Soul Practices, Part 1: An Introduction


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I’ve never known a world without his hat. There’s a photo of me as a two-year old girl in my daddy’s tall cowboy boots and this big felt hat. I remember when it was crispy and a sleeker, newer brown. He planted the gardens in it. He threw it on when it rained, when the horses had to be watered no matter the temperature outside. It wasn’t even sentimental when I put it on these 35 years later to keep out the cold on our Christmas hike in the woods. It was a given. It’s what we do. How a monk wears a habit, we make habit of putting on Daddy’s giant coats and flannels and hunting caps and work jackets, whatever we can find in the moment to be able to go outdoors when we aren’t prepared.

Daddy has a hat, and I reckon I’ll wear it. This seems to sum up so much of what we do. We do what our parents did – even when we dig our heels in declaring we’ll be different. We may not speak the mantras whispering in our ears, but we’ll daggum turn a blind eye to how deeply our movements agree with what we’ve always been told. Of course, it’s not always a bad thing, not at all. It’s just nature. Nature has a way of taking over like that, like if there’s a summer of illness, and the person living on a property doesn’t get to tend to it and has to let it go wild, the beloved honeysuckle begins to take over. It’s just nature. The honeysuckle chokes the climbing roses and stands up tall and sun-sucking over the hedgerow.

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I see it in my siblings, too. We learned natural, human things from our daddy, and from all those whose DNA and wit and propensities have trickled down to us through generations. We also learned some supremely divine metaphors from them as well. I learned from my daddy that it takes a constant watch and certain tender care to keep some of nature cut back so the good things can grow.

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On our Christmas walk in those steep Alabama woods, we slid down the blackening leaves, hanging to limbs and roots, jutting rocks and briars, all the way down to the silent, dry creek. It had only recently rained after months of drought, so we were low at the bottom of the creek bed, surrounded by huge boulders below the cliffs and caves, when we heard that serene music of water filling a glass. It was a trickle that picked up into pools filling, and then the filling became a whoosh. It was before our very eyes. Climbing up the rocks, exposing ourselves to howling wind, we could see uphill how the water began to lace white. Something must have broken loose.

Like cutting back the vines and like removing a dam to let the water flow, having a daily practice to find oneself in the presence of God is imperative to our health. Because we reflect the trinity, mind and body and soul, when we make choices to break loose the dam to fill up our souls, it affects our minds and our bodies, too. Like when you decide to believe God that He loves you whole-y and holy, and you begin to agree that you’re worth it to eat healthy foods or to read quality literature and to engage Him with your beautiful mind, the soul hears and knows when you agree with God about yourself.

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I want my children to know this. We must practice a tending to the water and the land of our souls, to keep no dam thing between us and God and to keep no vines (or cares of this world) from choking out what makes us the whole and belonging and filled people of God. These practices will carry us when the drought comes. In the practices, even the drought will whisper truths about waiting and humility and faith.

So soon I’ll record here a few Soul Practices that I know are worth it to my entire being, and as I speak of the Soul, notice that I will speak as well of the mind and body, because for now, we are in these aging, practicing, thinking, filling, kingdom-indwelling bodies. Glory be.

See you soon.


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Homesick, Broken, and Full of Desire? I get it.

Maybe we aren’t as far off as we think.

I invite you to read my memoir

Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home.

amberhaines
About me

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2 Comments

Kelli McKnight
Reply January 17, 2017

Amber, for what it's worth....your words make me breathe easier, they fill me up like L'Engle and Oliver and Weiderkehr. I hear the poetry becoming stronger and bolder behind all your posts. You are my kind of writer and as I gracefully unsubscribe to most, you are a keeper. Thank for the reminders my soul needs and unknowingly speaking them in ways that resonate deep.

MK
Reply January 20, 2017

I live in Alabama. We go for Christmas walks in the woods, too. And my Grandmother always shoved her hats into our hands when it was cold, or when the sun was strong.

Your words make sense to me. I live in the woods; I know what happens when the thicket doesn't get cut back at its regular times. I know you can't wait because then it's too late.

"Like when you decide to believe God that He loves you..." Thanks for reminding me about deciding to believe instead of just waiting to be convinced.

And for reminding me that tending our souls is like tending the land or a home. Things work best if they're cared for before the need is dire.

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