This weekend at the Writer’s Conference I attended, one of the questions we were asked was, “Why do you write?” They encouraged us to understand our mission statement, our purpose, in order to propel our work forward by a central driving vision. So, I’ve been thinking about this. And, you’d think I’d write down why I write, huh? Well, eventually I will. Right now, here are thoughts from John Piper on reading and writing (given to me by my ever-encouraging husband), to which I would give a hearty “Amen!” I pray we all will ripple throughout this world!
I’ve been thinking again about the importance of reading and writing. There
are several reasons I write. One of the most personally compelling is that I
read. I mean, my main spiritual sustenance comes by the Holy Spirit from
reading. Therefore reading is more important to me than eating. If I went
blind, I would pay to have someone read to me. I would try to learn Braille.
I would buy “books on tape.” I would rather go without food than go
without books. Therefore, writing feels very lifegiving to me, since I get so
much of my own life from reading.
Combine this with what Paul says in Ephesians 3:3-4, “By revelation there
was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. And by
referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the
mystery of Christ.” The early church was established by apostolic writing as
well as apostolic preaching. God chose to send his living Word into the
world for 30 years, and his written Word into the world for 2000+ years.
Think of the assumption behind this divine decision. People in each
generation would be dependent on those who read. Some people, if not all,
would have to learn to read—and read well, in order to be faithful to God.
So it has been for thousands of years. Generation after generation has read
the insights of its writers. This is why fresh statements of old truth are
always needed. Without them people will read error. Daniel Webster once
If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses
in this country, I do not know what is going to become of us
as a nation. If truth be not diffused, error will be; if God and
His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works
will gain the ascendancy; if the evangelical volume does not
reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious
Millions of people are going to read. If they don’t read contemporary
Christian books, they are going to read contemporary secular books. They
will read. It is amazing to watch people in the airports. At any given
moment there must be hundreds of thousands of people reading just in
airports. One of the things we Christians need to be committed to, besides
reading, is giving away solid books to those who might read them, but
would never buy them.
The ripple effect is incalculable. Consider this illustration:
A book by Richard Sibbes, one of the choicest of the Puritan
writers, was read by Richard Baxter, who was greatly blessed
by it. Baxter then wrote his Call to the Unconverted which
deeply influenced Philip Doddridge, who in turn wrote The
Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul. This brought the
young William Wilberforce, subsequent English statesman and
foe of slavery, to serious thoughts of eternity. Wilberforce
wrote his Practical Book of Christianity which fired the soul of
Leigh Richmond. Richmond, in turn, wrote The Dairyman’s
Daughter, a book that brought thousands to the Lord, helping
Thomas Chalmers the great preacher, among others.2
It seems to me that in a literate culture like ours, where most of us know
how to read and where books are available, the Biblical mandate is: keep on
reading what will open the Holy Scriptures to you more and more. And
keep praying for Bible-saturated writers. There are many great old books to
read. But each new generation needs its own writers to make the message
fresh. Read and pray. And then obey.
Motherhood can be discouraging. I just spent 1 1/2 hours rocking Dutch trying to get him to sleep and finally gave up and now he is just in his crib crying. Jeff is gone at class from 7:45am this morning until 9:30pm tonight. I am staring around me at the toys strewn around the living room that is not mine. Mom and Dad are gone to Montana for a week. It is a beautiful day and I want to go for a walk or a run or do something other than sit here out in the boonies listening to my son cry on the monitor.
But there is grace for today. Many of you who know me know that I want to write a book entitled The Sacredness of the Mundane, essentially about glorifying God and finding meaning and purpose in every detail of life. This is certainly not a new concept. Brother Lawrence practiced the presence of God, AW Tozer disdained the sacred-secular duality, and John Piper celebrates drinking orange juice to the glory of God. But I want to devote an entire book to it, from a woman’s perspective, with a fresh new twist for today.
So what is sacred in my situation right now, as I sit, listening to the rustling of Dutch on the monitor as he’s finally settling himself down to sleep (or he’s just standing up in his crib playing quietly — at this point I don’t care which it is)? Well, first of all, I can rejoice because I know that God is on the throne. He is in control of my circumstances, and, because everything in my life has been God-filtered, it is for my good. So, instead of feeling trapped by living out here at Mom & Dad’s house, I can thank God because He’s decided, in His infinite goodness, that somehow it is better for my sanctification (the process of being like Christ), that I be out here. Besides, I look out the window at natural beauty–sunlight, blue sky, trees, orange and brown and yellow leaves, sparkles of water droplets on the still-green grass of fall.
Jeff is gone all day, which makes me sad, but I can recognize this as an opportunity to spend extra time with the Lord and writing, since I won’t be spending time making dinner. I also praise God because Jeff is away studying God’s Word! Praise God that I have a husband who loves and enjoys and knows God more than he loves and enjoys and knows anything else in life. Praise God for that!
Because I was desperate to get out of the house, I drove Dutch in the Molalla park, where we swung and toddled around on the grass. While I was there, I ran into two girls from High School. I didn’t know them well, as they were several years younger than me, but we recognized each other and shared the commonality of little ones, and were able to talk, as we are all believers, about the things God’s done in our lives the past 10 years. I also exchanged phone numbers with one girl, so we can meet at the park more often. That is huge! If I didn’t live out here in the middle of nowhere, and if I hadn’t felt trapped and alone with Jeff gone, I never would have driven all the way into the park. But I went, and they were there, and God was in that encounter.
. . . now it is much later in the day and Dutch has finally fallen asleep. Thank You, God. I recognize this blog entry isn’t very profound–just some thoughts throughout a somewhat taxing day. But now, the house is quiet, Dutch is asleep, Jeff is still at school, and I am alone, sweetly, deliciously alone to enjoy some sacred moments . . .
Yesterday I had the joy of attending the Fall Oregon Christian Writers’ Conference all day. Jeff made it possible, by first insisting that I go, and then by taking care of Dutch all day, even driving into Portland during my lunch break so I could nurse him. What a husband! It was so worth the time and expense of attending. Randy Ingermanson was the key speaker, a physicist turned fiction writer. During the afternoon I attended his workshop on Fiction: Writing Deep Characters. One of the exercises he uses, in order to develop characters that are real, believable, and consistent throughout the story, is journaling from that character’s perspective. He pointed out that we must get into our character’s minds, know their personalities, how they respond to other people, conflict, criticism, success. We have to know them so well that we know exactlyhow that character will respond in any given situation. He insisted that we even need to do this with our “villain” — if the story has such a character (which most stories do, we just wouldn’t be so bold as to name them that). He explained that the villain does not think he is the villain! He thinks he is the hero! Of course he does–no one thinks they are the villains of anything. So, in order to understand that character, and make them more than a two-dimensional meanie, we must write a page of a journal entry, as if we were that person, writing the story line from their perspective. Even though this work isn’t something to include in the actual story, it gives us, the writer, the opportunity to see why the villain will do what he does.
So, what’s the big deal, Kari? Why include this on your blog? Because I think we all need to write our villain. Of course we may not have an arch-nemesis, but there may be a person who hurts us or annoys us or just seems to be standing in our way. Yes, this is really just a more labor-intensive way of saying “Well, I’m sure they must think . . . ” and forcing ourselves to see their perspective, but when we do that, we’re really just going through the motions, it’s rarely that we ever truly convince ourselves of someone else’s perspective. So, by actually writing out a situation, from his or her point of view, as if they were writing it themselves, we may surprise ourselves, and wind up loving people and understanding people a whole lot more than we ever thought we could.
Let’s write our villains.
Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it . . . Prov. 16:22
Right now I’m reading John Piper’s book, Battling Unbelief. He once again hits a home-run. It’s an abbreviated version of his longer work, Future Grace, and since as a mommy my time to read is limited, I read this shorter version while I walk on the treadmill :-). The book has categories of things that we battle, all of which have the same root–unbelief. Today I read about battling Pride and battling Shame.
Pride: Two things struck me about battling pride. First, we have gotten it all mixed up in our modern minds because we equate theological wishy-washiness (my word!) with humility. It is not! We are called to know what we believe, which is not pride. As GK Chesterton, a British Catholic journalist who died in 1936 said, “What we suffer from . . . is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert–himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt–the Divine Reason.” Wow! Joshua Harris calls this Humble Orthodoxy. Well said.
Secondly, CS Lewis says this about Pride: “The pleasure of pride is like the pleasure of scratching. If there is an itch one does want . . . (hold on, Dutch just woke up, I’ll be back in a few hours . . . ok I’m back). If there is an itch one does want to scratch; but it is much nicer to have neither the itch nor the scratch. As long as we have the itch of self-regard we shall want the pleasure of self-approval; but the happiest moments are those when we forget our precious selves and have neither but have everything else (God, our fellow humans, animals, the garden and sky) instead.”
Lastly, consider this about two forms of pride, boasting and self-pity: “Both are manifestations of pride. Boasting is the response of pride to success. Self-pity is the response of pride to suffering. Boasting says, “I deserve admiration because I have achieved so much.” Self-pity says, “I deserve admiration because I have sacrificed so much.” Boasting is the voice of pride in the heart of the strong. Self-pity is the voice of pride in the heart of the weak. Boasting sounds self-sufficient. Self-pity sounds self-sacrificing. The reason self-pity does not look like pride is that it appears to be needy. But the need arises from a wounded ego and the desire of the self-pitying is not really for others to see them as helpless, but heroes. The need self-pity feels does not come from a sense of unworthiness, but from a sense of unrecognized worthiness. It is the response of unapplauded pride.”
Boom. That hits me between the eyes. Have I done that? Do I want people to know the things I’ve “suffered” so that somehow that will exalt me? I hope not! I think of how that relates even to things that I write, things that I say, things that I share with people. Even in my writing of the Santa Clara story–I wanted to write it to remember the marvelous things God has done, and yet I’m afraid I will enjoy it if people somehow thing I’ve “endured” a hard thing, as if it had anything to do with us. It does not. All too often, I have “the itch”. In a way, this revelation makes me scared to share with anyone about the hard things that I may be going through, because I don’t want to be seeking their admiration or applause, but on the other hand I also want to be an authentic person. The difference? My heart. Only God can know my motivation. He and I both know when I have the itch of self-regard. I do know that I wrote the Santa Clara story with a pure motive and purpose, what I have to fight daily is the desire to have other people somehow applaud me somehow for my faith–which has nothing to do with me anyway. God, please purify my heart, my motives, my speech, that I would lose the itch of self-regard and lose myself in You.
Piper talks about two kinds of shame–appropriate shame, the type we feel when we’ve wronged God, and misplaced shame, which we ought not to have. The key difference? We shouldn’t feel shame for the things that dishonor us, but only the things that we’ve done that dishonor God. However, most of us spend our time feeling shame for things that either are not our fault or that aren’t shameful because they don’t dishonor God.
This past weekend Jeff and I went to Bend. While we were there we attended a art unveiling with Jeff’s mom. At the unveiling, we met the painter’s wife and two daughters. One daughter, a freshman in high school, has some birth defect which has misshapen one side of her face. However, when I met her, she just beamed, welcoming me and oohing and ahing over Dutch, teasing that she wanted to be the president of his fan club, and wondering if she could marry him when he grew up. She stood tall and looked me in the eye, a glowing, beautiful, utterly confident girl. She obviously knew this principle. There was truly no appropriate reason for her to feel shame, and so she did not. But how many times I feel shame, not over the things I should (!) but over things that dishonor me rather than God. I’m thankful that I met this girl who was an example to me of this correct understanding of shame.
STAY POSTED, because I’m currently working on my next piece, Eva, which is based on a true story:
Eva Marie Van Zandt, named “Ey Ve” after the prize fighting boxer Joey Velez, was born in 1946 to Lois and William Van Zandt. At eighteen she married her thirty-year-old lover, only to be abandoned with three small children. Left penniless and alone, she determines to give her sons the best life possible. Follow Eva’s journey as she battles poverty, cancer, and unbelief, and watch as the faithfulness of God breathes hope into her soul.