Friday, December 6, 2019

Mercy Mixed in Lament

Recently, one of our pastors challenged the congregation to read through Lamentations. Yeah, right before the joyful season of Advent -- Lamentations. Well, let me tell you, do NOT throw down the gauntlet on an oft ignored, deeply introspective, shockingly melancholy book, because that is typically my jam. So, yeah, game on.

Right around the fold of the book, I bumped into this familiar coffee-cup verse:

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’” Lamentations 3:22-24

I’ve known this passage my whole life. Most of us have. Numerous praise songs based on these verses get stuck in my head every time I spot them on the cover of a journal or tote bag in Lifeway <insert moment of silence – R.I.P. >. But I guess I had neglected to memorize the address of the verse, and, since context is king in studying the writings of Scripture, I had missed something big.

While it may seem likely the writer of Lamentations penned these lofty, comforting, highly-monetizable words while sipping a sweet tea on his back porch, admiring God’s handiwork on a perfectly sunny, lightly breezy 74-degree Saturday afternoon, he did not. The fact is that those words were born in the middle of absolute degradation, misery and lament.

Scoot back to the beginning of chapter three to set the scene:  The writer (traditionally thought to be the “weeping prophet” Jeremiah) is living a hell on earth in a rampaged, besieged Holy Land. Many of his people had already been deported violently by a pagan superpower, and those left in the city were afraid, lost and starving to the point of cannibalism. Seriously, read the details. Mothers eating their own children to survive. No mercy among the people of God. No divine inheritance being lived out. The writer cries out with a “how long, O Lord?” refrain, because he is beginning to lose hope.

BUT always watch for the “but”. There is a pivot from the pain just before our beloved, well-known passage. Verse 21: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope . . .”

And then he begins to preach the very nature of God Almighty to his weary, worn out self as he sits among the ashes.

The writer is alone and afraid, but’s God’s love is somehow still steadfast and unchanging. He knows that. God’s mercies will return with the sunrise, even though the smoke from his city’s burning continues to obscure the view. It seems God has abandoned them, but, no, He is faithful to the end and sovereign, completely and totally sovereign. The writer has no more physical inheritance, no food, no comfort from community, but what he does have is God Himself.

“The LORD is my portion.” 

And that’s it, just God. He has nothing else but the LORD. And THAT is why he will continue to have hope even in the middle of unbelievable pain and destruction. The nature and plan of God is immutable even in the storms. Preach it to yourself.

I heard a story not too long ago of a young musician who lost his wife just a few hours after she had given birth to their first child. His friends say that when they arrived at the hospital to comfort him, the man sat with his head in his hands repeating again and again, “You are always good. You are always good. You are always good.” But how? In that moment, how?

This is why we must know God’s word and know it well. He has revealed Himself there. The nature of the God of all creation, the maker of bright beaches and shadowy graves, has been hand-delivered to our hungry souls on those pages. Preach that truth to yourself again and again. Over and over. When you have nothing, the LORD is your portion. Have hope.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Poem -- Anxiety

Today's writing prompt for the November Poem A Day Challenge was to write a poem that had something to do with a kind of health. I have found that being "forced" to write each day is really good for clarity of thought and for straightening out (or trying to straighten out) issues, and since anxiety is something I deal with fairly often, that's the health issue that sprang to mind first. The poem is still a little rough. I'm sharing this one only because I know there are lots of us fighting this monster daily, and sometimes it just helps to know you're not alone in the struggle.


A bad guy was coming for me
                I was certain
To sneak in through my bedroom window in the darkness
                I was certain
And he’d stab me in the back with a big kitchen knife
                I was certain
So I couldn’t sleep at night for months and months at ten years old

My mother would lie next to me
                She tried so hard
She’d pray for me and reassure me again and again
                She tried so hard
But I could tell she was frustrated and worn out on the drama
                Still she tried so hard
To explain to a brain of ten years how sometimes our beautiful minds can maliciously fool us
And she would say, “You don’t have to sleep, but just try to rest.”

And still today, with every tiny scratch or bump
                I feel certain
That deep, rare infection will take hold
                I feel certain
That time and talent will run out on me
                I feel painfully certain
And it wakes me cold for days on end, yes, even now in these middle ages

But a Kind Brother witnesses my weariness
                And He intercedes
My Priest prays for me as He commiserates
                And He intercedes
I worry that He will tire of me, of my drama
                And still He intercedes
Before the Almighty One, weaving the Comforter in and out of my nightly woes
And I hear Him say, “I won’t leave you, so just try to rest.”

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Elusive Comfy Chair of Community

I swear to you I was built with some sort of vigilant reset button.

Or maybe it was installed without my knowledge at some point in my early adult life. I have no clue, but it’s definitely there. An internal ticking, ticking, ticking that signals a hard shift in location or situation or people and all that goes along with it.

I lived the vast majority of my adolescent life in one small town in rural Arkansas. My parents built our house before I was two. I started kindergarten with most of the same people I walked the high school graduation stage with. (Technically it was a graduation gym floor, but whatever.) My friends had always been my friends as far as I knew, so I never developed any get-to-know-you skills, because I didn’t really need them. The folks I knew and loved had always known and loved me (except for the ones who decidedly did NOT, and probably for good reason), so I never recognized the need for “building” community. My community came prepackaged with my life, already built, installation included, no work on my part really.

But ever since I cut the hometown strings and got married mid-college, the dial has been set to reboot life in a major way every five to seven years. Like unwanted clockwork. The husband and I certainly didn’t plan it that way. Coincidentally, I have found during my adult life that it takes this INFJ / hyper-4 on the Enneagram approximately five to seven years to really feel at home with a new batch of folks, to lower the gates and let them in, to feel part of a people group rather than just an add-on.

Five to seven years every time. It’s not intentional, and it’s a little ridiculous, I know, but I’ve found it just can’t be forced for some reason no matter how hard I try.  So, if you’re doing the math, you’ll see that, mathematically speaking, that sucks. The routine has held that just when I finally manage to settle into the comfy chair of community, that chair is up-ended and I’m left on the floor scrambling to pick up my toys and head to the next living room to start all over. Awkwardly. Hesitantly. More cynical and exhausted with each reset.

This is truly self-indulgent here, I know. Sorry about that. I mean, some unique individuals thrive on constantly engaging new people and moving around a bunch. I do not understand those individuals. At all.

I’m not sure if it’s the introvert-iness or my increasingly cynical attitude or just that I’m getting older and more tired and frankly more worn out on humans in general. That can’t be healthy. And there’s lots of unhealthiness to go around, y’all. I find myself unjustifiably angry with and jealous of people who make pals quickly or people who enjoy lots of encouraging time in like-minded creative communities or folks who get to stay in one place long enough to make “framily” with those around them, those who have a tribe. I hate that I’m so slow, often too slow, to settle right in and enjoy the short spaces I’m given. Especially because, no matter where our crew has been called through the years, there are always really nice God-aligned people waiting there who are willing to reach out and try.

But seriously, it’s just so tiring.

Because it means recounting again and again to every new person all – the – things:  what my passions are, what I “do” (I never quite know how to explain that), my kids’ names and grades and interests, my past wounds (yeah, those are super fun to relive again and again), my hopes, my quirks, my dreams, my stupid need to feel like someone worth knowing. Over and over and over, because that’s how grown-ups make friends when they reset every half-decade. The beauty of solid, long-term community is that you can step off the stage and just BE. That would be so sweet. It would also be so much easier if I could just hand new acquaintances a thumb drive with my pertinent life info and say, “Just check it out when you have time, and let me know if you’re interested.” Break the wrist – walk away.

Pilgrims are travelers, and I would say I have often felt a bit like a pilgrim much of my adult life, but I don’t know if it’s in the way Scripture means. Probably not quite, but I am definitely getting a little tired of tent-dwelling. No, I’m really tired of it. And yet I know it will probably happen again. I’m old enough now that I sometimes get stuck in the distance, bracing for the next upending. Maybe it’s just easier to never sit in the comfy chair at all. Perhaps a lightly padded stool or the saggy ottoman in the corner or maybe I’ll just keep standing, wound tight and waiting for the tick, tick, tick and turn.

Lord, I’m a mess, but You know that.

I pray for settling in whatever God puts before me, the stay or the go. We don’t all get to stay all the time. So, I'll just write it out. All the things that are overly dramatic and confusing. And so very unresolved -- Life experiences often don’t end on the ONE.

But what I do believe and know for certain is that God is sovereign and always, always good.

And on that note, here’s a poem, which started as a song that never quite came together, about the whole messy mess.

Thanks for indulging me.

Roots and Release

Every half dozen years or so
I notice myself intuitively starting to withdraw
From commitments
From relationships
From even righteous routines
A heart-level rudimentary release of sorts

For some heaven ordained reason, that’s just been the cycle of 
My adult life so far
A change in geography
A change in occupation
A change in the frail, fabled fabric of me
I try to take note when that wind blows, to attempt to stop it short but

Some sort of hard-wired, subconscious siren chimes and 
The reinvention automatically begins
A hard left
A hard lot
A hard to pill to choke down
When life already has you by the throat

I’ve decided it must be a defense mechanism
Maybe not

But believe me when I say I hate it so much --
This transitory, surface living—
Because what I most fiercely want
Is to be finally caught
All tangled tightly in some
Thoroughly intertwined
Earth-into-Eternity kind of permanent

And those roots, in the interest of a great love, will refuse to release

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. 


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
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


(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:

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 

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.


I'm glad for where I am
But getting here cost me
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 It's so good for soul and craft.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

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


(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.