dwelling places

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“do not let your hearts be troubled.  believe in god, believe also in me.”

a few weeks back i took a risk.

i have a precious friend.  maybe you have one.  i say precious because you feel the luck when you’re with them.  they are a kind of marvel across the table from you and a part of you hopes they won’t realize how unqualified you are for their confidence.

my friend was hurting and they were unsure of what to do in this big, amazing mess called life.

i was mostly quiet.  i was mostly at a loss for words.

believepreparedwords

“in my father’s house there are many dwelling places.  if it were not so, would i have told you that i go to prepare a place for you?”

when i did speak i said the only thing that i know.  i told this ridiculously lovely human being that that i am so fearful because i believe if i don’t take whatever i can when i can that i’ll be forgotten and left hung out to dry.  but that i also believe there is a different way to live this one short life.

i believe that god is generous.

captured

“and if i go and prepare a place for you, i will come again and will take you to myself, so that where i am, there you may be also.”

peace fell over my friend and the cobwebs that threatened just seconds before were done. it was over.  they heard what they needed to hear, case closed and thank you very much.

we forget how loved we are and we need to remind each other.

god is generous, but to really bet on that, to take it to the bank and live on that kind of commerce?  now we’re talking high stakes.

dwell

“and you know that way to the place where i am going.”

today i saw my friend again.

they told me all about the generosity of god.  we sat at another table many days and hours later.  we celebrated the hidden hand on hidden streets in hidden places that gives gifts we wouldn’t have even thought to ask for.

it’s a gamble, i admit it.  to look and see that there is no evidence to be found and believe anyway – it’s a real long shot.  but for me, it’s the only way.  any hope you find in me really is to stay here all the days of my life and remain in the generous love of god.

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when they go low, we go lower

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my daughter told me i have a beautiful heart and that i needed to keep my peace, keep my calm, so the morning after the election i ended up at a yoga class.

the instructor arrived and unlocked the door.  she was a young black woman.  she said good morning and i said it back.  she asked me how i was doing and i told her i was sad.

i’d decided to give myself the day to grieve, to acknowledge that underneath anger is sadness, to let myself feel disappointed.

“why are you sad?” the yoga teacher asked.

ohiologan

“because donald trump is president.” i said.

“oh.”  she said.  “i’m not sad.”

we went inside.  she took off her coat.  she’d been teaching for years.  i hadn’t been to this studio in over a year.  my stomach is soft.  my underarms wiggle when i wave goodbye.  she is fit.  she works hard to be in her own skin, strong and teaching others.

“i’m not surprised at all.  this is what america is.  everyone likes to pretend there’s no problem, that we’re past racism, misogyny and hatred.  but we’re not.  i know that as a person of color and you know it as a woman.”

she was composed, honest and right.

back roads

“i agree with you.”  i said  “but today i’m sad.”

she wouldn’t budge.  her wide eyes against her brown skin looked at me with patience.

“you know when you have an infection?  that has to come out.  it has to rise to the surface.  it has to be exposed so you can deal with it.  that’s what is happening now.  we can’t pretend anymore, but that is how we’ll get through it.”

i was quiet and feeling more and more like a two-year old by the minute.

“i know you’re right.”

she smiled at me.

“okay.  if you need to be sad, i get it.  i’ll enter that space with you today.”

“thank you.”  i told her.

logan
here is something to know about white people – we know very little about being on the losing side.  for many of us, our hoped for candidate lost.  when you get what you want all the time, it can be difficult when things don’t go the way you thought they should.

but wait!  you cry – this is more than being told no!  this is wrong!  this is hatred and greed winning the battle!

yes, and your point is?

what have we been saying we want?

we say we want to stand with the oppressed.  this is what it feels like.  it’s watching a rich, white man be given power and authority he doesn’t deserve and that he’ll execute poorly.

this feeling is normal for many, many americans.  this is what it feels like to be the minority and see that life is truly not fair.  it might be a new feeling for me or for you, but it’s an old, old feeling for so many others.

we need to quiet down and listen up.

we need to stop pushing to the front of the cell yelling about being locked up unfairly. instead let’s turn around and look who’s in here with us, shall we?

people.

people who have been marginalized since the founding of this country.  people who travel here for a better life and have to become our servants.

people.

admit it white people – you don’t know how to lose.

real talk

well, there’s good news yet.

we are surrounded by folks who’ve been on the losing side for a long, long time.  not only that but they are thriving.  their lives are rich, creative and valuable and they know it better than anyone else.  so how about we take on a new mantra?

“when they go low – we go lower.”  

humility is the lowering of oneself.  to give up your rights and learn from those who have volumes to teach us about how to live well through the next four years.  we say we want the poor and marginalized lifted up until we have to identify with them.

humble yourself.

approach someone who knows all too well about living in america and ask them how they are doing after this election.  i bet they’re doing a lot better than you are.  listen to them. learn from them.  humble yourself.

true story

i took my somewhat flabby, white self out onto the yoga room floor that wednesday morning.  i listened to the voice of my teacher and did what she said.  at the end of the class she reminded us that the toxins in our bodies were finding their way out in the midst of the heat.

that what is wrong in us must come to the surface.

that it’s not easy and it can seem too dark to see any way forward.

but i’ve heard a rumor about things being darkest before the dawn, about death not being the end of the story and that it’s not the american people who will have the last word.

the lord works in mysterious ways indeed.

Posted in grief, hard work, healing, patience, poverty, pride, racism, resurrection, the united states | 6 Comments

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voting is cool

kids
i like voting.

i like being anonymous and alone in a voting booth.  i like how quiet it is and how no one else can come in, look over my shoulder and tell me who to vote for.

i like the polished gymnasium floors i have to walk across and the people sitting in metal folding chairs.  i like when they highlight my name in the paperwork and give me a ballot.

i like how human voting is.

mazzy

i like the idea that a woman can be married to a ranting, abusive man and that she can still go into a polling booth and vote for hilary clinton if she wants to.  i like that she can come out and tell her husband that she voted for donald trump and that he’ll never know if she did or if she didn’t.

i’ve never known a country that i wasn’t allowed to vote in.  i’ve never known a land where black people couldn’t sit at my table.  i’ve never believed that i shouldn’t raise my hand and say what i thought out loud.

i became a jesus follower when i was 18.  by the time i was 24 i encountered the machine that is christianity in america today.  in six short years it went from believing that people of faith all must steal away to the waterside to commune with the holy spirit to white business men with zero compassion who possibly had never met with jesus in their entire lives.

out there
i think abortion is bad, but i would have had one if i was a pregnant teenager.

i think people should have guns, but every time i see one in the hands of someone i love i feel like i know them less.

i think gay marriage is okay, but i still have trouble imagining my kids not marrying someone from the opposite gender.

i’m a person.  a voting person.  an american.  a woman.  i like beyonce and sara groves.  i’ve traveled and paid good money to see both women perform their music.  i like how much freedom they both have to create what is true to them.  i’ve taken my daughter to both shows.

voting

more than one thing is true about me.

but the truest thing about me is that whoever becomes my next president won’t sink me. i’m not defined by it and i’m not afraid of it.  this whole damn country can fall apart and i’ll grieve, but i’ll exist within it.

and so will you.

so go right ahead and vote for donald trump.  vote for hilary clinton.  vote for me if you’d like.  you can do that.  it doesn’t define you.  in fact, i’d strongly recommend considering putting your hope in something that lasts longer than 4 years.

but getting that sticker from a volunteer on november 8th, that does define you.  it really does.  it says that you are a human being who has the right to be free to do what you like.

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writing about the vineyard


i went to a wedding last month.  the church was in the middle of nowhere.  mazzy and i drove miles and miles through fields of corn and vineyards.  the western side of michigan has vineyards.  rows and rows of grapes waiting to be turned into something else.

or maybe not.  maybe they’ll stay grapes.  maybe they’ll die on the vine.

the blue sky was screaming september that wedding day.  the clouds were tearing themselves in half to make way for it.  mazzy had her headphones in as we drove and i decided to stop and take pictures.

there is a loneliness about vineyards.  so much beauty, so much silence.  they can be like a severe woman who never reveals her thoughts.  you can stop and walk the rows and take a grape off into your hand.  but the thing is, you have to be willing to stop.

i haven’t been willing to stop.  i haven’t had words or pictures for this place in a while.  this blog has been a bit of a neglected vineyard i guess.  quiet.  beautiful.  overgrown.  you can walk through the rows of stories i already told and take what you want.

you might find something sweet, or possibly it’s all gone sour by now.


when the bride and groom were declaring their love in front of those they love i kept looking out the windows.  human beings are so clever.  they cultivate the vineyards. they build the clapboard church smack dab in the middle.

and who will anyone ever know?

who knew about that secret wedding in those secret fields?

just those in the pews.  

who saw the blue sky shouting down the great love of god over the rows of vines that sunday morning?

we did.

we gathered under a white tent set up among the fields and rows.  a small group of kind-hearted people kept by promises of love.  we celebrated in a secret place of nearly obscene beauty.

maybe these words won’t die on the vine.

there has been a scarcity of written words in my life, a poverty of tending to the vineyard. it might still be true that i have something to say. the work of weeding these gardens and cutting back the thorns, that’s the work i have to do.

it’s a lonely, beautiful work.  and it’s mine alone.

I went past the field of a sluggard,

past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;

thorns had come up everywhere,

the ground was covered with weeds,

and the stone wall was in ruins.

I applied my heart to what I observed

and learned a lesson from what I saw:

A little sleep, a little slumber,

a little folding of the hands to rest—

and poverty will come on you like a thief

and scarcity like an armed man.

~ Proverbs 24:30-34

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shall i compare thee to a summer’s day?

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that will shakespeare really knew what he was saying.

“And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”

ain’t it the truth?

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i decided that summer is like one long day and by mid-july i knew that the evening was coming on.  i told someone my theory and they said, “but summer nights are the best part.”

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so now it’s time.  we’re all about to put summer to bed.

it’s been a lot of fun – a downright summer to remember.  and while it is true, like will says, “Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines” – i’ll take it.

i’ll always take these long days and nights of time poured out with you.

Posted in childhood, family, friends, good life, summer, thankful, time | 2 Comments

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a gift from mazzy to you

mazzy
we were talking about the day that mazzy left the church with a family that didn’t bring her back into the building.  we told about how she disappeared and how we couldn’t find her. we shared  how stressful it was, how frightening.

she said this.

“one day you’re going to be that person who gets a call and finds out that mazzy is in another state!  that she got on a plane and she ended up in alaska!”

she laughed.

and maybe people need to joke about things.  possibly people must frame what they see as rebellious, inconvenient behavior in a person with down syndrome as something to turn the release valve on.

but i didn’t find it funny.

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buttercups
mazzy came home from middle school and began to unwrap something taped into paper towels.

“mom!  i made this in art class.  it’s a tiny bowl.”

it has an M carved into the bottom and it is the most beautiful thing i’ve ever been handed. the color is that pink of thousand dollar shoes on the women our world celebrates ad nauseam.  the beautiful ones of our time.

each groove and bump is from her fingers, her life, pressed into this one small dish given freely.

i put flowers into it, the small buttercups growing in the yard.

“i love it, mazzy.”

handmade

mazzy’s life is not simple and neither is our life with her, but let it be known that it isn’t fodder for funny stories or material for silly fiction.

mazzy is a person.

a real one, exactly like you.

there is no difference between you and my daughter who has down syndrome.

none at all.

and though you may not believe that, one day you will see it more clearly than you see anything else.

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humility
the bowl is on the table now.

it’s there when we eat dinner.  all five of us sit there every night and each child tells us the best and worst parts of their day.  its mazzy’s turn and once again i am reminded that god uses the weak things in this world to shame the wise.

all around me, everyday, i see that the most exquisite flowers are held in the humblest of vessels.

Posted in beauty, disability, forgiveness, mazzy, weakness | 5 Comments

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baptizing children

ella

they put her in a white robe.

it was her birthday.

eight years old.

it was easter and she had decided to get baptized.

i don’t know what to think about baptizing an eight year old.  can a child really understand the decision that they are making?  the commitment that they are proclaiming with the action of getting baptized in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit?

she took her shoes off.

toes

happy

i wonder why god told moses to take off his shoes?

what is it about holiness and bare feet?

i suppose my favorite people have a propensity to go around shoeless from time to time, or with the least possible slip of leather between them and the ground.

is it a job thing?  from the dust we came, to the dust return?

why take off our shoes when we approach god?

vulnerability?

respect?

not to defile?

who knows.  all i know is that ella and i watched as one by one people were getting baptized – and then it was our turn.

next

the whole congregation sang happy birthday.  it was easter sunday and she was wearing a white robe.  she smiled to the moon and back.

before us only men had baptized the new converts.  the pastor, fathers held their sons and their daughters.  the moms stayed down in the pews and took pictures.

i held ella in my arms.

i said this to her, “eleanor – as your mother and as your sister in christ, it is my honor to baptize you in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit.”

and then i did.

ella

who is it that can keep their promises to god?

who can understand what they’ve done when they surrender their lives to jesus christ when they stand vulnerable before him and offer the little they have?

not i said the fly.

and so yes.  yes to the baptizing of my daughter by the hands of her mother at eight years of age.  yes please and thank you.

thank you so much lord.

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april showers

pink
there’s this part in the bible.  i think it’s in the old testament somewhere.  it’s god talking to his people.  he says that when they get to the promise land, when they get everything they want – even more than they ever knew they’d possess, that they shouldn’t forget about god or he’d take it all away.

i always liked that part.  it seemed like a definite.

god wouldn’t be able to say that.  he wouldn’t be able to say that he’d take it all away unless he was going to give it.

fence

so i guess i’ve always believed that god was going to be generous towards me.  he as much as said so.  and i, well, i guess i’ve gotten used to being a well-loved child of god.

even when the times were bad.  even when they sucked and i had to pray to make it through an hour.  even then.  i knew that a promised land would be reached and it would be so good that it would tempt me to forget about god.

i looked forward to it.

shadow

recently i did just that.

i forgot all about how far god has brought me and what he has given to me.  it didn’t feel like i had, but if i were honest, i wasn’t feeling much of anything towards god.

that’s not true when you’re in the desert.  you feel.  you don’t forget god.  you need him. you pester him.  there’s no getting out without him.

i haven’t been there in a little while so i just kind of got used to having everything i wanted when i wanted it.  he warned me that i would.  but still it came as a surprise.

how short-sighted i am and how easily satisfied.  a beautiful flower in may makes me forget my troubles.  i’d forgotten how far into the future god sees.  just how far reaching the choices i make are.  i’d forgotten how the law of the universe is that you reap what you sow.  i’d forgotten so quickly.

and then i remembered.

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writing lonely stories

morning

writing is ministering, pastoring, chaplaincy.

i come to you and trace my scars with a fingertip.  i show you the map of me and at the same time you see that i’m healed up now, that i’m still here, that i’m okay.

and so are you.

both and

for a long time, writing was a mirror.  the way to understand myself, to see.

i wrote a whole book to see what i couldn’t about myself.  and it worked.  i wrote a book for me.

i got it out of my system.

writing changed then and became a mirror of me that could show you, you.  i can write and if i remember the reader, my stories become about you.

if i tell them well enough and i get out of the way, they are your story.

water

it is a lonely thing to walk with jesus.

he is always taking you to places you don’t want to go.

the lonely places.

there is no small talk when you are alone.  there is only what is true.  there i’m confronted with the map of what has made me, me.

if i stay here long enough, i just might have something beautiful to say.

something real.

peace

henri nouwen said this:

“but the more i think about loneliness, the more i think that the wound of loneliness is like the grand canyon – a deep incision in the surface of our existence which has become an inexhaustible source of beauty and self-understanding.”

so in the lonely places i might write down an honest word to share with everyone else in the same boat.

i hope to do that for you.

Posted in hard work, outside, redemption, writing, you | 2 Comments

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a fairytale they say

calvin
the snow started coming down and eleanor wanted to build a snowman with her dad.  she waited patiently.  she let her wishes be known.  she left the request on her father’s ear.

we were busy.  abe had a dance on friday night.  saturday was special olympics and dinner at my parents.  kids stayed the night over in buscia’s new kitchen.  we located a new, delicious indian restaurant in a strip mall.  we bought records.

life was full and fun.

and the snow kept falling and a little girl, our littlest, kept waiting.

twice

rock star

at home we dropped overnight bags in the hallway.  i thought maybe we’d eat cereal for dinner, but joshua was nowhere to be found.

through the window we saw him out front rolling snow into men.  eleanor clapped with joy and pulled the snow pants back on.

her dad was good to his word.

ella

the snowmen took over the front yard.

neighbors stopped over to admire the work.

cars slowed down to take a second look.

welcome

serious artists

later we kicked off snowy boots, unwound frozen scarves.  we pulled off wet socks and started the last fire of the season.

what makes a child believe?

what gives confidence that snow can become more than a chore?

dear old

a good father.

to know that you know that when you share your heart,  your father hears your hope and comes through.

to know that you are loved and that what you want to happen will be done bigger and better than you could have imagined.

some fathers are flesh and blood.

some aren’t.

march

but there is a father.

one that hears your prayers.

and he holds your hopes on his ear and does not forget.

Posted in childhood, faithfulness, family, god, joshua, outside | 3 Comments

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