Friday, July 27, 2012

The Ball and the Cross

Having been inspired by a dear friend to read better books, I began two this week. One, I've had in my Kindle for weeks now. I love real books and pages and holding paper, but this is one book I'm happy to have digitally. It is "Bonhoeffer: Paster, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" by Eric Metaxas. Have you seen this book? It's huge! I wouldn't ever be inspired to take it with me anywhere because of its size. But the Kindle didn't get any bigger when it was downloaded!

Free gothic-cross-pray-faith.jpg phone wallpaper by darcieThe other book I began is "The Ball and the Cross" by G.K. Chesterton. This one thrilled me in the first chapter because it started to explain something I've been thinking about for over four months now.  
The character named Lucifer claims, "...the cross is the conflict of two hostile lines, of irreconcilable direction. That silent thing up there is essentially a collision, a crash, a struggle in stone. ... The very shape of it is a contradiction in terms."

Then Michael responds, "But we like  contradictions in terms. Man is a contradiction in terms; he is a beast whose superiority to other beasts consists in having fallen That cross is, as you say, an eternal collision; so am I. That is a struggle in stone. Every form of life is a struggle in flesh."

The cross as contradiction itself has long been on my mind. This, however, is part of it's glory. It is the glory of a God who redeems the fallen and makes it whole and beautiful. When the horrible is intersected by the beautiful we then have a cross. And in many ways, this is the Christianity I believe in.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Unwrapping His Promises

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. --Colossians 1:17 ESV

There were some days in the last few months where I was consciously aware of how my very existence would cease without God's continuing presence. He was literally holding all things together, especially me. I don't mean this in the way that I was being emotionally held together or that the pieces of my circumstances were being held together (although those things were held) but that I was more physically being held together.

This is hard to explain. It seemed that without God in those very moments I would die. I wasn't contemplating suicide; I was on the verge of having all of the molecules of my body fly apart of their own accord. I could feel it. Without God actively holding me together I would cease to breathe, to live, to exist.  

The interesting thing was that in those moments while I didn't actually mind the idea of dying, I did mind flying apart. I did mind ceasing to exist. Perhaps this is why so many people who don't believe in an afterlife still fear death. Which is more frightening? Heaven, hell, or just stopping?

So I would pray, and I knew in those moments God held me together. I could feel his pull the way we feel gravity when we jump up in the air. By feeling myself about to fly apart I could also feel the opposing force holding me together. And Jesus won. I'm still here. Jesus will continue to win, because he holds things together. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Reading Good Books

I've noticed that my reading habits have sunk lately. I was talking to one of my friends about books the other day and I saw how the books I was reading had sunk to... well... junior high levels. Now, I enjoy a good kids book and have no problem reading them, obviously. But you have to admit that "Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief" is not what you call the pinnacle of literary expression. When that's the only kind of thing I read, I know I've chosen the path of the easy. If everything I do is easy, then I am most likely not doing things that I should be, right?

Recently I had a conversation with a young Muslim friend about Ramadan. He had wished his friends an "easy fasting".  On further questioning it became apparent that fasting was not meant to be easy. It wasn't meant to be torture either, but to test faith and to experience what the poor do it is necessary that it be difficult, that there be a challenge to it. I was then asked why I was asking hard questions. The answer for both of these is that the best things in life are usually hard. We often achieve and learn most through the things that take some effort, not by the things that are easy.

So, I decided I need to read some better books, some hard books. Have any suggestions?

824. Good conversations about hard things being good
825. Microwave smores
826. Recuperating
827. Military men who have seen too much so we don't have to
828. Handel's Messiah--He carried our sorrows
829. Avocados
830. Fresh raspberries
831. Peaches
832. Long Bible times
833. The possibilities of dreams
834. Curel Daily Moisture Lotion
835. New striped skirt
836. Torrential rain shadows
837. Sun-breaks that glitter the wet ground
839. Communion Songs
840. Talking with a friend on a bad day
841. People who have airline tickets
842. Washing machine in the house
843. Cozy darkness in the Nuart
844. Raspberry cheesecake

Sunday, July 22, 2012


         She pulled out two large pieces of white poster board and a couple of black and blue permanent markers. Laying them on the polished tile floor, she knelt next to them. In precise large print and simple vocabulary she outlined each rule and the corresponding consequences. The squeak of the markers echoed off of the bare walls in the room. Using a hammer and small silver tacks she put the posters up on the wall. She readjusted them several times to make them straight.  Finally, standing back, she surveyed her work.

          Walking she ran her hand along the plastered concrete wall until her fingers caught on some chips out of the paint near the door. She walked over to a shoulder bag on the floor and pulled out an A4 sheet of pale pink paper. She wrote a cheerful little rhyme  about books on it before taping it to the wall over the damaged paint and plaster. Pacing through the room again she checked and alphabetized the six books on a small shelf in the corner, lining up the spines in a row on the dented wood.

          Her eyes scanned the room marking each item in its place. Twenty-two desks stood at attention in neat rows. The clear taped name tags on the top of each desk gleamed in the sunlight.
          Then turning around, she sorted the dry erase markers in the metal tray below the white board. Picking up a green one she wrote, "Miss Hansen." Stopping, she erased the words and wrote, "Welcome!" She paused again and erased the exclamation point. Then she added, "to the fifth grade!" She capped the marker, picked up a red one, and added a flower in the corner of the board. Capping that marker too she put it back in the tray and lined up the markers again.
           Sighing, she picked up her bag and cell phone. Stepping through the doorway she glanced back into the room. She shut the door carefully behind her and silently strode down the hallway.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Thanks for Funky Straw Flowers


805. Random meeting of Kent
806. My first job call-back
807. God is still on the throne
808. The puppy dog curled up on the spare mattress on my floor
809. Playing yellow bingo cars all by myself (That way I always win! Now if only I could find 5 yellow cars in one day!)

810. Just looking to Jesus
811. My father's laughter
812. God directs even the details
813. The stone heart that Angie gave me
814. Dr. Jerry's e-mails
815. The opportunity to make some money
816. The walls in my sister's bedroom
817. For our friend who takes care of our house

818. Giving-up-things-I-love pain
819. Cross stitch contours appearing
820. Long talks with wise people
821. Round hay bales on green hills
822. The yearbook
823. Whole wheat bagels

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Outside One Evening

The light slants sideways, dripping down the dark brown bark slowly as the voice full of words hums on and on. A tall ivy clothed tree stump glitters green against the gold of the setting sun. And twisting between the slender white poplar trunks are curls and wisps of smoke, rising from the mouths of mellow young men. A white circle of it floats, expanding and dissipating in the cooling air. She holds her phone sideways, her thumbs tracing across its screen at intervals. He absentmindedly fidgets with his pipe and the paper in his lap. Another hurriedly takes notes writing down things as if a life depended on it. And I wonder which of us is missing out on the most.

Monday, July 09, 2012


Recently I've been working through my fears. There are many of them. I know that God does not give us a spirit of fear... so I fight it. But there are so many and from so many directions that sometimes I feel so lost in it all.

You see, I'm afraid of not fitting in. The transition back to the U.S. stirs up this ugly fear that has to do with what people think of me and what I think of them. I'm also afraid of fitting in. I don't want to be like everyone else. Iraq has changed me and I don't want to lose that. But then I'm also afraid of pretending to fit in even when I don't. The combination of not wanting to fit in and wanting to belong makes me horribly likely to try to look like I fit in while all the time decaying on this inside because I am different.

I am not who I was before... before ever. I am not an Idahoan... a Tennessee-an... or an Iraqi. Who am I? I'm a child of God whose true home is Heaven. Unfortunately this means that I'm an alien, an exile in a foreign land here. And that's hard.

Thankful List
782. Dr. Jerry's random e-mails.
783. Moments of impact that define who you are and who you become
784. Silver nail polish
785. Choices I've never had to make
786. God forgives instead of becoming bitter at my betrayal
787. Free music from Josh Garrels
788. Picture of Katie and Jonathan in the mail
789. Smooth flights
790. Heat at Loon Lake
791. A day of complete independence
792. People who understand
793. Birds in the backyard
794. Having sent off the e-mails about my house stuff
795. Coming to terms with probably never going back
796. Several applications submitted
797. Tears... everywhere
798. Forgiveness
799. People happy to see me at the Nuart
800. Being able to help and be of use to someone
801. Stomach hunger
802. Fast internet
803. The regular hum of a washing machine in the house
804. Feeling lost and unsure of where I am to go (this is a hard one)

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A Day Entirely in the Imperative

Blink. Again. Spread your arms and yawn. Slide out of your bed, arch your back, and creep catlike to the bathroom. Now wake up. Wake up for real. See the world, not just as  you've always thought of it in the morning of a new day but as it really is. Pay attention to the details in the grooved bark of a tree or the spots on a butterfly's wings or the white foam on the tip of the ocean waves. Choose today to become truly aware as the story unfolds and plots crash together in front of your toast and orange juice.

Walk out into the sunshine or clouds of the day clothed with peace. Open the car doors and drive away grateful to God that it runs and moves and doesn't explode when you turn the key in the ignition. Don't rage at the crazy driving man who doesn't stop at the stop sign and don't swear at the woman who can't figure out where she's going. Give thanks for your parking spot, near or far.

Enter your workplace, glad for a profession, a way to provide for yourself, a place to learn new things, a way to serve like Jesus did. Communicate open heartedly and reach out to the people around you. Love them because you are commanded to. Love them because God does. Love them because red blood has been shed.

Breathe. Pray. Admit your empty inadequacy and your hollow weakness. Suck in another breath and fill your lungs with air. Be filled with the breath of life, the Spirit of all grace. Be thankful for that air and that grace. But turn your heart to be thankful not only in the pleasant graces but also in the severe mercies, the endings in things as well as the beginnings. Feel the pain of the losses and grief but rejoice. Rejoice in the trials, troubles, and sorrow. Seek Christ's grace, Christ's goodness, Christ's joy. Again, be thankful.

Work hard. Glorify God in what you do. And at the end of the day return home and value that you have an address to put on forms and a pillow to rest your head upon. Be a blessing to the people in your home, not a curse. Smile. Say hello and goodbye, please and thank you.

When you eat, consider how death gives life when the body of the dead is consumed by the living. Remember the sacred things and how whenever we eat of bread or drink of cup we proclaim something. Proclaim death purposefully, resurrection gladly, and Jesus' return with sure hope. Do not eat or drink in vain, but with community, gratitude, humility, and joy.

And at the end, after the sun has set, lay yourself down, weary from fully living a whole day. Rest and pray and commune with the God who filled each moment with life and joy more than any one of us could manage to grasp in those moments. Then sleep well and peacefully preparing yourself for the next day's gifts to be revealed.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Pancakes and Bluegrass

764. Tears for Jeremiah
765. Dave's words of encouragement... we are not defeated
766. Noni finishing and folding my laundry
767. Robin's hysterical laughter when she gets tired
768. Moments where you just wish time would slow and you could hold onto it for a really long time
769. Round topped doors
770. Fido's
771. The little Toyota Yaris rental car
772. The gut weight of hard times
773. Being done with buying plane tickets
774. Breakfast at the Hocks
775. Large team meals with everyone from everywhere!
776. Newsletter success
777.  He will have His bride as rich as Himself, and He will not have a glory or a grace in which she shall not share.--Spurgeon
778. Hugs of friends who are new
779. Having so little to give
780. "From Depths of Woe"
781. Napping in the D's living room on a Sunday afternoon