Up here on the Pend Oreille River, I am slowing down to catch up with God. It happens every time I drive the eight hours to escape. One rediscovers Godspeed, what a recent video refers to as “the pace of being.” In it, Matt Canlis, a parish priest, narrates his own journey of slowing in order to become.
Like him, I find the words of Jeremiah 6:16 centering—
“This is what the Lord says:
‘Stand by the roadways and look.
Ask about the ancient paths,
“Which is the way to what is good?”
Then take it
and find rest for yourselves.’”
This place is the way to what is good, though in late March the wilderness here is rather colorless. The bleak landscape is a washed out gray. After a harsh winter, the ground is thawing and the piles of snow are melting. Things are awakening, but it is still quiet. A great time to write.
I am in the process of writing a third book, Contagions of Craziness. I try to keep before me a series of essential writing rules. Among them—
-Respect each word
-Remember–less is more
-Use vigorous verbs
-Make use of the active voice
-Tap into imagination
-Make it fresh
-Minimize adverbs and adjectives
-Read and keep reading
This last rule is so critical. Much of my writing is a reflection of what I read. I am all over the place right now—just finished Jim Collins new monograph, Turning the Flywheel; finishing Tim Keller’s The Prodigal Prophet; and beginning Charles Krauthammer’s The Point of It All.
Here are some takeaways: Collins finds that becoming great at what you do is not the result of one single action, one lucky break, or some grand program. It is an inch by inch effort, like one turning a giant flywheel. Each sequential turn builds upon your previous work. This is how you build greatness. It requires self-discipline, having the inner will to do whatever it takes. This reminds me of writing. So much of it is inch by inch, aiming for momentum.
Reading Keller’s book, I find that there is more of Jonah in my life than I would like to admit. As Jonah learned (and we learn), sin does set up strains in the structure of life which can only end in a breakdown. Only the severe mercy of God will help us recover. In the belly of the whale (or wherever he takes us), we slow down and catch up with him. On the other side, we find ourselves declaring, like Isaiah, “Here I am. Send me.” And then we serve, not for what we can get. We serve—just for him, for his sake, for who he is, and for what he wills.
Finally, I am sobered by the introduction of Krauthammer’s book. Krauthammer was a syndicated columnist who left psychiatry to write. He felt history was happening outside of the examining room, one being shaped by a war of ideas. He wanted to be in that arena. He was driven by the fact some things need to be said, some things need to be defended.
Krauthammer’s son, Daniel, compiled his words, noting that his father was not just going through the motions. He cared deeply about everything he said and everything he wrote. Whatever Charles penned was with the highest order of integrity. This was true in his political commentaries. He often seemed to be the one adult in the room. This is because he championed the ideas he believed in. His thoughts mattered. His arguments mattered.
He left the world with these words–“You’re betraying your whole life if you don’t say what you think—and you don’t say it honestly and bluntly.” So applicable to the contemporary church. So centering for me–and perhaps for you. God has put a message in all of our hearts that needs to be said, argued, and defended. But we have to slow to hear.