Autumn Soul Care

Over the past two months (and on through November) as I head toward the release of Handle With Care, I wanted to quiet some of the unrest and unhealth in my soul. There have been some patterns of anxiety, ignoring my gut sense or intuition in favor of what seemed “right” or obligatory, and a general passive engagement with the Lord. In laymen’s terms, I was “going through the motions.” So, in true form, I sat down, made myself a curriculum, and set myself on it. It was robust, full, ordered, and I knew it would jar my spirit and soul in the ways I needed.

I know so many authors who pour their hearts and souls into their books and then into the marketing process, so much so that they’re always one step behind a burnout or selling themselves out just to get the book sold. I absolutely do not want this. I love writing and I want to write for a long time, so that means recognizing that I am not primarily a speaker or a marketer or a podcaster or an expert in any way. I am a writer. I will do my best not to sell this book, but to be faithful to what God is asking of me each day. Part of that, for today, is making sure my soul is well-cared for and not going into the release on empty.

This was a long way of telling you that I have been eye-ball deep in soul-care material this fall. All my prioritized reading is related to the care of my soul and I am not feeling one bit guilty about the pile of other books waiting to be read. I thought I’d share a few of the books, links, podcasts, and exercises I’ve been working through in this time. My homemade curriculum is 16 weeks and specifically tailored to areas where I needed to grow, but perhaps some of it might be helpful to you as well. I’m just sharing source materials below, the course itself has practices, written reflections, and writing exercises built into it as well. It has already been so hard and so good for me.

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My texts for these 16 weeks are:

Sacred Rhythms, by Ruth Haley Barton. This is my third time through her easy to read book on Spiritual disciplines and it’s my favorite Spiritual discipline book.

Who God Says You Are, by Klyne Snodgrass. My friend Mason King recommended this to me last winter as a resource for Handle With Care, but I’ve been working my way slowly through it all this year and it will probably be my book of the year.

As I Recall, by Casey Tygrett. One of the main works of the first month of this time has been working with my own memories of blessing and memories of trauma. Casey has been a good leader for me.

Holy Noticing, by Charles Stone. Again, working with paying attention to memories, histories, circumstances, and not letting those things terminate on themselves.

Soulful Spirituality, by David Benner. I haven’t gotten to this one yet in the course, but I’ve paged through it and really enjoyed The Gift of Being Yourself by Benner in the past.

The Relational Soul, by James Cofield and Richard Plass. This one has been on my to-read list for a few years now and I just haven’t prioritized it. It comes highly recommended by people I trust.

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I do not listen to many podcasts. Maybe because I am a little over-stimulated by them, or because I find it hard to follow when there are multiple voices involved. But I have really come to appreciate Adam Young’s podcast, The Place We Find Ourselves. I recommend starting at the beginning of the first seas onand working through it all slowly. It has been tremendously revealing for me in my own lack of emotional health.

I also appreciate Potter’s Inn Podcast on Soul Care. These are longer listens, so they just require more time for me.

Last week Mike Cosper released his episode of Cultivated with Chuck Degroat (who you should absolutely be reading) and I listened twice. I am deeply grateful for his work. Here are two recent posts he wrote (first and second) and a class he offers on contemplative prayer. In fact, it was Chuck’s words that helped me to realize that if I kept going at the rate I was, without stopping to care for my soul, I was headed for some destruction, either of my own or others.

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These aren’t included in my Soul Care Curriculum, but they’ve been helpful pieces or videos for me to mull on in a deeper, more reflective way the past few weeks. Perhaps one or two will bless you.

The Hazards of Online Faith Writing

On Living

Every Idle Word

What does it mean to pay spiritual and moral attention to the conflicts of our lives?

When Dreams Die

Tools for the Art of Living from OnBeing

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Finally, as I do this work, here are the two playlists I’ve been listening to:

Putting Ourselves in the Way of God

I sobbed the night Rich Mullins died. I wasn't a fanatic fan, I was just a 16 year old girl who'd been jostled from a stupor by his lyrics. I still wouldn't awaken fully for another 14 years, but the jostling was powerful still. 

Rich was the first Christian I knew about whose faith—and the wrestle for it—seemed real and not built of principles and precepts and rules and boundaries and all the suffocating things I thought Christianity was. I dreamed about his kind of Christianity for a lot of years, knowing it must be possible to be as jacked up as he was and still as loved as he seemed to think he was. It would be another decade and a half before I'd begin to really understand the way to know the "reckless raging fury that they call the love of God," and that the way to believing we really are that loved is to first admit we really are that jacked up—and to never separate those two confessions from one another ever. 

I sat at a table with a friend last night and we talked, as we have always talked, for as long as I've known her (a few years after the night I cried wet tears with my best friend while we leaned against my bed and listened to the news of Rich Mullins' death on the radio), about the gospel. She has always been a teacher of sorts to me, the one who used the words gospel and grace and predestined and the cross in a way that drew me instead of confused me. She was canning beets and I was drinking water and it has always been that way for her and for me. She, faithful with the work of her hands in a small sustainable farm in upstate New York, parenting her kids, being a wife, listening and sharing sermons, and every day reminding herself and others that the gospel that saved her is the gospel that sustains her and she needs it, oh how she needs it. She's in her 50s and canning beets and telling me again she can't coast by on anything but the kindness of God who draws her to repentance. I want to be like her. 

The thing I love about Rich Mullins, and the thing you do too if you've given any of his lyrics a good hard listen, is that he never let anyone believe he was too big for his britches, too big for a walloping from God, or too important for anyone. I think that's the reason he was barefoot so often, as if to say it's all holy ground, "every common bush afire with God," and yet we're not yet, not yet afire with God. Not all the way through. He wore the garments of sinner and saint well and I want to be like that too. 

I've grown weary of the goodness again, the pretty perfect people. I've grown weary of hearing myself talk or talking at all. The harder I work to be sanctified, the more I despise the person I become, straight-jacketed, self-important, principled, careful, wise, stupid, or naive. I hear more Pharisee in me than Jesus in me. Not because I'm a hypocrite or a white-washed tomb, but because I forget the gospel that saves is the gospel that sustains. 

I read this from Andrew Peterson this morning, the intro to the concert I was a little bit heartbroken to miss. I'm reminded we're all just folks wanting to put ourselves in the way of God, desperate for the kind of affection and attention we think will fix or save or help or reward us. But the thing I think Rich Mullins knew, and my friend who was canning beets knows, and the thing I want to know more than anything is God has put himself in my way.

As a Father he picked up his robes and ran toward our filthy sin-stained rags and our filthy righteous robes. As the Son he became sin. As the Spirit he comes and fills and overflows and empowers us to live today and the next day and the next day and the next, one step in front of another, ragamuffins, but faithful ragamuffins as best as we can understand it. 

There's a wideness in God's mercy
I cannot find in my own
And He keeps His fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
Keeps me aching with a yearning
Keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

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