Sunday, November 22, 2009
A Bit of Wisdom from Tom
I have to admit, I'm a huge fan of Thomas Merton. Not just a fan, I'm a groupie. A lover. Practically a fiend.
Today I went to the big Central library in Lexington to get some reference materials to prepare for the Advent prayers for Beliefnet I'll be writing until we welcome the Christ Child. But don't make me think about that assignment, due tomorrow, smack dab in the middle of my deadline Monday--yes, the day after tomorrow--for The Exorsistah 3. Anyway, I picked up an Advent book of some of his writings: Advent and Christmas with Thomas Merton. How could I resist?
I have another confession to make. I've spent several days beating back fear, literally, for the love of God. It's something I think all of us believers have to do in this treacherous world. And these weren't big ticket item fears. I wasn't terrified that something would happen to Ken or the kids, or my Beloved Community members. Or even any of you. It's easy for me to entrust you all into God's hands. No, I'm afraid I was feeling a little sorry for myself, and somewhat lost. X3 is the last book I'm contracted for. I want to say I won't be a writer anymore after that, but that doesn't have the ring of truth to it, or love; for I love to write. Maybe I just won't be published. I'm not sure what I'll be, if publishing opportunities will continue, if I'll just run the Living Room, or what.
You may know that on Wednesday I turned in the book about St. Teresa of Avila to my lovely editor and friend, Jon Sweeney. Even that I've had to release to God's care not knowing how it's going to play out. I mean, will I ever do another book for them. I LOVE that house. But I have no idea. I love all my publishing houses. None of them are necessarily clamoring to have me back. And I understand. Publishing is a numbers game, and my numbers are poor. At least the last I heard from Jon was, "It's looking good, my dear." My dear has to be hopeful, right? "It's looking good" ain't bad either.
Anyway, in these last few days, never have I needed Teresa words, God alone is enough, more. But I've found beginning to trust God with everything, to believe He's enough for the whole enchilada that's my life... well, it's got a heckuva learning curve. It's disorienting some times to tell you the truth, because on this journey I can't see too far ahead on the road. Those of you who are old enough may remember back in the day a wildly popular slogan was weirdly, "God is my co-pilot." And yes, even as a child I thought it sounded crazy. No way I'd make Him the co-pilot for my journey. He's totally the Pilot, and I'm hanging on for dear life, often screeching because, I'm not going to lie, God is a crazy driver sometimes. He trusts Himself waaaay more than I do.
But sometimes the ride is as smooth as a cruise down Winchester Road in Lisa's convertible. This is what I know and really, really believe: I'm going to be some kind of spiritual director. Stop laughing, I'm serious. It's the cry of my heart! I just want to walk with folks as a soul friend. Who's going to finance that you ask? That's a good question. I've asked the same thing. It's one of those mysteries God will have to reveal to both of us. If he tells you before He tells me, let a sistah know.
I've already wrestled with the writing thing, so I know I'm going to continue, published or not. But don't think it's easy to release being published when I've made my living this way for the last four years. And that leaves an important question in my mind:
Who will I write for now? It's a good question, right?
So, just after I finish the last chapter for the night, and started trying to wind down--so hard after a story starts flowing--I grabbed the Merton book and fell right into this lovely, amazing quote that has nothing to do with Advent. But oh, how it echoes the yearning of my heart. Tom says:
"I don't want to speak to you as an author, or a narrator, not even a philosopher, but simply as a friend. I would like to speak to you as your alternative self....If you listen you will hear things that will be said that perhaps aren't written in [my] book. And that will be coming, not from me, but from the One who lives and speaks inside both of us."
You have no idea how much pressure that takes off me.
In Church, at my old parish, we frequently sang a certain hymn. I mean we sang it a lot, like Emergent churches used to sing "I Can Sing of Your Love Forever" and "Shout to the Lord." I'm serious. And I miss the song I heard in my parish so often. It's called, "The Table of Plenty."
"Come to the feast of heaven and earth.
Come to the table of plenty.
God will provide for all that we need,
here at this table of plenty."
The next verses are an invitation of sorts, to eat without money, to drink without price and sit where saint and sinner are friends, as we partake of a feast of gladness which will ultimately sustain us. The song assures me that my fields will flower in fullness and my home will flourish in peace. As I type, I'm a little astounded at the beginnings of this harvest in my life, book contracts, or no book contracts.
But I still have my bad days, and the last few were notably difficult emotionally.
I've decided to trust. God really will provide for all that I need; He's done it before, and He'll do it again. For one who's endured so many falls, I always seem to tumble onto a soft landing pad. And it won't be so hard now because, once again, Tom has given me my answer. I have to be a friend, and trust God with the rest.
It certainly won't hurt to try things this way.
Proverbs 17:17, "A friend loves at all times."