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In which we have another video for you :: Lean Into the Pain

One of the phrases I often write through or return to in my work is to “lean into the pain” and this is a 5 minute video from Travis Reed of The Work of the People on where it came from.

Talking about things like this is a bit hard for me – I’m not a verbal processor and to think “on my feet” like this is a bit of a stretch.  I’m more comfortable as a writer obviously. And so I’ll also share an excerpt from my book about this very thing:

Lean into the pain.

Stay there in the questions, in the doubts, in the wonderings and loneliness, the tension of living in the Now and the Not Yet of the Kingdom of God, your wounds and hurts and aches, until you are satisfied that Abba is there, too. You will not find your answers by ignoring the cry of your heart or by living a life of intellectual and spiritual dishonesty. Your fear will try to hold you back, your tension will increase, the pain will become intense, and it will be tempting to keep clinging tight to the old life; the cycle is true. So be gentle with yourself. Be gentle when you first release. Talk to people you trust. Pray. Lean into the pain. Stay there. and the release will come. 

Hurry wounds a questioning soul.

You can also watch You are Not Forgotten and Live Loved.

 

Continue Reading · faith, giving birth, Jesus Feminist, journey · 19

In which we visit “our” school in Haiti for the first time

Sarah Bessey School 2

Do you remember when I wrote this? It was just eighteen months ago.

So we want to build a school at Yahve Shamma orphanage for the entire community. We want to build a legacy, a real brick-and-mortar Haitian-built, Haitian-managed, Haitian-taught community school to be part of lifting Haiti out of poverty. And we want to do it with you, too.

This isn’t just one small step, not really. Because, you see, there will be 170 beautiful tinies there. In one school, every year, 170 steps, one right foot after another left foot, right forward, into God’s purpose and plan, God’s future and hope. Plus twelve teachers, well, every year, step, step, step right into where they were meant to be all along. And we can be a part of it, walking alongside of them.

Eighteen months ago, I stood in that very spot and told you about our crazy dream with Pastor and Madame Gaetan. And even more wonderful? You all said “absolutely.”

Absolutely we can do this.

Absolutely this matters.

Absolutely we will love these tinies and we will build them a school.

Absolutely.

And now, today….

We walked through the gates of the Yahve Shamma orphanage, and I took one look at that gigantic and gorgeous school – and I burst into tears.

I couldn’t stop weeping or smiling, this was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen with my own two eyes.

Sarah Bessey Haiti School 1

I stood on holy ground when I stood in the kindergarten classroom at Williamson Adrien Academy in Petion-ville, Haiti.

Over the past eighteen months, I feel like I have been witness to the miracle, the miracle of the Church together, the Church united across nations, the Church that shows up and loves well, a Church that stretched from my little home in Abbotsford all the way here to Haiti to your home across the world in Ireland, Australia, the United States, and beyond.

The school is beautiful. Painted the colour of sunshine, each classroom was a joy to my heart. (I’m so glad it’s lovely.)

The school was not simply aid nor is this a hand-out or an invasion. No, this was a Haitian-led community development plan born out of friendship and relationship, and I simply feel honoured to even be a small part of this thing.

I couldn’t wait to share today with you. You were a part of this vision right from the start and you really showed up for these kids in this neighbourhood. You donated money, you fundraised, you wrote your own blog posts and harassed your churches, you prayed and you advocated and then you prayed some more.

Thirty-four orphans and another 250 neighbourhood kids plus all their teachers and parents and families say thank you.

Haiti collage 1 haiti collage 2

(Sorry for the grainy iPod photos – better ones will be coming soon!)

 

It’s real, you guys. It’s real and it’s really here. It’s really tiny chairs and desks, blackboards and homemade days-of-the-week posters, notebooks and drawings.

I love doing life with people who are so committed to living out the Kingdom of God in real ways.

And that includes all of you.

I thought of you while I stood there, I did. I thought of you when I sat on the steps, in the heat and the dust.

I thought of you, my friends, and I gave thanks to my God for you.

Next up….

So much more happened today but I’m still processing it a bit. We visited church, another children’s home, as well as two micro-loan recipients. I can’t wait for you to meet everybody here. Sometimes the stories are too dear to my heart to be told quickly or lightly. I want to give them a bit of time to soak and then hopefully I’ll give them all the dignity and justice they deserve.

Tomorrow, we’re off to Drouin to learn more about our work in the field of orphan prevention in that area. See you back here tomorrow!

P.S. You can catch up with the other bloggers on the trip here. Or follow along for the days as wi-fi permits on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #HONbloggers.

 Want to help?

We want to sign up 100 child sponsors in Drouin whose kids are vulnerable to trafficking and 100 hosts for a Garage Sale for Orphans to build a preschool for children who have been rescued from trafficking while we’re here on the ground. And as always, pray for us, pray for our families – and help spread the word by sharing our posts on social media.

 

Continue Reading · Haiti, journey, social justice · 20

In which I read my bad reviews

You know better. Of course, you do. You know better than to read blog posts about your book. You know better than to Google yourself. You know better than to troll a list of “best blogs” looking for your own absent name.

And you know better than to ignore the 5-star reviews and only read the 1- and 2-star reviews of your little yellow book. You know better than to measure your self-worth by the measuring sticks of another.

Of course you know this. But some days…. Well, some days, you forget or you violate your own boundaries and you do it anyway.

So this is what people think of me.

And then you sit in their thoughts. Deflated. Out of breath. Hot. Why does your face always get so hot when you feel exposed?

They’re right. Of course, they’re right.

Who do you think you are?

That hiss always comes on the heels of these moments. Who do you think you are? And in this moment, you can’t remember the answer or can’t muster the words aloud.

So this is what you do first: you walk away from the reviews, from the criticism, from the mockery, from the ways you’ve disappointed.

Then you call your sister and you call your husband. You call your friends. You get mad and dare to say it out loud. You admit that you’re hurt. You admit that you made a bad decision by choosing to read them and now you’re living with the consequences but they seem a bit too harsh in your soul.

You admit that you’re feeling vulnerable and exposed, ridiculous and small, worthless and foolish. You are trying to harden your heart so it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Somehow saying it out loud helps a bit.

But you don’t want to have a hard heart. You’d rather be hurt than impenetrable. This is the price of living without armour, of making art with your life and stories and faith: you are vulnerable.

Every attack feels personal because it’s your heart-and-soul-work. And that’s okay. You might need a bit of time before you can sort through the legit criticisms – the kind that will make you better – from the hurt. Maybe it will make you a better writer. Maybe. Reason and logic seem insufficient at the moment.

You go for a walk in the sunshine. You remember that it’s spring and so you take pictures of the pink and white trees. You hold hands with your littlest girl and stop often to look at the wonder: look, a ladybug! look, a rock! look, a cigarette butt! look, a dandelion! And you carry her treasures in your pockets (except for the cigarette butt). You tip your face to the sky and breathe deep. This is real, this is real, this is real.

You argue and defend yourself and justify to a closed computer. Then you pray and you find comfort. You keep praying like you always do, throughout your life.

You consider quitting writing but first you’d have to quit living, quit caring.

You go home and clean something. You make supper. You bath your children and quiz spelling words. You sweep the floors and put away laundry. Your life is achingly normal and today this comforts you.

Then in the night, when everyone is asleep, you run the bath and sink into the warmth. Your damp hands hold up a book you love, and the pages absorb the warmth. You read and soak until your hair is damp and curling around your neck.

You rise up out of the water and stand. You look in the mirror at your bare face and you say it out loud this time: I’m a beloved warrior

Then you go to bed and sleep.

In the morning, when you rise, you already know that you will pour a cup of tea, sit your bum in your chair, and write again. And someone will not like it. But you will write anyway and you will keep writing because this is where you find God most clearly and most profoundly, this is your sanctuary and this is your work.

Continue Reading · books, fearless, journey · 56

In which this is for the ones leaving evangelicalism

For the ones (1)

I walked this path years ago: it is not an easy path. But there are a lot of us out here waiting for you.

Can we ever really leave our mother church? Perhaps not. The complexity of tangled up roots isn’t easily undone. And yes, I think there is a way to reclaim and redeem our traditions with an eye on the future.

But maybe this isn’t your time to do that. Maybe this is your time to let go and walk away.

I know you’re grieving. Let yourself grieve. It’s the end of something, it’s worthwhile to notice the passing of it, to sit in the space and look at the pieces before you head out.

In the early days, when you are first walking away, you might feel afraid. You don’t need to be afraid. It can be confusing to separate from what so-and-so-big-guy-in-the-big-organization says about you or people like you. It can be disorienting to walk out into the wilderness on purpose. It can be lonely. It can be exhilarating. It can be terrifying.

My friend, don’t stay in a religious institution or a religious tradition out of fear. Fear should not drive your decisions: let love motivate you.

Lean into your questions and your doubts until you find that God is out here in the wilderness, too.

I have good news for you, broken-hearted one: God is here in the wandering, too. In fact, you might just find, as Jonathan Martin wrote, that the wilderness is the birthplace of true intimacy with God for you.

Jesus isn’t an evangelical. You get to love Jesus without being an evangelical.

Your pet evangelical gate-keeper isn’t the sole arbitrator of the Christian faith: there is more complexity and beauty and diversity of voices and experiences within followers of the Way than you know. Remember, your view of Christians, your personal experience with Christians is rather small sample size: there are a lot more of us out here than you might think. A lot of us on the other side of that faith shift, eschewing labels and fear-tactics, boundary markers and tribalist thinking.

There are a lot of us out here who aren’t evangelical theologically or politically. There are those of us who are evangelical perhaps in our theology still (I think I am but who can keep track these days of the master list we’re supposed to be checking?) while separating from evangelicalism culturally or politically.

I’m someone who believes that we are in the midst of major shift within the Church – what Phyllis Tickle calls a “rummage sale” – similar to the Great Schism, and the Reformation. The Church is sorting and casting off, renewing and re-establishing in the postmodern age and this is a good thing. The old will remain – it always does – but something new is being born, too. If it is being born in the Church, it is first being born in the hearts and minds and lives of us, the Body.

Maybe evangelicalism as we understand it doesn’t need our defense anymore: maybe we can open our fist, lay down our weapons for the movement or the ideology or the powerful, and simply walk away.

It was helpful when it was helpful. Now, perhaps, it is not. Evangelicalism doesn’t get our loyalty: that fidelity is for our Jesus.

Sometimes we have to cut away the old for the new to grow. We are a resurrection people, darling. God can take our death and ugliness and bitterness, our hurt and our wounds, and make something beautiful and redemptive. For you. In you. With you.

Let something new be born in you. There is never a new life, a new birth, without labour and struggle and patience, but then comes the release.

Care for the new life being born in you with tenderness. It will be tempting to take all the baggage with you – to bring the habits or language or rules with you. That’s okay. You might need to be angry for a while. That’s okay. You might need to stop reading your approved-translation-of-the-Bible and only find Scripture in The Message. That’s okay. You might need to stop praying the way you were taught and learn to pray as you work, as you make love, as you walk at night. That’s okay.

I’m not afraid for you: you are held.  You are loved and you are free. I am hopeful for you.

Nothing has been lost that will not be restored. Be patient and kind with yourself. New life doesn’t come overnight especially after the soil of your life and heart has been burnt down and razed and covered in salt.

Don’t worry about the “should-do” stuff anymore. It might help to cocoon away for a while, far from the performances or the structures or even the habits or thinkers that bring you pain. The Holy Spirit isn’t restricted to only meeting with you in a one-hour-quiet-time or an official 501-3(c) tax approved church building.

Set out, pilgrim. Set out into the freedom and the wandering. Find your people.  God is much bigger, wilder, generous, more wonderful than you imagined.

The funny thing for me is that on the other side of the wilderness, I found myself reclaiming it all – my tradition, the habits, the language. Your path may lead you elsewhere, but I’m back where I began with new eyes, a new heart, a new mind, a new life, and a wry smile.

Now, instead of being an evangelical or whatever label you preferred, perhaps you can simply be a disciple, a pilgrim, out on The Way, following in the footsteps of the man from Nazareth.

You aren’t condemned to wander forever. Remember now: after the wilderness comes deliverance.

 

Related:

In which you’re a pioneer

In which the Spirit inhabits the praises of the people

In which I know, I’m sorry, and I hope I was kind

Lean Into It

Hope is a radical act of faith

 

 

Continue Reading · church, faith, fearless, journey · 159