Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Story Crying Out for the Presence of God

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12)
One of the great things about freelancing is the amount of flexibility built into my work. Another way to phrase the idea is "the amount of availability." That fact is both good and problematic.

The good part is that I can schedule things that someone who's trapped in the office or tied to a work location could never possibly arrange. The problematic part is that - more often than not - the things I schedule keep me away from my work.

Or do they? (said he, thinking out loud, while writing).... I mean, isn't 100% of everything I'm involved with always relevant to my writing?
Take this morning, for example. I was able to help out a little with parking for a big Presbytery meeting out at Camp CedarKirk. I had to be out there by 7:30 and I got to wave my little sign and tell people where to go.

It was a beautiful morning. I got to chat with my friend David on the way there, visit with Peter (who monitored an adjacent parking station), and say good morning to a bunch of people I've never met before. I even had one parking "incident." Here's the conversation:

Slightly overweight preacher-dude pulls his SUV up to the fork in the road I controlled.
  • Me: "Good morning! General parking or handicapped?"
  • Impatient Preacher: "I want to park as close as I can." (moves slightly forward and aims his vehicle to the left).
  • Me: "This is the handicapped parking area; we only have a limited number of spaces. General parking is straight ahead." 
  • Preacher-dude: "I don't think I should have to walk that far..."
  • Me: "You decide. I'll leave it to your discretion."
  • Preacher: "Mutter-mutter." Scowls. Jerks steering wheel hard to the right. Mutters under his breath. Heads for general parking.
I was home by a little after 10:00, and I'm now free to do even more activities that are not directly work relevant. Or are they? 

Because my writing - even when I'm in the process of putting together a new book - involves a huge percentage of journaling. I experience my life; I reflect on my life; I write about my life; I learn so much via every moment of each and every day. Capturing experience is the lifeblood of my work, and consequently there is no experience that does not - in some way - add substance and meaning and clarity to my work. These experiences are the ingredients of my story.

Yesterday my men's group enjoyed a great conversation about what it means to bring our "outer person" and "inner person" together. We can't seem to get God involved in our "outer selves". So much of our day-to-day lives are caught up in activities and work responsibilities and casual conversations, and we tend to believe these elements/ingredients have nothing to do with the inner self that we - sometimes - invite God to be involved with.

But it's an artificial duality. Just as I believe everything that happens is an important part of my personal story - including grumpy preachers who really should be thanking me for the extra exercise, including the hand-made pizza I'm putting together for lunch today, including the phone conversations I have with my kids - then there is nothing in the range of moments in a given day that fails to own the potential for practicing the presence of God.

These elements - conversations, service, worship,  work, cooking, reading, study, prayer, relationships - are all the raw materials of my relationship with God. I can't any more discard them - and say they're not relevant any more - than I can say they have nothing to do with my work as a writer. 

God inhabits the details. God wants to join us right there in the nitty-gritty, and in every aspect of what it means to be alive. These details are my story. It's a story that's crying out for the presence of God.

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