Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Sapling

A young sapling stands in the thick of the forest. 

The arms of her neighbors stretch high above her, reaching out and across, mingling together, braiding through sky.  So many arms interwoven create a roof so thick that the sun is almost blocked from reaching this small tree.  But she finds a way to see it, tilting to one side, and then to the other, craning her trunk to catch a glimpse of light.  When she finds a ray, she freezes her frame to relish every drop of sun until her whole being is filled with light. 

Clouds roll in and rain falls.  The older, taller trees lap up buckets of water poured down from above, almost soaking up the entire wet blessing.  But she finds a way to lean to the left, and then to crouch lowly, until she spots a single stream of rainwater.  She does not move as the water trickles down onto her, soaking every last piece of bark and quenching every thirsty branch. 

There are times when, despite her best efforts, she cannot see the sun and she does not taste the rain, for the limbs that block them are simply too dense.  She is unaware that all the while, it is the rain and the sun that are finding her.  She waits, knowing that somewhere above, rain pours down and sunlight abounds. When it comes again, she is content with her one ray and her single stream, for it is all she needs to keep growing. 

And so she grows, down through her roots and up through her trunk, with a movement that is like no other in all of the forest.  Growth for this small sapling is creeping, almost unnoticeable.  She grows in this way, searching for rays and streams, knowing that they will come in time, trusting that she is moving higher and lower because something moves within her.  She knows no other way of being, for it is simply how she was made, to keep searching and finding through trusting and knowing. 

This young sapling who stands in the thick of the forest has a name, and it the most beautiful name of all the trees.  Her name is Faith.   

Monday, June 25, 2012

Drip, Drip, Drip

See this post

I read this book.  

I hear this song.  

And I am in church on a Monday afternoon.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Eight Years

With the June sun pouring through the reds and the greens of the old, Baptist windows and the deep song of the organ silencing the shuffle of the church, I walked down the aisle wearing white, to release the arm of my father and take the hand of my husband.  Just weeks before, I’d thrown my sky blue cap into the air and watched it float down like a leaf, riding the wind of expectation, possibility and youth.  It was eight years ago that I stared into the eyes of the man who I began loving the year that I began driving, and promised to love him for the rest of my life.  The pledge slid right off my tongue, for all of our blessings piled high and the slope of joy mounted steep.  We stood together in all of our innocence and bliss at the top of blessing’s mountain, looking out into the great unknown, and vowed to love.

Eight years; it is both the blink of an eye and a lifetime, marked by constant taking and vowing.  When joy abounds and freedom rings loudly, we take hands and vow to love.  When the day to day overwhelms and the bills and the tantrums weigh us down, we take hands and vow to love.  When pride and anger speak louder than forgiveness and grace, we take hands and vow to love.  When laughter and lightness color our season, and adventure and hope stream through, we take hands and vow to love.  And when death and grief overtake and loss and pain consume, we take hands and vow to love.  On this anniversary, eight years after first taking and vowing, we stand together, innocence stripped and hearts shattered, at the top of blessing’s mountain looking out into the great unknown, and vow to love.    

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Waste and Worship

I traveled from Raleigh to Nashville to attend her conference, leaving my family for the first time since Webb’s death.  Few are able to touch the raw edges of pain with such truth and gentleness as she does in her writing and in her speaking.  Her words are strung together by a golden thread of grace, and I would travel the world to brush just one of her beads of blessing.  But when words that I thought would be balm for my wounds only served as salt, I began to feel like it was all a little bit too much, a little bit too soon.

I left the church sanctuary the moment that she began to speak of the death of her younger sister.  I stood up and walked out at the first word of detail that she offered.  I scooted past a room packed full of women who traveled near and far to receive the wisdom, the words and the beauty that He would bring through her.  The steps that brought us to this place vary, but we all walk in the same direction and desire the same thing.  We all came together to meet Him through her.  We came to worship.  Only I could not bear the pain that she described, and I left the conference only moments after it began.    

I thought I would be soaking up the words of a woman who drips honey to my soul, but instead I find myself alone in the bathroom, grief swelling within.  As my head collapses into my hands, and the hot tears pour over, I whisper, “What a waste.  What a waste.”  Surely it was a waste of money to travel this far.  Certainly it was a waste of time and effort to make all of the arrangements for the boys.  Undoubtedly, I wasted the small amount of emotional and spiritual strength that I possessed to leave my family, only to return home without even the smallest pearl of wisdom from her lips.  I came for wisdom, words and beauty.  I came for worship.  But now I feel sure that coming here was quite simply, just a waste. 

As the tears burn the skin of my face and the hand of a friend gently strokes my back, I think of another woman who knew what it was to “waste.” She came to Jesus.  She brought Him an alabaster jar, filled with expensive perfume. I don’t know if she came out of desperation or out of adoration, or perhaps like me, it was a little bit of both.  What I do know is that, she came.  She broke the jar, poured out the perfume, and she wet His feet with her tears. And when all the others cried out to her, “Why this waste?” Jesus called her act beautiful.  When men explained to her all of the more important things that she could have done with what little she had, Jesus replied, “She did what she could.”[1] Together, with this woman, I break, I pour out, and I wet His feet with my tears.   I give to Him what others and myself might name as waste, in hopes that He might receive it as worship. 

We all came for wisdom, words and beauty.  We all came to worship.  And worship, we did, in the sanctuary and in the stall. As I find my breath, I hear His words, “She has done a beautiful thing…She did what she could.”  For perhaps it is right here in the coming, the breaking, and the pouring, that waste becomes worship. 

[1] Matthew 26:7, Mark 14:4, Luke 7:44, John 12:3-4

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Doubt padlocked one door and
Memory put her back to the other.
Still the damp draught seeped in
though Fear chinked all the cracks and
Blindness boarded up the window.
In the darkness that was left
Defeat crouched in his cold corner.

Then Jesus came
(all the doors being shut)
and stood among them.

by, Luci Shaw

A Widening Light
Poems of the Incarnation 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Come and Fill

“Come and fill this place.”  The man at the altar spoke the words to the Spirit on a Sunday morning in church.  I sat in the pew, eyes shut and head bowed.  This plea from the pastor for God to fill the walls of the sanctuary and the walls of our hearts, might have breezed past others.  But the words “come” and “fill” were two hands on my shoulders to shake me awake from sleepwalking through prayer. 

Perhaps I heard my voice that whispers in his voice that booms.  For these two words, “come” and “fill” have been both the bookends and the substance of my own quiet prayers. Would you come, God?  Would you fill me, God?  It is my plea as much as it is His promise.  I have sat in groups, in pairs, and alone to pray.  I’ve heard the prayers of others that arise from the hidden corners of their souls, prayers of eloquence, depth and length. 

Yet, I search my own soul corners and all that I am able to pull out are these two, meager words, simple but full of wonder.  “Come” and “fill.”  Sometimes these words are drenched in peace, and other times they are drenched in panic.  But always, my Amen is saturated in Spirit. 

I keep searching and seeking for reverent words to knit into prayers to offer to God, prayers more full of color and depth.  Yet as I look around inside my soul, I find only the empty space that remains from such a loss that hollows.  So again I pull out my words, just the two of them, and offer them back to God.  Here in the emptiness, my words reverberate.  Here in the hollowness, my prayer resonates.  Come, God.  Fill, God. 

Only in the hollow can two whispered words bounce off of soul walls and through empty space, to be amplified into a boom. Only in the empty can two words echo and string together to form a round of praise.  And only by scrubbing the soul’s bare floor, searching for more to give, could He allow such dregs to become such depth.  It is my plea as much as it is His promise, simple and full of wonder.  I sigh an Amen, as the words echo on and on throughout my hollow halls, while He comes and He fills, and the Spirit saturates.