Part 2: The long and the short of it
Last month and during my presentation of “Sharing Your Faith Story as a Writer” for the March 4-6 Catholic Writers Conference Online, I stressed preparing to evangelize by keeping a spiritual journal.
As writers, we know that brevity gets attention! Focused words sell! To write an effective elevator speech, first write a long faith bio from bullet points of chronological events. Start with your baptism and continue through the sacraments you have received. Note the high points of your life, the holy moments that brought you closer to the Lord. Then contrast these moments with the unholy moments of disappointment and disillusionment when you felt far from God.
What was that first defining moment when you knew that God was real, that he loved you? Mark that with a star. That God-moment is the most important experience. Focus on what changed you. When you share your story in person or in writing, that God-moment is a dramatic opening scene.
Take some time to reflect on your faith journey: where it began, how it came alive and grew strong with difficulties, victories, and miracles. Where did God take you and where do you believe he is leading you? What episodes in your collection of faith experiences are touch points between you and God? What episodes are shareable? How can you summarize your faith history with God?
I didn’t keep a regular spiritual journal as a young adult convert. But having written my faith biography and condensed it, I can sum up the essence of my faith story in 30 seconds with 76 words:
I grew up in a churchgoing Protestant family. I gave my life to the Lord at a youth retreat when I was 15 but kept my relationship with Jesus a secret between us. I fell in love with a Catholic in college and married him in the Catholic Church. Almost three years later I converted to Catholicism when I discovered I belong in the Catholic Church. That’s where I can fully develop my relationship with God.
Shuffling the notebooks
A dozen years after my conversion, a giant step of renewal brought me healing of my emotions, relationships and sinful attitudes. I had returned to finish college as a young mother of four. I scribbled accounts of my spiritual struggles and victories in the back of my journalism notebooks.
In my writing and editing business, I used three-section spirals for notes on client projects, newsletters I produced and freelance magazine articles. Another spiral had sections for Bible Study, retreat teachings and my spiritual journal.
Looking back on my writing, it seems like I was shuffling together the pages of my business-newsletter-freelance spiral with that of my Bible study-teachings-spiritual journal. My writing of that period combined ideas, quotations, scriptures, story examples and inspiration from all these. The source of inspiration was the same: the Holy Spirit.
It’s not that God partitions our writing life from our spiritual life as in spiral notebooks. He integrates our spiritual life with our vocation of writing.
Pairing writing progress with spiritual growth is a fascinating exercise in keeping a journal, bringing us insight into who we are in God.
Staying close to the Lord, our Source of all ideas and encouragement, gives us much to write about from our spiritual experiences. And much to share of his love and mercy.
How does your spiritual journal affect your writing? How does your writing reflect your spirituality?
© 2016 Nancy HC Ward, creator of Sharing Your Faith Story, a three-part seminar for evangelization