self talkA few days ago, a dear friend rightly called me out on a bit of negative self talk. And while the moment passed, it’s been sitting with me since. I know that I’m a lot better about self talk than I used to be – I recognize my gifts and talents and don’t measure myself against others the way I used to. But still, I can get pretty down on myself, especially when it comes to things I think I should have more control over.

And I know negative self-talk – even in little bits – can erode confidence. This is the last thing I need, knowing I am applying for internships and seeing the RSCC soon. I need to believe in myself, authentically and realistically.

So starting today, and at least until October 31, I am on a focused mission to eliminate negative self talk and say something nice about myself out loud, within earshot of beloved friends, each day… and post some sort of affirmation about my self on Facebook. I’m not going to brag, or say things that aren’t actually true – or even things I suspect might be true but can’t be sure of yet. I simply wish to speak the positive truths that I know about myself, to myself.

I am either going to become more confident and breathing into the fullness of who I am – or an insufferable fool. Either way, by Halloween I suspect I’ll know something about myself.

And so it begins….

Many years ago, I worked with an intuitive woman named Coral, who was part astrologer, part therapist, part mirror. For the years we worked together, she held a mirror up for me to see parts of myself I couldn’t see, and couldn’t trust. Part of what made Coral so valuable was her unquestioning trust in her intuition; there were times when she would say something that was right on the money that surprised her after she said it – her own mind and heart led her to speak, and instead of filtering or thinking before she spoke, she just spoke. She trusted herself enough to know she was speaking from the heart. And she moved through her days trusting her intuition, living a full and rich life.

zaphodI have always admired that about Coral, always wanted to unquestioningly trust. But instead, I have this second mind that a friend calls “Zaphod” from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – this second mind worries, watches, considers, analyzes, and fears.

Mostly fears.

Fears being rejected, fears being hurt, fears being judged, devalued, scorned. My Zaphod Brain is anxious, envious, jealous, worried, nervous, and jerky. For years, I have longed to get rid of my Zaphod Brain, but I haven’t known how. I haven’t felt strong enough, old enough, daring enough, secure enough. It has kept me from speaking my mind, from living into my fullest self, from properly navigating relationships, from feeling free.

But something has shifted.

I’m not sure what it is; maybe some of it is having swallowed the red pill and seeing endless possibilities for serving the world and loving the expansive and infinite Divine. Some of it may be realizing that as I approach 50, I really do know a thing or two, and my seminary career has deepened my knowledge. I know some of it is my recent interactions with an old friend, whom I trust completely – “pre-certified trust” he calls it – and who encourages me to put my Zaphod Brain aside.

So in the last month, I have found myself doing things that are showing me what trusting myself is like: I’ve engaged a debate from antagonism through to a burgeoning friendship; I’ve conducted a discussion group where I realized I have theological knowledge despite believing I am not a theologian; I’ve called out an ex who was doing me emotional harm and haven’t backed down. I’ve stood on the side of what’s right over what’s convenient. I’ve stood on the side of love. I am speaking truth as I see it from the pulpit without apology.

Now for many people, these may seem like no-brainers. But my Zaphod Brain has been quite nervous, second guessing, sabotaging. Or at least has wanted to. It has long convinced me that there is only so much room, and stepping out means breaking the reasonable, much-needed protective barriers.

But what I have discovered is that the space has been there for a very long time.

I’m reminded of an early episode of the animated series Futurama, where the protagonist, Fry, needs a place to stay. His new best friend, a robot named Bender, invites him to stay at his apartment; of course, it’s tiny, with just enough room for a robot to power down. But when Fry gets a plant as a housewarming gift, he longs for some sunlight. Benders says “oh, there’s a window in the closet” and opens the door to a huge room – perfect for a human, wasted on a robot.

That’s me – that room has been there all along. Space for trust – in myself, in others. I am not pushing out through the protective barriers; for the first time, I am living into all the spaciousness of my mental, emotional, and spiritual capacity.

I am still surprised at it – and I’m sure my Zaphod Brain is freaking out as I write. But I can show my Zaphod Brain the big open spaces, the huge picture windows, and the magnificent view.

As I completed the manuscript for my sermon entitled “God and Democracy” I realized that I write and speak more passionately as a Universalist than as a Unitarian. While my Unitarianism compels thought, my Universalism compels action.

I also know that my recent exposure to the Red Pill Brethren, as well as both Michael Tino’s Murray Lecture and Beth Ellen Cooper’s compelling presentation (“Occupy Your Faith”) further engaged my Universalism – that part of me that knows my power comes from my faith, is grounded in justice and compassion, that we are called to serve the family of humanity, to stand of the side of love, to make sure the smallest voice is heard, to do, to speak up, to act.

And so I delivered a sermon that was perhaps the most passionate sermon I’ve delivered, despite my feeling like death on a cracker. I demanded action of the congregation, but also of myself. As bad as I feel, I know I too have to be an active, willing participant in the lives around me. Who am I if I ask a congregation to serve the needs of those next door if I am unwilling to do it myself? Who am I to talk about mission and servant evangelism and the call of democracy as a call of faithful action if I am not going to act as well?

So my passion – my deep faith in a loving, benevolent God who, as Clarence Skinner remarks, “loves the universe, who hungers for fellowship, who is in and of and for the whole of life” – compels me to action, to be intimately and actively engaged with this amazing family of humanity.

Here we go. Are you ready? Am I ready?

For weeks now, I have been saying “you need to update your blog – talk about the spring semester, talk about summer plans, explore some of the ideas you haven’t had time to explore.” And I get the browser window open to the “add new post” screen, write a line or two, and then discard it.

I have felt uninspired. Uninspired to dig into the projects I have set for myself, uninspired to get the diet going, uninspired to have fun, see friends, read fiction and write fanciful things because I have time, even work on sermons for the supply preaching I’ll be doing this summer.

Let’s face it: I’m in a slump.

Now I know some of it is worry – my step-nephew has had a major medical crisis (which you can read about here), and which has absorbed a great deal of emotional energy. But there’s more to it… and it may be quite simple, actually. It may be possible that I was going at such a breakneck pace, using so much mental and emotional energy, that I haven’t recovered yet.

And I suppose that’s okay. I would have thought I’d be out of it right now – after all, it’s been nearly a month. Yet I have also never expended so much mental, emotional, and spiritual energy for such a sustained period, so it is no wonder I’m still getting through it. The good news is I am home in Round Lake right now, eating good food, sleeping in my own bed, spending lazy mornings with coffee and the cats. I feel a bit lonely – my sister and the occasional person strolling by doesn’t have the same energy as streets full of people and a couple hundred classmates – but it isn’t terrible.

I think maybe it’s okay that I’m in a slump. Once I get adjusted to this slower pace again and stretch into summer, I suspect I’ll pick up the books, crank out a pile of sermons, make good progress on projects, and write.

Meanwhile… just as as way of keeping track, here is what I HOPE to do this summer:

  • Read a stack of books:
    • Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life – Karen Armstrong
    • One of Our Thursdays Is Missing – Jasper Fforde
    • Jesus – Marcus Borg
    • Reading Ruth – Judith Kates & Gail Twersky Reimer, eds.
    • Beginner’s Grace – Kate Brastrup
    • Theatre of the Oppressed – Agusto Boal
    • Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time – Marcus Borg
    • Jesus through Pagan Eyes – Mark Townsend
    • This Odd and Wondrous Calling – Lillian Daniel & Martin Copenhaver
    • Heat Rises – Richard Castle
    • Women in Scripture – Carol Meyer, ed.
  • Outline and identify stories for my masters project (more to come on that soon)
  • Move books and organize them in my storage unit (including the pile I take from Linda Hoddy’s study when she retires next month)
  • Do the closet organization thing
  • Rework this site (I’m ready for a new layout)
  • Come up with ideas for my field ed project
  • Organize the cookbooks and recipes
  • Develop new spiritual practice (I’m growing bored with the current one)

In just over two weeks, I head down to the city to begin orientation at Union Theological Seminary. It’s been so far away for so long, it is surprising to realize how close it is now. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been resigning positions on boards, finishing terms on committees, closing up projects, generally putting my house in order so that once classes start, I can concentrate on work and studies.

A few weeks ago, I first identified a certain good melancholy – a bit sad to be no longer seeing these people on a weekly or monthly basis, but knowing I am leaving on good terms and heading for something more.

But the last week or so, I’ve been sad in an unsettling, unclear way.

Now I have tied some of the sadness to a particular fear I carry with me – an odd academic fear. I’ve always been good at school when I put my mind to it – I grasp things easily, see connections, know, and excel. But since the surgeries in 2007-08, I’ve noticed that my memory is compromised – it is a strikingly noticeable effect of the pain meds and thrice-in-one-year doses of general anesthesia. And I know, once I get into it, I’ll likely see my strengths come back and add more tricks to those I currently use to get by with a diminished short term memory.

But even with that nagging worry, and recognizing the loss associated with ending certain activities, I’ve been sad. It became sharpest last night, when Carl and I were talking. I was telling him about my day – the many good things that happened. Normally, I’d be smiling and triumphant in the good stuff (finishing a hard project, getting a new one, having a great experience with an author, etc.). But I was still terribly unsettled and weepy. When we hung up, I should have gone to sleep, but I was left wondering WHY the things that would normally signal a good day didn’t have the same effect.

And then I remembered the Edward Hays poem:

Don’t make friends with an elephant trainer unless you have room in your home for an elephant.– saying of the Sufis

O Blessed one, you whose voice calls me
to the sacred path of the pilgrim,
I wish to seek you with all my heart.

Yet I am often half-hearted in that desire
when I realize the cost of such a quest.

My life is rather comfortable and well-ordered
and fits me like an old shoe.

I fear the knowledge that if I romance you
I may lose what I hold dear.

Be compassionate with my hesitation
as I measure the cost of loving you.

I have read in the holy books
and know from the lives of the saints,
that you, my god, come as purifying fire
to burn away all that is not true.

I tremble at the thought
of you consuming those things that I love
and even my prized image of who I am.

Yet, I also want to know you more fully;
help me to embrace the awesome implications
of my inviting you to enter my life.

Enlarge my half-hearted love
with the ageless truth
that if I seek your kingdom first,
seek to be fully possessed by you,
everything I need shall be given me,
and happiness beyond my wildest dreams
shall be mine.

Come today, Creator of elephants and saints,
and be my friend.

And I realized that there is a lot more going on.

I realized that I’m not just giving up or changing parts of my life, nor am I intentionally making changes to my life. Rather, I am giving myself over to a change, giving myself over to the service of God. I am stepping into a role that carries a holy and sacred calling. I am saying Yes, I am willing to be different. I am allowing the reality of God to change my reality. Like a magnet being wrapped in copper coil and run through with electricity, my very polarity is changing. Like a length of iron being heated up and hammered into a sword, I am being strengthened. Like a piece of wood burning in a fire, my chemical makeup is altering.

And as hard as I have worked to change myself for the better, God is taking those things and changing me for good.

The change is indeed unsettling. And I don’t know if everyone who enters seminary goes through this – maybe others have always just known, or have had an easier time letting go of control, trusting God. I know it’s been hard for me to put my weight down on the “trusting God” thing; I’ve been angry with the Divine for many years, and I’m unsure of my footing.

And that in itself is a little sad.

But as unsettled as I feel… as sad and unsure… I know that even this is a good sad.

I saw a tweet this afternoon that used the hashtag #SpirituallyLazy – the writer was bemoaning his lack of attention to his practice. He was kicking himself for not being more attentive… something I’ve done plenty of times.

But the truth is, I think we all spend more – or less – time on our spiritual practice at different times. The reasons are varied – from state of mind to season to schedule to what you eat last night. And I used to really get down on myself when I didn’t do anything for a while – something I sheepishly reported at Wellsprings sessions now and then.

Recently, I have found that when I’m not as motivated as I want to be or as attentive as I’d like, having a quick tool to at least get me off on the right foot has been a comfort.

The tool is a very simple, attractively designed questionaire. It asks the questions I need to ask myself to get going, plus provides room to clear the clutter (to do lists). And there’s open space on the flip side for more involved writing. And… when I am really on a roll, I add sheets.

This tool is something I use every day, whether I’m in the right frame of mind or not. On good days, it is a jumping off point. On bad, it is a five-minute chance to pause a moment with the Divine. I offer it to you free of charge, to use or not as you wish (click here to download full pdf version). You’re free to use the idea and make your own, too. Maybe you don’t wake up with a song in your head but rather the snippets of a dream. Maybe you make a practice of reading a verse from scripture, pulling a tarot card or a rune. Add whatever you need.

I offer it to you because it enriches me. And may your tweets be free of #SpirituallyLazy – even on your worst days. 🙂

Any minute now my ship is coming in I’ll keep checking the horizon And I’ll stand on the bow And feel the waves come crashing Come crashing down, down, down on me

And you said,”Be still, my love Open up your heart Let the light shine in” Don’t you understand? I already have a plan I’m waiting for my real life to begin

– Colin Hay, “Waiting for My Real Life To Begin

They say that we teach what we most need to learn – and that is no truer than it is at this very moment. I’d like to tell you some things about me, and maybe the story will shed some light on today’s theme, starting here, starting now. I realized about a month ago, rather sheepishly I might add, that I’ve always been waiting for something in order to get my life on track, waiting for something so I could accomplish my goals.  “Just as soon as I finish school”… “Just as soon as I get a raise”… “Once the check comes in”…“As soon as I meet someone”… “Once I move”… “After I lose weight”…. And the second part of those sentences promises a wonderful future. An educated, rich, loving, beautiful, thin future.  The “just as soons” got even sharper in 2004, when I quit my corporate job due to mental and physical stress. I moved back here from NC, full of “just as soons” – getting a new job, moving out of my sister’s house, then of course the 18 months of “just as soon as the next doctor’s appointment… test… surgery” as I dealt with a severely damaged lumbar disk. It seems I have spent my adult life waiting for something to happen, or get finished, so that I could begin approaching something called a goal. This is further complicated by a vision I once had. Maybe it was a dream, maybe it was a sleep-deprived hallucination, but it has stuck with me for over a decade. In my vision, I was in a spa, with women pampering me – manicure and pedicure, facials, peeled grapes, handsome, shirtless men fanning me with palm fronds – the whole nine yards. An older, attractive man (who was some sort of divine god-figure) leaned in behind me to kiss my cheek. But instead of a kiss, he whispered two words: “Not yet.” I have no idea for certain what he was referring to, but it was clear I wasn’t ready, that I must wait some more. And so, I have been waiting for “yet” for a decade.   Now some of you may remember the last New Year’s sermon I gave in 2009. It was the first sermon of Linda Hoddy’s sabbatical, and I felt the weight of it. I spoke about the Church of 80% Sincerity – that when we give ourselves permission – the 20% or so – to mess up, we actually allow hope, love, and grace to come in. I spoke about being open to possibility, and not waiting for the other shoe to drop. I encouraged you all – and me – to allow for the ‘other shoe’ to be something good, not always something bad. It’s two years later now, and I have been better at this – much better.  In these two years, I have been more aware that grace is there for the taking. My editing and publishing business has gone in some interesting directions, because I was open to the possibility rather than focused on a strict business plan. I let love in from a surprising place – Minneapolis – and that relationship daily reminds me of the possibilities of love without bounds. And – perhaps most significantly – being open to possibility, open to grace, and open to the messages the Divine has for all of us if only we have ears to hear, has led me to realize that the sermon I gave in early 2009 was the first major clue that it is time for me to pursue ministry as a formal path, one I decided to follow actively a month or so ago. Now you’d think that all is sunshine and roses. Business! Love! Ministry! Joy unbounded and rapture divine! And “yet” is finally here! But… no.  Because just like my life before 2009, I am still waiting. Maybe the other shoe is Cinderella’s glass slipper, rather than a heavy work boot that’s going to knock me out. But I am still waiting…and the waiting is driving me nuts. On the professional side, I am waiting for a number of clients to say “go” on their projects. I am still waiting for book sales to take off, for the right reviews, for the million dollar project. My relationship is in waiting mode – waiting for his youngest to graduate from high school, waiting to see what will happen with my career path, waiting for something to make the future more clear for us. And ministry – I have begun applying to seminaries, but there’s waiting for acceptance, waiting to see if I can afford to go, waiting for some sign that this truly is the path I’m supposed to be on and not just a diversion. All of these things seem dependent upon each other, as if I’ll know what to do on all counts if even one of them breaks loose. As Colin Hay sang, “I’m waiting for my real life to begin.” I realized this while speaking with my spiritual director last month. I suppose it was appropriate that I started talking about waiting during Advent – `tis the season, you might say. I spoke to him about feeling paralyzed by the waiting, as if the waiting was stopping me from doing anything else. He said to me, “stop stopping” – in other words, stop letting the promise of “just as soon” keep me from living now. After we spoke, I thought of Moses, leading his people through the desert for 40 years. Now I have a feeling that the actually number is quite different, and that after following a man who refused to ask for directions, it only FELT like 40 years, but let’s assume it is true. Forty years of wandering, seeking the promised land. “Just as soon as we get there”… a big “just as soon” – perhaps the biggest there is. But during those 40 years, people died, babies were born, grew up, fell in love, had kids of their own. Food was found and prepared. Life happened – a whole new generation finished a journey started by their parents and grandparents. But what we remember is the big goal and 40 years, not the life that happened in the meantime. For Moses and Company, the “just as soon” was all that mattered. It was indeed a test of faith, and I don’t mean to dismiss that in the least. As I sit with my wondering about seminary, a certain amount of faith is required that if it is meant to be, all will work out. But what happens in the mean time? As we know, the “meantime” can be a mean time – full of pain, angst, and worry. Now I’m not sure this is true, as I’m just now thinking about this, but I suspect that the meantime can be less mean when we live right now, in this moment, not in the meantime. In other words, be here now. I know, I know, it’s what the Buddhists have been trying to tell me for years. Or at the very least, Eckhart Tolle. I will admit: I resisted reading The Power of Now; I’m one of those people who gets put off by hype, and once Oprah had this author in her sights, that was it for me. But now, after the hype has died down, I’m willing to look. I haven’t read it all yet, but I did get a good start, and fortunately, Tolle presented the real gem of the piece early on, on page 35:

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you will ever have. Make now the primary focus of your life. Whereas before you dwelt in time and paid brief visits to the now, have your dwelling place in the now and pay brief visits to the past and future. Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment.

Easier said than done, I know. Frustratingly so, I’d add, especially since our culture is driven by “just as soons.” After all, we are immersed in an ego-driven, over-hyped, ambition-led society. We believe, thus, that we are incomplete. Tolle points out that this sense of not being whole “manifests as the unsettling and constant feeling of not being worthy or good enough.” We then enter a spiraling pattern of gratifying that need to feel worthy, to feel complete – and as soon as we do that, there’s more holes to fill. Sometimes we try to fill the holes we see in ourselves with material objects, sometimes with degrees, sometimes with relationships. We are always striving for something more, and we measure the size of those holes to determine our self-worth. Whether we think we need more knowledge, more skill, more love, more toys, or more experiences, it never seems to end. We are so good at striving, we have an entire industry built around goal setting and planning. We all know the aphorism, “those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” But it seems that our goal-setting ways leave Now behind. As Linda Hoddy once said to me, setting goals kills the moment. And yet, goal setting and future planning is important. Having a vision of our life five or ten years out with a strategic plan for implementation does give us direction. It helps us figure out where to go next. And heck, entire religions are built on an ultimate goal – heaven, or some form of life after death. But being focused only on the goal means we probably aren’t living. And it probably means we are trying to control too much. There is a Sandra Bullock film called 28 Days, which takes place at a rehab center in the woods. Among her fellow patients is Eddie, a major league pitcher played by Viggo Mortensen. Having received a box of balls from his coach, Eddie goes into the woods to pitch balls against a mattress with a strike zone drawn in. Bullock’s character, Gwen comes up behind him, picks up a ball, and pitches it wildly at the mattress, missing by a mile. As she turns to go, she grumbles, “great, another thing I suck at.” Eddie stops her and asks, “what were you thinking about when you threw the ball?” She responds that she was thinking about hitting the mattress. Eddie tells her it’s all wrong: “You get locked in on the strike zone, next thing you know, it’s looking the size of a peanut. And you’re thinking, ‘Damn, I gotta get that little ball in there?’ You’ve psyched yourself right out of the game.” He tells her to think about the little things – the things you can control. “You can control your stance, your balance, your release, your follow-through,” he says. “When you let go of the ball, it’s over. You don’t have any say in what happens down there. That’s somebody else’s job.” Eddie hands Gwen another ball, helps her get into position, and tells her to close her eyes. She thinks he is nuts, but she tries it, and lands the pitch clearly in the strike zone. Letting go of control. Being focused on the moment. Seems to me this might be a good way to get life going. But now the pragmatist in me is thinking about this and saying, “yeah, so? Now what do I do with it? How do I do it? It’s easy to talk about letting go and being in the now. But talk is cheap, Debus.” Yes, my inner pragmatist has an attitude. But she’s right: how do we make it happen? I think the first clue comes from the Bible. Any time some pronouncement is being made, the person (or angel) saying it begins with one word: “Behold.” “Behold, the king walks before you.” “Behold the lamb of God.” “Behold, I bring good tidings of great joy.”  “Behold the things that are in heaven and on earth.” Behold. Look. Hold on for a moment and be in this present place. We know it works – consider the mother at Wal-Mart scolding a child; she usually gets down to eye level and starts with, “now look at me”… to get the child’s focus. We value eye contact in people we’re speaking with, and making eye contact is the difference between catching your waiter’s attention and sitting with an empty cup of coffee. We gaze into our lover’s eyes, being present with them. We don’t look ahead, we look at. We hold. We stop. We get our attention focused. I’m sure this is what the whole “focus on your breath” thing is about when we meditate. I think my mind wanders too much when I do that. But when I look at something and focus on it, I am absolutely focused. For that moment, I stop. I look. I behold. The “just as soon” thing I’m waiting for doesn’t matter. The thing I look at – the words on a page, the image on the computer screen, the cat insinuating herself on my lap, the onion I am chopping, the flame of the candle – those are all happening now. And there is joy in that. Writing down the things you’re grateful for each day helps keep that joy fresh. It makes you focus on what’s happening instead of what may happen eventually. It doesn’t dissolve the worry forever, but in time, with practice, we can be more present and productive. I think that the more we let go, the more we focus on the Now, the more we enjoy the life we are living instead of pining for the life we want to lead, we might find joy in the living. We might find that our goals are actually easier to achieve. And, we might find we’re more open to possibilities for a brighter future, because we are paying attention to those things that are in front of us now.

A few days ago, my minister asked me how I was feeling about the accident. I don’t think about it every day, but it does cross my mind when I drive to the church, since I take a route that avoids that intersection where a homeless man (a Desert Storm vet and an alcoholic) ran in front of my car, apparently committing vehicular suicide.

It’s been four years but I continue to carry the weight – knowing that I was, in fact, an instrument of death. I have at different times tried to rationalize it as God using me to give this man mercy and relief, and other times simpy figuring I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But no matter the reason, I carry it with me.

As I explained to Linda, the weight of it is like a layer of lead – like those lead vests they make you wear when you get x-rays – lying on the bottom of my heart, cupping it almost.  It pulls my heart open…

It could be easier to try to keep my heart closed, to struggle to keep the wound closed by pinning it up and trying to build supports around it. Instead, I seem to be allowing the wound to remain open – not raw, but gently, caringly open. As a result, I think I am more compassionate, more tender, more sensitive, more loving.

I am forever changed by that moment. And I carry it with me. But it doesn’t make me less capable; it makes me more so.

So what I realize is that all of my prayers, laments, reading, understanding, and exploring has been incredibly selfish and self-centered. It’s all been about what I want, how I see my world, how God can help me. There has been pride – I know more, I think more, I am holier more. And I have been angry – because I have been sure that all that has happened is a reflection of how much God has marginalized, disliked, bullied me. I have seen God only “as I understand God”…no more, not really any bigger than I can comprehend, limited, segmented, pidgeonholed into the role of giver.

And that, I am coming to realize, is a bunch of bull.

There’s a verse of the poem by Edward Hays that reads

Enlarge my half-hearted love
with the ageless truth
that if I seek your kingdom first,
seek to be fully possessed by you,
everything I need shall be given me,
and happiness beyond my wildest dreams
shall be mine.

What does it mean to be fully possessed? What does it mean to love God – and more, to act like I love God?

Does it mean…maybe… that I need to GIVE? That I need to think of God not in terms of what I get, or where God fits, or how I understand God’s role in my life… but rather that I think of God in terms of what I can do as one of God’s children, how broader God is than my little mind can imagine, how God understands MY role in GOD’s universe? And that means… that I sing, and worship, and praise…and talk, and think, and read, and ponder, and love, and give, and work, and play… all as a way of thanking God for being able to do all those things, rather than doing them to GET something.

CS Lewis talks about how we see faith as a bargain – and I think that’s right. We do. But there is a moment…and I think I am there… when we realize that there is no question of earning anything. God is just waiting for us.

And of course, I can’t bargain with God… there is nothing that I am that God hasn’t given me.

Now it’s hard…given the battle scars, given the hurt and pain and tragedy. How can it be that God’s given me that too? And yet…if I stay angry, I am never going to truly understand how exceedingly large God – and God’s love – is.

Rambling thoughts…hard to put into place. I know that my words this afternoon are failing to properly express my thoughts. I also know that the lowerarchy isn’t happy… dark images of Mom’s death, feeling a failure at my job, the general heaviness…tells me I am doing something right. I am pissing off dark forces because I’m willing to consider not only how expansive God is, but how I might start to love God.

A theme in my prayers and laments of late has been about how/why/whether God loves me. I’ve spent years certain I was his favorite punching bag, of little consequence. How could it be that after all I’ve gone through, I should know that I am loved? Why would a deity who supposedly love me treat me this way? And… if I am being called to something greater, why? Is it because I’m a sucker? Because I’ve proven to be good at being used? If this is how god shows love, then we need to talk.

What I have NOT considered – until last night – is that part of the problem is that I don’t love God.

Carl and I have been reading CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity (and yes, there have been many parts at which I’ve been ready to hurl the book across the room with great force – a topic I’ll address at some point). Last night, we read his chapter on Charity, aka Christian love. He wrote…

Some writers use the word charity to describe not only Christian love beween human beings, but also God’s love for man and man’s love for God. About the second of these two, people are often worried. They are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in themselves. What are they to do? … Act as if you did. Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, “if I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?” When you have found the answer, go and do it.

I had never considered, for one moment, this idea. I’ve been so busy waiting for God to love me, to show me God loves me, to prove God’s love through signs and hints and bounty and direction…. and it never once crossed my mind that my angry prayers and laments might not be enough. I’ve shown God plenty of frustration, anger, annoyance, even snarkiness. But I don’t know that I’ve shown God any love.

And I don’t know that I love God. I AM angry. I AM frustrated. I DO feel shat upon. I don’t mean to act the victim – that’s not my point. My point is this – I don’t know that I know HOW to act as if I loved God. I don’t have the answer yet.

But I’m willing to work on it.