The Gentler, More Subtle Way: A Book Review & a Giveaway!!

IMG_4042

There are a whole lotta ways to write a ‘come to Jesus’ story. Strong stories of dramatic conversions are always around — usually quite popular, in fact. And they are often told in lurid detail, outlining the horrors of drug abuse, or alcoholism, of sexual misconduct or abuse, telling tales of wild living and rough edges. LOTS of very rough edges.

When I was an adolescent and young adult, I used to quietly envy anyone with such a story. Why? Because mine was so ordinary – my life was pretty much drama-free. I never got ‘saved’ from anything horrific, so I had no redemption story worth telling. As I got older, however, and began having and raising children, that envy just dissipated and was blown away by the sweet breeze of grace. In truth, that old envy morphed into a deep well of gratitude. I am grateful for the story that is uniquely mine to tell, uniquely mine to live.

As I lived into my own life, I began to realize that ordinary no longer looked so bad. In fact, ordinary began to take on all kinds of layers, colors, even edges. I slowly came to understand that God works in all kinds of ways, his children to redeem. All kinds of ways. For some, that may mean drama, and lots of it. For others of us, those grace-breezes are gentler and more subtle. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to redemption stories — everyone has a story worth telling, and ANY story of grace-at-work is a story I want to hear.

Or read.

And believe me when I tell you this, Michelle DeRusha has told us a corker. This is, hands down, one of the best spiritual memoirs I have ever read. It is honest, hysterically funny at points, gracious and gratifying and gorgeous. It took seven years for this beautiful gem to come to light and the wait has been so worth it. SO worth it.

Michelle tells us how her particular childhood experience of church did not lead her to an understanding of grace. So instead of looking to God for help, she focussed all her considerable energy and intelligence on taking charge of her own life, choosing to believe there was no God. She grew up and went to college in New England, working in NYC for a while. During graduate school, she met and married her husband, Brad, whose personal faith was strong and steady and whose heart welcomed Michelle exactly where she was. Together, they moved to the midwestern state of Nebraska, welcoming one little boy almost immediately and a second, several years later.

Their Nebraska adventure became Michelle’s faith adventure and the story is told in crackling prose, filled with descriptions that bring both belly laughs and tears of recognition. They began attending a Lutheran church because apparently, EVERYONE in Nebraska goes to church. Brad felt right at home and Michelle managed to ‘cough’ her way through the Nicene Creed for the first few years! Slowly, but surely, the beauty of the gospel began to seep into her spirit, however, and her big questions began to subtly change. Instead of, “Why believe in God?”, she began to ask, “Why not believe in God?” 

Michelle’s story is quite different from mine. I’ve known and believed in Jesus for as long as I can remember, and despite occasional bouts of what Madeleine L’Engle used to call ‘viral atheism,’ my faith has always been a part of my story. Michelle came to Jesus later in life, as a young mom in her 30s, carrying a long history of disbelief and disconnection from faith. And yet, I resonated so strongly with this book. Why?

Because I am a misfit, too. Not in the same ways that Michelle believes she is — after all, I know the lingo, right? I’m familiar with the Bible, I know a lot about church history, biblical studies — you know the drill. But Michelle puts her finger on something very, very important in this book: the truth that most of us don’t ‘fit’ in one way or another.

And also? The bigger truth that it doesn’t matter that we don’t fit. Because being a misfit — well, that’s what makes us who we are. And Michelle, misfit though she may be, speaks for all of us as she writes about doubt, flashes of insight, small gifts of grace in the middle of daily living.

Because this is our story, too. This story of not fitting in, not having all the answers, not getting it. What she — and we — come to realize is that all of that is okay. It is more than okay — it is the way in. The way in to a vibrant, day-to-day relationship with the living God, the way in which a spiritual misfit becomes God’s Beloved Misfit. “We are all walking around shining like the sun,” Thomas Merton says (and Michelle quotes on page 98). ALL of us, dear friends, beloved misfits, shining like the sun. Wow.

IMG_4044

FRIENDS! I have TWO copies of Michelle’s beautiful book to give away! All you have to do is tell me you’d like a chance to win one and, if your name is drawn, I’ll be delighted to send you your very own copy. Put a word in the comments and I’ll have my granddaughters draw a name on Easter Sunday. Winners announced next Monday!

What a Woman Is Worth — Launch Day!!

The Big Day is finally here! A wonderful collection of essays, edited and organized by Tamara Lunardo, is releasing today on Amazon! I am honored to be included — in fact, to contribute the final piece in the collection — with a remarkable group of women writers, speaking to the truth that women matter. No matter how life has treated us, we matter to God and we matter to one another.

Here’s the beautiful cover of our book and at the end of this post is a shot of the back cover, too. As those of you who read here with any regularity will know, this essay was written quite a while ago! Almost exactly two years ago, to be exact. Lilly is now 4 years and 2 months old; in this piece she is not yet two. But the truth of who she is is always the same. Here is the first section of the final essay in this fine collection:
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00015]

Lilly is 22 months old, and a real pistol. Funny, charming, inquisitive, secure in herself and in the love of her family. She plays with us two days each week – one of the perks of grandparenting and retirement. And every time she’s here, I celebrate who she is becoming.

Last week, she climbed up onto my bed (where all good computer work is done in this house) and begged to see ‘pichures, pichures!’ So I opened iPhoto and went directly to her favorite event: her older sister’s 6th birthday party. Each time we look at this set, we scroll through all 90 photos, identifying as many people as we can, usually lingering longest at the pictures of the ‘happy cake-cake.’

Lilly has not quite grasped the truth that these ‘pichures’ she loves so much are only 2-dimensional representations and not actually tiny versions of the people she sees every day. Sometimes she will cup her hands next to the screen and say, “I pick her up! I pick her up!” puzzled that she can’t quite make that happen.

But one day last week, she surprised me with words that marked my heart in a powerful way. She surprised me with what she did understand. She saw a close-up of her own face. And she patted the screen gently, saying, “Oooh, that’s Rirry [still working on those L’s]. She so cute. I love her.”

“She so cute…I love her.” I wrapped my arms around her small body and kissed her on the back of the neck and said, “Oh, YES, Lilly. You are so cute and I love you, too. I hope and I pray that you will always be able to look at yourself in exactly this way. Always.”

What is it that happens to us between early childhood and adulthood? Why is it so easy for us to lose that clear, common-sense, of-course-I’m-loveable-it’s-just-so-obvious-I’m sure-you-can-see-this-too sense of our value, our worth, our intrinsic ‘rightness?’ And what, as parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, cousins, grandparents of girls – what can we do to foster an atmosphere in which little girls will always see themselves this way? When we look in the mirror at age 16 or 21 or 35 or 50 or 75 or 90, why shouldn’t we be able to see ourselves through eyes of love?

Is this not the message of the Gospel? Is this not the Truth that Jesus saw and taught and modeled and lived? That fundamentally, to be a human person is a good, good thing. So good that God chose to be clothed with our flesh, to walk through the steps of our life, to eat and sleep and laugh and cry, to connect with others and to spend time alone, to hang out with all different kinds of people and see each of them as interesting and important and valuable? Yes, I think so. . . 

To read the rest, you’ll just have to buy the book!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00015]

Delving into the Mystery — Introducing Q & A

I will admit that this new year is already kicking my butt. I know that sounds rude, and, to tell you truth, it feels rude.

I have one more year in my 60s. One.More.Year.

And I’m feeling it.

My husband has already moved through that milestone. And he’s feeling it, too.

We’re tired, cranky at times, worry too much over our old, dementing moms and our beautiful, energetic grandchildren, and our joints ache almost all the time.

Yet, here I sit, staring out at the brilliant noonday sun on a winter day, grateful right into every aching bone for the life I’ve lived, the gifts I’ve enjoyed, the things I’ve learned.

IMG_3713

Yes, these joints hurt. But this heart and soul are still beating, still singing. I am grateful to be here, inhabiting this space for however long the Lord grants it.

And in between the groans and sighs, I’ve been listening. Paying attention. Reading. Learning.

Case in point.

This week, I took a walk on the bluffs near the University of California, Santa Barbara. I love that walk, the glorious views in every direction, the energy of a university campus beating its way underground clear out to Coal Oil Point, where the surfers hang ten.

So I took my very fancy new point-and-shoot camera and I walked. And I watched the surfers as they inhabited that immense sea.

Who knew that surfers could be such powerful teachers?? Here’s a little of what I learned on Tuesday afternoon:

To be a surfer requires dedication. These kids ride their bikes out the long, dusty pathway, holding their boards — holding their boards — close to their bodies.

DSC00569To be a surfer requires community. You will never see a lone ranger, waiting for the next set. Always, always, they do this thing together. Yes, their rides are individual, but the waiting? The learning from the water? The ebb and flow? This, they do together.

DSC00514

To be a surfer requires patience, long stretches of sitting, watching, sensing, obeying the rhythm of the water. In between the thrilling stuff is a whole lot of boring stuff, but all of it is what makes an expert out of a beginner.

DSC00559

To be a surfer requires flexibility, and a willingness to go with the flow. From straddling to crouching to half-standing, to a full-out-stand-up-look-at-this, you’ve got to be willing to change your position on a dime. Take a gander at these:

DSC00553

DSC00544

DSC00538

DSC00543

DSC00554Dedication, community, patience, flexibility — all part of the surfing life. And all part of being obedient to what the water has to teach, don’t you think?

If we want to learn —

we’ve got to get wet,
we’ve got to find a tribe,
we’ve got to be willing to wait out the lulls,
and we’ve got to move with the rhythm of the water.

I’ve been following Jesus all my life, cannot remember a moment when I didn’t know him. And still, I fall off that board, miss the cues, lose the rhythm. I’m not there yet — not exactly a beginner, but not quite an expert, either.

All along the way, I have managed to learn a few things,  Some of them are painful, painful enough to leave scars. And though I would never seek it out, I’ve lived long enough to know that pain can be a place of profound growth, even of transformation.

Every surfer worth his or her salt has endured bruising, battering, humiliation and defeat. But the ones who choose to learn from all of that are the ones who become adept, adaptable, creative and committed. In short, the ones who yield to the mystery of it all, and accept that an occasional punch to the gut is part of the process — these are the ones who catch the waves, time after time.

DSC00508

This cross stands at the edge of the cliff that sits between the two primary surfing coves along the Coal Oil Point Reserve. It is glorious and sturdy, withstanding wind and weather for as long as I’ve been living. I like the juxtaposition of sturdiness and wildness that I find in this place, the unpredictable mingling of formed and unformed, hand-created and God-created.

It reminds me of life – this crazy mix of goodness and grief, beauty and horror, healing and brokenness that makes our four-score-and ten (if we’re lucky) the rich and remarkable thing that it is.

I am quickly approaching that number, on my way to three score and ten very soon now. Over the years that have been granted me, I have never been able to settle for the quick and easy. Don’t offer me truisms, cliches, pat answers or formulas, please. I’d rather hear a different way of asking the question! Because, here’s the truth of it: I am a person who loves the questions; I believe they are worth the patient work of exploration, prayer and lived experience that can sometimes lead to answers. In fact, I believe that my word for 2014, obedient, is as much about asking the right questions as it is about finding answers.

For as long as I pastored, there was a beautiful calligraphic print that hung in or near my various offices. It contains these words, written by Rainer Maria Rilke in his small book, “Letters to a Young Poet.” This is a truth I believe; this is a truth I try to live:

“You are so young, you have not even begun,
and I would like to beg you, dear one, as well as I can,
to have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and to try to cherish the questions themselves,
like closed rooms and like books written in a very strange tongue.

Do not search now for the answers, which cannot be given you because you could not live them.

It is a matter of living everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps you will then, gradually,
without noticing it, one distant day,
live right into the answers.
 

I would like to invite you to spend some time living the questions, beginning next Friday, January 17th. I’ll start us off with some reflections on a question that I’ve lived with for a while. And we’ll do that every Friday until there are no more questions to be asked.

Although I’ve got a list of about a dozen that I’ve discerned from my own life experience and from much of what I read on the internet, I am open to suggestions. Please leave them in the comments or email me directly at dtrautwein at gmail dot com.

Also? YOU are invited to link up your own reflections — either on the question that I raise or on another one that you’ve been living for a while. PLEASE NOTE that this is not an invitation to extended theological debate. There are lots of places to go if that’s what you hunger for. What I’m looking for are stories, experiences, concerns, points of conflict — anything that sets you down the road of wondering about the life of faith.

I think we’ll come closer to living an answer if we tell our stories and if we live our questions. Next Friday’s question set?

Why is there so much talk about ‘obedience?’
Does following Jesus mean I have to give up having fun?

Diana Trautwein - Living the Questions

Then, beginning the following Tuesday, January 21st, we’ll try our hand at discovering how we are living the answers. I will do some personal reflecting on truths I’ve been living into — perhaps connected to the question of the previous week, perhaps not. Sometimes I’ll look to scripture for help, sometimes to life, sometimes to both. And I can tell you right now, that some weeks there will be no ‘answer,’ just an encouragement to live with the un-knowing, to explore the mystery . . . to wait for the wave. 

Diana Trautwein - Living into the Answers

I have no idea if this will work or not! It is an experiment, one that I think is worth the risk. I hope you will, too.

I’m willing to get wet, are you?
I’m looking for my tribe, will you be a part?
I’m okay with the lulls, especially if I’ve got company.
And I’m willing to move with the rhythm of The Water.

So . . . let’s do a little surfing, shall we?

A Safe Place: A Deeper Story

IMG_1532

As I began to wade into the waters of the internet at the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, I wound my way over to this remarkable place called “A Deeper Story.” I was in transit at that point in my life, moving into retirement, giving up an identity I had happily filled for fourteen years as pastor and leader in my church. I wondered what was next for me, where God would have me thinking and working. And the only thing I knew, in those early days, was that I had a clear and direct call from God to write, and that call had the word ‘stories’ in it.

I’ve done a lot of exegetical, theological, spiritual and psychological work to become the person I am at this juncture of my life. And I could, if I chose to, make a good ‘argument’ for what I believe and why I believe it. But I was increasingly convinced, as I read all around the blogosphere, that I did not want to argue; I wanted to tell my story.

All of my stories, to be more precise. The fun ones, the adventurous ones, the love-filled ones — of course, yes, hooray. But I also wanted to tell the stories of wondering and wandering, of doubting and wrestling. And I wanted to read stories like that, too.

And “A Deeper Story” was the very best place I found to do that. The reading part, at least. And I read them all. Every single one.

And then, lo and behold! Just over a year ago, an invitation came for me to tell my stories in that rich space — a gift straight from the hand of God, courtesy of Megan Tietz. And this place has been a good, welcoming, wrestling place for me.

And here’s why.

All the people who write regularly or guest post at this site are starting from different places along the journey. We do not all agree on theology or politics or child-raising or any other topic you might care to mention. We do agree that we’re following hard after Jesus, and some days that’s a lot harder to do than others.

And that right there has been a tremendous gift. We care about one another, we encourage one another, we listen, we welcome. And our regular readers do that, too. The entire experience has been gift.

Right now, the site is in the midst of a pretty massive overhaul. It’s a necessary part of the growing process. And Nish Weiseth, whose brainchild ADS is, has been paying ALL of the costs connected to keeping this site going up to this point. Now, however, we’re turning a corner of sorts.

We’re growing up.

And as any parent will readily agree, growing up is expensive. So we’re asking for some help.

There is a Fundly campaign going on right now, today. And the goal is $4,000.

I am confident that the readers of ADS will help us reach that goal and, in addition, will give Nish a nice, comfy cushion to keep us afloat for a good, long time. I’ve already made a gift and may very well do so again.

Can I invite you over to the website today to read all about this from Nish’s perspective? You’ll find a link to the campaign over there.

Thanks so much for being a friend of mine and of this blog — and for following me over to ADS when one of my posts is up over there.

 

31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO READ, READ, READ #3

31 days of giving permission 200x130

This marks the 3rd Tuesday since I first offered permission to read, read, read. On each of those days, I have offered a book review for you to consider. Today’s entry was written by a friend and former neighbor and it is lovely.

I think I need to put a disclaimer on this review, right up front: I know Carolyn Weber and I love her. And for some reason, she chose to talk about me in this book. I knew about it ahead of time, even read a chapter or two before publication, but I was still surprised to see my name, right there.

So, that’s out of the way, okay? And the truth of that first paragraph has absolutely NOTHING to do with what I’m about to say, just so we’re all straight about that. 

And here’s what I’m saying: if you like intelligent, lovely, sometimes funny, sometimes achingly honest writing, then this is a book that should go on the top of your stack. This second volume of personal reflections (coming on the heels of the beautiful conversion narrative of “Surprised by Oxford”) picks up her story several years later than the end of volume one. If you’re expecting (or hoping for) descriptions about courtship and wedding, and blissful early years of marriage and teaching, they are not here.

What is here is the story of a transition time in her life, a scary tale of later-in-life pregnancy, labor and delivery, a decision to leave academia and move back to her hometown in Canada, taking a gigantic leap of faith to start over again. It’s a beautiful story, beautifully told. It’s also filled with hard truths, exhaustion, anxiety, disappointment and challenge. And she weaves all of it together with biblical reflection and the ongoing work of the Spirit in the life of a disciple.

Each chapter begins with a life story — a hospital delivery room, journal-writing as therapy, reaching out for help when illness strikes, sitting with a friend for tea, a trip to the beach with her children, a sabbatical move, hiking a mountain trail, a season of struggle in her marriage, a hoped-for new pregnancy and its complications, a prayer walk. And each personal story flows gently into reflection on a biblical story. It’s an interesting amalgam, this memoir/devotional, and I like it very much. Very much, indeed.

Carolyn Weber is a force to be reckoned with, offering a keen intellect, fascinating life experience, and a heart longing after God with every word she writes. I commend this book to you with no hesitation.

Herewith some gems you might enjoy:

“Irreverence begins in not paying attention. And yet, I think, it can also stem from counting too often and too closely. The eternal cannot be insisted into a measurement.” – pg. 61

“Throughout the day, the clock ticks, and I tick with it. A ticking bomb. Sometimes, I am successful at being calm, at being present. At being attentive to the children, the husband, the paperwork, the household chores, the friends, the family, the many gifts, even in demands, around me. But often I am not. I am harried and hurried. I keep time with adrenaline rather than with affection. I multitask and fret and race and miss: there is a rush in the rush, and in doing so, I forget to breathe, the breathing so central to running a race, to giving birth, to inspiring others, to living life itself. . .” pg. 147-148

“Scripture, prayer and fellowship show us, again and again, how we live the heart of the metaphor into the very most real. As a literature professor, I have come to admire how God uses even the most skeptical of secular minds to expose the most sacred of truths; nothing lies beyond the glimmer of his salvation, not even cynicism, which I find to be a shocking grace, in and of itself.” – pg. 157


31 Days of Giving Permission to . . . READ, READ, READ, #2

31 days of giving permission 200x130

Quite simply, this is a stunning book. Filled with laughter, tears, searing honesty and gorgeous writing, this is one of the best reads of the last year or so. Kimberlee Conway Ireton is a ferocious writer. Thoughtful, lyrical at times, straight out funny at others, she weaves together the story of an unexpected pregnancy, after she thought her family was complete.

The pregnancy itself was enough of a shock, but then she found out she was carrying twins.

When, she wonders, will I ever get to write again? How will all these very needy, very small
human beings, each one needing care 24/7  leave any space for me to do what keeps me alive?  

Because for Kimberlee, writing is akin to breathing. This is more than sadness, it is existential angst, cutting deep and leaving scars.

And so, the long journey through a very dark valley begins to unfurl. The pregnancy is difficult at points especially with two young children to care for, and a newly published book that is tanking. Delivery day arrives, and Baby A is delivered surprisingly fast – and easily. But Baby B? Again, birth is relatively easy, but crisis looms within hours. The story is harrowing at points, and serves as a portent of things to come

Because the darkest part of the valley shows up slowly, but steadily over the next six months. Kimberlee has advised others to seek medical help much earlier than she did and that is sound advice. Postpartum depression is not a thing to be trifled with, and as I read of the endless fatigue, the early weeks of deep anxiety about Baby B, and then the relentless cloud of anxiety that covered every waking minute of her life, I found myself yelling into the pages, “Get to a doctor, Kimberlee! Get some help.”

All the way through, she journals her faith, even when she isn’t sure she has any. And all the way along, she writes exquisitely. Her deep love for her children, all four of them, shines
through these words, even the hard words, even the longing words, the longing for the life she once had, that is no longer possible. She gives both explicit and implicit testimony to the depth of her commitment to writing, to the truth of the nourishment she finds there, and to the grief she carries because she simply cannot do it all.

But lacing in and out and in between and through is the shimmering story of her connection to God, of her love for the church, for liturgy, for the language of faith and the steadiness
it provides, even in times of disequilibrium. Of special note is the undergirding presence
of family and of so very many church friends who helped to shoulder the burden of this hard, hard time. 

Kimberlee prays Psalm 63, a lament, all the way through the darkest part of these months of upheaval and pain. And in so doing, she joins a long line of the faithful across the centuries who choose to turn toward God rather than away when life overwhelms. Because God is not overwhelmed by our fear, our sense of loss, our pain. In fact, God is the only safe place to carry all that weighs us down, all that shuts out the light.

She practices gratitude, faithfully. She clings to hope, fiercely. She finally seeks help, almost unwillingly. And when she does, she finds God there, too.

This is a remarkable story, beautifully told, Threading together journal entries, blog posts,
prayers and reflections, Kimberlee chooses the structure of the church year to tell this tale. In the end, rest comes. Help comes. Light dawns. Life does not become miraculously easy, that’s not possible, nor even desirable. But it does become bearable. It becomes breathable. Livable.

And I, for one, am deeply glad that this story made it out her fingertips and onto the page. I would not have missed it for the world. 

“Each day,” she notes, our children grow a little older. . .
“I somehow didn’t expect it.
They forget to tell you when you’re pregnant that motherhood is a long,
slow process of letting go, a daily dying to what was in order to
embrace what is. They forget to tell you how your heart breaks
and breaks and keeps on breaking.
They forget to tell you how much it hurts to love a child. . .
[but] . . . I wouldn’t have it any other way. This ache,
these tears say to me that my heart is still soft, and love grows
in soft, broken places. . . “ (pg. 129) 

31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO READ, READ, READ – A Book Review & A Synchroblog

I am happily joining the synchroblog launching Addie Zierman’s wonderful new book,
“When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over.” And so help me, I will, somehow, make this review fit the 31 Day theme I’ve selected.
(And I will probably do this same theme twice more, once on each of the last two Tuesdays of October, because I have had such a feast of reading the past few months. A veritable feast, I tell you!)

This particular idea has never been a problem for me – in fact, I have perhaps given myself TOO MUCH permission to read, read, read over the years (if such a thing is possible). But maybe you need someone to give YOU that permission – if so, please count yourself duly permitted. Because reading is one of the best ways I know to a.) widen your knowledge of the world and how it works; b.) broaden your vocabulary and your ability to dream artistic dreams; c.) take you to another world for a few minutes; d.) remind you that we are all part of something much larger, more wonderful, and more terrible than we know. So, welcome to the 1st of 3 reminders to give yourself permission to . . . READ, READ, READ. 

31 days of giving permission 200x130


I was a senior in high school,
and on my way to an early morning Bible study,
when I crashed my mother’s car and broke my tooth.
I was late to pick up my friend,
I drove my mom’s stick-shift-on-the-steering-wheel,
1950’s vintage Plymouth, which was always sluggish
at 6:30 in the morning,
I lived on a steep hill, which required me to make a turn to the left
as I crested the top of it,
and my books slid across the seat as I turned.

Naturally, I leaned over to rescue them,
and the next thing I knew, I had crashed into a parked car,
which crashed into a 50-year-old oak tree,
leaving the radiator steaming and my mouth bleeding.
And my initial, knee-jerk response?
Mortification that I was going to miss that Bible study. 

I am not a morning person.
I know it now and I knew it then.

But every week, I went to that Bible study anyhow,
because, I mean  . . . how could I not?
I was a Christian, for heaven’s sake.
And I was on fire.

I was a geek, too. Hard to reconcile ‘on fire’ with ‘geek’
but I pretty much rocked it.
And just about everyone in my class of about 500 knew
that I was an on-fire, geeky Christian, too.
I was taught to talk about it, to define it clearly, for myself and for others,
to not be ashamed.

I was also taught, both explicitly and implicitly, that my primary goal in life,
as a good, Christian girl,

was to meet a fine Christian man,
get married, have babies,
and volunteer with women’s ministries.

And we all know how that turned out.

Why is it, I wonder, that the church, and so many of its subsidiary organizations,
get and give such a garbled message?
We too often complicate the beautiful simplicity of the gospel of grace,
add on layers of dogma that were never part of the design,
and insist that others see the same rigid, box-like faith that we see.

There’s a lot of un-learning that needs to happen for many, if not most of us,
who were raised within the confines of an overly conservative,
mistakenly zealous version of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Addie Zierman has been a lyrical voice for that re-learning
for a couple of years now.
Her blog, “How to Talk Evangelical” has been on my top 10 list
for about as long as she’s been writing on it.
And her book is, in many ways, an extension of what you find
in that lovely space.

It is also more.
This is a memoir, a spiritual memoir.
But it is also a story of love gone wrong,
a sad tale of how “Christian” relationships can sometimes slip into abuse,
and how hard it is to recover from the garbage theology
we too often absorb in our ‘on fire’ years.

Slipping between 2nd and 3rd person narrative,
Addie tells a beautiful but painful story.
She writes movingly of adolescent earnestness,
life-long friendships,
moving into a healthy relationship,
then fighting to save it as depression
and churchianity take their inevitable toll.

She speaks honestly about using alcohol to numb the pain,
about stepping into therapy and finding Jesus there,
about her frustrating search to be at home in community.

Addie’s story is not my story,
but there are pieces of it that I know.
Something about my own family system made me wary
of catch-phrases, excessive cheeriness and simplistic recipes for anything.

Also, I did not have a boyfriend in high school,
a fact for which I give heartfelt thanks after reading about the boy
who manipulated and tried to control Addie during those tender years. 

But I do know all about trying to please.
I do know all about wanting to be the good girl.
I do know all about following the rules,
giving a testimony,
playing the role,
being on fire.

And I now know that there was much good intermingled
with the less-than; there was joy mixed in with the angst;
there was redemption, there was hope, there was. . .
and there is. . . JESUS.

And so does Addie.

I highly recommend this book to all who are struggling
through re-learning what they believe.
I highly recommend this book to all who have
done most of that re-learning for themselves,
but want to know what it feels like to
those who are younger.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves
lyrical, thoughtful, honest writing.

And I am honored to be part of this synchroblog
and to have received an Advance Reader’s Copy from Addie
and her publisher, Convergent.

You can find this book here 

 

31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO BE SEEN

31 days of giving permission 200x130

The sermon topic was centered around the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well, one of the richest passages in the entire New Testament. So many layers, so much great stuff to think about. And our pastor did a fine job asking good questions, finding great points of application. It was my turn to lead in prayer, and I wove together some of my own thoughts on that passage and the emotions that were triggered by a poem posted on Facebook Saturday by John Blase, one of my favorite people writing anywhere. The gospel passage is about a tough conversation, and a woman who discovers that there is a man, an amazing man, who truly sees her for all of who she is — and accepts her anyhow.
So as  you pray this prayer today, will you give yourself permission to be fully seen by Jesus? For who you are and what you’ve done and what you’ve not done?

A Post-Pentecost Prayer
October 13, 2013
written by Diana R.G. Trautwein

 I came into worship today with this poem on my heart.
It’s written by a friend I’ve met online. He’s a writer, an editor, a poet,
and a bit of a cowboy, who lives in Colorado.
And he often puts words to things I’m wrestling with,
words that are just behind my eyes, but I can’t quite see.

Do you know that feeling?
His name is John Blase and these are his words.
They’ve been haunting me a bit this weekend:

 

The loneliness lays
claim to you with
cumulative power.
It starts as a wild hair.
You break rank and
keep your eyes open
as others bow to pray.
You see a sea of crowns
for the very first time
and feel adrift: who
are these strangers?
You close your eyes
before the final amen,
a timed acquiescence.
You file out with the
throng into the bright
sunlight. But you can’t
shake the bony chill.
You sense this will
only grow sharper.

-John D. Blase*

As we, in this circle, go to prayer, I want to acknowledge that
some of you may well be feeling what is described here.
And if you want to keep your eyes open while we pray, that’s just fine by me.

 Let’s pray together:

 There are days, LORD, when the only prayer we can find
is the one we just sang: Come, Lord Jesus, come.

The truth is,
we’re all thirsty, most all the time.
We’re thirsty for things we can’t quite name,
hungry for friends we don’t quite see,
often painfully aware that we’re lonelier than we know.

And that’s one of the reasons that we come here,
and we join our voices together, to sing out your praises.
Somehow, we feel a little less alone, a little more connected,
when we sing.

But I’m not sure that connection is as easily found when we pray. 

So, as we begin this part of our conversation with you today, Lord,
I want to acknowledge those who feel the bony chill of loneliness and disconnection.

Our gospel story today tells us about such a one, a woman on the edge,
on the outside of her community.
Yet, you saw her. You acknowledged her and drew her out,
you confronted her and challenged her.

You. Saw. Her.

She gave you water from the well.
But you gave her life, and hope and newness.
And she ended that well-side conversation
with all of that outside-the-edginess gone, her loneliness dissolved.

 So I guess, Lord, I am asking you to remind us — each one of us,
in ways that are as unique to us as they were to that woman —
that you see us.

Tell us again that the water you give is the only water that works,
living water that does what water does –
it filters down into every crack and crevice and brings new life.
It meanders, and slowly but surely snakes its way into every layer of who we are,
and it changes us.

 Even on the lonely days, it keeps on trickling down.
Even when we can’t find the words because the grief is too deep,
or the fear is too high,
or the harsh words we said in the car on the way to church are still hanging in the air —
that water of life keeps working its way into us.

Will you help us to remember that, please?
To know that when we come to the Water that is you,
we will always find what we need?

 We confess to you that we don’t always make it easy
for your water to do its watery thing.

We build dams and we blow a lot of hot air
and we sometimes even turn off the spigot,
with our stubbornness and our proclivity for desert living.
Forgive us, Father, and strengthen us to follow the river of life right to its source!

Thank you so much for the richness of your gift to us,
for the assurance that our hope is in you, and nowhere else.

And help us to see with your eyes, to spot those who are lonely
and reach out in kindness,
to offer that famous cup of cold water
in ways that are specific and unique to each person along the way,
help us to be leaky vessels,
through which the water of life gets spread all over the place.

We will thank you and we will praise you
and we will gladly drink at the fountain again and again.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

*Here is a link to John Blase’s website, The Beautiful Due. I urge you to subscribe and get his beautiful, thoughtful, challenging poetry in your inbox. You will never regret it. 

 

 

 

 

 

31 Days of Giving Permission . . . to RE-CONNECT

31 days of giving permission 200x130

Today, we are traveling from this . . . 

to this.

We’re winging our way home after two weeks on the road in New England.
And that followed four weeks on Kauai.
And that followed two weeks on the Elbe River.
And that (for me) followed one long weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska
with the amazing #JTreat team.

It’s been a year of airplanes and rental cars for me.
And each time, I’ve had to dis-connect when I leave,
and re-connect when I return home.

And I’m not just talking about social media here,
I’m talking about life.
Everyday life.
In my home, in my church, in my family.

There is an adjustment period,
increasingly short as the years add up,
every time I return to our home after an absence.

The mail, the bills, the grocery shopping, the laundry.
The family dinners, the visits with my mom,
the committees at church, the directees I meet with each month.

And this place, too.
When I’m at home, this space is somehow
more comfortable and more accessible to me.
My heart is easier to reach,
I have more quiet time and quiet space.

And I am given the wonderful gift of signing on again,
of opening these pages and feeling at home here.

I’m grateful for that.
And I’m grateful for you,
the faithful friends who stop in here and read,
sometimes leave comments,
even occasionally engage me in conversation
about what I’ve written here.

I am grateful.
And I look forward to being at home for a long stretch.
I look forward to re-connecting.

Where do you need to re-connect right now?
Is that a good thing or a hard thing? 

The Noise Inside

So. I’m taking this remarkable online writing class, one of the great workshop offerings coming from TSPoetry. This week’s assignment was to write about jealousy and it’s impact on my writing life. I would like to tell you that I am ABOVE such emotions, that I am spiritually mature enough to never have to deal with the green-eyed monster, that I am completely confident in my own ability to write what God gives me to write. I would like to tell you all of that. But, in truth, I cannot. I am grateful for this group of writers and the kindness and encouragement we share with one another.  AND, my classmates tell me I am not alone in this craziness; I find that oddly comforting.

 (I should probably tell you that we were to riff off of a chapter in Anne Lamott’s wonderful book, “Bird by Bird.” So this is my small attempt at humor.)

Sometimes it feels really crowded up inside my head!!

I recently wrote a piece for a A Deeper Family entitled, “The Crazy Lady”  In it, I described one of the voices that inhabits my head, the one that takes me to the precipice of anxiety and tells me I’m pretty dang worthless along the way.

And she’s a mighty force, that voice, determined to push me into incessant navel-gazing and unnecessary worst-case-scenario thinking.

What I didn’t say in that essay is that The Crazy Lady is not the only voice inside my head. No sirree. She is just the leader of the pack. Her posse includes a few other banditos, of varying ages and shapes, who somehow manage to inhabit my psychic inner space with alarming frequency, making life interesting on the best of days and wildly challenging on the worst. 

Shall I name them for you? Let’s see — there is The Little Girl, about age six, who needs some comforting now and again. And then there’s the gremlin-like version of my mother, The Parent Voice (or the infamous Inner Critic) who calls me names that I would never dream of calling another living soul, who constantly criticizes my every thought and word, and who often succeeds in making me feel like a worthless pile of crap.

And then we have . . . ta da! . . . The District Attorney, who is always trying to make sure the balance scales of life are even, or, if possible, tipped a tiny bit in my direction. I can see her now, in her fancy suit, pencil skirt, white blouse, tailored jacket. Large horn-rimmed glasses, minimal jewelry, hair up in a bun, and a pencil stuck just behind her ear, the better to jot down the names of others who are getting far too much attention, don’t you know?

Did you see who got ALL those comments this morning? It’s just not fair – your writing is at least as good as hers!

Are you kidding me??? SHE got a book contract? How is that even possible?

That person has not been blogging nearly as long as you have and just LOOK at the audience she has built. She’s got this ‘platform’ thing sewn up.

And it’s at about this point that, all of a sudden, the pencil disappears, the hair comes down, the tailored suit morphs into a long flowing gown that glistens darkly in the light and every piece of jewelry she owns is shining, dangling, teasing me into these kinds of thoughts:

Dahling, did you read that line? That perfect line of prose, those words that sing? What a pity that you can’t write a line like that.

I really think you should move onto something else in life. Your words are SO pedestrian, so redundant and reductive and altogether B O R I N G.

And then, in a flash, the glitter disappears, the hair turns the color of mouse fur, and she hunches over as if she’s embarrassed to be in the same space as all these other fascinating creatures inhabiting my head. She becomes a more pathetic version of the inner critic, mumbling and wringing her hands. I call her Miss Mouse.

I KNEW you should never have tried this – you just aren’t good enough.

That woman over there, she knows what she’s doing and she’s going to make a huge splash. But YOU? Not a chance.

Platform? Did you hear about something called a platform? Oh my, one more thing you simply cannot do.

So please, just shut it down, okay? Just SHUT IT DOWN, before you embarrass us all.

Sigh. It’s a wonder I get anything done ever, don’t you think?

 

In the spirit of playfulness and story-telling, posting this with Laura and Jen this week.

 

Get a personal letter from Diana direct to your inbox once each month

Sign up now for 'More Wondering' and as thanks, receive Living the Questions, Diana's 8-chapter ebook wrestling with some of the hard questions of life and faith.

powered by TinyLetter