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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Once again, I am breathing through hot water…

These are my words. This is my pain. This is directed at no one, but at this moment, this is what I must say. I cannot hold my peace.  

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit
Psalms 34:18 (NIV)

I cling to the words of this Psalm right now, knowing that His Will is sovereign and everything is already alright.  Please, Father, be near me. I need you now.

I grew up in church on Wednesday nights. A PK, I still remember where I was or at least where I was supposed to be every night of the week. I could easily have been a victim
like the nine souls carried into the Arms of Grace by a madman, who entered a church “to shoot black people.” That could have been my church. Those people could have been my family. The sad reality about America the Beautiful is that we are divided. Until we address the pain American racism continues to cause, to ignore it, particularly in the wake of such carnage, and in a church no less, is as Jon Stewart so beautifully put it, is to ignore "the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist."

Saturday, June 13, 2015

I was despairing. I almost did faint. And then I wasn’t angry anymore.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalms 27:13 (NASB)

Yesterday a sermon wove one piece of whole cloth from the ragged strings, threads, and patches I’ve been dragging around calling my life.  Yesterday I realized I wasn’t angry anymore.

When the thought occurred to me, I opened my diary with a deep and knowing smile...one more inside than out, warm, radiating, satisfying; like knowing how truly you are Beloved and found the scripture Dr. G gave me during a tantrum (it was technically a counseling session). That scripture was Psalms 27:13. In a quiet moment after morning worship, I sought her out to ask, "why didn't you tell me to just stop being angry?" 

I routinely re-read what I've written, not just because those words occasionally reveal my growth as a writer, or the evolution of a perspective, but also to discover that while I have mastered some lessons, there are plenty o summits left to ascend. Yesterday's sermon reminds me that releasing things you no longer need allows you to enter into a deeper level of Faith. Years ago I read,

 Surrender can be the sweetest thing. Practice surrender and let the Universe do its work  

The unknown author of these words did not write them for me. Even as I collected them to hold first and savor later I couldn't know when or how desperately I'd need them. I got them a little, but not nearly enough. Surrender seemed so much like losing. I don't lose, even when I choose to walk away. Suffering, however, is completely different. Suffering has the capacity to swallow you whole along with all of those you love. There is a point when suffering can overwhelm and consume you. At that moment, you understand that surrender means resisting no longer. 

I understood that the intense pressure of suffering that night must have forced my consciousness to withdraw from its identification with the unhappy and deeply fearful self, which is ultimately a fiction of the mind. This withdrawal must have been so complete that this false, suffering self immediately collapsed, just as if a plug had been pulled out of an inflatable toy…
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

It did not happen all at once, and I cannot say I remember it happening at all. There was a moment when I realized that I wasn’t angry anymore and that I could breathe again. The world hadn’t changed; I did. God sent Grace, and it alone was sufficient. 

I was never supposed to manage everything on my own, to have any plan proceed without flaw.  Looking back, I am deeply grateful.  Had Life proceeded according to my plan, I’d have thought I did it on my own.  You see, not only is His Grace sufficient, His power is perfected in our weakness. And, in that light, armed with that understanding, I celebrate my human frailty, my foolish anger andmy fear, and all the times I intended to, but never quite got it right. 

Our lessons await our readiness. What you need to learn is right in front of you. However, until you accept the challenge, listen without resistance or complaint, receive and then apply all you’ve uncovered, its proximity has no value. It is only time when its time.

Yesterday I realized I wasn’t angry anymore. I cannot tell you when I knew. I cannot tell you that it mattered. When I asked Dr. G. why she never told me to just stop, she smiled that same deep knowing smile I had on the inside. Her answer? “You wouldn’t have believed me.”






Saturday, June 6, 2015

You’ll be seeing less of me…

“Even when I don’t feel strong, in Holy Defiance, I choose to believe that God is strong in me.” 
Say Yes to Grace

By way of a long and circuitous process, I arrived at the following conclusion; while my outcome was correct, the logic by which it was derived was all wrong. ALL WRONG. That does not mean that learning an alternate (as opposed to wrong) lesson did not serve me well. Rather, according to author and life coach Jennifer Racioppi,

choosing the right path often means your wrong 
turns are just beginning.

I thoroughly agree. Having learned from and lived along those wrong turns on the right path gave me an abiding appreciation for that right path. It also allows the rightness of the right turns to resonate with me deeply. Huh? Let me start with a simple story.

For all of my writing life, I declared that despite the most dismal circumstances, there is always a reason for Joy, and I meant it. When the challenges in my life threatened to overwhelm me, I declared that period to be my time in the wilderness. I thoroughly believed that by faith, I could withstand all that the wilderness might throw at me and come out the opposite end stronger and wiser. I distilled it all into three lessons.


  • Sometimes the pressures of life have a way of pressing things out of us.   


This is absolutely correct. In my own case, the pressures of life were the Refiner’s Fire necessary to burn all detritus off of and out of me. I am better for it; think oil from crushed olives, beauty from ashes, the sweet smell of Petrichor released from parched and cracked ground. What does pressure press out? Nothing new. Pressure doesn’t change us. It simply amplifies what is already there.


  • Wilderness experiences reveal our strength.


Yes again. Whitney Houston got it right; I didn’t know my own strength. I believed I did, but I also inaccurately believed the strength was my own. The notion that “His Strength is made perfect in our weakness” in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV) was merely an intellectual construct; not something I’d gotten yet. Let’s call this an early wrong (and necessary) turn on the right road. The mere fact that it rained the last time you sneezed three times does not make you a rainmaker. Right?
  •  The Wilderness is NOT a destination. It is a school from which you must graduate.



Here is where it all falls down. While the Wilderness is NOT a destination, neither is it a school from which one must graduate. The danger of this wrong turn was to have me believing if I fainted not, if I did not grow weary in well doing, if I could just hold my breath long enough, I’d show God how faithful I’d been with little and He’d reward me by making me faithful over much. I MISTAKENLY believed that my so-called penitence could earn me Grace. That’s the moment I threatened to fall off the path FOREVER.

I was so busy convincing myself and God that I could be good enough, grateful enough, long-suffering enough, could celebrate heartily for others despite my meager and rapidly dissipating resources, that somehow He’d recognize the depth of my devotion and say, “Servant, Well Done.”

It was then that I remembered that every prayer is not answered as it is lifted. It was then that I remembered But.
“we are pressed on every side, but not crushed…”
2 Cor 4:8 (NIV)

Faith is not a deal you make. Faith is not an account where you accrue Grace based upon good works and clean living. We NEVER earn Grace and CANNOT work for it. Faith in God, according to TD Jakes, teaches that

There are some fires you can't get out of--you've got to go through the fire--you've got to go through the flood--you've got to go through the test--you've got to go through the struggle that you might decrease and He might increase.

That is while you’ll be seeing less and less of me. I have finally conceded to get out of God’s Way. How exactly does that work? This morning I experienced this by way of a simple lesson.

A conversation I expected to be difficult was not, because I made great effort to conduct myself with restraint and Grace. I subtracted my own
 feelings from the equation. I was listening to learn, not to respond. I was relaxed and present. I breathed deeply and often. I smiled with minimal condescension and attempted to receive. The lesson? I was met with a satisfying clarity, unrelated to whether the outcomes were those I would have chosen.

I am committed to practicing that lesson, and thinking back, I thank God for Grace and Peace in those moments this morning.

I am learning not to do or say things I may later regret.  If I am concerned that I might cause harm, I am making an affirmative choice NOT TO speak, act, or do.  It’s part of my subtraction strategy. When not clear on what to say, I endeavor to say nothing.  I cease moving, waiting for the right words, practicing quiet so I can hear.  I’d rather not have to apologize.  I have finally conceded to get out of God’s Way.

I declare here and now that I will not always succeed, but I am being intentional.  My prayer is simply, “Lord, let me hide myself in Thee.”  So, you’ll be seeing less of me.


The End. But also the Beginning.
I am Chasing Petrichor...

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