Thursday, February 28, 2013

Meet The Owner's Son

Sooo, how long have you been in this business? I ask, feeling a bit strange, fearing if I don’t keep him occupied, he might change his mind and go away.

Awhile…it’s been our family business from the beginning...

Oh, you are the owner, then? I raise my eyebrow, quite impressed.

The owner’s son.

Same difference.

Yep… same difference. I would love to introduce you to my dad some time. He is pretty awesome.

Hearing him talk about his dad in such a way makes me realize I miss my dad. I swallow hard.

I miss my dad. 
I say, tearing up. You know, I am not from here. When I left home, I left everything and everyone behind.

I know… I am not from here either.
 We stand silent for a while. I feel the breeze cooling my face. Sensing the ground shifting under my feet, I change the subject again,

You guys must be doing pretty well to be able to afford this kind of special. Do you run it often?

All the time. We enjoy giving gifts.

Wow! People must be all over you…

Actually, you would be surprised. Most people seem to prefer earning their way… paying their dues...

It IS weird being on the receiving end of such an extravagant gift… Part of me feels that now I am indebted to you… and nobody likes to be a debtor.

A simple thank-you would suffice.

Thank you. He smiles.

You are welcome. Our pleasure.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Enter at Your Own Risk


Prayer is a subversive activity. If you never prayed this or a similar kind of prayer, please DON’T!

There is no telling what might happen next... 

I’ve barely finished my whimpering ‘gardener’ when, as if on a cue, a white truck with a trailer hitched to it swings around the corner of our street and pulls in front of our house. A single word emblazoned on its side in large bold letters says 


Now, that’s a strange name… wonder what it means…?

A guy jumps out, taking off his hands-free as he finishes up a conversation:

Thanks for asking…I am already on my way – be there in a sec.
 He slams the door behind him and waves at me.

Er.. sir… It seems like you got a wrong house. 
I glance at the trailer, filled with all the apps and widgets one might need to run a professional landscaping business. You must be Bob’s landscape guy… He shook his head and burst into laughter,

It seems to me that I am at just the right house.
 He looks at my rabid-squirrel-rampaged lawn and then back at me. I slowly get off my knees.

But I didn’t ask for any landscaping service…

Hmmm... that’s  really funny. I thought you did…

No, I was just... I stop mid-sentence, realizing that if I finish it, I would sound totally weird. Being weird is definitely not my thing. So, I decide to steer the dangerous conversation into the familiar waters teeming with excuses.

Sir, you don’t understand… It’s not that I think we don't NEED landscaping service…But, we really can’t afford…

How’ bout that!, he interrupts. It just so happens that we are running a special today… all-inclusive, full-service gardener with the works – tools, plants, an experienced expert, everything you need to turn this… he hesitates as if looking for an accurate word to describe my wretched yard. He politely decides against naming the beast…. To turn this into a garden of Eden.

This guy is either a con-artist or a lunatic,
 I smile at him as if humoring a lunatic.

And how much is that pleasure going to cost me?

He clasps his hands, intertwining the fingers. I could see dirt under his fingernails.

Already prepaid. In full. No-end contract. You need to show up though. It’s your lawn after all. Sort of… Do we have a deal?

He stretched out his hand waiting for me. 

Something about his hands tells me he knows what he is talking about. And something about his eyes tells me he is dead-serious.  I might be a fool, but I am not an idiot. Who in their right mind could decline such an offer?!!!

I grab his hand with both of mine and shake it vigorously.

We got ourselves a deal, Sir. We got ourselves a DEAL!

And so I got me my very own personal Gardener.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bad, Badder, the Baddest...or...?

My ingenious Plan B nixed, my new found identity as the Great Weed Exterminator,…well, to put it mildly, declared ineffective if not destructive, I am tumbling from bad to badder, from discouragement into despair. I mean, capital D Despair.

I have nothing left.

I am doomed forever.

In the back of my mind, a tiny bug starts buzzing… I am annoyed and would much rather be left alone to rot.  But the bug keeps on... bugging, for that's what the bugs do. In between the annoying buzzings, I think I hear something along the lines of despair being a compost pile for real growth.

The counter-intuitive nature of the statement gets me quite distracted from my rotting-in-the-dungeon-of-doom frame of mind. I latch on it like a nursing infant.

Despair is the compost pile for real growth… Despair… is a compost pile… for real… growth…

There is no question that my life resembles a big, stinky compost pile, indeed. Despair and all. But, real growth?!! And do I even know what this 'real growth' thing is all about…???

By now, I’ve learned at least one thing.  I am hopelessly clueless.  I know nothing about gardening and growing stuff. Except, perhaps, growing multi-colored mold inside a container of leftover lasagna forgotten in the back of our refrigerator.

 I realize I need a big-time miracle. And the only One I know qualified in this department is… God!

OMG! I am such a loser! I need God to weed my garden! How pathetic is that? HOW pathetic is THAT??!!!

Pathetic or not, I have nowhere else to turn. So, I slump down on my knees and utter the most sincere prayer I’ve said in a very, VERY long time:

Ah, LORD God, You who created this amazing world out of nothing, You who give life to the dead, make me a gardener.

Just like that.

When you are at the bottom, the only way to look is up.

Friday, February 22, 2013

I'm Crabby and I Know It!

Today's post is written by my friend Stephanie.  Besides being an amazing wife to her husband of 22 years, a great mom to her three super kids, a wonderful daughter-in-law, and many, many other things, she is also author of the blog Compelled . I hope you enjoy her simple, yet profound insights into a life of a hermit crab, and the light it sheds on all the hermit crabs of the world, regardless of how many legs we have...

Having recently added hermit crabs to our household menagerie, I've learned a few things about life from them. Here they are:

Just because I burrow under and keep to myself for a season, it doesn't mean I'm depressed or sad or anything of the sort. It just means I  need some time to myself.

Molting requires a feeling of safety. If I'm not comfortable with you, I will not be shedding my "skin" (it's actually an exoskeleton in a crab). That takes way too much vulnerability.

You can't judge me by my name. Hermits have a reputation of wanting to be left alone, but hermit crabs actually like the company of  other crabs. Just because I call myself a Californian, or a mom, or a wife, or a writer, or a Christian, you can't let your preconceived notions color who you think I am.  Get to know me, why don't you?

Sometimes I make a mess of things, but that's just the way I am. I don't mean any harm.

If you see me hanging on for dear life, don't just stand there, have the trampoline ready! But don't try to rescue me; sometimes I get in tight spots just to see what will happen. That's a faith adventure!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Plan B - B as Brilliant or Perhaps, BAD!

Perhaps… perhaps I need a fresh perspective…?  The tree seems to be in agreement, leaning its lowest branch toward me.

I take the extended limb as a sign of good will and hoist my creaky body over it. My boots still dripping, I must acknowledge that being lifted out of the puddle of self-pity indeed helps.  I carefully crawl further up the tree.

Up in the sky, half way to the Moon, I consider alternatives –

Adding an expansion to our driveway and turning the whole yard into a basketball court… ?

Adopting an Arizona style rock garden with zero grass landscaping…?

Designing a life-size mosaic of a blue whale with a water fountain in place of the blowhole…?

Finally, the energy efficient light bulb comes on in my head and I have a brilliant idea!

Astro-turf! That’s what we should do – we should put down Astro-turf.
 All my woes instantly evaporate as I clamber down the tree trunk to call the family meeting.

We are switching to Astro Turf!
 I announce, very much impressed with myself.

My husband looks at me over his reading glasses and with one blow, without apology nixes my brilliant idea.

Ain’t gonna work.
 It’s against our HOA CC&Rs, and goes back to clipping the coupons.

What do you mean, ‘It’s against our HOA CC&Rs’?!!! They can’t do that! They are overreaching their authority! Think of all the resources we could save. How can they object to that? Forbidding fake grass… I mean that would be like banning all the fake Christians, all the phonies and all the hypocrites from going to church!

Our I-read-Encyclopedia-Britannica-just-for-fun son sticks his nose out of its pages and throws in his two cents.

Mom, it’s really not as great as it sounds… There are some serious drawbacks to fake grass. The infill required for laying down artificial turf may carry heavy metals which can leech into the water table, plus the turf carries pathogens which are not broken down by natural processes in the same way as regular grass and that… He looks up, sees my stunned expression and stops mid sentence.

I had no idea that faking can be hazardous to your own, your family’s and your community’s health.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What the I Heck Am I Doing???

Mommy, what is this lady doing??!!?

I screech to a sputtering halt not quite comprehending the question. In my mind, it is quite obvious what I am doing.  I slowly turn around to look at the voice. I can’t really see him for my glasses are caked with dirt. I take the glasses off to see better and while I am removing them I notice a large patch of uprooted turf hanging on the eye-shade of my baseball cap. I instinctively shake it off, and in the process scatter some dirt on the boy and his mom. The perplexed look on his face is a mixture of curiosity, fear and desire to join me in the dirt-digging fun. The fear seems to overtake the other two and he steps closer to his mama and hugs her right leg.

I am surrounded by holes where weeds used to be. Our lawn resembles an exploding minefield, a rabid squirrel habitat,… a….

The lady…, his mama speaks slowly, enunciating every word, The lady is… planting!

With that, she dusts the dirt off his shoulder as they move on.

I am left confused by her cryptic comment. With dirty glasses in my hand, I turn to the blurry tree in the middle of the garden.

Did you hear that? That blind woman can’t tell the difference between WEEDING and PLANTING??

The tree stares back at me without a word. I interpret its silence as agreement and turn my attention back to the lawn.

With all the holes and craters, it now looks more like the surface of the Moon. I’ve never seen anybody plant anything on the Moon, except, maybe Neil Armstrong when he planted the flag of the United States. I certainly am not a Neil Armstrong.

The wasteland sprawled in front of me speaks a language of its own. As I begin to decipher its message I sense the wind fizzling out of my sail.

What the heck am I doing????

I feel so hopeless and pathetic, I want to weep. I turn to the tree and hug its trunk.

I am doomed. I sniffle, the puddle of self-pity ever increasing around my feet. I don’t think you can understand me but I feel so…  so stuck!  I stand on the large vein of the surface root, quite oblivious to the irony.  

The tree sways gently in the breeze.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Exterminator

I shake my head to quiet the howling dogs and refocus my attention on the business at hand.

My eyes just about pop out of my sockets  as I see my yard as if for the first time.  Sprawled before me in the late morning sunlight is a field of... weeds! There is Crabgrass, Pennywort, Sedge, Goosegrass, Button weed… In fact, I see nothing but the weeds there. A wave of nausea washes over me.

At that very moment, an utterly preposterous thought crosses my mind.

Is it possible that in some parallel universe of the garden of my soul Whining might be sharing the same turf with its like-minded companions - Complaining, Grumbling, Criticizing, Comparing, perhaps even Judging, and Who-Knows-What-Else…?

I laugh the outlandish thought off as an insignificant, completely irrelevant distraction from what I really should be doing and resolutely turn to the lawn. I have heard the field of weeds calling my name and I will not be distracted.  I respond with wholesale abandon.

I will NOT allow THIS on MY watch!! Only over my DEAD body!!

I dive in head first and dig like a rabid squirrel, dirt flying, a mountain of pulled-out weeds next to me growing by the second. I am in the zone. I have finally found the purpose of my existence.

 I am the end of all crabgrass.  I am the black hole for every button weed!

Despite the heat, the dirt, the sweat, I actually feel pretty good about my new-found identity and the glorious mission it entails. Vision of weed-free garden dances in my head like a Sugar Plum fairy. As adrenaline pumps through my body, I hardly notice that I have doubled up the speed and intensity of digging. I am on the roll.

Suddenly, a tiny voice yanks me right off my high stampeding horse.

Mommy, what is this lady doing??!!?


Monday, February 18, 2013

I Can Quit Any Time

You don’t know you are addicted until you try quitting.

Fasting is hard. I need all the help I can get to stick with it. So, in order to get my fixated mind unglued from whatever I am attempting to eradicate out of this wretched ME-life so I can squeeze a speck of God-life in, I go back to gardening.

My yard is always there waiting for me, ever ready to embrace me with open arms. It never talks back to me (well, maybe a time or two). It rewards me with the satisfaction of a job well done sorely lacking in other areas of my life. Best of all, I can do it mindlessly. I get on my knees, yank the crabgrass by the roots, and just let my brain wander off wherever it wishes…. It feels so empty and quiet, I don’t even hear it buzz…

If only there were no weeds, I would be a better gardener If only there were no weeds, I would be a better gardener… if only there were no weeds. I would be a better gardener…  … IF ONLY THERE WERE NO WEEDS. I WOULD BE A BETTER ?#*&%@# GARDENER…

I am jerked out of my mindless state, wondering who the heck yelled that last sentence. I suspiciously eye the neighbor power-walking her dog on the other side of the street, but she seemed an unlikely candidate.

Since nobody else is around, I accept that this random, isolated, single little thought actually popped inside my own brain by some haphazard fluke of nature.

If only there were no weeds, I would be a better gardener?? True or false?

I realize part of me believes the statement is true. The part that likes to deny the reality. For, reality is,

Where there is a garden, there are weeds.

I step back, frowning at my lawn for being so blunt. I take another step back. 

Denial of reality in one area of life usually implicates that there is denial in other areas…

I don't even realize I’ve just flipped open the lid to Pandora’s box. Too late. The sudden onslaught of barking thoughts unleashed at me from some shady corner of my brain seems unstoppable:

If there were no temptations, I would be a better Christian…

I was actually a pretty good parent before we had kids.

If the immature, selfish, SINFUL jerks didn't also call themselves Christians, I would....

A howling mayhem of whining dogs rushed through the rickety fence of my horrified mind and brazenly overtook the entire stage.

You really don’t know how deeply you are addicted until you try quitting.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Roadwork Ahead - Prepare the Way

Last week we got a notice that the streets in our quiet neighborhood would be redone.  We knew this would create a disruption, but were happy to put up with it.  Over the years, some of the trees have become so large, and the roots have been breaking up the asphalt and not only creating cracks and crevices, but actually lifting up the road into bumps and quite sizable mounds.

Good!, said my husband, I sure hope they take care and dig up those roots before they restore the surface.

Few days later the neighborhood was invaded by large machinery and orange-clad county workers. The kids were mesmerized as we watched our old road being all torn up. Destruction, dust and deafening noise reigned for days. We changed our usual walk-to-school rout to avoid (or at least limit) the exposure to the mess and the chaos.  The day finally arrived when the last layer of new asphalt was poured out all smooth and shiny black.

The brand-new streets looked beautiful.  Excited to take our first drive on the new road, we piled up into the car and got on our way. Hardly had we passed the third house when we felt the car rolling over the familiar bump. 

Hey, they never took care of those roots! Exclaimed my do-it-right-or-don’t-do-it-at-all half. They just put a new layer of asphalt over it. What’s the point?!!!

I took his last statement as an invitation to pull out my well-worn Devil’s Advocate hat and begun to list all the possible reasons explaining if not excusing the shoddy job.

It’s hard work, dealing with roots… I mused. They probably thought it was too expensive, too time-consuming, so they settled for the ‘good-enough’ of cosmetic change. Maybe they didn’t think it was their job to deal with the roots.  Or that anybody would even notice… Maybe they just saw it more like a home-improvement project, replacing an old shaggy carpet and wallpapering the hairline cracks, while all along you are talking about costly repairs of the structural damage… fixing the crack in the foundation…

Explanations or excuses, the bump remains, covered up with the smooth, shiny asphalt… Now it’s only a matter of time when the cracks will begin to reappear again.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Make the road smooth and straight!
Every ditch will be filled in,
Every bump smoothed out… Luke 3:4-5

These people honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.
Neglecting the commandment of God,
you hold to the tradition of men. Mark 7:6-8

Friday, February 15, 2013

Why Wait

Today's post was written by Julie. I met her only recently, so I can't say I know her well, but I love her perspective as she shares it in her blog Along the Way. Hope you enjoy it too!

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately.  I must stay in your house today.”  Luke 19:5

I remember waiting for the bus to take me to ballet class.  Mom taught piano lessons after school, and I wanted to dance.  So, even though I was 13 or 14, I took the bus.

Shiny cars zoomed by as I sat on the bench alongside Whittier Blvd.  Every one moved with direction and purpose, the traffic thick with exhaust fumes and rattling mufflers.  I seemed to be the only one waiting.

Of course, if I wanted to catch the bus, I had to get there before it arrived.  The bus driver wouldn’t wait for me.  He didn’t know I would be there.  He would just pass by the spot if the bench was empty.

Waiting for him was the only way to be sure that I’d be there when he got to the bus stop.

So, with bag of toe shoes and leg warmers in hand, eager not to miss him, I’d wait.  And even though everyone else around me hurried by, I knew that to get where I wanted to go, I’d wait.  Waiting wasn’t fun, but dancing was.  The hope of dancing was worth the wait.

How like Zaccheaus.

Zaccheaus knew what he wanted.  He wanted to see who Jesus was.  He was curious. He wanted a glimpse.

But, his height, or lack of it, hindered him.  So he ran ahead to a tree along the road, scrambled up and waited.  He waited for who he knew was coming.  He got way more than he expected.

First, he did get to see Jesus. From his tree branch, he had a clear view over the heads of the crowd. That was all he wanted — curiosity satisfied.  But, then he also got Jesus’ attention.  At that spot, Jesus looked at him and called him by name and invited himself to dinner.

From then on, Zaccheaus needed more than just his curiosity satisfied.  He needed his soul satisfied.  Jesus would turn Zach’s world upside down, inside out, forever changed.

All from waiting alongside the road Jesus was taking.

I want to wait like that… expectant.

Instead impatient because it seems answers are taking too long.  Instead of anxious because I wonder if God remembers us.  Instead of fearful because what Jesus asks of us might be hard.

I want to wait knowing that whatever God has planned for us will be way better than what we’re hoping for, way more than what we expected.

There’s a spot.  A place where Jesus will look at me and call me by name and invite me to feast.  And if I’m not willing to wait, I might miss him when he passes by.

So maybe waiting is less about biding my time and more about positioning myself to see Jesus.

Thanks, Zaccheaus.  I’ll take that.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love without Limits... Beyond Valentine's Day

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy
but don’t love,
I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day,
and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps,
but I don’t love,
I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr,
but I don’t love,
I’ve gotten nowhere.

So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do,
I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies.

Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit.

We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:

Trust steadily in God,

hope unswervingly,

love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love.

I Corinthians 13 Message

The Season of Hearts and Ashes


The following post is written by a dear friend and most delightfully hilarious magnet for  trouble (she calls it 'adventure'), Taryn.  You can get to know her better through her blog as well as through her Facebook page named after her book, We Wait You.  She is one of the people that the more you know her, the more you love her.  Enjoy!


This year, the 40 days of Lent began the day before Valentine’s Day. One day after we might choose to “give up” sweets, we are bombarded with chocolates at the office or (if fortunate enough to have someone to love) an invitation to a romantic dinner.

Hearts: Easily Broken    

I have a problem with Valentine’s Day - same with Mother’s Day. Both are exclusive holidays, fanned into flame by card-makers and florists, sure to leave a whole host of people in its wake. If you are alone, you’re apt to feel even more lonely, left out, and dejected. If you are without (love in the one case, a child in the other), you have nothing to celebrate.

College girls band together with their dateless girlfriends to arm themselves against the sickening barrage of squeals as yet another delivery of roses is made. And, let’s face it, often the recipients seem to gloat. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against romance. I love my husband and love celebrating our marriage. But why confine that to February 14? And why flaunt it to others?

What happened to the inclusive elementary school example of passing out dollar-store valentines to every single classmate? Or the International Women’s Day model that celebrates all women, regardless of reproductive status?

Before I really start ranting, let me get back to the odd pairing of Valentine’s Day and Lent.

On Valentine’s Day, the lucky one hears (or reads) words extolling their praise. “You are beautiful.” “My life is empty without you.” “You hold the key to my heart.” The recipient feels loved, delighted in, and needed. And probably wants others to know they are loved, delighted in, and needed.

Ashes: Signify Brokenness


But during Lent, we acknowledge our own need. Our sinfulness. Our broken lives that need fixin’. We choose to deny ourselves and focus on Someone else instead. It is a solemn season of humility, of reflection, of stillness. We settle our souls and refocus our hearts in the weeks leading up to the Cross.
We might give up something that’s hard to do without. This self-denial isn’t just for one day either. The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday and extends 40 days, commemorating the amount of time the devil tempted Jesus in the desert.

Jesus withstood by countering each temptation with the Word of God. For Lent to be most meaningful, don’t stop at removing something from your life; replace time spent in self-pursuits with meditation on that same Word. Ashes symbolize repentance; turning from our sin involves turning to the One who forgives.

It’s not about me at all. Nothing of what’s important in life is.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Not So Fast... When Fasting Becomes Feasting

Today is Ash Wednesday, the official beginning of Lent. 

Two years ago I recklessly decided to join millions of others and participate in time-honored tradition practiced by millions of Christ-followers throughout the ages, all around the world. What transpired since then has revolutionized my walk with Christ beyond my wildest imagination.  Part of me wants to say,

Alright Lord.  I get it. This is enough. Let's resume with some smooth, predictable sailing from now on. None of this extreme fasting- prayer-repentance stuff. 

The other part, the glutton-for-punishment, the Lent-junkie-me, doesn't seem to be able to stop. 

For every time I think I 'give up' something for God ends up blowing up my microscoping view of Him. It broadcasts on large screen what an idiot I am when I think I can ‘sacrifice’ anything on the altar of this prodigious deity who didn’t spare His own Son but gave Him for us all.

Two years ago, to my absolute horror, I was led to fast from Facebook.  What an eye-opening experience!

Last year, I begun a whining fast.  I say ‘begun’ because I don’t think I quite ‘finished’ or ‘completed’ it.  Some people may say I need another whining fast, and I would be a complete fool to object. 

I don't know, maybe I should do whining fast this year? Or at least finish what I started...

But, something seems to tell me that this year’s fast is not so much about giving up, abstaining from or relinquishing something.  It’s as if this year I am supposed to…



… accept...

what I haven’t truly



... accepted yet?

Hmmm... Now, that's a different take on the whole fasting topic... It's so weird it makes me wonder...

But, I am not in a rush.  I still have until the end of the day to figure this one out.

What about you? Is God tugging at your heart… whispering,

There is more… there is mooooooreeeee...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Alphabet of Love – The Epilogue

Of course I had no idea what I was getting myself into as I started out the Alphabet of Love.  As much as I hate predictability and formulistic approach to life, including writing,  I wanted to do something simple.  Easy. Basic.

I felt like I needed Simple. 


Basic. Back to the things that we know that we know.  The things that I know that I know…

The Kindergarten life of faith.

I even thought I knew ahead of time at least some of the words I would pick for certain letters.  Just fill in the blanks. (As much as I hate 'fill-in-the-blanks'!)

To my surprise, the Alphabet took a life of its own.  It picked its own words, its own stories with little if any consultation from me, its writer!

Wait!  This is my blog! My alphabet.  I objected.

It turns out, regardless of how much I want to be in control, how much I want to own my story, at the end of the day I realize I am grasped much more than I am grasping.  This story, this alphabet - it’s not about me.  It’s not my story.

For, in reality, the story that I am trying to tell is so so much larger, so so much bigger and more beautiful and horrible and glorious and terrifying that anything I could ever express using all the alphabets of the world.

My little story seems so pitifully inadequate. So desperately insufficient.

For how does one pick a single note to play the intricate symphony of an A? For A is for Abba, but A is also for Atonement, and Adversary and Abandoned and….Amen?

How does one choose just one word to represent a living, breathing universe of the S which is the Son, but it is also the Spirit, and Suffering, and Surrender and Silence and….S..t!

How do you catch the wind with your broken butterfly net?

And so I go through these sounds, these letters that tell our story – His story – like a child walking along the beach, picking up scattered shells in the palm of her hand.

How does a child contain an ocean inside a tiny cracked shell nestled inside a palm of her hand?

And I gasp a prayer that

The God of the Wind and 
The Ocean and
The Sand and
Every seashell on all the beaches of this world would
Pour His life-giving Spirit 
Into these broken shells of our lives…  
Breathing His very own story into our hearts
Writing what is inexpressible
With the living alphabet of His Son...
Who is The Word
Who Became Flesh -  
Until all our stories –
incomplete and
inadequate as they may be  -
Flow together into one
– His Story –
to the praise of His 
He freely gives and
We freely receive 
In the Beloved. 

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Alphabet of Love – Z is for… Z, as in A-Z

The end of the matter is better than its beginning… Ecclesiastes 7:8

Beginnings are easy. My garage is overflowing with great start-ups accumulating dust.

All you need for a good beginning is an idea, an inspiration, a bunch of good intentions and a little bit of adrenaline.  The chemistry is sufficient to launch just about anything into stratosphere.

But for the rocket to orbit the earth, it will take more than just a chemical reaction. More than a vision.

And this is where most of us get tripped up.  The long, dusty, tedious road between the vision and the fulfillment. Life happens on that road.  Life is that road.  Littered with dead dreams, disappointment and disillusionment.  We tumble down from the Mount of Transfiguration crash landing into demon-possessedvalley

This is not according to well-advertised happily ever after script!

The descent into reality is a natural and necessary, albeit excruciating part of growing up and maturing.  However, most of us interpret it as a sign to quit, give up, move on.  The pain of staying is too great.  The cost too high.

Did God miscalculate something? Should I be looking for the Plan B?



As confusing parts of my story may be to me, I realize it’s only a component of a much greater story.  The story that started before I was even born, and it doesn’t end with me.  Being the control-freak that I am, this can be rather unnerving.  But, if I know the Author, if I trust the Writer, the One who is The Beginning and the Ending, The A and The Z, I can rest in His love and sovereignty, I can trust His wisdom and His story-telling power to bring all our stories to the desired conclusion… in the end.

I am the Alpha and the Omega (the A and the Z), says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.  Revelation 1:8

I am the first and the last, and the living One; I was dead and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades Revelation 1:17,18

I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Alphabet of Love - Y is for YES!

For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us…was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. 2 Corinthians 1:19,20

What a bold statement Paul makes here: As many as are the promises of God, in Christ they are ‘yes’. Considering the fact that God seems to enjoy making promises to His people, this is probably one of the most outrageous claims in the entire Bible.

Unlike majority of the people we know, God not only makes but also keeps His promises. God is the only one who is actually able to do that. The rest of us have little control over circumstances outside ourselves. Sometimes what we promise is triggered by a momentary impulse, and when the reality checks in, we find we are not in that place any more. Suddenly, I don’t really want to do what I said I would. I don't feel like it. It’s inconvenient.  I don’t have time. It’s not fun.  It means personal sacrifice.

Just as I like to choose what promises I keep and what ones I don’t, I also tend to cherry-pick the promises of God and hold onto the ones I like, and try to ignore the ones I don’t.  Take, for example, Jesus’ words in John 16:33:

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

To ensure there is no confusion in such statements, I have become quite proficient in using a mental highlighter and/or eraser.

However, Jesus doesn’t promise ‘peace’ every time, everywhere, at all cost.  Peace that is delivered to us like a UPS package. He promises His peace, which is found - in Him.  He is the package.  No Jesus.  No peace.  At least, not the kind of peace He is talking about.

But, He doesn’t promise peace only.  He also promises turmoil.

Trouble. Tribulation. Trials.  Tests.

Christians don’t seem to advertise this side of the equation as much. We don’t know what to do with it.  No wonder our message strikes the outsiders as out-of-touch and anemic.

Ironically, this is exactly what attracted me to Jesus in the first place.  This bold, robust invitation to life that fully embraces its apparent contradictions.  The life that doesn’t deny the reality of body, pain, joy, suffering… earth, heaven, hell...  The dynamic tension of life that is both here-and-now and not-yet complete.  The journey. With the only One who is able to reconcile the life’s extremes, because He lived – is living them - Himself.  

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you...this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! I Peter 5:10,12

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Alphabet of Love - X is for X-files

…others were tortured, not accepting their release,
so that they might obtain a better resurrection;
and others experienced mockings and scourgings,
yes, also chains and imprisonment.
They were stoned,
they were sawn in two,
they were tempted,
they were put to death with the sword;
they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins,
being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated
(men of whom the world was not worthy),
wandering in deserts and mountains
and caves and holes in the ground.
And all these,
having gained approval through their faith,
did not receive what was promised,
because God had provided something better for us,
so that apart from us
they would not be made perfect. Hebrews 11:35-40

The 11th chapter of the letter to the Hebrews is also known as the “Hall of Faith”. It’s a glorious account of some amazing victories individuals throughout the ages have experienced as a result of their unwavering faith in God.  Much publicity is given to the faith’s triumphs and feats.

Today I would like to open the X-files box of faith's disappointments.

To honor the countless unnamed, unknown heroes who through the ages, to this very day day have experienced - are experiencing - faith’s apparent defeats.

Those who remained faithful to God without receiving any rewards and perks for their obedience.  

Those who gained the approval of God by scorning the approval of men...

Those who gained the approval of God by scorning the disapproval of men..

The men (and women) of whom the world was not worthy. Is not worthy.

The men (and women) of whom God is not ashamed to be called their God.

All these died in faith,
without receiving the promises,
but having seen them and
having welcomed them from a distance,
and having confessed that
they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
For those who say such things make it clear that
they are seeking a country of their own.
And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out,
they would have had opportunity to return.
But as it is, they desire a better country,
that is, a heavenly one.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God;
for He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13-15

Monday, February 04, 2013

Alphabet of Love - W is for Wilderness

The voice of one crying in the wilderness... Matthew 3:3

Wilderness is the place where true love is tested.  

It’s the long, dusty road where walk becomes a crawl.  Where the emotion and excitement of the promise wanes into a feeble memory while the fulfillment is still far, too far off.

It’s the place where I also begin to see the discrepancy between who I am and who I am called to become. 

A place where I recognize even greater discrepancy between who I am and who is the One who called me.

Wilderness is a place where I need to distinguish whether I love my Beloved because of all the lavish gifts He bestows on me, or for His own sake?

Is God truly enough?

Does Job fear God for nothing? Job 1:9

Wilderness is a place of weeping.  

There is hunger there.  And thirst.  And disappointment, desolation, darkness and danger.

The place where the enemy worms his way in and sows the weeds of doubt, depression and despair…

If God really loved you He would never allow…and the Plan B is advertised on the backdrop of our mind as quite attractive option.

... Where the lines between Reality and illusion, Truth and deception are blurred beyond recognition...

Wilderness is a place of waiting.

Where I must learn to desist following my own way,
                                                 trusting in my own strength,
                                                                  insisting on my own timing. 

It’s the place of startling discovery that my way is not God’s way.

It’s the place where my endless Whos? And Whats? And Whys? And Whens? are


softly, but


silenced into an inexorable



How long?

As long as it takes.

As long as it is necessary…


...this wretched wilderness is turned into a place of …

...hidden and overlooked treasures…

...unveiling of the breathtaking beauty…

Until you hear the whispers of the wind calling your name…

Until your soul is washed under the waterfall of living water

and you are made new.

Until we finally realize that it is

His love and

love alone

that led us here.

Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” Matthew 11:2-6

Saturday, February 02, 2013

The Finer Points of Library Fines... Lesson on Gratitude

I detest the fact that I am begrudging my wonderful public library for justly fining me the miserly $2 in fines. The internal conflict finally distills into a single question:   

What’s wrong with me?!!!

As much as I hate fines, I hate even more finding out the answer to this question.

I take a deep breath. I know what I am supposed to do.

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:18

There are things which are easy to be thankful for, like fresh strawberries, or warm sunshine on a wintry day.  

Other things are so big, so out of my control that I have no other viable alternatives: 

Lord, this is soooo bad, only You can make  it into something good… I just hope I survive to see it ... and even if I don't, You are still good...  

And then, there are library fines. Those stupid, little things that ruin my day. Where exactly do they fit in that obnoxiously all-encompassing ‘every-thing’??

Eventually I inched my way to a place of gritted-teeth gratitude:

Fine!  Thank You for the fine.  No pun intended.... 

... ... 

It could have been a lot worse, you know… Like a vehicle spinning out of control…

Are You trying to say that my life is spinning out of control?!!!

I didn’t say that….


Then, it occurs to me that every time I've had to pay library fines, my life did seem to be spinning out of control.  Too much going on. Too many details to keep track of. The pressure per square inch of my life steadily increasing.  I may think I am managing it O.K.  I may think I am taking proper care of myself, my little people and the functional nuts and bolts of my life. I guard my margins vigilantly even as I am driving on the shoulder! The library due dates seem to be the first wheels to fall off...

I think of the fine again, and with a startle I realize that my heart is actually… bubbling with… gratitude?!!!  Considering the alternatives, I find I am actually happy… that I got fined?!!! Happy?!!!

What’s wrong with me?!!!

But, this time I already know something about myself.  For I am the kind of person who likes good deals, and suddenly the $2 looks like a darn good deal for the kind of lesson I got. In fact, it's a steal... I wonder if I should feel guilty...?

On Curious Nature of Library Fines

As much as I love libraries, I hate library fines.

I can have a perfectly wonderful day, like today – and then, Boom! In big bold italic RED letters, as if the message itself screaming at me from my laptop isn’t bad enough:


What?!!! When…?!!! How the…?!!! I am always completely taken aback.  I am a borderline OCD gatekeeper of all public library exchanges that happen between within our household, frequent and voluminous as they are. I meticulously keep track of the dates, returning items usually well before they are due.  I am at the library so often people mistake me for an employee there! I never heard of an employee paying a fine. 

My first impulse is to contest the charges.  Those were renewable items. It’s really their fault for not sending me a timely reminder (they did, but I ignored it just like I do all the other e-mails landing in my Black Hole IN-box)

Then I want to bang my head against the wall for being such an idiot. And all this for…

Two bucks!

TWO stinkin’ dollars. 

I can afford to pay $2.  If push came to shove, I could even fork out $3.  I don’t need to terrorize poor old library lady and plead… plead what?!!!

Guilty as charged?

Then, I consider that our local public library system provides by far the best service in the entire world, actually delivering books to our doorstep, which, over the years have save me a bunch of mula. And now I am begrudging them for justly fining me this miserly amount that is helping a good cause, I love and wholeheartedly support?!!! 

What’s wrong with me?!!!

Hmmm…. Good question.

As much as I hate fines, I hate even more finding out the answer to this question. 

Friday, February 01, 2013

Alphabet of Love – V is for Voice

There are days when I feel completely overwhelmed by all the voices filling my ears. It usually starts before I am awake with,

Mom, we ran out of milk! or something along those lines.

Then flows in the incessant stream of voices generated by phone, Facebook, blogs, TV, radio, games… a loud backdrop to the ongoing internal dialogue inside my own head in response to all this chatter! No wonder I am tired all the time!

 Everyone claims to be an experts of some kind or another.  Everybody seems to have an important message to share.  Maybe it is important.  I am sure it is to them.   

And look at me here, writing this blog, just adding to the cumulative noise into our already noisy world! 

Why should you bother listening to me?!!!

I don’t even want you to listen to me. To my voice.  Sometimes even I don't want to listen to me!

What I really want for us is... learn... listen...

Learn to fine-tune our ears to His frequency and hear His voice.


Every day.

Beyond the noise. Beyond all other voices.

Today, if you hear His voice, to not harden your hearts…

Do you think it’s even possible to hear God speak?

                  Why would He bother to speak to you?

         But, what if it is possible…

                        What if He does bother…

In that case, I can’t think of any other voice more important to hear than His.

Not just mindless repetition of quotes and verses

Not just cut-and-paste spirituality of somebody else’s spiritual authority.

But GOD speaking to YOU.

To me!

For, when God speaks,

the blind receive sight

the lame walk

the lepers are cleansed

the deaf hear

the dead are raised up

the poor have the gospel preached to them. Matthew 11:5

I can’t think of anyone else with this kind of productivity, this kind of resume, no matter how many hits they get on their blog, no matter how many likes and shares they get on their FB page.

In fact, sometimes I feel that God’s silence accomplishes more – a lot more - than all the chatter of all the human voices combined.