Listen, November Speaks

“Nature should be read as one of God’s books which he made to reveal himself.”-                                                                                                                  Richard Baxter, 1656


Saturday the brittle sound of brokenness cracks loud. Metal tines scrape and drag the piles of russet brown and speckled gold debris that just 40 days ago still swayed green above my head.

Not so now.

The garden has the musky smell of things dying and returning to the earth. I pull the last of the purple coneflowers and black-eyed Susans. Their roots resist like they don’t know it’s their time to go.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

   a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot…

The rake cuts deep into the dirt and its handle cuts deep into me. Skin separates from the crook of my thumb. There is blood.

I never wear gloves and sometimes I think this is not the best idea, but it doesn’t stop me from reaching into the dark places to pull out the spent blooms because I want to feel all of it. In April, I touch a stem and leaf’s beginnings and in November I touch their endings.

I need to touch the message of the gospel with my bare hands.

scooping dirt

A hard thing indeed, this time to uproot.

All those tendrils and root- wisps have a strength that belie their size as they cling cling cling to the life they know is still in the dirt.

Sometimes it takes muscle.
Sometimes it takes a cutting away.
Sometimes it takes blood, sweat and tears.

I grip a mottled stem still green in places and pull. The slow ascent of the stem begins as I pull harder harder harder until it finally rips apart from its home in the ground.

hands around stems

Life does not depart easily. Yet when November whispers, “It is time to go” the trees and flowers eventually bow down and give up their leaves.

The melancholy of November is the melancholy of the gospel.
It is the beginning of a coming darkness.

hands in dirt

For me, November speaks of darkness coming to another garden. A garden wet with its own spilled blood, sweat and tears. A garden where Jesus asks His father twice, if at all possible, if there is any other way, perhaps he, too could stay earthbound.

…yet not my will, but yours be done.

Nobody, no living thing, ever wants to die. It wasn’t part of the original plan. Nothing about death seems right.

Trees without leaves, a child without his mama, a mama without her baby, a man without his wife. Must the ground claim everything?

It used to be after the glorious shower of Autumn was over and the landscape was left brown and wanting, a dark shadow would come and live at the edges of my thoughts. In New England, the barrenness of November can mean a wait of almost six months before new life springs from the ground again and for some of us this would mean a silent fight to keep joy.

leaves and lampost

Now, when clouds hang low and twilight comes early, the message of the gospel resounds in the rustle of fallen leaves. All is well because the darkness holds no power. It can only point to a coming light.

The gloom of the cross held for a moment, but could not keep, the most glorious of Light, Jesus. The ground could not claim Him. And because of Him, it will never claim us.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.


These days I embrace November and her message of the gospel.
Darkness has no claim over me.

Joy pushes past the edges of my thoughts and I smile at the crackle of leaves as I stand in an empty garden.

I know what’s coming.

(Listen here to “Light Of The World, You Stepped Down Into Darkness”)

The Mystery Of Inequity

It’s not fair.

left child

So said some of the wisest of children at the bruised end of injustice.

It’s not fair having to move to the back of the line when someone has slipped in undetected by the teacher and cut.

Cut you out of your rightful position.

You were blithely going along, minding your own business, doing the right thing and this…this person….this selfish, entitled, ungrateful person elbow-jabbed right past you and took your spot.

You’ve been re-positioned, moved aside, cast down.

You’ve been left.

doll in dirt

You’ve been cut out of line.

Cut out of your job.
Cut out of your family.
Cut out of your country.

The stroke of a CEO’s pen, the closing of a door, the whizz of a bullet.
Life’s gut piercing elbow jabs, these.

Isn’t anyone going to do something about this?  Doesn’t anyone see what just happened?

The injustice of it all can be too much to bear.

“In my futile life I have seen everything: there is a righteous man who perishes in spite of his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who lives long in spite of his evil.”

So said one of the wisest of men near the end of his days.

“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
    I had nearly lost my foothold.
 For I envied the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”

The mystery of inequity.
A wonder, this thing called Un-Fair-Ness.

One steps into the arena of old age, having been buffeted by abuse, abandonment, poverty and hands gnarling from disease, while another one, the one who abandoned, is seemingly unaware of the emotional cost others have had to pay for his choices. This one lives where the fireflies dance and the grass slopes green into a grove of trees, his hands not gnarled, instead muscled from the planing of  boards and the swinging of hammers.

The first smiles past the wince of all her cares.
The other whistles because he hasn’t a care.

green hills

Life is so unfair….all of the time.

“They have no struggles;
    their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
    they are not plagued by human ills.”

Jesus followers, God lovers, do-ers of good, they so often find themselves at the edge of a cliff only to have the winds relentlessly pounding at their backs, pushing pushing pushing. It takes everything, every heal digging bit, to keep from being tossed over the side.

“Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
    and have washed my hands in innocence.
 All day long I have been afflicted,
    and every morning brings new punishments.”

The cheaters and the stealers and the mockers and the smirkers seem to dodge bullet after bullet after bullet. They keep making more and more money. They keep their health and the spring in their step. They never, ever have to push past a crowd to grab His healing hem.

garment hem

But God….

The coffee-skinned girl lies on a guerney, rolled to her left side and wrapped in a simple white sheet. This young woman, full of mouth and cheek-boned beauty only looks up. Her eyes never meet the interviewer’s, who, bent low, whispers questions. Days before the girl found herself chained to a tree while men from a warring village broke her apart for their own pleasure. She, ravaged to the point of no longer able to bear children, lies on a cot, serene and pristine, her eyes wide up. My eyes are wide brimming.
What is she looking at?  

“For the brokenness of the daughter of my people I am broken; I mourn, dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored?”

The interviewer tells her she must be angry at her perpetrators and at the incredible violence done to her.




In a whisper laced musical, she says, “I love Jesus. Who am I to judge these men? That is God’s to do. I trust Him.”

Who says this?

Who can speak words barely heard, yet when they come out of her mouth they are like a balm covering and seeping and cleansing and forgiving every ravaged, jagged, rugged cut?

Is there no balm in Gilead?

gilead tree

Yes. Yes, there is.
The balm Jesus smeared on another tree.

Only someone who has been in the sanctuary and experienced the Presence can say despite pain and brokenness that fairness and judgment is God’s arena. Only someone who has seen God in this way can leave their enemies with Him. They accept the mystery of inequity, not because they understand it, but because they’ve seen Him.
They keep their eyes wide up.

When I tried to understand all this,
    it troubled me deeply
 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
    then I understood their final destiny.

What does fairness have to do with anything at all when God Himself holds the times, the seasons, the epochs in His hands? He, who has and will make everything right. Jesus, who is Sovereign above anything and anyone invites us into His sanctuary, His dwelling place where we can truly see who He is.

It is there under the weight of His glorious that I really see. I see Him. I see others.
And then I see me.

Without Him, I too, can be a cheater and a stealer and mocker and smirker.
And it is not fairness that I will want.
It is mercy.


The Aha Of Understanding


I have 423 friends.
Of these, seventy four say they follow me.
The truth is I can barely count on two hands what’s really worth counting.

In the social media world I am to be pitied.

In the blood, sweat and tears world someone should smack me upside the head and wake me from my virtual reality coma.

No one can maintain, never mind sustain, four hundred and twenty three relationships. No one can do it with seventy four, unless, of course, these relationships are defined by likes and hearts and hashtags. Even Jesus, out of his twelve closest mates, had only one best friend if the beloved John had anything to say about it.


C.S. Lewis writes, “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: What! You too? I thought that no one but myself….


It is a realization we get when we sit on the bench, or laugh across a junior high cafeteria table or bump shoulders at the office water cooler, and look into the face of someone who gets what we get. Sees what we see. Has thought the same wild, fantastical, out-in-left-field things we’ve thought.

Somehow we are surprised by this.

Surprised that we have made a connection based not on economics or popularity or a shared neighborhood, or even likes or dislikes. Instead, our connection happens with this other being, this different human, because of the Aha Of Understanding.

It is on this path of true understanding that friendship at its purest, deepest level occurs.


It is not to be confused with the path of total agreement or even the sharing of the exact same philosophies or values.

It is an even deeper the path; one of knowing and being known.

Sometimes we speak this knowing with words, oftentimes without.
I know your joy.
I know your pain.
I know why you think that is funny.
I know why that makes you cry.
And you know it about me.

Jesus said it like this: I no longer call you servants, because a master doesn’t confide in his servants. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.

I have told you everything…..

We come to an understanding even in the Kingdom.

Shouldn’t it be so in our closest relationships?

In this particular Aha moment we walk toward a place of simultaneous deconstruction/re-construction.


When we meet someone who gets us and we get them, our prejudices, fears, and inhibitions deconstruct…maybe not right away….but cracks begin to appear in our protective walls and something inside is….relieved. It is because the weight of not being known is, and always has been, too much to bear.


The marvel that is The Aha Of Understanding is that while a deconstruction is happening, a re-construction is going on, too. It’s like we can actually feel strands of unbreakable cords being woven together right there in the kitchen, all of us still in our pajamas and bed hair and morning breath on the 26th year of Girls Weekend.


Friendships are formed within seasons and I am blessed to say that many of these I will take with me into eternity.

The season of my girlhood, the years that saw me awkward and acne-ed, flat and crooked in all the wrong places, was a season when four friends sat on the bench with me and in due time we experienced our Aha moment.

We shared Harry’s Pizza, cokes and Friendly’s french fries, football games, basketball games, a scary gym teacher, a funny math teacher, Pine Tree escapades, drive-in mishaps, cars, boyfriends, locker rooms, beds, beach towels, and beers. It was in these places we championed our successess and confessed our failures.
We knew and we were known.



Five girls, some of us soft in the belly now, yet soul-muscled from forty years of letting down walls and constructing unbreakable bonds, mark the calender for a weekend get-away every summer where we come to an understanding.

We see and are seen. We get and we are gotten. We have embraced the deconstruction and the re-construction.

To my girlhood friends: here’s to GW2016

The Substitute Teacher Goes To School


They say teachers, like parents, have eyes in the back of their heads.

It is not true.

What is true is, like a good parent, a good teacher has honed the God breathed ability to read between the lines…the giggles…the whispers.

A good teacher is like a good shepherd.
Each member of the flock is a priority.
Each one under the watchful eye of a caring leader.
Good teachers don’t have eyes in the back of their heads.
What they have is telescopic vision.

They can see way deep. They can see way far.

When the blinders come off and one looks past the rising stigma of public schools in general and public educators in particular, sometimes seeing becomes believing.
Believing that, despite all the out-dated buildings, humanistic philosophy and common core anxiety, Jesus just might make an appearance in a public school.

Hard to believe, I know.

It’s like sensing God’s holy presence in Wal-Mart.
What could He possibly have to do with Broken-Cart Wal-Mart?

Unless it’s the broken down, people-forsaken places where we actually find Him.

The news rhetoric that public school in America has become a people-forsaken place.  A federally-funded, low scoring, hormonally charged public space full of socially wired and overly medicated children; soul-bruised and belly hungry because, quite simply, mom and dad just don’t get it.

Poor. Uneducated. Socially wired and overly medicated moms and dads navigating this world with nothing but a broken cart.

Teachers, the good ones, must learn to look past the first thing they see; the poverty of mind, body and soul. They learn to see what could be, what is meant to be.

A subsitute teacher sees things too.

But this one has taken the better part of sixteen years to see past the first thing to the second thing where God is.

When you learn to see the second thing, what is meant to be, you put your rocks down.

Mercy enables you to walk away from a stoning.
Grace enables you to recognize it was Jesus’s idea to help you to do it. 

As school winds down this week, I am reminded of the many grace moments that I have seen throughout the years. Grace moments that have opened my eyes to the holy assignment of teaching.

Moments like when you, teacher, have come in early and stayed late for the sake of being prepared to impact a child.

I’ve seen you pick up countless pencils and twisted paper clips and wads of paper and used straws.

I’ve seen your intimate relationship with the photocopier. I’ve seen your struggle with the laminator.

I’ve seen you read thousands and thousands and thousands of words.

I’ve seen you write slowly and perfectly for the beginning reader every single time.

I’ve seen you reach down, reach up, and reach over one more time when you really want to escape to the teacher’s room for one minute of peace.

I’ve seen you buttoning, zipping and tying all of the unbuttoned, unzipped, untied places.

I’ve seen your overloaded bags and totes and carts.

I’ve seen you navigate the rough waters of hurting parents who hurt back.

I’ve seen you buy pants and shirts and sneakers and coats and Book Fair books with your own money for kids who will never stand in line at the cash register to get something cool.

I’ve seen you restore dignity to an unruly child.

I’ve seen the weariness in your eyes when you’ve chosen to keep going until you see understanding’s light appears in a child’s eyes.

I’ve seen you stand on the tracks willing to take head on a train wreck of a kid.

I’ve seen you stand up to bullying with the understanding of a seasoned diplomat and the heart of a mother bear.

I’ve seen you eulogize a young girl who couldn’t see past her pain to your outstretched hand and took her life anyway. I’ve seen how your words breathed hope to a grief-bashed community.

I’ve seen a student’s disappointment when it was me sitting at your desk and not you.

I’ve seen children love you.

If you are a teacher reading this, may this Summer refresh you in such a way that, come Fall, new mercies and grace will be upon you for another year of opening up your telescope and seeing what you are believing for.

This is dedicated to my dear teacher friend, who retires this year.  A shepherd of children, she has led many of them by the still waters of understanding and learning to the deep oceans of grace.

To Carol, With Love.

When All You’ve Got Is A Shovel.


Sometimes you just have to get to work.
There is a job to be done and in that moment you are the one to do it.

It matters not that you feel unqualified.
It matters not if you like the it.

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For this moment, you are the one.

It’s as if you’ve been assigned.
You think this way because your viewpoint is not bound to terra firma.


You spend the whole month of May cleaning and hauling and dragging and burning and throwing away and giving away and every single day of it you walk past The Tree With No Name. She has suffered the ravages of two brutal winters and most of her branches are dead. You’re sad, but truthfully, sometimes you just plain hate that tree. She’s gnarly and old and past her prime, apparently. Yes, there are a few wispy leaves near the top, but it’s just a matter of time before she rots from the inside out. You think, if you were Jesus, you’d curse the thing to its root for being such a poser.

You turn away and let your blade split the ground. It cuts through the roots, the bone and marrow of an unruly hydrangea because you know that this kind of surgery yields life. It doubles, triples, even quadruples the splendor of petals.
This is your hope, anyway.

But when the blade cuts deep, you can’t help but feel, like the hydrangea, that you are losing.

Losing your normal.
Losing your routine.
Losing your productivity.
Losing your space.
Losing your spot in the garden.

The only thing to gain at this point is trust in the gardener.

There are blooms all around you, but your pot, at the moment, appears empty.
Like you’re the poser.


Days bleed weeks bleed months and you keep digging.
Digging into the Word.
Digging into the Spirit.
Digging into Jesus.
You have become a ditch digger.
A digger of trenches where water will flow.

You are believing that all the changes and upheavals and new normals will yield something far greater than any of your perceived losses because in an upside down kingdom it’s the losers who ultimately win. Things like forgiveness and freedom and healing and passion for what God is doing.

Sometimes all it takes is to look a little closer. To fix your gaze on what is right in front of you, but so easily missed. To look past the dead things, the lost things.


On a warm spring day, after you’ve spent the better part of it elbow deep in dirt wondering about your life and the next chapter, your next assignment,  and you suddenly find yourself enveloped in a shower of small white petals….look up.

The Tree With No Name will be standing there in all her white blossomed glory, her blooms heavy laden near the top past her broken places.

mountain ash tree

She is no poser. You are no poser.
With your shovel in your hand you just need to see.

Underneath The Rubbish

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They can be such flimsy, wasteful things on the one hand and killer knife blades on the other. I run to the backyard where I seek refuge amongst the sticks and stones.
No one sees tears here.

So much has fallen down this winter. Tree branches. The arbor. Me.

I climb over the dead christmas tree to get at some of the branches wedged between the fence posts. Some of the limbs prove too heavy for me to move to the burn pile. I will need the chainsaw.

I break smaller branches over my knee. The crack of the dried wood echos my own heart’s cry as I muscle my way through the mess of things here on the ground. We have all messed it up so badly, I think.

I have messed it up so badly.


The knife edge of winter is still present in the spring breeze and I pace the yard to keep warm. There is so much to clean up I don’t know where to begin. I turn circles in the yard and in the twilight I see a little white orb blooming underneath winter’s rubbish. A dark countenance shrouds the petals trying to break through broken things.

There are just six of them. They look like jewelry. Delicate. Refined. Exquisitely white.


No one.
No one but God Himself knew they were there.
Now I do.

I kneel down in my sorrow of a day gone south and push aside the dead things, and suddenly the words that spat in the kitchen only moments ago fracture and fall into an ash heap. Kneeling precedes repentance and, as I free one of the blooms from the clutches of a dead leaf, I hear His still, small voice whispering to me: This is you. 


My vision blurs.
I gently wipe the dirt from these littlest of flowers and I smile because truth doesn’t always shout loud. Sometimes it comes softly, slowly like a petal opening up after a long hard winter.

It is in this moment God wipes the dirt off of me.



I look out the window and there are flurries. Again.

My wool coat hangs close by in the closet.

I am still wearing gloves.

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The snowbanks edging the front lawn are covered in sand; small dirt mountains that pockmark the landscape. These dirt mounds line the sidewalks and fill the lot across the street washing the view from my front door in a brown blur.


It seems like nothing ever changes. Everyday, when I look out the window I think the whole place is in need of a good scrubbing. My town is wearing her ugly dress.


But, I am blind.

Blind to evidence….hidden evidence forming underneath the dirt-crusted snow. I cannot see it but I can hear it..the faint trickle of water somewhere. I stand quiet along the road like I’m in Narnia when someone says, “‘The witch’s magic is weakening.” And  (like) Lucy felt that deep shiver of gladness that you only get if you are being solemn and still.”

It is not until days later that I see what has been happening beneath the surface of things.
I see the evidence of water doing its work.
I see mud.

I am Lucy’s Edward when he realizes the spell of of the white witch has been broken and winter loosens its grasp for good.


“All around them, though out of sight, there were streams chattering, bubbling, splashing and even (in the distance) roaring. And his heart gave a great leap (though he hardly knew why) when he realised that the frost was over.”


The man sits in the road, just another part of the landscape in another place and another time where nothing ever changes. He hears, but he does not see. He was brought forth from the blackness of the womb only to remain in the dark. No blinding lights here. No squinting baby in his mother’s arms. That day he became destined for beggary.

But…God. But…mud.

The man hears voices.  He hears the word, Rabbi. The voices are asking this rabbi if he, the man, low and in the dirt, is a sinner. Or was it the sins of his mom and dad that kept the light from coming into his eyes?

As if all suffering must be the result of a wrong choice.

The man isn’t a novelty. Lots of blind people seem to show up alongside the road when this rabbi is around. Part of the furniture, really, the way these guys are talking like he’s deaf, too.

But, this rabbi didn’t step into the blue planet to make a connection with wood and nails.

Instead, He embraced wood and nails to make a connection with the broken flesh of humanity.

The Ancient of Days Person turns to a made-from-the-dust-person, connecting with the man face-to-face, sighted eye to blinded eye, getting low to the ground where the broken and blind live, and, with His back to his friends, He divides their very souls and marrow with these words.


“It was neither that this man sinned,nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Then He makes mud.
Spit and dirt.
He smears it over the man’s eyes.
He dirties him up and then He tells him to go wash.


See,  blind person, Jesus is Lord of all creation.

He is Lord of all the dirt and grime and muddied up places.

And He is Lord of the cleaning up.


This is where we see the works of God. When we, the blind, the broken, the loneliest of lonelies, are changed from being just a part of the furniture, no longer not seen, but seen and see-ing.
We are known and we now know.


It is only a holy connection with wood and nails that could accomplish this sort of thing.

Yes, we’ve been sin-dirtied. We’ve had mud smeared on us, but we’ve had a proper washing up and now His Spring is displayed in us.

We embrace mud season because we know it points to a promise.


This is Easter.

The Right Complaint


The complaint lies like a scratchy, woolen, too-heavy-for-comfort blanket over the landscape.

This New England, a place known for its blizzards and hurricanes, scrapes skin and emotions raw when the cold bites hard and long. Another round of snow, another slippery drive, another delivery of oil smacks hard against the weather weary.

Complaint becomes the language spoken here.



There are two kinds of complaint that can spring forth from a man.

The first, and perhaps the most prevalent, grows in the soil of discontent.
It is the kind that believes a long line at the grocery store is an affront to our convenience and paying our dues at work or school, or life, is an injustice.
It is the kind that takes the weather personally.

The complainer’s theme song is entitled:

Why Me?
Why am I so cold? Why am I so hot?
Why do I have to park in the furthest parking lot?
Why are lines too long…they are such a pain.
Why do my white walls still instragram the stains?

Why me? Why me?
What did I do to deserve this sort of thing?
Afterall, I’m following Jesus, who is my heavenly king.
Why me? Why me?
I worked so hard all week, I have so many kids.
You’re asking me to serve?
Looks like I already did.

Why is she so skinny? Why is he so lean?
Why can’t I have at least one pair of pricey jeans?
Why can’t I have the upgrade? Is it five or number six?
Who will pay my tab if I get in a fix?

Why me? Why me?
What did I do to deserve this sort of thing?
Afterall, I’m following Jesus, who is my heavenly king.
Why me? Why me?
I want my kids in Gap, I need the latest phone.
You’re asking me to give?
I’m sorry, I gave at home.

It’s the Dawning of the Age of Entitlement, Age of Entitlement..

In the age of entitlement there are no sick kids, or broken down cars, or never-ending cold snaps, or serving in obscurity in the toddler room or the cleaning ministry. It’s the farmhouse sink, the cool blog, the prominent position. Like, Like, Like.

Yet, entitlement is just another filter to mask discontent.



The second kind of complaint is actually a lament that germinates in the soil of belief.

It is a sort of holy complaint.
The complaint isn’t just about something, but a complaint to Someone.

Whereas ungratefulness and discontent are attached to the entitled complainer, it is Hope that is attached to the holy complainer. Hope cloaks this kind of complaint with the belief that God is not only listening, but He will act on our behalf because He is just that good.

What good father would refuse comfort to his child that screams, “Daddy, how long is this going to hurt? Make it go away!”

The hopeful lamenter believes that God is the author and finisher of his life. He believes that underneath the pain, the inconvenience and the obscurity lies an opportunity to see His majesty.


March winds howl hard through the trees of our winter of discontent.
It happens every year, this last blast of north winds. It is the expected way of things in this part of the world, yet still we complain.

So what do we do when we are scraped to the bone, peeling and feeling abandoned in a white-on-white, winter weary season of hard things?


We stand, we lie down, we moan with the psalmist:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

How long will my soul be in winter, O God? When will you come with your Spring?

The psalmist’s complaint to God is an admission of belief.

It is the posture of turning toward God, not away from Him, just like the child crying out in pain or confusion moves toward his father because really he believes his father will do something good.

An entitled complainer throws his hands up in despair muttering, “Seriously?”
The psalmist complainer throws his hands up in surrender saying,

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

Asking God to consider and answer implies belief that He will do so.

This kind of holy complainer stands against the March winds with hunched shoulders and frozen tears and says,

O’ Spring, though snow’s crust lay hard over thy field,
It’s simply God’s timing when winter must yield,
To the strength of your bud and your widening of  green
To the fragrance of lilies that wash over me. 


This Lenten season I am seeing how Jesus embraced the winter of His soul as He walked toward the cross.

He, too, was a holy lamenter that day: “Father, my Father, why have You forsaken Me?”

Yet, for the joy set before Him, He endured the harshness of the wood and nails, the cruel winds of an enemy’s lies. He, the only One truly entitled, laid down His entitlement because He knew His spilled blood was about to bring forth an eternal Spring for you and for me.


A Better Fifty This Valentine’s Day

The number fifty.

It stands for deliverance, for freedom.
God’s chosen number that cuts chains, breaks bonds.

Image result for chains

God declared it so.
That every fiftieth year His people would be released from their debt. Land would be returned to the rightful owners.

You were free to start over. Nobody was holding anything over you. Nobody was tying you down.


It wasn’t enough for God to relieve your burden. To release you. To wipe away your shame. God declared a party. It’s as if He was saying, “Go ahead…laugh, rejoice, and do it all year long!”
This is Jubilee.

The number fifty.

God’s chosen number of days between the Resurrection and Pentecost.
Fifty days after Jesus breaks through the ultimate bondage; death, the Holy Spirit comes to empower us to live radically good. To step into the nobility we were meant for.

Yet, we are so easily ensnared.


We have the keys.

But when we forget what we were made for; when we lose our way because we have decided to put away our compass, we actually believe that being tied down is a good thing.

We forget it was just a couple of years ago we wretched in our guts at the realization that three girls, tied down for another man’s pleasure, were hidden right under our noses. That year we feared for our daughters. This year we lend them our books.

We live in shades and shadows that make their own proclamation: that pain and chains and ropes and whips can bring us a pleasure we never thought possible. Human trafficking puts on cologne and a tie and the girl gives consent. Come this Valentine’s Day so many of our lovely, lovely girls will believe that consensual means everything is okay.

A young woman pumps her fist in the air when another fifty, shadowed and grey, shows up during the big football game. I watch as she turns to look at the middle-aged women sitting behind her to see what they will do as she shouts, “Ye-ah” when a different Christian comes on the screen. She whispers in the boy’s ear in whose lap she sits as the camera slides past a woman’s thigh and the closeness of it captures the tiny hairs shimmering gold.

It’s a beautiful shot.

Then…what looks like a riding crop meets girl skin.
And it’s oh so funny to the lovely young lady sitting in front of me.
I wonder what scars she could receive come this Valentine’s Day after dinner and a movie.

The enemy of our souls is a thief. He steals our hearts, our minds and our bodies by inviting us to live in the shadows of bondage and pain and he dares to call it good.

Coincidentally, some Jewish scholars are calling this year, 2015, a Jubilee year.
It is so like the enemy of our souls to try and run parallel to what God is doing.
It is so like him to get us to exchange truth for a lie.

But God.


Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Jesus took every whip, every chain, every nail because He knows we are meant for something nobler.

We are meant to live in the light, not shadow.
We are meant to love purely…sacrificially, without pain, without chains.

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Jesus is our Fifty.
He is our Jubilee.

All Art Is Hard

“Don’t be a writer if you can get out of it! It’s a solitary job, sometimes a rather lonely one (who’s listening? you say), and it requires relentless self-discipline. The world is not waiting with baited breath for what you turn out. A writer has to be some kind of nut to stick with it. But if, like the psalmist, you say, “My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned,” then perhaps you will have to write.” Elisabeth Elliot


Words are my color and there are days when the colors bleed a blur. Phrases tangle and knot and I am simply too tired to step into the hard work of de-tangling.

Ideas come into the imaginings, uninvited, and I fidget with the workings of them. With the details of life pressing in from all sides I whisper, Hush! I don’t have time for this. You will have to wait.

If I go days without writing an essay or a journal entry or even a crafted sentence, I am actually shamed by it. It’s like I’m not being true to myself when I am not writing. This is to my detriment.

When you are hard-wired for something and you are not doing it, you burn. From the inside out.

C.S. Lewis said, “I would not know how to advise a man how to write. It is a matter of talent and interest. I believe he must be strongly moved if he is to become a writer. Writing is like a “lust,” or like “scratching when you itch.” Writing comes as a result of a very strong impulse, and when it does come, I for one must get it out.”

Some think that because you have a talent for something it must be easy. Dipping the brush, grasping the melody, pounding the nail, bending the steel.  Muscle and mettle are required. Those not willing to expend either of these Need Not Apply. 

All art is hard.

Even the prodigy sweats.
Even the gifted strain.

What is your Art? What makes you sweat? What makes you strain because you must get it out?

Do you sew curtains or sow seeds?  Do you string guitars or garden plots? Do you brush canvases, sweep workshops, squint through a lens, squint through a forger’s smoke?

When January braces cold and darkness is a regular part of the landscape the melancholy of winter will try to steal from you. It will try to steal your art; your hard-wired- gifted- from- God way to create what you alone were meant to create. You must fight back. Choose your weapon.

Paint something. Turn something on a wheel. Marry pitch and tremor.
Even when it’s hard.

And it is so very hard.
There is the obvious work in getting it right and beautiful. But then there is the shutting oneself up to get it right and beautiful, away from all the daily goings on in an attempt to make sense of all the thoughts and ramblings and gut feelings about, well, everything in the whole wide world… and this means leaving things. It means leaving others.

This has been my wrestling match for over thirty years. Especially when I’ve come away from my children. The thief awaits in this place with words that go straight to the primal maternity core: What a selfish, self-seeking mother…who are you to take time for your art? 

But I have learned there is a weapon for this, too. Just put out the drumsticks and the video cameras and the notebooks and the measuring spoons and lots and lots of pencils and crayons and string and glue and fabric and broken down wood and see what your children will do with their art.

You  must remain diligent. You cannot let the details of life, the upheaval of routine or the month of January keep your art from being realized. You must do your art or you will burn down from the inside out.

The only comparison to Lewis I would dare to make would be that, like him, I must get the words out. Out and away, and hopefully, in that place away from me, there will be beauty…there will be art. Words are my art.  I am a writer.

For some inspiration read Luci Shaw’s Breath for the Bones.  You will be set afire again.

Breath for the Bones Are Imagination and Spirit: A Reflection of Creativity and Faith