Dust you are: a celebration

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There are still three weeks to go in Lent, three weeks more of intentionally exploring what it means to be fully human followers of Jesus, not living just in our heads but living full-bodied fellowship and followership.

Some days I feel like I’m still digging my way out of an ice-drifted driveway and already my heart is wondering when the journey will be over. (“Are we there yet?”)

Other days it seems right that our word “Lent” is derived from the Old English word meaning “springtime.” Spring fever is in my blood and I’m not just walking toward the cross but running toward resurrection.

Spring calls us to be part of her, draws us into her so we shake the rugs and clean the closets and run outside to feel the sun’s face turned toward us, warm and overflowing with blessing. Spring insists that we join in with our whole bodies. She doesn’t just call, she puts out a hand, two hands, smelling of fresh-turned earth and daffodils, and tugs so we ache to dig in the earth or wish we had a child’s small hand in ours so we could skip down the road without anyone looking at us funny.

The claim of spring on our bones doesn’t always wait for Easter. It can stir even on the way to the cross. I watch Jesus step firmly towards His death, eyes on His bride. A woman kneels and anoints Jesus for burial, their dance tugging her to bend and wipe His feet with her hair. Jesus Himself stoops and lifts the feet of his disciples and washes them clean.

 “All of these bodily postures were postures of risk. They were postures that relinquished the control of a planned response; they were authentic responses to the Spirit working and moving physically in their midst. These physical postures of response reveal a wild God, one who breaks boundaries, etiquette, and our preconceived ideas of responding.” (Celeste Snowber Schroeder, Embodied Prayer, 133)

The sign in my bathroom declares, “I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing” (Hillel). It’s a reminder to this girl who clings to control: the point is not perfection but surrender and wholeness and Him.

I can’t help but grin as I remember this eighty-eight year old bopping her way down the front steps of her house. There are a host of ways to dance and mine won’t look like hers but this I know: I am body as well as soul and learning to let my body be part of my worship is one more step in surrendering my whole self to this wild and passionate Lord of the dance as He leads me out to wash feet, out through the cross and on toward resurrection.

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Photo by Tricia Herera

 

Taking it deeper:

Try it. Dance. (Yes, you. I dare you.)

If you’re itching to get started, please stop reading and go for it! If you have hesitations like I’ve had, maybe these few thoughts and practices that have helped me will help you ease into this practice too:

  • Too embarrassed? Close the blinds and give yourself space to dance alone. Or if that’s still too much, try dancing in your imagination. What posture might express what your whole self wants to say to God right now? The point is not to force ourselves into something unnatural but to stop shushing our bodies and learn to welcome them as they cry to be part of our worship.
  • Too down? Try dancing this lament. Let your body be part of expressing the cry of your soul.
  • Too sick? May I whisper a secret? This hard place might just be one of the best places to learn to dance as we let the impossible weight of our body surrender to the strength of Jesus’ arms and discover ourselves carried into the dance. And, as I discovered last week, sometimes joining in the dance doesn’t even mean moving from your chair but uncrossing your legs and opening your hands and listening to the music with your feet and knees as well as your ears.
  • No time? Who says I can’t wield that toilet brush or broom with a little rhythm as I surrender to the joy or longing of the worship music playing in the background and let my whole self open a little wider to God?
  • Guys—having seen you cheering for a goal, not just arms but whole bodies in the air, shouts erupting, I’m pretty sure your body is also eager to be part of worship. I’m also pretty sure you’ll have your own unique way of expressing it. Thoughts? What might it look like for you to let your body be part of worship?

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This is the fifth in a series of Lenten posts exploring what it might look like to live fully alive to God with our bodies as well as our souls. Click on the links to read the first four:

Dust you are: an invitation

Dust you are: a call to pay attention

Dust you are: love in the desert

Dust you are: Living the mystery together

The best reason I know to let Him tend your wounds

DSCN4049One of the congregants texted a question to the pastor yesterday: “Why do so many of us who belong to Jesus not experience the intimacy that makes joy bubble up in us and overflow?” We’d been talking about the woman at the well.

The pastor said there are many reasons—one of them busyness. I can’t help wonder if one of the other reasons is that for all our words about wanting intimacy, really we fear it. We’re scared to come too close, scared of what God will see in our nakedness and maybe even more scared of having to see it ourselves.

And the appointment reminder has arrived in my inbox (and yes, I’m going) but there’s this part of me that keeps wanting to shut it down. Stuff it all back in the closet and slam the door and aren’t I making too big a deal of this and shouldn’t I just focus on the good things and leave the hard behind and I can feel the edginess that tells me I’m trying to push away emotions I don’t want to feel.

But Jesus steps toward me, his right hand extended so I can see the wound in his palm as he invites me to place my bruised one in his. He places his left arm around my waist, his hand on my back. I put mine on his shoulder, accepting His invitation to dance. We’re clasped together, that hollow pit in my stomach against the wound in his side, his scarred hand holding mine. He steps and I step and our cheeks brush and my tears leave a mark on his face.

I listen again to the song and see Jesus suffering for love of me and hear the words, “the Saviour drank it all.” And I think of Hebrews 12, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” and I fall at his feet and embrace those beautiful wounded feet, my wounds all of a sudden seeming so small. So small, not in a “these aren’t worth bringing” sort of way but in a “these belong here” sort of way, because, since the cross, every wound that I carry—however big or small—is already part of him. His wounds are his choosing to carry mine.

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. (Isaiah 53)

And I hadn’t thought the dance could become any more beautiful than in that moment when he pressed my wounds to his but I’d forgotten that this is the God who is full of surprises. And there in His embrace when He honored my wounds as real—as part of His own—and set me free to cry, the pain that had been there all day, so heavy and sharp, disappeared. As soon as I stopped trying to push it away and let it be there, let myself be there with it, with Him, it was gone. All I could feel in His arms was the deep and quiet joy of being loved. Why do I keep being afraid to go with Him to the hard places, forgetting that they’re always where He meets me most deeply? 

I remember the last time I embraced his feet. It was the only posture I could imagine to express the desperate longing I was feeling. And I remember my sobs of surprise when, too fast for me to see how it happened, Jesus slipped through my grasp and knelt beside me, lifting me into his embrace.

There are many good reasons to let Him tend my wounds. But the best reason I know is that I can’t enter the dance with my hands stuffed deep in my pockets. When I’m trying to run from my wounds, I’m only running from Him.

Why you can dare to dance today—no matter where you are

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She put them in the vase all neat and obedient, beautifully lined up with just a pleasing amount of randomness. It only took a day before they were all spread out in a dance of wild beauty, reaching, stretching toward the light.

I can’t bear to cut them again and set them back neat and tidy. I want to see what happens as they keep dancing toward the light. I want to see the light toward which they’re reaching glow like fire deep in their centers.

I want to live it too, want to keep learning how to stop trying to prune and organize Life and just dance wild toward the Light, His fire burning hot in my deepest center.

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The dance can start from anywhere—sadness or joy, longing or delight. It can begin with the slow, sad, “How long O Lord?” (Ps 13), the aching desire, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you,” or the twirling celebration of thanks and delight, anticipation and joy. It can begin in sickness or success or a Nazi concentration camp:

“You have made me so rich, oh God, please let me share out Your beauty with open hands. My life has become an uninterrupted dialogue with You. Sometimes when I stand in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on Your earth, my eyes raised towards Your Heaven, tears . . . run down my face, tears of deep emotion and gratitude. I have been terribly tired for days but that too will pass. Things come and go in a deeper rhythm and we must be taught to listen to it; it is the most important thing we have to learn in this life.” (Etty Hillesum)

There are a million ways of turning toward the light, and it’s the turning toward the light that makes the tulips dance.

There are a million reasons to dance, too. Today’s favorite?

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1:5)

      

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What’s your favorite reason to dance today? I’d love to hear . . .

Thank you. . .

. . . you who guide and let go, again and again and again.  You show me that love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

. . you who fill the van with boxes and cook spaghetti and tend the little ones. You model for me the beauty of God’s life-giving servant love.

. . . you who say yes. You teach me to trust.

. . . you who say no. You teach me to say yes to something better.

. . . you who paint, layer by layer, evening after evening. You remind me that what I see in me, around me, is not the finished piece. God hasn’t signed his name and put down his brush.

. . . you who work so hard. You inspire me with your willingness to follow at any cost.

. . . you who make space to be quiet. You remind me of a deeper reality moving in and beyond the busy, visible world.

. . . you who are honest about your struggles. You bless me with the tender beauty of a heart opened wide to the Healer.

. . . you who let yourself be lifted up to dance again each time your ribs have cracked and your heart has grown weary and you’ve wondered how much more you can take. You let me see the wonder of your Lover who never lets go.

You, YOU, are a gift! Oh, may you see it today.

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Eph 1:18-19a)

Did God really say. . . ?

The words fade. Numbness sets in, and doubts. “Did God really say . . . ?  Do you really think He is asking you to trust him with everything? Don’t you think it’s wiser to hold on to a little something. . . hold back just a bit. . . just in case? What harm can it do?

And I return again to the truth that I heard several weeks ago. The one command, the only thing asked of us, is that we not try to live independent from God. All else we are freely given. Is it not that same question that holds me back. “What if God doesn’t come through? Maybe you should just keep a little something in case. . . just so you have the fall-back option of independence.”

And I hear again yesterday’s truth – that God can be trusted. That the one central lie of the enemy is that God is holding out on us. And as the question comes again, “Did God really say. . .?”, I shout the answer, “YES! God did really say He wants all of me. YES! All He asks is that I don’t try to live this life without Him. And YES! He can be trusted.”

And I soak in the truth from Hosea, that God does not hold back or take away except to replace it with Himself.

And through the words of two young mothers, He reminds me that “our losses belong to our songs of gratitude.” That “sometimes a dance of loss can be a thing of grace.”

“The dance of new life—each mother knows the steps, and when colic grips her wee one, those steps become ingrained deep down.

The swaying, the bouncing, the cradling all seep into her core and become an automatic answer to the desperate little cries. When the wailing starts in the dark after a few moments’ slumber and weary tears mingle, what is there to do but dance? . . .

Henri Nouwen compares us to the two disciples on

the road to Emmaus:

Somehow, in the midst of our mourning, the first steps

of the dance take place.

Somehow, the cries that well up from our losses

belong to our songs of gratitude.”

And so I dance. Amidst the moments of wondering if I’m crazy, the terror at entering the unknown, the sense of loss amidst the wonder of still greater gain, I cry “Yes” to the invitation given. I hold out my arms to the One who calls me to this new dance.

“Trust is not blind certitude. Droughts will occur, and life will be hard. Trust is a willingness to enter the dance of life with eyes wide open. . . . Faith, not certitude, is the stance that weathers drought.”

(Susan Phillips, Candlelight, p. 167)