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Instructions for an evening of your life

Find a bit of water to look at, it doesn’t have to be much. Maybe a pond, a lake? if you’re really lucky, find the ocean. But go there alone at sunset. I know it seems indulgent and impossible – that’s because it is. But every once in a while, the best way to keep moving through your life is do something that seems impossibly kind for your own soul.

So go. Alone. Late in the day.

Leave behind the book. Leave behind your prayer journal. Leave behind the notebooks and schedule planning. Leave behind the mobile phone – if you’re in a good spot, there won’t be any reception anyways.

And here is your assignment: sit down and watch the water.

That’s exactly it.

Sit in silence at the edge of the water and learn to be satisfied.

10666013_10154598970400475_7282984086193437534_nThis is the tricky part when your life is full with good and necessary and hard things, I know. Your mind will jump around from thing to thing to thing. You’ll feel guilty and then you’ll feel indolent. You’ll feel like time has slowed down.

You’ll start to think that you need to make this time “count” for God and so you’ll start to formally pray in the ways that you were taught to pray – stop that. Then you’ll want to journal or read that God-book you’ve been meaning to get to because you think you really need to grow spiritually and the only way to do that is to try harder. You’ll get restless. You’ll think of all the Things You Should Be Doing. You’ll feel twitchy perhaps. Then you’ll remember how when you were a kid you used to be able to just be in a place without compulsively needing to check text messages or chase around getting things done, and you’ll think I didn’t used to be so fragmented and urgent.

Be silent and watch the water. Do one thing right now and do it with your whole self.

Prayer will come, it just might look a bit different than you expect. Rest will come to your mind, you have to wait for it in patience, this isn’t the province of multi-taskers. The middle distance of your mind will rise up and envelope you in an exhale just as the sun sinks begins to move towards the horizon. You’ll start to notice life as it is happening in that moment and this might begin to feel in your body like how poetry is meant to sound.

A fish will fly up out of the water and return, leaving only a ring of circles going further and further out to every shore. You’ll see a bird and try to figure out what kind it is – a heron? look at that elegant neck – swooping down low over the water heading for the reeds. You’ll see dragonflies swooping and after a few times, you won’t duck in a cringe anymore. You’ll watch the clouds drift and the water move and the sun sink and your soul will begin to stretch out into the space left open. This is not only what you need – this is what you want, what you desire and even those are sacred things at times. Before you know it, your hands will find a spot to rest and your breath will slow down.

Become acquainted with the silence in your own soul, you might be surprised by the sound of you. Sometimes you might rise up in gratitude and thanksgiving, other times the pain you’re finally allowing yourself to feel might overwhelming, sometimes your soul feels like worship and sometimes this feels like encountering a stranger – do I know you? Then sometimes it might simply feel like a good friend you haven’t seen in far too long and you’ll think to yourself, why don’t I do this more often?  

Let the sun set over the water. Be baptized in the gracious last light of the day, the satisfied light. Close your eyes and feel the light against your darkness, warming you.

When the sun has disappeared, the light remains. And when the night sinks down in shades of indigo and navy blue, you’ll be ready to be friends with the night and the silence, and hopefully with your own soul at last. The first star of the evening will appear at last like a benediction for the patient.

 

Continue Reading · journey · 10

I know. I’m sorry. I hope I was kind.

I was a tongue-talking eight-year-old in a new church that was meeting at an old leisure centre. I guarded my confession – I didn’t feel sick, nope, I’m coming down with a healing! and I literally believed in thirty, sixty, hundred fold returns, calculated to figure out how much God owed me for my tithe. I secretly wondered what was missing in the lives of people who were sick or depressed or broke: obviously, they were not blessed. By the time I was a teenager at the Jesus camps, pledging my life to being a warrior in God’s culture army, I had memorized Bible verses as answers, and developed a pretty major evangelical hero complex along with my superiority and false sense of control.

I was nineteen and full of disdain for my old ways. I broke with the faith of my youth, railed against over-realized eschatology, studied theology and waxed philosophic about all the ways they were doing it wrong. I judged the Christians of my youth and my context, and I found them wanting, clearly I had a better theology now. I was stumbling into the fringes of an emerging movement in the church. Finally I found my tribe.

And less than ten years later, I had abandoned the label, poked holes in the arguments I used to make, found the inconsistencies, the hypocrisies. I judged the people who helped usher me into this new season of my life in Christ, and I found them wanting so I held them up in my mind or in public for mockery and slander. I disguised my critical heart with a lot of talk about critical thinking. I found the points of weakness and drove a chisel into it, let’s watch it splinter together.

These are just two seasons of my life:  I also had my anti-institutional church season, my I’m-not-a-Christian-season, my agnostic season, my angry feminist season, my new-wanna-be-theologian season, my screw-it-let’s-knit-things-season, my I’m-a-new-mother-and-I-know-everything-now season. I have had seasons for my marriage, for my work, for my processing, for my mothering, for my relationships, for my writing, and so of course, I’ve had them for my journey with Christ. I imagine I’ll have a dozen more seasons. Sometimes I cycle through a dozen Sarahs in a day. I’ll look back on the me-right-now with wiser eyes someday, I’m under no illusions.

Now I feel tender-hearted when I look back at my own self in those seasons. And I feel tender-hearted towards all the people who were there with me, all of us doing the best we could do with what we had.

I’m redeeming it. I am reclaiming.

In God, we live and move and have our being, and God was in and amongst the movements because he was moving in the people there, and now I see outside and in and among, and above all, for us, for us all.

I will gather up all these disparate seasons and thoughts and opinions and experiences, and hold them all in my hands with gratitude.

Now I’m able to find something good in the over-the-top excessive prosperity preachers and the smug theologians and the pot-stirring elitists and the overly passionate kids in the stadium light shows and the evangelistic new mothers and the disillusioned bitter cynics, because I’m all of them, too.

Someday I’ll add the woman I am now, the theology I practice, the words I write so earnestly to that list of stops along the way of lifelong discipleship.

In addition now to the wrongs or the missteps or the weirdness, I see the beauty of my young first generation faith: a love for the Scriptures, a deep and profound sense of God’s inherent goodness, a respect and love for language and words, a passion for worship and full engagement. I see the beauty of the other seasons, too: the respect for education, the widening of horizons, the gift of anger, the awakening to complexity, and a tribe of sinners-saved-by-grace reminiscent of a messy first-century Church, I see grace. I look back on the people, on the movements, on the seasons, and I want to curl up beside all of us, listen, love, and be kind. I want to reach out and hold hands.

There’s room for all of us. There’s room for all of me.

Maybe it’s because I see this cycle of seasons in our own lives and in the Church, and I see it happening again.

Maybe it’s because I’m gratefully disillusioned about church leadership. Maybe it’s because I’m pretty convinced that we’re all doing the best we can do, most of the time. Maybe it’s because I don’t think anyone has the corner on truth. Maybe it’s because I’m thankful for the extremes and all points in between, because they keep us growing, keep us alive, keep us reforming.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been wrong so often. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit tired.

And maybe I want a little more kindness and more faithfulness, I want to walk in the way of humility. I think we underestimate the foolish ones and the kind ones.

Maybe it’s because I imagine, someday, likely soon, some part of the Church will look at me with disdain on their faces and parody Twitter accounts and coffee shops and doctoral dissertations on All The Ways We Did It Wrong, and all I’ll know to say is that I know, and I’m sorry, and I hope I learned to be kind.

edited from the archives

Continue Reading · faith, journey · 27

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