In this fourth session of my Christian writing course we will look at how writing can enrich your relationship with God.

Journaling

ron-klug-how-to-keep-a-spiritual-journalI have been writing in a spiritual journal since I was 15 – over 20 years now! Once every few years or so, round about New Year, I dig out my journals and skim through them. It’s thrilling to see how God has worked in me over the years and depressing to see how little some other things have changed! In my journal I still use the simple, childish style I did when I was 15. ‘Dear God, …’ I pour out my heart about what I feel, what I fear and what I think about what God is doing in my life. Then I stop and listen to what He might be saying to me. I don’t worry about people reading my journal as the scribbles are almost indicipherable, even to me. But I know that God can read them, and that’s what worship is all about.

As an example, my journal for 31 December 2007 started:

Dear God, after a trying 30 hour trip we’re back home. Once again it was a time of vision and planning and looking forward to a new season. Thank you for the time with G & J who helped us to see things more clearly. I thank you that R is …. and I pray that you will equip him and empower him. Forgive me for not extending more grace to …

As a writer, there’s always a temptation to write for an audience. This must be resisted at all costs. If you are considering marketing your journal for a wider readership it will restrict the freedom you have to just be yourself with God. In the above extract I edited certain details and used initials to protect the identity of my friends and family. Normally I don’t divulge the contents of my journal (unless I feel God has given me a specific word for someone) but in this case I made an exception to show you what can be done.

The advantages of journaling

  • Some of us struggle to focus our thoughts enough to pray effectively. Writing them down helps us to do this.
  • Reading back in your journals will encourage you when things aren’t going so well.
  • ‘Capturing’ your thoughts, prayers and words from God will help to apply them to your life and heart.

The disadvantages of journaling

  • The danger of writing for an audience and putting on a performance.
  • The fear of someone reading it and not being entirely truthful.
  • The discipline of journaling may become a ‘work’, inhibiting your freedom with God.

For further advice on how to keep a spiritual journal I recommend Ronald Klug’s How to Keep a Spiritual Journal.

Exercise 1:
Write a ‘Dear God’ journal entry. Be as honest as you can be. If you struggle to get straight into it, why not read some scripture and start by writing down your response to it. eg. ‘Dear God, in Matthew 13 I read about the parable of the wheat and the tares. I thank you that you accept that there will be good and bad in me. I thank you too that I can trust that you will sort it all out at the harvest. Help me Lord, to confess the weeds when I see them and ask you to remove them in your time’. And don’t forget to stop and write down what you think God might be saying to you. If you would like some further reading on this I can recommend How to Hear God’s Voice by Mark Virkler.

Declaring God’s Glory

While journaling may be a private experience, worship extends into the public realm too. And this is where the writer’s gift comes into its own. Many people have thoughts and feelings about God that they struggle to express; as a writer you should share your gift with them. By putting into words your own worship of God, you will enable others to do so as well. In some churches this is the role the liturgy plays. The Bible too performs this function. Take for example the Psalms that are written by an individual but prayed by a mulititude. Here is a modern re-working of Psalm 84 from the author of The Word on the Street:

Your Place
Your place is best, God;
I’m gasping for it, almost collapsing for it, God;
My skin, my soul, the whole of me screams
For more of you, vibrant one.

A thousand-day break, top luxury hotel -
I’d trade it in for one perfect day at yours;
A tax-fraud-millionaire lifestyle -
I’d trade it in for the lowest-paid job at yours.

God’s the sun, the shield that keeps us warm and whole
Dignity beams out from him, benefits the soul;
He don’t hold back on nothing good,
For those who walk with him as they should.

Awesome God, we’re well content
When we rely 100 percent on you.
Rob Lacey (2003)

Exercise 2:
Choose a psalm and write your own paraphrase of it. Personalise it as much as you can.

But the Bible is not the sole source of inspiration for our worship. Creation itself has prompted poets, lyricists and writers through the ages to pour out their worship to God. Consider this poem by a Victorian, Jesuit priest:

Pied Beauty
Glory be to God for dappled things -
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles in all stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1876 – 1889)

Exercise 3:
Take an opportunity to walk in nature. Use all your senses. See, smell, touch, taste and hear what God has created. What is He saying to you through it? Write it down in a hymn of praise.

That is the end of the course. I hope you have enjoyed it and have been encouraged to express your faith through the written word. If you would like to continue developing your writing why not try the more advanced¬†Crafty Writer Creative Writing Course. This is not focused on ‘Christian’ writing, just good writing in general.

3 comments on “Writing as worship

  1. Gloria A Ward on said:

    The next and final session on “prophetic” writing is not available. There is an error message: 404 not found. Can you please check it out?

    This will be the third year, that I am making this course available to our students.

    Thanks.

    Dr. Ward
    Potter’s House Seminary and Bible College

    • Hello Gloria. I deleted the session on prophetic writing as it was attracting – now how can I put this politely? – some ‘eccentric’ people who were leaving bizarre comments and sending me weird messages. I got sick of dealing with it so I removed the session. I think there’s still enough in the course without it. I’m very glad you and your students are still enjoying it.

      God bless
      Fiona

      • Gloria A Ward on said:

        Thank you. Sorry to hear it. My previous student enjoyed all of the sessions and learned so much. A class will start in January 2017.

        Gloria

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

HTML tags are not allowed.