Living Big

Living Big by Jennifer SIenes

Towering Redwoods, Mt. Hermon, CA

I spent five days at the Mount Hermon’s Christian Writer’s Conference amid towering redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains. Just the opportunity to be in such a beautiful place would have been enough to make it a mountaintop experience. Added to that, Chris attended the conference with me—a first for him—and the weather was stunning.

There’s nothing like being in the presence of three hundred plus Christians who share a passion for writing. It’s exhilarating to be among the divergent group of people, both men and women, all with a story to share. An outsider might think it strange if plopped into the midst of the conversations taking place. Those of us who are fiction writers talk about our novels as if the characters are real—and to us, they are. We talk about our brands and platforms and what social media networks we’re using to garner attention. Fortunately for Chris, he’s had enough exposure to not get lost in what others might perceive as speaking in tongues.

My dream has always been to write novels. Although God blessed me with a gift in this area, it requires constant work and revision to learn the craft. Kind of like being a follower of Christ—we don’t just get saved then sit around expecting a transformation to happen without any work on our part. But aside from the work it takes to hone the craft of writing, there’s something else that’s required to write great stories—an imagination. That’s not something with which I’ve been gifted.

It may be God’s sense of humor, but I think it’s more likely He held back so I’d need to go to Him for ideas and inspiration. Other Christian writer’s go to God, too, but maybe they’re searching for something else—possibly they seek discipline, opportunity or finances. But me? I seek imagination.

So when keynote speaker McNair Wilson stepped up to speak the first night at Mount Hermon, I was in awe. The man worked as an Imagineer for Disney. Disney! Which means he played a vital role in the creation of theme parks and the rides we spend too much time waiting in lines to experience. But that’s not what impressed me. I was blown away by the (seeming) ease in which he stepped up in front of us each night and used a combination of comedic improv and inspirational stories to teach us the art of living BIG for God. He dismissed all of our excuses for not putting ourselves out there—fear, insecurity, lack of opportunity, blah, blah, blah.

And this doesn’t apply to just writers, it applies to every person who believes in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ—a power that lives in us!

So, how do we live big? This is not a natural tendency for me. One of the reasons I love being a writer is because I can get lost in the isolation and anonymity. I don’t have to put myself out there (until someone wants to actually read what I’ve written) and possibly be judged for my performance. It’s easy to use excuses to stay cocooned in safety and security, but is that what God wants of us? I don’t think so.

What surprised me the most is that on the last day, McNair admitted to us that he gets really nervous before stepping up in front of a crowd. He fears judgment and failure, just like we do. But he does it anyway.

What does living BIG mean to you?

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