Friday, June 25, 2010

Doing in Secret

so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:4 NAS)

Ghostwriting As a freelance writer, my livelihood depends on being paid to write. Getting paid for work done, however, does not usually come until after the article is published, and this can mean several months of waiting. Editors of most publications expect all content for publishing to be ready months ahead so as to provide time for editing, layout and artwork. Given such a scenario and the irregularity of freelance writing assignments, it is therefore unwise I should rely solely on getting paid for my written works to keep me and my family alive. The next best thing for me to do is of course to look for other more regular writing related work, such as corporate writing or ghostwriting.

Ghostwriting, as the name implies, is about writing a piece of work on behalf of someone else. The writer is the ghost and the person who hires the writer is the owner and author credited for the written work. Much of the information and ideas for the written content usually comes from the hirer, and the ghostwriter’s responsibility is to write and collate all the information gathered and make sense out of it into a written format, readable to the targeted audience.

Ghostwriting is a service frequently in demand, and although it is one of the less glorifying jobs a writer can do for a living, its monetary compensation is often quite good. As a ghostwriter, however, one does not get the satisfaction of seeing one’s own name in print. What is seen instead is someone else claiming authorship to the written work. This can sometimes be challenging and even painful for the ghostwriter who puts in enormous amount of effort, only to disclaim association with it at the end.

Like ghostwriting, many of us may serve the Lord in our own quiet ways, in church, ministries or other Christian activities. Some of us may serve in the ministry of helps (1 Corinthians 12:28), such as administration, flower arrangement to beautify church environment, navigating the onscreen slide show for display of song lyrics during church service or other considerable insignificant tasks. Such responsibilities may seem mundane and unimportant to some, yet without them, many of us may find it less conducive to worship God.

I myself used to serve in a small church as a helper administering the sound system. Every week, I would arrive early to the rented place where the church service was to be held, and set up the public address system for use by the speaker, worship leader, musicians and choir members. After the service, I would stay behind to keep the equipment and transport it down from the highest floor of the building to the church office at ground floor. Few people knew this was being done by me week after week for several years, yet it was something that had to be done in order for the service to run smoothly.

Our efforts for the things we do may sometimes never get acknowledged, and this can be trying and even painful at times. We can be assured however that whatever we do for the Lord in secret is not unknown to Him (Matthew 6:4). Every single thing we do—big or small—is significant in the sight of God because He knows and sees our hearts (Jeremiah 17:10). He will give to each of us our just rewards according to our deeds (Hebrews 6:10; Matthew 6:4; Jeremiah 17:10).

In whatever we do, therefore, let us not seek merely to be noticed by men (Matthew 6:1-2). Instead, let us when we give, do so in secret, for what we do in secret, God sees and will reward us accordingly. Remember, nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light (Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17).

Help us dear Lord not to seek the recognition of men or despise the small things we can do in serving You and Your people. Create in our hearts Lord the true desire to want to do all things for Your glory alone. We know O God that even in secret our efforts are never wasted, because You see and know our hearts and will reward us according to our deeds. Blessed be Your name Lord and glory to You forever and ever.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Recorded History

Now therefore if it seem good to the king, let him search in the king's library, which is in Babylon, whether it hath been decreed by Cyrus the king, that the house of God in Jerusalem should be built, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter. (Ezra 5:17 DRB)

Moments in Time I used to frequently visit the main public library near where I studied in my high school years. Although it had since been demolished, the library still holds a very special place in my heart. It was there a stranger invited me to a church-organized youth club near the library’s vicinity that I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior in the first meeting I attended. It was also there I first found my love for writing while serving as a committee member in a writing club organized by the library to promote local literature.

Just months before the library was pulled down a few years ago, a call was made to the public for people who have fond memories of the library to submit their reminiscences in the form of short write-ups, photography and drawings. These submissions were shortlisted by a press editor, proofread and edited before they were sent for publishing into a coffee table book entitled, Moments in Time: Memories of the National Library.

I was privileged and honored to be among the many writers who have their articles published as part of the recorded history of the library. This book boasts of content containing works from more than a hundred individuals with writings of many diverse stories, including love story, reminiscence and humor. Contributors of the write-ups and photographs in the book were made up of people from different walks of life, including library staff, past library users, educators, students among many others.

Like the book that recorded the history of the library, the Bible also records many events of the past and stories of individuals who have excelled or failed in their walk with God. The Bible is made up of 66 books written by some 40 authors covering a period of approximately 1600 years. It includes many diverse stories of recorded history, teachings, prophesies and a love story that is central to the theme of the entire Bible. This love story relates God’s immense love for the world that He gave His one and only Son to die on the cross, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Authors of the Bible come from different walks of life and include kings and princes, poets and philosophers, prophets, statesmen, and even fishermen.

All the books of the Old and New Testament are now complete in a single book—the Holy Bible. Few would have come to know the Lord if not for the Bible, for there would not have been the recorded history of what God had done for us and for the people before us (Exodus 13:8-9). Even in the days of the Old Testament, things would have been very different for Israel and the house of God if not for the recorded history found in the library archives of the king (Ezra 5:17; 6:1-5).

We are a privileged people to have God’s word in a book. Although we cannot add anything to it nor take words away from it (Revelation 22:18-19), we can be a part of its history in the making. Written in the Bible are many prophesies, with us still within the church age before our Lord's return. Till then, history as we know it in this life has yet to come to an end, and the new chapter will begin only in the new order where tears and mourning, pain and death will be no more (Revelation 21).

Let us therefore not be afraid or hesitate to do our part in making history within God’s word. If we do well, we shall be with Him when He returns (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). In the meantime, let us not forget all His benefits, for He has redeemed our lives from the pit and crowned us with love and compassion (Psalm 103:2, 4).

Thank You dear Lord for preserving the historical records of Your word that we are able till this day know the plans You have for us. Help us always to remember Your kindness Lord, that we may not be complacent, but be forever grateful for Your immense love to willingly die on the cross to save us.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Molded for God's Purpose

Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? (Romans 9:21 NAS)

Molded for God's Purpose One of the greatest nightmares I face as a writer is to have my written work modified beyond recognition by the editor. All through my years as a writer and journalist for many publications, my written works have seldom been edited more than a tenth of the content, and I respect the editors for that. However, on one occasion, I had a bad experience working with an editor I have never worked with before.

I was assigned by the editor to write a technology article for a trade magazine on wireless solutions. As part of the assignment, I was required to work with several corporations to find out how these solutions have helped their businesses, and to obtain quotes from them and from people of the industry. After spending many hours of hard work and conducting interviews, I painstakingly wrote the article and compiled quotes from many key people in the business world, trade associations and government bodies. I re-read my written work over and over again to self edit before I finally submitted the article to the editor. Sadly, however, the editor decided in the end that all the quotes would be lifted off to focus on an out-of-date story about wireless technologies instead! The irony of it all was the editor admitted technology was not her area of competency.

By the time the article was published, I was no longer able to recognize its content as having been written by me, except for some minor semblance. Although my name was tagged as the author of the article, I refused to acknowledge in public the article was my work. This was because I felt shamed by it and was worried the article would damage my reputation as a credible technology writer. That was the last time I worked with that editor.

Many of us have experienced circumstances similar to mine. In a corporate environment especially, many bosses take claim of the work we have done without acknowledging our contribution or participation in doing the task. We may have put in lots of effort working on the task, but sometimes we see our hard work being dumped or changed completely by our supervisors. At the end of it all, when the task gets blundered as a result of the changes, we are often blamed for it because we were the ones who started it.

Unlike the circumstances we face with editors, bosses or supervisors, we can be assured that when it comes to God 'editing' or changing our lives, it is always for our benefit that God is doing so (2 Corinthians 4:15). Our efforts put in to serve God and His people will never be wasted (Matthew 25:34-40), for our God is not One who is unfamiliar with what He is doing (1 Corinthians 3:18-20). He is the Alpha and Omega, and He knows what is before and what is after (Revelation 1:8; 22:13). He is not a man that He would unjustly take credit for what He has molded us to become, nor put the blame on us when things blunder up (Philippians 1:20). He would not force a change in us to the point of going against our free will.

It is for God’s purpose we have been made (Psalm 100:2-3), so rather than resist the ‘editing’ or molding of God in our lives (Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:3-4; Romans 9:20-21), let us gladly welcome Him to mold us that we may reveal more of Him and less of ourselves (John 3:30). Let us be His vessels for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work (2 Timothy 2:21). Let us not be ashamed to be identified with Him and the gospel, for in Christ and in His word is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).

So if we encounter a difficult editor, boss or supervisor the next time round, let us not fret but agree to disagree in tolerating each other's opinions without arguing (Philippians 2:14-15). Let us give all respect even when the other is unreasonable, for this finds favor if for the sake of conscience toward God we bear up under sorrows when suffering unjustly (1 Peter 2:18-19).

You O Lord are the Potter and we are the clay. Mold us therefore dear Lord to be useful vessels for You. Help us not to resist Your molding, but to willingly let You change us to become the people You want us to be. Move our hearts Lord that we may not be ashamed to be identified with You and to proclaim Your gospel.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Time to Retreat

And He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while." (Mark 6:31a NAS)

Place of Solitude We usually think clearer and more creatively when we are relaxed. Unfortunately, many of us think at the worst of times. As a writer, I often muse and think over the subject matter before I write, and I write best when I am relaxed. I get inspired easily when walking through the woods or while taking long nature walks. Such luxury however is seldom possible, especially when I am on an assignment with a short deadline. In circumstances like this, the next best thing for me to do is to research and compile, then write. This is how I tackle writer’s block.

Research and compilation is common in most environments and if we know the process of problem solving, we know what this means. Problem solving is about identifying, analyzing, implementing, and evaluating. First, research and gather as much information on the subject as possible. Next, sort out the usable from the unusable, and then select what goes into the story. Finally write the story in our own words from the information gathered, re-reading it to edit till it reads smoothly.

A story written through research and hard work without inspiration however is seldom satisfactory to the writer, although it gets the job done. The fact remains however that an article can be better written at a different time with clarity of mind shows the importance and effectiveness of writing with sufficient rest.

Christian living is not very dissimilar when it comes to knowing God’s will. All of us know what it means to be tired or stressed to the point of being unable to think clearly or creatively. Often, it is during such times that we are called upon to make decisions. Ideally, we would like to have all the time in the world to make a decision in a relaxed environment, such as the woods or a secluded place. Unfortunately, such luxury often passes us by because of unavailable time and deadlines. In situations such as this, the best thing to do is to know God’s will through His word—the Bible.

Researching the Bible and compiling relevant information on the subject matter can help guide us in the right direction. All we need to do is to first identify the issue at hand and analyze the principles spelled out in God’s word. If what we seek to know is clearly pointed out to be against God’s word, we need not go further. If it is something unclear or neutral, however, we must evaluate and weigh the consequences before we implement steps toward what we plan to do. We should sort out the information gathered from the Bible and seek God’s help to know what’s usable and what’s not.

Finally, in prayerful spirit, we ought to use our God given common sense to think deep into the matter and understand how the decision will affect others as well as us (Philippians 2:4). Does it cause harm or promote better living for others? Does it cause consequences that may result in disasters or damages? Once evaluated, review the plan again, edit where necessary until we are sure it is the best way to move forward as we seek the peace of God within our hearts for confirmation.

Ideally, of course, we hope to get a clear indication from God as to His will, but often we are left with the freedom of choice to do what we want. Compiling and researching God’s word is one of the best ways to help us make right decisions, but the fact remains that we ought to set aside time to go away by ourselves to rest (Mark 6:31-32), to renew our minds as we seek His will. When what we are doing weighs down on our minds, it is time we retreat to rediscover inspiration from God and be refreshed.

Dear Lord, grant us clarity of minds when making decisions, that we may not fall prey to consequences which are not according to Your will. Reveal Your will to us Lord through Your word and let us know the direction to go forward. Help us set aside time in our heavy schedules to find rest in Your holy presence Lord. Still our hearts to know Your peace as we use the common sense You have given us to do what is right according to Your will.