living room

He gently turned the pegs to tune his guitar in the other room while we polished off our desserts and glasses of wine. We laughed like old friends even though I barely knew some of these girls. We made plans for roller derbies and 80s dance clubs that may or may not pan out.
We rinsed our plates off into the sink and headed into the living room bringing our glasses with us.
We settled into couches and extra chairs or even onto the floor.

Kids flung open doors to get to the trampoline.
Dogs wove in and out of our feet.
Glasses were refilled and this guy at the front of the room began to sing.
Soulfully. With his eyes closed and knees moving to the rhythm.

I have seen pictures of house concerts on blogs. But they always seemed pretty hip and things that only people in Nashville or at least younger than me seemed to do.

As he sang his opening song I thought of crowded college coffee shops with bands singing on "stage" while we sipped our expresso shakes and tried to impress boys. I was reminded of more talented roommates and friends strumming their guitars to Jennifer Knapp or Caedmons Call songs while we sang along of begged for another. Capos were moved down the neck of the guitar while we crammed five deep on goodwill sofas worrying only about midterms or date parties rather than having enough cash to pay the babysitter.

It reminded me of that, but couldn't be more different. Chris finished his song and we all clapped, but I think he could sense the slight discomfort in the room.  One I couldn't quite put my finger on.  Until the singer addressed it.  Still almost singing he asked how many of us had been to a house concert before. Only a few hands shot up and he sang this, "There is nothing between me and you which might be a little bit frightening to some of you."

And then he got out his harmonica. While I let that statement sink in a little.

He nailed the awkwardness..that I couldn't quite put my finger on.
In his performance but more often how we offer up ourselves.

It was immediate intimacy which is never entered into easily.

I go to a lot of concerts.
I have favorite venues and they are not the huge ones, but usually ones that come with an actual seat and a view that makes the artist look larger than an ant.
But even then there are things to separate us.
A stage and lights and speakers and generally even a bouncer.
Things that keep me and the artist apart. Remind me that it is a show and that I am just there to watch and clap at the appropriate times.
Things that clearly make me just an observer.

I have learned that people respond one of two ways to vulnerability. To openness. They either move towards it or away from it. But you can not sit there in the living room and not move one way or the other. You are drawn to the nakedness. You are part of the show. Or you run for the door. And I have experienced both.

I don't perform house concerts myself. I  never really mastered bar chords and I certainly can't sing....although if you give me enough drinks I might strum a few lines from Closer to Fine for you.
But. I know well the awkwardness of intimacy.
I was ruined long ago for flat friendships. I am absolutely horrible at pretending. Titles and tax brackets do nothing for me. I hate pretense. I don't mingle well and I certainly don't network.
Instead I am drawn to anyone that I think has a good story.  Or that wants to hear mine. People who I think are willing to show up. People with traits that I don't have enough of.  People who don't look away when you say something hard and honest. People who instead are willing to say, "me too."
I jump in to this way before I should.
Sometimes it pans out. Sometimes I crash and burn.

But eventually the lack of something between us catches up with me.
I get tired of going first. Or second. Or even third.
I get tired of trying.
Of being naked when it feels like everyone else is so well dressed and protected.
If you have known me long you have seen patterns of this over and over in my life and my incredible oversensitivity to it. I keep thinking that eventually I will figure out a better balance. And I occasionally attempt for a season to be more of an observer. To put a little more distance between me and everyone else in the room.
But it never lasts long because it is not me.
I do not want to watch from the cheap seats.
Even if it is nice and safe and a whole lot easier to sneak out after a half dozen songs and a second helping of cobbler.

My friend Tina's desserts were delicious. Her home welcoming as always. And Chris Williams had lyrics and soul in his voice that made me forget for a moment that I was sitting in her living room rather than at the House of Blues.
And I do love the House of Blues or any good show.

But I think that I'd rather sit on the floor of my friend's living room than in any audience
and be glad for the discomfort of having nothing between us.

I have been listening to this song on repeat for the last week or more. Ingrid is welcome in my living room...any time.

I should admit that I stole the picture above shamelessly from my friend's facebook page and if you check out Chris here...

on Saturday

Yesterday was a beautiful day.
The sun was out. it wasn’t too hot.
All day I kept thinking that I should get out and run. Or at least walk the dog. soak up some of that sun.
But the only reason I got off my couch was to go get ice cream.

I was moody. and tired. and melancholy for no reason whatsoever.
The day before had been wonderful.  A day of good food, family adventure and friends over . And I knew that Sunday was Easter. My most favorite holiday.  But i still struggled to get in the spirit.

Lent passed me by. 
I gave something up. Sort of because I kept cheating.
I listened to some sermons. I read a little.
But I did not feel ready.

I pushed my cart through the narrow aisles of the grocery store that day. I hadn’t even made a list but i know that cooking can settle my soul in the same ways that running and writing can.
Maybe I just needed to chop and simmer.
I tossed things in my cart while something about resurrection kept running through my head.
“What is dead will be resurrected” 
over and over in my head on repeat.
And as I grabbed a few more limes I wondered why the wait.

Why this day in-between.
I thought briefly of the disciples holed up in sorrow.

They were not waiting for Sunday. 
They had no idea it was coming. 
They were just grieving.
Trying to figure out what to do next.
What it all means.

A Saturday full of loss and lies and confusion and doubt and sorrow and disbelief.

Why make them wait?

Friday the skies darkened. The curtain ripped.
On Sunday the tomb was empty.

Holy Thursday.
Good Friday 
and finally Easter.
But, Saturday gets skipped.
No one talks about Saturday. 

As I shopped and added more things to my cart my questions got more general.
Why does God make us wait period.

I just got back from church. And we all know to some degree what the sermon will be.
More people go to church on this day than any other day in the year. I think partly because we need to hear it out loud. We need to be reminded that...
The story doesn’t end at the cross.
The tomb is empty.
He is risen.
Sunday isn't just coming but Sunday is here.

Right before church I tried to get up early. Make my coffee find a quiet place on the couch and read something meaningful. I had failed most of Lent, but maybe I could cram in a few minutes of holy before church.

I read a bit.
I even googled my own questions.
Like why are there 3 days between the cross and the resurrection.
I did not find many answers. 
Eventually I just googled something simpler,  "Why does God make us wait?"
And there were a lot more answers to that, but not many of them sounded very fun.

In my impatience (yes, the irony does not escape me) I gave up my search and ended up on Facebook.
and read the most random of posts from the journalist Lisa Lieng that seemed to answer my questions: 
"Not religious but my friend Matt posted this today and I wanted to share:
Today is Holy Saturday (sometimes called Black Saturday). This is when the Christian tradition reflects on the aimlessness, fear, mourning, confusion and broken faith that Jesus' disciples must have experienced when, on Friday, they watched their God/teacher/friend be murdered without a clue as to what would happen next. Sunday had not yet come. The tomb was most assuredly not empty. Had they been lied to? Were they stupid? Would they pay for their allegiance? Where was God, now? Was he ever real? How could something so evil happen to someone so good? We-all of humanity-constantly revisit our own Saturdays.
If you are a Christian of any denomination, you probably know in your heart and believe in your mind that Sunday is coming...that Christ will rise and Alleluias will pour forth. Put that aside, even for a bit of time, today. Choose to identify with our brothers and sisters, both inside and outside the Church, whose lives are suspended in a perpetual Holy Saturday. Whatever they have believed to be true no longer is. Whatever comfort or identity they have had, it is gone. Whomever had been the object of their deepest affection has been taken from them. The redemption they had tasted has been stolen and replaced with bitterness and shock. Things are not hopeful. For them, Sunday means nothing. Everything is Saturday.

This is as much a part of the story of Christ's redemption as is the Crucifixion or Resurrection. We celebrate a God-man who chose to abandon status and comfort and experience this life alongside us. As Jesus chose to identify with us in our deepest fear and despair, entities that bore their most potent fruit on that Saturday, may we choose to do the same with our world. No sugarcoating, no "Sunday is coming!"....share in their questioning of where God is, or if the reality of God is even a possibility. Earn the right to share Sunday with others by being with them on Saturday. Because maybe YOU are going to bring Sunday to them. All things new. Brokenness to healing. Despair to exuberant joy. Saturday to Sunday."

Those disciples could not assure each other that Sunday was coming.
They didn’t dare say things like “God will not give you more than you can bare” or that “God has a plan” or that “Things happen for a reason”.

Their God had just been defeated.
On that Saturday, their God, that they had given up family and careers for was laid out in a tomb. Silent. Cold. And probably starting to smell bad.
In some of our darker moments, if we are really honest…that is sometimes how we feel too.

More of our life than we’d like to admit is Saturday.
In the wait.

We are lucky. 
We are Sunday people. Even on dark Fridays and black Saturdays and really really tired Mondays.

I’m still not totally sure why we have to wait.
Why God didn’t die and then raise again just a few moments later.
Why three days passed before Mary mistook him for the gardener.
Why three days passed before Peter and John ran out to investigate for themselves.
Three days before he showed his wounds to his disciples, another 8 before he lets Thomas put his hands into them.
Three whole days before he came to assure his people that all was not lost.

“Peace be with you” he said.
Trying to speak peace into their loss. Into their doubts and aches and questions and hurts.
“Receive” he said. 
“Forgive” he told them.

I still don’t like to wait.
If they gave out grades for patience I would get an F.
(and that F does not stand for forgiveness)

The Saturday part of the story almost feels mean.
To be fair, Christ had told them what would happen.
They just didn’t really believe it.
In Mark he tells them the ending well before marching into Jerusalem.  
“The son of man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead”
He told them exactly how it would end.
They just didn’t quite get it.
And we do the exact same thing.
Most of us know about Sunday.
but often we get stuck in Saturday anyways.

We don’t want to wait. 
On test results or phone calls returned or jobs to be offered or relationships to be reconciled.
But we have to. Sometimes for just 3 hours, or 3 days sometimes even 3 years.
Often, I can barely wait the three minutes for my microwave popcorn to pop.

Even though we know the ending and that those places of hard and waiting and ache are not it.
They are the parts right before it gets good.
In the part where there gardener isn’t really the gardener at all.

Maybe we need to remember this.
what it feels like to wait.
to forget the ending.
that even his best friends and relatives suffered and hurt and doubted
on Saturday.

And it is my job to offer the same things Christ did.
To people who know the ending and especially ones who do not.
To show up and speak words of
and Hope.

on Saturday. and Sunday. and Monday. and Tuesday. and Wednesday. and Thursday. and Friday.


throw back thursday.
in other words....a recycled post...

This is from this exact Holy Thursday about 4 years ago.

This morning I left my house at 6:11.
About 20 minutes earlier than usual ( ridiculous time to go to work I know, but that is a topic for another blog post).
And I pulled into my church parking lot.
An almost empty church parking lot.
I read in my church bulletin last week that they chapel would be open from 6-8 am for anyone who wanted to take communion on this Holy Thursday.
I love the act of communion and have been getting up early every day this week to observe Holy Week. And so I thought that this morning instead of sitting on my couch reading and quiet that maybe I should go to the chapel instead.

But after I pulled in, I immediately thought about turning around and getting a coffee instead.
I was a little uncomfortable about the idea of showing up at church at 6:27 am.
And I didn’t know what to expect.
If this would be weird.
If I was supposed to say anything or do anything special that I didn’t know about.
And I worried about who would be there.
If there would be a lot of people, businessmen off to work, or those really religious types doing some serious prayer or a bunch of old ladies who couldn’t sleep. Or if I even had the right day. I could still just go to Starbucks.
I had to keep telling myself to get over the awkward and just to go in.

And so I walked into the chapel.
Which was totally empty except for a minister in a robe reading in the front pew.
She welcomed me and told me to kneel at the altar.
Just me.
And she read aloud this passage from Luke 22:7-20.
For just me.
And she offered me the body and the blood.
Shed for me.
And in this moment it was just me.
And the realization of what Christ did for me in particular.
Not a church filled with people.
Or believers all over the wold.
But just me.
Shook me in my soul.

And I lingered at the altar a bit. And the pastor returned to her pew and reading. And I walked out to my car and wept for what Christ did for me.
Just me.
And you too.
Just you.


Like most people I spend a good amount of my time trying to obtain things.
more clothes.
more friends.
more attention.
more money.
more followers.

But the truth is I am much better at losing things.
my keys.
my id.
my wallet.
my phone.
my debit card. 
my patience.

Unless we are talking about weight...most of us would much rather gain than lose. Add more to our resume or closets than take away. Loss scares us. We do all kinds of things to avoid it at all costs.

I re-read a book the other night and what caught my attention this time was the idea of loss being more meaningful than gaining. (Drops Like Stars)
I've read the book at least four times but what I was drawn to this time was his description of sculpting.
That all the artist has to do is remove.
That the beauty is in there all along and someone just has to take the time to carve it out.
To find it.
To free it.
To let everyone else see what lies underneath.

Let's be honest. Most of us spend more time trying to cover up than we do revealing.  At least, I do.
It is easier. It is safer. I worry less about breaking.
But it isn't art. It isn't beautiful. It isn't even close.

I do not know loss like some people I know.
I have never lost a parent or a sibling.
or God forbid a child.
My losses are small ones.
my dog.
contracts with publishers.
chances I let slip through my fingers.
long ago boyfriends.
my pride.
my absolutes.
my control.
my temper.
and even occasionally my faith.
And every time I lose something that I wanted to keep a tight hold of,  it leaves behind this giant gap. A hole that I quickly try to fill with anything. Books. Chips and salsa. Binge watching on netflicks. People. Running mile after mile hoping to leave the hurt and loss behind.

And do you knowwhat is NOT in the bible? Not even once. Something about a God-filled hole in our hearts that only He can fill. I have always felt a void. An ache. Like something is missing. And maybe it is because I had youth director after youth director tell me about this God-sized hole we were created with. Which led me to believe that if I still feel it, then maybe I don’t know God in the right context. That I am doing it wrong. That I don’t have enough faith. 

I suspect that all that isn't true. That we ache, because we WERE in fact made for more. That we are supposed to long for more. But maybe the kind of more we were made for comes from less.
I do not think that the God who formed us from the dust, breathed his very spirit into us and then left this giant hole in our hearts hoping one day we will ask him to move in there. That right until that moment we tried to fill with girl scout cookies or wine or worse instead. And then when we said the right words, the he slides in and fills us up. He pulls a Jerry McGuire and completes us. 

God is not in the gaps.
He has always been about wholeness.
The ache we feel is maybe something we need to shed rather than something we need to fill.
Little by Little.
He is like the sculpture. The beautiful part —that was there all along.

All we have to do is remove.
the stuff that gets in the way.
the lies that sometimes are louder than the truth.
the ugly.
the unnecessary.
the excess.
even the good parts that weren't meant to be in the masterpiece.

And I hate the carving.
Loss, even minor ones, seem to flatten me.
Removal is painful.
Good art always is.

But I somehow feel a bit lighter remembering that he has always been there.
To show himself more fully.

In me.