Do Not Grow Weary

It’s amazing how life experience can illuminate the truth…

You felt forced to believe one thing for so long. It was so crippling. And then finally something inside you popped like a tendon forced at a funny angle. It felt crippling because it WAS crippling. Not quite right. Not quite true. Pop! Then release from the pressure. Suddenly it’s like everything around you is speaking a new language. Same words. New message. What was a chain is now a set of wings into freedom and hope.

This happened to me today with this little verse: “Let us not grow weary in doing good.”

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I always took it to mean, “When you’re doing good things, you have to knuckle down and force yourself not to get burned out!”

Today it hit me like a breath of fresh air…

“Let us not grow weary…”
Just… let’s not.
Let’s not go there.
“Let us not grow weary in doing good.”

Don’t do good things until you’re blue in the face.
Don’t do great things until you’re so tired you could cry.
Don’t force your own hand to the good plow until it bleeds.
Don’t become weary…

Why?

Because, “…at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.”

Oh yeah. Duh. Right. We LITERALLY cannot force the harvest.

No amount of brow sweat and palm blisters and wailing at the heavens can make the rain come… the sun shine… the seasons shift like ancient mill stones revolving in the palm of the universe to bring life out of broken seeds.

We can work ourselves to the bone, fretting over every little thing… muscling out the perfect garden. And then a tsunami wipes it out.

Or we can work in a quiet, steady, balanced way. Giving what we have. Portioning out for the harvest the right measure of our dedication tempered with trust. And then? Well, we don’t know “What Then” do we? We don’t know what the fruit of the harvest will be. It’s a bit beyond our absolute control.

The outcome is always organic.
Whenever Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God it was in organic metaphors. Farming. Fishing. Seeds. Sheep. BUT… no matter what the end is, no matter the harvest… we won’t be miserable ass hats burned out, washed up, run ragged. We will be calm and happy people, resting in the Sovereignty of God like a pillow on which we can lay our heads.

Just…. Don’t become weary in the middle of doing good things. Don’t do that. Staaahp it! When you feel that back aching, bone numbing, brain hurting, head heavying coming, take your own hand very gently and lead yourself back toward the light. This light: That a good harvest has been promised at the right time. And that’s a promise you can rest in.

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Embracing Well-Being in Woundedness

Anxiety is a million bees, butterflies, and eels in your head, your chest, your belly. Stinging, battering, and squirming inside even on the calmest, most beautiful mornings.

With warm mug in hand and a cool breeze coming in the open window. With beautiful children leaning against your round belly and bird song in your happy ear. With a smile on your lips and a song in your heart… your body still feels like it is being picked into small pieces by something restless and mean spirited. Something with a beak. Something a bit poison. And somehow you know in your head that it is You. Made of you, anyway. Part and parcel with your own chemical makeup. And your Stuff is sparking dangerously like crossed wires in the rain.

Anxiety is waking up in your favorite place on earth, joyful and grateful. Calm in mind, praising the good goodness from the deep spaces of your spirit. But tortured in body. It is feeling the sensation of fear (like that horrible sucking-in-instant when you miss a step on the stairs) without any actual fear to dispel. The gasp goes on and on and on without ever releasing.

You can’t win against it… because there is nothing to defeat. You are boxing at air. There is no problem to resolve, no higher standard to achieve, no faith issue to correct, no extra to extra on top of all the everything. There is just IT. The evil twin in your chest who moans and aches and slips from your throat to your chest to your back… anywhere! anything to slow you down! Begging you never to go out and see the light of freedom.

No wonder we anxious folk are always casting around for something to do, something to fix, someone to love, something to learn, something to mark on the calendar or put on the shelf. It feels like we can do something to make the Angry Insides happy.

The hope of healing is a dangerous thing for Anxious folk. The sort of healing promised by charismatics. Faith healing! The laying on of hands and oil and power. It’s promise is that we could march out of managing our injury and into a life liberated! There is nothing an Anxious person craves more. But the promise can be toxic. It makes us feel that we should feel wrong about the Feeling Wrong that lives inside. That it, in itself, is somehow a burden we have held onto through our own lack of will or faith or belief or whatever.

 

In truth, the greatest act of Christian healing may be to make a careful home here in the land of angry bees and eels.

The greatest step toward the Great Physician may be settling in to living with our own weirdness, as if living with a special needs child… enduringly, faithfully, and a bit tenderly when we can swing it.

Maybe healing is simply knowing that the weather in these parts is stormy. Fog thick as pea soup some days. Rain lashing at the windows and thunder rattling the foundation. But nevertheless, permitting a sense of well being. Well being in woundedness. A waiting heart, calm above the internal storm.

The Bible offers us this promise: “Strength will rise as we wait on the Lord.”

No one told us how long we would have to wait. We are just told that our strength will rise in the process. I have found that to be true.

I am deeply convinced that what we do while we wait before the Lord is as important as the healing we are waiting for. It is just as healing. Not only of our own hearts, but of wounded hearts around us along the way. Reaching out hands of hope to one another is holy work.

This Homemakery in the madness… This hunkering down in the London fog of the soul… This is Surrender to Sovereignty. This is full confidence that God wastes NOTHING. That each fiber of the tapestry serves a beautiful purpose in telling the story and binding us to our brothers and sisters in love. That the yokes we bear and the yokes we break are ALL deeply purposeful.

And somehow… somewhere along the line… somehow in this journey of making a home in our tumultuous interior town, we have found a peace.

Peace. The healing we sought all along! Peace like a river. There is the outer peace that people see, like a shell… and then the layer of bees… and then… There! buried under the bees, there is another peace. A new peace. A bright Core Peace that burns brightly and will not be snuffed out. That slowly overwhelms shadows.

This is the light we go to “when all around my soul gives way.”

Portraits of God – Part 1

I met God. And he was quiet and spelled his name with small block letters.

He lived, at the time, in the warm corners of used book stores where all the mingled, crinkled ideas of the ages go to rest in uncurrated harmony. All in all those pages. And he was happy. That’s the thing that struck me most. And when you leave him, you leave with a lighter heart.

He had a well worn scarf over his shoulders. Knit up in an ambitious lace pattern full of errors. A mantle of praise from unschooled fingers trying their best. And he loves it. You can tell.

I asked him… out of all the stories in all the volumes, what was his favorite? And he said, “I am” and laughed the kind of warm laugh that you believe in.

A Poem by St. Symeon

We awaken in Christ’s body,
As Christ awakens our bodies
There I look down and my poor hand is Christ,
He enters my foot and is infinitely me.
I move my hand and wonderfully
My hand becomes Christ,
Becomes all of Him.
I move my foot and at once
He appears in a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous to you?
—Then open your heart to him.
And let yourself receive the one
Who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
We wake up inside Christ’s body
Where all our body all over,
Every most hidden part of it,
Is realized in joy as Him,
And He makes us utterly real.
And everything that is hurt, everything
That seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
Maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged
Is in Him transformed.
And in Him, recognized as whole, as lovely,
And radiant in His light,
We awaken as the beloved
In every last part of our body. 

When The Light Comes

Here’s a deep and mysterious thing that is utterly ridiculous… every time I start to do well in anything, I am petrified.

When I was 12, I wrote some essays in to Brio Magazine and was selected as one of 12 (out of thousands) to be a candidate for “Brio Girl.” I should have been proud. But I was so scared I had a melt down. That was the first time I ever went to a counselor.

A cold hand of fear around my heart closes fierce fingers when I begin to succeed. Even if I don’t put words to it in the moment, I find myself reacting to these sneaky thoughts: “They’ll find out you’re a joke.”

The fancy moms in the nice houses who drive the Bob strollers… they’ll know I’m not in their league.
The fit friends who have new running shoes and taught sports bras… they’ll find out I’m a closet geek who journals like a pre-teen.
The serious minded… they’ll laugh behind my back at my paltry attempts at depth.
The light hearted… they’ll roll their eyes at my stuttering humor and droning morass.
The husbands in expensive slacks will spot the marker stains on my old jeans.
The women who lead the world around me will put their finger on it… I’m not quite mature enough to walk beside them.

Why don’t these things come up when I’m in the shadows?

Somehow, when I’m in the lowest of the humble places, pinched small, there is nothing to do but make my peace there. But when I begin to step up toward the light… oh dear God… the light. The problem with light is that it reveals not only strengths but inadequacies.

There you are, Light. Shining on my holes. My lack. My double chin. My big pores. My baby belly. My cheap haircut. My low budget lifestyle. My wild man children. My Goodwill wardrobe. My lack of refinement.

There you are, Light… Shining right through me.

There you are… saying these words straight into me so that they penetrate every cell: “I cherish you. Not the Insta-fab you in the best filter that you falsely wish you were. I love The You In The Light that Reveals It All.”

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I think “the Narrow Way” we heard of long ago in Sunday School is a small gate that we have to enter through with our souls in our hands, stooping low in humility. Very low. We have to bend our heads, lay down our finest dreams of perfection, lay down our ambition to be adored by others… What a difficult narrow passage it is. How often I have scrapped and bruised my shoulders on this way as I’ve wrestled with the weight of letting my own pride go. But when we stand up. When we straighten our shoulders. When we raise our heads on the other side of that Bending To The Call Of Light’s Seeing Eyes, look, the way has opened into a great field of expectancy. Because we know very surely that we are loved as we are.

That’s all…

Loved as I am.

Brave with my bruises.

Just as thoroughly effused in hope’s essence in the middle of my Not-Enough as I would be if I had everything.

This is what we call “the Gospel.” The good news. That’s it. That you are So Loved. And whether we describe it with theology (as my Priest does) or with poetry (as I do), it is a narrow, difficult thing to believe. Yet, indeed, it is a beautiful, wide, free way of the heart to be liberated into.

Rest For The Weirdos – Advent 2.5

Tonight I took the kids out and paid $5 to play in fake snow. Because we live in the subtropics… but we’re Americans! We want what we want. A white Christmas, or so help me!

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That’s right, The Y brought in a massive snow blower machine that hosed wet, frozen slush onto the soccer fields. They even tried to build a fake hill apparatus under the fake snow for the kids to fake sled down. Unfortunately the slush didn’t stick… so it was mostly a wet plywood death trap designed exclusively to break legs. There isn’t enough health insurance in the world for me to let my kids climb that thing.

A few brave fathers were able to scratch miniature snowman blobs out of the hardening surface for their wee ones. One highly optimistic little girl scraped her arms and legs up and down on the ice for a good 10 minutes trying to make a snow angel. Her parents stood over her with cameras at the ready, encouraging her to dig her finger nails and heels in a bit more. Ah, Savannah children… they literally think snow comes out the back of a big truck and pelts you over the head like a water canon in the hands of riot police. I almost felt like we were protesting the DAPL. But there was hot cocoa.

There was also a fake santa. Most of the other mothers got their kids into his lap before the kids started screaming. That was my goal. I was hoping for that. All I wanted was a photo of my boys screaming in Santa’s lap. Because I’m sadistic? Ahh, but they are too wise for this madness. Crafty as serpents. They started screaming before we even got close to him. Forcing me to lock one boy under each elbow, sit MYSELF on Santa’s lap, and grin for a stranger to snap our Christmas Memory into eternity. As it should be.

Eames later had Santa rejection regret. I remember the feeling well. His tortured grief nearly drowned out the little Filipino father and his daughter singing, “Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree” behind us.

I love the absurd. I really do. It is the pinnacle of delight. And Christmas is pretty much the pinnacle of the absurd. But it’s perfect. People who are too serious about all the things miss out on the Big Truth… which is that 99% of the things are ridiculous, but the heart of the matter remains: We were together. We loved. We delighted. We were thankful. He was present. It was good.

We try too hard, sometimes, to make sense of it all. I really think we do. Instead, let’s allow the absurdity rest easy in our hands tonight. Let’s leave the weight of our little griefs in the hands of a bigger father and feel a lightness of surrendering the serious suffuse us. Delight is a spiritual discipline that too often we neglect. Let Advent call us back to “treasuring up in our hearts” and “marveling” as Mary did at all the weird goodness that pelts us over the head like a frozen water canon in a 75 degree November.

Steady Heart – Advent 2.4

“I can’t see what’s in front of me. Still I will trust you. Steady heart that keeps on going. Steady love that keeps on hoping… lead me on. Steady grace that keeps forgiving. Steady faith that keeps believing… lead me on.

Though the sky is dark, and the wind is wild. You’ll never leave me. Thought the night is long, there is a coming dawn. The light is breaking…”

Wait In Your Stronghold – Advent 2.3

It was a day without reflection. Without quiet. Without calm. I chugged water to stave off a headache, but it clung to me with as much tenacity as the toddler clinging to my leg. It was a hamster hustle day. A scurry scurry scurry around the wheel and not getting anywhere to speak of.

I’ve been struggling with some very real things recently… things I’m not ready to talk about yet. There were no break throughs today. There was no insight or progress. There was only this question burning in my mind, singing in my heart: “Where will you run, my soul? Where will you go when wells run dry?” Over and over. Around and around the hamster wheel.

When wells run dry…

Even crisis can keep us on our feet, sometimes. It can give us something to Reform. Something to work on. But Reformation has a way of exhausting itself. The old ways have a habit of creeping back in. The force is strong with them. And our resources to invest and fail, invest and fail begin to flag… We run out.

Where will you go when wells run dry?

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When the mundane has used up all the sparkle, the hope, the energy, the dreams… When our most cherished expectations have shriveled to nothing over a long series of years… When life narratives have taken weird turns and the inner flame is guttering in a pool of spilled apple sauce under the table… When you realize that This Is It. Where will you run, my soul? What will you do now? Here at the end of you.

A few days ago I sat at a red picnic table while the kids threw clots of dirt at each other shouting, “Canon Ball!!” This one thought was strong: Is it worth it? To be faithful to all the things I have been so faithful to forever? Is it worth the labor and delivery that never ceases? Is it worth it?

I kid you NOT… the flipping WIND blew my Bible open and my eye landed exactly and immediately on this verse: “Return to your stronghold, O prisoner of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.” (Zechariah 9:12)

There are times you know the Lord is speaking to you. And you listen.

Over my spirit I could feel him, bending into me with the intensity and kindness of my middle school soccer coach, whistle hanging from his neck, hands on knees, face close to mine: “Get back in your stronghold, Blair. Run. Now. Hustle, girl. Your sprit wants to wander away from hope. I say, No. When your will is weak, you are my prisoner. You are mine. O prisoner of hope. Get back in there. Hunker down.”

A week later… I’m still hunkered. No answers. Just hunkered into hope. But rather than feel like a prison, it is beginning, just beginning, to feel like a home.

Where will you go when wells run dry?

Return to your stronghold. Hunker down in hope. Don’t let your heart stagger away…

“The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.” Exodus 14:14

This is my Advent Waiting today: Be still in the stronghold of our ancient hope. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

 

We Wait In Our Bodies – Advent 2.2

What do you do when dark things break up from the deep inside of you, unpermitted and uninvited? When a deep need screams up raw from the buried places that you have done everything to quiet, tame, & ignore… how do you meet it? What do you do when all of your best strategies, your best knowledge, your very best try out of your very best motivations all falter, stuttering a little, flickering like a wax laden wick?

We try to be all mind and heart… but we are hands too. We are bodies. We are animals after all. Not above the fabric of nature. We are chemicals and cells and receptors and uptake and release. It’s the artistic material of Connection. It’s the medium of Communion. It’s the clay of the potter. Not ever, ever to be denied. The stuff we are made of matters. Isn’t that the massive, overwhelming, essential message of Advent and Christmas… that Matter Matters to God? That somehow entering into the physical experience is utterly essential to redeeming it?

 

 

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We nurse our young and it does real chemical connection things, bonding us. Lashing our substance into one another.

We press our eyes close to our mates, face to face, ridiculously close. An absurd act. Intimacy. It is absurd. But it does real physical things that make us One, defending us from the distractions of others, pressing our souls and bodies into one another. Protecting the unit.

We fellowship through story telling and laugher, song, shared experience, eating and drinking. We commune around the Table with pizza and beer… and while we look at each other and smile and cry, we integrate our bodily substance with the people around us and form tribes. United.

It is material stuff. It is nature unvarnished. And it is beautiful. Science. The tapestry of a Universal Master Weaver who has his hands intimately in the threads, binding and releasing. It is not to be shunned. Never to be rejected. It is to be marveled at and listened to. A beacon pointing us in the direction of the Maker’s heart. And broken though the beacon may be, the light is still shining through. If we’re looking carefully.

So when something screams up from the deep inside of our irrepressible and ever-human heart… we must listen. Because Body is woven forever into the fabric of soul. Material is mingled irrevocably with the substance of spirit.

Incarnate.

We are Incarnate. At some point we cannot deny it any more. And real magic happens there… because the gospel can only come fully to life In The Flesh.

Life is the bodily experience of my soul’s journey.

If my experience with Anxiety has taught me anything it is that we cannot separate our bodies from our spiritual experience. Denial of the Wholeness of our selves can only last so long before we break.

Maybe this is the core heart of Advent… the coming In The Flesh-ness. Maybe this is how we prepare our hearts to receive a coming Incarnate God… by sinking and settling into our bodies. By realizing that we are substance and soul mingled. By centering ourselves in the reality of our physical experience and what that reality means for the story. Listening to our own nature… and maybe hearing our nature is groaning. All is not well.

Then knowing this one wild, out of bounds thing: God will go right into our messy, integrated, woven, substance-soul experience to heal it. He will enter right in to make it whole. He will take it into his very being to renew. In the flesh.