Tuesday, September 18, 2007

the writer's medium and god's medium

I'm celebrating a day of quite speedy AND unlimited internet access (it's been about two months since I last had such a treat) by staying up WAY later than I should (considering the mucus running down my throat...ahhhh, it's always such fun to use that beautiful word "mucus"). I've not had much time for on-line article reading these past couple months, so tonight the pull of "just one more article and then I'll shut down my computer" is winning.

And then I read THIS article. And it was too relevant to just read it, shut down my computer and hope to dream about it. Which means I had to do just one MORE thing: log into blogger again and share this article with you.

I've been reading Phillip Yancey's work since I was a junior higher reading his columns in Campus Life magazine (which, alas, no longer bears that name; now it's called the more exciting-sounding Ignite), so I feel like I've grown up with him. He was doing his entry-level writing gigs then. By the time I graduated from college and was in the Fellows in Leadership program in DC, he'd grown up as a writer and had some well-received books published. When the Fellows program and its church partner hosted Yancey, I was glad to "reconnect" with this author of my youth. I chatted with him a bit after he spoke to us, had him sign a book, and went on my way. I haven't really read many of his books yet, though I own a couple of them. But, he's one of those authors whose articles I read and inevitably appreciate whenever I run across them.

This trip to Africa has come at a time that my sense of calling to be a writer is quite firmly cemented while the specifics of that calling remain less clear. And somehow this article of Yancey's hits into that place while pointing back to what's really the point of it all. Anyway, here's the beginning and the end of the article ("God's Writing Life"):

"Does writing get easier the more you do it?" someone asked me recently.
After three decades of making a living by putting words on paper, I have to
answer no. The more I write, the more aware I am of problems—clich├ęs, dull
spots, weak images, repetitions. Whenever I attempt some other difficult
activity, like climbing a steep and scary mountain, I remind myself, "Yes, but
it's easier than writing!"

....

I found a mere handful of scenes portraying God as a writer. Taken
together, they provide a progression toward grace, and, significantly, they
involve each member of the Trinity. Three of the media—stone tablets, a plaster
wall, and sand in the temple courts—did not survive the ravages of history.
Instead, God's literature gets passed down generation by generation in
transformed lives. "For we are God's [work of art]," Paul told the Ephesians
(2:10), using the Greek word poiema, from which we get "poem."

After surveying scenes of God writing, I no longer felt so burdened.
Composing words on paper is one thing; creating sacred works of art out of human
beings is quite another.

I recommend reading the middle of the article, too. :-) Tomorrow I'm scheduled to ride along on a flight to a missionary base in eastern Congo. Four years ago the missionary pilots working there had to leave because things were so unstable. Since then the eastern Congo folks have been serving that region from Uganda. Now they've begun to move back in. One of the planes is based there now. The other one is still based in Uganda. I think I'll also have a chance to talk with some folks working with Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders) while I'm there tomorrow and the first part of Wednesday.

It's so interesting being in this region that's been in the news over the past decade (and longer) and trying to understand what all has gone on here. My from-the-news knowledge is so cursory, and it's always been challenging to keep straight who's on who's side and what the conflicts are over anyway. I'm hoping to understand the history and the forces and players at work here better after my time on the ground.

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