five for friday, volume 2

Hey, friends! I hope you’ve had a really good week. As you read this, I’m hopefully resting and reading and hanging with a friend in Santa Barbara. As I write it, though, I’m at my dining room table in Fairbanks. There’s snow.

Anyway. Here we go!

Kid quote:

(Lilly is crying after she’s been put to bed.)
Andrew: Lilly, what’s wrong?
Lilly: I need my hotty book!
A: Your… hotty book?
L: My hotty book!
A: What color is it?
L: White!
A: Does it have a bear in it?
L: Yes.
A: Does it have a kid in it?
L: Yes.
A: Does it have a water bottle in it?
L: Yes.
A: I don’t know any book with a water bottle in it. I’m sorry, baby, you’re gonna have to either find clearer words or do without.
L: HOTTY BOOK!
A: I don’t know what a “hotty book” is.
(repeat for several minutes…)
L: Hahahaha! Here it is! In my hand!
A: HOCKEY PUCK. Say “Hockey puck.”

Book:

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo. I mentioned this in yesterday’s post. It’s gentler than I expected it to be, but still poking me constantly. I’m reading both slowly and obsessively. Honest and thorough and answering every one of my white-worldview questions.

Recommendation:

I came across this 22-second video ages ago, but I thought of it again lately and it will never not be adorable:

Moment of Happiness:

Last weekend, we went to a fall festival at the fairgrounds. We tried to leave right after Jenna got home from school, but J was having NONE OF IT. Her attitude was horrible. She wanted to stay home. She wailed and dragged her feet and catastrophized. I sent Sarah to talk to her and eventually we herded her into the car. By the time we got to the fairgrounds, her attitude had changed entirely. Look how much fun she was having!

Little bit of nature:

It’s getting chilly here.


This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

redefining racism

The last time I wrote about race, I got some pushback, kind but stubborn, against the idea that I would call myself racist under any circumstances. “Surely you don’t believe other races are inferior,” went the reply. “You can’t possibly be racist.”

Webster’s defines racism like so:

a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.

It fits. Not the second part, but I show discrimination in my everyday life, whether I mean to or not. (And, to be clear, I don’t mean to.)

Now before you run off in disgust, the idea that I’m even typing these things makes me feel really gross. But the fact remains: I live a pretty monochromatic life. Segregation is no longer legal, but it still happens all. the. time. I see white people on tv, in ads, white faces on most of my kids’ dolls. Most of my friends are white, not because I don’t want to be friends with people of color, but because I simply don’t know very many of them.

So, while intellectually I know that we’re all made in the image of God, I’m fighting years of indoctrination that says racism used to be a thing, but we’re all color blind and enlightened now.

The reality is, it is far easier to move about this world as a white person. I’m less likely to be stopped as I’m driving, I’m less likely to die in childbirth by a wide margin, and as my son grows, I don’t have to coach him on how he should dress in order to be perceived as less threatening. Nobody shadows me when I shop. Frankly, I don’t have to think about my race at all. I’m just a regular person.

And therein lies my racism. “I’m just a regular person.” I have friends (not many) who are black. But I’m not white, I’m just regular.

You guys, of course I’m not “racist” in the sense I typically hear it used. Almost nobody is. (Well. I mean, there are certain prominent national figures, but anyway.) But the racism I’m dealing with in my own heart is just as dangerous—maybe more because it’s covert. I’m reading a book called White Fragility right now. I’ll probably have more to say about it before I’m done (I’m only about a third in right now), but it’s making me intensely uncomfortable in some really important ways. When I tell myself, “we’re all just people, I’m teaching my children to be kind to all people no matter the skin color,” I’m doing something really bad: I’m lumping myself in with black/indigenous/latino people. I’m projecting my experience onto people who aren’t white, assuming they’ve been living in the same world and experiencing it in the same way.

We haven’t been living in the same world. I’ve been living in a mostly-segregated white-dominated world inside my white body, which affords me a much easier experience than living in a mostly-segregated white-dominated world inside a black body would be.

It’s so fast and easy to hear “racism” and think “KKK” and instantly dismiss it. “That’s not me! Those racists are awful! All those burning crosses and stuff…” And then (again, because white) I can walk on with my day and not give another thought to it.

But the KKK isn’t the kind of racism most people of color are dealing with. We need to reframe how we look at race.

Just being “unlike the KKK” is far low to set the bar.

People of color aren’t (usually) dealing with overt, noisy white supremacy; they’re dealing with systemic racism—the kind that means the poverty rate for black people is double or more that of white people in most states. Incarceration is similarly (relatedly) terrible.

So… we can say these discrepancies are a matter of racism or we can call them a matter of life choices. After all—if you’re choosing not to work, you may end up in poverty, and if you steal something, you might wind up in jail.

If I argue this problem is not systemic racism but one of poor choices, that America is a meritocracy and you get what you earn, then rationally black and latino people make WAY worse choices than white people do. If white people make better choices than people of color, how could I possibly defend my stance that we’re all created equal? If I believe black people are disproportionately poor and imprisoned because they make bad choices that white people don’t make, then I am a racist by the classic, ugly, white-supremacist definition in which I believe white people are qualitatively better than other colors.

Let me be clear: I think it’s systemic racism and not poor choices that land too many black and brown people in poverty and jail.

And I’m part of the problem.

Because, while I do believe our souls are the same, I don’t pay enough attention to the way our experiences are different. And I’m still grappling with what to do about it. Clearly, I can read more, listen more, be curious and not defensive. But I don’t know how to even wrap my head around the policies and systems that are all kinds of wrong.

I do know we need to talk about it more. So here I am. I’ve probably said several things in this piece that I didn’t realize were racially problematic because I’m only learning. No pretty bows, just opening up the conversation. I would love for us to define racism as something other than “hate for other races.” Not feeling hate is not the same as equal treatment. Let’s raise the bar.


This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

community in family

Yeah, I’ve meant to talk to you about her,” read the text. “She doesn’t listen to instruction in any context.”

Well.

I mean, yes, I know this to be true of this particular child, of course. But so often our children behave better for non-mom adults. I had hoped this might be the case. Evidently not. The inevitable flood of mom shame washed over me. I breathed through it, and replied.

Can we get together to talk about it?

She agreed and the day arrived with the normal amount of anxiety one expects when handling a child’s persistent behavior issues. I greeted this lifelong friend with what I hoped was only a little defensiveness, and we launched right in. She began, “I’ve been thinking about it. She has problems with impulse control and personal space.”

“Yes. That’s true.” (What else can I say? I fight this battle in my home nearly every minute this particular child is awake. This is not news to me.)

“They both come from an inability to live in community with others.”

Oh.

Yes, actually. Not only are these issues community problems, but the majority of the behavioral challenges we face with all four children can be summed up as difficulty living in community. They (not unlike their parents)  have a hard time seeing past their selfish desires to the needs of people around them, and it leads to all kinds of conflict and sin.


This one phrase—“living in community”—has subtly shifted the culture of our family over the last several months. It’s changed how we look at and talk about daily interactions. We strive to give our kids the tools they need to live well with each other. Living in community as the Chapman family means ­­­we have a shared story, we seek gratitude, and we create an atmosphere of grace and truth.

In the baby years, a shared story is assumed. Through my first months of motherhood, my firstborn and I basically functioned as a single unit. As my kids have grown in age and number, it’s become easy to look at our family life as a bunch of individual needs to meet and personalities to manage and problems to solve. When we start looking through the lens of “shared story,” these fragments come together. We’re still individuals, but we work as a unit to support each other, to celebrate victories and manage difficulties.

Because we love and serve a God who gives gifts graciously and abundantly, gratitude is to be our identity. Since I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts several years ago, I’ve kept a gratitude journal. While I remember very little about the content of her book, the practice of thanking God for little things has been transformative for my heart and mind. I now find myself automatically looking for blessings throughout my day, and they somewhat regularly spill out of my mouth in my children’s presence. I didn’t even realize this until I heard my daughter, then a toddler, exclaim in the car, “Mama! Look at the beautiful sky! We should thank Jesus for it!” My heart warmed, and I obliged.  Now, this isn’t to say that the same child doesn’t struggle with entitlement at least as often as she expresses her thanks, but I’m happy that she (and the others) know how to find their “thankful hearts.” Now we’re working on finding and expressing gratitude for each other. This comes less automatically for each of us; we’re trying to grow that direction.

The grittiest part of any community is cultivating an atmosphere of grace and truth. Grace allows us to come to each other with the understanding that we will each sin and be sinned against, but we will just as certainly experience and extend forgiveness. This creates safe space for truth to thrive. Truth is more than “not lying” and directly confronting problems. It is speaking the things that are right and good. In our family, we have always had a pretty good handle on the need to avoid deceit and tackle issues, but only since we’ve been looking at truth as a necessary climate for community have we considered the other (much larger) part of truth. It’s becoming important to us to affirm the positive things we see in our kids and their behavior and attitudes and to celebrate the good we encounter and the contributions each person makes to the family unit. When we love truth—the whole of it—as a family, the harder parts of truth feel a little safer. I see this clearly in marriage—my husband and I generally speak what is right and good about each other and our relationship. So when a problem needs to be addressed, it’s in the context of the larger truth, and we can often talk about it as calmly and unapologetically as the weather, because safety is well established. I want to make this safety the norm with my little people as well.

I wish I could say that our family is really good at each of these aspects of community. We’re not. We struggle constantly even to remember that community is our goal. But, as with any core value or vision statement, this focus gives us something to grow toward. And we are growing. The child I mentioned earlier, while she still struggles to listen, control her impulses and respect personal space of others, is showing glimmers of understanding. Yesterday, after a fight with a couple of her siblings, she came to me in tears, telling me she might need to give up a particular toy that was at the heart of the struggle. “Cheetah is causing us to fight, so I think I might have to give her up to repair my relationships.” I believe she can probably learn to live in community with or without this particular stuffed animal, but that her relationships with her siblings outweigh her need for her very favorite toy gives me hope for all of us.


My thoughts on community have been heavily influenced by Living Into Community by Christine D. Pohl.

 



This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

in praise of irresponsibility

I had a slumber party with a Sarah on Friday night.

We ate Thai food, drank a reasonable(ish) amount of wine, ate too many Oreos, did face masks. We watched all three Pitch Perfect movies. We talked until it was closer to get-up time than bedtime and laughed until our faces hurt.

Basically, I decided, “Screw it. I’m going to be really tired in the morning and there is a lot that I need to do that’s not going to get done tonight and tomorrow and that’ll be fine.”

And I was tired. I don’t handle short nights like I did at 21. And I did have a lot of stuff that didn’t happen Saturday that needed to. I’m playing catch-up as I get myself together to leave for a week.

I am so glad we did it. I need more uninhibited laughter in my life. I need to occasionally feel giddy because I’m setting aside responsibilities and “being a grownup” in favor of fun. “Should” is in time-out—I can still hear her throwing a fit, but she has zero authority for this little window of time.

Some people have described play as a spiritual discipline. Very much like I need to watch TV to remember I’m not in control, setting aside responsibility and “should’ needs to be worked into my life on purpose. Not only do I need to remember my worth and my usefulness are not tied together, but I need to learn that my family is also okay, actually better, when I stop juggling all the things to keep the household running once in a while.



This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

grace at the register

Jenn* was rude to me that morning. Gruff. She had a disdainful tone that I recognize from my kids. She’s only a little older than they are, really. Closer to their ages than mine, for sure. I walked up to her register with a smile and hello as I have dozens of times before, fully expecting her to respond in kind, as she does. Instead, a glare and a grumble.

I did the thing I do with grouchy acquaintances (unfortunately not my children) and poured on the kindness while getting out of her hair as quickly as possible.

Aw, sweetie, I thought, I hope your day gets better. I don’t know what’s going on, but sure hope it improves.

Somehow I walked away with more compassion and affection for her than I came with.


I think about the times I behave inappropriately in public. I hope I’m a little better at controlling it now than I was at twenty (at least in public), but examples abound. When I was roughly Jenn’s age, I was working at Walmart pharmacy and a lady came up to pay for her meds and a big ol’ stack of handkerchiefs. I commented chipperly, “Oh! Those are so fun! I imagine sewing them together into a quilt or something!” (This was a weird thing to say on so many levels—I don’t sew, really.) She looked at me wearily and said, “I wish I were making a quilt.” And then I snapped back to reality. I was literally in the middle of selling her a variety of medications to deal with severe nausea and pain. Those handkerchiefs were for her head when the chemo made her hair fall out. Soon. But it hadn’t yet, so this was all new and fresh and I was blathering on to a stranger about quilting???

I still think about it. Last time I was in Walmart, I cringed about it, in fact. More than ten years later, I’m still kicking myself for being oblivious, for letting my need to make conversation steamroll right over this poor woman.


I was in college, working quite a bit, leading a small group of high school girls. I hadn’t slept more than six hours a night since maybe early high school. Oh, and I was spending a lot of time with my best friend while simultaneously wondering if he and I would wind up together eventually. (We did.) I was stressed, tired, and trying to become an adult in some reasonable way, but I wasn’t there yet. (Am I now?) When a favorite patient came to my window at the pharmacy and said, “Hey!” I definitely let my exhausted, grouchy, overwhelmed face show.

I bet it looked a lot like rudeness.


I’m really thankful for that interaction with Jenn the other day. There’s a whole collection of similar incidents in my memory where I was the one having a bad day and behaving poorly. They come up in Walmart or, most often, when I’m in the shower. (Other people have their best ideas in the shower; I have random, unfixable regrets.) I’ve tried to talk myself out of the shame with “she’s definitely not still thinking about this—I bet she doesn’t even remember it” but I’ve never before considered maybe these things that still taunt me as I’m washing my hair inspired compassion rather than judgement or offense.


I saw her again today. Same register. She seemed back to her usual friendly self.


*not her real name. Sorry Real Jenn. I figured it was a safe pick—common enough, and my actual Jenns know I love them.



This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

the reckless wastefulness of God

Why do the leaves turn gold, orange, red, and purple in the fall? Spare the biological explanation involving chlorophyll. Why does the slow end of the food-making process of trees create a kind of beauty I can’t describe, that I can only try (feebly) to capture? The leaves are dying and as their life wanes, unspeakable beauty is the inexplicable byproduct and I want to know why.

Alaska is almost entirely unexplored wilderness. There are a couple inhabited population centers and lots of tiny villages sprinkled across the huge expanse of land and down southeast and the Aleutian chain. But mostly? Vast emptiness.

And beauty.

Why?

Why is there beauty that’s unseen? Why does the Lord create new sunsets all over the world from scratch every day, some of which are unseen by anyone but Himself? Why is there beauty at all?

It feels wasteful. Extravagant. Walls papered with hundred-dollar bills. Diamonds set in the mortar between bricks. Gold-paved roads.

Wait. Streets paved with gold?

This is exactly the kind of God I serve, throwing beauty around like so much candy at a parade.

For His own joy and glory and out of an overflow of His own beauty, it is everywhere.


This world is stressing me out right now. Racism, both “out there” and in me. Refugees getting anything but refuge. Rapists wielding power, not just over victims, but nations. There are people dying of cancer, starvation, preventable illness, addiction. Children are abused by people who should protect them. Churches shut out people Jesus came to save. Human beings are bought and sold in unthinkable numbers to do unthinkable things.

I won’t say it’s worse than it’s ever been—there really is nothing new under the sun. But I hear so much and my highly-sensitive, empathic self can hardly function in the face of it sometimes. I’m tired, tired, tired of God’s patience. It will all be made new, but when? How long will the suffering and brokenness persist? Justice is hardly what I want—justice would be very, very bad for me—but I want it all set right. “Come Lord Jesus” has been the heart-cry of the saints since He left. A cursory glance through Revelation shows me I have no idea what His coming would entail, and a lot of it is terrifying, but just the same… I need him to come and “make all the sad things come untrue.” Patience is less my forte than His, apparently. I don’t doubt His ability to act on all the ridiculousness going on, and I don’t doubt His goodness—He will make it right—but I’m not good at waiting for the power and the love to show up and FIX IT JESUS.


But in the face of all the broken and wrong and evil, He puts beauty everywhere. He points me to Himself with it, even when everything seems to have hit the fan. This is part of why looking for beauty is a coping mechanism of mine. I need to focus my eyes on what is lovely and my heart on what is true. And the truth? He will make and is making all things new. Beauty reminds me.

So, yes. He throws beauty everywhere, and I’m convinced that the great majority of it is unwitnessed. Wasted, if you like. But even that waste is really only indicative of His great abundance. He has so much beauty and creativity that some of it gets used to turn dying plant matter into masterpieces.


This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

on legitimacy

Last night, a friend mentioned a book available on Amazon by someone I’ve met. As I read the preview, I felt all sorts of ugliness surface. It wasn’t just that I had my grammar-nerd editor glasses on and couldn’t remove them—I couldn’t see beyond the grammar errors and the way it was written at all to the probably-reasonable content. I told her (my friend, not the author) that I felt weirdly offended, personally and deeply. As I dug into it, I realized it was because she has a book. I don’t even necessarily have plans to write my own book, but she gets to claim “author” as a title—could hand out business cards if she wanted—and the writing wasn’t even proofed. So, whatever the content of the book and whatever technical shortcomings I see, she’s legit and I am just me. I can perhaps call myself a writer with a modicum of honesty, but I am, by no stretch of the imagination, an author.


I just got a phone call to let me know that the two pieces I submitted in an art show were not accepted.

Now, my hopes were not high. I knew when the entry form required a price and insurance value… I was out of my depth. I ended up googling “what to charge for fine art photos” because I am pretty sure “$50, plus or minus one order of magnitude” is not an answer and also a dead giveaway.

I mentioned it to a friend I had been texting  when I got the call, and told her, “I don’t know why I’m sad about it—I guess I just wanted the legitimacy it would bring to have a piece in an art show… It was open entry, but not everyone who entered was in the show and I didn’t make the cut.”

*I* didn’t make the cut.

This first-try thing that a friend suggested last-minute not a month after I got a “real” camera, and somehow I am the one entering. Not my pieces, but myself. Not even my skills as a photographer, but my legitimacy as a human.


Stepping back and looking at both of these unflattering, childish internal fights over legitimacy in the last day, it occurs to me to point out to myself (and you—lucky you!) that perhaps my legitimacy and worth and identity are too much to ask of an art show or an Amazon page. Maybe those things should not be on the table at all, but they really shouldn’t be available for modification by people who don’t know me.

Hello, Captain Obvious.

I’ve known (and have probably written before) about identity and how my worth is more about the Person who made me than anything I accomplish, but clearly it has not made it from my head to my heart, and pushing things those fourteen inches is not something I’m really great at. I don’t know how to force myself to believe the things I know.

While I sit here with this blatant conflict between what I believe I believe and what I actually believe, I’ll talk through my game plan.

Notice. Outsized emotional reactions warrant a little bit of work. For me this requires a bit of external processing. In these cases, it was texts to Alycia. (I know you’re jealous.) She’s handy because I don’t have to explain anything to her. We’ve logged enough hours (years) that she pretty much just gets it.

Name it. It’s useful (?) that these two happened back to back, so when I mentioned legitimacy in the text about the art show, it echoed last night’s text with the same word and the light dinged on. Legitimacy is apparently a big deal to me right now.

Turn my eyes on truth. What is true, regardless of how I feel? This is the moment that pulls me out. I might still feel “not legit,” but I can move forward. So I remind myself: my value is in the one who created me. Since this has to do with creativity, let’s talk abstract art for a second. There’s a fair bit of art that doesn’t look like much to me. I wouldn’t buy it, and, unless someone clues me in, I may not even look very closely, but they’re worth literal millions. I don’t know the value of creation because I don’t know the creator, and my complete lack of culture and appreciation doesn’t diminish the worth one cent.

Turn my eyes on Truth. Back to creation/creator… in the case of me? I know the Creator, and I know very well what price He paid to buy me back. When I think about Him, two things happen: my legitimacy is affirmed based on the price paid, and also it ceases to matter.


It doesn’t fix my weirdness around “being legit,” but it makes that weirdness less significant in my day, and it’ll do until my heart understands what my brain already knows: that none of this impacts my value.


This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

five for friday, volume 1

I made a new friend this week. I mean, sorta. We’re both writing daily this month, despite #write31days not really being a thing anymore. She stumbled upon someone else who did “Monday Five” and then she tweaked it to be “Wednesday Five” and I thought, “well, that seems like a fun and easy post to do once a week,” so I modified again. Now let me introduce you to…

Five for Friday.

Five categories every week, at least for the month. Maybe longer if I’m liking it.

Kid Quote:

Me: Lilly, you’re yummy. Can I eat you?

L: No. Because that would be gross. And then I’d be in your tummy and you would cry and that would be scary and you’d be in the bath.

(Pretty sure she was pulling the crying and the bath from the photos Sarah Lewis took for me when she was born.)

Book:

Tattoos on the Heart by Father Gregory Boyle

Stories from a Jesuit priest who’s given his life to working in the LA projects with gangs. I laughed and cried, sometimes in the same paragraph. Five out of five stars.

Recommendation:

Hands down, the podcast Pantsuit Politics and their book I Think You’re Wrong, but I’m Listening. Sarah and Beth have very different political leanings, but they manage to break down world events in a grace-filled way. On Instagram stories, they give a daily news brief that’s been helpful for me, especially right now as there’s all kinds of impeachment chatter happening and both sides have their talking points and it’s madness.

Moment of Happiness:

We drove down to Anchorage (six hours south) this last weekend. We went to the zoo with one friend and her kids in the morning, and another friend joined us at the hotel pool with her four kids.

After the zoo, my friend Deb and her twins joined us at IHOP for lunch and her girls and mine played happily together. I just stared at them in wonder—I would not have guessed back when I was an annoying 20-year-old counting pills for Deb the Pharmacist that one day, lifetimes later, we would be friends and our kids would be playing together. Amazing.

A Little Nature:

Most of the leaves in Fairbanks have dropped, but after six hours in a crew cab with five other people, we pulled into the hotel parking lot and this greeted me:


So there it is. Five for Friday.

What do you think? Fun? Meh? Want to join me? Chances are really good that you came here through social media… You could join me there if blogging’s not your thing.


This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

spirit and discipline, part 2

“Think of routines like an insurance policy. You pay into them over time, and they’re there for you when something goes wrong.”

I’ve been trying to learn to adult better (always), and was listening to a woman who teaches homemaking—cleaning routines, time management, etc. But this idea hit me as true in a lot of ways. I read Foster’s Celebration of Discipline and Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines back in February and they both had similar things to say about training your heart—it gives a path to follow when life is abnormally hard. But also, routines and spiritual disciplines alike have some tremendous benefits when life is just regular-hard. Routines bring order and calm to a home; disciplines bring grace and peace and space for the Spirit to work in a heart.

Yesterday, I started in on the practices I’ve only recently discovered, despite two thousand years of church history where I knew to find them didn’t look. Today, we continue on.


fasting

I ignored this forever because of my various food and blood sugar issues. But while I was at L’Abri, they had a fast day. They try to do one a term and winter term’s fell during the two weeks I was there. I thought, “Well, I don’t want to make myself sick or cranky, but I’ll give it a try with lots of grace to keep my blood sugar up as needed.”

I was fine.  I had a few calories here and there, mostly a little in coffee, but there was no fallout. So much for my excuses…

I started fasting from dinner once a week shortly after we got home, and recently there have been whole days. I don’t say this to impress you—this is another thing I fail at regularly—but there’s a hungry, quiet place that I only find when I fast and it’s been grace to me.

study

This is possibly the only discipline in the list that I’ve practiced before, but I’m counting it among the “new” because I neglected it for almost a decade.

I know how to study—went to Bible school and everything—but that was back when everything was analog. I’d bust out my Strong’s Concordance and my commentaries and dig in. But then I had Jenna and no longer really had huge blocks of time to do that. I can count on one finger the number of times I did a word study between 2010 and 2018 because I didn’t have time or space to pull out the big books and get down to “serious” study.

In the summer of 2018, though, I went to a women’s retreat and they had an “hour with God” blocked off in the schedule. Leading into it, they gave instruction on inductive study and some printouts of commentary on the prescribed passage: Psalm 23.

Given that I already understood inductive study and could recite Psalm 23, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot. I got distracted—the woman teaching had mentioned Blue Letter Bible, a program full of study tools, and I wondered if BLB had a mobile app, so I whipped out my phone during Hour with God. (Oops.) Turns out, yes. I no longer have to pull out Strong’s! I have a concordance, original language dictionaries, and commentaries ON MY PHONE now! As I fiddled with it, I accidentally did some really good study on the Most Familiar Psalm and the Spirit worked through his Word, my distraction, and my smartphone to minister to my heart. I’m doing this more now.

listening

I learned this early last year, and it was a game changer. This really could just be called “devotional Bible reading,” which I’ve done with varying degrees of faithfulness since I could read, basically. But because I’ve been doing it for so long, I got to where my brain and my eyes weren’t really talking to each other. I could be reading the words, but they were basically bouncing off my brain like ping-pong balls while I thought about other things because the words were generally familiar. There’s the Lord’s prayer… know that. And there are the later kings of Israel and Judah doing their willfully ignorant idol worship again. Oh, here comes Babylon. Familiarity bred, if not contempt, at least boredom.

It was a surprise to me that changing the delivery method could shake my brain enough to make it fresh again. I now listen to several chapters a night when I go to bed. Do I fall asleep during? Sure, on occasion. But falling asleep with my heart engaged with the Word does not seem like failure to me.

Sabbath

I’m historically bad at resting. Plus, Sabbath is the one commandment (of the ten, not the 600+) not reiterated in the New Testament, so I didn’t worry about it too much. Also, poking at Pharisees off by “breaking” the Sabbath was one of Jesus’s favorite pastimes, so surely I’m off the hook.

Turns out, God’s heart in commanding rest way back in Exodus was the same as it always is: love for His people. Observing some form of sabbath is, for me, not about obeying so much as receiving provision. When I take a day to put productivity on pause, I remember what I am responsible for and what I am not.


This is part two of a quick overview of some spiritual disciplines that I’m finding useful these days. Part one is here. My hope is they pique your curiosity a little if, like me, you grew up in a tradition that doesn’t emphasize them. When I practice them, the Spirit tends to work in my heart and life.


This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

spirit and discipline, part 1

“Follow me as I follow Christ.”

Gutsy words. I’ve always written them off as something that Paul could say because he was, well, Paul.

As I think about other things Paul said, though, I’m less and less convinced he was speaking as a superchristian. I think he was just speaking as one actively following. I mean, he talks about not doing what he wants to do and doing what he doesn’t want to do. He counts his achievements as literal crap. He called himself “chief of sinners.”

Maybe I’m not off the hook as one to be followed. (I don’t have to look any farther than my living room to know I’m leading people, even if they’re short.)

I went down to L’Abri fellowship in Southborough, MA, not far from Boston. My stated area of study was the work of the Holy Spirit in my life as a believer because if I have “the power that raised Christ from the dead” living in me, I could really stand to access it. My theology has always been fairly reasonable, but my practice has been weak, owing to a history of viewing any interaction with the Spirit as “charismatic” and anything “charismatic” as suspect.

I did a lot of reading on that trip. It was an introvert’s dream vacation­—two weeks of reading. I blew through 17 books. Much of it was on the work of the Spirit, but that led me to the traditional disciplines as well.

The disciplines are one of the ways (maybe one of the primary ways?) the Spirit works truth into my life and heart.

As I work with Him creating a routine around disciplines, it’s like He creates space in my normal life and practice to speak and act. I’ve long written them off as “dead religion” and “going through the motions.” Turns out basically all of church history got them right, though. I imagine trying to get from one place to another with woods between. You know the way and can push through the brush to get there, but sometimes it’s nice to just walk the path that everyone has already taken. Disciplines, for me, are that path, and it’s a nice relief after years of getting whacked in the face by twigs and walking into spider webs.

Here are the disciplines He’s been using in me to guide me to Himself:

Silence

This is underrated, probably because it’s uncomfortable. But sitting in silence regularly (I’m shooting for five minutes per morning) leaves space for Him to bring ideas to my mind. It’s hard. I’m bad at it. It’s easy to go off on to-do list tangents and imagined-conversation bunny trails. Sometimes I manage to quiet my mind and nothing much happens. I trust that this is also fine.

Ignatian Examen

This is an old form of prayer in which I bring day before the Lord in an intentional way and we have a conversation about it. I’m not good at describing it, but my friend Jen is, and if you’re interested I highly recommend looking through her Instagram account and Etsy shop, both of which are devoted almost entirely to this practice.

Liturgical prayer

Wait. Talking to God can’t possibly count if you’re using someone else’s words! Extemporaneous is the only legitimate way to pray. Right?

Nope. There are a lot of people who say a lot of things to God that are sound and insightful. I am not always either sound or insightful. I’m often tired and my prayers are often rote: “Lord, thanks for this day, thanks for our babies, help me bless Andrew, give us wisdom to raise the babies and please draw them to you, let us all sleep well thankyouamenzzzzzzzzz.” Pretty deep, huh? Turns out if my heart can wrap itself around even a small piece of a prayer someone else wrote, I’m almost always doing better. It’s not that I don’t pray on my own (there’s always constant, informal chatter happening in me toward Him), but borrowing from somebody else has improved even that.


This is not all of them, but it’s already getting pretty long and I have 31 days to fill, so I’ll come back tomorrow. I don’t know if I want to tell you to “follow me as I follow Christ,” but here are some of the ways I follow him, at any rate.

If this tugs at you, I have to recommend Celebration of Discipline (Foster) and The Spirit of the Disciplines (Willard).



This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.