Update on Aaron’s Writing Leave

Published July 4, 2016 by

Brothers and Sisters,

I’m now starting into my third week on my writing leave and since many of you have asked how it’s going, I thought I would give a quick update.

First, I’m incredible grateful for this time you all have given me to work on this project and particularly Dave for feeding us with God’s word and God’s gospel. Dave, you have pushed us in a right direction, reminding us of the confidence we have in God’s sovereign will, and why the good news is good news. It feels right that you have instructed us in this. So thank you, everyone, for the time, for praying, and for caring.

As to how the process is going, at first I didn’t know what to expect. As you know, I preached through a short six-week series on the Psalms last summer entitled “With Reverence and Ecstasy”. I had most of the content jumbled on 80 pages, but upon going through it, I quickly realized that it was a cacophony of bad sentence, poor English, lazy vocabulary, and loose structure. So for the past two weeks I’ve been re-working those manuscripts to build some sort of foundation for the book. It took me about four hours to go through one manuscript. So with six manuscripts, an introduction, and conclusion, that left me with eight chapters of which I finished my first draft last Friday.

Not only have I spent roughly 50 hours on it in the past two weeks, waking up at 5:00am to work on it, and at 9:00pm after the kids go down, but I’ve also been reading a world-renown book on writing by William Zinsser called, “On Writing Well”. It has been a tremendous resource for me and I’ve already seen the improvements on my writing.

I anticipate that I will not have this book finished until late August at the earliest. These things take time and I certainly want to be careful in my instruction of God’s Holy Word, and careful to say it in a way that you all will want to read. That’s right, I have you all in mind in my writing, which has been a great avenue for prayer for you. One of the benefits of this project is this very thing. As Paul says in Philippians, “I hold you in my heart (Phil. 1:7).”

I thought it would be appropriate for you all to taste a little what this time has produced, and so I’ll leave you with a snippet of the rough draft introduction, which hopefully encourages you to continue in the Psalms:

“The Psalms represent this continuum of holy affections. They possess a unique reverence and ecstasy [1]. In our entertainment culture, we are quick to turn to Netflix, ESPN, Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon Prime as types of relief from the pervading ache of our thought-life. Bob’s Burgers may get us a laugh, but when the credits role, everything is still as we left it. We are just more numb. Entertainment, then, is like morphine in an infection. It offers no solution, just temporary relief.

But the Psalms don’t numb the pain. The Psalms refuse to allow us to be trivial in our worship. The Psalms stare the sting square in the eyes, and calls it out. The Psalms walk us through turbulent streams only to plunge us into an ocean of beauty, being caught up in the seismic hurricane of God’s wonder. The Psalms invite us into its deluge.

But for some reason, modern evangelicalism has traded this surge of holy discomfort for a Bob Ross stream in a still valley plush with “happy trees”. It is a tragic trend that we have tossed the Psalter and replaced it with Christian pop—a big stage, a fog machine, a light show, and some vintage Beatles music. We tend to be pretty good at singing the “ecstasy” Psalms—the ones that make us feel good—but have altogether ignored the “reverent” Psalms—whose agony rises from the page. “Break the teeth of the wicked (Psalm 3:7).” We “turn it up” when KLOVE plays “from everlasting to everlasting you are God (Psalm 90:2)”, but the station doesn’t pay the electrical when Psalm 88:4-5 comes on. “I am a man who has no strength, like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand.” We excitedly sing in unison, from PowerPoint, “Bless the Lord O my soul (Psalm 104:35b)”, but for some reason have misplaced the preceding slide: “Let sinners be consumed from the earth and let the wicked be no more.” Where is this ecstasy and reverence? Where is the range of sorrow and joy and all that buzzes in between?”

[1] Paul Griffith wrote a book on religious readings in which he said, as quoted by Gordan Wenham, “For the religious reader, the work read is of overpowering delight and great beauty. It can never be discarded, because it can never be exhausted, it can only be re-read, with reverence and ecstasy.”

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