Denying Denial

Denying rights. Denying truth. Denying evidence. Denying facts. Denying time. Denying friendship. Denying entry. Denying access. Denying knowledge. Denying space. Denying grace. Denying sunlight. Denying air. Denying growth. Denying opportunity. Denying sovereignty. Denying safety. Denying food. Denying life.

Denial is always in opposition to something else.

Nearly every single instance of denial I can think of, it is a power in the position of privilege denying something to a person or group with less privilege. The only thing I can think of that is reversing the power dynamic is when protestors physically put their bodies in the way of something that would otherwise destroy something.

The Dakota access pipeline comes to mind. But those protestors are putting their bodies in the way of construction that could well do away with the indigenous peoples’ access to clean water. Someone will not have something in the end.

For Lent, we are called to a time of penitence and self-denial. It is a time of looking at our own needs and desires in an effort to turn them towards the desires of God. It is a holy practice, but the holiness comes from our own self-denial, not a judge that is keeping watch over us forcing us to deny what is good for us. There are no Lent police. (Or if there are, they are not doing it for holy reasons.)

Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I gave something up for Lent. The three years I was in Div school, it seemed I always gave up my health. (Though, thinking about it deeper… I probably should have had an allergy test…) Now, with a toddler, I am constantly giving up my comfort, personal space, time, and even the food off of my plate when in her presence. I have been able to take up some things, some prayer and reading that have added to my observation of this holy season, but it has been minimal at best.

As a parent, sometimes I do have to tell my daughter “no” in order to keep her safe or healthy. There is information I have that she has not learned yet. There are things I know that she cannot yet understand. I am denying her the short happiness in order that she may have a more full life.

But on a large scale, we are not each other’s parents. (Thankfully) My parents are not constantly granting me limits, keeping me from what I want to be doing. (It’d be a little hard since we live two states from each other. And that I am an adult…) As a society we trust each other to live within the bounds that we have created for safe living, but still there are ways that we seek to deny others the lives that they are seeking to live.

When we deny things from others, we rob them of good things. We rob ourselves as we make the world a poorer place. Denial is the opposite of giving. It limits, when we are invited to expand.

As Christians, I think the question we need to ask as we come to the close of this Holy Lent is what practice of denying can we seek to end?

What can we take the lead on and open up, rather than limit?

Where do we need to give of ourselves so that others can flourish?

I’m not sure what the answer is. But I do know that we have plenty of work to do.

Finding Inspiration

When I am looking for a new idea or a new way to describe an old idea, I need to go away from where all the bustle is, and I need to go to find a bit of peace.

When I am struggling with feeling dry and complacent, I need to go somewhere to clear my head. Generally I can go for a walk close to my house, or if I need to I can go take a shower, something that gets my body moving and helps to work ideas to the surface. Or, if I need to, I go to practice centering prayer, where I lie still and allow my mind to open, relax, and release into the presence of God.

Sometimes I am not searching for inspiration as much as it is placed on me. When I go to the top of the mountain, or to the shore of the ocean, or even to the edge of the local creek, I am inspired by what I see, hear, and feel. I become fully present.

It seems that the common thread in all of these places and situations of inspiration is the ability to become fully present in those places and in my own body. When I am at the edge of the ocean, I can taste the salt in the air, feel the sand under my feet, hear the waves crash against the shore, and see the water continue its endless and never replicating cycle of movement. I have no choice but to sense the place of where I am, and so stand more solidly in myself, rather than have my mind flit between a hundred different places and a thousand different thoughts.

It helps if I don’t have my phone on, tethering me to everyone who has my number. Sometimes I need to get away, and be where I am, rather than wondering or worrying about this friend or that family member. I need space to remember who I am, in my own skin. When I do that, I can more ably respond to others with grace and kindness.

When I know who I am, I am better at being who I am.

I guess, in a way, that I find inspiration in places that allow me to be myself at my fullest potential. When I am not able to be myself, I end up rehashing old ideas and lack the creativity that lies silent and deep in my core. I can grow crusty with old things, but when I crack the shell of routine I am able to do more than I could ever do before.

When I go to find inspiration, I find more than that. I find joy.

A Little Bit Better

It is beginning. The healing. I can feel it a little more now than I could yesterday. Today I didn’t crash into oblivion after lunch. Today it doesn’t feel like I am trying to hack out my lungs every few minutes. Today it doesn’t quite feel like I’m breathing through a soaking wet towel any more.

Today I feel a little better.

I’m not well yet. I still get a little light headed when I stand up or move too fast. I still need to take my antibiotic and fun cough suppressant. I still need to make sure that I have a way to take care of a runny nose and anything that might get produced during one of my hacking sprees.

But I can tell that I am healing.

It is slow, this healing thing. It has made me be patient. Patient in ways I really didn’t have a care to be. I haven’t been able to take my walks like I want to, and so my step totals for the week are going to be abysmal. My energy is not where it should be. I wouldn’t want to try to preach again tomorrow. I won’t be running anytime soon.

I am looking forward to feeling better tomorrow.

Until this morning, I wasn’t sure that I was getting better. I couldn’t have told you whether or not I was going to have to call the doctor for a better solution to being so terribly out of breath. I didn’t know if my crazy strong antibiotics were having an effect on the infection still wriggling away in my lungs, taking up residence and stealing my power from within me. It still seemed to me that I was just as unwell as when I initially went to the doctor.

Today I am just enough better that I can continue to wait and see. I’ll still take it a little easier than normal. I am still waiting for my reserves to build back up and return. I need to be ready for whatever life will throw at me next.

Whatever it is, I think I will be ready. I will be just that little bit stronger. I will be prepared to face the next curve solidly on my feet. Just make sure that it waits a couple more days. I’m not at full strength quite yet.

Breathing Practice

Breathing is one of the essential practices of the body that our bodies automatically do without us having to consciously think about it every single moment of the day. We breathe because we need to. Healthy breathing is deep, full, and restorative. Most of the time, we are not generally conscious of our breaths.

I consider myself fairly conscious of my breath. I will notice inhales and exhales and can control and breathe deeply like a singer or athlete or a baby most of the time. But I become incredibly conscious of my breathing when I cannot breathe like I should be able to.

Right now I’ve got a cold that complicated itself into bronchitis. It is not a whole lot of fun. But it has made me extremely conscious of my breathing. I try to fill my lungs and it feels like I just can’t quite get there. They won’t fill. No matter how much I inhale I still feel a bit lightheaded or weak.

It is shortlived (I hope). I’ve gone to see a doctor and I have new and fun drugs to try to clear my lungs out. I need my breath. I need to be able to breathe deeply. I still have to preach on Sunday. Last Sunday was an interesting exercise where I was not nearly as strong as I am used to. It was a short sermon and I was depending on the strength of the Spirit to get me through.

Really, that’s what I’ve been doing since the cold. Depending on the strength of the Spirit. I really need to do it more often. I am nearly not quite thankful for my cold and for my bronchitis, because it helps to remind me that even when I am healthy I am relying on the strength of God.

When I am under my own power, I can try to fill myself up as much as possible, but when I stop I find that I am still not all the way full. I find that my own strength is not enough, my own effort is not enough.

God uses my weakness to remind me of God’s own strength.

I’ll keep breathing in the Spirit, and try to fill myself up as much as possible with the force that gives even more life than air. It takes practice, but I am going to keep breathing for the foreseeable future. It is my practice of breathing the breath of God.

Five Years

I created this blog five years ago as a experiment. During the month of July 2009 I posted every day for a month. They were not always profound posts. They were not always long posts. But they were a way for me to maintain a rhythm of writing.

I have maintained a slightly more fluid rhythm over the past five years. I’ve had post heavy months, and I’ve had months where I only posted once or twice. And yet the writing has remained. I’ve kept at it. The writing muscles have not atrophied. I think I’ve gotten better at writing and expressing myself. I would certainly hope so, at least. I broke three hundred posts a while back, I continue to write with partners and friends, and I press myself to go deeper with my writing.

For the next month, I am going to try it again, writing every single day over the month of July. Last time I did it I didn’t have Internet in the home where I was staying. Now I’ve got a smart phone that has a WordPress platform app directly on the phone. The tech can change, but I have been working on changing myself as well. It is a challenge that I look forward to.

Stick around and I might even share some of my freaky slipstream dystopian dreams.