I’ve mentioned before in weeks past that besides getting to write to you every day, in my retirement, I have also been given the opportunity to write a variety of pieces for the United Methodist Publishing House. Most recently, I was tasked with writing a month’s worth of daily devotions that would be a companion piece to the weekly Sunday School study.
That’s all fine and good, and actually kind of fun, and an opportunity to use my brain a bit, and to think theologically in working to explain scripture in a way that not only informs, but hopefully, helps inspire the reader for the day. I should tell you that, like so much of our scripture, some pieces are simple, and seem to almost write themselves, where others are real – stinkers – in terms of discerning the truth of what is being offered… in 75 lines or less.
Well, a couple of weeks ago, I finished the project, and sent it along to my editor and expected it was all said and done, and put to bed. This morning, then, I was curious to get an email from her. Everything was “mostly” okay, but for some reason, on the September 19, 2022 daily devotional, I wrote the piece using verses from Romans 5, like I was supposed to, except the verses I used were from the section preceding the one that I was supposed to write from. I have no idea how that happened, and frankly the devotion I wrote was pretty good, if I do say so myself. It also was a devotion from a much easier set of verses than the one I was supposed to use. Arrgh.
So, I wrote back and said I would write a new devotion. No problem, right? Except, when I read the “new” scripture, it was a dickens of a piece. By the way, the phase, “dickens of something” is actually from The Merry Wives of Windsor, act 3 scene 2, by William Shakespeare just around 1600, in case you were interested…
So, I was faced with the TRIPLE issue of, 1) having to rewrite, and do it quickly; 2) having to explain a pretty dense and difficult scripture; and 3) write in a way that makes things more than just a scholar paper, but indeed, could be something that would help inform someone’s spirit. When you do that, or at least, when I do that, I end up sitting in my office chair, staring out the window, and trying to bubble up some thought from deep within my brain, whether that’s a memory or some other kind of word/object that I can use and expand on to frankly fill 75 lines…
After a while – and it was a while – I finally got the smoldering bit of an ember of an idea in my mind. So, the only thing left was to start to write. It’s at this point that I just turn it over to another power. I have written hundreds and hundreds of pages of sermons and stories and lessons and such over the last 40 years, and each time that I start to write, it almost feels like I have just given up my own imagination and allowed the Spirit, if you will, to take over and use me. Now, it’s not to the level of Holy Scripture, but there is a real sense in my mind and heart that I’m not the one in charge of writing the piece. In fact, often when I have gone back and read some pieces from years ago, I can’t remember writing the piece, and actually the piece sounds much better than what I have ever thought to write. There’s no boasting in this at all – it’s God working through me.
So, after a good hour, I had the devotion done, and fired it back to my editor, who was pleased that I got it written so fast. I too was pleased that I didn’t have to write it for a third time and so that assignment, as we say, has been put to bed.
But it has set me to thinking, and so I’ll ask you today: where, in your life, does it feel God just takes hold of you and leads you to an excellent… whatever? Sometimes it’s writing, and sometimes it’s speaking, or acting or a conversation or even some other creative gift that you have within you. I’m no artist, but I often stand in awe when I see some piece that is truly a work of art. I believe then, that God’s hand is in it. I remember reading about Handel, when he wrote the Messiah, that he did so in only 3-4 weeks, writing, and at times doing so furiously, as though the very Hand of God was working through him.
So, today, as you take on a task, or a project, or just some idea that is starting to burn within you – let go. Allow what is inside, and what might guide you, to do so in an exciting and joyful way. It’s then that we come to understand “inspiration,” and God’s presence with us.
Saying for the day: Stop saying I wish. Start saying I will.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.