Monday, March 16, 2015

What Inspires You?

On a social media site for writers I sometimes visit, one contributor asked readers to define what the word “inspiring” means to them. We hear this word used a lot, but it seems to hold a host of very different meanings. What does it mean for you?

Since you asked (didn’t you?), here’s what it means for me. “Inspiring” has many levels. A sunrise, for instance, can be inspiring: Beauty, a new day, a bright, fresh start. A TV show or film also can be inspiring, especially when it tells the story of someone overcoming adversity and great odds. A baby’s smile can be inspiring: Innocence, happiness, hope.

A stirring speech can be inspiring, ranging from Patrick Henry’s brief “give me liberty or give me death” declaration to Abraham Lincoln’s concise but iconic Gettysburg Address to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famed “I Have a Dream” oration. We can find sermons inspiring, gifted preachers expounding upon biblical truths and explaining them in practical terms. Many times I’ve found inspiring people of strong faith that determinedly and effectively live out what they believe. “Faith without deeds is useless” (James 2:20).

Being a creative person, I find it inspiring to hear a song beautifully sung, study a piece of art imaginatively crafted, view a film skillfully directed and produced, or read a book beautifully written. With each creation, these artists reflect the image of the Creator.

Then there are individuals who have been inspiring to us personally. After reading the question posed above, I replied: “Inspiring means motivating you to aim higher than you’ve ever aimed; to become more than you’ve ever been; to envision your fondest dreams and hopes being transformed into reality.”

A number of people have served in this way for me, particularly in nudging me toward a professional career as a writer: My fourth-grade teacher who appraised me as “college material”; my freshman English instructor in college who suggested I consider becoming a writer.

There were the men who saw enough potential to hire me as a newspaper editor and then, publications director for a ministry to business and professional people, giving me venues for expanding my skills in numerous ways.

And then there was my good friend Dave, who stepped to the other side of eternity more than a year ago. I was at a career juncture in 2001 and contemplating some changes. Dave, whom I had known for more than a decade, had recently formed a non-profit organization. He envisioned me having opportunities to more fully develop my talents as a writer and editor, so he said, “if you ever need a place where you can flourish and become all God wants you to be, we’ve got a place for you.” Talk about inspiring me to be and to become more than I’d ever been!

But there’s one more person who has inspired me more than all of those mentioned above. Jesus Christ has been inspiring me since 1978 in more ways than I could ever express. He has served as the ultimate example of love – real love. Romans 5:8 states, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Who does that? Only Jesus. No one forced Him to the cross outside of His will. He not only went there willingly, to provide the perfect atonement for our sins, but also understood that was His purpose.

Once we grasp the depth and magnitude of such a sacrifice, how can it not be inspiring? The apostle Paul wrote, “For Christ’s love compels (constrains) us…” (2 Corinthians 5:14). In a similar way, my mission as a writer, editor and mentor has been to serve the Lord and seek to serve others in His name.

Jesus inspires even how I approach my work. In the workplace, it’s tempting to cut corners, to sometimes give less than our best if we can get away with it. Why wear yourself out, right? Who’s going to know? Well, God will know, and as someone has said, we should pursue our work as performing for an audience of One. The Bible agrees: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:17-23).

As humans we can never replicate the grandeur of a sunset or an expanse like the Grand Canyon. The most intricately designed airplanes can’t compete with the delicate yet awesome grace of a gull or eagle gliding across the sky. But inspired by all we see, hear and experience around us, we can find ourselves striving for greater heights of achievement ourselves, pursuing excellence and realizing the fulfillment of what we’ve been created to be and to do. 

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