Faith seeking understanding #057: Which Christianity are you talking about?

Faith seeking understanding, my personal journey towards a deeper knowledge of and intimacy with God, the cosmos, humanity and myself through thoughts, words and (occasionally) images, is a series of [hopefully] daily reflections I’m writing with the purpose of publishing something on a regular basis for others to read, either here, at joncarllewis.com or among my writings at Medium.com.

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash.

I’ve been several types of Christian in my life. Even now I continue to be a certain type of Christian, a particular kind of Christian with a set of beliefs and (more important to me) practices that I intend to keep me firmly centered within the train of the followers of Christ. Therefore, it is with a mixture of amusement and horror that I read about other people’s experiences with this set of phenomena so many people try to understand as one, big, coherent thing called “Christianity.”

Continue reading “Faith seeking understanding #057: Which Christianity are you talking about?”
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Faith seeking understanding #057: Which Christianity are you talking about?

Faith seeking understanding #056: On needing a good kick in the butt

Faith seeking understanding, my personal journey towards a deeper knowledge of and intimacy with God, the cosmos, humanity and myself through thoughts, words and (occasionally) images, is a series of [hopefully] daily reflections I’m writing with the purpose of publishing something on a regular basis for others to read, either here, at joncarllewis.com or among my writings at Medium.com.

Photo by Wade Austin Ellis on Unsplash.

Well, I was feeling pretty full of myself as I sauntered into my therapist’s office today. When he asked, I told him that I was doing very well. When he asked me why I was doing very well, I told him that I had had a very creative day; I had spent most of the day obsessing in a good way over an old project which had suddenly piqued my interest. I was going through pages and pages of synopses and treatments for the script of a graphic novel that I have no idea how I am going to get illustrated. But I was having a good time playing around with old ideas, revamping and adding new ones and generally being pleased at my own cleverness.

Then my therapist asked me how my novel was going.

And I suddenly felt very sheepish.

Continue reading “Faith seeking understanding #056: On needing a good kick in the butt”
Faith seeking understanding #056: On needing a good kick in the butt

Faith seeking understanding #055: In Praise of Wasting Time (a review)

Faith seeking understanding, my personal journey towards a deeper knowledge of and intimacy with God, the cosmos, humanity and myself through thoughts, words and (occasionally) images, is a series of [hopefully] daily reflections I’m writing with the purpose of publishing something on a regular basis for others to read, either here, at joncarllewis.com or among my writings at Medium.com.

Wasting time is a skill I consider myself to be particularly good at, so I was amused to see the title of Alan Lightman’s little book: In Praise of Wasting Time. It’s a short read with charming illustrations and I recommend it, whether you consider yourself good at wasting time or not.

I almost didn’t read the work; I kept walking past it at the library, smiling smugly to myself, convinced for a while that it couldn’t teach me anything new. Conversely, I feared that if it could teach me new ways of wasting time, I wasn’t sure that would be a good thing. Fortunately, curiosity compelled me to bring it home. I read the whole thing in two sittings, and I’m glad I did.

What I liked most about the book—aside from it’s evocative yet streamlined prose that seldom calls attention to itself—was its exploration of the benefits of unstructured and unscheduled time. He is a big fan of solitude and sees it as essential to the creative life. He echoes my heart’s desire when he writes of artists and other creative types: “One thing all these people share is an embrace of solitude. Not that these are unsociable people. But they practice their craft in solitude. They draw strength from being alone while they create or explore new worlds. They need that aloneness. They have developed the habit of mind to accept and seek out that aloneness. Sometimes they must push back against their society to get what they need.” (p. 57)

Lightman (most of the time) seems optimistic that even in the midst of our plugged-in culture one can carve out this space by developing a “habit of mind.” He writes: “But one does not have to be a creative genius to develop this habit of mind. One needs only the desire and willpower to unplug from the grid, to separate from the rush and the heave. It is the nurturing of one’s inner spirit, that whispering voice. It is the celebration of privacy and solitude. It is the willingness to follow one’s own thoughts. It is the indulgence of play and unscheduled time.” (p. 56)

The only thing I didn’t like was that Lightman spends way too much time admiring the problem of how our accelerated, productivity-oriented culture has robbed us of the time and space necessary to replenish our mental and creative reserves. Early on he writes about his experience of getting a smartphone: “And so it goes. Against my will, knowing all the dangers, I have been sucked into the maelstrom. I have heard the song of the Sirens and succumbed. I should have tied myself to the mast.” (p. 20) I feel his pain, but I can read about this everywhere I turn. Furthermore, I experience this myself and don’t like to be reminded of it. Nevertheless, he tries too hard to convince us that we have a problem when what I really enjoyed was the time he spent exploring different ways to carve out “down time” for himself and his family.

What I loved about In Praise of Wasting Time is that it effectively absolves me of the guilt I have occasionally felt around my hunger for solitude and my “indulgence” in practices such as lying on my day bed half-awake watching my thoughts riff on the ideas coming across over the radio. There are days like today where one might ask what I have produced, and I might only be able to answer that I was able to let my mind wander and figure out possible solutions to some creative or personal problem. But Lightman’s book not only let’s me know that it is a good thing to indulge in these non-pursuits, it is essential to my accomplishing the work I hope to accomplish in the world.

So, again, I recommend In Praise of Wasting Time. Published by Simon and Schuster as a TED Book, it is designed to accompany Alan Lightman’s TED Talk (which I believe is yet to be published at Ted.com). I can’t wait to hear the talk. But for now we have this clear, mostly concise book. May it ease your mind as it has eased mine.

Thank you for your time and attention.
I’d love to know your thoughts on what you’ve read.
Please comment, below, or email me at joncarllewis@gmail.com.
May God richly bless you on your journey.

Faith seeking understanding #055: In Praise of Wasting Time (a review)

Faith seeking understanding #054: Riding the flow

Faith seeking understanding, my personal journey towards a deeper knowledge of and intimacy with God, the cosmos, humanity and myself through thoughts, words and (occasionally) images, is a series of [hopefully] daily reflections I’m writing with the purpose of publishing something on a regular basis for others to read, either here, at joncarllewis.com or among my writings at Medium.com.

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash.

Today I still find myself in a creative flow.

Continue reading “Faith seeking understanding #054: Riding the flow”
Faith seeking understanding #054: Riding the flow

Faith seeking understanding #053: On productivity and balance

Faith seeking understanding, my personal journey towards a deeper knowledge of and intimacy with God, the cosmos, humanity and myself through thoughts, words and (occasionally) images, is a series of [hopefully] daily reflections I’m writing with the purpose of publishing something on a regular basis for others to read, either here, at joncarllewis.com or among my writings at Medium.com.

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash.

I really didn’t want to interrupt my flow today. It’s been a productive few weeks for me—especially the past few days, and I want to keep up the momentum. But I must realize that—even when things are going well… even really well, it is sometimes wise to pause and save some excitement for a subsequent day.

Continue reading “Faith seeking understanding #053: On productivity and balance”
Faith seeking understanding #053: On productivity and balance

Faith seeking understanding #052: Into a little silence

Faith seeking understanding, my personal journey towards a deeper knowledge of and intimacy with God, the cosmos, humanity and myself through thoughts, words and (occasionally) images, is a series of [hopefully] daily reflections I’m writing with the purpose of publishing something on a regular basis for others to read, either here, at joncarllewis.com or among my writings at Medium.com.

Photo by Chrissa Giannakoudi on Unsplash.

As daydreams turn to naps before my computer screen, I realized I had better write something before midnight sneaks up on me and I miss a day.

Continue reading “Faith seeking understanding #052: Into a little silence”
Faith seeking understanding #052: Into a little silence

Faith seeking understanding #051: How I got into a flow today

Faith seeking understanding, my personal journey towards a deeper knowledge of and intimacy with God, the cosmos, humanity and myself through thoughts, words and (occasionally) images, is a series of [hopefully] daily reflections I’m writing with the purpose of publishing something on a regular basis for others to read, either here, at joncarllewis.com or among my writings at Medium.com.

I don’t know how to do this. But this is the way I felt, today! Photo by Georg Nietsch on Unsplash.

I wrote today. For hours. [Or, rather, I storycrafted. Writing involves lining up words in a particular order which conveys a story, but what I did today was storycraft.] I basically worked and reworked the synopsis for an old and ambitious project of mine that I thought would never see the light of day again. But, for some reason, I seem to have gotten myself into the habit of facing some fears I didn’t know I had, and I was able to pick up this project again and do some good work after over more than a couple of years away from it.

One of those fears is being so swept away by the creative impulse I won’t be of any practical good. I faced that fear today. I was worried that my project was so attractive to me that it would suck me in and keep me from doing what else I am supposed to be doing (whatever that is). This fear usually keeps me from beginning or continuing work on a project, especially one I am really interested or invested in. I worry that I might be so seduced by the dopamine rush of creation that I wouldn’t be able to pull my head out of the rabbit hole and… do what?

You see, there are things I needed to do today. I didn’t write a short speech I must deliver tomorrow afternoon. I didn’t pay bills. I didn’t return emails as quickly as I wanted to. I didn’t even look at my phone all day. But somehow that didn’t matter. Somehow, I managed to push all of those worries aside. For some reason I became unhinged from my fear and dove into the world between my ears and in my heart.

I suspect it has to do with a couple of things that are going on in my life. Because I have made it part of my daily routine to publish a piece of writing every day, I have started to see myself as a productive person. No matter that what I am producing is words. No matter that I’m not getting paid. No matter that I don’t have a product on the best seller lists—or any lists for that matter. I write. I write daily. And—thanks be to the wonders of the internet—I have you to thank for being able to say I have readers. It makes me a little giddy to think about it: my creative activity is worth it to somebody out there to take a few minutes out of their day—or more—and listen to what I have to say.

I hope it’s helpful. The discipline has been more than helpful to me: it’s been invaluable. I have a job, and that job is to craft stories which I will then write. Someday, I might write enough to fill a book or a script or a collection of shorter works. But the fact that this will happen someday and isn’t true now spurs me on to do the work that will get me to that someday. And, if I never get to that someday, I will have spent my time doing something I loved to do.

Apart from writing regularly, I also think that I have benefitted from being in community. The community of other writers and creatives, to be more specific. I used to think I was alone in this pursuit, plugging away with no one to ask questions or learn from or even just complain about the joys and pains of this thing I call the writing life. But that is no longer true—if it ever was. I find that there is a lively exchange of ideas on Medium.com. I’ve definitely been involved in many two-way and multiple-way conversations through this medium. I love the fact that I can partake of someone’s wisdom—or, even, their foolishness—and with a few keystrokes be in dialogue with them about the finer points of whatever it was they had to share with the world.

And, even beyond Medium, I’m grateful for the internet. Sure, it’s full of potential distractions (and I visited one or two today) but it’s also filled with TED talks, podcasts on every possible subject, useful articles, instructional videos and even courses (some of them free). it takes some discipline and discernment, but there is a wealth of support out there for any creative endeavor. It’s a great blessing to be alive and working in this environment and I am grateful for days like today when I can just plunge in and enjoy being in the creative flow of life.

And, now, after a day of being creative… I need to divert the flow a little bit and go write a little speech!

Thank you for your time and attention.
I’d love to know your thoughts on what you’ve read.
Please comment, below, or email me at joncarllewis@gmail.com.
May God richly bless you on your journey.

Faith seeking understanding #051: How I got into a flow today