What If: Science Has More Answers than God?

When I first saw this question pop up on my screen, I immediately thought, well it does. And then I thought about what I just “said.” That’s how these questions become the What If’s, especially for those of us that have the pre-programmed right answer. You know the one that makes you smart and sure and FAITHFUL? That’s the dangerous ledge that I find myself on when I hear questions like this one. I cannot count the number of times that I have been asked a question and my gut, my inner knower, knew the answer that should come out of my mouth, but instead the years of being taught how to answer a question demanded that my lips move in a different direction. So for the record, science DOES have more answers than God.

Here’s why: Science is factual. Science has provable data with clear right and wrong answers. Science produces the same results for every person. Faith, God, humanity’s connection to the Divine…well that is far from scientific. Rarely is it even quantifiable. And even when the moments of measurements are experienced by more than one person, the internal journey to process and bring meaning to the experiences varies as vastly as the hair color of humanity.

For many years, my belief system taught me that the answers to the things of faith were equally as precise. My religious system prided itself on the answers. Those that studied and attained and read and got letters behind and in front of their names were capable of offering the masses the clarity of answers to all of the questions. There were books and courses and studies to learn. There were words to memorize and songs to sing. When committed to pursuing the truth in black and white, you could find it. This all worked so well for me until the first time that I allowed myself to think about the answers that I so easily spouted. As I began to question and think about the reflexive responses, I began to cringe. I wish I could tell you that the answers in the Divine realm were clear. There are clear experiences. People can report their own journey. Others can tell stories that are factual in their own soul. But the majority of understanding and experiencing God comes down to a tricky little thing called faith.

Faith requires us to listen and question and think and process. The things of God are felt and experienced and nuanced and extraordinary and tender. These words make for a full life experience, but they do not reflect an acurate or even factual measuring of answers. At least not in the way that people who are willing to ask this question usually mean. If, from a place of sincere question and searching, this question is posed to a spiritually “smart” person, the attempt is to tap down the doubt and give the sure-fire Sunday School answer. I’ve spouted it off with great conviction on many an occasion. But if instead, if the questioned one listens to the heart behind the question, we see the seeker longs for truth. The most honest answer is to admit that by all worldly standards, science will always have more answers. But what if clear answers are not the end game? Connection and holistic beauty are the ultimate answer, but they won’t be measurable in a graph. Here’s to a soul journey that empowers the imagination and wonder and leaves behind the measurable success.

What If: Prayer Doesn’t Matter?

My relationship with prayer is complicated. I grew up believing that prayer was a way of wish listing my needs and wants to persuade God to intervene and fix my life and the life of those that I love. I learned to pray using words that I didn’t normally use in every day conversations like “come before you” “burdened” “beseech” and “traveling mercies.” I listened very closely as the really Godly people in my life prayed, and I modeled my prayers after them. They all sounded so very spiritual, so I thought that prayer would be somehow more successful or fulfilling if I could learn how to pray RIGHT.

Praying in front of people was something that came naturally to me. I perfected a prayer ‘voice’ that made me sound like some kind of wise pray-er. I would lead congregational prayer time and people would come up to me in great affirmation of the words that had “touched their soul” that Sunday morning. They would ask me to pray “over” them for healing and peace, and I would gladly oblige. All of this only furthered my internal belief that I somehow mastered prayer.

This all works great until it does not. Until the day that your own life falls apart and you have no ability, much less desire to pray. As long as things were following the very conformable pattern of: live…hit a hard life issue…use the prayer words…things get better…praise the Lord…

But when you pray like you have been taught and suddenly you don’t experience the religious “feeling” then what? This was certainly the case in April of 2007. I was newly sober and the people that I went to for help in my darkest hour told me that my condition was a spiritual one. On one of my very raw days, I went to a meeting that I often attended. I was scared and angry and people kept talking about things like ‘let go and let God.’ It was all I could handle. I’m not sure if I had ever spoken in this meeting before, but they heard my voice that day. Through some colorful language and fierce passion, I explained to them that I knew a thing or two about God. What did they know that I did not?

You see, I went to school for Jesus-y things, my career was in the church, I was certain that I was far more qualified for the God conversations than this group. It was clear in my mind that if God could have saved me, I would not have ended up in these damp, dingy rooms with a pounding head and a broken soul. After I threw my public fit, NO ONE EVEN FLINCHED.

They let my pain hang in the air and one of my favorite men in the room said in his rough voice, “We’re glad you are here. Keep comin’ back.” That was it. No one tried to fix me. No one told me I was doing anything wrong. I didn’t get shamed. And most importantly for me that day, no one said, “Oh, honey, I’ll pray for you…”

It was in working the 12 steps that I realized that my understanding of prayer would never work for me again. I needed a bigger, more complex and simple and beautifully wonderful space to be still. Prayer had to change or I was sure that I would not pray again. No longer would I ask God to “fix things.” Instead, my prayers became space for me to align my heart to the heart of God. This shift is beautifully explained in a book we in recovery call the 12 and 12.

“It is when we try to make our will conform with God’s that we begin to use it rightly. To all of us, this was a most wonderful revelation. Our whole trouble had been the mis-use of willpower. We had tried to bombard our problems with it instead of attempting to bring it into agreement with God’s intention for us.” – The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions pg 40-41

So, for me ‘What if prayer doesn’t matter?‘ is not the best question for this subject. Rather, I go back to ‘What if authentic encounters with God require me to redefine prayer?‘ Because as I have opened myself to the reality of a more gracious and less boundaried experience of spiritual conversation, I have realized that my language, rather than my participation was the stumbling block. We all pray. With our very breath, we are taking in the life-giving energy that our body needs to thrive. Our intake of oxygen, whether recognized or not, is an act of inviting Spirit into our continued existence. We are praying as we breathe. The language and tone and voice and words merely complicate the delicate conversation you have been exchanging with the Creator since the moment that your sustained life was separated from your birth mother. I believe each breath is a prayer. And your “prayer life” started the moment that you first oxygenated the cells in your body.

So what if, just for today, you sit with your holy prayers of breath? Listen to the connection of your lungs filling, and as you do, imagine taking in with your inhale the very presence that longs to come alive in your soul. With each exhale, may you return back to the Universe anything that does not assist in aligning your spirit with God. That’s all prayer is. Sure, we can use words, but in our very basic life form we are praying creatures. May we realize that just as our breath gives us life, so does our connection to the heart of the Creator.

What If: We Live Into Our True Self and We Lose People We Love in the Process?

Ouch. This one hurts. Not because it might happen, but because it has. It does. It will. I don’t feel like I have great certainty on many things in this life (isn’t that just a kick in shins – the older I get the less I know – what is this?), but I know this one thing to be true. When we own our truth, when we live with clarity and purpose, there WILL be people that don’t like it. Not because they don’t like us, but because honesty and truth tell the fake and empty world to get lost. Being who you were created to be, who you are at your creation core, flies in the face of society that wants easy, low key sameness. Authenticity is threatening. Truth is convicting. Especially to those that are not comfortable with honesty.

When I first faced the reality that I was an alcoholic and addict, just saying those words out loud was gut wrenching. I knew it to be my truth. I knew that the chaos that I was making in the midst of binge drinking and crushing pills was ruining my relationships and my soul, but others did not. I can remember sitting over meals with friends telling them that I was in treatment and later as I made amends. I would summon the courage to tell the truth about my actions and behavior and often, more times than not, it went back to them.

“If you are an alcoholic, I can’t even image what you think of me.”

“If you think that story is bad, what about the time _____”

When we shine the light on our own truth, others have a choice. They can chose to look inward and search for the truth of their own life, or they can run. This single defining moment, even when not recognized as such, shapes relationships forever. To be fair, the journey of opening to truth is not instantaneous. For some, there is a time of observing truth telling that opens the possibility that honesty is freeing. In watching the inner work and acceptance grow in other people’s lives, they are willing to live into a way of life that changes things. But, there is always a moment. The moment when your inner voice says, “What if I really freed myself from the expectations of the masses and honored the only voice that matters, my own?”

This transformational question is a gift. It’s a beautiful, scary, glorious, terrifying gift that quiets the rules and expectations of family and religion and culture. For most of us, these weighty bags have defined careers and relationships and behaviors. They have shaped parenting and marriage and friendship in ways that we can’t even articulate. The ‘should’s’ and ‘we’ve always done it that way’s’ and the ‘but that’s not normal’s’ have prevented us from owning and loving things about ourselves in the name of loss prevention. The fear of disappointing a parent, pastor or friend has prevented us from claiming the very things that make us who we are.

Because I believe in practicing what I preach, I need to be honest with you. I have allowed this single “What if” to drive my adult life in ways that I am terrified to admit. Sure, I have lived 90% of my truth in some very public forums. I have talked about things that many wish that I would keep to myself. As a good southern woman, I have deeply embedded the lie that there is no need to invite the neighborhood to see my girdle and pantyhose on the clothes line – keep those things in the privacy of your own bathroom. Many of my public stories probably cause both of my lovely, proper grandmothers to clutch their pearls as they roll over in their graves. I know.

But that 10%, that remaining hidden (or at least purposely avoided) portion is terrifying to admit. I love a good shocking conversation. I love to throw a bomb in the middle of the room in the form of disagreement or unpopular opinion, but that’s not what we are talking about here. The hidden part is not the getting a tattoo to be different or to piss off your parents. The hidden part, the real and vulnerable part, is telling the people that love you that your tattoo is more than a middle finger in the face of traditionalism, it is actually marking the place on your body that was violated or the area that you cut because you just needed to feel. The 10% is the truth- the honest, humiliating, no-holds-barred truth- that shapes your being and honors all of you. But this truth is brutal. It allows others to see and know the pain. And for people like me, pain avoidance is priority #1 on most days. Pain numbing is my first instinct. To go to the 10% place is to choose an uncomfortable and unfamiliar road. One that could cost me relationships, not because of me, but because seeing me telling my truth calls out their truth. And much like the courtroom scene with a fiery Jack Nickolson as the mouthpiece, “You can’t handle the truth” is real. The loss of people comes not from a rejection of my truth, but a denial of their own.

So if you want to get real, get ready. People will walk away. People that don’t walk may pull away. It happened, it is happening and it will happen again tomorrow. But, before we conclude this conversation, I have one final thought. Real truth is transformational. Sometimes coming to terms with our truth is not just accepting, but embracing that the people that we love don’t have the capacity to love our truth. The only version of love that they are capable of loving is the facade. And yes, this will require the relationship to change. From all human perspective it will require loss and death in relationships. But what if, as we live into truth, as they see that our truth only creates a more loving and capable and whole human being, they open themselves to a new dimension of growth? Our truth telling, though it feels like loss, is often the death that is required for resurrection to take place.

What If: I Never Tear Down My Walls?

I didn’t want to read this question. When I saw it on my screen, I wanted to push right past it and hope that the person who asked it never noticed that I avoided it like the big elephant in the room that it is. All joking aside, was this a plant question that was lobbed up to make me face this very real fear? I have some big ass walls, can you tell?

Walls. I am a master wall builder. In the beginning, they were constructed to self protect, as most good walls tend to be. But there was a shift in my teen years. Walls became a coping mechanism, a safe haven, from the messiness of emotions that I enjoy avoiding at all cost. As time has passed and the situations of life have become more intense and real, my wall building skill has made me a master craftswoman. I can slap a wall in your face before you see it coming. My ability to not just protect, but destroy with a wall is second nature.

So, to face this question is terrifying. I know what it takes to tear down a wall. Honesty. Vulnerability. Bravery. Risk. There are the four pillars of fear for an Enneagram 8. If you know anything about people like me, we are powerful beings. We hate to be controlled (by other people or by life circumstances). We are super strong willed and one of our greatest challenges is lowering our defenses (WALLS) in intimate relationships. Anything that makes me question trust is more than a trigger – it is gasoline on a fire that is sure to burn you. I know these things about myself. I know that these things trigger all the triggers, especially with the people that I choose to let behind the curtain.

Most days, I do a mighty fine job creating the perfect Emerald City that I want the world to see. The public imagery is ideal. It is shiny and pretty and has all of the happy, clappy dancing people to distract from the chaos of the fake voice and lever wielding fraud that works so hard to present the picture of perfection. I can do it all, be it all, save it all and most of all orchestrate it all. I CAN DO IT. (I may have come out of the womb with those words bursting forth from my mouth.) And, for the most part, I can. Until I can’t. And when those moments happen…when I can’t control and have power over and fix and heal…well, then my very first line of defense is a big fat wall that is tall enough to keep you and all of your flying monkeys away from me.

Life and its treachery are hard enough for those of us who love a wall, but relationships are hard in an entirely new way. My relationship walls are the hardest to demolish, and with that in mind, I have to be very honest. There are very few people that I have ever let inside the walls. As much as I try. As much as I work. As much as I want with all of my being to let you see the real me, my walls are often constructed because there have been unsafe people that I have learned to keep at bay. I need to be clear. Healthy walls are not walls. They are boundaries. And, boundaries are good and necessary and worthy. Boundaries should be honored and respected and loved.

Walls are the defense tactics and they are different. Walls require us to dig deep into the well of past wounds and in safe and worthy spaces, place ourselves in opportunities for growth. Be it risking a new job, relationship, conversation or adventure, the ability to scale a wall is dangerous. Every time we look at a wall that needs to be removed and begin pick axing the bricks that are falsely protecting our scared selves, we are brave. With each act of honesty and truth, we not only remove the cold stone of the wall, but we free ourselves from the lie that the fake front is actual protection.

One final thought about walls: they are tricky. I have enough wall experience to know that they have a way of reincarnating themselves in new forms. Just about the time that I think I have found distance from a wall, I am reminded that the wounds that often cause walls are never completely gone. My biggest walls are up because I have be injured in ways that still cause me to scream in pain. No matter how much good interior work I do on these wounds, even when they have been cleaned out, treated, medicated and stitched up, they often leave scars. On this scar tissue, walls tend to multiply like mushrooms on a spring lawn. Our job is to have the mindfulness to know that the scar is there; to not fight the scar (we survived, damnit!). We can see the scar and even recognize the bricks and stones that easily find their way to these tender places, and at the same time, call these moments for what they are. When we are brought back to the places where blood was spilled in the hard seasons of life, we are invited to welcome the treasured few that know the real truth of our lives to help us guard these vulnerable places from hate and anxiety and fear. Because it is in those moments that walls can exist and yet not define. For me, today, that is enough.

Holy Week 2020: Resurrection

It started this morning where I left things on Friday morning at 2:30am. I sat in the darkness on the porch. As a storm was blowing in, I could feel the shifting wind and see the trees being pulled. I have not felt rain yet, but I know it is coming. The metaphors are not lost on me. The hardest part of my Holy Week “retreat” was trying to find the experience of this morning that was honest and true to where I find myself today, and yet marked that even in the midst of the struggle, there is a message of new beginnings.

There is not one bit of trumpets and white shoes that felt authentic to me this morning. The very last thing I want to do is turn on a TV and “watch” Easter. Kanye and Mariah have not one thing on my quiet, dark, fire burning, uncomfortable and complicated inner quest for hope. So here I sit, in my “Equally Human” sweatshirt and plastic sandals to greet the sun.

After decades of being a good church leader, I know all the right songs to welcome this day. I have the playlists to prove it. And yet today they felt hollow and insincere. There was only one thing that felt holy today: authenticity. I have a few places that I go for these musical expressions. One of them is Audrey Assad. As I sat in silence trying to begin my resurrection experience, these were the only words that seemed to fit:

After everything I’ve had.

After everything I’ve lost

Lord, I know this much is true,

I’m still drawn to you.

Friends, that’s all I have today. I don’t have the ‘magic’ words that make it all ok. I don’t have all the assurances that have felt so black and white in many seasons. What I know, what I really, really know is that I cannot walk away from the reality of the pull toward something so strong I cannot explain it. The best way I know to describe it is gravitational. It holds me down. It keeps me pulled to center. I cannot see it. I cannot explain it. Most days, it is confusing and frustrating. There are days that I want to escape it. But I can’t. Because there is a deep, deep, deep drawing that brings me right back.

So on this day of resurrection, I will celebrate that pull. I will not fight it. I will not run. I will sit in all the discomfort and questioning and lack of answers and trust that this act of stillness is the exact kind of new life that was intended for me on this Easter Sunday.

Holy Week 2020: Good Friday

I stayed in the “garden” until almost 3am last night. My throat still tastes like the smoke from my fire. My head burns from a lack of sleep and emotion. Somehow, I feel like this is the appropriate hangover that surely accompanied the reality of the morning. When I woke after just 4 hours of sleep, I wanted to turn back over and sleep. My body was exhausted, and yet I knew what today brought.

For many years, the Stations of the Cross have been my literal guide to Friday. Walking the steps of the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem is one of my greatest memories from my time in Israel. But before I stood in the streets of the story, I permanently linked my flesh to this journey. In 2012, I joined a group of friends to tell this story on our skin. Each choosing an image that depicted the station to which our heart was tied, we tattooed the stations on our skin. I chose the 10th station. This is the moment that Jesus was stripped of his clothing just before he was nailed to the cross. It is the moment of absolute humiliation. It is the moment that Jesus was completely defenseless. He is stripped bare. His humanity and vulnerability is on display for all to see.

These are the scariest and most raw moments in my life. The times when I have no guard or place to hide. I also know that the moments when I allow people to see me in the raw are the very moments that I grow. I fall and bleed, but I grow. I hate these moments. And yet I know this is where the growth comes from. Until sunrise on Sunday, I sit in this space. I commit to allowing the presence of darkness and the raw grief of death to transform me. I will not skip over the waiting. I will not. I will not. The tear in my dead stump is my icon for these hours. I wait.

Holy Week 2020: Tuesday

Hard conversations. I feel like this was the central theme of the week. It matters not which account you chose to read, every single one of them tells of Jesus trying with all that he had to communicate and explain what is about to happen without giving up. But there were moments that he had to want to scream, “You idiots! What don’t you get?” When I pulled up the text for today, I read a familiar story of one of those conversations. The account is found in John chapter 12. It begins in verse 18 and is a lengthy passage. And while I tried to find the truth suggested, or at least an interesting new insight, I struggled with familiarity. Until I arrived at the last line: After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. (verse 36). That was the truth I needed this morning.

Jesus understood. Jesus was human. Jesus was like the worn out mom in the midst of quarantine. He, too, need to get away from the people and hide. Because being a coordinator of chaos is a heavy job. Because all the questions. Because we all have moments when we reach the end of our ability to be calm and kind and rational. We all have the moments where we just need to depart and hide.

Two nights ago, I knew in my gut that it was one of those nights. I went away for a bit (aka locked the bathroom door and prayed that no one would start bleeding or feeling). I took a break in my homebound sanctuary. But even that was not enough. After a long bath, I found myself sitting on my closet floor. The closet is inside the bathroom, inside my bedroom. I had 2 sets of door between me and the next human. I departed and hid from them. I texted a friend. I said some fu* and sh* words. I had a moment where I just needed to let the weight of the day jump the heck off my back. These moments are hard for people like me. I want to be the tough and capable type of human. I want the world to think that I have the answers and the serenity to face what may come. But the truth is, I don’t.

There is an added challenge for those of us that are holding on to sobriety in these days. It has been a while since my last drink, but please don’t think that I am not immune to the deepest desire to have some wine to wash away the day. I know that fast acting anxiety meds would work wonders for the wiggles and the need to run that I feel. These days are long. These feelings are big. The solitude is painful. And at the same time, the excessive words are maddening. One of the biggest signs of struggle in my sobriety experience has been drinking dreams. Multiple times in the last weeks I have woken up in a cold sweat because in my dream I was back at it. And for a moment it feels good. And then you wake up. You feel the misery. It is a painful way to “rest.” Actually, there is not much rest to be had in these moments. I was taught in early sobriety that sleeplessness does not kill you, but a drink can. So how do we keep moving?

I get my ass out of the bed when I wake up in that panic and I go for a long walk. I depart and hide from them. If I have learned one thing on this journey, it is that I need to work through the feels. Which I ABSOLUTELY hate. But they will kill me. They will suffocate me in the name of shame and resentment and fear. They will paralyze me from breathing. I have to get away from the voices that are filling my mind (my people, the TV) and I have to listen to my own Spirit. Some mornings, that means that I am walking around the neighborhood crying. Others, I am listening to a podcast and filling my inspiration tank with Brene’ and Glennon and Mike. And still other days, I am having an anger fit with my favorite musicians.

I feel like this week is a unique and holy moment to recognize the many ways that we are wired and called to not just read the stories but experience the journey. I am already planning some unique connection points for the days ahead. I can assure you that the other 3 humans in my house will want nothing to do with my pilgrimage, and honestly that is more than perfect. This is for me. I have spent most of my adult life preparing Holy Week for others. I don’t think I knew just how much I needed to travel this road without a to-do list.

Here’s a challenge for you. What does remembering the meal, the garden, the trial, death, Saturday and the first light of resurrection look like for you this year? Let me let you in on a secret that I’m finally embracing: there is no wrong way to do this. But, you miss a holy opportunity if you don’t.

May we depart from the ideas of should, and hide in the unique opportunities we have been given to walk this road with Jesus this week.

Holy Week 2020: Monday

The last week in the life of Jesus is something I have tried to wrap my mind around for decades. Knowing that the end was near. Walking alongside the people you love. Pressing to say all the words that you need to speak before time is up. I can only imagine that the conversations felt important. I can hear the passion in the words and instruction in the tone.

The Gospel text for today is the story of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with costly perfume. To those at dinner that day, the group perception was waste. Why would you pour such a costly gift on someone’s feet? Mary used her hair to rub the oil on his feet. If you know my fear, hatred, abhorrence for feet, you can feel my body recoiling from this part of the story. But I need to tell it. We all need to see this. Mary did something so extravagant and overtly attention grabbing that people called her out for the crazy, for the unnecessary and wasteful act.

Have you have ever done anything that caused those around to question your crazy? Something that others perceive as unnecessary, wasteful, out of line or reckless? While I will never rub feet with my hair, I have had many a moment that my feelings, passions or need to speak up and out have caused me to move past the point of “acceptable” behavior. The number of times that I have been told to calm down, take a breath or just walk away are many. So, I get Mary. I get the kind of disrupted soul moment that all I can do is break that jar of oil and sit at the feet of those that have taught me that my passion is worthy of being trusted.

Recently, I have be writing extensively about listening to and trusting my inner voice (which I call Spirit). For many women, we are taught that our feelings are too much. We are led to believe that our passion and drive is too emotion based. I can see many of the comments that I have received in years past being said that day by the disciples to Mary. Yet Jesus had a different approach. He let her feel. He let her demonstrate and give action to her passion. He let her trust herself to respond in that moment to the whispers (and perhaps even the yelling) of her insides to cling to her teacher.

This leads me to a challenge for you today. Who are you clinging to? Who are you listening to in a way that expressing their worth in your life, as a voice of truth to you, is right? This is a bizarre season of separation. But like I said yesterday, we have a unique opportunity to slow down and speak words of affirmation and thanks for the teachers in our midst. Is it your friend? Is it a podcast host? Is it your child? Maybe all of the above? May we use today (don’t wait!) to lavishly express the place of honor that our people hold in our hearts.

Holy Week 2020: Palm Sunday

“When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, ‘The Master needs them!’ He will send them with you.”

This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet: Tell Zion’s daughter, “Look, your king’s on his way, poised and ready, mounted On a donkey, on a colt, foal of a pack animal.”

The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”

Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants.

He quoted this text: My house was designated a house of prayer; You have made it a hangout for thieves.

Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them. As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here? Who is this?” The parade crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.””
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Matthew‬ ‭21:1-14‬ ‭MSG‬‬

This is my 45th Palm Sunday. With very few exceptions, I have been in church on this day my entire life. I have read this story countless times. I have walked on this street in Jerusalem and imagined this scene. I have participated in waving, displaying, collecting, drying and preparing the palm branches. And yet it took this long for me to see it. I read this story this morning in my pjs at home. Before I did, I intentionally took a deep breath, as if I knew I needed oxygen that I didn’t have.

I wonder if you can relate today? My breath has felt shallow at times these past few weeks. I have struggled to allow oxygen to feed the rational and stillness producing cells in my being. In these moments of chaos, my words have been erratic. My tendency has been toward panic and my thoughts have become blame filled and destructive.

There are times that I am proud of my holy discontent. It has been used for good in shaping more open spaces, more inclusive circles and more generous actions. I have used many of the stories of and the teachings of Jesus as my basis for righteous indignation. One of those stories is this moment in the temple. What I had failed to connect until today is that in Matthew’s gospel this happened on Palm Sunday. Jesus went from the branch waving party “straight to the temple” and got his fiery rebel-rouser on. I have always focused on the party of this day. But as any good challenging advocate will tell you, parties are short lived when there is work to do.

My insight hardly stopped there. Keep reading. Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. I know that this is a paraphrase version of the text. I know. But, I needed THESE particular words today. Especially the first one: NOW. It was because of Jesus’s table turning fit, because he kicked out the thieves and deceivers, NOW there was room for healing.

I sit on Palm Sunday of Holy Week in a season of spiritual house cleaning. I have had the fits. I have had the anger. And because I do those emotions and feelings so naturally, I know they are not gone forever. They will return. In the meantime, because I have turned over some tables and kicked some of the thieves out of my soul space, I have room for the brokenness. I have room for the questions and doubts and the healing. I now have space to drag my tired and worn out body into the temple.

I’m going to sit in the house of prayer that I have created space for this week. I may not have words. I’m sure I won’t have answers. I may not understand the reasons, but I will be there. And this is only possible because I have made space. So if you need permission to flip some tables, my friends, you have it. This day is not just about crowds and parades and celebrations. On this day, while the kids ran through the temple waving their branches, Jesus was deviating from the social norms and cleaning house. May that be our call today. Flip that shame table over. Kick over that belief that you are not smart enough, religious enough or faithful enough to be in the temple. YOU BELONG. I BELONG. And If anyone tries to tell you that you don’t, send them my way. I still have enough holy frustration to break a table over their thieving back.

Hosanna!

RELEASE: 2020

I am horrible at making resolutions. I find myself hating them before the first week is out. Years ago I was introduced to the idea of a word for the year. Over the past few years, I have identified words like JOURNEY and JOY and WHOLENESS. Words that have been turned into jewelry and vision boards and prayers. It is one of the only “resolutions” I have. I resolve to pick a word.

My intentional movement towards a word for the year begins at the beginning of the liturgical new year, Advent. By the time we reach January 1, I comitt. Since it is now, 11:36pm on December 31st, there is no time like the present.

There are many reasons that I have chosen RELEASE for 2020, but there are a few that I want to share publicly:

1. Let’s start with the obvious. My oldest leaves home this year. If that is not RELEASE, I dont know what is. My word is always about me. It is about what I need to center and grown into in the coming year. I’m not sure anything can teach you like the journey of motherhood, so launching my girl into the world has once again wrecked me. I just can’t think about all the things that I have to RELEASE with this one, but it is for real.

2. I am an Ennegram 8. I am bold and oppoinionated and damn right. All the time. To say that I have some serious RELEASING to do in the “my way or the highway” department is an understatement. And I do. The Divine is teaching me this in all kinds of neat ways, so I will lean in. And probably fall on my face. You have been warned.

3. And at the exact same time, I will celebrate four and a half DECADES of life this year and, guess what? Some things never change. I am who I am. I am a big personality. I suck at keeping in touch with people. I basically hang up the phone on everyone who calls me. I have a wicked sarcastic streak and I am really fond of fu and sh words. I am also the kind of parent that lets my kids say fu and sh words, correctly of course. So, there you have it. I also love to talk about the Spirit and redemption and faith and recovery. I have come to the amazing realization that these things are not for everyone. More interestingly, the circle where all of these things can coexist seems even smaller. Therefore, I know that the time has come to do some more RELEASING of expectations.

I tell you these things in the hope that you will join me breathing life to a word as you enter this year. If you have one already, please send it to me. I love to know how we are all journeying together on our own paths. If you want to explore this idea more, reach out, I would love to process the journey of intention with you.

Happy New Year