Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Writing and Spiritual Practice

As I begin this endeavor of actually keeping a blog (on top of writing regular essays, sermons, and contributions to the Celestial Lands Journal) it struck me just how much writing is a part of my personal spiritual discipline. 

I use the word discipline on purpose, because it is more than just a practice.  While I have been reflecting recently on the meaning of “practice” as applied to daily life, it has also come to me that my spiritual disciplines are multi-faceted because they serve different purposes. 

For example, my sitting Zen meditation serves a different spiritual purpose than my writing.  My regular trips to mountains and forests serve a different spiritual purpose than the kind of centering prayer I do before I preach.  Or the discipline it takes to stay in right relationship with people in my various communities, especially when I don’t really want to.  Zen forms the foundation for a life of awareness.  Moments of centering in prayer bring to the forefront of my heart the divine before I step into the luminal space of a pulpit.  Walking along a mountain stream brings back to me my connection with all things, living and non-living alike.  The commitment to community broadens me, challenges me, and requires me to live closer to my ideals and values than I probably would on my own. 

But what does the writing do?  Besides the obvious that I need written essays to graduate seminary, and I need written sermons if I don’t want to preach like a bomb going off… what role does the writing play in the overall form of my spiritual discipline? 

I am reminded of a friend, a mathematician, who when we were speaking about spiritual practices, told me she felt hers was both coming to and participating in church, but also sitting in a bagel shop early in the morning, working on mathematical problems while watching the sun rise….  The connection for her between the purity and beauty of math, generic imitrex nasal spray combined with the natural beauty of the rising sun brought her to the sacred place in the same way that prayer does for many others… but it was not enough.  That she needed the spiritual practice of right relationship in a church community as well. 

Isaac Asimov was said to have written twelve hours a day, six days a week… locked in his study.  It has to be true, considering how prolific his writing was.  But it also seems to me that it is unbalanced.  No one spiritual practice or discipline is going to lead to a full and whole spiritual life. 

I have another friend, a Benedictine monk and Catholic Priest, who is probably one of the most spiritually whole beings I have ever met.  His discipline included following the Rule of St. Benedict, regular devotionals, singing, a life of prayer, a commitment to worship, a practice of kindness, welcome, and compassion… and a life long spiritual practice, discipline, and commitment to smiling, humor, and laughter.  The few times I have ever known him to be angry, he soon after was laughing at himself for being angry.  Sometimes he would laugh so hard I thought he might have a stroke. 

For me, the writing, whether in sermons, in this blog, in the journal, or perhaps someday also in fiction… the writing serves as a window to the imagination, to the soul, and to the spirit.  I cannot paint, I cannot draw, my voice is weak, and anything I build tends to fall down over time.  Creativity is a spiritual need of humanity, and for me that is the cause for my writing. 

But, writing alone, as in the example of Asimov, does not a whole and full spiritual life make.  And spirituality is at the core of what it means to fully partake of the human experience. 

Yours in Faith,



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