Sunday, July 28, 2013


 He said,
Come wander with me, Love
Come wander with me

Away from this sad world
Come wander with me

{Agua de Annique}

 Gratitude swells in my heart for my husband who walks through storms with me. I find rest in thanksgiving for this man that I have to wander life with in every passing season. Sheltered by his protective, nurturing love. I have recently read a quotation that resonates with me, "Holding hands is a promise to one another that, for just a moment, the two of you don't have to face the world alone." I know this to be true.


 Under the heavens we journey far
On roads of life we're the wanderers
So let love rise, so let love depart
Let hope have a place in the lover's heart
Hope has a place in a lover's heart.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

the light that breaks through all things broken…

{photography and excerpts from Ann Voskamp's blog}

sunrise like that could make you believe.
Could make you believe that color is real.
Could make you believe that that no matter what the headlines scream, no matter where you stand on the curving earth, we are all held together by the same gravity, that we all share air.
You could stand there and weep at what isn’t.
And at the wonder of being alive, weep for a world where no one takes a slug of steel to the heart, but everyone gets arrested by the beauty of grace, where no one is followed but Christ alone, where everyone is equal and different and the same and distinct and ours is a world that could listen to angels: Be not Afraid.
You could stand there with light on your face and not turn away to the easy of the dark and the status quo and cynicism, and you could believe in a world where no one is profiled but everyone is profoundly valued, where boys walking down the street with Skittles are simply asked if they need a ride home, where grace is the weapon that disarms the dark.
Christ unequivocally proved it.

The cynics and the sarcastics, the critics and the condemning, they speak loud, like they speak the language of this fallen world.
And the diatribes of doubters, dissenters, detractors, this can read like it’s some deep intelligence, the way a tongue, a sharp word, can cut everything back. It means that, I’m told: sarcasm means “to rend the flesh.” But cynics aren’t surgeons and the sarcastic aren’t specialists and why is it so hard to think joy’s a real medicine?
The thing is: The cynics, they can only speak of the dark, of the obvious, and this is not hard. For all it’s supposed sophistication, it’s cynicism that’s simplistic. In a fallen world, how profound is it to see the cracks?
The sages and prophets, the disciples and revolutionaries, they are the ones up on the ramparts, up on the wall pointing to the dawn of the new Kingdom coming, pointing to the light that breaks through all things broken, pointing to redemption always rising and to the Blazing God who never sleeps.
The brilliant don’t deny the dark but they are the ones who always seek the light in everything. This is not ignorance. This is imperative: 
The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.
Always first the eyes. The way we see is the way we’re saved. 

True, there’s no getting around it: There are raw edges everywhere and we’re shattered and serrated and we’d be fools not to moan and bemoan for a doctor. But the Truth is: we have One.
And we lament visceral pain, the way injustice lances and bleeds. But praise God that there is a doctor in the House! And He knows your name and He holds the stars and His girds underneath and He never lets go and He is Joy and He is Light and He is the warrior who defeats the dark.
The language of genuine Biblical lament, this needs learning. But we’re freed from our mother tongue of complaint when we know our Father’s heart.
Light is the radical thing in a dark world.
And nothing of this world wants any of us to live in real joy.
Because Joy is dangerous — it’s igniting and contagious and otherworldly and it wins demon wars. 
And it’s mere ploy to say joy is Pollyanna– because joy is revolutionary: it goes straight against the way this dark world spins.
“But why are they called chinese lanterns?” She climbs out of the ditch behind me.
And I kneel and I show her:
“Because inside ….” and I turn the stem….
“…when everything else dries and withers away, there is this seed – this light inside that will scatter, that will multiply everywhere.”
And she points to the light that breaks through all things broken… 
And we gather the grasses and berries and lanterns into arms and walk home through the woods, through a dying, fallen world, —
nothing stopping even the trees from enflaming joy, all glory.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

of idleness and birthing creative fruit

Focus seems out of my grasp lately. I find myself wrestling with my inability to create anything substantial lately, whether in prose or song. My mind feels distracted. I do not enjoy the feeling of scattered thoughts. I came across a quotation from the poet/writer, Rainer Maria Rilke, this past week that I thought was fitting to my current state of mind: 

We lead our lives so poorly because we arrive in the present always unprepared, incapable, and too distracted for everything.

 I am beginning to feel like this is an accurate description of my days as of late. There is an apparent lack of direction or fruit from them that irks me terribly. I realize I lean too heavily upon seeing results instead of the patient, daily sowing and watering of seeds. Perhaps, there is something I am missing? A key ingredient that will bring abundance again? I am sure there are methods, disciplines, and levels of self-effort to push me to perform in the ideal manner. But, I do not desire a robotic, systematic way of pushing through days of static and the tension of idleness. 

I want an organic life. Embracing tensions. Living every interval of dissonance.  

Behind much idleness there is a restlessness, a waiting, a yearning. Even as I busy myself with practical, daily activities, my mind and heart feel inactive. Listless. Waiting for the moment to break through when every part of me is engaged and functioning and creating on the same level. Yet,  I am believing there is something to be found in the idle days. I am trusting that there is gold for the formation of our character and the edification and strengthening of the relationship between us and Emmanuel. Perhaps, idleness is not a dreaded cloud that we must fight against to move to a state of productivity. In the words of Rilke, I find there is a wisdom for this case of idleness:

 I have often wondered whether especially those days when we are forced to remain idle are not precisely the days spent in the most profound activity. Whether our actions themselves, even if they do not take place until later, are nothing more than the last reverberations of a vast movement that occurs within us during our idle days. In any case, it is very important to be idle with confidence, with devotion, possibly even with joy. The days when even our hands do not stir are so exceptionally quiet that it is hardly possible to raise them without hearing a whole lot. 

Rilke couldn't have known that there was a depth behind his words that he had barely grasped. I think, for the Christian, it can be said something very similar with the emphasis upon the Holy Spirit's steady, patient work within these clay dwellings of our bodies. To be idle with confidence, with devotion, and possibly even with joy is freshly obtainable in our Lord, who works all things for our sanctification, who teaches us in the small whispers of every day. I truly believe He requires our idle spirits because that is where He can call forth things in our hearts that we barely know exist. Perhaps, these things, gifts, callings, visions, etc...perhaps, they are things we have long ignored or denied, or been completely unaware of in ourselves. He doesn't need us to be moving, working, and doing in a constant haze of effort. I think clouds of idleness our those seasons when we need to truly feel our innate restlessness. To know there is an abundance beyond. To grow in a trust that there is a kind Savior who will take us from glory to glory.

I once believed there to be work that was more spiritual than the other. I, quite often, placed the pursuits of life on a scale of more spiritual versus less spiritual, more Christ-glorifying and less Christ glorifying. But, through the gentle instructions of the Holy Spirit, I am beginning to relax my tight, spiritually-charged grip and grasping the hand of my Lord instead. Can He show me how to live this life most fully in a way that pleases and brings glory to His name? The "can He?" turns into "Will He?" "Does He want to be this close, this personal in my life?" He tears down my expectations of this life again and again. He gives me vision to see further, to see beyond the horizon that I sketched with my loose plans and dreams and ideas that seemed so...well, so Christian. So scripted. So boxed together in such a pretty fashion...surely, there is no way that there could be anything more spiritual and Christ-centered for me to do than those things which were so clear, so black and white, cut and dry, so founded upon His Scriptures? But, I sketch Him out like I know everything there is to know about Him and I forget....He is a mysterious God. Knowable. Distinct. Reachable. Intimate. Near. Yet, His heart and mind are unfathomably deep. His plans, no one could ever know. 

There is nothing more spiritual for me to be or to do than this place I am now. To sit and to breathe the hours of time, slowly and reverently. To know, on my most idle and restless day, Christ in me. Performance, circumstance, and location does not make Him any closer to me, nor qualify me as anymore holy or spiritual than I am with this simple truth of Christ in me.

I stumbled across a Carmichael quotation today. Ah, Amy. A kindred spirit. A missionary we can all idealize, but one who knew that the every day living of missionary work was not the romantic pursuit everyone likes to dream it is. It had its grand moments, but it was slow work. It was hard work. It was ordinary work. 
She understood intimacy with Christ in such a sweet, personal way. Her writings always communicate her union with Him. 

We have many songs concerning our Beloved; we often sing them, and listen to them being sung. All such songs were written in the Heavenly places where we "sit" when we are nearest to our Lord. In no other place can a true song concerning the Beloved be written. In no other place can it be truly sung of Him or truly sung to Him. (Amy Carmichael)

Even now, I have songs in my heart. Songs that haven't found their formation in chord progressions and rhythms. Songs that I know are waiting to arrive, to deliver healing to others, and to call forth the destiny of many individuals.

I think I sound a little crazy. I will be honest; I think I am just wasting a lot of time. 
Nevertheless, I have a belief in me that there will be a ripe harvest in this area of my life which has so often felt like an empty field. I have let weeds gather there because I needed to give up the work to Him. He calls me back to it now. But now in the way one would expect. He is training my eye to remain, not on the fruit to be received, but on the formation of the rows, the breaking up of the fallow ground, the formation of a seed, the moisture of the earth, the position of the sun, and the long walk, back and forth, between each row, concentrating upon each newly planted seedling, and the amount of water needed for each day's portion.  

Back and forth, back and forth. Entrusting. Surrendered to the quiet.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

favorite place

Be a Bethany. 

Biblical truth has a way of being so simple and, yet, so intricate. More of an unfathomable mystery than a puzzle that I can put together with a bit of self-willed brain-power. 

I had the immense pleasure of completing the book on the image to the right of this post. God's Favorite Place on Earth, written by Frank Viola. I did not intend to write a review on this, but I am compelled to writing something because of the way it has resonated with me. My wonderfully kind and generous in-laws (truly my second parents) sent us a copy of this book last month and I quickly devoured it. 

It was perfectly timed. 
The book is about Bethany. We know the "characters" well...Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. 

These passages from Scripture have deep, relevant, and abiding meaning for me because of some difficult and grieving experiences I have often felt myself drowning in through the years. There have been moments, in these trials, when I have felt the the hopeful sensation of drawing near the water's surface. The sun's rays kissing the face of the glassy surface, my hands reaching out to know the first, full breath. Then, to be pulled under again in the violent thrust of liquid force, desperately thinking my last thoughts and emotions will be merely sheer panic and then all will be done. Anger and sorrow intermingle and I want to surrender to the underwater vortex and let it suck the oxygen from my frame. Exhaustion and devastation fills my being because I am tired, done, finished with everything. I just want to go Home.

Perhaps, some can relate to this feeling when afflictions and trials seem relentless.

Frank Viola has a beautiful way of writing a narrative from Lazarus' point-of-view about what he may have thought, felt, and experienced during Jesus' time in Bethany and through Lazarus' own death-to-resurrection miracle. Every other chapter, Frank does a sort of "teaching," filling in the gaps between Lazarus' narrative with Scripture and a study of our Lord's heart and Word.

In essence, this book is a deep, tender, and firm exhortation to be a Bethany.

And what was Bethany? 

Bethany was a place where Christ was completely received
A place where one learns that service flows from communion with Him
A place to sit His feet, to listen to Him, to respond
A place of friendship with the living God.
A place where He is cherished
A place of death, but also resurrection
A place where our suffering is not explained, but where He reveals Himself to us. 
A place where His delays do not mean a lack of His love, but an abundance about to be poured out.
A place where God's people are set free from bondage.
 Free from the "bondage to dead religion, bondage to legalism, bondage to sin, bondage to the world, bondage to guilt and shame, bondage to the flesh, bondage to the curse of the Law..." (Frank V.) and bondage to the applause of man, bondage to a set of rules, a list of expectations from self or others, bondage to what you set your hope on outside of Christ, bondage to security and identity anywhere or in anyone but Him. 

But lest we forget, there were some incredibly frail, vulnerable, and harsh moments in Bethany. Martha knew that very well.

Martha had three reasons to be offended by her Lord. 
First, Jesus did not arrive in time to heal Lazarus. Second, Jesus' words to the messenger could easily have been interpreted to mean that Lazarus would not die. Third, Jesus did not show up for Lazarus' funeral. In the first century, those who died were buried immediately. Six days of morning followed. If close friends were not in attendance during the burial, it brought shame upon the family and the deceased. 
 Martha may have also felt slighted when Jesus asked for Mary after He arrived in Bethany. Perhaps she thought to herself, It doesn't matter what I do or say, it's always about Mary!
 Regardless, being offended by the Lord is something that touches us all. (Frank Viola)

Jesus spoke, in Matthew 11:6, "Blessed is the one who is not offended by me..."
He was speaking to His followers. 
We all have felt it. The sting of His silence when we really needed Him. 
He demands too much. He doesn't meet our expectations. And, He certainly never shows up on time. 

Yet, near His nail-pierced feet, we find that we desperately need freedom from our expectations of Him. Sometimes, those expectations, those desires, those wants, although good, may blind us from simple receiving our Lord more fully. It is where we learn to utter, in true humility for the very first time, the words that Job uttered so long ago: "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:10)  

A humbled spirit that does not expect God to change or reverse circumstances, but trusts Him to hold our hearts through the turmoil. 
A humbled spirit that waits for our Lord's redemptive purposes to be revealed at the proper time. 
A humbled spirit that accepts we do not need answers or explanations, but to trust our Father's heart is truly kind and good when the sufferings of humanity and life on this earth make us swollen with grief and insurmountable pain. 
A humbled spirit that trusts. Not trusting superficially. Not trusting perfectly. But trusting in increasing endurance and perseverance that hope in Christ shall never put us to shame because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5).

 A humbled spirit, though initially offended by Him, unfolds into a flower of tender petals, allowing one's self to be plucked by His redemptive hands.

Bethany is the place where mystery and majesty collide. It is the place where human power and hope come to their painful end. It is the place where the immortal utterance of Jesus, "I am the Resurrection and the Life," is encountered in living color. (Frank Viola)

In Bethany, Jesus is fed, cared for, and lavished upon the very finest - our hearts poured onto Him in full abandon. Bethany is a place where He touches us and we touch Him. A place that is spiritually rich, not barren. He wants you and me to be a spiritual-Bethany. 

The Bible opens with the Spirit of God "hovering" or "brooding" over the face of the deep. There we discover that the Spirit was seeking a dwelling place for God, a place where He could commit His presence. And from the tabernacle of Moses to the temple of Solomon to the tabernacle of David to the temple that Ezekiel saw in his vision, God has sought a home on this earth. Listen to His words through Isaiah the prophet. 
"Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?"
 Bethany represents the fulfillment of that prophetic cry. It represents the Lord's heart for every Christian and every church. (Frank Viola)

Read the stories of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus afresh with the sweet reminder that your Maker, your Husband, your Lord and Friend wants to intimately unveil His heart to you in a way you never knew before. 

That is how I shall read these rich passages and chapters from the Gospels.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  

She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” 

(John 11:25-27)