The Festival of Faith and Writing

Stretching Outside My Zone with Shauna, Sarah and Wesley

Last week Thursday through Saturday I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’d never been to this festival, but I’d heard many great reviews of it over the two plus decades of its existence. Why did I go this year? Simple. I’m a writer. A full-time writer. For the first time since I began this writing journey three years ago, I’m able to work my schedule to my own benefit. I’m the boss. (Don’t tell my wife.)

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Looking through the mammoth program for the event (94 full pages), I wasn’t sure what to expect. Many of the writers and presenters were new to me. As I tried to determine where my time and attention would be best spent, I tried to focus on the description of the presentations instead of the presenters. I didn’t want to automatically attend the sessions of the people I had heard of, even a little bit. I wanted to focus on what I felt would be best for me as a writer.

This plan of action led me to presenters like Makoto Fujimura, Zadie Smith, Ashely Bryan, and Wesley Hill.

Side note on Fujimura:
Even though I had never heard of, or read, anything from Fujimura, his topic immediately drew me in. His new book, out later this year, Silence and Beauty, is a direct result of the work of Shusaku Endo and his masterful novel, Silence. Endo’s novel is on the shelf in my house. I’ve probably read it at least a half-dozen times over the years. And don’t miss the soon to be released movie of the same name directed by Martin Scorsese.

When the conference was almost finished, I sat down to think about the sessions having the most impact on me, at least right then and there. Later I may see others as having a greater impact, but these three authors ended at the top of my list.

While I said earlier my intention was to pick the sessions by the topics, I ended up attending sessions of two of the more well-known authors. Shauna Niequist and Sarah Bessey. Their topics pulled me in.

Shauna’s topic: Discussing what has influenced her writing, paying attention to the little things, and creativity.
Shauna was one of the speakers I knew before the conference. She writes in the Memoir and Personal Narrative Genre. Exactly where I believe I’m going with my writing. Listening to her seemed like a natural fit. One of the key ideas I wrote down was about there being many “right ways” to write in the genre. I don’t have to hold fast to a particular method.

Sarah’s topic: “Unqualified: Why Everyone Can Write About Theology”
Yep. That’ll pull me in every single time. I have a love of theology. For years I spent more time on head knowledge (theology/doctrine) than I did on heart knowledge (love). One thought I wrote down excites me, “Be okay with my theology ‘addiction’. Theology can intersect with ordinary life.” Sarah’s idea of “everyone gets to play” intrigues me. I’ll definitely dive deeper into the idea.

But what about Wes? Yes, Wes. Wesley Hill.
Mr. Hill opened my eyes wider to a topic I now realize had been rolling around in my head for a while. Friendship. Wesley’s presentation title was, “Till Death Do us Part: Reimagining Christian Friendship”. Some of you may wonder why this was such a big deal for me. Well, friendship is elusive for many people. Wes discussed friendship outside the traditional family. C.S. Lewis and his fellow Inklings had a friendship to write about and to envy. Is that kind of friendship even possible in our culture today? Great question, and I don’t have near enough space to answer it in this short post.

Which brings me to a realization. I need to write at least three more posts about these topics. Next week look for more about the idea of friendship. I can’t wait to share more with you.

Be well my friends. Be well.



Are You Relying On Your Bank Account Or God?

I pose this question to you because I need to pose it to myself. “Am I relying on my bank account, or am I relying on God?” Three months into this new adventure of working for myself, from home, I need to ask myself this hard question.

The balance in the bank account can be terrifying and it can be comforting. Sometimes it can be both at the exact same time with the exact same balance. While my wife and I have set aside the funds needed to journey on this adventure, I believe the comfort of knowing the money is available might possibly be hindering my performance.

Some of you will say, “Take it easy on yourself. It’s only been three months. You’re still adjusting.” Others, I’m sure, will say, “I knew it. He isn’t going to make it. He’ll have to find a real job.”

What I’m saying is “Where am I placing my confidence? Where am I placing my self-worth and my comfort?” I think lately it has been in the bank account. And that is the wrong place to be.

-Do not despisethese small beginnings,for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.-

God wants me to place my confidence, my self-worth, and my comfort in him. As the weeks have gone by, the bank account balance has gone down. Nothing unexpected. But this last week it hit a dollar amount I’m not comfortable with on April 1st.

While reading Alli Worthington’s new book “Breaking Busy”, I wrote down these words:

“I’m relying more on the comfort of my bank account than on God.”

Dang it. I wanted to swear at Alli, and maybe at God.

God used Alli to open my eyes. To see what I had been missing for weeks. I was placing my comfort in the wrong place.

In the book, Alli was talking about building a business and all the stress, anxiety, uncertainty and bumps that come with it.

These lines from page 67 hit home for me.

“The journey was bumpy, sometimes easy, sometimes scary, but always a predestined trip.”

“The very God who spoke the world into motion, created you for a purpose.”

I had forgotten. I had misplaced my trust.

While I have been working all these weeks, I may not have been working “correctly” for lack of a better word. And while bumps and uncertainty are surely expected, I need to focus my efforts on obeying Him. He created me for a purpose. He told me to take this step. I forgot to place my trust in Him.

Isn’t this how life goes?

We work and work and work toward a goal, and when we arrive at the goal we forget what put the wheels in motion.

For me, God put the wheels in motion for this adventure. He promised me He would take care of me and my family, no matter what.

No. Matter. What.

I know some of you reading this have experienced the ups and downs of your own adventures. I’d like to leave you with this last thought from Alli, and I’ll apply it to my adventure too:

“If you stay focused on God, you will not miss your destiny.”


My Pillow is Evil

The Journey - An Update

Let’s get real here for a minute. Working from home is hard. The flexibility is great. Not having to commute to work is great. Not having to fill up the gas tank in the truck more than once a month is great. But actually getting work done is hard.

Transitioning from a traditional job to working for myself out of my home has been interesting. Admittedly it has only been a few weeks, but I expected the transition to be smoother.

Until last week I didn’t have a set schedule that worked for me. I may still have the one I’ll settle on, but starting last Monday I began a new plan of action.

My original plan was to work on my writing and speaking business in the morning for a few hours, and then every afternoon would be dedicated to the voice over business.

Plans are great, but plans change.

As much as I tried to stick to the original plan, it wasn’t working for me.

Two things kept the plan from working. One could be overcome, but the other caused a bigger problem.

The first thing keeping me from following through on the plan was my pillow. It wouldn’t let go of me in the morning. More accurately, it would call out to me and lure me back to it after I had already left the bedroom.

I’d get up for a couple of hours to make sure the rest of the family was moving and leaving the house on time, and then my pillow would call me back for a while. Not good. Not good at all.

The second problem I encountered with the original plan was more of a flow and rhythm issue.

Working on my writing, it usually takes me a bit to get “in the groove”. I was finding that by the time I really got the rhythm going, it was all of a sudden time to quit and work on voice over tasks. This meant I either stopped writing mid-thought and process, or I kept writing and ignored the voice over tasks for the day.

Neither of these “solutions” was good.

To rectify the problem I spent some time looking at each day of the week, what was on the schedule for that particular day (business and family), and determined I need to spend each day focused on one task.

Working from home also means working around my family being home. My wife is in grad school full-time. She also works two or three days a week. My oldest son is in college. He has class Monday through Wednesday. (Tough life.) My youngest son is a high school sophomore. He’s gone from 8-3 Monday through Friday.

What I decided to try is a schedule where I do voice over work the two days my wife is at work (quieter house). Tuesday and Thursday are now fully dedicated to voice over.

The speaking part of the business is really the third area of focus for me, so I decided to dedicate one day, Wednesday, to speaker training.

Monday and Friday are now set aside for writing. What this does is gives me Friday through Monday to keep my brain focused on writing.

I’ve committed to not working on the weekend (after 18 years of working on Saturday), but at least I’ll be able to keep the ideas flowing over the course of four straight days instead of breaking in with other work.

We’ll see how it goes. The new plan of action began last week Monday. So far so good with the daily focus. The pillow was an issue again this morning, but I will not let it win!