Embracing space: what’s left when there are no distractions

Do you know why most New Year’s resolutions fail? (I know, we’re in the middle of a July heat wave. Bear with me, here) I think it’s because we try to add new things to our lives without actually making space for them. We want to hang on to all the old ways which are familiar and comfortable and on top of them add all these other, better things which will make us new and improved. I know it’s what I do, anyways.

This concept occurred to me this morning while I was sitting with my funk. Somehow, when I was journaling this morning, I wrote myself into a funk. Usually writing works the other way around for me. So there I was, stuck; stuck in the mucky, monkey-mind mess that likes to snare me from time to time. You know the one. There’s never a specific thing you can point to and say, this is the problem. Instead all the little imperfections and quirks and wish-it-could-be’s and if-only’s pig pile on your brain and dance around in spiky tap shoes.

No? Am I alone in this?

As I sat there with all the tap dancing things I should be doing-thinking-improving-changing-being, I realized something. By allowing this fallow time in my life, by not filling it with appointments and obligations, I have no distraction from my funk. I just have to sit with it. I suppose I could have created some busy work. Something always needs washing or sorting. But I didn’t. Instead I just sat with the funk.

I am funky, I thought. Not very pleasant at all.

A funny thing happened, then. I sat there and accepted the funk without fighting, without creating a distraction, without rushing to escape. Pretty soon, all those terrible tap-dancing things began to seem quite silly. The longer I sat, the sillier they became. The more I made room for them, the smaller they shrank. After awhile- poof! – they disappeared.

How strange, I thought. This has never happened before. What’s different?

Then it came to me: space. Empty space made it possible for me to sit quietly  while the jiggering, yammering demons did their worst. When I didn’t flail and flounder or argue and chide them, they wore themselves out. They disappeared, leaving me none the worse for the experience, and perhaps, even, a little bit better.

I began to wonder how many other simple lessons I miss because I am always busy, always thinking, always striving to be something better than who I already am. Don’t misunderstand, there’s nothing wrong with activity or with aspiration. Only I get tripped up by trusting in should or must instead of simply accepting who I am, and letting what comes, come.

I should be better than this by now.
This must finish this so I can be….
If I don’t accomplish what will they think? (They who? I don’t actually know.)

It’s no wonder I fall flat at resolutions, be they New Year or otherwise. I never make room for anything to be fully realized, especially not my own heart. Instead, I just try and squish newness in and around the things I love to do, the things I need to do, the things I should be doing and the tap dancing demons. I’ve never found the courage to clear out enough space for anything to change or grow. Whether I’m afraid to let go or certain I can hold it all, the result is the same. I smother everything in layers of expectation – the good, the bad, and the messily fantastic- and expect it to be different this time.

So yes, this morning I was uncomfortable. Funky, if you will. But I survived. It didn’t last too long or hurt too bad, really. Those fiery darts turned into flowers when I stopped using all my defenses against them. There’s a lesson to learn in this. I plan to make space for the rest of the day to let it sink in, making room for the newness, room for wonder.

It’s kind of amazing the insight you can find in a wide open space when you stop looking for something to fill it.

 

Reading Scripture Sideways: a new take on a very old book

I’ve been slowly, as in snail’s pace slowly, working my way through Rob Bell’s latest book, What is the Bible. I actually want to read it like the pages are on fire and I have to finish before it consumes them. I want to gorge myself on the clever, gentle, insightful ways of considering an ancient library. Scripture. I used to love it. Even now the word feels so weighty and mysterious when it sits on my tongue. I believe that’s because it is  weighty and mysterious, wrapped in thousands of layers of meaning and interpretation. Yes, I used to love scripture. I was so much more certain of everything then. Now, honestly, I’m afraid of the Bible, and that fear is holding me back from enjoying not only Rob Bell’s book, but scripture itself.

I know what you’re thinking: here comes the crazy again. It’s true. I have all the issues when it comes to church and church business. But through all this great big hairy church mess, somehow, I never believed that God lost her faith in me. Even when I stumble and flail and fall and swear, even when I push her away like an over tired toddler, she loves me still. She’s been faithful in every way and for that I am so deeply and powerfully grateful.

Religious institutions have not been so merciful or forgiving in my experience. Now I’m what old cowboys refer to as ‘gun shy.‘ Churchy words and situations make me anxious. I seldom measure up to expectations, and when I do it’s because I’m not being true to myself. And then there’s the Bible, the weapon most often used against me in religious altercations (also known as rebuking, church discipline and spiritual authority).

It’s true, I’ve used the Bible as a weapon myself, back in the days when together we were infallible. I can accept that about myself even if I don’t like it very much. Had I known how quickly that weapon would turn on me, I might have thumped more gently, perhaps not at all. For as long as I can remember, we’ve elevated scripture with superlatives: inerrant, inspired, ineffable. Words so high, I cannot attain them. I’ve learned to defend it, uphold it, revere it and memorize it, as though tongues of fire straight from Heaven itself licked words upon papyrus scrolls with nary a misprint or mystery in the process.

What I didn’t learn was how slippery millenia old stories of the Divine become as they slip through time. Or how entirely human the men and women who recorded the stories really are. Sometimes a very human agenda superimposes itself over a very divine story. I didn’t learn context, or layers or culture. Truth may be eternal, but the expression of Truth isn’t so easy to nail down in concisely neat terms once and for all.

So I’ve floundered.

My experience of God doesn’t fit so neatly on the pages as it used to. It keeps sliding off, bursting out, growing bigger than the neat little boxes I learned about. The God of my deconstruction is endlessly forgiving, but God out of the box can get you excommunicated (or perhaps even crucified).

I’ve avoided wrestling with scripture for fear it will disappoint me. It has a lot to live up to when you look at it as the very word of God. But recently, I’ve started to see it a bit differently. Jesus, Himself, is the very word of God, and to date, He hasn’t failed me. I think for me it’s time to let the words of the Bible be what they truly are – a very human attempt to describe a very indescribable God.

An immutable, inerrant Word of God is far too dangerous in the hands of someone like me. But a human attempt to unravel the Universal Christ in ways we can understand and embody, with all the mistakes and course correction that entails? That might just be the right fit for a heretic like me. And if it isn’t, I have a God who’s waiting to fill in the gaps. Because that’s the kind of God she is.

Bruce Hornsby makes me happy; an unlikely path to holiness

Right now I’m listening to Bruce Hornsby on Spotify. Do you remember him? He slips off my radar for weeks at a time sometimes, and then one of his songs pops up again. I think to myself, “Why don’t I listen to more Bruce Hornsby and the Range? He always makes me so happy!” So today, even though I have no idea what I’m going to write about, I’m happy.

I spend quite a bit of time thinking about happiness lately. Not just my own happiness (though I’m frequently the subject of my ponderings), but the nature of happiness.  I think happiness gets a bum rap in religious circles. We subscribe to dying to self, sacrifice, and piety but often at the expense of our own happiness. We say really holy things like, God is more concerned with my holiness than my happiness. It sounds good, very spiritual but honestly, I don’t believe this is an accurate picture of God.  The creator of quarks and sub-atomic particles is more complex than such a binary holiness equation. I’m not denigrating piety or sacrifice or even suffering. But maybe we’re cheating ourselves out of something by believing they are the singular signs of higher level spirituality or perfection.

I’m pretty sure Jesus was a laugher. I like to imagine a great, ringing belly laugh, the infectious kind. I can see him now, head thrown back, eyes twinkling, or bent forward, grabbing his knees and trying to catch his breath as His followers chortle around him. I’m not a historical scholar, but I know few things about life in Jesus’s time. First of all, for your typical Jewish man (which most followers were), life was hard. You worked hard; you paid a lot of taxes, and sacrifices, and offerings. I won’t even begin to detail the hardships women faced. As an oppressed people, day-to-day existence was fairly scrappy for the people of Jesus’s time. Anyone peddling more of the same- suffering, hardship, sorrow- probably wasn’t gaining a huge following.

So when Jesus spoke to them of something different, better, new, the expectation was a path that led to a better life, including, you guessed it, happiness. Here’s where I lose some people because you’ll say, well obviously Jesus was talking about HEAVEN, not life in the Roman Empire (insert eye roll if you’re feeling sassy). Except, Jewish people didn’t have a construct of Heaven the way we do today. That’s a pretty modern construct, and not entirely Biblical.

What Jewish followers believed, and a large part of what we need to understand is the Kingdom of God takes place here, on this very earth. On this very good earth as Abba has declared it, we usher in the Kingdom. Not an army of scowling, self-righteous followers, but a smiling, gracious, self-effacing welcome crew, pulling out chairs and passing out refreshments. When our joy is contagious, when what we offer is beautiful, we reflect the very heart of God. Those of us sitting around waiting with sour faces for the sweet-by-and-by are missing something – a very large piece of the Jesus picture.

This is what I am coming to believe as I deconstruct and reconstruct this wild and woolly faith. Happiness is part of the divine package. We were created in joy, for joy.  I simply do not believe the God who handcrafted penguins and kittens and sea turtles didn’t delight in the creation process. Why? Because it made Him happy and He knew it would make us happy as well! Why are strawberries so sweet? For our pleasure! Why does the autumn breeze smell divine? For our pleasure! Why are hand-holding, and hugs, smiles, and a gentle caress part of the universal human experience? Because the universal human experience is rooted in happiness. From the beginning of time our Abba, whose greatest joy is expressing His love, meant for love to bubble over with delicious, delightful happiness and joy.

Oh but the fall, you say?

But the CROSS, I respond.

If we are restored to our former glory (if we ever actually lost it), then why are we afraid to be happy? Why do we feel guilty when we pursue the things which tickle our souls? Why wouldn’t I turn on a little Bruce Hornsby and the Range simply for the simple thrill of delight it brings to my soul?

I’ve wasted too much time trying to twist myself into some pious image I cannot be. I’ve despaired to the marrow that I’ve failed to live up to some ideal I simply will never attain. But I’m learning now. Learning I can pursue happiness and be closer to the Man from Nazareth than I have ever been. My smile makes Him smile since no one across the universe desires my happiness more. Holiness is overrated if it comes at the expense of a belly laugh, a warm hug, a space at the table. I choose happiness, and I believe with all my heart, that holiness will follow quickly, if it can only follow the sound of my laughter.

The generosity of letting go: Dana paramita

This morning my dear friend, Heather texted a photo from a book she’s reading about the intersection of Buddhism and Christianity. In it, she found the term ‘dana’ which is the word for the Buddhist pillar of generosity. My imagination piqued, I did a bit more research: Dana is a Sanskrit and Pali term meaning “generosity” or “giving”. In Buddhism, it also refers to the practice of cultivating generosity. Ultimately, the practice culminates in one of the Perfections (paramitas): the Perfection of Giving (dana paramita). This is characterized by unattached and unconditional generosity, giving and letting go.

I love Heather for her gift of thoughtfulness. (I love her for more reasons than this, but they are too many to list here).  She frequently sends little notes or texts or postcards when she encounters something that reminds her of me. She does this with all her friends, but knowing this makes it no less special when she does it for me. Every time she does, it’s nearly as good as a face-to-face hug. Nearly. Not quite, though.

Heather is also special to me because she and I stumble through this whole deconstruction thing together. We share questions and scars; we wondering pastor’s wives. Never quite fitting in anywhere, we lean on each other from time to time. It’s important to have people like this. They help you feel less alone.

Remember earlier this week, when I shared about a podcast that had me running and crying? Since listening to it, three other friends have brought it to my attention. ‘Have you listened? it sounds like you. That could be you.’ I felt this when I heard it, but it’s affirming to hear others say it as well. I hope to one day be as wise and generous as the woman who shared her story.  She, too, helps me know I am not alone.

In the podcast, she speaks of looking forward rather than getting trapped by looking back (she even mentions Lot’s wife in her story.) She, like me, is a questioner, a closet mystic, a system skeptic. We share a kind of grief for the system we relied on which fell apart when we looked too closely. What was supposed to be secure and welcoming instead became a weapon used to beat us into submission. Conform or leave were our only choices.

So we left. We all three left.

I can only speak for myself about moving forward, but, until now, I haven’t done it very well. I’ve clung to how things should be, or how I should be. I’ve blamed and avoided and tried to make myself disappear. Moving forward seems so difficult when everything you’ve ever been told screams, run back to what you know!

Known equals safety. Unknown is dangerous; the slippery slope looms.

I stalled, stagnated, looked back. For too long. I hurt myself more than I’d already experienced and damaged those around me with my sharp edges and bitterness. I regret that now, but I cannot change it. The only thing to do is make amends and move forward, into the mystic as the song goes.

Which brings us back around to generosity, the dana paramita. One of the most amazing gifts of this hundred day journey is finding permission within myself to move ahead. Unlocking this generosity towards myself empowers me to release it to everyone, to release the institutions and people which have caused me such harm. Not only to let go and look forward, but to feel generous benevolence for who they are and what they do. Perhaps that path isn’t for me anymore, but it’s not a bad path. For many, it’s a path towards healing and belonging as it one time was for me. The time I spent there wasn’t wasted, only limited.

So now I move ahead. Because it’s okay. Because everything belongs. My path doesn’t depend on norms someone else designates. There’s room for all our paths in this vast and beautiful universe, “Sometimes the moment at which it appears to the system that you have most checked out, you actually might be checked in more than ever before.”

That’s me. Checked in. Letting go. Practicing dana for myself and everyone else (most of the time – I AM a work in progress). Maybe my companions have changed from who they used to be, but I am not alone.

Love: How I make sense of the world in violent times

Sundays tend to make me thinkful. Often I experience a sort of dissonance between the way I once understood God, and the way I understand God now. Much has changed for me over the last few years, a widening and deepening. I read something this morning that I love:

We must therefore, never underestimate our power to wrong about God, when imagining God –whether in prose or in poetry. – Brian MacLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy

I have been wrong, no doubt about many things I am still wrong. But over the last few years I’ve learned that when God strips everything else away, Love remains. The Spirit of God is love, and it does not change or fail or fall away. When Christ hung on the cross, it was not to appease the wrath of God. We already understood gods as wrathful and bloodthirsty and have for thousands of years. Instead, Christ came to reveal the true nature of God. Even when humanity seeks to put God to death, He loves. He forgives.

This is not the image of God I learned from my childhood. While this concept is not a new revelation, it is a new revelation to me. It is a facet of God I had not yet considered, but now that I have, it has entirely changed how I see the world and the people in it.

But it is a slow reconciliation.

Perhaps the most difficult thing to reconcile is the concept of original blessing. The congregations I have taken part with have always emphasized sin. We are born in sin. We live in sin. Mankind lost to Original sin. This sin is almost, always personal in nature: lies, swearing, greed…you probably know the list. But, there is a reality before Genesis 3. Somehow we forget this, or we’ve simply never considered it this way.

Before there was sin, there was blessing. We were created in communion and for communion. Even before His death, Jesus showed us there is still communion with God. He washed the disciples feet and He broke bread with them. This is the very face of God revealed in a way humanity had seldom imagined.

No other god has ever revealed themselves in this way.

Yet somehow we still miss it. We let our focus settle on our imperfections (for me, those are many) rather than on the One who dwells first with us and then in us. We are not repulsive to God. Not a disappointment; not an abomination. Every single person who has ever lived and ever will live was created by love and in love. Every one.

Created by Love and in love. Created to love.

For so long I missed this. As I understood it, I was born in sin and redeemed to correct and save others. The strength of my belief was under-girded by how many people around me understood God the same way. Numbers meant power and power meant the ability to shape the world in our image.

But I do not need to save the world. The position of Savior is more than adequately filled. He declared His work finished, enough. Furthermore, I do not need to fix the world, since Love is already doing the restoration work. I can even let go of judging the world, God has judged it already and found it very good (He hasn’t changed His mind on this revelation either). My one and only job is to love the world. Love the world and it’s people, it’s features and cultures and forests and fields. Love with my words and my ways and my life.

I’ve come to believe the world doesn’t have a sin problem. If Jesus died once and for all, then sin only has power where there is not love. No, the world suffers from a Love problem. When we worship systems and power instead of God, the world suffers. Placing ourselves, our agendas, our desires above our neighbor, the world suffers. We create division between people groups and ideologies. We always belong to the good guys, and they always belong to the bad guys. And the world suffers.

But we have received a revelation that life doesn’t have to be this way. These systems and powers and principalities are shadows but we can bring the light. That light is Love. It looks different from the rule books, different from systematic theology, breaking down barriers religion has erected. It’s messy and unpredictable, and it’s breaking through. Here and now, all around  us.

We love because we are already loved. We have been since the dawn of time.

Kingdom come.
On earth as it is in Heaven.
For God so loves the world. This world.
He is love, and in Him, we are love.

 

Though I speak all the languages of earth and of angels, if I didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

 

Post traumatic growth: finding answers in experience

Yesterday I threw a question out into the universe: where do I go from here? It seemed that I had reached an impasse, one I’m not sure how to get past. As a person of constant questions, I often ask things without expecting a response. I certainly didn’t this time. But sometimes the universe is simply waiting for us to ask the right question. It’s as though God knows until we open our souls to the answer, She’ll only be giving a gift to someone with clenched fists. On so many occasions I have to wait and wait and wait some more for answers. But this time, the Spirit was only waiting for me to ask to whisper her guidance over me.

Yesterday, I listened to a podcast I listen to infrequently (It’s a lovely podcast, we just don’t always click personality-wise because I am a grumpy curmudgeon. This the episode on anxiety caught my eye). Very briefly in that episode, they mentioned this episode of On Being about resilience which I listened to on my run this morning.

Holy Malloy. HOLY MALLOY! (this is what I say when swearing is inappropriate)

I wish I knew the word for how it feels when you hear the click of answers falling into place in your soul. Even though I didn’t receive a neon sign or a carefully detailed map, with just a few words, I received clarity for the next steps in my recovery process. I don’t need specific answers about what may be next, as long as I can see part of the path that will get me there.

Do you ever have these moments? You know the ones. Suddenly we gasp aloud as an electric thought jolts us into wakefulness. We hear or see or experience something so sweetly tuned to our soul that likely no one else can hear it the same way. In fact, it’s often the case that these gifts are specifically meant only for us.

The summer after my friend Natalie died, everywhere I looked were ones. When Nattie ended an excited sentence, she used exclamation marks…like this!!! Except, she always released the shift key too soon, so instead we got this…!!!!11. Those ones were so much a part of her, and after she was gone, the world around me was filled with ones. Maybe it always is, but that summer they were for me and no one else. I was specifically open to receive those ones. They were reminding me when random terrible things happen, life still has meaning. We have the power to make meaning through our own experience. 

It’s easy for me, when I reach what seems to be a dead-end, to fall back into learned helplessness. Accepting that I don’t have the power to change things is a familiar neural path for my thoughts to travel. This morning, however, I was literally shoved from that path onto a new one. I encountered a new perspective, a new way of healing, and permission to take back my spiritual experience as my own. What a silly thing to need permission for, huh? But apparently I did need it, and this morning the universe poured permission into my soul at fire hose volume.

I allow the probability that a relationship can break beyond restoration. That happens sometimes in this life. Depending on the relationship, this unresolved stress cycle can continue to cause trauma – relational, emotional, perhaps even spiritual. But just as I can receive permission, I can also withdraw permission. I can close doors, declare an end, if not geographically than relationally, taking back whatever power I relegated into their care. I can own myself, and all the pieces of myself again.

Are you waiting on permission to own all the pieces of your life? It’s already yours. We can make meaning from our experience if we are open to receiving it.

 

 

The true story of Nattie Rose: Mother, book lover, friend

Once upon a time, a fair princess, Nattie Rose, lived in a hobbit house, right in the middle of a cornfield. The princess loved purple, and diet coke and books. She had so many books they stacked from floor to ceiling. Even though the eaves were low in the hobbit house, when she looked at her stacks of books she felt she possessed great treasure, a richness of words and stories.

Two fair children lived with the princess. They didn’t have magic or perform feats of great strength. In fact, they were fey, funny and mischievous and sometimes downright naughty. In other words, they were much like most ordinary children except these two were hers. She loved them as much as her books and then times infinity plus the moon.

The princess possessed a great many gifts besides her children and books. Although sometimes life seemed unimaginably cruel, she never stopped believing good fortune awaited her. “Onward and upward,” she’d say after every set back. The princess also possessed the gift of words, which she shared generously with anyone who needed kindness or encouragement.

The one thing the princess could not do well was dishes. Occasionally dishes would pile almost as high as her stacks of books. When this happened, her counselors would advise she fill the little bathtub in the hobbit-sized bathroom with soap and water. Then everyone would laugh at the absurdity of washing dishes in the tub, but once they were done the princess was able to be happy again, and read her books without guilt or danger of cutlery avalanche.

One day, the princess began to feel a bit ill. At first she attributed her loose fitting gowns to the meager fare she and her children subsisted on since her prince had succumbed to an evil spell and disappeared. But soon, even the the blandest food and her beloved diet coke made her sick. Although her counselors and family begged her to see a doctor, there was barely enough money already to care for her children. She simply couldn’t consider the selfishness of paying for medicine instead. It was only when she became too weak and sick to tend to the things she loved most that she finally sought help.

Alas, when the doctor put her in an enchanted sleep and looked beneath her fair skin, he found a demon wrapped around her stomach. It’s vile arms reaching up her throat as though to strangle her from the inside. Although they couldn’t slay the demon, they hoped to find medicine that would weaken it, or shrink it. Perhaps they could try again one day when she was stronger.

But the princess by now was very weak and tired. Although she loved her children, family and friends desperately, she didn’t have the strength to leave her sick bed. One night, not long after the doctors delivered the diagnosis, Princess Nattie closed her eyes and never opened them again.

Natalie Rose York died before dawn on June 7, 2007. She was loved by many and is still deeply missed and mourned by those who were touched by her friendship and love. More than anything in this world she loved a good story. Today in her honor, I’ve shared the tiniest piece of hers. Since she is still writing her story in my life, I decided it isn’t time yet to say “the end.”

Onward and upward.

Loving the world as it is, no matter the news cycle

I never used to care about the news. Granted, this is a pretty short sighted way of living in the world. But I vaguely remember a time when I assumed most things would continue working as they are always have. This was before I became aware of a larger world view (I know this is privilege at its finest, but the best we can do is admit our weaknesses and mistakes and move forward). Suffice it to say, I lived blissfully unaware of so many things for a long time.

Perhaps, for some of us, this is the trade we make when we are in the trenches of parenting. When our family needs demand our attention for most of our waking hours – and many of our sleeping ones – there simply isn’t time or room or strength to face the world as it is. So we build mental constructs of how it should be so we can feel comfortable, and we live as though those things were true. Maybe that’s privilege speaking as well, I cannot say for certain. It has been my experience, anyway.

Last year arrived like a landslide, children becoming adults, and going off to school. Politics became…what they are now. And I? I found myself facing a whole reality which I hadn’t realized was keeping pace with my tidy little family life. my fairly uncomplicated existence.

Enter despair, uncertainty and, with a flare of trumpets, my codependency. When I can’t count on anything else she will fix, change or justify by any means necessary to make the world a peaceful place again. Honestly, I’ve spent most of my life trying to tidy things up so they look pretty in a box – with a bow. I practically have a PhD in dysfunction.

Fortunately, I’m learning to be more whole-hearted now, which means codependency has to take a back seat. She’s not so great at fixing broken world systems anyhow. It’s easy to cover up a few bad personal choices, but genocide and hate crimes are harder to explain away.

So here I am, looking at this great, big, beautiful world and all the people in it. I can’t fix it, these systems, the climate, the violence and hatred and war. I can’t explain away the despots and warlords, the nationalistic rhetoric of a handful of power hungry madmen – and a few mad women- who would shape this fragile globe according to their nightmare vision.

As much as I want to, I can’t check out either. I can’t pretend this isn’t happening. My eyes are open now. I can’t close them again and remain true to my soul. So the question I ask myself every day is this: how do I love the world without fixing it?

The Kingdom of God will come – not everywhere at once, not suddenly, but gradually, like a seed growing in a field, like yeast spreading in a lump of bread dough, like light spreading across the sky at dawn. – Brian McLaren

We can’t fix the world. But we can make it better. Each of us in small and not-so-small ways. This week do your part for love, truth and beauty. – Diane Butler Bass

Both of these quotes entered my life this morning in different ways and right on time. Maybe I can’t stay away from the news. And I’ll probably have to keep meditating on account of my rage. I’ll definitely keep contacting my representatives on the daily. But I am not powerless to enact change. Perhaps not on a global scale, but on an even more intimate level.

I can create change in the world face-to-face. I can give birth to mercy, kindness, compassion and inclusion here, on the very ground where I stand. The Divine in me can bleed out of my fingertips and off of my tongue into a world desperate for something beautiful.

Even if no one sees it, especially if no one sees it.

I can rewrite the curse of original sin with a reminder of deeper, more permanent truth: original blessing. Starting here. Starting now. Today.

New spiritual pathways: Breaking free from dogmatism part 2

Yesterday I shared about giving myself permission to explore new ways of exploring and understanding the world and my place in it. As I wrote, I felt both excitement and trepidation. This spiritual path I’m traveling is exciting. I’ve anxiously peered down the way for so long, afraid to move forward lest I get lost. I’m finally walking, making my way forward, slowly. I’ve found surprising and pleasing companions along the way. It’s an adventure for sure, but I also still feel rather fragile and vulnerable about this journey, so I’ve been keeping it close and safe.

One of the hardest things about traveling a new way is the condemnation received from those who aren’t traveling with you. I’ve traveled long in religious circles, and, let’s be honest, religious circles can be more condemning than most. I’ve felt the hard edge of condemnation. It hurts every time, maybe the effect is cumulative. Or maybe my co-dependency plays a part. Probably both. Either way, in giving myself permission to freely share the spiritual part of my journey, I open myself to criticism and condemnation yet again. After all, it’s only ok to think heretical thoughts if you keep them to yourself.

In almost sixty days of writing, I’ve managed to avoid writing almost anything spiritual. I’ve touched on it, circled around it’s edges. Mostly, I keep those observations and wonderings to myself, though. Two decades in ministry have taught me well that Jesus forgives, but systems seldom do.

I’m afraid. That’s the long and short of this post. I’m afraid to be honest, afraid of the repercussions, of rejection, of condemnation. But I know I can’t continue to dance around the edges of something which is so deeply part of who I am. I’m a spiritual being. Although I’ve asked at least ten thousand questions these last few years, not one of them has been whether God loves me still. When no one else makes room for all my wonderings and wanderings, she does. In fact, the farther down this path I travel, the bigger and more beautiful God becomes.

The evolution of my faith looks something like a set of Russian nesting dolls. I began in the smallest possible construct, and every few years, my spiritual understanding emerges into a new and larger form. The thing about Russian dolls is that although each gets a little bigger, on the outside they look identical. Imagine my surprise when I emerged from my last evolution and found an entirely new image looking back at me. The God I knew turned out to be a graven image, looking more like my own heart than the actual heart of God. In fact, this new revelation is far more beautiful, broad and all-embracing than anything I’d dared imagined. She’s far less equation and far more mystery than I’d been taught to be comfortable with.

But oh, it’s exciting, awakening in this wide open space. Every way I turn, new images of a living God unfold before me, each one exposing more and still more of the wild and furious heart of God. I can no longer continue sharing about this journey without sharing this part of myself as well.

So yes, I’m afraid, afraid and excited and uncertain and joyful. I’m learning a new way of living which is an entirely different sort of new than simply changing geographic location. The restlessness I cannot shake is my soul longing to sing, if not without fear, at least without disguise.

Here’s my soul exposed, open, vulnerable, happy, anticipating what’s next. This beautiful spiritual pathway unwinds before me, cleared and made welcoming by those who have traveled before.

The gift of Here and Now: learning to be in the present

This window of time right here is the calm before the storm. As I type grandparents are flying and driving, brides are having their hair and nails done, wheels are turning for the wedding we will attend and which Hunky officiates this evening and for Bailey’s graduation party tomorrow. But right now, right in this moment, I’m not part of any of that. I’m simply here.

This week I’ve written about perfectionism and slow, often invisible change. In a culture addicted to the quick fix, we constantly look ahead. While true change, soul deep change takes time. Often more time than we are willing to give before moving on to the next shiny quick-fix. I know I’m guilty. I’ll probably be guilty again in the future, but in this moment, I can actually trace long winding ribbons of behavior evolving over time, bringing me to this point right here.

I keep mentioning this moment because here, now I feel calm, content and hopeful, despite all that is happening around me. My inner voice isn’t leaping about telling me all the things I must do to prepare for this evening and tomorrow. My perfectionist isn’t nagging me about things forgotten or left out. Instead, just over the top of my computer screen I see tiny, new arms growing on my cactus. Squirrels are racing around the tree outside my window while one of the cats waits hopefully on the ground. My candle burns. And I am right where I am meant to be, doing the only thing that matters in this moment.

Learning to be in the moment has not been something that comes easily. My mind prefers to be busy planning, analyzing, perfecting. Like so many people, pausing often means staring at a screen waiting for the next ‘ping’ of dopamine when I see a piece of news drop or a comment from someone who normally sits at the cool-kids table. I’m as susceptible as anyone to zone in and tune out. For years, I’ve been altering behaviors in an attempt to focus my awareness on what’s happening here and now.

Most days I don’t think I’ve made any progress at all.  But today tells me change, although slow, is happening. It tells me there’s plenty of time for good enough.  It’s put on it’s last lovely show of spring just so I will sit and simply be. Be here. Now.

Occasionally, I make the mistake of hanging on to this feeling too tightly. As soon as I do, judgement and justification step in and take over. This moment is a gift. I can’t make it stay, nor can I control the next moment coming up. It might not be as beautiful or calm. It might, actually, be the worst moment of my life. To date, I’ve never seen one of those moments coming or been able to avoid them. I can tell you already, I won’t be able to maintain this sense of calm through the entire weekend.

But I can be in this one. Now. Breathing in and out. Listening to the bluebird who sits right outside my open window. I can accept that imperfection and frustration are as likely to make an appearance later as joy and laughter, though I’d rather have only the latter.  I can feel grateful for the creative space to sit right here and share these shining minutes, which are only now, not a promise for all time.

Here.
Now.
Exactly where and who I’m meant to be.