Just For You

Whatever you do, do your work from the soul, as for the Lord, rather than for men. – Colossians 3:23 (NASB)

If we were to play the “find something in your purse that tells us who you are” icebreaker, I would most certainly whip out my 4 color pen emblazoned with Thomas Jefferson’s words, “ I cannot live without books.” I’ve had a lifelong love affair with both novels and nonfiction, and I’m never more than an arms-length from the written word other than when I’m swimming in the ocean. And even then, there’s a paperback waiting for me in my beach bag.

I also confess to an inordinate desire for writing implements, and I’m constantly engaged in a quest for the perfect pen. As a child I longed for stamp pads and colored pencils, I begged my grandfather for his delicious new legal pads, and when my mom took us to the store I would always choose a treat from the stationery aisle rather than the toy department.

Perhaps you are a member of this tribe. Because we have always experienced so much kinship and comfort in the pages of our books, we want to give this pleasure to others. We fill journals, we take notes with our preferred pens, we notice words others have used that we’d like to try. When we open a brand new book, we stick our noses in and inhale deeply. We weep at the closing of a book store. We line every wall we can in our homes with book shelves because they are just more inspiring to look at than anything else—with the possible exception of pictures of our grandchildren.

We are the ones who’ve always dreamed of writing, of having a publisher bestow upon us the title of “author” by printing our name on the spine of our own book. We go to writer’s conferences, we join critique groups, we blog, we write query letters. We pray.

And then sooner or later we hear the dreaded word platform and in discovering what it takes to build one quickly grow despondent. Publishing guru Jane Friedman defines platform simply as “ an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.” The introverts among us think, “If I were outgoing enough to be good at sales and networking I would probably have chosen a profession other than the solitary and contemplative life of a writer.” All of us seem to struggle with what is presented to us as a necessary evil in the world of commercial publishing.


Turn a platform on its side and it looks —and feels—like a barricade. And if the gatekeeper won’t open the door and welcome you in, the only way to get past a barricade is to mack-truck your way through it. Or so it starts to appear.

Some very successful Christian authors have written strong words this week in an ongoing dialogue about the topic of platform. Beth Moore warns about the hazards and excesses of the self-promotion we are told is an essential part of being a successful author now. She says, “If we don’t push back against this mudslide, the church will become a tower of Babel with a cross on top: an assemblage of people who’ve been successfully seduced into thinking it’s perfectly acceptable to hammer daily in the public sphere building up a name for ourselves in Jesus’ name.”

She concludes, “It would be unspeakably better for us to drop into obscurity than sell our souls. We may have to make the biggest sacrifice in our entire social media culture: we may have to settle for being unknown.”

Karen Swallow Prior, university professor and writer, adds her own brilliant voice to the discussion in her article Only One Platform Will Last. She helpfully defines platform not as the laborious or artificial crafting of a personal brand, but as “the life we are living and the work and ministry we are already doing. Platform is our proven track record and the authority we’ve gained in what ever area God has called us to.” She reminds us that the only purpose for our platform is “to serve others, and in so doing, glorify God.”

She, too, like Beth Moore, warns of the temptations and dangers that lie ahead for those whose desire is to write and speak for a wide audience. In her interactions with those who aspire to a career like hers, she has “detected an air of yearning and desire that far exceeds merely staking out a professional goal. It’s as though in pursuing these things, the value of a person and her entire life were at stake.” Her words are sobering and they are right on. They invite self-reflection, motive-checking, and Spirit-inspired course correction. Beth Moore understands that “many individuals start with a pure heart and a God-infused desire,” but cautions that “the devil doesn’t take a potential threat to the darkness lying down.”

We are grateful to those who have gone before us who alert us to perils on the path ahead. Their warnings should cause us to lean in more closely to the voice of the Spirit. God promises us in his Word that he’ll let us know if we are heading off course:

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ ”( Isaiah 30:21)

Do you have a God-given dream to use your love for language to serve him in his kingdom? He wants us to tread wisely and carefully without giving up! Whether our words are read by few or many, we who are the members of this tribe have to keep our focus on the Lord who is the giver of all gifts. He will set the boundaries for our ministry, and he will open doors. Our job is to keep writing, keep reading, and keep encouraging others in the strength he provides.

Just For You

The song “Just for You” came to me at a time of transition when I was wrestling with my calling as a writer. Still hurt and disappointed by the loss of my job as a professor, I was worrying about what to do next and looking to God for clear direction. One day as I waited for my daughter to try on clothes at a boutique in Nashville, I distinctly remember stopping in the doorway and silently crying out to God something along the lines of “Lord, end this misery! Just tell me if I am supposed to be a writer!”

I looked down and saw a journal on the counter right in front of me. Below a drawing of three keys on the cover were these words:

“That’s the way it is with dreams. They scratch at your door. You see them through the peep hole: A stray dream looking for a home. You think it might go away if you ignore it. Wrong. It’s still there when you open the door, smiling. Wagging its tail.”

I picked it up, turned it over, and saw these words:

“It is here where she must begin to tell her story.”

Through tears I bought the journal and then began to spend time at lunch everyday just sitting in my back yard and doing some creative writing—poetry, lyrics, observations, and descriptions. One afternoon, I listened for a while to a bird singing nearby and remembered a flower I’d seen up on a high hillside in a remote area on a whitewater rafting trip. These images found their way into the lyrics of the song “Just For You”.

Just For You

If I’m meant to be a forest flower, found by just a few,
Let me rise, let me rise up and show my colors,
Even if it’s only just for you, especially if it’s only just for you.

If I’m meant to be a songbird singing to the sky alone,
Let me rise, let me rise up and sing my heart out,
Even if it’s only just for you, especially if it’s only just for you.

Lead me to the place where I belong, You’re the reason for my song,
To give you praise is my delight, show me where to shine the light,
Even if it’s only just for you, especially if it’s only just for you.

3. If I’m meant to write words no more lasting than letters in the sand,
Let me rise, let me rise up and pour my heart out,
Even if it’s only just for you, especially if it’s only just for you.

c. 2013 Gail Bones, Emily Weeks, Ian and Courtney Nelson

God has given me a desire to write as a way to serve him. He does not owe me an audience. In fact, he was asks me to believe that even if he were my only audience, my work is still worthy, bringing him both pleasure and glory.

Are you a member of my tribe? What are your goals and dreams?

And be sure to tell me about your favorite pens.