My word for 2012 was ABUNDANCE. Even as I chose that word -- abundance, I wasn't totally sure; seriously, what was I thinking resounded the echoing voices? I have never lived a so-called abundant life. Was it even possible? Most of my childhood, and early adulthood, I spent afraid, crouching. And I've been unable to choose joy, as I've cringed and cried my way through recent years, even while overcoming, learning, and growing, I've been afraid. Even as I have healed Even as I'm being birthed into someone I don’t recognize and it is sweet and good, more and more fear. I came from a Daddy who was sometimes hard, sometimes mean, mostly lacking the sweetness a daddy ought to bring to a child's life; just hanging out and loving on his kids. Simple enjoying one another, like what I see between my kids and their dad. It's not perfect, but it is affectionate and safe. My father meant well, I’m sure that he did. "He didn't mean to" I used to tell myself. And he could be sweet, sometimes. Affirmed beyond your wildest dreams, speaking out loud what felt like a prophetic word. "You're going be something. You're doing to do things. You are going to do great things. And, if by chance you don't, well I'll still love you." Yes, he said those words whispering dreams into my soul, of "big things" as he crushed my spirit with his rages and cruelty. I suffered and staggered my way into adulthood afraid of living. I could explain it all away -- it was his insecurities, his megalomania, and his extreme self-centeredness But never mind. My spirit was crushed along the way and it wasn't until he died that I began to really breathe in and exhale enough air, to live, to grow, to let go of the grip I had on trying to control everything. And Mother, she was cool, soft and sometimes tender, but withdrawn and far, far away from us most of the time. She was expressively absent, though present physically. He was absent physically but Always There looming, controlling, hurting. It has taken me a long, wandering road of building trust with God, believing – truly that Jesus loves me. Daddy has had to be dead a long time. Trust of any kind, is hard-earned. And hard-won. FEAR: an emotion experienced in anticipation of some specific pain or danger usually accompanied by a desire to flee. That was my life. I choose these annual words now like an elixir, a Magical idea, that will heal my broken soul. I want abundance, brazenly. I want to be fearless. I want laughter. I want to have more fun. Dare I say it, I want JOY, audacious, defiant and powerful solace! I want to create beauty, unafraid. I want to believe in life's possibilities, impudently. I want to write unique and beautiful things, boldly. So this year, 2013, is about being fearlessness. I don’t know how, even now. I am sick with it. Stomach and heart burning inside, where there are still big voices saying it is impossible for me. And brick walls surround my heart. I am terrified to give up my fear. But that’s the journey, that’s the tiny bit of trust in the Holy. That’s what I hear -- be fearless. That’s what I need. To be FEARLESS, yes, that is what I want for 2013. (Perhaps not surprisingly, but it did shock me, I have written 175 items on FEAR. I'll be collecting them to see what themes arise, but this is one: Let your Fear Fly Free
I'm pleased to be a part of an Advent Series a friend is running. Most of my life, I have been waiting for God. It’s a spiritual waiting for miracles. Waiting for answers. Waiting for healing in me and in others that I love or have loved. Waiting to feel mercy. Waiting for peace. You can link to the rest of the post here.
I’ve never read the Bible from end to end. I grew up in the church but biblical literacy was not encouraged, until Blackhawk. Reading the ancient books I wondered—does God love me? Who am I to question God? And yet, I regularly bring questions and doubt to my reading of scripture. I cringe reading the Old Testament, at times embarrassed that it is a part of my religion because the God of the ancient stories seemed appalling to me. As I open up the text, doubts loudly dominate as I wonder: Is God full of wrath, as ruthless and destructive of cultures as these stories seem to convey? More vital personally, does God look down on and limit women, or simply ignore women’s existence like so many of the Old Testament stories do, or worse, does God consider me less worthy because I am female? This is a topic I’ve dedicated a lot of time and thought to, with questions I bring to the text because of their application today. As a result, for months I quit reading the selected texts for Eat This Book. Dejected, I felt heavy-hearted, even bogged down with discouragement, that this ancient, patriarchal, violent religion was connected to my faith and church, thoughts I have dodged for most of my adult spiritual life. A wise friend suggested I read it differently, and listen for themeta-story of Yahwehwhich is told and retold over many generations. Still questioning and wondering, still doubtful, I tried to understand what the God of the Old Testament has to do with me, or you, the 21st-century followers of Jesus. In time, through God’s gracious gift of connections, I saw that we, followers of Christ are part of this innumerable family! The Story matters because of the character of God whose faithfulness and love is clear throughout the generations. We are a part of a community of faith — the whole line traced through the Old Testament. Believers are connected, continuing forward. This is our inheritance. This story, the promises and covenant and love of God is for us all, the Story a continuum, toward Jesus. And now I see grace, even back in the ancient stories with the care for the poor, the alien, the widowed, the barren, even the environment. All my life I’ve been yearning to be a part of something, and finally I understand fully that I am! I know; I see in the Story that God’s faithfulness is infinite, and as it touches each of us, God’s love transforms us through atonement of our sins, actively reconciles people to God and one another. That’s the promise for you and me. I read the ancient stories with different eyes now, knowing that we are each a treasured part of the Story. I have intimacy with God in a new way, for the first time. Strangely this came from knowing the Story. This is utterly awe-inspiring. Yes, God is formidable, to be revered and feared. But “fear of the Lord” is a reverence that strengthens and fills us through our dependence on God. I am significant to this God, who is and was and will be, for all time and outside of time. Frequently in the ancient texts I noticed people fell on their knees before God when in His presence. I believe this is to be our posture too, awe. Revel in His presence, His affection. I have been both wrecked and healed. The religion that caused me pain as I began to read the text over time has healed me, bringing reconciliation and restoration to my life. I am part of that story. It is also my Story, which is breathtaking and devastating, from beginning to end. Soaking in the big story of the Bible faithfully, as I was truly listening, truly pursuing understanding and wisdom, the Holy Spirit revealed a gift, God’s love. It was there all along, but I was so caught up in and caught off guard by cultural differences and my assumptions, out of ignorance and naiveté. How difficult it is for us to hear the Truth. And this limits God’s work in me. Now, humbled and convicted, I open the word of God differently—on my knees. Sure of his acceptance and love, in faith that there is something in it for us all no matter our background, our brokenness, our gifts or abilities, or our gender. There it is, hope for us all. MHH This article was originally published in Illuminate, a magazine of Blackhawk Church. Something else on Eat This Book: Imagine my surprise, I read the Bible Wrong
The crawl of fear,
of losing, is close. It licks me,
as if I am a salty wound. Everyone dies.
But lately, I am aware
of Life all around me
healthy or otherwise.
Tiny birds are singing a sonnet, high up in the tree.
Cancer cells are growing inside a dear old friend.
Dementia and life-stealing pain overtake a sweet elderly neighbor.
Depression and anxiety crush the once glowing spirit of my child
Meanwhile I cling
to sanity, to sobriety
and to Faith, there is Peace.
We are all dying,
and yet without the thought of imminent loss,
of the Ultimate loss, death
we haven’t appreciated our life as a gift.
Won’t you choose to live?
Choose joy in the midst of sorrow and grief?
Choose peace when hope seems dim?
Yes, fear circles around me like a flame, curling and
enveloping me in those early morning hours when
fear wakes me with a vice grip on my heart, blood pulsing.
Aware, that I am alive.
They are bitter, these days and nights. Acrid, this
of life. Pungent,
and in this Pain,
there is a Holy Awareness.
Life’s aroma is sweet.
The morning was dreary, unusually dark; so much so that my son asked if the sun was coming today.
As I began my morning run I felt the drizzle soaking through the cloth on my arms, but it is unseasonably warm so my legs, bare to the elements, felt refreshed by the thick moist air.
I ran. And I keep running not because I intend to win a race. I ran, and I keep running not because there is anyone encouraging me along – though people are cheering, in my head and in my life.
I ran, and I keep running because I love myself.
Even as I have learned that I love myself and that I am quite beloved by God, I have my days. Bad days when this doesn’t feel true.
The other day a reader said my writing “lacked heart.” At first, it shook me. The voice in my head murmuring and cloying, “You thought you had come so far.”
Sunday I heard the words again, the source Brennan Manning and a piece of a puzzle fell into place. The first time I heard the words “I am the one Jesus loves” I physically recoiled away from the idea. My heart, dry and rigid like clay left too long in the sun, broken into pieces already. Those words didn’t offer solace, then.
Today I know they are true and I argue back.
I am loved! I have a heart, soft and malleable. I am full of passion and I can put my heart into words on the page and move people.
But that cannot be why I write – for others to be moved, for others to approve, or for others to be impressed by my supposed ability. And I cannot write what I am not living every day the passion and pain of motherhood, of being a Child of God, of being healed even as I am still broken, of God nursing me back to health over the last decade of depravity and addiction and a lifetime of sorrow. I write my story not out of some psychological need, either.
I write what I am living even as I know I cannot write everything. But write I do because I believe it will reach others in their inner dark spaces of which I know nothing specific, but I can imagine because the life I have lived; because I have walked the road of depression and a shaky unclear disbelieving heart. I have lived the days, even years of not wanting to be alive. I have been there and I am not there now and so I write.
I spoke it aloud to my husband, asking if he had read the piece. What did he think? Crushed, momentarily by my apparent “lack of heart” Wavering, slowly then I remembered the rest. The fellow Redbud who said it was “brilliant” and all the rest who read and were moved and who wept. And I knew. And I learned.
I cannot write for the reader.
I cannot write for my own personal health.
I cannot write for glory.
I must write because of the story inside, the story I have lived and still live daily. The story is the gift and the sacrifice. And if God is glorified in my weakness, this is why I write.