Do it.

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This is the phase of little ones waking at 5:15 AM. All the processing I plan to do before sunrise gets shoved to the side for the diapering and feeding, which is fine, too, because this is my real life. Seth came home from work midday yesterday shivering like something I’ve never seen. We knew immediately that it was either flu or malaria. Our doctor friend came over and feels confident he has the flu, though the test was negative. Regardless, this is the stage when all plans to write turn into a really good pot of chicken noodle soup.

It’s okay really. I have no excuse. The entire day yesterday I had planned to write then, too, but instead I shoe-shopped on the internet because there’s a masquerade ball coming up, and all my fancy shoes make my feet feel broken within about 20 seconds. Shopping for shoes on the internet is like the book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” I came to desire strappy shoes with a short cocktail dress, but I can’t do that unless I wear panty hose. Otherwise, I would have to get a tan. All this caused an identity crisis, because I considered laying down with the devil in a tanning bed (Lord, have mercy on my soul), and when have I ever wanted to wear panty hose? Also, is it okay to wear panty hose with shoes that are open on the side? This is serious. It took an entire day of my blessed life.

I look over to Titus now, a two year old trying to put on a pair of gloves. That’s how I feel, too, buddy. I get frustrated.

I am frustrated by my own yo-yoing philosophies no matter how much scripture I ingest. I’m frustrated with how we playact church but seem to often miss the point. I am frustrated by my own desire to find identity in ministry. There are obvious flaws in my orthodoxy because there are flaws in my praxis. I’m certain that the place I find the inconsistencies most are in my writing, and that’s much of what I’m afraid of here. I used to be so brave, but now I don’t want to reveal it. I’m certain that I have a great deal of work to do, and honestly it’s making my bones burn like fire. This is the real reason for all the shoe trouble, all the distraction. I have work to do.

My girlfriend, Laura of Hollywood Housewife, wrote a post about her word/phrase for the year, and since I tend to borrow her phrases every year (last year it was Start Where You Are), I have decided to follow her again with DO THE WORK.

I believe that when we’re frustrated, it doesn’t have to be for nought. It doesn’t have to stop short and simply turn the person into a huffing brat. Frustration can be the first burning sparks of holy desire. I believe that I am not becoming cynical. I believe a vision is coming together. I believe that I can share here without fear. I believe that I will do the work, and whether I be run-of-the-mill or overly spiritual, I plan to come here to do it.

Now here’s to my hushing up about all the work I’m going to do! Here’s to just doing it.

Revolution: A Blessing Over My Own Book

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In the Haines house, we listen to Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Neil Young, and Simon & Garfunkle. I can sing you every word of the Greatest Hits albums of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and The Doors. Add to that, I’m a child of the 90s, so I’m riddled with lyrics from Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction, and Tupac Shakur. Not only am I a time borrower, but I am also a strong sympathizer with those who long for a better way, even if I disagree about the way. I love a revolutionary, the beautiful Bob Marleys of the world.

The men in my bloodline, before my young daddy, were much older fathers, and so I am only 5 generations down the line from Andrew Carothers, born in 1739, a man who fought and was wounded in the Battle of King’s Mountain in the Revolutionary War. My great-grandfather knew very old men who fought red coats. Oral tradition is as strong as war-memory for my line. This is part of what bore in me a strong sense of belonging to another time (another planet, sometimes), and it has also bore a tension pulled like bobbing thread between Revolution and Rebellion.

Picture my high school self here, not caught dead dressing like any other one person on the planet. I rode in beat-up VWs. I rolled my own joints. I questioned The Man before I ever knew who the man was. It’s silly to say out loud now, because I was a child, but this is my history. We were in the South, where people own their land and guard it with guns. I was in the time on the cusp of crystal meth and a people who by god made their own way to destruction. I’m aware of rebellion. I know how easy it is for the revolutionary to sink her teeth deep into rebellion.

However, the fear of being associated among the rebellious doesn’t stop me from questioning everything. Those who accept the Poet’s mantel, we miserably flawed ones, we cannot be who we are until we shirk the fear. When I see masses walking one way, I assume I should walk opposite or at least stand back a little, and we would all do well to question anything that promises us glory, kingdom, or power.

I’m not sure if it’s the suave thing to talk about or not, but my book proposal was made available to publishers this week, and the book I am writing is important to me. I will write it, regardless, but I found myself praying a few nights ago that it be not a beloved book if its beloved-ness were meant to tidy me or make my britches too small.  I prayed that my books would be as good and true as any honest writer could make them. I prayed that when the character tangles with desire, I would write it. When she tangles with the God who makes her limp, I will let her mouth whisper the words of holy tongue. I prayed I would never not miss home, that my homesickness would make me worse and worse of a machine-molded Christian. I prayed to be wild.

I want you to buy my books, and I want to be successful, but at the same time, I know what fame does, and I want to rage against it. It has created some of the loneliest people I’ve known. It can take good folks with dirt under their nails and turn them away from the little things and into big airbrushed consumable goods.

Too, in the Christian community, we’ve all watched fame remove the humanity from leaders and make us forget that just as many pastors, missionaries, authors, and counselors are as fraught with diseased souls as in the rest of our world. The public life looks so beautiful, and writing books and standing at podiums splays a person out wide. Things can get so pretty, so pinteresty, and then when the Christian turns out to be just as morally corruptible as the rest of the world, we get confused and mad at God. All along, though, the Christians were the cutters, adulterers, and the gluttonous proud. All along, I have been among the sick ones. I know good and well that I am among the ones who need a doctor.

I’m struggling to do it, but I am starting a business here with my words, and I hope to get good at the business. I do hope to one day have the spine of my book lined up next to the words of other flawed saints. I do hope to never so shroud myself in religion that buying me equals buying Jesus. I don’t want to be bought, and I won’t have any Jesus for sell. I don’t think gospel works that way at all and neither does good business.

Only I hope to walk with Him. I hope to not know the difference between grace and truth. I hope to be accused of putting one over the other.

Bless my words to act as balm, my mouth to speak the language of peace. Bless me as the meek. On the ground level, in the bend of the knees and the head to the floor, bless the body.

I am clay and not for mass production. I am clay for hands. I am clay for revolution.

Begotten: Notes from The Creed

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This is how to write, how to live: so unaware of self that you become the thing that you really are. Napkins within arm’s reach bleed blue with your psalms – how you notice the spider’s immaculate web by the kitchen door, how dark rain ushers Autumn in her explosion of color. Your voice is making song, words healing, hands creating.   Your children see you like a window to God. You become like the thing you love most.

Your sense for shame is hound-dog good. In a room with thousands, even, you can find it, and you are not afraid of it. You wait outside all the camps (the liberals, the conservatives, the disgusted, and the right) because that’s where she always is: the desperate ashamed. When you uncover names, you find her choked tight.

Teeth of a saw, it has tangled in her hair, grown to the skin of her feet and inched into pores. Careful, careful. Balm of grace, you are. Sometimes all you do is hold hands, vessel girl, full of oil and light.

Everywhere we look is a battle, and you know it isn’t yours. The battle belongs to the Begotten. Men down everywhere.

Lo, He is with us, even to the end.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
the only Son of God, 
eternally begotten of the Father, 
God from God, light from light, 
true God from true God, 
begotten, not made, 
of one Being with the Father.

Our words are fruit from His planting. The fruit of praise is the only salve for the wounded soul.

Explore The Nicene Creed with me? I plan to take it apart as many times as I can, to see truth in our lives. My first installment is For the Child.

Fan into Flame

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Fan into flame the gift of God.

A few months ago I stopped by the church office like it was the emergency room. I felt like I was having earthquakes inside myself. That was just the burritos, right? No. No, I know a good burrito. These rumblings were God calling. It was an unsettling settlement. There was no one to tell me if I’m crazy for this or not. I asked when the next elder meeting was, and an elder happened to be there. He told me to come, and they would pray.

It was pitch black out when I arrived at a strange time, like maybe 8:20, and when I knocked on the door, one let me in and had me sit in the formal living room while he joined back with the others. I waited there and could hear their voices in gentle pleading to God, the original sound man and of us all: authority, strength, and wisdom. By the time they called me in, I was nervous. I knew that if they had concerns about my being in ministry, they would certainly say so. They know me and love me enough to speak.

After some questions, they sat me on an ottoman, and they had me surrounded. I was aware how I am woman and what it is that God has asked me to do. Lap wet with my own tears, bowed head, I’ve been hurt at the hands of men, and now these strong hands were on my shoulders and back, knees, feet, and head, and they blessed me in the  sweetest name of Jesus. They blessed my ministry, my writing, and my speaking. They blessed my body and my mind.

After that, I was doing as well as I had ever done. Such a Peter, I’ll do anything for you, Jesus. I am capable! Whew! Come hail or high water, come Creek or LORD’s will, I thought I would never deny Him. But then the rooster crowed, and I knew it had been done.

My giftings had suddenly begun to terrify me, how I write and talk out the GOSPEL, my own testimony of my LORD Jesus. I decided fairly quickly after finishing my book proposal that I wished for a different story.  Then I began to welcome our moving boxes. I packed up my journals, pens, notebooks, all the poetry, my Annie Dillard and Beth Ann Fennelly. I packed it all up and put it in a storage unit across town. Seth still held on, but I wouldn’t let him read poetry aloud. My Bible may have been in a stack of bills.

I didn’t want to hear the voice of God,

but then I heard laughter down there in the dark belly of the fish.

To write for Jesus is to say that I’ll open like purest centerfold, like an iris where the dust of story goes flying about as if to make more flowers. Like Mary, seed growing and me here, the spectacle. What will become of me if I write what I know? These prophetic imaginations? That there is thunder, atonement, and grace? I think I’ll die. That’s it. If I write, I think I’ll die. At the very least, I’ll suffer.

“For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our LORD, nor of me His prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:6-8).

Do you see it there? Stop and consider. If the gift is ablaze, there will be suffering in it, but it will be full of power and love, and oh wait, self control. The gift can be put out or I can press into the wind until the sky’s on fire. My choice.

Now I know.

I neglected you too long, Jesus, my muse, the music. I haven’t danced or looked deep into paint or a tree. I haven’t done what I was made to do. I didn’t want to hear you, so I stopped enjoying you, and so I almost lost my heart, myself.

Now when Seth reads me one of those good, rare poems, I’ll rise up into it and at some point lose sense of words, but I’ll understand. I was made for this, how I commune with God. I’m like a full note carried out on a voice for many measures, like a floating seed in full faith that where I’ll land is where I’m supposed to plant.

I am only beautiful on the inside when I’m burning. If there is to be a suffering, let it be for eternal things.

 

Nameless Woman: An Abstraction on the Spirit

I have had want of so many men, had so many in my body with hardly a thought in my mind as I offered myself again and again. I do it like one of them would come, and it would fill me, as if men weren’t another echo in a void.

But Jesus, that day in the house with all the men, holding it all together like a cordial business meeting, I had want of Him. I had want to show Him that there was no other thing I would need. My alabaster jar, I emptied it. He knew my name. He said it, and I touched my mouth to His heel, could not stop kissing the lowest part. I wanted at the bottom when He spoke it, secret waters; I was basin for pouring out. My hair, intimately counted, dripped.

No one else will ever need to know my name. I owe. I owe. I’m the one who walks in peace.

I will never love another.

{from Luke 7:36-50} Please also see my husband’s take on this passage.

Joining Six in the Sticks today! She’s the new host of #ConcreteWords.

On the Establishment

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Away for the weekend again, I’m heading to my in-laws house partly to visit Seth’s almost 93-year-old grandma who longs to lay a new set of feet on a street of gold. She has time here yet, but being near someone at the end of life is like a great big waving flag to follow hard after what sticks. Last time I was there, she writhed in pain and said, “This is the day that the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” It’s a thin place there.

I’ll hole up to finish this proposal, too, and my mother-in-law said she’d take me out for Indian food as a prize. Though my sample chapters for it are complete, it seems like I’m dragging it out forever.

I’ve loathed thinking about the business parts of a book proposal, how to sell it and who would want to buy it. For a while I let myself believe it’s contrary to what I’m writing to set my mind to the actual selling of a book He’s given me to write. The stick-it-to-the-man in me says that if the book is good, then it will sell on its own, so let’s leave it at that.

Let me tell you what a big load of Poor-Pride that is, and I know it. If God gives the message, and we all have one from Him, then why would I not ask His near Spirit to give me wisdom, humility, and creativity to shout it from the mountains? Why would I not call His message in me good? (His message, by the way, is gospel.)

This is the verse that has helped me figure out between humility and pride, and I reckon I’ll unravel it for a long time:

“For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:3).

Following His voice is not a matter of establishing any agenda, selling a message, or planning an outcome. I am not ignorant of the righteousness of God, so following Him in whatever He’s called me is a matter ONLY of submission. When my proposal begins to feel like I’m establishing my own greatness, that’s what the delete button’s for.

There is so much to lay down, so much to pour out. There’s an emptying of self that says I can’t do this that then allows Spirit to fill me, and there’s a kind of emptying that says I won’t do this that protests God’s good intention for a broken life. Knowing my depravity does not mean to be self-loathing. It means that on my own, I have no power, but that also means exactly that He’s made me with the capacity for Himself.

This weekend we all journey to either establish our own greatness or to submit to the righteousness of God. The Spirit establishes. I submit.

Please pray the Spirit establishes the humility of Christ in me. I would love to hear what He’s establishing in you, especially, too, as you pour out your own self-loathing.