The sun barely peeking over the rim of the earth
Sparkle of dancing light on the crystallized snow
Bright blue eyes crinkled in a welcoming smile
Jewel tones of jelly made by hands full of love

Sunlight through a window sets the crystal aflame
Picture with crayons hand drawn to perfection
Red puffed up cardinal hopping cheerily over the white
Bowl full of oranges waiting for pink lips after naps

Sky burns with color as the sun dips below
Warm fire spits and sparks red, blue and gold
Smiles around a heavy-laden table of home
Stars burn bright in the dark black of the cold

Photographs of Love

I have a photograph that sits on my dresser. In this photograph, my then-two-year-old daughter is giving an exuberant hug to my crammed-full-of-baby-sister tummy. Her arms are wrapped around my belly as far as they will go, her sweet face is all squashed up against my belly and I am laughing with joy at her excitement.

I have another photograph that could sit beside the first. In this photograph, my then-two-year-old daughter is lying on top of her now-two-month-old sister, trying to squash her and steal her pacifier, while baby sister is crying with pure frustration. Ah, the fickleness of a child’s love!

My eldest daughter was so excited about becoming a big sister. She talked for months about how much she loved her baby sister, how she couldn’t wait for baby to arrive and how she would give baby sister so many hugs and kisses. Then her baby sister arrived and reality came crashing into her world. The first time I gave baby the attention that my eldest claimed for her own, that previously professed love disappeared as quickly as a child when bedtime is near.

I like to think that I, as an adult, am able to show a much more pure kind of love to all those around me. I want to believe that I am capable of giving true love, a perfect sort of gift-love, if not to everyone, then at least to those who are most important to me. Like my eldest duaghter, however, the gift-love I am capable of giving shines best when captured by photographs.

SnapThere I am making my husband’s favorite meal for supper tonight. Snap Look at me! There I am taking the time to walk with my kids to the park for a fun morning of play time and a picnic lunch. SnapIn this one, I’m making a meal for a dear friend who just gave birth to a baby boy. 

If you look at me in the space between those snapshots, however, I’m ignoring my husband when he gets home from work, snarling at my girls when I am tired and avoiding the friend who is struggling with her past for the pitiful reason that I don’t know what to say. Ah, the fickleness of an adult’s love!

I struggle to understand the true nature of gift-love. Ask anyone on the street and they would say that they desire to be loved. I don’t really comprehend what that means, though. I don’t know what that looks like. What doesit look like to be loved beautifully, perfectly? I begin to look around me for insight, for glimpses that will help my heart to know what love really is.

SnapMy husband gives up certain advancements in his career in order to give me and his daughters more of himself and his time. SnapMy parents give up a needed vacation so that they can support their son as he grieves for his wife. SnapI watch my brother love and care for his young wife who is dying of cancer, giving up all thought of doing anything for himself.

As I watch and tuck away these photographs of memory, I begin to see a strand that connects them all. Each of these moments of perfect love seem to involve sacrifice, a denying of self. I start to wonder: is this what is required for love to be real, for love to be true? For love to be perfected, must the lover give up something of great importance?

The truth of this seems a little clearer when I think about my children. Other than my love for my husband, my love for my children is the closest thing to a perfect gift-love that I am able to give. With my children, I do not expect anything at all in return for my love, my service. Especially while they are young, I know that I must love them even when the gratitude I receive in return for my love is a tantrum in the supermarket. It is when I start expecting something in return from them, when I expect obedience or even a simple “thank you”, that my gift-love fails and those photographs of love turn into the blank in-between space of ugly actions and thoughts. Still, I do expect something in return. I expect to be loved in return for loving them.

I begin to think that perhaps this is why it is so hard to love consistently. I need love for myself too much to be able to give love perfectly to anyone else. Authentic love is unconditional yet I can’t live without the love that I receive from those around me. Those snapshots of perfect love that I tucked away seem to include a forgetting of self, a giving without expecting anything in return, an open-handed gift even if a close-handed gesture is the return. The imperfection of my love creeps in when that cannot be sustained. It seems that, as much as we may desire otherwise, we can only have snapshots of that real love because we all must receive as well as give. We need to be loved in order to give love perfectly. It seems that what we need is someone to love us who doesn’t need us at all.

Perhaps this is why those photographs of perfect love are so beautiful, so cherished, so longed for…because, at least among humanity, they are the exception rather than the rule. They draw us out of the smallness of ourselves and into something bigger, something greater. Those momentary photographs show us a glimpse of the joy and contentment that could be ours in a perfect sort of gift-love. It seems a difficult thing, but perhaps with time, more of the pages of my life can become filled with those beautiful photographs of perfect gift-love with less blank space in between.

For the Beauty

I have written a lot about the ugly things of life, about death and about obeying when you can’t make sense of what you see.

I have been reminded recently of how beautiful this life can also be.

Will you feast with me? Replenish your soul with beauty.

Let God remind you of His goodness, then walk away more able to see the beauty all around you.


(perhaps let this play while you soak in the rest of this beauty? And if you are viewing this via email/in a reader, click here to view this video)

new life

steadfast love
harvest bounty
I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics–each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother–or of the young wife at work–or of the girl sewing or washing, each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day–at night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow.
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

the gospel
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
For any positive integer n, 1+2+3+…+n = n(n+1)/2.
Obviously, 1(1+1)/2 = 1.
Suppose the result holds for all positive integers k
Then 1+2+3+…+(n-1)+n = (n-1)n/2 + n =(n^2 – n +2n)/2 = n(n+1)/2.
By induction, the result holds for all positive integers.



…she broke the jar and poured the perfume on His head…”Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to Me.” ~ Mark 14
There was an old Navaho prayer song that said:
Beauty before me, I return. Beauty above me, I return.
Beauty below me, I return. Beauty all around me, with it I return.

It was a song of the Southwest, where the aspens are full of gold now and the scrub oak makes the foothills rich with wine; but we of the Northeastern woodlands should know such a song, when Autumn comes down from the treetops. Beauty, the fragile but abundant beauty of the turning leaves, is before us, above us, below us and all around us.

The birch leaves drift down at midday, a sunny shower. The sugar maples are pure gold when dawn light strikes through them; and beneath them the rustling gold leaf begins to cover the grass. The swamp maples are cherry red, and knee-deep in their own color. The poplars stand naked in pools of tarnished gold, their leaves shed. The beeches are rustling with gilt Hakes, to which they will cling for weeks to come. The oaks are leather-clad, russet and oxblood and purple and ruddy brown, brown as acorns, crisp as parchment.
One walks in Autumn, now, beauty above, below and all around. 

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple.  ~ Psalm 27

For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth,
Over and around us lies…

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
Pleasures pure and undefiled…

For each perfect gift of Thine,
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of heaven…

Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

art credits: Abbey of Batalha by Carlos Paes; The Starry Night by Van Gogh; Pieta by Michelangelo; last three photos by Kirk Sewell

Our Sacred Imagination (part two)

Could we continue the conversation about making our imaginations sacred?

I love the idea of nurturing my children’s imaginations to be used for God. 

Imagination is beautiful. The way in which we use our imagination makes it sacred.

I was reading Isaiah 6, the chapter in which Isaiah receives his call from God, and I saw something I hadn’t noticed before. 

Before Isaiah gives his famous plea, “Here am I. Send me!”, even before God calls for someone to go for Him, Isaiah is given a vision of God on His throne.

I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple.

Do you see it?

The vision preceded the call.

The vision of God is what changed Isaiah, what inspired him to take on the enormously difficult task of delivering God’s message.

Vision requires imagination. Sacred imagination.

Too often we want to go straight to the take-away, straight to our to-do list.

Instead, perhaps we should pause. Let God inspire us and change our hearts by filling our imaginations with a vision of Him.

Have you heard of lectio divina? I heard it mentioned in a Mars Hill interview recently, so I started digging for information.

It is the practice of Scripture reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Living Word. It was practiced by church fathers such as Ambrose and Augustine.

Meditative contemplation. Find a quiet space and something on which to focus. Scripture, something visual like nature or art, anything will do.

Contemplate God. Let the vision of who God is fill up your imagination. It is only the glimpse of the glory of God that can truly change us and give us what we need to fulfill whatever task has been asked of us.

God makes sacred our imaginations by filling us with a glimpse of Himself that changes us forever.

…among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. ~ Revelation 1 

…there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne…From the throne came flashes of lightening, rumblings and peals of thunder…”Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come”…They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” ~ Revelation 4

art credits: St. Augustine by Sandro Botticelli; Nebula by Dez Pain