Careful

In reading James 4 this morning, it occurred to me why to do lists are so troublesome. As soon as words are put to paper there is a permanence given to what may otherwise have floated off into forgotten oblivion. I grab on to one of the floating possibilities for how to shape time and in writing it out I also “nail it down” (picture what that phrase refers to) into something more concrete. The trouble is, what comes with that is an illusion of control over what will be. A low grade anxiety my even result if I don’t do that which I asserted should be done. And certainly, sometimes there are some things that need to be done, reminders of needful things. But there is something binding about the written word. Maybe that’s why it’s so important. It’s one thing to put words to our experience. It’s another thing entirely to put the right ones to it. Every time my eye falls on what’s been written – and undone – it gives the illusion that there’s something I ought do and this may very well trip me up into a potentially misled pursuit. As ever, the only reliable plan in checking our actions is returning/inviting/placing all said action before the only One who knows what’s best and Who, mercifully, miraculously, is willing to pass on such knowledge to us. If offering that to do list/what we are to do is preceded with “if it is the Lord’s will, we [I] will do this or that.” (James 4:15), we ask Him and submit to Him first, before proceeding. We wait in quiet expectation and slow in the humbling knowledge that we don’t know any of what is before us, but He does and will give guidance (perfect at that) to our steps. Incidentally, praying before writing to do lists – or anything for that matter – safeguards us from many potential missteps. Incredible that He will bother with the likes of us. 
 And I don’t know how this fits, but verse 17 feels like a warning this morning: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought do and doesn’t do it, sins.” God help us, please.

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Taste and See

Nudges and Glimpses of ebullient quality,

Encroaching, hurting troubles

Serve up all their own 

Flavors of glory.

Center You and

Reoriented, reminded, returned me and I’m (blessedly) back to

Positionally sound.

You:

Filler of spaces

Piercer of light and dark places

Present. Here. 

Sweet, bitter, salty, sour

Regardless of how all this may taste

You nourish. 

Seeing, willing vessels

You nourish

In spite of 

In light of

In love of.

Oh, You,

Author of glory,

Glory-sharer.

All me – all us?

                        Taste and See.

Value, continued

“The whole concept of the Imago Dei…the ‘Image of God’ is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected…This gives him a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity.
And we must never forget this…there are no gradations in the Image of God. Every man from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the Image of God. One day we will learn that.
We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

An Ocean

It might sound cliche, simplistic,

Pseudo-poetic

But – and I know I’m not supposed to swear –

But I swear it was real –

There was an ocean and 

It was in me and around me and with and in spite of and in comfort of.

So much water and moving waves that it was

An endless surface and me tiny upon it.

The ocean – 

I just got to be there with it, on it, in it.

An ocean – but no scary – and

It all rose and fell in a landscape of clean.

I was alone – in a way – but also held

Amidst this continuous, absolute, consumptive presence

Not my own.

Weeping, 

Love

(That I don’t deserve) 

Pours out and over my vessel’s rim.

I offer nothing but

Ears to hear

Eyes to see

Asking through belief and

(Sometimes out of desperation and by tenacious, teeth-gritted faith:

Also gifts, these)

Gifts of grace

He shares a whole ocean of love.

I am absorbed, carried, cleansed, filled

To overflowing.

Offering nothing, 

Grateful, overjoyed, so pleased to be HIS.

What else is there?

Where else would be better to be 

Than submerged, cleaned, carried on a whole ocean of love?

Thank You and 

Glory!

Value

Desperately trying to make right yesterdays’s lack of motivation and hence the resulting lack of real or meaningful work accomplished because of it, I started writing in my journal this morning about value. I felt guilty over yesterday’s ineffectiveness (and yet, how do I even know whether or not I’ve been? Why this constant bent towards quantifying everything that’s done/not done? How in the world can time spent possibly be measured? And yet, I torture myself with all this ridiculous energy on measuring my activity or self’s output.) so in trying to be gentle on myself (I’m calling that progress), I started reading Jesus’ words in Matthew, looking for words of affirmation to remind me of my value to Him. (And the fact that I was looking for something specific to feed my own ideas about things ought to have been a clue that I was already out of whack.) I needed to be reminded about how God feels about me really. Jesus’ perspective. The one that loves and sees me as precious (and likeable even!) regardless of how “good” or “effective” or “hardworking” or “cheerful” or “altruistic” or skinny, self-controlled, kind, selfless I’m being or have been on any given day. That is, I am loved and delighted in just by virtue of the fact that He chose to give me life.

It’s amazing to me how much I continue to quantify. And when I quantify and/or measure my value based on what I’m  doing, I fall short of any and all marks. Or, horror of horrors, if I happen to do something well or “right” (again, because I’ve quantified) I may just end up chalking myself up to alright. I may start believing that I’ve added something. Been worthy of credit or praise for a second. But regardless of whether what I’m doing is “good” or “bad,” “sinful” or “righteous” (depending on your persuasions or affiliations), none of it really matters at all, makes not one tiny scrap of difference. None of it either qualifies or disqualifies me from the value I get to enjoy because of what God’s done. For me. Without a single iota of participation from me. 

What Jesus came for was the redemption of the human family. Any and all of my (or anyone else’s) goodness (at least as far as God’s concerned which is the only opinion that matters) is from Him. His gift, for free, to me, for us. Regardless of whether or not we deserve it (which we don’t), all that glorious inheritance (that is, any and every good thing in the universe) is ours to enjoy when we get this Jesus guy. (I used “get” in place of “believe in,” “have faith in,” “accept as true.” Sometimes our words have all kinds of nasty churchy attachments that we need to forget in order to properly remember what God REALLY wants us know.) 

And by “get” all I really mean is that we believe that all He said and did for others – for us, ultimately – is true. That we can totally not just believe the hype surrounding Jesus, but we can even enjoy it for ourselves. Yeah. We could totally enjoy and bask in and savor Buddy the Elf’s compliment, “You look miraculous” if we accepted this Jesus guy as a close, personal friend, counselor, guide, helper. And it wouldn’t matter how good or bad, lazy, fat, effective, or relevant we thought we were. None of that would matter at all. In fact, what we think of ourselves matters very little. What God thinks is what matters… And He loves us A LOT.

I’m a Fool, and other Glorious Truths


As soon as I put something “out there” I want to retract it, or I feel like a fool. “Do not presume to be teachers” rings in my head if I say anything with any degree of certainty. It’s a miserable way to live, constantly second guessing everything.

It’s tempting then to want to shrink back into oblivion, not take the risk and just do my best to stay out of everyone’s way. But there’s this glowing ember of a start within me. One that would burn away all that insecurity and self loathing, years of feeling defeated and stupid. 

At first glance I thought the doubt was evil – and maybe the accuser’s always at work trying to get us to undermine our value – but when I ask God to order my thoughts, to tell me what’s true He whispers that all this unknowing can mean freedom. Not being able to nail anything down, not ever getting to a place where I feel I know anything? This can be a  glorious place, and a perfect place from which to begin. Doubt doesn’t have to result in frantic scrabbling or overwhelming defeat. It can return me safely to the one and only thing that I can know and from which everything else may stem:

You are good, God. The remembrance of that, the looking to that, the basking, seeking, celebrating of Your goodness is all that needs known. May our eyes be good in seeing the goodness that then the whole body be full of light… Flowing out to all the spaces, beating back the dark and the the unknowns and the devaluing, useless questions. 

Praise God, He is good.

“For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:5

Being a Housewife is Hot (or, Blog Post titled by your husband)

Recently as I was putting clothes in the dryer, I found myself  basking unexpectedly in domestic bliss. During the previous few minutes I’d scooped stray Legos into my shirt pockets (the domestic uniform has to include pockets as one’s hands are inevitably full of one’s charges’ stray bits, laundry baskets, errant shoes, homeless papers, and the like), deposited them in the Lego bin, put the 8 loaves of cooled bread in bags and put them in the freezer before getting the dinner’s meat out of the freezer, given instructions for dishwasher emptying, tidied the dining room, wiped the counters, stopped to listen to and then cogently answer the 8 year old’s question, and put away the ironing board and cooled iron from the morning’s wrinkle-eradicating. In the ruminating I enjoyed a measure of satisfaction that I seem to enjoy only occasionally in midst of my work. I am more often thinking about the next thing, worrying over the last thing, wondering over done or undone things. NOT basking in the present or remembering the Divine-in-it thing. 

 That such contentment may be had as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of 5 still surprises me. In younger days I fancied myself a Peace Corps worker, author, orphanage builder, professional musician, college professor, hippy, rock climbing instructor… You get the drift. Whatever my aspirations were, suffice it to say they could be construed as slightly  more dynamic than my present station.

Now. It’s hard to say whether such moments come as a result of something I’m doing or as a result of an “up” mood swing, but at that moment, the good feelings in my work felt to be the result of better working. The rhythm of things and my functions – unremarkable though they may seem in this endless cycle of maintaining/restoring order – felt in that moment like they’d been choreographed, practiced, and then executed with epiphany generating precision. The moment was profound enough – and I’d had it before – but this time it translated to something potentially tangible as something worth sharing. Improved ways of doing things after 18 years of cooking, cleaning, mothering, wife-ing (new verb?), living, seemed worth sharing all of a sudden. So my bright idea was to start a new blog called “What Works.” It could include any day to day helps I may enjoy in the hopes that such bliss wouldn’t be lost on just me but extended to others. It occurred to me that maybe others struggle too to enjoy strings of domestic bliss. That it pleasantly surprises me when I’m pleasantly surprised amidst the day-to-day functioning… I don’t know. Just seemed/seems worth talking about, worth improving upon.

Somebody has to do the mundane. Not everybody gets to be the Pope, a professional athlete or an actor. Somebody has to go to work and  collect a paycheck to support the missionary who has all their bills paid by somebody else. Somebody has to turn the 6 year old’s underwear right side out, sit at the desk and answer the phone for a mind numbing 8 hours, teach the thankless students in a classroom day after day, pound nails in the sweltering heat or freezing cold. And though many of our spaces may not seem big, bold, or beautiful, I hold that there are enough tinges of quality that we can tease out beauty. It’s everywhere. It’s my eyes that don’t see often enough, and I’ve noticed that how I see translates directly to how I live

And I live forgetful. I live like I haven’t tasted beauty, and it both shames and frustrates me. And then I just give up trying like the Sesame Street guy banging his head on the keys bemoaning, “I’ll never get it! I’ll never get it!” or distract or anesthetize myself away from fresh starts. I want to see better. Be better that I may then do better. This sounds like an inside job, and one in which I have not historically succeeded .

I got to thinking that maybe domestic – or any – contentment has less to do with mechanics  and more to do with my state of mind which I also tend to think is inextricably bound to the state of my heart, er, soul, if that word’s more comfortable for you (I think they mean the same thing?). What I mean is, it occurred to me that the world does NOT need another blog about homeschooling or how to remove soap scum from the shower. These things are constantly evolving and being improved upon by others waaaaay more capable than me. But living better from being better.. This extends to all. It’s the red satin ribbon that weaves through all the muck. 

Not everyone has the eyes or the inclination to hunt for it. God gives that. For any and all the improvements I may enjoy in terms of my day to day functions, I still struggle woefully and tragically to live a life free of regret and full of joy and overflowing with love. But God has given me Himself – wonder of wonders – and I want to honor His gift better. The only contribution of mine worth sharing is that He’s chosen to share Himself with me. And that means everything.
I have not posted much in recent months, and though perhaps the reasons matter, what’s been matters less than what will be. Maybe what I’m going to try is in honor of the new year, or maybe this is a tiny step toward maturity. I’m (for once) actually acting on an idea. I am notorious for enjoying great flashes of light but am woefully poor at follow-through. So in honor of the new year, and in honor of trusting Him more in it, I am going to try something of an experiment. 
I’m going to keep the notion of “what works,” but under the old umbrella of wordskeepmesane. Because in the telling of my struggle with desolations and enjoyment of consolations, words may do just that: help to keep this otherwise struggling person a little more intact, a little more effective, a little more joyful, and hopefully, a lot more loving. 

In past years, around January 1st there’s been a word that’s stuck out as something needful for me to grow in, understand, be a little more aware of. This year, and in keeping with the above, that word is… Jesus. The word that keeps us sane. As models go? None better. What works? Jesus. I can’t imagine a more worthwhile pursuit than trying to more wholly follow Him, be like Him. He’s the only person ever to have been above reproach by pretty much everybody. (Except the religious uptights which no one takes seriously anyway.)

If you’re a person who finds yourself frustrated too often, dead-ending, not living a life you’re proud of or satisfied in as frequently as you’d hoped, I hope you’ll join in the conversation (with me would be great, but I just hope you’ll join in with anyone!) about what it might look like, this “how-to of better being”, so to speak. It’s a new day/It’s a new dawn/It’s a new life for me/and I’m feeling good” as Michael Buble croons (maybe a little more lightheartedly than I mean, but I’m not opposed to that).

So wordskeepmesane will remain true, but the delivery may look a little different. Thanks for being here – ever. And may we all improve upon that which matters most. I hope you’ll walk with me as I desperately try and walk with Him… And I hope you’ll enjoy your own steps towards the light that’ll purify all the spaces.