Lent — days thirteen and fourteen

Day thirteen:

Shook, shaken,
poured, mistaken,
running, but a thread
got caught, I’m all but
unraveled here.
had I known that each step
I took would be my undoing,
would I still have come to you?

Day fourteen:

Welcome, fellow soul,
to here and sun and eyes.
Welcome to this broken land.
Welcome to this garden.
Once we walked in the cool
of the day, with no fear
that love was untrue.
I’m sorry for the broken ways,
we’ve already told that to you.

Here is where we are now,
still, we’re in a garden.
Though the questions
and wrestlings, and ache
are worse than they were
meant to be, though ground is
laced with splinters and shards
of what were once home-found trees,
you, dear soul, are light and life
just in getting born here.
And the longer you brave
the well-splintered night,
the more souls you will warm here.

So, welcome to this garden.
Welcome Brave and True.
You arrived just on the brink of
spring in its glorious, defiant way –
its rhapsody and poetry,
in daffodils and wild streams,
with quiet creeping into things,
and boisterous sparrows unafraid to sing –
it has come to tell the night away
it has come to tell you what always remains.

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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.

The season of singing birds has come

There is a bird singing outside – singing as if it cannot stop.

“Look, the winter is past,and the rains are over and gone,
the flowers are springing up,
the season of singing birds has come!
Their songs fill the air,
and the fragrant grapevines are blossoming.
Rise up, my darling!
Come away with me, my fair one!” — song of solomon 2:11-13

Spring.

It’s not quite here. In fact, the forecast calls for 6-8 inches of snow tomorrow. But, I’ll take the singing birds today. I’ll take the hope they give. There is something about bird songs that make my heart remember resurrection. There is something about bird songs that awaken those tired, run-down parts of me and reminds them that they were made to be alive.

There is promise in a bird song. There is a cry of made new!

My soul swells when I think of all things being made new.

 with every breath you take, I am restoring

New life, real life, being manifested in me and everything around me with every breath I take.

“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as he raised Christ from the dead, he will give life to your mortal body by this same Spirit living within you.”— Romans 8:11

The very same power that won over death is living in me – recreating me with every breath.

“Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth.See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.— Jeremiah 1:9-10

I am being made new – and in living into the newness Christ brings, I am bringing the Kingdom (that same recreation) to every person I encounter.

Tearing down lies. Destroying bondage. Overthrowing death – undoing death.
Building Kingdom walls. Planting Eden’s seeds.
Because Jesus lives in me. We move as one.

Bird songs promise spring.

Spring, that call to create. Spring, that call to live out the restoring work of the kingdom. Spring, that life. Spring, those fountains of life again finding their source. Spring, creation’s play of Kingdom come.  Spring that fosters life, fosters life.

Spring lives in me – finds home in me. Spring finds home in you. Spring finds home in everyone.

Redemption, restoration, the undoing of death, the re-writing of life, the hope of glory – lives in you, works in you. You carry it wherever you, to every broken place, to every healing place, to every good place, every hard place, every unknown place – it overcomes, every time.

And that is worth a song.

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.

Kentucky Road and When

Banklick is a quaint, unassuming road I encounter every Friday on my way to the grocery store. It has a creek for a companion, blue-brown and glittering – it winds as quietly as the road. Gravel driveways, dirt roads, and rickety fences framing butter-cup fields, meet Banklick. They saunter comfortably to a twist, nook, or turn and greet the road as an old friend – because they are old friends.

Houses rest on hillsides – simple, homey things. These are the houses whose front porches serve the deepest purpose of community and gathering. These are the houses whose inhabitants are part of them. These are the houses that wake before the sun because there is day to be savored, devoured. These are the houses with creaking floors, uneven ceilings, distinct smelling attics. The houses that belong tucked in a hillside. The houses that are created to be full of life – be it joyous or bitter. Story-houses.

And hugging the road itself are trees. They are very alive trees, drinking daily from the lively creek into which their roots hang lazily. Trees eager to share with the world their beauty, their shade. They stand up taller as we drive past, “look at me and my splendor,” they beam with gentle pride. I smile to give to them well-deserved praise, slighting them not for their vanity for it is well-placed – they truly are glorious things. Fresh with their new swaths of green, radiant in youth and sage. Some in purple vestige – fairie-like and regal.

This is a Kentucky road – the place my heart goes when I call this state my home.

We glide in our cherry-cobbler-red bullet. Around one curve a plowed field lays naked, vulnerable, ready. My toes curl in my shoes, longing to feel that earth, longing to run wild, careless, through it. Soaking in its moist blood-warm offering. Remaining there until I am empty and full – earth in my fingers, on my face, in my hair, the dirt more alive for my being there. Both of us more hopeful for my being there, brimming with anticipation of new life, growth, new things. Leaving it with my scent on its breath – purpose now coursing through its moist, blood-warm offering.

I catch my face in the rear-view mirror. When did I get here? When did I become who I am now? When did my face become so narrow? When did I start speaking deeper? When did my writing, speaking, singing, living, become more than well-chosen words that gloss over the deep, terribly beautiful truth of who I am and what the world is and to whom I belong? When did I begin to live as who I am, really who I am – Beloved? When did it take deep root in my soul, alter my eyes, my ears, my thinking, my speaking? When did my breathing change to the breathing of one who is the object of God’s passionate longing, scandalous love, deep, deep intimacy? When did I taste the delight of the Creator and become ruined for anything less? When did I walk out of those cages? When did my eyes open wide to the chains I’ve placed on myself – to the freedom so close I can feel it? When did my heart know I am absolutely, completely, to the depths of me, always, intimately accepted by God? What morning was it that woke me up different? Was it morning? Is there truly any point I can gesture toward and say, “that’s it! that’s the moment I woke up!”?

A train track weighs down gravel adjacent to the creek – a steady contrast to the merry water. It courses just the same, is determined just the same, and yet, it holds importance and an unmovability. The creek is a joyous, carefree running – the train track a reliable, unchanging march. I’m swept away, now, to far off places – the march of the train setting my heartbeat. Adventure coursing where blood used to be – it is now my life-source. Forward, endless, on. The wail of the whistle resonates as the cry of an orphan. She is waiting to be heard, fed, cared for, loved, known – like all of us. My heart runs there, carried by its train-march-beat, and I stay, I hear, I feed, I care, I love, I know. People are persons to be loved and known. Period. She cries, my heart echoes. He calls, my heart breaks. We are created to be loved and known. Period. I soak in that offering, remain until I am empty and full. I come back panting, deliciously starved for air. When did I get here?