Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Big Blooms (on confirmation)

I taught her to walk.
I'd been doing it for years. I bent low and held her tiny hand as she fought gravity, and I taught her how to win against gravity.

I can still remember how it felt to scoop her up after a fall, and the way it felt to carry her on my hip.

Before long, she learned to run, and she'd give me running hugs so strong she'd tip me over and we'd roll in the grass.

We share shoes now.
She's a half-size bigger than me.
I taught her to walk. Then God sent her other teachers: school teachers, piano teachers.

I might borrow those shoes, I think, as I watch her walk up to the piano for her first solo&ensemble performance.

She's been nervous all morning, but you wouldn't know it to look at her.
I have heard her practice this piece for weeks in our living room, in fits and starts, interrupted by brothers, too fast, too slow, and sometimes so loudly it inspired only a snappy "not right now!" from her mother.

But today,
I watch her, in awe.

Where did she get that poise, that grace?  She didn't borrow that from me. As she plays some piece that seems, to me, incredibly complicated and impossible, she does not hesitate, she does not miss a note.

Where did she get that talent, that beauty?
From her fingertips flows a melody soothing and cheerful, and I praise the God whose beauty she reflects.

"Bloom flower!" I have whispered in her ear, and now, she blooms.

The following Sunday:
She whispers to me after communion, "Mom, that's the last time daddy's going to bless me like that." Next time she's here, she will be confirmed.

"In the waters of your Baptism, Jesus has called you by name and promises to be with you always." Pastor-daddy has said this over her head for years, now, and Jesus has been with her.

Last times are sad and scary and wonderful. The last blessing, I think, the last blessing meant for children, that is.  The baby blessing will be replaced by another, greater blessing. "Take and eat, this is my body given for you."

The childish blessing is put aside, not because it is no longer valid, but because God has more for her, and she is now big enough to contain the greater blessing.  God, help me to remember this as I grieve the passing of childish things. 

Confirmation Sunday:

The flowers are blooming everywhere, and she blooms with them. Family and friends gather from near and far to celebrate. Her godparents, who remember her running hugs and hip-riding days, who have prayed for her and spoiled her even from far away, share in our joy at this thing God has done.

God has blessed her since she was little, since He called her by name. Now, she opens her own hands and embraces that blessing with her own heart.

There were Big Feelings on Pastor-daddy's face as he poured on her God's Bigger Blessing:

"Lorraine, the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you the new birth of water and of the Spirit and has forgiven you all your sins, strengthen you with His grace, to life everlasting. Amen."

God, strengthen her and keep her.
Strengthen her for the days to come,
the days of teenage struggles, 
of high school, 
of big feelings and big heartaches,
big growth,
big falls,
and hard lessons.

Be her Big Father,
be stronger than the world's attacks,
and brighter than the darkness she faces.
Be the solid ground in her changing world
and keep her safe in your unchanging love,
In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, April 25, 2016

On Passive Love and the Blessing of Neediness

On Passive Love and the Blessing of Neediness
by Haleigh Morgan
I am watching the family interact with our new member. This member does nothing. Contributes nothing materially to the household. He does not mouse or guard. In fact, at the moment he is a material drain. We do for him. We feed him, wash him, hold him, pay for his needs. He literally does nothing ... Except receive the love we give.
That is a huge nothing. We do all this "work" and feel blessed by it. In fact we *are* blessed. It is more than a perception or a mere feeling. There is real blessing in getting to love. Not just to feel contented, affectionate emotions - to do things that are loving for another who simply receives them.
Does he feel like he is a burden to us? Does he worry that he is not productive or useful? Does he fret that all he does is take? Not at all. He is doing his part for us by simply receiving what we give.
Think about that. His gift to us, his "work" for us is just to receive. He loves us by receiving the love we would give. And we delight to give it and are blessed by the giving.

Friday, April 22, 2016

these days (2)

These are the days of waiting for flowers to grow and school to end and bread to rise.

These are the days of painting sermons into the journaling Bible, and celebrating imperfection.

These are the days of wondering why my body doesn't work like everybody elses's body, and trying to learn to live within my own limits. These are the days of counting carbs and learning to love running again.

These are the days of gratitude for the joy my children have as they push their bodies, try new things, and discover new skills.

These are the days of painted handprints on flowerpots, and tables covered in craft supplies or legos, often on top of a sticky undercoat of syrup.

These are the days of girls in bloom, and secretive womanly talks, and "we need you to babysit again," and losing track of time on school nights because we are lost in our books or our paintings.

These are the days of waiting for little boys to "sound it out," for daddy to come home from his meeting, for spring to finally get here.

These are the days of missing the smells of spring in the country, and the days before sports when our evenings were calm and at home.

These are the days of getting paid to be the tickle monster and to play with play-dough and oobleck and preschoolers; and learning to rules of baseball for kids; and enduring long track meets and finding rides for everybody everywhere all the time.

These are the days of using the giant library suitcase, and making a scene everywhere we go, and yes, they are all mine, and sure, we can stop for a slurpee.

These are the days of switching between playlists: from "Country Time" to "Funky" to "Holy Pop" and back again.

These are the days of God's fitting our hearts exactly for this place, and opening our eyes to new joys and callings where He has put us. These days, He sends sunshine and rain together-- we grieve for the brokenness around us, everywhere, in this place; yet the harvest is ripe, and we are flooded with great conversations, renewed interest in the faith, and opportunities to share the love of God on a daily basis.

These are the days of time flying by and feeling behind and wanting the kids to stop growing so fast. But these are the days of God's faithfulness, as He grows our hearts and proves He is God FOR us.

What's happening in your world these days?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

these days: your turn

We are loved by a God who is with us, right here, in the details of this day that he has given us.

He meets us here.
But are we here to meet him?
It's easy to ache for the past, or to hurry towards the future. But God meets us here, right here.

Stop, look around, and notice where you are.  Get your bearings, and as best as you can, try to see where this little day is in the big picture. Remember that there IS a big picture, and that there will be a finished story, and that God is the author.  As you move from birth through darkness towards redemption, the days will come and go, but will you notice them? And will you take the time to see Him in them?

What is it like where you stand today?
What trials, what grace do you see? Take time to look around.

Carry God's Word into your day and watch as its colors bounce off everything.

This is the day the Lord has made.
It is a gift. It will pass away.
Much that we love will pass away, and yet, the Word of the Lord stands forever.
Safe are we, kept in that Word.
Safe are we, in His eternal hands, hands strong to save.
Yet where we walk is decidedly unsafe.  Bodies fail here, babies die, addictions consume, and hearts break.  It is easy for us to let the darkness cloud our vision.

We must take and read.
We must sit down, and look up, and pray for softened hearts and opened eyes.

These are the days of battle.
These are the days of uncertainty and fear.
And these are the days of mercy and grace,
the days of clinging to His hand and being upheld by His strength.
For he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
Do not harden your hearts !

What's happing for you these days?
I'd love to hear your thoughts! (I will post mine tomorrow)

These are the days of waiting for...
These are the days of missing...
These are the days of (doing)..
These are the days of (God's doing)...
These are the days of waiting for God to fix/redeem...
These are the days of inspiration from this song or Scripture...
These are the days of wondering why...
These are the days of gratitude for...

Monday, April 11, 2016

thanking God in remembrance

After a lovely visit to White Creek...

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 
always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 
because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 

And I am sure of this, 
that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 

It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, 
for you are all partakers with me of grace...

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more,with knowledge and all discernment, 
so that you may approve what is excellent, 
and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, 
to the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:3-10

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Draw a circle around the place.
Then, watch as God expands those lines, and enlarges your heart, and your people, until you have many homes.

I am leaving home to go home this week.

Blessed to have many places that I love enough to give that precious name: home.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Seeing, in the city

I wonder if, on the other side, when change and tears are past, when what is between us is forever destroyed, will there be parks like this?

What will it be like to see each other then? When we see with holy eyes, will we see the whole, holy story? Will we be able to see each other, wildly different, wildly redeemed, and understand; truly understand the wholeness of a person, the full story, the gracious work of God in each person’s life?

written 8/13 in St. Louis

I sit in oustide a city park, country girl in the big city. A waft of greasy catsup invades my nose, only to be pushed away by a cloud of cigar smoke. I miss the cows and the corn.

It is challenging for me to find beauty here, but it is not impossible.

They walk by-- the stories, the people. Drama, tragedy, comedy, romance-- multi-colored stories parade past me, moving even more quickly than the smells. Exhaust now fills my lungs, but I will sit in it if it I must, so I can watch the stories.

I bet that one used to be in a fraternity. He is tan, in a baseball cap, and his cardinals shirt stretches over his middle-age belly. His calves are perfect, and he holds a beer. He walks with his shoulders back, chest up, belly out. Or is the belly dragging him along?

That one has too-big shorts and an afro, and a baby on his back. He pushes another in a stroller, and a third walks beside. We have much in common, I think.

That man must have be been a pirate. He still has muscles from hoisting sails, maybe just last week. I wonder what he did with his parrot?

A man, asking for money for “homeless children.” I don’t give, but I wonder if I should have. “Have a nice day m’am,” he says.

That little guy must be two, like Peter. He holds his body with the same confidence, belly-out, jumping, running. His skin is a deep black, and I bet it is soft like my son’s. I want to go pick him up, but that would seem creepy. (I wonder what Peter is up to.)

On the street corner, a heavy, well-dressed white man, holds his sign and his chin up high. I don’t know whether to argue with him or pray for him. I am glad I do not have to explain him to my children, not this time.

A mom heavy laden with bags, on her back, in her stroller. She pushes while the children play. Her daughter lifts up her dress to potty in the grass. Mom is mortified. I give her an look of understanding but she is hiding her face.

Well dressed and smoking, that man is taking a break from a job he hates, I bet. He does not notice the children in the fountain.

Rarely do those on the street make eye contact, except perhaps to exchange a tight-lipped smile. Their stories are locked in tight, and the skulking writer is left with her guesses.

Still looking for beauty, but here in a different city. God is training my eyes to see. I am eager to read the stories in their glorious completion, and yet, there is much to celebrate even now, between chapters.

Beauty in the city. (more coming soon)

Have you seen any lately?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

5 reasons I love Bible journaling

"Wherever love goes, there the heart and the body follow... 
Love itself will teach meditation... 
It is the mode and nature of all who love to chatter, 
sing, think, compose, and frolic freely 
about what they love and enjoy hearing about it." (Luther)

When God's Word breaks into a heart, things happen. 
Typically, for me, His Words go in, and my words pour out. But not lately.  The angle of the light here is different. I'm busier. I have too much to say, and not so much, and I am just tired. My world is still wonky, and I'm still readjusting after our move to Michigan.

But I've found another way to think and reflect and frolic. It's called Bible Journaling. 

I consider this type of journaling as a form of meditation: sloppy, imperfect, playing-with-paint prayer time.  And I do it with my kids. It has become, for me, another way to steep in Sundays.

5 reasons I love Bible Journaling

Meditation, but with paint
Bible Journaling is a way of dwelling on the Most Important Thing: Jesus

"Blessed are those who hear the Word and keep it." Luke 11:28
It is easy to hear only law in this passage.  As if Jesus were saying, obey, obey, OBEY you sinner, otherwise you have no part with me.  But He --the one who came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it-- gives this Word and all of His Words to us as a gift.

Keep my Word, my child. Treasure it. Carry it with you.  Receive from it life and hope and health.  Make your home in it.  Steep in it.  Let it color your world.  Let it remake your heart.
Chew on it. Think about it. Write, sing, or paint about it. Plaster it everywhere.

Memory Keeping
Once, God held me up with the perfect Word, the exact balm I needed for my particular ache. No, it was more than once, in fact, it happens so often that I can't remember every time.  I wish I could.  Remembering His faithfulness is good for the soul. Bible journaling can be a way for us to catch those moments of grace, and it will help us remember to remember them.

Discernment Practice
Yes, I've seen this practice abused. I've seen entire pages covered dark except the one verse, writ large, which taken out of context means something other than it really means. Musicians and writers do this all the time. Always, the Christian must pay attention, ask good questions, and remember context when handling God's Word. We cannot hide from the need to discern.  This practice has led to good conversations with my own children about the proper use of Scripture. 

Combining creativity and Scripture, with others in the room, leads to some amazing conversation.  Instead of merely discussing brush techniques and ink quality (but we do that too, of course,) we also discuss particular Scriptures, and how God's Word has shined light right into our lives in unique ways.

Sharing the treasure
Illustrating and rewriting the precious words given to us naturally leads to sharing with others. "He withholds no good thing," I am told, and I needed to hear that.  I can think of others who might be uplifted by those words, too.  So, we make a copy. Write it on a note card. Pass it on. 

If you are interested in this, there are a million resources for the details, and I am only just learning them. Google "Bible journaling" or "Illustrated faith."  The Bible I use is an ESV with nice margins. Apparently this is quite a craze these days, so you may have to wait for it if you order one. If you're dying to start frolicking with paint and Scripture, just grab a piece of paper or a blank notebook and whatever supplies you have on hand.  Keep the Word of God, dwell on it, and let it spill out in pictures!

And now, here's a look into our Bible.

Inside the front cover: 

In the beginning, when I write a bit about priorities, respect, and grace.

My first entry. 

Those who sow in tears
    shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
    bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126: 5-6)

An illustration from my daughter:

Response to the Good friday service:

A quick sketch:

Come, Lord Jesus... make all things new...

A nice verse. But I am not quite "adult" enough for black ink. 
Oh well, I guess the fingerprints are a memory too!

In memory of our Indiana home, and the church family there that has left a forever mark on our hearts. This was their theme verse for their 175th anniversary, celebrated last year.  The picture was inspired from a much more beautiful quilted church banner, made specially for the celebration.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

sorrow and love

"See, from His head, His hands, his side,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down"

These words play in my head all morning.
Sorrow and love. Love and sorrow. Mingled down. Pouring out.
God's Work, in vivid colors.

Sorrow and Love.  How they are entertwined!
This purple flood pours from the heavens, from God onto His children.

calling-back love.

for me.

making whole

reconciling the world to Himself

body and blood
sweat and tears
life unto death
for you.

We sit with open hands, under the open heavens of a generous God whose sorrow and love flows mingled down.

Be still.
Be at peace.
Be loved.

Messy meditations, shared with you because someday I might talk to you about journaling as a form of meditation: sloppy, imperfect, playing-with-paint prayer time. But not today.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

threshold of a new season

This weekend, our family will officially enter the teenage years. Lorraine will be 13 on Saturday. This day will mark the beginning of a long, long, long season of parenting teens (for us, it will last no less than 13 more years, when our youngest is 18).

I'm not sure if I should buckle my seat belt, or learn karate, or run to the store for bread and milk.  I'm not ready. I guess I'll just say a prayer, and pick up a book.

"Adolescence is, by definition, maladjustment. And getting adjusted is a strenuous and often noisy process. There are families who manage to maintain a facade of decorum, but when we get a close look at them we find a jumble of colorful and jagged detail: exposed rock, crashing streams, lightning-struck trees, mossy meadows, sudden storms, surprising blossoms, bark in a dozen or more textures-- adolescence is insistently various and energetic, and it pulls everyone in the vicinity (and most emphatically parents) into the wild and wonderful scenery.  Adolescence is also a gift, God's gift, to the parent in middle-age."  

"...God's gift: in the rather awkward packaging of the adolescent brings into our lives a challenge to grow, testing our love, chastening our hope, pushing our faith to the edge of the abyss."
--Eugene Peterson (Like Dew Your Youth)

I come to the threshold of this new season much like I went into the labor and delivery room: unsure, nervous, excited, and a bit overweight. I know there are both trials and gifts waiting for us here.  I also know that, if I rely only on my own strength, I will merely survive, at best.  But I take His hand, and I expect Him to provide as He always has: blessings mixed with trials, strength for the moment, and joy along the way, as He works all things for our good.

Bless these children as they grow up, and us, too, as we grow up with them. Uphold all parents of teenagers, and give us wisdom, strength, and a sense of humor.  Amen

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