In Good Company

I keep a copy of Tony Reinke’s (formerly a journalist, but now a theological researcher, writer, and blogger) 15 Tips on Blogging from John Newton next to my computer as a reminder that my writing is a ministry NOT an industry.  When I stumble upon nuggets of gold like this one by Reinke, I pass them on to my budding writing students who one day may blossom into the next generation of bloggers, poets or novelists.  So for homework next week, my writing students will read the Reinke post and learn that writing is to edify one’s audience, but most importantly, writing is to glorify God.

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Writing takes muscle, my students have heard me say, it’s not for the faint of heart.  However, I remind them, if God stirs a desire to write, then, by all means write even if it begins in the quiet corner of your room at your desk where you scratch out thoughts in a journal.  That’s the beginning.

I remember the day I realized I needed to write.  The summer I was ten, maybe eleven, I woke up with the notion of hoisting myself on my way too big for a ten year old shiny red three speed and peddling non stop some three miles to the neighborhood grocery “Lucky’s Superette.” My goal on that journey was to purchase a pack of loose leaf paper or spiral notebook (not a hint of schoolsupplies around the house until September), whichever one fit my meager budget. Lacking height to peddle and operate breaks simultaneously, I spent most of my time in the bike-stand mode, which is what happens when a kid needs to grow into the bike.

The round trip produced droplets of sweat and fatigued thighs but they were no match to my eagerness to begin writing my first book. One might muse, write a book about what? What wealth of wisdom or experience would a ten year old impart to the world? That wasn’t the point. That summer ride served as a declaration of my life long love for words and my calling to write.  My windswept, crinkled brown paper bag contained, what I thought at the time, the only tool I needed to write—paper.

That summer I put pen to paper and embellished stories familiar to me. Stories of beach combing on blistering hot summer afternoons on a deserted local island where my father and I searched endlessly for beach washed relics from the people that once occupied this tiny speck of land sandwiched between the Chesapeake Bay and the Tangier Sound.  I scribbled narratives about standing on the edge of the town dock listening to the drone of the local lighthouse and hearing the early morning voices of local fishermen echo across the waterway as they readied their boats and their hopes for basket fulls of harvest from the bay.

As time passed, writing proved arduous. And one day, not quite a decade later, during English Literature class Professor Vargis scribbled a note along with the glaring “F” on my inaugural essay requesting that I meet with him after class.  The professor whom I revered sat across from me in  his hallowed office where the works of  Chaucer, Wordsworth, Elliot and others lined the walls like literary trophies listening to him shatter this girls world:

“Have you considered another major?” he gently suggested.

His words choked me, cut off my air for a few seconds until I reached back to that summer bike ride and pulled out a handful of ten year old tenacity and respectfully slapped it on the professor’s desk with an emphatic:

“No, never considered anything else.”

 My Burning Bush Moment: every word and phrase the professor spoke chiseled a crack of inadequacy and a crevice of doubt into my “red bike” calling to be a writer.  The professor tactfully delivered the message that he didn’t think I had what it took to be a writer.  My writing lacked style, a disciplined technique, and on and on.

Like Moses, I am not the likely candidate to get the job done.  I spent my childhood being just that a kid who collected experiences ignited by imagination, not some child prodigy plucked from academia, like the pre-med student that sat behind me in that English Literature class.  I was ordinary, unequipped, inadequate or so it seemed to the outside world. A good deal like Moses.

“I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12) whispered God.  My words scrawled to paper may never find themselves bound in leather resting on a bookshelf but my calling, and yours, is based on what God wants to do through us for his glory not ours.

For years, I stalled the calling through avoidance, surely God picked the wrong person, a similar response that Moses gave God in Exodus 4:13, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” 

The Aaron Period: over the years, God orchestrated circumstances that placed people in my life who mentored and assisted me so that I could get the job done, which echoes the scenario between Moses and God in Exodus 4:15-15, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well…I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do.”

Reinke parallels the sense of inadequacy Christians experience as they face their calling with the glossophobic (fear of public speaking or of speaking in general) Moses who received the mammoth task of leading a society out of bondage A great read.

Whether our calling is to mothering or writing or serving, kingdom work is joyfully grueling work, a paradox only understood with an eternal vision. Moses understood the gravity of what God called him to do and he also realized his dependency on God in order to get the job done.

Yes, some writers always get it right the first time: the right verb, the exact punctuation, the eloquent style.  As I study Moses, I see an unpolished, humble (Num. 12:3) man who made mistakes, just like me.  A man who spent his calling wanting to know God and His ways and to see God’s glory.

At my desk, a copy of Reinke’s blogging manifesto, my trusted thesaurus and faithful dictionary close at hand, a tattered copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White (one of the best investments, thanks Professor Vargish), photos of my children, and my most important tool—my Bible. As I move forth in my calling, I am comforted to know that I am in good company with the likes of someone like Moses.


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