A Theology of Writing

Here are some notes from a study I did on the concept of writing and creating in the Bible. For some I added comments, for others I did Screen Shot 2021-01-10 at 10.44.23 AMnot. I present these as an encouragement and instruction for those who write or those thinking about writing more as your ministry. Feel free to comment or add to this list where this entry is posted.

  1. “Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them” – Deuteronomy 31:19. – God had Israel compose a song to remember, but in this case, it was to commemorate their unfaithfulness. We compose and write to help people remember, including ourselves, about God’s faithfulness, even when we are unfaithful to Him and His ways.
  1. Appoint three men from each tribe. I will send them out to make a survey of the land and to write a description of it, according to the inheritance of each. Then they will return to me. - Joshua 18:4. God asked the scouts to submit a report of what they saw in writing. I am not sure why he required it in writing, but perhaps so they could keep the vision alive of what God had promised them. We write what we see in faith and that may be something that cannot be seen yet without faith.
  1. As the men started on their way to map out the land, Joshua instructed them, “Go and make a survey of the land and write a description of it” – Joshua 18:8. Notice that the men could write at this early stage of history.
  1. Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness” – Isaiah 30:8. We are not writing anything that compares to the inspired word of God, yet we do want to write down what we believe God is showing us – about His word, His promises, my experiences, my creative expressions – all with a view toward providing a witness for future generations about God’s love and acts in my generation. Think of those who did this – Wesley, Augustine, Thomas a Kempis, John Calvin, D. L. Moody, A. B. Simpson, G. Campbell Morgan
  1. “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you” – Jeremiah 30:2
  1. “Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and all the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now” - Jeremiah 36:2.
  1. “Take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll, which Jehoiakim king of Judah burned up” – Jeremiah 36:28.
  1. “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer” – Psalm 45:1.
  1. “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—those he redeemed from the hand of the foe” – Psalm 107:2.
  1. “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works—and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness” – Psalm 145:4-7.
  1. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs” – Matthew 10:27.
  1. “With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus” – Luke 1:3. Notice that Luke did not claim that the Lord directed him to write; it was a natural decision based on the request from Theophilus for more information about the life and times of Jesus.
  1. “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.” – Philippians 3:1. Don’t wait until you have a thought or idea that no one else in the universe has ever had. Don’t be concerned that you are writing something that has already been said or written by someone else. There is nothing new under the sun.
  1. “Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.” – 2 Peter 3:1
  1. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.” – 1 John 1:3-4.
  1. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth” – 1 John 2:21.
  1. “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” – Revelation 12:11.

Bible Gateway

I use an online source for my Bible quotes and research called Bible Gateway. This has made my writing and research so much easier and enables me to embed links into my emails with very little effort. What's more, they include a Bible verse on their home page every day and allow you to access for free the audio version of the chapter where that verse comes from. Today is a quote from John 1 and, when you click on the link "Listen to this chapter," you can hear all of John 1 read by Max McLean. This audio version of the entire Bible is available for sale at the Listener's Audio Bible site, but I just bookmark my favorite chapters so that I can access and listen to them any time I want.

Check out this site, if you haven't already, and see how powerful it is as a Bible search resource for your study and reading enhancement.  I just thought maybe you may like to know.


More on Anxiety

I am sitting here doing some reading and research for a class project I have due by the end of September.  It is related to my dissertation or D Min project as it is called.  My project will be something that will address what I am calling a theology of productivity and creativity, which will be a program that churches can institute to teach members how to recognize and release their God-given ideas and purpose.

If anyone, including a Christian, is going to creatively produce, he or she must deal with the issue of anxiety, a topic which we began to address yesterday.  I am learning to deal with anxiety that keeps me from expressing my creativity and I see it all the time in many people.  Church people have a new repertoire of excuses that others can't use, excuses like, "I'm praying about it," "God hasn't released me to do that," "It's not God's timing," or "I don't want to get ahead of the Lord."  Some times these expressions may be based in fact, but others times they are a mask for anxiety and fear. 

Yesterday, I quoted from Eric Maisel's book, The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path through Depression.  Let's continue with the excerpt that I began in that last post:

When a creator does this frequently enough and lets his [or her] anxiety about creating stop him [or her] from creating, he [or she] begins to feel like a weak, indecisive person.  It is a very short step to even darker feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.  The end result of not knowing that he must brave his anxiety is that he ends up completely down on himself. Anxiety bests him and, to make matters worse, he then has to deal with the negative labels he pins on himself.  This classic vicious cycle, where anxiety leads to a battered self-image and a battered self-image makes it harder to brave anxiety, defeats many creators. 

Anxiety can debilitate any creator, even the most strong-willed and self-directing.  A fiercely independent-minded sculptor may mention with a laugh that some friends visited his studio and hated his new work. On the surface, it looks like he's shrugged their comments off.  Three weeks later, he complains of serious blockage.  Doubts about his talent now make him anxious, his anxiety causes him not to sculpt, but the "why" of this is completely unknown to him.  Anxiety has chalked up another victim.

Has anxiety claimed you as a victim?  I don't restrict the effects of anxiety to just the creative arts like writing or painting.  It can hinder your ability to start a business, take a missions trip, teach a class, or go back to school.  You can be so uptight about doing something wrong or doing it poorly that you don't do anything at all and "wait" upon the Lord. 

Anxiety and fear are closely related, if not synonymous, in the creative process.  So dealing with anxiety is like dealing with fear: you must face it to overcome it.  You must admit that you are anxious and identify the reasons why: fear of failure, fear of criticism, ignorance of how to start, not knowing how to finish.  You must not hide behind the Lord and disguise your anxiety as something other than what it is.

I currently have a proposal from my publisher to write a book on top of all the other writing and school work that I am already doing.  My anxiety tells me not to do it; my thinking is that I have done it before and can do it again, with God's help.  So what will I decide?  The ideal would be that someone would step forward and give me a study/writing grant to cover my needs while I create and write.  Whether or not that happens, I have already decided to work on the book while pursuing my studies and continuing my consulting and speaking work.  If I had not been studying anxiety, I'm not sure I would or could have made that decision. 

How does the issue of anxiety apply to your creativity right now?  What has you stuck in a non-productive or non-creative rut?  I urge you to discover what it is and then get going on what you have talked about doing for a short or long time.  Don't let anxiety rob you and the world any longer of the best you that you can be.  If I can help, let me know.


Anxiety

I have been doing a lot of study and reflection on anxiety and the role it plays in procrastination, something I wrote about a few weeks ago.  I was recently reading a book my sister-in-law recommended entitled The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path Through Depression.  The author Eric Maisel had this to say about anxiety:

When we perceive a threat, we get queasy, light headed, confused, agitated, fatigued, nervous.  We call these various reactions to a perceived threat by one name: anxiety.  Existence threatens us in a thousand ways and therefore, anxiety is our constant companion. . . . Writing a short story, say, is really only a small threat to our self-esteem since if we do a poor job, we can revise our story or write a better one.  But nature has decided that even these tiny threats must be taken seriously. As soon as we say, "I want to write a short story," waves of anxiety arise to keep us out of harm's way.

The net result is that we do not write the story and do not make any meaning.  Since we are not making meaning, depression strikes. The relationship between anxiety and depression, therefore, is direct and significant.  If existence merely troubled us but didn't rouse so much anxiety in us, if we could hold our painting or composing as hard but not threatening, we would have a far better chance of making meaning and avoiding depression.  If we heard ourselves say, "I don't want to paint because I don't find painting meaningful," we could reply instantly, "The heck with you, insidious thought! I'm off to the studio!" But because the thought is threatening and because Nature hates threats, we are bathed in anxiety and stopped in our tracks. . . .

If you don't write your nonfiction book, which you have every reason to write and which you have been talking about writing for years, it is unlikely that you will call your blockage a phobia and point to anxiety as the culprit. . . . Many of my clients I see complain of procrastination.  Instead of starting off a Sunday turning right into their creative efforts, first they write in their journal, then they read the newspaper, then they have a third cup of coffee, then they head out to the laundromat.  It turns out that they will do almost anything to ward off the anxiety they might feel if they said to themselves, "Time to create!" 

While at work, they tell themselves that they will get to their novel or their symphony as soon as they get home, or after dinner at the latest.  When they get home, they look at the ads that came in that day's mail, make dinner, do the dishes, and watch television until bedtime.  Anxiety steals away their evening.

Sound familiar?  Since I identified anxiety as one of my main creative culprits, I have found it easier to write my school papers, do my research for my dissertation and complete other creative tasks.  I am able to control my self-talk and say, "This is easy for me.  I can do this in no time at all.  It doesn't have to be perfect, but it will be the best I can produce!" 

What about you?  What role is anxiety playing in your lack of productivity and creativity?  What are you prepared to do about it?  More on anxiety later.  You have enough to think about based on what I wrote above. 


Creative Process

I have been writing about creativity in my most recent Monday Memos. Diana, my writing editor, mentor, and encourager, who also happens to be my sister-in-law, wrote a great piece in her blog today about writing and creativity. Here is some of what she wrote:

If you want to write something that's going to last a long time (and who doesn't?), you have to be prepared for a lot of work. A lot more than you're thinking about right now. You will get up early. You will go to bed late. You will miss TV shows. You will hibernate from your friends and family. You will offend some of them. You will devote time to learning what you don't know.

You will think you are going crazy.

You can read the rest of her post here.

This may not seem like an encouragement, but it is. Writing (and creativity) isn't part of the heavenly Jerusalem; it doesn't just descend from on high. You have to work to make it happen, but the work is exhilarating and rewarding. What's more, you then have the opportunity to impact thousands of people, some of whom you will never meet, but who will bless you from afar.

Diana's blog also has some great material to help you with every step of the writing/creative process. I urge you to let her experience and insights help you through the sometimes hard but always energizing world of expressing your own creativity.


Blogging

Are you confused and even overwhelmed by the blogosphere? Do you have trouble keeping track of your favorite blogs and new ones coming online every day? Then this article will help you, for it certainly helped me. And by the way, why don't you have your own blog? You may ask, "Who will read it?" The answer: "No one, unless you write it." You can do a search on how to start a blog. Here is one article that walks you through the process. I have found blogging an excellent way to discipline yourself and give you confidence to move on to bigger creative writing projects.

I have a friend Ryan who started a blog last November after I visited his church. I would recommend that you visit his blog to see how he set his up and then to see how he is developing as a writer. Keep up the good work, Ryan. When you start your blog, dear reader, feel free to write a comment to this entry and provide your address so others can read.


Eight Percent Did It

I see that Ian Smith, last white prime minister in Zimbabwe, passed away at the age of 88. If you want to read about Smith's role in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia when he was in power), you can read it here.

If you need encouragement to write, then today's post Six Weeks to Go from Diana Scimone is a must-read. In fact, you need to consider purchasing her e-book that she mentions in her entry. Or you can also check out her series of articles on writing found on her blog under the category The Writer's Workshop. I will be starting another series on creativity in my weekly Monday Memo soon, so thanks, Diana, for the head start on that topic.

At one time, Diana and I kept track of how many people said they were going to write a book and how many actually did. Of the 50 or so who told us they were going to write, only four actually wrote one to the best of our knowledge. That's only 8%. Are you among the 92% who claim they will write a book one day and then never seem to find a way to make that "one day" happen? If so, then Diana can help.

And finally, check out Bill Kinnon's latest post, It Isn't All About Me, on the issue of consumerism in the Church. Bill's blog, Achievable Ends, always has such great material and cross references. He, like many of us, is concerned with the direction of the North American church and has decided to do something about it; he decided to write. What a novel (pardon the pun) idea! He took Diana's advice long before Diana ever wrote it. Keep up the good work, Bill, and thanks for encouraging me to blog, and for helping to set up my site two years ago.

I wish all my American readers a Happy Thanksgiving. On Friday, I am off to Kenya and then Zimbabwe. I will be home on December 11.

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Charisma Magazine

I have an article in the lastest issue (April) of Charisma magazine entitled How to Finish Strong.  You can access part of the article at the magazine's site or look for a copy in your local Christian bookstore.  If you can't get a copy, email me and I will send you one. 

I love to write and I already got an email concerning the article from a woman here in the States.  Remember how I wrote a few weeks ago that I write in part so I can receive mail.  It's working!


I'm A Bad Blogger

I took time the other day to visit some other blog sites, mostly of authors I enjoy reading--Tom Peters, Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin.  Then I visited the Fast Company blog--Fast Company is the only magazine I read cover-to-cover every month.  Then I found Mark Cuban's blog--Mark is a Pittsburgher bizillionaire who owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team.  From there, I visited a few other sites and came to the conclusion that I am a bad blogger.  Why, you may ask?

I don't spend nearly enough time reading and looking at other blogs. I don't know how these guys have time to do that.  I suspect they have staff doing some of it, but certainly not all of it.  These other sites are chock full of links to reports, other blogs, and places of interest related to their particular theme or topic matter.  Their references to other sites stretch for at least one mile on either side of their written entries. 

Then the graphics on most of the sites were pretty cool, cooler than mine.  I like my blog, but it is definitely a meat-and-potatoes look, where some of the other blogs are champagne and caviar.  They include graphs, colors, pictures and other neat touches that are absent from my blog. 

I also noticed that some of the blogs get a large response under "remarks."  My friend Bill Kinnon told me about the feedback to an entry he wrote on PowerPoint and Microsoft.  Not only did he receive eight comments, but has also had a huge response to that entry as measured by daily visits to his blog.  I know Bill doesn't have staff working on his site, yet his site oozes neat and interesting stuff.  Way to go, Bill.

I've decided to try and do a better job linking you to other interesting stuff that's related to what I write about.  At the same time, I came to the conclusion that my blog isn't for you.  It's for me.  It's my outlet to the world.  It's my online journal of thoughts.  It gives me a chance to experiment with putting my thoughts on paper--well, not on paper, but into cyberspace.  I want to invite you into my world and, quite frankly, this blog is part of my world.  It is part of who I am and all the things it doesn't have are part of who I am as well. 

Years ago my son said this to me, "Dad, you're one of the funniest guys I know, but your writings aren't.  They aren't you.  They're way too serious.  You should write funny stuff."  Shortly after that, I was in London and a young man came up and said, "I think I'm to tell you that you are supposed to write more humorous stuff, along with satire."   

I was intrigued by these comments, but they also scared me to death.  I knew how to make people laugh in public, but I didn't think I could do that as a writer.  This blog has given me a chance to experiment with that and the feedback has been pretty good.  (Please note:  It took me about three years to start doing what those two young men urged me to do.)  I may be a bad blogger, but I'm a pretty good writer (funny too, don't you think?)

Have you thought about writing, painting, sculpting or even about blogging, but were a bit intimidated by the work of others?  Then I have one word of advice--don't be (I guess that's really two words).  Produce something for you and invite other people to come in and watch you as you do.  All right, you're not a Hemingway or Faulkner. But they weren't you either.  Bring your perspectives to the written world and even be willing to write badly in an effort to write well.  You may be surprised at the following you attract as you overcome your fears and put your thoughts out there for the world to see.