Beyond Avoidance – #reverb10



December 20 – Beyond Avoidance.

What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?) (Author: Jake Nickell)



This year I ignored and otherwise avoided every possible opportunity to improve my relationship with my own body – a fact that is incredibly ironic given the amount of time, words and reflection I have focused on issues of embodiment and incarnation.

It would be overly simplistic to call myself a hypocrite and move on to something else. Though I am inclined towards hypocrisy as much as the next person (I’ve noticed that while most of us dislike other hypocrites, we regularly hold ourselves to different standards on an issue here or there), I can also say with utter honesty that reclaiming the body in Christian thought and life is one of my great passions. I believe that it needs to be done. I believe that it is important. I know in my heart of hearts that bodies matter, including my own. Sometimes it’s just easier to think about things than it is to actually live them.

This year fell into that “sometimes” category quite nicely.

So here I am, looking at how I’ve treated my incarnate self over the past twelve months…and I’m stuck with the reality that I haven’t treated myself particularly well at all.  It’s not that I’ve been mean or intentionally harsh – it’s that I haven’t approached this Lara-in-the-flesh with any intentionality at all. The mind has been cultivated: I’ve read and written and meditated and discerned. The heart has been watered and given room to grow. But the body? Well, the body’s been given a couch and a bag of Cheetos and told to quiet down.

But she hasn’t been quiet. Instead, this body’s been nudging me in a desperate grab for attention: wrists and fingers on fire when I write too much, hands that throb and lose their grip for no good reason, glistening white hair sneaking in like the first snow of the season… Every sign she gives points an unwavering finger towards the reality that if this body of mine is going to be my friend in life, I need to start paying attention to her NOW.

And so it is.  I can either ignore her for another year, or I can do right by her starting now. Vegetables, exercise, nurture, consistency, discipline – It’s really a frightening thing, this realization that I’ve got so much work to do. Frightening enough that what I really want is a cookie. Or some fudge. Or those magical and comforting french fries. You know, to soothe the fear…

Maybe a manicure and pedicure are in order: a zero-calorie treat for hands and feet that are about to get a whole lot more use. It’s not a cookie (or a jog in the park), but it will do – it’s definitely a start!



Creator God,

You who knit us together in our mother’s wombs –

be with us as we unravel old habits

and stitch together new garments more fitting for the journey towards wholeness.

Give us humor as we try new things (and sometimes stink at them).

Give us tenacity as we work towards endurance.

Give us gentleness as we learn to love our precious selves-in-flesh.


Creativity… #reverb10

PROMPT:  December 6 – Make.

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

(Author: Gretchen Rubin)


I’ve never considered myself a creative person.  That was always my sister’s gift.  While growing up, she was praised for her creativity:  painting, creating a distinctive and unique style of dress, responding to a school project prompt (make up your own product and create advertisements for it) by selling the Pope…  Ultimately, she majored in Art History and minored in Art Performance.  This led to a masters degree in Art History and a career in the wide world of museums, digital photography, image digitization & acquisitions and the like.  On top of the career, she also knits and crochets the most incredible yarn art, is a printmaking diva,  crafts stunning jewelry and basically oozes creative energy.  I’m incredibly proud of her and hope to build a collection of her artwork throughout our lives.

In comparison, words were always my gift.  I was praised for my ability to string words together in compelling ways: giving persuasive speeches in class, convincing others to take particular routes as we sought to address a problem, writing essays and stories…  In high school, our student activities director (who passionately disliked me primarily because I have a mouthy-streak) let me go on a student council trip despite our shared dislike of one another because “you’re the best bull-$*&#er I’ve got.”  Ultimately, I majored in Religion and minored in History.  This led to a masters degree in Theology and a career in the wide world of ministry and writing/editing.  As far as I can tell, my sister is similarly proud of me and owns at least one of the books I’ve worked on.

She is the creative one and I am the “words” one.  This has been a huge part of the framework in which I have understood the both of us over the course of the past decade or two.  And while there is truth woven into this framework, I’m beginning to see that there is also unnecessary limitation.  By understanding us within these boundaries, I’ve essentially said that she can’t craft words well and I’m not creative.  Neither of these things is true.

This realization was ignited this year as I unlocked a very creative space within myself.  It wasn’t an intentional thing – it first began as a part of the Lenten studies we had at our church.  Each Wednesday we met together and joined in an experiential form of prayer:  praying in color, creating and praying with prayer beads, creating and contemplating crosses made from “found objects” (junk).  During this process, I discovered that I thrive in opportunities for creativity.

Most recently, two creative practices have emerged through this unlocked door:

  • creating gifts via crochet.  My husband’s side of our family made a decision to celebrate Christmas by making gifts for one another using our own skill sets and talents.  For the first time in my life, I have followed crochet patterns – and have discovered that while I can’t knit worth a damn, I crochet rather well.  The practice turns out to be quite meditative, and it is thrilling to watch simple yarn turn into beautiful and purposeful objects.  (I would post photographs, but then the family would know what they’re getting!).
  • writing daily.  I’m a fairly smart cookie, but it had never occurred to me that writing was my primary creative activity.  I suppose that in my mind I wasn’t engaged in “creative writing” because I don’t write fiction.  Whatever the reason, I have always thought of my word-smithing as something practical rather than creative (as if creativity can’t be practical!).  Anyhow, as I continue in this discipline of writing every single day, I am discovering that the creative parts of my brain/spirit are energized as words flow from mind through fingers to keyboard.

In 2011, I’d like to take this newly understood creativity for a spin.  Using words as my medium, I would like to paint a picture of challenge and hope for the Church.  I’m still working out the particular topics and themes of such a project, but I know that I want to create a full-length book throughout the course of the next twelve months.  And, as I continue the process of understanding my own creative impulses and gifts, I would like to spend much of 2011 talking with my sister about her gifts (including her words).

Writing vs. Worry – #Reverb10


THE PROMPT: December 2 – Writing.

What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
(Author: Leo Babauta)



When I first read this prompt, I thought that it was asking me to think about what keeps me from writing each day.  Consequently, I started to contemplate the rabbit hole that is facebook and the way I get sucked in to Twitter for longer than is probably advisable…  But as I look at the prompt again, I realize that it is asking something very different:  what do I do that does not CONTRIBUTE to my writing?  That’s a different can of worms entirely.

Social media doesn’t make this list, because the community of faithful rogues that has begun to gel there (especially on Twitter) really informs my writing.  Beyond that, the information sharing that takes place via social media helps me to discover articles, news stories, schools of thought and images that I would likely never find on my own – all of this contributes greatly to the things and the ways that I write.

So, back to the question:  what do I do each day that does NOT contribute to my writing?

Above all else, the most detrimental habit to my writing is worry.  When I worry, it’s as though my hands get tied behind my back and my brain begins an endless loop of what ifs.  In that state, even if I could convince myself to sit down and get some words out, it would all be incomprehensible gobblety-guk.  Worry makes “can’t” my modus operandi.

Yet, I worry a lot (about a lot of things).  I worry about money:  can we pay the bills, can we pay off the student loans, will we ever be able to buy a house, will we have anything to live on in retirement, will we even be able to retire?  I worry about our government:  will they do what is just, do they care about the people, are their motives pure and good, will power corrupt the ones with good intentions?  I worry about the world:  will things get even worse for the poor, will we continue to be at war with one another, will the earth eventually reject us as a species for being such lousy tenants?  I worry about the Church:  will we ever learn how to love each other, will church folks stop using the Bible as a weapon, can we be a conduit of hope in a broken world?

The more anxious I become, the more every answer to these questions seems to be negative (which ignites a new batch of anxiety).  As I worry more, writing becomes next to impossible – and since writing is my primary prayer path, I also pray less.

Basically, worry is my kryptonite.

But can I eliminate worry?  Is a worry-free life possible for me?  I’m not sure, but I suspect the answer lies within a particular part of my personality that has really come into play recently: I’m a “true believer”.  At my core, I truly believe that we can learn to love each other, that there are good-intentioned people out there who don’t let power get the best of them, that the people of the Way who call ourselves “Church” can channel God’s hope and wholeness out into the world.  I’m an idealist (despite my attempts to pretend otherwise).  Worry is such a problem for me because it is the flip side of this optimistic idealism.

Taking this duality into account, I don’t think that I can ever truly eradicate worry from my life.  It will always be a part of me that roars into life at inopportune moments.  But, knowing that it is a slice of my own personal “dark side” is at least a step in the right direction.  As GI Joe used to say: Knowing is half the battle!

One Word…

This December I have committed to join other writers/bloggers/artists/etc. in a project called Reverb10 (  Every day of the month each participant will receive a new prompt encouraging reflection on the past year and hope-casting for the coming year.  Participants are encouraged to reflect through writing, art, photography, etc. (I’ll be writing my reflections).  As the website proclaims:

  • “[Reverb10 is] an open online initiative that encourages participants to reflect on this year     and manifest what’s next. It’s an opportunity to retreat and consider the reverberations of your year past, and those that you’d like to create in the year ahead. We’re connected by the belief that sharing our stories has the power to change us.”

Because I believe that shared story has transformative power (that’s part of the power and potency of the Bible and a reason that I study it), I’ve decided to try my hand at this communal reflection – and to share it each day via this blog.  Each blog will begin with the prompt for the day (as found on the Reverb10 website) and will end with my own response.  If you’ve got a hankering for reflection, I encourage you to visit the site and do the same!


THE PROMPT:  December 1 – One Word.

Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
(Author: Gwen Bell)


Context and perspective matter, so I think it best that I begin this project by reflecting on my own experience.  In the grand scheme of things, that experience seems so very small, yet it is what I have to offer – so here goes:

I have lived out so much joy, frustration, hope, sorrow, excitement, fear and wonder in the course of 2010… but none of those words could capture the essence of the year.  The closest word I can come up with that encapsulates the past eleven months of my life is TEMPERING.

Obviously, “tempering” can mean many things.  In this instance, I’m drawing from two of its meanings:

  1. to harden (as steel) by reheating and cooling  -or-  to make stronger and more resilient through hardship
  2. to put in tune with something

The ups and downs of the year have had a heating and cooling effect that has strengthened both my will and my faith.  I’m not so sure I would compare myself to steel, but I have certainly learned more about myself (my hopes, fears, strengths, motivations, prejudices and gifts) than I discovered in many a year past.  And, perhaps more importantly, the realizations and insight gained through the course of 2010 have nudged me closer and closer towards a harmony with myself, with others and with God.  It is as though the stretching and straining (the alternating cycles of pain and relief) of the year have wound me like a guitar string – and though my pitch is not perfect, I’m more in tune than I once was.

With all of this in mind, I hope that a word for 2011 might be DEEPENING (yes, I realize that I am in love with gerunds…).  If the past year has helped stretch me into tune, then I would like to see the next twelve months bring me to a point of more complex harmony.  I want to read more, love more, experience more, listen more, pray more, play more, be more – not so much in a quantitative sense but in a qualitative sense.  In fact, I envision that the act of “getting rid of” may be a part of this deepening.  Over the course of a couple decades, I’ve built up a lot of “stuff”, so with this transition to something new I pray for a year of less stuff, less worry, less fear, less bitterness and judgment and self-centered-ness, and a year of deeper and broader God-centered-ness.

What words would you use to describe what has come to pass and what will be?