writing to wake the soul 

This is an adaption from Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within by Karen Hering and reprinted with permission of Beyond Word Publishing/Atria Books, Hillsboro, Oregon.

Faith as an act of placing one’s heart suggests movement. Not only is it made of motion, never sitting still, as life itself does not, but it also sets other things in motion. We might try, if we can bear it grammatically and sonically, to think of “faithing” and ask ourselves what motion and action might characterize it.

What are some of the verbs that describe faith’s action or movement in your life?


If we listed all the forms that prayer can take—petitions and gratitude, praise and lamentation, confessions and indictments, wailing words and silent breath, bended knees and wakeful walking, a listening ear, an open heart, a quiet space, a widening circle—we would find no shortage of ways to pray. What is it, then, within or beyond the hundred ways of praying, that makes them all prayer?

What is prayer for you?


Thinking or writing about sin isn’t easy. It calls up all kinds of difficult experiences and unwanted feelings. But naming these associations and feelings can be necessary beginning in any earnest quest for grace or forgiveness.

What do you experience when you think about sin?


If we sometimes experience love as a journey, it is one that crosses a wide variety of terrain and one that beckons even while presenting us with many barriers—massive boulders and other “could-be” obstacles that might befriend us if we can find our way around them.

The question is, how will we respond to these? How will we make our way through the varied terrain of the land of love?


Who among us has not known injustice as that fluttering sensation in the body that tells us something has gone awry? It is as if our inner scale has been unsettled, whether tipping subtly or swinging with wild, erratic imbalance, or in one swift move, bottoming out altogether under the burden of some heavy injustice.

Think of an injustice that you once experienced or witnessed, something that caused your internal balances to swing and sway with alarm.


Hope is the kind of faithful waiting we do despite all evidence that would persuade us not to. Hope is how we prepare ourselves for a new possibility we have longed for but never seen. It is a kind of waiting that builds new spaces for the yet unspoken messages we most need to hear.

What are the messages you’ve been longing to hear?


It may be that the most redemptive work we can do, in our own lives and in our work to repair the world, is to break open the story we have been telling ourselves—the story of certain outcomes, of sure-footed correctness, of entitlement, of privilege—and to humbly ask, what might we make of our brokenness?


Grace shows up in the portal of not knowing, in moments of confusion or doubt, and often in experiences of loss and grief, in fear or loneliness—times when we have been emptied in one sense or another.

What is it that fills your heart and your mind on this day?


While it is true that hospitality is about not holding back in sharing the best of what we have and who we are with others, it is also about not holding back for fear of having—or being—too little. It’s about sharing our lives just as they are.

When have you felt fully welcomed as a guest?


Reverence, it has been said, begins with an acknowledgment of human limitations in the presence of something greater, something more than we can ever be. Listening is a good place to start. And watching. Look up. Look around you. Listen to the choir.

Karen Hering is a writer and ordained Unitarian-Universalist minister. Her work has appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies, and she has led hundreds of writing sessions in congregations, community organizations, and workplace settings. She serves as a consulting literary minister in St. Paul, Minnesota and leads a literary ministry Faithful Words, which offers programs that engage writing as a spiritual practice and tool for social action. For more information on Karen, click here to visit here website.

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