I Am From

In Allison Vesterfelt‘s talk on Tribe Writers, she goes back to the basics with telling her audience of writers to reflect on where they came from to get in touch with their true voice. So often we write to build a platform or to make money or for an editor. But when can we say the last time we just simply wrote from where we are and what we came from? Here’s an exercise she lead the group through that I tried out– it’s call an I Am From poem.

FullSizeRender (1)Here’s mine:

I am from cross stitched samplers and bubbling fish tanks

From ez mac after school and silver bear banks

I am from noisy heaters that pop and snap

From advent wreathes and windows with plastic wrap

I am from Dave Matthews and the Goo Goo Dolls

From disney store window shopping and senciled on walls
I am from nutcracker “guys” and Tom Chapin tapes

From homemade costumes and hand-sewn little red capes

I am from songs to wake me up and songs when mom gets home

From the blues in dad’s garage, from french braids and a fine tooth comb

I am from out of tune grand pianos and starburst jelly beans

From pop up trundle beds and oyster stuffing

I am from playing “catch”–
a play fighting game that often ended in tears

I am from softball and track, and running races over these past 20 years

I am from all of these things and so much more

And I am glad of where I came from and glad for what’s in store

Focused & Loving It: My Spiritual Circle Jouranl Posting

Go read about my cover on the link at the bottom of the post!

Go read about my cover on the link at the bottom of the post!

I’ve been journaling since I was a little kid. Before I could even read, I was asking my mom to write gorgeous words on paper so I could copy them down in my notebook to look at. I loved words. Something about them enticed me. It was years later that I found this was one of God’s precious gifts to me – words. His Word, to be exact. But also, my own words.
After I learned to write those beautiful words myself, I would scrawl long prayers in notebooks, returning to them over and over to praise Him, to ask for forgiveness, or to receive guidance. But revisiting those words involved rifling through pages, trying to find the verse I needed or what God spoke to my heart during my long rants and raves with the pen and ink. In short – it was very time consuming.
It was then that I discovered the Spiritual Circle Journal. With nine beautifully simplistic circles, and a blank page on top, I had the freedom to write wildly while using the circles to bring order. This made it easy to go back and find important things I had written. If I wanted to see what God had been convicting me of, I’d glance back at the “Confession” circles. If I wanted to check on my obedience, I’d study the “Action” circles to see if I truly was doing what God was asking of me. No more searching frantically through past journal entries. I had nine circles with prompts to help focus our time together.
I soon personalized the cover, a feature I greatly appreciate. There is something truly poetic about a cover that you designed yourself. It indicates ownership and a dedication to the words you write inside. My cover is a collage of magazine clippings and drawings I pasted there with a glue stick….
To read the full post, please visit Liz Lassa’s Spiritual Circle Journal Blog.

The art of… failing?

Well, we all flunk at something….

  I am sitting on my aunt and uncle’s couch in Wildwood MI after an afternoon of wine tasting, olive oil and vinegar tasting, farmer’s market shopping, and jean trying-on… I feel very content and privileged.

It’s a good day.

On such a day when I feel pretty happy and lucky to have such wonderful people in my life, I also am grateful to have such wonderful books in my possession. My latest and greatest print indulgence is by Jana Riess, entitled Flunking Sainthood

I quite admire people such as Jana and Ben Franklin (yes, I place them both in the same category, hold on you’ll understand).  They are both people who value self-improvement and world betterment. Ben Franklin actually inspired my husband to work on chosen attributes. These values would include cleanliness, discipline,  compassion, wisdom, and other such admirable attributes. According to Dennis, Ol’ Ben would focus on one specific value per week until he mastered it, then moved on to the next one, and so on and so forth until he got till the end of his list. Then he would begin all over again, always having something to work on.

Talk about a model of self-improvement! But Ben seems a bit intimidating to me, a more flighty, artsy, eclectic kind of gal.

This is why Jana appeals to my taste a bit more.

Jana’s book, which I fortunately received from my lovely sister Mary Margaret as a Christmas gift this past year (Thanks sis!), is similar to Ben’s way of dividing up some admirable values, but she has a bit of a “Jesus-flair” to her practice.

In Flunking Sainthood, Jana decided she needed to work on her spiritual life and relationship with Christ, so she devoted a full year to revamping her faith by working on one spiritual practice per month. She assigned herself reading from books by modern and ancient theologians, including the writings of saints and monks. It’s great for readers who want a survey of spiritual books and I guarantee that, upon reading this book, you’ll have yet another book list written up.

Some of these spiritual practices include finding God in mundane tasks, fasting, the Jesus prayer, lecto divinia (more on this topic later), and living simply by not coveting anything materialistic or buying new things (a hard task to do during mother’s day).

I won’t give away too much, but the biggest thing I love about Jana’s book is that she finds so much grace and beauty in failing. She tells her book and blog readers that one should never set out to fail, but in the process of working on such a variety of spiritual diciplines, she found herself screwing up more often than she wished or expected.

With devoting only one month to each of these very in-depth and sacrificial practices, I’m not too surprised that she didn’t succeed in all of them. In fact, she might intimidate me if she was triumphant in all of these complex little lifestyles.

But in all her failings, she finds herself all the more dependent on her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, keeping her identity placed in Him and not in how well (or not well) she did in her monthly discipline.

If you are looking for a book that will challenge you to read more, work harder, but also that promotes grace and encourages, I highly recommend Flunking Sainthood where you’ll discover the art of failing and the great gift of grace.

Why God wants you to keep a journal

Today is an epic day. 

I finished my last journal entry in my self-bound book and began to write in a new book.

Whenever I crack the spine of a new journal to begin documenting my life, I feel as though I should make an introduction of some sort. Now, I know it doesn’t make logical sense: to introduce yourself to a bundle of paper. And yet it has been made quite clear to me (by numerous amounts of experiences and opinions of other people) that I am far from a logical person by nature and design.

*sign* I just love words!

I feel a sense of attachment to my journals. I do spend a great deal of time with each of them, and I pour out much of my heart and brain into them. I almost feel as thought my notebooks turn into… horcruxes. (any Potter fans out there?)– as if a piece of my own self resides within the pages.

I do realize that this notion is quite absurd. My identity rests in nothing of this world, not even language. However, language can be used to express what my identity does rest in, and so language and words and writing… well they are important.

And not just to me.

Words are important to God as well.

First of all, I just have a feeling that God wants me to be able to use words to tell you that my real identity rests in nothing other than Jesus Christ, the most important Man in my life.

Luke, the writer of the Gospel which I have least explored, recognizes the necessity to record the story of Christ for the “servants of the word” (Luke 1:2)

John, the writher of the Gospel with which I am most familiar with (so I’ll go into this a little deeper), starts off his work with these lovely verses:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:1-5

Obviously John was not a grammar teacher…

Now, I want to unpack this, because it’s confusing. And not simply because John cannot seem to choose one tense to write his Gospel in (as sometimes happens when one gets really excited about Jesus).

First of all, the Word of God is what exists, has existed, and will exist forevermore (perhaps this is the real reason for John’s seemingly laxidasical switching of grammatical tenses).

So the Word of God is first of all a proper noun, and it is what gives life to all people and all things. The Word of God is, I believe, and many theologians and fellow young bible readers agree, none other than Christ.

If you substitute “Christ” for “The Word”, you get a very clear depiction of what the rest of John’s Gospel will be all about. Let’s give it a try, shall we?

In the beginning was Christ, and Christ was with God, and Christ was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 

… That being stated, everything the “Word” does is actually what Christ does. Words, in this case, are the vehicle, the platform for bringing the said “life” and “light” to all people.

God uses words to call us all into being, and he puts the truth and love and perfection of his words into a physical form (coughJESUScough) so that we can see how to live the Gospel– the Word of God.

The Word in Three Forms

This is where I myself begin to better understand the Holy Trinity in a deeper sense. The Word of God is God, but then takes the form of a living man, then of a Spirit, which is mysterious and scary and… rather unexplainable to be honest! I’m talking about the Holy Spirit.

But unexplainable as it may be, it is this Holy Spirit which now dwells within each of our hearts and moves us to action. All three: Word, man, and Spirit is one God.

Some of the most beautiful experiences that I have had with the Holy Spirit have been with his words.

Now, the bible tells us that the Spirit intercedes for us during prayer, with groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26). But the Spirit also has inspired some incredible pieces of writing without which we as Christians would not even exist!

I’m talking about the Bible folks. The Word of God.

So Paul and Soloman and John and Moses and David and a bunch of other people all contributed to writing it over years and years and years, but we do not believe that it was only mortal men. No. See, we believe that God uses language and people to write his words and his story for our benefit.

It all ties back to words. Or rather, The Word.

The Gospel According to Claire… JK!

Now, I don’t go all into this to tell you that I believe I am writing the words of God.

But I do take my position of writer very seriously.

Words have power, even if you are the only one who hears them (which is really never the case since God always hears them as well). And I personally have been deeply moved and changed by the words of others, so who’s to say that the Holy Spirit won’t speak through me and with my words? I have witnessed him speaking through others many a time!

You see, maybe God didn’t design all of us to be incredible Super Heros. But the Bible tells us that he has given us spiritual gifts which he awards us in order to help spread his message and truth.

What if we took every talent we had this seriously?

What if, with every special skill or uncovered ability we realized we possessed, we all sought after ways to give it back to God– the one who gave it to us in the first place?

It might be to preach at a newly-planted church, or a teacher in an inner-city school, or a motivational sports speaker, or a doctor saving the lives of potential believers, or it might be “just” a  barista who hands sleepy-heads morning coffee with a warm smile. What if, no matter what we were doing, we were constantly striving to serve selflessly like Jesus did?

That, my friends, is how to live the word of God.

My Gift

God blessed me with an odd obsession with words when I was a small child which turned into a love for writing when I was a teen. Now, God has molded that gift into a distinct writer’s voice that I am speaking to you in now.

Why wouldn’t I take that seriously and want to use it for his intention?

So that is what I am doing.

And that is why I find a great deal of meaning and importance in the seemingly simple practice of keeping a journal or updating a blog.

What about you?

What is your experience with journal-keeping? Are you as obsessed with words and writing as I am?

Do you have any talents that you are seeking to use for God’s will? What spiritual gifts do you feel you’ve been blessed with?

Tell me what you think and about your experience!