Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pursuing God's Agenda


(In two days, my "Gifts of Grace Book 3" will be formally launched; "Gifts of Grace Books 1 and 2" will be re-launched. How do I feel? This article which I wrote for Evangelicals Today, the official magazine of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, says it all.)









“I don’t believe in writer’s block,” I’d tell young writers whom I encourage to write. “If you want to write, you must write—every day. If you feel like you have nothing to write about, write about why you think you are stumped.”

Up here in cool Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I’m one of the resource speakers for new Christian writers, I am eating those words.

I sat staring on my computer screen for an hour earlier and no word came. Overwhelmed by this new place? Worried about the workshop? Blog instead?

Then I realized that what stumps me is when I am asked to expound on the scriptures. Philippians 3:7-11, I was told. I have always felt inadequate to do that. I am neither a theologian nor a Bible scholar. And I’ve always been wary about preaching.

What qualifies me then as a Christian writer? One who has written to date devotionals for children, books on Christian values, and books for adults on grace? Why am I here, attending the first Asia Christian Writer’s Conference?

I can only write from and within the realm of my experience—snippets of my life, my darkness and light, my brokenness and wholeness.

But reading the above verses, I realize the words are deeply personal. Paul speaks of following God and turning away from what he thought were important. He says that nothing else is more important than the Word, and being servants of Jesus. I am throwing away everything I used to take credit for, Paul says.

Why, it sounds like the story of my career—that which I left behind and the new assignment I embraced since the year 2000. Everything I once thought defined me is gone from my life.

The corporate world gave me no choices. I either had to toe the corporate line or get out. I toed the line for over 20 years, up until I pursued my ancient dream—writing.

Often asked in my book talks how I became a published writer, I would tell this story:

The multi-national advertising agency where I was EVP started merging with another biggie. And we in management were being lured into early retirement with a juicy offer. I balked.

About this time, two of my young writers, knowing how I loved writing, prodded me to join the Palanca awards. They gave me a copy of the contest rules. I was charmed by the Short Story for Children category. Between meetings and at night, I worked on a story; turned it in as my entry. Months later, I froze for eternity when I was told I won first prize.

That made me turn the corner. “There is life after advertising.”

After advertising, there was no “life”—no rush and no deadlines. So I kept busy by writing and writing, and rewriting the manuscripts I had written as a closet writer for years.

Came the International Book Fair which I now had the luxury of visiting. One of the hundreds of booths was OMF Literature’s. There I found a copy of its brochure. My eyes spotted item one in Prayer Concerns: Praying for young and fresh writers.

I am not young but I am definitely fresh, I chuckled. So the next day I sent OMF some manuscripts. From that day forward, I have been writing—no longer about shampoos, toothpastes, refrigerators, or other consumer goods—but about God’s grace.

It was never in my agenda to become a full-time writer. It wasn’t in my agenda to turn my back on the career that trained me to communicate to various markets.

It wasn’t in my agenda to be in Chiang Mai, teaching would-be writers all I know about writing, so they—in their own way—may unleash words that will bring light to the stronghold of darkness.

I never imagined I’d one day partner with a Christian publisher to pursue God’s agenda. But I might have taken a cue from Paul. I have gone miles away from the things I used to take credit for.

Concerned about the unity of the Christians in Philippi, Paul spoke of his travails in prison, challenging them to seize the high privilege of working together to serve Christ.

Paul was Paul, and nobody could ever duplicate the great things he had done for Jesus. But he empowers and pushes. Reading his letter, I stand in awe at the vast amount of grace Jesus poured upon Paul’s life—and to those who stay united to lift up God’s name.

Clearly, I want to unite with all Christian writers in Asia, and around the globe, to experience the gift of grace that comes with embracing Christ, and being embraced by Him.

6 comments:

frdrck_skyler said...

congratulations!! i can't wait to have a copy of your book..

Grace D. Chong said...

Dear Fred,

Have not seen you for a loooong time. PLease come to the book launching. Nov. 21, 6 PM, Marajo Tower, Global City.

cathy perez said...

Miss Grace, I sure will get one once I'm there in the Philippines early next year. Thank you for sharing your story in this entry. It gave me such encouragement cos I also want to write. ;)

Grace D. Chong said...

Hi, Cathy! The best time to start writing is NOW, not tomorrow or when you are less busy. Go for it!

Joseph said...

Grace,

I don't know if I'm too judgmental or bigoted but I think I've finally found a Filipino, or Filipina for that matter, whose writing does not make me feel like climbing the Everest.

Joseph

Grace D. Chong said...

Thanks, Joseph. Hope to see you sometine in Cebu.