Monday’s confession of faith

I probably look like I always love him and I never doubt

And for many months this can be true

 

For many months the thought of him is sweet and I believe his words and am

So happy to be part of his family

The Bible is alive and the Lord’s Supper full of meaning

And when I sit in church on a Sunday morning, the sound of my own people singing hymns

Is the feeling of slipping into a warm and fragrant bath

 

But I will tell you honestly

Sometimes

I cannot stand us

Sometimes our meetings are endless and our trivialities a millstone

And our pastors insufferable

(Yes, I married one of them)

(His wife is even worse)

Sometimes God’s people are not that good

I said sometimes God’s people are not that good

Sometimes God’s people are not that good, folks

And the Lord’s Supper tastes like breadcrumbs and nothing more and

The magic does not descend

 

Sometimes it is a small discrepancy in Scripture that I stumble over

Calling into question the whole book and everything I’ve swallowed

 

Sometimes it is just life, when so many bad things happen at once that I wonder

How can it be that someone out there is taking care of us?

Would life look any different if he were nothing but a figment of my imagination?

 

And

What if he is there, but not who I always thought?

And

Can anyone really be that good?

 

Sometimes I drop into darkness and know that the world is empty of a Messiah

And that hanging all my heart on this one man to be true

Is folly

 

So I cry

 

And then

I blow my nose and think

Well

Here I am

If I can imagine a God better than the one there is, what kind of contradiction is that?

Wiser people than I have hung their hope here and found grace to live and die by it

(Some of them attend church with that pastor’s wife

And love her anyway)

 

I have not found another philosophy on earth

That makes anywhere near as much sense as the one that says

The Master suffers

And pain heals the world

 

And

Discrepancies aside, the fresh-air truth blowing out of those pages gives me reason to go on

There is more right about this amazing, historic, eerily accurate book than wrong

 

And

If he is not

There is nothing to explain the beauty

And how buds form every spring and seeds grow and the earth is renewed and people are sometimes kind

 

And I pray please, please be real. I need you to be real.

Who will I turn to instead?

 

I probably look like I always love him and I never doubt

But I believe in doubt

As the birthing stool

Of faith

 

The rest of the story

Confession: I told you I miscarried a tiny baby last January. I didn’t tell you the rest of the story. Of necessity, this post contains personal details I would not normally share publicly. There are not many; I have been as discreet as I could. But I ask, especially if you are male, that you read respectfully.

The Rest of the Story

The problem with backing up to the beginning of the story is that it’s hard to know when to stop backing. You pass through months and years of events-that-led-to, and land not only in the hospital where you were born, but somewhere just before the book of Genesis, when all these things were developing in the heart of God. So I can’t tell all the rest of the story.

The piece I am going to tell you now started the month before my miscarriage, in December of 2014, when we said yes to a dream opportunity. A newborn foster girl was coming into care. Her older siblings had all been removed from the home, one was being adopted right now, and there was no kin. Would we be willing to take her? Continue reading

The Lord’s Prayer – My turn

Confession: I have a tall glass of iced coffee in hand, and if I am not very careful I will pick up The Count of Monte Cristo and be lost to the world for the night as a reader instead of a writer. This too would be good. Dantes is an airhead at this point in the story, but the Abbe is nearing his fatal attack and Mercedes is growing paler and more interesting every day.

What did I learn when I prayed the Lord’s Prayer every day for a month?

(I’m still learning.)

Some days the phrases played over and over in my mind. Some days the words pierced me, and I cried as I spoke them. Some days I could hardly speak them at all, and instead let the celestial voice of Andrea Bocelli sing them into reality.

I learned things about myself, and prayer, and God.

First, I learned that I pray some really dumb prayers, ordinarily. Not only on the tip of my tongue, but also in the depths of my heart lie some truly ridiculous requests. They bloop out of my mouth when I’m least expecting them, and they embarrass me.

Like—

Please help me not to say anything silly…

??

I can only imagine the look on God’s face.

Please help me to hold it together…

????!

Sorry, darling. Not on My list of goals for your life.

It was a relief to pray the Real prayers, for the Kingdom and God’s will and His glory and my daily needs, without falling into such catastrophically selfish and ungrantable petitions.

I’m not trying to say that ad-libbing in prayer is a bad thing. I know God cherishes the words we shape to Him, the words that come from the depths of our hearts or the tips of our tongues, however silly they occasionally are. But are they really what we want to say?

I loved the gentle alignment of my words with His, my requests with His, my will with His. I loved skipping “I know you want me to be okay with this but I’m really not, but I’m trying to be. You know I struggle sometimes, Lord. Are you sure you really know what you’re doing? I’m trying to trust you, and so I pray (I think I pray) that your will be done (except not if it hurts too much)…” and instead moving simply, so sweetly, to His heart. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Second, I learned that I am terrible at forgiving. I’m not sure if it was the Prayer itself that brought my grievances to the surface, like scum atop a cooking vat, or if I am always this vengeful. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” seemed like an impossible mouthful for the first week or two, especially on the days when I was really steamed about something that happened months ago.

Then I started thinking about the real mouthful.

“Forgive us our debts.”

Honestly? Such a light and simple request.

I don’t pretend to know more about forgiving than I did a month ago, except for this piece: I cannot claim the forgiveness of the Lord Jesus for my own sins if I am unwilling to release those who have sinned against me.

I know we say His grace is free, with no strings attached, and I told you I don’t pretend to understand these things. But I know from the parable of the two servants who owed the lord money, and I know from experience in my own life, that it just doesn’t work to claim the one and refuse the other. And oh, I have been forgiven so much! The two parts of forgiveness must go forth hand-in-hand into the world—or neither.

“Forgive us our debts while we forgive our debtors…”

My acceptance of His bountiful, generous release, His wiping away of the debts I owe Him and cannot pay, not only inspires me or prepares me or enables me—but truly impels me to offer that same free release to others, at the risk of losing it myself.

Third, I learned something about the nature of prayer itself: that it is a way of holding two opposite things simultaneously and in the same space—the brokenness of the world, and the loving provision of the Father. (This idea came straight from N. T. Wright’s book The Lord and His Prayer.)

The prayer of Jesus stands as a powerful bridge between two realities. On the one hand, you have hunger, debts, temptation, evil. On the other, you have forgiveness, deliverance, power, glory. Mr. Wright says this is a crucial function of our prayers—bringing the brokenness of the world into the light of God’s presence, and holding the two together in our hearts.

There is more to this world than meets the eye. We are surrounded by brokenness without and within, but the kingdom is come! and coming! and coming more! Aslan is on the move.

Now that is a prayer I will be clinging to for months.

*****

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Tips for surviving winter

Confession: For the first month or two of winter, I revel in the coziness, the hot drinks, the layers of hoodies and afghans. And then at some point (December 26th, maybe) I switch strategies, and begin ignoring the weather out of existence… because I simply can’t hang in there that long without becoming claustrophobic.

Here’s what I do. {Which is why I’m so healthy and happy and never, ever whine about winter. As I’m sure you’ve noticed. And if you haven’t, that’s why I’m pointing it out. Never. Ever.}

  • Look for color.

pegs

  • Grow something.

greens 1

  • Be with people. Especially little people.

child

  • Drink tea.

Homemade tea from a friend? Even better.

tea

paint

  • Buy tropical scents and flavors whenever possible.

air freshener

  • Eat a different salad every day for lunch.

salad 1

Mixed greens, deli turkey, tomatoes, avocado, pecans and feta.

salad 2

Romaine, tomatoes, green peppers, shredded carrots, Parmesan, hummus and crackers.

salad 3

Greens, taco meat and beans, peppers, olives, cheddar, salsa.

salad 4

Lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, apples, oranges, craisins, hazelnuts.

I never want to forget what a rich girl I am, to eat so much freshness that’s not in season. If I don’t have a lot of variety on hand, I just cut the veggies differently–skinny strips one day and big square chunks the next. Isn’t that silly?

And finally, if other mood boosters take too much energy and work, I do just one:

  • Light an {Everything Is Going to be Alright} candle.

candle 2

It’s just a plain candle in the middle of my kitchen workspace, but it’s a special one, in a special place and time; and when it burns out I always find another to replace it. It’s a prayer, a confession, a mustard seed of faith. When I light it, I choose to believe in what’s true: Everything Is Going to be Alright.

*****

Come over for salad?

Out on a limb

Do you ever feel out on a limb with God?

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Scripture is packed with stories of men and women out on limbs and they sure sound great in the telling, several thousand years later, though you can’t help wondering

how Abraham felt, exactly, packing up that mountain with his son and a butcher knife

how Gideon felt sneaking up on the bad guys with a pitcher and a trumpet

how Elijah felt in the moment of dumping the twelfth barrel of water over a soggy fire pit with four hundred people watching

how Jochebed felt when she put her boychild into the Nile river in a homemade raft sort of thing and hoped it wouldn’t leak

how Ruth felt slipping into the tent of a man and adjusting his bedclothes.

Faith, says the Hebrews man, is the substance of things hoped for. Substance. Substance means stuff, not ideas. Faith is the butcher knife and the pitcher, the firewood and the cheap reed basket, the trumpet and the blanket of a man. Faith is assembling supplies: lining up a physical and utterly ridiculous substance that gives silent testimony to things not seen. That substance is a bet, if you will, on a God who has promised to come through.

Our job, as far I can see it, is to assemble the pieces.

Which gives a whole other level of meaning to that verse in Psalms.

The most uncomfortable part is not the gathering of supplies. It’s the moment immediately afterward, when all has been collected and we find there is nothing more to be done. The wood is arranged. The bad guys are sleeping. The baby is afloat.

And then we are poised.

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Poised feels to the principal players almost exactly like hung out to dry. Here in this position we have Naaman coming up from his sixth dip still leprous, Elijah praying for rain, Jesus suffocating on the cross. The stage is set. The sun is going down. The world is watching (and laughing in its sleeve).

Out on a limb. Do you still doubt He will come through for you?