Shake it Off! (Encouragement for Creators)

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If you’ve had your work rejected, be it a manuscript, a song, a painting, or what have you, then you’re part of a special club comprised of the who’s who of great men and women. The membership list of this club staggers the imagination, because every artist, writer, musician — and absolutely anyone else who’s ever tried to get somewhere in this life — has faced his or her share of rejection.

By the way, who’s the most rejected person who ever walked the planet? Over the next few weeks we’ll share the stories of some of the runners-up, dreamers who repeatedly had doors slammed in their faces, but who refused to throw in the towel; and who, because of their perseverance, eventually found great success. The prize, however, goes to Jesus Christ. He encountered enough rejection for a lifetime. No, actually more than that: count all the people who’ve ever lived and ever will live, because that’s how many lifetimes worth of rejection He endured. And He endured it for us! So, who besides Christ would know the absolute best medicine for rejection?

Jesus admonished His disciples that wherever they carried their message, when they encountered rejection they were to “shake it off!” When you get a NO! or have a door slammed in your face, remember the Lord’s advice: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” (Matthew 10:14 NIV)

In other words, when you get knocked down just get up, brush yourself off, and keep on knocking and trying. Dust? It’s a perfect analogy. The fallout from rejection, the hurt and disappointment, the fear and doubt, the desire to quit, all of it tends to settle upon us like dust. Get rejected enough times and you’ll be so caked with it that you won’t be able to see or feel or breathe. That’s why Jesus warns us to shake it all off, and keep our feet moving! Never give up. Never lie down and let the dust of rejection cover you over until it’s impossible for anyone to ever know you passed along this way.

Follow the example of motivational speaker and writer Jack Canfield. The first month he and Mark Victor Hansen tried to sell their manuscript for a new kind of book, they got the door slammed in their faces 33 times. New York publishers told them “anthologies don’t sell” because “nobody wants to read a book of short little stories.” Besides, stated one publisher, the book is “too nicey-nice”! And the long line of NO!s didn’t end there. “You know,” Canfield once said, “my first … book was rejected by 140 publishers, over the course of 18 months. If we had given up at the first rejection or the 100th rejection, I wouldn’t be here before you.” (From an interview posted Apr 12, 2012 at ibnlive.in.com)

Finally, in 1993, Health Communications, a small, struggling publisher on the verge of bankruptcy, took a chance on the collection of poems, stories,
and nuggets of encouragement. The gamble didn’t just pay off, it saved the publishing company; because today, the 65-title Chicken Soup for the Soul series has sold over 125 million copies in more than 3 dozen languages!

Got rejection? Shake it off! Get back on your feet. Keep walking. Keep trying. Keep moving forward, because success could be just around the next corner.

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Grounds for Offense? (Angel in the Kitchen)

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For some time now, we’ve faithfully related all of the wit and wisdom we’ve gleaned from the eccentric collection of kitchen tools and appliances inhabiting our humble home. Each of these “kitchen angels” has a unique message to announce — about life, love and relationships! We’ve only to “listen” for it. For instance, while dicing onions, Mack the Knife taught us the importance of knowing what you’re cut out for in this wonderful world; and the onion … as we tearfully chopped the poor guy to pieces … gave us new insights into human relationships. No, really!

Mr. Keurig, who daily brews delicious mugs of coffee while shooshing, sighing, and flashing friendly little messages, shared with us the benefits of finding your own unique voice, and … well, the list goes on. Speaking of Mr. Keurig, a relative newcomer to our kitchen, it’s high time we introduced another, older member of the family — one who’s been with us for many years, a veteran of countless culinary campaigns, who’s valiantly served us … coffee by the potful!

He’s generally unassuming and soft-spoken, the strong silent type. You know, more a gadget of deeds than words. But now he wants his “say”! Not to worry, however, because given the very nature of this guy, he’ll never blurt out anything inappropriate. Of this we’re certain, and we’ll explain why. But first, heeeere’s Mister Coffee!

Hey, tough guy. Take a bow, while we discuss your sterling character!

Mister Coffee is in the Kitchen Angel Reserves. We only call upon his services for those really big jobs that Mr. Keurig can’t handle all by himself. Now, we’re not minimizing the efforts of Komrade Keurig; after all, he’s the fastest java brewer on the block. (Shh! Please don’t let him know that we live in the woods and our nearest neighbor is a five-minute walk down the lane!) And he can brew a cup of hazelnut coffee in one minute, and a cup of mocha the very next! But sometimes, when we’re hosting guests, we need VOLUME more than variety.

Never fear, Mister Coffee’s here! He can produce up to 12 cups of joe faster than we can ask our numerous guests, “Cream and sugar?” And his potent brew is always delicious — except for one occasion when we forgot to insert his special paper filter. Because Mister Coffee’s filter wasn’t in place, we got a nasty-looking sludge that was part coffee and part disgusting grounds! True, there was a form of coffee present in this thick black liquid; but no one would be able to benefit from it, because of the nasty, bitter grounds that were present. Anyone attempting to drink this noxious brew would have choked on it!

Mister Coffee gazed up at us from his spot on the kitchen counter, and sighed in exasperation. We knew exactly what he was trying to communicate: his filter absolutely must be in place, or what comes through will not be palatable! No matter how fresh the blend, no matter how stimulating the brew, if the stuff isn’t properly filtered, then no one will benefit from it. In fact, anyone consuming it will probably get sick!

This truth applies not just to Mister Coffee, but also to each and every one of us.

In life, we often hear statements like “She has no filter to her brain” or “He’d do well to filter his mouth”! We usually get such pronouncements right after someone makes a comment that is hurtful or embarrassing. Young children, for instance, don’t seem to develop a filter until much later, and are prone to say things which would make their parents blush. Quite forgivable, though, because they don’t know any better. (But we do.) So parents should teach their children that some questions are too personal, and some observations are too embarrassing — or just plain inappropriate. Learning to develop a “filter” is part of the maturing process.

In a spiritual sense, our Heavenly Father desires that we, too, “grow up” and develop a “filter.” He wants us to apply a Godly characteristic that will filter our words and deeds, while blocking the wrongful attitudes and actions that can leave people with a bitter taste. What is this filter? The Apostle Paul states,  “…Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ….” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT).

Having the filter of love properly in place will keep us from blurting out the first thing that pops into our heads, which is usually the wrong thing
to say. The filter of love will ensure that our conversation is always refreshing to those who hear it — that our words are potent but palatable, beneficial and not bitter, invigorating and not insulting. In fact, without the filter of love, our speech is a lot like what Mister Coffee brewed up the day we forgot his filter: a noxious and obnoxious blend of nastiness that benefits no one.

But don’t take our word for it! The Bible states, “[If I] could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise.” (1 Corinthians 13:1 TLB) Noise is defined as harsh, unpleasant, and unwanted sounds; and the term comes from the same Latin root word for NAUSEA. Yes, without love to remove the bitter “grounds,” we can indeed sicken people with our speech.

So, when conversing with your spouse, or a child, or a friend, or a coworker, make sure your love filter is in place! And whenever you’re about to confront anyone regarding an issue or a problem that’s affecting you or someone you care about — whether in the area of human relationships, a job, a faith community, or life in general — please pray first! Ask God to help you speak the truth in love; to remove any feelings of resentment, self-righteousness or selfish motives; and to filter out any hateful, arrogant, or demeaning words. Don’t give the world “grounds” for offense: more bitterness, more discontentment, more prejudice, more division (including separation and divorce); or an easy excuse to neglect the truth.

“Love is patient [and] kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. …It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails….” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV)

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