).

In the Bible, God tells his people repeatedly to not fear. Why do you think humans need this reminder so often? Whenever an angel shows up, the first thing he says is, “Do not be afraid.” When Jesus calmed the storm on the sea, he asked his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40). After Jesus ascended, when Paul was traveling to share the good news, the Lord spoke to Paul in Corinth: “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people'” (Acts 18:9-10).

I don’t want to be controlled by fear. I don’t want to be so afraid that I miss out on the Promised Land. I don’t want fear of people to keep me from blessing them, giving them everything I have to offer–even if it’s just a blog post. It’s said we should face our fears, so it seems the best method to overcome my fear of writing is to…write.

That’s why I’m starting a new series on the Gospel of Mark.

I’ve been writing on this blog four years. I’ve reviewed several books in that time. That’s where the title “Reviewed Thought” comes from. But never have I reviewed a book of the Bible. Since Jesus is at the heart of the whole Scripture, I’d like to start with one of the gospel accounts of his life. That leaves Matthew, Luke, Mark, and John. Matthew and Luke get a lot of attention for featuring the Christmas story. John includes many stories of Jesus that were left out by the other writers. John is also known for an unique, personal voice easily accessible to people unfamiliar with the Bible. But what about Mark?

Mark is the shortest Gospel of the four, but it’s believed to have been written before the others, even being used as source material for Matthew and Luke. It was also likely written for a Gentile audience, Romans who didn’t know Jewish history or scriptures. I can’t remember ever giving Mark much thought, so I’ve chosen this Gospel for my first biblical study on Reviewed Thought.

Look for the first post on Monday. I plan to add a new post from Mark every week. Posts on other topics may appear occasionally as well, probably on Thursdays or Fridays. Hopefully this new book study will keep me accountable to write something and not let fear stop me.

When have you felt fear holding you back?

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark 1:1

 

 

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Posted by on March 18, 2016 in Other thoughts

 

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Ignoring Sensibility to Chase the (Impractical) Dream

I quit job searching today.

Before you ask, the answer is no, I did not get hired today. I should have gotten a call if my most recent application was accepted. But there was no call. And I’m done applying.

You might wonder what this means. Why does one stop applying for jobs before one is hired for decent work? To be honest, I feel a little crazy myself. It doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t sound practical. But it’s the plan at least for until I move in a few months. When I resettle, I will reevaluate.

Last night, I realized that I’ve tried to do at least 97 different things with all of my “free time.” It’s left me unfocused and exhausted, and I knew something had to change. I then asked myself what it is that I’m most passionate about pursuing in this awkward, transitional season of my life. Immediately, my newest book project came to mind. Huh, I thought. Why am I not focusing on that first?

The answer came easily: I’m afraid. I’ve dreamed about being a full-time author since I was a child, but growing up all but strangled that dream. My dad once told me I’d better get used to eating ramen noodles if that’s the career I wanted. To fully pursue freelance writing would mean taking huge risks. What if I run out of money while working on the book? What if a publisher never takes interest? What if I can never finish the book? Perhaps worse, what if the book is published but fails? What if no one but my mother reads it and all that time and effort was wasted for nothing? I’d just be one more unnoticed wanna-be living with her parents because she was too impractical to get a “real job.”

All those lurking fears had convinced me that I didn’t actually want to write full-time. They lied to me. And I believed them. “It’s just a pipe dream. You could never really do it, so what’s the point trying?” they said. “Try, and you’ll only fail.” So I let fear paralyze me.

But I’m tired of being afraid.

What would it look like if I redirected my energy primarily into the new book? I mean really dedicate myself to it, excluding lesser priorities? First of all, I’d have to reclaim time from any distractions. Such as the many hours spent every week in job searching, writing cover letters, fine-tuning my résumé, and submitting applications. Wasted hours. What have they given me but disappointed hopes for jobs I wasn’t excited about in the first place? If I want to be an author, it’s about time I act on it and stop looking for other opportunities. If I don’t, I may never know if it is possible.

It’s a step of faithBy continuing to job search, I’m only looking for security. I know my passion, but I’ve doubted God’s provision and guidance, anxiously trying to find some “reliable” income. As if God isn’t reliable enough. As if every calling from God looks sensible to the world.

If I waste my time, at least it will be wasted chasing the dream and not by scrolling through job listings. If it doesn’t work and the book fails, I only prove I’m human. If it turns out this isn’t my calling, then God will use even my mistakes to teach me. He won’t abandon me because I took a wrong turn.

I’m done job searching because I have a job. I’m an author.

Update (2/25): That last application I mentioned? I got the call today. It turns out the manager was sick yesterday, which explains why I didn’t hear from her. So now I have a part-time job to support me while also leaving me enough time to continue writing. God does indeed move in his own timing and have a sense of humor.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in Authors, Other thoughts

 

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How to Trust

Fear and doubt come naturally to me. I’m well-practiced there. You could say I was born knowing how to fear and doubt. Trust is in a different department, which can’t operate simultaneously. You can only have one or the other, and for me, fear and doubt usually overrules trust after only a short reign. 

This past week, it bothered me that trusting God doesn’t seem to be an attitude that sticks for long. One day, I can be totally devoted to God–fully convinced of his goodness, faithfulness, and love–then I wake up the next morning with fear having crept into my thoughts overnight.

Credit: "Dawn" by dan at freedigitalphotos.net

Credit: “Dawn” by dan at freedigitalphotos.net

When the doubts show their ugly mugs, I have to remind myself to trust God instead. Sometimes this is a minute-by-minute exercise. Doubts say that God is other than the Bible says he is. But if the Bible is right, then I can silence all doubts. The first letter of John says, “God is love” (4:16). “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:18-19).

With my mind focused on God, I have no reason to fear. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” This verse gives me reassurance when I’m feeling afraid since there’s the promise of “perfect peace” for anyone who is steadfastly trusting in God. Verse 26:4 then gives the guarantee for the promise, the reason why trusting God brings peace: “Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” God dispels fear, like a lamp illuminating darkness, because he is unchanging and immovable. “I AM WHO I AM,” the Lord said to Moses (Exodus 3:14).

God is worthy of trust. We do not need to fear because we know God loves us and he will never change. He promises it. He says he will never abandon us. He will do anything for those he loves, even sacrifice his son Jesus to rescue us from death.

As you think on where Christmas started, with a baby “wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger,” remember that God loves you as much as he did on that night in Bethlehem when he gave the greatest gift the world has ever seen. Then let God silence your fears and doubts.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Other thoughts

 

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Do Not Fear… God is with You

“Fear not; the things that you are afraid of are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of.”

This morning, my pastor quoted this maxim of “real religion” from the Scottish philosopher and theologian John Macmurray. In contrast, Macmurray describes “illusory religion” as, “Fear not; trust in God and he will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you.” The illusory religion is a lie. Real religion, by Macmurray’s definition, recognizes that God does not spare his children from what scares them. Instead, God shows them that they do not need to be afraid.

Today, churches celebrated Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem in order to sacrifice himself on the cross (John 12:12-16). His sacrifice means our salvation from the judgment of our sins, namely, eternal hell separated from God. He gave himself to die so that we could be reunited with God–not to be saved from our temporal fears. Being a Christian does not mean salvation from suffering in this world. On the contrary, Jesus guarantees it. The night before he died, Jesus told his disciples that he would soon return to God the Father. He said to them, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.” He warned them right there of the trouble to come, despite also promising them peace. “But take heart!” he continued. “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Yes, there will be trouble in this world, but Jesus has “overcome the world.” He has already won the war, and he has all power. The victory is his alone.

So even though our fears are “quite likely to happen,” what reason do we have to fear them? Why do we fear when the victor is on our side? The things we fear are not worth our worry. In Luke 12, Jesus teaches his disciples to trust in God and his goodness rather than to be afraid for their lives. He goes on to explain the provision of God and the uselessness of worrying about clothes or food. Rather than setting our hearts on these material things, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Why do we grasp for petty goods when God has given us his kingdom?

In my Perspectives class, we are learning about God’s kingdom and how he has called us to spread his kingdom throughout the world. Unlike human kingdoms, the kingdom Jesus meant isn’t a geographic-bound, royal state. It’s actually more about God’s glory and authority. This is more easily understood as a kingship rather than kingdom. When Jesus says God gave us his kingdom, it means we have been adopted into his family and have inherited his salvation and power. In other words, we are royalty. What do we have to fear when we have God’s kingship?

We get all the royal benefits–and responsibilities. Part of our inheritance is to carry on the kingship and spread the kingdom. Again and again in the Bible, God tells us to serve in his great work of extending the kingdom to all corners of the earth. God chooses to use his children in his plans, and the Bible shows many such examples. From one story to the next, God calls people to follow his instructions. To Moses, these marching orders were to rescue the Israelites from slavery and lead them into their promised homeland. To King David, God established a commitment to an earthly kingdom that would make his name known. To the prophets of Israel and Judah, God’s call told them to rebuke his people’s sins, exhort his people to return to him, and comfort them in his discipline. To the apostles, Jesus sent them into the world to announce the good news of God’s kingdom.

God has been in recent months calling me to his work with a stronger voice. The call gains more clarity as time goes on. Lately, I’ve been reading the prophets in the Bible and came to Jeremiah. As soon as I read his call from God, I knew God and I were in the same conversation. Jeremiah 1:4-8 reads:

The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“Alas, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.”

God leaves no room for excuse. Especially our fears, whether of rejection, failure, poverty, or even death. None of it matters compared to fulfilling our instructions from God. He already knows what scares us, but he promises that he is big enough and strong enough to be worthy of our trust. He says, “I am with you and will rescue you.” Yes, there is trouble in this world. There is pain and death. But we have the privilege to participate in our Father’s work here on earth, and in the end, God will still be with us to bring us home.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2013 in Other thoughts

 

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