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And then God showed up.

photo credit: CarbonNYC via photopin cc

photo credit: CarbonNYC via photopin cc

I wasn’t going to put up a blog post today.  Fact is, I’ve been feeling pretty ambivalent about keeping this blog going at all.  I vacillate between “It’s not worth the energy; no one reads it” and “It’s so important; this is what I’m passionate about.”  I am alternately discouraged that I don’t have the stats to rival my favorite bloggers and discouraged with myself for not producing whatever would earn me those stats.  “I am tired; I am weak; I am worn. Take my hand, precious Lord.”

So yeah, I wasn’t going to post today.  I was feeling whiny and small and overlooked.  I was feeling voiceless.  I was giving up.

But this morning I woke up at the crack of dawn.  Which I hate and never do because morning people are all terrible, chipper, and HAPPY in the morning.  I cannot relate.

But this morning I woke up anyway, before the sun was up, before my husband was up, and by 6am I had tossed and turned myself right out of bed, into my clothes, and across the street to the misty, deserted salt marsh.

The marine layer was so low I couldn’t even see the tips of the mountains to my left or the horizon between the cloud cover and the Pacific Ocean on my right.  Everything was quiet, except for that man talking loudly on his phone as I passed his window.  (Who makes calls at 6am? Morning people!)

I walked slowly, not quite contemplatively, through the sage along the gravel path and wound my way across the estuary. I stopped on the bridge and watched the ducks and leopard sharks swim in wide circles and figure 8s.  I breathed deeply. I looked up at the misty morning, still dark enough that my sensitive eyes could take everything in through their own lenses and not the dark ones I carry with me everywhere.  I continued on.

I turned on my iPod and played a guided Lectio Divina reading I downloaded from my new friend Christianne Squires’ Cup of Sunday Quiet. (I highly recommend it, by the way!) I walked slowly through the salt marsh, noticed my breathing, and listened to a gospel reading in Christianne’s measured voice.  I walked. I breathed. I listened.

And then God showed up.

I don’t know why I am always surprised when God does that.  But I am, every single time.  Maybe it’s because at the bottom of everything, at the very root of the deepest lies that cause the woundedness in my life, I don’t believe God is trustworthy.  Still.  Even after all the healing, all the truth, all the trust God and I have built up in our relationship over the years.  Even after the dark night of the soul and the wilderness experience and all the ways God has tried to mature my faith, even now I am still surprised when God shows up.

I expect it more often. I trust that despite my lack of faith it will happen.  But I’m still surprised.

Or maybe it’s more that God just enjoys surprising me.  Maybe it’s that God delights in delighting me.  Maybe it’s like God is playing hide-and-seek with the child in myself.

Me: God, where are you? I’m looking for you.

God: Here I am! You found me!

And you know what? I just couldn’t wait to get back home and put up this blog post.  Because really and truly, my lovely readers, know this: God delights in delighting you, too.  God enjoys surprising us.  God, with infinite wisdom and gentle grace, continues to show up for each of us, every time.  All we have to do is get quiet, get listening.

All we have to do is show up, too.

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Rilke on the connection of spiritual and physical through sexuality

Well, lovely readers, I am back in California and getting back into regular life after my second and final session of training in spiritual direction.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the last three weeks of guest posts as much as I have! We will continue to have Five Questions on… every Friday for as long as we still have willing participants.  Everyone is welcome, so please feel free to share your responses and add your voice to the conversation.

I had some grand ideas for launching back into regular posting here at HBTB, but I’m afraid I’ve suffered from technical difficulties (three laptops in three weeks!).  For today, let’s enjoy this little snippet from the ever-wise Rainer Maria Rilke on the connection of the spiritual and the physical through experiencing our sexuality.

In the Fourth Letter of Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke writes:

We can recall that all beauty in animals and plants is a silent and enduring form of love and longing.  We can see the animal just as we perceive the plant, patiently and willingly uniting, multiplying, and growing, not from physical desire, not from physical grief, rather from adapting to what has to be.  That existing order transcends desire and grief and is mightier than will and resistance.  The earth is full of this secret down to her smallest things.  Oh, that we would only receive this secret more humbly, bear it more earnestly, endure it, and feel how awesomely difficult it is, rather than to take it lightly.

Oh, that we might hold in reverence our fertility, which is but one, even if it seems to be either spiritual or physical. Spiritual creativity originates from the physical. They are of the same essence — only spiritual creativity is a gentler, more blissful, and more enduring repetition of physical desire and satisfaction.  The desire to be a  creator, to give birth, to guide the growth process is nothing without its constant materialization in the world, nothing without the thousandfold consent of things and animals.  Its enjoyment is so indescribably beautiful and rich only because it is filled with inherited memories of millions of instances of procreation and births. In one thought of procreation a thousand forgotten nights of love are resurrected and that thought is fulfilled in grandeur and sublimity…

Perhaps the sexes are more closely related than one would think.  Perhaps the great renewal of the world will consist of this, that man and woman, freed of all confused feelings and desires, shall no longer seek each other as opposites, but simply as members of a family and neighbors, and will unite as human beings, in order to simply, earnestly, patiently, and jointly bear the heavy responsibility of sexuality that has been entrusted to them.

Thoughts? Questions? Reactions? Share in the comment box below.

29 Truths I would tell my younger self

I turned 29 recently and have been reflecting on my life’s journey thus far. I have come a long way personally and spiritually and am no longer the person I was when I was in high school or college.  If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, here’s what I would say:

29 Truths I would tell my younger self

  1. It gets better. I promise.  Keep on keeping on until it does.
  2. Know who you are.  When your identity is sure, you will stop believing the lies other people tell you about who you are.
  3. You are beautiful and worth loving.  You will fall in love and get married sooner than you think.  Live with confidence in who you are.
  4. Let people in. They may bring pain, but they may also bring healing and joy.
  5. God loves you. No, really.
  6. Stand up for yourself. Ignoring the problem behavior only makes them try harder to hurt you. Show some backbone and they’ll never have the guts to cross you again.
  7. Acknowledge pain others caused you, deal with it, and then move on.  Pretending it didn’t hurt doesn’t make it true.
  8. You don’t have to be always right.
  9. You don’t always have to prove you are right to everyone else. Sometimes it’s more important to maintain a relationship and open conversation.
  10. It’s okay to let go.  You don’t have  to carry everything all at once.
  11. It’s okay to fail. The world will not fall apart. Plus, you can always try again.
  12. Practice self-care.  Rest is as productive and necessary as work.
  13. You don’t have to take care of everyone all the time forever. Share the burden. Give people the opportunity to learn to care for themselves.
  14. Quoting Bible verses to support your argument to people who don’t read the Bible can be alienating.  Meet people where they are.
  15. Allow people to be who they are, where they are in their personal growth, and trust that God will get them where they need to go in time.  Offer people the same gentle patience God shows you.
  16. Instead of focusing on what divides, look for common ground, what unites people, and build on that foundation.
  17. Be willing to admit you could be wrong.
  18. Admit when you’re wrong.
  19. Your voice has power. Speak.
  20. Pace yourself.
  21. Don’t judge others. I know you think you don’t, but you do. Stop it.
  22. Have more compassion.
  23. Show more compassion.
  24. Life is not black-and-white. God is not black-and-white.
  25. Stop correcting people’s grammar out loud.  People make mistakes. Don’t rub their faces in it.
  26. You think you’re motivated by love, but you’re not. You’re motivated by fear. Let go of the fear, and there will  be room for the love.
  27. Own your mistakes. Say you’re sorry. Make it right. Pretending it didn’t happen does not make it true.
  28. All-or-nothing is easy, but it’s not healthy. Aim for the happy middle.
  29. Keep writing. It will save you.

Forward Friday: Prayer for the Rhythm of God

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and time (and blog writing) got away from me. I’ve missed you lovely readers.

I don’t know about you, but I could use a few moments of stillness in the midst of all the busy-ness this weekend.

Take some time each morning this weekend to still yourself and enter into the rhythm of God.  Notice how the prayer exercise below affects your body and your mind. How does it change the way you interact with the rest of your day?

Extra credit: Try this exercise each morning for the next week.

The following prayer exercise is from Body Prayer: The Posture of Intimacy with God by Doub Pagitt and Kathryn Prill (emphasis mine):

…[T]here is a rhythm of God — a rhythm that encompasses life, both the life we can readily see and the unseen life of the spirit.  The rhythm of God beckons us, guides us, and dwells in us.  When we discover the rhythm of God, we find the heart of God, the dreams of God, the will of God.  As those who are created in the image of God, we are endowed with this rhythm.  We can find it, step into it, and live in it. This is the kingdom of God — to live in sync with the rhythm of God….

[Pray this prayer aloud.]

The Lord our G0d
Sets our feet in spacious places,
Delivers us from evil,
Has given us freedom with the opening of his hand.
Let us lean into the future before us,
Let us follow the Way.

Prayer Posture

Begin by standing with your feet together and your arms hanging at your sides.  With either your left or right foot, lunge forward far enough to feel the stretch in your thigh.  If you can, lower the thigh of the leg in front to create a ninety-degree angle in the bend of your knee.  Switch legs after a while if you need to.  Feel the rhythm of God in your muscles as they strain, in your legs as you switch positions, in your breathing, and in the breathing and sounds of those around you [if you choose to try this prayer exercise in a group setting].  As you let the rhythm created in the room around you expand in your mind, consider how the rhythm of God is all around us.

Next week we will do some theological and spiritual reflection on Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill, and Douglas Morrison. Until then, lovely readers, may the peace of God be on you all.

Forward Friday: What does God value?

This week we’ve been talking about church plants and what it looks like to be the community of God.  For the weekend, try this short journal exercise:

Ask yourself: what does God value? How can the community of God be and behave more according to God’s values and goals for the body of Christ?

Not into journaling?  Try discussing the question over coffee or tea with a friend.

Come back and share your experience in the comment box below.

What would it look like?

What would it look like if church communities sat down every month and had a Kaizen meeting?  What if we constantly asked ourselves what God values and how to usher in the kingdom of God?

What would it look like if we not only allowed church plants to be new and different — to behave newly and differently — but also expected it? Go forth and be new wine skins.

What if we viewed church communities as organisms, not as organizations?  Living, breathing, growing, changing entities with lifespans and families and personalities and the freedom to try, to surpass, to surprise.

What would that look like?

What if we started by asking what God is already doing and how to join in instead of asking God to sign on to our next big idea?  See the new thing springing up and enter in!

What if we refused to programmize, institutionalize, or bureaucratize? What if the church community didn’t need accountants and buildings and budgets? What if we focused more on being available than on being established?

What if “preacher” were not automatically synonymous with “leader?”   What if our leadership were flat?  What if it were equal?

What would that look like?

What if we worried more about being mobile than being mega?

What if we did not pursue the praise of people but the principles of the kingdom of God?

What if we were innovators and creators and deconstructors and reconstructors and  philosophers and activists and lovers and monks and healers?

What if we were loud? What if we were quiet? What if we were brave?

Who would we look like?

Forward Friday: Thanking the Pace-Keepers

This week we talked about hiking as a spiritual practice toward achieving balance and rhythm in our lives.  Today’s Forward Friday is short and sweet:

1) This weekend, take some time to identify people in your life who have helped you keep the pace in your spiritual journey.  Let them know how their presence and companionship have affected you.

2) How can you be a pace-keeper in the lives of those around you?

Come back and share your experience in the comment box below.

Forward Friday: Relational Living

Wednesday, I wrote about my purpose in blogging on Holistic Body Theology.   I shared that I write this blog because we are not made to be alone.  We do not walk this journey alone.

Relational living is a simple, yet vital, element of body theology. This weekend, as you spend time with family, friends, maybe a church community, take the opportunity to be mindful of the way God created us to be together.

Then come back and share your experience in the comment box below.

How did you participate in the body of Christ this weekend?

Why Body Theology?

In an age when we can transplant blood and organs from one person to another in order to bring life; when people’s bodies can be augmented by artificial means; when a person’s sex can be altered; when beings can be cloned; when heterosexual and patriarchal understandings of the body are breaking down, issues of bodily identity worry us and yet in an age when aesthetics appears to have largely replaced metaphysics,

the body seems to be all we have

(even, as [Sarah] Coakley notes, as it disappears on the internet). The body matters and so it is little wonder that a distinctive genre of theology known as body theology has developed.  But in truth

Christian theology has always been an embodied theology rooted in creation, incarnation and resurrection, and sacrament. 

Christian theology has always applied both the analogia entis (analogy of being) and the analogia fidei (analogy of faith) to the body.

The body is both the site and the recipient of revelation.

– Lisa Isherwood and Elizabeth Stuart, Introducing Body Theology (p. 10-11), emphasis added

Body theology — holistic body theology — is about knowing who we are in Christ and allowing that identity to inform the way we see ourselves, the way we interact with others who share the same identity, and the way we interact with the world as a whole.

Having a healthy relationship with our bodies informs the way we relate to ourselves, to God, and to each other. 

When we are free from the lies we receive and internalize, we are able to enter into the fullness of life God has promised and live in the already as whole, redeemed, holy people of God.

I write this blog because I need to be reminded every day that my body is good, has been redeemed, and is an inextricable and irremovable part of the way God speaks to me and uses me in the world for God’s good purpose.

I write this blog because I have met so many other people who struggle just like I do to live a little more in the already and recognize the sacred in ourselves and all around us.

I write this blog because we are not made to be alone.  We do not walk this journey alone.  Your comments, Facebook messages, and emails continually inspire, encourage, and challenge me.

Keep thinking.  Keep sharing.  Keep walking with me.  Let’s walk together slowly, faithfully into the freedom God has promised.

Forward Friday: Speak

This weekend, take some time to honor and acknowledge the women in your faith community for their leadership and ministry gifts and abilities.  Here are some ideas to help get you started:

  • write a thank you note

  • write a letter

  • give a $5 gift card

  • take her out to lunch

  • recognize her publicly

  • offer an opportunity to lead in a new area

  • mention her in the comment section below and send her the link

  • mention her on your own blog and share the link in the comment section

Whatever you say or do, be genuine and specific.

If you are a woman in leadership, know that what you bring to the table is unique and valuable. Your voice matters.  Keep speaking!

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