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FaithAndCultureWriters2014

If I could bottle the drippy treasures for you in bottles, I would.

Cup my hands to catch the prayers and the locked gazes and nodding me-too’s. Hold the wisdom of those who share the ways of word loving (and word struggling), of storytelling and eyes opening yet further.

Gather up the pure worship of brothers and sisters, the courage of those taking mighty risks to come to the table, the silence of those who know to stop in flurry’s middle to listen, the exuberance of those who cannot stop talking or asking questions or smiling.

The creative process can be a mighty lonely one, and so it is new breath and life for dry bones when we meet together and when the “successful” lay themselves low to tell about their ego trips and their fears and meet our doubts and qualifications with the declaration: “Writers are people who write.” (Sarah Thebarge)

And when we were reminded that we write for the sake of art and beauty, and we can write off the rutted paths and into the open and untapped fields, as Tony Kriz said, we recall that we are explorers.

And then we were challenged to ask God to open our eyes to those different from us so that we can truly see the other and truly become ourselves, so we can “find new stories and see old stories new,” as Randy Woodley said. It’s then we remember we are bridge builders.

And when we were encouraged by Deidra Riggs to respond to God leading us in new directions, departing from our schedules and formulas, we begin to see all the ways God draws near to us when we draw near, and we see the everyday as an extraordinary opportunity. It’s then that we become more excited about embracing our ever-new eyes and ears.

Yes, co-creators speak with boldness and eloquence (poet Phil Long — hello!), gentleness and purpose, honesty and love. They grow through suffering and community (in the words of Paul Metzger), fears and insecurities (in the words of Erik Larsen), and they remember they do not only have permission to write, but the calling to do so. (Sarah Bessey)

So when Sarah Bessey affirmed that writing in the midst (of the mess and all the things that clamber) is where we meet God, I feel more sane. And it’s also when I feel undone because I cannot imagine the way I will use my own “life-giving life,” but I can know it will be an unraveling unpredictable kind of beauty because we co-creators of all kinds are co-laborers. Birth givers — yes, we are.

I’m challenged to keep growing because, as Bessey said, we can only be authentic writers and people to the extent that we’ve known healing. So when Jesus asks of the one in need, “What do you want me to do for you?” may my answer as a writer and liver of life — as a human in need be, “I want you, Jesus.”

I must want Jesus living through me more than my success, my right performance or the approval of others — for in God’s presence is the real life and our real voice — what Bessey called a “returning” to the place of home before all the wounding, hurts and fears of life took root.

And from this place of home, I’m not a miser, hoarding my treasures. Instead, I am allowing what I’ve been given to flow freely from me, trusting in the God who gives continually more — more words, more life, more love — all that which can never be bottled up.

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If you considered it this year but didn’t make it, I do hope you’ll join us for the 2015 Faith and Culture Writers Conference in Portland next year. Cornelia Seigneur and team put together an incredible, life-giving event. And if you were praying for me or thinking sweet thoughts for me about my speaking fears, thank you. I finished panel speaking and mentoring sessions not feeling any regret or insecurity because it didn’t feel about me at all. Thank you, God.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. What are you learning? Any new places you’re experiencing freedom, embracing your calling, receiving wisdom from those different than you, seeing with new eyes?