Sermon Take-Away and Spiritual Thoughts on Writing

Me, on Saturday.

Me, on Saturday.

Saturday I was sworn into a secret, underground writing club. Very exclusive, and every bit as mysterious as it sounds. Our first meeting inspired me greatly, and I walked away sensing I’d just participated in something for which I was created.

With divine vigor, I’ve been thinking about writing. Having almost cajoled myself into believing I could let this interest fall away for all its impracticalities, I realized with renewed certainty that I’m meant for writing.  There was no great voice or messenger angel, just a still, small shift in my cosmos of hope.

The impossibility of ever writing successfully, suddenly waned. Some wall I don’t remember erecting began to fall. Treading what seemed to be an icy ravine, I found a dirt path with side rails.

*

There is a place in Scripture that describes a confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees about paying taxes. The Pharisees try to trap Jesus into saying that they should not pay the imperial  tax to Caesar.

“But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’

‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.

Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’”
Matthew 22:18-22

Reverend Matt O., over at Rusty Tugboat, served this story up on Sunday and I went away gnawing at the bones. The end of his sermon focused on the last of Jesus’ words, and to God what is God’s. In appropriate Application response, I reflected on my own life, sifting out those things of God in me that I withhold from him.

Now, as a Christian, I am wholly God’s. I believe that the Holy Spirit of God dwells in me, and in covenant with my decision to follow Christ, I have surrendered the whole self over to the rule of King Jesus. On a perfect day, I am a vessel for the work of God alone. This means that I submit all my thoughts and actions to the honor of God, his character, kingdom, and love.

But usually,  I want the control for myself. So I cling to what I can, trying to manipulate it toward my selfish ambitions.

Aware of this tendency, I scanned the film reel I call my life looking  for just such hang-ups. Then something massive and blinking slid across the screen…

Writing!! it said.

*

I still think writing is all mine. I’ve been frustrated and discouraged because I can’t quite decide where to start, because no story is projecting itself onto my pages. But I’m clinging and grabbing and desperately wrestling against the natural compass of my writing guide, who is God.

violinerDuring the sermon, Matt told a story about a dusty violin put up for auction. The bidding started at one dollar, two dollar, three dollar… Going once, going twice… “Now, hold on there a minute,” said an old hunched and bearded man in the back. He lumbered up to the stage, took the violin in his hands, twisting and tuning the brittle strings. And then, he played. Ancient, golden harmonies flooded from the contorted bow, astonishing the once skeptical audience. “Can I hear one thousand dollars?” hollered the auctioneer, “Two thousands, three from the woman in the back!”

The violin was decrepit, fragile and wasted, outside the hands of its master. But given back to its creator, the violin produced magnificent anthems.

Is this not also true for what God creates and then gives to us?

I think about my writing as if on loan from God. The talent is actually his, sculpted and polished by his hands, but bestowed on and manifest in me. To be fair, I ought to give back what he rightfully owns.

But a transaction like this can’t be calculated with worldly measure. Where contracts and receipts should be, there is instead, a long and refining process of surrender. If we’re talking about writing (and we could be talking about anything), then I must by choice lay down my selfish desire and vain conceit in honor of the greater, loftier goals of the Father.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

*

I’m often kept from writing for the fear of failure. Afraid I can’t write anything that will change you, that will make you walk away feeling a little bit differently than before, I don’t write anything at all. It’s a reasonable fear, if left to my own devices. I did not create the writing spirit within me, that divinely offered. To honor and tune it well, I must return it to the Source, who, through me, can make the product art.

If hoarded it will grow dusty, if contrived it will break. But with faithful stewardship and freewill, we abide simply in the gift given to us. Hope and prosperity already brick the path that follows.

Success in kingdom life might not bring money or recognition. It probably won’t look the way we expect, even when we think we don’t expect the world. But it will bring fruit, and we will be freed.

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Tell me about a break through in an area of your life where you feel gifted.

 


 

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10 comments

  1. I’m a storyteller. I too feel called to write, to share the story of an angel and a boy that brought my heart back to life after years of living disconnected from everything, including my spirit. My path did begin with some signs nudging me along as I had veered very far off that road less traveled [writing]. I’m still finding my way and it seems that the surrendering you speak of, is something I’m working on. To not shape forcefully but to be open and capture what already exists, somewhere beyond space and time. Your writing club sounds amazing, I hope it brings you joy, Jane!

  2. “The impossibility of ever writing successfully, suddenly waned. Some wall I don’t remember erecting began to fall. Treading what seemed to be an icy ravine, I found a dirt path with side rails.” Beautifully stated. And a sentiment I can so relate to. It ties in to your later idea: “If hoarded it will grow dusty, if contrived it will break.” The less we write, the icier the path becomes. Each sentence we eke out is like a tiny victory–it clears away a bit of the path and reveals the road beneath. I’m so glad your heart is steering you towards this belief in yourself as a writer. You have a gift for words that can’t be taught, one which will surely intensify with time.

  3. Anytime someone quotes Jeremiah 29:11 I have to urge the inclusion of verse 10. 70 years! I am proud to be a part of this lifelong journey of seeking Jesus with you!

  4. The Reverend Matt O. has read and approves this blogpost.
    And was encouraged, challenged, and edified by it.
    Fist in the air!
    Create my friends!
    Walk in the midst of this fallen world with Eden eyes once again!

  5. I love this! I have been struggling with the very same thing…but in art. You have described in words what I can not, but this is the very same thoughts I have. I can’t even express how this makes me feel…but you have the gift of expression with words. I feel knit together somehow in our thoughts and my prayer…that God would be glorified through the gift He has given you as you give it to Him.

    I know exactly what you are saying, “I’m often kept from writing for the fear of failure. Afraid I can’t write anything that will change you, that will make you walk away feeling a little bit differently than before, I don’t write anything at all. It’s a reasonable fear, if left to my own devices. I did not create the writing spirit within me, that divinely offered. To honor and tune it well, I must return it to the Source, who, through me, can make the product art.”

    I stand before my canvas longing for His painting through me that will reach someone’s heart for Him…yet that fear holds me back…that fear of failure.

    You know the answer…I know the answer…to abide in Christ…”in the gift given to us”…forgetting about ourselves…and doing all things to His glory.

    It’s just doing it…Wow! You have touched my heart!

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