What is Success? Life in the Upside Down Kingdom (Relevant10 Pt 2)
What does success look like in the upside down kingdom? What is is success in blogging? in writing? in life?
These were questions explored in the closing keynote of Relevant10… what is success?
If you’d rather listen, than read the Part 2, click on each link here below, and then, on the following screen, just click on the triangular play button on the player:
The Text of the Closing Keynote of Relevant 10, Part 2:
T.S. Eliot says,
If the word ‘inspiration’ is to have any meaning, it must mean … that the writer … is writing something that he does not wholly understand.
This is what you do when you blog. You come to the screen with a shimmer of your story – but you come empty, not fully sure of what you are going to write. And this is okay. Because you don’t have to have all the answers. If your writing is inspirational — you will write things you don’t wholly understand. You will be surprised by the Spirit as He speaks new truth to you through your story. Because what you think you have to say – may just be the first words of a far greater truth that God wants to speak to you.
I need your messy story… and you need your messy story.
So tell me your story, not your sermons, tell me your thrashing, and not just your theology. Tell me about your questions – and not just your quest.
Because we read so that that we know that we aren’t the only ones.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian who was martyred by the Nazi’s during WW2, he wrote these words and this is for you, and this is what it means to be a community and we are a Christ body and we are this to one another:
“The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation.”
The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. She needs her again and again when she becomes uncertain – and this is the power of blogging in the upside down kingdom. This is the holy work of a blog, so don’t every feel shy or ashamed or embarrassed that you blog. Because the body of Christ needs to speak to itself and it needs to speak to the world and this is the beautiful , poy of a blog. I get discouraged and I become uncertain and I fall down and His word through your words is the connective tissue in the body of Christ and we need each other. Please. Keep. Writing.
Because I am just one decision away from disaster.
Every single last person reading your story, your blog, is just one decision away from a spiritual, financial and moral mess.
Can you see them, their faces and their lives and their hearts? Me! on the other side of your screen. There are women, men, who are reading your blog and are pondering decisions that will change the course of their lives—and their children’s lives and on out into eternity. Women who are so weary they have absolutely no idea how they are going to put one foot in front of the other today. Mother’s whose hearts are shattered into a million shards by prodigal sons. Marriages with debt around their feet like a millstone. Wives on the brink of some emotional affair. They are sitting in front of screens, on the other side of your screen and they are looking and clicking and they are reading.
They want something REAL -honest. They are yearning for something INTENTIONAL – that you’ve prayed about. They are longing for something RELEVANT.
What are your words? What are you going to say?
This is the world God has called you to write to. Not a sermon – but your story. Tell messy me how you handled not wanting to get out of bed. Tell broken me how you keep your vows. Tell fallen and sinning and wrecked and saved me how you see God – right where you are and how you are wrestling your faith out and how you don’t have answers but a lot of questions.
And your God is so big He doesn’t live in boxes but in your gritty-grace-filled life.
There is so much at stake – souls. There are many at so risk – us.
I didn’t know six years ago, and nearly 2,000 posts ago, on a September night, when I clicked “publish” on that first corn-husking post, that it would be me I’d be peeling back. ….
I didn’t know that He’d use stories to heal me. I couldn’t have known the cost. I never thought of how and when these postings might end. I wasn’t prepared for the fire and the heat and the Spirit and the fear-begging-to-be-made-courage.
I didn’t know how much I didn’t know.
I couldn’t have imagined the people-beauty, the souls luminous, the Glory-stories. I never expected so much joy.
Six years later, and I’m still pounding it out, and I have grown smaller…. hushed. I am the same and I am changed and I am less and I am more and I have seen Him.
And His name is Where-Two-or-Three-Are-Gathered and Community is a Love-Body that holds itself close in the wind. I never knew.
Six long years of tracing the outline of days with the arc and curve of letters and finding the Spirit in the story.
Finding you, the sisters in His story.
There is so much at stake – souls. There are many at so risk – us.
It is in your story, you meet the Spirit of God.
You just blogging, doing that word that sounds like a blob, this thing that others may snub – may I just say: you are an artist. In the line of your Father God, you are an artist.
Ezra Pound once said that the artist’s task is this:
To “make it new.” The “it” is the truth of the world. A work of art doesn’t invent truth, but it does make it accessible to us in ways that are not normally available because words and images have been tarnished by overuse or neglect.”
And this is what you do when you sit down at the keyboard in the upside down kingdom.
You are an artist and you make the truth of the world new to be me again when you tell the truth through your story that is new to me.
You make art, and you don’t invent truth, you tell me the real honest truth, that the kids keep bickering and you yelled at everyone at dinner and you’re feeling around for the face of God in the midst of all this darkness and there are days. You. Just. Don’t. want. To get. Out. Of. Bed. and you make it accessible to me because you tell it to me in your story. You are an artist of the Word, daughter of your Father God who has always been an artist, who has always been a creator.
God speaks through prophets and poets and the pots all cracked.
And He speaks through you in these last days, these days when:
” I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy.” ~Acts 2:17
There is so much at stake—souls. There is so much at risk – us.
And the upside down kingdom needs your stories of good news that there is a grace that uprights a fallen world. We need your art.
Did you know that the first people that we know from Scripture to be filled with the Holy Spirit were not priests, not kings, not generals. The first two people to be filled with the Holy Spirit were — two artists, two craftsmen, two makers named Bezelel and Oholiab — who built Moses’ Tabernacle?
Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.”
When you make with words and when you craft with lines and when you click that shutter on that lens, looking for the beauty and glory and reality of God, you are an artist in the line of Bezalel, and He fills you with the Spirit of GOD, fills you with skill and ability and knowledge – and in your art, He heals you and He heals me.
There is so much at stake – souls. There are many at so risk – us.
And it is in story, we together, meet the Spirit of God.
The Word God wastes nothing and He heals two broken hearts with one story – the reader and the writer.
You in the upside down kingdom with a keyboard, you making art, you making the truth new to me, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Jesus gives this to you tonight, He gives you the Great Commission,
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…and lo, I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
And THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. How do we with blogs and keyboards go into all the world? Aren’t we all really like Peter — cowards and liars and deniers and absolute messes? I am. I am.
BUT GOD. But God, what does He do? He fills the rag-a-tag disciples, the messes like Peter – with the Holy Spirit – just like He did Bezalel… And we see it again and again throughout Acts – that the phrase “filled with the Spirit” is often linked to a consequence: They “spoke with boldness”(see Acts 4:13; 5:29; 7:51; 9:27).
Filled with the Spirit – spoke with Boldness.
YOU, with a keyboard – you are an artist.
You with a blog – you are filled with the Holy Spirit.
You telling your story – speak it with boldness.
Is that what makes a successful blog? You an artist, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking your story with boldness? What is success?
What is success for a blogger? 25, 000 hits a day, thousands of dollars of ad revenue, a book contract and a movie deal? Is success measuring your self-worth in subscribers?
Whether as a blogger, or a mom, or a wife, or a single young woman, we keep striving and we keep straining and we keep struggling and we keep seeking success – but what IS success?
Do you lay in bed some nights wondering what it is you keep stretching for… starving for?
What if you could just go to Jesus and ask Jesus, King of the Upside Down Kingdom … What is a success?
This is what He whispers to you:
Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. ~ Matthew 20:26
Whoever wants to be great – must become a servant.
Whoever wants to be a great mama, a great wife, a great woman is called to serve and a great blogger must serve with every post, serve with every story, serve with every well-ordered lines…. Whoever wants to be a successful blogger must be a serving blogger.
It’s not about you.
Your blog is not about you.
Success is service.
Your success as a blogger is not determined by your hits, sitemeter, or subscribers.
You are a successful blogger, the most successful blogger, from the very first day you ever posted, if you simply do it as an act of loving service unto Jesus.
And even if no one ever reads another word you ever write, you are a success in loving service. You are always a success when you are serving because the way to be great in the upside down kingdom is not climb higher but to go lower.
Your calling isn’t to be a blogger. Your calling isn’t to be a business owner. Your calling isn’t to be a success.
Your vocation is always and only this: to be a servant of God.
Our vocation is always serving. You are always a success when you are serving because in the upside down kingdom the way to be great is not to climb higher but lower.
So if blogging success in the upside down kingdom is service, to go lower, how do you serve in the upside down kingdom, how do you go lower?
The only way to serve in the upside down kingdom is the way a duck makes a nest – with feathers plucked from her breast. With bits of yourself.
I had read it once to the children:
What a Mother Must Sacrifice
Houses may be bought, built, or borrowed.
But homes can only be made, and that with bits of ourselves.
Or so the ducks told me.
They told me without a sound, just simply as they preened and nestled, a painting, oil on canvas. The children press in close too, for a better look at Alexander Max Koester’s painting Ducks, and I read aloud the caption below the brushes of color.
“Mother ducks pick feathers from their chests to line their nests.”
I pause and the children gaze thoughtfully at a clutch of plump white, blizzard of feathers fallen down. But it’s those words that mesmerize me: “pick feathers from their chests, to line their nests.”
Eyes fixed on a duck breast puffed, mother plunging beak in deep, I question wondering self: “How else did you think nests were lined?”
With leftovers. With feathers discarded, the molted, the not-so-necessary feathers. I thought mother ducks picked feathers up from what was laying about, scraps, lining nests with what simply could be mustered after the fact.
But no. (Is that only the way of human mothers?) No, a mother duck plucks each feather out from the heart of her bosom, warm and soft.
She lines the nest with bits of herself. The best of her, from the deep spots.
She cups her young in her sacrifice.
Children pull at the corner of the page, anxious to see the next painting, and, reluctantly, I move on. But for weeks, part of me lives among Koester’s ducks. (Koester, captivated, painted dozens of duck paintings throughout the course of his life. I’ve come to understand.)
Days later, I am scrubbing out the arches of muffin tins after breakfast, the clock ticking insufferably loud in my ears, time running down. Children need books and learning, and I’m tuned for the expected chime of the doorbell, a service personnel’s scheduled visit. And the words rise near to the surface, “I don’t have time for this! No muffins tomorrow morning!”
The words sharply sink. And I, learning, line this nest with a feather. Not a leftover. But one decidedly plucked. The service man meets me with muffin tins still in the sink, and a circle of happy young. Whose tummies next morning fill with another batch of muffins. I will make time.
As the sun’s perfect globe of glow sets nears the horizon, these boys, glint in eyes, recalibrate vacuum cleaner to fire socks. Weary, I have food to find, laundry awaiting escort, math sheets to mark.
They fire sock cannons.
And I Pluck.
Bellies jiggle, peals of giggles, as old mother chases after future men, wrestling them down, tying them up in tickles. We warm here in laughter. It feels good, wild and alive. So again they fire, and again I pluck with feathers of my time, bits of me, and we pile high, one atop the other, nesting down into sacrifice, soft and small.
Some feathers for this nest, the parts of me and time I have sacrificed, have hurt, pain of the plucking lingering long. But why speak of the details? And was it really sacrifice, or just this too-tender skin? It’s done, it was necessary, it was for something better. Some nights, when all sleep, I feel along the hidden bald patches.
There are times, too many, when they call, “Read me a story?” “Wanna play a game with me?” “Can you come help me?”
And this mother refuses to pluck. Something, some task, someone (me?), rates as more pressing, more important. I deem our nest acceptable just as it is. I don’t want to sacrifice more of me.
Then comes the pecking, the scratching, the squawking. With feather lining wearing thin, the nest chafes hard. We hurt and cry. Nests need feathers deep.
Someone must pluck.
When will I learn that down sacrificed settles and soothes?
For scraps won’t suffice. Snippets of time, leftover me, a trinket, a diversion, tossed.
Mother ducks don’t line nests with feathers, dirty and trampled, the molted and unnecessary. Why would I? Nests need feathers fresh, warm with mother’s life.
Night descends and calls children to dreams. I lead them to their bed-gate, arms and legs under quilts worn from the ride. I read stories, stroke hair, say prayers. Prayers to Him who plucked hard from His own heart.
A sacrifice, staggering and true, for love of His very own. We learn love from His laid down.
Tired heads nestle into pillows, pillows of down.
On feathers plucked, we rest.
Related: May the Children Eat First
The original Koester painting, “Moulting Ducks,” is part of the collection at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle www.fryemuseum.org
Nests need feathers deep. Nests need sacrifice, soft and small.
This is what your home nest needs… sacrifice of you. Line your nest with bits of yourself. Pluck. Sacrifice.
And this is what your online home, your blog, needs. Sacrifices of you. Will you tell us your real, hard, painful stories – the ones that terrify you to tell? Will you peel back the masks, give up the fluff, will you get real….
Someone must serve… someone must sacrifice… someone in all this blogosphere must pluck.
If there are to be any nests in the blogosphere for souls to come find rest — someone must pluck.
With bits of themselves.
For scraps won’t suffice for our children, snippets of time, leftover me, a trinket, a diversion, tossed. And scraps of ourselves won’t suffice for real, authentic service in the blogging of our stories.
We talk about taking our blogs to the next level and I am here to say yes. In six years of blogging, I haven’t had had a sitemeter installed on my blog, and I’ve blogged 5.5 years with no comments, and I don’t have sponsors or ads but I am here to say yes, please take your blog, take your life, to the next level.
And the next level in the upside down kingdom is to go lower – to humble yourself further.
Because the only platform in the upside down kingdom is an altar.
The only platform Jesus Christ stood on was a place to lay down and die. And we as His followers can stand only on that kind of platform—a place to come lay down as a sacrifice.
Pluck from your breast.
3 Reads for Blogging Encouragement: