Archives for December 2014

Top Ten Posts for 2014 — and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

IMG_4635 This is a very small blog, as blogs go; I don’t get a ton of traffic. But I do have readers who are kind, intelligent, compassionate and faithful, so I thought maybe you might like to know which posts over the last year spurred the most interest. I was actually a bit surprised. The series that I did at the beginning of 2014 drew in more readers than I thought and most of those posts landed on this list. There is a homily, a book review and a very personal, family post on this list, too. See what you think:

1. Delving into the Mystery — Introducing Q & A

This was the introductory post for the series I did one year ago, and it’s on the top of this list. Hmmmm. . . maybe the content since then has gone straight downhill?

2. The Turning Point

One of two posts about journeying with my mother through dementia. I have stopped writing publicly about her as I am contemplating a longer format story, possibly for publication at some future point. This was a very tender turning point for us.

3. The Beauty that Remains

An earlier post about mom that landed right behind the one above.

4. Q & A — Week Two: Fear of Abandonment

The second big “Q” in the Q & A series landed ahead of the first one – just barely! This essay works through some of my own personal struggles with learning to trust God.

5. Q & A — Week One: Letting Go of the List

The first long format post in that series is here. And this sort of sets the stage for where we’re headed in the entire discussion — learning to step into grace and release worries about performance.

6. Q & A — Week Four: The Gift of Tears

And the fourth one is right behind it! I talk about the cleansing, rejuvenating power of tears in this essay.

7.  FOUND: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer — A Book Review

A review of a beautiful book by my friend Micha Boyett. If you have not read this book, YOU REALLY SHOULD.

8. Q & A — Week Three: Remembering What Comes First  Coming in at number eight is the third essay in that long-ago series — about keeping love in the top spot. Always.

9. Remembering Her: Kathryn Ruth Byer Trautwein, January 3, 1914 – May 25, 2014 

Remembering and honoring my amazing mother-in-law during the week that she died.

10. Living with the Truth

This reflection was written after the terrible news that began coming out of Iraq began to surface. It included a sermon summary and a word of hope in the midst of so much confusion.

I think one thing I’ve learned from doing this compilation is that L O N G posts are often the most read. And that is a huge surprise to me. I’ll keep plugging away at this over in my corner of the world. And I’ll be grateful to all who stop by, especially those who let me know that they’re here.

MAY THE NEW YEAR BRING HEALTH, FULFILLMENT AND JOY FOR ALL OF YOU. Thanks so much for your faithful partnership in this internet experience.

Christmastide! And God Became Small . . .


John 1:1-14, The Message

The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one.

Everything was created through him;
    nothing—not one thing!—
    came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
    and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
    the darkness couldn’t put it out.

There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.

The Life-Light was the real thing:
    Every person entering Life
    he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
    the world was there through him,
    and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
    but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him,
    who believed he was who he claimed
    and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
    their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
    not blood-begotten,
    not flesh-begotten,
    not sex-begotten.

The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.

Oh, how I love this piece of scripture. I memorized it several years ago, in this version. Something about the clarity of the language rings in my ears, stirs my heart.

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood . . .

May you see Jesus in your neighborhood this Christmas Day, my friends. May you keep discovering your true self, your child-of-God self. And may you share that self with all those whom you meet this day and into the new year ahead.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!!

An Advent Journey: When God Became Small — Day Twenty-Eight


James 1:17-18, The Message

So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

I love candlelight. It soften things, it creates a distinct atmosphere, it brightens dark corners, it reminds me that I’m not alone when I’m feeling blue. Before each friend who comes to me for spiritual direction enters my small study, I light a candle. And I offer a brief prayer — for them, for our work together, thanking God for this gift.

And each person who comes is one of those ‘rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.’ As is every loved person in my life. 

And every difficult person, as well.

Because in reality, all of my life is gift. And that includes all the hard parts, the tough relationships, my own feelings of insecurity and loneliness. ALL of it is infused with the presence of God, all of it speaks to me of truth and hope.

And so tonight, we will light our candles. We will sing, “Silent Night.” And we will carry those lit candles out into the darkness of a starry Santa Barbara night, an act which reminds us that we do not go alone. The One who came, so small and vulnerable, that One goes with us. Into the night, into the next day, into life eternal.

Thanks be to God!

Thank you, O Lord,  for making the journey. Thank you for becoming small. Thank you for living small, for showing us how it’s done, for offering us hope and peace and power. Thank you.

An Advent Journey: When God Became Small — Day Twenty-Seven


Zephaniah 3:14-20, NLT

Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. For the Lord will remove his hand of judgment and disperse the armies of your enemy. And the Lord himself, the King of Israel, will live among you! At last your troubles will be over—you need fear no more.

On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be, “Cheer up, don’t be afraid. For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will give you victory. He will rejoice over you with great gladness; he will love you and not accuse you.” Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord himself exulting over you in happy song.

“I have gathered your wounded and taken away your reproach. And I will deal severely with all who have oppressed you. I will save the weak and helpless ones, and bring together those who were chased away. I will give glory to my former exiles, mocked and shamed.

“At that time, I will gather you together and bring you home again, and give you a good name, a name of distinction among all the peoples of the earth, and they will praise you when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,” says the Lord.

I love to sing. I always have. I don’t get as much opportunity to do it as I once did, but I love to join in during Sunday worship. I especially love singing during Advent and Christmas — both the minor key songs of the waiting period and the jubilant carols of Christmastide.

But I never imagined that God might like to sing, too. Until I read this passage. And then it made perfect sense to me. If I love it and lots of people I know love it, why wouldn’t God enjoy a good, solid song once in a while, as well?

And according to Zephaniah, God doesn’t just sing a little ditty now and again. No. God ‘exults’ over us with song. So, while you’re singing those familiar carols this season, try tuning your ears into that for a minute or two.

God is singing our song.

Thank you, thank you for the gift of music. For the beauty of it, the release of it, the joy of it. And thank you most of all for singing over us and for managing to sound like a choir when you do it! Give me ears to hear, O Lord. And a heart to embrace the truth of  your joyous love.

An Advent Journey: When God Became Small — Day Twenty-Six


Romans 10:5-13, The Message

The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it’s not so easy—every detail of life regulated by fine print! But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story—no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah. So what exactly was Moses saying?

The word that saves is right here,
    as near as the tongue in your mouth,
    as close as the heart in your chest.

It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”

Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.” It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.”

Oh, my goodness, I love what Eugene Peterson has done with this passage! “The word of faith” apparently sounds a whole lot like this:


And anyone who calls out ‘help,’ will be heard. And will be helped. Paul defines help as having everything set right between God and us. And that is precisely why that little baby came to that virgin, to that stable, to this world.

To set things right. To bring help. 

God became small so that we might find help. So that we could stop scrambling our feeble way up to heaven and learn to rest in the love of God. So that we could give up our incessant need to be our own savior, so that we could stop trying so hard to earn God’s pleasure.

God became small so that we might become whole.

Thank you, God, for the sheer insanity of your plan. Thank you for the strange wonder of it all, for the smallness you embraced, for the life you lived as one of us, for the love you gave us with every breath, right up until that last one. Thank you for the gift of life, real life, and for freedom from trying so dang hard all the time to ‘get it right.’ We don’t have to because you have done it!

An Advent Prayer: Week Four, 2014

We were looking at Mary this morning in worship. A POWERFUL sermon by Pastor Jon Lemmond, and I was asked to lead in community prayer. I am out of practice, that is for sure! But I’m grateful for the opportunity to think through the text and then pray in light of it.


A Prayer for Advent 4 — 2014
written by Diana R.G. Trautwein
for worship at Montecito Covenant Church
December 21, 2014, 10:00 a.m.

We’re almost there, Lord.

We’ve walked through this season of waiting,
this season of songs in a minor key,
and we’re grateful for it.

This year, more than many, feels heavy,
confusing, and terribly sad.
The world around us is rife with tension,
with pain and loss and too many people living with heartache and fear.

And some of those suffering are friends inside this circle,
sisters and brothers of our community.
Some of that heartache and fear are even inside of us.

So these four weeks that we set aside
to wait, to look for your coming,
to remember the story that centers us —
these four weeks are a gift
in the midst of all that is not right,
all that still needs the redeeming work
of a Savior.

But now the end of Advent is in sight,
just a few more days until Christmas
and oh! — we want to be ready this time.
We want to be ready
for that tiny baby,
for that holy family,
for those shepherds and wise men,
for those heavenly singers,
the ones that lit up the night sky
with a song of good news!

So on this day, Lord,
on this fourth Sunday in Advent,
as we wait here together,
in this space that is so lovely,
with these people whom we care about,
will you help us to look for that angelic light?
And to look for it with hope,
and with expectation,
and most of all, with grateful hearts.

Yes, Lord — in the midst of the busyness,
the gift-wrapping and the baking,
the family gatherings and the carol-singing,
in the midst of our own personal struggles and worries,
will you help us to
hang onto hope?
To grab hold of gratitude?

We confess that sometimes we forget.
We forget to say ‘thank you,’
to slow down,
to look up,
to look around
and tell you and one another
that we are grateful.
We are so very grateful for this story of ours.

We are thankful for its life-changing power,
and we are thankful for its grittiness.
For ours is a story that fairly reeks of
real life — life as we know it,
life as we live it,
and as we see it in the world around us:
families living under oppression,
the murder of innocent children,
an unexpected, even scandalous pregnancy.

And this is the story that you — our Great God,
Creator of the Universe —
this is the story that you
deliberately chose
to step right into.

You chose to experience this life,
this human life here on planet earth,

in all its crazy mixed up-ness.

And you chose a girl like Mary,
and a man like Joseph to be the ones
who would help to tell the story,
to live the story.

So we thank you for these good people,
these good parents.
And we ask you to open our hearts,
settle our minds,
and learn what they have to teach us.

Today, we want to learn from Mother Mary,
from that wisp of a girl who
was braver than she knew,
that girl who was pleasing to you,
the one who lay on the straw
and pushed a King out into this world
on a  dark and lonely night,
far from her home.

As we learn from her today,
help us to remember that Jesus learned from her, too.
She was his first teacher, after all,
the one who helped him to grow up,
the one who walked this earthly road with him, right to the end.
I think she has a lot to teach us.
Help us to be good learners today.

And help us to walk into Christmas with open hands and open hearts,
to follow Mary’s example,
and to let you be born in us,
again and again.
“Let it be unto us according to your word.”













An Advent Journey: When God Became Small — Day Twenty-Five, Fourth Sunday


Luke 1:26-38, NRSV

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” 

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Then the angel departed from her.

And here she is, that young virgin. Center stage as we move ever closer to Christmas Day. 

What a woman this is! A girl, actually. Young, impressionable, but . . . in tune with the God of the universe. Open to mystery and paradox. One who listened well, one who said a resounding, ‘YES.’

I cannot imagine it. I know this story so very well, and I love it. But in truth, I cannot imagine this scene. This visitation. This unveiling. This sweet acceptance.

Yet, here it is. She ‘found favor’ with God, simply by being her own sweet self. I imagine she had a good deal of (good and necessary) vinegar in her personality as well. How else could she have survived all of this? A compliant spirit, but a sturdy backbone — what a combo!

I really like her. She has spunk and strength even she doesn’t know about at this point in the story. She goes on to raise this little one into manhood, and then she is confused by all of it at times, and yet. . .

there’s that word again! 

And yet . . . she proves up to the challenge. 

All of the challenge that being the mother of God brings into her life. Ultimately, she becomes one of the earliest evangelists, a member of the church before it was called ‘the church,’ a faithful follower of the baby she bore.


Lord Jesus, thank you for loving your mom. Even as you were dying, you looked out for her. As all sons do, you got impatient with her sometimes, and you set her straight when she needed to be set straight. But through it all, you loved her well. Help me to love your mother well, too. And help me to love the mothering parts of me, too.



An Advent Journey: When God Became Small — Day Twenty-Four


 Judges 13:2-24, NRSV

There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren, having borne no children. And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Although you are barren, having borne no children, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, or to eat anything unclean, for you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor is to come on his head, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth. It is he who shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” Then the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like that of an angel of God, most awe-inspiring; I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not tell me his name; but he said to me, ‘You shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth to the day of his death.’”

Then Manoah entreated the Lord, and said, “O Lord, I pray, let the man of God whom you sent come to us again and teach us what we are to do concerning the boy who will be born.” God listened to Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, “The man who came to me the other day has appeared to me.” Manoah got up and followed his wife, and came to the man and said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to this woman?” And he said, “I am.” Then Manoah said, “Now when your words come true, what is to be the boy’s rule of life; what is he to do?” The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Let the woman give heed to all that I said to her. She may not eat of anything that comes from the vine. She is not to drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. She is to observe everything that I commanded her.”

Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “Allow us to detain you, and prepare a kid for you.” The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat your food; but if you want to prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the Lord.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of theLord.) Then Manoah said to the angel of theLord, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your words come true?” But the angel of theLord said to him, “Why do you ask my name? It is too wonderful.”

So Manoah took the kid with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the Lord, to him who works wonders. When the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar while Manoah and his wife looked on; and they fell on their faces to the ground. The angel of the Lord did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. Then Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” But his wife said to him, “If theLord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.”

The woman bore a son, and named him Samson. The boy grew, and the Lord blessed him.

Years ago, I wrote a series of readers’ theater versions of several biblical narratives. This one was one of my favorites. The angel comes to the woman, who doesn’t even merit mention of her own name. 

Did you catch that? The angel comes to the woman, not to her husband. And dear Manoah, he just can’t quite wrap his head around this. God is supposed to speak to the man of the house, right?


God speaks to whomever God chooses. And this time, God chose the wife. More than once. And it is the wife who has the spiritual sensitivity to understand what has happened, while her husband is mightily confused.

God chooses women more often than we’ve been led to believe. And this choosing, in this small story, foreshadows another choosing, one we celebrate during this season. When God came to a lowly woman, at least in the eyes of the community in which she lived. But who was, in truth, a person of great stature in the eyes of God.

Gabriel said so.

That Mary — she had to be something, don’t you think?

Thank you for surprising us, Lord. For turning our expectations on their heads, for confounding tradition and habit and human injustice, sometimes in very subtle and subversive ways. Like coming to the unnamed wife. Like coming to the young virgin. Like coming to us in her womb. Oh, thank you.

An Advent Lament: SheLoves — Part Three

This is the third post in a series of four that Kelley Johnson Nikondeha and I have been writing over at SheLoves this Advent season. We wanted to make space for lament during our waiting time this year, so each of us wrote a song of sadness. I began the series here, Kelley responded to that individual lament here. Today, and again next Tuesday, Kelley and I are writing laments. This one was written after I read the beautiful one by Kelley that you’ll see on Tuesday and is my attempt to make space for the sadness and brokenness that resides in our larger culture.  You can read all of it over at SheLoves today.


Oh, I so don’t want to do this, Lord.
I want to sit in the back,
shut my eyes,
shutter my ears,
close my mouth,
still my voice.

And yet, I cannot.

You compel me, you urge me, you call me out.
You tell me, in no uncertain terms, to stand up.
To stand up and speak.

To stand beside the mothers whose brown boys have been
violently taken from them
To stand beside the Palestinians who come home
to find no home, only a bulldozer.
To stand beside the young ones in Africa,
the boys and the girls,
who are seen as bait or kindling or meat or slaves or
anything other than who they are:
your children, created in your image.

It is hard for me to face the ugliness in this world.
I can barely look at the ugliness in me.
It leaves me feeling
exhausted, frightened, frustrated, confused and angry.

Because here’s the truth, my truth, Lord:
I’ve made it my life’s work to look for the beauty.
I don’t think that’s a bad thing,
not at all.
In fact, I think it’s an act of obedience.

Some things are not beautiful;
they are hideous,
and they demand testimony, too. . .


Please click here and head over to SheLoves to finish reading this song. . .

“Praying and Believing” — a re-post for Michelle DeRusha


I am not writing online about my journey with my mom these days. I’m trying to gather it all into something approaching a book, so after the new year, much of my time and energy will be devoted to that particular kind of gathering. 

My connection to my mother is deep and important and our time together is complicated, lovely, difficult and an ongoing part of my daily life. She is still a heroine to me, even in the throes of dementia. Why? Because what remains of my mother is beautiful. Quite stunning, actually. And that is a gift. Yes, I wish she had her memory. Yes, I wish we could enjoy the kinds of deep conversation and belly laughter that we once did. But as we walk this path, I am struck by the ferociously glorious light that shines out of her face and her spirit. 

As I said, what remains is beautiful.

So when my friend, Michelle DeRusha, wrote and asked if she could re-post my contribution to her “Faith Heroine” series, I said yes. Because sometimes it’s good to remember what was.

You can find that piece by clicking here.