Despite writer’s block, God still shows up

Confession: It’s overwhelming to write an article every week for the newspaper, especially when the writer has several lofty goals, like:  The article is not a simple rewrite of a sermon preached the week before.  Every article must be relevant and well-researched.

 

Though I don't smoke or drink, there have been many times that I thought smoking might make me a better writer. After all, in all of those 1940s movies, all writers are smokers. And William Faulkner had the coolest pipe.

 

Honestly, though, it is so daunting sometimes that writer’s block sets in.  I should not complain–at least one writer for the Rockdale Citizen submits two opinion pieces a week.  I feel bad for that guy.

The truth is, we all have our moments of silence in which we ca not find our voice.   There are times when we confront God’s silence and have trouble hearing His voice too.

Here’s what happened when I got writer’s block earlier this week:  About thirty minutes of starring at a blank computer screen, I emailed one of the Citizen’s editors to mention that I did not have anything to submit for the upcoming weekend.  I graciously apologized and explained that I could not get any coherent words on a page and that I would submit something next week.

I wrapped up the email with a blessing.  Then I emailed my sister–an editor-in-chief in New York–about my woes.  Then it hit me:  Why not write about what I think about when writer’s block strikes like the plague?

Every week I hope to inspire, if not inform, readers, many of whom I know and meet around town.  I believe in a “Creator God, creating still,” so I rely on a God who is an eternal source for quality, wholesome material.

Sometimes God is silent.  Other times, I have so many ideas, no single one really flows well on paper.  Take this Saturday’s column for instance: I could have addressed numerous topics.

One topic relates to the recent allegations made against Bishop Eddy Long.  Subject matter: the abuse of pastoral power in light of the Prosperity Gospel.  But do we really need another article about that one?

Then there was the Pew Forum results from the “U.S. Religious Knowledge survey” that came out last week.   I imagine that my headline would have read like an apocalyptic threat, “Atheists Score Higher on Bible Questions than Most Christians.”  Granted, among Christians, evangelicals scored the highest; just over 72% of  questions were answered correctly.  (So, nanny-nanny-boo-boo, Mr. Atheist!)

A third thing could have been related to a devotional-oriented topic from the Bible.  You know: Something that included a good illustration or two, followed up with a Biblical insight, and then practical application.

I did something like that last week, though.  I used a text from 1 Samuel to reprimand bullying in the workplace.  It was a straight-up devotional piece, and to do another this week would not have sufficed.

Then there are topics that are things political (about four more weeks to mid-term election day, folks), as well as controversial.  Writing about politics and controversy just to fill a quarter page of the newspaper for its own sake is not what God called me to do.

That begs a question: What did God call me to do for this column?   Upon reflection, I believe God called me to simply tell my story about what it’s like to experience writer’s block.  More importantly, He wanted me to share about the human condition–As humans made in God’s image, we too are ever-creating, but flawed still.

I hope that my confession will help you see that we all suffer from God’s silence once in a while.  You’re not alone when you feel uninspired, and all of us have our moments of clarity as well as times of utter melancholy.  It goes with the territory of being a writer; but, more so, of being human.

Trends in Theology, Pt. 2

This is the second article among several exploring trends in theology.  Theology is a search for and conversation with God to realize how God is working in each one of us, in our communities, in our world, and in history.  We do theology because God calls us to respond to His love in creative ways; such reflection is the stuff of theology.

Last week I mentioned that the work of theology is becoming a global discipline, meaning that Western civilization no longer has a monopoly on theology and that various regions spanning from South America to Japan are contributing to the conversation on how humans and God interact.  The trend I’m writing about this week has to do with the relational aspect of theology.

As the world continues to connect in urban, suburban, rural, and cyber-communities, people are hungering for deeper relationships and sustainable partnerships.  But there is an irony here because people are seeking these relationships outside of churches.  People are attending church less but are joining intimate fellowship groups in far greater numbers.  The aim of relational theology is therefore to put Church back in center stage to help build sustainable relationships.

A theology that focuses on relationships mirrors the Trinity—God-in-Three Persons—for it is the Trinity that gives us a vision of the diverse-but-interdependent mode of what it means to be truly human.  What this means is that we are to see that all humans are interdependent upon one another, and that we find God and experience God by listening to one another’s life stories.  It is within this storytelling that God emerges as a major character in the patchwork quilt of our lives.

This trend in theology also obliges us to seek Christ in community, for the sake of community.   In this way theology does not merely help us think about God or talk about God, it forces us to discover God’s Presence no matter how mysterious or uncomfortable that Presence may be.  It forces us to respond in active social justice and repentance.

Emerging out of this theology is the idea that we are firmly rooted in all of God’s creation whereby Christians see themselves as a part of creation.  We are interconnected with creation and have mutual obligations to creation.

This does not lead to pantheism or panentheism (worshipping the Earth or creation); rather, this is a re-claiming of the ancient biblical understanding that humans are holistic beings who partner with the Earth in order to bring about the effects of God’s redemptive plan in every square inch of our world.

Additionally, relational theology assumes that humans naturally seek out authentic relationships and make us aware that there are some ways of seeking relationships that are inauthentic.  These deceiving paths do not lead to the type of authenticity that includes God in the mix.  One false way of building relationships is partnering with the idol of mass consumerism.

It is my opinion that we live in a sort of technocracy in which major corporations study how we live and then feed us products that we think we need.  As long as these products insure us that we “belong”, we buy into the myth that our material things provide identity.  Such an identity does not foster the God-conversations that theology demands, nor does it enact wise stewardship of creation and of the Earth’s resources.  Instead our own desires in a must-have world blind us to the needs of others.  We are so busy seeking the things of this world, we miss out on exploring how God’s Kingdom is manifesting itself in our midst.

A friend of mine often quotes Desmond Tutu: “I am who I am because of who we are.”  Relational theology requires us to stand before a Trinitarian God that calls us into sustainable communities with our neighbors. It keeps us from falling into a consumerism mold.  It intentionally builds relationships that emphasize our interdependence on the Creator and all creation.