Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Still Life

Some months back I set out to write a series of essays for pastors about pastors. It is a fascinating enterprise, given the ever-changing face of ministry, but now some of these essays are finding their way to publications.

I hate to admit it, but the years are piling up.  If I begin calculating my ministry odyssey at the point where I began preaching and leading youth ministry (19), then I'll be encroaching on 34 years of ministry this summer.  If I begin my calculations as a student pastor (21), then I'll say it's 32.  And if I begin at ordination (23), then I'm talking about 30 years.  But any way I want to slice it or dice it, I've been in ministry a long time.

I was also thinking today about my first published works, and most of these were at lease marginally associated with ministry.  There was a poem, for example, that found it's way into a youth ministry magazine--I was 19 at the time--and a series of poems later published in a tiny California journal called Wellspring (back in 1980-81).  I even recall that the editor's name was Tim Chown, and we struck up a friendship via old-school postal correspondence.  And as memory serves . . . these were some of my first paychecks.  Not large ones, mind you, but gas money nonetheless--when gasoline was 79 cents a gallon!

In college (at I.S.U.) I also began writing stories (lots of them).  In those days I wrote in longhand on sheets of unlined yellow paper, and for my final grade in one writing course, I recall handing in what must have been a full ream of this stuff, a veritable mountain of blue ink that, with wide-eyed amusement, the professor accepted with a smirk and said, "You know I'm not going to read all of this ****, so why don't you just give me your three best stories.  Obviously you can write volumes.  We'll see if you can write well."

But now, as I take assessment of my writing progress since those days, I'm amazed at how long I've been doing this, too . . . and how quickly some work appears.  Come July 1, for example, I will have written about 40 published essays for pastors thus far in 2013.  Probably nothing worth reading, but I did write these essays and there were editors who accepted them.

I'm no longer writing on sheets of unlined yellow paper.  But since I began my obsessive writing odyssey when I was twelve (12), I'll go ahead and say that I've been 40 years now in the writing business.  That's a long time, regardless.

Not too bad, I hope, for a kid who once wrote on scraps of paper.

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