Writer’s Revolution

So I’ve been wrestling for some time with what to spend my time writing. Should I blog about my current thoughts, feelings, and convictions in my blog, where my audience is small but I can say whatever I want, however I want to? Should I try to establish myself as a “freelance writer,” which is what I tell strangers I am for lack of a better way to describe how I spend my days? Or should I pour my efforts into revising “Confessions of a First-year Teacher,” the short novel I drafted about my year as Mrs. Brooks?

Most recently I’ve focused on option B: freelancing. I’ve spent time researching Christian publications, scouring their writer’s guidelines, studying their archives, and trying to write articles on topics both I and fundies care about. The latter is a most daunting task. And even when I find an appropriate topic, I have to be careful about my tone, avoiding language that is too passionate or forceful.

But just shortly before I opted to focus on writing corny Christian articles, I did my first revision of the “Confessions.” It was fun, but what was the point? Will people ever actually read it—would anyone ever want to publish it? I don’t know much about novel-writing, I’ll admit, and perhaps it’s still too close to reality to be considered fiction in the first place. So I could research fiction-writing and try to adapt it, strengthening the plot with dramatic embellishments, and then figure out the whole publishing process and get rejected a million times. And I don’t think I’m being negative; I’m being realistic. So is it worth it, I wonder? Is it worth it to try to make a name in the world of contemporary fiction? Does the story even have enough spiritual fiber to justify such a use of my time? Perhaps, since gratitude is a major theme, along with not selling out to the world system. And it shows a few things, I hope, about the problems of education today. But I’m still not sure if it’s a worthwhile pursuit. Hopefully I’ll figure that out over time. Either way, it helped to get it out.

The point is, I haven’t known what to pursue so I’ve been bouncing back and forth between these not-very-significant options, all the while knowing that I want to write something of spiritual importance. Which I seem most likely to do on my blog because I have freedom there, but it won’t reach very many people. So when Keith suggested I help him write a little book to deal with what is wrong with the American church today and the underground revolution needed, I knew it was from the Lord. The plan is good for others because the goal is to spread the gospel and the relational, organic, grace-oriented model of church growth.

The plan is good for me because it will help me to break out of my writing confusion, which is really driving me to a creative block. I can think of topics to write about, but I haven’t really felt creative since high school. But I know it’s there. Back then it was present in poetry, music, dance, fiction, and film. During college it struggled for breath under a heap of literary analyses and lesson plans. Now the Christian mag how-to cookie cutter threatens to slice my inspiration into uniform shreds. But I’m not going to pack away my creativity a childhood toy, no longer useful for adult life.

And the reason I’m not going to box it up isn’t because I’m too good to write for Christian mags, or too bad to write a novel, or too egotistical to stick with blogging. The reason is, one night over ten years ago I told God I wanted to have a spiritual impact on people. “How can I take your grace to the whole world?” I asked Him. And He answered me the very next night, silently but clearly: “You must write.” I forgot about this for a long time, even after Neil (really, God) gave me the opportunity to write. I just remember this instance recently, but I still didn’t know what to do with it. Maybe the “Missions Possible” piece had something to do with it, I thought. But now the pieces are finally fitting together.

Voice of the Martyrs, Voice of the Choir

On Saturday I attended the Voice of the Martyrs Regional Conference, along with Michael, Charlotte, and Neil. I wanted to offer a quick review for those who didn’t make it.

As we pulled into the church driveway, cherub statues, Hallmark-style, greeted us followed by a circle drive and fountain. Charlotte commented that it looked like the home of a rich Italian family, while Neil started humming the Godfather theme. We were directed to a parking spot in the nearly empty parking lot by no less than three metrosexuals who looked like they warded Clay Aiken’s closet. Looking around I realized we were in the minority in our jeans. That’s how “Xenos” I’ve become—it didn’t even occur to me to dress up. Luckily I opted for flats instead of sneakers.

Next we entered the building through a long sun-room-hallway decorated in faux flora that must have been arranged by the church’s choir. The church I grew up in abandoned the choir in favor of a “worship team” and “praise band” circa 1993. But I barely had time to take in the angel wallpaper border and red plush pews before a gaggle of elderly ladies in antiquated pastel dresses took their place in the choir pews. (Where did they find those outfits? I don’t think such attire is even available at the thrift store anymore.) They were accompanied by balding men in short-sleeve white shirts and too-short ties, along with several very out of tune violins and a flute. “Why?” I couldn’t resist whispering to Charlotte. “Why doesn’t someone tell them?”

After half an hour of the choir singing, I was more ready than ever to hear the voice of the martyrs. Actually, I was ready to hear the voice of anything but the choir. But there was more. A quartet sang, followed by a soloist. Someone explained the schedule of the conference: we’d have “a song” (which really meant four songs), “a prayer,” and a speaker. I stared in disbelieve. But at least I knew what we were in for. I have nothing against music or hymns (provided they steer clear of false theology, such as the choir’s chant that we are “standing on holy ground”), but I felt like the choir was sabotaging the conference. I guess they think people like it. Maybe people do like it.

The first speaker was an American who works for Voice of the Martyrs. He quoted a lot of Scripture, mainly familiar passages about persecution in general and what the apostles experienced in specific. He didn’t have a good speaking voice and he sort of lisped, but he did a good job of getting his three main points across:

1. The Body of Christ still suffers today.
2. We are to remember them. (Heb. 13:3)
3. As we serve them, they serve us even more.

He said 200 million Christians face persecution in over forty countries today, and more Christians were killed for their faith in the twentieth century than any other period in history. His big application point about remembering and serving the persecuted church is to pray for them. It’s easier to pray when you have information and even specific people and ministries in mind, which is why the Voice of the Martyrs has a free monthly newsletter. Sign up at http://www.persecution.com/. He told stories from a number of countries and showed two videos of Christians being beaten and sentenced to jail for evangelistic activities. He also talked about forgiveness as crucial for the work of the persecuted church.

The second speaker was Mujahid El Masih from Pakistan. He grew up as a Muslim, taught straight from the Qur’an. He became a Christian in his twenties as a result of God’s pursuit and placing Christians in his life. God called him to evangelize and he obeyed, which led to suffering, but he persisted. He visited South Africa to speak. Eventually someone unwittingly gave the Pakistani government his name, in association with his activities, and he could not go back to Pakistan without being killed. He stayed in South Africa until he was going to be deported, when God miraculously provided visas and plane tickets to the U.S. for him and his family. He lives here since he cannot return to Pakistan or South Africa, but he continues to work in Pakistan through an organization he established. Last year those working for the organization baptized over 950 new believers there. Through his testimony he preached about total commitment to God, how God is always with us, even in the worst circumstances, and how suffering stretches us so we are more useful to God. His teaching was my favorite part of the conference.

We decided to leave since we faced a ninety-minute lunch break and two more rounds of singing. All that just to hear an hour and a half of speakers, and the church was recording it. So I signed up to get information about the recordings and we left. On the way home Charlotte commented about the disconnect between the “show” and the conference topic. I agreed and continued thinking more about how appalled I was at the culturally irrelevant music and décor than what the speakers said. But a few days later, I’m more impressed by what a whiny American I am, compared to how sacrificial Christians in other countries are. They seem to take suffering and persecution as normal, while I mope about going to a high school football game in fall weather. But I don’t want to throw a pity party about how pathetic I am. I just hope I can remember what other people face to stay true to the gospel the next time I start complaining about being cold or feeling awkward.