Thursday, April 11, 2013

Writing for Tomorrow

Well, it’s obvious from the date since my last blog entry that the only writing I have done as a regular discipline is the weekly crafting of sermons. But I have noticed that there are seasons when I’m drawn back to the simple power and practice of writing and attending to words.

This has been one of those seasons.

The first arena though which I’ve experienced God reawakening my love for language is (rediscovering) poetry. Anna Carter Florence, a gifted preacher and teaching of preachers from Columbia seminary, spoke at her recent visit to Lipscomb of a small book that helps her train students to love the power of well-crafted words, Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook. I’ve been reading through that volume and listening to an audio course on poetry, working through many of the classics. I sense something happening on a soul level already, as I’ve committed to memory Keats’s On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer, Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud and relearned the Frost classic, The Road Not Taken.

Have you ever had an experience so pregnant with wonder that it actually seems to gain force over time rather than diminish? Then you have a sense of Wordsworth’s discovery after seeing an explosion of daffodils on a stroll by a lake with his sister. Here are the final lines of that poem:

I gazed and gazed, but little thought
What wealth to me the show had brought: 

For oft when on my couch I lie 
In vacant or in pensive mood, 
They flash upon that inward eye 
Which is the bliss of solitude; 
And then my heart with pleasure fills, 
And dances with the daffodils.

These words are more than some romantic reflection on nature; they stir me to seek solitude and allow the gift of memory to draw me back into cherished experiences, at times even more moving than the initial event.

And so, lately, I read. And I even try to write a few lines of verse (only to realize again I do not have that gift). After watching the play Amadeus, an image struck me as a fitting way to capture my joy of reading poetry and my frustration at the inability to write it. This is all that came out:

I feel like the Salieri of verse, 
         Who soars at the poet’s strains, 
         And yet cannot give voice to them himself…

So, I’ll leave the writing and sharing of poetry to my bride and to my daughter. But I will read and I will write, from time to time, because words create worlds. They have since the beginning (Genesis 1:3,6,9,14,20,24,26; John 1:1-3).

Then last night God called me back to another avenue of world-shaping words: my spiritual journal. A mentor from my past sent an email yesterday that reminded me of the journal technique he taught us years ago. For a season of my life, God led me to journal almost daily. I felt this urge to pick that practice up again (I don’t know for how long); but I wrote last night. Then I pulled out my old books and glanced through them. I turned to the day our youngest son Luke was born and took in the wonder of that miracle all over again. I paged back a day and felt my heart 'strangely warmed' when I found these words of a memory I had forgotten: “You (God) gave me some special time just holding and talking to Christine and David on the last day we will have just these two children in our lives.” I smiled reading the entries about our discernment to move here to Tennessee; eagerly flipped to a day where God provided one of those “thin spaces” between heaven and earth and praised him all over again; skimmed through some of the darkest moments of doubt and fear and watched the words slowly shift as God walked me through that valley.

In this linguistic journey, God reminded me again what I have allowed myself to forget in recent months: the experience with God in journaling and writing is much like Wordsworth’s daffodils: the memory often can be even more powerful than the original experience.

And so I find myself writing again, because the fullest “bliss” of the journal entry I write today most likely will not come right away. I write today for the time when I’ll need to remember--when I'll need to re-experience--God’s faithfulness, the beauty of his world, the simple delight of family, friendship and commitment to his calling in our lives.

I write now for the world I cannot yet see
            and for the person I do not yet know.

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