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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Things Not for Sale: Why I Stopped Blogging

Somewhere along the line, all the blogging voices, all the faith failures and victories, the devotions and encouragements and bickering and conference hoopla and book promotion and linky parties and giveaways and friend requests and…well, all of it…started to clamor. And the Christian blogging community, though not in any way bad by nature, became in my head a record day at the New York Stock Exchange, with beautiful, hard-working people all shouting over each other in a crowded room, and my head hurt and my heart raced and I had to retreat, and I don’t mean the kind with workshops and book signings. And if I haven’t read or commented on your blog as often as you’d like me to, and if I haven’t seemed to have an explanation for it, or if you’re one of the many that assumes I’m just “too busy to be bothered”….that’s really, really not it.

For so many reasons, I’m tired. Not tired of bloggers or tired of blogging, and not at all tired of writing, but I’m tired for a lot of unrelated reasons, and also because going through the ringer with Jesus? It’s an exhausting business already, even more so when you’re trying to extract a 600- to 800-word something that makes any kind of sense and has application to a general audience with a few nice pictures thrown in. My spiritual journey and my writing journey both simultaneously took a few complex and beautiful twists and turns, and while I’m grateful to be in the midst of it, I can’t manage to put it all into any words I can live with putting out into the world. Everything I’ve tried to write for the big, wide space I’m navigating right now feels like half Fight Club and half The 700 Club, and it just doesn’t make for great content for the “Best Christian Bloggers” checklists, I’m afraid.

There is great and terrible beauty, as the saying goes, in this down and dirty open-hearted life. Not all of it transfers cleanly to the page. Not all of it has spiritual application for the masses. I am, just now, basking in the wild and intimate uniqueness of God and how He relates to us each in ways that cannot be quantified, and sometimes speaks messages for us that are not for sale, and that cannot even be given away, even with the purest intentions. There are love letters, gifts and challenges in the world, I am finding, that are embroidered boldly with only my own name (and some with only yours too)—devoid of usefulness for anyone else, but priceless even so.

For a long time, I fought it and wrestled myself because when writers who are also extreme introverts struggle in any real way in their lives, they can’t really get through *anything* without working it out in words on pages. And when you’re just trying to get through the days and you know you ought to be doing “something for Jesus,” blogging as a ministry makes a lot of sense. And when your calling to write is clear, and you aren’t writing about Jesus for the masses, there can be a big fat gap in the idea of purpose and giftedness and all the things we’re taught about what we’re supposed to do with ourselves in this life.

There are those of us who don’t find dialogue with Jesus easy or particularly natural but even we still get the chance sometimes to hear the still, small voice amidst the blinding clatter. And of all the things I can’t clearly make out in this season of faith, within the big silent echo I hear so often in response to my exploration, one big thing comes through loud and clear.

I am not a commodity.

And that’s kind of the final word on the matter for now. He is not for sale, for profit, for show, or even for the people I want most to love and give everything to. This supernatural and private and wild and wonderful secret place of the soul is just between us for the moment, and though I am divided into so many segments in this life, this little bit is, for now, just ours alone. I will have more that are intended for this community in the future, I hope.

I’m still in the thick of things. I’m still writing and seeking out loud, and telling it like it is, and I have no intention of disappearing. I just value honesty, and I don’t like to leave folks wondering what in the world is going on with me. I am not losing my religion. I am not leaving the fold or straying or backsliding or any of those things. I am just navigating the depths of what my faith looks like from the inside out, and it is time to be quiet and thoughtful about it until I know where He is taking me in all of this. And so, this place will continue to be a tad bit unmanned until further notice.

Thanks for loving me and walking near me and being my friends. I’ll be around. Mad love. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In Which I Go Ahead and Admit It...I'd Rather Be Agnostic

I’ve tried a thousand times to bring words to this place over the last few months, and inevitably I give up, dissatisfied with attempts at authoritative writing in what is proving to be a wide and hazy place of quiet but intense spiritual growth for me.

But here’s the thing.

I spent some time on the mountaintop, in solitude, last week. I sought silence and the presence of God and had my fill of both in more abundance than I ever knew was possible. I heard in the rustle of leaves and footsteps of speckled fawn on wet grass an enormous, wild dream that is so outside of myself, so contrary to anything I could conjure or even imagine, that it bound me to the heart of God in absolute surrender.

It was life changing, and it’s hard to know how to return to regular life after an experience like that—a closeness with God I would do anything or go anywhere or give everything to sustain. I understand the oaths of monks and saints now, how one’s entire life could possibly be full with only the infinite fullness of God, to a devotion to Him that leaves little room for temporal distraction.

What I don’t yet know, what I am only now learning with each passing hour, is how to live a life infused, how to make spaghetti or answer email when I am bursting wide with all I am learning how to see and hear and experience.  

I have more clarity than I’ve ever had in all my life, more faith and footing in solid places, but it’s time for me to say three words out loud, in surrender, from the heart of this state of growth and depth and transparency.

I. Don't. Know.

There are just so many things I don’t know, things I’m not willing to pretend I do know because a denomination or pastor or theory or tradition or text tells me it’s true. There is so much of God I don’t understand—so much He has not made clear in this world. There is so much more to Scripture than taking its life-infused words without the aid of context or serious, open-hearted, prayer-infused contemplation.

I don’t know how to reconcile the angry, destructive God of the Old Testament with the absolute consuming warmth and love I have experienced of Him. I don’t know how to balance the stories of Scripture with the science that claims to counter their truth. I don’t know the answer for every question under the sun, and I’m aware, more than ever before, that I am not meant to, that we are not meant to.

Scripture does not tell us that He came to answer our questions, that He came to make us puppets, or that He came to give us the tools for effective evangelism. He did not come to make us healthy or smart or strong or wise. He did not come to give us logical satisfaction of His ways.

He came that we might have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

Abundant life is so much deeper than whether or not we read the Bible in a year or how many church-approved best-sellers sit on our bookshelves. Abundant life is not the absolute knowledge and understanding of God; rather, it’s the abandonment of yourself into His abundance, forsaking everything else with the potential to captivate your heart. 

My study of spirituality and the sacred truth of Scripture is for the purpose of drawing my heart nearer to His, not to memorize canned and shallow apologetic responses to complex matters of life and faith. Nothing on earth or in the heavens is as easy as it seems. No verse in the Word of Life stands on its own or means a thing without the breath of holy wisdom within it. So why, friends, are we so afraid of embracing His mystery?  

I know just enough to know that I know God’s heart deeply and intimately only because He knows mine, because He actually, actively dwells there. Yet I do not know His mind or His purposes for everything under heaven because I am not Him. Everything I know about God confirms only one thing: I know Him and I need to know nothing more under heaven but that which drives me further into seeking more of Him. This includes a surrender to the deep unknowing, a sobering awareness of the orchestrated Divine that is far too large to be condensed into either a single mind or an entire galaxy.

The only thing big enough to contain the mystery of God is the heart of the human spirit which has stopped seeking to solve an equation of God in order to make way for all of Him—even, no, especially the parts of Him that challenge our finite minds.

Knowing Him means letting go of my attempts to shape the universe to my understanding, to answer all my questions and linger instead in the holy mystery that is bigger than me and bigger than humanity and bigger than all the forces of nature together.

I have enough faith to tell you I don’t know, and to tell God right to His face that I just don’t know. And I’m grateful for that.

I don’t know if I’m a mystic or a Lutheran or a Methodist or a Baptist or if I will touch earthly dirt during the Tribulation or if all dogs go to heaven or why God made mosquitoes. I don’t know if any particular thing is right given the circumstances or if any particular wrong is wrong without any regard to the heart of the person engaging in it. I don’t know what happens in the hearts and souls of those who have not yet seen God as He really is and not merely the biased and blurry portrait we paint of Him as a Church. And mostly, I don’t know why we’re all so afraid of all we do not yet know about God, why it is shameful not to know something which has not been revealed clearly to us directly by Him.

I read earlier today that the word agnostic means “not knowing.” And friends, even if you have the Bible memorized, even if you’ve graduated seminary, even if you prayed a sinner’s prayer at the age of four…you are…all of us are…not knowing. We are all agnostic when it comes to the Divine.

I am a Christian with all my heart and soul—more now than I’ve ever been. I claim the life and teachings of Christ and the all-consuming power of God in Father, Son, and Spirit. And I feel no shame in telling you that I am agnostic with all my heart, too. I hold loosely to my earthly understanding of all things eternal with the certainty that there is much I cannot yet know, things that man cannot teach me, with the knowledge that I am not privy to the Secret Things of God.

I don’t know what will happen with this online space as I consider all the directions it could go, as I consider even whether to altogether let it go.

Right now, I just don’t know

To borrow the words of Ian Morgan Cron in Chasing Francis, when one of his characters is asked about the differences in beliefs between evangelicalism and Catholicism... "I'd rather be a reverent agnostic. [...] There are countless mysteries that I have to stand before reverently and humbly while saying, 'I don't know.'" 

But my prayer, in this space of my life and all the others, is this:

Let God alone be the source of all I know or claim to know or need to know. Let my mind be clear and discerning of Truth, let my humanity not reject anything the Lord would show or teach me, either temporally or eternally. Let my not-knowing be an honest seeking after the heart of God, and let me never allow any religious teaching, logical response, or crafted defense corrupt my awareness of the scope of God’s hugeness and holiness. Let me never choose the wisdom of humanity over the wonder of God. Let me never be satisfied with the boxes of logic and reason which seek to contain the Great and Holy Lord into matchboxes fit for modern human pockets, flints with which to strike religious fires that keep our egos warm. Keep me not knowing the things which will always keep me seeking the face of Him alone. Keep me captivated and consumed by the God I don't understand, and collectively consumed in unity with His whole Church, and all the people in need of His love, which is to say, every person on this planet. 

And let me never be afraid of I don’t know, perhaps the only space where I am truly teachable, where only in emptiness can I be made whole. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Rise From the Battlefield, My Friend

It’s our first spring here and the tree outside our bedroom window started blooming this week. I’ve strained long for those shoots of green, narrowing my vision to examine brown bark, longing for a breakthrough.

The last few springs have been dark ones for me, humid and hot ones and icy cold ones too. They’ve been cast in the shadow of all the wrong places, darkened in the depth and ache so familiar to those landscapes which became spiritual battlegrounds, bloody and muddy, gray like the dented armor of my walled-up heart in those years.

Endless were the midnight games of holy hide-and-seek and I was running in place, peering for God inside heart holes and behind graffiti’d buildings.

Come out, come out, wherever you are.

But this spring is different.

This spring there are fat yellow flowers and white petals that trickle from trees and stick to my hair, and there are tulips and strawberries right in my very own front yard, damp with the paint of God’s fresh brushstroke. This spring there are cloudy days too but the low wisps and gusts tickle colorful branches, scattering light about us like a thousand tiny mirrors tumbling from the sun.

This blistering battlefield threatened to evaporate me in those years. I thought I might dissolve into nothing but a puddle of melted-down armor from the weight of it and the intensity of its temperature. Straining hard for grace or maybe deliverance, still searching frantic for my hide-and-seek God, I stumbled hard into patches of white, suspended in tangles of sweet honeysuckle, fragrant and tangy with the taste of grace.

Come out, come out, wherever you are.

In the stumbling, I learned to see. To look through eyes that linger long on a dusky pink sky, to twist a child’s hair between my fingers and take in a breath like a whisper, to taste a taste of love Divine.

 It is not midnight hide-and-seek after all but a secret scavenger hunt, our moments and years on this earth. There are millions of tiny treasures tucked away for you. Have you noticed?

Love notes, written straight to you out there tucked inside acorn shells and flittering from tree branches, scrawled on the footprints of a child. They are bound majestically in a single grain of pink sugar, splashed across the foamy coastline, dancing in the filtered lace-light of sunrays through spring leaves and reflect the creative brilliance of our Father.

Rise from the battlefield along with me and smell the honeysuckle, my friend. There is so much to see.

Come out, come out, wherever you are.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Amber Waves of Grace

I pack with anticipation. Dreams flood and fly and I reach for them, frantic and flailing. He has a dream for me, I know, but trying to capture it, narrow and clear, is trying to catch a river in a paper cup.

The conference sessions are circled and starred in pink ballpoint. I can’t wait to internalize the holy truth, the power and beauty of the words from the mouths of these women who look like Technicolor Jesus to me, these powerhouses with humble hearts, beautiful speakers and writers, friends and sisters that bring me hard to my knees.

I’ve come here to meet the Divine and it’s all right there in my grasp, right in the retreat center meeting room where I’m sure I’ll meet with Him, where I know He’ll whisper gently that one. next. step. toward His big, beautiful dreams for me.

It’s cost a thousand or so dollars for me to get here, a small price to taste what lies in store, a holy encounter for merely a song, a diamond necklace in a nickel machine container, and I am breathless for it.

We are giddy. Anticipation does that and so does the wine and the salted caramels, the high from our still-bleeding foot tattoos, identical, the forever reminder for our each and every step: Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. I am wrapped in the arms of my sister and the sun will be up soon but time does not exist here. This is not a hotel room in the middle of Nebraska but a sacred space where tears fall easy from eyes which have been dry too long, where the seemingly insignificant trivialities are consecrated gifts, revelations in disguise.

Amy plucks my eyebrows and speaks with the mouth of Jesus and inexplicably, the sky ignites with fireworks and orange-breasted spring robins dance across the icy parking lot and there is somehow nothing strange about it at all. This is a thin place, nothing but a gauzy lace curtain through which we stare right into the eyes of Abba Father, locked in the gaze of El Roi: the God of Seeing.

Sleep is short and morning is hard. Bottles with prescription labels decorate this space, bottles with white caps, impossible caps that taunt these swollen knuckles and frozen fingertips, aid for broken bodies. In the sacred space behind the veil there is no need for these bottles, but here in this broken world these capsules are the currency that buys a few moments of flexibility and function. Last night this was a thin place; today, it’s a thick one. Thick with sickness and pain where the clock hands tick off the rhythm of this temporal world: Eight, Nine, Ten a.m. has gone and now so has eleven, and twelve. The hours pass past the pink ink on our conference schedules and we lament a little because it wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were supposed to be in conference sessions, dancing with the Divine, filling our hearts with His dreams for our lives, jumping off mountaintops in tandem with our sisters, arms locked, hearts beating wild with our one collective yes.

The heart wants what the flesh will not allow. Today there are no fireworks, no dancing robins, no giddy laughter. Today there is vomit, there is throbbing, there is frustration and disappointment and pills that don't do their job. Today the veil is not a veil of lace. It is a brick wall and it is a hard strain to see through it. He holds us still, there is no doubt, but I cannot catch His gaze.

Practical attempts are all that can be done but let the hours pass, let the darkness lift organically through the passing of time and tiptoes through the dark. I fire up the car and veer it toward the conference center, towards the speakers we long to hear, and drive right past. I have not come for this just now. I have come for a cold coke and a chicken sandwich and a prayer vigil held quiet in the driver’s seat of a rented Dodge Avenger.

I have come here, to Nebraska, to be spiritual. I have come here to draw near to the heart of God and I cry out to Him. I ask Him to intercede, to form my words and my prayers to the needs of my sister in the moments that make her feel weak. I am a do-er and I pray for practical steps, for action on her behalf while my own knuckles throb with the rhythm of sickness. I have come here to be spiritual. I try and conjure beautiful prayers, powerful prayers. I try and invoke a healing spirit because I believe in His power, because I know she deserves it, because I still believe that we will meet God here, today.

What does she need, Father? Oh, Jesus, what can I do? How can I help her? How can my words, my empty spirit uplift and nurture, encourage and love in action?

I think of the conference speakers, of the beautiful words, the eloquence of holiness and the leaps I have yet to make to be so eloquent.

And all at once, the brick dissolves. Light spills and there is lace once more. Holiness is not always eloquent. Holiness is messy and holiness sometimes comes with a splitting headache and a runny nose.

What can I do, Jesus?

And there it is.

You can get her a chicken sandwich, Cara. You can stop searching merely for moments of fireworks and lace and start standing in the moments of imperfection and brokenness. You can stop praying and start driving. You can buy a chicken sandwich and sometimes, that’s all.

It’s been a while since the elements held this much significance for me. It’s been awhile since the taste of communion was more than dry bread and sweet wine, and I have forgotten the taste of His body, broken even for broken-up me, broken for my hurting but lovely sister sleeping in the hotel bed upstairs, and I do this in remembrance of Him.

Today there is more than bread and wine. Today there is coke and chicken sandwiches and a veil so thin it vaporizes into air. Today, I have met with the Divine and He has dreamed of me. My time in Nebraska didn’t look like I thought it would. I missed every one of the breakout sessions I’d so looked forward to enjoying. I hugged necks swift with quick smiles and polite words and too few stirred-heart conversations with the beautiful people gathered in this Midwestern God-spot.

And yet, we found Him in Nebraska all the same. Tangible holiness, sacred beauty in prescription bottles and breakfast menus, milk soap and nose rings and airport bathrooms. Thin places, all of them…thin spaces thick with grace and reverie.

I am grateful for the parts of the conference we were able to attend, blessed beyond measure by the words and dreams of Deidra, Jennifer, Emily, Dan, Shelly, Diana, Kelli, Holly and Holley, Sandra, the ViBella team, Amy (of course), and all the beautiful women and men who dreamed big and dreamed scared and slid hands across the table to one another this weekend. We all whispered yes with trembling voices in the middle of the corn fields of Nebraska, catching rivers in paper cups, scribbling on stones with abandon in the amber waves of grace where God-sized dreams unfold. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bread & Wine

Here’s the thing.

I don’t cook.

I never really learned the real cooking basics and the perfectionist within me has a little anxiety attack every time I read words like braise or soufflé and I picture myself running out of my house covered in flames, waving a Teflon frying pan, taking a swig of the lone bottle of cooking wine I was able to save heroically while the rest of my life goes down in smoky flames.

Dramatic, I know, but I’m lucky enough to be married to a man who makes my eyes roll back in my head in pure ecstasy on a nightly basis, and I don’t only mean in the bedroom.


Me? Cook? Uhhhh….why?

Mr. Smitten cooks like it’s his purpose in life and I eat like it’s mine, and me and Jack Spratt have existed just fine this way for many years thankyouverymuch. Still, there is something about the act of nourishing the people I love, about the magic of sizzling onions and melting gouda that I admire with the kind of jealous longing I usually reserve only for bestselling authors and mothers with green thumbs who actually look good in skinny jeans and never yell at their children.

When I had the opportunity to review Shauna Niequist’s Bread & Wine, I didn’t pause for a second, even though I knew the book was primarily one that was going to involve recipes which included ingredients I had never heard of. Shauna is one of my very favorite writers and I would probably buy her grocery list if it was for sale. (If you haven’t yet read Bittersweet or Cold Tangerines, it sucks to be you. Get thee to a bookseller, STAT. Thank me later.)

Bread & Wine arrived in the mail, the cover all wistful and beautiful, and it sat on my kitchen counter for weeks. I swallowed the lump in my throat every time I walked past it, afraid to jump inside, afraid that Shauna’s awesomeness would inspire me to soufflĂ© something…and we can all guess how that might turn out.

Eventually, though, I opened it…took in the words with trepidation. And in the way she does so gracefully and beautifully, Shauna brought me to tears and laughter with her narrative, her heart all over the pages, stories splashed with wine and the smell of Grand Rapids, Michigan, shimmery with love and grace and carefully crafted words.

She invited me into the kitchen again, inspired me to care more deeply about what I put in my body, encouraged me to laugh and love and drink and dine and weep with the people I love, because that’s what the table is about…communion with life, communion with God, communion with mystery and grace, pain and loss.

Suddenly, I was baking something called Gaia cookies utterly fearless of charbroiling the bottoms like I always do in my ancient, finicky oven (which I think might be made of aluminum foil and paper clips, but I digress). Picture me in the Dollhouse kitchen, chopping dates and wielding a pastry blender like I knew what I was doing, and at Safeway buying goat cheese and almond milk like a completely different woman than the one who came through the grocery line last week with three bags of Cheetos and store-brand baloney.

Of all the mouth-watering recipes Shauna includes in the text, I started with cookies because she calls them breakfast cookies and well, let’s face it, any reason to justify chocolate for breakfast is a good one in my book. The process was simple, even if I was tempted to forget the whole baking bit and just eat the batter by the fistful. Oh Mylanta, were they good. Soft, chewy, and ten times more satisfying than the mushy banana remnants I generally pick off Caleb’s plate and call breakfast. I didn’t even burn the bottoms, which was surely a sheer act of Divine intervention.  

Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of Bread & Wine, then sit down and read it all in one sitting like I did because you just can’t bear to put it down and if you stop mid-chapter, you might put an entire French silk pie inside your own face in the span of a minute.

Buy it for the recipes. Buy it for the soul-squeezing stories Shauna tells. Buy it so you can have cookies for breakfast like me. (They have granola in them. You’re golden.)

Once again, Shauna, you rocked my world, nourished my spirit, and you’re totally to blame for the cookie crumbs in my keyboard. What an honor it has been to sit at your table, even virtually, to chop walnuts under your inspiration, and to taste the beauty of life at its ripest. <3 p="">

Read more about Shauna here. Buy the book here

Saturday, March 16, 2013

On Hoarding Manna

You can get your ketchup bottles made custom these days. Did you know? Anyone with a couple extra bucks can just have their own name designed right into the label on a Heinz ketchup bottle. This is a thing. Because we deserve it, right? Don’t we hard-working North Americans deserve to have our ketchup personalized?

I read this morning about a new beauty technique that involves a $2,000 procedure for removing blood from your body and injecting it into your face. Apparently, it’s a rage with the Kardashians and, no doubt, young women everywhere will follow suit since it allegedly makes you look younger. Hide your age. Save your pennies.

At the superstore this morning, I picked up an assortment of color-coded insulated faux-mason jar drinking glasses for my kids. At $5 a piece, they weren’t exactly an extravagant splurge but I find myself wondering if there was a better universal use for that $20. Could it have bought a meal for someone? Diapers for a struggling single parent? Added to the funds from other unnecessary purchases to contribute to bringing clean drinking water or medical help to the masses of people on this planet dying daily from contaminated water and malnutrition-related illness?

Yes. Of course it could have. But I liked those cups and the money was mine and no matter what I do in this life, I will probably always have a warm-enough home with a cupboard full of more drinking glasses than people to drink from them. What’s wrong with that?

I glance around and my heart calculates the sum total of all the excess I can see from where I’m sitting. A man rides by on an $800 bike, passed by a $30,000 car. I take a swig from my $4 bottle of vitamin-infused fancy juice in its plastic bottle and make notes with my $3 pen in the university library my $10,000 a year tuition helps fund. If it rains, I will open my $22 umbrella and try not to get my $18 flats wet, which would be a real tragedy since I only have about sixteen pairs of shoes in my closet.  

Somewhere it all gets dizzying and I become nauseated.

It’s easy to think that what I have or don't have, what I do or don’t do doesn’t matter that much. But it matters.

It matters because the sad truth is that there are more than enough resources to go around in this world. More than enough dollars and farmland to feed the hungry. More than enough words for everyone to be encouraged and more than enough of us calling ourselves disciples to overcome the poverty of love that exists all around us. We hoard the manna and it spoils in our homes, in our bellies, in our pantries and bank accounts and vacation homes. We are afflicted by the disease that comes from overabundance but to cure it, we hoard some more and thank Him for His blessing.

It overwhelms me, the abundance of God’s manna and the way it can still feel daily like we never have enough to go around. I never know how much is too much, whether giving up air conditioning matters while my family still pays $200 a month for cell phone access, and if having a hundred bucks in the bank is responsible stewardship or if it’s hoarding riches so I avoid the question altogether and buy a Blu-Ray player because, well c’mon, we need one, right?

As my heart cries for ministry again, I try to imagine how it is we justify this lifestyle when we’ve all been told to abandon it. Yes, Jesus, we whisper in our stone-walled churches with the patterned carpet and the cappuccino ministry. I give it all to you.

There are days I think seven articles of clothing ought to be enough to live on, that a room with a bed and a loaf of bread is all I should strive to keep ahold of in this life. There are days I think, “sell all you have and give it to the poor” actually means sell all you have and give it to the poor and isn’t just a metaphor for discipleship, that “go into all the world and make disciples of all nations” isn’t an invitation for a posh holy land tour but a command to get our knees bloody, to fill our mouths with the taste of the poverty which can only be quenched by mercy.

I went back to college so I could someday teach at a university and have a retirement account and health benefits but lately, its feeling an awful lot like the pursuit of comfort above all things and I’m pretty confident that the kind of comfort I need is not the kind that gathers zeroes in an IRA. I’m not sure if “get wisdom” means the kind I can memorize out of textbooks or the kind that can only be learned in the hard doing of following His footsteps.

The truth is, I’d like to balance the life I want, the life I secretly believe somewhere deep down that I deserve with the commands of giving and serving. I’d like to do what makes me happy and believe that things like sex trafficking and gendercide are God’s business, that there’s nothing I can do about them but maybe cut a check every once in a while because God has been good to me. But I feel myself believing the lie… it’s okay to be comfortable while other people suffer. It’s okay to worship in fancy churches and learn at fancy schools and talk about how people suffer while I wrinkle my forehead and purse my lips because how sad. It's okay to buy a latte and another new candle and do the kind of work that people do when they’re pursuing their own comfort because that's what this country is all about. That's what this life is all about.

I’ve believed the lie that my happiness, my comfort, is more important than obedience. I’ve believed that I can have a foot in both worlds—that I can sponsor a child or two and hand the homeless guy a burrito and I’ve done my duty. But I hold my wallet close. My children and my cell phone and my apartment with a thermostat that works, because I don’t really want to give it all to Jesus. I don’t really want to lay down and die, even if that’s precisely what I signed up for when I asked Him to make me His.

The honest truth is that I know all of it. I know it and I believe I’m off track. I make small changes and buy fair trade coffee and sponsor a kid and think I’m doing something good in the world but all the while I’m smothered by the abundance we’re all neck deep in around here. I don’t know how to live in this world but not be of it.

I don’t know but I’m willing to learn and I’m going to continue asking for brokenness until I abandon the idea that I can balance the American dream with the commands of Christ, because I suspect that there really is no balance. There are only personalized ketchup bottles and luxury cars and children in Africa being suffocated by their own tumors for lack of medical care. There are only cheeseburgers and sale racks and girl babies buried alive because they should have been born as males. There are only plastic bottles filled with designer water that I can swig and gulp from all I want but not without the image of the thousands dying every day without clean water access, of the bottles that linger in the earth longer than the bones of the babies who died without it.

And I pray the prayer I’ve been afraid to pray all along. The prayer that I would mean it. The prayer that trades work for water bottles and just enough for far too much.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

It Starts to Feel Like Something Big

I measure the grounds, three heaping scoopfuls because I drink my coffee like gasoline, and I get the mug ready. It looks more like a soup bowl than a coffee cup but there is much to be done today, pages-long lists of writing deadlines, emails to send, assignments to complete, calls to make.

It starts to feel like something big, some days.

Writing a book or two, going to college, giving speeches and having a blog and writing deadlines and things filling up a calendar. It’s a dream come true, after all.

I ponder the bigness of it a minute, feeling all of my 33 years for a change, like my words are taken seriously, like my foolish prose might amount to something that buds from my heart someday, something worth these eye-strained hours but just the sheer love of it.

So I pour it dark and sweet and breathe it in, and think much of me with my bowl full of coffee and my little words today. I am glad I have persisted with my tiny big thoughts, glad I have kept click-clacking the keys with contemplation and questions, challenges to those with bigger brains and bigger titles than me.

I think, today, I will have my coffee hot and strong and I will nibble the end of my glasses while I think. I will drink from my bowl over an email to my publisher and feel right distinguished with myself, for a moment.

But the thought is fleeting. 

Five plump fingers rest upon the flesh of my back thigh, just beneath the pink ruffled robe he likes to be wrapped up inside. I did not hear him coming.

“Mommy,” he cracks in his sleep-stuck voice, pulling at the robe ruffles. “I don’t want breakfast yet.”

(I hadn’t offered.)

“Mommy, I just want to snuggle.”

He rubs his eyes and drags his gray blanket across the floor, across dinner crumbs and the shabby teal rug that was new only weeks ago but already looks destined for the garbage. Twelve trampling feet will do that to a carpet. 

They will do it to a mother too, from time to time.

And even though I feel it now, the strain of this body premature for my years, it stings and groans for the hours I have not sat, the years I have not rested.

Bowl-mug in hand, we head to the couch and his head finds my belly, pushing gently into the body gone soft under the laps of three babies, tempered by the gnawing worry over all those not-born babies too, the one whose face I never got to see or kiss and all the ones who wore size 11 Nikes and called me mom just for a season. I am trampled shaggy and soft, body and heart, by those pink baby feet and those smelly boy feet, and those patent-leather-heeled feet. I have gone shaggier than the teal rug in my kitchen. 

It starts to feel like something big, some days.

Like all the mothering and loving and gnawing with worry amounts to more than all the words I could collect in a lifetime.

No title is bigger than mother, I think. None which I am after, anyhow.

So I settle into stale sleep breath and blonde bedhead and savor coffee and feel rightly distinguished, here, in this. 

Not for words, not for notice, not for anything but the elevated place of being the carpet below these precious toes, of a down-pillow belly holding up this sweaty head with its drooping blonde Mohawk.

I ponder the bigness of it, and smile.

It starts to feel like something big, some days.


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