Archives for October 2012

31 Days in which I Am Saved by Beauty – Day 31

We’re at the end of the month,
All Hallow’s Eve,
and fall is definitely in the air.
We lose the light this next weekend
and I, for one, will miss the longer afternoons.
Living in a Mediterranean climate,
the signs of fall are more subtle than
in many parts of this great country.
You see it in the changing angle of the light,
you see it on country drives,
as hay is harvested and rolled.
You see it in the bigness of sky,
the sharp horizon line, unmuddied by summer fog
lying just off shore.
Around our home, you see fall in some of our trees.
The birches, just outside the front door, 
turn golden,
shimmering and shaking 
their heart-shaped leaves
in the afternoon breeze.
And you see it in the gingko tree,
that ancient traveler across time,
found in fossil form
around the globe,
its fan-shaped leaf distinctive
and lovely.
Our tree is misshapen and not large,
but its leaves are magnificent,
whether on the tree or off.
The birds love it either way.
We have a small, octagonal window with beveled glass,
one that we salvaged when we added onto this house 
about ten years ago.
We placed it at the peak of the high ceiling in
our bedroom,
where I can look up and out
as I wake each morning.
The gingko branches against the sky
tell me what season we’re in.
I love that.
Bare branches in winter,
nodules bursting into chartreuse in spring,
deepening, thickly-covered branches in summer,
and bright, bright yellow in fall.
As they fall from the tree,
I find them in the nooks and crannies of our yard 
and I marvel.
They die every year.
To make room for new life.
And they scatter themselves everywhere,
in one last hurrah.
I was here!
LOOK at me.
And I do.
I do.

I am a beauty-hunter,
seeking always for evidence
of love and hope and joy
in the world around me.
A friend had this quote on his blog 
last week and it has stuck with me
ever since.
“As soon as beauty is sought not from religion and love,
but for pleasure, it degrades the seeker.”
– Annie Dillard
But here’s what I believe:
if we seek to find beauty around us
because we are indeed 
looking for signs of the Source
of that Beauty,
then we will also find pleasure.
I believe that.
Pleasure is not the goal,
but it is the by-product,
the glorious gifted by-product. 
And in exactly that way,
we are saved by beauty.

Thank you, Lord.

This has been a challenging month on many levels, but I have enjoyed looking for beauty each and every day. I will join this last post in the 31-Day Challenge with Jennifer, Duane, Ann and Emily on this Wednesday and Thursday:

31 Days in which I Am Saved by Beauty – Day 30

A Note of Thanks for a Beautiful Friend

Dear Rachel,

Here’s a scary thought: 

          you are young enough to be my granddaughter! 
(If I’d started having kids really, really young 
and my kids had started having kids really, really young – 
but still!!)

And yet I call you friend. Through these cyber waves only, of course, but friend. That’s what you do, you know. You make friends — everywhere. 

Across all kinds of so-called ‘barriers’ in this world of ours – age/gender/sexual orientation/race/political persuasion/denominations/theological differences. 

Now that last one has proven problematic at points, I know that. You’ve taken a few too many brickbats for my taste. But you’ve handled every single one with grace, honesty, openness. And that is a very rare thing in this world. Very rare indeed. 

You consistently choose to take the high road and you do it with intelligent humility, which is a killer combo in my book. You do your homework, you write with skill and good humor, you listen to criticism, if it’s offered with good will and has merit. 

But you refuse to be cowed by hate-mongers, fear-based misinformation, sideswipes, even outright lies. I salute you, I admire you, I respect you and your work. 

More than that, I am deeply, deeply grateful for your presence out here in this ever-growing world of technological conversation and community. Yes, community. And you have built a wild and wacky one over there at RHE, yes you have! Lots of voices, most of them filled with grace and intelligence, even when they don’t agree with you. 

And then, of course, there are those others, who are not graceful. At all. Sigh. 

But you see what you’ve done, don’t you? You’ve made room –even for those more difficult voices. AND you’ve built a team – to speak right back to them. Your commenting community is among the most articulate and well-spoken I’ve seen anywhere out here. And there are a lot of really fine friends (and far better writers than I) who are writing notes like this to you today. We write because we believe in you. And we believe in what God has called and gifted you to do — on your blog and through your books.

Because we want you to be encouraged today. To know that what you do and what you say and who you are — all of it, all of YOU is valuable to us and to the building of the Kingdom of God in this time, in this place. You are a great gift to the church, Rachel. A great gift. 

So thank you for being brave. Thank you for using that good, good mind God gave you. Thank you for taking on the tough topics, for facing into your fear, for speaking truth and love with well-chosen and wise words. 

Your publisher didn’t choose me as a team member, but I am one anyhow. I have ordered the book and I look forward to reading it, reviewing it, sharing it. 

May you be blessed this day – and every day – by the steady and steadying presence of our Savior. And may you always stand ready to, “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…with gentleness and respect.”  

Because that is exactly what you are doing. And you do it so very, very well.



Joining with a long list of other bloggers in a secret synchroblog to honor Rachel Held Evans on the day of her book launch. You can read all the others over at Jessica Goudeau’s great blog, “Love Is What You Do.” (Isn’t that the greatest blog name ever??) Just click on these sentences and you’re there.

31 Days in which I Am Saved by Beauty – Day 29

I find myself being saved by beauty 
in interesting and various ways of late. 
On Thursday night, in answer to an invitation
from a friend, I hosted a table
at the fund-raising event for our local
Young Life organization.
I was never a part of Young Life as
a student and neither were any of my kids.
But I believe in the work they do,
and I especially believe in 
what our local leadership is doing.
This was the first time I had seen the 
new area director in action.
And let me tell you,
this woman is a ball o’ fire.
Her name is Tanita.
She is beautiful in every way I can think of,
exuding the love of Jesus with every breath.
The youth of this city are in very good hands, indeed.

Then on Friday evening, after a difficult phone 
conversation with my increasingly confused mama,
I took a walk.
Bent over in frustration and worry,
I cried out for patience,
and forgiveness,
and deep reservoirs of love.
And then I looked up.

And this is what I saw:
the mountains glowing pink,
reflecting the setting sun.
And the full moon rising,
shedding its quiet light over the landscape.

Sometimes a quiet light is what is needed.
Just enough illumination for the next step,
the next curve in the road, 
the next smooth space to put your foot. 
I’m not sure I want to look very far down
the road ahead for my mom.
I think it’s going to get increasingly rugged
and difficult and 
a little moonlight
will be just about right. 

As I rounded the driveway and headed away 
from the reflective hills and the rising moon,
I was struck by another view:
this strong, clear silhouette against the dying sky.

Three tall, straight Washington fan palms,
three shorter, sturdier date palms —
quintessential California sentries.
I love them. 

I have not always loved them.
Growing up, I thought they were strange,
sort of purposeless, actually.
Where was the shade?
Where were the finely shaped leaves? 

Somehow, I grew into them. 

I love the rustling sound they make
in the evening breeze. 

I love that birds of all varieties
make their home buried at the 
bottom of those massive fronds. 

These trees speak to me of my own history,
driving to my grandmother’s house,
across concrete roads with asphalt stripes,
clickety-clack, clickety-clack,
every street lined with one variety or another. 

They speak to me of warm, sunny days
and cool, soughing midnight stirring.
They speak to me of continuity,
of presence,
of stability. 

They are long-lived and impervious to drought.
They don’t burn easily, either. 
In fact, it’s really hard to get rid of them
once they’re in place.
We have an upstart next to our backyard shed,
and the fire department is suggesting
we eliminate it.
It breaks my heart,
even though it’s one of my
least favorite varieties. 

I think maybe I need these reminders of longevity
around me right now.
Life can seem fleeting when
you watch your parent slowly disintegrate,
when you see ones you love struggling with
debilitating, life-altering disease,
when you hear the years
creaking in your own bones as you move. 

So I say thank you for palm trees,
and night skies,
and full moons,
and family history.
I say thank you for young women,
picking up the slack,
carrying the torch,
loving Jesus and pouring love into others. 
I say thank you for beauty,
in the world around me,
in the people I meet,
even in my own faltering love for my ailing mom.
Because all of it. . .
every bit of it,
reflects a Beautiful God,
the One who stirs in me,
in all of us,
this longing for beauty —
anywhere and everywhere we can find it.
It is that longing that speaks to
the imago dei within.
It is that longing that leads us to Love.

Joining this reflection with Michelle, Jen, Ann, Laura and Laura – with deep gratitude for their faithful invitation to keep community growing.

On In Around button

31 Days in which I Am Saved by Beauty – Day 28

I love steeples.
All kinds of steeples.
From wood frame churches,
hanging out in small towns,
to tall, stately stone edifices, standing as 
dignified adornments for busy city streets.
I like being forced to stop,
to look up.
I like seeing their silhouettes
against the sky.
I like imagining how long they’ve been standing there,
thrusting upward, 
proclaiming the glory of God.
Because of where we live,
I am particularly drawn to mission style towers.
I love the gentle curves,
the tilework,
the crosses atop.

There doesn’t have to be a cross on the top of the tower
for me to see one there.
Because that’s the beauty of church towers
to my eye —
they all bring to mind the vertical beam
of that old rugged one,
the one that stood on the garbage dump 
just outside the city of Jerusalem
over 2000 years ago.
And that is the most salvific of beautiful things
in my life — that stark reminder of Love in Action.
Thanks be to God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

31 Days in which I Am Saved by Beauty – Day 27

A spot of color and beauty at our lunch stop on Tuesday, driving south on the 101.

“Put the question to our ancestors,
study what they learned from their ancestors.
For we’re newcomers at this with a lot to learn,
and not too long to learn it.
So why not let the ancients teach you, 
tell you what’s what,
instruct you in what they knew from experience?
Can mighty pine trees grow tall without soil?
Can luscious tomatoes flourish without water?
Blossoming flowers look great 
before they’re cut or picked,
but without soil or water 
they wither more quickly than grass.
That’s what happens to all who forget God —
all their hopes come to nothing. 
They hang their life from one thin thread,
they hitch their fate to a spider web.
One jiggle and the thread breaks,
one jab and the web collapses.”
Job 8:8-15 (The Message)

May you find quiet space to learn from our ancestors 
this weekend, friends.
May you have room to enjoy the beauty of flowers,
and pine trees and tomatoes.
And may our lives hang from the Rock, 
rather than ‘one thin thread…’
Joining this with Sandy and Deidra for a small space of quiet this weekend.

31 Days in which I Am Saved by Beauty – Day 26

(read: GOOFY attempt at rhyme) 

There once was a girlie named Gracie,
who had the most beautiful facie.
She woke up with curly curls,
just right for this girly girl,
who loves everything glitzy and lacy.
The kids all sang “to you” at morning prayer,
her uniform left home for free-dress-wear.
She smiled in the morning light,
to mommy’s complete delight,
her grin unveiling the missing pair.

The party continued that night at six,
with grandparents added into the mix.
We dined with great flair, 
she looked SO debonair, 
while sister performed disappearing tricks.

Her dinner completed, she opted to open
the many fun things for which she’d been hopin’.
Some Lego and crafty things,
some money for fun and flings,
and a pink robe to keep her from mopin’.
Dolly’s new cradle, the evening’s most favorite,
led us to table where we all could savor it –
an ice cream cake, she picked it,
but all of us, we nicked it,
and declared it the best-of-all flavor-its.
Enough with the pathetic rhyming –
this big girl of ours is SEVEN,
and growing into such a kind and thoughtful person,
with a great sense of fun,
lots of firm friends,
and she is loving school, learning and piano lessons.
She is God’s gift to all of us —
And that grin is one of the beauties
of this or any other week!

We are so very glad you were born.

31 Days in which I Am Saved by Beauty – Day 25

This has been a physically and emotionally taxing week.
I spent 7 hours on Monday and 7 hours on Tuesday,
in a very nice, but very small car with two friends,
driving up and down this state. 

While I was away from home,
a personal post of mine, written for another site,
showed up at the same time as
a post with a different point of view
was playing right next door –
on the same site. 

The discussion that ensued online
was rich, but often difficult
and sometimes very painful
on several counts. 

While I sometimes agreed with
the position being argued by the more strident
voices, I was strongly against the tone of
those arguments and wondered if we could
learn to talk civilly about it – ever. 
Today, for some reason, I feel less hopeful about that
than I did two days ago. 

I’m not sure why.

Maybe because I’ve got a lousy cold.
Maybe because my husband flew to Chicago
for two days of meetings this morning.
Maybe because someone I love is ill. 
Maybe because as I sat at the beach today,
puzzled by the presence of FOUR Highway Patrol vehicles,
I was stunned to see a coroner’s van pull up,
and watched in shock and dismay
as the body of a man about my age
was forcibly pulled out of his small Honda CR-V.
I prayed for him and his family as I watched.
And I wondered how he selected the wording
of his license plate, which read MESA LVR.*
He had blonde/white hair and nice-looking slacks,
and he apparently died while sitting in his car,
admiring the view. 
I suppose there are worse ways to die,
but still. It was sobering.

So, for whatever reason, I find myself feeling 
pensive tonight.

While in this lack-luster mood,
I flashed through a few of the photographs
I took out the window of that small car on Tuesday.
I shot these pictures through the windshield
as we drove back home, into the setting sun,
following a blustery rainstorm the previous day. 

And as I looked at them, I was reminded again
that beauty stirs my soul like nothing else.
I was also reminded that even a difficult, painful week
can be at least partially redeemed by
the beauty of the ordinary,
the everyday glory of
the sky, the hills,
the vineyards, the trees, 
the beauty around me.

So — for today, for tonight, 
here are some reminders —
for me and for you —
of found beauty,
even in the middle of
of tough and tiring times.
Except for the pictures of fall color (which were taken at an In ‘n’ Out, where we took a bathroom and cold drink break), all of these pictures were shot through the front or side window of a Volvo sedan going about 70mph. And they leave me speechless tonight. Thank you, Lord, for glimpses of glory all along the way. 

*The Mesa is a Santa Barbara neighborhood across town, situated on the bluffs overlooking the harbor.

31 Days in which I Am Saved by Beauty – Day 24

Yesterday was an amazing day.
Startling, sometimes confusing,
interesting and humbling.
In the middle of this 31-day blogging craziness,
I put up this small post to tell you about an essay 
I wrote over at A Deeper Church.
In that brief post, I also urged you to 
read my friend Emily’s post in which 
she asked some questions about the very
topic I was speaking about right next door to her.
The comment thread, especially on her essay,
was pretty overwhelming.

But here is what I feel about it,
late this night,
after spending about 14 of the last 36 hours 
in the car, driving up and down this
magnificently beautiful state of ours:

I feel profoundly grateful.
And humble.
I would happily wash Emily’s feet,
and I believe she would do the same for me.
And that? THAT is a beautiful thing.

I slept last night in a retreat center in Burlingame, CA,
run by the Sisters of Mercy.
Our meeting room there contained about a dozen
magnificent prints by a Japanese artist from the 20th century
named Sadao Watanabe.
I tried to take photos of them all,
but a few of them showed too much reflection from
the hideous (why oh why??) florescent lighting.
These two, however, are perfect.

Two different interpretations 
of the same seminal event
in the life and ministry of our Lord, 
     our Savior, 
          our Christ.

Jesus – the Son of God,
the Creator of the universe,
the only fully Human Being who ever walked
the dusty roads of this globe –
washing the feet of his disciples.

And then telling us to do the same for one another. 

THIS is who we are, dear friends. 

We are the ones who follow Jesus.
We are the ones who share in the bread and cup.

And we are the ones who wash one another’s feet.
Whether we agree with one another on every doctrine or not.
Whether we work at home or outside the home.
Whether we homeschool our kids or send them to school
Whether we even like each other or not! 

We are the ones who wash each other’s feet.

And that – 
     because Jesus did it,
          because Jesus 
               continues to do it through each of us – 

that is BEAUTY. 

Humbly joining with Michelle, Jen, Jennifer, Ann, Duane, and OF COURSE, Emily:

31 Days in which I Am Saved by Beauty – Day 23

In Celebration of the Color BLUE

I am deeply grateful that God saw fit to fill the universe
with a sparkling array of shades of blue.
Blue is cool and calming, 
yet strong and sturdy.
Cerulean, azure, lapis, turquoise, royal.
You can find all of that in sky and water,
at just about any time of day or night.

Water, water everywhere!
And often it shows itself in a beautiful mix 
of aqua, teal, indigo, even navy.

Spinning the wheel right to the edge of violet,
flowers come in blues, too.

Some of my favorite people sometimes 
come in shades of blue, as well.
Lilly, on her blue blanket,

Gracie in her blue dress,
and before he discovered orange, blue was one of Griffin’s
favorites when he was littler.
Joel, dressed in blue, passes birthday goodness to his big brother, Luke,
and Poppy wears it around lots of days, too.
Eric and Griff share a similar shade and a plateful of goodness.
Mom and I squint into the sun, each wearing a piece of coolness.
And this smile – above a blue (or any other color) shirt? Well, that’s one of the most beautiful sights in my world.
We all wore it for our one-and-only family photo shoot.
Places wear this color very well. The Chagall windows at St. Stephen’s church in Germany are among the most spectacular uses of it I’ve seen anywhere.
And we live with a lot of blue around us.
Maybe that’s why we’re such cool, calm, friendly people. (Not.)

And this small winged creature is one of my very favorite
garden guests. Maybe that’s because she, too, is blue?

We try to capture it, we human artists.
And some of us are genius at it. Genius.
But all the beauty we create,
grand and glorious as some of it is,
well — it pales in comparison
to the Master Artist and the splendiferous palette
of creation, don’t you think?

The Mystery of Faith…

There are days when I think that God has an
interesting sense of humor.
Today is one of those days.
I am writing in another space today,
where I write today about the very center
of my call as a pastor.
And, in a way, for me,
it all comes down to one question:
What are you going to do with me?
Maybe I’m oversimplifying,
but somehow, I don’t think so.
Because if you struggle with the issue of women
in ministry, at some point you’re going to
have to do that struggling with a real-life,
flesh and blood, Jesus-loving, Jesus-following human person.
Please click over and see what I mean, okay?

And while you’re doing that,
I also want to encourage you to read
She and I are at very different places on this particular journey. 
Yet I can honestly say that I love her very much, 
I respect her opinion and I welcome her voice.
I trust and I hope that she can say the same about me.
The comment sections at both places are very interesting 
and hopeful to me. If we can keep a civil conversation going,
loving each other, even when we land at different places,
then there is indeed real hope for the Kingdom moving forward.
Do you know what I think?
I think that our amazing God is doing some very wonderful things 
through the vehicle of the internet.
And she has offered grace to all of us awkward speakers, inviting us to share our experiences and our ideas and our points of struggle. My prayer is that the discussion underway at her site and at the various channels at A Deeper Story can be heartfelt, honest, hopeful and welcoming – even when we disagree.
Can I hear an amen??