Moments of Transfiguration

Up and up  

They work to climb.  

 

Muscles burning in their calves  

Breathing a little harder 

Sometimes tripping when  

They don’t lift their feet high enough.  

 

Jesus just keeps going up and up,  

And they don’t quite understand  

His purpose  

And his steady sense of direction,  

But they are getting used to following  

With an open mind  

And with hope.  

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Their eyes are on where they came from,  

(a gleam)  

Their eyes are on each other,  

(a glimmer)  

Their eyes are on the ground,  

(a glisten)  

Their eyes are on the sky,  

(a burst)  

And then their eyes are on Jesus. 

(GLORY)  

 

They have never seen his whole self before.  

(So this is who he is!)  

Wonder.  

The joy of it.  

All of those years. 

All of those laws.  

All of those prophecies.  

Jesus pulls it all together and holds it firmly and lovingly

And it is  

BRILLIANT.  

 

Does such glory not demand a response?  

Peter gives it.  

“Jesus! Let us honour you! We will build-”  

 

A bright cloud.  

A voice.  

 

When you need to respond to the glory, you make it about yourself.  

This is not about you.  

This is purely about the glory.  

Stand still, for once,  

And just be covered.  

Just take it in.  

It’s not about you.  

It’s about  

The Glory.  

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This is terrifying. 

To allow yourself to be so small.  

To recognize that you have nothing to add.  

To only think about the glory.  

 

They fall and cover their faces.  

What else is there to do?  

 

Jesus touches them,  

And they go down the mountain together.  

When they look at Jesus they still see 

Gleams, 

Glimmers,  

Glistens,  

and 

GLORY.  

 

They will never unsee it.  

Their eyes are open now.  

 

Sometimes, they see that glory  

In the dark places,  

In other people,  

And even in themselves.  

Small bursts.  

Never complete,  

The way Jesus shone.  

But small bursts of glory.  

Glimmers of who they truly are  

And the Spirit they have within.  

 

Jesus just keeps going up and up and up. 

We are following with a trusting mind and with a hoping heart.  

Up and up,  

We work to climb,  

With  

Glimmers of glory guiding.  

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Where have you seen glimmers of glory? 

A Long Prayer

A Long Prayer

Dear God,

There is much that I am uncertain about.

This interpretation, that interpretation…

And if I don’t feel a conviction to do this, does that mean that I am not actually called to do it,

Or

Does it just mean that I should grow some spiritual muscle and develop a conviction for it

?

 

 

Also,

Is it always holier to do the more uncomfortable thing

?

 

I don’t know how to pray, God.

How can I pray, when it only reveals how very little of you I understand?

I imagine that you must be

So

Much

More

Than just a perfect superhuman.

But

What

?

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And what do I do if I realize that my motive for knowing you more

Is so that I will appear and feel more

Wise?

(I hate when my motives get all twisted like this.

Forgive me.)

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I know that learning to know you is a journey-

An adventure!

I will not navigate it perfectly.

I know that there are mountain-tops along the way

With much clarity.

I also know that there is…

Muck.

 

Speaking of muck…

 

I confess that when I hear the words child-like faith

Something inside me splinters

And not in a good way.

 

I have slid into a pit of

“Earning my faith”

By being skeptical about this and about that.

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We talk about owning our faith and how good it is to question and search.

But nobody tells you

What to do

When you are just…

Lost.

 

When the answers to your questions sometimes involve that child-like faith and you just

Can’t

Quite

Regain it.

 

There is much that I am uncertain about.

 

But also…

 

The daffodils in the flowerbed outside our door just keep blooming and blooming, through cold and through gray.

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In The Horse and His Boy, Aslan was all the lions.

 

There are certain things that I hesitate to pray for because I’m afraid you’ll send me what I ask for.

 

“… in You we live and move and have our being.”

 

Some days, the sun shines in a warm way and the grass is green beneath me.

 

Perhaps, right now, many small pieces of you are more necessary for me than one giant understanding. And maybe I don’t even need to worry about putting all those pieces together.

 

Maybe I will just watch for the beautiful pieces and name you as I see you.

 

I’ll be watching, God. I’ll be watching.

 

Amen.

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Question: What are you certain or uncertain about these days? Hearing either is encouraging. 

Pieces of Advent

This post is a random collection of thoughts, questions, and songs, each piece separated by a mere horizontal line.


 

Jesus is my future.

(No matter what does or does not happen here on earth in my lifetime.)

 

Jesus is my future.

 

My beginning and my end,

And with me for all the in between.

That makes everything

a lot

more

okay.

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Questions:

Was Jesus absent from heaven in those 9 months while his body grew inside of Mary? If so, did God miss Him? Were they still one as Jesus grew a human body? How did God feel as He watched His son slip into the world? Did he burst with joy? He must have.


 

This song.

“Noel”, by Lauren Daigle.

The invitation to “come and see what God has done” is so beautiful. And isn’t that exactly the invitation that we should offer to our fellow humans… to come and see what God has done for humanity? For us personally?


 

Jesus was born into the messiest of circumstances and the most unstable of times, but God made celebration and rejoicing a prominent part of the story of his birth.

 

God knew the pain that the years ahead held,

but he rejoiced in the beauty of the moment.

 

We don’t have to wait for perfection to rejoice.


 

I love hearing Handel’s Messiah, whether it’s a live performance or simply a Spotify playlist while I’m driving. This Christmas, I stumbled across a song by Jenny and Tyler (first time hearing of them!) that combines several bits and pieces from Handel’s (much) larger work.

I love it.

It’s completely different from the real thing, so you’ll have to be a bit open-minded if you are a loyal lover of Messiah. 

It is different.

It is simple.

It gives me chills, especially at the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God” line.

And you know what the best part of all is?

It’s perfect for singing along with, should you happen to be one of those people with a softer sort of voice. Ahem.


 

Advent.

This is the time of trusting Jesus to be here.

This is the time of trusting God to fulfill His promises.

This is the time of wild hope.


 

Come near to Him.

Come

and be warmed

and be found.

Come and see. 

 

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What has God been showing to you this advent time? 

What songs speak to you? 

What questions do you ponder about the events of that first Christmas? 

Prepared

It’s the Sunday before communion at my church, and that means it’s our preparatory service.

A time for each of us to evaluate our relationship with God and to share the results of that soul-searching with our church family.

 

I love preparatory service.

 

I marvel at the people who speak their hearts in a calm and clear voice.

I marvel even more at the people who speak their hearts in a quivering voice.

I grow more and more jittery

And I rehearse over and over in my head what I am going to say

Until it is well-nigh memorized.

 

I am going to say something about how

 

The message and the Sunday school lesson affirmed one thing that God has been teaching me lately, and that thing is that sin is sin is sin is sin. I am too quick to dismiss my personal sin as just “bad habits” or “areas that I need to work on”, when really, it is sin. Awful, ugly sin. I often think that I can fix these things myself by just making whatever changes need to be made. But when I do that, I deprive the Gospel of its glory and its power. I miss out on the beauty of turning to Jesus to repent and receive grace. I want to live out of a reliance on Jesus’ grace, rather than my own self-discipline.

 

Or I could maybe say something about how

 

This week I prayed and asked God for something, and he sent me three small answers to my prayer. The beautiful thing is that although these three things were small, they can all be grown and developed. They are beginnings, and beginnings are gifts.

 

Or

I could read Hebrews 10:14 and try to explain how I just do not understand it. It blows my mind. In the best of ways.

 

I think these things through and through.

 

But when it is my turn to speak,

I stand up,

And I say,

 

“I have peace with God

And with my fellow man

And I’m looking forward to communion.”

 

Just that.

It’s true

 

But it’s not everything.

It’s not the whole story.

 

I knew that was what would happen.

It’s certainly not the first time that something like this has happened.

 

I felt relief when I chose it,

But also grief.

 

Why do I always have to bring so very much of myself to everything I do?

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One Little Task

I confess that I just spent the whole last week being a very lazy human being.

We won’t get into the details.

But let’s just say that all of my laziness last week resulted in a wonky sleep schedule, a Friday night and Saturday morning spent fiercely and furiously sewing a dress for family photos on Saturday afternoon, stacks of dishes, and a frustrated attitude. (Poor Ricky. He had to deal with my snippiness. AND the dishes. Bless him.)

Yeah.

Let’s just leave it at that. I know this kind of thing doesn’t happen to anyone else, so I don’t want to overwhelm you with more details.

I seem to go through stages of sometimes being driven by productivity and other times feeling completely unmotivated to do anything. Consistency has never been a strong point of mine. Do you know what the crazy thing about these two attitudes is?

For me, the difference between these two attitudes usually lies in ONE TASK.

One little task.

If I do one thing, doing another thing feels manageable and appealing.

But before I do that one thing, getting started can seem almost impossible.

One little task.

I recently read through the book of Proverbs. Being the sort of person who loves little tidbits of wisdom on how to live well, I enjoy Proverbs a lot. Proverbs is a book of the Bible that happens to frequently address the topic of laziness. I’m going to share a few verses that I’m choosing to focus on this week as I tackle some things that I’ve been avoiding. There are many areas of life that these can be applied to- spiritual growth, physical work, relationships, personal development, etc.

Proverbs 18:9

“Whoever is slack in his work, is a brother to him who destroys.”

Laziness is the same as destruction? In a way, it is. This was a sobering thought for me.

 

Proverbs 19:15

“…an idle person will suffer hunger.”

The word hunger here speaks to me of discontent- hunger for success, hunger for the things I value, hunger for a deeper knowledge of and love for God. Idleness leaves you longing and weak.

 

Proverbs 20:4

“The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.”

Laziness- doesn’t work/think ahead, but still feels entitled to a harvest. That sounds painfully familiar to me.

 

Proverbs 25:28

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

A lack of self-discipline leaves you without walls- weak and vulnerable.

 

Proverbs 21:25-26

“The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labour. All day long, he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.”

I find it interesting that the sluggard craves and craves, but the righteous find their righteousness not in collecting and gaining (satisfying cravings), but in wholeheartedly giving.

Here we go, folks.

A whole new week.

Let’s give and not hold back.

And let’s remember to be joyful and calm and delighted as we go along our way, shall we? We spend far too much time feeling pressured and tense and stressed. (That is a whole new topic, right there…maybe some other time we should talk about that.)

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What areas of your life do you battle laziness in? What can we do this week to fight against the temptation to avoid rather than tackle

Briers and Thorns

When I read all those “do not be afraid” Bible verses, do you know what I want them to mean?

I want them to mean, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” Nothing ugly enough, nothing powerful enough, nothing dangerous enough to actually break me. Now that idea is comforting and empowering.

But I don’t think that those verses are saying that.

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I know that I have been protected and surrounded by beautiful things my whole life, but I am aware that there is much unthinkable ugliness and power and danger out there.

Things that destroy and kill in the worst ways. Things that human hearts cannot endure.

And so those “do not be afraid” Bible verses? I can’t believe that they mean that we are immune to the evil and the awful around us.

We just aren’t.

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Look at these verses from Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 2:6-7

And you, son, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed by their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.

God straight-up tells Ezekiel that there are going to be briers and thorns, scorpions, words, and looks.

Things that are going to make him feel small and vulnerable.

But He still tells Ezekiel not to be afraid.

That’s why I don’t believe that when God says, “Do not be afraid,” He means, “There is nothing to be afraid of”.

I think He means something more like, “There are many things to be afraid of, and it’s not easy out there, but I’m more powerful than any of those other things, and I am with you, and that is the strongest and most valuable protection you could ever have. Do not be afraid.”

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Briers and thorns, scorpions, words, and looks.

They’re real. They’re out there.

And yes, they’re against you. (Sorry if this is discouraging…)

Do not be afraid.

We have Someone inside us, Someone who has covered the earth with His grace and love, Someone who has no beginning and no end.

A Spirit so deep and so wide that nothing else can even compete.

Do not be afraid.

2 Timothy  1:7

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither life nor death, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Journey

The road is heavy and long with questions and sorrows.

I try to tell the story myself to the stranger walking beside me.

“Don’t you know?” I say (incredulously).

“Know what?” He asks.

“What has happened! The pain. The injustice. The craziness of it. The impossibility of it.” I answer (emphatically).

“The utter lostness it brings me to,” I think but don’t say.

A pause from Him.

A kindly raised eyebrow.

An infinite heartbeat pulsing.

“Don’t you know?” He says.

“Know what?” I ask (foolish and slow of heart and terribly small-minded).

“Listen,” He invites. “We’ll go back. Back to the beginning. I think you’ll see things differently soon.”

The story lives and breathes

Beside me

Above me

Before me

Inside me.

My heartbeat warms all of me as it begins to align with the story.

With blood pumping and feet aching, it’s my turn to invite.

“Please stay. Please sit and rest,” I beg.

“I feel better with you here,” I think but don’t say.

I hand Him the bread

And He prays with an up-turned face and authority in His voice and love written all over His hands.

“So be it.”

The prayer ends, and those love-ly hands break the bread.

I need the nourishment of the bread after the drain of the day, and eagerly accept it from Him.

I raise it to my mouth, but before I take a bite, I allow the essence of it to fill me.

The yeast, the wheat,

The words…

This is His body broken for me.

I can hardly stand to raise my eyes, but I have to.

He is already watching me

Smiling slightly and kindly

And those love-ly hands held the bread that I am holding to my mouth,

And I don’t know what to do.

“Eat, beloved. You need it,” He says.

And I know.

I know that I need it, but it feels like I need it too desperately to eat it.

The bread is in my mouth, and I chew.

The swallow almost makes me choke over its beauty and its ugly, and my throat aches from the lump in it.

I am filled with everything that I could possibly hold and more.

I look to Him.

But He has gone, leaving just the torn loaf of bread in his place.

I swallow down the rest of my bread.

An infinite heartbeat pulsing.

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Resurrection

 

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Too long you have lain dark, my dear.

Don’t you think it’s time to

Wake up?

To come to the light?

I know.

Light is beautiful,

But also exposing.

It’s hard to hide in the light.

But

You don’t need to hide.

Because

It’s alright to grow.

It’s alright to make mistakes.

And sometimes you need to be okay with loving with your whole heart the thing that you know you won’t have forever.

Even though it hurts and hurts, my dear.

I’m not so small as you seem to think I am. I can be found in more places than just one.

It is okay to grieve and to hope at the same time.

Do you understand?

It is okay.

Come.

Leave those strips and cloths behind. I did. My Father and I have something much more fitting for you to wear. I promise.

Please come.

I will push away the stone Myself.

With my own authority

And my own two nail-scarred hands.

I will push it away for you.

Too long you have lain dark, my dear.

The Holy: to Come and to Stay

I live

I love

I laugh.

Beauty thrives and twists.

This is good.

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But I have forgotten once again

Who I live for

And love for

And laugh for.

This is so like me.

To be so

Busy and

Happy and

Excited that

I don’t even see the burning bushes around me.

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Holiness is a seeping, bursting sort of thing.

It pours from the church windows and doors, both in and out.

When the music soars

My soul does too

And I am taking my sandals off and

Why would I ever look away from flames

That speak and wrap and refine

and spark brand new life?

At the end of the song I walk away and

I live

I love

I laugh.

Beauty thrives and twists.

Happy and busy and excited.

I don’t see the burning bushes around me.

The nears sometimes and the fars other times bring

Rips and guilt and desire.

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This is not what the veil was torn for.

The earth shook and rocks split.

God poured Himself over mankind.

It is time to come and to stay.

To see the Great Sight

To stand with my feet directly on the Ground

To feel the Holy beneath me and around me and in me.

To experience the glory of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

To know that I have been seen by Him.

To know that He is the answer

And that He does not always look the way that I expect Him to look

And that sometimes He burns far too brightly to look at and all that is left is to

Bow down.

 

 

 

The Perfect and the Imperfect

This is the time of year that I love.

I always say that being a teacher is the very best job you can have at Christmas time. (Muffled snort.) I do genuinely love celebrating the Christmas season with my students, but honestly- it is quite exhausting.

There are so many special moments…

And so many imperfect moments.

This is the time of spilled hot chocolate and having wet socks all day because you stepped in a puddle of melted snow in the hallway.

This is the time of learning new songs that go higher and notes that hold out longer than your voice wants to.

This is the time of forgetting to do your spelling homework because you plain old have a lot on your mind- like memorizing your Christmas program lines, for example.

This is the time of getting hit in the face with a snowball that was somewhat icy, and nobody can tell if it was meant to be icy or not. Except for the thrower, but he’s sure not giving anything away.

This is the time for going Christmas carolling and riding on a school bus. The time for tying yourself to the back of your desk seat with your sweater to remind yourself to sit up straight. The time for not being able to run as fast as normal, because of your puffy snow pants and clompy boots.

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This is the time of garlands and Christmas lights, nouns and simple subjects, reducing fractions, and growing bean plants with Miss Kerra in science class. The time of Christmas piano recitals and buying Christmas presents for your mom and dad.

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This is the time for making your own nativity scene out whatever materials you want to. The time for throwing the regular schedule up in the air and saying, “See you next year!” to it.

And at home….

This is the time for knowing that beef and broccoli stir fry is on the menu for supper, and thawing beef in preparation for that, but then somehow (in the span of 20 minutes) forgetting about the stir fry and putting potatoes in the oven to bake so that you can make loaded baked potato soup. I didn’t remember until I was well into the process of making the soup that I was supposed to be making stir fry. This is the time of scorching said soup so badly that it was inedible, throwing it away, and making a new pot of soup.

This is the time of baking at eleven o’clock at night. This is the time of finding your oven mitt in the garbage but having no memory (and certainly no intention) of putting it there.

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This is the time of dirty dishes and full countertops. (And the time for writing about these things rather than cleaning them up.)

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This is the time of starting a second compost container, because the first one is full. It’s not that you don’t have time to empty it, it’s just that you’re simply, well, not doing it. 

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This is the time of slippery spots on the kitchen floor, but don’t worry- there’s a sticky spot right beside it that will help you get a grip before you wipe out.

This is the time for scrunchy corner kitchen hugs.

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This is the time of secrets and surprises and walking home in blue, heavy, comfortable snow.

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This is the time of going Christmas shopping with very grown-up little sisters.

This is the time of a sweet student bringing you a Lindor chocolate on a morning when your lunch (and spirits) were, shall we say, lacking.

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This is the time of loving what you get to do every day, and the children that you get to be with, so much that you don’t really know what to do about it.

This is the time for choosing joy and relationship, even if you are tired.

This is the time of accepting imperfection- both in others and yourself.

This is the time of lighting candles and sitting on the living room floor and praying.

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And that praying time? That is the very hardest and the very best of all the times. The exhaustion of all the things that you don’t know wears away a little bit, and hope and trust take its place. The pain of the imperfect becomes bearable because you know that there is a Redeemer and you are His.

The perfect and the imperfect… it was even this way at the very first Christmas.

The Savior of the world born into this dull, shadowy world?

How very imperfect and how very beautiful.