With You

Let me be with you, O Love,
in this moment of uncertainty;
be with you and wait with you
until we see what will be.

Let me be with you, O Grief,
through the loss and change;
be with you and cling to you
until the tears run dry.

Let me be with you, O Wanderer,
through the trails and dead ends;
be with you and walk beside you
until we are too weary.

Let me be with you, O Kiss,
in the beauty of a moment;
be with you and savor you
until we see a new day.

Lakeside

on Ruth 1:7-18

in an Advent mood

someday
there will be hope
and so this day
i will spin its fairy tale
without snark or cynicism
with only imagination
and trust
in what God can do

someday
there will be peace
and so this day
i will welcome a stranger
i will let my heart break
to read the news
i will believe
that God is mending

someday
there will be joy
and so this day
i will laugh out loud
and share the abundance
of wonder and fellowship
those places
where God smiles

someday
there will be love
and so this day
i will wink in its direction
in appreciation
of mystery’s beauty
and all the secrets
God has in store

Singing in the Whirlwind

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Do you know the way to the dwelling of light, to the home of darkness? Can you leap through the heavens to loose Orion or command the Pleiades? Can you soar with the eagle and establish its home on the crag? Or in the depths: can you coax Leviathan from its hiding and calm its roar to a whisper?”
(Job 38-41 excerpts)

I am here
feet on the ground
sand between my toes
waves washing over me
wind whipping my breath away
before I can even sigh
here in a moment
that is everything at once
and nothing at all
not the heavens
or the depths
not the haven of dawn
or the celestial pathways
but grounded here
by time and flesh
and wind that whips and swirls
pressures and contains
so that I must be still
must listen
must hear the song
of expansive sacredness
of glory unbounded
of joy here
in the dusty touch
of heaven to earth where
I wish I were not
where
I would give anything
to be
where
I am already
arms stretched wide
not so that I might fly but
so that I can breathe deeply enough
to sing
finally
fully
letting the wind
take each cracking note
from my lips
each gift for the Song
until my longing for the stars
has sung itself out and
there is nothing
but the dance and delight
of my toes in sand and water
in holy ground

 

Autumn

I want to say something
profound
about change
in life, in seasons
something
that keeps us
chasing God as the
maples peak and the sun sets
a bit of poetry
on lights and tunnels,
tears and oceans
on the mystery of God revealed
while life heaps it on;
but really
to chase God is to
play a purposeless game
a theological competition that pursues
One who isn’t running
a still Eye
of the storm
of the seasons
of life;
no — no more chasing God
whenever there are
changes or
tears,
but instead
let there be stillness
and holding on:

Free from GraphicStock

when a day smiles in yellow
God is good;
when tomorrow we weep yet again
God will still be good;
when 40
comes to me next year
God will continue to be faithful;
let autumn
come and go
so long as God remains.

The Confession of Self-Care

As Carol Howard Merritt and I have been examining clergy self-care in a series of blogs (Carol’s latest post considers clergy vulnerability), I find myself digging into the life stories that have shaped my outlook on self-care. Here’s praying that this story contributes to the conversation in a useful way…

If there’s an aspect of “clergy vulnerability” that makes sense to me within the context of self-care (beyond inappropriate revelations from the pulpit or the careless blurring of pastor-friend distinctions), it’s the spiritual need to reorient ourselves, our lives & our faith by practicing confession and surrender, that is, by practicing vulnerability not before our parishioners but before God.

For example.

Going to bed is the most difficult self-care choice for me to make every day.

Although sleep is inevitable, actually getting my body under the covers, head on the pillow,  back stretched for muscle relief, requires a deliberate act of spiritual surrender within me — a concession that the day has ended without every last task completed, a resigned recognition that I am limited in capacity and time, a confession that I am not God.

Dammit.

I would much rather be God, not out of hubris but out of fear.

I can identify precisely when sleep became difficult and when confession-as-self-care became important in my life. Twelve years ago my unhealthy marriage ended — poorly — and the pretense of sharing life & family responsibilities with a partner fell apart. I was alone with two young children, two car loans, a lease as well as a mortgage, and a part-time job. For good measure, the degrading spirit of my ex-husband’s voice remained after he left, taking up residence in my head. It found there a natural collaborator in my already-existing internal critic, and the two paired up nicely to make sure I believed that I wasn’t good enough and that no one cared.

Convinced that my own bootstraps would have to suffice because life hadn’t given me another pair, I demanded of myself, of my skills and of every hour, of every avenue within my control, absolute excellence and success. Anything less was unacceptable. Anything less risked the frailty of my family’s life circumstances. Anything less proved my ex-husband’s voice right. Anything less was unfaithful to my calling as a parent and as a minister.

There’s a problem with this perspective, of course: the fullness and fearfulness of “anything less” doesn’t allow much room for God’s sufficiency.

Ergo: the need for confession.

Ergo: the need to practice vulnerability before God.

Every once in a while, I recognize my expectations and demands of myself. Every once in a while, I still hear the doubt and cynicism that whisper within me, No one — not even God — will take care of you or attend to this life if you do not do it. Every once in a while, I confess that Billie’s lyrics ring too true to my worldview: “God bless the child that’s got his own.”

And I see the spiritual barricades that I build against God.

And I expose my fears to God yet again in search of forgiveness.

So this is the spiritual premise that orients my approach to self-care: not a claiming of time and space for self, as I often hear my clergy colleagues describe their reasons for & habits of self-care, but in fact a surrendering of time and space and self when I find that I can no longer play God, a laying bare before God all that cannot be risked otherwise.

In order to take care of my whole self, I find that I must first and routinely take care of my relationship with God through confession:

of ability and control and prowess —
all of my fondest idols
(“Kneeling”)

of marking my own iniquities
like a wrathful deity
(“Psalm 130:3”)

of the willful concealing of my self
before the very Being and Lover of all selves
(“The Cock Crows Twice”)

of setting my “to do” list above the One
who is my Work and my Rest
(“That Bothersome ‘To Do’ List”).

Self-care, to return to a point in my first blogpost in this series, too easily runs the risk of centering our selves without attending to the more appropriate & necessary centering of God, the latter being the true Fountain and Source of well-being for our lives and ministries. As much as self-care can rightly be an activity of joy and thanksgiving, it has been vital for me personally to approach self-care in a posture of confession.

For me, it’s as simple (and as difficult) as allowing myself a good night’s rest — giving in to God by getting into bed.

Readers and colleagues, what about you? Do your habits of self-care mirror certain liturgical practices (e.g. confession, thanksgiving), and/or does your self-care reorient your spirit toward God in a particular way? What stories shape your perspective and purpose in self-care?

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One additional note (10/26): If you’ve been following this blog series on clergy self-care, especially and more recently on the question of clergy vulnerability, I commend to you Mihee Kim-Kort‘s necessary critique of vulnerability vs. fragility in her latest “This Everyday Holy” podcast. Start around 14:25.

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