Priorities

Mary Keeley

Blogger: Mary Keeley

I began to prepare what I hoped would be a helpful post for the writing life for today, but something didn’t seem right, a check in my spirit. You’ve probably experienced spiritual unease that stops you in your tracks from time to time too. We can ignore them, opting to forge ahead with our own agendas, business as usual, but I’ve never found that to be fruitful. So I paused to pray and became convicted that Holy Thursday is one of those days that warrant a focus on our highest priority as Christians.Maundy Thursday

Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, is significant because it’s when Jesus gave his final marching orders to the apostles and all who follow him:

Do this in remembrance of me.

Do this refers to taking the bread and wine in communion. It’s the in remembrance of Me that broadens the scope of Christ’s command. How well he knows us humans—that we would need a continual symbolic reminder of all that he is, all that he did for us, and what our priorities are: to be lights reflecting him to a world that increasingly is walking away from him.

How can we as Christian writers, agents, editors, and publishers remember Christ in our daily lives and business?

  • Be sensitive to checks in our spirit that might signal a change God desires for his purposes or for our best interest.
  • Deal fairly to achieve win-win terms in contracts.
  • Encourage each other. Support each other. Go the extra mile for each other.
  • For authors it means producing your finest work that honors Christ and points readers to his love and free gift.
  • For publishers it might mean stepping out of their boundary of caution to publish a book that perhaps doesn’t fit neatly into the tried-and-true mold, but that will point new readers to Christ, while also committing marketing dollars to the book’s success.
  • For agents it means functioning in our clients’ best interest, even when it isn’t in our own, most lucrative interest; keeping up to date with the industry so that we can guide our clients wisely.
  • Always remember that God didn’t give us our gifts and talents to use for our own glory, but for his.

I’m grateful for my church’s Maundy Thursday service. It’s my family’s favorite service of the year because of the quiet, reverent focus on the communion experience with time for personal reflection. It grounds me for the rest of the year.

Borrowing from a publishing executive’s prayer at the end of weekly chapels:

“May we be an accurate reflection of His love, His truth, and His grace.”

How do you commemorate Holy Thursday? Add to the list additional ways you, an author, can reflect Christ in your corner of world influence.

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  1. Carol Ashby says:

    For authors, it means remembering when God calls, He also equips and He isn’t limited by human timelines. Patience is a virtue, but procrastination driven by fear or indecision is not. The time between today and Jesus’s Second Coming might be very short, and sharing the Gospel is our highest calling. If your story has real potential for inspiring and encouraging the sharing of a deeper faith for a believer or for encouraging someone to believe in Jesus for the first time, pour your energy into doing what it takes to get it out to the readers who will feel its impact sooner rather than later.

    • Oh Carol, thank you for this distinction between patience and procrastination. In remembrance of him we wait patiently for the right time. And in remembrance of him we work diligently to get our stories out to the world.
      * Not my will, Lord, but Thine be done. With my waiting. With my working. With my story. Amen.

    • Carol, I agree that procrastination isn’t a good thing, but sometimes it’s patience in disguise. I have learned to pay close attention to the little voice that says “just wait for it” rather than paying heed to the louder one that insists on taking what seems to be the obviously correct course of action.
      * There’s a saying that the more certain you are, the more wrong you can be, and I try to pay heed to this every day.

  2. Our church doesn’t do anything for Holy Thursday, but we observed the Lord’s Supper last night. The service was beautiful. Our pastor … his sermon … just what I needed. He talked about how God gives us second chances … all the greats had second chances. I love that. Don’t we all need a second chance? If not from yesterday, from today, or for tomorrow.
    *How can I reflect Christ in my corner? I’ve always tried to teach my girls to trust God. I want to be a God-truster. Fully, completely. I had someone tell me recently, “If you want to be published, you need to get your doctorate.” That statement is like someone taking a cue stick and pushing “published” out of hands reach. And it also seems to place stock in what “I” can do, instead of what “God” can do. Maybe I’m just resisting the idea of going back to school at my age, or while my girls are home, but I’d like to trust God to use me right where I am. Today.

    • Lara Hosselton says:

      Shelli, I saw an image of empty bookshelves gathering dust, the result of needing a doctorate to get published. Enjoy your daughters and just write.

    • Shelli, you have a doctorate in faith and kindness, and the most lovely and winsome way with words. You have everything you need.
      * (I do have a doctorate, actually, and it means absolutely nothing in terms of writing, or life.)

    • Let me think . . . how many books have I read authored by folks with PhDs (or MDs–salute to Richard), and how many books have I read written by folks without doctorates?

    • Shelli, to amplify a bit…if you go back to school for a doctorate, while your girls are still at home, odds are that you’ll regret that allocation of priorities for the rest of your life. These are years you can never call back.
      * The PhD is often seen by those who bestow it as a Rite of Passage, and there are many horror stories about dreadful workloads and the allocation of pointless tasks that will never see the light of day. Your mentors will have gone through this, and in the main they will want you to feel the pain as well, to validate their own.
      * You may also find scant sympathy for a desire to spend time with your family, for a similar reason…sacrificing family time will be demanded, perhaps more from you than from others, as a meet offering to the false god of ‘dedication’.
      * Please understand that I’m speaking from my own experiences, and from working in a specific field that did have many ‘older’ students returning for doctorates. I can’t speak for all, but I can, I think, justifiably urge caution.
      * And you do have to ask yourself…why? A PhD is a trade-school qualification, generally acquired to allow one to teach at the college level, or work in research. There are some other applications, but for most jobs, it’s an over-qualification.

    • Carol Ashby says:

      *Andrew is right about the Ph.D. being an advanced trade-school degree. In the sciences, you take a year or two of advanced courses. In some fields, like physics, that becomes your masters, but in others, like chemistry, an actual masters isn’t issued at this point by many universities. I have a B.S. and Ph.D. but no masters. Then you “apprentice” to your university research advisor for 3-6 years of learning how to do research well. The 3-6 depends on how fast you get a thesis-worth of significant results.
      Unless you need the paper credential to get a job at a university or research institution, the Ph.D. has minimal value. I have many colleagues with masters and years of experience who are much better researchers than some of the Ph.D.’s. Remember that Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook),and many others who have been very successful in the computer field dropped out even before getting their B.S. to go on to great things. (I’m not advocating dropping out of college… just saying it’s not necessarily a career-ending disaster.)
      *For the life of me, I can’t see how getting a Ph.D. could possibly make you a better writer of fiction, Shelli. I’m not even sure the MFA has much value for that. How many of the great novelists and today’s best-selling authors have one?
      *It’s plain to me that God has gifted you. Sometimes academic training by mere humans can dull the brilliance of such a gift. Skills can be taught, but not true creativity and not inspiration by God.

      • Actually, having a PhD can be a career-ending disaster. If you don’t have the ‘right’ advisor, don’t come from the ‘right’ school, you can find that you won’t be considered for teaching and high-end research jobs, and that the credential prices you out of the market for other positions. It’s really all politics and influence. Competence does not count for much.
        * I have known people who had PhDs from good schools – but not politically connected – to list the attainment of the degree under ‘Hobbies’ on their resume, just to be able to work in their fields.

      • Carol Ashby says:

        Spot on, Andrew. My husband went straight for the masters and never even considered getting a Ph.D. because it would have priced him out of most of the jobs for an analytical chemist. The same is true in most engineering fields.
        *It can also be a barrier for making new friends. It makes many people uncomfortable until they learn you’re just a normal person. (Well, maybe I’m not quite normal, but it has nothing to do with my academic degree.) I never tell someone about the letters behind my name until they already know me pretty well. Even just mentioning you’re a scientist can be a turn-off, but you have to be truthful when someone asks. Before I retired, I used to just say I worked at XYZ when a new acquaintance asked. It took months before I felt comfortable letting this community know. How best to handle it in my bio as a historical fiction writer is something I still haven’t quite decided.

    • And who is this person and does he have a doctorate???
      My husband refused to get his PhD simply because it was a waste of time and money. would it up his salary? Nope. And when he has positions for summer students doing grunt work?? Half of them are PhDs.
      Does he still write scientific papers? Yeah, and the only PhD’s who give him a hard time are the ones HE didn’t hire.
      But, what does “at my age” mean? 😉

      • Oh, my goodness. Y’all are the best friends ever. Ever. I’ve been working all day because I already finished my second novel … oh, yes I did. And I’m in the editing phase. Oh, yes I am!! (Actually, it’s my 3rd, if you count my first middle grade … 4th book, if you count my non-fiction) I have four finished works! I can’t hardly believe it. 🙂
        *”At my age” … I haven’t defined that yet! 🙂
        *Oh, my word … y’all are the best.

      • Carol Ashby says:

        “At my age” = the number of years since you were born. When I was getting wrinkles when I was mid-forties, I’d ask my husband how old I looked. His response, “You look 45. You are 45, so you look 45.” Bless his honest little heart!
        *When I fished for a compliment by complaining about getting old looking as I got more wrinkles , he said, “You must think I’m pretty shallow if you think I care what you look like.”
        *Great guy, and near-sighted. With his glasses off, he still says I look like I did when we married. And I do…I’m the same sized fuzzy blob as I was when we married 40 years ago.
        He’s the model for one of my maybe-too-blunt-speaking romantic heroes.

    • Wanda Rosseland says:

      I had to laugh at that doctorate thing, Shelli.
      This is what my friend said in response to a question about how necessary was a college degree for a writer.

      He said, It is “The kiss of death.”

      Have fun writing today!

  3. Great post, Mary; very thought-provoking.
    * I try to keep in mind that God’s plan for my life may well not jibe with mine. Everyone wants to be David, the heroic, flawed, wayward and faithful hero, but who wants to identify with Uriah the Hittite?
    * But someone’s got to do it; in every story, fictional or real, there are protagonists and there are foils…and if I am to be a foil I simply want to provide the most truthful reflection I can, without weariness or resentment. We are, after all, commended to the work of reflecting the Light Of The World, so we SHOULD be accustomed to it!

  4. Thank you so much, Mary. It is amazing to remember that Christ’s last precious meal with his 12 was today, about 2,000 years ago.

  5. I’m one of those people that for me, what you see is what you get.
    I gave up *trying* to be influential when I got too used to the inner voice saying “Really? Did you mean to be that fake, or did it just happen?” Oddly enough, I’d wanted to be that Christian that sounded like she had it together, and when things got hard, and I mean , bottom of the barrel HARD, that is when my self-proclaimed flaming pagan friends noticed that this Jesus thing actually played out in someone’s life. The non-believers would say things like “You’re the only Christian I trust to tell me like it is, not what I want to hear.” and repeatedly confide stuff that blew me away.
    By just being me, by giving up on the dream of being important and influential, that is when God started using me to tell the story He intended for me to tell.
    By accepting that I do better outside the box than in, I’ve become free to set up shop and connect with people who think that particular box ought to go to the recycling bin.
    Is it comfortable and familiar? Not at all. But it’s home for now.

  6. Sarah Thomas says:

    Our church is small, so we don’t always hold services on Thursday and Friday. In 2012, we sort of combined the two and when we took communion that evening . . . well, it still brings tears to my eyes. It’s too long to post here, but if you’re curious pop on over to my blog and read about it. http://sarahloudinthomas.com/2012/04/09/communion-in-the-round/

  7. Hi Mary. I work full-time as Director of Communications for a large church. After over a decade in this line of ministry work, I am always humbled by the work we do during Holy Week. Like any other workplace, there are frustrations, seasons of dry creativity wells, and disappointments. But this is what it’s all about. In fact, on my blog today I was compelled to write about how Holy Week provides us with a story-arc that makes Easter a celebration that’s more than just about an empty space. It really is the greatest story ever told…tension builds, climax (death and dismay) occurs, then through waiting and uncertainty, resolution dawns. And, like a well-written novel, you can place yourself inside the story some how – some way. I pray this week that each person who hears the story of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday will find their place within it. Alongside Jesus. For that’s where we all belong, why it all happened. And ultimately, why we all write.

  8. Julie Garmon says:

    Beautiful. Just beautiful, Mary. And I know just what you mean by sensing a “check in your spirit.”

    Thank you.

  9. With grateful hearts, we pause and consider.
    Tomorrow I will post a brief blog post that will highlight a remarkable remembrance of the gift Christ has given us, written years ago by my oldest daughter. You might be encouraged by it. Check it out tomorrow. It will bless you.
    The monks at the monastery wear no shoes for the service today. They form a circle. The aged use walkers, the younger monks assist them. As a group they kneel, bending clear to the floor after certain words of Scripture are read. Next, in quadrants, they form a line and then, one by one, they sit in a chair where their feet are washed by the Abbey abbott. It is beautiful, humble and moving.

  10. Afton Rorvik says:

    Beautiful post. Thank you for this gentle reminder on this holy day.

  11. Mary, you don’t know how much I needed to read today’s post to “be sensitive to checks in our spirit.” A retired literary agent asked me recently if I would consider removing the Christian elements from my manuscript and go mainstream. At first the question sucked the air out of my lungs. I could never…. But then the temptation started to grow. I imagined a few revisions and how my story might change. But each time I let my thoughts go there, I felt it: the check in my spirit reminding me of my desire to minister through story. Thank you for bringing my focus back.

  12. Thank you for this reminder to offer our very best. My copy editor identified a few holes in my current manuscript and I’ve been discouraged. After reading your post, I’m thankful God sent me helpers. I pray that I will never settle for mediocrity, and that the words I write glorify God.I pray that I may be found worthy of this calling and draw people to the light of His love and forgiveness.

  13. Beautiful post, Mary! Thank you for sharing you heart and allowing your planned post to be interrupted so that we all could take these words in. Your last point is such an important one — “Always remember that God didn’t give us our gifts and talents to use for our own glory, but for his.” — and that’s something I remind myself of every morning. Everything we do and anything we accomplish is all for Him. And we could do nothing without Him! Yesterday I paused to reflect on what the Lord is doing in my life and remind myself that even though I don’t know where the road is leading I can trust He has good things in store. Because He is a good GOOD father. 🙂

  14. Nicki Bishop says:

    I love the way Kristy Cambron discusses her journey towards becoming an author. She says that she and her son would pray for her readers before she was published. I think prayer is a vital key to “Remember Him.” Praying for readers, praying for other writer friends, praying to glorify God in our writing–these help us remember that we are the body. Last year I was praying intensely against the trafficking industry as I was writing a rescue story. I prayed for the victims to be set free, for the rescue effort to be strong, and for God to cut off the enemy’s plan of attack. Every day before that first cup of coffee, I went to war for those hurting. I began to pray against the pornography industry. Within that time, God set more than one person in my family free from pornography. I am amazed at the power of prayer and very blessed by what happens when we “Remember Him”.