Navigation


Archive | faith

I’m here, you’re not alone.

im here

I’m here, you’re not alone. Shhhh, now, I’m here. And with those words, I lift a crying baby up and out of her darkness. She’s unaware of where she fits in her life, perhaps, but I know just where she is. I’m never far from her, even though to her new mind I’ve disappeared every time I’m not in her line of sight, but that’s not true.

And so when she wakes up or when she’s lonely or when she’s hungry or just wants someone to hold her, to calm her heart, she cries out and I come to her and I lift her up into my arms, shhhh, I’m here, you’re not alone, I’m here, I’ve got you, I’ve got you, I say.

Oh, I’m teaching her something: I’m teaching her that I will always come for her. I’m teaching her that she is safe and secure. I’m teaching her that I am reliable, that she is believed, that I don’t believe she’s manipulating me or bossing me. I’m teaching my child that I am here and she is not alone. Dry your tears, small girl, I’m here, I’m always here. I will always come for you.

***

I’ve heard that most of our theology is autobiography. I think that’s true. I think we often project what we learned about authority or our parents, in particular, onto God. And then we often parent our children in the way that we believe God is parenting us. So if we believe God is a terrible judge with exacting standards and a trapdoor to hell, then that changes how we move through our lives, how we judge others, particularly our children. And yes, I think that damages people.

But what if we see God through the metaphor of a mother with a newborn babe? what do we see instead? After all, the metaphors for God’s love are diverse throughout Scripture but I’m often reminded in these tender days just after giving birth and caring for a newborn that I’m part of that metaphor, too, with my labour and my pain, with my ferocious protectiveness and my consuming love.

My entire body yearns for my child, watch us in these early days how we curl into each other, how I protect her, nourish her, comfort her, even how I delight in her – you’re seeing a glimpse of something divine here, I believe. Isn’t this one of the great gifts God has given us? A glimpse into how God loves us, a share of the joy, a sign and a foretaste of the Kingdom among us already. God in his goodness, sharing with us what it means to love so selflessly, so unconditionally, so completely.

***

In the Scriptures, there is one little thing often overlooked on Good Friday. In Matthew 27:51, we are told that at the moment when Jesus cried out and gave up his spirit, the moment he died, the veil in the temple that symbolically stood between God and man, the entrance to the Holy of Holies, was torn in two…from the top to the bottom.

There is no barrier between us anymore, the Holy of Holies is open to us all and it’s not because of anything we did or didn’t do. Because this was a rescue, this was redemption, this was the death that made death die, this was the moment when all of creation was redeemed as Jesus swept into the domain of death and hell, suffering and sickness, sin and horror, to cure us and then rise again victorious, Christus Victor.

And when I think of that veil being torn from the top to the bottom, now I imagine God sweeping into the world, like a mother to her crying child in the darkness with that physical yearning, gathering us up out of our loneliness and our hunger, our longing and our needs to whisper: I’m here, I’m here, you’re not alone, I’m here. I’ve got you, I’ve got you, I’ve got you, darling, I’m here.

photo by sharalee prang photography

Continue Reading · Easter, faith, Maggie Love, parenting · 22

We were loved right to the end

lovedthemrighttotheend

These are the days when I sit down for morning prayers at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

These are the days when ritual and liturgy shape my life but sometimes the rituals are breakfast preparation, bathing tinies, and getting dressed, and the liturgy is in the retelling of “The Three Little Pigs” or the 30th time to say “in-our-family-we-use-our-words-to-love-each-other” to the tinies and the woman in the mirror.

These are the days when I light a candle, even (or maybe especially) in the chaos and noise of family life because Brian is home from his travels and I have a buttoned-up Easter lily on my kitchen table.

These are the days when I am nursing Margaret through the night waking up with shadows under my eyes and Joe is building legos by the hour and Evelynn is filling up an old Dora suitcase with everything she finds interesting and Anne is playing soccer by the hour, and I want to sit here, in the slow morning light with my hands wrapped around a cuppa tea for just a while longer because the sun is coming through the windows and I took the time to make loose-leaf this morning.

These are the days for bath water on the floor, and laundry waiting to be folded, and a gone-cold cuppa tea and the sacraments of showing up and paying attention every-day life.

These are the days when I try to do a bit of good, and it feels like one small pitiful candle in an overwhelming darkness of never-ending Fridays.

These are the days when I close the night with confession and prayer, with a plea for Jesus to draw us all into His love and to deliver us from fear.

These are the days when the dormant is waking up, when the skeleton trees show faint signs of life for the one that is looking through the grey.

These are the days for those of us who know the desert’s cold and grey truth with hard ground, we incline our ears towards the hardly-believable birds now singing and we want to shriek out loud with joy when the first daffodil pokes through cold earth.

These are the days when the death of winter, the stripping away of it all, is humming towards the renewal of spring and we can feel it, feel it right from the dirt and the water, the trees and the very air – life is coming, blooming, and God, it’s beautiful.

This week is a thin place between, isn’t it? Every morning, I read the stories of Holy Week, all over again, and every year, on this day, I reach that line: “Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father. Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end.

And I cry, all over again, right through the stars in my eyes.

These are the days when I think about making homemade bread. If we’re going to read the stories at the supper table, if we’re going to pour out red wine, and if we’re going to remember during the breaking and the tearing and the passing tonight, then I want to remember with bread I’ve made with my own hands, and I want my house to smell like yeast, and I want to hear the story all over again, in the mouths of the ones I love best.

We were loved. Right to the end.

I want to love, right to the end.

edited from the archives

Continue Reading · Easter, faith, lent · 16

Palms

lightstock_160956_medium_user_5073617

It’s Palm Sunday, I remembered only this morning. This season of Lent has passed me by, seasons do that sometimes. My baby girl is three weeks old today and so we did what we do, we took her to church.

By the time we dashed into the school gym through the pouring rain, everyone dressed with their teeth brushed, I was fully expecting someone to meet us at the door with a medal. “Here! You made it! Congratulations!” So I became ridiculous and greeted every other mother with a babe in arms with dead-serious props: “You made it, good for you! Good for us! Look at us, we’re doing it!”

I never really want to go to church. I just don’t. I’d rather stay home in my jammies and have a lazy Sunday. I like podcasts and books. I have a lot of weirdness about the Church as a whole, too: questions and accusations or frustrations, perhaps. I’m just built that way, some of us are. And I will choose quiet over crowds any day. But every Sunday that I push through that, I never regret it, I’m always to glad I actually got ready and put my children in the car and we went to church to remember that we are the church. I am always so thankful that I went – so thankful for the chance to pray for a friend and for familiar faces, for singing and teenagers in buffalo check shirts, for Sunday school and loud kids, for the way we stand to read the Scriptures in declaration over each other.

I think someday when I am old, I will conjure up the sight of us in the fourth or fifth row on the right hand side just to see us on these imperfect Sundays. I’ll see my gigantic husband delicately twirling our three-year-old in the aisle as she dances to the hymns and the anthems alike. I’ll see him lifting her easily up into his arms, how her flowered dress hung over his plaid-shirted arm and she stuck her chubby arms up in the sky like all the grown-ups around her, singing “hall-le-lu-yay!” and how she leaned out of his arms three times to kiss me SMACK right on the lips and then grin. I’ll see myself swaying with a sleeping baby at my breast, rhythmically patting her bum with my left hand, my right holding the hand of a tall and sensitive six-year-old boy who sings along to the songs. I’ll see my eldest daughter with her BFF colouring at our feet, turning the provided picture of a leper rejoicing into a couple of chicks with carefully designed clothes on and black crayon eyelashes, praising God. I’ll see how we were back and forth up the aisles at least three times with someone who needs to pee or nurse. I’ll see our friends and the folding chairs, all familiar, how I sang out over my life with my palms wide open.

And I’ll fall in love with my life from that distance, over and over, because I will love the sight of us, distracting and distracted and yet somehow doing it, the thick of our life together. I will see myself singing the words of the Psalms into my babies’ hair, I’ll see how we touched each of them, rubbing their backs, brushing their hair off their foreheads, holding their hands, loving them is just as much a part of our worship as anything else.

Hosanna in the highest. We’re not a liturgical church but I’m a liturgical woman. I always long for liturgy on the big days like this, I want the big church-y words and communion and prayers, the same every year. But my people are the school-gym dwellers, the flag-wavers, the “God has a word for you” ones and so I stay, I’ll always stay.

I spent much of the sermon in the mothers’ nursing room. I used to wonder why I bothered going to church when so much of my time was spent in the hallways with a fussy baby or toddler. But then I realised that this is part of church, too, the way that we talk in the halls, the way we sit on scratchy old couches in the staff room of the elementary school nursing without covers on, the way we sway while we talk. If I came to church just for the sermons, I would have left long ago.

But I admit that sometimes I go to church just to sing. I love to sing. I’m not a snob either. I have friends who poo-poo anything that’s not a deeply and rightly theological hymn, not me. I love the hymns and I love the big hairy worship anthems, I love singing Jesus-is-my-boyfriend songs and Scripture songs, I love simplistic choruses and I love when they play the piano and tell us to just pray to ourselves and the way that the melodies of our own mouths rise up, I’ll sing in the tongues I received as an eight-year-old.

Great is thy faithfulness, our Father and our friend.

It was a wonderful sermon this morning. Brian heard the whole thing, lucky duck, and he said that sermons like that remind him why he’s given his life to this, why we believe, why it matters. Maybe that’s what good teaching does, it gives us language for our minds for what our hearts already know or suspect.

This is what we heard: There is nothing against us or in us that can stop us from clinging to Jesus, from turning to redemption, over and over, turning again and again. And whatever happened on the cross, however we impose meaning and narrative and metaphors onto it, however we try to explain or understand it, this is the truest truth of it all: it was enough. The cross was enough and is enough, we are only responding to the abundance of redemption.

Hand me a palm branch, the King is coming.

 

photo via lightstock. used with permission.

Continue Reading · church, community, faith, family · 31

The Strength to Be Where You Are :: by Brandy Walker

guest post by Brandy Walker

My three-year-old looked at me with big eyes yesterday. He told me that he does not want to be a grownup. And I laughed because I get it. Sometimes it’s really not very fun.

Meanwhile, my middle schooler keeps trying to sneak into the high school group at our church. She’s overwhelmed with problems that feel far too old for her. Struggling with the desire to be perfect and have everyone around her fall in line, too. That unique, torturous feeling of not-enoughness that often strikes previously confident young girls around puberty.

My son is a lot like his dad. Never in a hurry. Completely comfortable where he is.

My daughter, on the other hand, is exactly like me. As I battle my own demons of perfection and performance and doubt, it breaks my heart to watch her as she watches me and takes up her own sword.

I think of Jesus, when he talked about being a mother hen, wanting to hold us. I know he gets it.

I long to wrap her up in my arms. To gently shake all the insecurities off her shoulders. But I feel like I’ve got to work on my stuff before I can even begin to think about helping her with hers.

That’s what we’re told, right? I’ve got to get rid of my plank first.

It doesn’t work that way in parenting. You don’t get the luxury of waiting until you’ve got it all together before you have to approach your kids with seemingly sage advice.

The frustrating thing, of course, is that Jesus was perfect. He actually had sage advice.

When we think about being like him, though, I don’t think it’s perfection that we’re talking about. It’s the way he connected with people. It’s the way he tore down the old ideals of what being perfect is supposed to look like.

You could even say that he wasn’t perfect. Because perfect is a static state. It’s unchanging, steeped in tradition.

Instead, you could say he was what Brené Brown calls wholehearted. That is, he had the strength to be vulnerable.

Cultivating deep, loving friendships with men and women requires authentic vulnerability.

Telling people the truth in gentle yet challenging ways requires authentic vulnerability.

Getting pissed off at the broken systems and doing something about it requires authentic vulnerability.

Being scared of your calling and asking for it to be taken away, but ultimately submitting to the purpose of your life requires massive amounts of authentic vulnerability.

I am a writer and a life coach. I teach people how to find their purpose and go after it full-tilt, in the midst of real and messy life. Since I became a Christian 11 years ago, I’ve had a growing fascination with Lent. It’s about repentance and fasting and I suck at both of those things.

But I love how Lent follows Jesus as he accepts his own life purpose—one that led him to a place most of us would never want to fathom. But one that, as Christians, we celebrate, wholeheartedly. Because he showed us a new way.

One of the criticisms we get as a church is that we focus too much on Jesus’ death and not enough on his life. That’s what got me thinking about vulnerability.

I believe that it’s our drive to be perfect—prefect parents, perfect kids, perfect feminists, perfect students, perfect activists, perfect progressive Christians—that keeps us from stepping into our big, wide-open dreams.

A couple of years ago, I started an e-course called Be, a journey through Lent. Last year, we focused on rest and sabbath and deep self-care. Sometimes, in order to pursue your calling, you must first curl up into a ball.

Be-2-960

But after the soul-filling rest, what happens next?

How do you do find the meaning of your life in the middle of your actually crazy life?

I believe the answer can be found in authentic vulnerability. And I believe the journey through the Lenten season is the *perfect* vehicle for real transformation here.

In Be this year, we’ll create a safe space where we can take off our armour. We’ll talk about shame and the lies we tell ourselves. Once again, we’ll practice deep self-care. We’ll laugh and cry and bake together. We’ll find the courage and the breathing room, together, to find or submit to our purposes. We’ll create and solidify our sacred friendships as we walk closer and closer to Holy Week. Finally, we’ll celebrate Easter with all its new and outrageous implications.

Through it all, we’ll face life’s challenges as they come. We’ll hug our kids when they need to be hugged. We’ll trust their love when they want nothing to do with us. We’ll face good and hard personal news together. We’ll celebrate new jobs and dreams and possibilities.

Hopefully, we’ll walk away with new friends, a renewed commitment to our purpose in the world, and the profound sense that through it all we’ll have the strength to remain authentically vulnerable.

If that sounds like something you need in your life, I hope you’ll join us. The class starts on February 15th, but you have until Friday, the 20th, to sign up. If money is an issue, there are scholarships available.

Whether you’re dashing through life like my daughter and I, or plodding along at a brilliantly steady pace like the males in our family, may your direction lead you to your passion and your purpose.

May you always find the strength to be where you are.

10885151_10101648877255500_9196860507141744614_nWhen Brandy was in kindergarten, she used to get in trouble for daydreaming. Now she makes her living as a professional daydreamer. She talks about the intersection of shalom, feminism, and radical self-care at brandyglows.com. She helps creatives work through the blocks holding them back and dare to dream tornado-sized dreams. You can follow her random thoughts, big ideas, and pictures of her crazy, adorable kids on twitter at http://twitter.com/brandyglows.

 

 

Continue Reading · faith, Guest Post, lent · 7