Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Renew a Right Spirit within Me

I'm in the midst of submitting another book proposal. It's an unnerving, humbling process. I have an idea, then live with it for weeks, even months, to see if it takes root somewhere. Taking root often means writing a few sentences and paragraphs to see if they can birth a chapter. If they do, I wonder if there are more chapters. Sometimes there aren't, and those words go into a place to germinate some more.

If something does take root, then I begin researching. Are there other books like this? If so, have any been written by women? If so, then I read them. Mostly at the same time. I am quite amazed there are people who read just one book at a time. I have my living room book, my bedtime book, my morning coffee book, my drink afternoon tea when I come back from walking Evie book.

One might say I have a problem, but that notwithstanding, I read the words written.

Which is excruciating and amazing, all at the same time. I read their writing, and I find phrases and sentences that I fall in love with. I underline them and re-read them and wonder how, just how, a normal human could write such a lovely string of words. I am amazed.

Then I think I might as well never write again, because I will never be able to write like that, that beautifully, that elegantly, that profoundly. I get discouraged, which, from what my other writer friends tell me, is fairly common. The devil lives in discouragement.

Writing is a ridiculously intimate discipline. Writers, especially those of us who share our writings through essays, sermons, poems, and books, know well what Hemingway meant by saying writing is sitting at a keyboard and bleeding.

That spirit of writing, our sharing ourselves, is a gift, and it needs regular righting, so to speak. We sometimes forget the balance between sharing what has been aged appropriately to share and publishing our diaries. We forget the balance between writing from our spirit and writing for our jobs.  We stop seeing the way we use words and phrases and valuing the way God has settled these words in us to share and only see the value in the ways THEY write and comparing ourselves, mostly harshly.

And we get discouraged.

Life is discouraging. And just when the days seem tired and long, when winter has overstayed its welcome (at least in my part of the world) and we long for change because the present seems bleak, feels bleak, and is bleak, the Church whispers, "Lent."

Lent. Spring. Come.

Be silent, kneel, and repent.

Repent of the discouragement we've listened to that tells us we aren't enough, we aren't good, and we need to be silent and sit down. Repent of the words we've written and said that have hurt us and our friends and even those who were friends but because of words and actions, aren't anymore. Repent of the things done and left undone that tell ourselves and others, "You aren't enough."

Repent and be renewed.

Psalm 51, the psalm we say in response to the imposition of ashes, contains the petition, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." For all the many reasons I love Lent, I love the prayer to God to clean my heart. Clean it of the stuff that has accumulated over the year(s) that prevents me from loving God, loving my neighbor and my enemy, and loving myself. Polish the things that need to brighter, to shine more because I've forgotten they are Gifts of the Spirit entrusted to me to share with the world. And renew a right spirit within me. Renew my courage, my hope, my grace, and my kindness. Renew the Holy Breath within me because I am filled with some stale air.

Remind me of the words of Lent - self-examination and repentance; prayer, fasting, and self-denial; reading and meditating on God's holy Word - that they are ways to clean our hearts of the stuff we don't need and renew our spirits.

Blessed Lent. May you be created and be renewed.


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