This week the winter Rejoice Devotional booklet came out. It contains seven pieces of mine, a week’s worth of meditations. Currently Rejoice is published jointly by Kindred Productions and MennoMedia. My reflections in this issue are based primarily on passages from the book of Genesis.
I have been writing for the Rejoice devotional series for eighteen years now. I didn’t realize it was that long till I was unpacking after the move into this new home and in the process assembled all my old publications of Rejoice in one place. During those eighteen years Rejoice has had three different editors– Katie Funk Wiebe, Philip Wiebe and Byron Rempel-Burkholder.
Why have I kept writing for Rejoice for so long? There are lots of reasons. First of all it is good spiritual discipline for me. It’s hard to make time for reading and studying the Bible and writing my annual Rejoice reflections forces me to do so. I am assigned a section of Scripture and my meditations have to be drawn from there. It motivates me to study that passage in-depth. I read it over and over and do research. I look at commentaries and think about ways those passages connect to my own life and my own faith journey and how they might connect to the lives of my readers.
I also like the variety. I am assigned passages from so many different books of the Bible. Over the years I’ve written for Rejoice I’ve had to dive into Zechariah and Hosea, Jeremiah and Ephesians and some 30 other books of the Bible. I am assigned different weeks of the year. Sometimes I’m writing meditations for the summer, other times for Christmas or Easter or autumn. Truth be told I also like the fact that what I’ve written is read by so many people. I can’t even count how many times I’ve introduced myself to someone new in a church setting and they’ll say, “Oh, you write for Rejoice don’t you?” As I flip through the eighteen devotional booklets and read a smattering of the 125 pieces, I also realize writing the meditations has in a way provided a kind of history of my family’s life, since often my reflections included stories about my children, my grandparents, my parents, my husband and other relatives.
Writing for Rejoice has been excellent training for me as a writer. First of all there is a very strict word limit and you simply can’t exceed it. I always start by just writing my meditation and not worrying at all about the word count. Once it is finished I start to cut. I often need to eliminate half the words I’ve written, sometimes even more. But I can do it! I once took a writing workshop from Canadian author Fredelle Maynard and she said non- fiction writing should be as “bare as a bone and clean as a whistle.” My Rejoice writing has forced me to get down to basics and cut out the fluff and the unnecessary stuff . My last editor Byron Rempel-Burkholder has challenged me to change my writing focus and has sometimes asked me to completely rewrite pieces. This has been a good learning experience for me as a writer as well.
What next? I’m not sure. Byron Rempel-Burkholder is stepping down as the Rejoice editor so I don’t know if the new editor will still want me as a writer. At one point I started a blog using my Rejoice devotional style called Reflections of a Pilgrim. Some of the pieces on it were my old Rejoice devotionals, but many were new pieces I wrote using the Rejoice meditation pattern to connect Scripture to my travel experiences. I’m not traveling as much anymore and other writing tasks have since taken the place of that blog. Perhaps it is something I need to revisit.
Whatever the future holds with regards to Rejoice I am very glad I’ve had the opportunity to write for the publication for so many years. It has richly blessed me as a person, a writer and a follower of Jesus Christ.