Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Stories of our Seasons

The darkness of this past winter delayed me from writing of its highlight. (At least that sounds like a good excuse, doesn’t it?)

But, in reflection, perhaps the darkness only served to make this particular experience stand out more vividly against the dreary backdrop. Light in the darkness seems a more brilliant illumination.

Seasons Weekend at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs stands out like a bright beacon of hope and inspiration.

Seasons is the brainchild of best-selling author and dramatist Nicole JohnsonThe weekend is an artistic spiritual retreat designed for personal growth and replenishment. Intentionally intimate, it is a feast of music, art, drama, and learning for those wishing to go deeper in their faith journeys. It is a special time of rest and renewal…peace and healing…awakening and illumination.

Katherine and Jay were honored to be among the speakers. (We kept pinching ourselves and saying Why are we here? Too good to be true.)

But that’s the way the Good News seems isn’t it?

Too good to be true… but it is!

In additional to the wildly creative and talented Nicole, other participants included renown psychiatrist Dr. Curt Thompson, author of The Anatomy of the Soul, and the brilliantly gifted Sara Groves, one of my long-time favorite singer/songwriters. (Our whole family is in love with her.)

The other speakers and performers were equally amazing. It was intense. At one point, as Sara sang and played the piano, tears came to my eyes. I’ve been listening to her music for years, since I first heard her song Conversations on the radio. She holds a unique place among Christian artists, with her soulful melodies and way-deep-beneath-the-surface lyrics. And here she was, in the flesh, pouring out her beautiful, pure notes just for us in the room.

The whole weekend was like that. The intimacy of the group made it feel like a personal banquet for each participant. That was one of the main points.

I’ve attended many large Christian conferences, such as Women of Faith and Living Proof Live with Beth Moore, with thousands of participants. They have all been wonderful, enriching, faith-building experiences. There is an electric energy in these large gatherings of believers from all walks of life. Nicole performed with Women of Faith for years, but eventually she was drawn to the idea of a smaller, more personal retreat. Thus was Seasons Weekend born.

At first, the menu seemed a little random. Actors? A psychiatrist? Musicians? And my child and her husband?

What’s the common thread here?

They were all there to share their stories with us.

It was beautiful to see the way God wove it all together… perfectly.

Every story was totally unique, yet analogous. Pain. Defeat. Redemption. Victory… through the One who defeated death.

In an elective session, Curt Thompson discussed the power of story.

Obviously, I love stories.

I have always loved them, since earliest memory. As a child, I forced my parents to tell me story after story every night until I finally fell asleep.

I love listening to other people’s stories, and I often feel compelled to tell mine. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said that we share our stories in order to know we’re not alone. I concur.

But Curt took it further, from a neurobiological perspective.

He told us that our stories begin generations before we are born. They are first told by someone else. (Do I actually remember being in a horse stampede when I was two, or do I just remember the story of what happened so vividly that it seems like reality?)

Curt said that we come out of the womb looking for someone who is looking for us. We scream as we leave the dark, warm comfort of out mother’s bodies; we are consoled in her arms. We begin telling stories because we have a need to be heard and to be found.

Our stories are told in fits and starts. For the most part, they are messy. Moments of triumph are mingled with slips and slides and falls. Paths are wide and winding, not straight and narrow. Sometimes none of it makes any sense. But we are most creative when we are most messy…and vice versa. Life, according to Dr. Thompson, is about being creative with our messes.

Because of the messiness of our stories, tentacles of shame are wrapped all around them. The physical effects of shame turn us inward and away from other people.

But we must be heard in order to be found.

We cannot tell our stories as individuals. Our story-telling is collaborative. The listener actually becomes a part of the narrative. This creates new neural pathways in the brain. Every time the story is retold, the teller’s mind is renewed. And the listener’s mind is changed… expanded… in some way.

I need someone else’s brain to complete my story.

Serendipitously, the more we tell our stories, the more they are redeemed. Given back to us in a more complete way. Even a seemingly tragic story may be used for great good.

Sara Groves shared a very personal experience with the group. Her openness touched my heart and moved me to compassion. I entered into her story and responded to it.

After she finished speaking, Curt announced, “In listening to Sara’s story, we have been changed. Now our brains are actually different!”

“Redemption,” he said, “is never individual.”

I ponder that statement.

Two of the nuances of the verb “redeem” are

 1.  to recover possession or ownership of by payment of a price or service; regain.

        2.  free, liberate, rescue, save.

The act of telling our stories is freeing to us and to those who listen to them. Confession is healing. By liberating even our shameful secrets from the dungeons of our minds, they come out into the light and are redeemed. In the sharing, they are purified and lose their power to control.

We regain rightful possession of our true stories when we share them. Even the messy ones.

Especially the messy ones.

I thank you all for being a part of my story. It is a privilege.

I hope I am a part of yours, as well.

Keep telling it.


A few scenes from Seasons...

(Babysitters fell through, so look who got to come!)

We took turns babysitting.
This is most of the incredible Seasons team. (Minus Sara)
(I am so mad. First I left the camera in Cali; now I've left the cord in GA, so I can't download the best pictures from the weekend. Maybe later.)

But enough of winter!

It's a time of new life and fresh beginnings. It's not too late to sign up for the Spring Weekend in Washington, D.C., April 12-14.

It's a wonderful gift you can give yourself. You are worth it.

Tomorrow it's Easter Service at the Hollywood Bowl! 

Praying you have a joyful celebration of the Resurrection, wherever you are.

He is making all things new! Hallejuah!


Sara Groves performs "Eyes On The Prize"

(Granny can't figure out how to embed.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Out of the Fog

What a long, hard winter it has seemed.

Has it to you?

Lousy weather, a string of overlapping sicknesses, chronic pain, and caring for a loved one with rapidly advancing Alzheimer’s is not the best recipe for success in the pursuit and procurement of happiness during the physically darkest months.

(Always winter, and never Christmas, as C.S. Lewis described Narnia.) Just cold and dark and dull. Nothing to look forward to.

I feel like I’ve been wandering in a dense, chilly fog of unanswerable questions and unanswered prayer.


Sometimes the faith thing is hard.

I wish it were easier.

I wish God would just slice through the veil and let us SEE.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”

But I can’t see his face through the fog.


Last Sunday morning, I was cozy in bed with my coffee and devotional book.

“Kim! Kim, come down here,” my husband called.

“Is it mandatory?” I whimpered.

“Oh, never mind,” he gave up.

So of course I stomped downstairs.

Frigid air was pouring in the front door. My husband was out on the porch, looking at this:

 As we watched, thick yellow bands of light pierced through the heavy fog. It had been rainy and overcast for days on end. 

Then, this:

These iphone pics don’t begin to do the sight justice. They don't capture the vivid contrast of color.

It was intense.

A day or two later, I ran into a friend who’s battling a debilitating illness. In spite of a daunting diagnosis, she is bravely hanging onto faith. Actually, her faith is growing stronger and stronger in spite of it.

When I asked her how she was doing, she told me that she wished she could still do something she did before her illness. (Go for a walk.)

But then she immediately shifted into telling me about what had happened to her on Sunday morning. She, too, had been in bed with her devotional book, when she glanced out her bedroom window. She said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it. Big yellow beams of light were streaming through the branches of a bare tree, as if God were above with his hands outstretched.”

“We saw it, too!” I told her. From several miles away. A completely different vantage point.

A sign.

Later, we exchanged pictures. She had drawn this in her journal:

Sometimes it’s hard to see God. Where are You in all of this mess? we cry.

God seems silent. The fog of unknowing remains. We stumble along in the dark, tripping over our doubts and fears.

It is hard to keep looking up into impenetrable leaden skies.

But, in an instant, God breaks through.

He always breaks through.

The light of His truth slices through the darkness like a saber, scattering the obscuring fog of uncertainties.



“Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’?  Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”                 (John 16: 19-22)

“A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me.
 Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." (John 14:19-20)

(This one's for Karen. See the last comment on previous post.I needed a little encouragement!)