A poem for the heaviest days

Do you love me today?

Of course you do.

Every day.

All day.

Before my creation.

After my breathing slows to silence.

When I do it right.

When I screw it up.

When I love you back.

When I spit in your face.

When I fall for lesser things and when my obedience smells sweet like release.

Do you love me. But of course. From the first moon to the billionth star you love me and I cannot escape it. It is fact, reality, and every beautiful thing, a tightly woven fairytale of truth.

But will you love me today.

Another story.

And will I let you love me today, a trilogy.

Will you love me…. my need laid bare in front of your glory.

Will you love me…. because pitch loneliness from the depths out to aching fingertips spans the moon and stars and blankets my nest for four.  All of the nests.

Will you love me….because apart from today’s dose of unleavened bread, I have nothing to give to the sick, the sad, the wandering, and that only covers the folk in my own four walls.

The death out there? Too much.

But then you’ve covered that already haven’t you and you don’t ask me to walk a road other than the one I’m on.

Will I let you love me.

Release and surrender and unclench my expectant fists.

Can I unroll the secret places within, desires unspoken for their sacredness, the depth of their connection to who I was created to be. Their sacredness, desires poured into my core before I was flesh.  Can I trust you to love me raw and ratty when I’m nothing but need. Do you see my desires as foolish and selfish, flesh destined to be killed or worse, distilled down to a fragrant offering.

But you formed me.

You.

Formed.

Me.

And so the shape of me is beautiful to you whether it’s been killed or distilled or run over by the Big Mac Truck of Life.

Desire, born of the soul. Dreams, authored by you.

Not flesh to be killed or sacrificed, but hope.

Belief in predicated assignments.

There is always more to give.

Always more to sacrifice.

Always.  My days.

Refining the me that you gave me.

With empty hands I will let you come to me. You already have.

Because I said so

In this space of electronic invisibility,  I’m looking for the place I fit in this world, maybe not so different than the refugees landing on all sorts of shores this week.

Learning to find a voice. My voice.

NT Wright refers to the voice within us that cries for justice and beauty, the echo of a voice.  He’s referring to the voice of our Creator resonating within each of us,

individually,

collectively,

simultaneously.

Sometimes, I still think the voice I hear is my own and try to silence it’s call to greatness. But the call to join with something bigger than myself, something higher, the call to greatness being birthed in me isn’t a vain desire to make a name for myself, though vanity whispers to us all.

This mandate with which we have all been created, to reflect the one who created us, when we follow the holy echo of that call, something beautiful and intricately unique happens inside us.

We discover our own voice.

It’s challenging for me to leave out qualifiers in my writing but  I’m learning.

I remember a time in the middle of my fourth decade.  My children were small and I was working out by process of elimination, what kind of parent I wanted to become. At the same time, my paradigm of faith was shifting and every last plank in the floorboard of my relationships had started to warp around the edges.

In those exhausting lonely days, there wasn’t much of anything I knew for sure.

I believed God was interested in every area of my life and loved me in  a way I couldn’t begin to feel yet; I also believed, knew actually, that my children needed so much more than I was equipped to give them.

The majority of statements I made in those days were cushioned with qualifiers.

I don’t really know but…..

I think…..or it seems to me…….

I wonder if you might ever consider…..

It’s only my opinion…..

To complicate that mess more was the fact that I was sure I had the answer to any question asked in the course of ever.

(Interestingly enough, at this same time, I was working hard to please and placate people for whom I would never be enough and ignoring relationships with the ones for whom I am everything at this point, my children.)

If you happened to be one of those who listened to my rambling  nonsense please accept my deepest apology for nothing specifically and everything in general.  I wanted you to think I knew it all but was insecure enough to think that who you were, what you were created to do and be in this life posed a direct threat to who I was. As if of our existences were mutually exclusive.

I didn’t know it yet, but  I was qualifying my  existence to my own self.  I desperately wanted my outside ‘knows’ to match up with the ancient echo in my soul and I didn’t understand yet that the eternity set in my heart could never be explained by what I knew, or what I could point to, or what I could read, or what I could convince you of.

And also?   I wanted you to nod your head and tell me…

Yes, I know.

Yes, I understand you.

Yes I see you.

Yes, you are something, someone unique and you have your very own voice.  

When I hear hashtags of  qualifiers today, I recognize my thirty-something self and feel so much compassion for both the person I’m speaking with and that poor girl inside me who was such a mess. On my better days, I practice showing them with the compassion that I wish I’d had for my own self back then.

As I learn  to say big-girl words with no qualifiers here, with you, I’m feeling stronger and safer.  I’m finding new confidence in understanding Truth both inside myself and in the world simply because I said so.

Maybe you are too.

When you’re ready to give up, do this first.

My sink needed caution tape.  There was a lasagna pan filled with cold water, a few rogue noodles floating, one corner black from a re-warm.

sponges and sticking to it

Hardcore life before 8 a.m. for sure, but last night we were determined to make progress on a puzzle manufactured by sadists, so the pan spent a dark, wet night in the sink.

The  Kitchen Fairy skipped our house (something about working conditions) so I scrubbed the cold, slimy mess while I talked myself though.

Fire up the hot water,  we can melt it off.  Hot water negative,  noodles holding on for dear life.

Switch to scrapers.  But the gunk left on the end of the dish scrubber!!

Better gunk on hard plastic than grease filling up the sponge.  I think I’ll let it soak a while longer, finish after I pay the bills.  

You’re almost done now, keep moving. Shower door tracks win hands down over gross pans.

But you’re almost  D.O.N.E!  I can’t do this anymore, too.much.blackened.noodle.slime.

Don’t Stop Now, you can handle this!  I just want it clean.

Switch to manual sponges.  But they’re gross!!!!

Target is locked and loaded, steady now, you’re almost done. Switching to manual spongeesssss.

There’s something about dirty pans and slimy showers that bring out the quitter in me.  You’d think that  I would have learned by now to flip the autopilot switch and just do the junk of life without a whole lot of fuss but for whatever reason, I don’t.

I listen to the whiny baby inside my head  far too long before I actually get down to it and do the gross work.

Really, for the amount of time I whine in my head about  something, I could have finished it and three more disgusting jobs.  I mentally quit before I even start and  have to put all my energy into self-talk just to break even.

It’s one of the things I’m constantly working on.  When it comes to toughing out the rough things in life, finances, relationships, even sometimes faith, I’m usually committed but not before I’ve thrown a fit-fest sure to out-fit the most expressive three year old.

There are relationships that are difficult for me right now, a whole group of them.

I’ve been putting some healthier ways of relating into practice over the last couple of years but there’s some baked-on junk still sticking to the sides and I’m over it.  It’s taken a lot of strategic work to remove bad habits I developed mostly because my relationships were rooted in different kinds of fear.   But finally, I hope, the majority of my thinking and relating is more healthy than not and so it doesn’t surprise me that I’m have to work a little harder to keep myself motivated these days.

I think that’s how the disciples felt in Luke 5.  They’d been fishing all night with nothing but grimy gunk caught in their nets and they were over it.  Hungry.  Ready to hang up their nets and order take-out.  Their feet were cold, hands were dirty and stomachs were growling and I’m quite certain they were on each other’s last nerve.  The lasagna pan had more baked-on crud than they could handle and the thought of switching to sponges was just too much. They were ready to call it a night,  go home.

And then Jesus.

They dropped their nets one more time at his command.  I imagine a collective eye-roll as it sunk.

Their job was simply to do what he said, even if it was something they’d done a hundred times before.  It wasn’t like he gave them a new idea, he just simply added his authority to their process.  If they would’ve quit , they would have missed out on a miracle that would fuel their faith for the rest of their lives.

I need that authority and that kind of power to sludge through right now, and I’m sure you do too.

Whatever you’ve got going on today, and however sick you are of dealing with a mess that just won’t seem to come clean, stick with the honest work believing that at some point, Jesus will add his power to it. When we finally come to the end of ourselves….again, what happens next can be powerful.

The list of not-quite-finished in my life is long, but I’m switching to sponges.

When the voice inside your head is wrong

Creative Commons

My own voice echoed as the list rolled. 

Remember when you…….

and then you had the nerve to say……..

I bet she thinks………..

and you seem like………

why did you say that………

you should have ………..

you shouldn’t have…..

yep, you’re doing it wrong.

I made a bold statement, said that God thinks you’re some of his best work.  Said that he cares about every detail of your day and speaks to you all the time if you’ll listen, if you’ll look.

I went on with my week and forgot to remember……

That when I make progress in any area of my life; when I live, on purpose, out of the bold yet vulnerable places in my soul, there’s a shady voice always waiting, hellbent on the back-door destruction of my heart.  I mistake it for my own voice if I’m not careful and I bet you do to.

My soft spots always include relationships, people, all kinds of them.  They hurt me young and left me early and I still hold onto the belief that I can be a good enough friend to avoid conflict altogether. Conversations incessantly loop and the voice insufferably auto-corrects with one rotten subtitle:  you did it wrong.

Maybe it’s different for you.  Maybe  you feel the flash of shame when you think about your marriage or your parenting, or maybe it’s a full-blown lightening show.  A burst of insecurity about your education lights up a rod of  dying dreams, blazing a grand finale of deep disappointments from high school to the present.

It makes you feel like you’re in trouble, like when you were a kid and your mama used your full name.

It steps on the softened place that connects to your heart, yanking you backward into a muddy pit of degradation while angry accusations blare from the perimeter.

It triggers a flash that burns hot in the notch behind your ears shooting into your spine, dropping into your stomach or filling up your eyes as the disappointment, failure, or shame physically becomes part of you.

The voice I heard sounded like my own and it took me a while to remember that it’s not.  It’s a lying voice of opposition, not authorship and it contradicts, admonishes.  The one goal of this voice is to drown out the voice that’s Truthful.

You have to remember to close your ears to the lies that want to wreck your soul and begin to speak (out loud)  the truth that’s been whispered into your soul. Truth about who you were created to be.

It begins with a whisper of thanks for Hope and ends with the decision to choose the Voice that speaks life.  In the middle of the night it’s hard for me to remember, but I’ve learned the difference and it’s a game changer.

.

For when we glory in the cross and forget about the love

The celebration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is settling somewhere new in my heart this year.  I’ve always loved the tradition and liturgy surrounding the weeks before Easter.  It’s a holiday of water-colored hope painting broad strokes of redemption over thin lives.

Tate's cross

Spiritual battles seem to culminate during Holy Week as the antagonism of Satan mocks our walk through the Stations of the Cross.  This year has been no different as I’ve watched friends lose loved ones and dealt with my own challenges, puny in the light of death.

As social media penned words of faith, posted serene pictures of crosses at sunset and dared us all to pass on gruesome depictions of a bloodied Christ as a sign of true belief, I felt a depth of contempt that surprised me. I’ve quietly changed my profile picture in previous years and couldn’t account for the shift in my feelings.

I wondered if voicing my doubts had fueled the feelings and even considered briefly  that maybe I’d lost some faith.  Maybe daring to believe with eyes wide open made for new travelling companions, Thomas or even Judas.

There’s something about loud, accompanied poetry that releases the pressure from my obnoxious thoughts so I turned up the new album from Needtobreathe, Rivers in the Wasteland.  This CD captures the dim reality of life in a fractured world with driving melodies that wrap solaced hope around a soul.

The song Wasteland repeats the simple truth that if God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31) and as the song dug into my heart, the massive celebration of Easter was broken down into the most personal understanding that God is for me.

That small change in my focus opened up new thoughts.  Is it possible that our insistence of  walking the way of the cross, complete with reenactments starring a beaten Christ, exploit the anguish of the Father?

We focus on the physical pain of Jesus to the point that we forget the agony and despair that lies in the un-sensationalized, seldom referenced, simple broken heart of the Father who loved us.

The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ symbolize our faith, but in the beginning was the word and the word was God and in him was life and light and the light shone in the darkness (John 1) and the reason there was a light at all was because we were created for communion with God.

When we tell the story of Adam and Eve breaking that communion in the garden, we focus on their shame but what about the depth God’s loss? What about his broken heart way back in the beginning?

The sacrifice of the cross is shocking and absolutely is essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  But  the sacrifice of the Father sometimes gets lost as we glory, to some extent, in the gore of the cross and the miracle of the resurrection; hoping to convert unbelievers with shock and awe.

I have friends who are grieving right now, it’s a sacred time in their lives that deserves respect.  I wonder if our Easter pageantry doesn’t  distract us from the fact that God also continues to grieve as we make choices that separate us from him.  As whole tribes of believers spit hatred at each other does he shake his head and mourn at our insistence of making our belief about us?

Really, if God’s heart broke so deeply because we were separated from him and if  he would allow it to be broken to a greater degree as he watched the physical anguish of his son, shouldn’t we love with that same depth of passion?

Does he watch the rhetoric of Good Friday and the fanfare of Easter Sunday and wish that we’d remember instead the very intimate gift of his broken heart?  Because that’s what  necessitated the crucifixion of Christ in the first place.

It seems to me if we did, that we might all look more like him. We might worship with more humility and love, with deeper abandon.

My heart has changed this year.  It’s smoother in a sandy sort of way.   It’s been broken wide open and spilled all out and as it heals, I’m hoping that it looks a little more like the Father’s as I learn to love to the degree I have been loved.

Maybe I’ll feel differently as Easter rolls around next year, more like embracing the sorrow of the first day and engaging in the celebration of the third, but this year is off beat and I’m going to honor that.

My faith isn’t lost.  I’m wondering if maybe I just  found it.