Birthing My Book: Bringing Delight in Disorder to Life

Having conceived and nurtured a memoir for almost a year, only to have it soundly rejected, it felt much like a miscarriage. I went a year without writing a word. It was only when I enrolled in an intensive discipleship training program that I again started to bring words to life, or, more accurately, let the Word come to life by cultivating the soil of stories.

Still, I wasn’t ready to come back to my memoir. It was too personal, too painful, too raw. Instead, I moved onto fiction – drafting a trilogy of short stories – “Life,” “Liberty,” and “The Pursuit of Happiness.”  More than the quality of the narrative (which is still quite unfinished), the discipline of daily writing as I created characters, developed dialogue, and polished plot, gave me increasing confidence that I had a “way with words.”

Then a very tragic thing happened. A young man I had never met committed suicide. He was playing family board games one minute and the next he was in his room shooting himself. The young man’s name was Matthew, son of Rick Warren renowned pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the best-selling Purpose-Driven Life.

My initial reaction was to take to my bed. I didn’t get up for three days. I read what people within the church and outside of it were saying. Some of it trying to be nice and compassion. Some of it downright ugly and mean. Nearly all of it lacking a clear Biblical understanding of mental illness that would drive a person to suicide.

I decided I needed to re-write my memoir. I also knew I couldn’t do it alone. I shared the idea with Leanne Sype, a blogging friend and editor, to whom I had pitched my trilogy. Very soon, she became as passionate about the project as I did. With Leanne’s help, I worked through a second draft, and a third (and in some cases fourth and fifth). With Leanne’s guidance, I pitched it to an agent and went to a writer’s conference to see about pursuing conventional publishing.

We prayed for a clear sign and got it almost immediately. A resounding no. Undeterred, Leanne encouraged me to pursue self-publishing, helped me navigate around some shark-invested waters of vanity publishers. She introduced me to graphic artist Nicole Miller who also has a heart for the Lord and a distinct eye for graphic design. Soon, we had a book cover. Nicole then moved on to a video for our indiegogo campaign where we exceeded our goal.

Along came another young faithful servant, Christina Tarabochia, who took the text and shaped it into various formats uploaded at Smashwords (and soon, for Amazon and Barnes & Noble). Christina helped explain some of the technical aspects of getting our book in the hands of the readers and has been an invaluable resource.

Now that we have a downloadable e-book (soon to be in print), we are only entering another season of the larger “Delight in Disorder” mission. Over the past few days I have been contacted mental health and church leaders from across the country to help us spread the word — to bridge the distance between faith and mental illness. I’ve already received two speaking invitations and am building some very fruitful relationships.

Much has been done — Facebook author page, Twitter account (indy_tony), media kit, business card design, e-mail and phone contact) and much remains to be done (website upgrade, speaking engagements, reviews). I have no idea where God will lead now that the book has been birthed. I only pray I’ll do my part to be a faithful stewardship of the Word calling me to share divine delight in the disorder of the world.

Write your favorite scripture on a canvas for your dorm room. It fills up wall space and it will be a good encouragement.

“Closer to Fine” by Indigo Girls in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)

I went to graduate school with the hope of finding my calling in ministry and growing closer to God. My faith was broken down in class. I was taught how not to talk about God. But through positions “in the field,” I found God in the smile of a boy who would never talk, in the songs of prisoners longing to be free, in the prayers of a man at the bedside of his dying wife.

I say I found God, but God really found me. I just didn’t run away.

I’m trying to tell you something about my life

Maybe give me insight between black and white

The best thing you’ve ever done for me

Is to help me take my life less seriously,

it’s only life after all

Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable

And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear

I wrap my fear around me like a blanket

I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it,

I’m crawling on your shore.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains

I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain

There’s more than one answer to these questions

pointing me in crooked line

The less I seek my source for some definitive

The closer I am to fine.

I went to see the doctor of philosophy

With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee

He never did marry or see a B-grade movie

He graded my performance, he said he could see through me

I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind,

got my paper And I was free.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains

I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain

There’s more than one answer to these questions

pointing me in crooked line

The less I seek my source for some definitive

The closer I am to fine.

I stopped by the bar at 3 a.m.

To seek solace in a bottle or possibly a friend

I woke up with a headache like my head against a board

Twice as cloudy as I’d been the night before

I went in seeking clarity.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains

I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain

There’s more than one answer to these questions

pointing me in crooked line

The less I seek my source for some definitive

The closer I am to fine.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains

I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain

There’s more than one answer to these questions

pointing me in crooked line

The less I seek my source for some definitive

The closer I am to fine.

We go to the bible, we go through the workout

We read up on revival and we stand up for the lookout

There’s more than one answer to these questions

pointing me in a crooked line

The less I seek my source for some definitive

The closer I am to fine

The closer I am to fine

The closer I am to fine

(“Closer to Fine” is the sixth song on my autobiographical playlist Delight in Disorder)

Sharing Delight in Disorder

Delight

Over four years in the making, my spiritual memoir – Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission has finally grown legs and is moving forward thanks in large part to an incredible team of young, creative, faithful artists I’m dubbing “Team Delight.”

Team Delight is comprised of….

Leanne came on board as editor back in March and has help shape a disordered collection of meditations into a delightful house of prayer.  She is now directing our indiegogo campaign to raise money for publishing costs and 100 advance copies.

Lyn has been a faithful reader and a strong supporter for many months.  She has recently become a prayer partner.  She will serve as the “prayer captain” for our Delight in Disorder mission.

Matthew  is a young Australian poet whose words both inspire and console.  He has contributed seven of his poems to Delight in Disorder.

Nicole was recommended by Leanne as a graphic artist who could design our book cover.  Working diligently and faithfully, she has conceived and produced a visual representation of Delight in Disorder that is riveting.  We have now contracted with her to produce a promotional video for our book.

David Zucker, a mental health advocate with University Presbyterian Church in Seattle has agreed to write the foreword.

Kevin – This past weekend, I had the pleasure of staying with Kevin and his lovely wife Megan.  We talked about Delight in Disorder.  On the drive home, I was inspired to contact Kevin and he has agreed to serve as musical consultant for our promotional video.  Kevin is also doing a beta-reading of my autobiographical prelude.

This is the current “starting six” for Team Delight.  There are others actively contributing to the mission, including –

– Pastor Andy, Gary G., Gary M are doing a “theological beta-reading” and serving as spiritual advisers.

Jen is doing a beta-reading.

I have also received offers to help from –

Katie of White Fence Media.

Iona of A Whispered Wind.

Chris from The Musings of C.p. Singleton42′s mind.

Rara of rarasaur

I have been tremendously blessed by this group of people.  I would encourage you to check out their websites and blogs.  If you pray, please pray for each of them.  I may be delusional (in fact, I have paperwork to prove it), but I also know there are very real “powers and principalities” at work preventing hope from reaching those struggling with mental illness.  Please pray for our mission – to share delight with those wrestling with disorder.

(image above from Hannah Zapf)

Marketing Minister Becoming Minister of Marketing?

Job prospects continue to arise for me.  Today, as I was taking a break from editing, I received a message reply from the owner of a small marketing firm in Indy, inviting me to meet for coffee.

Marketing is a field that has intrigued me for years.  As a parish pastor, I employed many marketing “techniques” to promote the services our ministry offered.  Over my 18 years, we went from snail-mailed monthly newsletters, to weekly sign boards, to occasional e-mail messages, to weekly ads in the Penny Saver, to the development of a website, a daily e-devotion, and a blog.  At each church I served, there was quantifiable growth in terms of worship attendance, membership, program participation, and financial contributions.

How would this translate into work with a marketing firm?  For one, I would bring a track record of reaching people of all ages (particularly often neglected older adults) with a message that motivates them to act – participate, join, contribute.  While I will no doubt have much to learn about modern “techniques” to maximize effectiveness, the principles involved for attracting new clients as well as engaging current ones carries over quite well.

To prepare for my interview next Wednesday, I have contacted a college friend who is in marketing, asking what key resources I might review.  I have also asked the same question of a blogging friend who also spent a couple decades in ministry before leaping into the secular business world (as owner of a website management firm).

How would you like to help me prepare?

What questions would you ask me if you were a marketing firm considering my services?

What questions would you recommend I raise in the interview?

Do you know of any high-quality marketing resources you recommend I study?

(image above  “marketing” from Mindy Reed in Jesus)

April is the Cruelest Month: Walking Through the Waste Land

Wyndham Lewis ~ T.S. Eliot, 1938

April is the cruelest month,

breeding lilacs out of the dead land,

mixing memory and desire,

stirring dull roots with spring rain.   ―     T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Yesterday, I felt like I was wandering in the waste land.  Though the sun was shining and there was a cool breeze blowing, I couldn’t see it or feel it huddled beneath my sheets, praying for sense out of suicide, light in the darkness, life after death.

I thought of the Warren family.  I don’t know Rick or Kay Warren personally.  But, like many people, I know of their ministry and the positive impact their words and work has had on so many lives.  I can’t say I embrace their theology wholesale, but I greatly respect the depth of their faith and would not question their profound relationship with Christ.

And now, this.  The death of a child must be the greatest grief any parent must face.  Compounded with this grief is the threat to meaning and purpose, to hope and, yes, even faith, that strikes when a loved one chooses death over life.  Rick Warren expressed gratitude yesterday for the overwhelming support of people around the world expressed after Matthew’s death, but no amount of community support can alleviate the lonely journey Rick and Kay and their other children must now walk.

As I laid in the darkness, I thought of my own children and my wife.  Memories came flooding back – that night 5 years ago when I swallowed handfuls of psychotropic meds as a desperate measure to end my misery.  My family was little more than an afterthought in that moment.  I didn’t even compose a proper suicide note – just scribbled off a few perfunctory lines as if writing out a prescription.

Thanks to God’s amazing grace, the drugs that should have killed me didn’t.  Instead, they put me in an all-night stupor.  I kept stumbling to the bathroom, crashing into walls, unable to straighten up, leaving a mess my wife had to clean up.

Yesterday, I wandered through the waste land with mostly dead memories and only a hint of desire for something better.

Today, the sun came up (as it typically does).  It took me until noon to rise.  I ate lunch instead of breakfast.  I read some encouraging messages.  I reflected on God’s Word to “choose life, that you and your offspring might live.”  I felt grateful – not glad, exactly – but grateful to be alive.

They say rain is on its way.  Spring rain to enliven the dull roots dormant underground, hiding from the harsh winter.  Breeding lilacs will appear.

In May, I’ll travel home – to my children, and my wife (if only for the day).

It will be “a day that the Lord hath made”.  And we will “rejoice and be glad in it.”

(image above “Wyndham Lewis ~ T.S. Eliot, 1938” from Jude W. in art :: paintings I love)

A Clarion Call: My Life with (and without) God – Part IV

 

Our pilgrimage led East – to Pennsylvania.

I became pastor of a heavily-endowed church

Looking for an infusion of youthful energy

A young pastor and his family to do the trick.

 

I was full of myself, but little else.

When growth was slow, I fell back to despair.

And looked to a new drug to pick me up.

Effexor did just that –

It picked me up and kept me up for six solid days and nights.

 

Street signs became messages from God.

Ideas became revelations.

Feverous with a mission, not just to assuage but to save,

I started to cry during sermons

And laugh when I was alone.

 

Alice took me to Clairon hospital.

As they fastened the door,

I started pacing the floor.

Sensing some signal.

 

It was the end of the world.

This was the only safe haven left.

I had to break out and bring my family back.

But they were watching me.

 

I grabbed a plate full of sugar cookies.

And shoved them all in my mouth.

Then took off running toward the glass door,

Crashing into it with a loud BANG.

 

A crowd gathered around me,

I shoved them away and started running again.

The staff surrounded me and thought they had me subdued.

(Or so they later told me)

Psychiatric patient in a strait-jacket, hugging his knees.  This artwork was published in an 1838 French work on mental illness (Des maladies mentales) by the French psychiatrist Jean-Etienne Dominique Esquirol (1772-1840).

 

the story begins…

Out of Nineveh:  My Life with (and without) God – Part I

Sent to Serve: My Life with (and without) God – Part II

Prayer, Parenting, Pits, and Pills: My Life with (and without) God – Part III

 

the story continues…

Alone in a Fog: My Life with (and without) God – Part V

On a Teeter-Totter: My Life with (and without) God – Part VI

In the Heart of the Finger Lakes: My Life with (and without) God – Part VII

Chosen to Adopt: My Life with (and without) God – Part VIII

Lost on Long Island: My Life with (and without) God – Part IX

 

image from chantal pollier via Nilgün Gürsoy in history of psychology

In the Heart of the Finger Lakes: My Life with (and without) God – Part VII

Seneca Lake by Pak Gwei

 

I heard of a church in New York

Searching for a pastor.

It was just two towns over from Alice’s parents.

I wasn’t looking to leave, but the location seemed perfect.

We went through the process and a call was confirmed.

 

Ovid rests between the two largest fingers of the Finger Lakes.

If you climb the church steeple, you can see

Cayuga Lake to the north and

Seneca Lake to the west.

 

I was the only pastor in town,

So I became the village vicar.

We ran a Thrift Shop where you could get any item of clothing

For less than a buck.

We housed the Food Pantry where you could get a week’s worth of groceries

For free.

 

People came for prayer and stayed for service.

I led a 12-step Bible study group at a local addiction treatment center.

I cheered on the basketball teams,

And went to the school plays.

 

My devotion to ministry fueled

My commitment as a father.

We homeschooled Sarah and Grace.

I kept the shelves stocked

With the best books I could find.

We wrote our own stories, went camping,

Danced in the park, attended plays.

 

My journals from our Ovid years show shortcomings,

Spiritual and relational struggles that kept it from being

Paradise on Earth.

But when God created the earth, He didn’t call it great.

He called it good.  And then He rested.

 

 

The story begins…

Out of Nineveh: My Life with (and without) God – Part I

Sent to Serve: My Life with (and without) God – Part II

Prayer, Parenting, Pits, and Pills: My Life with (and without) God – Part III

A Clarion Call: My Life with (and without) God – Part IV

Alone in a Fog: My Life with (and without) God – Part V

On a Teeter-Totter: My Life with (and without) God – Part VI

The story continues…

Chosen to Adopt: My Life with (and without) God – Part VIII

Lost on Long Island: My Life with (and without) God – Part IX

 

(image “Seneca Lake” from Pak Gwei, some rights reserved.)

I Wonder as I Wander

In the fourth post of Christmas, I truly give to you…

Image

I WONDER AS I WANDER

(Appalachia)

Words and Music collected by John Jacob Niles

1.   I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor on’ry people like you and like I…
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

2. When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

3.   If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing,
He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King.

(from “The Hymns and Carols of Christmas“)

I chose to reflect on this Christmas carol today for a number of reasons.  First, I have received some messages asking me about my decision to leave pastoral ministry and some helpful and encouraging comments to further direct my efforts with this blog. (I think you will be seeing some beneficial changes in the coming weeks).

The song invites us to meditate on the meaning of Christ’s coming to earth and humbly reflect on God’s abundant grace to die for us (in the form of God’s Son) though we are “on’ry” and often ungrateful.  Christ’s selflessly to give up all he had (and could have obtained) in order to enter our broken lives and suffer death for our sake contrasts sharply with our selfish aims to grab all we can whenever we can get it.

The song title, however, moves me to consider more broadly what I am doing with my life.  On the surface, it can seem that by leaving pastoral ministry I am (like Jonah) running away from God’s call to preach.  I wonder about this as I wander in this in-between stage, not connected to a particular church or denomination, not serving in a full-time ministry or service.  I wonder as I wander the job postings and see one that would be more in the field of ministry if I am called to pursue that instead of a career in writing.

In a more worldly sense, I continue to wonder what field of writing I should pursue as I wander around the blogosphere and write posts that range from political commentary to satire, to spiritual reflections.  I wonder if I should follow the current trend of specialization “branding” and produce a blog that appeals to what particular potential employers might be looking for.

One helpful comment I received was maybe I should have two blogs.  I see some value in this.  I could develop one to promote my services as a writer of a particular brand, with postings that would serve as an attractive portfolio of what I’m capable of producing.  This blog (here) would then remain an outlet for creative endeavors, a potpourri of this-and-that, that might help me network with other bloggers and develop the craft of writing.

I’m still wondering (and wandering), so bear with me. In the meantime, I welcome your comments, suggestions, and questions.  I think journeys only become adventures when you share them with others.

(the photo “Walking through life” from  rafaelsoaressome rights reserved)

*****

– Introduction – “The 12 Posts of Christmas

– In the first post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “God is With Us (a Christmas Story based on Matthew 1.18-2.12)

– In the second post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Assaulting a Felon with a Fruitcake

– In the third post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Some of the Best Christmas Blogs for 2012

– In the fifth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Be More Like a Child at Christmas (and beyond)

– In the sixth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Five Favorite Movies for the Christmas Season

– In the seventh post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “From India to Indiana: My New E-Pal

– In the eighth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “What Sam Found in His Backpack After Break (A Prompted Poem)

– In the ninth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “The Precise Dilemma: A Book Review

– In the tenth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Potentially Praiseworthy Poems Posted on WordPress