We are delighted to share with you our good news.
New Blessing
New Blessing
We are grateful.


We value freedom quite highly here in the States.  We make it one of our highest goals to obtain freedom for everyone.
Freedom is a noble and worthy goal, isn’t it?  It is a good that we as Christ-followers support, right?  Even Jesus, after all, speaks of setting us free.
Yes, however…
Many of us who have grown up in the States have become confused about what freedom means.  We think that freedom means living without limits, being able to make our own choices, casting off all restraint.
This is not freedom.  This is autonomy.  Autonomy is a very different thing.
So what is freedom?  In the world of Jesus, what does freedom mean?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about freedom in Creation and Fall, his commentary on the first few chapters of Genesis.  He speaks of us being created in the image of the Triune God says that one of the implications of this is that we are meant to be relational beings.  Being created as relational beings means that we are dependent.  Dependent on God and dependent on each other.
This freedom we are given by being made in God’s image is, Bonhoeffer says, “a relation and nothing else.  To be more precise, freedom is a relation between two persons.  Being free means ‘being-free-for-the-other’, because I am bound to the other.  Only by being in relation with the other am I free.”
Yes, we are free, but free within our relationships.  Yes, we are free, but it is a freedom with limits, a freedom with boundaries.  It is a freedom that only makes sense within the context of our relationships.


It is the sort of freedom that a cellist in an orchestra has.
A cellist who asserts her autonomy while playing a Rachmaninoff symphony will only cause sour notes and chaos.  A cellist who asserts her freedom within the confines of the orchestral relationships around her creates art and beauty.  She is free to bring out the best within herself only because she willingly submits herself to the limits of the piece and the limits placed by the conductor.


Insisting on and clinging to our autonomy creates only sour notes and chaos.
Being set free, however, asserting our freedom for those around us…
This gives beauty, peace, joy.  This kind of freedom is what brings out our best, most true selves.

Art credits: Bonhoeffer plaque from Wiki Commons; Cellist photo from Amanda Wen

The Day God is Dead

Holy Saturday.
The day God is dead.
The day we lose God Himself.
Don’t miss this.  Don’t rush through it.  On the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, God is dead.
One part of the Trinity, yes, but God nonetheless.
The Word of God is gone.  We can no longer hear Him.
Linger in this day.  Does the earth feel different?  Somehow vacant?
There is, for this day, no possible way to reach God.
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
No Most Holy Place where the high priest could meet with God.
It is finished.
He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
No Word of God in whom we can see the Father.
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Garden Tomb Side
Remain in this day as long as you can.  I don’t understand how, but somehow this day exists on which we are completely isolated from God.
Breathe in the horror of this day.  God is dead.  He is, for this day, unattainable.  Can you catch even a glimpse?
The disciples did.  They lived it for what must have felt like an eternity.
We’d rather skip past this day, this Saturday that contains Christ’s body in the tomb.  Yet we must linger if we are to grasp the power of Easter Sunday.  We must dwell here awhile if we are to be allowed to hold the joy of Easter Sunday.
When the Son, the Word of the Father is dead, then no one can see God, hear of Him or attain Him.  And this day exists, when the Son is dead, and the Father, accordingly, inaccessible. ~ Hans Urs Von Balthasar (theologian and author)
Can you feel the terror of it?  Do you sense the incomprehensible void that stretches before us on this day?  What does it even mean?
Do not rush too quickly past this Holy Saturday on your way to the miracle.  You may miss the deepest part of the gratitude and joy that are to come.
Garden Tomb
The deepest gratitude and joy that come only when you understand what was absent, and understand that it was only for a day.


Art credits: Preparation of Christ’s Tomb by Vittore Carpaccio; Tomb of knight Philip Keerman in Flanders, Belgium; 1912 photograph of Jerusalem Garden Tomb by Dwight Lathrop Elmendorf; Side view of Garden Tomb by Deror Avi; Jerusalem Garden Tomb by Berthold Werner

Our Purpose

It is a question as old as humanity: Why are we on earth and what are we supposed to do while we are here? 

Working the Land

Even the ancients spent time on this.  The Bible tells us from the very beginning in Genesis about many who searched for and discovered their purposes: Jabal discovered how to raise livestock, Jubal developed different types of music, Tubal-Cain mastered metalworking. 
These ancients figured out what to do while here on earth, but what about us?  What is our role?  Many answers can be found by gazing into the moment we were created. 

Out of the Dirt

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…”
We have a dual role, we humans.  A dual purpose, given to us by God Himself.  Let us make.  We are created, a part of God’s creation.  In our image.  We are God’s unique counterpart, His representatives here on earth.
Being made in God’s image brings with it certain responsibilities.  The second part of Genesis 1.26 says that God decided we were to rule, to have dominion over, all living creatures.


David echoes this in Psalm 8 when he says that God crowned us with honor and made us rulers of all that God created.
This has, unfortunately, been used too often as an excuse to plunder the earth and destroy it.  Instead, “as God’s image bearers…we are to be wise stewards of the earth, caring for it and protecting it in a way that reflects and embodies God’s rule over his creation.”  ~ Resounding Truth by Jeremy Begbie
As God’s representatives, His image bearers, we also are to spread the knowledge of God and His love to the rest of the world.  We are to work to speed up God’s future goal for creation, to bring healing, restoration, hope and peace to the world around us.
Israel was supposed to be a picture of this.  Israel was called to be God’s people, accomplishing God’s purposes for humanity in and for the world.  They had experienced God’s rescuing power and love and were intended to be His way of giving that love to the rest of the world.
Does that sound familiar, as though it were, perhaps, something we are supposed to do?  I wonder what would have happened if Israel had obeyed.  What would our world look like if they had acted as God’s representatives?  This is a painful question because Israel’s purposes were but a shadow of our own.
What would our world look like if we were truly acting as God’s representative?  What would our neighborhood, our community look like if we were caring for and protecting our world, if we were sharing God’s rescuing love with the people around us?  Different? 


Things have gone wrong and many live in alienation from one another and in purposeless and destructive living.  We should want to be different.  We should be reflecting the image of God to the piece of creation in which He has placed us.
Our second role from that moment of creation is our very creatureliness.  “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” 


We are created by God.  Along with the trees, mountains, birds and sun, we ARE God’s creation.  We humans, however, have a unique role that was given to us on behalf of all of creation.  A role that only we can fulfill.
We are (as far as we know!) the only creatures who can love God in return.  We are the only part of creation who can give voice to the wordless praise of all creation. 

The Trees Shout

In the human being, creation finds a conscious answering voice, a mortal from the dust of the earth who can know and respond to God’s love as a creature, love God in return, and as a part of this response, voice creation’s praise. ~ Resounding Truth by Jeremy Begbie
This is a beautiful picture and a beautiful role.  What grace that God entrusted this to us!  And yet what tragedy that our role as worshiper in creation has twisted into worshiper of creation.  Including worshiper of self.  Just as we have twisted our role as God’s representative, we have twisted our role of offering worship on behalf of all creation.


However.  (What a beautiful word is however!)  God gave us grace through Christ.
Jesus.  Man.  God.  A man who gave complete and un-distracted praise to God.  A man who perfectly acted out God’s wise rule in the world.

Perfect Man

He is creation’s worship to God ~ perfect praise from us to God, creation’s perfect voice.  He is the image of God to us ~ perfect representation of God, being a wise steward of the earth He brought healing, restoration, hope and peace from God to earth.
Jesus helped and healed many people, like this. He made blind people see. He made deaf people hear. He made lame people walk. Jesus was making the sad things come untrue. He was mending God’s broken world.  ~ Jesus Storybook Bible
The most exciting part of this news about Jesus?  We are invited to join Him.  What joy and grace!  What a gift!  By reflecting God’s image to the world around us, to the tiny piece of creation (human and non-human) in which God has placed us, we are voicing the praise of creation back to God.
What a beautiful circle.  What beautiful purpose.

Art Credits: photo of bird in hand by SP Veres; Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Johannes Vermeer

reworked and much edited from the archives

it’s a little funny to me that this blog is old enough to have archives

Joy Wrapped with Sorrow

My littlest turned one this week.
She is a New Year’s baby, the first of the year in our county.  In my own opinion, it would be difficult to find a better way to bring joy and hope to a new year than with a perfect baby.
She passed her Papa on her way to us.
My dear friend, Martha Cook, said it well:  And so your Papa stood at Heaven’s Gate.  He saw as she passed by.  He blew a kiss.  “Samantha,” he said, “God is sending you to the best of families.”  Then he turned and entered into the arms of the God he served.  Well done.  Well done.
It is a truth of this world that joy is wrapped up with sorrow.  You cannot have one without the other.
It is the way of this world and it is the way of our God.  He loves us, knowing that the joy of His love will be enveloped in sorrow.  He loves us while He bears our grief and our sorrow.
Weeping in Gethsemane
If God Himself bears both joy and sorrow, how can we expect anything different?
Yet we do.  We expect joy without sorrow, love without grief.  When the grief and sorrow come, we shake our fists at this God and ask why?
And we should ask why, but a why of a different kind.  Why, God?  Why would You choose to love us when we continually turn our faces from You?  Why would You choose to take our grief and sorrow upon Yourself?  Why did You come to our rescue instead of leaving us to the fate we brought on ourselves?
On the Cross
We will not, in this life, have joy without sorrow.  We can either try to live this life with God or without Him.  With Him, the joys are brighter and the sorrows are lighter.
Walking with Christ
So breathe in and breathe out.
We receive what You give; We give thanks for what You give.
Our Living Water
Above all, we give thanks for You.

Art credits: Gethsemane by Carl Bloch; Three Crosses by Rembrandt; Going to Emmaus by Robert Zund; Christ and Samaritan Woman by Henryk Siemiradzki

A Flickering Flame of Light

Much of the time it doesn’t work out this way because this world is so broken and can be so dark, but every once in a while you are allowed to be a part of, or at least catch a glimpse of, something that points toward something more, something bigger, something so sacred that you want to cup it gently in your hands, speak of it only in whispers, breathe soft so as not to disturb it.
A Boy
A Family
There is a boy.  A boy who grows up.  A boy who falls in love with and marries a girl.  A girl who discovers she is pregnant with a son and fast on the heels of that revelation discovers that she is dying.  There is a boy.  A boy who sinks down.  A boy who clings to his son in order to keep his face above the waves that are drowning him.  A boy who continues to seek God even though most of the time he is not convinced that such a God exists and all of the time feels an anger toward Him that threatens to burn his heart into ashes.
There is a God.  A God who longs to be found, who deals gently and softly with those who are wounded.  A God who slowly soothes and cleanses and heals the heart of a boy using, in part, the heart of a girl.
A Girl
There is a girl.  A girl who has lost the mother she loves yet chooses to cling to the God who gifted her such a mother in the first place.  A girl who loved a boy yet was willing to give the boy up to God to be sure that his newly healed heart belonged to God alone.
A Wedding
There is a boy and there is a girl and, most of all, there is a God.  A God who is using a story and a wedding and a marriage to tell me and to tell you that there is hope and there is truth and above all there is love.  A God who wants you to know as you sit in the dark, hiding or weeping or perhaps both at the same time, that there is light in this dark.
Flickering Flame
Perhaps it seems like just a candle flame in the dark, flickering uncertainly as though a whisper might extinguish it, but I saw this weekend in the beauty of a wedding that this tiny flame will spread and will pierce the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.
What I saw this weekend in the crazy-loud joy, in the riotous music and lights, in the feasting and laughing and wide-open grins made me want to jump up with my arms flung out and shout Silence!  Listen to the small voice, to the message so sacred and precious, so unbelievable and so true that it makes you stand rooted to the spot with Thomas and whisper My Lord and my God.
Christ is risen.  Hold it gently in all of its holiness.  He is risen, and because He is risen, His love never fails. In your darkness, in your brokenness, in your fears and doubts and loneliness and amidst all of the shattered pieces that might never get put back together in this life, He loves you and His love never fails.
Much of the time it doesn’t work this way, but this weekend I was a part of something that points toward something bigger and brighter and truer.  It is precious and it is holy, so lean close and hear me proclaim in a whisper this thing that is unbelievable and so true.  Christ is risen.  He is risen and His love never fails you and even though we never fully emerge from the darkness in this life, one day there will be nothing but crazy-loud joy and riotous music and feasting and laughing and light, such bright and brilliant light that the darkness will flee in terror to the deepest of the depths.
So take heart.  Be brave and strong and true, and let Him shape your hearts into hearts that are beautiful, hearts that bear to each other that precious, flickering holy flame of love.  Take heart.
Psalm 20
May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary
and give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah
May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!
Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.


Art Credits: Christ Healing the Blind Man by Eustache Le Sueur; Graphic of The Golden City

The Years the Locust Ate

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…you shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you…
A beautiful set of verses in Joel.  Verses filled with hope, with new life and new beginnings.
Yet I hate with all of my being that there were entire years that were eaten by locusts.  I hate that people had to endure that pain and despair before they could reach the end point of being satisfied and praising God.
The memories of those years don’t go away.
And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends.  And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before…And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.  And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys.  He had also seven sons and three daughters…And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations.  And Job died, an old man, and full of days.
Another beautiful set of verses in Job.  Verses filled with hope, with new life and new beginnings.
Yet Job still endured the loss of all that he had.  He still watched all of his children die and, as any of you who have lost children know all too well, no number of new children can ever take away the pain of losing those who came before.
It is a heart filled with mixed emotions, this kind of hope.  It is joy and excitement over the beauty of what lies ahead and it is sorrow and grieving over what happened in the past.
Autumn Blazes
This is life.
Life and Death
It is beauty that is tinged with sorrow.  It is love that is colored by loss.  All who live deeply are affected.  None are exempt except for those who choose not to love.
God speaks beautiful words about our future with Him, words filled with promise, words filled with satisfaction and praise and joy. What do we do with this apparent contradiction?  How do we get from this common suffering to a perfect life filled with perfect joy?
One option is that it is all a big hoax.  None of this hope is true; it is all just a ruse to keep us from rebelling too hard against our lot in life.
Those who have known God long enough to catch a glimpse of His character, though, know that He is not given to such cruel jokes.
Jesus with Samaritan Woman
If you keep God in the picture, this God who is the very definition of love, than you are left with the answer that it is somehow all worth it. If God is who He says He is, if His words are trustworthy and true, then somehow the end is so brilliantly glorious that it will eclipse the darkness that came before.
Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.  ~ C.S. Lewis
So what do we do with this hope that is so full of wildly contradicting emotions?  I don’t understand how this sort of ending is at all possible when the sorrow seems so great.  Yet like Abraham, we are asked to keep trusting in the face of apparent impossibility.  Trusting that what God said to Abraham is truth for all: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”
On our best days we are able to trust that, in the end, we will be so seized by the sight of His face that we will fall to the ground at His feet in pure adoration. And all that came before will be as a vacuous mist that is chased away by the brilliant light and heat of the sun.

Art Credits: Sunlight Through Tulips photo by Kirk Sewell; Christ and Samaritan Woman painting by Siemiradzki; Sunlight Through Trees photo by Kirk Sewell

Jumping Musicals for God

My girls love to jump on their bed.


I half-heartedly tried to keep them from jumping (because half-hearted discipline works so well in parenting) until their bed frame broke. Now their bed consists of just the bedsprings and mattress on the floor.


At which point, I couldn’t think of a reason to keep them from jumping anymore, so I told them to jump their hearts out.
Now, they don’t JUST jump, mind you. Oh, no. That would be much too tame for them.
They put on entire jumping musicals for my viewing entertainment. Usually this consists of my eldest jumping with gazelle-like leaps in circles around the perimeter of the bed, making up songs about God and Jesus and angels, while my middle follows right behind her, echoing whatever odd combination of words that had just come out of her sister’s mouth.
Often, the girls are the angels (although sometimes they are Mary and Jofus…that’s “Joseph” for those who are unacquainted with toddler-speak) and they sing about Baby Jesus (around Whom they are apparently jumping). They make giant leaps into heaven and back, leap up and land in “worshipful poses”, and (my personal favorite) wave magic wands to transport us all into heaven to be with God.
I was sitting on the recliner, watching them perform (which is usually all that is required of me, thankfully!), when I had a sudden image of God, looking down at them from heaven, being delighted in their creativity, delighted in their desire to be a part of His story, delighted in their wish to be in heaven with Him.
You know that feeling when your heart is so full it feels as though it will burst? That is what I felt (after I got past the potential sacrilege of it all) right then, watching my little ones jump for God’s pleasure. It made me wish that I could see God, see His enjoyment of them.
In that moment, I was so very grateful that I, too, am allowed to be a part of God’s story. In that moment, I loved God because He loves my girls so very much. I loved Him because He loves me and delights in me just as I delight in my girls.
I loved because He first loved me.

Our Miracle

I witnessed a miracle on Easter Sunday.
A miracle of a cold stony heart melting into a heart of flesh under the ministering of the Spirit.
My brother, once bowed low under the weight of tragedy and grief, now standing tall, glowing full of the peace and love of God.
A face once lined with bitterness and anger now dripping wet with holy water.
Eyes that once saw only darkness now open once again to the light of grace and joy.
Fists once shaken in defiance at the face of God now raised toward heaven in victory.
It has been a long journey. Three and a half years.
Nothing has changed.
Kristina is still gone from this earth. Ethan is still motherless. Mike is still a widower.
Everything has changed.
As we spoke, this strong, ever-seeking brother of mine said that he still had questions, doubts, things that he doesn’t like about how things happened.
So do I. Don’t we all?
And yet.
Underneath all of those questions and doubts, underneath his dislike of the pain and suffering, there is peace.
The peace of knowing that there are answers. The peace that someday he will be reconciled to those years of heartache. The peace of knowing for certain that God is good and God is love and God is working toward the best for all of us.
As long as we know what it’s about, then we can have the courage to go wherever we are asked to go, even if we fear that the road may take us through danger and pain. ~ Madeleine L’Engle in Walking on Water
The peace of knowing what God is about.
I got to be there as he chose once again to give himself over to the love and care of God, his Father.
I watched hard as he went down under the water
I wept unashamedly as he rose again, his fists raised high in triumph, his face shining with water and tears.
Those of you who have grieved with us over these past few years, will you also celebrate with us?
My brother has come Home.
This is my revelation
Christ Jesus crucified
Salvation through repentance
At the cross on which He died
Now hear my absolution
Forgiveness for my sin
And I sink beneath the waters
That Christ was buried in
I will rise, I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him, now in Him
I live
I stand a new creation
Baptized in blood and fire
No fear of condemnation
By faith I’m justified
I will rise, I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him, now in Him
I live


He is ALIVE!!!
Today, the tomb is empty.
Today, the earth is singing for joy.
Today, He has risen from the dead.
Today, He has proven beyond any doubt that He is able to fulfill His promises!
By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev. 21.3-5)
He is able!
He is ALIVE!!!

Art credits: Das Engel öffnet das Grab Christi by Benjamin Gerritsz Cuyp; Title page of the New Testament section of a Martin Luther Bible; The Resurrection by Luca Giordano