Since moving to Toronto, one habit I have fallen out of is listening to CBC podcasts. I used to listen to them all the time when I drove on average of 500 km a week. It was a wonderful way to keep up on the pulse of my country. I used to also listen to Cross Country checkup every Sunday evening on my way to one of my rural churches, but back to podcasts.
On my road trip home this month, I caught up on a month’s worth of The Current, Q and Day 6. Day 6 did a story on Jonah Lehrer, a journalist just hired as a staff writer for the New Yorker. He was found to be “plagiarising himself”, taking chunks of writing he had written for other publications and inserting them into pieces he was writing for the New Yorker.
True confession. Preachers do this a lot. We call it The Barrel. We don’t generally impose our material twice on the same congregation, unless a few years have gone by. Who would remember? For years I used the same beginning and ending for most funeral homilies. It was just that good.
Listening to the story on Lehrer, I began to think about why I fall into the temptation of me-cycling. Especially in ministry, this is a dangerously slippery slope. If the only authority you are consulting is yourself, that can lead to an unhealthy dose of imperious authority. I realised I generally resort to my own writing when my own well is dry. Why does my well run dry? Because I am not reading (aside from nighttime novels). Why am I not reading? Because I am stressed out by church and when I get time to myself the last thing I want to do is read about church! How’s that for a lack of self discipline?
So, that changes today. I am starting with a book from the modern mystical tradition recommended by my good friends Sándor and Emese: The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See by Richard Rohr. Have you read it? Want to read it with me? I’m starting today.
Or are you a preacher who has been dipping into the barrel a lot lately? How do you jump start your creativity? I’d love to know.