Think your audience is too small for God? Dr. Michelle Bengtson shares how our small beginnings work in the lives of our readers. Join Linda Goldfarb and Dr. Michelle as they dismiss the concept that you are only useful to God when you've made it to the top.
Dr. Michelle is a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist, podcaster, national and international media resource on mental health, she’s a speaker, multi-award-winning author, and lover of mountain hikes, beach strolls, and lake sunsets. Welcome to Your Best Writing Life, my friend, Dr. Michelle Bengtson.
Today we address the following questions:
1. We’ve all heard the scriptural command, which at times might come across as a cliché, to not despise small beginnings, and yet you have found it to be true. How so?
2. When you say to not despise small beginnings, how does that relate to the writing life?
3. When we are writing for the Lord, what other scriptural basis should we keep in mind?
4. It’s common for writers to have aspirations of writing the next bestseller, but you tend to focus instead on writing for an audience of One. Why is that?
Linda Goldfarb 0:06
Welcome to Your Best Writing Life an extension of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference held in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I'm your host, Linda Goldfarb. Each week, I bring you tips and strategies from experts in the writing and publishing industry to help you excel in your craft. I'm so glad you're listening in today. Today our topic, Don't Despise Small beginnings. Oh, where have I heard that before? This is going to rock your world. Excellent. An excellent conversation today. My industry expert is Dr. Michelle Bengtson. Dr. Michelle is a Board Certified clinical neuropsychologist podcaster national and international media resource on mental health. She's a speaker, multi-award-winning author, and lover of mountain bikes, beach strolls, and lake sunsets. Welcome to your best writing life, my friend.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 1:07
Oh, thank you, Linda, it's always a pleasure to be with you.
Linda Goldfarb 1:10
Well, I'm going to enjoy our time. As matter of fact, I'm going to start right off at the beginning and do something that's really a lot of fun for me later on, I find out whether it was fun for my guest or not, but I'm diving in there anyway. So let's take a moment and look behind the curtain into the life of our expert. All right, Dr. Michelle, share something we won't find in your bio.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 1:35
Oh, my goodness, Linda, well, this might sound a little kooky. But I actually get my best writing ideas when I'm in the shower,
Linda Goldfarb 1:45
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 1:46
All the time.
The thing is that I can't get out of the shower and write them down fast enough. So I lose half of what God gives me in the shower. But that is where my best ideas have come from. Whether it's titles or blog posts, ideas, or whole ideas for books.
Linda Goldfarb 2:02
Alright, well, right now I'm just gonna say what you need to do is you need to get a water waterproof microphone, or like, like a recording device to put that in your shower, but I'm just saying, you know, I would have to have it in the car years ago when I couldn't use my phone. But that's something that you would need. Everyone has a waterproof radio, we need for you to have that microphone in there. That recording device that you can say, okay, idea number 27. And you can put it right out there and keep it, that's excellent.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 2:35
Linda Goldfarb 2:36
You know, I don't think you're alone in that. I've heard many people say that they get excellent ideas in the shower. And who knows, maybe it's because just the water, the sound, the calmness, we're finally away from what's going on in the world.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 2:51
Or it's that we're relaxed, you know, in our mind kind of going on idle and the Lord can get our attention easier that way?
Linda Goldfarb 2:58
Absolutely. Oh, I like it when he gets my attention. Sometimes it's not the easiest way. But
when he does, it changes my world. So it's all good. All right, folks, what we're going to do is head right into our content for today, the topic, don't despise small beginnings. Now, Dr. Michelle, we've all heard the scriptural command. That's what I'm thinking of right here, which at times might come across as a cliche to not despise those small beginnings, right. But you found that it's really something that we need to look at it, you really found this to be true. So how is that?
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 3:40
You know, I think it's so common as writers that we look at other writers and we see their success and we want to have that overnight bestseller. And yet what I have found Linda is that if we will spend the time doing the small things, then God will entrust us with bigger things. I'll give you an example. Probably 10 years ago, I put out a social media post. It was at a time when I was deathly ill and I was in the pit of depression. And honestly, I needed a reason to get up in the morning. And the Lord reminded me of the verse. The weeping may last for the night. His joy comes in the morning. And so I posted on social media, today is a good day because His joy comes in the morning. And I found that people resonated with that. About three weeks later, I needed another one. And so I was preaching to myself, but I put it out on social media. And over time, I found that those posts were what people resonated with the most. And so what began with a single social media posts and then another one about three weeks later, another one a couple weeks, later turned into a five-year daily ministry of posting a devotional every single day about why, despite our feelings, and despite our circumstances, today is still a good day for a good day. And what happened to relate this to writing is that my publisher actually came to me and said, Would you consider writing a devotional based on your daily devotions, today is a good day, I could never have foreseen that when I put out my first post, or my second, or my third, or my first year of writing them. But had I despised those small beginnings when the Lord prompted me to do that, I wouldn't have just turned in a manuscript for the next book to be published.
Linda Goldfarb 5:44
Oh, that's fantastic. That really is. It does speak to us, it lets us know if we're looking around at what everyone else is doing. It really does kind of take us off the focus that God has, specifically for us. And no matter what we do, and no matter who has accomplished what in life, everyone started out small. So if I focus on my small and I do my small, that's going to make a huge difference. If I just stay focused on that, right?
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 6:16
Yes, we have a biblical example of that, you know, I think of David, he was a shepherd, before he ever became king. And it was David's experience as a shepherd boy, that prepared him to go into battle and fight and defeat Goliath. But if David is sitting around just thinking, well, I don't want to do this job as a shepherd, like, who wants to be a shepherd boy, I deserve to be king. He never would have then been prepared to be a king. But he allowed the small beginnings to be what God would use to propel him later in life. But then there are other examples, I think about the woman, the widow's mite, you know, she did such a small thing that we are still talking about today. You know, Scripture tells us in Mark 12, and Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and began watching how the people were putting money into the treasury. And he goes on to say there are a lot of rich people, and they were throwing a lot of money in there. But a poor widow came and put in two lepta coins. Calling his disciples to him, he said to them, truly, I said, you this poor widow put in more than all the contributions to the treasury, for they all put in their surplus. But she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned all she had to live on. And Linda, we're still reading about that widow today. We can look at that very small beginning but she is famous because she put in her two widow mites that other people frowned upon. I think that the challenge to us, as writers, as speakers, as people in ministry, to appreciate that God often starts us off with small things because scripturally he says, If I can trust you in the small things, then I can trust you in the bigger things.
Linda Goldfarb 8:24
This is, this is truth. As you mentioned, don't despise small beginnings impacted your writing life. Are there other areas of the writing life that we can look at and recognize as relatable to not despising small beginnings?
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 8:44
Oh, absolutely. I think there's a tendency for writers to aspire to being that best-selling author, and not that there's anything wrong with that. But when that is our focus, then we can't be focused on the reader that we're actually trying to minister to. And so when it comes to the writing life, I think it's so important that we consider other smaller, what we would view smaller tasks, but recognize that they can have equally as great impact. And in the process, God can use them to teach us the craft and teach us discipline and refine our voice. Things like, well, one of your good friends, Linda Gilden. She talks frequently about writing articles, in fact, she has a book Articles, Articles, Articles,
Linda Goldfarb 9:41
Yes she does.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 9:42
I think we overlook the opportunity that sometimes writing articles will actually get our work in front of a greater audience than sometimes what our books will. Some people may not feel comfortable writing articles, but there is still a place in the blogosphere for us to be writing devotionals and blog posts, and refine our craft, and reaching the very reader that hopefully one day will pick up a book if we are directed by God to write a book on the subject matter. When I wrote my very first blog post, oh my goodness, that was 15 years ago, and never in my wildest dreams would have imagined that what started again, as a single blog post, and very sporadic the first couple of years, would end up being 15 years of history of writing two to three blog posts a week. But it's those types of tasks, writing articles and blog posts, that actually keeps our readers satiated. While we're in the long process of writing complete book manuscripts. Books are great. But our readers need help, day-by-day, and week-by-week and writing those articles and blog posts. And guest blog posts can be looked at as small beginnings, but they can have a great impact. And when we will entrust those smaller tasks to the Lord, and do it out of our love and our desire to serve like Him. I think that's when he says, Okay, you've proven that I can trust you with the small things. Let's look at some other things.
Linda Goldfarb 11:29
And you mentioned that God will open up other things, bless us, in other things, even the concept of writing for the Lord. That to me, that that scriptural basis of writing for the Lord. What should we keep in mind, when we're looking at that process itself?
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 11:49
There's several things that I think are key. When we decide to write, it's so crucial that we remember who it was who gave us that calling. And I wholeheartedly agree that we have to keep our readers in mind. But Linda, I first have to keep my audience of One in mind. And that's the Lord. I have to keep in mind that I'm writing for Him. And whatever I write, I view it as a small offering and a sacrifice to Him. I could spend that time doing other things, a myriad of other things, planting a garden, going out with friends, you name it, you know our to-do lists are busy. But when I believe that He's given me the call to write, then I owe Him the small sacrifice and offering of the discipline of writing, sitting down, and writing 10 or 15 minutes a day, even when I don't feel like it. But there's so much in the Word of God that underscores the importance of keeping this idea in mind of writing for the Lord because He's asked us to, and not despising those small beginnings, it brings to mind, first of all, Colossians 3:23. I'm sure it's a verse that your listeners could recite from memory, probably. But it says, "Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly, as though you were doing it for the Lord, and not merely for people." And when I read that, what jumps off the page to me is that word wholeheartedly. If we really want to be writers, whatever we want to be writers, teachers, musicians, whatever God has said, don't just do it half-heartedly. Like, give it all you've got do it wholeheartedly because you're doing it first for Me. And that reminds me of when Jesus was talking in Matthew, and he said, "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to Me." And so when we think about our readers, and what God has asked us to write, to encourage them, to inspire them, to humor them to comfort them, whatever it is, He's called us to do. He's saying what you have done for that one reader. I count it as a blessing because you have done it to Me. And this idea of doing it wholeheartedly. It comes up repeatedly in Scripture. Another verse I can think of is first Corinthians 10:31, where He says, "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." And I think that's our challenge as writers is to look at the privilege that God has given us, but to take it seriously enough that if He's called us to do this, He's called to do it with our whole heart. And to first keep Him in mind as our audience of one we want what we do to be pleasing to Him, and then to keep our reader in mind. And He will bless that.
Linda Goldfarb 15:18
He will bless it, indeed, He will bless it. Indeed. That may be one of the most challenging issues for writers is understanding that their audience, especially Christian writers, that it is an audience of One. Years ago when I was in radio broadcasting, had a weekly radio show. And it was a syndicated show. And I was always imagining the audience as being this large audience and looking at the reach of the stations that I was on. And it wasn't until I sat down, was reading an article--article, there you go--on the reach of radio, and it says, "You're really speaking to an audience of one." And that was in the marketplace or secular, you're really speaking to an audience of one, what we're doing right now, we're really speaking to an audience of one. The individual who picks up our books, the one who reads the article, the one who reads the blog post, it truly is an audience of one at a time. But if we can hold tight to what you've just shared with us, that our focus is on The One, who has called us, The One, who has prompted our heart to step out in an area that not everyone goes into writing is not easy. Writing takes discipline. You mentioned that word earlier. And for us to realize, we really don't have to satisfy everyone. As Christian writers, we're writing to just one. We're writing what God has placed on our heart, we're wanting to give Him what it is that He's placed in us to put out there to the world. And in recognizing that, that's when He says, "This is good. Now I'm going to take it and watch what I'm going to do with it," and I find that to be the most miraculous part of my writing life, is to see what God has done with the small beginnings. And He says, Now, I'm going to multiply that because a lot of things God does, doesn't add up, but it does multiply. And that's what I look at. I go, how did that even happen and through multiplication.
Your journey has witnessed small beginnings that God has just exploded in your life. For those that are in the midst of that small beginning time, I'm going to kind of tap into your, your other hat here for a moment if we can. How can you encourage them as individuals, not to fret not to have fear not to be anxious, but to just say, I'm going to rest in this right now.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 18:38
One of the most important things for us to keep in mind is that whatever our calling is from the Lord, whether it's to be a writer, or speaker, or something altogether different. We have a very real enemy who seeks to steal and kill, and destroy. And he's going to come after those areas that God has called us to. So I think it's so important to recognize that when we start feeling overwhelmed, or when we start doubting our abilities, or when we start experiencing worry or fear or anxiety, we've got to recognize Linda, where that comes from. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, "For I have not given you the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of sound mind." And one of the things that I have found that helps me the most when I start experiencing that feeling of being overwhelmed, or feeling like I'm not measuring up, or what if I don't have the right words to say.
Linda Goldfarb 19:52
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 19:53
What if, what if this doesn't reach as many people as I think it should, because I don't say it the way they need it is to stop and to pray. But to pray scripture back to the Lord and say, Lord, thank You, thank You that You did not give me a spirit of fear. This is coming from the enemy of my soul knows that you've got me writing for a purpose. So I thank You that instead of You giving me a spirit of fear, You have given me power in your word, power in the name of Jesus Christ, power in the blood that was shed on the cross, You've given me your perfect love, that casts out all fear. And You have given me a sound, mind. You have given me the mind of Christ. So help me to draw on those gifts that You have given me and to rest in the knowledge that if You have called me to it, You will see me through it, it is not my responsibility to be concerned about the outcome, it is my responsibility to be obedient to what God has asked me to do. And when we are obedient to do what God has asked us to do, then He is responsible for the harvest, not us, and when I remember that, Linda, it takes the weight of that off of me. And it frees me up to be able to sit down and write the words He's given me to write, without focusing on the end result. He will get my book, my blog post, my article, my podcast episode, my devotional for my Sunday school class, whatever it is, He has asked me to write, He will get it into the hands of those who need it.
He got my book into the hands of a girl in South Africa, who needed to read Hope Prevails. She went to her pastor so depressed and said, I don't know what to do. Can you direct me to someone who can help me and Linda breaks my heart to tell you, the pastor didn't know where to direct her, he didn't have a counselor to send her to, didn't have a book, resource, magazine article, nothing. And this young lady had very little money, she was out of a job, but someone gave her money for her birthday. And she went into a bookstore that was going out of business. And Hope Prevails was on the shelves on sale. And she picked it up because her name was Hope. She took it home, she read it. She wrote me an email and said, I want you to know, this has got me through the darkest time of my life. And now I have hope. And she took that book back to her pastor and said, I found hope in this resource. Linda, that was not my doing. Only God could do that. But had I been so worried about my audience? And how was I going to disseminate it? And how can I get it into the hands of people who needed it? And yes, I'm not saying we shouldn't market and do our part. But nothing I could have done could have gotten that book in Hope's hands. I had to entrust it to the One who had me write it.
Linda Goldfarb 23:15
And imagine if you didn't write it. Imagine. That would have been Hope lost in that moment.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 23:25
And I almost didn't write it, Linda, the enemy had me so afraid that if I would admit, as a doctor, that I plunged into the pit of depression, he had me so afraid that my patients wouldn't respect me anymore, that my referral sources would stop referring, that I would be spoken about in my professional environment. He had me so convinced, I was afraid to write that book. But I had to write it because God asked me to write it.
Linda Goldfarb 23:57
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 23:58
And you know what? None of those fears were founded in truth. Because the truth is, my patients, trusted me more after I went through the depression, and wrote about it, because they could tell, I understood, they knew that I had been there. And I wrote to help them know what helped me.
Linda Goldfarb 24:23
It was your humanity. You know. As Christ came, it's his humanity we look at and go, He's all God, yet. He chose the human elements. He chose 100% humanity for us to really get that He gets us. Why would it be any different for us when we're trying to come alongside others that are struggling? It's when they see that we are human when they see that we're not to be put on pedestals. That Yes, we've gone to school, we've got the degrees we, we know how to care for them. But that human element that says, "Have you met Dr. Michelle, she is so real. She sees me, she gets me she really understands" and the difference you can make in that small beginning of just that first contact with someone, that small beginning when someone else says, I picked up this book, I really recommend it to you and that one to one to one. God takes it, He multiplies it. And you said this earlier, Dr. Michelle, that's His job. It's not our job. as writers, we cannot out bless ourselves. That's what God does. When we are obedient in the small things in the small beginnings.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 25:59
Linda, we are like that little boy who brought his lunch to Jesus, he was obedient to offer up that little small sacrifice that he had. And then Jesus took it and multiplied it to feed the entire crowd. That little boy wasn't responsible for feeding the entire crowd. He was just responsible for offering it up to Jesus. And it's so scriptural because the Word says that God comforts us so that we can then comfort others with the comfort we've been given. So if you are listening, and you think, well, I'm a fraud, I can't do this, because I still struggle. Can I just let you know that the enemy wants to come back to where we've been weak before, to try to discredit us because he was successful before. Now, that's not being a fraud. It's being real to say, look, we all struggle, but let me share what I've learned in my struggle to help you.
Linda Goldfarb 27:11
This has been excellent. today. Just so much more. I could sit here and continue to listen to you and, and talk to you and just kind of probe in there and say, Okay, I want more here. But I know that we have resources, we have your Hope-Filled Perspective, as a podcast, you also have books, Hope Prevails, insights from a doctor's personal journey through depression, which is a fabulous, fabulous book, the Hope Prevails Bible study and Breaking Anxieties Grip, how to reclaim the peace, God promises, so much such a wealth of information in these resources. I will be sure and include all of that in today's show notes. And also Dr. Michelle, you say that almost every writer, we've kind of talked about this right? That every writer struggles with anxiety, worry, or fear, and you have a very popular download, you're going to offer for everyone it's going to be in the show notes as well, is how to fight fear, anxious thoughts, and win, give us just a hint of what they're going to find in that.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 28:27
What they'll find is that when we utilize the Word of God, to fight against worry, fear, and anxiety, what happens is that we surrender that worry, fear, and anxiety and in its place. God replaces it with his peace. And it's that peace that then will allow you to do the things that He's asked you to do.
Linda Goldfarb 28:52
That's great. Well, I can't wait. I haven't seen that one yet. So I'm going to be taking a look at that. And then you also have an added bonus for us. Tell us about that.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 29:02
That is a seven-day YouVersion devotional Bible reading plan based on Breaking Anxieties Grip. It's just those nuggets that if you are struggling with worry, fear, and anxiety, anything from fear of rejection from an agent to worry that it won't be what your reader needs. I think as you go through that Bible reading plan, you'll experience that piece that will allow you to write authentically without worrying about the results. And you'll be able to leave those results up to the very one who called you.
Linda Goldfarb 29:41
Really good. And I'm going to challenge those that are listening. If you do have the YouVersion Bible app and at Brown Bible that has the little you know marker that sticking out of the bottom portion of the Bible. Do you know that you can invite friends to go through the reading plans with you? And then the very last portion of every day gives you an opportunity to make a comment to say something maybe a word of encouragement to the other people that are going through the plan with you, maybe someone that's going through difficult times, you can be there together. This is a great resource, and Dr. Michelle's reading plan Breaking Anxieties Grip, you're going to have the link, I've gone through it. So good. So good. I highly, highly recommend it. We'll make sure that you can find everything that you need to know and probably more about Dr. Michelle, not everything but you know how to how to find her will keep something secret. Thank you so much for being here with us today. Dr. Michelle Bengtson. It's just a pleasure to have you here and we will have you back again. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson 30:55
Oh, it's been my pleasure and delight. I'd love to anytime.
Linda Goldfarb 30:58
Thank you. And thank you friends for joining us. And if you would, please take a moment to subscribe, rate, and review. Because what you have to say matters as much as what you have to write. This is Linda Goldfarb, and I look forward to being here with you next time on Your Best Writing Life.