The annual Festival of Faith in Writing conference is scheduled for this weekend, May 19-21, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’m told that this conference will renew, invigorate and inspire my writing and writing about faith. An oasis is definitely welcome right about now.
Jana Riess is one of the writers I intend to shake hands with. Her title alone, “Flunking Sainthood,” had me at first glance. Written in an elegant, yet comical conversational tone, it’s her attempt to master a different spiritual practice each month for a year. Although she claims she failed at everything from keeping the Sabbath to fasting, meditation, hospitality, gratitude, and generosity, she shares some fascinating valuable insights about all the practices. She was not raised in a religious family, but has always had a yearning to experience more of God. This challenge (conveniently packaged in a book deal) was her way of drawing closer to the Divine. She begins the project with the enthusiasm and ambition one might expect, but by the last page she is humbled in the recognition of her own human frailty.
Susan Isaacs is another writer/presenter who I might just throw my arms around in a big bear hug after I introduce myself. I cried and laughed all the way through her “Angry Conversations With God” brilliant spiritual memoir. After failing as a film and television actress and suffering multiple break-ups, Isaacs uses her writing talents to work through her grief, loss and anger. The premise is that she and God are in a “married” relationship, but things are going so badly that she insists on taking God to “couples counseling,” which is in essence her imagined dialogue between herself, a licensed therapist, and her construct of who God is. The text alternates between a chronological narrative and these “counseling sessions.”
As she releases her illusions of the God she has created, she discovers the true loving nature of the real God and her transformation begins. These dialogues reveal a fundamental need in a lot of us to feel the love of God rather than blame Him for our unhappiness and frustrations. Isaacs comes to the epiphany that God does not always grant us exactly what we want when we want it, including fame and fortune. She learns to accept acting and writing as hobbies, and not necessarily expect monetary payment. I appreciate how she uses humor not to ignore or deny deeper issues, but as a vehicle through which to deal with them.
I hope to return to Pittsburgh with autographed copies of both books and a deeper understanding of how I can use my writing to inspire others in the same ways in which they inspire me.