First, to give an idea of what it is that I need to write, here are the guidelines put forward by Devozine.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE?
Our purpose is to help youth develop a lifelong practice of prayer and spiritual reflection. devozine is designed to help readers grow in their faith and explore the relevancy of the Christian faith for the issues they face. Undergirded by scripture, devozine will aid youth in their prayer life, introduce them to spiritual disciplines, help them shape their concept of God, and encourage them in the life of discipleship.
WHAT IS devozine?
- A bimonthly, 80-page magazine for youth
- Written by youth and by adults who care about them
- Each issue focuses on eight or nine themes.
- Each theme includes weekday readings and weekend features, enough for two months.
- Meditations may be read in chronological or random order.
- Meditations may be expressed through scripture, prose, poetry, prayers, stories, songs, art, or photographs.
- Readers and writers include persons of many different denominations and cultures.
WHO WILL ENJOY IT?
- Youth ages 12-18 who seek personal devotional readings
- Youth groups who seek devotional reflections
- Adults who seek to understand youth spirituality
HOW DO I WRITE FOR THE PUBLICATION?
- Daily meditations should be 150-250 words long.
- Poetry and prayers should be short to moderate in length -- 10 to 20 lines.
- Think about the purpose of the meditation -- what do you want it to evoke in the reader?
- Style notes: Simply written (preferably in youth language), realistic and relevant to life experiences of youth, does not need to be overtly religious but should help to open youth to the life of faith that we all seek, inclusive of multicultural experiences
- Language guidelines: Try to use language that is non-sexist and inclusive of everyone (examples are words such as humankind, persons, or everyone instead of mankind or men in the familiar generic sense). We encourage the use of a wide range of biblical images for God.
- May include scripture verse or suggested text (state version of Bible used)
- May include a reflective element: brief prayers, quotes, reflection or journaling questions, action ideas, or other items. Prayers should use honest, straightforward, conversational language.
WHAT ARE SOME TIPS FOR DEVOTIONAL WRITING?
- Devotional writing should invite people to come closer to God.
- Devotional writing should tell about real experiences of real people who are struggling to apply their faith to daily life.
- Devotional writing should express only one main idea. It should leave one memorable image with the reader.
- Devotional writing should lead persons into further conversation with God after they finish reading the meditation.
- Your journal can be a great source of devotional writing because your journal records your real thoughts about your experiences.
See that last tip, that I underlined? Well, Lord knows I've written about grief enough here, let's see what I can find as inspiration from some of my past blog posts. (Obviously, I'll need to cut them down quite a lot of I use them. They're all quite a bit longer than 250 words.)
Also, here are the tips specific to writing about the "Good Grief" theme.
- When in my life have I experienced grief or loss? What feelings or stages did I go through? Did any of these feel good? How has time eased my pain?
- When have I been grateful for the ability to cry? When have tears been a blessing? a release?
- When have I been tempted to ignore my grief or to pretend I was not grieving? What happens when I bury these feelings or refuse to deal with them? Who or what helped me to realize that it’s OK to grieve?
- When has a painful time of letting go or of leaving something behind led to a new opportunity, such as moving from the house in which I grew up or going off to college?
- When through the death of someone close to me have I begun to understand the natural cycle of life, as when leaves die in autumn and fall from the trees, but after a long winter, new buds sprout to re-create beautiful foliage?
- When have I found a blessing in the experience of loss? How have I sensed God’s presence with me through the pain and the tears?
From Suffering And Thanksgiving, November 22, 2007:
"No, suffering isn't enjoyable, but my spiritual joy can still remain constant, because if I respond to my Heavenly Father's love while in my suffering, He will then draw me closer, revealing to me more about Himself and what He did for me. Once I completely trust Him and place my suffering in His hands, I will then be able to accept the gift of peace He has waiting for me, because He is then my focus, and not the pain in my heart."
"I have so much to be thankful for. Not because my life is perfect, but because my Father is faithful. My Abba will never leave me or forsake me. He desires me to rest in the fullness of His embrace, and find peace and supernatural joy in my suffering, as I begin to understand His Son in His suffering as we stand face to face."
From Grief: A Study ~ Part 1, December 10, 2007:
"Grief. What has it meant to me in my life? Is the issue that it caused me pain? No, that is not the issue. Nor are the specifics that caused my pain the issue. The issue is how it changed me.
I need to show how it changed me for the worst in the beginning, and that change kept me captive in a pit. It turned me....not against, but away from my Heavenly Father. I lost my trust in Him. Not my trust in His Son for eternal life, but my trust that He is able to do "exceedingly abundantly" above anything I would ever dream to be possible. I also didn't understand that this ability of His, this power, has more to do with inner transformation on my part than a changing of outward circumstances."
"No matter where you are in life, no matter what you're going through, no matter what decisions you have made or what things you have done, you are LOVED. By a powerful, but gentle, Father, who desires NOTHING more than drawing you closer to Him.
This is my comfort, and the reason I can thank God for everything that happened to me, because I know now that it happened for a reason. It was all a part of God's wonderful plan to bring me to Himself. He didn't orchestrate the pain, much of it was my Enemy doing His best to keep me from seeing my Father's face, to keep me from reading the love He has for me in His eyes, from His Word. But though it was meant for evil, God turned it to good, and I am His vessel, willing to be used in whatever way He sees fit, to His glory, to proclaim His love, to show His majesty in the miracles He worked in me."
From Grief: A Study ~ Part 2, December 18, 2007:
"If anyone knew about grief, it was King David, and he experienced it throughout his life in almost every way imaginable. Pay attention to the way he describes the state of his soul, of his spirit in these verses. "My soul cleaves to the dust.....My soul weeps because of grief."
Have you ever gone through something in your life where you felt like you couldn't get back up? Like you'd been pushed down too many times? Was there ever a pain so strong you could hardly bear it? That is the picture David is painting here; he knew what it was like to have that kind of pain.
Like David, every single person on the planet goes through grief and hard times. Some experience it more than others it's true, but I have learned that there is more than one way that grief can appear in a persons life. A lot of the time, it happens through situations we can't control, like the loss of someone we care about, or through the workings of our Enemy as he tries to get our eyes of our Father. Just think about Job. He was a Godly man, and loved the LORD, but God still permitted a lot of horrible things to happen to Him. Did this mean that God did not love Job? Of course not. I think He loved Job enough to let them happen, because they ultimately brought Job even closer to his Father, and brought him more understanding. Look to Psalm 119 again; what does David say, right after expressing the pain in his soul? "My soul cleaves to the dust; Revive me according to Your Word....My soul weeps because of grief; Strengthen me according to Your word." David knew that what he needed was not for the pain to go away, but for God's will to be done, which always, no matter the circumstance, is that we draw closer to the Father, that we trust His commandments, trust His Word, and only look to Him and His truth for sustinance."
"Simply put, when we choose our own way over God's way, no matter how much pleasure it might bring us at first, it will always end in grief. God can allow us to run the way of emotional destruction, and we hit obstacles and trials as consequences of our sin. For me, God knew that I needed to hit rock bottom, and then continue to dig my pit deeper, before I would realize what I needed in Him. A lot of the grief I experienced in my life was simply me reaping the fruit of the seeds of neglecting the Spirit within me. I kept on turning away from Him, so He chose to let me hit hard and fast, thankfully, before I did any more damage to myself or anyone else."
From A New Year and Grief: A Study ~ Part 3, January 2, 2008:
Following writing out the story of what I went through when I lost a friend to suicide, I wrote:
"The knowledge that everything is always under God's control was something I had been taught my whole life, but this was the first time I had ever claimed that truth for my own in order to comfort me through the strength and love of the Holy Spirit, to give me strength to bear the pain.
The night afer I found out, I was sitting at the computer, just playing solitaire, trying to get my mind off of things, and I had some music from the Gaither Vocal Band playing as well. As I sat there, I couldn't help but think about what had happened, about what I had learned, and I started crying again; but silently, not the sobs they had been earlier.
As I cried, I started listening to the music that was playing, or more specifically listening to the words, and as they began to sink in, I realized something amazing.
The song "Let Freedom Ring" was playing, and for the first time, I realized that despite the song sounding like it was talking about freedom from sin, it was also talking about freedom of any kind, because that's how capable and powerful our God is. I started crying in earnest at that point, because I realized that despite the fact that I knew that my grief wasn't a bad thing, that God expected it, and even wanted it so that He could bring me closer to Him, it didn't have to keep me in bondage. Immediately, I felt wellsprings of joy bubbling up inside my soul, completely seperate from the pain and grief in my heart.
That joy did not come from me, it was the Holy Spirit within me giving me His joy, keeping me from despair despite the horrible pain in my heart.
This truth is something that I have clung to ever since, because now I know that truly, I can be content, and even filled with God's supernatural joy, no matter whatever cirumstance I am in, no matter how grieved I am, no matter how much pain I am experiencing. He is always faithful, and His power can cut through any chain.
Dear believers, do not let past hurts and wrongs and griefs keep you from experiencing the love and joy of the Father. For that, along with anything that keeps us from drawing closer to Him, is bondage. That love and joy is always there, just waiting for us to accept it, so we can experience the freedom and blessings our Heavenly is just waiting to give us, and give us abundantly."
Well, at least I have a lot of material to work with now.