Posted in Christian Fiction, Christian Living

A Name In Lights or In the Light?

Broadway
Only by losing the self do we truly see our “names in lights.”

I don’t mind if you have something nice to say about me . . . . I want to leave a legacy.

Nichole Nordeman’s song, “Legacy,” explores the concept that God’s idea of success is not the world’s idea of success.  Being a fan and knowing the depth of her writing, I can well imagine that this piece is as much a warning to Nichole herself as it is to the listener, for in it, she expresses her great desire to shine the Light of God instead of her own light:

I won’t lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights
We all need an ‘Atta boy’ or ‘Atta girl’
But in the end I’d like to hang my hat on more besides
The temporary trappings of this world.

The legacy Nichole defines in the remainder of the song is very specific: choosing love, pointing to God so that His mark is left on the good she does, leaving offerings out of her abundance, living mercy and grace, and praising God without worrying about what others might think about her.  In other words, Nichole defines legacy as a true life lived in Christ, being so committed to shining His light, that our ego or pride gets pushed aside so that God always comes first.

At first, living this way may seem like we have placed our ego on a chair, waiting for an outing that will never happen again.  Our egos feel deflated and cast aside.  But, at the same time, when we see our egos laid out in this way, we see them for the pathetic things they are.  For, what is more lonely than a ball gown and an empty pair of slippers, lying like the promise of something that will never really be as wonderful as one might have imagined?

When we empty ourselves of ourselves, we make room for Love, for the Holy Spirit to fill us and shine for others in a world of darkness.  We are calm, strong, patient, merciful, and we always know peace.

This putting aside of the ego is a hard, life-long practice, however.  It takes discipline to face each day knowing you plan to pay attention to your inner thoughts, your words, your actions.  What motivates you?  What does your self-talk revolve around?  Are you concerned about being right because it makes you feel better, or are you looking out for what is the rightness of God’s truth, which begins with love and compassion?

Working on my writing is also an act of fighting the ego.  I must constantly hold myself to a standard that seeks to shine the right kind of Light.  If all I want is to see my name in lights, i.e. write the “great American novel,” then I am no better than any other humanist who has attempted to make herself feel better about herself because somehow I have couched my endeavors in the lingo of making the world a better place.  But, if I really believe that God has given me a certain ability with words in order to serve Him, then I have to keep praying that my ego doesn’t get in the way of the messages He wants me to send.

I also have to fight the desire to hole myself up in a corner and write all the time instead of doing some of the other things that a life in Christ requires.  Love, mercy, patience, and offerings are not exactly accomplished through written words on the internet or in a book.  Balancing the talents God gives us to work for His good is a daily act of saying no to the ego so that our choices are based on God’s needs (which is most often the needs of others) instead of our own wants.

Nichole sums it up best:

Just want to hear instead, “well done, good and faithful one;”
No, I don’t mind if you have something nice to say about me.

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Posted in Christian Fiction, Christian Living, Writers

Legacy: A New Chapter

The Texas Stray cover
Find my latest book at Lulu.com and in the Nook and iBookstore!

I wish I could say I was slick as all get-out and had planned a series on the concept of legacy to end up in conjunction with finally getting my second book published, but I’m just not that smart. Writing on legacy began for me because we had taken it up as the next subject of study in Sunday school class and because, before I started getting to use my writing through blogging and self-publishing a couple of years ago, I really struggled with questioning what God wanted me to be doing. (I still struggle with that, by the way, but it doesn’t consume me as it once did.)

Now that I have spent some time reflecting on what legacy should mean to a Christian, I of course realize even more that worldly things like writing a book are not what legacy is really about. But, since I am trying to use my writing to plant seeds for the kingdom, so to speak, I hope that my writing will be fruitful in that sense.

For all of my fellow bloggers out there, you know how exciting and frightening sharing a finished work can be. We never really are finished with editing anything we write. Something can always be improved upon, just as we ourselves can always find things personally to improve. But there comes a point when we must let the little bird leave the nest, and so I am ready with my second novel.

I want to take a minute, just a minute, to let myself feel good about this accomplishment. How many people always say they want to write a novel, but never get around to it? Now, by God’s grace, I have been able to complete two! I may never get published by a major house, but with print-on-demand venues like lulu.com, I am able to share my writing with someone other than a person I am related to. If I can touch just one person, haven’t I let God use me to His good purpose just a little bit? You can read more about my book here.

Now, concerning legacy. I need to make sure I don’t put all my hopes of bearing fruit into the proverbial writing basket. In fact, it would be complete arrogance and misunderstanding of the Word on my part to assume I have come close to living a Spirit-filled existence if all I did for others was try to write. Let’s face it, writing is probably 90% for the writer and only 10% for her audience.

No, I need to make sure I am harvesting the fruit of the Spirit in my daily life. I need to shine the light of Christ by being kind, doing things for others, helping those in need when I have the ability and resources to do so, and trying to see things from the other person’s perspective.

This week, with Thanksgiving, I think we will all have opportunities to reach out to others with Christ’s hands. What a wonderful way to begin the ending of the old year and move into the new one.

Thus endeth the lessons on legacy. Thanks for joining me in them.
Posted in Christian Living, Christianity, Living

Legacy: what does the BIBLE say?

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We are going to skip past the obvious aspects of legacy in the Old Testament, where a peoples almost wholly outnumbered in all directions struggling to survive in a harsh environment would naturally tout the begetting of offspring, see the blessing of children as a sign of God’s favor, and otherwise embrace the concept of legacy as equivalent to the concept of basic survival.

Beyond the obvious, though, what does God’s word have to say about our legacy? What does legacy look like from a Biblical perspective?

We might begin in Ecclesiastes, chapter three, where the teacher laments, God “has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” We have a longing in our hearts for God and yet lack the ability to truly understand Him. How, then, might we comprehend His concept of legacy?

“I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live,” the teacher continues (emphasis added). “That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil–this is the gift of God.” Knowing that we cannot fathom the eternal, the teacher admonishes us to please God by concentrating on the present. “I know that everything God does will endure forever,” the teacher concludes. “Nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.”

So, the purpose of what is lasting, according to the teacher, is to further our reverence for God. In other words, the Bible ties legacy not to what may be lauded about men and women, but what may be credited to God.

The book of Isaiah furthers this understanding of legacy:

“‘The multitude of your sacrifices–what are they to me?’ says The Lord. ‘I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings. . . . wash and make yourselves clean . . . . stop doing wrong, learn to do right!'”

God’s definition of right is spelled out quite clearly through the example given by the life of Jesus and His teachings, but Isaiah likewise elaborates on doing right: “seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”

In the book of Mark, Christ explains it this way: “The foremost [commandment] is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second [commandment] is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Christ’s parables are more examples to help define legacy: What of the mustard seed, the tiniest of all things that grows into a mighty plant, the example to us that even the smallest of our actions can be turned into big things by God? What of the seed which fell on good soil, “the man who hears the word and understands it, [producing] a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13)? What of the Vine and Branches of John 15, where God must cut off the unfruitful branches from the vine that is Christ and even prune those branches which are fruitful?

So, the Bible says that legacy is bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God. Next week, let’s discuss practical ways to bring forth the kind of fruit the Kingdom of God expects us to bear, for we do not want to “sow the wind and reap the whirlwind,” but rather to sow in Christ’s love and reap souls for the kingdom of heaven.

Posted in Christian Living, Christianity

Legacy: What does GOD want?

20121021-131802.jpgLast week, I proposed that when someone brings up the concept of one’s legacy, what first comes to mind usually involves one’s progeny and worldly achievements.

This week, I want to consider the more important aspect of legacy, and that is from the perspective of how God defines the word.

It strikes me that perhaps the best way to approach God’s version of legacy is through the example that He offered when He came to earth to walk among us in the form of His son, Jesus Christ. Christ, after all, lived as a man in the world of men. If He had not been God made flesh, after all, the entire concept of salvation is turned on its head.

But Christ did live in human form, and in all ways possible we are admonished to follow the examples in living He gave us while He was on this planet.

So, from the perspecitve of Christ as man, what kind of legacy did He seem to be worried about?

The only record we have of anything Jesus did or said is through words He Himself did not write. (Those words, the Bible, being God-inspired, I take as a given and beside the point at the moment.) In fact, the only time Christ physically wrote anything of which we know anything about were tracings in the sand which sifted quickly away.

With a few notable exceptions, Christ healed and then usually admonished the receiver of His bounty not to tell anyone about it. Rather than grabbing the limelight, He taught disciples and sent them away from Him to go forth and duplicate the work they had been doing together, a sort of trial run for when He would have to leave them.

Even though when He came to the planet, He accepted the limitations and temptations of the human body, Christ didn’t define legacy from a typically human perspective. His priorities for legacy did not involve money or worldly success. Instead, His priorities revolved around love of God and the relationships that are essential between people when we love God first and others the way we want to be loved–the two commandments Christ explained entail all the rest.

Next week, I want to begin the biblical quest that offers proof of God’s definition of legacy, not in my own words but in the inspired words that are His alone. For now, I hope it is enough to know that legacy and love go hand-in-hand from Christ’s perspective.

In the end, is a life lived loving others such a bad thing? Last week, I quoted from Nicole Nordemann’s song, “Legacy.” Another line from that song is perfect for defining the kind of legacy a Christian should really concern him/herself with:

“In the end, just want to hear, ‘Well, done, good and faithful one. . . .'”

Posted in Christian Living, Faith

Legacy: what do WE want?

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I’m trying something different here, going out on a proverbial limb, to approach a particular topic from many potential angles. I want to break it down and stare at it under the microscope. Then, I want to put it back together again along with the new insights I’ve hoped to have gained to see what it looks like with my broadened understanding.

This process should take more than one blog post. I am not even completely sure at this point exactly where we might end up. But, if you choose to take this journey with me, I hope we both get some surprising insights into an idea that probably dominates writers as much if not more than anyone else on this planet, and that’s the concept of legacy.

Say the word legacy, and the first thing that pops into many people’s minds is family, more specifically the children they have and what those children will go on to do in this world. Others see legacy as the accomplishments that will outlive them, such as a public building they helped to erect or the miracle cure they discover.

Living in America, where life’s dreams are often equated with visions of success from a capitalistic perspective (let’s face it, you mention the word legacy and rock stars or Rockefellers come to mind long before Mother Theresa), it may shamefully take us a moment to reach the point where we begin to define legacy from a Godly perspective. But when Christians do make it to that perspective, they can take actions with God’s help that have ripple-effects that will truly pass on to generations.

God Himself explains the workings of legacy at the family level, as to the seventh generation will those who deny Him be affected. It seems likely that those who serve Him will likewise affect how future generations of their families interact with God. For those of us who do not have children, the definition of family in connection to legacy has to be re-thought, in an outside-of-the-box kind of way. And that expanded definition of whom we potentially affect as we take our walk with God on this earth can actually apply to every one of us.

At its most fundamental starting point, legacy makes us ask a simple question that can be hard to answer: What do I want to be remembered for?

The more haunting question, of course, is will I be remembered at all, but we can’t touch on that dilemma until we have at least broached the first question. What do we want when it comes to our legacy?

Nicole Nordemann, a fantastic lyricist and singer, has a song titled “Legacy” that clearly compares the world’s definition of legacy to a Christian definition. Her chorus explains the Christian perspective wonderfully:

  • I want to leave a legacy
  • How will they remember me?
  • Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
  • To make a mark on things?
  • I want to leave an offering
  • A child of mercy and grace who
  • blessed your name unapologetically
  • And leave that kind of legacy
  • As a writer, I think we all secretly want to write the great American novel, but most of us realize that we are lucky if just one person besides our grandmother reads what we’ve written and is affected by it. I’ve struggled with my purpose in life for many years, always assuming God wanted me to do something bigger, something better, something more.

    But my definitions for those words were always being driven by the capitalistic reality in which I lived. If I didn’t achieve according to the world’s standards, I assumed I was failing God in some way.

    It wasn’t until I started to see the way God might use my talents in smaller circles that I began to find some peace with my purpose, my potential legacy. I have words to write only because God gives them to me (at least He gives me the writing that is any good; the blame for the bad stuff lays right at my feet!). All I can do is put the words down and have faith they will reach their intended target, even if the one person needing the words is only me.

    Before we start breaking down what a Christian legacy looks like, think on your own feelings about legacy. What do you want the world to remember about you? What footprints do you hope to have laid down so that others might follow?