Book Review: Called to Create

As a creator and aspiring entrepreneur who gets to work a day job supporting other creators, I was so excited to get my hands on Jordan Raynor’s book Called to Create, out this month from Baker Publishing.

Raynor presents the biblical case for creators, innovators, and risk takers to fulfill their callings not just in service, but in the marketplace.

I have been blessed to be part of creative Christian community that has fostered many of the concepts Raynor discusses as I’ve developed as a writer and content creator. Many are not as fortunate because, frankly, the evangelical church is not always the most encouraging a creative pursuits. The misconception that to serve God, you must be in full time ministry is tossed out Raynor’s front door on it’s ear before his introduction really gets rolling. What replaces it is the beautiful truth that God is a creator and therefore, we are also called to create.

Raynor writes in a simple and to-the-point fashion that can easily encourage and equip those for whom the discussion of creativity and innovation are not as encouraged, especially from a Christian perspective.

I thoroughly enjoyed the interviews and input from the likes of classic writers as well as successful business people and entrepreneurs. C.S. Lewis and Chick-Fil-A in the same book is always a win.

The book is broken up into four parts: calling, creating, challenges, and charge. Each unpacks a discussion about the philosophy and reality of the creative life. He addresses the need for risk-takers and innovators from the church. The book is a call to rally, renew, and flourish as artists, entrepreneurs, innovators, and world-changers. I was encouraged and empowered by Raynor’s book and I am so thankful.

I would recommend Called to Create for those who don’t yet have or are looking to foster a creative Christian community. I also think Raynor speaks firmly but encouragingly to the struggling innovator.

Filled with inspiration, experience, and evidence, Called to Create will have you ready to dig your hands into your next project.

Read an excerpt here.

Get your copy here.

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Bible College Spinster: Uncoated, Plain, and Holy

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On the first day of sixth grade, I watched Amber walk into Spanish class and was more than a little surprised. Her once curly hair was now straight. She had turned in her clothes from the girls section for juniors and, well, she had filled them out.

I could not say the same for myself. I was still using a hairbrush after taking my hair out of braids, making it an unfortunate triangle shape…And I’m still not filling anything out…

She was glossy. I was frizzy.

Pretty much the story of my life.

But I think that might be the story of all of our lives.

We prefer to be seen with a gloss over our lives. We pretend in conversations, we cover it with a filter online, we avoid anything that isn’t easy, breezy, beautiful.

It’s much more comfortable and requires much less vulnerability than the alternative.

But I’m really bad at gloss. I’m clumsy and talk too much. I’m neurotic and think too much in social situations—which just makes for too many awkward stories to mention.

But I couldn’t show that. I couldn’t be seen as incompetent, unwanted, or not enough. Somewhere along the line, faking having it together became the name of the game. I was pursuing gloss over substance in the off-chance that the gloss brought fulfillment.

I’m calling it.

My life is frizz, not gloss.

In my line of work, paper makes a difference. I have co-workers who have to think consciously about the kind of paper we print things on. (Stick with me, I have a point!)

I have found that I tend to like when things are printed on uncoated paper. It feels flat, sturdy, and real. It’s just the ink and the paper and the result is beautiful.

Glossy paper feels oily and can’t be touched, lest you leave your fingerprints on it. Sometimes the sheen makes it hard to read, and, to be honest, it’s a little outdated.

And isn’t life this way?

We cannot keep up with untouchable gloss. We weren’t made that way. We can’t fake who we are, at least not for long.

We were created to live uncoated, plain lives. Taking the risk to be who we are and bloom where we are planted.

When I am insistent on being seen through gloss, I loose sight of who I am and what my purpose is. I become really great at loving myself and not caring about those around me I am called to serve.

Who you are—your frizz, your quirks, your imperfections—they were given to you so intentionally. Even your broken pieces are meant to bring greater glory to your creator. And it is out of this being that you have been equipped to thrive in the context where you currently find yourself.

That, my friend, is holy ground. There is not higher calling than to be yourself. There is also no other place that leaves us as vulnerable.

This is the risk we take, but it is also the freedom we find in living uncoated, plain, and holy lives.

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Why is the Rug Gone?!

A few weeks ago, I had written about heading into the next chapter. About my dream internship and moving on and growing up.

…And then I stalled out.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, some things fell through at the company and there was no longer a job for me there.

The wind was knocked out of me.

I was back at square-one. Back at my old job. Back in that stage I was ready to be done with.

Even three weeks later, I am still a little stunned. I’m not really sure where to go from here. The rug has been ripped out from under me and now I just feel stuck.

It is in these moments that I feel more than a little confused. What was the point of  going through that if the experience wasn’t going to be substantial? Why did that even happen, God? 

I’m lying here, back to the floor, rug now askew, and I have nothing. No idea, very few prospects, and empty hands.

Remember when I said I wanted this year to be about godliness and contentment? God answers prayer.

So I’m here. Back where I started: job that’s not my favorite, future uncertain, and loans to pay. Am I going to thank him for this. Am I going to learn to trust him in this. Because I have a job in which I get flexible hours and work with some awesome people. Because I have a God who has promised to fill my needs and guide me in a story he is writing to his glory. Because here is not such a bad place to be “stuck.”

I have been given a talent here. Am I going to invest with this little and prove myself faithful for more? Am I going to be obedient and learn to live fully where I am placed? Is there really anything else I can do? Godliness and contentment. That I what I have asked him for. This is how it is being given to me right now.
So I can scramble to get the rug back where it was, or I can trust it was moved for a reason.

I really feel God calling me to stay put for a month or two. Some opportunities are arising that I would not have been able to look into had I still been at the internship or another job. (Don’t worry, I’ll let you know once they’re set in stone.) I have more time to devote to my novel and was just given a wonderful plot twist only yesterday. I have time to invest into my small groups and writing group and my friends. I have been given an opportunity to enjoy what I have been given. Even if it was not given in the way I would have preferred.

So, yes, the rug has been ripped out from under me, but with purpose. Even if the purpose is not yet clear, I am going to trust that I have been placed where I need to be. I’ll tell you how it goes from here.

xo,
        –Lex

P.S. Tune in Thursday at noon. I’m trying something new and want to know what you think!

That Awkward Moment When Faithful Sounds Like Failure…

God does not want you to be successful — he wants you to be faithful.

I heard a speaker say this a few weeks ago and the thought made me stop in my tracks. How contrary is this message to everything else we hear from the world?
At this point in my life, I feel anything but successful. I almost have a degree. I work at the same entry-level job I’ve had for the last three years. I have no concrete plans outside of the fact that I will probably eat dinner at home tonight. I share a mini-van with my mom. I live with my parents in my childhood bedroom. As I sit here, looking at my teddy bear and baby blanket sitting on the bed, I can’t exactly say I’m living the dream.
What do I think success looks like for someone in my stage of life? An apartment, perhaps. Not in my parent’s basement. A car might be nice. A job. One that pays for the above. One I enjoy and have the potential to advance. The teddy bear might still be sitting on the bed…
Today, we measure success in any way we can. As soon as I post something on Facebook, I find myself refreshing the page to see how many likes it has received, as if this measures what sort of friend I am or how funny I can be. We compare schedules to see who is the busiest, therefore the most wanted and important. We buy certain brands, wear certain styles, do our hair certain ways because how we present our appearance will exude the message that we are put together and up on everything in the world of style. All this for the sake of feeling more experienced or more connected. All for the sake of—even in the smallest sense—feeling successful.
Well I’m throwing in the towel on this one, folks:
I am not successful. I’ve got nothing. I try and try and still come up unsatisfied, unfulfilled, and exhausted. Ultimately, I feel as if I have failed.
Ultimately because I have.
And not because I don’t have 700 likes on my status, or I have nowhere to go on a Thursday night, or because my hair only does one of two things: frizz or flop.
Thing is, my calling is not to be successful. It is not to post the most witty comments on the human condition at all times. It is not to fill every blasted second with people and places and commitments. It is not to look my best at every second. I cannot do any of these things.
What I can do is be faithful.
I have been given a portion in this stage of life. The fact that I have the job I do, the home I do, and lack the things I do is not without a reason. I have been placed in this stage of life for a reason. I am in a place where so much is unknown and I feel so aimless at points that I just want to scream. From where I am sitting in life, I don’t see any change coming and that is extremely discouraging. It feels like failure.
Faithfulness sometimes looks like failure. Faithfulness is not usually flashy or glamorous. Faithfulness does not look like a twenty-one year old rookie author on the New York Times Bestseller List. Faithfulness is quiet. It is patient. It looks like praying when the day gets long or monotonous or stressful. It looks like investing hours to master a craft or gaining experience. It looks like taking the time to get to know the people around you rather for dreaming of those who may be around the corner. It looks like giving up an evening to invest in students in the youth group or people in need. It looks like trusting in something bigger than yourself. Most of the time, it does not look like success.
And yet, it is what we are called to. God has called me to be a writer. If I am to trust him with not only that calling, but also my life, I have to trust his plan. I am not going to be a published author right out the gate. In fact, ‘published author’ may never be part of my title. All I have right now is ‘writer’ and if that’s what I am called to be, then I must put in the time and effort to become the best I can.
It is the same with my relationship with God. I cannot expect faithfulness to be an easy calling. I have to put in the time, as with any friendship. A relationship does not deepen because I met someone once. It grows as time is spent and intimacy is built. Trust does not develop without time, attention, love, and patience. The same with God. As I spend time in his word and in prayer, the deeper understanding I am given of his love, his will, and his glory. As that time is spent, I learn to trust little by little. And I fail at this daily, but that is alright. That is part of learning to be faithful. No one said anything worth doing would be easy.
My success in the eyes of my maker does not lie in likes, or busy-ness, or my hair—amen. I am not striving to one day be told “Well done good and successful servant.” Those words ring empty. I want to live a life that is fulfilling and pleasing to him. And that requires faithfulness. In that, He is well pleased.
xo,
                  –Lex