Category: Discipleship

Discipline & Struggle

We go up to heaven and down to hell a dozen times a day - at least, I do. And the discipline of work provides an exercise bar, so that the wild, irrational motions of the soul become formal and creative. [...]

My Day with Patricia Bootsma

On Saturday, October 28th, one of the largest churches in Toronto – People’s Church, hosted a “Serve the City Day.” The day was focused on evangelism, outreach, and missional leadership and included a plenary session in the morning with the famous charismatic evangelist and author, Patricia Bootsma. I have heard Bootsma speak on more than … Continue reading

The Road is Wide, The Rain is Falling

.Cold rain turned his thin, white t-shirt translucent as he bent his body, like an umbrella, over the double stroller.  The newborn baby cried and he cradled it against his chest with one hand while rooting in a diaper bag with the other.  The girl, a big sister at three or four years old, sat quietly in the stroller - her brown eyes wide, her dark hair and pierced ears glinting in the early morning light.

Dear Church I Love You, But…

Dear Church, Yesterday I visited you.  You welcomed me in the same way as always.  Cheerful people, the senior lady who truthfully told me she was praying for me and gave me a word of encouragement, the look of a clean facility that was well run and well maintained.  Your landscaping reminded me of the … Continue reading

My Writing Prayer Journal: How I Changed through Writing a Novella

When I was thirteen, a youth retreat speaker shared ways to find a spouse. Everyone laughed when I asked whether we should even be pursuing marriage.


But I hadn’t meant to be funny. I honestly wanted to know.


As I grew older, I was astounded at times by the relationships that went from “he is so incredibly awesome” to “he’s the worst jerk in the world” in a matter of hours, and I was saddened by the girls around me who spent every possible minute dreaming of relationships instead of enjoying singleness. Thus, somewhere along the way, God gave me a burden for singles.


But, unfortunately, somewhere along the way, I also developed a huge “chip on my shoulder” about how the church viewed singleness.


At times my frustration at someone's insensitive comment would inspire me to write a scene for my novella, Old Maids are Romantic. My mission statement stated that this novella wasn’t intended to be a “bitter diatribe about what not to say to singles”; however, I knew deep down that that was exactly what the novella was –a bitter diatribe.


I have a writing prayer journal where I write down prayers about writing, and the second prayer states, 
“...even if the only person touched by my writing is me.” 
I prayed some version of that prayer often over the past six years or so, asking that I would be the first person changed by my writing.

And it happened.


I can honestly say that this novella is no longer is a venting tool. My love for the church has deepened through both life experiences and thinking through the motivations of ALL the characters in the novella. Not only have I learned to understand the concern hidden in hurtful statements, but writing has truly been a cathartic exercise.


Writing this novella has also impacted my prayer life.


The unknown prayer warriors that have often been behind great revivals fascinate me, and I decided to make a Sunday School class of prayer warriors a secondary theme in my story. Thus, I shouldn’t have been surprised that God also taught me about prayer through writing. But I was.


Probably because I’ve been embarrassed to admit to others that I was attempting something as ambitious as a novella, God is who I’ve turned to instead to talk about the novella. I also know some of my convictions in the novella (like a chapter on submission) aren’t going to be popular, so, again, I’ve talked to God about it.


One of my prayers (perhaps overdramatically) states the following:

“The wind pummels me with its fists. I shiver. My protective layers have disappeared. I’m left vulnerable, naked and exposed. 
You too know what it’s like to be on public display –naked and in pain.
Crosses aren’t for the guarded type.

‘Offer yourself to the hungry,’ You tell me. But underneath that poetic statement is a call to be ingloriously eaten.
Eaten! Really?
No hiding. No shutting the door when I’ve had enough. No exclusive invitations.
Eaten.  
My insecurities, my doubt and fears, my stupidity and weakness on public display –It’s terrifying!
Safe, fake writing would be so much easier.
But not as powerful.
Here I am.
Feed me to the hungry.”
Writers talk about The Muse almost like it’s a person at times, and while I’m scared to presumptuously state that God has given His stamp of approval to my little novella, there have definitely been times when I feel like the Spirit has inspired my writing. Times when I asked God a question about a detail and an idea that seemingly came from nowhere popped into my head. These experiences have made me cling to God even more in writing: 
“Thank You for inspiration –scribbles in the night, random answers to my questions when I’m thinking about something else, a never-ending well of ideas for blogging.” 
There have been other times when inspiration hasn’t been as forthcoming. Another prayer states:
"A piece here. A section there.  One question answered. Five more asked. Inspiration like lightning. Blindfolds abounding. 
Thank You for not dropping a book into my lap. Thank You that it is a mystery to discover---like You. Thank You that my confusion reminds me to ask for help. Thank You that You piece the puzzle together in Your time, so that I remember to acknowledge Your inspiration and my need." 
About a year ago, I just wanted to be done with the novella. I felt like I couldn’t move on to other dreams and projects until my novella was finished.

So I set a bunch of deadlines: I’d write on weekends and over my Christmas Break, edit over my Spring Break, send my novella to Beta readers over the summer and re-edit, so that I could publish it in October which was a year later.


While I didn’t meet any deadlines (except the final one), I definitely was a lot more serious about writing this past year. Eventually, it came to the point that in order to prioritize writing, I had to say “no” to other invitations and let people know what I was doing.


That was scary.


But that wasn’t the worst.


Feelings of inferiority and fear that the project was crazy led to writer's block, a complete lack of desire to work on the novella.


I had to remind myself of what was true. That I had the mind of Christ. That the Spirit chose to use me even though I felt insignificant. I prayed: 
“Your voice explodes trees, inflames the sky, and erupts in the wilderness. Your voice thunders (Psalm 29). 
Mine croaks, whispers and dies. 
But wait?! Mystery of mysteries, Your voice thunders in me and explodes out (Colossians 1:27; Jeremiah 20:9)!”
At one point, I asked God for a sign whether or not I should write the novella. His response? “You already know.”


I decided to just send off the novella to Beta readers in the hopes that they would say it was awful, and I could tell God, “Okay, I did it. Can I be released from this burden now?” I picked Beta readers who I thought wouldn't be afraid to be blatantly honest.


But before they had a chance to respond, I became convicted that I should obey God's prompting: 

Perhaps I was mishearing God’s voice. Perhaps it was awful (Well, I knew that it was awful. I definitely hadn’t edited it like I should have). But I wanted God more than I wanted man’s approval, and if that meant looking stupid,  so be it. 

“Jesus is worth it” became my motto.


Thus, as an act of faith, I posted on Facebook that I would publish the novella on my blog in a little over a month. I hoped that committing publicly to a deadline would motivate me to edit and that God would miraculously make it ten times better by then.


When people make comments about how they are eager to read my novella, I want to say, “Don't get your hopes up.” 

A popular rule of public speaking is not to downplay what you are going to say, but that’s exactly what I want to do....and I'm not just being humble. The novella is not well-written nor heavily edited. My transitions and descriptions are weak; my characters are too similar, and the list could go on. Another early prayer in my journal says, 
“Ahhhh! God I’m not a [fiction] writer! I can critique. I can distinguish good from bad, but when I look at my own writing all I see is awfulness! It stutters and gasps. It bores me. It has no emotion. The monotone drives me crazy. 
Writing a novella? That takes TIME –major time. Time that I don’t have. Time that I’m not disciplined enough to force into my life. Is this really of You, God?”
But again the truth is that already my prayer in writing this novella has been answered: Even if no one else is affected by this novella, Ihave been changed. I’ve been dependent on God in a new way and seen another aspect of His character:

“Author of the Universe, use my writing to teach me to depend on Your Spirit. To write Your words. To listen when I’m lost. 
Author of My Story, use my writing to teach me worship. To open my eyes to Your beauty. To open my heart to Your voice. 
Author of Reality, of breathing, living parables of resurrected stories, use my writing to convict me. To help me reflect on my own life. To grow.”



References:

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The Word of God

The following conversation took place via text message with my daughter this afternoon. She’s taking her first Bible Survey class in high school, and she had some good questions for dear old dad. It is reproduced here with her permission (C = my daughter; R = me): C: Is the bible the word of God? […]
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