My latest contribution to Ruminate Magazine’s website shares a bit of the long and winding road that is my ongoing spiritual journey. The latest stop on this trip included a visit to New York City to hear Rob Bell speak in the latest rendition of his “Everything is Spiritual” tour. As I explain in my essay, he’s a controversial figure in the religious world. But, “My spiritual journey is not about following gurus or cults of personality. It is about connection—finding friends, kindred spirits, brothers and sisters. Once encountered, we tend to recognize each other.” While I can’t speak for Rob, I get the sense that we hold our faith in a similar way and evangelize accordingly. The controversy comes in because others, surprisingly of the same faith, seem to think he isn’t going about things in the right way. They kind of remind me of a tyrannical child in a sandbox who won’t let you play or build anything unless you do it by his earthbound rules. Of course the other kids eventually give up and leave, defeating the purpose of the sandbox–to be in community, our hands deep in the messy but awesome business of discerning God’s will, and taking our part in the ongoing creation that is His plan and not someone else’s. I admire Rob’s determination to stay in the sandbox. My essay will show you why I do the same. Here’s the link to the piece. I hope you enjoy it. In the meantime, please pass the sand bucket. And maybe the starfish mold…
Summers tend to reshape my writing life. My husband is a teacher so when school ends in June both he and our 11-year-old son, Tain, are home and my carefully honed routine dissolves within days. That didn’t mean I stopped writing altogether this summer. I just had to accept writing under different conditions. At any given time, for example, Tain, all 85 pounds of him, would come into my office and sit on my lap. Or my husband would come in to inquire what I’m doing or to sit on my chaise and read.
I suppose I could have put a Do Not Disturb sign on my door or communicated a hard and fast “Don’t bother Mama while she’s writing” rule, but I didn’t. These warm and lovely days are fleeting. For all I know this may be the last summer Tain will be able to fit on my lap. And the time my husband spends in my office is brief because, being a musician, he has his own artistic pursuits. I was grateful for impromptu hikes, going out for ice cream, and being available to drive Tain to and from his rehearsals for the show he was in this summer, “The Lion King, JR.” I told Tain as we waited for his school bus I would miss all these things and it’s true.
But I have missed my routine. I am happy to have once again time to think, and time to take better care of myself. After putting Tain on the school bus I exercise, shower and dress, then write. It sounds simple but it’s grounding. And that’s what I need. In her wonderful book Still Writing, the author Dani Shapiro quotes a list of instructions for writers left by the poet Jane Kenyon:
Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.
I have these words on a bulletin board next to me in my office. When I posted them I made peace with the fact that there will be many days, as there were this summer, when following these instructions would be impossible. They do remind me, though, to honor the days when it is possible. Today is such a day. It’s a good day.
Last week I was working on an essay I planned to submit as my latest contribution to Ruminate Magazine‘s blog. Then I read Roxane Gay’s “Why I Can’t Forgive Dylann Roof” in the New York Times. It bothered me so much I woke up thinking about it the next morning and knew I wanted to respond. I emailed my Ruminate editor and told her I would be scrapping what I was writing and sending her something entirely different. I ended up writing, “For Roxane Gay: Notes from a Forgiving Heart,” and you can read it at this link. I’m not saying she has to forgive him but I do believe it’s important to discuss why this level of forgiveness matters. In fact I felt it was so vital that this is the first completed essay I’ve managed to write in connection with the Sandy Hook shooting at my son’s school, two and a half years later. I hope you’ll comment on the piece and join this ongoing discussion.
Thanks and be well,
Recently the editors of Ruminate Magazine asked me to be a contributor to its blog. Ruminate is a fine literary journal produced in Fort Collins, Colorado that publishes short stories, poetry, creative nonfiction, and visual art that resonate with the complexity and truth of the Christian faith. I’ve read and admired it for some time so I was thrilled when my essay, “Why I Must Dance Like Tony Manero,” was named a finalist for Ruminate‘s VanderMey Nonfiction Prize and published in Issue No. 33.
I’m excited to write for the blog as well because as my work progresses I’m noticing I have a lot of thoughts about faith and my spiritual journey that I’m sifting through on the page. Ruminate‘s request was a timely one. It’s nice to know this writing will have a home.
Here’s the link to the first essay, “The Definition of an Open Heart,” in which I ponder the meaning of grace. I hope you enjoy it.