in the midst of ashes, hope

Broken Bits and Pieces

I am so bloody tired of this feeling of being trapped and held by the past, unable to live the abundant life that was promised to each of us.

And I am frightened.  Scared to death of the endless looking back to see and remember.  When will I find in the midst of the ashes, hope.  And where is it?

All the broken bits of me are scattered and the wind gusting into my life today threatens to blow me away.

I don’t know what to do with the bits and pieces of memory – those things that hurt.  They cause me to doubt myself.  They are vicious. They are hurtful and dangerous, drumming.   They are clamoring.  They are ringing in my head  louder than my small wavering voice (only just) learning to speak.  Are they a lie from the pit or truth?  When I get like this, when my wounds are oozing as they do today, I cannot distinguish lies from truth.   It is what it is.  I am nobody.  Just another nobody with a story.  Who cares?  I cannot believe that this story would help anyone.  One word put on the page after another – risky only in its admission. Here, now, this, these words, they are nothing.

I am so tired of this place.  My family and its circling pain, all shattered fragments, falling apart more every day.  Who will hold the generations together?  They are slowly slipping away and soon they will be bits and pieces of nothing.

More importantly how do I learn?  When will I be transformed?  

Trust Him

The disciples appear to be sitting around, unsure of what to do, until Peter decides to go fishing (John 21) and the others go along.  Was it aimless activity.  They needed to  eat.  Not necessarily completely aimless but doing the thing in front of them. The disciples do not know what to do, so they do the necessary.  And the story suggests that they have put themselves in a place where Christ meets them.

“Here is the simple truth, attested to by the saints, that when we are uncertain what to do we should simply do our duty and God will guide.”

But that night they caught nothing doing what they perceived as the right thing.  It is suggested that they are being prepared to learn one of the central lessons of discipleship–apart from Jesus they can do nothing (15:5).

Jesus has taught this lesson before, for “never in the Gospels do the disciples catch a fish without Jesus’ help.”

I feel like those fishermen who struggled to believe—they were fishing in order to pass the time and in order to eat.  It has been a long, long time that I have sat with my story, lived it, tried to find something redeeming there in my story.  And my life.

I fear, like the disciples with their nets in the water, that

I. just. don’t. believe.

Yes, I am having trouble believing that you can catch fish here. With my life.  With this story.  It’s been “a long night of fishing and I have caught nothing.”

I need to hear His voice, and I don’t even know for sure that I know what it looks or sounds like any more.   Is it even him they wondered when he showed up?   When He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat”….

What are his promises for a moment like this?

Lay It Down

So I have to set down my anger and disappointment at myself for quitting my job so that now, in the middle of a recession, I have no possibilities.  I have to put my desire to work or “to do something” to support my family down.  I have to let go of my ego and pride and the very real delusion that a job will make me more esteemed person to others or bring me respect.   Lay it down.

I must believe that all of this, my story, is part of a purpose bigger than I am able to imagine or see.  Jesus is teaching me that apart from him I can do nothing.

Even I don’t see it.  It is almost easier to look backwards because that is so much clearer, ah beautiful hindsight.

No the future is confusing.  I think I want to go back to school then I am I’m totally frozen by insecurity, self-doubt, and fear — perhaps I’m not smart enough, diligent enough and more importantly have nothing original to say?  It has all been said, thought, written, done.   Lay it down.

I thought I was going to write my story, but there isn’t even a story.  It is just a story about an average nobody middle child who had a raging rather, became a workaholic while having three kids and a step daughter, who quit her paying job, got depressed, became an alcoholic, and now does what? Lay it down.

Tom says it is a spiritual attack when I start to feel like I have nothing to offer to the world, to my children, to my friends (what friends?), to him.  Lay it down.

Don’t tell me I’m a good mom, because I don’t care right now.   I don’t even know why I am here.

The future is blank.  It requires faith.  Big faith?  A small quavering timid faith is all I seem to have today, a brokenhearted faith.   Whatever it is, it’s immeasurable.

It simply is.  I have to lay it all down and believe what he promises, when he said …

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” – Luke 1:45

Lord I believe.  Help my unbelief.

Do you have Soul Wounds?

Five wounds of Christ
Image by Nick in exsilio via Flickr

It is a beautiful thought, my children, that we have a sacrament that heals the wounds of our souls! – Saint John Vianney

Do you  have soul wounds?

For me this depends on day-to-day realities.  It is a discipline (see Nouwen on discipline below) not to allow things like bitterness, anger, envy, or conceit to enter in, quickly overtaking what I know to be true and beautiful.  A harsh rude word is spoken or written.  I resent another’s success. Or my day-to-day life practices add up to selfish spending  or no time for others, which bring an inability to be generous with either.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Choices, choices, choices.  Choices discipline us and bring order in and of themselves.  Knowing Christ also did that for me.  Knowing that I am the one he loved enough to die for —  that his body was broken, the nails cut into his hands and feet as he slowly strangled, gasping for air.  All that was for me.  For you.

And more than the human part of that death — which was physically painful and devastating — he cried out to God, his father, to rescue him from my sin!

And then, all the petty and selfish choices I make day-to-day feel even more petty, selfish, and sickening.

But wait.  The pure beauty of the sacrament is the washing away.

The cleansing of our heart, soul and mind that had been corrupted by the entangling of day-to-day.

Henri Nouwen said this:

“When God took on flesh in Jesus Christ, the uncreated and the created, the eternal and the temporal, the divine and the human became united. This unity meant that all that is mortal now points to the immortal, all that is finite now points to the infinite. In and through Jesus all creation has become like a splendid veil, through which the face of God is revealed to us. This is called the sacramental quality of the created order. All that is is sacred because all that is speaks of God’s redeeming love. Seas and winds, mountains and trees, sun, moon, and stars, and all the animals and people have become sacred windows offering us glimpses of God.”

If truly understood, this is a profound, life changing truth. If you are feeling wounded. If you inflicted those bloody wounds on your own soul, remember.  He took on flesh pain and soul pain for you.  He took on our sin and we are now joined to him.

And now our lives point others to the immortal, through the confession of our sin and the washing away. Through the cleansing Jesus offers.

Tell him where your soul is wounded.  Let him take it from you today.



Discipline is the other side of discipleship. Discipleship without discipline is like waiting to run in the marathon without ever practicing. Discipline without discipleship is like always practicing for the marathon but never participating. It is important, however, to realize that discipline in the spiritual life is not the same as discipline in sports. Discipline in sports is the concentrated effort to master the body so that it can obey the mind better. Discipline in the spiritual life is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond freely to God’s guidance.

Thus, discipline is the creation of boundaries that keep time and space open for God. Solitude requires discipline, worship requires discipline, caring for others requires discipline. They all ask us to set apart a time and a place where God’s gracious presence can be acknowledged and responded to.
These reflections are taken from Henri J.M. Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey.