Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Listening Through Writing

I adore antique pens. Okay, replicas will do, too (and they usually write better as well). And I've unearthed an ancient secret.

Writing slowly and methodically helps me to listen to--to actually hear--God.

There is something so elemental, so relaxing, in dipping a brass nib into a bottle of ink (I prefer sepia ink, but also use black, green, and violet) and setting pen to the thick, lined paper of a journal. The sybilant scratch of nib quietly traveling across paper calms me, relaxing me far more effectively than the click of keyboard (and I don't click gently--I rather BANG on my computer, especially if I get on a roll). Watching the colored ink form loop and line, letters melding into words, words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into pages--it's a progression as natural as knitting, sewing, painting--the creation of an artistic entity that seems to breathe from the pale pages. It soothes me. And it opens me.

For as I write so slowly, so methodically, my heart rate slows, my mind quiets, my body settles out of its frantic pace into rest. And my ears open--my spiritual "ears" if you will, the ones that are plugged closed when I am too busy, too frantic, too consumed, to listen truly. And mine are plugged the vast majority of the time, I am ashamed to say.

But writing like this--in this old-fashioned manner, the way of Austen and Dickens, of the Brontes and Poe, of Dickinson and Longfellow--enables me to think...ponder...contemplate. It frees me, for twenty minutes or so, from the chokehold that daily life has on my mind and heart, and I can take deep, cleansing breaths once again. I can stretch out my mind, let it wander where it will, and let it absorb what I am nearly always much too busy to hear...


He Who created me, Who romances me, Who adores me, Who wants time with me.

As my pen, smooth rosewood between my fingers, scritches across the page, His Spirit fills me "to the brim and above the brim," as Robert Frost writes in "Birches." I breathe Him in with deep, throaty gulps, not realizing until now that I was suffocating, Spirit-deprived far too long.

I admit to being a journal junkie. I have three--okay, four--journals that I write in regularly. My first--and it's nearly filled once again--is my "life journal," the place where I write about what goes on, what I'm thinking about, what the kids are up to, how my week has been; I try to write in this one weekly. I also have a journal--my "poetry journal"--dedicated to drafts of poems, where I feel comfortable scribbling out lines, revising with arrows pointing there and here, where I don't judge what I write at first; I also try to write in this journal at least weekly.

My "quotation" journal has been a project since moving into this mountain cabin in 2001; sometimes I don't write in it for months, but I also write daily for short spurts; it's a grown-up version of my children's copywork notebooks where I carefully transfer quotations from books, magazines, websites. Sometimes I jot down a sentence or two; other times I copy pages from a certain book or web page. Lastly I have a "spiritual journal," filled with prayer requests grouped together, with sermon and lecture notes, and with lots of conversations with God. I pause to dip my pen into the bottle of black ink, His thoughts melding with mine as I carefully place pen to paper, continuing to write.

But my grandmother's clock on the mantel chimes. With a sigh, I complete my sentence and reluctantly close my journal. I cork the bottle of ink, gather my pen, wiping it carefully on a rainbowed cloth to remove excess ink, and reluctantly place pen and ink on my desk in their place of be drawn forth another day, just so I can listen again to Him Who created the sun, moon, stars...and Who loves me far more than I can ever mold into words, than I can ever comprehend on this side of Heaven.

On this listening journey with you,

holy experience

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