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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

(This was originally published in error as a separate page two weeks ago.)

Notes along this journey:

I’m not made for the corporate life. I’m just not. Others are. I’m not. It’s a box I don’t fit into. Small organization, yes. Work for myself, yes. Freelance, yes. Just be, yes.

Job searches are so much about trying to fit into the corporate life. It’s a bit disorienting that way. When people ask me what kind of position I’m looking for, I need to figure out a better way to answer, a simple way to say I want to earn enough to support myself by being a writer and a maker and a mentor and a learner and a teacher and a simple living guru and a disciple and a disciple-maker. And not worry if anyone else thinks that sounds irresponsible. I’m very responsible.

I believe I am called to live in such a way that shows another way is possible. A personal way, yet a community-building way. An artisanal way. An intergenerational way. A simple way. An ancient way. A contemplative, spiritual way. A way that supports justice and participates in restoring shalom to our world.

I do not know if in that description there are ways to fully support myself. But if God calls me to it, God will make a way. I have been consumed with how to continue to make a living. After all, paying the bills is pretty necessary in our culture. But it’s had me bound. And that’s a sign of not trusting. I don’t want to be bound. I want to make a life. My life.

I have this vision of a house like Nonnatus House. If you are a fan of Call the Midwife, you know what that means. Maybe not a full blown convent, because maybe it could be co-ed. But a place where people who like each other enough to live together share expenses, thus easing income-pressure for everyone, and share common areas. Share life. Share vision. Share service. Neighbor with their neighbors.

I stand at the crossroads, and I’m looking hard. I ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, because that’s where I long to walk. There I will find rest for my soul. (Jeremiah 6:16)

God wants me to see the path, and I want to see it. So the way will open. On that I’ll rest.

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Deep thoughts these days, about many things.

For one, I’ve been reading Dan Pallotta’s book, Uncharitable.: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential. I work for a nonprofit, so I find it especially thought-provoking. I’m just one chapter in, and so much is making me take a look at the whole paradigm anew. Even the way he defines terms by going back to their roots is revealing. If you have any interest in the nonprofit world, or causes, or social issues, just let these roll around in your head and see what you think:

Profit comes from the Latin profectus, meaning progress. What does that say about the meaning of nonprofit?

Charity comes from the Greek work charos, meaning love or grace . . .

The circles I travel in consider it inappropriate to talk about charity, yet we freely and even proudly identify ourselves as nonprofit — no progress. Go figure.

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I have been in both kinds of crowds, and it always comes down to superiority and conflict. Conservative or liberal? Evangelical or social justice?  God’s on our side. No, God is on our side.

Here’s what I long for.

I long for a community where people on both sides extend grace to people on the other side–Actually, why do there have to be sides? A place where no one assumes that they know everything, that they know best. A place where no one assumes that either liberal or conservative is synonymous with Biblical. A group of people who in fact realize that God sees the whole picture and we cannot, that God loves and leads and judges perfectly and we do not, that God is perfectly wise and we are not.

I long to be able to simply listen to each other, listen beyond the words even, until we hear each other’s hearts, and in the midst of us, God’s heart. There will be ugliness and there will be beauty, but above all there will be vulnerability. And then, if we stick with it, there will be transformation and awe. Are we brave enough for that? Am I? Can we offer each other a safe enough place for that?

I’m not so good at it myself. But please, lets try.

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Restoration

This morning our congregation sang these lyrics: “Rid me of myself, I belong to you.” I had to stop. It struck me that while the intent of these words is to worship God instead of self, for some people the more appropriate prayer is “bring me back to myself.” That’s what I found myself praying: To make me more fully the person God made me to be, so that I can accomplish what he made me to do.

When we moved here, I had a sense that it was for restoration of some kind. Then things just seemed to get even worse. Now I see that God is in the process of restoring me.  For way too many years I was a thin version of me. I adapted myself to my husband to the point where I lost touch with myself.  (I feel so bad that this is the me my children grew up with. I cheated us all. But I digress.)

So first, God, finish bringing me back to the person you made me to be. Then shine through me into my world, which is really your world. I know I belong to you, that your design in me is good, and that you delight in me.

I reject worm theology. I am God’s precious daughter.  To live with the mindset of a worm denies his love and grace.

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For quite some time I’ve had this nudging to be more vulnerable in telling my story as I blog, and while I understand the power of that and part of me really wants to go for it, another huge part is scared spitless. Heck, I edit every blog post to death as it is. If there’s an errant comma I have to go back and fix it, and I worry about this that and the other thing that someone reading it might be hurt by or get the wrong idea from. Consequently I have writer’s block that I see as a form of constipation. So this is my first try to open up a tiny crack. Please be kind. I just have to try. It’ll be disjointed, but the next paragraph will tell why I’m making myself just let that be.

I’ve been coming smack up against my own perfectionism lately on all sides. I can’t escape looking at it. It’s exhausting me, and it’s affecting my work and relationships. I read blogs, and there other writers are, writing on the theme, as if a beam is focused on me. I hear a coworker express frustration at not being perfect, and I see myself.

It’s like I’ve decided that if people really know me, they’ll dismiss me, so I am very careful what I show. I get how false that is, how it’s just the opposite. But I’m still not free of it.

Of course if you’d come to my house you’d think I was anything but perfectionist. It only comes out to play in certain ways, but always in my own head.

I’ve always really liked James Taylor’s music. Tonight one of my Facebook friends shared a YouTube video of him singing “Fire and Rain.”

I sang along, then found myself smiling and really thankful he got sober and didn’t die from booze and drugs way back when. It would have been such a waste, and his clear eyes and talent that sits well on him speak something deep to me about hope.

My husband got sober too late, and the damage already caused by the alcohol killed him. Even before he died, it took his brilliant mind, sense of humor, warmth, wisdom and emotional presence from those of us who loved him. All that love and beauty got all mixed up with emotional isolation, flatness, manipulation, deception, and finally the loss of ability to think straight. It still makes me have a wave of nausea sometimes when I think about it, and we’re coming up on three years after his death.

Addiction is nothing to mess around with. James Taylor would say the same thing. I don’t find Lindsay Lohan or Charlie Sheen entertaining. Amy Winehouse’s death was so sad.

So now I find myself apparently addicted to trying to be perfect. Silly girl. Wouldn’t it be better to just be real? Jesus loves me just the way I am, limitations and messiness and all. Hopefully I’ll learn to, too.

“Ring the bells that still can ring,

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything,

That’s how the light gets in.”

–Leonard Cohen, in “Anthem”

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This quote has nothing to do with the rest of this post, but it made me laugh when I found it recently: “A woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster salad and Champagne, the only true feminine and becoming viands.” — Lord Byron, early nineteenth century English poet. But then Byron had other twisted ideas about women, too. Please pass the corn on the cob, the watermelon, the eggs and grits, the chicken. Thank you very much.

Now to the serious stuff.

This is not a religious blog. Faith is  not relegated to a corner of my life. I hope it shapes everything I do. I don’t feel the need to quote chapter and verse to prove it, and I don’t have to try to convince everyone else to agree with me.

Neither is this a political blog. I was in political environments for a big chunk of my life, because my husband was very active, even running for and gaining public office. I’ve always voted, and I do have opinions, but what I’ve observed  and don’t like is how shrill people on both ends of the political spectrum can be. I’m fairly conservative, but I’ve had my belly full of the attitude that liberals are all Godless socialists out to destroy our country. The whole equating of conservative politics with Christianity has distorted our culture’s view of the church and turned off a lot of people.

But here’s the thing. Conservatives by no means have a corner on shrillness and judgmentalism. I’ve lived and worked in predominantly liberal environments, and I’ve had my belly full of the attitude that all conservatives are ignorant, selfish, don’t know how to think, and probably even immoral and racist. When I was growing up, liberal politics were equated with certain flavors of Christianity. Now the extreme emphasis on diversity –witness political correctness– appears to many onlookers too much like a failure to stand for anything, and it has turned off a lot of people.

I guess I just plain don’t like labels on people.

Today, because of Pastor Terry Jones in Florida who is promoting a Burn the Quran Day for September 11, I must write about politics and religion. It makes me sad that he’s providing yet another image of  Christians acting hatefully toward their neighbors instead of loving them. This smears the name of my Jesus, and it turns off people who need Him badly to heal their brokenness.

We’re all broken, actually. Jesus mends us. It pays to remember that, with humility and compassion. May we all be saved from our self-righteousness.

“Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.” — Eugene O’Neill, quoted by Philip Yancey in What’s So Amazing About Grace

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