the-show

Live in the Big Show

Live in the Big Show

Dearest Grandson,

You know that baseball players in the minor leagues dream of improving their offense – hitting the ball – and their defense – fielding the ball – so that one day they will be promoted to a Major League Baseball team. They call it “The Show.”

Right now, you’re like those young players with their big dreams.

Right now, you’re still in the minors – childhood, that is – learning, growing, developing talents, acquiring new skills. All these are important, but what’s most important as you strive for the majors – The Show – is framing a life that is built on character … who you are and what you show (your verb, your action) … in living a life that is BIG … as you aim for The Show (your noun, your appearance).

And right now, you’re NINE. Something about NINE and baseball. NINE players. NINE innings.

So, what I want to share with you NINE fundamentals that I believe will help position you to Live in the Big Show, help give you a good eye at the plate, help you field a bad hop, help you wear both competiveness and compassion on your uniform.

1 Show gratitude.

Be thankful for all the good in your life. Talk about being thankful. Show your gratitude to others. Say “thank you” every day. Especially to God.  You’re never off on the wrong foot when you step out in gratitude. You can’t think about bad stuff when you’re thankful and keep your mind on the good stuff.

Whatever happens, in every situation, no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the score, be grateful and continually give thanks to God.

2 Show forgiveness.

You will make errors, others will make the errors, but God forgives. We should too. Seek to have powers of forgiveness and love and you’ll be super. Accept life, and be most patient and tolerant with others, always ready to forgive if you have a difference with anyone. Forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you. Don’t be angry with others, but forgive one another. Never hold grudges. Have a loving and understanding heart. If you feel someone has wronged you, forgive them because that’s what God says.

3 Show faith.

When you keep believing – whether you win or lose – you are choosing to hold on to faith. Stay faithful and trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Keep the words of the King of Managers, Jesus, in your heart when He said to “Have faith in God.” Without faith it’s impossible to play the game of life and walk with God. My all-time favorite verse, the logo on my pennant, is Luke 1:37, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”

4 Show kindness.

You will be amazed how much of a difference you can make by just smiling every time you talk to someone. You have the power, the gift, to change someone’s life with small gestures:  a tip of the cap, a hello, a thank you. Be kind and patient and understanding to everyone. Clothe yourselves with a uniform of compassion and mercy, gentleness and patience.

5 Show integrity.

Be honest and true in all you do each day. Play by the rules and do what is right and fair, even when it’s hard, even when you get a bad call. Make your decisions based on the strong values you have learned. Treat all the people you meet that there is something worthwhile in them, because when you play and live with integrity and with moral character, you live securely. Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got. Become a role model of good actions for your teammates. Show integrity, seriousness, and set a good example for everyone. Go out of your way to do what is right, and speak the truth. No one can argue with that.

6 Show respect.

Treat everyone with consideration and respect, no matter what team they cheer. People notice how you treat others. Honor others the same way you want to be honored. In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble, and value others more than yourselves.

7 Show friendship.

Be that friend who thinks of others, who is thoughtful and considerate, who nourishes the goodness in another person. Pursue friendship and happiness will happen. Encourage your friends, cheer for them, help them, and tell them how much you care about them. Build up their hope. Be truly loving, for love is the best rule in the playbook. Love your friends, your teammates, deeply. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  Let your love and friendship extend to everyone, especially those on the end of the bench, for love is from God.

8 Show service.

You follow God’s way when you give and serve others. You get energy from following your passions, from committing to people and service and causes. Compassion isn’t waiting; it’s doing. Compassion isn’t watching; it’s helping. You have been blessed with special abilities from God to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings. Show generosity, be rich in the good things you do, and share with others.

9 Show the love of Jesus.

The best way to improve your life, your position, your relationships with teammates and with others, is to act like Him. Love doesn’t give up. Love doesn’t lose faith. Love is hopeful, no matter the score. Love endures through all circumstances. And that’s the love of Jesus you show to everyone. Be Like Jesus. When you show love, you share in joy and happiness and wonder and goodness. And that’s always the winning way.

So, during your young years, your training days (and really, for all your life), I pray that you will SHOW these NINE fundamentals as you advance from the minor leagues and into the major leagues. Into The SHOW.

Happy NINTH birthday!

I love you! God bless you. Always.

 

 

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When Timehopping is hard

I have a love/hate relationship with a Facebook app. You may know the one, Timehop, “your memories await.” The app collects your texts, photos, and social media posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Then each morning, you can scroll down “your day in history” from one to eight years ago. Oh my.

Sometimes my Timehop includes a photo of delicious pie that I gobbled down a year ago. Sometimes it includes a photo of a friend who passed away a few years ago. And sometimes there are photos from several years back of grandchildren playing at our house.

And always it includes my Happy Day Moment #___ Facebook posts. Always my discovery of a “moment” each and every day (since #1 on April 1, 2010) when I was grateful and “living with gratitude.”

So there are those memories where I smile stupidly at my phone, remembering joys and love and happiness; and then others where I have to pause, sigh, stop the scrolling, and close the app, remembering what was and what has changed. Because sometimes everything is too achingly wonderful and too achingly sad.

That’s what this life is for all of us. Life truly is HARD.

During lunch with a girlfriend not too long ago, she asked how I was doing. “Actually, I have had a real peace lately,” I said. “Then this morning some photos showed up on Timehop, and ka-plooey, some peace-adjustment was needed.”

“You should delete that app,” my friend said, she who would win trophies for her kindness.

Maybe I should.

But then, as hard as it is to read some posts or see some photos, they are my life. They are what has molded me, strengthened me, taught me. To live with gratitude. Always.

That’s my (not-so-secret) weapon. That to weather the storms of life, the seasons of pain and the seasons of joy, the times of leanness and times of bounty, the hard and the soft, when I always lean into gratitude, I don’t just survive – I become stronger.

So I won’t delete my Timehop app. I’ll let its memories, good and sad, remind me I can’t control life, but I can control how I respond when “life” happens (i.e., still being grateful). I can decide not to spend time feeling sad about a situation and missing how things used to be, but decide to be thankful for the awareness and empathy and understanding that all my memories have given me.

These, then, are some posts from my Twitter page that will pop up next year in my Timehop memories. These are a handful of my daily tweets from the summer of 2016. May they edify you, build you up, encourage you. May they make you stronger if you also have a love/hate relationship with your Timehops.

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  • May the power of love that holds us together be greater than the power of any offenses that separate us.
  • God doesn’t reject a heart that is broken and honestly regrets the past.
  • Reconciliation with others can be long and difficult, but it usually begins with small acts of mercy and grace.
  • Never stop hoping, no matter what you’ve been through, or are going through.
  • The world will always have brokenness and sorrow. But it will also always have God’s grace.
  • It takes a strong soul with real heart to develop smiles out of situations that make us weep.
  • The glorious thing about life is we have a daily choice regarding the attitude we will embrace that day.
  • You may be frustrated and tired and weary, but don’t give up.
  • Let’s keep loving and forgiving others even when they make stupid mistakes.
  • I’m not making this up: God will walk with you through this.

 

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  • Sometimes when you least expect it, God is there with answers.
  • Sometimes when we’re kind, we still disappoint people. It’s okay. Be kind anyway.
  • When we defend our opinions, let’s do it with gentleness and respect.

When we are grateful, we are stronger, and life is more beautiful.

Jama & 2016 ninjas 2

Happy Literary Citizens

Let me tell you how I was called Professor Bigger.

The finger-pointing and hand clapping credit goes to Cathy Day. Last year, she suggested that we move Midwest Writers Workshop to coincide with the final week of Ball State University’s second summer session.  She then suggested that because I was the Director, I should teach the class (the class she developed) on Literary Citizenship and that the students could be the interns at MWW. I nearly uttered my great-grandmother’s words, “Oh, Psshaw.” Although I have B.A. and M.A. degrees in English from Ball State, I hadn’t taught college classes in {REDACTED} years, and those were freshman composition courses.

Somehow, she convinced me. And somehow, she convinced Adam Beach, chair of the English Department, that this a worthy plan for English majors to both learn the value of literary citizenship and to receive an immersive learning experience as assistants to literary agents at a writers’ conference.

Great things can happen when you say “yes” to a Cathy Day idea. The curriculum. The classroom. The students. It was déjà vu all over again and I remembered how much I enjoyed teaching.

Then Cathy tagged one more brilliant idea onto her plan: assigning me a research assistant, Meagan McAlister. Surrounded by all this supportive energy and encouragement, I entered Room 291 of the Robert Bell Building to teach “ENG 299x: Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age.” And there I was greeted as “Professor Bigger.”

Let me tell you about the students.

Six students. Amanda Byk, Lauren Cross, Caroline Delk, Kara Harris, Rachel Lauve, Rachel Wright-Marquez. I told them to call me Jama.

They are clever and articulate and curious and thoughtful and funny and passionate. They are majoring in Creative Writing and English Studies and English Education, and they all bonded into a special friendship. They fangirl over authors and they love books and Harry Potter and donuts. One wears a Chicago Cubs cap, one carries a Pokemon backpack, one has political buttons pinned to her laptop bag. They became the 2017 MWW Ninja Team (the very first interns were called “ninjas” and it just fits).

Let me tell you about what they did.

That first day I explained Cathy Day’s definition: “A literary citizen is an aspiring writer who understands that you have to contribute to, not just expect things from, the publishing world” and the mantra of Literary Citizenship: “Be Interested in What Other People Are Doing.”

I explained that they can tend to their literary citizenship by reading (a lot), buying books, reviewing them, and publishing the reviews on their blogs or Goodreads. They can champion the successes of authors, not because of what they can get back, but because it’s part of being a literary citizen.

I underscored what Matt Bell reminded us: “The better solution is, as a part of your daily work as a writer, support the communities you wish to be a part of, by reading books, writing reviews, promoting other writers or bookstores or whatever in your social networking. It’s a small but old truth, but the more you give, the more you will receive. And this isn’t any kind of slimy networking. This is every writer’s responsibility, and the writers who create the most buzz for the good work of others will find that same energy waiting for them, when their own excellent book finally comes out.”

They were all in and realized that they had been literary citizens without even knowing it. “I’m a literary citizen for life,” one said. Another one said, “In the words of Cathy Day, it’s about building an oasis and creating and maintaining relationships in the community.”

They wrote blog posts about their experiences as a literary citizen. They jumped enthusiastically into the community-building project of sending “charming notes” that Carolyn See described in her book, Living a Literary Life. Their social media “charming notes” were both passive – friending or following or emailing someone in the publishing field (a writer, editor, publisher), and active – actually saying something to them (“I enjoy your work,” or “You published one of my favorite books”).

They read books written by some of the Midwest Writers faculty, they wrote and posted reviews of those books, they interviewed the authors and wrote another blog post.

They were bright and cheerful and arrived early to class. They were attentive and listening and respectful to guest speakers Gail Werner, Kelsey Timmerman, Holly Miller, Meagan McAlister, and Cathy Day.

They were spectacular as MWW Ninjas, as assistants to the literary agents during the 43rd Midwest Writers Workshop. They structured the (very fluid and challenging) schedules for their agents, they monitored the time for pitches, they bolstered the confidence of attendees who were pitching and calmed their anxieties. They worked tirelessly; they were friendly and generous.

I was their Summer English Class Professor and I was also their Midwest Writers Workshop Director. And I could not have been prouder of their literary citizenship development and their at-conference professionalism.

Let me tell you about what it means.

I enjoyed this summer more than I thought I would. The energy of the students, the classroom, building relationships, expanding the vision the purpose literary citizenship.

Encouraging, building up, cheerleading. And yes, teaching. It’s what I’ve done for a long time as the Director and now the experience has broadened as a “Professor.”

It means my life is enriched. Great things happened.

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Amanda Byk, Rachel Lauve, Caoline Harris, Kara Harris, Lauren Cross, Rachel Wright-Marquez (center)

“Be passionate about books and writing, because passion is infectious.” ~ Cathy Day

 

Homer Simpson Authors Coming!

The Authors Are Coming!

“That was a big sigh,” he said.

“I know. I was just thinking that it’s been quite a while since I posted a blog on my website,” I answered.

“Just tell them the Authors Are Coming.”

Because. Yes. As Director of Midwest Writers Workshop, that’s what I (and my hardworking team) do: we bring talented authors, talent-seeking agents, and talent-helping editors to the campus of Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana.

So since my last blog post my life has been THIS

registrations, facilities, room assignments, emailing, scheduling, calling, emailing, hotel, travel, food, menus, parking, emailing, publicity, tweets, emailing, organizing, rescheduling, book orders, merchandise orders, signage, lists, more lists, emailing, session notes, equipment, bowling party, welcome totes, donations, magazines, emailing…….

Oh, yes, and then there was THIS: “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” the class I taught during second summer term at Ball State. The {amazingly talented} students in the class are the interns for this year’s MWW, functioning as assistants to the literary agents. Really, so. much. fun. to be back in the classroom. My last teaching experience was as an instructor for English Composition courses at Ball State {____} years ago.

I reckon juggling all THIS doesn’t make me a slackard that I haven’t posted in a while…

Therefore, I give you my blog post announcing THIS:

Homer Simpson Authors Coming!

July 21-23, 2016

#mww16

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What people need

What people need

 

What People Need . . .

Love. Forgiveness. Encouragement.

There’s so much sadness, so much sorrow. There’s so much controversy, so much contention.

In all the noise of news reports and journalism and everything social media, there are hard things. And so much rawness in all the words. And in so many ways we speak to and treat others.

What people need most to cover all this rawness is the softness of words of love and forgiveness and encouragement. How we speak, how we treat others – it matters. In all relationships.

In this softness, we become stronger.

That’s what people need most — words that make them stronger. We can overcome the noise, the loud. We can choose how we treat others; we can choose words that encourage, words that build up, and words that bring together.

Our words can either bring together or tear apart, and here in this space, and on this Facebook Page, I want to purpose my words for bringing together. For building up. Words that point the way to what people need:  Love. Forgiveness. Encouragement.

Let’s start thinking more about how we speak, how we treat people … in all our encounters, in all our relationships:

…forgiving others and moving forward

…showing kindness and respect to others

…accepting others just the way they are

…encouraging others and cheering for them

…doing something little (or big) for others every day

…letting love be our compass

 

So here are my soft strong words for April, my thoughts, the tweets, which were liked and an echo of those things that people need most…..

  • The strongest, healthiest relationships are made up of two forgivers.The strongest, healthiest relationships are made up of two forgivers.
  • Let’s tip the scale to being more positive, more encouraging, more loving.
  • Thinking good thoughts about someone isn’t enough. We need to say the encouraging words.
  • You will be amazed how much of a difference you can make by just smiling every time you talk to someone.
  • Choose encouragement, lifting others up, not putting them down.
  • Let’s offer friendships that are generous and forgiving and guilt-free.
  • Treat all the people you meet that there is something worthwhile in them.
  • Let’s allow God’s goodness to flow through us and nourish all who cross our paths. ‪
  • Love the hard people, at the hardest times, in the kindest ways.
  • The gift of pure love allows us to bless others and accept them without condition
  • Let our love for others be sincere and active, without hypocrisy.‪
  • Make intentional time to tell others specifically how they bless you.
  • Let’s be less judgmental and cultivate a sense of wonder at each person’s uniqueness. We’re all a wee bit crazy in our own way. 
  • There is powerful freedom in admitting our weakness because it allows others to love us as we truly are.
  • Make allowances for and be patient with each other, and forgive without punishing.
  • We can either harm by the selfishness of our silence or diminished praise, or we can heal by the selflessness of our encouraging words.
  • Today give others precisely what you may think they deserve least. Grace.
  • If you really fulfill this royal law: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you’re doing well.
  • The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
  • Let our gratitude be awakened; let our love be quickened.‪
  • We all need to learn to communicate without blaming.

Above all, let’s keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. ‪