Tuesday, October 21, 2014

for my first best friend

for my brother Todd on his birthday (re-posting from last year)

The missionary neighbors who lived upstairs rolled us around the yard in their shipping barrel.

Our vagabond days*

for my brother on his birthday

We'd hide in those years, Todd and me, inside the best places
in the parsonage —sneaking up from our first floor, certain

mother or others didn't know. While she vacuumed, we tip-toed
up the back stairs of the mud room peering for Lady Chatterly**

the African Parrot chattering Bible verses to her missionary family
whose teenaged son shot BB pellets into our father's tomato garden.

We lived as sheltered vagabonds then, roaming the church halls
in shared clothes from the missionary barrel, slipping through the cribs hung

on nursery walls, the wooden bars for a make believe zoo. The church bell at
noon announced our father's lunch at the formica table in our little kitchen.

Later, in the low glow of a Mickey Mouse night light, our day tucked
in with bed time prayers. I prayed with Daddy for Jesus to come

into my heart -- and yours.  When you decided to postpone your salvation
I chattered night-light altar calls from my bed to yours. Only half mindful

of your wellness, electric whispers in the passion of my conversion, more due
to the fact that you were my first -- and best -- friend. 
*adapted structure from a poem by by Bernadette McBride
**where my memory fails, I make up a few details

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

a few [incomplete] thoughts on the sacred practice of Sabbath

“The dream of my life
Is to lie down by a slow river
And stare at the light in the trees--
to learn something of being nothing
A little while but the rich
Lens of attention”
-- Mary Oliver, “Entering the Kingdom”

via Death to the Stock Photo

Get us to the place 
A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He cultivates the ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then the natural forces of the earth take over and up comes the grain. This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines -- they are a way of sowing to the Spirit. The Disciplines are God's way of getting us into the ground; they put us where he can work within us and transform us. By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done. 
Richard Foster , Celebration of Discipline
via the daily asterisk* 

I've been saying for many months here that I can't write because I'm too busy.  And that's mostly true.  Maybe even truer if I said it this way:
"I'm choosing not to write so that I can make space to follow God in other things He's asking me to do right now."  
Probably the most true way to say it is this:
"I'm choosing not to write because on some days I'm trying to obey God and make space for other things He's asking me to do.  On other days I'm just plain pissed about the things God's asking me to do and not writing is my way of getting even." 
Truth is, God gave us these amazing gifts of four children and a move to Austin to pursue Brian's ordination and relationship in a vibrant, healthy worship community, and an introduction to creamy jalapeno sauce.  Growing up requires me to recognize that good gifts come with responsibility.  My having to work full time, or lose sleep over my kids being flung hither and yon into adulthood, or deal with anxiety related to becoming a priest's wife, or roll up my sleeves to invest in this healthy worship community, or start eating more vegetables and fewer tacos are all decisions grown up people make in order to steward the abundance of good gifts that come down like lights from the Father.

Only a child wants it both ways:  good gifts with no responsibility.

My hope is to remain like a child with a simple faith and pleasure in my good Father while also becoming a grown-up in the way I respond to the things I don't like. I go back to the place of sowing to the Spirit in the act of spiritual disciplines, get into the ground where God can do the work of transformation in me.

This fall Brian and I and a couple of friends are co-leading a new small group in our neighborhood.  We'll focus on one spiritual discipline each month, starting -- appropriately -- with the practice of Sabbath. I realize that many of my ways to grasp for "rest" are not at all the same thing as Sabbath rest.  

Sabbath - We desire to set apart one day a week for rest and worship of God.

Our month to focus on Sabbath practices is over but I'm not letting go.  I need rest.  Deep down in my soul. I need to be at peace with myself in the midst of real or perceived chaos.  

I think the Buddhists call this Zen.  I choose to believe there is a way of Christian rest.  I believe the Christ who naps in capsizing boats follows the footsteps of his Father who takes days off even though the spinning universe depends on His attention.  

“Sabbath is the time set aside to do nothing so that we can receive everything, to set aside our anxious attempts to make ourselves useful, to set aside our tense restlessness, to set aside our media-satiated boredom. Sabbath is the time to receive silence and let it deepen into gratitude, to receive quiet into which forgotten faces and voices unobtrusively make themselves present, to receive the days of the just completed week and absorb the wonder and miracle still reverberating from each one, to receive our Lord's amazing grace.” ― Eugene H. Peterson, Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers

A few possible exercises our small group discussed on the practice Sabbath (source: Spiritual Disciplines Handbook) :

1.  Plan a twenty-four-hour sabbath you can enter with anticipation. The night before your sabbath, remind your body how long it has to luxuriate and rest in God.
  • Consider the things that would nourish you: worship, music, a nap, making art, walking, reading, playing with children, afternoon tea.  Plan them spaciously into the day.

2.  Begin your Sabbath gently on the evening before.  Light a candle.
  • Invite the presence of Christ to guide you through your sabbath.
  • Eat with friends and family.
  • Go to bed early, speaking peace to one another.
  • Pray for Christ to give you deep, refreshing sleep. Rest in his arms. Commit your dreams to the Lord

3.  Prepare a “sabbath box or basket.”  Choose a basket or cover a grocery-size box with gift wrap. Each week on the evening before Sabbath, gather as a family or group of friends to put all the things you don’t need to take with you into Sabbath day. Drop cell phones, credit cards, laptops into the box. Put work projects and homework in the box.
  • Tell one another what you are looking forward to as you enter Sabbath.
  • Pray together to receive the gift of Sabbath.

4.  The night before your sabbath day, enter into sleep as a spiritual act of worship. Consciously let go of your compulsion to be indispensable. Drop all that brings you anxiety into the arms of your heavenly Father. Lay your head on the pillow imagining that you are putting your head into the lap of God. Commit your body and dreams to him. Relax in God and rest.

5.  Awake gently to your sabbath day. If it is possible, don’t set an alarm. Let your body wake naturally. As you come to consciousness, take several deep breaths and open your body wide to God for the new day. Stretch out and feel the full length of of yourself. Thank God that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Thank him for the gift of the day before you.

  • Is God speaking to you in any way? Listen and respond.
  • Get up slowly and attend to your desire to encounter God today.

Resources on Sabbath

A few Scripture passages to meditate:

  • Hebrews 4:1, 9-11
  • Mark 2:27
  • Exodus 20:8-10
  • so many Psalms

My playlist of Songs for Rest

In what ways do you practice Sabbath?   
What art speaks to you of rest -- in general or in a particular work?   
It would mean so much to me to hear from you.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

7 melancholy blurbs + good links from this past week

I don't really have any photos to share from this week.  
Here's some words from one of my favorite women 
shared via Pinterest by one of my favorite friends.


For over one year I've managed to avoid the chronic sinus suffering I'd experienced for almost 20 years previously.  I'm not sure what one thing has made the difference because I've been trying like a dozen things:  change in diet (mostly Paleo), change in exercise, more sleep, regular visits to a chiropractor and her medical massage magicians.  Before this I popped over-the-counter pills pretty much daily and more often during high allergy season.  Then last week it all came back.  Very discouraging.


I worked until 6:30 today.  This means pulling into my driveway at 7:00, rinsing my dinner dishes after 7:30 when it's already dark outside.  Tonight was National Night Out, but this neighbor stayed in.  Sigh.
On the up side, one block over our new friends Mike & Kim had a lawn party just to wave at the neighborhood.  I'm so glad to be their neighbors.

--- 3 ---


News that the Ebola patient in Dallas died this morning created interesting conversations in the office.  I highly recommend a prayer resource that has helped me figure out words to plead for those suffering this epidemic:  Ebola prayer collection at Lent & Beyond and Pray to End Ebola

--- 4 ---


One of the hardest days I've had in a very long time.  And, well, that's all I'm going to say about that for now.  Except that mercy triumphs over judgment.  Also, it's not a great idea to fight with your husband in the lobby of a major downtown hotel and hope that no one you know will see you. 


Blessed, blessed Friday.  Completed a major deadline at work today and got free Chipotle for lunch!  Seriously -- our entire office got free Chipotle.  That's a good Friday.  Also, a movie date and after-movie scootering under a ginormous harvest moon.  So glad Brian and I are speaking again because that was a perfect way to end the week together.


I'm not sure exactly how it happened but I had the honor of hosting a group of women gathered by Katelyn Beaty - managing editor at Christianity Today - to  discuss work, motherhood, and vocation. I found it interesting how fuzzy the line becomes between "motherhood" and "womanhood" in the conversation of vocation.  I wondered how those in the room without children felt about that fuzzy line.   Also we drank Topo Chico and wine and ate a whole lot of cheese.


Friends, I am so, so tired.  It's kind of freaking me out to feel so unlike myself. I'm doing the best I can with sleep, diet, exercise, nutrition for my body, but I'm beginning to suspect this exhaustion goes deeper down.  A kind of soul weariness that is unlike any I've experienced before. Two weekends in a row now I've been given the gift of the sort of healing prayer that speaks the words of Christ louder to me than what I'm able to hear on my own.  I am so grateful. Grateful for a listening Father and listening friends.  Grateful for an interceding Christ and a comforting Holy Spirit.  

--- Other good words online this week ---

Saint Fred by Vesper Stamper at The Curator:  The resurgence of sentiment for the lovely Fred Rogers makes my heart glad.  Also, the icon painted in words and images by Vesper Stamper.
52 Colorized Historical Photos That Give Us A New Look At the Past:  I'm just a sucker for these sorts of things.  What a difference color makes! 
Did You Say *Shorts*? at Jamie the Very Worst Missionary:  A fantastic perspective on growing older.   
"Serial": The Podcast We've Been Waiting For at The New Yorker:   I'm already addicted to the This American Life spinoff podcast after two episodes and, apparently, I'm not alone.  Co-created and hosted by one of my favorite TAL producers, Sarah Koenig, it's episodic television -- only it's radio and it's real life without being reality-show hysteria.  

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Paying Attention (20): retelling the road rage story

In this season that my time is called for in places other than writing new posts, my good Father gave me an idea:  Ponder and notice again the words I've already written once, keep praying the beads of memory in this sacramental life.  I've  moved from a chronology to just the "Paying Attention" part of this project -- to this little confession I shared last year, same week.  You get to play along if you'd like!

road rage [a mini story]

Tell a mini story about something you regret.

Short answer?  I flipped off a guy behind me at a stop sign.  While my kids were in the car with me.  And my daughter was in the driver's seat.

Yes.  I did that.  And I deeply regret it.

Truth is, it felt really good to spend my anger on someone, a stranger.  The man had driven behind us for a few blocks and blasted his car horn at my daughter at two different stop signs.  I'm not sure what was bothering him.  Maybe she wasn't pushing through the intersections as quickly as he'd like.  Either way, he did more than blow his horn, he pushed my buttons.  Big time.

I have not cried behind the steering wheel or cussed more in traffic than the past two years since I've been learning Austin roads.  In short, they infuriate me.  I'm not sure why, exactly.  Many of Austin's roads are notoriously confusing, congested, convoluted. 

Then there's the matter of my own exhaustion.  Insecurity as a mom of teenaged girls and college boys.  If I remember correctly, we were also running late to get somewhere. Probably a church event.

I honestly thought I was protecting my daughter, spinning my head around like a horror film character, crooking my elbow and letting the middle digit stand tall. And it felt really, really good.

Until I noticed my daughter's face.  Instead of feeling protected, she felt embarrassed, stressed, piled on.  I did not help her one bit.  

Then I remembered that the man blasting his car horn at us was also a parent.  There was a baby in a carseat in the back seat of his vehicle.  

Later in the week I remembered that killing in my heart is killing period. My anger was fueled by a thirst for violence.  I wanted violence to happen and this man is the one I decided to spend it on.  

Forgive me my trespasses.

And in your forgiveness, would you help my daughter and me laugh at this together some day?


Since I first wrote this post, not only did Kendra get her license but so did our youngest daughter, Natalie!  We are done forever teaching people how to drive!  I am (hopefully) done forever using violent hand gestures while sitting in traffic.  

I don't think Kendra and I have laughed yet about this story.  Still too soon, I guess.


How about you?
Tell us a mini story about something you regret.

Monday, October 06, 2014

5 favorite August reads and good stuff I read online this week

before the book list, here's a a favorite image from our week

That's our Natalie on the right,
ready for Homecoming 2014!

5 favorite reads in August

-- 1 --

31 Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (316 pages)

This important novel of South Africa's history has been on my reading list for years.  When our church book club chose it for August's selection I read along even though I couldn't join them for their discussion night.  The story is exquisite, rich, sad and joyous and Zulu priest Stephen Kumalo has become one of my all-time favorite novel characters. This is a book I will re-read often.

Related link:  

To Better Remember Nelson Mandela, Get To Know This 'Country' at NPR

-- 2 --

32  Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life by Henri Nouwen: (165 pages) 

I have never read a book by this man that did not touch me deeply at the spiritual, emotional and intellectual level.  Reaching Out is no exception.  So much so that we're using the book at a ministry retreat this fall.  Also, Nouwen -- whom I'm pretty sure never had children of his own -- gave me the wisest words I've ever needed for parenting.  You can read about that here:  My top 4 parenting epiphanies, or My Child Is Not My Property But My  Guest

-- 3 --

33  Rick Steves' Ireland 2014 by Rick Steves: (584 pages) 

How many ways can I say that I love this guy and his travel guides?  Let me add one more with this current guide for traveling to Ireland.  Brian and I are dreaming about travel -- maybe even for our 25th wedding anniversary next year.  Both of us are Irish pretty recently in our family lines and we've heard a rumour that we could get a pretty decent fare.  We're not serious enough to buy the book yet, but I took lots of notes from this library copy!

-- 4 --

34  The Story of the World, Early Modern Times (audio) by Susan Bauer

OK, I admit it.  This
 volume covering the major historical events from the years 1600 to 1850 -- from Elizabeth I to the gold rush in California -- is supposedly for children, but I totally enjoyed it.  We took it with us on vacation from this summer and it made for great listening during traffic jams.  I'd like to listen to the whole set even though I sort of started in the middle because that's what I found on the library shelves.  

-- 5 --

35  Quack This Way: David Foster Wallace & Bryan A. Garner Talk Language and Writing  (123 pages) 

Accidental friends, writer David Foster Wallace and lexicographer Bryan Garner record an interview about the use and misuse of language and the importance of good writing skills across all vocations.  It's informal, easy to read and insightful.  


Other good words online this week

Liturgical Worship - Part 1 (Gather), 2 (Word), 3 (Thanksgiving), 4 (Send) from Christ Church Anglican, Overland Park, KS: Four brief, clear primers to the four main movements in an Anglican worship service.  Highly recommend!
It's Like They Know Us on Tumblr:  Have you seen this?  Totally snarky and totally hilarious. For example: "Our favorite fall tradition is dressing immaculately and taking photos with goats."  You know it.
Rich Mullins Tribute Special at 20: the Countdown Magazine:   September 19th was the seventeenth anniversary of Rich Mullins' death.  This audio tribute is long, but a wonderful remembrance of songs and interview clips with a man who understood grace in a beautiful way.  One disclaimer:  occasionally the announcer gets a bit campy and slightly  morose, but I think he really loved Rich and, well, he's a radio announcer after all. 

Hoping for a good week for us all, friends.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A theology of billboards, sharing today at Think Christian

Three years ago my family moved to Austin, Texas. Our very first spring we got a front row seat to the effects of theHighway Beautification Act of 1965, a legacy of former first lady Lady Bird Johnson. In a place known for heat and drought, springtime in Texas kicks off a wildflower parade up and down the state’s medians and roadways. Johnson’s concern about the increasing number of billboards crowding out the natural beauty of her home state energized her to become the first president’s wife to actively campaign for legislative action. 
A recent NPR story described the new battle Texans are fighting against the billboard lobby’s request to heighten signs. It makes sense for political figures to discuss the use of public spaces, but what if it also became a Christian conversation?    

Bonus feature:
one of the billboards we managed to catch on the camera on our trip to Texas, 2011.  

This is somewhere in the middle of Ohio, in case you were wondering.

Monday, September 29, 2014

7 quick takes from this week + other good stuff I found online

So my son Alex sent us an email with the subject "Recognize anyone you know?" and attached a screenshot from the the new movie trailer for Men, Women and Children (Jason Reitman, Ansel Elgort, Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner).

Ummm, yes?!?  That'd be my son.  Although when you watch the actual trailer this scene just flashes by and you probably wouldn't even notice.  Alex and his girlfriend Rebekah both worked as extras on the set.  Alex has some pretty funny stories about shooting the scene that landed in the trailer, but you'll have to ask him if you want to know more.  Also, this isn't Rebekah's first gig.  Remember Parkland?
(fyi:  this movie looks thought-provoking but we really don't know much about it)

--- 2 ---

Keeping a kingdom perspective on home-cooked meals 

I had the privilege of writing again at Think Christian this week.  Somehow I've ended up with the "food beat" over there.  Like I've said before, that might be a bit like Donald Trump getting the knitting beat, but oh well.  It's been a joy and pushing me beyond my preconceptions that food is only about being good at cooking and baking and stuff.  Food speaks to our most common needs and desires, it speaks of haves and have nots, it speaks of creating and cultivating and community.  It's a truly beautiful subject. I wrote this week's article in response to a Slate article on the romanticizing of home-cooked meals.

This girl is doing just fine.  College seems to suit her well -- not that I'm surprised by that at all.  When I told this to a friend she said, "I'm  not surprised, either.  Kendra's an old soul."  Right then I realized that many of the frustrations that go along with being an old soul in highschool turn out to be benefits after high school.  

She's joined Sigma Phi Lambda ("Sisters for the Lord") and making beautiful friends.  We're pretty sure she's studying, too.  We are grateful.

We wondered what it would feel like for Kendra and Natalie to live apart since they really are very close friends.  Turns out they're doing just fine.  Sign of a good friendship.  Natalie got her license a couple weeks back.  She said she's been waiting for this day for 16 1/2 years (she turns 17 in December).  The experience of passing her road test fraught with tension, but she did it!  Turns out to be great fodder for writing for her school paper. 

Last, but certainly not least, Andrew-- this guy's coming soon to a Fun, Fun, Fun Fest stage near you.  (well, at least if you live in Austin)

Not sure the schedule yet, but I'll keep you posted.  I'm personally hoping he gets slated somewhere between Fat White Family and Gorilla Biscuits.  Just because that would be so fun to say.  
Other good links online this week:

Life in the Kolache Belt: Reflections from the Intersection of Food, Faith, Farming, and Fracking at Front Porch Republic:  Just a lovely essay about a place.  I especially appreciate John Murdock's words since now live in the "kolache belt". 

First Listen: Lucinda Williams, 'Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone' at NPR:  I really enjoyed listening!

Eight reasons people don't get involved at The Guardian: "A few years ago, I became very worried about the planet and decided to Do Something. But what? I found some experts, and asked them. One was Dr David Fleming, who had invented a clever mechanism to incentivise individuals – and entire nations – to save energy. What, in his opinion, was the most important thing anybody could do to tackle the twin threats of climate change and resource shortages?
“Join the local choir,” he said."

What a great week in baseball history.  Brian and I renewed our appreciation for the NY Yankees in 1995 when we were too broke for cable or a television, for that matter. I was pregnant with our third baby and we'd spend our summer and fall evenings listening to the games on the radio hearing descriptions of this rookie player Derek Jeter. We've been listening (and now watching ever since). It's been a really fun ride and this guy is a classic.

And I know I was feeling a bit sentimental when I watched this live, but as I've watched the highlights again I can't help thinking about what it will be like when I enter eternity and get to see the "cloud of witnesses cheering us on".  Somehow the line up of great Yankees who'd retired before him, who stood on the sideline watching Jeter's final play, well somehow they reminded me of that moment that will surely come to us someday.  I doubt we'll be in pinstripes, but you never know!

Hoping for a good week for us all, friends.

 (For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!)


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