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Category Archives: Industry Reflections

I didn’t “let you do anything,” sir (a declaration)

I am one of the many women you brushed up against in line. One whose waist felt your arm slither around and hold a bit too closely as you helped me into a vehicle. A female whose body you leaned into for a hug instead of a handshake, pressing your hand into my back so that my chest came into harder contact with yours. Those are my legs you ogled in a meeting because I dared to wear a pencil skirt. It’s my laugh you heard when you told me the racy joke. My big brown eyes that looked away over a lip-sticked smile when you made the flirtatious suggestion.

None of what you did was wanted.

None of it appreciated or invited.

But, like the Republican presidential candidate, I’m sure you believed one of two things: (1) she’s giving me cues that she wants this or (2) I can do this because I’m me and she’s her.

And did I kick up about it? Did I slap your face? Go to HR? Write a blog post, even? No. So that must mean I wanted it, right? Must mean I enjoyed it? Must mean you’re allowed to be this way.

No. Here’s what really happened:

You stared at my legs. I asked myself why I didn’t put on the slacks because I knew I had a meeting with men today. Then I berated myself for the idea of changing a completely acceptable wardrobe just because you can’t focus on business in a business meeting. Then I thought about moving to another seat, one that wouldn’t give you such a good view of my knees. Then I berated myself again for thinking of how to accommodate your ridiculous actions and how un-Sheryl Sandberg that is of me. Then I thought about just taking the bull by the horns and interrupting the entire meeting to say, “If you could stop staring at my legs, I’d appreciate it,” but then all the other men in the room would either think I was an ice queen or suddenly also become aware of my legs and the other women would withdraw from me, grateful it wasn’t them but eager to not be put in the ice queen territory, too. And then I needed to stop allowing myself to care that you were ogling me because I had valid contributions to make to this meeting that would be helpful to the project, so I turned away and worked.

Or let’s talk about how you do business hugs instead of handshakes – only with the women, of course, because you’re “a hugger.” So, you throw your big arm around my shoulders and pull me in, pressing my breasts against your chest and holding me there until you’ve gotten your fill, talking the whole time about how good it is to see me and how you’re looking forward to being a part of this project, blah blah. Since I didn’t slap your face, I must have “let” you, right?

“…they let you do it,” Trump told Billy Bush. “You can do anything.”

While you were busy getting your cheap feel, here’s what I was thinking: If I say something right here, right now, will I lose my job? Will this project go south if I embarrass him and he quits? He matters more to this than me because he’s the one with the money/prestige. If he leaves, his funding leaves, too and then we’re back to square one on this. Does it really matter if he feels my breasts for a few seconds if, in the end, we get the project done and it makes a positive difference in the world? My comfort level isn’t as important as getting the job done. This is just part of it. Part of working in a male-dominated industry. You don’t want to be “that” woman who can’t work with men and get along or you’re done in this industry, Rebeca. Be a grown-up. Smile. Overlook it. Stay focused on the mission. Laugh.

I did.

I smiled. I laughed.

You took that as acceptance and possibly even encouragement.

It’s no wonder you are confused by the female outrage over that Trump video. You’ve been hugging and ogling for years and you know dang well that women are fine with it because none of them has ever objected and most of the time we smile and laugh right along with you, right?

Let me clear things up here.

I fake smile and fake laugh so I can do my job.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I can be effective in my role.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I don’t get fired.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I have relationship capital.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that you’ll keep working on the task.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I don’t slap you.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I can be a team player.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that the situation will end and I can get back to business.

I fake smile and fake laugh.

And you see and hear acceptance, even invitation.

 

If Donald Trump becomes president, your belief system on this will be exemplified by the leader of the free world. Suddenly, the sexual innuendo, flirting, hugs, touches, and ogling will be even more acceptable because, hey, that’s how the president gets things done and it worked for him, right? Married to a topless model, living in the White House, millions in the bank – the guy is the epitome of Man of the World and what man doesn’t want to be that?

So I wanted to be clear right here, today. Make a declaration, even.

You touch me, you flirt with me, you treat me as a sexual being that you are entitled to access, you’re getting called out on it. It shouldn’t require me to sacrifice my career, but that’s a length to which I will go now. Why now? Because the threat level has risen with every defense of Trump’s behavior that I have read on Facebook and Twitter or listened to on the radio or watched on television since that video came out.

I don’t walk in a room and stare at your penis. I don’t crack jokes about its size or call it by derogatory names because I’m not thinking about it at all. I don’t picture how you would be in bed. I don’t try to determine if you want me. I do not even care that you are capable of sex. I’m not interested. At all. Ever. Even a little bit. No, not even that much. The door is closed. There is no crack in it. No window for you to climb through.

Your sexual nature is not wanted.

Not even if you’re famous.

Not even if you’re rich.

Not even if you’re the Republican party’s nominee for President of the United States.

You want to work together like two adults who are talented, intelligent, resourceful, and can get the job done? Bring it. Let’s do this thing. I am all over that like white on rice. You wanna joke and kid while we work? Absolutely. I love a fun workplace. You wanna explore ideas and brainstorm about how we can do this job better, how we can enrich the culture of this country with the stories we bring them? Holy heaven and hottest hell, yes, I am down for that.

But check the rest of it at the door. I’m not going to quit genuinely smiling just because you walk in the room and mistake it for sexual invitation. I’m not going to quit genuinely laughing because you find it sexually attractive. I like to smile. I like to laugh. That’s for me, not you. That’s me enjoying the amazing life I get to lead and the adventurous career I have – it isn’t an invitation for you to be a part of it in any way but a colleague.

Thanks for letting me set the record straight here. Whew, I feel lighter already, knowing I won’t have to have those internal debates anymore.

Now, let’s get to work.

 

 

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Why A Kiss Is Enough

A young loving couple hugging and kissing on the beach at sunset. Two lovers, man and woman barefoot near the water. Summer in love

With the release of my latest novella, SECOND GLANCE, some folks have noticed that I don’t tend to let my characters go too far (if at all) past kissing. Then they read my blog (especially that Morning Sex post) and decide I must be a prude. While that makes me laugh hysterically (and my husband gets a GIANT kick out of it), I’ve decided to reveal the reason behind my choice and explain here why kissing is such a big deal to me (and, by extension, my characters).

I am a sex abuse survivor. Doesn’t make me special – at least a quarter of the women in this country can (sadly) say the same thing. My husband and I were married for seven years before I voluntarily, spontaneously initiated a kiss between us.

Our son was five, our daughter nearly two. Over a year earlier, I’d seen our precious littles playing in the living room floor and been surprised by the thought, “They’re depending on me to teach them how to live. They need me to be healthy.” I knew I wasn’t healthy, mentally and spiritually, regarding physical love but I’d gotten by and had no intention of upsetting the applecart until that breathless moment when I understood that these little beings didn’t need to be affected by my past.

They were free of it.

And I wondered if I could be, too.

So, I embarked on a journey to deal with “the shit” as my husband and I came to call it. I apologize for the vulgarity. If ever there is a time to use a vulgar word as a descriptor, my past experience seemed to be it.

Fast forward nearly two excruciating/exhilarating years later, and I found myself walking through our breakfast room right through the space in which I’d stood contemplating my children’s need for a healthy mom. As I glanced across the room and into the kitchen at my husband, a strange feeling overwhelmed me. I couldn’t puzzle it out at first. I knew part of it to be love. I was feeling love for that man. But it took me several seconds to realize I had a God’s honest desire to kiss him because I loved him. I’d never had that!

I’d been standing there staring at him as I puzzled this out, which drew his attention. He turned his face toward me. “What?” he asked.

I walked over to him, tilted my face up to his, stood on my tiptoes, and kissed him. I’ll hold to decorum and just say here that we’ve been married nearly 12 years and we both remember that kiss.

Kissing is the most emotionally intimate of all physical acts. It is the hardest to ignore when it’s happening (trust me, I know) – much harder to divorce your brain from than sex. A kiss allows another human being into the space of your life from which you speak – and speaking is how everything came to be in the first place. Your mouth is both powerful and vulnerable, giving and receiving, all at the same time. A kiss says a million feelings and thoughts without uttering a spoken word.

I’ve kissed wrong. I’ve kissed right.

Done as it was intended by the Creator, kissing is powerful. It is definitely powerful enough for my characters to convey the depth of emotion and story needed to sweep a reader off her feet.

You know what I don’t find powerful? When two characters who met five milliseconds ago kiss for the first time and somehow that’s an immediate assumption that sex is wanted/needed/necessary/wise. With all the sex on tv and in films and books, I think the shock factor for writers today lies in revealing a kiss for what it genuinely was meant to be, and is.

Having worked very hard and finally come into the experiential knowledge of the power of kissing. I wish we writers could start giving the act its proper due.

So, I do.

 

 

Sex and Self-Righteousness at the Superbowl

There is great wisdom in accepting that we are made in the image of a God who created with words. He spoke, things happened. We do that, too. We speak, things happen. We alter mindsets, outcomes, personalities, and people when we open our mouths and let words come out.

If you’re a parent, you know the power your words have over the formation of your child. If I tell my child he is unkind, unworthy, a failure, and ugly then he will believe these things about himself. The words I spoke over him become his truth and he feeds that into the world. But I also have the power to call him creative, strong, kind, gentle, and loyal – and watch as those become the bedrock of his identity and are poured out into the world.

So, when I consider what 118 million people had chanted over them by a beloved American celebrity – I cringe. I fear the outcome of individuals waking up this morning and humming these lyrics as they go about their work. This wasn’t a small concert somewhere. Not something that a tiny portion of the nation did or did not elect to hear. This was performed at the largest sports event in the nation, a part of the fabric of the culture here. Do you know the lyrics of the Beyonce song “Formation” that she performed last night? Here’s a sampling [warning: foul language]:

courtesy HollywoodLife.com

courtesy HollywoodLife.com

Oh yeah baby, oh yeah I, ohhhhh, oh yes I like that
I did not come to play with you hoes
I came to slay, bitch
I like cornbreads and collard greens, bitch
Oh yes, you best to believe it

I see it, I want it
I stunt, yeah, little hornet
I dream it, I work hard
I grind ‘til I own it
I twirl all my haters
Albino alligators
El Camino with the ceiling low
Sippin’ Cuervo with no chaser
Sometimes I go off, I go off
I go hard, I go hard
Get what’s mine, take what’s mine
I’m a star, I’m a star
Cause I slay, slay
I slay, hey, I slay, okay
I slay, okay, all day, okay
I slay, okay, I slay okay
We gon’ slay, slay
Gon’ slay, okay
We slay, okay
I slay, okay
I slay, okay
Okay, okay, I slay, okay
Okay, okay, okay, okay
Okay, okay, ladies now let’s get in formation, cause I slay
Okay ladies, now let’s get in formation, cause I slay
Prove to me you got some coordination
Slay trick, or you get eliminated

Verse 1:

When he fuck me good I take his ass to Red Lobster, cause I slay
When he fuck me good, I take his ass to Red Lobster, cause I slay
If he hit it right, I might take him on a flight on my chopper, cause I slay
Drop him off at the mall, let him buy some J’s, let him shop up, cause I slay

Cosmopolitan called this “the most perfect song since the Paleozoic Era…”

This is how we, as women, use incredible gifts like music and television? This is how we better the world? This is how we use the equal voice we have? By singing about sex and what we do to reward a man if he’s good at it? By encouraging people to, Get what’s mine, take what’s mine?

“Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you…”(Mark 6:29-31)

There is no power in selfishness.

No joy in being stingy.

No strength in taking.

No actualization of the mature self is found in demand.

Your best self doesn’t take; it gives.

Thankfully, the halftime show ended with Coldplay’s “Fix You” with slightly adjusted lyrics.

We gonna get it, get it together right now
We gonna get it, get it together somehow

The crowd held up signs that read, “Believe in love.”

“Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking…” (I Cor. 13:4-5)

I wonder if Beyonce read those cards in the crowd? Did she feel a twinge – even a tiny one – that she’d just spewed self-righteous ugliness all over a crowd now encouraging millions to focus on the opposite of her diatribe? Did anyone at CBS pause and wonder if maybe this wasn’t the highest use of their ability to reach millions?

 

 

Win the Holidays? Really?

WBestBuy_WinTheHolidays_120hen I first saw the ad, I thought I must have misunderstood. Between the kitten being in his nightly Pyscho Cat mode (read: running all over the living room climbing lamps and curtains), the dog barking to go outside (he’s a basset hound mix with the deep bark to show for it), The Hubs banging pots and pans around in the kitchen behind me (thank God he can cook or we’d all starve), Firstborn practicing his trombone upstairs (man, that sound carries) and Darling Daughter watching an iPad at top volume in the chair beside me (headphones, gotta get her some headphones), it’s conceivable that I mistook the gist of the commercial.

“Everybody hush for one minute!” I yelled and pushed the rewind button. Darling Daughter pulled her headphones off to see what caught Mommy’s attention. Hubs paused. Even the kitten and dog calmed down for a second.


“….because when you give tech,” the voiceover intoned, “people won’t just love it, they’ll love you. Win the holidays at Best Buy.”

Oh. Okay. Guess I heard it right the first time.

“They don’t know what Christmas is about,” Darling Daughter said, and put her headphones back on.

“Wow. Talk about crass materialism,” Hubs said. “It’s not even tongue-in-cheek. They mean it.” He went back to food prep.

I shook my head. I may not get all up in arms about whether someone says, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” but this is a bit much. Christmas is NOT about the presents, Best Buy and Aban Commercials. What a sad, isolating concept you’ve put into the world: buying love.

Christmas is about the human birth of One who would perform a selfless act for undeserving people that will stand forever as the Greatest Gift of All. It’s the only Gift that sets us free from selfish traps like materialism and competition to outdo each other.

“. . .but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

That “Christ” is the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. We give gifts to each other as we remember the good gifts that were brought to Him upon His birth, and the best gift He gave the world.

Take a breath, Best Buy. Step out of the rat race, Aban Commercials. I think your soul took a detour a few miles back.

Things aren’t the thing. Why use your precious marketing dollars and broadcast time to promote such a sad concept? Your brand is (was) better than that.

 

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Thanks, Charlie Rose

CharlieRoseThis morning. My bedroom. Getting ready for the day. Pausing in front of the TV to watch a CBS Early Show segment on how losing sleep makes us gain weight.

When it happened.

Gayle King had just asked clinical psychologist and sleep medicine specialist Michael Breus a question. Mr. Brus opened his mouth, began to answer—

And Charlie Rose’s cell phone rang.

(kid you not, click the link, happens at the 1:15 mark)

On air.

Live television.

Gayle made a joke of it, asked what girl was calling him. Even told the audience, “It was a 516 area code. Hey, he’s busy right now.”

A sheepish Charlie snatched his phone and hit the button to silence it. He shook his head, clearly embarrassed at breaking the cardinal rule for anyone on set: silence your phone.

I froze in front of the TV. It felt like watching a tornado touch down on a perfectly sunny day. What was I seeing? What journalist is more seasoned for long-runtime, on-air appearances than Charlie Rose? He’s been doing this for decades. In an age of slapstick humor on set and anchors who can read tele-prompters but not discuss the content on their screens, he’s one of the most professional journalists remaining in broadcast news! And HE left his cell phone on, at full volume, sitting on the desk?

I returned to my morning routine, listening with one ear to the broadcast and thinking over what I’d witnessed.

If Charlie Rose can make such a basic mistake in front of millions, then maybe I should stop thinking I have to get it perfectly right all the time or else I don’t deserve to stay in this role. Perhaps a rookie mistake made long after the rookie years have ended doesn’t mean I’m completely unqualified to do this project, hold this title, [insert your thing here]. How many others mess up and I just don’t know it because it doesn’t happen live, on-air? Why do I think no one in leadership makes a little, dumb mistake now and then besides me?

Why is being imperfect not a catalyst for community in business since we all share the characteristic?

Good stuff to consider. Thanks, Charlie.

 
 

CWG – The Rest of the Story

There is misleading information circulating online about the recent demise of Christian Writers Guild. Some of what has been written is blatantly false and a reckless use of the power of communication. Words like “rumor” and “threat” pique human interest and appeal to our basest selves. They may be good for clicks, but they do not dwell on what is lovely, noble, pure, or of good report. They do not lift one another up. They do not encourage.

As many of you know, I sold my 9-year-old for-profit company, Glass Road Media, to Dave Sheets in June 2014. Dave was one of the partners in the Christian Writers Guild. The only other partner was Jerry B. Jenkins. CWG was failing and I was asked to join in on the discussions to try and determine its best future. Those discussions allowed me to be privy to information that I am about to share because – and ONLY because – the best way to combat rumor is with truth.

Let me be clear. I am only sharing this level of information because of the misinformation that is circulating in the industry about why and how the Guild was shut down.

Jerry B. Jenkins and Dave Sheets became business partners in September 2013 after working together on a few consulting projects. They’d known each other since Dave’s days at Tyndale House Publishers, during the Left Behind heyday. Dave had always admired Jerry’s work and the work of Christian Writers Guild.

Their vision for the new partnership was to help authors who were coming through CWG with additional resources that would help them independently publish their books if that was their preferred route.

In their legal partnership, Dave was asked to be the managing partner (making the day to day operating decisions) while Jerry remained the majority partner. As has been said in other places, he felt, “that he was ready to return to his primary occupation and calling, that of full-time writing.” He wanted all the benefits of being the expert-in-residence without any of the responsibility of running the company. Understandable.

During this same time, Dave bought an independent publishing company to provide services to CWG authors. At his expense, he moved his family to Colorado to take on the CWG work as well.

Dave saw CWG as an underperforming organization, with a long track record of helping students and yet a very poor track record of financial performance. It had never posted a profit in the 13 years Jerry owned it prior to their partnership. This was due to very aggressive marketing expenses, sponsorships of events in the trade, and a highly expensive (and unprofitable) writers conference.

As has been said in many places, Jerry is generous with his resources in supporting author causes. He believes in the power of writers and the importance of educating them and ran the Guild according to that passion, without a need to experience profit. Essentially, his support carried the organization.

Dave shares that same passion for serving writers, but is a businessman who was brought into a for-profit company as a partner. A for-profit company that had not posted a profit for 13 years. (I have no knowledge of its financial state prior to that.) He felt that this could be turned around with a lot of effort, some new thinking, and other resources that he was bringing to the equation.

CWG moved to less expensive office space, trimmed staff, recalibrated the services and began the rebuilding process. In late 2013, Dave had a conversation with Jerry about the Writing for the Soul conference which Jerry had organized and operated for the previous dozen years. WFTS had always been a destination for authors looking for some of the best speakers and teaching in the industry, and it came with a commensurate price tag. Dave worried it was not a sustainable conference and knew it had proven to be a financial loss in previous years. Even with this knowledge, he was encouraged to commit to the 2014 conference, and it lost money again.

As these losses kept mounting, and anticipated course restructuring didn’t produce the revenue needed quickly enough to sustain the organization, Dave began taking financial resources from his publishing company to prop up the Guild. After a short time, he had to accept reality: The Guild model as a for-profit company was irreparably broken, and either needed to be reorganized under a nonprofit model, or shut down completely.

Dave and I had discussions with Jerry in July 2014 and provided a plan in August that outlined how the organization could transition with minimal changes, but needed some additional resources to make the transition. The bottom line was simple: a for-profit company needs to make a profit. While generosity and passion had kept it afloat for 13 years, this was not a sound business model. Dave had reached the end of his ability to financially prop up CWG, Jerry (understandably) had reached the end of his will to prop it up, and its history would not instill confidence for potential investors to keep it going.

After a number of weeks, however, Dave still hadn’t received final approval from Jerry on a plan. CWG costs mounted weekly. Dave was tapping out his company’s financial resources. A decision to shut down, move to a new structure, or continue with a single donor financing CWG was needed.

Finally, in September, Jerry and Dave agreed on a plan – to shut down CWG with the understanding that a nonprofit would be created to take care of the existing students, mentors, and CWG commitments going forward. Both men held true to one main concern: that the writers and mentors would be taken care of. I agreed to use my nonprofit experience and resources to help with this. Jerry agreed to help fund that transition through the nonprofit, to assist CWG in finishing well by the end of 2014. Together, the three of us began making phone calls to the mentors and other key people and informing them.

In October, Jerry asked for all of the shares of CWG back and withdrew his financial commitment to the nonprofit. I don’t know why. Dave effectively resigned from CWG as President and Jerry took it back 100%. Dave and I continued what had already begun under the agreed-upon plan – the formation of TheBelieversGroup which included both a nonprofit and a for-profit model.

That’s it, folks. That’s what I know to have happened. Now, to just combat some of the false information out there:

  • To my knowledge, Jerry and Dave are still friends.
  • Dave was the sole business partner with Jerry. There isn’t anyone else who had any stake in the Guild.
  • Jerry and Dave co-owned the organization since 2013 until he asked for his membership shares and control back.
  • Dave was not a rogue agent…Jerry and he made decisions about CWG together.
  • The students were getting served with all the services they paid for until the end of October when Jerry shut the Guild down. As far as I know Jerry has committed to continue those services.
  • We had a plan to serve these students under a nonprofit model which would have expanded their services and the value the Guild carried. This was not implemented. We have created BelieversTrust, a nonprofit which educates and equips writers, but we have not done so with the use of CWG resources.
  • The Guild never made a profit (it was single investor supported), and even with good effort, it never recovered enough to be profitable. The organization was in the red by hundreds of thousands each year before Dave ever entered the picture.
  • Both men invested significant dollars and time in the Guild’s success, at serious personal and professional cost. They did so because they truly believe in serving writers well.

If you know me, you know I tend to just say things out loud. I’m not good with the white elephant standing all lonely in the middle of the room with no one to acknowledge it. Especially when everybody is tripping on its trunk and bumping into its backside.

So, I’ve spoken the relevant truths that I know. I’m sure there is plenty of truth I don’t know, and that’s okay in this situation. Had there not been blatant misinformation out there that could harm Dave and all of the employees, writers, and mentors who depend on him and his organization, I’d have not spoken these truths. What I do know isn’t what was being gossiped, so I’ve spoken.

I hope – I pray – really, really hard that speaking all of this serves the purpose of focusing on good, noble, right things. I don’t intend to speak of any of this again and instead will focus on continuing the good work that began this year in the formation of TheBelieversGroup and its service to content creators. Their words create better culture for Christ.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2014 in Industry Reflections

 

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Stories…Lies?

Some of my fellow Christians keep telling me there is no eternal value in story – book, film, whatever. They ask, upon learning about Glass Road or SON, “But how is it a ministry to make stories?”

Let’s set aside the soul care offered to story creators through GR and SON for a second, and just focus on the creation of story itself.

Understanding lives in story, comprehension in character exploration. This is probably why Jesus almost always used story to teach Truth.

Our church bookstores don’t seem to follow that example consistently. Over the course of my career in stories, I have been advised numerous times by bookstore owners and publishers that there is no ministerial value in fiction. I can’t tell you how many church bookstores I’ve walked into whose shelves are lined with Maxwell, Moore, Stanley, Blackaby, and the like – and not one novel in sight.

I leave those stores feeling bereft. What of the people who need story?

What of those like Madeleine L’Engle…

“But I was frightened, and I tried to heal my fear with stories, stories which gave me courage, stories which affirmed that ultimately love is stronger than hate…And so story helped me learn to live. Story was in no way an evasion of life, but a way of living life creatively instead of fearfully.” (from WALKING ON WATER)

The wise and talented L’Engle continues… “It was a shock when one day in school one of the teachers accused me of ‘telling a story.’ She was not complimenting me on my fertile imagination. She was making the deadly accusation that I was telling a lie. If I learned anything from that teacher, it was that lie and story are incompatible. If it holds no truth, then it cannot truly be story. And so I knew that it was in story that I found flashes of that truth which makes us free.” Story holds Truth. It illustrates Truth. So, can we please stop comparing the ministerial value of callings, please? If we who are called do not build up the body of stories, what ideas will minister to those who do not respond to sermon? Ponder for just a moment whose stories will be told if we do not tell those given to us. Now to those of us who are called to the world of story creation and wondering if our work matters – please know:

When we abdicate our role as story creators in favor of a “higher” calling as defined by humans, we can only disappoint the Creator of Story who entrusted us with that element of His own being.