Archive | January, 2014

Leaping into the Light

12 Jan

I believe this earth is just one big battlefield for good and evil.

I believe that every one of us, whether we want to be or not, is part of the battle, and that during our short time on this earth we each do three very important things:

  • Chose a side
  • Find our role in the war
  • Help equip others to do the same

All roles in warfare are vital. We need soldiers on the front lines to shield us from the fire, factory workers to produce equipment, scientists to develop tactics and technology, doctors and nurses to keep us in fighting shape, listeners to keep us sane, and teachers; oh boy, do we need good teachers to prepare our children for the fight ahead and teach them to seek truth.

For the past 12 years, I’ve been an editor with an Intelligence organization. I serve with a fine group of warriors who stand at the edge of darkness, peering into the vast unknown for signs of the enemy. After they’ve sifted through evidence, trends, and potential implications, I help them articulate their findings effectively. It’s a good job. I’ve learned a lot about the world, made many friends, and enjoyed a steady paycheck. If I stick with it three more years, I’ll qualify for some good benefits for my retirement years.

Two years ago, I participated in a leadership training course that included an exercise designed to help us identify our strengths and passions and figure out what to do with them. After culling through a lengthy list of phrases beginning with the words, “I most like to ____,” we each created lists of 40 possibilities, then culled that to 20, then 10, then 4, then circled the one that we thought best captured who we are. We posted our discoveries on the walls around us, and I read with awe the passions of my coworkers:

  • “I most like leading a team.”
  • “I most like solving difficult problems.”
  • “I most like to collaborate on tough assignments.”

These were some focused individuals; I could see the Intelligence field was a perfect fit for them.

I, on the other hand, culled my list down to, “I most like to create art and beauty.” Hardly a warrior’s creedo.

Over the past two years since that course, I’ve been mulling my discovery; there’s no place on the battlefield for art and beauty, I thought. But lately, I’m not so sure. Perhaps that’s exactly what the world needs more of. Still, I cannot shake the notion that, although I am good at what I do in the Intelligence arena, I don’t belong there. My battle is elsewhere.

Where there is light, there can be no darkness

Where there is light, there can be no darkness

My role, I think, is to fight evil with light; to help those who may know which side to fight for, but have yet to make a formal pledge. I think I’m also supposed to encourage those who are fighting in the darkest corners and who think evil might be gaining the advantage. We can’t lose, of course, because the battle has already been won, but sometimes it can feel like we’re losing.Where there is light, there is hope. When I pick up a pen, light emerges through art and beauty.

That is why I made my decision; I’ve given notice at my work that as of January 24, I will no longer be an editor serving the U.S. government. On that day I will become an ordinary writer, serving in the Army of God. The pay will be horrible, particularly at the start, but I know the Lord will provide for our needs.

My first order of business, of course, will be to finish writing Joe’s story. He’s been more than a little patient with me since last summer, and I hope he will find the story worth the wait.

After that? Who knows? The Portrait Writer will be open for business; after that, anything can happen.

“The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.”
  1 John 1:5

The Early Bird Knows the Secret

4 Jan

I awoke to four sweet, staccato chirps, and smiled as I listened to the persistent warbler outside my bedroom window. Again and again he beckoned to me with the same four-note aria, paying no heed to the drawn shade that separated us. I knew he was calling to me, but I didn’t want to stir from my warm bed. Tossled, twitching branches on the tree outside cast a quivery shadow against the shade, and a blustering gust of wind buffeted the house’s siding, confirming my suspicions: It was a cold, windy day out there.

I think I’ll stay put, thank you very much.

Still he sang. His notes were melodious and clear; I was content to just lie there and listen. So much joy from such a tiny creature! I couldn’t imagine what this bird might have to be joyful about. Surely if he knew the snug coziness of an electric blanket he might be singing a different tune out there on that naked tree limb.

Eventually though, his song (and the thought of a hot cup of coffee) got to me. I extricated my lazy self from the soft covers, covered my flannel jams with my warmest robe, and crossed over to raise the shade, mentally prepared for a bleak January scene.

How wrong I was.

Instead of bleakness, the world outside had transformed overnight into a pristine wonderland. Two inches of pure white blanketed everything around me, and a rather spectacular sunrise was radiating its golden orange light across the snow-covered trees and rooftops, glistening majestically as far as I could see.

And there was my soloist: a tiny brown wren with his beak pointed up to heaven, singing for all he was worth. How could he not? He cocked his head to look at me, as if to say, “See? Didn’t I tell you?” and resumed his joyful twittering.

I watched for quite some time, mesmerized. All too soon, the golden hue dissipated as the sun rose higher; leaving a scene that was still beautiful, but slightly less enchanting.

To think I would have missed that just to stay comfortable.

Then I went downstairs, where the morning had more delight in store for me. Entering the kitchen, I noticed a particularly large shadow cross the window as something flew to the birdhouse in the back yard.

Probably those darned crows, I muttered to myself. Such bullies they are.

I headed over to the sliding-glass door to thump the window pane (like that ever works). To my amazement, it wasn’t crows, but the return of our favorite winter visitors, the Pileated Woodpeckers.

Pileated Woodpecker

This is Dactyl. Don’t be fooled; that’s a relatively small birdhouse he’s perched upon.

Now, these guys aren’t your average woodpeckers. In fact, we’ve named them Terry and Dactyl, if that tells you anything. They are so large, even the crows give them wide berth. According to our bird manual, the Pileated Woodpecker can grow to about 17-inches long. They also have a deep red crest. I could watch one for hours.

The thing is, they never stick around long, and they’re early risers so we don’t catch a glimpse of them often. If I’d stayed in bed, I would have missed this as well.

How many of us live our lives like that? Chosing comfortable, safe, and familiar over the unknown, wondering what’s “out there” but not curious or brave enough to go look for ourselves? What do you suppose we’re missing?

At my office, I work with quite a few brilliant people who sit in their familiar cubicles day after day performing mundane tasks, all the while saying there must be a better way and purposefully ignoring the “I wonder ifs” hovering overhead:

  • I wonder if I could make it as a professional photographer.
  • I wonder what it would take to start my own brewery.
  • I wonder if I’ll ever go to law school.
  • I wonder if I should homeschool my child.

I know this, because they do occasionally talk about their dreams, and because I do the same thing. For the past ten years, I’ve been talking about leaving my job to write full-time, but the office paycheck is steady and my coworkers are great people. It’s comfortable.

But change is waiting for me, like the wren outside my window, singing, beckoning.

The time has come to throw off the cozy blankets. Can I do it this time?

…I’ll let you know next Saturday.