Saturday, January 16, 2010

Writing By Hand

I've always been an office supply addict. When I was a kid, it was three-ring binders, lined paper, spiral-bound notebooks and Papermate® brand pens. Today it's computers, Zebra® brand pens, fountain pens and "modern Coptic"- or thread-bound notebooks--notebooks such as the ones made famous by Moleskine®. I used to keep a fairly serious personal blog online. When I found myself facing some heat because of that blog, I closed it down, started another one that would be used mainly for theological purposes (which you are reading now!), and took pen and pocket-sized thread-bound notebooks in hand to record personal observations and to make notes for writing.

I just finished filling my fourth such notebook, one I started in January of 2008. When I fill a notebook, I flip through the pages and see what I've recorded on its pages. When I started this one, I was compiling questions which I was hoping my father would answer, an attempt to record my family's story. I eventually used those questions and others to record my own story. I jotted notes for two ideas for novels, ones I may or may not get around to writing. (Look out for NaNoWriMo 2010!)

I took the notebook with me when we evacuated for Hurricane Gustav, and contained in its pages are measurements for cutting wood for the windows of the house. I ended up leaving it at the house of the pastor who hosted me. He was able to return it to me about six months later.

Also contained in this notebook are a bunch of parodies I've written. Some were based on secular songs and themes. For example, Crosby Stills & Nash's "Immigration Man" became "Teleprompter Man", while Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" became "I Knit and Purl". Others were based on hymns and songs. "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus" became "Sit Down, Sit Down for Jesus", while "Ride On! Ride On In Majesty" became "Right On! Right On, Depravity" after the ELCA's anti-Scriptural decisions regarding homosexuality.

But what pleases me most about what is contained in this notebook is that it records my attempts to write hymns to the glory of God and the edification of the Church. These are humble efforts--some much humbler than others, to be sure--but they reflect a growth in my prayer life, a prayer life that had been (and still continues to be) a struggle, especially since the events of four years ago.

Some of what I write on those pages appears on this blog. After all, I use it for recording ideas and as a springboard for my writing. My review of Pastor Todd Peperkorn's book I Trust When Dark My Road appears nearly word-for-word. But much of what appears on those pages is for my eyes only. I will never be as trusting or as naive as I was, and there are some things y'all don't need to know about me. I don't write about my job or the specifics of my pastoral duties much at all anymore. I learned my Eighth Commandment lesson the hard way.

Even so, writing by hand has always been somewhat therapeutic for me, since I've always felt that I think better with a pen in hand and converse better using a pen rather than my mouth. The notebook has borne the brunt of my therapy. The pages have become compressed; the cover, once pristine, has wrinkled with age and abuse. Putting this notebook on the shelf will be like ending a conversation with an old friend. But I've got another notebook, and a new conversation, a new friendship, begins.

And if I miss the old one too much, I can always pull it off the shelf and relive the conversation once again.

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