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Posts Tagged ‘speaking engagements’

Jo 23One morning recently, I found myself setting out with some reluctance to get to a speaking engagement. It was pouring rain—and on top of that, I was tired and had found it hard to get my head around what I planned to say to this particular group. Why am I doing this, I grumbled to myself, as I headed off?

From the moment a gentleman I did not know had asked me to speak, there had been some confusion about this meeting. I offered him the choice of two topics and he decided on one, but also asked me to include some material about writing our life stories. I had therefore tried hard to condense my original talk to give me time to do what he asked. But not long before the date I was to speak, I received another email from him—and somehow now, he had switched to the other topic I had suggested! Hmm. This time, I decided I would simply ‘wing it’ and condense as I went, then try to add my few final points about life stories as asked. But I did not feel gracious about it—at all. Surely God could not bring anything good out of this particular speaking engagement!

As I drove along, a verse I had read earlier that morning came to mind:

I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

I took a deep breath—it would all be fine. But just then, as I carefully negotiated a roundabout at low speed, my trusty old car began to ‘fish tale’ on the wet road. I managed to right it but felt more than a little shaken up. How apt that verse became for me in that moment! I continued on my way, speaking that verse out loud. I could do this. After all, God was with me.

And God certainly was. As soon as I arrived, people came from various directions to help me set up and meet my every need. And as I began to speak, I could sense the audience was ready to hear what I had to say. I relaxed and sailed through my input, even covering the extra points I had been asked to add. And at the end, the questions came thick and fast.

Afterwards, a good number gathered around my book table, some just to say thank you and others to buy a book or two. I had some wonderful conversations and found the whole experience so fulfilling. And to my surprise, I even received a small cheque for my efforts!

I had not wanted to go—and I had certainly not expected God to bring such blessing out of the whole event. Yet despite my negative attitude, God still graciously used me that morning. How thankful I am that God is so much greater than my feelings or circumstances—and how much I need to echo Paul’s words of praise to our wonderful God!

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

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Jo 12I love my old car. It is a 1999 model Ford Fairmont that has done quite a few kilometres—over 255,000 in fact! No doubt it chews up more petrol than a small, newer car would—but it requires only a gentle touch on the steering wheel to point it where I want to go and it still soars up those hills like a bird.

Sadly, however, little things have begun to go wrong with it. The numbers and symbols on the dashboard telling me what setting the air-con is on stopped working a while back. The remote unlocks the boot, but refuses to either lock or unlock the car itself. And (ahem) certain parts of the car do not lock properly at all anymore! I can live with all that, but I found it hard on a long trip recently when my poor old car refused to warm up inside at all, so that I arrived at my speaking engagement in a slightly frozen state!

As I drove home afterwards, I suspect it was God who reminded me how, back when our children were young, we had no car air-conditioning at all and no fancy numbers and symbols on the dashboard. To cool ourselves, we wound the windows down. To warm up, we wore jumpers. And we certainly didn’t own a remote to lock and unlock the car. Yet now I took for granted and felt entitled to a car that could deliver so much more.

Then it dawned on me to wonder whether God was also pointing out other things I had taken for granted that day—like the fact that I had been invited to speak somewhere at all; or the fact that I was able to drive myself there—and through such beautiful countryside; or the fact that my ability to speak and to thoroughly enjoy doing so comes from God anyway. How grateful I needed to be for all these things—and so very much more!

But then I started to ask myself some even more serious questions. What if I had I begun to take God for granted in my life in general? Had I come to presume too much on God’s grace and patience and long-suffering towards me each day? Was I treating God in too cavalier a fashion, listening only when I felt I needed to, instead of staying in that place of intimacy? Had I forgotten how much I need to thank God for the many blessings poured out on me in all sorts of ways over the years?

I think I need to remember well that recent cold drive to my speaking engagement. I don’t want to take anything in my life for granted, but instead thank God each day with a grateful heart for all I have been given.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100

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Jo 17I have discovered that, unless I am vigilant, I can sometimes become a lot more self-focussed and self-serving than I like to think I am. I may gladly agree to do something, but soon those selfish questions I am loath to acknowledge resound in my brain. What will I get out of this? How can I impress others as I complete this task? What if nobody sees all my effort?

Hmm!

One recent Saturday morning, I was ahead of schedule to get to a speaking engagement some distance away, so sat down to check over my input and read my Bible before leaving. I found I was up to the story in John 5 of how Jesus heals a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. This takes place on the Sabbath, so the Jews begin to persecute Jesus—and even more so after Jesus refers to God as his Father (5:17). Yet Jesus still proceeds to explain how he does only what he sees the Father doing and how he has received authority as the Son of  God to give life and to judge others (5:19ff).

Then the following words caught my eye:

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. John 5:30

Okay, I found myself thinking—Jesus chose to listen to his Father and not step out in his own strength. And he chose to please his Father rather than think only about his own wellbeing. What a challenge! If Jesus had that attitude in his life and ministry, then surely I should aim to do likewise—especially as I set out to speak somewhere.

I read on, admiring Jesus’ boldness as he addressed those Jews seeking to kill him: ‘But I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.’ (5:42) Wow—how confronting that must have been for them to hear! Yet I personally found his next statement even more challenging:

How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? John 5:44

As I drove to my speaking engagement, I found myself hoping I had heard my Father God well and prepared the message God wanted me to give. But then I asked myself: What are my real motives in it all? Is it just to receive praise from others—or is it to hear that ‘Well done!’ from God deep in my spirit and to know that is enough? Usually after I speak, someone will come and say something positive about my input—and I hope I have learnt to accept this with grace and not let it add to my pride. But if I begin to care more about that than about whether I have pleased God in it all, then something is sadly out of balance in my whole approach.

Sometimes our real motives for doing what we do can be well hidden, don’t you think? Let’s bring them into the light of day and check them out with our loving, caring, gracious God, who does not want to see us go astray.

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Today I am embarking on a trip to Tasmania – a place I have always wanted to visit. I have been invited to speak at a conference there and a few other places in the next two weeks. And we hope to have a holiday and enjoy some of the beautiful places and scenery as well.

Now we have planned ahead for this trip. I have thought and prayed about my input and I hope I have made the right decisions with all that. I have plenty of my novels on hand to sell too at these venues. And my husband has worked out the routes we will take and printed out copious number so Google maps! I have also made sure my little prayer team who support me so well wherever I speak knows my itinerary and can follow me on my journey as they are able. But there still comes a time, I find, when I look at all the speaking engagements and travel ahead and feel a little overwhelmed. Besides that, for a few weeks now I have struggled with back trouble and sciatica pain – just when I really need to be full of energy and on top of things! So in my weakness, crazy thoughts begin to come into my head. What if I haven’t prepared appropriate material? What if I speak for too long? What if I have my speaking engagements mixed up? What if we can’t find the places on time? What if I’m in too much pain? What if …? And so the list goes on.

It’s then that I pull myself up short, and realise God has been trying to get through to me for a while now. Lately, I have been reading the book of 1 Samuel and taking in all the ups and downs of Saul’s and David’s lives. Somehow I don’t think I would have liked David’s experience of having to flee for his life from Saul, fight endless battles, live in caves and desert strongholds and be in danger on so many fronts. Many times, his heart must have failed him when people betrayed him and tried to deliver him into Saul’s hands, when his motives and loyalty were doubted, when he was forced to live among the Philistines, and certainly when his wives and sons and daughters were taken captive. On that occasion, Scripture tells us that ‘David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep’ (1 Sam 30:4).

Yet it seems to me that David knew exactly where – or who – to go to in order to find the strength he needed. On an earlier occasion when Saul was searching for him day after day, we are told that Saul’s son Jonathan came to him in the desert ‘and helped him find strength in God’ (1 Sam 23:16). Then when David’s family was taken captive, we read how, on top of that, his own men were talking about stoning him since they too had lost their wives and sons and daughters. Yet in the midst of all this grief and turmoil, the next sentence we read says simply this:

But David found strength in the Lord his God. (1 Sam 30:6b)

I think any qualms I might have about our upcoming trip pale into insignificance for sure against David’s dreadful experiences. So yes, Lord – I get the message! And I know as I look to you, I will find all the strength I need for whatever lies ahead.

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Our granddaughters seem to own lots of things that need batteries to keep going. Just before Christmas, our Olivia lined up an interesting array of Santa and Rudolf toys they own and began to demonstrate to me how these only half worked because they ostensibly needed new batteries. They looked a sorry lot, with glowing noses that didn’t quite glow, heads and hands that kind of half moved and voices that sounded very strange and tended to peter out miserably. Then there are the toys that don’t run across the floor anymore because they need new batteries or the cute puppy that no longer wags its tail or the fluffy kitten that has forgotten how to purr – not to mention the camera that won’t click or the keyboard that won’t play. And so the list goes on.

Well, I think I know how these toys feel! I related very well to that poor, tired Santa my granddaughter showed me who just couldn’t sing and dance around. But that was a few weeks ago now. Here I am today on the ‘other side’ of Christmas and heading through much quieter territory, momentarily at least. I have discovered, as I have let myself relax a lot more than normal, the joy of doing nothing for once – of putting aside speaking engagements, book promotion and yes, even writing, and letting those batteries run down completely. And again, I have been reminded that life is not a matter of always having to be productive – and certainly not a matter of ‘doing’ things to impress God or anyone else. God loves us completely and utterly. God understands and in fact has made us so that we need to rest at regular intervals and be renewed. In fact, I suspect God is delighted when we take time out to sit or lie back and just ‘be’, for a change. And as we put everything aside and choose to live ‘in the moment’, simply letting God hold us and ‘be’ with us, then that is when we can best hear not only God’s heart for us but our own hearts as well.

And that’s exactly what happened to me this morning as I took time to read Isaiah 40, forgetting at first that this is the chapter that talks about weariness and renewal! So it was a joy to find and read again what God has said on the subject:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

What an encouragement as we prepare to step into 2011! As we take time to focus on God, who never grows weary, and continue to ‘hope in the Lord’, then we will be strengthened and empowered to do the things God has put in our hearts to do.

Now that’s what I call a total battery recharge – don’t you?

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Next month, my fourth novel ‘Jenna’ will be released by Ark House.  In the last few weeks, I have discussed various changes with the editor, written a whole new first chapter and re-written certain other parts of the story to fit in with these additions and alterations.   When both parties were satisfied, the novel was formatted and returned to me for checking, after which further corrections needed to be put in place.  Currently, the whole novel is being proofread yet again and the final version will then be returned to me to approve for publishing.  This whole process is extremely time-consuming yet nevertheless essential.  After all, I want to ensure my novel reaches the reading public with as few mistakes as possible.

So what happens to any current writing project I might have while this editing and re-writing takes place?  Well, it invariably ends up being sidelined – at least for a short while. Yet even a brief break is enough for me to forget what my characters have already said and done or how they are likely to think or act in a particular situation.  The thread has been lost and I have to take time to go back to the beginning and immerse myself once again in ‘the story thus far’.

But then, just as I feel I have a good grasp on what needs to happen next, I am pulled away yet again.  I have several speaking engagements coming up and I must start thinking and praying about what to say.  Don’t get me wrong – I love speaking and enjoy preparing talks.  But this is an entirely different ‘ballgame’ from writing novels.  So I head to the left a little in my brain and endeavour to come up with something that, according to what type of audience I am speaking to, will inform or challenge or entertain.

And of course there is also the actual arranging of speaking engagements.  Yes, my publisher does some of the ‘larger scale’ promotional tasks, but the bulk of it is up to me.  So I find myself emailing places where I have previously spoken or perhaps testing the waters with new places or people – undoubtedly the most daunting challenge for me of this whole writing journey.

So how can I juggle all these aspects of my writing journey and continue to move forward in a productive, focused way?  The encouragement of friends and family is highly important, but without a doubt, it is God who enables me to keep everything in balance and who inspires me to persevere in it all.  This morning I read Psalm 92:14-15:

[The righteous] will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

I don’t feel all that old as yet – and there are so many more things I want to write about.  So it is wonderful to feel encouraged that I can go on bearing fruit for years to come!  But it is even more wonderful to know that the Lord will always be my firm and sure Rock – in fact the perfect ‘fulcrum’ for my balancing act of being an author.  If God is at the centre of all I do, then I know I can be at peace, whatever is happening in my writing and speaking world.

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