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!

Row On

I don’t know where I am going-but I do. I have no idea what the journey has in store but I do know where the path leads. This life in Christ has been called a pilgrimage-journey to a sacred place.

This pilgrim life is fraught with peril and adversity yet blessed beyond compare. It is a study in contrasts. The (in)Courage writing group was asked when we feel as though we have “rowed against the tide?” Perseverance is to be the topic for this week.

At first I tried to think of a time I persevered successfully. Then it occurred to me that my whole life has felt like “rowing against the tide.” The tide reminds me of all the world’s pull toward apathy and self-preservation in a world gone terribly awry.

Do you ever watch the TV news? I hear about it from my Dad and watch it sometimes. Mainly I rely on headlines and tweets online from my local station. I find it necessary to fast from the news with some frequency. It makes the world look so bad-so hopeless. The sky is about to fall, or so it seems.

I think they tell less than half the story. That is what people often want-the bad news. I am convinced that there is far more good in the world than bad. I think that there is far more love, goodness and self-sacrifice in the heart of man than you would ever believe if you watch the news everyday.

I believe that life is worth persevering through because good ultimately triumphs over evil. I don’t know what trials lie ahead but, I do know where victory lies. Jesus rose from the grave. Death has lost it’s sting. It may be Lent but Easter is a reality. Jesus said, “It is finished!”

John 16:33
I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

I row against the tide because like Ferrar Burn in The Writing Life by Annie Dillard I know the tide will turn. Row on fellow pilgrim!

Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.
You sail out on the ocean
Ever father from dry land.
The slowly, rolling rhythm of the ship upon the sea
Lulls you melodically into deep monotony.
The wind and waves and waving flags,
So endlessly the same,
That it hardly seems you’re moving
As you roll across the waves.

And then comes the tempest.
You’re tossed into the air.
You look about to discover that
You’re in the middle of nowhere!
In the middle of the ocean,
Beaten, battered and lost,
It causes you to wonder,
“What was worth this cost?”

“Where am I going?
What will be my end?”
Fear, doubt and rising sense of dread
Accompany you on your journey
Through life’s uncertainty.
Life is not what you expected
In the land of early youth,
When the world was yours for the taking
And dreams seemed all the truth.

Life-one discovers,
Is not the brilliant dream that starts
Nor the glorious triumph
As you finally conclude your part.
No, life is simply very wet
For life is lived in the ocean.
It’s unfulfilled as yet.
Most of it is lived in the great in-betweens,
Between the place you came from
And the land of your dreams.

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.