Simple Questions

Last week I listened to a podcast, where the person being interviewed expressed that the words of her yoga teacher were still rattling around in her mind:

“How tender do you want to get? How soft do you want to become?”

Those words made me stop.

I want to be a person who can receive. Someone who can be present, accepting the simple moments as they come and go. I want to be able to be still myself, so I realize what I need and want, and not be so terrified of my fatigue.

I want others to know that they are so important, that I’m willing to get close enough so that they change me.

And yet I’ve lived enough to know that this vulnerability is costly.  My generation values authenticity and vulnerability and yet it’s hard to be the first person to speak, the person to say, “I’m not okay.”

These months have been ones of seeing myself more honestly, seeing my protective walls, and knowing that they don’t just come crashing down in a moment.  It’s more like a slow melting away.

Receptiveness doesn’t mean being a push-over, just as sacrifice means that one must first recognize that there is a self to sacrifice. Without a discerning eye, receptiveness could look like people pleasing and helping could be avoidance.

So I keep returning to stillness, to myself and the Divine, to see how much my ego actually is at work and to see my own goodness and worth more clearly.

Sometimes receptiveness looks like receiving love, being affirmed, being reminded of how valuable I am just for being me. It could mean a hug, a compliment, being still enough to receive this moment, and the unknown that comes with it.

In order to be soft, I want to live into my body, knowing its joys and its pains.  I want to feel what I’m actually feeling, when my jaw tenses up, when my shoulders scrunch to my ears, or when I can actually touch my toes! I want to know when my breath is shallow and when its full. I want to listen to the emotions that rise up in me.

As I daily pay attention to myself, I will be more attune to others, having extra capacity for laughter and tears.

For in times of vulnerability, there is a shared tenderness, and we both could become softer as a result.  Of course, the choice is ours.  We have to be willing to sit “on the mourner’s bench” as Nicholas Wolterstorff likes to say.

The one who is tender speaks bravely, inviting everyone else in the room into a softer, gentler place.

Into a more expansive view of the world.  Into a new emotion, understanding, or empathy.

But there is no force. She could be met with unhelpful silence, misunderstanding, pet answers.

But she also could be met with love and acceptance.  There is great risk in seeking to be tender.

Yet there’s also an invitation to everyone else in the room.

Do you want to be tender and soft too? Will you join me on this journey of honesty, risk, and feeling deeply?

 

 

Winter Thoughts

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“Winter here is a demanding season-and not everyone appreciates the discipline.  It is a season when death’s victory can seem supreme: few creatures stir, plants do not visibly grow, and nature feels like our enemy.  And yet the rigors of winter, like the diminishments of autumn, are accompanied by amazing gifts.

One gift is beauty, different from the beauty of autumn but somehow lovelier still: I am not sure that any sight or sound on earth is as exquisite as the hushed descent of a sky full of snow.  Another gift is the reminder that times of dormancy and deep rest are essential to all living things.  Despite all appearances, of course, nature is not dead in winter-it has gone underground to renew itself and prepare for spring.  Winter is a time when we are admonished, and even inclined to do the same for ourselves.

But for me, winter has an even greater gift to give.  It comes when the sky is clear, the sun is brilliant, the trees are bare, and first snow is yet to come.  It is the gift of utter clarity.  In winter, one can walk into woods that had been opaque with summer growth only a few months earlier and see the trees clearly, singly and together, and see the ground they are rooted in.”

-Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak pg. 101

Parker Palmer Quote

Yesterday, I read the small book Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer in its entirety.  It was a nourishing read.  I’m going to post one quote now, but will probably comment on this book in posts to come.

Let-Your-Life-Speak

The God whom I know dwells quietly in the root system of the very nature of things.  This is the God who, when asked by Moses for a name, responded, “I Am who I Am,” an answer that has less to do with the moral rules for which Moses made God famous than with elemental “isness” and selfhood.  If, as I believe, we are all made in God’s image, we could all give the same answer when asked who we are: “I AM who I Am.” One dwells with God by being faithful to one’s nature.  One crosses God by trying to be something one is not.  Reality-including one’s own-is divine, to be not defied, but honored.

Psalm 22

For he has not despised or abhorred

the affliction of the afflicted,

and he has not hidden his face from him,

but has heard, when he cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation…

-Psalm 22:24-25

Redeemer Pres

Tension

Last week, I gave my testimony at church.  I shared my story of chronic illness, of being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, and the emotional and spiritual effects of being sick.  If you want to listen to my testimony in its entirety, you can access it here. (Entitled Storrs Testimony 4.26.15)  I started my testimony by opening with this quote by Kat Duff, author of The Alchemy of Illness:

“There is, perhaps rightly so, an invisible rope that separates the sick from the well, so that each is repelled by the other, like magnets reversed. The well venture forth to accomplish great deeds in the world, while the sick turn back onto themselves and commune with the dead, neither can face the other very comfortably, without intrusions of envy, resentment, fear, or horror. Frankly, from the viewpoint of illness, healthy people seem ridiculous, even a touch dangerous, in their blinded busyness, marching like soldiers to the drumbeat of duty and desire.”

Magnetic_field_of_bar_magnets_repelling

And by the end of my testimony, I said that I disagreed with this quote, even though her precise words give profound insight to the “different worlds” the sick and the well tend to inhabit.  The sick and the well shouldn’t be separate.  If we are the church, we should still do relationship together, learning, struggling, celebrating and mourning together.  And that’s hard work, and it’s extremely uncomfortable.  The sick can tend to be jealous and bitter towards everything the person who is healthy can do.  And the healthy person, who can have more relationships and activities can think the sick person is lazy, lacking willpower, and is ignorant to the daily mental battle.

The tension is worth it though, it leads to change in both people.  It leads to a willingness to understand someone who is different, a willingness to explore difficult emotions.  Yet tension in relationship should be more of the norm.  Healthy relationships are hard work-especially if differences multiply.  Yet as time slows down, and we listen to one another, truer, deeper friendships emerge.

Do we as the church just gather those people who are similar to us?  

How much do we appreciate diversity of all forms?

What healthy tensions exist in your friendships?

For Every Season

Ecclesiastes 3

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what has been planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

 

A time to break down.  That’s my current season, even as the building up finds its way in, every time like a surprise.

Sifting through layers of my life has allowed me to see the core of my identity, years of running, and misplaced affections.  Lingering in this season is scary, but it’s necessary.  Breaking down can feel like failure or giving up, but in reality it wipes away the facade.  And the scarier part comes in letting people see the breakdown and in learning to explain how you are changing and why.  Some people have been disappointed, yet others have come alongside and slowly commence the build-up process.

Which seasons define your life currently?  How do you feel being in that particular season?  Who is coming alongside you?

 

Making Room

I recently finished the book Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine Pohl.  The book is a beautifully written non-fiction work calling Christians to rethink hospitality as “welcoming of stranger” rather than just entertainment.  I am challenged to look at my life and see how my unique circumstances intersect with a lifestyle of hospitality, and reflect on I am made to be both host and guest.  Solidarity among different groups of people can occur when we admit our weariness, brokenness, and need and regularly provide healing places and friendship for each other.

Making Room

What makes a space inviting?…Hospitable places are comfortable and lived in; they are settings in which people are flourishing.  Although not necessarily beautifully maintained or decorated, they are evidently cared for.  Such places provide the people that inhabit them with shelter and sanctuary in the deepest sense of these words-not only with the shelter of physical buildings but also with the shelter of relationships.  Such places are safe and stable, offering people a setting where ‘they can rest awhile to collect themselves.’ Hospitable places are not frenetic, though people within them may be busy.  When sanctuary and a slower pace are combined, there is a sense of peace. In such places life is celebrated, yet the environment also has room for brokenness and deep disappointments.  Such places make faith and a hospitable way of life seem natural, not forced.  Hospitable settings are often enhanced by the simple beauty of creation, where body, soul, and spirit are fed by attention to small details such as attractively prepared good-tasting food, or flowers from a nearby garden.”

Do we desire a slower pace of life so hospitality can be a reality?  Do we desire to be faithful in the mundane, to celebrate and grieve as rhythms of life?  What simple changes can we make to be more hospitable people?