A Great and Mighty Wonder

A great and mighty wonder,
a full and holy cure!
the Virgin bears the Infant
with virgin-honour pure:

The Word becomes incarnate,
and yet remains on high;
and cherubim sing anthems
to shepherds from the sky.

While thus they sing your Monarch,
those bright angelic bands,
rejoice, ye vales and mountains,
ye oceans, clap your hands.

Since all he comes to ransom,
by all be he adored,
the Infant born in Bethl'em,
the Saviour and the Lord.

Repeat the hymn again:
'To God on high be glory,
and peace on earth to men.'

—St. Germanus (634–734)

Some people understand what life is really about. Others can write well. There are a few gifted souls who know both—one of them was St. Germanus. In his hundred years of life, he wrote only a few hymns and A Great and Mighty Wonder isn't even the most popular.

Maybe he penned it sitting in front of a 700 A.D. Christmas tree—or perhaps he was on silent barren hills at night, contemplating the miracle that God sent his Son as a baby to save His people from their sins.

This we do know: St. Germanus understood both the miracle of the incarnation and exactly what life is about.

Since all he comes to ransom, by all be he adored . . . To God on high be glory, and peace on earth to men.

A Thousand Story Ideas

Part of being a writer is looking at the people around you. Orson Scott Card, author of more than 50 books, said,

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.

Watching for stories all the time takes practice—but if you do it consistently, soon you won't be able to turn it off. Then, like me, you'll trip over sidewalks and your toes and turn your ankles all the time, as you think about the person you just passed, or the couple arguing in the drink aisle. I make it sound painful and hazardous, but it's worth it.

When you look for the stories in life, you'll suddenly have more than enough stories for your writing.

Sunday Joy

Christmas carols all morning long.
Eating leftover pizza and chips.
Shopping for vegetables and cheese.
Organizing and cleaning.
Resting and relaxing.
Wearing matching socks.

Today is the third Sunday in Advent, and we lit the candle of joy this morning. In this season, we're remembering good news (the best news, really) of great joy, that shall be to all people:

A Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Why you should work together

Usually, people live in one of two camps regarding their level of attention to detail. 

Big picture people. Give a big picture person a task, and immediately they're dreaming big. Huge. "And so in the next five years, we'll completely restructure the organization to sell ponies instead of pianos."

Detail oriented people. Ask a detail person to finish something, and two days later they'll tell you the most granular facts about every individual component. "And the steps leading down to the riverwalk on this miniature model of Chicago are all exactly .4 centimeters deep."

The best thing you can do, in writing and sometimes in life, is find your opposite, and ask these questions:

To the detail-loving writer: What's the overall point?

To the big idea writer: How will you get there from here?

It will take patience, understanding, and a enormous amount of intentional communication—but in the end, both of you will be better.

Only Begin . . .

Lose the day loitering, 'twill be the same story
To-morrow, and the next more dilatory,
For indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting o'er lost days.
Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute!
What you can do, or think you can, begin it!
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated;
Begin it, and the work will be completed.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Lyrical Sunday

Breakfast cereal instead of the other stuff.
Sunshine and delight and laughter.
Catching up on the little things.
Sweet potatoes.
Christmas carols.
Ice cream sunda(y)es.
Exuberant affection.
The yearly white elephant Christmas party.
A slow end to the day, and a red plaid blanket.

Lyrical: having a light and melodic style. Just like Sunday.

How to Get Better

I'm still reading On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. Today's excerpt:

Readers want the person who is talking to them to sound genuine. Therefore a fundamental rule is: be yourself.
No rule, however, is harder to follow. It requires writers to do two things that by their metabolism are impossible. They must relax, and they must have confidence.
Telling a writer to relax is like telling a man to relax while being examined for a hernia, and as for confidence, see how stiffly he sits, glaring at the screen that awaits his words. See how often he gets up to look for something to eat or drink. A writer will do anything to avoid the act of writing. I can testify from my newspaper days that the number of trips to the water cooler per reporter-hour far exceeds the body's need for fluids.

The best way to sound genuine in your writing is to write constantly. It's like anything else in life that you practice: playing piano, baking, drafting blueprints, etc. The more you do it, the better at it you'll become.

He Gives and Takes Away

The hardest things to understand are the hardest to write about.

As a kid, I learned about the sovereignty of God. I didn't comprehend that the sovereignty of God means sometimes I don't want or understand what He does. God doesn't ask me when He should give or take away.

Trust aside, it's really hard.

Today, I'm thinking about Caedmon's Call, and the last verse of their song "Mother India":

There's a land where our shackles turn to diamonds
Where we trade in our rags for a royal crown
In that place, our oppressors hold no power
And the doors of the King are thrown wide

Sometimes, the doors of the King are thrown wide for someone before we want to say goodbye. On this day in 1962, God blessed the world with Curtis' mom. Earlier this year, He took her away from us. We know that Belinda was ushered into the kingdom of heaven with a rousing celebration and a royal welcome:

Well done, my good and faithful servant.

And we believe that above all God is sovereign and good. 

But we miss her.

The Tiny Tiny Baby

This weekend, Curtis (he's very wonderful) and I drove three hours twice just to hold a perfectly cute brand new baby (I have a friend who says not every baby is cute, but every baby is beautiful. This baby, I can assure you, is both).

Our close friends' baby was due a few days ago but when they visited the doctor two weeks back, the baby was measuring small (around the eleventh percentile). The nurses said to come back the next day, hopeful the baby would be bigger. 

The next day the baby was in the fifth percentile (equals bad for 38 weeks, if, like me, you know nothing about childbirth, etc.). The nurses tried to check mom in and induce birth immediately, but after some bargaining she was allowed to go home and pack a bag.

The next afternoon the tiny baby girl was born, weighing five pounds something ounces. Her umbilical cord had been wrapped around her feet, stifling the nutrient flow and keeping her from growing past a certain point. But she's fine and healthy, just a little on the tiny size. Newborn clothes dwarf her, and her tiny legs aren't much bigger than my thumbs.

I could gush about her tiny hands, soft, flexible toes, and gaping yawn and miniature pink gums . . . But you've probably seen a baby before. She's absolutely perfect, though—a miniature baby, a tiny tiny human being. And right now even at her tiny size, she is completely equipped for her entire life on this planet (though she has to pass through some developmental phases). She's not missing anything important—like a nose or a brain.

God creates with us in mind, and he gives us exactly what we need for life. He gives some people the ability to be athletes, others musicians, others artists, others surgeons . . . The list goes on and on, but the point is this:

God gave you talents for a reason (i.e., legs to walk, mouths to talk, gifts to glorify Him with). It's important to use them for Him.

Sunday Marvels

Some Sundays are for unorthodox behavior:

Driving six hours.
Holding a perfect baby.
Eating curly fries (I promise you, there are few culinarily delicacies on this planet that rival fresh curly fries).
Listening to adventures.
Spending time with friends.
Being in love.
Reading out loud.
Watching the sun set (who says this has to be just one word?).
Planning for Christmas presents.
Giving gifts.
Sharing a chocolate milkshake.

Every week, Sunday is full of marvels. And how could it not be? It's the Lord's day.