What Is The Banner Over Your Life?
On Monday evenings I've been meeting with two aspiring writers Jaynie and Meg. They are brilliant women and both are accomplished in their careers. Jaynie is from England. Meg has a degree in Marketing. Since their children are in high school and they have a little more time opening up, they want to pursue a long-time dream of writing.A few thoughts and suggestions
Have you tried to write out your mission statement?
Last spring through church, I met Jaynie and Meg when our teens were in the same drama performance. Jaynie wrote and directed the play. I found out Jaynie and Meg were both taking a correspondence writing course. "But something seems to be missing for me," Jaynie said. "I have so many ideas but I don't know how to let go of the really bad ones."
The three of us mid-life mamas met for coffee one Monday evening in May. Since then we decided to make it a regular event. One of the early questions they asked me was, "How do you know if you're supposed to write and what you're supposed to write?"
I mentioned a verse I've been reflecting on lately: Romans 11:29. "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable."
"Has God gifted you to use words to communicate His truth?" I knew the answer was yes for both of them because I'd read some of their writing.
"Has God called you to communicate His truth through writing?"
"I think so," Meg said. "I've tried pursing other avenues of service but these stories inside me won't go away. I keep coming back to the computer."
I told Jaynie and Meg that I felt the same way seventeen years ago while working on Summer Promise, the first novel I wrote for teens. After two years and ten rejection letters I wanted to give up but I couldn't. I found a verse in Jeremiah 20:9 that perfectly expressed what I was feeling.
"But if I say, ‘I will not mention Him or speak anymore in His name', His word is in my heart like a fire, shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in, indeed I could not."
"That's exactly what I feel," Meg said.
"Ditto," said Jaynie.
I smiled at my new friends and said, "Consider yourselves gifted and called by God to write. And remember, it's God's gifting and His calling and it's irrevocable. No one can invalidate you with criticism and no one can quench this fire in your bones. Only God. He put it there. Your only choice, really, is to obediently respond."
We got into a great discussion about our spiritual gifts. We agreed that using our spiritual gift to communicate through stories is no more exalted in God's eyes than the person who has the gift of helps and shows up every week to inconspicuously set up chairs for church service. The gifts are given so we might build up the Body of Christ, not bring glory to ourselves.
Jaynie bought a spiritual gift test at the Christian bookstore that week and came the next Monday with the results. Meg borrowed a copy of my mission statement and brought a rough, first run at her mission statement.
"It's all beginning to make sense," Jaynie said. "This is how God created me, this is how He gifted me. I'm confident that He's called me to write. But my question remains. How do you know what you are supposed to write?"
I challenged my friends again. "What is the banner God has planted in your heart? When others listen to you, what banner do they see waving above your life?" More thoughtful discussions followed.
I told them about a small church in rural Wales where I worshipped with friends last year. At the front of the sanctuary were various banners on long wooden poles lined up the same way we might line up a dozen American flags at a political rally. During the worship time, one of the men from the church walked with determined steps to the front and pulled a banner from the stand. The emblem on the banner was the Lion of Judah positioned as a strong protector and a mighty ruler. As we sang, this man set his face toward the congregation and began waving the banner as if he were preparing us for battle.
I thought, This man of faith is saying with his whole heart that he believes in the power of the Lion of Judah and he is ready to lead these people.
Later my host family told me he was the youngest elder in their church and he was the one who was instigating new and good changes. I asked if he had ever stood before the people and waved that banner.
"Oh, yes. Many times. Always the same banner. He has the heart of a lion himself. We all love him. We can trust him."
I told Meg and Jaynie that years ago when I wrote out my mission statement, I penned the word, "come" as the banner over my life. This is the theme God has planted in my heart. I believe God longs for His people to come to Him. Every story I write reflects this gracious invitation. I know God to be a Relentless Lover. We are His first love. He doesn't give up on us because He wants us back. This is the theme, the banner, that I stand and wave with all my heart.
The next Monday, Jaynie and Meg came with the homework I'd encouraged them to work on. They both had a written out mission statement and they both knew the one-word banner God was flying over their life.
I asked Meg if I could share her banner and mission statement with you. Here it is:
Meg's one word banner is "Partake."
Her verse is Psalm 34:8. "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him."
Meg stated her passion and her mission this way:
"My passion is to encourage women to enjoy the victorious life God has for them. My mission is to encourage women to taste, touch, and see that God is all He says He is. I want to draw them in and make participants out of spectators. I want to see them dine and enjoy the hope and healing that God has laid out for everyone."
The three of us writing pals have discussed how easy it is to sit together now on Monday evenings and read our writing for critique. None of us feel insecure about whether or not we're supposed to be writing. We all agree that God has gifted each of us and called us to write. We know the theme of our message because we know the banner that we go to and hoist from the stand every time we sit at the computer. Confidently, we set our face to our audience and wave that banner with our whole heart, as if someone out there has never heard this truth before.
There are no right or wrong rules on how to do this. Simply write out your objective for writing. What do you want to say with your stories? Why do you feel so passionate about what you want to say?
You might find that a one-word banner has been flying over your life and you never looked up and identified it.
One writer friend I know said at a dinner that she didn't have a common theme to all her books. Everyone stopped eating and looked at her. All of us knew the theme. It seemed obvious to us. We told her and she said, "Oh. I guess you're right. That is what I end up writing about every time, isn't it. I never realized it before."
As you consider your banner, think about what God has uniquely done in your life. What is your story? What is the theme that runs through your life story? This will probably be the banner that already flies over you.
Think of the intense love story found in book of the Song of Solomon (also called Song of Songs). Chapter 2:4 says, "His banner over me is love."
Ask God to bring a few extraordinary people into your life who will give you honest feedback on your writing.
I didn't go looking for Jaynie and Meg. I prayed for someone my age that would provide helpful advice on my current writing project because I'm entering a new season of writing. God brought the three of us together at just the right time for all of us. We've commented on how true Solomon's words are in Ecclesiastes 4:9 & 12. "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
May our gracious Lord bless you with clarity and confidence in your writing. May His banner over you become clear to you and may you be blessed with a threefold cord of like-hearted writers.
Robin Jones Gunn is the best-selling, award-winning author of over 57 books with three million copies of her titles sold worldwide. Robin grew up in southern California and began writing for publication in 1985 when her children were young. After writing fourteen picture books for children and over 60 articles, her story-telling attention turned to writing novels for teens. This came about as a result of being involved with her husband, Ross in full-time youth ministry for over 20 years. The Christy Miller Series was followed by the Sierra Jensen Series and the Christy and Todd; the College Years Series. Bethany House Publishers currently distributes all 29 teen books in partnership with Focus on the Family.
As Robin's audience of teen readers grew older, they asked for more novels and she began writing The Glenbrooke Series for Multnomah Publishers. This eight book series includes Secrets
as well as a unique gift book titled Tea at Glenbrooke
. Her most recent novels with Multnomah Publishers include Sisterchicks on the Loose!
, Sisterchicks Do the Hula!
and Sisterchicks in Sombreros!
(September 2004). Robin has also written a Women of Faith novel, Gardenias for Breakfast
, which is scheduled for a January 2005 release.
Robin and Ross have been married for 28 years. They currently live near Portland, Oregon with their 22-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter. Robin's passion as a storyteller is to introduce women to God, the relentless lover. Her stories carry the common theme that we are God's first love and He never stops pursuing us because He wants us back. You can learn more about Robin Gunn at: www.robingunn.com
© 2004 Robin Jones Gunn. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.