The Romance of The Cross

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San Miguel, Mexico. My photo.

STAY, MY RESTLESS HEART, my wandering feet. The way of escape is here. The place of newness and purpose is here too. Not in the next adventure, the next accomplishment, the next good deed, the next admirer.

Stay and look up, above the spectacles, the sensations, the vanity. There is a cross up there in the sunshine, strong and plain, beckoning you back to Contentment. Back to your First Love–the Christ who willingly went “like a lamb to the slaughter”–the Christ who showed you what love really is. Back to the victorious Christ who repaired the pastor’s broken marriage and rescued him from the cartel.

How many kings and priests and wise men and prophets of ancient times longed to see what you see? You belong to someone, not something. You belong to a person, not a religious tradition or ideal. It is nothing less than the precious body that was broken like bread and the precious blood that was poured out like wine. “God With Us.” God for man and man for God. God and man, reconciled in the person of Jesus Christ.

Stay, my restless heart, my wandering feet. Desire the one who desires you. Continue reading “The Romance of The Cross”

Nasal Ecstasy

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Us, 25 years ago… We were almost struck by a rogue bolt of lightning one day on the hill in the background.

IF MY SOUL HAD A SMELL it would smell like mint. We drank it and played in it, waist-deep, when we were little. Its vibrant, heady fragrance has infused my whole life. 

The ancient Romans personified it as “Menthe,” the water nymph loved by Pluto, god of the underworld. Pluto’s queen became jealous and trampled fair Menthe, turning her into a humble plant. But Pluto decreed that the more mint was bruised the sweeter it would smell. (I can vouch for that last part.)

Mint is a popular herb in the Middle East, where it’s used in salads, roasts, and many other dishes. I was delighted to find bulging sacks of fresh spearmint at a market in Jerusalem. I crushed some of the leaves between my hands and the aroma immediately took me back to the verdant fields of home. Continue reading “Nasal Ecstasy”

Charity Begins At Home

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GOD CAN USE ANYONE, anywhere, anytime.

He might not want all of us to get P.H.D.s or move to the other side of the world, and you don’t have to be a televangelist or a best-selling author in order to live a great life (not to belittle anyone.) Take Jesus for example. He spent most of his earthly life in his small hometown, and people were surprised that he even knew how to read. He wasn’t married, wasn’t very attractive, and wasn’t a stranger to sorrow. He chose illiterate fishermen and social outcasts to be his companions.

Neither of my grandfathers had college degrees or ordinations. What they did was common but also very important. They labored patiently to provide for their families and to put food on other people’s tables in the process.

After serving in the military, my father’s father built a successful business, and today the profits help to support charities near and far. He was always generous and ready to give. His door was wide open to friends and strangers alike. (By the way, in the Bible, hospitality is listed among the special gifts of the Holy Spirit, just like prophecy and healing). Continue reading “Charity Begins At Home”

For Trae & Those He Left Behind

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YESTERDAY WE SHARED A MEAL and laughed with our brother. Today we are washing his blood out of our clothes and asking God to forgive his murderer, whoever and wherever he is. The sky, like a cold gray funeral sheet, is stretched out above the orchards where we all used to feel sheltered–above the peaceful orchards where once I wandered in search of solitude.

If we knew what was going to happen tomorrow, what would we do differently today?

The day before yesterday he wore a teeshirt that said, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, until the day I die.” Yesterday he was getting ready to go on a trip, not knowing that he was about to take the ultimate trip. Yesterday we all spoke of love and war and the vast ocean of mystery that separates us from the distant, golden shore of eternity. Someone said, “I guess we won’t know until we get there.”

I guess he knows now, and I’m jealous. What does Jesus look like, Trae?

There are no goodbyes in God’s family…

See you at home, brother.

To The Unborn

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DARLING,

When I was little, a man on a commercial airplane asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Naturally, I hugged my doll close to my heart and said, “I just want to be a mommy.” (I took that doll everywhere, and then I lost her somehow and cried about it for years.)

I was raised to be a housewife, like my mother and my grandmothers and my great-grandmothers. I grew up amid the sub-cultures of two extremely large and traditional families. One of my cousins from my mother’s family married one of my cousins from my father’s family. I was related to nearly everyone at the wedding. One of my cousins called me that morning to ask if she could borrow something to wear. She’s the mother of eleven, soon to be a grandmother. So, obviously, our cradle has been crazy blessed, and the fact that I have not yet done my duty to society is so unorthodox, by our standards, it’s almost immoral. But it isn’t because of an absence of desire on my part.

God calls those things which are not as though they are–and I do the same.

Nothing is as painful as love that has nowhere to go, no way to spend itself, and so it makes me happy to think that there is something I can actually do for you today. I just have a few things in my heart that need to get out, and I won’t try to be eloquent or profound. I’ll do this now, and someday when I have you in my arms, fresh and sweet with promise, I’ll gladly put my pen away and probably never reach for it again.

The grandmother who I never met became a mother when she was only a child herself and died young. “No wonder,” people gasp, “after giving birth nineteen times!” But if they asked her she would have told them that delivering all those babies was the easy part. It was actually the child-rearing more than the child-bearing that put her in an early grave.

The pretty teacups that she left behind were all broken and glued back together. Her homemade dresses were folded tenderly away in my grandfather’s drawers.

She deserved her own Taj Mahal for all the cloth diapers she washed by hand. Continue reading “To The Unborn”

Morning

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My photo.

C. AD 30

We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.–2nd Corinthians 1:9 NKJV

The eyelashes of morning fan across a blushing sky and Peter laughs with his friends over a catch of fish so bountiful that their net is too heavy to pull into the boat. The net is not as full as Peter’s heart, though—for death has become its own executioner, just as the Lord said, and there’s an empty tomb to prove it. Sorrow has turned into joy. Night has turned into day. But Peter, formerly so passionate, now doubts the warmth of his own affection. He still can’t hold his head up when he remembers what a miserable failure he was—how cowardly and blind and unfaithful. And is that a twinge of insecurity that he feels toward John, favored “baby brother” of the gang, who is (of course) the first to realize that the neighborly stranger on shore is actually The Resurrection and The Life? Peter, always impulsive, leaps into the water.

2009 

She’s like a little girl trapped in an old woman’s body—so fragile yet so strong—visibly shrinking while the cancer eats her alive. Morphine takes the edge off (but pride and fear, she says, have robbed her more than cancer or anything else). Her bed is her home and it has to be made perfectly. I sing as I work in the kitchen, to keep her company. Tears run down her face when I leave. She is curled up, facing the wall. I promise to return, but every step is agony. “I’ll see you later…” She flies away like a dove to her rest, under a big blue October sky. She doesn’t wait for me to come back. I sprinkle dirt on her coffin, thinking about what could have and should have been different. The wages of sin is death… the sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law… the last enemy that will be destroyed is death… O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? I get up every day and thank God for my health, singing I Know You by Heart and In The Arms of An Angel to myself. I know what the “sting” feels like now. It feels like separation and regret.

2016 

The sky is opal. Morning steals in through a window, gilding my bedroom, breathing on my face like wisps of silk. It feels as if there’s been a death in the family, although there hasn’t—only the death of a dream. I hear the faint rhythm of my own heartbeat. It feels as if I am dying too, and maybe I am. Oh Father, let me go back and do the last eighteen months of my life over!