About Laundry

(1)
Laundered

Spin away stains
Wash away witnesses
Mud and spilled coffee–
Leftovers from heavy duty,
Normal, or delicate days.

Forget what you saw,
What I tried to hide.
Toss into heated tempest.
Fold. Prepare to get dirty again.
Repeat the cycle. Repeat.

A covering of water
Love-wash flooding the soul
Remember what is permanent
And forget what you don’t need to know.

 

(2)
Ode To Laundry

O Laundry, Laundry
You are always by my side
Like a good friend, you closely abide.

O Laundry, Laundry
You will never forsake
A forever friend you surely make.

O Laundry, Laundry
You’re colorful, creative, in a heap–
When I see you, my heart takes a leap.

O Laundry, Laundry
Thou dost surely tease–
Just when I think I’ve reached the end,
You slyly do grow tall again.

O Laundry, Laundry
Though you are tall, I can see
You will never be lovely as a tree.

O Laundry, Laundry
You are never the same–
And often ahead in this cleaning game.

O Laundry, Laundry
You old dirty, stinky mound!
I give up! I guess you’ll always be around.

***

These poems were submitted for the Tweetspeakpoetry.com prompt about laundry. Read other laundry selections here or to submit your own.

 

 

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The Matter of a Millimeter

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I sat beside him with a ruler and showed him how small a millimeter is, and how many of them it takes to make a centimeter. I thought about what it means for me, and for him, to know this, and why? I called out spelling words for a test, reviewed vocabulary flashcards, assisted with math problems, and drove to the library, all parts of a typical day.

But each day was similar, only with different books and different lessons. After a few years, I began to struggle. I proceeded straight from being a stay-at-home mom with young kids to homeschooling full-time. Without family nearby to call upon, or a regular reprieve from the schedule, I felt depleted. The lack of respite took its toll on me physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I would hear voices, real and imagined, saying remarks like, “You’re a failure.”  Or, “I can’t believe you are doing this.” I heard the voices from those who eyed me curiously. I heard the voices from inside my own head.

I took a break from homeschooling for a year, to spend time thinking, writing, healing, and praying. I also talked to a Christian counselor.

Through that year, God reminded me it wasn’t the magnitude of the task ahead of me, or what the world counted as success; it was my heart.  That is what mattered. I needed to find it— that place of significance in knowing that I, and what I did, mattered to God.

I emerged from that dark season stronger and ready to press on. This was the good work He had provided for me — the good work of being with my kids as we learned about Him through the order of mathematics, through the beauty of spoken and written language, through the complexities of science, and through the vastness of this earth with its diverse people and places.

It’s been a few years since then, and I am walking on a shinier side of that struggle. Because the enemy still lurks and those voices still occasionally call out, it is important to regularly remind myself of the one voice that matters, the one that I want to hear say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Here on earth, trapped in time and space, God reminds me that he can divide the smallest unit of matter into pieces I cannot see. He gets closer than a millimeter, in units that are immeasurable. He pierces the soul, permeates marrow, and reaches the heart in places nothing else can. This is the God of the universe, mightier than we can fathom, coming closer than we can measure.

The work of teaching the size of a millimeter? I learned that it matters — it matters greatly to God.

“God’s love is meteoric,
his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.

Yet in his largeness
nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
slips through the cracks.”

Psalm 36:5-6  (The Message)

***

This post was written for The High Calling submission prompt: “Your Work Matters to God.” Click here to read other stories or to submit your own. 

 

 

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The Practice of Love

“God’s love is meteoric,
his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.

Yet in his largeness
nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
slips through the cracks.

How exquisite your love, O God!
How eager we are to run under your wings,
To eat our fill at the banquet you spread
as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water.

You’re a fountain of cascading light,
and you open our eyes to light.”

Psalm 36:5-9 The Message

In this tilted and spinning planet, nothing gets by God. No one can slip away unnoticed. Not a man, not a mouse passes by his watchful eye.

We are also tilted, needing to be put right, upright. His love is so big, His purpose so enormous, nothing escapes His eye, and He can make things right.

His love speaks in the way this earth is covered with water, and it’s all the right temperature and the perfect distance from the sun. How can I deny Love’s existence?

Love speaks quietly, in a butterfly’s wing, lighting on wispy purple petal-skin. Love speaks loudly, through lightning flashing in dark clouds and bringing rain to parched land.

Love is the gentle power to speak with more than a clanging cymbal, softer than a noisy gong that causes confusion and commotion.

Love speaks softer and quieter… but louder than empty deeds, louder than flattery, empty praise, and in ways more meaningful than going through the motions. Love will not fail (I Corinthians 13).

Love glides in a paintbrush, love wrestles its way through words spilled on a page, love sings a song from the heart, in a voice, through musical instruments… all in ways that strike us deep.

Mothers speak love, they are moved to a place beyond themselves and sometimes no one can love like a mom, just sometimes, no one else gets it, or can love, when the world runs away, chasing after it’s own empty moon.

If I am still, I hear Love speak to me. I practice the listening, so I can hear Him speak, or else the clanging noises drown him out– the empty promises of the world, the nay-sayers, the critics, the judges, the Pharisees, who know nothing of love, but of other things, who may appear to be “holy” but who are as far from Jesus as Mt. Everest is from the deepest part of the ocean. Maybe further.

Jesus spoke in love, when he was stopped on the way, interrupted constantly, and his response was one of acceptance, compassion, forgiveness. He healed, with his hands, and he cried for his friends. He cared. He joined the sinners, the ones who were known to be lawless, and told them, showed them, how true love behaves, where love walks, and resides. Who does love eat with? Those who are hungry. Jesus teaches that, shows it.

And I am hungry. Are you?

((Can I please follow this Jesus? I know there is nowhere else I’d rather be.))

Jesus wants us to know him. Know him. Be with him. Spend time with him. Be in a relationship. I see how it gets lost, so easily, forgotten, and neglected if the peripheral things of Jesus are pursued. Spending time in the presence of the Holy One, with Love, will make us more like him, like ones who are able to love the world around us, even the harder things.

Love doesn’t force. He says, “Look at what I’ll do for you! Look how much I love you!” His words and his actions are connected, reinforcing one another, his words aren’t empty and his deeds aren’t just a catalog of “good” actions. His way is connected in a mysterious language of saying that matched his doing.

I can’t do it that well. I fail at it. Jesus says love is not to be a doormat, but that a lover lives in truth. Standing in truth means dispelling lies that hiss from the enemy, trying to sway us from truth. Standing in truth is standing firm in love… and perfect love casts out all fear.

And sometimes, no one sees except the Father himself, the good and hard work that love is. True love loves when no one sees. Love has no need to boast. Love speaks for itself, louder than a thousand trumpets.

Love speaks quietly, walks softly, has no need to startle with her arrival… because the Father sees, He notices each step taken by each creature on the earth He made. He cares that thistles grow out of dry ground. He cares about stony hearts.

It is easy to love beauty. But Jesus teaches something more, something better. He reminds me of this, as I ponder the practice of love, as he demonstrates by example, as he eats with sinners, and bestows kindness upon the lowest, and speaks in instructing words.

He reminds that love is also this:
– when the enemy smites the cheek, to “love the enemy”
– when the hater attacks, “to do good” to that one
– when the takers take, to “give your coat also”
– when the attacker strikes, to “forgive”
– to love the ugly, the haters, the enemies, the ones who’ve wielded blades and broken hearts

And what is love, if only I love the beautiful, the lovable, the adorable, or the ones who love me in return?

Jesus whispers in my ear and tells me a hard thing; that to learn how to love, truly know love, to practice love, I can’t just love the beautiful. I have to learn how to love the ugly, the scathing, the dirty, the enemy who wants to pour hot oil on my head, to burn me with words, or to cause wounds.

And this…this is the place where the seed planted emerges from the dirt, this is the place where love stands tall, and beauty blooms: in the midst of hate.

In the midst of the hate, a glory arises, a heavenly scent, a pleasing aroma, a sacrifice of praise… an action of Love.

Just like Jesus did.

***

Friend, how can you put into practice this love in your life?

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The Quiet

Sometimes a person just needs to be bathed in it… drenched and soaked.

I close my eyes and hear it all around me… the incessant murmur of the sounds that make up my days. And while those can get truly get loud, it’s the ones in my head that are truly the loudest.

It’s the internal noises — you know the ones — that cause internal unrest or turmoil. The voices. Sometimes critical or hard. Sometimes the voice of truth through the Holy Spirit.

Yes, the clanging cymbals and noisy gongs are out there. I hear them all the time.

But soaking in His word… that brings me the quiet I need, it drowns out all the other voices, sinks them down under the sand.

***

(from the archives)
Posted in Five Minute Friday, Holy Spirit, peace, Prayer, Rest, Stillness | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hope for the Broken-Hearted

They are the ones. You know them. The ones who stand by you, stand with you.

They tell you when not to give up, and when it’s time give it all up.

They are the ones who love you, no matter what, and through all kinds of matters.

Their gift is that unconditional belief and hope and love in you– despite the mistakes that we,  in our humanity, make.

Like the swaying of fragile reeds in the wind, so are the whims of those who pretend to be friend… people who live by their own rules, abiding by their own senses and demands for their own justices, without regard to the feelings and hearts of others.

Stung by betrayal, Jesus was, too. When Judas betrayed, I am sure His heart bled, just like ours does. Hearts ache. They bend, break and bleed. Have you been there? I’ve been there.

Can you see the drips… all around us, you and me, the drips?

If God knows the number of stars and none of them is missing, I am sure he has a place for broken hearts to heal. Sometimes it feels like too much, too much in this world, and we want a place to hide, to go far away. But no matter where it is, no matter where we go, it is the same.

Broken-hearted? We’re all cracked. And so I, you, we all fit in, everywhere we go. Until we can stop making each other’s cracks bigger and start working on healing, and work on some unconditional love, and grace, until then, we’ll have the gaping holes.

My eyes, they are searching. So are His eyes searching …His eyes roam and search this earth. While my eyes search around me … I know I am called to be different. Not back-stabber, betrayer.

What does “friend” mean? When I had none, I appreciated the sweetness of the word and what it meant. When there was a trampling, with words spoken and unspoken, I clung fast to the vine. When I finally knew the word “friend”, I understood it much better because of not having it before. God taught me, when I didn’t have, than when I did. Now I pray He teaches me, while I have the gift of friend, that I would honor Him.

We all fit, with our broken hearts… we all fit.

Posted in Bear One Another's Burdens, devotional, Friend, Friendship, grace, Jesus, Unconditional Love | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Internet Tea

Internet Tea

 

I can’t tweet on the phone anymore, I’ve got a date with my mouse;
must let my fingers do the typing (not walking, that was the Middle Ages),
while I sip tea and eat blackberry and apple pie

I can’t face this book,
I’ve got to digg in deep, since the google search yielded
621, 784 results, and each of them might be relevant
somehow. Your poem? Incredible, I reddit, liked and voted!

Have you ever seen someone throw a disqus that far? I bet
her stats are quite amazing, what a platform
to have such numbers on the high resolution screen.
Maybe I’ll stumbleupon the magic number
And google plus it to infinity…

In hibernation mode, a few people linkedin!
And while I slept in myspace,
I dreamt of a few blog ideas.
Maybe you’ll see it on the tube,
but I’m still afraid of a controversial intensedebate…
Oh vimeo, wherefore art thou?
Dost thou have the answers
to all of my social media questions?

“I’ll retweet the quote, tag you in the note,
text you, e-mail you, check your inbox, don’t forget to vote.”

It’s been so nice to chat, friend, pass the tumblr, let’s have tea again
real soon….

 

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Truth vs. Lies {a sestina}

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What words will you speak tonight?
Cunning, pithy, sugary lies?
In a new morning
enchanted with light, think not I will forget
your prevarications when the droplets of dew
drip on tears of midnight’s blue.

Will words always be black, shaded with blue,
and spoken by day-shadows, too? Night
ends finally, as I wait for the dew
to evaporate in a pillar of cloud. He lies
quietly, like a lion ready to attack. Yet when Love speaks, I forget
the darkness and see the breath of morning.

I’ve danced in songs of mourning,
but also in streams turned yellow from blue…
Still, the enemy whispers, to tempt me forget
by eve’s turn, tonight—
to detract with false luster and reframed lies–
the sparkle that blooms in the dew.

To such as you, nothing is due,
sir- but you are no gentleman. Morning
makes it clear, your lies
disappeared when truth blew
on your thin skin, and so you will succumb, too. Night
will not swallow me; I will not forget!

The truth, no, I cannot forget
when Love has spoken as gently as dew;
those silver drops that vanish into stars tonight,
and the blush of the morning
when she steps out of darkened blue–
yes, Love speaks loud enough to shatter fragile lies.

But you would try further, to have me believe lies?
You think I’d flounder and forget
Love’s hope and promises? The day your words blew
in eternal wind, didn’t that do
for you? I believe in the hope of morning
and will remember the sunrise tonight.

From blue to yellow, deep truth springs from shallow lies,
Love will sing tonight, and will not let me forget
the hope of morning that shines in spheres of glistening dew.

***
This poetry form is called a Sestina, in which six words are repeated in an ordered sequence at the end of each line in each stanza, in the following format:
1 2 3 4 5 6         – End words of lines in first sestet.
6 1 5 2 4 3         – End words of lines in second sestet.
3 6 4 1 2 5         – End words of lines in third sestet.
5 3 2 6 1 4         – End words of lines in fourth sestet.
4 5 1 3 6 2         – End words of lines in fifth sestet.
2 4 6 5 3 1         – End words of lines in sixth sestet.
(6 2) (1 4) (5 3)   – Middle and end words of lines in tercet.
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Red Barnhouse

Red Barnhouse
 
Worn, weathered, smothered, soft
As if hands had been smoothing 
Down its surface for ages
We ran our fingers on the planks 
No splinters, no splinters
The porch invited us to sit
And live and rock a while
We obliged the empty chairs
You and me, we obliged
And I was happy there 
Indoors, the braided rug
was a cushion under our feet
You were never loud, only quiet
Footsteps
And you never needed the rug
You –
Walked softly on the creaking 
Floor.
She was born there
Sweet sticky-faced cheeked
Dream
And she needed the rug 
Crawling on knees, or tippy-toe
And her feet were happy there
And it was only a dream, all of it
And I was happy there.

 

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Streams of Amber

Wheat Field with Rising Sun, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889

***

Streams of Amber

When love’s fingertips brush against straw
streams of purple, amber and golden tears flow
trickling down to hungry souls
and dripping into an earth
permeable to tears of human feet
and ambered grace of grains turn
into red, white and blue frosted
independence day cakes

(written in July 2011)
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Thirst the Sky

I gaze upward, grasp hands
that reach down lower than trees,
and plead for rain. I walk on cracked
grounds that bleed dust, my feet
dirt-brown, bare, twisted, aching —
how long will I taste dry earth?
When will you hold up my arms,
heavy with time, and part the days,
release the drenching yes?

My eyes thirst the sky–
evaporated wells will drip,
swollen with yearnings of centuries–
meld with tears, springing
from a curtained pause,
soak withered pages and unfold words
pressed within barriers of time.

I am awaiting moments’ fullness,
for heaven’s son to pour light from his lips,
moanings to cease
strivings to end
the burgeoning dream
of endless—
for the end and beginning of all things,
the end and beginning of me.

***

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Camellias Come Home

When I finally arrive, I hear the voices, the ones I grew up listening to: the southern accent is a sweet, familiar sound to homesick ears.

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I used to talk that way, but now the accent only emerges when I’m in the south or speaking with another person with a southern accent. It’s a funny thing… it is only snoozing, just waiting for a chance to come out and speak its voice.

At home, the air is full of drifting pink camellias and the sun is bright, the sky is a deep blue. A soft warm breeze brushes past me. I don’t need a jacket here. Grasshoppers the size of a small child’s hand leap in the grass. Lizards scurry along the walls of the house. The sweetgum tree is full and luscious. A baby pomegranate promises to grow.

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On many summer days, Mom would place a large glass jar full of water and tea bags on the back deck, allowing the warmth of the sun to “brew” the tea. I’d watch the water swirl from clear to deep brown. She’d add some fresh mint sprigs and sugar, a few ice cubes, and then I’d have the best iced tea a girl in the south could have.

How much light and warmth changes the inward person, infusing the soul with something new, a sweet taste? Each summer, I am coaxed deeper into faith by the new life I see.

We’d pull out the old ice cream maker on warm nights, pour in the rock salt, turn the monstrosity “on”, and bear with the loud noise until we tasted the creamy goodness. Sometimes, I’d rollerskate on the street to pass the time, eagerly waiting for a bowl of cold milky summer.

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Freshly picked blueberries, peaches plucked directly from the tree, and home-grown tomatoes are the tastes of summertime vacation at home. Big-hearted people welcome me with their warm, “hey, y’all! greetings. I have to drive through the town square flanked by street lamps and old-fashioned shops to get to the ole Southern church I grew up in, where I heard about Jesus. It’s the place I decided to follow him, just like in that old hymn we used to sing.

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Traveling home each summer whisks me from present to past, then from past to present, and back and forth, jolting me with role reversals, as I watch the strong become weak, the young become old and fragile.

I travel hundreds of cement miles away just to be under that sun, and be whisked back into those days, and then thrust into reality again. And to see Mom and Dad, still swinging on their back porch.

I dive into this kind of summer, this kind of dripping green, this slow nostalgia. I see sprigs of summer hope in my imagination, ripe for the picking, and I wrap my hands around them and pluck them, keep them, plant them for future days.

An old familiar ache hits me again, a homesickness that won’t go away. Walking by faith sometimes feels like a winter to me, until I see summer again, with unfolding hope and burgeoning fullness, with the promise of newer and better things to come.

And summer vacation is this to me: the melding of the past, present and future, the tying together of memories, the resting under the warmth of the sun, allowing time and love to do its blossoming, mellowing work.

***

Sharing for The High Calling Vacation Stories Link Up

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Why Being a Peacemaker Means Making Some Noise

17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. ~James 3:17-18, NKJV

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What does it mean to be peaceable?

First, let’s backtrack a little. For there to be peace, there must first be a conflict, right? We can’t truly understand or discuss peace until we experience and understand it’s opposite. So, inherent in the study of being a “peacemaker” is the understanding and knowledge of its opposite.

What is the absence of peace? Conflict? War? Internal or external turmoil?

Dictionary.com says the antonym of peace is “disturbance” or “insecurity”. From thefreedictionary.com, we infer the antonyms of peace could be: the presence of war; the presence of quarrels and disagreements; public disorder; or an internal lack of serenity. Any one of these definitions adequately describes the opposite of peace.

As I read the above passage from James, I consider my perceptions of what it means to be a peacemaker. My view of a peacemaker for most of my life has been someone who was calm and seemed to know the right words to speak or the right thing to do in tense or difficult moments, to assuage potentially threatening people or situations. My perception was such a person could calm rough waters and diffuse tempers with the perfect blend of personality, temperament, and words.

While at first glance nothing is amiss with this view, and there are people who possess such a gift of tempering situations that need softening, I realize that my visualization of a peacemaker did not actually include a resolution to matters of conflict, but simply the management of them.

In practice, in my own life, I have allowed sizzling situations to quiet down in an attempt to prevent escalation and to  “keep the peace”, but then not address or confront the deeper issues that resulted in the conflict in the first place. Does this reflect the true heart of a peacemaker? Is “keeping the peace” demonstrative of true peace-keeping?

The answer is “no”. I am reading a book called The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. I’m only in the first chapter, but already, I’ve come to realize that a peacemaker is not someone who simply just “keeps the peace”. A peacemaker is neither a doormat nor an instigator of conflict or turmoil.

A true peacemaker, rather, addresses difficult issues in a Biblically appropriate and loving way. This means not sweeping issues under the rug, which has been my tendency. This tendency, in large part, is learned from my past. Sugar-coating, sweeping under the rug, denying, etc., are behaviors that do not result in true peace because the underlying source of the conflict still persists.

Being a peacemaker, I am learning, means addressing issues head-on. It may, at first glance, not sound much like being a peacemaker, and it can feel anywhere from slightly difficult to extremely uncomfortable to confront a challenging person or situation. A peacemaker is not quiet! No, she will be making some noise, but it is with the motivation of reconciliation and resolution.

One of the reasons I have not been a peacemaker in the true sense is that I lacked the skills and knowledge to actually put this into practice. I would often not directly address the sources of conflict, preferring to let the conflict die down. I didn’t know how to confront the issue in a practical sense.

Another reason I did not confront issues in the past was because of fear: fear of failure, fear of retaliation from the other party, fear of not being understood, or fear of losing the relationship. Allowing these fears to dictate my actions did not result in greater peace, but greater insecurity as they did not resolve the conflict.

If asked, many of us would say we love peace or that we love the idea of peace. But not addressing issues leaves a varying amount of turmoil still brewing. True peace results in a place of rest, stillness, and security. Addressing core issues leads to that resting place. Even if it results in a situation we would not choose or prefer, a resolution at a deep level results in peace.

Being a peacemaker?

It means making some difficult choices.

It entails having some uneasy conversations.

It involves taking some risks.

But the end result of addressing central issues?

The end result is peace.

 

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Truth

Truth

 

A firm place

For stubbing toe and

A soft place

To lay head…

Bewitched paradoxed ground with

Reeds not bowed by wind.

***

The poem above is written in a form called the “Shadorma”, with the following syllabic structure: 3-5-3-3-7-5. I wrote this poem several years ago.
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Driving through the Hills of Pennsylvania

Driving through the Hills of Pennsylvania

 

Somewhere between Toledo and Leesburg
I left them behind
Driving through the hills of Pennsylvania
Tumbling into valleys
Pummeling east
I see them approaching
Catch them after crossing the Potomac

The straps of the luggage carrier flap in the wind
But flap slower than the birds
Slower than my thoughts
I see them piled high in the gaps
One on top of the other
Mine, yours, and millions before

Words flung on branches
Remnants of leftover miles— call out to me
Long fingers reach –
Pursue me like a tail of emergency flares
Frantic dreams dropped on highways
Tailgate me all the way home –

Distances remain.

I lick
frozen orange cream cones
to soothe the burning miles
under my feet
salve rubbing elbows
and stinging eyes, smoke
spewing from a single pipe

I scrape
yellow ribbons of icing
on my fingers
and keep the pieces in a freezer bag
for future celebrations

I lean back, lean forward
Squint into foggy suggestions
Gather words in a safe
To pull out for future reading –
Trees, springing on all sides,
Shelter lost destinies

Some have no shoulder.

 

***

(Last week, I took an 800+ mile road trip, part of which included crossing Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The terrain began to change in Ohio (from Indiana and Illinois), and once in Pennsylvania, I was welcomed with beautiful, green, rolling hills. I started writing this poem while on the road trip.)

***

Linking with dversepoets for the Poetics prompt

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God’s Not Dead: a Movie Review (sort-of)

<Warning: spoiler alert! If you have not yet seen the movie, the post below is full of spoilers. >

I watched the movie “God’s Not Dead” recently with a group of teens and some parents. Our local movie theater offers a $5 ticket for all movies on Tuesdays, with free popcorn. So, we got a couple of minivans together full of teens (and pre-teens) and headed to the movies.

At the end of the movie? We were ALL inspired. We stood outside in the hallway talking after the movie.

My 13-year-old son said, “I’m going to a secular college just so I can do what he did.” A 16 year old boy said he really liked the movie. The teen girls liked the movie. One of the parents (a dad) said it was his favorite movie of the year.

So… what was it about this movie that inspired us?

The main character, Josh Wheaton, is a freshman, and takes a philosophy class. On the first day of class, the professor asks each student to write on a piece of paper, “God is dead”, then sign his/her name. Well, Josh Wheaton struggles with that. He decides he can’t do what the professor asks.

The professor challenges Josh to teach the class. What results is a sort of “trial”, in which the students (the peers, or jury) will decide who “wins”.   He is at risk of failing the class if he does not convince the professor of his position. Much more is at stake, though, than just his philosophy grade. His girlfriend threatens to leave him if he agrees to the debates.

Josh seeks counsel from a local pastor, and ultimately decides he will take the professor’s challenge. In the midst of his “lectures”, Josh has to withstand the scrutiny and tough questions the philosophy prof throws his direction. And he has to face an entire class of students who did sign the papers that say, “God is dead.”

Josh’s girlfriend, upset with his decision, leaves him. The professor, after several class sessions, threatens Josh Wheaton’s entire future (Josh aspires to attend law school).

So what inspired us?

Could it have been the practical demonstration of a student working out his faith? Wrestling with a difficult choice? Standing up to a professor who hates God and a classroom of peers who could judge him to “lose” the debate? Watching a student make a decision that could change his entire future?

After watching the movie I searched it online, read some reviews, etc. I’m so glad I didn’t read any reviews before seeing this movie. Usually, I read reviews– but for this movie, all I knew is that it was PG and that it was going to be safe for all ages of our group, and I knew it involved a debate between a student and a prof. That’s about it.

I read the reviews and was surprised at the amount of criticism and negative reviews from the Christian community. The creation websites were saying that Josh Wheaton didn’t explain creationism well.  There was the shallowness of Josh’s girlfriend.  She dumps him like a hot potato when he agrees to the prof’s debate, because, she says, it is threatening their future lives together (i.e., law school, jobs, etc.). How could he have dated a girl like that for 6 years and not know who she really was?

So I thought– amazing. Here we were- – leaving  this movie where the teens were INSPIRED and the movie is being torn apart for these matters.

The movie does have some issues. I agree – the girlfriend thing was a bit off. The movie claims Josh and his girlfriend had been dating for 6 years; however, if they are college freshmen that would mean the dating began when they were 12 years old. Seriously? Agreed- that part could have been thought out a bit more. And then, it was curious how Josh, obviously serious about his faith, was dating someone who turned out to be quite shallow. But– just maybe — it was being away from home and living the college life that brought out her true colors. I suppose it can be possible to attend youth group together for six years, and be together in that sheltered environment, and for him not to see what was really important to her.

Another situation I found a bit dichotomous was how the prof could be so anti-God and anti-Christian  but in a surprising twist <spoiler alert>, his girlfriend is an unashamed, professing Christian? She was a former student, and he admits, if she didn’t make an A on his test, (he is a bit of an intellectual snob),  he wouldn’t have dated  her, but he sure liked her her looks, as he admits. Later in the movie, he proceeds to demean her in front of his colleagues — making fun of her, at which point she realizes she needs to break up with him. And does.

But… once we get to know the prof a little bit better, his choice of girlfriend can be more closely examined and better understood. He is struggling with his faith, deep inside. He gave up on God years ago, when his mother died. So deep inside, perhaps he wants to believe though he vehemently denies it. The woman in his life represents a person who has chosen to believe (while her own mother suffers from dementia)– a decision he can’t quite bring himself to make.

And what about the pastor? His role was also criticized. He comes across sounding burned out and slightly cynical. Ok– so pastors don’t get burned out? Is he supposed to be real — or is he supposed to fit a prescribed image? The missionary visiting from Africa is more cheerful and upbeat — ends up giving the local pastor a pep talk — but was it supposed to be the other way around? Well, again, the movie isn’t perfect; personally, I’d rather it be real than fit a stereotype.

(Note: there are a few surprises I did not reveal.)

So problems aside…. what about the story of a college freshman who was bold enough to stand up in front of his entire philosophy class and admit his faith in God? What about his courage to engage in a debate with a prof who threatens to flunk him, and who promises to do anything in his power to keep him out of law school? What about that?

How many students today could do what he did? How many actually would?

Isn’t that the point of the movie? I suppose that’s what I thought it was. Not perfection on details. Come on- would you really expect a college freshman student to have all the pat and perfect answers to a seasoned atheist’s arguments, even in a movie? Would you expect a perfect dialogue? Freshman Josh Wheaton could hold his own and he did a fine job, and he had to admit he didn’t have all the answers. Isn’t this realistic?

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” I Peter 3:15. Isn’t this exactly what Josh Wheaton was doing?

Admittedly,  in reality, <spoiler alert> I did find it a bit unbelievable that the ENTIRE class would have stood up at the end of the debate to indicate their support for Josh and his belief that God isn’t dead. I think in any college classroom there will be a number of students who would not stand. In this movie the entire class stood up. To be realistic, perhaps they should have had some students stay seated, because that is probably more likely.

On the other hand, though, trying to analyze this from a different perspective, maybe everyone stood because it was clear who won the debate. Josh had gotten the prof to admit some startling things– such as the fact that he was mad at God, which leads Josh to ask, “How can you be mad at someone you say doesn’t even exist?” That cornered the prof and it was clear to the class. It became clear it was personal and not just about what the facts stated– it was about something personal between God and the professor. So the whole room standing up didn’t necessarily mean everyone believed in God (though that could indeed happen) but that the class realized Josh won the debate.

One of the most heartbreaking scenes of the movie was the Muslim girl who got thrown out of her house when her father found out she was listening to sermons about Jesus. She goes to the pastor of the church (same pastor that Josh visits)– but the movie didn’t explain where the woman lived after being kicked out, who took her in, how she survived, etc. The teens with me said they would have liked to have known those details; i.e., what happened to her, and who took her in. We were left to assume that someone in the church did that, but we weren’t told who or how. That was an interesting detail we were quite curious about. Does the church take care of people in need? If so, show us how that works. I felt the producers lost a stellar opportunity here in showing how a church family can help in crises like these, especially to a non-churched audience. It would have been worth an extra 5-10 minutes of movie time to demonstrate to a wider audience what that looks like.

So, the movie isn’t perfect. Some parts are either predictable or don’t make much sense (like the 6 year girlfriend/boyfriend relationship and how she is shallow and dumps him so quickly). But these things did not personally distract me from the movie’s message.

Our small group of  teens and adults was encouraged by the movie’s core message, and I bet others out there were also. I am more than willing to overlook some of the faults or oversights of this production, and focus on the core message of this film, especially after witnessing the reaction of the young people. What other means or mode of communication could elicit such a response from teens to want to react with the same kind of boldness? I could not believe it was my own child saying such words, to want to do what Josh Wheaton did. Whether or not such a thing will actually happen in his life remains to be seen, but that is not the point. I think these young people need to see practical examples like this of faith in action, in ways that are meaningful and applicable to them. This movie does just that. 

Honestly, with so many movies full of immorality, filthy language, nudity, superficiality, and weak plot lines, this movie stands out as a stellar family production– with a worthy topic and theme.

Be sure to stay for the credits at the end of the movie and look for the scrolling list of the colleges that have had cases like this– this movie was inspired by an actual college case(s). It’s worth waiting until the end to see that — the list goes on and on. I want to purchase the movie just so I can scroll through that list.

Freedom of religion and freedom of speech in our country is no doubt under attack. The enemy is sly; our educational institutions have become incubation houses for secularism and atheism.

But the point is this: are we going to stand up for our faith? Stand up and do what Josh Wheaton did? How far am I, are you, are we, willing to go? Is God dead to you or to me? If not, then we all need to ask ourselves what we would do if we were in Josh’s shoes. Would we sign a a paper that says God is dead? or risk flunking? It would be awfully easy and non-confrontational to just sign the paper and move on, knowing in our hearts we believe, but not willing to take the major risk of speaking up. 

Josh Wheaton chose a different path. We should ask ourselves: what path would we choose?

There may be a day, and not too far in the future, when we will also have to make such a choice.  (And– thousands of believers around the world already must do so, in the oppressed areas in which they live).

My 13-year-old asked last night to watch this movie again. It’s out of the theaters now, and it’s not out on DVD yet. But once it’s out on DVD, we’ll buy it, and watch it again. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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tea monsoon

tea monsoon

 

 

rivers of chai

stream down verdant hills

 sweetly spiced tears

submerge millions

in a tea monsoon

 

a paradoxical wine

fills the cups

 

on a village farm road,

tractor meets ox-cart,

moves past women carrying woven baskets

on their heads

 

the old beggar woman 

in faded blue cotton

shares the same doorstep

as the fancy sari shop

 

an infant drinks buffalo milk;

in the market, shoppers pay

for coconut water, thirsty

for more than the same simmering sun

 

bangles dangle, girls chatter;

a bejeweled bride swathed

in gold circles the fire,

then cooks lentils and rice and haggles

over eggplant in the market

for the next fifty years

 

the young servant girl

bequeathed to the old man

joins the river of tears

curry mixes with poison

 

her ashes scatter

across the world,

land in my cup, I strain

the tea grounds and toss

them in the trash

 

sweet mangos

can’t take away the bitter taste

of homelessness

and jasmine can’t quench

the smell of death

 

a billion veins bleed ginger-spiced chai

filling cups at tea time

 

while curried waves lick

the shores of sugar cane sand

 
(I wrote this in 2011, soon after hearing a true story of a young servant girl I had met in India – a teenager- who committed suicide by drinking poison because  her parents had arranged a marriage for her to a sixty year old man.)

 

 

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a stranger fire

a stranger fire

 

 

I hold a stranger fire in my hands

swallow thirsty tears

toss seeds of crusted want

 

I am swallowed in moments

of the single flame of a match

 

My hands do not burn

 

I catch the blaze in my hands

so my eyes do not drip

Gingerly walk a circle of death

Longing to be swallowed in waves

of cold water

 

My fingertips leave trails of

charred red, turn to ash

I write messages in the sand

The lines of my letters sink

down, crack the earth

splitting continents into phrases

of scattered rivers

 

I blow out the bulbous flame

surging in my palm

in a single breath which

consumes the oxygen supply

of the shore

until the fire is no more

and I am absorbed into the shallows

of the clouds hovering above the waters

 

My hands do not burn

 

I have never held a stranger fire

in my hands

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Gently Cupped Hand

Gently Cupped Hand

 

 

When flowers fall down from heaven

floating toward tumultuous land

I know not where fragility ends

as I’m caught in gently cupped hand.

 

Vapors exhume in darkness

but vapor of breath am I

Weapons circle sharp around me–

foreign child fallen from sky.

 

Living among others embattled

Born to laugh and to cry

Fighting, bleeding, breathing–

a battling until I die.

 

The heart drums a distinct pattern

The breaths, a measured rate

The rhythm, set by the leader

The song, that of my own fate.

 

The days, harmonic melody

of movements and stanzas of rest

Chords of truth strum the soul deep

‘til I reach my lifelong quest.

 

Heart breaks from cacaphony

and weeps in hostile land –

but hopes in songs of cloud maker

and is healed in gently cupped hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Flammable

Flammable

 

Approaching flames
warm the hands
wake the mind–

sparks sear the heart,
ignite fiber of truth and
a thread of hunger burns.

Dust catches fire
blazes across centuries–
the line is traced

on hearts of men,
maps are colored in
and I know where

I belong. In red embers
where love transforms
the chaff of ash,

I find myself, a fading
flower, a temporal vapor
with flammable soul.

***

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lost and found

lost and found

 

I hide rumors in my tightly

clenched fists, before I

bury them, whole.

 

You won’t find me asleep,

nursing my wounds,

fading like dusk.

 

I lose roses,

I lose nightmares,

and find my soul.

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Scarlet

Scarlet

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A scarlet thread

Burns long, thin

Where I stand,

Intersecting Sunday

And the corner

Of my heart–

Hungry for red.

 

 

I know the thread,

The very one

It pulls me to your neck

and unfolds like silk.

 

 

I pull string taut

tie knot

so needle won’t slip

I have tied it

over and over again

yet seams rip

and heart splits.

 

 

A few crimson threads

fall to the floor

and  taste the hunger

of belonging—

scarlet burns.

Hearts leave trails of blood–

wounds are sealed

with a brush of red.

 

 

We are beauty wrought in secret

under a coat of crimson…

a breath of red

releases the curse.

 

 

If the button didn’t fall

slip out of the pocket

get lost on a Sunday–

I’d still be searching.

 

 

Wait for Sunday

Hunger all week

For crimson to hug your skin

And feel the warmth of red.

 

 

Can I say what is mine

and what is yours?

Can you tell me where

the scarlet thread ends?

 

 

He is scarlet

A coat of crimson

Covering me

Covering you

Tying us together

as one

No longer loose

No longer hanging

No longer alone.

 

 

 

A scarlet thread

Burns long, thin

Where I stand

Intersecting Sunday

And the corner

Of my heart–

Hungry for red.

 

***

This particular poem was inspired by a poem called “Coated” , written by L.L. Barkat, which can be read here.  Words used from that poem are: hungry, red, scarlet, coat, Sunday, alone, needle, button, thread, silk, secret, and neck.

Posted in Beauty, God's love, Hope, Jesus, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Eve’s Dream

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he speaks, petals blow in the wind,

land in her hands. she holds them

and her heart speaks the language of flowers.

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what was it He blew this direction?

what softness did He bring?

what stilled the hearts of creatures?

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under the siege of words

pains unleashed from centuries

the soul, lashed with red

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bottled tears gleam in sunlight

a gaze speaks a thousand words–

releasing hidden torrent

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he sings a melody, and walks in the midst

of a pine forest; alone, he walks—

who sings with you?

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do the trees bend and join your song?

does the river thirst and beg you to drink?

he stands in waters — rushing and cool

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the sun beats; he sleeps

he awakens with chest open–

his rib is missing. she can breathe.

*

words cannot be spoken now,

language is that of the leaves and

petals that blow in the wind.

*

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How We Are Like Seeds

I read these words while sitting in the space between spring and summer, on the cusp of wild verdant growth:

“Glorifying and enjoying Me is a higher priority than maintaining a tidy, structured life. Give up your striving to keep everything under control — an impossible task and a waste of precious energy.”

 (Excerpted from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)

 

Here in the upper Midwest, the growing season might be short, but it hits furiously and strong when the heat finally breaks through the tight grasp of winter.

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I can’t control this season anymore than I can control anything else, as I am reminded again. My life is not a neatly planted hedge of planned events; rather, a messy string of occurrences and mistakes, which the Lord is using to graciously teach me what He wants me to know.

Anything that has happened out of my control is still in the Lord’s hands and in His control. Thankfully, I don’t exist in a world devoid of spiritual abundance– He is there, always, offering with open hands what the soul desperately needs.

If winter reminds me of that deep void in the soul, summer reminds me of what is possible with God. Summer shows me what seeds of faith can become– flowers and fruit. A life hidden with God results in wisdom, peace, love… and other manifestations of His indwelling spirit.

A seed planted does not strive against the soil. It does not jump out of the ground and transplant itself elsewhere. It does not fight against the roots that will soon sprout from its coat. It simply lives, grows, and thrives, nourished by the soil and its environment.

We are like seeds planted by a Master, connected to a rich vine and a water-source that never runs dry. We, like seeds, have no need to strive for tomorrow, or to strain for control.

I wrote a poem two years ago about about new beginnings and planting seeds… about the work done in our hearts, and the hope that hearts turn toward their Maker:

The Turning

I take a spear and tear
ground open, unzipping
warm earth,  watch half-
earthworms wriggle, struggle
for slice of dirt-breath

In desperation, I plant
a few seeds and wait in vain
for a forest and hope
for the turning
of sunflowers.

***

Is your soul turned toward him? Are you striving? 
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rains in May {haiku}

 

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clouds, saturated,
release winter’s tears –
quench springtime thirst.

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Ready to Sleep {a poem}

Fragrant Bushes 009

Ready to Sleep

At the crack of first morning, the sun bleeds through
holes in blinds, like a laser, hits my eyes.
Wincing, I rise, smooth down hair, straighten covers,
stumble on wilted feet.

I am small; the world is looming.
I am old; the day is young.
The morning is yellow, and my hair is gray.
The world is green and blushing pink Spring.

I spill the coffee, pooling liquid mud on vinyl.
I miss the bacon, the red days. I’d make hot oatmeal,
or cream of wheat, when it was still dark outside.
They’d grab their lunches and be off. I didn’t know
that morning would be so short.
It was so short, that morning.

How could night have come so quickly? I was barely awake,
just opening my eyes to the sun.
I hear them now, their footsteps like the rain.
I see them down the hall, in their beds, in the yard,
petals unfurling to the light.

I hug the covers a bit tighter, I walk a bit slower,
I remember the past instead of dream what is to come—
When did thoughts go backward? When does time shift?

They are running, chasing their own futures,
dancing under the clouds. I can hear them
when I open the windows and listen to the wind.

And I…  I no longer need coffee.
I no longer need the sun.
I wrap myself under the covers;
I am ready to sleep,
ready
to
sleep.

***

Linking with #Imperfect Prose

Posted in Death, Family, Journey, Life, Seasons, Spring, Time | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Winter is Dying

 

IMG_0236

 

Somewhere, winter is dying
Winter is dying somewhere

We know it is time.
The apple barrel is nearly empty
And I am no longer muffled
by the snow.

I am not sure what to do
when spring comes;
will I know where to step,
will I sink in the grass
or stand upon tender blades
with bleeding feet?

No, but the ground
is soft and the world
is mist and moving
like the cricket. I see the
owl and taste the wild
winds and I know
that rain is the lullaby
of spring.

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How to Begin the New Year?

IMG_2070

I can see it right away, on day one of the New Year. My plans and goals are still hanging on the tree. I know I’m not going to make them happen today, or even tomorrow. 

It’s a week later now, and I’m no closer, hanging onto the laziness of the holiday as if it’s my one last day left of such days for the rest of my life. Honestly, it’s not, that I’m aware of. But the flesh is strong, and I’m not fighting.

IMG_2074

I’m not beating myself up, though. We’re going through a mighty brutal cold spell right now, and keeping warm and safe are the goals of the day. I’ve never spent this many days in my pj’s since my babies were born, and that was over 10 years ago. And not even then.

What does this mean?

Maybe it just means grace. God’s grace, touching me in this little way, a little respite of rest amidst days of running the race. I’m embracing it.

I watch the snow swirling in the wind, creating a misty veil of sparkly flakes. Eventually the wind calms down, too, takes its own rest, and the blowing snow disappears into the rest of the landscape.

IMG_2078

Where are the birds? Remarkably absent on the most bitter days, they know when to rest and stay put.

It’s built into us as well, I recognize. Created uniquely with God’s breath, we’re designed differently from all other creatures God made. He made us in the image of Himself. We have the very breath of God living in us.

If I stop to listen, see beyond the silence of the snow, I’ll hear and know when His grace calls me to a place of rest.

IMG_2075

This grace, it’s a peace.

Grace. Rest. Peace. Maybe it’s how I was to begin the year, after all.

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Words that Live

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 NKJV

fall-walk_river.jpg

God’s word – it is living. It alive. How can a “word” be alive; after all, aren’t these just letters on a page?

But God’s word is more than simply letters on a page.

It has helped me a little to think of God’s word as a living organism.

What is a living organism? In biology, we ask the question: what makes an organism alive? Here are some answers to the question of what makes an organism living, in a strict biological sense: it moves, breathes, grows, has substance.

In the above definition, even bacteria and plants are living. But there is more.

We can also include: the ability to think, feel, discover, communicate, reason, love.

There is a difference, then. Is God’s word just “living”, or is it “alive”?

My boys love to watch movies with sword fighting. Have you ever seen a sword fight in a movie?  Not too long ago, men fought with sharp swords in warfare and battle, with deadly results.

We are told that God’s word is sharper than any “double-edged sword”. That’s pretty sharp. It cuts both ways, to the person wielding the word, and the person hearing it.

His word “pierces” the division of the soul and spirit. Can anyone see the soul? Can anyone see the spirit? Yet God’s word can reach the internal parts of a man that others cannot see. His word can reach the deep parts of a person that no one else can reach.

His word reaches between joints and marrow. We don’t walk around thinking about our bone marrow, as a matter of course. We know that this part can become diseased, requiring a transplant. But otherwise, we don’t give too much thought to our bone marrow. Yet this is where the red blood cells are made, where our strong bones receive nutrients, like a “central supply line”.

God’s word gets into our supply line. It contains nutrients for our soul.

Moreover, his word “discerns” our thoughts and intentions.  No one else can know me that well. I can fool a thousand people, but not God. He knows the truth. That is a comfort– and a conviction.

God’s word is something of a miracle. Why don’t I spend more time on it? Why do other things cloud it’s importance, its priority in my life?

Nothing can get to me more than this. No other books. No music. No TV shows. No movies. No talks with friends. Nothing else. No other book has this kind of power.

All other books are inspired by man.

But God’s word comes straight from Himself.

It is unique.

Think of it as something alive when you read it; take it in, memorize it, meditate upon it. Let it do its work in some mysterious way in your heart and soul that you cannot fathom.

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Stumbling

YellowAutumnTree

Life is curious.

You don’t know where you’ll end up, or what you’ll be doing.

There are so many things beyond my understanding and beyond explanation.

Relationships, at least one or another, is always is trouble, or in need of minor or major repair.

WE are constantly in NEED.

I’m not just talking about physical need here, though millions in our world are in need of food and shelter and basic necessities. Despite the fact that I am not hungry, I have shelter and clothing, I still feel that I am NEED of something.

But here, I am talking about our spiritual need.

We can’t take two steps in our day (at least I can’t) without stumbling and falling flat on our faces.

But you know, nothing else like falling on my face reminds me of how much I need God. How much I need Him desperately.

It’s the grace of Christ that he lets me fall. And I find that is exactly where I need to be.

***

Sharing with The Wellspring and Imperfect Prose
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Is pain essential?

Is pain essential?

The dark and light contrasting pattern on my mom's handmade Log Cabin Quilt are meant to be an analogy to the darker, harsher, wintry days of life, and the brighter, joyful, summery days of life.

The dark and light contrasting pattern on my mom’s handmade Log Cabin Crazy Quilt are meant to be an analogy to the darker, harsher, wintry days of life, and the brighter, joyful, summery days of life.

Perhaps pain is more essential than pleasure. I know for me, it brings me to my knees. I draw closer to the throne of truth and grace and LOVE when I am in pain and in grief.

It’s not that joy pulls me away from Him. I have been through enough pain to be thankful when something lovely and happy occurs. However, pain has  brought me closer to God. I’ve experienced his mercy because I’ve needed it. I’ve experienced his grace because I’ve needed it. I’ve experienced his comfort because I’ve needed it.

We tend to think that pleasure should be the norm, not pain, in this life on earth.

But it seems to me that life is just the opposite—pain is the norm. Pleasure is a gift, a sweet temporary gift that comes in between and amongst the pain, here and there, like a surprise flower blooming or like the first burst of sun at dawn. Pleasure accents our life, propels us press on.

This pain we have– it’s not because God doesn’t love us. It’s because he does. He loves us too much NOT to allow it and to let us know Him.

***

Sharing with The Wellspring and Imperfect Prose

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