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Stretched to the Shape of A Writer

 

I have a confession to make.

I love to read.

That’s probably no surprise, if you know me.

But here’s the thing.

 

Sometimes:

I read about running…instead of running.

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I read about eating healthy…instead of eating healthy.

I read about praying…instead of praying.

 

I read about writing…instead of writing.

 

Anybody with me here? Ever read about how to paint with watercolors instead of actually painting watercolors? Read about forgiving instead of actually forgiving?

Read about traveling instead of actually traveling? Read about building a deck or planting a garden instead of actually building the deck and planting the garden? Read

about simplifying instead of actually simplifying? Read about exercising instead of actually exercising???

 

I read about a subject…then, all too often, it stops right there.

 

On Being a Writer, Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s new book, changed that.

 

You notice that the title of the book is On BEING a Writer, not On DREAMING about Being a Writer. Not On IMAGINING Being a Writer. Not  On THINKING

about Being a Writer.

 

The title is On BEING a Writer.

 

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*****

In 2013, Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig taught an online writing class. Thankfully, I was one of the students. What started as a writing class became a writing

community.

 

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Over twelve weeks, we journeyed from being strangers to being friends. We moved from reading about one another to caring about one another. It was rare. It was

lovely. It was about being fully present to one another as we journeyed together into the writing life.

 

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Some of us had long been writers. On the other hand, some of us were even reluctant to admit that we were writers. Some of us were burned out in our writing life.

Words were oxygenless, smothered and flat. Some of us were newly-arrived at this writing life. Raw and scared but willing to wonder.

 

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As we wrote our way through that online course, which became this marvelously succinct book, On Being a Writer, all of us moved past thinking about a writing life to

living a life of writing.

 

This book, based off of that class, centers around twelve premises, all of which remind me how to BE a writer. The hows and whys of the writing life are examined but it

doesn’t stop there. Along the way, I read, ponder my identity as a writer, and then actually write, as if I am a real writer. I arrange my days to accommodate my writing

life.

 

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On Being a Writer stretches the shape of my writing, just as it stretches me to be a writer. (This even after I’d been writing more than 90% of my life. This even after I’d

coauthored and published a nonfiction book.) I need the encouraging of this book. It stirs up the memory of the gifts I have and challenges me to be full of the guts and

grit to step into them. It launches me afresh into being a writer. It’s encouraged me to arrange my life is such a way that what I read becomes how I am being. I think t

hat’s a good start which will surely embolden me to do likewise in other arenas. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually plant a garden one of these days.

 

So, I have a confession to make.

 

I am a writer. I read about writing…and then, I write.

 

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What about you?

 

Lane Arnold, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A-Mazing Daze of Play

 

 

Play: to engage in sport or recreation: FROLIC

 

*******

 

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Walk past any playground and you will see a choice to be made.

An empty bench says, “Sit here. Observe.” An empty playground says, “Come here. Enjoy.”

The choosers are easily distinguished on such grounds: onlookers and partakers. Onlookers usually consist of adults: parents, grandparents, and babysitters. They watch, sigh, shout warnings, soothe ouchies. Partakers usually consist of children: tall, short, small, big, but always wildly active children, in full swing, joining in the frolic. They wiggle, scoot, sing songs, laughing as they go. On rare occasion, an adult or two crosses the line from onlooker to partaker.

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Even before the final spring snow, across the way, the farm-turned-botanic-garden-country-version began creating a playscape for autumn adventure. John Deere green and yellow tractors plow spring white snow, upturning chocolate-dark soil. Upturned soil, furrowed into precise rows, produces tiny lime green seedlings. Abundant summer storms, purpled and silver-streaked, join mile-high sunny days to lengthen seedlings into stalks, knee-high, waist-high then over-my-head-high green sentinels. By September, teeth-chattering nights and apple-crisp days dry the green to golden brown. Tasseled corn stalks rustle in gentle autumn’s breezes.

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Through bare spring into lush green summer then into golden fall, from our back deck we sit and observe as the bare dirt becomes a corn maze. Old farm trucks and new tractors, from this distance, remind me of sandbox days. My then-three-littles imagined new worlds there among mounds of sand. With the help of Matchbox cars, Brio trains, sticks that became railroad ties, pitchers of water for creating mudslides, and Fisher-Price figures, stories sprung to life among mingled stones and leaves.

Through our old black bird-watching binoculars, I see farm workers haul in wooden poles and wires, creating small haddocks for pony rides. White tents pop up, covering picnic tables. Bales of hay are stacked like blocks here and there for ambience and crowd control. Trailers unload draft horses, ready to pull hayride flatbeds around the ponds and fields. Out on the roadway, just south of a major Denver interstate perimeter highway, green and gold signs announce Corn Maze dates: Come. Enjoy.

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At sunrise, and again at sunset, my husband and I observe the vast brown fields as they change. Behind the newly painted red barn and its sidekick brick silo, a once calm hillside buzzes and sparkles with canary yellow school buses, dust-covered minivans, and family-sized SUVs. Empty paths winding through the forest of old cottonwoods are now thick with children intent on making their way to the start of the corn maze. At night, glow sticks shimmer silver, pink, neon green. We hear laughter wafting across the open space between our back deck and the distant farm.

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One Sunday afternoon we can stand it no longer. We leave our comfortable observer post to become partakers. We join the throngs, paying our way into the playscape of corn. Red-faced children run full force, panting parents trot to catch up yelling, “Hold up.” Overhead Canada geese soar from field to pond, moving a bit further south, reminding us that snow is soon to change the landscape again.

 

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Though our deck view is a tiny bit elevated above the farm in the valley, it’s not high enough to see what shape the maze is. You’d need a helicopter to gain such perspective. But, as we enter the corn maze, a printed map captures the farmers’ creation: a giant butterfly…fore and hind wings, abdomen, antenna, swirled among soil and seed into a bushel of choices to be made.

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Here in the middle of the corn maze, choices crop up fast. Right, left, or straight? Follow the crowd? Follow my instincts? Follow my husband? Even with a map, we quickly realize that there are no markers, no directional signs to help one orient. Which way is north on this map? Which way is west? Even with a design on the map, we are so far down in the corn maze that we can’t gain any perspective. Are we at the outermost loop of the butterfly wings? Are we walking an inner wing that will send us back around to the start? Are we at the dead end of the antenna?

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Ahead of us in the maze, a couple argues over which path to take. Their children don’t wait to see what they decide. Half their kids run one direction while half take off in the other direction. I like the left path; my husband likes the right path. This time, I choose to follow him. The sun’s intensity warms us as the shadows begin to fall. Two ducks fly by overhead. We walk and walk and walk some more. We’ve been going in circles as it turns out. He laughs and shrugs as we hit a dead end. We are dazed in the maze, unsure of which way to go now. Laughter accompanies most of the maze-dazed folks. Joy is always a good companion to have along for the journey.

Children zoom back past us, shouting at their parents to hurry up. Bewildered faces, a family we’d seen going in circles like us, confront us as we come upon another junction with fork after fork that probably leads to loop. “Do you know the way?” the youngest of their brood asks as he points at a forbidden shortcut through the forest of corn. Just a few feet away, we clearly see another path but we can’t get there from here. The temptation is to cut through…yet signs warn us of the dire consequences of shortcuts….and I’m reminded of a few shortcuts that tempt me beyond the corn maze.

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A late afternoon breeze rustles huskily in the dried corn. An ear of half-eaten corn, a squirrel’s afternoon snack, sits abandoned under the shadows of stalks. Next to it, an abandoned plastic cup, still full of lemonade. The path, strewn with trash, reminds us that civilization is just steps away from this corn crop puzzle. Bright yellow police tape cordons off the shortcut. A rabbit scurries through the tall rows, right under the tape. He takes any shortcut he desires. He can’t read the signs. We are frustrated that the rabbit can find a way through when we cannot.

On we wander. I go one way, my husband another. We find each other again at another dead end. We laugh and sigh at the same time.  The beauty is literally all around us. Blue skies above, dark soil beneath, golden brown stalks of corn lining our path, merriment among children of all ages stuck in the wonder of a maze.

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High above the field, a man oversees the entire maze from his perch in the metal cherry picker. At another fork in the maze, I look up, hoping for guidance. I catch his eye and he nods, a subtle reassurance that we are choosing well. When he nods, he seems like my best ally. Yet, at other times, he won’t even make eye contact and I feel caught in an endless knot of wrong turns. Frustration amid laughter and beauty.

Eventually, after an hour of dead ends, right turns, rabbits and kids hopping across the paths, wrong forks, loops upon loops within loops, my husband and I emerge at the exit, not even sure how we got here. We are, however, most certain we couldn’t easily find our way back through the maze again.

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About sunset, we sit again on our deck, observing the corn maze in the distance.

Having partaken of the maze itself, the entire scene looks different.

We’ve engaged playfully among stalks and loops, under a blue October sky. Deep in the maze, we know firsthand about the sound of corn husks in the breeze, dead ends on dusty paths, tempting shortcuts, disorientation from no landmarks or perspective, a sometimes present-sometimes silent overseer, and the pull of the crowd mentality versus going it alone or with just a few others. We also know the frolic of finding our way among corn stalks, which we so long only observed at a distant.

*****

 

Play: to engage in sport or recreation: FROLIC

 

*******

 

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Walk past any playground and you will see a choice to be made.

An empty bench says, “Sit here. Observe.” An empty playground says, “Come. Enjoy.”

What choice will you make?
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playdates with God

The Why of today’s blog: Today’s blog comes in response to my reading of Laura Boggess’ new book, Playdates with God. Her book  encourages us to engage with God differently through playdates with God. Reading her book prompted me to move from an observer to a partaker in the joy of play.

The corn maze is but one of the adventures I’ve had lately with God. What about you? Have you ever had a playdate with God?

Book Giveaway Alert: Not sure how play and God go together? Well, I’ve got a copy of Laura’s book to give away so you can read more about it. Just leave a comment below by Wednesday, October 29 answering this question:

Where might you move from observing to entering in more fully?
Laura’s book can be ordered from Amazon, Barnes & Noble , ChristianBooks.com, and Hearts and Minds.

 

1610078_10152145633998672_1391727738_nLaura Boggess, author of Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World,  lives in West Virginia with her husband and two sons.  She is a content editor for TheHighCalling.org and blogs at lauraboggess.com. Connect with Laura on Facebook and Twitter.

Sample two recent blogs of Laura’s: one about how God can save a marriage at Ann Voskamp’s A Holy Experience and another about how life with Christ is part of an upside down kingdom as evidenced by the recent experiences of Dr. Kent Brantly and ebola at TheHighCalling.org

 

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Attentive

at·ten·tive –adjective  \ə-ˈten-tiv\

: mindful, observant
: heedful of the comfort of others: solicitious

__________

As a child, summer reading was my favorite activity. Yes, I was that child. The one checking out the absolute maximum number of library books allowed. The one secretly absorbed under the covers, flashlight in hand, finishing just a few more chapters of The Secret Garden. The child engrossed in reading another Nancy Drew mystery. Curling up in the hammock under the green canopy of magnolias, maples, and mimosa trees, stretching out in the flattened back seat of the lumbering wood-paneled station wagon, or rocking steadily on Granny’s front porch, I paid no attention to summer’s oppressive heat, hairpin curves, or humidity.

Wondrously lost in a book, attentive to characters fully alive via my imagination, summer reading transported me to places and time periods far beyond those sweltering summer afternoons. These were my friends, attending to me as I did to them, stirring my imagination. Decades later, as an elementary school teacher and a mother of three little children, I returned repeatedly to the library, introducing my old book friends (along with discovering new ones) to my children or students.

This summer, noticing the frayed state of my heart and imagination, I remembered those playful days of being fully present to children’s literature. Where, now, was my playfulness of heart? God in His infinite kindness gently nudged me to be child-like. To rest. To heal. To rejuvenate. To enter Proverbs 16:24 afresh, attentive to pleasant words, honeycombs of soul sweetness and bone-healing goodness.

For the rest of the story, please join me over at Charity Singleton Craig’s place.

 

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Pursued by the Word

Advent wreath

Blessed Lord, who has caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, 1928.

 

BCP

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As a child, books were my safe place. My place to hope, to dream. My window seat into other worlds. My unscrambling place. My place to imagine life in fresh ways. My place to confront the impossible and see the possible. My place of pursuing life.

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Books are still that for me…a place of invitation: get unstuck, untangle what’s tangled. See afresh. Laugh. Weep. Travel forth. These characters look oh-so-similar to me.

 

A good book (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, prose) is a mirror. Shows me what I didn’t even know was there. A good book disrupts my comfort zone, even while it’s a safe haven. A good book dismantles barricades. Barriers that distant me from desire, from hope, from dreams. A good book grabs me. Hugs me so tight that tears cascade, stinging down my sobbing face. Hugs me so profoundly that I laugh way down deep.

2 Books

A good book invites me to be more fully alive.

 

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 Snow hydrangeas

Enough sorrows to sink me

Enough joys to keep me buoyant

And the God-of-Angel-Armies ever at my side.

 

That’s the epitaph of this year for me.

 

Enough tears to hollow caverns of sorrow in me. Enough joys to lift me from those carved canyons of sorrow. Always, always, in it all, the God who is Present, Father, Son, Spirit, ever by my side.

 

I’ve run to books often in this up-and down-year. I’ve poured over prose. I’ve played alongside poetry. I’ve reread books from my childhood. I’ve discovered children’s literature I’d missed along the way. I’ve returned to familiar authors. I’ve read books as new as the dew. I’ve read books enjoyed over generations.

 

Story mesmerized and healed me.

3 Books

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So here in Advent’s waiting, as a new year begins, as I wait and wait for that celebration, for that Baby to be born again in my heart, I read still. I read the familiar yet ever new Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent  from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. It’s fresh and old. A prayer that savors the holy Word.

 

Holy Scriptures.

Written for our learning.

Hear them.

Read them.

Mark them.

Learn them.

Inwardly digest them.

Contents of Bible

Thy Holy Word.

Woven with

Scents

of

Patience

Comfort

 

Holy Word

Inwardly digested

Nourishment of

Ever-hold-fast

Hope.

 

Holy Word.

Number One

Book of the Year

For

My heart.

 

Here in Your Word,

We’ve talked.

I’ve listened.

I’ve watched.

I’ve learned.

 

Here with You,

Father

Son

Spirit

 

I’ve entered in

Story:

 

Adam naming

Eve companioning

Those two straying

You still pursuing

 

Patriarchs

David

Job

Isaiah

Habbakuk

Believing and doubting

Wrestling and aching

Keeping heart open

Even in

Face of

Loss.

You still pursuing

Psalms

Psalms

Veins of emotions

Pulsing

Of

Ache

Of

Hope.

Pulsing

Of

Worship

Of

Worry

You still pursuing

 

Gabriel announcing

While holding his breath for

The young girl’s answer.

Mary and her Yes

Even when it all

Looks mighty impossible

You still pursuing

 

Enemy tactics

Steal

Kill

Destroy

 

Put on the armor

You still pursuing.

 

Jesus

Life full

Full life

 

Younger son

Elder son

Prodigals alike

In ways

Only

Father sees.

 

Second touch

Healing’s not instant

Just ask the blind man

Or Lazarus.

 

Holy Spirit

Acts

On fire

You still pursuing

Genesis

I read it forward.

Genesis to Revelation.

I read it backward.

Revelation to Genesis.

Either route,

Your Story

Eternity-wide,

Everlastingly long.

And always,

It ends,

At a Wedding Feast.

You still pursuing.

Revelation

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Enough sorrows to sink me

Enough joys to keep me buoyant

And the God-of-Angel-Armies ever at my side.

Lights out of focus

Father, Son, Spirit, thank You for the Word written, for the Word Incarnate, the Word alive in this Story that is ever true and ever full of Your heart for me.

 

You still pursuing.

 

A never-ending Love Story.

 

 

 

You Still Pursuing

 

 

 

 

© Lane M. Arnold, 2013

 

 

2 comments

Advent: Listening to our Longings

Advent invites me to listen to my longings…to ponder afresh what I long for in the appearing of Emmanuel, God with us.

Join me as we listen to the longings that arise as we savor this piano/cello rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

 

Click on the title below (in blue link) to hear the music and see the youtube video.

 

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

 

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go. Refrain

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save,
and give them victory over the grave. Refrain

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight. Refrain

O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery. Refrain

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times once gave the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

O come, thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
an ensign of thy people be;
before thee rulers silent fall;
all peoples on thy mercy call. Refrain

O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our King of Peace. Refrain

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear. Refrain

translated by John Mason Neale

1 comment