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.