Friday, April 29, 2011

If I knew I could, I would...

In cahoots with The Gypsy Mama, here are my five Friday minutes of stream-of-consciousness, un-edited (word of honor) writing on the prompt:

"If I knew I could, I would....


...compose and release another CD of original music.  Be the best mom I could possibly be.  Rely on Jesus totally and completely, knowing there is always grace.  Love my husband unconditionally, completely, wildly, freely and creatively.  Never get impatient with my boys.  Go bungee jumping.  Or sky-diving.  Take a submarine to the bottom of the ocean.  Not be so perfectionistic.

Wonder more.  Open a photography business.  Take creative writing classes.  Create more visual art.  Maybe even sell it.  If I knew I could dance professionally, I would.  I'd be a ballerina, a swing-dance extraordinaire (is that a word?), a tap-dancer.  If I knew I could ride dressage, I would.  I'd ride Lipizzaners.

I'd tell the world that Jesus loves them.  Really, truly, died-for-them loves them.  And that it's so easy to get a new life, to get a first life, to get real life.  If I knew I could make a difference in people's hearts with words, I would work my tail off to make sure I never wasted one.  Not one.

If I knew I could shout for joy at any time, without looking crazy, or even if I look crazy, I would.  I'd dance like David before the Lord, wild with abandon, crazy joy in being in His presence.  Wow, I am really starting to feel convicted-- all these things I'd do if I knew I could do them?  Wonder how many are real?  Maybe all?


of swallows and sojourning

We’re gardening anyway.  We're pretty sure we’re moving, but we don’t know when… Central Asian machinations: the “client” who wants to buy this house has to sell their own house first, so August has been mentioned, but nothing confirmed… 

Despite the up-in-the-air-ness (maybe because of it?), we planted corn, zucchini, yellow squash, pumpkins, parsnips, lettuces, spinach, broccoli, silverbeet (a New Zealand vegetable similar to Swiss chard).  A few tomato plants we were gifted at Easter.  Sunflowers, child height.  I’ve planted basil, oregano, cilantro and rosemary in tubs.  Flower seedlings from the bazaar, more tubs.  A whole row of tubs, to be exact (I’m an all-or-nothing kinda girl)…. a measure of peace in my soul.  

One morning  last week I was doing my three pages of early writing, clearing out my head.  I drew a basket on the page, and scribbled beside it, 
“Into this basket I put all my hopes and dreams and fears for this year and this move -- my parents coming, other guests coming, our short-term teammate, our neighbors, knowing You Jesus, Will going to preschool, keeping up with two sets of neighbors, sharing, recording music, writing, reading, praying, singing, cooking, loving, laughing, playing -- everything my life holds now goes into the basket, and I hold the whole heavy thing up to you.
“And I. Just. Trust. You.  
“I trust You, and I’m going to be thankful for each day as it comes and be faithful to do what You tell me to do.  With You I can do all things.  With You I can scale walls, run up mountains, walk on water.  You will never leave me or forsake me.  I find my home in You.  I find my home in You.  I make my home in You.  Ps 84 How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!  My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God…

And I looked it up, Psalm 84, a poem written by a king who spent the first years of his anointing escaping from wilderness to wilderness, running for his life.  I copied it out, writing ancient words with fresh ink, writing the words on my own heart, writing a plea-bargain with God.
Even the sparrow finds a home, 
and the swallow a nest for herself, 
where she may lay her young, 
at Your alters, O Lord of hosts, 
my King and my God.

I thought of our nesting swallows, who come back each spring to rebuild their nest on top of the naked lightbulb on our porch.

Blessed are those who dwell in Your house, ever singing Your praise!  Blessed are those whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion….

And I thought of the highways to God’s dwelling place being in my heart, of each moment being holy.  Of the hard eucharisteo, receiving each moment with thanks.  How thanksgiving is my moment-by-moment door into communion with I AM.  

For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than...

No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in You!

And then, out fluttered the words to a new song.  
Moving again, and I’m questioning:
how to find rest in this sojourning?
I just don’t have the strength…
You say I am blessed if I trust in You,
You say I am blessed if my strength is in You,
but I’m traveling, traveling,
and it’s hard to see Your hand.
Even the sparrow can find a nest
where she may lay her young;
even the swallow can find a home
at the altars of the Living God,
the altars of the Living God...
I am Your sparrow
and I’ll make You my home
I will dwell in You, tuck my treasures underneath Your wings
You’ll be my roof, my walls, windows and floor,
You’ll be my permanence,
my white picket fence,
and my backyard swing...

Someday I will sing it for you, each of us running from, or into, our own private wildernesses.  And we will rest together under His wings, and remember:

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?

And not one of them is forgotten before God.

Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered.

Fear not;

You are of more value than many sparrows.”

~Jesus Christ 

(Luke 12:6-7)

A question to ponder today...

What wilderness are you currently running from, or into?  

How can you become more aware 
of God's sheltering wings, and the permanence of His presence, 
right where you are today?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Hoopoe

He flutters, flashing zebra wings,

crest rising, cinnamon breast

bobbing, pecking breakfast

as the morning sings.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

of him who knew no sin

Jesus.  Jesus!  That you would die for me.  
For me.  
You, who were perfect in every way, who never raised your voice in annoyance or anger, never spoke unkindly, never got impatient with the crowds pressing in on you, or with the stupidity of your disciples {with my stupidity}.  You who loved completely, served without complaint, poured out your life down to the last, sweet, sacrificial drop of your blood.
That you would die.  
For me.  
Me, who just this morning stamped my feet and screamed in anger at my son.  Me, who grew impatient when toddler minds couldn’t focus on your precious story and wanted trikes and fresh air instead.  Me, all full of pride, secretly petting my own righteousness for fasting from lunch today when who could really be called righteous for skipping a meal?  Millions do, every day.  I am not so righteous, after all.  
But you… you are, Jesus.  Oh, you are, you are.  Utterly special, utterly unique.  You had your own fingerprint, your own timbre and pitch of voice, your own number of hairs on your head, your own color of eyes.  Unlike any eyes that had opened on this earth, or ever will open again.  
Only one there was, is, of you-- only one.  
And you died.  For me.
For this screaming, impatient, tunnel-visioned woman who can’t let go of her agenda long enough to enter into the grace of the morning.  This self-satisfied, smugly important woman who’s convinced she has her act together, has all the answers.  This self-absorbed woman convinced of her own wisdom, pressing it heavily on all and sundry… 
This woman.  Me.  You died for me.  

You died for me, Jesus.  Really, truly, horribly died.  You were without breath.  Without thought.  Without warmth.  A cold, stiff, dead corpse.  Where were you then, Jesus, while your body was wrapped and put in a cave?  
You were in utter, cold, dark blackness.  Total abandonment.  Complete separation.  Desperate loneliness.  
You were in hell.  
In some mysterious, paradoxical, mind-bending, universe-altering way, you  were somehow separated from your Father, from your own being.  You, who had remained wholly connected to your Father, mind, heart and soul at all times, never breaking communion for even an instant with sin of any kind… You, now to experience stark, desolate abandonment by that same Father whose Being you share and whose precious Son you are….  
He abandoned you because of me.  Because of my sin.  Because you were my sin.  
You were my pride, my impatience, my harsh tones, my unkindness.  You were my smug self-righteousness, my self-absorption, my conceit.  You became it for me.  Like a pure white cloth in dirt-black water soaking up all the dirt into itself, leaving the water clean and clear, you soaked up all my black sin into your very pores.  Like a vinegar-rag laid on sunburn absorbing all the heat into itself, leaving the sunburn soothed and cool, you absorbed all the hot shame of my sin into your very soul.  
Sin that I {that we} had not yet even committed!  Oh, the terrible roiling weight of our millions of billions of lives’ worth of sin pressing into your flesh, into your heart!  And worse, knowing this oozing, boiling blackness would cause your Father to hate you, even as you must have hated yourself in those moments, hours, eternity (so it must have seemed) on the cross.

You became my sinNot just carried it on your shoulders while remaining pure in yourself: you became sin-- took it into your very body, heart and soul.  It was you, you were it, and as it, you were crucified.  In those moments, in your Father’s eyes, you did do all this heinousness, and he was forced to turn his back on you in disgust.  
You became sin…. I could be clean.  That pure clean water?  That’s me.  Now.  After your wretched, hideous death.  That cooled sunburn with no sting of shame left?  That’s me.  And you are all the stain, all the vinegar, all the burn.  You drank my shame to the very last drop, so you could hand me a cup brimful of the sweet wine of forgiveness, blood-red, and say,

“Drink.  Drink forgiveness, drink grace.  
“And so is my Father glorified, and I am satisfied in my deep joy, if you drink and eat my sacrifice!  I saw you, down through the ages, all of you, and willingly gave my last drop of life so your cup of Life could be brimful, pressed down, shaken together, running over.
“Drink!  Eat!  Feed on me in your heart.  Do this in remembrance of me, whose death bought Life for you, forever.”

Oh Jesus, how can I thank you?  How can anything ever be enough to thank you?  A thousand lifetimes poured out could never repay this Gift, that cleanses completely and lasts in joy forever.
For from you and through you and to you are all things. (Rom. 11:36)
To you be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.  

For our sake
he made him to be sin 
who knew no sin
so that in him 
we might become 
the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

(photos of a white stone cross faithfully maintained on a hillside near Sonoma, CA, USA)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

holy ground

This Sunday morning, to lead up to Palm Sunday next week, we read the story of Mary of Bethany pouring her most precious treasure of perfume on Jesus’ feet. Afterwards I asked, “Will, what’s your favorite thing that you have?”

Immediately: “My Dog.” (The Dog he sleeps with every nap and night, the Dog he can’t go to bed without, the Dog I have to confiscate and keep in the cupboard or he’d carry it around all day stuck to his face.)

“Would you give your Dog to Jesus?”


So we wrapped it up in lots of paper and tape.

“Ok, now yet’s give it to Jesus.” He pushed it straight up in the air over his head, and then didn’t know what to say, so I led him in this prayer:

“Dear Jesus (Dear Jesus),
this is my favorite thing (dis is my favwit thing).
And because I love you so much (and b’cuz I yuv you SO much),
I want you to have it (I want YOU to have it). Amen.”

“Ok, now yet’s throw it up in the air to Jesus!” So he did, twice, and it came back down again, twice.

“Look, Will,” I volunteered, ”Jesus is giving it back to you!”

He picked it up the little package and rapturously unwrapped it, and it was like seeing his dog for the first time. After he gave her the requisite adoring cuddles (by the way, it’s only just recently that Dog has become female and acquired the name “Fluffy”), I said,

“Ok, now let’s go outside and find treasures from Jesus for us!”


The next hour was spent supervising Will taking pictures with our camera for the first time (which I thought nothing of because he’s so naturally cautious and responsible, but James was a little concerned when he got home and saw the pictures-- some of me happily swinging on the swing with Ben, and Will obviously more than an arm’s length away from me!)

I reveled in Will’s perspective on the world, in all the things he found to take pictures of, in his contagious delight looking for presents from Jesus to us...

William's "Treasures from Jesus"

(photo credit: William Broughton)

(photo credit: William Broughton)

(photo credit: William Broughton)

(photo credit: William Broughton)

(photo credit: William Broughton)

(photo credit: William Broughton)

(photo credit: William Broughton)

(photo credit: William Broughton)

(photo credit: William Broughton)

(photo credit: William Broughton)

(photo credit: William Broughton)

(photo credit: William Broughton)

(photo credit: William Broughton)

(photo credit: William Broughton)

(photo credit: William Broughton)

But the best moment of our morning?

After taking his fifteenth picture of green grass (“Yook, Mommy! Jesus gave us more grass!”), Will says,

“Mom, remember, in the movie, dat girl with the yong hair danced on the grass with her bare feet?”
Light glimmered… we watched Tangled last weekend.

“Come on, Mom, yet’s dance on the grass!” He sits down and proceeds to strip off his socks and shoes, and then calls to Ben: “Ben! Come here! Yet’s take your shoes off!” Ben happily sits down, Will pulls off his shoes and socks too...

And all I can think of is that famous Elizabeth Barrett Browning quote:

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries.

~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

And then I thought of Ann’s book, where she says she "might never wear shoes again", so conscious has she become of the holiness of God filling each moment with I AM.


New spring grass from Jesus is definitely holy ground. My boys instinctively knew to take off their shoes.

Friday, April 8, 2011

last year, I had a garden... first. It was wonderful. And suddenly, today, it is garden-season again, the brief 6-8 weeks this climate grudgingly gives for planting. All of a sudden, overnight, the snow melts, ground gives up warm, sweet breaths, weeks hang suspended in just the right weather for getting ready.

And instead of being outside in it, I’m inside writing about it.

We don’t have a home past June. This land just. does. not. belong. to us. Nowhere in the world do we own a bit of earth. And up until today, this exact spring day, I haven’t cared much. I’ve reveled in the free-wheeling, footloose, un-tied-down-ness of not owning property. Most days I have lived happily as a borrower; today I am full of ache.

Window gardens. That’s the answer, I think. Portability. And I fill plastic cups with earth and fertilizer and plant flower seeds to germinate in the dark. But I’m not fooling myself-- I’ve no green thumb, and half of them probably won’t sprout anyway. My one house-plant geranium has bloomed one solitary flower in the year it’s lived with me. The house is dark and cool; outside is where the life is. But I don’t own this outside. Past June, a scant eight weeks away, I have no more claim to this particular bit of earth.

I stumble outside, into the blinding 3:30 sun, tell my woes to a sweet neighbor just dropped by, discuss possibilities, options, other homes we could move to, feel the ache in my throat tighten, swell into a lump. She smiles and hugs me and says we can move in with them (not the first time she’s offered), says they’d love having small kids in the house, and I kiss her cheek and thank her, the lump brimming.

She’s pruning her trees and wants to borrow our heavy-duty secateurs, wants to get some outside work done, says her husband will be happy when he gets home. I open the garage, dig through dusty gardening tools… and I ache some more. I’m suspended, like the weather, between hot and cold, between knowing and unknowing, home and no-home.

But there is my son, for want of wind, making his own way to fly a kite. Spinning around, arms outstretched, a rainbow of color… “Mommy, look!” And then, standing stock-still with glazed eyes, “Oooh… I’m spinning around!” Spinning color and living in the moment and not worrying about anything at all. No wind for my kite? I’ll find another way to fly!

And suddenly I spin too, into the kitchen to grab my herb seeds, to the bedroom for my stack of new flower pots languishing empty, to the shed again for the spade… the lock won’t open, though it just did moments before. William, beside me, still spinning colors of faith: “Mommy, Jesus will help you!” And the next second, the key turns.

Rush to change my clothes (revive the old leopard-print gardening costume from last spring!), rush out to last year’s waiting earth. I vacillate: hopeless, hopeful. I dig panicked spadefuls of earth, filling pots with fists of dirt, a handful of fertilizer, another fistful of dirt. Sprinkle tiny herb seeds. Basil, oregano. Rosemary in one pot, cilantro in another. And even as I brush a bit of dirt over, dribble water, I sink down in despair. Will they really grow? I’m so ignorant, such a novice with no green thumb. Can I really grow anything from these tiny seeds inside my house? Can I really grow anything in this heart-garden of mine?


There is the real question, the gnawing. It’s not until this moment, while typing those questions, that I realize my mistake. The question I’ve been asking is, Can I really grow anything? Am I really capable of changing myself? And the answer, of course, is: no.


I cannot grow one single thing myself. It’s impossible! I am not the Author of growth, I have no power, I am helpless. I can do nothing on my own strength. Is that why I’m feeling so hopeless? Because I’m trying to make this gift-counting magic work myself? To force growth faster than the Great Gardener intended? Have I been trying to do the impossible?

Ben toddles around looking for worms. Will involves himself with my process; I’d nearly forgotten he’s there, occupied with my own dramas. My innovative kite-flyer faithfully pushes seeds down with little fingers, spreads dirt over, sprinkles water, carefully carefully. Full of faith that the same Jesus who helped Mommy open the garage lock in seconds will of course make these seeds grow. The thought never crosses his mind that they won’t sprout green and hopeful. He picks up on my discontent though, looking up, worried, watering can in hand.

I’m robbing my son of joy in our seed-planting because I’ve got my fist tight-closed around my own joy. Can’t I keep this particular gift-- this house, this bit of earth-- a little longer, Lord? Clench. Control. Grit teeth. And my son suffers, watching me.

I carry filled pots into my house, “my” house, despairing of a sunny spot to put them, full of doom and gloom. When will I learn to just let go? Just give up and let Him take over? Why do I have to control everything all the time? I preach to myself. So what if we don’t have a house past June? We have a house today. So what if I don’t know whether I can plant a garden outside? I can plant a garden in pots. So what if I don’t understand my own soul? The One who made me does. He understands me perfectly. He is also growing me, and I can not, absolutely not, grow myself. It’s impossible.

It’s while I’m chopping chicken for dinner that it hits me. This. This is the hard eucharisteo. That hard word I’ve just learned how to say and need a lifetime to learn to live. This is my chance to give thanks. To choose to thank for even the hard gifts.

I leave the chicken sizzling in the wok and race back to the computer, catch thoughts, words flooding my mind:

I choose to say thank you... for the uncertainty itself.

Thank You for how uncertainty keeps me supple, flexible. Reminds me I’m a sojourner.

Thank You for the two years we’ve enjoyed this house, and all the - [tears brim] - precious people we’ve enjoyed here, the memories we’ve made.

Thank You for the how possibility of losing something heightens its sweetness, makes me thankful for each moment.

Thank You for William’s circular kite-flying, living out of the box, faith-filled spinning of colors.

Thank You for dirt, for seasons, for seeds, for little boys looking for worms.

Thank You for heart-dirt softening, for soul-seeds being planted, watered.

Thank You for those who’ve gone before, for Ann calling back instructions on how to live out this hard eucharisteo, this joy-offering, this love-sacrifice of thanksgiving.

Thank You for the humbling, for the realizing, for the prying open of this clenched fist of mine that destroys joy by clinging so desperately, hungering for control.

Thank You for grace, for growth.

Thank You for the grace to grow slowly, gradually, into new bloom.

This week I devoured Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. I read it too fast-- it felt like gulping down a roast beef dinner with chocolate mousse for dessert. It was delicious. So now I'm going right back to the beginning, to digest it slowly, learn how to live it. If you're interested in learning how to live out eucharisteo with Ann and I and so many others, or just interested in finding out what eucharisteo means (!), you're welcome to visit: