Tag Archive | encouragement

Who’s Your Sam?

A few weeks back, I did a talk at our local ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) chapter and challenged my fellow writers with this final question: Who is your Sam?

Let me give you some background.

Life is tough. Duh. You already knew that, didn’t you?

Being a Christian can be a challenging road to walk. Oh, you knew that too? Sorry. Just wanting to establish the facts first.

We need to be immersed in God’s truth, studying His Word and listening to the Holy Spirit as He leads and guides us. This communication however, can be disconnected because of sin. The remedy is simple. We repent, accept Christ’s forgiveness purchased for us at the cross and walk forward His power to accomplish the tasks He has given.

You with me so far?

Life is hard. We need God.

But that’s not all. We need others around us. Let me show you an example:

Now, if you are not familiar with J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, let me give you an overview. Frodo has a ring of power that needs to be destroyed in Mordor. He leaves home, the shire, with three other Hobbits. One is Sam. They end up in Rivendale and become a fellowship of nine all bent on completing this task of destroying the ring. Four hobbits, a wizard, two men, an elf and a dwarf. By the end of that first movie, the wizard is presumed killed and another man is dead and the fellowship is broken up. In spite of that, as the trilogy moves on, Sam is Frodo’s constant companion, protector and in many ways, his salvation. While there are many heroes in the story, it is Sam, a secondary character, who truly gives his all to his friend.

In the hard journey of life and the calling that God can place on our lives, we all need a few Sam’s around us. Some might be a little more distant and still helping us fight on toward our goal, with words of encouragement, a listening ear and prayer. And others will walk more closely, willing to tackle us when we are going to venture into sin and challenge us when we are lost in lies.

We also need to endeavor to be this for other people as well.

So . . . in the story God is writing in your life . . . who is your Sam? You really should have more than one. Frodo had eight who supported him on the journey and one died to protect him. The rest risked death time and again to see the goal accomplished and save Middle Earth.

On the flip side. Who are you a Sam for? Whose life are you speaking truth into, praying for, encouraging. For instance, how about our pastors? They are on the forefront of spiritual battle and need a fellowship of warriors behind them as much as we do if not more.

Let us not forget that God is writing a great story in your life and it is the gospel many people may read before they ever pick up the Bible. And we have some input into the journey by our choices, good or bad. Our mistakes, our failures as well as our successes and how we respond say a lot to others about our relationship wtih God. And much of that can depend on the strength and support of the Sam’s around us.

Tell me about a Sam in your life. 

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What Would Success Look like for You?

I had a chance to chat with my brother, John Pollard, this past weekend and he asked me an insightful question in regards to my book, Pesto and Potholes, coming out next spring:

What would success look like for you? 

Wow. Of course I would love it if my book sold well and I even made something to compensate me for my efforts to write it. Let’s face it, New York Times Bestselling Author is a nice moniker to claim but for inspirational romance and a debut novel, probably not likely. I can market and do book signings but ultimately, there is a lot of that which is out of my control. I can make people aware of my work, but I can’t force them to fork over their hard-earned cash to purchase a copy.

But I hope you will anyway. 

I told John (my younger and much wiser brother by the way) that ultimately my version of success would be hard to measure. This is totally opposed to any leadership training I’ve had or taught. Objectives are to be measurable!

How do you measure success without it?

The fact is, you can’t.

So what would success look like? Success to me would be people putting down my book and not just been entertained by a story, but encouraged in their walk with God. That they would be affirmed in their pursuit of obedience to Him. That maybe they would draw closer to our Lord because of the example of the characters in the story.

Renate - God loves you

Emotional impact.

Spiritual affirmation and encouragement.

Heart change. 

I can’t measure these things.

But God can. So while I have to rely on book sales and the reviews of readers to clue me into whether my efforts have paid off, God can track the truth with those who don’t write a review, or borrow the book from a friend. Because the reality is, in this life, we rarely are aware of the ripple effect of our words and actions.

And maybe that’s a good thing. It will make heaven all the sweeter when we learn how God used our pain, suffering and art to touch the hearts of others.

It’s months away . . . there’s Thanksgiving to get through. Christmas and a new year . . . so stay tuned here and at my fan page as I navigate this journey. And thanks. Thank you for reading, for praying, and encouraging this fellow traveler in this rocky road we call life.

 

 

 

Anticipating the Holiday Rudeness

I have a friend who has been a cheerleader of my writing from day one. He often says “Don’t forget the little people when you make it big.”

I love his “when.”

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Then there is someone in my life who has said, “Nice little hobby you have there. You won’t make any money at it.”

Or how about this comment, “Oh, so is that what you’re doing now? How nice for you. When are you going to get a real job?”

The holidays bring out the worst in people. I try to generally be gracious to those who don’t understand that my writing and editing is a real job and that I work very hard at it. I will be forever grateful for those people who have supported, encouraged and believed in me and my writing before I’ve made my mark on the publishing world.

So often authors cite parents or spouse as being those supporters. That’s not the case for me. My grandmother is a grand cheerleader though.

The comment I’ve heard before and expect to hear on Thanksgiving Day though is this: “How much money do you make?”

Stop. Wait. Excuse me? Where in any part of civilization is this an appropriate question? Between authors it might be acceptable in discussing the challenge to actually talk about *gasp* money, but if I went to my family members and asked how much they got paid for the work they do, well, they would be offended.

So what makes any of them think it’s okay to ask me such a question? Stephen King doesn’t make his tax return public knowledge, does he?

Since I write historical fiction I’m going to revert back to a more respectable time when people did not ask such questions. Wait. Even in Regency England a man was known by how much he made a year and it was used as a measuring stick to determine whether he was worthy husband material.

But I’m not looking for a husband.

So my response? “Thank you for your interest in my writing. In response to your question, it’s none of your business.”

Beth Ziarnik and me. She was the "Paul" to my "Timothy" at my first writer's conference (Write to Publish)

Beth Ziarnik and me. She was the “Paul” to my “Timothy” at my first writer’s conference (Write to Publish)

It isn’t. There is nothing that says I have to answer every question posed to me no matter how authentic and real I strive to be in my life.  Some things can be and should be private. The fact is, the amount of money I earn, much like the size of my clothing, does not determine my value in the eyes of God. He is the reason I write and yes, the IRS will know, but unless I start making millions, I doubt I will ever want to share that kind of information, especially with those who have not encouraged and supported me.

Will Smith has said “If you are absent during my struggle, don’t expect to be present during my success.” Well said, Will.

Have a wonderful thanksgiving and for those of you who have prayed, supported and encouraged me on my journey (and you know who you are!), I am thanking God for the gift of you in my life. I may not make much money now, but I’m rich in the relationships my writing has brought into my life.

Life on God’s “D” List

This was originally published in 2010…

Many years ago, a dear friend had emailed me about being depressed. Today, here in Wisconsin it is dark and stormy. Many of us go through storms of life that do leave us feeling: dark, down, depressed, defeated, deflated, discouraged, disabled. I shot the below “D” list to my friend then and ironically she has shot it back to me over the years and I have saved it because sometimes we all need some encouragement. So if you are in a dark place, if life is tough and the “D” words (kind of like Kathy Griffith’s “Life on the ‘D’ List”) have got you down – then take a look at life through GOD’s ‘D’ list instead:

Delightful – He lights up our lives!

Delectable & Delicious – Savor the sweetness of God!

Daring and Dangerous – Isn’t He just? And sometimes He calls us to be as well.

Dancing – In the arms of God! More fun than Dancing with the Stars!

Darling – That’s how He sees You!

Determined – To overcome Satan, we have that power through His Holy Spirit!

Demanding -We have a right to come before His throne with our requests!

Daddy – We can call Him this! Abba, Father!

Daughter – That’s who you are to Him! – If you are a woman.  Sorry guys – you’ll have to wait for an “S” list!

Delirious – How we should be in love with Him!

Discipline -He does this because He loves us!

Deep – How the Bible describes His love for us!

Done – Our salvation in Christ.  What a relief!

A Letter to a Dying Pastor

I haven’t posted in a long time as we prepare for  move to a new home. But Mark Steele was not only a pastor but a friend and mentor and employer for years and had a huge impact on my life. We served for years together at a church plant called Stonebridge Community Church. He is now in heaven after a short battle with cancer and my heart grieves. Here’s part of a letter I wrote to him a few days before he died. Not sure if he got to read it or not. I pray that somehow God can use me in the lives of others like He used Mark in mine.                                                                                                

June 1, 2011

Dear Mark,

I want you to know how much I appreciated you and the time and effort you put into mentoring a young woman in grad school who had been hurt by a previous church experience.  I learned so many things at Stonebridge. You just happened to be a large part of those memories although God was always the One doing the work. Thank you for your investment in me.

I remember the first time you ever asked me how my relationship with God was. I felt a little on the hot seat, like I was going to be taken to task for any slip up. But that was not the case. I soon learned that you asking about my relationship with God was an expression of love and a desire to help me continue to grow in my faith.  Over the years I have had so many people ask why I get up so early in the morning – but it is because that is one of the few times in my day when I can be alone with God and my thoughts and prayers. I still have so much further to go – but have come so far by His grace and patience with me. Thank you for caring enough to ask.

I remember when we did our Sunday mornings at the YMCA and we would pray and see God do amazing things. To see people come to Christ. To see them serve in their area of giftedness and passion. To see sacrifice and joy in the tasks before us. We were a family – one that I am still a part of in so many ways. I’m blessed to still have friends from those days who are intersecting with my life, some on facebook now and others in person at times. How amazing it all was.

I remember learning to “stay engaged through the pain.” If that wasn’t an axiom of Mark Steele I don’t know what was. I so often wanted to run when the pain got to be more than I thought I could bear. But you never let me. You didn’t tell me I couldn’t, but you let me seek God and entrusted that HE wouldn’t let me run. And He didn’t. Ministry is tough. Leadership can be lonely and painful, but you taught me that integrity was priceless and to persevere anyway. Not that I didn’t make my share of mistakes as I “grew up” in our Stonebridge family, but I learned from them and moved on and “I will never be the same again, I can never return, I’ve closed the door. . . “

Songs: “Saddle up Your horses – we’ve got a trail to blaze!” “Fear Not, for I am with you, fear not, for I am with you. . . “ “Be bold, Be strong, for the Lord Your God is with you!” (I remember Allison yelling out those words loud!), ‘Leave a light on for me. . .” oh, and so many others.  Those songs are Stonebridge to me – a precious moment in time I hope I never forget.

I remember an orange van that we painted burgundy. I remember loading that van over and over and over again!

I remember music rehearsals taking place in your home late into the night on Mondays.

I remember meeting at Hardees and later at Mayfair mall food court for our “staff meetings”.

I remember getting paid $1 for my first year of employment!

I remember you coming through a colored curtain a la Johnny Carson!

I remember being taught about protecting a marriage with firm boundaries.

I remember when you debated whether or not to shave off your mustache – and you did it and never went back!  Right after that we had more men in our church with mustaches and beards than ever before! Too funny. (You have a mustache in our wedding pictures!)

I remember you liking cherry pie.

I remember after a conference, how you would always quiz us about what we learned and took away so that our experience would stick and not just be a moment to be forgotten (I do this with my kids now!).

I remember fearing your return from study break because I knew you would come back refreshed and full of ideas that I would somehow have to put legs and feet to.

I remember your hugs. You were always a hugger. I loved that. I miss your hugs.

I miss the synergy of what we had as a team on Sundays.  There was, most of the time, something very precious and beautiful that happened.

I remember having to make sure you were presentable before going up on stage – and one day asking if your fly was zipped – and surprisingly enough you found it wasn’t!  I hadn’t noticed personally – it was just part of the routine! (giggling)

Many people will criticize Stonebridge for having been seeker-targeted. I don’t. It opened up my heart to the reality of hurting people who needed Jesus and trying to make a place where they would feel welcome. It’s a value I carry with me today.

I learned about the dangers of triangulation. I learned about confidentiality. I learned about the value of a pastor who “has your back” when times are tough.  I learned about authenticity and perseverance and spiritual warfare. I learned to submit to godly leadership (even if I didn’t always like it.) I learned to accept change better. You always said I would kick and scream at first (metaphorically) and then settle in just fine! I learned about the power of encouragement.

I learned that even serving with a limp (depression) is something that can bring honor and glory to God and no matter how unacceptable we feel we are – the church is blessed when we come and step up in faith to serve our glorious King.

I learned more about worship at New Community than I had ever learned before.

I see my time serving with you at Stonebridge as a series of life-defining moments.

I remember laughter and tears and prayer walks.

I remember camping.

I have learned it is sometimes better to take a risk and fail than to always play it safe. I learned that pushing the envelope can be a very good thing if God is behind it.

I learned that none of us are “normal!”

I remember that you always loved to be on the cutting edge of technology and always knew “just enough to be dangerous.”

I have seen God redeem pain in amazing ways. I have taught many women master’s level theology and leadership classes – and some of my lessons don’t come from a textbook .  I found that I love to teach. Because of what I have learned at your feet, Mark, I have strived to be a blessing to the leaders at the church where I serve. I’ve been blessed with leaders who strive to be “healthy.” I continue to learn so much but fear that if I hadn’t had the foundation for it, which you helped me build as a leader, I would not be as nearly effective for the kingdom.

Because of you, I value more than ever true life change – that process of sanctification we all should be embracing but many Christians don’t.  I have raised a higher standard for women in leadership that involves godly character (not as easy to find as some might think – leading women is much harder than working with men in my opinion!).

You have definitely left your “mark” on me for sure as well as on many others. (pun intended!)

I continue, Mark, to pray for your healing. Yet I felt that if God chooses to favor you with the joy of His presence face-to-face while the rest of us wait in a pain-filled sinful world, that I couldn’t not let you know, once again, how much you have impacted my life for the better.

Okay – I am sure I could write more. Heck, I write novels but you probably wouldn’t have the strength or patience to read that much! There is a nice pile of Kleenex next to me to give  testimony to the grief in my heart over what you and your family are suffering through. I know God gives grace for the journey and my own tears are more selfish than anything.

I will continue to pray for healing – even knowing that God’s view of that might be ultimate healing that comes from being in eternity with Him.

With much love and fondness, as your sister in Christ,

For His glory alone,

 Susan

 

What would you like said?

Sometimes it is funny how God works to bring a topic for this blog to mind.  We had my mother-in-law’s funeral a few weeks ago and it was interesting the things people said about her – especially the pastor.  Really? Was that the woman I knew for 25 years? Hmmm. 

I have had several women I know, who recently buried their moms. Another one her grandmother. We lost a police officer in the line of duty in our town a week past. Thousands of people died in a tsunami and many more are dying in the Middle East. People get cancer or other devestating health diagnosis on a daily basis. Death is a part of living in this sinful world.

Yesterday in my journal I was trying to ponder this question: “What would you like said at your funeral about you and your life?” How do I want to be remembered and am I living up to my own ideal? It made me think about what I need to tell others whom I love and who have impacted my life.  What in their character helped inspire me?  What are the kind of things I might say of them at their funeral? Why wait till they are dead to tell them how I feel? I even started making a list of people to write to. Sometimes even the people I talk to the most I may not be expressing to them how I see them and how much they mean to me. Just a thought of an area where I hope to maybe expend some effort.

Make yourself an encouragement file if you haven’t one already – and when you get notes that speak to your heart or affirm you and encourage you – put them in there. Some day you may need those words again to remind yourself that you are important in the lives of those around you.

In my daughter’s Sunday classes at church, she is encouraged to be a “bucket filler” to find ways to encourage others by word or deed. Maybe we need to be “casket fillers.”  Does that sound morbid? But what a better way to impact the lives of those around us than to know that when they die, they will have had a bucket/file/casket filled of love and affirmation? Just a thought.

This morning I came across this blog post by Leslie Vernick on “What would you like said about you at your funeral.” I think she did a better job than I could have.  Please click the link and check her out.

What would YOU like said about you at your funeral?