{Site currently under construction. Grace for my mess?}

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Soul Bare -- Call for Submissions

By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn't see, and acted on what he was told.
                                                                                                -Hebrews 11:7 (MSG) 

I'm no Noah.

And if God told me to build an ark of cyprus wood in the middle of dry land, I'd call a mental health specialist but not a lumber yard. I am ye of little faith.

I'm no Noah.

God knows I build with words and not with nails. Build bridges, build a home, build friendship, build understanding, build ships in the desert with the alphabet because it's all I ever knew about saving people.

And this? Soul Bare… Right here, in this season, this book is my ark. My ship built of words instead of wood, with stories instead of nails, and covered inside and out with a thick coat of love instead of pitch. It's no ark, but it's what He asked me to build, a tiny little offering in the face of the floodwaters all around.

It's all I ever knew about saving people. It's how I've always saved myself, how I've turned my eyes back to the only one who really saves. Hammering out the words to float your stories safe, and I ask… would you like to join me? Lend your tender heart, your only-yours story among the rest of us typing mad because it's how we know about saving, because it's what we do to point to Him?

There's one month left to submit an essay-length piece (1000-2000 words) for publication if you're interested in contributing to this project of building up faith from the root of our hearts, digging out authenticity and redemption from the heaviness, mining for joy in the unlikeliest of places.

It is a vulnerable and difficult practice to open ourselves wide, to share the gritty and painful parts of our story, or to explore against-the-grain ideas. Standing emotionally naked before God and others can be an intimidating but richly prolific experience. It is a progression of salvaging our own broken pieces, telling our story, and gaining a deeper understanding of one another and of God’s beautiful purpose for us as we seek to develop who we have been into who we are becoming.

The very Word of God is a collection of soul-bare stories, of broken people salvaged and sanctified, lives poured open for a holy purpose. By its words and the beat of our own hearts we live out and share a beautiful picture of grace and ransom, of unique (but shared) humanity.
We are looking for real, honest stories of your journey through self-expression in your process of becoming authentic. Why and how do you bare your soul and for what holy purpose? 

Get more information here, if you're so inclined. And in the meantime, your prayers for this book and its writers are both grace and blessing, as is your support and spreading the word about the book however you'd like.  

*Title, subtitle, and cover design are likely to change. We're working with a bit of a fluid concept here that will be further defined once submissions are chosen. If you have a piece that feels like a good fit for this project but the categories or title/subtitle are having you second-guess whether it works, please send it anyway. Blog posts are allowed but must be removed from all sources prior to publication.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tiptoes in the Water

I'm slow in returning to the world of public words… here, just beginning to poke my head in through the quiet and back to this virtual world of voices and beauty and community after a short-but-longer-than-planned hibernation from the same.   

There are a few reasons for my extended absence and they go like this:

-          My Internet has been down on and off for days (my apologies to the Imperfect Prose community most of all for my absence this week.) My phone data access from my house is spotty at best.
-          My fibromyalgia has flared up something awful and I've been particularly weak/tired/in pain the last two weeks.
-          I carved out time to write a dozen or so blog posts ahead of time only to find the next day that my computer had mysteriously dumped and disposed of them all completely…several thousand words just plain gone. I haven't had the energy to start over again, yet.
-          I've been up to my eyeballs putting out fires like dealing with a water heater outage for three days and catching up on overdue things like cleaning the carpets and folding laundry.
-          I found out I won't be able to go to Allume Social conference this year, which bums me out tremendously. It's for a good purpose (our adoption moving forward) but it's a tough thing to give up. 

Mostly though, I've lingered in the quiet space to give my brain and fingers and soul a rest and it's been good. The infamous fibro brain-fog meant not spending quite so much time in deep reflection as I had planned, but sometimes just walking through the daily things is healing and restful on a different level, and it was.

My tiptoes are back in the water, now, and my fingers teasing the keyboard again. Hope it's been a great September for you so far. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

When It's Time to Untangle

My heart took a big tumble this week. It bounced around and hit a few sharp corners. It is bruised and bleeding today still, pulse-tender like blistered flesh burned on an electric stove. It is still on crutches today, slathering itself in ointment and retreating to quiet spaces.

And I have a lot of thoughts to work out about what's behind all the brokenness and what God has to do with any of it and what it means for my understanding of The Church at large and my voice and my place in things. I don't know quite how much of the pain is a result of my clumsy tendency to stand up for unpopular injustice with a fierce spirit and too many words, and how much is an answer to that prayer I pray in the dark… the scary, exciting, beautiful, awful one. The one that goes, "Break my heart for what breaks yours."

But it's all tied together like a knotted necklace chain and I'll have to untangle it later, after the ointment works its magic, after the wincing has stopped.

Because I'm still slipping between raging indignation and quiet tears. I'm still racing from corner to corner of my mixed-up mind, from the icy shadows to the warmth of the sun.

Somewhere in the midst of this, truth and love and healing will bring me back. They're already beginning to.

But what's saving my life this week are the soft places, like the crook of my husband's arm…the first place I want to bury myself when the hurt stings sharp and the brokenness weighs heavy and he listens, quietly, and hears. Ryan is my safest place, the corner I retreat to when nothing is sure in the world… when my thoughts about God and friendship and mothering and church and work and life bury me in fear and doubt. And then he sits with me, quiet, and I don't need to speak and he doesn't either, and it's love all the same. Ryan is all I know about love on some days, because the way he does it is really something worth taking notes on. He understands the value of presence and his short words linger long when I'm tempted to ask "Why?" What's saving my life today is gratitude for the man in my bed who taught me all I'll ever know about staying.

What's saving my life today are the tiny miracles… picking up the right book at the right time, communities so full of grace and love that I can't escape from Jesus love even when I try to retreat. What's saving me now is that slowly, hour by hour, I'm reminded that there are others standing up for the kind of love I believe in, people who aren't afraid to listen, to speak up for the marginalized and the wounded, people whose stories and lifestyles make a lot of people squirm. Fear brings out the ugly in some people, but intolerance brings out the ugly in me. I'm working on it.

What's saving me now are people like Tammy and Lindsey and Annie and Emily, praying and loving and sending me emails like grace with skin on all through my day. What's saving me, as always, is wild, extravagant grace, and a Nazarene whose love is making nothing in my world comfortable anymore and I suspect it's exactly the way it's supposed to be.

When the heart breaks open because you prayed for it to happen, because you know deep and raw that there's more than the moldable deity you see in modern American culture, it will mess you up. I'm not all that sure I even know what to make of it yet, or what it's going to mean for me, but I know this. It's time to step into quiet for a few days (a week?), to tiptoe away from social media and politics, from hot button issues and phone calls, to quiet my fired-up soul, listen to the breeze that wraps around in an embrace, and learn love from my kids again, the ones who I overhear in their bedroom in tiny voices saying, "You are beautiful," and "I love you," and "Jesus gave us to each other", because this is the love that washes over and saves us all, the love that is worth stopping and smelling and tasting and grasping with all our grip on the tender, unsure days.

So, friends, thank you for grace as I slip quietly away from this space for a few days to read and bake and pray and paint and swing and slide and laugh and sing and be still.

I promise I'm okay… really, truly. Quite full of joy and peace today after the fog of hurt is lifting and just being mindful that this is a place I need to linger for a beat, a pause to usher in Fall and learn a few things about the nature of love and experiencing God. A sorta-kinda spiritual retreat, if you will, a chance to untangle. 

Love, love, love. 

Be back soon. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When You Fight to Illuminate Hope - Imperfect Prose on Thursdays

I am tired and too delicate for this world. 

It all seems to fly at me at once today, an assault of worldly concerns and it feels like just too much and I whisper for Jesus to come and come soon and all the while I feel like a hopeless lunatic just waving my arms as the merry-go-round spins. 

Let me get off. I want the ride to be over.


Continued here over at Emily's place for Imperfect Prose. Join us? 

Monday, September 10, 2012

On Gays and God-Haters and Me - A Facebook Conversation, continued

{This post is actually a continuation of a personal Facebook thread in which I posted a link to this blog post. The responses I received were from varied perspectives and highly charged on all sides. This issue is important to me, so I appreciate your time in considering it prayerfully.}

I do not write this lightly, as I wept over the responses this Facebook post got. Actually fell to my knees in the middle of Barnes and Noble, phone in hand, and cried hot tears. I'll tell you why in a second. First, I need to clarify a couple of things, so as not to be misunderstood. I shared this link as exactly what it was – a powerful story about a family's experience with conversion therapy (a method of "curing" gayness that a lot of churches support). I disgree with this method since at its core is the teaching that homosexuality is caused by something lacking in the father-son relationship (something that research shows to be false and damaging, and in my opinion, is just plain hurtful). I strongly disagree with a church supporting/teaching conversion therapy. I made no indication, statement, judgment, or position on whether homosexuality was right or wrong. None. Nor did I represent anything anyone else said as a Christian perspective. However, I am Christian, and that was my perspective about conversion therapy, on a public forum in which we are free to share thoughts and opinions, Scripture verses, prayer requests, barbeque invitations, or whatever we fancy. It's the same hard-earned freedom which allows us to worship Jesus openly that also allows this man and others to share their words and hurts.

I shared one man's perspective and experience, a man whose perspective is no less important than yours or mine. I do not believe to do so calls into question my Christianity, rather I believe that to show active love, to learn how to love like Jesus, means to listen to and acknowledge the experiences of those who are feeling like outcasts, those who have been told they aren't welcome in church. Being listened to is a way to be loved, practically speaking, and I'd wager a guess that if more of the homosexual community felt like the church was willing to listen and support rather than condemn, we'd see many more gay individuals coming to Christ.

Since it was suggested that I may not be familiar with what Scripture has to say about homosexuality, please be assured that I do. I know well what both the Old Testament and the New Testament say, as well as Christ's silence on the particular topic. I do believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, as I also believe that to study it is to also study the historical background of it, the original languages it was written in, the meaning of the traditions and such, and to not take it out of context. The Scriptures condemning homosexuality also condemn wearing mixed fibers and eating certain fish, but I don't know any Evangelical churches ostracizing polyester pantsuits. I'm very grateful personally that Jesus taught about the dangers of living under religious law instead of freedom, which helps me understand that keeping the Levitical laws holds no weight in regard to my salvation and access to unconditional love, grace, and forgiveness.

I know all the relevant Scripture and have studied the Greek and Hebrew in modern translations and ancient ones, with historical implications, and have studied a smattering of theology on the issue, from various viewpoints, in order to help my gay friends get to the bottom of the topic. I am more acquainted with the Bible's standpoint on homosexuality than most Christians you know… I promise, and to be fair, arguments can be made for several positions on the issue, all of which I understand. I won't debate theology with anyone here, mostly because this is the Internet and not seminary, but also because I doubt it will matter. We may have different ideas about this position. It does not mean we don't both love Jesus.  

But again, I did not take a stance in the above post on whether homosexuality was okay or sinful or anything else. I never will. I am not God and until I reach the day where my own eyes are plankless, I won't attempt to let my moral standards have authority over someone else's life. Scripture warns me of the consequences of doing so. It is only the Holy Spirit that can convict us of our failures, and I am so glad that I was shown agape love by Christian friends that caused me to first want to know and understand God's love as an outsider, and only after that could I care anything about His law. I have read the Bible cover to cover, in several translations, and studied it in depth. What I have found every. single. time. in every. single. translation is the same, and it is this:

I have been given a greater responsibility, along with all Christians, to show love than anybody else. I follow a man (God), who taught that love was the most important thing and that without it, we are nothing but "clanging cymbals". Sadly, a lot of my friends will never set foot in a church or whisper a prayer because they can't hear love over the clanging, because God has only ever been portrayed to them as hateful. Those of us who intimately know Christ know that in Him is freedom and grace. I want my gay friends to know my Jesus. I care more about their soul than their sex life, and I believe strongly that He does too. I believe that Jesus, friend of sinners, would build a bridge of love before attempting to deal with lifestyle. Jesus saw to the heart of a person and it is my prayer that I can do so, too.

A popular Christian catch phrase on the gay topic is "hate the sin but love the sinner." What I want to know…what many of my gay friends want to know…is what that means for you on a practical level. HOW is the church, how are you and I, as the body loving the sinner? What are we doing to make Christ attractive to our gay brothers and sisters? Are we hearing them? Are we listening? Are we wrapping arms around them, showing them the grace we've been given? Do we care about anything more than their sex life? I hope my answer will be yes. I believe to love like Christ means to open the dialogue, to not generalize gays or claim to know everything about them because of one aspect of their lives. I am a sinner saved by grace and I believe that is available for all people who choose it.

Here's what sent me to my knees in tears in the middle of the bookstore on a Monday afternoon. I have many gay friends, some of whom are seeking truth actively. What they will see on my Facebook wall, between the lines of all of this, is not that they are loved and welcomed, not that there is room for them in the Christian community. They will see that they are compared to murderers, drunks, and liars by the world's greatest lovers, and that several sides of the issue will bear their teeth over a stranger's personal life. They will see that people who don't know them at all are willing to speak out about their sex life, but not about any other aspect of their beings. They will be reminded that there are many churches they aren't welcomed in, that they can find hateful statements galore by people whose greatest assignment is to love.

To the Christian friends/family who spoke out, I know the position of many of you is that tough love is still love and it seems that you believe to acknowledge or discuss homosexuality in any open way is to water down Scripture or ignore the law of God. I understand the perspective and acknowledge it, but I simply can't bring myself to see it this way. I have learned far more about the love of Christ, about how to walk in love, by listening and exploring and acknowledging people who are different from me than I ever have by starting the conversation with a statement about their sin. Respectfully, I don't think it's how Jesus did it or would do it now, and though I fail at it every day in many ways, I am growing in my understanding of His love and making every effort to walk in it through the grace I've been given. I will continue to share the perspectives of people I believe need to be understood and I freely invite you not to read it if it offends your values. In the same breath, I also invite you to (respectfully) disagree with me. I want all my public spaces to be open doors for all people. It doesn't mean we will agree, but I promise to always consider your perspective prayerfully. I make the same promise to anyone who finds their way here. There are ways in which we will adamantly disagree and I don't think our faith has to come into question because we might approach it from a different perspective. To the contrary, you teach me more about Jesus, you draw me to the Word and to my knees for wisdom when we disagree. I appreciate given the freedom to speak my truth and therefore honor everyone else's right to do the same.  

It comes down to this for me. It breaks my heart that most of my gay friends think Christians are hateful, condemning, religious, and spiteful, when Jesus adamantly, passionately taught against all those things. It is not only "God haters" who are giving Christianity a bad name. Plenty of people, in Christ's name, are willing to loudly condemn and assign that designation to the rest of us without our permission. I am the body, too, so I am doing what I can to help bridge the gap between the church and the homosexual community, in the interest of love. I do not have to make a judgment call on someone's choices in order to love them. Listening to a gay person's story, understanding their heart, acknowledging their hurt is not watering down God's love (or His law) in any way. If I am willing to listen to them, show them grace and understanding, there is hope that they will care about what my heart holds too and prayerfully, that they'll eventually know the source of it intimately, that they'll receive the love and grace and freedom I'm blessed to know. I hope that makes things a bit clearer, and I invite my gay friends, my Christian friends, and anyone else that wants to respectfully add to the conversation to do so. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Heartbreak, High School Style

"He has a girlfriend now and I really think he is changing his mind about wanting this adoption to happen."

She says it frantic through static on the line, and this is what I feared, too, but couldn't—wouldn't—admit to, not with the foster babies getting ready to move out, not with having to keep my heart intact while I watch them shuffle headlong into a painful future and can do nothing to stop it. He wouldn't bring us this far in the adoption of this boy we already love—a whole year gone by—if it could unravel this easily, would He?

Would He?

The woman on the line wants me to move quickly, take action… do something, anything, to keep this from going the way it could go. 

But I can't give her anything to go on. I can't stop the world from unraveling. I can't be his mother if he won't let me, even if mere weeks ago it was all he wanted in the world.

I am held captive by the ever-important and always fluid social life of the American teenager.

The rumors come by telephone now like they did when I was 15 and I'm back in my high school bedroom somehow with Rolling Stone magazine covers and vodka advertisements littering the walls, holding my breath and willing the pieces of my fragile heart to stay put until I know the truth for sure. I am holding back breath and holding back tears and wondering how love can melt away so easy.

I'm afraid I'm being dumped by a 15-year-old boy.

Traded in for another girl because having a girlfriend is safer for injured boy hearts than having a mother. 

Mothers drink. And mothers die.

And just like the first time, when I was all ribs and elbows, I start to dial his number and pause over the last digit, unable to complete the call. What would I say? How do I ask this burning question? And if the answer is what I fear… what then? What happens next?

Who else will fight for you like I will? Who else will love you every step of the way?

A lot of adoptions don't work out and I scold myself for being so hopeful, for already being his mother.

A lot of mama heartbeats echo beneath ribcages for what should have been, and I know there were never any guarantees in this. But I am reduced, nonetheless, for the fear of what we'll never give him. I am wounded by the fear of being replaced by something temporary and where that will leave him, and I am all ribs and elbows again, all captive-aching heart and whispers to my pillow of no, this can't be happening. But this time, the pillow is his. His pillow, on his bed, in his bedroom, in what was supposed to be his house.  

I have no magazine covers on the walls these days, no room to call my own. No boyfriend troubles or stepfathers or algebra homework or raucous youth retreats to heal tender wounds with laughter. Just a house full of babies from all sorts of bodies and a mama's heart left behind.

No matter what happens, child...
                 I will love you every step of the way. 

Linking up to Imperfect Prose, back from its summer hiatus. Join us here as we revel in grace and community?

* Update: Made that call and asked the hard question. And he admitted to having second thoughts, of how hard it is to imagine a life other than his past, but...gently...that he believes his future is still here and I am grateful and relieved and a little more grown-up in my own heart again. We will proceed with the adoption plans still and pray for a heart guarding and lots of approval stamps before the wind changes. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Abide. Proclaim. Bestow.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, says Isaiah*, and later Christ in the Gospels*.

The words unravel and re-weave this anointing of my flesh, the very calling of my spirit. I know deep and hard this work and this purpose.

I write to proclaim release to the captives.

I write, as Christ lives, to provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty* by pointing to freedom, proclaiming release.

It is my longing to tell you, with all of my breath every day and forever, to take heart dear friend and receive the crown of beauty. Throw open your arms and soar a while in your own sweet release, because I have known it, because it is magnificent.

But I forget, daily, to breathe in and receive. I forget to slow the thundering hooves and linger in my freedom long enough to proclaim it. I wash laundry and file papers and shepherd babies and my fingers don't find the keyboard. I make phone calls and wonder where the days go and when I will find the time to proclaim release when I'm jailing my very self with too much of the wrong kind of work and sit behind the bars of self-doubt to mold a casing around my tender heart with the liar's black clay.

I am mentally and spiritually aware that to abide is not merely to obey or to exist. This awareness, though, comes up shy of internal some days and days turn into weeks as days are wont to do.

And so I make the paper remember for the words to instruct when the brain forgets. I make the schedule to cradle a cushion to abide, a daily space for the fingers to find the keyboard: first, time to read and sit and pray and receive, then 4 hours a day of like-it-or-not writing time, beginning tomorrow. No excuses. No escape.


I am a writer before I am a housekeeper.
I am a writer before I am a chef.
I am a writer before I am an interior designer, a patio sweeper, a phone app dawdler, a grocery shopper, an iced-tea guzzler.
I am a writer before I am a Facebook junkee, a Twitter checker, a Pinterest surfer.

And? I am a mother before I am a writer. A wife, a daughter, a friend. So I puzzle the things together and remember them all as gifts. 

I must first breathe in my freedom and break through with release. First, I dance, radiant, with my flowering crown of beauty.




And Write.

Will you join me, too, in this?

Abide, dear friend. Live in creativity. Live in amazement. Live in love. And let the rest all fall away.

And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
                                                                                                -Ephesians 3:14-19

*Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 4:16-21