writing

Home-made Food

By Colton Lott

 

Writing these articles for [D]mergent, and namely you, is a process. The idea for an article usually pops into my head a week to ten days before you read about it on Friday. I write it up a few days later, revise it, send it for review, and then the electrons push it out for you to enjoy over morning coffee.

What I’ve just listed is the ideal process, and I think in the course of this summer I’ve had the sequence of events flow that perfectly and that smoothly once. I have an irrational faith in process, though, and despite my best efforts, I secretly believe that if I could just follow the process more carefully, I would churn out blue ribbon articles every single week.

Last week was a struggle to get “Incarnational Connections” to come together. I don’t think it was my best work, even after considerable editing. I was moaning to my editor (my significant other) that I was disappointed in the piece.[i] I wasn’t sure if I had a good idea behind all the clutter of the words or if my problem stemmed from attempting to polish a mundane experience into a holy lesson.

As I wailed on, she listened and finally said, “Colton, I think you’re trying too hard to be your professor. People don’t expect you to be smart all the time. Sometimes, people just want something that’s simple and good.”

Besides writing, one of my other passions is cooking. When I was a little kid, I borrowed a mortar and pestle to make new spice blends like Emeril Lagasse. Every Thanksgiving, my favorite memories were helping Dad with the pumpkin pies (we have a secret family recipe, which is mostly contained on the back of Libby’s Canned Pumpkin). I’ve always loved the interactive art of cooking much like I enjoy writing. You throw some things here, a dash of this, a little of that, and out pops an article/three course dinner.

Creating, and subsequently enjoying, fine dining and ideas are incredibly important. One stretches their palate and their mind. A form of beauty or goodness is often understood in a deeper or new way. To put it bluntly, we grow.

But when we over-emphasize haute cuisine or delectable writing, we can forget the importance of their sustentative qualities.

A few years ago, the leaders of the church I was interning with wanted to start being more spiritual leaders. As such, they were going to start by using the same daily devotional book. I hated their choice of devotional. I didn’t want to say anything, but I knew that I would be asked my opinion. Despite my earnest attempts to be delicate, I nevertheless spilled out that it bored me due to its exceptionally simplicity.

After the meeting, my minister pulled me aside. He told me that he loved to dive into a juicy article on theology and enjoyed the heady stuff. I quickly assured him that I had no doubt that he enjoyed reading such things, and I hoped he knew that I wasn’t trying to say that he was overly sim—

“But,” he continued on, “it’s important to find something that is nourishing on a daily basis, too.”

In our search for the perfect dish, made with obscure ingredients and the garnishes positioned so carefully that a magnifying glass is required, do we stop and thank mom for the meatloaf and mashed potatoes? Is there an understanding that the mac-and-cheese can come out of a box sometimes? I can only imagine what pressures pulpit ministers feel to provide fresh bread to their congregations.

At heart, I think I’m asking about whether a middle space exists. Is there a place where both exquisite and home-styled ideas can be enjoyed and seen as valuable? Can we nosh on “God loves you” and challenges to Anselm-ian theologies of substitutionary atonement?

After writing about vulnerability all summer, I’m sharing one of mine with you: I want you to think that I am intelligent, that I have something to say, and that you’ll read my articles and share them because they’re good, not just because you’re my grandmother/college friend/church elder/impressionable youth. But when I boil it down in the stock pot, my calling in this time and place is to be cooking up good food for my family, friends, and church. Optimistically I can put a flair on my work, but most importantly I hope we can all commit to being both sustained and stretched as we continually search and experience the Kingdom of God.

So with that being said… pass the biscuits!

-----

[i] It should be noted that my grandmother also proofs my articles for grammar and content. I am much loved. 

 

Writing Practice

By Rev. Charlsi Lewis Lee

Writing practice.  I was Facebooking the other day with a friend of mine who writes a lot.  He’s been published and I really enjoy his work.  I told him that when I read his stuff it makes me remember how much I enjoy writing myself.  Of course, he asked me the obvious question:  “So, why aren’t you writing?” 

I don’t have a very good answer for that except for I’m afraid of being overly self-indulgent—I’ll pause for moment for my family and friends to finish laughing.  Ok, now that we have all composed ourselves . . . 

Writing frees my soul.  It allows me to do something with my mind that singing does for my soul.  It offers me a chance for the cluster of thoughts that easily overwhelm me to spill out on a page where they can be processed, edited, unraveled and maybe even understood.  Mostly though, writing frees me from the trappings of my own mind.

For the last 2 years, I have worked for an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center.  I started as the part-time chaplain.  I loved this job.  I watched people walk into our facility with eyes red from alcohol or skin pocked by meth mites and barely able to put a sentence together.  In the course of six or eight weeks, they were on their way to a life that depended on their Higher Power instead of a bottle, or a needle, or a pill.  I witnessed their lives change.

In the course of their treatment, I was honored to sit with the patients as they worked their way through the beginnings of the 12 Steps.  They could admit that their lives were powerless over drugs and alcohol and they had become unmanageable in Step 1.  They might struggle with Step 2 as they set their ego aside to acknowledge that something bigger than they could restore sanity to their lives.  They wrestled against themselves as they made a decision to turn their lives over to their Higher Power as they understood their Higher Power. 

And then, then, they would stop like they'd hit a brick wall.  WHAM!!! The 4th Step—a moral inventory.  “Do I have to write it down?  Can I just tell you?”  Nope.  You gotta write it down.  Writing it down makes it real which is both the reason most folks don’t want to do their 4th Step and the very reason they should. 

When we see our thoughts on paper, when we witness our actions and our wrongdoings placed before us in real hard copy form we cannot escape their reality, but we can move past them.  Sometimes that which seems horrible, unbearable, unthinkable, unspeakable is the very thing that needs to be written down and shared with another person (the 5th Step).  In some strange, Higher Power way writing it down is freeing. 

I’ve learned a lot over the last 2 years about addiction, healing, the presence of my Higher Power and the importance of writing.  I can’t tell someone else to “write it down” because it will free them, if I’m not willing to write my own stuff down and to wrestle with the words myself.    I have to scale my own brick walls and find my own words to freedom.