Challenges of Community

Would you Rendezvous at Colleen’s Place with me!
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I don’t know if this will resonate with anyone else, or if it is just something I need to express. I hope it will resonate at some level.

In 1997 I was a divorced mother of three, jobless, living with my parents. I was also discovering the internet for the first time along my love of written word anew.

I set out to start a “writing career” by pecking out word after word on an internet Writers BBS where I could post my rough copy for others to critique. I opened the first comment to one of my writing pieces and felt shell-shocked. The words were scathing, critical and harsh. They hurt.

I was not only offended, but also crying. I had put my soul out there and someone – some anonymous someone – had hacked it to pieces. I jumped on and, in comment, justified, explained and rationalized my lack of expertise. The response I got set me in my place. “Toughen up. Learn from the experience or stop posting.” OUCH.

I stuck with this process. I hacked out words daily and well into the nights. I wrote poetry, prose and settled into a genre of “Flash Fiction.”

For those who do not know, Flash Fiction is a snapshot of a story told in 500 words or less. I posted the rough copy, read critiques and completed a number of rewrites.

In the meantime I bought books on writing. One particular book, a compilation of essays on writing by secular published authors, found me not just reading, but relishing every word. I wanted to know what successful writers did. Mind you, at that time in my life I was not asking God anything much less about my writing. I was barely aware He was with me everyday. Frankly, I lived as one only escaping flames.

Stephen King wrote in his essay that he fell into writing in lieu of punishment for misbehavior at school. His school principal assigned writing high school sports columns as his punishment for misbehavior. His punishment eventually became a regular column in the local newspaper and he paying1/2 cent per word.

A few months after posting a 486 word piece on the BBS I received an email from the owner offering to publish this short, short story titled, “Dear John.” He offered to pay me $5.00 for permission to “e-publish” my story in an internet magazine. Today, e-zines are commonplace. Back then – they were not.

Fish Eggs for the Soul.

My flash piece shared as Caviar for the soul? I sent my agreement and a few days later cashed a check for $5.00. I had arrived. I was now a paid-for-publication writer. I had even earned more per word for my first paid gig than Stephen King.

Can you see the smug grin on my face?

My writing career has grossed $5.00 to date. I still write, but I don’t know if my end goal is publication, wealth and fame any longer. Those things would be nice, but not nearly as beneficial as the life that might be changed by reading how God has worked in my life. You see what I know now is how He has taken the weakest moments of my depraved existence and turned them for my good and His glory.

I am grateful for those months in 1997 when I posted my heart out writing about the nonsense ideals of a hopeless romantic longing to be loved. It toughened my skin to the criticism helping me see the risk and reward often are measured by the end result rather than the paycheck or payoff that may or may not be fleeting.

I’m not afraid to put my opinion out there for the world to read. I’m no longer offended when others don’t see eye-to-eye with my perspective. I’m even less bothered whether they point out the weaker qualities of my skill at spelling or writing. Here is the thing that matters – Christ glorified. I want to show His love and excellence and work hard to do so. But, sometimes the best display of these is in my weakness.

When I read about the “right to be right” here this morning I recalled the challenges of community I’ve experienced in my life. Sometimes the freedom to speak or write publicly also comes with the freedom of others to object, disagree and even criticize our perspective and experiences. My clever thought might just hit a nerve that triggers a negative response in others. I post it innocently, and then the backlash begins.

I have participated both in blog communities, Christian forums, writer’s forums and message boards as well as a live and in-person writer’s critique group with a published author. I’ve learned that if my goal in writing is to express my opinion and find others who agree – I’ll likely find myself disappointed. However, if my goal is to share what I’m learning in my journey with God. Sometimes it resonates and becomes like iron that sharpens iron. While at other times the words seem as sweet honey to a friend’s soul. In the end, the result is the same: It helps us both grow.

I’m grateful for opportunities to share and even find people who disagree with me. It forces me to open my mind and my heart to the things I really believe, the things I stand for and well, whether I need to adjust my vision.

When doing a study on the fruit of the Spirit some years ago I realized God often brings people into our lives that rub us the wrong way to help hewn the attributes of kindness in our lives. Like sandpaper, these experiences can either take off the rough edges and produce a more refined person, or it can create a wound that will no doubt take time to heal and may produce wounds in others. I have to choose how I will receive it.

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