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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Journal with Impact: Personal Reflection Devotional Dialogue

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals           

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrew 4:12 NAS


Dialogue

Have you ever wanted to sit down and have a one-to-one dialogue with God? You aren’t alone. Why? Where are you? What comes next? These cries continue throughout the centuries.

Yet sometimes life and circumstances become so complicated and muddled that we’re not exactly sure what our questions are. It helps to lay out all our questions and confusions in a letter, one by one. But as we write them, leave wide empty spaces between each. For His answers.

Prepare for a dialogue.

The Book of Psalms is a powerful example of dialogue with God. In his book, Answering God, Eugene H. Peterson states that: “The Psalms are acts of obedience, answering the God who has addressed us. God’s word precedes these words: these prayers don’t seek God, they respond to the God who seeks us.”

Many of the Psalms begin with angry questions and fears. Yet is not only cathartic venting. Peterson points out that the Psalmists decide to listen, and they answer with both questions and prayers. The Psalms themselves help to “train us in the conversation.”

Like the Psalmists entering into a dialogue, we can approach our confusion with expectation. These are conversations that actually begin with God as He sees and identifies where our hearts need mending, our minds need perception, and our souls need light to persevere.

Write your letters.


Action Steps:

Sample Prompt. One place where many of us have multiple questions is with creation. The outline below is from Ethel Herr as a framework to view the Genesis story. On first read write down your notes in the various sections. Then choose one or two to expand as if you are writing a Psalm. Pour out your feelings and questions and surprises as a dialogue.  

Read Genesis Chapters 1-4. Record.

1.     Questions
2.     New Discoveries
3.     Ideas about God
4.     Ideas about man
5.     Commands to obey
6.     Promises to claim
7.     Examples to follow or avoid
8.     Anything else that seems important to you.”


Share: Did you find the dialogue awkward or comfortable? Why?

                                                          Read deep, marcy



Thursday, February 15, 2018

Journal with Impact: Personal Reflection Devotional Inspiration

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Without the radiant beam of light shining into the darkness there is little to be seen.  ……   But everything changes with the light.”
Henri Nouwen The Genesee Diary


Devotional Life

Whatever we read has the potential to touch our minds, our hearts, and our souls. But sometimes we desire to go deeper. We specifically look for understanding in a more thorough study, whether it is how to build a boat or how to nurture our soul.

Some seasons offer the opportunity to examine our heart beliefs or desires, and reset or strengthen spiritual congruence. For Christians the season of Lent began yesterday, and many choose this time to pursue a focused study through devotions, or Bible study, or spiritual classics.
           
Author Ethel Herr said that when we meditate on Scripture from a devotional perspective, the study, or readings, inspire us to worship God, give us something practical to live by, and speak personally and intimately to our hearts.

Connecting with other experiences across historical time can give us a clearer perspective to evaluate the way we process both the light and the dark seasons we face personally.

Each study can begin with four basic questions (see below) and be expanded as deep as desired depending on what kind of study or depth we would like to pursue. For example, in addition to the basics, we can paraphrase Scripture, reflect devotionally, study stories, parables, biographies, and problems.


Action Steps:

Choose a passage of scripture, or other inspirational writing, and apply these four basic questions as suggested by Ethel Herr.

When you are done, choose one promise or thought and use it as a prayer guide through the week ahead.

1. What does it say?

2. What does it mean?

3. What does it mean to me?

4. “How must I live” or “How will my life be different because I have studied this?”


Share: What shift from dark to light and insight or hope did you discover?


                                                                Read deep, marcy


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Journal with Impact: Personal Reflection Read

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless.”
Henri Nouwen The Genesee Diary


Whether we read or listen to books, blogs, podcasts, or videos we are purposefully engaging in a new perspective or experience. Even if it is assigned reading. Yet we can only really participate emotionally if we come with the intent to learn. Even if we are looking to be entertained. If you have a particular subject or author or research you want to pursue for a season, then consider keeping a reading journal. Whatever you are reading, look for your own personal connection to the content and explore away.

Here are a few examples that may not be considered typical reflection reading.

Poetry speaks through figurative language and metaphors. You don’t need to be a poet or have any intention of becoming one, but reading poetry captures images and language in a succinct style that enables any reader (and writer) to explore sensory perception with sharp precision.

Paintings or photographs can be read for theme, story, and image. When we "see" the effect of micro-scenes, we can then apply the insights to ourselves, and writers can adapt the techniques to fictional scenes, therefore deepening their effect. When we read non-fiction, we can re-experience their personal presence for ourselves.



Dreams by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow

Briefly journal these questions as an initial response.

A. Have you ever had to defer a dream? (define)
B. What did it feel like? What images stay with you?
C. How did you respond more to the explicit or implicit images?
D. Two prominent images are the broken-winged bird and the barren field. What are some feelings you associate with these images?


Action Steps:

1.     Read Mary Oliver’s poem “The Journey” from her collection Dream Work.
(One link can be found at http://peacefulrivers.homestead.com/maryoliver.htm)

2.     Go back through it and write down all the words that you identify with your own feelings.

3.     Take each word or phrase you choose and write the words in a scattered pattern in different colors on a sheet of paper.

4.     What thought jumps out for you?

5.     In what ways does her poem or thoughts connect with Langston Hughes’s poem?


Share: What emotional resonance do you most identify with in this poem? Why?



                                                            Read deep, marcy


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Journal with Impact: Personal Reflection Congruence

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“It’s about being who we are that will determine what we do.” Jay Kesler

Congruence (c)

Jay Kesler suggests a three-part list exercise to examine our congruence as a way to scrutinize if our life in action matches up with what we say we believe.

We often instinctively go into survivor mode when unexpected events spring into our lives. Both positive and negative situations can create an external and internal emotional shift in our life patterns that is unsettling.

We usually bounce back quickly from a major inconvenience, like a flat tire en route to an important meeting, and we often can cope effectively in short and long term worries, such as in health warnings or fall out from weather disasters. Yet when life returns to what we presume to be our "normal," we may not realize that we have inserted some false or unrealistic coping techniques that are not good for us in the long run.

Taking some time out for a congruence thermometer can give us a measuring rod to help us navigate our ever-changing responsibilities and relationships before we risk disconnecting with ourselves and others close to us.

I recommend using different color pens or paper for this idea process.

1.    List yourself in relation to people, responsibilities, ministries, et cetera. What is your public persona?

2.    List your feelings in relation to these roles and activities.

3.    List the passions, desires, wishes, and dreams on your heart. Is there a particular place of service or activity that you hunger to be involved in? If not, why not?

4.    Look over your three lists. Are they congruent with one another?

Did you discover any lack of congruence?


Action Steps:

1.     Go back over your notes and circle all the places that are in sync. Underline all the places that aren’t and highlight words that don’t seem to match anywhere.

2.     Divide your surprises into positive and negative. Make a note next to each as to why you feel that way.

3.     Choose one positive to strengthen even more and one negative to begin to change over the next week.

4.     Consider both short-term and long-term plans to bridge any lack of congruence you discovered within your relationship with yourself or others.


Share: Were you surprised by any of your answers?


                                                            Read deep, marcy


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Journal with Impact: Personal Reflection “Who Am I?”

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began.” Mary Oliver

“Who Am I” (b)

As we all know, time is elusive. Regardless of our age, we reach points where we stop to ask ourselves who am I, and what am I doing, and why? There are some major markers such as changes in relationships, or education, or jobs, that clearly require a deeper than normal evaluation. But sometimes even the chosen daily patterns can create situations where we need to stop and evaluate our goals and priorities and passions.

Just as we schedule maintenance checkups for our cars and our health, it’s good to examine whether we are en route personally, or if somehow time has swallowed us up in its own snowstorm.

In her book Just As I Am, author Virginia Hearn suggests three different approaches to the time questions and the possibilities that journey with us through all the threads in our lives.

What Time

1.     “What time is it in my life?” Write a paragraph or two in response to this question.

What Season

Another variation on time would be “what season of life am I in?”

2.     Make four lists—each on a separate piece of paper with these titles:
a.     It is too late to….
b.     It is too soon to…
c.      The time is right to…
d.     I need time to…..

What Priorities

3.     Another three-question list.
a. What do I want to accomplish in my life?     
b. What do I want to accomplish in the next three years?
c. What would I do if I had only six months to live?

Or for those of you who are visual observers, map out a set of clusters using any of the starting points above. Follow it as far as it goes, then pick out different ‘branches’ to write about. If you are not familiar with the cluster brainstorm, below is an example from a fiction workshop as an example. The center word begins the topic. Then draw lines to each main category. Then within a category connect sub-categories. Follow the threads for one or more until you run out. Then examine where you have the most material and where you have questions.



  Photography                   Dance                  Painting

                                                                 Art                                                     Collage

Music                              Sculptor                             
                                                                                                 Novelist                Literary    
                                                                               Fantasy
                                               High fantasy             Urban         Paranormal


Action Steps:

1.     Over a three-week period set aside a block of time to process each of the exercise questions above. Begin with whichever one draws you immediately.

2.     After you complete all three approaches, note where you were comfortable in your reactions and where you struggled.

3.     Take the one that was the most difficult to consider and write down the reasons why. Then after another week tackle it again.

4.     Did anything change for you? Process why, yes or no?


Share: Which question did you instinctively relate to first?

                                                            Read deep, marcy


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Journal with Impact: Personal Reflection Journal Idea File

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“What were the events that altered and illuminated my time?” Ronald Klug


Journal Idea Files

Write down the dates. In the beginning keep your journals private. However, down the road these ideas and nuggets might develop into source material for writing essays, memoirs, or family sagas. And blogs. If you see that you frequently wrestle with a particular topic and you begin to read about it, you may find that others have the same questions as you.

If you prefer more structured organization, then consider keeping several notebooks for different purposes, not to write in daily or even weekly, but for example to keep all your reading journal entries in one notebook, all your family concerns in another, work related in third. Personally I managed to keep only two: a reading journal and my study journal. When I do need to do a short-term project, I pick up a small moleskin to do the journal stretch until I reach the clarity I need.

There are various approaches to strategize your files or do a mix and match. This first example is the most familiar form for both journals and diaries. Again, choose whichever style flows the easiest for you.

Daily Record (a)


1. What happened today and what sensory details did it bring?
2. Why did I react to that comment? Or did not react?
3. What about that conversation left me feeling …..?
4. Other categories might include questions, prayers, reading, joys, sense of accomplishment, and world events.

It is often easier to let some things go, but if we bring them out into the light and see them for what influence they may hold, we can keep from hiding under pretense to ourselves.

For example, one Christmas dinner I shocked myself when I snapped at a peripheral family member over an apparently innocuous remark. All heads turned. It was only mildly embarrassing in the situation, but strong enough that I had to take a few journal days to discover why I had overreacted to something so minor.


Action Steps:

1.     Keep a daily record for at least three days this next week. If you feel pressed for time, set a timer for fifteen minutes and write as much as you can without stopping, then set aside.

2.     The next day, review what you wrote and see if you have any other thoughts to add that you found yourself thinking about. Again set aside.

3.     Next day, review and then write any notes or thoughts. Then note whether this style of journal was helpful or frustrating.

Share: Did anything surprise you? Did you notice any details from your week that otherwise you might have forgotten about or dismissed?



                                                            Read deep, marcy
 
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