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Writing in Church

My observance of my religion is not practiced in grand gestures, lone pilgrimages, or big revelations. It is me sitting on a padded pew with an open journal in my lap. Sometimes I write for pages, not great spiritual insight, just the daily cares that are in my head. I write all the things which I think are too boring for others to want to listen to. I repeat myself because repetition of thought is necessary in a life that is full of repeated tasks. In that journal I am allowed to spill words without concern for audience. Or rather I’m writing to a very specific audience: myself and God. I like writing my thoughts during church, because the location affects the shape of those thoughts as they spool onto the page. I never can be sure afterward whether there are threads of inspiration in those thoughts.

I do listen to the speakers and the teachers. I probably should be better at putting down my pen and giving them full attention. Some weeks I do. This was one of the weeks where my thoughts were noisy and I had to pin them to a page where I could examine them. I’ve learned to trust that when there is something in a talk that I should hear, I will suddenly find myself listening without having made a conscious decision to do so. Words, phrases, stories, jump out at me sometimes. Even if I was lost in my own thoughts the moment before. Sometimes I write down the pieces which came to me, a non sequitur in the middle of other thoughts.

On some Sundays I flip through things I’ve previously written and my own words jump out at me. I meant them one way when I wrote them, but I need them in a different way when they come to me again. I can only flip through a few months of thoughts. Anything older than that is in a different notebook. The physical requirements of the pages force me not to dwell too much on the past, but to keep moving forward.

I write journals at other times and places besides church. I have the stack of notebooks to bear witness to this. I used to segregate my thoughts into different notebooks, one for life journaling, a different for story fragments, a third for random notes of phone numbers and measurements. Now all of these things go into a single book, one that fits into my purse. All of it is there and none of it is explained. Sometimes I picture a future historian puzzling over cryptic fragments of sentences. A couple of times that “historian” has been me.

Writing my thoughts during church is a small observance. It is a way for me to commune with myself and with inspiration from God. I come away with a clearer plan for what needs to come next. Sometimes I’m given specific directions that are not always what I want to hear. Other times I’m reassured that my choices are good. I don’t know if any of that is apparent in the words themselves. They probably read like someone rambling endlessly about the same routine things that she rambled about last week, last month, last year. Yet I know that last week the flow of feeling and inspiration which came with the words was different than this week. Small observances can be powerful, particularly when they are repeated over time. This is how I build my faith and give myself peace each week. It is how I rest and refill so that I can meet the week to come.

2 comments to Writing in Church

  • Suzanne

    Hi Sandra. It’s Sue Wright from your ward. I just discovered your blog and just have to say that I’ve really enjoyed reading some of your entries. I had to comment on this one imparticular, because it just made me laugh! I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed. But, I too ALWAYS have a spiral notebook with me at church. It’s pretty much open, with pen in hand, for the majority of all 3 meetings. Journaling at church is–for me–a dialogue with the Spirit, and a significant part of my “communion” experience. It’s also my guarantee that–no matter what gospel paradigm is being put forward on a topic–I can always be taught a pure form, if I ask and start moving my pen across the page. Reminds me of a couplet by theologian, John Piper. “I know not from whence this Light. Nor, understand this lens. I only know that there are Eyes. In pencils and in pens.” I find that to be very true when journaling at church. 🙂

    • Sometimes my in-church writing is very spiritual, I like those times. Other times I think writing makes me tune out when I should be listening more.

      Glad you found this blog and that you’re enjoying reading it.