Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12: 6-8)
I have been teaching monthly spiritual writing classes, where people can work on identifying the specific gifts that God has given them and where we can support one another in the journey. What’s amazing about these classes is that people who don’t necessarily identify themselves as writers find meaning in what we do. The biggest challenge, really, is defining what – for the purposes of our classes, anyhow – spiritual writing really is.
I’ve found three ways to explain it that seem to help. Hopefully, they’ll help you, too!
Spiritual writing explanation #1: Writing as a Nesting Doll
Picture a set of Russian nesting dolls, wherein there is a brightly painted doll that can be opened up – and, inside that doll is an exact duplicate, only a bit smaller. You repeat the process three or four times until you find a tiny doll in the center that is solid.
Let’s envision that we have a five-layer nesting doll. These dolls represent, from largest to smallest, writing with the:
- Body: we can do the most mindless of writing using our body, from doodling to quick jotting, perhaps of a name or phone number
- Mind: we use this type of writing to create a grocery list or writing instructions or a how-to article; it takes more thought than the previous category, but it’s all pretty matter of fact
- Heart: this is when we share our feelings, perhaps in a letter to a grandmother or grandchild, or when we write an essay in the style of Chicken Soup for the Soul
- Soul: this is when we are truly willing and able to be vulnerable and write something authentic and meaningful; this goes beyond the sweet stuff often found in certain types of essays and can even be raw and painful to write
- Spirit: I believe that we are all connected by the Holy Spirit; whether we can write from that place is something for theologians to decide, not me!
The goal of our spiritual writing workshops is to push beyond the first two types of writing – writing that only engages our bodies and minds, into the type that is full of heart, and then even beyond that, to what is authentically us.
Spiritual writing explanation #2: Writing as a Continuum
When you push beyond using only the body, mind and heart when you write, you shift from the left side of the continuum to the right. Here are examples:
You delve beyond what you already know, what’s already in your conscious everyday brain to what you might not even yet recognize about yourself. You are willing to delve below the surface, to loosen the filters of your brain to discover more about your unique self and the gifts that God has given you.
Spiritual writing explanation #3: Another Author’s Perspective
The best explanation that I’ve found of the type of spiritual writing that we practice in the classes was written by Helen Cepero in Journaling as a Spiritual Practice: Encountering God Through Attentive Writing.
“Your desire and willingness and commitment to honor this spiritual practice by intentionally going below the surface. It is here that God wants to surprise you with the beauty of your own life, growing and alive, filled with movement, light and shadow. It is here that God wants to meet your own longing for a deeper life with the Spirit’s even greater longing to be with you, in all that you were and are and will be.”
“The more authentically we travel into our own lives and our own stories, the more we will lay claim to God’s image deep within us . . . and, the more available we are to God, the more available we are to truly love ourselves, one another and the world.”
“In the name of God, who creates us, may we deepen our awareness of God’s presence. In the name of Jesus Christ, who goes before us, may we be led into the pathways of truth. In the name of the Holy Spirit, who is power and breath, may we sense the Spirit’s movement in our lives.” Amen.
If you are close enough to NE Ohio, then join us on the second Monday of each month, September through May, from 6:30-8 p.m. at Heritage Presbyterian Church on the corner of Rt. 58 and Rt. 2 in Amherst. There is no charge, although a donation of food to our food bank is always appreciated. Or, come to the Northeast Christian Writers Conference on Saturday, April 11, 2015. There is a nominal fee of $20 for the all-day conference and it includes breakfast and lunch.
If you’re too far away to join us, but would like guidance in starting your own spiritual writing group, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be glad to help. No charge. I love to watch this type of ministry grow and flourish.
If you’d like ongoing mentoring, or are looking for a Christian ghostwriter or editor, let’s talk.