Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Scribotherapy: From the Pages of One Woman's Journal

Guest Blogger: Katie Madsen is a co-worker, insatiable writer and constant journaler. I invited her to write on "Scribotherapy" (the process of using words as a conduit to understanding and feeling relief from any life difficulty) and fortunately for me, but not so for Katie, she was in the thick of it.

We write in order to heal. We hope to find solace somewhere within the lines of our journals.

In my particular case, my consolation was given before I knew I was in need of it. It was within some quiet moments one morning while listening to my friend play worship music that I penned these sporadic truths: “At the cross you beckon me, draw me gently to my knees, Lord. I am lost for words so lost in love, I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered... There’s no place I’d rather be than here in your arms, Lord, here in your arms... Set a fire down in my soul, Lord, that I can’t contain, that I can’t control... I want more of you... so I wait for you, so I wait for you... I’m falling on my knees offering all of me. Jesus, you’re all this heart is living for.” Have you ever been so moved by the simple truths in worship songs that you just can’t help but write them down over and over in hopes that they penetrate your soul as deep as the journal you’re carving into?

This time my soul was penetrated. My God was healing my heart on paper before I [ever] knew it was going to be broken.

That same evening, life as I knew it had turned upside down. The man I thought I was going to marry walked out on me. My heart was shattered to pieces and left [brutally] exposed. My soul had now turned to sleepless sorrow. I wrote, “Abba, I curl up in your lap now, please wrap your loving arms around me with peace and keep my gaze on you. You are my prize, my end goal, and nothing else satisfies.”

And that’s where the healing began.

It was in the days that followed that I truly began to notice the Lord wooing me to His loving gaze. He continually brought me back to the words scribbled in my journal that wretched evening.

He reminded me of His name, Abba, our intimate Father. He reminded me that he has not only rescued me but carried me through those moments where I couldn't stand on my own two feet. He reminded me that he is the true lover of my soul.

Not only that, but God reminded me of truth embedded within the pages of my journal—the truth that he so lovingly put on my heart to jot down mere hours before I realized my brokenness.

Am I unique in my journaling experience?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Scribotherapy: Use Your Words

"Use your words," I have told my three sons since they were each toddlers. It was a way I had learned to soften their behavior toward each other, to get them to listen first before acting out. It was an alternative for them instead of using their fists or feet to make a point; a tool of a phrase employed to stop fights, tantrums, retaliation, or even just a day's end outburst of screaming or crying. But it wasn't until I used my own words about my life that I could see how profound that simple directive was.

Use your words to listen to what is inside of you.

Using your words is what I call scribotherapy. Like bibliotherapy, which is defined in Webster's Third International Dictionary as the "guidance in the solution of personal problems through directed reading," scribotherapy is a word and regimen I created and assign to the process of using words as a conduit to understanding and feeling relief from any life difficulty.

~taken from Writing to Save Your Life: How to Honor Your Story Through Journaling, by Michele Weldon

Do you journal? When do you feel most compelled to journal?

I usually only journal during the hard times of my life. If anyone ever found my journals and read them, they would think I was the most troubled, depressed and angry soul. But that is when I write. I practice scribotherapy.

A friend of mine is taking a three month leave of absence from her job to process some very tough occurrences in her life. She tells me that the Lord instructed her to write, to take time to grieve her losses through journaling. This will be the first time she has ever journaled.

The idea of joining the Lord in this process of journaling to find healing in our lives is an intriguing concept. I'm sure there are areas in your life that need attending to: losses, hard goodbyes, death, betrayal, disappointments, etc. I would love for you to start "using your words" to begin walking through the mire of tangled thoughts and emotions. As Michele Weldon instructed us: "Use your words to listen to what is inside of you."

Do you practice scribotherapy? As fellow writers, we'd love hear how it worked for you.

I look forward to reading what you write. ~Cindy Blomquist, WOTH Editor

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Veiled Writing: When You Need Security-Elizabeth Givens

How do we handle the need to communicate and tell the stories that will reach the hearts of our donors and prayer partners, and still stay safe?

Most of us have done it at some point, especially if we live or work in parts of the world where the word “m"-word is not acceptable – we Google our name to see what comes up, and then we hold our breath and hope it’s not our newsletter posted on some church website. Right?

In an Internet world of blogs and social networks, I sometimes think my friends and colleagues in my own limited-access work know exactly who I am and what I do, but are polite enough to keep up the pretense. I bring them valued services so they humor me by letting me imagine I’m living this double life…

So how do we handle the need to communicate about our ministry and tell the stories that will reach the hearts of our donors and prayer partners, and still stay safe?

Very carefully.

But you do have to communicate. You can’t assume people know what’s going on in your part of the world, or that they will pray, or that they will continue to support you if they never hear from you. Some things are pretty simple: don’t put your name on the web, don’t call your country by its real name, don’t use the word missionary. Churches are getting fairly savvy on these issues. Educate your friends, donors, and prayer partners about what you can and cannot say when you are in a secure place, and help them understand why.

The bigger question is -- can you communicate genuine issues and not tell the whole world where you work? I think you can.

People stories are what communicate most deeply to your audience, and people issues are universal. Depression, spiritual conflicts, broken marriages, fear, barrenness, rebellious children. Are not these the problems all those searching for Jesus face? Even those who are following Jesus are still dealing with the baggage of their past life.

Given a need for security, do not use real names. Collect a list of linguistically appropriate substitute names and make yourself a grid so when you write about "Sada" it always is the same woman. When telling stories of believers, ask permission to tell their story. Be sensitive in your storytelling, but don’t stop telling stories. Help your reader understand the complexities of your host culture by demonstrating life through people and events.

Last summer I was leading a large team in a limited access country. We needed daily prayer, but I was blocked from posting a daily blog. I did have email, and I had a willing daughter who posted my blog for me. It worked, and the families and friends of the team members knew where they could get daily prayer fodder, even though most of the team didn’t have Internet access.

Security IS an issue. But God is bigger and your stories are His stories. Tell them. Remember that you are the "m" educator, not just a "m." Or worker. Or teacher. Or whatever you want to call yourself!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Is Marketing a Dirty Word?-Elizabeth Givens

“Great post, even if I don't like your title,” was the first comment I read on Blog #2.

I love it when people push back on a blog post! The title was “Marketing yourself and your ministry.” Missionaries are biased against the word marketing, but it describes our communication -- even if we don't like the negative connotations. “Marketing smacks of lies, or at least, half-truths” another comment says. “Missionaries should be different.”

Maybe we are deluding ourselves. We don’t like the word, so we pretend we’re not marketing. But I am marketing when I determine which of my friends will get email notes from me and who will get paper letters. Marketing is deciding to send out a prayer letter right January 2 rather than dropping a letter in the middle of Christmas cards. Marketing is always saying thank you to my donors.

“Oh, no,” you say. “That’s not marketing!” Oh yes, I say, that IS marketing. Though I agree that we are not selling a product, we are in sales. We’re offering God’s people a chance to get involved in God’s Kingdom work. Isn’t it high pressure sales that we react against? If I want to get something, it’s not marketing when I’m given information that answers my questions. The same reader is correct when she says, “We need to write honestly and openly, though, not with the idea that we are a product we need to sell to others.”

I think the bottom line is semantics. We are biased. Marketing, in our thinking, smacks of pressure sales, of phone calls we didn’t want, of products we feel we got snookered into buying. I’d like a better word, but I don’t know one. So maybe I need to let God revamp my definition of the word marketing.

I’ve just spent the morning writing “marketing” materials. My goal is that the Lord of the Harvest will use what I’ve written to secure prayer, funding, and people for the least-reached of the world. I have no underhanded motives – but as I wrote, I targeted each piece to a different audience. I can be talking about the same exact ministry but pastors don’t need or want the same information as a college student. That’s marketing, ahem, whether I like it or not.

I think someone hit on Paul about his marketing techniques way back in the 1st century. Paul loved his support team and he communicated well, but he wrote to the Thessalonians, “For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.” 1 Thessalonians 2:3ff

I’ll end where I began. I love it when people push back on a blog post!


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