Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Watching Someone Read

I was on my way to Winnipeg to participate in the School of Writing at the Canadian Mennonite University. I was nervous about going, even though my work had been accepted and I'd been granted entrance to the advanced fiction class with Canadian literary icon, Rudy Wiebe. I had submitted three short stories that I'd worked on long and hard but I had chosen to workshop another ten pages - part of the sequel to my novel, One Smooth Stone. Would they like it? Would the writing be good enough?

As I settled into my seat on the plane, the stewardess came down the aisle and asked us all to move forward, to balance the load. i ended up sitting one seat back and across the aisle from a young woman who took out a book to read. As she did so, the colour caught my eye. Hmm ... same colour as the cover on my book.

I watched out the window as the ground dropped away and the plane lifted off, then glanced across the aisle again. The young woman had turned the book. My book. It was a surreal moment. A comforting, though in a way, disconcerting moment. What did she think of it? She seemed to be reading eagerly enough. But did she like it? Was it good enough?

The day my excerpts were to be critiqued, my palms were sweating and my heart was beating a little faster than normal. Finally the comments began. According to the rules I wasn't allowed to speak until given permission by the instructor. Staying silent was at once a relief and a hardship. Then Rudy made some comments, asking for further input from the class, dissecting the work.

Then his words, "this is good writing."

Words from "the master." I could have danced down the aisle.

But now the euphoria has worn off and I'm working on the sequel. What will people think of it? Will it be good enough?

And then I go back to why I write - because it's the way I'm "wired." Because I can't not write. Because the images and characters and scenes and emotions flood out of me through a keyboard and I can't stop them any more than I could stand in a flood and stop the raging waters.

And then I remember who made me this way, who controls what happens to the words I type on this computer, and who will some day say, "well done," if I work in obedience to Him.

And I realize how much I want to hear that Master's voice and how much I want to some day dance down that aisle. So I go on, trying to be obedient to the task of being a writer, fighting off the self doubt and the need for affirmation from men when the only thing that counts is affirmation from Him.

Friday, May 16, 2008


A Barn Full
By Marcia Lee Laycock

My daughter just sent me an email - it was one of those forwarded, forwarded, forwarded things, which I ordinarily don’t like receiving. But this one was intriguing. It was the story of a man who purchased a piece of property for half its value. The property had been hard to sell because it had an ugly barn on it with a huge steel door welded shut. When the man took possession of the property he immediately got a grinder and opened the doors on the barn. What he found inside no doubt made his heart beat a little faster. It was full of old vintage cars, worth over thirty-five million dollars!

That man took a chance – he could have ended up with a barn full of worthless widgets, or something more disappointing. But the risk paid off. What intrigued me about this story is why so many people were unwilling to take the same chance. What held them back?

Perhaps it has something to do with the glass half full image – perhaps all those other people who looked at the barn envisioned all the disagreeable and inconvenient things that could be inside it. Perhaps they looked at that barn and thought about animals and what they produce. Perhaps they looked at those steel doors and just couldn’t be bothered trying to figure out a way to open them. Pity. They could have been the recipients of a storehouse of treasure.

Sometimes Christians miss out in this same way. We look at the “barn” of involvement in other people’s lives, of loving our neighbours as ourselves, of following Jesus in obedience and humility, and we think it all involves too much risk. We aren’t sure what will happen when we open those doors. It takes a little too much work and it could be pretty messy inside. So we walk away. Pity. We’re missing the treasure of being blessed. You see it’s through some of these hard and messy things that God teaches us about Himself and teaches us about the joy of serving. It is through obedience that God leads us closer to Himself. And there, indeed, we will find a storehouse of treasure – a more clear understanding of His character and His deep love for us.

Failing to trust God and take the risk of obedience means we may miss the indescribable joy of hearing Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). So the next time you’re looking at a barn full of unknowns, go ahead. Open those doors.