Draw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave BaabA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthThe Power of ListeningDeath in Dunedin: A NovelJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationSabbath Keeping FastingDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelPersonality Type in CongregationsBeating Burnout in CongregationsPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeA Renewed SpiritualityFriending

Lynne's Blog

My latest creative project: Short stories about self-discovery and spiritual growth

Thursday January 19 2017

My latest creative project: Short stories about self-discovery and spiritual growth

In 1990 I finished my seminary degree, having taken ten years to finish a three year master’s degree. My kids were 8 and 10. I was a candidate for ordination as a Presbyterian minister, but I knew I didn’t have the extraverted energy to be a minister while my kids were so young.

In my last year of seminary, I wrote a short story about a woman in transition. The 2,000 word story took me a year to write, and I found it helpful to write about a fictional person who was dealing with similar issues to mine. In the two years after graduation, I wrote seven more short stories. The main characters were all dealing with transitions, trying to figure out who they were, how they wanted to live and where God was guiding them. All of the stories reflected issues I was thinking about on my own faith and life journey, even though most of the characters bore little resemblance to me.

I recently dug out the stories and spent some time with them, smoothing out the dialog and editing small errors. I decided I liked them. In fact, I liked them a lot. So I have published them for kindle, with the title A Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual Growth. The cost is $2.99

I sent the stories out to several people for whom I have written book endorsements in the past, and they sent back really lovely endorsements, which I’ll paste in below. They actually liked the stories. I was thrilled.

I hope that readers will enjoy meeting the imaginary people who helped me process major issues at a time of transition. Here are the endorsements for the book.

The stories in A Garden of Living Water are about struggle, discovery and grace. Grace often comes clothed in a friend’s willingness to listen and to risk speaking the truth with sensitivity. Lynne Baab’s faith reverberates through these stories. God does not come like a genie from a bottle, granting wishes. Yet God abides in the nexus among friends and lovers, and in each narrative’s trajectory of hope.
Carol Simon, author of Bringing Sex into Focus: The Quest for Sexual Integrity

A back-yard garden, a new dress, a patchwork quilt, ordinary items from ordinary lives, except in the deft hands of author Lynne Baab. In the stories that make up this collection, the things of everyday life become the point of intersection for our deepest longings and God's faithful presence. It is rare to come across stories that capture both daily life and faith in God with the same level of intimacy and ring of truth.
Douglas Early, author of Abide in Me: Being Fully Alive in Christ

Lynne Baab has always been one of my favorite theology and spirituality teachers, but now she is also a favorite short-storyteller. In this volume, Lynne depicts a whole variety of people and places – all on the cusp of discovery. Who to be. How to interact with others. Where to invest time and talent. Get to know the folks in Lynne's Garden and take away truth and inspiration to help your own life.
Lucinda Secrest McDowell, author of Dwelling Places

In these captivating short stories Lynne Baab, a seasoned writer on topics of Christian spirituality, introduces us to people who are growing. Many of these characters are women who are wondering what will be next for them. Their discernment is aided by friendships of various kinds – with God, with husbands, children, parents, and friends. One of the women in the stories, standing on the cusp of new life, is counseled by a friend that "it’s a question of creation. Each of us was created by a loving God for supportive relationships and creative work." That faith permeates this book, bringing healing and hope to characters and readers alike.
Susan Phillips, author of The Cultivated Life and Candlelight

As with Lynne’s other fictional writings, these short stories are not only a compelling read, they are both thought-provoking and inspirational. Lynne has a real gift for dealing with some of life’s very real, but seldom confronted realities – such as grief, past hurts, loneliness, and belonging – in an honest, gentle and therapeutic manner.
Clare Ayers, Life & Business Coaching, Christchurch, New Zealand

Lynne Baab’s heartfelt and encouraging stories about people searching for meaning, yearning toward authenticity, and navigating family relationships and friendships are sure to resonate with anyone who’s wrestling with the perennial questions Who Am I? and Why Am I Here? Perhaps the most encouraging part of this collection is Lynne’s closing letter to readers, in which we hear how she wrote these stories out of her own struggle to discern her calling and purpose—and then get to see her 20 years later, with a Ph.D. and 16 books under her belt!
K. C. Ireton, author of Circle of the Seasons and Cracking Up

(Next week: the first post in a new series on worshiping and serving God from the heart. If you’d like to receive an email notice when I post on this blog, sign up under “subscribe” in the right hand column.)

Worshipping God the Creator: Co-Creators with God

Friday August 5 2016

Worshipping God the Creator: Co-Creators with God

Expressing creativity through art, music, gardening, and a host of other avenues is another pathway that can help us connect with God the Creator. And at the same time, allowing ourselves the time and energy to enjoy God’s creation can help our own creative juices flow. Just like in the area of simplicity, many people have told me that they experience a vibrant ebb and flow as they enjoy the creation God made and as they engage in creative activities themselves. One feeds on the other.

Last week’s post on this blog presented Bill’s story. He talked about the way that the creation speaks to him about God’s call to each of us to be creative. As Bill said, we are created in God’s image and God is creative. Bill believes that we are all called to be co-creators with God.

Some may object to the term “co-creators.” Clearly, we are not equal partners with God in creation. God created and continues to create in a way that is totally different than anything we can do. God creates out of nothing. We take what God has already created, and we create something using already-existing forms and objects.

In addition, God sustains the universe in a way that is completely beyond our comprehension and completely different than anything we could do to care for creation. “In him all things hold together,” the Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 1:17. As much as we might like to exaggerate our own significance in moments of grandiosity, no human being can make that kind of statement about himself or herself.

I experience great joy and a sense of noble challenge when I think of myself as a “co-creator with God.” I love the high call to be a partner with God in creating something that reflects God’s beauty, love, and truth. At the same time, I know I am definitely a junior partner in the endeavor to express God’s creativity in human artistry.

I started writing fiction in my early forties. The ability to imagine people and events filled me with awe. Truly I felt like a partner with God, making something where nothing had been before. I didn’t create the words I used to write stories, but I dreamed up the plots and characters out of nowhere. The exhilarating sense of oneness I experienced with God as I wrote fiction has spilled over into many other areas of life.

For me, writing is a significant creative outlet, whether I’m writing a book, article, blog post or email to a friend. In addition, mundane daily activities can call forth my creativity in a way that mirrors God’s tender care for creation: fixing a delicious and attractive meal, setting a table with attractive dishes and flowers, arranging a room, or choosing flowers for an outdoor pot. I remember reading Edith Schaeffer’s classic book Hidden Art many years ago. She talks about the artistry that can be expressed in homemaking. Her ideas felt overwhelming to me as a young woman. Now they make sense.

I’m amazed at the number of people I know who enjoy making creative photo albums for their families. I’m also amazed at the number of people who have significant artistic talent for drawing and painting. When I was an associate pastor at a church in Seattle, every year at Pentecost we had a “Festival of Gifts” at our church. People brought all kinds of artwork and crafts to show. The variety was amazing. One year a family brought a kayak they had made. The wife does quilting, and a quilt square decorated the front of the kayak, deeply embedded in multiple coats of varnish. One person made soap. Someone had etched interesting designs on drinking glasses. One person made little angels as Christmas decorations. One father had made a life-size sculpture of himself and his son, cut out of plywood. People also brought embroidery, quilting, needlepoint, pencil sketches, watercolors, paintings, and collages.

All of these expressions of creativity require slowing down enough to pay attention to something other than the rush and demands of the consumer lifestyle. All of them require standing apart from the pressure and fast pace of so much of life, in order to focus on this immediate expression of beauty. In order to connect with God the creator by being creative ourselves, it is essential that we embrace simplicity in some form. The themes described in this series of blog posts – simplicity, creative expression through artistic endeavors, and enjoying the creation made by our loving Creator – are all intertwined. They build on each other.

This is the tenth post in a series on worshipping God as Creator. Earlier posts:
     Nature calls us to worship         
     The Creation invites us to join in praise         
     The Bible and Creation         
     Some thoughts from midlife interviews         
     The good creation         
     Creation care         
     Voluntary simplicity           
     Voluntary simplicity in action         
     Bill's story         

(Next week: two more stories about people's experience with Creation. This post is excerpted from my book, A Renewed Spirituality. Illustration by Dave Baab. If you'd like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under "subscribe" in the right hand column.)

Creating alongside God

Friday August 14 2015

Creating alongside God

This week I published a novel, a murder mystery set in Dunedin, New Zealand, my adopted home town. The title is Death in Dunedin. Like me, the main character, Lena, is a Presbyterian minister from Seattle who moves to Dunedin, New Zealand. Her story diverges from mine pretty dramatically at that point. She’s on a church exchange, and soon after her arrival she finds a dead man in the church parking lot.

Since I normally write non-fiction, I want to spend a little time reflecting on the differences between writing fiction and non-fiction.

I LOVE studying something and then helping someone else learn it. I might help them learn by leading a discussion on the subject and steering the discussion in the direction that I think will help people grasp the content. That’s my primary teaching style. I also love explaining things clearly to help people learn. I view this attribute – loving to learn and then loving to help others learn the same material – as the key component of the spiritual gift of teaching (mentioned in Romans 12:7 and Ephesians 4:11). I believe teaching is my primary spiritual gift, and I believe I use that gift when in the classroom and in my writing.

So my style of writing non-fiction comes from my spiritual gift of teaching. I value clarity above all else. I want to help people see things more clearly and think more deeply.

Fiction is something different. Sure, I still value clarity in my fiction, but fiction mirrors God’s creativity in a way that writing non-fiction doesn’t. Theologians say that God created ex nihilo, meaning from nothing. Because humans have to use something in the created world in order to make something else from it, theologians say we cannot possibly create ex nihilo.

I agree with that statement theologically, but on a visceral level when I write fiction I feel that I am creating ex nihilo in a way that reflects God’s creativity. With non-fiction, I take ideas I have learned from books and interviews, and I synthesize them, organize them and clarify them. Writing non-fiction definitely doesn’t feel like creation ex nihilo.

With fiction, sure I’m taking words that I didn’t create and I’m using them to build a story. But my characters and what happens to them come out of my imagination. In fact, they seem to come to me from nothing. They are just there in my head. When I get an idea for a character and when that character’s actions and words come to me, it feels like I’m creating ex nihilo alongside God in a very, very small way. It’s the coolest feeling, thrilling and full of passion.

It’s clear to me that I write non-fiction better than fiction. But hey, my non-fiction is quite good (speaking in attempted modesty), so maybe my fiction is pretty good. Back in the early 90s I wrote 8 short stories and 4 novels. I’ve already revised and published two of those novels (Dead Sea and Deadly Murmurs). The novel I published this week was written in 2009, two years after we moved to New Zealand. The main character, Lena (also the heroine of Deadly Murmurs), enjoys learning things about New Zealand and explaining them clearly in blog posts (like me) but she is also intrepid physically with lots of energy for kind-hearted interchanges with people (unlike me).

I’m hoping to revise the other two novels I wrote twenty years ago and publish them, and I’d also like to publish a collection of my short stories. Someday.

Meanwhile, I’d encourage you to think about the forms of creativity that fill you with joy and that help you experience that feeling of creating alongside God, even if it’s in a very small way. Human creativity in myriad forms is one of the joys of life, and I think that’s because it helps us feel God’s companionship in a unique way.

(If you'd like to get an email notification when I post on this blog, sign up under "subscribe" in the right hand column.)