For The Someday Book

Posts Tagged ‘blogging

Practicing FamiliesI want to invite everyone to check out a new blog project that I am a part of called Practicing Families. It’s a resource for families of all shapes and sizes who are seeking to engage spiritual practices and nurture faith in Christ at home. You’ll find ideas for weekly liturgies you can do at home, reflections on parenting and thoughts on experiencing God in the midst of family life, mess and all. I hope you’ll go and check it out!

The homepage is here, and you can follow us on Facebook. My first contribution is called “Family of Faith–and No Faith,” about our family life with a Christian pastor and atheist philosopher.

Come on over and check it out!

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I recently joined a writers’ group, and this was our first assignment, as a way to get to know each other. I wrote on this topic awhile back, on the first anniversary of this blog. I am sharing this new version, because I realize that I am not writing for the same reasons I did two years ago.

I started writing as a way of remembering. My earliest writings can be found in a pink diary with a built-in lock. For years, I wore the gold key on a chain around my neck. My diary contained all the secrets of a lonely girl, and all the daily dramas I wanted to remember forever. I tried to write every night, an earnest attempt to capture every moment of my life and carry it with me into the future. When I didn’t have the energy to construct a narrative of the day, I made lists of things to write about later. I fancied myself in the tradition of Laura Ingalls, Anne Frank or Go Ask Alice. I imagined that someday my life would be interesting, and that I would want to remember back to the days when it wasn’t.

I wasn’t much older than this when I started writing, and I always have that same curl in my eyes when I write with pen and paper.

In college, I majored in English and history. I studied expository writing as an academic pursuit, a way of making a case or telling a compelling story or unfolding an analysis. While I knew I could write clearly and well, I did not consider myself a writer. Writers created worlds. Writers gave birth to characters and invented moments. I could only report on the world or analyze a character or explain a moment, which was not the same.

I write because it is a way to think and to pray. Sometime in junior high school, I discovered paper’s patience. Sharing feelings never came naturally to me, but I trusted paper to hold all my vulnerabilities and heartbreaks. I tamed my feelings and gave voice to my fears in the pages of my journals. I discovered that writing did not just hold my feelings, it healed them. Writing often became an outpouring of prayer.

My journey from adolescence into adulthood happened in writing. I wrote myself into being, trying on voices and identities until I figured out who I was becoming and who God was calling me to be. I could write about things long before I had the courage to do them, and the bold words on the page pushed me to bolder living in the world.

As I entered adulthood, I wrote because I had something to say. My calling into ministry meant that God had a purpose for my voice. I study and contemplate and read and realize I have a lot to say. In sermons, in papers, in pastoral messages, I write to console, to teach, to reveal, to inform, to coach, to call, to convey, to evoke. What I write, by the Spirit’s grace, can sometimes even connect people with the presence of the Holy.

All those reasons for writing are still active in my life. I still write to remember. I started blogging three years ago when my son was a toddler, because I wanted to capture the experience of parenting and create a record of his early explorations. I still write to tame feelings. I have a journal on my shelf that contains all my recent heartbreaks and most vulnerable moments. I write in it when I am broken and need to knit myself back together. I still write because I have things to say. My ego is big enough to believe that I have something meaningful to contribute to the world.

My best writing happens when all those reasons come together—when I capture a true moment, explore my own thoughts and feelings about it, then connect it to something deeper beyond myself. I want to write more from that place. When it happens, it feels transcendent.

Tomorrow marks the two-year anniversary of this blog, and of my turn (return) toward writing as a spiritual practice. Last year, I reflected on why I write. This year, I am reflecting on the treasures created by the act of writing.

This week I spent a lot of time rereading old posts as I searched for appropriate writing samples to submit for a new opportunity to expand my writing work. I was amazed to discover what a memory bank this site has become, in just two short years. There are stories of ministry, motherhood, personal growth and random humor that would have ceased to exist by now, if they were solely dependent on storage space in my brain cells. Other stories would have been remembered, but without the solid detail and vibrancy that the writing created. There are also real and wonderful memories of events sparked by the blog writing itself. That Evangelism Flash Mob that I wrote about last November? It really happened—at an outdoor venue in Tampa, and on the floor of General Synod. It resulted in new friendships and one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had.

I also browsed through the “drafts” section of my dashboard, and realized that some memories I had wanted to hold on to have already flown away.  I made notes to myself about a story or event when it happened, but I never got around to writing the story more fully. Now the energy and vitality of the moment is gone. I wish I had devoted more time, or had more time to devote.

All of this brings to mind one of my favorite songs from Sweet Honey in the Rock.

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
To see the beauty of the world through my own eyes.
–Y.M. Barnwell, Sweet Honey in the Rock

Writing here teaches me to see the beauty of the world through my own eyes. It creates memories of joy and delight and the presence of God in the things of everyday life, ranging from interactions with my son to strange ministry happenings to moments of transcendence and illumination. It’s addictive, and I’m only wanting more. Here’s to “more” in year three—more time, more writing, more memories, more God.

Today marks exactly one year since I started this little blog project. When I look back over the year, it is the thing I am most proud to have accomplished. I am pleased not because I think I have created masterful works of literature, but because I have returned to writing as a spiritual practice.

I write myself into being and I write myself into the presence of God. When I was a teenager and young adult, I poured my heart out into journals. Through those critical identity-forming years, I wrote in order to try on ideas, to sort through questions, to ponder faith, to pray, to figure out who I was. When my relationship with God fractured along the way, I wrote the angry, angst-ridden missives to the Spirit to give voice to my aching spiritual loss. God came to me and our relationship was repaired as I put paper to pen and imagined God’s responses in love.

As I got older, I drifted away from writing as a spiritual practice. When I fell in love and got married, conversation with my partner took the place of my journal as the place to process and heal from daily events. When I entered ministry, my writing became my work, a public project for worship and preaching instead of a private place for prayer and contemplation. After 13 years of marriage and nearly 10 years of ministry, I am glad for both the ongoing conversation with my spouse and the public voice I have cultivated in ministry. But something was lost when I stopped writing just for me.

A year ago, when I started this blog, I had a surplus of ideas and stories and concerns and questions. I wanted to dedicate time and concentration to reflecting on them. I needed to write about it all, to talk it through, to sit with words, to feel the Spirit move to sort and challenge and synthesize. I also realized that I wanted other people to participate in that conversation. I wanted to do my own reflection, and then invite others to weigh in. I made the move from private journaling to public blogging.

I still write just for me, about whatever it is that I want to consider, without trying to be entertaining or professional or focused or niche. As I wrote in the first introduction to the blog, some posts may eventually develop into more published, professional writing—but the goal is not the publication, it is the practice of writing itself. The Book Reviews and Sermon Saplings have blended the personal and professional in ways that feel organic and whole. Yet the blog still contains reflections on all aspects of my life. I simply open those conversations to others who might be interested in eavesdropping on them or participating in them. Today, I am taking another step toward making this writing public by attaching my real name, so that when you search for me on Google you will not only find out about my ministry and my marriage, you might find this page too.

Writing regularly has made me more attuned to the presence of the Spirit in my daily interactions with my family, my church, my work, my world. My eyes and ears are more alert to God and aware of God’s action. I have slowed down to contemplate life more, and sought escape and distraction less. I have met new friends in the blogosphere, and gratefully found others considering the same questions and concerns. I have been vulnerable to the fleeting ecstasies of praising comments and escalating hit counts, and to the cutting edge of trolls and detractors. I have put ideas out there, only to be filled with doubt and questioning. I have edited myself when I probably shouldn’t have, and spoken stridently when I probably should have remained silent. These experiences remind me always of God’s grace.

Writing regularly here has put me back into deeper, more sustained conversation with my spiritual self. It has opened my private prayer life in new ways and strengthened my public voice for ministry. It has connected me more profoundly to God’s presence around me and the ongoing movement of the Spirit. I am grateful for this space, and for the chance to share it with you. Thank you, and here’s to year number two.

Wow! This morning I noticed a huge jump in hits here on the blog, and a short while later I received an e-mail from the Editor at wordpress.com. The post I wrote about symbiogenesis made Freshly Pressed!!!!

Every day, the editors at WordPress select eleven (11!!) blogs from the hundreds of thousands of WordPress posts to feature on Freshly Pressed. Some bloggers work hard for years to try to get selected. I just got lucky. You can see it here: http://wordpress.com.

I even took a photo, just for the record.

There it is! Right in the center of the page!

Welcome, to all who find your way here via Freshly Pressed! I hope you’ll stick around and keep reading after today, and add your comments to the discussion.

And a big thank you to the folks at WordPress for choosing my little blog “For the Someday Book” for today’s Freshly Pressed. I am honored and excited.

I had the opportunity to hear a colleague preach this week at an ecumenical Lenten service. He was preaching on the story of the Transfiguration, and Peter’s desire to capture the experience of being on the mountaintop to remember and return to it forever. He opened his reflections with a story about using a camcorder to capture precious moments when his children were small. He realized after a time that he was so busy looking through the lens of the camcorder to capture the moment that he missed being a part of the moment. What we want to be about, he said, is being fully engaged with the moment, because that writes the moment in our hearts, where the memory really matters. We can return to the experience of God in quiet and prayer. It was a good sermon.

Throughout his story, I was reflecting on my (still relatively new) life as a blogger. Since I have been writing this blog, I have found myself thinking, “Oh, I have to capture this story on the blog!” or “I can’t wait to write this down!” I wondered if I am so busy thinking about how to remember my spiritual moments with God or special moments with B that I am not actually present to them.

In reality, though, I have found the opposite to be true. Since I have been writing regularly, I feel as though my senses have been heightened. I feel like I am slowing down and paying more attention to my life. All these blog entries were once just passing moments of closeness to God and people. They did not get remembered at all, much less written into my heart, because I was always rushing off to the next thing. Now I find myself noticing and then absorbing the details of an encounter, with an eye toward writing it later. Writing intensifies my mindfulness and awareness, deepens my experience of events, and implants the spiritual memories deeper in my heart. For example, I am pretty confident I would not remember anything about that Lenten sermon if I hadn’t been contemplating a written response!

Which makes me think there are two key differences between writing and recording. First, a recorder does not need to be present to the moment to record it—the camera does all the work. A writer must be fully present to the moment, because the mind and senses are the only recorders present to capture the experience. Second, what is captured by the recorder is qualitatively different than what is captured by the writer. The recorder is able to capture the moment in all its detail. In video, for example, the camera recalls the color of clothes and the condition of the room, the words that were spoken and the ambient noises, the order of events and the expressions on faces. The written word cannot handle all those lavish details without becoming cumbersome and overwhelming. What the writer captures is what it was like to be there–the feelings, the experience, the words and happenings that mattered most. A writer is reflective and selective. When I write about a moment, I am not trying to tell you exactly what happened, so that you can see it for yourself. I am trying to share with you the experience that I had in a moment, why it mattered to me and what made my heart sing. I am trying to make your heart sing too, in response. Video footage is raw, writing is interpretation.

To continue the example, consider the difference between watching a video of my colleague’s sermon and just reading my brief summation. I make no attempt to capture the nuance of his words or the richness of his outline–I only tell you what mattered to me, and why it spoke to my heart.

All this reminds me of the Bible. The Bible is writing, not recording. This is not a new insight–I long ago abandoned any understanding of the Bible as literal Word of God or factual recording of history. When I teach people about the Bible, I tell them that the Bible exists because people had an encounter with God that touched them, and they were so moved that they wrote it down to remember and share with others.

Then I realized, of course, that this is the same exercise I am participating in today. The technology has changed from parchment scrolls to WordPress blogs, but the act is the same. Encounter God and write about it, because the act of writing inscribes it in your heart and enables you to share the experience with others. I intend no arrogance or pretension by drawing a comparative line between my halting reflections and the words of holy scripture–quite the opposite. I am humbled to realize that I am doing nothing new under the sun, just participating in a long history of faith seekers and faith writers trying to inscribe the moment into their hearts and into the hearts of others, from behind the quill, the pen or the keyboard.


About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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