Prayer

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.
Prayer.
This one word means so many different things.
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Asking. Adoration. Doubt. Despair. Confidence. Confusion.
We pray with expectation; we pray with hopelessness.
We pray in altruism; we pray in selfishness.
We pray boldly stepping up to the throne; we pray pessimistic, not expecting a favorable answer.
Prayer.
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Regardless of how you view it, aside from what you expect from it, no matter how you approach it, the Bible is clear.
We must pray.
From seek and you will find to the story of the widow who bothered the judge enough that he finally gave her justice, we are told to take everything to God in prayer. Everything.
Whatever else prayer is, if we are praying without ceasing, the words we offer to God permeate everything we do, everything we are.
Whatever else prayer does, if we continually give our hearts to God, we end up also offering our selves to others.
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If we offer our prayers to God while we offer ourselves to others, the power of God acts as a wireless network, acting for others to give rescue, healing, comfort, light.
As we offer our prayers to God, we become less ourselves and more a piece of a whole. A whole that covers the whole earth, bringing God’s love and kingdom to all.
We are woven into the fabric of God’s power and love, becoming a part of bringing His kingdom to earth, a part of His restoring of creation.
It (prayer) moves from God to others through us, because we have ceased to be self-centered units, but are woven into the great fabric of praying souls, the “mystical body” through which the work of Christ on earth goes on being done. ~ Evelyn Underhill (Christian philosopher and writer, early 1900’s)
All because of prayer.

Art credit: Gethsemane painting by Carl Bloch

There Are Times

I took a short break from blogging after experiencing some very difficult times related to my writing, and I’m glad to be back in my writing space. As I searched for the way to be obedient in what happened, I discovered that I don’t believe God has released me from writing here in this space, so I published a couple of essays from my archives while I prayed and thought and wrote. Here is what I wrote in the aftermath of my troubles. I pray that it will give a small bit of help to you.
 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.

 

There are times when I feel desperate for God.
Times when my path forward seems dark
as the hour before dawn.
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Times when the darkness seems to creep into my soul and
times when it wants to burst out of my heart and
threaten to hurt those around me.
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I always know in a cerebral sense that my very being depends on God, but
there are times when I know it in a deep, carnal way.
These are the times I see clearly into my own heart and
tremble with fear for the rage I see there.
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These are the times I am asked to forgive, to
turn the other cheek in a real and painful way.
These are the times I find I must return something
to God that is precious to me and find that my deepest self
wants to turn away from Him instead.
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It is in these times that I fall on my face and
beg Him to surround me with Himself.
It is in these times that I lift up my eyes and
plead for Him to heal me from the inside.
It is in these times that I know with a gut-wrenching certainty that
I am, indeed, desperate for God
in all times.
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee.
Oh, bless me now my Savior,
I come to Thee.

Love Through Trees

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I couldn’t live where there were no trees – something vital in me would starve. ~ Anne of Green Gables
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I love coming across new evidence of God’s love for us.
I have always loved trees, have always felt much like Anne did about living without them, but the most I’d really thought about them in terms of their relation to God is what an amazing job He did in creating them.
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I recently listened to an interview with a couple of artists on Mars Hill Audio Journal.  It was only a minute or two of the entire segment, but they mentioned that after the human face and figure, trees are the main focal point for artists. Whenever there is a tree in a painting, it automatically draws the eye to it.
Why is that true?  One of their hypotheses was that it has something to do with our deep subconscious knowing that we need trees to survive, our knowing that we depend upon trees for life.  I wonder, though, if it is even deeper than that.
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My mind is drawn to the tree that God chose as our point of obedience.  We chose foolishly and we disobeyed.
My mind is also drawn to the tree that God chose as our point of redemption.  He chose beautifully and we were saved.
God has chosen trees for great purposes.  Did He have those purposes in mind as He created trees?  I wonder.
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Trees are often used in God’s Word to show strength and constancy.  One of my favorites is the Psalm that says that a man who delights in and meditates on God’s law is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season and whose leaves never wither.
I wonder.  And I imagine.
I can imagine that God knew that He would create Man to love images, to hunger after metaphors to help explain the unexplainable.
I can imagine that same God, before He ever spoke light into being, planning out His world to contain specific metaphors of meaning, just because He loves us.
I can imagine Him planning His trees to look a certain way, planning to use them in a particular manner, so that we would see them and draw meaning from them and be satisfied, just because He loves us.
Perhaps that is a stretch.  Perhaps it didn’t really happen that way.  But it seems like something that would be just like our God: to carefully plan out His creation in the way that would give His children the most joy.
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Wouldn’t that be just like Him?

Art credit: last photograph by Kirk Sewell (R K Sewell Photography)

edited from the archives

His is a Terrible Love

 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.

 

There is darkness in all of us.

The Road

It is a part of being human to feel the weightiness of the absence of God.
And there is an absence of God in this world.  The Bible we profess speaks of it.
The prophets and psalms all speak of Him who is not there when He is most needed.  The author of Hebrews strips all of our pretense away when he speaks of Noah, of Abraham, of Gideon and David and the rest who “all died without having received what was promised.”
It is the anguish of glimpsing the briefest glow of the light of presence without being allowed to bask in the sun.
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It is a terrible love, this love of God for us.  It is a love that means His absence as often as it means His presence.  It is a love that Jesus speaks of when He utters in His darkest moment the piercing cry of Where are you, God?
You who are in heaven for us, why are you not down here in hell with us?

Light of presence

It is a terrible love that speaks of carrying our own cross, that utters the truth that all ye labor and are heavy laden.
It is a terrible love that wounds, or allows the wounds, before the healing can come.
It is a terrible love that weeps at the death of a friend, of Lazarus.  They are tears that speak of the absence of God.  Of the part of God in the very body of Jesus who would not save the life of His own friend.
This is, after all, the Gospel.  It is terrible before it is beautiful.  It is darkness before it is light.
Darkness before light
We all labor and are heavy laden.  We work so very hard to pretend that it is not so, but even when we are appalled at the darkness, we cannot help but listen to Jesus because we see in Him not only the darkness of being without God but the glorious light of what it looks like to be with God.
It is out of the absence of God that He becomes most present.  It is out of the whirlwind, out of the storm that God first speaks to Job, answering Him not with answers but with Himself.
It is out of darkness that we first begin to perceive the light.
Paul says that “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.  God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are”, and he points to “the apparent emptiness of the world where God belongs and to how the emptiness starts to echo like an empty shell after a while until you can hear in it the still, small voice of the sea, hear strength in weakness, victory in defeat, presence in absence.” ~ Frederick Buechner
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The cross itself is a symbol of defeat before it is a symbol of victory and it, too, speaks of the absence of God.
When the absence is all that we see, when we are tempted to see in it a well of doubt that could lead us into atheism or at least into becoming agnostic, there is yet something else to see as well.
It was out of the darkness and absence that God first spoke.  “In the beginning…the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”
Darkness is upon our faces as well, a void that sinks deep into our hearts.  And perhaps it is necessary for the reality of this darkness to fold itself around us for us to be able to glimpse the reality of the word that God spoke into the darkness, “God said let there be light, and there was light.”
And there was light
It is a terrible love that is offered to us, and perhaps we must face the truth of the terribleness before we are capable of accepting the love.

Art credits: Three Crosses sketch by Rembrandt; Supernova photo by NASA

edited from the archives

An Unexpected Pause

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Made Sacred must go on hiatus.

I hope you will wait for me.

I understand if you will not.

More About My Book (and a second giveaway!)

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.

 

Thank you.
Thank you for all of the sharing and liking and subscribing that you have done over the past week. I’ve gained quite a few subscribers, and am grateful.
The Color of Hard
Let me tell you more about why I wrote this book.
As I wrote in last week’s post, my book is the story of how my sister-in-law, Kristina, battled breast cancer and lost, and how God met our entire family in the middle of it all. 
People learn best through story. Suffering is common to all who live on this earth, and I want to weave a beautiful story that unravels and reveals meaning.
I wrote a story that is honest and vulnerable about the ugly things in this life so that people can see themselves and can, through Kristina’s story, learn about who God is and what He does in the middle of our collective story.
Too often, people in our churches are afraid to be honest about how hard suffering and death can be, perhaps out of fear that they will be thought not faithful enough, perhaps out of fear that God may not come through after all.
If we are to be healed and comforted, however, we must be vulnerable with each other and with God about how dark this life can be.
This is why I wrote The Color of Hard. To tell a story that will help people heal. Not only people who have suffered from breast cancer, not only people who have watched a spouse suffer and die, but all who are on a journey through pain, whether that involves their own physical pain or the pain of watching a loved one suffer.
Will you help me to tell this story? The more you share this post, the more subscribers I get, the better my chance of being able to publish this story and help people heal.
The prize this week is a beautiful print with beautiful words created by a shop called Salt Stains. Go visit their website at https://www.etsy.com/shop/SaltStains and decide which print you would love to have adorning your home.
If you already subscribe to my blog and have followed me on Facebook and Twitter, you can still enter to win this prize! Just scroll down to the contest form and click on the entry tabs to let me know that you already subscribe.
And again, thank you.

Second Giveaway

Winner!

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The winner of The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence is Andy Dunham! Congratulations!
Thank you all for sharing and subscribing. Look for the next giveaway on Friday (which you can still enter even if you’ve already subscribed and followed), when I also share some of my purpose behind writing this book.
A hint about the next giveaway…something to adorn your home…
Peace,
Elizabeth

I Wrote a Book

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.

 

I wrote a book.
writing a book
That is surprisingly difficult to say in so public a forum. I haven’t told very many people, yet here I am telling the world.
It’s a frightening and vulnerable thing to offer up your words to a critical world. Yet I feel I must at least try.
I wrote a book that was hard to write and is hard to read, but it contains a message that is desperately needed in this world of ours.
This book of mine is the story of how my brother’s wife, Kristina, battled breast cancer and lost, and how God met our entire family in the middle of it all.  It is the story of pain and loss, of how to reconcile the heart of God to the reality of how dark this world can sometimes be.
I named it The Color of Hard.
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I wrote a book and I need your help.
The thing about books and publishers these days is that publishers want you to have lots of people who love you and will therefore most likely purchase your book before they will even think about agreeing to publish said book.
Translation? Subscribers. Lots of subscribers.
Which is where I need your help.
If you haven’t already, will you subscribe to my emails? Will you follow me on Facebook and Twitter?
Will you share this with all of your friends and help me get the message out? I would be most grateful.
And I will give gifts!  To sweeten the deal (although I know you would help a girl out anyway), I am going to give something away each week for the next four weeks. You can enter via the contest form below.
In the coming weeks, I will tell you more about my book so that you can know what I’ve been working on for so long.
Last of all, thank you.

First Giveaway

Five Years of 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.
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Five years.
Five years of writing in this space.IMG_2529
Much has happened in five years.
Our family has moved.
We have doubled our number of children.
We have lost loved ones and gained many more.
My writing has improved; I grow more and more into my own writing-self as I write each week.
My blog has grown, slowly rather than by giant leaps and I find that this is how it should be. I am, after all, a mommy to four very little girls.
I find that I am content with my smallness, content simply to write with no expectations for more. Yet sometimes I wonder if God is calling me to more.
It is a fine balance, this staying content. To not feel greedy for more while also not being fearful of the same possibility. How well I achieve this high wire act depends on my day and how much sleep I had the night before.
In honor of this five year mark, and in preparation for sending out my book to be read and judged, next week I will begin a quest for more subscribers, a quest in which I hope you will join me. (It will involve giveaways…a few of my favorite things!)
Perhaps God has more public spaces prepared for these words I write; perhaps He desires for me to continue writing for just a few. While I suspect that I will feel a bit of relief if smallness is His choice, I only want to remain faithful to Him.
In the meantime, and regardless of the result, I will continue to practice my art, being faithful to cultivate whatever talent has been given. I will continue to learn how to craft my words, enjoying the beauty of weaving words and visual art together and enjoying the search for wisdom and understanding that I pray lies beneath my weavings. I will continue to explore this small life around me as well as the larger culture of the world in an attempt to love God better.
I will write, as I have written every week for five years, of the way that God makes all things sacred. I hope that you will continue with me and I pray that you will be helped by these words.
As I end every blogging year, I finish with this prayer:
Whatever the reason for my writing, here I am in this space.  I will continue to obey, even though it is hard and often causes my heart to feel fear.  I will write.  God will listen.  I pray He will continue to be pleased.

Circling

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.

Life is a circle.
It loops and it circles around again.
It circles back through the beginning
and around and down through the end.
What once was before
now circles round into trend.

 

God knelt down low and breathed
dirt to become man and life.
His breath circles back
to raise man out of strife
when Holy Spirit wind divides
dead heart from new like a knife.

 

What began in a garden
with successful tempting of man,
circled back to a garden
and the culmination of God’s plan.
Temptation was repeated
but this time was banned.

 

God’s love and God’s holiness
leads to God putting on skin.
His wrath pours out on sin,
His mercy pours it out on Him.
When wrath circles back to the cross,
it turns out that love wins.

 

When Word became flesh,
He climbed down into time.
He breathed our air and
turned water into wine.
One day Word will circle back
and earthly life will join the Divine.

 

Life is a circle.
It loops and it circles around again.
It circles back through the beginning
and around and down through the end.
What once was before
now circles into trend.