kyndallrae

creating me [using words]

Archive for the tag “becoming me”

Grow

Is confidence the hardest
thing to grow in the soul?
And is that why we settle
for arrogance?

Presumption easier
than humble strength.
Those who wrestle truth
walk with a limp
(Jacob knew)

Maybe only the lame
Know how to carry
the weight
of the world,

how to make dark notes
sing,
how to speak truth
with grace.

Is confidence
hidden deep?
Is that why we freeze
in fear?

False humility easier
than courage.
Those who wrestle by night
see the day with different eyes
(and are oft’ misunderstood)

Maybe only the night-wrestlers
learn how to live the day
how to honor light
and choose the right, so:

Water your confidence.
Its roots must grow
and grow and grow,
unseen

fighting rocks,
finding nutrients,
before the sprout will rise
one inch.

That inch might crack
the hardened plates
of earth,
for all you know.

Your only job:
to grow.

Soul Garden

I have so many molds to break before I find real me. So many expectations to disappoint before I’m free. So many pressures to ignore before I see. So many lists to abandon before I can be. So many lessons to unlearn before I am she.

I have gathered all into my soil like seed and now I kill to see what sprouts–a weed? Plant, bloom, exotic tree? Necessary beginning, that seed, yet not the truth of me, you’ll see.

The Dark Side of Christmas

A Sermon . . . 

We light the Advent candles one by one, week by week, ever so gradually, because the dawning of light happens slowly. Outside of here, the pell-mell rush of the holiday season disguises the agony of real waiting. Waiting is hard work, so we lighten the mood and count our way to Christmas with cookies and candies and carols.

The world’s all abuzz except when we come here. Everything slows to a snail’s pace here, enough to annoy us a little when we bustle in all bundled up in holiday frenzy. The steady rhythm of worship collides with the chaos of our consumerism. We were probably more at home in the chaos, because waiting, real and honest waiting, is uncomfortable, slow, dismal.

The unlit candles symbolize we still sit in darkness, living in anticipation of the light yet to come. But no one wants to think about darkness this close to Christmas. Every store you enter is beaming bright with lights in defiance of the fact that outside the mall, it’s dark by 6 o’clock: our days are getting shorter; our nights are getting longer. It is a dark season.

Advent is like watching the sunrise build on the horizon, the dead dark of a winter night ever so slowly shifting to the pink hues of coming sun. Yet we remain camped in a dim place, blanketed by night sky, worried whether the rays will ever reach us, fortified by the hope that they will. That’s what Advent is.

We think of Advent as a celebratory preparation for Christmas day, and it is. Advent is also darkness, waiting, wondering, watching, longing. It is a needy, vulnerable place where the prophets are telling you the dawn from on high will break upon us, but the prospects of it being true seem bleak. Though it’s lined thick with hope, Advent is the seasonal dark night of the soul; it’s the story of those who wait in the shadows, and waiting is at the heart of the Biblical story indeed: How long did Abraham and Sarah wait for a baby, for a promise, how long did the Israelites wait for deliverance in Egypt, how long did they wander in the wilderness, waiting for the Promised Land, how long did they sit in exile and whisper hopes about a coming Messiah, how long did Anna and Simeon pray in the temple that they might see the Coming One? When Zechariah prophesied that the light would dawn on those who sit in darkness, it was more than a pretty phrase; it was a description of reality.

Personally, I’ve never felt the weight of Advent’s darkness like I do now. I’m more needy than ever before for the coming of some obvious light. I feel like one who sits in darkness, in the shadow of death.

According to Zechariah’s prophecy, the light is headed straight for me. How uncomfortably personal and direct. I don’t like this poignant promise from God, because what if it doesn’t come true for me?

I know you want to assure me that it will come true, but haven’t you ever felt that the light couldn’t possibly be meant for you? That the light couldn’t possibly be on its way to you? That you might as well get used to the dark, because the dark was here to stay? I mean, you’ve been there before, right? No sense pretending that the preacher isn’t as human as the rest of us. The thing is, I’m susceptible to despair too, only it’s my job to hold up the hope week after week after week.

You know what happened to me in the last two weeks? I let myself be a human, not a pastor, not superwoman, not the girl who knows what to do when bad things happen, but just a person who found herself in the dark.

And then one of you had the audacity or the good sense to light a candle and set it down in my darkness without pretention. And then another one of you did the same. And then another. And then another. Over and over, like you were forming a wreath of promises to encircle my dark place.

I’m probably breaking a sacred trust when I tell you this, but sometimes pastors talk amongst themselves about their congregations. Complain even. Gasp, I know, it’s terrible. And pastors sometimes, sometimes talk about their churches as if church members were a group of rowdy toddlers in their terrible twos or hormonal teenagers who bicker with one another. The pastor is supposed to be the all-wise parent trying to reign everybody in. I know, it’s hard to imagine a church bickering, but it happens. (Not everybody can be Covenant.) The way I see it, whether or not congregations behave badly, I don’t agree that we pastors should think of ourselves as parental figures.

Maybe it’s just hard to feel parental, when all of you are older than me. Or maybe, no matter how old I am or how old I get someday, I am in awe of you. I want to be more like you. I didn’t come to this church to fix you or guide you or change you. I wanted this job because I thought this is one of the best places in the world to live out faith, with people like you. I would like to be that person who celebrates you, who sees you, who walks beside you, and notices the way you shine. I came to this church because I was under the impression that we might be capable of inspiring one another—you and me. I thought we’d make a good team. I thought I would like to seek God with you, open the Bible and wander around inside Scripture with you, slowly find out how to love with you, become people who pray with you, figure out this gentle way of doing God’s work with you.

But I have to tell you, it’s hard to break the mold. Pastors are pressured to be all authoritative and knowledgeable and preachy; we’re supposed to keep it all together and keep it real all in the same effortless breath. I’ve been trying on my own to break the pattern, to dispense with being in charge in favor of being in cahoots with you in this grand scheme to love God and love our neighbors. I have wanted to inspire an environment of co-creators and co-conspirators, walking together with God and with one another, bearing light to dark places. But breaking the mold isn’t easy business. People still talk to you like you’re fancy and important and parental and learned and super spiritual. It’s hard work to try and get Kyndall more obvious than the role she wears and the title she bears, and it is sometimes difficult to convince myself that I am more than role I wear and the title I bear and to keep in mind that all of us right down to the babies are priests to one another.

But then this week, through no effort of mine, the mold got all broken, praise God. I mean, the circumstances were ugly but the responses were a thing of beauty that I’m still admiring. I plopped right down like a newbie to pain and you ministered to me. You took up the towel and washed my feet and I swallowed my pride and let you.

The thing is, I am grateful for all the candles you’ve lit on my behalf, but it still looks dark to me. Too dark to think, too dark to pray, too dark to trust. But I’m learning that having the courage to face your darkness can feel like you’re giving into the darkness and being swallowed by it like a coward, like Jonah running away and being overcome by the waves and the whale. That’s what grief feels like, but it’s not what grief is. Grief is walking straight into the setting darkness. You know you can’t run from the dark, so you square your shoulders, set your face to the east, and let the blindness come. Your friends will tell you that the sun also rises in the east, which means despite the terror of the looming night, you’re actually facing the right direction. You can’t know in that moment whether your friends are right about the sun, because grief clouds your head and fogs your hope. But this isn’t a failure to feel that your world’s gone fuzzy, so I’m learning. It’s all a part of becoming who it is you’re meant to be—to enter something really hard without knowing for sure what’s on the other side of pain.

When you’re at the place in life where you feel a hurt so deeply you cannot get out of bed, it turns out that the season of Advent belongs to you. It’s your dark night of the soul and it’s your impossible promise of coming light.

When you sit in darkness under the threat of loss and buckled by the heavy weight of life and risk, then you’re primed for light; you just don’t know it yet. You’re in that spot where God will seek you out and shatter your night and bind up your wounds and make you whole and send you stars that point to a Savior. You don’t know for sure if that’s the truth, because the night is scary, but even before there’s a single glimmer of the rising sun, there will be a prophet or two to hold out hope on your behalf. That’s the Big Announcement for which Zechariah’s son was born into the world to proclaim: “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

It’s kind of like being outside at night, and you would be completely blind, except you’ve got the moon, though the moon is sometimes only a sliver. You know the moon isn’t real light, only a reflection, and maybe that scares you to walk the night by the light of the moon. But how is it that your friends could reflect such light into your heart at all if there wasn’t a Son somewhere around the curve of the earth, on his way to break in from on high?

Amen.

Based on Luke 1:76-79: “And you, my child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Audio available here

 

Bloom Her Sooner

I had to learn to be aggressive. Nothing about stealing the basketball from an opponent, scrambling for a rebound, or using my body to thwart someone else’s movement came naturally to me. I had a knack for shooting, which I inherited from my father. Ball-handling, speed, and teamwork found their way to me easily enough. But aggression was like a foreign-country, and I did not speak the language.

Even after I got good at the game, defense included, I still never fouled. I could play every minute of the game, accumulate points, steals, assists, and even a couple rebounds and walk away with only one foul. Never, in all my years of playing basketball, did I get in foul trouble. I could fully engage, exert aggression, hustle, compete, and scrap, but I did it without breaking any rules or injuring other players or getting out of control.

To this day, it is my special life skill I think—I can be feisty without assaulting anyone. I can score without getting the whistle blown. I engage life, but I never blow my top and get thrown out of the game.

This is so very handy as a woman, because the world doesn’t like angry women. The world likes women to be sweet and polite and gentle and skinny. In the early part of the American Women’s Movement, there was some controversy over dress: whether the spokeswomen should express their liberation by dressing more like men (i.e. bloomers) or whether they should disarm the crowds with their feminine charm wearing traditional genteel dresses.

For the most part, I dress genteel, so to speak. I don’t appear this way on purpose; it’s just who I am. In other words, I am non-threatening in tone and appearance almost all of the time—that wiry little player with the awkwardly thin legs you expect won’t need much guarding until she sinks a three-pointer in your face, and even then, you assume she got lucky. It’s not sneakiness on my part; it’s just me to be this way.

But I am a player, you see. Behind this tiny voice and beneath the brim of my feminine hat, I’m all game face. I am tired of seeing my sisters in bloomers get blasted all the time. Constantly benched for too many fouls in a game designed, officiated, and rigged by men.

I do think there is merit in knowing how to restrain your anger, how to show kindness to others, even your enemies, how to be aggressive without directly assaulting another person. But anger itself isn’t wrong—anger is often legitimate and begging us to pay attention to the alarm bells it keeps setting off inside us. It also isn’t wrong to make other people uncomfortable, (which is one of the most startling realizations of my life. I actually don’t need to worry about how being me will make other people feel. I cannot tell you how life-changing that is.)

Metaphorically, I’ll probably keep wearing skirts, because the skirts fit me better than bloomers. But what I want to say to my fellow women is: Wear what works for you and don’t look back. Quit letting men or your mother define what is acceptable behavior; you’re a grown woman now and you deserve to get to live like one.

I’d like to see my fellow women bloom. That’s more important than staying in bounds, or keeping a foul-clean record. Foul if you have to foul. Fight if you have to fight. You can make amends later if you take it too far, but you can never regain a life you forfeit living. Err on the side of listening to your own life, your own heart, your own wisdom, because you are the only one on the face of the planet who has been given this life, this identity, this story. So know who you are. Don’t be afraid that who you are may not be who-everyone-thinks-you-should-be. Who ever found their life purpose by following the norm and meeting expectations? Your good manners will never be noteworthy. Proper etiquette just isn’t a game changer, but I can tell by the glint in your eye, you are a player, so play.

Bloom under the shade of your delicate white hat or bloom and pull on some pants, just bloom, preferably sooner rather than later.

I Practice Noticing

Sometimes I despair for very tiny reasons.

Sometimes I cry over nothing but I tap into a reservoir of pent-up tears and my unacknowledged sorrow waterfalls out and I’m caught in the rapids by surprise.

Sometimes I don’t even know I’m tense until the headache comes.

Sometimes the pleasure of a single bright flower is immense and I am shocked how easy smiles are.

Sometimes the world is drab, too dreary for getting out of bed.

Sometimes the world is fresh, too alive for shutting one’s eyes.

It is such a mystery to me, never knowing what kind of day it will be or what kind of me I will be in it.

I am less in control than I think I am, I find.

But I am glad for this: the world continues to surprise me.

Living with Ellipses

My life is full of ellipses. You know, the kind that end a sentence suggestively . . .

Which isn’t a real ending at all, if you think about it . . .

There isn’t always closure where I want closure.

My life leaves me hanging with unknowns.

I don’t get to know how this line of my life will end . . .

And yet . . .

My life keeps writing new sentences anyway . . .

I grasp backwards, wishing for proper punctuation to wrap up an issue neatly, to label a problem solved, to see a disagreement resolved. My own story draws my eyes forward in spite of myself, but sometimes I linger on a ellipsis and wonder what to make of the lack of an ending . . .

The Murky Waters of Fearless Faith

“Invite your spirit-guides and your angels into your healing,” she said as her hands gently touched the soles of my bare feet. I was trying to relax, but I was momentarily distracted by how freaked out I would have been by a reference to “spirit-guides and your angels” just a few years ago, and I felt the old fears creeping back in, whispering to me that I must be crazy to be lying here on the table for a healing touch session.

But eventually I recognized that something real and entirely non-threatening was in fact happening to my body, which softened the fears and I relaxed into the experience. To my surprise, I felt my own Chi (or something like that) as my knees tingled without being touched and an odd sensation (which turned out to be an energy block) moved through my gut.

After the brief session, the practitioner talked with me far longer than the 20 minutes I had paid for, and she spoke with remarkable, but not creepy, insight into my life. It was not as if she was psychic, but like she had good intuition and knew the right questions to ask. I found myself telling her more than I tell most anyone, simply because she knew what to ask, and she asked with such genuine interest and care.

I have recently developed a tenacity about pursuing my own healing, even if it is a path that takes me outside the box of “acceptable” behavior. In this case, I began hearing about healing touch practices from other people I trust, which always makes a foreign thing more approachable, and I began to think it was something I was willing to try.

I am so drastically less afraid of stuff than I used to be that sometimes it scares me (ironic, I know).

When people ask me if and how my theology has changed since getting an education (college, then seminary), I say yes and no, but the most significant change is that I have quit believing in religion based on fear. I mean, theoretically, I always believed that God is not a God of fear, and I heard churches quote 1 John 4:18 (“perfect love drives out fear”) even as a child, but you tend to do what churches do, not what churches say, and every church I knew was motivated by fear, so for all my young life, I followed suit.

We were so doggone afraid of bad influences, evil people, Democrats and Disney. Beer, boys, bands, Halloween, a college education, evolution, Barbies, strangers, theme parks, Hollywood, hormones, Santa Clause: serpents lurked everywhere. It was best to stay home. (Fortunately, there were church services four times a week so you wouldn’t go stir-crazy.)

My intention isn’t to poke fun at the tradition that raised me, but I do think there are some absurdities at play, and we shouldn’t be afraid to name them.

The residue of past fear is veeeeery sticky, but love is an oil that washes it away. The fear keeps trying to draw me back within its sticky grasp, but the more I move ahead, the more I realize I’m just not anxious anymore, and why would I want to be? I’m not scared of contamination anymore. I am free, and this has bettered my faith, not damaged it.

Sometimes I think about all the fears I’ve given up and I am quite nearly alarmed to think what I may have inadvertently “opened” myself up to. But opening hasn’t harmed me, or caused me to lose my way, not once. It’s taken me deeper, every time. Deeper into myself, deeper into my faith, deeper into compassion and truth and justice and humanity.

Freedom is too great a thing to sacrifice on the altar of appearances and expectations. My friends, do the unexpected.

 

P.S. Anyone want to give a testimony?? What is a fear you have abandoned and did you discover anything beautiful and wholesome in the process?

In the Lap of Angst

Regina once told me she has grown as a minister by learning to sit with her anxiety. This is some of the best advice I have ever received; unfortunately, I have loads of anxiety with which to sit.

Many days I feel at odds with most things ministerial, but I have determined to listen to the tension rather than stuff it away, and somehow I find in the angst my real workplace.

Example: I revolt at the phrase “I do ministry” or “I want to do ministry” or “I love doing ministry”—common denominator being the words “do ministry.” Ugh. Such language sounds like I am a dispenser of the sacred wealth. Gross. I do not want to be a distributor of mercy funds. I want to believe that mercy is there already, and I happen to be skilled/learned at spotting it, like a bird-watcher. I don’t give birds to people. Sheesh. That would be presumptuous, not to mention a violation of the wild. But I hope to help people see what’s perched right above their heads, if only they pause and open their eyes, or glance from a different angle than the one they are currently stuck in.

“Do ministry” sounds like people need something done to them, like a facelift or a tummy tuck, a perm or a hair dye. But I am not in the business of fixing people or accessorizing them. I’m in the business of simple observation, which hardly sounds like a job worth paying money for, though it turns out to be what many people are most craving—to be noticed, deeply.

Example: I dislike, disown even, the word leadership. Attaching the word servant to the front-end doesn’t impress me either. I just don’t like it, period. Call me naïve. Call me timid. Call me a follower. But I just cannot be cajoled into owning this “leader” title. I have tried to wear it, and it doesn’t fit—too tight here, too baggy there. Supposedly leadership is hip these days, because everywhere I turn someone is trying to be a leader or form leaders. I wonder, if we all become successful leaders, who is going to do the following?

Practicalities aside, I still don’t want to “lead my people.” (On that note, I don’t like the phrase “my people” either; it sounds like I am a collector and people are my trophies.) Here are some of the things I try to do instead of leading: I spend time with people, and I listen to them. Sometimes, I try to offer people a new set of lens, because I am sometimes good at that kind of thing. I ask questions and I try to withhold answers. I try to notice when I see a person coming awake. I throw an inner celebration on their behalf when I see them living, and, if necessary, grieve if I suspect they may be dying a little on the inside. I think really hard about what it might mean to fiercely guard the dignity of each person, though I constantly fail at doing so. I follow my own spiritual path with absolute tenacity and fully expect that will influence others for the better rather than the worse.

Example: I am severely uncomfortable when pastors talk about their congregants as if church members were children and we were their parental figures who have to settle their sibling disputes. I mean, I know it can feel like sibling rivalry in the church, and sometimes we all act like grumpy teenagers, but I sure don’t want to parent anyone through that hormonal mess other than my own flesh and blood kids, and even then, I will probably do it out of obligation, not desire. Am I the only one who thinks that treating people like children will only encourage them to act like children? I like instead to think of every person as my equal with the expectation that we will keep rotating hats—teacher to student, back to teacher.

These are just a few of the things that stir the pot of my angst, and over-analyzer that I am, I might be thinking myself into an unnecessary mess . . . and yet, I am trying to break this habit I have of talking myself out of my feelings. Instead, I am trying to ask, Why do I feel this way and what do these feelings have to teach me?  I have heard that your inner wisdom only gets rambunctious and troublesome when you’re refusing to pay attention, so if something is eating at you, that anger/angst/agitation may not be a character flaw but an S.O.S. flag stirring wildly from your soul.

Trusting the Place I Am

I want to trust
my location
my “lot” in life,
so to speak–
not blindly content,
oblivious to new
or different
But seems true
there must be a home
in which to plant
the seeds of hospitality

When I Get Feisty

So the result of my rather scary post in critique of Dr. Olson resulted in an invitation to guest post on his blog about feminism.

See, dialogue does happen.

We can debate without hate.

A better world is possible.

Civil Discourse, I believe in you.

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