Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters. ~ Neil Gaiman.
This has been a good week of writing days. I was coming into the homestretch of my book and I just kept striding until it was finished. Now I have a completed draft which I’ve sent to beta readers for recommendations and to Moody Publishers for consideration. The book was conceived near the end of 2013, as I was going to press with Delight in Disorder. It has taken six years to brew, and just about six weeks to write. Edna St. Vincent Millay was once asked how much time in her day she spent writing and she said at least 24 hours. A writer is never not writing, even when she is away from keyboard and screen. But it feels exceptionally good on days when I can sit and type out words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters. Watching the word count rise is like getting high without the benefit of mood-altering substances.
A word after a word after a word is power. ~
Since my book is mostly a memoir, the strength I gained was in large part self-awareness. I have spent over three decades examining my life as one with faith who has a mental illness. This book was like a six year exercise in intense therapy. Though my fingers typed the keys, the concepts were composed by the Holy Spirit speaking through the voices of those around me. While I’m reluctant to say my own words reflected God’s Word, I do believe God had a hand in guiding the hands that created my book. I only pray that I was able to keep enough of myself out of the process for the truth to shine through. Said better, that reflections on myself and others ring true in such a way that people would be drawn to the Truth, Jesus Christ.
Don’t let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story—just like the typewriter was mine. ~ Flannery O’Connor.
I take pride in being a good writer. I have honed my skills with years of practice, cutting away bad habits by reading extensively and intensively, watching and listening human behavior, and reflecting on my own thoughts and feeling. Still, were it not for the God’s gift to me in this art, my words would be nothing more than dross and drivel. The only credit I can take for the writing I do is that I’ve been faithful in doing in, in putting the divine gift to good use, for the glory of God.
After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world. ~ Philip Pullman.
The other day I sat on the couch of my Dad and step-mom and read my book to them. It was an incredible bonding experience. I will carry it with me until my dying day. I have learned storytelling in large part listening to my Dad. He says, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Yet, his stories often reveal more truth than volumes of facts and figures. Stories are both informative and formative. When Jesus was asked questions about God, he told stories. The kingdom of God is like a banquet for beggars. Like a woman rejoicing with neighbors over finding a coin. The kingdom of God is like a shrewd manager making the most of his last days of employment. These parables packed a poignant punch of surprising topsy-turvy truth. Jesus turned the world upside down with his stories.
This book is about mental health ministry. It’s not a “how-to” book. I can not tell you what will work in your ministry setting. Instead of answering the question, “How do we do mental health ministry?” I want to challenge you “What difference can we make in for those impacted by mental illness?”
To do this, I will tell stories of my own life and ministry. Statistics are essential, but unless they are enfleshed with stories, they won’t lead to change. Evidence-based programs may produce proposals for getting grants, but if faith communities are going to carry out our God-given mission we need to get to know persons with mental illness, to invite and involve them in kingdom work…
“Rabbi Jesus, how shall we do mental health ministry?
Ah, let me tell you a story.”
(from the Introduction of From Despair to Delight: Stories to Cultivate Compassion and Foster Friendship with Persons Who Have Mental Illness).