On a whim…

Life without whimsy is not much of a life at all; without it, a walk in the dark is no laughing matter.

Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

To Die (to Write), to Sleep, to Sleep Perchance to Dream…

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There is some aspect of death in the act of writing that rises in the instant of losing oneself in narrative. We writers are permitted to dream. But what dreams indeed may come? I am told that for some, writing is like a narcotic. The dictum, “You are a writer if you are compelled to write,” has been hammered into me for decades. Real writers are addicted to their narratives?!

Not me. I have always wanted to write and write well. But, in a perverse self destructive effort to prove I am not addicted, ergo not a writer I seek refuge in the mundane. How I love the distraction of a clogged toilet and cherish the joy of a late night return to the house and finding doggy hors d’oeuvres scattered from den door to garbage can.

I used to write a weekly newsletter column. One that I pompously titled “In the First Place”. Every day would start with random scribbles with the idea that I would build momentum as the deadline approached. Starting with some superfluous worlds and adding more of the same I would finally have whole paragraphs of noise. These I gleefully discarded knowing that NO ONE wanted to read my blathering nonsense. Far better that I tighten screws on a door handle, dust a window sill, and repeatedly check whether the wadded paper in the bin had enough relatives to constitute a zoning violation so I could toss out the whole lot.

But who am I kidding? What else pulls me to a keyboard late at night or forces a pen and church bulletin into my hands during prayers? What other form of insanity compels me claw through an in-flight magazine searching for a clear margin on which to scribble random thoughts and waking dreams.

It is a sad thing to believe a writer is always a Jack Kerouac, drawn by the call of a great idea to sit for hours or days birthing an idea in a single gushing stream of consciousness.  There are times when I wish I could not sleep. Times when I wish my own compulsion to write was easier for me.

In my Walter Mitty life as a writer, I see myself awakened from a dream filled sleep. Flailing, groping for a lighted pen and note paper (real writers have cool tools) I record passages of sublime prose. The real me is awakened by the familiar urge of a full bladder. I stumble down the hall and I reach the toilet to find it is clogged… again. In my groggy state the only narrative is a rich and unrecorded internal discourse regarding how gross is the state of the toilet.

When it comes to writing there’s no easy way out for me. I am compelled to tell the stories in which I find, rather than lose, myself. To find myself in a narrative flow I have to plunge into a reality filled with loose door knobs, clogged toilets, and raucous hounds that feel ever so free to help themselves to the dainty treats in the garbage can. To be and to write in the world filled with be-ing, or not to be is the question indeed.

Written by David Wilkerson

16 August 2012 at 10:56 pm

Under Used Talent: Absent Without Leave

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Sitting in church while the words of the gospel lesson wafted about something clobbered me on the head; the under used talent. Momentarily stunned into a moment of reflection I wondered, how often have I sat glumly listening as someone else preached? Even now, days after that Sunday, I find myself retracing events that led from my tenure as senior minister of a large church to the moment when, as a ubiquitous presence in the pew, I was struck by a word flitting about the sanctuary.

When I retired from ministry I was weary. I needed rest. My need for an extended respite was due, at least in part, to choices I made. After all, I took upon myself more than I should have. Now, in retrospect, this is self-evident. I rarely, if ever took vacation. I preached two different sermons every week, conducted two other worship services, and attended to the pastoral needs of a pretty good sized congregation. And there was more. At the time, though, it seemed I had no choice. The end began just after Thanksgiving a number of years ago.

My wife died on a Saturday. It was unexpected. She was gone from us only hours after I called the church officers to inform them I would be late returning from our annual holiday. The aftermath was jumbled. From her parents home I clumsily began making funeral arrangements while struggling with how I could comfort our children. I had not rehearsed what I would do “if or when something happened” and I felt eerily disconnected as though I were talking of and tending to the needs of someone else. I conducted her funeral on Tuesday. Time seemed to accelerate. On Friday of that same week I conducted another funeral. This was for a member who had been a friend to my family during my wife’s illness. Again time skidded and a few days later I preached another funeral. The deceased was the son-in-law of another good friend.

In any season so many funerals so close together would have taken a toll but, as Christmas approached, I felt especially bleak. My young children clustered around me and, I suppose, their proximity alone kept me afloat. As the year turned there were more stresses and little relief. I felt estranged from myself and, whether it came as a shock or a relief to my congregation I cannot say, I retired in July at the ripe old age of 41. I had no prospects for work. In the course of one weekend, I remarried (a scandalous act in the minds of many), retired, and moved what was left of my family from the coastal Georgia to New England; a distance of little over a thousand miles by road and by cultural measure a distance of galactic proportions.

I needed a rest but how much; how long; from what? Here I am years later, pondering the past when, more to the point, I should be perplexed by the future. I am transfixed by a word; I am confronted with an under used talent. The sermon had not even begun when my typical Sunday reverie was interrupted. The intrusion reminded me of something. The gospel can break in on its own. I have learned this from my own, too frequent, bouts of homiletical mediocrity. Many times, despite my ineptitude, the gospel launched an incursion into someone’s life. Its message is not always constrained by the skill of the messenger.

How I got ‘here’ has value but only in so far has it contributes meaningfully to what happens next. When I consider the future I feel I am squeezed between two mutually exclusive realities. On the one hand I ‘am’ a preacher. Perhaps one with some talent? On the other hand, I have no pulpit. In the first place, Jeremiah’s words reveal my own existential crisis, “But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in” New International Version (©1984) In the second place I am filled with self loathing for the jealousy that I wish to deny but must in honesty confess.

Since then I have been greatly blessed to a degree and in ways I do not deserve. Every day I wake to a home filled with people I love and who, in turn love me. I am stunned by the good fortune that I have a job that permits me to care for them. I discover some measure of purpose as a leader of cub scouts. I do not discount that these are all good things but, well, I owe and am capable of much more. And it is a whispering realization that has broken into into an uproar today.

Oh the nuisance a word can cause. I wish to be the un-afflicted comfortable pew warmer but the the gospel won’t let me go. That this nuisance is not ‘good news’ for me does not mean that, in the end, my torment might not be the source of good news for others. So be it. I relinquish the cherished goal of letting my small talent lie fallow. Though the return that may be earned is diminished from small to trivial through years of neglect, I do here with commit myself to speak – or write- and in so doing to preach.

‘This is what the LORD says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death’.


Written by David Wilkerson

7 December 2011 at 9:52 pm

Posted in Creativity, epiphany, hope, Writing

Tagged with , , , ,

A Tale Told Twice?

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Preachers, sales people, and raconteurs tell tales, we know. But our tales tell more than one story. Often it is the unconscious story by which our world view is shaped. I am not an advocate of political correctness but I wish to champion the role of story tellers as those who help shape our perception of the world around us.

In the comments that follow I am equally subject to the indictment that I would lay at the feet of others. Mea culpa.

Recently I read an attractive story of a drought apparently relieved following the prayers of many people. Among those who prayed was a child who bore an umbrella; a sign of deepest faith. It was touching as such stories usually are.

What struck me in the tale was the role played by each of the characters. I thought of how predictable the arrangement was and it seemed to comply with an unstated rule, “Children have faith and adults don’t.”

In many circles ‘child-like faith’  is idealized. Set aside the biblical precedence, please, and indulge me for a moment. It seems too easy for story tellers to rely on children to have this kind of faith but I wonder how much more powerful might the story be if a child is presented as a skeptic. Maybe the child was admonished by her parents to show evidence of faith by grabbing an appropriate talisman such as a bible, a rosary, etc. Maybe the child is cajoled by his mother on the way out the door and as a form of protest he seized an umbrella from the corner where it has lain, dusty from disuse.

Imagine how the story might proceed as the child raises this symbolic act of skepticism and watches the rivulets of water wash the dust from the protective shroud?

By avoiding the easy road where the story teller admonishes us to, “look at this childish act of faith” and by taking a less predictable path we who remain skeptical are confronted. Before us emerges a new possibility of grace rather than dregs of remorse over the loss of our childish innocence?

We live in a skeptical age. Unlike the scene in the New Testament where children are viewed as incapable of appreciating Jesus for who he is, it is we, the adults, that appear to suffer from an impaired capacity to believe. To paraphrase, Jesus might well have said, “Suffer those who struggle (and yet believe) to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

Written by David Wilkerson

6 March 2008 at 11:27 pm

Posted in Creativity, theology

Saturday Night and I . . .

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… am still not in the groove. Is it eavesdropping when you listen to the TV in another room where another member of the household is watching? I guess not. In any case I ‘caught a whiff’ of Mozart’s ‘Requiem’. Such a beautiful piece and even now, when I am bone tired from this cold, I want to lean into the music, to lean into it it and climb the measures into the ether where all great music seems to go.

The table, the evidence of reality, is clutered. An empty Tylenol bottle is paired with the pepper shaker. A half empty bottle of water, my empty tea cup, and a can of Pledge are sentinels keep guard over the growing list of undone chores. Mozart is calling. It is a Mary or Martha moment. Will I surrender to the mundane or embrace the ascending score?

I don’t know. I am too tired for either, I suppose. Good night.

Written by David Wilkerson

1 December 2007 at 10:20 pm

Posted in Creativity


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So here’s the deal. I don’t feel creative. I am not thinking creatively. I am just pressing keys in hopes that my muse will club me on the head as I ramble along. To my right, against the wall in her cage, is Bell our Diamond Dove. When my beloved brought her home I thought, “Great, one of the most annoying sounding birds on the planet after Finches, Cockatiels ,and Parrots.”

“Not so fast”, says Belle, “I am not a Mourning Dove, thank you very much.” Of course she didn’t ‘say’ this to me but when I heard her song I knew something was different. She has, to be frank, an amazingly pleasant song. It’s a simple little ditty consisting of bird sounds stretched out into a coo but not that maudling, whinny, complaint that never stops that I associated with all doves. Nope, not Belle. She and her breed are classy musicians and I am the better for it.

So…. on this afternoon when I am feeling anything but creative I defer to Belle to fill the void of this dark, dreary, damp, November day with her coo-l sounds.

Written by David Wilkerson

29 November 2007 at 4:36 pm

Posted in Creativity, Who knows?

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