Saturday, November 13, 2010

White Space part 3

(To understand the concept of “White Space” check out part one and two)

There is an irritating quality about nature in that it hates a vacuum. Stuff slowly migrates in so that empty space never stays empty. That is certainly true in my world. I can work all morning creating white space on my table. Walk away for 10 minutes and come back to a pile of things I didn’t leave there. I have been trying to inform those around me that white space is the new “cool” in our house but so far with limited success. I think we all want to get there but old habits die hard.

Some things seem totally out of my control or anyone else’s for that matter. Take dust bunnies for instance ( I have spent the last few years studying these creatures because I can not seem to alter their breeding practices no matter how hard I try. This week I conquered them in my bedroom (or so I thought!) I went through with a will just one week ago to finally eradicate them from all the deep crevices and caverns. But I got up this morning and there is no sign my heroic efforts had any effect at all. Wild dusty clumps of them stand mocking me as I type as if to say, “We have you now.”

I feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Where are they coming from and where can I go to get real help? There are special exterminators for bed bugs, which seem to be just as prolific, but who is even taking on the task of limiting the proliferation of dust bunnies? “Ahhh,” you say, “It’s getting cold outside and you haven’t run your furnace all summer.” It’s true; I turned on the furnace for a while, but oh my gosh! Something apparently died in our cold air return over the summer. I can’t run the furnace until I find the culprit and give him a somewhat decent burial. Who else has stuff like this happen to them? I feel attacked! Hmmm, So what is happening? It feels like a war! Am I being attacked? Is there more to this than dust bunnies and mice?

I’m embarrassed to admit that something managed to get into our house and then die there. People don’t talk about mouse problems much. I have friends whose houses look perfect. Do they ever have mice? Am I the only one who has squatters move in when the weather turns cold? It’s not that we haven’t tried to find every stinkin’ mouse size breach. But year after year, come around September, they sneak their way in and I move all but the smart ones back out.

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure this one is a mouse. We have squirrel here. Don’t let their cuteness fool you. They are cheeky little devils that have no boundaries whatsoever. Last summer, while on vacation, an extraordinary thing happened. I had a bushel of nuts in the basement when we left and when we returned, I had a totally empty basket instead. The sneaky, little guy left no trace of nut, piddle, footprint or crumb but he had clearly been there.

So, what does all that have to do with white space? Well, the more I contemplate white space the more I recognize my need for it. I need white space, in my day, time to contemplate and bring my mind to order. I need visual rest for my eyes. How can you sit down and rest when your eyes can see no order? I need white space for my ears too. Perhaps another time I will talk about noise, verses good music and silence. Sound that is in order blesses my soul as does silence, but I live in a world of clamor and noise. Noise is excruciating. It nibbles away at my sanity somehow. Hmmm, I keep having the feeling that this is a war. I’m wondering if living without white space is the same as living a life of confusion. Having once struggled with brain trauma, which is the ultimate encounter with confusion, I have learned to fear it. Confusion is painful on a very deep level. I have huge compassion for the confused. Does that explain my need for white space? And if God is not the author of confusion, does that mean Satan is the author of the mess? Am I in a bigger battle than what I think? If so, what are the tools needed to win? Can I renounce the spirit of dust bunnies, mice and bed bugs? You know there might be something to that. I know that it is easier by far to conquer your enemy when you know that he is indeed your enemy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

White Space part 2

Still pondering white space and wondering what the connection is between white space and “rest”. I am pondering that passage in Hebrews 4:9, “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” Recently, I had a friend suggest that white space on a page of text was “restful”. Is it? She added that white space as apposed to clutter in a room was restful too. I had never looked at it like that before but it makes sense. I’m curious, is that why we say, “That pattern of cloth is too “busy” for me.” Then I wonder as I strain and struggle to grab hold of my own thoughts and put them in a line. Is it harder to be linier in a “busy” room? I wonder.

It seems to be obvious that white space in our time and life adds rest. But, does white space over all add rest? If so, that explains why I am so utterly exhausted at times (given the state of my clutter!) It also explains why it is hard to bring things to order once they have gotten out of order. I try to keep my dishes tidy, but when I have a mob over for dinner it can get out of hand and conquering the pile once it has piled up feels like swimming against the current… no, maybe more like swimming in a vat of molasses! Sometimes I see the pile and feel kind of frozen inside. My arms feel like lead spaghetti noodles, too heavy and unruly to move or control. Just plucking up the courage to face the clutter monster, socks the wind out of my soul. Ugh! :-s

I wonder about white space and light. For me, white feels connected to light and light… well Jesus says He is the light. I like light. Not the artificial, cold, bright electric kind. Gak! But the warm inviting light of a crackling fire or the glistening sun. The word basking says it all doesn't it?

I am learning more and more how important light is for our immune systems. I’ve been told that here in the North there are times in the year when we are so far from the light of the sun that our systems can't produce vitamin D. Not being able to produce vitamin D is way bad for our immune systems. But beyond that, somehow just basking in the sun heals, and rejuvenates my spirit. It feels restful and calming… like… white space?

So now I wonder if light and white are similar. Does the clutter in our lives attack our immune systems? Does it attack our spirits? And does the clutter in which we surround ourselves, block out the light as well as the white in our world? Are we blocking out Jesus with clutter? I wonder

That thought overwhelms me because I don’t have control over much of the clutter in my world. The noise of traffic, bustle of shopping, ringing of phones, billboard signs, blaring music, urgent requests, mice in the pantry, bills amongst piles and piles of unsolicited, unwanted advertisements in my mailbox, broken washers and a crowing roster (The lady in the feed store assured me they were ALL hens!)

Boy, this is beginning to make more sense than I really want to own! It adds an element of urgency to my quest for white space. Perhaps scrambling after Jesus for me might just be weeding through the clutter, fighting through all the noise and confusion, the “busy” fabric of my life and stepping into the white… I mean light.

God help me!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

White Space (part one)

I often say, “I am not an organized person.” And I’m not. Clutter and chaos has been my constant enemy and I often feel powerless to change that. I once went to a networking class at my church where we explored many types of spiritual gifting. Near the end of the class we took a test that was supposed to help us learn what our spiritual gifts were. The guy that taught the class said that no one would get a zero in any gift and no one would be one hundred percent in something. But you would be stronger in some giftings than others. I attained the impossible! I got a zero in administration (that is organizational skills). I was not at all surprised. We also gave a smaller test to some close friends to see if our picture of ourselves matched another’s perspective of us. All my friends gave me a zero too. So that should tell me something, shouldn’t it? I wonder.

I once had a cat-scan of my brain and found that the right side of my brain is significantly larger than the left side. The right side of a brain is the more random, creative side and the left side the more logical, sequential side. There, I had it! My excuse for being so messy! It wasn’t because I didn’t try. It’s because of a physical handicap. I am disorganized because my brain is lopsided. I have to admit I certainly feel handicapped at times. But where did that handicap come from? Was I born with it?

I explained my lopsided brain to a friend in the psychology field once and she said, “Yep, that is the picture of a traumatized brain.” Is it? Was my disorganization caused by trauma? I decided to “google search”. Scary… it’s really scary. I’m a mother. It freaks me out to know how much of an effect I have on my own children. Can I alter the way my child’s brain develops? Apparently… yes. New scientific evidence suggests that our brain develops differently depending on many factors including the level of trauma or lack there of that we grow up with.

So, does that mean that my lack of organization, the chaos I create in my world comes from wounding? I’m not sure how I feel about that. There is a comfort in the idea that I am not broken, just wounded. But that carries with it a responsibility to seek healing, to grow and improve. That feels impossible to me. I don’t have any clue where to start. The good news is, it’s never too late to exercise and develop our brains differently. I can learn to be in order and my children are not trapped because of the mistakes that I made. It’s excruciatingly hard, but it’s possible. It is possible and yet not without help.

In a fallen world, trauma is an everyday occurrence. A miscarriage is a trauma, so is a car accident, illness or a death. I have known trauma no doubt. Hasn’t most everyone at some time or another? That’s incredibly sad. For me trauma feels like my brain is sitting on a potter’s wheel that’s spinning wildly. There is a point at which the force of the spinning sends it careening off the wheel and into a pile of mush on the floor! I have a breaking point. You can tell when I am close to it because the clutter in my world becomes unmanageable. In those times I cling to Colossians 1:17 “He (Christ) is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” That’s my hope… In Him all things hold together… in Christ my brain holds together. In Christ my timid attempt at bringing order can hold together. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. “ (Philippians 4:13)

Coming to order is my current journey. I feel totally overwhelmed and yet I know this is the next thing God is asking of me. Each morning I want to wake up and ask Jesus what to do this day. I want to make a list and stick to it. Not a list that comes from my own chaotic brain but a list that comes from Jesus… my own personal physical trainer. He doesn’t give me an “agenda” I don’t HAVE to do anything on it. He knows what is in me and has no expectations for performance. But if I do what is on His list I know that I will gain “order muscles”.

On my list today, I have a bunch of odds and ends to do, go to the bank, fold laundry, finish the breakfast dishes, breathe. Gak! get the chickens out of the coop now! BRB….

The biggest thing on my list from the LORD is to consider “white space” not so much do something about it yet… just consider. “White space” is what my wise-beyond-her-years daughter calls it. Look at a page in a magazine. It’s not totally full of test, there is white space in between all the writing and sometimes inside it as well. It’s the white space that makes the pages look orderly and readable. My daughter is adding white space to her kitchen cabinets and they look so much more in order. I always wondered why mine, even when they are orderly, don’t look like they are. It’s because they are STUFFED full. Hmmm, where do I start? It’s such a HUGE task. I FEEL TOTALLY OVERWHELMED!!! “Breathe Ruth Ann, Just Breathe”

Well, I’m back to my list. Jesus put just a few easy to accomplish things on my list. Go to the bank, fold the laundry, finish the breakfast dishes, let the chickens out (done that) feed the fish (that too!)… Wow, there is white space in my day! I stuff my days as well as my cabinets. My world is so full, how can it be anything but chaotic? I wonder if all this do, do, do is a trauma all in itself? I’m not supposed to fix the clutter in my kitchen today, just consider white space. Ok LORD. I am considering it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Do you ever feel like you live a passionless existence? What happened to the days when my heart was so full it would cry out in song or frustration or even in tears? When did my heart become cold and numb? I dread that sluggish, sedated feeling. It’s a place where I linger on the edge of apathy and wonder what became of my resolve. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? What brings fire into my soul and moves me with passion? Where did that fire go?

In the battle with apathy I know I am not alone. What has become of the soul of man? I wonder. In my minds eye I see a crowd pondering these questions with a lost look in their eye. Have we become lost souls after all?

On the days when I can no longer will my mind awake, I turn to the classics. I can’t help it. It seems that there is a place or maybe a time when people were allowed to suffer and in their suffering they somehow gained passion.

George MacDonald is hands down my favorite author (well, next to the Holy Spirit lol). When times are tough for me internally, I turn again and again to his books for fellowship and encouragement. I am in good company. C.S. Lewis called George MacDonald his master (teacher). Lewis was so affected by the writings of George MacDonald that much if not all of his own work reflects MacDonald’s teachings. It must be telling that I have poured through 4 of his books in the last two months. I have a growing hunger for something. It is a familiar hunger but an unfamiliar fog that lies between me and it.

So what am I looking for? In a word, courage, that is the courage to be offensive. I have purported for many years that Satan is constantly at work in our lives with the goal of making us afraid of the very thing we were created to be. In my case, I’ve been called to be the burr under the saddle; that maverick child who always asks, “Why? Why must things be done as they have been done before? How do you know? Couldn’t there be a different way to look at this? What does God say? Where does it say that? What if we??? But by definition a maverick is an outsider and being an outsider sucks! I live and work on the outside of the gate and though I wouldn’t trade my calling for any other today the loneliness is so intense it’s suffocating.

In the past I have tried to conform, even contort myself in such a way that I might find welcome. But contortions are grotesque to say the least and I am tired of feeling so out of joint. I have been around that mountain before and here I am back at the start remembering what God said, “I have called you to be a burr” (which means in literal terms a pain in the butt.) Geeze, it’s not a very glamorous calling that’s for sure. When I open my mouth, (which is always full of impertinent questions) I face a chorus of contempt. There is no way to prevent it. Believe me, I have tried. But to be honest, when it was my time to stand, I lost my nerve, I flinched. Oh, I stood for a while, but eventually, I lost my footing and gave up my passion. Maybe, instead of fearing the proximity of a saddle to the butt of everyone’s contempt, it’s time for me to look at the motivation a burr can be when attempting to move a stubborn, dispassionate mule or wake up a distracted rider.

The thing is, no matter what we are called to do, it takes courage to accomplish the task. Like the leading character in the movie “The Truman Show”. Truman’s capture built into him the fear of water then placed him on an island so that his fear prevented him from ever finding the door to freedom. In order to be free, Truman had to break free from the fears that held him captive.

So back to George MacDonald, I have lately been reading a book by him called “The Prodigal Apprentice”. Listen to this quote of a man speaking to another who is struggling to see God the father in a different light than that of his own wicked earthly father,
“No, You are afraid of [your father]. As soon as you have ceased to be afraid of him, you will no longer be in danger of hating him.”

“I can’t help being afraid of him.”
“You must break the bonds of that slavery. No slave can be God’s servant, for His servants are all free men. You must not try to call God your Father till father means something very different to you from what it seems to mean now.”

The bond of slavery… that is fear-- is it not? Fear is the thing we all must face and conquer if we are to actually take up the place God created for us. For me personally, it means being again the burr under the saddle and remaining there until God comes and pulls me out. It means asking all those annoying questions because the questions need to be asked. It means being a person of courage, as well as a person of passion, kindness and grace.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fighting contempt with honor

Romans 14:1-4 says this, "Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." NAS

For me, this passage is about diversity and contempt. I am curious about the wording of the first verse. Now accept the one who is weak... but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. Can you accept someone for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions? That's frightening to me mostly because I have felt the hot sting of contempt. What exactly is contempt? The word carries with it not only blatant disrespect and scorn but also a more subtle flavor of that prideful looking down on the “lesser” human being. I hate contempt. It tears deeply into me when I am the victim of it but I still can’t seem to catch myself in the act often enough. Contempt is so very easy. I am well trained in it. But honor is hard, especially in response to contempt.

I wonder if power-and-control and contempt are related. If you look at contempt as “dishonoring another”, then I would say they are. I have learned the hard way that you can’t fight control with control. It becomes a power play that sinks into ugly in no time. In the same way fighting off contempt with contempt is brutal and unproductive to say the least! I have been leveled by the contempt of others. It smothers me with a deep message of unwelcome. If we all need to “belong” then contempt is a death blow.

Looking back at Romans 14, I am learning much more how we, that is how I, deflect real, vulnerable, relational encounters by passing judgment. Frankly, I am overwhelmed as I look at how I personally have used contempt to keep people from getting too close. Why? What am I afraid of? Well, contempt of course. Hmmm, fighting contempt with contempt can be so subtle!

I think contempt is at the core of labels. We label people all the time, “your mean,” “your lazy,” “your never on time”. Labels are hurtful and last much longer than the moment they are spoken or inferred. “Positive labels like, “your pretty,” “your smart,” “your fun” are just as destructive. These sound like kind affirmations but they still come from a place of contempt. When I speak this way, I am elevating myself and dishonoring another. All these thoughts are new to me. I am trying to learn to say things that keep us both on the level, “When you say that, it hurts me.” “When you are late, I feel unimportant” or “I so enjoy your playfulness! The thing is, fighting contempt with honor is risky. You have to reveal your heart in the process and the vulnerability is frightening! I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Ruth Ann Lea

(For more thoughts on this subject check this out: