Mixed Flock of birds flying in a V Formation- Put together- ©Creative Commons
I love writing and blogging: watching something shapely, and sometimes beautiful, emerge from a jumble of thoughts.
But there are many times when I just don’t feel like writing. My brain and spirit and fingers feel wooden. It is what Steven Pressfield calls “The Resistance.”
What helps then? Reading, reading a lot, ideally something like what I want to write, until the rhythm of words beats in my bloodstream, and ideas explode in my brain, and I yearn to get them out on the page.
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And what when it comes to prayer, and I feel numb, a lifeless thing without joy, or love, or thought?
But I have made a commitment to pray, so pray I will.
I used to read scripture and read it until my heart said “Amen.”
I now practice eucharisteo–giving thanks for all the beautiful and lovely things in the world, and in my life.
I give thanks, and give thanks while the plane of my emotions slowly slides down the runway, and inches into the blue, sunny skies of praise and joy.
My friend Paul Miller, a Christian writer (of “Love Walked among us,” the first drafts of which I edited, “A Praying Life” etc) told me about the Norwegian pastor, Ole Hallesby’s wonderful book on prayer.
In particular, Paul pointed out a paragraph. I paraphrase: Your secret life with Christ in the secret places of prayer is a cosy, warm Norwegian cottage in a blustery winter. If you talk about your prayer life, you open the door, and cold wintry blasts enter.
I am sure Hallesby is right. The risk of talking about spiritual adventuring is putting oneself on a pedestal. Look at Paul the Apostle in this amusing passage, struggling with dual impulses,
a) to tell all–to describe his amazing spiritual experiences, probably among his most precious possessions,
b) to keep secret this sacred, precious and most dear thing.
Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. 5I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say. (2 Cor. 12).
He has it both ways, doesn’t he? Both tells, and doesn’t tell. As most of us do when we war with the impulse to show off.
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The spiritual life is full of highs and lows. One moment, you are with Christ on the mountain, seeing him and everything else transfigured; you behold his glory; you behold Moses and Elijah; you see reality in a different light; you are transformed.
And then you walk down the mountain, and you are now cocky and arrogant, and presume to advise Christ, and to your horror, he, who once said to you, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah” now says, “Get behind me, Satan, for you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man.”
So how does a Christian writer chronicle her spiritual life without the appearance of showing off? Or without, in fact, showing off! Is it even appropriate to write about a deep, sacred, intimate and precious relationship on the web? It would be like writing about the most private moments of marriage, which even I, who am always writing, would never dream of doing.
I don’t have an answer, but I think I might use the blessing test more severely. If what I am writing is, or might be a blessing to my readers, I’ll press, “Publish Post.” If not, it joins my multi-volume drafts folder!
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If one is looking for a business niche, the best way to find it is to look for the intersection of your own deep joy (interests, abilities, talents) and the world’s deep need, to quote Frederick Buechner.
The same is true for a writer looking for a subject. Though, of course, after a certain age, one doesn’t look for subjects any more, they come up and grab your by the throat, many of them, all at once.
I have both studied and taught Creative Writing at universities. A common writing adage goes like this, “If there is a book you would like to read, and it does not exist, why then, of course, you must write it.”
If there a blog you would like to bookmark, an unfailing source of refreshment to your tired spirit, and it doesn’t exist, then, well, you will have to write it!
Anne Lamott in Travelling Mercies. “Here are the two best prayers I know: “Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Sometimes when one is exhausted, overwhelmed and overwrought that is all one is capable of. Isn’t it amazing that it qualifies as prayer?
Anne Lamott–”Sometimes if I’m praying for discernment, when I’m really stuck and I don’t know which way to turn–or, most likely, when I absolutely can’t let go of something that’s driving me nuts, then the way I hear is this kind of Holy Spirit nudge on my heart, where all of a sudden I have the answer. It always makes me laugh that it’s so obvious.”
I have had that experience often. It’s amazing how prayer sharpens the IQ!
We watched a documentary “The Secret Life of Plants.”
A shriveled seedpod waited for the rain to burst it open and release its seeds; fungi waited for rain to release their myriad spores.
And in our own lives, prayer releases that rain.
When we do not pray, we settle into dry and barren hopelessness, we shrivel.
Prayer is like the rain to those seedpods, releasing hope into marriage, finances, child-rearing.
We need prayer so that we do not shrivel into hopelessness about the apparently intractable areas of our lives.
I love the brilliant John Piper metaphor for prayer. An embattled foot soldier, surrounded by his enemies calls on his walkie-talkie for aerial support. Which flies in.
That’s what I sometimes feel like.
In dire need of aerial support.
Which does come at my time of need.
At a prayer.
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,
for in you my soul takes refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
until the danger has passed. Psalm 57.
I love how the Psalms tune and sensitise my spirit, make me aware of thoughts and emotions I am barely conscious of.
I love praying. It is one of my very favourite things to do. I love how prayer flushes out and irrigates my soul. I love how I can hide myself in God until the danger has passed. And that is a very safe place to be.
Interestingly, really serious prayer, for me, a serious seeking of God’s face, that kind of prayer which clears my thoughts, and helps me to see things clearly, requires me to be on my knees.
Another aspect of the body-mind connection.