Facing Criticism and Rejection

When Jesus finished telling these stories, he left there, returned to his hometown, and gave a lecture in the meetinghouse. He made a real hit, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise, get such ability?” But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “We’ve known him since he was a kid; he’s the carpenter’s son. We know his mother, Mary. We know his brothers James and Joseph, Simon and Judas. All his sisters live here. Who does he think he is?” They got their noses all out of joint. (Matt. 13:53-57 MSG)

Do you ever want to run and hide from criticism or rejection?

If you’ve ever spoken to a crowd, taught a small group, written for publication, or communicated your faith in any way, you may have faced a fickle crowd. And you might identify with this story from Matthew 13.

But how can we respond?

Jesus said, “A prophet is taken for granted in his hometown and his family.” He didn’t do many miracles there because of their hostile indifference. (Matt. 13:53-58 MSG)

I noticed a few helpful truths in this passages.

  • Jesus used stories to communicate.
  • People praised Him at times.
  • People also criticized Him.
  • Jesus stayed in tune with His audience.
  • Jesus moved on, when criticized.

Facing criticism and rejection. Reading the account of how Jesus handled this crowd reminds me of an event from my past.

When my close friend, Sara, invited me to her Sunday School class, I hesitated, uncertain if I would fit in. But since her friend, Glenda, taught the class, I agreed to visit.

Hoping I found the right place, I slipped in the door and scanned the room for a familiar face. No one seemed to notice that I had entered. I found a seat close to the door, in case I needed to make a quick exit. I fiddled with my purse, hoping my insecurity would not be obvious.

I got up the nerve to survey the room again, and my eyes met Glenda’s cold stare. I looked back down at my purse, pretending to search for something, as I questioned myself. Am I in the right place? Is this a closed group? Have I done something to offend her? Maybe I’m reading her wrong.

As I fought the urge to escape, I gripped the edge of the cold, metal seat and leaned forward just as Sara walked in the door. Her warm smile calmed my nerves. And as she sat down in the empty chair next to me, I found the courage to stay.

Pleasing people? After several painful interactions with Glenda over the next few months, I listened to some sound advice from my husband Dan: “Some people just aren’t going to like you.”

What seemed to be common sense to Dan, took me by surprise. Up to that time, I believed that I could always find some way to make people like me. I had been successful at pleasing people most of my life—until I met Glenda. She decided that she wasn’t going to like me. Why? Who knows? I could do nothing, but forgive her and move on.

Facing the Unknown Future. I realize that I will always face fickle crowds. And I am still tempted to try to make them like me. But the Bible assures me of God’s unconditional love.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39 NLT)

I also hope to remember the example that Jesus gives us in Matthew 13:57 the next time I face a fickle crowd. So, as I prepare for the future, I hope to remember a few important these things:

  • Continue to tell the stories that matter most.
  • Offer thanks for the praise I receive.
  • Ask for God’s help to deal with criticism.
  • Stay in tune with my audiences.
  • Move on, when criticized.

What helps you, when you face a fickle audience?

Flying Alphabet Letters

It was one of those weeks. I needed to work on several writing projects this week, but every day filled with obligations in other areas of my life, leaving no time for writing. My husband is senior pastor of a church, and I have many responsibilities there as well. I also paint one day a week with an artist friend. Writing is my occupation, and I love it, but sometimes painting keeps me sane.

However, yesterday only writing could restore my sanity. Ideas kept pushing to the front of my mind, eclipsing everything else. My fingers tapped out several projects all day long. I stopped long enough to eat, but kept working until long after dark. By that time, my eyes were too bleary to read the computer screen and my head throbbed. But a great sense of satisfaction enveloped me.

I sighed as I settled under the bedcovers last night. It felt good to rest. But my mind kept working after I fell asleep. When I woke this morning, fresh edits of yesterday’s work popped into my mind before I even had a chance to crawl out of bed. I began to process those ideas, and then a new project jumped to the forefront.

As I lay there thinking, my husband touched my forehead.

“I can see your wheels turning,” he said. “In fact, I think I feel alphabet letters pinging onto my head!”

I laughed. But I know God uses our asleep hours to pour His words into us. The key is to be ready to listen. Because I was already focused on writing before bedtime, my mind was receptive to a writing message from the Lord. On days when I don’t write, or even think about it, I’m much less likely to wake with His words in my mind.

Are you looking for writing ideas? Maybe you’re struggling with some needed edits in a piece. Try saying a short prayer before bed, asking the Lord to speak to you as you sleep. Mornings might just become your most productive writing time of the day.

Just be sure to warn your spouse about flying alphabet letters.

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Photo: Pixabay

By Kathryn Graves

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Cliche or Touche?

Certain phrases are so over-used that writers try to avoid them in their work. I’m sure several are popping into your head as you read this right now: over the topas a matter of fact, and bloom where you are planted.

But I want to tell you what happened to me the other day. It was a busy Saturday morning. We host an Upward Basketball league at our church for 8 weeks every winter. I work in the back hallways and “locker rooms” getting teams ready to go out on the floor. You can imagine the excitement level in the hallway just before each game. You can also imagine the noise level, particularly when we play two half-court games at the same time with the Kindergarteners. It’s a good thing there is loud music in the gym!

I woke up late and rushed around trying to get myself together and out the door on time. I collected my sack lunch, the breakfast I hadn’t had time to eat, a baby gift I was delivering to a new dad/coach, the hot tea I hadn’t had time to drink, and my purse. Juggling all the items, I managed to back out of the front door and get the key in the lock to turn the dead bolt. As I turned around to step off the front porch, I stopped.

A Bright Spot

My eye caught a bright yellow spot where there had only been gray the day before. A single daffodil bloomed on the wrong side of the walkway. Oh, I knew the plant was there. It grew up as a volunteer several years before, but had never bloomed. I often thought I ought to dig it up, but just never did.

The funny thing is, a whole group of daffodils are planted in the bed on the other side of the walk and they haven’t bloomed yet. They are shaded by a neighboring bush, so maybe that’s why. I don’t really know. I just know that this flower bloomed alone, on the wrong side of the walk.

At the right time. About this time of year, I begin to need fresh flowers. The kind that bloom outdoors in early spring, not the hot-house kind. My mood is affected a great deal by the weather and amount of sunshine each day. While I love winter and snow, I’m emotionally done with it by March. My insides begin to get anxious as winter stretches past February. This little flower told me I could relax because spring is about here.

The rest of that crazy day seemed somehow easier to navigate with the flower in my mind. And on my phone. I put all my stuff down and took time to take a photo. I wanted to carry the memory in living color and be able to share it. Already I thought of how meaningful and appropriate the bloom was.

A Message

God sent a message to me through a single flower daring to bloom alone. Jesus said in Luke 12:26-28 that we are more important to Him than flowers, and if they are beautiful and cared for, how much more will we be. I can trust the Lord to provide what I need to “bloom” as a person, as a writer, as a child of the King. Even if I seem to be going it alone, or somehow out of step with my peers, if I am trying to obey God, the flower of my life will bring glory to Him. And just maybe others will be blessed in the process.

So today, I think telling you to bloom where you are planted is more than a cliche. Touche?

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Photo: Kathryn Graves

 

 

Building a Platform? Helpful Resources

“If you want to be a nonfiction author, you’ve GOT to work on building your platform?”

I perked up when I heard the word “platform” mentioned for the umpteenth time at my first writing conference.

Building my what? I didn’t expect this advice at a “Christian” writing conference. In fact, I didn’t even know what the workshop leader meant by “platform.”

Hands popped up all over the conference room, asking questions about “building a platform.”

“Can you give us more information?” Another frenzied writer whined.

A few seats down from me, an older lady with a wrinkled brow whispered to the person next to her, “What does she mean by ‘platform’?”

“I didn’t think ‘Christian’ writers should focus on building a platform,” someone mumbled. “Is that even scriptural?”

The murmurings continued…

I felt my blood pressure rise as I listened to all of the questions and observed the body language of the writers all around me.

I shook my head in disbelief as I considered all that I had done to prepare for this moment—particularly the last five years of academic writing. Is she saying that I need to study marketing now? Oh, great!

A few days later, I abandoned my first writing conference early due to a family crisis. So I didn’t get a chance to hear more about platform building.

Overwhelmed, my thoughts about building a platform and my mother’s untimely death left me dazed and confused. Should I even go forward with “writing for publication” now?

One workshop leader warned us against “quitting your day job.”

Great! I just quit my day job, I whispered under my breath. I had just turned down the offer to teach writing as an adjunct instructor again that semester. Why? I needed to help with our ongoing family needs, and I wanted to focus what time I did find on writing for publication.

After the conference, if someone even mentioned the word platform, I would voice my frustration with a favorite quote from Gone with the Wind, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

What’s a writer to do? Where can we go for information on building a platform? Back when I started, I had to dig deep for information. Now, you can find more resources than ever before now on that topic.

Michael Hyatt is one of the best resources I’ve found on platform building. I started following Hyatt’s blog on the advice of other writers several years ago. A few years later, when he published his book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, I ordered my copy hoping to improve my own platform. I still recommend this book to other writers who ask me for help in that area. I’ve even led my own writing workshop on platform building based on what I’ve learned.

New Year’s plans. As I launched my first book publication, Words That Change Everything, this past June, I struggled with all the details of platform building—blogging, social networking, speaking, and writing. With all the advances in technology and social media, I’m always seeking new resources and ways to stay up-to-date with publishing info.

What are your plans for the New Year? What have been your strategies? What’s your secret? Did you quit your day job? Do you have any platform building tips that you would be willing to share with other writers?

I’m hoping this blog post will initiate a conversation about platform building. So, I hope to hear from you. Be sure to share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below.

What resources have helped you build your platform?

Soundtrack for Writing

Whistle While You Work

Do you like to listen to music? Are you one of those people who hums a tune as you work? I have a friend who actually uses songs as part of her text messaging. She knows a song for every situation.

I know many writers play instrumental music while they write. But I find any extraneous sound distracting. Silence is my music while I write. Which is odd. I am a musician and singer. I love all kinds of music and singing is the ultimate praise experience for me. So why do I love silence?

The Sound of Silence

It is all a matter of personal preference, but I find silence comforting and mind-expanding. If music is playing, my brain tracks with it. If there are words, I’ll become so focused on them that my own creative juices stop flowing. In silence, there is freedom to focus on the thoughts flowing through my mind.

I recently spent two and a half weeks with a lot of silence. I stayed at our son’s house to babysit our grandson while his dad and “bonus mom” took an extended vacation. Because theirs is a shared custody situation, I experienced a 5-day stretch when my only company was the dog. I found myself turning on the evening news just to hear a human voice.

But I wrote a lot. The silence forced my brain to engage, and the time away from regular responsibilities provided opportunity. It became a real writing retreat.

Songs of Nature

Some writers love to write outdoors. The sounds of nature are their soundtrack. Even the feel of sunshine on their face propels their fingers across the keyboard, or their pen across the paper.

Intentional Soundtrack

Now that I’m home, how can I keep up the momentum? I can create an environment conducive to writing. In my case, that is silence. In your case, it might mean changing up your playlist. But in every case, it means putting the phone on silent and finding a location away from other distractions.

Maybe Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence should be a playlist song for this article.

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On Meditation

What do you think of when you hear the word “meditation”? Some guru and his followers sitting cross-legged on the floor chanting unintelligible words? Or a crystal reader getting in touch with her inner self? Does the word carry religious ideas for you, but not necessarily Christian ones?

I’d like to help change your mind, if it’s the case. Meditation is mentioned in the Bible as far back as Genesis, but if we go a little farther, when we come to Joshua, we find instruction to “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night…”(Joshua 1:8 NIV). So if meditating on something means keeping it uppermost in our minds all the time, how can we do that, and help others do it too?

It is a matter of discipline. We don’t usually think of that word in positive terms, but in this case, it’s as positive as can be. We have to choose what to meditate on each day. That requires setting a time in the early part of each day for this purpose. It also requires reading the Bible, since that’s what we’re instructed to meditate on.

I choose a single verse for each day. Some more ambitious folks might choose a passage, or even a whole chapter. I’ve recently discovered a fresh way to choose my verse for the day. I found on Pinterest several daily Scripture writing challenges. The references are on a chart. The challenge is to write the day’s verse out, and then answer questions about it, such as, “What does this verse say?” and “What does this verse mean to me?”

As I think about the answers to these questions, I begin to meditate. I think about the verse. I think about the definitions of the main words in the verse and about how they fit together. I paraphrase the verse in my own words. I amplify it, like the Amplified Bible does. I think about its historical context and I think about how it applies to my life. I also keep a journal with these thoughts in it. Although the actual writing of the verse takes only a few minutes, the meditation can go on for a long time, depending on how much time I have that morning to devote to it.

But even though I put the journal away, the verse stays with me through the day. I find myself coming back to it in odd moments when my mind wanders. It’s always in the background, setting the mood for my response to events in my day.

As a writer I guess I had to know I’d turn meditation into a journaling opportunity. But that’s not all it is, since it undergirds my entire thought life. God knew that when He instructed us to meditate on His word, it would go down deep and penetrate every crevice of our lives.

Bible and Hot Drink

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