Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Accept whatever comes next

I do not think I am overstating it when I say these last months, weeks, days have been hard.

Emotions have run so high.

Anxiety feels ever-present.

Political discussions are super-charged and feel more volatile than they should.

The transition of power at the highest level of our government felt fraught with danger and uncertainty.

So, I wonder how you are feeling. I really do. I wish I could sit down with each one of you and listen to you tell me how you are doing.

How you are REALLY doing.

I wonder if we are feeling some of the same things.

I am struggling to focus on even the smallest of tasks.

Things that would ordinarily take minimal effort often feel monumental and demand all the positive self-talk I can muster.

I dread checking the news for fear of some jarring headline that makes the world feel less solid.

And then I judge myself for feeling this way. I self-critique. I try to take myself by my own collar and shake myself into being more strong, more secure, more grounded. More something.

But I have been working on self-acceptance; on being less aggressive with myself.

And it has been helping.

I am learning to accept that every day I will experience a range of very normal emotions.

I am learning to accept that sometimes my body will simply "suggest" it is time to shut down. 

I am learning to accept my need for rest.

I am learning to accept that I am human; both frail and powerful.

I am learning to accept whatever comes next - whatever thought, whatever feeling, whatever bit of jarring news - without critique or judgement or effort.  I am trying not to label things as good or bad.

This is not fatalism ...

It is not an "it is what it is" form of shrugging off reality.

It is a gentle way of being faithful and trusting God.

It is a powerful method of facing life head-on.

It is a new way of being open and curious about what might come next.

It is a helpful way of welcoming life as it comes, rather than demanding life be as I want it to be.

It is a subversive way to show perfectionism the door.

Accept whatever comes today.

Trust God in this way.

See if that helps just a bit.

 

 

Love one enemy

So much hatred fills our world today.

It overwhelms me and leaves me feeling hopeless. 

It makes me ask myself:

What can I do in a world that feels so big, so out of control, so full of chaos and concerns?

Here is how I am trying to answer my own question.

The great writer and activist James Baldwin said:

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense,

once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

Once our hate is gone ...

we will be forced

to deal with our pain.

Truth.

Today, when I see hate or feel hate, I ask God to give me eyes to see the pain underneath that hate.

The rioters at our nation's capitol were filled with hate.

Rather than hate back - which I am deeply tempted to do - what if I asked myself:

What is the pain hiding underneath their hate?

And what if I also asked myself:

What is the pain hiding underneath my hate?

I have not known how to pray during the tumultuous days of this last week.

Words have failed me.

My thoughts are scattered, often ugly.

Fear rises; the unknown looms. I am tempted to label and to judge and to condemn, and yes, even to hate.

And so I have practiced simply sitting still,

asking God to give me eyes to see not only my own unattended pain, but the unattended pain of those who feel like enemies right now.

And I have asked for the grace - not to skim over wrongs or criminal acts - but to try to find a way to pick just one face out of the angry mob,

and to love them in the best way that I can.

Even from a distance. Even though I don't know their name. Even though we will never speak.

Because I believe that love is power.

And that using the power of love to intend good for our enemies, rather than evil, is the very pinnacle of love.

Jesus demonstrated this.

Jesus calls me to this.

So, this is where I will start.

I will love one enemy. I will try to look beneath the hate to find the pain.

Will you join me?

 

We have lost our way

I have been writing about self-compassion in this new year and I will continue to do so.

But not today.

Today I am compelled, after the events of this past week, to stop and acknowledge our current reality.

We have lost our way.

We have turned on each other.

We have turned on ourselves.

And those who claim to follow Jesus - in ways large and small - have turned on Jesus.

Jesus is not about rage.

Jesus is not about hatred or fomenting hatred, in any form.

Jesus is not about violence or threats of violence.

Jesus is not about lies.

Jesus is not about destruction or desecration or diabolocal plans to harm others.

Jesus is neither Republican nor Democrat.

Jesus is not "with" one political party or another.

The church is not to be aligned with any political party. And when the church forgets that the church loses her way.

Jesus is about peace.

Jesus is about love. And most pointedly, love for enemies.

Jesus is about truth and reality and honesty.

Jesus is about justice and integrity.

Jesus is about resurrection and reconstruction and human flourishing.

Jesus is about the orphan, the fatherless, the widow and the stranger.

Jesus is about God's good kingdom -

A kingdom defined by what the apostle Paul called the fruit of the Spirit:

Love

Joy

Peace

Patience

Kindness

Goodness

Self-control.

These are the marks we watch for as signs of God's presence and power. There are no other marks.

Some of my dearest friends have declared this weekend a weekend of kindness.

Because they feel so powerless against the negative forces that are wreaking havoc at the governmental level they are taking the most powerful counter-action they know to take.

Acts of pure kindness carried out with deep love and intention.

The great subversive power of love, kindness and mercy cannot be stopped.

We have lost our way, this is true.

The One many called "the way" can lead us back.

But only if we follow him ... and live in his ways.

Amen.

 

The Inner Critic ...

The great TS Eliot - in his play The Elder Statesman - puts it best:

What is this self inside us, this silent observer,

Severe and speechless critic, who can terrorize us

And urge us on to futile activity

And in the end, judge us still more severely

For the errors into which his own reproaches drove us?

Ah, The Inner Critic ... Hello, old friend!

This voice lives inside our heads, exists to call out our flaws, flagellates us for having them and drives us onward in a never-ending quest to perfect ourselves.

For some, the voice is loud; others soft. For the rare few, non-existent.

Mine is pretty loud - squawking at me for minor infractions like snoozing a few times past my alarm, not exercising hard enough, wasting time reading the news or letting the home get dirty, dusty and generally um ... lived-in.

As I've gotten older, I've learned to quiet it a bit. I hear it, I recognize it and I tell it that it can take the day off. That I can handle things on my own, thank you very much.

But as I've been pondering my resolution of "less self-aggression; more self-compassion" (see last post) I have been wondering how my Christian faith is tied up with my Inner Critic.

Where does this inner critical voice come from? 

Is it of God? Is it part of what it means to be aware of my own sin? Is it a voice the kindly leads me to repentance - to changing my mind about how I want to live and turning toward better ways? 

Or is its origin elsewhere? And does it lead - if we let it -  somewhere darker, more sinister?

Does this voice of indictment come from the source Christians call "The accuser?" 

If so, how do I respond to it?

Is it some strange hybrid of both light and darkness?

And is part of my job to untangle the sources?

More questions than answers today.

Curious about your thoughts, though. Have you ever wondered about these things?

How loud is your inner critic?

Have you learned to quiet him or her at all?

To what or whom do you attribute the criticizing statements in your own head?

What is their source?