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Food for Thought - Spiritual Formation

Creative Writing

To the One Whom Jesus Loves,


In this letter we are continuing our theme of creativity and the spiritual life. This month we move from barefooted prayer to creative writing as prayer. What I am inviting you to do is to try your hand at composing your own psalm and/or poetic creation. Remember our motto: anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. It is the process, as well as your openness to God in the midst of the process, that is the critical piece of these experiences. It is about allowing your God-given creativity to rise to the surface and see what you discover about you and God in the process, rather than trying to force something to happen.


The type of creative writing you are being invited to experiment with can help give you an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your God and to discover what you are thinking and feeling in your heart and spirit. If you are able to spend some uninterrupted time in this process, choosing the words, images, and descriptions for your psalm and/or poetic creation deliberately, intentionally and prayerfully, you may very well get in touch with some powerful internalized feelings of joy, sorrow, intimacy, abandonment, etc. you didn't even know where there. This is not a journey for the faint hearted but rather a journey for those desiring to move toward a deeper relationship with God. Remember, it is not the end product that is important, it is the process – the process opens you up to God and honors God at the same time.


Included below are three of my writings from this past month that demonstrate both the psalm style and the poetic style. The purpose the writings below is to give you an example of the styles and encourage you to give it a go for yourself. The first writing is an example of the psalm style, while the other two reflect more of the poetic creation expression. All three of these writings were birthed out of the circumstances of my life. You may notice that the third writing does not have an overt theological bent nor any mention of God in it, yet it is still prayer, for it is an expression to God of my heart and spirit.


alone


God, what are you doing?

Are you really in control?

Do you really care?

I need to know!

Are you an absentee dad
long gone from my life never to return?
A single mom
with just too many children to manage?
A kindly grandparent
with no more energy left to give?


I need to know!


God, I feel alone in the universe


weak

fragile

exposed


fear is running toward me like a rabid dog;

teeth bared, mouth frothing,

getting ever closer.


God, what are you doing?


I cry out

I wait

Silence swallows me whole


God, are you coming?

Do you care?

I need to know!


a taste


a winter storm steps aside

allowing the birth

of a grand and glorious morning


pristine

perfect

beautiful beyond words


affording a fleeting glimpse of

paradise lost

paradise to come


silence, wonder, faith, hope and charity dance together

silhouetted by the rising sun


sandy beach


sun darkened faces

matted hair

strangers congregate along a wall

on a sun drenched beach

crashing waves washing away

unknown pasts


friendship, anger

a look, a word, a touch away


a tiny community

in constant evolution

alone; together


violence erupts

heated words, clinched fists


cooler heads prevail

a handshake, a hug, a cigarette

healing comes


the community lives on

fragile, secure

alone, together

as the waves crash into the night



Following are steps to creative writing. Make use of these steps if you find them helpful but feel free to change them around, skip them and make them your own. The steps are intended as a guide and nothing more


Tips to creative writing as prayer:

  • Prayerfully pick an experience from your life as the subject for your creative writing prayer time. Choose something meaningful to you, something emotive in a positive or negative way.
  • Briefly sketch the event. You do not need to use complete sentences, correct punctuation and spelling or even complete thoughts. Seek to use feeling words and images. Do not worry about mixed analogies or metaphors that break down before they are even on the page. There is plenty of time to clean up all this later. As you work through this part, pay attention to words or phrases you are drawn to that stir up something inside you – sit with those for a little while, listening for the still small voice of God.
  • Don't try to force God into your writing -- God is there (sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly)
  • Step away from your writing for a little while. Take a break.
  • Now begin to organize your words. What kind of writing structure feels right to you (psalm, poetic form)? Which one would best communicate your feelings and emphasize your thoughts and images? Go back over what you have written and flesh out your writing. Are there different words that better express the depth of your feelings or pictures that might better communicate or capture the essence of what you are trying to say?

Take your time with this step and have fun with it. Try out different phrases, words, and images or look up synonyms. Imagine that you are a painter experimenting with a variety of colors and textures trying to get the look and feel that most clearly communicates what you are trying to express.

  • Step away for a while.
  • Read your writing with fresh eyes, does your style flow as you desire, are there things you want to switch around, words to exchange? Come up with a title that works for you (it doesn’t have to be descriptive). Do not rush this step or the one before it. Instead, enter into each with the expectation of encountering God in new and deeper ways.
  • Step away for a while.
  • The final draft: remember this is a dynamic piece that may never really feel finished - feel free to tweak it, change it, reshape it as you see fit.

It is important to realize that creative writing as prayer is not about forcing an external message upon yourself or into your writings. It is about seeking to give attention to and embrace the internal message(s) that you carry within your heart and spirit and those messages God may be communicating to you through the circumstances and events of your life.


Creative writing is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a very helpful and freeing way to get in touch with some powerful internalized feelings of joy, sorrow, intimacy, abandonment, gratitude etc that lay buried deep within – emotions that once surfaced will help you to learn and experience yourself and God in deeper and more profound ways than ever before.

This style of prayer is not for the faint at heart but if you are serious about exploring and developing your relationship with God I strongly urge you to give this a go. What do you have to lose?



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