Spiritual Editing

Mark-ups (whether red, purple or blue) from editing are my friends. A  fellow writer and dear friend once told me of his posture toward editors—they are his welcomed friends. Thanks, Gordon. He told me he accepts most all of the input they give him. Ironically, he taught me much about accepting “spiritual editing” in the same manner. You see, writing books and articles can make me feel very vulnerable. I write because I desire to share things that help me connect to God and his Word.  I pray these things will benefit many others. But the voice in my head can say: What if this sounds stupid, or makes no sense? Is this any good? Is it helpful to anyone? 

That’s why I seek editing for my writing.  Editing exposes and corrects my weaknesses, which really is a great thing.

Likewise, spiritual editing can feel vulnerable as in:  Someone noticed  I’m not perfect 🙂in fact quite flawed.

If I want to be a growing writer, and more importantly a growing Christian, I must seek out and embrace editing.

When I first began writing, I was sort of encouraged—assured that when there were red (or purple or blue) marks on the page it meant my editor felt she had something to work with. That was a start. Sometimes the marks were there because I misused a word or used incorrect grammar. Other times they were there because the flow of words was confusing and difficult for the reader to follow.  Funny thing—in my head the words made sense to me. However, I realize I don’t always see them as others do. In fact, I can know what I want to say so clearly that I can leave out an entire word, reread it five times, and still not realize the word is missing. My editors have been kind—as they intersperse  words of encouragement  among the corrections.  Aaahhh.

Since I see editing as my friend I have learned to accept most all changes that are suggested.  Actually, there is a nice little editing feature you can turn on in most computers. 20150318_130848This “edit mode” allows someone to go back and forth with another person as the document is edited. One can comment on another’s comments and vice versa. Editors can strike through words and give alternative choices. You can also “accept” or “reject” their input.  At times I can be tempted to just accept everything without paying attention–in order to save time. However, I prefer to look at each correction and comment I receive so I can learn from the editing process. There have been occasions where my intention was not clear, so instead of just accepting the changes I learned to reword things–to make my intent clearer. And my editors won’t just give me “answers” but make me think through the process and come up with a new approach. I’m so tempted to just have them do it…but that would hinder my growth. Even though I was instructed in my early  teen years by a teacher who was surely the chief commander of the “Grammar Special Ops Forces” I continually learn new rules of grammar—as well as punctuation possibilities such as hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes—which I’ve come to enjoy.

Currently, I am supervising a college writing internship for a young friend. This puts me on the other side of the red marks—the one sending them. The process is actually easier than I anticipated because of the knowledge and experience I have gained through my personal editing processes. Now, I’m extra grateful that I paid attention and tried to understand the things I was being taught. That instruction makes me a better teacher.  I can’t be a good teacher without being a good learner. I’m sure of that.

When I returned my young friend’s article to him full of “red edits” I reminded him of the same thing I learned from my friend—corrections are your friends.They make you a better writer, which is what you want to become. He responded with these remarks:  “Thanks so much for clarifying the intent behind your edits. It really helps me. While I know intellectually that criticism is extremely important and beneficial, sometimes I get discouraged by lots of it because I think it reflects poorly on who I am. But again, I’m glad you cleared that up! I’m very encouraged.”

I love that response. I thought about the many applications this has for our spiritual progress.  Spiritual editing—discipling (or helping each other to grow to be more Christ-like) is a command from God, and is for our good.

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Hebrews 3:12-14)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:23-24)

We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. (Colossians 1:28-29)

We can feel insecure when we see or are made aware of areas where we need to grow (as if they aren’t obvious to others anyway.) Or, we can choose to see these things as encouragements and stepping stones toward growth—which are really what we want, right? If we begin with the knowledge that we don’t always see our writing clearly—or much more importantly our hearts— it will be easier to greatly welcome editing—of words or hearts.  Jeremiah 17:9 is really true.  The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

We need help from one another. It’s a good thing—a good friend.

When we learn from the editing in our lives, we can then offer the editing we have learned to others—honest and sincere, while encouraging and confirming of each person’s value to God and to us.

Editing is our friend…so keep your computer and your heart in the “edit mode”.






A Work in Progress

For nine consecutive mornings, while attending a church leadership conference in Singapore, I opened the hotel window curtain to an inspiring view.  It wasn’t a view of the bustling harbor below or of the beautiful orchids carefully planted throughout the city.  This simple view of a construction site inspired me. IMG_5326 It reminded me that I’m under construction too, a “work in progress”  before God (and people.)  I’ve come a long way, but I’m not nearly finished.  I continue to need growth, adjustment, renovation (also known as repentance,) tweaking and shaping.  But, I know that as long as God works on me he is touching me, molding me, and lovingly shaping me.  This reminds me that he cares for me.   If I ever begin to feel like I’m “a finished product” then I’m surely in spiritual trouble.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10:12)

I take heart in the scriptures that speak of the need to add to my faith (2 Peter 1:5-9); to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18); to grow in love and faith. ”We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. (2 Thessalonians 1:3); and to grow in the knowledge that God’s spirit helps me grow “from one degree of glory to another. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Over the past few days in Singapore I have been challenged and inspired by my brothers and sisters from all over the world, who are also works in progress, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)

The “construction stories” of my sisters around the world challenge my faith and help me grow.  I’m challenged and inspired by my sisters in India, sometimes enduring intense persecution because of their faith; my sisters in Abidjan, who dodged bullets while serving the church during civil war; my displaced sisters,  affected by the unrest in Eastern Ukraine; my sister from Pakistan, who was enjoying her first international fellowship; my sisters from the Middle East, who experience much less freedom as a woman; my friend with three little ones who recently moved from a comfortable life on the West coast  to serve the poor in Cambodia…and on and on. Your faith calls me higher—as God uses you to reach many women around the world with the wonderful message of hope that Jesus offers.

As I converse, read the Bible, counsel, and share my faith with women who  struggle to find meaning in their lives, overcome addictions, struggle to forgive, and learn to accept that they are indeed loved by God— I am reminded this building pictured—a “work in progress.”  We are all works in progress, but if we let God work on us we will indeed make great progress.   I  recount the many ways God has worked in and on my life…sometimes fulfilling my dreams, sometimes thwarting and changing them and sometimes telling me to “wait.”   The victories and struggles all remind me that I am still a “work in progress.”

The story of Singapore’s history calls me higher.  Fifty years ago the city was filled with poverty, chaos and pain.  Kicked out by its “motherland,” Singapore was left to fend for itself.  Lee Kuan Yew, who became prime minister,  looked out at his impoverished, abandoned and isolated city—and from his love and passion envisioned a nation of unity, strength, beauty and excellence.  49 years later Singapore enjoys all of these and more.  It’s a vibrant, thriving and beautiful city.

It’s so easy to think that God looks at us with disdain, seeing chaos instead of vision and love.  When I think of ways I need to grow in prayer, in boldness, in caring for the poor,… I can think I’ve so far to go.  Yet, God goes to work on me with his construction tools full of love and grace—for which I am so thankful–and I make progress.

If a physical city can be built with human leadership and willing volunteers, imagine what God can do through his spirit to “grow us” to completion as together we build the kingdom of God on this earth.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:3-6)


What’s Your Caption?

I happened upon this picture a few minutes ago.  My granddaughter is having fun hiding behind a glass pulpit.  I thought this photo communicated a lot with just a few words.

If I were put my face here….would the words shown “‘to’ God Be the Glory” reflect my life?  I pray so.  I want the fruit of God’s spirit to be evident in my life so that God’s glory can be seen and He will  be honored. I love the thought of seeing each of our faces in the background of this picture…reflecting God’s glory.   Glory is sort of a “church word” – where meaning can get lost in familiarity.  I see it most simply as the awesome (in the truest sense of the word) and consuming presence of God!  Imagine with me your face behind this caption.  Does it fit there? Does your expression and demeanor reflect God’s presence?  How about your words…and the tone of your words? Do the choices you are making reflect the glory of God?  What would your caption say?  Our demeanor, words, and choices always reflect something….and could always have an accompanying caption.

After reading many verses about God’s glory….and thinking about my “captions”…I am more keenly equipped to consider what and who I am reflecting as I go through my day.  I’m also grateful, as the scripture below states, that God sees me as a work in progress – that I can grow and change each day.  He is full of grace as well as truth, helping me in my weaknesses to become more like Jesus every day.

16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Cor 3:16-18 (NIV)

16 Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face to face! 17 They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! 18 All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

2 Cor 3:16-18 (MSG)

16 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

2 Cor 3:16-18 (NRSV)


Goodbye Ol’ Friend (Jordan Shaw, July 3, 1997 – November 15, 2011)

-Can’t say I’ve ever written a letter to a dog before.  However, as I say goodbye to you, my furry friend,  I want to thank you for several things.  I think you know them, but it’s therapeutic for me to write them down.

It seems a mere “blink” ago when Wyndham and I decided, while on a marriage getaway, to look for you.  We found you in Maine and stopped by to surprise the kids with you, while on our way home.   They were at teen camp, and were so thrilled they could hardly contain themselves.  I felt an instant kinship with you, as we got carsick together on the way home.  Proverbs 6:6 tells of what we can learn from watching the ways of an ant.  Let me tell you ten things I have learned from watching you – the ways of a Golden Retriever.

  1.  You stretched yourself. – You were pretty fast yourself, but as a youngster I loved watching you run with Pharoah, the neighborhood greyhound.  You tried so hard to keep up…and made yourself stronger and faster by having a buddy like that.  I, too, always need to surround myself with people who are better at things than I am.  It makes me grow.
  2.  You thrilled at your purpose. – You came from a hunting heritage.  It was a beautiful thing to see you hunt pheasant (as I’ve seen from the videos). You gave your master, Wyndham, so many great memories.  Your instinct was natural.  God made you to hunt birds…and you did it well.  Though perhaps a “spoiled bird dog” you didn’t hesitate to the thrill of finding birds.  (Well…except the one extremely cold, rainy morning when you knew Wyndham was going hunting and you hid under the covers at my feet.  He looked all over for you.  I told you I wouldn’t tell….but finally had to “spill the beans” – sorry… however I heard you did enjoy it).   When you started to get too old to hunt you went out with the new little guys (the goldens we got for Sam and Kristen) and  showed them what to do.  You trained them when you got too old to run.  Likewise, I know I am so much happier when I am living out the purpose for which God created me.  And…as I age I want to be all about passing what I have learned on to others.
  3. You made friends with everyone. –  I called you the “mayor of the park”.  Since we live across the street from a park you assumed every person or dog that came was there to be your friend.  So many people in this town know your name.  You loved everyone.  You joined in a few soccer games, ended up at neighbors ‘ homes, and even had little girls down the street come knock on our door every afternoon after school to ask, “Can Jordan come out to play with us?”  You have introduced me to so many people, and remembering your ways encourages me to try to make friends with new people.
  4. You loved children. –  You were the best dog a kid or grown up could have.  You made Jacob’s transition into our home so much easier for him…as you seemed to understand Romanian better than anyone. He had many conversations with you. You raced our kids down many a hill while they were sledding.  You welcomed each of the grandchildren – and even let them ride you like a horse.  Even in these last few days, feeling so badly, you patiently lay still while Micah held you around your torso to hug you and kiss you.
  5. You cared, in your own doggy way. –  You had a keen sensitivity to emotions.  Whenever I was sad you would just come close to be near.  That’s all.  Whenever anyone came over to talk with us… if they were hurting or crying you always chose to sit close to them.  Somehow you knew.  I see how sometimes just being there…really helps.
  6.  You took care of your “little brother” and endured his neediness of you. –  Poor Blackie (our cock-a-poo, named by Jacob, who got him for Christmas 10 years ago) will be lost for a while without you.  He has never known life away from you.  He slept inside of your four legs all scooched up to your stomach.  Thinking he is part cat, he constantly groomed you..from the insides of your ears to your gums (I know…disgusting)….and you let him!  Even last week, though you can’t walk, you somehow managed to get up when he was being chased by a dog.  You were a great big brother.  I can sometimes get annoyed by others’ neediness.  May I learn to have the patience you showed.
  7. You weren’t afraid to ask. – You loved sweets, particularly chocolate chip cookies.  I never could resist those eyes.  They caused me to give my food away to you, even the last licks of my ice cream (and I don’t like to part with my ice cream).  You assumed I should have a piece of popcorn and then you should get a piece…and back and forth we would go.  You mastered the art of propping your head on my knee and giving me the “sad eyes”.  You loved our “Nana and Papa nights” where you got lots of pizza from begging with all the grandkids.  You were persistent…and it worked.  While I don’t want to be a nag…sometimes I lack the courage to ask for things.
  8. You never had a bad day. –  You were so consistent in your demeanor…always happy.  You got lyme disease several times, hit by a car once,  skunked a few times, and were constantly losing your hair. (Wow, I even think I’ll miss using the lint roller several times a day.) You were in pain often this last year but never complained.   You just stayed happy….this is one more reason it’s just hard to say goodbye.  May I be as content as you were.
  9. You grew old with dignity. – These last few days, you tried so hard to help us out when  it came time to carry you outside.  I know you wanted to do for yourself, and it was  hard on you to be so needy.  When you could still walk, you would sometimes need an encouraging word to go up the stairs but you would push yourself hard.  I think you would truly rather die than “mess up” in the house.  You like privacy when you do your business.  You remind me that…even though you are a dog…you have dignity about you.  How much more do I need to honor those who are aging and show them dignity and respect.
  10. You lived to please your master. – This is what stands out to me the most, old friend.  You truly did live to please your master.  Nothing pleased you more than to please first Wyndham, and then me.  As I write this with tears streaming…I pray that what can most be said about my life is that I live to please my master.  Nothing better could be said.  Thank you for 14 golden years, golden boy.  I will miss you more than you know.

Eccles. 3:1-8

    There is a time for everything,

        and a season for every activity under heaven:

        [2] a time to be born and a time to die,

        a time to plant and a time to uproot,

        [3] a time to kill and a time to heal,

        a time to tear down and a time to build,

        [4] a time to weep and a time to laugh,

        a time to mourn and a time to dance,

        [5] a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

        a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

        [6] a time to search and a time to give up,

        a time to keep and a time to throw away,

        [7] a time to tear and a time to mend,

        a time to be silent and a time to speak,

        [8] a time to love and a time to hate,

        a time for war and a time for peace.