Fill

fill3What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word cavity?

A cascading crack in the mountain? A great divide in the earth?

I think of teeth.

Warning: I’m an English major prone to dancing imagery and descriptive language.  The combination often entails spiritual analogies.  That’s where teeth come in.

(Get it?)

You know the drill.  The dentist numbs the side of your mouth.  Then, that glorious waiting time arrives — a few short minutes of uninterrupted quiet.  He returns to clean out the gunk and restore the tooth with some sort of filling material.

This whole process mirrors the cleaning-out-and-filling-up we undergo as we walk with God.  First, we must allow Him to clean us out and make us new and then fill up on the good stuff. 

But what is the good stuff?

philippians4_8

In dentistry these days, you often have a choice as to the substance of the filling: silver, porcelain, gold, resin…

We also have a choice with what we fill our ears, mouths, our bodies…our lives.

This is not a message to condemn — to say you shouldn’t do this, shouldn’t read that, or shouldn’t watch this, and shouldn’t go there.

Rather, it’s a positive challenge to take to heart Paul’s words above, to fill up on God’s best; to question if we are really filling up on what is honorable, pure, and lovely.

First, we need a spirit that yields to the scraping, the cleaning out, the drilling.Then, we can make decisions as to what goes in.  This may look different for each of us.

The tricky thing?  In spite of our superb brushing and flossing, a cavity may still pop up.  Rinse and repeat; it’s an ongoing, lifelong renewing process.

Just a little something to chew on. ;)

What does “filling up on the good stuff” look like in your life?    

{This is an excerpt from a previous Mug Message, a devotional series that is on break for the summer.  To receive future Mug Messages by email SUBSCRIBE HERE}

A Happy Book

A happy book will inevitably make a happy author.  Therefore ask: Is the book happy?  Are the illustrations happy?

In other words, is the story told with clarity?  Are the characters unique?  Is the setting specific?  Is the ending consistent with the beginning?  Does the story adhere to a unified code?  Does the text division follow the natural units of the story?  Has the book achieved the right blend of spontaneity and planning?  Is the book’s form an organic outgrowth of its content?  Are the size, scale, and shape of the book most suited to its content and mood?  Are the pictures accurate and readable, and do they capture the content and the mood?  How do they relate to each other?  Are all the parts of a picture unified, and do they help one another to achieve the picture’s goal?  Are all the parts of the book coordinated into a coherent whole?

When such questions are considered, you can better understand the needs of the book and tell whether it is truly happy.

– Uri Shulevitz, Writing With Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books

The questions Shulevitz lists in his introduction seem overwhelming but they demonstrate the thought and meticulous effort that go into putting a children’s book together.  The spontaneity & planning question speaks to me: a book, save perhaps a baby’s board book cannot be overly contrived nor completely out in left field.  As readers, we have to be able to trust the main character to some degree but also leave room for some surprises.  I know there are authors and books that break the mold but these are some pretty good questions to guide one’s writing.

It’s kind of like a golf swing, right?  There are so many aspects you have to think about from the grip to the stance and swing, not to mention keeping your eye on the ball.  Let me just say I’ve “whiffed” many-a-time because I wanted to impress my husband wail that little ball.

Writing is a little, or a lot like that.  We just want to go for it but if we don’t follow through or lift our heads, something could go awry in the execution.  Yet once everything clicks, there’s nothing like a good shot.  As long as it’s in the right direction….

That’s a different story.

Writers (and readers, too) — which of these questions stand out to you?  Is there a particular book that you thought of while reading this list?

Heart Work

If a book comes from the heart, it will contrive to reach other hearts. –Thomas Carlyle

Our good friend and pastor has always talked about the idea of “doing things with excellence.”  Ecclesiastes 9 says,

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” (v.10)

What a great way to live: to pursue excellence in every area of our lives — from our relationships to our vocations and everything in between.  In the end, to rest our heads on the pillow knowing we’ve fought the good fight and have given our VERY best.

We hear it on the sidelines to “give it 100%.”

How about 150%?  Isn’t that so contrary to what we feel like doing?  Most time times, we just want to “get ‘er done,” check another box on the list.

But what if we truly, truly pour out from the depths of our hearts without expecting anything in return?

The above quote by Carlyle, a Scottish writer who wrestled with his faith (don’t we all?) reminds me of this idea of excellence.  Here, he advises the writer but today I’m thinking of the mother, the father, the teacher, the student, the friend — whatever position(s) you find yourself in, isn’t that at the core of humanity, to touch another’s heart?

***

As I read the “greats” in children’s literature and dig into my own heart, I realize that this writing gig is more about heart work than I’d ever imagined.  Among many other things, my hands have found themselves weaving together stories through pictures and words.  And, my prayer is that someday, little hearts will be touched.

Friends, what have your hands found to do and most importantly, are they involved in heart work and excellence?