I’m making a renewed vow of journaling in the coming year, and I’m inviting anyone along who wants to join me. I used to be a daily, consistent writer of my thoughts, prayers and dreams, but somewhere along the way I stopped. It’s time to start, again.
Why journal? I could mention a couple of things: 1) journaling helps with critical thinking and reflection, 2) it engages our mind and body, multiple senses working together, and 3) it helps us stop.
I’ve experienced all that in the past. Journaling helps me frame my thoughts and it creates a safe space to go deeper in personal reflection. I also like the feel of paper and a fine pen in my hand. It creates a quiet space, a refuge from all the hustle and hurry of the day. When I plan to journal and invest the effort to make a special space and time for journaling it becomes a respite, a place of healing and quiet in my hectic schedule and unrestful days.
What to journal? You can always journal your thoughts and prayers. You can keep a record of your thankfulness. You can track and explore your plans and dreams. I’m going to be keeping two official journals in 2018, one for my thoughts & prayers and one for my plans & schemes.
When to journal? When it’s valued. When it’s easy. When you can. That’s the reality we all face… journaling needs to be a valued practice, given it’s own space and an investment of materials. Pick a good journal, treat yourself with a trip to the bookstore and and get a good one. Do you like a fine pen? Do you not even care and keep $.29 ballpoints? It all works. When should you journal? Do have more time at the beginning or close of a day?
How to journal? Make it a habit, write daily. Write something: consistency. Look, I’m no recognized journaling expert, but this is what I have found in my experience: I need to do something every day to make it a habit and maintain it, and that means writing something, anything, each day. I will write something even if I’m writing the sentence, “Today, I got nothing.”
Why two journals? You may only want to carry one journal around for the year, but I have a bunch of stuff on my mind. I have now been out of full-time ministry for two years. I didn’t expect to still be out after two years. God and I need some time to chat and explore stuff in the new year. That’s a journal all to itself. The other one? I’m feeling creative and I have some projects in mind for 2018. Projects are great, but I need a journal, lists and captured creativity to help me get some of them finished! Let me know if you’re journaling and how it goes! Hold me accountable and ask me how it’s going!
One of the uses or blessings of civility is it’s ability too turn things around, to take a bad situation and make it better, to help a person having a bad day begin to have a better day. An important part of civility is acting out of that civil impulse to positively engage and support one’s community.
Do you see someone around you struggling? Do you see someone who needs encouragement? Lift them up! Be a person who spreads joy and increases peace in the world with kind words, encouraging and positive contributions.
The proverb in our Weekly Grace is at once obvious and such a needed reminder. Our words have an effect, so let’s plan for the best effect possible. As children in Sunday School classes we often put our fingers over lips and sang “O be careful little lips what you say!” and I hope we never grow too old for that lesson.
I launched a website today that I have pondered for a couple of years and worked on for the last week: showsomehumanity.com
The website is a hope and a prayer that we can have some deep conversations about being better human beings in the midst of our amazing diversity. It’s intended to be for everyone, people of any or no religion, of any and all traditions and backgrounds. It won’t be perfect, and it’s starting small, but I hope it grows and becomes a voice for good.
One aspect of the site will be exploring monthly human values. We’re starting off with January’s human value of kindness, and then in the coming months we’ll explore compassion, empathy and forgiveness.
Let’s get real. We won’t wake up tomorrow to find that we all suddenly look, think or want alike. You won’t wake tomorrow to be just like me, or vice versa. We will always have our dissimilarities just as we’ll always have our similarities. We will always be diverse and we will always be one human family sharing one earth. It’s time to recommit to showing some humanity. It’s time to affirm that we love this big human family into which we are born, and we’ll work to make it the best family it can be for all.
You’ll see a lot of my own DNA in the new website, but I hope that changes over time. My daily prayer of loving, learning and serving is being recast there as a “hope” for folks who don’t pray, or a mantra for daily action and life. I still believe in prayer, of course, and it is a prayer for me. But those words may not function as a prayer for everyone. Even deeper is my belief in loving, learning and serving. These are themes that transcend and surpass me and my experience. They are hopes for who I can be and how we can share life together. They are gifts for the whole species, and so however I come to them or you come at them, they are good and needed.
I appreciate your friendships and encouragement. I will appreciate your help and direction in the coming months as the new website is established and grows. I have some guides for making content for the site, and if you’d like to write something, I’ll check it out and help get it posted on the site. General guides are: 1) your writing needs to be brief and concise, as in 500 words or less, 2) if your writing includes a graphic, we cannot break any copyright laws, so don’t just grab a picture off the web; make one yourself or ask me and I’ll help make some orignial artwork, and 3) you should love the people you hope will read your words and write for their benefit. And past those guides, I ask that: 1) the website not become a place to share judgements, 2) that the website is not a place for competition between ideas, religions, traditions or philosophies, 3) that the website is a place to listen, and 4) that this website is a place to ask good questions.
If you’re interested in the way I am processing and thinking about these things, and especially if you’re thinking I’m moving away from spirituality and my religious faith, then I offer a past blog post about recognizing how some things are greater than and transcendent of our frameworks and words. For me, everything I do is religious. Everything I do is an act of faith and an act in faith. In the end, I’m going to be very vulnerable to an accusation of becoming a humanist in the contemporary anti-theistic application of the word. That’s ok, even though it’s not true. I like an older more classical understanding of the term which indicates a general love of humanity and belief in humanity’s potential and goodness. That’s where I am, as a human and as a human who is a Christian.
hate be gone
hate be done
for we renounce you
we deny you
and the death
in which you revel
will never be
you have no hope
when you are
a sick memory
upon our past
we will sing
a new song
will not stand
and the peace
upon the strands
of the love
will be scattered
weak and undone
before love’s flame
I always begin things like #NaPoWriMo with high expectations and lots of energy – but it’s never long before I run out of words. So I start to strain to make some poems and my frustration mounts. Usually I end up a bit indignant that I would so arbitrarily be asked to make a poem a day. But that’s just silliness. I volunteered to be part of the exercise, I just didn’t think I’d have so many days of dryness when no words come to me when called.
And then the news comes on, and I see things like the hateful shootings, the murder of our Jewish neighbors in Kansas, a hateful crime I suppose was meant to stain their holiday. I want to scream. I want to deny that this still happens. I want to deny that anyone can be so broken as to choose such hate and it’s bile, it’s loss, it’s theft, it’s shame.
Words came back to me, today, after a week or so of not answering my call. Today, I protest the hate. I deny the killing stupidity and waste. I renounce any and all of the ignorant paranoia and fear. I call out to the humanity that is buried under the weight of such darkness.
I pray for the families affected by that hateful touch. I mourn with them, though not as them. They have been broken apart and touched so forcefully by the killing hatred. May their peace be restored and love wrap them in the divine embrace.
My little election day limerick…
“election day is finally here
time for you to vote!
your side will surely win it all
or at least you hope
but either way you did your part
you braved the crowds, you stood in line
to guarantee for four more years
your right to cheer or right to whine
or letting loose that thousandth tear
so just be safe, and pack a bag
I hear Canada’s nice this time of year”
Just some quick backstory… my dog ate my notebook. Yes, he ate the notebook in which I write my poems! But undaunted, I strode manfully to the mall and bought a new notebook. That notebook is the subject of a little poem I write tonight.
smell of the paper
feel of the grain
this notebook needs to be lettered
like the ground needs the rain
it holds my pen
steals my breath
i must dig into this paper
plumb it’s width, breadth and depth
something will be found
treasures yet unknown
despite all other gain
i shall have arrived home
still grey skies
mock the storm in my soul
as a sacred unease
rises, shifts and rolls
i cannot name the thing
which inside me grows
This often happens when I sit to intentionally write some poetry. A still, quiet moment allows me to hear some of my more painful inner movements that are drowned out in the usual activity of the day. It’s not that I’m totally filled with melancholy, but it’s there.
In recent months I’ve been in several different situations discussing the impact of depression on our lives and those conversations have had me thinking. I have lived with the ebb and flow of depression as long as I can remember. I don’t think it’s ever outright owned me, but it’s been there. I’ve learned to watch the seasons and to be aware of their impact on my moods. I’ve learned to listen to the people who love me and live with me; Teresa will let me know when I seem to be letting it get an upper hand.
I’ve been thinking about some of the ways that being a person of faith has impacted the way I deal with my depression and darker moods. I think that growing up with a “seen and unseen” worldview has been helpful for me. I was raised to put my faith in something beyond my senses, beyond my ability to perceive, as I could perceive other things. So when the dark thoughts come and I perceive no hope, I have this reflex to look past it and try to see what may not be seen.
I have a cognitive trigger built into me that causes me to seek. When I seek I am in movement. When I am in movement I cannot be held in the grip of anxiety, fear or hopelessness for too long. So when I am in the grip of depression, it never holds all of me, there is a bit of me still free to roam.
I’m not saying that this idea is a panacea or a magic cure all of some kind. And there will always be times when our imbalanced physiology demands the help of trained professionals, both for counseling and for medication. When I stop seeking, then I think it will be time for me to see a professional.
But having that safety valve built into me allows me to be very open about the presence of darkness in my soul. I can deal with the fact that even as a creature of the light, I retain these shadows; I own the shadows. But the shadows don’t own me. I’m grateful to God for this. And so even as I write something that questions what “inside me grows” I am also very assured that it will not one day rule me and destroy me, or supplant in me what God would do. My unease is sacred.