Sunday, December 28, 2014

wake, artist!

Gifts from God, this Christmas;
one of my favorites-

Sitting at the table with my mother, for hours, with the paints.  

I got to see her joy at the way the colors bleed and mix, her creativity and laughter at the mistakes.   I see her mind spinning with possibilities and smile when she tells me in the morning that she was laying in bed plotting a trip to Hobby Lobby.  

The artist in her reawakens, and she is beautiful.

Thanks for sharing those moments with me, mom.
I hope you keep painting.




(Penmenship is not my strength, and I was tempted to crop my messy words out, but I'm going to let them stand, because that's exactly the point. Stay awake, imperfect artsy person within me, and do your art!)


Monday, December 15, 2014

a song in the night

It is advent, and the darkness gathers.
I walk through the yard, my way lit only by the lights from the school.

Within, only one room is lit: the cafeteria, where we meet for Bible study.  I'd rather go to bed early, but I have to lead this thing. My mood is also dark, and I am weary.

But God does what He always does; He meets us in the darkness and lightens while he enlightens.  

His Word never denies the hard realities of life in this world. The darkness is oppressive, sometimes suffocating.  Never once does He tell us to deny it, or to pretend it is light. 

Nor does He tell us to fight the darkness in our own strength. 

There in that small lighted room surrounded by a dark building, dark parking lot, dark fields, and a dark and fallen world, a small handful of God's people come in to the light of His presence.

It is not entirely comfortable. Our weakness is exposed. Our part in the darkness is also exposed: we belong here, really, as we consider the darkness that we have invited into our own hearts. The light burns as it exposes.

But He wounds only to heal.  
Turn us, O Lord, that we may be healed, and grant us repentant hearts.

By grace are we healed; by grace we are called into His presence, and covered with the robes of Christ's righteousness. By grace, we are given strength to wait, strength to look forward, even as the darkness gathers, to the breaking dawn.


Come, Lord Jesus.  

(If your soul needs a song of inspiration to sing while you wait through the oppressive night, listen to this wonderful advent hymn)


 

The hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13:11-14

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Our story

“It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to His Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today. The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that I shall die, and the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the sol ground of my hope that I, too, shall be raised on the Last Day. Our salvation is “external to ourselves.” I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ. Only he who allows himself to be found in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, his Cross, and his resurrection, is with God and God with him.” (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 44)

God is the Great Author,
and we, minor characters.

Our little stories have been swept up,
taken into and mixed with the one Great Story,

Love caused His incarnation,
For love He endured the cross.
Loving mercy pours from heaven,
that not one may be lost.

We are small,
minor characters,
and yet, 
His acts on our behalf are not minor.

In, with, and under the suffering 
He is.

The great I AM,
He is, 
and He is for us.

making all things new,
even us. 




On My Heart Imprint Your Image

On my heart imprint your image,


Blessed Jesus, king of grace,
That life’s riches, cares, and pleasures
Never may your work erase;
Let the clear inscription be:
Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my life, my hope’s foundation,
And my glory and salvation!

(LSB 422)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

O Lord How Shall I Meet You?





Advent is a time of repentant expectation. This hymn emphasizes the heart of advent, the heart of our faith, in verse four: “Love caused your incarnation.” Remember, as we anticipate Christmas: He came so that he could die for us. The cross was always in view, always a shadow over his life in this broken place. And yet He embraced it because of His love for us.

And now, this love- what more in this life could we possibly need? We have all things in Christ!
If Christ is not risen, we are of all men most to be pitied.
But if he IS (and He is!) than we who are in Christ have everything!
We may suffer loss and trial, but what loss is it when we have the love of God? Let us not refuse so great a salvation!

Listen to the podcast here: IssuesEtc.

Written by Paul Gerhard, the so-called “Suffering poet of the heart.”
Below, the lyrics, each stanza followed by a personal reflection from me, inspired by a recent Bible study discussion and the above podcast.

O Lord, How Shall I Meet You
By: Paul Gerhardt

O Lord, how shall I meet you,
How welcome you aright?
Your people long to greet you,
My hope, my heart's delight!
Oh, kindle, Lord most holy,
Your lamp within my breast
To do in spirit lowly
All that may please you best.

Eyes to the sky, prepare yourself soul, your Lord IS coming to you! God, grant us repentance and faith that we may meet him with eagerness and joy! For all things, even our faith, let us look outside ourselves: God must kindle, and does so generously through His Word and His Spirit. As we grow in faith in Jesus, may we also grow in understanding of his condescension to us; His humility; His willingness to set aside all things to minister to us. May that love grow in us, that we learn to welcome others with a lowly and generous spirit.

Your Zion strews before you
Green boughs and fairest palms;
And I too will adore you
With joyous songs and psalms.
My heart shall bloom forever
For you with praises new
And from your name shall never
With hold the honor due.

Praise the God of your salvation, soul! He who has come to die and rise for you and for all- celebrate Him, and rejoice in Him! When His love for you overflows into praise, and you are God's joyful child, you are blooming as you were made to bloom. Let the name of Father, Son, and Spirit, be a name you wear proudly. Honor His name in love and truth.

I lay in fetters, groaning;
You came to set me free.
I stood, my shame bemoaning;
You came to honor me.
A glorious crown you give me,
A treasure safe on high
That will not fail or leave me
As earthly riches fly.

O soul in captivity, heavy with sin, feel the weight of your sickness and slavery! Abandon hope in yourself and in this world, and look to Him who gives His Own honor, covers you in His own righteousness. You are now free to rest secure in the safety He gives.

Love caused your incarnation;
Love brought you down to me.
Your thirst for my salvation
Procured my liberty.
Oh, love beyond all telling,
That led you to embrace
In love, all love excelling,
Our lost and fallen race.

Take heart- your God thirsts for your salvation! He eagerly desires your healing, He aches for your return to His arms. He seeks, finds, frees, and even now embraces you and all people.

Rejoice, then, you sad-hearted,
Who sit in deepest gloom,
Who mourn your joys departed
And tremble at your doom.
Despair not; he is near you,
There, standing at the door,
Who best can help and cheer you
And bids you weep no more.

This is life in this broken world: crumbling joys, breaking hearts, uncertain futures. And yet He is near, even at the door, and soon our time of weeping will be past. He is making all things new.

Sin's debt, that fearful burden
Cannot His love erase;
Your guilt the Lord will pardon
And cover by His grace.
He comes for you procuring
The peace of sin forgiv'n,
His children thus securing
Eternal life in heaven.

Our debt is tremendous, His Love covers it all. Covered in His bloody mercy, we are safe. We have peace with God; His good will toward men has been shown plainly to us in Jesus.

He comes to judge the nations,
A terror to his foes,
A light of consolations
And blessed hope to those
Who love the Lord's appearing.
O glorious Sun, now come,
Send forth your beams so cheering,
And guide us safely home.

Only those who refuse to be saved need fear. His children look forward in joyful hope to His coming our final, perfect, eternal welcome home.




Come Lord Jesus,
come quickly.

LSB 334 by Paul Gerhardt
Public Domain








Thursday, December 4, 2014

Be adjusted!

“Thank you God for this day and help us have a good day, and bless everyone who's sick, and Jesus? Please come back soon, even today!”

Wait, what?

Jesus come back today please? What kind of a prayer is that? Sure, we day “Thy Kingdom Come” and “Come Lord Jesus” now and then, but when you put it like that... I'm not so sure. It sounds almost. . . threatening.

Why? What is threatened? Well, my plans. My pet sins. My comfort in life in THIS world, how it is right now. My sense of control.

Ha, control. Why in the world do I even have such a sense?
What evidence is there in my life, or in yours, for us to assume that we have control over ANYthing that matters, really?

A sense of control, of trust in my own hands, this is something God should threaten, and ultimately, destroy. There is no hope in my hands, only in His.

Come Lord Jesus, come quickly, even today.
Thy kingdom come, the church cries... kind of.

What if you heard the trumpet now? What would you run and hide under your mattress? What would you try and finally get done “real quick?” What would you repent of, real quick, for real this time?

What if God gave us one month's heads up that He was coming- how then would we live? What if we knew our time is short?

And why don't we know it already?

Our time is short! Security is not to be found in this place!

We are forced to face this when our comfort is shattered- when loved ones get sick or die, when tragedy strikes. Those things that destroy our illusions of control, our comfort in this world, have the effect of adjusting our perspective.

It's painful, this adjusting.
But it is also God's good work in us.
Let it happen, friend; let it happen, self.
Be adjusted.

All men our like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.
Isaiah 40:6b-8

Be adjusted.

Isaiah (40) describes mankind as grass, nations as a drop in the bucket, as dust. You are called a grasshopper, a tiny speck under an all powerful God. We are small, indeed.

photo by Fred the Flyer

Be adjusted!
God's Word shouts to us of our smallness, our sin, or desperate need for redemption.

And God's Word also redeems.

Come, ye who are small, to God; your rock, your gentle shepherd. Seek comfort and security where it may be found!

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (Isaiah 40:28-29)

He gives forgiveness to the sinner,
bread of life to the hungry,
peace to the troubled,
freedom to the captive.

That which you seek is not in yourself, nor is it in the comforts of this world.

See those things crumble, and be adjusted.
Fix your eyes on Jesus, author and perfecter of our faith.

Even youths grow tired and weary
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:30-31)

Lift up your heart to the Lord,
this advent season, and join the saints in waiting with repentant expectation for our Lord's coming.

Come Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent morning


“For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day's work. At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of the night retreat before the clear light of Jesus Christ and his wakening Word. All unrest, all impurity, all care and anxiety flee before him. Therefore, at the beginning of the day let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to him to whom our whole life belongs. “ 

(Bonhoeffer, Life Together p. 33)




Wake, awake my soul, a new day dawns,

a day your Lord has made. 

Look first to Him,
before the noise of the day begins,
stretch and yawn before Him,
stand before Him,
created before her Creator. 

Begin your day in repentant expectation,
hastening the coming of the Lord.

Remember your smallness 
and number your days.
Recall your need,
and open your hands for His provision.

Open, soul, like a flower
for you have been planted under an open heaven.
Your God showers down his mercies,
new, again, this morning.

This is the day the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it. 


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sit and be satisfied

“Get your church shoes and I’ll help you put them on.”

“Is it a church day?” he says, and then he sighs. “Is it going to be a long church?” I don’t like his attitude, though I understand. How long will we be sitting still? How long must I be quiet? How long will I be forced to leave other tasks undone while I sit in a pew?

Later that same morning, he complained again: “When will church be over mama?” He flopped himself back on the pew, bumping his brother who responded with a fist that I barely intercepted before it hit his nose. My heart did NOT overflow with patience and compassion, to put it mildly. I wondered when church would be over, too.

There in that pew, I fought the battle I always fight- the one between love and selfishness, obedience and rebellion. The old nature longed to fall to temptation, to resent or pout or discipline for my good and not his. The new nature tried to fight. And that new self was proven a weakling.

And it was there in my failure that I saw it: the soul-hunger. The attacks and temptations in my life are too much for me, and I am too weak to fight them on my own. My soul was shaky and weak, like a body with low blood sugar. And yet there I was, sitting at the table overflowing with exactly the food my soul needs.

“Take and eat,” I’m told. “Receive what you need from your Father. You are soul-hungry. Sit and be fed.”

Why is this so difficult? Physical need is easier to accept, I think. When I call, “Lunch is ready, boys!” they come running. Not one drags his feet. Not one walks slowly, with dread, asking me questions in fear like, “Will there be too much food? Do I really have to eat?” I don’t whine about mealtime either. My body needs food, and not only that, but eating is pleasant. In fact, the hungrier I am, the more I enjoy the food I eat.

Soul hunger is something I feel too, but like a child begging for ice cream when he really needs nourshing food, I try to meet this need by filling myself with empty calories.

Distraction fails. Naps do not refresh me for long. Escape only delays the inevitable. And then, my kind Father brings me to the Divine Service; He sits me at the table so that He can wait on me, fill me with exactly what I need.

Those who are blind to their need complain, “Will it be a long church? Is it almost over?” When my son said that to me for the third time, I replied, “We are hearing God’s Word right now. This is the most important thing you will do today- maybe all week long. So sit down.”

I need to hear this, too:

Sit down.
Take and eat.
Hear and take to heart.
Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.
Feast on what truly satisfies.

Sit, and enjoy a nourishing meal; a long church; a church decadent and rich with the Word of God, permeated with Christ himself poured out for your soul and mine. Make time to feast at home, on God’s rich Word, on the nourishment that you truly need.



My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
(Psalm 63:5-7)



Friday, November 21, 2014

My dear sad son...

My dear sad son...

I thank God for you, and most of all for your big heart. I do not think you appreciate this as a gift right now, especially since it aches so...  

Do you remember yesterday, the beautiful fall afternoon, when you and I and laid on blankets under the tree in the yard?  It’s been a rough week for all of us, and though you have said nothing, I could tell you’ve been running from emotions too big to handle alone. So this afternoon I determined to be there, near you, with open heart and ears. You were strong and composed, until piano music entered your ears and broke down all the walls around your heart. “Turn it off mom!!! It just… I hate piano and… it just makes me so sad about Kristie!” you cried, We talked and I held you. We lay together while the ugly feelings came out, in hiccups and gasps and hot tears. Oh son, I wish I could take them from you. I wish I could let you skip this part, skip the pain of growing up in Christ, of learning the brokenness of this world and grieving for it.   I cannot feel the feelings for you, but I do feel them with you.

As you grow, will you be one who seems to experience deeper sadness than others in times of suffering? If you are, son, and if you feel alone in this, know that you are not. You are so much like me in this way.  We see and intensely feel the brokenness of this place; we take the grief of others on ourselves. Son, I know you do not like this about yourself, but don’t you see? Your compassion reflects God’s compassion for us. Jesus suffers with us, is moved by compassion, takes it upon himself. This is a learning to love like Christ does, learning to love with His love instead of mere human love.
Oh son, I know it hurts terribly. It hurts so bad that none of us could survive long in this place if we only shared in our Lord’s hurt over the brokenness of this world. So my earnest prayer for you is this: May God fill you with hope and comfort in Christ, deeper and richer and fuller than the suffering you feel. I do not pray that he takes the suffering away… love growing in you is a gift, though a painful one.  I know, the ugly feelings are impossible to bear. May you not seek relief in numbness of hardness of heart. Instead,may you seek help from them in our Lord, in His Word, and in the comfort of his church family (and in my arms, as long as God allows!)
May God fill you with resurrection hope, and even joy in THIS place, as we wait to see his promises fufilled.

-- Mama

2 Corinthians 1:3-5English Standard Version (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

an excerpt from My Gliead; 10/3/14

Monday, November 17, 2014

just focus


They painted my room pink because I’m a girl. I hate pink. Tinkerbell wallpaper to boot. Why don’t they just put doilies on my dresser and be done with it? I will not do this to my little girl if I ever have one.
My mom is on her computer again. I need help with my homework, and she “just a sec’s” me, and I know better than to believe it will only be a sec.
There’s my brother. He’s licking the remote control and someone should stop him.
“Mom?”
“Just a sec, hon.” And she types on.
I sigh and grab the remote from him. He screams, and mom snaps, “Laurie! Would you leave him aLONE?”
“ But I was just..”
“Oh, whatever, just put something on TV for your brother. Make sure it’s a cartoon or something. I need a minute here.”
I do it because what else can I do? Maybe later I’ll talk to her. I'm still smarting from those words Jessica said to me today. I want to tell mom about it, but now’s not the time.
“Honey do you think you can warm up some chicken nuggets for you kids for dinner tonight? Daddy’s not going to be home so it’s just us and I really need to focus on this thing…” she trails off, implying that her computer work is dreadfully important and also highly confidential.
Perhaps it is, but I’d really like some real food to eat tonight. At least Junior’s happy watching those ridiculous minions again. “Sure, mom,” I say, moving slowly so she’ll notice I’m none too pleased. She doesn’t notice. I hear keyboard clicks frantically.
Dinner served and we are done, and I’ve even carried dishes to the kitchen. Finally mom shuts her computer. “Time for a bath, junior,” she says, and she takes him. I sit on the couch with my book, not really reading it. My stomach hurts like I’ve eaten Jessica’s ugly words, and I don’t know how to make it stop.
I hear junior splashing, and mom putting stuff away in the bathroom. I hear her walk into her bedroom and shut the door.
I should finish my homework but I can’t get off the couch. I pick up a book. Suddenly, Mom comes into the room and sees me, really sees me. She’s changed into her soft PJs and robe, and she sits next to me on the couch. Whatever it was that caused her to type so frantically still troubles her eyes, but she is trying to put it aside while she plays mommy.
I slide next to her, falling into her soft robe. I accept her act, and I play baby though my feet are as big as hers. She put her leg over mine and sighs. I am not ready to talk to her, but maybe if we sit her for longer I will be. Suddenly her body jerks, “Wait, is your homework done young lady?”
“Almost mom, but…” We here Junion cry from the bathroom, “I weewy weed to go potty!”
I flop on my bed, and as I hear mom yelling about the mess in the bathroom, I try to concentrate on photosynthesis.



This month I'm participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I am actual a Rebel because I am focusing on several short stories, but my goal is to write 50k in the month of November. This post is just me playing with fiction, warming up my fingers.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

unforseen sweetness

“Take and drink.”
I do.

The bloody mercy is sweet to the taste. Yet on that day, who could have forseen this?

Sinful men with violent hands
Agony of the innocent,
The sweat of a tortured brow,
Body and blood, given for you;
A crimson sign from heaven, declaring mercy,
Forgiveness,
and peace with God;

A sacrifice of life, that we may have life.

The body and the blood of Jesus:
it has trickled down, down centuries, to these receiving lips.

And it is sweet to the taste.
Yet on that day, who could have forseen the sweetness?

Those who loved him hid,
Grieved.
They could not fathom a suffering God,
Suffering-for
Suffering-with

Darkness before glory,
Bitterness before sweet.

Take and eat. Take and drink.
Go forth in peace to love and serve.
Take in, and pour out.

But I can’t. It’s too much. I’m not enough.
I fear the suffering to come:
Will there be sweetness mixed in?

I consider past suffering:
deployment, the brain surgery,
soul-crushing grief and fear;

And I recall the sweetness; it is of a flavor I did not recognize before the suffering.

There is a hidden sweetness that is in with and under
a flattening of myself;
The worn knees from praying,
The heart-rending asking
And the being HEARD.

The view, from the journey taken on the edge of eternity
with opened eyes,
stripped of false comforts,
knowing that if one is to survive it will be by the hand of God and no other way;
And surviving.

The needing, desperately,
And marveling at God’s provision.

The way He proves His faithfulness,
And we find
Under the crumbling things of this world,
There is more of Him,

And what else could a soul possibly need?



Communion Cross with Jesus

Florence


I only recently discovered Crooked Still, but they are quickly becoming my new favorites.

Here's a lovely song, perfect for those who are looking forward with me...


Remembering...
From Alicia.

Displaying saints 1.jpg

Thank you God for blessing those who have gone before us.
Preserve us until that day when change and tears are past,
when you scatter all of the darkness, finally, forever.
Amen.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Unfinished Fight (Veteran's Day)


On this Veteran's Day, a word from my favorite veteran, my husband, Joshua Cook.


This is an address he delivered at our local high school yesterday. 



The Unfinished Fight (by Joshua Cook)


Veterans Day is a day that our nation takes time to honor those men and women who made the sacrifice to serve our nation’s armed forces. For many veterans it is a day mixed with sorrow and joy. Sorrow, because they know personally the cost of freedom, the cost of standing up to evil and not backing down. Perhaps they have lost their friends or family members. Perhaps they have lost a spouse to divorce because of the hardship that deployments bring. Perhaps they still wake up with a start in the dead of the night. Fighting evil has its costs, and our veterans know the cost all to well. And yet, there is joy on this day as well. Joy that a nation has not yet forgotten. Joy that there is still enough honor and respect left in the world to commend those who have fought for freedom, who have placed their neighbor’s good before their own.

Jesus said: “Greater love hath no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Of course we know that God’s only begotten Son had even greater love – he laid down his life even for his enemies, so that all who believe in him might have eternal life. Students of Trinity Lutheran High School, you have been given the privilege of this education first by Christ, who has made you his own, and second by those people in your lives, parents, grandparents, teachers, and veterans too, who believe that it is our responsibility and privilege to stand up against evil and to serve our neighbor in love.

Edmund Burke said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” On this Veteran’s Day, it is most fitting that we honor and commemorate our nation’s good men and women. But this Veteran’s Day will mean nothing in the years to come, if you and your generation choose to do nothing. Veteran’s Day should also stand as a day for all men and women to consider their God-given talents, and to ask themselves honestly: “What can I do to help?” “What is my part in standing up to evil?”

Now, I’m not saying that every one of you needs to become a service member. Evil is found in many places – not just the battlefield. Nor am I suggesting that you wage a personal vigilante war against evil—wars are fought shoulder to shoulder. No, what I am saying is that as Christians, and as Americans we need to join together in our effort to stop evil dead in its tracks. First, this is a spiritual battle. The apostle Paul warns us that Satan is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. We also know that Christ Jesus conquered mankind’s greatest enemies–sin, death, and Satan himself-by his death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb. Here at Trinity you are being equipped to share Christ Jesus and the Gospel message of the forgiveness of sins as his free gift – that is single most important thing for you to do. And yet, this is not only a spiritual battle that our world faces. Evil is tangible, it has physical manifestations. This is where Christians and non-Christians must join together in the fight. This takes the form of soldiers on the front lines in the war against terrorism; doctors and nurses fighting Ebola, and cancer, and other diseases; Police, fireman, and EMTs protecting our neighborhoods; teachers providing education; parents providing stable and safe homes; and students, equipping themselves to be the next generation who will step into the breach.

I am not saying that this fight will be easy. It will not. Some will be asked to lay down their lives, even as those whom we honor on this day did. But there is honor in this fight. Some will try to tell you that the fight is “all for nothing”—but they are wrong. Their defeatism is evidence of their lack of hope. But we are not those who are without hope, for we are remade by Christ’s forgiveness. “Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called children of God, and So We Are.” This love is not only upon us, it is within us. It is what makes it possible to serve our neighbor in love, and to lay down our lives for our friends. Christ allows us to participate in his victory over evil–it is no small task–but it is an honorable one.

In conclusion, I’d like to leave you with a portion of Lincoln’s well-known Gettysburg Address, which in my mind is the single-greatest tribute and call to action that has ever been offered in honor of our nation’s fallen heroes:

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.




Thanking God today for those who stand between us and evil, who sacrifice more than we can imagine to protect our freedom.

Monday, November 10, 2014

smoke

The smell of cigarettes has always been comforting to her, unless she was pregnant. She wasn't now, so when the beach breeze blew those fumes she found herself suddenly remembering her grandfather. His embrace, given long ago, and uncles with beer breath and tickly beards, and cousins climbing trees and swinging on swings and spilling lemonade on grandma's tile floor. Grandma never seemed to mind, and though she took it for granted when she was a child, her patience seems remarkable now. That dear woman, with her foard of children and grandchildren. Did her skin ever bristle with the noise and the touches? Did she ever want to climb into a bottle and hide for a month? She remembered the cool skin of grandma's arms, the way she smiled as she sat on the dock and watched the little ones play in the water.
“Ew, why does he need to be so close to us with that nasty smoke?” her daughter said, rolling her eyes. Mom watched as the young girl picked up her beach towel and shook it with pointed disgust. She felt an expression come over her own face, one that was once her grandmothers: a thin smile, an acquiescence to the ignorance of youth. She would not bother trying to explain her thoughts to the young one.



She moved her towel away from the smoke and sat near her daughter.


This month I'm participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I am actual a Rebel because I am focusing on several short stories, but my goal is to write 50k in the month of November. This post is just me playing with fiction, warming up my fingers.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris

Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's LifeAcedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer’s Life
(3.5 stars if I could give half stars)

In this book, we are given glimpses into each, along with insight into the topic of acedia as well as depression.

In particular, I found myself challenged in the way I view daily chores, boredom, and my own restlessness. (See quotes below.) I also enjoyed peeking into her experiences with both monastic life and marriage.

She writes from a modern perspective, and a generally Roman Catholic understanding of sin (behaviors may be sin, but our desires to sin are not; they do not condemn us but inspire us to be better people.) In her wrestlings, though she draws strength from Scripture (especially the Psalms), I did not find a clear understanding of Christ, specifically his work on the cross. She also quotes heavily from Evagrius, a monk condemned as heretical by the RCC- she mentions this in an offhand way, as if the fact of it or the reason for it does not matter. This is telling in regards to her approach in matters of theology.

I would give this book 3.5 stars if I could- I am torn between the feelings of dislike of the academic slopiness and the appreciation for the poetic gems and insights skattered throughout.

That said, her book offered many valuable insights and challenging ideas regarding both spiritual sloth and depression. A few of my favorite quotes follow:

“If my pride recoils from endeavors that seem futile in the face of my world-weary despair, I have to remember that disdaining ordinary, mundane chores that come to nothing can lead to my discounting personal relationships as well. “

“In this hyped-up world, broadcast and Internet news media have emerged as acedia’s perfect vehicles, demanding that we care, all at once, about a suicide bombing, a celebrity divorce, and the latest advance in nanotechnology....the ceaseless bombardment of image and verbiage makes us impervious to caring.” 129

“The word menial derives from a Latin word meaning “dwelling” or “household.” It is thus a word about connections, about family and household ties. “ 197

“Technology had made a fool of me, for a few seconds of ‘waiting’ in computer time is no longer than seconds spent ‘waiting’ on a magnificent, rocky beach for the sun to rise over pearl-tinted ocean; is is only my perception that makes them seem different. And how I perceive such things is a matter of spiritual discipline.” 220

“The very nature of marriage means saying yes before you know what it will cost. Though you may say the “I do” of the wedding ritual in all sincerity, it is the testing of that vow over time that makes you married.”
ife

“Might we consider boredom as not only necessary for our life but also as one of its greatest blessings? A gift, pure and simple, a precious chance to be alone with our thoughts and alone with God?”


“Like faith, marriage is a mystery. The person you’re committed to spending your life with is known and yet unknown, at the same time remarkably intimate and necessarily other. The classic seven-year itch may not be a case of familiarity breeding ennui and contempt, but the shock of having someone you thought you knew all too well suddenly seem a stranger. When that happens, you are compelled to either recommit to the relationship or get the hell out. There are many such times in a marriage.”


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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A space for gratitude

November is here, and giving thanks is all the rage.

But how do we fit it in? Shall we keep a list next to the bed and add five obligatory things before we earn our sleep? Shall we pause each day with kids around ankles and throw a grateful thought or two up on facebook? Shall we make a big project of it, and involve the kids, and decorate the walls of our home with leaves and words and sticky masking tape and let it all hang there until we can't take it anymore?

I don't think it matters, really.

How, when, who knows about it- none of this matters, really. What matters is that we open our eyes, and our hearts, and that we take time to notice the gifts God gives us right here, today.

Slow down, and notice.

The person who types these words is much more prone to barrel through, get 'er done, and trample.  I need reminders, and my own children should be enough, what with their constant "Mommy look at this picture" and "Mom, watch this!" and "look through my folder with me!" and "can you listen to one of my songs?" and "I just made a smiley face for you," on the mirror, in toothpaste.

Accept my grateful praise, son. Or not.

Truth be told, I resent those interruptions sometimes. I want to notice, but I don't always want to be TOLD what to notice by little people, especially when I'm trying to get the homework done and dinner on the table.

It's over stimulation season, and the sheer amount of talking and movement of the children can make me want to run and hide. "WHY are you climbing on the counter and turning on the water right now?" Can't they see I'm trying to serve dinner?

I don't know whether they see, but that particular time, that particular annoying moment with the child in my way in the water on the counter, it was something I should have noticed.

He was doing this:


It's hard to see there with the clutter. 
The beauty. 


My kindergartner put it there... for me.

I have seen horrible things growing in sippy cups in my days, but this time, beauty, put there by a child who not so long ago drank out of the cup, and clung to my hip, and took everything all the time. That child is learning how to give, how to notice, how to help others notice.

Noticing,
in the middle of the clutter. This is my challenge.
This is the fight.

The dining room table seems to have a magnet that attracts papers, mail, clutter. Sometimes  we have to shove it all to the middle just to eat dinner.

Yesterday, I cleared it off.
Our family gratitude notebook will remain right there, all month long. Surely it will get buried more than once, but I think there, in the center of activity, it might get opened, too.






“Our capacity for gratitude is not connected with an abundance of resources but rather with a capacity to notice what it is that we do have.  This is expressed powerfully in the traditional African-American prayer of gratitude that the Lord “woke me up this morning clothed in my right mind. He didn’t have to do it, but he did.” 

(Christine D. Pohl, Living into Community)



Father,
Open our eyes to see, and our lips to declare your praise.
Amen

Monday, November 3, 2014

Clinging

The campfire is hot on her shins, and the others are ready for bed, but she does not move. She smoothes Little One’s hair and breathes it in. He smells like smoke and marshmallows and boy sweat. He smells like life, and she is not ready to let him go.

All day she’d been haunted by the feeling of this child in her arms, not sleeping, but pale and without breath. He’d been underwater much too long, and she should have been watching, but she never seems to have enough eyes or arms to keep them all safe, especially in her dreams. She was watching his brother when he went under silently, telling the wrong child to be careful. And so it was that he was carried to her from the stream, silent and still. It was too late to do anything, and she pressed him to her and breathed in his wet hair and tried to love him alive, but it was too late.

“It’s getting late,” daddy says, but she is busy loving him alive, for just a little longer. He stirs, nestles in closer, and puts his sticky hand in her hair. She clings tigher, sits deeper, and will sit until her bluejeans catch on fire.



This month I'm participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). My goal is to write 50k of fiction in the month of November. This post is not part of the novel... it's just me playing with fiction, warming up my fingers.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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