Winter. Time.

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Why in childhood and youth do we wish time to pass so quickly – we want to grow up so fast – yet as adults we wish just the opposite? – My Dog Skip

For me, winter in Georgia has always been hard time.

I’m not a fan of cold weather season.

I grew up in sunny south Florida. We only had one season: hot and humid, all the time. I remember vividly one Christmas day in my teens, tanning by the lake in my grandparents’ backyard. It was a bright Christmas. It was always a bright Christmas. I didn’t have to experience winter weather on a regular basis until I was nearly an adult.

So when it gets below 40 degrees I can’t hang.

Once, sitting (and shivering) outside by a fire in cold weather, a neighbor’s father told me it was because I didn’t have enough “brown fat” stored up in my body. At the time, I thought he was mocking me. But it turns out his science was absolutely correct.

And so, because of my upbringing in South Florida (and my subsequent lack of brown fat) I have always dreaded the cold winter months. I hate being cold. I would rather sweat any day than shiver. I’ve heard all of the cold-weather-preference arguments (“You can layer in winter, but you can’t do anything about the heat” blah blah blah) and I don’t care. Summer rules. Winter drools. That’s how I feel about it.

Some Georgia winters have been somewhat mild. But most haven’t, at least from my perspective.  I remember one particularly harsh winter I never took off my toboggan and gloves, even when I was sleeping. My bed was just a few feet away from floor-to-ceiling glass and my body couldn’t get warm enough, even under the covers.

Cold weather is the worst.

My whole adult life I’ve spent just wishing winter would hurry up and pass so I could get to warmer weather. Every. Single. Year.

I do this in other “seasons,” too. Seasons I don’t particularly care for, either. Maybe I’m going through a difficult personal stretch (like a recent achilles tendon injury), or there’s not a lot of excitement (e.g. travel, big events) on the horizonor there’s trouble in relationships/extended family stresses. I seem to have the same impatience with these seasons of life as I do the actual season of winter, wanting it to hurry up and get over with so I can get back to the good stuff.

I forget too easily that life is the good stuff. And every season of life is an opportunity to learn and grow, to love and give, to become the best version of myself. In fact, if it were not for the tough seasons, I would never even have the opportunity to experience life like it was meant to be lived. I would miss out on the opportunity to grow stronger through my pain, grow more perspective through the difficult times, grow more compassionate and wise because of my struggles. The good stuff is so good, in part, because of the bad stuff.

The warmth of summer is so much more enjoyable coming out of the bitter cold of winter.

I know this now.

And I finally realize when you spend your days wishing for time to pass faster, you get exactly what you wish for.

My son is a junior in high school, somehow. I’ve had an app on my phone for several years counting down the days until he graduates. There aren’t nearly as many days left now as there used to be. It won’t be long before he becomes an adult and leaves our house for college and beyond. Now I’m thinking instead of wishing all of those seasons would pass I should’ve have lived in the moment a lot more, been a lot more grateful, a lot more aware of how lucky I am to be alive, how fortunate I am to be a father in any season, at any time.

I understand it better now, though not fully yet. But I’m going to do everything I can to enjoy where I am right now, no matter the season or “season.”

I hope these next two winters last forever.

Once

You only live once. But once is enough if you do it right. – Mae West

It usually happens in October. 

But it happened tonight instead. 

The first evening when it really feels like fall in Georgia. 

When I still ride with the windows down, but I need a little warmth on my feet as well. And the chill in the air mixed with the scent of someone’s first-fire-of-the-season reminds me what a great gift this all is. 

We only get one life. To appreciate the beauty, to know gratitude for every simple, majestic moment. 

To feel. 

To cherish. 

To revel. 

To feel every bit of bliss and sorrow our frail, resilient hearts can endure. 

To cherish the other lives inexorably intertwined with our own. 

To revel in the love of God, the source of every good and perfect gift. 

We’ve got one life to live. 

One. Extraordinary. Life. 

Sometimes I find myself wistful that we only get one shot at this thing. There’s so much I haven’t experienced yet, so many places I haven’t been, so much wonder left undiscovered. 

But then the fall air whispers and I’m reminded I’d rather do it once the right way than live a thousand meaningless lives. 

I’m reminded there’s nothing more I need to feel alive than being with those who love me, those whom I love most. 

On an autumn night in Georgia. 

Storyteller

One week from today, my debut novel, Remember Jane, will be available for purchase digitally. In my previous blog, I explained the emotional impetus for writing it – the why of the story.

But there is another motivating factor that has been just as influential in the process of learning how to and actually writing a book.

I want to be a storyteller.

More specifically, I want to tell stories like Jesus told stories.

Over three years ago, I wrote a post about Jesus the storyteller. In it, I shared this:

I feel like we’ve lost the ability to tell good stories in our Christian culture. This is sad to me. If Jesus modeled communicating His message in story form about one out of every three times, and we are becoming more and more like Him, then maybe a natural result of following Jesus should be that our stories get better and more powerful. Feels like the opposite is happening a lot of the time. We’re great at sermonizing, but we don’t seem to tell very good stories. Not that I have any problem with sermons, I prepare and preach sermons often, and I listen to several every month. But it feels like we’ve abandoned other forms of communicating and put all of our eggs in the lecture-format basket.  Even the movies Christians make end up feeling like a 2-hour sermon. Movies are supposed to be stories, not sermons. When I go see a film, I don’t want to be preached to. I want to hear, see, feel a story. I can draw my own conclusions about life, and morality, and God without having them spoon-fed to me. That’s the wonder of the human intellect. That’s the beauty and power of story.

I feel this even more strongly now than I did then.

I’ve never been ashamed of being a Christian, but there have been many times I’ve been ashamed by how Christians tell stories.

It seems as though the most popular stories written by and for Christians in our culture pay no thought to giving people outside the faith a chance to find themselves in the narrative. And this is just unacceptable. How can we alienate with our art the very people Jesus most wants to reach?

Here are two reviews for the recent release, War Room, which is getting a lot of praise lately in Christian circles. To be fair, I haven’t seen the film. And I probably won’t. I’m sure it has its place and if it was encouraging to you, then by all means celebrate it and promote it. But know that, based on most secular reviews, it is in no way accessible to people outside of the faith. Here are snippets from two unrelated reviews of the movie:

  • “War Room isn’t really a movie. Instead, it’s just a glossy, elongated infomercial for prayer. And, if you’re inclined to accept its agenda, it works. Because the audience I saw it with hooted, praised and squealed with joy at the right times.”
  • “If these films truly want to evangelize, then they must step outside their comfort zone…They must acknowledge that life is far more complicated than the typical Sunday sermon would indicate, and that faith means more than submitting to a controlled existence ruled by fear. They must portray the full dimensionality of the material world before they can begin to explore the spiritual one.”

We need to get back to how Jesus told stories.

This is the heart of how I wrote Remember Jane. I studied Jesus the storyteller. How did he communicate? What were the common threads that wove themselves through most of his tales?

There were many commonalities, but for my book I focused on the three I felt were the most powerful:

  1. Accessibility.
    • The characters in Jesus’ stories were real. They messed up. They made bad decisions. Sometimes they swore, were immoral, cheated and lied and stole and chose the wrong path. Just like we have. Just like we sometimes still do.
    • The settings and backgrounds were familiar to His listeners. He talked about sheep and farming and fishing; about business dealings and eating and family relationships.
    • No matter what story Jesus tells, people from all walks of life can find themselves in the narrative, even if they have a different faith background (or none at all).
  2. God is a character in the story. 
    1. He’s not called God. He’s a “father” or a “judge” or a “vineyard owner” or a “farmer” or a “shepherd.”
    2. He acts in the story in ways that are at times mysterious or even frustrating. He’s real. He’s active. He’s up to something, even if the other people in the story (or the listeners, for that matter) don’t know what it is.
  3. A surprise or twist. In almost every story Jesus told, something happens that you don’t expect.
    • A father runs (!) and gives his coat (!) to the returning son who had told his father he wished he were dead and then spent a third of his dad’s money on “wild living.”
    • People who only worked an hour get paid the same amount (!) as people who worked the whole day.
    • The banquet preparer un-invites his distracted friends from the great party and instead orders everyone (!) else to be invited instead.
    • One thing is certain about Jesus’ teaching: it wasn’t predictable, it wasn’t cliche, it was never trite.

I certainly don’t want to sound bitter or jealous of the success others have had. I’m not reacting against something as much as I want to get back to something – to model my writing after Jesus in hopes that others will like it and attempt to do the same. There are authors who are already doing this well. William P. Young, Josh Riebock, and Brandon Clements are just three examples of writers who are ahead of me on this path. I’m in debt to them for their courage and influence.

Writing a book is a humbling experience. I have no idea if I was able to do what I set out to do. I have hope and that is all I have.

I hope you will read Remember Jane. I hope it will engage you on a deep level. I hope you don’t feel preached to, but that your heart will be stirred all the same.

I hope you find yourself in the story.

And I hope you find God waiting for you in the spaces underneath the words, between the pages.