peace

And again we will be saved...

When I told him it’s about self-control, saying “no” to yourself…his lips pursed and his eyes stayed on the floor. Pleadingly, anger just under the buckling cellar door, I say: “You feel like screaming and hitting me, but it’s not okay to do those things.  Do you understand?”

Chin out and trembling, he looks up, shouts: Yes!!  But I just keep forgetting!  You think it’s easy, but it’s not easy for me!!

This one, this 7-year-old kid, knows how to speak the truth.

Another day, another exasperated moment, I ask: Do you believe you can trust God to help you with this?

He says: I can’t trust anyone. 

What about Daddy and me?  Do you trust us?

No, because sometimes you say you’re gonna do something and you don’t. Daddy said he would wrestle with us, and then he didn’t.

Yes, it’s true, even we who love you most will let you down.  But He will not.  Remember what we’ve learned: He is a faithful God, keeping His covenant of Love to a thousand generations…

I know.  But I just can’t.  I’m just stupid.

No. You are anything but stupid.

I’m stupid. Just say it. I’m stupid.

------------------------------------------------------------------

And this is when I realize I am sitting across the table from myself.  This is the conversation I’ve had with myself a million times.

And what can I give that will provide a sure grip for the falling child to grab onto?

It can’t be only me & my love, because he & I both know I’m not a sure thing--he’s fully aware that I break sometimes.  I have wielded words like weapons.  I’ve said “yes” to my urge to demand and throw tantrums.  He knows it, I know it – so my embracing him, my embracing myself (positive thinking, “loving myself”) – we both know it’s not enough.

It must be something solid and ancient, something deeply reliable.

Something that has real power to save us from ourselves over and over again every day.

Something like…

Know therefore that the LORD your God is GOD.  He is a faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands...

and

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…

Yes, that’s a start, hope…

___________________________________________

Across from my child/myself at the table, I’m still exasperated.  I do not feel like loving this person who has disrupted my plan for a tranquil day (ahem – hello, Self, nice to confront you.).

But it’s about self-control, saying “no” to myself, yes to something more lovely than myself.  Gorgeous, actually – peace & beauty-birthing. And since I’ve just exhorted him to such things, I find myself with accountability…

Can I pray with you?

Shuwah (translated: Sure), he says without conviction, mouth twisted into a “it’s-not-gonna-help-but-go-ahead” posture.

And I pray for us both, for a miracle.  Because peace at this point will be a miracle in both of us.  And while I pray, my hand is on his cheek, and I glance up to witness a softening…sadness, remorse…release of anger.  And when we say Amen, let it be so, we are humans changed.  Ready to give life another go.

Most likely, tomorrow, the scene will play again.  And again we will be saved.

shooting to the sky: life without chains (and other metaphors on anxiety)

I've been thinking about you...

You waking with anxiety, curling up at night with anxiety, and carrying her wrapped around your middle like a boa constrictor.

Squeezing out life with not enough time, not enough talent, not enough money, not enough friends, not enough...

I know it personally.  The pet who continually tears up your furniture and attacks your friends but you can't quite figure out how to get rid of it.

Or a quiet disease...

sap-the-life-out-of-you while you’re standing there smiling and running to the next thing and saying yes to one more activity and making a million disclaimers for your dirty floors and wondering why no one is responding to your witty Facebook post and thinking we really just need more ________________ and when I get the job and what if this doesn't work and trying to do better look younger sound smarter sort of plague.

When did we start thinking it is no big deal to spend days with our breath held?   When did we start saying, it's part of me...? When begin thinking it proof of a purposeful life?

Who taught us to live in knots?

There is a different way... people waking up in simpler spaces, not self-reliant but inter-dependent, not saving the world but loving a neighbor.  Working for food, but not gasping for breath.  Fewer options, greater peace.

You think I’m idealizing, maybe.  Maybe this is a different place and we just have to be this way?

I know that's what I believed, but I just don't anymore.  Not because I have any illusions about small Central American countries having it all figured out. They do not.  But because I'm becoming disillusioned with the functional belief that  GOD is to be admired more than worshiped, talked about more than known, acknowledged but not relied on...that we can be about His work without being WITH Him.  That really, on the plane of daily work and decision-making and accomplishing, it all depends on us being as close to perfect as we can muster.

But...What if He is GREATER than we have believed Him to be?

What if the God who was alive and holy enough to make Moses' face glow in the dark is still alive and holy?

What if I actually NEED him...in a desperate way in this ordinary untragic moment?

What if I admitted I'm like a HELPLESS baby and can't walk 5 feet without running into an idol, apart from Him?

I remember Samuel, coloring at the table in San Isidro del General, singing:

I’ve got the whoooooole world in my hands,

He’s got the whooooole world in His hands,

I’ve got the whole wide world in my hands…

Hmm…like mother, like son...but all we really have in our hands is what we've been given to hold today...daily bread.

How do I begin to release my imagined grip on things?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!  Save me from the poison of ego-rooted insecurity, prideful independence, control-grasping exhaustion, people-pleasing idolatry…misplaced affection..!

I am prone to bending my knee at the wrong altars.

You too?

He compassionately shines light:  He…the only god that will ever love me back.  And how little I need that which I thought I might die without!

The more that creeps into my really-believing consciousness, the more I feel I might just shoot straight up into the sky, leave the gravity of these chains behind.

And yes, I've used more than my share of metaphors in one post, but that too, for today, is part of the process. :)

In the Light...

I dread the dark.

Not the eventual setting of sun at long day’s end, but the days, weeks, months, when the sun begins to rise later and later and leave us earlier and earlier until finally, we come to expect a hasty dusk near the same time neighborhood children hop off the school bus.

I battle the shadow of heaviness, sadness during winter months. It’s a weakness, and if I lived further north I might have to invest in one of those “light boxes” that cost a fortune but keep people afloat in extended darkness.

Of course, I’m ready for long pants and campfires and leaves flying. A break from the sauna days of summer. Thankful for an artist God who gives refreshment and delight from one season to the next.

Winter just isn’t my personal favorite.

Mornings may smell like coffee, and we'll curl up cozily for early morning reading. But as hours go by, if the sky stays gray…I miss the light, and my internal brightness fades.

I think again of Sara Groves’ song, “You Are the Sun”—

“I am the moon with no light of my own, still you have made me to shine…and as I glow in this cold, dark night, I know I cannot be a light unless I turn my face to you.”

In May, my doctor told me I was deficient in vitamin D, which our skin absorbs from direct sunlight (primarily).  The body needs to be in the light to be well. And in the summer sun, our skin glows a healthy pink and gold.

Isn’t it also this way with the spirit?

Weren’t we created for spring? Aren’t we citizens of a country where there is NO darkness and everything is illuminated?

Deep down, do we understand that darkness is the absence of light? Darkness means...something is missing.

The other side of this thought-train is that our Creator left us trails and trails of beauty to discover and celebrate during the long months of waiting the return of the sun.

And the very Holy Spirit of God is here in the waiting with us. Our Comforter.

Last night we took our butternut squash soup (tastier than you might think) and candles to the back deck after nightfall. I watched as the faces around the table lit up golden behind the flames. Prayer, laughter, retelling of stories read, filling of stomachs.

And I think: This is how we stay bright during the long night.

We gather together, break bread and always always always keep the candle of Truth lit in the center.

We must always keep the Savior and His love and his sacrifice and forgiveness and faithfulness and His one-day-returning-like-spring right there in the center of our togetherness.

A flashlight isn’t a flame. Positive thinking isn’t a flame. Health is not the flame. Money is no flame. Beautiful acts of kindness are not the flame. Pleasure isn’t the flame. Even community itself is not the flame.

But He who was and is and is to comeis worthy of gathering around.

Every good thing we put in the center of the table in His place will leave us cold.

But HE...will make His face to SHINE upon us and be GRACIOUS to us...through every dark day from now til spring.

forgiveness...beginnings

* In the interest of full disclosure, most of this post is me reflecting what I gleaned this weekend from the fantastic speakers.  The last portion, in particular, is credited to Josh Harris' talk, "Forgiven to Forgive" available for download soon. (get ready...this might feel like a sermon...)

In a quiet hotel room in Reston, Virginia.  Mid-afternoon and I’m alone and it’s quiet and I have hours before I need to be back downstairs.  I’m grateful for this slice of solitude.

I was asked to come here because of “Weightless.”

There are intersections in life and work that we could not orchestrate if we tried…

For example, after pitching “Weightless” unsuccessfully to other artists, I decided to include it on my “Frame the Clouds” project.  Several of the songs were infused with ideas I had come to understand through study of The Peacemaker (Ken Sande), and in 2008, just before recording, I attended the Peacemaker conference in Florida.  A few months ago, blogger extraordinaire Tim Challies somehow heard the song and posted it on his site, along with a CD giveaway.  As I addressed a package to one of Tim’s winners, I recognized the name of Molly Friesen, a leader at the 2008 conference, and mentioned it in my note to her.  Months later, I received a phone call from Peacemaker Ministries inviting me to come and share “Weightless” and lead worship at the 2010 Peacemaker Conference in Washington D.C

There are things we cannot orchestrate, but God can.

The 550 people who have come together here are ambitious.  Their beliefs are radical.  They have strange visions of mending things long broken, not only so we can sleep at night, but so that GOD will be GLORIFIED through our everyday conflicts and so that the WORLD will notice.

“They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love…”

Is LOVE what we are known for?

Broken families, marriages, churches, race relations, partnerships, friendships…are we known by love, humility, peace?

Several years ago,  when I began meeting with my pastor and several others, to read and discuss The Peacemaker, we dug deep into biblical reconciliation, and I was shocked by how much I did not know.

What does repentance look like?  What does forgiveness require?  Is it all really necessary?  Isn’t it enough to try to forget what we’ve done, what has been done to us…move on?  Why does “sorry if you felt hurt…” seem to only make things worse?

The stories we’ve heard this week of people who have found the way to forgive heinous crimes and injuries committed against them and their loved ones...parents of murdered children...survivors of terrorist attacks...adult children of violently abusive parents... are astonishing, beautiful--and devastating to the heart that wants to justify bitterness.

Seriously…HOW?

What about Joseph, whose brothers literally threw him away, severing him from his childhood, his home, his father…?  What on earth would compel a man to love and provide for the people who tried to destroy him…to release them from his wrath when he had the power to make them pay?

The answer, of course, is: Nothing on earth.

Nothing on earth would compel him to love like that. Nothing on earth would compel me to love like that.  No strength or anything of ourselves will compel us to LOVE LIKE THAT.

It's supernatural…born of God...nonexistent apart from Him.

Many books have been written about forgiveness.  Many words spoken this weekend alone.  I can’t capture it in a blog post.  But I understand now where that journey begins.

Not surprisingly…it begins where ALL life begins.

At the point where our path intersects with a cross on a hilltop, in another time, on the other side of the world...this is where LIFE, our real Life, begins.

At that intersection--where His Son hung by hands and feet, bleeding, ripped, alone and condemned--God reached deep down into a pit of filth reeking of death...

and pulled me out.

pulled you out.

even as His son hung dying...

washed us like a mother does her newborn,

and took us home.

Life begins there.  Our true delivery.  And our forgiveness of others begins there with us revisiting our birthplace, retelling the story:

I was found in filth.

I was found not AFTER I came to him sorry and cleaned up, but before that.

He chose me dirty.

If I'm sorry and cleaned up, it's because he loved me.

When I even start to fathom the enormity of what I’ve received without one iota of merit…then I (as Josh Harris said so much better Thursday night) will be like a buried-in-unrepayable-debt criminal who’s just come from the throne room, having received a pardon she neither expected nor deserved.

At the intersection of guilt & forgiveness, tears of joy and gratitude prevent me from seeing quite so clearly the sins of others and wrongs done to me.

Instead, maybe: “I don’t even care what you’ve done; do you know what just happened to me?!”

It's not the end of the story...your story may read more like the gentleman who told us how he waited years and years to forgive his father for massive childhood abuse, then another 20 for his father to accept his forgiveness on his deathbed...

But unless we begin, we have no idea of the possibilities.

Well, I've carried this a long time

In a well-hidden bundle on my back

But I've realized forgiveness is weightless

So I'll leave my burden on the track...

living in time...

Great songs are born when they are born.  Great books are read and digested slowly.  The tide of spiritual understanding ebbs and flows to a rhythm we can’t force.  There is a time for working the earth and a time for letting it rest.  Relationships and households require awesome amounts of time and energy.

Email, telephone, doorbell break in and disrupt flow.  Children need, always.  My “lizard brain” (www.sethgodin.com) sabotages my creative efforts.  The mere knowledge that I’m responsible for preparing and recovering from three meals a day can cause panic.

Where is the time, Lord, to do what You ask of me?

My pastor one day says, “God gives us enough time to do the things we are called to do.”

I’m comforted.  I think, maybe the things I manage to get in are in fact, those things I’m called to do.  And the things that never happen – the songs I don’t write – just weren’t meant to be.

One thing I know: I don’t want a rushed life.  I don’t choose to be hurried.  I won’t be a sighing, frowning, huffing person complaining about “the busy-ness.”

At least, I don't want to be...

So I set, and reset, my eyes on things unseen, things invisible, undying and of infinite value—and in that I’m better able to create space for us to live beautifully moment by moment.  I won’t achieve perfection this way, but I hope to walk in peace.

I like that idea – holding eternity in a temporal world.

Encountering Truth at Encounter 10

NYC
 

I left my camera and my Flip in my suitcase when we left thehotel on Saturday and again on Sunday.  Can you believe that?  New York City and no pictures or film to recall the occasion.  Boo hoo.

I left home in the Saturday morning dark and met Mom at LGA, because she had flown from Tennessee to join me. The first hour we spent weeping in the food court over shared stories of horror and grief in places like Haiti and Rwanda.  Over other people’s stories and work and writings.  Despite the differences in our appearances, we have always had this in common.

We felt like country bumpkins navigating the subway, but safely arrived at the International Arts Movement’s annual Encounter conference at Cooper Union's Great Hall.  The Hall lives up to its name—someone told me 11 presidents, including Abe Lincoln, have spoken in that room.   It was my honor to perform two songs as accompaniment to Sgt. Ron Kelsey’s release of his book Reflections of Generosity: Toward Restoration and Peace, published by International Arts Movement. 

One of the songs, simply titled “Song of Blessing,” is pretty special to me, as I wrote for the opening of the ROG exhibit at Fort Drum in special honor of the 10th Mountain Division.  This division is specially trained to fight in harsh terrain and weather conditions and is one of the most deployed divisions.

Lyrics were inspired by the Soldier’s Creed and the motto of the 10th Mountain Division: Climb to glory. 

Song of Blessing (for the 10th Mountain Division)

by Christa Wells


May your feet find the road that’s narrow and sure

May they carry you home, when you’ve finished your work

May the light shine upon you,

All around you, in the moments

When the darkness would like to take you in

May the quiet voice inside you

Keep the truth alive and guide you as you run,

It’s gonna be a hard run

 

Take care of your heart

Take the long way,

If that’s where peace is born

Take beauty from the ashes

Let the beauty rise up

That’s where hope comes from

 

May you hold your head up, and shoulder the sky

May your chorus be sung as you follow the fight:

That you will go into the hills and

Face the fearsome bitter cold

You are a guardian of freedom in this place

That you will stand until it’s over

You will make the climb to glory, you will climb

So high

 

Sgt Kelsey is graciously sending me 50 copies of his book, and given me permission to give them away.  First dibs will go to active-duty military—please send your  service member friends (from any country) here to request a copy!  It will be encourage and inspire.

Because we arrived Saturday afternoon, we only sat in on one session, but the three other speaker/artists we had the privilege of hearing from in that session were remarkable.

David Sacks is a photographer who absolutely blew my mind.  The exquisite beauty and insight of his work and his humility of spirit were both inspiring as he discussed the idea of giving away your art in his talk: Philanthropy and the Arts.

Etsuru Sotoo is a Japanese sculptor working on Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece the basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.  Listening to him speak about the freedom he enjoys as an artist by choosing to “look in the direction in which Gaudi looked” and which can be experienced, as in marriage, “precisely because of the boundaries,” was very provocative. 

Jeffrey Overstreet is a novelist and award-winning film reviewer, who was an absolutely riveting speaker (and dinner companion).  The title of his talk was something like: "How then shall we tell the story?"  

As he turned the slides and quoted stories that had carried him through childhood, it was obvious how they move him still—he became choked up as he spoke of them—and how passionate he is about his work. He focused a great deal on film, and while it’s likely that not everyone in the room agreed with him on every point (he pointed out numerous contradictions in the way people of faith often respond to certain films and books), I’m confident each of us was provoked to consider more thoughtfully the concept of truth-telling in film and books. Fascinating.  I will be consulting his film reviews in the future.


The earth is filled with such talent, such intelligence, wit and originality. 

I encountered human beings this weekend who bear witness to this, and I revel in yet more evidence of a talented, intelligent, witty and original Designer.