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Spiritual Formation

    PSALM 6

    I’m not cut out for this God. I need grace to find me in a bad way. I won’t respond well to anger or harsh yelling. I need tender mercy like a newborn needs her mother.

    The way I feel;  beat up and broken, goes deeper than my bones; it’s like a suffocation of my soul. How long before I can take a deep breath? How long before some weight is lifted? How long before I feel put back together? How long before love replaces my song of anguish? I’m not sure you understand how worn out I am, how little I have left in the tank. It’s like I’m dead on the inside, going through the motions because I don’t know what else to do. I’m so done with ending my day the same way over and over again; falling asleep unsure of myself, unsure where to find your compassion and love.

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    PSALM 4

    It takes all my courage to call out to you God so I’m wondering if you will answer me. How many times can you make a way for me before you tire? My endless requests for hope seem not to phase you. You take delight in renewing me when I am hopeless.

    You have set me apart and yet I feel as though I am hustling after everything except you God. I am lusting for control and chasing after lies. My fear has crowned the idols to preside over my life. When I am grieving and angry I curse everything and everyone around me.  Show me that my anger can have its proper place without destroying those I love. Teach my soul to be still even in the midst of uncertainty. I plead for the strength to continue giving even when I’d rather hoard. I’m asking for the wisdom to practice gratitude when I feel pressured to keep up and stockpile.

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    PSALM 1

    I’ve been mucking about and making friends with a rather wicked way. It’s a well-worn path my ego and I travel hand-in-hand. I leave bodies in my wake, wounded and bruised, because I’ve gone all in on one thing; me. I spend each moment protecting, preserving, and defending at all costs. Unless something changes, and soon, the life I always imagined living will slip through my fingers and vanish like the windblown sand.

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    THE PSALMS PROJECT

    I’ve been restless for something to pour some creative energy into during this time of hunkering down at home during COVID-19.

    I’ve landed on wanting to explore the honest space of the Psalms. I’d love to (re)imagine how we insert ourselves into these sacred writings. First thing, you don’t have to love, like or even read the Bible to engage with this project. My plan is to use the Psalms as inspiration and groundwork for how I would imagine inserting myself into the story. I’m going to rewrite various Psalms using my voice, my thoughts, and my experiences. Some people will love this, and some people are going to have a hard time not trying to correct me because all their life they’ve been told you shouldn’t “mess with” the Bible like that.

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    My Dreamer is Broken

    She looked up from her vanilla reindeer drink with glistening eyes and found the courage to whisper “the dreamer in me is broken.” I thought for a moment; careful to avoid a rushed response that would dishonor her vulnerability. We sat together in sacred silence for a few moments before we sensed a permission to continue with words.

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    The Spring Mud

    Spring. I love the way that the light lingers through the dinner hour and I no longer feel like my reality is characterized by darkness. I love the warmth of the sun on my face as I listen to the melting snow and ice. I love that our neighborhood bursts forth with new life as we collectively emerge from our sub-zero hibernation.

    But I hate the spring mud. It’s so…messy.

    I hate the way it squishes under your feet and gets your new shoes dirty. I hate the way it sticks to my kids boots and endlessly tracks through our house. I hate the way it makes our basement feel like a laundromat. I hate the way it confines me to the deck until the earth is better suited for work and play.

    This year as winter loosened its grip spring came with its messy mud and death. We said goodbye to our beloved Nana; a gentle and generous soul. She was the heartbeat of our family, occupying such significant space in our hearts that our journey will be forever marked by the grief we now carry.

    A short while after Nana’s funeral my kids were playing outside; the warm glow of the sun on their shoulders and their feet ankle deep in that horrible, awful, messy spring mud. Joy poured from their tiny bodies through shouts and laughter. I, on the other hand, wasn’t feeling much joy. I was stressed and agitated as I worried about how to limit the amount of mud that would find its way into my home.

    Later that night I vividly remembered how the somber grey hearse pulled Nana out of reach for the last time. I remembered the strange finality that moment carried with it. I remembered resting my head on the casket one last time and how everything in my body ached for one last hug, one last touch, one last word.

    As I sat there feeling stuck in the messiness of my grief I recalled the faces of my children as they tromped through the mud. The joy. The laughter. The life. I remembered their invitation, “come and play daddy.” Then I remembered my dismissal of their invitation. What a careless response to the mess in front of them I thought; to play, to dive in, to experience, to embrace and to not worry about how or when the mess would be cleaned up. How irresponsible!

    The truth is I missed a moment with my kids because I refused to follow their lead and get dirty. I was far more concerned with cleaning it all up afterwards. I think the same can be true about the messes we face in our lives. We tiptoe around the mud hoping to keep the pain and discomfort at arm’s length or we become ardently consumed with ways to tidy up. We exert tremendous effort in tidying up the grief, the sadness, the hurt, and the mess. We’ve come to believe that life affords us no space or time for messes.

    But what if the best thing for us to do is get dirty? What if the most meaningful and significant action we can take is to cover ourselves with mud? What if healing comes as we feel the mud between our toes and under our nails?

    Perhaps God cares very much about your willingness to enter the mess and very little about how much mud you sling at him in your hurt and pain and confusion.

    Perhaps God eagerly awaits your arrival in the mud pit where your why and how come questions are both welcomed and of no surprise.

    Perhaps our entering the mess is entirely necessary for us to grasp that our doubt and grief and anger have no capacity to change our standing as beloved.

    Perhaps God is like my children (I think he is), a good god, who sits in the mess and invites you to come and play, if for no other reason than to show you that there’s beauty and life and new beginnings, in all things, and in all of us. READ MORE →

    Seat Buffers and Singing

    In the church I usually attend there is always room for a seat buffer. Always enough space to stay hidden and unnoticed. Always enough space to avoid eye contact. Always enough space to keep to myself. Always enough space to do my thing (consume) and leave.

    Last Sunday I attended a small and cozy space, much different from what I’m used to. There was no seat buffer.

    It. Changed. Everything.

    ‘Are you saving this seat for anyone,’ I asked. She looked up with eyes that were tired and simply shook her head no. She managed a small smile as I took the seat directly next to her. I might have asked her name or where she was from, but she was busy helping her kids settle in.

    As we stood to start the service I noticed the color of her shirt and the heaviness on her face. She looked worn-out and sad, the way most of us look after long fighting the same battle. As she began to sing I noticed that it was difficult for the words to emerge, not for a lack of desire, but because it’s difficult to sing and cry in the same breath.

    It felt foreign to share this vulnerable space with a stranger. I’m sure part of it was due to my own inclination for darkly lit worship spaces that make seeing each other impossible. A million questions stirred inside of me. What could be causing her pain and fatigue? Was it her kids? Her job? Her marriage? Was this her first time here? Did she feel out-of-place or welcome? Are there others just like her who cannot muster the words we sing this morning?

    Those questions continued stirring in my head and heart throughout the service. The heaviness she carried was evident once more as she brushed passed me after communion.

    Our collective voices filled the space with “Christ is enough for me. Christ is enough for me. Everything I need is in You, everything I need.” As we stood shoulder to shoulder I wondered if those words felt more like an empty lie than a source of life to her.

    I stopped singing.

    It felt wrong to sing words that seemed hollow and cliché as I watched her in her heartache. I stood silent for a moment, wondering if anyone else in the room was wrestling through the tension between singing those words and actually believing them. Because in all honesty Christ hasn’t been enough for me. And he’s especially not been enough for me when things are shitty. At least not in the typical Sunday-school-church-answer-kind-of-way that tells me I should simply be OK because… (insert your favorite bumper sticker or unhelpful cliché here.)

    But then something happened. Instead of refusing to sing or giving up, I changed the posture of what I was singing.

    Christ is became Christ be. ‘Christ be enough for me.’ I felt more honest singing that. It was a prayer not of arrival and answers, but a prayer of invitation; the continuous work of inviting God into all of the spaces that I don’t believe he is enough.

    My mind drifted again to the heaviness and burden she was carrying. Singing for me became for her. ‘Christ be enough for her.’  A prayer outside of myself, a voice raised on behalf of someone else.

    Before the song was over I found myself singing ‘Christ be enough for us.’  In some small way I wanted to say ‘I see you, you are not alone, we are in this together.’ There was beauty and holiness in wanting to share in her suffering.

    So I couldn’t help but wonder. What if “Christ is enough” isn’t supposed to be something we convince ourselves of by singing it over and over? What if “Christ is enough” is most true and best displayed in our ability to really see each other? What if “Christ is enough” is affirmed and upheld in the way we raise our voices on behalf of our brothers and sisters who cannot muster the words? What if we are missing out on the sacred because we’ve grown accustomed to worship as something we do alone and for ourselves?

    There will no doubt be Sundays ahead when I will not be able to muster the words we sing. I used to look for the most hidden place when I felt like this, but now I hope someone asks me if the seat next to me is taken. I hope they sit uncomfortably close and lift their voice on my behalf when they see I don’t have the words or the fight left in me. I hope they paint me a picture that Christ is enough by joining me in my suffering.

    ***Author’s Note: This isn’t meant to say I did something great or somehow served this woman. Instead, it was a transformational glimpse of what God might have been intending all along for our worship gatherings. That we might come together in this sacred space where it’s unclear if we are giving or receiving. And rather than waste our time trying to figure out which one it is, we allow ourselves to get lost in the mystery that it’s both and it’s better that way. READ MORE →