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.

The Woo

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I recognized it from woman to woman, a call. As when God spoke, “Let there be light,” and the light went forth, I saw a darkness shirk back. I hardly remember specific moments or feel like I bonded unusually with one person in particular. It was more a growing awareness that each set of lips, if they were willing to be tender, were carrying on the same conversation I had been having with God. In buffet lines, the one behind me picked up where the woman in front of me left off. At another meal we sat together at one long table. One who has fed many passed the bread. We soaked up the sauce together. We  clanked our glasses full of wine. We were all little girls in grown-up clothes. We are all the least of these.

It is easy to aggrandize those in leadership, the nonprofit affiliations, the Katies, the columnists, and the pulpiteers. I am guilty of laying dear ones on the altar of pedestal. I am guilty of thinking one place at the foot of the cross is richer than another, but pedestals end up on their sides every time. May as well stay low. If there’s a better place, it’s the lowest one.

When I refer to my calling, I’m not exactly talking about that I’ll preach one day from podiums, though preaching is a gift of the Spirit that can lay one flat with an open ear. When I mention “calling,” I similarly could refer to my writing because writing is often how I hear, but that’s still not the bottom of it.

My calling is a direction, the pang, the narrow low path and Christ with me on it. It’s the left or the right, until I am face to face. It’s the woo of God until all things are reconciled to, restored in, and unified with Him.

Want to know your calling? Want to find your place? Only listen for the woo. It’s usually at the bottom of things. The woo is in the bow.

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.

When Your Writing Doesn’t Fit: Kingdom Come

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For me there were months in these beginning stages of writing a book that had no part in actual writing. I had to have a quiet, pulled-back stage of mulling. I had to wrestle with God, and I had to walk away blessed to work out my gifts, trusting He won’t let me turn into a clown in the process of getting literarily naked for my readers. It turns out that I’ve written under a great deal of fear in the past, and there is no way a book can be written under such fear.

It seems to me that we’re surrounded by writers who either write about the cupcakes of a beautifully tidy Christian life or by  those who write with oozing unhealed rawness. I tend to identify altogether more with the raw writers, but I long for the underlying zeal for truth and faith in the healing hand of God beheld by those who tend toward answering with a formula. As always, the more I tend to worry about becoming like one or the other, the worse and more confused I get.

I’m sure I’m not alone in how I feel like there are many courts, how I have no place in any of them. I once found my place in the orphan-care court, but then we cancelled our adoption and God changed our perspective on what orphan care even meant. Sometimes prayer about such things is like smelling the stew on the stove, a little glimpse of home, of belonging. But then we open our eyes, and we’re still here – strangers.

If we pray for God’s kingdom and power and glory now and forever, then we are saying with our mouths as Jesus did. There is kingdom now in the smell of the stew and the inner rest of home, and there is Kingdom come when we actually get to eat of it and rest our new bodies tucked up in God’s wing. I think I’m learning that Kingdom now is a realization that there is no other fit but of one rested in a Good Father’s care.

I say it in advance. My writing doesn’t fit. I know it as it happens. It doesn’t fit, but it smells like home to me, and that’s the direction I’m headed. Kingdom come.

 

photo credit here