A Hiatus

This is what word nerds do: pick a word to describe a particular thing. Consider the word; dig for its roots. Was it a Latin derivation? Italian? Did the barbarians use some distant cousin of the word while tearing meat from spit-roasted boar leg? What were the earliest forms of the word?

For instance, consider the word hiatus. Derived from the Latin, it is said the word finds its origins in the 1560s. In its earliest form, hiatus meant, “a break or opening in a material object,” or an “opening, aperture, rupture, gap.”  It stemmed from the word meaning “to gape, stand open,” and is kissing cousins with the Old English word used to describe a yawn–a tired, gape-mouthed yawn.

Yawn.

Am I a word-nerd? You bet.

This is the long way around saying that I’m taking a little hiatus. I’m checking out for 2-3 weeks (save for one Deeper Story piece) while I finish up a few longer writing projects. I have an article I need to wrap up, and a… well… sign up for my Tiny Letter to hear more about the even longer work.

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In addition to the Tiny Letter (a new addition is coming in November), jump on over to my Facebook Page, where I’ll be leaving periodical updates.

Thanks for stopping in, and I’ll see you in a few weeks. In the meantime, enjoy the mountain view.

 

mountainphoto

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Coffee Black

1.

Most merciful God, We confess
that we have sinned against you
In thought, word, and deed,

All language, action, any twitch of spirit,
swipe of the hand, swipe of card,all adornment,
any symbol or the lack of any symbol,
any icon or the lack of any icon,
all naves, narthexes, transepts,
any foyer with donut platters,
paper cups, and Gospel tracts,
whether forefathers’ common chalice
or individually juiced cuplets,
whether red door or glass,
whether recitation of the old,
old story, whether prayer with saints,
the rooted liturgy,
or lesser laser lights,
whether incense or fog machine—
it all speaks a thing of God.

2.

We have sinned by what we have done,
and by what we have let undone.

These are the thoughts
I sometimes carry in my wallet,
between the sheaves in briefcase,
or in the brown leather change purse
I sought like Italy’s lost lamb.

3.

We have not loved you
with our whole heart;
we have not loved our
neighbor as ourselves

Tuesday’s barista poured my coffee,
slid it across the counter
unsleaved, and unlidded.
I scattered seven silver pieces
across the counter,
without dispensing pleasantries;
a quarter spun like a top
of happy accidents.

4.

We are truly sorry and
We humbly repent

“Room for cream?” she asked;
Palm down, I waived my hand across
the counter in an act of certitude,
of final consecration.

“It would be a sacrilege,” I smiled,
and she smiled like my neighbor-girl.
“Bold words,” she said;
I nodded and carried the secret
of the best theology I know:
all good things needn’t
be complimented by too much cream.

Have mercy and forgive us.

Amen.

*****

OCTOBER’S TINY LETTER IS HERE!

Sign up for the Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. In October’s Edition, I’m musing on the tiny acts of neighborliness, a new project, and a tiny prayer. In addition, the good people at Givington’s are generously offering a COUPON CODE for a discount on Nish Weiseth’s new book, Speak. Don’t miss it! (As a bonus, sign up and I’ll send you the inaugural edition in which I share some BIG NEWS!)

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Idols of Discipline

1.

Read, pray, serve—these are the disciplines of a Christo-centric life, we are taught. So we, the children, do do do our best to carry the load. We read read read, memorize the classics: John 3:16, Romans 8:28, Psalm 1:1. We sit by early morning light and pray pray pray, rub against the notion of prayer, treat it like the bottle from which the smoke of our genie-god rises. We serve serve serve, pass out bread at the homeless shelter, protest with the oppressed community, mow the lawn of every church widow. Serving, we hope, will conjure feelings of Christ-likeness, of living in fidelity.

Read, pray, serve; read, pray, serve; read, pray, serve. Rinse and repeat for forty days, for two years, for a lifetime. 

In an honest moment, though, ask yourself—do I sense the presence of God in these disciplines?

2.

There was a season in which I was a drunk. Typing that sentence is painful, but typing this one is worse: while I was a drunk, I was a by-God reading, praying, and serving Christian drunk. I hid my addictions behind the merit badges of Christian practice. After all, if I played the part, if I looked the part, who would be the wiser?

The truth is, I’m not sure I recognized what I was doing. I don’t know whether I realized I had long since forgotten the notion of a present, abiding God. Instead, I hoped that the motions of the spiritual life would somehow save me. Brick by brick, I piled them up—read and apply a  layer of mortar; pray and add a layer of mortar; serve and add a layer of mortar. Higher and higher, brick by brick, my spiritual disciplines reached to the heavens. My, what a big altar I had built.

See what I’m doing here? Idol-making is a sneaky thing.

3.

In his book, Beloved Dust (co-authored by Kyle Strobel), Jamin Goggin writes, “[p]erhaps nothing is as subtle and deceptive as the ease with which our forms of worshipping God (reading the Bible, singing, partaking in the Lord’s Supper, serving the poor, etc.) can be used for our own self-worship.”

See what he did there? Idol-recognition is a stinging thing.

4.

In the days of my coming clean, I realized the truth of my own idol-construction. By grace and the counseling of a good therapist, I found a God that was less concerned with my acts of righteousness and fidelity. He was less concerned with my sacrifices, with my altars-turned-towers of Christian activity. Jesus, abiding friend to sinners as he was, wanted something more conversational. 

Thousands of words could be written about this experience, and this is neither the time nor place. Instead, carve out a few minutes of silence and ask yourself these questions: 

do I find the abiding, restful, friendly presence of God in the reading, praying, and serving?

Or, if I’m honest, is all this work sucking me dry; does it feel like the tiring work of monument building.

If you find no life in the reading, praying, and serving, then—pardon my meddling—you are missing the point. Disciplines flowing from white-knuckled fidelity are snares waiting to spring. But when flowing from love, from broken-down and humble devotion to an abiding, present God, they don’t feel quite so much like disciplines at all. Instead, they might be described quite simply as conversational, as communal, as acts of friendship.

See what we’re doing here? Authenticity is a soul-searching sort of thing.

*Grab a copy of Beloved Dust. This might be the most approachable work I’ve read about experiencing the abiding presence of God in some time.

*****

OCTOBER’S TINY LETTER IS HERE!

Sign up for the Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. In October’s Edition, I’m musing on the tiny acts of neighborliness, a new project, and a tiny prayer. In addition, the good people at Givington’s are generously offering a COUPON CODE for a discount on Nish Weiseth’s new book, Speak. Don’t miss it! (As a bonus, sign up and I’ll send you the inaugural edition in which I share some BIG NEWS!)

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A Prayer for Musicians and Artists

Autumn in the Ozarks is an exercise in deciphering metaphors. Colors shift, and every tree seems a personification of a different truth. The modesty of the lady maples wanes, green giving way to a more inviting rouge. She mixes her wine for the mighty oak, who’s yellowing foliage is not a thing of cowardice, but rather of rarity. Neither saffron nor citrine are native to these hills; the autumnal oak is our gem.

The rivers overflow these days, saturated by the fall rains that wash through the region. The white bass have long-since made their run through the spawning grounds and have returned to deeper waters. The fishermen have moved to deeper waters, too, allowing these banks a sort of reprieve, a Sabbath. The squirrels sense the deepening stillness, and work double-time to gather a winter’s worth of acorns, walnuts, and Arkansas hazelnuts. One river’s rest is another rodent’s work, after all. They gather and gather under the eye of the bald eagle, who wonders whether a juvenile might make easy pickings for its young.

Maybe it’s a bold statement, but autumn seems an evidence of the thinness of the veil between heaven and earth. The colorful metaphors show a glory beyond the simple natural order. Here, glory turns and fills; here, it gathers and hunts. Here, it is.

This is my favorite season in the Ozarks. I see God everywhere in it.

*****

Today’s piece is inspired by the Prayer for Church Musicians and Artists from the Book of Common Prayer. It reads:

O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  *Photo by Bhanu Tadinada, Creative Commons, via Flickr.

*****

OCTOBER’S TINY LETTER IS HERE!

Sign up for the Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. In October’s Edition, I’m musing on the tiny acts of neighborliness, a new project, and a tiny prayer. In addition, the good people at Givington’s are generously offering a COUPON CODE for a discount on Nish Weiseth’s new book, Speak. Don’t miss it! (As a bonus, sign up and I’ll send you the inaugural edition in which I share some BIG NEWS!)

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Pursuing God In the Dark Places of the Heart

I was raised in an evangelical context that spoke of “pursuing God.” It was an elusive concept, one without clear definition. Pursuing God, they said, required us to follow God wherever he might go. Here’s what the good folks never told me, though: sometimes pursuing God requires that we follow him into the dark places of your own heart.

Today I’m sharing about this very pursuit at the High Calling. I write:

In his famous Psalm of repentance, Psalm 51, David recognizes this failure of inner pursuit, and he cries out for the mercy of God. He writes, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (ESV). These words serve as a reminder: failure to follow God inwardly, failure to sit with him in the pain and darkness of the “secret heart,” can be the very thing that leads us to miss God altogether.

Would you join me at The High Calling to discuss pursuing God in the dark places of the Heart? I’d love to hear your thoughts there.

*Photo by Jayel Aheram, Creative Commons via Flickr.

 

*****

OCTOBER’S TINY LETTER IS HERE!

Sign up for the Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. In October’s Edition, I’m musing on the tiny acts of neighborliness, a new project, and a tiny prayer. In addition, the good people at Givington’s are generously offering a COUPON CODE for a discount on Nish Weiseth’s new book, Speak. Don’t miss it! (As a bonus, sign up and I’ll send you the inaugural edition in which I share some BIG NEWS!)

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Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

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