Thursday, September 26, 2019

PROGRESS in Fathom Magazine

Check out the newest edition of Fathom Magazine.  This month's issue focuses on PROGRESS in various aspects of life and faith, and they were kind enough to include one of my poems. I'd love to share "An Olive-Green Sweater and Salvation"  with you. 

Blessings!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

My Summer in 19th Century Russia


I hope this is a safe place, because I have a shameful confession:  I am a LABB, a Lifetime Avoider of Big Books. It’s true. Except for a brief fascination with Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath during high school and, well, the Bible, I have always shied (run) away from anything over 300 pages. It’s what some have dubbed megalobibliophobia. However, at the beginning of this past summer, after I asked around The Rabbit Room for the skinny on everyone’s summer reading lists, I began to wonder if maybe I needed a challenge and perhaps some immersion therapy. So how else would a chronic big book avoider begin to break the cycle but with the cliché big book of all big books:  Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace?

Sure, why not?

Being well acquainted with my reading pace and assuming I would not be super enthralled with the story, I gave myself a deadline of one year. I could just read a little here, read a little there and finish before my girl’s graduation in May. The goal was one year.

I finished it in about six weeks.

That’s not a brag, because I am a slow reader. But it just so happened that the events in the narrative kept crisscrossing and intertwining with my own family’s summer dailies to such a degree that I just couldn’t walk away. I never would have guessed a giant book written 150 years ago in a foreign tongue, a story set two centuries in the past on the other side of the world, would permanently attach itself to milestones on my own personal timeline for the summer of 2019. Tolstoy’s comrades so quickly became my comrades, they began to echo pieces of my life. From Russia, (to Texas) with love.

In June, we set out on a long cross-country road trip to California, and the Russians came along. While we cruised through the blazing heat of the desert Southwest battling things like ridiculous gas prices, sibling squabbles and lack of snacks, my beloved new Russian friends trudged through frigid snow in sub-zero temperatures, draped in shoddy uniforms and cracked boots, to defend all they loved against the invading French forces, losing fingers and friends and innocence along the way. Somehow I could feel their chill and their breaking as we traversed Arizona in our Kia. I was not facing the same kind of journey by any means, but their war march pressed me into wondering what battles I might need to step up and fight in my own life. I vowed to henceforth cinch up my boots where necessary and do battle with greater courage and diligence.

This was also the summer our son seemingly grew six inches overnight and forced this mama to begin seeing her baby boy as someone altogether new. I wept in my heart with the Countess Rostova watching her sweet boys, Nikolai and Petya, grow into men no longer under her control and then defiantly set off on adventures both dangerous and brave. I could see my Warner’s face on those two young Russian men in uniform as their stories unfolded, I could feel their mother’s panic and I realized what a frightfully glorious and terrifying thing it is to suddenly find ourselves looking UP into the eyes of our babies, with no possible means of going back.

Finally, as a strictly personal assignment, I had already determined to use this summer to pray and work through a batch of bitterness that had become a persistent plank in my eye. Again, good ole Leo offered a comrade in arms. As Prince Andrei faced ruthless betrayal, I faced it with him and quietly cheered his dark desire for vengeance on unrepentant foes. That primal longing rang an ugly and familiar bell in my heart. But when Andrei, in the end, faced his own mortality and that of his enemies, finding nothing sweeter in all of existence than the relinquishing of the debt he was owed, the casting off of vengeance and the offering of full and free forgiveness, I was struck down at my own lack of Christ-like spirit and grieved that I needed a century-and-a-half-old work of fiction to help shake me into repentance. God truly uses all things.

Just as a side note, I was especially pleased to discover an eccentric, contemplative, brooding introvert, who wrestles internally with everything and nothing all at once, at the center of the drama:  kind and quirky Pierre. He’s special, because I found myself hidden there in his character. Plus, thanks to the operatic musical Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, he will always look and sound like Josh Groban in my memories, and that’s not terrible.

So, I am now determined to no longer fear those big books. Over these past few months, I have added to my tribe, and these new friends will travel with me from now on. What a beautiful thing! Thoughts of the Summer of 2019 will be littered with memories from two different centuries in two different lands, and those memories will overlap and enrich each other. Perhaps I’ll make it a new tradition to add a large work of fiction to each summer’s adventures, encapsulating that story and my story within the parameters of one summer, making them somewhat synonymous in my mental scrapbook. For now, though, I’m still finding it quite difficult to leave Russia behind.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Poem - For the Savior's Sake


Try it again
Release the heavy breath
and shake loose the clenched jaw
Speak.
Just speak up, for heaven’s sake!
For the blessed Savior’s sake
Just open your mouth and
the Spirit will provide
Yes, Lord, but I’m scared and visibly scarred
I choke and fumble
I curse my own being for the introverted station I inhabit
for serial failures
for pitiful paralysis of the tongue

“Who made man’s mouth?!”
Yes, Lord, but rote evangelistic rhetoric somehow
tastes foreign stumbling from this particular mouth You made
Feels memorized and inorganic
My pockets are overflowing with excuses – what’s wrong with me?

Try it again
Release the breath
And manage a song about
Him and for Him
So, yes, I sing loudly
I craft verses on pages and share them without request or prompting
I clumsily grab a hammer and a handful of bruised nails and
in the quiet I begin to hang pictures on the dark
Then steal away to pray
I plead, begging the Spirit to drop little
bread-of-life crumbs on the paths where the lost ones linger
Yes, Lord, use those verses to awaken need and to
point with great poise --
in ways my prefab elevator pitch never does --
point to the Light, seduce their vision:
“Behold, the Lamb of God!”
“Behold, your King!”

Oh, Great God, Lord, work
Work despite this tangled work of me
Let the fruit be rich, even if deeply blemished and unorthodox
Let the offering be sweet and sweetly accepted
for the blessed Savior’s sake

Monday, August 26, 2019

Of Walls and Monsters - Fathom Magazine

"Panic has become our collective prompting."

I'm thinking through walls and fear and cute, furry, blue Sesame Street monsters today in Fathom Magazine. I'd love for you to stop by and check it out here.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Kingdoms









(A messy sonnet, for our messy world)

They woke to life in amber waves of grain
With freedom’s sweet aroma wafting nigh
Ambition pumped the blood from that first cry
The “land of promise” promised them great gain
And so they labored long for kingdoms fine
A blurred, stale focus kept them looking in
The mother church of dreamers gave a grin
Entangling them into the liar’s vine.

But turned upon its head, that kingdom’s crown
Bejeweled with souls it’s ravished, left for dead
Evaporates to dust from whence it came
And all the rescued pilgrims tumbling down
Go groping for a hand, that they’d be led
And part their lips to finally call His name.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Rabbit Room -- Read It!

If you haven't visited The Rabbit Room, you are missing out. There's a ton of great articles, links to podcasts, discussions, etc. Trust me, you wanna be there.

I've had the supreme honor of having a couple of articles visit The Rabbit Room over the years. Here's the links if you'd like to check them out:

https://rabbitroom.com/2015/03/guest-post-handling-dust/

https://rabbitroom.com/2019/03/when-dreams-wake-up-different/

Peace, love and cheesecake, y'all!


Thursday, April 11, 2019

April Poem-a-Day Challenge Day 11

Today's prompt asked us to write a dedication poem, a "to" or "for" someone or something. You can get more info and get on board with National Poetry Writing Month by checking out the daily prompts at writersdigest.com. 


For the Boy

If passion were any more a person than you, my boy,
If fervor itself could somehow favor any further the eyes of the one you call Papa in your silliness
I couldn’t imagine how
Couldn’t conjure up a more tightly-wound, sturdily and heartily packed soul than yours, son

You are messy triumph and a treasure.

All brimming with bounds of ideas
Tinted in technicolor
Comic-paned within cells of story
Swimming feverishly off your tongue every time the room falls quiet:

“Mom, do you want to hear my new idea?”

So I stir the tomatoes into the sauce
While your dingy-socked feet fitfully trace the ceramic floor tiles
Back and forth and again
As you spin yarns of your future creations
Tales of heroes and justice and how good always, ALWAYS buries evil
In the end

You have the soul of a justice warrior, sweet boy

And maybe (no, definitely) you add to your tale just a dash of
Good ole potty humor
It is, after all, the secret ingredient for a guaranteed laugh
The spicy nutmeg of every teen boy’s adventure
And you giggle at yourself

You are a web of wit and wonder

In the undertones of your words, I clearly make out
Your deep, unabated thirst for truth
For what’s right and what needs to be righted
That fire within you that often erupts in angry words and fists and tears
Of confusion
Of compassion for the underdog

Son, stoke that fire!

And I keep stirring the sauce as it boils and bubbles along with
The tempo in your tale
Your heart and voice crescendo until
“and that’s how it ends.”
Mama’s smile whispers a prayer to your Good Maker
Begging Him that no matter how often you lose in life
No matter what gets corrupted or falls down and tries to stay down
That you will never lose the fire for a just and good story
Because the best stories lead us
We weary wanderers
And the few righteous storytellers among us
Become our guides into vibrant life-songs and salvation.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Emerging - poem and mixed media

Emerging (a haiku) 

Shadows, they cover
Sever the beauty from song
Lord, let me emerge.



Emerging (mixed media - acrylic and paper on 12x12 canvas)

Explaining seasons of depression is difficult. The darkness is deeply real and felt, but is so hard to put into meaningful words:  the shadow that covers up what was once beautifully beheld, the spiral, the drain of color, the frail prayer requesting emergence from the shadow. 

But Light will not be stopped

Sometimes, though, coming out of that dark feels much less like a triumphal entry and much more like straining your vision at a crack of light sneaking in through a slowly opening door; or like a puncture, a tiny fissure, that opens to let you drip back into the joy of life. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Untitled -- a free verse warm-up

April is right around the corner, sort of, and that means the bi-annual Poem-A-Day challenge is coming up soon. I am not great at free verse, but I wanted to start stretching my free verse writing muscles a little early this year, hoping to settle in to a style or flow in that category.  Being that we have stepped into the Lenten season, as we fast, as we search, as we wait, there is much to dig into within the darkness of the season.

Untitled

I'm glad for where I am
But getting here cost me
Everything
And sometimes
It feels like
My very bones will break trying to dam up the heavy tears
Pooling always in my heart
For what was lost.

Hope you'll consider joining the PAD Challenge next month at writersdigest.com. It's so good for soul and craft.

Blessings!




Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Dear Pastor(s) -- A Plea for Biblical Literacy in the Modern Church


PASTOR, PLEASE STOP DOWNPLAYING THE IMPORTANCE OF THE STUDY AND KNOWLEDGE OF SCRIPTURE.

(Photo by Samantha Sophia)

Reading the Word isn’t just a “good thing to do”, it is how we come to know the God we serve. Scripture is a lifeline. God introduces Himself to us in every nuance of context, every scene into which He steps mightily, every carefully preserved phrase. Layer after layer after layer of beauty and truth. Tell your flock to look, read, study and find Him there. It is the knowledge of God that will guide their hearts and actions.

Pastor, please do not continue to only bottle feed the flock. Open the lid, entice them toward the meat of the Word. And, Pastor, if you have not yet developed a flavor for that meat yourself, if you don’t feel able to digest it just yet, please step away from the podium until the Spirit of God has formed that maturity within you. Then come back and tell them that you have truly tasted that the Lord is good and lead them well toward that good.

Tell them, Pastor, that getting to truly know our God is a lifelong pursuit and it’s okay that it won’t fully happen in a weekend. The almighty, sovereign Creator of the universe is not two inches deep, so please don’t keep them in the shallow end. Tell them our God is a bottomless ocean of goodness, richness, wisdom and truth, all of which He longs to reveal to us. Tell them that they will never reach the bottom of that ocean, but that they should swim hard as if they could. Let them know it’s okay to feel like they are drowning at times -- it’s called conditioning and it will make them stronger. Tell them God is always faithful to breathe new life into those who delve completely after Him. He is worth every effort.

And, Pastor, don’t let your people think this life or the faith or the church is about them, about their fulfillment this side of eternity. You do them a disservice allowing them to remain in a consumer mindset. Our Messiah did not come to give us a lifestyle pattern to follow. He came to give us Himself. God Himself came to give us Himself. And He doesn’t just demand ritual behaviors from His people, but the surrender of our whole selves. He does not long to simply grant our wishes, our earthly desires, but to transform every tiny piece of our existence until every desire we hold is shaped fully into a desire for Him alone. Because in the life we are running toward, the new life, the new creation, what we will receive is HIM.

Be in the Word. Pastor, show them how to be in the Word. Give them wise guidance and understanding not catch phrases and trendy mantras. Only what is true will stand through the fire. And in the days ahead, when the name of Jesus isn’t marketable, when following heavenly ways brings earthly penalty, they will need a foundation that will be unshakeable, a higher ground built firmly on their learned and experienced knowledge of the one true God and the redemption He has promised us in Christ.