A few years ago, I discovered the healing practice of writing poetry. Now, I want to be sure you understand that I do NOT claim to be a poet. What I found in writing my thoughts in poetic form was that the spiritual practice of journaling was finally an effective way for me to offload stress or worry and even sometimes overwhelming joy! I had always struggled with journaling. Being an impatient soul, I couldn’t be bothered to take the time to fully write out my thoughts. Being a grammar nerd, I lectured myself when the thoughts I could bear to crank out weren’t complete. It just didn’t help.
Then I met Dr. John Stone. Dr. Stone was, at the time, the dean of the Emory University School of Medicine, but I met him at a fundraiser. I honestly don’t remember the beneficiary of the fundraiser, but lots of Atlanta literary society kind of folks were there. I attended with my college roommate. She and I were young adults in Atlanta with nothing to do that night, so we went to this very adult gathering which, to this day, I believe was by the divine hand of God since I cannot remember how in the world we even knew about it.
Dr. Stone read from a book of poems he had published titled, Music from Apartment 8. I was mesmerized. I felt a depth of reflection in hearing him read about visiting his mother long into her dementia—the disconnection between them, the perseverance of continued visits. Not even realizing that I would one day face the same struggle, I connected deeply to his words and their form. So, I did something that was totally out of character for me at the time: I reached out to Dr. Stone (whom I had never met!) and made an appointment for coffee to discuss poetry and writing.
We had a delightful conversation. He encouraged my pursuit of reading and writing poetry, making some suggestions on whom to read and how to start working on my own. That was many years ago, and yet I continue to find the occasional retreat into writing to be very therapeutic.
Not long ago I was invited to participate in a writing workshop with a recently retired professor from the Candler School of Theology, Dr. Karen Scheib. Dr. Scheib led us through some writing exercises using prompts to help us focus our thoughts. She could not have known that on one of the days of the workshop, I was thinking about things I miss about in-person worship. One of the things I miss the most is the in-person experience of Holy Communion. The liturgy around the table contains some of the things I believe most deeply about God, the work of Jesus Christ, and the in-definable and mystical experience of being in the body of Christ together, especially for Holy Communion when we are all together in-person. The prompt Dr. Scheib shared that day was this: “Write about a text you know by heart.” I immediately thought of these words from The Great Thanksgiving: “When we turned away and our love failed, your love remained steadfast.” That sentence is from what is called the Preface in The Great Thanksgiving. In this part of the liturgy, we give thanks to God for God’s unfailing love, which continues to pursue us no matter what. Those words have given me much food for thought, reflection, conviction, and repentance in my spiritual life, and they came so fast and easily to my mind in the writing workshop that I decided to use them to respond to the prompt. The result is the following, which I share with you with some fear and trepidation. I am not accustomed to sharing this part of my writing with anyone, but because we share in the body of Christ together, I trust and care for you and know you trust and care for me. So, here goes:
Perhaps the reason I want to share this with you now is that I am feeling the need to express gratitude to God for God’s never-ending pursuit of us, even when we are feeling disconnected from friends, family, work, church, community, and life in general. This is a very hard time, and more than ever we need reminders of God’s love and care for us.
God’s love for YOU does, indeed, remain steadfast. No matter what. Forever.
If you need to talk, please reach out. I am always here.
With love and appreciation for you,