A Hand in Your Own {The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}


                                                                                                 photo credit


“Some good words from my pastors this morning,” I smirk as I enter the room where my husband is sleeping. The word “pastors” is slurred into paaaastuers and I’m facetious at best. Not exactly sarcastic, but then, what do I know of the response he’ll muster? This one who I’ve watched wear the title and then discard it (and all its clinging tendrils) when it ceased to fit properly.

He opens one sleepy eye.

But the silence sits on me hard. And I pause. “No. There’s something wrong about that,” I shake my head and squint at the flecked gold knob on the closet door, bending down to untie the knots in my running shoes. He knows I’m not referring to preaching ministers at a church when I say “pastors,” he knows I mean the men and women whose writing I read online and the ensuing conversations which I have come to cherish as part of my spiritual food on a near-daily basis. The threaded laces are stubborn beneath my fingers, but pulling on them somehow loosens me in all the right ways. Suddenly, there’s lightning, “I bet they wouldn’t like me to call them that …”


“They’d rather me call them ‘friends.’ “

I slide the closet shut around the words. His work boots oppose me, sticking their toes toward the cracks, but a shove does the trick, and she’s closed. I turn around and lean against it. Letting the words that just escaped my lips saturate my soul.

********

Maybe I’m the only one who has been wounded by the power-plays so common among the leadership of the church and the name-dropping and the ladder-climbing. Maybe I am alone here, still feeling the prick of loss when followers of the Servant-King use position as a means of personal gain. Those who, instead of gently guiding their flock, are fleecing them blind for the allegiance they give. For the control that is surrendered … Maybe. But I doubt it.

And internet writing is a messy, tricky thing. We bring our own back-story and half-healed scars to every piece we read. I can’t say that many out in the great cloud of witnesses called the blogosphere have been “pastors” to me in any holy sense of the word, but here and there in a thousand private messages and a million blog comments and a handful of face-to-face meetings, are a good number of those who I would consider to be “friends.” And since we’re all straddling the overlap between writing and faith – a place brimful with its own brand of power-plays and name-dropping and ladder-climbing – I’d say that’s not such a little thing.

In fact, the writers I love to read are men and women who write their posts and sing their songs and live their art not for the respect they can earn or the title they can solicit or the money with which they can fill their pockets. They have a heart to walk alongside. They are knowable, relate-able. They tell their stories with dirt under their nails and southern drawls dripping heavy from their honest, unedited lips. They write from the deep and the burdened places we all know – and they write it real. As real as a hand in your own.

Somehow they seem to grasp intuitively that the greatest gift they can give to the world has a whole lot more to do with sharing the specifics (even the gritty ones) of their personal stories than by quoting the worn-out platitudes or theological moral-isms by which they might exalt themselves over their readers.

No. If that’s what “pastor” means, they are never that to me.

I repeatedly watch them take the low road. They don’t live for the pedestals or the red carpets. They’d just as likely hug your neck and share a beer as shake your hand and hold your baby. They’re not untouchable. They’re not perfect. And – by far the most rare – they’re not afraid to come out of hiding and let you know it.

**********

And the shower steams hot. While I let muscles relax in the aftermath of my run, I remember my own limitedness and the finite experience of life within this skin. But I also feel the plea for human connection that rises up within my own story, asking to be made known. Why is it easier to give someone a formula to fix their aching heart than it is to get down into it with them and feel ALL THE FEELINGS alongside? I can’t say I know. But that is what makes a writer – a professional – cross the bridge into becoming a friend. The telling of the secrets that we think are only our own is the exact reason why I’ve come to relate deeply to so many whose breath I’ve never smelled and whose tears I’ve never wiped, who live worlds away from this mid-western farmhouse.

We are wired for connection, not only perfunctory answers.

For bearing each other’s burdens and holding close the broken, not for sanitary scripturized cliches.

Because love is always more satisfying than being right – hard as it is to believe sometimes.

It’s true for all of us: the gift of our lives to this world community is not given in spite of our humanness – as if that takes away from the poignancy of the message – but because of it. Because of the Babel places where we try to climb to God on steps of our own making and our Damascus roads where we are blind to all but the frightening light of a hairy paradigm-shift. Because of our willingness to accept ourselves and the dirt under our nails and the ins and outs of our messy narratives.

( … which might sound a lot like a tiny little mystery known as the Incarnation, if we listen long enough.)

There is a beautiful one-piece garment that transcends the in spite of’s and because of’s and waits with bated breath for the way redemption will shine through cracks in the one who dares to bare the soul: Whole.

And here I want to turn to you, dear reader, dear writer, dear friend, 

I want to say that in the kind of moxie that it takes for YOU to tell your tales and tell them real, I find my own story. Your secrets are mine. Your fallings and failures and glories. It’s there that I finger the edges of making peace with myself and an expansive hope comes just into view right next to a love that tears down walls. If beauty bursting through is true for you, couldn’t it also be true for me … ?

All of us belong to each other in this very way. Oh, how the world needs your wild.

Because this is the kind of courage that gives birth to a deeply personal bravery; this is not only the discovery of our humanness – but the necessary making friends with it; this is the kind of being known that inspires the greatest and least alike to call vulnerability out on her dare; to surrender all the ways we try so hard to impress everyone around us with our words and our art …

And to live as friends.



“I have called you friends … Now, go and do likewise.”
-Jesus of Nazareth






Kelli Woodford considers curiosity a serious expedition and is rarely satisfied with anything remotely status quo. She collects friendships with people as different as they can be and feels all the richer for it, but never experiences “home” so much as when she is with her best friend – who also happens to be her husband. They make their abode in Love, but also in the Midwest with their seven blue-eyed children. You can catch her hanging out on Facebook, Twitter, or see more of her astounding words at her blog, chronicles of grace






This is a series–I hope you’ll be back next week, for more delving into this. At the end of the series, I’m going to have a link-up for you to share your own stories of what makes Christian writing and blogging hard for you. What are the issues we face and deal with? This is not a place for maligning anyone in our writing and link-up or to debate in the comments. No mentions, please, of other blogs, quotes from other blogs, etc. These are the requirements for the link-up. Please keep this theme and discussion in mind, and think of how you’d  like to begin writing your own story, or journey of blogging. I’d love to hear it! I’ll choose one story to be featured here the following week, and on social media! 

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49 thoughts on “A Hand in Your Own {The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}”

  1. Oh Bless IT. Just bless it all. The truth just streams forth and trickles down…. like that oil on the beard of Aaron. Thanks Kelli. Thanks Nacole. I love this sisterhood. I feel like home here.

  2. Ooh, Loretta, that oil…. This comment right here? You just blessed my socks right off, friend. A big *thank you*. You don't know what it means for you to say that you feel home here. Gosh..

  3. Oh my. This is good. So very good. Ill have seconds please, of the words at this banquet table. Community looks beautiful on you two.

  4. I sat for hours last night trying to share my heart on why the frienships made in this blogging world have come to mean so much to me and for some reason it was so hard to put to words. I believe (hope) my heart was reflected in what I was able to muster up. 🙂
    This… Amen to all of it!
    So grateful to call you friend and I can't wait to meet you in real life.

  5. Elizabeth, I love that you haven't been a fair-weather friend, but you have consistently been an encourager in my life and writing journey–I love that though life gets busy, we can always pick right up again and keep going as if no time passed since we talked last. You are so kind, and you are so welcome here, friend.

  6. Hey Nacole … Ventured here today, following Kelli, and I am delighted at the warmth of your welcome. I, too, am struck that my own internet writing truly is a tricky thing in navigating that 'overlap between writing and faith' but also in doing so as my role as a pastoral counselor, the blog representing the ministry I co-founded. How authentic should I be? What are the professional parameters? What's the goal here?
    I wrestle with where this is going for me. But I do it with joy and expectancy …
    I'll be back!
    ;-}

  7. I have no words… how is it that your writing does that to me in the most glorious ways? So much Amen here, my friend!

  8. Oh, what joy to see you here, Linda! I'm blessed that you followed along – AND ESPECIALLY that you let us see the questions that you are facing in this season.

    God give you peace and direction, friend. You are loved.

  9. I KNOW!! Beth, I feel the same way sometimes – overwhelmed by how undone I am with all you lovelies! 🙂

    Maybe there is something pretty big going on here, yes? Even if we can't find the words for it all the time …

  10. Hey Kelli! I love the way you walk beside others. Really, I have felt the squeeze of your hand across the miles (not too many that we couldn't do this in real some day). Just today I was pondering why one writes and what motivates and what the writer values and how it affects their words or lack of words. A writer writes. A reader reads. And when the two merge, there is an increased potentional to provoke thought, inspire, create hope, give a new perspective, etc. etc. Our words can be used to build up or to destroy, to encourage or discourage.
    So I wonder why some feel that writing is about their popularity or status or security in this virtual environment which can lead to competition, discouragement, disillusionment, etc. And I decided, that since I have been greatly ministered to by the words of those that wrote long ago and have since left this earth, that perhaps the true worth of our words cannot even be measured this side of heaven. We may be long gone before our words do their intended work. So I will write when prompted and leave the words on the page for God to use as he wills. Not for my gain, but His. I say writers, write!
    Hugs,
    Kelly

  11. Kelly, this is solid gold, you know? To rest in the knowledge that we can never know the true weight or reach of even our best words on this earth …? Well, that just speaks peace to quiet all my angst, friend.
    Thank you so much for this.

  12. Ah, Sandy, good to see you here. Yours is one of those faces I've seen eyeball to eyeball and not just thru a screen. Thank you for being the kind of friend who champions others. You shine, friend.

  13. Gosh, Linda, thank you, and I second what Kelli said: I am so grateful and honored for you to bring your questions here. I haven't lived that to have any answers, but I may be able to bring another writer on who can address that issue from the type of experience you're talking of. The thought of that is exciting! Thanks for being vulnerable and letting us hear your concern about writing.

  14. Kelly, yes! Kelli and I were discussing that very thing today, too. I love that we were pondering the same thing in our hearts at the same moment. Wow. *Thank you* for your input here. Writers, write! <---- You have no idea what that did for me. I feel sweet peace settling down over this conversation and over my heart. I am undone.

  15. I ABSOLUTELY love this. I am humbled. And blessed. And I can See how He uses even our stories. And how wha we do is guttural and ethereal, and simply . . . worship.

    Kelli, you see how what you wrote so fits with what I sent to you today. Right???? 😉

  16. I experienced this, in the last email I received from you… this friendship, this holding of my hand and 'seeing' me. You flesh out these words in such a way I continue to be inspired to dig and reach and touch the More that writing can be. xoxoxo

  17. Kelli…this is beautiful…there is a richness in this blog world…that to the casual observer can be dismissed…there are many teachers in this place…ones that challenge and encourage all to grow in Christ. I love both of your hearts…hearts who long to follow hard after God.

  18. Ah, Kelly, I've found a breath of air and a bit o healing in your words today. Have been battered about lately while trying to stand dignified in the real place of who I am, both scarred and lovely, and knowing the creator wants to show me loved while cracked, not gluing myself together at the seams. This online community has kept me feeling like I'm not the outcast, but right in the middle of a cloud of witnesses to glory in spite of everything to incarnation. Bless you booties girl for the sheer grit to write this. Big XO! AM

  19. So good to see you here, Ro. Thank you for coming to read, and you are so welcome here, anytime. Yes, so many teachers, so much richness, if we only listen and take the hand of the one beside us, right?

  20. This is awesome, Kelli! Love is way better than being right! And as we hold each other's stories in our hearts, life is so much fuller, richer, and we inspire courage in one another to be brave and share where we've come from and what God has done and is doing. We definitely need each other!

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