For anyone who was reading my blog, you may have noticed there has been an absence of new submissions. Partly that was due to my being away in South Africa visiting our daughter and her family, and I decided that I would give myself permission to stop writing during my time away. I have, however, been back for several weeks, and getting back to the routine and habit of writing have proven difficult.
I think my reluctance was not a case of either writer’s block or of not having anything worthwhile to say via this medium. One of the challenges in trying to write regularly, be it sermons, a newspaper column, a blog, or any other creative article is the simple matter of discipline. Writing requires energy, focus, thought and work. Threads of ideas still need to be spun into words and woven into a coherent text. Draft pages need to be edited and refined so that the ideas are expressed as clearly as possible. Care must be taken to ensure that the insight or commentary which might have begun in a pastoral conversation is broadened and made sufficiently universal in the retelling that no individual is going to feel that their confidentiality has been breached.
Sometimes the promising glimmer of an idea simply doesn’t translate into a word-worthy article. Sometimes, the article may be written, but unfortunately sounds too angry, mean-spirited or accusatory in tone to be posted. Or again, some articles, once written, are too obviously repeats of earlier commentaries. Years ago, when I was in the newspaper business, my editor used to say that if the idea wasn’t fresh, it was only good for wrapping up fish!
Perhaps the greatest surprise during my first season of blogging was simply how much work, consistency and discipline was required in the pondering, drafting, editing and polishing of a regular column. I have incredible respect for those columnists in newspapers and magazines who do this for a living. It may seem to the casual reader as a cushy job. Believe me, it is not.
Yet, despite the labour and time required, I personally have found the exercise more than worthwhile. And it is not simply the feedback and appreciative comments that I have received, both electronically and in person. I have found the exercise of regular writing has not only improved my writing skills, but has sharpened my practice of observation and reflection as I look for ideas and material for the blog. I find that I pay more attention to conversations and interactions with others. I take greater care in my own reading, so as not to miss worthy insights that can be passed on in my blogs. Above all, I find that the practice of writing and preparing to write makes me focus even more on where I see the hand and truth of God at work, and to think carefully on how to communicate that in my blog.
The truth is that any discipline inevitably brings its rewards, whether it is in terms of physical exercise, the practice of a skill or art, or more significantly, the commitment of our hearts to spend time with God in scripture and in prayer. Richard Foster, in a wonderful book on the time-honoured spiritual practices entitled A Celebration of Discipline, suggested that one of the curses of our age is superficiality, and argued that the doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. What is needed in our day, Foster suggests, is not more intelligent people or gifted people, but rather deep people. And the discipline of the spiritual life (all the ancient practices of scripture reading, prayer, worship, fasting, study, solitude, etc., are classically called “the disciplines”) move us beyond superficial “religiousity” into the depths of a living relationship with God.
Too many of us tend to dabble in life. We try a little of this and a little of that, but fail to invest deeply, consistently and intelligently. That tends especially to be the way that many of us work at our spiritual life as well. We show up at church when it’s convenient. We try to fit in a prayer time if we don’t sleep in too late in the morning. We read a few verses of scripture at bed time if there isn’t something more interesting on television or we’re not too tired. We promise ourselves we will go on a prayer retreat, if we ever get around to booking it. We plan to get involved in a study group, but the groups are never scheduled at a convenient time. And so goes our good intentions….
I appreciated a few weeks away from the blog, but as much for my own sake, I know I need to get back to this blessed discipline. How about you? What disciplines, especially the disciplines of faith, do you need to reappoint for your own life? This I know—God is waiting to meet all who seek him. You might be surprised what joy your discipline will bring.
good to have you back on line Kerry. Your thoughtful words are much appreciated by this reader.