Thursday, December 24, 2009

Writers Only! Join the Pact

The Ultimate Story
One of the most beautiful ways to celebrate Christmas is to read the Christmas story. Certainly there is a spiritual dimension there that is incredible. In light of this forum, I also thought about how reading the text underscores the power of story.

We know that this post-post-modern generation is programmed to love narrative, but beyond that, I think there is something in our human nature that is drawn to stories because they connect us as readers to others, whether from history, reality, or fantasy. All of this to say, Christmas is a wonderful time to remind ourselves of the importance of Apostolic writers having a voice in the world through the medium of the written word.

The New Year and Those Pesky Resolutions
As we move toward the new year, there will be the familiar talk of new year's resolutions along with the cliched non-resolution resolutions. Despite all that, I've spent the last few weeks truly rethinking my calling and my priorities. Not to get too-dear-diary, but honestly, I'm at a stage in my life where my first priority is my teaching ministry, which thankfully I'm blessed to also have as my vocation. But since it justifies every second I can spare, if I'm truly going to pursue writing as a calling, it's to the point that I'm going to have to make a sacrifice of my time and cut away some areas of my personal life.

Now why, gentle readers, am I unburdening any of this to you? It's because I imagine each of us writers coming to this crossroads sooner or later. I think this new wave of pioneering a path in the creative arts will call upon us as individuals to reassess and re-prioritize our lives around our callings. But also as a community, it will call upon us to jointly hold ourselves accountable to our callings. While I could justify giving up on my writing ministry right now were I going it alone, I am bound to a network of people--we're in this together! I'm blessed with friends who are walking with me down this journey, and it helps keep me committed to you all as well as our common goal. It's encouraging and challenging, and I'm thankful for it.

The Expatriate Writers 1920s Europe
If they could do it....

The Pact
I believe through this blog and the many conversations we writers are having with one another we have established:
1)the need for Apostolic writers,
2)that the market is open to our work,
3)that the only limitations are those we place upon ourselves through doubt or failure to practice, refine our craft, and take the vulnerable step of submitting,
4)and most importantly, we've created a system of support and idea exchange.

I believe that we are in the process of forming a pact--a commitment to God and to one another. This means first deciding within ourselves if we are really ready to sacrifice time and priorities to make this happen. That in itself forces an examination of motives--why do we want to commit to something so sacrificial in the first place? It may necessitate entering a fast to seek God's direction in prioritizing callings. We are not just writers who happen to be Apostolics; we are Apostolics who are called to write. There is a distinct spiritual component. If we are going to launch this ministry and blaze a trail for generations of Apostolic writers after us, we must do so with His unction and direction.

If God Be for Us...
I know I need your help and support--hold my feet to the fire, call me on it when I've gone weeks without writing, share your successes to lift me up when I'm discouraged and ready to give up on this effort, share ideas when you've hit a wall and figured a way over it. We form a pact to walk this journey together. And the beauty is that this is what this blog is all about. It's a pact to all pursue His will, which we believe to be a calling to write across all styles and genres.

Thanks to all who regularly share posts and comments. I for one can say that it is much needed and much appreciated. Happy New Year, and may God bless us each in our effort to establish an Apostolic voice through the printed word.

Just read: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
Currently reading: On Writing by Stephen King

Thursday, December 17, 2009

An Apostolic Arts Movement?

In 90&9’s year-end cover article, we asked Apostolics of every rank and demographic to evaluate how the last decade changed the Apostolic movement, to name a highlight, and to describe the next decade’s biggest challenge. It’s a great read.

I defined the biggest change as follows: “After virtually ignoring them for our first 100+ years, there is a glimmering interest in unleashing the arts to share the Gospel. There are undernoticed efforts throughout our movement (writing, video, graphic design, live theatre), going on right now. I’m optimistic this will blossom in the next decade. After all, we have the better story.”

Artistic Revival?

Frankly, if there’s a blossoming of the arts within Pentecost over the coming generation or two, I believe they’ll look back and notice the essential seeds for that growth being planted in this first decade of the new century. For that to be true, it will take creative pioneers willing to sacrifice time, talent, and energy toward an end goal without a promise of success because that is their calling. (Yet, how different is that from Abraham’s mad wanderings through the desert because of his calling from God?)

If there’s one truth my recent trip to Italy drove home is that the arts alone provide universal access to anyone interested in story or beauty. Unbelievers cannot resist beauty. That’s why we must be contributing to its creation.

Unappreciated Calling
It also occurred to me that most of the artistic beauty in Italy is by unknowns. For every Michelangelo and Da Vinci masterpiece, there are hundreds of best efforts by the long-forgotten, yet they still touch people hundreds of years later. True, it’s easier (in one sense) for the visual and musical arts to be transported across the ages, but words are the most portable art form invented. English is in ascent, as close to a universal language as we'll have this century, guaranteeing an available audience. Words are my calling.

I’m going to make sure this unknown will be helping make the arts in the Apostolic movement more obvious than ever. I won’t be alone. The most popular elective at this year’s Forum was the “My Calling: The Arts—Is there life outside of Pentecost?” session. The room was packed with 20somethings eager to discuss writing, graphic design, music, and other artistic callings. (Frankly, we were shocked at the turn out yet we shouldn’t have been. Too many Apostolics are hungry to use their unusual talents to reach others.)

I’ve set my mind on Writing Conference I will attend, articles I will freelance, and stories I will complete (by set deadlines). That’s the only way I can prove I believe in my calling.

Appendix A: My Top 10 Books Read This Year

My top choice, then the other 9 titles divided by category.

1. Rembrandt’s Eyes by Simon Schama is a tour de force on the artistic temperament (via Rembrandt and Reubens), overlooked European history, and the beautiful paintings that still challenge us today. A thick, beautiful masterpiece full of the mysteries of creation.


  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a classic every time I reread it.
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne purports to be a fable about WWII, but works because it’s a fable. (Don’t see the movie first!)
  • Lush Life by Richard Price purports to be a crime novel, but somehow captures the madness and danger of New York City in the Aughts.

Young Adult

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney will make you laugh out loud, especially when Halloween rolls around.
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a rollicking adventure tale about a future North America that requires each region to send a lottery-chosen teenager to an annual reality show—where the teens must kill each other to survive.


  • Crazylove by Francis Chan challenged me in love to rethink why I serve Jesus; after all, if our lives make sense to sinners, what type of Christians are we?
  • The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria captures the geopolitical realities of this generation (and the next) without getting bogged down in minutiae. Grab it if you want to understand our world better.
  • God Is . . . by David Adams Richards is the Canadian novelist’s return to faith, and a revelation that all sin’s ultimate goal is murder. Thoughtful and accessible.
  • The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. II, edited by Philip Gourevitch is a dynamic collection of long-form interviews previously printed in the lit mag that created the form. Includes Faulkner, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Graham Greene, Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty and 11 more authors.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Future Me

As I was struggling to formulate a timely and interesting post for today, something both writing and end-of-the-year related came to mindFuture Me.

In a previous post, I lamented the passing of the age of letter writing in our modern age of email, IMs and texts. I remain a faithful, nostalgic believer in the power of the penned word. But Future Me, though it is technically accomplished in the form of an email, has the distinction of being a service specifically for allowing one to write a letter to one's future self. Here's how it works: You simply go to the site and write a letter to yourself to be sent at any specified date in the future. When that date arrives, you will receive your letter in your inbox. I wrote my first letter to myself in January 2008 and arranged to have it sent to me on the same date the following year. I did it again this year, so I should receive it sometime soon after the New Year.

It's an interesting type of writing. The you that writes the letter is not the same you that reads the letter a year later. The you writer is curious about the future, sets goals, assesses the present state and ponders how things will have changed. The you reader is a year wiser, has a year more of experience under the belt, and can know whether those goals were met or if any of the projections for the future materialized.

One of the writer's duties is to consider the audience. But what changes when the audience is oneself?

If you've never done Future Me, It might be an interesting experiment to try this year. Each letter becomes a landmark, a testament to the life you've lived and wish to live. It's an innovative way to evaluate the past as well as cast for the future.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Currently reading: The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Best Books/ Book Covers 2000-2009

Amazon is offering you a chance to vote on the Best Book Cover of 2o09! It's quite an eclectic collection, but well worth your time in perusing.

To this contest's detriment, they offer almost no design commentary, but use it to (surprise!) sell books. Alas!

Meanwhile the Abebooks crew offers their choices for best books of the Aughts. Of their 30 choices, I've read 7 (my usual percentage on most Best Books" lists, no matter from what era. But I almost read 2 others, does that count?)