“Words Are Turtles”: Some thoughts for a new season of teaching worship

A new semester has begun!

As a teacher this semester, I am excited about reading the written work of my students. I know from past experience how many wonderful insights, questions, and big ideas surface from mysterious depths as students craft reflections and essays. I celebrate the gifts that await our shared discovery, springtime gifts just beneath the surface, soon to shoulder their way up through winter soil.

Even as I anticipate the gifts of student writing, I know that the semester will bring some long, perhaps even painful, nights when inspiration eludes both teachers and students, when our muse is more enemy than friend. For those moments when we are word-and-world-weary, I share this image from writer and poet, Pat Schneider:

Tonight, words are turtles
sleeping under mud.
Even when I poke them
they will not wake up.
Leave us alone,
their silence says.
When we decide to surface,
we will tell you what we dreamed.

PAT SCHNEIDER IN HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN: WRITING AS A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

Writing is an intentional and inner act, Schneider says. She also says that “writing and prayer are both a form of love, and love takes courage.”

As we students, professors, and liturgy writers all poke countless sleeping turtles this semester, I hope that we find courage to write with wisdom and honesty (to the best of our ability). I also hope that as we sometimes brood over the empty screen in front of us we meet Spirit-mystery and encounter unexpected truths.

Words of wisdom from Alice Walker:

When we let Spirit
Lead us
It is impossible
To know
Where
We are being led.
All we know
All we can believe
All we can hope
Is that
We are going
Home
That wherever
Spirit
Takes us
Is where
We
Live.

ALICE WALKER IN ABSOLUTE TRUST IN THE GOODNESS OF THE EARTH

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