This column, Barefoot & Preaching, is also published biweekly in print by The Prairie Messenger.

Taking what I need when words fail…

Taking what I need when words fail…

I love words.  They flow constantly from my head to my heart, spill out of my mouth with laughter, make sense of my world.  And sometimes, words fail.  They take the air from my lungs or hit me in the face.  Sometimes, there isn’t sense to be made.

We have more access to information than any generation before us, and this does not necessarily make us more informed.  When questions come up around our dinner table, they can be answered in seconds.  We have very little practice in staying with our curiosity, and even less in holding on to a question.

Social media has added a new layer to our understanding, and created a world where everyone is entitled to my opinion, a shift from the older assertion that everyone is entitled to their opinion.  When someone expresses an opinion, we frequently move very quickly toward assigning the speaker with responsibility for how we feel about it.  It is a dangerous game we are playing with words these days.

I have received many words from many people in the last year and a half.  Miscarriage, unemployment, and a murder in our family have provided a fascinating sample of the things that people say when things are awful.

I’m so sorry.  Me too.

God won’t give you more than you can handle.  Actually, I don’t believe God gives us garbage or deals out the good stuff.  Life is a gift, and He gave us free will, so we have to put up with the garbage alongside the grace.  And so does He.

Things happen for a reason.  I cannot imagine a reason that would make the circumstances of the last year okay.  Things happen. Unimaginable, terrible, awful things.  And I am grateful I am not alone, and that good things happen too.

There are no words, or I wish I knew what to say to make it better.  Thanks for showing up.  I’ve also got nothing.

Here’s the thing.  On any given day, all the words are insufficient.  And I could choose to take offense.  But, every single person who has offered words has done so with an intention to offer their care and support.  In situations where there is no sense to be made, so many beautiful people have shown up anyway.

God’s promises are a mystery to me.  They are true – almost always in ways I do not understand and cannot anticipated.  Psalm 107:9 reads: “For He satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.”  My longing is deep, and the wounds are still healing, but God is providing good things, if I choose to receive them.

I get to choose how to receive the people and their words.  Sometimes what they offer is exactly what I need, a word or phrase that eases the pain.  Usually, they have no idea that what they said was what I needed.

And sometimes, the words threaten to reopen the wound.  But I know now that those words aren’t for me.  They are for someone else, and if I let them fly by me, perhaps they will find the person who needs them.  I can receive the care without the words.

I am learning to take in what I need.  The rest was never meant for me.  God will satisfy me if I will let Him give me just and only what I need, from wherever it comes.  The practice is working for loss and grief, and it works for the rest of my life too.

When my three-year-old throws a fit, she is reminding me that she needs me.  I can take in the beauty of her need without reacting to her intensity.  Her words are failing her, and I can take the love while she breathes her time out.  The angry words were never for me.

The news comes on the radio and another disaster comes reeling into my world.  I need to be connected to the suffering in my world and I whisper prayers for hope and peace.  Then I shut off the radio and keep the endless words of commentary from pulling me into a sinkhole.  I’m not strong enough to carry those words.  They must be for someone else.

A friend posts an article and I follow the link.  I take the learning, the insight, the pearl I need today.  I try to avoid the comments, since I am learning that good things do not usually live there.  In kitchens and coffee shops and parks, with the people who have earned my trust, we can debate all the things.  On the internet, most of it is not for me.

When I shop for groceries, I work hard not to buy more than what we need.  I do not want to waste the gift of food.  It never occurred to me not to hoard words, to simply leave some hanging in the atmosphere.  They can stay there for as long as they like.  The ones I need will haunt me.  The words can be manna in the desert.

It is a curious thing to face my reactions to the endless words with a question, a question that seasons of ease did not teach me to ask: “What is it that I need right now?”  I need grace and comfort, empathy and compassion, time and company.  All of that is usually behind the words if I listen deeply.  I don’t have to feel guilty about taking in only what I need, when I need it.

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And just in case you missed the last post: Grace here and now

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On Being Barefoot…

Before the burning bush, God asks Moses to take off his sandals, to notice and reverence that he walks on holy land. This holy land continues to burn before me, before us, signaling God’s presence before we arrived rather than because we did. This life we are living was holy before we existed in it. This land and creation we call home is the first book of revelation, God’s love letter to us, bearing witness to the Creator of it all.Our lives and the moments that make them up are the stuff of sainthood, our invitations to participate in Divine life to be swallowed up and fulfilled by God. At the grocery store, in the false solitude of our cars and commutes, in our laundry rooms, and over text messages. My shoes run the risk of “protecting” me from the sacredness of this naked moment. And how I love shoes, and how my sensitive toes resist the prickles of grass and the mess of sand. But barefoot is how my spirituality works, daring to live an embodied and earthy love of Jesus who took on flesh. I’m wandering through this life, yearning to let go of my shoes, to walk reverently and with deep attention to what passes under my feet and to what isn’t yet my path. Barefoot is how I write, how I speak, how I work. Experience shored up against an insatiable thirst for knowledge; direct honesty honed by sensitivity; and vulnerability chained to a commitment to competency. And an unapologetically barefoot tendency to speak it as I feel it, which leads me to…

…and Preaching

I’m a preacher without a pulpit, with words that burn until they are spoken ~ aloud or on a page.

My ministry is one of colliding words and ideas, reaching out to find a connection with God’s amazing people.

The world seems to me to be spilling over with grace and we seem to be people who, all too quickly forget that all of this is pure gift.

When I’m driving, eating, visiting, resting, cleaning, working, playing, and almost everything else, I’m frequently stunned by the pure miracle of what simply is.

It’s not all promised joy and ease, but it is all presenced and remembered by the One who gives it. And I can’t stop talking about it, proclaiming it, preaching this good news that we have not been forgotten or forsaken in any moment of this life.

For reasons I don’t quite understand, my words seem to be given to encourage and inspire. In a world where women and girls are still too-often silenced or secondary, I’m barefoot and preaching because my soul won’t rest any other way. If my words can be a gift to you, then that is a gift for me.

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