A week before Ash Wednesday (February 14 this year), I cast a line via my weekly email into the congregation announcing that I would be writing daily devotions on Mark’s version of the passion of our Lord during the forty-six days of Lent (I included the Sundays). About twenty replied and received a daily early-morning email devotion. This was a new project for me, and here’s what I learned from the experience.
It’s hard. Even though I had a “prompt” each day, a verse or two from Mark’s gospel, I had to set aside significant time each day to think and write. The first week was pretty easy. This was new, fresh, and fun. After a few weeks, it wasn’t new or fresh anymore. It became more of a discipline and commitment by the half-way point.
I made sure I was a day or two ahead. No last minute, five-minutes-till-midnight emails. Each was done at least one day in advance, ready to be sent first thing in the morning.
A couple of weeks in, I stopped trying to write these and blog at the same time. A Lenten fast if you will. Other pastoral duties infringed on my writing time, so I had to accept some limitations. I’ve seen and read devotional books containing a year’s worth of material. I now appreciate the effort that goes into such a work.
It’s a blessing. By slowing down to think through a few verses at a time, I dug deeper into the text. I pondered the setting, characters, plot, and questions posed by each day’s verses. I didn’t try to harmonize Mark’s gospel with the others. I let him walk me through this part of Jesus’ life, suffering and death. I asked a lot of questions, put myself in some of their sandals, and tried to imagine what it was like to be there. All good ways to meditate on the text.
It was a good way to grow in my writing. I had to write every day, the way to become a better writer is to write. I know that my style evolved and expanded as I wrote daily over these six weeks. I had to be courageous as well as creative, revealing my own journey of faith as I led others through these chapters.
It helps to know your audience. I knew each of my twenty subscribers. I knew something about their lives and their faith. I believe this helped me connect with them each day. I was also determined to give them something of value, something worth reading each day.
I can do this. I’ve been encouraged by some to write more. I know I still have much to learn about the craft, but it’s definitely a path to pursue as I look toward the future.