Category Archives: Spiritual

What If All We Need Is 5 Minutes?

This is an experiment for a class I’m teaching Feb 1: The inaugural 30-Day YWG Story Course at Facebook. Since I’m teaching it, I figured I’d try a taste of my own medicine…

Just 5 minutes together, uninterrupted, in succession.

It seems like a luxury. A luxury I shouldn’t crave and yearn for like homemade lemonade in the desert.

I have the lemons…

This kid gets it.
This kid gets it.

Lemon 1: Work. It’s all-consuming. Just to keep up with the bare minimum takes all I’ve got most days. And that’s not a complaint because I love what I do and if it wasn’t hard, I know I’d get bored. But it’s a lemon.

Lemon 2: Writing. The demand to give myself entirely to it, to escape into the ether with the fantasy I didn’t choose but was chosen by, it speaks and sometimes shouts, to the point where keeping my mind on the task of editing becomes herculean.

Lemon 3: Writer’s group. I manage and moderate a writer’s group site and struggle to keep up with the work load. It, like all the other lemons, is fun and among the most rewarding things I’ve ever been a part of. But, it’s demanding.

How many lemons does it take? Can someone tell me? Anyone...?
How many lemons does it take? Can someone tell me? Anyone…?

I’m not even going to list the other lemons. Because honestly, as it is, there’s a lot more than 3.

We all have a lot more lemons than we really want.

I was talking with a friend recently about this challenge of accepting everything that comes at us, much of it tough and pock-marked and sour-smelling. Naturally, being the spiritual paragons that we are, we gripe and resist and want to crow off the deck about how unfair and how we deserve and why can’t life send flowers?

Typical marmot.
Typical marmot.

And really the problem is time. Time to do it all. Time to spend 5 minutes uninterrupted, in succession on just one thing.

So to combat the continual theft of my time and sanity, I propose every day to write for at least 5 minutes on a topic that pleases me. Yesterday, it was “When All You Have Is 5 Minutes” and how that’s how life is, so you take it and find out it’s enough, because like with most things it turns you don’t really know anything.

I suspect I’m not the only one who doesn’t always use the 5 minutes he has to write because he thinks 5 minutes is a lemon…

The point is: who cares? So it’s a lemon. It’s not what we’d choose. But everyone gets lemons and life is about using the lemons you have. It’s about starting on the lemonade and serving as many people as you possibly can.

And that requires getting on the path and staying there for 5 blessed, uninterrupted minutes in succession.

And then doing it again tomorrow. Even when you don’t want to.

So have some lemonade. I whipped it up in 5 minutes from what I had available. Hope you like it. Can’t wait to taste yours.

What lemons are you currently scowling at?

The Gift of Anxiety…Part 2

I had a dream a while back that won’t let me forget it.

Truth is, I’ve been running from it. It was one of those vivid disturbing dreams, and for no apparent reason other than its scary lifelikeness in smashing technicolor. The brightness of the whole thing is its strongest impression, even these several weeks that have passed.

A lamp can’t light a room under a bushel.

don't do it!

But I’ve been thinking about the gift of anxiety and how accepting it as a gift prevents it turning into its destructive form, the deeper anxiety of hopelessness that leads to fighting for control and closing off the open channel.

A little anxiety about the difficult complexities of life is a true God-given gift. It produces faith. But experiencing it and forgetting it’s meant to be turned to trust in God, that isn’t productive. It’s what you do with it that matters. And turned inward, it’s destructive of everything good within us.

Editors spend oodles of time reading. These days, that’s mostly on a computer. Each year, it’s gotten successively more computerized, until now I barely unplug for meals. And now, to top it off, I’m freelance, so I have my meals brought to me and I only get up a couple times to walk 5 steps to the bathroom.

And this is what I’m anxious about: the world, to me, it seems to be running out of time.

screamerI could be imagining it. It could be just a brain fart, a false impression of too much time at the technological trough. It could be one more pernicious lie of our age to keep us self-focused and myopic. But it seems the more the online world grows, the less time any of us has. Places that used to be quiet aren’t quiet anymore. Things that we used to have time for—writing, reading, thinking, conversing with neighbors—they’ve become impossible. Things that once took time—publishing books, creating new businesses, getting specialized information and translating it into new ideas—have become too fast to keep up with.

Any wonder we’re increasingly impatient (if love is patient what does that make impatience?). We seem to know too much about too many things and not enough about any of them. The constant barrage of information and analysis feels vitally important, at least in some way, we think.

Everything is speeding up. And I’m anxious about being trampled in the stampede.

So in this dream I had I was with a group of people that wasn’t my family but they were. They were my adopted family. We were carving a road out of the dry dust, driving through a hot desert to visit some people I’d never met before. The car had no roof and we were excited to be doing this, helping these people who lived out here so far from civilization.

desert shack

When we got there, we piled out and the house was made of clapboard and barely holding together. I didn’t know what I could possibly do to help, but I knew this was no long-term solution. It would require some fundamental changes to become livable. But the family there didn’t seem aware or interested in changing anything.

They were too busy going about their stir-crazy lives.

I felt so defeated and impotent. Here we’d come such a long way with energy and resources to help, and there was no way to even talk to them, so unreachable they were in their closed-off state. They were out there in the middle of nowhere with nothing to connect them to the real world.

We all seem to sense we’re missing something crucial. But what is it? And where do we look for it? And why, if we have everything we could possibly want, are we still so anxious?

We don’t have everything we need. Obviously. But it’s not clear what’s missing.

A young boy in the dream had something in his hand and he kept it protected from his family. A mysterious object that no one knew about. I never got a look at it, but he seemed willing to share if I proved I’d keep the secret.

We’re anxious for something. Something we can’t find a name for. Or maybe we don’t dare.

I never saw what it was.

But I don’t think that means I never will.

And I’m wondering if maybe all we have to do is want it badly enough…to dare.

A Long Obedience In the Same Direction

“The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is . . . that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” -Nietsche

imagesIn the flood of new books that come out every day, it’s easy to forget there is life we’ve been longing for in those we somehow missed over 30 years ago. But Eugene Peterson has reformed the way I read the Psalms:

“A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way. As long as we think that the next election might eliminate crime and establish justice or another scientific breakthrough might save the environment or another pay raise might push us over the edge of anxiety into a life of tranquility, we are not likely to risk the arduous uncertainties of the life of faith. A person has to get fed up with the ways of the world before he, before she, acquires an appetite for the world of grace. Psalm 120 is the song of such a person, sick with the lies and crippled with the hate, a person doubled up in pain over what is going on in the world…”

If you’re a no-nonsense, foundational kind of soul who longs to reestablish the fundamental things, check out A Long Obedience In the Same Direction

Still Loving Ya, Miley: A Final(?) Word

 

Two camps. Two paths. They say that’s all there are.

The low road and the high. Lovers v. haters.

And hate it or learn to love it, no one gets out. Everyone has to decide.

Which way will I go?

The way of the world or the way of the Lord?

We hear of these all our lives and we think we know which one’s good and which is bad.

But it’s not so easy, is it? We’re all in these cages always trying to figure out which way we’re headed, and which way others are going. It’s part are the way God made us. And part is our own making.

Haters wound, thinking they’re loving and that can become part of your cage. But their light is darkness, and as one of the “corrected” I can promise you, they don’t know the truth. And many people need to get free of folks who call hate love. Their ignorance is responsible for much that’s wrong in the world.

Still, they’re human. And they don’t always realize how their words sound. They don’t get how simply opening their mouths can shut someone else’s. And they don’t know all the people they’ll never hear from, never know, never set free because they think they have things all figured. Makes you wish they’d wonder what others sound like some time, doesn’t it? Don’t they want to know?

I guess I’ve been “corrected” quite a bit. But the stink of it is, any reaction from us only proves them right. It’s just like their shock over your new image—it serves to prove you right. But see, it doesn’t mean you are any more than it means they are, and swallowing each others’ scorn, it only makes each side stronger.

So I guess I don’t know where that leaves us. It seems you may fight and blow it off for many years. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to hold onto you with so many people thinking they have a right to you. I think God preserves my relative obscurity as a gift every day.

But don’t let anyone tell you Jesus would ever give anyone a thumbs down.

People can judge all day long. But not him.

He knows hating does no good. And he’s all about doing good.

Unfortunately, people aren’t. Jesus did a whole lot of stuff we can’t. He said don’t resist what you call evil. And for the life of me, I can’t manage that, though I try. I do know when you do, you see what evil really is—just goodness inside out, some love that lost its way. Truth gets twisted. Beauty sullied. There’s no evil without first good. God made it all good and it got all screwed up but we don’t need to fear this. It’ll be all good again someday.

But for now, all we need to know, all you need to know is that the power in us is God-breathed. It’s put there in our tongues and in our words and it’s the very power of life and death.

“Judge not lest ye be judged.” Jesus said that one too, though we argue it away and say it doesn’t mean not judging people.

“Correcting” in love is usually a sham because what’s loving to the person you’re correcting? What feels loved, seen, known? No one really knows. We know love isn’t a feeling but a decision, but Jesus never asked us to be other people’s conscience. He asked us to get in their shoes and walk a mile. And he said to let the blind lead the blind into a pit.

He knows who’s right. I’ll let him sort it out. But here are some ideas I’ve got:

1. Maybe we need to struggle to need him. Maybe that’s the only way we realize we need him?

2. When you stand in authority, someone always wants to knock you down. But kneel in powerlessness and suddenly no one’s left to judge.

3. I don’t know how many people it will take rebelling against God because of “God’s people” before his self-proclaimed defenders finally surrender, but just remember: God never asked us to deny people their freedom. He told us to set people free.

4. Spend as much time as you can imagining all that’s possible when we finally know even in all our “sin” how Jesus not only defends us and lets us off the hook, he sees and affirms us exactly as he made us.

5. If grace is what saves us, may we affirm everyone’s right to experience it. I agree with ending all restrictions on what Jesus made free because his sacrifice was good enough.

6. It’s not our job to save anyone, to set ourselves apart, or do any of the works faith requires. That’s his job. And he does it very well.

And even if you don’t agree and you still hope for a win between the camps, I hope it’s okay if I give up for you and say thanks for all you did to help me see my need to. I’ve needed to surrender to his free-love anarchy more fully. I don’t give up in hopes of anything changing, though I will pray for an end to all restrictions on those who must be allowed to speak without judgment, prejudice or discrimination.

And just remember he says, “Come to Me and I will give you rest.” Rest is not selfish, not what selfish people do. Rest is what you’re made for, next to him and in him and him in you and not ahead or behind or in fear or control.

Everything’s his doing. Give him back your everything and be truly free.

Freedom isn’t always an easy place to live. But there’s nowhere safer.

Friday Morning Pages

(on slowness)

Many people believe we are living in one of the most stressful times in history. The stress isn’t about being eaten by dinosaurs or how we’ll escape the marauding Vikings. People are now eaten by schedules and crushing poverty.

A friend of mine said recently the modern family is living life at an abusive pace.

And writing takes such a long time.

fireworks flowersI woke early, found my shoes, started the coffee and headed out for the morning run. The house and neighborhood was quiet and I did some extra stretching because of the two days I’d missed.

I listened to Berry’s Port William stories again and thought how long it takes to get as good as he is, the observations and control he has developed, to be able to capture what he does:

“Afterward they watched him from the windows, for his fury had left an influence. The house was filled with a quiet that seemed to remember with sorrow the quiet that had been in it before Thad had come.” 

Such a patient listening. How does one achieve this?

greenbeanI return and eat the last small handful of blueberries right off the bush. I go inside, pour coffee, and walk out to the deck with my other books, sharpened for an answer.

Not yet sharp enough to realize I’ve just passed one.

“Whatever the circumstances may be, that Holy Innocent Eternal Child must be in contact with His Father….I have to see that the Son of God is manifested in my mortal flesh” (My Utmost, Aug. 8, 9)

I leave the book open and peruse the plants growing on the deck from the pots we’ve lined up, the deck that needs cleaning and sealing before the rain returns. The Son of God, born in my mortal flesh, has been my new reality for almost 3 years now. It was there before, but not in any true way, any decided and humble way. And now, now that I feel his love and choose to respond to it by rising to it and being with him, is he getting the chance to manifest himself in me? Or am I still perpetually moving too quickly on to the next thing?

There are beans and tomatoes, zinnias and pumpkins, and none of them are hurrying.

If there is no room in my life for this essential listening, how can I expect to ever write the things that can hardly be felt, let alone spoken?

pumpkin flowerAnd then the obvious hidden spark drops into my head: He is in those plants over there I’m moving so quickly by. Some would argue that’s pantheism. But God save us if we can’t see that he must hold all things together, every atom and fiber of this creation bears his miraculous fusing. And the difference between seeing him and seeing a plant is everything.

He’s in those berries as he’s in me. And my eyes are not so much choosing to see as they are choosing not to continue in blindness.

Let me not forget or become too lazy to know when I am seeing you, or too fearful to know what my own spirit tells me of you.

God, calm me. Still my life and let me listen. Show me your life in me and lead me to the ever stiller communion with you.

And let me share what you would have me share.