If This Is Creation

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Creation
If this is creation,
from the cold and unapproachable star
to the velvety and pungent sage,
if this is creation,
that matters.
It makes this world,
from the Alaskan wilderness
to the plumber under our sink,
a gift to cherish rather than a commodity to be used.
It makes all of knowledge,
from the how-it-works of the sciences
to the what-is-it and why-is-it of the arts,
a discovery of reality rather than a making of what we wish life to be.
If this is creation,
we cannot consider any aspect of this life in a truthful way
without also considering the Source of it all.
The very novelty that is you,
your distinctive character and perspective,
only occurred because
the thought of you occurred
in the imagination of the Creator.
The Creator who was, is, and will always be
Creating
Moving
Holding all things together.
If this is creation,
that matters.
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Follow Me

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Follow Me.
Follow Me
This is His call to us.
Follow Me.
Just as He called to His disciples, without explanation, as they rose from their boats and reached for His hand.
Follow Me.
Follow Me
He calls and we either spend the rest of our lives following or we spend the rest of our lives fleeing that call.
Follow Me.
We do not truly know at first Who we are following;
we do not truly know at first to what He is calling us.
Follow Me
Yet as we obey, He reveals Himself in the work, in the doubts, in the sufferings we all pass through in His company.
No one can explain to us exactly who He is,
no one can detail out the depths of His character,
yet as we follow, we learn in our own experience who He is.
We catch a glimpse of this Son of Man who changed the course of our world in the moment of His birth,
and in that glimpse He begins to change us.
Follow Me.
Follow Me
And as we follow, through all of the work, the doubts, the sufferings, we begin to look like Him.
Follow Me.
As we follow and gaze deeply at His face, we begin to see it for what it is just possible that it might become:
the face of Jesus as our face.

Art credits: Jesus Calls Fishermen etching by Jan Luyken; Jesus Calls the Fishermen woodcut; Jesus and His Disciples on the Sea of Galilee; Jesus Calls James and John woodcut

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I AM

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I am hungry.
I am unsatisfied,
empty,
left with no way to fill myself up.
I am darkness.
I am lost,
confused,
full of evil with no hope of change.
I am a wall.
I shut people out,
turn them away,
stand firm to protect myself.
I am filled with death.
I am physically dying,
falling apart,
spiritually dead if left alone.
I am a sheep.
I am foolish,
slow-witted,
helpless to do anything for myself.
I am a wanderer.
I am homeless,
shelterless,
prone to fall off the path.
I am a branch.
I am dependent,
vulnerable,
incapable of producing anything good.
Good Shepherd
Until Jesus.
I am the bread of life.
I am the light of the world.
I am the door of the sheep.
I am the resurrection and the life.
I am the good shepherd.
I am the way, the truth, and the life.
I am the true vine.
Praise be to God for His unfailing mercy and His  eternal lovingkindness.
true vine
I am nothing without Him.

Art credit: The Good Shepherd from a catacomb in Rome, second half of the 3rd century.

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A Whisper from God

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Some of the sparkle and light went out of our world on Wednesday when little Calla died.
Calla
I will come clean and admit that I do not understand God at times like these.
Why do I get to kiss my almost-nine little girl tonight and Calla’s parents go home with empty arms?
Why does one child gain his mother back cancer-free and another child grows up without a mom?
Why does one family receive the miracle of a healing and another family receives heart-break?
no miracle
We live in a broken world.
A world broken and distorted by sin.
Our sin.
This sickness and pain and loneliness and death?
This is not how it was supposed to be.
This is NOT how it was supposed to be.
In the Beginning
We should lament and wail and grieve, because this is not the way God created us or our world.
And the miracles that do happen?
Perhaps they are a whisper from God.
A whisper that says Remember.
miracle
Remember how it was in the beginning.
Remember how it was created to be and remember how it will be again someday.
Remember what we are straining toward.
Remember what creation is groaning for.
Remember.
glimpse of hope
Perhaps the miracles that happen, whether or not they happen to you, are a glimpse of light,
a glimpse of hope,
a glimpse of
Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore…Behold, I am making all things new.
miracle is coming
A glimpse of the day when the miracle will be standard fare for all of us.
E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.

Art credits: Adam and Eve by Foster; all other photographs except the one of Calla are copyright Made Sacred 2019

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How, Then, Shall We Pray?

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When the darkness is closing in,
when we can’t see the way forward,
when we desperately need a rescue, a healing,
how, then, shall we pray?
Prayer
Do we pray with confidence, having faith that God will perform miracles?
Do we pray with humility, submitting to the greater plan of God?
How, then, shall we pray?
Pray
When multitudes of prayers in all shapes and colors overflow the Scriptures,
when even looking toward the perfect Man produces a confusion of faith that moves mountains and nevertheless thy will be done,
how, then, shall we pray?
Pray
As my Papa used to say:
Well, I’ll tell you.
I don’t know.
Here is what I do know.
We are to pray.
We are to pray and in our praying we are to ask, beg even.
We are to ask and to continue asking, even if we do not get what we ask for.
We are to pray and ask and lament and wail and we can know beyond a doubt that at the very least, we are heard and we are loved.
Pray
Here is what I also know.
We have our brother, Jesus.
We have our brother, Jesus, praying for us as He sits at the right hand of the Father.
We have the Spirit of God.
We have the Spirit of God inside of us, praying along with us, taking every word and every desire too deep for words straight to the presence of God, advocating for us exactly as God wills.
pray
How, then, shall we pray?
Perhaps after all it does not matter.
Perhaps as long as we have Jesus praying for us and the Holy Spirit praying with us, the only important thing is that
we pray.
pray
Peace be with you as you plead before our ever loving Father.

Art Credits: The Pathway to Life by  Thomas De Witt Talmage; Prayer by Antonio Parreiras; Prayer by László Mednyánszky; Axentowicz the Anchorite by Teodor Axentowicz; Men, Women, and Children Praying by H. Wood; Children at Prayer by Antoine Édouard Joseph Moulinet

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Finding God in the Darkness

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Where is God when your world falls apart?
When your pleas seem unheard, when the horror seems to increase, when God Himself seems to have withdrawn into the darkness,
where do we find God?
Meet Calla.
Calla
Calla
The Woods
Calla is a nine year old girl full of sparkle and light, full of love and joy.
Until now.FightingUntil now when she is fighting for her life against the darkness of aggressive, rapidly growing tumors in her brain.
Where is God when your world falls apart?
Here.
He is right here.broken
Emmanuel.
God with us.
Jesus promised us crosses. We are to expect them.
And He also promised us empty tombs in the end.
It may not happen until the end, but He gave His word that He would make those tombs empty again.
So we must remember.
This is beyond hard when your baby girl is fighting for her life, yet Calla’s parents, Ben and Crystal, are also fighting hard.
love
love
Fighting hard to remember,
to remember that God broke into time to show us that the empty tomb will always follow the cross.
In the words of Corrie ten Boom from the hell of a Nazi concentration camp: No matter how deep our darkness, he is deeper still.
broken with us
And if that were not enough, if the promise of the rising sun melting away these sorrows like the morning dew were not enough,
He also promised to be with us through it all.
This is what Calla’s parents are fighting to shine into their darkness –
that God is good and He is with us.
When it feels as though life is beating you into the ground, when the weight of your burden does not allow you to rise from your bed in the morning, when you cannot carry your cross for one more step, you can know that He is here with you, carrying your cross with you, taking your burden on Himself.
Every tear we shed becomes His tear. He may not yet wipe them away, but He makes them His. Would we rather have our own dry eyes, or His tear-filled ones?
He came to us. He is here with us. We can be certain of Emmanuel in all circumstances.
Job learned this in a very real way.
When he wanted to know why his world was burning to ashes around him, God showed Job the wonders of the zoological world and the stunning beauties of the galaxies and told him, I did this!
When Job wanted, even demanded, an answer from God, God gave him something much more beautiful than a simple answer.
He gave Job the same answer that He gives to all who ask, to all who seek: Himself.
And when we declare all of this – His goodness and power, His love and His with us,
then God is glorified and our hearts are nourished.
If He does not heal all our broken bones and loves and lives now, He comes into them and is broken, like bread, and we are nourished.
the gift of Himself
Our Bread of Life, broken for us, will nourish us. He will never leave us.
broken for us
Will you join me in praying for Calla and her family? Pray for a miracle of healing to bring God all the glory, of course, and also pray for peace and joy and a tangible sense of God’s presence in the middle of this darkness to bring God all the glory.
I have only done this once before in my eight years of writing in this space, but would you consider giving a little to help my friends, as they wait? The waiting is so hard, especially when you have two other children back home in another state, especially when you must leave your work to wait with your girl. You can give by clicking here. If you want to stay updated on Calla and the ways in which God is being glorified by her family, click here.
Calla
my friends, the Woods
Thank you for praying. And may the peace of God be with you wherever you may be.
On Another’s Sorrow 
by William Blake
Can I see anothers woe,
And not be in sorrow too.
Can I see anothers grief,
And not seek for kind relief.
Can I see a falling tear
And not feel my sorrows share,
Can a father see his child,
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill’d.
Can a mother sit and hear,
An infant groan an infant fear—
No no never can it be.
Never never can it be.
And can he who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small birds grief & care
Hear the woes that infants bear—
And not sit beside the nest
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near
Weeping tear on infants tear.
And not sit both night & day,
Wiping all our tears away.
O! no never can it be.
Never never can it be.
He doth give his joy to all.
He becomes an infant small.
He becomes a man of woe
He doth feel the sorrow too.
Think not, thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy maker is not by.
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy maker is not near.
O! he gives to us his joy,
That our grief he may destroy
Till our grief is fled & gone
He doth sit by us and moan.

All photographs not of Calla and her family are copyright Made Sacred 2019

Quotes are from Peter Kreeft

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For the Ugly Days

There are some days when it is easy to love.
Loving each other
Happy Baby
I am able to surrender to the Spirit which causes peace to fill me up and overflow into the hearts of my daughters, my husband. I have the supernatural strength to stay calm in the midst of tantrums, kind in the midst of misunderstandings, and joyful in the midst of hurt.
Then there are days like today.
Yelled at by Mommy
Days when something ugly wells up inside of me. Days when I want to be mean. Days when I feel resentful towards those I love best.
I hate these days.
What is this darkness, this nastiness that overwhelms me and threatens to spill out into the hearts of those I love?
Sadness
Tantrums
Anger
Defiance
My daughters cry to be held, fuss about wearing clothes, throw tantrums because school is hard, and my desire is not to comfort them but to scream like a crazed woman with fire in my eyes.
My husband makes an innocent comment and my desire is not to hear his loving intentions but to deliberately misunderstand and hiss a disparaging remark.
I intentionally fight against the changing of my mood. I want to savor, to wallow in my blackness.
I hate these days.
I get so tired of fighting this battle within me. I get so weary of fighting my very self. I long for the day when I finally look like Jesus, when my desire is to love rather than hate, when my heart is all light with no shadow at all.
As ugly as my heart can be, I am grateful that God refuses to give up on me. I am thankful that He does not save me and then leave me as I am. I am astounded that He is filling me up with Himself, crowding out the ugliness until there is nothing left but Beauty.
I try not to feel impatient.
Yet I know. I know. I know that I belong to Jesus. He gave Himself for me and therefore sin has lost its hold on me. I can hold on to that knowing even when I cannot feel it. Little by little, sin’s grasp is slipping away because Love has taken hold and nothing dark can hold on in the light of this fiercest Love.
As the recent hymn says, “No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand; ‘till He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”
No scheme of man. Not even my own schemes. Nothing can separate me from Love Himself.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Amen.

all photographs copyright Made Sacred

edited from the archives

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Standing in the Middle

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We stand in the middle, with arms raised, between heaven and earth.
in the middle
We offer what we have been given by God to the world.
We offer the praise of the world back to God.
We are created to be priests.
priests
Like priests offering the bread and wine to the Church, we offer the beautiful kingdom rule to the world.
Like priests offering the prayers and worship to God, we offer the praise of creation to the Creator.
We stand in the middle, unique among all of God’s creation.
Not better.
There are many who critique the Church for claiming that humanity is better, more important, more the center than any of the rest of creation.
creation
The idea of better leads to much of the abuse of creation all around us.
We are not better than the rest of creation.
We are, in fact, the only piece of creation actively rejecting God.
rejection
Definitely not better.
Yet we are unique.
We are a hybrid of material and spiritual, of visible and invisible.
Animals have a living body, but not a rational soul.
Angels have a rational soul, but not a living body.
Humans are a microcosm of creation.
We are the only creation to contain the whole.
worship
Not because of any merit on our part, but because that is the way we were created.
We stand in the middle
Arms outstretched
Mediating between heaven and earth.
imitation
Doing our best to imitate the Man who remained whole.

Art credits: Solomon Dedicates the Temple by Tissot; Three Crosses Sketch by Rembrandt; all other photographs copyright Made Sacred 2019

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Is God In Control?

I am hunkered down this week, writing my final project (another book!) for this spiritual formation Master’s level course I have been  working on for two years.  Please enjoy this essay from my archives as I finish up my writing.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

God is in control.
This phrase seems to float around a lot, especially after events like presidential elections.
At the end of the day, everything will turn out okay because God is still King.
God as King
What do people mean by this?
Do they mean that everything in their lives will be beautiful? Do they mean that crises will never plague them?
Since this is clearly not true, since suffering is common to us all, either God is not in control after all or that is not really what God meant.
Yet God Himself did claim to be in control.
If being in control does not mean that justice reigns, that love wins, that pain vanishes, what does it mean?
beautiful result of labor pain
It means that somehow, in some inexplicable way, all that is hard in this world is only labor pain. The beautiful end is already decided and all that we go through in this world is somehow necessary to bring about that glorious end.
I don’t pretend to understand how this works out. I certainly don’t mean that every evil thing a person chooses to do is required for God’s plan. Yet a world in which free will exists and thus in which a broken mankind and a broken creation is possible is crucial to God’s plan.
In that moment in time when God broke into our broken world, He caused the end of the story to come crashing down into the middle. The end of death, the rescue of man and creation, our glorious new bodies, all of this has already happened in the first century, in little Israel.
this life
storm of life
Just as winter storms can still throw blizzards and hail to destroy the tulips after the calendar has already declared it to be spring, Satan is still casting icy lances to destroy as many as he can after the resurrection has already declared God’s victory.
It is our mission, our part of God’s story, to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth, to plant our tulips in the certain hope that spring is on the way.
God is in control, but that doesn’t mean that everything will happen now the way we may wish.
It does mean that the end is decided and that everything that happens is bringing us swiftly toward that end.
So plant your tulips in hope.
hope is here
Our faith is certain. The warmth of spring is on its way.

Art credits: Woodcut for “Die Bibel in Bildern”, 1860; tulips photograph by Kirk Sewell

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The Line Between Us and Them

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Them.
You know, the ones who are not us.
The ones who stand against everything that is important.
The ones who stand for everything that is wrong with our world.
The ones whose sole aim is to bring down our way of life.
It is our job, no, our duty, to bring them down first, before all that we love is destroyed.
We must watch out for them.
They are everywhere.
They are in our schools, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods,
in our hospitals.
I met one of them.
I met one of them in a hospital waiting room, waiting for his young daughter to come out of surgery.
He was one of them, no doubt about it.
My defenses went up and I prepared to go on the attack.
He was one of them.
And he was hurting.
Just like us.
He was grieving.
Just like us.
He was worried about one he loved.
Just like us.
I heard a whisper saying, He, too, is My beloved.
Rembrandt_The_Three_Crosses_1653
And suddenly the line between us and them seemed just a bit blurry.

Art credit: The Three Crosses by Rembrandt

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