The deep clean of my home continues as my Lenten journey unfolds. The first thing I notice this week was how this process can reflect life. Where to begin? At first it was whatever I noticed. There was a drawer in the living room, then I hung something up in the closet and saw something else, then went into the bathroom and the shower curtain caught my attention. Isn’t that life sometimes? Wandering from one thing to another yet never really feeling like life is being LIVED? Jesus talked about that all the time. Must have seen it all the time. Why else say “let those who have ears to hear.” He was calling those around them to a different frequency of life. Running from room to room, even if it has a purpose, is not the frequency Jesus is calling me to.
So I decided to go to the place that is the most hidden, the most neglected, my bathroom. Now my guest bathroom really gets a good looking at every week. That is my commitment to hospitality to others. But my bathroom…. It’s not filthy but it is no where near as neat tidy and hospitable as the guest bath. As I watch the layer of makeup slowly accumulate on the counter I think, I’ll get to that, after I take care of everyone else first. Can anyone else relate to this?
This week has been bathroom week. My bathroom, the one no one but me sees because I matter. As I washed and rehung the curtain, scrubbed the corners, organized and really looked at what was stored under the sink, I prayed. I had a heart to heart with God about what this room represents about my life. About the life I’ve been given. I have to say it has been an enlightening conversation. I also noticed it has reached out into other areas of my life. I am treating myself with the same hospitality I practice with others. Who knew scrubbing a toilet could be so enlightening. Hmm where to next.
Practice: What is your bottom of the list space in your home? Why? Pay attention to it this week and prayerfully see what you notice.
I was given a Lenten book called Simplifying the Soul by Paula Huston. I have not been able to move beyond the very first day of knowing what in my home I pay attention to and what I neglect. I have noticed I pay attention to two major things. First that my home is ready for guests. Since I see clients and have friends over often I like my home to be at least surface clean and ready for them. The second area I focus on is knowing where things are. I do spend time revamping how I organize because I don’t have time to go digging and searching. I want to know where I have stuff. So hospitality and organization are what I pay attention to.
What I neglect are the deep cleaning issues and just little things. The corners in the kitchen where the crumbs and grime are building. My oven hasn’t been cleaned in…. I don’t remember. The windows are dirty, I could go on and on. As I sit with what I neglect I think on how it effects the things that are important to me. Hospitality and organization. The little things add up.
This had me thinking about what is hidden and what is surface in my spiritual life. I was recently listening to someone speak on congruency. How what is going on inside really does seep through on the outside even when we try our best to disguise it. If we say we agree because getting along with others is important to us but we really don’t agree, that incongruence comes through.
My spiritual practice during this lenten season is to notice what I neglect and why. I am going to stay with the first day of the lenten practice. Each day combining an area of my home with an area of my life. By scrubbing my oven can I notice where in my spirit I have been living on the surface and not going into the deep corners? By washing the walls can I be grateful for all that this home and my life has held in this past year? The gift of this time is I will find some gems and freedom as I shine a light on the dark corners waiting to be seen and I’ll smile every time I open the oven. No one else will know but inside my soul I will. And that is what will shine through.
In the time since the last post my business partner and I have birthed Pathways of Grace Spiritual Care Center and The Love of Grace Pet Icons. It has been a full, scary, joyful and exciting time. I have been using the analogy that the Pathways of Grace Center is like having a new baby. One’s whole perspective shifts when we hear the words that a baby is coming. We know that life as we know it is now radically different. During the early years a lot of care is needed. New life can bring joys beyond one’s wildest imagination and keep one up all night at the same time. This new thing needs attention, love and grace.
I believe whether we have literally babies or not we can all relate to this. We have all had things birthed into our lives. Sometimes it’s a job, a relationship, a home, an illness, an idea or a spiritual awakening. We’ve all had something come into our lives that shifts the rest of our lives.
During these times we realize somethings need to go in order to make room for the new. That may be things, people, routines or attitudes. If a baby was literally placed in one’s life every priority would need to be looked at. What I realized in the process of opening the Center was yes it was new and changed aspects of my life and at the same time it is a part of my already existing life. Just as some things needed to go, I realized somethings needed to stay and others expanded upon. I thought of how often I just let the new situations in life wash over me like a tidal wave that takes everything I knew away. I let the momentum of the new dictate my life. Not this time. This time I realized that there was a season of focus, time and attention to the actual birthing – the opening of the Center – and then it was time to make this baby part of my already existing family. When a baby comes s/he is born into a family that doesn’t just drop off the face of the earth. The baby needs to be brought into the family. My family includes, spiritual routines, friends and family, art and writing. After the big event I realized the new births in life do cause changes where things need to adjust or even leave and at the same time there is a time of melding the old and the new.
Spiritually speaking, as a Christian I hear that new birth is part of the process of a life with God. This new life isn’t to totally wipe out who I am but to bring out more of who I am created to be. Christ is born into my life. The Spirit comes in like a baby would, changing my priorities and welcomed into the family. That is the transformative process of the God, birthing, shedding, blending in a way that causes me to step back in awe.
What are ways you see new births in your life causing changes? How do you walk through the shifts?
I was privileged to lead a Taize service recently and I also lead an Advent retreat group. As I was looking over the texts from Isaiah and did some reading on the history of the walk of the Jewish nation I saw how as people of faith waiting is in our DNA. The words of hope and God’s movement in Scripture are from a people who understand that waiting isn’t giving up. As I read the Magnificat I hear the declarations of a woman who knows what it means to wait. As someone who has entered this steam of faith filled people, I too must be a person who waits.
This time of year is nuts and filled with waiting. We wait in lines, we wait for family, we wait for the performance, the service etc. I have stated before that waiting is a spiritual discipline. When agitation is the result of waiting it smacks of “how dare life make ME wait.” That is always a good time to step back and invite God in. Yet this time of year, reading these ancient texts filled with people who knew how to wait, I see something even deeper than a spiritual discipline. Waiting is a call to trust and a way of life. Waiting is a call to act. If I am a person who to my core knows God is working, moving, loving, then I wait differently. I wait with action because I am a part of God’s movement. Rather than run from the overwhelming bad news that comes over the TV and radio I run into it. Because as I wait for the days when tragedies like Sandy Hook and wars don’t happen, right here, right now I am a piece of how God is changing the world. How I move God moves. That may be a simple as while waiting in line I share a smile to an exhausted clerk and thank them for being there or it could mean being part of the disaster relieve effort. It requires a life listening to God asking “how would you like to move through me in this situation?”
I was thinking of this as the celebration of Nelson Mandela was happening. A man who knew how to wait. Are all the problems of his country solved? No, yet they are better because he ran into the issues not away from them. Isn’t that the story God is trying to get across as we celebrate Jesus being born? A God who is willing to run into our lives, into the messiness of this world, into our hearts.
I had a huge surprise phone call the other day. One of those calls that after it is over I wonder “did that just happen?” Then my mind went into so what do I “do” about it. It was like holding a hot potato and looking for a place to put it. The usual speeding train of thoughts going all over the map. That was getting me nowhere so I moved on to calling friends and seeing their reaction. That was helpful and slowed the train down a bit but still my mind was trying to figure out what the next step was. Until one of my friends said “Why don’t you put it in a neutral bucket? It was just a phone call.”
That stopped the train immediately. I don’t have to do anything with this information. I can just call it what it is. So I did. I plopped the phone call in the neutral bucket for a few days and let it cool off for a while. When I went back to it the energy has dissipated and I could see it in a whole new light.
As I sit in the Advent season of waiting and am tempted to multitask or do something while I dwell in what is and what is not in the amazing movement of God I am finding the neutral bucket quite helpful. This bucket has actually turned into God’s hands. This happened could you hold it for a while? Then I come back and the conversation begins. This conversation has included everything from phone calls to senseless killings, from how to use my time to why is there homelessness. As I have practiced this form of waiting and watching during Advent I find I am trusting in the wonder of God in a whole new way.
Practice: Find a container of some kind. Label it Neutral. When the opportunity comes up place your “hot potatoes” in it for a while. When you come back take it out and talk with God about it.
I have found that intentionally walking with God is like walking on a high wire. I need to pay attention all the time. Sometimes it’s easy and I can look around and enjoy the view. It is such a wonderful experience to be so connected to the source of my every step. Life is alive and full and filled with wonderful blessings. Notice I didn’t say it was safe or smooth or free of challenges. Wire walking is being connected to the Source of my being in love which for me often involves taking risks.
The truth of this connected way of being is I can never forget I am walking on the wire. I need to always remember because anything can knock me off the wire. It could be something big and beyond my control like an elephant stepping on the wire shaking my whole world or something small like a breeze I am not paying attention to that can easily turn into a gust of wind and throw me off balance. Now, I don’t feel if I fall off I’m going to die or go to hell or God won’t like me anymore. It’s more like, darn, now I have to take time to heal, or put things right, climb back up, get back on and keep moving. God is with me ever step of the way. Falling off means I miss out on the awareness of the connection for that time.
Many of my friends are fellow wire walkers and we encourage each other, balance each other, remind each other to pay attention and help each other get back on one more time. Recently a bit of a strong breeze blew by me and I was telling one of these wire walking friends how I was sure it meant a huge storm was coming and I was going to fall off etc etc. It was quite dramatic and very unconnected. Then she said 8 words that reconnected me in a heart beat. “Sounds like that goes in the neutral bucket.” It’s just a breeze let go of the drama. The shaking stopped, connection to my next step set in and I didn’t fall. (more on the neutral bucket next time).
This walk with God is a narrow path, not of doctrine and rules, but a path so wire thin every step is in the moment. Every step is connected to the Source of this moment. One thing I know for sure about this thin path is, as tiny as it is it cannot be walked alone. Unless I’m fond of falling off. To keep my balance I need community. I guess that is why I do what I do, creating opportunities for fellow wire walkers to come together, because I am passionate about this connected, moment by moment, abundant, grace filled adventurous life.
During this Advent season we dwell in the reality that sometimes the walk is done in darkness. Knowing what is ahead is not an option and yet, what is known is the wire. One’s senses need to be on high alert for where the next step is. Constant communication and trusting the next step is there is the path that is traveled. Community is the place where we listen, walk and trust together. Advent becomes a time of a very intentional walk. May this Advent season of groping in the dark looking for that Light keep you connected to the wire and fellow wire walkers.
I’ve got nothing. Am I the only one who has experienced that? What’s the point of inspiration if it behaves like a faucet that works when it wants to and not when it is needed? Sometimes life just doesn’t flow. The funny or meaningful story just doesn’t come. Trying to put two words together becomes challenging work. Yet here I am showing up and I’ve got nothing.
Maybe the nothing is a something. Maybe the nothing helps me just show to the Something with out expectations. I do know when life is like this I listen, wonder, and notice life a bit differently. For instance, I have been creating a lot lately so when nothing is there I look around and my house is a mess. Time to take care of my space, my relationships, my soul. Maybe having nothing isn’t so bad after all. Maybe the nothing is a call to Something.
Are nothing times a call to “take care”? What in your life needs your care right now?