What I learned writing Advent devotions

This past season of Advent, I wrote daily devotions which I sent to anyone interested in receiving them. I had about twenty-five folks subscribe, so I was committed to twenty-four devotions, beginning December 1. I chose a selection of bible passages that mentioned darkness and light as the calendar moved us slowly but surely to the winter solstice. The increasing darkness each day was a perfect backdrop for the coming of light, fuel for both physical and spiritual insights. Here are a few things I learned writing this collection of devotions.

  • From the beginning to the end, there are a lot of verses in the bible that mention dark and light. While darkness is used to describe sin, wickedness and death, light brings hope, righteousness and life.
  • Writing daily devotions is hard work. Especially when you’re working from a theme. (I wrote devotions last Lent, too, but used two chapters of a gospel.) Even though each was only three- to five-hundred words, I often struggled to find meaning or application for the passages. This is actually a good thing. It made me stop and think, dig a little deeper, and find personal application. Each one had an important lesson for me.
  • I didn’t get much feedback. Maybe that’s a good thing. My writing could probably use some work. Anyway, you never know who is or who isn’t reading your work. Apart from a few, “I’m really enjoying your devotions,” I didn’t get many comments at all.
  • When you are writing every day, you develop a rhythm. You get into a groove. The more you write, the easier it is to write. I am sure the daily routine improved my writing. It is a good discipline to commit to.
  • I think I wrote more for myself than for others. I wanted to show myself that I could do it. I felt the need to create rather than just consume ideas and insights.

I’m not sure if I’ll do this again. I felt like I could only write once a day, so I put my blog on hold. It took time, maybe ninety minutes or so every day. That’s a lot of time to devote.

But I probably will.

Five things I learned writing daily Lent devotions

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. Continue reading

A handwritten letter

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Over the past week, I sat down and wrote and mailed two letters to a couple of men from our congregation who recently moved away from our area. They were both long-time members of our church, amazing supporters and unforgettable friends. Both had reached the point where they could no longer live alone. They moved to a place where they would receive good care for the remainder of their lives.

I hope you caught my nuance in the first sentence of this post. I didn’t call, text or email. I wrote a letter with a fountain pen and stationery, put it in an envelope, addressed it, put a stamp on the envelope and mailed it. I felt that these relationships were worth a unique form of communication. At least in this digital age.

As I wrote each letter, I wondered, “What is it that makes a letter so different, so meaningful than other media?” A few weeks ago I got a little thank you note from a member I visited, thanking me for the visit. I felt a rush of adrenaline. It was so cool. The note was three simple sentences, yet it touched me.

It got me thinking, “What makes a letter so appealing? Why does it make such an impact?” Here are a few thoughts:

It is sensory. You open an envelope. You hold a piece of paper, perhaps unfolding it, feeling its texture. Our sense of touch amplifies what we see. It’s more than just words or thoughts, but a feeling.

It lingers. We can go back and read it again and again. Yes, you can reread emails and texts, but you may not. They soon get lost in a sea of other communication. But a letter in an opened envelope invites you to look at it again and again. I noticed that when my dad opened a birthday card from my cousin last spring. She had written on the inside and the back. He read it through three times. The next time I sent him a card, I wrote as much as I could about what was going on in our lives. His memory may not be great, but I know that he will read it again and again.

It is personal. A part of the person is in the handwritten word. Every communication in Times New Roman looks the same. But handwriting is unique to an individual. It may not be legible or it may be perfectly elegant, but it is like a fingerprint. No one else writes like that. Some claim you can tell much about a person from their handwriting. They are probably right.

It takes time. It takes more time to write a letter. Without the convenience of backspacing, I took a little more time to compose my thoughts before committing them to paper. I can type much faster than I can write with a pen. Slowing down allows my brain to pick from a larger vocabulary.

It’s an art. With a pen in hand, my creative left brain engages in the writing process. As a result, emotion joins information on the page. Words emerge from shapes and shades and spaces, touching both the heart and mind of the reader.

What do you think? Let me know. Who knows, I might write you a letter.