The Write Idea


A Writer’s Life and Faith

Filed under: Quotes — ljcollins @ 4:08 pm
Tags: , , , ,

The following is from Parker Palmer’s essay, “Taking Pen in Hand” in the Christian Century magazine, Sept. 7, 2010:

… So here’s my own Zen koan: we can do things we don’t think we can do if we don’t think about doing them.  I also learned that if you can’t write a book, write a lot of essays. If you can’t write an essay, write a lot of paragraphs. If you can’t write a paragraph, write a line or a word. And if you can’t do that on the page, write your truth with your life, which is far more important than any book.

Here, too, of course, is a parallel with the life of faith. The faith journey is less about making a big leap of faith than it is about putting one faithless foot in front of the other, and doing it again and again. What happens as you walk that way is sometimes transformed by grace. …

As a young person growing up in the church, a verse from 2 Corinthians commanded my attention, and it has ever since: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.” What that verse meant and still means to me is simple and yet demanding. Every container we create to hold the sacred treasure is earthen, finite, limited and flawed – and it is never to be confused with the treasure itself lest we confuse God’s power with our own. …

The constant challenge of both faith and writing is to hold this great paradox of the treasure and the earthen vessel in a respectful way. The vessels deserve our respect because they enable us to preserve the treasure over time and pass it back and forth among us. But if we become attached to the vessel in ways that obscure the treasure, we must discard the vessel and create one that reveals more than it conceals. …

“Why write,” said Jose Ortega y Gasset, “if this too easy activity of pushing a pen across paper is not given a certain bullfighting risk and we do not approach dangerous, agile and two-horned topics?”

And why believe in God if the God we believe in is so small as to be contained and controlled within our finite words and forms? The aim of our writing about faith, and of our living in faith, is to let God be God: original, wild and free, a creative impulse that drives our living and our writing but can never be contained within the limits of who we are or what we think and say and do.


  1. Laura, I feel like this little piece should stand at the top of every page I write, or try to write, to give me a sense of courage and fortitude for the risks involved. This is gorgeously said, so succinct yet far-reaching in its meaning and encouragement. Thank you!

    Comment by Tayria Ward — 10/03/2010 @ 5:42 pm | Reply

  2. that last paragraph! Wow! exactly what I think. and need to remember.

    Comment by Diane Roth — 10/04/2010 @ 8:12 am | Reply

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