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You can be a Spark My Muse hero/helper in these two ways:
Today’s post comes from Doug Jackson. Professor Jackson is a bona fide man of letters and a teacher of spiritual formation. He also blogs. He’s not the kind of expert that touts his CV. Rather, he’s a man acquainted with his humanity in a way the endears you to him right off, and a wisdom that can change you.
“For I am the sort of man,” Augustine once declared, “who writes because he has made progress, and who makes progress – by writing.”
Christian bloggers should rework Jane Austen’s dictum, “Write what you know,” and state it as follows: Write until you know. If we understand blogging as a process of self-discovery and even of self-formation, we may tread this track with greater gratitude and greater care.
Gratitude and care: Keeping an internal diary has long been seen as a spiritual discipline, from Augustine’s Confessions to Wesley’s journals to Mother Teresa’s recently published papers. The Internet tweaks this ancient practice by offering the perilous privilege of publication.
I say privilege because blogging encourages journaling by offering the incitement of instant readership. Journaling has never been one of my own spiritual practices because I am too much of a writer (or perhaps too little of a Christian) to stand the sound of one keyboard clattering. Writers write to be read, and while perhaps saints do not, most writers are at best saints-in-process. Tradition tells us that Abba John the Dwarf, at Abba Pambo’s direction, watered a stick every day for three years until it burst forth in fruit. I, however, simply will not chase the dead stick of writing if there is not a carrot of being read dangling somewhere on the end of it. George Bernanos’ country priest begins his Diary with the promise that after twelve months he will use it for kindling; by the end of the first chapter he amends it to “I’ll stuff it all away in a drawer to re-read it later with a clear mind.”
So blogging offers an incredible privilege: Writers who in the very recent past would have no outlet for their work can now find instant publication – and instant motivation. Anne Lamott notes the value of this kind of work:
I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do – the act of writing – turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.
But the privilege comes laced with peril: the deadly sin of wrath.
Blogs are self-edited and self-published. I can say whatever I want. Blogs are also released to cyber-space: I can’t unsay anything, even if I want to. This makes a blog a great place to get angry, but a poor place to repent. When I played football we often drilled using foam shields known as “air bags.” I noticed that guys who avoided physical contact at all costs suddenly went Jack Lambert on us during these sessions. We dubbed such selective warriors “Air Bag All Americans.” A blog can be a playground for Air Bag Martyrs who speak boldly from the behind the bunker of their firewalls.
But wrath is a deadly sin for a reason. Jesus equated insults with murder. People often ask me, “Does that mean calling someone a jerk is just as bad as killing him?” My standard reply is, “Not to him.”
Which is largely the point and takes us back to blogging as self-discovery: My anger may or may not harm my targets (with a readership like mine, probably not), but it tells me something about me. “The pleasure of anger,” explains C. S. Lewis, “the gnawing attraction which makes one return again and again to its theme — lies, I believe, in the fact that one feels entirely righteous oneself only when one is angry.
Then the other person is pure black, and you are pure white.” Ranting blogs probably reveal very little about my airbag victims, but they should tell me something about the state of my own soul.
And then there’s the temptation of attention: Wrath translates to readership because everyone loves the vicarious thrill of an Internet takedown. If we write to be read, we must take care lest we automatically write what people like to read. Donald Kaul once closed a review of Robert James Waller’s chick-lit romance “The Bridges of Madison County” by admitting, “I still don’t know what Waller has, but if I thought it was contagious, I’d kiss him.” If cyber-sneering and digital drive-by’s mean viral results, we’re too quick to kiss – well, whatever needs kissing.
Harry Farra’s “Little Monk” begins keeping a journal early in his vows, and later finds it to be “a valuable record of a soul tamed by God.” Toward the close of the book, he abandons the volume to the care of a young woman. She shares it with her wayward son who finds that it changes his heart. Perhaps that should be the goal of the believing blogger: the charism of being overheard. An old joke says, “Live in such a way that you would not be afraid to sell your parrot to the town gossip.” I would amend it to: Blog in such a way that you would not fear to have your words read by a seeking soul in danger, one whom you may never meet.
I write these words as one more unknown note in the mighty symphony (or cacophony) of the blogosphere. My URL does not appear on big-time blog rolls. No one has contacted me to offer a book deal. Christian universities do not invite me to speak. But I don’t think I need the caffeine of fame (though, quite honestly, I’ll take it if it comes); what I need is the liturgy of writing. And who knows – maybe that is what someone who reads my blog needs as well.•
After twenty-five years as a pastor, Doug Jackson finally made it to Tarshish as an assistant professor in the Logsdon Seminary program of the South Texas School of Christian Studies in Corpus Christi, where he teaches spiritual formation, pastoral ministry, and Greek. In addition to his teaching, Doug writes “Sermoneutics,” a weekly devotional and sermon-starter blog based on the Revised Common Lectionary: http://sermoneutics2.blogspot.com/.
At my school, if you have ever taken Dr Mellinger, then you have engaged in this particular prayer form.
Praying this way, is a way of praising and worshiping God–a useful spiritual practice.
It’s quite simple, and may take on variations, or adaptations. It’s helpful for individual prayer time, or in a group setting.
I’ll present something simple here.
If you use it, or come up with something else, I’d love to hear from you.
Prayers of Adoration/Praying the Names of God: A “How To”
1. Make a list of 10-20 words for God (Encouraged is including names for all 3 parts of the Trinity: Creator, Redeemer, Spirit, etc.).
Adjectives are fine, or names of God found in the Bible.
(Examples: Savior, Father, Light of Lights, Lamb, Protector, Reconciler, etc.)
For Prayer in a Group:
Pick a name from your list that seems to stand out as be more meaningful, and take turns praying your selections in adoration to God, calling God by the name, and saying something of your own, similar to the following:
“God, you are Savior. I thank you that you are a Savior to us, and you’ve given yourself up for us.”
Everyone then may respond together in agreement: “God you are Savior”
(or whatever name has been selected)
It’s amazing how 5-10 minutes of this will change the whole atmosphere in the room. Truly. amazing.
For Individual Prayer time:
• Work down through your list, in a similar way.
• Rest, and consider each name, as your finish adoring God with that name.
At the end, jot down some observations, thoughts, insights, feelings, associations, etc. that came to mind during or after your prayer time.
GROUPS: Take turns sharing some of these.
Individuals: May read over your observations again; and later come back to them, and re-read them.
I’m curious to know if you’ve ever been on a prayer walk? Would you please tell me in the comment section/link below?
The weather (in North America) is changing to mild temperatures, and the beauty of Spring is here.
I’d like to inspire you to carve out 20-45 minutes, (or more, if possible) within the next few days from the time you read this, to absorb the beauty of creation, and the God of it.
This beautiful picture gave me the kick to write this post. Let’s both do it. Go to your calendar now, check for a spot, and mark it down. Morning time, evening, weekend, whatever. You truly have 20 minutes, I know it. Go ahead, I’ll wait. We both know-once you mark it down-it’s quite likely to happen.
With this time, you can allow yourself the experience of a guided prayer walk, using some, or all of the guidelines I’ll lay out below. It will help create a place in your heart to experience the presence of God within and around you. It’s really the perfect Rx for the spring season.
Some suggestions for your walk time:
Items to bring along-
– Comfortable, durable, Shoes
-(if needed) Sunscreen/basic first aid kit
-Notepad and pen
(Some of you may want to bring a Bible. If you feel this is important, I am suggesting that you read Scripture before you go on this walk, and if you’d like, bring along a passage, or verse that is on your heart.)
First, allow yourself to acclimate to your environment. Notice your surroundings. Walk deliberately, and also wait, sit or rest, once in a while, and take in your surroundings. Put hurrying aside.
Second, as issues, or chatter run through your mind, push them gently aside, or if they are quite intrusive, jot them down, and give yourself permission to think of them, at another time. (You may may find it helpful to briefly lift those things to God in prayer, and purposefully “hand them over,” before you continue your walk.)
Third, continue until you feel like you’d like to find a comfortable place to sit, or rest, for a little while. The jot down something about your surroundings, and associations that may come to mind about God, and God’s character. Note your response to God, or his creation. Or, record other thoughts you feel are meaningful, or maybe things you would like to explore further, at some point.
Fourth, enter into a time of prayer. It can be any length of time. This is a time of conversation, and also worship. Worship involves adoration of God. Speak, but also listen.
Fifth, be where you are.
Sixth, Continue your journey until you are ready for it’s conclusion. During this time, you may want to spend more time in prayer, engage in vigorous exercise (walk at a rapid pace, for instance), gaze appreciatively at nature, or sit in quiet, or a bit of each. It’s a free-play, or freeform period of the hike/walk, where you can have all the freedom to enjoy it in the way which makes the most sense for where you are right now in your life. Sense God’s love for you, and his delight in you. If you cannot, ask him for the grace to do so. Forgive others, and forgive yourself.
Seventh, when done, offer a brief prayer of thanksgiving, and accept God’s grace. Receive from God. After a few minutes, write down noteworthy thoughts, experiences, ideas, sensations, or insights that happened along the way, or during your prayers.
Eighth, Later, share some, or all, of your notes with at least one other person.
You may want to walk with another friend, a spouse, or in a small group etc.
How rewarding this is!
For this, I suggest that a period of prayerful silence be observed during the whole time,
and conversations between people be postponed until after the walk is through.
Group discussion after the walk may prove very fruitful.
If you give this a try, I’d love to hear how this goes.
Will you please share your experience here?
(Photos you’ve taken can be sent to ovationeneterprises (at) verizon (dot) net)