Randy Greenwald

Concerning Life as It Is Supposed to Be

I’m a Writer

Hi. My name is Randy, and I’m a, I’m a . . . I’m . . .

I’m a writer.

I’ve been trying to understand why this is hard for me to confess. Truth be told, I’ve been a writer for the majority of my life.

Since becoming a pastor I’ve written sermons whose cumulative length would equal one good sized Stephen King novel each year. Since 2006 I’ve written for this blog, sometimes more regularly than others, but with general consistency.

At other times I’ve been paid to write. For a few years I wrote software reviews for the IDG Communications’ publication Amiga World, and after that I wrote the content for Great Commission Publications’ family worship guide As for My House which my wife and I had previously self-published.

Nevertheless, to say “I’m a writer” feels to me an attempt to claim membership in a fraternity to which I have no right. I admire writers too highly to claim status among them. To say, “I’m a writer” sounds to my ear akin to saying “I’m Eugene Peterson” or “I’m Marilynne Robinson.” This is as ludicrous a hesitancy as it is a claim, I know. I am not, never will be, and cannot pretend to expect to be, these people. Neither can most writers.

Nevertheless, to wear the label seems to me a claim to stand with them, and that is something I am uncomfortable doing.

I have always had a hard time wearing the label writer. However, my perspective began to change after attending last year the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There, I attended a panel presentation led by four writers (some well known, others not) who were also pastors. I asked them whether they viewed their writing as vocation or hobby. Was it a part of their calling, or something they did “on the side.” They looked at each other, smiled, and one answered, “If we considered it a hobby, we’d give it up. It’s too hard.” The rest nodded their agreement.

Calling, as I’ve explored it with those considering pastoral ministry, is a combination of internal desire and external confirmation. Many have the internal inclination. They want to preach or to “help people” (whatever that means). But internal desire needs to be matched with an outside judgment that they indeed have the gifts for preaching and a track record of helping people pastorally. Applying similar criteria to writing, can I say that I am called to write?

Working through this with my friend, Mike Osborne, a fellow pastor and writer, our judgment has been that yes, this is a part of my calling. There is no question the internal desire is there, though, as I’m prone to do, I’ve overthought the source and motivation behind it. As well there are those who have encouraged me to pursue this, who have read what I have written and who, having the expertise to judge such things, encouraged me down this path.

I have yet to determine how big a part of my calling this is. What this is to look like, if any different than it has been in the past, is a developing scene. My primary calling is as a shepherd, to care for the church I have been called to pastor. Writing is simply a part of this. Where this leads is unknown to me. It’s an adventure and I’m speaking to it here to invite others to explore it with me.

Of course, this could be so much chutzpah. Just as some people read the Bible and the so-called “signs of the times” as pointing to Jesus returning on a particular date, perhaps Randy is prone to read the signals of his heart and the voices around him as a clear indication that he should write. Maybe it is all so much hooey.

And yet, though it is overly dramatic to say so, there is a “burning in my soul” to do this. No one yet has stepped forward to stop the madness or tell me I’m just too ugly for this beauty pageant (although I’m collecting rejections from publishers and editors and agents which may eventually amount to the same thing). So I might as well just admit it.

My name is Randy, and I’m a writer.

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12 Comments

  1. James W Strong

    As For Me and My House…we’ll continue to read your writings. 🙂

  2. Dwight L Dolby

    If someone asked me about my friend, Randy, I would say, he is a pastor. If someone asked me about Calvin, I would say he was a theologian. If someone asked me about my wife, I would say, she’s a teacher. All these put pen to paper and I sincerely enjoy reading their “work.” The alcoholic confessing such at an AA meeting is giving expression to what has controlled and almost ruined his / her life. I pray you won’t go there with it! 🙂 Write on, my friend, write on…

    • I certainly hope your last sentence was meant with the humor with which it lands! Right on!

      The alcoholic parallel is well made and well taken. Thanks.

  3. Fiona McQuarrie

    As the Nike slogan says, “Just Do It.” How’s that for chutzpah?

    • Ha! and an athletic metaphor is very appropriate. Got something for a marathon? 😉

  4. I’ll never forget the goodbye message you wrote for Kelly when she left for seminary. It has brought me to joyful tears more than once. For a father to know that someone else sees the same value in his daughter that he does is a wonderful gift. I just wish I could express it to her as well as you did.

    • Thanks, Randy. Kelly, though, was an easy target. ☺ Worth every word.

  5. Sooo… Which projects after you working on?

    • That requires a longer answer, and will be the subject of an upcoming post. Nothing as fun as a fantasy novel, however. I’m not creative enough to make stuff up. ☺

  6. Suzanne

    Write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.
    Maya Angelou

    • ” IF THERE’S A BOOK YOU REALLY WANT TO READ, BUT IT HASN’T BEEN WRITTEN YET, THEN YOU MUST WRITE IT.”

      – Toni Morrison

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