Archives for December 2011

Five Minute Friday: Open

It’s the last Friday of 2011. Wow, that year just sorta flew by, didn’t it? We’ve been on a brief vacation this week, enjoying the beauty of the Cambria coastline in central CA with our older daughter and her family. I’ve tried to keep up with reading but am failing miserably. And writing? Fuggedabout it. But this favorite 5 minute prompt? I’ll give it a try as Friday winds down. Check out Lisa-Jo’s collection every Friday at  And if you feel like joining in, go for it! 

Driving north on Highway 1 this week, we were stopped for about 20 minutes due to single lane driving as a new bridge and tunnel are being constructed. I loved the way the bridge we landed on opened up to the view and yet cast its own shadows that were interesting, even beautiful to behold. I’d like my life to be open to the view, the heavenly view! And I love looking for shadows of heaven in the here and now

This week’s prompt:



“Open my eyes, that I may see,
glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear,
voices of truth thou sendest clear;
and while the wavenotes fall on my ear,
everything false will disappear.

Open my mouth, and let me bear
gladly the warm truth everywhere;
open my heart and let me prepare
love with thy children thus to share.”*

An old song,
filled with strange language,
yet speaking truth still.
This is what weaves its way
through my mind
and my heart
as I walk through this day,
wondering how to respond
to this Friday’s prompt.

The song is a prayer,
a prayer I echo – 
sometimes hesitantly,
sometimes even fearfully,
but echo it, I do. 


And I would add to these:

A new year comes, Lord.
A new year.
May I receive it 
grace and gratitude,
hope and anticipation,
quietness and strength. 

Open me right up.


*This hymn was written by Clara H. Scott in 1895. The text comes from Psalm 119:18 – “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”


From the Inside Out: A Guest Post

I sit here in the warm sunlight, enjoying the Pacific Ocean as it rolls onto the sands of a nearby beach. It’s a day alone for me – a rare treat. Even in this first full year of retirement, I’m finding it hard to do. It took me a long time to learn how much I need this – time spent quietly alone.

For most of my life, I’ve had my radar turned 100% outward. Is everybody out there okay? Is there anything I can do to help if you’re not okay? And if you’re not okay right this minute, what should I be doing to help make sure you are okay within the next minute?

I was about seven years old when my mother very carefully told me that it was a daughter’s job in life to be sure her mom was okay. She didn’t use those exact words, but I got the message. Yes indeed, I most definitely got the message. Just as she had gotten the message from her mother, and my grandmother had gotten it from her mother. A strange sort of family legacy, a secret code and a very particular set of expectations: girl children, particularly eldest girl children, exist to take care of others. A long list of others – parents, first, last and always – followed closely by husbands, children, extended family, friends in trouble, anyone in need.

But here’s the deal – that kind of living can just plain wear you out. The year I turned 45, I knew I was empty. Empty.

If you’d like to read the rest of this post, may I invite you to jump over to Tamara Lunardo’s wonderful site, “Tamara Out Loud,” and read it there? About 3 months ago, Tamara invited her readers to submit possible guest posts. So I did. And lo, and behold – she opted to put it up on her space. I’m deeply grateful for her generosity – and for her open and honest presence out here in cyberspace. She always tells the truth, even when it’s hard truth, and she quite often tells it with either a.) a sharp sense of humor or b.) a deep well of compassion. And sometimes she offers up both at the same time. It’s a special place. She is currently collecting submissions for a community book based on a post of hers titled, “What’s a Woman Worth?” Once you’re over at TOL, check the archives for that one. Stunning.

Here’s the link for today’s guest post:    I’d be honored and grateful if you’d follow me over there.

Thanks to Carol Garvin for catching a faulty link to this post. Try this one instead:


Guest Post: A Christmas Remembered

My friend Linda Thomas over at Spiritual Memoirs 101 put out a call for Christmas stories at the end of November, promising to publish one of them during Christmas week. She actually chose FOUR and mine is in that fourth slot today. 

Christmas was one week away. As usual, I had more to do than I had hours in the day. Would I manage to keep all the plates twirling overhead as the final countdown loomed? Just the night before, our nine-year-old had played in a school concert; he complained that his foot hurt and I noticed that he limped as the brass section marched into place.

That morning, he clearly didn’t want to go to school; he was slightly feverish, so I told him he could take the day off, tagging along on my errands. “You can rest in the car at the grocery store, honey, but I’ll need you to come in with me at church. I’ve got a rehearsal for Sunday morning.”

As our trio sang into the microphone, I kept one eye on the balcony, where I watched Eric entertaining himself. My tall, lanky son was crawling his way around the balcony floor. “That’s odd,” I thought.

Come along over to Linda’s place to read the rest of this disquieting Christmas experience, one that was redeemed by grace and healingYou can find it here.


Christmas Reflections

The church is full on Christmas Eve. Elbow to elbow, friends and family nudge in to make space for late-comers. A trio of angels surround the Advent candle circle, gleaming in the soft light of early evening. 

In a lovely piece of encircling grace, the same family whom I wrote about way back when lit the Christ candle for this first Christmas Eve service in 20+ years where I have no role to play. That year they were new to our community. This year, he is the new associate pastor and his little ones are almost all grown up.

That final singing of “Silent Night” is always moving to me, watching the light spread throughout the room, reminding me

each time that the smallest candle can light the way. Just the smallest of flame, in a sea of darkness.

The next day, I watch from the kitchen as the morning sun lights up the soft honeyed-hues of the hardwood floor, bouncing off the ornaments on our fully-loaded tree. Just three of us for Christmas breakfast – my husband, my mother and me.

She comes to the table shivering a little bit – she always shivers when she comes here, even if it’s August – because at 90, she is always cold. But we’ve turned on the small gas fireplace near the breakfast table and she soon warms enough to smile and sit down to eat.

I’ve made pumpkin waffles – made them on her small waffle maker which I just moved from her house to mine. She is nearly blind, needs hearing aids, and is so forgetful that cooking is getting to be hazardous, so we’re moving her into an assisted living apartment the first week of 2012.

To see her like this causes me physical pain. Always bright, charming, funny, beautiful, my mother is now a worried, frail, confused old woman. And she knows it. She is frightened by it and frequently in tears.

But breakfast is good – she eats 4 squares of waffle, adding whipped cream and fresh berries to a couple of them, and seems quite content. This is the most she has eaten in several days and it gives me a strange feeling of comfort to be able to give her something that suits her, that makes her want more.

There isn’t much room for ‘more’ in her life just now. She can barely manage what is. In fact, the tension surrounding this move has made every symptom worse and I wonder – will settling into this new space bring improvement? Stability? Less worry for me and less fear for her?

We spend much of Christmas day doing quiet things – napping for mom, computer work for me. I open the back gate so that she can go out and wish my brother a Merry Christmas. My youngest brother, the one who died two years ago and whose ashes are buried beneath a fledgling oak in our side yard. My brother who had no life when he died – housed in a sober living residence, loving AA, dealing with a severely damaged heart. He died in his sleep one early October morning and my mother has not been the same since that hard day.

We drive to my daughter’s home in the late afternoon sunlight, admiring the crystal clear view of the Channel Islands as we cruise down the 101. It’s beautiful out there, and beauty brings its own kind of comfort, reminders of goodness and life and Something/Someone bigger than we are.

The children are wild and wonderful when we arrive – glad to see us, making us feel welcome and loved. My small mom, who had dissolved in tears almost immediately after speaking with my remaining brother by phone earlier that afternoon – she breaks out in a sunny smile, clapping her hands to see the energy and liveliness of my grandchildren as they play together.
After the food, after the crazy-making ripping through paper and ribbon and box and bag, we all help mom out to the car that will carry her home through the night. She has trouble navigating the uneven flagstone walkway, so a son and a son-in-law both offer cell phone flashlights, I offer a strong arm, my husband goes ahead to open car doors. I help her up into her seat – she is shivering again in the frosty night air – and I buckle her seat belt. There. She is safely stowed for the last leg of this long weekend journey.
But really, is my mother safe? No, I don’t think so. There is nothing safe about the fragility of her life, there is nothing safe about slowly coming unraveled, there is nothing safe about losing yourself, piece by agonizing piece.

“God alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken,” the psalmist sings out.

Perhaps there is safety there. Yes, I will choose to believe that. In every way that truly counts, my mother is safe, she will never be shaken. 

Even when she stumbles, even when the tears come, even when she forgets who I am, even when she forgets who she is.

Even then. 

Even then

I am more thankful than I can possibly put into words to be heading out of town for four days with my husband and our oldest daughter and her family. We need a spell away from these concerns that hang heavy so much of the time. I may find time to write while we’re gone and I may not. We’re bringing some projects to work on – I got a new scanner for Christmas and my eldest grandson is going to help me figure out how to use it. Because, you see, I have literally THOUSANDS of old photos/negatives/slides that need to be digitized and stored. And we’re bringing some watercolor supplies. Dick and I don’t ‘do’ art, but Lisa and her crew? They’re all gifted and love to spend time just dinking around with simple instructions and basic art supplies. So we’ll try it – maybe we’ll like it! I am posting this today with quite a list of friends because I don’t know when I’ll post again this week. And then the next week, I move my mom. So, those of you who know me enough to pray for me, I’d appreciate your thoughts over these days, both the restful ones and the stressful ones. I will, as always, carry you with me as I go.

On In Around button

Wondering at Christmas

For the last several months, I’ve had the pleasure and the privilege of connecting with a smaller circle of bloggers through the kind invitation of Seth Haines, over at his Collective blog. Anyone who subscribes to his blog by email is invited to write about their own journey in an email round-up each month. I gotta tell you, there is some wonderful stuff offered in that space. Seth and his wife Amber are both wonderful writers, showing up all over the place, at A Deeper Story and (in)Courage and I am grateful for their kindness to me each month. I went back in and read what I added for December and thought I’d put a piece of it out in this place, just for the heck of it. I liked what I wrote, and I don’t always. So I offer it, with a few tweaks, as a very small Christmas gift to you tonight. This month, we were invited to write about our experience of Advent in 2011, and this was written before I made the trip south to pack things for my mom.
Wondering. That’s what I’m doing a lot of this Advent.

In both senses of that word.

I am wondering how to help my failing mama make a move to assisted living. The physical part is easy – I’ll travel 250 miles round trip this week, spend three days and clear out her cupboards and closets. Her apartment is small, her possessions few. I can do this part. The emotional part? That’s a lot tougher. Finding that inner centered place of calm and quiet, speaking words of peace and comfort from that place, not giving in to either frustration or sorrow. That takes intentionality, that takes care. I’m praying both will appear in abundance over the next three weeks.

I am wondering about other family members who are facing into difficult decisions in weeks ahead, people I love and admire, some of them Jesus followers, some of them not.  How can I help? How can I listen?

I am wondering about how to more fully live into whatever ‘retirement’ means – to write good words, to listen well to directees and to the Spirit, to be present for my family, to carve out sufficient time and space for my own inner health.


I am also wondering at the immensity of God’s love and the scandal of his Grand Plan.

I am wondering at the quietness of a starry night, at the obedience of gnarly shepherds and foreign kings, at the day-by-day, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other faith of a small-town carpenter and a teenaged girl, great with child.

I am wondering at the singing sky, the celestial company who ring out words of peace and comfort, the messengers of God who serve as sentinels for GLORY.

I am wondering how to receive this infant king, this One who comes in the way that each of us comes – bursting forth from the cocoon of pulsing blood and salty water into the harshness of cold air, pungent with the scent of life-on-earth.

How can I embrace this One who embraces me and all of life?

How can I say, ‘Welcome,’ and ‘Thank you,’ and ‘Bless me, O Lord, for I have sinned’ to One so small, so innocent, so vulnerable?

I am wondering if I can make space inside my heart-of-hearts for a baby’s bed, clean and comfy, well-lit and protected, welcoming and warm. I do so want to do that, just that.

Even so, come Lord Jesus. Come.

Merry Christmas, everyone! May the WONDER of the Story brighten your day and the year ahead.

And on a lighter note…Advent Four: Christmas Pageant!

It had been a rugged few days and we were bone tired.
An easy 300+ miles on the car;
four nights in a bed not our own;
days spent dealing with a weeping and worried aging mom,
packing and schlepping and packing some more.
But the last Sunday in Advent dawned crisp and cool,
our daughter’s warm hospitality had soothed our frayed nerves, and three of our grandsons were going to participate in their church’s annual Christmas Pageant.
We got there early, and caught a glimpse of the beautiful set created by a team of church members.
Oooh, it was going to a great morning!
And we even managed to catch a glimpse of angels
eating snacks. Who knew they liked grapes?
 Grandson #3 enjoyed them!
 And grandson #1 got ready to play in the band – drums and keyboard.
 The story unfolded as Gabriel made an appearance in a cleverly-concealed-by-shifting-clouds hole-in-the-sky,
announcing the arrival of the Messiah to Mary. (complete with British accent!)
 The shepherds arrived en masse, along with a few very adorable sheep.
 And the adults joined the Grace Notes children’s choir for a lovely “Angels’ Song.”
 Grandson #2 is in the middle here. I love how he is sandwiched between someone older and someone younger, all joining their voices to sing praise to God.
 The star in the east appeared – and disappeared – at various points during the morning.
 Colby read his part of the narrative masterfully.
 And a lonely shepherd (note his non-desert footwear) stood watch outside the town of Bethlehem.
 Where he was soon joined by an interesting assortment of wise men, one of them in gold tights (I kid you not), all of them arguing about whose turn it was to watch for the star and who was bringing the gold.
 Finally, they all found the manger and the baby, and Joseph and Mary sang a lovely duet. What? You don’t remember that from Luke 2??
 And our littlest angel watched quietly from the sidelines.
 Loved watching this older angel try and find a comfortable position for his gangly self. Somehow his thoughtful expression reminded me of Rodin’s Thinker!
 Before we knew it, the kids had sung a rousing chorus of “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” inviting us all to join in at the end, and the benediction had been offered.
The remains of the day 
found themselves in piles across the front of the sanctuary, ready to be returned to the church from which they had been borrowed.
Shepherds garb,
 angels’ wings,
 royal gifts,
 and little lambs, all in a row (joined by the sparklingest pair of pink books I’ve ever seen!).
 Only one light left gleaming in the little town, soon to be put away for next year. Sigh.
After it was all over, our 13-year-old consented to one photo. So serious! He is now taller than I am at 5’11” and an interesting and thoughtful young man.
And he looks so much like our girl (who is his mother) that it sometimes causes us both to look twice. 

As we filed out of the sanctuary, filled with the sweetness of the story and the wonder of it all, we noticed the doors at the end of the center aisle. We’ve visited this church a half dozen times and never seen these beautiful wood carvings. The one pictured above is perfect for this particular Sunday in the church year and the other one is of the Good Shepherd with his sheep. Somehow, it felt right to see this picture of the grown-up Babe of Bethlehem, welcoming the children.

For aren’t we all children, even those of us grown old and weary? In fact, if we can stay in touch with that child within, we’re far more likely to experience the power of the story.
If we can see ourselves there, standing with the shepherds, singing with the angels, traveling with the magi – then the story can become part of us.
For it’s this story that tells us, isn’t it?
Oh, that we might all have the eyes of children,
to truly see the wonder that is Christmas,
the glory that is encased in the flesh of that small babe,
the one who grew to welcome children
and to encourage us to be like them.
Merry Christmas, one and all!

This one goes over to L.L’s place and Laura Boggess’s Playdates with God – because really, that’s what it’s about:  On In Around button

A Strange Advent

Life feels so strange just now:
delicate and ponderous,
uncertain and pre-determined,
incomplete, uncomfortable, gaping open,
like a sweater that no longer fits.

She asks the same questions,
over and over and over again.
She worries over the cost,
she wonders what will become of her,
she sobs at her helplessness.

Everything is shifting,
the child becomes the parent,
the parent, a child.
Groping in the dark, she becomes
the fulfillment of the Carpenter’s
long-ago warning:
“…when you were younger
you dressed yourself 
and went where you wanted,
but when you are old
you will stretch out your hands
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where 
you do not want to go.” 

And I am the one in the lead.

I do not like it very much.
No, I do not like it at all.

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

The heavily pregnant Mary has been wandering the curving road to the House of Bread, Bethlehem. And she is almost there. We have been moving the candle each night that we’ve been home, moving it along the wooden spiral created by Caleb Voskamp at the tender age of 15. And we have been reading from Katharine Johnson’s lovely Jesse tree devotional, using icons her 14-year-old daughter painted. And weaving in and around these lovely pieces of young art has been the sad story of my aged mother’s move to assisted living, a move made necessary by blindness and memory loss.

And this is the cycle of life, isn’t it? We all grow old, all of us who were once young. We grow old. And we die. Some of us die relatively quickly; some of us take a long time. But each journey is fraught with uncertainty, with fear, with loss and with difficult decisions. 

I think maybe the story we tell during each Advent season can bless us on this journey of aging. If we let it. The mother of Jesus was young, very young. And her world was turned upside down by events she neither planned nor expected. Scripture tells us that she said ‘yes’ to the unexpectedness of it all, that she said, “Let it be.” “Let it be to me according to your word.”

And Joseph did the same. He folded Mary in on the strength of a dream, he took on her shame, he took on her boy. He, too, said, “Let it be.” 

And the two of them together, they took that curving road to the House of Bread. They found their way to an inhospitable and unwanted ‘home’ for the night. They spilled their tears and their blood on the ground of that dark cave so that Jesus, Emmanuel, might be birthed into our world. Together, they said, “Let it be.”

And they did it without knowing what they were doing, as all of us who take on the task of parenting do. We do not see into the future, we cannot know the pain, or the joy, that will come with the years.

But we can say, and we can live, this truth: “Let it be.” 

We can take it all, the love and the laughter, the anger and the tears; the hopes and dreams and the harsh realities and stern wake-up calls; the energy of youth and the exhaustion of old age; the promise of life and the sober questions about death – we can take it all firmly in hand, receiving each piece as gift, and we can say: “LET IT BE.” 

According to your word. According to your word.

I write tonight with a mixture of both sadness and of gratitude. I am grateful for the family I was born into, for my father’s passion for music and learning and family; for my mother’s graciousness, hospitality, great good humor and sharp mind; for my brother Tom’s keen wit, kindness, loyalty and tenderness; for my brother Ken’s sweetness despite a lifetime of heartache. My father has been gone for almost seven years now; my brother Ken for two. My mom is moving closer to the end of life (aren’t we all?) and Tom and I are each dealing with a plateful of challenges. As we left the mortuary after saying good-bye to Ken, Tom put his arm around my mother and me and said, “We’re down to just three now, aren’t we?” Yes, we are. And who knows when we will be just two. I pray daily for the grace to stand with Mary and Joseph, for the strength to remain steadfastly hopeful and thankful, even in the midst of loss and sorrow. Some days it’s a struggle. Some days it’s as easy as breathing. All days, I am grateful to God for each breath I am granted. And this day, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year. 

Adding this to the list at several places this week. Please check them all out and read a few here and there. Always richness to be found in these places:

 tuesdays unwrapped at cats


Five Minute Friday: Connected

The stresses of the season combined with the stresses of helping my unraveling mom to prepare for her move to Assisted Living the first week of January have combined to make writing difficult this week. We drove two hours last night to spend 4 nights with our middle daughter and her family. They’ve welcomed us, even in the midst of last-week-of-school-before-the-Christmas-Break craziness. Today – and tomorrow and Saturday – I drove (and will drive) the last 30 minutes to my mom’s and dig into her cupboards, sorting into throwaway/give away/this-makes-the-move piles, finding just the right sized bins to put things in for her new walk-in closet. This new space is considerably smaller than her independent living apartment and things will have to be downsized. And as I ask what to keep, her shoulders sag, her voice drops as she says, “Whatever. Do whatever.” And I find myself fighting tears of sadness and tears of frustration. Why must it be so hard to get old? I ask myself, I ask the universe, I ask God – the Keeper of the keys, the Mystery I both cling to and kick against every day. 

So…I will write for 5 minutes, as I try to do most weeks. Because I love Lisa-Jo Baker and I love her blog and I love her heart. And I love her weekly invitation to let it fly – no holds barred, no editing allowed…for just 5 minutes.

This weeks prompt: CONNECTION


What are these threads that connect mother and daughter in life? They are surely different than the ones that connect mother and son. They are sinuous and strong, sometimes lovely and sometimes choking, sometimes life-giving, sometimes frighteningly powerful and strongly negative. 

This is a season to think about mothers and babies. Maybe the only time in the Christian year when we do focus on what it means to mother a child. But…we’re looking at a mother/son combo this week and next – not too many answers to my queries about mothers and daughters to be found. (In the years when I taught Confirmation to 7th and 8th graders, I had a really bright young woman who asked point blank: how can Jesus know what I’m dealing with – he wasn’t a girl. Ah, yes. Good question. Maybe another post!)

But these mom/girl threads – they are so silky strong sometimes. I remember Lisa-Jo agonizing about becoming mom to a daughter, wondering if she could figure it out after losing her own mother at the tender age of 18. Rightly, she is finding that in mothering her own little girl, she is re-discovering some of the wonder of her own mother, long lost. And for those mother-wonders, I give thanks daily.

But the ties bind uncomfortably sometimes. There is a level of commitment that comes from this connection, a feeling never asked for, but nonetheless present and so very real. And sometimes it feels absolutely overwhelming.


Not totally thrilled to read what came out of these fingertips tonight. This is one to be prayed over and through and around and about – now and forever, amen. Sigh. Five minutes isn’t anywhere near long enough for all these layers and levels of both joy and pain.

Advent 3: Good News!

It was the music that did it.
Two violins, three flutes, electric and acoustic guitars, piano, two male vocalists.
And of course, the arrangements.
(Thank you, Bob Gross)
As we sang, a lush accompaniment buoyed us, with pieces of familiar carols circling around the praise choruses.
I could hear, “Away in the Manger” over and above the words to, “Amen, Amen.”
 We sang songs about waiting, songs appropriate for this season.
And then we sang this small chorus, a setting of the words from the Old Testament lesson for the morning, Isaiah 61:1-11.
And something about the way this song was worded,
the way the melody housed those words,
the way we all sang it together – well, it just got me.
“Beauty for ashes, garments of praise for my heaviness.
Beauty for ashes, take this heart of mine and make it Yours.
I delight myself in the Richest of Fare,
trading all that I’ve had for all that is better;
a garment of praise for my heaviness.
You are the greatest taste.” 
I thought about my mother and her increasing frailty.
I thought about my brother and the hard things he is dealing with.
I thought about my daughter and how she is living this truth so beautifully just now, after a long season of ashes.
I thought about my own life and how the good news is what I hunger for, the good news that takes ashes away and replaces them with beauty; that takes heaviness away and replaces it with gossamer thin, lightweight, flowing garments of praise.
And I wept.
Tears of sadness, yes.
But tears of truth, too.
Tears of yearning, I think.
Yearning for the people I love to experience good news in their lives. Yearning to be one who carries that good news, who channels it, who shares it, who lives and releases and savors it. 
This, tall graceful angel – a word that means ‘messenger’ in the biblical text – this angel stands guard over the word, trumpeting the message of truth and love and grace to all who will listen. She is surrounded by evergreens and candlelight, pungent pinecones and softly glinting ornaments.
 And as I gazed at her during worship, I found myself listening for good news as the word was read: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (which I wrote about yesterday) and Luke 1:26-38, the record of Mary’s visit with one of those messengers of God and her remarkably poised response. Not asking, ‘Why?’ Only asking, “How?”
What might have seemed like terrifying news was apparently received as GOOD news by this young woman.
And I wondered.
Do I know how truly ‘good’ this news is?
Do I believe it, deep down in the marrow of me?
Do I live as though I believe it?
The preached text for the morning was full to the brim with all kinds of good news:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives,
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion –
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

These words of Isaiah the prophet are the very words Jesus read out into the synagogue as he began his ministry.
These words spell out what the Good News looks like, how it reads, how it rolls.

And here’s the kicker:
these are also the words that describe what we are to look like as we follow in the dusty footprints of our Savior.
These are the truths that describe what disciples are supposed to be and to do.
We are to be those who bring:
the bandages,
the keys to long-locked places,
the elixir of freedom to the darkest of cells,
the words and the deeds,
the hugs and the home-cooked meals,
the prayers and the extra miles,
the very scent of the oil with which Jesus was anointed – 
the oil of joy in the midst of despair.
So the question I’m left with, after the music and after the tears, is this one:
Do I smell like Jesus? 
 Does my life carry the scent of invitation,
of welcome and renewal,
of hope and praise and joy?

Not the false scent of polite,
“Oh, I’m just fine, really I am – just fine.”
Not the musky cover-up of pollyannish ‘cheer.’
But the real deal.
The splash of tears when sad things come,
the sigh of frustration when folks don’t ‘get it,’  
the head-thrown-back, hearty laughter at the hilarity of being human, 
the willingness to say, 
“Yeah, this is hard. And I’m sorry it’s happened to you.”
That’s what true good news looks like.
Binding up the brokenhearted cannot happen unless we first admit to our own broken hearts, unless we testify to God’s ability to heal the heaviness we carry.
On the way to our healing,
the Carpenter wept over the city,
he wept at the loss of his friend, Lazarus,
he flung the whips around in anger at injustice in the temple,
he chided his friends for falling asleep while he wrestled so hard with death that he pushed out beads of blood instead of sweat.
Our Healer was broken – by life and the failures of friends rather than by sin – 
but he was broken, even as we are broken.
And we, too, are called to be wounded healers,
messengers of good news in the midst of all kinds of bad tidings.
Because we must carry with us always the powerful truth
that the Christmas tree becomes the cross,
the manger stall becomes the tomb,
and the news must get very bad indeed, before the Truth breaks forth in great waves of goodness on Easter Sunday morning.
 But break forth it does.
For news like this simply cannot be contained.
And it is so very, very good.
Joining with Michelle tonight, with Jen and Emily F. tomorrow, with Ann on Wednesday and Emily W. on Thursday, with thanks for each of them – for their glorious writing skills and their hearts for God: 
tuesdays unwrapped at cats 

Keeping it Simple: A Small Advent Reflection

“Rejoice always,
pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstance,
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.
Do not treat prophecies with contempt,
but test them all; 
hold onto what is good,
reject whatever is harmful.
May God himself,
the God of peace,
sanctify you through and through.
May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful,
and he will do it.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Epistle reading for the 3rd Sunday in Advent, Year B
As I read through the imperatives in these glorious verses, 
I feel overwhelmed with the impossibility of it all.
“Rejoice always.”
 “Pray continually.”
 Are you sure about that?
“Give thanks in ALL circumstances.” 

Man alive, this is just plain IMPOSSIBLE.

And then the negative imperatives –
almost as tough to do as the positives: 
“Don’t put out the Spirit’s fire.” 
 Do that about one hundred times a day, at the very least.
“Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all.” 
do we even have those anymore?
“Hold onto what is good,
reject whatever is harmful.” 
Well, I try to do this.
I really do try.
I mean, this is important, right? 

BIG sigh.
If this passage stopped with verse 22,
I might be tempted to just plain give up
on the whole discipleship project.
This is tough sledding here.

But then… 

then come verses 23 & 24,
and the whole game changes,
in a heartbeat.
Because here it is –
the pivot point of the whole deal,
the truth of the matter,
the proof of the pudding:
At least it’s not all – or even mainly – up to me.

The subject changes from the implied ‘you’
(meaning us, including and especially me),
God himself! 

Well, here it is – read it again for yourself.
It’s the best news ever: 

May God himself,
the God of peace,
sanctify you through and through.
May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
The one who calls you is faithful, 
and he will do it.” 

Well, boy howdy, hallelujah, and AMEN!

 Joining with Deidra’s wonderful new family at JumpingTandem and with Katie Lloyd and all the other wonderful photographers over at Scripture and a Snapshot: