Dancing With the Line

Dancing With the Line

This past week the (in)Courage writing group prompt was based on chapter seven of The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. We were asked what holds us back from taking more risks in our writing. Fear is the simple yet complex answer to that question. Fear restrains me in every arena of life. The doubt that I am good enough stops me in my tracks repeatedly. I advance and then halt. Annie Dillard states that the stunt pilot Rahm told her that he found a rhythm and kept operating with it. I am devoid of a good rhythm because I worry about the mistakes I have made in the past.
I take my focus off Jesus. Peter demonstrated my rhythm when he walked on the water. ” He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” Matthew 14:29-30. As soon as I look behind I begin to sink. The only noble action I take when writing is to try again. I never entirely stop, but I am forever pausing.
Annie Dillard wrote about a ride with the stunt pilot that, “If he had noticed how he felt, he could not have done the work.” Writing is without a doubt very hard work. Anything deeply worthwhile includes a measure of self-sacrifice. It doesn’t feel good at the time you are engaged in the activity. Sometimes writing is terrifying. If the stunt pilot had dwelt upon the feeling of taking all those g-forces he would not have done those stunts, certainly not as well.
If Jesus had focused His attention on how it would feel to be betrayed by one of His closest friends He might have paused. This betrayal was followed by mockery, injustice, bullying, torture, the denial of one of His very best friends, even brutal death. John 13:21 tells us that Jesus was deeply moved in His spirit. He was distressed, troubled, terrified or disturbed before He shared the Last Supper. Despite knowing how it felt He went though with it all anyway. How it felt was not the focus of His attention. He seems to have kept His focus on saving you and me.
Fear may trip me up, but if I keep reaffirming my focus on the real reason for writing, bringing glory to God, then I too may be able to dance with “the line.” I trip and flip and keep right on dancing to the music that comes from the love of God.

Dancing to the rhythm of God
The song of praise in my heart
Pounding joyous and free
Not hindered with me.
Too much thought for myself
Leads to a halting,
Awkward dance.
Tripping,
Falling,
Downward,
Sinking, then
Bounding up
With Hope and love,
Jumping glorious,
Heart at peace,
Words made free
To twirl and breathe
With God.
Indeed!

Adventures in Good Books

Adventures in Good Books

The (In)Courage writing group that I am a part of has been discussing Annie Dillard’s book, The Writing Life. This week we focus on chapter five. I love this chapter. This is where she discusses the influence of what the writer reads upon their output. I have long felt that it must be true. In my life when I read a lot of poetry. Much poetry pours out into my consciousness. Annie Dillard claims it goes deeper. I think she may be right. Who we become is in part shaped by what we read in quantity. The books I loved and read over and over as a child helped to shape my ideas of the world. Our voice as writers is doubtlessly influenced to some extent by our worldview and the writers we read the most.

As Christians, The Holy Bible becomes the seminal influence in our lives, shaping every aspect of ourselves. Spending time in The Word daily is critical to me. I want the Holy Spirit to be the dominant voice in my life, but I guess Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, John Keats, William Wordsworth, JRR Tolkien, Leo Tolstoy, Ann Voskamp, and yes, Lucy Maud Montgomery have all helped to influence my creative voice.

I think one of the factors that influences our fondness for a book is if they speak “our voice.” It isn’t enough that they write in English. L.M. Montgomery calls them “kindred spirits.” Some authors are just that. You stumble upon their work and somehow it speaks right to your heart; a play of words that arrests you; a poem that makes you feel more deeply alive. They see the world in a way that makes sense to you across miles, centuries, wild imaginings. These authors lead, and you are compelled to follow because you need to know where the story goes.

This week I have been reminded on numerous occasions of a poem I wrote quite a few years ago. I attached to this post with some trepidation. It is old. My sister said it lacked maturity. I’m hesitant to share my poetry because my style is not in fashion. Forgive me, dear reader if it falls flat, but it sums up what has been on my mind all week. “Vicariously, I lived on through the greatest books the world ever knew.”

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Somewhere between the covers of a book
Lies my life when I recall.
It seems I dwelt in paper ink, and all.
Somehow I lived in history
And literature and poetry.

And although no one has written a biography,
My life, it seems, has become a story.
The novel novel of my days
Spent freely though I lacked the ways
Life and money are generally used.

No, I have just meandered along
Never worrying about the throng.
Neither cared I whether my means
Could support all my dreams.

Dreaming them brought it’s own wealth,
Of a sort, and now I have quite a shelf,
A lovely leather bound library
And a volume of poetry
Composed by me.

And this I see when gazing back.
This, and not the common things I lacked.
So if you ask me where I’ve been,
In honesty, I’d have to say
That I have lived a book today.

And all my yesterday’s were such
That I have learned so very much.
Vicariously I lived on through
The greatest books the world ever knew.

Maelstrom

Maelstrom

I just gave the Creator of the Universe a handful of foolish excuses. Don’t ask me why, because I know He knows they are excuses. My week has been very busy. That isn’t an excuse that is truth. But, that doesn’t give me leave to neglect this post. I cannot really say why I am obligated to write this. Although I am charged to write. God doesn’t really ask that much of me. God doesn’t nag at my quiet time with requests. Well He has been after me to share what I’ve learned about Him. He wants me to write. If I neglect this then there will be a tiny hole in the fabric of the universe that only God and I will be aware of. Something seemingly insignificant will not be done, but these thoughts are supposed to be shared. So, my To Do: List is an excuse.

This week I’ve been reading from the sixth chapter of John’s gospel. The powerful contrast of God’s abundant provision even in the midst of human want; the miracles that Jesus wrought have been pointed out to me again and again. The feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on the water to the disciples in the middle of the storm at sea have been buoys that marked my busy week. Today has been something of a storm. There is too much to get done and too little time.

I’ve been looking at Annie Dillard’s book, The Writing Life. At the end of the third chapter she describes how the page will teach the writer to write. “The page, the page, that eternal blankness,the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time’s scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nonetheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity; the page, which you cover slowly with crabbed thread of your gut; the page in the purity of its’ possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with all your life’s strength: that page will teach you to write.”

For me the blank page and the dark, stormy sea are as one. Both are challenges for which there is no human solution. Yet Jesus walks on water. I worry that there is not time to write. Yet I realize that my thoughts run like a raging sea in my head as I try to figure out how to get more done today, than the length of the day has hours to provide. I cannot do this of my own sufficiency. I have only one boys’ lunch. And yet, if Jesus is here what can He do with my little scraps? If He can feed more than five thousand with one boys lunch what can He do with my few moments snatched here and there? Can He not create calm in the chaos? Can He not still the storm…still?

What do you do when the storms of life assail you? Where do you find Jesus walking on the water to meet you? I find Him in a daily commitment to Bible study. One more thing to do- it is a life-vest for me. Jesus meets me in my need.