As a college journalism student and later as a cub reporter in the 1970s, I was repeatedly lectured on the importance of remaining objective when writing my articles.
The greatest sin a newspaper staff writer could commit was to weave his or her opinion into a piece. As critical as taking accurate notes and gathering quotes representing all sides of a story was presenting that information in a manner that would allow readers to draw their own conclusions.
It was not until I was able to research and write articles containing the 5Ws and How inverted pyramid style in my sleep that I was finally given opportunities to express my views on select subjects, first as a columnist, and later in hard-hitting editorials.
Even so, there was an invisible line I never crossed during my first quarter of a century as a journalist. A separation of church and state as it were.
Although I occasionally admitted to writing “from the heart” or mentioning that someone had “touched my heart and mind”, I was careful to leave my soul, my spirit, out of the equation.
My late Uncle Hasbrouck “Hap” Dougherty, who was also one of my earliest mentors, had counseled me as a youth to try to block out earthly distractions and “listen for that wee small voice” when seeking answers. I’d also heard someone say that “prayer is you talking to God; inspiration is God talking to you.”
Still I hesitated to admit how frequently I silently prayed for guidance before sitting down at the typewriter I used until technology forced me to replace it with a computer. It was as if admitting I was more than flesh and blood would somehow diminish the words that always seemed to flow most effortlessly when I secretly asked God to guide my hand.
Exactly when the light went on that my spirit was what made me a “human being” who had been blessed with the ability to educate, uplift and inspire other souls through the written word is not certain. There was no single light bulb moment when this reality settled in; rather there had been a series of glimmers and flickers that ultimately became so collectively bright they could not be ignored.
This much I know. While reflecting upon my 40th anniversary as a professional journalist, I dusted off my portfolio and realized that like the man walking along the beach in Footprints in the Sand, God had been walking with me, carrying me when necessary, throughout my entire time as a “spirit on a human journey.”
In hindsight it is clear that many spirit guides and teachers were often placed in my path – though I did not always recognize them for who or what they were at the time.
A few were far from angelic; in fact more than one tempted me to sell my writer’s soul to the highest bidder rather than staying true to what I believed was my calling: to use my God-given talents to try to warm hearts, lift spirits and, when warranted, to raise awareness of issues to which I’d sometimes have preferred to have turned a blind eye.
Some of the stories had been assigned to me; others I “stumbled upon” at the least expected times and in the least likely places. No matter their origin, it’s no coincidence that stories of mountain-moving faith and unsinkable hope fill the pages that follow.
The book also includes tributes to some of the earliest influences on my writing career – including relatives whose words and deeds were to inspire me in later years. As an added bonus, there are guest chapters penned by kindred spirits with messages that tie in beautifully with the themes that first prompted me to begin compiling The Prayer Lines Behind the Bylines.
As I prepare to put the finishing touches on this literary labor of love, I am eternally grateful that God has blessed me not only with a writer’s heart — but with a writer’s soul as well.