The Displaced Soul: finding home again

I think that perhaps many of us underestimate what it means to be displaced.

We hear stories of war, of families ejected from their homes.

We see apartment evictions and job loss.

But there is also displacement that happens slowly, over time, trickling into the spaces in which we live.

Sometimes the season we find ourselves in is raw– emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally– and we find that we ourselves have become lost to what once tethered us.

We just moved out of a two bedroom apartment into a three bedroom house in a coveted neighborhood at the center of our city.

We do not quickly forget the grace of God that brought us here, and because of that kindness, it’s not quite real that this is ours for a season.

We’ve been here a week, but somehow we are still expecting to go back to that apartment at the end of the day.

But with every morning we wake up and go to the front window to see bird feeders and blooming flowers, we realize that this is truly our space.

And suddenly we realize that while we so needed that little apartment, we were a little displaced there, waiting for something else to come along and bring us home.

FullSizeRender

We forget that where our bodies go, our souls go, too–

and we leave an imprint on the walls of that apartment, on all our past spaces.

We leave those imprints for someone else and we acknowledge that his new place is for everything that we are and everything that we hope to be, the culmination of stories and hard work and dreams holding themselves within its walls.

Not everyone has the luxury of hand-picking a home, but we all choose what we bring to the home we have.

We choose simplicity or busynesss; we choose which broom to sweep the front porch with; which room will carry the home’s heart; what music will play while we do the dishes at the kitchen sink.

Our children choose where they will read their books and imagine that they are flying into outer space; they will choose how to sleep in bed every night and how long morning cuddles should last.

And so, every choice made is tethered to who we are, giving life or taking life away; giving grace to our souls or telling them that they have some things to work on.

It may not take a physical move to change us, to remind us of the grace around us.

It may simply mean looking, seeing what we thought wasn’t there before.

So we plant a small garden, we watch something grow, we get to know the neighbors we already have, we engage community and tether ourselves to something, remind ourselves that we are alive and well.

In all things, the way we inhabit decides the way we will live and move and have our being.

So for now, for us, that means morning coffee by the hummingbird feeder, a few moments every now and then to rest instead of hurrying along.

It means a place for my husband to work and think and dream by an open window overlooking the garden.

It’s an art desk for my oldest, Eliot, to color and imagine the world as bright as can be.

FullSizeRender

It’s a cool, red wood floor for our husky to sprawl out on and rest in his old age.

And it means a front lawn where my littlest one takes his Goodwill-bought toy lawnmower and walks back and forth, back and forth, clearing space for new living to begin.

And if we cannot find our souls here, we will have a hard time finding our souls anywhere.

So let us place ourselves when we find that we were once displaced, and let us lean into grace, into peace, into the glorious good where it finds us in our everyday living.

Amen.

The Everyday Body Language of Prayer

FullSizeRender

When I was young, I felt guilty about how little I prayed.

And my baptist childhood friends and elders would gently remind me during sunday school, would you ignore your best friend everyday? or communication is what keeps relationships alive, and it must be two-way.

And while some of this is true, of course, we forget an important space in relationships— we forget the nonverbal, the body language, the work of being in the presence of another, sharing space without the pressure to speak anything at all.

I think about that late night at the dinner table, Jesus and his friends sitting together, sipping and eating before everything became quiet.

“That’s my blood, and that’s my flesh,” he said.

And they looked at each other. They uncrossed their legs and sat up from reclining and put their elbows on the table and stared deeply into the faces around them and their language became quiet, consumed by deep truth and unanswered questions.

And in our churches and homes we take that communion bread and wine again in the quiet, and we remember what it means to breathe prayer, to move and let God hear us in our motion.

So that’s where I am these days, postured toward God with the movement of my being, with the work I do and the rest I partake in.

Words now mean something different than they did back then, and so the Mystery of God finds me in experience, in communion, often in the wordless, often in the quiet action.

And when words do come, they are soft and sweet and heard in pure light.

 

I taught VBS last week, singing and dancing with kindergarteners through fifth graders throughout the morning as they learned about five different ways God cares for them.

And in between sessions I was wondering what they were retaining from it, what they were carrying back home in their hearts.

I was wondering if they were ready to take on the world outside that demolishes its own and terrorizes anyone who is other. 

But at the the end of the week, I was trying to see into their eyes, trying to read their faces to understand if they really understand.

And so, on the fifth day, I sent them home with a sticker on the palm of their hand, and told them to take it as an ebenezer, to find something, big or small, to hold onto.

The ebenezer is the silent prayer, it is the memory and the hope and the body language of knowing God is here with us.

And so they took with them the memory, the sticker, the sight of God however they found it.

I remembered for myself, remembered that I know God right now in packing boxes so that we can move, in trying to love my toddler boys through their tantrums and learning, in stepping into new seasons and new jobs and new adventures in rock climbing and gardening.

And in all of it I can be quiet and move and be, wipe the sweat from my brow after a good day’s work, hug my boys after a fight, tell jokes at the dinner table and sweep the balcony floor clean again.

There was no need for a thorough conversation to take place as the woman wiped her tears and oil from Jesus’ feet with her locks of hair.

And so, there is no need for me to fill the air when I can be still and know, when I can move to the rhythms God gives me, when I can rest in the presence God grants me.

We move and breathe and having our being, don’t we?

And so we move and breathe and live as sure as God lives, as sure as God breathes within us.

So when we pray, we practice the body language given to us at birth, and we speak without speaking, Come, Kingdom, Come. 

 

One of The Church’s Greatest Mistakes: to those for whom there is no room

FullSizeRender

There’s a story about a laboring woman and the baby inside of her, a story about how far they journeyed together to find a safe place to rest, a suitable place for a birth.

They travelled and travelled and finally the innkeeper said to them, “Sorry, no room,” and they found their way alone.

And today, a lot of people– a lot of churches, a lot of Christians– have taken up the mantle of telling the “other” the same thing.

No room, no room.

No room for the woman who seems impoverished, waiting for her daughter in the church building;

No room for the socially awkward or outcast to find community;

No room for those who have made mistakes and wish to be redeemed;

No room for the Native Americans to keep their own land and find God in it;

No room for the women to lead;

No room for the curious, for the people who ask questions and admit that they seek God outside the church walls;

No room for the children to be children, their little voices heard and considered.

No room. 

And as the privileged voices become louder and the marginalized become quieter, they say, “Speak up, we can’t hear you….No room, no room inside of me for you.”

Maybe those marginalized voices have been speaking, reaching, trying to break glass ceilings and enter the in-crowd for decades.

But still, no room.

And Jesus said, “Those who have hears, let them hear…”

But maybe today He says,”Those who have always had ears and means but haven’t really been listening to anyone but their own…close your mouths for a second.”

And then He looks us in the eyes and says, “Because someone told my mama once, ‘no room, ma’am,’ and she birthed me in a cave.”

And so today, new voices shout from the street corners and church parking lots, “No room! No room for displacement, prejudice, hatred.

No room for xenophobic social circles and secret gossip clubs.

There is no room for the one-person agenda,

No room for the top-down scheme.”

And with every breath of Kingdom, that man who was born in a cave says, “Room…there is room at this table and plenty to eat…

…Come with your questions and let us journey together. Let us make room.

And there, the new church is born.

 

Hallelujah and Amen.

Mending our Mess & Finding Community: the wildernesses of the churched and unchurched

IMG_3563

I believe in transformation.

I believe in ending grudge-matches,

in pursuing community ties.

I believe in Mystery,

in the essence of God in the created world.

I believe in the human journey,

in the winding process that eventually leads us to each other and Kingdom good.

IMG_3831

When I was young, I took to heart those bible verses that told me not to hang out with non-Christians or to date anyone who might try to kiss me.

I had a deep love for those outside my church body, but I was afraid of them, afraid of the dark, afraid of the unknown that could stain me.

When my legalistic hardness softened a little, when I re-understood the words I’d read for so long in the church pew, I inched outside of myself bit by bit.

I saw the world outside the conservative Christian lens, and lo and behold, God still called it good.

We are trying to figure out why people are leaving the church, and our ministry-minded brains find it difficult to swallow that we may not be giving life with every warm welcome and small group meeting, that our efforts to engage and save the world sometimes fall short.

And people leave the church and we are sure they are gone forever.

But the truth is, we all walk the wilderness, whether we are “churched” or not.

And the truth is, the Mystery of God holds meetings with the stars and spends time in the campfire glow.

The Mystery of God speaks in the ocean depths and mourns every heartache we never knew existed.

People find God in their yoga classes and favorite restaurants,

in a drink with a long-time friend

or at toddler story time.

They find God at the climbing gym,

God in the garden bed.

And so the church does not work because of us;

the church is God, and God is in the wildernesses of our short lives,

at the Sunday Farm Burger table and the Tuesday morning board meeting.

If we truly believe that God is in our midst, we believe that God is inside and outside the church building,

walking around the farmer’s market with the children, faces painted with ocean waves and iron man colors.

The church is for community, for healing, for rebirth and reminders that we are all called good.

So maybe we need to relax and lean in,

engage the quiet of our hearts,

the stillness in our homes,

know ourselves,

understand our own journey,

and let that lead us to

gracefully holding

the journey of others

as sacred.

Perhaps there is some more rewiring to be done,

perhaps, years later, we still have to unplug from the legalistic mindset

and remember that God finds us and holds us

precisely when we feel far away,

exactly when we feel that we are right where we need to be.

And so we pray,

God, be God,

and let us dwell

in and

with you,

creation-goodness

abounding

where

we most

and least

expect it.

Amen.

A Home Terrarium: not HOW, but WHY

FullSizeRender

We are re-structuring, re-arranging, re-organizing to get ready for this summer move from an apartment to a house, but in the meantime, we need some life to sustain us right where we are.

I bought this little glass home from my dear friend Hannah, and when we brought it home all I could think about is the little beings that might fill it.

I searched terrariums online and quickly discovered vivariums, something I’d never heard of before.

vivarium: an enclosure for living creatures under semi natural conditions for observation or study

And something about it seemed beautiful to me, the way curiosity can be sparked anytime we choose observation or study. We do it everyday, whether we’re aware of it or not, looking at the world around us and wondering how it all came to be and what it means for us every time we take a breath or make a choice between the trash can or recycling bin.

What I realized and my boys echoed early this week is that we need life around us. I’m reading parenting books about nourishing the soul and understanding the brain, and if I can’t slow down enough to observe what happens when those things are working together or separate from each other, I’ll miss it all.

We’ve got a few months left in this space that we’ve called home for nearly two years, two beautiful years of writing and examining and re-wiring and learning how to be loving humans day after day.

And at the end of those days, it never hurts to have a few extra living creatures around to remind us of who we are, someone else’s beauty to observe and notice when we need a quiet second to breathe.

So can we possibly ask for more?

More life.

More mental space.

More spirit.

More giving.

More noticing.

More tenderness.

More genuine curiosity.

And I’d say those things bring us closer to Kingdom, closer to ourselves, closer to that spark that began inside of us the day we were born, when we stretched our arms up to the sky and out to the world asking for that world to teach us something good, to give us something to notice, to let us observe her absolute beauty especially when it’s a total mystery to us.

After all, we are the living vivarium, a case of worlds and galaxies and creation in which we live in almost-natural, not-quite-perfect conditions.

And we are observed and cared for with loving Creator-hands, spoken over and encouraged to grow and thrive and be exactly what we need to be in the space that is ours until Kingdom finally does come to take us on.

Until then, I will wake in the mornings and sit in the sunroom and say good morning to my new friends, seeing my own reflection in them, saying good morning to the Mystery that holds my life and theirs together in a glorious and abstract harmony.

Hallelujah for the observable life.

—————————————-

[ If you really want to make one, I’d encourage you to! And here’s a tutorial. All the materials for ours cost about $40. And make sure you bring your little ones along, they thrive in the creative joy of the process. ]

 

 

The Soul Explorer: a summer adventure series

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Faith alone defends. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”  –Helen Keller

IMG_3715

When I was young I was afraid of a lot of things.

Water.

Darkness.

Bugs.

Intruders.

But the one thing I looked forward to time after time was the seasons’ change.

Every fall leaf, every winter flake, every spring blossom and summer afternoon reminded me that the world was working the way it was supposed to, that things were being held together for a beautiful purpose, that life was being recreated over and over again around me.

As an adult, a lot of those fears have held tight to me, but slowly and surely I am breaking free from them with the help of my family, who craves constant adventure.

In the face of our fears, it’s not enough to pretend that they aren’t there.

It’s not enough to cover up the scars that come from that fear.

We must do some reversals here, we must find the benevolence that is planted in our lives, where there is actually no room for fear to take root.

For me, it looks like a summer of exploring the beauty of Georgia with all my boys, a summer of stepping into so much newness–

a new position at church as the worship leader;

a new deadline to finish my upcoming book;

a new house to settle into;

the upcoming adventure of homeschooling two toddlers;

and finishing my bachelor’s degree online starting in the fall.

The other day I asked some friends on Facebook to tell me their favorite places to explore here in Georgia, and the list I’d made for our summer went from three places to twenty three.

Everywhere I’m looking these days, I’m being pointed back to the importance of soul work and exploration.

Even the story of Jesus and the four kinds of soil says something about the importance of journey, of honoring every person in every season of life while paying attention to our own journeys.

If I need an afternoon of slinging mud at the Chattahoochee, so be it, if I can break away from my fearful self.

If it is a Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market downtown, I will go and rest in the presence of a group of people who make their life’s work about growth and life and creation.

One day we will visit the Etowah Indian Mounds an hour’s drive away, and I will remember my own roots, ask them to speak something to me, to teach me something new about my own journey.

And little by little, fear scales away and we are left courageous, adventurous beings.

And in the meantime, my children see their mother grow more bold everyday, and my deepest wish is that they find that soul-boldness themselves, held safe by the goodness of God in a beautiful and often broken world.

It is the way of our children to force us out into the world, isn’t it?

It may take me years to learn, little steps forward and back again, but I do not journey alone.

IMG_3731

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable,” said Helen Keller.

And if Helen can say that, you and I and the rest of creature-kind certainly can say it too.

May the exploration of our hearts turn us away from fear and toward the light of a new day, a new season, a new reality of Kingdom here in our tiny corner of existence.

Amen.

 

 

The New Church Revival

FullSizeRender

A few weeks ago someone on Facebook invited me to their church revival, an event with a picture a little white, midwest church.

Now this revival could have been a lot of things, but judging from the atmosphere of where I grew up, it was probably centered around a little hellfire and brimstone, a little fear to get people to the pearly gates.

That’s the God I used to count my tallies toward, the guy with a white beard, the Zeus-like man who closely resembled King Triton from The Little Mermaid. 

I’ve shared here before about the hurt that I carried from that view of God.

Seven years later, I’m still shedding the skin of that pain, still trying to re-configure the image of God for myself– and in reality, all I can come up with is great and loving Mystery.

Richard Rohr calls it benevolent love, and that’s exactly it– some sort of out-of-world goodness.

The purpose of a revival is to bring out a heart change, to renew the soul and point all lives toward Heaven.

But somewhere along the line we’ve lost something, maybe misunderstood Kingdom.

Jesus is as much here as He is there; the Mystery of God is as much present as it is future-eternal.

And so maybe we need a new church revival, the kind that transforms communities out of the overflow of love instead of fear.

Maybe we should revive ourselves in a different way–

a revival in the way we tip our waitresses and support local farmers;

a revival in the way we participate in protecting and restoring the environment;

a revival in the language we use toward those who are different than us;

a revival in how we care for the broken and marginalized;

a revival in the animosity-talk of church and national politics;

a revival in the way we value our children and their role in the church and our families;

a revival in how we define ourselves as human beings instead of separate nations scattered around this earth;

a total revival in the way we see the extreme love of Jesus for every living creature.

We’re asking why people leave the church again and again, and maybe this answers a sliver of that question.

For years, the revival has been a weekend or weeklong event, staged to bring a dramatic change to a community– and we’ve certainly seen it happen.

But this kind of work, this re-defining of the church, a re-defining of ourselves, our language toward each other–

this may take a while.

And the good news is that we are not abandoned, waiting for the sting of armageddon.

We are present to the Kingdom of Jesus, to shalom, to this benevolent love, and that is the restorative-revival-life that we are meant to lead everyday in our lives.

Hallelujah for the lifelong revival work.

 

The Glass Half Empty Is The Glass Half Full: the sweetness of community

There’s something known to be proven in my experience of being in community.

If people gather together in a space and are asked to share their story over a bowl of chili, something holy will happen sooner or later.

You find all these connections between yourselves, and somehow the whole world brings itself to your corner.

Our church launched Koinonia Groups this week, and ours met for chili in our little place.

Some of us are vegetarians and some are meat eaters; some drink our coffee black and some load it with cream; we like tortilla chips or we don’t, but we all like Miki’s chocolate cake.

When you’re seated in a circle, looking each other in the face, it’s pretty clear that the choice is to engage or disengage, open up or close tight, be vulnerable or stay inside yourself where no one else can reach.

Our church is going through a big transition, a big growing pain that hurts for some more than others, hurts for everyone in different ways.

And in the overlap of sharing these stories, of finding our commonalities and differences, we see the soul perspective.

The importance of sharing with each other is to understand each other. If I know your hurt, if I know your history, I understand your needs, I understand your reactions, and appreciate your perspective without having to agree with it.

And there, the church has some growing up to do, because we do not honor the story or the story-teller.

When the glass if half empty to you, it’s half full to me; and when I’m all tired out, you hold me up then and there, and it’s a constant cycle for the rest of our lives and into eternity.

This is about more than the optimist and the pessimist, about more than a personality type. This is the church being the church.

This is people being people.

This is what it looks like for honor to beset honor.

And there we find something that is nectar to us, a full soul-meal, a sort of communion in our coming together and serving one another.

Koinonia.

If we are to take seriously the work of loving each other, we should take seriously the work of hearing each other. And if we take seriously the work of hearing each other, there is nothing left to do but give thanks for the benevolent journey we walk together every single day of our lives.

So get out the bowls and cook the chili, friends.

Put the chairs in a circle and speak life out of reverence for each other’s lives, and see what happens.

 

 

An American Story: Poverty of Perspective

FullSizeRender

I gauge my happiness by my comfort, by my lack of worry–

A few months ago, I struggled for a few days with renewing the insurance for the boys. Someone had checked a wrong box on a computer somewhere, and I was on the phone for days trying to find the right person to fix it.

The worry that loomed over me because of a simple wrong click in the system was constantly palpable.

It is our American poverty to believe that life is only lived when we are free of worry.

I heard an interview on NPR last week with a mother in Yemen. Today they live in constant fear– constant worry that their children will die hungry and terrified, and that they will never taste anything other than bread and tea.

And I worry that my stress will get the best of me because my boys holler too much in our little apartment.

A few days ago, I sat with the boys and thought, “I am so much more content right now, so much better off without the stress of those few days.”

But what happens when the stress doesn’t go away, when worry lingers all over the place, hiding in corners and never letting go?

And the American church doesn’t help us weather any storms in our lives, because we often step through the doors with a smile plastered to our faces, everything is fine coming from our lips.

And I’d never wish this suffering on them, this hurt that carries so much weight over their tired bodies and hearts.

But for those who live into their suffering, there is an amount of dignity and grace that they carry, and I am always in awe of them.

Because I have a poverty of perspective, it takes a moment to remember that other mom in Yemen who is struggling to understand that our souls are wired somewhere deep to hold intense sorrow and pain.

But here, we are afraid to suffer, afraid to be uncomfortable, afraid to be on the dark side of anything.

And so when things get uncomfortable, we take another pill or schedule another appointment, and our world nearly collapses because we don’t know how to function without comfort.

The tension of our world is that things are good and things are bad, and we are healed but not really healed, comfortable but really pretty uncomfortable.

But when we suffer, we learn lessons that stream from a deeper vein than the ones we learn when we are okay.

Our cycles of healing are off, our perspectives are linear instead of a more human-like walk of back and forth over and over again until we get somewhere new.

But remembering the way the world works might give me a moment to stop next time, to remember that I can step into suffering and learn something there.

And the reality is that we all suffer with something, and if we recognize that the community of people around us all suffer too, we walk in it together, and we don’t run away.

Then the world seems to grow smaller, and our differences disappear, and our Americanness becomes humanness and our suffering becomes a journey,

and we are ever closer to Kingdom, where Jesus gathers the hurting close and calls us to the light.

 

 

The Last of Lent: for my 20-Year Anniversary

FullSizeRender

This morning, way before the sun was up, the birds were conversing.

It was a heavy conversation, this back and forth chirp and song, like they were trying to wake up the world from sleep with their news.

I don’t know what day Easter really happened on, but I can feel its pulse inside of us today.

The pews of the church are a little fuller on this day, because we are looking for hope, we can feel the world shift a little when we see that we are loved by a powerful, compassionate Mystery of a God.

I was baptized on Easter 20 years ago, when I was seven.

I still remember it, the flush of intimacy that came over me when I rose out of the lukewarm water, something about that moment that pulled me a little closer in to the Mystery of Jesus.

The reality that we walk in today is that resurrection happens in constant rhythm with our lives.

Everyday we go down beneath the waterline and come back up again, renewed.

But today I remember that moment a little better, and I look at my boys and wonder what exactly they think of Easter, what they think of Lent and of these seasons we celebrate and remember.

I hope that they find resurrection alive in us, the pulse of God moving through our lives into ourselves and each other.

I hope they find that the cross means something today, just as it did yesterday, just as it did twenty years ago, as it will mean something twenty years from now.

May today be both the beginning of something and the continuation of something.

And in all things, may we seek resurrection.

Amen.