Tag Archives: Prayer

Life To Writing

Writing is the ability to transform life experiences into art.

This is a bit of a paraphrase from a comment made by Lena Dunham’s father about her work. In an interview on Fresh Air I was listening to this morning, Lena Dunham talked about how she often takes experiences from her life and puts them on the screen, sometimes very soon after they’ve happened. There’s a lot to be unpacked on how you protect others with that content, and what would constitute “over-sharing” but it got me to to thinking about my own body of work.

I rarely take direct experiences from my life and put them verbatim or slightly altered onto the page. Certainly my technical and professional knowledge show up in scenes in Surreality, and a lot of the scenes with the dog Garfunkel are at least in part inspired by my first dog, Simon. Maybe a snippet of a conversation with my wife or with Brian or my Dad show up, but I treat these moments more as “easter eggs” than features that drive the narrative of the book.

An exception to this rule came at a particular moment in Dark Matter. It’s a passage I’m not really sure will make the final cut of the book, and upon reading it again, I’m not sure I’m even comfortable sharing it here, but I can give you the gist.

The majority of Dark Matter was written in a 117 day unbroken period. What broke the streak wasn’t finishing the book, it was being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and the subsequent required surgery. Early on, long prior to this moment, I’d established that there was a chapel on the space cruise ship that’s the main setting for Dark Matter, and in day 107 or 108, sitting in Crimson Cup, I decided to have my character make use of it.

It’s not really that much text, just a four paragraph prayer. It’s at a moment before the finishing action of the book where it seems like the main character may fail in finding his family, and could lose his life trying:

“Lord,” he began quietly.  “I know we haven’t talked a lot lately, and maybe we should have.  I never wanted to be one of those Christians who only came to you when I was in trouble, but it seems like that’s what I am.  Maybe I’ve needed you before this moment but all I know is I need somebody now.”

Even though I think of writing as a form of worship, this is probably one of the few (or only) times I’ve actually been writing what I was praying at that exact moment.

Whether or not that section makes the final cut (especially considering I plan to completely redraft this book) is uncertain. I don’t like to think of writing as cathartic, as something I do to process emotions. I write because I want to tell stories. But every now and then, writing is the tool I’m most comfortable with using to organize my thoughts. There’s an editor version of myself who’s much more dispassionate about those moments after the fact. But at the time, it was deeply necessary to write those few paragraphs.

Writing about your life and your experiences shouldn’t always be comfortable. It’s not something you should do lightly. But every now and again, it’s something you need to do.

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Seeking a Quiet Place

Monday wasn’t a good day.

I honestly was not sure if I would write about Boston or if I would proceed with business as usual, but I think I need to take a moment to stop and reflect.

I spent most of Monday in a programming haze and didn’t come up for air until 4pm when I flipped on the radio and heard everything. The little red haired girl had a similar day, getting work done for the church and running all over town, so it ended up being me who first told her. As we listened to Brian Williams later in the evening it was clear that although the death toll was comparatively low to some of the other horrible events we’ve seen (even in the last year) that wasn’t the true cost. The tales of amputations and lacerations brought to mind bombings in another part of the world, not something that was supposed to happen here.

Not that this should be happening anywhere.

Frankly I feel a little ashamed. Jo Eberhardt in Australia wrote a beautiful peace on how events like this affected her and how she moves forward. I’m not sure I’d have the same reaction to a bombing in Australia, let alone the Middle East, or Syria. Well, maybe now that I have some friends and fellow bloggers in those parts of the world, but I’m not going to pretend I’m always paying attention.

Dedicated NPR listener that I am, I tend to switch to music if the topics become too serious on my drive to and from work, and I tend mainly to focus on technology stories, supreme court cases, or politics. I don’t watch the nightly news, ostensibly because I am working on “the book” or spending time with the wife. But the truth is, I don’t want to depress myself after a long day at work.

But weirdly when something like this happens I find myself drawn to traditional media. I’ve always liked Brian Williams, especially when he lets Jon Stewart poke fun at him on The Daily Show, but I also think he’s as close to an impartial journalist as we can get, besides a few of the reporters at NPR. I watched the news for an hour on Monday, then I switched it off and watched Hitchcock to get it in the mail for our Netflix queue.

And I’ve been staying away from Facebook.

There are some great outpourings of love, support, and prayer. There are quotes from Fred Rodgers, but I think I was out when I saw the kittens praying for Boston. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s wrong to express yourself in this way. If it helps you or others to deal with these events, then by all means go ahead. Me, I need to hide in my office for a bit, or blast something heavy and electronic on my car radio (currently Archive’s Controlling Crowds).

I’ve been listening to old SNL’s lately. In addition to the rise of some of the classic cast members like Will Ferrell and Daryl Hammond, it’s reminded me of what was going on when I was growing up. There was Waco, the OJ murder, and the Olympic bombings of 1996 (which are being evoked in the media now as a way of reminding people how long the investigation might take). There was the Oklahoma City bombings, and of course 9/11.

I’m remembering all of those days, not only the events themselves, but the ordinary things that were going on in my life at the time. Having my friend Chris (who thankfully is safe and was not in the part of Boston where the explosions were) over for pizza after Oklahoma city. Getting together with a girlfriend on 9/11, and going home hoping Mom had heard the news so I wouldn’t have to tell it to her. And I remember the concert we sang after 9/11, how my choir director was the first class to turn off the TV and have us sing America the Beautiful.

There will be national unity, and then there will be partisan bickering. We saw it a few months ago with Newtown. We’ve been seeing it while we’ve been growing up. And it can be hard. It can be hard not to let events like this become a weight, something to discourage you, something you need to hide from. It’s hard not to be cynical.

But I don’t want to be.

There is goodness in people. Good outweighs evil. God is greater than the evil of this world.  I know this to be true in the quiet moments of reflection and prayer. In writing.

I want this post, these moments, these thoughts to be my prayer. Prayer for compassion, for faith, and for empathy for more than just the problems of this nation. I pray for strength, for knowing that God is good, and for not sounding too much like a nut, but nut enough to write it to all of you. I pray we all find comfort in these hard times, those of the last few days, the ones we’ve grown up with, and the ones that are to come.

Amen.

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Bonus Friday Post (A Novel Approach, Prayer and Perspective)

I want to end this week with a couple of different thoughts I’ve been having on the Apple factory situation.

New CFML Challenge

As I said on Monday, I understand the impulse to want to tell a story, a narrative that can make people care about the conditions at the factories that make our electronics. I know there are some creative people that follow this blog and I thought it might be interesting to see what you can come up with.

Prompt: Create a story/poem/piece of artwork from the perspective of one of the actors in the Apple factory situation. It can be from the perspective of the workers, owners of the factory, Apple executives, engineers or consumers.

If anyone wants to do this please share it here.

Prayer and Perspective

We were discussing the blessing and woes section of Luke (6:20-26) in Life Group on Wednesday, and it helped to put into perspective some of the feelings I’ve been having about this whole situation. God’s really been working to challenge me on the ways my actions have an effect on others, even in indirect ways. The things that I buy, and the consumer culture I’m a part of, have an effect on the way people have to live and work. I’m really blessed, and some of it is at the cost of those who are poor.

It’s a complex situation, and one that can’t be looked at from an American perspective alone. For some of these workers, these factory conditions are better than what they were doing before, but that doesn’t make them right. Still, I think it is important to consider all sides to this story and I thought I’d share a blog post by Eugene Cho (thanks Dad for bringing this to my attention).

I particularly like the prayer at the end for the blessing of the hands of the workers who made this device I am about to enjoy. I pray that prayer before meals as well, and regardless of the way things change or stay the same, it is important to pray for those who are less fortunate than we are.

Have a good weekend!

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