spiritual writing: river

Take a few deep breaths and enjoy the beauty of the river.

Step 1: Experience Water Directly

Pour yourself a refreshing glass of cold water. As you drink, notice how it feels on your lips, on your tongue, in your throat. Touch the water. Splash some.

There is something so compelling about water, isn’t there? So life affirming.

Step 2: Beauty of Music

Now listen to this song, Down to the River to Pray, sung by Alison Krauss. Close your eyes and let the words pour over you.

Step 3: Mediate on Scripture

The words Bible Study written in vintage letterpress type

Next, read this text from the Bible: John 4: 1-14:

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Step 4: Brief Devotional

Next, read this portion of text from my book, Everything to God in Prayer: A Writer’s Weekly Devotional:

One day, we traveled to the Seneca Caverns in Bellevue, Ohio – which is one of the region’s largest underground caverns. As we toured the cavern, we traveled through seven different levels, each one taking us further underground. Nearer the surface, the rooms seemed spacious enough but, as we descended, the area grew tighter and I envisioned the cavern as having a womb-like shape.

By the time we’d traveled downward about 110 feet, we could glimpse and hear Ole Mist’ry River, described on the website of this attraction as the “crystal clear flowing stream which is part of the vast ground-water system.”

I found this experience totally fascinating and, shortly afterwards, utterly and claustrophobically terrifying in retrospect. And now, with the perspective of time, I envision this journey as an analogy for when we travel deep within ourselves to meet up with the living waters of God.

Step 5: From Another Tradition

Writing to Wake the Soul

Finally, read this passage from Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within by Karen Hering:

“The Buddha once told a story about a herd of cows crossing a wide stream. The stream represents ignorance and suffering, and the older, wiser cows see it for what it is and cross without hesitation. The younger cows, stumbling and less certain, observe the older cows and eventually follow. Last of all, even the newest, smallest calves that have just learned to stand will risk the unknown territory of the streambed because they hear their mothers on the other side. Their mothers’ lowing inspires the young calves’ trust, so they overcome their timid reluctance and cross the stream too. That trust is how faith works, according to the Buddha, tethering us to something reliable that beckons us to grow and keep going, even when we are afraid.”

Step 6: Time to Free Write

spiritual writing time

Let your subconscious take over . . .

After you’ve taken all this in, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then imagine yourself standing on the brink of a river. Is it in a forest? In a wide open field? Deep in the earth, like Ole Mist’try? Is the water calm or raging? Clear of muddy? Are you alone or with others? Will you step into the river? If so, is it warm or cold?

Begin free writing about your decision and where that leads you.