Take Out The Trash


Every crisis in mid-life (and in any season of life) is brought on not by what has happened to us, but by what we think about what has happened to us.  

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

We middle-agers are old pros at defying this Biblical wisdom.  We guard our diets, we carefully monitor our carbs, we guard our 401K's, and we guard our "down time".

But sustained life is found in none of those things.  In fact, a heart that is sick will adversely affect every single other area of our living.  Because out of your heart flows the direction of your life.  It is time to stop cleaning up the outside of the cup, like the good religious people we tend to be in mid-life.  

Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.  (Matthew 23)

Wait.  Come back!  I'm so sorry I had to quote that verse to you.  What I'm trying to say to you is that all transformation of the God-sort, happens from the inside out, never from the outside in.  

It is time to stop blaming everyone else outside of us, for what is, in fact, our own wrong perspective.  Leaning on our own understanding might bring temporary relief.  But it is a relief that will leave us, and leave us in a deeper prison.  Then, we will find ourselves leaning on our own understanding to get relief from that prison.  And so on.  Cue:  downward spiral.

Soul-care is the work of a lifetime.  It is daily, and it is prosaic and pragmatic and intensely practical.  Soul-care is not mystical.  It is less about spending hours and hours "with God" (though that is good, if you have that kind of time) and more about taking out the spiritual and emotional trash every. single. day.

Sometimes, on a heavy house cleaning day, I have to take out the trash many times in one day.  So it is with my spiritual and emotional life.  When there is a lot going on, I end up having to take out the trash many times a day.  But everyone has to take out the trash at least once, every day.  Like, as in, honest-to-goodness reject it.  Call it garbage.  Take out the stinking thinking.  Don't let that stuff stay, and don't think maybe it is actually good and right and useful and don't think you can share it with your closest friends and for heaven's sake - don't think you can eat it.  

Take out the emotional trash, the every-wind-of-doctrine trash, the thought trash, daily.  Sometimes, many times a day.

Repeat after me:  This is good.  This is normal.

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. (Proverbs 14:4)

If there is no trash, you aren't living life, you aren't making progress.  BUT.  If you haven't been taking out the trash...well...there is nothing you can diffuse to make it better.  No amount of art journaling will make it go away.  If you haven't been taking out the trash, your soul is a mess, I promise you.  You may have to get help to clean it up.  Please, please come clean.  Get honest.  

Hey, I am in no position to judge.  I'm stuck in the middle with you.  

Let's clean it up.  Together.

Fresh Off the Easel {Obsessed With Murmurations}

Have you heard of a murmuration?

Simply put, a murmuration is a flock of starlings in flight.  However, Grainger Hunt, senior scientist at the Peregrine Fund, describes a murmuration this way:  “a dazzling cloud, swirling, pulsating, drawing together to the thinnest of waists, then wildly twisting in pulses of enlargement and diminution...” 

I rather like his definition.

About a month ago, I finished this piece, and posted the image to my IG feed:



The next day, The Preacher and I went to the Smokies in the afternoon.  Once we returned to cell service range, my phone buzzed several times.

This painting would have sold FOUR times.

So...I am working on another, as we speak.  

Also, if you haven't seen this video of a murmuration yet....well...you're welcome.  Prepare to be amazed.


A Timely Re-Post From the Archives {"Obedient or Absurd?"}

(This is a re-post from the archives of my old blogger site.  It dates all the way back to 2009.  And it is even more relevant today.  Apparently, these "mid-life" themes and issues have been life-messages of mine, for many, many years. This post was given an updated image, and the ages of The Preacher and I were updated...we've grown lots older.  It's so weird.)

Absurd.  Of course, the word means "ridiculous".  But what I didn't know is that the word comes from the Latin word, meaning "deaf".



(Ink, Stabilo pencil, watercolor, and a (found) butterfly wing.  Titled "I Will Lead Unashamed")

There can be no obedience without listening. There is no real listening without relationship to God, and to people who are faithful to tell us what we do not want to hear.

Obedience is not taking a principle or method, and applying it with literal exactitude. And it certainly is not taking feelings and making them fact.  Such inflexible "obedience" is actually a manifestation of not listening...it is deafness...it quickly becomes absurd. Obedience is to hear, in the moment, the heart of the One who is in charge.

There can be no obedience without being willing to hear. Not just hear words...hear heart.

At no time are we in more danger of defaulting into a deaf-absurdity, than in mid-life. After all, we've earned our many merit badges, like good life-scouts. We can now chart our own course, and we do not have to listen to anyone but ourselves...or to those ever-faithful to "prophesy" to our flesh.

On many levels, we can become "hard of hearing" beginning in mid-life. My husband, who is a mere 54 (post edit:  age was updated to reflect 2018), and a tad hard of hearing, having been a drummer all his life, asked me, awhile back, with a baffled expression, "What is it about mid-life, for some people??"

He's right. At this transitional turning point in time, we choose a certain perspective, we cling to it as our reality...and thus set the course for the rest of our lives.  In.  Cement.  

We either summon the courage to take the creative, relational path of grace and truth, or we, often precisely at mid-point, begin our descent into a self-preserving, strange absurdity. Rigid in our inflexible pain-points, we lose hearing, sight, smell, and we lose touch with people who used to matter to us. There is no fruit, no sweet smelling-tasting-beautiful harvest to be had in absurdity.  

Every life has trauma in the middle.  But for some, trauma becomes a way to justify not hearing. 

Mid-life can bring insensibility, or it can set us free to experience God and relationships with eyes wide open, ears attuned, head doused, dripping in the oil of gladness, and plowing straight into what God intends to be the harvest-time of our lives.

How do we know if we are living the life of obedient listening, or the disobedience of not hearing? Look for any signs of the ridiculous. Look for the extreme, absurd reaction.  Also, look for the cool, intellectual rigidity of the quid pro quo ethos: tit for tat. You are this way, I respond that way. You offend me, I withdraw. Your worth has been measured, your "work" evaluated, and I "pay" with a kiss, always. I do not listen for anything more, I hear nothing more as to your value beyond what I evaluate, in terms of my own needs and expectations.

Absurdity. Deafness.  I weep at the thought.  

Rather, I want courage and victory.

Victory...true victory...has a voice.  It is the voice of the community.  I want to adjust my perspective to be able to hear the sound of it. It is a sound of joyful shouting, coming from the family tent. After all, I shall be 55 years old in a few years (updated for 2018)...regardless of the lateness of the hour, I need my mind renewed to be able to hear.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! ...You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.
~St. Augustine

When The Best Becomes Robber of Good


Since the turn of the year, I've found myself in a time of hearing the Lord and my own life speak to me.  It has been unlike any other season of the "New Year", and perhaps unlike any other season, ever.  I can't stop writing.

And as I write, the pages are redolent with inspiration and rediscovery, lines squeezed in at odd angles, in pens of various colors, words pushing their way up through the stubborn sod of mid-life apathy and anxiety.  

I would love to share the words I'm feverishly scrawling right here.  My hope is that reading them - you and I - that we will not only experience a personal breakthrough, but also the first shaping of a new, timely, contemporary appreciation of natural church.  Analog church.  Slow church.  

I am discovering that the present model of what makes for a successful church is actually an old relic, dating back to the garden of Eden.  Everything God made was good.  It was gift.  

And along came Serpent, to see to it that "the best" became robber of good...that great became the robber of good.  And here we all are, thinking that all we need is a better, best way to "be the church".

I am waving my flag, and getting off Crazy Train.  And it is beyond refreshing.  It is beyond refreshing to see God's creation, which is His church, as a place to live into the questions inevitable when the kingdom of God is supernatural and the lives of people ordinary.

It is exciting, I think, to explore a smaller yet much larger, saner perspective.  A perspective that is inherently natural and embodied in my individuality, yet entirely supernatural and only embodied in community.  A perspective that leans into ordinary life, and watches it become something extraordinary, simply because I have chosen to love what is mine.

There is this sudden, slow satisfaction of spiritual things set right.

2018, your sudden shifts are welcome here.  My pen is poised.

"My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer."  Psalm 45:1