Lent — day thirty-three

Being a human,
I get hungry.
Rarely can I put my finger
on what I truly want,
so I sift everything
through, until I cannot eat
anymore. Then, I wallow
and hold my stomach
and ache for whatever
I truly wanted.
Being a human,
I get tired.
So tired my ears buzz
and my eyes cross
and my hands and lips move,
but they move as a mechanism,
an echo.
This is a confession,
that I can barely stand
on my own.
Further – to fall into Strength
that promises, longs, to
uphold all I cannot,
is a struggle.
Grace is a gift:
a cool breeze,
new, bright, downy life
on trees and in the ground,
a torrent when we need it.
I don’t know that grace
is always gentle.
I think sometimes it’s a wind storm,
charging with all it is to sweep
my stubborn, weary feet up,
and down at last into
the resting place, where I know
it’s okay to be a human.
and to feed every ache
with everything in sight.
It’s okay.
And yet, there is ever more.
With every breath, a new creature
is taking deeper form. Every step
is learning to walk again.

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Petrified.

I am petrified to write.  I am petrified that I will sit down, my fingers will move, and the same words I’ve spoken a thousand times will roll forth again.  I’m petrified that I have nothing of worth to say.  I’m petrified that I have nothing at all to say.
A friend of mine was over the other day – she said she was embracing time with God as it came.  That she was taking the quiet moments in her day and giving them to him, consecrating them for communion.
That petrifies me too.
Because I ache for a life that moves in rhythms of abiding grace.  And abiding comes in the quiet moments of the day.  It comes when sacred bleeds into every breath and every green and brown encountered is holy.  And yet, I am petrified to spend time with God.  I’m petrified that I won’t have anything to say.  That the words I do say will be weightless and empty. I am petrified that he will not have anything to say to me.  That I’m done. That he’s not actually teaching me anything at all – and what, then, will I answer when people ask what I’ve been learning.  Heaven forbid I shouldn’t have an answer.
Fear is a lie allowed to enter when love is not the voice you hear in the stillness.
Love, please do not give up on me. Please do not heed my screaming  – over my own fingers jammed tightly and trembling in my tired ears – screaming that I cannot hear you. Forgive my trembling fingers, forgive my weary eyes. Forgive that I blamed you for my sick heart.  Heart, forgive me for running from the arms you cried for day and night. Forgive me for the lies I let seep in and choke you. Love, please do not give up on me.
I will be still. I will be still and know you. I will be still and let you know me.

 

 

 

Choose.

Remember my grand Lenten plans? Remember how I was going to strip myself of everything I thought I needed and thus position myself to be filled only by God? Remember that? Remember also how I didn’t really do any of it? Because that happened too.

I think I managed to be faithful to my word for a week or so. And one day I stopped. And that day I decided I had taken on too much and I should re-evaluate and start again. I never re-evaluated, though, and I never started again.

God doesn’t think less of me because of it, he’s not disappointed because he can never be disappointed in me. He’s not shaking his head and sighing. I know this. I know it with my head and my voice.

Though, ever since I stopped and didn’t start again, I have not known it. Every time someone likes or reads that post that spelled out my desires for Lent, it acts a reminder that I didn’t do what I said I was going to. I didn’t do any of it. Questions rise and plague: Is this okay? Am I doing something wrong? Am I missing things in my relationship with God? Am I missing places where I am being apathetic? Am I just doing the minimum because I know I can get away with it? Is there a minimum?

They overwhelm. So, I stop thinking altogether. I avoid coffee and sugar and spending money, because they bring the same questions, and I stop thinking. I shut down my brain as best I can and the questions translate to a feeling on angst in my gut. My stomach has been in knots for weeks – and I couldn’t get it to stop.

I’ve been here before – I remember it. I remember asking those same questions and not knowing any answers and seeking refuge in God as much as I knew how.

And I remember what he said – you won’t miss anything. my love for you won’t allow me to stay silent when you’re hurting yourself or others – when you’re not choosing life. 

That was my fear, though – is God speaking and I’m ignoring it? Is that why I’m anxious – because I’m resisting God’s call?

Be still. Just for a second, be still, and listen to me.

I did. I fidgeted a bit, but I listened. And God said, “it’s okay.” He is working in me. He is undoing and recreating, and it rarely looks the same as last time.

Stop worrying about what you didn’t do and move now. Choose now.

This commandment that I’m commanding you today isn’t too much for you, it’s not out of your reach. It’s not on a high mountain – you don’t have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it’s not across the ocean – you don’t have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now – as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it! Look at what I’ve done for you today: I’ve placed in front of you Life and Good, Death and Evil. And I command you today: Love God, your God. Walk in his ways. Keep his commandments, regulations, and rules so that you will live, really live, live exuberantly, blessed by God, your God, in the land you are about to enter and possess… and love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. Oh yes, he is life itself” — Deuteronomy 30:11-16& 20 (the message)

Firmly embracing him, who is life itself.

Lent. Eden. Soil.

“Simplicity takes us back home, to the Garden of Eden. There, in our Eden-like life, everything is quiet, simple, and even. There is a little bit of pleasure, but not too much. There is a little bit of pain, but – again – not too much. We aren’t consumed by the need to have more, and we are able to be thankful for whatever comes our way, even if it’s hard. This quietness in our soul, this freedom from the loudness of fear and the boisterous noise of always watching out for ourselves, gives us a calm contentedness. … Live here. Live in Eden.” – – Winn Collier, Let God: the transforming wisdom of Francois Fenelon

That sounds like the life we were created for, don’t you think? My soul, tired as it is today, rises up in me and shouts that this is the life it was designed to have. I long for it.

And Christ tells me I can have it. Here and now. Not just when he returns to make everything new and right again. He says I’m seated now, in the heavenly realms with him (Ephesians 2:6), so seeking Eden is not in vain. Chasing this hope is not a fool’s race. I am designed for it. right now.

This is what I long for Christ to make manifest in me through Lent, this Eden-life. I am aware, however, that death comes before life. Lent is a season marked with ashes.

And I’ll embrace the ash, with my face set like flint.

“Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness on you.” — (Hosea 10:12 – emphasis added)

It’s hard work, preparing hard, dry dirt for a seed. I’ve tried before – breaking up the hard, dead places with a shovel until sweat poured and my back ached. And the thing died after a week. It’s such a hopeful thing, though, to consider my heart this way. It’s such a hopeful thing to anticipate – after the pain and hard work of preparing the soil – sweet rain. Rain of pure goodness and delight, to sink deep down and make fruitful the hard work of preparation.

I made a list, on Wednesday, of all of the clutter I would remove, so that simplicity could enter. A list of all the hard work I would choose, to force the plow forward. A list to make way for Eden. 

And it will be hard. I know it will. But, I’m trusting it will also be sweet.

I’m sharing it with you so that I can have some sense of accountability, and so that you can pray for me and journey with me. I plan to expound on each piece more as time goes on, but for now, a list is all you get.

Removed:

  • No media outside of what’s absolutely necessary: including, but not limited to Facebook, Spotify, texting, internet, movie and television watching (outside of family time)
  • No spending outside of bills
  • No food that is not whole
  • No food outside of meals (essentially no snacks or desserts)
  • Only one cup of coffee or tea a day

Added:

  • Writing everyday. (prepare yourselves)
  • Exercise three times a week
  • Keep to the daily office (thank you Bloom)

The end. I’m eager to see where this leads, and I’m eager to share the road with you.

Tell me about your Lenten journeys – the hopes you have, the plans you have. I want to hear about them! I want to journey with you! I want to pray with you and for you! (comment, e-mail, etc.)

… home. to the Garden of Eden.

Like Flint

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” — Luke 9:51 ESV

“Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.” — Isaiah 50:7 NIV

Before his ministry began,  Jesus entered the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. He left the wilderness leaning into the Father in deep communion. He left the wilderness with the full knowledge of the end – and the pain to be known before it is over.

Here, Satan came and offered an escape:

“Provide for yourself. Bow to me. Prove yourself to me. And if you do, no one will question who you are. I’ll give you your people without a fight. You don’t have to suffer. You don’t have to die.”  — (story from luke 4)

Jesus doesn’t flinch. He turns, instead, and sets his face like flint toward Jerusalem.

He goes out. He teaches to the masses. He unravels the twisted truth his people have believed and rebuilds it as it truly is. He astonishes wise men with his words. He challenges the religious leaders and leaves them speechless. He restores sight to the blind. He raises the dead. He forgives sins. He sees, really sees, the people religious scholars have written off. He lives and breathes the goodness of God.

And the pharisees can’t stand it.

Jesus gets under their skin.
So, they plot his death.
And their plot succeeds.
And Jesus suffers great pain.
And Jesus knows, what no other man has ever known – separation from his Beloved, the Creator of all things, the Giver of Life, the being intertwined with His creation.
And Jesus stops breathing.
And Jesus’ heart stops beating.
And Jesus is bled dry.
And Jesus dies.

And we remember, suddenly, when he “set his face toward Jerusalem” – toward this.

We remember, and the Spirit in us uncovers the inner workings of the plot – Jesus knew. With every word that he said, with every miracle he performed, with every life-giving, God-revealing step he took, he knew that it was leading to his death. He knew it was enraging the enemy. He knew the anger it was creating in the pharisees, he knew that anger would result in his death. He knew. Still, his face was set like flint. He. would. not. be. stopped. He chose to speak anyway. He chose to love anyway. He chose to walk steadfastly to excruciating pain. He chose to walk steadfastly to death.

Because he knew after death came life to the fullest. For us.

The beauty is striking.

It is the ultimate love story. The kind of story we see in the books and movies we come back to time and again. Jesus is the hero that risks everything for his bride.  He’s the hero that sees the bitter end long before it happens and could choose to avoid it, but instead takes deliberate steps toward it, to save his lover.

And now, now that he had readied the path to life – he calls us, his bride, to follow him. He calls us to walk the road with faces set, like flint, to Jerusalem – to die. So that life can come.

I’m answering.

I’m running – with abandon – to the path marked “suffering” – I’m setting my face, like flint to follow it to its end. I. will. not. be. stopped. It’s the path my Beloved walked, it’s where his feet have touched the earth, and what I wouldn’t give to walk where he does – my gaze on him, his hand in mine. I have his promise of life – a garden of richest beauty and life, forever. And forever begins now.