Of skinny dipping and scripture…..

At first the words landed sweet,  like the tingle of sour candy I used to scrape across my teeth
during Summer matinees,   so swept up in story that I didn’t notice my tongue start burning raw.
It would later hurt to talk and it took some figuring
to trade in those large pastel candy pucks
for a box of something creamier and chocolate,
which feels a little like the path I’ve taken with scripture
and I’m fumbling,  talking milk duds,  while I stall
to find the words because this is where the wicket gets especially sticky
in my story.

The word of God.
I still have a bit of an allergic reaction to this phrase,
and to many of the clusters of words that make up what my faith calls the Bible,
this volume of letters that I’ve loved and loathed.

“Of all the scriptures I despise,  I hate that one most of all,”
the words scrambled out of my mouth
too hot and fast to wrangle back inside as I watched faces go shocked with nervous laughter.
It was a little gathering of believers that met each week where we
sprawled on couches and floor and worshiped easy and talked real and spoke encouragement
and prayer over each other’s hearts and lives and people in a genuine,  healing way.
It was bliss for me until it took an unexpected turn into bible study and my insides began to squirm.
The offending verse brought back the sharp slap of shame I’d felt in earlier years
as I’d failed to “be healed” or “have no anxiety” and showed up weak or depressed
to you better cowboy the faith up and do better and believe harder
because neediness is sin.
The medicine was to “get more Word in me.”
(I can’t even make this upOh. so. heavy.

I’d eventually run away from this and similar spiritual floggings,  then wrap around and circle back,
this time to safer-seeming places and mostly they were and I loved the love I’d discover
as I unwrapped another slice of freedom from the very same book that pounded me before.
It was like swimming in the sea and being drawn into and dazzled by beauty and light
or suddenly stung and throttled until squeezed empty of breath.
What was the deal?
Like a sandpiper on the beach,  I’d dart away then go back hopeful,
drawn always to the sunsparkles on dancing water.

There are a million places I could settle and even more stories why,
but I want to tell you quick were I’ve landed
because the long version is a love story still unfolding and for another day
The cliff notes for now: I go no more into the water alone
wearing the tight, heavy clothes of assumption.
I invite the author to take me there,  skinny dipping,
like a guide who seems happy to have me along for company
and may be eager to show me a shade or swirl I’ve never noticed
or just bob in the waves until some weight slides off
and I’m floating free where I felt constricted before.

Because the whole thing is a painting,  I think….
Poetry and parables and picture-talk,
spacious fields of buried treasure inviting discovery,  spirit calling spirit,
a long beach for combing slow,  encountering gifts washed up from the deep.
Going there intellectually seems like driving fast down the beach in a truck,
looking for messages written in sand.
Mysteries get missed and even crushed that way,
and so do people.

I came back to life in the rhythm of the waves,
walking bare-heart on the moist of the sand.
I’d looked for God in a still life and found eventually an abstract painting,
an allegory with a generous guide.

Do I even think I understand it all?  Oh Lord no and feel no pressure to try.
And I wouldn’t argue any point at all, except for this one:
if someone looks inside this tapestry and sees a picture
that paints God as harsh or vengeful or petty or moody or narrow or disengaged,
anything other than the good I see loved out loud in the person of Jesus,
I don’t buy it,  thinking this projection of bias,
or even more likely translation of a foreign language based only on our native tongue.

Maybe it was always meant to be a treasure dig like I’ve come to wonder.

I can only say that I’m  finding still fresh fountains buried for me there
and the process seems to grow inside me something that I wouldn’t trade for certainty.
And yes,  if served up in a spirit that my heart no longer welcomes,  my soul will break out in hives
and I’ll run screaming into the woods with no apology.
I have no tolerance for spiritual bullying or the suffocating fear it can cause.
(Really,  people?  From a God who took the pains to write down “fear not”
365 times in a book he was willing to pass off to wobbly beings like us to have published?
Don’t even try to threaten me with fear.)

If I had to say it short,  I’d say that yes,  I believe that scripture is God-breathed,
like trees and sky and sea and flowers and puppies
which we also tend to get our sticky hand prints on and pollute or even abuse.
(i’ll go there later – where i’ve landed on the whole deal of suffering and a loving God)

For now,  may I just bless you wherever you are on whatever your journey
in whatever you choose to believe.
I love this about life – how it’s all one big eclectic explore and we’re all welcome along the way.
And for each time someone has used scripture at you – caused some blunt trauma wound,
can i apologize to that hurting place.  I believe wholehearted that it wasn’t from the heart of God.
Someone just couldn’t see the picture for the paint.
You are loved.
Always.
Loved.

“Will you follow me down that old dirt road and get lost inside those mountains?
Will you rip up that map and dance inside the confetti?
Let’s chase the horizon and find ourselves along the way.
These are wandering feet and they wish for you to join them.”
– Tyler Knott Gregson

” Don’t settle for an angry,  narrow-minded,  linear-thinking,
unkind,  punitive God.”
– Robin Macmillan

Thanks for coming along on this series…..I have maybe one more or maybe I’ll find myself done;
it’s been harder to dig up the words than I ever imagined.
I’ll be putting it to voice soon,  like I wrote it to be.
Here’s another little video I made you….hope you enjoy:)

 

 

Facing into the wind and finally a face….

4 insta
There are 100 counties in North Carolina,
and I begin trolling through them all,
searching the obituaries for a place I’ve got a homesick longing to see.
I have to do something,  my hunger to know gone so long unfed
and I’m given over to the kind of desperate that makes you clutch and grasp and make a fist.

I want to find her hometown,  walk down her childhood streets,
see where she spent her long ago days
– to feel the traces she may have left behind.
And to find the grave of the mother she mourns.
I won’t barge into her space uninvited,  but I ache to quiet the rattle as my mind
circles ’round the lot looking always for a place to park.

But I don’t want to wreck this for either of us.
God help me please,  I’ll wait.
She’ll say when she’s ready.  She will.
I pull up,  unfold the clench of my jaw, release again the strings,
and another year goes by.

She is bright and accomplished and can find me if she wants,  I am positive.
But why doesn’t she?
Is it because she can’t hear the all of my heart?
Or because she can and doesn’t want me?
The un-knowing makes me feel small.  A mouse. My imagination on too much catnip.
And Edith,  please,  what do you actually say to her?  And how do you say?
Because,  for the love,  why doesn’t she write back?
I wrestle like this for years.
I can be minding my own business,  living as wholehearted as I know how,  and then
this roque breaker will clap down sudden like thunder and I’m splintered by the silence.

I sit down hard on every grabby impulse;  I want her to know she is free.
She doesn’t owe me anything – this I believe.
I can touch my own scar and remember vivid when they wheeled me down the halls
and away from her small body left still beneath the bilirubin lamps to make her better.
I bear down on a hope that I’m leaving her to something better,
but I can feel it inside where something tears sharp with each door they pushed me through
that I am the one who is leaving.
And as I go,  I know it like I will come to know this pain that never leaves,
that there is no way she’s not gonna feel this.

Does she feel it now,  I wonder,  and it unnerves the holes of me.

new

It’s been almost eight years since the tide rolled in with a bottle on a wave
and brought me first news of my girl.
One busy afternoon in September the agency rings again
and I grab on like a rope sweeping past.
She’s talked with Amanda and has some things to share;  do I have the time?
The orbit of everything grinds to a halt as I drop to the floor to listen hard.
Edith’s words come like giftwrapped punches.  My daughter’s whys.
I hear from a long ago place and can’t remember how to breathe.
The grown of me defends Amanda’s right to take whatever time she needs,
to feel whatever she feels – even if it’s abandoned.
She’s smart and feels deeply and her process is beautiful and valid
and I get behind her choices like an angry mama bear –
 thanks for calling,  really,   but please don’t call again unless there’s a letter.

I hold this fresh jumble of not-knowing for five minutes,  maybe a little longer,
and then lunge for my laptop,
prying open the lid long forbidden.
A newspaper in the eastern part of my state whispers the name of a woman,
survived by a daughter,  that offers an “Amanda” in the cluster of those related.
There it is.  Their family name.  Her hometown.

I know enough from Edith to be sure that she’ll have a web presence
and my fingers fly across the keys as I google the magic box
and a string of images appear.
It’s her.
Oh God,  it’s her.
I know them at once,  those honest,  hazel eyes.
I’m glad to be alone as I rock backwards on my feet and bolt from the room,
suddenly overcome by emotion that I still can’t name or figure.
My throat goes dry even as I type this now.
I return and look again,  scrolling through several images,  all so deeply familiar
and overwhelmingly and achingly and astonishingly her.

I’m head over heels,  peering through tears that geyser up from somewhere deep,
as if my belly recognizes what my eyes can just now see.
I can’t quite keep breathing,  but I love this face more than air
and I stand for a long, long while at the bright window of her smile.

gnight from the fields
“If I chase your echos down the hallways
long enough,
if I just get ahold of them once,
just once,
will it bring you back to me?”
– Tyler Knott Gregson

This Summer series.  My story finding it’s way into the light.
It’s been peck and crack and struggle and I appreciate your kind patience
as I wobble along.  If it reads smooth and clear,  then I’m not telling it true.
I can feel your questions like I’ve keenly felt mine.  I’ll answer them around the bend.

 

breezes and bells

This year my heart wore dresses
instead of stiff scratchy pants
and it’s been joy to twirl and flutter
instead of trudge;
my little word –  dresses,
coached me through some heavy times
and helped my heart keep light.

So I’ve been listening for breezes
to brush over the strings
and nudge a new word,
for the chapter to come
watching to see
what seeds may drift down
and scatter like confetti
over the fresh year waiting in the wings

and thinking how I want to be stirred
by the breeze,
not to strain or to strive
but to dance close with love
from that place most alive.

   My word for this year
came as clear as a bell
and I can’t tell you how it makes me grin.

my one  little word:  bells
(I can’t even write it without smiling)

“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water
and trying to keep your head above the waves
that you forget,   truly forget
…how much you have always loved to swim.”
-Tyler Knott Gregson

I wrote a little love note to the new year
over at Vision and Verb
and would love it if you dropped by!