Dec 29, 2009

recollections on how to love well

"how we spend our days is how we spend our lives" ~ annie dillard

recently i've been reflecting over the ways in which i live my life. i suppose you can say i have come to a point when i am bogged down by the temptation to believe "is this all there is?"... for the greater portion of 8 years i have been walking with christ. it has been a clumsy adventure - the 2 steps forward 1 step back sort. there have been days of extreme delight, so much so i thought my heart was going to pound right out of my chest. and there have been nights of the deepest darkness my soul has ever endured, nights when i loathed the thought of dawn because i knew i'd have to face another day. but then there are moments when nothingness blankets the palette of emotions. these are perhaps the worst moments of all - because scripturally we are promised that we will receive the desires of our heart as well as persecutions and troubles, but to succumb to the numbness of the nothingness is to in a terrifying sense, give up. though i find myself entangled in the mess of nothing, i refuse to give up.

"i went to the woods because i wish to live deliberately" ~ henri david thoreau

i want to live deliberately. i want the ways that i live my days to be a breathtaking reflection of the prayer of my heart, "that i may love the lord my god with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my mind" i want to, as paralyzed as i may feel towards it, step out in faith and love others with the love of christ. how do i do this? for weeks i have been asking christ how i can love others well. what can i - brianna millett, a seemingly aimless wanderer, possibly direct others to the intoxicating, transforming and redeeming love of jesus? to seek an answer i first began to recall the times in life when i feel the most loved.

gary chapman is best known for his work "the 5 love languages". in this book mr. chapman describe 5 fundamental ways that people both give and receive love. these facets consist of:
1.) acts of service 2.) physical affection 3.) quality time 4.) words of affirmation and 5.) gifts.
i know that in a romantic relationship i equally need both physical affection as well as quality time. but in every other relationship, it is the quality time that prevails. if i am going to show you that i love you i will invite you over to dinner, i will take a walk or go for a run with you, i will sit down and share a cup of coffee and listen to your heart. and it is when others do this for me that i leave their presence filled with the confidence of knowing that they love me. so there i have recollection #1 - i feel loved and i give love through quality time.
"but i, i love it when you read to me." ~ peter gabriel
words carry with them a certain indescribable power. i am an english minor. i love literature. there have been many books and quotes that have inspired me throughout the years. in moments of the aforementioned emotions of delight, pain, and numbness - the literature of others utter forth the articulation required when our emotions capsize our ability to speak with our lips. in my prayer times i often encounter deep silence, so deep that i am physical unable to speak. this is where the the psalmists speak for me. there is nothing more powerful that reciting verses for my king. what better way to pray than with the very words of god? his word is sacred and transforming. i have studied british literature, american literature, radical non-fiction enthusiasts and the highly simplistic yet beautifully profound poetry of the ancient mystics of past. i love to be read to. my soul is transported into an entirely different world when i can sit back and listen to the creative carvings of other's minds. similarly, i love to converse about books. when something rocks my mind it is of paramount desire that i muse over it with another. thus we have recollection #2 - i love words, speaking words and reading words.
"i dress a wound in the side, deep, deep." walt whitman
lastly, i have a passion for women. i long for women both young and old to taste and see the truth of their identity. i take to heart the command in scripture for older women to mentor younger women. this is the great joy of my life, to mentor younger women and share in life with them. for 2 years i had an incredibly wise, tender and selfless woman speaking words of encouragement, truth and love into my life. without her i would not be the woman i am today. it is my prayer that i can offer this same kind of love to other ladies. there is no greater time than there is today for woman to rise up and reclaim the truth of their identities. for years mine was snatched away and i walked around aping those around me and living my days behind the mask of falsity. but through the mercy and grace of christ, i have been transformed by the truth that i am the daughter of the king. just as walt whitman couldn't not minister to the wounded soldiers in the hospitals of the civil war, so too i can't not minister to the wounded identities of the women of this generation. finally we have recollection #3 -i love (or hope to) invite others to proclaim the truth of their god-given identity.
so what does all this mean? to be honest, i'm not quite sure. but i have some ideas. these are the joys that christ has developed within me. i have been hiding them under a basket and in doing so, they have not been liberated to shine in the radiant ways that they are created to. living intentionally breathes trust. spending times with others reveals the love of christ. words speak the sacred, transforming power of god. and mentoring others through the love of the holy spirit invites them to to receive the truth of who they are as the beloved.

Dec 16, 2009

day #5 - soiled purity refreshed

on my drive to class this morning i couldn't help but notice how quickly the fresh covering of white powder had been soiled by man's tramplings. this observation was the catalyst to a well of deeper thoughts.

throughout the generations, the tarnished sin that entangles our lives often stains the purity of christ's intent. how often do we abuse, distort and glorify ourselves through the gifts god willed for his glory? we take redemption and prostitute it for cheap satisfaction. i offer these thoughts as a confession; for i am guilty of debauching the white robe of grace that has been wrapped around my perverted bones and i shred it in ways that expose the midriff of my fleshly longings.

when i am confronted with the reality of my brokenness my strength is sapped and my lips utter in frail whispers, "lord have mercy, lord have mercy, lord have mercy". in nouwen's thoughtful sketchings on the eucharistic life he writes this of our sin:

"yes, we are sinners, hopeless sinners' everything is lost and nothing is left of our hopes and dreams. still, there is a voice: 'my grace is enough for you!'  and we cry again for the healing of our cynical hearts and dare to believe that, indeed, in the midst of our mourning, we can find a gift to be grateful for."
~ with burning hearts

and it is then that the mess we've made of our white robes are wiped clean with a new snowfall. over and over again the lord's faithfulness reveals to our faithless hearts that his sanctification conquers our flesh that bend towards sin - and our hearts are turned towards the cross. 

"jesus doesn't hold back... he gives all there is to give."

Dec 13, 2009

not of nature but of nurture

i've been fixed on this photograph of my niece shayla and myself. it was set-up on a 10 second self-timer. with a click of the shutter the countdown commenced and we ran in front of the camera and fell into the grass, smooshing our faces together for a goofy shot. i love self-timer shots and even more so, goofy ones. this particular photograph is now one of my most beloved images to reflect on.

for whatever reason i was engrossed in the photograph and i decided that the picture colors a portrait to the type of mother i hope to be. shayla is amazing and unique. she calls for (without words) focused consideration from adults and yearns for someone to recognize her (and very truly we all do); to ask her questions about her school, art, books and her friends. i love to give such undivided attention to my girl. 

i adore the way that shayla entertained my wild idea to do an eskimo kiss for the shot. her face is lifted towards mine all squished and eyes wide shut. her smile is perked and tight with delight. my face is relaxed and my lips are barely curved. i am staring straight into this darling girl's face - giving to her every part of attention, whether she takes it or not, it is hers. i like to observe people and act on the internal empathy gage so that those around me are loved in the ways that they need. this photograph is sweet, and maybe only to me, but i pray that i can carry this intentionality further into life as a spiritual director, sister, and daughter; friend, mentor, future wife and mommy.

Dec 12, 2009

day #4 - tripped by everest and welcoming 28

mother nature has an intrusive way of keeping us in perspective. in an instant she has the ability to destroy the false validations we surround ourselves with. our homes are ripped open by tornadoes, our cars are swept down flooding rivers, and our bodies are buried when we attempt to defy her mountainous forms. we are finite beings in comparison to mother nature. but she can also call us out in softer ways that perfectly parallel to our needs and our way of learning.

today is my 28th birthday. i enjoyed a long outdoor run under the bright winter sky, which presented itself as a blank white canvas for me to liberally smear the culmination of ponderings that began marinating 28 years ago. somewhere, in between blinking and daydreaming, i have lived enough life to be two short years shy off 30.

whenever i go out for a run my imagination runs alongside and within a quarter mile i am transported to a far off land like africa, scotland or italy. instead of jogging on icy sidewalks in the metropolis of the midwest i am covered in the mud that forms when washing the feet of desert travelers. i am strolling through the alley's of europe with my camera and backpack, making friends with the locals as i stop to greet them in their family owned coffee shops. there we spend hours conversing of life's joys and difficulties while slowly sipping a cappuccino.

today however, i was not in one of these romantic countries; i was right here - in minneapolis. running down 53rd ave and catching my grip as i cautiously turned onto bloomington. i didn't even realize what a mess my thoughts had tangled into. somehow a vicious bloody battle was happening and i was on the front lines warring against the enemy's distorted ridicules. their commands catapulted bombs of "should's" and i was dodging past the exploding of noises that blew portraits of what my life should look like as a woman beginning her 28th years of life. in a second i was snapped back into reality as i was barreling face first into the rink of ice below.

a colossal iceberg resembling mount everest fell in the middle of my running path and decided, at random i'm certain, to trip my feet and bask in satisfaction at the sight of my limbs flailing in desperate attempt to save myself from a knee-crushing, teeth shattering biting of the pavement. i've never been a graceful woman. i could never make it as a dancer - i'm far too clumsy. that is why i'm a runner. luckily i have amazing reflexes; it's god's little way of protecting me in the midst of my dangerous inability to do simple things, like walk and chew bubble gum. this brush with humiliation silenced the ammunition of the enemy, stole me from the battle lines of lies and brought me back to the brink of this adventure of my 28th year lying before me.

Dec 10, 2009

day #3 - cup of peace

this morning i woke early so that i could have time to sit, relax and enjoy a cup of coffee in my living room. the house was quiet, miss lucy was not yet awake and it seemed as though the rest of the world was laying in peaceful slumbers. with nothing but a candle and a strand of twinkle lights to brighten the room i cozied up on my couch with a blanket and a fresh cup of bold dark coffee to warm my hands and insides while christmas melodies softly streamed from pandora.

as i sat here in my humble quiet place, i watched the darkness of early morning slowly reach forth her indigo fingers and unwrinkle her marmalade coverings. all of my surroundings opened up their graces and invited me to drink the cup of peace. and so, like any polite guest would do, i accepted. putting the cup to my lips the steam curled around my nose and bridged the divisive silence i shoved between god and myself. the liquid of tranquility streamed down my throat, melting away the heavy yoke of loneliness and distrust i've been carrying for three months and settled at the center of my being.

gazing out the windows i took notice of the ways in which the world simply rested under the layers of freshly fallen snow. the trees and flowerbeds, summertime chairs and the outdoor fireplace understood with complete acceptance that for the next 4 months they will have to remain, under the hand of winter. no resistance - just a full comprehension of the season and a trust that they will have their time, once again, to utilize their gifts.  i wanted to live like them. the trees and flowerbeds i mean. nestling deeper into my couch and pulling my blanket to my chin i opened the sacred words of god and found the literary invitation that nature's cup previously provided. 

"be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the lord". - psalm 31:24

goodbye arminian

after two months of grappling with free-will or predestination, i can no longer stand on the belief that my choice plays a role in my salvation. 

Dec 9, 2009

day #2 - woven stories

minnesota has been overtaken by abominable beings donned 
in ridiculous fur covered wraps and masses of billowy down covered apparel. smart cars and mini's have transformed into monsters relentlessly spewing gritty grains of sand and clearing a path with their unforgiving jaws. in one night, life as we midwesterner's have known it stepped into the salon for a little makeover and came out a drag-queen diva. and whether we want to or not we are forced to stop our routines and yield to the
 metamorphisizing diva of nature.

the force behind mother nature is her ability to craft a well orchestrated rhythm of life. we adjust our clocks to the rising of the sun, to the onset of twilight. our wardrobe is directly linked to the masquered by which mother nature dances. even the state of our psychological make-up is contingent upon nature's force. she does not abide by our way of life, rather we transform in accordance to her command.

this got me thinking. everything in creation was and is fashioned together by the almighty. the stretching hands of trees reach to the heavens while the inumberable grains of sand on the shore are incomparable to the thoughts god hold for us. there is a very distinct pattern set within every fiber of nature in such a glorious 
way and since this is true (just open your eyes and watch the world take place around you), the ways in which we live according to nature is ultimately a refelction to the ways in which we live - whether consciously or unconsciously - in rhythm to the god of creation. 

i wonder how many bundled minnesotan's recognize this radical harmony we share between christ and mother nature. creation works together in harmony. the logos of god shakes the snow from my boots and i am left undone, dripping with humility and adoration. through the gracious providence of christ my story is woven together with those around me, communally we are intertwined with the story of creation and all together we are tied to the unbroken unity of the triune god.


Dec 8, 2009

day #1 - silent snow

 falling snow, billowing silence.

the deep autumn has finally let go of her last leaf today. she held out for as long as her brittle hands would allow as though she was gifting her admirers with an unusually long glimpse into the soul by which she exists. with one last gasping breath, autumn ushered in a new guest. like a seamless relay, the baton of seasons was passed from one to another and before we admirers knew what was taking place, brother winter had already wrapped us in his billowy embrace. 

sweet autumn, i am one of your many enthusiasts and i thank you for the ways you have modeled what it is to persevere. the steadfastness of your company is worthy to be acknowledged by all.

the task at hand for today was to become a learned student of nature. that is was this mini-series of blog posts is all about. what can i learn from nature? what is she asking of me? how does she collide with my soul? i did receive a rather large portion of enlightenment from the unexpectedness of mother nature, but i can't help but wonder if this simple revelation illumined itself in lieu of the recent self-awakening regarding the simple and painful tendencies threaded throughout by being. i am learning the characteristics of silence. silence presents itself as the penetrating nourishment our dry bones cry out for; it exists as our greatest remedy. and all at once a divergence springs forth; silence poses as the stitches that bind the liberation of our brokenness. we become enslaved to the fear entangled throughout the riskiness of confessing and fail to step forward in vulnerable authenticity.

during my crawl home this evening i couldn't help but take notice of the abysmal influence the seemingly innocent snowflakes carried underneath their glittery robes. many times the winter season is equated to silence. layers of blankety whiteness stills the noise of this world in which we live and we are unknowingly disarmed. i watched with full attention the beauty of the falling snow and wondered to myself - how can something as tender as these snowflakes accumulate into a mess of dormancy? the snow began to fall early this morning like molecules of glitter and remained in that finite state throughout the day. and this is how our silence begins. it seems harmless at first and we acutally believe that we can stand unaffected by its power and never would we tantalize the possiblity that it can impress upon the lives of those around us. but it does. just as the millions of icy fragments fall quietly from the sky above, they inevitably grow into walls of inprisonment. 

just as snow must be shoveled so that we can walk through and reach our destination so too must silence cease to bind our trembling lips in such a way that our souls are freed to bask in the light of voice. 

theology of the ladies

i cringe writing this... but i think that once my little adventure in emerson land is complete, i will boldly feed myself to the lions and blog about the theology of women in leadership. check back in a week for the purging of my endless musings.

Dec 7, 2009

inspired by emerson

as my american literature class comes to a sorrowful close, i was struck by a glittery realization today. every work, every great american writer we've studied throughout the entirety of this course has in one way or another been radically shaped and inspired by emerson. more specifically, the authors that follow in the footsteps of this american literature hero weave his sweet obsession towards nature into their own masterpieces. 

thoreau spends years in quiet solitude, living alone by a pond and seeking to embrace the simple life. the river is what gives life to mark twain's creativity. the whiteness of the whale that leaves every melville fan in a state of introspection. chopin's focus on the liberation of the endless ocean. keuroac and his infectious novel of the vibrancy and spontaneity that comes from life on the road. picking apples with frost while deciding what road you should take. even up to dillard and her musings at tinker creek. everyone of the literature forefathers i adore have been influenced by one man and i cannot ignore the throbbing inquisition that levitates my gaze in such a way that i am left with a single desire to mimic the attention to nature that emerson speaks so highly of.

starting tomorrow i am going to begin an intentional note taking of the nature that surrounds me and i will post a few brief comments encompassing my observations. for it is not only emerson that encourages us to consider nature, but this invitation carries back to the desert fathers and mothers of the early centuries and even further to the intriguing command delivered by jesus. "consider the birds of the air... consider the lilies of the field...". i welcome your company on this brief stint into the world of nature that has manifested itself into a collection of life altering documentations beginnig with christ, filtering through the monastic movement, and picking up with the transcendentalists.

Dec 4, 2009

the mystery of silence

king david certainly knew what he was talking about when he crafted together the 32nd psalm. he speaks of the relentless grip silence has upon the pulse of human life.

"when i kept silent my bones wasted away."

what a mystery the art of silence is. we are taught to be still and know that god is god. there are stories written concerning the voice of god existing in the quietness of a whisper. and in a world exploding with noise the heart of human desire is for a space in which we can unravel our toiled souls in the comfort of silence. how can psalm 23 create a portrait of life that is fostered by the quietness when just 9 chapters later our pathetic understanding towards silence is utterly shredded by the anguish of david's wasting bones. silence brings death. silence delivers life. does this makes sense to anyone?

i have been recognizing the life that comes when i choose to speak out. my natural tendency is to remain silent and tip-toe my way through life with wildflowers in my hair, twirling in and out of experiences while waving my glittery wand of idealism. to share with others the truth of what lies behind my twinkled eyes and bushy tail rarely takes precedence over delivering the typical response of 'all is well'! for the past couple of months my heart has been suffocating underneath the dark challenge of transitioning back into midwest culture. reverse culture shock is a bitch to navigate and the loneliness that inevitably lingers in every paramount life transition has manifested itself in distorted and ugly ways. and it is this bout of depression i have been drowning in that the mystery of silence presents itself as my oars of salvation. in search of something life-giving i was drawn to a poem i had written for a sermon on the 32nd psalm given on ash wednesday during the lenten season last year.

ash wednesday selah
my bones
they are wasting away
the sin
of my soul
is too hideous to reveal.
in silent hiding
i must remain.
but dare i
the veiled ugliness?
day and night
your hand
it is so heavy
crushing, pressing down
upon me.
the strength
of my flesh wilts
as in the heat
of summer's sun.
all day long
groaning seeps from
every fiber of my being.
this pain is too great.
but dare i
the veiled ugliness?
my eyes
grow weaker still
with the sorrow and grief
that consumes me.
the affliction
of my heart
crushes the spirit
brokenhearted i remain
alone, cold, and anguished.
but dare i
acknowledge the veiled ugliness?
untiring hands
stretch forth
in the emptiness of my night.
again i refuse
your comfort to my soul
it is easier here
the familiarity of sin
has become a companion.
my silence
strengthens its deceptive
but dare i
the veiled ugliness?
forsaken i have become
who can save me?
the pain
of my loneliness
strangles the light
holding me hostage
as a prisoner of inequities.
the troubles of
my heart
have conceived and filled
my life with despair.
there is only silence.
but dare i
the veiled ugliness?