Monday, June 18, 2012

Approaching the Unapproachable

Mike opened his laptop next to the podium, and I noticed two extension cords winding their way in two directions. The Power Point slides revealed bible college-style notes about why we should study Revelation, whose Revelation it is anyway, the different methods of interpretation, the strengths and weaknesses of each, and the dizzying views of the rapture. This was not going to be an average sermon.

We are cracking open the book many Christians rarely read, let alone understand. Should we stay away from it because it's too difficult? Too controversial? Theologians come to many different conclusions, after all, and I'm no theologian. The Book of Revelation has monsters and symbols, and it's weird. There are lots of reasons to keep our distance.

But I'm glad to be dusting off the end of our story, finally. I'm tired of not knowing what I believe and thinking this book too lofty for me. I've been too timid to wander into controversy or boldly form my own educated opinion. I have the resident Teacher, after all. I can approach Revelation, and yes, I think I will. God is making me brave after all these years.

I'm also tired of being scared. I've been a Christian for thirty-two years, and the judgment terrifies me still. What does that say about my relationship with God? I fear the answer to that, too.

I've written before about the continuum of intimacy with God and His holiness and the tension between them that I'm never quite sure I have right.

I love God. I know I can go to Him in prayer about anything, and have I ever--for three decades now. Divorce; tragic, premature death; cancer; rearing children; and cratered, gaping faith questions. I have never been afraid to be real and open with Him about my messy struggles. Who better to answer those questions anyway? So when I wrestle with my faith, I've always done it before the Lord, for better or worse.

But that makes me fear what will happen when my deeds are tried by fire when I stand all alone before Him on that day, the Day of the Lord. It makes me cringe even now.Will He see doubt and failure and label my indignation at my not knowing everything as the pride it really is? I'm quite sure I will wet my pants. (Well, what will you do when you stand before Him?) 

And then Mike said this: "Revelation acquaints us with the glorified Christ like no other book. The gospels acquaint us with the Jesus who carried our sorrows, paid for our sin, and suffered our humanity. The Revelation shows us there is so much more to this resurrected Jesus."

I don't know that Jesus well enough. But I can and I'm ready to. And I like what that says about my faith.

What is it about your relationship with God that you're afraid to approach?

I'm linking with Michelle's Graceful Monday Community today.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Of Possibility

Yesterday's assignment (OK, it wasn't yesterday's, but I'm behind.) in the 15 Habits of Great Writers series at Jeff Goins' place was to get up two hours early and write. Initiate. Go out of your (comfortable) way to do this thing.

Well, I didn't do it.

I actually slept an extra hour yesterday, right through my 5am workout. But that's because I was just getting home from three days in the North Carolina mountains, and I was tired. I went with three other writers for the express purpose of three day's worth of intensive writing.

I went out of my (comfortable) way. I left my family in the middle of the worst case of writer's block I've ever had (so far) to write for three days. I took vacation days from work to do it.

I wrote 555 words.

Three days of quiet, mountain beauty, and writer camaraderie at meal time with no kids, laundry, telemarketers or TV. Shoot, there was no internet! And I produced only 555 words and the audacity to call myself a writer.

: : :

I'm a daughter to a dad that wasn't a big part of my life between the ages of 11 and 41. Birth to 11 and the last few years were amazing, though. And all that in between stuff -- the absence and silence and heartbreak-- was all practice. I was his daughter and he was my dad every day of the falling apart in between.


It isn't always pretty. Sometimes it's scary, unsure, and full of mistakes and apologies. It's practice, not perfection nor performance.

Practice is where we find grace:

~  grace to fail and grace to succeed.
~ grace to try and grace to quit.
~ grace to start over or just keep going until you get somewhere better.

Like beyond writer's block.

So I might only have 555 words to show for those three days, but I'll take them.

And those thirty years of yuck? They were all practice for what was to come, even before I knew they were leading to a better place. Because that's what practice does; it makes us better.

Practice can make one proud. Of a mere 555 words or to be a father's daughter.

Practice, no matter what the expectation or how it actually turns out, is a beautiful thing.

What have you been practicing lately?

Day 4: Practice
Mountain photos courtesy of Janey. Used with permission.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Audacity of Grass

We walk Winston down the mountain road. There are twin gravel trails defined by the travel of opposing tires. There are also sprigs of arrogant grass that grow between them, even though it’s supposed to be a road. A road is no place for grass, yet there it is in its audacity, and it doesn’t even look unusual—gravel roads all over the world look just like this one.

Seeds are bold that way.

They know how to do what they are made to do, and they do it well. They don’t question it, doubt it, ignore it, or yearn to be an ocean instead. They don’t wait to be green enough, full enough or fret about which season it is. They don’t study what a seed is, compare themselves to other seeds, or worry when they sprout. They just do what comes natural. They germinate, grow, and continue the plant life cycle wherever they find themselves, whenever possible. They do it in cracks in concrete, in the sliver of space between the brick pavers on the garden path, and between the tire tracks of a gravel road up a mountain under a canopy of car axels and Winston’s paws.

Seeds are bold that way.

And when you do what you were meant to do deliberately and persistently, daisies might join you just for the sheer pleasure of it.

Apparently audacity is contagious.

Day 3: Initate

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Finding the Truth

Garang found himself in a refugee camp in Kenya, crowded and desperate with people who ran away from their lives, for their lives.  He and throngs of refugees huddled in tents and under tarps, clinging wide-eyed to their meager remaining possessions and to any hope they could find. Their country, Sudan, was being overrun by their own central government when he was nine and civil war broke out.  His hometown had become the front lines, and, with that, life as he formerly knew it was never to be again. 

Fidel Castro shopped the refugee camp like a flea market hoping to find castaway treasure and re-purpose it for his own use, and 600 Sudanese boys who had fled their homes in search of refuge found themselves culled into communist indoctrination via Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Garang learned communist ideology systematically and was soon able to repeat memorized passages from Karl Marx, Joseph Stalin, and Che Guevara.

He was well on his way to a whole new belief system when his school teacher suddenly shared the gospel with him. He balked at these Christian ideas that were contrary to his communist teaching until he was unable to refute them. He wrestled, but in the end, could not deny their truth. At last his belief gave way to the truth.

At some point you have to know that what you know is true. Eventually there must be something to sink our teeth into if we are going to eat, survive, and carry on in life. Truth sustains us.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so, as a writer, I hold myself up to the scrutiny of others and look for truth in their subjective evaluation. I wait and hope that someone will tell me what to believe: that I am a writer.

When they do, it’s contrary to my prior thinking, and I wrestle until I find it undeniably true. At last, belief gives way to truth. When opinion is not enough, the truth is.

Day 2: Believe

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Cheating: Jumping in and Catching Up

So I decide nearly too late that I'm in.

Why not? I haven't had much else to say around here lately, so why not? Why not take a prescribed plan that starts with a bold declaration of who you are and declare it loud, strong, and sure with a period at the end?

I'm not feeling very declarative lately, and it's eating at me. And the longer I don't get back to opening my mouth, the more it messes with my head.

I wrote this declaration once before, inspired by Billy Coffey that time. It was even called Wanna Be.

I'm reposting it, because it's still true and I, for one, need to hear it again.

The irony is that it's the eve of a writers retreat for me. I feel like a fraud more than a writer, or even a wanna be at the moment.

But, today, I declare it. Again. Anyway. Perhaps I'll take Jeff's advice in You Are a Writer and declare it daily until it feels true. Until I believe it (which happens to be the Day 2 assignment since I'm behind), and then begin to just do it -- again. (You guessed it, Day 3 -- Initiate).

Presently the only thing I have to risk is the silence gathering here and elsewhere I write. So without further adieu, an edited repost (cheat, I know) of my declaration.

Wanna Be

My son's first email address was wannaberockstar@------. It perfectly defined him at the time. He still uses that email address, but he's no longer a wanna be, and he's not a rock star either. What he is is a talented musician with a guitar strapped to his shoulder and a high hope that it will bond to his skin and become a fifth appendage. He's a songwriter, the youngest in our church's praise band, and leader of youth worship and the teen praise team.

Unlike him, I still live at the address -- a wanna be. I wanna be a  writer. I have a generation head-start on my son, and he seems to be more accomplished than his mom. What's his secret?

Could it be that he's confident? And fearless? He looks dead in the eye of the skeptic with a defiant belief in himself and a firm grip on his dreams and  passions. He's undaunted by the fact that he's unorganized and can't seem to hold the details together before they slip past his creativity. He just lets nothing stand in his way. It verges on arrogant, but he's just winsome enough to get away with it. It's audacity (to ransom a word brilliantly taken hostage and branded by, and probably forever married to, President Obama).

And I wanna be that too - except that I'm not. Not wired that way at all. Why do we wanna be and have what is someone else's, discontent with who and how God made us? I'm in my 40s, never having stared boldly back into the eye of my fear and skepticism, a Wanna Be, still. This kind of tenacity flies in the face of the quiet and gentle spirit, the peacemaker, and follower that I am. Those traits disqualify me from passage into the land of Dream Achievers

So I'm still a Wanna Be. I wanna be this because I'm wired with a love of words,  an unused (as of yet) English degree, and an old dream that shimmers still, through the dust it's collected from years of being pushed aside by the urgent.

The gap between my "wanna be" and my "am" is the validation of others and the word someday.

I don't wanna be a wanna be anymore.

I read this today on Billy Coffey's blog:
You are a real writer the moment you put pen to page and soak it with your tears and sweat and dare to share yourself with the world. It is that supreme act of courage that gives your life meaning, not a piece of paper to sign and initial at the bottom.

I qualify -- I am. I have already put pen to pages soaked with tears and sweat and dared to share myself with the world. There may have been no contract or paycheck, and perhaps nobody else has called me a writer.

The defining factor is that I don't see it as an act of courage, I see it as a necessity, as natural as breathing. The difference between courageous and necessary is not a gap but a bridge: from the land of "Wanna Be" to "I Am."
I am a writer.

Saying so feels uncomfortable and wild because I'm wearing the King's mantle of audacity that's flying in the face of this gentle, follower type. But I'm learning tenacity and embracing the inheritance of my Father's genetics. He is, after all, the great I AM.

Friday, June 1, 2012

I Got Nothing

I'm supposed to have something significant to say over at Laced today. I've known about this responsibility for about six weeks. I should be prepared, on time, and delivering something spectacular, but today has come, and I still got nothing.

I've had nothing here lately, too. Head on over to Laced With Grace to find out why. I'll meet you there!

Laced With Grace

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